Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Can you tell us where you were born and raised, and the education you received?
I was born in Bandung, the capital city of the West Java Province, on 25th November 1962 as the second child of the family. I was born and received education in Bandung. I graduated from Faculty of Law in Bandung Parahyangan Catholic University. I received my graduate degree in Law from Monash University in Australia, and in International Business Administration from American University. I moved to Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, to join the Indonesian Foreign Ministry in 1989. Upon completing the course to become a diplomat, I was assigned to my first post abroad in USA as an official in charge of Information and Cultural Affairs at Indonesian Embassy in Washington DC. My second assignment was in Canberra, Australia, as an official in charge of political affairs at Indonesian Embassy. My third posting was in London, United Kingdom as the head of Information and Cultural Division at the Indonesian Embassy in London. Lastly I was appointed as the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia in Istanbul. I am married with three children, two sons and one daughter. I moved to Istanbul with my wife and my youngest son. My eldest son currently works with an American Company in Jakarta. My daughter is studying economics in Rotterdam Erasmus University in the Netherlands.
When and how did you meet with Turkey?
Turkey as a country is well known among Indonesians. What we know from Indonesian history is that Indonesia’s first encounter with the Ottoman Empire dates back to the 16th century. The Ottoman Empire sent troops and military equipment to help the Sultanate of Aceh (Indonesia) in the war against the Portuguese. However most Indonesians think Turkey is a Middle Eastern country and are not well informed about its geographical location. Many people also think that Turkey is one of the Arab Countries. They are not aware that part of Turkey is in Europe and another part is in Asia. Lately, Indonesian people know more about Turkey through Turkish TV series shown on Indonesian TV channels which are popular among Indonesians. Before I was assigned to Istanbul as a consul general, I had not visited Turkey. Therefore when I first landed in Istanbul, I was very impressed with the advance infrastructure development in Turkey, particularly with the transportation system, roads, tunnels and bridges. Turkey is much more developed than I anticipated.
How does it feel to be in Istanbul? What do you do here in general?
I am grateful to be a part of the dynamic and beautiful city of Istanbul. People are very friendly and hospitable. I love the restaurants in Istanbul which serve good food and offer great views. Living in Istanbul feels like living in an open museum. Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by historical sites and building. As the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia in Istanbul, my task is to to strengthen trade, social and cultural relations between Indonesia and Turkey. I also offer consular services to Indonesian and Turkish citizens.
Could you explain some of the things that surprise or please you the most in Turkey?
I am pleased to live and work in Turkey where I have the chance to learn about the great Turkish culture and history of Islam. Many people in Indonesia know about Turkish Ottoman history however not many of them have an opportunity to learn about its historical assets. I consider myself as one of the lucky people who had the chance to learn about the history and works of the Ottoman. Turkey is also one of the important places to learn about the past civilizations and their origins. Numerous historical monuments from the Roman Empire spread across Turkey. I had the chance to see meticulously preserved ancient sites as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Ephesus in Izmir and Hierapolis in Denizli.
Are there any social or cultural similarities between Turkey and Indonesia? If so, what are those?
Social life in Turkey is almost similar to that in Indonesia. Turkish people have strong family ties and they regard family as important. Family members seem very close to each other. I often see people in Turkey spending time with their families, having picnics together. The people in Turkey are also very friendly and hospitable. Every time we meet, they offer me tea or coffee. Similar to Indonesian people, Turkish people pay respect to the elderly. Religious life is also very moderate.
Do you have projects aimed at Turkish – Indonesian relations?
There is a lot of potential to further strengthen the relations between the two countries. For instance, trade complementary index between Indonesia and Turkey is high but the trade volume does not represent this potential. However bilateral trade volume between the countries is around 1 billion US dollars. Therefore I was tasked by Indonesian Government to promote Indonesian export products in Turkish market. On the other hand, Indonesian market also offers many opportunities to Turkish products and business world with a population of 260 million people. I am here to attract investment from Turkey to Indonesia as well as to encourage Turkish companies to participate in Indonesia’s development program. I see my assignment in Istanbul is timely since the Indonesian government is strongly committed to develop the infrastructure. For this purpose, President of Indonesia Joko Widodo foresees a major investment thrust with a worth around USD 400 billion for the period between 2015-2019. As Consul General of Indonesia, I would like to see Turkish companies play a greater part in this sector.
In my opinion, mutual understanding between cultures is also very important to further the relations between our people. Together with Indonesian community and students in Turkey, the Consulate General promotes Indonesian culture through cultural events and social media. Thanks to the scholarships provided by Turkish Government, 362 Indonesian students currently study in Istanbul. These students are very active, and I would also like to thank them for their contributions in our cultural promotion efforts.