Sat, 24 May 2003

Capital should lead by example

Arya Abhiseka, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The reform movement, marked by the fall of Soeharto in May 1998, also gave birth to regional autonomy. This gives regional government authority in governing its own region.

The idea is warmly welcomed by the regions for promoting the spirit of democracy and testing their own potential to manage themselves.

Despite being the country's center for economic and government activity, Jakarta is considered, ironically, to have failed in educating the nation on the practice of democracy.

As in other provinces, the governor of Jakarta is elected by the local council. But while village chiefs are elected directly by the people, subdistrict chiefs here are appointed by the governor. In other provinces regents have the authority to rule their region, but in Jakarta, its regent and five mayors are under the control of the governor.

Jakarta is not as democratic as other provinces, thanks to Law No.34/1999 on Jakarta as the special capital administration, which has given extraordinary power to the governor.

The law is currently being revised by the House of Representatives. One of the main points agreed is a direct gubernatorial election to promote democratic governance in Jakarta.

In a recent discussion of the law, activist Azas Tigor Nainggolan, from the Jakarta Social Institute (ISJ), said that Jakarta should have set an example in the practice of democracy for its reputation as the nation's leader in critical thinking.

He said the city administration's failure to directly elect its leaders would downgrade the city's image, as that did not promote democratic principles.

A direct gubernatorial election for Jakarta is essential, he said.

"It is logical to have a direct gubernatorial election, as the upcoming presidential and legislative election in 2004 will also use the direct election system," said Tigor.

He explained that through the direct election the leader would directly be responsible to the people, thus eliminating the possibility of bribery, which allegedly occurred during the reelection of Sutiyoso last year.

"Transparency can easily be maintained as the public will have the right to question or to ask for accountability," he said.

"What we need now is clean government that can give us clear answers to our questions. That can only be achieved through direct gubernatorial elections," he concluded.

The current governor was elected by city councillors. A majority of the 85-member City Council voted for Sutiyoso, despite strong protest from students and many others.

Sutiyoso, was first appointed in 1997 under the Soeharto regime. Before he held the position of governor, he was the Jakarta Military Commander. It was during this period that the July 27, 1996, bloody attack on the Indonesian Democratic Party headquarters occurred. Sutiyoso remains implicated in the attack but, as of today, a thorough investigation into the incident has still to be carried out.