Desy Nurhayati and Hyginus Hardoyo , The Jakarta Post , Nusa Dua, Bali | Thu, 12/11/2008 7:40 AM | Headlines
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono believes Asia is replacing the West as the world’s center of power and that Indonesia is well geared to address a growing tendency toward fundamentalism.
“There has been a kind of changing global landscape, a shifting of the central power from the United States and Europe to Asia over the last 15 years,” Yudhoyono told a joint press conference on the sidelines of the inaugural session of the Bali Democracy Forum on Wednesday.
The inaugural session, entitled “Building and Consolidating Democracy: A Strategic Agenda for Asia”, was attended by foreign ministers and delegates from at least 32 countries and three heads of state — Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao of Timor Leste.
Yudhoyono said that the forum, which is open to all Asian countries and will regularly gather country representatives at the ministerial level, constituted Indonesia’s contribution to Asia’s transition into a new era.
The President also launched the Institute for Peace and Democracy on the campus of state-run Udayana University in Jimbaran, Bali.
“This (Asian) region will be very dynamic in the future, especially in terms of politics, culture and economy and technology,” he said, describing the region as a melting pot for various civilizations.
“Indonesia itself is in the process of a transformation to build a better democracy and create harmony among its plural society,” he said.
Indonesia, he continued, had strategic policies in place to maintain pluralism and avoid a tendency toward fundamentalism.
“Indonesia is a unique blend of Islamic, oriental and western civilizations with Hindu and Buddhist influences coming to our people in the third century. Islam arrived in the 13th century, and Western civilization came in the 17th century, first in the form of colonialism but later in the form of modern nationalism,” he said.
Over the centuries, the Indonesian archipelago absorbed influences from those civilizations, Yudhoyono said, adding that there was always the possibility that such influences could collide but that Indonesian democracy was providing a home for those cultures and religions to blend harmoniously.
“Our present democracy is now 10 years old, born in the aftermath of a financial crisis that gave birth to the reform movement.
He said Indonesia had progressed in leaps and bounds in its democratic transition, but that there was still much more to be done.
“The Bali Democracy Forum comes forth because we realize the need for an organized learning process and comprehensive dialogue on democracy. A high level dialogue which is wider, more inclusive and more focused than any that has been attempted before,” Yudhoyono said.
Ni Komang Erviani contributed to this article from Jimbaran, Bali.