Her Excellency Amelia Yani, Ambassador of Indonesia to BiH
When she opens a book dedicated to her father, General Ahmad Yani, who is respected as a hero of the Revolution in Indonesia, and sees a photo where he is together with Tito, she recalls the times when he came to these regions to purchase weapons and military ammunition and thinks that she too was not brought here by fate without reason
Interviewed by: Elma Zećo
Photo: Irfan Redžović
Warm Soul of Indonesia
At the very entrance to the embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Sarajevo, you begin to feel the vastness of courtesy, first and foremost, that adorns this colourful and hugely populated country of the Southeast Asia. An employee who is leaving the embassy will not pass by without asking if he can help you, while another employee will take you to the ambassador, all the while with a smile on her face. Then there is the warm handshake of ambassador Amelia Yani, who is very impressed by BiH. How much so, shows her son’s comment that it would be best if she stayed here for the rest of her life.
Let’s meet in the field of business
You are the second ambassador of Indonesia to our country. What are your plans?
-I want to familiarise the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina more closely with Indonesia. The country is far away, 14 hours flying time and five, six hours of time difference, it is also expensive for t Indonesians to come here as well as for BiH citizens to travel there. Both countries offer wonderful things. Indonesia offers a lot of sun, sea and beach. I will try to explain its essence. When some time ago a diplomatic reception was organised on the occasion of our National Day, two beautiful dancers from Central Java did a performance with music. Perhaps it sounded strange to Bosnians and Herzegovinians, but that is Indonesia, that’s its culture, that’s us – 255 million people from 1.900.000 kilometers from east to west by the coast line. There are Indonesians living in Bosnia and Herzegovina too. There are even twenty women from Indonesia who have husbands from BiH. With the children, there are now 50 of them. Children have dual citizenship, and when they are 18, they will be able to choose what they want to be. They are beautiful, they look like they will one day become models or movie stars (laughter).
At this year’s Sarajevo Business Forum Indonesia was among the countries in focus. In your opinion, in which directions can business cooperation between our two countries go?
– Trade, export and import can be significantly improved. Indonesia has rubber, coffee, tea, teak wood, bamboo, tropical fruit such as papaya, pineapple, mango, longan, lychee, rambutan, jackfruit, all kinds of bananas, durian and many other canned fruits. We are also manufacturing textiles, woven fabrics, batik and silk, as well as palm and coconut oil. On the other hand, BiH has its own wood products, especially pine, walnut and oak. In addition, there is sunflower oil and olive oil, followed by milk, meat products, leather, cheese, flour and the arms industry. State-owned company Pindad bought 11 million projectiles and as many primer cases from a company called Igman from Konjic. I hope the cooperation will continue. Indonesia is a big country and a big market for BiH. It is therefore good that business people from both countries meet in the field of business.
What does BiH offer that can be interesting to Indonesia, and vice versa?
– Both countries are equally wonderful to visit. While one is on the equator with white sand, pink beach, volcanoes, sea, numerous fish, crabs, lobsters and a multitude of coconut palms, the other has a rich culture, beautiful landscapes, emerald green water, beautiful Mostar, Blagaj, Jajce and much more.
I’m a versatile person
How long have you been in diplomacy?
– Diplomacy is not really my path. My career involves working with the United Nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNDP in Jakarta. Then my life changed. My father, Ahmad Yani, was killed. He was a general in the army and even today he is respected as a hero of the Revolution. I was sad, angry. I retired to a small place and spent 20 years there. In essence, I’m a versatile person. I can be a farmer or a diplomat, I can be anything. And I became the ambassador at the proposal of general Wiranto, who is the Minister Coordinator for Politics and Security of the current government. The President agreed. So BiH is the first country in which I hold the post as ambassador. Flicking through the book that I wrote about my father, his picture with President Tito reminded me that he had come here too. Former Yugoslavia and Indonesia worked closely together in the 1960s in the field of ammunition and weapons and in the Non-Aligned Movement.
What would you recommend that tourists see in Indonesia?
– Everybody wants to go to Bali, but I would suggest that it should be the last destination. First of all, people should come to Jakarta, to see its Old Town where the Dutch influence is felt. It is best to do so in the evening, because it’s very hot. It is worthwhile then to go to Central Java where you will see the famous Buddhist temple of Borobudur, as well as all the other beautiful Buddhist and Hindu temples, the performances that take place there. Alongside Bali, Sumatra is also an interesting island. The eastern part of Indonesia can also be visited, but it is far away. It is hard to go to Indonesia and see everything because it is huge and it takes a lot of money for everything. It all depends on what people like, but everybody can move in the direction of their interests. In addition to attractive destinations, Indonesia is a country with 150 volcanoes and the largest flower in the world, called Rafflesia Arnoldi.
What are your impressions of BiH?
– Places I have seen are magical, beautiful, there are no traffic jams like in Jakarta, or too many shopping malls, and also the pollution is not felt. When I came here, I could breathe normally because I have some asthma problems. I even think that I cured it because of staying in beautiful areas of clean air. I especially like Mostar. That city has a movie-like beauty. And Sarajevo is a unique city. When I arrived, it was cold. I saw the scars of war and realised that they reminded people of a painful war. But it was interesting for me to see that in the Presidency of the country that has overcome such a tough war there are no armed officers in front of the Office of the Chairman. There are people close by too, who would, for example, in Indonesia, be considered dangerous to the president. It’s different with us. In Indonesia it is hard to get to and get a pass to the president. There are no guns here, no fences.
What would be your favorite tourist destination?
– As my father is from Central Java, and my mum from Bali, I always point them out. That’s part of my identity. Indonesians are generally nice and friendly people. But, in Java they are more than that –unmistakably nice and kind. They always talk gently. Many people are surprised by that.