Sat, 13 May 2000

Activists call on nation to look ahead

JAKARTA (JP): Top human rights activists announced on Friday a joint initiative "to think of and decide about the future Indonesia" and warned the nation against "too much bickering" over insignificant matters.

They said the initiative, which is called the Future Indonesia and was hosted by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), was prompted by the economic and sociopolitical uncertainties following the fall of former president Soeharto in May 1998.

"The uncertainties have triggered frustration and have also blurred the country's future, but unfortunately everybody seems to only concentrate on current affairs and forgets what should be done to face the challenges of the future," Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, who is a member of the initiative's working group and former Komnas HAM's chairman, told journalists.

"With this in mind, we therefore decided to set up the initiative to start a constructive public discourse on the country's future," he added.

Komnas HAM's secretary-general Asmara Nababan, who was also present on Friday, said the country was now "concentrating too much" on short-term issues.

The Future Indonesia says in its introductory statement that it was founded by some 30 people including scholars, activists, politicians, military officers and businessmen early last year.

The statement said that the initiative would try to apply a "scenario planning" approach to provide grounds for discussion on the country's future.

"The approach is taken so that the people are not trapped in a situation where they are too busy blaming and accusing each other," the statement said.

It said that the approach had been applied in South Africa, Colombia, Singapore and Japan.

The statement also said that the initiative plans to hold a series of discussions in some 15 to 17 cities throughout the country.

"We have held a series of dialogs in 12 cities in Java, Kalimantan, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara and each was participated in by some 30 to 40 people of various backgrounds," Future Indonesia's program manager Sita Aripurnami said.

She said the next dialog would be held in the riot-torn city of Ambon, then in Irian Jaya and the Central Java capital of Semarang.

Other members of the initiative's working group are Komnas HAM's secretary-general Asmara Nababan, rights body members H.S. Dillon and Emil Salim, activists Binny Buchory, Emmy Hafild and M.M. Billah and former director of the Jakarta Stock Exchange Felia Salim.(byg)