Friday, January 11, 2008

When Bapak Presiden SBY came a-Visiting...

I just happened to be at the Indonesian Embassy this afternoon, accompanying Daniri, my maid who had to collect her new passport.
I was minding my own business, reading the latest "Economist". I decided on a more colourful take on life, and took out my not-so-latest "O" magazine.
I was enjoying that bit about what you should say if your best friend hates your partner/husband....

We were in the embassy's new air-conditioned "passport renewal/collection" area on the left side of the embassy building that has 25 counters and about 500 seats.
Our number was 4170 and the numbers on the screen were going very fast. It was 2.45pm.
Then I sensed some activity in front.
I looked up (my reading interrupted) and saw a couple of official-looking men in dark coat&tie pacing up and down in front of the counters.
I heard them saying something aloud to the people seated in front but they were inaudible. Then they signalled to the counter officers/clerks to turn off the screen and cease operations.
One official took the microphone and announced that Bapak Presiden would be visiting this very new area which he said represented the much improved operations of the embassy's delivery system.
All this was new and it was for the people, he added.
He asked for two "volunteers" - a man and a woman -- to come forward to be the ones who would be receiving their new passports from the President.
Nobody came forward because I suppose, they were too excited to comprehend the purpose of volunteering.

The official explained again. This time, I think they all understood.
A man and a woman came forward. Everyone cheered.

"Namun begitu, bukan saya ingin memperjodohkan kedua-dua mereka ini..." Laughter...

The official said Bapak Presiden would be arriving at 3.30pm. Meanwhile, he appealed for his fellow countrymen and women to be "tertib".

"Kita harus nunjukkan yang kita ini rakyat yang tertib dan rakyat yang baik. Kamu jugak pahlawan, walau bukan di medan perang, Namun pahlawan jugak karena bekerja keras di negara ini demi mengirim wang untuk keluarga tersayang. Bukan?"

"Iyaaah!", came the thunderous response from the crowd. Gemuruh, I'll say.

No. Bapak Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did not turn up at 3.30pm but at 5pm.
The crowd got very restless by about 4.40pm. A couple of children were fretful and wailing.
Two or three guys started drumming the chairs. Some others made funny "fed-up" noises.

And then a flurry of activity at the right-hand door. There had been some false alarm when a couple of security officers in coat&tie walked into the room.
This time it was for real. Cameramen and journalists walked through the door, followed by a few officials. A couple more camermen, and then it was the man of the hour Bapak SBY -- the Bapak Presiden.
All exasperation at having to wait for him was forgotten as everyone stood up, cheered and clapped. An excited Daniri included.

Bapak SBY stood out from among the delegation. I'm saying this because the Indonesians around me were not sure who's who.
He was tall and elegant and was the only one wearing a songkok. He was accompanied by his wife, Ibu Kristiani Herawati and several officials.

He presented the passports to the two beaming Indonesian nationals and a few in the front row managed to shake his hand. Bapak Presiden also managed to have a few words with a couple of them.

Those around me got their handphone cameras out and started clicking away. I tried with mine but I gave up as I was sure the pictures would turn out poorly.

Bapak SBY then gave a brief impromptu/informal speech to the more than 500 Indonesians in the room.
SBY said he was happy to see that they were being given good treatment and prompt service at the embassy in improved conditions.
This was what he had suggested when he visited the embassy in May last year.

He also told them the primary purpose of his visit to Malaysia -- to hold talks with his Malaysian counterpart on the protection and treatment of Indonesian workers in the country.

The current situation was mutually beneficial to both countries, he remarked with Indonesians benefiting from having employment and Malaysia benefiting from a workforce to help in its economic development.

But he appealed to Indonesians in Malaysia to respect the country's laws and customs.
He said there were some 1.2million Indonesian workers in Malaysia. With such a huge number, some of them were bound to face problems.

He said their problems could be resolved through the proper channel, as judiciously as possible, and as long as they did not commit criminal acts, the Indonesian government would do all it could to protect them.

SBY also told them that he had met with their fellow Indonesian Nirmala Bonat -- the maid who was allegedly abused by her employer in 2004.
He was pleased that the process of law was taking place with regards to her case.

Before he ended his speech, he declared (to the Indonesian nationals) : "Kami semua sayang pada kamu dan mahu melindung kamu!" (We all love you and we want to protect you!)"
And of course, a thunderous applause followed.

And what about Daniri's and everyone else's passports?
As soon as SBY and his delegation left the room, the screen was switched on and it was back-to-work-as-usual.

We were out of there in 20 minutes, new passport and all. With 25 counters, you can expect speedy service, I tell you.
And Daniri, was one excited lady.

For Bernama's update on SBY's visit to Malaysia, click here.


Anonymous said...

"Kita harus nunjukkan yang kita ini rakyat yang tertib dan rakyat yang baik. Kamu jugak pahlawan, walau bukan di medan perang, Namun pahlawan jugak karena bekerja keras di negara ini demi mengirim wang untuk keluarga tersayang. Bukan?

WOW! That gave me goosebumps.

Ayah said...

25 counters? I wonder how many we have at Pusat Bandar Damansara(and operating)... hmmmm!

Anonymous said...

It is time for SBY to show his support to all Indonesians in this country ... Don't continue your NATO (no action Talk only) policy ..

It is a big tragedy if SBY can't show his leadership to urge Malaysia to treat Indonesian workers as human being ...

Anonymous said...

"Kita harus nunjukkan yang kita ini rakyat yang tertib dan rakyat yang baik. Kamu jugak pahlawan, walau bukan di medan perang, Namun pahlawan jugak karena bekerja keras di negara ini demi mengirim wang untuk keluarga tersayang. Bukan?"

- Wow. I can't ever imagine anyone in our government speaking to any of us Malaysians, let alone blue-collar workers, with such respect!

I don't know how sincere those words were, but why on earth can't our leaders speak with such graciousness???

. said...

what a lovely lil story, that just made me all warm inside, kak ena :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about Bapak Presiden SBY's visit to the Indonesian Embassy.

Yes, this is a lovely lil story, especially for this former Indonesian, who is all the way with SBY (it rhymes if SBY is vocalised the Indonesian way) on his brief impromptu/informal speech.

Rockybru said...

Wow, what a coincidence - to be there when President SBY was there!
And what a great scoop, Ena! You should try selling this story to one of the Indonesian dailies, they'd love it!

And like Laych says, it's a heart-warming story. Those officials of the President handled the Indonesian workers very well. Called them "pahlawan".

Time we - especially our officials and our cops - treat them better.

Anonymous said...

This is quality reporting: direct from where the action is. Like a close personal encounter of sorts.

Fortunately for us there is 'Blogs' and there is Nuraina A Samad !

Thank you very much for this lovely story. I enjoyed every bit of it.