Impression about Yemen [Archives:1999/41/Law & Diplomacy]
Ibnu Ash Djamil Siregar
I arrived in Sana’a in the night of Sept. 9th, 1996 as the second ambassador of Indonesia to Yemen. The Yemeni-Indonesian bilateral relationship is as old as the history of the two countries. It did not srart after the reunification of Yemen as some would tend to think.
If we look into the history of the relationship between the two countries, we find that Yemen was among the first Arab countries to recognize the independence of Indonesia on May 3rd, 1948, just after three years of the declaration of independence by President Ahmad Sukarnofi, on August 17th, 1945. The official visit by President Ali Abdulla Saleh to Indonesia in February, 1998, added further impetus to the fiftieth anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
I was not surprised when I was appointed an ambassador to Yemen, because most of the Indonesian people hold Yemen in high esteem. Yemen has played a crucial role in spreading Islam on the Indonesian land since the eleventh century. Moreover, most of the respectable clergy men in Indonesia are of a Yemeni origin. At the present time, more than 400 Indonesian students are studying in Yemen. We highly appreciate this.
About five million of the Indonesian population are immigrants from Hadramout. These, with the original Indonesians, have formed a united family, and hand in hand, they fought for the country’s independence. After the independence, many of them have become national figures and were placed in high ranks, civil, as well as military. Yemen is very close to the Indonesians due to this historic relationship which has never stopped at any stage through the whole history of the two brotherly countries. Before the reunification of Yemen, our relationship with the “two Yemens” was going strong. After the unification the two countries agreed on opening embassies in their respective capital cities. On Nov. 15th, 1992, the Indonesian embassy was officially inaugurated in Sana’a.
During the three years I have spent in Yemen, I have witnessed many achievements under the regime of President Ali Abdulla Saleh. The bilateral relationship also has witnessed a substantia progress, especially, after the official visit by President Ali Abdulla Saleh to Indonesia. Many Yemeni businessmen have been engaged in direct business with their Indonesian counterparts. In addition, some Yemeni investors, the Hail Saeed Group, for example, have started investing in Indonesia. At the same time, there are Indonesian investors investing their money in Yemen, too, especially in the field of Petrol and gas
Yemen, like other countries, is faced with a lot of problems and challenges, but I am very sure that President Ali Abdulla Saleh would be, as he has always been, able to find a way out. What I am really interested in is the rapid progress of the democratic institutions in Yemen in a remarkably short time. What Yemen has achieved in the field of democracy during the nine years is also very remarkable. For example, the presidency period has been specified, the president is elected directly by the people. Moreover, the constitution envisages the nomination of more than one candidate for presidency. This, in fact, is considered to be a historic achievement that will strengthen the democratic principles in the country for the new generations. After the establishment and consolidation of such principles, what Yemen needs is some time and experiences to apply them thoroughly.
I have been to a number of places, and I have noticed that Yemen enjoys unenviable historical backgrounds. The history of Yemen can be found in the Western manuscripts. It is even mentioned in the Holy Quran. We can still see and feel the traces of this ancient history which attract many tourists from different countries. I can assure you that, Yemen will be one of the important countries with outstading tourist potential in the Mideast, if such historical monuments are projected in a befitting way in the global platform. If this happens, the tourism sector might become a main source for the national income. Besides this, Yemen is gifted with mineral and marine wealth that can support its economy in the future.
One of the main issues that needs special attention is the issue of internal security, arms and its trading which has become a source of scare to potential tourists. Yemen also needs to be abl to provide the primary necessities, especially foodstuffs through improving and supporting agriculture.
On the subject of the future of the bilateral relationship, I can foresee that it will get stronger in the near future, especially after Indonesia getting rid of the economic crisis and Yemen improving its economy. I will never forget the solidarity and the cooperation of the Yemeni people and officials who have made it easy for me to carry out my duty as an ambassador. I highly appreciate their efforts.