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Jakarta Post

Conference loses flare with many no-shows

  • Bagus BT Saragih and Ina Parlina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, April 22, 2015   /  01:25 pm

More state leaders that had initially confirmed their attendance at the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference have canceled their visits to Indonesia, including those from Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which were among the original sponsors of the 1955 conference.

Leaders of Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Burma (now Myanmar) and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) met in December 1954, agreeing that they would jointly propose the conference stand against colonialism in the midst of the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, who had initially confirmed his participation, canceled his trip a day before the main event, the Asian African Summit, kicks off.

An official at the ministerial level has reportedly departed to replace him.

Similarly, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also canceled his participation, Indonesian officials confirmed on Tuesday.

The Indian government announced a week before the event that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not be able to attend the conference due to ongoing parliamentary sessions.

Indonesia Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir confirmed Sri Lanka and Pakistan had sent notifications regarding the cancellations. '€œSri Lanka cited domestic issues related to the parliament as the reason. Pakistan also cited domestic matters.'€

Arrmanatha, however, said that the absence of three 1955 conference sponsors would not affect the objectives of the event.

'€œThe spirit is still strong, as seen in the atmosphere during the ministerial meeting yesterday [Monday],'€ he said.

The spirit of the event would not be affected by the absence of certain countries, Arrmanatha added. '€œBesides, we believe that the countries that have canceled have other important commitments. During the preliminary meetings in New York they were very active,'€ he said.

Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, announced on Saturday that he had canceled his state visit to Indonesia. The president decided to stay at home to address the ongoing xenophobic violence in the country'€™s two biggest cities, Johannesburg and Durban.

South Africa has been considered a crucial part of the conference as it co-hosted the 50th anniversary in 2005 with Indonesia.

Arrmanatha also confirmed that Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who was wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged atrocities committed in West Africa, had also canceled his participation in the commemoration.

According to him, Bashir failed to get clearance to fly in airspace controlled by certain countries.

The spokesman also said that some state leaders might skip the commemoration ceremony in Bandung on Friday.

Among them were Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Jordanian King Abdullah II.

The government previously said that at least 77 countries would attend the 60th anniversary, with 34 having planned to send their heads of state and government.

With the last minute cancellations, the number of heads of state/government could be fewer than 30.

In 2005, when Indonesia hosted the conference'€™s 50th anniversary, about 89 countries sent representatives. More than 50 of them sent their heads of state or government.

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