Implementing Regulation for Obligation to Utilize Bahasa Indonesia

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After almost ten years since the issuance of Law No. 24 of 2009 on the National Flag, Language, Coat of Arms and Anthem (“Language Law”), President Joko Widodo finally issued Presidential Regulation No. 63 of 2019 on the Utilization of Indonesian Language which came into force on 30 September 2019 (“PR. 63/2019”). As an implementation of the Language Law, PR. 63/2019 offers more detailed provisions surrounding utilization in daily and regular interactions for Indonesians.

Below are some of the key provisions governed under PR. 63/2019:

A. Conducting Utilization of Indonesian Language

Article 2 of PR. 63/2019 stipulates that utilization of Indonesian Language must be conducted in a proper and correct manner. “Properness” is measured by the context of the language and consistency with society’s values. Additionally, the measurement of “correctness” utilizes the official Indonesian Language Rules (Kaidah Berbahasa Indonesia yang Baik dan Benar) regulated by the Ministry of Education and Culture. While “properness” can be relatively abstract as the parameter would be highly dependent on the local culture and the context of the communication, however, the measurement of “correctness” is relatively clear as the government has set a specific guidance for such matters.

Prevailing Indonesian Language Rules are governed under Minister of Education and Culture Regulation No. 50 of 2015 on General Guidance for Indonesian Language Spelling. Examples of the correct spellings are as follows:

  1. Utilizing capitals in the beginning of a sentence, person name or titles, geographical places, etc.
  2. Italic words shall be used for writing foreign words in a sentence.
  3. Preposition which shows directions (e.g. di atas, ke depan), must be separated.

B. The Legal Implication on the Language Provisions for Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement

Previously, Article 31 of Language Law requires the use of Indonesian Language in the memorandum of understanding or agreements involving the government, private institutions or Indonesian citizens. This provision is quite controversial because it raises questions regarding the validity of an agreement in the freedom of contract principle, and has been used as a basis by the Supreme Court to decide that a loan agreement becomes null and void (Supreme Court Decision No. 1572 K/Pdt/2015 dated 23 October 2015).

Article 26 of PR. 63/2019 further regulates the use of Indonesian Language in the memorandum of understanding or agreement. Most provisions under Article 31 of Language Law remain intact. However, PR. 63/2019 includes a new provision regarding the interpretation of the agreement in the event of discrepancy. PR. 63/2019 governs that in the event of discrepancy, the language set forth in the memorandum of understanding or agreement shall prevail.

While PR. 63/2019 aims to ease controversy surrounding Language Law, the regulated provisions fall short of general expectations. PR. 63/2019 does not provide clear sanctions/legal consequences, in the event the memorandum of understanding or agreement is not prepared in Indonesian/bilingual. Furthermore, PR. 63/2019 requires the parties to use “proper” and “correct” Indonesian language pursuant to Article 2 of PR. 63/2019. If the parties do not use “proper” and “correct” Indonesian language, it is possible that it can be used as a basis to render the memorandum of understanding or agreement as null and void.

C. The Use of Language for Communication in Government and Private Work Environments

In line with Language Law, PR. 63/2019 also governs that Indonesian language shall be used as the official written and spoken communication language in government and private working environments. Such communication can be in form of:

  1. Disposition;
  2. Instruction and verification;
  3. Advocacy;
  4. Negotiation;
  5. Minutes, etc.

Previously, Language Law provided that in the event the employees in government or private working environments cannot speak Indonesian Language, such employees must enroll or be involved in the Indonesian Language course to improve their Indonesian language skills. Even though PR. 63/2019 does not regulate specifically as such, we understand that several Presidential and Ministry of Manpower regulations (e.g. Presidential Regulation No. 20 of 2018 on the Utilization of Foreign Workers and Ministry of Manpower Regulation No. 10 of 2018 on the Procedure for Utilization of Foreign Workers) have specifically governed that foreign employees must be enrolled in Indonesian Language course/accompanied by an Indonesian employee.

D. Naming of Geographies, Buildings, Roads, Apartments or Residences, Offices, Trade Areas, Trademarks, Business Institutions, Educational Institutions, Organizations Established or Owned by Indonesian Citizens or Indonesian Legal Entities

Building Names

Article 33 of PR. 63/2019 regulates that Indonesian Language must be used in the names of buildings, apartments or residences, offices and trade areas that are established or owned by Indonesian citizens or Indonesian legal entities. The buildings, apartments or residences, offices and trade areas include hotels, towers, entertainment areas and/or other buildings.

Trademark

Indonesian Language must also be used in trademark in the form of words or phrases owned by Indonesian citizens or Indonesian legal entities. However, this provision is excluded for trademarks with foreign licenses.

Business Entity

Furthermore, the Indonesian Language must be used in the name of a business entity established or owned by an Indonesian citizen or Indonesian legal entity. However, in the event the Indonesian legal entity is in the form of a limited liability company, the obligation to use Indonesian Language only applies to limited liability companies with shares owned by an Indonesian citizen or Indonesian Legal Entities.

Related to the provisions above, PR. 63/2019 regulates that in the case of naming geographies, buildings, roads, apartments or residences, offices, trade areas, trademarks, business institutions, educational institutions or organizations having historical, cultural and religious values, the geographic name may use a regional or foreign language.

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Supervision of the use of Indonesian Language, as stipulated in this regulation, will be conducted by the Government of Indonesia through the Minister of Education of Culture (nationally). Meanwhile, provincial Governors may also conduct supervision for its provinces/region, however such provision must utilize the guidance as provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture. It is anticipated that the Ministry of Education and Culture will issue a new ministerial regulation concerning guidance in supervising the utilization of Indonesian Language in the near future.

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