Friday 14 December 2012

Jakarta's lessons in democracy and stability

Indonesia's experience shows to the world how democracy is compatible with security and how the two produce a much more authentic and robust stability and harmony, says Air Chief Marshal (Ret) Djoko Suyanto, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs. This is an excerpt from a lecture he delivered at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies on Monday.
Published The Straits Times, 13 Dec 2012

SINCE it launched an era of democratic reform some 14 years ago, Indonesia has become one of the most vibrant and robust democracies in South-east Asia. It is arguably even in the same league with Asia's champions of democracy: India, Japan, and South Korea. No wonder Indonesia has also become a regular member of the Group of 20.

After embracing democracy, Indonesia has registered a steady annual economic growth averaging 5.2 per cent throughout 2000 to 2010. This is a remarkable feat, surpassed only by China and India. Our per capita income doubled from US$2,120 in 2000 to US$4,190 (S$5,100) in 2010.

During the same period, according to the Indonesian central statistics bureau, more than 25 million jobs were created. Our middle class increased from 40 million (19.0 per cent) in 2000 to 130 million (54.1 per cent) in 2010. The number of people living in poverty went down from 47.97 million (23.4 per cent) to 21.02 million (12.5 per cent).

These positive developments may be attributed to three policies: sensible and prudent fiscal monetary macro management; higher workers' productivity; and the four-track - pro-growth, pro-job, pro-poor and pro-environment - policy of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

But of course, there are challenges we have to address. Among the most urgent on our agenda is the enhancement of our infrastructure. This will, in turn, lead to the efficient management of natural resources that Indonesia has in abundance.

Just as important, we need to ascertain that our economic growth will get more inclusive so that most of our people will enjoy the fruits of development. Inclusiveness is necessary to deal with poverty and income gaps.

On the issue of economic justice, we must continue to give the highest priority to the eradication of corruption and the attainment of good governance. This is a Herculean job and calls for the exercise of the greatest political will to apply the law impartially to everyone. But we will not give up.

In the case of Indonesia, democracy has changed the notion of security. The state used to be the sole centre of national life. Now, in a democracy, the citizens and their rights have become the centre of all concerns.

Indonesia's experience shows to the world how democracy is compatible with security and how the two produce a much more authentic and robust stability and harmony.

The success of the Aceh peace process is a case in point. The prevailing view was that Aceh could be controlled only by force of arms. It was only when Dr Yudhoyono was elected President that Indonesia cast aside the old security notion on Aceh: The guns went silent, earnest dialogue was promoted, and priority was given to the well-being of the people.

The result is self-evident: Now Aceh is not only a stable autonomous province that is perfectly capable of managing its own affairs, but it is also a province that deals with Jakarta in a dynamic and fair manner.

As to Papua, we defend our national sovereignty by implementing five basic policies, namely, one, recognising Papua's diversity and uniqueness; two, Special Autonomy status; three, affirmative action; four, development and empowerment; and five, respect for human rights.

While it is true that armed violence still happens, it is not our policy to violate human rights in Papua. Please note the fact that Jakarta allocated 5.4 trillion rupiah (S$702 million) for Papua's Special Autonomy in 2012. Compare this to East Nusa Tenggara, for instance, which gets a budget of 2.2 trillion rupiah to run its local government.

In dealing with social conflict in Indonesia, we are firmly committed to applying the social and legal approach rather than a military solution. This approach entails five steps: First, prevent the conflict from happening. Second, when a conflict happens, give priority to law enforcement. Third, launch negotiations on a give-and-take basis to build trust. Fourth, activate leadership for peace at the grassroots level. And fifth, ensure post-conflict management to maintain peace and prevent conflict from recurring.

It may be worthwhile to share with you our way of dealing with terrorism. From 2000 to May 2012, Indonesia had 234 cases of terrorist crimes. To deal with them, we implemented deradicalisation and law enforcement campaigns. This is not as easy as the extra-judicial means, because we subject ourselves to legal restraints. At one time, the national police had to let a known terrorist go scot-free simply because we did not have sufficient evidence.

We persevere in upholding the law and in respecting human rights because that is what democracy is about. The extra-judicial approach will only lead to citizens' grievances and drive them to sympathise with the terrorists.

Since the 2002 Bali bombing, justice has been done in almost all terrorism cases. As of March this year, law enforcers have apprehended 732 suspects; all underwent due process of law. Law enforcement, the deradicalisation efforts and international cooperation are the pillars of our national efforts at preventing and eradicating terrorism.

A mature and robust democracy, a democracy that can transform conflicts into consensus and peace, a democracy that contributes to social harmony - those are the hallmarks of Indonesia's democracy. A democratic Indonesia, which is economically robust and secure, contributes to Asean stability and regional harmony.

We are aware that given these political and economic achievements, Indonesia is expected to play a more active role in persuading its regional neighbours to be more firmly committed to universal human rights and democracy.

Of course, Indonesia can be expected to be active in promoting democratic values and human rights, joining other Asean nations in encouraging Myanmar, for instance, to make its own democratic transition.

The recent 21st Asean Summit in Phnom Penh adopted the Asean Human Rights Declaration and agreed to the establishment of the Asean Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, which will be located in Jakarta. I am proud to say that Indonesia initiated the move to establish the institute.

Indonesia's support for Timor Leste's democracy since its inception is a clear manifestation of the desire of a democratic Indonesia to leave behind a dark chapter in the intertwined histories of the two countries and forge a lasting friendship.

We must not forget, however, that promoting democracy and human rights in a country depends on the felt needs and aspirations of the people themselves. Democracy cannot be imposed from outside; it must be home-grown. And although democracy and human rights are universal, their evolution is unique to every particular sovereign state.

We have chosen democracy as our way of life. To ensure that our democratic practices keep on maturing, let us all do our share to make it so fruitful, it will improve the quality of life of the masses of our people.

First, let us continue building effective democratic institutions that deliver good governance.

Second, let our democracy benefit from greater public participation, not only in the implementation of public policies, but also in the process of its making.

Unfortunately, in a democracy, there can be a lot of bickering. The KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission) has done a good job of bringing to justice corrupt public officials, including judges and prosecutors, who abuse their authority. Freedom of the press and expression is used to scrutinise government policy and also for the love of argument.

For those who are not accustomed to it, the uproar is senseless. But, this is how democracy works to improve the quality of life and welfare of Indonesians. Hence, it is wrong to think that Indonesia needs a strongman to lead. What Indonesia needs is an effective government, a robust civil society, transparent and accountable public institutions, and non-discriminatory civil rights and law, which take into account local wisdom. Indonesia does not need a strongman to dominate our lives.

The dominance of a strongman will isolate his economic and political policies from the mainstream of public opinion. And worse, his policies and aspirations will become irrelevant to the real needs and aspirations of the people.

I firmly believe that Indonesia must continue to look to the future - and not be tempted to look back to the past.

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