The second in an occasional series.
Your correspondent found lantern-jawed Aburizal Bakrie in a relaxed and jovial mood following the recent successful Golkar Convention which confirmed him as its Chairman For Life. We met in his throne room at Wisma Bakrie, his corporate H.Q. in Central Jakarta.
A number of conditions were agreed before our meeting: namely that there would be no mention of his business dealings in agriculture, real estate, trade, shipping, banking, insurance, media, manufacturing, construction, and mining. Nor should we touch on political issues such as the ousting of Saint Sri Mulyana as Minister of Finance because she initiated charges of tax evasion against a number of his companies.
J Firstly, Your Excrescence, thank you for seeing me at such short notice.
AB My pleasure, J. Did you have any problems getting here?
J None at all, Your Excrescence, thank you; it was really delightful looking down at the huddled masses in the gridlock below us.
(Note: AB had put one of his fleet of company helicopters at my disposal for my journey into town.)
AB By the way, let's keep this informal; call me Ab.
J Thank you, Your ….. Ab. Is this in any way related to your amazing physique?
AB How nice of you to notice, and yes, it relates back to my student days at Bandung Institute of Technology where, in '73, I graduated with my Masters in Social Engineering.
J Sorry to interrupt you, Your… Ab, but my research indicates that you graduated with either a degree in electrical or electronic engineering …
AB No, not true. I was the Social Secretary on the Student Council, which is where my love of political intrigue first surfaced. I was also captain of the badminton team which is when I developed my abs; my nickname arose from the locker room gossip. I was also called Dong for a while ….
J Are you suggesting that you were a ladies man, Ab?
AB Well, of course, it was only natural. With my family pedigree, my charm and good looks, how could I fail?
J Indeed, and I see that you haven't. You now have three children with your wife Tatty: Anindya, Anindhita and Anindra. Do you ever get confused remembering which is which?
AB No, of course not. It was a Tatty idea to call them Anind 1, 2 and 3.
J You must be very proud of them.
AB Of course, and especially Anind 3 who's proving to be a chip off the old block, as you Brits say (laughing).
J In what way?
AB Well, as you know, like me he's followed his father into our family business.
(Anindra is an MBA graduate from Bentley University, and currently holds the position of Vice President Director on the board of tvOne, a company in which his father is the major shareholder.)
J And he's also a ladies man ….. ?
AB Indeed. The problem for me as father is that the media seems to have had it in for him. I'm glad that he's now settled down with young Nia, and with SBY's blessing. Mind you, I do wish she hadn't changed her name. I mean, can you pronounce Ramadhania Ardiansyah? As she's also taken my honourable family name, at Tatty's suggestion, we've decided to call her Anind 4.
The one thing no-one can dispute is that Anind 3 has very good eyesight, eh? I mean, there was that Australian tramp Michelle Leslie who suggested that Anind 3 was involved with illegal drugs. No way hosay … mind you … if they were legal …
Then there was the story linking him with Manohara Odelia Pinot. All he did was to give her a lift in his plane and suddenly they were about to get married. No, he wasn't serious. Still, in his role as TV mogul, he did help get her cinetron on air. Besides, can you imagine her mother as a sister-in-law?
J No thanks, I've already got a few, and they're enough.
J Anyway, can I just ask you a couple of more questions? I know how busy you are.
AB Sure, I'm enjoying our chat.
J Firstly, did you just suggest that drugs should be legalised?
AB I'm in two minds about this. When I was Minister of Welfare (in SBY's first, reshuffled, cabinet) I spent a lot of time visiting prisons. They cost a lot to run and if drugs were legal then we could free up cell space for pornographers and other dangerous offenders.
I was talking to my friend George Soros the other day and he was telling me why he's donated $1 million to California's Proposition 19 initiative to legalise marijuana. He's looking at it as a business opportunity. Me too. There is massive unemployment in Indonesia, so why not legalise it. It would certainly be a growth industry … (laughter) … if you'll excuse my pun .. and there would be a pot load of money to be made. (more laughter)
J A final question if I may. Your daughter Adinda .. Anind 2? … is rumoured to be involved in a new chain of beauty salons. Is there any truth in this?
AB Well, it's still under wraps, but yes it's substantially true. You know about the mudflow caused by the Yogya earthquake .. yeah, yeah, I'm getting fed up with the lies of geologists … but we're interested in a win-win situation.
We're planning a worldwide chain of Sidoarjo Spas which would offer mud baths, along with the usual manicures, pedicures and so on. The so-called 'refugees' in the area will be shareholders. This is why we've only paid them 20% of the compensation they were expecting; the rest will be invested in shares which we anticipate will yield a healthy 2% per annum and ……
Whoa there. I thought we agreed that you wouldn't ask me about my business affairs. That's it, enough is enough.
You can bloody walk home!
So I did.