The Jakarta Post
The hashtags #Reformasidikorupsi (Reform corrupted) and #Demokrasidikorupsi (Democracy corrupted) have accompanied the call to street rallies in many cities. Even media workers feel they cannot stand by as the revised Criminal Code includes articles that could curb freedom of expression.
Months after the April presidential and general election, it is understandable that many bystanders are very worried. Far from thinking that they can now live in peace with supporters of rival presidential candidates, today people are divided again.
The chasm now is between die-hard supporters of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and another group that also includes Jokowi voters but who are alarmed at the reckless abuse of the trust that enabled him win a second term in office and that enabled politicians to win their coveted seats.
There is speculation that the massive marches are partially aimed at delaying or even canceling the President’s inauguration on Oct. 20, and warnings abound of provocateurs and extremists seeking to benefit from the protests.
But just a glance at the protesters’ demands confirms that anger has been building up, mainly directed at lawmakers seeking to swiftly pass laws carelessly near the end of their term on Monday; but also at Jokowi for failing to wield his power appropriately at the expense of his own pledges, including those on corruption and the upholding of basic human rights.
Worse still, devastating news from Papua late Monday that 21 had been killed during or after protests in Wamena and Jayapura hark of the harsh handling of demonstrations under the Soeharto regime, which was toppled 20 years ago.
There is no need to build up and spread the narrative of “you’re either with us or against us” on the part of President Jokowi, his government and supporters. Today’s protests and grievances are valid and merely echo much of the content of Jokowi’s Nawa Cita (Nine Ideals) campaign pledge.
Furthermore, there is no impeachment mechanism within the representative bodies for him to fear; Jokowi’s strength is in the more than 55 percent of the vote or 85.6 million votes he won. But like his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, once in office he seems to have forgotten that this should be his source of conviction to carry out his promises as the leader of the whole nation.
Far from the greenhorn he was in the early days of his presidency, Jokowi has proven to be an able politician. But many members of the public are astounded by how far he will seemingly go to accommodate political interests. He has said the controversial bills must be delayed, but there are now doubts that they will be carried over to the next House term.
Many realize reformasi is a long journey; taking to the streets apart from social media is the only means of expression that ordinary people have. Scholars may say “I told you so”, but members of the public have no choice but to attempt to make their voices heard, to at least reject the further erosion of democracy.