Jan 20, 2018 Last Updated 3:31 AM, Jan 6, 2018

In this issue

Published: Sep 22, 2007

Never again

Frankly, as we began preparing this edition ahead of Indonesia’s first democratic elections in 44 years, I expected there to be more joy and optimism than there is in the pieces that make it up. Suharto is gone, the military is under enormous pressure to justify its existence on the political stage, press freedom is wide open, political parties and labour unions are free to organise.

There is a deal of euphoria of course, also in the articles you are about to read. Women are on the move with surging energy. The environmental movement is as vigorous as ever. And East Timor could be free within a year.

And yet there is more anxiety than euphoria. Fear that a history of fraudulent New Order elections may have permanently ruined the chances of holding a fair one. Dismay that the military will still refuse to allow the police to civilianise once more. Dread also of the demons within society itself. Even in a remote place like Sumba that has been peaceful for decades there is now conflict between neighbours. Exasperation that even the most radical pro-democracy activists, the students, are not radical enough to really demand total transformation (this last one was pointed out by the remarkable Mangunwijaya, who died aged nearly 70 as we went to press).

But of course it was naive to think that all would be rosy once Suharto was gone. You build a system on state-orchestrated violence for three decades and then it collapses. When the dust cloud clears what do you see? Certainly not a fully functional democratic system. You will see ruins, and feel a sense of anxiety.

So why burden readers in societies whose economies are humming along and whose democratic institutions actually seem to work with such gloomy reporting? For lots of reasons to do with human solidarity and just plain neighborliness, first of all.

But also because we can draw immensely valuable lessons here about the end result of authoritarianism. For years the West had little trouble thinking of Suharto’s regime as just something that suited Indonesians, who after all hold Asian values dear. Anyway, it was delivering the goods of economic growth. Now the long-term consequences of that view are becoming clear. Authoritarianism, militarism, elitism, kills. It kills individual victims, it also kills civic institutions. The lesson surely is: whatever the future holds, never again a military dictator, never again the short-cut to prosperity that Suharto offered.

Gerry van Klinken

Inside Indonesia 58: Apr-Jun 1999

Latest Articles

Review: Identity and pleasure, on screen

Jan 06, 2018 - FADJAR I THUFAIL

Source: Cinema Poetica

Identity and Pleasure: The Politics of Indonesian Screen Culture invites us to embark on a visual journey of difficult episodes in Indonesian history

Essay: Masked but not hidden

Dec 04, 2017 - DUNCAN GRAHAM

Credit: Erlinawati Graham

A small museum in Java is preserving a storytelling tradition, and the thoughts and feelings behind it

Essay: Getting to know you through a pendopo

Nov 13, 2017 - DUNCAN GRAHAM

A look at the journey and contribution of a longtime Australian teacher and researcher of Indonesian Studies

When a history seminar becomes toxic

Nov 02, 2017 - SASKIA E WIERINGA

Attacks on a meeting of survivors of 1965 and their supporters at the offices of the Legal Aid Institute in Jakarta in September 2017 do not bode well for human...

Facing history

Oct 18, 2017 - ELSA CLAVE & ANDY FULLER

Credit: http://www.tribunal1965.org

A witness account of the 2015 International People’s Tribunal on 1965

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.

 


Lontar Modern Indonesia

Lontar-Logo-Ok

 

A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar

Readers said:

  • Marriage denied
    Sayed - 30 Nov
    I am from Pakistan and living in Indonesia and I am refugee here. I have been here a long time for 5 years but still I did not get any answer from ...
     
  • When a history seminar becomes toxic
    Duncan Graham - 12 Nov
    Thanks for this detailed account - most reports have been superficial. The politics have been done well, but what about the people? I would have ...
     
  • When a history seminar becomes toxic
    Jose - 11 Nov
    Inciting violence is a purpose in itself - violence begets more violence. Turning a peaceful event into a violent confrontation serves its own purpose ...
     
  • Mining – who benefits?
    uhaibm@yahoo.com - 04 Nov
    This paper has been inspired in relation to the exploitation of natural resources, specifically the coal mining industry. I am doing some research ...

30th Anniversary Book

Inside Indonesia - 30th Anniversary Photo Book

 

Have you bought your copy of Inside Indonesia's 30th Anniversary book yet?

The book features 30 of the judges' favourite images from the 2013 Inside Indonesia Photography Competition.

Preview the book  and order your copy online (Soft cover approx AUD$23.00 / Hard cover approx AUD$35.00).