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Jumat, 23 Oktober 2009

New FM expected to lift RI’s profile

Farewell hug: The newly appointed Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (right) affectionately hugs his predecessor, Hassan Wirajuda, after taking over the leadership at the Foreign Ministry on Thursday.

Outgoing foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda handed over the helms of Indonesian diplomacy to his successor, Marty Natalegawa, on Thursday, saying he felt both “relieved and happy”.

“I am relieved because I have ended my term as foreign minister for eight years since 2001 ... leading the country’s diplomacy after in the reform era is not an easy task,” the visibly emotional Hassan told diplomats and his former staffers at the historic Pancasila mansion.

“I am happy because my successor is one of the finest diplomats at the Foreign Ministry. He is professional, skillful and dependable,” he said of Marty, who had been sworn in a few hours earlier at the State Palace.

Hassan was appointed foreign minister during the Megawati Soekarnoputri administration in 2001, replacing Alwi Shihab, a renowned Muslim scholar who was then a close aide to former president Abdurrahman Wahid.

Marty’s appointment by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to replace Hassan is no surprise, with many believing the career diplomat had been groomed to become foreign minister.

He was the youngest diplomat to be given an ambassadorial posting, to the United Kingdom in 2005, when he was only 42. He left two years later to take on the more prestigious post of Indonesia’s permanent representative at the United Nations.

“He is a remarkable young diplomat Indonesia can be proud of,” said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

“In a relatively short period, he has made impressive achievements. He could bring Indonesia’s diplomacy to a new level. And I think it is time for Indonesia to stand up and cease trying to keep a low profile at international forums.”

Bantarto Bandoro, executive director of the Indonesian Institute for Strategic Studies, said Marty was “the right man in the right place”.

“He has always done his job according to Hassan’s directions. This is good because this will keep the continuity of Indonesia’s foreign policy,” he said.

The new foreign minister will have to attend a number of important meetings in the near future, ranging from the ASEAN summit in Thailand on Friday, the APEC meeting in Singapore in November and the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December.

He is also expected to define Indonesia’s diplomatic role at the G20, a grouping of the world’s biggest economies that paints the new architectures of world politics. Analysts have said Indonesia should not be complacent with merely becoming a member of the group.

Born March 22, 1963, Marty catapulted to national diplomatic stardom when he became the Foreign Ministry spokesman from 2002 to 2004. He is renowned as an eloquent speaker with skills in dealing with the media.

Marty is also known to be a perfectionist, a quality that might cause unease among his subordinates at the Foreign Ministry. Bantarto said Marty should be able to set aside his ego after taking over the leadership at Pejambon, and build good teamwork with other diplomats.

“Otherwise, his attitude will be counterproductive,” he said.

Marty was educated mostly abroad. He studied at the Singapore International School in Singapore in 1974, before moving to the United Kingdom and continuing his studies at Ellesmere College in 1978 and Concord College in 1981.

He received a bachelor’s in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London (1984), and a master’s in the same field at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. He received his PhD from Australian National University in 1993.

He is married with three children.

Marty said it was too soon to disclose his main agenda as foreign minister for the next five years, but added his schedule was already tight.

“I will have to fly to Thailand tomorrow to represent the President at the ASEAN meeting,” he told reporters.

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