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Jakarta Post

Mega spares Jokowi from another round of shame

  • Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, January 11, 2016   /  06:20 pm

President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo seemed to enjoy his first public display of equal standing with his patron Megawati Soekarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), during the opening of the ruling party'€™s working meeting on Sunday.

After a series of similar meetings in the past year that involved Megawati making a series of gestures and statements that suggested Jokowi was below her in the political pecking order, the eldest daughter of Indonesia'€™s founding president Sukarno seems to have spared the President from further humiliation.

For the first time, Jokowi was given the opportunity to deliver a speech before the PDI-P national assembly, during which the President applauded the PDI-P'€™s contribution and vision to develop the country as well as presenting his infrastructure development plan that focuses on remote parts of the archipelago.

'€œThe PDI-P remains ideologically consistent as a party and is able to maintain unity to become strong and powerful because of [Megawati'€™s] leadership,'€ said Jokowi in his speech that quickly won applause from the audience.

Jokowi was not given the same opportunity during the PDI-P'€™s national congress in Bali last year, at which Megawati declared that like all PDI-P members, Jokowi was also a party official; a remark that many saw as an attack against Jokowi due to PDI-P members being denied access to the State Palace.

During the Bali congress, Jokowi sat in the front row attentively listening to Megawati'€™s remarks but seemingly struggling to appear unaffected by her remarks.

Sunday'€™s meeting saw Jokowi shaking Megawati'€™s hand without placing his forehead onto her hand '€” an Indonesian custom reflecting a high level of respect to an older person. However, the gesture can also be perceived as an act of submission and a sign of inferiority.

The atmosphere at the meeting was profoundly different to previous occasions, with Megawati and Jokowi seen exchanging smiles and sitting side by side.

They also engaged in light conversation and whispered to each other while enjoying the performances. Although Megawati delivered strong criticism of the government'€™s performance, she did not position herself as an authority over the former Jakarta governor.

Among other things Megawati claimed that certain state enterprises had been mismanaged and turned into '€œprivate corporations'€ that had abandoned their mission to ensure public welfare. '€œState firms are treated like private companies that emphasize a solely business approach,'€ she said.

She called on the government to reform state companies and overhaul the management of the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, adding that the PDI-P initiative to establish a House of Representatives task force to investigate irregularities surrounding state-owned port operator Pelindo II was a positive development.

Some observers claimed that Megawati'€™s statement could be construed as a demand that Jokowi replace his trusted aide State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno.

Rini and Megawati were once inseparable friends, traveling overseas together for leisure and shopping. However, things went south after Rini took office last year and she has been absent from PDI-P meetings and functions, including the one on Sunday. Sources within the PDI-P put the warmer interaction between Jokowi and Megawati down to a '€œmutual understanding of the necessity to improve the management of state-owned companies'€.

Senior PDI-P politician Hendrawan Supratikno, however, cited '€œbetter and more frequent communication'€ between the Presidential Palace and the PDI-P as the reason for apparent détente.

'€œPak Jokowi has become more confident in running the country, while the PDI-P has increased its trust in Pak Jokowi to implement party programs,'€ Hendrawan said.

'€œCooperation between Pak Jokowi and Bu Mega is also a give-and-take relationship. We communicate better as we understand each other'€™s expectations,'€ he added.

Many leaders of the ruling coalition were seen among the audience during Sunday'€™s gathering. However, Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI) founder Sutiyoso, who is now the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chairman, was notably absent.

The guest list also included National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman and People'€™s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Zulkifli Hasan, leader of pro-government faction of the United Development Party (PPP) Muhammady Romahurmuziy, Gerindra Party deputy chairman Fadli Zon and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) senior politician Fahri Hamzah.

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