Indonesia proof that democracy, Islam can co-exist: minister

KRAKOW, Poland — Indonesia has moved from an authoritarian state to one of the world's largest democracies, proving Islam and democracy can co-exist, the foreign minister of the world's largest Muslim country said Saturday.

At the 10th meeting of the Community of Democracies, held in Krakow, southern Poland, Indonesian Foreign Minister Raden Muliana Natalegawa said his country "represents the embodiment that democracy, Islam and modernity can go hand in hand."

More than 10 years after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship, the Asian nation has transformed into the world's third largest democracy and is today proof that "democracy and Islam can go hand in hand," he added at a global meeting on democracy, also attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Although Indonesia two years ago launched the Bali Democracy Forum, to promote cooperation in the field of democracy and political development among Asian countries, the vast archipelago was attending the global Community of Democracies meeting for the first time.

The island nation has had four presidents since Suharto resigned as leader in May 1998 amid mass street protests and the Asian financial crisis, but only current leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was directly elected.

The economy is among the largest in Southeast Asia, and with China and India, Indonesia was one of just three G20 members to post economic growth at the height of the global economic crisis in 2009.

But critics say human rights abuses and corruption remain rampant in the post-Suharto era.

Suharto died two years ago without facing justice over billions of dollars he allegedly stole from government coffers, while victims of the many human rights abuses under his rule are still seeking recognition.

Some 80 percent of the population of some 243 million Indonesians are Muslim and around one in five Indonesians lived below the poverty line in 2006.

AFP, July 04, 2010

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