October 14, 2016 Print

Indonesia had a troubled history of political violence and oppression throughout much of the 20th century, so it’s inspiring to see how much the ideas of liberty are flourishing among a new rising generation of youth. Students for Liberty Indonesia has only been active for a short while, but in the past couple of years it has trained multiple leaders, hosted several significant events, recruited dozens of volunteers from a variety of campuses, and established a firm presence in both Jakarta and Bandung. SFL Indonesia’s efforts recently culminated in the first successful Southeast Asian Students for Liberty Conference, a landmark achievement for both Indonesia and the broader region.

The conference, which focused on the theme “Entrepreneurship for Prosperity and Peace,” featured Atlas Network’s executive vice president for international programs, Dr. Tom G. Palmer, along with several notable speakers from southeast Asia, such as Rainer Heufers, founder and executive director of the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies (CIPS); Ajisatria Suleiman, executive director of FinTech.ID; Azrul Mohd Khalib, manager of affairs at Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) in Malaysia; and Shaiful Mahpar, head of government affairs at Grab Malaysia.

Palmer’s keynote speech, “Is Liberty an Asian Value?” opened the conference with its probing examination of the global roots of freedom, which are common to every culture in the world.

“Is liberty an Asian value?” Palmer asked in an earlier published version of his remarks. “Is it a Western value? Does any region of the world, any linguistic group, any culture have a monopoly on liberty? I don’t believe so. Indeed, it is an illiberal and collectivist notion to think so. Ideas don’t come with little flags on them, as if one could only believe them if one were a citizen or a subject of the country of origin. … Liberty is as Asian as it is European, as Northern as it is Southern, as Chinese as it is English, as Thai as it is Greek. It is a human value, the value to be ourselves, to be governed by law, to enjoy the dignity of equality with others. No civilization has a monopoly on those human values, and all contain expressions of them.”

Below, Imantaka Nugraha, president of Students for Liberty Indonesia, presents honors to participants at the conference, including Shaiful Mahpar, head of government affairs at Grab Malaysia; Razeen Sally, co-director of European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE); and Iqbal Wibisono, development economics researcher at CEDS Padjadjaran University.