Articles

Indonesia Rising: Where is the controversy?

Perspektif Online
20 November 2009

This piece was written by invitation, but the publication declined to publish it because it was regarded as too controversial. I will not reveal the name of the Jakarta publciation. It was not the Jakarta Post or the Jakarta Globe. It is a bit dated now but I think the concept is still fresh, that Indonesia might be a bird that always rises from ashes. lHave a look and tell me what you find controversial.

 

 

Indonesia Rising
by: Wimar Witoelar
The murder trial of Antasari Azhar was thrown into an uproar on Tuesday when a key witness claimed that police had set up Indonesia's former anti-corruption czar to be the main suspect of their investigation into the high-profile murder of businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen.
Wiliardi Wizar, a middle-rank National Police officer and a co-defendant in the murder, was supposed to testify against Antasari. Instead, he said that he had been forced by National Police and Jakarta city police investigators to make statements that would implicate Antasari, who was chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) at the time of the March 14 murder.
The last few weeks have seen a deluge of political news, each following the other in rapid succession and seemingly too bizarre to be true. Hot off the press as this piece is written, formal testimony in a Jakarta courtroom is given by the South Jakarta Chief of Police. It is testimony that could split the political system into fragments, and turn our democracy to ashes, Our thoughts now  turn to the mythical tale of a phoenix rising from the ashes.
A phoenix is a mythical bird with a very long life-cycle, near the end of which the nest and the bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix rises, reborn anew to live again. Indonesia has been reduced to ashes in a manner speaking, several times in its hist ory. There was the Dutch East Indies which joined the world in the cataclysmic event that was W orld War Two where empires collapsed and new nations sprung up. The Indonesia of 1945 was very much a phoenix rising from the ashes. Whatever the rudimentary form of the nation, it was a proud bird of nationalism that soared high above of its colonial history and the humiliation of Japanese occupation. Nobody remembers what Indonesia achieved, the birth of a nation was carried over into revolutionary romanticism as Sukarno grew into the nation's most charismatic figure.  Indonesia solidified its identity as a nation, using such a heavy dose of idealism that it lost the capacity of rationality. After forays into international adventures against neocolonialism colonialism and imperialism (the infamous Nekolim), the nation crashed again as Indonesia turned into ashes in 1965. 
The year of 1966 saw the Indonesian phoenix rise again. What we neglected in 1945, managerial skills, was brought into society with a vengeance. Suharto, an unknown young general in 1966, turned into Asia's strongman of  much of the seventies, eighties and nineties. Indonesia was poised to take its place among the tigers of Asia, when its progress sputtered much like an athlete became dominated by illicit drugs. In the case of the Suharto's New Order, the two main drugs were corruption and violence. One feeds into the other. A corrupt system was allowed to grow under protection of violent power. Strong structures of power were funded by money sourced from corruption. And the nation turned to ashes again in 1998.
But soon signs of life appeared in the form of freedom. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and wider political and social freedoms. The new Indonesian Phoenix flies once more, overcoming mass violence in the first five years of a society undergoing reform. But as violence recedes from the scene, corruption is still endemic. We are now experiencing convulsions as the nation tries to free itself from the age-old addiction of greed. Now concentrated, but by no means limited to the key law enforcement agencies, the National Police and the Attorney General's Office.
We do not know where we are in the gripping drama of corruption and conspiracies, murder and frame-up. For days stretching into weeks, debates have been droning on television, in the parliament and on the internet, expressing outrage and excuses in the police persecution of Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M Hamzah, commissioners in the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) a young 6-year-old special commission set up to fill the gap left by the incompetence of the Police and the AGO. Although it was designed as an interim agency to allow time for the permanent institutions to strengthen, elements in the Police and AGO saw the KPK as a threat. 
Rogue elements in the National Police staged a vendetta against the KPK, cynically  flaunting the power they are used to in the old days. But they overplayed their strength  by callously trying  to ‘criminalize’  top KPK officials, seen as step to actually dislodge the effective anti-corruption agency. Fortunately the public reacted admirably in a display of people power, using Facebook as a mobilizing tool . The President kept his tool while keeping a firm hold on the process. His speech last Friday was another SBY  display of courage since the presidential campaign. Following the nomination of Boediono, his clear stand against terrorism in the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott bombings, and his cabinet appointments , he is showing himself to be a leader who knows what he has to do.  His stubborn refusal to intervene in legal processes while clearly stating his support of KPK gave strong cover to the public process. This is expected  to minimize damage to legal and institutional framework as the inexorable tide of reform sets in.
Despite the gloomy spectre of institutional battles, the ashes they will turn into will see the new Indonesia rise again. There is hope in our future,. The May 1998 people power  movement went against  the system and brought down President Suharto down. The 2009 people power defends the system and is likely to strengthen President Yudhoyono for his five-year term.. 
If, as we all hope, the President makes the right decisions in time.

 

by: Wimar Witoelar

painting by Dana Helmig from http://www.flickr.com/photos/horizonsmoon1/3425703733/

 

The murder trial of Antasari Azhar was thrown into an uproar on Tuesday when a key witness claimed that police had set up Indonesia's former anti-corruption czar to be the main suspect of their investigation into the high-profile murder of businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen.

Wiliardi Wizar, a middle-rank National Police officer and a co-defendant in the murder, was supposed to testify against Antasari. Instead, he said that he had been forced by National Police and Jakarta city police investigators to make statements that would implicate Antasari, who was chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) at the time of the March 14 murder.

The last few weeks have seen a deluge of political news, each following the other in rapid succession and seemingly too bizarre to be true. Hot off the press as this piece is written, formal testimony in a Jakarta courtroom is given by the South Jakarta Chief of Police. It is testimony that could split the political system into fragments, and turn our democracy to ashes, Our thoughts now  turn to the mythical tale of a phoenix rising from the ashes.

A phoenix is a mythical bird with a very long life-cycle, near the end of which the nest and the bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix rises, reborn anew to live again. Indonesia has been reduced to ashes in a manner speaking, several times in its history. There was the Dutch East Indies which joined the world in the cataclysmic event that was World War Two where empires collapsed and new nations sprung up. The Indonesia of 1945 was very much a phoenix rising from the ashes. Whatever the rudimentary form of the nation, it was a proud bird of nationalism that soared high above of its colonial history and the humiliation of Japanese occupation. Nobody remembers what Indonesia achieved, the birth of a nation was carried over into revolutionary romanticism as Sukarno grew into the nation's most charismatic figure.  Indonesia solidified its identity as a nation, using such a heavy dose of idealism that it lost the capacity of rationality. After forays into international adventures against neocolonialism colonialism and imperialism (the infamous Nekolim), the nation crashed again as Indonesia turned into ashes in 1965. 

The year of 1966 saw the Indonesian phoenix rise again. What we neglected in 1945, managerial skills, was brought into society with a vengeance. Suharto, an unknown young general in 1966, turned into Asia's strongman of  much of the seventies, eighties and nineties. Indonesia was poised to take its place among the tigers of Asia, when its progress sputtered much like an athlete became dominated by illicit drugs. In the case of the Suharto's New Order, the two main drugs were corruption and violence. One feeds into the other. A corrupt system was allowed to grow under protection of violent power. Strong structures of power were funded by money sourced from corruption. And the nation turned to ashes again in 1998.

But soon signs of life appeared in the form of freedom. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and wider political and social freedoms. The new Indonesian Phoenix flies once more, overcoming mass violence in the first five years of a society undergoing reform. But as violence recedes from the scene, corruption is still endemic. We are now experiencing convulsions as the nation tries to free itself from the age-old addiction of greed. Now concentrated, but by no means limited to the key law enforcement agencies, the National Police and the Attorney General's Office.

We do not know where we are in the gripping drama of corruption and conspiracies, murder and frame-up. For days stretching into weeks, debates have been droning on television, in the parliament and on the internet, expressing outrage and excuses in the police persecution of Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M Hamzah, commissioners in the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) a young 6-year-old special commission set up to fill the gap left by the incompetence of the Police and the AGO. Although it was designed as an interim agency to allow time for the permanent institutions to strengthen, elements in the Police and AGO saw the KPK as a threat. 

Rogue elements in the National Police staged a vendetta against the KPK, cynically  flaunting the power they are used to in the old days. But they overplayed their strength  by callously trying  to ‘criminalize’  top KPK officials, seen as step to actually dislodge the effective anti-corruption agency. Fortunately the public reacted admirably in a display of people power, using Facebook as a mobilizing tool . The President kept his tool while keeping a firm hold on the process. His speech last Friday was another SBY  display of courage since the presidential campaign. Following the nomination of Boediono, his clear stand against terrorism in the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott bombings, and his cabinet appointments , he is showing himself to be a leader who knows what he has to do.  His stubborn refusal to intervene in legal processes while clearly stating his support of KPK gave strong cover to the public process. This is expected  to minimize damage to legal and institutional framework as the inexorable tide of reform sets in.

Despite the gloomy spectre of institutional battles, the ashes they will turn into will see the new Indonesia rise again. There is hope in our future,. The May 1998 people power  movement went against  the system and brought down President Suharto. The 2009 people power defends the system and is likely to strengthen President Yudhoyono for his five-year term.. 

If, as we all hope, the President makes the right decisions in time.

 

 

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8 Comments:

  1. From Jacqui on 21 November 2009 18:45:07 WIB
    Great article bang Wim, my feelings exactly. You are absolutely right to celebrate the incredible strength of the Indonesian people, their commonsense and eternal, crackling energy to rise up and make their views heard when the political situation requires it. If only the politically apathetic west could have a little of the electricity of Indonesian civil society!
  2. From rhesa on 22 November 2009 05:04:13 WIB
    Don`t worry Mr. Wimar,.. the Phoenix will be rise again :-)
  3. From dmitri on 22 November 2009 20:49:06 WIB
    Henry's left hand is controversial. this is not
  4. From Chandra on 22 November 2009 23:15:03 WIB
    Nothing controversial. Simply against the mainstream.
  5. From Andy on 23 November 2009 13:20:30 WIB
    Sir, Your article is too optimist and does not criticize SBY enough. A suitable op-ed piece in Indoesia media today must (A) Picture the country as gloomy as possible, repeated use of "ironically" is preferred (B) picture SBY as slow/indecisive/image-conscious. Putting SBY and "courage" in one sentance is an absolute no-no.

    Needless to say, your article falls short on both counts and hence does not deserve publication.
  6. From wimar on 23 November 2009 13:24:16 WIB
    Very good, Andy. You should either (A) join the editorial staff of that publication or (B)write your own column. You have talent, I am sure.
  7. From Yusuf Suryadin on 29 December 2009 09:54:15 WIB
    it's too bad that perspektif shows on television been stopped, it's a good show bung!
    and about your article above, it's inspiring and making our eyes opened...

    :)
  8. From muhammad yusuf on 30 January 2010 01:47:17 WIB
    ane quote bang..... indonesia an old state with new society, kyknya itu dah cukup merefleksikan deh.............. keep on posting bang..........

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