Tuesday January 8, 2013
A week is a long time in politics
By KARIM RASLAN
For Hatta Rajasa, one of Indonesia’s most powerful men, it has been a most tumultuous start to the new year.
HATTA Rajasa is one of Indonesia’s most powerful men. As the Coordinating Minister for the Economy he is tasked with managing a booming economy that is fast approaching US$1 trillion (RM3.04 trillion) in size.
This media-savvy and intuitive leader is also the head of the Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN), the political vehicle of the Reformasi Era icon Amien Rais and a lynch-pin of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) ruling coalition.
Indeed, the relationship with the taciturn President goes beyond politics. Last year, Hatta’s daughter, Siti Ruby Alia Rajasa married Edhie Baskoro (SBY’s second son and the Secretary-General of the largest national party, the Democrats) in a lavish ceremony that some TV stations carried live.
The white-haired Sumatran is clearly a man with ambitions for the future, all the more so as his in-law SBY is unable to stand for a third term in 2014.
Still, political-positioning at such an exalted level has its peaks and troughs.
Hatta has over the past ten days experienced both and in turn, this reveals the underlying robustness and roller-coaster quality of Indonesian political life – an open-stage where everyone has to face intense public scrutiny, calls for equality before the law plus an atmosphere of general cynicism.
For starters, in the early hours of Christmas Eve his daughter, Alia gave birth to her first child and the second of SBY’s grandchildren.
A resplendent group photo of the two families in the hospital suite, alongside the young couple and the latest addition to the emerging dynasty, Airlangga Satriadhi Yudhoyono was subsequently released nationwide.
Little did they all realise, the family portrait marked a high-point that would subsequently be erased from public memory by a dramatic tragedy involving another family member, namely Hatta’s youngest son, the 22-year-old Rasid Amirulloh, who was in the group photo.
The circumstance surrounding the tragedy – a car crash that led to the death of two people – remain hazy and unclear. But on Jan 2, Rasid was declared a suspect in a reckless driving case that caused the deaths – a charge that could lead to a five-year jail term.
Essentially what happened is as follows: On New Year’s Eve, the young Rasid, having spent the evening with his girlfriend in the nightlife district of Kemang, sent her home and then at around 4.30am, he headed back to his family’s residence in the Fatmawati neighbourhood.
Driving a jet-black BMW X5 (and at approximately 5am) along a suburban toll road, Rasid lost control of his car, ramming into a smaller Daihatsu Luxio, leading to the deaths of two passengers in the car: Harun, a 57-year-old man and M. Raihan a 14-month-old baby.
In the aftermath of the accident, the BMW was seized by the police. Rasid himself (who has yet to surface publicly) was hospitalised where he was treated for shock. The media have also reported that he has had to undergo a urine test.
Whatever the case, the national media attention has been unrelenting.
Moreover, the clamour for information has very naturally come head-to-head with Hatta’s immense personal influence. There have been accusations that the police have granted Rasid preferential treatment (including treatment at the VVIP unit of the Pertamina Hospital in South Jakarta).
Hatta however has been extremely sensitive in his handling of the tragedy. Aware of the scepticism surrounding people such as himself from the political elite, he has endeavoured to be as transparent as possible.
Moreover, he has conducted himself with restraint, humility and decorum: visiting the homes of the two victims and apologising in public and on behalf of his family, for the tragic deaths.
While parents cannot be expected to be responsible for everything their children do, Hatta will need all his wisdom and experience to navigate his son Rasid’s case through the legal system because there is a great deal at stake.
In an Indonesia where many feel the elite are above the law, he will have to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done. Any hesitancy on his part could well destroy his future career and indeed undermine SBY’s legacy.
Given the challenges, it may well prove easier to manage the economic squalls facing the Republic rather than his own son’s problematic case.
A week, as they say, is a long time in politics.