23 November 2007 

Decentralization looks on track but wealth distribution matters

by Martin Manurung and Erny Murniasih, Jakarta
(Jakarta Post, Thursday 22 November 2007)


Seven years on, decentralization faces a critical question: is it going down the right track?

Regional autonomy was part of Indonesian democratic reform, one of the manifestations of the democratization processes which began after the fall of Soeharto. Along with political decentralization, which aims at bringing the government closer to the people, Indonesia also launched economic decentralization to achieve better distribution of income between the central and the local governments. It is also expected that these reforms will enhance the capacity of local governments to provide better services to the people.

Nevertheless, local economic development has been slow. Although the total Gross Domestic Regional Product (GRDP)of the provinces between 2005 and 2006 increased slowly - by about 13 percent -- the GRDP distribution is still concentrated in certain provinces, such as DKI Jakarta. The province with the slowest growth is North Maluku. In addition, the gap between the richest and poorest province tripled over the same time period, demonstrating great inequality among regions.

Another issue is the amount of money that the central government has transferred to the regions. Since 2005, the ratio of the Intergovernmental Fiscal Transfer (IGFR) amount to the total amount of state budgets increased steadily. The figure, in 2005 was 27 percent, increasing to 32 percent in 2006 and 34 percent this year.

The 2007 Government Financial Note argues that more IGFR will result in a higher GDRP, which is the aggregate local income. However, due to problems of inequality and fiscal imbalance, an increase in IGFR does not always mean people are better off at the local level. We must also ask whether the allocated money is effectively spent, on better public services offered locally.

As discussed above, it is the people who should benefit the most from decentralization. Nonetheless, from a budgetary perspective, the majority of local budgets are primarily used to pay the salaries of local government officers. The proportion of the total budget spent on their salaries was 41 percent in 2006 and 43 percent in 2005. Thus, it is an undisputable fact that decentralization program monies are not effectively and efficiently utilized to enhance local economic development.

With this background, several points can be made. First, the government should reconsider the mechanism behind local budgeting. It is true that intervention from the central government is generally undesirable in the local budgeting process. Many believe this would hinder the full implementation of decentralization.

However, as in other countries, it is crucial that local governments are given certain guidelines from the central government, to ensure that budgets are created without delay and that budgetary funds are spent on the delivery of public services.

Recent reports indicate that local governments have "parked" up to 62 trillion rupiah in bank deposits and the central bank certificates (SBI). This is mismanagement of public funds which obviously does not benefit the people.

In view of the mismanagement risk, the central government should not leave local governments on their own, particularly in budgeting matters. This is extremely important because local legislative councils have not been an effective advocate for public needs and public participation in budget preparation is very limited. Therefore, the central government should provide clear and comprehensive guidelines to minimize mismanagement and misinterpretations of regional financial regulations.

Second, the equalization grant needs revision. Currently the amount of this grant is significant. The equalization grant has contributed to overall IGFR to the tune of 60 percent. However, as discussed, the gap between regions is still an unresolved problem. Thus, the government and the parliament must pursue better alternatives to fix the horizontal imbalances.

Third, the complexity of government procurement requirements deserves a thoroughgoing review. Delays in budget implementation is often blamed on these rules. The government must simplify the process without compromising on transparency and the fight against corruption.
Finally, bringing the government closer to the people -- the overall aim -- will remain merely a catchphrase if there is no harmonization between central and local governments. Both sides must work together to resolve the above issues and put aside narrow-mindedness.


Martin Manurung is a senior consultant at Sekurindo Global Consulting and Erny Murniasih is a practitioner in Fiscal Decentralization. Both are 2005 British Chevening Scholars and based in Jakarta.


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15 August 2006 

Memburu Beasiswa, Upaya Merubah Nasib (5)

“Mulai berburu beasiswa ke luar negeri”
Asnawi Abdullah, London

Secara resmi, aku baru bisa mendaftar beasiswa untuk sekolah lagi tahun 1998. Pada saat itu aku mulai 'memburu'. Kebetulan, saat itu Prof. Kerling dari KIT Amsterdam sedang mengadakan penelitian di Aceh. Aku jadikan dia ‘sasaran’ pertama. Aku bantu dia mengolah data menggunakan Epi-Info dan SPSS.


Rupanya, Prof. Kerling sangat terkesan terhadap output kerjaku. Terus, aku meminta sarannya bagaimana supaya aku bisa ambil S2 di KIT. Kemudian dia kirim brosur dan sejumlah lain dari Belanda. Namun KIT tidak punya beasiswa, aku disuruh melamar melalui kedutaan, beasiswa Stuned atau sejenisnya. Seseorang rekanku saat itu berjanji akan membantu mencari Application Form dari kedutaan. Namun, sampai batas waktu penerimaan formulir aplikasi aku belum terima application form beasiswa itu, padahal offer letter daru universitas sudah ada. Mungkin hal ini tidak akan terjadi, seandainya pada saat itu, ada internet seperti sekarang. Baru belakangan aku tahu bahwa di internet juga kita bisa download application form. Yang jelas, kesempatan pertama hilang.

Kesempatan kedua datang, yakni beasiswa ke University of Southern California, Amerika. Ada proyek HP IV Depkes mengirimkan pegawai untuk belajar Managed Care di USA. Wilayah kerjaku, Aceh, memang tidak termasuk wilayah proyek HP IV, tetapi Dirjen Binkesmas, menawarkan kepadaku atas nama jatah Depkes. Tentu aku senang sekali, aku lengkapi semua persyaratan, offer letter juga aku terima. Namun akhirnya, aku tidak bisa berangkat, dengan alasan Aceh bukan wilayah HP IV. Aku sedikit kecewa pada saat itu. Ada beberapa pertanyaan dalam hatiku. "Kenapa aku dulu ditawarin, lagi pula ini bukan atas nama Aceh, melainkan atas nama Depkes, jadi tidak ada soal dengan Aceh bukan wilayah proyek".

Salah seorang yang baik hati dari Depkes memberikan solusi dan mengusulkan, untuk membuat surat Lolos Butuh dari Dinkes Banda Aceh. Artinya, setelah lulus nanti, dengan surat Lolos Butuh aku harus pindah dari Aceh ke Depkes Jakarta, karena aku pergi sekolah atas nama Depkes. Hal ini tentunya sangat sulit bagi Dinkes Aceh untuk melepaskan aku. Tapi dengan penuh perjuangan akhirnya aku bisa menyakinkan Kepala Dinas Kesehatan dan surat Lolos Butuhpun ditanda tangani. Masalah belum selesai, ada tarik ulur dalam perijinan, yang menurut beberapa rekanku sebenarnya bisa diselesaikan dengan duit. Namun saya tidak bisa membaca hal itu Sangat sulit dibaca bagi orang kurang pengalaman seperti aku ini. Permainan dalam hal itu sangat cantik, kalau tidak sudah banyak orang bisa masuk penjara. Akhirnya, kesempatan kedua hilang lagi.

Meskipun begitu, aku tidak pernah patah semangat. AusAID merupakan target berikutnya. AusAID sering menjadi target saya, tapi persyaratannya luar biasa banyaknya pada waktu itu: harus ada tanda tangan biro Kerjasama Luar Negeri, persetujuan ini, itu lah, yang membuat susah sebagian besar orang di luar Jakarta. Di samping itu Brosur dan Application Form dikirim oleh Depkes Pusat selalu telat bahkan ada yang satu minggu sebelum deadline. Entah disengaja atau apalah maksudnya, itu yang dialami oleh semua instansi di daerah. Syukurlah, sekarang internet menghilangkan hambatan surat menyurat dan akses kepada informasi.

Kesempatan ketiga yang menghampiriku adalah ke Mahidol University dengan beasiswa dari pemerintah Thailand untuk mengambil MSc dalam Primary Health Care. Dirjen Binkesmas menawarkan langsung kepadaku secara pribadi, sehingga Dinkes Banda Aceh tidak bisa menahan atau melarang aku. Akupun mengisi form, ikut seleksi, hingga akhirnya terpilih tiga orang: aku, seorang dari Bali, dan salah satu staf Dinkes Jawa Barat. Semua persiapan sudah selesai, namun tiba-tiba datang pengumuman bahwa dengan sangat menyesal, karena krisis ekonomi, nilai mata uang jatuh! Beasiswa yang semula untuk tiga orang, hanya dapat diberikan untuk dua orang. Tidak jelas bagaimana prosedur memilih 2 dari 3, yang jelas aku tidak terpilih, hanya diberikan kepada dua kandidat dari Bali dan Jabar. Sedih, tentu aku sedih, namun yang bisa aku ucapkankan belum rezeki aku.

Allah berkendak lain, “Aku harus berkeluarga dulu barangkali, mungkin bahaya sebagai lajang ke Thailand, banyak gangguan iman disana,” pikirku menghibur diri pada waktu itu. Yang pasti, sebulan setelah itu, aku menikah dengan adik kelas SMA-ku. Sudahlah, untuk sementara kutunda dulu keinginan sekolah, kami sepakat merencanakan punya si Kecil dulu. Alhamdulillah, satu bulan setelah anak aku lahir, aku berangkat ke Australia, kuliah di Monash University.

Berikutnya:
“Berprestasi di S-2, mengejar beasiswa S-3”


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A glimmer of hope for Borneo's forests?

Israr Ardiansyah, London
The Jakarta Post, Opinion, 10 August 2006

The escalating Middle East conflict is obviously one of U.S. Secretary Condoleezza Rice's main concerns. However, one result of her visit to Southeast Asia recently -- amid her tight diplomatic travel schedule -- may offer a glimmer of hope for Borneo's forests.



Rice's joint statement with Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid in Kuala Lumpur on 28 July confirmed the U.S support for the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia's shared vision to conserve the Heart of Borneo (HOB). She announced a U.S. commitment of US$100,000 to help the conservation project expected to be declared officially later this year.

The pledge is a good step, following the results of the 11th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur last December, and the commitment in the Conference of Parties (COP) 8 to Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil, in March.

In the ASEAN Summit, the heads of government, through the statement read by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, highlighted the importance of providing sanctuaries in the Heart of Borneo to conserve the 220,000 square kilometers of biodiversity-rich rain forest and to protect the island's water catchments. Furthermore, the HOB launch in Curitiba by the governments of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia has helped spread the Borneo forest conservation messages to the international community.

However, the ASEAN Summit chairman's statement, commitment in Curitiba and Rice's pledge remain far from addressing Borneo's environmental problems. There are so many crucial issues within the island, where some 422 new species have been found in the last 25 years and which is home to potential resources for medicine. Solutions to the lingering problems will guarantee the success of the HOB plan and implementation.

It was only in July last year that the Indonesian Agriculture Minister and other high-ranking officials said the government was considering the development of the world's largest oil palm plantation (1.8 million hectares) along the Malaysia-Indonesia border. It was heralded as one solution to unemployment and the prolonged economic problems in Indonesia (The Jakarta Post, 18 July 2005).

The concept got a positive response from private and state-owned companies as well as foreign investors. Interested parties submitted proposals for the new border-area plantations to the government shortly afterward. On the other hand, the idea was heavily criticized by other lobby groups.

There has been no progress regarding the "world's largest oil palm plantation". The government has neither officially declared the area a new conservation area nor totally halted the plantation plan. Speaking at a meeting of local governments in Palembang last June, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced the plan to prepare two million hectares of oil palm plantation in South Sumatra and West Kalimantan for advancing the biodiesel industry in the country. If we do not have a clear land use map and strategy, the biodiesel issue may attract other provinces in Kalimantan to follow, which subsequently will put more pressure on community land and threaten the prospect of the protected areas/HOB initiative.

However, we have not managed to deal with conservation issues in the decentralization era. Discussing conservation without a thorough understanding of local people's needs and aspirations may lead us to a false sense of reality. The government should show that HOB is one of the best options for the future of Borneo. Hence, a reliable economic evaluation of the Heart of Borneo is needed to ensure that it is a better option than other attractive issues, such as biodiesel source plantations and logging activities.

The government should be able to explain the so-called intangible benefits of the forests, for example water resources, in a more measurable calculation which is easily understood by other stakeholders. When we talk about the pledge of $100,000 for HOB conservation, we should not forget that -- based on FAO statistics -- palm oil generated more than $2.1 billion in export revenues for Indonesia and more than $3.8 billion for Malaysia in 2002, for instance.

Meanwhile, some studies supported by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) -- as well as some investigations conducted by organizations such as West Kalimantan's anti-illegal logging consortium (KAIL) and Telapak -- between 2001 and 2004 revealed that illegal logging activities are backed by cukong (financiers) to the tune of millions of US dollars. Hence, we have to be able to guarantee that HOB is economically viable and able to absorb the local people's aspirations, better than the cukongs did. It is not about the amount of money pledged for the conservation project but the dissemination of the strong argument for the conservation itself.

Moreover, the three governments should make full use of the Heart of Borneo conservation to combat land and forest fires, by implementing the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution as soon as possible. The number of hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan is increasing at the moment and we have been used to the "annual fire season".

The big forest fires from 1982 to 1983 and land fires from 1997 to 1998 should remind us that any conservation efforts will fail if we cannot identify and tackle the potential threats. Indonesia needs to ratify the agreement urgently. Otherwise, the glimmer of hope for Borneo's forest will just go up in smoke.


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10 August 2006 

Is Globalisation a New? (part 3)

Understanding globalisation through historical approach

Santo Dewatmoko, Sheffield

It is believed that globalisation is as old as civilisation. Globalization is an historical process that began with the first movement of people out of Africa [ancient “homo sapiens”] into other parts of the world. Travelling short, then longer distances, migrants, merchants, and others have always taken their ideas, customs, and products into new lands.

The melding, borrowing, and adaptation of outside influences can be found in many areas of human life. (http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/about/history.jsp). Indeed, it is a historical process that began with our human ancestors moving out of Africa to spread all over the globe. Next movement is identified by the migration of Indo-German and Aryan to Western Europe and to India. Nevertheless, we can only track the movement in Afro-Eurasian continent as the movement in “the new world” (Continent of America) is not largely tracked. In this way, the process is then followed by the vast ancient civilisation of Egypt, Greek, Romans, and China. Global flow of trade between ancient India and China was known as “sutra”. This global trade is also impacted on the socio-religion aspect, especially Hinduism and Buddhism.

It is noted that Roman Empire has a special connection with Egypt and Asia Minor, including the spread of Christianity, whereas the Jews have spread out from Middle East into the other parts of the region. From the socio-religion point of view, it is noted that the religion of Islam in 5th-10th century also has spread out form Saudi Arabia into Middle East, southern Europe, northern Africa, India (South Asia), parts of Russia and China, and South East Asia. The process of what is now called “globalisation” was notably taken place at that time.

It is clear that the biggest trigger of globalisation process is economic. Based on this perspective, globalisation has been practised for thousand years ago. Mining, oil, and gas have also been drivers for trade. Development occurred when it became possible to produce more food than for local consumption. The invention and development of matters such as coinage, language, and political and legal systems allowed a framework and a context for many nations (Rippon, 2005).

Several historians argue that the long process of globalization is considered embarked on voyage of discovery of Marco Polo (1254-1324) form Europe into the “other” continent (Horgan, 1996). Although, the initial intension of this expedition is to know how far is the “end” of the world, his follower remarkably practiced the economic expansion, trade development, and reimbursement of capital. First breakthrough in economic globalisation was practiced by Arab traders when they come to India and China, even to South East Asia (Stiglitz, 1998). It is then followed by European, especially Netherlands, Portuguese, and British. They came for “new goods”, including spices, from the land they visited. Besides that, they sooner or later opened the market for their products, although it was ultimately ended with coercion, namely to colonise the region they had visited. The discovery of America by Columbus 500 years ago has an enormous implication on the process of globalisation. In this way, it is understood that globalisation had been utilised by colonialism, in which in America developed into the practice of capitalism.

Second breakthrough in globalisation of economic is shown at the end of 19th century till the beginning of 20th century (Stiglitz, 1998). It is important to note that the changes that occurred at that time were the innovation of monetary system that has been stabilised and standardised with gold measurement. Qualitatively, these changes had some influences on the process of globalisation. Moreover, the new invention and development of science and technology was running fast, especially with the invention of telegraph, telephone, aircraft, maritime, and railway. In this second breakthrough, the flow of globalisation is said out of the nations’ boundary.

At the beginning of 20th century, after the collapse of second breakthrough, there comes the third breakthrough in globalisation. Liberalisation and stock and good market integration in world scale is difficult to avoid again. The emergence of new institutions in international scale has facilitated production expansion, trade and financial, so it is easy to spread from one region that has better production, trade and financial to another region in over the world.

With this breakthrough, information and computation technology progression has influence almost all of the human live aspects, and also with biotechnology and genetic engineer development. The most revolutionary development is the internet expansion that enters and influences all activities of business world, politic and culture. The Website has change world face and indeed, the mind way and people communication.

In line with this Stiglitz’s “breakthrough of globalisation”, Robertson divides the history of globalisation into three waves. Globalisation focus is on the past 500 years when humans experienced three distinct global waves of interconnectiveness (Robertson, 2003). It is said that the first wave after 1500 AD centred on the globalisation of regional trade, the second wave after 1800 AD gained impetus from industrialization, while the third derived from the architecture of a new world order after 1945. Each wave began with an event, sometimes a war, which gave space for its emergence as a global force for change. Each wave produced new forms of interconnections and generated new synergies that in time led to its own transformation. No wave has ever been the creature of one country alone, although at times hegemons and would-be hegemons have attempted to monopolize them for their own advantage (Robertson, 2003). It is implied that no wave has ever been the product of one "civilization" or one culture alone. In this respect, all waves encompass many cultures; they enable them to interact, although not necessarily as equals. Nevertheless, it creates instability and makes war and conquest attractive alternatives. It is said that the first wave weakened in the 18th century for this reason; similarly the second wave was failed in the early 20th century. From Robertson’s opinion, now we are in the third wave, and the destination of this wave is still unknown.

From the history of globalisation, it is believed that globalisation brings about some good effect and bad effect on our life. Some say that globalisation has to be occurred in the world, and others say that globalisation has been stepped “the wrong way”.

(to be continued : Globalisation: effects and opportunities)


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09 August 2006 

Questioning the viability of a Pax Asia Pacifica

Yasmi Adriansyah, Jakarta

The Jakarta Post
Opinion and Editorial - July 13, 2006

An article written by Ralph A. Cossa, titled Is It Time for Pax Asia Pacifica? (The Jakarta Post, July 3, 2006), was very intriguing. The article says that the former Philippines president Fidel Ramos proposed the so-called "Pax Asia Pacifica". This kind of Asia Pacific political grouping is meant to replace the fading "Pax Americana", a grouping led by the U.S. versus the former Soviet Union and its allies during the Cold War.

Ramos said the Pax Asia Pacifica was better than the proposed East Asia Community, which has received momentum in recent years.

Is the idea of a Pax Asia Pacifica as proposed by Ramos viable?

Since it is well known how close the relationship is between the Philippines and the U.S., Ramos' idea is then understandable. However, there are some factors that we must carefully observe in order not to go astray.

As mentioned earlier, the idea of Pax Asia Pacifica was meant by Ramos to replace the Pax Americana. The latter materialized during the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Within this period, the U.S. accrued its huge power and was able to gather together a strong alliance against the USSR. And the world witnessed the Soviet Union collapse in 1991. Yet it must be underlined that the collapse was not because of the Soviet Union's war against the U.S., but merely due to its domestic economic catastrophe.

Robert Cox (Production, Power and World Order: Social Forces in the Making of History, 1987), a Gramscian or critical theory analyst on world politics, writes that the so-called Pax Americana was just another word for U.S. global hegemony. Cox argues that through this grouping, the U.S. extended its economic production and military capacity, and later its global hegemony.

Therefore, a proposal to establish a Pax Asia Pacifica can be considered as a new form of U.S. hegemony. If Pax Americana was designed by the U.S. to control its allies, the Pax Asia Pacifica, likewise, can be regarded as an attempt to overpower the Asia Pacific, and particularly East Asia.

The problem starts here. Will China, an emerging power in East Asia and the world, accept the Pax Asia Pacifica? I doubt it. With its incredible rise economically, politically and even militarily, China is just few steps away from reaching the status of superpower. China has been spreading its influence, not only in Asia, but also in Africa the Middle East and even in South America. It is difficult to imagine that China would follow U.S. leadership since it considers itself as another global leader.

The most important reason China would not go along with Pax Asia Pacifica is China's stance toward the U.S. China may not consider itself a close ally of the U.S. One blatant example is that China has often been upset by U.S. criticism of its human rights record. These criticisms are always responded to by China with similar attacks.

The other geopolitical constraint in materializing Pax Asia Pacifica is the rivalry between China (and South Korea) and Japan. The rivalry is deeply rooted from the events of World War II and, more than that, the overall Japanese occupation of Chinese and Korean land.

And, last but not least, the other constraint that can not be neglected is North Korea, which would also belong to the Pax Asia Pacifica geographically. The recent missile tests by North Korea have undoubtedly heated up the region, and even the world. Unfortunately, in the context of Pax Asia Pacifica, North Korea is just another "enemy" of the U.S.

With these kinds of rivalries and security dilemmas in the region, even the idea of an East Asia Community is still far from reality. Consequently, the idea of Pax Asia Pacifica is beyond imagining. At least, within the next 10 years, nobody can be very convinced that the idea is realistic.

Probably, the most viable vision, if the idea still wants to be pursued, is that first and foremost, the U.S. must reduce its hegemony by reconsidering its foreign policy. The U.S. must show more positive engagement, without the double standards in implementation.

The question now goes to the U.S. Will it be able to reduce its hegemony?***

The writer is a graduate of Oxford University in Diplomatic Studies. He can be reached at yasmi_adriansyah@hotmail.com..


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27 July 2006 

Tepat Sepuluh Tahun Silam

Israr Ardiansyah, London

Tepat sepuluh tahun silam, di petang itu, aku berkumpul bersama keluargaku di depan TV. Pandangan kami semua tertumbuk pada api membara dan suasana hiruk-pikuk Jakarta yang disajikan layar kaca. Kami menyaksikan pria-pria berbadan tegap memakai kaos merah melempari dan menyerbu massa yang berusaha mempertahankan gedung partainya.


Hari itu 27 Juli 1996, bukan hari biasa dalam sejarah Indonesia. Ia adalah hari yang akan mengubah arah gerak bangsa.

Banyak orang menjadi korban. Banyak yang terlupakan. Angka jumlah kematian dan orang yang dihilangkan secara paksa seusai 27 Juli itu telah ditulis dengan tinta darah tetapi tetap tidak dapat terbaca mereka yang sudah dimabuk kuasa.

"There are three kind of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics," ucap negarawan Inggris masyhur Benyamin Disraeli. Ketika jumlah orang yang meninggal menjadi tidak ubahnya statistik biasa, maka 27 Juli adalah hari puncak matinya rasa manusia bangsa Indonesia dan hari kemenangan penguasa yang menyemai dusta.

"Bangsa sendiri kok dibunuhi," ucap ibuku waktu itu.

Setiap tahun para korban selalu menuntut keadilan. Tetapi, keadilan tidak pernah datang menemui mereka. Indonesia dari hari ke hari semakin memiliki banyak hari yang akan dikenang dengan darah: darah yang dialirkan oleh bangsa sendiri.

27 Juli menjadi jurisprudensi, menjadi contoh kemenangan syahwat untuk berkuasa, mengalahkan keadilan sosial dan perikemanusiaan. Peristiwa demi peristiwa berlalu dan akhirnya impunitas semakin menjadi tradisi memuakkan di negeri ini. Pengadilan dan penjara lebih banyak dirasakan oleh pencuri kelas teri. Sehebat-hebat mitos kebal senjata yang melekat pada para jagoan di tahun 1980an, tak ada yang lebih hebat dari kekuatan kebal hukum yang dimiliki tokoh-tokoh yang tidak tersentuh pengadilan untuk kejahatan terhadap kemanusiaan.

Bagi para korban, keadilan bagaikan mimpi indah yang tak kunjung tiba. Mereka masih selalu akan menantikan pengungkapan kebenaran yang akan membuat mereka bisa menikmati udara segar di negeri sendiri: udara yang tidak dicemari oleh bau busuk kekuasaan dan anyir darah para korban.

Di sini, kembali aku merenungi dusta yang mulai ditabur bagi bangsa kita, tepat sepuluh tahun silam...
(Israr Ardi, 27 Juli 2006)


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25 July 2006 

Memburu Beasiswa, Upaya Mengubah Nasib (4) :

“Kembali ke Aceh, menjadi pegawai negeri”

Asnawi Abdullah, London

Dalam perjalanan pulangku ke Aceh menggunakan kapal laut, aku bertemu dengan seorang pegawai Depkes, bagian Auditing (Internal Auditing Depkes), yang kebetulan istrinya orang Aceh. Kami bercerita banyak dan dia kenal banyak pegawai Dinas Kesehatan Provinsi dan tentu pegawai Depkes.

Aku mengkofirmasikan apakah betul ada formasi SKM untuk Aceh yang tidak terisi setiap tahun. Ya, memang benar katanya. Dia memberikan saran, “Nanti sampai ke Banda Aceh, buat surat permohonan, lengkapi semua persyaratan, lalu kirimkan dokumen permohonan ke Jakarta. Di Jakarta nanti saya yang mengurusnya”, katanya. “Baik, Insya Allah saya akan ke Banda Aceh dan nanti saya beritahukan Bapak bila sudah selesai”, jawabku waktu itu.

Proses seleksi di Banda Aceh tidak begitu lama, kalau tidak salah dua hari, itupun sudah termasuk test keterlibatan dalam PKI, aku lupa nama testnya. Alhamdulillah mereka tidak minta duit. Praktis, aku hanya mengeluarkan sekitar 5 ribu rupiah untuk biaya pos.

Di Depkes aku juga sama sekali tidak keluar duit. Pak Zein, Bapak yang kujumpai di kapal laut waktu itulah yang membantu mengikuti prosesnya. Setelah keluar SK, aku mendapat bea perjalanan dinas dari Jakarta ke Banda Aceh. Bea tersebutlah yang aku gunakan untuk 'minum kopi' ala kadarnya dengan pihak yang banyak membantuku. Aku sendiri masih bisa menyisihkan sedikit uang untukku.

Jeda waktu antara pendaftaran di Depkes dan keluarnya Surat Keputusan (SK) membutuhkan waktu 3 bulan. Relatif cepat, padahal sebelumnya aku tidak begitu yakin, akan keluar SK, namun Alhamdulillah, Allah jua yang Maha Berkehendak.

Sebenarnya sebelum SK Depkes keluar, aku sudah mendapat peluang bekerja di PT. Pupuk Iskandar Muda. Kebetulan, Direktur K3-nya, salah satu pengurus utama Yayasan Almuntaha, saat itu sedang membutuhkan tenaga K3 (Kesehatan dan Keselamatan Kerja). Dia juga yang menyarankan aku untuk ambil jurusan K3 pada waktu aku bingung memilih jurusan di fakultas.

Walaupun saya mendapat beasiswa dari PT PIM, tidak ada ikatan kontrak tertentu dengan bekerja di PIM. Namun pada saat itu, sangat berat rasanya untuk bekerja di PIM karena beberapa alasan. Pertama, aku merasa sungkan bekerja di lingkungan orang-orang yang selama ini begitu baik kepadaku, salah tingkah nanti jadinya, dan merasa rendah diri terus nantinya. Kedua, sebenarnya, cita-cita awal saya adalah untuk kuliah lagi, kalau di swasta, sangat sulit untuk kuliah lagi, jarang sekali swasta yang mau memberikan beasiswa. Aku melihat, di PNS lah tempat yang paling subur untuk mendapatkan beasiswa. Akhirnya, aku memilih PNS.

Aku merasa bersyukur, pada tahun yang sama, 1995, Universitas Muhammadiyah Aceh membuka Fakultas Kesehatan Masyarakat dan aku diminta membantu disana, jadi dosen dan sekaligus pengelolanya. Waduh, senang sekali rasanya! Aku masih bisa sibuk seperti waktu di Jakarta: pagi hari bekerja di Dinkes dan sore hari mengajar di kampus. Aku bersyukur, mendapatkan kesempatan ganda itu.

Namun aku tidak lupa rencana awalku. Aku mulai mempelajari cara-cara mendaftar untuk kuliah kembali. Eh ternyata aku terkena peraturan, tidak bisa sekolah langsung apabila baru menjadi PNS, ada proses Pra-jabatan supaya status pegawai menjadi 100% dan harus menunggu antrian 3 tahun. Begitulah peraturan Depkes pada saat itu. Konon, demi keadilan dan pemerataan. Namun banyak juga yang aku perhatikan tidak mengikuti aturan tersebut, banyak lewat jalan belakang juga. Yah, tahu lah yang saya maksud, iklim pada zaman itu sudah bisa dibayangkan.


Berikutnya:
“Mulai berburu beasiswa ke luar negeri”


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12 July 2006 

Is neoliberalism anti democracy?

Martin Manurung, Norwich

The Jakarta Post
Opinion and Editorial - July 08, 2006

"The third wave of democratization", that is how Samuel Huttington describes the current trend of democratization. Like the blossoms in springtime, new democratic countries finally awake after a long nightmare under authoritarian regimes.

Indonesia, which ousted the dictator Soeharto in 1998 and East Timor, which achieved full independence in 2002 are often cited as examples of the triumph of democracy.

However, democracy in East Timor is challenged by the recent political turmoil following an insurgency by a group of dismissed military personnel. President Xanana Gusmao then asked Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to step down.

Alkatiri is considered the source of problems and grievances and should therefore take responsibility for the turmoil and leave office accordingly.

We rarely find analyses that try to disclose the relationship between what is happening in East Timor and neo-liberalism that is now dominating our social and political economic landscape.

Alkatiri is known for his policies against the interests of western capitalism on East Timor's domestic economy. He is against various liberalization programs imposed by international financial institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank.

He also applied agricultural protections to reduce East Timor's dependency on imports of rice. Furthermore, he is also not in favor of Australia's proposal for offshore exploitation of oil in the Timor Gap.

These policies obviously are not in favor of the western capitalism. Therefore, various international financial institutions expressed their concerns and suggested that Alkatiri should be replaced by a more "cooperative" figure.

Looking back at history, this is not a new incident. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela had to deal with two coups supported by the United States (although, of course, the superpower denied its involvement) in 2002 and 2004.

A more blatant example can be found in the infamous coup against President Salvador Allende of Chile in 1973 that was backed by a foreign intelligence operation coded Operation Jakarta following a similar operation that happened earlier against President Sukarno in the 1960s.

By looking at these examples, one can ask: Is it true that the third wave of democratization is happening now?

The answer is dilemmatic. In the general definition of democracy as "a political society that allows (or encourages) the direct or representative participation of its citizens in the political process, through representation that is either direct or indirect", perhaps the answer is "yes".

By this definition, one of the conditions to allow participation is free elections. Indonesia, for example, has implemented two free elections in 1999 and 2004 the latter of which was more progressive by implementing a direct presidential election.

The ideal picture would be that after free elections are held, democratically elected leaders would have space to implement their policies as promised during the campaign. All decisions should involve broad participation from the people and should aim only at the people's welfare.

Nevertheless, neo-liberal globalization in many ways has shrunk the scope and space of policies for democratic leaders to fulfill their people's aspirations. Ha-Joon Chang (2004) of Cambridge University notes that global neo-liberalism threatens democracy by granting global investors and corporations veto power over domestic policy choices that they oppose.

In addition, the increased frequency of financial crises under neo-liberalism has greatly increased the power of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) vis-a-vis national governments.

In a nutshell, neo-liberalism thus undermines pluralism and policy independence in developing countries.

Hence, the next question is what can be learned from Alkatiri, Chavez and Allende? They are democratically elected leaders, but democracy has to be sacrificed in favor of the western capitalism.

Democracy in its general definition is no longer relevant to mark the "third wave of democratization", because, in practice, democratically elected leaders can be ousted if they do not serve the interests of western capitalism.

What enabled Chavez to survive the coups was that he had relatively more significant control of and influence on the military. Unfortunately, Alkatiri, Allende and Sukarno did not have this advantage.

This is not an era of the third wave of democratization. Perhaps, this is just an era of the triumph of the Anglo-American neo-liberalism that makes the spring of democracy fade prematurely. Neo-liberalism that elevates the role of global investors and corporations has murdered democracy. ***


The writer earned a British Chevening scholarship and is now in the postgraduate program at the School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia. He can be reached at martinmanurung@yahoo.com.


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