On the Shelves: No Regrets

The Jakarta Post
24 March 2002

No Regrets: Experiences of a Presidential Spokesman; By Wimar Witoelar; Equinox Publishing (Asia), Jakarta, 2002; 200 pp

With so many behind-the-scenes type of books available to give the Indonesian public a peek into the daily lives and activities of presidents, prime ministers and other prominent personalities abroad, it is rather odd, and disappointing, that the same cannot be said for Indonesians at the top of the social and political ladder.

No Regrets, a book on the Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid presidency written by the well-known Indonesian intellectual, columnist and television talk-show host Wimar Witoelar, remedies this situation, if only in part.

To judge by its title, the book deals more with Wimar's own involvement than with the Abdurrahman Wahid presidency, but obviously the personality of the man he served figures prominently in the foreground. This is ultimately a book about Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur as he is better known, as much as about Wimar (tellingly, the book is dedicated to Gus Dur).

There is of course no dearth in material in writing about Gus Dur, whether it be in his capacity as president of the world's fourth most populous country, as a respected leader of the country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama or as an ordinary citizen who is equally known for his humanistic thinking, his sense of humor and his eccentricities.

And there is probably nobody better suited for the job than Wimar to bring the human side of this controversial character to life, both his strengths and failings.

It would do the reader well to remember that Wimar, like so many other Indonesians, is and has for long been a great admirer of Gus Dur -- so much so that near the end of the book he admits to having belonged to those who supported the issuance from Gus Dur in his final hours of power of a presidential decree seeking to dissolve the House of Representatives and the People's Consultative Assembly, an act that was regarded by many Indonesians as self-serving, undemocratic and unconstitutional.

Wimar, though, regards it as an honor to have been able to serve this man throughout one of the most difficult times of Indonesia's contemporary history and asks how anyone could have any regrets about having encountered such an opportunity. Thus, it seems that although he is no longer a presidential spokesman, Wimar remains to the end, and beyond, Gus Dur's loyal public relations man.

All this, of course, does not detract from the book's merits. One might disagree on points, but No Regrets not only fills a void in this country's needs, but does so in an honest, readable and entertaining way.

Hartoyo Pratiknyo

Print article only


« Home