Remembering Merdeka


August 30, 2014

Remembering Merdeka

by Tunku Abdul Aziz@www.nst.my.com

tunku-azizMANY of the 300 young Malayans, men and women, who heard the news first-hand ahead of the official announcement in Malacca, that their country would be an independent nation on August 31, 1957 are, sadly, no longer with us to celebrate the 57th Merdeka anniversary tomorrow. The years have taken their toll: the survivors have not been spared the ravages of time.

Those of us who took our places in the Kirkby College Hall on that grey, overcast and bitterly cold February afternoon to welcome Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, our honoured visitor and future Prime Minister of independent Malaya, had expected nothing more momentous than the standard homily about “working hard and playing hard” that distinguished visitors always seemed to be armed with. The Tunku quickly got into his stride and spoke without notes, in a tone of voice that gave not the slightest hint of what he had in store for his listeners.

He began by telling us that he and his colleagues had been in London holding constitutional talks at Lancaster House with Her Majesty’s Government on Malayan independence. He went on to say that they were extremely pleased with the outcome of the meeting which had paved the way for the country’s independence. He attributed the success of his Merdeka Mission to the “trust and goodwill on all sides”.

He paid special tribute to the people of Malaya for their unstinting support in the quest for freedom. This had proved to be an important point in convincing the British that the various Malayan races were at one in their demand for independence.

Then, without warning, he broke the welcome news that stunned us. Merdeka would be granted on August Tunku31, 1957, God willing. The date until then had been a closely-guarded secret, and how privileged we felt to be the first Malayans to hear the glad tidings.

It took a second or two for the full import of the momentous announcement to sink in before the assembly, as if on cue, broke into a restrained round of applause.Understated would aptly describe our reaction: British reserve had triumphed over our traditional Malayan exuberance. I suppose the freezing English winter weather was partly to blame for the less than wildly boisterous reaction to the historic occasion.

What tangled thoughts ran through our minds as we began the process of bringing them into some semblance of order, I could only guess? It would be fair to say that most of us harboured, albeit secretly, grave doubts about the country’s future.

We wondered whether the two major communities, the Chinese and the Malays, would be able to find accommodation and live in peace and harmony. Continuing, the Tunku reminded us that the fight for freedom without democracy would be quite meaningless. He talked about our duties and responsibilities as citizens of a free country, and how important it was for all Malayans to live in harmony so as to ensure lasting peace and prosperity for all. It was a message that continues to be relevant and, perhaps, even more so in today’s political climate.

We were not too sanguine about the country’s long-term prospects for racial harmony having read enough about what the coming of independence had done, a decade earlier, to India. The spectre of widespread ethnic and religious violence that so marred and blighted India’s independence was very much in the forefront of our collective consciousness.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous speech to the Indian Constituent Assembly on Aug 15, 1947, Tryst with Destiny, containing that memorable line, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, as the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom” made a deep impression on most of us young people.

Nehru more than Mahatma Gandhi was my inspiration. Tunku came later as a leader I admired greatly. Even as the great Indian statesman was speaking, India was engulfed in flames: the streets of that ancient land were awash with Hindu, Sikh and Muslim blood. Religious violence still breaks out in parts of India with regular monotony. We had every reason to fear for the future of our country, and that was only natural. Were we ready for independence with all that this implied in social, political and economic terms? It was a question that loomed large for us then.

For all the apprehension about what the future might bring, none of us would ever forget the event that unfolded in that little corner of rural Lancashire on February 7, 1956. It was in a very real sense the beginning of a dramatic spiritual journey into the unknown for all Malayans, and unlike most journeys, there was no turning back when the Union flag finally came down past the midnight hour on the Selangor Club Padang. It might have signalled the imminent end of empire for the British, but for us it was the dawn of a new life, the life that we were at long last free to live as we chose.

merdekaWhen we reacquired our country in 1957 through negotiations, we set to with a will to confound our detractors and prove how wrong they were all along. Few thought we would survive the first few years on our own, and yet, 57 years later, despite the teething problems and birth pangs of a new nation, we remain a people deeply committed to multiracialism as a way of life.

When we think of the complexity of our society, what we have achieved for our country borders on the miraculous. As we stride out proudly to celebrate our many achievements tomorrow, let us remember that the key to our future is racial harmony and unity of purpose. We have much to be grateful for: the future is in our hands.

Many Happy Returns of the Day, Malaysia.

Let the Khmer Rouge Record Show


August 27, 2014

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Let the Khmer Rouge Record Show
Cambodia Shouldn’t Censor the Khmer Rouge Court’s Files

By Craig Etcheson,
August 26, 2014

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea appeEarlier this month a United Nations-assisted tribunal in Cambodia handed down long-overdue judgments against Nuon Chea (pic. left) and Khieu Samphan(right) for their roles in the catastrophic Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-79. Nuon Chea, the Deputy Secretary of the communist party, and Khieu Samphan, the President of the Khmer Rouge state, were sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity.

For some observers, this seemed like too little too late for too much money. Eight years have passed since the Khmer Rouge tribunal — officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (E.C.C.C.) — began operations, it has cost more than $200 million, and these verdicts concern only a fraction of the total charges. Yet the delay was a result of the extensive procedural protections rightly afforded the accused and the complexity of the case: The indictment is the most complicated since the Nuremberg trials. And it was worth the wait, not least because the tribunal has amassed an extraordinary cache of documents and testimonies.

But now there is reason to fear that this database, a major contribution to existing scholarship on the Khmer Rouge era, will not be made available to researchers after the E.C.C.C. fulfills its mandate. Given the Cambodian government’s unease about its connections to the Pol Pot regime, these extraordinary archives risk being censored or put under semipermanent lock and key.

Between the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and the launch of the E.C.C.C., historians assembled significant evidence detailing the mayhem. After 1995, the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent research institute originally established by Yale University, gathered tens of thousands of previously unknown internal documents from the Khmer Rouge regime, as well as thousands of interviews with both victims and Khmer Rouge cadres. (I was once a director of DC-CAM.)

That material was then made available to the E.C.C.C. Scholars from around the world also shared notes and interviews. And then the court itself sent out investigators across Cambodia to try to resolve ambiguities in the existing record. More than 1,000 interviews were collected as a result. Another major contribution were the testimonies of the nearly 3,900 victims who have joined the proceedings as civil parties — a feature of the E.C.C.C. that makes it unique among all international and hybrid criminal courts — plus thousands of complaints submitted by other victims.

Killing Fields

All this evidence was gathered in a sophisticated digital database, which now contains more than one million pages of information, thousands of photographs and hundreds of films and audio recordings. The material is readily searchable, allowing all parties in the case to make connections that had previously eluded researchers and to develop a finer-grained understanding of the Khmer Rouge regime.

I worked as an investigator for the prosecution in 2006-12, and our office used all this information to construct an elaborate model of the notoriously secretive Khmer Rouge organization, from center to zone to sector to district to commune. We created more than 1,000 organizational charts depicting the staffing of political, military and governmental units. These gave us an unprecedented insight into the chain of command among all echelons of the organization across the entire country, and they graphically revealed the waves of internal purges that swept through the Khmer Rouge.

Such cross-referencing helped prove charges against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, such as some crimes committed after the Khmer Rouge seized the capital, Phnom Penh, on April 17, 1975, and then forcibly emptied it of its two million residents. Drawing on hundreds of accounts from people who passed through checkpoints on major roads out of the city, the trial judges concluded in their recent judgment that killings of officials from the regime that the Khmer Rouge deposed in 1975 were not isolated acts by undisciplined soldiers, but evidence of a systematic pattern resulting from a centralized plan.

Many more connections can be drawn from the E.C.C.C. archives, some with a direct bearing on the charges that will be considered in the next phase of the leaders’ trial. That section of the case includes forced marriage, among other charges. Several NGOs had already done pioneering work to gather evidence of sexual crimes during the Khmer Rouge regime. But it is the civil-party applications and victims’ complaints collected by the E.C.C.C. that make clear just how often rape was committed as a result of the Khmer Rouge’s policy of compelling people to marry and forcing them to consummate the unions.

And then there are insights not of direct relevance to the leaders’ trial but invaluable to understanding both the Khmer Rouge regime and contemporary Cambodia. For example, a review of the minutes of meetings of the Standing Committee — the Khmer Rouge’s ultimate decision-making body — and telegrams between the military leadership and division commanders has revealed the astonishing scope of China’s military assistance to the Khmer Rouge, in terms of matériel, logistics and personnel. And the E.C.C.C. archives contain extensive information about the operation of the so-called Eastern Zone under the Khmer Rouge regime, from which emerged some senior leaders in the government today.

Hun SenPrime Minister Hun Sen, Kingdom of Cambodia

These matters are controversial, however. The ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which has been in power since the Khmer Rouge were deposed in early 1979, has long been touchy about its exact connections to the Pol Pot regime. Some senior party members have published autobiographies claiming that they joined the Khmer Rouge movement only in 1970 and in response to a call from the former king to rally against the military dictatorship that had just overthrown him — assertions that are contradicted by material in the E.C.C.C. archives. And in 2009 some party leaders — the president of the national assembly, the finance minister and the foreign minister at the time — failed to answer an E.C.C.C. summons to answer questions during the investigation.

Such sensitivities are the reason that the court’s archives may be vulnerable to tampering or being sealed after its work is completed. The risk is all the greater because the United Nations, the court’s donors and the Cambodian government have agreed that once the trials are over the E.C.C.C.’s database should remain in Cambodia and under the control of the Cambodian government.

The United Nations and the donors must persuade the government to ensure that the court’s archives in their entirety are opened to historians. Anything less would be to squander the E.C.C.C.’s legacy and an incalculable loss to the historical record.

Craig Etcheson, a former investigator in the Office of the Co-Prosecutors at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, is a visiting scholar at George Mason University.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 27, 2014, in The International New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/27/opinion/cambodia-shouldnt-censor-the-khmer-rouge-courts-files.html?ref=opinion

Book Review: Learning Democracy ‘The New Arabs,’ by Juan Cole


Sunday Book Review

Learning Democracy
‘The New Arabs,’ by Juan Cole

By Irshad Manji
August 22,2014

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/books/review/the-new-arabs-by-juan-cole.html?ref=books

Irshad ManjiIt isn’t easy to track down a positive word about the Middle East these days. Then again, Juan Cole is not your typical observer. A professor of history at the University of Michigan, he is also a prolific and popular blogger on current affairs. An American, he spent part of his childhood in France and Ethiopia.

A left-leaning idealist, he comes across as far more optimistic than the dour Occupy crowd. A cosmopolitan in constant touch with 20-somethings, he seems to be addressing boomers in his latest book, “The New Arabs,” which is replete with explanations that digital natives would never need. (Don’t know what the “meatspace” is? Read on.)

“The New Arabs” chronicles the heart-stirring youth revolts in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Early on, Cole does some defying of his own. “The rise of the Internet,” he notes, “may not have been as central to these social movements as some Western press coverage assumed.”

Juan Cole

To be sure, Cole affirms that online networks dramatically amplified the reach and resonance of protesters’ demands for state accountability. Take the iconic story of Mohamed Bouazizi. Ripped off and slapped by a government employee, the young Tunisian self-immolated in front of his local city hall, igniting the first of the uprisings.

Internet buzz propagated the myth that Bouazizi had graduated from college, making an educated underclass think of him as one of their own and thus take up his cause. In fact, because of poverty, Bouazizi had not even finished high school. Nor was his name Mohamed; it was Tarek. Ah, the baptismal power of social media.

Still, the Internet is only one strand of a much broader web that Cole weaves. His is a huge challenge: to map the outbreaks of tumult that have crisscrossed Tunisia, Egypt and Libya over the past decade. Strikes, bread shortages, lack of water, inflation, unemployment — all on top of a generational thirst for personal autonomy and political liberty. It makes for chaotic reading. Policy wonks get their fill. The rest of us need patience.

Yet Cole does eventually deliver. In a particularly vivid section, he describes the breath­taking pluralism of those who put themselves on the front lines to protect Egyptian demonstrators. Coptic Christian youths served as bodyguards for their Muslim peers. They knew that as Muslims prostrated during Friday prayer — the prelude to pouring into the streets — their bowed heads would invite attack. Soccer thugs found new purpose as bouncers around Tahrir Square. Muslim Brothers, too, shielded secular friends, especially on the day some jobless tour guides rode camels straight into crowds of activists.

The book hits its stride in Libya. Catching revolution fever after Tunisia and Egypt, young Libyans took advantage of the world’s eyeballs. Their online savvy combined with old-fashioned lobbying to secure a no-fly zone above Libya. When one of Qaddafi’s sons shut down Internet access, he was outwitted: Using their cellphones, dissenters called a special number that automatically turned their voice mail messages into tweets.

Ultimately, though, it was rebels in the fields, factories and alleys who kept Qad­dafi and his gang on the run. Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, stopped nothing. Sunset marked an opportunity to refuel with food and arms. Dusk prayers served “as a signal to begin the uprising,” even among those who were secretly fighting to separate mosque and state.

For all of the “liking” and “sharing,” Cole shows that the revolution’s most important triumphs took place in the sphere of physical effort — the “meatspace.” But to what end? Is the Middle East truly transforming?

Tunisia offers a clue. In the wake of the uprisings, “over a hundred new political parties had been founded.” By contrast, the previous regime “allowed only eight.” And those parties will be busy. A “celebrated” Tunisian rapper supports Shariah law. A “prominent intellectual” scorns Shariah as the product of Judaism and therefore a travesty. Above all, a teacher observes, “Now we have to learn democracy.”Unorthodox wisdom for an era in thrall to instant gratification.

Kassim Ahmad and Borders: What more do you want, JAWI?


August 23, 2014

MUST READ this:

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/judges-slam-islamic-authority-for-premature-raid-on-borders. Good news for Borders and its Lawyer Rosli Dahlan.–Din Merican

The Persecution of Public Intellectual Kassim Ahmad and the continuing Borders Saga: What more do you want, JAWI?

by Din Merican (August 22, 2014)

Kassim AhmadSome weeks back I wrote about the persecution of Kassim Ahmad who was sensationally dragged by Jabatan Agama Wilayah Persekutuan (JAWI) from his home in Kulim, Kedah to Putrajaya to be charged in the Syariah Court for just delivering a lecture at the Perdana Foundation of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. READ– (http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-persecution-of-kassim-ahmad-a-g-gani-patail-loses-again/)

Today, I wish to remind my friends and readers that some two years ago JAWI did a similar thing against a book by Irshad Manji. On May 23, 2012, Borders Bookstore in the Gardens Mid-Valley, Kuala Lumpur was raided in the most sensational manner by JAWI accompanied by a horde of mainstream press.

The news spread like wildfire that JAWI had raided an international book chain and seized books by Canadian writer Irshad Manji – “Allah Liberty & Love”.That was exactly what JAWI wanted – big publicity  to sound to the rest of the world that it is the custodian and defender of Islam in Malaysia against the Kafirs (Infidels) who are out to destroy Islam. The only problem with that raid was that the book had  not been banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs when JAWI raided Borders.

The book was only banned 3 weeks later on June 14 ,2012. Like the Mongol hordes who stormed Baghdad and  captured and destroyed the biggest Muslim library in history, JAWI needed a war booty. But JAWI was not interested in the books in Borders. JAWI wanted a trophy as a measure of that successful raid.  Furthermore, JAWI needed to charge someone for a crime that was not a crime at that time to assert its power. That was when JAWI realised (but it did not have the courage of conviction to admit)  that it had a problem.

JAWI and the Syariah laws are only applicable to Muslims because these are personal laws in Malaysia. JAWI also discovered that it could not charge Borders because it was a company, and a company did not have a religion.

JAWI could not charge the author because Irshad Manji is Canadian and the Canadian Government would fight JAWI if JAWI managed to get their hands on her. Neither could JAWI charge the General Manager of Borders who was responsible for choosing to sell the book, one Stephen Fung, because Mr. Fung is a Christian. But that did not bother JAWI one  wee bit. It needed a trophy.

JAWI just went down the line and pounced upon a poor Malay Muslim store manager, Nik Raina Nik Abdul Rashid and charged her for selling a book that  allegedly offended Islam. That was the beginning of Nik Raina’s nightmare. Overnight, she became an enemy of Islam. Overnight, her life changed and the Malay Muslim community  was made to believe that Nik Raina was a supporter of LBGT.

A few weeks later, Ezra Zaid (son of former Law Minister in Badawi’s Cabinet, Dato Zaid Ibrahim), the publisher of the Bahasa Malaysia version of the book titled” Allah Kebebasan dan Cinta” was also charged. That started the unending saga of this insanity.

Nik Raina CaseJAWI thought they had an easy task that these two Malays would just plead guilty and not fight the powerful religious authority. But JAWI did not count on the fact that Borders is owned by Berjaya Corporation, whose new head honcho, Dato Robin Tan, has a different view of the world. The young Robin Tan is not one who would bow to the bullying tactics and threats of JAWI. To make things more exciting, the Chief Operating Officer of Borders is a feisty lady lawyer named Yau Su Peng who would not tolerate any injustice against her staff.

I have written about this on several occasions. READ (http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/?s=The+Borders+Case&submit=Search). What I wanted to say was that this– now two years later the Borders saga has not ended despite Borders and Nik Raina having won their cases in the Civil High Court. It appears that JAWI just simply refuses to back down. These bureaucrats of Islam think they are a force unto their own. They are under the illusion that they exist separately with unfettered powers that cannot be countermanded even by our High Court.

My reporter friends tell me that unknown to most Malaysians, yesterday and today, Borders’ lawyers and the government lawyers from the A-G Chambers have been battling it out in the Court of Appeal No. 4 to finally determine whether JAWI can charge Nik Raina for an offence which, in fact, was not an offence at the time of the raid. What a waste of taxpayers money, and the Court’s time.

I was surprised. I would have thought that Borders case is a very simple one. Common sense and logic will  tell us that JAWI cannot do such a thing. But the problem is that the Attorney-General, that notorious Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, is behind JAWI. He filed an appeal against the High Court decision of Tudung Judge Dato Zaleha Yusuf. How can Borders and its agent be charged with an offence when there was no offence at the time of the JAWI raid on the Borders Mid-Valley bookstore? This is ridiculous to say the least. Only in Malaysia that this can happen.

Why would the A-G encourage JAWI in their silly actions? Since it was the A-G who appealed, the Court of Appeal Judges will have to take things seriously. I am told that the Court of Appeal hearing was presided by Appeal Judges, Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai, Dato’ Zawawi Salleh and Dato’ Umi Kalthum. I hope these Appeal Judges will deliver a decision that will appeal to the public’s logic and common sense, and not embark on some excursion of legalities, which does not serve the public interest.

While all these are taking place, my contacts in the Majlis Agama have asked me to tell Lawyer RosliRosli-Dahlan Dahlan (right) to tone down or face the consequences. Apparently, the Jabatan Agama now regards any lawyer who goes against them as the enemy and will have to face dire consequences.

I tried many times unsuccessfully to call Rosli. First, I wanted to wish Rosli Happy Birthday. Second, I wanted to alert him of what I had heard. When I finally spoke Rosli, he sounded sombre and puzzled. When I told him what I had heard, he was not at all surprised.

He told me that my warning came a bit too late.  “It has already happened Din. They had to do it. On my birthday, they served me with a Notice to Show Cause in the Kassim Ahmad’s case”, he said.

I was speechless. I tried to calm Rosli only to hear him saying this, as if to himself –“I have kept my Syariah Law practice since 1988, not as a livelihood but because I felt I could serve to help develop the law. I don’t make any money Din. But if they want to disbar me just for fighting these sort of cases, is it worth it Din?”

I am now thoroughly disgusted with JAWI (and also the A-G Chambers). Why the need to do this to Rosli Dahlan. Apa Mau Lagi, JAWI (What more do you want, JAWI) – shoot the Messenger? ( READ :http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/rosli-dahlan-an-emerging-human-rights-and-civil-liberties-lawyer/)

Happy 69th Birthday, Indonesia


August 17, 2014

Happy 69th Birthday, Indonesia

To All Our Friends, Associates, Bapak Presiden, Government and People of Indonesia

Indonesia's 69 th Year of Independence

indonesiaindependenceday_300Dr Kamsiah and I warmly congratulate your great country on the occasion of its 69th Birthday which falls today. As a major partner in ASEAN, you have a crucial role to play for peace and stability of South East Asia. Your economic prosperity too is vital to all of us. That is why your recent Presidential Elections was closely watched by all of us. It was a resounding success and we can be justifiably proud of what you have achieved in furthering the cause of democratic politics.

August 17, 2014

On this very special day, we pray for your continued success and prosperity, and extend our warm salams to you  all. Dirgahayu, Republik Indonesia –Dr. Kamsiah and Din Merican

Asia’s Reform Trio?


August 16, 2014

This article by Kishore highlights three leading lights of Asia, Xi of China, Modi of India and Jokowi of Indonesia. The reform agendas of these leaders deserve our attention in the light of what is happening in our country in general and Selangor in particular. There is also a message to the successor Selangor MB about governance.

Khalid Ibrahim is an ignoramus by choice when it comes to democratic governance. He once preached competence, accountability and transparency. And then lust of power took his soul.Now he is the very antithesis of what he used to preach, purely for the selfish reasons. He should go asap. Good riddance to rubbish. –Din Merican

 

Asia’s Reform Trio?

by Kishore Mahbubani

KishoreASIA is poised to enter a historical sweet spot, with three of its most populous countries — China, India and Indonesia — led by strong, dynamic, and reform-minded leaders. In fact, China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi and Indonesia’s Joko “Jokowi” Widodo could end up ranked among their countries’ greatest modern leaders.

In China, Mao Zedong united the country in 1949, while Deng Xiaoping was responsible for engineering its unprecedented economic rise. For Xi to join their ranks, he must create a modern, rules-based state. That requires, first and foremost, slaying the massive dragon of corruption.

Over the years, corruption has become endemic in China, with regional party leaders and bosses in state-owned enterprises wielding their vast privileges and authority to accumulate personal wealth. This has severely undermined the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy, while hampering the kind of market-based competition that China’s economy needs to propel the country to high-income status.

So far, Xi seems to be up to the challenge. He has been boldly pursuing major figures who were previously considered “untouchable”, such as General Xu Caihou, a former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, and Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s highest government body. But the long-term fight against corruption cannot depend on Xi alone. It will succeed only if strong institutions are created to protect and nurture the rule of law long after Xi is out of power.

If Xi chooses to establish such institutions, he has a strong legal tradition upon which to call. As former United States ambassador to China Gary F. Locke reported in a speech early this year, the concept of equality before the law has deep historical roots. Indeed, in the fourth century BC, the statesman and reformer, Shang Yang, famously asserted that, “When the prince violates the law, the crime he commits is the same as that of the common people”.

Building on this tradition, Xi can create strong institutions that will stand the test of time. If he does — recognising that, to be credible, the rule of law must apply even to the party’s most influential figures — he will become modern China’s third-strongest leader.

In India, Mahatma Gandhi rejuvenated the country’s soul, which had been battered by colonialism, and Jawaharlal Nehru established its democratic political culture. Modi now must lay the foundations for India’s emergence as a global economic power.

Replicating the 10 per cent annual growth rates achieved in Gujarat under Modi’s leadership from 2004 to 2012 would obviously be a boon to India’s development prospects and global standing. But achieving such high growth rates in a sustainable way will demand far-reaching, sometimes painful reforms, such as the removal of wasteful subsidies, especially for fuel, in order to free up resources for, say, increased healthcare expenditure. Other imperatives include shrinking the budget deficit, removing internal barriers to trade and encouraging private investment.

To win the support needed to implement these reforms without undermining political stability or social cohesion, Modi must demonstrate that he is an inclusive leader capable of cooperating with Indians outside of his Hindu nationalist base, including the country’s 150 million-plus Muslims. If he succeeds, he, like Xi, will become his country’s next iconic leader.

Jokowi,Xi, ModiIn Indonesia’s case, the two most influential leaders so far have been Sukarno, who used powerful rhetoric to foster a sense of national unity in one of the world’s most diverse countries, and Suharto, who overthrew Sukarno and created a strong economic base that lifted millions out of poverty. Jokowi must now lay the institutional foundations for good governance.

Jokowi has risen from humble beginnings to the apex of power without compromising his image as a “man of the people” or his reputation for pragmatism and honesty. Jokowi has a long track record of good governance, having implemented effective policies during his stint as mayor of Surakarta (such as refurbishing markets, relocating slum dwellers, and cutting bureaucratic red tape), and as Governor of Jakarta (where he broadened access to healthcare and education).

But replicating this success at the national level will be no easy feat. Jokowi, who takes office in October, must implement policies that address rising inequality, unsustainable fuel subsidies, entrenched corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and restrictive labour laws — all while rebuilding trust in Indonesian institutions.

The challenges facing Jokowi are compounded by the fact that his ruling coalition holds only about one-third of the seats in Indonesia’s Parliament, with the rest loyal to the coalition of his rival in the presidential election, Prabowo Subianto. So, in introducing a new style of governance, exemplified by merit-based cabinet appointments, Jokowi must be careful not to alienate the political and business elites who have long benefited from their tight grip on power.

In short, if Jokowi is to form a national consensus on the institutions that Indonesia needs, he will have to reach across this political divide. To this end, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s cross-party “Pact for Mexico” could serve as a useful model.

Promisingly, Jokowi has a reputation for independence from partisan and religious politics, and a talent for communicating with the people. And, as a political outsider, he is in a unique position to direct Indonesia towards a more prosperous, united future, and vault himself into the country’s pantheon of great leaders.

China, India, and Indonesia are all well-positioned to take important steps forward. A commitment by Xi, Modi, and Jokowi to do what is needed would bring rapid, far-reaching progress to their respective countries, Asia, and the global order. Project Syndicate/www.nst.com.my