Universiteit Leiden

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Cleveringa lecture

Unity against diversity: The dangers of legal uniformity in Indonesia

Thursday 25 November 2021

Indonesia has often been portrayed  as a country with a collectivist culture, where ideally decisions are made through deliberation leading to consensus. While this may seem an attractive form of policy- and lawmaking, it also carries dangers. These became apparent during the New Order, when a military-business elite used the Indonesian state to impose its ideas of uniform development on a diverse society, without allowing serious debate and stifling dissent. To prevent this from happening again, the Constitutional Amendments of 1999-2002 laid a solid foundation for a democratic state based on the rule of law. Nonetheless, we presently see a resurgence of the uniforming straightjacket imposed on Indonesia’s diverse society. The repression of debate concerning values and lifestyles, in which law is instrumental, is legitimised by similar claims to collectivism as used by the New Order and its intellectucal precursors. This form of populism threatens Indonesia’s democracy and rule of law, and it leads to the persecution of groups and individuals – exactly the things professor Cleveringa denounced in his speech on 26 November 1940.

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