The latest news on Indonesia from the BBC initially makes grim reading. In it, President Joko Widodo said that Indonesia could “wipe out” paedophilia with its new policy of chemical castration. He argued that while Indonesia respected human rights, there would be “no compromise” when it came to punishing such sexual crimes.
This drastic punishment had been enacted by the Indonesian parliament following the murder and rape of a 14 year old girl in May and several other high profile child sex cases. It is the first Southeast Asian country to adopt such a measure, following countries such as Russia, Poland and South Korea.
In the same BBC interview, President Widodo also noted that the government was cracking down on corruption. “Nine ministers, 19 governors, 300 more local leaders [and] 100 parliamentarians are in jail because of corruption,” he said. “We are harsh and strict on corruption. We will be consistent in our harshness to improve the situation.”
Fortunately for these corrupt officials, no castration or amputation punishment will be meted out.
While most Malaysians will not be convinced of the efficacy of chemical or any other form of non-chemical castration or amputation of limbs on paedophiles, politicians or any others – Dr Prijo Sidipratomo, chairman of the medical ethics committee at the Indonesian Doctors Association, argues that it is harmful and against human rights – we, in Malaysia following developments in our giant neighbour must be wishing that we can have the same extraordinary progress the Indonesian nation is making in its governance and political spheres.
From Failing State to Success Story
Long derided as a failing nation and a chronically poor country, Indonesia was governed by the authoritarian regime of its military strongman President Suharto for over 31years. Indonesia’s model of development in its main underpinnings during that time invites comparison with our’s here.
According to an influential Indonesian investment news portal:
Suharto’s style of rule was that of a political patronage system. In exchange for electoral (or financial) support, he would often buy off critics by providing them with good government positions or investment opportunities. But this preferential treatment was not confined to his critics only. During the last decade of Suharto’s rule his children and close friends were able to set up huge business empires purely because of their closeness to Suharto. Although many Indonesians were frustrated at this high level of corruption, nepotism and collusion,in government circles, the government could always point to its impressive economic progress while at the same time paying lip service to the people by claiming to take efforts to reduce corruption in the country.
At the same time, the downfall of the regime in the 1990s should provide food for thought for those in Malaysia who think that enforced stability and economic growth will always trump misgovernance, the trampling of human rights and abuse of power.
What happened next after the collapse of the Suharto regime has been remarkable, and this is what we can also reflect on. Although there have been bouts of ethnic, religious and regional violence and instability, and according to Human Rights Watch, members of the state security forces still enjoy “widespread impunity” for human rights abuses, the country has made enormous progress.
Marcus Mietzner, an Indonesia specialist at the Australian National University. has described the country’s situation vis a vis other countries in the region in the following way:
“There is no doubt that Indonesia is now Southeast Asia’s most democratic nation, and this is something no one would have predicted in 1998”.
Not only has democracy started to flourish but the Indonesian economy has taken off. Despite its huge population and the enormous challenge of wielding a nation state from the hundreds of ethnic groups speaking different languages and scattered over thousands of islands, it has made steady progress to become an economic success story.
Last year, the GDP grew by 4.8% and is expected to be higher this year inspite of the anaemic global economy.
According to the World Bank’s latest Indonesian report: “Prudent monetary policy, increased public investment in infrastructure, and policy reforms to improve the investment climate, are helping Indonesia maintain growth in the order of 5.1 percent”.
In the foreseeable future, economists are expecting that the Indonesian economy, already the largest in Southeast Asia, will steadily grow. Currently the Indonesia economy is the sixteenth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and is the eighth largest in terms of GDP (PPP). Malaysians who think that Indonesia will long be a source of cheap labour will most likely have to eat their words and have to pay for much more expensive labour soon.
Perhaps the most striking story that stands out in Indonesia’s rise is the way in which Joko Widono, the current President, has come to power. Jokowi, as he is commonly known, was born in a riverside slum in Surakarta. He was twice elected mayor of Solo in Central Java and following his election as governor of Jakarta in 2012 moved on to higher office.
When he ran for governor of Jakarta he was aided by running mate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (often called Ahok), a Christian ethnic Chinese. In Jakarta he reformed local education, healthcare and public transportation, while improving transparency to prevent corruption. One report notes that Jokowi and Ahok are often referrred to as the Batman and Robin of Jakarta due to their decisive and swift action as well as pro-people attitude.
When he became President he was the first in Indonesian history not to have come from the Suharto-era political elite or to be seen as tainted by corruption and power abuse.
The contrast between what has happened in Indonesia’s leadership dynamics and Malaysia’s could not be more evident.
Source : Lim Teck Ghee@The Heat Malaysia Online