By Dr. Rizal Ramli, Senior Economist and Economy Coordinating Minister under President Gus Dur
10 October 2020
IN A TIME of strife and sacrifice, Sukarno, leader of the struggle for independence from the Dutch Empire, contemplated the backgrounds of his followers who were risking their lives. Who were they, and what was driving them to fight a colonialist power that had dominated their land for centuries?
Sukarno thought about the fact that a large portion of those who joined the independence movement were not purely ambitious men, political opportunists or plain trouble-makers as some of their detractors would paint them. Many, in fact, were young, idealistic Indonesians who were not in the fight for personal gain or glory. They had genuine grievances with the Dutch and willing to risk their lives. These, Sukarno realized, were the true revolutionaries and patriots who would make a real difference in the battles lying ahead.
By no means was the movement purely a consequence of careful planning and orchestration by its leaders behind closed doors. It was, in many ways, spontaneous. Young Indonesians felt the pull and call to action by what can be described best, for lack of a better words, as a "Natural-Organic" situation.
And today, in a time of protest against injustices by the Indonesian power elite, a similar situation is present.
The similarity between Sukarno's time and now is one where the 'natural' conditions on the ground--economic, political, social and legal injustices--are on such a scale that it is profoundly felt by the people, providing tinder for a moral movement to overturn the status quo. And, as in the days when Indonesians came together to oust the Dutch from their land, it is also organic, meaning there is an awareness of or participation in opposing injustices, flowing like water.
Students, laborers and school children have basically made up the foundation of our moral movements in the past, as they do today. They are exercising their basic right to protest, to fight injustices. Yet these facts on the ground are generally ignored by those in power and met often, tragically, with brutal force.
Indonesians constitute a nation that loves peace, tolerates differences, and posesses local wisdom. However, the stigma of colonialism was to divide our peoples. And now, in the current situation, divisiveness is happening again because of field provocateurs, buzzers, mainstream media who did not convey the real facts, and a handful of elites who are solely driven by their greed and desire to stay in power.
In the end, we must protect Indonesia from being divided by those who don't have our nation's best interests in their hearts. We, as a people, must not allow ourselves to be manipulated.
Indonesia is currently being tested by history, as a nation that has stood primarily on its core foundations of unity and integrity. How we pass this test will be determined by our collective will, to protest the actions of the elite in power who have betrayed the people. Now is the time for action.