Indonesian Ambassador Visits USF

Indonesia by Torrey Seabolt_9

Carrying an optimism not often seen in today’s political leaders, Indonesian Ambassador Ngurah Swajaya addressed a modest gathering in Fromm Hall last Wednesday. He conducted an hour-long PowerPoint presentation on the political and economic benefits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a collection of ten Southeast Asian countries joined through fiscal expediency and political progress
The event was hosted by the Center for the Pacific Rim, an on-campus organization, which according to its website, “promotes understanding, communication, and cooperation among the nations, peoples, and economies of the Pacific Rim,” that is to say every country that borders the Pacific ocean. Indonesia is home to over 235 million people and the world’s largest Muslim population. It is also home for about 60 USF students, according to Patrick Lloyd Hatcher, the center’s Kiriyama Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence.
A former professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Hatcher lived in Indonesia as a young man. Before hearing the presentation, Dr. Hatcher had expressed hopes that Ambassador Swajaya would address certain environmental issues involving a dwindling orangutan population and the loss of indigenous hardwoods due to deforestation. Those hopes went unfulfilled. Instead, Ambassador Swajaya focused on ASEAN’s economic “dynamism” and investment “opportunities,” to name central refrains of the evening.
The audience was primarily composed of friends and colleagues of the Ambassador and the Center for the Pacific Rim, with few USF students filling up some seats. Wine and appetizers were served preceding and following the talk. In addition to the semi-formal dress code, the event had all the trappings of a formal ambassadorial visit.
Throughout the presentation, Ambassador Swajaya pressed the notion of economic sovereignty and security within ASEAN. On two occasions he mentioned financial reforms that took place following the 1997 financial crisis in which currency fell after a mass exodus of foreign investment in ASEAN countries.
As part of a brief question and answer session following the talk, Politics Professor Shalendra D. Sharma asked about what he called, “the political and economic convergence” within ASEAN. He crediting the financial reforms developed under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund—an institution for which Dr. Sharma has done consulting work in the aftermath of the crisis.
However, Ambassador Swajaya seemed determined to concentrate all the emphasis on ASEAN’s viability as a global economic force, citing the narrowing distance between ASEAN’s GDP and that of China and Japan. China’s role in ASEAN’s expansion was of particular interest to one audience-member, an elderly gentleman in the front row who inquired about the possible ramifications of building enmity between China and the U.S
Ambassador Swajaya seemed genuinely confused at the question’s underlying premise—that escalating rivalries between the two countries would one day boil over instead of working out to the benefit of all involved, especially in ASEAN. In fact, China’s recent posturing was given only cursory attention towards the end when Ambassador Swajaya conceded the potential difficulties regarding “unresolved territory disputes.”
Ambassador Swajaya might have been referring to continued disputes over the South China Sea, the site of a confrontation stemming from mutual claims on single groups of islands in the sea. The islands contain natural deposits resources such as natural gas, oil and minerals.

6 thoughts on “Indonesian Ambassador Visits USF

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