Clouds & Silver Linings

Sep 19th, 2009, in Opinion, by

Two clouds with silver linings, Tommy Suharto’s bid for Golkar, and sharia stoning laws in Aceh.


Two news items this month which have stimulated discussion, to say the least, may seem unrelated, but it seems to me that:

  • the rise and hopefully sinking of Tommy Suharto’s political ambitions
  • the unanimous vote in Aceh’s provincial legislature for adulterers to be stoned to death should be interpreted as twin signals of hope.

This may surprise those of you who have sat near me in the favoured watering-holes but in retrospect our initial reactions may have been too sanguine.

First of all, Aceh.

While many of us would delight at the application of capital punishment in cases like Sheikh Puji and indeed Pak Suharto’s Wee Lad (Tommy Suharto), the whole idea of stoning people is both unpleasant in itself and inappropriate to the crime. Adultery usually imposes enough problems on the participants therein, without the law getting involved. But that’s not the issue.

What was really refreshing was the forthright response of the ex-GAM Governor, who dissociated himself from the mush-noggins in his mini-parliament. His Administration will not execute the decree nor the people it’s aimed at. And this breath of fresh air was given additional impact by the fact that the said mush-noggins are lame-ducks. Their electoral mandate is due to expire more or less in tandem with our post-Ramadan hang-overs. They may once have represented Acehnese citizens but have been replaced by members-elect who are overwhelmingly of the Governor’s movement and hopefully of his way of thinking.

So unless I am reading it wrong, no stonings are likely and the next crop of legislators will chuck out the nonsense, a slap in the gob for the cretins, one of whom had the nerve to justify his vote by saying that they had to change the law to stop Islamist rabble taking the law into their own hands. Can’t quite figure the internal consistency there, but anyway…seems said cretin thought selingkuh couples might be molested by religious bigots if the local regime didn’t stone them to death for their own protection…logic, ya?

So the Aceh matter is actually a good sign.

And Tommy Suharto the Homicidal Mastermind?

Well, yes, it is appalling that any party with pretensions to government would soil itself by even considering the thug as leadership material, and those magnates who have allegedly held meetings with Suharto Junior ought to be ashamed of themselves. The absurd spokespersons for Golkar who suggest his lack of experience as the reason for rejecting his candidacy are a bad joke, and most Indonesians I’ve heard discussing that aspect just laugh.

But again, this is a positive development, for it should do for Golkar what the ice-berg did for the Titanic. The dictatorship’s party has been shooting itself in the foot for a while now, and unless SBY shows quite masterful ineptitude, he should be able to watch Golkar disintegrate. Not that Tommy Suharto has any real chance of taking it over, but the very fact that somebody of his foul character could present himself and be treated as something other than a leper makes it clear that Golkar’s upper levels are totally out-of-touch with the people of this country. Yeah, some voters do undoubtedly miss the Orde Baru, but only the good bits, which of course did exist, but did emphatically not include gluttonous corruption and cronyism.

Aceh’s sensible government and Golkar’s self-destructive blindness are sign-posts pointing to a better Indonesia round the corner – quite a big corner, maybe, but it can and will be turned.

21 Comments on “Clouds & Silver Linings”

  1. sputjam says:

    Nobody will put their money in a region where they can be subjected to a law that stones people to death.
    the acehnese authorities are killing thermselves and their subjects by doing this disservice. more achense will not be able to find work in this region, forcing them to migrate to other areas.
    tourist entering aceh should be given a written warning, like those immigration card of certain countries, that adultery carries a mandatory “stoning to death” sentence.

    As for Golkar, many older die hard sukarto fans will celebrate Tommy’s arrival. but the younger voters have long abandoned this party.

  2. fanglong says:

    Hi Patung !

    They (the only 38 out of 69 guys of the DPRA, present that day) may once have represented Acehnese citizens but have been replaced by members-elect who are overwhelmingly of the Governor’s movement and hopefully of his way of thinking.


    As for Tommy’s attempt to buy the Golkar, I’d say, let’m buy it & die with it !

  3. David says:

    Hi Fanglong, Ross wrote this post!

    Aceh parliament, well, at the last election, quoting myself

    Partai Aceh won 45 out of 69 seats for DPRA with 262.181 votes, 47.5%. Then:

    Partai Demokrat, 12%,
    Partai Golkar 4%,
    Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) 4%,
    Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP) 4%,
    Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN) 3%,
    Partai Suara Independen Rakyat Aceh (SIRA) 2%,
    Partai Rakyat Aceh (PRA) 2%,
    Partai Daulat Aceh 1%,
    Partai Bulan Bintang (PBB) 1%.

    Partai Aceh are the ex-GAM people who never really emphasised sharia in their campaigning.

    Oh, and here is one of Bakrie’s campaign ads for Golkar chairman.

  4. fanglong says:

    Thanks P. for Ross’s article.

    Demi masa depan yang mana ? The eternal immunity of Lapindo Brantas, for example ?

  5. shorty says:

    Storm in a tea cup, pissing in the wind………….

    Why waste words on what hasn’t happened, what was never going to happen, and won’t happen…….

    Stoning can’t happen, the governor won’t sign off and the assembly changes tomorrow.

    Pak tommy? Never. The rules have changed. The ‘power’ is now with the electorate, not the parties.

    An egotistical, convicted judge murdering, son of a despot, corrupt wanker isn’t the image golkar needs to regain some credibility.

    Perhaps ir would be better served if the media and blogs focussed on reality, not fantasy.

  6. Ross says:

    Yes, Shorty, your description of Toadie won’t find many dissenters. And I agree he’s very unlikely to rise to power, but what disgusted me was the deference offered by Golkar’s boss-group, meeting the lout and talking to him, and not denouncing his over-weening arrogance.
    As for Aceh, yes, again, it shouldn’t likely happen, but it is depressing that so many politicians can countenance such a barbaric penalty for something that is a purely personal misdemeanour. If they object to adultery, they can pass a resolution in principle deploring it, with no penalties except public opprobrium. That would reflect a general consensus but not bring Aceh into disrepute/

  7. Jesse says:

    Some additional information about the Aceh context:

    1. The governor will not sign the law, but it still goes into effect after 30 days even if he does not sign. This may be one of the special autonomy provisions in the UUPA, and therefore unique to Aceh. He does not have veto power.

    2. The current parliament was installed in 2004… prior to tsunami and prior to the end of the conflict. These guys are not only not ex-GAM (most of the incoming parliament next year under the name of Partai Aceh), but these are a band of cynical kleptocrats representing Jakarta’s interests. Of all provinces that participated in the 2004 legislative elections, Aceh’s was the least democratic as the province was still under martial law. These people do not represent the people of Aceh, in fact they actively work against Aceh’s interests.

    3. Many are hoping that Jakarta will intervene to revoke this law, declare it unconstitutional. But many Indonesian legal scholars are equivocal about this as well. Not a guarantee. Should Jakarta successfully intervene and revoke the law, this establishes precedent for further interventions in the future, not just in the area of religious law, but also in the allocation of revenue from natural resources… and this has the potential to destabilize the peace process in the future. I believe this is the goal of the outgoing parliament, a kind of warisan, a final ‘f*ck you’ to the people of Aceh for voting them out of power.

    4. While Partai Aceh is anti-shariah, they are more afraid of appearing anti-Islam, and so it is not entirely clear that they will revoke this stoning law. The governor, as I said above, also can not veto this law… PA has so much on its agenda, and I fear revoking this law will not be a priority. They are shooting themselves in the foot by ignoring this however, because if they let Jakarta revoke it (which is easier in the short run, no political risk for them in appearing anti-islam), it foils their autonomy agenda… again, inviting future conflict between Aceh and Jakarta on other matters in the future.

    Semoga berguna…

  8. shorty says:

    Ross, not sure with which to start…

    Maybe there is a link….the token display of perceived power.

    In aceh, the outgoing rulers introduce harsh repressive laws in the secure knowledge that they won’t be enacted. the faithful and opponents are appeased.

    Golkar? For all his faults and later abuse of power, on balance, i’ve no doubt pak harto and the party did immeasurable good for ri. (before i start ww3, 4 and 5 reread ‘on balance’ )

    I think that talking to tommy and other arsehole kids is maybe appeasing the misguided party diehards.

    it’s a whole new game. policy, performance and the ability earn the support of the ordinary person is paramount to success.

    the smart party for the future will court the electorate for support.get this, and the wealthy egotistical power brokers will come on board.

    it’s a pity in one sense that it’s ri…in australia you could say ‘f*.#k of tommy, you’re ruining our chances’

  9. David says:

    Semoga berguna…

    Very berguna Jesse.

    While Partai Aceh is anti-shariah, they are more afraid of appearing anti-Islam, and so it is not entirely clear that they will revoke this stoning law.

    Yes, and then there’s the similar attitude of people like Muhammad Nazar, who I quoted as saying once

    Don’t blame religion [for possibly hindering investment in the province so some people say], because religion is never wrong.

  10. Rob says:

    @ Jesse…

    Interesting take on the implications.

    Jakarta does not need to intervene at the government level. This could be done through the courts as a constitutional issue, couldn’t it? Even in spite of Aceh having “special” autonomy.

  11. john says:

    Well by the maths a significant number of Party Aceh voted for the law. I am assuming this cohort have lost their seat? Do tell please.

  12. Ross says:

    It’ll be interesting to see if the incoming ex-GAM reps stick with their sensible Governor or feel obliged to grub about for Islamist votes by tail-ending the Jakarta parties’ puppets.

    Equally interesting, of course, is what SBY and Mega and the prospective Golkar leaders and the national leaderships of the Islamist parties in Jakarta have to say in defence of their colleagues’ unanimous support for primitive bonehead sharia savagery in Aceh.

  13. Rob says:

    @ Ross…

    Have you read this article by James van Zorge in the Jakarta Globe?

  14. Rambutan says:

    According to the Law on the Governing of Aceh the central government cannot revoke the stoning bylaw. But every citizen is free to file a judicial review with the Supreme Court which would most certainly repeal the bylaw as it clearly contradicts national law and Indonesia’s international obligations under UN conventions.

  15. fanglong says:

    Yes, but why haven’t these much expected judicial reviews not started yet ?

  16. Rambutan says:

    Because the bylaw has not yet entered into force.

  17. Ross says:

    Sorry, Rob, I haven’t looked at a newspaper this past week, just a scan of the news on the net. But I shall take note of your question and find it.

  18. TheWrathOfGrapes says:

    sukarto fans

    Hmmm, Sputjam – killing two presidents with one stone…

  19. fanglong says:

    Van Zorge is a little tough but so adil.
    I appreciate : should it prevail also in France…

  20. Ross says:

    Interesting to read the poll on Metro TV today, apparently from Kompass, which gives the thug 5% of Golkar support. So one in 20 want a murderous brute as their leader.
    Polls vary of course, and Metro showed one with their owner, Surya Paloh, way ahead. Haven’t looked at TVOne today, but I susopect they may be showing one with Bakrie in a commanding lead. Is he not a big power in TVOne’s controlling company?

  21. David says:

    Bakrie won 296 to Paloh 240, Yuddi Chrisnandi and Tommy Suharto nil each.

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