Joko Widodo, the presidential candidate from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, on Saturday took to presenting his vision for the nation through an opinion piece published in the daily newspaper Kompas.
In the piece, titled “A Mental Revolution,” Joko commended the political and economic developments in Indonesia that had taken place in the 16 years since the fall of the strongman Suharto, an event that gave birth to a new democratic system.
“The economy developed and many of the people became increasingly prosperous. In May this month, the World Bank ranked Indonesia among the top 10 biggest economies in the world, which happened sooner than was expected by the SBY administration, which predicted this to occur in the year 2025,” Joko wrote.
Despite the positive changes, however, Joko said a sense of restlessness remained among the public, citing protests on the streets, in the media as well as social media, and underlined the need for a change in mentality.
“Nation building will not move forward if we are to merely rely on institutional changes, without trying to change the people or the attitude of people who are running the system. However great the institution we have created may be, it will bring no welfare among the people as long as it is handled by individuals who do not have a clear understanding,” he said.
Joko said the developments seen in Indonesia remained tainted by cases of corruption, intolerance, greed, the use of violence to address problems, abuse of the law, and opportunistic values, and that without substantial changes, “all the success of the reformation will immediately be eliminated along with the demise of this nation.”
In building the nation, Joko also said it was necessary to create a paradigm, political culture and a new approach to nation-building efforts that were in compliance with local cultures and values.
“In developing the nation, we tend to implement liberal values that are clearly not in accordance with and contradictory to Indonesia’s values, culture and character,” he said.
Joko cited the concept of “Trisakti” introduced by founding president Sukarno in his 1963 speech as a relevant basis to a “mental revolution.”
“An Indonesia that is sovereign in politics, an Indonesia that is independent economically, and an Indonesia that has with a sociocultural character,” he said.
In economics, Joko said Indonesia should end its dependence on foreign investment, capital, aid and technology.
“Liberal economy policies that merely prioritize market power have trapped Indonesia into a reliance on foreign capital. All the while, its natural resources are also drained by multinational enterprises and their Indonesian compradors,” he said.
“The 16 years of reformation have not brought much change to the way we manage our economy. The government has easily opened our imports for food and other needs ... it would be ironic if Indonesia, with its natural resources, remains dependent on food imports.”
Joko emphasized that Indonesia should push for economic independence and also review its foreign investment policies, which he said had failed to provide enough jobs for Indonesians but instead sought to earn as much profit as possible.
“Food and energy security are two things that cannot be compromised. Indonesia has to immediately pursue this with clear and measurable programs and schedules. Outside of these two sectors, Indonesia will continue relying on imports and exports to push its economy,” he wrote.
Joko also touched on the subject of education, which he said should uphold “the moral values of the religion that is alive in this country,” although he did not specify which religion he was referring to.
“Access to education and health services that are much more organized, focused and better targeted by the government can help us build Indonesia’s social and cultural identity,” he said.
Joko has also previously expressed his views on the Indonesian education system and the need to make sure it catered to character-building elements.
“Sixty to 70 percent of the education we offer should be related to character, attitude and a child’s manners. Knowledge should be just about 30 percent,” he said on Friday as quoted by Beritajakarta.com, after the death of a fifth grader in East Jakarta in a suspected bullying case.
“Entering middle school, 70 percent should cover knowledge, and then 30 percent should cover character. In high school or vocational school, knowledge should be emphasized, because the basics should be covered in elementary school.”
Joko’s Kompas article received mixed reaction from the public, with some taking to social media to discuss his points.
Twitter user @ngabdul said Joko’s call against “following the current of a culture that may or may not necessarily be in accordance to the noble values of our nation” was worrying.
“Hopefully this is nothing more than words. Culture is a personal choice, not the government’s,” he wrote on Saturday.
Businessman Lin Che Wei also took to Twitter in responding to Joko’s piece, writing from his account @linchewei.
“Read @jokowi_dodo’s [sic] piece today. My comment: it’s similar to Sukarno’s style, a slightly reactive nationalism, simple yet offers no solution,” he wrote.
Award-winning novelist Okky Madasari, meanwhile, criticized Joko’s statements on education.
“In today’s opinion piece in Kompas, why does Joko Widodo have to link education with religious morals? I think this is a setback,” she said from her Twitter account, @OkkyMadasari.
Another issue that became the subject of criticism was speculation that Joko had used a ghostwriter to pen the opinion piece, inciting a public outcry, particularly on social media.
Political analyst Andrinof Chaniago, however, called on Joko not to take heed of the criticism.
“Joko is indeed not a writer, but it does not mean he does not have ideas,” Andrinof said as quoted by Tempo.co, adding that he was sure Joko had not penned the piece, but that the ideas written had been his own, as they were in line with the ideas and concepts he had often raised at campaign rallies and seminars.
Andrinof also underlined that Joko’s use of a ghostwriter was not unethical, as it was different from plagiarism.
“For instance, if we send a piece to a news platform and it gets edited based on an editorial decision, then it’s not a problem,” he said.
Joko himself later conceded the piece had been put together by a team, but said that he had come up with its structure and key ideas.
“I made the points as well as the structure,” he said on Saturday, explaining that he had then submitted the points to a team that was in charge of the writing process, although he declined to name the members of the team.