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.