Indonesia’s ambassador to the United States says Indonesian communities living overseas could become a major force for development in the archipelago.
On the eve of the first Congress of Indonesian Diaspora, Ambassador Dino Patti Djalal said on Thursday that Indonesians abroad had been largely ignored by their country and government back home.
“Indonesian migrants overseas are not yet reckoned in calculations about Indonesia’s future,” he said. “Their nationalism is often questioned.”
The three-day congress, which begins today in Los Angeles, is open to all Indonesians living overseas regardless of their profession or background.
It was organized to help the diaspora discuss problems they faced abroad, exchanging experiences and opinions to come up with solutions.
Dino defined the diaspora as “any Indonesians overseas, both those of Indonesian blood or with an Indonesian spirit and culture, whatever their legal standing, their profession, their ethnic background and their preferences.”
The congress has already registered participants from the United States, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Singapore and several other countries.
Dino said he hoped the congress would build friendships and a spirit of togetherness among Indonesians abroad.
Mari Elka Pangestu, the minister of tourism and creative industry, will join Education Minister Muhammad Nuh and Priyo Budi Santoso, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, among other officials attending the congress.
The business world will also be well represented, with entrepreneurs such as Chairul Tanjung and Anindya Bakrie expected to attend, along with Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the Islamic organization Muhammadiyah, and artists Nicholas Saputra and Cinta Laura.
Dino said it was important for the government to consider Indonesian living abroad as a positive force that could help promote progress in the archipelago.
“With the resources, the expertise and the networks they have, they are a force to be reckoned with in defining the strategies and policies of the Indonesian government,” he said.
As the diaspora continues to grow, he said it was important for its members to know each other and organize into a network capable of uniting and mobilizing.
“There are many of our people overseas who are eager to help Indonesia but do not know how to go about it,” he said.
He said the congress was expected to come up with strategies for Indonesians abroad to help their country.
Among programs on the table at the congress will be the establishment of an Indonesian “brain bank,” hoped to become a means of strengthening the diaspora’s networking capacity and information exchange worldwide.
The congress is scheduled to close on Sunday with a declaration of commitment by Indonesians overseas.
“This declaration will become a basis for the development of the Indonesian diaspora in the future,” Dino said.
“It is hoped that further meetings will be held to follow up on the results of the first Indonesian diaspora congress.”
Among the more notable Indonesians working overseas are singers Anggun C. Sasmi and Daniel Sahuleka, and World Bank executive Sri Mulyani Indrawati.