Logo

SBY: Indonesian President and world citizen

The Jakarta Post  |  Thu, 10/22/2009 12:06 PM  |  Opinion

Anand Krishna

 

How does President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono evaluate his five years in office? His speech at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, on Sept. 30 is a brief commentary of his own performance.

Among others he said: "I find it interesting that I did not end-up working for people who went to Harvard; it's actually people who went to Harvard who ended up working for me!" These words did not reflect his conscience; they reflected the conscience of an arrogant speech writer.

Speaking about President Obama and himself he said: "Our objective is the same: To take a hard look at relations between the West and the Islamic worlds, and to chart a new course forward." Why only the West and the Islamic worlds? What is the Islamic world? Is there such an entity as a homogenous Islamic world? Is Indonesia part of this Islamic world?

"We have instead fortified our national identity through three successful, peaceful national elections," said Yudhoyono, but I tend to agree more with President Obama that successful national elections alone are not the yardstick of democracy - it is the aftermath that is important.

"Today we are not paralyzed by the financial crisis, but are forging ahead with sweeping reforms of our financial and industrial structure," he said.

But at what cost? At the cost of "selling" our assets and allowing large corporations to exploit our natural resources for their benefit? Or, by keeping our eyes closed toward our so-called national entrepreneurs who are acting as their agents?

"We overcame ethnic and religious conflicts," continued Yudhoyono. Sorry, but no. There are detailed reports prepared by the Setara Institute, Gadjah Mada University and other universities that detail otherwise.

"I am aware of a traumatic collective memory that is not easy to erase when dealing with matters of faith." I beg to remind Your Excellency that these are not our national collective memories, but those of the peoples of the Middle East.

"Perhaps we will even see the emergence of a *global civilization.'" Yes, and Indonesia can contribute towards this, if only we feel national, think international, and keep our religious affiliation to ourselves.

"Democracy has gained immense ground, spreading in the Islamic world, including in Indonesia." Once again, Mr. President, the phrase "Islamic World" must be shunned. We are one family - the family of humankind.

The President then outlined nine imperatives to achieving "harmony among civilizations".

On the lighter side, what you consider as a "lucky number" is actually the number of eternity. Multiply nine with any number, how many digits, and sum them up - go on summing them until you arrive at one single digit.

It will be nine. It is the number of God. Sir, you were born on the 9th day of God, not of any particular religion.

Different religions are pathways leading to one and the same God. Something to meditate on!

"The first imperative is to make the 21st century the century of soft power. I believe the clash of civilizations is actually a clash of ignorance," SBY told the Harvard auditorium. Couldn't agree with him more, hence no more divisions based on religion. Let us keep the world as it is: one world.

On pursuing "a new approach, one defined by goodwill and trust-building," for Aceh, well, we have divided our country into two societies adhering to different sets of law.

We should have learnt from Malaysia, before planting this time bomb. In this, however, the President is not the only one to blame.

"The second imperative is to intensify the process of dialogue and outreach... Recently, Saudi Arabia convened the Interfaith Conference at the UN," continued SBY. I agree with what you say, but not with the example cited. Saudi has to convene such a conference at home, not outside.

"The third imperative is the need to find a solution to burning poli-tical conflicts.. Muslims must be able to differentiate between a conflict involving Muslims, and a *war against Islam'" - Kudos, very well said!

"Today, racism is in serious decline. interracial marriages are common, and the market place picks talents without regard for color, religion or ethnicity," - sorry to say this Mr. President, this is not yet happening in our country. I believe you mean business. Do kindly ensure that our marriage and other acts, and the regional bylaws are immediately reversed to comply with our Constitution, and in line with what you say.

"The fourth imperative is to strengthen the voice of moderation in our communities. The moderates should no longer be a silent majority." Yes, kindly make sure that those who speak out no longer get beaten by a bunch of hooligans using religion as their shield.

"The fifth imperative is multiculturalism and tolerance.. Tolerance means a full respect for others" - for almost two decades I have been working on this agenda of "mutual appreciation".

"The sixth imperative is to make globalization work for all" - Godspeed, let history remember you as a world citizen.

On the UN Security Council Yudhoyono said, "today *the UN Security Council* still reflects the power balance of 1945 rather than 2009, with exclusive veto powers reserved". Good, let us work together to ensure that this is rectified.

"Imperative number eight is education. In Indonesia, elementary students are taught about respecting religious traditions." Once, Mr. President, our children were taught budi-pekerti; universal religious/human values. Not now, when they are separated during the class on religion, thereby highlighting the differences among them. This is urgent and imperative, and needs to be corrected immediately.

"Finally, the ninth imperative... A *global conscience'.. we can *reinvent a new world'." Certainly Sir.

Let us work together to realize our founding fathers' collective dream of "building the world anew".

"This can be an amazing century where hope prevails over fear," - Yes I agree, but only if we listen to our own conscience, are focused, and are not distracted by ambitious agendas of our power hungry opportunist "friends".

They are already projecting you as the next UN Secretary-General. First things first Mr. President. I love you abundantly, and I want you to succeed in your endeavors, hence these notes.

The writer is spiritual activist.