A President for change?

by Guest Blogger

June 8, 2012

By Kumi Naidoo

When I met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia yesterday, he urged me to consider that Greenpeace and the Indonesian government are in the same boat and that we share the same dream. Words like this are certainly good to hear, as indeed was the fact that after many years he invited us for an open discussion.

Kumi meets Indonesian President

An expression of common cause is always welcome, but as ever, we hope they bear fruit in action, and critically – withstand the test of time. We hope that the meeting will lead to real support for our call for zero deforestation in the country by 2015. That it will be measured in protection of the countrys pristine rainforests and the 1,500 plant and animal species (around 15% of the worlds total) that they support. That it will help the world avert catastrophic climate change.

Its not easy to get a meeting with a President. It is part of our regular work in Indonesia, as in many parts of the world, to consult with government officials and ministers, but it is a testament to the work of our teams, and the power of our supporters that the President takes time to hear our arguments and demands. Through meeting us, he tells you, our supporters, that he is listening.

In Indonesia particularly, our forest campaign has worked hard with palm oil plantation company, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), helping them shape and formulate a viable forest conservation policy. Our dialogue became an intensive and fruitful partnership, covering the protection they could affect to Indonesias peatlands, and how GAR could manage and work with high carbon and conservation areas.

To be clear, we told the President that Greenpeace is not anti development. I expressed our support for Indonesias plans to reduce greenhouse emissions, and I also supported the countrys economic growth plans. Ecological and economic welfare are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are codependent.

President SBY was particularly interested in our focus on solutions and I referenced our Energy Revolution report which was launched earlier this week. It is a comprehensive document outlining, in very real and tangible terms, a pathway from fossil-fuel addiction to energy sources that are renewable, sustainable, and waiting for us to harness them.

Finally our meeting was also a forum in which I expressed my grave concerns for the shrinking democratic space for organizations like ours in Indonesia, where our office and staff have been subject to serious and escalating attacks. These attacks included mob visits to our office and the deportation of campaigners John Sauven and Andy Tait from the country last year despite their having the proper visas. This should not happen, declared President SBY, and indeed it should not – we hope it will not happen again.

Those who seek a ban on Greenpeace staff would be well advised to look at the Presidents official website where he expresses much appreciation for our dedicated, and internationally credible efforts.

On a lighter note, President SBY was much enthused by our forthcoming Rainbow Warrior ship tour to Indonesia next year. Perhaps, at that time, we will literally be in the same boat, as he also seemed very excited by the prospect of visiting when we dock in Jakarta.

Yesterday was a spirited day – hopefully one that will linger, too, in the minds and hearts of Indonesians as they consider their impact and that of their elected governmental representatives – on the world we live in.

Kumi Naidoo became Executive Director of Greenpeace International on November 16, 2009.

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