Sun, 06 Aug 2000

Is Gus Dur living up to people's expectations?

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid is scheduled to present his progress report at the Annual Session of People's Consultative Assembly, which starts on Monday.

People are putting high hopes on President Gus Dur -- as he is popularly called -- who came to power last October as Indonesia's fourth president. They hope that the President will bring the nation out of crisis, getting them out of the prolonged politic and economic ruin. But things do not seem to be running smoothly.

The Jakarta Post talked to people from all walks of life about their ideas regarding Gus Dur:

Soenarto Pr, painter/sculptor, 68, from Kembangan, West Jakarta, Muslim and Javanese:

Gus Dur is a realistic-naturalistic artist, like a painter who covers every inch of the canvas with a paint first, Gus Dur covers every part of Indonesia. The form of the painting cannot be seen, but all areas have been touched.

A painter works five times over his creation, first to cover the canvas with paint, second to work on the composition, and third to start on the form. The fourth time, the shape of the painting can be seen, but only on the fifth time to the canvass can the painting be seen as the painter means it to be.

Gus Dur's already touched a little bit of all areas. In those areas, he pays attention to the stroke (of the brush), the color, and the composition. But only a little bit at a time.

His difficulty is that he has to work on a damaged canvas. If it was a new clean canvas, his work would be very easy, but Gus Dur has to work with a canvas damaged by 32 years of decay.

We have to appreciate this, that Gus Dur has a very tough job.

I cannot say that Gus Dur has made no mistakes or experienced no failures. Because, again in painting, the first stroke, whether or not it is wrong, would go towards a better second stroke. It would support the next stroke, and the next.

Gus Dur's main achievement is his ability to gain foreign support for the territorial integrity of Indonesia. But people are not easily appeased. Gus Dur should be wary of those who want to destroy the country.

I think he needs to be given time and not be harassed.

The combination of Gus Dur and Megawati is very good. If Megawati becomes president, those against her would try even harder to dislodge her, which would anger her followers.

Gus Dur is the mediator, he is the middle choice. Yet it seemed that now his position is in danger.

Hendrawan, national badminton player, 27, ethnic Chinese, resident of East Jakarta.

Gus Dur has yet to fulfill the people's expectations, but I see he's going in that direction. Unfortunately, his path is not smooth because many people are trying to interfere. He hasn't done much, but people have been impatient expecting instant reform.

His toughest challenge is to eradicate corruption, collusion and nepotism, which has become our culture. I experience it every time I have to renew my ID, drivers' license, or passport.

Gus Dur has given freedom to people, especially ethnic Chinese like me. We can celebrate Chinese culture and speak Chinese.

Unfortunately, he prefers to speak first and think later. Sometimes this confuses the public, but I personally think it's OK.

I support Gus Dur to finish his tenure until 2004. The situation in Indonesia must be changed slowly and people must realize that it can't be done instantly. Give him time to work.

H. Sutartono, an architect, resident of the Jatinegara district, East Jakarta:

Gus Dur has failed to present himself as a president.

His controversial statements affected efforts to improve economic conditions.

But he has won public sympathy, even among non supporters, as people can finally accept him as a national leader. They know that the political elite are the ones creating the problems. They understand that Gus Dur cannot fix things in a matter of months.

Gus Dur should be given a chance to rule the country.

It's not because I have doubts about the leadership of Ibu Megawati, but the country is experiencing serious political and social problems. It will ensure stability if he remains as president.

Cut Nurasikin, 45, businesswoman and chairwoman of the Banda Aceh-based Yayasan Srikandi Aceh nonprofit foundation:

I don't think that Gus Dur has met our expectations. But he's still the best compared to previous presidents. He is very democratic and a humanist.

His biggest achievement is in laying down the foundation of democracy while his biggest failure is in confusing people with his conflicting statements.

His challenges are the undemocratic people around him. When he taught people about democracy, he was attacked by those people. He once spoke about a referendum in Aceh and immediately they attacked him. I believe the conflict in Aceh could have been reduced and settled if he had been given the chance.

He should remain president until 2004. He has not broken the Constitution, has he? If the people want to unseat him now, why did they elect him? The Assembly must be consistent. If it had acted fairly, Megawati would be president, instead of Gus Dur.

Abdul Gani Nurdin, 55, a teacher at the School of Agriculture, Syah Kuala University, Banda Aceh, and chairman of the testimony team for the Independent Commission for Violence in Aceh:

Gus Dur has the good will to mend the country as expected by the people. But, he has not met expectation due to the political elites who are lacking a spirit of democracy.

He has few achievements to speak of. He has made some efforts to promote reform and democracy. But he failed because he is aides are mostly authoritarian.

His biggest failure is that he has kept KKN (corruption, collusion and nepotistic practices) alive.

Unseating Gus Dur before 2004 would not solve anything. The most important thing to do is to improve democratic awareness among the political elites. Megawati for president? No way.

Angger Jati Wijaya, 35, activist of Yogyakarta NGO Forum:

Gus Dur succeeded in pushing the military out of the political arena,

He has no sense of priority in handling the crisis.

He was elected President because he was widely accepted by parties with various interests. Gus Dur should keep his job but with some changes. He must stop making confusing statements and stop his one-man-show leadership style. He should become a statesman instead of a politician.

Sastroutomo, 60, a door-to-door shoe repair man in Yogyakarta:

Gus Dur is straight and honest. He is a kyai (elder teacher). As a president he is good. He has supernatural powers, or else he would not have been elected President.

His achievement? I'm sorry. What I know is that prices are still high. The monetary crisis is still here. Things would probably be different if Megawati were President. She is generous and I believe she could make things better.

It would be better for Gus Dur to return to his previous life as a kyai. No one would attack him. I'm sad to hear that people say bad things about him. We should respect a kyai.

Ira Lasmidara, 24, student of the School of Communications, Padjadjaran University, Bandung:

Gus Dur will retain his post until 2004, as he has the support of the people. He was elected president when Indonesia was starting to build its democracy.

He has failed to rebuild the economy but he has planted the seeds of democracy and has promoted free speech. He has anticipated and lessened the threat of disintegration. His main challenges are the economy and poverty and KKN.

Megawati would make a better president than Gus Dur.

But I believe he is encouraging us to learn to live with our differences of opinion.

There is no one else better than him (for the presidency) for the time being.

Asep Sutisna, 23, a junior high school graduate working at a telecommunication kiosk in Bandung:

I'm pessimistic that he can stay until 2004. He fails as a leader. His statements sway with the wind. He fails to keep his word. He promised to bring prices down, but nothing changed. I respect him, as he has promoted free speech.

The main challenges he is facing are economic recovery and KKN.

Common people don't care who is president.

Megawati is too silent, and she doesn't look like a thinker. I don't think she makes a good leader. Amien Rais (speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly) just talks and talks. Akbar Tandjung (speaker of the House of Representatives) was part of the New Order regime.

So it's not that easy to say who can lead the country.

Haslinda, a 22-year-old woman born in Gowa regency, South Sulawesi, working for a private company in Makassar:

To some extent, Abdurrahman has met the people's expectations, especially in promoting democracy and freedom of speech. But he is inconsistent with his statements.

His big achievement is in promoting democracy. And his big failure is his inability to bring Soeharto to trial.

He can stand until 2004. I don't think Megawati would make a good president. She lacks leadership.

Iwan Taruna, 24, born in Bone regency, South Sulawesi, student at the School of Social and Political Science, Hasanuddin University, Makassar:

Gus Dur has not fulfilled the people's hopes. He has yet to conduct the reform agenda consistently. He is involved in some KKN practices, instead of eliminating them.

He has not made any achievement. He is too busy consolidating his powers. His big failure is his inability to mend the economy and settle conflicts in some areas.

The main challenges he is facing are the economic agenda and the conflicts between religions in some provinces.

It's up to him if he can stay until 2004. Is he able to deal with the economic problems and the bloody clashes in some places?

I don't think Megawati can lead the country. She would eventually bring new frictions among the people as many are against her vice presidential post. This is very dangerous.

Ahmad Fatihuddin, 39, director of PT Eka Silver, Surabaya:

Abdurrahman Wahid has yet to meet the people's expectation. The corruption investigation against Soeharto has been a long and winding process.

It is the President who has created confusion, not the political elites. The result is that the investment climate changes now and then. Bombs explode here and there.

His big failure is his inability to deal with disintegration threats. He is going to repeat B.J. Habibie's mistakes by 'flirting' with the proindependence group in Irian Jaya. He has failed so far in settling the clashes in Aceh, Maluku, Poso and other places. His remarkable achievement is his success in pressing the military to reform itself.

The main challenges he is facing are law enforcement and disintegration threats. If he fails to deal with those issues the military could return to power.

I am pessimistic that he will hold on to power until 2004. The politic scene fluctuates like share prices.

I am also unsure if Megawati will be able to replace him. If Megawati has a solid and smart team of advisors, she may be able to lead the nation.

From the beginning I disagreed with Gus Dur's appointment as president. Logically, we can simply say that he has a physical handicap. Would you elect someone with a physical handicap as your neighborhood chief? Megawati should have been the president.

Tri Suhariyadi, 26, a student at the School of Social and Political Science, AL Falah University, Surabaya:

It is not easy to say that Gus Dur has made a good President. He has disappointed many people, who had seen him as a true democrat. He is always upset upon hearing criticism against him and says there are people who want to topple him. In this way he is killing democracy.

His big achievement is his ability to draw the common people, who have less political knowledge. His inability in handling a series of communal conflicts is recorded as his big failure.

A lack of confidence is the biggest challenge he is now facing. This could ruin the teamwork among his aides.

I am doubtful if he'll still be there until 2004. But his steadfast supporters could help him retain his post. I can't trust Megawati. This is a big dilemma.

Alamsah S. Wibowo, 28, a private company employer living in Purwokerto, Central Java:

People are dissatisfied with Gus Dur's performance. A series of clashes and terrors reflect his Cabinet's inferiority. He has made too many controversial statements. Maybe only members of the Nahdlatul Ulama can accept them. He has also failed to keep his promise to restore the economy. Yet the rupiah is still sick.

His achievement is national reconciliation. He succeeded in uniting various elements. But he has failed to create security among the people. His controversial statements could evoke riots and other unexpected violence.

A.A. Oka Wisnumurti, 35, head of the State Administration Department at the School of Social and Political Science, Warmadewa University, Denpasar:

Gus Dur has succeeded in promoting freedom in Indonesia. He also managed to boost civil and democratic society. These are his achievements. However, he has failed to stabilize the ruined economy and to secure the nation from violence.

The main challenges he is now facing are economic stabilization and security affairs.

I am sure that he will stay until 2004. We would have to pay dearly for unseating him midway through his term. Toppling him could lead to uncontrollable chaos.

Not even Megawati could fill the presidential position, since she will face tough challenges from the Islamic (political) forces. Megawati should be in the presidential chair, because her party won the general election. But the Islamic parties formed a coalition to deny her victory. Such a coalition may happen again in the future.

Dr. Luh Ketut Suryani, 56, a scholar in Denpasar:

His performance is disappointing. In one year he has not only confused people, but also his Cabinet. Gus Dur is too busy provoking everybody with his statements. It seems that he has no time left to govern the country properly.

His greatest achievement is his many trips abroad, which has cost almost Rp 52 billion. His biggest failure is his inability to form an effective administration with members of a Cabinet who have the same vision and mission.

I don't have any idea if he will survive until 2004. I am not a political analyst. But, one thing I know for sure is that the people are already fed up with all the uncertainties.

The presidential post demands high qualification, meaning that, currently, not one Indonesian political figure has it.

Firel Sahetapy, 37, a lawyer in Ambon:

In terms of openness, democratization and anything having to do with protocols, Gus Dur has met the people's expectations. But not in other areas.

He has eliminated the military's dominance in the administration, and he is good at lobbying for support from foreign countries. But he has yet to succeed in restoring the economy and wiping out corruption, cronyism and nepotism. He has yet to see that the law is enforced properly.

The main challenges he is facing are national disintegration and economic recovery.

There are various aspects that will decide whether or not he stays in power until 2004. If judged by his charisma, it is likely he will remain president until 2004. (If he steps down) Megawati may deserve the presidential post, but the political elite will decide. Gus Dur was the right figure to be elected President by the MPR last year.

A.R. Dudung Natanegara, Vice President of Development and Relations of Conoco Indonesia Inc. Lives in Pejaten Timur, South Jakarta, Muslim, 51 years, Sundanese:

People's expectations have been too high, not even an angel could fix the problems of this country. It's easy to blame everything on Gus Dur, while those in charge of implementing the reforms are hiding.

Gus Dur's biggest achievement is introducing Indonesia to democracy and human rights.

His biggest failures are in the fields of economy and in restoring political stability.

Gus Dur certainly deserves a chance to stay on until 2004. We have all agreed to elect him as president. Part of being democratic is to stick to our agreements. Otherwise we would have a new president every three months. Anarchy comes when we cannot make compromises and hold only our opinion as absolute truth. What disgusts me is that people who had brought Gus Dur to the presidency are now turning their back on him.

Ichsanuddin Noorsy, 42, public policy analyst, former member of the House of Representatives and host of political talkshows. Lives in Tebet, South Jakarta:

Gus Dur has failed to live up to expectations. He has failed to use the legitimacy check. He has failed to unite the country's executive and legislative branches. He has also failed to recruit his cabinet members. All these problems have created social, economic and political costs.

His strongest achievement is only in promoting legitimacy to a certain extent.

If Gus Dur is to step down before his term ends, there will be some social and political costs.

He can stay until 2004 as long as he can prove to the people that he can restrain himself from making controversies, and if he can pick credible people to run his administration. But if he fails again, the cost would be even greater.

With regards to Megawati, she could become a better president as long as she picked credible people to run her administration because she can't run a country on her own.

Ahmad Mustofa, taxi driver in Tangerang, West Java:

Insya Allah (God willing), Gus Dur will be president until 2004. He's quite successful in the economic sector because I find life is easier now than before.

But he has to do more about security and corruption cases.

I know there are efforts to topple him, but I'm sure he will survive because he has a lot of supporters. He will be just fine.

I don't think Megawati will be able to replace him because she's not that good. Besides, she's losing her support.

Lucky, taxi driver of Surabaya origins, in Jakarta:

As a member of Nahdlatul Ulama, I'm hopeful Gus Dur will be able to keep the presidency until 2004. My intuition says he will stay.

He has some bad grades. He has to work harder especially on the economic and security problems. He cannot yet release his kyai (religious teacher) style or stop from treating his subjects as his santri (pupils).

If he cannot survive the MPR, Megawati is good enough to replace him. It's much better than organizing another election. (team)