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.

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.

 

Maverick’s views on the Garuda fiasco

This is what I co-wrote with my colleague Marsha Imaniara on the fiasco surrounding Garuda after it issued a circular banning passengers from taking photos and video clips on board its airplanes.

https://m.kumparan.com/marsha-imaniara-1563432131140003103/alasan-garuda-indonesia-terjepit-akibat-menu-tulis-tangan-1rUXfXMLbKX?utm_source=Mobilesite&utm_medium=copy-to-clipboard&utm_campaign=Share

And this is the English version in the Maverick blog

https://maverick.co.id/the-reason-why-garudas-in-a-tight-spot-over-hand-written-menu/

Maverick now in select circle of crisis and litigation communication experts

CLCA.PNG

https://maverick.co.id/maverick-admitted-to-international-alliance-of-crisis-and-litigation-specialists/

 

The Monsanto Dossier case puts stakeholder mapping on back footing

It is now being dubbed by the Press as the Monsanto Dossier case, where a usual public affairs practice – stakeholder mapping – is perceived as a crime and a sinister move that violates privacy.

The context: Bayer had hired international PR/PA firms FlieshmanHillard (FH) and Publicis Consultants for public affairs work for its pestiside company Monsanto.  The year was 2016 when there was a high-profile debate on renewing authorization for glyphosate, the key ingredient in its controversial Roundup weedkiller.

FILE PHOTO:    A woman uses a Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller spray without glyphosate in a garden in Ercuis near ParisLike all PR/public affairs outfits FH and Publicis set about trying to know the influencers in this debate. One of them is the media and they compiled information on 200 journalists from public sources and possibly private sources as well.

Learning about the list of journalists, French newspaper Le Monde and broadcaster France 24 filed a complaint with French prosecutors alleging that the list broke several laws:

  • ‘Implementation of the processing of unlawful personal data’;
  • ‘Collection of personal data by fraudulent, dishonest or unlawful means’;
  • ‘Computerized storage of personal data revealing the political and philosophical opinions of a person without his consent’; and
  • ‘Unlawful transfer of personal data which is or is intended for processing to a State not belonging to the European Union or to an international organization’.

Bayer has taken the unusual step of suspending FH and Publicis. It’s actions as well as the complaint by le Monde and France 24, however, rises important questions on where to draw the line where gathering information on professional journalists that can influence the course of debate on an issue.

Stakeholder Mapping is standard practice in public relations and and public affairs. You gather information about stakeholders. There is nothing sinister about this but its a matter of framing.  Supporters of this practice ask how else can you understand and hope to educate or persuade stakeholders on an issue. Opponents, however, see this as some sinister attempt by underground forces to compile dossiers on others for nefarious ends. 

Yet this is a process that we all do, even in our daily lives when we compile a mental list of impressions of people, what their LinkedIn accounts say or do not say, what they like on Facebook and what they post on Instagram.

The line, if one is to be drawn, is between information obtained from public sources including public posts social media, or information obtained from muck raking, including hacking into accounts and databases.

In the meantime, however, all European  companies that have to adhere to the GDPR (general Data Protection Regulation) should keep a close eye on how the Monsanto Dossier case pans out.

For a thorough analysis of this case check out The Holmes Report.

 

 

 

 

Brown Jesus says Happy Easter

Good writing is hard to come by, so what we do with recruits at my workplace is to teach them to write well.

Being a former journalist and being one who writes moderately well, the task fell on Unspun to conduct the class.

Being a firm believer that writing is a reflection of your mental processes, I’ve always started the course with Critical Thinking 101 and the first slide in this presentation asks the participants to tell me which of the two images is a more accurate depiction of Christ.

Jesus

To Unspun the comparion is a no brainer. Jesus was a Jew and a middle easterner, a native of Galilee.

People like that, as in the BBC reconstruction from a skull found there during the period of Jesus, tended to look like the chap on the right. He may not looked exactly like the man portrayed but for sure he would have been swarthy and would NIT look like an Anglo-Saxon savior right out of the paintings of Byzantine artists.

Inevitably, however, there would be one or two – sometimes more – participants in the class who said that Jesus would have looked like the person on the left. The reason? That’s the image of Jesus they’ve seen growing up and the image that adorns the churches they go to.

Which was perfect for us to begin our discourse on critical thinking, the importance of not accepting anything at face value and why we need to ask questions more.

Inevitably too, someone would raise the argument that too much critical thinking is bad for us because it makes us cynical. We should just accept things based on faith.

The answer is that too much of anything is not good for anyone. At any rate critical thinking, if practiced skillfully leads one not to cynicism but to skepticism, which is not a bad thing.

In this world, if we question more without becoming cynical (which Oscar Wilde defines as “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”) we’d be enjoying oour lives more, not less; and socially and politically we would be ensuring that much of the ugliness and hate in this world we see today would be minimized.

Happy Easter everyone.

 

 

Leica ad draws heat in China for a photo shot by a Nikon

The advertisement below is dramatic to say the least. It depicts how journalists risk their lives to bring us the images that will change the world.

One of the most iconic images in the world is one shot in Tiananmen  Square on June 4 1989 when a lone man carrying shopping bags stopped a column of tanks by standing in their way. It came to stand for the students defiance against an authoritarian regime and was dubbed the Tank Man.

tank man

Leica released an advertisement last week telling a story of what it must have been like for the journalist who took the photograph. All powerful stuff and expertly shot and quickly drew the ire of the Chinese Government and other Chinese.

The Tiananmen Incident remains till today one of the most sensitive issues in Chinese society. The Govenment has banned all mention of the incident. Other Chinese, however, have hailed the ad as something that needs to be said. Still other point out that by airing the ad, Leica is jeopardizing Huawei in a sensitive time, because Huawei uses Leica lenses in its handphones.

Leica has since disowned the ad, saying that it was unsanctioned by Leica and it was the fault of the agency that produced it for loading it onto the net. Yeah.

The political fallout is one thing but what strikes Unspun as ridiculous is that the journalist depicted were almost certainly using Nikons than Leicas. There were actually four journalists that managed to snap photos of the tank man.

Three of them told The New York Times that they were using Nikons. The fourth did not say but there is no evidence he used a Leica.

So you decide whether the Leica ad was a good ad that spoke truth to power, an ad where poetic licence was more important than facts, or a needless provocation of the Chinese Government and some of the Chinese?