Wiping The Slate Clean?
It's only a couple of weeks since the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan ended with Idul Fitri. 'Fitrah' means a (re)beginning as humans, which is why Indonesians walk up to all and sundry and say "Mohon ma'af lahir dan batin". Cynics (moi?) have long translated this as "Please accept my apologies for what I may have done (to you) in the past year and for what I'm going to do in the next year."
It hasn't taken long for this has quickly proven to be a truism.
Whilst some of us have been emotionally drawn to assist in the wake of West Sumatra's devastating earthquakes (1), others have been drawn to the trough of plenty.
SBY has complained angrily about local governments which have submitted assessments of financial losses over emergency relief measures to help quake victims.(2)
Airlines have laid on umpteen more flights with full loads of relief personnel with their equipment as well as grieving families. However, to this commentator among others, it beggars belief that some, if not all, of these airlines have tripled fares to Padang citing 'supply and demand'.
Elsewhere, the new parliament has been installed with great pomp and extravagence. The public at large has decried this, thus forcing some of the new legislators to say that they will donate their first month's salary to relief funds. This is, of course, no big deal as they have five years to capitalise on thir positions, and manoeverings are taking place to secure seats on the various commissions which will serve as the buffers between lobbyists and the ultimate decision makers, the people's elected representatives.
SBY has yet to be reinaugurated as President, so his new government has not been announced, but there are significant signs that the democratic process which has been lauded internationally as demonstrating that such ideals are possible in a predominantly Muslim country is but a sham.
To be fair, what is happening here is not peculiar to Indonesia. I've always thought that whoever you vote for, the government gets in, and in most countries cronyism and nepotism are the entrance keys. So, it must be acknowledged that SBY is not the first political leader to create a dynasty.
The USA has had its Kennedys and Bushes; Greece has just elected the son and grandson of prime ministers as their new prime minister; Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka have their Bhuttos, Ghandis and Banderanikes - and the list goes on.
SBY's has three brothers-in-law in high military positions. Lt. Gen. Erwin Sujono is Military Chief of General Affairs, Maj. Gen. Suryo Prabowo is the Jakarta Military Commander and Maj. Gen. Edhie Wibowo is commander of the notorious Army special forces, Kopassus. His eldest son, Army Captain Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, is currently completing his master's degree at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Once he graduates, his rapid rise through the army ranks is virtually guaranteed given his family connections and word is that he is being groomed as a future president. Meanwhile, SBY's second son, Eddie Baskoro, is a neophyte in the legislature.
Given the parliamentary majority of SBY's Parti Demokrasi and coalition partners (those parties which did not put up candidates in July's presidential) losing parties are grabbing opportunities to jump on the gravy train. Ex-president Megawati's husband, Taufik Kiemas, has just been 'elected' Speaker of the People's Representative Group, even though the people rejected Megawati's PDI-P at the general election in March. Their daughter, Putu, is another neophyte in the legislature.
The other major party to lose heavily in the general election was Suharto's 'functional group', Golkar. Ignoring events elsewhere in Sumatra, they have been holding an 'ugly' congress in Palmbang to elect a new leader to replace the out-going Vice President Yusuf Kalla. The two main candidates were Abdurizal Bakrie, of Lapindo Brantas mudflow infamy, and media mogul Suryo Paloh. Bakrie wants Golkar to cling to power by entering SBY's new government, and Paloh suggested that Golkar should regroup as a parliamentary opposition.
Bakrie won because he threw more money at the voting delegates. The public will not be fooled and recognises that for a democracy to have some credence checks and balances are needed, so Paloh was the generally respected candidate.
The one glimmer of hope is that Tommy Suharto, son of the late detested dictator and convicted murderer, got no votes. Mind you, neither did the other candidate Yuddy Chrisnandi. He couldn't afford to dispense any largesse.
And so it goes.
.............................(1) I'm continuing to update information of how you can help - here.
Feel free to link and/or email me if you want me to add anything.
(2) This is not the final earthquake to hit the coast of West Sumatra and, according to an article in the New Scientist, 'the big one' could hit at any time - "All it will take to trigger it is the pressure of a handshake," says John McCloskey, a seismologist at the Environmental Sciences Research Institute at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
It therefore behooves the appropriate authorities to prepare rather than repair.