Australians advised to stop seeing Indonesia as “abnormal country”

05/27/08 21:05

Australians advised to stop seeing Indonesia as “abnormal country”


Brisbane (ANTARA News) – The Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) on Tuesday launched its latest research report urging the Australian public and policymakers to see democratic Indonesia as “a normal country”.

The report titled “Seeing Indonesia as a normal country: Implications for Australia ” contained the findings of research conducted by two noted Indonesian affairs analysts, Professor Andrew MacIntyre and Dr Douglas E Ramage.

MacIntyre and E.Ramage said Australia needs to understand the new stable landscape of Indonesia as a result of positive changes that it has made as a more democratic and pluralistic country.

“Thinking of Indonesia as a `normal` country allows us to see it through new eyes. It`s a useful analytical lens that lets us see some new opportunities and imperatives, ” they said.

Present-day Indonesia was a stable, competitive electoral democracy which was playing a constructive role in the regional and broader international community, they said.

In the 68-page report, they made a number of specific policy recommendations to Australia , such as a new approach to engagement with the military and a geographic shift within the country of its development assistance programs.

“We now know what Indonesia is probably going to look like over the next decade. In the absence of radical disjuncture, Indonesia will be a middle‑income developing country making slow headway in lifting living standards and consolidating democratic governance,” they said.

As citizens of a lively democracy, Indonesians shared important political values with Australians, MacIntyre and E.Ramage said.

“This is good news, but it`s also very probable that neither Indonesia`s circumstances nor its bilateral relationship with Australia will become dramatically better over the next five to ten years. Although it would be better if Indonesia`s economy grew faster than we see today, and its democratic consolidation and governance reform advanced more strongly, those things are unlikely to happen.”

The current trajectory was likely to be as good as it would get over the next decade or so, they said.

With regard to Indonesian leaders, MacIntyre and E.Ramage said incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono`s record of leadership remained the best and was “unlikely to be beaten” over the next decade though his achievements were under appreciated.

Despite the need for Australia to see Indonesia through new eyes, it would also remain important to recall old insights. One of the oldest remains that the Australian policymakers should grasp was “the fundamental pluralism of Indonesia “, they said.

The fundamental pluralism of Indonesia was even a very old truth whose age was much older than the Republic of Indonesia and even the Netherlands East Indies.

” Indonesia has always been a fundamentally pluralist society; its geography and history ensure this. There have been some terrible and deadly exceptions, but pluralism remains the bedrock fact of Indonesian society,” they said.

The argument of pluralistic Indonesia needs to be re-emphasized because of two main reasons. The first reason was that Australians have lost sight of it in recent years and suspected the emergence of militancy and zealotry in the archipelago and the second was the fact that the new democratic world of `normal Indonesia , its underlying social diversity would be “the foundation of pluralistic politics”, they said.

In response to the ASPI`s research report, spokesperson of the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra, Dino Kusnadi, said it did not only raise a new hope for Australia to have a new lens in seeing Indonesia but it was also a confirmation for what Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb had consistently and repeatedly conveyed about the New Indonesia to the Australian public since he was posted in Canberra.

Prof.Andrew MacIntyre`s and Dr.Douglas E Ramage`s research findings had confirmed the truth of Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb`s consistent statements on vibrant and democratic Indonesia, he said.

Thus, in facing the New Indonesia, Australians need to update their ways and change their old yardstick, Kusnadi said.

Andrew MacIntyre is professor of political science and director of the Australian National University`s Crawford School of Economics and Government, while Dr. Douglas E Ramage is the Asia Foundation`s Country Representative in Indonesia.

ASPI is an independent, non-partisan policy institute. The Canberra-based research center was founded by the Australian government to provide fresh ideas on the country`s defense and strategic policy choices. (*)

COPYRIGHT © 2008

http://www.antara. co.id/en/ arc/2008/ 5/27/australians -advised- to-stop-seeing- indonesia- as-abnormal- country/

 

 

It’s improving, but there’s a long way to go

 

YESTERDAY’S release of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s report Seeing Indonesia as a Normal Country is timely, coming 10 years after the overthrow of the Suharto regime and just ahead of Kevin Rudd’s visit to Jakarta next month. By mapping the progress made over the past decade, the authors lay to rest some of the alarmist reporting about Indonesia as a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism and a nation struggling to control multiple separatist movements. But the title of the report is misleading. Though Indonesia is in no danger of becoming a failed state, it doesn’t serve anyone’s policy objectives to pretend that Indonesia should be seen as “normal” – whatever “normal” means in the context of international relations.

Indonesia has made remarkable progress towards becoming a more open, democratic and economically advanced society. The stifling uniformity of Suharto’s New Order has gone, but the same old elite still controls many levers of political and economic power. As the report acknowledges, Indonesia suffers from “globally chart-topping levels of corruption”. Judicial reform has been “often piecemeal and highly uneven”. Bowing to political pressure, courts often fail to uphold convictions of senior officials. Human rights violators often go unpunished. Rampant corruption, the weak application of the rule of law and regulatory uncertainty have been deterrents to foreign direct investment. Though inflows have picked up, Southeast Asia ‘s largest economy attracted only $US10.3billion in FDI last year. By comparison, China approved $US35billion in FDI in the first four months of this year. Half of Indonesia ‘s population lives on less than $US2 a day, with as many Indonesians living in poverty as the rest of East Asia put together, excluding China . In a country of more than 220 million people the number of taxpayers stands at a paltry 3.3 million. Despite forecasts of economic growth reaching 7 per cent this year, Indonesia still lags well behind the other tiger economies of Asia such as Vietnam , China and India . Unemployment hovers around 10 per cent. Government spending on health and education relative to GDP is lower than in most other Asian countries.

The debate over whether Indonesia should be seen as a normal country masks more important policy issues for Australia . Our shared concerns for maintaining security and promoting economic prosperity require Australia to maintain a close and constructive relationship with all levels of the Indonesian Government. The Rudd Government’s foreign policy priorities, particularly the new emphasis being given to China at the expense of our traditional allies such as Japan and India , have yet to be fully understood in the region. Engaging with Indonesia requires appreciating its complexities, sensitivities and vulnerabilities. Pretending things are normal risks misreading the inner workings of our most important neighbour.

http://www.theaustr alian.news. com.au/story/ 0,25197,23769458 -25209,00. html

 

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