Just imagine that you’re already on the top of your world. Financially secure, surrounded by groups of friends and admired for your intellectual ability, would you be satisfied?
Well, at least for Bima Arya Sugiarto, one of the country’s brightest political minds who believes that life begins at the end of one’s comfort zone, the answer is no.
“I have mastered politics as a science but I don’t have the chance to contribute more for the sake of the country if I stay within my comfort zone as a political scientist. Therefore, I have decided to rejoin the National Mandate Party [PAN],” Bima said in an interview with The Jakarta Post recently.
Is he really saying “rejoining”? Apparently, what most people tend to forget is that Bima was among the party’s architects back in 1998. Bima was the co-founder of PAN’s local branch in Bandung, West Java, at that time, having first joined the party after completing his master’s degree in Australia.
Later on, however, internal conflicts within PAN forced him to become non-active from political activities. Instead, he decided to pursue a PhD in politics and then returned to the party in mid-2007 as a political scientist and commentator.
Bima acknowledged that PAN became his first love in politics thanks to the party’s central figure, Amin Rais, who had dared to adopt an opposing stance to Soeharto’s New Order regime in the early 1980s.
“I fell in love with Amin’s thinking ever since he said the New Order regime should be ended in 1993. I then pledged to join whatever political party he wanted to build,” the 40-year-old Bima said.
His political comeback in 2010 gained a skeptical response not only by his friends but also his students. They feared that Bima would become polluted and become one of the political antagonists whose work amount to nothing but planning how to steal people’s money.
Bima realized that the fear was reasonable but the need to set a better example for young people defeated all negative thinking.
He fully realized that his decision to rejoin PAN was unpopular and contained potentially huge ramifications.
“Many people view politics with disgust. However, joining a political party has always been the only way to bring change. Through a political party, we can deliberate better policies. However, the worst-case scenario would be if we can’t find any people with integrity within the party.”
Once he made his pledge, his first test arrived. He recalled that just a few days after his appointment as head of PAN’s political communications department, a group of people representing a candidate for regent from a region outside Java visited him.
They asked for his support in having candidate named as PAN’s candidate during the regional election. In return, they were ready to hand over a bag with billions of rupiah inside.
Bima firmly rejected the offer. But, the attempted bribes didn’t stop there; just a few months later, a gubernatorial candidate came to him, asking for his support in exchange for several billion rupiah.
“I simply refused the offer. I don’t want to be that person who hangs a price tag around his neck whenever he goes. To this day, I consider my pride as priceless,” he recalled.
As if no one had heard about these rejections, dozens of other similar offers still come his way. Most of them ask for support for specific candidates running for public office.
Bima acknowledged part of his efforts to remain clean was by building layers of “barriers”. These barriers entail maintaining intense communications with his students, close friends, activists and, most importantly, his family.
His wife, for example, is always the first to know whenever he is bribed.
In order to support his family, besides teaching at Paramadina University, Bima is still registered as a commissioner with the political consultancy, Charta Politika. He also works as a freelance consultant for those in the creative industry who want to know more about politics.
With his current debut into real politics, Bima is preparing to put himself forward as a candidate in the upcoming mayoral election in Bogor, where incumbent Mayor Diani Budiarto is mired in ongoing problems over the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin’s land dispute.
The land dispute originated with people protesting the construction of a church located on the outskirts of the Taman Yasmin housing complex in Bogor. When the structure was nearly completed, the church was then sealed by the Bogor administration.
The church congregation sought a legal ruling and the Supreme Court decided that the church construction should be completed and the local Christian community afforded their right to congregate and attend services in that church.
In blatant defiance of the court’s ruling, however, Mayor Diani Budiarto refused to open the church.
When asked about how he would solve the land dispute, Bima stated there were only two things that should be on a leader’s mind whenever he or she faced a similar situation; namely, the Constitution and the will of the majority.
Bima vowed that if he ran for mayor, he would stick to the Constitution, meaning that he would seek a legal solution first before making any decision.
“After that, I would ask the majority there. If, for example, the majority wants to build a mosque near the church as their way to seek balance, then so be it. This would be a fair solution for everyone,” he said.
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