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Asian Liberals and Democratas meet on Bali to discuss Pluralism

Finally the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats CALD held its first conference in Indonesia. Following the invitation of its new member party from Indonesia, the PDI-P delegates representing political parties from 13 Asian countries met in early November 2011 on the beautiful island of Bali in order to discuss the relationship between pluralism, development and democracy.

The conference was blessed by the presence of Hon. I Made Mangku Pastika, the Governor of the Province of Bali who demonstrated how today as in the past the Balinese people sat an example of peacefully living together. “Respect for majorities – protection of minorities”, that was the Governor’s message for the delegates. See your own self in the other, treat everybody like a brother or sister were other advices he gave to the delegates. His recommendations, simply as they sound (and nevertheless they are so often ignored in reality), were repeated time and again by participants during their speeches at the Bali CALD conference.

The Governor was seconded by Hon. Rajiva Wijeshina, MP, the chairman of CALD. Coming from the difficult political situation of his own country, Sri Lanka. Wijeshina stressed that differences are what makes us individual. From a liberal perspectives pluralism should never be seen or presented as a threat of one group against the other. Indeed as Wijeshina stressed for Liberals individuals are more important than groups and thus pluralism can only be based on voluntary association and regular free communication and interaction of the members of different groups.

CALD is a network of political parties from Asia who share a commitment for freedom and democracy, and on this basis promote regional co-operation and the exchange of opinions, experiences and information. In Bali it became soon visible how much the participating parties had in common when they discussed themes like “Incentives and Constraints to Building and Strengthening Pluralistic Societies”, “Pluralism and Political Development: Political Competition, Public Accountability and Popular Responsiveness” and the correlation between pluralism and human development and socioeconomic development. In all these sessions the delegates contributed to the general debate from the perspective of their countries.

The discussions were broadened by the presence of people from outside Asia. Apart from several representatives from FNF Bangkok like Regional Director Rainer Adam and FNF Jakarta the conference was also attended by Hans van Baalen, President of Liberal International (the world-wide association of liberal parties) and Member of the European Parliament and Niccolo Rinaldi, Vice-President if the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats fro Europe (ALDE) and like van Baalen Member of the European Parliament.

For the FNF staff in Asia it was particularly pleasant to welcome among the participants Wolf-Dieter Zumpfort Vice President of the Board of Directors from Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Germany. Zumpfort underlined the importance of tolerance to make pluralism work. However, such tolerance should not be e mere acceptance of pluralism as a matter of fact, a prize for peace and stability. Instead we should actively welcome and promote diversity. It is not enough, Zumpfort said, to accept that the other one is different but you must want him or her to be different.

From an Indonesian perspective the discussion about pluralism and Islam was very interesting. Luthfi Assyaukanie from the Liberal Islam Network and Deputy Director of the Freedom Institute in Jakarta outlined the need of pluralism in Indonesia but also spoke about the many threats to religious diversity in the host country which often contradicted Indonesia’s progressive Constitution. He was supported by Zia Banday from the Liberal Forum Pakistan who gave a thought-provoking overview over the reasons for fundamentalism and terrorism in some parts of the Islamic world.

At the end all delegates applauded the clear words of Hasto Kristianto, Vice Secretary General on Secretariat, Central Leadership Boards of PDI-P who made known his party’s new position on the mayor of Bogor who while from the PDI-P has taken a very controversial and questionable position on religious freedom in his town. Hasto informed that the PDI-P national leadership has asked the mayor to clarify and correct his positions or leave the PDI-P. Who wants pluralism, Hasto added, must take clear positions against people who ignore or suppress diversity.

On this message the conference ended to be followed by a meeting of the CALD executive which dealt with internal and policy matters of the organization.

One can only hope that CALD will soon again hold another event in Indonesia. Given that this country disposes of about 17.000 islands there is much choice for further activities.

Rainer Erkens
FNF Resident Representative Indonesia
Jakarta, 10 November 2011

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