Indonesian President Jodo Widodo Put to the Test to Prove He Is Still a Man of the People

Joko Widodo was first elected president of Indonesia in July 2014. Jokowi, a nickname given by the people, was originally elected due to his humble backgrounds. The country was enamored with his brand of being a “man of the people.” During April of this year, Jokowi was re-elected as president with 55% votes. However, it seems that this year he is not a “man of the people,” for he is already discussing laws and actions the people are not happy with at all.

Courtesy: Jakarta Provincial Government's Office of Communication, Information and Statistics

According to Richard C. Paddock from The New York Times, media in Indonesia has been covering “student protests, burning forests and deadly violence in distant Papua province.”

The student protests were stimulated by a bill introduced on September 15. The criminal code includes laws punishing premarital sex, which Kate Lamb from The Guardian explains would “[criminalize] homosexuality and cohabitation for unmarried couples.” The code would also criminalize abortion, outlaw black magic, and “[stipulate] new laws on discussions of sex education and contraception.”

As stated by Djayadi Hanan, executive director of the Indonesia Survey Institute, the only way Jokowi can calm the student protests is by gaining their trust again, which will take great efforts. The president, though, seems to have recognized the effort he will need to make, so much so that he made a comment at his palace: “After examining input from various groups who objected to some of the substance of the criminal bill draft, I concluded that there were still materials that needed further study.”

Aside from the criminal code causing troubles in the country, forest fires are also putting people on edge. As Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono wrote with The New York Times, “nearly 2,000 wildfires are burning across Indonesia.” The color of the sky has become blood red, which is shown from a video posted on Twitter by Wein Arifin.

Most of the fires have also been set on purpose with the intention of making land available for future plantations of palm oil and wood pulp to make paper. Although fires burn each year due to the slash-and-burn method still used by the farmers, this year was by far the worst compared to the fires of 2015. According to reports, an estimate of 800,000 acres have been burned. Luscious jungles have become lands of ashes.

Although there has been an effort to prevent the annual forest fires, Kiki Taufik, head of the Greenpeace Indonesia’s forests campaign, has stated that “our findings show the reality: empty words and weak and inconsistent law enforcement against companies.”

Courtesy: The Telegraph

Furthermore, the country undergoes more troubles due to conflicts with West Papua. According to Niniek Karmini from Time magazine, protests in the West Papua region were triggered when a teacher called an indigenous Papuan student a “monkey.” Rudolf Alberth Rodja, chief of police in Papua, does not believe the incident took place, for he found no evidence of racism. As spoken to the press, “We believe this false information was intentionally designed to create riots.”

Despite the authenticity of the racism towards the indigenous people, the death toll has risen throughout the month due to these protests. In the region, Jokowi received 78% of votes for re-election; therefore, there is pressure on him to manage the civil unrest within the region. The people are hoping for economic growth, for the region is deemed as the poorest in the country.

All in all, there is much happening at once in Indonesia; therefore, Jokowi has a lot to prove that he is still a “man of the people.”

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