A new mysterious political movement led by Surya Paloh, Nasional Demokrat, launches.
What are we to make of the National Democrats (Nasional Demokrat (ND, NasDem)), the political vehicle of Golkar figure Surya Paloh launched with much fanfare on February 1st at Istora Senayan, Jakarta?
Their ads certainly brightened up my bus journey through Jakarta the other day, and the presence at the helm of the Sultan of Jogjakarta tends to give a favourable image, not just to me as a monarchist, but because he has a reputation as one of the few honest men in Indonesian politics, despite his family's long connection with Golkar (mind you, to criticise him for that would be similar to disapproving of Yeltsin because he clawed his way up through the CPSU - both were parties addicted to oppression, but both were the only avenues towards getting anything done during their respective hey-days. I might prefer Solzhenitsyn as a nobler character, but we all have to think about what we would do in the grip of a totalitarian/authoritarian regime) but according to the news, the new movement has got off to a tatty start by virtue of its audience consisting at least partly of hirelings.
... a crowd estimated at 12,000 strong — a number of whom told the Jakarta Globe that they had been paid Rp 25,000 ($2.70) to attend....
A lot depends on what we think of the arguably senior partner in the new enterprise, Surya Paloh, boss of Metro TV and numerous other media outlets. He too has been a long-term Golkar apparatchik, and cynics might suggest he has branched out because he got defeated for the leadership of Golkar by Bakrie. He also only recently appeared to be hitching up to Wiranto's Hanura Party.
Surya told the crowd:
We all hoped the reform era would have brought us to a better position...Reform has not helped us achieve our goals.... People are growing more selfish.
Well, can't quarrel with that! Except that it's not so much the people, as in the electorate, but some people, notably the elite ratbags whose selfishness is all the more disgusting in that they are already as rich as Croesus, yet can't stop their ugly snouts burrowing ever-deeper into the fabric of Indonesia. Pay hikes for politicians, free cars, free houses, free laptops. it reminds me of Homer Simpson getting a prize of a holiday in a posh hotel and running about ripping off the accessories..'free soap, free tooth-brushes, free...shower-gel!' But Homer is a working stiff who doesn't have a lot. The elite here have everything, and flaunt it.
Surya said that as a result, the poor remained poor, the rich remained rich and
the dumb remained dumb.
And that his organization would lessen the burdens of the people.
Okay, nice words, but where's the beef? Surya himself has never had a major say in government, but one is nevertheless known by the company one keeps, and who did he invite onto his platform, besides the good Sultan?
Megawati was President for some time, Kalla was known as the most powerful VP ever, Wiranto the War-Horse is still regarded with immense suspicion by reformers and...who's this Mubarok fellow anyway? Not a force to be reckoned with but the others have had loads of opportunities to make a difference. Didn't they? I won't comment. but I'm sure lots of IM posters will.
Anis Baswedan, rector of Paramadina University, said he was asked to join the organization in December:
As long as this is not a political party, I decided to join
And added that he had Surya’s commitment not to transform the organization into a political party.
So what the heck is it? If Surya has given his word, it isn't going to be a party. If he breaks his word, why would anybody trust a party with him at the head of it?
However, Meutya Hafid, head of the National Democrats’ organizing committee, did not rule out the possibility that the organization was the beginnings of a political party, but said that they would wait to gauge the public’s reaction. In the next two weeks, Meutya said, the organization would meet to discuss its regulations and programs. The organization is also expected to spread to the district level. “We want to make it slowly but surely,” she said.
And we bemused expats, as well as millions of citizens, presumably including Mr. Baswedan, await patiently to see if the media magnate and the monarch can emerge from this morass of double-talk with any shred of consistency, let alone any prospect of being taken seriously as potential leaders of Indonesia.
What would be much nicer would be a commitment from the Sultan and the Mogul to stop the plunder of public treasure, the hunting down of corruptors, the restoration of freedom of religion (not much chance of that with the Democrat party having endorsed the suspension of Ahmadiyah's liberties) and the suppression of primitive and barbaric practices like polygamy and pedophilia which bring this nation of fine people into disrepute around the world.