Editorial: The Godmother of Indonesian Politics

Editorial Omong-Omong

4 min read

Those who have ridiculed Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), after she delivered her best speech – arguably among the best speeches of the country’s leaders – in years are either in denial or sorely missing the point and the context.

From seemingly saving the country’s democracy, inspiring her followers to do real work for the party, arguing for woman empowerment to lecturing the importance of getting down and talking to the grassroots, schooling them about geopolitics to giving history and governing lessons, Megawati conveyed moving messages to her followers in a speech to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI, not yet PDI-P at that time) on Tuesday (10/1).

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Judging by what she said and how she said it, almost everything was on point. While she was holding cue cards, she was not reading, she was speaking and making conversation directly to her audience. And while beautiful or pretty is relative and debatable, we must by now admit that she is smart. Damn smart, and certainly charismatic, being able to singlehandedly unite such a big political party to win in such big and complex general elections.

And no, she is not just another “emak-emak” without her last name.

While last name Soekarnoputri definitely helps, especially in the later years, people always forget that she is only one of many Soekarno’s offspring using the same last name, being the only one to have made a mark in Indonesia’s politics and government. While she always refers to her father in a fashion almost like mentioning a demigod, Megawati has been a successful politician in her own right, leading the country’s biggest party and matching her father by occupying the nation’s top job once.

Also, having that last name, especially during the 32 years Soeharto’s regime, is not always favorable as described by her in the speech how she was intimidated, detained, interrogated by security officers various times during the period, or how she started the PDI from the scratch, traveling from one village to another to recruit anyone who wanted to join the party at the risk of being labelled a communist, a label equaled to a death sentence during the New Order era.

Then she was also struggling to see her party she built destroyed by the New Order regime which was afraid it was getting bigger and becoming a threat to Soeharto and his cronies. The party was split into two, with Megawati being forced to accept the change of name into the PDI-P, the name the party is using now.

It’s unimaginably difficult situation for her then that in the regard of fighting against the tyranny and for grassroot we must believe whatever she conveyed in her speech. We could feel the sincerity of what she said because she was there facing it with all her bravery as a woman trying to protect her followers.

To use an adagium by former Indonesian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Rizal Sukma, who is also a scholar and one of architects of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s early administration, on Megawati’s strong and convincing showing. “That’s the different between those who only received it done, and those who was really there, truly did it and made it done.”

Also, nobody else can’t claim to be as consistent and longer in resisting Soeharto than Megawati. Not Abdurrahman, “Gus Dur” Wahid, not Amien Rais. This alone should hand her a full authority to speak whatever she wants on this era, dubbed as the country’s darkest period.

And to give a proper context, she spoke in front of her own supporters and PDI-P members, including Jokowi. So, it is also proper and within her right that she stated that Jokowi could not do anything without the help of the party, which is hardly contestable, to remind the president and the public again the party’s crucial role in taking him to power.

To top it all, by the end of the day, deliberately or not, it’s Megawati who may have saved the country’s democracy by publicly telling Jokowi on his face during her speech to follow the rule of game of the presidential term limitation, and that two terms were enough for him.

Such a crushing statement means any ideas and efforts by Jokowi’s supporters, including senior minister and politician Luhut Panjaitan, to make him stay in power for a third term had been thrown into a dustbin for good.

Whether he likes or not, or whether he agrees or not, as the country’s president and supposedly the country’s most powerful person, Jokowi can always fight back, which he has done actually all this time – through whatever Luhut has done. But he can’t and won’t do it openly and directly. So, it’s in fact ridiculous that some people said Megawati has humiliated the president while all she was saying was just stating the right things.

For those who think Megawati is unbearable, they must wholeheartedly accept that Megawati is a fact of life, and as long as Megawati live, they must accept PDI-P as something that can’t be avoided.

As a reminder, the last time PDI-P had the lowest point, and its enemies have thought that they could finally crush it, the party still had around 14 percent of total votes, which reflects how strong the core supporters of Megawati and Soekarnoists.

The first problem about Megawati is she apparently wants her daughter Puan Maharani to replace her, and running for president in 2024, with her ranting about how importance woman has been during the history of Indonesia, mentioning almost all the country’s heroines in the process as an indication toward such a way. But every survey indicates that Puan has a little chance to win in the presidency.

The second problem is unfortunately Megawati is not PDI-P, with enough facts and cases having shown that its members are not as sincere or committed as she is, involving in corruption cases and power abuses. The truck driver cum regent Megawati mentioned as a good story while weeping in pride, for instance, turned out to be a graft convict having been sentenced to 7 years in prison in 2019, while PDI-P subsequently fired him.

The fact that Megawati was not aware about the case, and mentioned it as a good story in public reveals a story of the quality of people surrounding her. They possibly just want to make her happy, feeding her with good story she wants to hear, and isolating her from the very people she has fought with as well as members genuinely loyal to her.

If only PDI-P members, including President Joko Widodo and Puan Maharani, could imitate or inherit just a fraction of Megawati’s toughness, frankness and sincerity, then Indonesia could have been in much better shape.

Editorial Omong-Omong

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