Indonesia by Asienreisender - Travelling Southeast Asia
Indonesia is one of the very poor countries in the world. Not in resources, but in living quality for the masses of the people. On the human development index it ranks on place 124 out of 187 countries, even behind Palestine.
A population growth of 1.5% annually of a population of 240 million people has consequences for the quality of air and water (the motorized traffic grows enormously), of the ecological diversity, food supplies and energy.
Downtown Jakarta. After the fall of dictator Suharto the emerging democratic elities gave the capital Jakarta a new face in the inner city. A big, representative street, seamed with new skyscrapers for the big national and international business. A few meters to the right and the left there are slums already. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Consisting of some 18,000 islands and stretching over 5,000 kilometers from east to west alone makes Indonesia a country with a wide diversity of species, climate and cultures. The landscapes are shaped by the pacific ring of fire, most of the islands like Java, the main island, came to existence due to volcanic activity. Mount Merapi is the most active volcano in Indonesia.
It's not said to much that Java is politically dominating the island empire. Many of the 400 ethnicities within Indonesia would prefare independence from Jakarta. Whenever large independence activities in part of the country occure, Indonesian troops are sent to cease it and remain control over the territory. At the moment there is a struggle for independence on Papua (former Irian Jaya), other examples are the Moluccas, east Timor, Banda Aceh (north Sumatra), Kalimantan, Sulawesi.
In the Sumatra province of Banda Aceh the nationalistic-islamic party is ruling, applying the shariah law. They aim independence from Indonesia. An almost 30 years lasting civil war just ended in 2004, forced by the tsunami desaster and what followed. Banda Aceh now has a partly souvereignity about the oil- and gas income and full autonomy about religious affairs.
The war between the central government in Jakarta and the guerillas in Aceh cost 15,000 lives; more than 50% of the population suffered under the traumatic experiences of violence of all kind, including plundering, torture, rapes.
Papua is another part of Indonesia which is struggling for independence. After a manipulated election it came 1969 under Indonesian rule. It's interesting for it's various resources (among them gold and copper). Since then it is in unrest, peaceful demonstrations and violent riots both occur. The central government acts strict and brutal. To hoist the flag of Papua for example is strictly forbidden for the locals and punished with jail. Foreign journalists are not allowed to visit Papua. Various sources, inclundig witnesses blame the Indonesian army for destroying whole villages in Papua, for killing, raping and torturing civilians.
Lynching is common in Indonesia when the public order fails. After the system change in 1998 and the following chaos there were cases of lynching of pickpockets. Some offenders were chased by an angry mob, petrol was poured over them and they were burned on the streets. Chinese shops were plundered and a number of Chinese were killed or raped.
For a couple of years Indonesia was seen as a rapidly growing economy which will continue to grow and grow and grow, until it will reach the sky and become one of the biggest economies in the world. The (western) economists who write articles, comments and predictions for the future development again and again fail in the same manner. If there is a certain development for a short time, they always tend to just count that up for the next 20, 30 years. That the Indonesian growth is not sustainable was pointed out on this website already in 2012 (see: 'Economy)', when the hype was still ongoing. Indonesia's economy boomed mostly because it is an exporter of a number or raw materials. It is very much depending therefore on the demand for these resources on the world market. The demand declined in 2013 due to the ongoing world economic crisis and particularly the falling demand from China. The country needs for a prolongued growth processing industries in grand style. However, Indonesia is not very attractive for foreign investment, for the reasons described in the 'Economy' chapter in more detail. It's the huge corruption, buerocratic obstacles and the lack of a functioning infrastructure. Another central problem are the petrol subsidies. The Indonesian state pays subventions of 23 billion $US every year to keep the petrol prices lower than they would be. That's a present for the growing middle class who loves to rush on Indonesia's rotten roads in much too big cars. The money is, of course, missing for other projects, particularly in times of economic crisis and a growing annual trade gap.
The situation declined in 2013, the last years of president Yudhoyono's government. The last years of his rule weren't very productive anymore. It ended in mid 2014 with the elections of a new parliament (April 2014) and a new president (July 2014; Indonesian presidents can not extend two legislative periods). For the new president there are now great challenges to solve. The modernization of the country has to be promoted; a central task for that is the improvement of the road system. That can only be financed with the cut down of the petrol subsidies, what expectedly will trigger resistance and protests. Moreover, electrification and water supplies, wastewater systems and education for the human material for the industries has to be enhanced. That all is to be done to attract foreign investment into the country. Indonesian industries, so far they exist, can not cope with foreign industries on the advanced level which is reached already in late capitalism. Neighbouring countries like Singapore or Malaysia, also Thailand, have much more developed leading industries (microelectronics, automobile production etc.) than laid-back Indonesia. Not to mention the Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese and more competition on the world market. So, it's a real challenge for the new president to 'upgrade' the rotting industrialization process of the country.
There are many more problems who are seen as secondary or not even realized as problems. The Javanese rule over all the 18.000 outer islands is in wide parts of the large country with it's 400 different ethnics by far not everywhere accepted. The local people often want their independence; they expect to be better off when they would get rid of the Javanese domination. Since the independence of the jigsaw puzzle-country there was non-stop civil war in different regions: Banda Aceh, East-Timor, Papua, the Moluccas etcetera etcetera... The army is the richest and most powerful institution in Indonesia, and they have a long tradition of war crimes. However, they are untouchable. At the end all political power comes out of a gun barrel (Mao Tse Tung). And there is no emancipation movement of the common people in sight - nowhere in Southeast Asia. Religious and political indoctrination is all what the people get as 'information' from the media and established institutions.
Not to mention the ecological problems. Indonesia is world champion in deforestation, what happens here meanwhile in a much faster speed than in Brasil. No one cares for that - there is no or only little/partial consciousness for ecology and pollution. Road construction, infrastructural development, industrialization - that requires a high prize for the already so much damaged and destroyed nature. Java is heavily overpopulated and totally spoiled with individual motorized traffic (cars and motorbikes), in Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sumatra the huge tropical rainforests are falling in high-speed and the extinction rate of species is much higher than in the global average (what is bad enough already).
That's just an outline of the country's problems, to be dealed with by the new president, what is now Joko Widodo (widely called 'Jokowi').
A 'honest Man' for Indonesia
In the turbulent and aggressive election campaign between the presidential candidates (the president is elected directly by the people in Indonesia, it's separated from the elections for the parliament), the new elected president is often described as 'a honest man for Indonesia'. Joko Widodo is seen as a modest man who makes a 'clean politics', instead of promoting pomp and parades. His political career started after the breakdown of general Suharto's dictatorship in 1998. He is the first president who is not an offspring of the old, estabilshed networks of power and corruption, who are a heritage of the Suharto dictatorship.
Joko Widodo, the new president of Indonesia. A new face, a new hope. Remarkable is the similarity with Barack Obama. Image from the election campaign.
Widodo's first profession is sometimes described as a salesman for furniture, sometimes as a manager or owner of a furniture factory, sometimes as a carpenter. Anyway, he joined the democratic party (PDI-P) and became two times the mayor of Solo (Surakarta). He promoted the local economy, particularly tourism. In difference to many of his colleages in other cities, Widodo didn't abuse his privileges and didn't commit embezzlements. Soon ago he became elected mayor of the country's capital Jakarta.
'Jokowi' Widodo became known for his unannounced visits in city offices, setting inefficiently working officials under pressure or sacking them. He stands for a moderate nationalism and a less protective economic policy as his opponent Prabowo Subianto.
Widodo symbolizes the hope of many Indonesians that the enormous corruption will be fought. However, the president is not almighty. The democrat party is, as any party in any 'democracy', merely a pressure group for a fraction of the ruling class. The big name in the party is Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of the first Indonesian president Sukarno; she was for a time herself president and actually wanted to candidate herself in the 2014 elections. However, since her reputation is far not as favourable as Widodo's, the decision for candidature was made to his favour. Nevertheless, the powerful old lady, deeply integrated in the political establishment, will pull as many strings as possible from the background. And there are the old networks of corrupt high and low party politicians and additionally the officials in all the administrations who make state institutions so very 'structurally conservative'. The president needs their cooperation to fulfill any policy and aim whatever targets. It's certainly not possible for one man to clean up a thoroughly corrupt administrative system, respectively a widely corrupt society.
The General or: 'Il Duce's' grip for Power
It's interesting and revealing to have a look also on Widodo's opponent in the recent elections. General Prabowo Subianto, the offspring of one of the politically and economically most influencial dynasties of Indonesia, and one of the richest people in the country, made a career in the military in the time of Suharto's dictatorship. He became the commander-in-chief of the special military unit 'Kopassus' and fought against the independence movement in occupied East Timor. His rapid career came also together with the marriage of Suharto's daughter.
Prabowo Subianto. A fascist option for Indonesia. Image from the election campaign.
Prabowo's name is not only tightly connected with war crimes and incredible atrocities in East Timor. He was also a frontman for the dictator to 'get rid' of opponents. Till today the 'disappearance' of dozends of student activists at the end of the dictatorship 1997/98 is connected with Subianto. As the leader of a dubious military elite unit he is claimed by critics to have hijacked, tortured and killed a number of democracy activists in the violent trial to stabilize the falling regime of his father-in-law. He is also blamed by critics for initiating some of the heavy ethnic riots in the years 1997/98, when many ethnic Chinese were killed, robbed and raped by a furious, rotten, mislead Indonesian mob. Thousands got killed, and it was supposed to give the falling dictatorship a legitimation for reestablishing 'law and order'.
Subianto leaves questions about this parts of his past usually unanswered. In a TV discussion he once said that he merely did his duty. That's a common attitude of war criminals who commit their deeds for powerful political leaders. Remember 'Eichmann in Jerusalem'? Adolf Eichmann was the central organisator of the Holocaust and got caught 1965 in Argentina by the Mossad. Israel made him a trial in which Eichmann allegedly regretted what he did and added, that he acted under an oath he couldn't break and that all he did, was just his duty. The political leaders behind, when ever brought to justice, usually 'didn't know' what happened or can't remember anything. However, Subianto is officially denied to enter the USA for his involvement in these sinister affairs.
To get an impression what happened in the early times of the Suharto dictatorship I recommend the 2012 movie 'The Act of Killing' by Joshua Oppenheimer. It's a documentary on the persecution of regime opponents after general Suharto's coup détat in 1965. Up to two million people were brutally butchered. In 'The Act of Killing' two of the mass-murderers, who are still living a free and protected and wealthy life in Indonesia, act themselves in the roles they really played and show the audience at original spots how they tortured and butchered political opponents, ethnic Chinese or alleged communists. The killing was not done anonymously but directly, face-to-face with the victims. It's a reality drama on Indonesian society; particularly shocking is the 'banality of evil' (Hannah Arendt) of the affair. Warning: 'The Act of Killing' is no movie for weak nerves.
After the downfall of the Suharto dictatorship Subianto was sacked dishonourable from the Indonesian army by Indonesias first post-dictatorial president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie. Subianto was suspected to plan a coup against the new democratic government. He disappeared then for a time abroad (Jordan, Switzerland).
Since 2000 Subianto works on his political comeback. He founded his own party, the 'Gerinda' (Movement for a Greater Indonesia). The party is financed with enormous sums of money, given by his jounger brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo, one of the richest and most dubious businesmen of Indonesia. Gerinda is well known for it's nationalistic, anti-globalisation rethorics and targeting the poor, uneducated people in the huge and ever growing Indonesian slums.
The weired affinity for fascism in islamic countries has several reasons. In the two world wars Germany was fighting against the established colonial powers. Islam in Indonesia was over centuries an opposing doctrine against the Dutch rule. Stamford Raffles stated that already in his work 'A History of Java' in the early 19th century. Particularly the second world war weakened the colonial powers and made some of them loosing 'their' colonial possessions, especially Indonesia itself.
Another point is the strict antisemitism which fascism shares with islamism, although for very different reasons.
On journeys through north Africa and Southeast Asia, when being asked for my nationality, I have heared countless times 'Germany good, Hitler good!'. Some told me that Hitler were a role model for them. 'Hitler strong!'. What these simple fools don't know is that in Hitlers racist ideology they only ranked as inferior 'subhumans', designed for slave labour and/or annihilation. That's very similar to the view of the Japanese of the time, who conquered whole Southeast Asia in 1942 and kept it occupied until the war ended.
After Germany lost the first world war, the social conditions in Germany were comparably chaotic and poor as they are nowadays in the so called 'third world' countries. Fascism was a radical modernization ideology to end the chaos and bring society back to 'law and order'.
Just by the way: Putin is not like Hitler, as western hardliners as Hillary Clinton and others utter these days in the Ukraine crisis. Nor is Subianto; he is rather impressed by pompous military parades and total power.
Image by Asienreisender, 2012 in Yogyakarta, where it was for sale in a street shop as a large, representative, framed wall picture.
Subianto's promises to the Indonesian people was to become a 'strong leader'. Juwono Sudarsono, a former secretary of defence, called Prabowo an 'coming Putin'. Sometimes he is called 'the leader', 'der Führer', or 'il duce'. His mania for uniforms was pompously shown at public election campaigns. Some of his supporters wear publicly Nazi uniforms and symbols. One of his prominent followers appeared with a SS uniform as Heinrich Himmler used it. Himmler was the central figure in the commitment of the racial crimes of the Third Reich. All the German concentration camps were run by the SS, and the SS were first everywhere in the occupied countries in Europe to persecute Jews, other ethnic groups considered as racial inferiour and all the many, many opponents and critics of national socialism. The SS empire was a state in the state and the executing violent force in the Holocaust, what is still the biggest human crime in history. To use their symbols and uniforms and promote it as a model for Indonesia, spares to make further comments about the mental quality of such a party or movement.
Prabowo announced to abolish the just recently established human rights courts in Indonesia. In a speech in Jakarta he also stated that direct elections were not compatible with the Indonesian cultural character and made clear that it is his intention to abolish these elections in the future. That means, while he is appealing for being voted by the Indonesian people he in the same time openly tells them that it's not his intention to give them a change to evaluate his presidency after the legislation period of five years.
Supporters of the general claimed in social media while the election campaign, that their opponent Widodo were a christian and an ethnic Chinese. Being a christian is a heavy damage of one's reputation in Indonesia. As I had to hear from Indonesians myself, christians (actually all non-muslims, not to mention the infamous antisemitism) are dirty. And (ethnically) Chinese have a bit a comparable status in islamic Indonesia as the Jews had in western countries in the past. Widodo was also called a communist, what is another major evil in the muslim's mind. To make points in the elections with such defamations shows how mean a considerable part of the Indonesian population is and how they tick.
However, the militant strongman lost the elections - this time. Maybe he will candidate again in five years. Before the election result became known, he stated that loosing were no option for him. His first reaction to the lost elections was to start a lawsuit agains it. The elections were faked and manipulated, was announced from his side. Besides, he said, the election result is 'Unindonesian'. So, it sounds that an 'Indonesian result' could only be exclusively a victory of Subianto.
Nevertheless, the future looks sinister for the majority of the Indonesian people. It's rather unprobable that the new president, doesn't matter who it is, at the end can solve the political and economical problems. Much speaks for the expection that the 'new, clean man' in Jakarta will end similarly as his predecessor Yudhoyono, who started as a lion and ended as a mouse. Besides, what about the mass poverty in Indonesia itself? Who has a serious concept to overcome this central evil?
Remarkably is the fact that Sukarnoputri's and Widodo's democrat party was allied with Prabowo Subianto in the 2009 elections.
August 8th, 2014
Susilo B. Yudhoyono
President Yudhoyono was for a time a very popular politician in Asia. His rethorics against corruption and terrorism and his effords to get Indonesia out of the aftermath of the Asia crisis raised hopes in him. But at the end of his president ship his recommendation was falling, he appeared passive. Infrastructural problems look hopeless, new cases of corruption (corruption is still everywhere present) disappointed the people. Radical islam is on the rise in Indonesia, and critics of the president claimed, Yudhoyono would't oppose radicals strictly enough. He also did too little against the huge buerocracy which creates people and companies a lot of obstacles.
In fact, the country is a deep mess and it's not understandable at all that people have any hope in a better future - there is absolutely no reason to believe in that. Would rather make sense to believe in Santa Claus.
Indonesia's former president Yudhoyono (2004-2014) at the opening of the Interhash 2012 in Borobodur. Cheered at by the Indonesian middle class. In the background there was a lot of military around with busses and heavy army vehicles.
Image by Asienreisender, 2012, photocomposition 2014.
The macroeconomic expectations in Indonesias economy are painted in bright colors by economists. For 2012 Indonesia expects a 6% growth, despite the world's economic crisis. Particularly Indonesian analysts, not without own interests, claim Indonesia as a country of great investment opportunities. Some western economic experts and analysts follow this estimation.
It's worth to have a closer look to the situation.
The current optimistic economic data for Indonesia do not seem sustainable. The economic growth is based on the overexploitation of natural and human recources.
The 'Bank Indonesia' in Yogyakarta. Some, very few, have the explicit right to print, or better, nowadays, to digitalize money out of nothing. Others have hard to work for a very little part of the cake and remain nevertheless their live long poor. A growing number does not even get one of the dirtiest jobs, for even they are rare. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Some natural resources are already coming to an end. The former OPEC member Indonesia shifted already to an oil importer. For other resources like tropic (hard-)woods it will be the same in the not so far future. Even rice has to be imported meanwhile. Palm and rubber plantations compete with food production and are more profitable.
The mass of the human material consists of armies of uneducated workers who are forced to accept slave wages. Since e.g. in the textile sector everything like cotton, textile colours, designs and so on is imported, production can be altered to any other country when the wages there get cheaper than here. The markets for the products are mostly abroad. The low wages are the only argument for the production in Indonesia.
Water and energy supplies as other parts of the infrastructure like transport are not satisfying; a huge and ridiculous buerocracy together with the corruption everywhere means a lot of trouble for companies in Indonesia.
The textile industries are one of the few more profitable branches. Agriculture and most of the other industries produce only unprocessed raw materials. The further, more profitable processing is placed abroad. Even to process the tropical woods from the Indonesian rainforests is not possible in Indonesia due to a WTO (World Trade Organization) regulation.
To develop higher industries requires better educated workers, engineers, specialists. Neither the state nor the companies prepare for that.
Three to four million young people enter the labour market annualy. To absorb them, there is an economic growth of at least 4% required. If the Indonesian industries modernize and produce more effectively (what they must do to remain competitive on the world market), the consequences are a higher degree of machine work and technological unemployment. Such a modernization means a growing pressure on the already empoverished masses, even more social exclusion. What will that mean for the social and political stability of the country?
A great deal of the economic growth comes due to domestic consumption. When there is no sustainable economic development of the country, this domestic demand will dry out.
The whole Indonesian economy suffers a lack of will and force for innovation. Other countries like South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, who were on a comparable level like Indonesia 30 years ago, developed to modern industrial countries and some of them founded successfully brands who can compete on the world market, like Samsung, LG, Hyundai etc. Indonesia is widely on the same technological level like 30 years ago. In German Asia shops for example there is even a lack of the simplest goods like food, not to speak of Indonesian cars, ships, TV's or computers. It's even not easy to get a computer in Indonesia, and the internet infrastructure is far behind all the neighbouring countries.
A Consumer Temple
Wherever one comes on this planet, the masses, particularly the middle classes, likes shopping. Doesn't matter what for a crap they buy - shopping is a self-purpose. A healthy capitalist economy is based on madness. Here: A shopping center in Surabaya, Java. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
As already mentioned, palm oil and rubber are competing with food. Besides there are severe conflicts about the legal land rights for the plantations. Particularly resistance from affected villagers and human rights offences are frequently in the news. The extinct of the last remaining rainforests of the earth is triggering consequences in world's climate, ecology, biodiversity and causes also an economic impact. The external costs of this kind of exploitation will be due in the not so far future.
The workers, though working for lowest wages, are inefficient and unskilled and cause trouble and problems in the production processes what leads to losses. Corruption on all levels lets the costs grow, a lack of planning and a bad infrastructure cause their share. Other countries with higher wages are sometimes producing cheaper than Indonesia does. And, additionally, they produce a higher quality.
The 100 richest Indonesians could enhance their fortune in 2010 by 75% [!]. The army of the impoverished masses, who must come along with one or two dollars a day is approximately 120 to 140 million people. That is so despite the euphemistic 6% annual economic growth. The rise of radical Islam is a reaction on this huge injustice and poverty, the great fraud and the lack of education. I just wonder how long these tensions are still half-way under 'control'.
Besides there is little reason to be confident in the Indonesian justice system. If there are legal problems, things can run very weired - that's not at all attractive for foreign investors.
There is plenty of sun in Indonesia, but no market for solar energy. Why is that so? Might it be, that influencial people do not like such innovations?
On the contrary is the coal industry one of the few profitable sectors with still bigger resources who sell profitable to China. So long there is no real change away from fossil energies to alternatives, Indonesia will have at least it's share in dirty technologies. But that's not even for the sake of the people, but only for some shareholders who are already wealthy or rich.
Bank Rakyat Indonesia is on the way to flush the country with consumer credits. BRI is one of the biggest Indonesian banks and gives credits for motorbikes and cars since a few years. Due to that Credit Suisse calculates an annual increase of cars and motorbikes by 10% to 15%. On the already overburdened road system. Besides they blow up a big domestic credit bubble. At the end the state will pay for the coming bubble's burst...?!
Indonesia was in the past covered by huge tropical rainforests and jungle. A great part of it has been slashed and burned, particularly after the second world war. It's going on in an accelerating speed. International companies force the logging (legal and illegal - many plantations have no concession). Primary rainforests
are replaced by palm oil plantations, rubber and other kind of plantations. The government forces this process and creates laws for supporting the international companies. The local people are dispossessed of the land around their villages, from which they lived since generations. Violent resistance happens frequently. The companies then can employs rowdies to beat the villagers down or get support from the government (police and army).
Near a palm oil plantation rice can not grow anymore. The local farmers are forced then to grow oil palms as well. Rice prices grow. The government created in reaction to that a programme called: 'A day without rice!' People, be modest - don't eat so much!
The Indonesian rainforests are among the ones with the highest biodiversity on earth. Many species are already extinct, others are highly endangered. Among them are the orangutan (Sumatra, decrease from 1,000 to 200 individuals within the last 12 years, and Borneo, heavy impact due to massive logging), the Sumatra tiger (400 individuals left) and the Sumatra elephant (reduction of the population to 50% since 1985).
Indonesia is considered the third biggest emittent of CO2 in the world after the USA and China. Some environmentalists claim Indonesia were factually the biggest emittent, because most of the burning of the forests is not counted in the statistics.
Some 88% of the 240 million Indonesians are Muslims. Therefore Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world. It's always claimed how tolerant Indonesia and Indonesian Islam were. But, that's the past, meanwhile. Present looks different.
A poster presenting local religious leaders in Surabaya, Java. Rolemodels for the younger generations. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
When Angela Merkel, the German chancelor, visited Jakarta on the 9th and 10th of July 2012, she inquired for the freedom of religion in Indonesia. Mohammad Mahfud, president of the constitutional court, explained her that the Indonesian constitution garantees the freedom of religion, including being an atheist or a communist. Well, that's just not so. The Indonesian constitution accepts the membership in six religious communities (Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism). Indonesians who are not member of one of these organized religions are considered as criminals under the Indonesian constitution. Communists or alleged communists are persecuted bloodily since 1965. The killings of politically leftists in the Suharto era belong to the largest human crimes in the 20th century - a widely unknown fact in the west.
In 2012 Alexander Aan, an 31 years old Indonesian, living in west Sumatra, declared on facebook being an atheist.
In reaction to that an angry crowd, who had heard about his facebook posts, gathered at his workplace and threatened to beat him. Police officers intervened and took him to the police station for his 'safety'. On January 20th he was charged for 'disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility' under Article 28 (2) of the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) Law, religious blasphemy under Article 156a(a) of the Indonesian Criminal Code and calling others to embrace atheism under Article 156a(b) of the same code.
His trial began at the Muaro District Court on April 2nd 2012. On June 14th the court sentenced him to two and a half years imprisonment and a fine of 100 million rupiah (US$ 10,600) for violating the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) Law.
Again: being an atheist is generally declared a criminal offence in Indonesia.
A new, big, representative mosque in Semarang, Java. It's very much commercialized. It starts with the parking fee, the museum fee, the tower fee and all the shops in the side buildings. Not to speak of the beggars. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Traditionally a great part of the Indonesians practiced natural religions (animism) in the not so far past or still do so. They were forced since the Indonesian independence to join one of the accepted organized religions. Though, the old animism is widely still alive in the background, practiced and mixed up with the new, organized religion(s).
Radical Islam is on the rise in Indonesia. Aggressive propaganda against non-muslims and also less strict muslims is common. A growing number of Indonesians agree with that. Violent actions against christian churches and other kinds of trouble against christians happens. The muslim-dominated state does not much to protect the victims.
In 2011 there were 299 cases of religious motivated violence registered. Half of the pupils on Islamic schools and a third of the teachers could imagine to take violent action for religious reasons, a recent study shows.
Islamic fundamentalists from arabic countries, some from Afghanistan and Iraq, come to Indonesia to manipulate and to incite Indonesians.
Arabization of the Islam becomes popular: what's the correct interpretation of Islam?; praying five times per 24 hours; is the food 'halal'?; is one pilgraming to Mecca?; sexual enlightenment is forbidden in Indonesia. Radical rowdies appear in the name of Islam, although they are mostly not very interested in religion and understanding Islam. They are minorities, but invited in TV shows, where they get opportunity to popularize their opinions.
The radical wing of Islamism wants to introduce the Islamic sharia as basic law. Sharia means, apart from covered women, fifteen other offences where serious punishment is warranted. These offences are corruption, prostitution and adultery, homosexuality, gambling, consuming alcohol, drug use, witchcraft, pornography, usury, thuggery, propagating cults and abortion. The sharia is applied fully in the very north of Sumatra, Banda Aceh.
Rising religion is a reaction on social changes, modernization; it provides identity and explanations for people who are completely uneducated. The global crisis, which leads many Westerners to fascistic orientations, finds here it's adequat expression in the radical Islam. Also natural desasters like the tsunami of 2004 are interpreted religiously. The interpretation is, that people have to lead a more godpleasent life...
In capitalism, a truly totalitarian system, everything is about money. No wonder that corruption appears everywhere. Money is the highest value in modern society, followed by status and power. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
Corruption is huge in Indonesia; Transparency International puts Indonesia high on the corruption index. It's one of the most corrupted countries in Southeast Asia, competing with Cambodia in this discipline.
In a society where a pupil in school above all learns that he must pay money to his teacher to get good marks, corruption is rampant. It becomes part of the 'culture'. That's culture, nowadays.
In the time of the Suharto dictatorship there was a clear corrupt system defined in Indonesia. It was like a shadow tax system; every official knew how much he could take for himself, and how much he had to give to his superiour and how much had to reach the dictator himself after passing all the buerocratic levels to the top of the pyramid. After Suharto's fall the system ran wild and is now completely without a rule. In the different buerocracies kind of 'profit centers' developed, who take advantage of the fall of the dictatorship and enrich themselves even more than before.
This market in Wonosobo on Java is not only a complete mess itself, but also an inner city street with car, motorbike and horse carts traffic on it. The chaos is phantastic and it takes a long time, great patience and physical fitness to come through here. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
40% of the 240 million Indonesians are still without electricity. First thing when people in remote areas get electricity is to have light, than TV, Music, DVD Players... and then it get's noisy. Rice cookers and fridges are not allowed in many cases, for they need to much electricity. Therefore the guys hang out many hours every day in front of their new TV sets. Propaganda, brainwash and entertainment is always welcome.
The streets are normally lousy, as the busses are, tap water is not drinkable and of a low quality, internet connections are rare. The country is very back in time.
The masses of the people might starve, but there are always billions of dollars for the military. When president Yudhoyono opened the 'Interhash 2012', he stayed in Borobodur's top hotel and came with hundreds, if not thousands of troops for his protection. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
The Indonesian Military has a long, long record of human rights abuses and corruption. The military's involvement in business dates back until the 1940s. In the Suharto era they got a lot of companies under their control and built up an economic empire within the state. Suharto himself, as many 3rd world dictators, was a former general.
In 2004, the new democratic government tried to take the military's economic possessions over to the state. However, this trial failed. The military changed it's strategy and made it's connections much more intransparent than they were before. Might be the military is the richest institution in Indonesia. They are powerful and know that they don't have to justify anything to civilian authorities. If civilian authorities have allegations of serious human rights crimes, the military is in a powerful position to deny requests.
The military is a rich institution. The military busses I saw looked much better than the verymost of the the public busses I used on my journeys through Indonesia. Image by Asienreisender, 2012
The Indonesian military is a long-term buyer of military supplies from western countries, particularly Germany. Germany sold Indonesia half of the fleet of east Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. Indonesia used it when fighting against the liberation fighters of east Timor and against an uprising on the Moluccas. Germany also equipped Indonesia with submarines and helicopters and machine guns and a lot of more supplies. The newest deal was made at chancellor Angela Merkels visit in July 2012, when there was made an agreement to sell Indonesia 200 German 'Leopard 2' tanks and a number of other supplies. Human rights do not matter when the receivers are 'good, old friends' (Helmut Kohl, German chancellor 1982-1998, on dictator Suharto). It's just too good business.
The primary role of the military is not to defend the country against attacs from outside - as they claim always when buying more weapons. Indonesia lacks outer enemies. It's directed against the own population, in the case of uprisings and independence activities on the outer islands. There are many examples for that, as mentioned above (Banda Aceh, east Timor, Papua, Kalimantan, the Molluccas). On the contrary, Indonesia is seen as a potential aggressor against Singapore. That makes the Singaporeans also buying German weapons for their protection - how practical.