JAKARTA, Indonesia — The first Saudi monarch to visit Indonesia in nearly half a century arrived Wednesday to an elaborate official welcome and crowds of thousands.
King Salman exited his plane at Halim airport in Jakarta using an escalator, with a portable lift carrying him the final meter or so to the ground.
He was met by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the minority Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who is fighting a tough election battle after being charged with blaspheming the Qur’an.
The king was whisked off in a heavily secured convoy to a presidential palace in Bogor, outside of Jakarta, where tens of thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren, lined the route.
According to reports in the Indonesian press, the Saudi royal is estimated to have brought 459 metric tonnes of cargo with him on his trip – including two Mercedes-Benz s600 limousines and two portable electric elevators.
Adji Gunawan of the airfreight company PT Jasa Angkasa Semesta (JAS) told the Antara news agency that his company had been appointed to handle the cargo, which had arrived in the country before the King. Adji said that his company was employing a total of 572 workers to deal with the Saudi King’s luggage.
The Jakarta Post reports that the Saudi group totals about 1,500 people, including 10 ministers, 25 princes and at least 100 security personnel
Local media reported that statues of naked men and women at the palace would be covered out of courtesy to the Saudi visitors. The same step was taken when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Indonesia in January.
Salman is on a tour of Asian countries to drum up business and improve ties. On his first stop in Malaysia, oil giant Saudi Aramco signed a $7 billion deal to take a 50 per cent stake in a Malaysian oil refinery. Salman will also visit Brunei, Japan, China and the Maldives, the official Saudi Press Agency has reported.
The government of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has said Salman’s entourage and related delegations number about 1,500 people. He will spend six of his nine days in Indonesia vacationing on the resort island of Bali, a predominantly Hindu part of the Indonesian archipelago.
Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are expected to sign 10 agreements during Salman’s visit, in areas from religion to education and science. Indonesia has said it hopes the visit will result in $25 billion of new investment.
Indonesia practices a moderate form of Islam and has a democratic secular government, but Saudi-funded institutes in the country are known to encourage adoption of a highly doctrinaire interpretation of the Qur’an.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS