Tue, 08 Aug 2000

Will the nation's top leaders stick to their pledges?

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Cornelis Lay, a political observer in Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, where President Abdurrahman Wahid, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Speaker of the House of Representatives Akbar Tandjung and Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly Amien Rais met last week. The gathering was hosted by Sultan Hamengkubuwono X:

Question:The meeting of the four leaders led to a joint agreement. Your comment?

Answer: What is of greater significance is whether the participants will comply with what they have agreed on. The problems from the first Ciganjur meeting (at Abdurrahman's residence in South Jakarta before he became president) and the subsequent sporadic meetings, have been that one of the parties betrayed agreements for the individual or group's benefits.

A very obvious example is the first Ciganjur meeting. The consensus wore out not because the eight points offered were not remarkable but because Amien took his own group to the House (DPR) and the Assembly (MPR). This gave the impression that "Ciganjur I" was the result of his own work ...

Q: Such meetings, including the Yogyakarta Summit, have often been criticized because they are considered elitist. Do you agree?

A: In a highly fragmented society like Indonesia, democracy can be sustained only if it is managed in an elitist way by people considered to represent the fragmented society ... The model of elitist management of democracy has become our choice for this transitional period.

Q: But the four figures may not represent the political groupings. Amien and Akbar may not be able to enjoy the commitment of all groups in the axis force and Golkar respectively regarding this agreement...

A: This (elitist) model has its shortcoming, when the elite are not considered representative of existing groups, or when the elite fail to force followers or allied groups to comply.

Pak Amien, who has virtually led the axis force bandwagon, will have to encounter a great variety of groups within the force who may not fully endorse his steps.

An indication was the strong demand by Hamzah Haz (from the United Development party) for his inclusion in the Yogya talks. It means that he did not feel represented by Pak Amien. My guess is that people like Yusril (Ihza Mahendra) chairman of the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and a number of other axis force figures, including even people close to Pak Amien such as Fuad Bawazier, would have made similar demands.

If the compliance of the members of the various elites and the variants of the groups cannot be established, it will lead to the crumbling of the agreement. Akbar faces the same problem although formally the interests of all the ranks in Golkar seem to be accommodated. Quite a few groups within Golkar, in fact, have a latent potential for disintegration.

Only Megawati and Gus Dur (Abdurrahman) would not have much difficulty to reach their mass base and supporters. Nobody (among their followers) would question their most important decisions. In the case of Gus Dur, I believe Nahdlatul Ulama (Muslim organization) and the National Awakening Party can assure total compliance.

Q: The above leaders have verbally agreed that the MPR Annual General Session will not turn into a Special Session to impeach the President...

A: The question is whether Pak Amien and his axis force can fully guarantee such a commitment. I'm not so sure about it. Also, I am not convinced that Golkar's networks would comply with such a commitment.

The core of the problem will likely shift to this (betrayal of the agreement). So this is a tough job for the elite, to open discussions again with the groups they represent. It is important for Pak Amien to involve the entire elite of the axis force to discuss what has been agreed on in Yogyakarta.

Second, it is generally agreed among those involved in the axis force, the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P), the NU and Golkar that social and economic matters must be placed on top of the priority list.

Q: Do you mean strong pressure to impeach Gus Dur will still color the Annual Session?

A: I'm not sure. It is very likely that there will be individual tendencies. In terms of numbers, if PDI-P says "No" (to the impeachment proposal) and some members of the Golkar faction do likewise, it is a closed case. The other (factions) cannot impose their wishes in the face of the mechanism of democracy -- that the majority rules.

Q: How do you see the risk in unseating Abdurrahman?

A: In a democratic country, replacing a president while he is still in office is quite natural. However, the reasons for this dismissal may lead to new problems if they are not politically legitimate. The impeachment planned for Gus Dur has never had any strong political justification because impeachment may be slapped on a president only if a number of things are fulfilled.

First, if Gus Dur disavows his oath of office as a head of state and a head of government, which he has not done. Second, if he truly violates the constitution. Until today it has been difficult to find any such violations by Gus Dur.

Third, if he is incapable of, or fails in, implementing the stipulations or decisions on the State Policy Guidelines ... collusion, corruption and nepotism (KKN) are yet to be thoroughly eliminated, but it can be easily argued that there is a huge pile of problems in this regard...

The problem with Gus Dur is that his leadership style tends to spark controversies. Many people dislike his informal style of leadership. For a good 32 years people were fed with Soeharto's very formal and cold style of leadership and then suddenly we have a very informal president. Second, his inconsistency, as revealed in his arguments regarding his dismissal of Laksamana Sukardi and Jusuf Kalla from the Cabinet

So, if Gus Dur can show more formality and consistency, there wouldn't be a single reason which is constitutionally and politically justifiable -- let alone ideologically -- to unseat him.

The risk of unseating him in the absence of a strong reason will be a lack of governmental stability. The second risk is the image that once Gus Dur is forced to step down, there will be public fury although in percentage (terms the followers of) the NU or PKB are small.

They are, however, heavily concentrated in Java, particularly East Java. Java itself is 80 percent to 90 percent politically significant in the national political arena.

The third risk is that impeachment may become a new precedent: if a Muslim cleric like Gus Dur can be impeached, the next president, who may not be a Muslim cleric or who may even be a woman, for example, may be subject to the same thing.

Things would be worse if, for example, the president comes from a party collecting only a small number of votes in the 1999 general election, such as Pak Amien, or if the president is Akbar, who has his New Order past.

This is actually what we seek to avert. So the reason is not that we idolize Gus Dur... However, if Gus Dur, for example, has received a bribe, the people should be told why Gus Dur has to be impeached.

Q: Of the four points agreed upon in Yogyakarta, which is the most significant?

A: The public would first be concerned with the fourth point, the commitment to quickly eradicate KKN, which symbolizes the seriousness of establishing an entirely new government.

This big task, if done in earnest, will also give considerable credit -- but also a risk -- to Akbar. Quite a few in his circle, and part of his network will be affected.

I don't think they'll be happy to see Akbar sign the agreement. Many others will urge that what is put on paper be translated into reality. There will be unusually great pressure on the Attorney General, the police and other law-enforcement agencies. There will be a bigger push from people about Soeharto's case because they will not be content just to see Soeharto tried in his capacity as the chairman of a foundation.

The public will demand that he be tried for crimes against humanity in his 32 years in power and also for his economic crimes. People can no longer see, for instance, Tutut (businesswoman and daughter of Soeharto Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana) traveling around freely.

And many others should also take responsibility (for their actions) like former MPR Speaker Harmoko, and the public will demand that they, too, be taken to court.

Also, Gus Dur, as a consequence of this agreement, must focus on settling economic problems. He would have to considerably reduce his political statements although this won't be easy for him. The key lies in the two options left to Gus Dur.

The first is whether he will fully entrust his economic team to solve all economic problems and make them settle poor consolidation and coordination among themselves, because they do have the capacity to solve problems. The second choice is that Gus Dur completely overhauls his economic team.

And of course, regarding the third point in the agreement, people are waiting to see how the government will actually respond to demands, for example, for a free Papua and a free Aceh and also to the sectarian conflicts raging in Maluku ...

What's interesting here is the statement that the five of them (including Hamengkubuwono) made to the effect that these problems must be common problems.

Therefore, it is important, to Pak Amien and his network, for example, not only to blame Gus Dur for the continuing sectarian conflicts in Maluku but also to be symbolically or actually involved in handling the problems.

Although this may be beyond the job description of an MPR Speaker, as the representative of members of the political elite Pak Amien may find these steps important to take.

Q: Will this agreement mean that the conflicts involving the elite, generally considered as having triggered the conflicts in Maluku, will end and will lead to peace in this region?

A: At the very least, more attention will be paid to Maluku. Whether a settlement is possible is another problem. There is a strong indication that some members of the political elite of the past (of the Soeharto regime) have become an important part of the Maluku conflicts and they are not included in the Yogyakarta Summit.

The five who signed the agreement have no interest in seeing a conflict break out in Maluku. However, there is another force, in possession of a strong network and in control of the military, that is not included in this agreement.

Besides, if it is effective, this agreement will be able to narrow down the loopholes usually used to trigger a riot. When a conflict breaks out, there is a greater opportunity to start a new conflict. (Asip A. Hasani)