Kalla tells 'Republik BBM' no hard feelings

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Vice President Jusuf Kalla poured on the praise Wednesday during a meeting with the cast of Republik BBM (Drunken Republic), leaving actors from the groundbreaking political satire a little tipsy from such high-ranking admiration.

During the meeting at his office, Kalla promised to make an appearance on the highly rated weekly TV show. Such praise may have been unexpected following recent reports that claimed the Vice President wanted the show pulled from the air because of its irreverent look at politics and politicians.

Kalla, who unlike past vice presidents does not mind taking a bit of the spotlight from the president, did not join cast members at the press conference following the meeting.

On Republik BBM, comedians Kelik Pelipur Lara and Taufik Savalas lampoon Kalla and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono right down to their physical appearance and gestures. The show pokes fun at politicians as the "President" and "Vice President" interview candidates for ministerial positions and lead Cabinet meetings.

Producers last week sent letters to the President and Vice President asking them to appear on the show.

President Yudhoyono is on a state visit to the Middle East until next Thursday, and it is not known if his office has responded to the invitation.

Show moderator Effendi Gazali, who plays a presidential adviser, said they were surprised how well Kalla took being criticized on the show, even offering some suggestions on how to attract more viewers.

"He said the show airs too late at night because it's already midnight for people in eastern parts of Indonesia. He said it's an alternative to all the shows containing mysticism and violence, although he sort of told us not to make complete fools of the President and Vice President by making them look dim-witted, and to keep a sense of respect," Effendi said.

He said Kalla dismissed reports that he had urged the show be taken off the air, and recognized that Republik BBM offered a constructive voice.

Effendi said the Vice President thought the show could be used to promote national campaigns, such as the fights against corruption and illegal logging. He also said Kalla suggested the show could be more balanced by citing the government's successes.

Comedian Taufik, who plays the President, said Kalla was a far more relaxed personality than he had imagined, and was apparently an avid watcher of Republik BBM.

Kelik, who portrays the Vice President on the show, said the first thing he did when meeting the mustachioed Kalla was apologize and kiss his hand in a show of respect.

"He did ask me where my moustache was. We talked about a lot of things during the meeting, particularly about distinguishing between democracy and 'democrazy,'" he said.

Effendi promised fans the show would maintain its format and continue to criticize and poke fun, because, quoting Kalla, criticism of government policies was an important element of democracy.
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