Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Anti-Malaysian sentiments on the rise in Indonesia

The Star, Malaysia

MALACCA: Malaysians are advised to refrain from visiting Indonesia
following reports that anti-Malaysia sentiments there are on the rise.

“Don’t travel (to Indonesia) unless it is necessary,” said Foreign
Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, adding that Indonesian
politicians were playing up on the issue of their countrymen being
packed back home by Malaysian authorities.

Recently, 15 Malaysians were detained recently by police in Medan for
not carrying their passports while at a hotel lobby. They have been

Speaking to reporters after opening the Asean Patriotism Conference,
organised by the Malaysian Institute of Historical and Patriotism
Studies here yesterday, Syed Hamid blamed the Indonesian politicians
for capitalising on the issue.

The Indonesian press too was playing up on the issue, he said, adding
that their reports incited hatred among the Indonesian people against

“They are not telling the truth. We send back illegal immigrants, but
there are thousands of them working here and send money home every
month,” the minister said.

Syed Hamid said it was not only the illegal immigrants from Indonesia
who were sent back. Those from other countries were also repatriated,
he added.

He thanked the Indonesian authorities for releasing the 15 Malaysians
held in Medan earlier.

Syed Hamid said the Malaysian Consul-General in Medan met the governor
to discuss the matter.

Speaking to the delegates, Syed Hamid said the conference was a

good platform for them to learn from each other about diversity in
history, political and economic systems, culture as well as the
experiences in nation building.

“I hope that such understanding will improve co-operation and
solidarity among us,” he said.

In Jakarta, The Star correspondent ANDREAS HARSONO reports that an
Indonesian group protesting against Kuala Lumpur’s decision to whip
illegal immigrants almost toppled the main gate of the Malaysian
embassy yesterday.

They were stopped after police warned them they would be arrested.

“The gate almost came off its rail,” said an embassy security guard.

About 50 demonstrators chanted slogans and a small delegation later
handed over a protest letter to an embassy official.

The protestors came from a group calling itself Laskar Merah Putih
(Red and White Militia), after the colours of the Indonesian flag.

Indonesia’s national assembly chairman Amien Rais had criticised
Malaysia for what he called

”inhumane” and “insulting” punishment of caning illegal immigrants,
sparking a rebuke from Kuala Lumpur.

The implementation of tough new immigration laws followed a July 31
expiry of an amnesty period, which saw the exodus of more than 300,000
illegal immigrants. Courts have since sentenced several workers –
those without valid papers and those who overstayed their permits – to
jail and caning.

Teten Masduki of the Indonesian Corruption Watch, himself a former
labour activist, supported Amien’s statement in an interview with RRI
radio, saying one should not be caned just because of “documents

On Sunday, Indonesian Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihsa
Mahendra admitted the government’s negligence in dealing with the
problem, saying: “In February we conveyed (to relevant government
agencies) the result of a joint commission meeting with the Malaysian
Government but it was not followed up.

“The issue of illegal workers must be resolved immediately. So far, we
have not done much,” Yusril was quoted as saying by Antara, without
revealing the names of government agencies that failed to follow up on
the bilateral meeting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Friend's Seven Unpopular Propositions

T H E U N I T E D S T A T E S – I N D O N E S I A S O C I E T Y
1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW • Suite 550
• Washington DC 20036
• tel 202 232-1400 • fax 202 232-7300 •

USINDO Brief: We are pleased to send you the following report of one event in our periodic meetings with expert speakers to discuss topics in their fields.

Indonesia Since Independence: Seven Unpopular Propositions
Dr. Theodore Friend
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute
February 20, 2002
Washington, D.C.

”Please name a country that endured a dictator for 30 years, considers itself unique, is essentially anarchic, and relied on a strong leader,” Dorie Friend asked a USINDO audience on February 20.

Spain, from 1937-67, was the answer.

What Asian country was universally considered a “basket case” in the 1960s, fell under a military dictatorship, then experienced economic and educational growth, developed a middle class, and outsted the military? Answer: Korea
Citing these two examples of democratization after long periods of dictatorship and little experience of democratic governance, Dr. Friend concluded that Indonesia would not replicate their experience. It would proceed more slowly toward democracy. He gave as reasons the following “Seven Unpopular Propositions,” the topic of his talk.

• Geography is fate. Indonesia is a vast, tropical archipelago, subject to recurrent episodes of drought and flood. It is consequently difficult to govern.

• Javanese chauvinism is as repressive and irremediable to Indonesia as Han chauvinism is to China. Mao Tse Tung eventually tried to unify China by exporting Han Chinese to the regions, to the detriment of local development. Friend likened this to Javanism and the export of Javanese to the Indonesian regions under Soeharto’s policy of transmigration. He contended that Javanism and the state ideology of Pancasila have not been good for overall development in Indonesia.

• ABRI/TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, are “extortionate” on the entrepreneurial side and fascistic on the political side, like early fascism in Italy, in which Mussolini relied on street gangs and opposed trade unions. All fascists are alike, he said, in espousing sanctity of the state and submission of the people; opposing rationalism, bourgeois values and democracy; and harkening to “ancient values.” He cited Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, whose denunciation of the decadence of bourgeois values was “not far off from Osama bin Laden,” and whose speeches were full of exhortations to “ancient virtues” like “gotong royong,” (mutual help) and “berdikari” (self reliance).

• Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been and will remain of marginal consequence to Indonesian growth. Friend said that FDI as a percentage of gross domestic product was lower during the New Order period of Soeharto than in the 1910-1920 boom years under the Dutch. He cited a recent UN study which stated that FDI in the manufacturing sector was only 3-6 percent of total investment during the period 1983-1999 and was essentially unprofitable after the payments to partners, royalties and fees. He cited the “Lucas paradox” which states that despite low wages, over time a poorly educated unskilled work force will result in lower productivity than more expensive workers, and will not attract investors.

• The middle class, in size and spirit, has been and will remain a minor force in the dynamics of Indonesian society. Defining the size of a middle class by the percentage of the population owning automobiles, TV sets and motorcycles, Friend said Indonesia’s middle class is now “about five percent” of the population, the “lowest on the Pacific Rim,” and has not been a force for reform nor has it exerted pressure on the government. As an example, he said the “steam has run out on student demonstrations.”

Why has this been the case? Property owners have been dominant in the development of Western democratic societies but this is not so in Indonesia. There, “power dominates property;” and rank and status dominate property as well, according to Friend. “The middle class and civil society are mantras of hope rather than vectors of change,” he said.

Civil society cannot be equated with a middle class, he said. One can see civil societies, or voluntary associations, but unless they consolidate, form networks and create links with government they will not be a force to change society. He compared the comments of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose commentaries on American democracy in the early nineteenth century placed great weight on the importance of civil society. In a similar period “56 years after independence,” Friend does not see an important civil society in Indonesia.

• “Free enterprise democracy” will remain an illusory goal until more Indonesians overcome “split level values,” anomalies between what they say and what they do. He cited interviews with individuals from key elements in Indonesian society: pribumi industrialists, Chinese Indonesians and the military, all of whom were able to articulate quite eloquently the free market concepts of leading Western CEOs. But they were unwilling to talk about their private values, Friend said. (He acknowledged this is not unique to Indonesia and that the United States has also experienced major scandals of business corruption.)

• A major tension in present and future development in Indonesia is and will be between anarco-democracy and anarco-fascism. Friend said that tension between democracy and corporatism has existed since the revolutionary period. He said that Sukarno, probably never a democrat, regretted giving then Vice President Hatta the right to allow the formation of political parties. After his first trip to China in 1955 Sukarno was drawn to its strong central control, and returned to Indonesia to sound the theme of a single party or a no-party system. He got his way in 1959 when he announced that Indonesia would henceforth have a Guided Democracy. Democratic politics have since the end of the Soeharto period been anarchic, he said, and Gus Dur himself was a “prime example of anarco-democracy.” He referred again to the long history of paramilitary organizations as “anarco-fascists” with the example of the Aitarak, the infamous militia that has been widely accused of terrorism against pro-independence civilians in East Timor.

Indonesia needs considerable time to work on democratic values, he said, and “will not take the world by surprise” with any sudden emergence to democracy.

Friend said his propositions were stated in stark terms in order to provoke response. His effort succeeded. Several questioners disputed his assertions, and their views were summed up by Evelyn Colbert, a senior scholar of Southeast Asia, who suggested that although the propositions were pessimistic, “yet you wound up expressing hope that ways will be found” to move toward more democracy. “Why do we all agree on this?” she asked. “Because of our own affection and admiration for the Indonesian people and because of our own belief in progress and democracy, we feel that something good must come out of this process.”

“I’m an American optimist,” answered Friend, “but the problem is that progress is not inevitable. Look at Cambodia, or Argentina. I’m not writing off Indonesia; I’m just writing down: doing an audit.” He suggested some “points of light” in the year-end review conducted by the Jakarta Post in which some respected and thoughtful analysts were reasonably optimistic about the future. Beyond this, he also saw great hope in ordinary people, in the provinces. People are organizing in different ways, he said, although there is not a ‘civil society’ as yet.

Theodore Friend, an historian and former president of Swathmore College, has recently completed a book on Indonesia’s history since independence.