Tuesday, April 03, 2007


For years, we trusted Soeharto, the smiling Javanese Army General who became Indonesia's second president in 1966. For 32 years to be exact, villagers, farmers, fishermen, people on the street, my family, even me myself, trusted that man, who in appearance looked humble, sincere and honest.

In front of his people, us, Soeharto always talk of serving his country without hoping for anything in return. He always talk about his call, his duty to this nation and its people, to bring prosperity, justice and transform Indonesia into a just and prosperous country: "Masyarakat Adil dan Makmur".

And 1998 came. And the riot happened, students killed. Activist kidnapped and also killed. Layer by layer, the truth surfaced. Human rights violation, corruption, ineficient government, immoral police, prosecutors and judges. And we suddenly cannot trust Soeharto anymore. We lost our trust to him. And with it, we also lost our trust to the system, to the authority, to the state, to whoever in charge. We felt betrayed and become frustrated.

That is, I believe, the current psychological atmosphere of people in this country after 1998. Thats explained why whatever the government proposed to do, we seems incapable to throw all of our weight behind it. We just cannot trust it. The worst thing is, political and economy events that happened after 1998, strengthened that sceptisism: that all of the people who sit in the parliament building in Senayan, Jakarta, or rule us from the Merdeka Palace, are not trustworthy. People then concluded that those MPs sit there because they cheat the game, and trick us to believe that they are the one who'll change the system. But, look at where we are now. Almost a decade has past since the reformation, no major change has happened. Everywhere people feel the same hollowness, the same emptyness, as if nothing could make us believe in ourselves again. Indonesia has fail to its knee in 1998 because of the wrongdoings in the past, but until today, no one pay the consequences. Soeharto still live happily with his wealthy family. We, the people --who are obviously the victim of that situation-- now have to bear all the consequences, while they, the elite, people from Soeharto's time, still sit up there, now with a changed face and a changed soundbite, now preaching about democracy and human rights.

Sometime I wonder; what will happen to this country.....

Two weeks ago, a group of bussinessmen came to the Merdeka Palace, and meet The President. They presented a document called Indonesian Vision for 2030. They said that if the current policy on free market and economy liberalisation stayed on course, it is very possible, in twentythree years time, Indonesia will be the fifth biggest economy in the world, after China, USA, India and European Union. It's a big dream.

I will not say that its unreachable. I will say the contrary: that vision is pretty much realistic and achievable, but only with one condition: Indonesian start to believe the system once more. If people can trust the state, and the government who run it, only then we have hopes.

How can you start building your infrastructure, if people wont sell their land at a reasonable price, just because they dont believe the people from the government who approach them to buy their land? How can you expect education and health sector will improve if nobody trust the people who make the plan to improve it? How can you do anything, if from the beginning, people just dont trust your ability to actually deliver your promises? And what makes it even more complicated is this: those sceptisism are actually justified!

In a number of occasion, the current government prove themselves incapable of handling the situation on the ground. Boy, that makes things even more worse.

Therefore, I think rebuilding people's trust in this country, in its ability to bounce back and excel-- should be a top priority for any government official in Indonesia. Without that, any wrongdoings committed today will have a broader, heavier and more lasting impact, simply because it already happened before. People will say, "Look, it happened again! How can we trust this people, this government, this police, this judge, this minister, this president! They're doing it exactly like in Soeharto time."

However, it is also our task to empower the society. Soeharto and his men can do whatever they want during the old days, because we let them did it. We knew there was something wrong, but we kept silent because we "trust" those guys. Now, we have to learn another kind of trust. Trusting our fellow countrymen in the government whilst also at the same time develop a mechanism where people can contribute ideas, monitor progress and evaluate the result of public service works. That way, public trust will grow, not from blind beliefs in someone's charismatic personality, but from accountability, from system that allows people to take part and respond if something goes wrong.

Developing this system will indeed takes time. And it also require people who understand the essence of democracy: a governing system that based on people's participation. Until we have that in place, we have to bear all this gruntles, and mourn for the lost of public trust in our society.