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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     16-18 November  2011

“Reject Barack Obama” says Indonesian Muslim organization

November 15 2011

A year ago, Barack Obama as the US president, made his first visit to Indonesia which he described as "pulang kampung" (home coming) because he had once spent his childhood at Menteng, Jakarta.

His visit in November 2010 was welcomed by many parties and Obama was even able to "charm" a few Indonesians when he spoke at the University of Indonesia.

But, for sure, "the Menteng kid" has not succeeded in changing the stance of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) Muslim organization which has rejected him since the beginning.

HTI once again opposed Obama`s planned visit to Indonesia for the Sixth East Asian Summit (EAS), which will be held in Bali, November 17-19, 2011, in parallel with the 19th ASEAN Summit.

The US president is expected to arrive in Bali on Wednesday (Nov 16) for EAS which will also be attended by the heads of state/government of the 10 member countries of ASEAN, and the regional organization`s partner countries, which include China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Russia.

On November 13, 2011, thousands of HTI members staged a rally rejecting the upcoming visit of President Obama, in front of the US embassy in Jakarta.

"We reject the presence of the US President, Barack Obama, because his participation in the ASEAN Summit is meant to promote the US interests in the East Asian region, including Indonesia," HTI spokesman Muhammad Ismail said.

The presence of Obama in the ASEAN Summit is to make sure that capitalism is still being applied in Indonesia, according to him.

"We call on all Muslims to reject the arrival of Obama, and today, Sunday (Nov 13), around 15,000 HTI members are holding a rally in front of the US embassy. This will not be last of our protests," Ismail said.

Ismail said the US is seeing Indonesia as a strategic partner which is reliable to safeguard its own interests in the East Asian region, because the US` energy demand is enormous, and Indonesia is a resource country that could fulfill the US demands.

"We continue rejecting imperialism and capitalism because we want to save the nation," Ismail said.

Similar anti-Obama rallies were also organized by HTI regional chapters in other cities such as Palu (Central Sulawesi), Solo (Central Java), Surabaya, Malang, and Ngawi,(East Java), Banda Aceh (Aceh Darussalam), Bandung (West Java), Pekanbaru (Riau), and Kendari (Southeast Sulawesi).

In Bandung, some 1,000 members of HTI`s West Java chapter staged a rally outside Gedung Sate, last Friday (Nov 11), also to reject Obama`s planned visit.

"The rally is a form of our rejection of US President Barack Obama who will pay another visit to Indonesia, Bali in particular to attend ASEAN-East Asia Summit on November 17-19," the local HTI spokesman Lutfi Afandi said on the sidelines of the rally.

From the geographical point of view, Obama`s planned participation in the summit was very improper, he said.

"What is interesting is that as a leader of the US which is geographically not part of East Asia, he will come here for this summit. What is the motive behind the planned visit?" he asked.

He said HTI rejected Obama`s planned visit to Indonesia on the ground it would have no positive impact on Indonesia whatsoever.

"The US is currently the hardest by crisis. The amount of their debts exceeds that of ours. The number of unemployed people in the US now reaches 46 million. Then what can we expect from the US?" he said.

He said Obama`s participation in the summit would be nothing more than strengthening the US interests in East Asia, including Indonesia.

Therefore, he added that through the rally the organization called on the entire Indonesian people, including state and government officials to think that Obama`s visit would have no positive impact on Indonesia.

In the rally, the HTI members carried hundreds of banners and posters in black which among others read "Reject Barack Obama".

They also distributed leaflets among passersby containing reasons behind the HTI`s rejection of Obama`s planned visit to Indonesia.

Last year, on November 9, 2010, at a joint press conference with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Obama reiterated that the US government had been sincerely striving to cooperate with the Muslim world through various approaches.

Despite obama`s above statement, however, at least HTI`s Aceh and Ngawi chapters are not impressed.

"America is still targetting Muslim majority countries with attacks and massacres. To demonstrate our solidarity, we call on the public to join the rally against Obama`s visit," HTI Ngawi Chapter Chairman Muhammad Amin said in a rally in Ngawi, on Monday (Nov 14).

HTI said that Obama is the president of a country which had invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, and continued attacking the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Last November 2010, HTI and an organization called "Students` Liberation Movement" (Gerakan Mahasiswa Pembebasan) organized peaceful demonstrations in several cities, such as in Jakarta, Kendari, Bandar Lampung (Sumatra), Sumenep (Madura Island, East Java), Medan (North Sumatra), Palangkaraya (Central Kalimantan), Pangkal Pinang (Bangka Belitung), Cianjur and Bandung (West Java) and Palu.

They basically conveyed a similar message: They opposed President Obama`s visit because they consider the US an imperialist state.

In essence, they conveyed a message that in accordance with the preamble of the 45 Constitution, the Indonesian people reject all kinds of imperialism and the United States is an imperialist power.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961, Barack Hussein Obama II lived in Jakarta from 1968 until 1972.

During his first and short visit last year, Obama, who had spent around four years during his childhood in Jakarta and joined local elementary schools, opened up about his nostalgic feeling about Indonesia, especially its people as well as local food.

When speaking at the University of Indonesia (UI), on the southern outskirt of Jakarta on November 10, 2010, Obama thrilled Indonesians by declaring "Saya bagian dari Indonesia (I am part of Indonesia)." Spontaneously the audiences gave him a big applause.

He recalled that he first came to this country after his mother married an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro, and he was glad that the people of Indonesia had quickly made him feel at home.

"So much has changed in the four decades since I boarded a plane to move back to Hawaii. If you asked me - or any of my schoolmates who knew me back then - I don`t think any of us could have anticipated that I would one day come back to Jakarta as President of the United States," Obama said.

One of his Indonesian teachers, once had told a media that she recalled that the little Obama had actually said that he wanted to be a president one day, when he was asked about his future goal. And he made it!

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