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Indonesia's presidential election: Rival camps squabble over English debate proposal

Indonesia's presidential election: Rival camps squabble over English debate proposal

SATURDAY, September 15, 2018

A proposal from the opposition camp that the official presidential debate be held in English instead of Indonesian has been met with jeers from the incumbent's supporters, who say the proposal is preposterous while facetiously suggesting that it could lead to debates in Arabic. 

The proposal came from National Mandate Party (PAN) executive Yandri Susanto, who argued it was important for the head of state to speak English properly as he had to mingle with global leaders and speak at international forums.  

"It's important for a presidential candidate to be fluent in [English] [...] so as to ensure that there is no miscommunication with the figures [the president] speaks to," Yandri said.

The Jokowi coalition did not welcome the proposal.

"Don't create weird proposals [...] Debates between presidential candidates must continue to use the Indonesian language," said Raja Juli Antoni, the secretary of Jokowi's campaign team, on Friday.

"The essence of debate [...] is for the public to know what is on the minds of our presidential candidates. The public wants to know their track records," Antoni said as quoted by

United Development Party (PPP) secretary-general Arsul Sani said debates should be in Indonesian because the 2009 law on the national flag, language, emblem and anthem stipulated that the Indonesian language must be used in every national forum.

"I suppose the presidential debate is an official forum," Arsul said, adding that the opposition should not offer such a proposal as it could encourage others to come up with other strange proposals, such as having the debate in Arabic or asking the candidates to take a Quran recital test.

Despite the suggestion having come from some of his backers, Prabowo's running mate Sandiaga Uno said he disagreed with the proposal. "There are some people who understand English, but we want to reach out to all the people of Indonesia," he said. (afr/ahw)