Presidential candidate Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin seen on the left side of the stage during a televised debate with their opponents, Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Sandiaga Uno on the opposite side, in Jakarta on Thursday. (Reuters Photo/Willy Kurniawan)
Jokowi, Prabowo Turn Up Heat in First Debate, Steer Clear of Past Human Rights Cases
BY : JAKARTA GLOBE
JANUARY 18, 2019
Jakarta. Incumbent Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was not shy to throw a few jabs in the first presidential debate on Thursday, pushing his challenger, Prabowo Subianto, to make some serious blunders as the candidates debated human rights, law and corruption.
Still, Jokowi and Prabowo both refrained from going into the specifics of long-unresolved human rights cases, which may directly implicate the latter and several former generals currently among the president's ranks.
The debates began calmly with candidates taking turns to answer prepared questions – which were made known to them beforehand. Jokowi spent almost all the time allocated for his opening statement to greet his opponents and members of the audience.
Meanwhile, Prabowo and his running mate Sandiaga Uno employed every trick in the book to pivot their answers to the questions on the law, human rights and security toward the economy and employment matters – the focus of their campaign so far.
The heat was turned up when the candidates were allowed to question each other, with Prabowo quick to bring up claims that law enforcement under the Jokowi administration has been unfair and one-sided, mainly at the expense of opposition supporters.
Jokowi deflected the claim, saying that Indonesia upholds the rule of law and that the country's legal mechanisms are functioning well. He challenged his opponent by saying that anything illegal should be reported to the relevant authorities instead of using it to stir controversy.
Jokowi cheekily made reference to the infamous deception by theatrical producer, actress and writer Ratna Sarumpaet, an avid Prabowo supporter.
"Let's not rush into conclusions. Mr. Prabowo's campaign team member, for example, was said to have been assaulted, with her face battered. But then we found out that she underwent plastic surgery," Jokowi said.
Ratna is currently in police detention, awaiting trial. She is accused of having created the deception to allow Prabowo's campaign to discredit his opponent.
As lively debates often go, neither side managed to engage in any meaningful discussion on ways they would resolve the many cases of gross human rights violations that have been unresolved over the past five decades.
Amnesty International has pointed out that the Jokowi administration has failed to show seriousness in resolving cases of gross human rights violations, including the abductions of pro-democracy activists and the Semanggi I and II incidents in 1998 and 1999, when the armed forces opened fire on protesting students.
The attorney general, who was appointed by Jokowi, recently refused to, accept the findings of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on the cases and several others, saying that there were not enough facts to bring the cases to trial.
Both candidates appeared to be aware that it would be detrimental to their respective election campaigns to highlight these cases, and seemed to be careful not to mention any specifics.
Prabowo was dishonorably discharged from his position as commander of the Army Strategic Command (Kostrad) after he was found to have overstepped his authority in ordering the kidnappings of civilians.
The case involving the student shootings, however, has never gone to trial. Observers have long said it may implicate Wiranto, one of Jokowi's key allies, who was the chief the military at the time.
Jokowi acknowledged the "burden of past human rights abuses" during Thursday evening's debate and said their resolution has been pending due to a lack of evidence and the length of time that has passed since the incidents took place.
"However, we are still committed to resolving this human rights issue, which will be supported by a fair legal system and good law enforcement," Jokowi said.
Prabowo: Small Corruption Is O.K.
Prabowo said corruption in Indonesia was caused by the low wages civil servants receive. Therefore, he intends to increase taxes to provide government workers with a better standard of living.
"If I lead this country, I will realistically improve the quality of life for all bureaucrats. The question is where I will get the money. I will increase the tax rate, which currently stands at 10 percent, or even lower. I will return [the tax rate] to a minimum of 16 percent, so we will get at least $60 billion," he said.
On the other hand, Jokowi said the focus should be on bureaucratic reform, especially in terms of recruitment. He emphasized the importance of recruitment based on merit and competence, as well as strong internal monitoring.
"There's not much we want to say. We fully understand the issues facing this country and what we must do. We don't lean toward dictatorship or authoritarianism, and we don't have a record of past human rights abuses, nor issues surrounding corruption," Jokowi said.
During his turn to ask his opponent a question, Jokowi raised the issue of ex-corruptors on the list of legislative candidates from Prabowo's Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), as published by Indonesia Corruption Watch. Prabowo responded by saying that those cases had been resolved and that the people involved were duly punished.
"I think that this is a democracy ... if the law allows it, and the candidate is capable and the people want it, and maybe he didn't corrupt by that much… It is those who have stolen trillions or rupiah that we should go after," Prabowo said.
During the debate, Prabowo's take on terrorism in Indonesia focused heavily on the source of it being rooted in other countries.
"I know very well terrorists were sent from other countries. The terrorists are controlled by non-Muslims. I reject the notion that Muslims are terrorists," he said.
When it comes to homegrown terrorists, Prabowo claimed that most of them were a product of economic inequality and despair.
"Homegrown terrorism comes from despair and economic inequality. They were hurt and influenced by radical teachings. I support a deradicalization program. When I am president, I will also invest in health and education," he said, adding that he would strengthen the country's military, police and intelligence services.
Jokowi running mate Ma'ruf Amin, meanwhile, proposed a focus on preventative efforts to suppress radicalism and intolerance, which would involve mass organizations and religious groups. This would be paired with a human rights approach, which Jokowi emphasized by saying that law enforcement officers would be trained to be mindful of human rights when conducting operations.
Regarding deradicalization, Jokowi and Ma'ruf said this process would heavily depend on the root causes.
"If it is because of a misunderstanding of religion, then we should provide the correct understanding and put them back on the right path," Ma'ruf said, adding that if the reasons were economic, then jobs should be facilitated and the most suitable assistance provided.