Indonesia’s appointment of singer-actress Maudy Ayunda as G20 spokesperson sparks debate

Indonesian president Joko Widodo and his government’s appointment of singer-actress Maudy Ayunda as a spokesperson for the G20 forum has sparked debate.

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Also known as Group of 20, the G20 is an intergovernmental forum, currently led by Indonesia, comprising of 19 countries and the European Union to address key issues related to the global economy. This year’s forum is a particularly high-profile affair, given the attendance of Russian president Vladimir Putin in the wake of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

Each country is represented by a group of spokespersons, with Indonesia choosing 27-year-old singer-songwriter and actress Maudy Ayunda as a member of the country’s team. Bloomberg reports that during her first briefing, Ayunda “appeared to ignore questions about Putin’s attendance”, while journalists present were told to “ask about her personality instead”.

Ayunda reportedly told the publication that her role is to “report the G20 meeting results that are relevant to Indonesia while sensitive issues would be handled by other representatives”.

According to Bloomberg, Ayunda’s appointment has since been met with criticism, some believing her appointment to be a vanity decision in an attempt to connect with a younger audience in Indonesia facing high unemployment rates.

Political researcher Wasisto Raharjo Jati told the outlet that Ayunda’s appointment was “symbolic” and “part of efforts to temper criticism from the youth on critical issues, like jobs and public services”.

“The government’s outreach leans toward the privileged urban youths – the kind of millennials who fit the idea they want to promote – while leaving out the majority who are middle- to lower-income and live in rural areas.”

Some social media users have since defended Ayunda, pointing out her education in politics and economics and her work in those areas. In 2017, she was appointed a spokesperson against modern slavery as an ambassador for the Global Freedom Network.

Indonesian politician and economist Dr. Rizal Ramli – who served as Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs under Jokowi’s Working Cabinet – said on Twitter that the criticism of Ayunda was “a bit too harsh and cynical”. He added: “The fact that she lack experiences & geo-political exposures, she can learn and briefed by senior foreign policy advisers.”

Maudy Ayunda – who was appointed in the role on March 31 – said on Instagram that she was “excited to learn and play a role in such a historic moment for Indonesia”.

A communications ministry spokesperson told Bloomberg that Ayunda was chosen for the role for her ability to reach the broader Indonesian public, “especially the millennial and Gen Z generation”.

On the music front, Ayunda most recently released a three-track EP titled ‘The Hidden Tapes Vol. 1’ in October. The project was her first collection of music since her 2018 album ‘Oxygen’. The EP saw the singer-songwriter experiment with R&B sounds compared to her previous folk-pop stylings. She is also known for her roles in films such as Battle Of Surabaya, Ruby Habibie and Refrain.