Popular Wisdom

Popular Wisdom

The elections allowed Indonesians, for the first time, to choose their president directly. The man they selected, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a liberal ex-general, was deemed by international observers to have been the wisest choice from those on offer. Though the speculation about possible presidential candidates and governing coalitions has already begun, the parties will wait and see how they do in the legislative elections in April before entering into serious talks about the presidential vote (whose first round will be in July with a run-off, if needed, a few months later).

Even so, it is quite likely that the two main presidential contenders will be the same as last time: Mr Yudhoyono and his immediate predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri. Mr Yudhoyono’s popularity has been dented by decisions to cut fuel and electricity subsidies, so as to avert financial ruin and redirect state spending towards the poorest. Miss Megawati has been on a meet-the-people comeback tour since early 2008 and has benefited from discontent over rising living costs. Yet the election is Mr Yudhoyono’s to lose.

A few other candidates will run, probably including Wiranto, a former army chief indicted by a UN-backed tribunal over the violence that accompanied the break­away of the former East Timor in 1999. Mr Wiranto will argue that an old-fashioned strongman is what the country needs but it will be surprising if he does any better than the third place he got in 2004. Golkar, the party that used to support Suharto, is now led by Vice-President Jusuf Kalla but his opinion-poll ratings are probably too weak for him to win the presidency. Thus Golkar may, as in the second round in 2004, offer him for the vice-presidential slot on Mr Yudhoyono’s ticket.

FM says Islamophobia in world declining

FM says Islamophobia in world declining

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Islamophobia in the world had decreased but the Islamic community needs to continue its efforts to correct wrong perceptions about Islam.

The foreign minister made the remarks in an annual coordination meeting of countries grouped in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the United Nations` headquarters here on Friday (Saturday in Indonesia).

“When we met here last year we were concerned over the negative image of Islam in various parts of the world. Now the frequency of incidents related to Islamophobia has declined,” the Indonesian foreign minister said.

He said the decline in Islamophobia was the result of better communications made by various parties in convincing the world that Islam is a peace-loving and compassionate religion.

In this regard , Indonesia itself, he said, had continued to make efforts to convince the world about the true teachings of Islam.

The efforts included the holding of the Third International Conference of Islamic Scholars in Jakarta in July, a Global Intermedia Dialog and an Interfaith Youth Camp.

“Efforts made by other Islamic countries have also begun to yield results,” Hassan said.

During the coordination meeting, which was held on the sidelines of the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Indonesian foreign minister also referred to the world`s food crisis and what role the OIC could play to overcome it.

He said food availability was decreasing in line with the increasing world population growth while prices of basic necessaries such as rice and wheat had also increased two-fold.

“As most of us, OIC members, are agricultural countries, we can play a role by increasing our food production,” he said calling on OIC members to put emphasis on development of the agricultural sector.

“Let us empower our farmers,” he said.

Continue peace in the Philippines

Continue peace in the Philippines

The OIC also asked Indonesia to continue its role in mediating peace efforts between the Philippine government and Muslims in the southern Philippines.

Yudhoyono, on the other hand, emphasized the need for the OIC to continue its reform process and the need for OIC member states to boost trade activities among themselves. He added the member states needed to fulfill their commitment to the “Ten-year Action Plans” signed during the conference in Senegal by increasing intra-Muslim trade volume to 20 percent of the Muslim countries’ total trade from the current 16 percent.

Yudhoyono also met separately with Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who, along with Ihsanoglu, were attending the opening of the four-day Fifth World Islamic Economic Forum.

The four leaders agreed to boost economic cooperation among Islamic countries through the forum.
In his meeting with El Fassi, Yudhoyono praised Morocco’s democracy, citing the upcoming parliamentary elections in the North African country and the emerging role of women in its Cabinet.
Yudhoyono did not, as expected, talk much about Indonesia’s bilateral relations with Malaysia while meeting with Abdullah. Dino said the two “best friends” talked more as friends, with Abdullah set to leave office later this month.

The two leaders, however, agreed they must immediately realize the Chiang Mai Initiative as a follow-up to the recent ASEAN Summit.

The initiative was drafted under the ASEAN Plus Three framework, which aims for the creation of a network of bilateral swap arrangements (BSAs) among ASEAN Plus Three countries.