'I'm sorry for uproar over Jokowi's US visit'

JAKARTA • The chief executive of a Singapore-based consultancy has apologised over the uproar caused by an article implying that he had paid a Las Vegas firm US$80,000 (S$114,000) to lobby for Jakarta in the United States earlier this year.

The opinion piece titled "Waiting in the White House lobby" by Professor Michael Buehler from the University of London was posted on Friday last week on the New Mandala news analysis website.

Accompanying the piece was a copy of a purported agreement between consulting firm Pereira International - run by Singaporean Derwin Pereira - and public relations firm R&R Partners.

NO PAYMENT

Essentially, I never received money from the Indonesian government in any form. Nothing more and nothing less.

MR DERWIN PEREIRA, chief executive of a Singapore-based consultancy, on an article implying that he had paid a Las Vegas firm S$114,000 to lobby for Jakarta in the United States earlier this year

The document, said to have been filed on June 17 with the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, showed R&R offering its services for US$80,000 to help Indonesian President Joko Widodo get access to Washington insiders during his visit there last month.

In an e-mail received by Tempo on Wednesday, Mr Pereira wrote: "Firstly, I would like to apologise for the uproar over an article on political lobbying in relation to President Joko Widodo's visit to the United States recently.

"I would like to clarify that what was explained by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to the press was what really happened. Essentially, I never received money from the Indonesian government in any form. Nothing more and nothing less," he said.

Mr Pereira, a former journalist with The Straits Times, cited the hard work carried out by Mr Luhut, Ms Retno and Foreign Ministry staff for Mr Joko's visit to the US.

"I hope we won't be embroiled in misleading news from outside and unclear facts aimed to create polemics over the President's visit," he was quoted as saying by Tempo.

On Saturday, Indonesia's foreign ministry said the Indonesian government did not employ the services of lobbyists in the lead-up to the US visit, and described the points raised in the article as "grossly inaccurate" and "baseless".

Mr Luhut had also told The Straits Times that Mr Joko's visit was based on an official invitation from Mr Obama and not due to the work of hired guns like Pereira International or R&R.

"They could be lobbying to promote Indonesia's trade to take advantage of President Jokowi's visit to the US, which is common practice," said Mr Luhut, referring to the President's popular moniker.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2015, with the headline ''I'm sorry for uproar over Jokowi's US visit''. Print Edition | Subscribe