Sat, 22 Jan 2000

President and provocateurs

Not many people, perhaps, have as many labels as President Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur. Long before he was appointed president, he had earned a host of epithets and nicknames: a kiai(a respected teacher of Islam), a man of culture, a columnist, a social observer, a political observer and even a soccer observer. As a kiai he was the leader of Ciganjur Islamic boarding school and also general chairman of the central board of the Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). As a man of culture, he was one of the chairmen of the Jakarta Arts Council.

As a columnist, his articles were published in the national mass media. According to a former member of the editorial board of a Jakarta-based weekly, Gus Dur was even provided with his own room and typewriter. It was not clear whether there is any relationship between this special treatment and his success as the general chairman of the central board of NU. What is obvious is that Gus Dur has become popular because Jakarta-based print media have frequently quoted his opinions and comments.

One of the grandsons of Hadratus Syaikh K.H. Hasyim Asy'ari, Gus Dur has even appeared on TV commenting on a soccer match. Besides, Gus Dur is also known to be very skilled at cracking jokes. As a humorist, he translated To die laughing Russian style. One can see how he joked with the Emir of the United Arab Emirates when he visited him. In short, Gus Dur may be the world's funniest and most care-free president.

However, there is his trait of character which has escaped attention. Despite all the labels referred to earlier, Gus Dur is a quick-tempered person. Just see how he behaved when he received a delegation of employees from the former information ministry led by former information minister Yunus Yosfiah. A peaceful situation suddenly became tense when the president, all of a sudden, spoke emotionally in a high pitch. The same situation was repeated when the President talked about Aceh at the House of People's Representatives. All of a sudden, speaking in a strong tone, he said that the House was just like a kindergarten. And recently on one national private TV station, Gus Dur announced himself as the replacement head for the information center of the Indonesian Military's (TNI) information center, Maj. Gen. Sudrajat. As a commoner, what struck me was whether or not it was appropriate if the replacement of a board member of an organization was announced by the chairman of the organization itself. In other words, isn't it more appropriate for the TNI commander in chief to announce this replacement?

And lastly, when the president responded at the rally of "one million Muslims" at Monas' central park in connection with the massacre of Muslims in Tobelo, Galela, Tual, Masohi, Ambon and other places in Maluku. Only God knows what spirit had whispered in his ears when he became furious and charged that the rally was an effort to depose him, saying that the rally was attended by some 20,000 people (in fact, anybody at the rally could see that hundreds of thousands of people were present), Gus Dur threatened to take strong action if the outspokenness emerging during the rally was turned into action.

We only wish to remind Gus Dur that being emotional and quick- tempered, when combined with care-freeness and power, can turn into tyranny. We would also like to remind him not to allow any provocateurs to whisper him anything or steer him when making a decision. We do not want anybody to say that our President, who is a kiai, an intellectual and a man of culture, is controlled by a provocateur.


Banyumas, Central Java