Wed, 22 Nov 2000

Tricky job being a spokesman

One has to admit that the job of presidential spokesman is an honorable one. And suddenly President Abdurrahman Wahid has four spokesmen, each with his own speciality, led by former television talk show presenter Wimar Witoelar. While I am ready to congratulate them all if they feel happy with their new assignments, I have, on the other hand, the impression that it is a tricky job. The main reason is obviously because the President likes to play tricks with many people and many issues.

For instance, with the strong anti-Israel mood now prevailing in almost all layers of society, Abdurrahman has been adamant that trade relations between Indonesia and Israel are not harmful from the economic point of view. He also rejected the idea that he should resign from his position in the Shimon Perez foundation claiming it is not a religious but an international institution.

The President's interference in judicial affairs involving the postponement of legal proceedings against three well-known conglomerates, has given the impression of collusion and malpratice.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, once believed to be the champion of democracy, has now become as authoritarian as Soeharto during the New Order era. A noted commentator (Sabam Siagian) has detected different interpretations among the spokesmen in respect of the same events.

Of course, it is their right as presidential spokesmen and lawyers to defend the President's policies and personality at one and the same time if that is included in their job descriptions. It should be remembered that Abdurrahman Wahid has been politically indicted by the House of Representatives (except by his party loyalists) for a number of offenses against the Constitution and suspicious dealings which have been dubbed the various "-gates"?

The risks are that these presidential spokesmen will sooner or later get involved themselves, against their will of course, in the President's own shady dealings. Abdurrahman Wahid is not an ordinary leader whose words and steps are easily explicable.