Interview between Minister of Foreign Affaires of Republic of Indonesia, DR. Marty Natalegawa and Christophe Robeet (France 24)


Hello welcome to the Interview on France24. My guest today is the foreign minister of the world’s largest Moslem country and I’m of course talking about Indonesia, and I’m glad to be joined by Dr Marty Natalegawa.


Question (C. Robeet) : Welcome to France24 Sir, like I said you’re the foreign minister of the largest Moslems country and, I’d like to hear your assessment. We know that your country was faced with the terrible wave of radical Islam, remember the Bali bombing in 2002. How is the situation today ?


Answer (DR. Marty Natalegawa) : Much better, most certainly. Because the 2002 must have been quite a wake up call for us when we were attacked not only physically attacked but it was also an assault on our democracy. But it was a wake up call because we fought back in a democratic fashion because we could have done the easiest thing to do which is namely to go after the terrorists simply by use of force and use of hard power but instead we responded in the democratic way, applying not only good old fashion policing, but also opening up the democratic space, empowering of the moderates, and now of course while we are not yet fully out of the woods in terms of the threat but the terrorists are very much on the run. we have disrupted their cells. But it is still a struggle, but we are winning I think.


Question: You’re often said that your country can potentially serve as an example, a bit like Turkey does closer to home here in France. What do you mean by that ?


Answer: You describe Indonesia just now as what some countries say an Islamic state. But perhaps more accurate is to describe us as being the country with the most number of Moslems in the world, because we are the largest Moslem populated country in the world. But at the same time, we are not an Islamic state and at the same time we are not a secular state because we promote all religions, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, Christianity, and that distinguishes us from others in the sense that we are a template to show  that Islam and democracy—we are the third largest democracy afterall—and also modernity,  can go hand in hand. We are very aware of this responsibility and we wish to ensure that we carry out this responsibility in a good way.


Question: Of course your country is not the only one facing radical Islam. What is your assessment on the global answer that has been so far given to the problem. I’m thinking for instance of countries closer to France, the Magreb countries, Afghanistan…. ?


Answer: We found that in the long run that the democratic response that is one very much on the civil liberty side of the debate between security versus civil liberty.


Question: Do you get the feeling that is not always the case in other countries closer to..…?


Answer: Well, it is not up to us to complicate or to suggest otherwise but certainly we found that our model is now recently seen being more sustainable one rather than a lot of announcements and policies, and initiatives, and yet doesn’t actually deliver. Our approach, as having the democratic response, like bringing the perpetrators to justice, respecting the law, and also at the same time respecting human rights and civil liberties, in the long run, tend to be one that seems to be working.


Question: Your country is also being in the news because of some secessionist movement at home such as East Timor has become independent, and you had problems in Aceh. How are things looking at this time ?


Answer: Again, this is one of the happy stories of Indonesia as it transforms itself from what was before an authoritarian state but for the past 10 years a democratic state. We have enjoyed democratic dividend whether it in the way we fought terrorism but also in addressing the separatist issue. In the old days we used to fight the separatist threat by suppression, and by again use of force. But over the past ten years we have done the complete reverse. We have given them greater autonomy, decentralization and in fact now it is working very well. Aceh conflict has been burdening us for more than 30 years, after the tsunami calamity, we’ve had a peace agreement. And now the former rebel leader is actually the governor of the (Aceh) province, directly and democratically elected by the people in the province. Aceh now enjoys great deal of  autonomy within the state of Indonesia. So we think, again this is a democratic response to addressing the problem and we are going to adopt the same model for sure on Papua and so whatever is the challenge we face, we consistently find, providing the democratic response is the best way to cope with it.


Question: You said ten years since the fall of the authoritarian regime, that’s not a great deal of time of course, surely that doesn’t mean that your country has fully embraced democracy, there are still things that need to be achieved.


Answer: Yes absolutely. Democracy is a process isn’t it ? I mean even the most so-called mature democracy is always finding and fine tuning itself. For us, ten years is nothing compared to other countries. The most important challenge for us is to ensure that democracy actually delivers in terms of betterment standard of life and condition of living. There is no use going simply to elections if there’s no food on the plate at home. We wish to ensure that actually people can say that not only are they now politically free but economically they are also better off than before.


Question: You’re talking about the well being of your people, of course your country as the Asian country has been hit by the global financial crunch. Asia has been recovering quicker, more quickly than other countries. Is that also the case in Indonesia ?


Answer: Yes, not only have we recover quicker but this time we didn’t actually suffer that much. Even at the lowest point of the recent financial crisis, Indonesia was still enjoying 4,5% growth rate which is quite good compared to other countries. Again this is the result of us learning from what happened in 1998-1999. In 1998-1999 on the surface it seems that our economy was robust and strong but because it was not underpinned by the good governance’s open system, on the first sign of financial crisis, the whole system collapsed. So now 10 years of open, good governance, and strong system and prudence, when we had the financial crisis, we were able to weather it better than before. Again, as I said it was the democratic dividend, whether it be dealing with terrorism, dealing with secessionists, and whether it be dealing with our economy as well.


Question: Some Asian countries give the impression sometimes that they are overshadowed by the rising giant, China, of course. How is your relationship with China ?


Answer: Actually, we see China’s rise as being an opportunity rather than something that needs to be managed or contained or even worse because China and India, two major economies that are rising in our region, provide, if we are clever, an opportunity for us to be able to synergize and rise with them


Question: We see divisions in the ASEAN summit, is there strong consolidation, a strong alliance?


Answer: I think all in all our view on our region is a benign one. We don’t see a threat looming in our horizon. China is now benefiting from the system that we have in terms of the economic progress, is becoming a status quo in its orientation. It has everything to lose by disrupting the global economy, disrupting the security of the region. So it is for the first time in many many decades in our region there is a win-win kind of perspective and Indonesia wishes to be a part of the solution upon situation. We pride ourselves in our capacity to build bridges rather than essentially differences. So, we are quite confident about where we are heading.


Question: The Western world of course has its eyes on Burma on the difficult situation there. The policy of the junta regime have been repeatedly condemned by the western countries. What is your country’s position to this problem?


Answer: We have also equally expressed our displeasure and unhappiness. We have stated strongly that we deplore the continued lack of freedom the people of Burma which continuously denied by the political leader of Myanmar and Aung San Su Kyi remains the opposition but we are trying to be a part of the solution. We think there’s no use simply by adopting a sanction type of approach, we also need to communicate and now I think these are moving in a better direction.


Question: Will Aung San Su Kyi be allowed to take part in the election…..?


Answer: Well that has been the promise of the authorities in Myanmar and election take place will be free, open and inclusive. And to us it means that all political parties and all stakeholders need be able to participate and that includes Aung Sang Su Kyi.


Question: Copenhagen has shown how difficult it is to find a compromise between the richest countries particularly Europe and the US and developing countries like yours. Were you disappointed by the approach of the West and do you think that the sacrifices that are requested for your country are too hard to pay ?


Answer: Well this issue, climate change is like a once in a lifetime or generational challenge that of all us, as generations face, of being able to come together as humanity rather than as countries, and rather than developing versus developed countries. We hesitate to finger point to anyone, we are just telling ourselves what we can do ourselves, what’s within our control. In the absence of or with the global climate regime, we are focused on what we can do namely we have committed ourselves to reduce our own emission by 26% by 2020 or even 41% by 2020 if we have the international assistance. I think countries ought to be looking at not only the bigger picture in terms of the global framework but think to themselves and say, look what can we do ourselves. And Indonesia, I think,  in its own modest and humble way is going to contribute as well.


Thank you so much for being our guest today on the interview on france24


The Interview :