FAITH IN INDONESIA

FAITH IN INDONESIA
The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

JOKOWI DISCOVERS REALPOLITIK

Oligarchs with a country     


                        
Has Indonesia’s new president Joko (Jokowi) Widodo read the ancient works of Chinese general Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War?
In personal interviews with local media questions have focussed on his breakfasts and wife Iriana’s dress.  Like her husband she is no fashionista, preferring plain and simple, which will infuriate the establishment’s elaborately coiffed ice matrons shouldering Gucci bags of sharpened hatpins.
There has been no interest in what books are on the couple’s bedside table, probably because the reporters – like many Indonesians – are not great readers of anything longer than a 140 character tweet.
Nonetheless Indonesia’s seventh president seems to understand the value of a quote attributed to the warrior who lived five centuries before Christ:  Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.
How else to explain Jokowi singling out his ‘friend’ Prabowo Subianto for applause during the 20 October Presidential inauguration ceremony? The former general with a black human-rights record was Jokowi’s bitter opponent in the 9 July direct election.  Prabowo still runs a ruthless campaign to unseat the man who beat him for the top job by eight million votes.
Another answer is that Jokowi is Javanese, an ethnic group that believes in harmony and prefers to say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’ to avoid embarrassment, even when the negative is meant – a trait that can drive na├»ve Westerners nuts. Perhaps the gesture went some way to placating a man with boiling anger and cash enough to create havoc and destroy the people’s choice.  It certainly put Jokowi on the high moral ground, if such a position exists in politics.
If Jokowi truly considers his rival a friend, what constitutes an enemy?  Prabowo’s campaign trawled pits of slime in bids to destroy Jokowi, claiming he was a Christian planning to eradicate Islam, a communist Chinese born in Singapore and had fathered an illegitimate son.  By comparison, the Liberal’s campaign against PM Julia Gillard was sweet and civilised.
Prabowo, who is not a parliamentarian, has assembled a coalition of parties that outnumber Jokowi’s supporters in the national legislature.  This group has already passed an anti-democracy law cancelling regional elections in favour of Jakarta selecting district governors, regents and mayors.
This was the system used by the authoritarian General Suharto who led the nation for 32 years; he was also Prabowo’s former father-in-law.
Jokowi was a furniture trader from a small town in Central Java before being elected as local mayor, then governor of Jakarta by popular vote – an impossible political journey in the future should the new law stand.
He has no known family connections with Jakarta’s military, business, high-born or religious elite, qualities that make him attractive to ordinary Indonesians, but poison to the corrupt and powerful bent on retrieving their authority.
Commented Driyarkara School of Philosophy academic B Herry-Priyono in The Jakarta Post: ‘Most countries have oligarchs, but in Indonesia the oligarchs have a country. They have been lording it over us for so long, arresting the nation from its march toward the common good.
Six days after his inauguration, and numerous false starts, Jokowi unwrapped his 34-member ‘Working Cabinet’, after the Corruption Eradication Commission had recommended the exclusion of eight candidates.
The ceremony on the Presidential Palace lawn had the ministry in identical white shirts. It was less than dignified; many ministers dashed across the grass to get in line, though such behaviour was clearly beneath human development and culture minister Puan Maharani; the ambitious but unpopular granddaughter of first president Sukarno just strode.
 She could afford to take her time: Her mum is Megawati Sukarnoputri, the proud and stubborn leader of the PDIP-Party that sponsored Jokowi after advisors persuaded her not to stand for president, having been rejected by the electorate in the 2004 and 2009 elections.  She and Puan gave him little support, reportedly saying he was only a ‘party official’.  There’s much talk that she’s the puppet master.
Foreign minister Retno Marsudi is a career diplomat and former Ambassador to the Netherlands, the first woman to hold the top job. Nine ministers have business backgrounds and nine are academics, including Adelaide University PhD graduate Pratikno, rector of Yogyakarta’s University Gadjah Mada.  He’s the new State Secretary. Jokowi is a UGM science graduate, and so is Retno.
A major concern is the selection of former general Ryamizard Ryacudu, a noted hardliner and minister when Megawati was the fifth president.  Human rights groups have condemned his promotion, alleging a bad record in Aceh where unsuccessful attempts were made to destroy local rebels through overwhelming brute force.
Unlike the Westminster system, ministers can be drawn from anywhere and are not always politicians or active members of parties.  The response from the Jakarta commentariat to the Cabinet has been lukewarm, tinted with concern, largely because 14 politicians have been included, apparently for supporting the PDI-P rather than for their expertise and achievements, as promised in earlier Jokowi statements.
Jokowi and his Cabinet will need to ride the bureaucracy hard or the planned reforms to the nation’s economy and infrastructure will never take root. Indonesia’s 4.5 million khaki-uniformed bureaucrats are skilled in obfuscation, doing what they want, not what the politicians direct.  Yes, Minister could have been written for Indonesia.
The President will also need to nip at the heels of some ministers, reminding them they’re there to serve, not be served.
This month Indonesia scaled the peak of inflated expectations in the hype cycle; from now on our northern neighbour will be heading to the trough of disillusionment before the government rises to the plateau of productivity.
Along the way beware the oligarchs. They never forget and seldom forgive. 

(First published in On Line Opinion, 29 October 2014.  For comments: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16810
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Monday, October 20, 2014

A MEMORABLE MOMENT - NOW THE HARD YARDS

CONGRATULATIONS, INDONESIA

“Most countries have oligarchs, but in Indonesia the oligarchs have a country. They have been lording it over us for so long, arresting the nation from its march toward the common good.

That neat piece of prose by Driyarkara School of Philosophy academic B Herry-Priyono in  The Jakarta Post brought a thoughtful touch to the 20 October inauguration of Indonesia’s seventh president, Joko (Jokowi) Widodo.

The pomp was low key and the organisation professional.  Some of the old guard looked sour, but at least they came.  There weren’t too many uniforms.

The event went smoothly despite predictions of a boycott by Jokowi’s rival, former general Prabowo Subianto whose presence was formally recognised and applauded during the 90 minute event. This was despite the bully, who took more than three months to concede defeat, having no position equal to the assembled politicians, diplomats and world leaders – plus partners. 

Jokowi even called Prabowo, who has spent the past few months slandering, insulting and undermining him at every turn, his ‘friend’. What more evil has to be done to become an enemy?
But this is Java, so perhaps it went some way to placating a man with anger and dollars enough to create havoc and destroy the people’s choice.

Before the anthems,  protocols and a conga-line of handshakers,  a jocular Jokowi chatted with reporters and showed off his family, with his eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka, giving a splendid performance of surliness.  Maybe that’s his Australian education rubbing off.

The body language and brief comments by his other two kids and wife Iriana also showed they’d rather be elsewhere.  Fair enough – she married a timber trader, not a leader of the nation. Did anyone ask her if she ever wanted to be First Lady? No, but they did comment on her hairdo and ask what shoes she’d wear, a question I didn’t hear being put to her husband.

When Pak Jokowi started his speech it seemed it would be another faltering performance.  Then, suddenly, President Jokowi emerged, speaking strongly and moving with dignity.  Some people are born to rule – others grow into the job.
But beware the oligarchs. They never forget and seldom forgive.  And whatever the President might say, they are no friends of reform and democracy.

THIS WE DECLARE
Statement seen on Facebook:

We, the People, have spoken. Hear our voice.
You were not chosen to gather riches for yourself, or for your family and friends.
You were not chosen to ride in big cars swaggering through our crowded streets, sweeping us aside like rubbish.
You were not chosen to make secret deals with VIPs in fancy hotels while we wait for the crumbs from your table.
You were not chosen to sell our motherland, our heritage, our future.
You were chosen to lead us to a land where equality, fairness and justice flourish. You are us and we are you.
Forget us and you will betray yourself and our beloved nation.
We, the People, have spoken. 
Hear our voice.

SPOILER
Feel a little pity for Greg Sheridan.
The foreign editor for a once worthy newspaper, he now sees himself as the Expert on Indonesia.  In some quarters, namely those owned by his boss Rupert Murdoch, he is described as being ‘most influential.’
Sheridan isn’t just another hack in the scrum with a battered tape recorder and ripped notebook.  This is a man who walks on the other side of the security fence.
Last year he told The Jakarta Post that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had been his friend for almost 40 years, asking his readers to “keep an open mind about our new prime minister … who comes to Indonesia … full of goodwill.”
In case some might think Sheridan had left The Australian and joined his friend’s PR office he added that he also loves Indonesia.  These honeyed words got him interviews with former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, but not Jokowi.
It was bad enough that Jokowi’s advisers bestowed a one-on-one interview to The New York Times, but they also included Australia’s Fairfax Media, publishers of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
In brief, Sheridan was scooped.
Like Probowo he then threw a hissy fit, condemning the Fairfax story and trying to cap it with one of his own – an interview with “one of the most senior officials in Indonesia.”
As this person wasn’t named we can only assume he’s as ‘most influential’ with the new government as Sheridan.

NEXT STEP

The Cabinet.  Who's in, who's out.  Selected by merit or through the old mates' club?  Details expected 21 October.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

New dawn - or democracy’s sunset?                                               



On 20 October Joko Widodo (Jokowi), 53, a commoner from the wrong side of the river, will be installed as Indonesia’s seventh president.

One month ago most commentators were hailing the people’s choice as a bright dawning in the nation’s democratic development, and sunset for the sclerotic graft-ridden oligarchs that have long ruled our closest Asian neighbour.

No longer.

Despite backing by battalions of Generation Net volunteers demanding political and economic reform, and winning by a margin of eight million votes, Jokowi faces a ruthless political guerrilla campaign engineered by his bitter rival Prabowo Subianto.  He’s a former special forces general blacklisted by the US government for alleged human rights abuses.

Prabowo’s contempt for democracy became clear during the dirty campaign which included claims Jokowi was Chinese, communist – even a secret Christian with a conversion agenda, a serious slander in the world’s most populous Islamic nation.

For more than three months Prabowo refused to concede defeat in the 9 July election.  His Gerindra party dashed to the Constitutional Court alleging “massive fraud.”  The court’s nine judges unanimously threw out the claims.

He then mustered a coalition of six opposing parties that hold sway in the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR (People's Representative Council).

The Red and White Coalition, named after the colours of Indonesia’s flag, includes right-wing Muslim parties.  It’s also backed by the Islamic Defenders’ Front, a gang of street thugs specialising in mob violence.

In a 2 am vote taken on September 26 the MPs scrapped direct elections for regional politicians, arguing this would save money. At the time President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), constitutionally bound to stand down after two five-year terms, was in the US.

The New York Times reported the move as a ‘setback for the country’s democratic transition and a naked power grab by its wounded political elite’.  Prabowo returned fire, saying this showed foreigners interfering to make Indonesia a servile state.

Now it’s being alleged that Prabowo plans to use his 353-seat muscle in the 560 member DPR to knock out direct elections for the presidency.  It’s also claimed there are plans to eliminate the Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) the Anti-Corruption Commission that has been investigating high-profile politicians and businesspeople, scoring several hits. 



If this happens expect Hong Kong style street protests as the young idealists who put Jokowi into the Presidential palace rise against the establishment’s move to drive him out.

Direct elections, the Constitutional Court and the KPK were introduced following the 1998 ousting of General Soeharto, Indonesia’s iron-fisted second president and Prabowo’s former father-in-law, by pro-democracy activists.

Popular voting propelled Jokowi into local government in his Central Java hometown of Solo, then into the position of governor of Jakarta, Indonesia’s sprawling and polluted capital of ten million souls.

Jokowi’s success seemed to show that anyone in Indonesia could reach the top without connections in the military and Jakarta’s sleazy Soeharto-era mafia.

Raised in a rented riverside shack he helped his father gather timber to pay for his education at the prestigious Gadjah Mada University where he graduated with a science degree in forestry.

After working for a government agency in Aceh he returned to Solo and started his own furniture business. Later he became mayor.  In 2012 he was elected Governor of Jakarta where he became popular for his blusukan (walkabout) administration, meeting ordinary folk and listening to their concerns.

This dirt-under-fingernails style, so different from his haughty predecessors, made him a media sweetheart and presidential candidate.

This slum to head of state background, appealing as it seems, has given little protection against a determined cabal of TV tycoons and cashed-up politicians better known, as one Jakarta newspaper reported, for their ‘fractiousness, proclivity for colossal corruption, political dysfunction and unfettered absenteeism than actually getting anything done’.

Indonesia ranks 114 on Transparency International corruption perception index.  NZ tops the list as the world’s least corrupt.

If external hostility wasn’t enough, Jokowi also faces domestic difficulties.  Megawati Soekarnoputri, the petulant daughter of first president Soekarno who was overthrown by Soeharto in a 1965 coup, heads the Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDIP – the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle) that endorsed Jokowi’s candidature.

Her behaviour since the election has reinforced a widely held view that Jokowi is her puppet relying on her matronage.  She has already snubbed outgoing President SBY’s attempts to discuss Prabowo’s democracy destabilisation, reportedly because she detests the man who defeated her 2004 bid for the presidency.

With unstable backing, a hostile parliament, a vengeful old guard that controls several media outlets, and huge economic problems across an archipelago of 240 million people, Jokowi is going to need extraordinary political skills just to survive, let alone introduce the fairer society he promised.



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Sunday, October 12, 2014

STRAIGHT FROM THE BARD

By the Way: All’s well that ends well


NEWS FLASH:  Fragments of a new Shakespearean play have just been discovered in the Jakarta archives of the British Council. 

Bearded archaeologists quivering with excitement believe the Bard mislaid the priceless palimpsest around 1601 during his tour of the Spice Islands while researching material for another work.  This was probably A Midsummer Night’s Scream, which featured several kuntilanak (malicious ghosts) and inspired their inclusion in later plays.

Literary experts agree that the ‘enchanted isle’ of the play is Java.  So it’s logical that the most celebrated writer in the English language should have taken a stopover in the Indonesian capital waiting for the next VOC three-master.

Under equatorial skies we imagine he chilled out with other worthy wordsmiths sharing a few mugs of soda gembira (happy soda) in a riverside tavern. Doubtless he found the Ciliwung reminded him of his beloved Avon.

While scholars scramble to determine the play’s provenance The Jakarta Post has been given exclusive world rights to the lontar-leaf manuscript with jottings from other writings, creating some confusion. 

The play is a tragedy, or comedy, or tragicomedy – it’s unclear. As the full folio has yet to be found there are disputes regarding the title, but it was probably called Macbowo

Others claim it’s really the forgotten folio known as The Merchant of Menace though left-wing academics assert it’s really As You Will Like It.

The plot centers on a zealous soldier believing he has rights to the crown and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. His climb to the top of the food chain starts, appropriately enough, with three old ladies stirring a boiling cauldron of road kill.  Their predictions set the tone for what’s to follow:

Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble,
Fair is foul and foul is fair.

The next scene provides a character insight, with the villain astride a charger soliloquising:

I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent,                                                              But only vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself                                                      And falls on th’ other.

Macbowo knows he’s not the only one with plans above his station, so seeks advice from the weird Ibu-Ibu.  They tell him:

Be bloody, bold, and resolute; laugh to scorn
The power of man.

Great news for a grandee. Yet despite taking these warming words to heart, Macbowo’s paranoia persists, as seen in these staffing orders:

Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.
Yon (name indecipherable) has a lean and hungry look,
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

Later we find a few lines from the unnamed famished thinker pondering on a response to his rival’s campaign tactics:

To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

A major gap in the script follows, but it seems safe to conclude that Macbowo insists a great wrong has been done despite all evidence otherwise.  So he appeals to a court where he’s confronted by a smart lawyer:

Though justice be thy plea, consider this—
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.

He loses, and from now on its downhill. Macbowo’s mates depart. Wifeless he suffers nightmares:

Then comes my fit again; I had else been perfect                                                          
Whole as the marble, founded as the rock,                                                                    
As broad and general as the casing air                                                                       
But now I’m cabin’d, cribb’d, confined, bound in                                                     
To saucy doubts and fears

The last page we have includes a reflection:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Clearly this isn’t the final Act; work continues to unearth the rest of the manuscript. We hope to bring you this by 20 October. Duncan Graham

(First published in The Jakarta Post 12 October 2014)












Friday, October 10, 2014

IS THIS THE END OF THE 1998 DREAM?

Undermining an upstart, destroying Democracy 

The great hope - now the reality

                                        

Back in June, just as a televised debate between contenders for the Indonesian presidency was about to start, the cameras caught a telling moment.

The ultimately successful team of Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and his offsider Jusuf Kalla was sitting in the wings when Hatta Rajasa, Kalla’s rival for the vice presidency, walked past.

Kalla followed.  The two men, both former members of a Cabinet led by outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) could be seen conferring in the shadows. Jokowi, a man alone, peered around anxiously, clearly wondering what was happening.

Even though he’ll be installed as the nation’s seventh president on 20 October he’s still in the dark as the old guard closes ranks.  These pre-democracy leftovers seem determined to ensure that commoner upstarts like Jokowi, a former small-town mayor and furniture manufacturer, will never again be able to break into their exclusive club.

Prabowo Subianto, the losing contender for the top job by eight million votes and a former general with a dubious human rights record, has opened a guerrilla campaign backed by right-wing Muslims to unseat the people’s choice.

If this intensifies expect Hong Kong style street protests as the young voters who put Jokowi into the Presidential palace rise against the dinosaurs’ move to drive him out.

In the Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, DPR (People's Representative Council) Prabowo has mustered a ‘Red and White Coalition’ (the colours of the Indonesian flag) that controls 353 seats in the 560 member House. 

Arguing the change saves money this power block has already eliminated direct voting for regional politicians and returned to the appointment procedure used by Indonesia’s second president Soeharto to reward his mates.

Now it’s being reported that Prabowo plans to use his muscle in the DPR to knock out direct elections for the presidency.  This possibility was first forecast by ANU academics Ed Aspinall and Marcus Mietzner under the memorable heading: Vote for me, but just the once.

Their pre-poll prediction was criticised for its negativity by Prabowo supporters claiming their man was a real democrat who’d changed his ways; but that was clearly just a cloak for the campaign, thrown off once the results showed he’d lost.

Soeharto was another ruthless iron-fisted general who held power for 32 years until unseated in 1998 by democracy activists.  Prabowo married his daughter and was part of the despot’s inner circle.

If the grace and favour system for public office had been in place a few years ago Jokowi would not have been elected mayor of Solo or governor of Jakarta, the positions he won through open election before standing for the presidency.

The New York Times reported the move as a ‘setback for the country’s democratic transition and a naked power grab by its wounded political elite’.

Before this latest turn of events it was believed the era of the commoner was about to dawn and the reign of the high-born, the top ranks in the military and the well-connected corrupt had been guillotined.

Jokowi’s success seemed to show that anyone in Indonesia could reach the top without sacrificing the nation’s fine values of altruism, community self-help, respect for others and maintaining harmony, and that ambition is not shameful.

The eldest of four children and the only boy, the President elect was born in 1961 and raised in a poor family that gathered timber. He laboured to get through school and enter the prestigious Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta where he graduated with a science degree in forestry. 

After working for a government agency in Aceh he returned to Central Java and started his own furniture business. Later he became mayor of Surakarta (also known as Solo).  In 2012 he was elected Governor of Jakarta where he became popular for his blusukan (walkabout) administration, meeting ordinary folk and listening to their concerns.

This down-to-earth style, so different from his arrogant and protocol-driven predecessors, made him a media darling and propelled him to stand as a presidential candidate.

However this background, appealing as it seems, has given little protection against a determined cabal of well-funded elite politicians better known, as one Jakarta newspaper reported, for their ‘fractiousness, proclivity for colossal corruption, political dysfunction and unfettered absenteeism than actually getting anything done’.

If external hostility wasn’t enough, Jokowi also faces domestic difficulties.  Megawati Sukarnoputri, the petulant daughter of first president Sukarno who was overthrown by Soeharto in 1965, heads the Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan (PDIP – the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle).

Her comments and behaviour since the election have done nothing to erase a widely held view that Jokowi is her puppet.  She has refused to meet the outgoing President to discuss tactics to head off Prabowo’s democracy destabilisation, reportedly because she bears grudges that date back to 2004 when  defeated for the presidency by SBY.

With a dysfunctional party, a hostile parliament, a vengeful establishment that controls several media outlets, and huge economic problems across an archipelago of 240 million people, Jokowi is going to need extraordinary political skills just to survive, let alone introduce the reforms he promised during the campaign.

In this environment the new president’s Jakarta walkabouts will be of little value when he confronts the oligarchs that have always run Indonesia.  They never use the footpaths.

(First published in On Line Opinion, 5 Oct 2014.  For comments see:   http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16745)

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