Today is the last day of Week 17 of our working from home and I’ve decided to start writing in this blog again to chronicle what’s going on around us.
While its easy to be snarky about the government’s handling of the pandemic, I’ll refrain from doing so and try to keep things to observations, inferences and thoughts about events as they unfold.
Yesterday we saw a record high of 2,657 recorded cases of COVID in Indonesia. The official national tally stood at 70,736.
There is widespread belief that these figures represent only a fraction of the true tally for many reasons. The government’s inadequacy to test, bureaucratic fumbling, and social stigma against COVID deaths. Many stories about how families persuade hospitals to classify the cause of death as something else instead of COVID.
The situation is that nobody knows exactly the extent of the pandemic in Indonesia. If you were cynical you could say that this is exactly the Government would do – keep people in the dark – if it has given up other means and decided that herd immunity is the only course for Indonesia.
The spike in new recorded cases also coincides with a fortnight after the government announced an easing to social distancing rules. The phrase they bandy about is New Normal, leading many people to think that its now safe to get back to life as normal, perhaps with the addition of wearing a mask. So many people have been getting together, going to restaurants, prayers and other events involving many people in confined spaces.
Indonesia, it seems to me, is on a slow burn to disaster. The first wave has not crested and it will likely roll on for a very long time. So instead of the sharp and short impact of lockdowns followed by easing, we have an uneasy quasi, semi-lockdown that might go on and on.
We have been monitoring the news each day to see what the Government says and does to control the pandemic. After all these months the exercise breeds cynicism and ennui.
President Jokowi, who was so full of promise and able to get things done on his first term, seels to have lost his mojo in his second term, which starts roughly just before the pandemic struck.
He is reduced to futile exhortations, empty threats to reshuffle the Cabinet, scolding the ministers but all of it seemingly falling on deaf ears because the does not follow up on his threats or show that there is any consequences of not following his orders.
Even the usually mild-mannered Endy Bayuni was forced earlier this week to rant against the President and his team’s egregious handling of the Coronavirus outbreak in the usually tepid The Jakarta Post.
He counseled seeking professional help instead of relying on amateurs for something as serious and critical as the matter staring us in the face.
His advice, like so many well-meaning ones, seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Or has it? One wonders.
From the inaction and indecisiveness that Jokowi practices, to the gaffes that he makes when he finally acts or speaks (example: Lat Saturday Jokowi admitted to withholding information on COVID-19 because “we don’t want people to panic”) he must have been influenced by his advisors.
Anyone that has been in leadership positions are usually surrounded by advisers and courtiers. The quality of these people, who often become the eyes and ears of the ever-busy Leader, become crucial to how he perceives the world, what informs him and subsequently, the decisions he makes.
Who are they? Few of us have the inside-track on who he trusts apart from Luhut, but if you look at who Jokowi surrounds himself with you may get a good idea of the type of people they are.
They are usually smart professionals, seemingly liberal, connected in politics and business, influential on social media and above all loyal – some say fanatically loyal – to Jokowi.
The last quality is where the double-edged sword cuts. Their loyalty blinds them to the mistakes Jokowi is making and the merits of his rivals. This loyalty also makes them drink the Cool Aid when it comes to Jokowi’s reluctance or inability to act boldly, especially in holding others in positions of responsibility to account.
The result is groupthink is of the highest harm.
Groupthink, as some may recall, was the greatest bane of Kennedy’s administration. Although Camelot was staffed by the brightest people whose IQ was off the charts, they as a group had so little diversity in opinion and viewpoint that none of the inner circle held the view that the Bay of Pigs invasion was an exercise in folly and miscalculation. been.
Groupthink, one suspects, is at work overtime in Indonesia today. Whatever Jokowi does or doesn’t do over the Coronavirus outbreak is wise or excusable because of the political complications.
No one else can do better than Pakde. So when Anies took to TV and social media to announce the initiatives that Jakarta, was making, including the closure of schools, it was dismissed as yet another antic of Anies the Sweet Talker with No Substance.
In spite of his record of failure to deliver, Anies looked decisive, he looked open and he looked like a leader when compared to Jokowi’s fumbling doesn’t not occur to any member of the Groupthink.
Their instinct is to dismiss the fact that Anies did better than Jokowi in this instance. They’ll now take to social media to disparage and scorn him. This has not been lost to Indonesia’s netizens who are slowly but increasingly wising up to their antics. hence the backlash against Jokowi’s Buzzers in social media.
This is dangerous in the extreme for Jokowi who because of the Groupthink surrounding him, would have lost his ability to sense danger.
And danger there is. The public is getting more disillusioned by the day by the culture of impunity that Jokowi has allowed to grow in his administration. You have the Health Minister Terawan who failed miserably to handle the first stages of the Coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia who has not been sacked or even chided.
You also have imbecilic officers like Siti Hikmawaty, the Commissioner of the Commission for the Protection of Children saying stupid things like a woman can get pregnant if she swam in the same swimming pool as a man, yet has not been chided or removed from office. The list goes on but the message people get is that the bad guys do not get punished or removed but allowed to fester in the administration.
Jokowi’s abysmal handling of the Corona virus outbreak also poses a political danger to him. With the national Government seemingly paralyzed by inaction and indecisiveness, the regional leaders are beginning to assert themselves in this leadership vacuum.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan’s announcement of school closures and his publishing a map of Coronavirus infections in the city con only be interpreted in this context.
The problem is that this Governor, who comes to power by allying himself to racist and religious extremist politicians, is starting to look like a leader.
The last thing most of us want is for Anies to come to power. It hurts all the more to realize that Anies’s gins are only possible because of the ineffectiveness of Jokowi’s leadership.
It is time that Jokowi does a reality check of what sort of advice he is getting from his advisors and whether he’s only living in an echo chamber build by Groupthink.
But here’s the irony: how will he ever know he would have to do this reappraisal, as none of his advisors will bring this up to him (and Unspun doubts that Jokowi reads this blog).
In sociology there is something called the Johari Window where one of its quadrants contains something that everyone else knows about you; butt it is something that you do not know yourself. It is the building block for Greek tragedies as heroes inexorably plunge to their fates inspite of all the signs warning them of danger.
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.
This is an interesting development if you subscribe to the theory that the November 4 demonstration has upped the ante for Jokowi versus the Dark Forces.
On short notice Jokowi meets with 2,185 soldiers to thank them for the military’s role in keeping the peace during the November elections. He then tells them that if they can work together with the police on all levels the integrity of the country, that is made up of a pluralistic society, will be intact.
“When the military and Police are solid, compact and united we will be able to unite Indonesia, the different races, tribes and religions that embodies the aspirations of our nation and become a source of unity for our plurality,” he said.
Now why would he schedule a hurried meeting with the military and say something like that if he does not sniff some clear and present danger in the air?
Jakarta – Presiden Jokowi mendadak mengumpulkan 2.185 prajurit TNI dan memberikan arahan. Pengarahan ini tidak terdaftar di jadwal resmi Presiden Jokowi.
Pengarahan dilakukan di lapangan Markas Besar TNI AD, Jalan Veteran, Jakarta Pusat, Senin (7/11/2016). Apel dipimpin oleh Panglima TNI Jenderal Gatot Nurmantyo.
Presiden Jokowi (Foto: Bagus Prihantoro Nugroho/detikcom)
Jokowi tiba di lokasi sekitar pukul 12.30 WIB. Hadir pula Pangdam Jaya Mayjen Teddy Lhaksmana dan Kapolda Metro Jaya Irjen Iriawan.
“Pertama, saya ingin sampaikan terima kasih yang sebesar-besarnya atas kerja keras perwira dan jajaran prajurit TNI dalam amankan aksi unjuk rasa Jumat kemarin,” kata Jokowi dalam arahannya.
Presiden Jokowi (Foto: Bagus Prihantoro Nugroho/detikcom)
Menurut dia seluruh rakyat mengapresiasi soliditas TNI dalam mengawal penyampaian aspirasi tersebut. TNI dinilai kompak dalam melakukan langkah persuasif.
“Kedua, saya minta kekompakan TNI dan Polri yang ditunjukkan di ke lapangan terus dilanjutkan di semua tingkatan, kekompakan harus digalang dari atas sampai prajurit, ini penting, lakukan sinergi dalam jalankan tugas negara,” kata Jokowi.
Presiden Jokowi (Foto: Bagus Prihantoro Nugroho/detikcom)
Jokowi menyatakan, jika TNI dan Polri kompak maka keutuhan negara bisa dijaga. Terlebih Indonesia terdiri dari masyarakat yang majemuk.
“Ketika TNI dan Polri solid, kompak dan bersatu maka kita akan bisa mempersatukan Indonesia, ras yang beda, suku, agama yang beda, dalam wujudkan cita-cita bangsa kita, jadilah perekat kemajemukan,” pungkas Jokowi.
Setelah memberikan arahan, Jokowi kemudian menyalami barisan terdepan para prajurit TNI dari tiga matra tersebut. Jokowi mengucapkan terima kasih secara personal kepada mereka.
I’ll never forget how wistful my Malaysian cardiologist was when he found out that I was from Indonesia and that we now have Jokowi as the President.
“He seems a good guy, isn’t he?” he said of Jokowi as I lay prone and half naked on the examination table.
“Yes he is,” I said.
“Ah, if only we can have a leader like that, simple, honest, straightforward…” he said as his stethoscope hovered over me and his mind conjured up the same qualities for his national leader.
Then he looked sad as reality bit. “Too bad, we can only dream what you have in Indonesia…” Perhaps he was conjuring images of his own leaders?
The sad thing about my cardiologist is that he is not alone among Malaysians. In my last trip back a few weeks ago my friends and acquaintances also reflected this sentiment. It seems that they are close to despair that the winds of change that have prevailed in Indonesia will ever reach them.
This despair is understandable though when you look at Malaysian society today and how religion, mainly Islam, is being used by an increasingly emboldened group to assert the superiority of the Malays overt the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia.
These groups have tacit, and sometimes not so tacit, backing from the Government and the ruling Umno party. A bit like the FPI (the Islamic Defenders Front) in Indonesia during the previous administrations.
Before the changes that swept the likes of Jokowi, Ahok, Riduan Kamil and other progressive leaders to power in national and municipal governments. The only power centre was the Government, made up of political brahmins out to rip off the country.
As the main interest of these brahmins was to enrich themselves by securing their political positions, they tacitly, and sometimes not so tacitly, supported organisations like the FPI and Laskar Jihad, essentially thuggish gangs abusing the name of Islam as a cover for their extortion, intimidation and coercion of others, Muslim or not.
During Ramadhan the FPI would, for instance, conduct raids on licensed drinking establishments and turn those places upside down — unless they were paid protection money.
At other instances, depending on who paid them, they would harass whatever targets even to them.
For a long while many Indonesians despaired but there was little they could do. The police was reluctant to move against these organisations as they knew that their political masters were behind them. Companies went unheeded or left to wither in some mouldy file on some dusty desk.
Many Indonesian Muslims also felt trapped as to criticise them could be construed as criticising Islam. All a bit like Malaysia today, you just have to substitute the names of the organisations into Perkasa and other Malaysian organisations.
But while Malaysia still wallows in this unhappy state of affairs, Indonesia has moved on and have called the bluff of the bullies.
Jakarta Vice Governor Ahok, an ethnic Chinese and Christian, has borne the brunt of the FPI’s wrath over the past few months as they sought to block his swearing in (they didn’t succeed. He was sworn in yesterday). They called him an infidel and other names and say that he should not be allowed to lead Muslims.
But instead of keeping quiet or avoiding the issue Ahok has done something really brave. he took the FPI full on head-to-head. He has now filed a complaint with the Home Ministry asking that the Government ban the organization.
But what is heartening to note too in Indonesia is how the ordinary Muslims from all sectors of society are also speaking up against these self-proclaimed defenders of Islam and Islamic values.
All over social media, in small protests and in social settings they are making their voice heard that the real Islam is one of compassion, tolerance and understanding – and the FPI do not represent them.
It is through widespread groundswells like these that the tyranny of bullies like the FPI can be checked. Wouldn’t it be great if such groundswells can take place in Malaysia as well?
While watching the second presidential debate last night, one of my colleagues posted a trenchant commentary on the progress of the debate at-a-glance:
To Unspun, it really summed up the debate last night: a muddle of unoriginal thoughts, lacking a focal point, confused but if you look closely you begin to see some patterns.
The patterns that we see are Jokowi stuck in concreteness at the expense of demonstrating to the public that he can also think big; Prabowo stuck in thinking in the abstract at the expense of being concrete. Each of the candidates are locked in their default positions and do not seem to be able to move beyond them.
In terms of their argument strategy Jokowi stresses on his achievements and how electronic solutions (his trump card? Sorry couldn’t resist the pun) will solve problems. He stresses on getting things right.
Prabowo hammered on a theme that his brother Hashim spoke about at the Jakarta Foreign Correspondent’s club – lots of money is being wasted now because of corruption, inefficiencies and bad policy. Leakage was his key message. And the solution to that was to get tough.
Both candidates did not display the vision or the courage to go beyond nationalist sentiments. Jokowi espoused the PDIP’s policy of holding contracts sacrosanct, giving some comfort to investors but at the same time spooking them by suggesting erecting barriers as a counter measure to the Asean Economic Community. Probowo has channeled him to champion reciprocity and trying to stench the leakage of Indonesia’s riches to foreign shores.
In terms of style, Prabowo appeared more confident and poised. Jokowi fumbled and mumbled, reinforcing his image as the Forrest Gump of Indonesian politics.
At the end of the night both candidates were disappointing and the question that needs to be asked is if any of them slipped so badly that it would cost them any vote; or if their lacklustre performance was staged purely for the benefit and schadenfreude of the chatting classes of Indonesia with their social media accounts on steroids.
So what lessons can one draw from the second presidential debate?
For Unspun it was that both candidates are somewhat equally limited in terms of espousing a vision that could inspire change and rely the nation. Where does that leave the electorate then?
The answer has to be between, on one hand, Uninspiring Candidate #1, Prabowo who has no record of government, whose success in the military and business is difficult to attribute because of his elitist and privileged upbringing, who thinks he can ride the Islamist-Fundamentalist Tiger and triumph over them, like Lee Kuan Yew with the Malayan Communist Party and whose running mate Hatta Rajasa, who as Coordinating Economic Minister in SBY’s Cabinet, was responsible for the many of the economic ills he rails against.
On the other hand there is Uninspiring Candidate #2, Jokowi, who is good with homilies and getting things done, who is not adept at all at talking about policy, who is from a humble, non-elitist background, whose honesty and integrity has been proven and whose running mate Jusuf Kalla is the man who told the Pancila Youth in The Act of Killing that Indonesia needs preman.
The issues, like the painting above remain murky and confusing. And given the candidates’ inability to embrue the cut and thrust of intellectual parrying as we have been accustomed to expect through television, movies and Western politicians (as well as Rumpole of the Bailey books) things won’t get any less confusing in the few weeks left before the presidential election.
But the pattern is emerging strongly on where Indonesians should place their votes for the future. Provided, of course, that Probowo isn’t able to rise to the occasion and commandeer the emotions of the nation’s wong cilik to vote for him.
The video below that is well produced and catchy with a huge dose of humor is yet another reason why the incumbent Jakarta Mayor Fauzi Bowo is losing out big time in the popularity stakes to challenger Jokowi and his running mate Ahok.
Joakowi supporters and his camp are proving very adept at using social media to boost their popularity and to answer the allegations and slurs from the opposing camp in their Facebook account and the many support groups and pages surrounding them.
Is this the election that will change the way Indonesian politicians use social media? It all depends on whether the Jokowi-Ahok team can win at the gubernatorial runoff elections against the money and influence of the Golkar machine backing Foke.
If they do it may make the politicians sit up and realize that the old ways of politicking using traditional means of communications – such as billboards, newspaper ads, TV commercials – have had their day. It may also send the message that ad hominem attacks, smear campaigns and playing the bogeyman with race and religion are no longer effective.
It may or the politicians from the entrenched parties may be so pig headed that they persist in their ways. But a Jokowi-Ahok victory will point the way for others without the backing of huge money to follow.
A senior member of the Democratic Party defending Jakarta’s incumbent governor Fauzi Bowo said on Thursday that traffic jams in JakartaJakarta’s Traffic Jams Are ‘Inevitable:’ Democratic Party Official are something that cannot not be prevented.
Herman Khaeron, chairman of the Democrat’s regional board and deputy head of House Commission IV, said traffic jams are simply a consequence of the growing number of people using the streets.
“I can compare this condition with the condition abroad,” Herman said. “Traffic jams in capital cities are an inevitably.”
Fauzi has been widely and regularly blamed for his inability to solve two of Jakarta’s most endemic problems: Flooding, and traffic. While Sutiyoso, Jakarta’s previous governor, created the TransJakarta busway to ease traffic, Fauzi has been characterized as failing to adequately tackle the problem.
Traffic jams, or macet, occur regularly at peak hours, but congestion seems to be choking the streets with increasing vigor, especial on Fridays and during rain.
Herman made sure to say that Fauzi, Jakarta’s first governor from the Democratic Party, has successfully managed the city.
Regarding flooding, Herman said Fauzi has reduced problems with the east flood-canal, which has saved 2.5 million people from the agony of seasonal floods. Herman also said the city government has “normalized” river flows that pass through Jakarta.
“What I have found instead is the fact that Fauzi, as Jakarta’s governor, has worked well for his people,” Herman said.