Donald Trump: 'Do they like me in Indonesia?'

Jakarta House Speaker's presence at Trump campaign event creates stir back home

Mr Donald Trump introducing Indonesian Speaker of the House Setya Novanto, who made a surprise appearance at a campaign event.
Mr Donald Trump introducing Indonesian Speaker of the House Setya Novanto, who made a surprise appearance at a campaign event. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA • Indonesia's Speaker of Parliament, Mr Setya Novanto, made a surprise appearance at a campaign event for controversial Republican candidate Donald Trump in New York last Thursday, a move the Jakarta Globe said spawned a torrent of questions back home.

The newspaper said Mr Setya stunned fellow politicians and the Indonesian public alike when he was brought up to the podium and shook hands with Mr Trump, in a "fawning" appearance that members of the House of Representatives in Jakarta condemned as unethical because it could be perceived as an explicit endorsement by Indonesia of Mr Trump's presidential bid.

"The Speaker of the House of Indonesia... he's here to see me. Setya Novanto, one of the most powerful men and a great man," Mr Trump was quoted as saying .

"His whole group is here to see me today, and we will do great things for the United States," said Mr Trump, before asking Mr Setya, "Is that correct?"

"Yes," Mr Setya replied.

Mr Setya was in New York to speak at the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament held by the International Parliamentary Union. He went with fellow legislators, including Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon, according to the Jakarta Post.

The newspaper said that during their brief interaction, Mr Trump asked Mr Setya about what Indonesians thought of him: "Do they like me in Indonesia?"

"Yes, very much," Mr Setya answered.

Mr Fadli, meanwhile, was quoted as saying that Mr Trump was a friend of Indonesia.

"I think we like him because he's also invested in Indonesia. He has some projects in Bali and West Java, so he's a friend of Indonesia," Mr Fadli told Business Insider.

The Jakarta Globe said that Mr Setya's colleagues back home vowed to launch an ethics probe against the Speaker of the House and his deputy while questions swirled about the more than 4.6 billion rupiah (S$460,000) in taxpayer money used to fund the legislators' trip to the US.

An expensive gold watch that flashed briefly from beneath Mr Setya's shirt cuff as he shook Mr Trump's hand has also added to the public relations "firestorm" around him, the Jakarta Globe reported.

Some on Twitter have identified the timepiece as a Swiss-made Richard Mille RM 011 Flyback Chronograph "Rose Gold", which luxury watch aficionados on online forums and sellers listed at U$140,000 apiece (S$199,000) and from US$100,000 for a second-hand piece.

Mr Setya has yet to comment on the controversy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said the presence of the politicians at the event, where Mr Trump signed a pledge not to run as an independent candidate in the election next year, should not be construed as any form of support or endorsement by Indonesia for the billionaire's presidential bid.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline Donald Trump: 'Do they like me in Indonesia?'. Subscribe