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Learning from Indonesia

Nuala McGovern Nuala McGovern | 18:02 UK time, Monday, 7 February 2011

This programme was broadcast on 7 February 2011. Listen to the programme.

This post was written by Ros and posted by Nuala.

We're in Jakarta where we arrived yesterday. It's muggy, busy and packing an impressive array of skyscrapers. We'll be here in Indonesia for two programmes, before moving onto Bangkok for a Wednesday's show which at the moment is slated to be about sex tourism. Egypt may put pay to those editorial plans but we'll see.

Here at our hotel they slip a copy of the Jakarta Post under your door every morning. Working my way through it over breakfast a few things stuck out.

First, that telling passengers not to go in the front or back carriage of a train for their own safety isn't very re-assuring.

Second, that tigers kill around ten people a year in Jambi and South Sumatra and that one poor man died yesterday when a tiger walked into his kitchen at dinner time.

And third, that the unrest in Egypt is bringing back a lot of memories for Indonesians. The letters page is full of readers sharing their experiences of and opinions on the end of General Suharto's time in power.

He was ousted in 1998 after riots here in Jakarta, and Indonesia established a democracy. Now the extent to which a democracy functions is obviously defined not just by people's right to vote, but by freedom of speech, fair distribution of justice, the lack of a media monopoly and freedom of political association. And no country ever reaches a point where it can proclaim to be as democratic as possible.

Arguably democracy is a journey rather than a destination, and there's plenty of debate here about how far along the road Indonesia has come. But it is indisputable that in 1998 we had a US-backed dictator who was seen as being strategically vital to the West. There were also fears of Islamist influence and of prolonged instability as a consequence of a rapid shift in power. Sound familiar?

Thomas Carothers thinks so and that this comparison is more useful than the frequent references to Iran in 1979.

All of which means that Indonesians and Egyptians have plenty to talk about at the moment. The appetite to share what they've been through is palpable and all being well we're going to make those connections in today's programme.

What advice would Indonesians offer Egyptians at the moment? We're going to hear.

If you'd like to take part, as ever let us know al the usual ways.

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