WHAT’S THE STORY?
HIS hair may make less of a statement but Donald Trump’s Indonesian business partner shares some similarities with the US President-elect – including the aim of being leader of his country.
Like Trump, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who is known as Hary Tanoe, is a billionaire and has grandiose ambitions.
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However, his revelation that he may run for president in 2019 has alarm bells ringing because of his links to Trump, particularly after he confirmed he has “access” to the US President-elect.
Tanoe is currently in charge of two Trump Organisation developments in Indonesia, which are in their early stages but are due to be finished before the end of Trump’s first term in office.
Even before Tanoe said he wanted to throw his hat into the Indonesian presidential ring, concerns were raised about Trump’s foreign business ventures, which many see as incompatible with his forthcoming role as President.
Any conflict of interest could be magnified if the business interests involve people with ambitions for political power, say critics.
Tanoe, however, claims that although he has “access” to Trump, he is mostly in contact with his adult offspring, to whom the President-elect says he has delegated his business dealings.
“I have access to him, of course, because we are in cooperation, but I have to limit the cooperation and interaction,” said Tanoe.
WHAT ARE TRUMP’S DEALS?
ONE of the two Trump projects being built by Tanoe is a six star, 100-hectare luxury resort in Bali. It has a prime location on a clifftop above a famous Hindu temple.
The other is a championship golf course designed by Ernie Els, the former world No.1, alongside 300 villas, a Trump-branded hotel and country club.
The billion dollar development outside Jakarta is to include, eventually, a Disneyland-type theme park.
However, while the earthworks have finished on the golf course there is no sign yet of the villas and hotel.
Tanoe said each of Trump’s offspring had different responsibilities for the project.
“Each of them has a different role,” he said. “Don Jr has responsibility for the overall project, Eric the design and golf, and Ivanka more of detail – the fit-out of the hotel.
“His family and children have the freedom to do business as long as it is arm’s length and unrelated to the President’s position.”
Unlike Trump, Tanoe has previously run for political office, unsuccessfully bidding for the role of vice-president in 2014. He then started his own political party called United Indonesia, which he promotes on Twitter and his TV stations.
His media company, the MNC group, saw its stocks soar after Trump beat Hillary Clinton to the presidency in November.
ANY OTHER PROBLEMS?
IN the 2014 elections, Tanoe supported former general Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Joko Widodo. It means the US President-elect’s biggest monetary stake in Indonesia is being handled by a political opponent of the country’s leader.
Tanoe does not see a problem and has already organised meetings between Trump and two of the most controversial politicians in the country.
One is the speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives, Setya Novanto, currently embroiled in the country’s £3.2 billion corruption scandal.
The other is deputy speaker Fadli Zon, who is linked to Islamist hardliners calling for the Christian governor of Jakarta to be jailed on blasphemy charges.
Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, nicknamed Ahok, is contesting a racially charged bid by Islamists to stop him winning a second term. They are opposed to a Christian Indonesian of Chinese background holding power.
Zon spoke at a recent anti-Ahok demonstration and has met with racist hardline cleric Habib Rizieq, but Tanoe said he was unconcerned.
“He’s a politician, but knowing him, he’s very neutral,” said Tanoe. “Being a politician you have to make manoeuvres for your political position. It’s very normal.”
WHAT DOES TANOE SAY?
TANOE is also a Chinese Indonesian Christian but has waved aside the race issue currently polarising groups within Jakarta. He said the blame for the current unrest – which saw a mass protest against Ahok last month – lay with the president, who had not clamped down “quickly enough” on the demonstrators.
“If [Widodo] responded quickly enough we would not have seen the December 2 protest,” said Tanoe. “He has to show his leadership is firm enough to make people calm down.
“Indonesia is ready for whoever background for leadership [sic]. The majority of the people want to see a leader who can bring solutions.”
While Indonesia is highly diverse ethnically, with more than 300 different languages spoken there, the country has the largest Muslim population on the planet.
Scattered between Australia and Asia, there are demands for independence in several provinces.
The first direct presidential elections were held in 2004 and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, son of a wood seller, is part of a new breed of politicians that have come to prominence in the fledgling democracy.
He is the first Indonesian president without a military or high-ranking political background and is seen as many supporters as being untainted by the corruption that has plagued the country.