SBY gets angry, Aussie PM stays awake in fear


Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (who I will always in future refer to as SBY) has a reputation for having a bad temper.  In the clip, he is scolding some bupatis (regional leaders) who fell asleep during his speech.  It’s true that Indonesians usually make lousy speeches – long, monotonous, indirect.  But even so, you would expect people would try to stay awake for the president. 

Whereas most Western people would consider the episode to be a justified response towards some members of the audience showing ignorant rudeness, Indonesians consider any show of emotion to be a sign of weakness.  Its because of that the Indo media decribes SBY as amok, out of control.

This week, SBY is visiting a Western country (Australia) who’s leader, Kevin Rudd (or Kevin Rude as Barak Obama dubbed him) also has a reputation for anger.  The differences are: SBY does it openly in front of cameras, Rudd would never let this side of himself be filmed; SBY raises his voice slightly, Rudd screams and swears; SBY confronts a roomful of grown men, Rudd berates employees, service staff, union members but never union thugs.

The following clip shows a bully can dish it out but can’t take it.  Rudd stays awake throughout SBY’s speech, smiling and nodding fervidly in time with his deputy, Julia:

Or maybe Rudd has simply mastered the art of sleeping with his eyes open and he is, in fact, nodding off?

SBY mentioned two major issues affecting Indo-Oz relations: people smuggling and terrorism.  Aussies are just as frustrated as Indonesians over the people smuggling issue, but terrorism is one area where Indonesia can consider itself badly treated by Australia.  Indonesia has worked hard (with help from Aussie and other Western countries) to eliminate the terrorist threat.  The fanatics who bombed the Ritz and Marriott hotels in Jakarta have been rounded up or killed, including the master bomb-maker responsible for all the other major anti-Western terrorist attacks.  Yet the Australian media has reported little of this.  One would think that at least the Aussie government would be keen to congratulate Indonesia on its successes, yet it continues to warn its citizens off travelling there: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/advice/Indonesia

This gives Aussies the idea that Indonesia is not a safe place to visit, depriving Indonesia of tourism income and cultural exchange.

One thing that SBY won’t want to talk about is a legal battle concerning the Aussie clothing company Billabong International and its former Indonesian franchise holder.  There is some bad feeling about how Billabong went about terminating the Indonesian’s licence.  I have no idea which side is right or wrong – usually there’s fault on both sides in these matters.  The problem is that the Indonesian is pursuing Billabong in the Balinese court system and, among many other charges, has managed to secure a jail sentence for one Indonesian Billabong employee for using a disputed light box.  Hard to imagine that an employee could go to jail just for using something that belongs to either his current or previous boss.  If that isn’t bad enough, there is a judgement on the same charge against an Australian employee who was in Indonesia at the time.  Although he’s free in Australia for now, he can’t risk leaving in case Interpol arrests him and sends him to a Balinese prison. 

Since I’m unfamiliar with the Napoleonic legal system which Indonesia inherited from the Dutch, there’s a lot I don’t understand about this case.  But this business of throwing employees into jail because you have a problem with their company strikes me as unconscionable.  It’s too late for SBY to intervene, and in fairness, the courts should be allowed to function without interference.  But I hope something can be done to clarify the legal issues where it affects Indo-Oz commerce.

Actually, if nothing else is achieved, the mere fact of this visit is a step forwards in Indo-Oz relations.  This is SBY’s third visit to Oz, but this time he’s bringing seven of his ministers and four provincial governers.  Let’s hope Mr Rudd stays awake long enough to resolve some of the above matters.

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