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Mahathir tells candidate Joko he will pray for him

The Straits Times | Zubaidah Nazeer | Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Dr Mahathir presenting a copy of his book to PDI-P party presidential candidate Joko Widodo (centre) in the presence of party chief Megawati Sukarnoputri (second from left), Mrs Megawati's daughter Puan Maharani (left) and Malaysia's ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Zahrain Mohamed Hashim (right).

JAKARTA - Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Muhammad yesterday met Indonesian presidential favourite Joko Widodo and leaders of his Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) in Jakarta.

They met at the central Jakarta house of PDI-P leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, who used the occasion to introduce the former Malaysian leader to Mr Joko.

"I am here to catch up with an old friend, and I am happy to see her in good health," said Dr Mahathir.

He leaves today after being invited to deliver a speech yesterday titled Malaysia-Indonesia: Then, Now, and Forever, at Bank Mega Tower, which was attended by diplomats, academics and others.

"I hope our close friendship developed over the years is also mirrored by the relations between the two countries, Malaysia and Indonesia," he added.

As Dr Mahathir got into the car waiting to take him to a formal dinner, he gave Mr Joko his best wishes for the presidential elections, saying he would "pray for him".

Though bilateral relations between the two countries have had their ups and downs, they are generally good with strong connections in trade, culture and people relations.

Earlier, Dr Mahathir had said he was impressed with how Indonesia was able to carry out a peaceful election across the vast archipelago of 17,000 islands. He said his country looked forward to working with whoever Indonesia elected as president.

His visit was also an occasion for PDI-P leaders to show a united front, after a media report of a rift between rival factions.

Mr Joko was seen standing next to Mrs Puan Maharani, Mrs Megawati's daughter.

The Jakarta Post, quoting unnamed sources, had reported that after a meeting at Mrs Megawati's house on election night - April 9 - to discuss the party's poor showing in the legislative elections, Mrs Puan told Mr Joko to leave.

The report quoted the source saying a heated argument ensued between pro-Joko supporters and those of Mrs Puan, the party's national campaign chief whose pictures were seen on PDI-P posters along with those of Mrs Megawati.

Mrs Megawati was reportedly in tears as Mr Joko left.

After Dr Mahathir's departure, both Mr Joko and Mrs Puan denied talk of a rift.

"There's no row at all. Who wrote that? Who are the sources?" asked Mr Joko, adding, "Ms Puan left on a trip to Hong Kong, so she wasn't there."

Though PDI-P emerged as the winner of the elections based on early unofficial counts, its 19 per cent vote share was far less than pollsters' and Mr Joko's predictions of 27 per cent.

zubaidah@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 15 in The Straits Times.

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