Friday, 10 April 2009

Indonesia's Prez

Indonesia: Global Reach, Regional Role
HE Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
Howard Davies, Chair

And the Story of the Wallet

31 March 2009

I am really happy I went to see the Prez of Indonesia at the LSE and got my wallet back - again.

He was in town with all the other leaders for the g-20. I was lucky enough to get a ticket (I requested one by e-mail and was posted a ticket, which I thought was pretty cool).

I was hanging out at Hot Gossip* which is a cafe near LSE doing some reading while waiting for the lecture which was to start at 3:30. I had tried to go to the George Soros lecture earlier but arrived too late and the hall was already full. I hung out at this cafe and fell asleep at one point sitting on the cozy sofa's - I woke up with a start because my heavy TPP Term 2 study pack had fallen with a thud on the floor. Thud! I felt kind of embarassed but what the heck. I realised it was nearly 3:30 and got up with a start, collected my things and rushed out. The lecture was to be at the Sheikh Zayed Lecture Theatre in the New Academic Building. I was walking to the theatre when I see this really distinguished gentleman who looks just like my Mamoon. I am like, what is Sani Mamoon doing at LSE? He was speaking on the mobile phone standing next to his BMW (there was a chauffeur sitting at the front). I realised, then, it was Shaukat Aziz (Musharraf's crony). I think he was looking for the lecture theatre and was probably telephoning Howard Davies asking where it was in his polite manner. I said salaam and engaged in a tw0-minute chit chat with him. Man, he is so elegant. It would have been funny if I told him, hey, you just look like my Mamoon! He got into his BMW and drove off while I walked/ran to the theatre in my usual clumsy style.

I get there and realise I do not have my wallet when I had to pull out my ID. I frantically look for it. I ran back to Hot Gossip which thankfully had kept it for me. The fact I lost my wallet that day would seem insignificant but if you knew that I had lost it on the tube the weekend before and had it returned to me via Facebook would make you realise what a huge blunder I had made. And, I lost it again the other day in the library - I forgot it among the shelves and thankfully, found it. Wait wait wait, I lost it yet another time in the same week. I forgot it in the computer lab, went to dinner with a friend in Brunswick Square, had dinner, paid for it too (oh yeah I paid for it by with some cash I had in a pocket), went to have dessert somewhere else and suddenly realise I don't have my wallet. I tell my friend to wait - this is at 11:15 pm and the building closes at 11:30 - ran back like a madwoman, go to the computer lab, go to the library where the security guard pretends a hideous purple wallet was not handed in, as I was told by the security at the main entrance, then says to me, 'be more careful!' I told him, I know, I know. I lost it once already! On the tube! And I got it back! And I am obviously not grateful enough! I ran back to my friend and treat myself to an ice-cream. So I have lost my wallet four times now. Of course, no one reads my blog so no one can scold me. Thank God no one reads my blog.

Anyway - so I get to the lecture theatre with my ticket and ID. There was quite a bit of security and we were checked a couple of times before entering the building. There was a separate queue for LSE staff and students and all others. So I was in the others queue. As I made my way to the theatre, I found myself getting very excited as there was such a buzz. I love that.

Everyone stood up when the Prez entered the theatre and welcomed him with a thunderous applause. He was introduced by Howard Davies in the usual flattering and distinguished manner. There was a bit of banter and joking around. That the Prez was in town for some small meeting. And his major flaw was that he had got one of his degrees from the United States.

The Prez takes the podium and engaged in the banter as well telling us that his spokesman (who got up with a big smile on his face from the front of the audience) had a degree from the LSE, that his Minister of Defense too had a degree from the LSE. He was very pleasant I must say.

So what did he say?

- Indonesia was thought of as the 'messy' state, too large to fail, very misunderstood. It has proved to be a resilient state which had a 6% growth rate and maybe a 4.5% growth after this 'financial tsunami.'
- Through a 'quiet revolution,' Indonesia is now the world's third largest democracy with a free press, stability, tolerance. It is united and has resolved Aceh. The Prez was the first to complete a 5-year term.
-Indonesia's year elections this year will be very symbolic and represent the fact that the country has achieved a point of no return. That it can marry democracy, Islam and modernity.
-Indonesia 'seeks a million friends and zero enemies.'
-His country is a force for democracy and stability and harmony in south east asia which was once divided by cold war politics. Today it is ASEAN. The last ASEAN summit included India, Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, it is not just a geographical or cultural area but inclusive. He said that it would probably not become an EU clone with a supra government as ASEAN was still too diverse but in dynamic ways it was coming together. It will be a free trade area hopefully by 2012 or 2015. Economic integration will be achieved first.
-As for political integration, ASEAN was also committed to that. With reference to Myanmar he said that it was bound to the ASEAN charter and it was in their interest that it emerges as a democratic country. It was time for greater engagement.
- The g-20 was created in 1999 and the first meeting was in November 2008. He said it was the 'steering committee' of 90% of the world's trade.
- Developed countries should give priority to cleaning up the toxic in the financial system. And, also to developing/emerging countries who should not be punished and allowed to suffer. A Fund should be set up as a buffer so that developing countries can sustain their development goals. IMF/World Bank should rise up to the challenge. A recovery of the 'real' economy was needed without restrictions on either trade or people.

It was overall an optimistic talk. Very positive.

In response to questions, the Prez's answers were brief and diplomatic. He was asked about what he hoped to get out of the g-20, Obama's relationship with the Muslim world, Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi, recognition of Kosovo as the only Muslim country in Europe, Pakistan and climate change. Come to think of it, he did not really answer any of these questions. He was extremely careful. Consummate politician.

* That place is not really that hot. It's not even cute. It's just a regular cafe. Someone should tell them.


  1. I can't believe you keep forgeting your wallet! :) And I do read your blog... Thanks for the insight into the Prez's lecture. x

  2. Hahaha! Thanks!
    I know, it's ridiculous how many times I lost the wallet.
    So this is a secret between you and me, Anna.