Remarks by Ambassador Blake at Spirit of Cooperation Event, Residence of the Governor of South Sumatra
Governor Noerdin, Governors of other Sumatran Provinces, other distinguished guests, welcome to this celebration of Cooperation between the United States of America and Sumatra!
While our Consulate is in Medan, the title of this event says it all. It is the United States Consulate for Sumatra. We wanted to celebrate our National Day here in South Sumatra to show that our Consulate truly is the Consulate for all Sumatra. This marks the first year we have held such a celebration outside of Medan, but it won’t be the last.
A particular thanks to Governor Alex Noerdin for his marvelous hospitality and for his strong cooperation with the United States and for his progressive business attitudes to grow the province in line with Indonesian investment and human development goals. Clearly there are exciting things going on here including the fact that this province will be a co-host of the 2018 Asian Games.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge two large American investors in the audience tonight, Conoco and Cargill, both of which have contributed substantially to the economy of South Sumatra, Sumatra, and Indonesia.
In that spirit, I was pleased to bring a trade delegation of 17 other American companies here over the last two days where they had extensive meetings with local and national officials and businesses.
Governor Noerdin told us he wanted this trade delegation to focus on energy and highlighted a number of the province’s energy needs; he also encouraged a focus on the 2018 Asian Games that will be co-hosted here in Palembang.
But our cooperation with Sumatra goes well beyond trade and investment. One recent and important focus has been in education and scientific research, working together to mitigate global challenges such as deforestation and climate change.
Last year, I joined the visit to Padang of the U.S. based-NGO Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor. I was delighted the Schmidt Ocean Institute provided this state-of-the-art platform for facilitating joint research collaboration between Indonesian and international scientists to improve our understanding of the unpredictable earthquakes and tsunamis that put many thousands of lives at risk.
The environment remains a core focus of our work in Sumatra. Here in Sumatra and across Indonesia, we support the Government’s plan to stop the clearing of primary forest and peat land while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for the people who live in or near these forests.
Here in South Sumatra, efforts to reduce number of wild fires are progressing through “fire-free” villages, starting with 75 concentrated in high-risk districts. President Jokowi’s announcement of a moratorium on new palm and mining licenses is another very hopeful step to avert additional deforestation and emissions.
To protect Sumatra’s unique biodiversity, we agreed last year to amend our debt-for-nature swap under the Tropical Forest Conservation Agreement to commit an additional $12million for this important goal.
Through USAID, this year we also launched a program worth $47 million dollars to support the conservation of more than 8 million hectares of Indonesia’s forests, including here in Sumatra. As part of this program, the last Sumatran Rhino bred through a special program in the United States at the Cincinnati Zoo came “home” to Sumatra as a symbol of caring and cooperation between the United States and Indonesia.
We also continue with one of our key objectives in expanding international education exchanges. The number of Indonesians studying in the U.S. continues to grow steadily, and we want to encourage more!
Jeffrey Jeo runs the Consulate’s Education USA center for Sumatra, and is here tonight manning an EducationUSA booth. Seek him out. He offers free advising services on all schools in the United States. He can do this because he is a not a paid consultant, but a non-partial adviser, and an excellent one at that!
We have had a great year of cultural programs including in South Sumatra where most recently Soul Inscribed, a diverse hip-hop group that brought a theme of peace and unity to a sold out Palembang Sports and Arts Center. We look forward to continuing those partnerships.
Tonight, I am pleased the U.S. Navy Band Orient Express has flown in especially for this occasion, playing both a concert here and several more public events. For those that don’t know, the United States Navy has a long tradition of music and these are professional musicians. Ask them for your favorite request! I hear they are going to do some local songs as well!
I end tonight by saying farewell to Robert Ewing, the Consulate’s Principal Officer. Robert has steadfastly grown our Consulate presence and made many friends accords Sumatra. He will be heading to Saudi Arabia next. Robert’s replacement, Juha Salin, will arrive in July. This is also a good time for me to remind you that Consulate Deputy Principal Officer Tamra Greig is here tonight and will ably lead the Consulate in the interim. Seek them both out.
Thank you again for joining us this evening. I hope you enjoy the party! Enjoy the band.