Sunday, May 01, 2005

What Indonesia needs - new-generation leaders

South China Morning Post
13 June 2003

By Frank-Jurgen Richter and Thang Nguyen

There was hope for a peaceful Aceh and a wholesome Indonesia when the government signed an accord with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Geneva in December, providing autonomy for the troubled, but resource-rich province.

Coming after the Bali bombings, the accord, along with improved macroeconomic indicators and the passing of a set of institutional reforms last year, seemed to be the best way to set Indonesia on a new course.

But the journey reached a crossroads when the two sides failed last month to agree to extend a five-month-old ceasefire. On May 19, shortly after the Tokyo talks collapsed, the Indonesian government sent about 35,000 troops to Aceh with the aim of eliminating the separatists.

The offensive - Indonesia's largest military operation since its 1975 occupation of the now independent East Timor - is expected to last six months. Meanwhile, ethnic and religious tensions in Papua, and other parts of the archipelago, are intensifying.

With Indonesians due to directly elect their president for the first time next year, it is worth considering what the country really needs to do to continue its journey towards stability, economic growth and national unity.

First and foremost, Indonesia has to realise the importance of self-reliance. It is understandable that friends will help in a crisis.

But foreign assistance - financial, technical or otherwise - is not and should not be taken as a long-term, endless resource. As an ancient Chinese proverb says: "Give a man a fish, and he will live for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will live all his life."

Second, Indonesians should take themselves, their problems and the future of their country more seriously. One frequent observation is that there is a great deal of complacency in Indonesia, which could be the result of years of abundant supplies of food and natural resources.
Third, Indonesia needs to seek out a new generation who can make the country a better place. Who are these agents of change? They are relatively young Indonesians, both in age and experience, who have the required talent, education and energy. More important, they are young people of leadership, vision and conviction. It is often said: "Indonesia does not need strong leaders.

Indonesia needs leadership." This can be explained as the ability of someone to inspire others to do something they would not otherwise do. These people dare to imagine changes that can make Indonesia a more prosperous and united nation. By change, we do not mean reforms which denote an improvement in things - although these should be continued.

Rather, we mean almost revolutionary change that can break Indonesia from its unfortunate past and set it on a truly new course. Equally important, these are people who believe in their visions - because without conviction, which triggers action, there can be no progress.

Does Indonesia have these agents of change? The answer is a resounding yes. They come from many walks of life, including business, politics, academia and civil society. Being young, they may lack the experience to lead, although they have ideas, energy and all the other requirements of change.

This means they will need to listen to, and learn from, more-senior leaders who have the wisdom and experience, but whose energy has been used up. Combine the wisdom and experience of the aged and the energy and talent of the young, and Indonesia will have the best sons and daughters that it needs to go forward - what Aristotle called the "golden mean".

Indonesia is in a dark tunnel. However, if Indonesians take themselves seriously enough, are committed enough and persevere enough, they can see - and reach - the light at the end of the tunnel.

Frank-Jurgen Richter and Thang Nguyen are with the World Economic Forum, a foundation incorporated in Geneva, Switzerland. The forum will host the New Asia Leaders' Retreat in Seoul on June 19 and 20.


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