This week’s commentary on Indonesian policy bits: Constitutional Court chief Mahfud MD said that SBY’s English speeches are illegal, according to Law No. 24/2009 and his own Presidential Decree.
I’m not joking. If you care to read Law No. 24/2009 on State Flag, Language, Symbol and National Anthem, it says on Article 28 that:
Bahasa Indonesia is compulsory to be used in official speeches of the President, Vice President, and other state officials that are delivered domestically or abroad.
In the explanation, it states that these “official speeches” can use foreign languages (so not specifically English) as long as it is in an international forum that’s conducted abroad that stipulates the use of specific languages.
SBY even signed a Presidential Regulation No. 16/2010 on the Usage of Bahasa Indonesia in Official Speeches of the President and/or Vice President as well as Other State Officials to strengthen this law.
So apparently, all this time, his speech writers didn’t get the memo?
It’s a good thing that the law does not stipulate any criminal sanctions for using languages other than Bahasa Indonesia in official speeches. If you try to burn down our red and white flag or try to be creative with remixing Indonesia Raya (the national anthem), you can however, go to jail.
I think the whole idea is ridiculous. Why do you need to regulate the use of language in official speeches? My bet is that this law will soon be amended. Whatever. Why was this regulated in the first place – be it the philosophical rationale, the costs and benefits – that’s what I seriously want to know.
This is another example of an Indonesian law that’s not been carefully thought of and consistently implemented.