In­done­sian youth urged to chart course for coun­try

Ex-pres­i­dent’s son says po­lit­i­cal ig­no­rance among youth will be detri­men­tal in long run

The Straits Times - - ASIA - Nur Asy­iqin Mo­hamad Salleh

Young In­done­sians have helped pro­pel their coun­try for­ward at crit­i­cal junc­tures in its tur­bu­lent his­tory and they must once again flex their po­lit­i­cal mus­cle to help chart the na­tion’s course dur­ing a pe­riod of global change and un­cer­tainty, an up­com­ing young politi­cian said yes­ter­day .

“Po­lit­i­cal ig­no­rance among the youth will be detri­men­tal in the long run,” said Mr Agus Harimurti Yud­hoy­ono, the 39-year-old son of for­mer pres­i­dent Susilo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono.

He was de­liv­er­ing a lec­ture at the Ma­rina Man­darin Sin­ga­pore or­gan­ised by the S. Ra­jarat­nam School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

Mr Agus cited his­tory yes­ter­day, re­count­ing how uni­ver­sity stu­dents sparked the Re­for­masi move­ment that led to the end of the 30-year New Or­der regime of strong­man Suharto. A group of young in­tel­lec­tu­als had also founded the coun­try’s first po­lit­i­cal move­ment, Budi Utomo, mark­ing the start of In­done­sia’s modern na­tion­al­ism. Decades later, in 1945, it was young ac­tivists yet again who pres­sured the na­tion’s found­ing fa­thers to pro­claim in­de­pen­dence.

“Young peo­ple i n In­done­sia have al­ways been at the fore­front of changes, and they are al­ways present at crit­i­cal junc­tures in our his­tory,” said Mr Agus, who is the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of The Yud­hoy­ono In­sti­tute, a think-tank aimed at de­vel­op­ing young In­done­sians.

“This is ex­actly why I urge many more young In­done­sians to par­tic­i­pate in the pol­i­tics of the coun­try, to one de­gree or an­other,” he said, adding that this could be through vot­ing, join­ing a po­lit­i­cal party or step­ping for­ward as a can­di­date.

Youths not only have to face chal­lenges on the eco­nomic front, in­clud­ing fierce com­pe­ti­tion and a chang­ing world econ­omy, but must also con­tend with threats to the coun­try’s so­cial fab­ric such as the rise of hate speech and iden­tity pol­i­tics.

Mr Agus also pointed out that the young were al­ready a key force at the bal­lot box, with nearly 52 per cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers in In­done­sia aged be­tween 17 and 35.

He said young politi­cians made their mark with their “fresh ap­proaches, en­ergy, and stamina” in June’s re­gional elec­tions, cit­ing the ex­am­ple of 33-year-old Emil Dar­dak, a Raf­fles In­sti­tu­tion alum­nus, who paired with the vet­eran, Khofi­fah In­dar Parawansa, and won in East Java.

A for­mer army ma­jor, Mr Agus him­self left a high-fly­ing mil­i­tary ca­reer in Septem­ber 2016 to con­test in the gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion in Jakarta. “I want to set an ex­am­ple for young peo­ple to ac­tively ex­er­cise their po­lit­i­cal rights,” he said yes­ter­day. Mr Agus’ po­lit­i­cal jour­ney did not stop af­ter his failed bid for of­fice in 2017.

Ear­lier this year, he was ap­pointed chair­man of the Demo­cratic Party’s joint task force for the 2019 elec­tion and is now tipped as a pos­si­ble can­di­date for next year’s pres­i­den­tial polls.

Mr Agus also made clear yes­ter­day that the young need not just con­trib­ute in the po­lit­i­cal arena.

“Pa­tri­o­tism in the 21st cen­tury takes a dif­fer­ent mean­ing than in the past. They do not need to raise arms or fight wars,” he said.

“There are many paths to con­trib­ute... I have high hopes and con­fi­dence that the young gen­er­a­tion of In­done­sia will be able to col­lab­o­rate and work to­gether to­wards a bet­ter fu­ture.”

ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Mr Agus Harimurti Yud­hoy­ono with S. Ra­jarat­nam School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies ex­ec­u­tive deputy chair­man Ong Keng Yong ahead of de­liv­er­ing his lec­ture yes­ter­day. The 39-year-old son of In­done­sia’s for­mer pres­i­dent Susilo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono is tipped as a pos­si­ble can­di­date for next year’s pres­i­den­tial polls.

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