TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Hary Tanoesoedibjo received a special invitation to attend the inauguration of the United State's 45th president, Donald John Trump. With his wife, Liliana Tanaja, he was present in Washington, DC, last January 20. "I don't know whether I'm the only Indonesian invited, but I saw no one else over there," said 51-year old Hary.
He has known Trump for the past two years. The two tycoons agreed to jointly build a six-star hotel in Lido, West Java, and at Tanah Lot in Bali, including golf courses and country clubs. At Lido, about 20 kilometers north of Sukabumi-without Trump-Hary is also building a Disneyland theme park, complete with a shopping center. The megaproject valued at Rp33 trillion is expected to be completed during Trump's term at the White House.
Right from the start, Hary admitted he got along well with real estate tycoon Trump, who owns the Trump Organization. Hary has been going back and forth to meet with Trump and his three children. "Donald Trump is very friendly," said Hary, who founded the MNC Group, an umbrella corporation of 50 subsidiaries and 37,000 employees.
Last week, Hary spoke for almost two hours to Tempo reporters Wahyu Muryadi, Yandhrie Arvian, Sapto Yunus, Abdul Malik, Raymundus Rikang and Reza Maulana at his MNC Tower office in central Jakarta. Hary spoke of his first meeting with Trump, on Trump's anti-immigration policy, his political objectives and his Indonesian Unity Party (Perindo) in the upcoming 2019 general elections. He was proud of the fact that he introduced House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Setya Novanto and Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon to Trump. "I arranged the meeting," Hary said.
In what capacity were you invited to President Trump's inauguration?
They invited me as a partner of the Trump Organization, not as a White House friend. I don't know whether I am the only Indonesian who was invited, but I didn't see any other over there.
How did you first meet Donald Trump?
It began during the take-over of the Bali Nirwana Resort and the hotel at Lido from Bakrieland, a few years ago. We plan to develop an integrated (tourist) destination, comprising a theme park, hotel, villas, condominiums, country clubs and golf courses. We can't do all that on our own. So, we sought out third parties who could manage all that. A few names came up, including Trump and MGM. In short, we hit it off with Trump. They will manage the hotel, country clubs and golf courses. The theme parks will be managed by us.
When did you begin?
Since 2014, when we discussed technical details with their management, including Donald's three children-Donald Junior, Eric and Ivanka. They came to Jakarta. In 2015, I went to New York to sign the contract with Trump, a few months before he announced his presidential candidacy on June 18, 2015.
How often do you meet with Trump?
I don't count, but often enough. After all, it's a big project whose vision and strategy must continually be coordinated. The three kids go back and forth to Jakarta, Lido and Bali. But to meet with Donald, I must fly to New York.
When did you last meet him?
Last January 4, in New York, followed by a meeting with the family on January 18, two days before the inauguration.
What did you and Trump talk about?
I cannot say. It wouldn't be ethical, especially now that he is the president.
Did you get to see him after the inauguration?
After the inauguration, everything changed. He must have been exhausted after all those activities, from the start, to the dinner and 'after' parties. Trump also needed to meet with officials whom he had to appoint and replace.
Did the White House pay for your trip and accommodations?
We paid everything ourselves, including our accommodations at the Trump Hotel in Washington, DC and in New York.
Will Trump's new position affect your projects in Bali and Lido?
Nothing has changed. As president, Trump will no longer be involved in the business. He said that very clearly. In fact, he said there will be no new business. But his children will carry on their father's businesses and honor everything that has been agreed so far. There will be no conflict of interest. To be honest, Trump becoming president is a burden for me. I must make sure that all projects run well because MNC carries Indonesia's reputation. I don't want to be seen as slow-going.
You get along well with Trump?
Yes, because we share the same background as businessmen. We click, and we can come to an agreement fast. He is the type of person to make quick decisions.
And because of this close relationship, you facilitated the wish of Setya Novanto and Fadli Zon to meet with Trump in September 2015?
I did help them to meet. I made the appointment. After they met, Trump held a press conference and they were invited there. My role was just to arrange the meeting. I don't know what happened after that. (*)
Read the ful interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine