Sat, 13 Mar 1999

Juwono optimistic about Indonesia's survival

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Education and Culture Juwono Sudarsono expressed optimism that Indonesia would emerge from the crisis, which many have said is threatening national unity, Antara reported on Thursday.

"I am sure the nation will survive the crisis. Insya Allah (God willing), within 18 to 24 months we will see signs of economic recovery and social conflicts will gradually reduce," the minister said.

Juwono, also a professor of political science, was commenting at the opening of a cultural dialog organized by the House Commission VII for education and religion.

The one-day talks also featured prominent businessman and artist Setiawan Djody, who distributed his new book, Revolusi Kebudayaan (Cultural Revolution).

The minister said Indonesia would soon become "a new society", a prospect the country has moved toward ever since resistance to colonial rule began 70 years ago.

Juwono emphasized the importance of cultural heritage, saying development needed to be sensitive to local cultures within the country. "Despite poverty, Indonesian culture is not poor."

He said unrest in areas such as Aceh and Irian Jaya was largely a result of mismanagement of natural resources. Antara news agency has reported the involvement of large mining companies in the provinces.

While some cultural analysts have urged "filtering" influences from outside cultures, Juwono said there should be a "continuous synthesis between local and global cultures".

Juwono commented on the new media freedom, adding citizens should access the various international media. He said the media required clear guidelines.

Welcoming media freedom and embracing media restrictions was a "paradox", but necessary for the nation's own good, he said.

Media representatives are currently proposing a media bill to the House of Representatives. (rms)