Indonesian political chaos - Best for Jokowi to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. Allow Yudhoyono to quack, but not to whack
As things get personal, derision is what SBY may harvest
Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono may have had enough with what he suspects to be deliberate attempts by the ruling government to send a “hurricane” to his family following his eldest son’s bid to compete in the upcoming Jakarta gubernatorial race.
After complaining about how the government had treated him and his son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono unjustly, and positioning himself as a victim, the sixth president has broken a long-held tradition of forging mutual respect between presidential predecessors and successors.
Yudhoyono’s press conference on Wednesday may be seen as a bold move aiming a gun at President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, and it seems to have been a personal one.
The conference has also showcased how the retired Army general is in baper (touchy and over-emotional) mode regarding the plight he and his family are suffering from at the hands of the Jokowi administration.
In an obviously furious tone, at least by Javanese standards, Yudhoyono said he could not accept the allegations leveled against him by the intelligence community that he had orchestrated the upcoming rally on Nov. 4 by Muslim hard-liners, who are demanding the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy.
Yudhoyono suspects that the allegation is aimed at eroding the possibility of Agus winning the election against Ahok, who is dubbed by many as Jokowi’s “golden boy”.
In the past couple of days, Jokowi has taken a raft of measures to limit the impact of the rally following indications that hard-liners will attempt to incite violence and generate sectarian and ethnic conflict.
Vigilante gangs such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) flourished during Yudhoyono’s presidency, and now these hard-liners have repeatedly campaigned for the legitimacy of employing violence unless Jokowi agrees to have Ahok prosecuted.
Taking the threat seriously, Jokowi has rounded up Indonesia’s biggest and most influential Muslim organizations, which have since pledged not to participate in the rally. Police and military personnel, as well as intelligence officers, are being deployed to ensure that the protest runs peacefully.
But this is perceived by Yudhoyono as an attempt by Jokowi to restrict free speech, cast fear into society by exaggerating the threats to Indonesia’s unity and lead the public to believe that Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party, which has less than 10 percent of seats in the House of Representatives, are the plotters behind the protests.
Yudhoyono met with Wiranto, his former military commander and now the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister, and Vice President Jusuf Kalla to clarify the allegations on Tuesday.
The public was largely unaware of the allegations surrounding Yudhoyono, and it was only after he renounced them, in public, and with such force, that the subject began to circulate and garner attention.
He may have been spared from public scrutiny and ridicule on social media if he had simply refrained from calling the press conference and denying his alleged role in mobilizing the hard-liners.
Yudhoyono went further, using his old trick of playing the victim to gain public sympathy for the plight of his family following Agus’ participation in the election — a move that has had no impact and has been met with scorn. Social media is now awash with jokes and memes mocking Yudhoyono’s quandary.
But Yudhoyono may have reason to suspect Jokowi of intentionally trying to ruin his image and undermine Agus’ chances of taking out Ahok.
In the past couple of weeks, attempts to have Yudhoyono sidelined have intensified.
The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) plans to summon the former president in relation to a “missing” report into the mysterious death of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.
Officials from the State Secretariat recently announced that they handed over a luxury house, paid for by taxpayers, in a prestigious business district in South Jakarta to Yudhoyono as part of the former president’s compensation for holding the highest office.
Yudhoyono has also claimed that a television station aired an allegation that he had accrued Rp 9 trillion (US$692 million) in wealth. Because Yudhoyono did not name the station, many suspect that he is just making things up.
Perhaps in retaliation and to even the score against Jokowi, Yudhoyono has called publicly for the prosecution of Ahok as the only solution to ease the tensions engulfing the Muslim community and to prevent the rally from escalating into something even more unsettled.
But the call was made in a tone perceived by some as an act of provocation that could disintegrate into sectarianism and Yudhoyono seems to have disregarded the fact that the Nov. 4 rally will be attended by hard-liners with a penchant for igniting violence.
Yudhoyono has the right to launch a tirade against Jokowi, but what cannot be accepted is his irresponsible intervention into the furor surrounding Ahok and his alleged blasphemy, demanding a court trial in a tone that contained more than a hint of provocation.
“If this nation does not want to be engulfed in anger, Ahok should be prosecuted. There should not be any supposition that he is immune to the rule of law,” Yudhoyono said.
This comment is one of many examples of Yudhoyono toying with religious sentiment.
After observing how Jokowi has skillfully clipped his political rivals and has positioned them to serve under his wing in less than two years, it would be foolish to think that the seventh President is just going to sit idly by and allow Yudhoyono to get away with his machinations unscathed.
And though Yudhoyono seems to have taken the feud personally, one hopes that Jokowi will not be tempted to use his natural talent for crushing his opponents to leave the last man standing against him shattered and neutered.
One hopes this for the sake of democracy. It is best for Jokowi to run with the hare and hunt with the hound. Allow Yudhoyono to quack, but not to whack.