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Cablegate: Indonesia Demands Major League Baseball

VZCZCXRO9967
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #0650/01 0921006
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011006Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8519
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4860
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2242
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0967
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0897
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1698
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4487
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1734
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 2474
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 2535
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 0668
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY 0771
RHHJJPI/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 000650

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, EAP/MLB;
DEPT ALSO PASS TO TONY LA RUSSA IN ST. LOUIS
NSC FOR E.PHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV RBI ERA ID
SUBJECT: INDONESIA DEMANDS MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

JAKARTA 00000650 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) This message was coordinated with Consulate General
Surabaya and Consulate Medan.

2. (U) SUMMARY: It's spring (at least in the U.S.) and with
opening day now upon us, Indonesia is currently abuzz about a
plan to bring a Major League Baseball franchise to Jakarta.
The team--the Jakarta Traffic--would be joined by a farm
team, the Surabaya Mud Hens, and a team based in Medan called
the Sumatra Quakes. The driving force behind the proposal is
former New York Mets pitching sensation Sidd Finch, who now
lives in Bali. As we have come to expect in this young
democracy, there is vigorous debate about the proposal. We
continue to make USG points in a vigorous manner. END
SUMMARY.

OFFICIAL REACTION MIXED

3. (U) As they have for years, Indonesians are demanding
their own Major League baseball team. Reacting to Sidd
Finch's proposal and the recent large rally in Yogyakarta,
the President--who is known to take in a Giants game down by
the Bay whenever he is in San Francisco--said baseball could
play an important role furthering Indonesia's development and
also would serve world peace. He added, however, that any
move this significant would require much careful study and
debate, noting that consensus is "the Javanese Way if not
that of George Steinbrenner."

4. (U) The Foreign Ministry sounded a cautious note. It
said it could live with the proposal if all participants
agreed to settle any disputed calls through peaceful
dialogue. It also proposed replacing the "unilateralist"
role of umpire with a multilateral conflict resolution
framework commission under UN and ASEAN oversight that made
rulings consistent with Non-Aligned Movement principles as
enunciated at the 1955 Bandung Summit.

5. (U) Predictably, opinion in the Indonesian House of
Representatives (DPR) was split along party lines. Members
of Golkar (the largest faction) were generally supportive of
the initiative, provided their proposal to outfit the team in
canary yellow home uniforms was incorporated into the final
bill (yellow is the color of Golkar). While representatives
from PDI-P (the second largest faction) have not yet weighed
in on the controversy, one contact from the party told poloff
that their leader would have to wait for the President's
position on baseball before she could criticize it. A
representative from the Speaker's office confirmed that a
special committee was currently deliberating the baseball
bill and estimated the DPR would pass it by 2077.

6. (U) Meanwhile, from his box at Dodger Stadium in Chavez
Ravine, the Vice President has reportedly brokered several
deals to move the project forward. These include plans for a
politically well-connected construction conglomerate to build
a giant new stadium complex in central Jakarta in the area
now called Medan Merdeka (Freedom Park). The stadium would
include residential and mixed-use space, and include high-end
retail outlets such as Armani, Gucci, and Prada. (Note: The
proposal for a Jimmy Choo boutique was rejected when the
media alleged that Choo, who is Malaysian, stole several
designs from traditional Indonesian footwear styles.)

MORE ON THE RAGING DEBATE

7. (U) Human rights groups have raised concerns about the
proposed stadium. A coalition of NGOs said the plan would
likely trigger human rights violations as the authorities
forced people from their shanty homes to make room for the
new facility. They called for a moratorium on any USG
involvement with Indonesian sports projects until there is
accountability for the human rights violations that occurred
in 1999, when people were forced from their homes to make
room for an ice hockey arena. (Note: Indonesia's flirtation

JAKARTA 00000650 002.2 OF 002


with hockey was short-lived. Frequent disruptions in
electricity supplies made it impossible to keep the ice
frozen. Moreover, despite the general futility of their play
in the Garden, the New York Rangers declined the offer to
move to Jakarta.)

8. (U) Also controversial is the proposed spring training
facility in Jayapura, Papua. Papuan traditional leaders said
the proposal would violate the rights of the approximately
175 tribes that claim customary rights to the land slated for
the facility. They have demanded USD five billion in
compensation from U.S. mining giant Freeport-McMoran. From
his base in Bali, Sidd Finch said he will work with the
Papuans in order to address their concerns.

PRESSING THE USG CASE, VIGOROUSLY

9. (U) In our estimation, Jakarta's proposed MLB franchise
represents an important and unique opportunity to advance USG
objectives in Southeast Asia. Mission recommends that the
Department move quickly to provide assistance to Indonesia's
developing baseball scene. As instructed, Mission has
engaged key contacts at the Department of Foreign Affairs
(DEPLU) on this issue. Poloff pressed the matter in an April
1 meeting with MannyRamirez (one name only), DEPLU's Deputy
Director for Sports Diplomacy. Poloff forcefully underscored
the extreme importance of this issue to the United States.
He emphasized that baseball was a central element of
democracy and freedom and urged Indonesia to move forward
with the proposed MLB team as quickly as possible.

10. (U) Happy April Fool's Day!!!
HUME

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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