The establishment of the National Research and Innovation Agency, known as BRIN in Indonesian acronym, is only one and latest move in the whole grand strategy of Megawati Soekarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) to dominate the nation in its entirety – from financial aspects, politics to intellectual life and way of thinking.
Related Editorial: Hijacking Indonesia
The BRIN is actually the consolidation of all state-sanctioned research institutions under one super body. So, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), the National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN), and the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN), plus all research functions within all ministries, will be merged under BRIN. It’s Megawati herself who is heading the BRIN’s steering body overseeing the executive body chaired by her loyalist Laksana Tri Handoko.
BRIN’s power is also expanded with the establishment of regional research and innovation agency at the provincial and city levels, providing it with arms and control over any scientists in any region across the country.
The BRIN’s absorption of Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology is thus a logical consequence of such a strategy to control, say, public opinion on virus and pandemic as Covid-19 has become more political than health issues per se, and as living with the virus is normalized in Indonesia and across the world.
But BRIN, Eijkman takeover and its monopoly of Covid-19’s narratives are just a short-term move, and only a starting point, toward the gradual control of the whole academic and intellectual works, with the end goal of controlling the mind and opinion of the public for the perpetuation of power. So, there is nothing scientific and innovative about the establishment of BRIN, and the subsequent absorption of Eijkman, it’s only politics – and to some extent, money.
It’s not a secret that LIPI. BPPT, BATAN and LAPAN each has assets or overseeing assets worth trillions of rupiah (billions of dollars) across the country. We can take LIPI as an example. The research authority has a lot of properties across Indonesia. it, among many others, has the authorities to manage the Bogor Botanical Garden in West Java, Cibodas Botanical Garden also in West Java, Purwodadi Botanical Garden in West Java and Bali Botanical Garden in Bali. Just months into its formation, BRIN already rented out Bogor Botanical Garden to Kompas-Gramedia Group. There has been no transparency of this privatization process, and how much the state would be getting from this privatization and how it will affect the research there. What has been in the media is the boosting of garden becoming new and sophisticated amusement center. Research and invention? Not so much.
This is only one property from one research agency. LIPI have many other gardens and properties which can soon be monetized, or worse these assets may soon be sold all together for commission or brokerage fees without any transparency how much for whom and for what.
What about assets belong to BPPT? BATAN? LAPAN? They must have something to sell, right? Just about right.
The fact that so many employees and researchers of Eijkman, for instance, have gone to social media to complain while live their life in confusion indicates further that everything about BRIN has nothing to do with research, let alone innovation or invention. And what is actually the urgency of BRIN’s formation? it’s something many people, the Indonesia’s smartest scholars, hard to find. If Indonesia lacks quality research and innovation, just fix the education and upgrade teachers and bring in the most advanced equipment and laboratories for our scientists to learn and practice their skills and knowledge.
And as a reminder, BRIN will get between 50 trillion to 100 trillion rupiah from the State Budget every year to fund its operation. The public will never know how much of this fund will go to researches, or to other purposes when one single party just owns almost everything from upstream to downstream.
By controlling BRIN, PDI-P is killing two – or even multiple – birds with one stone: authorities over scientific truths and money.
Megawati might not be the smartest president Indonesia has ever had. But she surely has proven that she knows how to recruit or surround herself with the seemingly smartest and most loyal people in the business.
PDI-P has been awakening from the abyss of 2009 elections when it only grabbed around 14 percent of total votes, and since has been going from strength to strength, gradually increasing its bases and sweeping all power and financial centers the country could offer.
Our previous editorial has detailed how the PDI-P’s people have managed to occupy political and public offices, from president to ministers down to governors and mayors, and ready to sweep the 2024 elections. They are now working on how to get Puan Maharani, Megawati’s daughter, to the presidency, if not after Joko Widodo then one after him. Prabowo Subianto could be the ultimate option for Puan’s running mate to win the vice presidency in 2024, before taking over the presidency herself in 2029.
By controlling all the strategic positions, assets and money and access to information and scientific truths, aware or unaware, the party has successfully put into practice the combined ideas of Niccolo Machiavelli, Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault and those thinkers from the Frankfurt School for their own goals. Indonesia could end up live under Megawati’s mercy just like how we lived under Soeharto’s mercy for 32 years in the previous episode. Hopefully, it’s not as bad.
Like it or not, we will live with the virus and PDI-P’s domination for many years to come. Just don’t say you’ve never been warned.