I’m not a patient person … I prefer to deal with a problem immediately if I can’

INDONESIAN ELECTIONS

ST INTERVIEW WITH PRESIDENT MEGAWATI SUKARNOPUTRI

The Straits Times Indonesia bureau chief DERWIN PEREIRA spoke to Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri yesterday on her administration’s successes and her plans, if re-elected. Here are excerpts from the interview.

Q: What are the successes of your administration?

A: At the macro level, you can see that there is now political stability and a greater deal of security in the country. Many of the conflicts in trouble-prone areas have been resolved or are in the process of being sorted out.

Just look at what we are doing in Maluku, Kalimantan, Irian and also Aceh. Things have improved a lot in these areas. It all points to greater political stability in Indonesia.

Economically, we have also done well. The rupiah has recovered a lot of ground and stabilised, the stock exchange index does not fluctuate as badly as it did before and the disparities in income earned among our people are becoming much smaller.

Our economy has made significant progress when we compare it to previous years.

Q: If you are re-elected, what will be your programme for Indonesia and how different will it be from your current one?

A: Something that stands out for me over the last two years as President is my welfare programme for Indonesians. I am very proud of it but it is not 100 per cent complete.

I think we have now given people guarantees that we will look after their health, pension and even give protection to mothers and their children. They never had this before.

But this is a long-term goal of mine to improve the welfare of Indonesians. It will be my main target when I am in power again for the next five years. It is my priority.

I have plans to build a million houses for the poor. Government revenues have increased since I took over as President and we have funds to look after the poor.

If I am elected, my policies won’t be very different from what I am pursuing now. We will continue to work on several programmes that we have already implemented. Welfare is one area. I am taking steps to improve other areas also.

For example, I set a moratorium on logging to give our forests a chance to live again. At the same time, I have also implemented programmes to help the fishing and agricultural industries.

Q: Several surveys show that you are the leading contender for the elections. Are you and your PDI-P party confident of winning the parliamentary and presidential election?

A: PDI-P is a unique party. We have planned for the elections this year since 2000.

Then, as chairman, I was selected to be the party’s presidential candidate. We are not like many of the other parties which have yet to name a candidate.

Take Golkar as an example. Of course, they have a national convention. They have lined up several candidates but nothing has been decided yet. Well, maybe there is Amien Rais.

But PDI-P has been ready for this since 2000. I have been involved in politics since the end of 1985. I am ready for anything (laughs) and confident my party will do well.

Q: How well do you think the PDI-P will do in this election?

A: In the 2000 congress, several decisions were reached. Besides naming me as a presidential candidate, we also decided that we will win the 2004 election with a percentage tally that is 1 1/2 times more than what we achieved in the last elections.

In 1999, we won about 34 per cent of the votes.

My confidence in the PDI-P is very high. Our structures down to the grassroots are ready for this election.

Q: There are some who say that you represent PDI-P and that without Ibu Mega, the party is nothing. Do you agree?

A: Not at all. It is not easy to establish a party. It is not dependent on any one individual. And we have to be realistic. I won’t be active in the party forever. I will grow old one day (laughs).

There is constant regeneration in the party to make sure that we get good cadres who are sympathetic and listen to people. There have been cases where I have been angry or acted against those who did not live up to my expectations. We have done away with some of them.

But I will tell you that many cadres we have are of good quality. They have been in the party long and can understand what people want.

Q: What do you think will be a winning coalition for you?

A: I have not decided which party to build a coalition with. Of course, there is a lot of speculation. Some say that the PDI-P will forge links with Golkar or PKB or with a group of parties. This is just political discourse. Nothing has been decided yet.

The ideal coalition for me is one between the nationalist-religious and religious-nationalist.

But this is just an ideal. We need to assess and evaluate the ground realities and the results of the parliamentary election before we decide which party to work with.

Having been a politician in the field for years, let me tell you that speculation and theories sometimes never work. We have to pay attention to the realities on the ground.

Q: Some accuse you of not doing enough to fight terrorism. Have you done enough?

A: People tend to see things through a different prism if they are not holding an official position and have no working knowledge of the issue at hand. I am not entirely satisfied with how we have dealt with the terrorist problem but we are working to make sure that we are learning and improving.

It is the same with all the other things my administration is dealing with. We have come a long way and achieved a lot. I am not someone who is patient. I don’t like to procrastinate on dealing with a problem. I prefer to deal with it immediately if I can.

Indonesia has plenty of problems that can give us a lot of headaches. Every day, there are problems, and we need to find solutions to them.

But I am not worried at all. I live by my father’s advice (laughs). When I was young, he told me something that up until today I will always treasure as the best piece of advice I ever got: Just work and the solution will come.

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