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Govt ‘robs people of sovereignty’
Recent attacks on minority groups instigated by groups such as the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) and the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) reveal the government’s failure to accommodate popular expectations of sovereignty and democracy, says a researcher.
The highly-touted notion of popular sovereignty ushered in by the 1998 reformation movement is artificial, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) senior political researcher Syamsuddin Haris said.
“Our people are not yet sovereign economically and politically,” he said, adding that popular needs were not well represented by existing government institutions, which are plagued by corruption and relfect the self-interest of entrenched elites.
The formation of mass organizations, such as the often violent FBR and FPI, are signs of the government’s inability to meet the needs of the people and reflect the popular distrust of government institutions, such as the police and judicial bodies, he said.
FBR members clashed with residents of Jl. Garuda in Rempoa, Tangerang, last weekend after people removed FBR flags in the area. More than 500 police officers could not quell the confrontation that disrupted traffic and created disturbances throughout the area.
“Distrust of law enforcement agencies and representative bodies contribute to the anarchic behavior of societal groups during local elections,” he added.
He said that politicians still viewed the public as a “floating mass” which could be manipulated during elections and ignored after the ballots were counted.
Radical organizations capitalize on mobilizing the masses on behalf of religion or ethnic groups “to destroy the country’s plurality which has become Indonesia’s identity”, he added.
Late last month, FPI members attacked the complex of the Islamic sect Jamaah Ahmadiyah in Manis Lor village, Kuningan regency, West Java. Public order officers and the police were rebuked by human rights observers for apparent complacency about the attack.
“Crowds are easily provoked, manipulated and mobilized by money or simply by a packet of rice, unlike citizens, who are aware of their rights and responsibilities,” he said. Democracy can’t be achieved without civil society, he added.
Civil society must be part of the process of creating awareness of what defines a citizen, he said. “The future of Indonesia’s democracy is not just in the hands of politicians, the military or bureaucrats,” he added.
Adriana Elisabeth, an expert in international relations, said that popular aspirations should inform government decision makers, especially on issues of daily life, such as the cost of staple foods, education and health.
“Besides having a political education aspect, this is also a way to develop a sense of ownership of the ongoing political process,” she said. (gzl)