Indonesian Consul General in Dubai K. Candra Negara with his wife Novita. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Newly-appointed Indonesian Consul General K. Candra Negara is a COVID-19 survivor. Twice infected by the virus back in his home country, he did not panic, but remained calm and regularly took the medicines and vitamins prescribed by his doctor. But, more importantly, he maintained a positive attitude to overcome the infection.

“I first contracted coronavirus last July. I was asymptomatic. Then, I got the virus again in the last week of January this year,” told Gulf News earlier this week. He was speaking at a dinner he hosted at his residence in Jumeirah.

Negara, who arrived in Dubai with his wife and three children last month, had this bit of advice: “There are two things I want to share. First, be prepared. Always try to keep your immune system up; exercise, eat well and sleep well. Second, if you contract the virus, don’t panic. The virus is everywhere, so put on your mask, maintain social distancing and keep sanitising yourself. Take your medicines and vitamins. Have a positive attitude that you will overcome the infection.”

Thankfully, Negara said none in his family got the virus apart from him. He also mentioned that back in Indonesia, the vaccination campaign, which began early last month, is gaining traction among the people and the country is aiming to vaccinate majority of the population by the end of next year.

Serve and protect

As a diplomat, Negara summarised his mission into three tasks: “To serve and protect fellow Indonesians; strengthen UAE-Indonesia relations; and promote the image of Indonesia — particularly at the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai.” He added: “The Indonesian expats are the real diplomats and representatives of our country. Please stay safe and healthy, work hard and be professional. If you need anything, just send a WhatsApp message or call me or the consulate.”

Height of UAE-Indonesia ties

Negara said he saw his current assignment, with the world reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic, as a golden opportunity to boost UAE-Indonesia ties. “I came at the right time when our two countries are at the peak of bilateral relationships. The UAE recently announced several major infrastructure projects in Indonesia, including a multimillion-dollar tourism resort in Aceh province,” Negara told Gulf News.

He said the projects are part of the $22.9 billion (Dh84.22 billion) deal signed during the visit of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Abu Dhabi in January last year. His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, made a state visit to Indonesia a year before.

“Sheikh Mohamed was also invited by President Widodo to join the steering committee of Indonesia’s planned new capital city in East Kalimantan on the island of Borneo,” Negara said, adding that the investments by the UAE covering energy, infrastructure and mining are seen as the biggest in Indonesia’s history.

Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, is happy to be a close friend of the UAE, he added.

Indonesia at Expo 2020 Dubai

Negara said the Indonesia pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will serve as a strong nation branding. “We will make our presence felt to showcase the image of Indonesia to the world,” he added, noting that the three-storey pavilion located in Expo 2020 Dubai’s Opportunity District will strongly feature the concept of Golden Indonesia 2045 — the country’s ambitious path to become one of the five world economic giants by 2045.

“We will showcase Indonesia of yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he added, explaining that the Indonesian pavilion will highlight diversity, innovation and sustainability as well as solutions to future challenges.

Rebounding from the pandemic

Negara noted that more than 900 Indonesians were repatriated from the UAE last year between March and June. “Those were voluntary repatriations and the consulate helped in getting discounted tickets for the special flights. But now, Indonesians are coming back to Dubai and the Northern Emirates,” he added.

Meeting with envoys

One month into office, Negara is yet to meet his constituents face-to-face because of the pandemic. He said most of his meetings are done virtually, but he is also conducting personal meetings in small groups. He is also keen to meet soon envoys from other countries, particularly the consuls-general from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), whose diplomats from the five founding ASEAN members — Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore — have forged a strong bond in the diplomatic community.

Karaoke diplomacy

On a lighter note, Negara said he would like to carry on with karaoke diplomacy, where consuls met prior to the pandemic not only to talk about issues, but also to share their passion for music. Negara even sang some lines from one of his favourite romantic ballads titled ‘You’ by renowned Filipino singer Basil Valdez.

Negara sang to his wife, Novita: ‘You give me hope/ The strength, the will to keep on/ No one else can make me feel this way/ And only you can bring out all the best I can do/ I believe you turn the tide/ And make me feel real good inside.”

Negara was born in Blitar, a city in East Java, Indonesia, on September 26, 1969. He and Novita Nugraheny have three children. The Indonesian consul-general graduated with a Bachelor of International Relations from Airlangga University, Indonesia, in 1993, and earned a Master of Global Management and Development degree from University of Antwerp in Belgium in 1999.