Effective government may remain a dream

Posted by Admin on Thursday, 21 November 2002 | Opini

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Thu, 11/21/2002 12:00 AM

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo, Former Governor, National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas), Jakarta

It is clear that Indonesia badly needs an effective government: A government with a vision of a better Indonesia and with the capability to make it a reality. A government that can bring improvements to the disorder that has accumulated since the economic crisis.

The country and the people want more security and are tired of the worsening conditions of crime in the cities, ethnic conflicts, even the dangers on the roads and in trains.
As for the Bali tragedy, while it is most devastating, is not the first among the many incidents involving bombs that has disrupted people’s sense of security.

Other nations in the region have solved the problems encountered since the economic crisis, but Indonesia is still lagging behind. The flow of outgoing investors is not only an immediate effect of the Oct. 12 tragedy, and of course it is increasing now. Meanwhile, since the activities of small and medium enterprises are also without strong growth, it is obvious that unemployment has steadily increased also.

If the government is unable to make the economy grow and yield revenues, how can it meet President Megawati Soekarnoputri’s promise to increase the budget for the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police? Separately, how is one to enforce the decree of the People’s Consultative Assembly, that the government should prioritize national education by committing at least 20 percent of the budget to it?

The government has admitted that it cannot spend more than 4 percent on education in the coming year. Improving the security apparatus and national education are significant factors for the achievement of a better Indonesia, which has been the aim of the ""reform movement"" since 1998.

There are many other reasons why Indonesia needs an effective government. The present government is not effective because there is a lack of a strong and decisive leadership. For over 200 million people comprised of various ethnic groups, there can be no effective government without strong leadership. Strong leadership does not mean to be authoritarian, but a strong leader should be able to motivate and gain the confidence and respect of the people.

Strong leaders must therefore be able to reach the people and communicate with them. If former presidents Sukarno and Soeharto are strongly criticized, it is certainly not because of their lack of strength in leadership.

Although most of the people are not satisfied with the indecisive leadership of President Megawati, it is still better for the nation to have her as president rather than to replace her.

With the present political system, candidates for the presidency must be members of the political parties or must be elected by them. The political parties are not interested in electing anybody from outside, but then again, they don’t have leaders of a higher quality than Megawati either.

Certainly, it is not proper for the country to have three short-term governments in a row. Presidents B.J. Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid did not last longer than 20 months; it would be better if Megawati’s government could last at least until the 2004 elections.

Still, unless the President changes her style of leadership, we will not have an effective government until 2004. We might have a direct presidential election; nevertheless, political parties still have a lot of say because they will nominate the presidential candidates.

It is doubtful whether politicians can change their attitudes and be willing to nominate someone who is not from their ranks. A pity, because such independent candidates would broaden the scope for improving the national leadership, rather than relying only on party leaders. A possibility for an effective government lies in the possibility of strong leaders among independent candidates.

Nominations dominated by party leaders will mean nothing more than the candidates we observe today, namely: Megawati supported by her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Hamzah Haz with his United Development Party (PPP), Amien Rais from the National Mandate Party (PAN), and perhaps Abdurrahman Wahid, who seems ambitious about making a comeback supported by his National Awakening Party (PKB).

The problems surrounding Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung will make it difficult for that party to field an attractive candidate. Perhaps Yusril Ihza Mahendra from the Crescent Star Party (PBB) will also appear, as well as Ryaas Rasyid and Syahrir, who have both declared new political parties.

However, it is very doubtful whether these candidates can gain majority support, and this leads to the necessity of building coalitions. The best hope for an effective government in 2004 are independent candidates who have the confidence and respect of the majority of the people.

The elected non-party president may therefore be able to rally a political party to back him up, because his mass support may benefit the party backing him. This independent presidential candidate may thus have the chance to establish a government that may lead the nation effectively for at least five years.

There are admittedly many question marks in this analysis. The first is the uncertainty between now and 2004. One can only hope that in spite of the weaknesses of the present government, there will be no serious events with very negative consequences for the nation.

The second is whether, in 2004, there will appear an independent candidate who can build a strong support of the majority of the people. The third question, no less important, is the willingness of a political party to nominate an independent candidate for the presidential elections.

All these questions raise our doubts of having an effective government even in 2004.

There are those who play with the idea of military intervention. The TNI has no tradition of coup d’etat and so will not start one. The TNI leadership fully realizes that the people will not condone their interference in political affairs, especially since reformasi, and thus will not risk its reputation by gambling on it. The TNI is serious and fully committed in supporting the democratic process in Indonesia.

Unfortunately, this democratic process has not been able to develop effective leadership among the civilian political elite.

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