The Amazing Asian African Parliamentary Conference

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Nothing more special in Indonesia this year other than Asian African Conference Commemoration. It is a big celebration of the 60th anniversary of the conference. Everyone, every media, and every institution have an eye for this event. Preparations are started a year before in Jakarta and Bandung as main venues. As far as I know, there are two big government agendas during this commemoration: Asian African Conference and Asian African Parliamentary Conference. Thank God, I got opportunity to involve in Asian African Parliamentary Conference which gave me such priceless experiences.

Asian African Parliamentary Conference

Third Session

ISAFIS member, Audrey (young lady with batik shirt), became interpreter for Palestine Delegation 

The story began when I was informed by Bang Ical, that one of our (ISAFIS) alumni, Bang Fadli Zon, has been automatically became coordinator of Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation Body (BKSAP) as he was elected as Vice Speaker of Indonesian House of Representative. He asked BKSAP to involve student in their Asian African Parliamentary Conference. The idea was accepted and Bang Fadli Zon connected me to Bu Endah, Head of International Partnership Department, who is also in charge for the conference. After several meetings, we (ISAFIS) were requested to be Liaison Officer, part of committee who will accompany delegates and put delegates in contact with the committee. It is a hard yet challenging task. As Liaison Officer, we are front liner of the conference since we are directly deal with delegates who are member or even speaker/vice speaker of their country's parliament that have to be treated well. I myself get Delegation of Pakistan as my responsibility. The delegation consist of two member of parliament: Ms. Nighat Parveen and Mr. Tahir Bashir Cheema.

Official Committee

Welcoming Delegation

ISAFISians in Asian African Parliamentary Conference

Deadlining for my college assignment in the conference venue

Ms. Nighat - Me - Mr. Cheema

To be able to interact directly with important or even very important person is an amazing experience. During the conference, we were there, in every session of the conference, and can personally see how the real international diplomacy goes on. Beside that, we can also learn on how cultures make communication harder or conversely easier. Delegation of Pakistan for examples, has similiarities with me because they are also moslem so that we have many topics to open a conversation. The best part for me is that we can ask directly something from these delegation about their country's policy. As an International Relations student, I have written several reviews or articles regarding Pakistan and South Asia. So, I used this opportunity to confirm what is in books or journals and reality. I asked many things, including Kashmir dispute, nuclear weapon, and Pakistan - India rivality. And you know what? the one whom I asked (Mr. Cheema) is member of defense commission in the parliament that make it easy for him to answer it and the answer is always comprehensive yet simple. I was very excited to listen every answer he gave me because it is coming straight from the policy maker of Pakistan itself. I got many new insights about international issues in South Asia from Pakistan's perspective.

Before I knew it, I thought there will be a gap between Liaison Officer and delegates, since delegates are important person. But, it was actually wrong. Me and other LOs could make a good and close relation with delegates while also keep our respect, because most of them are very nice. Pakistan delegation is also the same. Ms Parveen and Mr. Cheema are very friendly. They are very cooperative with the committee so that I can easily ask them to follow every session of the conference. Because Ms. Parveen left Indonesia first, and Mr. Cheema's flight is three days after conference, I spent my time more with Mr. Cheema.

I actually want to talk more about this Mr. Cheema. After I accompanied Ms. Parveen to airport, I came back to hotel to accompany Mr. Cheema look for some souvenirs. We went to the Grand Indonesia Mall to find purse for his wife and daughters. During our shopping time, we talk many things, about Indonesian culture, families, and also politics. He doesn't like formality. That's why he told me not to be formal with him and he even treated me as his son. It was like I am his son and his interpreter in the same time. He took my advice to visit Alun-Alun Indonesia and bought a batik shirt I chose for him. I gave him a magnetic fridge as a gift.

I started to know (or adore) him more when he asked me to his room and had a conversation with him. Basically, I thought he asked me to accompany him to kill the time because he is alone. During our conversation, we talked about everything. Literally everything. Sometimes he asked me about situation in Indonesia, sometimes he told me about his family (his wife, his sons, and his daughters), sometimes he asked me to tell him more about my family (what my parents do, their backgrounds, my siblings), and sometimes I asked him random questions (mainly things that make me curious). It was a nice conversation and more like dad-son conversation rather than a delegate-LO conversation. Because of the conversation, then I know that he is now elected for the fifth time, that he was a mayor of his hometown, that he is a medical school graduate, that he first elected when he was 21 years old, and in the end somehow it gave me conclusion that he is a family man. I remember one of his advice to me is never cheat to my (future) wife. As long as there is no other woman, he said, there will be no fight in a marriage. There will be arguments, which is normal, but there will be no fight. And if there is another woman, even small things can start a fight.

In the middle of our conversation, he told me why he asked me to come to his room. He said it because he was impressed with my attitude in doing my duty as Liaison Officer. He believes that I am a good person, hardworking, and honest. I was thrilled when I heard all that compliments. I never expected to be appreciated like that. Another reason why he likes me is maybe because I am in the same age with his first son who lives in London for study and I remind him of his son. The most surprising moments during that conversation is when he is inviting me to come and visit his family in Lahore, Pakistan. He even promised me to arrange everything, including the ticket and visa for visiting Pakistan. I was very excited when he told me that. To show his serious intention, he asked me to arrange a dinner with my dad so he can directly tell the invitiation to my dad and ask for permission. Now, I cannot wait to visit Mr. Cheema and his family in Lahore. I hope I can visit him this June as he requested because it will be the time when his first son will also come home for summer vacation.

After dinner with Mr. Cheema

These experiences, working with parliament, spending times with my fellow ISAFISians, seeing international official conference, and meeting officials from all over Asia and Africa is absolutely an unforgettable moments for me. In the meantime, I learnt a lot from this event. But one thing I will never forget is to always mind our attitude, because we will never know how and when opportunity approach us.

"Zikri, I tell you one thing. Struggle until you are 30 years old. After that, enjoy your life." - Mr. Cheema

Wefie after briefing

Gala Dinner

With Delegate from Lao PDR

ISAFISians are taking picture with Mr. Fadli Zon (Vice Speaker) and Ms. Nurhayati Ali Assegaf (Chairman of BKSAP)

Two ISAFIS Presidents from different era


Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.

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