After having been elected Deputy Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly, Oesman Sapta Odang flew to his hometown, West Kalimantan. He couldn’t hide his happiness there, seeing a cheering crowd welcoming him at the Supadio Airport. But it was just the icing of the cake, as his joy culminated in the evening: local figures, members of the Malay Ceremony and Cultural Assembly, public officials, and lay people gathered at Rumah Adat Melayu Pontianak, where they threw a special party for Oesman to celebrate his achievements, which were considered unprecedented in the context of local experience. “I can feel what they feel. Being appointed as the Deputy Speaker twice is an achievement, and I’m grateful to the people who have supported me thus far,” said Oesman, who landed in the same position between 1999 and 2004.
The challenge he’s facing now is to find solutions to every problem in the divisive House of Representatives, now controlled by two competing blocs, the Red-and-White Coalition and the Great Indonesia Coalition.
With eloquence, he explained that Indonesia’s prosperity depends on equitable economic growth, realising that the country’s convoluted and intricate red tape plays role in stunting progress in the business world. He uses his hometown as an example. West Kalimantan’s big industries will be under threat without national efforts to respond to power inadequacy and lack of infrastructure. There’s not enough electricity to power industries, and infrastructure to help sustain a health business environment in the province. “We export our products via ports in Surabaya, Medan, or Jakarta, which means tax revenues go to those big cities instead of to our reserves,” Oesman explained.
When asked what being the House’s Deputy Speaker entails to him, he answered, “I see myself as a statesman, not a politician. As members of the parliament, we’re obliged to serve the people, not the politi- cal party to which we belong. We must put our nation’s interests above eve- rything else, and this is a must-do affair if we consider ourselves statesmen.”
In addition to statesmanship, entrepreneurship also highlights Oesman’s life, which epitomises a rags-to-riches story. At the age of 6, he was already an orphan, at age 14, helping his mom financially by selling cigarettes at a local seaport. Now, his businesses range from mining to investment, hospitality, and to agriculture. “I’m slowly but surely handing over my businesses to my children and to capable people whom I trust,” he said. A phone call then interrupted our talk, and he asked us a permission to pick it up. Being in close proximity to the statesman, we overheard the conversation, where he spoke to a senior journalist who appeared to suffer from a stroke and needed immediate help. Oesman tried to help him by hooking him up with doctors at the Gatot Soebroto Army Hospital. Helping others seems to be a natural inclination for Oesman, and he tries to incorporate such character into the formula of his life success, which he describes as 5S. “The 5S formula consists of strategy, (organisational) structure, skills, system, and speed and target,” he concluded.