Saturday, February 25, 2006

Injury-time in Indonesia: A lucrative business

Few years ago, members of the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) East Java chapter gathered in a hotel in Surabaya the night before the East Java governor election to ensure all PKB members in the East Java local legislature (DPRD) vote for Abdul Kahfi with the incumbent Imam Utomo as the contender.
"As most of DPRD members from PKB are ulemmas (Moslem clerics), the organizer of the event asked all of them to have Sumpah Pocong (swear to God and would be punished in hell) if they vote other candidate in the election," said a friend journalist who attended the event.
Former presdient and key patron of PKB Abdurrahman Wahid led the ceremony.
Kahfi was also formally endorsed by Golkar Party. Utomo, meanwhile, got PDI-P as the main sponsor with the smaller parties rally behind him. PKB had 33 seats at DPRD, slightly above PDI-P (31 seats). With Golkar's 11 seats, plus another 6 votes from other parties, Wahid and Kahfi side believed they could could 50 votes to make it draw.
Surprisingly Kahfi got only 34 votes in the election, consisted of 31 votes from PKB and 3 from Golkar, meaning two PKB members breached Sumpah Pocong. Utomo won the election unanimously with 63 votes. "That's because of some members finally put a price for their votes, and the closer the time to election, the higher the price. And minutes to injury-time, rumors said the price for one vote reached US$250,000," the journalist said.
That's how I start to think about the business of injury-time in Indonesian politics. Especially when I heard this week the CEO of a state-owned enterprise gave US$300,000 to a publication company only to 'protect' him from a possible indictment in a corruption case as other directors have been detained.
How about the mid-week move by five members of Regional Representative Council (DPD), five members of the House of Representatives (DPR), economists and students grouped in what they called Coalition to Save Cepu? Well, the group condemn government's signal to award ExxonMobil Corporation's subsidiary the right to operate the giant oil and gas field in Cepu, East Java. They urge government to give it to Pertamina instead. This weekend is the deadline for Exxon and Pertamina to settle the operatorship issue, an injury time.
The newly established group led by Marwan Batubara, a former staff at telecommunication company PT Indosat Tbk. Marwan is a DPD member representing Jakarta residents. Why all of a sudden Marwan speak out loud on Cepu issue while he should raise the issue of worsening traffic jam in Jakarta or other issues concerning Jakartans? Was it something to do with his close relationship with Widya Purnama, Pertamina's president director and Marwan's boss at Indosat?
Drajad Wibowo, DPR member from National Mandate Party (PAN) also join the group and rally behind Pertamina's directors. He would have better use his constitutional rights to summon government officers on the issue than join such group, I think.
And Fadhil Hasan, director of INDEF, a think tank established by some economists including Wibowo and Didik J. Rachbini (currently member of DPR). Did INDEF conduct a research on Cepu or simply took the secondary data from Pertamina? Why they simply believe? Had they try to get data from Exxon as well, a standard procedure for a group claimed itself a think-tank? Why now, not then? Where were all these guys during the four-year of public debacle over the Cepu issue and only shown up at injury time?
"Indonesia is in the transition period still and there are rooms for money politics still. But talking about money politics, it's everywhere, even in countries like US. Pressures groups are mushroomed, and it's a huge business. Some doing the business hit and run, others for a longer term and survive, but overtime they would levelling off in terms of the price tag," a friend consoling me.
I remember in the last few years some companies were established to organize public protest or demonstrations for certain issues. These companies could organize wide range of protests from those who just sit and raise the protest banners or the noisy ones. Some put the price tag at Rp50,000 per head count. Don't laugh. These guys could even offer package of media coverage. TV shoots were normally expensive, could reach millions of rupiah for two minutes display. Photo shoots could be Rp500,000 or less.
I didn't see much these days though. I'm not sure whether it's because of declining demand or oversupply. But media seems to have learnt something, knows what's genuine, and fewer journalists willing to cover such activities. And that could be the end of their businesses as the customers didn't get what they want anymore. Market mechanism works perfectly.
And that could be the case for those who run the injury time businesses with comments published in the media.
Anyway, just like in the football game, sometimes the coaches makes important decision, say replace one or two players with fresh ones from the bench, at injury time with the hope to score a winning goal. It's precious.

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