Indonesia and Norway marked the tenth anniversary of their human rights dialog in Oslo last June 21-22, 2011. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Indonesian Director General of America and Europe Ambassador Retno Marsudi representing Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa jointly opened the dialog. In his opening, Støre stated that today our human rights dialogue represents a cornerstone in our bilateral relationship between our two countries and it has laid the ground for our cooperation on many subjects such as non-proliferation, climate and health and foreign politics. Indonesia had just started on its path toward democracy when the Human Rights Dialogue started ten years ago. Today, the country is the largest political and economic powerhouse in ASEAN, and promotes Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific region.
As a testimony to this one decade of the dialogue, as a lesson learned for a country in transition, especially for Middle East and North African countries, this experience could provide reflective and comparative perspectives for their immediate economic, social and political recoveries. In my capacity as a Deputy Minister, I accompanied Hasballah M Saad, Indonesian Minister of Human Rights Affairs for an informal meeting with his counterpart, Hilde F Johnson, Norwegian Minister of Development and Human Rights to discuss various areas of human rights issues and explored possibilities of cooperation and annual dialogue on human rights which was held in Oslo, September 5-7, 2000.
Despite the visit to Norway was made very short and informal as the political situation across Indonesia was extremely dynamic, the bilateral meeting was in fact very monumental and laid the foundation of human rights cooperation between the two countries. Indonesian situation at that time was likely quite similar to the condition of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen or Sudan at the moment. Indonesia was truly engaged in a life-and-death struggle with human rights, such as bloody tension in Ambon, Poso, separatist movement in Aceh, etc. Luckily, Indonesia survived as a nation without too much cost to its recovery processes. Soviet Union was even far much more powerful than Indonesia, was a superpower, but at the end it could not survive as a nation. Like a broken dam, Soviet Union could not maintain its wall, then in a sudden disintegrated into many pieces. Similarly, Yugoslavia could not survive either to maintain its unity, then had to be disintegrated as well like a broken dam.
The disintegration of Soviet Union was likely triggered by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy to implement Perestroika and Glasnost policies. Perestroika referred to the restructuring the Soviet political and economic system which then created greater political and social changes which finally triggered to Soviet Union disintegration. While glasnost policy was the policy of pursuing greater publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions which led to a weakening of the central government then finally made Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Similarly, the disintegration of Yugoslavia in 1991 was likely triggered by the loss of a unifying leadership figure, Marshal Tito. Under Tito’s authoritarian Communist rule, Yugoslavia relatively enjoyed a long period of security, inter-ethnic peace, stability and prosperity. For thirty years, Tito, like Soeharto, maintained authoritarian approach, differences in terms of socio, economic, cultural and political dimensions could be tolerated and the unity among all federal states could be maintained, but all this gradually disintegrated after Tito’s death in 1980.
Despite Indonesia like Soviet Union had made fundamental changes, promote openness and freedom of expression, and also like Yugoslavia lost its charismatic leader but Indonesia remained strongly united and integrated. Ironically, Indonesian conditions, politically, economically, socially, and culturally were much more complicated and disadvantaged than the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Indonesia as the largest archipelagic country in the world, the fourth most populous country after China, India and United States, the largest Muslim population in the world, extremely heterogeneous in terms of local languages, cultures, traditions, and greatly suffered from currency crises and hyper inflation and depression to -16 to -18 percent shortly after the fall of Soeharto, but survive. Amazingly, after a decade in transition, Indonesia is now fully recovered from its dark past. In 2004, its economic growth could reach the level at prior to the crisis. Surprisingly, in the latest Compet itiveness Report, World Economic Forum 2011, indicates that Indonesia shows strongest progress among G-20 which precedes India, South Africa, Brazil and Russia and sits midway within ASEAN, well behind Singapore and Malaysia, far ahead of the Philippines and Cambodia, but at par with Thailand.
After a decade of the dialogue, I had a deep reflection to compare Indonesia between the first and the tenth dialogue. The first dialogue which was held in Jakarta, April 29-30, 2002, addressed the following issues: (1) corruption and economic criminality, (2) human rights courts, (3) the role of judiciary in democracy, (4) human rights education, and (5) human rights, regional policy and civil society. While at the tenth dialogue, the focus has been shifted to: (1) human rights and the armed forces, (2) the promotion and protection of the rights of children in conflict with the law, and (3) interfaith dialogue and the culture of tolerance.
Both at the first and the tenth dialogue, their respective agenda had been thoroughly discussed from both Norwegian and Indonesian perspectives. The two countries presented prominent key speakers from their respective expertise. At the end of the dialogue, concrete agenda had been jointly declared by both delegations.
The reason to propose corruption and economic criminality in the agenda at the first dialogue was simply because Indonesia had to address this issue for immediate economic recovery. An independent Corruption Eradication Commission had to be established, but Indonesia did not have enough experience to manage such institution. As mandated by Law No 30/2002, the Commission has a full power to confront the endemic corruption across the country that remains as a legacy of three decades long kleptocracy.
Since it started operating in late 2003, the commission has investigated, prosecuted and achieved very significant conviction rate in all cases of corruption, especially bribery and graft related to government procurements and budgets.
Probably there is no country in the world at the moment as though as Indonesia to prosecute and sentence its own ministers, governors, mayors, members of parliament at national, provincial and district levels, businessmen, bankers, judges, attorneys, military, police, lawyers, ambassadors, politicians, and even the governor of its central bank and his deputies and also the son of Soeharto. Most surprisingly, Minister of Religious Affairs as a symbol of the highest morale standard, most accountable and less corrupted ministry, but he was sentenced for seven years because of the same case. Similarly to former Minister of Health, Minister of Social Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs, some other senior official a par with ministerial post, deputy ministers, director generals, are now in jails at various parts of Indonesia because of corruption. It has been thousands of them have been sentenced for years due to corruption.
By this breakthrough made Indonesia recovered gradually and emerged slowly in managing its democratization process, its new decentralized system at district and municipality levels, its commitment to up-hold supremacy of law and its economic rehabilitation. Like a surgeon, any part of the body that may damages the whole system has to be amputated immediately. Seemingly, great achievements have been made to zero tolerance to corruption, despite many more great challenges remain unsolved. Transparency International Indonesia reported that 158 mayors and head of districts or about 40 percent of the total municipalities and districts and out of 33 Governors, 17 of them are currently under investigation related to corruption cases (9/3/2011).
The breakthrough of Indonesia to combat corruption and promote human rights and good governance in my view has been greatly inspired by the dialogue. As indication to this genuine commitment, at the fourth dialogue which was held in Oslo, April 27-29, 2005, Indonesia sent the highest ranking delegation, such as Hamid Awaludin, Minister of Justice, Bagir Manan, Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Abdul Rachman Saleh, Attorney General, Amien Sunaryadi, Vice Chairperson, Commissioner, Corruption Eradication Commission, Marzuki Darusman, Member of Parliament, former Attorney General, Teras Narang, Head of Parliament’s Justice Commission, representatives of the military forces and the police, and about fifteen other senior officials at Deputy Minister levels, NGOs, media, etc. Minister Hamid in his opening remarks said that let’s pray in order nothing happens in Jakarta because all the top leaders of the country who dealt with justice are now in Oslo.
A first decade of the dialog has already been completed with remarkable achievements and memories in most dynamic transition of Indonesia from authoritarian rule to a democratic era, despite many more problems remained unsolved. Concurrently to the dialog, Indonesia has been completed a decade and half of its long journey since the very fist day at the end of the twentieth century to embark to a new path, i.e, democratic path with wide-ranging decentralization, promotion and protection of human rights and supremacy of law, and economic rehabilitation. This historic choice in 1998 appeared to be the point of no return. May the dialogue, Indonesia could prove to the world that no single contradiction between democracy and human rights and Islamic values within Indonesian society. May Indonesia truly the third largest democracy in the world and a shining example to any country in transition.
*Hafid Abbas is currently professor of human rights education, at State University of Jakarta, former Director General of Human Rights Protection, the architect of the first human rights dialogue between Indonesia and Norway.