Monday, September 9, 2013
The period between 2008 and 2010 was significant to Southeast Asia. During this period, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Charter came into force. The idea of one economic, political, and socio-cultural community for the 10 Member-States was ever more inching closer to reality. While this was unfolding, I was able to witness this community-building process by being at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2008 and at the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity in 2009-2010.
This collection of essays (The years that were ASEAN, and Indonesian: Facing the odds towards regional integration and community building) revisits the significant events, burning issues, and memorable times in ASEAN and so in Indonesia in 2008-2010. They attempt to shed light on these events, issues and rekindle the times when nationalistic and regionalistic fervor was at the peak.
There are five topics that organize the essays. The first one is on regional studies. It starts with the banner year, 2008, for ASEAN when the new Secretary-General, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, took his office and the role of the regional organization in the humanitarian operations and reconstruction projects in Myanmar in the post-Cyclone Nargis. One essay questions the inclusiveness of the regional integration process of the envisioned one ASEAN community when it comes to peoples participation in the process. The last essay on this topic is the security threat posed by North Korea and how ASEAN can address the threat.
The second topic deals with the environmental issues. Two essays focus on both the regional trends that cause problems and the regional capabilities and structures that can buck the trends.
The third topic is on the political developments in Indonesia. The Commission for Truth and Friendship (CTF) report is examined and its contextual usefulness. Then, the second presidential victory by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is put into a global political perspective by looking at the wave of victories of oppositions in various national politics.
In the fourth topic, national security issues are discussed. In 2008, the streets of Jakarta saw the violence of student protests. At the other side of the violence are the works of the government. The last essay in the national security issues describes the deadly stampede which is a symptom of social injustice and structural violence in the country.
The last topic is on the nationalistic fervor and travel insights. Celebrating Independence Day and winning an Olympic gold generate emotional attachment to the flag and nation. Being in Jakarta, masjids and gerejas are landmarks which offer not only religious symbol, but spiritual refuge as well. Writing Jakarta without any mention of traffic jams and motorcycles is prejudicial to what it really is.
Most of these essays were published in The Jakarta Post in 2008-2010. Get the book here.