Indonesia has seen no respite from its turbulent politics, faltering economy and simmering conflicts since a mass uprising forced President Soeharto from office in 1998 after 32 years of autocratic rule. Since then it has had three presidents with B.J. Habibie removed in an election in 1999 and Abdurrahman Wahid ousted by parliament after a lengthy impeachment process involving charges of corruption in the summer of 2001. Now Megawati Soekarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia’s founding leader Soekarno, heads a fractious and deeply troubled country.
The president faces a myriad of dark legacies from the Soeharto era including weak institutions, a corrupt and untrained judiciary and a pervasive military structure that exists in parallel with the civilian government. Separatist conflicts in Aceh and Irian Jaya remain unresolved and plans for greater autonomy for these provinces have not come to fruition. Communal violence has flared in Kalimantan and Maluku and simmers away elsewhere. Little has been done to fix an economy that nearly collapsed in 1997 and has shown few signs of recovery. Corruption and lawlessness are still defining themes of a government that has spent most of its time preoccupied with political scandal.
ICG opened its office in Jakarta in 2000 and now has a staff of three full-time analysts. Research has focused on separatist conflicts in Aceh and Irian Jaya, communal violence and the government’s response in Kalimantan and Maluku, and the economic problems underlying so much of the violence in Indonesia. ICG has also provided detailed analysis of on-going political problems and has outlined the need for deep reforms of the military and judiciary.