Sat, 12 Aug 2000

Sharing the burden key to power delegation

Sharing responsibility for failure is a crucial part of delegating day-to-day management of the government, from President Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, says political observer Daniel Sparingga of the Surabaya-based Airlangga University.

Question: How do you view the President's statement that he will delegate the "technical" side of running the government to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri?

Answer: Gus Dur had drawn up this proposal before the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) pressured him. This is to give Megawati more chances and, importantly, to share responsibilities in any possible failures.

This also has the implication of preparing Megawati as an experienced leader. Gus Dur and Megawati have, in the last five days, worked hard to formulate the best way to achieve this delegation, avoiding any impression that Gus Dur is being set aside.

Q: Could tension occur in preparing this delegation of power?

A: Megawati does not want to see the President being dumped but she wants confirmation that it's not only a symbolic delegation. The two may have reached some understanding.

Tension could occur if the MPR had a different understanding by demanding a detailed prescription of the delegation because our Constitution does not recognize such a power delegation. Also, this matter is in the domain of the present executives; it is conventionally the executives' authority to delegate power. The MPR must appreciate the understanding established by Gus Dur and Megawati.

Q: So there's no need for the MPR to issue a legal basis for this?

A: Yes, there is no relevancy in issuing an MPR decree (TAP MPR) at all from the point of the constitutional and political side. Don't make a mess of this through formalities. There's a kind of deep distrust from some MPR members (toward the government).

There will be turmoil if there's no mutual trust and respect in politics. In democracy, it's important to have a Constitution and order, but there's also the unformulated thing: Ethics, including trust.

Q: Can we identify those who don't have any trust?

A: They particularly include those who feel they played a pivotal role in bringing Gus Dur to the presidency, but afterward they didn't get the attention they expected from him. This group can't be broken down into factions because every faction is riddled with friction.

Q: Some say they perceive the delegation of power as another way of toppling Gus Dur. Your comment?

A: Politically, this is to correct the government, to make it more effective. This is to save the nation as a community, not about who is getting or losing something. I think Gus Dur has made a good decision.

Q: Do you think this is a good solution?

A: Yes, as far as there's no attempt to carry it and transform it into another political condition. Say the MPR insists on making a legal basis for the power delegation, detailing the delegated jobs. The MPR should give moral support only. Let Gus Dur and Megawati decide themselves what to do.

Q: Do you think this is another compromised move, just like when the Cabinet was formed?

A: No. This time it's reality that has made them compromise. The reality to save the nation. Not about who gets what. This is also due to Gus Dur's physical condition; he feels he is able to play the roles of an ambassador (duta bangsa) overseas and a father of the nation (bapak bangsa) at home.

Q: What do you think about Megawati's capability?

A: There has never been a fair chance for Megawati to be evaluated. She has chosen to keep silent... Just give her about six months to see what her performance is like after the delegation by Gus Dur.

Q: Do you think the resignation of Kwik Kian Gie as coordinating minister for the economy, finance and industry is related to the power delegation?

A: Not at all. He just wanted to start a democratic tradition. When a president wants to reshuffle his Cabinet, the ministers resign to give a wide opportunity for the president to form a new Cabinet. Kwik could not have asked his colleagues (to do the same) because they may have different perceptions. (I. Christianto)