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(9/21/2001) On Saturday, September 9, 2001, Indonesia's President Megawati Soekarnoputri spoke at the USINDO Gala Dinner held in her honor in Washington, D.C.. We are including excerpts from that speech below:
Initially Hesitant To Visit the U.S.A.
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.
Amidst Tragedy, America's "Best" Will Emerge
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.
Meeting with President Bush
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.
Indonesia's Road to Democracy
At present, Indonesia’s democracy is moving forward in a more institutionalized way. Last July, a transfer of power took place in peaceful and constitutional 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.
Indonesia's Special Challenges
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.
The Role of the Military in Indonesia
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.
The Battle Against Corruption
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.
Indonesian and the U.S.A.: A Shared Dream
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.