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Journal of Democracy 12.4 (2001) 182-186
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Documents on Democracy
On July 26, the day after she had addressed the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Elena Bonner, human rights activist and widow of Andrei Sakharov, wrote to Caucus co-chairman Frank Wolf about the situation in Chechnya. An excerpt appears below:
As long as the war in Chechnya continues Russia will continue to move farther from democratic development. The lawlessness and cruelty, the disregard for human rights, the destruction of the independent media, the strengthening of the state's security apparatus all have roots in the Chechen war and spread like cancer throughout Russia and the Russian society. The problems of Russia's relations to its neighbors and the developed democratic countries cannot be solved until the Chechen war stops and Russia returns to the path of the democratic development. That is why solving this problem, stopping the criminal war is imperative for the United States and the international community.
On July 23, Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly removed from office President Abdurrahman Wahid and chose as his successor Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri. In her first state address, on August 16, Indonesian Independence Day, Megawati discussed many of the country's major challenges. Excerpts appear below:
During the last four years our whole nation lived under a constant fear, because we were stricken by monetary, economic, security, and political crises, coming just one after the other and, worse still, we felt that there had been institutional crisis and conflict. This was not only felt at the central level, but also in the villages. It is then understandable that many were worried, even very worried, about whether or not the Republic painstakingly established by our founding fathers would be able to survive. . . . [End Page 182]
We should perhaps ask ourselves, taking into account the recurrence of the crises in our constitutional life: Is there anything that we can do to perfect our constitutional principles or rules? Recently, there emerged an awareness of a need to make more comprehensive and more conceptual amendments to matters pertaining to the system of state based on the 1945 Constitution. . . .
The development of a new Indonesia also requires restructuring the relations between the central and local governments. We are aware of the fact that not only have the overly centralistic infrastructures been inefficient so far, but they also have not been able to provide an opportunity for the emergence and development of initiatives and creativities of our citizens. In the framework of relations between the central and regional governments, much of the authorities and state budget supports should be allotted to the districts and mayoralties. . . .
There is also a need to draw a clearer line on the essence, character, method and materialization of the reform movement as well as the democratization process that we have embarked upon since 1998. I observe and carefully listen to complaints lodged by some members of the society indicating that under the banner of reforms and democratization there have been many flaws committed, forcing us to question whether or not they are still considered to be legitimate reform drives or have instead exceeded their proportion. In several instances, we witnessed the outbreak of various mass riots, some of which have been conducted in the name of reforms and democratization. These series of actions have raised concerns over the possibility of the emergence of anarchy in the midst of our society, be it in soft, mild, or harsh forms. These have forced us to ponder on the need to gradually carry out genuine reforms and democratization drives with a clear agenda and conducted in the framework of our indirect and representative democratic system. . . .
We have to admit that our understanding of human rights in the context of today's modern life is indeed insufficient and hollow. We need to observe this important point, for human rights are progressively advancing and becoming one of those basic cornerstones or, better still, they have become widely acknowledged parameters to judge whether or not a given nation-state has managed to reach a modern stage. . . .
Our difficulty in eradicating...