Tue, 04 Feb 2003

Nation has no leaders, only political elite says historian

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia is in dire need of true leaders who are willing to fight for the good of the country and its people in ending the ongoing multifaceted crisis, said a noted historian on Monday.

Historian at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Anhar Gonggong said that the country had only party leaders who lacked statesmanship and dedication, in contrast to the nation's founding fathers.

Anhar said that instead of finding a way to resolve the country's problems, today's leaders tended to prioritize the fulfillment of their own welfare by disregarding public interest.

"For most political leaders, what comes first in their minds prior to assuming public office is easy access to the bulk of state facilities," he said in a seminar to commemorate one of the leaders of the 1948 Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PDRI), Sutan Mohammad Rasjid, who was renowned for his integrity.

Saying that a large number of political figures in the country could easily be bribed, he continued, "I am disappointed by the fact that many of our members of parliament receive money from state-owned companies to support their causes."

Anhar believes current leaders lacked the will to sacrifice themselves for the nation, a quality that was embodied by the country's founding fathers.

"In the recent deliberation of political bills, members of the House of Representatives strove only for their party's victory in the coming elections in 2004," he told The Jakarta Post.

He remarked that current political leaders should learn more from the country's founding fathers, such as Sutan Moh. Rasjid, who were willing to die for the country.

Sutan Moh. Rasjid, then West Sumatra Military Governor under PDRI, was like his mentor, Sjahrir, genuinely struggling for the independence of Indonesia.

The biography of Sutan Moh. Rasjid tells of his adamant refusal to be bribed during his term as Indonesian ambassador to Italy.

"Happiness does not come from owning a big house, luxurious cars and a high salary," Rasjid was quoted as saying in his biography.

Earlier in the seminar, political analyst Salim Said said that the cause of the absence of true leaders in the country was the authoritarian rule of former president Soeharto.

"During Soeharto's leadership, there was no competition among political parties, (so) how can we expect political leaders to prevail if there is no competition to cultivate them as true political leaders?" he said.