Wed, 28 Jun 2000

RI pledges support for cooperatives movement

By Kornelius Purba

SINGAPORE (JP): Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri made her first international performance here on Tuesday by acting as a keynote speaker at the First International Cooperatives Alliance Asia Pacific Forum at the Mandarin Hotel.

Openly acknowledging that she did not know much about the latest development of cooperatives movement, Megawati said she learned about the economic movement during her youth from the country's founding fathers, her father first president Sukarno and first vice president Mohammad Hatta.

"When I was young, I came to know what a cooperative was by digesting the views of my late father, Sukarno," Megawati recalled.

Megawati admitted that the progress of cooperatives in Indonesia lagged far behind other countries in Asia Pacific due to poor management and the government's excessive interference.

Learning from the previous government's mistakes, she said the new government decided to support the cooperatives movement and act only as a facilitator.

"It does not mean that the government does not lend a hand to cooperatives. To a certain extent, the government will continue to offer help regarding the internal problems of cooperatives," she said.

Unlike President Abdurrahman Wahid, who often delivers his speeches off-the-cuff and offers opportunity for dialog, the Vice President read a prepared speech in Indonesian language and there was no dialog with the audience of about 300 attendees.

An English translation was distributed to the participants only after she completed her speech, and no simultaneous translation was provided for participants.

Megawati completed her three day-working visit to Singapore on Tuesday and returned to Jakarta in the evening. Her small entourage included her husband Taufiq Kiemas and State Minister of Cooperatives Zarkasih Noer.

Neither Megawati nor her hosts, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, spoke to the press after their meeting on Monday.

She said the main purpose of her visit was to follow up the President's visit here last November.

"I am proud with this first foreign trip, although Singapore is not far from Indonesia. But at least I eventually made it true," she said with a big smile, during a meeting with about 300 from the Indonesian community at the Indonesian Embassy here on Monday.