The Jakarta Post says Indonesian president is wrong on skipping APEC summit in Manila

PLEA FOR MERCY: President Aquino asks President Widodo to spare the life of Filipino OFW Mary Jane Veloso after the plenary session of the 26th Asean summit held last April 26–28. 2015 in Malaysia. (Photo via Google)

(Why is it that the Indonesian president won’t attend the APEC summit in Manila next week? Is it because of a domestic problem — say, the forest fires in his country? Or is it a retaliation against Pres. Aquino’s previous action? Or both? An editorial by The Jakarta Post, reprinted in full below, might give us some solid clues. The Jakarta Post has been described as “Indonesia’s leading English-language daily” with a circulation of around 40,000. — JRMR)

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Editorial: Wrong on APEC

The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Friday, November 13, 2015

To skip such a major meeting like next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, whatever the reasons or pretexts used to justify an absence, is a wrong decision. Therefore, we call on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to reconsider his choice to shun the event. We hope that the President can set aside his short-term pragmatism, at least for a while, and make the effort to attend the multilateral meeting.

It had become a long-standing tradition for Indonesian presidents, to focus on foreign affairs at a certain period of time each year. In the past few years, November had become the month that we would see our leaders preoccupied, attending at least three multilateral summits.

We understand that President Jokowi has committed to resolving problems on a domestic level before paying attention to Indonesia’s role in the international community, but Indonesia is too big and too important to keep itself from global affairs.

While we do share the President’s concern about such pressing agendas at home needing his direct involvement, the Indonesian leader’s no-show at APEC is a diplomatic blunder, especially given the APEC summit host is a fellow ASEAN member. The President will, reportedly, travel to Malaysia for the annual East Asia Summit and to the G20 summit in Turkey this month.

Yes, Jokowi has assigned Vice President Jusuf Kalla to represent him in Manila. However, no matter how influential the Vice President is, in terms of hierarchy and mandate, Kalla cannot compensate for the President’s absence.

Jokowi’s senior aides cited domestic concerns as the reason the President to give the APEC meeting a miss. One might speculate that the move is retaliation, a tit-for-tat because of President Benigno Aquino III’s absence at the Asia-Africa Conference commemorative summit in Bandung last April. Aquino sent Vice President Jejomar C. Binay on his behalf to Indonesia and indicated that his absence was a show of protest against the planned execution of convicted Filipino drug trafficker Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso. After the summit, Jokowi was seen to accomodate Aquino’s demand, delaying Veloso’s execution on a legal technicality.

We do hope that such a suspicion is baseless, but the government needs to clarify the issue. Jokowi’s nonattendance at a key summit, hosted by a close neighbor, is likely to be seen as an embarrasement to Aquino, whose presidential term expires next year.

For the sake of Indonesian interests, we hope the President changes his mind.

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