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Disappointment leads to birth of new moral movement

Jakarta Post - June 23, 2000

Jakarta – A new moral movement made up of some 33 public figures is emerging out of the growing disappointment at the slow pace of reform under the administration of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The group, led by Muslim scholar Nurcholish Madjid, made its public debut on Thursday, announcing a major gathering in Bali next week to find solutions to Indonesia's problems. "Through this meeting, we hope to gather ideas on how to end many of the uncertainties in this country," noted political columnist Wimar Witoelar said at the announcement.

He stressed that the movement had no political motive and had emerged "because of our disappointments". The group feel that the high hopes after the election of President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri in October have turned into disappointment because none of the country's problems have been properly solved.

Among the 33 noted public figures named as initiators of the National Dialog Forum are chairman of Indonesian Transparency Society (MTI) Mar'ie Muhammad; former economic minister Emil Salim; Yogyakarta Sultan Hamengkubuwono X; National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) member Albert Hasibuan; chairman of Muslim organization Muhammadiyah Syafi'i Maarif; military observer Hasnan Habib; former Indonesian ambassador to Australia Sabam Siagian; and Teddy P. Rachmat, from the giant Astra International business group and realtor Ciputra.

Some 300 people have been invited to take part in the dialog to be held on June 30 through July 1 at Kartika Plaza Hotel in Bali.

Mar'ie said the group was a form of civil society expression and would act as pressure group on the government and political elites to start thinking of the country instead of their own narrow political interests.

"We are not going to be a political party. This forum will unite our concerns and ideas, convey them to the country's decision makers and correct the current system," Mar'ie said.

Hasnan Habib, a retired Army general, said endless political bickering among the country's elites had prevented the military from dealing with the threat of national disintegration. "The political elites have deprived the military of clear-cut rules and guidelines to conduct their duty," Hasnan said.

Teddy Rachmat said Indonesia often created its own dilemmas that confused foreign investors. "The government keeps saying we need foreign investors, but when they do come, people start to protest against them," he said.

Lawyer Arief Surowidjojo said that there had been no significant progress in the judiciary and that all high-profile legal cases remain unresolved. "Although we are outside the structure [of the state], we hope to provide input into the decision making process, and maybe we can help put reform back on track," Mar'ie said.

The meeting's agenda will be divided into six major topics: the nation's political life, social problems, legal certainty, the rise of regionalism and threats of disintegration, clean government and economic recovery. The results of the dialog will be presented to President Abdurrahman Wahid, who has accepted an invitation to attend the closing ceremony, the organizers said.

People Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais and House of Representative Speaker Akbar Tandjung will also be presented with copies of the meeting's results.

The dialog plans to be more than an intellectual exercise. It will forge shared concerns and commitments and will result in the measures Indonesia should take to lift itself out of the crisis, the group said in a statement. "This forum is expected to give birth to a concrete plan of action and a moral force to implement it," it added.