Widodo kicks off second term at heavily guarded ceremony

October 21, 2019

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JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo reads his oath during his inauguration ceremony on Sunday.—AP
JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo reads his oath during his inauguration ceremony on Sunday.—AP

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s Presi­dent Joko Widodo was sworn in for a second term on Sunday, as helicopters flew overhead and troops kept watch in the capital Jakarta — days after Islamist militants tried to assassinate his top security minister.

Foreign heads of state, lawmakers and political rivals looked on as Widodo, 58, and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, 76, read an oath to start a five-year tenure leading the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.

Outside parliament, red-and-white Indonesian flags dotted parts of the city, but celebrations were muted with supporters outnumbered by some 30,000 security personnel deployed amid fears of another attack.

Demonstrations were also banned on Sunday as extremist violence continues to plague Indonesia.

Several thousand supporters, many wearing T-shirts bearing the leader’s image, watched the ceremony on a big screen near Jakarta’s national monument.

Widely known as Jokowi, the president said his final term would be aimed at eradicating pov­erty and catapulting the nat­i­on of some 260 million into a developed country with one of the world’s top five economies by 2045.

“I’m calling on ministers, public officials and bureaucrats to take these targets seriously,” he told parliament, adding that officials not committed to his goals would be sacked.

Jokowi, a popular, heavy metal-loving former businessman from outside the political and military elite, was hailed as Indonesia’s answer to Barack Obama when he was first elected in 2014, partly on a roads-to-airports infrastructure drive.

But his leadership has been under mounting criticism after a wave of crises that threaten to cast a shadow over his final term.

Challenges facing the president range from nationwide anti-government demonstrations — in which three students died — and smog-belching forest fires that sparked diplomatic tensions with Indonesia’s neighbours, to deadly unrest in Papua province and a slowdown in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

It marked a stark reversal of fortune just months after Jokowi scored a thumping re-election victory against a former military general.

“This is the weakest point in Jokowi’s political leadership,” said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Stra­t­egic and International Studies.

Surabaya: Supporters of Widodo build a seven-metre tumpeng, a rendition of the country’s popular cone-shaped dish.—AFP
Surabaya: Supporters of Widodo build a seven-metre tumpeng, a rendition of the country’s popular cone-shaped dish.—AFP

“It’s a test for the president in critical times.”

Protests erupted last month across the archipelago that were among the biggest student rallies since mass demonstrations toppled the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.

Jokowi’s inauguration comes a little over a week after the country’s chief security minister was stabbed in an attack by two members of a local extremist outfit allied to the so-called Islamic State group.

Two suspects were arrested at the scene, while dozens of suspected militants have since been detained in a country-wide dragnet following the assassination attempt on Wiranto, a former general who goes by one name. The 72-year-old is recovering in hospital.

Jokowi’s new term also comes amid criticism that Indonesia’s two decades of democratic reforms are being eroded under the watch of a man once lauded by Time magazine as “A New Hope”.

Choosing conservative cleric Amin as vice president has also thrown Indonesia’s reputation for tolerant Islam into question.

Giant food cone

Supporters of Indonesia’s re-elected president showed their devotion Sunday by erecting a seven-metre (23 foot) tumpeng, a towering rendition of the country’s popular cone-shaped dish.

About 100 jubilant fans sang and danced around the two-storey edible structure as President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, was sworn in for a second term in the capital Jakarta.

The giant tower, strung up in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya, was made of fruit and vegetables, including carrots, eggplants, string beans, bananas, ora­n­ges and topped with pineapples.

Tumpeng, a common dish at Indonesian celebrations, usually features a rice cone accompanied by vegetables and meat.

“The tumpeng is seven metres tall to signify Indonesia’s seventh presidency,” said event organiser Kusnan.

“We chose to make it with fruits and vegetables to show how fertile our motherland is,” he added.

But the creation, dotted with hot chillis, didn’t last long as the crowd jostled to get their hands on a tasty memento.

“They can eat it here or take it home,” Kusnan said. “It’s a blessing for us all.”

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019