Damien Kingsbury is a senior lecturer in the School of Political and International Studies at Deakin University. For anyone who watches the news, or reads the papers, they will be aware of Australia’s diplomatic problems at the moment with regards to the granting of Temporary Protection Visas to 42 of the 43 West Papuans who recently reached Australia by boat. They pleaded that they were being persecuted by the Indonesian Army, and Australia has recognised their claims. Damien Kingsbury is actually part of a delegation that is trying to broker an autonomy deal with some international crisis group. (Not sure of the details, but I read an article on this.)
The Politics of Indonesia has run through three editions, the most recent published last year (2005) and updated with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency. Let me just plunge in at the outset and say I found this to be a fascinating and absorbing read. I couldn’t believe that in the acknowledgments the author apologised for his hackneyed English, when in fact it’s written in a marvellously clear and accessible style. For anyone wanting to learn about post war Indonesian politics, from Sukarno to Yudhoyono, then this is an excellent book.
The book covers a whole range of subjects, not just the political, but to do with the whole running of the still fledgling democratic state. For example, we learn about racism towards the Chinese, the corruption of the courts and army, Islamic terrorism, the cronyism of the Suharto years, plus his notorious business dealings. There are absorbing chapters on the Indonesian economy and the media. The sections on the key political players and their intrigues will keep people who, like me, prefer personalities to the minutiae of machine politics, happily turning the pages.
Chris heartily recommends this accessible and enjoyable overview of Indonesian culture, politics and society. For those who are interested in all of our current problems with Indonesia, this is a good place to start looking.