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Mixing Desk JUN2021

SBY’s tears: from managing crisis to managing process in Australia-Indonesia relations since the fall of Suharto

On 21 May 1998, Suharto resigned as president of Indonesia, ending the authoritarian New Order regime he had led since 1966.

In the 23 years since, Indonesia has had five presidents. It became the world’s third largest democracy. It granted wider powers to its regions while losing one province, East Timor, to independence. It emerged as one of the world’s top ten economies (in PPP terms) and a member of the G20, which it will chair in 2022.

At the same time, Indonesia has suffered grievously from terrorism and the greatest natural disaster in recorded history. Its democracy is now taking an illiberal turn. Corruption is rife and inequality is worsening. Separatism remains an issue.

This series plots this history and Australia’s part in it through the eyes and experience of its ambassadors to Jakarta over this period. It reveals a fundamental shift from a relationship defined by crisis management to one that’s now more about process management, and offers advice on how Canberra should build our ties at a time of greater geopolitical challenges