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Jokowi going for moderation

Publication Date : 25-08-2014

 

Q&A with Indonesia president-elect Joko Widodo by The Star:

You are going to be the leader of the world’s most populous Muslim country which has been praised by many as a moderate Muslim country. How important is it for Indonesia to maintain this moderation in terms of religion in this time of growing interest among Muslims in Islam? Why do you think that the Indonesian voters have rejected religious-based political parties in this election in favour of secular-based ones?

Indonesia as the world’s largest Muslim democracy has on the whole kept to a tradition of tolerance and pluralism. It is a part of our DNA. It is written into how we live.

When all is said and done, Indonesia is a secular country which protects freedom of religion and expression.

Everyone must work to protect this. This is the only way to guarantee our future.

Don’t forget that one of the parties that backed me was an Islamist party, the PKB (Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa or People’s Awakening Party). It has always been known for espousing a moderate brand of Islam and politics. Voters appreciate and support this.

> New politics and rising expectations

Sir, you have managed to capture the attention of voters who are fed up with the old politics and old politicians. But this will also come with rising expectations and, in some ways, impossible demands that would be difficult to be met in a short time. How do you plan to handle a now impatient electorate?

Indonesians are very cynical about politics. They think it is very corrupt and transactional. We need to revive their faith in public life. The best way to do this is to serve the people. There should be no distance between the people and their leaders.

This is why I conduct blusukans or walkabouts; it allows me to understand the people’s problems. It also helps them understand that I am working to better their lives.

I know that people have high expectations of me. The only way to meet this is to roll up my sleeves and keep working hard.

> Who will be in your cabinet?

They must be people who are committed and have integrity. They must be ready to serve the people. They must have a good track record. I do not look at race.

Race is not important. Look at Ahok (Basuki Tjahaha Purnama). He is my deputy governor but he is well accepted.

(Ahok, pronounced as Ah Hock, is Jakarta’s first ethnic Chinese and Christian deputy governor. He will be elevated to full governor when Jokowi is sworn in as president.)

I think the current state of inter-ethnic relations says a lot about how far we’ve come.

Indonesia is today living up to its national motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, or “Unity in Diversity.”

Indonesia is now a democracy and accords all our citizens equal rights. We will never turn our backs on this. All Indonesians, including Chinese Indonesians, have contributed to the making of this nation.

All Indonesians have an equal responsibility to carry it forward.

> On the Chinese community in Indonesia

I will be asking the Human Rights Commission to reopen its investigations into the 1998 racial riots. Victims are still missing and every month, there is a protest outside the Istana (the official residence of the President).

These are families of victims who are seeking justice and they want to know what happened.

(In the May 1998 riots, there was mass violence in Jakarta, Medan and Solo.

The riots were said to be triggered by economic problems such as food shortages and mass unemployment, which led to the resignation of president Suharto, but the main victims were ethnic Chinese.

It was estimated that more than a thousand people died in the riots. Shops were looted, buildings set on fire and hundreds of women raped.

Jokowi’s rival, Probowo Subianto, has been accused by the Chinese community of being involved in the riots, which he has strongly denied.)

> What are your plans for Indonesia in the first one year of your presidency?

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. I intend to build on the good foundation of the past administration and shake up our bureaucracy.

Our public servants must be prepared to serve the people first.

We will focus on the issues that matter: getting the economy growing, eliminating corruption and investing in quality education and a universal healthcare system.

At the same time, more investment and attention will be channelled into infrastructure development. This can be done by utilising the savings from fuel subsidy reductions.

> Relations with prime minister Najib Razak

He was one of the first to call me up to extend his congratulations when the results were announced. He spoke about issues like investments and invited me to Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia and Indonesia have always enjoyed good relations despite occasional disagreements but that is normal.

The most important thing is that we respect each other, that is the foundation of a good relationship.

> Malaysia-Indonesia relations and international trade

During your election campaign, many observers were concerned with the tone of presidential candidates playing the nationalist cards on the economy and Asean. Can you clarify what are your investment policies, specifically on equity in financial services and plantations?

I am aware that there are domestic political pressures to limit foreign expansion, including in the financial services and plantations sectors.

Still, to ensure future rapid economic growth we need massive investment and if domestic capital is not sufficient, then we will have to look abroad.

It is my task as president to balance out these pressures.

My commitment to the Indonesian people is to create economic growth and jobs.

We need investments for tourism, infrastructure and manufacturing. We need support for the building of ports, airports and railways.

> Observers also felt Indonesia should not be inward looking but embrace regionalism as it is also in Indonesia’s interest to open up its economy, especially with the creation of the Asean Economic Community in 2015. What are your commitments to the AEC and your vision to regional economic integration?

There is no doubt that AEC can bring enormous economic benefits to Indonesia.

But like other Asean countries, we need to ensure that we are ready to face the increasing level of competition from its implementation.

One thing we must work on is our human capital.

We need to ensure that our workforce is not only able to compete with regional counterparts, but also help drive the process of economic integration.

We must also make sure our infrastructure and general industry will be up to the task.

We have a population of 250 million which is expanding at a rate of 2.9 million a year.

Indonesia has a vast consumer market, but we also have just as much to offer our counterparts in Southeast Asia. I am sure we can all prosper together.

> Bilateral ties with Malaysia under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been described by Malaysian officials as the best managed ever as problems were “resolved” before they could become big. What are you views on Malaysia?

Indonesia on the whole has always had good relations with Malaysia. Our total trade in 2013 stood at over US$23.98 billion.

It is important that we build on this to ensure that both countries can more forward together.

Disagreements are normal in international relations, but ultimately the region can only be stable if we cooperate.

Our relationship will be strong as long as we respect each other. This should be the foundation of our relations.

 

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