President Obama removes his shoes before entering the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in April (White House photo)
JERUSALEM – In a recent small roundtable press briefing, President Obama referred to Jakarta, Indonesia, as his old home town while he reminisced about his schoolboy days in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
During the presidential campaign last year, questions were raised as to whether Obama ever possessed Indonesian citizenship, with the subject first being broached last summer by WND after a photograph emerged of Obama’s school registration papers as a child in Indonesia showing the presidential candidate listed as a “Muslim” with “Indonesian” citizenship.
Now WND has learned that in June, in comments that did not receive media attention, Obama discussed his “hometown” of Jakarta, twice using the word “home” in reference to the Indonesian city, according to a White House transcript.
“Oh, I need to come to Indonesia soon,” said Obama. “I expect to be traveling to Asia at some point within the next year, and I would be surprised if when I came to Asia I did not stop by my old home town of Jakarta.”
Obama was speaking during a briefing with a handful of Mideast and Asian reporters just after his major address from Cairo to the Islamic world in June. Obama was responding specifically to an Indonesian reporter who asked why the president didn’t deliver his speech from Indonesia, which has more Muslims than Egypt.
Continued Obama: “In some ways, going to Indonesia would almost be cheating, because I would have a home court advantage. Not only am I personally close to the culture and have a sister who’s half Indonesian, but I think that, frankly, the relationship between the United States and Indonesia has generally been strong.”
Obama said if he travels to Indonesia as president he would “go visit Menteng Dalam and have some bakso – nasi goreng. These are some special dishes here that I used to eat when I was a kid.”
He engaged in an exchange with the Indonesian reporter, who informed the president he lived 300 meters from the house Obama grew up in.
“Is that right?” asked Obama
“Yes, Menteng Dalam,” replied the reporter.
“Except now it’s all paved,” said Obama.
“Yes, it’s all paved,” the reporter said.
Indonesian school registration for “Barry Soetoro” (AP photo)
“Yes, see, when I was there, it was all dirt, so when the rains came it would all be mud,” stated Obama. “And all the cars would get stuck.”
“And your school is much better now,” said the reporter, referring to an Indonesian school in which Obama was enrolled as a Muslim.
“It’s nicer now, yes. OK,” Obama replied.
Was young Obama an Indonesian citizen?
An Associated Press photograph of Obama’s school registration papers as a child in Indonesia showed the president listed as a “Muslim” with “Indonesian” citizenship.
An investigation into Indonesian citizenship law and a review of Obama’s biography and travels suggest the politician at one point may have been a citizen of Indonesia. That would not necessarily disqualify Obama to serve as president, but it could raise loyalty concerns.
A 2007 Associated Press photograph taken by Tatan Syuflana, an Indonesian AP reporter and photographer, surfaced last summer on the Daylife.com photographic website showing an image of Obama’s registration card at Indonesia’s Fransiskus Assisi school, a Catholic institution.
In the picture, Obama is registered under the name Barry Soetoro by his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro. The school card lists Barry Soetoro as a Indonesian citizen born Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His religion is listed as Muslim.
Jack Stokes, manager of media relations for the AP, confirmed to WND the picture is indeed an AP photo.
After attending the Assisi Primary School, Obama later was enrolled at SDN Menteng 1, an Indonesian public school.
The White House did not return repeated queries asking for a clarification regarding the school documentation listing the presidential candidate’s citizenship as Indonesian.
Obama spokesmen have stated the candidate is a natural-born citizen amid rumors he may have been born in his father’s home country of Kenya. Neither Obama nor his spokespeople ever addressed whether Obama became a citizen of Indonesia at any point.
Obama’s American mother, Ann Dunham, separated from her first husband, Barack Obama Sr., in 1963 when the president was 2 years old. Dunham and Obama Sr. are reported to have later divorced. Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian, and moved to Indonesia sometime between 1966 and 1967.
It was not clear whether Soetoro adopted Obama, either in Hawaii or in Indonesia, but there is strong circumstantial evidence that he did as far as Indonesian law was concerned.
In Indonesia, which was under tight rule in 1967, Obama clearly took on the last name of his stepfather in school registration documents. All Indonesian students were required to carry government identity cards, or Karty Tanda Pendudaks, which needed to bear the student’s legal name, which should be matched in public school registration filings.
Following his enrollment at the private Assisi school, Obama attended public schooling in Indonesia until he returned to Hawaii at age 10. According to Indonesian legal experts, it was difficult to enroll non-Indonesian citizens in public schooling.
Obama arrived in Indonesia at about the age of 5 according to most accounts, although it was possible he arrived at the age of 6, according to a few sources. If Lolo Soetoro adopted Obama at age 5 or younger, then Obama would automatically have become an Indonesian citizen according to the country’s laws in the 1960s, which stipulated any child aged 5 or younger adopted by an Indonesian father is immediately granted Indonesian citizenship upon completion of the adoption process.
Lolo Soetoro could have adopted Obama in Hawaii, although such an adoption would not have necessarily been recognized by Indonesia.
Indonesian law at the time also did not recognize dual citizenship, meaning if Obama became Indonesian, then as far as that country was concerned, his U.S. citizenship was no longer recognized by Indonesia. But U.S. law would still recognize Obama as an American citizen.
In a revelation that raised a few eyebrows, Obama in April 2008 disclosed he traveled as a college student to Pakistan in 1981.
“I traveled to Pakistan when I was in college – I knew what Sunni and Shia was [sic] before I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Obama reportedly stated at a fundraising event.
The senator had not previously discussed any trip to Pakistan, either in his books or in scores of policy talks regarding Pakistan.
Prompted by Obama’s statements, ABC News contacted Obama’s presidential campaign, which affirmed that in 1981 – the year Obama transferred from Occidental College to Columbia University – Obama visited his mother and sister Maya in Indonesia. Obama then went on to Pakistan with a friend from college whose family was from the country, the campaign said.
Obama was in Pakistan for about three weeks, said the campaign, staying with his friend’s family in Karachi and also visiting Hyderabad in southern India.
Pakistan in 1981 was under military rule. It was difficult for U.S. citizens to travel to the country without assistance. It would have been easier for someone to enter Pakistan on an Indonesian passport.
If Obama indeed possessed Indonesian citizenship as a child, it is unlikely he retains such citizenship. The country’s bylaws require any Indonesian citizen living abroad for more than five years to formally declare his intention to return, otherwise risk losing his citizenship. The law does not necessarily mean Indonesian citizenship would be immediately lost. The law can be overruled by ministerial order.
Obama’s registration in Indonesia under the name Barry Soetoro also raises questions as to whether he adopted that name in the U.S. at any time. According to Illinois state filings reviewed by WND, when Obama registered as an attorney in 1991, under the name Barack Obama, he stated he did not have any former names.