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Yudhoyono under fire for focusing on party rather than handling

Publication Date : 21-01-2014


Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s decision to focus on the business of running the Democratic Party (PD) as the nation is coping with natural disasters has been criticised as insensitive.

Yudhoyono is scheduled to hold a meeting with PD members in Medan, North Sumatra, next Friday, on the sidelines of his visit to the area affected by the Mount Sinabung eruption.

Over the weekend, while thousands of people in Jakarta and Manado were being affected by rising floodwaters, Yudhoyono chaired a party meeting in Bali.

Yudhoyono, in his capacity as PD chairman, will meet with hundreds of PD members from North Sumatra province in the provincial capital of Medan on Friday, PD deputy secretary-general Andi Nurpati said.

“The meeting will be closed to media, just like the one we had in Bali,” she said. “Such a meeting is aimed at enhancing party consolidation as part of our preparations ahead of the general election in April.”

Andi brushed off suggestions that it was unethical for the President to use an official visit for political party business. She said the President had always spent time dealing with his party’s business while on holiday or at home.

On Sunday evening, Yudhoyono held a closed-door meeting in Nusa Dua with thousands of PD members representing Bali, West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara provinces.

The President’s official agenda in Bali was to attend the opening ceremony of the national congress for the Indonesian Builders Association (Gapensi), which was scheduled for Monday morning.

Political communications expert Effendi Ghazali said that Yudhoyono had a different approach to his state duties than did other world leaders.

Other state leaders normally give priority to state affairs rather than their party agenda, Effendi said.

Effendi suggested that Yudhoyono focus his energy on coordinating relief efforts for the disasters, which have struck many regions of the country.

“The presence of a state leader among the victims will cheer them up because it will convince them that the President cares about them,” Effendi, who is also a committee member of the PD’s presidential convention, said.

“The [PD] meeting in Bali may have been urgent for him but, from the perspective of political communication, his choice of attending to party affairs rather than helping the victims of the disasters was unwise,” he added.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Tubagus Hasanuddin said that most of Yudhoyono’s predecessors had reacted with more empathy when disasters struck.

“When the earthquake struck Papua in 2004, president Megawati [Megawati Soekarnoputri] immediately visited the site. In 1981, when flash floods hit Talaga in Majalengka, president Soeharto rushed to the location. This is about feelings; he should have visited Manado,” Tubagus said.

Marzuki Alie, the deputy chairman of the party’s board of patrons, defended the President’s move, saying that Yudhoyono had every right to take care of the party in the lead-up to the election.

“When will he have time amid his busy schedule? Is it so wrong to visit members of your party in order to prepare them ahead of the elections?” Marzuki asked.

Daniel Sparingga, a presidential special staff member, also claimed that the President had done his best to coordinate relief efforts.

“The President often chairs coordination meetings to handle natural disasters at the Cabinet level,” he said.


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