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JAKARTA - The minutes are ticking away toward the end of the month, the day the House of Representatives will convene its plenary session, while the whole nation is on tenterhooks and politicians continue to make so much fuss about the possibility of a meeting among the top leadership. Will they agree to reconciliation through compromise? A meeting maybe, but a compromise? And what kind of compromise?
The signs do not seem promising. Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid has indicated -- again -- when saying that he would present his accountability report to the People's Consultative Assembly in 2004, that he really wants to carry on to the end of his term as President. He claimed that Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri had pledged to support his presidency until 2004, and that she wanted to remain Vice President. This, however, has been denied by her party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan).
The President has also warned of a "nationwide rebellion" against the House if its attempts to oust him continue. This must be a special kind of rebellion, for a rebellion is normally understood to be staged against a government. Previously he also warned that Aceh, Irian Jaya and, ridiculously, even the small island of Madura would declare independence should he step down. What are the possible implications? Gus Dur seems to remain self-confident, if not overconfident. He does not seem to realize the gravity of the crucial, even dangerous, situation. He does not seem to realize the real threat to national unity.
One would rightly wonder whether his self-confidence, particularly his reference to a possible "rebellion" against the House, has anything to do with the tens of thousands of jihad warriors being formed by self-proclaimed "Defenders of Truth" in East Java and Medan, North Sumatra, in support of the President, to defend him against attempts to impeach him. By definition, any compromise never satisfies anyone. Yet it is the best and the most that can result from a negotiation between the parties involved.
A compromise, and thus reconciliation, may be possible only if the four leaders are motivated by common concern with the interest of the nation as a whole as its foundation. And the immediate interest of the nation at this crucial and dangerous stage is the prevention of escalating social conflicts that pose a real threat to national unity, and thus the nation's very survival. A compromise is possible also if all the parties involved are ready and willing to make sacrifices in the pursuit of their common interests. They must be prepared to sacrifice their personal interests and those of their groups, however defined, at least for the time being.
In fact, they would be able to serve these interests precisely in their efforts to serve their common interests, which are the interests of the nation as a whole. Surely, however, personal and group interests are valid as long as they form part of the wider interest of the nation, at least not contrary to the general interest. Otherwise, such interests that may be contrary to humanity or universal human values like equality, justice and basic human rights, may not be pursued by abusing democratic process and democratic mechanism.
The top national leadership should realize the gravity of the current situation. The country is on the verge of collapse and destruction. Thus the stakes of the current crisis are so great as to be worth the sacrifices. Otherwise, it is always the common people, especially the poor, the weak and the marginalized, who pay the price. Fear of the threat or use of violence, however, should not dictate a compromise. It should not be a compromise reached under duress. Such a compromise would have no lasting value, for once the threat of force or violence was gone, the compromise would be discarded.
Moreover, a compromise under the threat of force would virtually mean justifying and giving way to the use or threat of violence. Democratic process should not knuckle under the threat of force, for the threat or use of force is against democratic ideals. On the other hand, politicians should be honest enough to realize that either directly or consciously or otherwise, in one way or another, they also play a part in encouraging the use of violence by their unwise remarks and behavior. Therefore, they should also share the responsibility for the current tendency to resort to mass violence.
Indeed, the whole nation is still in the early process of democratization through a long, rough and winding road. Indonesians are still learning to listen to criticism, to differ with one another, and to accept political defeat with grace, and to win political victory with magnanimity. We have opted for a democratic system despite its high price and its inefficiency, because the system respects human rights. A political compromise among the top leadership would not in itself be a guarantee for a quick recovery from the crisis.
Given the absence of violence or a serious threat of violence, however, it would ensure the continuation of the reform process toward a healthier democratic life and good governance, which would lead eventually to recovery from the crisis. The apparent threat of violence posed by the formation of special forces in support and in defense of President Abdurrahman should not constitute pressure on his political opponents. On the contrary, it may bring pressure to bear on the President himself toward his realization of the acute danger the turn of events poses to the nation, not just to his position.
Therefore the most important form of compromise should be incumbent upon the President's own initiative to step down for the sake of the unity, integrity and the survival of the nation. This scenario, however, as many that have come to know him would probably agree, is the least likely. The second best option would be the strengthening of the position and powers vested in Vice President Megawati. The overpowering President may likely hinder even this.
Under a parliamentary system, a prime minister would dissolve parliament and decide on a fresh election to win a new mandate of the people. Under the 1945 Constitution of this country, this should be a decision made by the Assembly. That choice would be very costly in a number of ways. However, an election would be the proper entry point into further process of democratization. It would be a choice better understood by the international community. This would better ensure Indonesia's credibility, which the nation badly needs for recovery, than resorting to narrow nationalistic slogans.
And the whole process, hopefully, would help our politicians realize the urgent need for a constitutional change. Otherwise, the vague and ambiguous nature of the current Constitution would again lead to continuous bickering among politicians.

By J. Soedjati Djiwandono

Posted in Politics @ 25 April 2001 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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