- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

High expectations

As Indonesia celebrates its first direct presidential election, the country’s former foreign minister yesterday predicted that the new president will have to deliver on promises to voters who are tired of corruption, terrorist attacks and rebel uprisings.

“All hope that he knows that expectations are high, very high,” Ali Alatas told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

Mr. Alatas said the election results will be certified Oct. 3, but preliminary results show a landslide victory for retired Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“He must deal with corruption, which permeates the entire body politic of Indonesia,” Mr. Alatas said. “Corruption is the underlying problem.”

Mr. Yudhoyono also must curtail terrorist attacks by the Jemaah Islamiyah group, blamed for the 2002 bombings in Bali, the 2003 attack on the Marriott hotel in the capital, Jakarta, and the bombing near the Australian Embassy two weeks ago.

“There also must be movement” in efforts to end separatist revolts in the provinces of Aceh and Papua, Mr. Alatas said.

Mr. Yudhoyono captured 61 percent of the vote to defeat incumbent President Megawati Sukarnoputri, according to preliminary results. The former security minister campaigned on a platform of government and economic reform.

Mr. Alatas is leading a nongovernmental delegation that includes Yuli Ismartono, editor of Tempo magazine, Yoost Mengko, a retired admiral, Fu’ad Jabali, an Islamic scholar, and Eugene Galbraith, an American who is chairman of Indonesia’s largest bank.

Mr. Jabali said the election shows that the democracy is compatible with Islam. Eighty-eight percent of Indonesia’s 238 million people are Muslims, making the sprawling Asian archipelago of 6,000 inhabited islands the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

“Contrary to what people think, Islam and democracy can coexist,” he said. “Indonesia can serve as a model.”

Mr. Alatas, who served as foreign minister from 1988 to 1999, said the delegation hopes to “correct some of the lingering misperceptions and misunderstandings from foreign reports out of Indonesia.”

“There is another side to Indonesia,” he said. “If you look closely, you will see a nation going through a remarkable transformation.”

Coexistence

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon looked over the art exhibit on the Mall and thought of his homeland, where a female suicide bomber had just killed two persons.

“Today our existence was challenged in Jerusalem when a suicide bomber exploded herself. Two Israelis were killed, and many were injured. The list goes on and on,” he said, as he helped dedicate the exhibit from an Israeli museum promoting coexistence among the world’s religions.

However, he said, Israel has a “moral obligation” to continue to seek peace with the Palestinians.

“I promise you here — and I think this is the right place to do it — we will not tire, and we will not fail to exhaust every opportunity to achieve peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors in the Middle East,” he said.

The Palestinians also have an obligation to select a leadership that is “trustworthy and committed to peace,” he added.

German Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, who also spoke at the dedication, said, “In Washington, there is no better place for this exhibit than the National Mall.

“Here everything comes together: the memory of those who founded this great nation; the institutions of democracy; the celebration of art and culture from all over the world; and the memory of those who lost their lives in the fight for freedom, as well as those who died in the Holocaust.

“It is here where we can understand the full meaning of this exhibition’s call for peace, tolerance and truth.”

The exhibition at the Capitol Reflecting Pool runs through Oct. 5.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-

7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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