Sat, 08 Apr 2000

Rectors told to promote freedom of speech, thought

SEMARANG (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid urged the country's rectors on Friday to promote freedom of thought and freedom of speech on their campuses.

"Rectors must not let bureaucratic interests invade the campus. Rectors must be able to work together properly," the President said in his address to the Rectors Forum's fourth meeting at the Diponegoro University campus here.

"Bureaucracy is needed, but we cannot let bureaucracy dominate the life of campuses.

"Freedom of speech is not just expressing an idea, because an idea may not reflect a thought."

He said he expected the gathering could become a meeting of various thoughts and ideas that were alive in society.

"Therefore, the rectors must be able to combine various points of view into one perception."

The President also asked the rectors to promote the use of proper Indonesian. "As a national language Bahasa Indonesia has been developing in the wrong way," he said.

The rectors said in the meeting held after the President left that they were worried by the threat of disintegration.

"We are deeply concerned about the trend of disintegration threats. Disintegration will be very costly and the people will have to pay with great losses and suffering," said the chairman of the Rectors Forum, Eko Budihardjo, who is also rector of Diponegoro University.

The meeting will also help the nation deal with the disintegration threat through exchange of healthy thoughts, ideas and opinions, Eko said.

He said the threats were lessened through the efforts of intellectuals, the devout and politicians.

"The fate of the nation much depends on the unity of intellectuals who are open-minded, religious people who are open- hearted and politicians who are open-mouthed," Eko said.

As many as 224 rectors are taking part in the meeting. Sumatra sent 36 delegates, Jakarta 58, West Java 12, Central Java 64, East Java 25, Kalimantan 12, Sulawesi 15, Yogyakarta six and Nusa Tenggara two. Bali, Maluku and Irian Jaya have one representative each.

The President, accompanied by First Lady Sinta Nuriyah, Minister of National Education Yahya Muhaimin and Minister of Religious Affairs Tolchah Hasan, proceeded to the city of Demak, some 60 kilometers east of Semarang.

Abdurrahman and the entourage said the Friday prayer at the Grand Mosque in Demak, which is renowned for its Muslim community.

The mosque, built in 1466, was the place where propagation of Islam in Java began. It has until 1986 been renovated 16 times by the Indonesian government in cooperation with the Organization of Islamic Conference.

As usual, the President held a dialog with the mosque congregation. (har/sur)