Inane politicians make us laugh and weep
“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.