Jakarta. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo set aside differences when he issued state awards to two politicians widely regarded as among his strongest political opponents in Jakarta on Thursday.
Two former House of Representatives deputy speakers Fadli Zon, who hardly spends a day without criticizing or attacking Jokowi’s policies, and Fahri Hamzah, who once joined a political movement to unseat the president, were granted with the Stars of the Republic of Indonesia, the decoration of the government for meritorious service by individuals.
Both men received the Star Mahaputera Award, the second highest decoration for “extraordinary civilian services”.
“Questions may arise about Mr. Fahri Hamzah and Mr. Fadli Zon, but being political opponents or having political differences doesn’t necessarily mean that we become adversaries in what matters for the nation. It is about valuing our democracy," the president said after the awarding ceremony at the State Palace.
Jokowi also called Fahri and Fadli, who stood near him, as “friends”.
Fahri later said the state award won’t stop him from being critical of the president.
“I will continue criticizing and it turns out the president can take criticisms,” he told reporters.
Fahri, a former executive of the Social Justice Party (PKS), demanded Jokowi to resign in a November 2016 speech he delivered during Muslim protests against then Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama who was facing blasphemy allegations.
During the event, Fahri detailed ways to impeach the president while accusing him of disrespecting Indonesian Muslims by protecting the governor. His verbal attacks on the president continued during his House tenure and in many television talk shows.
He has softened the stance toward the president since last year when he walked out of the PKS and co-founded a new party that required a government permit before being allowed to contest in the election.
Fadli Zon, meanwhile, said the decoration was an award to democratic values where differences are granted a place.
“I thank [the president] for his recognition to our democracy. Differences can bring us further ahead and make us stronger with proper checks and balances,” Fadli said.
The Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) politician has opposed the president on nearly all issues, from economic policies to justice system and from foreign policies to national security.
He often mocked the president in person in his Twitter account that has 1.4 million followers.
Fadli and Fahri were among 33 recipients of the state awards ahead of the country’s 75th anniversary.
They included 22 medical workers who died in the frontline in the country's fight against the coronavirus outbreak, former president Megawati Soekarnoputri who received the Role Model Medal, former House speaker Bambang Soesatyo who got the Star of Service, former National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head Suhardi Alius, former chief justice Muhammad Hatta Ali and several other top politicians.
Chief security minister Mahfud M.D. said any high-ranking public official is entitled with a decoration of the government after completing their service.
“If the Star awards were not given to persons because of their critical voice, we would have unfairly politicized their legitimate rights,” he said.