On 10 December (International Human Rights Day), former Murdoch University colleague George Aditjondro passed away at age 70, four years after having suffered a stroke. Following the completion of his PhD at Cornell University, George wrote at least ten books and over one hundred articles and book chapters. He consistently spoke truth to power, which earned him widespread respect. It also brought him under pressure from very powerful people in government, business and the military at different stages of his life. Throughout his career, George was especially significant in exposing and challenging corruption, not least as it involved environmental destruction, and was an early supporter of Timorese independence.
George taught at Satya Wacana Christian University in Salatiga, Central Java but came to Australia after concerns about his safety in Indonesia. This move was made possible by the pooling of funds from the Asia Research Centre and various researchers holding grants within it at Murdoch University. His brief time at Murdoch in the mid-1990s was hugely stimulating for colleagues and students alike. His lectures combined deep intellectual insights on Indonesian politics and suitably illustrative empirical material with a charismatic delivery style. Meanwhile, George continued significant academic work and media contributions on Indonesian politics. This included his observations in 1994 about the death toll in East Timor after Indonesian troops landed there, first published in The West Australian.
While at Murdoch, George wrote an Asia Research Centre Working Paper (no. 58, 1995), Bali, Jakarta's Colony: Social and ecological impacts of Jakarta-based conglomerates in Bali's tourism industry. He also wrote ‘Large Dam Victims and their Defenders: the emergence of an anti-dam movement in Indonesia’, analysing one of the most notorious cases under the Suharto regime of displacement of rural villagers. This was published in The Politics of Environment in Southeast Asia (1998), jointly edited by Centre colleagues at the time Carol Warren and Phil Hirsch. George subsequently took up a post at the University of Newcastle before returning to Indonesia, having spent a total of seven years in Australia. Among his subsequent books was Dissecting Cikeas Octupus: Behind the Scene of the Bank Century Scandal.
Former colleagues at Murdoch are saddened by George’s passing and grateful that his talent, courage and endearing personality made such a contribution to the understanding of Indonesian politics and causes of social justice. We were privileged to have had him in our midst. Vale George Aditjondro.
Garry Rodan, Director, Asia Research Centre, Professor of Politics & International Studies, Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University.