Watch out: Prabowo Subianto will be launched as presidential candidate next October. Fourteen years after he contemplated to grasp the presidency by coup d’etat, he will try it the conventional way.
Metamorphosis is one of the favourite and most catchy elements of storytelling. There is this brilliant twist in the Christian New Testament for example. Saul of Tarsus, who was a passionate fighter against members of the Christian sect immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion, overnight changed into Paul the Apostle, the father of all saints, founder of the Roman Church. A man who almost single-handed founded Christianity in the Roman Empire.
Unlikely, unbelievable tale – but not in the realities of faith and literature.
There’s less room for psychological or sociological miracles in real life though. No, okay, people can change. I’m not a cynic. I think a convicted thief can become a decent husband. Or a graft suspect can become a dedicated father one day. And even a general can become a useful member of civic society. Why not? But I don’t think black suddenly can turn white or the other way around. Do you believe Adolf Hitler could eventually have grown into a a kind of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi later on in life? Nor do I.
Neither do I trust the leader of Gerindra. Major General Prabowo Subianto didn’t change his name like Saul of Tarsus. But he did buy a deceivingly new image.
Till ’98 he was Suharto’s son-in-law and one of his main bullies. A ruthless general who didn’t shun bloodshed. A bloodhound commander of Kopassus. An authoritarian hard-liner who obediently beat obedience into rebellious youngsters and dissident intellectuals. And into seniors, if necessary. Though he also, in a fit of cowardice, thought it wise to take refuge in Jordan for a while after his natural habitat, New Order, collapsed in ’98. He returned protected by this great Indonesian virtue of not dwelling on the past. And by his old boys’ network evidently. For years he lives comfortable at home now among his fellow military businessmen with political ambitions. A by democratic standards very doubtful accumulation of power by the way.
Okay, I admit I’m old fashioned and adhere to the opinion military men should protect borders and never fight citizens. A cardinal sin if they do – and Prabowo did. Law and order is a matter for the police – not for special forces.
And now, in 2012, in the gubernatorial elections Prabowo is parading as the champion of democracy, change and the “downtrodden”. Main ally of Jokowi. And of Ahok. The commander who in he past came down with violence and iron fist on the Chinese-Indonesian community, presently frames himself as a friend. His move toward the future governor of Jakarta and his deputy did gain the general the aroma of a genuine, socially committed, democrat. And it hugely fuelled his candidacy for next presidential elections.
No, it isn’t. Despite his record many believe his metamorphosis is genuine and sincere. Which in my perception is possible only if you’re very naive or have been born after ’85 or don’t give a damn. But even then it is not easy to ignore the facts and convince yourself. I hope.
“All that is necessary for evil to thrive is that good men do nothing” *. So I hope Indonesia’s “good (wo)men” will act in time and that the electorate in the presidential campaign of 2014 will see the facts for what they are. Gerindra isn’t the right political party and the general isn’t the right man to lead the country. He belongs to a dark and ugly past. General Prabowo is a voracious caterpillar disguised as tender butterfly.
* Attributed to Edmund Burke.