Subject: 6 Tempo Cover Story Reports: 'Revolting' Rumors of a Revolutionary Council

6 Tempo Magazine Cover Story Reports:

- A Revolting Rumor

- Opinion: The Fear Factor

- Remembering the Malari Affair

- General (ret) Tyasno Sudarto: This Administration is Illegal

- Hariman Siregar: Staying Silent Is Irresponsible

- Column: Permanent Opposition, Temporary President [by Eep Saefulloh Fatah, Executive Director, The Indonesian School of Democracy]

Tempo Magazine No. 21/VII Jan 23-29, 2007

Cover Story

A Revolting Rumor

The government responded to the rumor of a Revolutionary Council by gathering retired generals. Is this Syamsir Siregar's Trojan horse?

The wrinkled faces chose to keep quiet as they exited the Balai Sudirman meeting hall in Tebet, South Jakarta, on Tuesday last week. Without saying a word to each other, the retired general from the Indonesian military (TNI) and national police headed straight for their cars, waiting in the car park. Reporters ran towards those they recognized as government officials from decades past.

"What was the meeting about?" they asked, having been banned from the premises during the three-hour meeting. The former governor of Jakarta for the 1992-1997 period, Lt. Gen. (ret) Soerjadi Soedirdja, replied, "I am not authorized to speak." A former speaker of the MPR/DPR from 1987-1992, Lt. Gen. (ret) Kharis Suhud, retorted humorously, "I've turned senile, gentlemen, yet you keep on pestering me."

A few minutes later, the coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs TNI Admiral (ret) Widodo Adi Sucipto appeared. He told reporters the meeting was to establish communications between the government and retired military officers, as he walked towards his car.

Only the chief of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), Maj. Gen. (ret) Syamsir Siregar stopped to explain what the meeting was about. The meeting, in his opinion, discussed the issue of a planned revolt from a Revolutionary Council formed by retired military officers. The alleged Revolutionary Council was led by General (ret) Tyasno Sudarto, former Army Chief of Staff.

Intelligence sources obtained this information a day earlier, from a flyer which had been distributed to demonstrators at the Hotel Indonesia circle, commemorating 32 years of the January 15 political debacle known as Malari, in which violent anti-Japanese riots took place in Jakarta. Upon receiving the report, Syamsir immediately called Tyasno for clarification. "If it is true that you plan to revolt, I will order the police to arrest you!" said Syamsir, repeating his conversation with Tyasno. However, Tyasno denied it all, insisting his name was being used by others.

Syamsir's statement quickly appeared in a number of media outlets. Retired soldiers were shocked. A former high-ranking military officer who attended the meeting told Tempo that Syamsir was being excessive. "Syamsir is indeed a senior official but he's only a two-star retired general compared to Tyasno's four-stars," said the source. So, it was not proper for Syamsir to threaten Tyasno, or even to refer to him in the second person and not by name.

Syamsir has been the subject of recent discussions, particularly when the issue of a cabinet reshuffle-due next March-was raised. Since July 2006, reliable sources say, the President had been mulling over replacing the BIN chief. The name of Makarim Wibisono surfaced as a possible replacement, but the military, according to sources, did not approve of a civilian heading the agency.

Suddenly, here was Syamsir-together with security minister Widodo-attending this gathering of old eagles. Those present at the meeting tried to read the significance of the two government officials among them. Was it a political move? "Yes, they are retired military men, but they don't usually take part in these kinds of events," said the source, "Yet there they were that afternoon."

Indeed, the atmosphere at the meeting started to get uncomfortable when Lt. Gen. (ret) Saiful Sulun as the host, made his welcoming speech. He raised the topics to be discussed, among them: rumors of a rebellion by the Revolution Council, allegedly formed by General (ret) Tyasno Sudarto; the declaration of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) founded by former TNI Commander General (ret) Wiranto, and Try Sutrisno's continuous critique of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's leadership.

The invited guests immediately understood that the government was trying to get some clarification from these critical military men. Tyasno responded by denying his involvement in the Revolutionary Council. Lt. Gen. (ret) Fachrul Razy, who along with Lt. Gen (ret) Suaedy Marasabesy attended the meeting as a representative of former Supreme Commander General (ret) Wiranto, explained that Hanura was founded as a political vehicle for Wiranto. "But if the President's (influence) keeps on declining (sic), we would be ready with an alternative figure," said Fachrul.

Regarding the frequent attacks on the government, Try Sutrisno said that he was only sending messages to the House of Representatives (DPR) by way of the speaker, Agung Laksono. He cited his concern over the alarming, nation-wide condition of the people, such as the high rate of unemployment, the continuing poverty and the high cost of basic needs. This, he said, was not intended to overthrow the Yudhoyono-Kalla government. Indeed, Try Sutrisno made this suggestion openly, last December, when he, along with other people, joined the Greater Indonesia Awakening Movement (GKIR).

Members of the GKIR, launched early last year, often met with former Indonesian presidents Megawati Sukarnoputri and Abdurrahman Wahid. Also attending their meetings were politician Akbar Tandjung and activists such as Hariman Siregar, Muslim Abdurahman, and Adnan Buyung Nasution. It seems close relations between Try, a former vice-president, and Hariman, who organized the event commemorating the Malari incident, explained the former vice-president's participation in last Sunday's rally. Try, however, refused to provide any explanation on his absence at the Balai Sudirman meeting or what went on there. "Just ask the organizing committee," he said, when met by Tempo reporter Eduardus Dewanto.

Meanwhile, Hariman assessed the government's reaction to the demonstrations he organized as excessive. "The government appears paranoid. I mean, we are the people. Do you mean that we are not even allowed to speak out like this?" he asked. Demonstrations, he said, is one way to channel aspirations in a democratic system. Hariman was astonished at being told flyers were distributed by a Revolutionary Council during the protests he organized. "There was no Revolutionary Council flyer or any such thing distributed," claimed Hariman.

Indeed, Tempo, which covered the event, never found one single flyer mentioned by the BIN Chief. The name Revolutionary Council, according to Tyasno, emerged when he attended the Indonesian People's Congress at the Joeang Building, on Sunday two weeks ago. At that time, they were discussing the crisis affecting the nation as a result of the current weak leadership. There was a sharp debate on whether or not there was a need to form a Revolutionary Council. "Because the debate became fierce, almost causing a fight between proponents and opposers of the idea, I decided to go home," said Tyasno.

That night, an SMS message went around, saying Tyasno had been elected chairman of the Revolutionary Council. "I refused it. The aims of the Revolutionary Council are not clear and it is just an idea," he said. Also, this seems to come into conflict with his position as chairman of the Nurani (conscience) Revolution Movement, which he has held since July lat year. This movement encourages a public moral movement to remind the President of the mistakes he made, when he amended the Indonesian Constitution (UUD 1945).

As for Tyasno, he remains puzzled by Syamsir's threat to arrest him. A day before the Balai Sudirman meeting, Syamsir had invited him to the BIN office, to explain everything and that the matter should be considered as settled. At that time, Tyasno asked about the flyer mentioned by Syamsir, but Syamsir could not produce it. "What kind of intelligence work is that? Find the flyer first, then ask questions," Tyasno suggested.

Believing the matter was done with, Tyasno was surprised when, after the Balai Sudirman meeting, Syamsir once again threatened to arrest him if he was proven guilty of rebellion. "I was astonished. What kind of game is he playing?" he said. He sees the current situation as being very similar to the time when President Wahid was about to be ousted. At that time, rumors were rife that a meeting had taken place among the generals at Lautze Street, Pasar Baru, in Central Jakarta. All this led some retired military officers to ask Tyasno for a clarification last Friday.

A retired TNI officer who heard Tyasno's explanation sees this as the government's attempt to silence the voices of retired generals and turn them into scapegoats. They had felt resentful because the President no longer listened to their views on the nation's critical situation. The President, they complained, no longer set aside time to meet with his former seniors, even though he had previously promised to meet with them periodically.

Lt. Gen (ret) Soeryadi, chairman of the Army Pensioners Association, plans to discuss this problem together with his members, next Monday. "We are old people. Do we still need to be suppressed?" he asked. He feels the government's reaction to their moral movement to be excessive.

Presidential spokesman Andi Alfian Mallarangeng admitted that the President had slipped in some questions prior to the meeting at Balai Sudirman. One of them was about the matter of the Revolution Council. "The president asked why there was a group with such a name. What was it all about?" he said. The situation worried the President, because the people involved in the movement should be setting an example for the younger generation on how to respect the people's choice and how to obey the laws and the Constitution. "If this movement continues to carry out its unconstitutional ways of bringing down the legitimate government, that is called rebellion," he said.

-- Agung Rulianto, Wahyu Dhyatmika, Raden Rahmadi


Tempo Magazine No. 21/VII Jan 23-29, 2007


The Fear Factor

Leading a nation is no easy task, as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is finding out. A number of retired generals and senior activists demonstrated on January 15 and asked the people to revoke his government's mandate. Known as a well-mannered man, this 1973 graduate of the Military Academy understandably takes such calls seriously. After all, among the protesters were several of his seniors during his active military days, and one friend whom he appointed as a presidential adviser.

Personal feelings must be respected and kept in the right place, in private. In public, the demonstration must be seen as an element of democracy. Every citizen has the right to express his or her political opinion in public and, as long as it is done peacefully, it is part of the accepted system of political communication. The method may cause annoyance and resentment, but as the wise men would say, "there are no curses that kill, there is no praise that goes to waste."

This proverb is universal. Sir Winston Churchill, when he was prime minister of the world's oldest democracy, said, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." In this context, there is no reason for President Yudhoyono to worry about the acts of hundreds of his critics, given that he garnered the votes of almost 70 million Indonesians.

And this support is still solid. The results of the latest opinion poll carried out by the Indonesian Survey Institute show that two thirds of Indonesian voters still support him. As a result, as long as his government continues working hard to improve the welfare of the people, as called for by the Constitution and the law, tens of millions of people are unlikely to allow their elected leader to be arbitrarily ousted.

This is the particularly the case given that most of the critics are former officials known for their less than stellar performance when they were in office. In retirement, they treat the people's choice contemptuously, calling for his mandate to be revoked. The reform process has been underway for almost ten years, yet they seem unwilling the accept a key ingredient of democracy, that the way to change a government is through general elections. Only if the president violates the Constitution or if he commits a serious crime can the impeachment process against him be initiated. Even then, it must go through a recommendation from the House of Representatives prior to being endorsed by the Constitutional Court.

Like it or not, there is no good enough reason so far to topple the SBY-JK government. Although they have many failings, none of their policies show any indication of betraying the Constitution or committing a crime. All the government needs, is a chance to improve its performance during the remainder of its term, or until October 2009.

At the same time, those calling for a new government should best start grooming their respective presidential and vice-presidential candidates. This can be done by existing political parties or, if necessary, by forming new parties. Retired eneral Wiranto has done this by founding the Hanura Party. This is a good example for those wishing to become president or who want to support their idols in their effort to win the nation's top job.

This does not mean that critics who do not belong to political parties should be sidelined. In a democracy, people who loudly proclaim the failings of a government are far more useful than those who remain silent when they know a government is at fault. Even if the charges leveled at them turn out to be untrue, they can be clarified and serve to warn the government of the need to communicate properly. On the other hand, those who allow a government to continue with their mistakes without doing anything are digging their own graves. In the words of Irish statesman Edmund Burke, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

The importance of opposing voices is what drove Winston Churchill to keep holding on to democracy, even when he was constantly being attacked. Instead of resorting to anger, the Nobel prize winner who led his country to victory in World War II, said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried."

Indeed, leading a democratic nation is no easy task. One must keep cool in the face of onslaughts from former bosses, colleagues and even from friends and advisors taking to the streets and carrying signs saying, 'Revoke his Mandate.'

Their actions may be irksome, even hurtful, but they should not arouse concern, let alone anger. In fact, they should not even be taken seriously. Perhaps, it might be just enough to ask-as advised by a cigarette advertisement-why?


Tempo Magazine No. 21/VII Jan 23-29, 2007

Cover Story

Remembering the Malari Affair

So long, SBY," said Hariman Siregar in a loud voice, pointing in the direction of the State Palace. His words triggered cheers from the crowd participating in the 'Revoke the Mandate' parade. They had gathered across the street from the Palace on Central Jakarta, Monday last week. The heat of the sun beat down on their faces, but the crowd energetically waved flags, banners and posters while shouting: "Long live the people!"

Hariman, an experienced activist, was on a truck with a loudspeaker, sitting next to several public figures, such as: poet W.S. Rendra, activists Julius Usman, Eggy Sudjana, and Moeslim Abdurrahman, and Chairperson of the Democratic People's Party, Dita Indah Sari.

After the yells subsided, Hariman yelled, "Let's walk." A procession of 200 cars advanced slowly, leading the crowd towards the Hotel Indonesia Circle.

After more than three decades, Hariman is still capable of organizing protests. Once the chairman of the Student Council at the University of Indonesia, Hariman first attracted public attention when he led a protest to shake President Suharto on January 15, 1974. This event, known as the January 15 Affair or Malari, ended in rioting. Jakarta was set ablaze. Hariman and other university students were held responsible and imprisoned.

The commemoration of the Malari incident held two weeks ago overwhelmed the presidential party. This was because, as mentioned by Hariman, the parade he organized had the blessings of some retired generals. Speaking to Tempo last week, he did not deny that there was an element of nostalgia in his recent exploits. "It made me feel young again," said the founder of the Indonesian Democracy Monitor (Indemo), roaring with laughter.

The initial idea for the parade came from discussions at the Indemo office about two months ago. "The conclusion was always the same: something is wrong with the national leadership," said Hariman.

The idea gained momentum as more people got involved. The high point was when Hariman and former Indonesian vice-president Try Sutrisno held a public discussion at the Cawang Kencana Building, in November 2005. All those who attended-again according to Hariman-supported the concept of revoking the mandate of the president and vice-president (SBY-JK). At this event, Try attended as a part of the Greater Indonesia Awakening Movement (GKIR).

"When the debates grew sharper, meetings to prepare the protests began," said People's Parade coordinator Yoseph Rizal, who is also an Indemo administrator. From the outset, he said, the action was designed to be like a carnival. There was a marching band and Chinese lion puppets. To make things more colorful, punks and transvestites were also invited. "We didn't want to present a frightening picture," said Yoseph. And for that very reason, they reported their plans to police far in advance.

A week before the event, according to Yoseph, 50 groups were ready to take part. "Each was able to bring 100-200 people," he said. They generally came from organizations accustomed to holding street protests, like the City Forum (Forkot), the Democratic People's Party (PRD), Volunteers for the Struggle for Democracy (Repdem), and the Student Action Front for Reforms and Democracy (Famred). There were also religious elements, like the Islamic Unity Party, led by Mohamad Edwin Irmansyah. "It was complete," said Yoseph.

PRD Chairperson Dita Indah Sari recognized that there was a diversity of groups taking part in the protest. According to her, anyone was allowed to join as long as they agreed with the main idea, namely revoking the mandate. Many groups trying to hitch a free ride by associating their names with the event or coming up with similar concepts. Take the issue of the Revolutionary Council. "I don't know where it came from," said Dita in astonishment. General (ret) Tyasno Sudarto, who was named leader of this council, never took part in any of the preparatory meetings.

Hariman himself is unconcerned. "The important thing is that we have conveyed our message," he said. -- Wahyu Dhyatmika


Tempo Magazine No. 21/VII Jan 23-29, 2007

Cover Story

General (ret) Tyasno Sudarto: This Administration is Illegal

I was never a leader of the Revolutionary Council, as reported in the media. In the meeting of the Communication Forum for Retired Indonesian Military (TNI)/National Police held at Balai Sudirman last week, I was indeed questioned by National Intelligence Agency Chief Syamsir Siregar about the matter, and I have denied it. I was even threatened that I would be arrested.

I did attend a meeting of the Indonesian People's Congress at the Joeang Building on January 7, 2007. I was invited there as a participant in a public dialogue about the current political configuration and the future of the SBY-JK administration. From the discussions, I was asked to lead become the head of the Revolutionary Council. I refused. The aims of the Revolutionary Council are not clear and it was just an idea.

Another reason may be that I am already chairman of the Nurani (conscience) Revolution Movement. Since July 2006, we have encouraged the emergence of a public moral movement to remind the Legislature and the President about the mistakes they made in the process of amending the Constitution. This movement continues to grow.

In terms of procedure and substance, the amendments to the Constitution are invalid. Amendments must be made through a referendum, not based on political consensus. In the end, whatever institution is produced by this illegal Constitution will also be invalid. If this fatal error cannot be rectified by the House (DPR) and the president, then power must be returned to the people. We have to start over from zero.


Tempo Magazine No. 21/VII Jan 23-29, 2007

Cover Story

Hariman Siregar: Staying Silent is Irresponsible

The most important message from the protests to revoke the (presidential) mandate held last week is a simple one. I want to remind President Yudhoyono that sovereignty is in the hands of the people. Here's the dilemma: the parliament is uncertain, so are the political parties, and the administration said that all of these setbacks are not their responsibility. So what comes next? We're stuck. Does this mean that after voting in the election, the public loses their rights, and cannot do anything about it for the next five years? What kind of insanity is this?

I don't want to be held hostage by a formal procedural democracy. We're all trapped. That's what I oppose. I mean, how come we have to form a political party or become a presidential candidate just to be able to criticize? That doesn't make sense. If I sit still and watch the situation and wait until 2009, I would be an irresponsible person.

This movement has nothing to do with the Revolutionary Council. I'm not involved in that. I suspect that there are parties who want to trip me up with such a rumor. If I am connected with the Revolutionary Council, there will be a reason to arrest me. This was the pattern that was used way back during the Malari episode.

Someone must be able to overcome the setbacks faced by the people. If SBY is incapable, he should just throw in the towel. That is our call. - Wahyu Dhyatmika and Agung Rulianto


Tempo Magazine No. 21/VII Jan 23-29, 2007


Permanent Opposition, Temporary President

by Eep Saefulloh Fatah , Executive Director, The Indonesian School of Democracy

Direct elections, wherever they are held, usually increase the self-confidence of both the voters and the elected public officials.

When an election takes place, the voters feel they are the "determining factor." After the election, they feel they have the right to expect that the government will take more consideration of what they have to say. They also tend to believe they are good enough to take note of how the government officials are doing and to ask them to make good on their promises.

Direct elections tend to bring about a public that is more demanding and does not unconditionally accept the job being done by those in power. They feel that they know what they want and tend to demand that the government follow their demands.

On the other hand, candidates for public office feel that they are the "stars" of the election. After their election, they feel they have a strong, unshakable legitimacy. If in the election "the voice of the people is the voice of God," then following the election public officials feel that they are the embodiment of the voice of the people. They are full of self-confidence when they set new policies. They feel that what they are doing must certainly reflect public aspirations.

Therefore, each direct election has an impact not only on strengthening the political legitimacy of the elected government, it also facilitates the opposition's clout against the government. Furthermore, a change takes place in the character of the political opposition, from being a monopoly of the elite, to symptomatic of everyone.

This is more or less the situation that has developed over the past two years. Direct presidential elections in 2004 not only brought about an administration which appeares to be brimming with self-confidence, it also continues to faciliate the rise of political opposition.

On one hand, we watched as the Yudhoyono-Kalla administration appeared confident with their policies and strategies. Meanwhile, a flood of criticisms against their leadership style and their policies began to flow, such as over the problem of forming the Cabinet and the tendency to distribute fish rather than fishing poles.

This was also true of how leadership relied on their image and symbols, rather on real performance, the weakness of publicizing new policies, the frequency of inefficient activities abroad, and the fondness of leaders to use populist rhetoric while implementing policies which did just the reverse. This also includes leaders which tended to be charismatic but weak, the weakness of government administration, lack of integration among the Cabinet members, lack of a sufficient plan for disaster management, and so forth.

Critical voices have increasingly been heard from a number of public figures, including former leaders of the executive and legislative bodies, former public officials, and the leaders and ranks of political parties not represented in the United Indonesia Cabinet. Of late, critiques and opposition have also been on the rise among retired military officers.

The existence of a confident administration and opposition is truly an ordinary phenomenon. It tends to be present in every democracy. In fact, to a certain extent, it is always good news.

However, the developments to date are cause for two points of concern. First, the administration, especially the President and circles in the Palace, have a tendency to be hyper-sensitive to criticism. Second, some public groups seem to easily succumb to using non-democratic methods to achieve what they claim is "an improvement in the quality of democracy."

So far, the President (and the government in general) has been unable to anticipate each criticism and opposition with appropriate communication and political strategy. The president and other government officials are often in a rush to react unnecessarily to certain events, while ignoring critical issues.

Let us just mention some of the latest ones. The Palace responded unnecessarily regarding a mysterious flyer about a "Revolutionary Council". A statement was made about a small-time opposition activity, such as the "Mandate Revocation Movement," saying that it was an unconstitutional act. "Attention-getting" criticisms were responded to emotionally, saying that the criticism ought to be marked "return to sender."

This has resulted in a certain irony. The government, which appears to be self-confident, has evidently not always been good at maintaining its composure. Therefore, there is concern that the president and the government in general may not yet fully understand the political reality which is almost a certainty in every democracy: that there is always a permanent opposition, as it is inherent in the work of each democracy; meanwhile, the President (or other symbols of power) will always be temporary in nature.

Let's hope they haven't forgotten that a healthy democracy will be good at ensuring the circulation of power (including the election of each new president). It should also be good at making sure citizens are protected from being denied their rights, aspirations and interests. Let's hope that they haven't forgotten that in a democracy each temporarily-elected president must always be willing to deal with a permanent opposition.

Therefore, the only way for the President and all public officials to respond to criticisms from the opposition is to prove them wrong with their on-the-job performance. This is the only way that public officials can definitively prove that the critics and their critiques are wrong.

We don't need a government that is preoccupied with responding to criticisms, but one which answers them with on-target policies. It is no longer the time to hold debates at the conceptual level. Governing is not campaigning. The debate is already over. The government does not need to become embroiled in witty jibes and barbs. They need to start composing prose.

It is in this framework that democracy demands that the government work according to its mandate and proper political representation. Moving outside of this corridor would be a "betrayal," and will only facilitate the awakening of what Guillermo O'Donnell calls a "delegative democrac."

However, democracy also demands that the critics and opposition stay on track. Not only must the objectives and substance of their criticisms be democratic, so must their methods. Jumping the tracks carries the risk of losing authenticity. In a democracy, not only can the government commit a betrayal, but so can the public and the critical movements and opposition which they mobilize. If it goes that far, problems often surface.

So far, the tendency to damage authentic criticism and opposition can be seen in its various forms, such as: playing politics by bluffing and creating collective fear among the public; mobilizing crowds to demand that justice be done while taking the law into one's own hands (by mistakenly acting in the name of religion); articulating one's own aspirations to reject public figures and/or political policies while claiming to represent others; calling for a change in power without the approval of the many (through an election); and so forth.

Considering the political developments over the past eight years, I don't believe that there is any side (including the military) which can easily abandon Indonesia's democracy. At this time, most Indonesians have already been "cornered" into accepting democracy not only as a normative necessity, but also as an increasingly unavoidable reality. Even so, the list of damage done to the credibility of the opposition movement and high-level criticisms are still cause for concern.

Ultimately, the 2004 presidential election did not only have the potential to increase the feelings of self-confidence among elected public officials and the voters, but it also increased the sensitivity of both. The public tends to be sensitive about each blow dealt to their hopes and interests. On the other hand, government officials tend to be sensitive over each criticism and rejection of their policies and measures.

Our historical task is not be trapped by an excess of self-confidence and sensitivity. This is crucial in order to preserve our youthful democracy.


Terjemahan (atas jasa "Kataku"): Tempo_Cover_Story_Reports___Revolting__Rumors_of_a_Revolutionary

----------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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