23 Years of Reformation: Reforms Betrayed and Civil Liberties Threatened

Imparsial Live Press
No. 06/Siaran-Pers/IMP/V/2021

Exactly 23 years ago, May 21st, 1998, the Indonesian nation was finally freed from the New Order's militaristic authoritarian regime and began a new era full of hope, the Reformation Era. As part of an important stage in the journey of the Indonesian nation, this momentum should be commemorated in a more meaningful way to evaluate, reflect, and correct the political journey of democracy and human rights in Indonesia which has been hard earned by democracy fighters in the past.

As a nation, we have a historical debt, especially to the victims and families of the victims of the 1998 democratic struggle. We should not be historically ignorant and realize that the life we are enjoying today, which gives more space for civil and political freedom, cannot be separated from the fruit of the political struggle to overthrow Soeharto's power 23 years ago. Therefore, the commemoration of May 21st should be used as a momentum to push back the improvement of democratic politics and human rights in the future so that it is in line with the spirit and ideals of the 1998 democratic struggle. 

Imparsial views that, although the space for freedom has been much better with the end of the New Order and the passage of Reformation, it cannot be denied that currently the Indonesian nation still has a number of serious problems related to democracy and human rights. The deficit of freedom in the public sphere, the stagnation of resolving cases of past human rights violations, the agenda for resolving the Papuan conflict in a peaceful and dignified manner, which is experiencing setbacks, intolerance and discrimination against minority groups, and the lack of commitment to eradicating corruption need to be a serious concern in the agenda for political improvement to the next level in the future. 

In the context of past human rights violations, including the cases of enforced disappearances in 1997/1998, the cases of Wasior and Wamena, Simpang KKA, Jambu Keupok, the Munir murder case, etc., the resolution process to this day is still adrift without a clear resolution agenda. Although Komnas HAM has completed investigations into several cases, the agenda for resolving these cases is still hampered by the Attorney General's Office. This shows how there is no political will from the government to resolve cases of past human rights violations. In fact, the resolution of cases of human rights violations is not only important as a fulfillment of justice for the victims and their families, but also as an important lesson for the future political journey of the Indonesian nation.

In the context of Papua, Imparsial views that the government has so far failed to come up with a solution for resolving the conflict in a peaceful and dignified manner. Instead of building dialogue as a democratic political path, the Government continues to implement a security approach by strengthening the security apparatus. The government's policy of labeling the KKB as a terrorist also emphasizes the state-security approach to handling the Papuan conflict and ignores the human security approach that is actually needed in conflict resolution. As a result of this security approach, various human rights violations continue to occur in Papua as a result of military operations and security operations being carried out. 

The government should be aware that this approach does not touch the root of the Papua conflict problem at all. Based on research by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) published in the Papua Road Map (2008), there are at least four sources of conflict in Papua, namely: (a) history of integration, political status and integrity; (b) political violence and human rights violations; (c) development failure; (d) marginalization of Papuans and inconsistency of special autonomy policies. Referring to the complexity of the root causes of the Papua Conflict, a comprehensive and comprehensive effort is needed to resolve the Papua Conflict. Policies that only prioritize a security approach or an economic approach will not touch the root of the problem and resolve conflicts, and will in fact have the potential to create socio-political turmoil that will continue to recur in the future. 

The government must've been able to reflect on the experience of resolving conflicts in Aceh or other areas that have been successfully resolved through peaceful means. This experience is an important asset and there is no reason that a similar approach cannot be applied to the Papuan context.

In the context of eradicating corruption as a mandate from the 1998 Reformation, Imparsial considers that the government's commitment today is very minimal and even experiencing setbacks. Many people view that there is an attempt to weaken the KPK. The latest is the polemic of the National Insight Test which is suspected of trying to forcefully disable several KPK investigators and employees who are considered to have high integrity. The agenda for eradicating corruption and strengthening the Corruption Eradication Commission as one of the mandates of the 1998 Reformation should be a priority for the government, instead of experiencing a setback in order to smooth political transactions and maintain power.

Security Sector Reform (SSR) also needs to remain a concern. It would be wrong if there was a view that the SSR agenda which was the mandate of the 1998 reforms had all been completed. In the context of military reform, there are still many agendas that are still stalled, such as the restructuring of the territorial command which during the New Order era became an instrument of military politics, and reform of the military justice system which has not yet been implemented. Modernization of Alutsista also has a lot of records in terms of transparency and accountability. In the context of police reform, until now the adoption of human rights principles and standards in the implementation of tasks by the lower ranks of the apparatus still has many problems. Another thing that needs to be strengthened going forward is the strengthening of supervision of the police both internally and externally, as well as accountability issues. Meanwhile, the current intelligence reform process is hardly another effort that has been pushed after the enactment of the intelligence law. 

In the context of a pandemic, Imparsial understands that the Covid-19 pandemic, which has not yet ended, has had a broad impact on various fields of life, including the economy. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the government. However, this does not mean that the government can ignore the political, legal and human rights development agenda which is equally important and is the heart of the life of the nation and state. 

The Indonesian government under the leadership of President Joko Widodo for the second term together with the National Board Representatives of Indonesia (DPR-RI) actually still has more than enough time to prove its commitment and political breakthroughs to the entire nation. This is needed in order to encourage improvements in politics, law, human rights, the economy, and a better democratic life in Indonesia, which was actually the goal of the Reformation struggle 23 years ago.

Jakarta, May 21st, 2021

Gufron Mabruri
Director of Imparsial

Contact person:

  1. Gufron Mabruri – Direktur Imparsial (081213340612)
  2. Ardimanto Putra – Wakil Direktur (081261944069)
  3. Evitarossi Budiawan – Koordinator Peneliti Imparsial (081219192143)
  4. Hussein Ahmad – Peneliti Imparsial (081259668926)
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