The Australian ambassador returned to Jakarta this week, while the Indonesian president was out of town. President Jokowi moved his office to his hometown of Surakarta for most of the week to attend his eldest son's wedding to a former beauty queen. The president left a ripple of debate in his wake over his controversial nominations for a new military commander and a new head for Indonesia's intelligence agency.
Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, returned to Jakarta early in the week after a five-week absence. Grigson was recalled following the executions of two Australians last month. It was the first time an Australian ambassador had been recalled from Indonesia and the first time Australia had recalled an ambassador in response to the execution of citizens abroad. However, the Indonesian Government did not appear too ruffled, with Vice President Jusuf Kalla at the time predicting that the ambassador would be back within a month. Australian officials had also made statements prior to recalling the ambassador that assured Australia's ongoing commitment to good relations with Indonesia.
Prime Minister Abbott defended the quick return of the ambassador this week, saying relations with Indonesia were 'strong and getting stronger'. Even with the ambassador now back in Jakarta, the strength of the relationship is likely to be again tested in the coming months as Indonesia handles its promised intake of Rohingya refugees, and especially in light of new allegations by the Indonesian police that an Australian official paid a crew of people smugglers to turn back a boat carrying asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
President Jokowi may not yet have given much thought to the ambassador's return, since he's been stationed in Central Java for most of the week. The President has been preoccupied with organising a traditional Javanese wedding ceremony for his eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who married former beauty queen Selvi Ananda on Thursday in Surakarta, the town where Jokowi first gained national attention as a successful mayor. Selvi is a former Miss Surakarta, who met the president's son when he was a panelist for the beauty pageant in 2009.
The wedding arrangements reflected Jokowi's commitment to maintaining a humble profile for his family, with pedal-powered becak hired to take guests to the reception venue, and the couple choosing to travel there by foot. This firmly low-key approach strikes a contrast with the more ostentatious displays of wealth by children of Indonesia's former presidents. Nonetheless, it did cause some fuss as hundreds of journalists registered to attend the wedding, and flagship carrier Garuda upgraded the Jakarta-Surakarta route with several business class-fitted Airbuses to accommodate the high-profile guests flooding in from the capital. Gibran is unlikely to have enjoyed the attention, considering his aversion to the media during Jokowi's presidential campaign last year. Meanwhile, Jokowi's younger son Kaesang, who is known to be more at ease with publicity, let Indonesia know he's still single with his latest blog post detailing the woes of his unsuccessful love life.
As he was heading out of town, Jokowi left behind a letter containing his nominations for new leaders of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).
His picks for both roles have sparked some controversy. Sutiyoso, a retired army general and former governor of Jakarta, was picked to become the head of BIN, while Gatot Nurmantyo, the current army chief of staff, was picked to become the commander of the TNI. Nurmantyo is contentious because since 1999, nominations for the role have been based on a rotational system among the army, navy and air force. This system, introduced by former president Abdurrahman Wahid, was intended to break the stronghold of the army under former president Suharto's authoritarian rule. According to this system, the pick for TNI commander this year should have been a candidate from the navy. There are concerns that breaking the rotational system may stoke inter-service rivalries.
Sutiyoso, meanwhile, is a contentious pick for BIN chief because of his political interests and his history in the armed forces. The retired army general and former Jakarta governor is currently chairman of the Indonesian Unity and Justice Party (PKPI), one of the smaller parties making up Jokowi's coalition. He has a complicated relationship with Jokowi's party chairwoman, Megawati Sukarnoputri, having both led an attack on her party headquarters in 1996 that left five of her supporters dead and 23 missing, and enjoyed her political support as a reappointed governor of Jakarta in the early 2000s.
Photo by Flickr user Aditya Fajar.