Jokowi's demeanour, sartorial choices bring relaxed vibe

JAKARTA - While his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was known for his staid demeanour and formal sartorial preferences, after a day in the country's highest political office, new President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has stuck to his down-to-earth persona, shunning standard, formal attire.

On Tuesday, Jokowi started his second day as President wearing a green batik shirt during a formal diplomatic meeting with Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Peter O'Neill at the State Palace.

Despite looking underdressed compared to his counterpart, who donned a formal suit, Jokowi looked to enjoy his conversation with the foreign guest.

According to Jokowi, in the 30-minute meeting the two discussed future investment opportunities between the two neighbouring countries.

While Yudhoyono stuck to the strict protocol of only making statements in formal press conferences, Jokowi has not dropped his habit of giving off-the-cuff remarks to reporters covering the palace.

He also responded to questions posed by the reporters in doorstop interviews. He gave two such interviews on Tuesday.

In the first occasion, the President spoke about having a good sleep on his first night in the palace and said he was already familiar with the ambience of the colonial building.

The State Palace, which was originally constructed to act as the residence of Dutch businessman, J. A. van Braam, was built in 1796.

"It was good. I used to live in an old building in Solo [Surakarta]. This is also an old building," he said with a laugh.

Wearing the same batik shirt, he later welcomed Russian Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov.

Manturov said earlier on Monday that Russia was particularly interested in developing its metallurgy industry in Indonesia, which would enable the transfer of the country's metallurgy technology to Indonesian counterparts.

Perhaps Jokowi met his sartorial match at noon, when he held a meeting with Yan Junqi, the vice chairperson of the standing committee of the National People's Congress of China.

Yan wore a long-sleeved blouse, with shades of soft pink and a pattern similar to batik.

Jokowi's choice of attire was not the first time he broke the formal mould while engaging in meetings with foreign dignitaries.

On Monday evening, hours after his inauguration, Jokowi, wearing only a white long-sleeved shirt, held two separate courtesy-call meetings with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Wearing the same outfit, he later went outside the palace to greet thousands of supporters who had gathered at the National Mo-nument (Monas) to throw a "people's party" to celebrate Jokowi's inauguration.

Later that night, Jokowi wore a brown batik shirt for separate meetings with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and US Secretary of State John Kerry, both of whom wore suits and ties.

The President looked relaxed and jovial in the two meetings, at times trading jokes with the two guests.

Jokowi and Kerry were heard having a conversation about whether the former would play a guitar during the so-called "people's party".

Protocols and security arrangements at the palace also appear to have been relaxed.

Journalists were allowed to wait only meters from the Presidential Palace on Tuesday as Jokowi summoned a number of figures and politicians for discussions believed to be related to his Cabinet line-up.

Jokowi, who is also yet to announce his special aides and spokesperson, has tended to bring transition team chairperson Rini Soemarno and her deputy Andi Widjajanto to his meetings with foreign guests.