Reformasi and the Questions of the Future

May 21, 1998. Indonesia’s Soeharto decreed his resignation following series of demonstrations across the archipelago and a bloody chaos in Jakarta that killed thousands of innocent people and crumpled the society.

Like many student activists at that time, I cheered and greeted his decree. We believed that it was the end of the New Order regime and all of its social, economical and political oppressiveness. Despite of all miseries, we supposed that all victims were the cost for a new freedom for the whole people, i.e. freedom from Soeharto’s dictatorship.

More than three decades ago, soon after seizing power over the country following the blood-spattered political drama propagandized by the military as the communist coup d’etat and the theater of massacre of the communist party’s members and sympathizers in 1960s, Soeharto fully controlled the country.

He developed his gigantic political machinery, publicly known as New Order regime, consisted of military, one leading party, and bureaucracy. He assumed that political stability was the most important point and primary ground to develop the economic. He centralized politics, banned public discourses and criticism including media criticism, and apparently developed his authoritarianism.

Moreover, in developing the country he followed all assessments assigned by Western economic-hit-men — it reminds me of the Confession of the Economic Hit Men of a professional economic-hit-man named John Perkins.

Soeharto believed that the country needed huge amount of debt and loan to be developed. He opened the door to multinational corporations (MNCs) to invest and let them fully control over Indonesian natural resources, and at the same time made Indonesia’s state-owned-companies became second-class.

He acknowledged the concept of ‘trickle down effect’ and established a group of conglomerates that he believed would ‘take off’ the development of the country to the ‘industrial phase’. In the meantime Soeharto, his family and his cronies benefited and took financial advantage from the foreign investments.

He was best known as a master of KKN, a short form of Korupsi (Corruption), Kolusi (Collusion) and Nepotism. Despite of Jakarta shantytown, undoubtedly his model of economic development resulted a wide poverty enclave across the country, and led to disparate the society. The fragility of economic development during his regime led to the vulnerability and weakness. Then, the country crashed following the Asian monetary crisis in 1997.

Initially, for many Indonesian, the fall of Soeharto was seen as a chance to change the country’s future; surviving from dictatorship and heading to better circumstance we supposed an era of reformation where the people would have better political system such as multiparty system, direct and fair election, transparency, and decentralization in economic development, human rights protection, and so on and so forth.

We assumed that the country would stand as a truly sovereign country with dignity among the countries. We hoped that Indonesia would again reach its reputation as one of leaders in the non-alignment movement, or at least in the ASEAN.

Nevertheless, after ten year of hoping, many Indonesian realize that changing the faith of the country, changing the future of the country, is really much harder than overthrowing Soeharto. Despite the fact that Soeharto had felt down, the system and all wisdoms he left still exist, and even his considered-followers and loyalists are able to resume power.

The country remains one of poor countries in the world, even though there are some wealthy enclaves consist of Soeharto’s conglomerates group and new tycoons who took benefits and fortunes from the 1997 crisis. The natural resources are still under the control of the foreign companies; the political system, despite of multiparty system, is being exploited and demoralized by many of incapable and selfish politicians, money politics are common phenomenon in daily politics; the number of jobs is declining year by year; the poverty enclave extends; conflicts are triggered by economical disparities emerged in many kind of form, mainly in the form of religious conflict; corruption becomes more common cases; and so on and so forth.

Since seems that there is no exact agenda following the fall of Soeharto, some start to hope that they could go back to the past. Some others, including me, insist to move forward to find out the best outcome despite of current turbulences and strongly consider that the current turbulences are excesses of Soeharto era. Thus we believe that there is a bright side at the end of the dark tunnel.

Here I come with my fundamental questions. The first is, how to define a better future for the country? The second, suppose there is a design of ‘preferred future’, how to achieve it? And lastly, based on my understanding that the founding fathers, Soeharto’s New Order regime, and the current regime had and have designed what they consider as ‘images of future’ or ‘preferred future’ for the country, why they were and are  failed to maintain and to achieve the ‘designated future’?

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Born in Medan, lives in Jakarta, loves Indonesia.

3 thoughts on “Reformasi and the Questions of the Future”

  1. After the fall of Suharto’s regime, we hope the little people, just want a fundamental change, namely the change for the better, for small people like us, we little people are not anti-capitalist, not at all, we the little people, only to expect, so that government, anyone who govern, must govern justly, in the sense of giving the same facilities, among those who have big capital, with those who have little capital, so there were no gaps in providing facilities.

    The reality after the Government changed and went, apparently helpless people remained small, because those in power before, always speak to defend the little people, but in reality after they forget the promise to power, so that small people are still suffering much, although at the present time the small people poor, can still be treated free, although there is still resistance from bureaucrats, as well as the existence of free education until secondary level education, for children from poor families, but still not equitable, and subject to the policy of regional heads,

    when it should, the Government must take seriously, to the sustainability of health, education, food and shelter for poor families, including giving priority to poor families of scale, to be more empowered, educate and forge a way they have high skills in the field produce and produce a good.

    To implement all of them, they must be trained intensively-sunguh, as well as after having specialist skills in accordance with their fields, they also provided facilities and infrastructure, (infrastructure is provided, long-term soft loans with an interest of 5 (five) percent per annum, and the term return time period, 40 (forty) years, provided the same facility, with a credit facility provided by the Government to big businessmen, because if poor families were given loans with short-term, they will have trouble paying debts, meaning that the same dig a hole with a vent cap, and they will increase the poor), to give the same facility, namely assistance (long term loans with low interest rates), it means that the Government provide assistance to the same facilities and infrastructure, with facilities provided to wealthy businessmen, so that later the poor families that previously, did not have any expertise, having trained in a serious manner, and assisted by providing long-term soft loans, so they can become highly skilled and able to form centers of household industries , almost every area.

    With already many poor families, who, after earnestly assisted by the Government, then these poor families, will be able to form industrial centers small households, and their products will be absorbed within the country and also can be exported out of the country with so when faced with free trade in the global economy, nations capable of dealing with tough INDONESIA.

    Surabaya, May 14, 2010

    Slamet Julianto (cak Bagong)

  2. Maaf mas Irwan Kurniawan dan sahabat-sahabat pembaca lainnya. . bahwa bahasa Inggris saya masih gratul-gratul . . namun saya yakin mas Irwan dan sahabat-sahabat lainnya sangat faham maksud tulisan saya

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