Thursday, August 26, 2010




Monday, August 23, 2010








Mario Masaya, Bandung | Mon, 08/23/2010 Opinion

It was the speculative loud speaker, Ruhut Sitompul, that raised the discourse of another term for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s rulership. Even though it was claimed to be his personal view, some might think that the message was delivered intentionally by the power behind it.

The basic reason is to test public opinion on the matter. In international relations studies, it is called “leakage”. It was used by the government to disclose some policies to test public opinion.

The leakage is very useful for two reasons. First, if the public shows some interest in this matter, and even supports the proposal recklessly, it might be a stepping stone for Cikeas to act accordingly. It also helps Yudhoyono and his party know which particular group is “loyal” to him, and which one is against.

The second benefit can be seen from Yudhoyono’s response himself. He appears to be an “angel” by showing that he disagrees with this matter and will not undertake such an undemocratic move. He said in his speech on the Constitution Day at the House of Representatives (Aug. 18) that he would give space for new leadership, not changing the rules for personal benefit. This response from Yudhoyono is regarded as another “good-image” political move as he usually does.

Politically speaking, this strategic movement is very beneficial for Yudhoyono and the Democratic Party itself. There are two different responses which result from this matter, the pros and the cons.

The pros of the possibility to change our Constitution and prolong Yudhoyono’s leadership, argue that Indonesia’s development under Yudhoyono’s presidency cannot be separated from his role. Therefore, the fate of this republic will be much depended on by Yudhoyono.

The cons, on the other hand, are that it will ruin the democracy itself and Indonesia will move backward.

This is based on the Indonesian Amended Constitution article 7 that stipulates a president can only be re-elected once. To amend this amendment means to make the first step to an undemocratic regime. It will create detrimental effects, which can be an obstacle to development.

How should we actually respond to this discussion?

First of all, let us compare these prolonged democratically elected presidential terms in other countries.
In Venezuela, socialist president Hugo Chavez won the election the third time in 2006 after winning the election in 1998 and 2000. Chavez’s policy is anti-US policy in most matters. With the so-called “Bolivarian Revolution”, Chavez’s left-wing policy has made the country into a socialist country, nationalizing many international companies.

More notably, it was in 2009 a referendum took place that gave him essential victory. This victory allows him to be President as long as the people keep electing him. On his presidency, he has cracked down on the press, greatly increasing restrictions as well as punishments for opposition. This condition creates a bigger possibility that Venezuela will be, or is, a dictatorship regime.

Taking into account what happened in Venezuela, it will be very likely that the way to dictatorship can also be started from now, in this populist presidential era. While dictatorship has not such a bad image in Venezuela, we have a very unfortunate history of dictatorship under the New Order.

Even nowadays it is still premature to think that Indonesia might return to the Soeharto era; however, it is still worth remembering the blood of Indonesian reformists shed to bring democracy to the republic in 1998.

We should be aware that the political games created by politicians may have a severe effect on the
well being of this republic. The possibility of a third presidential term for example, is seen as a coup for democracy.

Democracy as the best political system of the worst is still a much better game in this country regardless of the slow economic development, corruption and many other problems. Democracy ensures individual freedom and human rights while others are not. Therefore, it is unnecessary to discuss the possibility of returning to the age of the “Iron Hand” as it only brings back bad memories and fears into the present.

Even it is only a debate of another term of presidency; it is a warning for all Indonesian people that the option of another dictatorship regime still exists.

It is also a caution for the ruling party that even the opportunity to have another term of presidency should not even be brought into real political debate.

It can be a shame for Indonesia as a country that has already been regarded as the third most democratic government in the world to really discuss that possibility.

More importantly, it is the concern of all Indonesian youths as the leaders of the next generation to stop the source of any dictatorship regime. We should remember the ancient Greek orator Demosthenes who says, “Every dictator is an enemy of freedom, an opponent of the law”.

So, another dictatorship regime? I guess not.
The writer is a student of international relations, Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung.


The Jakarta Post | Mon, 08/23/2010

Assurances aside, many people are still not fully persuaded that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has completely denounced running for a third five-year term come 2014. His public rebuttal — which for good measure included a statement that he had no designs for his wife or his children to run for high office — will only convince the public and put the debate to rest if and when he reveals his choice of a presidential candidate from his Democratic Party. This has not yet been forthcoming.

Many people believe Yudhoyono is still eyeing a third term because his behavior since the start of his second term in October has been consistent with that idea. For a president serving his last term in office, we would expect Yudhoyono to dispense with populist policies and start building his legacy by doing the things he needs to do, even if they are highly unpopular.

This we have not seen in the last 10 months. Instead, the President continues to pander to populist sentiments, as if he is still running for re-election — or perhaps even entertaining the notion of a third term.

Democratic Party politician Ruhut Sitompul, who broached the idea of a third term last week, could not have spoken without tacit support from Yudhoyono or one of his aides. It is not the first time that Ruhut has created controversy which drew reprisals. It is easy to see that he did not act independently. Most likely he had been told to speak out to gauge public reaction.

Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum and other party leaders were quick to distance themselves from Ruhut’s statement when they learned of harsh responses from politicians and commentators. They reiterated the President had no ambition to run for a third term and wants to focus on completing his job by 2014.

If only we could believe that.

No one in the party has ventured to name potential presidential candidates for 2014, a choice that is likely to be made, perhaps single-handedly, by Yudhoyono as chief patron and therefore the most powerful figure in the party.

Here is a possible scenario to Yudhoyono’s path to a third term.

August 2010. Broach the idea and watch the reactions. Remember, the reaction that truly matters is not what the commentators and politicians are saying, but how the public feels. An opinion poll will soon be conducted to test the public’s reaction, which will likely be divided, especially when they see no other viable candidates in the Democratic Party. Lest we forget, this a president who was received more than 60 percent of the vote last year.

August 2011. Begin the process of amending the Constitution. There is already a consensus to review the Constitution after it was amended in 2002. Some politicians (namely Ruhut) will demand a revision to presidential term limits. The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and other Islamist parties will demand (again) to introduce sharia law at the national level. The Regional Representatives Council (DPD) will push for more power. Some senior military figures will push for a return to the text of the original Constitution (which, incidentally, did not specify term limits). Everyone has an interest in amending the Constitution.

August 2012. A newly amended Constitution is put in place, just in time for the preparations for the 2014 elections. Whether it will include an extension of term limits is still anybody’s guess. But the coalition government led by the Democratic Party has more than the necessary majority in the House of Representatives to push its agenda through. It is the largest party, Yudhoyono sits at its helm and he is the incumbent president.

By having not yet named a potential presidential candidate from the Democratic Party, Yudhoyono appears to be keeping his options open, including the possibility of him running for a third term. It is a decision for him, and him alone, to make.

But what about his open promise not to run for a third term? Shouldn’t we take this at face value? Yudhoyono is a politician, and as a politician, one is allowed to say one thing one day and something completely opposite the next, depending on the circumstances

The only way people will believe Yudhoyono is if he stops playing the populist presidential game and names a potential successor for his party for 2014.


Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta |

The latest survey showing a steep decline in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's popularity indicates the people's frustration with the way the government has handled economic problems, observers say.

Experts and activists said people can barely survive with skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, transportation, health and education due to the increased fuel prices.

They said if Yudhoyono failed to address his popularity decline, he would harm his chances of reelection.

"The survey sends a yellow light to the President, warning him that people are suffering and that his administration has failed to reach the people," political scientist Dewi Fortuna Anwar of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences said.

A survey conducted by Indo Barometer 10 days after the fuel prices increase indicated a sharp fall in Yudhoyono's approval ratings.

The survey, conducted among 1,200 respondents in 33 provinces, found 30.4 percent of respondents would vote for former president Megawati Soekarnoputri in a presidential election compared to only 20.7 percent for Yudhoyono.

A similar survey in May 2007 showed Yudhoyono at 35.3 percent, still far ahead of Megawati at 22.6 percent. A survey last December showed Yudhoyono ahead by a slightly slimmer margin, at 38.1 percent to Megawati's 27.4 percent.

Respondents expressed highest dissatisfaction in the way Yudhoyono had handled the economy, with 79.1 percent saying they were disappointed by his inability to solve economic problems.

Dewi cited the example of the difficulties low-income people faced in gaining access to quality education.

"Low-income families used to use education as a ladder to climb up in society and get a better life. But not anymore. Getting a good education means a lot of money and they just can't afford it," she said.

With such constraints, poor people were frustrated knowing they would remain poor, Dewi said.

Economist Faisal Basri of the University of Indonesia said a newer poll could result in even worse ratings for Yudhoyono, now that people had already felt the full impacts of the fuel price increases.

"A month or two after the fuel price hike, people will feel the second round impacts of the raised prices, especially in increased goods and transportation costs," he said.

Faisal said Yudhoyono was "very unfortunate" as he was hit by both global increases of oil prices and food prices at the same time.

However, he said the results did not necessarily guarantee Megawati the presidency, since her approval rating was still just above 30 percent.

"Looking at the survey, the presidency will be decided in the second round as no candidate can garner more than 50 percent of the votes. If the election reaches a second round, it will be between SBY and Megawati, and anything is possible by then," he said.

University of Indonesia expert Fentiny Nugroho said Yudhoyono could rebound only if he enhanced his pro-poor policies in the health and education sectors while trying to create jobs for people.

"Providing jobs and enhancing programs to help the poor in coping with current conditions are ways SBY can regain people's support," she said.


The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 08/23/2010 10:00 AM | Headlines

A | A | A |

Activists and community figures voiced concern Sunday on corruption in the National Police,
and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s silence.

Attorney and Community Legal Aid chairman Taufik Basari read out a petition — signed by more than 500 people and calling on the President to take an affirmative stance on police reform — to demonstrators at the Constitutional Court in Central Jakarta on Sunday.

“We strongly urge President Yudhoyono to take extraordinary, courageous, fundamental and firm measures,” he said at the rally.

It was also attended by prominent community figures, such as Danang Widoyoko of the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas, police observer Bambang Widodo Umar and Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence coordinator Haris Azhar.

The activists demanded the President take concrete action to revamp the police force, including firing top-ranking police officials allegedly involved in case brokering and evidence tampering, “cleaning” the police of all corruption and reforming the National Police to make a more professional, responsible and honest force.

“We hope that the President and other authority figures keep the promises they made to the people and adopt good governance and take strategic role in upholding justice in this country,” Taufik said.

Activists and community figures then wrote personal messages they affixed to a tree called “the tree of hope”.

There is growing public sentiment that states that the police force is no longer capable of investigating high-profile corruption scandals, as many police officials have been implicated in such scandals.

The most recent case that marred police credibility was a Tempo magazine’s expose on the implausibly large bank accounts allegedly held by several high-ranking police officers, a controversial subject that was first broached in 2005.

Police officials were also alleged to have lied about the existence of evidence corroborating graft within the KPK, at first promising to provide taped wiretapped conversations between KPK enforcement deputy Ade Rahardja and alleged case broker Ary Muladi and then claiming no such tapes existed.

Both experts and the public have criticized Yudhoyono’s silence or unresponsiveness on substantive issues, contending that the President has been content to respond to trivial matters, such as a controversial plan to remove the Constitution’s presidential term limits.

Democratic Party legislator Ruhut Sitompul proposed an amendment that would allow Yudhoyono to run for a third presidential term, which some have speculated was done at the request of Yudhoyono or his advisers.

Speaking at his home in Cikeas, West Java, Yudhoyono said on Sunday that Democratic Party members should be patient and composed, despite “attacks” and public criticism directed against him as president and the party, which he founded, in the wake of Ruhut’s controversial proposal.

“When emotions are pitted against one another, the outcome is conflict,” Yudhoyono said as quoted by Antara. He said that his political cadres had to act rationally, as well as to use appropriate and controlled language, when dealing with certain issues.

Yudhoyono also urged his party members to support his administration until 2014, adding that they also had to help him boost the economic growth and succeed in the democratization process — both are part of the government’s reform agenda.

Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum said that he hoped fellow party members would restrain from issuing unwarranted or “unfathomable” statements.

“It is necessary for us to apply political asceticism in life, meaning that we should base our political activities on religious values.”

“If the Democratic Party could do such, the people would love us more, and we would be able to communicate [with each other] better,” Anas said. (tsy)


Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, The Jakarta Post | Sun, 08/22/2010, Editorial

Mid-August is traditionally a solemn time for Indonesians. A period of remembrance of the nation’s sacrifice and struggle. A time to take stock of the past year, and set new goals for the coming one.

During this month of Ramadan, celebrations were more subdued but no less significant as the tasks, failings and challenges of the nation were laid before us.

As a country whose survival is founded on the need for unity (in diversity), the stark contrast at the grassroots level was plain to see. While the President proudly declared that he had dealt with discriminative laws, groups gathered to express concern at the government’s lack of action in “tolerating” attacks against freedom of religion.

More than 1,000 people protested last week the state’s silence on the persecution of religious minorities. Specifically they were concerned at the latest incidents at the HKBP Pondok Timur Indah church in Bekasi, east of Jakarta, after a year of persecution from Islamic hard-liners and intolerant local residents.

“We were evicted from our place of worship,” congregation members said.

Those who gathered came from a wide range of organizations, including the Institute for Democracy and Peace (Setara), the Wahid Institute, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and also several public figures.

No one must have been more thankful for Independence Day than convicts who received reduced sentences as part of the traditional remissions given by the government to mark Aug. 17.
Some 40,000 inmates across the country were granted remissions. These include 17 of 25 inmates convicted on terrorism-related charges and held at penitentiaries in Central Java. They had their sentences cut by up to five months.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s State of the Nation address garnered a ho-hum reaction from most pundits. It was an unimpressive 4,100 word speech of high platitudes that seem disconnected with the realities on the ground.

Both his speech and later presentation of the 2011 state budget proposal were underwhelming at best.

For most economists, they signaled stability without inspiring much impetus for newfound economic vigor.

The government’s targeted economic growth of 6.3 percent in 2011 was “quite realistic” given this year’s encouraging results, and many are hoping growth will exceed the predicted 5.8 percent this year.

However, there were questions on whether the GDP growth of between 7 percent and 7.7 percent between 2012 and 2014 could be truly achieved.

Unsatisfactory infrastructure, a weak investment climate, poor coordination between central and regional governments and lack of qualified human resources in the regions are the often cited factors hampering faster economic growth.

The President claims these targets will reduce the poverty rate to 12.5 percent of the total population in 2011 as more jobs are created, based on the government’s assumption that a 1 percent increase in economic growth would absorb 400,000 workers. It forecasts the 2010 poverty rate at 13.5 percent, versus 14.15 percent in 2009 (or 32.5 million people).

The 2010 inflation rate was placed at 5.3 percent through 2011, with the projection the rupiah would fluctuate between Rp 9,200 and Rp 9,850 against the US dollar over the next four years.

The conservative growth target also drew criticism. Former vice president Jusuf Kalla said the target was too low.

“Singapore can reach 13 percent, while Thailand is at 8 percent and the Philippines is at 7 percent.

We’re richer... The growth rate could be as high as 10 percent in four years time. Now, that’s realistic,” Kalla said after hearing the President’s speech.

The most notable and interesting development was the formal announcement of the national census results, with an increase of 32.5 million people over the last 10 years signaling a quiet population boom.

In the years 2000 to 2010, the country recorded population growth at 1.49 percent per year, higher than the population growth in the previous 10-year period – 1.4 percent per year – and also above the projected 1.2 percent growth estimate made by the BPS after the 2000 census.

According to results from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), Indonesia’s population stands at 237.6 million, up from 205.1 million in 2000, ensuring that the country will remain the world’s fourth largest nation by population, after China, India and the US.

These results were the sternest warning yet of the need to revitalize family planning programs.

National Family Planning Board (BKKBN) chairman Sugiri Syarief contended that family planning had been given scant attention over the last 10 years.

“The BPS has made its projections using the assumption that family planning would be carried out as well as it was in the 1990s but ... family planning has been neglected,” he said.

He added that the BKKBN needed an annual budget of Rp 3 trillion (US$333 million) to Rp 4 trillion to meet the national target of reducing growth rate to 1.1 percent by 2015.

The government allocated Rp 1.6 trillion for family planning this year. On our borders, the continuing flurry of counter claims with neighboring Malaysia persisted.

The latest dispute occurred when Malaysian Marine Police detained three Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry inspectors after the latter and other Indonesian officers arrested seven Malaysian fishermen for trespassing and illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.

The usual round of diplomatic protests and nationalistic grandstanding proceeded, but cooler heads prevailed. Ultimately a diplomatic solution is the only recourse.

— Meidyatama Suryodiningrat

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