A sex scandal involving the now former flamboyant Norwegian Ambassador Stig Traavik with three Indonesian mistresses including two women in business and a married female NGO “cultural” worker causing a public media storm in Norway in late June this Year.
The recalling of the Norway’s ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik late December 2016 over allegations of sexual inappropriateness with three Indonesian women highlights the close proximity of power, NGO influence and lack of oversight of NGOs in Indonesia. Two of mistresses are in business and one was a “Cultural Worker” in a local NGO which is funded by the Norwegian government.
Stig Traavik, a high profile ambassador was stripped of his ambassador title by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year and given a Special Advisor job in the ministry the VG, Verdens Gang, one of the oldest Newspapers in Norway, the Dagbladet and other Norwegian papers reported in late June this year.
Traavik agreed to the recalling on December 6 of last year, the Verdens Gang wrote. In February this year, the now former ambassador Traavik was assigned a position as a senior advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD), and retained his Ambassador’s salary and his security clearance.
On 23 June Norwegian papers reported a police investigation was dropped but the career of the former ambassador remains unclear although the former ambassador accompanied the Prime Minister Erna Solberg (Conservatives) and the Foreign Minister to a trip to China.
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Communications Director Frode O. Anderson was quoted, “The cancellation of the diplomatic status is in line with the Ministry’s views on the seriousness of the matter”, in an email to the newspaper.
“Norway can not have an ambassador with such a willingness to take risks and so bad judgment,” Trygve Hegnar writes in the Hegnar one of Norway’s leading business publications.
Traavik is accused having initiated a relationship with three Indonesian women. Two are identified as “powerful Indonesian business women” as well as a “cultural worker” with a local NGO, who, after supposedly received monetary assistance from Norway begun a sexual affair with the ambassador.
The red flag was raised by the Deputy Chief of Mission Mrs. Hilde Holbakken, with the Ministry’s Internal Affairs section after emails by the “husband of the cultural worker”, claimed to be a diplomat, were sent to Norwegian embassy and local staff in May 2016.
“There are red flags that cause us to ask questions about conflict of interest”, says NHH professor Tina Søreide to VG. She specializes in corruption studies.
Admits wrong doing, keeps his salary
The unnamed NGO woman denies that she has gained financially from her relations with Traavik, something the recalled ambassador also maintains. He wrote,
“I have done something wrong, and I have taken the responsibility for it, but VG’s presentation of the case is wrong. No public funds have been abused and no one has been given unfair advantages”, Traavik writes in a statement to VG. He believes that VG’s case is based mainly on information from “persons with revenge motives”.
However, the issue is not as simple as the ambassador points it out. Trygve Hegnar writes,
“Probably it is a private matter how many mistresses one UD-employee may have at one time (sad for the women in the Foreign Ministry), but Professor Jan Fridtjof Bernt shows that it is a public matter when Norway and ambassador give money to one of the mistresses. Then the whole general eligibility rules were broken, which in particular applies to the allocation of public funds. The information contained in an investigation can hardly be protected by confidentiality.
As Professor Bernt says: “There are no provisions in the Freedom of Information Act or the Public Administration that allows such a case may be exempt from the public.”
Norway has a long history in pressurizing nations and meddling in internal affairs of Indonesia by funding NGOs who regularly target Indonesia. However, the combination of power, access to public funds and politics are a dangerous mix.
The Traaviks a rising star in Norway and close to political elites in Indonesia and Hary Tanoesoedibjo business partner of controversial U.S. president Donald Trump raises the question if Indonesian NGOs were using the Norwegian affair to extract financial favors from the ambassador a willing participant in the affair.
Traavik’s fall from grace comes at the time when the Indonesian industry is facing a crisis with major shifts in the paper and pulp and palm oil industry shaking up the players. Jokowi’s pro-NGO stance with groups like AMAN or his Chief of Staff Teten Masduki who called industry concerns as “anti-reformist” has alienated the industry who is providing considerable GDP contribution and mass employment for the otherwise lagging economic performance of Jokowism. The Norwegian ambassador’s recall was seen with mixed reactions the industry executives
Shortly after the departure of the Norwegian ambassador Aida Greenbury left APP as eco-business.com reported in the middle of May. Greenbury’s departure followed the appointment of the former military intelligence chief of the Singaporean Armed Forces to “shake things up”. The former banker who has no background in sustainability matters. NGOs have adopted a wait and see attitude towards both, APP and APRIL, the two industry leaders.
Norwegians officials found so far no evidence for wrong-doings by the ambassador but the sex scandal poses the question if the Indonesian NGOs should be investigated. Contacts in the Ministry of Forestry and Foreign Affairs did not respond to inquiries at the filing of this report.