#Reformasi@20: The Internet and Politics in Indonesia

In preparing an essay for the month of May, where Indonesia marks the 20 years of “Reformasi”, I came across what the-much-younger-me published 16 years ago — my first publication, in my pre-doctoral-program-life, written while I was in nomad. I re-read it for the first time since it was published. Relieved to find out that it’s not embarrassing for my today’s standard šŸ˜‰ Also, I am surprised to discover that it is still very relevant today. Here is an excerpt from its conclusion.

The Indonesian experience clearly shows that the internet can beĀ a cyber-civic space where people can mingle without state intervention. Under Suharto, the stateā€™s system of control and surveillance constricted such activity in all other potential civic spaces, so political activation through the internet became vital to political reform. Yet, in the post-Suharto era, it is not clear whether civil society will flower in the liberated cyberspaces of the internet, or will instead succumb to communal resistance and the disintegration of civil society itself. If the latter situation comes to pass, Indonesia is likely to experience a severely weakened state and a fragmented society, risking perpetual instability. In such a situation, some segments of society might even reinvent the Suharto era as halcyon days of national coherence and prosperity, forgetting the daily suppression of civil society. If, on the other hand, a vibrant civil society with a stable government under the rule of law emerges to overcome communal resistances, Indonesia will be able to chart its own destiny in a global age. In the final analysis, the paramount question concerns how to retain the integrity of Indonesian society in a way that allows for the continuity of the nation-state. Civil society must be an active force in the formation of political communities that can work collectively to resolve rather than foment social divides.

To read the article, click here.


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