British Prime Minister David Cameron praised Indonesia’s transition to democracy and said its success in overcoming authoritarian rule and religious extremism should guide the way for other Muslim nations seeking change.
Cameron told students at Al Azhar University in Jakarta today that Indonesia has demonstrated it’s possible to develop democracy and a modern economy without compromising security or the ability to practice their religion, according to remarks released by his office. It’s the third day of a diplomatic and trade tour of Asia by the British premier.
“The people of Indonesia can show through democracy there is an alternative to dictatorship and extremism,” Cameron said in remarks prepared for the speech. “That here in the country with the biggest Muslim population on the planet, religion and democracy need not be in conflict.”
Democracy has become entrenched in the Southeast Asian nation and the role of the military has been scaled back since President Suharto quit in 1998 after 30 years in power. The current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, became the nation’s first directly elected leader in 2004 and won a second term five years later.
Before arriving in Jakarta yesterday, Cameron said his decision to relax controls of arms exports to Indonesia was a sign of its democratic maturity. Britain’s previous Labour Party administration stopped sales of arms to Indonesia after BAE Systems Plc Hawk aircraft were used to bomb rebels in Aceh.
Cameron said the transformation of Indonesia’s political and economic landscape over the last decade should inspire other Muslim nations seeking to break from the shackles of dictatorship while resisting the ideology of religious zealots.
“Following your example, young Muslims across the world will be inspired to choose democracy as their future,” Cameron said. “That will be the greatest defeat that al-Qaeda or al-Gamaa al-Islamiya could ever suffer.”
Cameron noted the country’s role in advising Egypt following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, saying also that Indonesia offered hope for establishing political plurality and attaining membership of the Group of 20 largest economies.
“Far from endangering safety, prosperity and religious identity, it is democracy that ensures them,” Cameron said. “This has huge implication for others seeking the same fundamental freedoms in places like Egypt, Iran and Syria.”