Ethical Politics from the Perspective of Scholars and Practitioners

Graphic Design: Krizia Angelina

The government that holds high ethics and morality in carrying out its authority certainly has high accountability and respect for the demands of aspirations and interests of its people. In such a government, the climate of openness, active participation and community empowerment can be realized, as a manifestation of ideas that are now being developed, namely the application of ethics in public service. Seeing the complexity of problems that occur in the practice of organizing public service, efforts in implementing ethics in public service in Indonesia require understanding, comprehensive socialization, and touching all dimensions of problems faced in bureaucracy.

INADIS, in collaboration with the Centre for American Studies, University of Indonesia, held a public lecture entitled “Politik Etis dan Politik Masa Kini” on November 1, 2018 at Aryaduta Hotel. The public lecture had four speakers presenting and discussed ethical politics extensively whilst juxtaposing them with current issues and happenings. Amira Waworuntu opened the public lecture with her presentation on “The Role of Ethics in Politics and Public Service”, continued by Maddaremmeng A. Pannenungi’s presentation on “the US-China Trade War and Indonesia’s Behaviour Towards It”, and Fritz Simanjuntak’s “2018 Asian Games and Nation Branding”. Suzie Sudarman closed the public lecture with her presentation on “Public Service and Civic Duties”.

Below are a few key points presented in each session of the public lecture.

Amira Waworuntu: “The Role of Ethics in Politics and Public Service”

Value and ethics are two things upheld in politics. The value includes the existence of goodness of the nation in politics. In that case, a few people may be sacrificed for national interests. Therefore, politicians are required to have the right political ethics, so that they can later determine the direction of state interests and policies.

It is worth noting that the Indonesian constituency is not homogenous. Since each group struggles to have their interests accommodated, the public has a role as whistleblowers in absence of a monitoring institution or watchdog. For example, university students who criticize government decisions play a role as whistleblowers, whilst the Ombudsman plays a role as watchdog in unresolved legal issues.

Another case is that we now live in a technology-infused era, where citizen journalism gains momentum as a form of public “resistance” towards mainstream media that often falls behind on its own ethical protocols. This phenomenon appeared as a manifestation of the public’s concerns for news neutrality, distrust of the circulating news, and the real role for active participation in getting the truth without intervention from interested parties. When talking about politics and the government regarding trust, there is something called “the problems of too many hands”; the involvement of many agents makes the political steps or processes hard to measure and judged as a track record.

Maddaremmeng A. Pannenungi: “The US-China Trade War and Indonesia’s Behaviour”

According to Maddaremmeng Pannenungi, Indonesia should prepare a grand strategy to serve the future related to the trade war. Indonesia cannot follow the current global market situation without explicitly starting to convey ideas and aspirations as a country for the next 10-15 years.

The vision of the country in question, for example, is Malaysia with OneMalaysia. Nawacita may not be necessarily called the vision or goal of Indonesia as a nation because it is mainly associated with one president or character. In Indonesia, the change of government can easily change the basis of that vision, therefore it is necessary to trigger joint goals without binding on a particular stream or party.


Fritz Simanjuntak: “2018 Asian Games and Nation Branding”

The definition of nation branding is the establishment of an image (internally and externally) for a country based on positive and relevant values and perceptions, emphasizing the image when promoting trade, tourism and inward investments. Nation branding does not have to be in the form of a political speech, such as President Joko Widodo’s “winter is coming” or Thanos mention in the World Economic Forum that gained a lot of international media attention. Nation branding can also be in the spirit of sports as what was shown in the 2018 Asian Games, since the spirit of sports is regarded as the world’s largest social phenomenon. In the DNA of Indonesian people themselves, there is unity through sports. The co-branding between the Indonesian Tourism Department and the Asian Games showed the collaboration with the government system that could be massive.

What needs to be focused on is the legacy of the 2018 Asian Games. In the 1962 Asian Games, Indonesia showed off its greatness through President Soekarno’s expertise in designing Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, which was the first stadium without poles in the world. As for the most recent Asian Games in Indonesia, the legacy might be the increase of foreign tourist numbers to Indonesia, or the Korean media’s attention to Indonesia and Korea’s closeness.


Suzie Sudarman: “Public Services and the Duty of Citizens”

The state stands on a social contract with its citizens; those who are bound by a common agreement to live and work under the same umbrella of the state have the same rights and obligation in the administration of the state. Creating a good government his closely tied to quality public service. State administrators who ignore the citizen’s rights to benefit public services can be categorized as authority abuse that must be subject to sanctions.

The 1998-2008 Transparency International report tends to always place Indonesia as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Accountable state administrators are the common vision of achieving the ideals of a nation through a respectable and procedural mechanism called the constitution, and corruption is a denial of that common vision. Therefore, corruption is a violation of constitution, which is obligatory to be positioned parallel to a subversive crime as it endangers the sustainability of the citizen’s contracts.