Remarks by H.E. Imron Cotan, Secretary General Department of Foreign Affairs Republic of Indonesia at the Opening Ceremony of the Promotion of Language Programme for ASEAN+3 Cooperation

 9/1/2006

Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, I am pleased to welcome all of you to the launching of the Second Language Programme for ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation.

This is the second of a series of Language Programmes aimed at promoting the use and study of the Indonesian language among citizens of the ASEAN-f3 countries. It promises to be a long series, considering the enthusiasm that it has elicited from the participating countries.

You may wonder why we launched this series of Programmes and why it has been received so favourably.

It may be recalled that in 2002, the Leaders of ASEAN+3 agreed to expand and strengthen their cooperation by pursuing activities that meet the criteria of high priority, high feasibility and high relevance to the promotion of peace and prosperity in the East Asian region.
 
One of the short-term measures decided upon by the Leaders was the promotion of East Asian Studies. They considered it important that the peoples of the region should develop a sense of common identity by deepening their awareness of their shared historical experiences, norms and values. And one way of doing this would be to carry out studies in depth of one of the languages of the region, for language works in amazing ways: it reveals what is in the mind and heart of a person. A shared language enables members of a community to live in harmony, to work together and solve their problems together. It gives each member of the community a profound feeling of belonging and a feeling of security. To a large extent, language defines a person’s identity.
 
Hence, learning a language is not just a matter of getting to know how to use a different set of phonetics and writing system. It opens a window through which you can see the hearts and minds of another people, their dreams and their fears, their world-view and their way of life.

Through the study of a language, you get to understand and appreciate more deeply the people who speak it. You begin to identify yourself with them.

On the basis of that rationale, Indonesia decided to carry out a series of language programmes in the framework of ASEAN+3 cooperation. This decision was first announced by His Excellency Dr. Hassan Wirajuda at the ASEAN+3 Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta in June 2004. Last year we implemented it.

‘The participants of this year’s programme are mostly Foreign Service officers and other workers in the field of international cooperation who will benefit most from learning the Indonesian language. After learning the language, I am sure you will bring back to your home countries a fresh perspective that can contribute to the growth of goodwill and cooperation in the region.
 
The Programme will be conducted in Bandung, a centre of education in Indonesia. The educational institutions of the city are well equipped and experienced in training foreigners, including diplomats. The city is known for its dynamic youth sector and its wealth of traditions and cultural heritage.

It is also home to some of Indonesia’s most famous artists. If you are a culture enthusiast, Bandung is a splendid hunting ground.

As participants to this Programme, you will visit fascinating places in West Java. You will be exposed to beautiful scenery, historic places, local industries and community life. You will make new friends and thus expand the networks of friendship you are already nurturing.

And I imagine that you will observe values, sentiments, hopes and fears expressed in unique ways but are recognizably marks of the same human traits that you have seen in your own peoples and have felt within yourselves.
 
The language in use, of course, will be different from yours. Let me tell you something about it.
 
What is today the Indonesian language or Bahasa Indonesia was originally spoken by a small Malay population in Indonesia. They were traders and since ancient times they have traveled far and wide over the land masses and islands of Southeast Asia, bringing with them wherever they went not only their goods but also their language. Naturally, this language became the dominant language, the lingua franca of the region.

An Indonesian nationalist youth movement adopted it during the colonial era as its unifying language. Thus it gave Indonesia a sense of nationhood long before formal independence was achieved through struggle.

Today, some 600 ethnic languages and dialects are spoken all ‘over Indonesia. But only Bahasa Indonesia expresses the Indonesian soul. And it does the job very well with elegant simplicity. It is a living language: it has adopted foreign words and phrases as needed to maintain its contemporary bent.

Since it is simple, it is easy to learn and a pleasure to enunciate. I am sure you the participants to this Programme immensely enjoy going through this learning experience.
 
Let me now close by expressing a hope that other countries of ASEAN+3 will launch similar programmes for their own languages.
 
And thereby we harness the immense power of human language to consolidate peace and accelerate progress in our region.

I hereby declare the Second Language Programme for ASEAN+3 cooperation officially open.

Thank you.