Both economic reform and economic recovery have failed to materialise since the Asian crisis, and political reform has been a patchy effort in which, despite a free media and the rebirth of parliamentary democracy, endemic and now escalating corruption has spread outwards and downwards from the extended Suharto circle of main players formerly acting under some central control. It now embraces semi-independent big players drawn from all the major parliamentary parties bar one, the bureaucracy, the judicial system, the military and the new bisnis-driven "regional autonomies"-- politicians, governors, bupatis and bureaucrats (and soldiers)-- in the provinces and regencies. Like the old, this new corruption has been barely touched by the political or legal system, and money politics now vies with military pressure as the driving force of Indonesian politics, something which the new presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seems powerless or unwilling to seriously challenge, despite declaring a a war on corruption as its main priority.
The project will explore the viability of the contemporary Indonesian state and Indonesian society in all relevant dimensions. one point of departure is that the survival of an "Indonesia" in some form may well require the further shrinking of Indonesia in its present form.
The book on West Papua which Professor King published last year deals extensively with the debates and struggles surrounding devolution and "secessionism" in the new Indonesia. It particularly explores the once waning, but now again waxing, role of the military, especially in rebellious, resource-rich provinces and national politics. The present project will complement these angles of approach with a holistic treatment of governance and integrity/korupsi issues as they impact on the prospects for real reform and also reconciliation in Indonesian society at large.
Peter King was Professor of Political Studies at the University of Papua New Guinea in the early 1980s. He was founding President, later Director, of the Centre for Peace and Confict Studies (CPACS), Sydney University, from 1988. Since 2000 he has been Convener of the West Papua Project within CPACS.
His previous books include From Rhetoric to Reality? Papua New Guinea's Eight Point Plan and National Goals After a Decade; Pangu Returns to Power; Ethnicity and Conflict in a Post Communist World and Peace Building in the Asia/Pacific Region.