Prime Minister Erna Solberg is on an official visit to Indonesia this week, meeting both political and religious leaders for a wide range of talks. Solberg said Norway can learn about how the largest religious groups have themselves learned to “live in peace with one another,” but she also lodged her own protest about Indonesia’s reinstatement of the death penalty.
“I explicitly asked that the looming death penalties not be carried out,” Solberg told news bureau NTB after meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo. He has been referred to as Indonesia’s answer to US President Barack Obama, but his reinstatement of the death penalty has set off a diplomatic storm. Two Australian drug smugglers have been sentenced to death, along with convicts from France, Brazil and the Philippines, prompting international protests.
Indonesian officials defend the death penalty as a means of trying to fight what they call a flood of narcotics that requires dramatic measures. They insist the drug smugglers are also violating human rights, by contributing to the creation of drug addicts.
Solberg and Widodo also discussed ongoing cooperation on climate issues and preservation of rain forests, to which Norway has donated large amounts of financial support in recent years. Maritime, business and human rights issues were also on the agenda.
“Norway and Indonesia have had long and good relations,” Solberg said. “As maritime nations we have a lot in common. We cooperate today in many areas including climate issues, energy, trade, democracy and efforts to fight poverty.”
On Wednesday, Solberg also visited the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, Istiqlal, which also ranks as the third-largest in the world. During talks with religious leaders, Solberg brought up the issues of extremism and jihadists, and wanted to learn about Indonesian efforts to hinder radicalization.
Solberg said that religious tolerance was an important theme during her meetings with both Muslim and Christian officials, and she was keen to show support for moderate Muslims’ work to encourage tolerance.
Solberg started her visit to Jakarta on Monday with meetings with Norwegians doing business in Indonesia. Many are involved in shipping- and energy-related ventures, and the two countries signed a new agreement on reciprocal acceptance of maritime certificates for seafarers. Included among Norwegian companies doing business in Indonesia are Kongsberg Maritime, Sttoil, Höegh, SN Power and KF Gruppen.