Jokowi: Substance Over Style
    Category: Column By : Taufik Darusman Read : 1064 Date : Friday, January 16, 2015 - 18:28:39

    President Joko Widodo has sent a clear message to friends and foes alike: don’t mess with me. So when his warning to Vietnamese poachers went unheeded, he ordered the Indonesian navy to sink three fishing boats operating illegally within Indonesian waters, and sent the crew back to Ho Chi Minh. The navy did the same during the previous administration, but when then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told his ministers to go easy on Vietnam, a fellow member of ASEAN, that ended it.


    Last month Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, told 64 drug dealers on death row that their time was up. When it comes to narcotics, Jokowi insisted: ”I will show no mercy.” He pointed out that there are 4.5 million drug users in this country, of which 1.2 million are beyond rehab. Driving home his point, he reminded Indonesians that every day up to 50 of their fellow countrymen die because of narcotics.


    In the same month he approved the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to round up 87 corruption suspects, in one sweeping raid, from all 33 provinces. They will later be either prosecuted or released depending on the results of the probe “so that they are assured of their legal certainty,” said an AGO official. Jokowi also reiterated his commitent to settle past human rights issues “in a just manner by way of the law and reconciliation.” Human rights protection, he assured the media, will be a guideline of his government.


    Closing off the year, Jokowi made good on his words to put efficiency at the center of his policies. He has approved the disbanding of 10 “non-structural” government bodies with 40 more to come. To be sure, the proposal to do away with these superfluous government units had been languishing on Yudhoyono’s desk; Jokowi merely acted on it in a decisive manner.


    The public is now awaiting for the results of the oil/gas management reform team probing the role of Petral, the marketing arm of Pertamina. Petral goes back to the days of then President Suharto. Jokowi has appointed the respected economist Faisal Basri to head what is better known as the anti “oil mafia” team to look into Petral’s alleged financial shenanigans that are said to cost the government billions of dollars each year.


    Although Jokowi will be around for the next five years, one gets the impression that he is a man in a hurry. If he is not traveling around the country to see to it that things get done in the regions, he is found visiting universities or disaster areas. He does have a flair for public relations: he attended the recent Indonesian Film Festival in Palembang, something no president has done before.


    Jokowi, of course, has one clear advantage over his immediate predecesors, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Yudhoyono. Both were chairpersons of their respective political parties and were often forced to divide their time on party matters. But perhaps what is more important is that he carries no political baggage. This allows him to make clear decisions without being burdened by the past. By all measures, Jokowi has brought governance to a new and higher level. Here’s a focused leader who puts substance over style—and the nation has finally a leader it deserves.