Wed, 25 Sep 2002

Sultan calls off U.S. visit after terrorist remark

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X and high-ranking government officials have decided to cancel their planned visit to the United States as a protest of U.S. allegations that the province was unsafe for Americans and other westerners.

University of Gadjah Mada Rector Sofian Effendi said Tuesday that he heard about the cancellation and was strongly supporting the Sultan's decision to scrap the visit.

"Personally I support the Sultan's decision. Now is not the proper time to visit the U.S. and we at the university also agree with the cancellation," Sofian told journalists after signing a cooperation agreement for research between UGM and PT Indofarma.

The entourage would have included Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, Sofian Effendi, UGM Vice Rector Agus Dwiyanto, executives of the U.S. Commission of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and a number of officials from the Yogyakarta provincial government. They were scheduled to leave for the U.S. this coming Saturday.

No official announcement has been made by the Sultan or his office of the cancellation.

U.S. officials issued a travel warning for its citizens in Indonesia last week, urging them to stay away from Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo) as the areas considered to be unsafe for Americans and other westerners.

The Yogyakarta administration had planned to start a sister city project with a city in the state of Indiana during the visit, while UGM had a planned cooperation with a university in the city.

According to Sofian, the visit would not be rescheduled until the U.S. demonstrated "a realistic attitude" toward security conditions of Yogyakarta in particular and Indonesia in general.

"If the U.S. considers Yogyakarta as an unsafe place for them, we can also feel the same about the U.S., that it is not a safe place for us to visit, either. Therefore, we have to cancel the visit," he said.

"They (the U.S. government) have to know that we do not like being treated like that. We have our own dignity," he said.

He also stated that he would guarantee the safety of all Westerners studying in UGM.

Currently there are 236 foreign students studying in UGM, including two American citizens.

The Sultan had earlier said that he had yet to receive any information suggesting that Westerners living or staying in the ancient city had felt any threat.

A number of Westerners had been attending some seminars or meetings held in Yogyakarta.

He also wanted to assure visitors that the provincial government and local police were responsible for protecting all foreigners living and staying in the province, "no matter what citizenship they held".

"We, including the police, are responsible for the safety of all of our people, no matter who they are. But one thing is for sure, I've yet to receive any information that Americans staying here feel threatened," he said.