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Civil Society in Indonesia

Jakarta governor candidates Adang Daradjatun and Dani Anwar sit next to Fadloli Muhir. (squid697/Flickr)

Jakarta governor candidates Adang Daradjatun and Dani Anwar sit next to Fadloli Muhir. (squid697/Flickr)

But now you have a sector of the economy which is still sick and another part of the economy that is considered to be the healthy economy. Since the beginning of the year 2000, you have this healthy economy coming up and consisting of small and medium enterprises, of course the export-oriented sector as well. So even some us are talking about the phenomenon of the decoupling of economics and politics given the continued political bickering you have seen part of the economy that continued to develop. So you all are hoping that the entrepreneurship has been unleashed also in this process. It will stay there and will continue. But if the banking sector collapses again, which is one danger presently, then of course this will effect this healthy economy. So there is still a risk in it. But the point I want to make is that with all these difficulties you do see, get entrepreneurship and the spirit in the country is still there. New enterprises are coming up. They are a small and medium sized and so on. They are a very dynamic sector. And so long as the government is not trying to do something to this sector I think that we will be able to continue.

So the point is that we are all not giving up on the country having seen that in many places there is the dynamism Maybe social capital is back in some parts, somewhat misguided and destitute and my last point about decentralization. The positive aspect of decentralization is that the philosophy itself when we introduce this is to bring the government closer to the people, so the people can participate in decision making and so on. Totally different from the very centralized structure that we had in the past in which the people are just an audience. They were just the audience. Everything was done by the central government. Now hopefully this will also help things. The negative side of this is that in some regions, regional autonomy is seen as--not only the power is given to the regions but the regions are now given back to the indigenous people of the region. You can hardly find a region in Indonesia in which the population is only confined to the indigenous people of that region. And so this killing of Madurese by Dayak in Kalimantan and some of the problems and other reflections of this narrow understanding of regional autonomy. So going back to primordial instincts. The people who considered themselves as being indigenous in that region. I suppose they want to see outside with the migrants and so on. The Madurese in Kalimantan have been there, some of them for generations and still that is happening And two, I think the lack of leadership has not been helpful. And again civil society is being called in to try to do something.

We are very concerned that we have to do all these things. The expectation is a little bit, of course, too high for civil society to play this role but you can’t rely on the political system as it is now. The political parties are so weak, all they are interested in is money, politics, business and so on. So, it is a tall order. It is a major challenge and therefore the strengthening of civil society is a very important agenda for Indonesia today and we are very happy. I think there is a lot of support coming these days for these activities. Including in fact part of the reason for my coming here is that we have been given support from major foundations in the United States to undergo activities of strengthening civil society through local people’s organization, local non-governmental organizations in these various regions. It is not only to look at the big national issues, national problems. Because NGOs too have to even involve themselves in the drafting of the constitution. You can’t leave it to the politicians and many other things in the region. I have spoken already enough. I think I should stop here and get your point of view.

S. Bruce Schearer

I have a feeling that you have not only given us the fruits of your scholarship but the fruits of the passion of your heart as well. We have to make a choice out of this now. We have a reception on the other side where we can all have a chance to talk together and we are looking forward to that and I know there is much to be said amongst all of you as well as with Mr. Soesastro. We will take three or four questions. If you have any pressing issues you will have to make a compromise now between the conversation now and the reception afterwards. So please.