Indonesia Will Wait Longer for Obama

  • Share
  • Read Later
Charles Dharapak / AP

President Barack Obama

Indonesians will have to wait a little longer to see U.S. President Barack Obama indulge in a bowl of bakso — a kind of Indonesian meatball soup — and visit the neighborhoods in Jakarta where he spent time as a young boy. Anticipation of visit from Obama after he attends an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore in November was high until the Indonesian press got wind of his decision to reschedule the trip until sometime next year. "Many people will be disappointed but I think they understand that he has a lot on his plate back home," says Dennis Korompis, a local businessman and old family friend of the Obamas.

Indeed, with Obama's signature issue of health care reform in the balance and his poll numbers on the decline, a visit to the Southeast Asian city where he lived for four years as a child will hardly give him the boost he needs with the American public. But given his obvious affection for Indonesia, it is not a question of if he will pay a visit, but when. "There were a lot of people planning things but the bottom line is that it was delayed and not cancelled," says business consultant Dennis Heffernan, who is planning to make a documentary about Obama's mother. "I don't think he wanted to take additional time away from getting a health care plan done successfully."

The visit will be his first as president to the country that followed the 2008 elections as if it was one of their own in the race. Observers in Indonesia believe a visit next year will not only give the President more time to spend here with his family, but will allow the two countries to prepare the groundwork for a much-anticipated "comprehensive partnership" that could be announced while he is here. A resumption of the Peace Corps is expected to be announced, along with other promises of financial aid. "This is going to be a new type of relationship and will have some meaning like 'Most Favored Nation' would in terms of trade," says Arian Ardie, a member of the American Chamber of Commerce. "I also think it is great that he wants to spend more time here and introduce his family to a place that helped shape his upbringing. "Defining things quickly would not help in the long run, especially given the important areas of health, education, climate change and the environment," says Ardie.

A later visit could allow Obama to bring his daughters and possibly his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, who spent many years in Indonesia with their mother, Ann Dunham. Dennis Korompis met with Maya in Washington D.C. in September and said she was interested in creating a foundation that will help send Indonesian kids to school in the U.S. "She wants to come next summer to visit schools in remote areas that need help," says Korompis. "If they come next year they can stay longer." And though there has been some disappointment, Indonesians agree that the relationship is a special one given Obama's unique history, and clearly will be happy whenever he chooses to come.