Now that the House of Representatives has ruled the 2008 bailout of Bank Century was unjustified, the nation next has to brace for the inevitable political fallout. Wednesday’s vote has not laid to rest the political spectacle playing out over the past two months, courtesy of the House’s special inquiry committee probing the Rp 6.76 trillion (US$716 million) case. Instead, expect more fighting among the political elite, probably more intense than before.
For one thing, the fate of Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati hangs in the balance after the House resolution named them the persons most responsible for the bailout decision and hence liable to a protracted legal investigation.
There is also the future of the Cabinet after some of the parties in the ruling coalition voted against President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party. It is simply inconceivable that the coalition will stay the way it is, given that some of its members have chosen to stick it to the government.
And then there is the question of President Yudhoyono’s leadership after he lost the political tug-of-war over Century. Will he be able to restore public confidence in his ability to govern, or will he become a lame-duck president for the remaining four-and-a-half years of his term?
The Century case has held the nation’s attention and resources hostage, some would argue unnecessarily, at the expense of other more important national issues such as poverty eradication, corruption eradication and a host of other economic, political and legal reform issues. It is not an exaggeration to say Century has virtually paralyzed the nation.
Whether we like it or not, this long and arduous investigation was the path chosen by our elected politicians, even when it became clear there was no evidence of the bailout money going into the pockets of politicians, including President Yudhoyono, as the proponents of the investigation claimed.
The two-month-long inquiry did not find any evidence to support this claim, but being the politicians they are, they looked for opportunities, if not to bring down Yudhoyono then certainly to dent his presidency.
The President must share the blame for allowing and even supporting the House’s motion to launch the inquiry, and for waiting all these weeks before saying last Tuesday that the buck stopped with him. He may have done this in an 11th-hour attempt to save his political standing, but it was a case of too little too late. If he had made the statement in October, after his landslide re-election victory, he would have pre-empted the House’s investigation.
The House inquiry was a political process and rather than a genuine attempt to seek the truth. It was more a case of finding the “political truths”. In politics, as the Century investigation shows, what is right today can be wrong the next day, depending on the political circumstances. The bailout of
Century had the full support of the House in 2008, but less than a year later the House decided to launch an inquiry.
We don’t share the view that the Century inquiry has served a valuable lesson for the nascent democracy. It has been a gross waste of the nation’s valuable time and resources that should have been put to much better use in addressing the real challenges facing this nation.
If there is one valuable lesson from Century, it is the sad revelation that Indonesia is being led by a bunch of politicians who are opportunists at best and incompetent at worst.
There are only a few winners in the Century carousel, but the biggest loser of all is the nation. And sadly, we have not seen the end of it yet. God save Indonesia.