Address by Ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema at the launching of the book Regional Dynamics in a Decentralized Indonesia




ANU, Canberra, 31 July 2014, 5.30 pm (est. 10-15 minutes)
Bapak Dr. Budi Resosudarmo, Head of ANU Indonesia Project
Bapak Prof. Hall Hill
Dear professors, students, and friends
It gives me a great pleasure to be here this evening at the launch of the book titled Regional Dynamics in a Decentralized Indonesia. A book that is based on the papers presented and discussed at the 31stIndonesia Update” Conference held at ANU 20-21 September 2013.
To be honest I need more time to read all the chapters in the book, but I was there at some sessions of the Conference last September. As the case of the previous “Indonesia Update” that I observed, I was so impressed not only by its big turnout, but most importantly by the fact that the Conference has brought together academics, experts, students, and even government officials to discuss, share their observations and experiences on the topic of decentralization in Indonesia from different angles and perspectives. At its 31st year, the “Indonesia Update” has reaffirmed its status as one of the biggest and most important conferences on Indonesia held outside Indonesia. For that, I’d like to congratulate Bapak Budi Resosudarmo, Professor Hall Hill and colleagues at ANU Indonesia Project for the job well done.
The topic of the Conference and the book – decentralization or Otonomi Daerah (Otda) -- is very relevant and timely particularly as Indonesia marked more than a decade of the implementation of the Otonomi Daerah. As Prof Hall Hill mentioned in the introduction chapter, the decentralization started in 2001 is a “big bang” reform in Indonesian politics and governance– particularly in terms of central and regional government relations. Indeed, the Otda, together with the democratization, has been one of the most important pillars of the major transformation of Indonesia post-New Order.
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the concept of Otda was discussed and then implemented, the idea was that it was unrealistic to manage such a diverse country like Indonesia through a centralized approach and “one size fits all” policy. We need to bring the government close to the people so that better services can be provided through greater public participation. However, you might also recall that there were a sense of pessimism and even suspicions among Indonesians about the Otda. Many viewed it as another form of Federalism which was considered as a threat to the unity and cohesiveness of Indonesia. Some also argued that by transferring the power and money to the local governments, it would only create hundreds of “little kings and queens” in the provinces, districts, municipalities, and cities.
Now, after more than a decade, we can see and assess how the Otda has been working. As detailed in the book, it works well in some areas and in some regions. For example, I am pleased to note that one of the authors argues that, instead of weakening the foundation of Indonesian state, decentralization has made the country even stronger, thus continue to uphold our national motto “unity in diversity”. Yes, it has some challenges here and there: complex coordination, overlapping regulations, corruption, public services provisions, and other issues. But after all, Otda is a work in progress. We are convinced that we have been on the right track --- there is no option to reverse it, the only option is to move forward and work harder to make its noble goal become a reality: a more prosperous, just, united, and democratic Indonesia. And I am pleased that the book that we are launching today not only provides comprehensive and deep assessments of the decentralization, but also offers useful recommendations for policy makers to improve the implementation of the Otda.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I know that that many at ANU, including in the Indonesia Project, have been part the celebration of the democratic fiesta (pesta demokrasi) in Indonesia through seminars, comments on the media, postings at the New Mandala blog and other channels. You must be aware that the presidential election this year is undoubtedly the most dynamic, intense, and divisive election in our history. For months it seemed that the whole nation was divided into two opposing camps. But Alhamdulillah, we managed to finally conclude the election in such peaceful, smooth, democratic, and transparent manners. We can prove once again that our democracy is genuine, mature, and continue to consolidate.
The recent presidential election also proved that the decentralization have had a significant impact in reshaping Indonesian politics and governance in a positive way. The rise of Jokowi from a mayor Solo, Governor Jakarta, and now the President elect will definitely send a clear to local leaders all over Indonesia– governors, bupati, mayors—that if they perform well, if they make us their authority to serve the people well, they will be well rewarded by their people not only at the local level but at the national level. This,    I believe, is a promising development for Indonesia’s future.
Now that we have a President Elect, it is time for Indonesians to reunite, forget all the election competition, and work hand in hand to support and guard our new leaders so that they will serve the country best, upholding the Constitution,  and strengthening our democracy. And as we celebrate the end of Ramadhan and Idul Fitri, I believe that all Indonesian are ready to open a new chapter in our nation’s life.
Let me conclude by once again congratulate the launch of the book and commend the work of the Indonesian Project in promoting the study of Indonesia here at ANU, and thus contributing to the strengthening of relations between Indonesia and Australia – two neighbors, friends, and partners in the region.
I look forward to the next Conferences, next books, and next contributions by the Indonesian Project.
Thank you, terima kasih