Dance the night away: Artists perform the Bird of Paradise dance during a celebration of the Chinese New Year at the Jakarta Convention Center on Tuesday. Organized by the High Council of Confucianism in Indonesia (Matakin) and attended by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the jubilation was titled “A Sense of Shame is Vital for Mankind”. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)
Speaking before a gathering of Indonesians of Chinese descent celebrating the Chinese New Year in Jakarta on Tuesday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on people to shun dirty politics ahead of the 2014 elections.
The president said people should no longer engage in mudslinging and hate-mongering and should instead promote political platforms that incorporate the concept of shame as a deterrent to bad behavior.
“As we are entering the year of politics, I call on all Chinese communities, as well as all elements of the nation, to create a safe and peaceful situation,” Yudhoyono said before more than 6,000 Chinese-
Indonesians at the plenary hall of the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC).
Yudhoyono has dubbed 2013 as “the year of politics”, in which political competition is expected to heat up ahead of the 2014 polls.
“We will see the elections in 2014. Let’s refrain from inappropriate political ways, including black campaigns,” he said in his speech.
The president’s statement came amid a growing perception that Chinese-Indonesians are becoming more actively involved in politics.
One of the attendants at the event, which was organized by the High Council of Confucianism in Indonesia (Matakin), was Deputy Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.
Ahok was the first Chinese-Indonesian to run for the high-level post in the capital city. During the election, Ahok was subject to various negative campaigns that targeted his faith and ethnicity. Ahok, who ran for office as the running mate of former Surakarta mayor Joko Widodo, was elected despite a slew of racial slurs hurled during the campaign period.
While Ahok’s victory is seen as a landmark in Jakarta’s political history, the nation is also seeing more Chinese-Indonesians making their way into the country’s political scene. The latest example is media tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo’s decision to join the NasDem Party before leaving the nascent party to be elected as the chief patron of the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), led by former general Wiranto.
Other than Ahok, several Chinese-Indonesian businessmen, including Sumadi Kusuma, Eka Tjandranegara and Budi Yuwono, also attended the Chinese New Year event at the JCC.
Budi S. Tanuwibowo, a member of Matakin’s high council, said the central theme for this year’s celebration was the concept of shame, which is rooted in the teachings of Chinese philosophers Confucius and Mencius.
“Reason is what distinguishes humans from animals. Yet, nowadays, they act no differently; people steal something and they will act normal without feeling ashamed,” he told The Jakarta Post after the event.
Yudhoyono said the theme was relevant to Indonesia’s situation, saying that everybody should reflect on it as “corruption, as well as conspiracies, slander, violence are still here”. He said people should practice patience in their social and political lives, which was part of Confucius’ teachings.
In his speech, the President also called on the Chinese community to help boost the country’s economy through mutual cooperation with the government.
“We should stay focused on our big agenda of sustaining the nation’s development. We should not waste the golden moment to achieve prosperity and reduce poverty.”
First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, Vice President Boediono and his wife Herawati, as well as a number of Cabinet members, such as Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh and National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo, also attended the celebration.
Tuesday was the 9th annual event Yudhoyono has regularly attended since 2005 and it has become routine for him to provide current remarks every year. This year, Chinese New Year fell on Feb. 10, which marked the beginning of the year 2564.