Young Indonesians, frustrated by the country’s lack of progress (or even perceived regression in development) often invoke a refrain along the lines of, “While other countries are focusing on things like getting people to Mars, we are fighting over (religion / blasphemy / corruption etc).”
It seems President Joko Widodo feels similarly. Yesterday, while speaking with the editorial heads of several major Indonesian media outlets, Jokowi mentioned that people in other countries are focusing on technological innovation, such as Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, who is innovating e-commerce in China, and Elon Musk, the American inventor and entrepreneur, who is working on getting more people into space and eventually to Mars via his SpaceX program.
“Others have talked about future fantasy cars, SpaceX, we … We are still caught up in unresolved issues,” Jokowi said as quoted by Detik.
“Others are talking about smartphone innovation, we are still holding demos, slandering one another, it keeps going,” the president continued, saying that these issues had consumed the country’s energy over and over again for the last 8 months.
Jokowi went on to say that people should be focusing their energy on technological innovation to help improve the country’s prosperity. He said Indonesia’s young people are very smart and it would be a shame for their energy to be focused on unproductive things (like demos). He told the editors that they should focus more on positive news and less on negative issues.
Some would argue that the numerous demonstrations that have taken place over the last few months, mostly against and in support of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, are merely a symptom of the country’s increasing intolerance. And many would say that intolerance is being fueled by Indonesia’s blasphemy and defamation laws, which political and religious leaders have become increasingly canny at using to manipulate public sentiment in their favor.
As long as those laws remains as they are now, it is inevitable that more demos will follow while leaders continue to use them to divide the Indonesian people for their own political gain. Which means the country won’t be able to progress, either as a pluralistic democracy or as a sci-fi wonderland with future fantasy cars, until a leader is strong enough to finally do something about them.