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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)

Question

Thank you very much for your talk. There is no mention of the Chinese who had their part under Suharto. And then with problems, they got raided. What did investment--you would imagine that entrepreunership foreign investment were affected. Is there a call for it or is there a suspicious kind of wariness?

Hadi Soesastro

I don’t think it can be generalized. But those that have been in trouble are because they have expanded and become so a part of where the business has collapsed. The other is because of their close association with the palace. Some are in trouble, some who were able to buy their way back into political power, are still safe from it, but of course the public continued to watch what they are doing. While many of them wants to come back, but I think that the atmosphere at the moment is such that...a few measures have been introduced to prevent them from getting their business back; not necessarily because it was going to be taken over and taken to different groups. This was the agenda under the previous government. Not now. But simply, just from an ethical point of view, many thought that they had been responsible for these kind of things. Of course you can’t, shouldn’t see it like that. But you can’t generalize on this because many others whose businesses survived because it was prudently managed and did not rely on facilities given to them by Suharto. It had it's proper place in this. Part of this new entrepreneurship that has come up also involved new businesses but different Chinese, Indonesian, not the workers.

Question

You said that Megawati may not be the president. I am interested in how you think the political events are going to play out in case she does not become president. Do you think that Gus Dur will continue or do you think political power play will continue?

Hadi Soesastro

I think that is not mutually exclusive I think Gus Dur continued maybe is the outcome of this political process that is accompanied by the threat of violence. And so at the end depending on, in this case, who wins, Gus Dur thinks he still has the upper hand, that he is still strong. He could use this mob politics and scare the others. Megawati, while people say that she doesn’t have a strategy, I think that she has allowed her party to be involved in this process of impeachment. She didn't block it until now. She may at the last minute block it. But what she was hoping is that the threat of continuing the process would influence Abdurrahman Wahid. So that is still an attempt. Maybe she will not succeed in doing so. Who knows? But if she is successful and at the last minute Gus Dur withdraws then I think we will be able to pretend major tensions to prevent a civil war. But Megawati would also not get enough support from the other political parties. I think as a matter of principle she has refused to develop an alliance with a number of political parties. So she can only rely on very few. She can only rely on Gus Dur’s party, the National Awakening Party, Golkar, I don’t know, maybe, to some extent and the military. But the central axis, I think she doesn't want to touch it. So we don’t know. It is uncertain. It is all going to happen in the next few weeks.

Question

I would like to join all of us in congratulating you on a remarkably frank and complete picture. What I derived from it and I'll ask you a question about it, is a hopeful, a positive view of the future. The political parties as you have describe them are doing here what they do in every other country. All they want is power and whatever means, in the situation as you describe. However, I would like to ask you, in your judgment, if you think the risks are greater then the prospects. My feeling is very positive. That is after hearing you. I don’t know how you express your own view.

Hadi Soesastro

The danger is that there can be an accident. And the cost of an accident under current circumstances can be very large. But otherwise, I still do believe that there is still sense in the country. The non-governmental activities that have come up in the country. I know many of my friends have left their professional jobs and so on simply to take part in these activities. I try to do this but the danger is of course that there is this accident and I will try to describe this by the accident resulted from the fact that the politicians, they want to go to...it is the game of chicken.

Question

How do feel about democracy and the making of the Indonesian state. Is it possible to have democracy in Indonesia at the same time that some parts of the country threaten to secede, could we have a Northern Ireland situation?

Hadi Soesastro

Well it should be in one package, but to give you an honest answer, if you talk to exponents of the NGO community, especially the younger ones. If this choice, if you are being confronted with this choice of democracy or unity you go for democracy. You will hear comments from this younger generation saying that if the Acehnese wants to be free, become independent why should we prevent them from doing so? Maybe you would not hear this twenty years ago in Indonesia, not in my generation, not in Megawati’s, but the younger ones have this view. In fact on East Timor too, before the option was given to them that you talk to NGO’s, the young people saying that a country is created for the well-being of its people. If the people think that they can’t--why should they be a part of it? Now I don’t want to generalize that this is the view of NGO’s but I think if they have to choose they will opt for working so that the democratization process will not be delayed.

Question

Changing the legal system, part of creating accountability and transparency comes from strengthening the legal system. And I wondered what efforts are being made?

Hadi Soesastro

You got me on that. That is one of the most difficult aspects of the whole thing. The legal system is already destroyed basically. I am involved in a study on building economic institutions and if you want to think about a consistent framework of it, the way we look at it. The legal system is the an essential part of the functioning of modern economic institutions. When we undertook this study, the more we studied this; we have reached the question, is there a different way of organizing ourselves? Taking into account the fact that the legal system is not working, is not function and will not do so for many years to come. Is there a different way of handling things? I don’t have an answer but I just want to respond to you by saying that it is a big problem and we don’t know where to start. We have asked somebody for advice. But the advice that was given to us flush the whole system. Build a new, a totally new one. Apparently Estonia did this and it was successful. But Estonia is a mess more than Indonesia. But we are also not giving up. For instance, the foundation supporting the NGO’s has put legal reform as one of its major priorities knowing that is going to take a long time, looking at specific things. For instance, to document court cases, nowadays we don’t know what the basis is of our decisions and now we want to send people out to sit in this court cases and document them to make it transparent.