Anwar Ibrahim was in Jakarta over the weekend to speak at the World Movement for Democracy Forum and even he had to admit that Indonesia is far ahead of Malaysia in the democratization process. Go figure.
Indonesia Key to Spreading Democracy in Region: Anwar
Indonesia is one of the world’s largest democracies, and as such has a crucially important role in promoting the political system throughout the region. That is the view of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, currently in town for the sixth meeting of the Word Movement for Democracy Forum.
On Sunday, Anwar, the current leader of Malaysia’s opposition People’s Justice Party, sat down with the Jakarta Globe to discuss Indonesia’s role in Southeast Asia, Burma and human rights, the recent Indonesia-Malaysia tension and his personal thoughts on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
What do you think about Indonesia’s democracy? What is Indonesia’s role in promoting democracy in Southeast Asia?
For a nascent democracy, I would consider it phenomenal. [Indonesia] has been able to build the institution, but there has been absolutely no talk of reversal, of returning back to the old order.
Yes, Indonesia is confronting some major problems of endemic corruption, development and marginalization and abject poverty. But because the institution is quite formidable, you have free media that can put the House of Representatives, the anticorruption agency or the tax regime under heavy scrutiny.
What are some of the problems that hamper Indonesia from furthering its democratization ?
It has to grapple with the issue of corruption, which has become endemic, almost as part of the culture. It has to employ strong political will and resolve to handle this.
In the recently concluded Asean meeting, the group told Burma that it wants fair and inclusive elections. Do you think Asean should stick to its policy of non-interference in internal affairs?
I’m certainly cynical with the whole idea of constructive engagement because for the past two decades, nothing has happened. Secondly, to assume that just because Myanmar [Burma] is going to have an election, doesn’t mean that is going to be free and fair. Elections are only meaningful if they are independently managed and are free and fair.
So do I suggest therefore that Asean should be more proactive? Yes. Why can’t we express ourselves, consistent with the Asean charter and spirit, to respect freedom and human rights?