This week, I interviewed the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States. With the intention not to change anything from his answers, I’m putting the questions and answers below:

1. In your opinion, what’s the best thing about Indonesia that can be offered to foreign countries?

Just like the U.S., Indonesia is a melting pot of different ethnicity and race, truly a place of unity in diversity. Besides its spectacular sceneries and abundant natural resources, Indonesia is also blessed with culture and ethnic diversity spread around 17.000 islands, spanning three different time zones over an area as large as the U.S. As the country with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia is an example of harmony between Islam and the principles of democracy.

Just several days ago, tourism magazine Travel and Leisure has named Bali as the best island in the world for 2009, winning over other wonderful places such as the Galapagos in Ecuador, Cape Breton in Canada, Kauai in Hawaii, Mount Desert in the United States, Maui in Hawaii, the Aeolian in Greece, the Maldives, Big and Vancouver. Other than Bali, the island of Java is sprawling with centers of culture and arts the likes of Jogjakarta and Solo. For those that are into nature, the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Sulawesi are the place to visit.

2. With the two bombings in Jakarta, at the two prestigious hotels, do you think the Indonesian tourism as a whole would be impacted?

I would be naïve to say that the incident will not have any effects on Indonesian tourism. But our tourism industry has vast experience dealing with crises such as tsunami, bird flu and financial crisis. Right after the recent bombings in Jakarta, it was reported by the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce that occupancy rates in five-star hotels has dropped quite a few notches. The effect is also felt in Bali. But in other outlying islands such as Kalimantan remains unaffected.

3. What do you think the appropriate way for the government to combat this unfortunate circumstance so that the Indonesian tourism stays profitable?

Right after the recent bombings, the Indonesian government together with the House of Representatives are committed to help the industry by injecting Rp. 94 billion [US$9.3 million] to help the tourism sector recover. Given the support, I am confident that in six month all this will be part of our experience that strengthens our capacity to cope with crisis.

The security apparatus also work hard to make sure that the perpetrators are quickly brought to justice. At the same time all the security gaps are being reviewed to make sure that similar incident can be prevented.

4. What have the Indonesian embassy and consulates in the United States done to preserve Indonesian culture in the United States?

The embassy together with Indonesian community work together to preserve and promote Indonesian culture through participation in various cultural events. Friends of Indonesia such as US-Indonesia Society (USINDO) and Washington Performing Arts Society among others helped us with the task of improving cultural understanding by Americans living around the pockets of Indonesian community where ever they may be. Our relationship with local media also tremendously assists us in the dissemination of the message of friendship.

5. Does the embassy have approached Indonesian youngsters to keep them in touch with Indonesian roots?

The embassy regularly holds free Bahasa (Indonesian language) classes, dance and music as well as traditional martial arts. The engines of these activities are Indonesian youngsters who are committed in promoting the values of Indonesian culture and arts here in the U.S. The role of Indonesian community is also very crucial in this matter of preserving the Indonesian values. Organizations such as the Indonesian American Association (IAA) and Indonesian Muslim Association in America (IMAAM) are working towards the same goal as that of the embassy.