Monday, February 26, 2007

Gus Dur, the PKB and a “Green Party”

Ex-Indonesia's President, Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur, has been known for his wits and his ability to coin and popularize new vocabularies. Vocabularies like kyai khos, kyai sepuh and kyai Langitan (the chosen Muslim preachers, the senior Muslim preachers and the Muslim preachers from Langitan, respectively) were coined by Gus Dur and became popular not only among his followers, the Nahdatul Ulama community, but also among Indonesians in general. The latest is his reference to kyai kampung – village Muslim preachers, as oppose to kyai sepuh.

According to Gus Dur while most of those kyai sepuh have become aloof and created distance or barriers from their followers, kyai kampung are more egalitarian and closer to their followers. And in view of growing competition among Muslim parties to build their support base, kyai kampung is meant to intimate the connection of the National Awakening Party (PKB) to its electorate at grass root level. By utilizing the kyai kampung PKB believes that it will create better understanding about its core constituents and hopes to convert this situation into prospective voters who will vote for the PKB in the 2009 general elections. Early this month, the PKB, by using the popularity of Gus Dur, invited thousands of kyai kampung to attend a sermon by Gus Dur in his residence in Ciganjur, South Jakarta. The success of the program prompted the PKB leadership to make it as PKB’s monthly program.

While kyai kampung will help the PKB to reassert itself as the party of traditional Muslims, PKB needs to expand its support base. Thus the declaration of the PKB as partai hijau (green party).

While hijau or green color connotes to Islam, the declaration of PKB as a Green Party is a reference to the greenery, the environment, the nature. The PKB wanted to create more awareness among Indonesians about the degrading condition of global and local environment and the importance of environmental preservation.

It is a public secret that environmental management is absence in Indonesia. Both the government and the Indonesian people seem to be lacking of attention on the importance of managing and preserving the environment. The urge and desire to reap immediate and bigger economic benefits have put their conscience in the backseat. The results are various, mostly man-made, natural calamities such as floods, land slides, drought, forest fire as well as the unending crisis of Lapindo’s dangerous mud flood in Sidoarjo, East Java. Besides the huge amount of lives and materials that have been lost, these calamities have also left the environment in a very bad shape and open to further calamities.

Thus, realizing this degrading environmental situation and the lack of attention to it, the PKB wanted to project itself as a green party and put environmental preservation as its national agenda. Two strategies have been proposed to support this idea. First, the PKB will suggest the amendment of the Constitution, or at least the national law, on environment, forestry and land as well as actively criticizing government’s policies through the eyes of environemental preservation. Secondly, the PKB will pose itself as a party-movement that advocates the needs of environmental preservation by declaring the PKB as a green party. By declaring itself as a green party, the PKB will pioneer the movement to save and preserve the environment.

While the first strategy will take longer course to materialize, the second strategy has already been started. This week, the PKB chose Bali, the Island of Gods, as a place to declare the PKB as a green party. Besides inviting all its regional leaderships, the PKB also invited various local as well as international NGOs like the Green Peace to be a part of this declaration ceremony. Similarly, as a concrete action of this grand idea, the PKB’s General Secretary, Lukman Edy, said that the PKB will order its cadres to plant at least one tree around their residences or in barren areas so that to create responsibility towards environmental preservation.

From various references on kyai (Muslim preacher) to the decision to choose hijau (green) as the color of life or environment, the PKB under the aegis of Gus Dur wants to emulate itself as an inclusive party. Not only the PKB wants to cater to its traditional supporters, it also wants to expand itself into a wider spectrum by choosing environment as its theme. The PKB wants to offer a pro-active solution to the environmental problems. Means that the PKB does not only offer solutions to preserve the environment but it also takes leading position in the movement. It remains to be seen, however, how this grand idea will materialize. Preserving our environment is a necessity and PKB’s grand idea must be seen as a breakthrough that need the full support of everyone regardless of their political affiliations.