During GW visit, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says U.S. will play a key role ensuring international cooperation.
The President of the Republic of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono used his appearance at the George Washington University Friday morning to appeal to major powers to work together for the good of the international community. Stressing how much his country has benefitted from times of peace, President Yudhoyono asked the U.S. to advocate for diplomacy and global alliances, especially as it tries to pivot its attention toward Asia.
President Yudhoyono spoke at the Jack Morton Auditorium—the only public address during his visit this week to Washington, D.C. Hours before his speech, Indonesia’s outgoing Parliament announced it had passed legislation that eliminates direct elections for regional government leaders and instead authorizes local elected legislatures to make appointments.
President Yudhoyono’s 10-year term ends in October. He did not address the new legislation, which political observers describe as a blow to democracy in Indonesia, during his 25 minute-speech at GW.
After an introduction from GW President Steven Knapp, the Indonesian leader spoke of his respect for the university, where many Indonesians—including his own cabinet secretary Diplo Alam, M.A. ‘83–have received degrees.
He described how Indonesians voted him into office during the country’s first direct presidential elections in 2004. Still dealing with the aftermath of Asia’s 1997 financial crisis, Indonesia grappled with separatism, terrorism, some violence and corruption. Ten years later, President Yudhoyono said, the country’s social and economic reforms have made the nation the world’s third largest democracy after India and the U.S, and the 16th largest economy.
The country progressed largely because of regional stability and international cooperation, President Yudhoyono said. Indonesia has thrived because of what its people call “zero enemies, a million friends.” More importantly, Indonesia benefitted from major powers maintaining healthy relationships and working with one another to augment the global economy.
George Washington President Steven Knapp met with Desi Albert Mamahit, rector of the Indonesian Defense University, on Friday to sign a letter of intent signifying future cooperation between the George Washington University and the Indonesian Defense University.
Those days of international harmony are in danger, President Yudhoyono warned, and the future he foresees isn’t pretty. Conflicts between major powers threaten to erupt all over the globe—particularly between China and Japan, but in other places as well.
“We see this worrying trend in relations between Russia and Europe, between Russia and the U.S., between China and the U.S.,” he said.
He urged the global community to reverse conflicts and emphasized that the U.S. must encourage international harmony, especially as the Obama administration focuses on an Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy proposed in 2011. President Yudhoyono asked that the U.S. make its strategy “consistent and complimentary” to Southeast Asia, a region that has come together, solved disputes and signed more than 20 maritime agreements in recent years. Diplomatic developments have been “the best thing to happen to Southeast Asia,” he said.
“The more Southeast Asian countries solve the their old problems, the more confident they become and the more peace and cooperation grew in our neighborhood. We are determined to strengthen this regionalism as part of a building block for peace in Asia, as well as globally,” he said.
He also called for a code of conduct in the South China Sea to keep the tension-filled area from disagreements. North Asian countries should consider similar maritime agreements, he said.
Indonesia will do its part promoting international unity. President Yudhoyono explained that the country will maintain its strong ties to the U.S. and its close economic exchanges with China by developing relationships with both major powers—not one over the other. The nation will devote itself to building an “architecture of peace” and using its energy to steer the world toward healthy, amicable relationships.
“It is my hope that major powers will also take up that counsel,” he said.