Indonesia: Two Kinds of Revolution

1998

Dr Gerry van Klinken

There are not one but two broad movements for change in Indonesia. One, associated with the great mass of the poor, wants Reformasi Total. The other, associated with the urban elite, wants Reformasi Konstitutional. Two broad groupings are emerging with substantial middle class support. One is Islamic, under Amien Rais; the other is secular, under former Environment Minister Emil Salim and Islamic intellectual Nurcholish Madjid. (Religion certainly still provides an important cleavage line in Indonesian politics). Armed forces commander General Wiranto, Indonesia's military strong man, is often presumed to be close to the second group. Neither of these middle class groups is out to unseat Habibie. Of course both have their constitutionalist qualms. It is indeed not easy to imagine how the system Suharto built, to which most of the current elite was a willing party, can be dismantled any time soon, by the very people who built it, and in a manner that does not disrupt business as usual. The middle class, in as much as it wants Reformasi at all, wants Reformasi Konstitutional. In that it has the full agreement of Habibie, and of the armed forces. If these are to remain the two main political groups, we might guess that Habibie, though weak, is likely to remain in office for some time yet. Meanwhile the poor remain entirely unrepresented. Some among them are angry. They want Suharto's unfair wealth exposed. They want the money distributed to the poor. Simplistic perhaps. Unrealistic perhaps. Will they get it? Marzuki Darusman of the National Commission on Human Rights warned on 2 June that unless the government investigation of Suharto's wealth becomes more determined, the people will revolt again. They certainly want food, and land. Many have already quietly occupied the Suharto family lands - failed real estate projects around Jakarta, projected golf courses in Bali. Their young ones are prepared to fight. Unless the middle class so-called opposition deals with their agenda, it may well need its dwifungsi (dual functions) to protect itself against their anger. The scenario of a continuation of the New Order, dominated as before by a middle class interested at most in Reformasi Konstitutional, while the demands for Reformasi Total remain out of bounds, is a recipe for more unhappiness.

WATCHPOINT: Real hardship facing the poor in Indonesia means that reform cannot be delayed without serious consequences.

 

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