Govt Denies Hiring Las Vegas PR Firm to Clear Joko's US Visit


NOVEMBER 07, 2015

Jakarta. The Indonesian government denied claims that it had employed the lobbying services of an Las Vegas-based consultancy firm to assist with President Joko Widodo's recent visit to the United States.

"Like other visits by the president, preparations for the US visit was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs in coordination with other ministries and government agencies, as well as the Indonesian embassy in Washington, the Indonesian Consulate General in San Francisco, the US Embassy in Jakarta, the business community and other stakeholders," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on Saturday.

The ministry further insisted it has never employed lobbyists, but "understands [they] are a real part of the US political life and are frequently employed by stakeholders as well as other governments around the world to advanced their interests in the United States."

Joko conducted his first state visit to the United States last week to meet with US President Barrack Obama and a series of US executives, but ended the trip sooner than expected to attend to the worsening haze crisis in Kalimantan and Sumatra.

Reasons behind the tour are now being put into question after a filing made to the US Department of Justice linked marketing and public relations firm R&R Partners to the Indonesian government through Singapore-based consultant company Pereira International.

Established by veteran journalist Derwin Pereira, Pereira International is a political consultancy focused on Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, with political entrepreneurs from both the private and public sectors as clients, according to the company's official website.

The filing registered on June 17 shows that Pereira International, allegedly representing the Republic of Indonesia, utilized the service of R&R Partners "[to] arrange and attend meetings with key policymakers and members of the Congress and the executive branch including the Department of State, attempt to secure opportunity to address joint session of Congress during President Widodo's visit to the US; and identify and work with influential individuals, media, public and private organizations and affiliates in the US to support efforts of President Widodo."

R&R Partners was supposedly paid in four installments between June and September, totaling the consultancy fees to $80,000, according to the filing, which was signed by Pereira as chief executive of Pereira International and R&R Partners president Sean Tonner.