Freedom: Then and Now

Gede Sandra
Gede Sandra, A Lecturer at Bung Karno University

Jakarta, IO – A polemic on comparing administrations of different eras in the history of Indonesia has surfaced after the chairman of the All – Indonesian Student Executive Board Alliance (BEM SI) blundered by comparing the aspects of freedom and welfare between the New Order Era and the Reform Era. The issue of freedom, in particular, has caught the public’s attention. The Chairman remarked that freedom did in fact exist in the New Order Era. Then the public went wild. 

Not long after, BEM SI Chairman Kaharuddin, a fifth-year student from University of Riau, clarified his statement in many news media, which should stop the controversy. But it did not. Such an engrossing topic, a private TV network even broadcast an exclusive follow-up discussion on the issue, inviting Kaharuddin and several respondents, including the leader of Jokowi’s – the current president – volunteers. This polemic creates healthy, insightful and stimulating discussions. 

In the New Order Era, freedom was scarce as many human rights violations in this era came in different forms. For a start, there was the arrest and killing of Indonesian Communist Party cadres and Sukarno partisans in the years 1965-1966. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and tens of thousands were detained without a proper trial by law. Another case was the “Mysterious Shootings” in 1982- 1985, which cost more than ten thousand lives of so-called “thugs”. The Tanjung Priok case (1984) claimed the lives of 33 people. 

In the Talang Sari case, Lampung (1989), 130 people were killed, 77 forcibly displaced, and 46 people were tortured. In the infamous activist kidnapping case (1998), one person was killed, 23 went missing, and 25 were maltreated.