Chronic hunger, high infant mortality, isolation and a sense of hopelessness was the lot of most inhabitants of the 110-odd islands of Indonesia's southeast Nusa Tenggara Timur province. Cursed by the nation's longest and most erratic dry season -- broken occasionally by heavy rainstorms -- and miserable rocky soil, the farmers (80 percent of the population) were dependent on slash and burn methods of cultivation and could seldom grow enough corn for subsistence. The coastal communities on the three larger islands (Sumba, Flores, Timur), trading sporadically with the modern economies on Java, Bali and Sulawesi, were handicapped by lack of port facilities and roads into the interior.
Thus, excluded from Indonesia's growing prosperity, the islanders felt themselves forgotten by the national leaders in Jakarta. Native young people seeking a beuer future left the province. Outside investors had little interest in using the idle wild grassland for cattle grazing, or in exploiting the abundant fishing grounds in the adjoining waters because processing and shipping infrastructure did not exist.
It was difficult for ALOYSIUS BENEDICTUS MBOI and NAFSIAH MBOI-WALINONO -- both medical practitioners -- to leave the comforts and professional and financial attractions of Jakarta for the backward province to which he was appointed governor in 1978, even though he had been born to a rajah family of the province, in Ruteng, Flores, in 1935, and she to a noble house of Sengkang in neighboring South Sulawesi, in 1940. They met in her first and his fourth year in medical college where he was president of the Student Council, and they were married when she graduated.
Entering the Army Medical Corps, Dr. BEN MBOI broadened his professional skills with special training in public health. Advanced study took him to Belgium, Norway, West Germany and Holland before he promoted to colonel and head of the army's Preventive Medicine Institute. Dr. NAFSIAH MBOI took graduate courses in pediatrics in Belgium and Holland. She became an ardent practitioner of socially conscious medicine and led in mobilizing women to create effective health organizations.
Since moving to the provincial capital of Kupang, where BEN is now serving his second five-year term as governor, this couple has initiated dramatic change in prospects for the province. Food -- and water for growing crops -- was the new governor's first priority. Where government agencies responsible for teaching and assisting farmers had often been moribund, he enthused their staffs with a sense of direction and purpose that has helped farmers make the province self-sufficient in grain for the past three years. Repeated trips to remote villages convinced him that better access was essential and his skillful persuasion in Jakarta resulted in funding to build over 1,000 kilometers of blacktop roads and more gravel feeder roads. Most vital is his instilling educators, technicians and officials with a contagious perception of what they can do with will and work.
So-called "child killers" became an urgent concern of NAFSIAH, who became director of the province's community health services. Neonatal tetanus, gastroenteritis and measles were the major causes of the mortality of infants under the age of one year, reportedly exceeding 124 deaths per 1,000. NAFSIAH vitalized the Village Family Welfare Movement and Dharma Wanita, the organization of wives of civil servants; a growing women's cooperative movement emerged as a result of her leadership. She also established a provincial board for coordination and advancement of nongovernmental efforts in the field of social development, bringing to these organizations recognition, self-respect, information and funds. The Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association came alive with new outreach.
The gregarious, jolly governor and his enterprising wife agree that the work has only begun. When they first arrived in Kupang he challenged his staff: "If not us, who? If not now, when?" The couple's infectious energy and optimism inspired the answers: "us" and "now."
In electing Governor ALOYSIUS BENEDICTUS MBOI and Dr. NAFSIAH MBOI-WALINONO to receive the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes their open-hearted invigoration of government and cooperating agencies, bringing practical rural progress and new self-motivation to nearly three million villagers in Indonesia's bleakest province.
This is a very historic moment for my wife and me, for the people and government of the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), even for the people and government of Indonesia. As such, I request that, in the Indonesian tradition, we bow our heads to pray and to thank God for this blessing, and for allowing us to come together this evening.
Let us also pray for our forebears and founding fathers who have shown us the way, who have given us values by which we live, as well as the spirit to strive to the best of our abilities for the good of our fellow citizens. In particular we give thanks for the example of two great Filipino heroes, Jose Rizal and Ramon Magsaysay. May they rest in peace, a peace well earned through their service to humanity.
News of the Ramon Magsaysay Award came to us as unexpectedly as lightning -- first from friends who listened to the Voice of America and later from others hearing of it on Radio Australia. We did not believe the news, as we did not feel deserving of any special honor nor did we expect such recognition for what we have been doing. Frankly, even as I stand before you this evening, I still feel myself unworthy of this prestigious Award.
Be that as it may, as a participant in these ceremonies, I sincerely wish to thank you for the honor which, in my opinion, is a recognition and acknowledgment of our national strategy, our policies, and our programs, particularly towards village people and people in more remote areas. Perhaps more than anything else, it is a recognition of our on-going efforts over a period of years, rather than recognition of particular accomplishments.
I say our "efforts," because it is my observation that in fact not much has yet been achieved either tangible or intangible. There is still a long way to go to reach the goal of fully realized national freedom.
Leadership in a developing country is not an easy task, and leaders are not in an easy position. Leadership is a blessing, it is a call, it is a privilege, and it is an honor. At the same time it is a responsibility and a challenge.
Leaders and leadership must be adequate to meet challenges, and relevant to the environment. Leadership must be adaptive to specific situations -- it must try to adjust ideas, decisions and efforts to the condition of the people and to their aspirations. It is not an easy task, particularly in a heterogeneous social situation, with sometimes overlapping and sometimes conflicting loyalties and ties, both vertically and horizontally.
Having a background as a doctor -- a rural doctor who has lived close to the people and is sensitive to their problems -- can in itself be a problem. One is sometimes almost too sensitive to be a leader. Fortunately, I have had a rather unique background, being not only a doctor, but an officer in the army special forces and a public administrator. These separate experiences have been very useful to me in my service in NTT.
But dilemmas often arise and cannot be avoided. Leaders must often face misunderstanding, perhaps cynicism and skepticism. As Edmund Burke advised long ago: "Those who carry on great public duties should be proof against fatiguing delays, mortifying disappointments, shocking insults and, worst of all, misunderstanding from the ignorant."
In facing the trials of leadership these words give one support and encouragement.
If development is to mean total human development -- individual as well as societal -- then a plural society like NTT poses a real problem and challenge to leadership. We believe there is only one approach which can work, the approach of participative development. Although many would say it runs the risk of being too idealistic, and will take too long for any single leader to witness the results of his efforts, nonetheless it is the approach we have tried to apply.
This is the reason I said previously that I have not observed any remarkable results as a consequence of our efforts during my term as governor. We have taken the long, slow, participatory approach.
I am indeed honored to be the recipient of this prestigious Award, the more so because I share it with my beloved wife. It is an acknowledgment which makes us more confident that we are on the right track and that we must continue the long journey of development --human development, institutional development, national development. We wish to thank the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation and the Board of Trustees for selecting w, among perhaps thousands of eligible people, to receive this prestigious Award.
We would also like to thank those who recommended us in the belief that we have achieved something, and the president and government of Indonesia which granted w permission to receive this Award and which has also supported us and given us the opportunity to work with the people of our province.