Indonesian Central Time Zone UTC+08:00
Capital City Jakarta
Currency Indonesian rupiah
National Day August 17
INDONESIA’S NEW Ambassador Dr Desra Percaya and his wife Diana arrived in London back in December. They bring with them a slice of family life – their two beloved cats, Simba and Melly – as their two children live overseas. The Ambassador notes that his posting “is a homecoming” of sorts, as he first came to the UK 20 years ago for his master’s at Birmingham University, subsequently completing a PhD at Durham University. Although he admits the normal hustle and bustle of the capital has been largely missing, he considers it has been a good time “to enjoy some of London’s beautiful parks, and provided an opportunity to catch up with the English Premiership on TV,” as well as playing his saxophone.
Born in East Java into a family of 11 children, Dr Percaya’s father served in the Air Force and taught his children “the importance of self-discipline and education. Managing good relations between my siblings definitely helped shape my values growing up.” He joined the Indonesian MFA in 1986, and two decades later was assigned the Ministry’s spokesperson and Chief of Staff in the Foreign Minister’s Office, during a “challenging period with a new democratic setting in Indonesia.”
In 2007, he became Director for International Security and Disarmament, then Indonesia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, the WTO and other International Organisations in Geneva, followed by a role as Permanent Representative to the UN in New York (2012).
Prior to Dr Percaya’s arrival in London, he was the MFA’s Director General for Asia Pacific and Africa (2016-20) looking after Indonesia’s bilateral relations with 100-plus countries. This involved “elevating Indonesia’s cooperation in comprehensive strategic partnerships with key actors including China, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia.” Building a strong ASEAN community and connectivity was an important part of the role, including the adoption of the Indonesia-led ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
Dr Percaya explains that his Foreign Minister has stated that “Indonesia’s diplomacy has to be anticipative, adaptive and agile, especially during pandemic times. The UK has been Indonesia’s close partner for over seven decades, bilaterally as well as in international fora. We have common positions on various issues and there is ample room for greater collaboration in synergising Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum and the UK’s Global Britain visions.”
His top priority is “to promote cooperation in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and to build Indonesia’s national health security.” So too, “strengthening economic diplomacy will help accelerate economic recovery.” He notes that stronger inter-parliamentary cooperation between Indonesia and the UK is important to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation against issues of common concern. “As the world’s largest Muslim population and the third largest democracy, Indonesia likes to see itself as a bridge-builder between the West and the Islamic community. I would like to contribute to conversations about how Indonesia and the UK can work together to prompote peace, harmony and tolerance.” He explains that “Indonesia is still the best proof for the notion that democracy and Islam are compatible.”
In international fora, Indonesia will chair the G20 in 2022 and ASEAN in 2023. In this regard, let me congratulate the UK as the latest ASEAN Dialogue Partner. I have confidence that we can build better collaboration to contribute to the benefit of our peoples.” Dr Percaya welcomes the UK’s Integrated Review, highlighting the UK’s so-called Indo-Pacific tilt. “We are excited to see how the UK will implement their vision for a closer relationship with our region, and we hope that it will create momentum for us to elevate the bilateral relationship.”
Dr Percaya is keen to place his country on the radar of UK decision makers, and to make Indonesia more of a household name. “Indonesia is de facto leader of ASEAN, a region of more than half a billion people. ASEAN is also at the driving seat of some of the world’s largest trade areas. We are eager to explore further cooperation in security and defence, as both countries share a maritime identity with preference for freedom and safety of navigation.”
As the largest archipelagic country with one of the world’s largest tropical forests, the Ambassador notes that tackling climate change is strongly in Indonesia’s national interests. He is happy to share that Indonesia’s current deforestation rate has fallen to the lowest in 20 years. “Indonesia believes that the UK’s Presidency of COP26 should lead to a balanced outcome by encouraging strengthened global partnerships.” Not afraid to do his bit, Dr Percaya cycles from home to the office when weather permits, to reduce his carbon footprint.
Many of the friends and colleagues he made in Geneva and New York are also currently posted in London, and Dr Percaya is grateful to reconnect and work with them again. “The key is to go back to basics, maintain positive relations, crystal clear communication and strong teamwork,” he says.