With the end of the year fast approaching, it is time for Indonesia at Melbourne to take a short break. We will be back on board on 12 January, but today we look back at the first six months of the blog, and revisit some of the posts that captured our readers’ attention.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading the site and that we have been able to make a valuable contribution to public discourse on contemporary Indonesia. Thanks again to all our contributors, who helped make producing the blog so enjoyable. Enjoy your holidays, have a safe break and we look forward to seeing you in 2016!
Many commentators noted a surge in nationalism under the Joko Widodo administration, continuing a mood set during the divisive 2014 Legislative and Presidential Elections. In one of the most widely read pieces this year, Dr Robertus Robet examined the growing anxiety about foreigners attempting to meddle in Indonesian affairs, and its possible implications for the Chinese Indonesian community.
Indonesians went to the polls this month in historic simultaneous elections across 269 districts, municipalities and provinces. On the eve of the elections, Dr Dave McRae and Diane Zhang presented research demonstrating the powerful advantages of incumbency for candidates in local elections. Their predictions appear to have been correct, with many incumbents successfully defending their positions across the archipelago. Earlier in the year, former Deputy Minister of Justice Denny Indrayana looked at three controversial Constitutional Court decisions with implications for the conduct of these elections. Dr Dina Afrianty also looked at the small number of female candidates in West Sumatra and questioned dominant cultural arguments suggesting that Minangkabau women are just not interested in politics.
In a viral post, Lies Marcoes reflected on the fading star of Bogor Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto. Once hailed as a reformer, the mayor has recently become more known for religious intolerance. Lies also contributed a fascinating piece on the motivations Indonesian women have for joining radical groups. These are not naïve or thoughtless young girls, Lies wrote, rather they have clear political and ideological reasons for participating in fundamentalist movements.
Human rights were a focus for the blog in 2015, and one of the blog’s strongest contributors was the Asia Institute’s Dr Ken Setiawan. On the occasion of its 400th iteration, Ken examined the Kamisan protests that demand state responsibility for past human rights abuses and are held every week outside the Presidential Palace. Ken continued this theme in another widely read post looking at reconciliation and the contentious issue of a national apology for the 1965 tragedy. Also on the 1965 violence, Dr Kate McGregor and Dr Jemma Purdey examined the International People’s Tribunal in the Netherlands, and its repercussions for the activists who participated.
Issues of gender and sexuality featured strongly on the blog this year. Prolific young writer Hendri Yulius reflected on the US Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality and the ripples it made in Indonesia. He contributed a number of other sharp pieces, including one analysing the regulation of sexuality in Aceh’s new criminal code. Dina Afrianty also looked at rates of domestic violence in marriage and Indonesian women’s reluctance to use domestic violence legislation against their partners.
2015 has been a bumper year for Indonesian film, with more than a dozen films screening at international festivals. Dr Gaston Soehadi looked at the films that have been impressing audiences around the world and Dr Jess Melvin wrote a beautiful review of Joshua Oppenheimer’s stunning The Look of Silence.
Experts also blogged about economic issues. Awidya Santikajaya argued that one of the key issues holding back Indonesia’s economic diplomacy was Indonesia’s careful, but ambiguous stance on free trade. Professor Ross Garnaut AO asked: Can Indonesian growth can survive the end of the resource boom? Matthew Busch, meanwhile, questioned the idea that economic policy making has been hijacked by “vested interests”. The real culprit for suboptimal economic policy making, he argued, is an overmatched, incoherent state.
Dr Richard Chauvel presented a range of insightful pieces on developments in Papua. In July, he wrote that despite Jokowi’s seemingly genuine desire to resolve conflict in Papua, his efforts are likely to fail if there is no meaningful political dialogue. As a gesture toward addressing Papuan grievances and promoting peace, Jokowi promised to release the dozens of Papuan political prisoners incarcerated around the country. Assistant Professor Daniel Pascoe examined the difference between amnesty and clemency for political prisoners and how neither option looks likely to facilitate the peace he has promised for Papua.
Posts on public health issues also proved popular. Ayu Swandewi looked at the longstanding – and unfortunately growing – problem of youth smoking in Indonesia, after the death of a 27-year-old anti-smoking campaigner from laryngeal cancer. Dr Linda Rae Bennett presented fascinating research on how doctors’ discomfort about entering the “morally uncomfortable” territory of sexual health is affecting Indonesian fertility care.
Once again, thanks for your readership and for your support of Indonesia at Melbourne since it was launched six months ago. We hope you have found our blog informative and interesting and we look forward to seeing you again in the New Year.