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A More Perfect Union

A More Perfect UnionA Fletcher graduate and political activist is leading a movement for electoral reform in Indonesia.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.28.02] As a student at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Smita Notosusanto studied the democratization processes in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Now a professor of international affairs at the University of Indonesia, the 1996 Tufts graduate has begun to make some political waves of her own by leading a movement for constitutional reform in Indonesia.

"Smita has become synonymous with the movement for a new constitution," reported the Jakarta Post - the largest English newspaper in Indonesia.

Notosusanto is the executive director of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro), an organization founded to make the Indonesian community aware of modern democratic ideals. The Indonesian government is presently under the influence of the People's Consultative Assemby, which Notosusanto says has breached human rights and betrayed the country by amending the 1945 Constitution without public consultation.

"We can no longer trust the politicians to amend our constitution, moreover to write a new one," Notosusanto told the Post.

So far, her plans to counter such actions have proven effective.

"The political scientist has found by working with people at the grassroots level, that they are more than ready for democracy and extremely receptive to modern ideas and ways of life," reported the Post.

political activists in IndonesiaNotosusanto is also working to encourage citizens dissatisfied with the political situation in Indonesia to avoid turning to violence. "I would like to see more people talk about what is bothering them without having to turn into amateur bomb makers," she told the Post.

The Fletcher graduate credits her experiences as a student as a major force for encouraging her involvement as an activist.

"As a student of international relations I got to know what was happening in other countries," she told the Post. "I thought if ordinary people could bring about a change in their lives in those countries why not in Indonesia too?"

Though she's already helped to bring change to Indonesia, Notosusanto is still unsatisfied with the political climate in her country.

"At the moment both the legislature and the election system fail to represent the interests of the people," Notosusanto told the Post. "We would like to see a new constitution put into practice instead of ad hoc amendments made to it every now and then."

The mission at hand is no small task - Notosusanto eventually hopes to secure the inclusion of clauses on an improved electoral system, an ad hoc electoral court, improved campaign funding regulations, elections for governors and regents, and an independent electoral commission.

But the Tufts graduate believes she is up to the challenge: "If we get three out of five included in a law, I would consider myself to have succeeded," she told the Post.

And even if her stipulations don't come through, Notosusanto can nevertheless be credited with making a statement for democracy and standing up for what she truly believed in.

"Campaigners for constitutional change like her need unusually strong stamina so that they can maintain their efforts despite the seemingly hopeless situation," reported the Post.


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