The Jakarta Post
This year’s Idul Fitri comes on the heels of a grueling political contest, which regretfully has bred an outbreak of violence in a few parts of Jakarta and elsewhere, leaving eight dead and hundreds — protesters and police officers — injured.
Apart from the fact that Jakarta is licking its wounds following the May 21 and 22 riots and the police are investigating those behind the postelection unrest, Idul Fitri, which falls on June 5, looks to be as festive as it was in the past.
Like in yesteryears, people flock to shopping malls in the last week of Ramadan to buy new clothes and shoes, thanks to their Idul Fitri bonuses (THR), which are mandatory for employers in this predominantly Muslim country. The government has asked employers to distribute the THR to their employees a week ahead of the holiday at the latest.
Civil servants, military personnel, police officers and state officials alike, including the President, receive the THR too, costing the state Rp 20 trillion (US$1.39 billion).
As Idul Fitri is approaching, homebound holiday makers have started to flock to airports, seaports, bus terminals and railway stations. Millions of others have opted to travel by car, with the 993-kilometer trans-Java toll road from Merak in Banten to Pasuruan in East Java their favorite route to reach their home towns.
To facilitate the exodus, the government has again announced a week-long holiday from June 3 to 8, which applies to all civil servants who celebrate Idul Fitri. This practice has been in place for years to reinvigorate the national tourism industry. It dates to 2002 when terrorists attacked Bali, the country’s most favorite tourist destination.
In one way or another, however, this year’s Idul Fitri is to be different from last year’s. First, the soaring airfares for domestic flights since last December have forced holidaymakers to switch from planes to other modes of transportation.
The airfare hike prompted an online petition that calls on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani and the CEOs of Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air to reduce the fares of domestic flights. A number of students of Java-based universities expressed their sadness at missing Idul Fitri get-togethers at their homes in North Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara as the airfares spiked beyond their reach. Furthermore, ticket prices naturally go up in peak seasons like the Idul Fitri holiday.
Budi has estimated that about 22 million people across the nation — 14.9 million of them living in Greater Jakarta — would join the Idul Fitri exodus this year. The figure is 4.14 percent higher than that of last year. Most of the homebound travelers stop in Central Java (37.68 percent), West Java (24.89 percent) and East Java (11.14 percent).
The rise in airfares has consequently increased the number of travelers who choose private cars, a Transportation Ministry survey has found. Private car passengers are to surge to 3.76 million from 3.19 million last year, while those who ride motorcycles are to increase to 6.85 million from 6.19 million last year.
Second, trans-Java and trans-Sumatra connections would attract most travelers. Moreover, the government is offering a 15 percent discount on the tolls along the trans-Java toll road.
Traffic congestion looks unavoidable on the trans-Java toll road, especially because of the construction of an elevated toll road on the Jakarta-Cikarang section. Construction work has been suspended temporarily to prevent worse gridlock.
To further ease traffic, the government is applying a one-way system on the trans-Java toll road. All the lanes from Cikarang in West Java to East Brebes in Central Java are to be allocated for travelers going eastward from May 30 to June 2. The reverse arrangement is to be in place from June 7 to 9 when the holidaymakers drive back to their places of residence.
Third, Idul Fitri is a perfect moment to forgive and seek forgiveness. This time around it should mark an ideal end to the political divides resulting from the presidential election. The contest between incumbent President Jokowi and contender Prabowo Subianto has split the nation between cebong (tadpoles), which refers to Jokowi supporters, and kampret (little bats), Prabowo’s supporters. There has been a clear-cut “us against them” rivalry.
We have heard stories of husbands and wives, siblings, friends, parents and children, arguing over their political choices. We heard of people unfriending others because they support different candidates, and friends becoming foes, simply because of politics, which actually they are not directly involved in.
Both cebong and kampret are to be heading to their hometowns to celebrate Idul Fitri. They may travel in the same plane, train, bus or even car. They are to take the trans-Java toll road and share a space in rest areas along the way.
Idul Fitri should therefore heal the division.
In fact, as a nation, Indonesia embraces “Unity in Diversity” as its philosophy. Indonesians are what we are today because we are different, rich in culture, language, cuisine and tradition and lately because we are diverse in terms of political affiliation.
It is our long tradition to ask for forgiveness and to forgive on Idul Fitri. It is the opportune moment that we do so with our parents, children, friends and even those who are different in political stance. May Idul Fitri reconcile the nation, be they cebong or kampret
Happy Idul Fitri everyone and stay united.