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The Straits Times Asian of the Year 2019 is Indonesia's President Joko Widodo

Singapore, 5 December 2019 - Every year, the editors of The Straits Times pick a person, a group or an institution that, in their judgment, has significantly impacted the Asian continent in the year past.

This year, the editors are pleased to recognise and honour Mr Joko Widodo, Indonesia's seventh and current President, who won a resounding victory earlier this year to retain power.

Coming to national attention for his work as the Mayor of Solo from 2005 to 2012, the 58-year-old Mr Joko's rise has been stellar. Today, he presides over Southeast Asia's biggest nation and economy. While seemingly focused more on attending to domestic challenges initially,  Mr Joko has in more recent times put Indonesia, widely regarded as the most significant voice in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), at the heart of the regional group. Earlier this year, Jakarta hosted a regional meeting that first proposed the Asean Outlook on Indo-Pacific and played a key role in getting the document adopted by Asean leaders at a Bangkok summit in June.  

"As the steward of a vast and disparate archipelagic nation that has more than 17,000 islands that faces Australia at one end and India at the other, he confronts  many challenges, he has shown dexterity and nous in navigating the tricky cross-currents of domestic politics and international affairs. His grounded personality, ability to connect with people and empathise with the common folk have won him many admirers at home. Abroad, his ability to gaze beyond the horizon and grapple with strategic challenges facing his country and the region, has lately also been recognised,” The Straits Times said in its citation for the award to Mr Joko.

While cognizant of the challenges he faces, we nonetheless express the hope that the President will give no quarter and make no compromise in his quest to build  a democratic, corruption-free, open, tolerant and inclusive Indonesia,” added the citation. 

Mr Warren Fernandez, Editor, Editor-in-Chief of the Singapore Press Holdings' English, Malay, Tamil Media Group, and Editor of The Straits Times, said: “Each year, ST editors seek out a person, team or organisation that has not only made or shaped the news, but helped contribute positively to Asia in the process. President Joko Widodo has done that to great effect. Not only has he won a second term, he has done his part to keep a vast and disparate Indonesia together and taken it forward. Likewise for Asean. There is much scope for him to lead both further if he marshalls his considerable political skills and the goodwill that he enjoys with people all around Asia."

Now in its eighth year, The Straits Times Asian of the Year award, announced toward the end of the year, has become an important part of the Asian calendar since 2012.

The inaugural award went to then-Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein, followed by a joint award for Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2013, and to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. In 2015, the award was given posthumously to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister. In 2016, five Asian pioneers working in the intersection of technology and commerce were honoured as The Disruptors – the first time the award went to a group.

Mr Xi was Asian of the Year in 2017 while editors picked The First Responders, a bunch of people of courage and commitment who stepped up in the moment of greatest need during natural disasters, as Asians of the Year 2018. This year, the award reverts to a single person.

Mr Jeremy Au Yong, Foreign Editor of The Straits Times, said: “The team debated long and hard about who should win the award but the decision was ultimately unanimous that President Jokowi was the most deserving candidate this year. In a year when disputes grabbed the headlines - our recent Straits Times Global Outlook Forum focused on how to navigate a world in conflict - Jokowi stood out as a someone who united rather than divided. " 



Regn. No. 198402868E


For more information, please contact:


Jeremy Au Yong

Foreign Editor

The Straits Times

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd 

DID: 6319 5689



Rebecca Chee

Senior Executive

Corporate Communications & CSR

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd 

DID: 6319 1124



About The Straits Times 

The Straits Times, the English-language flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, is the most-read newspaper in Singapore and is followed widely in the region for its comprehensive multimedia coverage of local, regional and world news, provided by its correspondents in 12 bureaus in major cities worldwide. 

Launched on July 15, 1845, The Straits Times has been moving with the times in its efforts to engage and grow its audience and exploring innovative ways of storytelling, as well as continuously refreshing its products to maintain quality and stay relevant to the changing needs of its readers. Its integrated newsroom operates round-the-clock, providing content as it happens on all platforms, from its website at, Apple and Android apps to social media.

The Straits Times is a member of two media networks - the Asia News Network and the Impact Journalism Day alliance of newspapers - and it has won multiple international media awards, including from the Society of Publishers in Asia, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association (Panpa), Society of News Design and WAN-IFRA. Its multimedia newsroom and innovative projects were recognised at the annual regional WAN-IFRA event in Hong Kong in November 2018 when it emerged the biggest winner, sweeping nine Asian Digital Media awards, including two golds for best innovation to engage youth audience, and best lifestyle, sports, entertainment website.

About Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Incorporated in 1984, main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) is Asia's leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms.

SPH core business is publishing of newspapers, magazines and books in both print and digital editions. It also owns other digital products, online classifieds, radio stations and outdoor media.

On the property front, SPH owns 70% in a real estate investment trust called SPH REIT which comprises Paragon, a premier upscale retail mall and medical suite/office property in Orchard Road, The Clementi Mall, a mid-market suburban mall and The Rail Mall, a stretch of shopping and dining outlets along Upper Bukit Timah Road. SPH also owns and operates The Seletar Mall. It is developing a new commercial cum residential site at Woodleigh. It also has a stake in Chinatown Point and acquired a portfolio of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) in the United Kingdom.

It is in the aged care sector and owns Orange Valley, Singapore's largest private nursing home operator.

SPH runs a regional events arm and a chain of Buzz retail outlets. It also invested in the education business.

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