The 32 years of Suharto’s New Order regime had a deep impact on the lives of most Indonesians, and continue to do so more than a decade and a half since its fall from power as one of the most corrupt and ruthless regimes in modern history.
The New Order came to power on the mass murder of up to a million of Indonesians accused of being members or sympathizers of the Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, and then maintaining its power through extrajudicial killings, systematic corruption and brainwashing through propaganda.
It pervaded nearly all aspects of Indonesian life with the full support of the many-tentacled armed forces, the corrupt bureaucracy, and the Golkar Party, whose members held both political power and controlled businesses across Indonesia.
While the fall of Suharto in 1998 brought down the regime, it did not excise the cancer wrought by more than three decades of New Order rule. The bureaucracy is still corrupt, and the military continues to wield tremendous influence, with many Indonesians still believing that only military men make for strong and effective leaders.
That is why we welcome the rise of Joko Widodo as the country’s first president in the reform era without any links to the New Order.
Joko’s election victory gives Indonesia a golden opportunity to break with the past. He is in the unique and historic position to once and for all cut out all vestiges of the New Order cancer.
Joko should dare to rewrite history and debunk the lies fed to Indonesians for far too long, while revealing the truth, no matter how bitter — including the real story behind the 1965-66 massacre and the other atrocities of the Suharto era. The victims deservejustice, and Indonesia deserves to move forward into an open and more honest new era.