05 November 2009

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Thanks for the ‘cicak’, General!

Dear Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri, thank you for your apology, but none needed – at all.
We actually thank your subordinate who coined the phrase “lizard versus crocodile” – we love it! We look forward to sporting the image of the “cicak” and the “buaya” on our T-shirts and hats, bags and bumpers. The Cicak acronym alone – Cinta Indonesia Cinta KPK, Love Indonesia [means] Love the KPK (the anti-graft body) has given a new cause to nationalism – the right one. If you love Indonesia, support the people in the forefront fighting our dreadful, disastrous legacy.

We love nationalistic causes, the last being sporting batik on all kinds of occasions, a better way to beat reports of Malaysia’s “claim” on our heritage than any bilateral deal.
Now this latest cause is not against a foreign country, it’s against our own authorities – anyone deemed to harbor ill intentions to weaken our homegrown heroes, the corruption fighters. Even if the detained deputies are found guilty of abuse of power, the public fears the powers-that-be seek to drag the KPK into insignificance.
More precisely, the Cicak movement is a collective expression against injustice, for no one can understand the speed and intensity of the police’s investigation into the anti-graft leaders, along with the lawmakers’ earlier move to weaken the KPK and the anti-graft court.
Detective chief Comr. Gen. Susno Duaji coined the phrase cicak lawan buaya to insult the KPK leaders who, as small, helpless, insignificant house lizards, would attempt to take on big, strong rivals who were way out of their league.
Of course, this immediately caught the public imagination as a David against Goliath issue, and the popular band Slank has said we can expect a song on the theme very soon.
What chance is there for the “cicak” to prevail? Will the small, quiet creature only be poised to catch the mosquito,  just like in the childhood song,  asks anti-graft figure Teten Masduki in his recent article in the Kompas daily, referring to the tune “Cicak, cicak di dinding” (“Lizard, lizard on the wall”).
Given the widespread reaction it was rather amusing when on Monday the National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri apologized to the public for Susno’s coining of the term, and begged everyone to stop using it, just when the T-shirt makers are likely gearing up for a surge in business.
It was even more amusing to read of reports quoting the new independent team tasked to look into the KPK saga, who said that everyone should cool down first – just as Facebook supporters hit 400,000 in a few days, just as protesters braved the heat in rallies across several cities, some with creative street art featuring images and puppets of the house lizards and the crocodiles. Just like children, people like to do everything that authorities say not to, even if it comes with a “please”.
The Cicak term interestingly brings our “nationalism” into the spotlight. As usual, each new patriotic cause loudly demands what it takes to show you love your country. More often we have other countries to fight, or rebels to crush.
Domestic causes like “Love Indonesia, Love the KPK” reflect the times we live in. The anti-graft battle is just one among the nuts and bolts of reformasi, involving the grueling work of washing away the stains from the past that won’t go away. The enemy is nowadays among ourselves; no one but fellow Indonesians have the clout to bring the nation down into the swamps, the home of the crocodile.
Over 10 years ago those who organized and descended on the streets were labeled people who did not love their country, those who brought shame on the nation as they aired our dirty laundry for all to see.
Now in a free Indonesia the big shots are likely crying out to deaf ears to “cool down” and stop referring to the lizard and the crocodile. But freely elected leaders mean demands for answers, for accountability, particularly regarding perceived injustice.
Instead of cooling down, people will freely choose to join rallies, sport black ribbons, or just turn to Facebook and click to join the KPK support movement triggered by the police.
So thank you Mr. Policeman, for the “cicak”!

Ati Nurbaiti, The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.
Opinion of The Jakarta Post 4th November 2009