A New Hopeless President of Indonesia

I am not sure where actually this picture comes from. But I am quite sure, this picture really describes what is currently being experienced by most of Indonesians.


It is the time for you to prove, Mr President, that you are not merely a common politician.


Transactional Politic: Learning from Budi Gunawan’s Case

It is a quite embarrassing moment for, Jokowi, current Indonesia President after Budi Gunawan, a police chief hopeful, was announced as graft suspect by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). This announcement just came out not long after Jokowi gave his recommendation regarding the police chief nominee. Furthermore, it is also several days prior to the police chief hearing scheduled by House of Representatives. A question may arise here: why did Jokowi suggest Budi Gunawan as the police chief?

In this article, I would not like to study the detail about the capability of Budi Gunawan or his track records in his professional career. When his name was put under the recommendation made by National Police Commission (Kompolnas), I think that the body had not doubted the capability of his career in police. What I would like to elaborate more in this writing is more about morality in politics. Why is it important? The answer lies in the fact of Jokowi’s promise itself who promised for not having transactional politic once he became Indonesia President. Furthermore, it is also worth to note that he also emphasized the importance of building clean government when he was selecting his ministers.

From the first time Jokowi selected his ministers, several people had put doubt on them especially for several names who were considered as part of transactional politics. I would not like to elaborate the names here because many people have already discussed them already. However, what is important here is when doing the task, Jokowi asked KPK help to properly check whether or not the chosen candidates had bad track records regarding corruption. Thus, it was quite clear that Jokowi put his conscience in selecting the candidates and showed his consistency in maintaining clean government.

From the news currently circulating, it is also then clear that Budi Gunawan had also been one of the candidates. However, the name was then rejected due to the bad track record regarding fat bank account. It was quite fortunate that Jokowi followed the KPK suggestion for not naming Budi as one of his ministers. The problem then arises when Jokowi then selected him as the only candidate of the police chief. Why could this thing happen? If the answer offered is “he is also recommended by Kompolnas,” then it is very ridiculous. How can a president give such an answer? It just blame other for his unreasonable decision. In fact, Kompolnas did not only recommend Budi Gunawan as the sole candidate. Thus, it should have been reasonable for Jokowi to have other candidates who have better track records regarding graft cases since he already knew that the name he chose had been already blacklisted before in minister selection. Thus, why should he come to the decision?

People may speculate that it is because Budi Gunawan was the former adjutant for Megawati when she was a president. In this case, it is then clear about the transactional politics lingering Jokowi. Of course I cannot prove the fact that there is a transactional politic occurring behind this particular phenomenon. Even if journalists ask Jokowi directly regarding this matter, he may answer that he chooses him because of his exceptional track record. But one thing to note: transactional politic often happens and one person cannot eradicate it easily through promising. It is a very tough job, if it cannot be said as impossible.

The reason behind it has been extensively covered by Francis Fukuyama, a political philosopher. It is mainly because we have a tendency of kin selection. When human beings start to organize something and on the highest degree to organize a country, they tend to select people who are close to him. The reason is quite simple: because they know them and perhaps, to some extent, as part of a reciprocal altruism. It occurs everywhere even though we never consciously notice it. For example, when a manager would like to hire a new employee, he/she will prefer the one who is graduated from the same university. This is probably because he/she already knows about the quality about his/her university or as a part of alumni solidarity. Even though there are also some other candidates who have better profile and experience, the manager would get stick to his/her alumni. Hence it is very normal to choose people who are close to you or those who share similar things because you know you can trust them or because you have to pay something back to them. Similar thing also then occurs in politics and it is more complex because in order for a candidate to be a president, he must be supported and backed by people coming with different interests. As a consequence, there is a tendency for a president to select people who are close to him. The question is then: is it wrong?

In ideal circumstance, it is indeed wrong. In order to build a good country, transactional politic should not happen because ministerial post should be filled with competence people. However, as we live in non-ideal circumstance, this condition can be considered as “quite normal.” What should be emphasized then is we should not promise that transactional politic would not happen. Rather we should promise that we will fill the ministerial posts by competent people. Choosing candidate from our close friends is not a wrong decision provided that they have sufficient competency to perform the task. Moreover, when we talk about building a nation, they should also have clean track records regarding corruption. This is the thing that should be emphasized and made clear.

Thus, transactional politic is indeed a phenomenon that cannot be eradicated easily. If Jokowi wants to improve the quality of the government, what is needed is to fill any posts with good and clean candidates. I am not quite sure if there is no transactional politic occurring in Jokowi’s cabinet starting from Cabinet selection process. But I was quite glad to know that KPK was still involved during the selection process. And currently, I am very disappointed by the fact that either KPK or PPATK was not involved in selecting police chief candidate. Please Jokowi, we know certainly transactional politic can occur but please, keep your promise to have clean and professional government. There is nothing wrong by selecting your friends as long as they are clean and competence. It turns wrong only when you are heavily chained by the transactional politic and you get blind easily for the fact behind your candidates just because you want to satisfy everyone who has been backing you until now. Please remember, you work for Indonesian People.

Sorry Mr. Prabowo, but It Is not Merely About Increasing the Salary

It is quite interesting to see the first debate from both of presidential candidates. People have also reviewed their performance and it does seem that the conclusion is relatively unanimous: that Joko Widodo performed quite well. This result is indeed unexpected since he is usually known as low-profile figure who does not really like to talk much. On the other hand, Prabowo could be pushed to the corner by Jusuf Kalla due to the human right issue that asked by Kalla. To be fair, the second candidate has successfully controlled the atmosphere last night. You might judge me as bias but you could check by yourself in my blog that I have also posed my critic to Jokowi once he declared himself as a candidate for Indonesia Preseident. However, what I want to elaborate in this writing is not about reviewing the whole debating process. Rather, I am quite interested in one particular moment where Prabowo was asked about bureaucracy reform and this is the specific part that I want to discuss on.

Last night debate concentrated on how to build clean government, strengthening rule of law, and everything alike. Thus, it was not rare if bureaucracy reform, human right, and corruption became the main topic during the show. One interesting point was made by Prabowo in this issue when he made a statement that remuneration for civil servants was indeed important and required to ensure that bureaucracy reform can be run smoothly and successfully. The most important question is then: is remuneration scheme urgently required to complete such a reform? Should clean government be achieved by disbursing more money to civil servants?

When taken unto the most extreme point, democracy can be associated with master-slave relationship. Who is the master and who becomes the slave? They are the people and government, respectively since the actual position of government is to serve the people and not the opposite. In master and slave paradigm, it is up to the master whether or not he/she will let the slave to be free. If the slaves are good enough and the masters want to show a little bit of mercy, the masters will be likely to pay them. But it is inevitable that in regard the remuneration, the masters retain the sole right.

But we are not currently living in such a paradigm. Slavery is undoubtedly prohibited worldwide since we have already advanced to adopt human rights value. However, the main principle from the above explanation does still prevail, namely that government is actually the servant of the people and not the opposite. Following this logic, simple conclusion can be made: remuneration of the government officials mainly depend upon the will of the people. As long as the people do not agree on the scheme, remuneration scheme should have been just blown away by the wind. Let alone the government officials beg for such incentive.

However, this condition does not exist in Indonesia. It can be clearly seen from the poverty level of Indonesians and those who are vulnerable to get dragged into the region. In contrast, our legislative members, ministers, and also government officials can enjoy extravagant lives. It is true that this statement is like an exaggeration or generalization and there are some government officials who are indeed very honest in doing their job. But, how much the probability really is? Of course it is also the fact that such people will be overwhelmed by those who are very greed in extorting dirt money in order to enrich themselves. Thus, why could this happen?

First of all, democracy in Indonesia is indeed very expensive. This condition makes those who desire to be elected as government officials or legislative members should prepare much money to campaign. And what is the paradigm once such people are elected? Of course, this is not a matter of national duty and rather a trade balance: I should earn more money to cover up my expenses and in order to be elected on the next election. It is just a vicious circle. Secondly, it may happen because the salary is not enough for sustaining their lives. This then becomes the main reason to justify remuneration. The question is: are you sure that remuneration will give clean government?  

The answer is quite clear: no. The first reason is because the democracy itself that is still very expensive. Hence when everyone competes to get elected, they will eventually disburse more money and once elected, they can easily beg for remuneration to recover their expenses. In this regard, campaigning to be a part of government has been considered as the expense that should be covered by taxation. Without them, they can no longer sustain their lives. In contrast, people who work in labor-intensive factories never demand such an expense; while in fact such people are actually the master of the government officials.

Secondly, when I heard Prabowo’s statement last night to increase the salary, I remembered my high school teacher when she left us a word: “it is no matter how small your salary is. As long as you are wise, everything will be covered. And the opposite does also exist: even though you have big salary, as long as you are not wise, you will never get enough.” I know for sure that such a statement cannot be taken literally. Small salary does not mean that we just submit ourselves to the fate. There is a red line that should not be surpassed so people are still able to get proper lives.

Thus, the most important thing is not about remuneration. As long as our government officials never get enough for themselves and pursue political career as a pathway to be richer, they will never get enough. Corruption will be still prevalent and clean government cannot be ensured just by remuneration program. Furthermore, the question is: what if there is a person who comes to a minister and offers some amount of money that is significantly bigger than their monthly salary? Does it mean that he/she will be subdued because of their price tag-based loyalty? Another case: what if one of his/her relatives comes to him/her insisting that they want to get a government project? Even though they do not offer any money, as long as they are family member, it will be very likely that special treatment will be endorsed upon them. Thus, how can we be sure that salary increase can build a clean government? How can we be sure that the term “enough” is not an exaggerated condition aired by our government officials? And as long as they always look their relatives who are richer than them, how can we be sure that they will not get subdued to be greed and thus demanding more salary increase in the name of “daily needs?”

In this regard, I think Prabowo’s statement is absolutely wrong. The first thing that we need to reform is meritocracy and loyalty. This is not about increase in salary. It is true that people should never let others to live in a desperate condition. But once you serve for a country, you work for people and give your loyalty to your country. In an extreme case, I rather agree with what has been taught by Plato and applied in early Ottoman Empire that guardians of a nation should be told about “noble lie” and forced to renounce their kinship tie in order to accomplish political purification since kinship tie will disrupt the just political order. Or it does seem more proper if government officials should be ruled in the same way as during the Ottoman Empire where they could not hold hereditable properties. Or even like in early Chinese Emperor while the all of the eunuchs are castrated in order to prevent them to have sexual desire, especially toward the wife of the emperor. These conditions then lead to pure meritocracy and loyalty. Those who serve for the nation will give all of they have and then never intends to disrupt the whole system; purely to serve the people. Should we have a system like this one? The answer to this question can only be validated through public deliberation in order to consider its good and bad.

However, the most important point that I would like to underline in this matter is not such extreme cases. I just want to put one thing: once you have chosen to serve your country, please never think about your salary because I am sure that Indonesians will not let you live in a desperate condition; once we have acquired proofs of your achievements, we can even easily grant you many incentives; but the first thing that you should have in your mind and conscience is your sincere to serve us. This is why to become a leader or a legislative member for this country is actually a very demanding job due to the high responsibility. And in this regard, I still cannot understand why many people out there eager to take this position and then just begging us to increase their salary but just can sleep and absent during meeting or extorting our taxation through project projects. Thus, it is not about money, Mr. Prabowo; it is about sincere in serving and I think from the point incentives will follow because Indonesians are your master  and everyone sits in the government position has a duty to serve all Indonesians. Like Ahok, your own cadre, said: if you want to be rich, be a businessman not a civil servants.  

Jokowi, Promise, and Our Double Standard

One day, one of my friends asked my opinion about divorce in marriage. Since in Indonesia marriage is both about religious and legal matter, I answered that I did not support divorce because in my religion, the couple had promised to be with each other until death separates them. A further question is then raised: how if the reality insists them to do so? My answer is clear: that is why you need to know each other before performing your marriage because once you have promised; you are not liable to take it back.

Promise and double standard

Talking about promise is important nowadays because it seems that it is rather easy to merely say about it than realizing what has been promised. As Indonesians, the main reason why we demonstrate against legislative members is because they fail to fulfill their promise once they campaigned to obtain the legislative seat. This is also the reason why we are easily bored with political campaign: it is because we no longer need promises out from the legislative candidates; people just want them to work and prove that they are able to perform their duty well.

Recently, heat tension in Indonesia political circumstance is rising especially because Jokowi has been formally announced as the presidential candidate from PDI-P, the main opposition party. Social media and online forums are also divided into two main blocks: those who do and don’t support Jokowi as candidate for RI 1. The ongoing tension is further escalated by one forum in Kaskus showing how Jokowi is allegedly involved in several corruption cases in Solo. Unfortunately, the writer does not cite any credible source backing his/her hypothesis. With this increasing debate and tension, a simple question is worth to ask: does Jokowi deserve to be a president?

When Jokowi was going to compete for Jakarta Governor, I was actually one of his fans. It is quite rare to see a leader who is able to mingle with his grass-root society, hearing their complaints and then very decisive in taking decision. As Jakartans, I feel bureaucracy reform is moving so fast. Once we face unimportant difficulties in obtaining any kind of permits, for example, we just send text message to the leaders and everything will be alright for the next days. Up to now, I can still feel positive reactions in respect to our new leaders in Jakarta despite the prevailing of several problems such as flood and traffic gridlock which in my opinion cannot be easily solved just by purely relying on the Jakarta’s new leaders.

But, could this achievement be justified as a strong basis to support Jokowi as a president? I think the answer is quite clear: no. The problem is not located on doubt about his capability for bringing good reform. Furthermore, alleged corruption as posted on Kaskus cannot also be justified to thrown out him from his presidential candidate. The main problem is located on his promise to lead Jakarta for 5 years once he said during his governor election. I would like to ask: why does not he fulfill his promise?

Many answers can be taken up to surface and there are two main answers that is mostly cited in social media: (1) if Jokowi leads Indonesia, it will be easy for Ahok to handle Jakarta and there will be no more recrimination between Central and Jakarta Government and (2) if Jokowi is not nominated, who should we vote for? Both of these answers do seem to undermine the promise that Jokowi had made when he was going to be Jakarta Governor. I rather ask them question: why do we often demonstrate against our government officials once they could not fulfill their promise and when Jokowi does similar thing, why rather we seek justification to support it? Have not we applied double standard in this political matter? We tighten the standard for the legislative members and loosen it toward Jokowi. Furthermore, as cited in kompas.com, Jokowi said that as long as Indonesia Constitution permits him to be a presidential candidate, everything will be alright. By saying so, in my opinion, he just undermines his position as a true leader who should have taken seriously what he has promised. He just undermines his uniqueness that I am looking for a true leader. And lastly, it does seem that he is indifferent with usual politicians who just like to give promise without further realization and just sell out his conscience to political party.

I am not in the opposition toward Jokowi. It is because I am his fan that I think I need to urge him to fulfill his promise as Jakarta Governor for 5 years. Moreover, by siting longer as Jakarta Governor, I think he will be more ready to prepare his subordinates once he takes up throne as Indonesian President. Thus, everything will be better once he becomes a President and less people would oppose his candidacy.

Thus, to Mr. Jokowi and all Indonesians, I just want to insist one thing: a promise is a promise. We just cannot put a double standard just because we have achieved something. And just because it is legal under Indonesia Constitution, it does not mean you are wise to do so. As in marriage condition: even if reality insists you to divorce, the best way to deal with it is to counter the submission because you have promised to be with your partner forever. You have given your promise and you are subject to fulfill it. If promise is then no longer exalted, then people will be very easy to promise everything without thinking and make any decision without proper calculation.

The last say toward Jokowi: at least I know that you are merely a usual politician, not that extraordinary because the extraordinary one is those who can hold on to his/her promise because it is the rarest character ever.

Traffic Gridlock and Prisoners’ Dilemma

Traffic gridlock is something that people really never want to experience. Quality time is merely wasted just waiting other private vehicles to move. People can then easily get stressed because they know that their time should be spent most without anything to do except waiting. Unfortunately, this is something that people in Jakarta may face in 2014, as predicted, if the number of private vehicles in Jakarta keeps growing in current trend without any significant addition of road. Should we face this nasty condition?

Current debate is arising talking about Low Cost Green Car (LCGC). You could afford such a car by spending your money about 80 million rupiah. It is not then a huge amount of money for those who live in the upper or even middle class family. Furthermore, the driving forces are not merely located at the price that can be considered “low.” LCGC also offers “green living” by bringing slogan “green car.” It then means that you could save more gasoline while using the car. But, the most important driving force, based on my opinion, is still one: prestige. By buying private vehicle, driving it by yourself, your prestige will be substantially raised up, regardless the price you pay for it. But the crucial question arises: with traffic gridlock is waiting ahead, how important your prestige really is with LCGC?

Prisoners’ dilemma

Prisoners’ dilemma is a well-known game theory describing a situation where there are two prisoners detained together but they are separated when being questioned regarding the crime they have just committed. The rule of the game is simple and can be described as below:

  1. If both of the prisoners still cooperate each other (trust his/her colleague for not committing any crime), there will be no evidence taken regarding the crime. Both of them will serve 1 year in prison based upon the evidence taken by judges.
  2. If one of them chooses not to cooperate (tend to defect) and another one still keeps silent (tend to cooperate), he/she who cooperate will serve 10 years in prison based upon clear evidence stated by his/her colleague. And he/she who defects will be freed as a reward.
  3. If both of them defect each other and not keep silent, they will serve 5 years in prison based upon the evidence taken by judges and as a reward since both of them cooperate with the judges. But, the punishment also clears: since it is clear that they committed crime, they have to serve in prison.

Prisoners’ dilemma does also prevail when people live in society and such a dilemma is true when people talk about traffic gridlock that Jakarta people are going to face. The dilemma happens between using private vehicle and public transportation. Let assume that private vehicle is the state of defect and using public transportation is a state of cooperation. To summarize, the dilemma can be stated as below:

  1. If all of us trust each other, using public transportation rather than private vehicle, all of us will be rewarded: no traffic gridlock happens since all of us will prefer use public transportation even though we have to share our private place and maybe turning down our prestige.
  2. If there are few of us defect and use private vehicle rather than public transportation, they will be rewarded road that is free from traffic jam because most people still tend to cooperate for using public transportation. Those who defect will be rewarded prestige and free-road and those who cooperate should still to share place and not thinking about prestige.
  3. If all of us prefer private vehicle rather than public transportation, traffic gridlock will then happen. All of us will be rewarded prestige but should suffer traffic jam everywhere and wasting quality time.

This is the prisoners’ dilemma happening in our society nowadays. Most of us only think about how to enhance the prestige without have anything to consider about how to be a good citizen. Current condition clearly shows a condition either in number 2 or 3. There are only few people who feel that using public transportation will bring reward. On the other hand, those who use private vehicle for prestige always hope that many people will use public transportation in order to ease the traffic. Such a condition can bring a conflict in society. Those who prefer use public transportation demand better service while those who use private vehicle protest about traffic congestion. How could our government solve such a conflicting circumstance? Building road means cutting the space for public transportation and vice versa. Who should be prioritized?

Furthermore, if this conflict brings to the condition number 3, people then feel that “I would also like to purchase private vehicle since those who use private vehicle do not want to change their habit.” In such a circumstance, there is one thing that will happen: the end of public transportation era and all of us will suffer traffic gridlock. This is the actual condition that is happening in Jakarta and maybe in other big cities in Indonesia.  

A good citizen will absolutely choose the first option since all of us will preserve justice and also get advantage from it. No quality time is going to be wasted when all persons choose to use public transportation since the road will then only serve such mass transportations. No one will suffer punishment when they become cooperative each other to use public transportation. The only disadavantage maybe about the pristige that can still be preservend when private vehicle is used. 

But, people then will raise a doubt: public transportation service is not good at all; that is the reason why I choose private vehicle. I often talk to many people raising such an argument. My answer is quite easy: if you want check and balance system happens in our society, you should then use public transportation; you may say that the quality is not good enough but you would improve your skill more if you are incentivized and the same reason does prevail for our society, namely using public transportation is a mean to incentivize our government to do more to improve the quality. If only few people use it, I do not think our government will be triggered to enhance the service of public transportation. If we move together to use the public transportation, we will then get two benefits: avoiding traffic gridlock and improving the check and balance system. Thus, why not use public transportation?

But, such an improvement cannot be accomplished just by moving together to use public transportation. The triggering activities should also be conducted by government. In Jakarta, for example, law enforcers should be firm for not letting any kind of private vehicle to get into Transjakarta line even though the traffic jam can no longer be bore. Hopefully, this condition will deliver people to think that using public transportation is better.

Hence, cooperation scheme between society and government is important in this matter. If we are to avoid traffic gridlock, public transportation should be prioritized rather than private vehicles. The statement raised by industrial ministry saying that LCGC is good for people from low class is then questionable. On the other hand, I agree with Jokowi: Jakarta’s current traffic is already saturated and using public transportation will bring many advantages if cooperation happens between society and government.