The Jakarta Post
The Japanese government has conferred a royal honor on noted businessman Sofjan Wanandi for his contribution to fostering Japan-Indonesia ties, including restoring relations during 'difficult times'.
The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star was presented to Sofjan by Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia Yasuaki Tanizaki at the ambassadorial residence in South Jakarta on Tuesday.
Sofjan, currently chair of Vice President Jusuf Kalla's economic team, was honored particularly for his contribution to strengthening economic relations between the two countries. In his speech at the ceremony, attended by Sofjan's 96-year-old mother, Vice President Jusuf Kalla and the latter's wife Mufidah Jusuf Kalla, Tanizaki said that while Sofjan's contribution to strengthening bilateral economic relations had been acknowledged, in fact he had also made greater contributions 'that go beyond what we can see on the surface'.
Sofjan's role, Tanizaki said, went back to 1970, when the Soeharto regime had been established and Japanese companies' expansion into Indonesia was in full swing. 'Sofjan Wanandi was always there to offer advice to our embassy in dealing with the various issues that the companies were facing and about the economic situation in Indonesia,' the ambassador said.
In 1974, large-scale anti-Japanese riots occurred in the wake of then Japanese PM Kakuei Tanaka's visit to Indonesia.
'In the aftermath of the so-called 'Malari incident', bilateral relations between Japan and Indonesia had sunk to an all-time low, but were able to survive, thanks in part due to Mr. Wanandi's hard work,' he said.
Kalla said Sofjan's active contribution had made him an important figure in Japan-Indonesia relations since the Soeharto era. Illustrating his vast knowledge of Japan, Kalla joked that visiting Tokyo would not be complete without Sofjan, as he knew all the best places to eat in the Japanese capital.
Sofjan said he was honored and pleased to receive the highest medal of honor he had ever received.
Born in the small town of Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, to parents of Chinese descent, Sofjan has proven an influential businessman.
The former Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman was also honored for his significant endeavors in seeking solutions to problems faced by Japanese companies and their local counterparts.
Active for years in the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) and Apindo, Sofjan is also considered by many to be a spokesman for Chinese-Indonesian businessmen, with extraordinary communication skills. These have served him well, especially when dealing with the government and businessmen from different groups, including pribumi (indigenous) and foreign investors. Indonesian tycoons, diplomats and ministers including Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, Trade Minister Thomas Lembong and Industry Minister Saleh Hussein attended the ceremony and subsequent reception.
The Order of the Rising Sun is a Japanese order established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji and awarded to those who have made distinguished achievements in fields such as international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in a given field, development of welfare and preservation of the environment. It is the third-highest order bestowed by the Japanese government, but the highest of those commonly conferred.
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