73rd Anniversary of Indonesia’s Independence: “Free” but not much to celebrate”

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(Illustration: IO/Agung)

IO, Jakarta – “My struggle easier as it expels the invaders, but your struggle  will be more difficult as it will be against your own countrymen.” said Soekarno, our founding father and first President. This quote is highly relevant to Indonesia’s current condition. This year, we commemorate our 73rd year of independence. Yet our condition in many fronts is deeply worrying, mostly the economy.

To quote data from Bloomberg, the Rupiah exchange rate against United States Dollar (USD) continues to weaken on today’s trading, Tuesday (14/08). The Rupiah is currently at Rp 14,627.00 per USD. A falling Rupiah exchange rate further weakens the people’s purchasing power. Furthermore, steadily increasing prices of basic necessities is enough to make the people scream in rage and desperation, as their income remains stagnant but the prices of basic necessities are chokingly high.

Our law enforcement shows obvious favoritism. The public clearly recalls how the Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi – “KPK”) senior investigator, Novel Baswedan, was viciously splashed in the face with acid by two men speeding by on a motorbike. It happened so fast that he could not evade the attack and did not see the perpetrators either. The attack occurred over a year ago on 11 April 2017, yet the police is still unable to find the wrongdoers.

With the various unresolved issues occurring in all aspects of our daily lives, we might well question “Are we truly independent now?” Or is the celebration of independence a mere ceremony without any true meaning to us as the sons and daughters of this nation?

The Lost Spirit of Unity and Brotherhood
Salamudin Daeng, Economic Observer from the Indonesian Economy and Politics Association (Asosiasi Ekonomi Politik Indonesia – “AEKPI”), states that independence is manifested in the constitution of the State, i.e. through the text of the Proclamation of Independence, Pancasila, and the Constitution of 1945 as the unified philosophy of our ideology and national purpose. These texts are the manifestation of the feeling of unity and brotherhood of people who are the same nation. These feelings unite us, as our ancestors suffered greatly under colonialism and imperialism, which pressed us all under common suffering, tyranny, and opened a socio-economic gap. We were poor and uneducated and treated unfairly as a whole.

“In the context of our current Government, there is something missing: we no longer feel united and brotherly towards the suffering endured by many Indonesians. Somehow we lost touch of this feeling, in our theory and concept of development, which are very much contradictory. The Government’s agenda only provides prosperity to a number of people and ignores most others. This is a great deviation from the old spirit of unity and brotherhood. The entire vision, ideology, strategy, and concession of development should reflect this spirit of unity and brotherhood. This is the basis of social justice! Our development concession should reflect the spirit of unity and brotherhood, togetherness and mutual cooperation, but now it is not reflected in the execution of the State and the Government. In consequence, nowadays Pancasila is not interpreted as a feeling of unity and brotherhood, but instead interpreted unilaterally by those in power simply to strengthen themselves,” Salamudin Daeng said.

Furthermore, for the people, Pancasila should mean “unity”, “solidarity”, “tolerance”, and “development for the common good”. It should not be used to justify the seeking of growth just for several selected people or groups, neglecting others. Development gaps and poverty are caused by the inability of Government and the State to place the feeling of unity and brotherhood as their basis in administering the State and Government. The noble aspirations of our ancestors are now distorted, betrayed by the fact that unity and brotherhood are no longer the basis of Government administration.

Salamudin criticizes Indonesia’s current economy as failing to live up to the aspirations of our independence. “The economy would improve if the State and Government were inclusive or open, if they included all of the nation’s resources in order to achieve our common goals. All our economic resources must be dedicated to the utmost welfare of the people. This would allow us to achieve the noble purpose of the economy – justice, distribution of income, reduced poverty. However, as long as the strategies, concepts, and ideologies of development do not include the people as the subject of development and only see the people as objects, the very purpose of the economy will not be achieved. Exclusive development will generate prosperity for only a few people, because the entire process – the planning, budgeting, and policy-making – is controlled by only a number of elites, or by an oligarchy, whose sole motivation is to enrich themselves. If this is not changed, the economy can never achieve the aspirations of our independence,” he said.

Hatta Taliwang, Director of the Soekarno-Hatta Institute, opines that a State can be said to be independent when all of its people are prosperous. “The purpose of our independence, according to the Constitution, is to advance general prosperity, to develop the nation’s intellectual life, and to contribute to the implementation of a world order based on freedom, lasting peace and social justice. Our original purpose is to create a sense of security, so the people are no longer nervous and anxious every day. In politics, “independent” means you can express your ideas and opinions responsibly, without fear of unfounded accusations of conspiracy. Respect all differences, because that is democracy. Nowadays, the people still feel repressed,” he said.

Idil Akbar, a Political Observer from Padjajaran University, states that “independence” basically has three indicators: first, we are independent for ourselves, i.e. we are secure in our human rights; second, we are independent in living our lives; and third, we are independent in earning a decent living. “It is now still in process, and it is our people’s challenge to achieve true independence,” he says.

Idil Akbar states that the main issues faced by this nation include economic independence, cultural independence and political independence, as foreign parties still intervene in all of these aspects in our lives. “For example, the use of our political technology or tools. Our system still refers to the systems established by other countries, while we should develop and maintain our own system, the system based on Pancasila and the Constitution of 1945. Our democracy is also still liberal-style democracy, Western-style democracy, while we actually have our own democracy that reflects our own culture and is clearly based on Pancasila and the Constitution of 1945. These two philosophies should be the basis of all our systems. I think we still have unfinished tasks to do, and we must adapt accordingly as the world’s dynamics are constant,” he said.

Level of Prosperity
The Indonesian Government and the World Bank sets the poverty level differently. In March 2018, the Statistics Indonesian (Badan Pusat Statistik – “BPS”) sets the poverty line at Rp 401,220.00 per capita a month, or a person generating an income of USD 1.00 a day. However, the World Bank calculates the poverty line differently at USD 1.9 a day, or equal to Rp 775,200.00 a month. With such a difference in calculations, it is only natural that the Government constantly claims that poverty level in Indonesia keeps on decreasing. In March 2018, BPS stated that we have 25.95 million poor people, while the World Bank recorded our poor at 70 million.

Salamudin states that in brief, Indonesia’s problem is that there are too many poor people and only a few of us are rich. If the Government enriches only a few people and keeps the others poor, this means that our Government is unjust. Indonesian citizens do not want to be treated unfairly. On the contrary, they want to help each other and maintain solidarity and mutual cooperation. An unjust Government is barbarous, and that is our current situation with such great gaps. “Prosperity does not have an actual measure, and poverty is measured relatively based on numbers. However, justice and unity are values. We have people whose income is below Rp 11,000.00. This is an indicator that shows how far below any common poverty level our people are; this is inhuman. On the contrary, 4 Indonesians have total assets equaling that of 100 million citizens,” he said.

Hatta Taliwang said that our people are far from being independent, because there are too many citizens living in abject poverty. Even though Government data seems to show a reduction of poverty, the reality is absolutely undeniable. If we actually use the World Bank poverty standard of less than USD 2.00 earned a day, we’d find that even more of our people still live in poverty. Furthermore, our gap ratio or Gini Index is extremely high at 0.41 and our unemployment rate is very high.

Weak Law Enforcement
According to Mudzakir, a Criminal Law Expert from Universitas Islam Indonesia, Jogjakarta, law enforcement in Indonesia is currently at the lowest level in comparison with that of previous Governments. This is reflected in the practice of Constitution, i.e. “the law is supreme. Yet it is otherwise in Indonesia: the law is subordinate to political power, or law is controlled by politics instead of controlling politics.

“This worries me, because according to the Constitution of 1945, Law is above everything. The Law should be fair, it should be the guideline in administering the State. Yet because the Law is suborned by politics, it is helpless against the people in power. The law is mostly implemented against people who are far from being powerful. When we see the variables of law enforcement, Law is no longer enforced on behalf of legality and justice as mandated by the Constitution of 1945,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudzakir stated that President Jokowi is weak in terms of enforcing the law. The President is unable to control legal practices, even though he has the power to do so. “For example, we have so many complex and unresolved legal issues, such as the acid throwing against Novel Baswedan. It’s actually very simple – the President need only summon the Chief of Police, give him 6 months to resolve the case, and threaten to dismiss the Chief if he fails. But he didn’t do it. Another example is the mega-corruption cases. The President frequently says, “I don’t interfere in law enforcement.” This is actually not right, because the President as the highest person in command should encourage the enforcement of the law if it gets stuck. The President should intervene – otherwise, the cases in the public’s interest will not be resolved. This is why I said that our law is subordinate instead of supreme,” he said.

Mudzakir thinks that our founding fathers’ aspiration to uphold the Law in the Motherland is growing further from expectations. From the begining, the Constitution of 1945 states that Indonesia is a Rechtsstaat (a State based on Laws). Yet the facts in the field show that Indonesia is currently more like a Machstaat (a State based on power). “So instead of focusing on being a Rechtsstaat, we focus on being a Machstaat,” he said. “Legal independence will only be realized when the law is enforced according to the Constitution of 1945, and based on the spirit of the Preamble to the Constitution of 1945 and Pancasila. When the law is properly enforced, the principle of equality before the law would be enforced automatically. So we really shouldn’t base it on fear of those in power.”

The Duty of the Young
To fulfill our independence, it is the duty of our younger generation to revive the spirit of independence and the identity of the nation. “The older generation should support, instead of obstructing and manipulating, the spirit of the young who want to return to independence, unity, and brotherhood,” Salamudin said.

Hatta Taliwang states that the most urgent duty of the next generation in fulfilling independence is to improve our democratic system and prevent it from being wasteful. “We suggest that the State return to the old musyawarah mufakat (deliberations for unanimity) system, wherein the President is elected by the People’s Consultative Assembly of the Republic of Indonesia (Majelis Permusya­wa­rat­an Rakyat Republik Indonesia – “MPR RI”). In other words, returning to the representative system. What’s the use of our House of People’s Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) nowadays? They don’t reprimand the Government for being reckless, while DPR should have been the people’s representative in selecting and maintaining good leaders,” he said.

Idil Akbar said that the duty of the next generation in fulfilling our independence would only get harder, not easier, in the future. The most important thing is to improve our confidence. If we lack confidence, it will be difficult for us to interact properly with people from other countries, while we have so many natural and human resources to be proud of. Our people’s intelligence is no lower than that of other countries. Quite a few other countries, such as Singapore, do not have natural resources – but they have excellent control of their economy. So, the first thing to do is raise our confidence, as everyone has the simple job of doing the best work they can in their respective fields.

Government Gone Off Course
Salamudin criticizes the current Government as being unable to work according to the philosophy of our founding fathers. The current Government works by overriding the Constitution of 1945 and its amendments. This counteracts the purpose of the Proclamation. The Government should return to the spirit of the Proclamation, return to Pancasila, and return to the original Constitution of 1945; it should re-synthesize the feeling unity and brotherhood in the administration of the State and nation.

Hatta Taliwang believes that the aspirations of our ancestors and founding fathers are still  far from being achieved. The Government must work extra hard to achieve both economic and political justice. This is what we must resolve, as our current economic condition is far from being independent. To cite a proof, our exchange rate is very low because we import too much. We are still far from having equal earnings and prosperity. There are so many among us who still earn less than Rp 500,000.00 a month – this is indecent. Furthermore, the current Government makes so many unfulfilled promises, that even Iwan Fals created the highly popular Janji Jokowi (“Jokowi’s Promise”) song.

“This shows how damaged our democratic system is – we have generated a leader who is chock-full of promises, but can only attain a few of them. That’s what we must resolve, the fact that the Government still has not worked according to the principles of our founding fathers, while in fact the Government’s main duties are to generate prosperity for the people; make the people intelligent; make the people feel safe, calm, and comfortable, instead of threatening each other like we so often do now,” he said.

Idil Akbar believes that the Government has achieved partial transformation within the past 5 years, especially in terms of infrastructure construction, despite remaining issues of social gaps and the prices of basic necessities that need to be resolved. The Government’s major task, which is urgent to resolve, involves the economy. The most important thing is not the numbers, for example how many percent have we achieved economic growth, but how real economic prosperity can be enjoyed by all.

The Government should adjust according to our identity in economy, i.e. by referring to the principle of the people’s economy. However, the interventions of other countries remain quite strong, as indicated by the continued weakening of the Rupiah exchange rate. “If our internal economic solidification runs properly, significant changes would have occurred. We are also still copying other countries in terms of our politics and democracy,” he said.

Among the main problems that obstruct our economic independence include the fact that a lot of our natural resources are taken away by foreign countries, many foreign workers work in our country, and most importantly, our economic democracy is based on the principles of a “liberal economy” instead of “a people’s economy”. Therefore, our main challenge in the future is to return to the principles of the people’s economy when we administer our economic processes. “Prosperity has clear indicators, and it’s not about the amount of income per se. We must ensure that this amount can satisfy the basic needs of the people – their food, clothing, and housing. The most important thing is how to make sure that our people survive and live well,” Idil Akbar said.

Mudzakir believes that law enforcement in our current Government has veered far from the aspiration of our founding fathers. “Our politics originally uphold the principle of free activity, non-partisanship, and consideration for all Indonesian citizens. The Fifth Tenet of Pancasila says “Social justice for all Indonesian people”. If the Government is still unable to realize social justice for all Indonesian people, we are still very far from the independence we aspire to,” he said.

Mudzakir also hopes that law runs parallel to justice, meaning that law must become the means to realize justice for all Indonesian people. He further states that our founding fathers have reminded us that as a Lawful State, we must make sure to educate our heirs to place the law as a forum for generating justice. As long as the people can still believe in the law, it can still be upheld. (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)