Academics, students criticise Jokowi over abuse of power, meddling in elections

CNN Indonesia – February 1, 2024
Professor Koentjoro reading out petition at Balairung UGM in Yogyakarta – January 31, 2024 (CNN)

Jakarta – Academic communities and students from a number of Indonesian campuses have banded together to issue statements criticising Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.

Professors and senior lecturers from the Gajah Mada University (UGM) in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta criticised the Widodo administration through a Bulaksumur Petition (lit a long road hemmed in by rice fields where a well is found).

They believe that the administration led by one of their campus alumni has engaged in misconduct in the state administration process.

The petition was read out by Psychology Faculty Professor Koentjoro at the UGM Balairung on Wednesday January 31. He was accompanied by a number of other professors and student organisations which were represented by, among others, Student Executive Council (BEM) Chairperson Gielbran M. Noor.

Bearing in mind and taking note of the values of the state ideology of Pancasila and UGM's identity, the petitioners conveyed their deep concern over actions deviating from the moral principles of democracy, popular representation and social justice by a number of state administrators in various institutions and levels.

"We deplore the deviant actions that have actually occurred under the administration of President Joko Widodo who is also part of the extended family of Gajah Mada University", stated the Bulaksumur petition as read out by Koentjoro.

As for some of the deviations alluded to in the petition, they included among others, ethical violations in the Constitutional Court, the involvement of law enforcement officials in the representative democratic process that is currently underway and the president's contradictory statements regarding neutrality and partiality and the involvement of public officials in political campaigns.

They consider all of this to be a form of misconduct and indifference to the principles of democracy.

President Widodo, he continued, should always remember his pledge as an UGM alumnus that reads: "... For us my almamater I pledge my loyalty. I will fulfill my devotion to the motherland. In your unity and all the soles of the nation. I will hold in the highest esteem the culture and glory of the archipelago...".

As is known, Widodo graduated from the UGM Faculty of Forestry in 1985.

Criticism has also emerged from the Indonesian Islamic University (UII) academic community in Yogyakarta. UII has urged Widodo to again become a model in upholding ethical practices and statesmanship.

The call was conveyed through a statement titled "Indonesian Statesmanship Emergency" which also contained a number of other demands for Widodo and his administration. The statement was read out personally by UII Rector Fathul Wahid.

Widodo was also asked not to use the presidential office to fulfill the political interests of his family through partiality in one of the presidential and vice presidential tickets in the 2024 presidential election.

They also highlighted the development of national politics which are considered to increasingly show an unashamed abuse of power and the use of power for the practical interests of a particular group by deploying state resources.

"Indonesian democracy is being progressively eroded and has suffered a retreat. This situation is further exacerbated by symptoms of the fading statesmanship of the President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo", said Wahid.

"The main indicator is the nomination of Gibran Rakabuming Raka as a vice presidential candidate based on Constitutional Court ruling Number 90/PUU-XXI/2023", he added, referring to an October 16 ruling that opened the way for Rakabuming Raka to run as a vice presidential candidate.

They also highlighted the process by which the ruling was made, which was ridden with political intervention and later declared to have been proven to have violated ethics and resulted in Constitutional Court chief justice and Widodo's brother-in-law, Anwar Usman, being dismissed from his position.

The UII academic community believes that these symptoms came clearly to the fore when Widodo said that the president is allowed to campaign and take sides in elections, and thus declaring the non-neutrality of state institutions.

"The latest development, the distribution of social aid through giving out rice and direct cash assistance (BLT) by President Joko Widodo is suspected of being ridden with nuances of practical politics that are directed towards strengthening personal support for a certain presidential and vice presidential candidate", read the statement.

Strident criticisms also came from the Brawijaya University (Unibraw) BEM in Malang, East Java. They called for the possibility of a reformasi chapter two taking place – referring to the political reform movement that began in 1998 – because the state of the country is not at all okay.

"Today is the time to act, the country has lost its self-respect. It is not impossible that reformasi chapter II will take place", said BEM President Rafly Rayhan Al Khajri during an interview with CNN Indonesia on Thursday February 1.

Al Khajri said that what is occurring at the moment is the misuse of legal instruments by Widodo. The Brawijaya University BEM believes that monitoring and law enforcement during the campaign period ahead of the 2024 elections have lost their function.

In addition to this, he said, Widodo has manipulated the law by claiming that he is allowed to take sides and campaign in the elections. According to Al Khajri, Widodo has not read the Election Law in its entirety.

"Jokowi and his prompters don't know how to read the laws. Every day is full of blunders and clarifications", he said.

In responding to the Bulaksumur Petition by the UGM academic community earlier, President Widodo said that conveying a petition is the public's democratic right.

"That's their democratic right", Widodo told journalists when asked to respond to the petition at the Wonogiri City Market in Central Java on Thursday. (rzr/kid)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ramai Petisi Kampus Kritisi Jokowi Jelang Pilpres 2024".]