By Amanda Jarrett
Indonesia was established as an independent state in 1949, after being colonized by the Dutch and occupied by the Japanese. They instituted a parliamentary democracy for the first eight years of independence, but end in 1957 when martial law was declared and ‘guided democracy’ was enforced. After several coups in the mid-1900s, free and fair elections took place for the first time in 1999, making Indonesia the third most populated democracy in the world.
Their population stands over 270 million people as of 2019. Since the country has only been a democracy for two decades, they are still battling corruption and poverty along with trying to improve their education system and economic and financial reforms.
In terms of its demographics, the highest concentration of people live on the country’s island of Java, which has three zones: West, Central, and East Java. In addition to this province, there are 30 other provinces within the country. Apart from geography, the Indonesian president proposed a 177.56 billion dollar budget in 2019 for human resources, including education. Though, this is a major angel for his reelection.
Additionally, in Indonesia, people who are born within the country are not given automatic citizenship at birth. Also, at least one parent must be a citizen in order for that citizenship to be inherited. This is a significant concept because, depending on one’s level of citizenship, it influences the amount of rights and access to rights one can have, which is increasingly important in the context of human trafficking and its victims.
A significant issue that has not been given the attention it needs by the eyes of the Indonesian government is human trafficking. More specifically, in the forms of forced labor, domestic labor, and sex trafficking. There are approximately 1 million victims of human trafficking in Indonesia every year. The country has been given a Tier 2 ranking by the “2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Indonesia” published by the US Department of State.
In this analysis, there will be an observation of the Indonesian government in terms of its overall strengths and weaknesses while also drawing a connection to its governance in terms of human trafficking. There will also be a discussion on the opportunities the government can take on improving its current state as well as creating more resources for trafficking victims.
Strengths in Indonesian Governance
As stated previously, Indonesia has undergone several institutional regime changes since its independence and has struggled to find a steady stronghold in terms of its institutional structure and governance. However, with its current democracy, the government is at its most structurally sound in the sense that it is highly unlikely that there will be an overhaul to the system.
There are free and fair elections every five years along with well-developed local media to hold that system accountable and observing the performance of the governance. Additionally, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPC) has been given a fair amount of power in terms of monitoring the corruption within governance as well as the quality of governance.
In terms of trafficking, the Indonesian government adopted an anti-trafficking law in 2007 in order to help better protect trafficking victims, whether they were citizens or not. Traffickers, if caught, would only serve 3 to 15 years of prison. The government teamed up with and provided 26 non-government organizations (NGOs) with financial subsidies to provide medical and financial support to victims.
When the trafficking victims return home, it is common for their local community to assist them in gaining access to long-term medical care, job placement, education, and counseling.
Weaknesses in Indonesian Governance
As mentioned previously, Indonesia has adopted relatively strong democracy, but with a system so young, it lacks democratic traditions in the form of more respectable political parties. The PDI-P, Partai Demokrat, and Gerindra parties were all set up by political leaders whose aims were for presidency. Once these goals were achieved, the political parties became meaningless and therefore less respectable.
Evidence shows that power can easily be gained through money and network, intellect takes a backseat. Furthermore, there seems to be a divide in political goals for the country moving forward. There are two substantial groups of political parties in Indonesia, the ones who “want Islam to play a larger role in politics and life” and “those that aim for a pluralist and rather secular society.”
With political parties and power political figures manipulating the political game, money plays a significant role in politics and Indonesian governance. Corruption runs deep in the country’s parliament, the courts, and law enforcement. Though there are several anti-corruption laws and institutions within the Indonesian government, the weak democratic structure and existing corruption makes it difficult to make significant strides in the right direction.
More specifically, with regards to police officers, they solicit bribes, active and passive, in a wide range of criminality. “Two out of five people perceive most or all of the police to be corrupt and one in four Indonesians report having paid a bribe to the police services in the past 12 months.” This situation makes it extremely difficult for marginalized citizens and trafficked people to feel safe and seek refuge in the law.
In terms of human trafficking, the 2007 anti-trafficking law only criminalized labor and sex trafficking of adults, leaving out any sort of protections for children being sex trafficked. When the government began including trafficking in its policy priorities in 2018, “the central government did not have a mechanism to enforce this mandate” and failed to motivate its provincial governments “to consistently allocate anti-trafficking funding or to implement national policies.”
Additionally, even though 13 law enforcement trafficking task forces were created, they failed to report any of their findings. Corrupt officials and law enforcement challenge whatever progress the central government is trying to limit and further prevent trafficking.
Opportunities in Indonesian Governance
With the KPC, the government has the opportunity to take a stricter stance on corruption. There are several anti-corruption laws, but with a democratic framework that is still young and that has weak enforcement, it is difficult to implement them fully. Since Indonesia struggles with internal corruption at the federal and local levels, the government could reach out to international organizations for assistance in enforcing their own laws.
This would involve continued efforts of reform as well as focusing on strengthening democratic traditions within the government. If there is more reliability and stability in the ways in which politics are conducted within the country and parties are not only founded on deep pockets of a single individual, then local media and government leaders can work to restore some level of trust in the government and therefore increasing its accountability.
In specific relation to trafficking, the Indonesian government should allocate a larger budget for its anti-trafficking law enforcement in order for the task forces to be able to coordinate across the provinces to help shut down trafficking across borders. There should also be an anti-trafficking task force co-hosted by the central government and the United Nations (UN) to assist in alleviating local corruption and to facilitate accountability of local law enforcement as well as the local anti-trafficking task forces.
In addition to the task forces, there should be more effort made by the government to ensure that victims have access to rehabilitation services. Furthermore, as an attempt to curve the number of people being coerced or forced into the informal economic sector, the Indonesian government should partner with NGOs and other international organizations (The Gates Foundation and the Asian Development Bank) to help improve the conditions for youth by establishing empowerment programs, business skills workshops, and services to help educate youth about trafficking.
Threats in Indonesian Governance
Apart from the corruption and human trafficking issues mentioned above, Indonesia faces most of its threats from within. Terrorism is a serious issue since there have been several attacks on police institutions and churches. In May of 2018, there were three instances of suicide bombings. Additionally, Islamic extremism has been on the rise. The Indonesian State Intelligence Agency surveyed 1000 mosques where 4.1% preached extremist ideals and 1.7% encouraged support for the Islamic State.
There are also issues relating to separatist movements. With the announcement that the annexation of Aceh and Papua was illegal, they were given special autonomy laws in 2001. East Timor actually broke off and became its own country in 2002. In 2019, West Papua petitioned the UN seeking referendum for full independence. Lastly, the country is plagued with ethnic and religious tensions, causing concerns for internal security issues.
Indonesia has been struggling to enforce a stronger democratic framework due to the long lineage of corruption. The government has been taking steps to try and end its own corruption and increasing trust from civil society its own governance. They still have a long way to go and many hurdles to overcome, but the internal attempts for improvement demonstrate their motivation to create a better society.
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“Human Trafficking In Indonesia: The Difficult Road Home.” NEXUS Institute, 6 Sept. 2017.
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Jefriando, Maikel. “Indonesia President Proposes $178 Billion Budget for 2020 with Focus on Education.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 16 Aug. 2019.
United Nations. “2017 Trafficking in Persons Report – Iran.” Refworld, 27 June 2017.
US Department of State. “2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Indonesia.” “2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Indonesia”, Document #2010827, 20 June 2019.
“The World Factbook: Indonesia.” Central Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 1 Feb. 2018.
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