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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The difference between the court of law and court of public opinion

In a court of law Democrat Party Chief Anas Urbaningrum’s argument that he should be presumed innocent until found guilty of corruption allegations makes sense. As he says he’s not even been indicted and as such there is no need for him to step down from helping the Democrats.

Then there is the court of public opinion in which Anas has been virtually tried, judged and convicted as guilty as sin when it comes to corruption. That this is so is seen in the fast deteriorating confidence that Indonesian voters have in the Democrat Party, as attested to by several political polls. It now looks that unless the Democrats have a house keeping they will continue to lose support just in time to be trounced in the 2014 general elections.

Sooner rather than later Anas will, because of his conviction in the Court of Public Opinion, become such an embarrassment that he would be forced to step down.

What’s funny here is that Anas and his supporters have only themselves to blame as they virtually pleaded no contest to all the charges leveled at them in the Court of Public Opinion. There was no attempt at all to plead his case before the public, to convince the public that he was unfairly accused and that he is innocent.

All this is indicative of the elite politics mindset that Indonesia’s politicians embrace. Theirs is a world where what matters are the intrigues of palace politics, political patronage and the backdrop deals. These practices have no place in a democracy where, sooner or later, public opinion will assert itself.

So. What are the Democrats going to do? Make lame noises about how Ana’s should go and then wring their hands in hopelessness and do nothing? Or take decisive steps and, if nothing else, suspend Ana’s from all positions and power until it all blows over. The former course is to court certain defeat at the upcoming polls. The latter at least gives them a chance to repair the damage before the polling starts.

detikNews : Bukan Tersangka, Anas Tak Akan Mundur

Makassar – Ketua Umum DPP Partai Demokrat Anas Urbaningrum menanggapi sambil lalu desakan mundur dari internal Partai Demokrat seperti yang diserukan Ruhut Sitompul. Anas menegaskan dia tidak berstatus terdakwa atau tersangka.

“Anda semua tahu, ini obyektif sekali, saya bukan terdakwa, bukan tersangka, saksi saja tidak, statusnya jelas seperti itu,” ujar Anas saat ditanya detikcom soal desakan mundur dari internal partainya, usai melantik Pengurus DPC Demokrat Kabupaten Gowa, di Gedung Haji Bate, Sungguminasa, Sulsel, Rabu (8/2/2012).

Anas menambahkan, partainya memiliki mekanisme yang dijalankan berdasarkan AD/ART, etika dan peraturan organisasi. Terkait permintaan mundur, Anas menyerahkan semuanya pada mekanisme partainya.

“Menyangkut proses hukum, pendirian kami jelas, kami menghormati proses hukum, kami menyerahkan sepenuhnya pada aparat hukum untuk memproses secara adil dan obyektif, berdasarkan prinsip-prinsip penegakan hukum yang adil, bukan berdasarkan desakan-desakan atau tekanan opini,” pungkas Anas.

Sebelumnya, Ruhut Sitompul meminta Ketua Umum PD Anas Urbaningrum mundur demi masa depan PD yang lebih baik. Apalagi jika dikaitkan dengan pemilu 2014 mendatang. Kasus-kasus yang berkaitan pengurus PD, dimungkinkan membuat citra dan perolehan suara partai jeblok.

Water lilies, Joko Wi and Indonesian corruption

What Unspun loves about living in Indonesia is that every once in a while, amid all the muck, detritus of corruption, indecision and self interest there will emerge something wonderful, like a water lily flower blooming resplendent even though it emerged from the mud.

Last night was such an occasion. It was Pecha Kucha Night, the seventh that Maverick has organized, and it had a star studded list of speakers that included film director and Indonesia’s most influential Twitterer Joko Anwar, iconoclast Pragiwaksono, “Bapak Blogger” Enda Nasution. And there was also Joko Widodo, more commonly known as Joko Wi, the legendary mayor of Solo.

Joko Wi, the legendary mayor of Solo

Joko Wi has become a legend in Indonesia because he has shown what one man with integrity and political will can do for a city and, by extension, the country. Last night he shared with the audience of about 250 people who gathered at  Es Teler 77 Resto on Aditywarman what he’s been able to achieve in Solo.

In a country where city administrations flail hopelessly in indecision and moribund projects, Joko Wi, since taking office in 2005 has virtually transformed Solo.  He has, among other things, built 13 traditional markets, rehabilitated 17 km of the banks of the Bengawan Solo with plants and recreation areas and made it easy and quick for residents there to get their KTP (identity cards). His dedication to greening Solo has even earned him the affectionate nickname of Wagiman an acronym for walikota gila taman.

He also shared with the audience the different events they have created to encourage the arts in Solo such as ethnic music, batik and other cultural festivals.

His presentation, that he gamely delivered in the Pecha Kucha 20:20 format (20 slides, 20 seconds each) was so inspiring that he received a standing ovation when he finished. There were also calls from the audience for him to take over the Jakarta administration. A wit in the crowd shouted that he should never grow a moustache, a reference to Fauzi Bowo the hapless and incompetent mayor of Jakarta.

During the break in the middle of the Pecha Kucha event many people from the audience came up to Joko Wi to congratulate him and to tell him how inspirational his talk had been. Unspun thought that this was such a good way to be remembered – for what you have achieved and done for the people – rather than how other Indonesian politicians like to be adored for – through their Hummers, fancy cars, large chunky jewellery or their “cleverness”.

After a break in the middle of the Pecha Kucha event, Unspun and wife had the opportunity to accompany Joko Wi for dinner. Joining us was Linda Hoemar Abidin from kelola for the Arts, another speaker at last night’s event.

During dinner we spoke of many things such as how he ended up being mayor (in his self-effacing way he said that he merely registered hi name at te urging of some friends and was surprised when he was elected, probably because the residents there wanted a change and a new face).

We also asked him what was his secret for success. How did he manage to go such great things for Solo when other mayors had failed. He said it all boiled down to intention (niat in Indoneisan). That and working with communiies who had great ideas and creativity – the city government merely had to empower them and provide the facilities or infrastructure and let them do the rest because public servants did not have the best mind sets to be creative.

One member of our group said that it was ironic that DPR members feel that they have to go to Italy and other countries to learn about administration and development when all they had to do was make a trip to solo. Joko Wi just smiled.

(Disclosure: Maverick is the organizer of Pecha Kucha Jakarta. Unspun works at Maverick)

Susno: comeback king or a wounded bull in a china shop?

I’ve said my piece in the Jakarta Globe article below. What do you think?

Susno Duadji. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

Susno Duadji. (JG Photo/Afriadi Hikmal)

NGO Testing Susno’s Food for Poison

Susno Duadji says he has taken steps to ensure his safety after making corruption allegations against fellow officers in the National Police.

“I’m not a little boy anymore. I calculated the risks before I opened my mouth. I’m not afraid. I know the National Police institution and I have taken preventive measures,” the former National Police chief detective told detik.com.

He said he anticipated the possibility of being slandered, attacked, imprisoned and even murdered.

“I don’t stay in one place anymore now. It’s not safe for me anymore,” he said.

Susno has even enlisted an NGO to sample his food lest he be poisoned.

“We’re guarding his health because he’s under a lot of pressures,” said Dr Joserizal Jurnalis of the Medical Emergency Rescue Committee or MER-C.

Susno appears to have made a remarkable comeback in the public sphere. Reviled late last year as king of the corrupt “crocodiles” in a battle against the “geckoes” of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), he now presents himself as a man risking his life to battle graft. He has even been mentioned as a candidate to lead the KPK. 

But talk of Susno heading the antigraft agency comes from politicians “with an axe to grind,” says media strategist Ong Hock Chuan of Jakarta’s Maverick public relations firm.

“The press picks up those interpretations and presents them as fact,” said Ong, who dismissed the notion that Susno could actually get the position.

Meanwhile, Ong suspects Susno’s actions are not a strategy to reinvent himself but simply an attempt at revenge. The longtime police officer was removed from his position in the wake of the KPK scandal.

“I think he’s like a bull in a china shop, a wounded bull. It’s about getting back at the people who cost him his career,” he said.

JG

Why we all should support Susno for KPK chief

It is, of course, complete nonsense that disgraced-police-top-brass-turned -whistle-blower Susno Duadji should even be considered as a candidate to lead the Corruption Eradication Commission.

The preposterous suggestion comes from Golkar, a party with a huge axe to grind, especially after they failed to oust Boediono and Sri Mulyani in the recent furore over the Bank Century case, and therefore should be ignored.

Despicable slimeball as he is, however, Susno deserves all our support and encouragement for the time being. This is because he is the guy who knows where all the skeletons are buried in the Police Force. And now that he’s been done out of a career in the Police Force, sacrificed, as it were by fellow slimeballs and corrupt officers, he’s now out for revenge by spilling the beans on his former comrades.

This is unsavory but healthy for the nation for it will help bleed corruption out of the system faster than other means. It is interesting to see how the implicated police officers are now screaming blue murder and getting all defensive about their role in the alleged corruption cases.

All of them have predictably protested innocence but how innocent are they? If the country’s journalists are worth their salt they would go digging around the houses and families of these police officers. How many of their wives would sport Bulgari watches, Louis Vuitton or Hermes handbags? What luxury cars do they and their family members drive? How many Blackberries per household? These are telltale signs of the integrity of lowly paid police officers and it is extremely simple to find out. So Unspun is at a loss why the journalists haven’t gotten of their backsides to do some investigation.

In the meantime and in the absence of some investigative spirit among the journalists the only recourse we have left is to egg and encourage Susno on in his mad quest for revenge. Feed his delusion that he could be the head of KPK, or even the police department, stoke his ego or whatever it takes to keep him spilling the beans on the corruption in the police department.

So anyone up for a “Susno for President” campaign?

Susno has chance to lead the KPK

The Jakarta Post ,  Jakarta   |  Mon, 03/22/2010 4:23 PM  |  National

Former National Police detective chief Susno Duadji has been tipped as a candidate to lead the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

“Susno has a chance,” legislator Bambang Soesatyo from the Golkar Party said as quoted by kompas.com.

The KPK has no chairman after the House of Representatives rejected the government regulation-in-lieu-of-law that appointed Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean as KPK acting chairman, replacing Antasari Azhar who was found guilty of murder.

Four KPK deputy chairmen, however, remain on active duty.

Bambang said the government must decide quickly whether the KPK should have a new chairman or whether the current deputy chairmen were sufficient.