||First Get The Leadership Right, Then The System
||Thursday, January 09, 2014
Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs, Thematic Website, Knowledge Management in Government, Citizen Engagement
||Jan 09, 2014
Different elements in society may have different opinions regarding the upcoming changing of the guard in the republic. Hariman Siregar, the key and central figure in the Jan. 15, 1974 (Malari) tragedy, expresses his concerns and expectations for this year’s elections, particularly the July 9 presidential election. He talked with The Jakarta Post’s Imanuddin Razak in an interview on Tuesday.
Question: What is your comment on the upcoming general election?
Answer: I’ll just wait for the results of the general election. So far, there is nothing to worry about regarding the organization of the five-yearly political event. We have to respect the ongoing democratization in the country.
Do you see anything to criticize in the country’s political affairs, especially after reformasi in 1998?
I would say that this nation has misunderstood the course of political events in the last 15 years. We seem to take for granted that our democracy has matured by witnessing no change in the state leadership in the last two terms of government.
What, then, are your concerns?
In reality, 15 years of the reform movement has failed to reform our political parties — the key elements in the country’s political system. Not only have they become trapped in the prevailing corrupt system — with many executives of the existing political parties being implicated or convicted of corruption — they have also failed to establish urgently needed recruitment and regeneration systems within their own parties.
You can imagine, for example, what would happen to the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [PDI-P] without Megawati Soekarnoputri; the Great Indonesia Movement [Gerindra] Party without Prabowo Subianto; the People’s Conscience [Hanura] Party without Wiranto, or the National Democrat [Nasdem] Party without Surya Paloh. Look at what happened with the Nahdlatul Ulama-based National Awakening Party [PKB] after the passing of its founding patron, Abdurrahman ‘Gus Dur’ Wahid. Even the country’s longest-established party, the Golkar Party, is heavily dependent on who its chairman is.
You can also see how poor the recruitment systems are within our political parties as they prefer to recruit entertainers and celebrities as their legislative candidates instead of grooming their own long-standing members for the purpose. For the sake of winning as many legislative seats as possible, they [political parties] recruit candidates based merely on their popularity rather than their capacity and capability.
In terms of independence, particularly financial autonomy, our political parties have failed to establish a credible system, so often they rely on ‘entrepreneurs’ to generate income to finance their daily operations and election expenditure. You can imagine what will happen next after the elections are over and the new legislature and government are established. We mustn’t forget the axiom that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Our democracy is also in a mess, as can be seen in the poor political processes at the House of Representatives [DPR] or at the lower legislative levels. Almost everything is engineered, while collusion remains rampant.
What is worse is the fact that our legal system has become tainted by corrupt attitudes among law enforcement officials. We all know what has been happening in our National Police force, the Attorney General’s Office [AGO], the court system and, last but not least, the country’s Constitutional Court with regard to the corruption allegations surrounding its former chairman, Akil Mochtar. What can we expect if the court, as the last bastion in the country’s law enforcement system, is also corrupt?
What can be done?
While it is almost impossible to expect significant changes within our legislature given the poor recruitment system in our political parties and the fact that 70 percent of the House membership will be filled by the same old faces, in my opinion, drastic and effective changes should begin from the top, namely the state leadership.
In the present situation and conditions, we need a president — as a symbol of the country’s leadership — who is acceptable to a large share, if not the majority, of the country’s population. We do not need a president of overly high caliber but a figure that can ‘calm’ an angry population as a result of cumulative and long-term negligence toward their needs and aspirations; an honest person who speaks accurately of the country’s real conditions and remains genuine in all his words and deeds.
In my opinion, the only person who meets all these criteria is Jokowi [Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo]. Sadly, we cannot expect much from the others [potential presidential candidates]. And I hope that Jokowi will remain the same way if he does make his way to the presidency.
The next stage is to improve the whole system including the legislature, the political parties and the legal system.
The 1974 generation of student/youth activists, which you represent, is different from the preceding 1966 generation or the succeeding 1998 generation, many members of which have been accommodated or recruited into leading posts in both the executive and legislative branches of government. Why is this so?
We [1974 generation] are not real politicians. We went onto the streets in 1974 as we felt impelled to do so by the conditions at the time. We never purposely sought positions in the executive and legislative branches of government.
In closing, are you optimistic about the results of this year’s general election?
What I believe is that this nation will not sink; at least not yet.