Mon, 10 Feb 2003

What is the cost?

Is there any comparison at all between demonstrators who over- react and cause damage when protesting against the recent price hikes and the release of fraudulent bankers from legal charges? Which of the two groups did more damage to the country? Following on from that, how are the two groups viewed and treated by the authorities, and which of the two groups finish up in prison?

Easy questions to answer, and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-Perjuangan) deputy party chairman in Central Sulawesi has no doubts whatsoever that the demonstrators who did damage to their offices should face justice. So what is justice and to whom does it apply? Maybe that question is a little harder to answer, as justice is obviously a variable and therefore not fairly administered.

What was the cost of the damage to the PDI-Perjuangan office and what was the cost in trillions of the action of the bankers? What will it cost to safeguard the inauguration of the Governor in Southeast Sulawesi and what was the cost of security to get Sutiyoso re-elected?

Megawati was forced to cancel her trip to Poso in Central Sulawesi as the cost to the nation was considered too high a risk. So what is the cost to the nation? Money would only be a small part, with the damage to moral and to nationalism enormous, and probably incalculable. What is the moral cost to the nation for allowing Akbar Tandjung to remain as the speaker in the House of Representatives, and what does it say for justice?

Perhaps Megawati should make a simple list of the perceived injustices that occur every week and compare that with efforts being made to eradicate corruption and see if she thinks that the demonstrators may have a point.

Another way would be to roughly calculate the overall cost of maintaining the status quo and then consider how that amount of money would benefit education or in a drive to solve the unemployment problem. Or she could look at the cost of all the many failures and weigh that up against the reluctance of foreign investors to participate in this country's future. No doubt the damage done to the PDI-P office will take top priority, but the real cost to Megawati may well become clearer in the 2004 general election.

Is it really a wonder that she feels misunderstood?

DAVID WALLIS, Medan, North Sumatra