The Jakarta Post
The government has denied that the presence of House of Representatives leaders at a campaign event staged by real estate tycoon and aspiring US presidential candidate Donald Trump amounted to an endorsement of the controversial figure.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir said the presence of House speaker Setya Novanto, deputy Speaker Fadli Zon and chairman of Commission III overseeing legal affairs Aziz Syamsuddin at Trump's campaign event in New York did not represent the view of the Indonesian government regarding the US presidential election.
'I did see pictures circulating of Setya Novanto at Donald Trump's campaign event at Trump Tower [in New York]. It should be very clear that members of the House are not part of the government, but of our legislative institution,' Arrmanatha told reporters during a press conference in Jakarta on Friday.
He added that the ministry was aware that a number of Indonesian lawmakers were visiting the US to partake in the 4th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in New York. The House leaders also plan to meet the speaker of the US House, John A Boehner, in Washington, DC, in addition to meeting with Indonesian diaspora living on the country's west coast.
The ministry issued the statement in response to the surprise appearance of the House leaders at the event, which ended with Trump formally introducing them to the audience.
According to media reports, Trump was about to leave when he suddenly came back to introduce Setya, who had been standing behind the real estate magnate as he spoke, as his special guest.
'The speaker of the House of Indonesia, he's here to see me. Setya Novanto, one of the most powerful men and a great man,' Trump explained, as quoted by Business Insider.
'And his whole group is here to see me today. And we will do great things for the United States, is that correct?'
'Yes,' Setya answered.
Trump then proceeded to ask the Golkar Party politician whether the Indonesian people liked him, to which Setya said, 'Yes, highly.'
Deputy House speaker Fadli said in a statement on Friday that the meeting between the Indonesian lawmakers and the Republican candidate was informal and not part of their official agenda in the US.
'We met Donald Trump at 1 p.m. local time at his 26th-floor office at Trump Plaza. It was informal. We just talked about the economy and Trump's investments in Indonesia,' Fadli said, referring to the real estate mogul's plan to work with Indonesian companies on projects in West Java and Bali.
Fadli claimed that the group had been invited to attend Trump's press conference after their brief meeting. 'Trump introduced the House speaker ' it was ad hoc. We stayed around until our host was finished as dictated by courtesy. We were on our way out,' he said.
Fadli also denied that Setya's appearance indicated House support for Trump.
'I answered a journalist's question [regarding the matter], and said it was up to US voters to vote for whom they like. We are pleased that US President [Barrack Obama] is friendly with Indonesia. And as Obama is our friend, Trump as a businessman is also Indonesia's friend,' he said.
Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of House Commission I overseeing foreign affairs Tantowi Yahya told The Jakarta Post that the meeting with Trump was a show of appreciation for the celebrity politician's investment ventures in Indonesia.
Tantowi, who was not present at Trump's event, said the House leaders hoped that Trump would invest more in the country. 'Indonesia would certainly benefit from that,' he said.
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