原题 ∶The emergence of Indonesia
作者 ∶凯林拉斯兰（Karim Raslan）
I’ve always been interested in the strategic fortunes of four Southeast Asian countries: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. All of these countries have recently undergone some dramatic political developments.
Malaysia, for instance, got a new Prime Minister last week, with Najib Tun Razak’s long-forecast ascent to power finally taking place. On the other hand, his fledging administration was struck by two bye-election defeats and an overwhelmingly so-so reception to his first Cabinet.
Singapore, too, will soon a Cabinet reshuffle of its own. Premier Lee-Hsien Loong is to put several long-serving PAP workhorses to pasture, most notably DPM Shunmugam Jayakumar, who has been replaced by Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean. Again, however, this hasn’t done much to assuage the resentment of ordinary Singaporeans who want to know what has happened to their nation’s wealth as the Republic totters under the global economic crisis.
Thailand has also had its share of political drama, where Abhisit Vejjajiva’s fledging government appears to have failed to contain the pro-Thaksin ‘Red Shirt’ movement. Their storming of the East Asia Summit in Pattaya is a blow to the former’s prestige and to Thailand, which previously had pretensions to lead Southeast Asia. Abhisit has failed to close the disastrous gap between the rural and urban divides in Thai society- which will only be exacerbated by his reliance on the monarchy and military to shore up his power rather than seeking a legitimate popular mandate.
Amidst all this turmoil, however, Indonesia, long-despised as a morass of instability emerges as a bright spark. The recently concluded legislative elections there, which was won by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) Democrat Party is proof that democracy is alive and well there. Many were sceptical of the process of decentralization and liberalisation that Indonesia embarked upon, but the fact that it is weathering the economic crisis better than other Asean nations is proof that this has been a source of strength.
So consider, therefore, the three nations that are going through political doldrums and the one that is fast-rising to regional, even global prominence. Why this contrast? What separates Indonesia from what has been going on in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand?
As I’ve argued before, Indonesia’s new-found resilience lies in its opening up of its public space. Its provision for open debate and a free press, as well as the decentralization of power to the provinces and districts has thrown open a world of possibilities. Now, it is true that many problems still plague the republic- such as corruption and the fact that the last elections were marred by voter fraud.
Nevertheless, the fact that Indonesia, rather than Singapore was invited to the G-20 London Summit is indicative that the former’s star is on the ascent while the latter’s dims. Also, SBY may be emerging as a ‘Sultan’, but unlike Suharto his authority is derived by the support of ordinary Indonesians which can very quickly be withdrawn if he fails to perform in the second-term he seems to be assured of.
The other Southeast Asian countries, on the other hand, flounder because its elites refuse to abandon their outmoded ways of thinking and governing. The Malaysian and Thai elite seem to be so obsessed with retaining power that they no longer see the manifest arrogance as well as injustice in how they are conducting themselves.
In Singapore, the new cadre of PAP leaders bear the usual talented imprimatur of the party but this is hardly enough anymore. Singapore under the Lee dynasty has relied on the weakness of its neighbours (especially in terms of regulatory policy) to fuel its own development but this simply cannot last. The entire politico-economic model across the Causeway needs to be reworked but does its leadership see this, and if so do they have the will to carry it out?
So while one has every reason to be optimistic about Indonesia’s prospects in the post-crisis world, one cannot say the same thing about Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The post-crisis world will be one that is vastly different, and if the last couple of months are anything to go by, the countries that empower its people will prosper while those that don’t shall perish.
The old model of a combination of top-down, economic growth and limited civil liberties simply doesn’t work anymore. Indonesia found that out a long time ago and is now reaping the benefits- the other countries in the region conveniently chose to ignore this and now taste their bitter harvest.
Like it or not, there is going to be a major reordering in Southeast Asia, and guess who will end up on top? Jakarta could well be the region’s capital of power and influence in the years to come.