Zakir Hussain – Straits Times
Jakarta. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has criticized former Malaysian minister and newspaperman Zainuddin Maidin for insulting Indonesia’s ex-president B.J. Habibie in an article, saying the comments are unethical and overstep the boundary.
The comments, he said, jeopardized relations between the two countries.
Yudhoyono’s remarks came on the eve of his visit to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. He said he will raise the matter with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during their annual high-level talks.
“Although [Zainuddin's remarks] do not reflect the attitude and views of the Malaysian government, but that of an individual in Malaysia, it still affects our good relations,” Yudhoyono said on Monday.
“I will raise this matter with the Malaysian PM, and I hope in future we are mindful of one another’s feelings, respect one another, and in so doing not disrupt what we are doing to build cooperation and friendship between our two countries,” he added.
He spoke after watching the premiere of the film “Habibie and Ainun,” on the former president’s relationship with his late wife.
In a column in Utusan Malaysia newspaper on Dec. 10, Zainuddin, a former Information minister, called Habibie a “traitor to his nation” and “a dog of imperialism” for freeing then East Timor.
The piece was headlined “Similarities Between B.J. Habibie and Anwar Ibrahim,” and took aim at the close friendship between both men. Datuk Seri Anwar is Malaysia’s opposition leader.
It drew a strong backlash from Indonesians and their lawmakers, some of whom called on Yudhoyono to cancel today’s scheduled visit.
Zainuddin refused to apologize all of last week, despite calls to do so.
Habibie has kept his cool, saying via Habibie Center’s Twitter account: “When one insults you, take it as a compliment that they spend so much time thinking about you, when you don’t even think about them.”
At yesterday’s movie screening, Yudhoyono paid tribute to Habibie’s contributions.
In the audience was Anwar, who told reporters: “I have always hoped for good bilateral ties. Those who are shallow, rude, of low intellect, should not disturb good relations.”
Yudhoyono has a scheduled private meeting with Najib.
Both sides have arranged to discuss issues such as the protection of Indonesian nationals and workers in Malaysia, boundary matters, as well as trade and investment, said presidential staffer Teuku Faizasyah.
Reprinted courtesy of The Straits Times