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Indonesia
President H.E. Megawati Soekarnoputri
Speech At US-Indo Gala Dinner
Washington, D.C.
September 19, 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends of Indonesia,

Before all else, I invite you all to join me in observing a moment of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the tragic events of September 11, 2001 as a result of the barbaric terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington DC, and Shankville, Pennsylvania. May God bless their souls.

(Moment of silence begins (30 seconds) - ends.)

I must admit that I had a moment of hesitation about this visit in the light of the September 11 tragedy. But after second thoughts, and after consultations with our friends in the US Government, I came to the conclusion that this was the time for the Government and people of Indonesia to accept the invitation of President Bush, and to show their deep sympathy and support for the Government and the people of the United States of America in this difficult times.

In my country, through the medium of television, we saw how human life was wasted without compunction. I believe the terrorists are making a big mistake if they think that through their brutal action, by violently taking the lives of innocent people, they can destroy your country. On the contrary, the big challenge that you are facing now will bring out the best in America.

In my view, the basic values that have always been the sources of America’s strength, namely individual freedom, the openness of society and a strong republican spirit, will not crumble as a result of the attacks by terrorists. The terrorism September 11 will probably profoundly change the world we live in. But I am convinced that in this changed world, America’s basic values will be even stronger, and will become a richer source of universal inspiration.

Thomas Jefferson, one of your admirable founding fathers, once said that the tree of democracy will grow even stronger, if from time to time it is watered with the blood of its martyrs. The victims of terrorist action in New York City, Washington DC, and other places are such martyrs. Their lives might be forcibly snatched away, but the tree of democracy will just grow stronger and will not weaken.

It is a distinct honour and pleasure for me that I am finally able to meet with you. I wish, therefore, to thank the United States-Indonesia Society and the US-ASEAN Business Council for inviting me to meet Indonesia’s friends. I cannot say enough about the valuable contributions these organizations have made to the promotion of relations between Indonesia and the United States.

Today, I had very productive talks with President Bush in the oval office. I told him what I wish to tell you tonight: that we mourn with America, that we share your grief and outrage, and that we strongly condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Indonesia is ready to cooperate with the United States and other civilized countries on counter-terrorism.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I understand that the United States attaches great importance to Indonesia. As friend, the United States certainly wants Indonesia to succeed in overcoming the challenges it is currently facing.

At present, Indonesia’s democracy is moving forward in a more institutionalized way. Last July, a transfer of power took place in peaceful and consitutional manner. As a result, I believe the process of democratization that started in 1998 will grow even stronger.

Nevertheless, it does not necessarily mean that democracy in Indonesia has reached a satisfactory level. We are still in a transitional period. And, like other countries in a similar situation, Indonesia has weaknesses as well as urgent challenges that need to be addressed.

To deal with such a difficult situation, I stress the importance of bilateral relations between the United States and Indonesia. The US is the first modern republic whose development has influenced the history of other countries, including my own. Indonesia, with the largest Muslim population in the world, is now embarking upon a new phase in its history. Our success in establishing a democratic system will become a positive factor not only for the region of Southeast Asia but also for the world at large.

For us, the challenges ahead are certainly not easy. Some of the problems were inherited from the past. And some others are perhaps part of a transitional process, taking place in a complex and pluralistic society with minimal experience of democracy.

We are facing the challenge of separatism in Aceh and Irian Jaya. In addition, there is social conflict in the Moluccas, Kalimantan and Sulawesi, which has so far caused thousands of refugees to languish in deplorable conditions.

In the meantime, Indonesia remains determined to deal with and carry out other important programs, such as decentralization of some of the powers of the central government to the regional governments.

However complex the situation may be, my Government continues to pursue its efforts to eradicate corruption, to place the role of the military in a correct balance, to balance the relationship between the executive and the legislative, to proceed with necessary constitutional amendments, to enhance the judiciary system and to continue to uphold the supremacy of law.

In short, my country is determined to review and revise various aspects of the national life, that are needed to make us a sound democratic republic.

In addition to the aforementioned challenges, a new and distressing problem has emerged, namely an increase in the incidence of terrorism. My Government is fully determined to overcome this complex problem, just like the leadership of your Government.

As to the issue of Aceh, I am aware that it has attracted a lot of attention from some members of the US Congress, as well as human rights activitists. In this regard, I would like to reiterate that at present I am trying to handle it in a peaceful manner, through a responsible political process without sacrificing the national integrity of Indonesia.

Of course, as we learned from the history of England, Spain and other countries, this is not an easy matter. However, I would like to make it clear once again that the integrity of our country is of the highest importance and we will defend it at all cost.

Abraham Lincoln, one of your greatest heroes, carried out a similar policy about one and half century ago. America became great because, among others, the principle of national integrity was upheld by Lincoln and other heroes of that era. As I said, we will certainly pursue a peaceful political approach. But as did Lincoln in the United States, we will defend the integrity of Indonesia no matter how long it will take.

At the commemoration of Indonesia’s independence day last August, the Aceh Independence Movement, better known by its Indonesian acronym, GAM, launched a series of bombing campaigns, that destroyed more than 50 school buildings in Aceh. In our view, such violent actions can only destroy the political dialogue we have been initiating. A peaceful and prosperous Aceh can only be achieved if GAM decides to sincerely participate in the dialogue and lay down their arms.

The policy of special autonomy would give the province of Aceh more authority for self-government. I am fully convinced that if it is earnestly carried out, this policy will immediately yield many benefits to the people of Aceh, and will pave the way to a cessation of hostilities and suffering in the province, which has suffered far too long.

Now, I want to turn to another issue. I understand that military relations between the two countries is an important issue for the US Congress. I have stressed to President Bush, that the resumption of our military relations with the US will strengthen democracy in Indonesia. As in other democratic countries, the minimal role vested in Indonesia’s military establishment is that of protecting the country’s territorial integrity and political sovereignty. These two things are essential in a democracy. A democracy cannot exist, if its territorial boundaries are changed and twisted at every pretext.

I must also say here that I commend the attitude of the Indonesian military and police for rejecting, during the political crisis of last July, the President’s decree to dissolve parliament. At that critical moment, they made a stand for democracy.

As a person, who had experienced the bitter taste of tyranny, I am of the opinion, that the future democracy of Indonesia will be far better guaranteed, if a wiser method is undertaken in promoting the process of democratization.

I began my political career as a member of the Indonesian parliament. Since that time, I have experienced the sour and salty taste of politics. I had been inspired by hopes, but I also had to bear the pain of suppression, including violations of human rights. In this regard, I have expressed my commitment, upon assuming leadership of my country, to continue the redress of various violations of human rights, including those perpetrated in the wake of the popular consultation in East Timor. This will be carried out through ad-hoc human rights courts specifically established to try those cases of human rights violations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

That is the map of the road that we are taking.

Among the most challenging problems Indonesia faces, is the need to recover from the financial crisis, that struck Indonesia four years ago. We have therefore signed a Letter of Intent with the International Monetary Fund, which commits Indonesia to a rigorous program of national economic recovery. Before the signing, the Letter of Intent had been pending for about eight months. In addition to the IMF agreement, we have also made an important agreement with your Overseas Private Insurance Company (OPIC).

Frankly, this will not be easy for us. However, we recognize that a commitment is a commitment, and we intend to do our utmost to honor our obligations, and to maintain our credibility and creditworthiness to the international community, and the global economy.

Once again, I have to admit that there are a lot of things we have to do. The problem is that our resources are not unlimited. This is one of the reasons we are inviting investors to do business in Indonesia. To serve that objective, my Government plans to launch new investment policies.

We also recognize the central importance to the international community, as well as to our own citizens, of eliminating collusion, corruption and nepotism (KKN). This means undertaking major social and legal steps toward the transformation of society. These efforts, of course, will not yield results overnight.

As a first step, I have asked all my ministers as well as those closest to me, to observe the norms of established modern nation states in this regard, and I have asked my ministers to submit a statement of their assets and liabilities. Transparency such as this discourages KKN.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I firmly believe that the best of Indonesia is yet to come. The challenges faced by my government today are enormous, but Indonesia has had more difficult problems in the past, and history has proved that we have an uncanny ability to bounce back.

Finally, let me close with one final thought. I came here literally from the other side of the planet. Indonesia is 12 time zones away from the United States, and it took me over 24 hours to fly from Jakarta to Washington DC. But although our history and cultures are different, there is an important similarity between the Indonesian dream and the American dream. I am not talking about the American dream of “a family, a house, and 2 cars in the garage”. I am talking about the dream of creating a great nation where all men and women are treated equal, where people of all races, ethnicity, and religion live side by side in peace and prosperity as one. America’s founding fathers dreamt this, and ours did too. That dream remains dear in my heart and in the hearts of millions of Indonesians.

Thank you and God bless all of you.

END