Fri, 21 Nov 2003

Achieving national discipline

It is amazing that the problem of transition toward democracy, which has characterized Indonesian political development during the past five years, has recently triggered a hectic debate between scholars and commentators. Also, the debate has involved an exchange of opposing arguments from differing perspectives, as manifest in a dozen lengthy articles published in Kompas, from Sept. 29 to date.

However, the fact is that the concept of democracy cannot be denied its relevance and legitimacy in the light of the current political situation.

To indulge persistently in never-ending, open-ended discussion on the abstract subject of democracy may divert attention from the imminent priorities that must be tackled promptly to alleviate the multifaceted suffering of people at the grass roots.

In contrast to the abstract discourse on democracy, a lively overview of social conditions of a southeast Asian country was presented the other day by Professor Monirul I. Khan, department of sociology, University of Dhaka, who reported on his recent visit to Vietnam in an article titled Social path of economic development (The Jakarta Post, Nov. 4).

The very first thing that caught his attention upon arrival in Hanoi was discipline in the movement of people and that of their vehicles. Prof. Khan also stated succinctly that the patriotism and dedication of the Vietnamese stood out and grabbed his attention.

The conclusion on Vietnam was summarized in another thought- inspiring quotation: "What you need for making great economic strides is fewer large loans from (international) multilateral agencies and more sincere committed leadership and a disciplined population" (the Post, Nov. 4).

The ideal of committed leadership and a disciplined population can be achieved in the long run only through better education for the masses.

S. SUHAEDI Jakarta