Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
Honourable President of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum,
Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia,
Distinguished members of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Group,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by extending a very warm welcome to Jakarta to all of our distinguished guests from the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum.
You have come to Indonesia in the midst of a rain season, and in our country, rain is regarded as a blessing : blessing for farmers laboring on their harvests, blessing to cool the blistering heat of the day, and most importantly, blessing for the mind.
We are gathered here in a Parliamentary building of great historical importance. This building is witness to many key turning points in the life of our nation. In 1998, this building was occupied by students, and became the center of intense political battles which completely changed the political landscape and commenced the new era of “reformasi”. Today, this building is home to Indonesia’s Parliamentarians from the 3 houses—MPR, DPR and DPD--and is a symbol of Indonesia’s vibrant and growing democracy, its members elected by over 100 million voters. This is also where I had the honor of being sworn-in as President of Indonesia.
I can think of no better place to host the 14th meeting of Parliamentarians from all over Asia Pacific.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We meet today at the start of 2006, which we hope will be a year of hope, leaving behind the year 2005.
I would call 2005 an extraordinary year of trial and tribulation.
We overcame a deadly tsunami which killed over 250,000 people around the Indian Ocean, including over 200,000 Indonesians in Aceh and Nias.
We dealt with the destructive wrath of Hurricane Katrina in the US, and a massive earthquake in Pakistan.
We felt the crunch of a rocketing oil price throughout the year, which at one point reached US$ 70 per barrel.
We went through the scare of the avian flu, and a possible pandemic that might arise out of it.
We suffered from a series of terrorist attacks, here in Bali for a second time, in Poso, Amman, London, Algiers, Turkey, Egypt, Islamabad and other places.
But, on the other hand, I am proud to say, here in Indonesia we also produced a peace deal in Aceh which ended 30 years of bloody conflict. I believe that the Aceh peace was the ONLY peace deal to end a major conflict in the year 2005.
So how did the world emerge out of 2005 ?
Well, this is going to be a subjective view, but I think the world came out of 2005 in a BETTER shape.
We have evolved a new kind of global solidarity and compassion since the tsunami, on a scale and intensity NEVER before seen in history.
We have seen the blooming of goodwill and confidence-building in the work of military contingents from all over the world working side-by-side with the Indonesian military to save lives in Aceh and Nias, the largest humanitarian operations EVER since World War 2.
We have also seen greater stability in Asia Pacific, which is evident in the fact that no armed incident took place in the region’s MAJOR flashpoints : in the Taiwan Straits, in the Korean Peninsula, in the South China Sea, and in Kashmir.
And we may take some comfort that we entered 2006 with a reasonably positive economic outlook. The US economy in 2005 had its best performance since 1996, growing at 3.5 %. It is expected to slow down in 2006, but still strong at 3,4 %. Japan’s recovery is solid and seems real this time. China’s growth in 2006 is expected to be at around 8,5 to 9 %. And all signs indicate India’s economy will remain strong. So the engines of global growth are in good conditions, and that is good news for everybody else.
But if you think 2006 will be smooth sailing, think again. The world community will most probably still have to navigate through turbulent waters. The challenges that await us are plenty, but let me outline some of the challenges which I think are particular relevant for the big picture.
The first challenge is how we can advance the building blocks for global cooperation that were put in place in 2005. Last September, world leaders gathered in New York and produced a set of recommendations, resolutions and a blueprint for UN reforms : what is known as the ”Summit Outcome”. We all know that the Summit Outcome was not perfect, it was a compromised document achieved at the eleventh hour, and it fell short of the expectations of many.
But despite its shortcomings, the Summit Outcome does provide the world community with a platform from which to move on. The Peace Building Commission has already been formed recently. We now need to push hard to finalize the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. We need to find a consensus for the formation of the Human Rights Council. We also need to find creative ways to reform the UN Security Council, not just in terms of its structure, but also its working mechanism and transparency. And of course, we need to pursue management reforms of the United Nations to make it more efficient and more effective in dealing with global problems.
A key part of all this is development. We live in a world where there is still glaring development gaps within nations and between nations. The hard truth is that we still live in a world where half of the world population live on less than $ 2 a day, and 8 million people—mostly in Asia and Africa--die each year because they are too poor to live.
That is the kind of a world we cannot afford. It is harmful to nation-building, it is harmful to democracy, it is harmful to international peace and security. Which is why we all have a common interest to promote the Millennium Development Goals, irrespective of the size of your GDP and the level of your country’s development.
The second challenge is how we can build-on the architectures of peace and prosperity in the Asia Pacific.
Today, we are fortunate to experience the proliferation of regional cooperation schemes. ASEAN is now 39 years old. It now covers the whole of Southeast Asia, and is aiming to become a coherent and solid ASEAN Community by 2020. ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation has now been acceded by 10 countries. We also have the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN plus 3, APEC, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Asia Cooperation Dialogue, Asia-Europe Meeting, Asia-Middle-East Dialogue, SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), Pacific Island Forum, Forum for East Asia-Latin America (FEALAC), South Pacific Forum, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), and of course most recently, the East Asia Summit, which just held its first meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
The country which you represent is a member of one or more of these regional schemes. Our challenge—and also the challenge of the APPF--is to help nurture this healthy habit of regionalism so that one day we can truly live and breathe in a vibrant, coherent and stable ”Asia Pacific community”.
The economic map of the Asia Pacific will also change drastically in the near future. The ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement will be a reality by 2010 for the ASEAN 6, and 2015 for the CLMV countries. The ASEAN-India FTA is aimed at 2011, and 2016 for The Philippines and CLMV. The ASEAN-Japan FTA will happen within 10 years. The ASEAN-Korea FTA will happen by 2010 for the ASEAN 6, and all the rest by 2018. ASEAN’s FTA with Australia and New Zealand is also supposed to happen within 10 years. By then, the ASEAN FTA will have matured significantly.
These FTAs will lock the economies who take part in it in. They will eliminate tariffs, open-up borders, shorten distances, connect infrastructures, including railways and air-links, our citizens will travel more, communities will link up and so will businesses, and there will be greater economic interdependence. All this will transform our economic space, and will transform our geo-economic landscape.
Here too, we count on the members of the APPF to help make this grand vision a reality.
The third challenge is how we work together to deal with trans-national issues and non-traditional threats. We learned the hard way from the year 2005 that the most serious threats to the lives of our citizens come from environmental disasters, diseases and terrorism—all the things that has no respect for national borders. For 2006, presuming we won’t facing another tremendous natural disaster, two trans-national issues will stand out.
First, is the continuing threat of avian flu. We are seeing avian flu cases in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and recently in Turkey.
The number of people infected with the avian flu worldwide in 2005 reached 94, and 41 of them died. The total if we go back to 2003 would be 148 cases, and 79 deaths. We are still in the midst of a season where a lot of people are catching influenza. We must be active 24/7 to prevent the avian flu virus to mutate into a form which borrows from the human genetic code, and become a pandemic.
A pandemic will be a serious setback to the world economy. A recent study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that a pandemic could possibly lead to world recession, where “growth in Asia would virtually stop”, and the global trade of good and services could contract by 14 %, the equivalent of US$ 2,5 trillion. None of us can afford this. The recent Conference on the Avian Flu in Beijing provides us with a good platform for global cooperation, and I hope members of the APPF will find ways to help implement the decisions and recommendations of the Beijing Conference.
The second on-going threat is terrorism. This, we all know, is going to be a long-term fight. It will have to be fought on many fronts : politically, economically, legally, socially, spiritually.
We have made significant headways in our counter-terrorism efforts, with the demise of mastermind bomb-maker Dr. Azahari and his associates here in Indonesia.
But we know that the terrorists are regrouping, adapting and recruiting. We all need to intensify our cooperation to fight terrorism, and we count on the APPF to help us win this important fight.
The fourth challenge for all of us is how to promote governance. I understand that the members of the APPF come from different political systems. But whatever political system you embrace, none of us can escape from the necessity of governance—good governance.
We in Indonesia have embraced democracy since 1998, and we have learned that democracy does not solve all of our problems. We found out that democracy does not automatically solve the problems of political instability, economic crisis, national unity, ethnic conflicts, separatist rebellions, social dislocations and corruption.
Democracy can only resolve these issues if it furnished with governance.
Governance therefore is the key to your political well-being, economic growth, and social advancement. It is also through good governance that we can fight the most serious threat to our national well-being : the demons of corruption. The members of the APPF can work together to promote good governance, and to fight corruption.
The fifth challenge is actually nothing new and it has acquired greater significance in the unsettling world of globalization : it is the challenge of promoting and protecting tolerance and managing diversity.
Many countries have found that the more developed or modern they become, the more they have to confront ”diversity” issues and ”tolerance” issues. Different societies will have to tackle this differently, but I think it can be assumed that more and more our national well-being and international stability will be determined by the degree to which countries can internalize as well as externalize the practice of tolerance and respect for diversity.
All these challenges call for a new geopolitics : what I would call the geopolitics of cooperation. I grew up during the Cold War, so I am used to think of the practice geopolitics in terms of building walls, creating divisions, drawing lines, forming alliances or non-alignment. That was the geopolitics, of the 20th century.
In the 21st century, we need to change from the geopolitics of competition to the geopolitics of cooperation. The geopolitics of cooperation is about building bridges, not walls. It is about promoting cooperation, not conflict. It is about accepting differences and overcoming conflicts. In some ways, the fight against terrorism, the fight against natural disasters, against infectious diseases, against trans-national crimes, all this is forcing us to adopt this new geopolitics of cooperation.
But it is only at its infant stage. If we continue to nurture this geopolitics of cooperation, then the strategic landscape will change. The rise of China need not go into a collision course with the preeminence of the US, the world’s only superpower. The US, China, Japan, and others will ”compete for peace”. Regional flashpoints will not only be contained but might also get resolved. Multilateralism will rise to prominence. Regionalism will flourish. The notion of community—ASEAN Community, East Asia Community, and maybe even Asia Pacific Community—will become a living reality. And our children will live in an era of unprecedented peace and harmony.
Yes, I purposely refer to ”harmony”, because that is precisely the word used by the APPF in your 1997 Vancouver Declaration, that is, and I quote ”to build as a final goal the Asia Pacific common house full of harmony and dynamism”.
The APPF has come a long way since your first meeting in 1993, where you proclaimed the far-sighted Tokyo Declaration. You have not only survived the Cold War, you have also grown in numbers, from 9 countries in 1993 to the present 28 countries. Your influence in regional affairs have also grown. The APPF provides the necessary link in the affairs between nations by connecting the legislatures of its member states. This Parliament-to-parliament contacts, working side by side with Government-to-Government contacts and people-to-people contacts, strengthens the architecture for international cooperation. Please join me in commending one of the APPF founders who are here with us today, His Excellency Yasuhiro Nakasone, for his leadership, wisdom and foresight in guiding the work of the APPF.
Let me close by re-stating how much we count on the important work of the APPF. Try not to catch a cold during the rain season here, and I wish you all the best in your deliberations.
By pronouncing Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, I hereby declare the 14th Annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific
Parliamentary Forum officially open.
Wassalamu’alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.
Jakarta, 16 January 2006
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA,
DR. H. SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO