Barack Obama to visit Jakarta
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent | April 04, 2009
Article from: The Australian
US President Barack Obama will make a much-awaited visit to Jakarta this year,
his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has confirmed.
Speaking on his chartered Garuda jet immediately after leaving the Group of 20
leaders' meeting in London yesterday, Mr Yudhoyono said he had finally secured
a commitment from the US leader for a stopover.
The pair discussed the plan while sitting alongside each other at a summit
working breakfast yesterday morning.
And as an indication of Indonesia's growing G20 stature, the two men were
placed across the table from each other at the opening dinner the previous
night, when Mr Yudhoyono's elbow-mate was British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Indonesia, whose economy relies much more on domestic consumption than on
exports, is weathering the global financial storm better than many and is at
the forefront of the push for developed nations and the global financial
institutions to help developing countries do likewise.
Mr Obama's visit to the city where he attended primary school is likely to
coincide with the APEC leaders' conference in Singapore in November.
Mr Yudhoyono hopes by then to have been inaugurated for a second term, after
presidential elections beginning in June for which his polling looks strong.
"I said the Indonesian people were awaiting his visit, and (Mr Obama) replied
that he planned to come this year," a delighted Mr Yudhoyono said before
heading straight home for final campaign stops for his Democrat Party in
parliamentary polls to be held next Thursday.
He said Mr Obama had engaged in a classic Indonesian gesture, tapping him on
the shoulder from behind and uttering the word "capek": a slangy, informal
move, usually enacted between male friends, meaning "how are you doing, are you
"I said, 'Tidak (no), I'm OK'," Mr Yudhoyono explained, adding that Mr Obama
still retained a number of Indonesian words and phrases from his Jakarta school
days between 1967 and 1971, when his mother was married to an Indonesian man.
Mr Yudhoyono was full of praise for Mr Obama, who he said "listens to what
everyone has to say. Hopefully (this is) a new chapter for the US, where it can
see the full picture".
Mr Yudhoyono said he also received particular thanks from Mr Brown for
travelling to London during an election campaign.
"He had previously thought that I would be unable to attend ... he was
extremely happy," the President said.
Indeed, Indonesia's prominence on the world stage might have been enough to get
Mr Yudhoyono to London, but it was never going to keep the workaholic President
there very long.
Last night he flew to Surabaya, the East Java city of war heroes, to begin
three final days of campaigning, Indonesian-style.
Electoral laws mean that from Monday morning there must be no more campaigning,
a sea of electoral posters adorning the country must be torn down, and there
should be no news reporting of anything to do with the election.
It's known as the "hari tenang", the days of quiet, a hangover from the
32-year-long Suharto era when, despite regular elections being held, there was
little functional voting and even less choice.
Even the country's most prestigious national newspaper, Kompas, plans to
abandon its daily election coverage.
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