Wed, 14 May 2003

Megawati tells nation to respect differences

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Megawati Soekarnoputri told the nation on Tuesday to consider it an obligation to acknowledge and respect differences.

"Obviously, all of it must be accepted and implemented with honesty and sincerity," she said in a speech during the commemoration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad on Tuesday.

Megawati, however, admitted that it would be impossible to produce a perfect and effective solution to bridge all differences.

"That seems to reflect our nationhood. Without needing to boast about our huge differences or cover them up, there needs to be give and take," she said.

In a bid to honor differences, Megawati asked people to always stay calm even if others rejected their opinions or expectations.

"We must put a bigger interest above our own," Megawati remarked.

The political situation in the country has been heating up prior to the 2004 elections. Legislators from various political parties are currently debating the presidential election bill.

Unfortunately, the interests of big parties occasionally overshadow those of small parties.

Megawati's Indonesia Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), for example, is demanding that presidential candidates should be open to people with high school diplomas only, while other parties demand that presidential aspirants should have university diplomas.

Megawati, the only presidential candidate from PDI Perjuangan, is not a university graduate. PDI Perjuangan won the 1999 elections.

On the other hand, the Golkar Party is demanding that a candidate who happens to be a defendant may run for the presidential seat.

Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung has been declared guilty of corruption and sentenced to three years in jail. He remains free pending appeal.

Nevertheless, many have opposed Akbar's presidential candidacy. Golkar is the second biggest political party in the country.

Indonesia consists of different ethnic groups and cultures. Conflict over ethnicity or religious differences are nothing new here.

The condition has created turbulence in Indonesia, which boasts of its "unity in diversity" philosophy, as it often leads to sectarian conflict.