06 October 2010

The Petulant President -- SBY and the No Show in Holland...

It is amusing to watch from a distance, although simultaneously sad as both my wife and son are Indonesian, the president of Indonesia behaving like a petulant child. Indonesians must surely expect more from the man they elected president.If nothing else they must expect leadership.

The last couple of days has seen the president abruptly cancel a planned visit to The Netherlands. The cancellation was so abrupt in fact that it did not occur until the president was at the airport and about to board the place for Holland.

It seems that just before the president was to board the plane, he received word that the RMS, which is the South Maluku Republic Independence group had commenced legal action in The Netherlands to have the president arrested for the alleged torture of Malukuan activists earlier this year and a case from 2007.

Now, there are a couple of immediate problems with this decision to cancel. First, the president was officially invited. It is unlikely that the government of The Netherlands would allow SBY to be arrested. Then there is the small issue of head of state immunity to contend with. Secondly, it would appear that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia dropped the ball on this one. The RMS action is in the earliest of early stages and there is very little likelihood that they could sustain a command responsibility action to the president of Indonesia anyway.

The possibility of SBY being arrested on arrival in Holland is so remote that it just is not worth considering.

However, the abrupt cancellation provides SBY and his handlers with a real perception problem. Why was the president so frightened of arrest that he did not even board the plane? Is he in the know on what really happened? Is there substance to the allegations that these activists were tortured while in custody in Maluku?

The president in his own defence suggested that he was upset that anyone would do such a thing against him. He was insulted personally and insulted on behalf of Indonesia. Personally, the president needs to grow a set and have the testicular fortitude that the people expect him to show. He needs to be a leader. This most recent display reminds me of the schoolyard bully who does not get his way in the playground and instead of playing he packs up his things and takes the ball and goes home. It is petulant and it is childish.

Indonesia and Indonesians deserve better. The president has not been insulted or disrespected, rather he has insulted and disrespected the Indonesian people. Simply, he has brought shame on himself and his nation.

Ho hum...

12 comments:

H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,
One thing for sure is that the cancellation will make people pay much bigger attention on RMS and
its cause.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Harry...

Indeed he does!

Silverlines said...

And he has a legal advisor?
Sulky sulky one, he is.

rima fauzi said...

Not only he is like a spoiled boy all sulking and stuff, he has also brought a bit of shame to Indonesia as he was supposed to attend the ASEM 8 Summit this 4 and 5 October but cancelled like a month before without notifying the EU until days before the summit, and even more shame when I found out that he will not be here for the summit but he will be in holland on the 5th, which is only a stone's throw away. kurang ajar banget dan gak menghormati EU.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Silverlines...

Yes, he does!

@ Rima...

Yep! But, you have to wonder about the kurang ajar-ness of the whole thing, particularly why he thinks that he can get away with it?

Maybe there is a belief or mentality that Indonesia is such a big place (population and market wise) that "they" need us, we don't need "them" prevailing in the upper echelons of Indonesian politics.

Some of the commentary coming out of Commission I at the DPR would suggest that they reckon Indonesia is capable of punching way above its weight class at the moment.

Ho hum...

Dino said...

Rob,
I see it from a different angle. As an institution, SBY was protecting the presidency from insult/shame. How could you visit a country when a legal process is still under way. Regardless the issue, the outcome and the level/type of court (forgive my knowledge on the proper legal term); It is best to visit when all is done FIRST. It is also ironic that you are invited to visit a house but inside the house there still legal bickering on how to treat your guest.
Also, in deciding to go, the president has to acknowledge his domestic constituent. After two days, it is safe to say that most people agreed with the president (read: Kompas and Media Indonesia).

Dino said...

correction: in last sentence, replace people WITH politician.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Dino...

Which you are absolutely allowed to do. Nope, still beg to differ. He is not protecting the institution and the comments in the press from various sources close to the institution recognise as much.

Then, it is best that SBY lock himself away in the palace. With the reaction provided, I would argue that this will embolden all Indonesian activists abroad pursuing whatever their cause, and justified or not, to wait to SBY announces a state visit and then lodge a court petition.

No, the president does not need to acknowledge the domestic constituents in this way. This was the choice he made. I would also argue that "most people" in your Kompas and Media Indonesia frame are not looking at the big picture, but rather are motivated by some need to maintain national pride at some supposed insult.

Let's face it, the legal petition was lodged by Malukuans resident in Holland, right? So, this is hardly an insult perpetrated by Holland against the president of the Republic, is it?

Dino said...

The editorial @Media Indonesia yesterday sums it off quite well, Rob.
Also, in a live interview by Amb. Fanny Habibie @Metro TV last night also brought up an interesting fact. The Dutch DFA could not produce a written guarantee to secure the security and dignity of the President. It was at this last moment from departing that the advice to postpone came from the Amb.

For most Indonesians (but I myself dont agree with), this thing called "saving face" is still a big deal (as you may have read in 'Culture Shock' - yes I have that book too)

therry said...

So does this mean SBY is NOT going to the Netherlands in the nex um... 5-10 years? Too bad. I do want him to get arrested. As you said Rob, he needs to grow himself some friggin BALLS.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Dino...

Mate, I am not trying to convince you one way or the other on this one. You are entitled to your opinion, and I am more than happy for you to express it and defend it here.

That said, to the substance. The live interview is political spin. Once the decision was made to bail out on the visit, irrespective of reasoning / justification, there was going to be a need for some serious spinning.

The political spin is not always about saving face. If the Australian PM had done a similar thing, then I would have been equally critical.

The Dutch government really does not need to supply a written guarantee regarding the dignity and security of the president. To be honest, that is why both countries have departments / ministries of foreign affairs to get the diplomacy stuff done.

But, when it is all said and done, SBY is head of state and the possibility of his arrest is so remote in light of his diplomatic immunity that a written guarantee is a furphy to deflect attention away from a bad judgment call on this one.

Culture Shock? Saving face and avoiding confrontation is a big part of some cultures, Indonesia included.

Whether this incident is within the parameters of a saving face argument is an interesting one. Perhaps there is a sustainable argument that the political spin now taking place in order to paint the president in a righteous light is in reality a "face-saving" exercise.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Therry...

Don't hold back! Tell us what you really think ;)

I would reckon that now would be a good time to travel and see the world. At least at this point in time he has good claims to head of state immunity.

The future might not be so kind as international lawyers look for ways to wind back this type of immunity once the head of state leaves office. This in effect makes actions prior to any act of coming to power liable to prosecution if it is proven to be a violation of prevailing international legal obligations.

Ho hum...