Closed roads and security, not celebrations, mark Widodo’s inauguration

Source – October 20, 2019
Central Jakarta on Widodo’s inauguration in 2014 (left) and 2019 (right)
Central Jakarta on Widodo’s inauguration in 2014 (left) and 2019 (right)

Ihsanuddin, Jakarta – Today, exactly five years ago, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was inaugurated as the president of the Republic of Indonesia for 2014-2019. Today, on Sunday October 20, Widodo was again inaugurated as president of Indonesia for 2019-2024.

There was a striking difference however between the two inaugurations.

In 2014, following an inauguration procession, Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla were greeted by people in the streets who had prepared a cultural festival.

Widodo and Kalla did not go directly to the State Palace but went via the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle so they could meet with the people.

From the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, Widodo was accompanied in a procession riding a golden chariot towards the nearby National Monument (Monas).

On the south side of Monas a stage had been setup for the pair to greet the people that had gathered. There, accompanied by Kalla, Widodo gave a second speech as the new president.

It was only after this that Widodo and Kalla headed off to the State Palace. Local people who had gathered at Monas were then entertained by art performances and free snacks.

Very different

Today, the atmosphere was very different. Since early on the morning of the inauguration the roads in the vicinity of the State Palace and the House of Representatives (DPR) and People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) had been closed off.

At least 30,000 TNI (Indonesian military) and national police personnel had been mobilised to ensure that the inauguration ran smoothly. This was an increase in personnel compared with 2014 when only 24,000 personnel were deployed.

Following the official inauguration ceremony, Widodo and his new vice president Ma’ruf Amin proceeded directly to the State Palace.

There was no procession or festival for the people as there was five years ago, even though a number of Widodo election campaign volunteers had gathered at Monas near the Palace.

The volunteers and supporters had already prepared a cultural festival to celebrate Widodo’s inauguration but the event was cancelled at the request of Widodo himself.

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko said that Widodo wanted his inauguration to be held in a respectful atmosphere and not be excessive. He denied however that Widodo’s request to cancel the carnival was because of security concerns.

“Because the president wanted it so, okay, so it would be simple, stay respectful, and he also wanted to start work straight away”, said Moeldoko.

This was confirmed by Widodo himself. Before leaving for the official inauguration today, Widodo said that he intentionally asked that there be no procession so he and Amin to focus on work straight away.

“Yes because this is the second one. What’s most important I think after the inauguration, what’s most important is that we work together. Work together to make this country a modern Indonesia”, he said.

Excessive security

Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid says that the security for Widodo and Amin’s inauguration today was far too excessive and created an atmosphere that was very different from his inauguration five years ago.

“In pictures of the 2014 inauguration, we saw a person, Jokowi accompanied in a procession by thousands of people. It showed that he was a leader who was pro-people. Today he is surrounded by an excessive level of security”, said Hamid.

“A level of security which I think is only suitable for a leader who is not a statesman, but for someone who is being inaugurated to hold great power but with little guts and a small mentality”, said Hamid.

Hamid believes that the difference in the atmosphere between Widodo’s inauguration in 2014 and 2019 is not very surprising. Because in 2014, the ordinary people welcomed Widodo as a new leader who was free from sin.

Now however, at the end of his first term in office, he has given birth to policies which are viewed negatively by the public, one of which is the revisions to the Corruption Eradication Commission Law (UU KPK).

Even worse, the members of the public who protested this by holding protest actions were treated repressively by security forces.

“The police, even if they work for the government, should not take a repressive posture, this shows that the government does not have a firm commitment to defending freedom of expression”, said Hamid.

Protests and repression

A similar view was expressed by Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Coordinator Yati Andriyani.

She believes that the tight security during Widodo’s inauguration cannot be separated from the violent protests in the lead up to the end of Widodo and Kalla’s first term in office and the repressive actions by security personnel.

Data gathered by Kontras shows that the series of protest actions around the country at the end of September resulted in at least five deaths, numerous injuries and arbitrary arrests and detention.

“This occurred in concert with the inauguration. Democracy has taken a step back because of the disclosure of incidents which are increasingly unclear. Added to by bans and restrictions which were absolutely unnecessary”, said Andriyani.

Andriyani also suspects that the excessive deployment of security personnel was to prevent any protest actions during the inauguration.

Moreover, prior to this the Metro Jaya regional police stated that they would not issue permits for people to demonstrate in the lead up to and on the day of Widodo’s inauguration. This was deplorable.

“If this country claims to be democratic, protest actions or political expression should be facilitated by the state, not instead restricted”, she said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Pelantikan Jokowi Disorot Aktivis HAM: Dulu Ramai Diarak, Kini Dikawal Aparat”.]