- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

New Indonesia

A new, democratic Indonesia is emerging after a decade of political and economic turmoil, rebellion, natural disasters and terrorist attacks that killed thousands and wrecked the tourist industry of the Southeast Asian island nation, the Indonesian ambassador said this week.

“We have to weather a major economic and financial crisis that has set back many years of our development achievements,” Ambassador Sudjadnan Parnohadiningrat told reporters at the National Press Club.

“We have to live through a critical political transition that necessitates a major and comprehensive overhaul of our constitution and government system. We have to deal with separatism and internal strifes that, at times, threaten the harmony and unity of our peoples and nation. We must also cope with the natural catastrophe that has devastated the province of Aceh and the island of Nias and recently the province of central Java and Yogyakarta.

“Yet we have not merely survived, we have emerged from the turmoil as a new Indonesia.”

Mr. Parnohadiningrat, discussing Indonesia’s re-emergence and its fight against terrorism, predicted economic growth this year of around 6 percent, despite record-high oil prices and terrorist threats that “have crippled our tourism industry.”

“The democratic transition in Indonesia is progressing quite well,” he added, citing “robust” free and fair national and local elections.

A peace agreement last year restored calm in the restive Aceh province, and the “situation in conflict-torn areas such as Maluku and Poso have improve significantly,” he said.

The government created an independent judiciary free of influence from both the president and parliament and established a Judicial Commission to monitor judges and a Constitutional Court to review legislation, Mr. Parnohadinigrat added.

Indonesia is dealing with the ongoing threat of terrorism through a two-pronged approach that emphasizes law enforcement and the promotion of religious debate to combat radical Islam and win “the hearts and minds of the people,” he said.

Terrorists struck the popular resort island of Bali in 2002 and 2005 and hit the capital, Jakarta, in 2003 and 2004, bringing Islamic terrorism to the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Indonesian authorities have arrested more than 300 suspects linked to the attacks.

Mr. Parnohadiningrat said, “We are pursuing two general approaches. First is the short-term approach. We need to disrupt terrorist activities and forestall their attacks through measures such as police intelligence gathering, better control of border crossings, monitoring of financial transactions and information sharing.”

The second approach aims to deal with “the root causes of terrorism,” which the ambassador listed as “religious extremism” and poverty.

“Law-enforcement measures may curb terrorism in the short term,” he said, “but in the long term, terrorism is far too complex for a simple, silver bullet solution.”

Envoy in Lithuania

A new U.S. ambassador to Lithuania is expected to present his credentials today to President Valdus Adamkus.

John A. Cloud, who was confirmed by the Senate in May, is a career member of the Foreign Service in his first ambassadorial position. He earlier served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassies in Germany and Poland.

No portfolios

Qubad Talabani, the son of the president of Iraq, wanted to clear up a misunderstanding that led this column on Tuesday to report that he said the United States offered to turn over power to an Iraqi government that would be headed by Ahmad Chalabi, a prominent opposition leader.

Mr. Chalabi was among several Iraqis who discussed such a plan with retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the first U.S. administrator in Iraq after the 2003 defeat of Saddam Hussein, but the talks never got as far as deciding who would lead a new government.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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