Summary on A Conversation with Asia Leadership Fellow Program (ALFP)
Date & Time : 9:00-12:00 Thursday July 5th, 2012
Venue : The Japan Foundation, Jakarta
Organizers : The Japan Foundation and the International House of Japan
Name of Event : “So, Are You Still Asian Enough? Latest Perspectives on Tolerance, Governance & Identity” – A Conversation with Asia Leadership Fellow Program (ALFP)
The Japan Foundation and the International House of Japan, together organized a joint event, a Conversation with Asia Leadership Fellow Program (ALFP) under the theme of “So, Are You Still Asian Enough? Latest Perspectives on Tolerance, Governance & Identity”. It was an event of a rare and thought-provoking conversation with ALFP Fellows from Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, and the Philippines. The speakers of the conversation were Professor Lee Jong Won (Japan/Korea, ALFP Advisor), Mr. Kunda Dixit (Nepal, ALFP Fellow 2006), Ms. Karina Africa Bolasco (Philippines, ALFP Fellow 2004), as well as non-fellows discussants Ms. Stea Lim the producer of “Anak Srikandi” and Mr. Paul Agusta the director of “Parts of the Heart”. In a very friendly atmosphere the conversation was led by Mr. Marco Kusumawijaya (Indonesia, ALFP Fellow 2009) and Ms. Ann Lee (Malaysia, ALFP Fellow 2001), who took the role as coorganizers and moderators for the conversation.
The event started with opening remarks from Mr. Tadashi Ogawa the Director General of the Japan Foundation, Jakarta, who also happens to be the co-founder of the ALFP when the Program started in 1996. In his opening remarks, he stated that the ALFP was created by the Japan Foundation and the International House of Japan to establish a network of Asian public intellectuals from diverse professional backgrounds. He also emphasized the programs original intention, which is to provide direct interactions among fellows from Asian countries, where information on each other at that time came only from limited sources such as western media.
The first round of the conversation was given for Professor Lee Jong Won, Mr. Kunda Dixit, and Ms. Karina Africa Bolasco. Professor Lee, the professor of International Politics at Waseda University, Tokyo, stated that the ALFP program is aiming to create a close, personal, and professional network among Asian states and that diversity should be the basis for the community. He added that this program is important for the civil society as the independent public sphere from the state.
Mr. Kunda Dixit, a Nepali journalist, said that one of the major problems in Asia is that the political “culture” of most of the Asian states has not yet become democratic, even though the democracy as a “system” has already been adopted. In general, though he consciously stated that he is aware of the danger of generalization and thus does not intend to make one, the difference between democracy in the west and democracy in the east is that the one in the west can be characterized by stronger focus on individual freedom, while democracy in the east emphasize more on communal/societal values. Then, Mr. Kunda also stated that the ideal democracy, if there is such, for Asia might be one that creates the best balance between the individual freedom and community. Regarding to the role of media in Asia, he mentioned that the media is currently working in a paradox, because the media, according to how it is taught at schools of journalism, should act only as spectators and should not be involved in the issue (not take sides). Mr. Kunda believes that media needs to take side, when appropriate, for the cause of social justice.
Ms. Karina Bolasco, a Philippino publisher, stated that there are still many problems of identity that occurred in Asian states, because of colonialism in the past. Many Asian nations are still questioning their identity. She also raised the question of "what is it actually Asian identity?”. Then she also proposed a rather simple answer to this question, such as being a citizen of one Asian states means being Asian automatically and thus we do not need to worry about the issue of identity, but rather can focus on what we create together in various fields including economic trade networks.
The second part of the conversation is the part for the Indonesian young intellectuals. Mr. Paul Agusta, the director of “Parts of the Heart”, has Indonesian father and American mother. He, who once struggled in search of identity questioning “am I an Indonesian, an American, or both?”, finds that people still judges who you are from how you look and do not try to see who actually you are. By now, he came to find his own conclusion that the issue of identity does not bother him anymore, because he is just what he is. The same thing goes for cinema. He stated that as cinema artist, it is important to design and construct a critical agenda inside but it is not that prime, for him a cinema should be about who makes it no matter who he is, because cinema is the mirror that reflects the cinema artist. Ms. Stea Lim introduced her latest film, “Anak Srikandi”, which tells stories about eight Indonesian women. Through this film, she delivers messages life of women in Asian context. She hopes to share her views for liberating women in Asia by creating provocative films about gender in Asia.
This open conversation with the ALFP Fellows was aiming to give thoughtprovoking ideas that highlight the importance of being Asian and having Asian values. Mr. Marco Kusumawijaya and Ms. Ann Lee, the moderators and co-organizers of this event, stated that there are only few arenas and chances that exist for the public intellectuals in Asian to interact on some important concerns in the region and beyond from diverse perspectives. It is hoped that the ALFP continues to provide an ongoing and strong networks as much as forums for dialogues.
Another provocative symposium is scheduled in January 2013 at International House of Japan. Fellows’ voices continue to influence the people of Asia, and beyond.
[The Japan Foundation, Jakarta]