28.3 C
New York
Thursday, June 1, 2023

Buy now


In changing Indonesia, some fear ‘backlash’ against freedom | Political News

Medan, Indonesia ——On the morning of May 21, 1998, Indonesian leader Suharto stood at the presidential palace and delivered a speech to the whole country.

Protesters have flooded the streets for weeks after the Asian financial crisis sent fuel, cooking oil and rice prices soaring.

Unrest has spread to cities across the country. Shops and businesses of the country’s ethnic Chinese have been attacked and violent clashes have erupted between protesters, mainly students, and security forces. On May 12, four students were shot dead during a demonstration at Trisakti University in Jakarta. In total, more than 1,000 people were killed, and Chinese women were reported to have been raped.

After 30 years in power, the military strongman, sometimes known as the smiling general, has announced his immediate resignation.

Suharto announced his resignation. His vice president, BJ Habibie, was standing next to him with an Indonesian flag behind him.Suharto is reading a piece of paper
Indonesian President Suharto announces his resignation, Vice President Habibie looks on at the presidential palace in Jakarta [File: Agus Lolong/AFP]

Standing next to Suharto is his vice-president, BJ Habibie, who will take over the top job and allow Indonesians to enjoy the freedoms denied him during Suharto’s decades in power – when activists disappeared and troops were deployed in Asia. Turbulent regions of Qi and Aceh. Papua.

The charismatic Sukarno led Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch in 1945, and his government became increasingly chaotic until an attempted coup in 1965 resulted in the killing of millions of suspected Communists.

Amid the chaos, Suharto’s rise to power in 1968 was initially greeted with optimism. Many hope his New Order government will bring calm and prosperity.

But despite early promises, the modernization of the new order ultimately manifested itself in a highly centralized government focused on consolidating power, and a bold government aimed at supporting Suharto and his determination to stay in the presidency at all costs. army.

Since his surprise resignation, Indonesia has embraced democracy, albeit imperfectly, and has elected five different presidents through free and independent elections.

FILE PHOTO: Indonesian President Joko Widodo votes in elections in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 17, 2019.REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo
President Joko Widodo re-elected in 2019, Indonesia to elect next president in 2024 [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]

The economy has also recovered from the 1998 crisis and is now the second fastest growing country in the G20, after India and ahead of China. Indonesia hosted the group’s annual gathering in Bali last year as current President Joko Widodo, better known as Joko Widodo, also sought to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine.

Yet challenges and concerns that legislation, including new penal and omnibus laws – and the rise of hardline religious groups – could erode the hard-won freedoms of the past 25 years. There are also accusations that some of the corruption, cronyism and nepotism of the Suharto era still prevails in the country.

On the anniversary of one of Indonesia’s most important moments in history and with the next presidential election scheduled for February 2024, Al Jazeera asks activists, academics and human rights advocates what to expect in the 25 years since Suharto’s dramatic ouster How has the country changed.

Andreas Harsono, researcher at Human Rights Watch Indonesia

“We were not naive when we tried to overthrow Suharto in the 1990s, but we really didn’t anticipate that we would see the rise of Islam and religious fanatics in post-Suharto Indonesia, governed by Sharia law. Inspired by discriminatory regulations targeting gender, sexuality, and religious minorities.

“There are more than 700 rules in post-Suharto Indonesia, including 45 anti-LGBT regulations and at least 64 mandatory hijab regulations. The biggest one, obviously, is the new penal code.”

Damai Pakpahan, women’s rights activist

“Indonesia has changed a lot, at least in the first five years after 1998. Many laws and policies have changed, focusing on women and the women’s agenda. In 2004, we had a We enacted the Elimination of Sexual Violence Act under the leadership of Megawati Soekarnoputri, and in 2007, we enacted the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act during the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“We also issued a presidential directive on gender mainstreaming under President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) in 2000. We also married men and women in 2019 after lobbying by feminist groups The age was changed from 16 and 18 for men to 19. Last year we passed the new Sexual Violence Eradication Act.

“The country now listens to the interests of women at the legal level. But we are also facing a backlash against women and girls who are not free to choose what they want. The rise of conservative Islam has forced some women, girls and even babies to wear the hijab.” INDONESIA There has also been a backlash around discriminatory or unconstitutional local laws that primarily target the rights of women and minorities.”

Yohanes Sulaiman, Lecturer in International Relations, Universitas Jenderal Achmad Yani

“At the time, I was in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. I remember more about when I found out about 9/11, but if I remember correctly, I read about the fall of Suharto online.

“In those days, when people were holding demonstrations or public protests, Indonesian cities were eerily quiet. Shops would close and students were told to go home quickly and quietly. We were very afraid of the military. They were basically kings in power.

“Today, I think they’re far less arrogant, more approachable, and more respectful of the law. When I was a kid, I saw an officer stuck in a traffic jam. He just got out of the car and hit a The traffic cop slapped him and told him to take the car away. I was taken aback. I think the status of the Chinese has also changed a lot, and in a way for the better. I think people are less discriminatory now, except of course Beyond the usual suspects.”

Ian Wilson, Lecturer in Politics and Security Studies, Murdoch University

“I was doing my PhD at Murdoch University in Perth, and I was excited and apprehensive when I saw Suharto resign on campus TV. We had just seen this wave of people saying ‘no, we’ve had enough’. Things. It happened so fast.

“Before 1998, Indonesia did not have basic electoral democracy, and we saw imperfect but important major structural reforms in the region. More regional autonomy means that a new generation of Indonesians grows up with different political expectations of power … There is now an expectation that government should be clean and serve the public.

“While there has of course been some setbacks in democracy, public support for electoral policies remains high and people support open elections. This has stopped political parties from wanting to seize the system in order to control it. Now it’s harder for elites to move things forward . The next few years after the 2024 general election will be critical for Indonesia.”

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest Articles