Indonesia: an Incomplete Democracy

Indonesian Communist Killings

Indonesian Communist Killings

I was born and raised in Germany, I am a European, a westerner. For most of us this means livelong indoctrination of ethnocentrism. Supposedly, we are what should be the zero-point, the standard that must be adopted by every other nation. I more than often doubt these thoughts and find them rather arrogant and somewhat ignorant. However, there is one thing I deem to be important – Democracy. Democracy offers a platform in which everyone can oust their voice. Politics are lead by representatives that are elected by the majority and so, the elected representatives execute what has been promised to the populace.

It is often argued that democracy is the most successful form of government in the 20th century.

In Indonesia the new elections are on the 9th of July 2014 1. Fair elections are often considered the basis of a democracy. But democracy is far more than simply electing a representative by majority vote. Arguably, it is understandable that not every country adopts the same form of democracy. In fact different cultures are influenced by different norms and values which in turn impact the formation of a government. But still there are principles that occur very frequently and are therefore generically regarded as elements that need to be present for a democracy to exist.

Indonesia has claimed to have transformed into a democratic state with great progress especially since 1999. But by means of this blog post I would like to give an indication of the unsuccessful compliance of Indonesia with Accountability and Transparency, two principles of democracy 2. My accusation are mainly based on the concealment of the mass killings in 1965 of which little information can be found.

On the 30th of September a coup was launched against the government in charge in 1965. The military was quick in accusing the opposing party, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), to be responsible. Many conventionalists were enraged by the supposedly conducted actions of the PKI. The anger was channeled into matchless physical escalations – the mass murder of around 500.000 people. Most of them were, PKI members, alleged PKI members, supporters of the PKI and the Chinese minority. During the happenings, the broken president Sukarno was replaced by Suharto, who took presidency for the upcoming thirty years.

The problem at hand is that the event above is still a delicate matter for Indonesia, especially so its government since it was somewhat involved in the killings. Until today the happenings are often described in Indonesian schools as a consequence of the wrongful act by the PKI itself. Additionally, the events are being identified as rather passive such as an accident 3 and generally left untouched.

The lack or even the wrongful education of the Indonesian killings, has lead to the fact that Indonesians are not fully aware of the truth. But seeking an increase in awareness comes not only in – but also externally. In 2012 the neutral Indonesian Commission on Human Rights has turned their attention to the massacre and launched an extensive investigation as to the clarification of the happenings. Evidence was found as to the systematic and widespread crimes against humanity 4. However, the allegations made by the Human Rights Commission were declined by the Attorney General. Also in 2012, the director Joshua Oppenheimer released “The Act of Killing”, a documentary elaborating on the 1956-1966 killings. The movie was majorly successful, winning multiple international awards. Oppenheimer´s purpose was launching a public debate about the presented content, therefore increasing the awareness of the past happenings, and elaborating on the psychological implications of mass killings 5.

In the following my accusations of Indonesia not fulfilling the requirements to be a complete democracy will be presented. Two main principles are being neglected by the Indonesian government, one being Accountability and the second being Transparency.

In a democracy, the elected government is held responsible for their actions. If politicians are not being responsible for what they do and not bound to any laws, they are free in their decision making. This circumstance can easily result in an unimaginable abuse of power because no consequences are attached to actions. It is therefore hard to comprehend why Indonesia, who claims to be a democratic state, is still denying and clouding the events to prevent any accusations. Even to the extent that the General Attorney is rejecting an extensive, evidence based case made by the Indonesian Human Rights Commission. Since the government is not willing to face legitimate Human Rights allegations claims, it is indirectly stating the non-compliance of the Government with Human Rights. As long as the matter is denied, no one can be held accountable.

A democratic nation is obligated to inform the populace about everything that has been done, is currently been executed and will be done in the future. Transparency is therefore a principle that is correlated to accountability. Simply because if information is withheld, as in the case of the killings in 1965-1966, no single person can be held accountable. By overseeing which information the populace receives implies the wrongful manipulation of people. New decisions are often based on past events. If mistakes are being made, they can be prevented because at least one knows how to – not – do it. Happenings can be analysed as to which steps had been conducted wrongfully and to which extent they can be properly adapted in the future.

Information Transparency Word-list

Information Transparency Word-List

Therefore, I would like to conclude that, in my humble perception, Indonesia is an incomplete democracy. It is hiding its past for its citizens to defend themselves against potential accountability. Non-governmental players, such as the key individual Joshua Oppenheimer are pressuring Indonesia into revealing the truth. And I find it rather embarrassing that Indonesians have to be induced with the correct happenings by the outside. Distrust in the Indonesian government by its citizens is a very probable result. By blurring the past, one has no chance to learn from it. And most importantly, if Indonesia is willing to become the Democracy which they imply to currently be – the government has to be held accountable for past actions and the truth needs to be revealed. They have to put forward the truth for the benefit of the people and therefore – themselves.


  1.  Cameron, H. (2014). Indonesia´s 2014 elections: a quick guide. Parliament of Australia.
  2. Street Law. (1994). Democracy for All. Juta and Co Ltd.
  3.  Cribb, R. (1990). The Indonesian Killings 1965-1966: Studies from Java and Bali. Monash Asia Institution.
  4.  ETAN. (2011). Factsheet: The 1965-66 mass killings in Indonesia. Retrieved from
  5.  Oppenheimer, J. (2013). An interview with Joshua Oppenheimer.

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