Tag Archives: Indonesia

Indonesia and Trump

id-mapA few months back I wrote about the future of relations between Indonesia and the US under the new presidency. Well, since then Trump has moved into the White House and begun a swift set of executive orders. One of the most talked about has been the executive order that targets seven Muslim majority countries, and though Indonesia is not on this list it is home to 220 million followers of Islam. Those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are now not allowed to enter the US for the next 90 days. Syrian refugees are indefinitely banned.

Indonesian Foreign minister Retno Marsudi said that her government held “deep regrets about the policy.” Indonesian President Joko Widodo have not yet addressed the ban.

While there is no ban on those from Indonesia entering the US, what could this mean for relations between these two countries? The only thing that is certain at this time is uncertainty.


President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 4


Finally we are brought back to our original inquiry; what would Clinton and Trump do to continue the United States relationship with Indonesia? As expected the evidence behind what each candidate would do is extremely different.

In 2009 Hillary Clinton said “If you want to know if Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.” As Secretary of State, Clinton, made a detour to Jakarta on her trip to Asia in 2009. She held the same desire as President Obama; to recognize the importance of Southeast Asia, a region that the Obama administration believed was neglected by the Bush administration. Hillary Clinton was very global during her years as Secretary of State, having visited over 112 countries.

At this year’s DNC, an Indonesian woman named Ima Matul Maisaroh was invited to speak in front of thousands of attendees. Ima was appointed by President Barack Obama to be a member of the US Advisory Council on Human Trafficking in December last year along with her fellow Indonesian and victim of human trafficking Shandra Woworuntu. Hillary Clinton has long worked to try to end human trafficking.  Due to this Ima said she was looking forward to the Democratic National Convention as she really wanted to meet Hillary Clinton in person, praising her work to end all forms of human slavery. These tales bode well, Hillary Clinton would certainly be a global president willing to reach out and continue the bonds set up by Obama with Indonesia, as well as address ways to improve the human condition when it comes to those who have had to live like Ima.

And what about Mr. Trump? Well, he already has a tainted name in Indonesia. Trump as a candidate has not been one to shy away from controversy and the world has not let this go unnoticed. Trump has made it clear he doesn’t trust Muslims, and as a country of mostly Muslims Indonesia has not found this favorable. After all, how do you set up good relations with a country of people you do not trust. This leaves little ground to grow on.

Interestingly enough, Trump has a resort in Indonesia called Lido Lakes One Stop Adventure Hotel. But is investing in the country enough to make up for all of his words? Maybe not, the hotel is now run down–though Trump claims he will be revamping it soon and building an entirely new resort in the country. This investment is at odds with his beliefs about Muslims. “How come he won’t allow Muslim people to enter America while he has money in Indonesia, investment in Indonesia,” asks Indonesian cabinet minister Luhut Panjaitan back in May. It seems that in an interview with CNN, Panjaitan suggested that Indonesia would turn to other trading partners if a future President Trump shut US doors to the more than 200 million Indonesian Muslims.

Simply put, starkly different candidates create starkly different futures for the relationship between the United States and Indonesia.




President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 3


Many Americans underestimate the significance of Indonesia—sometimes described as the most important country in the world that people know the least about. With 230 million inhabitants, how has it gone unnoticed by mainstream USA as a whole?

Perhaps the main reason why Indonesia is not well recognized by Americans is that the United States has never gone to war with the country. Largely our collective memory is much more knowledgeable with countries that we’ve fought/allied in the past: like Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, North and South Korea, and the whole of Europe to name a few. Indonesia, while deeply affected by WWII, was never a part of the war like the allies or the axis of evil.

Another reason could be that few Indonesian immigrants and students have come to the USA Compared to other Asian countries, Indonesia today remains distinctly more inward-looking.

Indonesia has rich resources that certainly carry over to the products we can buy here in the states. This though has been more of a curse than a blessing. Over-exploitation is occurring in virtually every square mile of the country, in its territorial waters as well as it 17,000 islands. Insufficient investment in infrastructure has made Indonesia a high-cost production base. A host of impediments to domestic as well as foreign investment are making it harder for the private sector to create jobs at the pace required to absorb new entrants into the labor force. The combination of these clashing ideas could also add to the ignorance that the USA holds when it comes to Indonesia.

What Americans have missed out on because of this lack of knowledge is seeing how raising Indonesia’s profile could benefit the United States by helping to maintain a balance among Asia’s three leading powers: China, Japan, and India. Furthermore, Indonesia’s success in creating a durable system of democratic governance holds great potential benefits for a world struggling to address the problems associated with weak or conflict-ridden nations.

Indonesia would like to see United States economic and developmental assistance scaled up, but it will be difficult to meet their expectations in this area. The most problematical area is military cooperation because Indonesia has yet to articulate, let alone implement, a defense and security strategy that will gain strong support from the United States. Indonesia could learn a lot from American policies, if we partnered with them to help the country figure out the gaps in their governmental policy. Certainly together our two countries would benefit from each other if only we spend the time to learn and engage with each other.

President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 2

Before delving into the future of America and Indonesia’s relationship we should take a very quick look at the history of Indonesia.

Indonesia is the world’s largest island country, with more than thirteen thousand islands. It is home to over 258 million people. With a historical connection to the Islamic world starting in 13th century, today the country is over 87% Islamic making it the most populous Muslim majority country in the world. The first regular contact between Europeans and the peoples of Indonesia began in 1512 leading to being colonized by the Dutch by the 19th century. Indonesia was occupied by Japan during WWII and an estimated 4 million people died due to famine and forced labor. Following the war, between 1945-1949, the Dutch tried to gain control of the country again.

Indonesia lived through an armed and diplomatic struggle that united Indonesians on the whole to fight for independence. During this time Sukarno, an influential nationalist leader, came into power. Democracy slowly led into authoritarianism, which led to huge loss of life under his rule. The head of the military, General Suharto, outmaneuvered the politically weakened Sukarno and was formally appointed president in 1968. Suharto himself was also an authoritarian leader who lead a corrupt government and supported the suppression of political opposition.

However, eleven years ago, Indonesia began an impressive transition from 30 years of authoritarian rule by former President Soeharto to become arguably the most democratic country in all of East and Southeast Asia. What makes the transition all the more remarkable is that the majority of Indonesia’s citizens are Muslim, showing how democratic values and Islamic beliefs can combine to build a “just and prosperous society,” the main societal goal specified in the Indonesian constitution.

A set of four amendments to the constitution since Soeharto was forced to step down in 1998 has produced a solid political framework, notably including the direct election of the president. Free and fair nationwide elections have been conducted three times and are now routine at the provincial and district/city level. A sweeping decentralization law was passed in 2001, vesting more power in its 440 districts and cities than in its 33 provinces. Civil society has flourished, reinforced by a remarkably free press.

Currently Indonesia is a multiparty democracy, led by President Joko Widodo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

President Obama’s visits to Indonesia were not only personal, but political: Part 1

As the President of the United States, Barack Obama has visited Indonesia twice so far while in office. In 2010 he headed to Jakarta. There he had the opportunity to visit the home where he lived as a young boy for two years, and see the primary school he attended where he learned the local language. A year later President Obama returned to Indonesia, this time staying in Bali. Both visits included meeting with President Yudhoyono among other leader from eastern countries. None of the other 43 American presidents have had this kind of exposure to a non-Western country.

One of the President’s political objectives for these trips was to raise Indonesia’s global profile. Many Americans underestimate the significance of Indonesia—often described as – the most important country in the world that people know the least about. With 230 million inhabitants, it is the fourth most populous nation after China, India, and the United States.

Indonesia is also important because of its strategic location astride the sea-lanes between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to the west and the Japan, China, and Korea to the north. In addition, it is richly endowed with natural resources: oil and gas, coal, copper, nickel, fish, timber, and many more. It is key for America to have a continued positive relationship with this industrious country.

Indonesia is a country we must look to, as our President has, in the coming generations. So how will this upcoming election affect this forwards momentum? With Clinton and Trump vying for the most important job in the country, we have to wonder what each candidate would do to continue this working relationship with Indonesia.