Yudhoyono - a thinking general who is a good administrator

Monday, January 24, 2011

NEW DELHI - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who arrived here Monday to be the chief guest at the Republic Day, has the reputation of being a moderate and decisive army general and a good administrator.

When he won election to the presidency over incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri in 2004, Yudhoyono became the first directly elected chief executive in Indonesian history.

This is his second visit to India and he hopes to consolidate the “strategic partnership” for which he signed an agreement in 2005.

His biographers note that the four-star general did not belong to the inner circle of the army that formed around Gen. Suharto, one of the world’s longest serving military dictators.

By 1995, he had a reputation for integrity and respect for human rights that led to his appointment as chief military observer with the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia, and as head of a contingent of Indonesian soldiers there.

Yudhoyono’s track record includes probing the terror attacks in Bali in 2002 and the Marriott Hotel in 2003. He won plaudits for the quick arrest and prosecution of a large group of conspirators, believed to belong to extremist Islamist groups.

Just two months into presidency in his first term, he led the massive relief work when the country was ravaged by a tsunami in December 2004, in which over 200,000 people died.

Dubbed “the thinking general”, Yudhoyono has maintained strong popularity among ordinary Indonesians who used a different nickname: his initials, SBY.

Yudhoyono and wife Ani Herrawati, who accompanies him on the visit to India, have two sons.

The 1949-born son of an army officer, Yudhoyono was trained partly in the US.

If US President Barack Obama has his roots partially in Indonesia, Yudhoyono, a fluent English speaker, has in an interview quoted by the Al Jazeera television network, said: “I love the United States, with all its faults. I consider it my second country.”

He retired from the army in 2000 to join President Abdur Rahman Waheed’s government as a minister and emerged as a key figure. But Waheed fired him when, on facing impeachment, he wanted Yudhoyono to declare a state of emergency that the former general refused.

Yudhoyono’s tenure has been marked by a series of reform efforts and liberal policies aimed at reducing governmental corruption and enhancing Indonesia’s political and economic standing.

He has encountered problems common to leaders of developing countries: reducing institutional corruption, improving infrastructure, and attracting foreign investment.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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