Monday, November 8, 2010

Obama's visit and alleged hidden imperialistic agenda by Fardah

    Jakarta, Nov 8, 2010 (ANTARA News) - After twice canceling his planned visit to Indonesiam namely in March and June this year, it is almost certain that US President Barack Obama will finally land in Jakarta Tuesday (Nov 9) despite the Mount Merapi eruptions.
     Obama`s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said in New Delhi Monday morning (Nov 8) that US officials were monitoring travel conditions closely due to the ongoing Mount Merapi eruption, but they were "proceeding with plans to depart for Indonesia" Tuesday (Nov 9), Associated Press reported.
     Indonesia is scheduled to be the second stop on Obama`s four-country trip through Asia, covering India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan.

      He canceled two previously scheduled visits because of the health care debate in the US Congress and the Gulf oil spill.

During his two-day visit, President Obama, who had spent several years in Jakarta during his childhood, will reportedly hold talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, visit the country`s biggest mosque, Istiqlal, and deliver a speech at the state University of Indonesia.

There have been pro and cons among some people in Indonesia, believed to be the world`s third largest democratic country after the US and India, since President Obama announced his plan to visit Indonesia early this year.

Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia`s largest Muslim organization, Said Aqiel Siradj at a press conference in Jakarta Saturday (Nov 6) called on the Indonesian people to welcome President Obama in accordance with the Islamic teachings which require Muslims to honor guests.

"Islam teaches us to honor our guests. But we also hope that Obama could mention in his speech that Islam is not identical with terrorism," Said Aqiel said as quoted by Kompas daily.

A similar opinion was also expressed by chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Ma`ruf Amin on a separate occasion. He urged the nation to welcome the US president properly.

But their calls did not stop those wanting to join peaceful demonstrations which happened in several Indonesian cities recently , such as in Jakarta, Kendari (Southeast Sulawesi), Bandar Lampung (Sumatra), Sumenep (Madura Island, East Java), Medan (North Sumatra), Palangkaraya (Central Kalimantan), Pangkal Pinang (Bangka Belitung), Cianjur and Bandung (West Java) and Palu (Central Kalimantan).

The rallies were mainly organized by two organizations, respectively called "Students` Liberation Movement (Gerakan Mahasiswa Pembebasan) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI). They basically conveyed a similar message: They opposed President Obama`s visit because they consider the US an imperialist state.

In essence, they said , in accordance with the preamble of the 45 Constitution, the Indonesian people reject all kinds of imperialism and the United States was obviously an imperialist power.

Obama would come with the purpose of, among other things, to sign a comprehensive partnership agreement with Indonesia which in fact would burden Indonesia because of its imperialistic nature, they said.

"At present, the Indonesian people are mourning due to natural disasters which have hit several areas. But, the impacts of Obama`s visit to Indonesia will be greater than those of the disasters," said Syamsul Arifin, one of around 20 HTI activists, who staged a rally rejecting Obama`s visit, in Sumenep (Madura Island), Monday (Nov 8).

"Reject Obama`s visit to Indonesia. Receiving Obama means hurting Indonesia`s political stance which is against colonialism," Syamsul said.

Rusly, head of the Sumenep HTI leadership council, said accepting Obama`s visit meant hurting Muslims all over the world.

"Obama has so far been a loyal supporter of Israel, which has been butchering Muslims in Palestine up to now," he said.

In Jakarta, Sunday (Nov 7), thousands of HTI members staged a protest in front of the presidential palace to reject Obama`s upcoming visit. They later proceeded to the US embassy in central Jakarta. They carried banners which among other things read "Comprehensive Partnership = Comprehensive Imperialism".

Earlier on Friday (Nov 5), students grouped in the Students` Liberation Movement in Bandarlampung, Lampung, and in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, also staged similar demonstrations.

They suspected that the comprehensive partnership agreement would not be a partnership between equals because in it Indonesia would be dictated by the super power.

The protesters also suspected that the US president would come with a hidden agenda of pressuring the Indonesian government to return the Natuna D Alpha oil block which was now being operated by Pertamina to US oil company Exxon.

"We also think the speech Obama is to deliver at the University of Indonesia (in Jakarta, on Nov. 10) will only be an attempt to create a good image of himself and the United States in the eyes of the Muslim world," said Iqbal, spokesman of the demonstrators in Bandarlampung.

He believed that Indonesia was just being used to boost the image of US foreign policy regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.

In Medan, North Sumatra, around 100 members of "Students` Liberation Movement" urged the government to cancel the Indonesia-US comprehensive agreement.

They said Obama`s visit could bring another "new disaster" while Indonesia has been hit by several disasters lately, such as the recent flash flood in Wasior (Papua), tsunami in Mentawai (West Sumatra) and Mount Merapi eruption in Yogyakarta and Central Java.

One of the students explained that what was meant by "the new disaster" was Obama`s dangerous agenda.

One of the agenda would by the comprehensive partnership agreement with Indonesia, while it would not be a partnership but imperialism, they said.

The protesters carried banners with texts which read, among other things, "Obama, Successor of Bush", "Obama Does Not Bring Change to the World", "Little Obama is Different from Big Obama".

It seems that more demonstrations will greet Obama during his visit, and police are preparing to make sure th rallies do not get out of hand.

National Police spokesman Inspector General Iskandar Hasan said in Jakarta, Friday (Nov 5) that "So long as the demonstrations are done in line with the rules, we will tolerate them."

He said the police would involve four regional police commands to ensure security during President Obama`s visit on November 9 to 10.
A total of 8,056 personnel from the Jakarta Metropolitan Police Command will be deployed, in addition to 5,974 from the West Java police, 849 from the Banten and 3,500 from the Central Java police, he said.

He said he hoped the demonstrators would not do things which could embarrass the nation and state.

"We will be regarded as a big nation that respects ethics. So let us respect our," Iskandar Hasan said.

In March 2010, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had expressed regret about rallies opposing the then planned visit of US President Barack Obama.

The head of state considered the rallies an exaggerated way to express opinions, according to Azyumardi Azra, chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals` Association (ICMI) Presidium, after meeting with Yudhoyono at the presidential office in Jakarta last March.

"Because President Obama very much loves Indonesia, respects Indonesia. Therefore, the President regrets the rallies against Obama`s planned visit," he said.

In the one-hour meeting with ICMI executives, Yudhoyono also emphasized that Obama`s upcoming visit should not be seen as a sign that Indonesia was under some form of pressure from the United States, Azra said.

The president said Indonesia is not at all under any kind of pressure from the United States, economically or militarily. He also assured that Obama`s visit does not mean that Indonesia will be dependent on the United States.