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The Future of Indonesia as a Unitary State: Separatism and Decentralization

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Final rept.

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The ability of the Indonesian government to deal with separatist pressures and implementation of regional autonomy is hampered by weaknesses of leadership, lack of vision, and ineffective institutions the same hindrances to coherent and effective government found in all areas of government policy and endeavor. Even so, Indonesia is not likely to disintegrate. Shared history, the sense of being Indonesian, and the advantages of being part of a large political and economic unit serve to counterbalance centrifugal forces, even in provinces rich in natural resources, such as Riau. The oldest separatist movement in Indonesia, the socalled Republic of the South Moluccas Republik Maluku Selatan, or RMS has more resonance among its aging exiles in the Netherlands than in Maluku itself. Dissatisfaction with the central government, fragmentation at the provincial and district level, and outbreaks of violence cloaked in ethno-religious guise will continue to plague the country, but will not sunder it. How well the experiments in decentralization and special autonomy for the rebellious provinces of Aceh and Papua are implemented, and the extent to which human rights abuses are curbed and punished, will determine much for the future integrity of the Indonesian state. Policy toward the only significant separatist movements, those in Aceh and Papua, has suffered from a lack of coherence and consistency, reflecting the long absence of a single designated office with responsibility for these trouble spots and a lack of attention from the senior levels of government. This may be changing. In February 2002, the coordinating minister for political and security affairs, General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was given overall authority for the implementation of a comprehensive program for resolving the situation in Aceh.

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  • Government and Political Science

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