Tue, 13 Jun 2000

Indonesian Axis aiming at middle classes: Eros

The following is an excerpt of an interview with Eros Djarot, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and a founder of the new Indonesian Axis (Poros Indonesia) group:

Question: What do you think about the changes in Indonesia?

Answer: The current situation needs wise, mature and directed leadership. We don't have any platforms for politics, economics, social or cultural views, which can serve as a kind of guidance to the public.

Judicial reform has also been idle. Everything seems idle and everyone is just waiting. Ministers, director generals and directors at various ministers just wait to make decisions.

Q: Why?

A: I think it's because President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) doesn't have any fixed guidelines. There's a kind of inconsistency and doubt. So everyone is just waiting with caution ... which is good, but the implication is that there are no decisions being taken, while political and economic burdens increase. We need concrete solutions.

Q: What about Gus Dur?

A: I'd believe in him if he was healthy. We know he can't write and read due to being half-blind. This is serious for Indonesia in this situation. His style of leadership also plays a part. His clerical style (he used to head a traditional Islamic boarding school or pesantren) is reactive instead of being creative, and it can cause internal conflict. He should not have formed several councils, such as the National Economic Council without having clear concepts.

Q: Do you think that Gus Dur contributed to the current scandals, including the Bulog affair?

A: At the very least he's responsible for the Bulog scandal, and how it happened. If the government had a check and recheck system, it would not be possible for someone to steal like that. We have to be able to criticize Gus Dur, and we shouldn't be fearful to do so just because he's a cleric.

We have to respect his willingness to govern Indonesia at this critical time. His physical condition easily leads to incidents like Suwondo (the prime suspect in the Rp 35 billion-Bulog scandal). Who is checking the letters to be signed by Gus Dur? Under whose oath are they assigned? But it's not about Gus Dur at all; this is about our country.

Q: That's why you set up Poros Indonesia?

A: Yes. Poros Indonesia is for the middle classes to rebuild their confidence and self-reliance. We really want to contribute what we have, to do something hand-in-hand, and not just wait.

The decision-makers are unable to decide -- for how much longer? What I'm worried about is what will happen when there's no trust anymore in political parties. That would be dangerous for democracy.

There should be someone to do something to involve the middle classes from various parties. This is a cross section of the various parties. Let's work. We can't just wait around while the problems get more complicated.

We've chosen a cultural movement -- how to understand morality and responsibility. We see certain people are still competing to get seats in the government and state-owned enterprises. It's so miserable. What we want to see is real programs, for instance in debt restructuring, privatization, economic growth and so on, which can be understood by the public.

Q: Why the middle classes?

A: Because we don't want to burden the lower classes anymore. We want to avoid rallies, which usually lead to the poor joining in.

What we're doing now is sharing among the middle class, with the results for the poor. Political parties do not have to be afraid (of us) as we're not mass-oriented. We just want to help people to be proud again as Indonesians...

Q: So Poros Indonesia is a non-formal organization for the middle classes...

A: Well, we have a structure. Whether Poros Indonesia will be a political party will depend on the existing political parties. If these parties are all good, why should we be a political party?

The original aim was just to rebuild our confidence as Indonesians and rebuild the nation. We can hear people abroad putting us down, saying corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN) have returned to Indonesia.

Q: Are their any conditions for prospective members of the group?

A: They must never have committed economic crimes, violated human rights or performed criminal acts. People of various backgrounds have joined. We want to prove that we can really be clean. So we are very cautious when selecting funds. At least we are not saying that we are anti-KKN but also doing our own version (of the practice.)

Q: Are you sure that is possible?

A: If I wasn't I wouldn't be doing anything.

Q: Are you sure that Poros Indonesia can be useful?

A: It's so difficult now to be an Indonesian. I asked people from various parties (who have joined the group) to set aside their attributes and symbols. Just be Indonesians and stop criticizing without seeking solutions.

We have a lot of potential people from many fields: several political parties, academia, cultural groups and the capital market, as well as members of the House of Representatives.

I believe in morality and intellectualism, so I prefer a few members who are solid (in their commitment). Poros Indonesia is for solidarity and open to anyone who does not want to blame others...

Q: You mentioned funding. Are you ready for transparency?

A: We must be... We have declined some funds from unclear sources. We want to do everything easily and not make problems. (I. Christianto)