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Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has been told to take a more daring approach — as exercised by outspoken Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — in fighting the political pressures around him, as recent blunders involving the National Police chief post may cost him the public’s trust.
Granted, Basuki is operating in a very different political arena — the governor of Jakarta has more sway over the city council (DPRD) than the president has over the House of Representatives (DPR), but Joko can learn from his former deputy’s no-nonsense stance with the Jakarta legislature, political observer Djayadi Hanan said.
“At the very least, he should be a able to make a firm decision and draw a line between areas where he can make political compromises and where he can’t,” said Djayadi, who serves as executive director for political think tank Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting.
“I think these ‘no-compromise’ areas include corruption eradication, governance transparency and people’s welfare programs,” Djayadi said, speaking after the president’s controversial nomination of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan as the new National Police chief.
“The president may compromise in other areas,” he added.
Joko has taken a heavy beating from critics and supporters alike after he refused to retract his nomination of Budi even after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) revealed last week that the three-star police general is suspected of graft and money laundering.
Joko’s inaction allowing the House to endorse the three-star graft suspect as the nation’s top cop, following unusually amicable confirmation hearings.
Although lawmakers’ eager approval of Budi has prompted triggered questions over their own motives, public scrutiny remained fixed on Joko, who announced he would “postpone, not cancel” Budi’s swearing-in.
Until the July of last year, Basuki served as Joko’s second-in-command during the latter’s short term as Jakarta governor, which started in 2012.
Basuki was seen then as the outspoken counterpart of calm, collected Joko.
Basuki officially became governor in November, a month after Joko ascended to the presidency. He faces resistance from a hard-line Islamist minority who refused to accept a Chinese Christian as leader of a predominantly Muslim-populated capital.
While Basuki has continued to win praises for his unwavering stance against corrupt Jakarta bureaucrats, Joko’s administration — formerly regarded as a populist and reformist political movement — seems to be rapidly losing public support.
Political analysts have even publicly slammed the string of poor choices the president has made in recent weeks as reflecting his inability to fight “old-guard” political figures of his party.
And while Basuki is now without a political party, following his resignation from the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party, over its support for a law that eliminated sub-national elections for governors, mayors and district chiefs, Joko is seen as moving deeper and deeper under the shadow of his patron, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Allegations that Joko would serve as a puppet to Megawati, raised by his opponents on the presidential campaign trail, now seem to ring true, analysts say.
Siti Zuhro, a political observer for the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), pointed out the president should have understood that although political backing was necessary to support his presidency, compromises that threaten the rule of law must be excluded from the political game.
“Critical positions in the areas of law and justice cannot be comprised. The president must exercise his authority responsibly,” Siti said on Sunday.
“Joko should not be using up his energy to serve the wishes of political powers and financiers around him.
“He must stay committed to his principles, beliefs and vision for developing the country; he must not stray even a bit in order to comply with the political power and financiers’ interests,” she added.
Basuki’s latest maneuvers
Basuki, named “Man of the Year” for two consecutive years by Globe Asia magazine, has once again voiced his no-nonsense stance in dealing with members of the city council.
On Monday, Basuki’s administration and the city council finally agreed to resume stalled debate on the city’s budget for the upcoming year.
Despite the Home Affairs Ministry’s deadline requiring all regional governments to settle their 2015 budget before 2014 came to an end, Jakarta’s leaders say a string of delays prevented agreement on a financial plan for the capital.
The council’s politics had become so fractured by mid-December that its members — many of whom not only oppose Basuki’s administration but reject its legitimacy — had failed to even form the necessary support bodies for budget deliberations.
The latest delay was attributed to the council’s odd petition for an additional Rp 8.8 trillion ($695.7 million) in funds.
Last Friday, city officials boycotted a council hearing and threatened to halt legislative debate until council members provided a clear explanation for the funding request made to Jakarta’s Development Planning Agency, or Bappeda.
In a vague explanation, council members said they put in a request for the exorbitant amount to fund a campaign that would inform the public about “gubernatorial decrees” and the city administration’s “mission statement.”
“Which decrees are these [council members] talking about? This is why I was outraged. And none [of the council members who made the request to Bappeda] are willing to come forward,” the governor said.
“They all claimed they knew nothing [about the request].”
The issue was settled on Monday after Basuki met with council speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi and one of his deputies, Triwisaksana.
The council has promised him that there will be no more “strange requests,” Basuki said of the meeting.
They also agreed to resume budget deliberations.
Prasetyo said that the whole debacle boiled down to “a misunderstanding,” adding that the request was never authorized by the council.
“This is the work of a rogue [council member],” he said, stopping short of identifying the culprit.
Basuki said he would not tolerate such unauthorized, “secret” budget proposals, apparently a common practice of public officials, including in Jakarta.
Last year, Jakarta found irregularities in the budgeting process for the local health and public works agencies worth a combined Rp 34.4 billion.
To curb such practices, the capital was taking all of its budgeting process online, Basuki vowed.
“Last year, there were some resistance, with some units saying that they are not ready [for the online budgeting process]. But this year, there will be no excuses.”
Basuki added that if council members continued to stall deliberations of the city’s financial planning, he would seek to adopt a reworked 2014 budget.
“I’ve told Pras [Prasetyo] that I believe Jakarta still has good, honest council members. But if the council doesn’t want to discuss [the 2015 budget] anymore, I will overstep their authority and use the 2014 budget,” he said.
He added that the meeting would be a “test” for him and for the city council, as he would be the first governor in Indonesia brave enough to fight back against a provincial legislative council.
The governor also announced on Monday significant changes to be made at the city-owned enterprises agency, or BUMD, in his continued effort to overhaul Jakarta’s bureaucracy.
Basuki said there would be a “reshuffle” of the board of directors, citing poor profit margins and missed targets.
“After having conducted a huge reshuffle of [the capital’s] civil servants, we will also do the same for city-owned enterprises’ board of directors,” the governor said.
The entire board will be dismissed with several new appointments having already been tipped to take their place.
The Jakarta administration commissions 27 city-owned enterprises in order to bolster the capital’s economy and provide for its 9 million residents.
In December, Basuki also announced sweeping job cuts at City Hall due to inefficiency and “disobedience.”
A total of 1,162 civil servants will be laid off, while 6,849 existing roles will be opened up for new applications.