This week saw an eruption of violence on the island of Borneo which killed at least 3 people. The deaths were the result of an ethnic clash between groups of Tidung and Bugis Latta people. Since clashes between the different ethnic groups caused the deaths of hundreds in this region over a decade ago, the Indonesian government has acted swiftly to quell trouble. A battalion of army troops and hundreds of paramilitary police have been sent to the region to keep the peace.
Ethnic tensions have mostly subsided in Indonesia over the last 10 years, but the government is taking no chances. It does not want any trouble to occur which might damage the inflow of foreign capital to Indonesia or jeopardise investment in large projects. Growth of the economy is seen as vital towards continuing Indonesia’s steady development.
The country has certainly come a long way since independence in the 1960s. Since that time, life expectancy has risen from 45 to 70 years of age. When the second of Indonesia’s president’s, Haji Muhammad Suharto, took power in 1967, the number of people living in poverty was around 6 in every 10. Three decades later it is now only 2 in every 10. Per capita income in Indonesia is almost 4,000 dollars on average and the adult literacy rate stands at 92%.
Healthcare and education are seen as key to Indonesia’s development and in both sectors huge strides have been taken. State services have moved well beyond worrying about basic improvements and now focus on higher standards of quality and care. Indonesia was proud to announce last month that over 13,000 of its schools and hospitals had joined the “One Million Safe Schools and Hospitals Campaign”, designed to improve safety awareness and knowledge of emergency procedures.
After a troubled history of colonial rule by the Europeans, followed by the long and brutal Suharto years in 1997, Indonesia is determined to keep moving forwards. One expert on the country believes the key to its success is the people’s readiness to stand up and fight for a better life; an uprising of the people ended both the colonial Dutch and Suharto’s oppressive rule. So Indonesia’s politicians feel the pressure to maintain the country’s momentum, by managing the economy and oil resources well and maintaining the peace amongst its diverse population.
Some hope that African countries, many of whom have very similar histories, ethnic complexity and natural resources, will look to Indonesia as an example of what can be achieved when people hold their rulers to account and expect to benefit from the economic growth and development of their nation.