I registered for a (free) ticket for a limited attendance (and ‘sold out’) meeting last night at Jakarta’s Goethe Haus. It was part of the Guardian’s week long focus on Jakarta.
The organisation was impeccable, every panellist was listened to because they had something to say, yet what we learned can be summed up with this somewhat negative statement: “If Indonesia is dysfunctional, Jakarta is the neglected stepchild who learns to do everything herself.”
Yet within that, there lies the answer: in a democracy, the ruling parties and bureaucracies need to learn from their paymasters – the tax paying electors who can’t be bought. The overtly Muslim political parties are in the minority, and although notionally part of the government are seemingly being used by anti-government forces.
As Elizabeth Pisani observed, the “tens of thousands of white-robed protesters stomped through the streets of Jakarta, baying for the blood of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama” were paid something like Rp.200,000, even Rp.500,000, yet will “continue to vote for Ahok because of what the no-nonsense governor had done to clean up the city’s corrupt bureaucracy.”
None of that was mentioned at the meeting, and Marco Kusumawijaya, the moderator, had told us at the outset that politics was not to be part of the discussion.
So what we heard was anecdotal, with few insights.
JJ Rizal, a Betawi historian at the University of Indonesia, pointed out that Sukarno, the first president, and national hero M.H. Thamrin envisaged Jakarta, né Batavia, as a group of ‘traditional villages’ (e.g. Kampung Melayu). That vision is now lost, initially partly destroyed by Ali Sadikin, Jakarta’s Governor from 1966 to 1977. is now lost and such areas are now regarded as slums, ripe for clearance. The city’s cultural diversity is being subsumed by centralised economic forces.
(Note: In recent weeks, two Betawi ondel-ondel have visited our neighbourhood on a daily basis. On Sunday they were not accompanied with Betawi music instruments but with a sound system blaring out dangdut.)
Evi Mariani, a Jakarta Post journalist, living in Bumi Serpng Damai, a new township, lamented that the gated communities there provided expensive schools, which she could not afford. More to the point, was that they do not offer cultural diversity which she’d like her three year old son to experience.
Architect Ign Susiadi Wibowo posited “a zero waste city“, and pointed out that trash bins only encourage waste and that “cleanliness is part of our religion“. He seemed to overlook the many localised, community recycling projects, and that waste disposal is a national problem which can only be solved with a clamp down on the packaging industry – world wide. BTW. ‘Adi’ lives in Bintaro, another ‘township’ with a planned infrastructure.
(Note: the recent anti-Ahok demonstration was also notable for the efforts by demonstrators to collect the trash left behind.)
Gugun Muhammed, billed as a community “leader”, prefers to be known as a community “organiser”. He recounted how his north Jakarta community had cleaned up their section of the river Ciliwung, yet still faced the problem of rubbish dumping upstream. “How can an entire city operate together?“
Other panellists were musician Kartika Jahja, who lives here for professional and financial reasons, Alan Koropitan, an oceanographer is concerned with the build up of sediment, a major cause of flooding, and comedian David Nurbianto‘s every utterance produced loud laughter, but they didn’t translate well into English.
The final question from the audience was “How can I get involved?“
The only involvement she had … we had … was listening to anecdotes from the panel, all of whom are undoubtedly inspirational on a personal level. Yet none answered the topic question.
Note 6.12.16: You can now watch it all on YouTube