Editorial: Indonesia Backslides Into Feudalism

JULY 08, 2015

The history of Indonesia has shown us that feudalism, the patron-client system and cronyism breed corruption and backwardness. These beliefs and practices have kept the nation in poverty and stupidity, preventing progress.

The feudalistic system was used by the Dutch to divide and conquer the archipelago for hundreds of years. The colonial powers used kings in each region to sustain their influence over the people as educated members of the population only came from royal families or those with close ties to Dutch officials.

During the New Order era, Suharto's totalitarian regime adopted the same method of governance to form the patron-client system, extending systemic cronyism into every level of society.

The practice is still prevalent today, especially in the nation's bureaucracy — despite the progress of Indonesia's hard-fought democracy, feudalism and cronyism are still very much alive.

In regions across the country, governors, mayors and district heads go to great lengths to ensure their families occupy other public jobs or even run for regional office. What is currently happening in Banten —  where almost all senior public positions are occupied by former governor and graft convict Ratu Atut Chosiyah's family members — is just one example.

Such a practice ensures that family ties — regardless of how incompetent the family member may be — is what matters; not achievements, intelligence or credibility. This system teaches us that you can only rise through the ranks if you are willing to pay the right amount of money.

As a result, Indonesia is weighed down by incapable and corrupt government officials who only care about stuffing their own pockets, pushing the country backward instead of forward.

This is exactly why the Constitutional Court's ill-considered decision to legalize modern feudalism and allow families of incumbent regional heads to run for office is such a tragedy.

We must question this ruling as history has shown that we have every reason to be suspicious of the judges' morality, intention and sanity. We must continue the fight to clean up Indonesia and free our nation from cronyism and feudalism.