Effective leadership needed in reform movement

Posted by Admin on Saturday, 28 September 2002 | Opini

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 09/28/2002 12:00 AM

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

Although some people say that our reform movement is on the right track, many others are of a different opinion.

There are even people who consider the movement to have failed or to have been defeated by the ""anti-reform"" people. At least we must agree that the movement is stagnating. Can we recover from this situation?

In 1998 when the movement started, the situation was very different. Most Indonesians were unified because they wanted immediate change — an end of the authoritarian regime of president Soeharto that had brought so much suffering. The students responded to this strong demand for change and pioneered the reform movement.

The people’s unity and the students’ dynamic spirit made the movement effective enough to lead to Soeharto’s resignation. There was no strong and distinct leadership that guided the movement; the unity of its supporters rendered this unnecessary.

However, after having toppled Soeharto, the reform movement faced an entirely different situation. The reformists had agreed to the need for change, from authoritarian rule to democracy, with all its freedoms, such as freedom of the press and freedom of opinion.

They had also agreed on the need to end the widespread corruption, collusion and nepotism, or KKN, that had accumulated during the Soeharto regime and which had made Indonesia one of the world’s most corrupt nations. Therefore legal supremacy had to be restored; the widening gap between rich and poor had to be addressed and an economic system was needed that placed the highest priority on the role and the prosperity of the common people. There needed to be more autonomy for the provinces to enable people to make their own decisions. Moreover, revenue from natural resources had to be used to enrich the people located in these areas.

However, after four years of this movement toward ""reform"" it seems that people who are not used to having so much freedom do not know how to make use of it for creating a healthy life.

Many groups with different aspirations and objectives only think of their own interests. Corruption is increasing because more people are now involved. Politicians in the central and regional legislative councils shamelessly demand money from everybody who depends on their decisions. They could not do that when Soeharto was in power, because he made all the decisions himself. Officials in the bureaucracy and in the judiciary are continuing with KKN as usual. It is quite possible that the amount of corrupted money today has increased from the amounts involved in the past.

Criminality has increased in terms of quantity as well as viciousness, because of the ineffectiveness of law enforcers, including the police. People take the law into their own hands, even burning suspected criminals to death.

The newly acquired freedom has also activated ethnic sentiments. Physical conflicts between ethnic groups have very dire consequences and are worsening domestic security. This became more acute when Muslims and Christians started to fight each other. National unity has become endangered, with several provinces threatening to separate from the Republic.

Neither has the economy improved, still mired as it is in the legacy of the crisis of 1997, while most of the East Asian nations that were also affected are on the way to recovery.

It is worse when badly needed new investors are not willing to take the risks caused by the poor domestic security. Many companies are closing their businesses here and moving to neighboring countries with more conducive conditions. Obviously all these developments are cause for increasing unemployment, worsening the deterioration of social and security conditions.

The ineffectiveness of the government from the beginning of the reform movement is a significant factor in our stagnation. President B.J. Habibie’s government is often mentioned as the right government at the wrong time; meaning that Habibie personally could have become a good president, but his basic weakness was that many people looked at him, rightly or wrongly, as the continuation of Soeharto.

Abdurrahman Wahid, who replaced Habibie in 1999, initially had the support of many who saw in him a democrat and a humanist. However, he could not control himself, which led to his downfall in 2001. President Megawati Soekarnoputri, his replacement and the leader of the country’s largest political party, seems to have difficulty in being decisive.

The result is that the law today is still far from supreme, corruption is increasing daily, domestic security is not improving and the nation is without a clear direction.

Also, Indonesia is being badly harmed by the actions of foreign countries that are seeking to strengthen their interests in Indonesia, as the largest nation in Southeast Asia with a very significant strategic location and important natural resources.

Not only is the existence of the unitary republic endangered, the fate of Indonesia as an independent nation-state is now at stake.

The current stagnation is likely the result of a lack of effective leadership. All the presidents and governments after Soeharto were unable to demonstrate the leadership required to steer the reform movement in the right direction. Without a strong and effective leadership the movement became split into many parts, each going its own way. The lack of leadership also badly influenced morality, which was already low during the Soeharto era.

Social solidarity is non-existent when everybody and every group does not want to listen to one another, let alone harmonize their interests with others.

If we want to overcome our weaknesses in leadership we have to look at our political parties, which in a democratic system have the most important role in political developments. However, looking at the personalities in the parties and considering their track records, one cannot place too much hope in the political parties to make any improvements in national leadership.

Indeed, there are many smart people among the party members, but smart people are not automatically effective leaders. And without the ability to develop strong and effective leaders, the political parties will not be able to unite the nation.

It is therefore questionable whether general elections with a proportional system, favorable to political parties, can solve the leadership problem.

Recently senior journalists from the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) declared a movement to promote unity among all the people who still value patriotism and nationalism. The PWI plans a national campaign in the provinces, but without the participation of the political parties that are now distrusted by many people.

This gesture will hopefully have a positive influence and help prevent actions that jeopardize the reform movement — such as the reported intention of certain people to spark a revolution by manipulating frustrated students and other people. There is no sign of a capable and effective leadership in this planned ""revolution"" — it would instead only increase people’s suffering.

Source :

RSS feed | Trackback URI

Comments »

No comments yet.

Name (required)
E-mail (required - never shown publicly)
Your Comment (smaller size | larger size)
You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

Trackback responses to this post