Letters: Habibie and impeachment

Mon, 02/08/2010 10:47 AM | Reader's Forum

Former president B.J. Habibie made an interesting statement on Jan. 30, when he was honored by University of Indonesia (UI) with an Honorary Doctorate in Philosophy Technology, when he was asked about the issue of the impeachment of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or Vice President Boediono over the Bank Century scandal: “People should not jump to the conclusion of impeachment every time they felt disappointed with their leaders. We should consider the financial, social and political costs of taking such a step.”

The statement was interesting because it came from Habibie, who took over the reins from the late president Soeharto in May 1998. He led the country only for the months of transition and preparation for the general election in 1999. His accountability report before the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) was rejected. In fact, the rejection was not addressed to Habibie but to the New Order’s administration.

Habibie knew himself very well. He knew what people wanted at that time. He knew what people wanted was that they did not want him. That time, whoever was considered as Soeharto’s close aides, was considered tainted. Soeharto was deemed the bad guy so everything connected to him was automatically also bad. But Habibie had no option but to show up on the public stage. He inherited a disordered country which had been laid in ruins by his predecessor. He knew people did not want him, so, after he accomplished his job, he left the political stage.

He might have been be very much hated by Soeharto, he was accused of being a Brutus, involved in weakening Soeharto’s legitimacy and stabbing Soeharto in the back. Several times, he was willing to visit his ailing “father” in hospital, but was always rejected, even up to Soeharto’s death. Habibie still respected Soeharto as his guru and father who had made him as he is today.

These days, impeachment is a hot topic. Everyone is talking about impeachment, mostly those who oppose the government. What does impeachment mean? If it means to unseat President SBY and Vice President Boediono, impeachment is not the right word. The Oxford dictionary defines impeachment a calling into question the integrity or validity of a practice.

What we are seeing now in our political arena is actually not an impeachment discourse, but a discourse about the possibility of deposing or dethroning the duo of SBY and Boediono (Bahasa Indonesia is pemakzulan).

A university student, who participated in the demonstration on Jan. 28, was asked by a TV reporter why he was demanding that SBY step down. He answered shortly: “He failed!” When asked which failures SBY had made so he should step down, the student replied haltingly and could not explain at all.

Is there dissatisfaction with his performance: yes, most of us agree on that. Several polls by prominent survey institutions show his reputation has declined. SBY and Boediono’s poor performance is worse, as they are accused of involvement in the Bank Century bailout case. People feel his very slow decision making in many cases confirms him as “Mr. Doubtful”.

As poor performance is not a reason to dismiss the President and Vice President, there is no mechanism by which the President or Vice President can be dismissed, unless through the Bank Century scandal.

However, until today the House inquiry committee is only playing around with the erroneous policy and procedures, but is failing to establish if the Rp 6.7 trillion (US$716 million) bailout fund flowed to SBY, Boediono or Finance Minister Sri Mulyani.

The elite should learn from Mr. Habibie, to know what the people want – particularly if people do not want them anymore – and when they must leave the political stage.