The ones who made a difference

The span of 10 years is a long time to identify and neatly encapsulate all the people who made their mark on the decade. Many once famous figures are now relegated to "where are they now?" trivial pursuit categories, requiring a Wikipedia search to jog the memory. The ones who matter are those whose legacy will be remembered as making a difference in shaping the decade. The following are the picks of the Sunday Post team of those people who mattered to Indonesia.

Politics & Society

Munir Said Thalib dedicated his life to the struggle of improving human rights in Indonesia. He was best known for his work with Kontras, the organization he founded to help victims of violence and to support relatives of people kidnapped or "disappeared" by security forces, especially in the former East Timor and Aceh.

His fearless stance, especially during the authoritarian Soeharto regime, also brought him enemies, and ultimately cost him his life. He was poisoned aboard a Garuda Indonesia flight to the Netherlands on Sept. 7, 2004, dying at the age of 38.

His murder, six years after the advent of democracy, shocked the nation, which followed closely the trial of Garuda Indonesia pilot, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto. He is serving a jail sentence for his involvement in the murder, and state intelligence officials have also been implicated in the plot.

Munir's wife Suciwati has remained an undaunted voice in the fight for justice.

Soeharto was ousted from power before the decade began, and died before it ended. Yet the specter of this former president hung over the 2000s, shaping much of the nation's political and social landscape as Indonesia tried to move away from the effects of his 32-year rule and toward democracy and reform.

Taking the helm after winning the nation's first direct presidential elections in 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - or SBY as he is popularly known - gained respect for his ongoing fight against corruption, supporting the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK; created in 2003) and the Corruption Court (set up in 2004). However, both those institutions are facing difficulties, and SBY is being increasingly criticized for indecisiveness.

Terrorists became shadowy figures of fear and hatred, whose series of bombs in Jakarta and Bali altered the socio-political landscape and damaged Indonesia's reputation in the eyes of the world.

The face of Indonesian terrorism became Amrozi, "the smiling assassin", and his brother Mukhlas and Imam Samudra, charged and ultimately executed for their part in the Bali bombing. Despite police killing alleged terrorist mastermind Noordin M. Top in late 2009, the terrorist remains a shadowy presence.


When the New Order regime of former president Soeharto crumbled in the late 1990s following the Asian financial crisis, it was expected that many traditional businesses would tumble too.

But in the 2000s, the Bakrie family's business conglomerate, headed up by Aburizal Bakrie, emerged more powerful than ever.

Thanks in part to Aburizal's political acumen - he was given an influential Cabinet post in the Yudhoyono administration, and after retiring the ministry clinched leadership of the Golkar Party, de facto the country's most formidable political machine - the family business expanded exponentially throughout the decade.

In 2007, the Bakrie family was named Indonesia's richest by Forbes magazine, with a fortune of US$5.4 billion.

In recent years, Bakrie and his business empire have hit some snags - the substantial reduction of shares in lucrative coal company Bumi Resources; the Lapindo mudflow; and a public feud with Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati - but it seems that with his Golkar success, there is no one stopping Aburizal Bakrie.

In founding budget airline Lion Air in 2000, former travel agent Rusdi Kirana opened up the skies and the country, making flying more accessible than ever. Others copied the Lion model, leading to unprecedented growth in the number of airlines over the past 10 years.

Cigarette maker Djarum group's appetite for expansion makes it a formidable contender for top business newsmaker of the decade. The Central Java-based group acquired a 30-year contract to renovate and develop one of Jakarta's most iconic landmarks, Hotel Indonesia, and bought a controlling share in Bank Central Asia (BCA), the country's largest private bank. In November, the Hartono brothers were worth $7 billion, making them the country's richest family, according to Forbes magazine.

Food and beverage

A journalist by training, Bondan Winarno is a confirmed foodie by nature, beginning when he was growing up in the spice-filled culinary paradise of Padang. Bondan's food reviews and the Jalan Sutra group of urbanites looking for their next great meal tapped into the changing tastes of the middle class, no longer sated by the old standbys of "formal dining" with stuffy meals at hotels and creaky restaurants, aside from the old standbys of sidewalk food stalls. He hit the road to do his own personal taste tests, reaching a new audience with his culinary tour TV show and his lip-smacking statement of approval "maknyus". In 2009, he opened Kopitiam Oey, a small corner coffee shop on Central Jakarta's Jl. Sabang that, in Bondan's description, offers "good coffee at an honest price".

William Wongso has whipped up a stellar reputation with his excellent restaurants, ranging from the finest of fine dining establishments to cozy spots where coffee and good conversation are on the menu, and as a consultant (including for the national airline's revamped in-flight menu) and in his popular cooking program that tries out food of the Asian region.

Johnny Andrean proved he is not just a dab hand with a pair of scissors, but an astute businessman who can pick up on a trend and make the most of it. The hairdresser rebounded from the economic crisis of the late 1990s to launch the "premier boutique bakery" Bread Talk in 2004, followed by the equally stylish J. CO donuts, where customers dine on coffee and donuts (and frozen yoghurt now) in caf*-style surroundings.

Pop culture

Dangdut singers have long been known for getting a rise out of their audience with their provocative moves. But Inul Daratista's so-called "drill dance" dug up a whole lot of controversy, including earning the ire of Rhoma Irama, the grand old man of Indonesia's own brand of Arab and Indian influenced folk music. Her frosty face-off with the self-appointed moral arbiter of dangdut music, as well as protests by social organizations, did nothing to dent her popularity; she went on to have her own music variety show and TV sitcom. Having Inul on the bill was sure to earn high ratings, but another bill - the pornography bill that was passed by the House - is said to have been partly inspired by the brouhaha over her gyrations (refusing to be daunted, she herself went before legislators debating the bill, and also marched with activists). The woman from Pasuruan, East Java, has built on her success by opening a chain of karaoke lounges and becoming a music producer. She spawned many a cavorting imitator but she is the dangdut entertainer of this decade who will be remembered; it's too bad that we often overlook the fact that she is a good singer, too.

Once the long-faced comic playing second fiddle to child singers in music videos, Tukul Arwana showed that hard work, persistence and corny repartee can pay off, as he became the host of a wildly successful "light' TV talk show - and a household name.


Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has become the face of increasing female power in Indonesia, rising through the decade to play a major role in shaping Indonesia's economic landscape.

In early 2000, Mulyani worked with several young economists to push forward economic reform in Indonesia following the 1997 Asian economic crisis. Her hard work earned her a position on former president Abdurrahman Wahid's economic advisory team.

Mulyani later headed to Atlanta, USA, to work as a consultant for the US Agency for International Development before being appointed in 2002 as executive director of the International Monetary Fund to represent Southeast Asia.

In 2004, President Yudhoyono made her state minister for national development planning; during a Cabinet reshuffle the following year, she was made head of the Finance Ministry.

Mulyani, whom Forbes magazine this year named 23rd most powerful woman in the world, is respected by both her supporters and her critics for her integrity and desire for government reform.

In February 2008, Karen Agustiawan was appointed president director of state oil and gas company PT Pertamina, becoming the first woman in the nation's history to hold such a position.

Rita Subowo brought fresh air to Indonesia's sporting world with her appointment as chair of the National Sports Council (KONI), the first woman to hold that position in the organization, which had long been led by men, including retired generals. Rita, who has vowed to increase the role of women in Indonesian sports, established a women in sports commission; she has also created commissions on Olympic solidarity and sports technology.


During 2000-2009, Indonesian contemporary art was marked by an ever-increasing sense of identity. Jim Supangkat must be credited for his tireless efforts in helping to create this effect. His influence dates back decades, to 1975, when he founded the Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru (New Art Movement), which revolted against the prevailing elitism and introduced a new definition of art.

Although short-lived, it proved to be a turning point, considered to have given birth to contemporary art in Indonesia, with its impact still felt today.

Jim launched the 9th Contemporary Jakarta Biennale (1993), co-founded the CP Art Foundation for a more egalitarian art world in 2001, and then organized the biennale of this decade, known as CP Open Biennale (2003), which adopted as its theme "Interpellation".

Countering hegemonic tendencies of art from the West, he launched his now famous statement of "Art with an Accent", which argues that just as English spoken outside Britain is English despite local accents, contemporary art from non-Western countries is art albeit with a local flavor. The New York Times praised the CP Open Biennale as having put Indonesia "on the map".

Jim Supangkat is an independent curator, a recipient of the prestigious Prince Claus Award, author of many books and a respected speaker in international forums, who continues to contribute to theoretical debates.


The new millennium dawned with the continuation of the new attitude from Indonesian women writers, led by Ayu Utami. In the genre known as sastrawangi (literally "fragrant literature", but most often known as "chick-lit"), Ayu and her followers, including Djenar Maesa Ayu, Fira Basuki and Dewi Lestari, broke new ground with the frank exploration of formerly taboo subjects for women writers, especially female sexuality.

A former journalist, Ayu published Saman in 1998 to great critical acclaim and debate. It won the Jakarta Art Council's writing competition in the same year and went on in 2000 to win the Prince Claus Award. Her subsequent works - including the sequel Larung (2001) - continue to focus on sensitive issues. She remains active in the arts through the Utan Kayu community.

Another author making waves was Andrea Hirata. His tetralogy Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Warriors), based loosely on his own childhood experiences growing up in small-town Belitung, charmed readers fatigued with chick-lit and teen-lit.


Although Ahmad Dhani's highly celebrated band Dewa 19 had reached its expiry date by the turn of the new millennium, throughout the noughties Dhani gained new relevance as a svengali who relentlessly manufactured pop/rock bands of all stripes, among them the straight female duo Ratu, the faux lesbian girl-band the Virgin, reality TV-derived girl group Dewi Dewi, as well as his solo project the Rock. Dhani, who wears his arrogance as a badge of honor, has had a long-running dispute with former wife Maia Estianti, and most recently engaged in a war of words with Betawi community figure Ridwan Saidi for allegedly promoting Jewish symbols.

Purists may blame music promoter Adrie Subono for "dumbing down" listeners' musical tastes by bringing low-profile performers to perform here. But he has redeemed himself by also inviting top-notch international acts such as Bjork, Sonic Youth, Beastie Boys and Suede. More than ever he is today playing a key role in breaking up the country's pop insularity, currently dominated by wannabe corporate sellouts.

Although it's hard to pinpoint anything extraordinary about Slank's activities in the past 10 years, this musical collective from Duren Tiga, South Jakarta, still earns an honorable mention. The fact they are still around after more than two decades shows they have achieved the near impossible in rock music: longevity. While last year's "it" bands are struggling with record sales, Slank still sells albums by the thousands.


Mira Lesmana & Riri Riza are regarded as the most influential filmmakers of the decade. Mira, the daughter of jazz musician Jack Lesmana, and Riri share a background at the Jakarta Arts Institute. Joining forces on Mira's Miles Productions, they worked together on the experimental Kuldesak in 1998 when Indonesian film production was at one of its lowest ebbs.

In 2000, they scored a breakout hit with the children's musical Petualangan Sherina (Sherina's Adventure), widely credited with reviving the local industry. Then came Ada Apa Dengan Cinta (What's Up With Love?), the 2002 teen romance that attracted more than 2 million viewers, a box office record at the time. They then forged ahead with other quality productions, including Eliana, Eliana (2002), Gie (2005) and Laskar Pelangi (Rainbow Warriors; 2008), which, with box office sales of more than 4.5 million, is the nation's most successful movie ever.

A onetime film critic for this publication, Joko Anwar fulfilled his cinematic dreams by co-writing with Nia Dinata 2004's Arisan!, the slick tale of Jakarta urbanites that showed that entertaining but adult-focused fare could compete with the teen flicks, schlock horror and sex comedies in movie theaters.

He made his directorial debut with the whimsical Janji Joni (Joni's Promise; 2005), the number one box office hit of the year and an international film festival favorite. He continued to display his unique talents in the noirish Kala (2007) and the horror suspense movie Pintu Terlarang (Forbidden Door).

Nia Dinata founded Kalyana Shira Film in 2000, and made her name with the international award-winning Ca Bau Kan (2002). She followed this with a string of critical and commercial successes, including Arisan! (2004) and Berbagi Suami (Love to Share).


The decade opened with heavily ornate dresses, but as the years went on, the look became more dressed down, with more Indonesian designers making a name for themselves both internationally and nationally.

One household name is designer Sebastian Gunawan, known and loved for his classic dresses. Sebastian and his wife Christina Panarese have several design labels: Sebastian Gunawan, Sebastian's by Sebastian and Christina, Votum, Red Label and Sebastian Sposa. Sebastian and his clothes with their distinctive modern touch have been on catwalks at international events such as Malaysia Fashion Week and Bangkok Fashion Week.

Designer Edward Hutabarat is credited with injecting new life into traditional Indonesian clothes and fabrics, setting off the batik trend so dominant in fashion the past few years. After bringing national dress kebaya to the forefront, Edward reinvented batik through his Part One labels, launched in 2006. Edward turned batik, once associated with stuffy official ceremonies and wedding receptions, into stylish wearable "must have" outfits.

Designers come and go, but Biyan Wanaatmadja, who held his 26th annual fashion show this year, remains loyal to his calling, proving his worth through his longevity.

Great fashion starts with great fabrics, and one of the leading fabric makers in Indonesia is Josephine "Obin" Komara, owner of Bin House, whose fabrics are entirely hand-spun and hand-woven by the finest Indonesian artisans, with no assistance from modern technology.


For reasons best known to themselves, journalists have developed a tendency to seek out a comment from radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir whenever a terrorist attack takes place or the National Police anti-terrorism squad rounds up members of a new terrorist network. Others just seek his comments on the state of the world. Such was the popularity - or notoriety - enjoyed by Ba'asyir, who, despite his alleged radical roots and activism, has managed to elude serious prosecution, enabling him to continue to promote his incendiary version of Islam. The country's liberal version of Islam may lack a unifying figure, but Islam's hostile incarnation already has a singular face in the form of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.

In 2007, Siti Musdah Mulia received the International Women of Courage Award from the US State Department. Courage is indeed the right word to describe her actions in challenging conventional wisdom in Islamic thinking. When lawmakers deliberated the much-maligned pornography bill Siti Musdah stood at the forefront denouncing the bill, saying that it would institutionalize religious oppression. She further pushed the envelope by making an argument in 2008 that homosexuality had its place within Islam. Predictably, some firebrand Muslim organizations have branded Siti Musdah an enemy of Islam.

International figures

The first time the Nobel committee considered issues related to Indonesia was when it conferred the Nobel Peace Prize on East Timor freedom fighter Ramos Horta and Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo in 1996; three years later, East Timor became independent. In 2008, the Nobel Peace Prize went to former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, who was among those who brokered a peace deal in tsunami-ravaged Aceh, requiring the province to remain part of Indonesia. It took him seven months to convince the Aceh rebels and the Indonesian government to sign the peace deal.

For someone who was in this country for only three hours, former US president George W. Bush had a surprisingly lasting effect on the country. His global war on terrorism was perceived by the majority of Indonesian Muslims as targeting Muslims worldwide. After 9/11, it became routine for anti-war and Muslim protesters to burn his effigies. A loud collective sigh of relief was heard November last year when the American electorate voted for a new president who is his complete opposite.

Rarely has the US presidential election drawn as much excitement as it did last year, including in Indonesia, with the rise and ultimate success of Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who spent four years of his childhood in Menteng. He may have become a polarizing figure in the US - as in Jakarta where residents grudgingly asked for the removal of his statue from Menteng Park in late 2009 - but one year ago, he embodied hope - misplaced or not - for US domestic and foreign policy. When right-wing talk-show hosts began dubbing him an "Indonesian Muslim", it seemed Indonesia had finally secured a spot in middle America's consciousness.

Osama bin Laden's whereabouts remain unknown, with even US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitting US intelligence doesn't have a clue where to find him. His phantasmagoric presence aside, Osama has served as inspiration for any jihadist who rages against America. T-shirts bearing his face sold like hot cakes following the US incursion in Baghdad. One of the masterminds of the Bali bombing, Ali Ghufron, admitted knowing Osama very well while the two were serving in Afghanistan. For some, he is indeed an idol to die for.


Chris John has been Indonesia's shining star in sports at a time when much of the scene has been dimmed by failure and questions in recent years about how to get things back on track. The boxer from Semarang continued the success of compatriot Ellyas Pical in the 1980s by becoming World Boxing Association featherweight champion in 2003, going on to 12 successful defenses of his title and living up to his nickname of "The Dragon". He is quiet and soft-spoken outside the ring, but his determination has helped him overcome an ugly dispute with his former coach and remain on top despite the tendency of the public and media to look for the cracks in the armor of our sports heroes - the 30-year-old has still not shown any.

A prodigious talent, Taufik Hidayat from Bandung took gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and the world championships in Anaheim a year later, defeating nemesis Lin Dan of China. Still, there is always the nagging feeling that, with a bit more control of his temperament and a little more hunger, the 29-year-old could have been one of the sport's all-time greats.

Ade Rai, the country's most famous bodybuilder in the 1990s, could have gone the usual route for onetime big men by playing the heavy in sitcoms and films. Instead, the Bali native has parlayed brains and brawn into success as a fitness consultant and as the owner of an eponymous chain of gyms, which have made getting buff affordable for almost all as the body beautiful culture descended on major cities in the noughties.


The people in Sidoarjo, East Java, lived a peaceful and anonymous life until mud began spewing from the earth in May 2006, slowly but surely submerging their neighborhoods and forever changing their lives.

The site of the mudflow was close to a mine controlled by PT Lapindo Brantas, a company belonging to Bakrie group.

The causes of the mudflow are still hotly debated. Some say it was caused by drilling by the mining company. PT Lapindo Brantas insists that it was triggered by an earthquake. Who should pay compensation remains a prickly issue. Residents have staged several protests, gaining the support of Indonesian people and international attention, but resulting in little concrete resolution.

According to East Java's agrarian office, the mudflow has submerged at least 576 hectares including four villages, with thousands of houses and rice fields.

Rachmat Witoelar, who was state minister of the environment in Yudhoyono's first Cabinet (2004-2009), gained international recognition as president of 13th United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC 2007) in Bali. Now head of the Indonesian Council for Climate Change, Witoelar has announced plans for a carbon tax on polluting industries.


Indonesia's much maligned capital has become notorious for its traffic jams and poor public transportation system.

One person who changed the way Jakartans use public transportation was former governor Sutiyoso (1998-2008). Inspired by the TransMilenio of Bogota, Colombia, the former general launched in 2004 the first TransJakarta corridor, running from Kota, North Jakarta, to Blok M, South Jakarta.

Although the project reaped criticism at the time, it has taught Jakartans to wait for buses at bus stops.

Sutiyoso was unable to replicate this success with the failed monorail and waterways. Sutiyoso planned a monorail with two corridors, but it was stopped in early 2008 due to financial problems, leaving unfinished pylons littering the road. The waterway ground to a halt after just a few months of operation.

The streets of Jakarta were also changed following the 1997/98 financial crisis with an explosion in the number of motorcycles, popular as small and cheap. This led to a new breed: the ojek (motorcycle-taxi riders). As the traffic jams continued to worsen, more people turned to ojek to get to their appointments in time.

Compiled by Bruce Emond, Kurniawan Hari, M. Taufiqurrahman, Imogen Badgery-Parker, Triwik Kurniasari, Tifa Asrianti and Jakarta Post art reviewer Carla Bianpoen

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