June 8, 2000

H.E. Abdurrahman Wahid
The President, Republic of Indonesia

Ladies and Gentlemen, first I would like to say thank you to Nikkei for bringing me here, first for it's seminar today, which becomes more important each year because of the response of the Asian leaders as well as other people. But, especially from Japan, the businessmen of profession and of government also, so I think the future of this forum will become more important.

Second thing is that it brings me also, or enables me come to the ceremony for the funeral of the late Obuchi, the Prime Minister of Japan. It is a sad thing for me, because Obuchi was a good friend, and although I only know him very briefly, but what can we say, but we hit it at once. We became good friends, and personally he sent messages of a personal capacity. But now, the time to talk about the topic we have, that's the future of Asia.

I think the most important thing to remember about Asia is that we have to act in a collective way, we cannot do that in separate ways, the Japanese by themselves, the Chinese by themselves, the Indonesians by themselves, the Indians by themselves, no, we have to work together.

But that does not mean we have to also antagonize the other parts of the world. A former Assistant Security of State of the United States came to Jakarta a few days ago, and we met, he had a very important question. He said whether the idea of an alliance between the Chinese, the Indians and the Indonesians, with the help of the Japanese and the Singaporean management market network as well as capital, won't mean exclusion of the United States or other parts of the world?

I said no, its just only for establishing our "cultural identity or common identity" as Asian, because this is very important for us, if we want to compete with the others, then we have to develop the so called " Asian identity". The identity of being people from Asia. We already developed that thing in separate ways. For example, there is the so-called management Japanese style, we have also the other, you know, economic trades, developed by the Asian in separate ways. We have to pull that exchange those things, in order to reach a common understanding that we are different, but our difference that does not mean that we will not have a common Asian identity.

So this identity is in my thinking, important to differentiate us Asian, from many other people. But, that means also that we have to abide by the common laws of humanity; efficiency, openness, honesty, equal treatment for the law, despite the different origins of people. All those things will contribute to the new Asian identity we search for in the future. This identity will not differentiate us from the others, but more important to enable us to communicate with others as in a collective way.

I believe that this kind of common identity between Asians will be the main factor behind the economic recovery of the whole area. We hope that the others will also be able to develop in that way, so that despite what George Orwell said in his novel "1984", that there will be a 3 "state" in the world, Oceanic, Eurasia and another one in the Pacific area. It is very horrible, because it is dictatorial in its characteristics. But we can say that we need also more collective way to work together despite our differences, in order to compete with the other worlds, in that sense and maybe, it is not 3, but will be divide the world into 5 or 6 components. Big components. In that sense, then, I look forward to the time when we will be able to compete on a collective basis, without letting our differences from rising to the surface.

I think this common future of Asia will be decided mostly by our way of dealing with the problems we have, whether we deal them in strategic way or just in a technical way.

Take for example, our relationship with Australians now. We have differences with Australians in the past concerning East Timor, but now, since the results of the plebiscite, was announced we have to make peace, with East Timor, with Australia as well. Because, you know the 3 countries want become the anchor of stability in that area, so because of this, we have then the duty to good each other, to be friends in that area. Because of this I requested Gusmao to convey to John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia; that we better meet, and I am prepared to go to Darwin, or to Kupang in our territory to Dili, the East Timorian capital, just for the sake of the 3 people, Gusmao, Howard and myself to come together.

The answer is very encouraging; the Australian Prime Minister sent message that he would like to see that we have bilateral talks first, before we have trilateral negotiations. I think we will do that in the short time, despite the fact that many people in Indonesia now object to my visit to Australia. Because there are certain Australians who have aided the declaration of independence from the Papuan people last week, so for us then, the most important thing is that, in order to secure our independence, we have to make the government from there. But in a long run, will return the whole thing back to the civilians there, to the people of the area. But this should not stop us from sitting together, myself, John Howard and Xanana Gusmao.

In reverse, my thinking is that, if there is Australian NGO' s who aided those separatists people in Irian or in Papua, then we have to encourage the Australian government to take our sides, our side in this matter. I am glad that the Australian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement that they are abiding by the principle of respecting our sovereignty of the whole area. So, we can promote further, our joint effort to maintain the situation and the stability in the area, if we need, if we do not need then, the situation will be more deteriorating, that's my view.

But these things will be put into a wider framework, the framework of Asia. In Asia, we have to negotiate further, to resolve problems among us, there is a problem concerning different parts of Asia, between different countries, we have to talk about that. We have to find the so-called win/win solution for the whole thing, that what's I applied in the country now. So, for example, now, you may be aware that there are efforts to unseat me in August, through the so called impeachment process. I am not afraid of that. Because I know that the Indonesian legislature is a responsible one and won 't do that, I know this, despite what the press said, and despite what the International press imitating our press said also, so for me, now, it said, we have to stay fast.

But, does that mean those people are our enemies, no, for me they are our fellow Indonesians with different, you see, ideas and ways, so because of this we had to treat them as fellow Indonesians, not as our enemies. So, the so called political enemy or what said by John Fitzgerald Kennedy in his inaugural address about 30 years ago, political adversaries, not enemies, then we should negotiate together, we should not alienate each other. It's hard for people around me who are, you know very angry at them, and very worried about it. Because they would like to say that, please, don't be too good to me, I said no, goodness has its own merits and will abide by them, they are not our enemies, but they are own friends, and I believe that the whole nation will respect this view.

In this respect, I just follow the late Obuchi-San, he said to me that he is known here in Japan as the man who turned political enemies into friends. I intend to do so, so because of this, the future of Asia will be decided by the capability of the Asian leaders to be good to each other, to make the so called political adversaries to become friends. In this respect, I think, everybody will agree on a common identity for the Asians, in order to be able to compete in the world market. Because in the long run, technology, managerial skill and also all kinds of networks we have to develop in the area, will depend on this ability to stand together vis a viz, or in competition with other places in the world, other areas of the world. I think this is very important to remember. Thank you very much.


Q: First of all, my question is about Indonesian economy. It seems to me that although your government has tried to stimulate the economy and then annual growth rate of Indonesian economy has been accelerating, but still they say there are a lot of things to do. For example, so called restructuring of the financial sector and co-operate governance. My first question is how would you restructure the economy to attain a stable economic condition in Indonesia?

A: Thank you very much for that question. The first that we need to understand about Indonesia now is that, you know, we are now in a very great problem that I believe we can overcome in a short time. That is the problem of the people who would like to maintain the status quo, to maintain this imbalance of the past. So, because of this, the domestic price placed a very gloomy picture of the situation and this domestic picture is then translated into the pronouncements of the international press, so because of that the result is a very, very, gloomy picture of Indonesia. Including the one that will not develop at all.

I can say that Mr. Coller, the new IMF Managing Director visited me a few days ago, in which he said to me that, you know, we will exceed the current estimate of economic growth. The estimate was for 3-4 percent increase this year but according to him that's not enough, as for the present, he believes that Indonesia will grow by about 4.5 % in this year, the year 2000. But my own estimation, made up of my own experts in Indonesia is that we shall develop by about 5%.

If we are lucky, we may get 5.5% growth, but I think that's to be too risky to believe, so we can take the better one, that's the one believed by Mr. Coller from the IMF. But I can say to you also that despite these things, we have to make another stress than before. Because of the unrest of the economy, the efforts of those two dark pictures of us in the world press, as well as many other things, then the flow investment from abroad Indonesia, including from Japan is very, very low. So because of this we have to change our let's say our tactical (inaudible). We are not relying on foreign investment as such, for a short period. But I am glad to say to you that we are now exporting more and that we now being able to alleviate a little bit our employment situation, but that brings us to the problem of economic stability.

Economic stability depends on the workers while the workers tend to be influenced by the people who would like to maintain status quo, so the cabinet decides, a week ago that, or two weeks ago that we would combat all those level unrest. So, please keep in mind that we will do everything to ensure that people will work in these factories, not striking. If they, you know, are influenced by people outside them, if that's legitimate in our view, then they can strike as guaranteed by the Constitution. It's just for us to maintain that the excesses will not be the rule, but rather as excess. This means also that, we should "streamline" our, you know, very complicated procedures. This is in the process of being and it will take a little bit time. But I think after August we will be able to present a kind of economic framework, which will be easier for the investors to work in.

Besides that also, we will be able to maintain security more and more as evident everywhere. For so long in Indonesia, I have been ruled by the iron hand of the Central government, now we see all kinds of reactions in the provinces on that, from separatism for demand for more autonomy. We have to be careful about that, I mean we should not reject them outright, but try to understand what's the reason behind that. We should eliminate the reasons and after that we eliminate the problem as well. Besides that, is the question of corruption, which is a more difficult thing to eradicate, but I believe that with enough hard work and good intention we will be able to do that and for investors in our country "Help us in this matter as well". Thank you.

Q: I would like to congratulate your country reaching shifting to democracy and you moving towards more stable development and I would like to pay my respects to you. I know the way ahead is not easy, but I would like to ask a question. You have a very diverse people in your country with different languages and different religions and are spread out among numerous islands with a large population of 160 million. And I believe it is very difficult to unify a country of that much diversity, but with a strong central authority that unity was maintained. Now that you have shifted to democracy, there will be more free movements, you already see those movements, I believe it will be all the more difficult to unify and govern your country. How do you intend to that?

A: Thank you very much. I think the differences among us is rather, are rather a blessing for us, we are different and because from each other and because of that we are richer. But of course, I agree with you that we have to have a strong government. Strong government in the sense that we will be able to direct those differences to the fruitful situation. Fruitful framework, not to allow those differences to become uncontrollable for the whole nation. So because of this we can say or we can see that while in Aceh I tried to negotiate with the so called "Free Aceh Movement' people, but in Irian I said "no" to that kind of congress, because the congress violated 2 of my important conditions.

First, that they should be just to everybody who would like to attend, I mean the Papuans, the New Guineans. Second thing there should not be foreigners there, participating in that, but instead we see people from our neighboring country to reside and to become reporter, I think this is impossible to allow, and impossible to accept.

If we give our sovereignty after we do very much to accommodate the expressions of the people there, then we should be firm. And because of that, I said that the governments, the congress not soft as proposed, and because of this, we are not abide by the decision. But still, we decided in the cabinet that we will treat people in a very human way. Human way in the sense that they can still express whatever they have in mind, including the desire for independence.

But once they organize themselves or initiate the steps to realize that kind of independence, then those people are against us. And we will take actions without any, lets say, comprise, with anybody on that. So because of this, for different areas of the country, different solutions, through this kind of pinpointing efforts to solve our problems they we will be able to compromise our differences with our desire to have a common good and common identity. Thank you.

Q: I believe what Indonesia needs today is democratization and also economic growth and the treatment of overseas Chinese on these two fronts will be specifically important. I believe the role of overseas Chinese would be necessary, but, perhaps their overpresence may cause social unrest, so I wonder if I could learn from you what your views are with regard to the positioning of overseas Chinese in Indonesia?

A: Concerning the treatment, viz a viz. the Chinese overseas people there, I should give note here first that we have to differentiate foreign Chinese people who reside and work in our country with a residence permit from the Indonesians deriving their ancestor from China, including myself. We are proud to become Indonesians, so because of that, I reject totally the idea of the old government to say the Indonesian, the original Indonesia. They are not original Indonesians. As a citizen of Indonesia, who has an ancestor who is Chinese, I say proudly that I am an Indonesian, I am not an alien to it. So because of this then, we should be careful in defining who are the Chinese.

If you mean, what we call the Chinese stock, then I can say that they are Indonesian citizens, they enjoy the same privileges as the others. There will be no unfair treatment. But of course, we are not children. We have also to see that other population, other segments of the population have been left behind in the event, the people from Chinese origins or Chinese stock were very, you know, hard working, successful, and in the long run they became the business, the core of the business community.

So we say to them, please continue to do your work, but you have to be more just to the others. In that sense then, we shall give our economy to give more places to all people, but mainly to change the orientation of the economy, to give opportunities and to chances to the people of the non-Chinese stock to catch up. I think this can be done, I think, in one generation, around 30 to 30-40 years, not earlier, but it will be very glad to see that from time to time.

What Prime Minister Mahathir from Malaysia initiates is very important for us. His idea of new economic policy with the Malays, also called the Chinese people now get help from the government to be, you know, active in business. Hopefully in the long run, all the ethnically Chinese and non-Chinese originated people, will be able to occupy the same position in the community and the economy as well. I think this principle we shall follow, but of course, maybe in the details, we will be different from each other, because Indonesia is not Malaysia.

We have to look to it that the strength of the "Chinese originated people" and their economic strength to be used to for the benefit for the whole economy and for the non-Chinese originated as well. As for the expatriates, the non-Indonesian citizens of Chinese stock, like the Singaporeans, or the Thais, or the people form Hong Kong and Taiwan, please, please do your work in our country without fear of let's say, discrimination. But you are not Indonesian citizen, so then you enjoy, you know, fewer privileges than the Indonesian citizens. Thank you.

Q: Your political and physical health is of great concern by neighbor countries, because this would impact on your ability to hold Indonesia together, politically, economically and socially, as this will also influence the stability and the regional security. How can you reassure countries in the region and dispel such fears?

A: Well, it does not depend on me. It depends on those people. You know that I try my best. You know that I, yesterday I departed at 10.00am from Jakarta, and reached here by around 8.00am in the morning. And then I went to the Imperial Hotel, there in one hour I was visited by half an hour, by Foreign Minister, after that I went to the office of the Prime Minister, now to your seminar. Afterward I will be the Obuchi funeral, after those meetings I don't think I will stop until midnight.

That's my usual schedule in Indonesia, so I don't know why people are still questioning me about my health. You know what, there is a saying; the first Indonesian President was crazy about ladies, including a Japanese, the second one was crazy about fortune, the third one is truly crazy, the fourth one making other people crazy. The way through that, is you know, working hard for the benefit of the nation. I can't see reports and they have to be read to me, so that becomes a slower process then, than if I can see. So, you can imagine that, cannot be done by unhealthy people. A healthy guy can only do that, that's why one of the nightmare of my doctors, I would do my work more than necessary.

So when I was on a naval ship, just to instill the sense of belonging to the navy to me. There was the airforce chief, and I said to him: "Oh, I have your trailer plane has a place in back for the pilot, can I ride that one?" And you Know what, all of a sudden my doctors are crazy because of that idea that I would ride the plane, see but I said to them, oh no, do not be afraid, it will be a subsonic flight, not a supersonic one.

Ok, so I can say to you, that I am healthy, you see as anybody else. Every morning I make a round 2 and half until 3kilometers of walk, beside the treadmill. You see, I use the half-hour treadmill exercise, also to pray, because, you know, that is my staple from when I was a young student. Thank you.

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.