Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:39 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:39 | SYDNEY

Truth and reconciliation for Indonesia


Sam Roggeveen


24 January 2008 16:38

Peter McCawley responds below to Nick Goodwin's suggestion (in our email of the day)  for an Indonesian Government enquiry or commission into the estimated 500,000 deaths in Java and Bali in 1965-66. To my reading, some of Peter McCawley's objections to that idea seem like they could be easily overcome. The Indonesians may lack money and expertise to run a commission, but presumably that was true of South Africa too. Yet the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is widely seen as imporant to helping the country overcome a national trauma. Maybe it would be a worthwhile exercise in Indonesia too, though clearly the political drive would have to come from Indonesians themselves.

...there are at least three issues to consider. First, while it would be useful for somebody (at home or abroad) to conduct careful, credible, and well-resources inquiries into the issues that Nick Goodwin mentions, there are many other issues of public policy that also need inquiries in Indonesia. Some of these relate to very urgent current issues, which are costing present lives, as well as quite a few issues in the past. Priorities need to be set. Current issues probably need to come first.

Second, Indonesia does not have a tradition of public inquiries. There are various reasons for this. One is a shortage of real resources; Indonesia is acutely short of skilled people who are available to conduct inquiries. Another is a shortage of financial resources. The Indonesian government budget is under immense strain. Inquiries such as the one that Nick Goodwin suggests need to be properly resourced. For the present, the financial resources simply do not seem to exist within budget constraints.

Third there is, notably, a lack of foreign interest in Indonesia, both in the issues that Nick Goodwin matters as well as many others.  Foreign observers who see particular issues in Indonesia as a priority have the option of doing something themselves. They can work with international universities and think tanks to establish projects of research into topics that they see as important. It would be good to see some serious, careful research by reputable foreign scholars into the issues that Nick Goodwin mentions. Hopefully, one day somebody will find the resources to do so.