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learning from Indonesia « Previous | |Next »
April 27, 2006

We in Australia commonly view Indonesia through fear of it being an Islamic nation. The lens through which we view Indonesia is also constructed from a history of Indonesia's occupation of East Timor after 1975, the rough handling of internal conflicts in Aceh and the ongoing repression in Papua. All three have involved tough military crackdowns on irredentism and widespread human-rights abuses by the Indonesian military (TNI) for which no one in the military or the government has really been held responsible.

Although Washington and Canberra have recently restored military-to-military ties, US officials are still waiting for Jakarta to prosecute the military officers culpable for the horrific violence that attended East Timor's separation from Indonesia in 1999.Is Australia?

Do we see a newly democratic Indonesia forming out of the totalitarian (fascist) past? Do we recognize that Indonesia has a more independent foreign policy than Australia?

It has. Michael Vatikiotis says that the Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda recently stated that:

Indonesia is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty... The treaty supports the rights of NPT parties to develop nuclear technology for peaceful uses he added... Then he reminded Rice that he had recently visited Tehran and that the Iranian foreign minister had just visited Jakarta. On both occasions he had told the Iranians that Indonesia "would be among the first to tell Iran not to put their peaceful nuclear uses to developing nuclear weapons".

The Indonesians are standing up to the Americans on Iran. Australia should take note. Maybe it is the Indonesiasn who will mediate between India and Pakistan as they step onto on an arms-escalation trajectory as a result of the US -India nuclear deal. Maybe it will be the Indonesians who endeavour to prevent a scenario of more bombs being added to the inventory every year, and more intermediate-range ballistic missiles steadily roll off the production lines.

It won't be Australia wil lit? We will be to busy selling unanium to India to help the US contain China, won't we?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:47 PM | | Comments (6)


Gary.The government of Indonesia is the military,and has been since the demise of the Dutch influence..Any so called inclusion of a civilian flavour is nothing but window dressing.The Australian government is well aware of this and its whole diplomatic approach to the Indonesian government,is based on this premise.

In my opinion Australia does not fear Indonesia for its Islamic proclivity's,East Timor,Papua,or Aceh, etc..It is the huge population that inhabits this group of islands to our north,who are looking for some "lebensraum"and some time in the future,not in my life time I hope, they will in great numbers inhabit Australia with out a shot being fired.This will be done under the auspice of the U.N. and the major powers. Australians are well aware of this scenario.One only has to look to the encroachment of our borders by Indonesian fisherman,they treat our coastline like it is their own,and why wouldn't they?they have been coming here for hundreds of years,.Long before Botany Bay,and yes some time in the future their village may well be on the coast of the Northen Territory we are all going to have to deal with it.Phill.

Why don't you think that Indonesia is making progress towards becoming a liberal democracy? Is democracy just window dressing for a military government? Is the civilian element just a flavour?

Or do we have a conflict between different forces in the republic?

Gary.Do I think Indonesia is making progress into a liberal democracy ?In a nut shell "No".At the end of the day I guess the definition of a liberal democracy is in the eye of the beholder.

Indonesia is probably apart from Russia/Peru the most corrupt country on the planet.Old Bang Bang,the new boss of bosses promised his people he would fight corruption,and set up a new anti corruption commission.And what has happened in the last two years?corruption is worse than ever.The so called judiciary is a sham.Any one who has travelled Indonesia"and I have" realizes the military is in control of every facet of day to day life.Of course in the tourist areas this control is kept to a minimum so they don't frighten the horses.Transparency International rates Indonesia No 2 last time I looked.

Indonesias foray into the bold new world of international capitilism is of course off to a great start.One of its major share holders in the reportedly largest gold mine in the world,is none other then that great paragon of virtue Henry Kissenger.Nudge nudge wink wink say no more.

Australian politicians have been pissing in our pockets for years and for mine Im having none of it.Our own foriegn minister would not have a clue of what is really going on,most of his time would be spent in the Hilton or its equivalent snacking on caviar and crayfish.A few sound bites from a guided tour from a village devistated by a sunami and surrouned by secret service agents, tells me sweet F.A.however what I have learnt from my own trips to Indonesia is,is they have a long way to go before they are a liberal democracy.

The military in Indonesia have been living the high life since the Dutch pulled out,and they are not going to give it up to please their own people much less any country in the west.

Democary in Indonesia will happen long after they have settled in their new home Australia.Wont happen you say?Well take a trip up to the back blocks and ask them.Phill.

you may "have" travelled to indonesia before, but as an indonesian myself...i wont say 100% that the military is in control of every day lives of the people...

these days there are a lot of "morale police" that is being set up by the radical muslim that somewhat believe they are doing the right thing for the people. Sadly...they did not do anything with a morale themselves...

Hello Bekz.On the Indonesian military control of society in your country, we will have to agree to diagree.I am sure you probably have a different perception on how you see things but hey I accept that,and please take my point in the spirit it is offered.I don't believe Indonesia is a fully democratic country and do not withdraw my point of view.

The world was told for a hundred years how rosy it was in South Africa,and the naysayers and dissenters that blew the lid on it all communists all of them,just ask the likes of Thatcher et al, but of course now we all know.And what is breathtaking some of our own politicians and diplomats would have us all believe that sanctions didn't really work,and the blacks were into water skiing and polo.I have spoken to many whites that have fled the place and they hate their x servants with a passion.I hate these bastards, with every fibre of my existence.

Now what has all of the above got to do with Indonesia?well you see any one there that lives just above subsistence levels or has a differant point of view is Soweto Indonesian style.

Bekz and Phill
This article may be of some use, particularly this paragraph:

After decades of autocratic rule under Suharto, the task of decentralizing state power is proving to be a slow and difficult one. The process has been particularly tricky for the Indonesian military as it gradually relinquishes seats in the national parliament and shifts over to civilian control. While a return to authoritarianism is kept out of the question, three years of experimentation with democracy have left most people convinced that the military, known as the TNI, is the only institution that can sustain the nation amidst the lawlessness, corruption and regional violence that broke loose at the fall of dictatorship. Indeed, next to the country's weak and nascent civilian institutions and civil society, the TNI arguably remains the strongest and most influential body in Indonesian society.

The article, from 2002, is from CDI's Terrorism Program, which is designed to provide insights, in-depth analysis and facts on the military, security and foreign policy challenges as the United States, faces terrorism.

The argument--and it is one that would find support in Canberra--states that a strong military presence in politics would help stabilize the country during this highly precarious transitional phase. Strengthening the TNI may jeopardize the precedence of the rule of law, the argument goes, but it would at least help in suppressing domestic terrorism that has long plagued the archipelago.