13 February 2011

A Conversation with Teten Masduki (Part 3)

PART 3 of 3 – Teten Masduki articulates the connection between anticorruption and social accountability, and the revolutionary potential of people who are empowered to access and use information. He concludes with a vision of what he hopes to be able to do for and with Indonesia and the rest of the region in the next few years. Read part 1 and part 2

ANSA-EAP: I am sure you’re a board member of a lot of international organizations. What attracted you to ANSA-EAP, a relatively small effort?

Teten Masduki: ANSA-EAP’s concept is interesting to me. How do you engage society—from the government to the business sector and so on? I think ANSA-EAP’s idea to build and strengthen engagement between civil society and government is good. Civil society should be strong, have good capacity, knowledge, methodology. In my opinion, corruption is not only because of the government. We can establish an anticorruption commission or reform the Attorney-General’s office or the police, reform the bureaucracy but this will not be enough. Corruption will still be prevalent. Corruption is, after all, premised on the unbalanced relationship between society, government and the business.  When the government is too strong and the society is weak, corruption is very high.  So, I think ANSA-EAP’s social accountability perspective is helpful in equalizing and balancing this relationship.

ANSA-EAP: You are a natural social accountability champion because constructive engagement seems to be a continuing thing in your life. In what way do you see your work now, not as a representative of Transparency International or ANSA-EAP, but as Teten? I think you have to accept that you are a powerful man in Indonesia whether you like it or not…(laughs) ...because you’re an icon for change for many Indonesians and you’re a hope for many government to connect to citizens. How do you strengthen the connection between anticorruption and social accountability?

Teten Masduki: Anticorruption’s goal is not to send corrupt officials to the chair. Especially with the poor, the goal is to improve social welfare, to have better public services. The concept of social accountability is more concerned with looking at ways to improve the condition of public services. We have to work together with the grassroots in order to focus on the problem of society. For example, in Indonesia right now, we have a big problem with education. Teachers are not independent, yet parents are not concerned with the school condition and the insufficient budget for schools. We cannot just stay put and wait for better school conditions. Teachers, principals and parents should work together…to solve the problem. And we also have to influence the government, and we have to organize the people. We have to build this movement. I am interested in social accountability because when I write about it, I think, “oh, this is what I did for a long time.” Usually, anticorruption is just focused on monitoring or watching the implementation of policies or budget. I think corruption starts from the planning and budgeting processes. So it is important, if we talk about planning and budgeting, to have room for people to participate in the process and know how to get access to information. So, anticorruption movement in Indonesia has focused on the issue of the Freedom of Information Act. Now, we have a strong legal framework for our work.

ANSA-EAP: In what way is the Freedom of Information Act making work easier or more difficult for you?

Teten Masduki: I think it is making things easy for us because now, legally, we have the right to get information from the government. But people should know that in the implementation of the policy, they should monitor how our rights are protected. In many cases, the freedom of information is not working well because people are not informed on how to get or use information. The problem of [Indonesian] society now is that we have no experience with how to work within the democratic arena because for a long, long time, we lived under an authoritarian government. We have to wake up and realize that we have the right to information, the right to organize, the right to speak. We have to wake people up to be more participative, to use the current opportunities presented to us.

ANSA-EAP: To make use of these mechanisms?

Teten Masduki: That is our challenge now—to bring up people who are more active, proactive, who maximize their power and so on. In the future, I dream that the whole democracy will work for the people because in my experience now, democracy is in fact dominated by the elite. So our democracy won’t work for the poor.

ANSA-EAP: You are actually operationalizing the whole meaning of “democracy”.

Teten Masduki: The pillar of democracy is people power so without it, democracy could not work for the people.

ANSA-EAP: What is your wish in the next two years of your service to the people?

Teten Masduki: Harapan saya dalam beberapa tahun kedepan adalah menyaksikan masyarakat Indonesia yang makmur secara ekonomi, sosial, dan secara politik terberdayakan dan korupsi semakin menurun. Bagi kami korupsi adalah faktor penghambat dari segala upaya untuk memakmurkan masyarakat. Korupsi yang menyebabkan masyarakat Indonesia miskin, meskipun kita kaya resources. Dan menurut saya, problem korupsi di Indonesia sekarang, pemberantasannya adalah masalah politik dan memang tidak ada solusi teknis untuk masalah itu. Oleh karena itu, masyarakatlah yang harus membangun kekuatan untuk melakukan perimbangan politik.

(My hope for the next few years is I could be able to see Indonesian society that is economically prosperous, socially and politically empowered. Secondly, less corruption in Indonesia. This is very important as in my personal opinion, corruption is a factor that inhibits the prosperity of our society and the nation as a whole. Corruption creates poverty even though Indonesia is very rich in natural resources. I believe that the problem of fighting corruption in Indonesia is related closely to politics, and there’s no technical solution for this problem. Therefore, it is society that must develop the strength to achieve political balance.)

Interview conducted by A. Gregorio-Medel. Writeup by K. Aquino.  Special thanks to Rhesa Hadisoebrata and Novi Indriani.

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