“Am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”

A child holds a poster of Indonesia's presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto and vice presidential candidate Hatta Rajasa in Bandung

 

 

Allan Nairn, an American investigative journalist having covered atrocities made by US-supported regimes in East Timor, Guatemala, Haiti, and Indonesia, released his 2001 interview with Prabowo Subianto, former chief of Indonesia’s special forces (Kopassus) implicated in numerous human rights abuses, and also currently a presidential candidate, as the world’s third largest democracy is coming increasingly near to the election scheduled on July.

You can read his article in his personal blog, but I’ve personally copied the entire article below.

 

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News: “Do I have the guts,” Prabowo asked, “am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”

 

By Allan Nairn

On July 9 the world’s fourth most populous country, Indonesia, will hold an election that could result in General Prabowo Subianto becoming president.

General Prabowo, the brother of a billionaire, was the son-in-law of the dictator Suharto, and as a US trainee and protege was implicated in torture, kidnap and mass murder.

In June and July, 2001 I had two long meetings with Prabowo.

We met at his corporate office in Mega Kuningan, Jakarta.

I offered Prabowo anonymity. 

I was looking into recent murders apparently involving the Indonesian army, and was hoping that if he could speak off-the-record General Prabowo might divulge details.

I came away disappointed.  Prabowo shed little light those killings.

But we ended up speaking for nearly four hours.   

My impression then was that his comments were extraneous.

Prabowo talked about fascism, democracy, army massacre policy, and his long, close relationship with the Pentagon and US intelligence.  

But at that time he was out of power and in political isolation. Other generals were the threat. 

But now Prabowo is on the verge of assuming state power.  And looking back at my notes I realize that some of what he said has now become relevant.

I have contacted General Prabowo asking permission to discuss his comments publicly, but not having heard back from him have decided to go ahead anyway.

I think the harm of breaking my anonymity promise to the General is outweighed by what would be the greater harm of Indonesians going to the polls having been denied access to facts they might find pertinent.

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Prabowo and I had a revealing discussion about the Santa Cruz Massacre.  

This was an Indonesian armed forces slaughter of at least 271 civilians.

It was done on November 12, 1991 in Dili, occupied East Timor, outside a cemetery where a crowd of men, women and children had gathered.

I happened to have been present at that massacre and managed to survive it.

Prabowo told me that the army order to do those killings had been “imbecilic.”  (He said he thought the order came from Gen. Benny Murdani, but said he wasn’t certain).

Prabowo’s complaint was not with the fact that the army had murdered civilians, but rather that they had done so in front of me and other witnesses who were then able to report the massacre and mobilize the outside world.

“Santa Cruz killed us politically!,” Prabowo exclaimed.  “It was the defeat!” 

“You don’t massacre civilians in front of the world press,” General Prabowo said. “Maybe commanders do it in villages where no one will ever know, but not in the provincial capital!”

The remark was telling as an acknowledgement that the army routinely massacres, and in establishing that Prabowo finds this acceptable if the killings are done in places where “no one will ever know.” 

In September, 1983, there was just such a series of massacres around the little-seen village of Kraras on the mountain of Bibileo, East Timor. 

The official UN-chartered Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor, the CAVR, later reported regarding the Kraras slaughter: 

“421.  The Commission received evidence that Prabowo was stationed in the eastern sector of Timor-Leste at this time. Several sources have told the Commission that he was involved in the operation to bring the civilian population down from Mount Bibileo, shortly after which several hundred were killed by ABRI [the Indonesian Armed Forces]. The Commission also received evidence of Kopassus being involved in these killings. (See Chapter 7.2: Unlawful Killings and Enforced Disappearances).”

As Suharto pulled Prabowo up through the ranks, his commands were implicated in other mass murders, including one in West Papua where Prabowo’s men masqueraded as the International Red Cross (ICRC), and the now well-known covert operation in Jakarta where they disappeared pro-democracy activists.

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The fact that Prabowo and I had agreed to sit down was in itself a bit unusual. 

I had called for Prabowo to be tried and jailed along with his US sponsors, and had helped lead a successful grassroots campaign to sever US aid to the Indonesian armed forces.  I had been banned from Indonesia as “a threat to national security,” and General Prabowo’s men had tortured friends of mine.

But, for my part, I had made the cold calculation that if it helped solve the recent murders sitting down with Prabowo would be worth it.   

For Prabowo’s part, I do not know, but I did get the impression that he enjoyed the chance to talk shop and compare notes with an adversary.

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At that time, two years after Suharto’s fall,  Indonesia had a civilian president.

He was the blind cleric, Abdurrachman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur.  

The Indonesian armed forces had undermined Gus Dur’s presidential authority.  They had done so in part by facilitating ethnic/ religious terror attacks in the Malukus.  Three weeks after my second meeting with Prabowo, Gus Dur was impeached and ousted.

Today, Gus Dur is often remembered fondly.  The current Prabowo campaign uses footage of him.

But that day, to me, Prabowo ranted about Gus Dur and democracy.

“Indonesia is not ready for democracy,” Prabowo said.  “We still have cannibals, there are violent mobs.”   

Indonesia needs, Prabowo said, “a benign authoritarian regime.”  He said the many ethnicities and religions precluded democracy.

Prabowo said, regarding Gus Dur:

“The military even obeys a blind president!  Imagine!  Look at him, he’s embarrassing!”

“Look at Tony Blair, Bush, Putin.  Young, ganteng [handsome] — and we have a blind man!”

Prabowo called for a different model.

He mentioned Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf.   

Musharraf had arrested his country’s civilian prime minister and imposed dictatorship.  Prabowo said he admired him greatly.

Prabowo ruminated on whether he could measure up, whether he could be an Indonesian Musharraf.

“Do I have the guts,” Prabowo asked, “am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?”

“Musharraf had the guts, ” Prabowo said.  

As to himself, he left that question unanswered.

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End of Part 1.  

Coming Up,  Part 2:  Prabowo: “I was the Americans’ fair-haired boy.”  The Nationalist General and US Intelligence.

 

 

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Ashraf Ghani: How to rebuild a broken state

ashraf ghani

 

 

Ashraf Ghani (pictured above) believes there is something fundamentally wrong with our world today: he believes the world’s current aid system is not working and highly ineffective, that our world’s education system, in a 7-billion-strong population dominated by young people, is still based on that of 19th century, that capitalism and democracy are malfunctioning in many aspects in most developing countries, and that there is a great absence of a strong, international leadership to solve our world’s ages-old problems.

Afghanistan even suffers worse. It is beset by corruption, terrorism (by-products of Cold War, with thousands of combatants trained by both Russia and United States), and an economy largely domineered by illegal drug trading. Despite gigantic potential revenues from mining sector (the country’s mineral reserves are estimated to be worth nearly 3 trillion US$), all these problems, using current problem-solving approach, will take more than decades to solve. And, we must acquiesce, Ghani, having served as the country’s finance minister from 2002 to 2004, will not be able to solve these problems alone. However, at least, throughout his tenure, the country has seen some major improvements: currency stabilization, budget reforms, and long-term public investment schemes.

He once competed for 2009 presidential election, but didn’t manage to secure enough votes to win. For the second time, for the 2014 election, he will compete once again for the seat. Let’s hope he can bring more positive changes to this new, uneasy, and fledgling nation.

 

Listen to his TED talk to know more how he helped rebuilding a once broken state.

 

David Puttnam: Does the media have a “duty of care”?

media-md

 

 

If it’s not true, don’t say it; if it’s not right, don’t do it. – Marcus Aurelius

Mass media, ideally, is supposed to empower us with fact-based information, ideas, and ability to question everything taking place around our circumstances. Nevertheless, reality itself often displays quite the contrary: media, under the control of a handful of corporations with hidden agenda, oftentimes present to us distorted facts, misinformation, and propaganda for their own sake. In brief, we were led to believe in false misconceptions about the world, the society, and the truth surrounding us. As a consequence, we become highly passive in democratic participation, believe in nothing whatever governments say, and tend to avoid with apathy virtually every issue occurring in our societies.

Still, though, despite the repeated cycles, majority of these media businesses do not cease with the current pattern they adopt. We are bombarded with trivial matters (say infotainment news), while at the same time overlooking bigger, and much more urgent, issues related to us. Some of them, meanwhile, do only serve themselves as mouthpieces for certain individuals aggressively vying for better control of the societies (say, politicians, government, parties, or have-all oligarchs). Some of them, under the sake of partiality and advantage to certain sides, even attempt so far to provoke our minds with distorted, half-baked news, only to exploit our emotional responses to these reports for their own benefits. This, for sure, damages the basic nature of democracy itself.

In this TED talk, as conducted by TEDxHousesofParliament, David Puttnam, an award-winning filmmaker and now a public policy analyst, offers to us his harsh criticisms towards the integrity of our media industry in contemporary times. Despite the rigidity of his advice, it is hoped that his talk improves our understanding about the current state of mass media today.

 

Indonesia’s petite dynasties

political-map-of-Indonesia

 

With the subsequent arrest of Banten’s long-ruling and ill-conceived governor, Ratu Atut Chosiyah, the democracy in Indonesia is brought to another spotlight: it has, under the pretext of seeding ‘majority-elected’ leaders, also indirectly spurred a new, massive growth in political dynasties, owning potentate-like power either in first-level administrative divisions (provinces, or as in Indonesian, provinsi), or the second-level counterparts (regencies, or as in Indonesian, kabupaten), or even municipalities (politically termed as kotamadya). To make things more complicating, it has now fueled a new string of addle-pated problems the central government finds it increasingly hard to solve, given the massive connection they obtain within political parties, mostly in coalition with current regime, that they have strongly built from grassroots to national levels.

Tempo and The Jakarta Post report the latest situation.

And here are some of the websites, as found on Google, which provide some of the lists (only in Bahasa Indonesia):

Indonesian Company News

Harian Merdeka

Harian Merdeka (2)

Academia.edu (for English-language articles)

 

The ‘real’ meaning of education

school

 

Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production. That was its primary purpose. And don’t think people didn’t know it. They knew it and they fought against it. There was a lot of resistance to mass education for exactly that reason. It was also understood by the elites. Emerson once said something about how we’re educating them to keep them from our throats. If you don’t educate them, what we call “education,” they’re going to take control — “they” being what Alexander Hamilton called the “great beast,” namely the people. The anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious. And for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow. – Noam Chomsky, a well-known US political activist

 

Click here for more quotes by the great thinker.

Moving beyond BRICS

THE CENTURY OF THE EMERGERS

GOING BEYOND BRICS

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If combined, their dynamic, vibrant economic growth will prevail the main powerhouse that drives that of the whole world for in minimum one or two decades to come. The roles United States and European Union used to dominate in the past have been increasingly shifted instead to developing countries, largely thanks to the current financial malaise and the booming workpower outsourcing trends, in which major corporations in most of the advanced countries have commenced to reconsider the gigantic manpower all these countries have while their bases do not. Thousands of American companies have been vying for brummagem, cheap-jack manufacturing cornerstones either in China or any developing countries elsewhere in the world. Russian economy will still fluorish on the ground of its tremendous natural resources yet to be mined; there are dozens of mining giants currently on the list to extract away all these priceless metals and minerals required to ensure the global economic powerhouse will keep on functioning.

But here comes the challenge: how long will BRICS dominate the lexicon of 21st-century international relations? Or more importantly, how long will this decade-old, newly-coined neologism survive?

BRICS is not without its own heels of Achilles. Among the countries, there tends to be an overarching, outlying inequality in terms of GDP comparison. It takes the entire GDP of Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa (which if summed up would have been approximately 7 trillion US$) to counterpoise that of China. The inequality extends to the geopolitical roles China plays in global stage. Unlike the four countries, the ‘Big Brother’ has much more capability, given its cash-rich foreign exchange reserves and gigantic population, to bind contracts with myriad regimes of resource-rich countries, no matter whether they have good records in human rights or not. It does also host a titanic diaspora numbered at more than 100 million, scattered throughout the entire globe, who are economically influential in dozens of countries. It is still in a period of ‘harmonious relationship’ with the rest of BRICS members, especially in terms of economic and trading agreements, but all of these will be further tested by an increasing ambition among all the countries to hamshackle superpower status, which in the future may sparkle possible conflicts among each other.

 

Officially, Twitter ‘reborn’ in China.

 

The existence of BRICS is further examined by the unavailability of democracy in Russia and China. Russia may have had a multiparty democracy, but the country remains occupied with terrors and despondency. There is little, or to a worse extent, no, protection for critics and dissidents, whose ideas are needed to improve the quality of the nation. China presents an even more formidable scenario. With economy pacing up rapidly, hundred million civilians are right now attaining the ‘middle-class’ status. And that also means more Chinese are becoming increasingly well-educated, and are able to relish access to sophisticated technology, particularly Internet. As we know, Internet has played a major role to trigger masses to overthrow iron-handed regimes, as have been shown recently in Middle East and North Africa. This is what Beijing becomes very worried about. The Chinese people in 21st century are in general no longer the Chinese people in 20th century we used to perceive. More youth are turning up increasingly aware that ‘there is something wrong taking place with our government, and we’ve gotta change it’. It is even strengthened by the mass availability of instant social networks which enable information to  be disseminated in no time, such as Twitter and Weibo. (as of today, Chinese government does not allow Facebook to lure Chinese users) The culmination point was reached when the Chinese bullet-train incident took place in July 2011, instigating a tsunami of anger and wrath in many of China’s social networks, which in the long run were blockaded and covered up by government’s agencies (there were even reports where police confidentially arrested and jailed Weibo users who were caught up to have tonguelashed the regime by tracking down their IP addresses. Moreover, the regime has currently passed a bill to obligate every social-network user to enlist their actual names, in accordance with those on their identity cards.) A handful of labor protests, despite the infinitesimal amounts, began to unravel in many factories throughout the country, demanding better equality and better pay, albeit they often ended up in brutal crackdowns by police authorities. The dreams of ‘real democracy’ in China, as a few envision, will still remain a castle in the air for this moment, but sluggishly, the supporters are popping out throughout the whole entity, even though the time taken to embody these ideals might be excessively long, and even would not be achieved within a generation.

 

Mexico City’s GDP is approximately one-third of the country’s total, with figures amounting to almost 400 billion US$. As an additional fact, it is inhabited by as many as 20 million people, or one-sixth of the nation’s population.

 

Given all these propositions, experts are currently proposing that a few countries be added in to the list, which will automatically convert the acronym’s name. The first option is Mexico. In the recent years, it has showed off strong economic performances with a high turnover for its GDP. The economy fluorishes very well because of its strong consumption sector, its reduced dependency on extraction-related sectors, such as oil & gas and mining, and its successful efforts in diversification, as shown by the examples: its automobile production currently surpasses that of Canada and United States, the television’s surpassing South Korea’s, and the smartphone’s surpassing those of China, South Korea, and Taiwan, thanks to its abundant number of young-aged workforces. In addition, Mexico has a strong economic cornerstone, sustained by its low debt-to-GDP ratio, which approaches no more than 20%. Beyond economy, it also adopts a very free democracy, which allows ideas to be easily circulated among people. Nevertheless, it also faces a serious thorn in its own flesh: the ongoing drug war by security forces which has claimed more than 40,000 lives, since its glissade by President Felipe Calderon in 2006. Corruption rates remain high, especially in the police forces. Many states in the country are ravaged by so-called ‘jungle law’, as they are dominated by competing drug cartels, whose members consist of ex-troops and policemen who had been laid off.

 

Seoul, South Korea.

 

Besides Mexico, analysts also put South Korea in the consideration list. It tops among all the other emerging markets in terms of GDP per capita, which has surpassed 23,000 US$ as of 2011, making it almost eligible to be included among the G7 list. Moreover, of all the 64 identified emerging markets in the planet, it is the South Koreans who perfectly excel in terms of educational quality, environmental conservation, science, technology and infrastructure. It has also witnessed high economic growth in recent years, despite the fact that it was once hit quite hard by 2008/2009 global recession. Still, two main challenges are facing the country right now: the belligerence status with North Korea, which indicates any possible open warfare might occur sometime in the future between the divided states, and the near-zero and possible negative population growth rate, which menaces a possible decrease as far as 10% in 2050.

 

As many as 15% of Jakartans (the demonym for people living in the megapolis) – numbered at 1.5 million – do earn more than 10,000 US$ per capita per annum, the highest percentage compared to the other major cities in Indonesia.

 

Lastly, there is a country considered to be one of the world’s most strategic emerging markets after evaluation by substantial number of economists: Indonesia. Together with Turkey and Egypt, they are the only triumvirate which always appear in all emerging-market indices released by behemoth, rock-star investment banks and financial institutions, as listed consecutively: Next-11/BRIC, CIVETS, FTSE, MSCI, The Economist, Standard&Poor, Dow Jones, and EAGLEs/NEST. In terms of geopolitical vocabulary, they share the similar advantage, serving as the main gate for intercontinental trade. Turkey is the main ‘bridge’ connecting Europe and Asia, Egypt linking Africa, Europe and Asia simultaneously, and Indonesia correlating Asia and Oceania. Yet, unlike the former duo, Indonesia is endowed with a plethora of diverse natural resources, either extractive (with the sole exception of oil and gas) or edible. Besides, its economic performance has improved dramatically ever since the 1997/1998 maelstrom, as seen from its resilience and resistance against the 2008 recession which sent a hard blow into the global economy, thanks to the strong consumption sector. It has also succeeded in lowering its debt-to-GDP percentage, from a record-high 150% during the peak crisis in 1997 to approximately 25% by the commencement of 2012.  Furthermore, its abound young generation (those aged between 15 and 40), the most pivotal factor in determining the long-term success of a country’s economic growth,  constitutes more than two-thirds of the total population, enabling Indonesia to go on sustaining vibrant economic development in the long term.

However, albeit democracy has been fully restored for more than 12 years, Indonesia still has piles of homework it needs to accomplish in order to maintain the success. Its Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released annually by Transparency International, has recorded only a slight improvement, from 140 in the beginning of the first decade to 120 in the second. Bureaucracy remains complicating particularly for investors, as often there are many provincial-level and regency-level regulations which in fact contradict with the statutes already passed by the legislature. Security remains quite vulnerable as there may emerge sectarian conflicts, labor protests ending up in anarchy, political dissensions among parties involved, armed robberies, societal brawls, etc. Infrastructure remains lagging behind many other emerging countries (as a comparison, China has 40,000 km of highway, Malaysia 3000, while Indonesia? A bit more than 700.) This is why there is no doubt that its infrastructural quality was ranked 90 worldwide in 2010, and remains unchanged since then. State administration remains rattletrap, as obviously seen from the wanton acts by land authorities in giving certificates of land ownership to certain parties who don’t realize that the land they purchase have been actually possessed by someone else. That is why land disputes often spark deadly conflicts between farmers and corporations involved. For the government, it will be an arduous task, especially for a country whose credit rating has elevated to the status of ‘investment grade’, the bestowal granted only for newly industrialized countries or those with low bureaucracy, corruption rates, and high legal certainty.

By the outset of May 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has recently launched a 15-year economic-development scheme entitled ‘Masterplan Percepatan dan Perluasan Pembangunan Ekonomi Indonesia’ (MP3EI), translated in English as ‘Masterplan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Economic Development of Indonesia’, scheduled to take into account from 2011 to 2025, with the aims of multiplying its GDP to 4.5 trillion US$ by the time the program has ended. Through investments by government, state-owned enterprises, national and foreign private corporations, the program is expected to have invested more than 4000 trillion rupiah (equivalent to 450 billion US$) in national infrastructure within the given period. In the first year of its implementation, as many as 100 projects worth 350 trillion rupiah (more or less 38.5 billion US$) have gained approval by authorities in Jakarta, but still, many businesspeople consider it a ‘major failure’. What makes them  to say so?

Many of them are yet to await agreement by authorities of the provinces involved, excluding the regencies and the districts. Some simply garner consent, but without much financial assistance. It all happens at the same time more economists aspire that Indonesia be admitted to BRICS (the new acronym will be BRIICS, or BRICIS) than they do to Mexico, or South Korea. What an irony.

 

 

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