Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Indonesian President's Australian triumph

I was lucky enough to listen live to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono just finished speech to the Australian Parliament. What a tour de force, one that I actually twittered.

I will need the Hansard record to get all the details, but it was magnificent. He mentioned by name some of the Australians who had died helping Indonesia, bringing tears to my eyes. He was frank about some of the ups and downs in the relationships between the two countries. He placed the relationship at the centre of Indonesian foreign policy, a key strategic alliance.

He mentioned Australian efforts to encourage teaching in Bahasa, the warmth that Indonesian students had experienced in Australia. He spoke of the growing cooperation between the two countries in various fora and together. Did you know, that there had been 60+ ministerial visits (I failed to write down the exact number) since the Rudd Government came to power? I did not. He put the relationship in a historical context beginning with Australia's support for Indonesian independence.

He also spoke of the problems of public opinion in both countries, of lingering distrusts.

He pointed to the challenges that the relationship would face as we became closer, the inevitable speed bumps that would arise. We must not become complacent, we must not take things for granted, the partnership must be nurtured. As leader of the world's third biggest democracy, he also made the point that Indonesia's relationships with Australia were supported by other Indonesian political parties.

The Australian Parliament stood to applaud the President at the end and deservedly so. I felt that I had learned more about the depth and complexity of our relationship at the end of the speech than in the previous twelve months of reading.     

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