Tue, 22 Aug 2000

Observers: Parties lack nationalism

JAKARTA (JP): Observers lamented on Monday the eroding nationalism among political parties and politicians, saying they are being trapped in their conflicting interests while problems threaten the nation's integrity.

Arbi Sanit, a political expert from the University of Indonesia, said most political parties that won seats in the House of Representatives in the 1999 general election have lost the sympathy of the people because of their failure to settle the problems faced by the nation and in particular certain regions.

"Political parties have created a distance from their supporters. They are busy fighting tooth and nail for their own interests while the majority of people have to survive the hardship triggered by the economic crisis, massive killings in Aceh, Maluku and Poso, Central Sulawesi, and injustice and backwardness in remote areas," Arbi said during a political discussion here.

The discussion on how to solve national problems was jointly organized by the mass organization SOKSI and the German Institute of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Arbi said political parties should revamp themselves and introduce the district system in the next general election to bring them closer to their constituents.

"With such a system, political parties should be able to develop a coalition to win the majority of support from the parliament to form a strong government," he said.

Leo Batubara, a press industry executive, suggested the regents, governors and president should be elected directly to avoid manipulation of people's aspirations by political parties and their factions in the House.

"It was ironic that the elect president came from the National Awakening Party (PKB) while the past election's winners were the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and the Golkar Party. Amateur politicians have taken advantage of this condition by using money politics in regent and governor elections," he said.

Maruli Panggabean, a political observer, said the threshold to contest the general election should be elevated to three percent, instead of the present two percent, to reduce the number of political parties to a minimum.

"Ideally, we will have between two and four parties. The great number of political parties reflects politicians' egoism and hunger for power," he said.

Oetojo Oesman, SOKSI chairman, said that people have yet to be confident of decrees issued by the Assembly in its recent Annual Session as good solutions to the existing problems.

He said all sides, especially the state institutions, should implement principles of social justice for all and respect the supremacy of the law in order to improve the quality of democracy.

University students, who were also invited to the seminar, regretted that political elites lack nationalism and commitment to upholding democracy.

Muhammad Choirie, a student activist from the Ambon-based Islamic University of Darussalam, said people in Maluku and North Maluku have fallen victim to conflict between local political elites who have lost their nationalism.

Harris, a student activist from the University of Indonesia, said most students from the Jakarta-based university were disappointed with the government and the House for their failure to stop the prevailing violence, to defuse the crisis and to ease the political instability.

Heri Achmadi, secretary of the PDI Perjuangan faction of the House, admitted his party has yet to fully accommodate the people's aspirations, especially in the amendments to the 1945 Constitution.

"Some of the people are disappointed with PDI Perjuangan but it is normal in democracy. Major factions are commonly forced to make compromises to avoid violence among the people," he said.

Syamsul Mu'arif, chairman of the Golkar faction, said the House and the Assembly should use the transition period to seek a professional national leader and establish a better political system to repair the poor condition of the country.

"Golkar is confident the situation will improve if Indonesia has wise and professional leaders and a better political system," he said. (rms)