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Politics and Society

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Say It Wasn't Me!

Mon, 06 Jul 2009 15:24:00 +0000

When presidential hopeful, Jusuf Kalla, shot at Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, another presidential hopeful, in the final round of presidential debate organized by the Election Commission on the single round presidential elections campaign, SBY simply answered that the advertisement is not his. SBY said, “Those are not mine and they do not belong to my official campaign camp.” Whose advertisement? Who provide the fund for the campaign?Danny JA, the director of Lingkaran Survei Indonesia, while denying that the single round presidential election campaign advertisement by his polling institution is not illegal, gave no clarification on the source of fund for the advertisement that stemmed from LSI’s latest opinion poll.My question is where is the transparency?I remember in the recently concluded elections in the world’s biggest democracy, India, the Congress Party spent thousands of Indian Rupee (approximately Rs. 400,000) just to buy the rights of the song Jai Ho (means Let there be victory or simply Victory) from Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire and used it as the Party’s campaign song. The spirit of the movie and the message of the song had certainly played positive effect to the Indian Congress Party thus allowing it to reap the biggest electoral victory long after their domination in Indian politics ended in the late 80s and early 90s. Two Gandhis, one Singh and a spirited Hindi song helped the Congress Party won the elections.Here, we can clearly see that the principle of transparency has been highly placed in Indian political landscape. In that way, we have to take our hats off and asked ourselves, can we do that? Can our neetas (Hindi for politicians) do the same thing as the Congress Party did in India?Back in Indonesia, ever since the campaign period for presidential election was started earlier last month, there has been non-stop airing of an altered version of the popular jingle of one of Indofood’s product, Indomie, on the radio and on various TV stations. It made me question myself, have the copyright of the jingle been bought by the campaign team of SBY – Boediono? Or has the Indofood freely given the copyright of the jingle and donated it to the campaign team of SBY – Boediono and let them alter the jingle to suit the campaign purpose?If it did buy the copyright of the jingle, how much did they pay? And if it was given or donated for free to the campaign team of SBY – Boediono, what will Indofood get if SBY – Boediono win elections? Should it be reported to the Election Commission as a donation from a corporation? How much does it amount to? And many other questions that need clarifications and answers.Assuming that the jingle was deliberately altered by SBY – Boediono’s campaign team without the consent of Indofood to suit the campaign purpose, it definitely an obstruction of one’s rights. It is amount to the practice of piracy, a problem that Indonesia continues to face. But if it was altered with the consent of Indofood, there should be explanation to the public and to the Election Commission about the matter, about the amount of money donated by Indofood to SBY – Boediono’s campaign team.Similarly, if Danny JA with his single round presidential election campaign advertisement continues to be aired and spread nation wide, he must clarify the source of fund for his ad and report it to the Election Commission. Because, even though he claimed that the ad is for the sake of political education and has nothing to do with any presidential candidate, but with the picture of SBY – Boediono in the advertisement, we do not need to ask an expert about who is behind the campaign advertisement.To conclude, democracy is expensive and needs a lot of efforts to substantially establish it in Indonesia. Similarly, building transparency, honesty and integrity as part of a working, substantial democracy should start from within our selves, if not, who else will start? As such, whoever wins in the July 8 elections, transparency must be established and practiced, between us. [...]

Another note on transparency in Indonesian democracy

Fri, 12 Jun 2009 07:17:00 +0000

This is the second time I wrote about an issue of transparency in Indonesian elections. I wrote on similar issue in March during the early days of campaign period for legislative election. Officially, the campaign period for presidential election to be held in July 8, 2009 was started earlier this month and the open campaign phase in which public rally and other legally sanctioned campaign methodology has just been started on 10 June 2009. The three presidential hopefuls have kicked off on their campaign trails, trying their level best to win the most votes. And money does play significant part in this process.Naturally, the bigger the chance for a candidate to win the bigger the money that follows. Thus, if we believe the result of several recent surveys by different pollsters that SBY – Boediono will win the battle, it is no surprise that SBY – Boediono leads the roster with the most campaign fund followed by Mega – Prabowo and JK – Wiranto. Data from the Election Commission confirmed this information about the campaign fund. The bigger the money will certainly provide the needed ammunition for the campaign team to conduct diverse campaign activities to widen the candidate’s opportunity to win in the election. But we all have to wait until the voting day to see the final result. As such, I will not delve into predicting who is the winner or the loser in the July 8 election and instead I will discuss about the issue of transparency, especially on the use of money and the amount of donation given to the candidates for campaign purposes.In the recently concluded elections in the world’s biggest democracy, India, the Congress Party spent thousands of Indian Rupee (the exact amount was not disclosed) just to buy the rights of the song Jai Ho (means Let there be victory) from an Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire and used it as the Party’s official campaign song. The result: the spirit of the movie and the message of the song had certainly played positive effect to the Indian Congress Party thus allowing it to reap the biggest electoral victory long after their domination in Indian politics ended in the late 80s and early 90s. Two Gandhis, one Singh and an inspirational Hindi song helped the Congress Party won the elections.Similarly, when Karan Johar of the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something happened) fame produced his equally successful movie Kal Ho Na Ho (If tomorrow never comes) in 2003, he bought the rights of the famous movie Pretty Woman’s theme song for Indian Rupee 800,000 (approximately 15 – 16 thousand US Dollars) just to ensure the legality of its modification of its lyrics and its use in his movie. It proved that the Pretty Woman song had added the movie with additional selling point thus catapulting it to the box office of Bollywood movie.From the above illustrations, we can see that the principle of transparency and respect on copyrights in compliance with international law on copyrights has been held high in Indian democracy. Both the Indian Congress Party and Karan Johar, an Indian movie director, transparently declared to have spent enough sum of money just to ensure the legality of using someone else’s product. In that way, we have to take our hats off and asked ourselves, can we do that? And to be more specific, can our neetas (Hindi for politicians) do the same thing as the Congress Party did in India?Hearing again and again the altered version/lyrics of popular jingle of Indofood’s Indomie on the radio and watching it on various TV stations made me question myself, have the copyright of the jingle been bought by the campaign team of SBY – Boediono? Or has the Indofood simply given the copyright of the jingle and donated it freely to the campaign team of SBY – Boediono and let them alter the jingle to suit the campaign purpose?Next, if the copyright of the jingle was bought, how much did it cost? If it was given or donated for free to the campaign team of SBY – Boediono, what will Indofood get if SBY – Boediono win elections? Has it been reported [...]

The Luxury of Transparency in Indonesian Democracy

Mon, 16 Feb 2009 11:53:00 +0000

The third post-reformasi general elections is around the corner. With less than two months before the Election Day, political parties and their legislative candidates have been working hard to try to win the elections. Both first-timers and seasoned politicians are using all legally sanctioned means to campaign and advertise themselves in the hope that when April comes, the voters will remember their names, their parties and vote for them. Thus it is understandable that political advertisements in all forms can easily be found both in print and electronic media. I remember in the last week of January when I was waiting for my train in Gambir Station, I received a freely distributed book published by the State Secretariat. The book, blue in color reflecting the color of the incumbent presidents’ party, was also distributed to anyone at the station. It was such a high quality publication.However, upon opening and reading the book, several questions popped up in my mind.First, the book only lists the highlights of the so-called achievements by the current government. From poverty reduction to economic growth, the book tells all about the milestones that have successfully been achieved by the incumbent government. The illustrations in the book are dominated by the pictures of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Furthermore, no single flaw of or under-achivement by the government has been disclosed in this book. The content is starkly one sided. Why hide the facts and data about the state of development in Indonesia? What about the unending drama of Lapindo mudflow, the malnutrition cases, the increase of unemployment, the increasing cases of horizontal conflicts?Quoting Anas Urbaningrum of Partai Demokrat in response to the latest political advertisement by Partai Keadilan Sejahtera which critizes the tug-o-war between leading presindetial contenders, the duties of a government is to provide positive information to the public while the negative or the so called under-achievements should become the responsibility of the opposition parties to response.Is that so?In my view, an official publication or report should provide a balanced picture about the state of progress in Indonesia’s development. There should not be any hidden facts and data so as to build culture of transparency and accountability thus providing greater trust and confidence of the people towards the government.The next question disturbs me even more. Where does the source of fund come? Does it come from the taxpayer’s money? Or does it come from other sources? Since the book is published under the banner of the State Secretariat, it must have used money from the taxpayers as the source of fund. State Secretariat is a public office that functions using public money. It is highly unlikely that any personal/private money is used to fund such state sponsored publication project. It would be foolish for any rich person to fund such state sponsored publication for free. Nothing is free in this country. You have to pay for everything, even if you have to go to relieve yourself for nature’s call.Thus, assuming that the source of fund for this publication is coming from the taxpayer’s money, how can we justify this fact? Does it amount to the practice of corruption and misuse of power? I will leave the answer to this question to the readers. And since it is election time, the Baswaslu (General Elections Oversight Body) should conduct investigation on this matter.To preach about morality and good deeds is easy but to do what you preach is difficult. In the same vein, to eradicate corruption and to build culture of transparency and accountability in a country such as Indonesia is not an easy task. All elements in Indonesian society, regardless of their background, should work hand in hand (gotong royong) to realize the dream of creating better future for Indonesia as stated in the Preamble of 1945 Constitution.And even though I am less optimistic about the result of the upcoming April elections, it should, [...]

Some Rooms to Improve the KPU

Thu, 12 Feb 2009 08:15:00 +0000

Policy reforms that alter the formal rules should have the capacity to generate important consequences for political representation and for voting behavior. Indonesia’s political development during reformasi period has introduced major changes in many aspects of the nation’s democratic life starting from building a legitimate government, amending the constitution to lay the foundation for a democratic construction that has sufficient checks-and-balances, and introducing political practices aiming at building an effective and accountable government and trustworthy representation. The current political development has built a critical momentum for these changes to fully entrench democratic practices through the development of a competent independent electoral management body by taking advantage of the Law 22/2007. This momentum should be capitalized through seizing the opportunity provided by this improved legislative framework to build a credible and competent KPU.Furthermore, any intervention framework such as reforms to the legal statues and party rules governing party eligibility and candidate nomination, the administrative process of electoral registration and voting facilities, the regulation of campaign finance and political broadcasting, and the process of election management shall be based on the assumption that the program must incrementally push for substantive democracy that would ensure such long term and sustainable support to all the actors in the field. This entails that intervention be made aligned with the agenda to not only encourage deeper political knowledge, understanding and disposition on the part of the citizens but also essential skills and competencies of political leaders and activists alike. It is assumed that through this kind of approach, initiatives to effect changes to the formal rules would be feasible. Surely, such a development takes time but careful and attentive process of shepherding shall guarantee that the reform does not become a mere flash in the pan phenomenon.Institutionalizing Election Best Practices for Sustainable DemocracyDemocratic practices can be found anywhere in this globe irrespective of the locations. It might be found in the highest peak of Himalayan mountain or at the shore of Vanuwatu. The conduct of the last two democratic elections of 1999 and 2004 had built national confidence that Indonesia has the capability to conduct regular free and fair elections with ambitious timetable for its comparatively massive electoral size. While this confidence is important, it should not be under estimated that the past two miraculous achievements were made possible because of strong motivation driven by the euphoria of reform. As voters started to face democratic reality and accumulate apathy this motivation will die down and needs to be substituted by sustainable organizational capacity to institutionalize the democratic practices. Formalization of the principles and procedures and building technical capacity in conducting regular practices should be systematically carried out. Permanent democratic institutions including the KPU, the parliament, and the whole governance machinery need to be strengthened. The period leading, during and after the upcoming election is an epoch where those practices could be institutionalized through yet another practice, but with more permanent processes and less ad-hoc approaches.Similarly, institutionalization of international election best practices shall provide additional input to the process of instilling professionalism and accountability of electoral management. Combined with local election best practices, there would be substantial framework to achieve sustainable democracy in Indonesia.Building Long Term Political Education CapacityExperiences around the world suggest that democracy and political education cannot be achieved only by conducting few regular elections. However, it is clear that election is a real opportunity for an effective political [...]

Engineering Electoral Management

Sun, 01 Feb 2009 07:58:00 +0000

Electoral management largely determines whether an election is free and fair, or rather whether it represents some kind of symbolic event or affirmation of the incumbent leadership. In this regard the more pure an election is in terms of being free and fair and open for participation by all groups like voters or candidates, the more secure such an election will be as conveyor of popular sovereignty. In essence, the conduct of the elections determines the legitimacy of the elections as a reflection of the people's choice. The two democratically administered general elections in the post-Suharto Indonesia, 1999 and 2004, marked Indonesia’s departure from non-democratic society into an evolving vibrant democracy. It allows greater participation of the Indonesian people in the decision making process through the democratically elected representatives. Various political parties that emerged in the post-Suharto Indonesia provide the necessary channel for the functioning of a representative democracy. New party cadres have been born from this process to ensure the re-generation of political actors as a means of establishing sustainable democracy in Indonesia.The 1999 General Elections provided several valuable lessons for more effective and independent electoral management. The composition of KPU which comprised of representatives of political parties was proven to be problematic. While an inclusive KPU was useful in engaging political parties in the management of the electoral processes, the partisan nature of the members created difficulties for the KPU in producing effective decisions. The large number of the political parties contesting the 1999 election also posed special challenges in maintaining peaceful campaign. Voting and ballot counting during the 1999 election also presented a new challenge for the KPU. With previous elections prior to 1999 being mostly a formality to maintain the dominance of Golkar as the New Order’s political machinery, there had been many detailed election processes that the KPU was not prepared to anticipate. Genuine voting, vote tallying, and seat allocation were all new to both the KPU and the political parties. As most voters were happy enough to be able to exercise their democratic rights without being afraid of the government’s interference, little attention was paid to the representativeness of the election results.The 2004 General Election was a major improvement in both the electoral management and the electoral system. In 2001 a new KPU was formed as a non-partisan institution. But, its formation based on a presidential decree was seen as a temporary measure although nomination of its members involved a consultation with the DPR. The 2004 legislative election was eventually implemented based on Election Law (Law 12/2003) which introduced several new additions such as the direct election of DPD, the use of partial open-list system for candidacy of DPR and DPRD, and the mix of proportional and district representation system for the election of members of DPR and DPRD. The passing and enactment of Law No 22/2007 on General Election Organizer by the Government of Indonesia, which put the General Election Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – KPU) as a national, independent and permanent body rectifies this situation and provides further assurance in establishing sustainable Indonesian democracy. The presence of such an independent institution shall induce some sense of security and trust in the minds of the public on the conduct and management of elections. In addition, the Law made the KPU as one of the ancillary state institutions with a specific mandate of managing the critical component of Indonesia’s democratic cycle that is electoral management on the basis of professionalism and accountability. The KPU is the sole authority for any democratic election for elected offices in Indonesia, be that for national executive leadership (president and vice president), l[...]

Political Party and Political Legitimacy

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 07:57:00 +0000

Political party is an organization that is locally articulated, that interacts with and seeks to attract the electoral support of the general public. It plays a direct and substantive role in political recruitment and education. Political party is also committed to the capture or maintenance of power, either alone or in coalition with others. It becomes the vehicle for mass political participation based on political culture and ideology. In a democratic polity, political parties play a significant role that they become the backbone of the polity. The quality of democratic political system depends on the ability of the political parties to absorb demands and aspirations of the people and deliver them back as a product of political process. With Indonesia's return to democracy in 1999, operational controls on political parties and the ban on the establishment of new parties were lifted. This situation has allowed greater opportunities for all Indonesians to actively participate in Indonesia's transition to democracy.Similarly, moral acceptance of the subjects to the authority of the rulers is deemed important for the justification of their right to rule. Legitimacy relates to the acceptance of power by the people and the process whereby power gains acceptance by the people which essentially includes the process of mobilization of support through ideology, institution building, system of rewards and punishment, performance or manipulation. It involves the capacity of the system to engender and maintain the belief that the existing political institutions are the most appropriate ones for the society. Furthermore, legitimacy brings about stability and possibility to create changes and improvements in the society. It also expands the authority of the ruler as well as limiting it. Legitimate government will bring about political stability and eventually deliver what the voters expect. Thus in order to create political stability and changes in the society, rulers or regimes need to have legitimacy, the moral right to rule, failing of which crisis of legitimacy and stability is the consequence. Democratically administered elections will provide a thoroughfare for a party or coalition of parties to gain necessary political legitimacy to rule.In the same vein, the electorate in a democratic polity plays a very significant role: it can either establish or bring a government down. No party or parties shall possess any moral right to rule or legitimacy unless it receives endorsement from the electorate. As such, government is merely a form of representation of the people through a democratic process called elections. Once installed, a government is expected to be effective: to run its large administration efficiently and to set goals for policy that are realistic and achievable, and within the broad outlines of its election program. Moreover, it is expected that the government is to be publicly accountable: "the government must be able to give an account of their actions and policies, to explain and justify them to an appropriate audience." The government must act within the terms and conditions of their authority, and conform to standards of conduct that are appropriate to their office.However, in emerging democratic society like Indonesia, many of a time we find out that once elected, the representatives tend to forget the fact they are essentially subjected to being publicly accountable. They neglect their constituents who have successfully catapulted them to power. Once elected, they would mostly indulge in their own business and greedily reaping the "fruits" of being successfully elected as the "respected members" of people's representatives while neglecting their foremost responsibility and duty as people's representatives: to articulate, defend and support the interests, preferences and grievances of those whom they represent. Instead of focussing on their professional responsibility as people[...]

Problems of Participation

Mon, 22 Dec 2008 08:06:00 +0000

Larry Diamond has noted in one of his works that one paradox of democracy is that in some circumstances a political system can be made more stably democratic by making it somewhat less representative. At the same time, electoral system is the central rule of the game determining who governs in a polity. Its position is so important that careful steps should be taken before taking any decision to adopt any kind of electoral system, be it the proportional representation, the district system or the mixture of the two. This is what has so far been done by the so called political reformers in the post-Suharto Indonesia. In the name of limiting ethnic or regional movements and promoting more stable politics by encouraging broad-based parties, Indonesian political reformers purposely adopted an electoral system that provides necessary means to achieve the agenda of "stable democratic polity" in Indonesia.

Through a combination of spatial registration for political parties, pressures for smaller parties to amalgamate into larger ones, reductions in the electoral system's proportionality requirement, and regional vote-distribution requirements for presidential elections, political reformers in Indonesia have attempted to engineer the development of a few large parties with a national reach. However, the results of both 1999 and 2004 general elections showed the opposite. Instead of resulting in a moderate multi-partism, the general elections further fragmented the already fragmented party system. While the numbers of parties have reduced significantly in the 2004 general elections, on the contrary, parliamentary fragmentation increased. Measures to promote nationally focused parties and limit the enfranchisement of minorities have had some modest successes, but have not fundamentally changed the nature of electoral politics.

So far as the process of political engineering in Indonesia is concerned, it has been focussing more on protecting the incumbents and the continuance of the status quo. It is yet to focus on utilizing the opportunity to engineer substantial political transformation. Even though legislative framework continued to be enhanced through enactment of new laws prior to the successor election with the aim of creating more credible electoral process and achieving more representative results, this incrementalism has resulted in the elections being tightly scheduled creating major logistical complexity with little time for appropriate planning. Moreover, the drastic reduction in the district magnitude in the 2004 general elections has considerably raised the threshold for electoral victory and made it much more difficult for smaller parties to win seats than at previous elections, when districts were based on entire provinces. This electoral arrangement is considerably more advantageous to the large, well-organized, established parties than towards smaller, new parties, and threatens the prospect of wider political representation.

Several observers had suspected that the prolonged last minute preparation may be deliberate to avoid public scrutiny to the internal political process of the parties in putting forward nomination and as a cloak to shift public attention from demanding political accountability. Furthermore, the tight scheduling is believed to have benefited political elites close to the central party boards and deprived regional candidates. Political oligarchy has been holding captive the efforts to achieve the common good and to improve the process of political representation.

Travails of Indonesian Democracy

Sat, 13 Dec 2008 07:28:00 +0000

Since the ending of President Suharto’s New Order regime in 1998, Indonesia has been undergoing a systemic transition towards full-fledged democracy encompassing the economy, the political system, the judiciary and societal life. Some of the primary institutional choices pertaining to the structure of government, most notably the relationship between the executive branch and the legislature, have, at least for now, been resolved. Two successfully administered democratic elections in 1999 and 2004, four constitutional amendments and the reform of basic political laws, have also introduced democratic practices and the principles of good governance. New political parties have been allowed to form and contest general elections and the president has been directly elected.

In a huge effort, the country is undergoing the decentralisation of government and services, delegating power from the centre to hundreds of districts and municipalities. The process of Indonesia's transition to democracy is substantially real and the pace in which it tries to absorb and instil democratic practices and the principles of good governance is remarkably impressive.

Despite all the progress on democratisation that has been made, however, the transition is still fragile. Indonesia's economy is struggling to absorb the huge numbers of unemployed and new graduates annually, and poverty, rampant corruption and occasional outbreaks of ethnic violence create a sentiment of mistrust in the government and its institutions. The country’s leaders are forced to redefine the role of government and the relationship with its citizens. The direct election of regional government heads has brought government closer to the people and thereby increases the demand for better services and greater accountability.

Furthermore, in young democracy, the performance of governments in terms of delivering social and economic advancement is critical for legitimacy and political survival. Prolonged failure to meet minimal public expectations invites the possibility of not just the fall of a particular government, or even a series of particular governments, but the breakdowan of democracy. Chronic and severe undeperformance not only begets mounting public dissatisfaction, but opens the door to ambitious political actors who may seek to take advantage of the situation and seize power themselves. Thus it would be dangerous to be complacent about governance in a young democracy such as Indonesia. The reformasi movement which was marked by the downfall of Suharto's regime has not yet been able to achieve the ultimate goal of entrenching the principles of good governance and substantial democracy in Indonesia.

De-radicalizing the Radicals: A Proposal

Thu, 31 Jul 2008 10:04:00 +0000

Bahtiar Effendy recently wrote an interesting article about the problems of combating terrorism in Indonesia (The Jakarta Post, 21/07/2008). He has rightly pointed out that one of the most important problems in combating terrorism is the lack of any serious efforts by the government to address the theological or doctrinal basis for terrorism.Recent project by the Partnership for Governance Reform and Crime Prevention Foundation in Indonesia (LCKI) from May to December 2007 which focused on finding alternative mechanism of managing terror prevention efforts in Indonesia arrived at three broad suggestions. First, structurally, it suggests the establishment of a national coordinating body for countering terrorism under the control of the president. It is responsible for effectively coordinating cross-sector activities by different anti-terrorism agencies in the prevention and management of terrorism. Planning, organizing, implementing, monitoring, controlling as well as providing financial support for joint programs to prevent and tackle terrorism will become the main focus of this body. It will not take over the specific functions attached to the existing agencies but instead it will harmonize these functions, to make them efficient, more effective and focused on the common objectives.Second, instrumentally, there is a need to re-arrange an umbrella law on the prevention and management of terrorism in Indonesia that will consist of: (a) formulation of an umbrella law for the establishment of a national counter terrorism agency, (b) strengthening of the existing umbrella law, particularly the refinement of Law No. 15/2003 on Terrorism Crime, (c) formulation of laws related to radical and anarchic organizations, (d) policy formulation on the effectiveness of intelligence reports, (e) socialization of national policies and strategies on terrorism eradication, and (f) adjustment of the national laws to relevant international laws, particularly international conventions which so far have been ratified by Indonesia.Third, culturally, there is a need to engage various religious bodies and figures to create better awareness of the community on legal issues and different aspects of terrorism. This so-called soft-power approach or de-radicalization process through intensive direct engagement and dialogue will become an important entry point to achieve what Bahtiar has mentioned as addressing the theological or doctrinal basis for terrorism.The three suggestions or objectives above are not easy to achieve. Theoretically, the first two (structural and instrumental objectives) could successfully be achieved through the use of intensive public pressure to the executive and legislative bodies to conduct and formulate necessary strategies on this matter. Legal-formal approach through existing democratic channels should maximally be utilized as a strategy to achieve the objectives. On the other hand, the third objective is more delicate to achieve than the first two objectives. Altering or making a change to one’s mindset is not an easy task to do. Brainwashing strategies are not the best known and appropriate activities to achieve this objective in a democratic society. Instead intensive dialogue and communication would be deemed more acceptable and appropriate approach to achieve this objective. Politics is about managing problems and democracy allows this process. Different views and opinions should be allowed to emerge and solutions are achieved through discussions and consultations.One possible, tangible step that can be proposed as an entry point to arrive at this target of altering the mind of radical groups is through the introduction and dissemination of human right values. The fact that all religions teach human rights and that respect of human life and all living beings is an integral part of religious teachings[...]

Capital Punishment: Yes or No?

Mon, 28 Jul 2008 07:37:00 +0000

In the past one week, debate over the implementation of capital punishment in Indonesia has become the headlines in several TV stations. Two opposite camps have been pitched against each other, debating the pro and con on the issue. The executions of five convicts who have been found guilty of drug trafficking and planned murder in July 2008 alone have triggered the debate: “Should capital punishment (death penalty) be retained or be abolished altogether in Indonesia?”The abolitionist, the group who opposes capital punishment, argues that, first, the right to life cannot be abrogated at any cost by anyone and the state is held responsible in ensuring this situation. Thus a convict who has been proven guilty for serious crime cannot be punished with capital punishment instead he/she should be put in jail for the longest term possible.Second, decision by the Indonesian government to ratify the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) into Law No. 12/2005 should make it mandatory for Indonesia to abolish capital punishment. Life imprisonment is the only alternative to punish any serious criminal offence, and not capital punishment if Indonesia wants to move forward in this globalized world.Third, Article 28I (1) of 1945 Constitution guarantees the right to life of each and every Indonesian citizen. It is inline with the ICCPR and Law No. 12/2005. Retaining death penalty in Indonesian penal code (KUHP) is a contradiction and a proof of inconsistency in Indonesian constitutional law system.Finally, on the question of justice for the victim, the group argues that by punishing the perpetrator with death penalty, it does not do justice to the suffering being inflicted by the crime that has been committed. Life imprisonment will, in their opinion, bring more justice to the victim since it will amount to multiple miseries, both mentally and physically, to the perpetrator.On the contrary, the retentionists who support the implementation of capital punishment in Indonesia argue that Indonesia is a sovereign, independent state which, even though it ratified the ICCPR, but it has the constitutional right to define what serious crimes are and the type of punishment to these crimes. ICCPR gives this options and it has nothing to do with Indonesia’s future in this globalized world. Besides, even though the Indonesian Constitution guarantees the right to life of each and every Indonesian citizen, but in the same Constitution, the right to life can still be taken by the state for certain reasons restricted by law for the sole purposes of guaranteeing the recognition and respect of the rights and freedoms of others.Moreover, argument of inconsistency in the Constitution has been ruled out by recent ruling issued by Indonesian Constitutional Court on Decision No. 2-3/PUU-V/2007. The ruling says that there is no inconsistency on this matter and at present, Indonesia still needs the application of capital punishment for serious crimes categorized under the international laws.On the question of justice, capital punishment still holds justice to any serious crimes committed by a perpetrator. However, there is a necessity to look into the legal process in order to arrive at a justifiable final conclusion of applying capital punishment to such crimes. Competent judges and legal system in a country holds the most prominent position in this matter. In our view, since it has been officially interpreted as constitutional, therefore capital punishment should still be applicable in Indonesia. Apart from being utilized as a deterrent for the perpetrators of serious crimes, ratification of ICCPR does not mean that Indonesia cannot decide what is applicable and what is not, especially in relation to capital punishment. Even though majority of nations in the world has approved the abolition[...]

It is Time to Party

Fri, 11 Jul 2008 07:52:00 +0000

Finally, the long awaited list has been announced. The Indonesian Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – General Elections Commission, KPU) has just announced the prospective political parties that will be eligible for April 2009 general elections. If the 2004 general elections had 21 contestants, the 2009 elections will have 34 political parties that will fight for seats in the Indonesian parliament and the nomination of the next Indonesian president. 16 of them are political parties that won at least a seat in the Indonesian parliament in 2004 elections while the remaining parties are new parties that have passed the long verification process conducted by the KPU.

It should be noted here that only party or coalition of parties that have at least 15 percent of the seats in the parliament can field a candidate for presidency. Thus the competition for 2009 elections will be tight.

Even though big names like Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and Golkar Party will dominate the contest, but there are resurgent players that might disrupt the party. The Islamist party, Welfare and Justice Party (PKS), the most successful cadre party in Indonesia, continues its good showing in local elections and will likely to continue the trend up until 2009 general elections. Their latest achievement in local elections was by beating candidates fielded by PDI-P as well as Golkar Party by a good margin in West Nusa Tenggara gubernatorial elections. Tracking poll conducted by different pollsters support this trend.

Besides, new players like Partai Hanura, led by ex-army chief of staff, retired general Wiranto, and Gerindra Party, led by another ex-army general Prabowo Soebijanto, should be players to watch. Their vigorous campaign and abundant source of fund should become a matter of concern by other parties.

Indonesian transition to democracy has been an up and down journey. Scenes like impeachment of a president, arrests of corrupt lawmakers, riots over fuel price hike, problems of electricity supply have endlessly marked this process. Health problems like malnutrition and suspected bird flu infection in several regions are other matters of concern that needs to be addressed. In addition, unemployment and lack of employment opportunities need be sorted out by the government.

But one thing should be noted here that Indonesia’s transition process to democracy is something inevitable. Indonesian people understand that their future lies in the working of a democracy. Ten years is such a short period to build a real democracy in such a diverse country like Indonesia. However, with the increasing maturity of Indonesian young guns, this transition process will surely find its way to its destination. The next general elections will be crucial for the future of Indonesian democracy and Indonesia as a nation. The world is watching closely, how democracy and Islam, the second largest religion in the world and the religion of the majority population in Indonesia, work hand in hand in Indonesia to achieve a common goal of creating a welfare society.

Do We Need To Boycott Beijing?

Thu, 03 Apr 2008 10:01:00 +0000

Ever since the riot in Lasha early last month after the arrest of some 60 monks dominated the headlines of newspapers across the globe, there is a mounting pressure from different quarters to boycott the upcoming Olympics to be held in Beijing in October. From France, the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy called for a boycott to the Games and it was echoed by his Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, who has said that the European Union should consider punishing China with a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. Robert Meynard, the head of the Reporters without Borders, called for the same action and has urged the “world’s big democracies to find the courage” to boycott the Olympics.On earlier occasions, too, there have been attempts to sabotage the Olympics. The boycott by many Western countries of the 1980 Moscow Olympics when the Cold War was at its height is a notable example. Earlier, a conference held in Delhi in June last year by a group that calls itself “Friends of Tibet” focused on ways to use the upcoming Olympics to highlight the issue of “free Tibet” globally. The Beijing Olympics, many participants of the conference emphasized, was the “one chance” for the Tibetans to come out and protest. A call was issued for worldwide protests and a march of Tibetan exiles in India and Nepal to Lhasa was also announced to coincide with the opening of the Games. Across the Atlantic, some members of the American House of Representatives submitted their formal objection to the plan by President Bush to attend the opening ceremony of the Games in Beijing.But, do we really need to boycott the Games?I still remember in July 2006 when the Indonesian Tennis Association (Pelti) decided not to send the Indonesian Fed Cup Tennis Team to play against Israel in Tel Aviv in a protest to the Israeli government's continuing occupation of Palestine. This protest let the Israeli team to advance to the next stage of championship while the Indonesian team must suffer from the penalty by the ITF for its failure to play. Apart from the administrative penalty, the Indonesian Fed Cup team was also suspended for the whole one year from the competition. It was only last year that the Indonesian Fed Cup team could re-join the competition.As a tennis lover, I was disappointed by the incident because the valiant effort by the Indonesian Fed Cup team to win a position in the play-off in New Delhi in 2005 had gone in vain. Politics has taken over the beauty of the game of tennis. However, personally, I firmly understood the decision to boycott the game. Indonesians and the Indonesian government are known for their long history of support towards the Palestinian cause. Thus the atrocities conducted by the Israeli government towards the Palestinians are undeniably irresponsible and should be stopped. A similar decision was once taken by the Indian Davis Cup team in the 1974 when they refused to play against South Africa in protest of the apartheid policy in South Africa.But, I do not think that we have to boycott the Games. The Games is about sport and sportsmanship, no politics is allowed.I do sympathize with the Tibetans and give my full support to their cause. But I also want to see the successful celebration of sports in the form of the Olympics. The Games must go on and we have to support the Chinese government's effort to guarantee its successful organization. If we have to boycott the Games, we should have done it in the first place when Beijing was chosen as the host of this year's Olympics. Trying to obstruct the successful organization of the Games now is like a hypocrite who is afraid to say no when the announcement about Beijing was done and now is trying to steal the world's attention as a show of sympathy t[...]

Threat of Transnational Crime

Wed, 02 Apr 2008 10:09:00 +0000

In 2001, Osama bin Laden filled the headlines of newspapers across the globe. His sin was being accused as the man behind the WTC tragedy in September 11, 2001 in New York. In late March 2008, Geert Wilders, a Dutch MP, received condemnation from Muslims across the globe for his irresponsible act of broadcasting a derogatory documentary film towards Islam on the internet. At the same time, three Malaysian nationals were arrested by the custom officials at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport for trying to smuggle 9.3 kg of drug to Indonesia.What is the similarity between the incidents above? It is globalization. Globalization has permitted the movement of people across borders without any hurdles and transnational movement is an undeniable phenomenon at this age.The term transnationalism was introduced for the first time in the 20th century by Randolph Bourne to describe a new way of thinking on the relationships between cultures. It is a social movement that grows due to interconnectivity between men across the globe and due to the depleting borders among nations.According to Thomas L Friedman, globalization as the main motor behind transnationalism is a new system in the 21st century which focuses on integration and the abolition of borders between states. Globalization also advocates openness in which it allows the development and the strengthening of civil society which is important in the deepening process of democratic principles. The current democratic process in Indonesia is the resultant of this phenomenon. At the same time, globalization eases the process of transfer of strategic technology to assist the development process in a country.Apart from the implementation of free market policy, the demolition of Berlin wall that symbolized division of the world and the emergence of internet are key factors that influence the birth of globalization. Friedman says that globalization has three balancing platforms: (1) the traditional balance that defines the relations between nation states; (2) the balance between the global market and the states; (3) the balance between individuals and the nation states.If the first platform focuses on the role of states, the second platform puts the market as the decision making institution on important happenings in the world. Super power and supermarket are the two dominating power at this period. Meanwhile, the third platform emerged when the borders between states have depleted and the world is fully interconnected by a single global network thus allowing individuals to come on to the world stage at will. The super-empowered individuals are the dominating force at this stage of globalization and their impacts might either be useful or harmful to the global community. And the phenomena described in the beginning of this article represent the capability of these super-empowered individuals.By using the triple "T" revolution – telecommunication, transportation and technology – these super-empowered individuals are capable of conducting their actions at ease and the resultant of their actions can instantly be felt and known by the rest of the population in this globe. Globalization has given opportunities to these individuals to conduct transnational crimes as well and this phenomenon is undeniably increasing and unavoidable. Indonesia must be prepared to face this new threat.Containing Transnational CrimesFor Indonesia, the threat of transnational crimes is very much real than ever before. As the biggest archipelagic country in the world, Indonesia needs to build a comprehensive national security system to contain the threats in its various forms, be it the illegal logging, illegal fishing, terrorism, human trafficking, smuggling of drugs as well as other fo[...]

Monks as Agents of Change

Tue, 25 Mar 2008 12:15:00 +0000

So far as the tradition in the Buddhism is concerned, worldly affairs are beyond the concern of the monks. Instead, achieving the purity of life and spiritual happiness become a life time dedication for these holy men. Once a Buddhist decides to choose a life as a monk, he/she has to relinquish his/her worldly desires and surrenders his/her life for the sake of spiritual happiness.Recent phenomena, however, seem to have shown a departure from this tradition. Recent incidents of worldly affair involving these holy men described the better half of a monk's life. In Myanmar, they marched down the streets of Myanmar's major cities to demand the restoration of democracy and justice there. The endless suffering of the Myanmar people at the hands of the military junta has transported the monks beyond their spiritual lives.Similarly, the latest incident in Tibet seemed to echo the previous monk-inspired social agitation in Myanmar. The Tibetan monks marched down the street of Lasha, the capital of Tibet, in a peaceful demonstration to demand freedom and abolition of injustices there. The Chinese iron rule in Tibet has made the Tibetans suffer. The Tibetans have been facing grave injustices from the decade long Chinese occupation.But why did these monks rebel and go against the Buddhist tradition of non-interference on worldly affairs? The answer to the question might come from the fact that monks are also human, like the rest of the population. They are integral part of the society, the most respected one in a Buddhist society. Even though the life of a monk is dedicated solely to the non-worldly affairs and the attainment of spiritual happiness but being in the highest order in the society, the monks are responsible for keeping the balance of life in the society. Thus, the presence of any form of injustice which obstructs the balance of life in a society cannot be tolerated and should be banished. The decision by the monks to choose the path of agitation through peaceful demonstrations should not be construed as a departure from their tradition of non-interference on worldly affairs. Instead, it is their responsibility to fight against injustices as an implementation of Buddha's teachings.In Myanmar, the monks could no longer tolerate the injustices suffered by the Myanmar people. Their rights as the citizens of the State have been robbed and curtailed by the military junta that long has been controlling the small, natural resource rich nation in Southeast Asia. Thus, it was time for the monks to fight against this injustice and peacefully march down the street to assert moral pressure to the authority. They hoped that their peaceful march would turn into noise that could be heard by the authority and injustice in Myanmar can be abolished.The latest incident involving the Buddhist monks in Tibet bore similarity to the one in Myanmar. The Tibetan monks could no longer tolerate the control of the Chinese government there. The Tibetan people have been robbed from their basic rights. Acceding to the data from London School of Economic, the double digit annual economic growth in Tibet fails to improve the socio-economic condition of the Tibetans. The minority Han community in Tibet are the one who benefits the most from it while the majority of the Tibetans are living in poverty. 40 percent of them are illiterate and only 15 percent Tibetans are educated, the lowest in China (60 percent). The Tibetan people must thus fight for their freedom and the monks led the way.Not all the initiatives by these holy men, however, resulted in positive change. In Myanmar, the junta responded the demonstration with force and violent response. They arrested the monks and threatened these holy men not [...]

Should we protest the visit of Israeli MPs to Indonesia?

Thu, 26 Apr 2007 03:56:00 +0000

After the fall of Thaksin’s government by a bloodless military coup in September last year, Indonesia must now bear the consequences. Thailand was scheduled to host this year’s Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting. But in the absence of a democratically elected parliament in Thailand, Indonesia has been honored to host this meeting which will be held in Bali from 29 April – 3 May 2007. Established in 1889, IPU has now more than 140 members and Indonesia is also a member of this Union. The appointment of Indonesia as a host for this year’s meeting should be welcomed with open arms and should be seen as a show of recognition from the international world that Indonesia is a working democracy. On the contrary, protests and objections have been raised by various Muslim organizations towards the government. Israel is the main point of argument in these protests.As a member of IPU, Israel will participate and send its MPs as a delegate in this meeting. But as the scheduled meeting is getting nearer, protests and objections have been raised even louder over the proposed visit by Israeli MPs to Indonesia to attend the meeting.The President of Nahdlatul Ulama (the biggest Muslim organization in Indonesia) KH Hasyim Muzadi said in Jakarta on Monday (23/4) that Indonesia would bear a heavy psycho-political and security burden if the government allows Israeli MPs to attend the meeting. Politically speaking, the arrival of these MPs in the meeting is the sole responsibility of the IPU, but Indonesian government is fully responsible for their safety and security during their stay in Indonesia.According to Muzadi, imminent dangers from various elements in the Indonesian society towards the visiting Israeli MPs in Indonesia should become an important consideration for Indonesian government before granting them visa to attend the meeting in Bali. Security and safety is the core issue in this matter.Furthermore, he predicted that considering the possible reaction from Indonesians, the Israeli Parliament would abandon the plan to attend the meeting in Bali. But on the contrary, he doubted the firmness of Indonesian government to reject any visa application from Israeli MPs regardless of any availability of pressures towards the government.At the same time, rejections also come from the President of Muhammadiyah (the second biggest Muslim organization in Indonesia), Din Syamsuddin. He said that Israel has been illegally occupying Palestine, it is practicing colonization. In the opening of Indonesian Constitution 1945, it is clearly stated that Indonesia rejects colonization in any forms. Thus it is normal for Indonesians to reject the proposed visit by the Israeli MPs to Indonesia.Furthermore, according to Syamsuddin, as a sovereign nation, Indonesia possesses tradition as well as rules and regulations that must be observed. It cannot easily bow to foreign pressures. Protests should be continued if the government is still stubborn and allows Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia. These protests should be used as pressures to the Indonesian government to consistency follow its own principles, he argued.Other Muslim organization like the Forum for Muslim Community (FUI) also rejects the proposed visit. Rejecting the claim by Indonesian Foreign Minister that Indonesia is bound by international convention thus must accept the proposed visit by Israeli MPs to Indonesia, the written statement of FUI says that Indonesian government does not have any diplomatic relation with Israel thus it must reject the plan.Considering the reasons described above, it would be unwise for the Indonesian government to allow the delegate of Israeli MPs to visit Indonesia. Besides securit[...]

Dialog as a bridge between Islam and the West

Wed, 25 Apr 2007 03:54:00 +0000

Earlier this month, members of European and Asian parliaments under the banner of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) met Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia’s former President, at his party’s office in Jakarta. Led by ALDE’s chief, Graham Watson, they had a discussion on the need to build a bridge between Islam and the West.According to Wahid, currently, there is a global tendency to institutionalize Islam instead of adopting Islam as a culture. This situation has made Islam in a collision course with the West. They both claim to be the savior of humanity thus putting them in an enmity. Globalization has partly contributed to this situation. The fact that in globalized world, the world has become “flat”, to use the term coined by Thomas L. Friedman, and a small village has been created in which each and every member of the communities that live in the village bumps into and interacts with each other. Globalization has obliterated any distance that ever exists.Thus collisions, frictions and fierce competitions become inevitable. Survival of the fittest becomes the rule that everyone must embrace. And current trend, in which domination of Western civilization upon global village has become apparent, has made other group, in this case Islam, to feel insecure. The recent development of Islam in Indonesia provides example to this phenomenon.Several Muslim groups in Indonesia advocate an aggressive stance toward the West. They believe that Islam is incompatible with the West and seek to destroy it. Their diminutive number yet aggressive and opposing stance over the “enemy of Islam” have put Indonesian Muslims in a difficult position: to be branded as radicals and fundamentalists.The feeling of being insecure and threatened has forced people to seek solace and protection from something or someone. When a group feels threatened over a perceived domination by other group, they would dig deep into their own self to seek answers as a rejection of domination. And if Islam, for an example, is threatened by other civilization, by Western civilization for an example, Muslims would dig deep into Islam and come up with ideas and answers to reject that domination. And the efforts to dig deep into one self might give different results which could be contradictory.The first result is strong rejection and confrontation. By digging deep into Islam, a Muslim might come up with an idea of fundamental Islam that rejects anything that is different. Fundamentalist movements in the name of religion then spruce up to fight the “enemy”. Thus if the domination of the West is perceived as a threat to Islam, it must then be rejected and confronted with all force. Violence and force must be maximally utilized to implement this idea and as a show of force that they exist. Furthermore, these fundamentalists believe that Islam must win over Western civilization with all costs.The second result brings about the moderate values and principles of Islam and teaches its followers to confront any differences wisely and with an open heart. This has been reflected in what is called moderate Islam. Moderate Muslims put Islam as a way of life that possesses a high degree of tolerance towards other groups or followers of other religions for the sake of creating a harmonious society in the midst of disparities and differences. Moderation is the key and Islam teaches its followers to be moderate. Thus any perceived threats to Islam must be solved wisely through the process of dialogs and discussions to find the middle way and to avoid confrontation and the use of force.From the illustratio[...]

Indonesian political parties fail to produce new leaders

Tue, 24 Apr 2007 03:50:00 +0000

Almost a decade after the momentous moment of reform movement in 1998, Indonesian political parties fail to produce new leaders. Latest survey conducted recently by Indonesian national daily, Kompas, showed that political parties in Indonesia failed to produce future national leaders. The lack of cadre-based political party and the domination of mass-based political parties become an important reason for this failure. According to the survey, current Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono still leads the pack followed by Megawati Soekarnoputri, Abdurrahman Wahid and Amien Rais. Other names like current Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, Sultan Hamengkubuwono X of Yogyakarta Sultanate and Hidayat Nurwahid are also there but their popularity is still small.Direct pilkada (local executive elections) held during this period also failed to produce quality leaders. Most of the winners in these elections are non-party personalities who are either gone after their tenures end or convicted in corruption charges. Political pragmatism among political parties for the sake of winning these elections has worsened this situation. The process that was hoped to produce national leaders through local elections has failed. Two years before general elections in 2009 no new, fresh faces that yet to emerge. It is quite unfortunate for political parties in a young democracy like Indonesia to fail in producing quality cadres.Several reasons have been put forward by politicians and political analysts as to why political parties fail to produce new, quality cadres. They believe that the current political laws that forbid civil servants to join active politics have contributed to the absence of first-class citizens to be involved in active politics. Most of them work as civil servant and mostly teach in government universities, thus making them unable to join active politics without first resigning from their status as civil servants. The uncertainty of their future in politics has held them back from joining active politics.Besides, the lack of transparency in the internal political process in the political parties has also contributed to this situation. The failure of party elites fail to delegate strategic positions to the right personalities has indirectly forced professionals to avoid active politics. Favoritism and personal connection are the rules of the game. At the same time, rampant practice of money politics, especially in the pilkada, adds to the problem.Furthermore, the lack of quality human resource in the political parties becomes a huge stumbling block to the process of expanding and educating party cadres. Thus, this situation has made it difficult for political parties to produce quality local leaders that could be projected as national leaders in the future. In the end, political parties turn to non-party cadres but qualified personalities as their candidates in the elections.If the transition process to democracy in Indonesia is to be successful, this situation must be put to an end. Some drastic, radical changes must be taken to force political parties to produce quality leaders.First, current political laws on political party membership must be amended. It should allow those first class citizens who currently live in the ivory towers to join active politics. Political parties must change their mindset and must then open themselves to professionals and first class citizens to be their members and party cadres. Once quality party cadres have been created, local elections can be used as their mini battle ground while national election will be the real target. Pragmatism among political parties must [...]

Indonesia and Resolution 1747: The Policy of Inconsistency?

Tue, 17 Apr 2007 08:41:00 +0000

Ever since Indonesia decided to vote in support of the UN Security Council Resolution 1747 on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program late last month, the reactions at home have been snowballing. Immediately after the vote, majority of Indonesian MPs decided to use their right to question the government on its foreign policy decision. Demonstrations have been held on the streets to protest the decision. These protests and demonstrations throughout the country are reflections of solidarity towards Iran. They believe that the decision was a failure by the Indonesian government to protect its national interests and to follow the Indonesia’s principles of free and active foreign policy. Strong pressures from Washington have forced Indonesia to agree with the majority members of the UNSC on the Iranian issue. It was unable to say ‘no’ when it needed to say so. Indonesian government has failed to play a leading role in this matter. Being the biggest country in the Muslim world and a member of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference), Indonesia should have played a leading role to defend the right of Iran, also a member of the OIC, to pursue its dream to develop nuclear technology. It should have gone further as to persuade Malaysia and Qatar, two other OIC member countries who are also the members of the UNSC, to reject the Resolution.Thus, according to these protesters, Indonesian government has adopted the policy of inconsistency: it welcomed Iran as a partner in the development of nuclear technology but leaving Iran alone when it needed a friend to defend its right of developing such technology for “peaceful purposes”.Contrary to these claims, however, the decision by the Indonesian government to support the Resolution must be seen as a diplomatic victory for Indonesia. Those who oppose this decision failed to read what have been written between the lines. If we really read the Resolution 1747 carefully, we will find that the Indonesian government fully supports the right of the Iranians to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes. But at the same time, Indonesia will vehemently oppose any country which develops nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.An important clause proposed by Indonesia that was inserted in the resolution clearly reads “… a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue would contribute to global non-proliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery.”Thus, the concern is not about Iran, Israel, Egypt or any other Middle Eastern countries but the Middle East that must become a nuclear free region. Nuclear weapons such as currently possessed by Israel and other countries in this region should be dismantled.With this fact in mind, the UN Security Council Resolution 1747 on Iranian nuclear program should, first, be seen as a victory of Indonesian diplomacy. Indonesia succeeded in putting its influence on this important matter. It did not ape Washington and its allies. Indonesia was not under strong pressure from Washington either. On the contrary, it showed the independency of Indonesia, a reflection of Indonesia’s free and active foreign policy.Secondly, the Indonesian government’s policy on Iranian issue has been consistent. It fully supports the right of Iran to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. It embraces Iran as a potential partner in the development of the technology in Indonesia. But at the same time Indonesia will vehemently oppose any efforts to divert the technology for military purposes. The clause inse[...]

Dialectics of Party – Movement: A Note on PKB’s “Green Party” Declaration

Sun, 11 Mar 2007 08:51:00 +0000

Theoretically, political parties and movements are different but sometimes are in collusion to reap the biggest benefit possible. While parties tend to organize on the basis of numbers, movements organize themselves on the basis of beliefs. Electoral success and therefore numbers matter to most parties thus it entails a tendency to be inclusionary and to compromise principles more readily than movements would. They mobilize most extensively just before elections and if elected, it is likely to subside. By contrast, movements tend to be more committed, more uncompromising, and sometimes more exclusionary. They also tend to view mobilization as an end in itself, a source of creativity, empowerment, and identity-building rather than simply a route to achieving power. Thus movements tend to have more confrontational, spontaneous and open-ended mobilization than that of political parties.These differences may be mutually advantageous. While allying with social movements is likely to heighten parties’ aura of being committed, egalitarian, and grassroots-based, the movements which ally themselves with political parties may achieve longevity, national prominence and political access. But these differences can also become source of tension. For example, the tendency of movements to use militancy, violent agitations and non-negotiable offer are in contrast with the methods and tendency of political parties to make compromises for electoral benefits. Thus, when this situation occurs, split is the most likely result.On the basis of these theoretical facts, the declaration of the PKB as a green party recently needs to be scrutinized further. Because PKB is a political party while its new political agenda on the concept of environmental preservation is more movement-like theme. Two reasons can be described here why the PKB suddenly took the issue of environmental preservation as its main political agenda. The first is the increasing challenge from other Muslim parties like the PPP, PAN, PKS and PKNU to win the support from Indonesian Muslims in the upcoming general elections. While the PAN and the PKS have built their own support base through their party cadres, the PPP, the PKNU and the PKB share similar background. They were born out of a single community, the Nahdatul Ulama community. Thus if they have to fight it out in the elections to win the support of the NU community, the most likely result is the split of those votes into three opposing parties. It needs to be noted here that while the PKB and the PKNU were splinter groups from the PPP, the PKNU is born out of dissatisfaction of several PKB’s cadres over its leadership.Second is the ambition of the PKB leadership to expand its support base. They understand that the party cannot solely rely on its traditional supporters, the NU community, when they have to fight it out against the PPP and the PKNU. The need to increase PKB’s political tally in the 2009 general elections forced the PKB leadership to take a new strategy. Thus by taking the issue of environmental preservation it hopes to expand its support base and to embrace wider audiences. Moreover, the PKB seems to describe itself as a “committed, egalitarian and grassroots-based” political party.Environmental issues are usually voiced by NGOs to challenge governmental policies. By taking the stance of a movement, the PKB is unconsciously transforming itself as an opposition group. In a political system where the word “opposition” is still regarded as a taboo, PKB’s new avatar should be welcomed. It should be noted, however, t[...]

Gus Dur, the PKB and a “Green Party”

Mon, 26 Feb 2007 14:33:00 +0000

Ex-Indonesia's President, Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur, has been known for his wits and his ability to coin and popularize new vocabularies. Vocabularies like kyai khos, kyai sepuh and kyai Langitan (the chosen Muslim preachers, the senior Muslim preachers and the Muslim preachers from Langitan, respectively) were coined by Gus Dur and became popular not only among his followers, the Nahdatul Ulama community, but also among Indonesians in general. The latest is his reference to kyai kampung – village Muslim preachers, as oppose to kyai sepuh. According to Gus Dur while most of those kyai sepuh have become aloof and created distance or barriers from their followers, kyai kampung are more egalitarian and closer to their followers. And in view of growing competition among Muslim parties to build their support base, kyai kampung is meant to intimate the connection of the National Awakening Party (PKB) to its electorate at grass root level. By utilizing the kyai kampung PKB believes that it will create better understanding about its core constituents and hopes to convert this situation into prospective voters who will vote for the PKB in the 2009 general elections. Early this month, the PKB, by using the popularity of Gus Dur, invited thousands of kyai kampung to attend a sermon by Gus Dur in his residence in Ciganjur, South Jakarta. The success of the program prompted the PKB leadership to make it as PKB’s monthly program.While kyai kampung will help the PKB to reassert itself as the party of traditional Muslims, PKB needs to expand its support base. Thus the declaration of the PKB as partai hijau (green party). While hijau or green color connotes to Islam, the declaration of PKB as a Green Party is a reference to the greenery, the environment, the nature. The PKB wanted to create more awareness among Indonesians about the degrading condition of global and local environment and the importance of environmental preservation. It is a public secret that environmental management is absence in Indonesia. Both the government and the Indonesian people seem to be lacking of attention on the importance of managing and preserving the environment. The urge and desire to reap immediate and bigger economic benefits have put their conscience in the backseat. The results are various, mostly man-made, natural calamities such as floods, land slides, drought, forest fire as well as the unending crisis of Lapindo’s dangerous mud flood in Sidoarjo, East Java. Besides the huge amount of lives and materials that have been lost, these calamities have also left the environment in a very bad shape and open to further calamities.Thus, realizing this degrading environmental situation and the lack of attention to it, the PKB wanted to project itself as a green party and put environmental preservation as its national agenda. Two strategies have been proposed to support this idea. First, the PKB will suggest the amendment of the Constitution, or at least the national law, on environment, forestry and land as well as actively criticizing government’s policies through the eyes of environemental preservation. Secondly, the PKB will pose itself as a party-movement that advocates the needs of environmental preservation by declaring the PKB as a green party. By declaring itself as a green party, the PKB will pioneer the movement to save and preserve the environment.While the first strategy will take longer course to materialize, the second strategy has already been started. This week, the PKB chose Bali, the Island of Gods, as a place to declar[...]

PPP: Consolidating Muslim Politics?

Sun, 28 Jan 2007 07:57:00 +0000

From 30 January to 3 February 2007, the biggest Muslim party in Indonesia, the Unity Development Party (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, PPP), is holding its Sixth National Conference in Jakarta. Besides electing new party president, the party is also preparing new strategies to face the 2009 General Elections which is two years away. Having learnt from the failures in the previous elections, the party is eager to improve its performance in the upcoming elections. Faced with fractured party politics, the party needs to find a strategy to consolidate the diverse elements in the society for its advantage. With other Muslim parties struggling to consolidate themselves, it is a perfect moment for the PPP to reformulate and reposition itself as the sole platform for Muslim politics.If we look back at the history of party politics in Indonesia, we will find that in the 1950s, there was Masyumi (Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia), a party created by the Japanese government in 1943 to become a common platform for Muslim politics. Diverse elements of Muslim politics were represented in this party. The NU, the Muhammadiyah, the Syarikat Islam as well as other Muslim groups merged into this body. Masyumi became a common platform for Indonesian Muslims to voice their political aspirations.However, history told different story in which persisting conflict of interests in the Masyumi resulted into its split. Disappointed with the party policy, Nahdatul Ulama (NU), the biggest element in the Masyumi, decided to abandon the party to become an independent political body. This split resulted in the failure of Indonesian Muslims to win the 1955 General Elections. They failed to convert their majority number into a single, united voice in a single common platform. Masyumi secured 20.9 percent while the NU gained 18.4 percent. The biggest winner was the nationalist group under the Partai Nasional Indonesia (PNI) which gained 22.3 percent of the total votes.Had there been no split in the Masyumi, they would have been able to win the elections.The change of guards in the Indonesian politics in the late 1960s was followed with the change of pattern of interaction in the party politics. The multiparty system adopted in the 1950s was abandoned and a simplified party system with two political parties and one service group was introduced. The nationalists and non-Muslim groups were forced to merge into one single party called the Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (PDI) while the Islamic leaning groups like the NU, Parmusi, PSII and the Perti were merged into the Partai Pembangunan Indonesia (PPP). A service group called Golkar was established by the regime as its political vehicle to run the country. Being a common platform for Muslim politics with Islam as its ideology, the PPP succeeded in consolidating the diverse elements of Muslim politics by securing 29 and 28 percents of the total votes in the 1977 and 1982 General Elections respectively. The success of the PPP forced the regime to introduce a common ideology, the Pancasila, as the sole national ideology for all political as well as non-political groupings to eliminate any existing emotional influence of such an ideology like Islam. This policy resulted in the significant reduction of supports for the PPP in which in the 1987 and 1992 Elections, PPP only secured 16 and 17 percents of the total votes respectively. The absence of Islam as party ideology was one of the reasons for this poor showing. The disappointment of the NU, an important element in the PPP, towards[...]

Bracing the Nuclear Tide

Wed, 13 Dec 2006 14:58:00 +0000

Ever since the Iranian and the North Korean nuclear programs became the headlines and the India – US nuclear deal was inked in New Delhi in March this year that subsequently being approved unanimously by the US Congress last week, there has been a tendency among developing nations to follow the India way: building an alternative source of energy through nuclear technology. With cheaper oil price is nowhere in sight and the possibility of expansion of the technology for peaceful purposes to even those NPT non-signatory states, the nuclear tide is surging high and fast. The latest to join the tide is the oil-rich Arab states, which declared last Sunday that they also want to acquire the technology for peaceful purposes.Following the footpath of the Developing-8 Group, which declared its intention early this year after a summit in Bali to pursue the N-technology, the new ambition by the Arab states to pursue the same technology needs to be scrutinized. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman are known for their substantial oil resources. Under the banner of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the group announced on Sunday that it commissioned a study on setting up a common program in the area of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, which would abide by international standards and laws.Why these oil-rich Arab states so suddenly and so eagerly want to pursue the N-technology?If we follow the recent development in this region, there is one very important factor that bothers these Arab states: Iran. In the past months Iran has been so defiance toward the call by the US government and its European allies to suspend the uranium enrichment to support Iranian nuclear ambition. Even though Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes including generating electricity, but suspicion among the US government and its European allies is high that Iran is also pursuing nuclear weapon technology. The Sunni – Shia factor is also on the table. Iran is a Shia state while Sunni Muslims are the majority in the region, including those of six Arab states. With no sign of immediate end of Sunni – Shia sectarian violence and domination of Shia party in Iraq and the overt Iranian support for the Palestinian’s Hamas-led government and the Hezbollah group in Lebanon, there is a growing worry among the Sunni states on the increasing Iran’s influence.This Iranian factor has forced the Arab states to react. Kuwaiti columnist, Fouad al-Hashem wrote in Al-Watan newspaper that the declaration by the GCC is a clear, strong and courageous message to Iran that GCC nations will not sit and watch while Iran presses forward with its nuclear program. And with the help of their allies, these Arab states want to balance the power equation in the region by developing nuclear technology, even though they do not really need it.It is true that double standard is apparent on the nuclear technology issue. Iran, a democratic state and a signatory of the nuclear NPT that has been religiously following the guidelines given by the international atomic body, the IAEA, has been prevented from pursuing its rightful choice to develop peaceful nuclear technology. The US and its European allies have been arguing that Iran is not fully pursuing the technology for peaceful purposes but it intends to build a nuclear weapon technology. Reasons like Iran’s defiance to stop its uranium enrichment program and that Iran is among the largest country in the world that possesses substanti[...]

Is Indonesia a Muslim State?

Sun, 03 Dec 2006 11:34:00 +0000

Recently, I came across this article discussing the lack of democracy in Muslim world. Citing examples on Muslims states in the Middle Eastern and Gulf region like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Oman, several African states like Libya, Egypt, Morocco and Tanzania as well as in South, Central and Southeast Asian region like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Malaysia, it says that, “It is hard to find a purely democratic country in the Muslim world, one that is governed by the people directly or through elected representatives. But pseudo-democracies abound and have various names: "guardian controlled," "military-based," "dictator-based," "religious-based," "unstable," "limited" and "puddle," among others.”I cannot agree more with the statements above. Democracy is visibly lacking, or rather, if it ever exists, it is limited, unstable or controlled like in Malaysia and Iran. But there is a part in the article that made me beg to differ. It says, “In the largest Muslim state, Indonesia, democracy is unstable. Corruption, communal riots and political clashes have plagued Indonesian democracy.”While I agree with the fact that corruption, communal violence, political clashes and relative stability are the features of Indonesia in the post-Suharto period, but is Indonesia a Muslim state? What defines it as a Muslim state? Is it just because the majority of its population follows the teaching of Islam and it is a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference then Indonesia is a Muslim state?What about Suriname or say Thailand? Suriname is a member and Thailand is an observer of the OIC but the majority of their populations do not follow the teachings of Islam. Can we call them as Muslim states merely due to their association with the OIC?Asghar Ali Engineer once wrote about Islamic state. He said that Islamic state has no Qur’anic sanctions and that, “Muslim countries claiming to be Islamic states are far from these ideals. The greatest ideal projected by the Qur'an is justice ? both in personal conduct and in distribution of wealth. It is conspicuous by its absence in the Muslim countries.”He further explains that, “… the Qur'an presents a concept of society, not of any state. … The Qur'an was greatly concerned with establishing a just society. It exhorted the rich to be sensitive to others' suffering and required them to redistribute their wealth and levied Zakat (alms) which was to be spent on the poor. … The Qur'an laid stress on justice and benevolence in all socio-economic matters.”And as for the Madina state founded by the Prophet in which Islamists believe to be the ideal concept of an Islamic state, Asghar has something to say about it. He said that, “Madina was a pluralist society and there was no attempt whatsoever to impose Islam on anyone unwilling. It was `secular' in as much as plurality of religion was recognized.”Thus it needs to emphasize here that Qur’an does not explain about an Islamic state but it gives the concept of an ideal society. Furthermore, during Prophet’s tenure as the head of Medina society there was no imposition of Islam on anyone unwilling. The Prophet had given full freedom to all Medina populace to practice their respective religions, be it Christianity or Judaism. Medina was a pluralist, secular society in the sense that there was an equidistance of respect and recognition of the variety of religion[...]

A Skeptical Note on Bush’s Recent Visit to Indonesia

Thu, 23 Nov 2006 09:53:00 +0000

On Monday, 20 November 2006, the US President, George W. Bush was on a brief visit to Indonesia, the largest Muslim populated country in the world. He was in an Asian tour from Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. Indonesia was his last stopover before returning home. Accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Condollezza Rice, Bush held a meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, followed by a discussion with several prominent Indonesian scholars and thinkers in economics, educations, politics and regional development. The visit was only six hours, but the preparation for and reactions to the visit had become headlines in the Indonesian media for weeks.To welcome the six hours visit, the Indonesian government must spent a whopping 6 billion Indonesian Rupiah (more than half a million US Dollar), not a small amount of money for a country like Indonesia, just to build two unused helipads especially meant for President Bush’s arrival in Bogor in the vicinity of Indonesia’s famous Bogor Botanical Garden, a major center for botanical research that host many exotic plants. And to make matter worse, the Bush entourage did not land there and instead the landed in a sport stadium nearby and used motorcade to arrive at Bogor Presidential Palace to meet President Yudhoyono. The helipad is a total waste of taxpayer’s money and at the same time, it poses some danger to the ecosystem in the Garden.Civic groups have called the preparations for Bush’s short visit in Indonesia simply overwhelming. The security was over-prepared, the guards were over-acting and no wonder that the people, too, were over-reacting. On the contrary, the government said that preparations, including the construction of two helipads in Bogor Palace and the interruption of public communications and transportation during the visit, were acknowledged as a normal measure.Why so much preparation by the Indonesian government to welcome President Bush when the reaction on the ground against the visit was so overwhelming? To begin with, Indonesia is the largest Muslim populated country in the world while President Bush is considered to be the public enemy number one in the Muslim world. Moreover, in the post-9/11 world, the American image worldwide and in Muslim world in particular is declining each day. The invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in the name of war against terror and spreading democracy contributed to this major decline of American image worldwide. These policies have been considered as direct confrontation against the Muslims.So, even though the fundamentalist Muslim group is a minority and the majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderate, but these policies have angered even the moderate Muslims. If the fundamentalists consider Bush as public enemy number one, the moderate vent their anger and protest as an expression of solidarity to the suffering of their Muslim bothers and sisters in countries dominated and exploited by the US and its allies. It is thus of anyone’s guess that a personality like President Bush is not welcomed. Similarly, other local issues such as U.S.-based multinational companies operating in various parts of Indonesia, which have been criticized for running their operations based on unfair agreements and the lack of responsibility to the environment, is also on the minds of most protesters. With issues like these, the protestors against Bush do not solely belong to Muslim groups alone but also from[...]

North Korea’s Nuclear Threat and the Bush Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Strike

Mon, 16 Oct 2006 20:44:00 +0000

On Monday, October 9, 2006, the North Korean government proudly claimed to have successfully conducted an underground nuclear test near Kilju county in North Korea’s northeastern province of Hamkyung. The international community reacted almost unanimously to condemn the nuclear test and urged the world body, the United Nations, to take immediate actions to contain future “nuclear threats from North Korea”. This universal condemnation is the standard response when any nation joins the nuclear club, as India and Pakistan discovered in the summer of 1998. And there is little surprise, in a gathering U.N. consensus on rebuking North Korea, with Russia and China likely to sign off on some symbolic sanctions to punish it. China is the closest ally of North Korea.Later in the weekend, the UN Security Council, pushed hard by the US, unanimously approved tough sanctions against North Korea for its claimed nuclear test. This US-sponsored UN resolution demands North Korea to eliminate all its nuclear weapons but expressly rules out military action against the country; orders all countries to prevent North Korea from importing or exporting any material for WMD or ballistic missiles; orders the nations to freeze assets of people or businesses connected to these programs; and, ban the individuals from traveling.However, division for the implementation of the sanctions soon cropped up. Even though China concurred that the sanctions have sent “a balanced and constructive message", but it refused to collaborate in the effort to inspect cargo leaving and arriving in North Korea to prevent any illegal trafficking in unconventional weapons or ballistic missiles. Wang Guangya, China’s UN Ambassador, said that China strongly urges the countries concerned to adopt a prudent and responsible attitude in this regard and refrain from taking any provocative steps that may intensify the tensions in the region. Furthermore, Chinese foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao said in a statement on the ministry’s website that China maintains that the action of the Security Council should clearly state the firm stance of the international community, create conditions conducive to the peaceful resolution of this [North Korea] issue through dialogue and negotiations. On the other hand, other countries like South Korea, Japan and Australia promised to immediately enforce the sanctions and said to be considering a harsher imposition of penalties of their own against North Korea.Rejecting this resolution, North Korea’s Ambassador to the UN accused its members of a “gangster-like” action, which neglects the nuclear threat posed by the United States.The Bush Concept of Pre-Emptive StrikeA pre-emptive strike is a military attack designed to prevent, or reduce the impact of, an anticipated attack from an enemy. It could cover all the branches of the military, names the land, air and sea borne forces or may be confined to just one wing. It can also be used to describe any offensive (as opposed to defensive) action that is taken to prevent, or reduce the impact of, an anticipated offensive action by another party. These actions can be either physical or non-physical.However, in the post 9/11 world, the legality of pre-emptive strikes became a particular issue after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq by the USA. This was an attack against a sovereign state, aimed explicitly at removing its internationally recognize[...]