Rizal Mallarangeng gave a talk at the International Society for Individual Liberty World Conference and Market Liberalization in Bali on June 29, 2015.
The purpose of the talk was to give a brief assessment of Indonesia as a starting point to discuss how best to help the country growing in the direction of a free and prosperous society.
“Indonesia has been a democracy for more than a decade. The third biggest in the world. Democratic transitions are always difficult, even under the best of circumstances. Especially for a large and plural society like Indonesia.
But I think we have passed the most difficult task. When the country was on the verge of breaking apart in the early years of the transition. When the the 1998 financial crisis brought the country almost to it’s knees. That was a period of growing pains. When the challenges are at their greatest.
Fortunately, perhaps because of our foundation as a nation was deep and strong, Indonesia held on and survived. The trials of that period made us stronger.
Among the biggest gains we have made so far is the growing consensus that we are not turning back. Freedom, democracy, open society, protection of basic rights. These are now part of Indonesia, which we are going to protect and transfer to the next generation and beyond.
In retrospect, it was some kind of miracle. Freed from authoritatiran rule in 1998, more than 100 million individuals exercised the right of free choice peacefully in about half a million voting stations electing leaders in three levels of government. It was moving, it was beautiful, and we have done it in three cycles of election to date.
Besides that, we have also managed to maintain our moderation, and our religious tolerance. We know this has not been easy. From time to time, some terrible things have occured. Like the bombing in Bali, and the bloody ethno-religious conflicts. Which tested our commitments and our political will to ensure social and religious harmony.
But overall, given the complexity of our society with hundreds of ethnic groups scattered along 5,000 kilometers from east to west (or twice the distance between London and Athens), we have dealt with the problems quite well, while learning to exercise power in proportion to our needs.
True, there have been some issues. Fear that needs to be dealt with carefully, especially those which are related to the existence of small minorities within Islam. But it will not be totally off the mark to say that Indonesia so far has demonstrated quite convincingly that Islam is compatible with democracy and modernization.
We have proven here that Islamic parties from whatever persuasions, are capable of being transformed into democratic participants in our free elections. As members of our parliament, Islamic politicians have behaved like other normal political players, being involved in power, which is democracy is all about.
The fundamental issues between the state and Islam, which was before, very divisive, is now losing it’s oppression, being absorbed in the daily dynamics of our plural society.
Another area which Indonesia has also exceeded expectations has been empowerment of the region, particularly in Sumatra . . . the centralization of power has resulted in what we call ‘silent revolution’. Directly elected governors, mayors, and local represented are now playing a roll in delivering basic services to people around the country.
What we did in this regard was perhaps the world’s biggest experiment in power devolution. When the authority of the central government was simultaneously transferred to hundreds of provinces, countries, and local parliament.
Successful leadership in the regions is one of the key factors that explain why the rates of economic growth in the regions outsides Java, (Java is the main island where 60% of the people live) have been consistently higher than those of the major areas of Java. In the coming years, this will result in a big transformation in which the country’s engine of growth will no longer be only in Jarkarta — those big cities in Java, but also in other areas. The future of Indonesia lies in our thriving regions. And Indonesia will become a stronger country because of it.”
For the rest of the talk, please click the link below.
Rizal Mallarangeng is an opinion leader, and has been campaigning on individual freedom and the market economy through his intellectual institution, Freedom Institute. Since early 2000s, the Freedom Institute has been a pioneer in individual freedom in the economic, political, and social sectors. Rizal is a columnist and author of two books about liberalism, “Breaking Economic Centralism: Economic Liberalization in 1986-1992” (2002) and, “From the Sky” (2008).
For more information, see an interview with Rofi Uddarojat at Suarakebebasan.org: