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

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More