The Jakarta Post
Men, women and children from the Network of Urban Poor (JRMK) and the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC) came to meet with President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo on Thursday, waiting for hours outside the State Palace to talk to him about promises he made during his campaign to be president and earlier as Jakarta governor.
The strict protocol at the State Palace proved very different from their experience when Jokowi was at City Hall, when residents could talk to him without having to make an appointment.
Is it still the same man, humble and caring, standing behind the strict palace protocol, or has the people's leader changed into a different person?
'I understand that everything is different now that he is the President. Back then, I came to City Hall almost every week. I came just before he arrived at the office in the morning and he would give us 15 minutes to two hours to listen to our grievances,' group representative Marno 'Ujang' NP told The Jakarta Post in front of the State Palace.
During his term as Jakarta governor, Jokowi was known as an approachable leader who disliked bureaucratic procedure and loved to meet and talk to the people. City Hall was practically open to the public and ordinary citizens would come to speak to the governor daily.
Ujang was among about 30 residents of slums across Jakarta who came in the hope of meeting with the President, whom they supported during the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial and 2014 presidential elections. They came with the purpose of persuading Jokowi to fulfill his campaign promises.
During last year's presidential campaign, Jokowi and the UPC signed a political pact on the eighth anniversary of the Lapindo disaster at the mudflow site in Sidoarjo, East Java.
The contract comprised a series of key demands from the Lapindo disaster victims and from poor people, the fulfillment of which by Jokowi and his running mate, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, was to be in exchange for absolute support from the pairing.
The key demands included healthcare and education benefits, as well as job opportunities. The contract also stipulates that Jokowi would not evict squatters without providing them with new shelter.
'I have heard your demands and I understand. In a case like this, the state should be present as a symbol of the people's sovereignty,' Jokowi said after signing the pact.
UPC coordinator Edi Saidi said that the group had decided to come to the State Palace because the situation was 'urgent'.
'We submitted a letter asking to meet with the President about a month ago but we didn't hear anything. Evictions are rampant across the country and some people simply cannot wait any longer,' Edi said.
Ujang added that his group did not trust the bureaucracy.
Among the group were squatters living on Jl. Tongkol in North Jakarta who face eviction this week. They have yet to receive any confirmation regarding their future housing.
Gatot Sudarto, 61, revealed that about 200 people living in the area were being forced by authorities to leave their homes by Friday at the latest.
'We weren't told anything before, so we're completely unprepared,' he said, adding that Jokowi had promised that squatters would not be evicted unless the government could provide low-cost apartments.
The squatters said that heavy equipment had been on standby near their houses and that they preferred to stay overnight in front of the State Palace rather than return home.
The Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta) revealed that of 26 evictions that rendered 3,751 families homeless last year, 19 were carried out without notice, leaving residents homeless for months.
After the group waited for hours in the heat, the presidential motorcade arrived at the State Palace, passing the demonstrators, who waved and called enthusiastically, hoping to attract the President's attention. Jokowi rolled down the car window, waving at the group.
He also sent one of his aides, Eko Sulistyo, to meet with the group. However, there was no sign that Jokowi would come outside and meet them.
Though the group failed to meet with Jokowi, Assyifa, 24, said she still had high hopes. 'I couldn't vote for him during the presidential election last year. But if I could have, I would have, because I believe that he understands people like us,' she said.
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