Sunday, August 1, 2010

Are we paying too much for Freedom?

With a population of 240 million living in 17,000 island, with 6 major religions and different cultures, Indonesia is one the most plural country in the world.

Most of the people are Moslems living side by side with Protestants, Catholics, Hindu, Buddha and Confucian.

Since independence on 17 August 1945 until May 1998, Indonesia was governed by authoritarian regimes, where everything, including freedom of expression, should be based on social-political-economical stability and order. People in general and the news media in particular must speak, write and/or do things which are according to the regimes' rules of the games. Otherwise there would be severe consequences.

As a result, social, inter religion, political life seemed to be normal, and the economy grown quite stable.

Then came the so called "Reformasi" after the late President Soeharto stepped down from 32 years of authoritarian rule on 21 May 1998. The Constitution was amended several times, all members of parliament must be elected directly by the people - no more 20% seats for hand picked military representatives - the economic system changed from socialist planned system into a free fight liberal system, people are free to create political parties and organizations, the news media are free to write, talk, show almost everything, etc. etc.

As a result, religious hardliners who were banned in other countries were allowed to return, thereby causing so many problems like years of violence between Moslems and non Moslems in Ambon-Maluku and Poso-Sulawesi. Although the inter-faith violence have ended in both regions, many smaller scale problems happened in other regions.  Beside that I should also mention the series of suicide bombings in Bali and Jakarta carried out by people who were "brainwashed" by hard line religious fanatics that have killed so many innocent people.

As I write this post, there are two disputes reported by the media, first one is Moslems violent rejection on the construction of Christian churches and religious activities, and the second one is Moslems rejection on the existence of a Moslem Sect i.e. Ahmadiyah

Beside that, there are people who died because of other causes, like the Speaker of North Sumatera Parliament who died of heart attack after an angry mob ransacked a plenary meeting. There was also human right activist Munir who was poisoned to death by who knows who? Violence in Papua caused by various reasons including Freeport, regional election campaigns, etc. etc.

Moreover, the concept of free fight economy has made the owners of financial capital to prosper from imports of products in stead of producing locally, causing the closing down of factories : textile and garment, floor and roof tiles, furniture, steel products. Even fruits and vegetables are imported.

With the China-Asean Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) that started on 1 January 2010, that created the Free Trade Area between China and 10 ASEAN countries, things are getting more worst every day.

If no serious efforts is made to protect local industry, including postponement of the CAFTA for 3-5 years, high unemployment rate can be expected to increase in the years to come. As a logical consequence, crime rates would inevitably increase.

But now that the water is already flowing under the bridge, there is no need to regret for what we have chosen. The most important thing right now is that the leaders (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary) should have strong and consistent will to adopt and implement all the laws based on the concept of Rule of Law i.e. Supremacy of Law, Equality Before the Law, Presumption of Innocence, Respect of Human Rights. For that purpose, we need strong, smart, honest, fair and firm leaders who are willing to do his/her very best efforts only for the very best interest of the people of Indonesia.

If we can have all that, we can expect that freedom will bring much better things, and I am sure that Indonesia will prosper continously in the future.


Rob Baiton said...

Not too much freedom, nor too much pluralism, if you are an Ahmadi, is there?

You are not even allowed to practice your beliefs or to have places of worship.

I do not believe in satanism, but a real democracy would protect the right of those so wishing to worship the devil in doing so.

Nah, on the stability of the New was fake and it was a house of cards that came tumbling down in 1998. The stability was unsustainable because it was built on outrageous public and private borrowing, consistent human rights abuses. It is all well and good to suggest that there was more stability and economic growth under Soeharto, but it is important that the way this was achieved is never brushed under the carpet.

I get the point of your post (rant :D) but it might deserve a series of posts where you explore the issues in greater detail.

Reformasi is not the root of the problem. And, neither is a return the the authoritarian ways of the now dead Soeharto, a solution!

H. Nizam said...

Hi Rob,
What happened to the Ahmadiah, or Christian minorities is because certain groups of people claiming to be part of majority were allowed to exist by the suthority. Based on this, such group think that they can do anything incl. violence.
The worst problem is the law enforcement agencies seemed to be ignoring such groups in spite of their series violent actions.
I am not saying that the New Order was better than now, what I said was the present condition can be improved by implementing all the valid national laws. Otherwise, the dreams of Reformasi might have been in vain.
Many people wish that the New Order would return. But it is very unrealistic. Because like said "the New Order was fake and a house of cards that came tumbling down in 1998"
I agree that my "rant" should consist of several series of posts to explore the issued in greater details. Thank you for your advice.

umihoney said...

I agree with you Harry. As per our proverb:

"Kuat berdiri pohon kerana akarnya, kuat akar kerana tanah bermaksud
Kekuatan sebuah kerajaan kerana orang besar-besarnya, kekuatan orang besar-besar kerana rakyatnya"

The strength of the tree is due to its root and the the strength of the root is due to the ground.

I too hope we all will be blessed with great leaders.

"The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use - of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public." -
Robert F. Kennedy

I can empathies with your thoughts; seems to be endemic in this region.

colson said...

Very interesting and exciting article. It also invites to polemics - though I do largely agree with you.

Nobody can deny the country has to cope with serious problems.Lack of strict and, even more important, fair law enforcement is one of the most important ones. It should be remembered though that in the New Order time "Justice" was sheer travesty. Ask the surviving victims of '65/'66.

(Formal) Democracy has not yet brought the state of law and prosperity that was hoped for. Corruption is still rampant. Yet I don't think "Democracy" is to blame. Although neo-liberal economic policies may well be the cause of the widening gap between the happy awful rich few and the mass of poor. But that has been a separate and dubious choice. Neo-liberalism and democracy are not Siamese Twins. Moreover full fledged democracy on the other hand is only still in progress.

I think you are absolutely right where you write that there should be a "strong and consistent will to adopt and implement all the laws based on the concept of Rule of Law i.e. Supremacy of Law, Equality Before the Law, Presumption of Innocence, Respect of Human Rights".

In a democracy there is room for civic action to bring that about.

PS: I think it is very clear who poisoned Munir. His death was and is part of another problem which has to be solved (+ eliminated): the continuity of old powers under Suharto, who still are pulling a lot of strings.

Industrial Training said...

Interesting. Nice blog too. Please feel free to comment on our blog too at

H. Nizam said...

You always amazed me with your quotes. Thank you for your sympathy.
Many people here believe that the government should be given extra power like in Malaysia by imposing Internal Security Act. But I don't think its possible.

The middle and upper income level members of the society, democracy may mean a lot. But for the vast majority who are low income, the most important thing is freedom from : hunger, thirst, sickness, lack of education, lack of jobs, and other basic needs. For them it is not important whether a leader is leftist or a rightist, a religious fanatic or not, the most important is they can give hope for a better future.
History have taught us that ignoring the needs of the poor majority would sooner or later bring dramatic changes(revolution).

@Industrial Training,
Thank you for the kind words.

TUKANG CoLoNG said...

saya kagum dengan cara bapak mengelolo blog ini..saya liat tadi followernya udah sampai seribuan lebih. yang komen dan follow pun dari berbagai belahan dunia. bagi ilmu dong pak..hehe

H. Nizam said...

Tukang ColoNG,
Terima kasih atas pujiannya.
Ngeblog itu sama dengan kegiatan hidup kita, misalnya sebagai penulis kalau mau banyak dibaca orang maka tulisan kita harus sesuai dengan selera orang. Dan kita harus lakukan pemasaran.
Usahakan blo kita 'friendly' bagi pengunjung : mudah diakses, enak dilihat dan informatif.
Ingat: orang mengunjungi blog orang karena mencari informasi.
Jadi pentingkan ISI, sedangkan lainnya : iklan dll. sekunder.
Pemasaran :
Gabung dan aktif diberbagai media online: Facebook, Mybloglog, Twitter dll.

Anonymous said...

I think this is among the mοst impοrtant information foг
me. And i am glad rеading yоur articlе. But wannа remark on
some genеrаl things, Thе web site style is wonderful, the aгticles iѕ reаlly gгeаt : D.

Good job, cheeгs
Feel free to surf my page :: car insurance

Anonymous said...

The account also sets their $500 limit inside the amount regarding the loan and moreover allows for that you simply 31-day repayment.
Salaries try not satisfy pretty much all the needs towards living.
Payday cash advance loans are astonishingly close to homeowner loan sharking, in a fabulous legal way.
Also visit my homepage