To understand today’s Indonesian political situation, particularly in the wake of the downfall of the authoritarian New Order regime, one needs to understand Indonesian history. In order to comprehend today’s Indonesian political issues, for instance, it is important to study how President Sukarno’s rule came to an end, how it was succeeded by the new regime of General Soeharto, and how the general and his government began to dominate Indonesian politics soon afterwards. In this regard, it is equally important to understand how the 1965 Massacre ended Sukarno’s civilian government and marked the beginning of a new, military-dominated government of President Soeharto. As we recall, for the next three decades (1966-1998), the New Order regime of President Soeharto ruled Indonesia with a militaristic, authoritarian government, as demonstrated in its anti-democratic attitudes, rampant corruption, and gross human rights violations. In 1998 the rule of the regime abruptly ended when President Soeharto was forced to step down, following regional and national economic crisis along with mounting domestic pressures. A sense of euphoria then erupted, followed by increasing hopes that after Soeharto stepped down the country would become more democratic and more sensitive to human rights. Unfortunately, the euphoria did not last very long, and the hopes were short-lived. Democracy was never truly realized and human rights abuses continued, especially in the conflict areas such as the Moluccas, Central Celebes, and the province of Aceh. Slowly but certainly the country returns to the New Order-era style of government. It was in part due to the lingering legacy of Soeharto’s authoritarian system.
In dealing with such issues, we are required to look at the current social, economic and political situation in a broader perspective, especially historical perspective. Unfortunately, today many Indonesians suffer amnesia of history. They tend to keep only a short memory of the past, resulting in limited views on the country’s past, particularly with regard to issues of justice, human rights, and democracy. Needless to say, as a consequence the country continues to suffer from problems related to those issues, and almost without any feasible way out. Responding to the situation and in order to promote democratic process and political ethics in the society, in 2004 Yayasan Sanata Dharma (Sanata Dharma Foundation) initiated the establishment of PUSdEP. PUSdEP stands for Pusat Sejarah dan Etika Politik or Center for History and Political Ethics. The center is an institution designed to promote a more comprehensive and integrated approach to examining and narrating history. As a resource center, PUSdEP facilitates researchers to study and to do research on issues relevant with the center’s concerns.