Joko Widodo presidency under heavy fire


Indonesia’s Joko Widodo has hardly had a glorious start to his presidency. The man who tackled the establishment and became the reform-minded darling of Indonesia’s middle classes in the run-up to last year’s election now seems to be at war with everyone.

Indecisiveness at home has caused his approval rating to tumble from 75 percent to 46 percent. It wasn’t helped by widespread perceptions that former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, who is also head of Jokowi’s ruling PDI-P, was actually in charge of the country.

Meanwhile, his hang ‘em high attitude to the gallows has outraged Europe, Brazil and Australia – all have citizens facing firing squads. And then US automaker General Motors announced that it would be ending its vehicle manufacturing in Indonesia amid a local currency sell-off. Rate cuts and weaker growth has pushed the rupiah to its lowest levels since the 1997/98 financial crisis.

Elsewhere, the Netherlands and Brazil have recalled their ambassadors after their nationals were executed for drug offences. Another Brazilian and two Australians are also due to face the firing squad in the coming days, which has justifiably outraged their respective civil society groups back home.

None of which Jokowi has handled well.

In a tit-for-tat exchange with Brasilia, Jakarta has threatened to re-evaluate its planned acquisition of 16 fighter jets and multiple launch rocket systems from Brazil after Indonesia’s new ambassador was snubbed at formal engagements. Australia, running out of options, is clinging to the notion that Canberra’s “special relationship” with Jakarta might work a miracle.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has done about as much as he can in speaking-out against the death penalty for the two Bali Nine drug smugglers. For now, the Australian prime minister is trying to keep things positive: “The fact that the president of Indonesia and the prime minister of Australia can talk candidly about these issues is a sign of the strength of the relationship and it’s a sign of the depth of the friendship between Australia and Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s cruel anti-drug laws—for foreigners—are among the harshest in the world, although the local trade in narcotics has always been as brisk as it is lucrative. But imposing the death penalty for such crimes appears anachronistic to many observers, and is damaging to Indonesia’s international reputation.

On taking office in October 2014, Jokowi was hailed as a reformer, and an idealist with compassion. But the reality, sadly, could not be more different.

He has resisted pleas from the European Union, Brazil, Australia, and Amnesty International and pledged no clemency for drug offenders. In doing so, the Indonesian president has shored-up his tough guy image at home. But that has come at the cost of his standing as a regional leader, which is far more reminiscent of Malaysia’s ruthless Mahathir Mohamad whose use of the gallows and divisive agenda stemmed more from winning support from the hard right elements in his own party, than from any sense of justice.

That lack of judgment and compassion will only damage Jokowi’s presidency in the years to come.


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  1. Andrew McKean on

    The Heroic General – a short story by Andrew McKean

    The Victims were dragged out to the execution site, their hands tied, and lined up against a wall, all thirty of them.

    The TV Crews were there, the Media were already writing their stories.

    The Bloodthirsty Viewers switched on their TV sets and clapped and applauded in anticipation.

    The Brave Soldiers marched out to their firing positions, their uniforms spotless, their medals glistening in the sun, their weapons oiled, loaded and ready.

    The Heroic General was smiling and joking with the TV Interviewer. His designer sunglasses and gold braided cap seemed out of place.

    The Rest of the World looked on in horror.

    The Brave Soldiers put out their last cigarettes, threw the butts on the ground and crouched down into the ready position. Their high powered automatic weapons were fully loaded with explosive tipped bullets. All was ready.

    The Heroic General was still smiling, enjoying the media attention and hoping that his wife and family were watching him at home on TV. His medals and ribbons were festooned across his chest, there were so many medals that some were even attached to his sleeves. The weight of the medals were dragging down on his hand tailored jacket and the ribbons were fluttering in the breeze. ‘What a handsome and powerful man he was, he must earn a very high salary’ thought the TV Interviewer, ‘and his Ray-ban designer sunglasses imported from Italy were the height of fashion’.

    The Assembled Crowd became impatient waiting for the Heroic General to finish his lengthy TV interview, they started chanting aloud, shoot, shoot, shoot urging the Brave Soldiers to fire their weapons now.

    The Victims prayed silently to the God of their understanding. Their families and loved ones prayed too.

    But still the Heroic General laughed and smiled with the TV Interviewer, after all he was the man of the moment, a hero in the eyes of millions and a proud father as well. ‘The President will probably give me a medal for this and a ribbon as well’, he joked. The TV Interviewer laughed out loud exclaiming ‘but there is no room on your jacket for more medals’.

    Finally the Heroic General walked over to the podium where he could tower above the Assembled Crowd, even though he was only 5’2” he did appear to be much taller as there was a raised platform conveniently placed for him to stand on. Without even a glance at The Victims and making sure that the TV Cameras were focused on him, the red lights on and the photographers ready, the Heroic General raised his arm in a Hitler like manner and shouted at the top of his voice ‘Fire’.

    The Brave Soldiers pressed on the triggers of their high powered latest model automatic weapons, bought with money stolen from foreign aid donations intended to help the poor and needy.

    A hail of bullets ripped through the bodies of The Victims, their screams of agony were drowned out by the Bloodthirsty Cheers of the Assembled Crowd. The Nation also cheered, the sound echoing across the land as they celebrated the bravery of it’s Military Leaders, the wisdom of it’s Political Leaders and that justice has been done. The Law has been upheld, it was the right thing to do cried the citizens in unison.

    The Victims dropped to the ground, the last gasp of life left their bodies and a river of blood flowed across the ground and their flesh and brain matter was blasted into the wall behind.

    The Brave Soldiers stood to attention, their weapons still at the ready in case any of The Victims, by some miracle had managed to survive.

    The Heroic General was still smiling at the TV cameras, the Assembled Crowd all agreed he was indeed a hero. ‘They should build a statue in his honour’ one remarked. His mobile rang, it was his wife and family congratulating him and remarking how handsome he looked on TV. They had recorded it all on a DVD.

    The Rest of the World were stunned and appalled by what had happened, although most were still asleep due to time differences. In nearby countries there was total shock and disbelief that such a barbaric act could have been allowed to happen on their very doorstep. Many cancelled their holiday bookings to The Nation, vowed never to buy any products from The Nation again and certainly not to send any cash donations to The Nation’s ‘charities’ after noticing the expensive sunglasses worn by the Heroic General.

    The TV Crew packed up and left, the Assembled Crowd went home to their families and the Heroic General was still smiling, posing for any last minute photo opportunities. ‘Come back again next week, there will be even more victims’ he shouted to the departing media.

    The Brave Soldiers lit up their cigarettes and slapped each other on the back, some Hi-Fived and laughed. Some commented on how accurate and effective their new weapons are and asked how could the military afford them? Some sniggered and whispered ‘haven’t you heard of Foreign Aid , most of the money comes from Australia, the naive Bule Ausie’s send us all this money for the poor and needy but why waste it on food, when the military need weapons, sunglasses and tailored uniforms, not to mention the medals.’

    The Heroic General assembled his troops and they all marched off triumphantly towards the nearby Military Barracks their pockets bulging with US dollars stolen from foreign aid donations, anticipating a cool glass of Bintang beer, they certainly deserved it after such a hard day of action under fire. They had been promised a sumptuous meal in the five star Officer’s Dining Room and later there would a medal presentation ceremony. More medals and ribbons they thought, ‘our families will be so proud of us’.

    Meanwhile back at the murder scene, the 30 corpses lay in a pool of blood, still warm. The local rats were preparing for a feast and the flies were swarming. High above vultures were circling in anticipation. A truck arrived and two Civilian Workmen who, after chasing away some local children souveniring the spent bullet cases as they were made of brass, lifted the bodies into the back of the truck, hurling them in like sacks of rice. They just managed to fit them all in and still be able to close the tailgate. ‘We must ask the military for a larger truck next time’ murmured one of the men. The truck disappeared into the distance, the corpses never to be seen or heard of again and the children returned.

    By now The Rest of the World had awoken and were sipping their morning coffee to the news of the mass murder of 30 unarmed civilians by the Military. Brazil was horrified and withdrew it’s Ambassador, other countries soon followed. Cries for sanctions, trade embargoes, withdrawal of foreign aid, etc. soon echoed around the world. Human Rights organisations were appalled, the UN General Assembly condemned it as ‘an act of barbarism’. Millions of would be holiday makers cancelled their travel plans to The Nation, in protest. Friendships were lost forever, all trust had disappeared and the The Nation became isolated and alone in the world.

    The Heroic General had arrived home by now, he was still smiling and was greeted by his adoring children as they admired his newly awarded medal, how it shined, ‘was it pure gold?’ they asked in excited tones and texted their friends with Selfies of themselves posing with their Famous Father and his medals. ‘Surely he will be our next President’ they commented before posting to their Facebook group. It received over 10,000 Likes in the first day alone and was set to go viral.

    The Civilian Workmen arrived at the burial site under the cover of darkness, a hastily dug trench excavated earlier in the day by a military bulldozer. The rotting corpses were thrown into the trench and quickly covered over with the excavated dirt. ‘The Military will have to find a larger site, as this one is almost full now’ remarked one of the workmen.

    Let us pray to God for the souls of those already brutally murdered by The Nation’s military and for those who are next to die.

  2. JOko Widodo is a ruthless murderer. He is a gross violator of human rights and and rather than being in the presidency, should be in a jail cell…..for life…

    I want to see sanctions imposed on Indonesia in the coming months. Certainly I will never vote for any Australian government who gives them aid. Australians will never holiday in Indonesia again happily.