“Maaf. Tidak lanchar,” said the the man and the room roared with laughter. Nobody in the audience seemed to mind that the newly appointed UK Ambassador for Indonesia, Owen Jenkins, speaks less than perfect Bahasa Indonesia. In fact, on one of his several introductory sessions with the Indonesian public last July at the UK Embassy office in Jakarta, the Ambassador successfully charmed the people with his apparent effort to speak the local lingua franca and share his knowledge of local cuisines.
Another applause was gìven unanimously when he confessed to be an ardent football fan, of the Arsenal Football Club from North London. A country with millions of football loyalists, the Indonesian people seem to easily warm to any fellow football fan, especially those coming from countries with strong football tradition like the British Premier League in the UK. Ambassador Jenkins is thus, threading on the right steps following the legacy of Moazzam Malik, previous UK Ambassador and one of the most popular foreign envoys in Indonesia the last several years, who also professed deep loyalties to the Reds, UK’s Liverpool Football Club.
Indeed, Pak Owen, as Ambassador Jenkins soon being called, assured everyone on attendance that he intends to carry on the good work of Ambassador Malik. Responding to a question from the press in the audience about the future bilateral relationship to Indonesia under the uncertainty of Britain exit from the European Union, Pak Owen firmly said that whatever will happen to Brexit nothing is changed. The UK, he said, is steadfast with its commitment to education, science, and many more as well as committed to build opportunities to economic and political co-operation. He then reiterated the UK government’s pledge to send more Indonesian brightest to study a master’s degree under the Chevening scholarship flagship.
Building his career by joining the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1991, Ambassador Jenkins spent a large part of his professional service in South Asia whilst sat as the Director to the UK FCO overseeing Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan. True to form, before long questions during the embassy introductory event posed by members of the press in attendance quickly shifted from his quest to mastering Bahasa Indonesia to the dire conflict in Kashmir. He responded to both with the standard diplomatic lingo in a measured and normative tone – as is expected from a seasoned member of the foreign diplomatic corps.
As life gets a little bit more settled in Jakarta, Pak Owen has proven his adjustment skill to the ambassadorial role is top notch. Judging from his Twitter feed alone (literally started only last July which grown to more than a thousand followers in two months), he was busy out and about. From official meetings with the dignitaries, to selfies with young football players and last August, having his first birthday celebrated in Indonesia with cendol, risoles and klepon.
Welcome aboard, Ambassador!