This episode of the podcast is the last one planned for Indonesia. Here we look at events in the world’s largest archipelago, from 1998 to the present. Listen and you will understand what is going on in a large nation that often does not get much attention in the outside world.
This episode is dedicated to Graeme J., Victor Y., and Russell I.; all of them recently made generous donations to the podcast. And this is the fourth time Russell has donated this year; wow, that must be a record! Maybe I should make an exception to the rule, and give him the ever-popular Shwe Dagon icon already, on the podcast’s Hall of Fame Page.
Remember a couple of episodes ago, when I mentioned that summer can be a slow time for business? Well, those contributions tell me that a new season is on the way! Here in the northern hemisphere, the new season is called fall or autumn, a time of harvest. So to all three of you, may you have an abundant harvest in whatever you produce for a living. And now, let’s hear what is on the agenda for today!
Episode 115: A New Beginning for Indonesia
Greetings, dear listeners, for the 115th time, from the hills of Bluegrass country in Kentucky! I will begin today’s episode with two apologies. First, let me apologize for keeping you waiting for the past month, on the Facebook page as well as wherever you listen to this podcast. For the first couple years after I launched the podcast, I had no trouble keeping up with my self-imposed schedule of two episodes per month, even when I was working a day job at the same time. But then real-world matters got in the way, and in case you were going to ask, yes, my wife thought I was committing too much time and effort to the show. Also, if you have listened recently, you know that for the past year the podcast has been covering Southeast Asia’s recent history — events that have happened since 1975 in Indochina, and since the 1950s in the rest of the region. With each of the latest episodes, I have been finishing up what I have to say about one of Southeast Asia’s countries, so my research has been a little more intense than it was in the past; I don’t want to forget any story or detail that might be considered important at a later date, since I may not be talking about that country again. The result is that I now find it’s all I can do to upload one episode a month. But nobody said making a podcast on this subject would be easy!
I have noticed a similar trend in the podcasts I listen to. I won’t give any names here, but there are some podcasters who used to be quite prolific, and I have barely heard from them in the past year. Sometimes, but not always, they will give a reason for their silence. When I am on the road, I like to listen to other podcasts, but because of the slowdown, there have been a few days recently where I had nothing new to listen to, so last week I started listening to two new shows. And I just heard that this week, a new podcast will get started about Asian-Americans in Kentucky; I’ll have to tell my wife about that one.
The other thing I want to apologize for is my mispronunciation of Southeast Asian names in this show. It turns out I do that more often than I thought. Now my wife lets me know if I mess up a Filipino name, and sometimes she can help with Malay and Indonesian names, because their languages are related to Philippine languages. But alas, nobody where I live will let me know when I mispronounce Vietnamese, Burmese or Thai names. Sorry about that.
Now where were we? Oh yes. The country we will be finishing up today is Indonesia. Of the eleven countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is the largest, in terms of land area and population. It also probably has the greatest resources, especially spices and oil. Of course the spices don’t matter as much as they did in centuries past, but the oil is certainly important in today’s world; we talked about that in previous episodes. But while Indonesia has been blessed with land, manpower and resources, it has also had the greatest challenges in the region. The main challenge has been getting its 270 million people to see themselves as one nation, as opposed to a collection of tribes that may or may not be under an outside ruler. Today Indonesia is more stable than it was in the first years after independence, but can we say it is going to stay that way?
Long-time listeners will know this podcast has done several episodes on Indonesia already. Unlike some of the other countries, I won’t begin by going back and listing all the episodes here. I will just list the four most recent episodes, those about events that have happened since World War II. Episode 60 covered the four-year struggle for independence against the Dutch, the colonial power that had ruled all of Indonesia as a colony before World War II. Then for the first forty-nine years after independence came, Indonesia had just two heads of state, but while they gave themselves the title of president, they were really dictators. Episode 97 talked about events under the first leader, Sukarno, from 1949 to 1967. Episode 102 was a special episode, covering western New Guinea after Indonesia annexed it, and the struggle of its natives for independence. Finally, Episode 103 covered events under the second leader, Suharto, from 1967 to 1998; sometimes Suharto’s presidency is called the New Order Era. Don’t get that confused with the New World Order, that Americans sometimes talk about! If you have not listened to those four episodes yet, I recommend you do so now, especially Episode 103, because today I will be making more than one reference to things that happened in 103. That episode ended with Suharto’s vice president and stepson, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, “B. J. Habibie” for short, becoming the next president. Since then Indonesia has behaved more like a democracy should; that is why I chose “A New Beginning” as today’s title. All right, if everyone is ready, let’s go!
Between the elections of 1998 and 2004, Indonesia saw four presidents, and none of them made it through a complete term. The first was Suharto, who only lasted in office for two months after the 1998 election, as we saw in Episode 103. There, I made the first Episode 103 reference already! Anyway, “B. J.” Habibie turned out to be a caretaker leader, lasting only for one year. Students demanded immediate elections and the abolition of military appointees to the parliament, and when these demands were ignored, they marched on parliament. Meanwhile, Moslems burned churches in Jakarta, and Christians in the eastern islands retaliated by attacking mosques, leading to Christian-Moslem violence in West Timor, the Moluccas and Borneo; the three separatist regions of East Timor, western New Guinea and Aceh saw more unrest as well.
Podcast footnote: We saw in previous episodes that when the Dutch ruled Indonesia, they gave preferential treatment to residents of the South Moluccan Islands, the area formerly called the Spice Islands, because unlike other Indonesians, they were mostly Christian. Consequently the Moluccans were not in a hurry to become independent, and when independence came to all of Indonesia, they decided they wanted a state of their own, called the Republic of South Maluku. Here the dispute started with religion; the Moluccans did not want to be part of a unitary state run by Moslems. Another factor was the clash of perspectives; the Indonesian nationalists, who were mostly Javanese, saw the Moluccans as collaborators with the Dutch, while the Moluccans saw the Javanese as collaborating with the Japanese during World War II.
I told you that the Republic of South Maluku was suppressed by the Indonesian armed forces in 1950; what I didn’t tell you was that unrest continued afterwards, though on a smaller scale than what was going on in East Timor, western New Guinea and Aceh. There was a guerrilla struggle until 1962, which also failed to make headway, so 12,500 Moluccans fled to the Netherlands with their families, and they set up a government in exile. To their surprise, the Dutch did not support their movement, and in the 1970s the Moluccan exiles responded by staging a handful of terrorist attacks in the Netherlands; the targets were trains, the Indonesian ambassador’s house, and the Indonesian embassy.
One of the books I used as a source for this podcast had a photo of a Moluccan separatist when he was arrested, and it described him with these words. Quote: “The stereotype revolutionary. He is young, fanatical, and he has failed. In this case he is a South Moluccan who has occupied the Indonesian embassy in The Hague in 1970. He himself has never been to the South Moluccas, which his family left before he was born. He is poor, and his group has minimal resources. His answer is to make his protest by political and revolutionary terror.”
End quote. Not much was heard from the Moluccas after that until early 1999, when a petty argument in the city of Ambon triggered Christian-Moslem clashes for the next three years in those islands. As many as 10,000 were killed and 700,000, or one third of the region’s population, were forced to flee their homes. The Indonesian government responded by dividing the Spice Islands into two provinces in 1999, called Maluku and North Maluku.
The latest incident I could find any information on took place in 2007. While Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was presiding over a government ceremony during the 14th National Family Day event in Ambon, a group of people entered the place, performed a traditional dance, and waved flags of the Republic of South Maluku. For Jakarta, this was a major embarrassment, and a year later, a court sentenced the leader of the independence movement to life in prison. We have seen in other episodes that Southeast Asian conflicts often don’t have a definite ending date, so it’s too early to tell if this is the last we have heard from the Moluccan separatists. Now that we’ve gotten ahead of the narrative, end footnote.
Because of all the previously mentioned unrest, Habibie backed down in early 1999, and allowed elections for both East Timor and the country as a whole. This was way ahead of schedule; new elections were not required until 2003. When the national election took place in June, it showed that the party Suharto founded, Golkar, had lost its teeth; instead of getting at least 70 percent of the vote, as it always did in the past, it pulled in just over 20 percent. Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party came in first place, but it had a third of the votes, not a majority. In fact, because forty-eight parties had participated, no one got a majority. As for East Timor, Habibie declared that it should not leave Indonesia, but to nobody’s surprise, the East Timorese overwhelmingly voted to secede in September. Pro-integration militias trained and paid by Jakarta immediately resorted to a scorched earth policy that killed thousands and left most of the territory’s infrastructure ruined. This caused foreigners to put pressure on Habibie, until he allowed a United Nations peacekeeping force to enter East Timor and restore order. From here it was a small step for East Timor to become completely independent, but that’s a topic best saved until this podcast runs an episode about East Timor; look for that in the near future.
Every five years, the Indonesian constitution requires the president to deliver a speech called the presidential accountability report. That was due in 1999, but when Habibie gave the report, it was rejected by the parliament, largely because he had not fought hard enough to keep East Timor. As a result, Habibie announced he would step down. Megawati Sukarnoputri was expected to succeed Habibie, because she was the daughter of former president Sukarno and because of her party’s showing in the recent election, but the other parties put together a large enough coalition to keep her from becoming president. The coalition rallied behind Abdurrahman Wahid, the candidate of the largest Islamic party, Nahdlatul Ulama, so on October 20, 1999, Wahid was sworn in as president, and Megawati was sworn in as vice president.
And now here is another long podcast footnote, to wrap up the career of Habibie. Back in the 1950s, Habibie went to college in Europe, first in the Netherlands, then finishing in West Germany. He received an engineer’s degree, and worked for the German company Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm until Suharto invited him to come back to Indonesia in 1974. After his return, he ran more than one high-tech enterprise, and in 1978 he was appointed to the Cabinet as State Minister of Research and Technology. He held this post, and also that of Chair of Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, for twenty years, until 1998, when he became vice president.
That interest in technology explains something I heard about Habibie while he was president — he was the first head of state anywhere to have his own home page on the Internet. Sure, by the late 1990s there were websites about other government leaders, but those were government websites; if you wanted to learn about the president of the United States, for instance, you would go to the official White House website, WhiteHouse.gov, rather than to a homepage the president had personally set up. For those too young to remember the Internet in those days, I’ll let you know that before the 1990s, only computer scientists had even heard of the Internet. It was after the 1990s began, that computer technology became user-friendly enough for the masses to get on the Internet; in my case, I started going online in 1997. Well, Habibie started working on his website while he was a Cabinet member; unfortunately I don’t know if he did the HTML coding himself, or if he got a computer nerd to do it for him. Later, when he was president, a senior aide noted that he would use the Internet, quote, “late at night to read foreign publications and communicate by email.” End quote.
The website’s URL was habibie.ristek.go.id/ . Unfortunately it is no longer accessible, presumably because Habibie is no longer president, and he died in 2019. I tried going to Archive.org, the website that saves copies of webpages that don’t exist anymore. Archive.org didn’t save much; all it had was a single page that showed a plain grey background, the initials “BJH,” and a MIDI file named Lagu, that played an easy-listening tune. However, I found an old CNN article, dated November 30, 2000, that described what else used to be on the site. Quote:
“The Indonesian president’s homepage announces ‘BJH’ in stiffly proportioned letters, with ‘Bachurrudin Jusuf Habibie’ laid out underneath in gold. Welcome to the vanity fair. Marvel at the longest c.v. ever compiled, and enjoy the celebrity photos (B.J. with Jimmy Carter, B.J. with Margaret Thatcher). But step back into the bahasa pages for the full treatment. A 27-part biography of Habibie’s life and career. A huge monument to his 60th birthday bash. Hundreds of obscure writings on technology dating back decades. And presidential policies? Not yet. This is the site of the leader of the world’s fourth-largest nation, but maybe running Indonesia is keeping him tied up. Then again, maybe he is just deciding whether that 1986 paper on industrial policy would look better in lime green text on a black background or yellow on eggshell blue.” End quote. I believe by “c.v.” the author meant “resumé.” End footnote.
Back to the narrative. Abdurrahman Wahid had been an opponent of Suharto, so his rise to power signaled a break with the politics of the past. An eccentric, nearly blind Moslem cleric, he professed a moderate, sometimes even liberal interpretation of Islam, rather than the extreme fundamentalist view that is popular in Aceh and parts of the Middle East. To start with, he promoted the rights of Indonesia’s minorities, including non-Moslems and the much-abused Chinese community. And in the 1980s, he was one of the few Islamic leaders who defended the author Salman Rushdie, when others condemned him for his book “The Satanic Verses.” To his critics he responded, quote: “Those who say that I am not Islamic enough should reread their Koran. Islam is about inclusion, tolerance, community.” Unquote. As president he even tried unsuccessfully to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. He did this because he felt that if Indonesia can have relations with communist countries, which are officially atheist, it should also have relations with a country that expresses a belief in God. Those of you familiar with Middle Eastern politics will know that for most Moslem countries, having anything to do with Israel is a big no-no.
Wahid’s admirers often called him Gus Dur; Gus is an honorific title and Dur is an abbreviation made from the second syllable of his first name. But he was also informal, impulsive, and a jokester, who could be totally unpredictable. This led Indonesians to joke that there were three things you could never be certain about: life, death and Gus Dur. He tended to fall asleep at public meetings, and at one parliamentary session, instead of reading his own speech, he gave it to an aide to read because of his blindness; nevertheless, during the reading, he dozed off more than once. In what appeared to be a planned tactic, the aide who woke him up gave him a hard candy to suck on each time.
Wahid lasted a bit longer than Habibie, but was even less effective. His attempts to deal with political infighting, reform the government, clean out corruption, and put Suharto on trial were prevented by those who had much to lose from such actions. Likewise, efforts to bring peace to the most troubled areas got nowhere. Here is how he described his situation, in a speech made 18 months into his term. Quote: “After becoming president, it became apparent that before me there was nothing but jagged debris, the ruined wreck of the former administration,— an enormous foreign debt, an economy in disorder, social injustices, conflagrations and accusations springing up everywhere.” Unquote. Finally, Wahid’s health was deteriorating, so in July 2001, the upper chamber of the parliament declared him incompetent, and voted unanimously to impeach him and remove him from office. Megawati Sukarnoputri was sworn in next, as the country’s first woman president.
Although stability returned after Megawati Sukarnoputri became president, otherwise she proved to be an example of the Peter Principle, having risen to her level of incompetence. By following a “Don’t rock the boat” policy, she allowed corruption, human rights abuses and military abuses to continue. In addition, the international “War On Terror” spilled over into Indonesia soon after the twenty-first century began. One week after the infamous September 11 attacks in the United States, President Megawati visited US President George W. Bush, and made a call for American investment. But for her that meeting was a no-win situation; after she returned, the Islamic right criticized her cooperation with America’s war in Afghanistan, while the nationalist left criticized her for inviting foreign investors. Then the Al Qaeda terrorists began backing Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamist group that claimed to be the successor of Darul Islam. Longtime listeners will remember Darul Islam from Episodes 60 & 97, when it rebelled first against the Dutch, and then against the Sukarno regime. Whereas Darul Islam tried to establish a Moslem fundamentalist state in part of Indonesia, Jemaah Islamiyah wanted to establish one over all of Southeast Asia. Jemaah Islamiyah’s worst terrorist attack was the Bali nightclub bombing of 2002, which killed 202 people, 4/5 of them European and Australian tourists. The group is thought to have also pulled off a second Bali bombing in 2005, and attacks on hotels and the Australian embassy in Jakarta, in 2003, 2004, and 2009. And finally, on January 14, 2016, at least three militants detonated explosives in or near a Starbucks cafe in Central Jakarta, and threw a grenade at a police post nearby, destroying the post and killing at least 3 men. As a result, foreigners have been reluctant to visit or invest in Indonesia, giving the government one more reason to crack down on terrorist cells in the country.
Because of the problems mentioned — a weak economy, violence from separatists and terrorists, and political corruption — the public lost confidence in Megawati, and the Indonesian Democratic Party did badly in the April 2004 elections for the legislature, with Golkar, the former ruling party under Suharto, winding up with the largest number of seats in the lower chamber. Three months later Megawati survived the initial round of voting in the country’s first-ever direct presidential election, but she was easily defeated in a runoff vote by her opponent, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Democrat Party. Because his name was so long, Yudhoyono was usually called by his initials, “SBY.” He was already well-known, having served as a reform-minded general under Suharto, and as Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs under Wahid and Megawati.
The defining moment of SBY’s presidency came on December 26, 2004, when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the Bay of Bengal. The resulting tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean in all directions, striking the coastlines of Asia and Africa, and causing widespread death and destruction. In the Pacific, tsunamis happen often enough that an early warning system has been set up, but the Indian Ocean had no such thing, so everybody was taken by surprise. As many as 230,000 may have been drowned in that disaster; because the epicenter of the earthquake was just west of Sumatra, 70 percent of the casualties were Indonesian, especially around the port of Bandar Aceh. The United Nations sent in rescue and relief efforts, but the efforts of four nations working together (the United States, Japan, Australia and India) proved quicker and more effective.
Surprisingly, the oil-rich nations on the shores of the Persian Gulf did not help at first, though most of the tsunami victims were Moslem. Saudi Arabia, for instance, was more interested in backing the Palestinian cause; at the time it was paying as much as $25,000 to the family of each suicide bomber who blew himself up in Israel. The Islamic nations finally contributed to the tsunami relief effort, after they were shamed into doing so by the nations that were already helping out.
Finally, because the hardest hit area was Aceh, the tsunami put the Aceh separatist movement out of business; in 2005 the rebels negotiated a peace settlement with the government. They may have seen the tsunami as evidence that Allah wasn’t on their side after all.
Unfortunately, the Indian Ocean tsunami wasn’t the only natural disaster to hit Indonesia in the early twenty-first century. This is because of the country’s location on the so-called “Ring of Fire,” which makes both earthquakes and volcanic eruptions likely. In May 2006, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook central Java, leaving more than 5,700 dead and 37,000 injured. Then in September 2009, another major earthquake and its aftershocks occurred off the coast of Sumatra, killing more than a thousand people and injuring thousands more in Padang, the capital of West Sumatra. October 2010 saw two disasters: a tsunami struck the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra, killing some 500 people, and Mount Merapi, a volcano in central Java, erupted for several weeks. The eruptions caused the deaths of 353 people, forced at least 130,000 to evacuate the area, and the ancient Borobudur temple, which I described in detail in Episode 6, was covered with volcanic ash. The most recent disaster I know about occurred in September 2018, when a three-meter-tall tsunami, triggered by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, hit the central part of the island of Sulawesi, killing nearly 1,350 people.
Despite all this, SBY succeeded in improving the economy and increasing political stability during his first term, which allowed him to get re-elected in 2009, and his party got enough votes to form a majority coalition in the lower chamber of the legislature. However, corruption remained a serious problem, and more acts of terrorism could happen, though the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah was shot to death in 2009. And while the military no longer acts like it is the most important branch of government, it is still very influential. Even now, attempts to bring corrupt officials from previous administrations to justice rarely result in convictions, sometimes because of the possibility that a crackdown would implacate members of the present-day government as accomplices. But no one ever said a multibillion dollar corruption syndicate, that has been around at least since the 1960s, would be easy to remove.
Some of you may remember that I spoke at an online conference called the Intelligent Speech Conference in June of 2020, and when I was asked which Southeast Asian country deserves more attention from the outside world, without hesitation I said Indonesia. This is because of Indonesia’s size; only three countries — China, India and the United States — have more people, and together Indonesia’s islands and the seas surrounding them cover a part of the world as large as the continental United States. However, Indonesia rarely makes headlines, whether the news is good or bad. One of the bits of good news is that Indonesia got along exceptionally well with the United States, while Yudhoyono was president. This is because his second term took place when the US president was Barack Obama. Back when Obama was a child, he spent four years in Jakarta, because his mother’s second husband was an Indonesian, Lolo Soetoro; Obama took the last name of his stepfather, and thus was known as Barry Soetoro. During those years, Obama attended a government-run school where he received some instruction in Islam, and a Catholic private school where he took part in Christian schooling; thanks to both schools, he became a fluent speaker of Bahasa Indonesia, the official language.
From 2010 to 2012, Indonesia’s Gross Domestic Product grew by more than 6 percent, and inflation fell to less than 5 percent. However, those promising trends stopped in 2013; then economic growth slowed and inflation increased. Some corruption scandals emerged in the Democrat Party, leading to public disillusionment with SBY’s government. So for the 2014 elections, Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party did the best; the PDI won the largest share of legislative seats, and its candidate, Joko Widodo, was elected president. Born in 1961, he represented a new generation of leadership. Unlike his predecessors, Joko Widodo, also known by the nickname Jokowi, was not very well known before he ran for president; he was the first president who did not come from the military, or the political elite. Before going into politics, he first worked for a wood pulp mill in Aceh, and then established his own furniture factory in Surakarta, his hometown. From this obscure beginning, he rose to get elected first as mayor of Surakarta in 2005, then as governor of Jakarta in 2012. In these positions he came to be known for making unannounced, impromptu visits, to check on the efforts of local administrators or to see local conditions first-hand. His running mate, Jusuf Kalla, came from the Golkar Party, and he had been vice president once before, from 2004 to 2009. The second-place finish in that election went to a former general, Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo frightened both Indonesians and foreigners because of his authoritarian tendencies and acceptance of Islamists. He had the advantages of name recognition, an upper-class family, a record of military service, and a billionaire brother to pay for the Prabowo campaign. What’s more, Prabowo disputed the election results, but Jokowi managed to overcome all of this to win. Later, the rivals of Jokowi successfully put together a majority coalition among the other parties in the parliament to oppose the PDI. Still, for 2015 Indonesia’s economic performance was solid, if slightly lower than expected.
At the beginning of his presidency, Jokowi announced that clamping down on corruption would be one of his top priorities and a necessary step to attract more foreign investment to the country. He also pushed a nine-point plan for Indonesia that emphasized helping the poor by improving public services, implementing land reforms, and developing more-affordable housing, among other measures. On top of that, he has promoted infrastructure projects to build highways, railroads, airports and other transportation facilities to make it easier to get around in the Indonesian archipelago.
At the same time, however, Jokowi’s presidency has been a disappointment for advocates of reform and democracy. Shortly after his first term in office began, he brought back the death penalty, which had been suspended under his predecessor. Within six months of his election, as many as 14 people had been executed, despite a massive international outcry. Moreover, Jokowi seems to condone extrajudicial killings against suspected drug dealers. Like the current president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, he sees illegal drugs as one of the country’s most serious problems, requiring a brutal response. In fact, Duterte has visited him more than once in Jakarta. Of course I will have more to say about that, the next time this podcast runs an episode on the Philippines.
Pollution is expected in a place with crowded cities, but Indonesia’s worst pollution comes from rural activity. From June to November in 2015, dozens were killed by respiratory illness and accidents, due to poor visibility caused by severe haze. The haze occurs annually during the dry season and is largely caused by illegal fires from slash-and-burn practices, especially on South Sumatra and Borneo. This time the haze also drifted across borders and across the sea, to neighboring Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Speaking of crowding and pollution, Jokowi announced in April 2019 that he intended to move the capital, to some place away from Java. Then in August he made another announcement, that the new capital would be located in eastern Borneo. By the way, in case I haven’t told you before, Indonesia calls the part of Borneo that it rules Kalimantan. An exact location for the new capital has not been declared, except that it will be between the regencies of North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kartanegara. Also, as I record this, the name of the new city has not been announced yet. The president said that he is doing this because with the possibility of sea levels rising from global warming, Jakarta could be flooded in the future. Maybe so, but I think Jokowi also wants to escape overcrowding, since he is talking about moving to a relatively undeveloped part of the country. At 42,000 people per square mile, Jakarta competes with cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore for the dubious title of being the world’s most densely populated place.
The 2019 election was a rematch between Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto. Jokowi won again, but it looks like they have buried the hatchet, because after the election, Jokowi appointed Prabowo as defense minister. This has alarmed those concerned with human rights, because of Prabowo’s past record; when he was a military commander in the 1990s, Prabowo was accused of permitting the abduction and torture of as many as 23 pro-democracy activists, 13 of which simply disappeared. He has been banned from visiting the United States because of these alleged crimes. Also disturbing is the vice president for Jokowi’s second term; Jokowi passed over reformist candidates and chose Ma’ruf Amin, a hardline Islamist, for the number two spot.
Okay, the last thing we need to talk about how Indonesia has fared under the COVID-19 pandemic. The answer is, not very well! From January 3, 2020 to August 31, 2021, there have been 4,089,801 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 133,023 deaths, as reported to the World Health Organization. And as of August 24, 2021, more than 91 million vaccine doses have been administered. Most of the cases have occurred since June 2021, due to the delta variant, causing Indonesia to be declared a new epicenter for the disease. The administration’s response has been slow and self-contradictory, with major administration figures issuing statements about the saving power of prayer and Jokowi himself looking afraid to take decisive but unpopular steps to combat the pandemic. For a while in early 2020, Indonesian officials reacted the same way that Vietnam’s leaders did, insisting that their country had precisely zero cases. For his annual State of the Nation Address in August 2021, Jokowi pledged to improve COVID-19 testing and treatment, and said the pandemic has changed Indonesian culture in ways that would be a foundation for advancement. Most recently, while I was working on this episode, the president has lowered restrictions on shopping malls and factories, because the number of infections in the hardest-hit areas is now decreasing.
Well, that takes care of Indonesia for this podcast. The history of another Southeast Asian country has now been told completely. Whose story still needs to be finished? Our narrative has four countries left — the Philippines, East Timor, Myanmar and Thailand. Join me in roughly a month as we go to one of those nations and tell its most recent history, until we get to the point where history becomes current events. Maybe I should call the next episode “The Story of the Day Before Yesterday.”
Since we are in the home stretch, I am thinking of having another Question & Answer episode soon; it has been at least year since the last one. For some of you, there surely must be some item that I did not say enough about. Think of whatever questions you may have about Southeast Asia, preferably about its past, but at this point I will consider questions on current events as well. Before the end of 2021 I will start collecting them, so stay tuned for that.
You probably noticed there were no ads interrupting the narrative; not once did I say, “And now for a word from our sponsor.” Do you like your podcasts that way? If you do, and can afford to financially support the show, I will thank you for it. Recently I heard another podcaster say that typically, one percent of a podcast’s listeners are motivated to make a donation, so if you are among the one percent, that makes you a special person. Donations are made through Paypal or through Patreon; I have included links to both on the Blubrry.com page that hosts this episode. And even if you cannot make a financial contribution at this time, you can still help by letting others know about the show. So spread the word to anyone who might be interested. Okay, I’d better upload this episode and get started on the next one. Thank you for listening, and come back when the monsoon winds are blowing right!