Subject:  Shadows on the wall for President Susilo

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Jakarta Post Saturday, September 17, 2005

Shadows on the wall for President Susilo

Kornelius Purba, The Jakarta Post/New York

British Prime Minister Tony Blair shook hands with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in front of the United Nations Security Council office on Thursday (local time) and softly said,"God bless you" to Susilo after a photo session.

The President was all-smiles after finishing the 30-minute bilateral talks with Blair at the office.

At the talks, Susilo won Blair's support for the peace agreement between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) after he received similar encouragement from U.S. President George W. Bush a day earlier.

On Thursday, there was to be another bonus. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to pay a courtesy hotel call to the President on Thursday evening. All strictly diplomatic, of course.

Winning international support for the Helsinki peace deal is certainly important for Susilo, who needs international recognition for the deal to harden support for the idea at home and silence the factions trying to capitalize on opposition to it.

The President has vowed not to repeat Indonesia's mistakes that led to the 1999 independence of East Timor by resolving the real roots of Aceh's rebellion against the central government.

Susilo was clearly proud to be seated next to Bush a day earlier during a working luncheon hosted by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and a photo opportunity with Blair was another plus.

However, the President may not have realized he was standing with Blair in front of a picture of a smiling Timor Leste President Xanana Gusmao, while a very real Timor Leste foreign minister and Xanana's representative at the summit, Jose Ramos-Horta, stood slightly to his side.

The picture on the wall was of Xanana and Kofi Annan during the flag-raising ceremony at the United Nations headquarters, marking the admission of Timor Leste as the 191st member of the world body.

The picture hung in the corridor along with other pictures of self-determination referendums in other countries.

For the Indonesians who noticed, this was a moment pregnant with symbolism. Could Aceh, we wondered, follow Timor Leste's path if the situation there was again allowed to deteriorate into violence?

Would future Indonesian presidents at future UN summits end up standing in front of the UN's latest member country, the Independent Republic of Aceh?

With the deal still in its infancy, Susilo and his government have a lot of work to do.

Blair's "God bless you," was a nice gesture, but perhaps he could have added "God help you" too.


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