Memo: SBY Interview Request
The Jakarta Post -- WEEKENDER | Sun, 11/23/2008 1:03 PM |
Dear Mr. President:
I’ve questioned sitting premiers and exiled prime ministers.
I snagged a rare telephone interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest in Myanmar.
I’ve done live conversations with astronauts in space, walked and talked with global business tycoons and even held a microphone in front of a nudist on a world-famous “clothing-optional” beach. While naked (well, half-naked).
So why won’t you say “Yes?”
Ever since my Metro TV program began airing two years ago, you, as Indonesia’s first directly elected president, have been at the top of my guest list. Interviewing a country’s leader is always a good thing, as people like to hear it straight from the big guy. And, to be frank, it draws a larger than normal audience that makes our advertising salespeople happy.
Coming from international organizations such as CNN and CNBC, I understand the protocol involved in a presidential interview request. And my staff did the appropriate paperwork from the start, providing the required biographical information and range of topics that I would likely cover.
“Yes, we will let you know when we can schedule you,” was the initial reply from your staff at Istana.
I began doing my homework. You were born in 1949 in Pacitan. You wrote poetry, played volleyball and were in a band called Gaya Teruna. We even solicited viewers to send in questions they wish they could ask you. And there were some good ones.
From Yulie in Pondok Gede:
“Mr. President, why do you seem doubtful in making important decisions? In my opinion, as long as it is for the sake of the people … you should be confident. You should know when to listen and when to disregard critics.”
Rina in Bali wants to ask you:
“If you, Bapak SBY, could be reborn, would you still want to become president?”
Patricia in Bandung says she was happy to learn that Indonesia’s commander-in-chief is a keen reader and would like to know:
“Who is your favorite author and what is your most favorite book of all time?”
What F. Winarko in Jakarta wants to simply say this:
“If you are down, please remember that I and many Indonesians support you and still hope to see you successfully lead Indonesia and believe you can.”
One year passed. We then hoped you’d appear on our first anniversary special. In fact, do you remember this exchange when I ran into you at an event at The Dharmawangsa Hotel?
“Hello Mr. President, very nice to meet you. I’ve been trying very hard to arrange an interview with you. Our viewers in Indonesia and abroad would be very interested in what you have to say.”
“Oh, of course, please tell Andi to schedule it,” was your brief, but courteous reply.
When I saw your spokesman Andi Mallarangeng a few minutes later, I made sure to relay what I took as confirmation of a meeting, believing it was just a matter of naming the day.
“Sure, OK,” was what Andi said to me. I told him I’d SMS him a reminder and wait for the details.
Another year passed. I still text Andi every week, now merely pressing “Resend.” (Andi, as a fellow Northern Illinois University alumnus, I don’t mean to pester you. But there must be 30 minutes somewhere in your boss’ schedule, right?).
We missed you on our second anniversary program. But I did catch you on the BBC with my former colleague Rico Hizon. And I just read the Newsweek magazine interview you did.
Perhaps you think I’ll ask too many tough questions, or press you on ongoing issues such as the Sidoarjo mudflow disaster or our bird flu problem. Well, that’s my job. And it’s your job to answer to the people who elected you.
But let me do this. And this is an exception to international-standard journalism ethics of never providing interview questions to a subject beforehand. Besides the questions you’d expect, here’s what I also plan to ask you:
- How often do you check your Facebook page?
- Do you take as many mulligans on the golf course as former U.S. president Bill Clinton does?
- Are you going to sing on your next CD?
- Why does your vice president get his picture in the newspaper five times as much as you do?
- When was the last time you ate food from a street vendor? Did you pay?
- Do you plan to make Barack Obama an honorary Indonesian?
Hawaii native Dalton Tanonaka is the co-anchor of Metro TV’s “Indonesia Now” program, seen on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. and Sundays at 1 a.m. He can be reached at email@example.com.