For many participants on this year’s Into Indonesia tour this is the first time they have ever been to Indonesia’s capital city, the giant metropolis Jakarta. We are staying at the Hotel Borobudur and the views from our windows include some of the cities most famous landmarks including the largest mosque in Indonesia, Masjid Istiqlal, the Gereja Kathedral and the Liberation Statue.
First on the itinerary was a visit to the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia where we were warmly welcomed by the Director of Public Diplomacy and Public Relations, Bapak Al-Busyra and the Director General, Bapak Fahir. The Director informed the group about the department’s aims of promoting democratic values of freedom, peace and social justice and the promotion of dialogue between nations and organizations. He stated that while relations between our two countries are good, there is still a lot we can both do to improve and strengthen people to people relationships. There were nods all around the boardroom table when he stated this and there is a common feeling among the group that education holds a key to developing and strengthening the people to people ties. Bapak Al-Busyra also described his nation as one big melting pot of a rich range of ethic groups, cultures, languages and religions and one of the aims of this tour is to develop participants’ understanding of Indonesia’s diversity.
We are not the only Aussies in town. The newly elected Prime Minister, The Honourable Tony Abbott, is staying a few blocks down the road amid much public discussion in the media about the new Coalition policies on asylum seekers and our relationship with Indonesia. He is starting talks with President SBY on our first day.
The issue of proximity and shared waters with Australia and the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat was really brought home while visiting Jakarta’s old port, Sunda Kelapa. We took a stroll along the wharf, which is lined with giant wooden pinisi ships carrying a variety of cargo. Indonesia has almost 54,000 kms of coastline, the second longest in the world with many large ports just like Sunda Kelapa and tens of thousands of smaller fishing villages.
We then proceeded onto Fatahilla Square, the old city of Batavia but sadly the museums were closed as it was a Monday. Nevertheless we could still get a glimpse of the cruelty and comforts of colonial times under the rule of Dutch (and Portuguese and English). Finally Café Batavia, provided a chance to step back in time and experience some of those comforts!