NOW! Jakarta Founder, Alistair Speirs, sits down with H.E. Dominic Jermey, British Ambassador to Indonesia and Timor Leste. The topic at hand: the 75th Anniversary of the relationship between Britain and Indonesia, a milestone moment in diplomatic relations.

His excellency shares on historic royal visits of the past, including of Her Late Majesty the Queen, to King Charles and even Princess Diana; to shared efforts within the country, which includes education, environment and economic development. The ambassador also shares a little bit about what he calls ‘Sambal Diplomacy’, a way of connecting locally through cuisine – and often being filmed spluttering as he attempts to eat chilli around the country!

Watch this insightful interview with H.E. Dominic Jermey, outlining past, present and future relations between the UK and Indonesia. Transcript can be found below for those who prefer to read.

Transcript: Interview with H.E. Dominic Jermey

Alistair G. Speirs (AGS):

Welcome to this NOW! Jakarta interview with his Majesty’s Ambassador from the United Kingdom to Indonesia and Timor Leste. I’m privileged to be here speaking to Dominic, Jeremy, and he is going to tell us about some very special moments because this is the 75th Anniversary of the relationship between Britain and Indonesia. And he has got some plans, which he’s going to tell us. But let’s go back in time, first of all, and look at the 75 year history of this relationship, what happened, what were the high points? What were the breakthrough moments that made this relationship really very special? 

H.E. Dominic Jermey:

Well, thank you very much Alistair, and thank you for coming to my residence this morning. I’m really delighted to be talking to Now! Jakarta and goodness, the last 75 years. Well, I’ve only been part of that story since 2000 when I first came to work in Indonesia. But over the whole of that period that we’re celebrating this year, the 75th anniversary, there have been state visits in both directions. So, Her Late Majesty the Queen came to Indonesia, and people still talk about that visit. And of course, King Charles, when he was Prince of Wales also came here and there was a very famous, beautiful visit that he and Princess Diana did to Borobudur. Then of course, President Jokowi has been welcomed in London. And there was a state visit by his predecessor to the UK as well.

Prime Minister Cameron was here in 2014 and 2016. And of course, I’m looking forward to him returning this year as Foreign Secretary. So, all these high-level visits are part of the web and the weave, the fabric of a relationship between our two countries that is built on so many people coming to Indonesia from the UK: working here, living here, coming on holiday, and many Indonesians coming to the UK to studying, living and working there. That’s the last 75 years. But I’m really focused on what’s going to happen in the next 75, and I think that’s going be pretty exciting.


What a fantastic 75 years you’ve had. But what do you think the strong points in this relationship are now? What are the key factors in the relationship between Indonesia and the United Kingdom today?

H.E. Dominic Jermey:

Well, since I first came here 25 years ago, the Embassy has tripled in size. There is a new UK Embassy to ASEAN. And the bilateral trade has grown to 3.5 billion pounds in total. And there’s a reason why all that has changed, and that’s because the relationship between Indonesia and the UK has really come of age. I would say Indonesia, as the G 20 Presidency, as the ASEAN Presidency, it’s really taken a position on the global stage, and is now the world’s 16th largest economy. And of course, the UK is a member of the UN Security Council, and is the world’s 6th largest economy and is an independent actor outside of Europe. All these things mean that we have gripped the relationship with Indonesia as something that we want to invest in as both government and business.

So, I see it in four really important dimensions: people, planet, prosperity, and peace with people at the centre. It’s about all the people-to-people contacts we have: the arts and culture, the music. There are so many fans of British music in this country. We saw Ed Sheeran here earlier this year and ColdPlay late last year. And goodness me, I found the most fabulous Beatles imitation band Deep Pluck recently. And there are many others like that here in Indonesia. 

On the on the education side, the British Council is doing an amazing job supporting UK universities growing here. We’ve got two campuses opening here in Indonesia this year, and many thousands of Indonesian students going to the UK, some on Chevening Scholarships, over 2000 in total doing that. And many on Indonesian government scholarships as well.

So those people-to-people links including the gastronomy of both countries we are becoming increasingly familiar with. And I have a personal thing for Sambal Diplomacy, (#sambaldiplomacy) eating sambal wherever I go in Indonesia and being filmed spluttering and being asphyxiated by the chillies! And people do find that kind of amusing. 

On the planet side. UK and Indonesia have got shared values and a shared passion for making sure that global warming does not go above 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. And that’s critically important for us but also for our children and our grandchildren, for the future of our planet. And there are many ways in which we are working with Indonesia on joint solutions to sustainable and green economy development: green transport systems for Surabaya and for the IKN the new capital city of Indonesia. And working together on the preservation of forestry in this country as well. 

On the peace side, Indonesia is a really important global player at the United Nations and at ASEAN. It’s got a voice that matters. When we as a global community are condemning Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine or are looking for a way through the really difficult situation in the Middle East at the moment, we really value that collaboration, that working together with Indonesia across the whole peace agenda. And that’s been so important under President Jokowi’s Presidency. 

And we look forward very much to working incredibly closely with Pak Prabowo and Pak Gibran when they assume the Presidency and Vice Presidency later this year. 

And then finally, on prosperity. There are so many brilliant Indonesian entrepreneurs looking at the UK market, and investing in it. And you know, the UK is one of the biggest investors in Indonesia. Over the longer term, there are some brilliant UK businesses that are critical to the Indonesian economy in finance, in professional services, in energy, in retail, in consumer goods, and of course in publishing like NOW! Jakarta!


So, we’ve got 75 years behind us, and justifyably celebrating that. What plans have you put together to actually do to do this celebration? What events have you got? I’m sure there’s some very good ideas.

H.E. Dominic Jermey:

Well, we’re really delighted because we’ve been working in partnership with my opposite number, the incredibly dynamic Indonesian Ambassador to the UK, Pak  Desra. He and I kicked off the 75th anniversary celebrations earlier this year with a joint Instagram live. I’d never done one before. I was terrified, but he’s very cool. He has done it before. And we designed together the anniversary  logo which is rather fun. It brings together lots of UK and Indonesian culture: you have Tower Bridge and Borobudur, you have Indonesian farmers but they are connected through, through the internet, which is one of the things we’re working on, the digital economy, supporting that growing here. Then there is a piece with doves and their themes of Batik. And an English rose in there as well.

So, it really sums up some of the themes of our bilateral relationship. And what we are doing is we have an event a month that is to do with the bilateral relationship. There could be special visits in either direction. There could be business engagements. We have a road show that Pak Desra and I are going to be doing across the UK, talking about business opportunities in Indonesia and partnerships. We’re doing that in June this year. Of course, we will have the King’s Birthday Party which we’re looking forward to immensely here in Jakarta. And as we go through the year, we are looking forward to having a series of cultural events as well with musicians going from one country to the other and vice versa, and culinary events too.

So, the idea is to celebrate not only the things that government do, although that’s important, but to celebrate some of the fun stuff as well that people do: that students, entrepreneurs, civil society organizations do, in both countries. We were talking earlier about Wisma Cheshire and I think that’s a great example of a long established institution here in Indonesia, that is a British institution. It’s got a great long history, and even had a visit by Princess Anne. It’s those sorts of cultural connections that make the tapestry of celebration that we have this year, so rich and I hope so worthwhile.


It sounds like a fantastic year, and good luck with all of that. We will be supporting you all of the way.

Now we’ve talked about the start of the relationship 75 years ago. We’ve talked about 75 really productive and wonderful years of working together with visits and, and so many important things happening. We’ve talked about the celebrations that are taking place this year, which cover so many different aspects of life. What about the next 10 years? Let’s not look for 75 years, but what are the plans for the next 10 years? Some, I’m sure Britain’s got some really good things in store

H.E. Dominic Jermey:

Indonesia and the UK are both great longstanding democracies, and we are looking forward very much to working with the new Indonesian government that’s coming in later this year, as we have over the last 10 years with President Jokowi’s government. And that is right across a range of areas that are so important to both our countries. First of all is education. We have the British Council and our Embassy here working with UK universities, UK schools and education providers supporting the aspirations of the Indonesian government to develop its human capital. And that is so critically important for the future of Indonesia, especially with its demographic bonus that the government is so focused on working with. So, education is a critical area of collaboration between our two countries and really excited about some of the work, for example, we’re doing to ensure that English is at the heart of the new school curriculum here in this country.

Then there’s healthcare. We’re very proud of the collaboration between Indonesia and the UK, for example on the vaccine rollout during the pandemic. And there are many other areas where now Indonesia is drawing on expertise from the UK to help grapple with some of the real healthcare challenges the country has got, both in terms of individual disease and ailment issues. But also, in looking at strategically how you run a healthcare system may be a little bit like the British National Health Service (NHS) learning some of the lessons, some of the things we in the UK have got right, but also, some of the mistakes we’ve made. How you run a healthcare system in a country of 17,000 islands with 290 million people, that’s an enormous challenge. And we are standing beside Indonesia and its government as it tackles that challenge. 

And then of course, there is the incredible vision behind the IKN (Ibu Kota Nusantara) the new capital city of Indonesia.That’s been a really key policy of the current President Jokowi. And Pak Prabowo, the incoming president is also committed to developing that. And so again, we are really excited that in fact we’ve just signed an MOU with the IKN and we are committed to developing that, supporting the development of that whole area in a way that ensures it will be the biodiverse, sustainable city that the Indonesian government wants it to be something not only for Indonesia to be proud of but actually for the whole world to be proud of. 

And then of course there is collaboration that we are doing as, as countries together at the United Nations. We both are really committed to UN and international institutional reform, sounds a bit dull, but that’s the kind of thing that will deliver stable trading environments between our two countries and stability that enables peoples to flourish and to travel freely around the world.

So that’s critically important. We’ve got some plans that I look forward to talking to you about in the future when they’re public about how we can really grip the trading relationship between our two countries in order to see that that 3.5 billion pound bilateral trade develops into, I don’t know, 7 billion, 17 billion, who knows, much higher than that within the next few years. And so that’s going to be a critical area of collaboration. 

But you know what, there are so many different areas that we are working on together. There are so many things that as governments we’re looking to support. But what I find really exciting is some of the things that business tells me. And institutions civil society institutions, like the British Council, but some of the other the universities, the research organizations that are working in both countries, some of the things they tell me about, especially in the whole low carbon and climate change area something that really matters to the next generation, to young kids in both our societies where they are really leading the way in helping us to think about, right, how do we grip climate change, how do we grip the impact that we have through the impact on biodiversity.

And as I travel around Indonesia, as I enjoy the incredible landscapes and I’m a diver I enjoy going diving with my family and have been on some of the best dives in the world in this country. And I originally learned to dive here a couple of decades ago. As I see all that, I think there is so much about this country that people in the UK can learn from and enjoy and engage with. And I talk to many Indonesians who’ve lived and worked and holidayed in the UK I know so many Indonesians who feel the same about the UK. So, I feel really privileged to be at the helm of this relationship for the next good few years. Quite a few, I hope. And I’m really excited about not only what governments are going to do, what I and my team and the Embassy and the British Council are going to do, and Pat Desra in the Indonesian Embassy in London but also what so many expats in both countries, what so many businesses and other organizations are going to do too.

I think it’s going to be really, really exciting. Watch this space and watch out on social media for all the things happening during the 75th anniversary at UK in Indonesia.

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