Asia

Indonesian president flies economy to son's graduation

Indonesia President, Joko Widodo Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Indonesia's President, Joko Widodo, took a selfie with students at his son's school in Singapore

The Indonesian president has caused a stir by flying economy class to Singapore to attend his son's high school graduation.

Joko Widodo and his wife declined to take the presidential plane because it was a personal trip.

The pair paid for their own tickets, although the government paid for security guards who accompanied them.

Some observers praised Mr Widodo, others said the gesture was merely a publicity stunt.

Father or president?

The Indonesian president and his wife, Iriana, went to see their youngest child graduate from the Anglo-Chinese School, where the president took selfies with other students.

They flew on the national carrier, Garuda Indonesia, on Friday, queuing up at the check-in desk in Jakarta with other passengers, causing a flurry of interest from other travellers.

"The president is travelling as a father, not as the head of state," said an Indonesian official, explaining the unusual presidential travel arrangements.

Joko Widodo - known affectionately as Jokowi - built up a reputation as a man of the people, first as the mayor of the city of Solo and then as governor of Jakarta.

Coming from a humble background, he would often turn up unannounced and unaccompanied in Jakarta's slums to speak to residents.

It appears he wants to maintain that image now he is president of Indonesia, says the BBC Michael Bristow.

His trip to Singapore caused a buzz on social networking sites, with some congratulating Mr Widodo on his humility.

Others though were less complimentary. "Stop polishing your image, just act natural," AFP news agency quoted one commentator as saying.

Following the graduation ceremony, Mr Widodo had a breakfast meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, on Saturday before returning to Indonesia.

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