NAME: Garson H. Pabala
OCCUPATION: Surfing instructor
ORIGIN: West Timor
Is the country better or worse since former president Suharto stepped down 10 years ago?
It never got better; it’s just the same now.
How did you feel when you heard he died in January?
I wasn’t sad. I just said goodbye like when normal people die.
Is Jakarta politics relevant for your life, or is it ruled by elites who are out of touch with the people?
Politicians are too far from the real people, in Jakarta and even in Bali.
What does Indonesia have to do to become an economic powerhouse once again?
We have to make people happier, because change will come from the people, not from the government. If people changed, they would be able to make more of themselves, which would be good for the economy.
If you were running the country, what three things would you fix or change immediately?
Firstly I would give more people jobs. Then I would give them free land, because in Indonesia a lot of people are still homeless. Finally I would try change people’s mentality about globalization and make them realize the most important thing is taking care of what they have right on their doorstep.
How do you think Bali’s government is progressing?
I don’t think the new government has done anything yet. The officials have changed, but that’s all.
Indonesia is made up of more than 17,500 islands, many religions, dozens of ethnic groups and hundreds of local dialects. Therefore, is it reasonable to expect “Unity in Diversity,” as the founding fathers said?
No. If you are Indonesian, you go to school and you learn Bahasa, but in villages people speak their own language. I don’t like the concept of unity.
What does being Indonesian mean to you? What sets you apart from, say, neighboring Singapore, Brunei or Malaysia?
I am happy to be Indonesian, but only because of the country, not because of the government. I don’t think there is really anything different about those countries. Only the people make them different.
Why do you think Indonesia has always had such a testy relationship with its neighbor Australia?
For me the relationship is not testy. The people from both countries are the same.
What for you has been Indonesia’s greatest moment since it declared independence in 1945?
It was better before; everything was more natural. I like “old school” Indonesia better. I like it now, too, but it’s different.