SBY skips Bali bombing commemoration to 'prioritize domestic interests'
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono does not intend to attend the commemoration of the Bali bombings on Friday, to be attended by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, because he has more important items on his agenda, scheduled some time ago, an official has said.
Presidential spokesman for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah, however, said on Thursday that he did not know what exactly the President would be doing on Friday.
“If there is any possibility [for the President to attend], of course it would be good. But commitment to domestic matters must be top priority,” Faizasyah said.
According to Faizasyah, Yudhoyono has appointed Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to attend the ceremony as a representative of the government.
“Without reduction of our respect to the Australians, I think the presence of the Foreign Minister is appropriate in terms of bilateral relations,” Faizasyah said.
Since Gillard’s presence in Bali is not part of a formal state visit, “there is no obligation” for Yudhoyono to attend the ceremony, he said.
Faizasyah said Yudhoyono’s decision not to meet with Gillard and attend the event in Bali did not mean that the government lacked empathy with the Australians victims of the bombings.
“As far as I know, the Australian government does not expect the President to attend. We have not received any formal request,” he said.
Beside Gillard, Australian opposition Leader Tony Abbott and former prime minister John Howard will also attend the ceremonies to mark the 10thanniversary of the first Bali bombings in 2002. (swd)