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The Search for New Sources of Legitimacy in Indonesia after Suharto

Bowen, John
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) In Foblets, Marie-Claire, and Trutz von Trotha, eds., Healing the Wounds: Essays on the Reconstruction of Societies after War. Portland, Oregon: Hart Publishing. Pp. 241-257.

After an aborted communist coup in 1965 in Indonesia, General Suharto came to power in 1966-1967. This led to a period of violence and mass human rights violations in Indonesia. Over the decades a certain stability and growth also occurred, but accompanying them were political oppression and corruption. Suharto’s rule ended in 1998 after protests and violence against his regime. This has led to more unrest, violence, and human rights violations in Indonesia. As John Bowen comments, Indonesia after Suharto seems plagued by both a massive failure of social order and a severe crisis of political legitimacy. The two are linked for, despite Suharto’s slogan of a “New Order,” he failed, among other things, to create a legitimate and effective legal system. Against this background, Bowen explores current debates within Indonesia about the legitimacy of various legal and political responses to the crisis. Proposed responses include tribunals to deal with crimes under Suharto, reforms in the justice system, and a devolution of power to local authorities. Bowen pays particular attention to potential tensions between two types of demands: one for a more effective and impartial nation-wide legal system; and the other for greater regional autonomy and recognition of ethnic and religious communities’ rights.


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