Bambang says he’s most suited for top job

Laying out his vision, he cites his years of experience to back his claim that he is best placed to lead his country forward.

PRESIDENTIAL frontrunner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yesterday staked his claim for Indonesia’s top job as he made clear his resolve to address the country’s problems if elected to office.

Outlining his vision for the country and his credentials to run it, the former minister in the Megawati administration said that he was the strongest contender for the presidency, which will be decided in the July 5 election.

Speaking at a conference on the Indonesian presidential election organised by the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) and The Straits Times, he said: ‘I am stronger than the others because of my knowledge and experience in government.’

He cited his years of service in government, as well as his leadership in reforming the military and upholding human rights and democracy, to back his claim to being the most prepared to lead the country forward.

He made this point in response to a member of the audience, who asked him to rate his rival contenders and their strengths, relative to his.

The 54-year-old Bambang, who is leading in the presidential race according to several opinion polls, was careful not to be drawn into mudslinging his rivals.

Each of the candidates had their strengths and weaknesses, he said, reeling off their names, but struggled for a moment to recall the name of Mr Wiranto, the other retired general in the running for the presidency.

Indeed, some observers have billed the election as a battle of the generals. Both Mr Bambang and Mr Wiranto are expected to slug it out in the first round.

Some in the Bambang camp, though, see President Megawati Sukarnoputri as an even greater challenge given the powers of incumbency, the Sukarno brand name and the party machinery at her disposal.

But the four-star general, who quit the current government in a huff after falling out with the palace, was more intent on spelling out his vision as leader of the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

‘I am fully aware that my critics sometimes say that I make nice-sounding speeches about my vision for change but do not have plans and programmes to back them up. But I am here before you to present some of my plans.’

Indeed, compared to most of the presidential candidates, he appeared to have drawn up a much more detailed agenda for resolving Indonesia’s multi-faceted problems.

Top of his agenda was strengthening the rule of law and fighting corruption – a thorny issue that he was forced to address periodically when pressed by several members of the audience. He was also asked what steps he would take to stop violence in strife-torn provinces.

He said he would try to end armed separatist movements in the resource-rich regions of Aceh and Papua. Separatism, he made clear, was out, but efforts to win over these restive regions should go beyond flexing military might.

On the economic front, he aimed to attain economic growth of at least 7 per cent and bring back much needed investments into Indonesia.

His vision was also aimed at stirring the economic engine at home. This included supporting small and medium enterprises by offering them better credit lines and cutting bureaucratic red tape for setting up businesses.

While giving an insight into his plans if elected, he made clear that it was not going to be a cakewalk.

‘I know I am not Superman. I don’t have magical powers to make all these things come true overnight. But I do believe in hard work and in the absolute necessity of good governance.

‘Change is necessary … That is why I decided to run for the presidency because I truly believe that Indonesia can do better, can be better, and deserves better.’

I know I am not Superman.

I don’t have magical powers to make all these things come true overnight. But I do believe in hard work and in the absolute necessity of good governance.’
– Mr Bambang, outlining his plans for Indonesia if he were elected President

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