Indonesia, Asia’s sleeping giant, has recently been woken up by a man on a quest to clean up Jakarta with his straight-talk and no-corruption movement. What he is doing is unheard of in Indonesia where corruption has become part of our cultural identity, one that I abhor but at the same time benefit from.
This man, Pak Ahok, truly has the heart for the nation. He should be hailed as National Hero because he is unafraid of the “elite” gangsters and working his best to help the citizens who are unable to return him any favour. But instead he is put behind bars for deliberate blasphemy. While I can see why a Muslim can take offence of what he said but anyone should be able to tell the context of what he said was that voters should not be deceived by politicians hiding behind the religious veil and using that to manipulate people. It wasn’t a deliberate blasphemy. Besides, if someone said something negative about the bible I would defend it but I wouldn’t demand that person be locked up or cry for blood. We can have differing opinion and still co-exist that’s the whole point of democracy. Anyone with clarity of mind should be able to tell Pak Ahok has no ill-intention to the Muslim community. It’s just unfortunate that he was a marked man and his opponents were looking for reason to throw a grenade and they did.
For Ahok’s supporter, I can understand your disappointment, anger, or sadness. His sentencing to 2 years in prison is clearly a political play. How could the sentence be harsher than what the prosecutor demand for? I find the whole case just ridiculous. After the verdict, my Facebook timeline was flooded with posts expressing my friends’ disappointment and how some of them are ready to abandon their Indonesian passport or move to another country. Then I read an article of a letter by a student in Australia asking “Kami Cinta Indonesia, Tapi Buat Apa Kami Pulang Ke Indonesia?” (translate: We love Indonesia, but what for we come back to Indonesia?)
I grew up in Singapore and I’ve spent most of my life abroad. Every time someone asked if I have any intention to come back, I would say “what for?” or “not really”. I’m much more comfortable living in Singapore where rules are observed and values are sustained. In Indonesia everything is malleable. My friends say that what makes Indonesia creative and filled with opportunities but I find it just too much hassle. I like to keep my hands clean and enjoy the advantages of earning dollars, spending rupiah. Yes, I’m one of those hypocrites but if there’s anything that Ahok has stirred within me is the desire to come back to Jakarta.
Since Ahok came along I see how the nationalism towards Jakarta has improved among Indonesians around me. He brings glimmer of hope that Jakarta can be improved and become a city we are proud of, or willing to come back to. I always thought the slogan for Indonesia should be “Money is Power” but Ahok has a vision to help the less fortunate. As an idealist, I think that’s more important than thinking of how I can earn more for myself while watching the depressing news everyday and reading about the poor dying because they are denied of basic health care.
Now that Ahok is locked behind bars, the first thing that came to my mind was “Man. Jakarta need more people like Ahok to continue the fight!” We have an obligation to come back if we truly love the country. Honestly I don’t know if I love the country enough to leave the comfort of Singapore and if that’s what my calling at this point. Even if I come back I don’t know what good can I do to the country. Will I be joining a political party? If yes I need to be active? Am I willing to be active? Okay, this indecisiveness is my problem. Let’s leave it at that but I’m considering returning for good.
Ahok said “Kalian semua bisa memenjarakan Ahok, tapi kalian tidak bisa memenjarakan ide-ide saya.” (translate: You can put Ahok behind bars, but you can’t put my ideas behind bars.) Ahok may be in jail but we still have more people with his ideas. We need to rise up. We need to continue the fight. It’s time to stop mourning for Ahok’s sentence. The war is not lost. It has only started.