Mon, 14 Feb 2000

Gus Dur told to be more thorough in building democracy

JAKARTA (JP): Noted Muslim scholar Nurcholish Madjid subtly criticized President Abdurrahman Wahid on Saturday for his controversial comments and urged the President to be more thorough in the painstaking process of building democracy.

Describing Abdurrahman as a "bulldozer" knocking down formidable impediments in upholding democracy, Nurcholish called on the President to take things slow and easy to avoid overexertions that could be detrimental to the process itself.

"If the bulldozer of democracy has a broken wheel it will be a great loss for the country," remarked Nurcholish, who at times has been referred to as "the nation's teacher".

"If I can advise him, Gus Dur should be frugal in his drive, at certain times he should take time to relax (in pushing for democracy)," he said, referring to Abdurrahman by his popular name.

Nurcholish remarked that Abdurrahman's explosive way of jolting the political scene with extreme, sometimes obscure, statements, in the end could only hurt the country.

Nurcholish pointed out that the development of democratic institutions and culture was not an overnight process. He described it as a long and winding road which required patience, and often sacrifice.

He commended the lead taken by the President in trying to propel democratic processes and praised his efforts in asserting civilian supremacy over the military.

"Gus Dur has played an excellent role as the person who paved the way for Indonesia to a democratic state in the year of 2005. But he should remember that democracy cannot happen overnight." he stated during his address at a gathering to mark the declaration of the establishment of the Institute of Studies and Development of Thoughts.

Citing examples of other so-called democratic states such as the United States and western European countries, Nurcholish underlined the time element as a crucial factor in helping the necessary instruments of democracy mature.

"The United States needed 300 years, and, even now, there is still an ongoing process of democratization there," he added.

Nurcholish sounded even ominous when saying that overly rapid and immediate changes could produce unwanted results which would only harm the nation.

"We can see the example of Russia as a country which has suffered injuries for being too hasty over democracy," he said.

"There should be patience in this matter".

Hardship seemed to be a regrettable but recurring price to be paid accompanying change toward a more democratic society, he said.

"Germany had to first fall apart during World War II before becoming the big and democratic state it is now. Indonesia has yet to even suffer that much," he said.

While stopping short of saying that Abdurrahman should cease his attacks on other political forces and compromise more, Nurcholish reminded Abdurrahman that his election as president was a result of a national compromise to avert conflict.

"Gus Dur was elected as a compromise. And one of the intentions of the compromise was a cessation of fighting on the streets," he said.

Gus Dur is bulldozing his way through and should put on the brakes a bit, Nurcholish remarked, as if warning of possible political conflicts around the corner.

When asked about the looming showdown with Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Gen. Wiranto, Nurcholish skirted the question, saying that the potential for conflict had existed prior to Abdurrahman's election. (04)