The most dangerous thing about Jokowi for us in Indonesia.

When the subject of Jokowi comes up, there is usually an awkward pause as everyone tries to express the mixture of frustration, despair and disappointment over the man they elected as President with high hopes for reform just a few months ago.

The pause, Unspun suspects, is because they are not really ready to confront their true feeling about Jokowi: ennui.

That is the most dangerous feeling one can harbour for Jokowi. That feeling is so powerful that Unspun, who had once been spirited to criticise SBY for his shortcomings, haven’t taken to writing on this blog lately.

Why is this most dangerous? Well, when there is hope left you would still criticise on the slim chance that it would be noticed by the person being talked about and maybe, just maybe, it would change the way they do things. With SBY you at least knew that Ibu Ani read the media clippings and SBY was sensitive to criticism. There was hope that change could still come about.

With Jokowi, there is no one home. One wonders if he’s really aware of what’s being said about the policies of his government and his decisions. And if he knew, would he care? There is no evidence he would.

So despair gives rise to a feeling of ennui. A tiredness so heavy and cumbersome you give up hope trying to do anything about it. Perhaps this is why the criticism against Jokowi are relatively muted these days. Perhaps many people have already given up on him, but do not have any alternative to turn to.

Ennui also because things are spiralling out of control so much that it sometimes feels like lunatics are running the asylum. How then can one account for anti alcohol laws that does not stop at banning the sale of beer at convenience stalls but making drinking alcohol illegal all together?

Or mining laws that are seemingly designed to kill the very goose that has laid the golden eggs of revenue fort the government. This is a time when, faced with declining commodity prices and a global economic downturn the government has to raise enough money to finance its massive infrastructure plans so that it can meet the campaign promise of 7% GDP growth?

Or that stubborness to execute drug offenders and piss of investor countries for the totally unsubstantiated and willy thinking that executions would help prevent drug abuse in Indonesia.

Why is all this happening? Unspun’s theory, formulated over lunch chatter with a client and a journalist, is that the apparatchik in Indonesia have always harboured a devil-may-care nationalistic attitude. Given the chance they would enact nationalistic laws and show the rest of the world that they bow to no one, even when they have to cut off their noses to spite their faces. Fortunately, however, Indonesia has been blessed by fairly open-minded, pro-business and pro-investment leaders. Suharto certainly, to a smaller extent Habibibie, Megawati and Gus Dur and certainly SBY (except for the Hattanomics he had to endure). They were no Einsteins or Keyneses but they had enough authority to keep the apparatchik in line and keep a lid on the destructive nationalistic impulses.

Now comes Jokowi. He’s isolated in his own government. His closest advisors Rini Sowandi and Arief Widjajanto are as alienated from the politicians than he. Together they have no power base in any political party. Then there is Luhut Pandjaitan, by all accounts a solid chap but he’s also a military man, and there is feeling that military men – apart from those wielding great authority like Suharto – cannot make the Government bureaucracy work. And then there is, of course, Megawati who thinks she’s royalty and deserves to be treated as such.

So the result is a president that is ineffective and a bureaucracy gorging itself on its newfound freedom to exercise its long-latent nationalism. Nobody seems to be directing this spate of events, not least the anti-investment, anti-foreigner legislation that we’ve been seeing lately.

So nobody’s home. The lunatics are running the asylum and a dark and heavy ennui is descending over us all. Will we succumb? Or will we, like Indonesia has done so many times before in the pass, muddle through and find a solution to the current malaise?

Ahok: Last man standing and Indonesia’s best hope for change?

Living in Indonesia these days feels as if someone has pulled the plug, and all the common sense and integrity that we expect even of our most revered political hopes are draining quickly out of the country.

The Outsider Jokowi, whom many of us had hoped would be a catalyst for change against a corrupted and ossified elite, now seems a shadow of his former self after his indecisiveness over the KPK-Police issue. Some people are hoping against hope that his dithering was actually some master chess move to get rid of Budi Gunawan who is widely to have been foisted on him by PDIP matriarch Megawati. This seems a long shot, however, and suggests that the hopes had watched too much Black Adder and the antics of the scheming Baldrick in their formative years.

Recently we have also seen the disintegration of Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan. Once lauded for his fantastic performance to get the country’s rail transport to run on time – no mean feat considering how bad it was – Jonan his been on crash and burn mode since the Air Asia disaster. he berated Air Asia for the failings of the aviation authorities, then he banned several routes for no good reason, then shot his mouth off on civil aviation investigations into the crash. He also issued a bizarre ruling that airlines would not be able to sell tickets at airports. And when it came to Lion Air the Minister who is known to roar at his subordinates his disapproval, squeaked like a mouse and got the state-owned Angkasapura to bail out the private airline as it did not have enough funds to compensate passengers stranded for hours because of its delayed flights.

And Surabaya Mayor Risma, once considered part of a new wave of local leaders able to effect change in Indonesia, has recently gone off the rails with her crackdown on young lovers and the sale of condoms on Valentine’s day. Why she is encouraging backroom abortions and the spread of HIV with this morally-infused crackdown is anyone’s guess.

The KPK, once the hope of Indonesians to clean up corruption is now a shadow of its former self as the new head hints at going soft on the real issues. Sure, it has been weakened by its fight with the police over Budi Gunawan and the police and the judiciary are responsible for wounding it, but let’s not forget that some of the KPK’s wounds are also self-inflicted.

Begining with Antasari some of the KPK’s leaders like Abraham Samad fail to recognise that in this high profile job whee you are up against a lot of bad guys, they must be more virtuous than Caesar’s Wife if they are to maintain the integrity and authority of that office. Alas they had feet of clay and exposed the Achilles Heel for its opponents to take pot shots at.

Which bring us to Ahok, the Governor of Jakarta. He is now being threatened with ouster from his post by the City Councillors. They want him out because he’s refuse to confirm to their version of the City budget that, as we are learning more every day, contains irregularities that suggest corruption.

Ahok seems vulnerable because he does not even have a party to back him up, the’s a Chinese in the traditionally non-Chinese dominated arena of politics and he’s a Christian in Islamic majority Indonesia.

None of this seems to have fazed him, however, as he continues not only to defy the Councillors but to do so in a confrontational manner. Granted, Ahok can be abrasive and he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but his bravery and Devil-may-care attitude may be the thing that Indonesia needs now.

Unspun would argue that Ahok, more than Jokowi or any other politician deserves the support of the public. If there are enough of us who are willing to take to the streets to frighten the hell out of the councillors then they will back down and a strong message will be sent to all politicians that the People, not them, are in charge.

if Ahok, with the support of the people, can prevail over the corrupt city councillors and their parties, there stands Indonesia’s best chance of knocking down the other bowling pins of corruption and elitist politics. A victory for Ahok could prove a decisive and fatal blow to the old forces.

There have been some demonstrations in support of Ahok, notably yesterday’s gathering at Bundaren HI during car free day. There is also a petition being signed by tens of thousands at change.org.

But that is not enough. Shame is not a language that the politicians and councillors understand. Neither is logic. The only language they understand is force. Force can be manifested either peacefully or violently. There is no need to resort to violence in Indonesia under the present circumstances.

So what should be done? Occupying the City Council to deny the councillors access or, better still, if they are inside, denying them exit would be tremendously effective. Half jokingly a friend yesterday suggested that the artistes and others who were so effective at the Salam Dua Jari Concert should organize another event calling it #BringtheHouseDown.

Nothing short of something like this would force the councillors to back down. The problem, however, is whether Indonesians, especially Jakartans, have been gentrified by social media to the point of ineffectiveness. Do they possess the same spirit as the protesters in 1997-98 who brought about the Reformasi, or are they faux democracy supporters armed with social media accounts. A bit like harley Davidson riders pretending to be road warriors?

It is too easy these days to “do something” for a cause by liking it on FB, Tweeting a #, or signing up for a cause in change.org that results in — nothing but a lot of noise ricocheting about in cyberspace with no tangible real effects.

So what is it going to be? Waking on the Internet or taking to the streets?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why #SaveKPK alone will not do

Kudos to those who braved the heat today to demonstrate to save the KPK. But it is not only the KPK that needs saving right now but the Government, and by extension Indonesia.

Important as it is the KPK issue is but a symptom of a larger malaise afflicting Indonesia today – the dearth of leadership.

One can easily understand the type of pressures that President Jokowi must be facing where the KPK-Police issue is concerned and can even empathise with the indecisiveness, lack of explanation and seemingly string of bad choices. Jokowi’s actions here, disagreeable as they may be, may even be the best under the circumstances.

But what about areas where Jokowi does not have his hands tied? Specifically, how his ministers and officers of high office are acting and saying? Surely he has the leeway to get them briefed, chastened and aligned to deeds and words worthy of high office?

Yet what we see are ministers and mayors shooting off their mouths and making suspect decisions without even a rap in the knuckles from the Headmaster-in-Chief.

Transport Minister Ignatius Jonan dishonoured himself and his office when making rash decisions to ground 60+ flights after the Air Asia crash. He also berated Air Asia for flying their plane without a physical briefing from the air traffic controllers, when the world has moved on and currently use emailed updates of weather and atmospheric conditions.

Then Jonan’s ministry came up with the decision to stop the sales of air tickets at airports.

And now Jonan, who is known for his lion-like roaring when berating his minions, suddenly turned mouselike when the Lion Air King’s airline is involved. He’s now asked Angkasapura to refund the passengers because Lion Air did not have the funds. Must he use state revenue for such things when a simple promissory note from Lion Air to refund or change the flights would have solved most if the needs of the affected passengers?

Then there is Risma, the high-profileMayor of Surabaya. Her latest contribution to the welfare of Indonesians. Getting convenience stores to stop selling condoms. How that will help stop the spread of HIV and other general diseases, and reduce backroom abortions is a mystery to one and all.

There are many other instances but the point here is that they all are contributing to the perception that this government has no adult supervision, so the children go about saying childish things and take childish actions without any consequences.

Perception is difficult to change when set, and Jokowi has already squandered almost all of the goodwill and adulation he received as mayors of Solo an jakarta and as the Last Great Hope Against Corruption.

He would do well to bring the ministers and other officers together, knock some heads, align them to a common point of view and provide guidelines on what they should and, more importantly shouldn’t, say.

 

 

Jokowi’s lost the plot: time to seek professional help

Unspun was one of those people rooting for Jokowi when he was contesting against Prabowo in the presidential elections. Not because he was the best of candidates but he was the better candidate in terms of integrity.

That alone held out hope that he might be able to change Indonesia, because for sure a figure like Prabowo that reeks of Order Baru would certainly not.

So when Jokowi got voted in, like many in Indonesia Unspun cheered. Unseen cheered again when he started his administration with fresh faces like Ibu Susi and Jonan. After all, did they not have track records of starting businesses and setting Keretapi Indonesia back on the right track?

And it went well for a little while and Unspun cheered. Then things started to go awry. Jokowi started making funny decisions – the destruction of neighbouring countries’ illegal fishing vessels, imposing the death penalty…and then the KPK-Police issue flared.

Like many in Indonesia Unspun was disappointed with his initial reaction, which was to equivocate. But the eternal optimist, Unspun still held out hopes for Jokowi.

Unlike most people Unspun, through counselling business leaders in crisis situations, could appreciate what a difficult place he was in, hemmed in on all sides by Megawati, Surya Paloh, Jusuf Kalla, his recently disillusioned supporters and the Police and the KPK.

In the previous posting Unspun suggested that the supporters should perhaps try to pressure the Police and the KPK instead to follow procedures. It would give Jokowi room to manoeuvre.

Then there was today’s interview with Kompas TV.

It was a disaster. He appeared unsure, tentative, had no mastery of the subject at hand and not only did not say anything substantial he did not even look the part of a decisive leader appealing for patience as he resolved things.

He fumbled and hummed and hawed even when he was asked softball questions. In short Jokowi shows all signs that he’s lost the plot.

Whomever is advising him is doing a very bad job at it. One never puts out the spokesperson without preparing him for it by doing dry runs, anticipating the questions that he’ll be facing and rehearsing, rehearsing and rehearsing until he can not only deliver the message, but deliver it in a persuasive manner.

It is time that Jokowi realises that how a president performs in public will determine how the public thinks of him, and can make the difference whether people continue to believe in him.

If he or his advisors have even half a brain at all they would turn to professional advisors and trainers in interview techniques. The nation has lots of qualified media trainers. If they don’t do this it may sooner than later cost them the Presidency.

Then we’d be back to business as usual with the Corrupt holding sway over everything.

 

 

Are good intentions harming Indonesia in the new Cicak-Buaya episode?

Five year from now when Indonesians look back at this moment in the nation’s history what conclusions would they draw?

What seems to suggest itself is that the Police-KPK issue is likely to be perceived as  watershed moment. On one extreme is a scenario depicting the last gasp of the Lords of Corruption and the Old Guard; On the other extreme is a scenario in which the nation takes a nosedive, erases much of the progress it makes and continues to muddle through or even begin to decline.

The first scenario is difficult to imagine as it would involve Jokowi prying his integrity and will from the clutches of the political parties that he’s beholden to. It would need some radical action such as the President dissolving DPR and appealing straight to the people for support. (Can the President Constitutionally even do that?) Or providing an ultimatum to Mega, Surya and the overlords – back down or I quit.

The second scenario, unfortunately, is more likely. Hemmed in by all sides Jokowi is discredited in to his most ardent supporters and resigns or is impeached. Jusuf Kalla takes over and we all go back to the old ways of doing things – turning a blind eye to privilege and power. The Party Overloards loading over the rest of the country as the rape and collage the land – in short, business as usual. This will be the beginning of a decline that will erase all the progress Indonesia has made in the past 20 years.

Future analysts might also conclude that what caused this second scenario is a confluence of malignant, well-meaning forces, and a KPK that is less than pristine.

The malignant forces are easy to identify in persons, institutions and motivations. There is Mega who is known to harbour grudges and let personal considerations rule the day. There is Surya Paloh who moves in his own world of morality and logic, fuelled by a large ego and unbridled ambition. An there is Jusuf Kalla who has judiciously decided to sit back and let Jokowi feel the heat, not running his chances to step in as President should things go to hell in a hand basket. There are also the party apparatchik and the Police, whose interests are to prop up a corrupt system that has lined their pockets and those of their acolytes and relatives.

The well-meaning forces are the earnest supporters of Jokowi. Professionals, celebrities and activists who campaigned hard for his victory in the belief that he would help rid the country of the rotten, corrupt system that the political insiders have nurtured over all these years. They are passionate, bridle with righteous piety and they are noisy – especially over social media that has become their loud hailer in these times.

Most of their efforts are motivated by an understandable deep hatred for the police that is a symbol of an institution that is corrupt to the core. For them the KPK has become the symbol of defiance against the Police and therefore the #SaveKPK hashtags and protests.

Unfortunately, the KPK has been less than impeccable. One should question whether the KPK overstepped its bounds when it announced that Budi Gunawan was one of the candidates flagged in Jokowi’s list of ministerial candidates. It may be true, and there may have ben very strong evidence that Budi is guilty of corruption but it does not make it right for the KPK to make this information public. Individuals inside could have leaked it to the media but officially they should not have made the announcement.

Then there is the KPK’s indictment of Budi as a suspect. If you have to indict somebody then, to be fair, you need to read out the charges. Otherwise it’s guilt by insinuation. Coming as it was on the eve of Budi’s appointment, and bereft of the charges that would substantiate such indictment, one could argue that the KPK fell way short of the principles of justice and law enforcement.

The KPK’s behaviour, combined with the passion of Jokowi’s disillusioned supporters has, arguably, made it more difficult for the President to manoeuvre as it hardens the resolve of the Police and the Old Guard rather than to get them to reconsider their actions.

So perhaps a rethink of strategies and tactics are needed. Protesters should perhaps try to be fairer, call for the preservation of the KPK but at the same time hold the KPK accountable for their actions. In the meantime pressure should be kept up on the Police to explain how Budi could have accumulated such massive wealth in spite of his low salary. And they should also be pressured to explain the basis and procedures for arresting Bambang Widjajanto.

So the angle of attack should perhaps not be a heuristic impulse to save the KPK as it contains the same contradictions and logical faultiness as the #JeSuisCharlie movement after the Paris attacks. Such an approach is attractive, sexy and populist but does not attack the problem at its core.

If the pressure are sustained on both these institutions it would make it easier for Jokowi to step in to settle matters. It is not ideal. A President should be made of sterner stuff but that is the inexperienced politician that the Indonesian electorate voted for – and as the saying goes voters deserve what they get.

It seems like a choice of helping out Jokowi or descending into a dark period for Indonesia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making sense of the first Presidential debate

Like most people living in Indonesia, Unspun’s impression of the presidential candidates had been confined mainly to a diet of TV newscasts, print news stories and the endless rhetoric – for one side or another – on social media. So like most people Unspun watched the first presidential debate last night with some expectations: a mercurial, fiery orator in Prabowo big on the national issues and a somewhat vague Jokowi who may be good on city administration homilies but all out at sea on national issues. Like most people Unspun was pleasantly surprised. The Tiger of Asia (Macan Asia) proclaimed by Prabowo’s campaign banners turned out to be a doddering pussycat. Instead of being inspiring and articulate, he looked puffy, unsure and unprepared, delivering normative, boring answers. Jokowi, on the other hand, was starting to look versatile and presidential. Instead of wearing his trademarked checked shirt, he wore a dark suit, white shirt and red tie. And although unpolished he demonstrated that he could take on national issues and articulate coherent solutions and policies. How did this come to pass? How does someone of Prabowo’s background – an elite family, good education, stints overseas become so inarticulate and fumbling, while a simple businessmen who stumbled into politics could spur himself toward being presidential? There must be many reasons but if Unspun had to guess Probowo’s folly rested on two intertwining factors: hubris and a New Order mindset. The hubris was evident when a day before the debate Mahfud MD, who is now heading the Team Sukses Probowo-Hatta, told reporters that Prabowo was already prepared for the debate and had no need to practice. It would seem that they were all drinking the Kool Aid at the Gerindra headquarters. Hubris mixed with a New Order mindset can be a fatal combination. The New Order mindset is characterised by a self-perception fed by acolytes and bereft of any reality checks. So in the run-up to the presidential debate Prabowo must be looking at the mirror and seeing a ferocious Asian Tiger. Jokowi, on the other hand, was reported to be mugging up for the debate. Unsure of himself, he nonetheless had the pluck to take on this wholly new level of challenge and, from his performance last night, managed to master at least some of the basics. The question that we have to ask ourselves is what do their performances at the debate, given the context, say about the presidential candidates? To Unspun it says that Prabowo is moribund to the old ways. That there is substance to the rumour that he usually thinks that he’s the smartest guy in any room, and therefore does not need to put in the extra effort to put in a good presentation. he takes things – his abilities, his privilege, his stature for granted. Jokowi, on the other hand, does not have a fixed mindset. He is willing to learn new things and he’s obviously a fast learner. He is adaptable and if he keeps this up he’s likely to master the new skill of managing the presidency. What wasn’t surprising were the performances of the running mates. Prabowo’s Hatta Rajasa was yet another Order Baru creature, spewing out normative without conviction. Jusuf Kalla was more engaging and sometimes witty. His baiting of Prabowo over human rights in 1998 was masterful. Of the partnerships the Prabowo-Hatta relationship looked like a master-factotum relationship while there was a synergy between Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla. Unspun is looking for the next round where the presidential candidates face each other alone. Will Prabowo be able to come down from his high horse and work toward a better performance? Will Jokowi be able to hold the floor on his own without Kalla’s support? This is all shaping out to be a more interesting presidential race than though and the television, much reviled in Indonesian educated society for their usual trashy programming, may yet prove to be the great leveller of Indonesian politics through the presidential debates. And yes, the moderator sucked. So did the moving LED backdrop.

Raiding the Ban for Popular Votes?

Even though you may no agree with it you could understand the reasons why Malaysia’s censors might want to ban a film like Noah – the ultra sensitive Muslims in that country bristle at any attempts to dick around with the religious texts.

But to brand The Raid 2 is a bit morelthan a mystery. Malaysia has let in ultra violent movies before. There is no religious element to the film unless your religion is violence and its the product of a neighbouring country. So what are the reasons.

We can take it for granted that Democratic Party presidential hopeful Pramono Edhie Wibowo is being opportunistic and nationalistic to question the Malaysian censors. That does not detract from the fact that his question needs an answer.

One can only hope (against all hope?) that the Malaysian politicians and censors have enough wits about them to adopt a more open approach and provide some answers after their disastrous brush with openness over the MH 370 tragedy.

Because, if they don’t they’ll be delivering to Prabowo a golden opportunity to shore up his popularity. (Thx for the spot Andi).

A spat with Malaysia is something relished by many Indonesians and if a spat breaks out over The Raid 2 Edhie will be able to ride the wave of nationalism and Malaysia-bashing.

All not good for Indonesia and Malaysia…unless it is a conspiracy between the powers that be in both countries to advance Edhie’s electoral prospects in the first place…Hmmm…Unspun’s been watching too many conspiracy movies lately.

Presidential Hopeful Criticizes Malaysia for Reported Banning of ‘The Raid 2’ – The Jakarta Globe.

A scene from the ‘Raid 2: Berandal.’ (Photo courtesy of Merantau Films)

Jakarta. Democratic Party presidential hopeful Pramono Edhie Wibowo asked Malaysia explain why the country’s film board had banned “The Raid 2: Berandal,” the ultra-violent but internationally acclaimed Indonesian martial arts film that was released in theaters last week.

“It is very unfortunate that the Malaysian government banned this movie without giving any reason,” Pramono said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The movie was scheduled to hit Malaysian screens on March 28, but as of Tuesday, it had not been shown anywhere in the country. There has been no official statement from the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia on why the movie by Welsh director Gareth Evans had not been screened.

Calls to the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia were not returned — but the film does not appear on the board’s list of approved new films. The Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta declined to comment on the ban when contacted by the Jakarta Globe.

Pramono called on the Malaysian government to view the film as a positive contributor to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) film industry.

“I also demand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs actively perform its mediation function with the Malaysian government,” he said.

A Malaysian movie site, cinema.com.my, reported that Malaysian audiences were disappointed by the lack of screenings in the country.

One moviegoer, Nicholas Lim, told the site he was disheartened by the ban because he had enjoyed the first movie, “The Raid: Redemption,” which was not banned in Malaysia. The second film, however, contains more scenes of graphic violence than the first.

“The Raid 2″ was released in Indonesia on March 28. More than 300,000 people saw the film during its opening weekend.