MICHELLE VARINATA WRITES – Not a single person thinks that being Chinese and Christian in a homogeneously Muslim majority will make history in Indonesia’s political sphere. Basuki Tjahaja Purnarma, otherwise known as Ahok, is Jakarta’s first governor of Chinese descent. While Jokowi has already left his position as Governor of Jakarta to take on the position of President, he has recently sworn-in Ahok to be the first ethnically Chinese Governor of Jakarta.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) asked its Indonesian readers on its Bahasa Indonesia Facebook what they think of their new governor. According to user Hendra, “[Ahok] is sincere [and] serves the people without any political interest.” Another Facebook user named Paido Abdullah posted, “Pak Ahok is decisive, and most importantly, he’s difficult to bribe.”
The comments spoken by the WSJ readers reflect the current desires for Indonesia’s political landscape. While the country has a reputation for having corrupt politicians and extreme bribery, Ahok’s political philosophy of no-nonsense complete honesty are the characteristics that make him popular and are what the country desperately needs. With clean, transparent, and ethical politics, Indonesia’s reputation will turn a new leaf and encourage a positive view among youth to follow Ahok’s lead.
While there have been anti-Chinese and anti-Christian sentiments in the past, Ahok demonstrates a progression by breaking the barriers between native Indonesians and ethnic Chinese, as well as Muslims and Christians. Ahok’s role as governor is blurring the line between the majority and minority by uniting them together as one Indonesia.
While Indonesia is undergoing its historical Obama-circa-2008-like change, Muslims are supporting Ahok. Recently, he was at Uhmamka University in Jakarta and encouraged students to ask him questions. A handful of students asked Ahok how they could contribute to society and fight political corruption. According to The Jakarta Post, Ahok replied: “I am here…because I want to persuade you to enter politics in the future. We need young politicians who are clean and honest to make changes.” Ahok’s statement demonstrates that Indonesia’s current generation of youth care about uniting together regardless of one’s ethnicity or religion.
As a fellow Indonesian of Chinese and Christian background, I hope that Ahok will inspire more minorities to participate in politics and improve the country.