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Indonesian CSOs – Blooming activism

Saturday, 29 December 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

… apabila usul ditolak tanpa ditimbang
suara dibungkam, kritik dilarang tanpa alas an
dituduh subversif dan mengganggu keamanan
maka hanya ada satu kata: lawan!

… at the time ideas are rejected undeliberately
voices are silenced, criticisms are suppressed without reasons,
accused as subversive and as a threat to the security,
then there is only one word: resist!

“Peringatan” (Warning), Wiji Thukul, 1986,
translated by Idaman Andarmosoko, 2006

Picture: Wiji Thukul, by Surya Wirawan
available at http://www.indonesia-house.org/Arts/Wijithukul.htm

Through his poems Wiji Thukul put moral fibre into the civil society movements in Indonesia in the heightened period of transition to democracy in 1996-1998. But he was among the casualties of the movement. He disappeared and was allegedly murdered in a military attack against a labour protest in late 1997. But his spirit never dies. His famous line ’hanya ada satu kata, lawan!’ (there is only one word, resist!) became his memorial and legacy to the reformasi generation, i.e. those who were part of the social movement aiming at political reform and democratisation in Indonesia (Curtis, 2000). The line is still often seen in pamphlets and posters of various demonstrations today. Thukul is certainly a hero, not only to the particular labour movement that he came from, but also to a broad spectrum of civil society movements in the country. Many other activists ended up like Thukul, missing and presumed murdered. But they represented what civil society in Indonesia wanted: democracy, political reform, freedom from oppression, and participation political and developmental decision making.

What do the dynamics of CSOs in Indonesia today look like?

In Banda Aceh, Yayasan Air Putih has been working quietly, far from publicity, to reconstruct the communication backbone destroyed by the tsunami. Air Putih impressively managed to put Aceh back on-line less than four days after the tsunami hit on Boxing Day 2004 and provided free internet access for humanitarian relief organisations working in the area. Without Air Putih, the reconstruction of information infrastructure in the Tsunami aftermath in Aceh would have been impossible. In Salatiga, a small region in Central Java province, Yayasan Trukajaya has been focussing its activities on development efforts, developing rural areas through participatory programme within various social and economic aspects, including promoting the use of alternative energy. In Jayapura, the capital of West Papua province, a NGO Forum known as Foker Papua is weighing advocacy strategies among their members to make sure that Special Autonomy Law is being enforced and that local people’s rights are being protected. ELSPPAT, a development NGO based in Bogor, West Java province, working in rural development and sustainable agriculture, have been very active in the working group for organic farming for the last five years and is now tirelessly advocating the implementation of organic and sustainable agriculture policy across the country. Despite limitations, Global Justice Update, a monthly publication of IGJ (The Institute for Global Justice), a research based and WTO-watchdog organisation in Jakarta, has been widely spread from corner to corner of the country, making it possible for informal groups of young people in some surviving dayahs (Islamic board schools) in Aceh, as well as young activist in Manado, to understand globalisation issues better, to know what has happened to Indonesia in WTO negotiations and what implications might be faced in particular localities.

This is a picture –a tiny one—about Indonesian civil society today for the whole realm is impossible to portray. Since the political reform in 1998, there has been obvious bloom in civil society activities in Indonesia. This subsequently marks the birth of new socio-political era in Indonesia, named the era of reformasi, which, bearing Thukul’s spirit, should resist any repressive and oppressive forces aiming at silencing people’s voice and self-determination. Reform, whether social, political or economic, requires time to establish and it is not dependent upon leaders, but the participation of wider society. To people like Wiji Thukul, the future is on the hands of the society itself – maybe represented in the dynamics of CSOs.

Source: Interview from fieldwork, 2005-2006
(PhD Thesis, Nugroho, 2007:84 – Box 2.2.)

  1. Saturday, 29 December 2007 at 8:38 am

    Wonderful blog. Great, positive article.

    I’m happy to have found you.

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