Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 07:44 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 07:44 | SYDNEY

Obama: The love-in hits Indonesia?


Fergus Hanson


27 November 2008 15:05

I was in Indonesia recently and, in between reading Interpreter posts on corruption, I got to experience it first hand, as my taxi driver got pulled over by police road blocks for a compulsory Rp20,000 contribution to their pay cheques (progressively levied, as I discovered when I did the trip alone on a motorbike).

But other interesting things happened during the stay. While I was in Yogyakarta, the revered Sultan announced his candidacy for the Presidential election — which plenty of people seemed to think was fantastic news. The Bali bombers were also executed and it was quite remarkable to see the economic devastation that a blanket Australian travel warning can wreak.

But perhaps most interesting to me was the response to the election of Barack Obama. It's not every day you have the proverbial local taxi driver wax on about how much they love the American president-elect, cut his head into love hearts and paste it around the place (see picture), or incessantly remind you that he once lived there.

In an IHT article I read a few days after the election, Garrison Keillor seemed to capture Obama's potential as an agent of American soft power nicely (as well as changing the way I look at Sarkozy forever):

Look at a photo of the latest pooh-bah conference - the hausfrau Merkel, the big glum Scotsman, that goofball Berlusconi, Putin with his B-movie bad-boy scowl, and Sarkozy, who looks like a district manager for Avis - you put Barack in that bunch and he will shine.