Tue, 09 Nov 1999

Gus Dur says trip to Cambodia a visit to ancestral homeland

By Kornelius Purba

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid arrived here on Monday afternoon for a devotional visit to his ancestral homeland.

"I feel I have just come home because my ancestors came from Champa," the President told Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk and Prime Minister Hun Sen who greeted him at the Pochentong International Airport.

The President said the King Princess of Champa married his ancestor King Brawijaya V, and that he had visited the princess' tomb last month.

Abdurrahman, also known as Gus Dur, arrived here from Vientiane, Laos, where he made a six-hour official visit. He met with President Khamtay Siphandone and Prime Minister Sisavat Keobounpanh, soon after his arrival from Bangkok.

During their bilateral talks, Abdurrahman, Sihanouk and Hun Sen discussed situations in their respective countries, including their experiences of carrying out national reconciliation processes. Sihanouk expressed his happiness at the election of Megawati Soekarnoputri as vice president because he had enjoyed a close relationship with her father Sukarno.

"Ibu Megawati asked me to convey her best regards to the King," said Abdurrahman.

The two-day visit to Cambodia is a part of his four-day tour, which started on Saturday, to Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines to introduce himself as Indonesia's new head of state, and assure leaders of members of the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) that Indonesia would not become a hegemonic power in the region.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab joined the President's entourage. The President complained that his foreign minister was always worried about him when he was involved in discussions with his hosts.

"He worries that I will fall asleep every time I have a lengthy meeting with my counterpart. Actually it is him who has such a problem," said Gus Dur, whose habit of falling asleep during conversations with guests is well-known among journalists and close friends.

In a media briefing after his talks with Laotian President Siphandone, the President said he respected the Laotian people's choice of their own political system, and Indonesia wanted to grow and progress together with the other nine ASEAN members.

Echoing what he said to Myanmar's leader Lt. Gen. Than Shwe on Sunday, Abdurrahman also told Siphandone that market-oriented economic policies would be the best way for the region to develop.

In an apparent reaction to the current sweeping political changes in Indonesia, Siphandone pointed out that his country would stick to its political principles and would only be more open in adopting market-oriented economic policies.

On Tuesday morning the President will leave Phnom Penh for Hanoi, Vietnam and will stay there for about five hours, where he will meet with Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.

From Hanoi he will fly to Manila to meet the Philippine President Joseph Estrada.

According to Alwi, the President will return to Jakarta on Tuesday evening and delay his medical visit to the United States for a few days because President Bill Clinton is unable to receive him.

Abdurrahman is scheduled to leave for Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday to get special glasses to enable him to see normally again.

"On the way home from the U.S. the President will make a brief visit to Tokyo," said Alwi.