The Jakarta Post
The nation was enjoying the Chinese New Year public holiday on Friday when Gita Wirjawan announced his resignation as trade minister, just nine months before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ends his 10-year presidential term. The former businessman said he wanted to concentrate on achieving his goal of being a contender in the July presidential race.
'I want to avoid conflicts of interest in the political process and in my daily duties in the government. With my resignation as trade minister, I will be able focus on the presidential convention and also avoid conflicts of interest,' he said in a brief press conference at the Trade Ministry. Journalists did not have a chance to direct any questions to Gita, who was promoted to the ministerial seat in 2011.
Gita along with eight other contenders are participating in the presidential convention of Yudhoyono's Democratic Party (PD). The winner of the selection process will become the party's candidate in the presidential election. Other candidates include former Army chief Gen. (ret) Pramono Edhie Wibowo, former Indonesian Military chief Gen. (ret) Endriartono Sutarto, Yudhoyono's former spokesman Dino Patti Djalal, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan and the House of Representatives (DPR) Speaker Marzuki Alie.
Many people are curious about Gita's motives for leaving the Cabinet. Was it just because he wanted to concentrate on the party's convention? It is possible that Gita has more substantial reasons to abandon the President, who is fast becoming a lame duck leader.
First, despite Yudhoyono's repeated assurances that only the best candidate would be chosen as the party's representative, it is very clear that the selection process is so complicated that many people feel that the President will inevitably have the final say on the winner. What will the President say to his wife, Ani Yudhoyono, if he decides to drop her brother Pramono? Jokingly a politician described the President's position in the following remark,' Will he have the guts to veto his wife's wish?'
Second, it will likely be very difficult for the party to get the minimum required percentage of the vote (25 percent) in the April legislative election to enable it to nominate its own presidential candidate. Major graft scandals continue to rock PD and its popularity is declining because the party is inextricably linked to Yudhoyono.
Gita apparently also intends to distance himself from the President. He is apparently preparing and anticipating political changes because a new president will be elected in July. Gita often praised Jakarta Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo in public. Pollsters predicted the governor would easily win the presidential race.
Next question is on who will replace Gita as trade minister?
The Chinese government granted a pleasant Chinese New Year 'gift' to the Indonesian government by allowing the government to bring home graft suspect Anggoro Widjojo on Thursday. He fled Indonesia in June 2009. Anggoro was arrested by the Shenzhen Police in China on Wednesday.
This newspaper reported on Saturday that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) would continue to investigate the involvement of other possible suspects in the graft case, which centers on the procurement of an Integrated Radio Communication System (SKRT) at the Forestry Ministry, which was led at the time by Crescent Star Party (PBB) chairman MS Kaban.
The scandal has sent at least four legislators to prison. Kaban himself was only questioned as a witness in 2011. The Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) had demanded the KPK to name Kaban a suspect in the case. 'Without a doubt, Kaban signed off on the appointment of Masaro (Anggoro's company) in the case. He also knew about the bribes,' the ICW's Emerson Yuntho said.
Kaban himself praised Anggoro's arrest.'I think this is good. This is a major achievement for the KPK and should be appreciated,' he said on Thursday as quoted by tempo.co.
On Tuesday, a reporter from a major TV station in Thailand called the office of a national newspaper in Jakarta. She wanted to compare the nationwide riots in 1998 in Indonesia and the ongoing violence in her country. In May 1998, riots broke out in many parts of Indonesia following widespread student demonstrations in their efforts to oust then president Soeharto.
Thailand is facing a completely different situation. It is a conflict between the enemies and supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
On Sunday, the nation will hold a general election. It is a referendum for Thaksin. Antigovernment protesters threatened to disrupt the election. Why is Thailand allowing itself be humiliated in front of the international community by allowing those who do not like the government to do anything they like, including inciting violence to oust the government? Thailand could be a pariah member of ASEAN if the nation fails to use internationally accepted practices to change a government: A peaceful, fair and democratic election.
The nation can only blame itself when international perception on Myanmar will be much more conducive compared to Thailand. Myanmar has won international praise for its decision to abandon the brutal military regime and implement political reforms.
The international community especially ASEAN members are following the situation in Thailand closely. The prominent member of the regional community needs to realize that political greed will only bring Thailand to the brink of disaster. Everyone loses when Thai political leaders and elites are unable to control their selfish egos.
' Kornelius Purba