Sun, 28 Dec 2003

Asian youths share thoughts on regional future

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Bangkok

When the four Indonesian students concluded their shadow puppet play, the audience -- from several Asian countries -- in the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok had just experienced a real taste of Indonesia.

The four students had exhibited a portrayal of Sumatra's legendary tale of Malin Kundang, an ordinary man who was cursed into stone for his arrogance by his own mother.

The students -- Febi Mutiara of Jakarta's Atmajaya University, Sherria Putri from the Bandung Institute of Technology as well as Anggia Prasetyoputri and Theo Audiyanto, both from the University of Indonesia -- worked together to bring the play to life as part of the 6th Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative (HYLI) event.

They were among 24 other multitalented university students from six Asian countries -- Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan -- who were selected to participate as representatives of their countries. The whole affair was first organized by Japan's Hitachi corporation in 1996.

The students each put on a performance unique to their own cultures as one part of the whole program that included seminars on leadership and caring for society. Malaysian and Japanese students performed traditional dances while Singaporean students presented a pantomime.

According to Yoshiro Kuwata, executive vice president and director of Hitachi, Ltd., the events were designed not only to encourage discussion but also to instill a sense of responsibility among Asian youth, in hopes that they will eventually take charge of their own future as well as that of their respective countries.

The event, with Charting a New Course for Asia as its theme, included a two-day seminar where speakers from a handful of east Asian countries presented their views on a range of different issues -- identifying Asia's engines of economic growth, managing Asia's rapid urbanization for social progress and balancing Asia's growth and environmental sustainability.

Among the speakers were Indonesia's Erna Witoelar, a regional adviser for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); environmentalist Angelina Galang of the Philippines, and Ibrahim Hasan, a businessman from Singapore-based APRIL which controls Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP).

After the seminar, the 24 participating students discussed the issues in small groups.

The students also took part in community work at the Christian Care Foundation for Children with Disabilities, sharing laughter with the disabled children as well as singing, making origami creations and playing games with them.

Through the community work, the students were expected to understand their pivotal role in society once they graduate.

The four Indonesian students expressed their pleasure and enthusiasm in being invited to the event.

"We can learn a lot from them (other participants) and they also listen to our experiences about Indonesia," Febi said.

Daily life in Jakarta, she said, often times did not make people aware of their surroundings and environment, and such an event helped the students understand the crucial role of their surroundings.

Theo remarked that Indonesians, particularly Jakartans, rarely paid attention to the greater good of their own society and often blamed the government for any irregularities or environmental problems.

"Why don't they start to do what they can do instead of simply putting the blame on others, like the government?" he asked.

The students also said that their fellow Indonesian students had to improve their English and debating skills.

Anggia said English as well as proper skills in debates would help them survive in international events, like the one organized by Hitachi.

According to them, the experience in debating would be the best answer for students expecting to get a chance to take part in a similar international event.