Article from ISAFIS' Biweekly Discussion on April 23 2016
The dynamics of Indonesia’s political movement is a fascinating subject to examine and be understood by a wide array of people, particularly by young people. The nature of young individuals, visionary and idealist stimulated the changes thus created the dynamics in the landscape of movements in Indonesia. Indonesia’s political movement has seen its beginning since the colonial period, noticeable by the birth of many youth-led organizations. These organizations aimed to reform the social and political structure in Indonesia towards betterment of the society. However, nowadays such disposition has declined a great deal. Activities that gather people in marches to protest against particular subject or simply express particular views on certain issues are no longer considered significant. Against that backdrop, questions are raised. Is the Indonesian independence truly taken for granted by the young generation? If not, what encourages the changes occurred that result in the depreciation of the nature of young individuals, which are supposedly visionary and idealist?
It is undeniable that political movement leads to social changes in the society. And the reduction of such movement led by the young people, especially students, has given the impression that young people, once that contributed remarkably in the Indonesia’s independence, has turned apathetic. Such impression was not entirely incorrect although too quick to conclude, whereas these days, students have reoriented their interest into apolitical matter. On the other hand, many students have a hard time in expressing and making their stance, hence picking neutrality as a safe move. This neutrality is believed to be deep-rooted within the Old Order’s measure to normalize campus life by banning any political activities and discussions within campus to silence critical movements such as Mahasiswa Menggugat that found fault in the dominated general elections, rampant corruption and the construction of Taman Mini Indonesia Indah at that time.
In spite of that, it is unquestionable that such movements still exist up to now. The government’s effort to normalize the university can be appreciated as ideally, educational institution should not take side and be neutral in political issues. But not for the students, it is their privilege as an individual to express their views and beliefs on certain issues. In several universities in Indonesia, its Executive Student Body is actively vocal in expressing their opinion. An example can be found in the Universitas Indonesia, where some campus organization detached itself from neutrality during the 2014 presidential general election by fully supporting the obvious candidate with clean background of human rights issue, as another candidate received allegations of human rights abuse in the past.
Another issue that is close to the heart of student is the growing act of corruption in the university. Corruption has occupied many discussions and has been the centre of attention in many dialogues. This rampant phenomenon of corruption runs on Indonesia’s “blood”, compelling people to think that it is an inherent condition in Indonesian society, thus rendering people apathetic and indifferent. It has to be noted that corruption does not discriminate. This means that every layer of society be it governmental or private institutions to the institutions of higher education are not exempt from its influence. In reality, according to the Act 14/2008 on public transparency, students have the rights to demand transparency from their university regarding the funds and budget allocation. Talking about this issue, the case in 2015 when the chairman of Executive Student Body of Universitas Negri Jakarta was expelled for being too vocal in pointing out the allegation of corruption act in the university. As the expulsion was groundless, the case went viral and built public support for the student that the university annulled the suspension.
Based on above brief explanation, a conclusion can be drawn that the youth movement is not dead. Further question to answer is whether the old form of the movement taken from the New Order era is appropriate in modern day. If not, what is the ideal form of youth/student movement for this era?
One of the important points that many skeptics argue is the credibility of the students involved in protesting marches and demonstrations on the street. Often times, many sectoral interests from particular groups or regions influence of even direct students to pressure the authorities. Unfortunately, there are still some students that have no purpose at all but to express their opinion with very little research beforehand, if at all. This begs the question whether the students truly know what they demand, whereas demonstration is prone to media exposure that ultimately increases the public awareness of the issues. On the other side, this shows that march and demonstration on the street is still relevant until today in order to express opinions. Additionally, contrary to the popular belief, social media can be effective if the Internet literacy and access is high in the society. Although, beyond doubt that social media can make a significant impact in raising public awareness and result in notable consequence, this does not reach the whole levels of society as the support from lower class that, in spite of their very limited access to the internet, is vital to the proliferation of political and social issues. Apart from these conventional ways, art form can be an alternative in expressing opinions even though sometimes it goes unnoticed. But art, if managed well, can touch the heart of all level in the society that entails psychological effect. Again, regardless the form, it is the action that drives the youth and student movement.
To sum up, the youth and student movement still holds great importance to create changes domestically. Anarchical movement is no longer relevant in a democratic country like Indonesia. Therefore, marches and demonstrations will need to be adjusted in today’s context. In order to obtain the objectives of the movement, it is indispensible that the people, notably the youths and students as intellectual individuals, are proficient on the issues and become expert in the matter. Neutrality can be employed to gather perspective from all angles and to understand the issues comprehensively so that sides can be taken eventually, and this signifies that youth and students do have concerns on political and social issues in Indonesia.