Sun, 07 Mar 1999

Expert opinion? You'll have to decide for yourself

JAKARTA (JP): Every single day, people are bombarded with comments by observers on the continuing economic and political crises -- a topic that has been dominating the media since the trouble began in July 1997.

But what do the people think about all this punditry? Do they really believe, or care about, every word of these "experts"? Or are they already fed up with the opinion overflow?

The Jakarta Post talked to people from various backgrounds in search of their opinions.

Uster Siregar, a security guard at the Central Jakarta District Court's detention room:

Right now, there are too many commentators voicing their different opinions on television or through the print media. They only confuse me. Who should I believe?

Even those with the same educational background that have studied at the same universities offer different suggestions on what to do, including in the legal field where I work. I see it also happen in politics and other fields.

I am sure that many other low-ranking civil servants feel confused as well.

I believe that critics, political leaders and government officials should discuss the country's problems together so they can come up with some measures that lead to real solutions and thus to the improvement of the country, instead of confusing us.

Rita Olivia, a lawyer at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute:

It is very important for our country to have all these observers. People might get confused when hearing or reading so many different statements, but it will be useful in the future. Listening to various opinions will help them learn to appreciate political freedom.

One thing that has become more difficult, though, is to differentiate between those making observations on the political developments and those writing for their own purpose. After hearing their comments, one has to pick out the valuable opinions and then make his own judgment.

During the New Order era, it was a lot easier to select opinions from observers as there weren't that many. Then you only had pro- and anti-government voices.

But it has now become very interesting to hear so many people express their different opinions.

Satrio A., bank employee:

I think that most of the statements made by experts or observers on the country's political and economic condition cannot be taken seriously. We never know whether they are made to serve their own interests or are honest attempts to find a solution to our problems.

I read newspapers and watch television every day but it is only out of curiosity. I just want to know 'what they will say this time'.

I prefer reading stories on human interest subjects or crime reports. Crime news is important to allow us to take the necessary precautions.

An executive at Indo Pacific Public Relations who asked for anonymity:

I don't care what observers say on television or write in the print media. I don't want to hear them. It's useless.

The observers all have different opinions, but fail to offer real solutions.

By not listening to so many predictions and statements on the political and economical situation, I feel more optimistic. Listening to everybody's opinions only makes me feel pessimistic about the future.

Lukman, a student at the National University's School of Political and Social Science:

Observers on television or in the print media present useful information. I feel I can learn a lot from them.

They help me gather information about the political situation and make sense out of all the fast developments. Although there are many opinions being raised, I can't see the disadvantage of it: There were too many issues that could not be discussed during the New Order regime.

Nevertheless, we should be able to screen statements that are being offered. We cannot just 'eat' all of the comments without analyzing with an open mind. And, last but not least, it's interesting reading.

Dwi Karyati, a 37-year-old housewife and a mother of three:

I do not read newspapers very much, only occasionally when my husband brings one home from his office. But I do watch television, including the news.

I know there are plenty of experts commenting on the economic crisis and political situation here. But they only confuse me. They pretend their statements really matter, but it's foolish to believe the government will ever listen to what they say. In reality, nothing really happens. Their comments are forgotten as soon as the news ends.

If you take a good look around you will see that the economy is not getting better just because all the experts air their suggestions through the media. Take a look at reality: Prices remain high and crime rates are going up.

Eka Yunita, a junior executive of a British shipping company in Jakarta:

I am very skeptical about people claiming to fight or do something good for the sake of our nation.

I think that nowadays there are many leaders fighting for their own personal interests. Also, a lot of people are not really concerned about the situation, but only want to become popular.

I think it would be better if people would actually set an example by living a modest lifestyle rather than talking too much and making empty promises.

When I worked as a social worker last year, I saw neighborhood leaders and heads of certain social foundations favoring their families when distributing the social safety net donations.

The so-called corruption, collusion and nepotism is rampant among society's leaders. This is why experience teaches me to be skeptical and beware of other people's vested interests.

Ramadhan, an entrepreneur living in Pondok Mandala, Cimanggis, Bogor:

People should be cautious. Nowadays, even legal experts and economists dare to cheat and lie as soon as they are involved in politics or bureaucracy.

I think it has become difficult to find a leader who does not follow his personal interests. But I am optimistic about the future. These are the normal side effects of a country that is just learning about democracy.

Anak Agung Sastra Wigraha, an employee of a leasing company in Jakarta:

I am fed up with the opinions presented by 'experts' in the media. I think that the so-called experts only address their personal agendas. They try to convey anything that serves their own ends.

At present, I only read or watch breaking news in newspapers and on TV.

The only comments I listen to are by the people who are respected and known for their expertise. (ste/jun/kod/byg)