A first Muslim being delegated to an ambassadorial position representing the UK in Indonesia tends to attract attention. Ambassador Moazzam Tufail Malik, however, insisted from his first official press conference in Jakarta in 2014 that being a Muslim does not underline his diplomatic forte. Instead, it represented a modern face of the Great Britain, where “all nationalities and race are equals and share similar opportunities to success in the UK”.
Five years later Ambassador Malik, Pak Moazzam to his Indonesian friends and fans alike, shown that his representation is proven to be successful. Under his tenure, bilateral trade grew to 20%. UK tourists to Indonesia, around 400.000 annually, are the largest from a European or American countries. Meanwhile the number of Indonesian studying in the UK has doubled during the same period of time.
While most diplomats are bounded by protocols and schedules, Pak Moazzam did it with gusto. Amongst the UK education alumni, the Chevening awardees in particular, he was a cherished patron. His Jakarta official residence is a host to both of those departing to and arriving from the UK. Hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures posted on social media indicated that he was also a celebrated selfie partner.
His typical schedules included an overnight in places such as the Pondok Pesantren Gontor where he presented a topic on the UK-Indonesia relationship, and addressed questions in front of thousands of its students. Or a large gathering of screaming football fans, cheering for the Liverpool football club, of which Ambassador Malik is a confessed super fan.
His warm smile and eloquent Bahasa Indonesia helped to win a lot of Indonesian hearts. Upon learning that he would soon be leaving Jakarta for a new diplomatic post (last June), many followers took to Twitter to bid farewell. Some expressed gratitude for his role in forging a closer friendship between the two countries. Others shared experiences and impressions from past engagements to the Ambassador. One follower told ‘a secret’ about sharing an economy class train with Pak Moazzam on a trip from Surabaya to Jakarta without people knowing.
Ambassador Malik’s professed love for Indonesia was thus seemed to be mutual. His last public message for Indonesia was published by the Kompas daily, in pristine Bahasa Indonesia no less, last month. Detailing recommendations drawn from his years of observations and experiences, he cheered on Indonesia to meet its promising potential in the future and to play a greater role on the world stage.Moving away, Pak Moazzam insisted, is not indicative of cessation of relationship. Rather, he wanted to be “ (an) informal ambassador to Indonesia in London’. Farewell, dear Sir. Indonesia will forever be your home, too. We wish you the best for the next journey!