Indonesia’s seventh and current president, Mr Joko Widodo, 68, has been named The Straits Times’ Asian of the Year 2019 for being a unifying figure in an age of chaos and disruption.
The Straits Times announced the decision on December 4, with its editors saying that Jokowi’s “grounded personality, ability to connect with people [and] empathy with the common folk have won him many admirers at home” and praising his “ability to gaze beyond the horizon and grapple with strategic challenges facing his country and the region”.
“Thank you. It’s an honour not only for me, but also for Indonesia,” he posted on social media, garnering over half a million likes on Instagram, and thousands of congratulatory messages on Twitter and Facebook.
Terima kasih. Ini kehormatan bukan untuk saya semata-mata, tapi untuk Indonesia. pic.twitter.com/01rskM4KTz
— Joko Widodo (@jokowi) 5 December 2019
Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rachman told The Straits Times that Mr Joko was “very happy” and “truly thankful” for the award, which the president said was for Indonesians.
“I went to the palace to meet him and he was smiling happily. He said the award was truly a year-end gift for Indonesia, a gift for five years of hard work,” Mr Fadjroel said to The Straits Times.
The Straits Times editors unanimously picked Mr Joko, 58, for “his “dexterity and nous in navigating the tricky cross-currents of domestic politics and international affairs”.
They praised him for his role in putting Indonesia at the heart of the 10-member regional bloc, Asean, in recent times, through the “Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific”.
The document maintains the grouping’s position of neutrality amid growing rivalry between China and the United States for supremacy in the region. It was endorsed and adopted by the bloc at the Asean Summit in Bangkok in June.
The presidential spokesman added: “In our desire to develop the economy, we must also defend democracy. Mr Jokowi has said that it’s our aim to make Indonesia an example of how democracy and economic prosperity can work in parallel.”