Sat, 06 Mar 1999

Indonesia, the United States and Democracy

The following is an abridged text of a lecture by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright before Indonesian civic leaders in Jakarta on the last day of her visit to Indonesia on Friday.

JAKARTA: Thank you, Ambassador Roy, and thank you for the very fine representation you and your team are providing for the United States here in Indonesia.

It is a sign of the value we attach to our relations with Indonesia that President Clinton asked you - one of our ablest and most experienced diplomats - to serve here. And there is no question that your counsel and hard work have benefited both our countries.

Distinguished leaders, representatives of business and civil society, colleagues and friends, good afternoon, and thank you all for coming.

Since arriving in Jakarta yesterday, I have had the opportunity to participate in a wide-ranging series of meetings. I have found these both productive and instructive. And I appreciate the hospitality with which I have been received during this, the fiftieth anniversary year of relations between our two countries.

But I am especially pleased to have the chance to speak to this diverse audience this afternoon. And the subject I would like to discuss is "Indonesia, the United States and Democracy."

As some of you may know, before I became a diplomat, I was a professor. And in my former life, I used to ask my students to put aside the map we customarily use in the United States which shows North and South America as the center of the world. Instead, I would turn the globe to Asia, and make the point that - to most people on Earth - this is the center of the world.

One of the great challenges of our times has been to bridge the gap between these two perceptions by promoting better understanding across the Pacific. And few aspects of this challenge will mean more to the 21st Century than fostering close and cooperative relations between the United States and Indonesia.

When I am asked by audiences in my own country about the significance of events here in Indonesia, I begin by pointing to the obvious: your large population; your strategic location; the wealth of your resources; the beauty of your environment; and the breathtaking richness of your many cultures.

I go on to mention Indonesia's global role as a co-founder of the non-aligned movement, a member of OPEC, and a respected participant in the OIC, as the nation with the most followers of the Islamic faith and a vibrant center of Islamic thought. This strikes a responsive chord in the United States, where Islam is our fastest growing religion and is already practiced by millions of our citizens.

I also emphasize Indonesia's role as a regional leader; a driving force behind ASEAN; the founder of the ASEAN Regional Forum; a major player in APEC; and historically a model of tolerance, of "unity in diversity," or as your national motto says: "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika."

This, too, strikes a responsive chord in my country because America's motto is similar: "e pluribus unum," which, before you get out your dictionaries, is Latin, not English, and means "out of many, one."

This similarity in mottoes reflects the parallel origins of our two countries. Both were born in a struggle for independence against colonial rule. Both had visionary leaders who united a divers population over a vast area. And both were founded on a commitment to freedom.

Fifty years ago, in the wake of the Hague Conference affirming the full sovereignty of the United States of Indonesia, America's representatives to the United Nations said: "We have only to consider the difficulties which often attend the struggle of a people for independence to be struck with the restraint and maturity of judgment which the Indonesians have exhibited."

Restraint and maturity of judgment are hard qualities to come by in the best of times. And they are especially rare when most needed, which is during periods of turbulence and uncertainty. But they are crucial to the hard work of building democracy. And I think you would agree they are as vital in 1999 as they were in 1949.

The past eighteen months have been, for many Indonesians, a time of living bravely. Most have responded with courage and steadiness to a whirlwind of change.

In this period, you have been buffeted by the shock of financial crisis; by demonstrations and riots; and by the outbreak of violence in several provinces.

Your response has included a change in leadership; the enactment of new political laws; the scheduling of elections; and the adoption of a fresh approach to East Timor.

These events and more have commanded the world's attention and profoundly altered Indonesia's course.

I have looked forward to visiting your country because I knew it would allow me to meet the people who will long be remembered for choices made and actions taken now and in the months immediately ahead.

For Indonesia has the chance for a new birth in freedom; and you have the opportunity to create, in a distinct Indonesian way, not partial democracy or sham democracy; but real democracy.

You will be thanked by your children and by your children's children if you are able to seize this opportunity -- if you are able to create a society in which decisions about national policy are made at the ballot box and through public debate, not behind closed doors or by a handful of privileged men.

Since last May, your friends in the region and in the United States have watched closely as you have begun to travel up this hope-filled road.

In that time, you have reinvigorated institutions that had been suppressed for too long.

You now have a Parliament that debates real issues and enacts laws that matter; a press that is vigorous and free; opposition political parties that are independent and serious; labor unions that are active; and on June 7, for the first time in 44 years, you will conduct elections, the results of which are not known in advance.

I think you will agree that, if political stability is to be assured and the economy revived, it is essential that the elections be credible, fair and free. These qualities are easy to list, but not so easy to make real. And while the electoral process has gotten off to a good start, much work remains to be done.

Of course, the United States does not support any particular candidates in the election. But we do support the process.

With new rules, new parties and a new electoral system, there will be many technical problems to overcomes between now and June. These include the establishment of a neutral and effective election commission, massive voter education, and the training of hundreds of thousands of poll-workers and election observers.

But there are larger challenges, as well. For nothing is more vital than preserving the peace during the election campaign, so that candidates feel free to express themselves and citizens may vote without fear.

And nothing is more central to the integrity of the process than preventing "money politics" from having a corrosive influence on any aspect of the election.

These are issues for Indonesians, both in and outside of government, to work out. For this is an election by and for Indonesia.

But the international community can help. A vast body of knowledge has been accumulated in recent years about how to conduct free and fair elections. Some of the best international non-governmental organizations have been welcomed under Indonesia's agreement with the United Nations and are hard at work providing technical assistance.

The winners in June and the President selected at the end of the year will face an array of challenges. The responsibilities of leadership are many. But those who do not win will also have a responsibility.

During the 1980s, I became something of an expert on losing elections. My party was defeated three consecutive times. I lost my job. I began to think I would not live long enough to have a second chance at government service.

But times change and so do minds. New leaders come forward. So every election participant should take heart. Today's losers may become winners tomorrow.

And if democracy is to flourish, both the leaders and the opposition must participate in government constructively, settle differences honorably, and place the best interests of the people first.

I know that, in Indonesia, there are key and controversial issues that go back to the time of independence.

These include the powers of the President and Parliament; the relationship of the armed forces to the political life of the nation; and the allocation of responsibility between the central government and the regions. The advantage of a democratic system is that it creates the means for addressing such issues peacefully and in ways that reflect the popular will.

Of course, elections are not an end but a means. They can put into office a government that has legitimacy and that commands public confidence. But if the government is to retain that confidence, it must act in a manner that strengthens the full range of democratic institutions. And it must produce results.

This will not be easy. I do not need to tell you that Indonesia was dealt an economic blow by the financial crisis. It was like a wrecking ball to your expectations and dreams.

Three decades of sustained growth came to an abrupt end. Unemployment skyrocketed. And millions of people fell back into poverty through no fault of their own.

I am told there is an old adage that even if the heavens were to crash down, there is a hole through which to rise up. And even if taken in a tiger's teeth, there is a way to survive.

Indonesia has emerged from crises before. And because it is choosing the democratic path and beginning to face problems squarely, it has the potential to become stronger, more prosperous and free than it has ever been.

Unfortunately, there is no specially marked button you can push that will bring you overnight into the new dawn that Indonesians seek and deserve.

The process of recovery is a climb taken not by elevator, but by stairs.

Progress has already been made in stabilizing the economy, addressing humanitarian needs, and introducing structural reforms. But hard problems such as bank and corporate restructuring and the settlement of debts are still being faced.

To move ahead, the commitment to open markets and free and fair competition must be reinforced. And the struggle to ensure good governance, enhance transparency, and expose corruption must intensify.

Indonesia's future is in your hands. But just as responsibility for the financial crisis must be widely shared, so the process of recovery must be a multinational enterprise.

As Indonesia proceeds with reforms at home, the United States is striving with allies and friends, and with the international financial institutions, to create a healthier climate for recovery. We have also expanded dramatically our bilateral assistance. Since the fall of 1997, we have provided more than $300 million for purposes ranging from economic reform to meeting urgent humanitarian needs.

A second set of challenges for your leaders and for all Indonesians will be to strengthen the rule of law, so that citizens will have confidence that their security will be protected and their rights respected.

This is a challenge that all societies must face and that none - including the United States - ever achieves perfectly.

It requires legal systems that are efficient and courts that are independent and fair.

It requires that the rights of all be protected regardless of ethnic, religious or cultural background.

And it requires that those who enforce the law also observe the law.

When these requirements are not sufficiently met, the rule of law breaks down, people lose confidence in their government, and the Pandora's box of violence is opened.

Today, in Indonesia, as we have seen so recently and tragically in Ambon, violence is the enemy of democracy, security and prosperity.

This is true whether the violence in question is motivated by criminal greed, religious or ethnic rivalry, the yearning for political change, or the desire to preserve privilege and prevent political change. In each of these cases, violence rips at the social fabric, instills fear and intolerance, disrupts economic activity and hinders rational debate.

As I discussed with Indonesian officials earlier today, in any country, there is a burden on the military and police to preserve stability without engaging in human rights abuses that serve, over time, to provoke new instability. This can be difficult, but especially during the run-up to the elections - it is an absolutely essential job.

Like others who live in democracy, Indonesians have a right to expect security from violence, and a right to security institutions that serve no interests but those of the people.

A third challenge for the next government will come from the rising pressure for greater regional autonomy. This is a highly sensitive issue and a source of past conflict. It must be addressed. The United States supports the unity and integrity of the Indonesian nation; and we have faith in the ability of Indonesia's leaders to develop fair and widely backed solutions.

One region, which differs historically from the others, is East Timor. Here, the recent shift in your government's position has raised both opportunities and dangers.

The opportunity is to resolve this longstanding dispute in a peaceful manner that respects the views and rights of East Timor's people and reflects well on Indonesia. The danger is that too abrupt a transition could result in violence comparable to that which followed Portugal's withdrawal in 1975. We must learn from history, not repeat it.

The Habibie Government deserves credit for its willingness to consider new alternatives and thereby invigorate the negotiating process. The stage has been set for a peaceful determination of East Timor's future.

But the need now is for pragmatism and a willingness to do hard work on transitional arrangements. For the goal must not be simply to slice East Timor apart or cast it adrift; but rather to ensure its cohesion and viability - whether through autonomy or independence.

This means that vigorous steps must be taken to break the cycle of violence on the ground, even as the negotiations continue. A further escalation of hostilities could render any diplomatic outcome moot.

That is why the United States fully supports the formation of a broad-based "Peace and Stability Council" to calm the insecurities and ease the tensions that have generated a highly- charged atmosphere with East Timor.

We see an urgent need to stabilize the situation through the disarmament of all paramilitary forces, as Xanana Gusmao has proposed and General Wiranto supports.

We favor confidence-building measures, such as a reduction in the number of troops, and an international presence to reduce the prospects for future violence.

We believe preparations must be made now for a modification in status so that East Timor can succeed socially and economically.

And we believe it is essential that a credible means be identified for determining the will of East Timor's people; because a settlement that does not reflect that will cannot last and will not succeed.

The economy, the rule of law, and regional issues are but three of the many challenges Indonesia is confronting. Obviously, there are many more, including the global issues to which all nations must respond, such as preservation of the environment.

Events here in Indonesia this past year, and in the world throughout this decade, remind us how vital it is that leaders be not just strong, but also wise. For that is the difference between a tyrant and a teacher, between a Milosevic and a Mandela.

A leader with wisdom does not repress, or fear, or exploit his or her people. A leader with wisdom abhors the divisions generated by discrimination, stereotypes and bigotry. A leader with wisdom fosters tolerance and brings people together so they can accomplish together what no faction could accomplish alone.

The tides of history have created a demand for wise and democratic leaders in Indonesia today. And they have placed enormous stress upon the Indonesian people - a stress that carries with it both real peril and immense promise.

Half a century ago, one of Indonesia's founding fathers said:

"Struggle demands sacrifice, suffering, patience and a conviction that our goals will be achieved. We must be prepared to fight on for a very long time, and we must [make certain] that the base of our efforts is pure, because it is the purity of our goals which is our strength."

Bung Hatta spoke those words in an effort to rally the Indonesian people to fight on for the freedom and independence that were rightfully theirs.

Today, I would like to do the same. To urge you to fight on, in the midst of trying and turbulent times, until the pure goals of Indonesian democracy are finally achieved.

In that fight, there are sure to be setbacks. Victory will not be achieved overnight.

But as I look around this room, I have confidence that, for Indonesia, the long desired, long-delayed hour of true democracy is approaching. And that the people of Indonesia, from Aceh to Irian Jaya, will prove equal to democracy's most difficult tests. And thereby create for your country a future of justice and freedom, prosperity and peace.

In that effort, you have the respect - and you may count on the friendship - of the people and Government of the United States.