True statesmanship of Indonesia's president

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President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono exemplified true statesmanship when he chose to apologise to Malaysia and Singapore for the haze originating from forest fires in Sumatra.

A mere politician will not dare publicly censure his cabinet colleagues or apologise to a foreign government but SBY as he is fondly known deserves our respect and admiration for demonstrating such humility.

Accepting this apology and moving forward is also Malaysia's challenge.

There are many factors that contribute towards Indonesia's often lackadaisical and indifferent approach towards many bilateral issues.

Sheer disregard to convention and propriety, decentralisation and devolution of powers to provinces and districts which has reduced the central government in Jakarta to merely an advisory role in most instances and finally, the urge by certain quarters to entertain thoughts of regional hegemony, are some of the reasons.

Malaysian and Singaporean businessmen, too, have contributed to the perpetuation of non-transparent dealings in Indonesia purely for monetary gains.

However, this cannot be an excuse for Indonesia not to correct the wrongs in its own backyard.

Let us reach out and accept the olive branch from President Susilo.

The first step is to ensure that a high level team is in constant contact with their Indonesian counterparts and consultations are held with mutual respect.

When negotiations are held in Indonesia, invariably Bahasa Indonesia is used and Malaysians always erroneously assume that Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia are one and the same.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some sentences and phrases that we assume to be synonymous could mean quite the opposite in Bahasa Indonesia.

I have seen time and again our officials and ministers being completely at a loss when communicating with Indonesians.

Often, we have ended up having the shorter end of the stick because we comforted ourselves thinking we sailed through the consultation.

We need to include people who are fluent in Bahasa Indonesia in any high level delegation to Indonesia, otherwise it will be like building the tower of Babel.


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