Monday, February 16, 2009

The Luxury of Transparency in Indonesian Democracy

The third post-reformasi general elections is around the corner. With less than two months before the Election Day, political parties and their legislative candidates have been working hard to try to win the elections. Both first-timers and seasoned politicians are using all legally sanctioned means to campaign and advertise themselves in the hope that when April comes, the voters will remember their names, their parties and vote for them. Thus it is understandable that political advertisements in all forms can easily be found both in print and electronic media.

I remember in the last week of January when I was waiting for my train in Gambir Station, I received a freely distributed book published by the State Secretariat. The book, blue in color reflecting the color of the incumbent presidents’ party, was also distributed to anyone at the station. It was such a high quality publication.

However, upon opening and reading the book, several questions popped up in my mind.

First, the book only lists the highlights of the so-called achievements by the current government. From poverty reduction to economic growth, the book tells all about the milestones that have successfully been achieved by the incumbent government. The illustrations in the book are dominated by the pictures of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Furthermore, no single flaw of or under-achivement by the government has been disclosed in this book. The content is starkly one sided.

Why hide the facts and data about the state of development in Indonesia? What about the unending drama of Lapindo mudflow, the malnutrition cases, the increase of unemployment, the increasing cases of horizontal conflicts?

Quoting Anas Urbaningrum of Partai Demokrat in response to the latest political advertisement by Partai Keadilan Sejahtera which critizes the tug-o-war between leading presindetial contenders, the duties of a government is to provide positive information to the public while the negative or the so called under-achievements should become the responsibility of the opposition parties to response.

Is that so?

In my view, an official publication or report should provide a balanced picture about the state of progress in Indonesia’s development. There should not be any hidden facts and data so as to build culture of transparency and accountability thus providing greater trust and confidence of the people towards the government.

The next question disturbs me even more.

Where does the source of fund come? Does it come from the taxpayer’s money? Or does it come from other sources?

Since the book is published under the banner of the State Secretariat, it must have used money from the taxpayers as the source of fund. State Secretariat is a public office that functions using public money. It is highly unlikely that any personal/private money is used to fund such state sponsored publication project. It would be foolish for any rich person to fund such state sponsored publication for free. Nothing is free in this country. You have to pay for everything, even if you have to go to relieve yourself for nature’s call.

Thus, assuming that the source of fund for this publication is coming from the taxpayer’s money, how can we justify this fact? Does it amount to the practice of corruption and misuse of power?

I will leave the answer to this question to the readers. And since it is election time, the Baswaslu (General Elections Oversight Body) should conduct investigation on this matter.

To preach about morality and good deeds is easy but to do what you preach is difficult. In the same vein, to eradicate corruption and to build culture of transparency and accountability in a country such as Indonesia is not an easy task. All elements in Indonesian society, regardless of their background, should work hand in hand (gotong royong) to realize the dream of creating better future for Indonesia as stated in the Preamble of 1945 Constitution.

And even though I am less optimistic about the result of the upcoming April elections, it should, however, provide a strong basis for Indonesia to move forward and transform the procedural democracy into substantial one. Furthermore, the increasing role of civil society organizations in playing a watchdog to the government should provide incentive in the progress of Indonesian democracy.

1 comment:

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