Taking a cue from Jokowi’s visit

Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo (left) and Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Indonesian President said his government would open its doors to Malaysian investors as ‘widely as possible’ and asked Malaysian investors to venture into several sectors.

AS Joko Widodo settled himself to sit opposite Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for their bilateral meeting in Putrajaya last Friday, the Indonesia President uttered, “Janji ditepati” (Fulfilling my promise”).

The Prime Minister laughed and responded: “Thank you for honouring your promise!”

Najib and his officials were obviously pleased with Jokowi’s visit.

Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, received an invitation from Najib to visit Malaysia when the two leaders met briefly after his inauguration last October in Jakarta.

Kuala Lumpur is happy that Malaysia was the first bilateral stop for Jokowi’s three-nation tour in the region and even more delighted that the Indonesian leader seemed genuine in wanting to resolve lingering outstanding bilateral issues, from overlapping maritime claims to maids and illegal fishing.

And things were made easier when Jokowi displayed characteristics that endeared him to Malaysians.

“He is very straight forward. He may not be an orator but he is somebody you can talk to,” said a senior official who could only sing praises for the Indonesian leader.

“He is very down to earth and genuinely a very nice person.”

Perhaps Jokowi realised that Malaysia has only good intentions when dealing with Indonesia, and that some issues have, for far too long, dragged on with no solution in sight.

“I think he wants to reciprocate but he is still new and Malaysia can understand that he needs to be cautious,” said an official.

“But he recognises the problems and wants to resolve them.”

Those views were shared by an Indonesian English daily, The Jakarta Post, which in its editorial last week said the President was right in choosing Malaysia as his first destination, reflecting his awareness that among Asean members, Indonesia has many problems and also opportunities with its closest neighbours, especially Malaysia and Singapore.

“We have a kind of love-hate relationship with Malaysia.

“Malaysia is often perceived as arrogant, but many of us forget there is always another side to the coin. With Prime Minister Najib Razak, the President can have frank discussions, including on issues sensitive to both sides, to find mutually beneficial solutions,” according to the editorial.

Emerging after the talks, Najib, with Jokowi standing several metres away, declared in a joint press conference that their meeting was productive.

“We had a productive discussion that portrays our political will to boost bilateral ties between Malaysia and Indonesia,” Najib said.

Overall it is a good start, the goodwill is there.

Immediately after the meeting, officials and ministers took the cue from the leaders’ talks and met separately to get things moving.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, when met after the meeting, took note of the leaders’ concern that it would be impossible to achieve the US$30bil (RM108bil) target for bilateral trade this year due to the lethargic economy.

“I am meeting my Indonesian counterpart tonight.

“We have to be more aggressive to get more investments,” he added.

Malaysian companies, too, should take note that the Indonesian President, in his parting remarks at the joint press conference, said his government would open its doors to Malaysian investors as “widely as possible”, addressing concerns over his government’s perceived nationalistic policies.

Jokowi is asking Malaysian investors to venture into several sectors including railway, airport and port development.

Officials are already making preparations for the 14th Malaysia-Indonesia Joint Commission Meeting (JCM), which is a mechanism to resolve bilateral matters at ministerial level, and the leaders’ annual consultation which will take place in Malaysia this year.

Malaysia is now waiting for Indonesia to appoint its special envoy to resolve the maritime territorial claims in the Sulawesi Sea, which had been a stumbling block to ties strained in 2005.

Kuala Lumpur has already chosen its candidate, who is a former diplomat, it is understood.

But one official cautioned that while the goodwill is there, it remains to be seen whether this will be translated into overall policies on the Indonesian side, and more importantly, finding solutions that would be acceptable to both governments for the various outstanding issues.

Malaysia enjoyed strong ties under the previous Indonesian leader and following Jokowi’s state visit, officials are getting positive vibes.

How fast will things move after the visit?

Well, we will just to have wait and see.

Opinion , Columnists , Mergawati Jokowi


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