Power-games politicians play in Indonesia

Indonesia is in a mess. The rupiah is sliding, the economy is in a rut and more violence is forecast. For the ordinary man, life could never have been more miserable. Why?

It’s because of the politicians!

The fall of former president Suharto was no panacea, after all. Those who filled the political vacuum are individuals who are pushing the country to the brink of disaster.

Look at what is happening now. President Abdurrahman Wahid is playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship to see if his opponents will buckle under the intimidation of his diehard supporters.

From his perspective, this course of action is justifiable. After all, there is a plot to overthrow him “unconstitutionally”. But his ardent foes are also playing this foolish game. They, too, are plotting to see whether he will collapse under the weight of periodic parliamentary gunfights.

They, too, have masses ready to fight – Laskar Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood. The list grows longer the more politicians tear at each other.

After experiencing the worst-ever violence in May 1998, Indonesians are now bracing for another violent bash after April 30, when legislators censure Mr Abdurrahman.

A compromise or, at the other extreme, a civil war perhaps? No one knows.

Either way, the ordinary Indonesian is suffering for the actions of his political leaders. He can’t lead a life of certainty.

Several schools located near Parliament will close when the parliamentary showdown takes place.

That means the eight-year-old son of insurance agent Yuli Ismardi will not be attending classes next week.

“Life appears normal on the surface. But there is so much frustration for us. Every day, these politicians keep fighting one another. They achieve nothing. They offer no solutions.”

In some villages, people turn off their TV sets when politicians – especially Mr Abdurrahman or bitter rival national assembly chairman Amien Rais – appear.

Politicians here need a mindset change. They need to put country before self. But this could be difficult for those craving power.

As French statesman George Pompidou noted decades ago: “A statesman is a politician who places himself at the service of the nation. But a politician is a statesman who places the nation at his service.”

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