The silence of the jingoists

Even as late as a week ago, the nationalistic card was being played against international investors and the springboard for the jingoists was the Commission for Business Competition Supervisory Council (KPPU).

Each time they found a foreign investor guilty was, to these jingoists, proof  that the foreign investors were haughty, that they were sneaky and sought to exploit Indonesian businesses and that they showed no respect for Indonesian laws.

The foreign investors would protest that they had adhered to the prevailing laws, that they had sought for and received the appropriate permissions and permits and that they had nothing wrong.

But Indonesia’s jingoist would not hear about it. They beat their breasts leveled all sorts of criticisms and dominated the conversation. And, like Yeat’s Second coming where “the worst was full of righteous piety; the best lacked all conviction” everyone else kept silent, looked the other way or, even worse, believed in the improbable and outrageous decisions of the KPPU. Even the courts blindly upheld these KPPU decisions, as we saw in the Temasek case.

Now, with the arrest of KPPU member Mohamed Iqbal who was caught red-handed taking money from Billy Sindoro, the president director of Lippo Group-owned First Media, the truth is out. Iqbal was on the take to fix the KPPU’s decisions.

Which decisions did he fix? We may not know the truth for a long time but two cases come to mind because they were so bizarre. The first is the Temasek case. Temasek-affiliated companies’ acquisition of Telkomsel and Indosat were not an issue for many years. Then all of a sudden it became an issue when a Russian telco player was reportedly interested in acquiring Telkomsel.

The BUMN workers union were encouraged to file a report to the KPPU. The Union then later withdrew the report but the KPPU was steadfast in pursuing the case. Why? And after it took up the case it bent the rules and manufactured their own interpretations of existing laws to make sure that Temasek was guilty of cross-ownership. What was intriguing was how could the other members of the KPPU be manipulated by Iqbal to such a degree. Or was he not the only KPPU member on the take?

Then there is the Barclay’s Premier League. The KPPU said that there was no evidence of any customer loss but nonetheless said that an Astro subsidiary and ESPN Star Sports were guilty of violating the Anti-Monopoly Law.  But what’s really out there together with Frank Zappa was its decision to order Astro to maintain supplying PT Direct Vision with their boadcast signals until Astro had resolved their ownership dispute with Lippo Group. What’s  a Business Competition Supervisory Council doing in mediating between parties in a commercial dispute? What ask]pect of business competition were they supervising when they made the decision? Iqbal, was one of the council members forming the panel reviewing the KPPU investigation into the BPL case. Did he take money from Billy to keep Astro supplying Direct Vision with programs becaue Astro was about to cut the supply of them after Sept 30?

We do not know. Yet. But the fact that Iqbal is almost certain of taking bribes to fic the KPPU’s decisions means that all these questions must be answered. And after they have been answered, someone must tell the jingoists here that they are wrong. There is a huge chance many of the foreign businesses who have been judged by the KPPU to have violated Anti-Monopoly Laws were innocent and the victims of the corruption that is endemic in this society.

How could unscrupulous individuals hijack the KPPU and the news agenda of a nation to turn perception against foreign investors? This and other questions must be asked. What happened to the Press, the venerble Fourth Estate that was supposed to be a check and balance against precisely such rapacious and unprincipled individuals? What happened to the good guys who would speak up without fear or favor regardless whether the business players were local or foreign? What happens to all that talk about national interests and disrespect for local laws now?

It would be interesting to see whether these questions will be answered in the forthcoming days or whether Indonesia will sink back into the cocoon of amnesia, righteous piety and jingoism that has characterized the rhetoric so far. They a say a nation that does not remember its history is condemned to repeat its mistakes.

(Disclosure: one of more parties or their affiliates mentioned in this posting may be Unspun‘s clients. But this posting is done indepently without consultation with, or suggestion from, them. In other words, its Unspun‘s opinion and Unspun did not receive a black bag, not knowing that it contained Rp500 million inside, to incentivize Unspun into doing others’ bidding).

13 replies to “The silence of the jingoists

  1. Achmad: How’s the ukelele? Which ones are my clients don’t matter here because I’m not blogging on their behalf or their behest. If I am I would say so because on the Net you can’t run and you can’t hide.


  2. Know the Difference: Transition, not Handover.
    For the moment, the UMNO leadership crisis appears to have been averted with the announcement of the cabinet portfolio swap between Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his Deputy Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak. As recently as last week, analysts and commentators were anticipating Najib to make a move on the Presidency before the year’s end. And why would they not? After UMNO Vice President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin rekindled the debate about Abdullah’s position, Najib appeared to position himself for an assault on the post when he remarked that the divisions should decide for themselves when the transition should occur – essentially informing that he was more than ready to receive nominations for the post of Party President.

    But with the portfolio swap, Najib may not see a need to gun for the Presidency – and by implication Premiership of the country – so soon. Notwithstanding the fact that a transition of power is, as Abdullah quipped, a process and not something carried out overnight, Abdullah must be credited for such a bold move. Skeptics have characterised it as a calculated political decision to neutralise any potential threat from Najib. Political considerations there definitely were, but by paving the way for Najib to take helm of the Ministry of Finance, Abdullah has also demonstrated magnanimity and sincerity to groom his successor for the top job in 2010.

    Being Prime Minister with little experience in managing the country’s economy will likely prove a mammoth task for anyone. And as it turns out, Najib is no ordinary figure with an ordinary past. With ample ammunition for the Opposition to take aim at his credibility – the SAS (Sukoi, Altantunya, Submarine) scandals spring to mind as illustrations – a Najib administration could use a head-start in spearheading economic recovery at a time when global financial uncertainty is affecting countries in this region, too.. It is further also to Najib’s convenience that the Budget for the year 2009 has just been announced with much of the implementation left for him to oversee. As such, Najib does not have the baggage of others’ inefficiency to contend with – a prevalent concern whenever an economic plan is carried out.

    As things, at least for the time being, cool down with regards to any contest for the Presidency of UMNO, it would be interesting to see Tun Dr.. Mahathir’s next move. Commanding a yet formidable following, his end-game for quite a while now is to unseat Abdullah as Prime Minister. His peculiar friendships with Tengku Razaleigh, Muhyiddin and Najib are telling – those individuals are all nothing more than instruments to his ultimate goal: the downfall of Abdullah.

    Ultimately, Abdullah’s supporters will hope that the PM’s move will be repaid with loyalty by Najib. Even to many who may not be Abdullah’s biggest fans are wary of the damage that an open contest will cause the party. Even they would gladly take two more years of Abdullah over the prospect of an internal split that will likely occur should we witness a repeat of the embarrassment suffered by the late Tun Ghafar Baba at the hands of a ruthless Machiavellian by the name of Anwar Ibrahim.


  3. Didn’t we suspect this all along? Apart from monetary benefits, the jingoistic generals also provided political mileage for some presidential candidates, didn’t they? Haiya, had the former KPPU chief been outed earlier, I would have been saved from many panic-stricken mornings spent trying to decipher news and law reports in Bahasa Indonesia and then translating them into English, hoping there is some semblance of logic.

    Having said that, at least in Indonesia culprits get just their desserts. Back in your country, Unspun, they’re still on the gravy train.


  4. @mocinab: Just their desserts? Hahaha. You must be tninking too much of food especially the enormous breakfasts upstairs of bubur ayam, mie pangsit, lontong….

    Yes, ironically, in spite of everything Indonesia in a funny way is improving where justice in concerned while Malaysia is slipping backwards.

    So why don’t you just come back here aja? There’s a plave waiting for you upstairs….


  5. unspun,
    Excuse me for my ignorance, but somehow I don’t know what ‘jingoist’ means…
    I am surprised you are quite critical about this, because in my opinion, what we see was a progress. The man got caught with a suitcase full of money. The press reported it openly.
    This is progress, don’t you think?
    Sure, KPPU still has a long way to go to win hearts and minds, but 10 years ago we don’t even have KPPU.
    As for hijacking it for political purposes, let’s face it: that happens to everything these days. Not just KPPU. Wouldn’t you agree?


  6. Ben: jingoism |ˈji ng gōˌizəm|
    noun chiefly derogatory
    extreme patriotism, esp. in the form of aggressive or warlike foreign policy.

    No criticism, but praise, was meant for the arrest of Billy and Iqbal.

    Criticism was meant for the pundits, talka-wallahs and other commentators who play the nationalist card whenever a foreign company is involved in a high profile case.

    How many people dismissed Temasek and Astro when KPPU found them guilty? How many tried to picture them as rapacious, insensitive and sneaky foreigners in the polemic that followed the KPPU findings? Legal cases should be judged on legal merits, not nationalist bush bashing.


  7. jingoist? some of them yes… for the sake of personal campaign (i think…) ….

    This country society (I mean Indo) is still not fully recovered from shock after shock. It is a ‘planet lost’ society not loser. It is frustrated to see them trying to find their identity. This is a society in search…

    Until they can understand what is Nationality, nationalism and national interest in the current world (remember WTO, AFTA and etc..) means, they will be going backward again and again.

    Re: Righteous piety … 🙂 the way I read it; it is a society in needs of a higher (helpful and merciful)symbol. Could be a sign of frustration too(after doing a lot of good deed in real and there were no rewards in real life) but could be a sign of a lazy generation that expect a quick result by believing what they want to believed via their religions/spirituality.

    But, it is getting closer to the presidential campaign time don’t we. I think more and more act of jingoist, piety, pretend to be ‘amnesia’, and many others ‘unbelievable’ action will come for the sake of campaign soon….

    lets see this ‘theatrical -money- drama’ get heated by political drama soon. It is a bit harder to catch and lock anything in this kind of time, unfortunately. That is why ( i think) you lost your ‘The Press’ and others…


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