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A new Indonesia, is it just a dream

 People are placing high hopes on the new government to lead them to a new Indonesia. What is a new Indonesia? Are we really heading toward a new Indonesia, or is it just a dream? The Jakarta Post considers the issue. 

JAKARTA (JP): Sometime in the future, there will be a fabulous and prosperous country where the people live peacefully and happily. A democratic country which upholds the supremacy of law and fully respects human rights. One which is free from fear, and of course, from corruption, collusion and nepotism. 

It will be called the new Indonesia. 

The new Indonesia, or Indonesia baru, is where the nation is now heading, or more precisely, what is dreaming of. The reform movement forced Soeharto to step down. Since his downfall, people have been dreaming of a new country, totally different from the past. They want a better government with a better system, which will, in turn, open the door to a better life. 

Soeharto's successor, B.J. Habibie, failed to fulfill the people's dream. And now, President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri are facing great challenges in the accomplishment of their task of saving the nation from political and economic crisis. "I will lead you to a new Indonesia." Megawati said at her inauguration speech on Oct. 21. 

The new government is only five weeks old. Some say it's too early to judge whether they can make the people's dream come true. They say the new government should be given the chance to work and prove that they are committed to leading the nation to a new Indonesia. 

"Let's wait and see," said political observer J. Kristiadi from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "But we have to closely watch them." 

The new Indonesia, according to Kristiadi, is a democratic country. It is an easy thing to say, but its implementation is quite complicated as the nation has been under the grip of an authoritarian government for too long. Director of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation Bambang Widjojanto said the new Indonesia should respect human rights, uphold the supremacy of law and ensure the process of democracy that allows the public's participation in determining their own fate. This can only be achieved by changing the basic structure, not only of the power system and the law, but also of the culture of the people themselves. 

In their fight against corruption, for example, the people must be strongly committed and have the guts to say "no" to bribery. People should keep demanding their rights and speaking up against unfair treatment -- while at the same time, as responsible citizens, also abide by the law. 

In other words, people have to play an active role to realize their dream of a new Indonesia. But, while all members of society share the same dream, its heterogeneous nature, consisting of people with different levels of education and political maturity, poses a large problem. 

Last month, many people criticized the Bagito comedian group for parodying the physical condition of President Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur. It is understandable that people were angry because their leader's physical weaknesses were made the subject of a joke. But some observers worried. 

"You know, Gus Dur is unpredictable," Bambang said, referring to his, at times confusing, inconsistency. Earlier Gus Dur said he agreed with referendum demands in Aceh, then it turned out that what he meant by referendum was not a referendum to choose freedom from Indonesia, but only for autonomy. 

"If there is social legitimacy from the people, Gus Dur could turn into an authoritarian," he warned. 

Kristiadi shared Bambang's concern with what he termed as populist authoritarianism. "In the past we had state terrorism, we could have societal terrorism from people who do not want to see their leaders criticized," Kristiadi said. 

Economist Sri Mulyani also observes that, for many people, Gus Dur and Mega are "untouchable" symbols. 

Mulyani admitted she was rather pessimistic with the current situation, which still reflects "the strong root of the old people (from the New Order government) with the same way of thinking and the same culture." 

Yet she also sees a ray of hope. Some people have been positively affected by the culture of "openness". They now dare to air their opinions at street demonstrations, on television, radio and through newspapers. 

But will Indonesia really become a new country? History shows that ever since the birth of the nation in 1945, its leaders promised a better life for the people. A prosperous country was promised by Indonesia's first president, Sukarno. But it was unfulfilled, and the government was taken over by Soeharto, who called his administration the New Order. Physically, Indonesia grew fast. Many people became really rich, but many more people became poorer. 

Under Soeharto's authoritarianism, the supremacy of the law was trampled, while the practice of corruption, collusion and nepotism was rampant. Human rights were widely violated, freedom of speech curtailed and the people deceived and kept ignorant. 

In May 1998, people said enough was enough. Soeharto, who had been in power for over three decades, was toppled. 

And now people are putting high hopes on the new government, the duet of Gus Dur and Megawati. The nation is dreaming of a new Indonesia, which must be better than the past. But it is obvious that the government alone cannot fulfill the people's dream. 

In order to realize the dream, people must be active and consistent in pressuring the government, and, at the same time, they must change their attitude. 

Sri Mulyani said that most people, while dreaming about a new country, still have the same way of thinking and have the same attitude. "Many people have the tendency to take short cuts, they live only for the moment and only think about their jobs, wages, chances ... they do not have foresight." 

As it takes quite a long time to realize the dream, the people, who want a quick result, might forget their long-term goal. 

If this happens, the dream will remain a dream, the "New Indonesia" a slogan and the new country a utopia. (sim)



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