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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.