|Semoga mimpi buruk Bapak Presiden!|
Only six months after his election, the fresh face of Indonesian democracy has had 14 people executed, and has been called a murderer
Joko Widodo: like Obama, you sailed into office on a tidal wave of expectations. In a country of 250 million people, you’re so loved that even when you were still serving as governor of Jakarta, everyone called you by your nickname, Jokowi.
Unlike your predecessors, or your opponent Prabowo Subianto, you did not come from a prominent family, much less the political elite. Your mandate is as the president for the orang kecil, the ordinary people – a rare and powerful bidding.
When less than a week before election day in July 2014 you stood before tens of thousands of adoring supporters at an open air concert in Jakarta’s main stadium, you told them never to surrender to intimidation, lies and fraud.
You believed fervently in what you said; it was all over your face, your gestures. You looked like a man who could stand up to anything and anyone. Fears that you would succumb to the wishes of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri – leader of your party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) – were marvellously allayed. You were as genuine as it came and your voters saw it.
Among the nation’s top priorities, you declared, was the battle against corruption and cronyism. Anti-graft was to be the new government’s mantra. And because you were addressing the largest crowd you’d ever seen, you added solemnly that your ticket was to “fight to preserve human rights” and to “fight against injustice”.
Your opponent – a former military general with a checkered human rights record – could never say these words with such conviction. The concert proved to be the divine intervention you needed, and it turned the tide in your favour. You clinched the presidency.
Only six months later, the fresh face of Indonesian democracy has become the face of incompetence and heartlessness. Your popularity is sliding. You are baffled. Every time you appear on television, there is a flurry of tweets about your fumbling ineloquence or your awkward body language.
The same people who voted for you also seem to have made a new sport out of discussing the little things that have somehow come to define you: every cringe-inducing non-statement you make, your fish out of water expression, your sheer unease in your new public role.
You sometimes find it difficult to understand why the qualities your voters used to find charming during the election campaign – your modesty, your quietness, your penchant for shunning protocol – no longer cut it for them. What they now see, instead, is a man painfully unsuited to his job.
You’re like an actor so embarrassingly miscast, a former fan said, that he often wished, for your sake and his, you could just jump out of the movie and return to what you’re really good at: managing the giant mess that is the city of Jakarta.
But you wanted to appear strong, so you grabbed for a subject that already comes equipped with its own fan base. 86% of respondents in a survey conducted by Kompas, Indonesia’s leading daily, agreed to the death penalty for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the two Australian nationals who were among the eight men executed last week.
Source: The Guardian, Laksmi Pamuntjak, May 5, 2015. Laksmi Pamuntjak is an award-winning Indonesian author, essayist and poet.
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