Defending Reformasi: Student Movements vs Oligarchy


About the Seminar

Against the background of democratic backsliding, Indonesia has surprisingly witnessed the rise of the largest student movement since 1998 to defend its liberal democratic reforms. Much of scholarly writings on Indonesian politics have underlined the increasing illiberal features within its democratic institutions. Equally important, however, is the growing conservative attitudes within society. I argue that the rising profile of student movements, as well as school student’s protest defending the 1998 liberal democratic reforms, has been caused by the accumulative democratic dissatisfaction against broken promises, the absence of opposition, and the controversial bills affecting their daily lives. One of the greatest triggering factors to the democratic dissatisfaction is the weakening of Indonesia’s last Mohican and most trusted institution—KPK—through the adoption of new laws passed by both parliament and president. The students mobilized themselves across the country to call attention to issues that resonate widely to the diverse spectrum of marginalized society, such as human rights in Papua, controversial bills that would affect privacy, including restoring a ban on insulting the president, demanding accountability for unresolved past human rights abuses, as well as the political resurgence of security institutions, particularly the police.

About the Speaker

Usman Hamid is Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia and Board Member of Transparency International Indonesia. He finished his MPhil study at the Department of Political and Social Change, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University 2016. In 1998, Usman was a student activist from Trisakti University where four students were shot dead—this incident triggered a nationwide protest that toppled the Suharto regime. He subsequently became the coordinator of KontraS, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence and its council representative in the Asian Federation Against Disappearances based in Manila. He also served as an expert adviser to the International Center for Transitional Justice, Jakarta office, from 2010 until 2012. In 2011, Usman was appointed to the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development, where he reviewed the policy on Indonesia’s Human Rights Nation Plan of Action of 2011–2014. In 2012 Usman co-founded the Public Virtue Institute and the Indonesian Branch of, the world’s largest online petition platform. He has been a visiting scholar at University of Columbia (2003) and held a fellowship at Nottingham University (2009).


For registration, please click here. Registration closes on 4 November 2019.


Nov 06 2019


10:30 am - 12:00 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2