Dirgahayu Indonesia!: President SBY’s national day address

Presiden SBY menyampaikan pidato kenegaraan di hadapan sidang bersama DPR dan DPD RI di Gedung DPR/MPR, Jakarta, Jumat (16/8) pagi. (foto: cahyo/presidenri.go.id)

Long live Indonesia, indeed! President SBY’s ambitions in this year’s national day address (delivered on 16 August ahead of Indonesia’s Independence day on 17 August) included continuing economic development, expanding Indonesia’s role as a global diplomatic actor, maintaining religious harmony and stability, and protecting the sovereignty of the Indonesian state.

At a glance, SBY’s key messages and points on international-related issues included:

  • The Asia-Pacific region requires a new paradigm (an Indo-Pacific Treaty) to increase mutual trust and eliminate the use of force in settling disputes, being based on the spirit of unity;
  • Indonesia remains committed to the establishment of the ASEAN Community by 2015;
  • On Syria, “the world should not stand idly by and let the humanitarian crisis continue.”;
  • The use of military force towards protesters in Egypt is contrary to the values of democracy and humanity;
  • The theme of this year’s APEC meeting chaired by Indonesia will be ‘Resilient Asia-Pacific, Engines of Global Growth’;
  • On Papua, “Indonesia will act decisively in the face of any threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI)”;
  • SBY hopes that all parties would work actively to prevent political activities [concerning Papua] that could lead to disruptions in Indonesia’s relations with friendly states.

On domestic issues, SBY underscored the importance of four areas:

  • Economic management in light of uncertainties and global economic slowdown;
  • Looking after religious harmony and tolerance;
  • Successful elections in 2014 as well as democratic and peaceful leadership succession;
  • Maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Indonesian state.

The discussion about Indonesia’s sovereignty and territoriality addressed both Aceh and Papua which is surprising given only the latter’s prominence in the international media. Aceh’s inclusion in the discussion seems therefore more like a buffer for the addressing pricklier issue of international activists agitating for Papuan independence.

Also, there was little mention of Indonesia’s military modernisation process or the armed forces, contrary to previous years. Terrorism, transnational threats and disaster management were listed right at the end.

Notably absent for the first time in several years was SBY’s oft-stated goal of 7% growth in GDP. At one time, he even heralded 8% as a possibility. With the country posting its second-quarter growth rate of 5.8% (the first time it’s dipped below 6% since 2010) and with Indonesian stocks falling in recent weeks, it seems his ambitions have been more muted.

Lastly, the speech seemed to follow the new pattern set by last year’s national address which put issues relating to the global economy and Indonesia’s role as a global player towards the top. In the past, SBY devoted at least three-quarters to two-thirds of his address discussing domestic policies. As encouraging as it’s been to see Indonesia be involved in global development and security issues, there are some pressing domestic issues that deserve a top slot. Growing religious intolerance rightly earned a mention but corruption, contrary to previous years, was only fleetingly raised at the very end. Corruption remains a critical issue for the country, highlighted by this week’s arrest of the head of Indonesia’s oil and gas business management body (SKK Migas) for accepting bribes.

Overall, nothing ground-breaking was raised in this year’s national day address but this tweet sums it up well:

Image courtesy of the Indonesian President’s official page.

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