On 12 April, the Sixth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy (WMD) in Jakarta began with a keynote address by the President of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
In his speech, “SBY” – as Indonesians commonly refer to their President – dwelt on the example of Indonesia and how that country has emerged from over thirty years of dictatorship to become a fully fledged democracy within just a decade.
Even though “the deep-seated democratic impulse” of the Indonesian people was suppressed for a long time, it never died, but came to the fore again with the so-called Reformasi in 1998. Of course, in the beginning of the transition period, there were many threats to what meanwhile has become the largest Muslim democracy in the world. But the democratic impulse has prevailed. Therefore, the Indonesian President exhorted the more than 500 democracy activists from all over the world by saying: “Do not despair”. And he added:
"No matter how bad the political, economic and social conditions, no matter how deep you fall to unimagined depths, democracies can pull through. There is a way up. There is always hope. And you should never let go of it."
The President then went on to discuss the fact that from the outset the “new” Indonesia linked democracy directly to economic development – two notions that were separated in the Indonesian mind before Reformasi. Presently, however, democratic Indonesia can boast an economic growth that is third among the countries of the G20, after China and India.
Among the many challenges still facing Indonesian democracy, SBY identified money politics as the toughest one to overcome. But he also expressed his optimism, as Indonesia has managed to build increasingly strong and lasting institutions – rooted in “home-grown democracy” – while Indonesian citizens have proven to be mature voters, who are no longer easily misled.
It may not come as a surprise that after this scintillating keynote address, the audience seemed elated and rewarded the President with a standing ovation.
The Sixth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy in Jakarta will continue until Wednesday 14 April. On this last day of the Assembly, NIMD will hold a workshop on “Informal Education for ‘Home-Grown’ Democracy”, together with its Indonesian and South-African partners: the Komunitas Indonesia untuk Demokrasi (Indonesian Community for Democracy – KID) and the Institute for Democracy in Africa (IDASA).
Download the full text of President Yudhoyono’s keynote address.