Human rights abuses, as protested by Kamisan every Thursday, get news coverage, whereas other citizens’ rights are dismissed out of hand, or neglected in plain sight, on a daily basis in Indonesia. Over the past couple of months I’ve amassed a pile of clippings from the Jakarta Post, which has provided most of my examples. You’ll have to wait ten working days to see where all this is going. Consider this post as an introduction to a work still in progress.
Barack Obama: “In a democracy, laws alone are not enough: hearts must change.“
In a democracy, which Indonesia purports to be, laws are enacted for two reasons.
The first is to establish behavioural norms for a functioning society. With elected representatives, one may reasonably expect socially viable legislation which serves all sectors equitably. Tiers of enforcement – the military, police and judiciary – and administration – the bureaucrats – are there to serve society as a whole.
However, sadly because I have to remain an unashamed idealist, I can but agree with Leila S. Chudori who writes as follows: Almost twenty years after reformasi, I feel increasingly worried and uneasy about … developments and wonder how we got to this point. On the one hand, efforts continue to build and strengthen the pillars of democracy, but on the other, in both society and the state there is a gradual assembling of a kind of moral police, which threatens pluralism. It seems that the desire to rediscover Indonesia’s national identity after 1998 based on the rule of law, human rights, gender equality and religious tolerance – is again on shaky ground.
And therein lies the fundamental fault-line in democracies: the abuse of the rights of the citizenry by the politico-business (self proclaimed) élite who have been elected, or carefully selected, to protect their own interests.
Simplistic messages* and short-term solutions (such as handouts) are used to mollify the interests of the masses who are not encouraged to think for themselves. That the governing classes, as well as teachers and parents, were schooled during Suharto’s ‘New Order’ is a major factor here: deviationist thoughts were not allowed under his ‘Pancasila Democracy‘.
At a conference held in India last October by the Society for Education & Research Development, Gilang Desti Parahita of Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogjakarta, presented a paper on Communication for Sustainable Development in Reformasi Indonesia.
In essence, he argues that because the government sees short term economic benefits as being more important than long term benefits, the Indonesian bureaucracy evaluates development programs based on administrative and quantitative reports.
Through direct elections, provincial and regency governments have autonomy with the power to determine certain programmes. However, funding and budgetary constraints for these may be determined by central government. For example, the government has recently issued an instruction that regional administrations should spend at least 25 percent of their annual budget on infrastructure development and failure to do so could well result in a delay or reduction of future funds.
However, meeting that target could be a problem, even though innovative projects which ease the burdens of the citizens may prove to be more cost-effective. One example is Banyuwangi. East Java’s largest regency, which has allocated just 14.5 percent of its budget, yet is connecting all villages in the regency to a fibre-optic internet network so as to provide online access to public services.
That initiative is a rare example of ‘thinking outside the box’ in order to empower communities. Generally, however, as Gilang Parahita also points out, Indonesia‘s public services institutions have been used to lack of transparency, efficiency and accountability – except to the élites. And because national economic development remains superior in local developments, the private sector seems to have more power than local participants.
*A Simplistic Message
An Indonesia Bermutu education researcher, Eka Putri Handayani said that the Ujian Nasional (National Exam) creates high psychological distress to students. As a result, the level of stress experienced by students increases.
Note: Indonesia Bermutu was funded by the Indonesian government and the World Bank