POLITICAL CLOWNS by HERI DONO - tropenmuseum.nl

In 2008, Indonesian lawmakers at the House of Representative passed anti-porn law with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) faction in the House claimed it as their initiative. It has been  a source of angst among certain member of communities in this world’s most populous Muslim majority nation.

A year later, the then president of PKS Tifatul Sembiring was appointed as Minister of Communications and Information Technology in the second tenure of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet. In 2010, the ministry ambitiously launched a policy to ban pornographic contents in internet.

But this year, amid an internal conflict within the elites of PKS and a heating debate about the addict of Indonesian films toward the cameos of foreign porn stars, a photo journalist caught Arifinto, the member of PKS faction in the House, enjoying a blue film on his tablet computer during the parliamentary session.

Oops, didn’t he realize where and when he is? Whatever his arguments, as a penance he withdrew from the House to clean his party’s image. His decision deserved an appreciation.

Also in 2011, Youth and Sports Minister Andi Alifian Mallarangeng had launched a vote of no-confidence to the chairman of Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) Nurdin Halid, a Golkar Party cadre, and his executive boards before FIFA, the world governing body of football, dissolved Nurdin’s PSSI chairmanship. Although not clearly stated, it seemed Mr Alifian had no favour to Nurdin not just for his ways in managing national football but also for his graft suspect records, even he was ever indicted.

But who knows that later an allegedly corrupt practice of the graft case took place at Mr Alifian’s office by involving Wafid Muharam, his secretary, and members of the ruling Democratic Party in connection with the project on an athlete village in Palembang, South Sumatra, for the incoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Wafid was arrested at his workplace by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) who later decided him a suspect. Moh Nazaruddin, the young politician in the House from the ruling party faction, was relinquished of his post as the party’s treasurer for being allegedly involved in the case and for trying to bribe officials at the Constitutional Court.

Was Mr Alifian of the Democratic Party really unaware of this dirty practice? Was he so busy sweeping to make others, including the PSSI, clean that neglecting any details of SEA Games’ projects for the cleanliness of his institution?

Let the KPK does investigate the case thoroughly. Shall the KPK later prove Wafid guilty but clear Mr Alifian of any wrongdoings, to certain extents of moral judgement the minister still bear responsibility for what had happened in the institution he leads.

However, corruption is not a petty offence and whoever the offender at the Ministry of Youth and Sports shall be punished since all are equal before the law. The real example from the ruling party which backs President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono –in which fighting corruption becomes one of many agendas of his government— will be above all and, therefore, what really happens next is worth waiting.

Politics is philosophically not sports. Politics does not bear a standard of wrong and right instead of the left and right. It seems depending on the politicians’ ability to garner more on public attentions as a ‘’self-sale’’ strategy for their political interests than to do real works with substantial importance for people.

Politicians are listening to public voices but any public concerns are frequently not heard of. Take an example when the lawmakers stick with a plan to build a new tower despite public protests regarded it not an urgent need. Too many overseas trips by the lawmakers without any useful gains presented to public has also continuously been criticized along with public disappointment over the House’s slow work on legislation.

The incident of invalid e-mail gaffe, komisi8@yahoo.com , during the House’s Commission VIII trip in Australia a few weeks ago did indicate how they have still been far away from the public by not seriously taking into account the importance of both information and communication tools. Please note it’s the lawmakers who ratified a bill of Public Information Act which later took into effect as the law by the government since April 2010.

It’s alright that the gaffe is not substantial as said by the deputy House speaker Priyo Budi Santoso from Golkar Party on the Jakarta Globe on May 6. Say it a human’s err that is humanly. But, one thing Mr Priyo might not completely understand is that giving the wrong e-mail address –though the correct one komisi8@dpr.go.id is part of an intranet system which will bounce back any e-mails sent to it from outside the system as told by Roy Suryo, a Democratic Party lawmaker— is making a fool at the public.

In fact, the parliament and not all of ministries and government institutions are really well-prepared to do social interactions with the public as mandated by the law on the openness of public information they passed. On the matter of overseas trip by the lawmakers, for instance, it is not merely about the costs but also on the results gained from such study tours abroad which stir controversies since they are not publicized enough on the parliament’s website to be known by the large Indonesian society.

Another plain phenomenon, though there is an availability of ample budget and human resources or staffs, websites and media of many ministries and government offices or institutions do share an impression of nothing but randomly managed. This is one of many risks putting certain ministers or public officials from political party’s background who frequently bring persons from the same party to be their special or expert staffs to do the task without enough needed expertises and skills.

There would be information bottlenecks. Let alone if ministers or public officials prefer certain commercial media to others for publishing or making advertorial on their activities in order to be read by their bosses, not for the vast majority of Indonesian public. It’s also a misfortune if the publications concentrate on certain areas since the visits and activities of ministers and public officials directed to the provinces or regencies with the governors or regents coming from the same party.

Also how unlucky the public will be if ministers and public officials make use of public money not to serve them with the needed information but, for example, to publish expensive books just to personally boost the ministers’ and the officials’ images for their political interests in the future. Are some officials like them around us? It’s the task of the Indonesian ministry for state apparatus to observe and evaluate.

It’s the best if in the future we do hope not to see the lawmakers and public officials like the clowns who not necessarily say something funny since their acts have already been so cleverly producing various slapstick. (*)