A legacy of 73 years

Editorial Board

The Jakarta Post


Jakarta   /  Thu, August 16, 2018  /  08:30 am

An elderly citizen looks at the red-and-white flag. (JP/Maksum Nur Fauzan)

Ahead of the 73rd anniversary of its declaration of independence Indonesia is going through a critical phase. Born out of the spirit of the 1945 Proclamation, the Republic’s post-independence generation has long been replaced by new generations. Old values have faded while new ones remain to be tested. 

To this point Indonesia has experienced the periods informally grouped as the Old Order, the New Order and the Reform Era. Each period witnessed various attempts at bringing the nation forward through the worldviews and doctrines that developed in the respective times. Under founding father and first president Sukarno, “politics were in command”, as our elders said. Bung Karno conducted experiments with a political front of diverse ideologies which he dubbed Nasakom — nationalism, religion and communism. The experiment failed at a high cost with the slaughter of an estimated one million people or more, including alleged supporters of communism in the wake of the failed 1965 coup, blamed on the now defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Soeharto’s regime distanced politics from the people, and he led an authoritarian regime until he was ousted in 1998 following a massive push for reform. 

From the painful radical political changes of the past, Indonesia faces the constant challenge of maintaining a balance among its diverse peoples, protecting the weak in particular. The original ambition of achieving prosperity for all citizens is certainly the main reason why we all accept a collective life under the single red and white flag across the archipelago. 

Time and again diversity has always proven to be our strength, rather than a weakness. Therefore, accurate and fair management of economic resources is the hardest job of anyone holding the mandate to lead the republic. History has also taught us that financial crises and social and economic inequality always cause instability, with the end result being the downfall of subsequent political orders. 

History has also shown us how economic issues relate to other matters. Amid global economic uncertainties in the near future, inevitably the economy should be our focus. Our unity has been tried and tested during periods of crisis, and so must be maintained. 

This is especially true in the political year ahead, with simultaneous presidential and legislative elections next April. Political parties will fight for seats in the legislature while Indonesians will vote for their president for the next five years. With the incumbent pit against Prabowo Subianto, it is a virtual rematch of the 2014 race. 

In the past five years since the last election political dynamics have sharpened differences, threatening our unity. Some interest groups have been manipulating religious issues to gain political support, even continuing to use fake news and slander. 

Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of the ugly clashes of the last election, although many of those encounters were online. Candidates should offer their clear vision and also be on their best political behavior. In that way we can pass on the inheritance of the big home we call Indonesia in a stronger and better condition to the next generation.