Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand Tantowi Yahya has dismissed allegations that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had acted disrespectfully toward Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern by declining to speak in public during last week’s state visit to the country.
His statement was a response to a commentary in The New Zealand Herald by columnist Audrey Young, who painted Jokowi’s visit as “shameful” because the President reportedly “failed to present himself in some manner to the public of New Zealand”.
In the written statement sent to The Jakarta Post on Monday, Tantowi said the decision for the two leaders not to hold a joint press conference was, in fact, proposed by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and adopted unanimously. Young claimed in her column that the MFAT proposed a joint conference, but “the Indonesians declined”.
Tantowi said the two sides had agreed to publish a joint statement that reflected the results of the leaders’ talks on their respective online portals.
“As guests, we respect the position taken by our host. We fully supported [the proposal], as there was nothing wrong with it,” Tantowi siad. “We were very satisfied with the level of service and attention, as well as the warm welcome that the government of New Zealand has afforded us.”
President Jokowi’s visit to New Zealand on March 18-19 was the first by an Indonesian leader in 13 years, and marked 60 years of diplomatic relations. The two nations agreed to upgrade their ties to a comprehensive partnership, and committed to increasing two-way trade to NZ$4 billion (US$2.9 billion) by 2024.
The success of the visit, Tantowi said, was a testament to the hard work and thorough preparations that both sides expended.
However, the backlash arising from Young’s comments on President Jokowi prompted the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington to protest strongly and demand clarification over the report, which the ambassador lambasted as “baseless” and a “distortion of the truth”.
The commentary claims that the President reportedly declined to meet with the press and to give a statement following bilateral talks with Prime Minister Ardern on March 19.
“The author took this as a sign of disrespect on the part of President Jokowi; that’s a very pretentious thing to say,” said Tantowi.
“As president of the third largest democracy in the world, Joko Widodo upholds freedom of expression and independence of the press,” the statement said.