In media training we tell our clients that they should never repeat an emotionally-charged negativism, even when denying it.
This, appearing on the cover of the latest edition of Tempo, is a very obvious reason why.
Former Armed Forces Chief General (Retired) Gatot Nurmayanto has been jockeying to get into big-time politics in the upcoming 2019 presidential elections. He’s been known to be courting lots of parties and factions to become the Vice president Candidate.
Here, he denies being a “Political Whore”.
What effect do you think that this denial will have on his image? When the front page quotes you as saying “I am not a political whore (literal translation of pelacur is prostitute) the only thing that such a denial does is to associate the idea you’ve just denied with you.
From now on, no one who’s seen the cover of the nation’s foremost politics and public affairs magazine can look at Gatot and not think “political Whore.”
Normally public figures make a mistake like this when they are trapped by journalists trying to provoke them or out to snare a good headline. The journalist might ask, for instance, “Some people say that your courtship of various politicians including Jokowi and the religious right makes you a political whore. What do you say to that?”
if that happens then Gatot should ideally frame his answer that is the antithesis of that idea with an answer such as, “I stand on my principles and my desire to serve the people. I’ll work with anyone who’s embraces similar values.” It’s not the best answer but it would avoid the “I am not a political whore headline.”
Ironically, however, the journalist at Tempo wasn’t even trolling for a sensationalist quote when Gatot exposed his vile thought. In Page 41 of the 2-8 April edition of Tempo the question put to him was: “Are you attracted to the idea of becoming President Jokowi’s aide?”.
So go figure how someone like this could have become the Chief of the Armed Forces in the first place. What total hand, eye or mind could have selected him to possibly lead brave sons and daughters of the republic into battle?
But there you have it. Indonesian politics is replete with little Gatots running everywhere, especially during this election season.
People often ask why we avoid taking on politicians and political parties as clients. The answer is simple: We didn’t but even if we advised and trained Gatot on what to say and how to say it would he have listened, or would the ego and bluster get in the way?
It says a lot about Indonesia today that when an employee of mine recently quit his job to apply for asylum in Canada on grounds that he’s gay and feels discriminated against in Indonesia, they not only put him on the Protected Person’s list as they usually do to asylum seekers – they classified him as a refugee instead.
He now has to undergo some procedural hoops but it looks like he will be accepted by Canada, who will now gain a productive, caring and professional person. Indonesia, on the other hand has lost someone like him that could have contributed so much to the social and economic development that it so needs.
Z had been working for me for the past five years. He had been a journalist and when he started off at our workplace he was tentative and unsure of himself. He quickly picked up the needed skills and soon became one of our potential consultants.
One of the things he enjoyed most about our office was that we accepted him for what he was. The other was the Personal Development Fund we had for consultants who completed each year of service. They could use the fund, that amounted to a month’s salary to develop themselves personally, not professionally. We do this because we feel that people who have an active life outside the confines of the office make the best consultants as they would then have new perspectives, knowledge and experience to bring to the table.
Z mae the most of the personal development fund, traveling to Europe and Egypt with it. But his wanderlust wasn’t slaked by these forays and in 2015 he applied for a Sabbatical to travel and work overseas. He applied and received a Work and Travel visa from Australia and spent about a year traveling and working. He then crossed the Atlantic and went to the US.
Overseas, he got something that he could not find in Indonesia – not only tolerance but acceptance of the fact that he was gay. Then, circumstances intervened and for family reasons he had to come back to Indonesia. h began to work for us again and this time around his traveling had contributed to his experiences and world view, making him a much stronger professional.
He had become so good at what he did that I could delegate tasks to him and not worry about the quality. And when a client needed help in one of the most remote and difficult parts of Indonesia, working under very stressful and demanding conditions where he had to advice and push back against unreasonable demands, I felt comfortable sending him to lead the team.
He was to stay there for close to a year with only short R&R breaks in between. In his stay he had to endure sniper fire, labor strikes and violent destruction of property directed at our clients. He also lived through a mud slide and flooding that destroyed parts of the work site, even it was 2,300 meters above sea level and in remote mountains.
There were times when he felt it was too much but he bore it all with good grace and turned in a stellar performance that not only won the clients’ hearts and praise but also won for us a prestigious regional award for crisis management.
By any count Z was an asset to us. if I had more people like him I would be able to grow our company much faster, provide more jobs and even better working conditions to our employees. If Indonesia had more people like him we would be able to attract more investors who need skilled professionals to propel its national development.
But we have now lost him to Canada. When explaining his move Z told us that his one wish when he first joined us was to travel, travel and travel. Working at our workplace allowed him to do that with the Personal Development Fund and our decision to allow him to go on Sabbatical allowed him to travel more.
Paradoxically, however, all that travel made him want to settle down more. Now all he wants is to have a partner, kids, house – and a dog. This is something that most of us want but just because he has a different sexual orientation he no longer feels safe or welcome because of the rising intolerance, not least to the LGBT community that has become so shrill lately in Indonesia, his own country.
He feels so persecuted that he is willing to uproot himself to seek asylum in a county that he has not been before. I applaud his courage and hope he finds everything he is looking for in Canada. He’s Canada’s gain and our loss.
Deliberate misunderstandings and righteous piety seems to be the order of the day in Indonesia’s poisoned and acrimonious political settingThe latest flap involves a call to boycott travel site Traveloka and uninstall their mobile app following a walkout by detractors when newly installed Governor Anies Baswedan delivered the keynote speech at Canisius College’s 90th anniversary on November 11.
The walkout was led by well-known composer Ananda Sukarlan who objected Anies’s politicking methods to win the gubernatorial election. The walkout generated lots of publicity and social media chatter and somewhere out of this mess t someone somewhere gan to spread information that one of Traveloka’s founders, Derianto Kusuma, had walked out on Anies together with Sukarlan. Derianto had been slotted to receive a recognition award from the College.
From there things snowballed an soon a “movement” was formed where its supporters asked other netizens to uninstall the Traveloka app on their mobile phones as a sign of protest against Derianto’s action.
The fact of the matter, however, was that Derianto, as explained by Traveloka in a press release, was unable to attend the event as he was traveling overseas. So he couldn’t have joined the walkout.
Alexis almost certainly has prostitution as one of its services and Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan is right to close it down if morality is his kind of thing.
But shutting it down based on press reports rather than on hard evidence is worrying, as it sets a bad precedence of executive action based on suspicion.
What this means is that in future all the Jakarta government has to do is suspect that you are guilty of a violation to impose sanctions on you.
And the basis of their suspicion? Media reports.
While there are many responsible and professional journalists out there who would document and recheck their facts before going to print, there. are many more still who are slack, naive and easily manipulated or can be bought or intimidated.
This being the case, it is not difficult for anyone to engineer negative stories against any business or party. And given the depleted ranks of journalists because of falling ad revenues it is easy for even implausible stories to be copy pasted onto other publications, amplifying the negativity.
With Anies’ action to deny the renewal of Alexis based on mere press resports rather than, say, an investigation by City Hall officers or the Police, we have entered the dubious territory of Kangaroo Courts.
We’d better hop onto trying to right this wrong before we end up in Anies’s pocket.
These are sensitive times. Since newly installed Jakarta Governor made his Protect Pribumis speech at his inauguration the P word has gained new political impetus.
One thing about the internet is that what is old can be made new again, with a new twist.
Responding to the widespread criticism against their leader, Anies Baswedan’s supporters trotted out CNN Indonesia’s report on 22 June saying that he was not the only Pribumi champion and the cue was actually set by Jokowi.
Going beyond the headline and reading the news, however, reveals that Jokowi did not say the P word.
Let’s be honest: when the word Pribumi is used, it is code for anti-Chinese. This is the same in Malaysia where the word Bumiputra is used to mean anti-Chinese.
The parallels do not stop there. The champions of the the racial ideology – Anies Baswedan in the case of the Pribumis and Mahathir Mohamad in the case of Bumiputras – are also shapeshifters. Both are of immigrant stock fashioning themselves as the torch bearers of the indigenous people.
Mahathir who championed Bumiputraism hailed from Indian Muslims in Kerala in South India.
Anies is from Arab stock and he is now claiming to champion the rights of pribumis.
Both seek to exploit the politics of race against a community that has proven easy pickings – the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Mahathir wrote his The Malay Dilemma in 1970, a year after racial riots tore through Malaysia. The cause of the riots was that the ruling Alliance (forerunner of the Barisan Nasional) for the first time lost its two-third majority in Parliament in the 1969 national elections. It was more a psychological defeat rather than a real one. They were still in power but they had lost the majority ended to amend the constitution. They also lost most of their seats to the DAP, a Chinese-based party.
Tensions rose after the elections and on May 13 1969 a riot broke out in Malaysia. The next year Mahathir came out with his book that essentially said that the Malays were the indigenous people of Malaysia; that they were too nice and had been taken advantage of; and that affirmative action was needed to balance out the dominance of the Chinese Malaysians in the economy and commerce.
This hate mongering was effective. It propelled young Turks like Mahathir into power and allowed them to oust the Old Guard typified by Tunku Abdul Rahman, who stood for decency and moderation.
The take out from Mahathirism is that race is an easy card to play and it can be devastatingly effective. The Barisan Nasional has been in power ever since and each time it is threatened it trots out the racial card and that is enough to get it though one election after another. Even Najib, tainted as he is by the 1MDB scandal and the murder of Mongolian model Alantuya, remains in power through the Machiavellian use of racism and money politics.
Anies is embarking on the same path. His campaign was racist and he is now fashioning himself as a champion of the Pribumi. That is, as we say in Indonesia #kodekeras for anti-Chinese.
As he and Saracen have demonstrated during the gubernatorial elections, playing the racial card is effective. Ahok is now in jail and Anies-Sandi is sitting in the governor’s chair.
Like the Barisan Natsonal who will play the race card each time there is anything to threaten their grip on power they will do the same.
What is a threat to Anies-Sandi now is accountability. They made a lot of wild promises to get elected. If they fail to deliver, even the masses that vote them in will begin to turn against them.
They need to distract the attention of the hoi polloi and redirect that energy into something else – and hating the Chinese “colonizers” of Jakarta is as convenient a target as it can get. Similarly what threatens Najib is accountability over 1MBB, so what does he do? All sorts of racial distractions such as the nonsense about Ketuanan Melayu while he quietly hocks the nation to the Chinese Chinese.
So what are the rest of us to do with such an inexorable force as racial politics?
Indonesia can be different from Malaysia where the Bumiputra is synonymous with Malay. In Malaysia the predominant non-Chinese group are the Malays (an artificial construct as most of them are keturunan Orang Jawa, Orang Minang, and even the present Prime Minister Najib is keturunan Orang Bugis – but they are all manipulated to be in one “race” the Melayu or Malay).
Non-Chinese Indonesians are so diverse in ethnicity and religions that nobody can claim to speak for them. And this is where Indonesia’s strength lies – in its diversity. #Notmypribumi seems an appropriate hashtag for anything racial Anies utters from now on.
Indonesians should also b aware of the devastating effects of racial politics. Go to Malaysia and see the harm that Mahathir has done there. People there are so polarized that they eat in different restaurants, make friends mainly only with the same “racial” groups. Each year that passes there is less tolerance and more absurdity – like the Muslim launderette owner in Johor that would accept only Muslim clients to prevent pollution from other races (race and religion are synonymous in Malaysia, thanks again to Mahathir).
The situation is so bad that parents (even Bumiputra ones) tell their children not to stay in Malaysia and to work and live overseas if they can help it.
Indonesia can do better than Malaysia and the time to act is now by refusing to fill into Anies’ scheming. Avoid giving his racial politics much credence by discussing it at length but keep focusing on what he actually does as a Governor against his election promises. At best it would force him carry these promises out – which would be the benefit of everyone. At worst, it would starve his intent to use racial politics of the reaction it needs to create a Malaysianization of Indonesian racial relations.
If the survey is accurate it suggests that after decades of living cheek by jowl with the pribumis, they still harbor stereotyped perceptions about the Indonesian Chinese.
Among the most glaring stereotyped are that the Chinese Indonesians tend to be more wealthy than the pribumis. Over 60 percent of respondents in the survey felt this.
Astoundingly almost half of the respondents, 47.6 percent, believe that the Indonesian Chinese harbor divided loyalties between Indonesia and China.
The survey, which was conducted in May 2016 after the anti-Ahok protests, did not say whether these sentiments were as intense before the demonstrations.
Several questions come to mind from the survey results:
Does this mean that no Chinese Indonesian can ever stand for high office and win, because all the opposition has to do is to fan the racial flames?
Can pribumis be so oblivious of the many, many walthy-off Pribumi officials and businesspersons that are so visible in everyday Indonesia?
Does it mean that Indonesian Chinese should prepare for a difficult year ahead and until the 2019 presidential elections are over before letting out their breath? Will Indonesia be a racial powder keg all primed?
Should Indonesian Chinese try harder to disabuse their pribumi counterparts of their prejudices? Or are they better off letting things lie than run the risk of stirring things up?
The would the results of a similar survey, if conducted in neighboring Malaysia, show a lower, similar or higher level of prejudice?