Portugual’s Silva RI visit marks new level of friendship
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is slated to welcome Portuguese President Anibal Antonio Cavaco Silva at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta on Tuesday, a “historic moment” that marks a new level of the two countries’ bilateral ties that have experienced ups and downs in past years.
After the ceremony, Yudhoyono and Silva will have a bilateral meeting before the latter continues state visit until May 24.
Silva flew to Jakarta from Dili, Timor Leste, where he, along with Yudhoyono, attended the inauguration of Timor Leste’s new president, Taur Matan Ruak, on Sunday.
Silva’s visit will be the first official visit of a Portuguese state leader to Indonesia since 1950 when the two countries first began bilateral relations.
Calling it a “historic moment”, Yudhoyono’s spokesman for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah said the government would utilize the meeting to enhance the two countries’ ties politically and economically.
The Portuguese president is accompanied by First Lady Maria Cavaco Silva, five members of the Portuguese parliament and more than 20 businessmen. “The bilateral meeting will be followed by the signing of a number of MoUs,” Faizasyah said. “The presence of economists in the group is expected to boost trade and investment agreements.”
In the evening, Yudhoyono will host a state dinner for his Portuguese counterpart at the palace.
“On May 23, the Portuguese president is scheduled to attend the Indonesia-Portugal Business Forum, deliver a special lecture at the University of Indonesia and attend an exhibition aimed at commemorating the five centuries of Indonesia-Portugal connections,” Faizasyah said.
In 1965, Indonesia ended its 15 years of diplomatic ties with Portugal after deeming the latter a colonialist. East Timor (now Timor Leste) was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century. In late 1975, it was invaded by Indonesia.
In 1975, the diplomatic ties were reestablished following a regime change in Lisbon. This time, however, it lasted less than a year after the Portuguese government decided to close its embassy in Jakarta.
In 1999, both countries agreed to resume relations, which have remained friendly until today.
The bilateral trade value between Indonesia and Portugal in 2011 reached US$171.26 million, representing a surplus of $64.98 million on the Indonesian side and a jump from $109.2 million a year earlier.
Portugal mainly exports machinery, electronic devices, plastic and toys to Indonesia, and imports coal, palm oil, textiles, furniture, shoes and coffee from Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
Since Portugal opened its first consular office in Jakarta in 1950, the two countries remained at odds with each other for more than three decades on the issue of East Timor.
In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory and Timor Leste became a new sovereign state in 2002.