Taufik finds life as a president’s husband a bore

Friends of Megawati’s husband say he is stifled by protocol and often sneaks out to be with his buddies to whom he is loyal.

Business tycoon Taufik Kiemas is finding life as hubby of President Megawati Sukarnoputri a bore.

He is stealing time to meet friends at odd hours of the day, and tries to get out of attending official functions.

Rigid palace protocols mean that he can no longer hang out at odd hours to meet friends and chat the night away.

But his close friends disclose that eight months into his wife’s presidency, he manages to escape the watchful eyes of palace security to head back to his private residence to welcome visitors.

‘It is just his style and it is hard for him to change,’ said a childhood friend from Palembang where Mr Taufik hails from as the first-born son of 11 brothers and sisters.

‘He likes an easy-going atmosphere. He tells us that when he is in the palace, he gets aides constantly bowing as a mark of respect. He finds it feudalistic.’

Mr Suparlan, an MP from Ms Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), said Mr Taufik tries to get away from the palace and official residence at least three times a week, almost always on Fridays and Saturdays.

He is normally accompanied by his driver and a personal aide on his nights out.

He tries hard to dissuade an entourage of five security officers from tagging along, saying he feels safe in Jakarta. Back in his South Jakarta residence, he and his friends socialise often until dawn.

Another close friend, Mr Abidin Fikri of the Indonesian Nationalist Students Movement (GMNI), said Mr Taufik gets irritated when reminded that he has to end his meetings because of official functions the following day.

‘He finds official protocol to be stifling,’ he said.

Mr Tjahyo Kumolo, a close ally in the PDI-P, said Mr Taufik found the palace intimidating because of its size and grandeur.

‘He likes his private house better. He likes being in the company of friends. He hates being alone,’ he said.

When travelling outside Indonesia with Ms Megawati, he keeps in constant touch with his buddies, making arrangements for a night out when he returns.

Some speculate that these meetings outside the palace are Mr Taufik’s chance to engage in political deal-making. He entered the political fray as a young man, starting off with the GMNI.

Over the years, he has came to wield enormous political influence, paving the way for the rise of Ms Megawati whom he married in 1973.

The Tempo weekly noted recently that he had told senior editors in Jakarta that ‘his blood is political blood’. He would rather give up the business world than leave politics.

Some of his friends acknowledge that while he is ambitious and has climbed the political ladder, he never forgets his friends.

Said one PDI-P member: ‘He is very loyal. But he expects them to be loyal to him too. And he never thinks twice about helping out a friend even if it means lending him money.

‘These days he does less of this because as husband of the President, some of his enemies might accuse him of trying to bribe people. But they are wrong. He is being sincere in wanting to help.’

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