Governor Ahok, a Role Model for Australian Politicians

Indonesia Herald-Adelaide, Australia. Jakarta Governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known simply as ‘Ahok’ is one of a growing breed of anti-politician politicians. He speaks a language which resonates with an electorate tired of the same empty promises, spin, lies, hypocrisy and corruption from an arrogant and out-of-touch political elite. With a kind of earnest modesty Ahok likens himself to being a labourer for the people rather than a politician. He states plainly that he is not too smart, not too stupid, just somewhere in the middle. He just wants to get things done and create real benefits for the people of this booming metropolis with its population of around 20 million.

With its worsening traffic gridlock, pollution, overcrowding and inadequate infrastructure, Jakarta desperately needs a leader who can simply get things done. Indonesians, including the people of Jakarta, are known for being some of the happiest and most welcoming people in the world, but they have been let down by successive governments typified by corruption, inertia and incompetence.

While Indonesia may be seen as the cultural opposite to Australia, there are lessons to be learnt here. Chief among them may be that people simply want a leader who can break the cycle of political spin and achieve tangible results. Other political leaders such as Donald Trump in the US and Nick Xenophon in Australia, are tapping into the same sense of mistrust of the political establishment to give rise to a new era in politics.

Ahok, who is currently not aligned with any political party, was appointed by parliament to the position when the previous Governor of Jakarta, Joko Widodo, was elected to the office of President. However, Ahok is working hard for re-election to the job when Jakartans go to the polls in 2017 and he is being tipped by experts as the front-runner in the race. As a Chinese Christian in a country with an overwhelmingly Muslim population, Ahok has faced challenges and prejudice, but his ability to get things done, such as solving Jakarta’s annual flooding problem, or building a much-needed subway system, will be the real tests of his ability and popularity.

In a country where the threat of Islamic extremism and terrorism is ever-present (a terrorist attack in the capital in January 2016 killed four civilians), Ahok has taken controversial steps such as proposing to legalise prostitution and allowing mini-markets to once again sell beer and other low-alcohol beverages. His challenge to Islamic State jihadists to confront him in his office is part bluster but it also belies a political actor who embodies bold action over empty rhetoric. His tough stance on corruption and efforts to upgrade the capital’s crumbling infrastructure will be popular amongst voters.

For Australians, there is a world of undiscovered benefits from greater trade and investment links with Indonesia in a wide variety of sectors including education, agriculture, manufacturing, services and more. The straight-shooting style and optimism of leaders such as Ahok and President Widodo – who has promised to cut red-tape and dramatically increase Indonesia’s ‘ease of doing business’ index – herald great possibilities for Australia and its nearest Asian neighbour; with a population and potential market of 250 million people. (The Advertiser/IH-052).

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