A Reminder of Past Pledges

Opinion and Editorial, Jakarta Post, September 26, 2001

This is the first of two articles on the promises made by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) by Paige Johnson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia in the United States and Julia Suryakusuma, executive director of the API (Almanac of Indonesian Politics) Foundation in Jakarta.

JAKARTA (JP): In 1999, the API Foundation published the Indonesian Political Party Almanac (Almanak Parpol Indonesia-API). It aimed to encourage Indonesia's burgeoning political parties to make concrete their programs and plans for the country, by putting on record their stands on various issues.

It was hoped that this would help to push the development of political parties in a healthy direction of competing on the basis of ideas rather than on the basis of the numerous ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic schisms.

How much politics we have experienced since the Almanak was published in 1999! Indonesia has seen its first free general election in more than 40 years. Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) was elected president and then removed from the post by the MPR.

We've seen inter-ethnic violence, Gus Dur traveling the world, East Timor going its own way, ready-to-die squads, Tommy Soeharto on the run and Soeharto declared too ill to stand trial.

Then there were the scandals of "Buloggate," "Bruneigate", regional autonomy, Gus Dur's stand-offs with military and police generals Wiranto and Bimantoro, political terror like bombings and murders -- the list goes on.

Finally, Megawati Soekarnoputri assumed the presidency, the position her party believed was her due as a result of PDI Perjuangan's plurality of the vote in the general election.

Because so much has happened since 1999, it is easy to forget the promises that political parties made at that time. Especially since President Megawati came to power on the back of a coalition of political parties, compromise is obviously now necessary.

Still, as the President thinks about the longer term of her administration, the general tenor of what she hopes to accomplish between now and 2004, it is important for her to remember the promises PDI Perjuangan made to voters, promises that got her the votes to enable her to sit where she is today.

To quote Megawati herself in her July 1999 post-election speech, "the sovereignty of the people, which echoed around the world at the moment the Indonesian national election commenced, cannot be diverted and manipulated to become merely the sovereignty of the MPR." So, we need to remember the promises that PDI Perjuangan made to the people.

It is easy to say that these promises were just campaign rhetoric and of little meaning. But scholars in the advanced democracies have found a strong link between party platforms and what parties eventually do in office. Party platforms are clearly not meaningless.

As Indonesia hopes to march down the road to consolidating its democracy, party platforms should not be meaningless. As Megawati herself told Newsweek, "We must not talk too much and promise more than we can deliver." Now that Megawati is president, it is time to deliver.

The main thrust of her party's promises in 1999 was reform, "reforms that are substantial and fundamental, as demanded by the people." Megawati made it clear in interviews that the reform had to be gradual because of Indonesia's social fragility; but reform, even if gradual, still leads to fundamental change.

Reviewing Megawati's speeches, PDI Perjuangan's printed materials, and the API profile of PDI Perjuangan's positions on the issues, we can break down PDI Perjuangan's basic promises into two areas: building the institutions of democracy and helping Indonesia overcome its prolonged economic crisis.

Because attention since Megawati's assumption of power has been focused on her economic team and overcoming the economic crisis, it would be most productive here to remember promises made on consolidating Indonesian democracy.

From the party congress in October 1998, PDI Perjuangan stressed that is was a party of "fighters for democracy." The party promised to make fundamental changes to the system of government which had allowed Soeharto to accumulate excessive power.

The party hoped to establish a judiciary that was fair to all Indonesians and independent of executive influence. That judiciary should be free of corruption and intimidation as well.

Quoting Megawati at the above Kongres Perjuangan: "Anyone who has broken the law or violated basic human rights will most definitely be brought to trial without exception, be they ordinary citizens or high officials, including former officials who must be held responsible for their actions under the law."

This sounds like a solemn pledge to the Indonesian people.

The party clung to the importance of the 1945 Constitution, but was finally willing to consider a series of constitutional amendments to improve the democratic quality of the Indonesian government.

The constitution was vague, PDI Perjuangan said, on the issue of separation of powers, a structural problem which was abused during Soeharto's presidency. The recent crisis over Gus Dur's impeachment demonstrates that continued room for differing interpretations of the Constitution's separation of powers provisions exists.

PDI Perjuangan expressed hopes of building a system of government motored by an empowered and cultivated citizenry, an important bulwark of democracy. The PDI Perjuangan hoped that the people would be involved in government at all levels, that they be included in "policy formulation and all aspects of national life."

The people, too, should be encouraged to better themselves. Megawati often spoke of the need for the people to improve their spiritual selves as well as their level of education. To help improve education, the party hoped to end the practice of school drop outs, to improve the lot of teachers, and to increase the autonomy of educational institutions to foster intellectual freedom.

The party talked often about justice and the law-based state -- important preconditions for Indonesia to deal with its past and build a democratic future.

A reminder of past promises by PDI-P

Opinion and Editorial, Jakarta Post, September 27, 2001

This is the second of two articles on the promises made by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) by Paige Johnson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia in the United States and Julia Suryakusuma, executive director of the API (Almanac of Indonesian Politics) Foundation in Jakarta.

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle promised to recognize and support human rights and the various freedoms in modern democracy, such as freedom of opinion, association, organization, religion, and the press.

PDI Perjuangan often paid special attention to the freedom of a professional press as "an active link between the public and the activities and performance of those carrying out their official governmental duties." Now that President Megawati Soekarnoputri is in power, we hope she and her loyal opposition will remember those promises of freedom. Freedom is not granted just one time. It must be constantly struggled for.

PDI Perjuangan hoped its emphasis on justice and the rule of law would help to remove the causes for numerous crises and problems in society: from inter-ethnic conflicts (often themselves the result of various past injustices), to the inequality of women, to social disorder. PDI Perjuangan hoped to bring "people's justice" to an end with a firm rule of law and a democratic government.

The party repeatedly vowed to build a credible, clean, and quality government made up of the nation's best sons and daughters. Obviously Megawati was forced to compromise with the other parties which helped to bring her to power, but the fundamental emphasis on good government in PDI Perjuangan campaigning should not be forgotten.

PDI Perjuangan stressed the importance of professionalism, integrity, and loyalty to the whole nation.

On the military, Megawati often walked a fine line during the election. She had good relationships with some military officers who had tacitly supported her in the past. Still, the "establishment" military would have reason to fear the rise of a radical reformer intent on overthrowing the military's position or punishing individual officers for past misdeeds.

Megawati walked that fine line by declaring that she was "anti militarism" without being "anti military." Still, writing for the book Indonesia Pasca-Soeharto (Indonesia after Soeharto), Megawati was clear: "the dual function of the military must be ended in stages and in a set period of time."

She repeatedly attempted to stress that the army was of and for the people and the nation. She often sounded willing, though, to allow the military to carry out its own "redefinition" and "restructuring" of its role.

In her cabinet announced on Aug. 9, Megawati placed four men who were either active in the military or former military officers. In Bali, Megawati had said that it was clear which tasks should be filled by members of the military and which by civilians. Is it clear that the home affairs minister or the transportation minister must now be a member of the military? Not to us.

The problems of the military's role in society are wider, though, than just a few military men in the President's cabinet. The on-going redefinition of the military's role must be carried through all levels of society.

PDI Perjuangan promised, too, to improve government transparency and to rid Indonesia of the corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN) which sucked the country's "lifeblood" for 30 years.

In June 2001, Transparency International rated Indonesia as tied for 88th out of 91 countries surveyed in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index. Clearly, there is still much work to be done. It is not entirely clear to us whether the new attorney general will have the political strength to help prosecute corruptors past, present, or future.

In its campaigning, PDI Perjuangan adhered strongly to the principle of the unitary state but vowed to encourage decentralization of powers to lower levels of government "as wide as possible." As the government is now reconsidering the regional autonomy provisions in an effort to make these more workable, the general tenor of the commitment to decentralization should be remembered.

Finally, in Megawati's televised campaign speech of June 1999, she stated that "making women equal partners of men is an important part of the PDI Perjuangan program."

In order for democracy to be realized in Indonesia, women must indeed be full partners, the equals of men. No one can doubt the importance of the progress that has been made for women in Megawati's personal achievement of the presidency. She serves as a role model for both women and men as to what a woman can do. But, to carry out the party's pledge requires more than just a female president. It requires comprehensive legislation which supports women's position as equal to that of men.

Closing her campaign speech in June 1999, Megawati said: "Remember PDI Perjuangan. Remember number 11. The people will certainly win." To her we now say, remember your promises. The people will certainly win.