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Aburizal Bakrie favoured as Indonesia's next president
Jim Middleton speaks to Aburizal Bakrie, the man many have tipped as the favourite to win Indonesia's next presidential polls.

It's still two years until the next presidential elections in Indonesia but Aburizal Bakrie is already tipped as the favourite.

One of his companies was responsible for the Lapindo mud disaster but Mr Bakrie says that hasn't hurt his presidential chances.

He spoke to Jim Middleton.
JIM MIDDLETON: A question about relations with Australia first. As the man who could be Indonesia's next president, the official panel established by the Gillard Government to consider the issue of asylum seekers has stated that there could be circumstances under which boatloads of asylum seekers could be turned back to Indonesia. How would Indonesia react if that happened?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: I think one thing, Jim, that if you're speaking of the asylum seeker, you are speaking of humanity. If Australia, if they're already there, why you should send them to other countries? And if it is Indonesia, also we should send it to other countries. That depends very much on the asylum seeker where the asylum seeker want to go and not sending one country to the other like that.

JIM MIDDLETON: So what if boats were turned around but only under or within a framework agreed between Jakarta and Canberra; would that make any difference?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: If the Government and Indonesia and the Government of Australia has agreed to whatever they've agreed to, then my party will agree also on that. We always, what you call it, say that the government should make decisions on that.

JIM MIDDLETON: What about this then, can there be any real headway on a proposed regional solution to the asylum seeker question in South East Asia until Australia satisfies Indonesia that it's done everything in its power not to put young Indonesian deckhands, young Indonesian sailors, behind bars for long periods without trial?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: Yeah. They're very young and they're also very poor. So I should say that you can give also the after short, what they call it, the court concession that maybe you can send them to Indonesia.

JIM MIDDLETON: The South China Sea is obviously a vital trade route for Indonesia and for the rest of the region.

How disturbed are you that even though Indonesia is the most influential nation within South East Asia it's not been able to convince fellow members of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) to reach a unified position on the territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: I think ASEAN should do better than this. The Indonesian government, I believe they have been trying very hard to have the consensus on the ASEAN front.

I hope also when talking to China with the one front, I think we should be able to convince and talk both to China as to the ASEAN friends together. I think the ASEAN should make one front for this.

JIM MIDDLETON: Another aspect of this, what role should Washington be playing within the region? Should Washington be contesting power with Beijing in South East Asia?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: We would like to see a peaceful South East Asia. There's no country, no country should be able to should be the most powerful nation in South East Asia.

We would like to see both China as well as the United States play their role in the development of South East Asia.

JIM MIDDLETON: One final subject relating directly to you, Indonesia's national Human Rights Commission has found that the Lapindo mud flow caused by one of your companies is a human rights violation. That does not cast you or your business or indeed president Yudhoyono in a very good light. It’s not good for you, is it?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: I don't think so because the Supreme Court has made the decision before that, much before that. Other political – other decision made by other institutions should be lowered than the decision by the Supreme Court.

JIM MIDDLETON: Your companies have paid around $300 million in compensation to affected families. Why are you holding back the rest of the compensation, around $100 million?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: We have paid $900 million, not $300 million. Which some of this without being set by the Supreme Court as making any mistake, we paid for them and also the $300 million already been paid so far.

I'm not holding back but, you know, our company is not easy at present moment for any company that we have the plan and we have the timing for that. So I'm not holding anything back.

JIM MIDDLETON: But why haven't you paid back the additional money owed to the landholders? Are you waiting until closer to the election when it might provide you with an electoral advantage?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: No. The target is this year. This is the target. So this is earlier than it is the target in 2014. So the target is this year. I hope that we will have enough money to pay the company. The company have enough money to pay for that this year.

JIM MIDDLETON: Do you worry about the controversy surrounding Lapindo may have an impact on your popularity, on your ability to win the election?

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: My popularity, despite a lot of the news about rumours about this kind of thing, my popularity is always going up as well as my party. And my party now has the biggest - if the election is now, then Golkar, my party will be with the winner of the election. And then if you see my also my popularity and electability is always coming up. So I'm not worried about that.

JIM MIDDLETON: Aburizal Bakrie, thank you very much for taking our questions.

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: Thank you very much, Jim.
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