Ignoring monsoon rain and thunder, hundreds of people gathered in Indonesia’s former colonial capital of Bogor on Monday to demonstrate against a visit by US president George W Bush. Amid security concerns, the president only made a short stop-over in Indonesia, the last leg of an Asia tour that included Singapore and Vietnam which was hosting the APEC summit.
Many in Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim nation – are opposed to US policy in the Middle East and Iraq. Bush praised Indonesia’s strong stance against Islamist militants and its democracy. “I applaud a society where people are free to come and express their opinion,” said Bush. “And to Indonesia’s credit that’s a society where people are able to protest and say what they think. It’s not the first time where people have showed up and expressed their opinion about my policies, that’s what happens when you make hard decisions.”
But he once again refused to talk about a timetable for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq: “I haven’t made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases and won’t until I hear from a variety of sources including our own United States military.” The US president then headed on to Hawaii before travelling back to Texas in time for the traditional Thanksgiving holiday.