Monday, May 10, 2010

Editorial: Will Secretariat Be a Help or Hindrance?

In politics, no relationship is ever what it seems on the surface. The grand coalition President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono put together after last year’s elections began to show cracks as soon as it was formed. The reasons behind the breakdown in communications between the coalition members are numerous, and in all probability the real reason for the rift will never be known. But to prevent similar breakdowns in the future, Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party and the Golkar Party, the two main players in a new coalition, have established a joint secretariat to facilitate better communication.

The secretary general of the Democratic Party was at pains on Monday to emphasize that the president did not want a repeat of what happened last year when some of the government’s coalition partners teamed up with the opposition in the House of Representatives to instigate an investigation into the PT Bank Century bailout.

The four-month investigation not only implicated two senior members of the cabinet, but it also distracted the government from its core programs and delayed progress on a whole host of other important issues.

With the new secretariat now in place, it is hoped that political differences between the government and coalition members on critical policies can be better managed. It is telling that Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie has been appointed as the managing chairman of the secretariat, and that his main function will be to coordinate discussions between coalition members.

Such an arrangement is new to Indonesian politics so we are breaking new ground. It remains to be seen just how effective the secretariat will be. Changes can happen in the blink of an eye in politics, and the new secretariat is a case in point.

One fact is certain, however. The secretariat has the potential to wield significant influence over how government policy is crafted and implemented. On one hand, that is a positive outcome because the government will be able to receive early feedback on whether or not any stated policy can pass through the House. On the other hand, giving an institution outside the government structure such power is risky and could undermine the government’s effectiveness.

It is therefore critical that the role the new secretariat will play is clearly defined. If it helps to smooth over political frictions and helps to get policies passed, the secretariat can be a positive force. But if it creates a second power base within the system, it could potentially counteract government policies and in the process restrict progress.

The end purpose of politics should be to serve the common good and to improve the lives of the people. By doing so, politicians get elected and re-elected to office. We sincerely hope that the new secretariat will fulfill its stated mission of minimizing friction and in the process accelerate progress. The Jakarta Globe Editorial

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