Chris Komari writes an open letter to politicians on the need for public presidential debates.
Dear Presidential Candidates and Indonesian Media at large:
Warm greetings from Northern California! May this letter find you all in great health and excellence spirit to continue serving the great cause for the wonderful people of Indonesia.
There have been debates going on in Indonesia about criteria to be President from age stand point and academic achievements. I find this unbelievably amazing since even the strongest country on earth; United States of America does not assert such a prerequisite to be President of United States. I don’t think these requirements are necessary. The current U.S. Presidential contest between Senator Barrack Obama and Senator John McCain is just a perfect example. Age orientation for neither being too old or too young and academic accomplishments do not prove any person to be a better President. Many instances of older and younger President in United States such as: John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt were both proven to be great leaders with their own leadership skill to resolve crisis facing the nation during their terms. What so critical to be future leader of a country is one’s ability to understand the critical issues and to address those issues with tangible result that will transform significant changes to the life of the million people at large.
There are many critical and depressing issues facing Indonesia at this very moment. Maintaining status quo with empty promises and empty slogans is no longer acceptable. It is very troubling to know that as Presidential election is approaching very rapidly and I have not seen any of these Presidential candidates pointing out those critical issues that need to be debated openly and publicly. The current notion entertained by political party leaders and presidential candidates to run a campaign platform with empty rhetoric, and empty slogans will do nothing to make a change and at the very best will only maintain status quo. This notion shall not be acceptable for the upcoming general and presidential election. These Presidential candidates shall be challenged openly and publicly to present a comprehensive plan and strategy to resolve those important issues. Because of this, I am raising the bar and taking a different approach. I open up a new chapter in presidential election in Indonesia by sending out public invitation to all of these presidential candidates to have series of public Presidential debates to discuss about those urgent and critical issues.
I believe so strongly that without resolving those critical issues, there is not much for any new President regardless how genius that person might be to make any significant changes in Indonesia. I am that confident! The issues have entangled President’s ability to govern and even brought down once was the most powerful man in the 35 years history of that country.
The debate shall be very simple. Each Presidential candidate will be asked to identify at least the top 10 issues facing Indonesia and why those issues are so critical? What program does he/she have to address those current issues and how to implement those programs? If the programs involve a massive project of rebuilding Indonesia’ infra structures, how the programs are going to be funded and where the money comes from? What condition and bench marks to be used to measure its success for their proposed plans?
Those are the framework of the debate and these debates shall be open for public with direct question and answer session amongst the Presidential candidates themselves as well as from the Indonesian people participating in the debate. These series of public debates are meant to scrutinize future President’s view and understanding on issues facing Indonesia and to hold them accountable to find its solution. These debates can be moderated by independent Journalists or private citizens. The date, place and time for the debate can be determined. I will be happy to go to Indonesia to join the debates based on agreed arrangement. One option that is being discussed is to invite all of these Presidential candidates to go to Northern California, USA to join the debates there. The work is still under consideration to determine whether it is feasible or not to hold such a debate in Northern California sometime in January 2009.
I am not running for President and personally, I am not interested in supporting the PERSON individually or, POLITICAL PARTY per say, but I am interested in supporting anyone or, any Presidential candidates who have similar ideas, ideologies and vision on how to make Indonesia to be a better, safer and brighter place to live for all Indonesians. For this reason, I am here ready to engage and participate in public debate and roundtable discussion about critical issues facing Indonesia with any political party leaders and Presidential candidates. I want to make sure that these prominent politicians; Presidential candidates and political party leaders, understand the issues and will address the issues that have direct impact to the millions and millions people of Indonesia. This is the spirit of this public debate invitation.
I have been in and out Indonesia in my attempt to meet those people that I think have the ability, capability and pure motivation beyond self-vested interest to serve the Indonesian people at large. That is what motivates me to meet those political party leaders, Presidential candidates and his/her Presidential team members. I am not concerned about who is going to be the next President of Indonesia as long as that person has a comprehensive plan that is measurable, attainable and make sense to address the critical issues facing Indonesia. These series of public debates will broaden their (our) knowledge and ability to resolve those issues. My goal is not only to make sure that those Presidential candidates and political party leaders recognize those problems and challenge them to come up with a comprehensive plan, but most importantly is on how to do it, how to implement their plans, how to finance the programs, where the money comes from and what bench marks used to measure its possibility of success of their proposed plans.
We need Presidential candidates who can come up with not only a laundry list of what to do, but how to do it with clear direction and goals. And then hold them accountable to generate the expected results to see whether the plans workable and attainable or not. This is the kind of leader that we need in Indonesia who is not only having a comprehensive plan to resolve those important issues, but also who have broader foresight visions on how to make Indonesia better, stronger and be more independent economically, politically and militarily. His/her ability to understand those issues and present a comprehensive package of solution to the people of Indonesia is the kind of Presidential candidate that I am going to support.
I am a public servant and I am there to serve the public in whatever capacity I can to address the issue. This is one of my ways for doing it. What so critical to me is neither the seat at the House of Representative nor the Presidency, but it is the issues that must be resolved. That shall be a priority for the current and the next President of Indonesia. The first step for us now is to scrutinize these Presidential candidates by engaging in series of public debates to find out whether these future Presidents really understand the issues facing the nation and what plan does he/she has to resolve those issues. That is the goal and the direction of these public Presidential debates.
Being an Indonesian citizen living in United States, I could not describe how proud I was when I witnessed a successful transition and the 1st ever direct presidential election in Indonesia in 2004 without any bloodshed. The fact that this smooth transition from authoritarian regime to a democratic ruler in the biggest Muslim country in the world was a new accomplishment, especially in the environment after September 11 terrorist attack in New York. This elevates the image of Indonesia in the world not only as a country but also as Muslims and proves that in fact, Democracy and Islam is compatible. This is something that President Bush was eager to find to justify his failed foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was a primetime for Indonesia in the eyes of the world, especially, in United States of America (USA).
Despite my ongoing efforts to influence those who are in power to take advantages of this new phenomenon for the betterment of Indonesia economically and militarily, there were only little efforts toward this goal, especially after Jakarta and Bali bombings disappearing from the world’s attention. The issue of fighting terrorism was a valid issue to gain military cooperation from United States to get billions and billions of dollars in the form of weapons, intelligence and military cooperation and also cash. Pakistani Government was able to get $20 billion dollars assistance from United States for this effort to fight terrorism. Most importantly, the issue of fighting terrorism can be utilized as a launching pad to work hand in hand with the West, especially with United States to address Indonesia’s massive debts and other critical issues. Unfortunately, this golden opportunity went by without any significant accomplishment and cooperation obtained from the West, especially, from the United States of America (USA) due to lack of leadership and diplomatic ability to seize the perfect moment to influence the world and those who are in power in the White House and in the US Congress.
As democracy emerging in Indonesia, many new political parties born taking advantage of the new laws and taking part in the drum beat of reformation. Many religious clerics are taking dramatic shift from preaching religious issue to preaching political issue, from sitting inside a Mosque to sitting inside a Parliament building. Many musicians and artists also take apart of this new opportunity from performing art works to campaigning political issues on stage. Millions of ordinary people also seize the moment and opportunity. The wind of change breezes throughout Indonesia and democracy seems like demo-crazy if not demo-madness as we have seen ongoing public demonstration happens almost every day in the beginning. To some people, democracy seems to be an opportunity to generate revenue by creating chaos on the main street of the Capital. Public demonstration is becoming a new phenomenon and an outlet for getting cash. But is that really democracy?
Many new national parliament members came from many different backgrounds and have neither public office experience nor parliamentary proceeding and thus creating a new debacle in itself inside the parliament. Many new laws that were introduced and later adopted were contradicting to each other, if not overlapping with other existing laws and regulations making it very difficult to be implemented on the field.
Internationally, Indonesia acceded to the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) on February 23rd, 2006. This covenant has been ratified by more than 144 countries to include Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDHR) 1948 to be part of the covenant. Under this covenant, Indonesia is required to remove and rectify any rules, regulations and laws that are in contradictions with this covenant and Indonesia its own 1945 Constitution to guarantee its citizen of basic human rights. Unfortunately, even until today I have not seen any urgent attempt by the speaker of the Parliament to harmonize those conflicted regulations, especially, the ones that are in direct contradiction with the Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution. This opens up new lope holes and power abuses. For the sake of clarity and protecting its citizen rights, the Parliament as a whole shall take on the issue sooner than later. The laws must be cleared and less ambiguities in its words and meaning.
These members of the Parliament are elected to supposedly working and fighting for the interest of the ordinary people but rather, they are working merely for the interest of his/her political party affiliation. It does not surprise me since they are promoted and selected internally by political party to be on the ballot. At the end, party affiliation becomes a dominant issue. The interests of the ordinary people are left out and neglected. After the election is over, the role of the people seems to vanish in the air and never been allowed to get involved in any decision making process at any level in the government’s affairs. This is not what democracy is all about in any stretch of imagination. This occurs because of democracy in Indonesia is still new, and secondly, in the absence of public rule of engagement in political public playing field for members of Parliament and other public officials in Indonesia.
In the great State of California, we recognize the very well-known California Codes Government Code Section 54950-54963 known as “the Brown Act”. This is the law that requires public access to meeting and requires the elected officials to let the public speak. This spirit of this law is nothing but to involve the ordinary people at the Government’s affairs. Most importantly, the Brown Act limits, restricts and guides the public conduct of its public officials in the State of California. Is the Brown Act alone enough to govern Californian public officials? The answer is no. There are other rules, such as: “better rule of government” which is designed to improve its officials’ public engagements with the people and minimize the lope holes at the Brown Act. Many Counties and Cities in the State of California adopted their own local laws through City Codes and Ordinances. All of these local laws were adopted to improve their public engagements to serve nothing but the public interests by involving public at large in the government’s affairs. None of those local laws are contradicting or overlapping the State or Federal laws. .
Many rules and regulations introduced and later adopted by the State, County or at City level was designed to improve the previous laws, minimizing any lope holes for the best interest of the public at large. This is something that is still missing within the current context of democracy in Indonesia. As I see it today, Democracy in Indonesia is more like a government of political party, by political party and for political party. This is incorrect and this has to change since this is not what the spirit of democracy is all about. Democracy is about the people interest and not about the interest of certain groups, elites, political parties or big corporations.
In 2004 election, the Presidential candidates came up with a laundry list several pages long elaborating about issues facing Indonesia and what they are planning to do is elected to be President. But none of these candidates elaborated on how to implement those programs, how to fund those programs, where the money comes from and what is the indication used (bench marks) to measure its success of their plans. Any plans and programs that are not measurable and attainable with timeline are still empty promises. This notion shall not be repeated in 2009. It is time for a change, and the time is now!
Then the very troubling corruption madness occurs in almost every level of government offices, especially at the judicial system of government. And because the justice system in Indonesia does not function and work as it is meant to be fair, just, co-equal and absolute independent, it tangles almost every effort by the executive branch to improve the social fabric of its society. Lack of enforcement on the rule of laws and continuing power abuses tripled the problems. KPK (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi) was then established as a result of the lack of credibility at the judicial system to root out corruption creating layers after layers in the system of Government and draining much of the Indonesia’s financial resources.
Also in the absence of judicial system ability to function fairly and independently, KPU (Komisi Pemilihan Umum) was established to monitor, regulate and oversee the general and presidential election process. Even though KPU has been functioning as it was intended to be, it has no enforcement authority. The last 2004 election, Golkar party was the biggest violator on KPU regulations but because this commission does not have either Executive, Legislative or Judicial authority to enforce the law, there was nothing that KPU could do to hold Golkar party accountable and imposed punishment accordingly. This is a new government office that was claimed to be independent and absolute but was unable to punish the violator. What does that say and prove? I anticipate that new violations in the upcoming election are yet to continue. If the violation does happen again and committed by a major political party in Indonesia, what action KPU is going to take?
If we look at the job of KPK and KPU, it is clearly still within the framework of judicial system of Government. And because one branch of Government does not work, an alternative was established. The worst part is that one the newly formed offices has lack of enforcement authority. That was not too unfortunate step taken since the judicial system was completely untrustworthy. But keeping the office (KPU) the way it is with lack of enforcement is unwise policy. Understanding this issue, it is now the time for the Indonesian Government to gradually reform judicial system and place KPK/KPU back within that framework of judicial system with its judicial authority. The executive and legislative branch of Government must work together to reform Indonesia’s judicial system to be corrupt and bribery free as well as to be absolute independent. Otherwise, fixing the bigger issues will almost impossible.
The corruption madness also occurred at KPU; the very independent office that was supposed to be corrupt free. The lack of public oversight through transparency, check and balance resulting in the corruption debacle committed by the very prominent members of KPU. The establishment of KPK and KPU emphasizes the fact that Indonesia’s system of government, especially, at the judicial system of government is completely broken, so inefficient and ineffective. During 35 years of authoritarian ruler, Soeharto’s regime had created a massive government in his attempt to control and silence every adversary even at the Parliament level by asserting membership of the Indonesian Arm Forces. Now during this reformation era, it is even bigger with the establishment of new offices and independent commissions. What are the impacts?
The majority expenditures of Indonesia’s national 2007 budget approved by the Parliament on October 17 were pretty much sucked up by the central government. Out of Rp.763.6 trillion government’s total expenditures for the entire country, Rp.504.8 trillion alone was spent by the Central Government. That is over 66% of the total expenditures while the total revenue was projected at Rp.723.1 trillion based on average oil price at $63 per barrel. Even with this approved budget, Indonesia was projected to have about $40.5 trillion in deficit (about -1.1% of its GDP).
What excluded in the budget deficit calculation spreadsheet were the monstrous public debts, which stood at $144 billion US dollar in 2006. If those massive public debts are included in the budget calculation spreadsheet against revenue and spending, how many years will Indonesia be finally able to balance its budget? In other words, the projected deficit to stand at Rp.40.5 trillion (-1.1% of GDP) was a metaphorical deficit and not in a real sense deficit because much of the liability owed by the Indonesian government to Paris Club (18 countries), ADB, JBIC and World Bank was not included.
When the oil price increased and stood at over $145 per barrel, it shocked SBY’s administration. How big the deficit is going to be in his 2007 budget with that kind of oil price? The fund that was allocated to cover government subsidies will be double if not triple. The figure can be 2.5 or 3 times bigger as projected reaching to over Rp.100 trillion in deficit. That is why SBY’s administration was in a rush to increase the domestic oil price known as BBM (Bahan Bakar Minyak) to cover much of the bigger deficit anticipation. It maybe the best option available on the table but certainly, the most unfortunate action taken by SBY administration sacrificing much of the poorest Indonesian people that have been so poor struggling everyday to survive. Other options shall be exercised and raising domestic fuel price should be the last resort.
Reformation is a great thing and democracy is still the best form of government we find on earth. But incorrect implementation of Democracy creates a new set of problem that we have seen today in Indonesia. Despite vigorous attempts to improve every sector of Government, these new troubles overwhelmed the drum beat of reformation. As a result, many Indonesian people think that reformation was worse than authoritarian ruler, which is not true. For ordinary Indonesian, what is the benefit of reformation if it does not do any good to change their life and the condition on the ground?
I have not seen any dramatic economic policy and actions taken by neither the current administration nor the previous administrations to improve revenues and minimize spending. The size of the central government is not getting smaller even with the regional autonomy policy. The central government spending is so humongous and outrageous. At this point, balancing Indonesia’s national budget is beyond a talking point by the current President and the current members of the Parliament. During Suharto administration, these massive debts were not even acknowledged publicly and called: “Foreign Aids” instead of debts (Bantuan Luar Negeri) in an attempt to manipulate public perception. This was a top State’s secret for over 35 years that is no longer a secret today.
This is something the Indonesian public at large needs to know and this is something that the current and the future President of Indonesia shall be held accountable for. This is an issue that all of these Presidential candidates must be questioned and challenged openly and publicly. That is the number # 1 top priority for anyone who wants to be the next President of Indonesia. Any President candidate who does not bring solution to this issue will do nothing to make any significant change in Indonesia if elected. At the very best, he/she will only maintain status quo, which is not acceptable proposition to my view. Resolving Indonesia’s massive debt is a must issue for the upcoming Presidential election in Indonesia. This shall be a national issue to be debated openly.
If we think Indonesia as a big corporation or company, this corporation has too much public debts and filling bankruptcy is much better off than maintaining its operation with that financial condition. This was the condition of Indonesia in 2002 where its total foreign and domestic’s debts stood at 80% of its GDP. It was even worst in the previous years. In 1997 with South East Asia economic crisis coupled with Indonesia’s domestic banking disaster, rupiah currency had lost 85% of its value against USD (US Dollar), Indonesia’s stock exchange index had fallen by 50% and in that one year alone, income per capita was reduced by 15%. By the end of 1998 early 1999, Indonesia’s debts became unsustainable stood at $143 billion, which was equivalent to its total GDP. In other words, Indonesia’s total foreign and domestic debts stood at 100% of its GDP. It was not only threatening fiscal sustainability but it made very difficult for the country to operate and let alone of financing the needed basic infra structure. As a result, poverty in Indonesia risen from 11% in 1997 to 50% in 2001. That was over 107 million Indonesians living under poverty. $1.4 billion poverty alleviation program that was launched in 2007 did not even scratch the surface if not missing the point addressing the underlying issue of poverty.
It does not take a genius to figure it out that there is a direct correlation between the government’s massive debts and its citizen’s prosperity and poverty. The more bankrupt the government is, the more likely its citizen will suffer due to lack of funding for public services and infra structures.
Since 1997, over 39 million people lost their job. Government’s program to give out $110,000 US dollar to villages to create new million jobs did not make sense. Despite vigorous attempt by SBY administration to stipulate economic and even the current 7% economic growth is still insufficient to provide all new-job seekers with employment, let alone dent Indonesia’s huge unemployment tally which stood at 9.8% in February 2007 which was over 23 million people being unemployed. This 7% economic growth that was promoted is just like a drop of water in an empty big bucket. It is too insignificant to address unemployment in Indonesia. In 1998, Indonesia’s debt to export ratio (DER) stood at 251.70% (yes, this was not a mistake), while its debt service ratio (DSR) stood at 33%. To fund the country’s national budget (APBN) in 2004, Indonesia had to borrow money from IMF through CGI for $2.8 billion dollar. Look, even to pay its operation cost for the country including gaji pegawai negeri, Indonesia had to borrow money form foreign countries. How long Indonesia is going to be remaining dependent on other foreign countries and bug down in this deep debt trap?
If we think of Indonesia as an automobile, the issue is not only with incapable driver, but it is also with the car itself that has been tangled with wiring and engine problem per say and make it difficult to run smooth and fast on the road, fast enough to compete with other moving vehicles on the same path. This chronology reflects and represents the value of Indonesia’s currency (Rupiah) compared to USD (US dollar) that has been weakening for decades. In the 80’s, $1 was equal to about Rp.850. Now 28 years, it has been nine times (9X) worst as in 2008, $1 (USD) equal to over Rp.9.000,- In 2005 it reached all time low, in which Rp.15.000 was equal to $1 (USD). This shows that the overall Indonesian’s economy compare to US economy is not getting better; it is nine times worse since the 80’s. The fact that there is no significant economic policy by the Government of Indonesia from the previous and the current administration to address this significant issue is just mind boggling.
With no measure in place to deal with its consequences, inexperience IMF councils instructed Bank of Indonesia to shut down 16 banks. Indonesia was forced to bail out 16 different banks creating $60 billion new debt, which later on became $80 billion on top of other mounting debts that Indonesia already has. In return IMF loaned Indonesia $43 billion called Emergency Financial Package with string attached. This IMF package required elimination of social subsidies on fuel and food, causing acute hardship to the million poor Indonesian that brought down Suharto’s regime.
What is so wrong with this IMF debacle is the fact that the IMF forced Indonesia to turn massive private debts to become government debts; making private debts becomes public debts, which is in away burdening more to Indonesia’s tax payers, the millions ordinary Indonesia people to pay for it. This was not a highway robbery, it was a country robbery. Creating $80 billion dollar new debt to get $43 billion dollar loan from the IMF was a complete rip off if not criminal in nature making Indonesia in much deeper and deeper debt trap. That was $123 billion dollar mistake and the biggest irresponsible if not criminal public conduct, in the name of Indonesian people by their very own public officials. What a tragic blunder! But that was not the only big blunder. There are several more big blunders. It is just too long to mention here.
Indonesia is a country and not a big corporation, filling bankruptcy or filling default is a very difficult option and the last source that any leader would ever consider. If not well-prepared and carefully planned, the long term repercussion can be disastrous and fatal.
How bad is this massive debt?
Picture this. State of California as being the 5th largest economic power in the world is now having $15.2 billion in deficit. Look at what the Governor and the Representatives at the State Senate in Sacramento have been doing. They have been debating and pressuring each other on how to balance the budget. In terms of GDP size, California as a State has bigger GDP than Indonesia as a country. With only $15.2 billion dollar deficit in the State budget, these Representatives from both parties and the Governor have been debating left and right on how to resolve the issue.
Now let’s look at Indonesia. In 2002, Indonesia’s Domestic and Foreign Debts stood at $152 Billion dollar, which was equal to 80% of its GDP. It was Rp.1.370.0 trillion Rupiah in debt while the size of its GDP was Rp. 1.716.5 trillion rupiah. In December 2006, Indonesia’s total public debt stood at $144 billion USD dollar, 48% of its GDP. By the end of 2008, Indonesia’s Domestic and Foreign debts are projected to stand at about $136 billion dollar, which is around 36% of its GDP. This figure can be different and varies subject to the world average oil price fluctuation per barrel. Compared to $15.2 billion deficit in California, the $136 billion dollar debts is much tougher burden for Indonesia besides the debt amount is 9 times bigger, its GDP is smaller than California.
Even with these massive debts, I have not seen any outrage, any heated debate about it; I have not seen any of these Presidential candidates or parliament members addressing this issue vigorously? They are just pretty much adem ayem. Why?
One of the sentiments that I heard is that once you are elected to be member of the executive or legislative, the basic salary and compensation they receive is more than enough to live a good life, why bother addressing this very difficult issue exposing oneself of public scrutiny. As long as they keep loyalty to their boss or political party affiliation, they will remain in a good shape. This kind of adverse notion shall be brought up and challenged openly. The rule of the game for the election of the Parliament member shall be reformed and tailored in such a way to address the interest of the people as a priority.
All members of Parliament must undergo public scrutiny through public debates to represent the interest of the people where he/she represents. The members of Parliament must be people oriented and not political party oriented. For that reason, the people where he/she represents must elect him/her directly the same way as electing President or Governor at the provincial, regional and/or district level. This system will place the interest of the people above other interests. This is why the rule of political public playing field is so critical in Indonesia. The current system does not serve the interest of the people and too many lope holes. The legislative and KPU must work hand in hand to draft a new bill that will address this issue. Without addressing this issue, the interest of the people will be overwhelmed and dominated by the interest of certain groups, elites and political parties. That shall be eliminated sooner than later.
What is at stake and what are the problems for Indonesia?
The 1st problem: “Our debts are in US dollar and our currency is in Rupiah. The loan repayments will INCREASE as the Rupiah continues to depreciate. Make it much more challenging and difficult! This means that the ordinary people of Indonesia have to work MUCH and MUCH HARDER as tax payers to keep up with the increasing US currency. That translates to the much longer time needed for Indonesia to be able to pay off its massive foreign and domestic debts if not for a generation to come.”
The 2nd problem: “The Indonesia’s ability to pay these loans will DECLINE as the debt service ratio (DSR) has risen over the years from 33% in 1996 to 50% in 1998. The ability to repay these debts will depend on EXPORTS, and exports are greatly dependent on “demand and supply.”
On the demand side, Indonesian market had about 64% in Asian region. But on the supply side, the real sector was very poor, unable to operate due to the debt repayment problem and lack of MARKET CAPITALIZATION. This will translate the declining value of the Rupiah against other currencies, especially, the US currency.
On the other side, with virtually no significant ability from the Indonesian Government to stipulate domestic economy due to lack of funds and massive debts, the trend continues and domestic consumption will have to be imported and thus eliminating the change for Indonesia in capturing its DOMESTIC EQUITY MARKET. This translates the likelihood of declining and weakening the currency Rupiah against US Dollar.
With no MARKET CAPITALIZATION and DOMESTIC EQUITY MARKET, the currency Rupiah will most likely continue to weaken. This is a double deep. That means the ability for Indonesia to pay off its massive debts will take much longer time, beyond imaginable. It is a sad reality that with this bad economy, there is no sound Government economic policy; it is either non-existence or chaotic that is undertaken to remedy this issue in a country that is so rich with natural resources.
The 3rd problem: “Because the required loan repayment is so large and so humongous, the potential and funds needed to stipulate the economy are lacking. What does it mean? That means as Indonesia is lacking of fund needed due to massive debts to stipulate its economy and to rebuild its infra structures, this will make it impossible for Indonesia to improve its current condition. This condition triples already complicated matters. It is high possibility that the condition will likely to get worse each year as we have seen for the last 28 years with its currency value.”
This just amazes me that one former President of Indonesia did not even know the size if Indonesia’s public debts. It is mind boggling that not even a single current presidential candidate ever brought up this issue on the surface to be debated publicly and openly.
The 4th problem: “Such an immense debt stock could exacerbate adverse public perception and expectations (false hopes).” This situation is just like a combustion chamber with high density, where a tiny spark can create an explosion burning the entire chamber, making Indonesia susceptible to external shock and turmoil. We have seen this happening in 1998.
It is beyond any reasonable doubt that Indonesia’s massive foreign and domestic debt is the most pressing issue facing Indonesia at this time and this shall be the number #1 issue and a top priority that any new President of Indonesia has to be challenged to deal with. Any slogans, empty rhetoric and a laundry list of what to do by Presidential candidates are no longer acceptable in the upcoming election. It is time for a change!
These underlying issues for all of these debacles must be understood and resolved first if we want to see any significant change. That is the main job of the next President of Indonesia and members of the Parliament. Each of these Indonesia’s Presidential candidates must be questioned, asked and scrutinized on how to resolve the country’s massive foreign and domestic debts and balance its national budget. Their plans to undertake these massive debts cannot be too broad, rhetoric and empty promises in nature. It must be clear, comprehensive, make sense, measurable and attainable with timeline and bench marks to measure its success. It is time for all of these Indonesia’s politicians, members of the Parliament and future President to rise up to tackle those big issues and deliver results to the Indonesian people and not empty promises. Now is the time for a change and I am taking the 1st step toward that direction. Empty rhetoric to maintain status quo is just unacceptable in such a critical time.
This upcoming presidential and general election shall be a different kind of election with different tone and substance. Each of you can play a significant role by raising those issues that I mentioned above. You can simply forward this open letter to your political party leaders, parliament members or, to your Presidential candidate that you support. It is not critical who is going to be the next President of Indonesia, but it is critical that those important issues are to be resolved by the next President of Indonesia.
The Role of Journalists and a Free Media:
There are many critical issues and ongoing problems that have been neglected for so long by the previous administrations and the current administration. This is where the Indonesian journalists and a free media play its critical role to address the issues by raising the issues. Unless Indonesian journalists and a free media play its critical role to be the 4th branches of Government in a democratic society, the many issues in Indonesia will be left in the back burner unresolved.
How many more years do Indonesian people have to wait to see any significant change in their live? How long Indonesia is going to pay off her massive debts and be independent economically? With 18 countries within Paris Club alone will take 40 years. How about with ADB, JBIC and the World Bank? Will it take a generation to pay off her debts?
What actions shall be taken to streamline those monstrous spending by the central government? How many millions more of Indonesian people will lose their jobs, remain unemployed and living in poverty? What economic policy shall be taken to make a significant change in Indonesia’s economy? Is it necessary for Indonesia to have so many Ministers? Is it necessary for Indonesia to have 700 members of national Parliament and another 128 members of Regional Representatives or DPD (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah)?
United States of America being the most powerful country on earth with $13.8 trillion dollar in its GDP in 2007 and has 50 states has only 535 members in Congress. Now compared that with Indonesia that has 33 small provinces, where 3, 4 or 5 provinces combined is still smaller than State of California or Texas. Its GDP was still in billion (not in trillion) stood at $663 billion in GDP (in 2002) but Indonesia has total of 828 members of Representatives in the central government. So, Indonesia being a much smaller county in size and its GDP compared to United States of America (USA), has 293 more members in Parliament. And what these guys do? The government is becoming so big and so inefficient. That is why much of the national budget expenditures 2007 are sucked up by the central government. This has to change!
How about traffic jam and flood in Jakarta? Are these problems a dead meat? If Governors and Ministers level are unable to resolve these issues once and for all, why don’t you (Indonesian journalists) ask the future President of Indonesia to address these issues?
Those questions must be raised by the pres across the board and hold those current members and future members of the Parliament, political party leaders, current and future President of Indonesia accountable to answer these questions. These shall be national issues for national debates at the upcoming general and Presidential election in Indonesia. That would be a great start and I am starting it now!
The recent “Freedom of Information Law (Act)” that was passed by the Parliament shall be a significant tool for any Indonesian journalists to do their jobs. Their works must be closely tied to the public’s right to know. They represent free media, newspapers, radio and television networks that can investigate the workings of government and report on them without fear of prosecution. The press is the surrogate of the citizen, reporting back through print and broadcast media what it has found so that the citizenry can act on that knowledge. In a democracy, the people rely on the press to ferret out corruption, to expose the maladministration of justice or the inefficient and ineffective workings of a government body. No country can be free without a free press, and one sign of any dictatorship is the silencing of the media. It is also the job of the press to monitor any abuse of power and human rights.
As Indonesia is gradually embracing democracy, it is critical that the Indonesian press and media undertake a great length to educate the public at large by presenting a true understanding of Democracy and monitor the implementation of its principles. Regardless of any new name and perhaps, a different kind of Democracy Indonesia is going to embrace, Democracy can not be separated from its 11 principles, which are:
Those are the 11 principles of Democracy that any democratic government shall implement. Does it guarantee that the people of Indonesia will live in peace and harmony? It does and it does not, it depends on many factors. But one thing for sure is this. If implementing those 11 principles of Democracy may and may not guarantee its success, neglecting those 11 principles of democracy is no doubt will bring chaos and turmoil in a diverse society like Indonesia. Chaos and turmoil can be triggered by many things. Those 11 principles will at best preserve and protect individual rights as a citizen that will nurture people to respect each other to live in peace and harmony.
Having said all of those, I do not suggest that there is no progress in Indonesia. Yes, there are many progresses in Indonesia that I am very proud to acknowledge. I even acknowledged it at the very 1st paragraph in this introduction how proud I was being an Indonesian living overseas witnessing a successful 1st direct Presidential election in 2004 and newly emerging democracy there that Indonesia people are eager to embrace. But those progresses are unfortunately too insignificant to change the living condition of Indonesian people at large. Unemployment and poverty is still staggering in number. The gap between the poor and the rich is getting bigger and widening over time. Power abuse, corruption and human right violations are yet to continue unpunished.
In every opportunity that I had meeting with prominent politicians from back home, Indonesia, I did not hesitate to raise and ask about those issues openly and publicly. I don’t hesitate to get opinions from my American friends and politicians on the same issues. Some of these discussions were one-on-one basis in an open forum and also in private that took place in Indonesia and in the USA. To name a few of them, they are:
I respect differences in point of view on any matters but nonetheless, I have met with very unsatisfactory answers on such critical issues that I mentioned above. All of these things motivate me to form a political party in my attempt to participate in the political contest to make sure that those urgent and critical issues are to be addressed and resolved. While forming a political party takes tremendous amount of time and effort, I do not wait and ignore the current issues that have entangled Indonesia and her ability to eliminate poverty. What so critical to me is neither the seat of the Presidency nor at the House of Representative, but it is the issues that need to be resolved once and for all.
I want to say this with a degree of concern and caring that unless those issues are resolved first once and for all, there is not much for any new President can do, regardless how genius this person might be to make any significant changes in Indonesia. I am that confident with the issues because with how it is today, President’s ability to govern will be very limited. Those issues have entangled Indonesia for so long and have lead to the down fall of once was the most powerful man in that country. Each of you can play a critical role to address those important issues every step of the way until it gets resolved. Believe it or not, every problem has solution and together, we can turn the impossible possible!
I have brought up those issues before you and all what you need to do is to keep raising those issues. I am looking forward to seeing those issues to be debated nationally by these President candidates in Indonesia. Thank you.
Future Indonesia Independent Party
(Partai Masa Depan Indonesia Mandiri)
2780 Willow Pass Road, Bay Point, CA 94565
* Chris Komari served as a City Council for the City of Bay Point, State of California, USA in 2002. He is now serving as Board Member of Project Area Committee (PAC) in the same city; a governing body under jurisdiction of Contra Costa County, State of California, USA. He was former Chairman of Tsunami Fund Raising Concert in San Francisco 2005 and also former Chairman of Indonesia Day 2005. In his efforts to represent the unspoken voices from the millions and millions ordinary Indonesian to address on the issues, he formed a political platform called: Partai Masa Depan Indonesia Mandiri. This political party is still in its early stage of formation and it has not yet been registered or certified by the Government of Indonesia.