World

Jokowi strikes firm tone against hardliners

JAKARTA: In September 1989, then-president Suharto told editors during a return flight from the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia that his government would defend the state ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.

The Indonesian leader, who was forced to quit after a bloody riot in 1998, said anything was allowed as long as it was in line with the Constitution.

"If they want to replace me in an unconstitutional way, I'll clobber them, whether they are politicians or generals," he said.

It was the first time Mr Suharto had used the word "gebuk" (clobber), which analysts said reflected his anger at plots to oust him.

Two years into his term, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has found himself struggling to launch his reform agenda, with his opponents using rising sectarianism to undermine him.

The issue of sectarianism emerged after Mr Widodo's ally, non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, decided to seek re-election in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

His candidacy, his allegedly blasphemous speech and his conviction divided the nation.

With hard-line groups leading the political rallies against Ahok, his election defeat and conviction are a setback for democracy and pluralism.

In his strongest statement on the political situation, Mr Widodo said: "We do not prohibit people from demonstrating to express their opinions... All must be done within the legal corridor. If it is outside the legal corridor, then we should clobber (gebuk in Indonesian) the perpetrators."

When asked about his choice of word, he said there was no other appropriate term, adding that any crackdown must be carried out based on customs, regulations and moral values.

Political communications expert Effendi Ghazali said Mr Widodo is "very angry". "When someone uses the word, they are aware of the consequences and risks they might face." 
- THE JAKARTA POST/ANN.

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