Published: Friday October 24, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday October 24, 2014 MYT 6:56:28 AM

Off to a good start

Top leaders: Najib meeting Jokowi at Istana Merdeka in Jakarta. - Bernama

Top leaders: Najib meeting Jokowi at Istana Merdeka in Jakarta. - Bernama

Malaysia-Indonesia ties set to take firm course with Jokowi at the helm.

MONDAY was a rather stressful day for several Malaysian officials in Jakarta.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was scheduled to meet newly inaugurated Indonesian President Joko Widodo at Istana Merdeka, but miscommunication between Indonesia’s foreign ministry and the Palace caused the meeting to be delayed several times.

While the officials were in panic mode with one saying he nearly had a heart attack, the Prime Minister was very relaxed and calmed them down when he said: “It’s Jokowi’s day.”

Najib can relate to the jubilation in Jakarta that day.

The mood in the republic was euphoric to welcome the man seen as the people’s leader.

Joko, widely referred to as Jokowi, had endless programmes lined up to commemorate the day which began with his swearing-in, witnessed by many leaders, including Najib, meet-the-people session on the streets of Jakarta, and a concert in the evening, among others.

When Najib eventually arrived at the palace, Jokowi was waiting for him at the porch and personally greeted the Prime Minister.

Najib spoke in Bahasa Malaysia while Jokowi in Bahasa Indonesia and they seemed to hit it off as leaders.

After the congratulations and pleasantries, it was down to business – after all, the Prime Minister wanted to get outstanding bilateral issues moving.

One of his priorities was the maritime territorial claims by both countries in the Sulawesi Sea.

Najib was pretty adamant that it was time to resolve the issue which had been a stumbling block to bila­teral ties that were strained in 2005 when naval vessels from both countries “brushed” against each other in the oil-rich area, followed with protests in Indonesia, including the burning of Malaysian flag.

Twenty-six meetings had been held at official level over the years to find ways to resolve this issue and it is still a stalemate.

Malaysia had during last year’s leaders annual consultation between Najib and then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono suggested appointing a chief negotiator, but it remained a proposal.

An official said one could only speculate that the proposal did not proceed because Susilo was at the tail end of his 10-year presidency.

“But with Jokowi, this is one of the first things we are pushing and his immediate response has been very positive,” said an official.

It is understood Jokowi wanted a “win-win” solution and agreed the issue be given priority.

While Malaysia is encouraged with his reaction, it’s best to remind ourselves that Jokowi has just started his new job.

Surely officials from his Foreign Ministry or Kemlu will have to brief him on the issues Indonesia has, not just with Malaysia, but other countries too.

“Yes, he genuinely showed he is keen, but we have to wait and see what is the direction after he meets his foreign officials,” said another official.

If the chief negotiator idea takes off, it will be interesting who will fill up the position.

This is not the first time such a move is done.

During the long-standing claim over Sarawak’s Limbang district by Brunei, the Government appointed a former diplomat to resolve the issue and various land and sea territorial disputes between Malaysia and Brunei.

As for the maritime boundaries with Indonesia, Najib made it clear to Jokowi that the time was right to bring negotiations to a higher level.

He wants the dispute to be resolved once and for all.

At the moment, officials are happy that the meeting, which lasted slightly more than 10 minutes, was enough to tell the new Indonesian government to “let’s get down to serious business”.

Judging from the body language of the leaders, observed by officials, Najib and Jokowi have the chemistry and they are ease with each other.

Najib came across as very sincere and Jokowi was appreciative of Na­­jib’s presence on his special day.

It was a relaxed, friendly environment, with laughter all around at the Istana that Monday afternoon and Malaysian officials left the Istana grounds with good vibes.

Hopefully, that feel good mood will last longer this time around.

The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Tags / Keywords: Najib Jokowi

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