Editorial: Blow the candles
Happy birthday Jakarta, the capital we love to curse each day. Yet we choose to live or work here anyway, joining the crowd of 12 million inhabitants during the daytime.
According to the claims of the current gubernatorial candidates, of course, it is going to be a much better place if voters elect them in next month’s election, the second time Jakartans get to elect their governor directly. Few may believe their boasts as the city looks hopeless, especially in times of heavy rain, and in the light of those who have tried before.
At least having six pairs of candidates to be elected directly by some 7 million voters is something to celebrate as the capital turned 485 years old on Friday. It is a grand old age yet no less humbling, as Jakarta, its leaders and residents, have much to learn from other, smaller cities.
Direct voting came late to the capital, with incumbent Fauzi Bowo, or Bang Foke, being the first to have the honor of winning a direct election. Bang Foke and his staff may repeatedly point to the sheer size of population size as the major challenge to making any progress here. However direct elections have spurred on many a leader, making the impossible suddenly possible in a number of cities.
Surakarta managed to clear its pavements, and so did Surabaya, second in size to Jakarta. A few others tried free education and health services. In our interesting experiment in democracy, two candidates for Jakarta’s governor, who are incumbent leaders — Mayor Joko Widodo of Surakarta and Governor Alex Noerdin of South Sumatra — seem to be trying their best to please their residents so they could be elected by Jakartans.
Aspiring leaders aside, an ongoing public TV campaign in conjunction with Jakarta’s anniversary is about what inhabitants can do to make living together more tolerable. Throwing away your own trash is one thing. But it takes leaders to facilitate neighborhoods which are welcoming to their highly diverse communities. Can Jakarta be the nation’s example regarding tolerance? If its leaders could do their most in this respect, then the Governor and his staff would earn our highest gratitude despite the filthy air and sewage.
As things stand today, Jakarta seems leaderless when we see giant banners blaring about residents who are unwelcome just because they have a different creed. To be fair, this is an example of the state’s helplessness today when it comes to noisy groups defending their identities. If the candidates, including Bang Foke, could offer us something concrete on how to improve the capital’s harmony, that would be the best birthday present for the Big Durian.