[ETAN-key] Indonesia The Worst Example For Revolutions In Arab World
fbp at igc.org
Tue Mar 1 09:16:27 EST 2011
Indonesia The Worst Example For Revolutions In Arab World
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 10:35
As several revolts shook recently big part of
Arab world, as Hosni Mubarak stepped down and the
leaders of Bahrain and Libya could not think
about anything better than to order bloody crack
down against their own people, the world (read
Western governments, media and academia) were
watching with increasing doze of discomfort.
Protests seem to be engulfing almost all
countries in the region from Morocco and Tunis to
Jordan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Staunch ally of the West Saudis feel suddenly
vulnerable, even encircled. No wonder
millions of the poor from all over the region are
now marching and fighting for social justice or
for justice in general. And there is hardly a
place in the world with more striking
inequalities than in this kingdom based on Wahabi
conservative Islam, historically close ally of
British imperialism. As is well known, Saudi
Arabia is bathing in oil that dark liquid which
is both blessing and curse - enriching elites
while helping to maintain apartheid between the
natives and exploited migrant workers.
For decades, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt
(or more precisely their rulers and elites)
all of them served Western interests with zeal
and efficiency. Now they are expecting helping
hand, support in this complex and dangerous times.
While the White House was sending conflicting
reports to its allies, well-disciplined mass
media and academia rose immediately to the
challenge and invented the best role model for the Arab world Indonesia.
After all, Indonesia is home to more Muslims than
any other nation on earth. It is rich in natural
resources and after 1998 it holds multi-party
elections. Its economy is growing at more than 6%
a year and there seem to be no popular uprisings
or calls for revolution. Both President Obama and
Foreign Secretary Clinton sang praises to
Indonesian model during their visits to Jakarta.
Indonesia is a staunch ally of the West: a
bumper zone against rising China, good
god-fearing country where the Communist Party and
atheism are banned and business and the Almighty
appear to be working in unison for the benefit of
the few. It performed extremely effective surgery
on behalf of the West in 1965/66 murdering
millions of Communists, progressive leaders,
teachers, intellectuals and members of Chinese
minority. It can be, therefore, trusted.
Writing for CNN, Ann Marie Murphy - an associate
professor at the John C. Whitehead School of
Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall
University, and an associate fellow at the Asia Society - argued:
Since Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
resigned in the face of widespread
demonstrations, attention has shifted to what
comes next. Fears have been raised that Egypt's
transition may follow the Iranian path, where the
Shah's overthrow led to a repressive Islamic
regime that turned away from the West and became
a source of regional instability. Indonesia
provides a better analogy for Egypt than Iran.
Over the past decade Indonesia, home of the
world's largest community of Muslims, has made a
successful transition to democracy that clearly
refutes the proposition that Islam and democracy are incompatible
Did it really? Did it made a successful
transition to democracy and did it clearly
refute the proposition? For approximately 2
decades I traveled this enormous archipelago from
Aceh to Ambon and from West Timor to Batam.
Anyone who speaks the language and is ready to
listen to people would know that one of the main
complains of Indonesians is that they are
unrepresented. There is no political force in
the country that would call for social justice.
All major political parties are pursuing their
own political and economic interests.
People are confused, especially those living in
the villages (great majority of the population).
I heard many times that they dont decide whom to
vote for: village chiefs often sell votes of
entire villages to the highest bidders. Women
vote for the candidates selected by their
husbands. On the village kampung level,
Indonesian democracy doesnt seem so glorious. At
the closer examination it actually does not seem to exist at all.
About democracy and Islam lets first ask
which Islam? Former President Abdurrahman Wahid
was a Socialist at heart (I have many of his
testimonies on the record some will appear in
my upcoming book on Indonesia) as well as one of
the greatest and the most moderate Muslim leaders
of 20th century. But he was humiliated and
removed from power in 2001 by quiet coup that
took form of nontransparent impeachment. Military
and political/economic elites from Suharto days
were behind the act. The West sighed relief the
last thing it wanted was socially conscious and
truly patriotic President of Indonesia.
That was the end for progressive Islam. What
remained and solidified since is political Islam
that is of conservative nature. It would be wrong
to say that all Indonesians are welcoming more
aggressive and dictatorial form of religion, but
what is clear is that they are not willing to do
anything to stop it from taking control of their country.
It is also obvious that present administration of
President Yudhoyono (popularly known as SBY) is
unwilling to intervene on behalf of Indonesian secular constitution.
Sharia law is being unconstitutionally
implemented in several locations, including parts
of West Java. Annually, dozens of churches go up
in flames. Controversial anti-pornography law
is now being put into practice (there are wide
implementations that are not limited to indecent
exposure or pornographic web sites). Non-Muslim
schools are being attacked periodically while 3
members of marginal Islamic sect had been
recently murdered by a mob. Members of radical
Islamic Defenders Front are allowed to rampage
bars and places of warship right in front of the
police that refuses to take action. Mosques are
broadcasting sermons in fact all that is
happening inside - at the highest imaginable
volume for 5-7 hours a day unthinkable almost
anywhere else in the Muslim world.
In our recent discussion, foremost Indonesian
expert on Islamic extremism - Huda Ismail -
declared: Instead of listening to empty praise
from abroad, it would be much better for the
Indonesian government to accept that we have
serious problems here and finally deal with it!
Truly good advice for the Indonesian government
and for those abroad who are trying to suggest
that Indonesia should be used as an example for the rest of Muslim world!
Ms. Ann Marie Murphy continues with her CNN
coverage: In Indonesia today a reformist former
general, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, serves as
president after twice winning direct presidential elections.
It is hardly a secret that President Yudhoyono
actually stalled that little that could be called
reforms. The greatest challenge Indonesia is
presently facing is corruption. But apart of
embezzling funds and stealing millions from the
poor, Indonesian corruption is actually much
more complex and sinister: it is a complex
monster a net of interdependency, favors and
mutual aid that keeps old boys from Suharto era
in the driving seats. Being part of that club
himself, Mr. Yudhoyono - as well as those who are
around him - is actually doing everything not to dismantle the system.
It is also worth analyzing why President
Yudhoyono is so unpopular in Indonesia and so popular in the West.
Closer examination of his record (which hardly
appears in Western mainstream media) would offer
some chilling facts: General Yudhoyono was
trained twice at Fort Benning in the US a
school that produced some of the most vicious
members of death squads operating in
right-wing/pro-Western dictatorships in Central
and South America. After his first schooling he
was sent as platoon commander to occupied East
Timor the country, which lost around 30% of its
entire population under Indonesian occupation.
Mr. Yudhoyono arrived only one year after
invasion arguably during the time when most of
the killings took place. Mr. Yudhoyonos wife is
a daughter of one of the generals responsible for
some of the most terrible atrocities of 1965/66
US-backed coup that brought Suharto to power:
several years ago he was proudly declaring that
he and his companion killed 3 million people after 1965.
What are other reasons that make Indonesia so
popular in the West? Corruption past and
present is giving almost unlimited access to
logging, mining and other extortion of natural
wealth of the country. Close to nothing goes to
the pockets of common Indonesian people: foreign
companies, Indonesian elites and the military
share profits. The military is often protecting
foreign companies against Indonesian people
themselves - there are many documented cases in
Aceh that I recently visited, but also in Papua and elsewhere.
In the meantime, if international standards
apply, more than half of Indonesians live in dire
poverty. Infrastructure of the country is
collapsing and so is its environment. Natural
disasters, often results of unbridled
deforestation and mining activities take
thousands of human lives, annually. Quality of
education and medical care are well below
standards of most of the Asia-Pacific nations.
New catch phrase or journalist cliché is that
Indonesia is the biggest Southeast Asian
economy. Of course it is how could it not? It
has officially 237 million people (although
several top world statisticians now believe that
it is actually inhabited by 300 million and the
government does not want to admit demographic
disaster which it did nothing to stop) other
large countries in the region - Thailand,
Philippines, Vietnam and Burma - have populations
well below 100 million each. On per capita bases
Indonesia remains one of the poorest countries in
the Pacific Asia, with some of the most unequal distribution of wealth.
Then what about economic growth?
Indonesia is the forth most populous country on
earth. But have you ever seen anything with the
label Made In Indonesia abroad, except few
T-shirts and sneakers? You probably did not as
the country produces very little for its size.
The growth comes from uncontrollable (and often
illegal) plunder of natural resources, and from
unusually high commodity prices on the world
markets. Wealth is distributed among very limited
group of people, in fact scenario that is not
unlike that of the countries like Sudan. Both
Khartoum and Jakarta count with fives star hotels
and luxury shopping centers and with misery that
can only be found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Is this really an example, an inspiration for new
aspiring democracies in Arab world? Shouldnt
they rather looking at Chile (if they are looking
for capitalism with human face) or Bolivia (if socialism is the aim)?
When massive protests shook Jakarta in 1998, I
moved from my comfortable hotel room to the
headquarters of the uprising at Trisakti
University. For days I discussed the situation
with the student leaders. At that time I lived in
South America and I was definitely not impressed
with what I hard from rebellious students in Jakarta.
The goal was to depose Suharto. We love and
respect our parents and our teachers, explained
one of the students during those days. All we
want is that Suharto steps down. Once we achieve
our goal, we will return to our class rooms, to our previous lives.
Eventually Suharto decided to go. Elites and
military regrouped. Truly reform-minded President
Wahid was deposed. Religion increased its grip on
the society. Army continued to moonlight as
private guard for the multi-nationals. New
political parties were formed to solidify
position of the old elites, not to protect the
poor. Elections were held regularly to allow
mainstream media and academia in the West to
repeat the same phrase about successful reforms.
Indonesia continued to be one of the most
capitalist countries on earth, and one of the most compassionless, too.
Rebellious leaders in Arab world should not
listen to anybody from outside and do what they
believe is right. But if there were one advice I
would like to offer, it would be this: please do
study Indonesian example. Think about what
happened in this country and make sure that you
dont repeat the same mistakes. Here, the great
chance for changes was kidnapped, destroyed,
perverted, missed. Try to do better than this.
Indonesias experience is offering great wisdom:
to get rid of one leader is not going to save the country.
What has to go is the system itself. Those
responsible for atrocities, even for treason (for
siding with foreign political and business
interests), should be brought to justice as it
happened in Argentina, Chile, South Africa and
elsewhere (mainly in Latin America).
In Indonesia, nobody was tried for plunder of
natural resources and the land, for 2-3 million
people that were massacred in 1965/66, for
genocide in East Timor and for ongoing massacre
in Papua. How could they be, these people are
still busy governing the country while receiving praises from abroad.
Dont make the same mistake!
Andre Vltchek ( http://andrevltchek.weebly.com/ )
novelist, filmmaker, investigative journalist,
author of numerous books and documentary films.
His latest non-fiction book Oceania deals
with western neo-colonialism in Polynesia,
Micronesia and Melanesia
His latest novel about war correspondents and
Latin American revolution is available in French:
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