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.

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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.

Equality: a Prerequisite for Building Indonesia Political Condition

Which appropriate side should be used as a basis for buildingIndonesiapolitic atmosphere? Many answers are offered to satisfy this question but only one exists which can properly satisfy this question: equality.

Unfortunately, nowadays condition gives another side of politic. Money and religion are often be used as a basis for establishing an appropriate political condition inIndonesia. Sovereignty can be easily bought by some amounts of money and it can be clearly seen in many cases of taxation mafia. Public policy can be legally brought out even it does not accommodate all of people’s background as policy for banning Ahmadiyah immediately which had been shouted neither by hard-liners organizations nor government itself with the statement of religious-affair ministry few months ago. Politic in this sense then has been successfully underestimated. Politic is just trapped between both money and religion.

Equality

Jacques Ranciere once said that actually people have their same capability of thinking; thus each of them also has a same opportunity to be a political leader. Furthermore, he also noted down that actually equality is not a beyond ultimate goal of politic; instead it has actually exists in society since each people can think freely. Thus, politic should be started from equality in every sense.

How canIndonesiaadopt this theory? InIndonesia, as had been noted above, politic does not have its equality in another sense: religion and money. Those who are very rich and grasp majority religion can be easily lifted up to be a political leader or to publish publicly their own interest without have to face impediments as minority suffers.

This condition absolutely brings inequality inIndonesiapolitical atmosphere and making a gap between two divisions of people that can be never bridged easily.Indonesiagovernment may claim about the cleanness of their government and also about equality between majority and minority; on the other hand realities show the different.

For proving this hypothesis, let this question be answered appropriate unto within nowadays conditions. After many in-toleration incidents were happened, haveIndonesiagovernment taken a firm step for disbanding any anarchistic organizations? It has been three times until now thatIndonesiapresident shouted his will to disband such organizations. Still about intolerant action, how successIndonesiagovernment protect minority in doing their worship, especially in Ahmadiyah case whereas they are often be an object for repression for any hard-liner. How do these realities talk to Indonesians?

Secondly, in dealing with corruption case, is there any further progress for clearing this huge problem? Even reality has to show Indonesians that people who did not know anything for outing such money in Century case had to face her jail. And how about Gayus case which cannot be clearly solved until now but on the other hand Ariel case seemed very easy to be cleared up.

Equality thus never plays its important role inIndonesiapolitic; if it wont to be hyperbolic for saying that actually equality is never be placed deliberately to play its important role. Minority inIndonesiahas to face many impediments for shout their interest when on the other hand money and mainstream religion can do more even better. And the result has also been concluded: building politics throughout money and religions does not give any significant contribution for a betterIndonesia.

Communication

In order to stop this awkward condition, it is clear what should be done. Firstly,Indonesiahas to start its political atmosphere with equality, that politic cannot be placed in a narrow sphere; religion and money. And also in this sense, it is hoped thatIndonesiagovernment can know exactly what is needed by their people.

Secondly, it is imperative forIndonesiato erase the gap between majority and minority, between rich and poor, and also between mainstream religion and other religions. In dealing with this occasion,Indonesiacan adopt Hannah Arendt’s perception, a Jews woman philosopher and also throughout Jurgen Habermas’ model of deliberative democracy.

Hannah Arendt once said that actually politic is not built throughout a birth of many political institutions such as representative body or president. Furthermore, politic is about communication that happens between each of people. Politic means nothing if communication that is happened has been stopped. Jurgen Habermas’ view of deliberative democracy also emphasizes the urgent need of communication in democracy to make a rational consensus. Hence, both of this thinking has the same basis: communication in an equal atmosphere for building a good political condition.

It is clear then what should be done to fix upIndonesiapolitical condition: it is to build an egalitarian society and reject any kind of politic that always uses money and religion as a prerequisite. And building this equality also means to build a rational communication that is free from domination or any kind of repression between every people and Indonesia government should have not reject a consensus that can be successfully achieved or letting its deafness for people’s interest. It should be used as a source of consideration for making public policy.

Emmanuel Levinas once said that every people has their own unique sense then make them can never be the same as other. This difference actually makes them equal since they are actually unique in their own way. In politic, Emmanuel Levinas also said that appropriate condition in dealing with neither people who we had known well nor other who had been stranger for us should be built in order to prevent any inequality exists. HaveIndonesiagovernment nowadays done it well? If equality can never be built successfully,Indonesiaonly has a big dream for making a good political atmosphere.