Rights groups say the World Statesman Award for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is nothing but a publicity stunt carried out by the President's inner circle and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation ( ACF ), a US-based interfaith coalition.
After arguing that Yudhoyono did not deserve the World Statesman Award because he had allowed the persecution of minority groups, rights groups are now criticizing ACF founder Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
'The ACF is a politically influential organization in the US. Its founder, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, is a prominent and leading religious figure in the country. And granting the award to Yudhoyono will make his organization look good. The whole thing has nothing to do with the interests of the Indonesian people,' said Choirul Anam from the Human Rights Working Group ( HRWG ).
Fellow rights activist Hendardi from human rights watchdog the Setara Institute, alleged the award was the result of a public relations campaign mounted by Yudhoyono's close aides who run operations abroad.
'Some members of his clique have approached the ACF regarding the award as part of a campaign to boost the president's image in the global community before his term ends next year,' Hendardi said.
Human rights activists have also lambasted members of Yudhoyono's inner circle who were aggressive in defending the President's reputation, including by personally attacking respected Catholic priest Frans Magnis Suseno.
'Muslims have gone through enough and non-Muslims are exaggerating the sufferings of minority groups as if they really care,' Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam has said.
Magnis, in his open letter published by The Jakarta Post last week on Friday, said he opposed the ACF's decision to honor the President because he had done 'nothing to protect religious minorities'.
Jeremy Menchik, an international relations professor at Boston University, said that the award would unlikely change Yudhoyono's behavior in protecting the rights of minority groups.
'If they wanted him to do more, its not the time to do it,' Menchik said as quoted by Haaretz daily, adding that time was running out for Yudhoyono.
'It's going to help whitewash his legacy,' he said.
SBY's previous awards
2009: The Gold Standard in Political Communications award from Hong Kong-based quarterly magazine PublicAffairsAsia.
2010: The Global Home Tree Award for SBY's commitment to preserving the country's vast forests.
2010: The UN Environment Program Award for Leadership in Promoting Ocean and Marine Conservation and Management.
2011: The UN's first Global Champion of Disaster Risk Reduction for making disaster mitigation a top priority during his two terms in office.
2012: The 21st Century Economic Achievement Award from US ASEAN Business Council ( USABC )
2012: An Honorary Knight Grand Cross in the Order of the Bath from Queen Elizabeth II
Source: The Jakarta Post