By Nasihin Masha
This is not the praise’s story about Dahlan Iskan. But this story is worth to contemplate. A PLN commissionaire told that the one who can “solve” an electrical company was not an engineer. He even finished school from IAIN, a state Islamic university. Dahlan Iskan’s background and skills as a journalist had nothing to do with electricity.
The story of Dahlan Iskan then became a cliché. But we were too neglectful to other facts. All these years we were so proud of the term cabinet “zaken”, what we translated as cabinet of the experts. In case of Dahlan, clearly he was not an electrical expert. But, he was able and capable. Within a short time, the unstable flows of electricity problems were solved.
What happened to Dahlan should become a precedent, not an exception and singularity. We have to be bold to deconstruct the “cabinet zaken” or adagio of “leave it to the experts”. Experts were not always the capable ones.
The issue of expertise and education background often raised and became the most effective barrier when it came to the election of state minister, or State Owned Enterprise directors or state officials. During the New Order, even generally until today, some of state ministries’ certain position were still the domain of certain university.
For example, minister of Public Works was from Bandung Institute of Techology (ITB), minister of Agriculture was from Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), minister of Finance was from University of Indonesia (UI), State Oil Extraction Company (Pertamina) director was from ITB, et cetera. People could say that they were coincidences or they were the best or they had the most alumni. Tacit, the way we think shaped into it. Of course it wasn’t incorrect. But, we also must not all agree to such way of thinking.
People who brought Malaysia into success were not the experts on their field. There were two important people who promote Malaysia; they were Mahathir Mohammad and Anwar Ibrahim. They collaborated since the beginning when they opposed Tunku Abdul Rahman. They then shared roles in the government seat.
Mahathir Mohammad, before he was the Prime Minister was a minister of Education, minister of Finance, minister of Trading and Industries. Whereas, he was a doctor. Anwar Ibrahim who was the Deputy of Prime Minister, previously was the minister of Finance, minister of Education, and minister of Agriculture. Whereas, his educational background was literature and also an activist since college.
Malaysia has put important people with strong visions and commitments to fulfil the strategic position for the sake of their nation. They were not the experts in those fields. Meanwhile, Indonesia preferred expertise instead of vision and commitment. And, Indonesia was the warehouse of the experts.
Too many medals achieved by our students in science, physics, math and other Olympics. But since our leader did not have commitment and vision, our students were taken by Singapore for example by offering them scholarship. Or they were withered before they had the chance to bloom due to lack of attention.
Other achievements in other sectors also accomplished by our researchers and students abroad. What hurt the most were when we let thousands of IPTN (Indonesian Aerospace-IA) engineers hijacked by Boeing (USA), Airbus (Europe), Avic (China), Embraer (Brazil), also Malaysia and other countries. Whereas, these thousands of engineers were a result of Indonesia’s long investments.
Wings technology which curved up on the edge designed by IPTN now has become Boeing and Embraer’s characteristics. But, Indonesia’s leaders have made them evaporated and let other countries benefit their expertise.
We could learn from Ronald Reagan. In a campaign debate for presidency election, when he was pressed about economic matters, Reagan calmly answered that all those matters would be solved by his staffs who were experts on their fields. Reagan who was a movie star realised that he was not an economist and impossible for him to answer brilliantly.
One of Reagan’s leadership principle was public will follow a leader if they like the leader or his personality. The messenger, not the message. “Government first duty is to protect its people, not to control their lives.” Reagan has putting stance over other else.
What we urgently need are vision and commitments. Both adhere to a person’s character and personality. Indonesia is not lacking of intelligent people, but only a few people who are capable.