Fri, 25 Apr 2003

Discovering a great friend in a newspaper

Dominique Girard, New Delhi

From 1992 to 1995, The Jakarta Post was for me much more than a source of information, even though it was convenient to rely on such a well written and professionally managed English-language daily despite all my best efforts to improve my Indonesian.

Actually, the Post was a real companion in my job as the ambassador of France. Indonesia was different then. Information was still controlled and transparency limited. In this context, the Post consistently strove to go as far as possible in delivering information and attempting comment on current affairs.

It both reflected the official point of view and suggested a sharper insight into things.

But that was not all. The Post was also a full intellectual partner in the life of Indonesia. Talking to the journalists and the editors was always a superb and efficient way to get enlightenment on the state of mind and the reflections of the Jakarta "elite".

And, for a change, they offered a perspective not only on the political or economic elite of the New Order, but also the thinkers, scholars and artists.

Of course, the Post would not have been was it was, as such and in my own opinion, without its extraordinary window into the arts, and its participation in and support of the artistic life and the exhibition circuit of Jakarta.

My wife and I discovered marvelous works in the Bentara Budaya exhibition hall and met a number of creators who changed our outlook on Indonesia and the Indonesians. Most of those encounters did not stop there as the Post's choices were so relevant and competent that we very often followed up on them even while we were exploring the cultural hubs of Australia, our next assignment.

Seen from afar, Indonesia is more complex than it was in the mid-1990s, more exposed, more insecure, but much freer too. I am glad to know that my successors and all the lovers of this strong and fascinating nation can still use the sharp eye of the Post to refine and improve their sympathetic knowledge of our beloved archipelago.

What we all know, and what is unfortunately so often forgotten, is that nothing successful can happen in international relations - coexistence, cooperation, friendship, even enmity and war - without a genuine desire to understand your partner, or your foe.

In The Jakarta Post, I found a great instrument to sustain my own efforts, and, in the process, a great friend of a newspaper, and great friends of flesh and blood.

That is an excellent reason to wish The Jakarta Post an even more successful 20 years of existence, and to thank it for its great service to the large community of Indonesia's international friends.

(The writer is currently France's ambassador to India)