chapter  10
22 Pages

Civil society and grassroots reconciliation in Central Java


Introduction On 7 December 2006, the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi) annulled the Law on Truth and Reconciliation Commission (No. 27/2004) on the grounds that it was against the 1945 Constitution and international human rights principles. This announcement ended the possibility of establishing a truth commission in Indonesia where victims and perpetrators can be brought together in a national truth-telling forum. What’s left from all of this? Is there still any hope for reconciliation in Indonesia? What are other ways in which reconciliation could be pursued? Despite the failure of the Indonesian government to establish a truth commission, we believe that the reconciliation process is not dead yet. Grassroots reconciliation (rekonsiliasi akar rumput) activities exist and are growing rapidly outside government realms, and they have something positive to contribute to the reconciliation process. The rising number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – a constitutive part of civil society – increasingly works on reconciliation in many places in Indonesia together with local religious and social organizations from places such as Aceh, Java, Poso, and Ambon to Papua, thus establishing grassroots reconciliation activities. Their activities contribute considerably towards mediating between conflicting parties and also towards maintaining local political stability in the post-conflict period. There has also been a proliferation of academic works, of NGO publications, and of memoirs and personal stories of political prisoners, who were jailed during the Suharto period, which has helped significantly in disseminating a variety of accounts and views about the past, contributing to the process of historical clarification and the deconstruction of a singular version of history (see Dani 2001; Farid & Simarmatra 2004; Latief 1998; Moestahal 2002; Sasongko 2005; Zurbuchen 2002, 2005). Indonesia is not alone with respect to the role grassroots organizations are playing in the reconciliation process. Studies done by Babo-Soares (2004), Baxter (2005), Kingston (2006), and Rotberg and Thompson (2000), suggest that in countries such as South Africa, Chile, and Timor Leste, NGOs such as church groups and religious organizations, human rights organizations and victims’ associations, have made a crucial contribution to the reconciliation process at the local level.1