News / Asia

Jakarta’s New Governor Pushing an Era of Meritocracy

Jakarta vice governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, speaks to journalists at his office in Jakarta, August 14, 2014.
Jakarta vice governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, speaks to journalists at his office in Jakarta, August 14, 2014.
Kate Lamb

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest democracy, but few minorities are represented in the diverse nation's halls of power. One exception is Jakarta’s straight-talking new governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is spearheading a new political culture.

The beginning of Indonesia's transition to democratic rule began after the fall of former dictator Suharto in 1998, but some argue it has taken more than a decade for that transformation to be reflected in the country’s leadership, which had long come from the privileged elite.

This year, two politicians considered outside the privileged class are making their mark.

Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, Jakarta’s wildly popular governor - a common-man politician from a humble background - is set to be installed as Indonesia’s next president this October.

That transition makes way for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, his no-nonsense, sometimes-brash deputy governor, who will now assume the reins of Jakarta.

As the first openly ethnic Chinese to lead the capital, Ahok said he has long fought against identity politics in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

“If I used the common perception of politics in Indonesia, I would not have had the courage to join politics on this island. I could not be elected,” said Ahok.

Ahok first made a name for himself as a regent (mayor) in Bangka Belitung, an island province off Sumatra, before winning a seat in the national parliament in 2009.

A double minority, Chinese and Christian, Ahok recalls being labeled a kaffir, or infidel, when he first entered politics.

Indonesia is an open and democratic society but there is underlying resentment toward the often-wealthier ethnic Chinese, who have lived here for centuries and account for just over one percent of the population.

While Chinese Indonesians are well known in business, few have entered politics. During the fall of Suharto the minority group was brutally targeted in anti-Chinese riots. The memories from that time are still vivid.

Prominent businessman Sofyan Wanadi says Ahok’s success could reflect well on the ethnic Chinese, but added that it could also escalate underlying social envy toward the group.

“This is my problem because the sensitivity because of this Chinese. Because people are so jealous…They [Indonesian society] are always saying the Chinese are so successful in business, and now suddenly they like to do something in politics too… All these things are not good according to me. You have to show that you are not that nature, that you are Indonesian and what you can do for the country,” said Wanadi.

Several months ago a smear campaign against president-elect Joko Widodo, for example, which falsely painted him as Christian and Chinese, significantly diminished his popularity and almost cost him the presidency.

Leading the capital, said Ahok, is a chance for him to show that results and meritocracy trump identity politics.

“Jakarta is very important to me to show I don’t care if you are a Chinese descendent or what is your religion, all the country needs is a patriot who wants to sacrifice for the people, no corruption, no accept bribery, only obey the Constitution,” he said.

Ahok has developed a reputation for his hardline stance on graft - firing corrupt officials and implementing measures to curb the use of bribes.

He has also spoken out against religious intolerance and made tough decisions such as relocating street vendors and boldly closing Stadium, a notoriously debauched nightclub.

In a recent interview with Voice of America Ahok joked such measures make him Jakarta’s new ‘Godfather’ -- a reference to the paternalistic crime bosses popularized by Hollywood.

“The root of the Indonesian problem is corruption. Only that, it’s very simple. You know it’s like Stadium. Eighteen years and you have narcotics, everything or like Tanah Abang, prostitution, under 20 years old, everybody knows... Now its finished, demolished, including the narcotics... Now we are serious toward this,” he said.

Jakarta’s new governor is set to be installed next month and will remain in office until 2017.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

update President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs