Herman de Tollenaere: Chair of Indonesian Parliament criticizes Bush and Wolfowitz on "New War"

Amien Rais, Chairman of the Indonesian parliament, the People's Congress, addressed people at Leiden University in The Netherlands. The speech was on Wednesday, 20 March 2002. On that very day, Dutch authorities celebrated the founding of the Dutch East Indies Company, 400 years ago. Indonesians consider there is extremely little to celebrate, as that Company exterminated the inhabitants of the Banda spice islands., etc. So, there were demonstrations both in The Hague and in Jakarta, against the Company and later neocolonialism.

The subject of Professor [in Political Science] Amien Rais' speech was: "The impact of the "War against Terrorism" on Indonesia". We quote from the announcement by the organizers, the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden:

"For most Indonesians the real international crisis of the last year has not been the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center of 11 September, but the war in Afghanistan started by the US and its allies on 7 October 2001. Whereas the Americans could count on sympathy after the terrorists' deeds, they even more became an object of anger after what was, according to some Indonesians, unjustified retaliation against a fellow Islamic people. Devout Muslims were especially infuriated, because the US government did not provide legal evidence of the involvement of bin Laden, let alone the Afghan government to the Muslim World. The US attack resulted in a call for "sweeping" all Americans from Indonesian soil. The international situation has domestic consequences for Indonesia, which is the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world. The call for a "sweeping" worsens the investment climate and thereby undermines Indonesia's attempt at economic recovery with foreign capital. Some groups wish to profit from increased inter-religious tensions. Small groups of fundamentalists, wearing white attire and carrying a scimitar, attract much attention from the mass media. Islamic politicians try to expand their following by playing on religious sentiments.

As a corollary, the position of President Megawati is being undermined. Her neutral stand in the American-Afghan conflict and her nationalist (pan-religious) view of the nation does not win her many new supporters among devoted Muslims. Prof. Muhammad Amien Rais studied at Gadjah Mada University, Yogaykarta, and obtained a PhD from the University of Chicago. He is former Chairman of Muhammadiyah, one of the two biggest Muslim organizations in Indonesia.

For the elections following [post 1965 dictator] Suharto's fall, the first free elections in almost half a century, Amien Rais founded the Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN, Party of the National Mandate). At [these] 1999 elections, PAN became the fifth largest party in the parliament. The electoral results were not enough to bring Amien Rais the presidency, but he became Chairman of the People's Congress (MPR), which selects the President. In his capacity of Chairman of the MPR, Amien Rais has had a big influence on the question which person is elected President, or forced to step down. At the round-table, Amien Rais will share his views about the changed situation in Indonesia after 7 October [attack on Afghanistan] with prominent Dutch scholars."

Some brief information is also in the article by N. Schulte Nordholt, "Indonesia: a Nation State in Search of Identity and Structure", Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-, en Volkenkunde 157.4, 2001, 881-901; especially on Amien Rais: 886-887.

The hall for Amien Rais' speech was full of people, including many Indonesians studying at Dutch universities. Professor W. Stokhof briefly introduced Amien Rais, mentioning the East Indies Company was founded 400 years ago.

Amien Rais, after thanking the IIAS for inviting him, first discussed reactions in Indonesia on the September 11 attacks. "99 % of Muslims in Indonesia", he said, "were shocked and stunned" by the World Trade Center casualties. All Muslims have to respect the sanctity of human beings; quoting the Q'uran on someone killing one innocent person behaving like killing all humanity; while saving one soul behaving like saving all humanity. The sociologist Resink says there are two kinds of Muslims in Indonesia: modern and traditional. Both are against terrorism. However, we don't control the mass media and the way they depict Muslims. There should be more understanding for the psychology of Muslims who think they are cornered, they are treated unfairly. Amien Rais mentioned that the president of Indonesia, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, had been the first head of state to offer her condolences in Washington, and offer co-operation against terrorism.

However, then some developments made us feel rather uneasy. First, George W. Bush said: "You have only two choices. If you don't join America, you join the terrorists." A rather excessive and un-intelligent way to speak. Like what John Foster Dulles said against Asian countries, not during the "New War", but during the old Cold War: "You have only two choices: either Washington or Moscow. The third alternative is, immoral."

Bush made us feel still more uneasy with his "Axis of Evil" speech, against North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. We are happy that many European countries voiced criticism of that "Axis of Evil" speech. It is too harsh and too excessive.

As Indonesia, Amien Rais said, is committed to anti-terrorism, it was strange to hear the Singapore politician Lee Kuan Yew saying Indonesia was supposedly full of terrorists. "We should not have to follow Washington all the way, not be stooges. I feel rather angry at Washington when Bush says: "If you don't join America, you join the terrorists." Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary at the Pentagon, said: "After the war against Afghanistan, it will be the turn of the Southern Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia." That is very unfair, very bad, by people like Mr Wolfowitz. Why doesn't Mr Wolfowitz name those he accuses of terrorism to the Indonesian police, so that Indonesian police may arrest them? That would be the way. We have to stand tall to people who throw dirt to our faces."

There were major problems for Indonesia, Amien Rais said. How to keep national integrity, from Sabang to Merauke, while there are rebellious movements in various regions? Also, the economy. So far, so bad. At first, it was said there was a "dream team" for economic policy. However, now it looks more like a "dreaming team." The International Monetary Fund did not deliver, they did not succeed in bailing out our economy. The IMF is a necessary evil to Indonesia. We do not want to be dictated to by the IMF, we want economic sovereignty.

When I look at the selling of government enterprises to foreign corporations, I think Sukarno and Hatta, founders of the Indonesian republic, would be very angry if they returned from the grave, and saw the selling out of Indonesian wealth. For example, of two big cement factories, one was sold to a German corporation, one to a Swiss corporation. In 2006, Pertamina, the government oil company, may be sold. So may telecommunications. However, Indonesia will survive. For example, we also survived what the Dutch government in 1945-1949 called "police action" against Indonesian independence, and what we called aggression.

After Amien Rais' speech ended, Professor Stokhof thanked him, and mentioned there was also commercial liberalization of universities in Indonesia. Unfortunately, there was no time for questions from the floor; however, a panel of scholars did ask questions. The Islamologist M. van Bruinesse asked Amien Rais about the pressures on pluralism between Muslims and non-Muslims which the "New War" subjected Indonesian society to.

Also, Lieutenant-General Abdullah Hendripriyono, chief of Indonesia's intelligence agency, had claimed Al Qaida was in Indonesia. Was this an attempt by army officers to get close to the United States, and re-establish with their help a military dictatorship supposedly justified by opposition to "terrorism" especially by militant Muslims? Amien Rais thought that military rule to come back was not possible in Indonesia. There were some young boys wearing Bin Laden T shirts, but they did this as a sign of discontent, not out of really supporting Al Qaida.

Next, Professor Nasr Abu Zaid, also an Islamologist, asked whether the Pancasila doctrine was still working as state ideology in Indonesia. Also: what is the definition of "terrorism" really? Does it or doesn't it include Israeli government policy? Amien Rais replied that Pancasila was "irrevocable and final." A student of his had suggested during the civil war in Lebanon, where also both Muslims and non-Muslims live, a Pancasila in Lebanon might have prevented the civil war.

F. Colombijn of Indonesian studies, wondered whether Amien Rais was not undermining the position of Indonesian President Ms Megawati. Amien Rais replied that Megawati should stay president until the end of her term, in 2004. However, he did have the right to criticize some of her policies.

The Islamologist Professor C. van Dijk mentioned opposition to "bullying Americans. Maybe the Indonesian government is wiser here than the Dutch government". Replying to the Islamologist F. Stijlen, Amien Rais said:

"If Washington would ask Jakarta to send troops to Afghanistan, we would say no, thank you. We don't love a bowing mentality to satisfy the American wishes. We don't want to be trampled upon."

Herman de Tollenaere contributed this piece to PRAVDA.Ru


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