President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo discussed current political and economic situations with his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday (09/03) in a much-awaited meeting at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta — the first sign that the frosty relationship between the two may be beginning to thaw.
The meeting on the veranda of the Merdeka Palace was the first between Jokowi and Yudhoyono, the powerful chairman of the Democratic Party, in more than two years.
After the meeting, where the president served tea and snacks, Jokowi told reporters: “We discussed politics and the economy, and other matters as well.”
The president did not give details on what other matters he and Yudhoyono talked about.
Yudhoyono meanwhile said he clarified to the president several allegations against him in recent months, one of them being accusations that he was the mastermind behind a series of massive Muslim protests in Jakarta at the end of last year.
Jokowi said shortly after a rally on Nov. 4 that turned violent that certain political actors had exploited the protest, warning against attempts to destabilize his administration.
But Yudhoyono was quick at that time to accuse Jokowi’s inner circles of providing inaccurate information that made the president suspect him of being the mastermind behind an anti-government plot.
“I am so happy that I can finally explain everything to the president and that he listened to me. I also listened to him. This is a good start,” he said on Thursday.
Yudhoyono also said last month that officials within the palace had tried to prevent him from meeting with Jokowi, but the palace has denied Yudhoyono’s claim.
“We can once again establish a communication. The president has reminded me, Djoko Suyanto who used to assist me also reminded me, what a beautiful transition we had from my administration to his. A good tradition in politics like this must certainly be continued in the future. I am feeling thankful and joyful,” Yudhoyono added.
Jokowi said on Thursday that a meeting between the two has been on the agenda for a long time, but their schedules had always clashed until today. “Whenever I had time to meet, he was busy. But when he had time, I was scheduled to attend another event,” the president joked to the press.
Yudhoyono also congratulated Jokowi for successfully hosting the recent visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Summit.
“We agreed that this country must move forward, that we have to keep promoting the principle of unity in diversity and provide protection for all parties,” Yudhoyono said.
“He believed me when I said that I also want to do the best for my country, and for the government. Jokowi also wants to build this country, too,” he added.