Garuda’s Ari: when its OK to experience schadenfreude

Schadenfreude or, in English, epicaricacy, is mostly a guilty pleasure. That’s because it is the joy you feel at the misfortune of others.

Not much changed since the bad old days. Still soft and privileged bums on the seats of Harley Davidsons

In the case of now-sacked Garuda President Director Ari Askhara, however, schadenfreude is a legitimate and just pleasure.

Here was a man who lived a life of impunity, seemingly protected by the former State-owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno when he signed off on questionable audits of the airline’s books. (And what has Rini to say about her elevation of Ari from Garuda CFO to President Director?)

A man who brazenly sought to smuggle a stripped down Harley Davidson and several Brampton folding bicycles on the ferry flight of the A330-900 Neo from Toulouse to Jakarta, a journey he celebrated after the plane landed by riding with his Moge (motto gede = large motorbikes) cronies on onto the tarmac in an event sponsored by BMW.

And when caught red handed, he either instructed or conspired with his Corporate Secretary and spokesman Ikhsan Rosan, to lie to the media. It wasn’t even a credulous lie. Ikhsan said two employees had loaded the Harley and Bramptons onto the plane. Like employees can afford those toys for the rich.

The pity, however, was that the Indonesian media swallowed those implausible excuses whole, and regurgitated it to their readers. There was no sharp questioning of who the employees were if any, what did Ari and the directors know and when did they know it, and how could employees even afford those toys and ever hope to get away with it if they had indeed been guilty.

Then, after Ari was sacked by current State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir, news began to emerge of his alleged mistress, a Garuda stewardess who was apparently present in the ferry flight, of her plastic surgery and how she influenced his decision to shift the Jakarta-Amsterdam flight to Bali-Amsterdam instead.

A video of his megalomaniac Soekarno-like motorcade during what appeared to be an Independence Day paraded also emerged.

Throughout all this Ari, apart from trying to dodge reporters, has said nothing. No remorse, no regret, no apology.

This whole episode gives rise to several disturbing questions about the elite in Jakarta and the amount of rot in the state-owned enterprise fiefdoms that exists till this very day.

What kind of self-image and environment that people like Ari live in? How do they perceive themselves? Are they so drunk on the Kool Aid that they do not know how people despise them for their ostentatiousness, of which the Harley Davidson is the most prominent emblem of entitlement.

Since Suharto days the Harley Davidson has been a symbol of thee elite. Importing the bikes then was illegal so the only way they could be brought in was if you had “backing” – New Order speak for connections. Those who rode the Harleys were, apart from Suharto himself, military generals, police chiefs, obsequious but rich businessman and the Brahmins of the government, like heads of state-owned enterprises.

Their rides used to be escorted by the police, none of them noticing how incompatible that was to Harley’s born to be wild spirit.

Two decades on things, have changed little. It is now legal to import Harleys but probably most of the Harleys on Indonesian roads are brought in illegally and then issued with doctored road permits. There are more rich and entitled people so there are more riders but essentially it is a new generation of the same old elite.

The police escorts are still there. The elite still show off, with those loud machines as the rest of us are stuck in traffic jams. Some of these idiots also sport police look-alike designs, sirens and lights. All illegal and telegraphing a what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it attitude to the rest of us.

Do these people even realize how much contempt they attract from the rest of the population? (and here’s an idea for Finance Minister Sri Mulyani who has to increase revenue from taxes – why not have the taxman go after all the Moge riders – you’ll find that most of them have false papers because they brought their bikes in illegally and not paying any taxes).

The consoling thought about Ari’s downfall is that Erick Thohir has had the courage to lop off the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the Brahmins in the State-Owned Enterprises must be quaking in their shoes right now. They should, but are they?

Hard to tell. Would love to see a journalist do a story on whether the elite are capable of self-reflection and awareness of the environment around them. Unspun has a sneaking suspicion that many of them are incapable of this, making them unable to self-correct and change their ways.

One can hope that Erick Thohir and the Government will continue their purge of such entitled and corrupt Brahmin. Then the rest of use would be treated to an endless flow of Schadenfreude.

Something amiss about the Government’s handling of demonstrations

There is something amiss in the Government’s handling of the demonstrations that have taken place in at least nine cities over the past week.

It is at best, half-hearted and amateurish; at worst, grist for a conspiracy theorist’s mill.

Contrast this week’s handling of protests with that of how it handled the protests surrounding the riots of May 21 and 22, after Prabowo refused to accept the results of the Election Commission’s decision that Jokowi had won the presidential elections.

Reformation in Repair. Source: The Jakarta Post

The police acted with discipline, determination and restraint.

And it was communicative, calling press conferences and briefing the media often on developments and messages the government wanted the citizens to know. Police Chief Tito Karnavian was also highly visible in press conferences, giving the public an assurance that things were being handled properly and everything was under control.

Jokowi too was visible, giving press briefings and appearing confident that everything was under control.

Unspun remembers conversations with Jakarta old timers marveling about how professional the Indonesian Police Force could be if it wanted to.

Then the student demonstrations began last Wednesday and the Police suddenly looked amateurish again in their handling of protestors. Time and again the police had to apologize for its mistakes and videos of police brutality began cropping up.

It had to apologize for a policeman running into a mosque with shoes on to apprehend a protestor. It had to backtrack after accusing Jakarta City ambulances of carrying rocks, petrol for Molotov cocktails and fireworks to supply rioters. It shot teargas into Atma Jaya University, a zone set aside for first aid to injured protestors.

In its communications Police seemed to play a defensive game, otherwise issuing admonitions that fell on deaf ears.

And all this wall, what realty stood out was the absence of leadership. Tito gave a press conference somewhere but he said nothing substantial. He then virtually disappeared from the public eye.

On the Government’s side the deafening silence from Jokowi is astounding. That left the way open for the relics of his government, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto and Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko to fill in the vacuum with their tone-deaf hectoring and defensive statements. Many wondered why the Presidential Chief of Staff, who should concern himself with the internal running of the presidential office, was acting as government spokesperson.

In the vacuum of information that they have created, all sorts of conspiracy theories have begun to surface.

Some say that Jokowi has his hands full trying to balance the demands of the parties in the new Cabinet. Others say that the police ineptness is part of a conspiracy to weaken him. Still others hint of dark forces at play orchestrating paid rioters to create mayhem.

Nobody really knows what’s happening and whether the government will get a handle on things, and that’s the problem.

Indonesia is at an important juncture. After over two decades of Reformasi, corruption and sense of entitlement among the elite have made a strong comeback. The swift and cavalier passage of the Bills to the KPK law and Criminal Code was a manifestation of this comeback and its contempt for the other sectors of Indonesian society.

Through the passage of the Bills Parliament has shown that it cannot be trusted to act in the public’s interest. The Judiciary Has along ago been discounted as an institution that can protect their rights. And now the Executive, helmed by Jokowi, is also showing signs of tentativeness, indecision and compliance to the demands of conservatives.

What that means for most people is that Indonesia is approaching a failed state. This sounds dramatic but how do you describe a nation when none of the branches of government can be relied on to act as a check and balance of the other branches?

This is why the students are right in refusing to meet with Jokowi unless it is in an open forum where he can be held accountable. And they are right to continue the pressure through further protests until the message gets through that the Executive and the Legislature is accountable to the people.

The mystery behind the police apology

There is something very strange about this story.

Early this Police stopped 5 Jakarta City (DKI) ambulances on Jalan Gatot Subroto.

In at least one they found rocks and petrol. They suspected that the ambulances were being used to supply rocks for throwing at police and fireworks, said Kumparan. Other news outlets said there was also petrol for making Molotov cocktails.

The ambulances were impounded and police released a video of the interception on their twitter feed.

In the video, a policeman was heard saying that they were carrying rocks and fireworks.

The Twitter posts have been taken down.

Later today Polda Metro Jaya spokesman Argo Yuwono said that there was a misunderstanding. The ambulance (or ambulances – it is not clear) were not, as the Police initially suspected, ferrying rocks and Fireworks to rioters.

There was a misunderstanding, he said. He went on to clarify that the rocks and Fireworks got into one of the ambulances because a rioter had been cornered by police and he sought to hide in the ambulance that happened to be nearby.

Ergo, it was a random act by a single rioter.

This raises several questions:

1. How did the rioter get into the ambulance int he first place?

2. Rocks, especially when packed in a a cardboard box (seed for Aqua bottled) must be heavy. He was so strong he could run to evade the police and jump into the ambulance?

3. Ambulances have drivers and attendants. Were they oblivious to a super-strong rioter loaded with rocks and fireworks jumping onto the back of their ambulance?

The mind boggles.

Will The Indonesian Government end up like the one in Hong Kong – reviled, untrusted and ineffectual?

Communications, or lack of, is digging the government into a bigger hole than it is in because of issues surrounding the amends to the KPK and criminal Code laws, Papua, forest fires and the president’s family.

With public sentiment at best skeptical at worst critical of the government, communications can make the difference between people’s perception of the government as open, responsive and accountable – which would make it easier to quell tempers and protests – or as arrogant, tone deaf and defensive – which would only serve to escalate tempers and intolerance.

Minister Amran: Try being a minister if you like to protest. Source: Katadata.com.

The latest misfire came from Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaymaniyah commenting on the protests yesterday in which tens of thousands of students took to the streets in many cities through Indonesia to protest the amendments to the Criminal Code and other laws.

“Those who like to demo should become a minister,” he was quoted as saying by katadata.com. “Then they’ll know what its like to be a minister,; he said, adding “Enak Aja”, an Indonesian term that roughly translates into “you don’t know shit, so shut up.”

Obviously he hasn’t heard of the saying “heavy is the head that wears the crown.” Nobody forced him to become a minister, he accepted the job and is now bellyaching about how people don’t understand the difficulties of b ring a minister when confronting demonstrators?

Then there was Coordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs Wiranto who told the press yesterday that the student protests were no longer relevant because the House of Representatives had heeded president Jokowi’s call to postpone the passage of the criminal Code and other controversial laws.

Again, this was a display of the lack of perhaps thee most vital skill in communications: listening. If he had listened to what the protesters had to say, he would have realized that what they were effectively saying was that they wanted amendments to these laws cancelled, not put aside like some unholy zombie to rise again when the public is distracted elsewhere.

Listening would also inform him that the subtext of the protesters is that they can no longer trust the  Legislative and Executive branches of government to do the right thing by them and the nation. The Legislature because they could originate amendments that seek to rob its citizens of the right to choose their own lifestyles, their freedom of speech and action. The Executive for being too weak to veto such atrocious amendments and then, belatedly, tried to band aid things with some Palau my about protecting the KPK’s rights, and a request to remove the article about insulting the President.

Furiously digging the same hole was the President’s Chief of Staff, who was who was quoted by CNN as saying that the student protesters should understand that the Executive and Legislature had decided to discuss further the legal amendments and that the President now had many important things such as Papu and forest forest to occupy his time.

If one were vulgar one would interpret his quote as effectively saying” We already threw you bone by postponing the  passage of the amendments, so fuck off and leave us alone. We have more important tasks than to cater to your sods.”

All this does not help.

Neither has the Legislature. The Leader of the House of Representatives Bambang Soesatyo was at his misogynistic best when during a meeting with the press in which a woman reporter asked several questions, he unctuously and patronisingly asked her “ada pertanyataan lagi, sayang?” This is equivalent in English to “any more questions, Honey?”

The reporter fell silent, probably from outrage. The men laughed and Bambang sought to make it up to her by saying “its OK because we are all family. I know you all….(illegible) you all young.” Think creepy uncle.

The public perception is that the legislature is definitely out of touch with the people’s aspirations. On top of that they are all entitled and voracious money grabbers who are uneducated, unsophisticated and unfettered by scruples and morals.

If the Executive is not careful and quickly acquire some communications skills and advice, it will be lumped in together with the Legislature. Then it will be too late. It will be like the Hong Kong Government  being tone deaf and committing a series of mistakes and inflaming the Hong Kongers to the extent that confrontation rather than accommodation becomes the norm.

And when things got really bad, the Hong Kong Government finally realized that it needs to communicate better. It invited several international Public Relations firms to help it communicate better but it was too late. Not a single PR firm took up its offer to pitch for the business. 

As things stand it is still not too late for the Jokowi Government. The President still has a lot of social capital from his past performance but that is depleting fast at this rate unless he does something about his cabinet’s communications. He needs to seek professional help soon or end up looking like Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam – reviled, untrusted and ineffectual.

 

Jokowi, the DPR and the beautiful, valiant students of Indonesia

Today, thousands of students have taken to the streets in Jakarta and other cities demonstrating against the Criminal Code. Traffic in Jakarta was clogged up and as the day progressed, water cannons and tear gas were used on them, but it could not dampen their spirit.

A couple of days ago, after widespread protests,  President Jokowi had announced that he has asked the House of Representatives to suspend the passage of a revision of the Criminal Code. The revision is ridiculous. It outlaws sex outside marriage, treason in the form of “robbing the independence of the President and Vice President”, the propagation of Communism (n this day and age, Really?), insulting the heads of state or government, the promotion of contraceptives and abortions, the practice of black magic…You couldn’t make this up but its there in the revisions to the Criminal Code.

The House complied and suspended the passage of the revisions to the Criminal Code. But it was too little too late.

This is because they were also contemplating passing articles in four other bills, including a manpower bill, a land bill, a mining bill and a correctional procedures bill, all of which contained provisions that would appall most right thinking citizens.

The students that took to the streets today wanted the DPR not only to suspend the passage to the Criminal Code Revisions but to quash them totally.

This is not unreasonable. What sort of House of Representatives would have even considered passing such revisions in the first place?

The answer is simple: One that is rotten to the core. One that is full of ignorant and arrogant charlatans drunk on power and disregard for the people they were supposed to be representing. One with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and the only recourse to check their power is to take to the streets.

It is the only recourse because the Executive Branch of thee government has not been doing its job (let’s not even consider the Judicial Branch that is way beyond the pale). In fact, it has been fumbling spectacularly, beginning with the amendments that would weaken the Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK), one of the few symbols of hope against the endemic and arguably worsening corruption in Indonesia.

Here, in spite of his past promises to the contrary, the president did not veto the bill that would weaken the KPK, allowing it to go before the House of Representatives. He then said that he had some conditions that would strengthen the KPK. The speech sounded empty.

Then his Chief off Staff Moeldoko (him of the expensive watches that he on his salary in the armed forces could never afford in a couple of lifetimes) came up with the excuse that the KPK need to be checked because it was a deterrent for investment. What baloney. It’s not the KPK that should be taken to task but the failure of the enforcement of the rule of law, legal certainty, fair judiciary and obtuse, miles of red tape that is holding back investment. Yet he held out the KPK as the fall guy.

Then there is Papua where mishandling by the government and police caused hundreds of Papuans in several cities to riot. The latest incident is in Wamena where up to 20 people are reported to have been killed. The government response was to blame agitators and hoax news sources.

There is more that seems to indicate that Jokowi, normally so humble and engaging, has somehow gone tone deaf. While forest fires are causing residents in Kalimantan, Sumatra, Malaysia and Singapore to choke on the haze, Jookowi’s publicity team released a video of the president frolicking with his grandson Jan Ethes among the deer and goats at the Bogor Palace, where the air seemed clean and pristine. How insensitive.

And to add to the evidence of tone deafness his eldest son Gibran has applied to join the political party backing the president, thee PDI-P, and has signaled that he wants to run as Mayor of Surakata, the seat that launched Jokowi’s ascent to the Presidency. More: His son-in-law Bobby is signaling that he wants to run as Mayor of Medan in North Sumatra. In a country that has seen so many corrupt politicians preserve their wealth through the creation of political dynasties this is exactly the wrong message to send out on the eve of Jokowi starting out on his second term.

The President, once so popular, seems to be unraveling, and nobody knows why. There is speculation that the low  quality of advisors he has surrounding him is beginning to show.

Unspun sincerely hopes that Jokowi can pull out of what is beginning to look like a nose dive. I hope for this not because I feel that he is the right man to lead Indonesia but because there is none better, for the moment. Take him out and we may be facing the deep blue sea rather than the devil we know.

So here’s some suggestions for Jokowi, should this ever reach his ears:

1. Remember you have the mandate of the people and you’re going into your final term of office. You don’t need to be hampered by electability to do the right thing by Indonesia

2. Take a close hard look at the people surrounding you. Are they sycophants, are they loyal to you or to themselves? Go for people with ability and integrity. Indonesia is not short of people like that.

3. Put a check on the buzzers that are allied to you or buzz in your name. They are toxic and are beginning to be hated by the people. Many of them gravitate to you in search of favors, so they can be near the limelight but at the end of the day they boost their own self importance, not what’s good for the nation.

4. Respect and listen to the students who are currently protesting. They have a point, they are sincere in wanting a better Indonesia and they represent the rest of us who are sick and tired of the dishonest, porkbarrel politicians in the DPR and political parties. These politicians need to be tamed or expelled.

5. Go back to watch old videos of yourself. See how you inspired all of us with your candor and sincerity to work for the public good, and your willingness to battle petty bureaucrats and self-serving politicians. Rediscover that Jokowi and bring him back to the Istana.

Good luck. You are still our best home for a progressive nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KPAI isn’t all wrong about PB Djarum

Something important is lost in the rancour against KPAI (The Commission for the Protection of Children) for calling out PB Djarum’s (Djarum Badminton Association) badminton auditions.

KPAI, as we know has accused the cigarette maker Djarum of using its foundation, PB Djarum (Djarum Badminton Association) to exploit children.

To be sure, KPAI has chosen its accusation poorly, using the word manipulate instead of exploitation or a more neutral used. It has caused a groundswell of opinion and invective against its stand, drowning out the one important issue that should be addressed: how should corporations discharge their Corporate Social Responsibility?

If KPAI had been more measured it could have advanced a more persuasive argument against Djarum because it does have a point. Djarum is indeed using PB Djarum to give it visibility in the youth segment where the Djarum tobacco brand has been forbidden to enter.

PB Djarum has undoubtedly contributed immensely to Indonesia’s domination of badminton worldwide/ But setting up a foundation or creating an event that is seemingly divorced from the parent brand’s activities, yet giving the brand a high visibility is one of the oldest tricks in the book of corporate communications.

Why else, you might ask, would the foundation still carry the logo and brand name of the parent brand? In this instance, you cannot look at the PB Djarum logo

Without being reminded of the tobacco company’s parent brand.

Why can’t Djarum (and other Indonesian companies). for instance, adopt the route taken by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is in part funded by Microsoft Stock dividends. The Foundation’s logo.

And why, among all the gin joints and causes, does Djarum have to alight on a cause to do with the target demographic for continuing tobacco sales? Why can’t it, instead, channel its vast resources in, say, helping improve the lot of tobacco farming families?

Study the marketing campaigns and events of other Tobacco companies and you will see the same cynical insertion of their branding elements.

On the other hand, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can never be accused

Can never be accused as a vehicle for Microsoft.

The problem in Indonesia, I think, is that most corporations have not thought through the role of business in helping the nation develop economically and socially.

What is their role? How should they go about it? In which causes or issues? And will they have credibility and trust if they proceed.

Many corporations Here grasp at the most convenient concept around: Corporate Social Responsibility.

It’s a concept that sounds nice but is dated and ineffective, especially during these times when trust in business is at an all-time low.

Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter have argued convincingly that CSR doesn’t quite work because it does not reconcile a business’ imperative to make profits with the need to contribute to economic or social development in the Harvard Business Review on Creating Shared Value. Here is a video of Michael Porter speaking on CSV to business leaders

To me CSV makes more sense. It posits the notion that businesses are aware that unless the communities with which they work with prosper, neither can they. As such, the corporations – because of the resources at their disposal – should take the lead in helping these communities generate economic or social value in their activities. By doing this they are effectively creating shared values.

This will help them to rebuild the trust that Business Has been losing ground on. An with this trust comes greater social capital with which they can achieve more and perform better. It’s a virtuous circle.

The KPAI-PB Djarum issue has given us a chance to reexamine and review the role of business in society, especially the businesses in controversial industries such as tobacco, alcohol, large-scale agriculture and mining. because of their huge revenues they are under scrutiny by many activists, NGOs, social organizations and regulators.

Business has a great opportunity to do it right and embrace CSV, or they can continue to dwell in their comfort zones and keep plugging away at CSR – and then wonder why, after all the money and effort they have altruistically committed to an activity, people still distrust them.

One of the reasons why I love PR

I love my job because every now and then we get to bring our networks, know-how and contacts together to make things happen for a good cause.

The blogpost in Maverick is about how OPPO and Patrick Owen got together to raise Rp103 million for Rachel House in one night.

So uplifting a young man such as Patrick being so open hearted, capable and generous not to mention creative; and out client OPPO for its increasing appreciation of how a company with social purpose can create shared value with others in the community.

Here’s the blogpost (make sure you click on the link and go to the blogpost to see some near Augmented Reality being used on the works of Darbotz, Apriyan or Arkiv):