Following the euphoria of reformasi, Indonesia has begun to slip back into some of its less reformist ways. The Megawati administration has increased military action in Aceh and Papua, and begun to limit the culture of tolerance that bloomed following Suharto’s fall. This is part of a global conservative shift. In Australia, too, critical debate has been curtailed as publicly funded and not-for-profit organisations are accused of bias for not supporting the prevailing ideological line. Leon Jones’ article ‘Neo-conservatives.com’ clearly outlines global ideological shifts to the right.
As with the neo-conservatives in the US, the Howard government assumes a moral right to impose its values on the rest of the world. These demonise already disenfranchised people in Australia, including refugees and aborigines. Overseas, multilateral diplomacy has been forsaken for coalitions of expediency that act unilaterally and pre-emptively against perceived threats to national security. Australia’s potentially neo-imperial ambitions in the Solomons and Papua New Guinea continue to subjugate local autonomy and civilian self-determination.
It is within this global and regional context that reformasi is dying. Anti-reform elements within the Indonesian elite promise to provide the stability that neo-conservatives argue will lead to global security and prosperity. As Scott Burchill notes, global obsessions with security have seen centralised, repressive, and undemocratic state rule in Indonesia supported by national and international elites.
The rolling back of hard-won freedoms of expression in Indonesia is evident in A’an Suryana’s War of Words, an insider’s view of the violence against journalists covering the conflict in Aceh. In Australia, Max Lane argues that funding for Asian Studies has been cut because a critical liberal humanities sector advocates ideas directly inimical to the prevailing ideology.
The security and prosperity of Indonesians, Australians, and all global citizens depends on open, informed, and critical dialogue, on equal terms. In this rapidly shrinking globe, there is no space for exclusive moral absolutism backed up by military might. Only self-determination and autonomy can reduce the resentment that generates terrorism. The neo-conservative agenda, inside Indonesia and abroad, is the biggest threat to peace and prosperity.
Chloe Olliver (email@example.com) is Guest editor of Inside Indonesia