Joining hands with the opposition not always good, says Indonesian activist

Indonesian activist Goenawan Mohamad says democracy always entails compromise but that inviting opposition leaders to join the government may not always have positive results.

KUALA LUMPUR: An Indonesian activist and journalist yesterday cautioned that allowing members of the opposition to join the government as was recently the case in Jakarta might not necessarily see positive results.

Goenawan Mohamad, who has been critical of the Indonesian government, said negotiating with political opponents and compromising with each other was a good thing.

“Democracy always entails compromise,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a forum organised by think tank Research For Social Advancement last night, when asked if Malaysia should follow in the footsteps of Indonesia where President Joko Widodo recently appointed long-time opponent and former military general Prabowo Subianto as his defence minister.

But while maintaining that political rivalries should not last, Goenawan said the people could also become “confused”.

“In the case of Jokowi and Prabowo, it’s a different story,” he added.

“I think Jokowi wants to show the world and the Indonesian people that firstly, politics is not perpetual animosity, and secondly, that he is more powerful than Prabowo – that’s why Prabowo is put under him. So it’s different.”

Prabowo was accused of instigating riots in late May following Jokowi’s re-election as president. He was also accused of wanting to overthrow Jokowi through an uprising.

Goenawan also said that Malaysian leaders who may be in talks with their opponents should understand that political rivalries do not last.

“There is always time to stop and negotiate,” he added. “You don’t perceive politics as an eternal combat.”

During the forum discussion moderate by author Eddin Khoo, Goenawan suggested breaking away from the politics of race and identity.

When asked about identity under the Federal Constitution, he said some change might be needed.

“De-ethnicise everything. De-ethnicise your mind,” he said, adding however that this would be difficult.