Mon, 10 Oct 1994

Can we stop anarchy and still promote openness?

By Mochtar Buchori

JAKARTA (JP): Political speeches by our national leaders during the last three or four months have carried a very clear message: Openness should not be carried too far and excessive openness will inevitably lead to chaos and anarchy.

No Indonesian in their right mind wants chaos and anarchy in our society. The lessons that can be drawn from Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and other countries are clear enough: chaos and anarchy only bring misery to the people.

On the other hand, no Indonesian who truly believes in Pancasila can tolerate policies that suppress the growth of openness in our society. Without openness it is next to impossible to implement and uphold humanitarianism, the people's sovereignty and social justice; three of the five principles of Pancasila.

It is imperative that we understand clearly the nature of openness and the origin of chaos and anarchy. As far as I can understand it, openness means willingness to make matters of public concern open for public inspection. Within our society the principle of openness does not require popular personalities to expose their private lives to the public. Openness in our society means simply that holders of public office must oppose every attempt to keep the public ignorant concerning matters of vital concern.

Chaos and anarchy, on the other hand, are consequences of failure to restrain ourselves and failure to respect rules regarding public order. They have nothing to do with access to information regarding matters of public interest. A community or society becomes chaotic and vulnerable to anarchy if and when the majority of its members no longer trust each other and abandon the collective values that underlie orderly co-existence.

It is exactly the combination of these two events that ultimately caused chaos and anarchy in Haiti and Rwanda. There is in my understanding no direct causal relationship between openness on the one hand and chaos and anarchy on the other.

The question we have to answer is how we should work toward preventing chaos and anarchy in the future without abandoning what we have achieved so far in promoting openness in our society.

We have to admit in this connection that certain conditions in our society today could lead toward chaos and anarchy in the future. Social tensions that have arisen in our society as a consequence of events, which are perceived as offending the public sense of justice and decency, like embezzlement of funds at state banks, the continuously soaring price of cement and the presence of groups which seem to be beyond the reach of law, for instance, could if unchecked, lead toward real chaos and anarchy.

In real life, chaos and anarchy can be caused by various kinds of events and conditions. They can be averted only if we correctly identify their true sources. It is therefore more promising, I think, for simultaneously promoting social order and democracy in our society if we learn to identify and to manage the specific events which at any one time cause public discord and mutual distrust among us.

It is a difficult and painful process, but it is the only way through which we can reach democracy without chaos and stability without deceptions. We have to realize in this regard that it is only this kind of stability which is capable of sustaining creativity, an indispensable ingredient for our national development. It is a stability which cannot be achieved without a sufficient amount of democracy in these modern times.

The decisions we are going to have to make at this juncture with regard to these two problems, openness and stability, will have far-reaching consequences. Whether or not we will be able to enhance our dignity as a nation in the future will depend, to a fairly large extent, on our actual decision in this regard.

The writer is rector of Muhammadiyah University, Jakarta.