Sat, 02 Dec 2000

New Indonesia must accept religious, ethnic and cultural pluralism

JAKARTA (JP): A nationwide acceptance of religious, ethnic and cultural pluralism is a preliminary requirement for the peaceful and quick construction of a new Indonesia, according to two influential intellectuals.

Sutarno, a former rector of Christian Satyawacana University in Salatiga, Central Java, suggested during a panel discussion here on Thursday that people fundamentally change their vision and action, especially in the realm of religion and culture, to help rescue the nation from the current multidimensional crisis.

"There is nothing wrong with the reform movement, but with the agents of reform and, perhaps, the real condition of the nation," he said.

Sutarno regretted the prevalent misperception of reform and democracy, which has inflicted unaccountable social damage to the nation. He said the reform movement had gone beyond what the law allowed, as seen in numerous regional conflicts in Aceh, Maluku and Irian Jaya.

Mudji Sutrisno, a Catholic intellectual and a lecturer at the Driyarkara Institute of Philosophy, said the widespread misperception of reform had cost the nation the religious and cultural pluralism instilled by the republic's founding fathers.

He said the rejection of pluralism had led to a new trend, communalism, in which all religious, ethnic and cultural groups compete for their own interests.

"The phenomenon of communalism and exclusiveness could be seen in the last presidential election," he said.

Mudji claimed the true reform movement had come to a near standstill, partly due to the failure of the People's Consultative Assembly to uphold the people's sovereignty during the presidential election last October.

"The emotional conspiracy between Golkar Party and the Axis Force to ensure Abdurrahman Wahid's victory in the presidential election was really a betrayal to the people's sovereignty."

According to Mudji, Megawati Soekarnoputri, whose Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) gained more than 30 percent of the vote in the 1999 general election, deserved the presidency out of respect of the aspirations of the people.

He said Abdurrahman was not a wise choice for president because, besides having physical problems, he was unprepared.

"It would have been better for him to reject the nomination and play his role as wise man and guru for the nation," he said.

To uphold the people's sovereignty, Mudji called for the direct election of the president, vice president and government officials such as governors and regents in the 2004 general election.

Mudji also said the nation needed young leaders to help the nation reconstruct its vision, which is based on pluralism.

"We should no longer entrust our nation-building to political figures and military officers who are over the age of 40," he said. (rms)