Indonesian Ambassador to US offers Sister City pact

“So far, two areas of cooperation [agreed upon] are law enforcement and education,” he said.
Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, at yesterday’s meeting with the Chamber of Commerce executive board, discussing a variety of issues including tourism and agriculture. [photo: FS]

American Samoa is finalizing a sister-city agreement with a province of Indonesia, whose national government has offered scholarships for two local students and training for a law enforcement officer in the South East Asian country.

Additionally, an intern post will be offered at a five star hotel in Bali, Indonesia for an American Samoan in the hospitality industry, according to the country’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Dino Patti Djalal who also says that his government will send an expert in agriculture to conduct a workshop in American Samoa.

Djalal revealed this information during a meeting late yesterday morning with the Chamber of Commerce executive board, whose chairman David Robinson invited the American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau, two officials with the local Department of Agriculture and the local Interior Department field representative, to attend the discussion. The local news media was also invited.

The Indonesian Ambassador, who is based in Washington D.C., provided economic background about his country, saying that “our economy is doing well” despite the global financial crisis which began in 2008 and that Indonesia is looking at an economic growth of just above 6% for this year.

Indonesia suffered an economic crisis in the mid 1990s and since then, stringent fiscal reforms were put in place which helped the country survive and grow during the current global crisis, said Djalal, who was on his first visit to the territory.

He said there is no country in the world that “we consider an enemy” and there is no country that considers Indonesia an enemy “and we want to keep it that way”. He also said that his country has good foreign policy relations with all world countries.

“We are very eager to expand our relationship with the South Pacific,” he said. “I want to develop Indonesia’s relations, not just with mainland America. I spent a lot of time going to cities in mainland America, but I also want to engage more with Hawai’i and also with American Samoa” and that is the reason for the trip to the territory.

He said Hawai’i is developing a sister-city relationship with Bali and with American Samoa “we want to explore a sister-city relationship with North Sulawesi”, which is located on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi where about 70% are involved in fishing and which has the “best church choir in the world — a world champion choir” who recently won an international competition in the U.S.

He said the governor of North Sulawesi, whose capital and largest city is Manado, has agreed to a sister-city relationship with American Samoa, if the territorial governor agrees to it. “And there’s going to be a lot of economic opportunities, because agriculture, fisheries and tourism is your economy and so it is in Indonesia, especially North Sulawesi,” he said. “We very much look forward to establishing this relationship, which I think would be a unique but also very constructive and mutually beneficial relationship between our countries.”

Responding to news media questions, Djalal said the agreement needs to be finalized and that both the North Sulawesi governor and Gov. Togiola Tulafono have endorsed the sister-city relationship.

He also said that the North Sulawesi governor wishes to travel to American Samoa with a delegation, including some business people and the visit “should be well planned”.

According to the Ambassador, the North Sulawesi governor would like to bring  his world champion choir on such a trip.

Agriculture Department director Lealao Soloata Melila Purcell Jr., was given the chance to provide information on the needs, wants, and the status of agricultural development in the territory. Lealao spoke at length about the issues surrounding agriculture in the territory adding that it’s “unique here [in American Samoa] in that we have room to grow”.

Lealao believes that if the sister-city relationship is finalized that it “will help us move forward” with agriculture development and food security for our people.

One of the needs for the local department, he said, is for an agriculture laboratory, and that was relayed to the Ambassador.

Agriculture deputy director Peter Gurr, who was present at the meeting, also addressed some of the issues raised by Djalal, who then proposed two ideas to consider.

Djalal said Indonesia has an institute called IPB, or the Bogor Institute of Agriculture, which is one of the top institutes of agriculture in Southeast Asia, with great research facilities including a lab and agriculture expertise.

He said he would like to send an expert from IPB to American Samoa to conduct a one-day workshop, attended by local stakeholders to discuss areas of cooperation that can be achieved through agriculture issues. “I think this is something that we can do reasonably soon,” he said.

He also invited Robinson to visit North Sulawesi and the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, and be introduced to agriculture producers in the country. “Two things that you can bring,” he told Robinson, who was seated next to him at the head table — “What are the technologies that you would need that we can cooperate with you and help you with? And what would be the investment needed if the right people are found in Indonesia?”

“I would  be very happy to push and encourage them to invest.” he added.

However, he said that investors would also need to know the types of incentives they would get as well as the issue of land to be cultivated and used for planting, but not to buy. “These are the things that they would need to negotiate with you,” he said.

Prior to meeting with the Chamber board, Djalal met with Gov. Togiola Tulafono where the sister-city arrangement with North Sulawesi was discussed in length.

Also discussed and agreed upon in the spirit of cooperation, said Djalal, is that Indonesia will be able to host two students from the American Samoa Community College on scholarships. “We came with the offer” of student scholarships and the students can start “as soon as possible”, he said, but didn’t elaborate further on the field of study.

Additionally, “we will be able to host and sponsor an American Samoa law enforcement official to be trained at Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation,” he told the Chamber board meeting. He said many law enforcement officials from the region go to the Center for training.

“So far, two areas of cooperation [agreed upon]  are law enforcement and education,” he said.

Visitor’s Bureau executive director David Vaeafe spoke about tourism in the territory, saying tourists are alway looking for those “unique places to go to” and American Samoa does offer that in the way of natural resources, and the fact that this is an American territory in the South Pacific.

He said the territory has no sales tax, its Samoan culture is alive and it’s a very safe destination to visit. However, he said the one issue that needs to be addressed is training in the hospitality industry.

In response to this need, the Ambassador said, “I’m perfectly willing to work out an agreement where one American Samoan can intern at a five star hotel in Bali for maybe six months, or a year” and go on from there.

(Samoa News will report more on the meeting with the Ambassador later in the week


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