Presidential Debates

Sep 2nd, 2008, in Opinion, by

Chris KomariChris Komari writes an open letter to politicians on the need for public presidential debates.

Public Invitation for Series of 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:

  1. Sovereignty of the people.
  2. Government based upon consent of the governed.
  3. Majority rule.
  4. Minority rights.
  5. Guarantee of basic human rights.
  6. Free and fair elections.
  7. Equality before the law.
  8. Due process of law.
  9. Constitutional limits on government.
  10. Social, economic, and political pluralism.
  11. Values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise.

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:

  • Former Presidents of Indonesia
  • Former Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs
  • Chairman and Secretary General of Major Political Parties
  • Former Governor
  • Former Interior Minister
  • Current Presidential Candidates
  • Current members of Parliament
  • Media Founder, Media Pundits and Political Consultants
  • Several Retired Generals of Indonesia Arm Forces
  • Executive Directors of NGO’s in Indonesia and its deputies
  • Some professors at University of Indonesia and UC Berkeley, California.

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.


Chris Komari
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.

40 Comments on “Presidential Debates”

  1. Chris Komari says:

    To: Lomboksurfer

    Thanks for sending those entertaining lines. But please, watch your language as some little girls might visit this site. What your mates said about me is true. Who are your mates anyway?

    Half Moon Bay is certainly a pretty place to surf but it is still 2 hours drive from where I live. When I was still learning to fly in the late 90’s, I flew and landed down there at Half Moon Bay from Hayward Airport with a little Cessna 172 as part of my routine flying route. Half Moon Bay has an uncontrolled airport and you can fly in and out as much as you like.

    Well, I am not a surfer freak kind of guy and I don’t have any information you are asking for. You seem too crazy about woman with bikini…? I guess you need to stay away from the beach for a while to refresh your convolution mind from seeing women with bikini….that is the side effect for staying too long at the beach, right? Have you ever seen a monkey with bikini? That might be an alternative for you guys to look at…

    I don’t think you can handle Californian girls, even the ones who migrate from Indonesia. They are just too Americanized and Rupiah can’t seem to keep up! Have you ever met one in Lombok? Don’t you guys have a lot of Aussie down there? Is tourism still doing well in Lombok? If you ever come or stranded in California, feel free to reach me. I might have the time to take you guys to Half Moon Bay.

  2. lomboksurfer says:

    Hi Chris dude – Thanks so much mate for the totally awesome reply! Me and the boys wondered if you had a sense of humour and you more than satisfied our curiosity so to speak. Really sorry about the overuse of bloody and bleedin so much but that just how we speak like all the time dude. Me and the lads meant no harm as we think your totally cool. You can hang with us anytime dude!

  3. Rob says:


    Dude where the bloody hell did you come from?

    You are not another one of Achmad’s alter egos are you?

  4. Evan says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond my comments in length ^_^

    First, just to be clear, some of my arguments might resonate with those who advocate maintaining the status quo. But not me. I don’t believe that status quo is the way to go. But I do believe this.

    One, radical (slow or fast) changes in Indonesia – as history have shown us over and over – always comes with price, and usually, the minorities are the ones who have to pay (esp. Chinese and Christians). The case of 1965 and 1998 are but only the most obvious. There is a grain of truth in some (not all) areas where a ‘gradual’ approach might be more prudent. I’ll give you one classic example as my research background is in military studies. Democracies, esp. the US, always advocates control over the military and civilian supremacy as the key underpinning factors of any democratic development. Look at what Gus Dur did. He tried too too much to impose such control, guess what happened? Minorities pay as Ambon and Poso flared up, not to mention triggering his own downfall and the ascendancy of conservative officers under Sutarto and Ryamrizard.

    Second, I believe that every one, esp. Indonesians, have their own ‘path of struggle’ (jalur perjuangan). This reminds me of the words of the late Nurcholish Madjid. He was once asked, “Cak Nur, our nation’s problems are so multi-faceted and complex and seem entangled in a web of mess. Where do we begin to solve them?” He only replied, “start anywhere you can”. In this regard, just because my take on your approach might sound ‘status quo’ does not mean I too favor the maintenance of such corrupt system or that I’m not doing anything. I just believe that my struggle (perjuangan) is to educate and teach younger generation of Indonesians (which to quote Tan Malaka, is the ‘most holy duty’). This is why I’m working hard to learn properly so I could come back someday and eventually teach those that would chance Indonesia more than I ever could.

    That being said, I apologize. When I said, ‘there’s a cultural argument to made here’. I’m not saying that it’s alright for the government to hide things from us because it’s the ‘Indonesian culture’. What I meant was, your approach to problems Chris, although hit the mark, might not be so ‘acceptable’ to most Indonesians who are yet accustomed to the kind of open liberal democracy that you’ve experienced in the US. Thus, when I said ‘culture’, I meant Indonesia’s political culture suggests that we have yet to achieve a particular level of political institutionalization necessary for the kind of ‘debate-everything-in-the-open’ democracy. This is not a judgment call, whether it is bad or good.

    Politics is about acceptability Chris, and all I’m saying is that the kind of open challenge that you’re throwing out there might not necessarily be accepted by the general public not because they think you’re wrong, but simply because they think it’s ‘inappropriate.’ (to assign motives to these people as ‘defenders of status quo’ is to fall on your own rejection of assigning motives)

    Furthermore, the reason why I suggested that you take a different approach is that I think your ideas are great, and I would hate to see them fall on deaf ears simply because you couldn’t sell it. Unfortunately, for now, the way to sell political ideas cannot be done in a blunt manner.

    Regarding your intention to build a political party to articulate you 14-point plan — surprisingly, this is also not new. I’ve met and heard countless student activists, NGOs, celebrities and even at one point,a former gangster godfather, and thousands of politicians, who all stated their ‘true intention’ to build a political party for the betterment of the people.

    Sorry to be blunt, but why should you be any different? By this question, I’m not saying that you’re just like those politicians who simply want to enrich themselves. All I’m asking is, if your solution seems to require a new political party just to get them articulated, then I’m sorry Chris, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. We are all so tired of political parties and promises. Hell, we’ve heard the promises of dozens of supposedly ‘new parties’ to bring ‘new hope’ with ‘new plans’ with nothing in return.

    This is precisely why I think you need to switch strategy Chris. Indonesia is not America — at least not for now. American-type political strategy will never work for the time being. There are other venues to get your message out there, without necessarily creating the ire of Indonesians like Purba who — albeit in our view might not be intellectually rigorous or simply defending the status quo — could easily reject your ideas simply because you present them in an ‘American’ way of politics.

    You may think people like him are out to defend the status quo and shift the blames on others, but as I’m sure you know, in politics, these people are your constituents. What if Purba was one of your constituents in the US?

    Again, this is not to say there’s something bad about American democracy as Purba argued, but simply to say, that if politics is about acceptability, then you need to downplay your idealism and change strategy if you want to get your ideas heard.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong or that I’ve crossed the line of decent political debate, but after you left for America, what’s the longest time you’ve spent living in Indonesia and being involved in Indonesian politics?

    The reason why I’m asking this is not for the same reasons Purba is asking them. I’m simply asking because if I’m going to be one of your future constituents — per your plan to have a political party — I need to know whether you know and have a feel of how politics work in Indonesia, and more importantly, what kind of issues are more urgent than others.

    For example, is bureaucratic reform more important than education reform? Or is military reform more necessary than economic reform? How do you intend to solve poverty? If a bloated parliament and bureaucracy is the problem, what then is the solution that does not come with massive unemployment at the public sector? Can we reform the public sector when there is no educated people to take over? How do you propose to protect the Islamic minority sects in the country? How do you propose to make sure that 1965 and 1998 does not happen again in the future? These are questions that I assure you are not new and I’m sure I’m not the first one to ask them.

    To be honest, it’s a bit hard to have a nice discussion over email. So I hope that if you’re serious about coming back to Indonesia and form a political party, I’m sure we could meet over coffee in a Jakarta cafe house somewhere.

    Anyway, I stand by my argument: it’s nice to see that someone like you still care about Indonesia and it’s people like you that give a tiny ray of hope and optimism in the future.

    Wish you all the best Chris,


  5. Chris Komari says:

    To: Lomboksurfer

    I have read your reply and thanks for inviting me to hang out with your guys in Lombok. I just came back from 4 days in New York and I still have a little bit jetlag to deal with.

    Anyway, I do plan to go to Lombok soon hopefully before the end of the year. I have been in Solo, Jogya and Bali so many times but never got a chance to fly down to Lombok. If there is any particular place that I shall visit in Lombok, please shoot me an email. Where do you guys hang out?

    To: Evan,

    I have seen your posting and I will reply it soon. Thanks

  6. Chris Komari says:

    To: Lomboksurfer

    Here is my direct email:

  7. Chris Komari says:

    To: Evan

    Finally I have the opportunity to respond your last posting. New York and California took about 7 hours flight. Even though it is only 3 hour difference in time zone, it took me a while to get rid of my jetlag. My trip to New York was nice. Meeting old and new friends from 50 different States in the election season was quite a night out. Hanging out with these guys gave me a little time to sleep. By the time the 4 days was over, I was beat.

    Anyway, I have read your last posting with full attention. You brought up many good points and posted very excellence questions. I am not going to respond in order but I want to make sure that I respond each point that was raised with clarity. Healthy interchanges are always fruitful.

    In a nutshell, our differences lie on this. It boils down to what system of Government Indonesia is going to embrace. This is the underlying argument that I presented. If Indonesia is embracing authoritarian, kingship or dictatorship kind of Government, then let’s play the rule of that game accordingly. But if Indonesia is embracing DEMOCRACY as she has proclaimed to the world since 2004, then Indonesia shall abide by and honor its principles and implement the rule of the game within the framework of democratic government accordingly.

    For the time being, let’s now forget my background for being an Indonesian-American who has been exposed deeply by the American Democracy to eliminate any potential suspicion and convoluted mind. Let’s also set aside these easily misunderstood words, such as: American Democracy, Open Liberal Democracy, American-Type Political Strategy, American way of Politic or, Indonesia’s Political Culture. Let’s focus on democracy as democracy that stands alone within its principles and spirit, which is Demo as people and kratia as government. President Lincoln summarized it as: Government of the people, by the people and for the people. And because the people’s interest is the centralized focus in democracy, the power of the government is decentralized and 3 branches of government are established to be co-equal. For that matter, an additional 4th branch of non-government (A Free Media) was also required to play its role to monitor the work of these 3 branches of Government and report their finding to the people. This reflects the spirit of democracy within the framework people’s right to know and to be informed.

    Now what is the biggest enemy in democracy? That little nasty animal called “SECRECY”.

    If you think about it, this little nasty animal has caused Indonesia to be in a deep debt trap as today. Many deals that were made in the name of Indonesian people with foreign countries were executed in SECRECY. Look at the billions and billions dollar debts with 18 countries within Paris Club, the $80 billion dollar new domestic debts that was generated as a result of following IMF order to shut down 16 banks, the corrupts energy and oil contracts with foreign companies robbing Indonesia’s natural resources for so many years….all of those were done and executed in SECRECY. Is that the Indonesia’s political culture that we need to maintain? No, Sir! We need to kill this little nasty animal, once and for all. How to do it? Do exactly what I do.

    That is the reason why I did what I did by drafting those 14 pages open letter challenging the current Indonesia’s Presidential Candidates and Indonesia’s political Party leaders for series of open public debates. Setting aside the so called: American open liberal direct public debate type of Democracy; this approach has nothing to do with me being an Indonesia-American who has been exposed deeply with the American Democracy. It is within the spirit and framework of democracy that secrecy must be abolished. The invitation for series of open public debate to those current Indonesia’s Presidential candidates was just a starting point.

    This is also the underlying issue why I decided to form a political party. Unless I have my own political party platform, I will have no leverage to challenge other political party leaders and future Presidential Candidates to address on critical issues facing Indonesia. If I consistently speak up openly and publicly on certain issues on behalf of a political party, they will have no choice but to response those issues. This shall address our main differences and explain why I did what I did.

    Will I be any different than those activists, NGO’s, celebrities, a former gangster godfather and thousands of politicians that you have seen? I don’t know and only time will tell. What I can say is this. There is no system in place in Indonesia up to today where ordinary citizens can pick a phone and talk with their representatives to discuss about issues they are facing. Indonesian people have no role in the government affairs after the election is over. The Indonesian people at large have no avenue to hold their representatives accountable for the promises they made during the campaign season. For this reason alone, I understand your disappointment. This is the reason why, it is so easy for the Indonesian politicians to make promises because none will hold them accountable. Secondly, majority Indonesian people are susceptible to rhetoric and empty promises. They don’t even dare to questions them openly and publicly.

    If we are able to raise the sense of awareness to these millions and millions ordinary Indonesian people about this massive debt trap and other depressing issues that have entangled Indonesia’s ability to eliminate poverty and fixing the broken infra structures, it is only a matter of time that those millions people will eventually come forward to question their representatives and their future President. Because it is not about us, it is about them. If we can do this alone, it is a self-accomplishment that we shall proud of and treasure for life. This goal can only be accomplished in an open public democracy. By doing this, we can hit many birds with one stone.

    1. We can raise the citizen’s level of awareness about the issue. Once they know it, it’s only a matter of time these millions people will confront their representatives to address the issues
    2. We can challenge those political party leaders openly and publicly to address the issues
    3. We can challenge those future President of Indonesia to address the issues
    4. This approach will direct the Indonesia’s politicians to put people’s interest the number #1 priority in their agenda.
    5. We can kill SECRECY by increasing level of public awareness on government affairs
    6. This approach will establish transparency, check and balance through public oversight
    7. This approach speaks loud and clear about what we are fighting for and what we stand for as a political party.

    The notion that an open public debate is not Indonesia’s political culture, that this petinggi (pejabat tinggi/government officials) shall not be questioned and challenged his/her ability and knowledge openly and publicly are simply a brain-washed. My respond to this false notion is this. If one does not want to be scrutinized by the public, if one does not want to engage in an open public debate, then do not run for any public office. Any politicians who are keeping government affairs a secret is disservice to the very people he/she represents.

    But your points are understood and well taken. Many Indonesian cultures, social and political engagements were injected by then the colonialists and Javanese kingdomship way of government where the people were given no right to question authority. I still remember these little brain-washed Javanese words: “Junjung Tinggi, Mendem Jero”, meaning that if your leaders are making mistakes, do not embarrass them openly and publicly by confronting their mistakes. We need to bury it deep, very deep and none shall know about it. But if our leaders are making improvements and progresses in our society, we need to praise them as high as we possibly can. In that sense, I understand your point and it is well taken. I just chose to reject that notion and it does not work in Democracy. In Democracy, we are thought to question authority not because we do not trust them, but it is our duty to establish public oversight to maintain transparency, check and balance.

    Yes, politic is about acceptability but it is more about the issue or idea. The inappropriate mean utilized can be critical if it is contravene or in direct violation of the democratic principle. The mean I am utilizing it is in harmony with democratic principle even though it is in direct collision with the Indonesian culture, especially, the Javanese culture. But that is what revolutionary is all about, breaking the old rotten habit or brain-washed. This is an attempt to minimize or eliminate State SECRECY; the biggest enemy in Democracy. With political maturity and benefits for having open public engagements, this mean will sooner or later be accepted by the majority people of Indonesia because it benefits them and it is about them. It is just a matter of time. This is the underlying cause that I am promoting by doing what I am doing. Will I succeed it or not? That is another issue to worry. For now, this effort shall continue with full force.

    I hope this summarizes with clarity why I did what I did and the approach I am taking in this political endeavors. Now let me address the current situation in Indonesia.

    As I see it today, the issue in Indonesia is just like a messy knot (or a web of mess) and it is rusted for over 50 years or so. But we don’t have to be confused about it. To untie this messy and rusted knot, we first need to find or identify the end of the string that forms the knot. What is the end of the knot in the messy Democracy in Indonesia?

    That is the 3 branches of Government that are not co-equal and do not work as they are supposed to be and coupled this mess with the absence of a free media to play the 4th role branches of Government. This was also the reason why President Wahid (Gus Dur) had trouble firing his own cabinet member and dealing with massive legislative power. For any Indonesia’s civilian President to have a grip of power over military and legislative, Indonesia’s president must be given a VETO right and the power of executive order. There are some other issues that need to be addressed. The key here is that we must make Indonesia’s legislative and executive power to be dispersed and co-equal. They are separated but co-interdependent. We’ll discuss in more details in due course. To untie all those messy knots in Indonesia, those 3 branches of Government must be reformed first. This reform does not come from those 3 branches of Government themselves, the people have to rise up and demand for a change! So, don’t expect anytime soon. It may take many years to come.

    With all of these messes, Government of Indonesia is taking an approach to pick and choose in implementing the 11 principles of democracy. Just like being a Muslim who loves to have more than one wife as the benefit of being a Muslim but does not want to fast 30 days as one pillar of Islam; a mandatory act to be called a Muslim. If a Muslim picks and chooses like that, what kind of Muslim that person is?

    This is the same thing with Democracy in Indonesia. Having fair and free election alone does not make Indonesia a democratic country. Indonesia shall not emphasize free and fair election but neglecting their citizen from having basic human rights. That is a twisted version of Democracy. That is what I see happening in Indonesia. On top of that, election in Indonesia is more like business trade where candidates are allowed to buy votes. Is that a new democracy ala Indonesia? I have advocated KPU and members of Parliament to immediately introduce a new bill to prohibit such a practice. Don’t make Democracy a piece of merchandize. Democracy is not for sale, it does not benefit people in the long term. But hey, what else that can not be commercialized in Indonesia ya? This old habit needs to be abolished and the way to do it is by introducing a new law to prohibit such a practice and uphold that law to its full extend.

    But those are political mess. How about economical mess? That is another story to tell. So, which issue shall be addressed first and which issue is more important than the other? As you posted, is bureaucratic reform more important than education reform? Or is military reform more necessary than economic reform?

    I have been asked these questions so many times in my public appearances. It depends to whom you ask the question. If you ask those Indonesia’s 4 star generals, they will respond that reforming military is more important than economic reform with the basis that stability is critical component to economic growth. But if you ask the Coordinating Minister of Economy, he/she will respond that economic reform is much more critical than the military reform with the basis that how can we reform militarily if the country has no money to support the military reformation.

    But let me address these questions from CEO or Presidential Candidate stand point. All of those questions are valid. Being CEO of a Company, this person must be able to sort of all those questions out and identify the top 10 depressing issues facing the nation that must be resolved. As of today, certainly economic reform plays a greater and much more critical role than any other reforms. But why pick and chose? We are not buying a car. We can undertake those economic, military, education and political reforms at the same time as long as it is understood what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the goals are.

    Poverty can only be addressed when Indonesia is not in a debt trap. As long as Indonesia is in a debt trap, poverty elevation is just empty rhetoric. Who came up with the idea that members of Parliament (MPR/DPR) had to be over 1000, or 900 or 800 or 700? United States of America being 9 times bigger in terms of its territory and 12 times bigger in terms of its GDP has only 535 total members of Congress that includes 100 Senators from 50 States. Indonesia being much smaller country has how many members of Parliament? Aren’t they 700 now? How about the members of regional representatives or DPDR? Aren’t they 123 now? So, total of them are what 823 members? What’s wrong with this picture?

    Well, being Representatives of the people working in the Parliament are not the same as being employees at the government offices. Why is it that we are responsible to find them a job if the people want to lay them off? If they don’t care to find job for those millions unemployed Indonesians, why do we; the Indonesian people, care about finding them a job? That’s why the economic sector must be undertaken first to generate massive employment opportunity. To do this, we need to address on how to improve our currency rupiah? That will lead to the economic recovery and massive employment. China and India are two good examples. It’s too long to address here but I hope we will have a chance to discuss this issue in more details.

    There are plenty qualified people in Indonesia to undertake public sector. They are too smart for that matter in the wrong way. All what we need a system that will guide, limit and direct their public engagement to a point that their movements are limited but to address the interest of the people at large. That is why I am advocating Indonesian politicians to come up with their own “Brown Act Indonesian Version” to guide, limit and restrict those Indonesia’s public official movements.

    If Indonesia implements the 11 principle of democracy, protecting minority sect is not an issue. Don’t you know that minority right and majority rule are part of the 11 principles of Democracy? That is why, I am advocating that Indonesia shall not pick and chose in implementing those 11 principles of Democracy.

    1965 and 1998 incidents? The 1965 incident was more of political incident and the 1998 was more of social incident. Both incidents took many lives of innocent people. Military coup can happen anywhere in any country at any given time. One thing that I can recommend is by dispersing the power within the Indonesian arm forces with civilian control over the military, where chain of command is established and dispersed headed by joint of staff. Any public action must be approved by at least three chained commanders, which two of them are joint of staff and the President. That way, there is no single commander that can mobilize their troops to undertake the killing or assassination. If public action is to be taken, at least the Commander in Chief is being well-informed and he is responsible for the result of the action.

    There are some options that can be taken to avoid and minimize the 1998 incidents from happening again in the future. In fact, I presented this issue to one of the current Presidential candidates in Indonesia. Riot, rampage, demonstration and civil commotion can happen anywhere in the world at any given time. What missing in Indonesia is the inability of its local authorities (Police and Military Forces) to curb this massive civil movement, especially, when those civil commotion were targeting ordinary houses or buildings. Why? Because they have no incentive or benefits for taking the risk of getting killed or beaten up by these wacko’s and sicko’s, right?

    Here are my proposals:

    1. 1st measure: We need to introduce a new bill in the parliament about respecting INDIVIDUAL SOVEREIGNTY, which includes provisions on false arrest, invasion of privacy, battery, assault and trespassing. Individual Sovereignty is in fact the 1st principle of Democracy. The provision will also include the consequences for any police officers and/or local military forces for not taking action against such a violation. Public defender paid by the government shall be established to help limited defendants categorized as very poor people who can not afford to pay the cost of trial.

    2. 2nd measure: For highly targeted buildings, properties and individuals, the local police office and local court shall work together to give some individuals a limited permit and time to bear arm or carry weapons for protection. This measure shall be highly limited, strictly monitored and designed for deterrence purpose against those wacko’s and sicko’s from attacking those properties and individuals. A new bill in regard to this matter shall also be introduced in the Parliament.

    3. 3rd measure: Sharing the risk between Local Government and Insurance Companies. I was proposing that insurance shall be mandated for these highly targeted properties where the premium be split 60% paid to the local government and 30% paid to the Insurance Company to cover human peril such as: riot, demonstration and other civil commotion. In return, all the damages as a result of any civil commotion, the local government will have to pay 60% of it and the Insurance Company will have to pay 30%. This measure will FORCE the local government with its police and military forces to take action against those wacko’s and sicko’s from destroying properties and killing innocent people. Otherwise, the local government will have to pay 60% cost of the damages and life. This measure will give those local authorities a reason to act. Hopefully, the local government will use some of those 60% premium to train their police and military forces and also to buy the needed equipments used to confront those wacko’s and sicko’s.

    These measures will deter and minimize the 1998 incident from happening again. The question now is, who have the interest, the ability and courage to present these measures to the Parliament?

    This I hope will give you an idea what we stand for and what we are fighting for as a political party. Only time will tell if we can undertake these heavy tasks.

  8. Lyl says:

    Hi Chris,

    Your article and intention on :


    catch my attention and I am totaly 100% agree with you on this.

    Your article is well spoken , written inteligently and in well manner. The source and reference also credible and available for me to validate.

    It’s time for smart Indonesian to wake up and selecting their president selectively.
    I hope the selection process is more selective than selecting a beauty pageant contest. Well, you know the questions being asked for them and what kind of background checked they went trough.

    Smart Indonesian should be able to check the president candidate background, protfolio, education and intention as well as being smart in reading and listening things available, not easily being brain washed and emotionaly driven.

    I am glad knowing that you’re still hopefull and love Indonesia dearly eventhough you’re not leaving in Indonesia anymore. Not many Indonesian, or even public servants as hopefull as you are. Many of them seeing a glass half empty than seeing glass half full.

    To all readers:

    What could you offer or do positively in raising the bar for Indonesian presidential candidate ? What is your ideal candidate leader should be ?

  9. berthy b rahawarin says:

    Dear Chris,

    The Indonesian Bishops Conference already wrote the essential and the basic and the essence of Indonesia problems in six points. In the context on my commentaries to the core points and the spirits of the letter to the Indonesia presidential election, I wrote your name and DR Sjahrir (passed away 2008). I cited you and Sjahrir basic attitude to the situation that the condition of Indonesia’s critical condition is a fact, to be or not to be situation.

    Six years ago Sjahrir gave sign to the worst condition Indonesia wold faces, if there’s no conscience on the critical-crisis with its management at the same time. Now, in the (its seems just as good) figuring political all the crisis condition issues sinking and going down before its own state. But, we hope, HE still show HIS own bless to the nation and state. That is the reason why you still push this debate, Chris.

    I saw the core point and the spirit of Indonesian Bishop letter is the fatal leadership of the five years under Mr SBY presidential, when the constitution and the law is run under an invisible power (?). I mean that Mr. President used his ministries or th Vice to implement any critical policies, in ideology, law, economic, etc. and Mr. President will claim the good result as his path, and the unpopular and the foolish is his “helpers” policy.

    Just for your consideration: after the death penalty amd the execution of Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus and Marinus on September 22th, 2006, when there were many states sent their protests, He, Mr SBY has no proportional anwer and choice to kick out, one by one – and just some citizens realized this things – all his ministries and other Public Leader who have take their responsibility to the execution, namely: Abdurachman Saleh, Hamid Awaloedin, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, Police National Chief Soetanto, and Bagir Manan. In Tibo cs case, Mr President and his Vice has to take all responsibility.

    Shortly to say, Mr SBY and his Vice JK, (JK will be his rival in presidential election) take too many fundamental and essential risk in implementing Constitution (UUD 1945) and Indonesia as a law state (rechtstaat). Ahmadiah followers for other example, cannot get their rights as well as constitution and a law state has to give, when some Fundamentalist Muslim – my honor and appreciation to Mainstream Muslim in Indonesia, destroyed their mosques and their private houses and other assets. Mr President didn’t do anything, even though a statement as Chief State.

    My first and fresh comments before this, I used the term “Argumentum ad Populum” to the strangeness and craziness of what democracy, finally agree that, the winner is absolutely wining the quantity, but quality is just come at the same time. The anthropologist Ignas Kleden, accidentally use the term as his title in KOMPAS, wrote his ethical consideration in political and the presidential election. He supported the readers to choose the president who can take all responsibility to his citizens.

    Ignas cited Mr Obama and wrote: “Choose the right path, not the easy path (pilihlah jalan yang benar, bukan jalan yang gampang), when Presiden Obama deliver his speech in Kairo, June 4th, 2009.” Then he suggested to the readers: “So we do, better we choose the genuine leader and just not an satisfy president.

    (Dear readers, just try to understand my points, if you get trouble in my gramnatical and words and context. I am learning… Mr Chris Komara and You were expert in using English..)

    Berthy B Rahawarin

  10. Astrajingga says:

    So Chris & Berthy, are you saying that the best candidate is Mega-Prabowo?

    Just curious….

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