Category Archives: Journalism

Op-Ed: Will Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission Be Paralyzed?

Op-Ed: Will Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission Be Paralyzed During the Term of President Jokowi?

By Budiman Tanuredjo, Kompas Daily,  4 July 2017

KOMPAS, Jakarta – The actions of the Indonesian House of Representatives Committee of Inquiry into the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) have become more and more absurd. The Committee of Inquiry is going on safari to Pondok Bambu and Sukamiskin prisons to meet with prisoners convicted of corruption offenses. The Committee hopes to find information on how the corruption convicts were treated inappropriately by the KPK.

“We want to look for information about anything inappropriate experienced by the prisoners while they were either witnesses, suspects or prisoners convicted in corruption cases,” said Deputy Chairman of the Inquiry Committee, Rep. Risa Mariska (PDIP-West Java), the representative for the district that includes the cities of Bogor and Bekasi. She said the Inquiry Committee has received information about the prisoners being treated improperly when they were interrogated by the KPK.

There is little doubt the Inquiry Committee will have any trouble meeting any of the many corruption prisoners. Take the former Chief Justice of Indonesia’s Constitutional Court Akil Mochtar, for example, or former Democrat Party Representative and party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin, former Democrat Party Representative and party secretary-general Anas Urbaningrum, former Democrat Party Representative Angelina Sondakh, former Banten province governor Atut Chosiyah, or any number of others. It isn’t hard to guess that they will provide any amount of ammunition with which to damage the KPK as an ad hoc institution resulting eventually in the KPK being either abolished or neutralized.

Parahyangan University criminal law lecturer Agustinus Pohan believes that the effort of the Inquiry Committee is an attempt by politicians to take revenge on the KPK. “Now the fight against corruption has to contend with white-collar criminals who want to prove their ability to exact payback,” Pohan said.

Earlier, Deputy Chairman of the House Inquiry Committee into the KPK, Rep. Taufiqulhadi (Nasdem-East Java) planned to call constitutional law experts to prove the legality of the Inquiry. “Some say this inquiry isn’t appropriate. Different opinions are all normal, but we hope the debate stays balanced,” said the National Democrat Party politician according to Kompas Daily on 30 June 2017.

The Inquiry Committee action in calling constitutional law experts Professor Dr Yusril Ihza Mahendra and Professor Jimly Asshiddiqie to appear will be a priority before it summons Rep. Miryam S. Haryani (Hanura-West Java) who has been arrested by the KPK. Miryam was declared a suspect by the KPK over allegations she provided false information. Her case is to go to trial soon.

The origins of the House Inquiry Committee started with the KPK leadership rejecting requests from House of Representatives Commission III to make public recordings of the questioning of Miryam Haryani by KPK investigators. The KPK refused to make the recordings public before her trial. Up to now, recordings resulting from wiretaps have always been made public during the trials. Having previously appeared as a witness in the Criminal Corruption Court, Miryam retracted part of her testimony that was contained in the brief of evidence, giving as the reason that she had been coerced by KPK investigators.

In response to this retraction of her testimony in the brief of evidence, senior KPK investigator Novel Baswedan was examined as a witness in the trial. Novel testified there had been no intimidation or coercion. Novel went so far as to claim Miryam had been induced by certain fellow members of the House of Representatives to retract her testimony in the brief of evidence, mentioning several names, including Rep. Bambang Soesatyo (Golkar-Central Java) and Rep. Masinton Pasaribu (PDIP-Jakarta), as the members who had influenced Miryam. She denied having ever mentioned their names and from this House Commission III request that the KPK make the recordings public, which the KPK refused to do.

Whether it’s related or not is not known, however, several days after testifying, Novel Baswedan was the target of an acid attack by an unknown assailant. His eyesight was damaged. He was taken to hospital and is still receiving ongoing treatment. Police are still investigating the case, but so far the person who sprayed Novel with acid has not been identified.

After undergoing further questioning at the KPK’s Jakarta offices on Wednesday 21 June, Hanura Party politician Rep. Miryam S. Haryani’s brief of evidence was declared complete (that is, Form 21 was issued) and ready for trial in relation to the allegation she provided false testimony in the electronic identity card (e-KTP) project implementation corruption trial.

Strong Resistance

The House of Representatives Inquiry Committee into the KPK apparently needs to find political support from constitutional law experts. Earlier, 357 academics from a range of universities and disciplines published an open letter rejecting the House Inquiry Committee into the KPK on a number of grounds. The 357 academics included Professor Dr Mahfud MD, Professor Dr Denny Indrayana, Professor Dr Rhenald Kasali, and many other prominent academics.

Calling experts in constitutional law, or calling anyone else, is clearly completely valid. The Inquiry Committee obviously has statutory authority to do this. No one denies that the House of Representatives has a right of inquiry, the right of interpellation, and the right to express opinions. However, what has, in fact, become an issue is whether it is proper for the House to exercise the right of inquiry in relation to the KPK. The KPK is a law enforcement agency and an independent authority, not part of the government. Is the use of the right of inquiry by the House of Representatives consistent with the will of the people it represents?

Resistance to the use of the House of Representatives’ right of inquiry for the KPK has indeed been strong. The open letter of 357 academics from numerous universities and disciplines is one expression of this. These academics have very clearly framed the intention of the House of Representatives in using the right of inquiry as being intended to weaken the KPK. The academics have rejected the use of the House right of inquiry for the KPK.

At present, the KPK is investigating a case of alleged corruption involving the procurement of a national electronic identity card (e-KTP) involving a number of House members, including House Speaker Rep. Setya Novanto (Golkar-East Nusa Tenggara), now banned from traveling overseas. The alleged loss to the public purse is substantial.

A Kompas Daily poll of Monday 8 May 2017 also contained the same message. As many as 58.9 percent of respondents said the House decision to use the right of inquiry did not represent the interests of the community. While 35.6 percent thought it did represent the interests of the community. Most respondents (72.4 percent) believed the use of the House right of inquiry into the KPK was related to the KPK’s investigation into the electronic identity card project corruption case.

In the virtual world, internet user Virgo Sulianti Gohardi gathered support for a petition against the right of inquiry on the site As of midday Friday 30 May 2017, the petition had been signed by 44,350 people. Virgo’s target for the petition had been 50,000 signatures.

In terms of representation theory, the formation of the House of Representative Committee of Inquiry into the KPK really does not have social legitimacy, or, it has a very low level of representation. Moreover, the Democrat Party (PD), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and National Awakening Party (PKB) House factions have all refused to join the Committee of Inquiry.

“The Democrats are not responsible for anything in the Inquiry Committee,” said House Deputy Speaker from the Democrat Party Rep. Agus Hermanto (DP-Central Java) at the House of Representatives building, while stressing that the Democrat Party does not agree with the House Committee of Inquiry into the KPK.

“We reject the weakening of the KPK through the Inquiry. The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is being consistent by not sending any members, but the PKS is still critical of the KPK,” said the head of the PKS Advisory Council, Rep. Hidayat Nur Wahid (PKS-Jakarta). National Awakening Party (PKB) Chairman Rep. Muhaimin Iskandar (PKB-East Java) was also of the same opinion, rejecting the use of a House committee of inquiry into the KPK.

History of House Inquiries

The right of inquiry is a constitutional right of Indonesia’s House of Representatives. No one can deny this. Article 20A Paragraph 2 of the 1945 Constitution explicitly regulates the right of inquiry. During the period of parliamentary government in the 1950s, the right of inquiry was also regulated by statute by Public Law No. 6/1954 concerning the Right of Inquiry.

In Indonesia’s history, the House of Representatives’ right of inquiry was first used in 1959 in a resolution by RM Margono Djojohadikusumo that the House use the right to inquire into attempts by the government to obtain foreign exchange reserves and how the reserves were being used. As recorded by Subardjo in The Use of the Right of Inquiry by the Indonesian House of Representatives in Overseeing Government Policy, a committee of inquiry during the first cabinet of Prime Minister Ali Sastroamidjojo (30 July 1953 to 12 August 1955) was given six months. However, this was subsequently extended twice, and the committee completed its work in March 1956, during the administration of Prime Minister Burhanuddin Harahap (12 August 1955 to 24 March 1956). Unfortunately, the fate of this committee of inquiry and its results are unclear.

During the New Order period, the House of Representatives also used the right of inquiry several times in relation to the case of the state-owned oil company Pertamina. However, efforts to shake the New Order government failed and were rejected by a plenary session of the House. The New Order government was strong enough to prevent the use of the right of inquiry, initiated by Santoso Danuseputro (PDI) and HM Syarakwie Basri (FPP).

In the Reformasi (Reform) period, the right of inquiry has also been used. However, all the targets of the right of inquiry have been the government, and this is consistent with the legislation.

Legislation on the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), House of Representatives (DPR), Regional Representatives Council (DPD) and regional legislative assemblies (DPRD) regulates the right of inquiry. Article 79 concerning the Rights of the House of Representatives provides among other things that the House of Representatives possesses the right of inquiry. The right of inquiry is the right of the House of Representatives to investigate the implementation of a law and/or government policy which is related to important, strategic matters, and which has a wide-spread impact on the life of the community, nation, and state which allegedly conflicts with the law. The legislation also provides that an inquiry committee must be joined by all House of Representatives’ factions.

From the standpoint of legality, the House of Representatives Committee of Inquiry into the KPK does not satisfy the requirements for legality. Historically, the right of inquiry was given to the House of Representatives to investigate government policies that conflict with the law. Whether it was the New Order government or post-Reform governments, it has only been the current 2014-2019 House of Representatives which has innovated by using the right of inquiry for a national commission, here the KPK. The KPK is not the government. The KPK is a law enforcement agency.

The law also requires that an inquiry committee draw members from all factions in the House of Representatives. Therefore, when the Democrat Party (DP), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and National Awakening Party (PKB) House factions each failed to send representatives, the jurisdictional legitimacy of the Committee of Inquiry became problematic.

Members of the public in the Healthy Indonesia Movement unfurled posters and banners in front of the offices of the KPK in Jakarta on Thursday 15 June. Consisting of writers, artists, and anti-corruption activists, the crowd declared that it rejected the inquiry currently being rolled out by the House of Representatives.

From a political perspective, those who initiated the use of the right of inquiry are overwhelmingly from the parties which support the government. They are the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) House faction, the main supporter of the government of President Joko Widodo, together with the National Democratic Party (Nasdem) and the People’s Conscience Party (Partai Hanura). This coalition of government supporters is the group that has been keen to urge the use of the House right of inquiry.

Then there is President Jokowi. He has been taken hostage by party officials of his own PDIP. President Jokowi has said he cannot interfere in the affairs of the House of Representatives because a committee of inquiry is the business of the House. President Jokowi hoped only that the KPK is further strengthened.

President Jokowi’s attitude towards the KPK feels different this time. When there was a conflict between the KPK and the Indonesian National Police, with the public supporting the KPK, President Jokowi took a firm political position in support of the KPK. Likewise, when the KPK investigator Novel Baswedan was to be arrested, President Jokowi called loudly for Novel not to be arrested. However, this time, President Jokowi is like a hostage, allowing the KPK to be de-legitimized by a coalition of his own supporters in the House of Representatives.

Will the KPK be paralyzed during the term of President Joko Widodo? History will record the answer.


Source: Akankah KPK Lumpuh di Era Presiden Jokowi? Kompas daily newspaper, 4 July 2017.

Also see Melunasi Janji Kemerdekaan, Melunasi Janji Kemerdekaan, Karya Muhammad Husnit, Serambi Ilmu Semesta, 2014.

UoM Podcast: Media and Elections

The latest from the UoM’s “Talking Indonesia” podcast.

The Indonesian media is heavily politicised. Many TV stations are owned by political power brokers or party leaders. During elections, these ownership structures place significant restrictions on the independence of journalists and media freedom more broadly. But how exactly do media bosses interfere in the daily lives of Indonesian journalists? What forms of intimidation do journalists face? And what are the implications of Jokowi’s victory for the Indonesian media?

Listen here Talking Indonesia: the media and elections.

Op-Ed: Megawati and the Corruption Eradication Commission

By Luky Djan

(Executive Director, Institute for Strategic Initiatives (ISI) and former jury member for the Bung Hatta Anti-Corruption Award)

The effort to eradicate corruption will always travel a rocky road. Indeed anyone acting against corruption has to face off directly against criminals working together in an organized group. Criminal corruption is almost certain to be perpetrated jointly as a conspiracy in conjunction with others and in a way that is highly organized. Organized criminal corruption has a stronger staying power than other forms of organized crime because the group of perpetrators involved typically occupy positions of formal authority and inevitably command considerable resources.

For this reason, anyone going up against the so-called “criminals in uniforms” has to steel him or herself with both ingenuity and resilience. He or she also must not be surprised at the range of strategies deployed to weaken the agenda and institutions endeavoring to eradicate corruption which will vary from the intervention of those in power to the use of physical violence.

Is the anti-corruption agenda in this country driving towards a yellow light? Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi or KPK) is the front-line vanguard and driving force in the fight against corruption and is now once more facing strong headwinds. The institution has weathered past tests successfully. Hopefully, the current crisis will likewise result in the strengthening of efforts to defeat corruption. The experience of South Korea and Thailand can provide lessons on the conditions under which institutions are tamed, and those under which anti-corruption efforts are successful. The fate of anti-corruption bodies in these places is quite tragic.

Thailand’s National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) and the Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC)

Prospects for the fight against corruption in Asia are currently entering their twilight years. Anti-corruption institutions are collapsing. The anti-corruption agenda in South Korea commenced when as leader of the opposition to the military regime Kim Dae-jung became President in February 1998. Kim’s main strategy was spearheaded by an initiative to pass legislation establishing an anti-corruption commission in August 1999. Kim’s idea generated resistance from politicians and legislators This resulted in anti-corruption legislation taking two years to produce, passing finally on 24 July 2001. Following the enactment of the legislation, opposition emerged to the establishment of an anti-corruption commission from the public prosecutor’s office as well as the police. The Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) was finally formed six months later in January 2002.

The KICAC’s findings shook the corrupt relations between those in power and the chaebol business conglomerates and in their wake caught senior government officials and businessmen. The breakthrough began to unsettle the corrupt, even though the KICAC was in fact not as powerful as its other Asian counterparts, such as Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, Thailand’s NCCC or Indonesia’s KPK, because the KICAC was not given investigative or prosecutorial functions. Following two periods of progressive leadership under Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, efforts to shake the KICAC gained momentum after 25 February 2008 when the government changed to the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak.

On 29 February 2008, after only three days in office, President Lee merged the KICAC with two other institutions, the Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (an administrative decisions court similar to Indonesia’s Public Administration Court (Pengadilan Tata Usaha Negara or PTUN)), forming the Anti-Corruption Civil Rights Commission (ACRC). The sway of the KICAC declined, with the new body becoming more of a think tank with the primary function of preventing corruption. The major reason for the reduction in the power of the KICAC was the view that its breakthroughs in this period had hampered economic growth. President Lee’s background as an executive of one of the chaebol conglomerates meant that he viewed the fight against corruption as a hindrance to economic growth.

Of course the public reacted, opposing the merger. Transparency International Korea Chairman Geo-Sung Kim believes that economic growth is driven by a clean business environment and that an organization like the KICAC is necessary to achieve this. While ACRC commissioners are selected by and are responsible to the president, KICAC commissioners were selected by the Supreme Court, legislature and president. There are now valid concerns over the ACRC’s loss of independence.

In Thailand, following the establishment of the People’s Constitution in 1997, the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) was formed in November 1999. This agency represented a strengthening of the previous anti-corruption institution, the Counter Corruption Commission or CCC, which had possessed limited functions and been less independent. The NCCC was responsible to the Senate and its nine commissioners were nominated by the Thai Senate and confirmed by the King. The NCCC took direct action by revealing the embezzlement of assets by Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart which led to his resignation. Two months later, the NCCC uncovered a 30 million baht bribery scandal which led to the dismissal of Deputy Finance Minister Nibhat Bhukkanasut.

The NCCC’s next target was a tax evasion scandal and dishonesty in the public wealth declaration filed by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This case put Thaksin’s political career at stake. However, after the legislative elections in 2001 which handed control of the Senate to Thai Rak Thai, Thaksin soon gained control of the Supreme Court, leading to the asset embezzlement case being frozen. As payback, allegations were made against the nine NCCC commissioners alleging criminal conduct and making accusations of involvement in a conflict of interests by increasing their monthly salary of 45,000 baht (approximately 25 million rupiah). The ensuing investigation eventually forced the commissioners to resign in May 2005.

Having control of the majority in parliament, Thaksin had no difficulty installing ‘puppet commissioners’ (Pasuk and Baker, 2004). Following a power shift in a military coup, the military junta replaced the NCCC on 15 July 2008 with the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). The NACC became an instrument for the removal of political opponents of the Thai military regime.

Megawati’s Legacy

Every leader possesses a legacy that becomes a monument to his or her success. President Sukarno created magnificent iconic landmarks ranging from Gelora Bung Karno Stadium (GBK) to Istiqlal Mosque and the statues which adorn the capital. Times, however, change and monuments today no longer take the form of urban architectural landmarks. On the contrary, they now represent elements of constitutional architecture. President Habibie left monuments in the form of the rights of freedom of assembly and association, multi-party elections, freedom of the press and regional autonomy. President Abdurrahman Wahid reorganized the function and position of the Indonesian Armed Forces and strengthened respect for pluralism and human rights.

Megawati carved out important milestones in the nation’s efforts against corruption. Probably not many people remember that on 27 December 2002 Megawati signed into force Law No. 30/2002 concerning the Corruption Eradication Commission. This institution represented the spearhead and hope of the nation for the elimination of the misuse of power in the form of looting public resources by organized criminal groups who possess political power and financial strength.

So the commitment of President Megawati to try to remove all forms of criminal corruption can not be doubted. A year later, the Corruption Eradication Commission was officially established. This writer’s experience ranges from the drafting of the Commission bill to the establishment of the Commission itself which at the time was appropriately resourced by the government. If the commitment to the eradication of corruption had not been strong, it would have been simple to abort the drafting of the bill or to stall for time over the establishment of the Commission. Likewise, when on a number of occasions the Commission has investigated cases of corruption involving senior politicians from her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), Megawati did not intervene in the Commission.

Unfortunately, in the midst of the Commission’s efforts to strengthen measures aimed at combating corruption, a wave of attacks have emerged from all directions, including the PDIP. Reports by a member of Indoneisa’s House of Representatives (relating to legal action launched over the disputed election of the head of West Kotawaringin Regency in Central Kalimantan) have resulted in a storm of crisis over the very existence of the institution of the Commission and the entire effort to combat corruption. This writer believes these reports have destabilized the Commission because they have led to an institutional crisis cause by a commissioner of the anti-corruption agency being named a suspect in a criminal investigation.

It is regrettable that this has happened because, as noted above, President Megawati, both as head of state when in power and today as party chairwoman, has not taken action to weaken the Commission. As a mother, Megawati fully understands that the Corruption Eradication Commission is a child of her government for opposing the phantom of corruption that has taken root and become entrenched.

The experience of South Korea and Thailand show that anti-corruption commissions will be stunted, and even amputated, by subsequent regimes. President Jokowi himself has a real track record in promoting an anti-corruption agenda. He is a recipient of the Bung Hatta Anti-Corruption Award (BHACA) which clearly demonstrates he possesses a strong commitment to the eradication of corruption. The current crisis should be resolved with prudence and expedition. The community is now waiting for action from President Jokowi as “party official” to strengthen both efforts to eradicate corruption and the Commission which as an institution is one of Megawati’s important legacies.

Published in Kompas Daily, Thursday 29 January 2015 and

Featured image credit: Batik maker applying melted wax to fabric, Sultan’s Palace (Kraton), Yogyakarta by Rahiman Madli

Obit: Vale Arswendo Atmowiloto

Indro: Pemikiran Arswendo Atmowiloto Mempengaruhi Perjalanan Warkop DKI

JAKARTA, (PR).- Komedian Indro Warkop saat ditemui usai melayat di kediaman mendiang Paulus Arswendo Atmowiloto di Jakarta, Sabtu, 20 Juli 2019 dini hari, mengatakan sosok wartawan senior dan sastrawan itu humoris dan konsisten menjalani nilai hidup yang diyakini.

“Dalam guyonannya, ada pesan, ada hal yang benar ingin dia sampaikan secara implisit. Mas Wendo itu sosok yang konsisten, dia seniman banget,” kata Indro, seperti dilansir Kantor Berita Antara.

Walaupun pertemuan antara keduanya tak selalu sering, Indro masih mengingat kepedulian Arswendo terhadap grup lawak Warkop DKI.

“Dulu dia sering kasih informasi, dan minta Warkop nyindir Pakde (sebutan untuk penguasa jaman Orde Baru),” ujar Indro seraya menambahkan keduanya selalu bercakap-cakap dengan menggunakan Bahasa Jawa.

Bagi Indro, sosok dan pemikiran Arswendo saat itu cukup sering mempengaruhi perjalanan Warkop.

“Kita sama-sama (tumbuh) di masa itu, terbiasa seperti saling punya kontribusi terhadap satu sama lain,” ujar Indro yang datang melayat mengenakan topi bertuliskan #kalahkankanker.

Indro Warkop menjadi salah satu pekerja seni yang datang cukup larut ke rumah duka di Jalan Damai, Komplek Kompas, Petukangan Selatan, Pesanggrahan. Ia tiba di lokasi sekitar pukul 12.30 WIB dan langsung memasuki rumah duka untuk memberi penghormatan terakhir ke mendiang Arswendo sekaligus menemui keluarga.

Paulus Arswendo Atmowiloto, seorang sastrawan, wartawan senior, serta penulis serial televisi “Keluarga Cemara” wafat pada usia 70 tahun di kediamannya, sekitar pukul 17.38 WIB, Jumat.

Jenazah Arswendo nantinya akan dipindah ke Gereja Matius, Bintaro, untuk penyelenggaraan Misa Requiem pada Sabtu pukul 10.00 WIB. Setelahnya, jasad Arswendo akan dikebumikan di pemakaman San Diego Hills, Karawang.***

Siska Nirmala Sabtu, 20 Jul 2019, Pikiran Rakyat

Also look at the short story “Mrs. Geni in December” (Bu Geni di Bulan Desember) by Arswendo Atmowiloto published in the national daily newspaper Kompas on 20 May 2012

Mengenang Sosok BJ Habibie

Mengenang Sosok BJ Habibie

Op-Ed: Diplomasi Gaya Menlu Downer: kalau tidak berhasil, membully lagi

Oleh Hamish McDonald, redaksi Asia-Pasifik SMH, 12 Juli 2008

Email masih saja terus berdatangan beberapa kali sehari dari Departemen Luar Negeri dan Perdagangan, dilampiri setiap transkrip dari apa yang dikatakan menteri di segala macam acara dan pemberitahuan tempat di mana saja sang menteri dapat disergap oleh para wartawan untuk acara yang berikutnya.

Padahal entah kenapa tidak demikian keadaannya dengan Stephen Smith dari Partai Buruh sebagai Menlu. Fungsionaris partai yang berasal dari kota Perth itu terlalu bersikap hati-hati, terlalu terbatas, terlalu ekonomis dengan bahasanya. Singkatnya, terlalu diplomatis.

Di mana gaya bicara Alexander Downer yang cerewet itu yang telah kita kenal dengan begitu akrab selama lebih dari 11 tahun, omelannya yang mengandung begitu banyak penghinaan pribadi dan hipotesis keterlaluan sehingga akhirnya lampiran tersebut selalu saja dibuka, sekedar untuk berjaga-jaga.

Sayangnya, dia telah kehilangan jabatan dan bakal keluar dari Parlemen. Daripada ikut bergabung dengan wahana tentang apakah Menlu Downer merupakan raksasa dalam sejarah diplomatik Australia, ataupun menjadi seorang pelawak bak Inspektur Clouseau, mari kita simak apa yang diklaimnya sebagai “capaian terbesar” selama menjadi menteri luar negeri Australia yakni Timor Leste.

Dalam tulisannya di harian Sydney Morning Herald kemarin, Downer akhirnya tampil sebagai sang penggagas surat terkenal dari perdana menteri Australia saat itu John Howard kepada presiden Indonesia saat itu BJ Habibie pada bulan Desember 1998, yang mengusulkan solusi untuk keresahan yang makin berkembang di Timor Leste waktu itu.

Bisa saja diartikan dari apa yang ditulis Downer bahwa surat tersebut mengandung argumentasi untuk kemerdekaan Timor Leste yang menghasilkan referendum PBB pada bulan Agustus 1999 dan pengeluaran destruktif pasukan Indonesia beberapa minggu kemudian.

Tetapi surat itu mengusulkan sebuah strategi untuk menghindari keputusan yang jelas, dirancang untuk meredakan desakan atas kemerdekaan di wilayah itu, dan jelas berdasarkan harapan pemerintah Australia bila orang Indonesia akhirnya bisa lebih terorganisir, Timor Leste pada akhirnya akan memutuskan untuk tetap berada di dalam Indonesia.

Surat itu menggunakan contoh perjanjian-perjanjian Matignon dan Noumea antara Perancis dan kelompok-kelompok saingan Kanak dan pendatang di Kaledonia Baru pada tahun 1988 dan 1998, yang memberikan otonomi yang lebih luas di kepulauan itu dan menunda pelaksanaan langkah penentuan nasib sendiri sampai sekitar tahun 2013 dan 2018.

Reaksi tak terduga dari Presiden BJ Habibie adalah kemarahan besar karena dibandingkan dengan kekuatan kolonial Eropa, dan keputusan mendadak pada bulan Januari 1999 untuk memberikan pemungutan suara langsung kepada rakyat Timor Leste tentang tinggal atau pisah, daripada kemungkinan membuang-buang dana selama 20 tahun mendatang dalam upaya merubah sikapnya.

Sepanjang bulan-bulan penuh kekerasan menjelang pemungutan suara pada bulan Agustus, Downer dengan tegas berpegang pada “diplomasi cerdas” yang dianjurkan oleh kepala departemennya, almarhum Ashton Calvert, daripada ikut himbauan bergabung pasukan penjaga perdamaian dari luar.

Tentu dapat disangka bahwa jika militer Indonesia dan milisi lokalnya benar-benar berhasil dalam rencananya untuk membujuk penduduk Timor Leste untuk memilih otonomi yang lebih luas dan bukannya kemerdekaan, pemerintah Australia akan setuju saja dengan hasilnya.

Pada hari Senin, Presiden Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, dan Presiden Timor Leste Jose Ramos Horta akan merilis laporan penyelidikan Komisi Kebenaran dan Persahabatan bersama mereka tentang kekerasan tahun 1999. Tetapi oknum-oknum yang paling bertanggung jawab atas kekerasan itu akan tetap tidak terekspos ataupun dihukum.

Ini sebagian besar disebabkan oleh kebijakan Downer dan rekan-rekannya untuk tidak mendukung, dengan cara yang tidak lebih dari tokenisme, penyelidikan PBB sebelumnya atau mengutuk pengadilan konyol para kambing hitam tingkat junior dan menengah yang diadakan di Jakarta.

Tetapi alasan utama mengapa sebuah jalan di Dili tidak akan diberi nama Downer Sang Liberator terletak pada negosiasi antara Downer dan departemennya dengan pemerintah Timor Leste yang baru dan PBB mengenai sumber daya minyak dasar laut di Laut Timor.

Dalam bukunya Shakedown [Pemerasan], penulis Paul Cleary, yang menjadi anggota tim PBB selama negosiasi tersebut, telah menggambarkan taktik intimidasi yang diadopsi oleh Downer untuk membujuk negara baru yang remuk itu untuk menandatangani pelepasan haknya atas 80 persen dari ladang gas terbesar dalam zona maritim yang disengketakan. Dengan menggebrak meja pada salah satu pertemuan, Downer dikutip mengatakan kepada perdana menteri Timor Leste saat itu Mari Alkatiri, “Kita tidak perlu mengeksploitasi sumber daya tersebut. Itu dapat tinggal di sana selama 20, 40, 50 tahun.”

Pihak Timor Leste dan PBB bersikeras, memenangkan persyaratan yang jauh lebih menguntungkan dalam perjanjian perbatasan sementara yang akhirnya disepakati pada tahun 2006.

Peter Galbraith, mantan diplomat AS dan penulis buku tentang isu-isu kebijakan luar negeri, bekerja pada kantor PBB sebagai penasihat negosiasi. Dia mengingat ketika pergi ke kota Adelaide pada tahun 2000 untuk memberitahu Downer bahwa pihak Timor ingin merundingkan kembali perjanjian “Celah Timor” yang sudah disepakati oleh Indonesia pada tahun 1989.

“Entah mengapa, dia merasa sangat terhina karena kami sedang melakukan itu, karena saya melakukan itu,” kata Galbraith. “Pada pertemuan itu dia sepertinya terus menegaskan bahwa dia sudah lebih berhasil daripada ayahnya yang terkenal sedangkan saya mungkin kurang berhasil ketimbang ayah saya. Ada suatu psikodrama nyata di sana yang benar-benar tidak ada hubungan dengan masalahnya.”

(Galbraith adalah putra ekonom dan penulis terkenal JK Galbraith. Ayah Downer, Sir Alexander, adalah menteri imigrasi dalam pemerintahan PM Robert Menzies.)

“Tentang negosiasi minyak itu,” tambah Galbraith, “Downerlah yang mengadopsi pendekatan yang selain merendahkan juga mengintimidasi orang Timor Leste dan PBB yang akhirnya menjadikannya salah satu orang yang paling tidak populer di Timor Leste.

“Sangat merusak reputasi Australia, dan berakhir dengan persetujuan yang lebih buruk bagi Australia dibandingkan dengan hasil pendekatan yang lebih diplomatis. Masalahnya akan diselesaikan lebih cepat dan Australia akan dapat memiliki bagian minyak yang lebih besar.”

Galbraith, penasihat senior dalam kampanye presidensial calon Demokrat AS Barack Obama, mengatakan, “Menjadi menteri luar negeri yang paling lama mengabdi Australia mungkin tak sama dengan menjadi menlu yang terbaik.

“Dia tidak akan gagal dalam pekerjaannya sebagai negosiator Siprus,” tambah Galbraith, merujuk pada jabatan baru Downer sebagai utusan khusus PBB. “Karena tentu saja jika ada kemungkinan serius untuk mencapai kemajuan antara Yunani dan Turki mengenai sengketa Siprus, PBB tidak akan menunjuk Downer.”

Siti Hartinah