Indonesia 20 Years after the Fall of Suharto: Much has gone well - clusters of oppression remains

This was the main conclusion of a seminar organised at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights Tuesday September 11, 2018. The topic of the seminar was Indonesia 20 Years after the Fall of Suharto, and the emphasis was mainly on the human rights situation. 

Both HE Todung Mulia Lubis, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Norway and Iceland, and Prof Herlambang P. Wiratraman from Airlangga University in Surabaya gave openhearted accounts of the human rights challenges faced by Indonesia in the post-Suharto period.

After an introduction by Knut D. Asplund from NCHR’s international department, HE Prof Dr Todung Mulia Lubis, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Norway and Iceland, mentioned constitutional reforms, decentralisation of power, ratification of human rights conventions, passing of laws, as well as the free press and a vibrant civil society as among the positive developments that Indonesia had witnessed the last two decades.

Prof Herlambang P. Wiratraman, from the Centre of Human Rights Law Studies, Airlangga University, Surabaya provided several examples of attacks on academic freedom that had taken place the last few years. A pattern seems to occur where universities are at risk of having gatherings, roundtable discussions, or film screenings obstructed if they deal with topics such as the mass killings of 1965-1967, LGBT issues, or conflicts between extractive industries and local communities. Often the police, or groups of thugs are behind such attacks, but sometimes also the university administration themselves intervene to prohibit events from proceeding. Herlambang also presented more curios cases, such as lecturers being barred from teaching because of the teaching methods they use, or due to the theories they present.  

There seems to have been a shift in Indonesia where human rights defenders and journalists in Indonesia today seem to be more at risk if they engage themselves in cases involving businesses and corruption, than if they criticise the state. A reason for this could be that under Suharto his business interests and the state had merged into one bundle. Today, business interests are more fragmented – and the state has larger room for diversity. However, the ideologies that used to protect Suharto’s New Order regime’s interests, such as anti-communism and ultra-nationalism, seem to have survived the Reformasi-period, and are still today occasionally brought into play. The shadow of Suharto is still looming large. 


Tags: Indonesia, human rights, Suharto, academic freedom By Knut D. Asplund
Published Sep. 18, 2018 4:21 PM - Last modified Sep. 19, 2018 8:45 AM