A Cowboy Minister

I’m not an easy fan. Really.

I reality, I’m not easy to be pleased, or feel please. I may act like I’m pleased to get something over with, but somewhere inside my heart, I’m always not pleased with half-hearted work result, or a mediocre work standard.

But after last day I heard about this cowboy act of Mr. Dahlan Iskan, well, I finally actually said “This is the work ethos Indonesians can follow.” Dahlan Iskan suddenly become trending topic yesterday on twitter.

Dahlan Iskan is a minister of the Indonesia state owned enterprise, appointed at Oct 2011 replacing the previous minister that was ill. Previously he’s a director of the government’s electrical company, appointed at 2009. And before that, he’s an entrepreneur and a shareholder at a  national-scale newspaper. He also found local television broadcasting.

I was following his story this last decade, and I have a good impression about him. Well, maybe that’s mainly because I don’t have a really good third source of opinion other than from his writing in his newspaper, and his published books after a liver transplant. But as I read his words and thoughts, he seems to have an integrity throughout all of what he said. All is connected to each other.

Well, my father often said that do not trust someone only from their words. And I guess that is true. Until last day when I heard he get mad because of the long queue at the Jakarta Semanggi Highway gate. And throw the chair of the late officers. And opened the gate and give approximately 100 car into the highway free.

The highway company “Jasa Marga” is under his direct department supervision, as the Jasa Marga is also one of the state owned companies, and he already warn the official since 3 months ago to fix the condition of the overly long queue in each highway booth, giving a standard of maximum 5 cars to queue. But yesterday, it’s 6.10 am in the morning, and the car queue is already at 30 cars long. He got angry, and get out of his car. He walks toward the booth, and see that there’s 3 gates (plus another 1 automatic booth, for a total of 4 booth), but only 1 of the 3 manned booth is operational. The other 2 are vacant. He then go to the vacant booth, and slam the empty chair, while saying “This chair is a vain to be here!” and then opened the gate himself. According to the news, he then let at least 100 cars into the highway, free. In an interview later, he said that “If their service to people who pay is that bad, how could they serve people who do not have enough money?” In another interview, he even pointed out that he was not only angry, he was extremely furious!

That’s a brave and firm act that’s rare in Indonesia. Mr. Iskan is already noted for his firm leadership as he lead his newspaper company, and then the government electrical company. He made some noteworthy breakthrough where his predecessor can do nothing. When he made a promise, he made it to be short, firm, and easy to remember. And he do it. That’s the most important thing. It’s like the manifestation of the proverb “where there is a will, there is a way”. It’s like he will do anything—and when I say anything, I mean anything—to get the job done. He would not let anybody stands on his way and make him fail. While this sounds pretty common character, it isn’t common as a minister here in Indonesia. So many times ministers in Indonesia care more about making good impression, that they forget to deliver a good job. So many times they will overlook their staff’s disreputable job, just as long as their staffs supports him and didn’t make any ruckus that will threaten their position as a minister or leader.

A wise man once said that “there’s two kinds of suffering in this world: the suffering because of changing, and the suffering because you don’t change.” I say, there’s the third type of suffering, that is the suffering of changing because you don’t want to change before. And that’s what the Jasa Marga now experiences. They neglect the call to change. And now they’re forced to change. That’s like double the pain. This morning, there’s so much tweet that said the highway gate is less crowded than usual, and all the 3 gates are all open. Why do people have to experience shock like that, and then just started to change? I hope this is “Dahlan Iskan Effect” is long-lasting, and spread throughout the country, revolutionize the bureaucratic of Indonesia for the better.

How about us? Do we have the courage to proactively change and adapt? Or we usually change whenever it’s necessary or even when it’s already too late?

Further reading:


2 comments on “A Cowboy Minister

  1. my ex-boss once said:
    change is unavoidable, and change always brought pain.
    the proactive type experience pain early because they want to learn, and it triggers change. the passive type experience pain latter because they are forced to. either way, we must learn and change and experience pain – the first is of course more beneficial than the latter.

    I guess it’s safe to say that most indonesian are passive because we have been educated that way. You know, during my school life, from elementary to university, there is one thing that never change: no one asked questions when enquired. Okay, maybe there are very few exceptions when someone actually ask, and they were exceptional students. So, what happens with the rest of the class that never asked questions? they graduate, they apply for job that don’t require them to ask questions, job that demand them to follow orders like a robot, a job like.. operating a ticket booth 😀
    These jobs have been replaced by machines in modern countries, mainly because they are inhumane. Imagine how are you doing in a small booth, doing the same thing every minute, every hour, every day, every year. It’s not exactly a kind of job that you would happily perform at 5.00 a.m 😉

    • Ouw. Now you’ve added a new philosophy in my book, “take job that makes you more human.” 😀 nice contemplation. 🙂

      ironically, though, many people likes to work as a robot. being a robot tends to avoid humanly contact relationship with other human, which sometimes can go wrong and that would be a big problem if that human is your supervisor or your boss. XD so, even though it’s being a robot not a good idea, I can understand them why. 😉

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