It was 9:45 at night, my cellphone kept on ringing. I was having a headache and felt heavily sleepy, and was on my way back home to Jakarta from Gosong Telaga, Aceh Singkil, so I did not heed every incoming call. Most of the calls eventually diverted to the cellphone of my husband.
Soon after, my husband haltingly told me the sad news. Innalilahi wa inna ilaihi rajiun, Husni Kamil Manik, the Chairman of Indonesian Election Commission (KPU), has just passed away. I was shocked and jolted up from my doze. I just could not believe what I just heard, and felt a deep feeling of sadness.
I immediately took the initiative to call my colleagues to confirm the news. At the same time, I received an enormous flow of instant messages confirming the news. It is true. Husni draw his last breath at 09:03 PM at the Central Pertamina Hospital due to a complication of abscess and diabetes.
The departure of Husni is a big loss for democracy and election activism in Indonesia. Husni is a figure with great career and huge contribution for the consolidation process of the democracy in Indonesia. He lead KPU since mid-2012 with his calm and serene personality, a personality very much suited to the characteristic of KPU as an election management body (EMB) in Indonesia.
As an EMB, all members of KPU are expected to be neutral, non-partisan, and professional in every situation. Those are three characteristics we can find in Mr. Husni. His legacy lives on not only in Indonesia, but also in the region and international scope. He was an ardent ambassador of Indonesian democracy to the international community on how the democracy in Indonesia can be a good example for other countries. He had shown us that we do not have keep on admiring western countries. A high-quality democracy is available here, in Souteast Asia, in Indonesia.
As the leader of KPU, Husni was the champion of transparency, openness, and public participation in the electoral process.
During an election observation mission in Philippines on May 9th 2016, the Chairman of Philippines Election Commission (Comelec) told the delegates from Indonesia that Comelec has learned a lot from Indonesia regarding election transparency from Indonesia. The Chairman particularly admire the initiative of KPU to scan the result of voting at the polling centers and immediately upload the scanned documents to a national server for anyone to see.
Previously, the election result in Philippines is inaccessible to the public. However, this year, public can see the result in every polling station and can compare the result with what they see at their respective polling station. It is quite apparent that information system used by Comelec in the election is similar to the one used by KPU, which is accessible from the website www.pilpres2014.kpu.go.id.
The success of KPU in providing transparent data in election does not only inspire Philippines, but also made KPU as the first EMB that provides a database to keep records of election from the most abundant polling stations in a country.
Such initiative can only be successful if the election management body has the commitment to serve the interest of the voters by providing them with transparency and openness. And Indonesian KPU, under the leadership Husni, has been successful in inducing innovation and public enthusiasm to participate in the electoral process by provding them with data availability.
As an example, there was a voluntary movement called Kawal Pemilu (www.kawalpemilu.org), a crowdsourcing effort to collect election result data from all over the country. Kawal Pemilu is a proof to a theory which assert that transparency and openness will always be followed by two subsequent effects: firstly, public legitimation, and secondly, public trust to the election management body.
Thanks to the transparency and openness provided by KPU, the 2014 election received a proper public legitimation and public trust. I could not imagine what would happen if KPU did not take the initiative to scan the election data and publish them in an open website.
Husni once said that there is no need for KPU to hide any election data, because election data should be opened and accessible, with the exception of certain data regulated by the Law of Public Information Transparency. According to Husni, transparency is an inherent characteristic to KPU and all its members and staffs.
This is why I consider it funny and strange that many people believes in a conspiracy theory which asserts that there were practices of data manipulation and tampering during the 2014 electoral process.
In recent weeks, after the execution of the Local Election Law by the Parliament, Husni shown an unusual behavior. He, who rarely raise his voice, harshly criticized anyone who seems to be threatening the independence of KPU.
This is due to the fact that there is a provision in the newly executed Law which states that KPU is responsible in establishing KPU Regulation and technical guidelines in every stage of election after consulting such responsibility with the Parliament and the Government in a hearing session in which the result of such consultation is legally binding.
The provision deemed by many as an intrusion to the independence of KPU. Husni then proved his integrity by deciding that KPU will file for an appeal and judicial review upon the provision to the Constitutional Court.
This decision is praiseworthy. KPU has proved its worth as the guardian of democracy and election, as is mandated by the Article 22E of the Constitution. Husni and his colleagues could have just do nothing and let the members of the Parliament intervene with their decision-making process.
But they chose not to. We are now convinced that Husni played an important role in the effort to maintain the independence of KPU. History will record his effort as an indispensable part in the democratization process in Indonesia.
Husni Kamil Manik has left us forever, but his merits and good deeds for Indonesia will be eternal. He left us on the second of of Ied al Fitri, 2 Syawal 1437 of the year Hijriah. The most sacred holiday in Islam, a religion that he embraced obediently.
Good bye, Mr. Husni. We will proceed our works in election and democracy with the spirit of egalitarian and kindness as you have shown us. You are a really good man. May Allah bless your spirit. Amin, amin, ya rabbal alamin.
Aceh Singkil, 8 July 2016
Executive Director of the Association for Election and Democracy (Perludem)
*this article has been previously published in Republika Daily Newspaper (11 July) titled â€œHusni dan Kemandirian KPUâ€ (â€œHusni and KPU Independenceâ€)