Joko Widodo inaugurated as Indonesia's seventh president

Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (second from left) and president-elect Joko Widodo (third from right) arrive before the inaugural ceremony at the House of Representative in Jakarta on Oct 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (second from left) and president-elect Joko Widodo (third from right) arrive before the inaugural ceremony at the House of Representative in Jakarta on Oct 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

JOKO Widodo was sworn in on Monday as Indonesia’s seventh president, in a ceremony watched by millions of Indonesians live on TV and by visiting dignitaries from some 20 countries.

With a copy of the Quran held over his head, Mr Joko recited the oath of office: "By God, I will carry out my duties as president of the Republic of Indonesia as best and as justly as I can, Upholding the constitution and the laws of the republic, and to serve the motherland and nation."

He then embraced former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and both men exchanged seats at the front of the hall.

Monday's inauguration is the first in Indonesian history to be attended by both an outgoing president and his successor, and hopes are high that the cordial transition will usher in another period of political stability for South-east Asia's largest economy.

Also present at the ceremony were Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, among other guests including US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr Joko was elected on July 9 with 53.2 per cent of the vote, defeating rival Prabowo Subianto by over 8 million votes.

Banners throughout the capital, referring to Dr Yudhoyono and Mr Joko by their popular names, proclaimed: "Thank you SBY, welcome Jokowi".

The session at the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) - which brings together Parliament and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) - was also for the first time attended by former presidents B.J.Habibie and Megawati Sukarnoputri, as well as the widow of former president Abdurrahman Wahid.

Also present was Mr Prabowo and his running mate Hatta Rajasa.

Before the swearing in, MPR Speaker Zulkifli Hasan paid tribute to Dr Yudhoyono for his contributions to growing Indonesia's economy and ensuring political stability and peace, and raising the country's stature over his decade in office.

"We stand tall together and sit at the same level as developed nations today," Mr Zulkifli said, noting that Indonesia's diplomatic weight and role in international forums like the G20 and Asean had increased significantly under Dr Yudhoyono.

"We thank him for laying a strong foundation for the continued development of Indonesia. We hope he will continue to serve the nation," he added.

Mr Joko then delivered a short speech, his first as president, where he acknowledged his election rival Mr Prabowo, who in turn stood and saluted Mr Joko, to applause.

"We all have a shared commitment as a large nation," Mr Joko said in his speech.

"This the moment for us to work together towards an Indonesia that is politically sovereign, economically self sufficient, and culturally resilient."

He stressed that a spirit of unity and gotong royong - mutual cooperation - were critical for Indonesia as the country forged ahead.

He also pledged that his government would ensure every citizen throughout the archipelago, including its furthest reaches, would be served, and called on all Indonesians, whether fishermen, farmers, bakso sellers, street vendors, teachers, or academics, to stand together and work for the greater good of the country.

"The grand task of developing our nation cannot be done by the president and vice- president alone. It requires the efforts of all of us," he said.

"So work, work and work we must to raise the welfare of all of us."

Mr Joko also indicated that Indonesia's foreign policy direction would be broadly consistent, saying: "As the largest nation in South-east Asia, we will continue our "free and active" foreign policy to contribute to a stable global order based on sovereignty and social justice."

At home, he said the country would focus on developing its seas and oceans.

He also cited founding president Sukarno's call on Indonesians to have a new seafaring spirit to brave the waves to be a strong, prosperous and peaceful nation.

"As your captain, Let me invite all of you to board the ship that is Indonesia.We will unfurl our sails, and brave the waters ahead on our strengths," he added.

After the two-hour ceremony at the People's Consultative Assembly, Mr Joko was ferried by horse drawn carriage from central Jakarta to the presidential palace.

zakirh@sph.com.sg