BANGKOK — Indonesia has reappointed its scandal-plagued parliament speaker, Setya Novanto, who raised controversy last year after appearing at Donald Trump's campaign event in New York and has spoken in support of the US president-elect.
The speaker also recently briefed Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Trump, according to local media reports.
There’s no evidence that Novanto’s reinstatement is directly related to Trump’s election. But the news comes just as Trump’s vast network of business and personal ties with foreign businessmen and politicians comes under scrutiny ahead of his inauguration in January.
Religious leaders in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, have expressed concerns about what Trump’s election might mean for them, particularly in response to his campaign promise to temporarily ban Muslim immigration.
But Trump has close allies in Indonesia’s power circle, including Hary Tanoesoedibjo, his business partner and one the country’s wealthiest tycoons. Last year, the two signed a deal for a sprawling resort in West Java.
Trump appeared with Novanto at the tail end of a press conference in September last year, asking him, “We will do great things for the United States, is that correct?”
“Yes,” Novanto responded.
Trump called him “one of the most powerful men, and a great man.”
Three months later, Trump called for the temporary ban on Muslims.
Their appearance together caused a stir in Indonesia, particularly among other lawmakers, who said it could be interpreted as Indonesia interfering in the US presidential race. A leader from Novanto’s party later apologized. It’s not clear how Novanto and Trump met in the first place.
Novanto was forced to step down last year after he was caught on tape apparently trying to extort a stake worth billions in the country’s largest mine. But he denied the charges, and has since been cleared of wrongdoing by a legislative ethics panel and in court.
Megha Rajagopalan is the Asia correspondent at BuzzFeed News.
Contact Megha Rajagopalan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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