Though the common sense of most Indonesians gives me hope, I’m more disappointed than ever by politicians, who pander to thuggish interest groups, and technocrats, who can’t seem to cope with honest criticism.
It’s PISA time again, when the competence of Indonesian 15 year-olds in science, maths and reading is compared with that of kids in other countries. They continue to under-perform quite shockingly — over four in ten are functionally incompetent in all three areas. Other ASEAN neighbours, who can soon vie for jobs in the ASEAN Economic Community, are much better equipped.
Earlier this month, tens of thousands of white-robed protesters stomped through the streets of Jakarta, baying for the blood of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, aka Ahok. To simplify a complex story, Ahok stood accused of the sin of quoting the Quran while being Christian. In the best Indonesian tradition of rent-a-crowd politics, many of the “protesters” were there for the promise of money and a packed lunch; one told TV reporters that, though he came for the cash, he…
Since its very inception, Indonesia has been given to committing itself to unlikely projects with virtually no preparation. Nationhood, for example (1945). Rice self-sufficiency (1970). Dramatic decentralisation (1999). Most recently, in 2014, universal health coverage. By 2019, it was summarily declared, all Indonesians would be included in a single national health insurance scheme. All of these grandiose declarations were greeted with howls of scepticism from colonisers or so-called development partners; there was a great deal of “they’ll-never-do-it-without-us” thigh-slapping/hand-wringing. Each spectacularly…
As Indonesia’s government continues to propose new restrictions on freedom of expression, blog posts like this one could soon lead to jail.
Indonesia turns 71 today. Like many septuagenarians, the country appears to be growing more grumpy and intolerant as it ages. This week, the Economist picks up on an apparently rising tide of homophobia in Indonesia. Importantly, the paper also picked up on the fact that the grumpiness is partly motivated by politics: “Politics, as much as religious conviction, plays its part,” The Economist reports. “Many politicians sense they may win more votes by presenting themselves as pious Muslims than by…
Indonesia’s president had rushed out a knee-jerk response to the gang rape of a 14 year-old girl: chemical castration and even death for perpetrators. But what’s needed is more thoughtful structural reforms that might reduce violence while protecting and helping victims.
Gay-bashing is the latest fashion among Indonesian politicians. It proves they are very slow learners: Indonesians do not tend to re-elect intolerant politicians.
As Indonesian citizens take over the Theatre State of old, the parliamentary stage readies for the biggest corruption scandal to date.
Anies Baswedan made me proud when told Europeans how well Indonesia manages cultural differences. Then I heard news of the church burnings in Aceh.