A Singapore blog on UNFINISHED NATION: Indonesia before and after Suharto

First Singapore Blog comment on UNFINISHED NATION

10 July, 2008

07 July
“Unfinished Nation” has been released in Singapore for about a week now.



I just finished reading Max Lane’s Unfinished Nation –
a fairly concise recollection of Indonesia’s political
events including that of President Suharto who was
pushed out of power. Suharto was abandoned by
his close aides and generals at a time when he was
faced with unrests and demostrations by radicals,
students and workers under the banner of aksi and

Aksi resulted in everything and anything being
challenged by the people, and corrupt
officials were the main targets.

The mass protestors took up issues like social welfare,
price increases in the aftermath of the financial crisis
in 1997. In 1998 President Surharto finally stepped down
from a 33 years dictatorship.

Above all the rhetorics what impressed in the book
was this little inspirational poem that played a part
in aksi and reformasi. This extremely popular poem was
written by a trishaw rider, carpenter and later a poet,
Wiji Thukul.

Here’s the poem –

if the people leave
while the rulers deliver their speeches
we must be vigilant
perhaps they have lost hope
if the people hide away
and whisper
when discussing their problems
then rulers should beware and learn to listen
if the people dont dare complain
then things are dangerous
and if what the rulers say
may not be rejected
truth must surely be under threat
and if suggestions are refused without consideration
voices silenced, criticisms banned without reason
accused of subversion and of disturbing security
then there is only one word : fight!

I believe aksi reformasi is
still ongoing in Indonesia. It is there to ensure
that no President will run Indonesia with an iron fist again.
It reminds those in power that the
welfare of the people must come first.

It’s quite extraordinary that even a powerful
and seemingly unshakable President Surharto
was unable to counter the united people force
that was determined to fight and sack the

After reading the book I felt as if the poem
was referring to us in Singapore, because
there is this general perception that our
Government is disconnected from the people.
However, it’s unlikely we will ever see the
last line ‘fight’ ever take place (hopefully never)
because Singaporeans simply don’t have
the Indonesian type of courage to ‘fight’
the government.

footnote: aksi is a form of political action, protest
mobilization in the form of strikes hunger strikes,
rallies, marches and sit-ins which also eventually
affects existing social, cultural, political
and economic processes.

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