Tue, 25 Feb 2003

Kwik speaks out to save PDI Perjuangan and RI

Mochtar Buchori, Legislator, PDI Perjuangan, Jakarta

A professor back in college once told us that the decision to marry a certain person is made either from our conscience or an act that comes from a short-circuit situation.

This evoked in my mind a marriage that requires either one or both partners to make a sacrifice, and another situation of a shotgun wedding. The former was an example of a conscience-based decision to marry (gewetensbeslissing) whereas the latter is an example of an action based on a short-circuit situation (kortsluitingshandeling).

As I was single at the time, I thought that this particular professor gave me a profound piece of wisdom, which was so beautifully phrased in Dutch. I promised myself then and there that I would not have a marriage resulting from an emergency situation.

This episode came to mind when I heard Kwik Kian Gie's statement pronouncing his own party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), as the country's "most corrupt political party". The statement has generated political earthquakes, within and beyond the party's rank and file.

Within PDI Perjuangan there are groups who simply loathe State Minister for National Development Planning/Bappenas chairman Kwik Kian Gie because of this statement, but there are also groups that absolutely adore him for his courage to come out with such a daring observation.

Did Kwik make the statement after pondering carefully the present situation under which he was guided by conscience, or did he come out with it because he was so angry that he could no longer see the demarcation between the real world and that of his anger-driven imagination?

Kwik must have been quite aware of both the positive and negative consequences of his words and that his statement would upset many, many people. But surely he must have also known that by making this statement he would air a collective frustration buried within the minds of a great number of people. This is because these people still care about this country and its future.

The difference between Kwik Kian Gie and people like me is that while many of us will just grumble while watching corruption take place without interruption, Kwik thinks systematically, talks coherently and writes critically about it.

Kwik may have been obsessed with the idea that one day in his lifetime he would see the beginning of a sincere attempt to rid the country of corruptive practices, signifying the arrival of a nation in which every member would feel proud.

If Kwik, with all his honesty and sincerity, is to be considered a lunatic, then many other people, including myself, must be lunatics, too.

Why then did he not respond accordingly when he was challenged to prove his allegations, even though he had previously claimed to have enough evidence to substantiate his charges? Why did he instead apologize for the statement he made? Does it mean that he is backing off and retracting his accusation?

My hunch is that he did this all out of his respect for, and his incessant desire to serve, Megawati Soekarnoputri, both as President and party chairperson. Kwik has long been of the opinion that simultaneously acting as the President and as chairperson of a ruling political party is just too much for Megawati.

And many other people within PDI Perjuangan share this opinion. To these people this is the main reason why Megawati cannot stop or control corruption or other acts of malpractice perpetrated by members of her party.

The dilemma before Kwik Kian Gie is figuring out how he can reveal the truth as he sees it without harming Megawati too much. This delicate situation is further aggravated by the fact that corruption is a practice that is very difficult to detect or trace.

According to sociologist Syed Husein Alatas this is because corruption is always a collective act in developing countries. No one ever steals alone. No one can possibly commit corruption if he or she acts alone. This makes corruption a faceless crime in all bureaucracies within developing countries.

Sooner or later Megawati may have to make a choice between the presidency and party chairmanship. This may be the only way for her to save the country, PDI Perjuangan and the nation. It is a very unpleasant choice.

But much more unpleasant is the prospect of being noted in history as the first female president who failed to restore political decency and democracy in the country.

Time is running out fast. Not another day should be wasted by lingering indecisively on this question.