Former president B.J. Habibie has given his backing to fellow German engineering alumnus Fauzi Bowo, the former Jakarta governor, to be Indonesia’s next ambassador in Berlin, despite criticism of the appointment.
The two met at Habibie’s house in South Jakarta on Friday, a day after the House of Representatives confirmed Fauzi as among 22 new ambassadors nominated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“You could say that Foke is an expert in what he does,” Habibie said, referring to Fauzi by his nickname.
“The expert” was how Fauzi touted himself in his ultimately failed bid to win re-election last year.
“The president has put his trust in Foke to carry out this mission that brings together the leading economy in Europe with one of the leading economies in Asia, so we have to stand behind him for his mission to succeed,” Habibie said.
Fauzi said he was honored at both the opportunity to serve the government and the support from the ex-president.
“I hope to make valuable contributions to the people and the country,” he said.
He added he had come to see Habibie to ask his advice on working in Germany, where the latter has lived for much of his life and is an honorary citizen.
“I want to take in different views. I want to make the most use out of Habibie’s experience in Germany,” he said.
Both Fauzi and Habibie studied engineering at German universities, albeit at different times. The former governor is also fluent in German.
Despite these credentials, however, opposition has sprung up in response to his appointment, primarily from Indonesian university students in Germany.
The Indonesian Students Association sent an open letter on Monday to President Yudhoyono, the House and the Foreign Ministry to denounce Fauzi’s appointment on several grounds.
Hartono Sugih, the head of the German chapter of the PPI, wrote in the letter that Fauzi was not an appropriate candidate because he had made a slur against Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on account of his ethnic background, while campaigning in last year’s gubernatorial election. The letter also criticized Fauzi’s record as Jakarta governor.
Max Sopacua, a legislator from the Democratic Party, of which Fauzi is a member, dismissed the students’ concerns, saying the appointment of ambassadors was “the government’s business,” not theirs.
Fauzi, however, took a more conciliatory line with his detractors, saying that while he disagreed with the PPI’s accusations, the students had every right to raise their concerns.
“In a democracy it’s normal to have differences of opinion,” he said.
“I’m ready to do my job, and that includes looking out for the interests of Indonesians studying in Germany, because I was once a student there too.”
The German PPI has been vocal in its criticism of Indonesian officials before.
In April last year, students attending a dinner hosted for House members visiting Berlin called the legislators “country bumpkins” for bringing along their spouses and spending time shopping during what was meant to be a working trip.