I’ve written on this blog about Indonesia quite a few times over the years, and had a couple of brief visits to Jakarta and once to Aceh. I’ve also tried to follow events in that country and speak with Indonesians – delegations and individuals – who are visiting Australia.
The elections held in Indonesia over the course of this year have been very important to Australia and our region. Not just the results – although the strong victories for President Yudhoyono in both getting himself comfortably re-elected and in improving the strength of his party in the Parliament is almost certainly the best outcome – but the fact the elections occurred and were run in such a smooth fashion. There is some good analysis at The Interpreter, although I haven’t seen a great amount written elsewhere in the blogosphere.
Indonesia’s transition into a functioning democracy in such a short space of time is really quite incredible, especially given that nation’s history and its enormous size and diversity of population. It presents real opportunities for Australia and for the wider region to move onto a footing which more strongly respects democracy and human rights and reduces poverty and inequality.
The one big blight on Indonesia’s progress remains its inability to deal with the oppression in West Papua. This in part links to their still far from complete battle to eliminate corruption and the related task of getting all elements of the military under proper government control. But the historical and current injustices in West Papua in general remain a big blind spot for many Indonesians, much as the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders remains a blind sport for many Australians, including in our institutions.
These blind spots need to continue to have the light of truth shone on them, politely but persistently. But that shouldn’t hinder the ability to recognise the great progress that has been in Indonesia, the need to encourage and build on it and to pay credit to that country for making such big strides in such a short time frame.