Suddenly people are talking about dynasties in Indonesia

Keep It in the Family

By Yanto Soegiarto on 10:24 am October 18, 2013.
What’s wrong with dynasties? Suddenly people are talking about dynasties in Indonesia. Everybody’s making comments, even the president. Lawmakers argue for amendments. Activists demand the arrest of the governor of Banten. The magnitude of the controversy about dynasties seems to be overshadowing the real issues the nation is facing: how to deal with such mega-scandals as the Constitutional Court bribery case, Bank Century and Hambalang.Dynasties have existed since long ago all over the world, not just in Indonesia. As Compton’s Encyclopedia has it, a dynasty is a line of hereditary rulers of a country or a succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics or other fields. Examples of dynasties are the Tang dynasty in China and the Ford dynasty in the United States. But elsewhere in Asia and in Europe there also have been dynasties.

In this part of the world, there’s the example of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, who was succeeded by his son Lee Hsien Loong. And in Indonesia, Sultan Hamengkubuwono X succeeded Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX as ruler of Yogyakarta. Many of the nation’s conglomerates are dynasties. Then there’s the Cikeas dynasty and Gov. Ratu Atut Chosiyah’s dynasty in Banten.

Nobody can deny that dynasties exist. But one can’t say that all dynasties are bad.

Some dynasties have based their continued existence on meritocracy and real popular support, such as in the case of staunchly-Muslim East Belitung, where Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s Christian brother was elected as district head.

Our leading political parties — dynasty or not — should continuously prove their right to exist. The ruling Democratic Party has Pramono Edhie Wibowo as a possible presidential candidate while the current president’s son, Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, is the party’s secretary general. Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) leader Megawati Soekarnoputri will surely hand over the party reigns to her daughter Puan Maharani.

In the case of Banten, local wisdom formed the character of the Banten rulers, who were mostly descendents of prominent local heroes who fought against the Dutch colonizers. Atut’s father, Chasan Sochib, was a prominent and influential Banten community leader. Atut was the first female governor since reforms in 1998. And she was re-elected for a second term.

Unfortunately, she is also a Golkar politician. Although the Golkar Party is in coalition with the Democratic Party, it has been always at odds with the ruling party on various issues. And Atut has just become too rich, with her family controlling huge business assets in the province. Activists have accused her family of owning at least 10 companies and 24 affiliated firms involved at every stage of the tender process in the province — from planning to procurement.

It is true that political dynasties in Indonesia provide opportunity for corruption, collusion and nepotism (better known as KKN).

Reform activist and then-Muhammadiyah leader Amien Rais initiated the popular anti-KKN movement against the Suharto regime.

But that movement has since fizzled out, with his People’s Mandate Party (PAN) joining the ruling party coalition. Rais has been silent since his party’s chairman, Hatta Rajasa, became a close confidant of the president as coordinating minister for the economy, as well as an in-law. Some have described their relationship as the marriage of two major political parties.

Although political dynasties are prone to KKN practices, they are not always bad — unless they are built with an eye to amassing power and family wealth. They are fine if established by clean, honest and patriotic leaders who put the national interest first. The main issue is corruption. Indonesia needs to revive the anti-KKN movement, but of course under a strong national leadership.

Yanto Soegiarto is the managing editor of Globe Asia, a sister publication of the Jakarta Globe. The views expressed here are his own.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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