Since the very beginning, Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's decision to choose outspoken Chinese-Indonesian politician Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja, a Christian, as his running mate in last year's gubernatorial election, has sparked controversy. The combination of his leadership skills, achievements alongside Jokowi, and his straight-forward attitude, helps this controversy persist.
Many people see the pair as an excellent combination of two leadership styles and strong integrity. Jokowi acts like the 'president' while Ahok is often described as the 'prime minister'. They complement each other and are highly regarded by the people, at least so far, as they have been able to convince Jakarta's stakeholders that they are pro ordinary people.
The deputy governor has frequently irritated government officials, politicians, or 'powerful' people in Jakarta for his frank assessments and actions.
Take the Tanah Abang market case as an example. Ahok angered the 'rulers' of the huge textile market when he and Jokowi expressed that they were determined to clear the roads surrounding the market. Their work has shown preliminary progress as more street vendors have now accepted the offer to relocate to the empty Bloc G.
Hundreds of street vendors and activists from non-governmental organizations demonstrated in front of City Hall on Monday to protest Ahok, who threatened to file a lawsuit against street vendors if they opposed the government's plan. The deputy governor has also angered city councilor Abraham Lunggana alias Lulung, as Ahok reportedly accused the councilor of having a strong connection with the market.
The street vendors have long caused serious traffic problems in the city as they block major parts of the roads. In the past, efforts to relocate them ended in failure as thugs were behind them exchanging illegal fees.
We appreciate Ahok's courage to declare a war on thugs, who have prevented efforts to enforce laws. Such courage, however, is still needed to address other problems in the city. Of course, Ahok does not work on his own initiative. He only acts on the basis of a policy approved by Jokowi.
But acting as a bad cop is certainly not without risk. Previously, squatters at Pluit Dam in North Jakarta also grew angry when Ahok said that the squatters, who demand free houses, acted like communists. Officials at the City Public Work Agency were also irritated when Ahok uploaded a video of their meeting with him on YouTube.
We agree that Ahok needs to tone down his statements. But we also believe that such firmness is sometimes needed in handling difficult problems such as the relocation of street vendors and squatters, who occupy public places without feeling any guilt. As long as the public is convinced that both Jokowi and Ahok are sincerely working for a better Jakarta and they see concrete and convincing achievements, they will remain in the hearts of Jakartans.
Of course, there are still many difficult problems that the city administration needs to solve. Therefore, the city still needs many more bad cops who act like Ahok. But certainly, they should have integrity.