United We Win: ‘Reflections and Recommendations on the LSM Inter-Struggle Phenomenon in Kalbar’

By Yohanes Supriyadi

Two days ago in a meeting with several welfare workers, we discussed the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) phenomenon in West Kalimantan (Kalbar). These NGOs, more commonly known in Indonesia as Lembaga Swadaya Masyarakat (LSM) were facing numerous obstacles due to categorisations of ethnicity, programmes and others. Having worked as activists for three years, they voiced concerns at troubles affecting the local LSMs.
“I am worried as they are always competing with each other like politicians. Victims are almost always the new and small LSMs, as well as the local community the LSM approaches,” said a worker.
Lamenting this unfortunate incident, he was disappointed that the local LSMs would compete against each other to obtain funds from donors. The LSMs even alleged they were much better, more credible and therefore worthier of donor’s support.

This guy’s criticism strong criticisms certainly surprised me. Silently sipping our cold coffee, he continued voicing his displeasure. “The most shocking revelation is that they seem bent on destroying each other, they do not even work as a unified body but compete aggressively to seek donor’s contribution. Small personal grudges get out of hand and seep into the LSM bodies to become bigger disputes,” he said. Having studied outside Kalimantan for several years, this LSM worker added that these personal quarrels between LSM activists would become a tool to destroy other LSM bodies.
“This is dangerous for the welfare movement in Kalbar,” he said. Four days after the meeting, I sought out other LSM activists at a local coffeeshop in the city centre. They were heatedly discussing important concerns, especially those affecting the governor’s office, criminal cases as well as problems affecting urban society.

I listened intently as they debated necessary solutions, including plans to meet up with the respective parties to discuss these problems. Making coffee shops as their base, the activists’ actions give rise to the term ‘kopi pancong’, whereby they would sit from coffee shop to coffee shop the entire day to discuess these ‘important’ issues. Strangely enough, the only things I have heard them discuss is their wide-spread influence, especially having ‘important ties’ to local governing authorities, journalists and LSM notaries’ act. At the same time, not having a permanent office they may be using their manager’s home address for correspondence.

It is such outlandish pratices that urges me to find the truth about LSMs in Kalbar. Are they really in such a sad state? Do the LSMs care for the local community, or are the people just pawns in their bigger plan to get more aid from local authorities and overseas’ donor bodies?

Who are the LSM?
Nine years ago, in a tiny workshop in Bogor, West Java, I met up with the late Mansyour Fakih, one of the LSM founders in Indonesia. During the discussion that ensued, comments were made by consultants on several of the LSMs. According to Mansyour, the term LSM used widely in Indonesia was coined to replace the term Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).The use of NGOs had received negative feedback, and had been misinterpreted as being anti-establishment. It was not accepted by the new order regime (ORBA) then, hence the introduction of a new term, LSM, in the early 1980s. It is only now (2000s) that some LSMs realise the importance of the NGO term, especially regarding issues against the government. Despite the realisation, the LSM term is very much in use at meetings both formal and informal, discussions, seminars, workshops, as well as press conferences.I learnt of the LSMs in Pontianak during my university years in 1996. Through readings, observations as well as personal involvement further strengthened my resolution to make LSM as ‘the preferred career choice’.

I believed that LSM is a professional organisation because those running it are professionals. Hence, in 1997 with eight other friends from several rural areas in Kalbar, we established another LSM body called Kelompok Studi Mahasiswa Borneo (Kostma Borneo) or the Graduates Study Group Borneo. Though it all started in a small rented room, the LSM provided us with an escape from cruelties of the security forces since the influence of ORBA was very much influential at the time. It is well known that LSMs are established with many ideals, to create a spirit of philantrophy and altruisme. Philantrophy refers to ‘a love amongst humankind while giving to the needy’, while altruisme refers to ‘empathy to the causes of others and humanity.’

Therefore, programmes or activities by LSMs should be in tandem with ideals materialised in its vision, mission and objectives; or more commonly known as moral values. The ruling body of the LSM also has many versions, though LSMs are not similar to associations. As a rule, an association is a ruling body chosen by LSMs.
Furthermore, not all associations are categorised as LSMs and not all LSMs have the same rulings as associations. Some LSMs also have their own set of rules and groupings. Moreover, LSMs were established to benefit the public, which differentiates it from other organisations. Other organisations may have limited interests, including safeguarding members’ welfare. An example is Yayasan Kostraad (Kostraad Association), established to look into the welfare of Kostrad members. Another example is Yayasan Karyawan BULOG (BULOG Workers’ Association) and other bodies established for the mutual benefit of its members. LSMs are also identified as several associations or body in the community that legally are not part of the establishment (non-government) and are non-profit. They are unlike other establishments with profits (dividends) that are divided amongst founders or managers. In the three sector model of modern human living, LSMs are placed in the third sector as civil society. The other categories are state (first) and the market (second). (For full listing read Mansyour Fakih: 1996)

Ever since my student days, I recognised only a few active LSMs working to ‘better the community.’ They worked with religious bodies and would carry out various community projects. The LSM activists lived in Pontianak. In Kalbar, there is one renowned LSM which was established since 1981. It has the support of teachers, lecturers, as well as Dayak civil servants in Pontianak. Some of the early projects carried out by the LSM was to build schools. With excellent networking, the LSM received encouraging support of national and international LSM bodies, especially for its human resource (SDM) capabilities. It further extended its programmes to rural villages.

As part of its goal to become the sole authorising body in Kalbar, this LSM then established other LSM ‘children’, the term of which in government institutions would be sub-units. Each LSM sub-unit is headed by a Director/Coordinator. The difference between the two is that the establishment of these LSM sub-units stand alone. Despite this, in its efforts to find support from donors it would form partnerships with others. It would tackle a variety of issues affecting communities, human rights, managing natural resources, forestry, agriculture, law advocate, conflict resolution and reconciliation, economic development, cultural observations, media, magazines, radio, and television. This makes it ‘the largest’ LSM ever established in Indonesia.

At the time (1980-2000), the Dayak situation in Kalbar was also depressing. They were knee deep in problems, and were without resources. Though they are the largest racial group in Kalbar, they did not receive aid. This is one of the reasons the LSM activists made the rural Dayak community their target group of the LSM programs. A senior LSM activist pointed out that being an activist at the time of ORBA was very challenging. Despite the challenges, this made them even more determined to overcome the various obstacles. (Don’t the forbidden become more challenging, and spurs people into carrying it out?) The Dayaks were also not accepted as PNS members, so they became LSM activists. Those that excelled during the ORBA era subsequently became leaders in their own right. It is clear, then that the LSMs became the only gateway during ORBA for the Dayak community to continue existing. Its leaders too, became well-known.

The presence of the LSM activists in the villages were accepted by the community and at the same time, despised by the local leaders. They were known as many things; as orators to provocators. At the same time, some of them became a ‘stepping stone’ for the villagers to communicate with the district offices. Programs carried out by these LSMs were to teach villagers to think critically. Slowly, a new wave of thought began to emerge from the Dayak community. One positive aspect is they become more confident resulting in the increased capacity of the Dayak SDMs. The Dayaks are aided by the LSMs and religious bodies to build schools. At the same time, another LSM sub-unit would organise its own scholarship programme. Until today, more than 200 students have benefited from the scholarships given. It is now evident that there more and more capable Dayaks in many sectors of society.

From the years 1980-2000, the macroenomics of the area began developing rapidly, as well as rural infrastructure became much better. Many Dayaks too, had the opportunity to enter universities and to become leaders at the district as well as provincial levels. However, these LSM activists still held the opinion that as a result of the development, the Dayaks, known for their fierce pride, land and identity were in danger of modernisation. One of the contributors to the change was the investments of global corporate companies opening plantations at the villages where Dayaks worked.

An ex-activist of LSM, who is now a manager of a political party, pointed out that there were many reasons for the LSM activists to increasingly help in creating awareness among the Dayak community.A result of such awareness is the agreement by LSM Dayaks on usage of the word ‘Dayak’. Prior to this, there were many versions on the use of the word in literature such as (Dyak, Dajak, Daya, Daya’, among others). It was only after the Dayak Cultural Congress in 1992 that writings began using the word ‘Dayak’. The usage of the word Dayak then became widespread through books, observation reports, magazine and much more by LSM activists.

It was like a spell had been cast over the Dayak community that unconsciously increased the ethnical awareness of the Dayaks to ‘free’ themselves from being bullied, ignored and ostracised in their own land. At times, these movements seemed out of control, raising fear among other ethnic immigrants. Despite this fear, the main objectives of the LSM activists to empower the Dayaks were a great success.
These LSM activists, who are mostly in the middle to upper class levels, educated and confident, frequently visited the villagers to bring critical insight. It is through these visits that the Dayaks become more confident in their strengths. They become aware that they were threatened in their own land; fear that their identity as a race would disappear as well as other issues. It is then that the Dayaks became more open. The outside world came into the community, and they joined the world community.

Their success became a catalyst for young Dayaks to continue increasing the SDM capacity. Although the number of Dayak intellectuals is still relatively low (approximately 1 % of the total Dayak population), it has managed to instil ‘pride in being a Dayak’.It was at this point that I understood significantly the dissatisfaction amongst the Dayaks with the situation; attached to it a fear of losing their identity in their own land, frustration with the system and power. This resulted in their fury at other ethnic races regarded as their closest physical threat, events which were to be repeated over the years.I was an eyewitness to the Dayak fury in 1994, 1987, 1996, 1997 and 1999 of conflicts between ethnic Dayaks (and Malays in 1999) with ethnic immigrants resulting in deaths and loss of property, the biggest in the history of conflict ethnicity.In a few of my writings, since the 1980s, it was mentioned that many of the LSMs had already concentrated on efforts to reduce poverty. The involvements of these LSMs were through empowerment and development programmes in the community that had been arranged by the LSMs with funds from donors.

This was made possible by the change of attitudes among donor bodies. It provided a platform for the LSMs to become involved in programmes organised by the Indonesian government, especially programmes with objectives of reducing poverty in Kalbar.
Today, their work to reduce poverty is known as community economics with a system best deemed as ‘old style, new faces’. The LSM managers became richer, while followers of the system were still poor. There is no concrete yardstick as to the number of people in Kalbar that ‘became rich’ because of the LSM programme, but the obvious is that its members were still languishing in poverty. There is a saying that describes this: ‘The poor save money but the fund managers enjoy the poor’s money’.

Of the total, 70,000 members (2007), approximately 1% have benefited from the program, while the others are still poor. However, this system is touted by the LSM activists as the best sistem amongst the other monetary systems in the country due to evidence showing the poor becoming richer in Kalbar. Contradictory to this is that, although those involved in the programme are from villages and cities, they are already stable economically. These include civil servants, private sector workers (companies) and shop owners in villages.“To have money, one has to put in Rp 1 million, and to me this is unreachable for the poor,” said a friend. He also pointed out that to borrow money was also difficult for the poor, especially when their savings are still low. From my friend’s statement, those able to make loans are actually government servants, the army (Tentera Nasional Indonesia)/ police (Polis Republik Indonesia), small and medium businesses as well as LSM activists who handle members’ accounts. Furthemore, the activists get special privileges; they get big loans with small interest. One common public secret since 1980, is that these LSMs had to accept the government’s decision especially in the ‘invitation’ of investors to Kalbar. On some notes written by the LSM, it was mentioned that in the 1960s, timber companies began to operate and exploit the forests in Kalimantan, where the Dayaks call home.

On a recent poll conducted by the Forest Clearing Rights (HPH), it was found that hundreds of businesses operated without cease, the last noted was in 2000. In early 2000, a new programme emerged, the 100 hectares Forest Clearing Rights (HPHH 100 Ha). Rights for the programme were through cooperative iniative with Bupati/Mayor’s permission. Unfortunately, this was only a camouflage for the HPH programme which initially ended in 1999, when its concessions ran out.It was therefore at the end of the 1990s, the local community cut trees on a large scale especially at Dayak villages. This benefited local merchants whom were given a little investment fund. As a result, hundreds of tembawang and kompokng (wild forest fruit) as well as thousands of tengkawang trees were damaged and vanished. Today, not many villages are able to defend the tembawang forests and kompokng fruits from the hungry jaws of the chainsaw machines. The vast agricultural land in Kalbar was also cleared with support from the local government (Pemda Kalbar), using local authority orders (Peraturan Daerah No.8/1994) with emphasis on plantations. This was further supported with guidelines on Kalbar Provincial Land Use (Peraturan Daerah No. 1/1995 tentang Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah Propinsi Kalbar (RTRWP)).In the RTRWP, it is mentioned that land amounting to 5.257.700 (5, 257,700) hectares would be provided for plantation purposes. Until Disember 2000, benefits of the land expansion in Kalbar reached 3.560.251 hectares (68 % of 5, 2 million hectares of land suggested). Pemda Kalbar’s efforts were to replace wood as an export commodity since productions dwindled in 1990s. This prompted the LSMs to campaign on another natural resource which would be long-lasting/conserve the environment.

Critiques to LSM Kalbar Today
Ethnic violence which occurred in the middle of 1980- 2000, may have been unconsciously as a result of LSM activities to organise the local communities through analytical education. LSM activists, in their statement pointed out that change of attitude in village communities to the status quo, resulted in fear of change which in turn created and developed roots to violence. As a result of ill-prepared techniques in handling management conflicts by the LSM, communities close to them fought their way with violence. This then became the tool for those receiving ‘empowerment’, as a means for protecting the community from investors to the area.

As an example, in the 20 years from 1980 till 2000, episodes of violence occurred between Dayak villages with businesses, security forces; inter ethnic, which resulted in many lives and properties lost on both parties. The burning of a building in the office complex of the LSMs in early 1997 caused the rural Dayaks to be angry. In a short period, hundreds of ethnic Maduras were forced out from the interiors of Kalbar. Who benefited from the situation? Other facts stated that the local community exchanged blows with businesses, which received support from the local security forces and military. It was then that the LSM activists working on social issues to help the local community fled from the scene and ran back to the city.

The LSMs avoided the attacks and conflicts between the local communities and merchants. In such situations, LSM activists can always run from the scene as they have the means and outside friends to aid them. However, the local community cannot easily run away from their villages as they do not have money or friends from the outside world. I am saddened by this, as almost always, the LSMs would leave the community to fend for themselves when conflicts arise between the community and merchants. Has the LSM then become a provocator for the events?

Another interesting phenomenon occurred in 2005, when the Dayak LSM opened its doors to LSMs established by non-Dayaks in Kalbar. The Dayak LSMs would invite the other LSMs to establish an alliance. This resulted in several LSM alliances carrying the main theme of reconciliation and peaceful development. The target groups also diversified, with participants from Dayaks, Malays, Javanese, Madurese, Bugis and other ethinicities. Or was this alliance necessary, because Dayaks were no longer an interesting issue that could be sold solely on its own merits?

Some of the small LSMs established by the Dayaks since 2000, differed from those Dayak LSMs established in 1980 as the newer LSMs practised the concept of inclusion-pluralism consistently in their writings. This may be due to feedback from the LSM phenomenon above especially since its existence is widely felt in Kalbar. LSM movements have been expanding alternative teachings to children in the rural areas, by setting up formal schools such as primary school/SD (2002), secondary school/SMP (2003) and SMKejuruan (2003). In 2007, the LSM worked with several LSMs to establish a teachers’ training college. Although the LSM is organised by the Dayaks, it is no longer ethnocentric towards the Dayaks, but sees them in the context of pluralisme and multi-cultralisme. These LSM activists live in villages, and also in towns. This differentiates it from other LSMs that have been in existence since the 1980s.

LSM Practical Politics
Change in the political landscape, with the establishment of law number 32, 2004 (UU no 32 tahun 2004) gave the choice of choosing a district head directly to the local community, is an interesting issue especially from the LSM perspective. Since 2005, LSMs in Kalbar shifted their focus from advocacy, and aiding local community (1980 – 2004) to politics (2005 till present). Yet again, the activists became politicians.
During the 2004 elections, LSM activists joined several political parties. Some of them became managers of political parties, an action in the past that was widely criticised by those in the LSM. They targeted specific government departments at various levels. The results? You can guess they lost. Yes, once again, they lost!

It is interesting to note that the failure of these LSM activists in the political arena (election of the head district/Pilkada) proved yet again that their work in organising the community had failed. Maybe the community felt that the LSM activists were not yet qualified to becometheir local leaders.The most important thing that the LSM activists should have done was weigh the conditions and facts, while reflecting the situation to gauge the community’s belief in their work. Therefore, claims that they have been working for the local community, can no longer be allowed.

LSM Coffee Shops and Newspapers
Although there are a huge number of LSMs out there that are actively functioning as LSMs, those in the city are another matter.According to the Racial Unity and Community Well-being (Kesbanglinmas) provincial data 2007, in Pontianak, the provincial capital of Kalbar, there are more than 400 registered LSMs. The LSM boom in society especially those that seek to gain politically or economically, can and will destroy the image of LSMs in Kalbar.Moreover, this so called image can be used by other bodies; governments, legislative, judiciary as well as political parties to attack or discredit legitimate LSMs. This may destroy the LSM relationships between governments and donor bodies.

The LSM community has also critically voiced their displeasure at corruptions, collutions and nepotisme with governing authorities, which have found their way into the media. This becomes a ‘shock theraphy’ to offices not wanting to give projects to the LSM. Once the projects are awarded, the LSMs will stay silent. This sort of situation will taint the image and integrity of the LSMs as a whole, especially as they have been known to practise ‘double standards’. One of the reasons is due to the lack of moral norms that have been agreed amongst the LSMs that can be accepted as a guideline for LSMs actions’ in Kalbar.

LSM “Pendek Tongkeng” (sulk)
There are LSMs in Kalbar that practise the concept of “pendek tongkeng”, a term used by community in villages to refer to someone who is always angry and upset when others do not agree with their ideas. These LSMs do not wish to learn, do not wish to know and forget their duties. These LSM activists also become managers of political parties. As they are active campaigning, they clash with other LSMs and do not meet. Moreover, they spread negative campaign. When overseas donor come to Kalbar, these pendek tongkeng LSMs will usually show their true colours, praising their LSM as the best and that other LSMs are not as good, and should not be supported.

They also claim that other LSMs in Kalbar are too small, and thus not fit to be working with them and many other negatitive reasons. Unfortunately, these international donors believe in these arguments as the truth. Hence, the small LSMs usually lose out to the ‘superiority attitude’ adopted by the big LSMs. The activists are akin to Gods and are not to be blamed. If their work fails, the small LSMs have to bear the brunt of the blame. Ideas of the small LSMs are often stolen; they do not even appreciate the term ‘intellectual rights’.

One of the worst incidents will occur when the LSMs battle over politics. At one time, there was an LSM activist who sought power through the head of district elections.Other LSM activists did not support the person as he was said to be too self-centered and arrogant. When the person loses, other LSM activists would become their enemies.Political differences become taboo and are not understood by the LSM. This differs greatly from what they have been teaching the local community about democracy, human rights and other theories.

Today, LSMs in Kalbar have not begun to think of their own code of ethics. They are prone to blame the authorities and investors. I suggest that in the light of the present situation, moral ethics should be upheld not only within the LSM bodies but also to the outside society. These can be the authorities, donors, public sector as well as communities participating in the programme as well as the public at large.
The LSM should also promote its vision, mission and values so that the outside society can also accommodate them. Within the LSM community, these values should be upheld so that it should not be destroyed by individual interests that can and will destroy the integrity and credibility of the LSM, which in turn creates a negative image of the LSM. At the end of the day, the LSM activists are the ones who can prevent power abuse.

The conditions mentioned above (LSM pendek tongkeng, LSM practical politics, LSM coffee shop and newspapers, and others) if allowed to continue will destroy the social movement in Kalbar. The community, authorities, investors and international donor bodies will no longer place their trust in Kalbar LSMs. Who will they place their trust in when the LSMs in Kalbar are continuously in conflict?

One solution is to organise a Kalbar LSM Congress. Two agendas that can be addressed include: (1) Summarise and Agree on a Code of Ethics for LSM:The code can be agreed upon, implement and observed together. This can bring many benefits to the LSM community besides developing the integrity and credibility of LSMs to the outside community. Outsiders would also notice that the LSMs are sensitive to their actions and not use ‘double standards’ when carrying out its activities. Another factor would be global developments. The existence of a strong LSM (one that has been set up voluntarily, not profit oriented, independent from authorities, run transparently, democratically, accountable for its own actions and orientated towards society’s needs) has long been implemented by many in the international world such as government authorities, donor bodies as well as international NGOs.

In the last few years, funding agencies have increased their aid to the LSMs. Donor bodies have also expressed to governments, that it is important to involve LSMs in the design, planning and implementation of development projects by developing positive participation. Government of countries given loans are also asked to create a condusive environment for the development and growth of LSM by having laws that would encourage the LSMs to increase their contributions to national development.

One of the aspects monitored by the international world is good governance. Some translate this as having good leaders and good governments. In reality, the meaning has a wider scope to include the public (corporate governance) as well as organised civil society (including LSMs). One aspect under scrutiny from donors is that good governance should exist within the LSMs. They should work professionally, with transparency and be more accountable. If there are interests with outside parties, there may rise conflict of interests between LSM advocates with LSMs actively involved in the development of social and economics in society.

In their involvement handling projects sponsored by the government, for example development LSMs can spread the idea that everyone has the right to be involved in the development as part of basic human rights that can never be relinquished. Everyone, whether as an individual or collectively can contribute to social development, economics, cultural and politics of his country. It is with such values in mind that the LSMs move in tandem with developments in society as well as upholding the right to be involved in development programs as mitra pemerintah equivalent to having rights and access to funds without sacrificing their autonomy or indepence. On the other hand, LSMs moving towards advocating change usually avoid government projects so that their involvement would be free from the hassles of governments. The outside world is rapidly changing, and many are jumping on the bandwagon so as to not be left behind. What about the LSMs in Kalbar?

I suggest that the quarrels between the LSMs, due to difference in opinions should be settled once and for all.LSMs should be an example for Kalbar citizens to tell them that differences are gifts, and should not be defeated. LSMs should also learn from multi-ethnic societies in Kalbar that have been living in peace and harmony. LSM in Kalbar should understand that outside influence cannot be defeated if the small groups of LSMs present are ever warring. A strategic alliance should exist, so that the ecology of Borneo is also safe. All these years, the LSMs have been working on their own; this goes the same for economics LSM and conflict resolutions LSMs.

If they come together, they can work for a greater Borneo and save Kalbar from greater destruction as well as work in tandem with the local community. One of these is that the LSM Kalbar needs to have a congress and outline and agree on a code of ethics (1), to create a unified agenda to save Borneo from conflicts amongst ethnics (2) and to attend to conflicts arising from the collection and expansion of natural resources by multi-national organisations in Borneo (3)This should also include agreements by the LSMs to create awareness during legislative campaigns, as well as the Presidential campaign in 2009 and local elections. Without this, LSMs in Kalbar are only self-sufficient and cannot fight equally if they do not co-exist peacefully with other LSMs.

The second agenda: reconciliation and regeneration of LSM activists.
The futile struggle between LSMs to vie for international donor bodies, political parties and others would only destroy the viability of LSMs in Kalbar. Nobody ones, the ones who do benefit are the investors who destroy the community organisers, corruptors, human rights violators and others. Today, young LSM activists are not given the opportunity by seasoned activists to move forward in politics, leadership in LSM and others. Young activists are indoctrinated to only carry out work, while the older ones become the brains of each step made.

It is no wonder then, that LSM programs are still very much the same and has yet to develop further. In my opinion, changes in the agenda should be carried out by young activists. The old ones should retreat from the LSM world so as to pave regenerate new activists and not to become a polarised ORBA. Let the young do the work and fate of future Borneo. The old ones should rest and take time out for their grandchildren, let the young ones move forward, don’t you agree?

Pontianak, mid- April 2008.

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