Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
By Sunanda Creagh
The decision by Indonesia’s reformist Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to move to the World Bank must have thrilled those politicians who lobbied hard to dethrone her and derail her anti-corruption drive. But if letters to the editor in the local media are any guide, Indonesia’s ‘wong cilik’ or the little people, as the man on the street is called here — are in mourning.
“It was a black Wednesday in the history of our nation,” read one reader’s letter to the Jakarta Post.
“One of the most honest and qualified people and someone who is known as the hope, finally succumbed to political pressure by the political elite that prefer to remain.”
Many letter-writers have begged her to return in 2014 to run for president, while others have expressed fears that, without her, Indonesia will return to the bad old days of cronyism.
“We didn’t want to see you driven out. Take pity on the people of Indonesia!” one reader, Daslam Al Maliki, wrote on the Indonesian-language news website Tempo Interaktif.
Indrawati, as well as being a widely respected economist, is a notoriously tough cookie who stood up to powerful businessmen and politicians who wanted the rules bent in their favour.
In retaliation, she was made the target of an inquiry into the 2008 decision to bail out the ailing Bank Century.
Chief among her detractors was Golkar, the party of former President Suharto, now headed by business magnate and politician Aburizal Bakrie.
Her departure has also been met with a deafening silence from the country’s business elite. Few among Indonesia’s tycoons seem sad to see the back of a politician who made it her mission to end collusion between powerful businessmen and crooked officials and lawmakers.
Several have paid lip service to her abilities as an economist but no-one — except the distressed letter-writers — appears to be pleading for her to stay.
The yawning gap between the reponses of the public on the one hand and the political and business elite on the other underlines how out of touch those in power are with their constituents.
Last year’s elections were fought over the issue of reform, the fight against corruption, as means to deliver better economic growth and more jobs in a country of high unemployment and underemployment.
A recent poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute found that those parties that pushed hardest to investigate Indrawati and the Bank Century bailout decision have actually lost support.
Political analysts and economists are now wondering if her departure is a sign that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitment to institutional reform is flagging.
“What is wrong with Indonesia? While the top brains are needed to run this country, even the President approves this brain drain,” one reader, ‘Walt’, wrote in the Jakarta Post.
Not all letter-writers are Indrawati fans; several are suspicious she is leaving the country to avoid further questioning over the Bank Century case, an allegation Indrawati has dismissed.
But to many Indonesians, her bruising political battles have turned her into a national heroine while her new job on the international stage will bring prestige to Indonesia
Indrawati herself appears relieved and happy she is moving on to a job that will, hopefully, involve a little less mud-slinging.
“Don’t cry for me, Indonesia. I go for the good of all,” read one headline in the Jakarta Post, a wry reference to Argentinian leader Evita Peron.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sri Mulyani Indrawati addresses reporters. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni
By Sunanda Creagh
Just over a decade ago, Indonesians took to the streets to protest. Now they can make themselves heard without even leaving home.
A Facebook group supporting two senior officials from the anti-corruption agency, who many people think have been framed, has attracted almost half a million members in just four days.
By Sara Webb
But the much younger democracy of Indonesia voted calmly for their president on Wednesday and got the voting over in five hours with a good indication of the result — a second term for the reformist ex-general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — out just a couple of hours later.
By Dean Yates
(The author lived in Indonesia from 1992-1995 and 2000-2005, with various assignments in between)
It was not that long ago that Indonesia was lurching from crisis to crisis, even drawing some (misplaced) predictions it could go the way of the former Yugoslavia and break apart. These days it rarely makes the front page. It has a steady president in Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, probably the freest press in Southeast Asia and political violence appears to be a thing of the past. The last major bomb attack blamed on Islamic militants was in 2005.
As journalists, we spend a lot of time watching politicians and policies to guage their impact on financial markets and economies. Now, as recession takes an inexorable hold in the Asia-Pacific region, we’re watching for the impact on politicians themselves.
So far there has been no repeat of the political upheaval triggered by Asia’s economic crisis a decade ago, which culminated in the ignominious resignation of President Suharto in Indonesia and the ouster of Thailand’s prime minister (see previous blog). There are no food riots as there were back then, and Asians are not crowding at banks’ doors to rescue their savings.