The Indonesian president likes to show off the country’s good reputation in the world. Indeed he got overwhelming positive international feedback in the course of his administration. I’m sure that also during his imminent visit to Berlin and Budapest, Chancellor Angela Merkel and prime minister Viktor Orban ( who himself by the way is very ill at ease with human rights) will praise Indonesia as the economically flourishing democracy with world’s largest Muslim population.
But perhaps they will do so with notable less conviction and less enthusiasm than on previous occasions. RI’s image has been slightly tarnished lately. It’s human rights record is being frowned upon. Last Friday my own paper, NRC, wrote “Religious violence in Indonesia increases each year“. And -more importantly- Thursday the Huffington Post “World”-section headed :”Indonesia:Religious Minorities Target of Rising Violence“. The report Human Rights Watch published last Wednesday has significant publicity impact apparently.
The EU ambassador in Jakarta wrote a love letter to Indonesia on February the 14th. He apparently went cruising. Or perhaps he’s already courting the Garuda bird. He praises the great Indonesian people, the fascinating Indonesian diversity, the wonderful Indonesian products, the beautiful Indonesian landscapes and the ever improving Indonesian tourist infrastructure, including more and more golf courses. Except for golf courses I actually agree wholeheartedly with him :).
However I think true love shouldn’t be blind. Julian Wilson is a diplomat and as a diplomat he can’t publicly criticise Indonesia’s characteristics, developments or incidents. But I can. So let me add my love and complete his sunny Valentine appraisal with a critical note.
It’s unfortunate – but just natural- authorities don’t like being criticized. They, quite understandably, are inclined to say:’Free press is fine – but shouldn’t poke it’s nose into my affairs and least of all tell me I’m wrong’. Therefore censorship and libel laws have been invented. If applied strictly they almost prohibit publications on incompetence, wrongdoings and abuses regarding particular persons and institutions.
It’s not easy to be a president.
Journalists, good journalists, covering the life and times of politicians, occasionally are critical bullies. Actually not occasionally but most of the time. They have to be because it’s their mission to be necessary irritants to authorities. It’s their profession to keep an eye on people we vote in power.
Most of us meet some dilemmas in life. By the way he or she deals with them a person reveals his or her true colours.
The life of someone at the top, for instance a president’s life, to me appears to be abundant with that kind of inconvenient, awkward, painful choices between two evils. One good reason for me to be happy for not having been born to lead a country. Take president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. I for one would be embarrassed as Indonesia’s head of state if I had the choice of passionately defending freedom of speech amidst people’s indignation because of a slanderous foreign movie and become unpopular or take the easier way of being just another petty pleasing populist politician craving to be idolized by his electorate and demand a world wide UN anti blasphemy “law”. SBY choose the latter.