What can Wikileaks tell us about Indonesia?

Crawford School of Public Policy | Arndt-Corden Department of Economics | Indonesia Project

Event details

Indonesia Study Group

Date & time

Wednesday 10 October 2012


Seminar Room B, Coombs Building, Fellows Road, ANU


John Monfries (College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU)


Indonesia Project
+61 2 6125 3794
In late 2010, Wikileaks published an extraordinary cache of 250,000 United States diplomatic cables, from a range of US diplomatic missions around the world, covering a time frame of several decades up to early 2010.

At the time, the Fairfax press reported on the most revealing cables involving Australia, including several relating to Australia’s relations with Indonesia. The cables also include some interesting detail on developments in US relations with Indonesia and on Indonesia’s domestic politics, such as SBY’s character and performance, major human rights cases like the Munir murder, religious tensions, corruption cases, and regional problems like Aceh, Papua and East Timor. The cables include highly negative assessments of former generals Wiranto (‘the well-known human rights violatorŸ?) and Prabowo. Examination of the cables from the embassies in Jakarta, Surabaya, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Canberra and Port Moresby also provides details of US diplomatic operations and attitudes in Southeast Asia more widely, notably terrorism issues.
Needless to say, because of its random nature the material needs to be checked against the context of what else we know about the matters revealed here. Nevertheless, the material provides useful confirmation and additional detail on a number of significant events in Indonesia in recent years.

In sum, this material provides a rare ’ if incomplete ’ insight into near-contemporary US diplomacy in Asia, and into American assessments of Indonesian domestic politics and foreign policy, as well as the pursuit of US priorities like terrorism, TNI reform and Middle East issues. In general, the Jakarta cables convey a tempered optimism about Indonesia’s progress and development in the reformasi period, including on human rights and political reform. The cables however also reinforce perceptions of the odd coexistence of persistent widespread corruption with substantial progress in democratisation, of the Jakarta political elite’s resilience in adjusting to the Reformasi era, and of relative indifference among the elite and the Muslim mainstream to certain human rights abuses and especially to religious intolerance.

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