Tue, 09 Aug 1994

Al-Ansari: Ambassador and composer

By Riyadi

Kuwait Ambassador Ali Zakaria Al-Ansari is ending his term in Indonesia soon. He agreed to an interview with The Jakarta Post to discuss some of his impressions during his tenure, while revealing a bit of his personality.

JAKARTA (JP): When outgoing Kuwait Ambassador Ali Zakaria Al- Ansari returns to his country, Indonesia will miss not simply a seasoned and experienced ambassador, it is also losing a musical master.

Sadly few people here realize Al-Ansari's talent as a composer. And the ambassador himself has not availed the Indonesian public of the opportunity to listen to his works, perhaps because his diplomatic duties came first.

"You might be surprised to know that I'm a composer," Al- Ansari told The Jakarta Post during the interview at his office on Jl. Denpasar Raya in Kuningan district.

A surprise for sure, but the highly artistic design of his room quickly attested to the ambassador's musical traits.

On this occasion, Al-Ansari indulged in talk about his love for music, as well as his diplomatic career and duties.

Al-Ansari, 65 years old, has served as ambassador for his country in a number of countries, ranging from Tunisia, Switzerland, the Soviet Union, Brazil and India.

Nothing in his educational background and initial working career pointed to a long service in the foreign office. He thought that he was going to be a teacher, or perhaps a writer.

After finishing his under-graduate study at Cairo University in English literature, Al-Ansari worked for several years in the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education. During this period, he published several short stories and poems in a variety of magazines.

Then in 1961, the Kuwaiti foreign ministry recruited him, and he has never looked back since.

"A diplomat only needs a good common sense. If you have common sense you can gain a career as a diplomat," he said about how he managed to fit into the diplomatic career.


Al-Ansari said his interest in music began in his early childhood. He had an opportunity to take up and study the playing of an Arabic instrument, called the 'ud. It is now his lifelong serious pastime.

While serving in Moscow, Al-Ansari found the opportunity to take courses in Western European harmony, orchestration and composition, his main tutor being the Soviet composer Michaelov.

The ambassador has already composed three symphonic works. The first two were performed and recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when he was ambassador there. The last one, entitled Liberation, was performed and recorded by The Royal Academy of Music's Symphony Orchestra in London earlier this year.

"It was received warmly by the audience in the Academy Hall. After the concert, I had to give many interviews, about 10, with newspapers and magazines about my symphony," said this father of four children.

He particularly treasures Liberation because he wrote it before, during and after the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq.

Al-Ansari came to Indonesia immediately after the end of the Gulf War in 1991, and one of the first assignments, which also turned out to be the most challenging during his three-year tenure, was to convince Indonesians that Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was wrong.

He said he tried hard to convince the press here as some people were confused by the Iraqi attempt to tie the invasion to the Palestinian problem , thus fanning a possible Christianity- Islam conflict. "We tried hard to correct things, present the bare facts and provide figures whenever it was deemed necessary," he said, thankful for the support of the Indonesian government during his country's difficult time.

He recalled that more than 1,000 Indonesian-trained workers helped in extinguishing the fires at more than 700 oil wells which were set ablaze during the war.


After the war, relations between Indonesia and Kuwait have steadily been increasing. The Kuwait Fund for Development resumed its activities that had been interrupted by the invasion.

The Kuwait Fund for Arab Development has extended soft loans totaling $167 million, with long grace periods and low interest, to Indonesia to finance highways and electricity power projects.

"His Highness, the Emir of Kuwait, wrote off the interest on these loans that amounted to US$816,000 ... And I'm happy to state that Kuwaiti financial institutions are becoming more interested in investing their money here, and businessmen began to know their way to Indonesia."

Last month representatives of a leading financial institute, the Kuwait Financial House, visited Indonesia. And with the encouragement of the authorities here, it has established a branch office in Jakarta to explore investment possibilities. The institute is planning to establish an Islamic bank in Indonesia.

Al-Ansari said an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation has been signed. This is to pave the way for more investment and more economic cooperation between the two countries since the investment is guaranteed and the atmosphere of confidence is available.

He suggested that Indonesian businessmen be more aggressive in promoting their products in Kuwait and other countries in the Gulf region to increase the amount of Indonesian non-oil exports.

"Indonesian businessmen should be more aggressive. They should go to the area, like the Japanese and the Taiwanese who go there and collect information. So, they would know what to export."

Unfortunately, information about Indonesia's potential is not always available in Kuwait, and Indonesian businessmen do not know about Kuwait's potential either.

"You have to promote your products, your facilities and your other potentials. If you are aggressive, you will see more money will coming here, not only from Kuwait but also from other Arab countries," he said.

He invited Indonesian companies to participate in building Kuwait's development projects, especially in construction.

"You have good reputation in construction. It had been mentioned by our cabinet delegation when they visited the Ministry of Public Works. We have so many things to construct, if you have expertise to contribute, please come."