I had just finished running on Sunday morning when suddenly rain came pouring the earth. I then decided to take shelter when I was on my way going home. I then met an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver, a security guard and one of my neighbors shared the same shelter. Waiting for the rain to stop, an unexpected moment just came out: we talked about politic as Indonesia presidential election was heating up.
The moment was started by the ojek driver who asked me: whom would you vote for in the coming election? I then honestly answered his question, “Sorry Sir, but I have not yet decided who is the most capable. I am still considering many aspects and as the presidential debates will still be held for the next several weeks, I will then evaluate the candidates until the day I have to cast my vote.” Smiling to me, the ojek driver then spoke to us with great pride, “If you ask me whom I will vote, I will certainly answer: Jokowi!” I thought his spirit had successfully burnt the political atmosphere inside the shelter.
Having said that, my neighbor spontaneously asked him: “Why Jokowi?” He then answered, “I actually come from Solo, the region where Jokowi was the former major. I already proved his capability in leading the region. His blusukan (impromptu visit) is very genuine and he often came to my village just to talk with the villagers about what we actually needed at the time and later he could give to us what we had already asked him as long as he considered that it would be beneficial to improve our lives.” I then asked him how often Jokowi did blusukan. “Quite often,” answered him.
I then asked the security guard, “and how about you sir? Have you decided yet?”
“Yes, I will be voting for Prabowo,” he said to us. Our laugh then burst out from the shelter since we already knew that there was two opposite camps sharing same shelter while waiting the rain to stop. “Yeah, I like him because he looks firm, like usual leaders.”
“Yeah, I maybe agree with you in respect to Prabowo,” the ojek driver added, “especially in one of his policies that I favor is his willingness to provide 1 billion rupiah for every village in Indonesia. I think it is a good policy since many improvements can be made to develop the village.” Driven by my curiosity, I then asked him further about how much 1 billion really is for a village and what kinds of improvement that can be made to elevate the living standard of the villagers. I asked him such a question because I know very well that 1 billion rupiah is not quite that much for people living in urban area due to the high price of the land. For example, if 1 square meter of land in metropolitan area is priced 10 million rupiah, 1 billion rupiah can only buy 100 square meter of land: that is 10 meter times 10 meter. And this number is not an exaggeration since I have just heard from one of my friends who lives in Bandung that her land will be bought above 10 million rupiah per square meter as it will be later be developed into apartment building.
However, it does seem that a contrast condition can occur when such amount of money is going to be disbursed in a village. “One billion is actually very much money. In our village, it can be used for building irrigation system and bridge that are very useful for all villagers. We often suffer landslide regarding our irrigation channel and I think one billion is more than enough to build a more robust irrigation system. This is why I do love Prabowo’s program,” said the ojek driver that also became one of the main reasons for the security guard in choosing Prabowo. My neighbor then added, “But I think the problem is located on transparency. One billion rupiah can be easily corrupted by the officials once transparency is not going hand in hand with the development process. It can be easily misused.” We all agreed that transparency was actually a big problem in Indonesia and this might also become the main reason why people in lower hierarchy usually received less money than they should have actually got. And both the ojek driver and security guard share the same thought that such a loophole should be properly managed.
Religion and Ethnicity? Big NO!
One interesting point then came when the ojek driver talked to me: “Sir, Chinese people usually choose Jokowi.”
“How do you know that Chinese people back Jokowi?”
“The answer is quite easy,” he continued to talk, “because once Jokowi becomes the President, Ahok will lead Jakarta. And as we already know, Ahok is Chinese-descent; thus Chinese people will back Jokowi so Ahok will be their leader in Jakarta.”
I think this is the most interesting part during my conversation since ethnicity has been brought out to surface and because ethnicity itself is one of the most sensitive issues during this election. It can be clearly seen when insinuation was thrown towards Jokowi regarding his Chinese-descent status. Furthermore, ethnicity also played an important role during 98 riots when several Chinese-descent women were allegedly gang-raped. Talking about ethnicity is then not an easy task, especially in an open discussion like I have experienced. I then asked him a simple question about what kind of leader that he really wants: those who have similar background in regard with religion, ethnic and so on but has bleak track records or those who come from different backgrounds but already hold valuable experiences in governments and leadership. He instantaneously answered, “The second one.”
“This is the reason,” I continued talk to him, “why I never intent to choose my leader based on religion, ethnicity, etc. We have to develop meritocracy in Indonesia where every position should be filled by a capable person in the respected area. This is the only way if we want to step forward.”
Later then the security guard agreed with my disposition. “I strongly agree with you. Choosing leader based on religion and ethnicity is quite dangerous since we cannot rationally judge them and get biased. It should be a private matter instead,” he said.
“Yes, I agree with you. Thus, if I then choose Jokowi as my next President, it does not mean that I support Ahok to become Jakarta Governor because he is Chinese-descent and so do I am. I support him because I know his capability to lead and not because his background. If, take as an example, later it is found that Ahok is implicated in graft or bribery case, should then I back him because he is a Chinese-descent? Big No,” I added.
Having been talked about 1 hour, the rain then stopped. I then decided to go home. But before I walked, I asked both the security guard and the ojek driver, “So both of you are in different positions right now. Would you still be friend to each other?” They laughed and answered without any hesitation, “Of course.” “To be different is normal and this presidential election should have not disrupted our friendship even though there are several cases reported about such phenomena,” the ojek driver added.
I could not imagine how peaceful our world would be if everyone shares the thought of the ojek driver and the security guard. Even though it can be said that they come from low-income group, they know very well about how to appreciate other opinion without have to disrupt their friendship. Moreover, they also feel obliged to participate in building Indonesia by showing their readiness to take part in presidential election tomorrow. And I can say that: yes, this is the real democracy even it is just between me, my neighbor, the ojek driver and the security guard. We are freely to express our opinions without hatred and we are still friends despite our differences. I do then hope that all Indonesians share this spirit.
And one thing to note about tomorrow election as a closure: whoever wins the election, we all have similar homework to bring Indonesia with a better future. So, let’s work together for our better democracy and never lose any faith because I do believe that there are still plenty Indonesians who care very much for the country.