Sun, 23 Apr 2000

Indonesia commemorates Asia-Africa Conference

BANDUNG (JP): The 45th commemoration of the historic Asia- Africa Conference was held here on Saturday with President Abdurrahman Wahid's call for the strengthening of economic ties among developing countries.

"The commemoration of the conference should become a benchmark for the economic awakening among developing countries, especially Indonesia," he said when addressing some 300 invitees, including diplomatic dignitaries. The ceremony took place at the Gedung Merdeka, where the first Asia-Africa Conference was held in 1955.

"The spirit of the conference must be far more important than its ceremonial commemoration," he said. "Based on the conference spirit, the Asia-African countries should have a non-hegemonic formula for their foreign affairs policies."

"Such non-hegemonic foreign affairs policy was well formulated by the late Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong)," the President said.

He acknowledged the Asia-Africa Conference was a very valuable heritage from Bung Karno (first Indonesian president Sukarno).

"The Conference was the first concrete step for nations in Asia and Africa to promote and enhance unity as new emerging nations, seeking world justice and peace," he said. First Lady Sinta Nuriyah Abdurrahman Wahid was also at hand.

Gus Dur, as the President is affectionately called, said that he dreamed that the 50th commemoration of Asia-Africa would be attended by the heads of states in an effort to solve the economic problems.

The presence of the head of states would be significant for Indonesian people to wake up from their "sleep".

The first Asia-Africa Conference 45 years ago was chaired by Indonesian foreign minister Ali Sastroamidjojo and was officially opened by president Sukarno.

The heads of 29 countries, including South Vietnam, took part in the first conference, initiated by India, Sri Lanka, Burma (now Myanmar), Pakistan and Indonesia.

Remembrance of the conference is a continuation of the spirit of the elderly to that of the younger generations, the President said.

In his speech he also praised the Indonesian founding fathers, who he said were meritorious.

"Our founding fathers were 'highly-cultured' persons who could join hands for the sake of national unity despite their own interests," he said. "They took the nation to independence despite the fact that they had their own interests."

"Now we are in a dangerous situation because we are engaged more by our own concerns, ignoring the national interests," said the President. (25/sur)