Thursday, March 21, 2013||
On courageous leadership
Country in transition, in search of courageous leader
Indonesian new governor inspires
For a nation with aspirations to be a global player commensurate with its size as the fourth largest nation in the world, the current situation of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, hardly support the quest. Flood waters have ravaged Jakarta in January 2013, leaving at least 27 people dead. This is not the first time heavy flood hits Jakarta. In 2007, total flood damage was estimated at nearly US$695 million with 57 casualties .
This Asian megacity is wracked not only by annual floods, but by corruption, worsening traffic congestion and a widening gap between rich and poor.
Joko Widodo is the new Jakarta’s governor. Since taking office last October 2012, he has made several moves aimed at fixing the city’s problems and delivering support for the poor. Recently he was voted the third-best mayor in the world by the 2012 World Mayor Project for his previous success running a small city in East Java .
Widodo and his deputy Basuki Purnama, with their people-oriented programs in Jakarta, have been perceived different from other politicians that many of whom are seen arrogant, aloof, and corrupt .
Purnama has developed a reputation for being tough when dealing with inefficient and corrupt staff. One clip, uploaded by the deputy’s office to YouTube, shows him angrily ordering public works officials to cut their budget by 25 percent, suggesting they have been marking it up. The video has close to 1.5 million hits.
“If you don’t agree with me, then argue with me. I know it can be done. We might be waging an open war, but we have no other option than to cut the corrupted public works budget,” says Purnama .
The deputy orders all meetings and discussions related to city’s plans are posted online to make the process more transparent to public.
It may be too early to praise the new governor since there are still many things that need to be done to fix the city’s problem. Nonetheless, the new governor has been greatly appreciated for introducing a new genre of transformational leadership, with a lot of public participation never seen in the past decades of Indonesia’s administration.
For me personally, it was a glimpse of hope in a leadership crisis that currently pertained in the country.
From autocracy to democracy
Widodo’s moves are the kind of populist moves people see from many of the world’s big-city mayors, but it is not typical for Indonesia. More than 14 years since dictator Suharto was overthrown, its politicians are still mostly drawn from the same stock: wealthy businessmen or former generals running more on connections and money than experience in government.
Getting closer to 2014 presidential election, it is commonly bemoaned among members of the public at large that the country is experiencing a crisis of leadership . People in power, as well as people running for power, are claimed to not have enough knowledge of state governance, experiences and academic qualifications.
Corruption in Indonesia remains as big challenge. According to Berlin-based Transparency International, in 2012, Indonesia’s corruption perceptions index was ranked 118th out of 176 countries polled .
It has been more than 14 years since Suharto was overthrown, but in my view, the country is still very much in transition. Indonesia is still struggling in revealing its historical truth, as well as in achieving strong national consensus to define a development roadmap that is widely accepted.
Other than Indonesia, we have also witnessed dramatic change in many parts of the world. We have witnessed government transformation in Middle East and North Africa, where autocratic leaders have been ousted or forced to resign. Myanmar has just recently joined the formation, embarking on a determined path towards democracy.
Conditions of countries in transition are very different. People’s expectations in Indonesia, Myanmar, Libya and Egypt are also different. But one key common denominator that I argue to be relevant for all countries is: courageous leadership. The presence of courageous leaders is very critical during transitions. Why?
While political change can come rather quickly, lasting societal change takes time. As we saw in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, political change can happen almost overnight. Social and economic change, however, do not automatically follow. Lasting change requires a long-term perspective, but under immediate pressures to ‘restart’. There are many dilemmatic difficult situations. Leaders in transition are required to be responsive and able to provide well-defined directions while keep eyeing on sustainable improvement. Leaders also need to resist and fight against remaining dictatorial stakeholders. These all in my belief take courage, in addition to integrity and competency.
Countries in transition will also invariably go through phases of deliberation, progress and setbacks in their political and economic decision-making and development. Leaders need to gain trust so that people are willing to contribute in making the changes that need to be made.
Without any pretension to produce a comprehensive analysis, I will try to offer my view on what constitutes courageous leadership in terms of transition. Transition has a broad meaning. In this essay, I take a definition of democratic transition, the condition where a country undergoes political change from an authoritarian regime to a more democratic regime. The presumption is that democracy creates better lives for people, compared to autocracy regime where power is often misused. The presence of leader in democracy regime is important on all levels, from national to local city level.
“You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right”
—Aung San Suu Kyi
What is courage? Most definitions are variations of the one in Evans and White (1981)  , which states that it is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. I believe there is no standard definition that says exactly what constitutes courageous leadership.
Speaking of democratic transition, I propose a definition of courageous leader as one who goes beyond the incumbent leader – in creating transparent environment where people are legally empowered with equal rights to resources and access to justice.
I also propose several traits of courageous leader which I believe important.
Firstly, to be a courageous leader, one is not required to have a muscular body, great fighting ability, or holding guns on their hands. Leaders in transition are often successful when people can relate to them. Aung San Suu Kyi, who defied military regime more boldly than anyone in Myanmar, does not look more than a humble woman. Through her quiet confidence, she inspires many Burmese to seek freedom from fear . Humility leads to trust, the component that is often lacking in autocratic leadership.
Secondly, one key success of democratic transition is public participation. Public participation should not be limited only through voting on Election Day, but also through broader involvement such as regular dialogue between public and government authorities. The leaders, therefore, are required to be open and accommodative. New governor of Jakarta may have shown this character. By holding public hearing on recent Jakarta’s transport project  – an activity that was seldom held by the incumbents – he has created a more transparent environment where people can see what currently is going on with the city, and people can also give suggestion on the matters.
This, by all means, should not translate into ‘pleasing everyone’ approach. The leaders should understand that they cannot be everything to everyone, but to stand for what is right. Indonesia and many countries in Asia may perceive this as higher challenge than Western countries since harmony is a central theme in Eastern society in which ‘to go along is to get along’ is a standard attitude. However, leaders in transition are required to take bold decisions.
In search of courageous leader, what can we do?
The presence of Widodo and Purnama in Jakarta may give hope in the midst of leadership crisis in Indonesia. Despite all of their efforts, people should bear in mind that no leader is perfect. Being human themselves, leaders are bound to make mistakes. We should understand the capacity of the government and not rely effortlessly. At the end, democracy is all about people power.
I argue the first thing that we can do as young generation is to care. Only by caring will we understand the situation of our society. Based on my own experience, it is very easy to lose ourselves in the mundane of daily lives, and things such as government policies reported on newspapers can seem very irrelevant. Only after I move to Japan then I truly feel my identity as Indonesian and start to care about social and political issues of my country. Now I understand government policies that I previously thought irrelevant are actually the basic foundation on how I conducted my life: my education fee, my family health care plan, the option of public transports I have, and so on.
Once we care, it is easier to embrace critical thinking that is very important in the phase of democratic transition. We can begin to look critically at all past claims, as well as present and potential future conflicts.
The ideal situation is for every educated young people to feel the need to understand his/her country system. Ignorance is definitely not bliss in this case. Government needs its people to help navigate democratic reform for lasting positive change in country. Without public watch, democracy can easily turn back into autocracy regime where governmental power is often exploited.
In a midst of leadership crisis, what we can do is to prepare ourselves to be the next generation of courageous leaders, or at least to create environment that is supportive for friends/colleagues to be ones.
We often hope for a better leader, a better country to live in. We, young generation, should do more than just hoping as it is our future that is on the line. I again quote Aung San Suu Kyi, “I don’t believe in people just hoping. I always say that one has no right to hope without endeavor. We work for what we want.”
Esai non akademis saya yang pertama. Topik kepemimpinan ini sepertinya klise, namun saya percaya cukup esensial. Esai ini ditulis dengan sepenuh hati untuk suatu simposium, sayangnya tidak berhasil lolos hehe.
23 Februari 2013, Futakoshinchi
"I suppose in the end, the whole life becomes an act of letting go. But what always hurts the most is not having a moment to say goodbye."
—Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Sudah satu tahun sejak Bapak tiada. Yang terberat adalah menyadari bahwa saya tidak sempat berpisah dan meminta maaf langsung padanya.
Yang memudahkan adalah rasa percaya bahwa ini semua sudah diatur sebagaimana mestinya, juga percaya ia sudah bahagia di atas sana bersama Sang Pencipta.
Buku-buku mengenai sejarah, sosial, politik Indonesia
telah banyak ditulis oleh jurnalis, peneliti, akademisi luar negeri. Yang terbaru, Indonesia: Archipelago of Fear ditulis oleh Andre Vltchek, diterbitkan
September 2012 lalu. Tulisannya dihadirkan dengan frontal dan penuh geram.
“I covered the last intifada in Gaza, and despite the
tragedy of the situation, I did not feel shattered and depressed there as I
usually feel in the Indonesian capital.” Rasa frustrasi Vltchek yang kemudian
mendorongnya untuk menulis buku ini. Ia pergi ke banyak daerah, dari Aceh sampai Papua Barat.
Tulisan Vltchek dengan mudah membuat pembacanya turut frustrasi.
“Indonesia is a nation that used to lead a large part of the
developing world five decades ago has been reduced to a miserable,
overpopulated, polluted, unhealthy and uneducated state, stumbling, with no
direction and no purpose, religious to the extreme, intolerant and thoroughly confused.
The entire country resembles a prisoner who was tortured for a prolonged period
of time, deprived of contact with the surrounding world and kept in darkness.” p. 37
“If anyone wonders how devastating could be the full-blown
attack of fundamentalist capitalism on a poor developing country, they should
travel to Indonesia. What would happen if all restraints, checks and balances,
humanist principles, goodwill and logic were to suddenly disappear, giving way
to naked greed and corruption? Indonesia could and should serve as the paradigm
of such a horror scenario. Students, scholars, lawmakers, trade unionist and
journalists from developing countries should be sent on obligatory trips here,
to see what privatization, the destruction of the left, and the unopposed rule
of business and pro-Western oligarchs can do to a nation.” p. 42
Salah satu tesis Vltchek adalah bahwa peristiwa 1965 menjadi bayang-bayang yang membebani Indonesia. Sejarah yang ditutup-tutupi dan
usaha untuk mencari kebenaran yang belum selesai. Indonesia kemudian menjadi sebuah ironi, kaya
sumber daya alam namun penduduknya mayoritas miskin, berdasar pada Bhineka Tunggal Ika namun membiarkan diskriminasi agama
dan ras terus terjadi.
Lain hal yang disampaikannya adalah ketidakpedulian dan ketidaktahuan mayoritas orang Indonesia atas kebenaran sejarah dan perkara sosial. T
his part hits a little too close to home.
"Although information is available online and even in many books recently published, the great majority choose not to know, not to search and not to question. 'Nggak tahu' was the most common phrase I heard, rivalled only by 'Nggak ingat'."
Tulisannya perlu karena mengingatkan kembali atas beberapa peristiwa penting dari 1945 sampai 2011 yang mungkin terlupakan
oleh sebagian orang. Sayangnya, pengamatan dan riset berharga selama
bertahun-tahun ini tidak dibarengi dengan kemauan Vltchek untuk melihat sisi
baik Indonesia (mungkin sedikit disinggung melalui pandangannya
terhadap Pramoedya dan Gus Dur).
Optimisme rasanya tak pernah ada dalam
tulisan-tulisan Vltchek selama ini. Mungkin memang ia menghendaki tulisan yang
demikian, saya tidak tahu juga. Beberapa bagian tak layak ditulis karena tidak
lebih dari generalisasi pendapatnya sendiri yang tidak akurat.
Saya tak begitu senang membaca Archipelago of Fear. Namun buku
ini memberi dorongan untuk terus membaca dan mencari tahu, sehingga bisa mengerti lebih banyak tentang negara sendiri.
Membaca dan mengerti sejarah menurut saya bukan perkara mudah. Tidak cukup baca satu dua buku. Saya merasa tertolong dengan terjemahan buku John Roosa, Dalih Pembunuhan Massal. Riset mengenai peristiwa 1965 dan 1998 disampaikan dengan baik di buku ini.
Buku John Roosa sempat dilarang terbit di Indonesia, namun sekarang bisa diunduh di sini
I recently enjoy watching interviews and talk-shows in YouTube. This is a more convenient way to follow news - through uploaded TV clips rather than online newspaper articles. Among my favorites are talk-shows in Metro TV and interviews in Impact.
Below is a part of Talk Indonesia September show with Gita Wirjawan
as the guest. Some of his ideas are worth noting.
DT: Indonesia cannot continue depend on its abundant and profitable natural resources for its economic health. We got to make things. In what context do you mean that?
GW: It is not a zero-sum game. It is basically our attempt to expand the economic pie. If we take a look at the portrait of Indonesia from the trade standpoint, from an industrial standpoint, there is not enough stuff that got processed in Indonesia. And I think whatever policy, economic policy, that we come out with, have to be supportive of our ability, if not increasing ability, to climb up the value chain.
A lot of stuffs that got send off from Indonesia has not been processed. There is a lot of value creation by processing, whether minerals or some other natural resources. We are just quite conscious of, if we don't do this now or soon, the risk - we just become a natural resource producer, for our kids and grand-kids. That is certainly not kind of future that we want.
DT: Can Indonesia be transformed into Silicon Valley, or Redmond Washington? Where can we move to, what can be look forward to, what sectors?
GW: I think we have a chance, but not tomorrow. It will take some years. You've got to back track a bit to size up where we are, from an educational infrastructure standpoint. We got fewer than 30 thousand PhDs compared to 800 thousand in China and 600 thousand in India. If we peel the MP3EI, the master plan, it tells us a story of how many graduates we would be able to produce by 2025 - that relates to about 17 million of them. Now we are just got to be clear how many of these 17 million we want to turn out to become PhDs in technologies and masters in economics and bachelors in agriculture.
DT: A recent opinion piece on the Jakarta Post, you may have read it, from a professor in South Korea - he criticized that we are basically being a cheaper substitute for China.
GW: Never has there been, you know, a proposition of trying to be cheaper than anybody else here. It is truly about climbing up the value chain. There is no reason for any Indonesian not to aspire to be able to be building stuff that matters.
DT: So you defend it to the end?
GW: I don't need to write an opinion on op-ed to defend it. I think the silent majorities understand Indonesia certainly has to have a future where our kids and grand-kids should not just be planters and miners. We got to be able to build something, we got to be able to create something.
I think the frustration is usually coming out of the notion that things do not change as quickly as you want to be. But I am a half glass full guy, I have taken a view that Indonesia is moving on the right track. It is gonna be a great economy in the next 10 to 20 years and I am completely aware of the fact that we are taking the necessary big little steps or small big steps, one at a time. If anybody expects things to change within 24 hours, it is probably not possible. But as long as you know that things are moving in the right direction, and the directionality is well-defined in a good way, that is all you got to take a view on. And you take ownership with that, you stick with the script and you just go with it.
More discussion on the related issues in Economic Challenges
Metro TV. I personally think Indonesia, from industrial policy point of view, is going forward. Pengalihan bahan mentah tidak lagi sepenuhnya untuk ekspor namun juga untuk diolah sendiri, investasi yang dikawal dengan industri penunjang, keberpihakan pada industri dalam negeri, dan pembangunan sumber daya manusia.
Sometimes it is difficult to convince people to accept your idea. Some people do it well, like Mr. Wirjawan. I wonder if this is a skill that can be trained. The ability to articulate ideas in your head into sensible rational words, hmm this is the ability that every educated person should master.
Sesenang-senangnya dan sebangga-bangganya jadi orang Jawa, saya bersyukur tidak lahir di zaman feodal dulu di mana perempuan hanya menjadi warga kelas dua. Juga pada masanya itu, pernikahan (dengan segala pelik poligaminya) bukan sesuatu yang dirayakan dengan sepenuh hati, malah dianggap sebagai pemberhenti semua mimpi.
Penggalan paragraf biografi Panggil Saja Aku Kartini:
(Kartini bercerita kepada Stella, dengan sudut pandang orang ketiga)
Tibalah masa baginya untuk mengucapkan selamat jalan bagi kehidupan bocah yang ceria: meminta diri pada bangku sekolah yang ia suka duduk di atasnya. Ia telah dianggap cukup tua untuk tinggal di rumah, dan harus kembali takluk pada adat kebiasaan negerinya, yang memerintahkan gadis-gadis muda tinggal di rumah, hidup dalam pengucilan yang keras dari dunia luar sedemikian lama, sampai tiba masanya seorang pria yang diciptakan Tuhan untuknya datang menuntutnya serta menyeretnya ke rumahnya.
Dia tahu benar, bahwa pintu sekolah yang memberi jalan pada banyak hal yang dicintainya, telah tertutup baginya. Perpisahan dari guru-gurunya tercinta yang bicara padanya begitu manis dan ramah sewaktu ia hendak pergi; dari kawan-kawan kecil, yang menjabat tangannya dengan mata berlinangan. Tapi semua ini belum berarti dibandingkan dengan dukacita karena harus mengakhiri pelajarannya.
Maka bermohonlah ia pada Ayahnya untuk dibolehkan dengan abang-abangnya pergi ke Semarang belajar di HBS, ia berjanji akan belajar sebaik-baiknya. ... Dengan suara lembut tapi menentukan terdengar jawaban dari mulut Ayahnya: "Tidak boleh!"
Sekali waktu gurunya bertanya kepadanya, apakah ia tidak hendak ikut pergi dengan Letsy, putrinya, ke Holland untuk meneruskan pelajaran. Dengan bernafsu, dan dengan mata bersinar-sinar ia berbisik padanya, "Bagaimana, maukah kau?"
"Jangan tanyakan padaku aku mau atau tidak, tanyalah boleh atau tidak!"
Penggalan paragraf roman Gadis Pantai:
Kemarin malam ia telah dinikahkan. Dinikahkan dengan sebilah keris. Detik itu ia tahu: kini ia bukan anak bapaknya lagi. Ia bukan anak emaknya lagi. Kini ia istri sebilah keris.
Ia tak tahu apa yang ada di hadapannya. Ia hanya tahu: ia kehilangan seluruh hidupnya. Kadang dalam ketakutan ia bertanya: mengapa tak boleh tinggal di mana ia suka, di antara orang-orang tersayang dan tercinta, di bumi dengan pantai dan ombaknya yang amis.
"Sst. Jangan nangis. Mulai hari ini kau tinggal di gedung besar, nak. Tidak lagi di gubuk. Kau tak lagi buang air di pantai. Kau tak lagi menjahit layar dan jala, tapi sutera, nak. Sst, ssst. Jangan nangis." Empatbelas tahun umurnya. Dan tak pernah ia merasa keberatan buang air di pantai, terkecuali di waktu bulan purnama—ia takut ular di waktu seperti itu.
"Sst. Jangan nangis, nak. Hari ini kau jadi istri orang kaya." Ia terisak-isak, tersedan, akhirnya melolong. Ia tak pernah merasa miskin dalam empatbelas tahun ini.
Maka apa itu namanya, kalau perempuan di zaman sekarang terutama yang hidup di kota dengan segala kebebasannya, namun malah bermalas-malasan dan mengeluhkan yang itu-itu saja?
(tunjuk hidung sendiri)
Bulan lalu saya ke Aachen untuk ikut summer school di RWTH Aachen University. Saya sempatkan ke Paris, Brussels, dan Bruges.
Ini kelima kalinya saya jalan-jalan sendiri. Mulai terbiasa dan tidak lagi takut atau kesepian. Namun tetap pakai acara jatuh di tangga di Champs-Elysees Paris dan dilihat semua turis yang lagi lewat (memarnya masih ada sampai sekarang hahaha). Lalu nyasar di Brussels selama 3 jam sebelum ketemu host couchsurfing. Juga kehujanan di Bruges sampai basah kuyup. Biar begitu selama perjalanan harus tetap ceria.
Selama 10 hari perjalanan saya cuma bawa satu ransel 10 kg dan persediaan uang yang lumayan minim. Rasanya sedikit bangga juga bisa jalan-jalan model begini. :)