January 26, 2008:
Indonesia is becoming
hell for journalists, due to the decline in violence and terrorism. Pirate
attacks were down 14 percent (to 43) in 2007. Moreover, most of the attacks
were low level "muggings at sea," rather
than the more ambitious hijackings of ships. While Islamic parties control a
third of the parliament seats, most of these Islamic politicians are moderate,
and quite hostile to Islamic radicals. Major Islamic organizations are openly
condemning Islamic terrorism. Not much popular support for the violence either.
The army and police have gone after organized Islamic radicals, and suppressed
Aceh, in the far west, is still
recovering from its failed attempt to become a separate state. Some of the
rebels have turned to crime, and the number of murders are up among the
population of four million. But the elevated murder rate is only about at the
level of most European countries. But the development of a gangster
infrastructure is worrisome to those trying to create more effective democracy.
The same thing is happening to east, in East Timor which, unlike Aceh, was able
to establish itself as a separate nation.
Because of the frequent street violence
and corruption, many Indonesians doubt that the country is ready for democracy.
Some army generals have come out publically questioning the suitability of democracy
for the country. What is left unsaid is that many prefer dictatorship. That's
simpler for people at the top, not so good for everyone else.
The most senior generals have
recognized this problem, and pledged to reform the armed forces. That would
require retiring a lot of pro-dictatorship officers. It will be easier to get
rid of the many corrupt officers, who are doing more damage at the moment. For
too many officers, everything is for sale, including their loyalty.