SBY Turns to Ex-Veep on Rohingya Issue
Arientha Primanita, Ezra Sihite & Dessy Sagita
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Thursday he hoped that former Vice President Jusuf Kalla would be willing to become the country’s special envoy on the Rohingya issue.
“I hope that Mr. JK, with his extensive experience, can become our special envoy, so that Indonesia’s solidarity and attention on the humanitarian issue of the Rohingya is accurate, does not give rise to misunderstanding for Myanmar but also helps our Rohingnya brothers and sisters,” Yudhoyono said.
The president spoke after meeting Kalla, who came as chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) to discuss the Rohingnya issue.
Kalla had last week visited Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Thursday’s meeting was to brief the president on the results of the visit.
Yudhoyono said the government was prepared to take a constructive role in helping secure a settlement to the Rohingya issue. Kalla is scheduled to meet with several figures in Myanmar on Sept. 8.
“We can participate in building houses or providing whatever food material needed by the displaced Rohingya. I asked what Indonesia can do, its government or its people,” Yudhoyono said.
He said he had sent Myanmar President Thein Sein a letter about the humanitarian plight of the Rohingya. ”Myanmar is open to participation by Indonesia,” he said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the country was at the forefront of efforts to solve the problems of the Rohingya ethnic minority.
“With pressure from Indonesia, Asean has moved a statement on the Rohingya and diplomatic efforts have resulted in an Asean statement on the Rohingya problem,” Marty said.
The minister also said that at a summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Indonesia, along with Malaysia, Brunei and Bangladesh, had asked the organization’s members to push for humanitarian aid for the Rohingya and pressure Myanmar to allow international access to the ethnic group.
“The comprehensive nature of the approach, the humanitarian problem and the status of these Rohingya have to be settled within the framework of the state of Myanmar,” Marty added.
He said that Indonesia was sheltering some of the Rohingya who had fled their country or had been forcibly expelled from Myanmar but added that the Foreign Ministry was not yet considering providing Indonesian citizenship to the displaced Rohingya.
“ What we have been doing so far is just providing them with shelter,” the minister said.
Kalla, who in 2004 and 2005 successfully brokered a peace deal between the government and the armed rebel group Free Aceh Movement (GAM), said he was not aware that Yudhoyono had appointed him to be Indonesia’s special envoy.
“It was not mentioned in [Thursday’s meeting with Yudhoyono],” the former vice president said. “Next month we will start reconstructing a settlement with the Organization of Islamic Conference. Of course, I will use the visit to promote peace [in Myanmar].”
The PMI is also scheduled to meet with its counterparts in Myanmar to allow humanitarian aid to start flowing into the country.
“The PMI will cooperate with Myanmar [Red Cross] and its field operation will be conducted along with OIC countries and is open to possibly other Red Cross or Red Crescents from other countries to join,” PMI secretary general Budi A. Adiputro said on Friday.