Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Police beef up security to welcome Secretary Clinton

Source: The Jakarta Post
The police have deployed 2,800 personnel to safeguard the capital as it prepares to host US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will touch down in Jakarta on Wednesday, following a two-day visit to Japan.

“We will provide tight security before her arrival in areas where Mrs. Clinton will pass through and stay,” National Police Spokesman Insp. Gen. Abubakar Nataprawira told the press on Tuesday.

He added officers would gear up for possible trouble, including rallies that could turn violent.
“Protest rallies will still be allowed. We will let them [protest] as long as they abide by the rules and do not cause disruptions.”

However, the Jakarta Police’s Traffic Management Center said they had yet to receive any reports of planned demonstrations for Wednesday. The police will reroute and manage traffic in areas where Clinton’s entourage will pass.

On Monday, about 100 people rallied in front of the US Embassy to protest the visit, saying it was part of a US plan to “divide and rule” Muslims around the world.

Clinton – whose last trip to Indonesia was in 1994 when she was the US first lady – will meet with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda on Wednesday afternoon and pay a courtesy call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono the next day.

“We will talk with Hillary about how to enhance bilateral relations between Indonesia and the US, how to create a strategic partnership,” Hassan told reporters at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base after meeting Yudhoyono, who was about to leave for Surabaya.

The talks, Hassan added, would include ways to overcome the crisis in the Southeast Asia and East Asia regions.

“We’ll also discuss attempts to resolve conflicts in the Middle East and Iran, and other issues that are of concern to the two countries [Indonesia and the US],” he said.

After Indonesia, Clinton will continue on her trip to South Korea and China.

Clinton is the first top US diplomat to visit Asia on the first overseas tour, since Dean Rusk in the 1960s. She said her reason for choosing Asia was to convey that “America’s relationships across the Pacific are indispensable”.

Bara K. Hasibuan, an expert on the US and a member of the Indonesia-US House of Representatives Caucus, said Indonesia should benefit from Clinton’s visit, to spur a mutual, strategic partnership with the US.

“Indonesia’s standpoint has always been ambivalent when it comes to its relations with the US,” he told The Jakarta Post.

“We need to set our goals in making ties with the US, and learn how strategic the future relationship will be.”

Bara added Indonesia should address more specific requests for assistance, for instance, in democratic and educational programs.

Indonesia, he went on, could also suggest to Clinton that the US government draw up policies that were comprehensive and reconstructive for Asia.

“Although the US is now in crisis, I believe once [US President Barack] Obama’s stimulus package takes effect, the US – a superpower – will be able to recover its economic, military and political power,” he said.

“We can gain lots of benefits [from cooperation with the US] in those fields.”

In return, he said, Indonesia could convince the US that Indonesia could work together with its counterpart in “assisting failing states, counter-proliferation and resolving peace in Middle East”.

“Being chosen as one of the countries – besides East Asian countries – that Clinton chose to visit during her first overseas trip proves that Indonesia is a key component in Asia and Indonesia can take a lead with the US in the world,” he said.

Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, said Clinton's visit reflected US recognition and appreciation of Indonesia as its strategic partner.

However, he said Clinton was not scheduled to meet with Islamic leaders during the visit.

“I have proposed to the US Embassy that Mrs. Clinton meet with Islamic figures, like when former president George W. Bush came to Indonesia,” he said, as quoted by Antara.

The US Embassy in Jakarta is scheduled to invite some of the country's Islamic leaders to attend a dinner party for Clinton.

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