Agnes Anya, Jakarta – The Foreign Ministry has rebuked a statement by firebrand Islamist Rizieq Shihab, who claimed that Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had ordered embassy staffers in Saudi Arabia to support the reelection of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
The ministry's director for citizen protection, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, rejected the statement by Rizieq, which was made in a video that is circulating on YouTube."There is a video circulating today saying that the foreign minister has instructed staff at the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh and the Indonesian Consulate General (KJRI) in Jeddah to help one particular candidate pair to win the election," he told reporters at the ministry compound in Pejambon on Monday.
"It is not true that the minister, in one way or another, had asked the [representatives] in Saudi Arabia to help one of the presidential candidates win."
In video footage uploaded to FRONT TV, a YouTube channel belonging to the fringe Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) that Rizieq leads, the cleric claims to have gotten firsthand information on the ordeal from a staffer at the embassy.
"I remind Mr. President Joko Widodo in Indonesia not to carry out any political propaganda using dirty tactics to intimidate state officials or civil servants," Rizieq said in the video, which began circulating after the foreign minister's visit to Saudi Arabia from March 2 to 3.
Iqbal insists that Retno's visit to the representation offices had nothing to do with politics and that it was a routine activity, and that she was there to inaugurate a one-stop public services building that had been built after seven years of neglect.
"The foreign minister also visited Indonesian schools in Jeddah and met with KJRI staff there," he said, adding there was no specific discussion about election choices.
The director said the only instruction was for staffers to keep an eye on electoral conduct, while the ad hoc overseas election committees (PPLNs) host the balloting.
The majority of embassy and consulate heads are career diplomats, and almost all foreign ministers since the Reform Era have been nonpartisan. PPLN officials are recruited from the Indonesian population based overseas.
The overseas elections run from April 8 to 14 at 130 representation offices worldwide. There are over 2 million eligible overseas voters, according to official records. (tjs)