Democracy - How's it going?
Gerry van Klinken
In May it was two years since pro-democracy protesters brought to an end 32 years of Suharto's military-dominated rule. Since then, the country's first democratic elections in 44 years placed two leaders of the democracy movement in the presidential and vice-presidential offices. The military face constant humiliation over past abuses. So how far has Indonesia come on the road to democracy?
No one in this edition would dare say that what the protesters fought for has been achieved. With no Suharto on whom to focus dissent, the many dimensions of Indonesia's problems appear if anything more daunting. So much remains unchanged. The military who backed the anti-communist purges after 1 October 1965 have not yet confronted those evils. The economic elites who repressed labour and raped the environment are still piling up debt.
Many problems are deep-seated. The government of this vast country has been trying to decentralise for nearly a century, and the military have for decades been earning more outside their official budget than inside it. Elites in Medan (and in North Maluku where they started a war) have worked hand-in-glove with mafias for just as long.
And yet our authors would probably agree that change has been faster these last two years than in the previous thirty. Muchtar Pakpahan, Bu Sulami and Budiman Sujatmiko (who appear in this edition) were all Suharto's political prisoners. They now get a hearing even in the mainstream press. Indonesia has a Muslim president who apologised to the victims of the anti-communist purges of '65. But it just isn't enough yet.
Inside Indonesia is a small magazine produced on a shoestring. All our authors know this, and yet they continue to write because Indonesia moves them. Next time we hope to do something on the arts. With the help of the Australia Indonesia Institute, we also hope to bring you an extra four pages! Especially to help students, we want to include an educational supplement with background on a different topic in each of the coming year's editions.