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Indonesia’s Vice Presidential Debates Satisfy

It is safe to say that the hemming and hawing of Indonesia’s presidential debates lowered public expectations for the VP round Tuesday, but the topic worked in Boediono’s favor. The running mate of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and a former central bank governor, Boediono employed the topic of national identity to throw some decisive barbs at his opponents.

Reuters reports Boediono’s most comprehensive statements.

“To increase prosperity, we must increase economic activity. Our vision is to create clean government to improve our national pride.

“We cannot create a national pride with indoctrination, repression and violence.

“We need to repair the infrastructure that has been left behind whether that’s roads or trains. Many of these problems come back to the problem of clean governance.”

His perpetual reference to “clean government” was no doubt a subtle way to remind viewers that both of his running mates were generals under oppressive and ruthless dictator Suharto. Indeed, Megawati’s running mate, Prabowo, is an alleged war criminal accused of ethnically-based exterminations, among other things.

To understand the weight of Boediono’s statements, one must remember that Indonesia is a former colony and dictatorship, and these experiences have made economic openness and ethnic cohabitation central concerns. On that account, Boediono’s seemingly-lackluster comments coaxed these memories from the recess of the minds of many, including Indonesians of Chinese descent, who were particular targets of both VP candidates Prabowo and Wirianto under the former regime.

According to Reuters, a number were convinced by Boediono that a man of military background will not herald the age of economic development or progress in human rights.

M. Noer Yusuf, private businessman in Banda Aceh, Aceh:

“I agree with the concept of SBY-Boediono that there has to be a mix between a people’s economy and a free market. I also saw that among those three vice presidential candidates, two of them are enemies of human rights. Indonesia will not develop if Europe and America regard us as their enemy.”

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10
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