Friends of the President of Indonesia
Pictured with the President and Vice President of Indonesia from L-R John Kim - Republic of Korea, Leovigildo Hornai - Timor Leste, Ross B. Taylor - Australia, Alexander Shulgin - Russia, Pat Breen - Ireland, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, First Lady Kristiani Yudhoyono, Vice-President and Mrs Boediono, Henry Norm - Papua New Guinea, Aleksander Rakovic - Serbia, Okamoto Masaaki - Japan, Phyu Phyu Tin - Myanmar, Yumi Kitamura - Japan and Kirtan Bhana - South Africa.
Everyone got excited as the clouds cleared and the summit of Merapi , Indonesia’s most active volcano which last erupted in 2010, became visible. The locals commented that it was an acknowledgement of the auspicious guests that had come to pay homage. They were the ten participants of the Friends of the Indonesian President program which coincides with Independence Day celebrations on August 17.
The remarkable people of Indonesia need special mention when one speaks of this archipelago nation which covers an eighth of the earth’s surface. It consists of between 17000 and 23000 islands depending on the tide. To travel by airplane across Indonesia from one end to the other will take 8 hours across 3 time zones.
Constantly being shaped by the incredible energy of the tectonic plates of the Pacific ring of fire it is home to 250 million people, making it the fourth largest populace nation on the planet after China, India and the USA.
The people have preserved the vibrancy and dynamism of the colourful musical and culinary traditions and cultures resolving to be united in their diversity.
The ten participants representing the countries of Australia, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Serbia, South Africa and Timor Leste came face to face with these remarkable people and encountered a country of abundant natural beauty.
The program began with delegates attending the Independence Day Flag hoisting ceremony on August 17 at the State Palace in the capital Jakarta presided by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He later met the delegates who were introduced at a gala dinner that evening.
A lunch meeting with former Vice President Yusuf Kalla provided insight into the current political situation in Indonesia as general elections are set to take place next year (2014).
This was followed by an animated discussion with the third President of Indonesia B.J Habibie. His is a story of true love depicted in his book Habibie and Ainun, a story of love between a husband and wife and love for a nation and its people. The book was made into a film. The delegates received signed books and the DVD which the delegates were treated to on the Presidential Train trip to Yogyakarta.
Jakarta is a city steeped in history and has developed into a modern cosmopolitan metropolis with all the trappings of success. The success of the city became evident at an interactive session with Deputy Governor of the City, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who described his vision for the city.
A courtesy call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Indonesia, Marty Natalegawa pointed out the importance of soft power as a valuable diplomatic tool. Saying that people to people exchanges through art, culture, sport and the program like Presidential Friends of Indonesia create greater understanding among humanity.
A visit to the Election Commission of Indonesia was an eye opener to the tremendous logistics of holding elections in the world’s third largest democracy. With an electorate of 171 million people the Commission described how it carries out its monumental task of ensuring that everyone who is eligible can practice their democratic right.
The love story of the Ramayana is prevalent in the mythology of many Asian cultures and it seems to provide the inspiration for many art forms. This is also true for Yogyakarta, capital city of Yogyakarta Special Region in Java. The region is renowned for its classical Javanese fine art and culture such as batik, ballet, drama, music, poetry, and puppet shows.
The University of Veteran and Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta is an important academic centre for Indonesia. A round table discussion with scholars on the topic Celebrating Indonesia’s Democracy, Diversity and Economic Prosperity revealed interesting outcomes with one delegate commenting that Indonesia’s model could act as a catalyst as humanity grapples with issues of justice, commerce and religion.