On the road between Tembagapura and Timika, 2017
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.