Wednesday, November 1, 2023

‘Backlash’ against freedoms feared in Indonesia’s changing landscape


On May 21, 1998, Indonesia’s then-leader Soeharto announced his resignation from the Presidential Palace in Medan, Indonesia. The announcement came after weeks of protests across the country due to soaring prices of fuel, cooking oil, and rice as a result of the Asian Financial Crisis. The unrest had spread to cities across the country, resulting in violent clashes between protesters and security forces. Soeharto’s vice president, BJ Habibie, took over the top job and allowed Indonesians freedoms that had been denied during Soeharto’s decades in power. Since then, Indonesia has embraced democracy and has had five different presidents chosen through free and independent elections. The economy has also recovered from the 1998 crisis and is now the second-fastest growing in the G20. However, there are concerns that legislation and the rise of hardline religious groups could erode the hard-won freedoms of the past 25 years. Activists, academics, and human rights advocates have shared their thoughts on how Indonesia has changed since Soeharto’s fall from power.

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