Indonesia’s global image is once again under the media spotlight after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gave a nod Wednesday to Sri Mulyani Indrawati’s resignation as finance minister and her acceptance as a World Bank managing director, in which she will be assigned to oversee 74 nations in Latin America, the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East and North Africa.
This stimulates opinion of support for Sri Mulyani, who has been under harsh criticism from opposition camp members of the House of Representatives investigating the Bank Century bailout case. The support psychologically shapes the belief that “our minister of finance is one of the best in the world”, but why does she encounter difficult times in her own country?
Once again it adds to the notion that the Republic has failed to give credit to one of its prominent figures; in remembrance of former president B.J. Habibie who is a well-known and highly respected figure in Germany despite that his accountability speech was rejected by the People’s Consultative Assembly in 1999. Massive discussions have appeared on social networking site Facebook regarding Sri Mulyani’s resignation.
Her resignation partly instigates distrust toward the House, which has in the last few months demanded the finance minister resign. Many believe Sri Mulyani and Vice President Boediono were the scapegoats in the massive conspiracy behind the US$716 million Bank Century issue.
The House’s parliamentary inquiry on Sri Mulyani and Boediono over the Bank Century case is in sharp contrast to the excessive budget used for the inauguration ceremony, housing and luxury facilities of House members, the House’s Special Sessions, and raising salary and pension funds for the legislators – thus influencing public opinion on how dirty politics can be.
Worse is the fact that the increasing luxury for the political elites is at the expense of (an also) increasing economic inequality, unemployment and poverty across the country. Given this condition, it is rational for the Indonesian people to stage demonstrations against the House members’ behavior.
On the other hand, it is regretful that many other people will be easily mobilized for the interests of “political entrepreneurs”, who benefit from such a messy political condition.
If the Indonesian people are politically mature, they will not be easily “mobilized” to get involved in the so-called ultimate battle of the elites of Indonesian politics. We do not expect Indonesia, which was only recently praised by US President Barack Obama for promoting the growth of pluralism where Islam, democracy and women empowerment can coexist, will have to experience the current political standoff occurring in neighboring Thailand.
Sri Mulyani’s resignation, however, is not a simple occurrence – at least in the eyes of Hanura Party politician Akbar Faisal – who considers her “promotion” to a World Bank managing director as an exit strategy of the ruling government to escape from the high-profile Bank Century debacle. Akbar also regrets the World Bank’s insensitivity of the ongoing prosecution into the Bank Century case as Sri Mulyani has been under intensive questioning by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) over her decision as chairwoman of the Financial System Stability Committee (KSSK) to bail out the then problematic bank.
As an observer, I would say that what happens to Sri Mulyani is a dilemma in Indonesian politics. Her departure to the World Bank is a strong blow to the House’s inquiry into the Bank Century case as the parliament has failed to make use of the momentum to resolve the case in time as the Indonesian people have expected.
Despite the controversy, and particularly if she is later proven not guilty in the Bank Century issue, Sri Mulyani deserves a better position where she will be respected and congratulated by the Indonesian people for what she has done in reforming the Finance Ministry.
The writer is student of international relations, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta.