The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Response to Ruby Murray's article 'Invisible Indonesia'

The fault is not wholly ours. Indonesians have much work to do before their country becomes a safe destination. Most people are friendly and welcoming though rip offs are prevalent. The rule of law doesn't operate. Nationalism is growing and it's hostile to outsiders. Corruption rules everywhere, city pollution is a serious threat to health, poverty is gross - particularly outside the cities. Education standards are the lowest in Southeast Asia. As the travel warnings say - Indonesia is not always a safe destination. Far from struggling daily with asylum seekers the evidence shows Indonesian officials have been actively helping these people take the dangerous journey to Australia. Careful visitors who are well prepared can have rewarding experiences in the archipelago, but the hazards are real. Let's be frank about Indonesia - it's our resource-rich neighbour and critically important in defence and trade. It could become a major and stable player in world affairs, but it's also on the cusp of collapse if the government doesn't deliver the promises of democracy. That includes ensuring safety for visitors and locals - particularly those in minority religions.

Posted 19 March 2011

There’s a disquieting Pollyanna tone in many comments that do a disservice to Indonesia – and the original story. The debate needs to be lifted above ‘lovely people’ and ‘developing nation’ responses from people who’ve had only superficial contact with the archipelago, - some hiding their identity and further devaluing the credibility of their observations.

Indonesia was born in the ashes of World War 11 along with modern Japan and the European Community, and had the potential to equal them. Instead the great natural wealth and talent has been squandered by decades of corruption, oppression and mismanagement, a tragedy for the people whose health, education and lives have been blighted by evil administrators.

Now the lawmakers are allowing thugs to commit serious crimes in the name of religion and abuse the Constitution. This is creating widespread concern about future directions – and warping the nation’s image.

Australia can and should help by providing thousands more scholarships so young Indonesians can build their skills and see for themselves that Western democracy is not a nest of godless vipers. At the same time more Indonesians (particularly Javanese Muslims) in Australia should help lift local ignorance, provided they’re made welcome.

Posted 20 March 2011

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