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Reform 'hijacked' by political elites for their own agenda

Jakarta Post - December 23, 2009

Slamet Susanto, Yogyakarta – The reform movement has been gathering pace for the past 11 years but justice and prosperity have not trickled down to the people because the movement has been seized by political elites, a professor said.

"Reformation tends to benefit only the political elites. It has been hijacked by them to make decisions that are not in line with the public interest," Pratikno said in his inaugural speech as professor at Gadjah Mada University's (UGM) School of Social and Political Sciences in Yogyakarta on Monday.

He said the hijacking was driven by the shift in political actors from an absolute ruler (Soeharto), to the oligarchy ruling the current reform era.

The problem is the pluralism of political parties is not based on a mutual foundation of nation building, he added. "What's important now is political consolidation."

He said the shift had taken place in the administrative structure – from a hierarchical to a lateral system – involving a growing number of officials.

Pratikno said the People's Consultative Assembly was no longer regarded as the highest state institution, but on a par with the House of Representatives, the President and the Supreme Court.

The Assembly also no longer formulates State Policy Guidelines carried out by the President.

"The President runs the government in tandem with the House, but that doesn't mean the President is above the other institutions, including the judiciary," he said.

Following Soeharto's downfall in 1998, the political scene in Indonesia has become crowded, competitive and open, he said.

He said the enactment of laws to protect freedoms of expression and assembly in the reform era had encouraged the growth in media and civil society organizations that are independent and critical of the state.

Pratikno added that the forming of hundreds of political parties could not be avoided, and that individual candidates also had the opportunity to become regional heads.

He said the current political pluralism in Indonesia was attributed to the public desire to build a representative democracy, which was why efforts to form an effective administration should be carried out by involving all stakeholders, or a public management authority controlled by various parties.

Effective democracy and administrative development are necessary to achieve reforms, he said, adding that a democracy without positive results is not beneficial to the community at large and endangers the government's position.

He said excessive pluralism was hard to manage and must be streamlined and that the current leaders' abilities to manage plurality was urgently needed. He cited examples such as building cooperation between the administrative center and the provinces, and between the provinces themselves, and also creating better communication between regional leaders and their communities.

"One skill that should be developed is networking management," he said.