Foreign affairs (the political version, not dalliances abroad) is seldom a synonym for fun.
The standard photo has a line of suits trying – and failing – to look human.Their media statements, labelled ‘communique’ to maintain the mystique, are triumphs of euphemism, so bland they make laundry lists sound like Hamlet.
Few would bother to read unless they got paid well for the pain.
Yet in Jakarta this month about 5,000 early post-teens gave up a full Saturday, packing a plush central city auditorium. They came to hear ambassadors and academics parade their theories on why governments do bizarre and sometimes awful things in the indefinable ‘national interest’.
A Dangerous Drift? Ideas to fix a Broken World was labelled the World’s Largest Foreign Policy Conference. Who knows – does anyone keep tabs? More important is that it was free and a wild success.
The man responsible for putting diplomacy on Indonesia’s entertainment pages is Dr Dino Patti Djalal, 53, the Republic’s former ambassador to Washington.
Veteran journalist and Tempo weekly editor Bambang Harymurti was among many in the crowd amazed that so many stayed till 7 pm when the norm is to drift off to coffee after the first break and never reappear.
One reason is because speakers were pushed to use real words instead of acronyms, put up solutions rather than recycle problems, and be brief and punchy. Most were. Another is that the line-up included ‘artists’ meaning TV stars, film actors – and Alya Nurshabrina.
The 22-year old model and ‘beauty queen’ (as labelled by the unreformed local press) is best known as Miss Indonesia 2018, less famous for studying international relations at university and heading a student delegation to Harvard. So she’d earned her place on a panel titled: The Return of the Angels: How the Millennials see the World and what they want to see fixed.
Asking kids – and adults listening? Revolutionary.
Close to half the Indonesian population of 260 million is under 30. The young tend to turn off politics – or the religious smears and brutal accusatory way the dark arts are conducted – but are besotted by ‘celebrities’.
Another well-baited hook was to run the millennials session late and then follow with an on-stage Battle of the Brains, a general knowledge contest involving teams of ambassadors, CEOs and the ‘angels’.
This even got the grey-hairs who’ve spent their lives maintaining tight lips to fracture the rictus and let laughs loose.
Djalal is well-known in Indonesia for using entrepreneurial flair to enliven statecraft.
His father, Hasyim Djalal, 84 and in the audience, was a former ambassador to the UN, Canada and Germany. His second son’s first degrees were in Canada, then a doctorate from the London School of Economics.
The young Djalal spent 27 years in government service and was a confidante of the last president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who made him ambassador to the US.
In that job he staged the world’s biggest angklung performance at the Washington Memorial with more than 5,000 participants. The traditional bamboo-tube onomatopoeia-named instruments are rattled to produce a jangling melody.
He ran in the New York Marathon, and in Los Angeles got the Indonesian diaspora together to help the homeland. In between he probably sparked a few trade deals but these failed to ignite the media.
Then the well-educated Djalal forgot the story of Icarus. The showman turned candidate got too close to the Jakarta sun while trying to fly into the 2014 presidential election.
Down to earth and ego badly bruised, he remained keen to stay in foreign affairs. The problem is that the big game’s played by governments. So he started the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI), to expand Indonesians’ understanding of the world and defeat xenophobia.
The NGO runs workshops, seminars, overseas tours and this year’s Dangerous Drift? conference with 20 breakout sessions, including the heavies like climate change, multi-lateralism and terrorism – and the A-team.
Our man Gary Quinlan was there along with ambassadors from the US, Russia, Japan, India, Canada and the EU. They ran a ‘diplomacy clinic’ to help students’ research. Where else could undergrads get such insights?
Most sessions were in English, lively and challenging. There were flash videos, up-beat singers and enough energy to power the show if the lights had fused.
The only damper was a 30 minute wait for the opener, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, a former Army commander who then ranted about the need for discipline. Indonesian VIPs often stage late arrivals, supposedly to enhance their status.
Note to the gentleman: Your nation is now a robust democracy; leaders are respected but no longer held in trembling awe.
“Our mission is to promote peace and bring foreign policy to the public,” Djalal said in an earlier interview. “That means finding out how to talk to ordinary people about these issues. They may not seem interested but that changes when, for example, the price of imports rise.
“We want to develop understanding between nations. Our youth exchange program with China should help reduce Sinophobia”.
A moving moment in the conference came when the North Korean and South Korean ambassadors to Indonesia, An Kwan-il and Kim Chang-beom accepted the FPCI’s Courage for Peace Award on behalf of their leaders.
The men shook hands, hugged and then spoke to the crowd in English; the kids went wild. Will they be a generation that never knows war?
Try that in Australia. We’d probably call it a stunt. In Jakarta it felt real.
Duncan Graham is a journalist based in Java, Indonesia.
Over the past two decades, income inequality has been increasing in Indonesia, leading to
growing worries about disparities in living standards and education.
A particular concern of economists in this environment of climbing inequality is the issue of
intergenerational mobility – the extent to which parents’ education or income affects the
socioeconomic status of their offspring.
Scholars have described a strong relationship between inequality and social immobility –
meaning that the greater the inequality in a country, the greater likelihood that someone will
inherit their parents’ socioeconomic status. This finding has been dubbed the “Great Gatsby curve”,(link is external) in reference to the way that the book’s title character defies this relationship and
overcomes his simple upbringing.
Educational attainment is one of the most common measures used by economists and
sociologists to determine the extent to which socioeconomic status is transferred from one
generation to the next. Indonesia has invested huge amounts in education and implemented
several progressive policies designed to promote mobility.
In fact, government spending on education has more than doubled since the New Order
period. Since 2009, more than 20 per cent of the state budget has been spent on education,
in accordance with the Law 20 of 2003 on the National Education System (although there is
ome debate about how this 20 per cent figure is calculated). These funds have been used
to implement a variety of progressive policies, ranging from scholarship programs for poor
students to elimination of school fees and school grants.
As the first member of my Betawi family to pursue higher education, I wondered how many
other Indonesians had a similar experience to me. What is the relationship between parental
education and children’s schooling in Indonesia? Are the government’s efforts to expand
education making it any easier for people from families without high levels of education to
attain higher levels of schooling?
To explore these questions, I examined the results of four waves of the Indonesian Family
Life Survey (IFLS), from 1997, 2000, 2007 and 2015. I examined the educational achievement
(in terms of years of schooling) of young people aged 16 to 27 at the time of the survey.
My study examined the educational achievement of young people against their father’s
education. This is because although many studies have shown only slight differences
between whether a mother or father’s education level is used in these comparisons, some(link is external)studies(link is external)argue that the father’s education can be more important for the outcomes
of their offspring.
The results showed some interesting findings. First, the average years of schooling increased
from 9.21 in 1997 to 10.71 in 2015. Both boys and girls increased their total years of schooling.
Average years of schooling for boys improved from 9.2 in 1997 to 10.53 in 2015. Girls fared
slightly better, with average years of schooling increasing from 9.2 in 1997 to 10.9 in 2015.
Significantly, the study showed an increase in educational mobility from 1997 to 2015.
To examine mobility, I calculated an “intergenerational persistence” coefficient – a measure
of the degree to which a father’s education affects children’s education. This coefficient
decreased from 0.53 in 1997 to 0.44 in 2015. Notably, there was little change from 1997 to
2007, when the coefficient decreased to 0.51, suggesting that most improvements in mobility
have occurred over the past decade.
Despite the improvements observed, however, parental background still plays a major role
in shaping children’s futures. In fact, the coefficient of persistence is still considerably higher
in Indonesia than in most other nations, with Latin American countries the only close match
Further, my study somewhat surprisingly showed little difference in intergenerational
persistence between urban and rural areas. Living in an urban, developed area seemingly
does not automatically promote greater opportunities for educational mobility compared to
rural areas. In fact, my study showed that although mobility has improved in urban areas
over recent years, historically, mobility was greater in rural areas than in urban ones.
Finally, the intergenerational coefficient declined from 0.55 in 1997 to 0.45 in 2015 for women,
and from 0.51 in 1997 to 0.43 in 2015 for men. These findings suggest that female students
are less mobile than male students, a finding that is common to many other studies. However,
in the Indonesian case, the gap between males and females has narrowed significantly over
recent years, and there is now little difference in mobility between genders.
What explains these results? Given the decline in intergenerational persistence over the past
decade, there are suggestions that the government’s hefty investment in education may be
starting to improve mobility. In 2007-2008, the government spent about 16 per cent of the state
budget on education. Since 2009 it has consistently allocated more than 20 per cent.
Past studies have shown that total public expenditure on education has a positive relationship
with mobility – the more a government spends on education, the more mobile students
Public investment in education can compensate for a lack of investment in education by
One of the most prominent educational policies over the past decade has been the
implementation of the School Operational Assistance Grants (BOS). These grants are
provided directly to schools every three months on the basis of the number of students
at the school. They are designed to increase the enrolment rate by reducing the costs of
education borne by parents. Schools can also use BOS funds for activities such as
personnel management, infrastructure and professional development.
In 2012, the government also introduced a new regulation that prohibits the charging of
fees in primary and junior secondary schools but allows for voluntary parental contributions
to maintain the active engagement of parents in school development.
On the demand side, the government has expanded its assistance program for poor students,
the Indonesia Smart Card (KIP). Through this program, students are provided with a cash-
ransfer based on school attendance. The funds can be used for education fees, or other costs
associated with attending school, such as transportation, books and uniforms.
In addition to increases in educational expenditure, the government has also put considerable
efforts into promoting early childhood education over recent years. The enrolment ratio of
children in early childhood education has increased from 15 per cent in the early 2000s to
47 per cent in 2012. Improvements in early childhood education could have also played a
role in increasing mobility.
My small study suggests that parental education is still a major determinant of educational
outcomes in Indonesia. Further studies are required to confirm my findings, but government
investment in education does appear to be making a difference.
The views and opinions expressed in this post do not represent the views of the Australian or Indonesian governments.
(This article first appear in Indonesia at Melbourne Blog on 30th October 2018)
The counter-terrorism landscape in Southeast Asia has fundamentally changed over
the 15 years since Indonesia’s anti-terrorism laws were originally enacted. The emergence of a
self-declared ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria energised a new generation of Indonesia’s
Islamists, with more than 500 Indonesians travelling to ISIS controlled lands and
returning – many in family groups.
The appeal of global Islamist ideology has radicalised young Indonesians via social media, without the need for travel or formal membership of Islamist organisations.
With advances in communications technology, the appeal of global Islamist
ideology has radicalised young Indonesians via social media, without the
need for travel or formal membership of Islamist organisations.
A January 2016 rampage in central Jakarta, coordinated by Syrian-based
ISIS operative Bahrum Naim and leader of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), Aman Abdurrahman, dramatically underlined the danger.
Yet it was the five-month siege of Marawi in the southern Philippines in 2017
by ISIS-linked militants that crystallised the threat posed to the region.
The example set by the Maute group’s seizure of an urban centre in Mindanao
presented a dangerous new prospect for Indonesia, prompting Jakarta and
its regional partners to expedite a range of new intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism arrangements.
But even so, an effort by the President Joko Widodo to revise the
2003 anti-terrorism law to enhance its pre-emptive and preventive powers had
languished for two years. The changes first sought in 2016 had become entangled
in the increasing politicisation of Islam in Indonesia. It was a debate that illustrated the potent mix of populism and religion.
Islamic identity embraced
Under the 32 year Suharto New Order regime in Indonesia, Islamic political parties
in the country were emasculated and radical Islamists either eliminated by the armed
forces or forced to flee overseas. Successive New Order governments banned the
Islamic headscarf or hijab (jilbab) in both public schools and the civil service.
In Indonesia’s post-authoritarian socio-political context, however, Islamic identity
has been increasingly embraced. With this has come a growing intolerance and
pressure to conform, particularly on women.
For women’s civil society in Indonesia, the concern has been less about
terrorist attacks, but more the increasing pressure, intimidation and coercion
designed to restrict women’s agency and autonomy.
When the anti-terrorism law was before the legislature, women’s organisations
noted attempts by some factions, particularly the conservative Justice and Prosperity
Party (PKS), to further erode women’s rights.
In comparison to the 2003 law, the revised bill underwent a more extensive
consultation and deliberation process, not just among the various political factions
represented in the legislature (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR), but including
women’s groups, the academe, religious groups and civil society organisations.
Many non-government stakeholders were keen to ensure both the law met
contemporary human rights standards and did not privilege repressive measures
above the reintegration and rehabilitation of extremists.
Among the most contentious articles included the so-called “Guantanamo Article”,
which provided for powers of arrest and detention without warrant for up to
six months. Equally, both the electronic surveillance measures and planned
revocation of citizenship for convicted terrorists on top of their prison sentences,
The citizenship article was later revoked as it contravened Indonesia’s citizenship law.
Other articles were amended on expert advice, but the irony in a death penalty
sanction for Islamists who sought glory as martyrs was not excised from the revised law.
Delays were also a consequence of political machinations. From November 2016,
revisions to the anti-terrorism law were increasingly caught up in the charged
political atmosphere of the Jakarta gubernatorial elections.
The election period and in the months preceding it, had seen a significant uptick
in organised hate speech toward minority groups, such as Chinese, Christians,
and more liberal proponents of Islam. Opponents used blasphemy charges
under Indonesia’s criminal code to derail the chances of ethnic Chinese
incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja (Ahok) Purnama, who in May 2017 was sentenced to
two years’ imprisonment.
Opposition to Ahok involved the mobilisation, some of it spontaneous,
most of it organised, of hundreds of thousands of protestors by hardline Islamic groups
such as the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI) and National Fatwa Guard Movement
of the Council of Indonesian Ulema (GNPF-MUI) in November and December 2016.
As elite machinations intensified and rumours swirled about the loyalty of
senior Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) commanders, concerns rose in the
executive about the nation’s stability and cohesion. Within this heated political
context, revisions of Indonesia’s anti-terrorism law proved highly contentious.
The conservative opposition faction in the legislature, comprised of PKS and the
larger nationalist Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), was concerned
that the law should not become an instrument for the oppression of Islam or indeed,
be used to thwart their own political agendas; particularly given the purported links
between Gerindra and Islamist militia fomenting the anti-Ahok protests.
There was also a sense in quarters of the government, security forces, and civil
society that the sympathies of conservative legislators were aligned closely
with radical Islamic groups and their agendas.
It was the definition of terrorism and by extension, the security forces’ role in
counter-terrorism, however, which proved most contentious. The Gerindra faction
had proposed that the definition of terrorism include specific reference to “ideological
and political motives”, arguing it would limit the potential for excess by security forces.
Yet this qualifying phrase was widely opposed – a member of the legislature’s
expert team from the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), Poltak Partogi
Nainggolan, characterised the additional phrase as unnecessarily complicating
and claimed it would make it harder for the judiciary to prove ideological motive.
A stalemate ensued. The legislature and executive could not resolve differences
over the definition. It lasted right up to 13 May this year, when Indonesia woke
to the news of three successive suicide bombings of churches in the country’s
second largest city of Surabaya, perpetrated by one family.
No-one could have foreseen a situation where extremists would transform their
own children into improvised explosive devices.
By Jarryd De Haan, Future Directions International
Prime Minster Scott Morrison announced on 16 October that his government is considering recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the Australian embassy. The suggestion drew a strong reaction from Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who said that the move was a slap in the face to Indonesia on the Palestinian issue, and warned that it would affect bilateral relations. Reports also surfaced after the announcement that Indonesia had threatened to review its position on the long-awaited Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA).
For many Indonesians, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a sensitive topic, with the vast majority strongly supporting the Palestinian side, primarily due to a common religion and shared experiences. In both countries, the majority of the population follows the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islam. Indonesia also has a history of facing oppression, having experienced Dutch colonial rule and Japanese occupation. From the perspective of many Indonesians, their Muslim brothers and sisters are being oppressed by a non-Muslim power, just as they were in the past. That shared sense of history and beliefs has created a close people-to-people bond between Indonesians and Palestinians. That bond was especially clear during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, where the cheers for the Palestinian athletic team from the Indonesian crowd were beaten only by the cheers for their home team.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi seems to share that view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has made support for Palestine an integral part of her ministry’s agenda. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a Solidarity Week for Palestine (SWP) on 13-17 October, where Marsudi met with her Palestinian counterpart to pledge further support. It is no surprise then, that Marsudi had a strong reaction to Morrison’s comments that Australia may move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. Indonesia and Australia hold opposing views when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Australia is one of the fifty countries that do not recognise the state of Palestine and Indonesia is one of the 34 countries that do not recognise the state of Israel.
The recent comments will have little, if any, direct implications for the Indonesian-Australian relationship. The IA-CEPA deal will not be affected, as confirmed by Indonesian Trade Minister Arrmanatha Nasir, who still hopes that the deal can be signed by the end of this year. What may be affected, however, are government-to-government relations. Mr Morrison started off on a strong footing with Indonesia, opting to go ahead with a planned visit to Jakarta that was scheduled to take place less than a week after he took office. With the recent comments on Jerusalem, however, the Prime Minister seemed to take a step back. In so doing, he shed light on the ideological and cultural differences between Australia and Indonesia that define the, often rocky, relationship.
Enhancing the relationship with Indonesia is a vitally important component of Australia’s geopolitical outlook. In the past, Indonesia has depended on Australia for foreign aid and development assistance. Today, however, the relationship is changing. Australia is becoming less significant to Indonesian interests, while it remains vitally important for Canberra to maintain strong linkages between the two. In that respect, the Australian Government should be careful not to place any unnecessary strain on the relationship by emphasising existing differences in foreign policy.
Regardless of Australia’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the government should strive to be seen as having an independent outlook on foreign affairs. It should be seen as taking into consideration the interests of its neighbours and how those interests affect Australia’s priorities, rather than be perceived as echoing the views of the United States.
Any opinions or views expressed in this paper are those of the individual author, unless stated to be those of Future Directions International.