Friday, June 12, 2009

Another note on transparency in Indonesian democracy

This is the second time I wrote about an issue of transparency in Indonesian elections. I wrote on similar issue in March during the early days of campaign period for legislative election.

Officially, the campaign period for presidential election to be held in July 8, 2009 was started earlier this month and the open campaign phase in which public rally and other legally sanctioned campaign methodology has just been started on 10 June 2009. The three presidential hopefuls have kicked off on their campaign trails, trying their level best to win the most votes. And money does play significant part in this process.

Naturally, the bigger the chance for a candidate to win the bigger the money that follows.

Thus, if we believe the result of several recent surveys by different pollsters that SBY – Boediono will win the battle, it is no surprise that SBY – Boediono leads the roster with the most campaign fund followed by Mega – Prabowo and JK – Wiranto. Data from the Election Commission confirmed this information about the campaign fund. The bigger the money will certainly provide the needed ammunition for the campaign team to conduct diverse campaign activities to widen the candidate’s opportunity to win in the election. But we all have to wait until the voting day to see the final result.

As such, I will not delve into predicting who is the winner or the loser in the July 8 election and instead I will discuss about the issue of transparency, especially on the use of money and the amount of donation given to the candidates for campaign purposes.

In the recently concluded elections in the world’s biggest democracy, India, the Congress Party spent thousands of Indian Rupee (the exact amount was not disclosed) just to buy the rights of the song Jai Ho (means Let there be victory) from an Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire and used it as the Party’s official campaign song. The result: the spirit of the movie and the message of the song had certainly played positive effect to the Indian Congress Party thus allowing it to reap the biggest electoral victory long after their domination in Indian politics ended in the late 80s and early 90s. Two Gandhis, one Singh and an inspirational Hindi song helped the Congress Party won the elections.

Similarly, when Karan Johar of the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Something happened) fame produced his equally successful movie Kal Ho Na Ho (If tomorrow never comes) in 2003, he bought the rights of the famous movie Pretty Woman’s theme song for Indian Rupee 800,000 (approximately 15 – 16 thousand US Dollars) just to ensure the legality of its modification of its lyrics and its use in his movie. It proved that the Pretty Woman song had added the movie with additional selling point thus catapulting it to the box office of Bollywood movie.

From the above illustrations, we can see that the principle of transparency and respect on copyrights in compliance with international law on copyrights has been held high in Indian democracy. Both the Indian Congress Party and Karan Johar, an Indian movie director, transparently declared to have spent enough sum of money just to ensure the legality of using someone else’s product. In that way, we have to take our hats off and asked ourselves, can we do that? And to be more specific, can our neetas (Hindi for politicians) do the same thing as the Congress Party did in India?

Hearing again and again the altered version/lyrics of popular jingle of Indofood’s Indomie on the radio and watching it on various TV stations made me question myself, have the copyright of the jingle been bought by the campaign team of SBY – Boediono? Or has the Indofood simply given the copyright of the jingle and donated it freely to the campaign team of SBY – Boediono and let them alter the jingle to suit the campaign purpose?

Next, if the copyright of the jingle was bought, how much did it cost? If it was given or donated for free to the campaign team of SBY – Boediono, what will Indofood get if SBY – Boediono win elections? Has it been reported to the Election Commission as a donation from a corporation? How much does the copyright amount to? (maximum amount of donation for corporation is 5 billion Rupiah)

And many other questions that need clarifications and answers.

Assuming that the jingle was deliberately altered by SBY – Boediono’s campaign team without the consent of Indofood to suit the campaign purpose, it definitely an obstruction of one’s rights. It is amount to the practice of piracy, a problem that Indonesia continues to face.

But if it was altered with the consent of Indofood and freely given to the SBY – Boediono campaign team, there should be explanation to the public and to the Election Commission about the matter.

If big businesses continue to fund politicians in exchange of favor or business deals once the politician grabs the power, it will be difficult for the politicians to realize their campaign promises to the voters.

In an election, the voters are king makers and transparency, honesty and integrity are keywords for the politicians to win the hearts and minds of the voters. Thus if our neetas continue to preach but fail to observe what they preach, what will happen to the people and the nation?

As such, there is a great deal of necessity to start establishing transparency, between us.