Tue, 25 Oct 1994

'Excesses lead to violations'

JAKARTA (JP): President Soeharto said yesterday that human rights violations occur as the result of excesses happening in relation to the nation's development.

"In the process of development, the violation of human rights could happen, but this is more the result of excesses," the President said during his opening address for the Second National Workshop on Human Rights.

The goal of development is to enhance the dignity of man, which is closely related to the efforts of advancing and protecting human rights.

Soeharto said Indonesia does not have to reject the beneficial values originating from outside of the country.

"As an archipelagic nation set in a strategic geographical location we are by nature an open nation and isolation is not possible," he said.

As a member of the United Nations, Indonesia has the obligation to review the world body's conventions on human rights and to ratify those which are in line with the state ideology, he told the 270 workshop participants at the State Palace.

Vice President Try Sutrisno and Foreign Minister Ali Alatas also attended the opening.

In a similar tone, Alatas acknowledged that human rights violations still exist in Indonesia, but stressed that they are in no way in line with government policy.

"We admit that human rights violations still exist, but they are incidental in character and are aberrations, not a part of the national policy," he said in his address for the three-day workshop at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Every nation is plagued with this problem, he said.

He expressed regret that not every nation is under attack by non-governmental organizations. He singled out the London-based Amnesty International as an example.


Alatas said that the agency recently launched a political campaign on Indonesia using human rights as a pretext.

"If it wants to see progress of human rights in Indonesia and hold a dialog rather than heaping charges, it would not be a wrong move because we are also for the improvement of the protection of human rights," Alatas said.

"But if the agency's secretary-general himself says that he will campaign only against Indonesia and links the violations to the political structure in the country and to its position in APEC and the Non-Aligned Movement, this should be stopped," he said.

"We are left with unanswered questions as to why the Amnesty has been so determined to single out Indonesia for years. This is something that we are forced to counter as it is unfair treatment which is not in line with human rights," he said.

The workshop is being held in follow-up to the First National Workshop on Human Rights held from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21, 1991. It focuses on issues relating to ratification of international instruments on human rights, dissemination of information and education on human rights and priority issues, such as priorities in the implementation of human rights, poverty alleviation and assistance of groups vulnerable to human rights violations.

"The workshop will not deal with controversial issues like whether or not human rights have universal values or not. We are aiming for more concrete results," he told reporters after the opening session.


In the opening session Alatas dismissed as baseless charges that Asian countries do not recognize the universal values of human rights.

There have been charges that ASEAN is developing its own concept of the so-called "cultural relativism," he said.

"And as in international fora, discussions about human rights are also being politicized," he told participants comprising government officials, members of the Armed Forces, intellectuals, members of the National Commission on Human Rights, politicians and NGO representatives.

Alatas said that a relatively easier method to avoid this confusion is to look back at the UN charter in which international cooperation has been worked out. The presumption is that cooperation between two parties can work only if both parties have equal status, he said.

Alatas also said that Indonesia believes that there has never been a problem between human rights and development.

"We believe that man is the central point in development. Hence if development is a success most of the goals to protect human rights will accordingly be achieved," he said.

Alatas lamented the fact that advanced countries continue to link human rights and economic sanctions.

"This is an asymmetric conditionality since no country argues otherwise; that is, a country plagued with a development crisis may delay its human rights protection," he said.

He said advanced countries did not encounter difficulties in forcing their will on Latin American or on African countries, but only in relation to ASEAN countries.

"But we don't oppose for the sake of opposing them. We believe that ... is counterproductive for both parties," he said.

A number of speakers, including Dr. John Pace from the United Nations' Human Rights Center, Dr. Muladi from the National Commission on Human Rights, Dr. Saparinah Sadli of the University of Indonesia, Dr. Nurcholis Madjid of the National Commission on Human Rights and Jakob Oetama of the Kompas daily are scheduled to present their papers in today's sessions. (sim/hbk)