What similarities exist between Indonesia and Nigeria?I am excited to be posted to this great country -Nigeria. Nigeria is the major power of Africa. Our two countries have some commonalities. Indonesia is the largest country in South East Asia, not only in terms of geography but also in terms of population. Indonesia has 250 million people and we are the 10th largest country economically. We are a unitary state but you are a federal state. Both countries are rich in culture. There are 700 different languages in Indonesia but we have developed one of the many minority languages to become our national language by adding bits of other languages.We consider our development successful. The middle class has increased from 50 to 60 million people. Around 73 per cent of Indonesians are between the age of 16 and 34.Indonesia is blessed with not only natural resources but also human resources, like Nigeria.We, at the embassy, try to share a more understanding with regard to Nigeria because we are trying to encourage people to come to our country. I have a very strong commitment to promote the interaction, not only from government-to-government but also from people to people.How can you describe the bilateral relations between both countries?Indonesia has a robust relation with Nigeria. Nigeria is the major power of Africa and you enjoy the position of the largest economy in Africa. Considering our similarities and the excellent relations between us, we have to do more in bilateral relations. We feel that our bilateral relations should not be restricted to between governments and officials, but also the people of both countries. We both have some potentials to explore to share benefits and contributions. We have something to exchange. Indonesia’s trade balance with Nigeria is sizeable. It was $4 billion in 2014 and $3.6 billion in 2013. I think it’s still in favour of Nigeria because we buy more than we sell to you. And I do recognize that there are some Indonesia related companies operating in Nigeria. In 2013, five Nigerian airline companies did their maintenance services in Indonesia.What is the focus of Indonesia’s relations with Nigeria?Indonesia just completed our presidential election at the end of 2014. Our elections were interesting because we had two contestants close to each other. It was difficult to predict who would win. Luckily it did not come to violence. The argument was very strong and tough but it didn’t bring us to any violence. When we successfully found a new president, other groups supported them in order to have a united nation because we understand that in presidential elections, it’s the nation that matters not individuals.Now, the new president, His Excellency Joko Widodo, has a new pragmatic policy. He is humble and his concept is simple but sometimes not easy to implement. His policy focuses on how to increase the prosperity of Indonesia. And we have to have a strong defence and a stable nation.The president asked all ambassadors to focus on the economic relations to help our economy and also nurture our bilateral relations. What is Indonesia’s experience with terrorism like? I was deputy chief of the national counter terrorism body in Indonesia. Terrorism in Indonesia is really imminent. It’s not a joke. It’s really there. We’ve experienced series of terror incidents in Indonesia and more than 400 people have died. The danger of terrorism is not the distractions that they are making, but the impact they make. What they are up to is actually to intimidate the people, to compel the government either to do or not to do something. They are trying to destabilise the economic, political and social lives of the country. They tell the people that their ideology is better than what the government offers them. Terrorism in Indonesia is mostly ideology-driven. They want to build Indonesia with different ideology and structure of government. They are also using local grievances mixed with truth, conspiracy and lies. The agency is relatively young, established in 2011 but we do apply two prong approaches - the hard and soft approaches. By hard approach, we try to destroy and decapitate terrorist groups, individuals and at the same time, also bring them to justice. We already brought more than 1,000 people to justice. More than 400 are in prison, some executed, some are ready to be released because they have already fulfilled their terms of punishment in jail. Using the soft and persuasive approach, we empower the society. We provide the confidence so the society has the confidence to challenge the terrorist and the radicalist. The third is to give them counter narrative. They are easily won over by radicals who are smart in influencing people based on religion and the people are so confused.What can you say about the Nigerians on death row in Indonesia?On the list are 20 Indonesians as well. Indonesian legislation still recognizes capital punishment for serious crimes. This applies to everybody; Indonesians and foreigners. We apply the capital punishment in serious crimes like terrorism and narcotics. We put narcotics because Indonesia is in the emergency of narcotics. Thousands of Indonesian children die every month. We remind everybody including foreigners who are going into Indonesia on the flight before they land in Indonesia that trafficking in Indonesia can lead to the death penalty. Not all though, there is a certain amount of drugs that attract the capital punishment. It is not the government who sentences people for capital punishment, it’s done through the long and due process of law.From the first district court when they are apprehended, they go to the appeal court and from there to the Supreme Court. After the Supreme Court, there is still the clemency stage. So before getting to all the steps and the request for clemency and it’s denied, we would have given ample opportunity for access to the foreign embassies whose citizens are involved, they have all access. They are free to give their consular assistance to these people. Only after the legal defence is exhausted then the execution will be applied.In using the due process of the law, is there no room for negotiation? The government of Indonesia is separated from the judiciary and legislative. The government cannot intervene. But the president can come in when the request for clemency is made. Negotiation? It’s rather not common in Indonesia to negotiate a legal case. Perhaps what you do is to tell your legal defence to do their own and the embassy also.I feel sorry we are facing this kind of situation where Nigerians are approaching execution. But it looks like we have a little delay because there are convicts who tried to do further legal process. They try to make a review but there are some criteria to meet. If you have new evidence and it’s really proven then you can do a review. I don’t know if it can be done more than once because I understand a review had been done before the clemency. Perhaps somebody just found a new genuine evidence which is contrary to the old one but I have to admit that I don’t know the details of why there is a legal process, the waiting before the executions are done.What of prisoner swap between the two countries? We have already negotiated with some other countries including Nigeria but the negotiations are inconclusive because Indonesia is rather hesitant to prisoner swap although there is room to do this kind of negotiation. As I mentioned, when I met the permanent secretary, ministry of foreign affairs, I already sent his appeal to Jakarta but of course in a case like this, they will respond after inter-agency consultations.This issue has already been raised by Nigeria previously. We have our bilateral meetings. The response from Indonesia is yet not so clear.
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