Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Music meets politics

Matheos Viktor Messakh , THE JAKARTA POST , JAKARTA | Wed, 04/08/2009 12:54 PM | People

JP/Matheos V. MessakhJP/Matheos V. Messakh

Tere might seem like an unlikely candidate for the nation’s legislature, but the 29-year-old singer insists she is not just another celebrity dabbling in politics, whatever the skeptics say.

Tere says her political sympathies lay with the Democratic Party and its leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono even before Yudhoyono became president in 2004. However, she had no plans to run for office until she joined the party’s forum for female artists early last year – around the same time the election law was made requiring parties to ensure 30 percent of their candidates were women.

“The first and foremost reason I joined the Democratic Party is that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is the central figure, and since I’ve gotten to know more about the party I believe that it is a middle-of-the-road party that can look after a range of interests.”

Although the quota may not hold since the Constitutional Court made changes to the election law, Tere says the regulation triggered her decision to put herself forward as a potential candidate.

“For me, I see my participation as part of my social responsibility as a woman and a citizen,” she says.

The 2009 legislative election has attracted a sweep of singers and actors to politics, with 61 such celebrities among the total 11,512 candidates across the country.

Tere is forthright with her view of the current batch of lawmakers, pointing to their “lack of goodwill” and “tendency of looking for economic benefit”. “The formulation of the law and the Constitution is in their hands. I think we need a higher standard for the quality of lawmaker.”

She hopes that better quality politicians will also be able to achieve political balance between the branches of government.

“It’s disappointing that when the executive has been making some positive efforts, the legislative had been getting a bad name. It’s a shame we can’t manage to bring balance between the two.”

Her main political concern, she says, is for education, and especially the empowerment of women and children. Her first act if elected will be to launch a campaign against the new law on BHP.

“The new law is about making education more and more a commodity, which means it will fail to emphasize character building,” she says, adding that the Democratic Party will support her in this.

Tere, whose full name is Theresia Ebenna Ezeria Pardede, started her career as a backing singer for various bands. She reached stardom with hits such as “Awal Yang Indah” (The Lovely Beginning), and recently released her fourth album. All this, she says, is not as far removed from politics as some might suppose.

“My background as a musician and my studies in communications do have some relation to politics. Politics cannot be perfect without communication skills, which include diplomacy, negotiation and persuasion.”

Her only criticism of the Democratic Party is the management of party’s lowest levels, “but,” she says, “I think it’s a classic problem for a new party”.

Tere is the Democratic Party’s top candidate for election region II West Java (Bandung and Bandung Barat Municipality), where she is up against such political heavyweights as Taufik Kiemas, Ferry Mursidan Baldan, and actors Rieke Diah Pitaloka, Rachel Maryam Sayidina and Derry Drajat.

But being an underdog doesn’t bother her because for her, it isn’t about winning. “From the very beginning I have seen myself as someone who doesn’t want to gain a seat so much as wanting to educate people that everyone has the right and access to politics.”

Therefore, she has “nothing to lose because my main intention is to bring political education”. As such she has made no special preparations for the election except “mental preparation and trying to be creative and optimistic”.

Indeed, she doesn’t even refer to her activities over the past several weeks as a political campaign. “What I was doing is not a campaign. I studied communications and I know that a campaign needs a sponsor and lots of funding, involving the mass media.”

In all, she has spent only about Rp 10 million (US$890) on her campaign, mostly to produce notebooks and name cards; she believes posters are “useless”. “What’s the point of displaying our posters among 11,512 candidates from 38 parties?”

Instead, she has been spending her time visiting people in her electorate.

“I mostly talk to them about their concerns, about what they need, but I did not hold any mass meetings. We usually choose a particular place which we think didn’t come to the attention of other candidates and speak to people there.”

She uses these meetings to inform people about the role and function of the legislature and how to vote, rather than trying to persuade people to vote for her.

“Because my main mission is political education, I’m not doing a lot of persuading,” she says. Rather, she tends to talk about the party and its leader.

She believes in political education, and is disappointed political parties don’t do much in this regard, simply pushing their agenda near election time.

But if she does find herself with a more permanent role on the political stage, it will be the only stage she treads; she will move behind the scenes of the music industry.

“For me the configuration of the music industry is not too different from the configuration of politics,” she says. “If I am elected, it’s no big deal for me to become one of the people behind the scenes of the music industry.”

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