Daily Trust: How has your stay been in Nigeria?
Amb. Harry Purwanto: Indonesia and Nigeria share many commonalities, from the environments, food and the level of development. Nigeria is like a home to me. Indonesia is a big country with more than 17,000 islands and over 300 ethnicities. We are so rich in culture and food. Some Indonesian foods bear some similarities with those in Nigeria – jollof rice, chin-chin, moi-moi, kilishi, suya etc. I also confirm the statement of those saying that the more you live in Nigeria, the more you like the country. I can confirm the statement. The environment of Abuja is more convenient for us because of its free flow of traffic which is a luxury in Indonesia, especially Jakarta.
Daily Trust: How many states in Nigeria have you visited?
Amb. Purwanto: I have officially visited Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Niger, Plateau, Lagos and Abia. In some of those visits, I used road transport. So, I saw some villages along the road. During my trip from Sokoto to Abuja, I travelled late in the evening. I left Sokoto around 6:00pm and got to Abuja around 2:30am. Like Nigeria, we are a multi-ethnic country. For me, I don’t have any difficulty understanding the challenges of multi-ethnicities to a country’s unity. Nigeria has so many youthful populations, human and natural resources are in abundance.
Daily Trust: Is there anything you see particularly striking that you would like to remember in Nigeria?
Amb. Purwanto: Here, I am representing the Indonesian government. So, what I want to do is to build the bridge and put block by block in our relations to move to a higher level. As Indonesian ambassador, I want, during my time, the presidents of Nigeria and Indonesia to meet officially in Jakarta. It is good for our relations because, in Indonesia, we have a new president, so also Nigeria with the same commitment to eliminate poverty, fight corruption, secure lives and property and provide more prosperous economy to the people. I hope this will happen in the nearest future.
Daily Trust: Are the bilateral ties between both countries anything to write home about at the moment?
Amb. Purwanto: We have been nurturing our bilateral relations for a very long time, 65 years ago. We belong to the same groupings in the international fora – the Non-aligned Movement, Organisation of Islamic Countries, developing countries, among others. The two countries always go side-by-side in contributing to efforts in finding solutions to global issues. By helping the sound bilateral relations, we can develop it to a level which will give mutual benefit and can be felt directly by the people. We are both developing countries, we produce similar products but we don’t have to compete but complement each other’s efforts. We can share our experiences, not only successes but also loopholes, mistakes and the lessons to learn.
Daily Trust: Are there areas of cooperation you see need for improvement?
Amb. Purwanto: I want to focus on economy and trade, technical cooperation and security. We are ready to share our experiences and knowledge in those areas. We can also focus on education, training, workshops, exchanging information on good governance, democratic practices, gender issues, sustainable development goals and the role of government, in addition to private sector contribution to strengthening bilateral relationship.
Daily Trust: How would you assess the volume of trade between both countries?
Amb. Purwanto: I think we have to do much more in taking our trade to the level we had in 2014. Then, the volume of bilateral trade was almost $4billion. But in 2015, it fell to $2.2 billion, and in 2016 it fell again to less than $2 billion. But this was because of the falling price of oil in the international market. Indonesia bought so much oil from Nigeria and unfortunately we bought from the market through a third party. It is important if we do government-to-government business. It will make the trade ties smoother and more efficient.
Daily Trust: Besides the price of oil, what other factors do you think contributed to the fall in the volume of trade?
Amb. Purwanto: For the oil, the quantity we buy is still the same but the value is going down. The second is the price of commodities which is also going down. The slowdown of the global economy also impacts on the purchasing power of countries. The last is the lack of foreign exchange.
Daily Trust: What can Nigeria learn from Indonesia in tackling security challenges?
Amb. Purwanto: It is good for the two countries to exchange information and experiences because the level of our development, the structure of the two countries, the multi-ethnicity, population and the challenges are similar. We learn from each other. But in Indonesia, the challenge is more because natural disasters are things we face almost every month, from earthquakes, mudslides to eruptions and tremors. But the country is developing capacity to handle natural disasters.
Daily Trust: Indonesia has some of the toughest drug laws in the world and ended a five-year moratorium on executions in 2013. What’s your take on calls by international human rights organisations to abolish death penalty?
Amb. Purwanto: Indonesia still has some laws which apply death penalty for offences not only on drugs but also on some other serious crimes. Discussions are still on going in the country on whether death penalty should be maintained or abolished. The discussions are actually mirroring the discussions in the world, whether countries should maintain death penalty or abolish it. It is not yet any decision internationally because death penalty is the sovereign right of any country to put it in their laws. But you have to know that in Indonesia, not all crimes related to drugs are being punished with death penalty. We only apply death penalty on serious crimes that have big impact on the society. In 2015, it was estimated that about 4.5 million Indonesians need serious rehabilitation from drug-related problems. Every single day, about 40 youths die because of drug-related crimes. Our concern is on the young people because they are the future of the country. As a result of the aggravated situation in Indonesian communities, President Joko Widodo has committed to refusing any clemency from those who are on the list of death penalty because of drugs. Execution is carried out after all the rigorous processes have already been exhausted, from passing the first and second degree courts, the appellate court to the Supreme Court and refusal of clemency which is the right of the president. We provide the opportunity for the foreign representatives, like the embassies or consulates, to provide the legal assistance. From detention, suspects are open to visits and legal assistance by the embassy up to when they are taken to prison. Totally, we are open to all channels, including diplomatic channel. Those executed in Indonesia exhaust all the processes that last up to nine or 10 years.
Daily Trust: What can you say about Nigerians on death row in Indonesia?
Amb. Purwanto: It is rather a pity to say that some Nigerians who had been living in Indonesia for quite some time and even married Indonesians and have families there, at the end, got involved in drug syndicates and were caught by the authorities. Because the number of Nigerians who visit Indonesia is not so much, only a small number is involved in criminal activities.
Daily Trust: Is there any prisoner exchange programme between both countries?
Amb. Purwanto: Indonesia has some difficulty in doing prisoner swaps because we do not have any legal basis for that. Up till now, we are still discussing in the parliament. If we don’t have any legal basis for that, we cannot do anything until the law is changed in the parliament. Discussion in ongoing in the parliament but we are still imposing death penalty for serious offences.