26 September 2009

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Gauging our commitment to the nation

When Dr. Nurcholish Madjid ran for president on the Golkar ticket in 2003, he was asked by party leaders whether he had "nutrition". The late prominent Islamic scholar later learned that nutrition meant money. He related this experience after deciding to withdraw from the race, saying his principles ran counter to Golkar's political ethics.

A Golkar party stalwart who was a former minister went public that year saying that gubernatorial candidates had spent billions of rupiah on campaigning, and presidential candidates trillions. Another presidential candidate said he had a handicap, since he had no money. Nurcholish had run on the platform of clean government, transparency and accountability - a tall order for any government
Today, four years after Nurcholish's death, vote buying has not faded away. People are willing to pay in return for positions in virtually all branches of government. In April's legislative elections, candidates competed in offering goods to their constituents. A funny twist occasionally occurred, such as when a losing candidate took back the carpet he had donated to a mosque, or cut off the power line he once supplied.

One local legislator was reported to have auctioned a governmental decree. Dozens of candidates lost their sanity once they were defeated in the elections. In a nutshell, politicians tend to live from politics, and not for politics. This does not bode well for the future, since there is civilized society without civilized politicians.
In a country where houses of worship are packed, religious values seem to be too remote from the world of action. It is as if there is no relationship between religion and work.

Evidence of this is ample, including the suffering of the people who had to leave their homes due to the massive mudflow in the East Java district of Sidoardjo, and the Rp 6.7 trillion in taxpayer money that was used to bail out a small bank. Religious programs make up the bulk of programming on TV stations during Ramadan, but whether there will be any change in people's behavior after the fasting month remains to be seen.

Religion does not appear to work since it has become a political tool. Totally absent is the universal idea of goodness, a sense of decency. These were the essences of a discussion organized by the Nurcholish Madjid Society to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the demise of the outstanding scholar.

A number of noted scholars who spoke at the event included Dr. Franz Magnis-Suseno, Dr. Bahtiar Effendy and Dr. Yudi Latif. "Tell me, how do you become an optimist in this kind of climate?" Bahtiar Effendy asked.
Magnis-Suseno believed that the people's sense of nationalism was still very strong. This bodes well for the unity of the nation.

However, he warned that unless corruption was curbed, democracy would not manifest itself in the country.

Opinion The Jakarta Post : 25th Sept, 2009

Harry Bhaskara The author is a senior editor at The Jakarta Post.