Inane politi­cians make us laugh and weep

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“I have come to the con­clu­sion that pol­i­tics is too se­ri­ous a mat­ter to be left to the politi­cians” Charles de Gaulle French mil­i­tary gen­eral and states­man

When Friends of Ahok threw a party af­ter their suc­cess in col­lect­ing 1 mil­lion vote pledges a fort­night ago, the in­cum­bent Jakarta Gov­er­nor Ba­suki “Ahok” Tja­haja Pur­nama could rest as­sured that he was el­i­gi­ble to run next year as an in­de­pen­dent, be­cause his first hur­dle had been over­come.

Equally de­lighted was prob­a­bly Habiburokhman, an ob­scure lawyer­turned- Gerindra Party politi­cian, who set the world on fire af­ter brag­ging on so­cial me­dia he would jump from the top of Jakarta’s iconic 132-me­ter Monas mon­u­ment if Ahok man­aged to get a suf­fi­cient num­ber of ID-backed sig­na­tures re­quired to run on an in­de­pen­dent ticket.

Need­less to say, he was the most sought-af­ter man in the coun­try af­ter the Friends of Ahok cel­e­brated their ac­com­plish­ment on June 19. He gladly con­firmed the tweet was his and that he had writ­ten the lines “with his own thumbs”.

“I would dare to jump with­out safety gear from the top of Monas if Ahok can ob­tain enough ID copies to run,” he bragged on his Twit­ter page and the mes­sage quickly went vi­ral. He ended his mes­sage with a hash­tag say­ing that Te­man Ahok’s ef­fort was noth­ing but “talk”.

But if you think the news about Ahok se­cur­ing a mil­lion IDs had sent a chill down Habiburokhman’s spine, you are wrong. He crowed for me­dia at­ten­tion and he got what he wanted.

As a politi­cian, he ap­peared to be sur­prised that peo­ple had taken his words se­ri­ously. So, prob­a­bly amused at be­ing hounded by re­porters ask­ing when he would per­form the spec­tac­u­lar jump and ridiculed on so­cial me­dia, Habiburokhman tweeted his ex­cuses: “Friends of Ahok’s one mil­lion ID copy claim is greatly ques­tion­able be­cause they were the ones who counted and ver­i­fied [the copies].”

But on so­cial me­dia, peo­ple refuse to give up their hope of see­ing the spec­ta­cle of Habiburokhman leap­ing from Monas. They won’t have to push him very hard be­cause the Jakarta Gen­eral Elec­tions Com­mis­sion (KPU) will have un­til Sept. 3 to ver­ify Ahok’s sup­port.

We know Habiburokhman is but one of many politi­cians who has made a fool of them­selves, mak­ing lu­di­crously low­brow state­ments to up­lift their own stature.

Of course, peo­ple know the snob­bish politi­cians won’t do what they boasted but rather, they mean to make fun out of our se­ri­ously funny pol­i­tics. Just as amus­ing is that po­lit­i­cal par­ties al­ways fret out loud about wan­ing pub­lic trust. The rul­ing In­done­sian Demo­cratic Party of Strug­gle (PDI-P) blames the fal­lacy partly on Ahok be­cause he has re­fused to run on the party’s ticket.

It seems that Monas has be­come com­i­cal politi­cians’ fa­vorite sym­bol of “brav­ery”. Back in 2012, then Demo­cratic Party chief Anas Ur­ban­ingrum of­fered him­self to be hanged from Monas if any­one could prove that he had stolen a sin­gle ru­piah from a Rp 2 tril­lion sports project as ac­cused.

In 2014, the Jakarta Cor­rup­tion Court found him guilty of ac­cept­ing gra­tu­ities worth bil­lions of ru­piah and sen­tenced him to seven years in prison. He would not honor his prom­ise. The Supreme Court hated his in­sis­tence of in­no­cence and dou­bled his prison term.

In April, Abra­ham “Lu­lung” Lung­gana, a Jakarta coun­cilor and Ahok’s ar­dent critic, vowed to cut off his ears if Ahok would dare to chal­lenge the Supreme Au­dit Agency’s (BPK) find­ing that Rp 191 bil­lion in pub­lic funds were un­ac­counted for in the city ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pur­chase of Sum­ber Waras Hos­pi­tal.

Ah, yes, peo­ple are also still wait­ing for Lu­lung to honor his pledge to pa­rade 1,000 nude pros­ti­tutes in the cap­i­tal’s streets if Ahok could clear Kali­dojo, a no­to­ri­ous red-light district from thugs who al­legedly en­joyed the back­ing of cor­rupt politi­cians, po­lice and bu­reau­crats.

Dur­ing the 2014 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, mu­si­cian and Gerindra sym­pa­thizer Ah­mad Dhani en­ter­tained peo­ple with of­f­color hu­mor. He said he would sever his pe­nis if Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo could beat Gerindra Party boss Prabowo Su­bianto in the bit­terly con­tested elec­tion.

Now, two years into Jokowi’s reign, Dhani has yet to mu­ti­late his pri­vate mem­ber. When he tried to win the sym­pa­thy of Jakar­tans for his gu­ber­na­to­rial bid, he made an­other bizarre prom­ise: To solve the cap­i­tal’s chaotic traf­fic in just a week.

Amaz­ingly, en­ter­tain­ingly dim-wit­ted pledges have been made not only by novices of the like of Habiburokhman and Dhani, but also by se­nior politi­cian Amien Rais, a co-founder of the Na­tional Man­date Party (PAN), who would have been fondly rec­og­nized as a re­formist — un­til his in­con­sis­ten­cies be­trayed his rep­u­ta­tion.

Amien gave us the most comedic fod­der in the midst of the 2014 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion when he vowed to walk from his home­town of Yo­gyakarta to Jakarta and back again to Yo­gyakarta if Jokowi won the race.

A few days af­ter the win­ner of the elec­tion was made pub­lic, Gi­man, 38, on his way on foot from Malang, East Java, to Jakarta in cel­e­bra­tion of Jokowi’s win, light-heart­edly dropped by on Amien’s Yo­gyakarta res­i­dence only to find the host had left for Jakarta by plane on other busi­ness.

Our cor­rupt sys­tem has pro­duced politi­cians who think of the next elec­tion but no states­men who think of the next gen­er­a­tion, as Amer­i­can the­olo­gian and au­thor James Free­man Clarke fa­mously phrased.

In this dig­i­tal age, when ev­ery state­ment of our lead­ers is well-doc­u­mented and eas­ily re­traced thanks to the in­ter­net, all pesky state­ments from politi­cians will be re­mem­bered as fright­en­ingly dim-wit­ted non­sense wor­thy of noth­ing but jokes — much to their cha­grin. The writer is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.


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