25 May 2008

Protesting in Jakarta

I read with interest that the "opinion" piece in the Jakarta Post today was about responsible protesting and the fact that protesters no longer seemed to care about the people that their protesting would affect. This now seems to be standard fodder for many editorialists and opinion writers. It is a line that has been trotted out before and one I have commented on elsewhere in my blog. It is also something that has been trotted out by Globe Media in their flag bearing publication "Globe Asia".

The gist of the argument is that street demonstrations and protests cause traffic jams, traffic jams make people late for work and negatively impacts on business, these negative impacts cost money, and money lost means investors are likely to rethink whether or not to invest in Indonesia. Yeah, right! Pull the other chain in plays Dixie!

The whole point of protesting is to exercise a democratic right to do so and to hold your government accountable. Can it be inconvenient, yes. Should it be inconvenient, yes! The reality is that the only time some of us might ever think about an issue is if it directly impacts upon us. Being caught in a traffic jam and being late impacts upon us. But instead of being angry at the protesters, perhaps this anger should be directed towards the government that allowed conditions to get to a point where people felt that their only recourse was to demonstrate and protest.

So, the protesters threw some Molotov cocktails. This is hardly a reason to ban protests altogether! It is an excuse though to stifle the democratic rights of the masses. Those that break the law by perpetrating violence threw such methods as the destruction of property must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent permissible under the law. Peaceful demonstrations no matter how inconvenient must be permitted. These demonstrations and protests are legitimate means of expression and calling the government to account.

The Jakarta Post singles out the recent actions relating to the proposed and now happened fuel price hike. The protesters have legitimate concerns here as to their ability to live without additional government assistance and the proportional impact of the price rise on the poor compared to the more affluent.

I have not seen the Jakarta Post jumping up and down about the inconvenience caused by protests staged by the PKS in support of Palestine! This is also a worthy cause, but if we are going to characterize the argument into one of convenience, then any protest in support of any aim that results in a traffic jam should be frowned upon. Once again this clearly misses the point of protesting and taking your demands to the street.

The Jakarta Post's solution to this problem is to restrict protests and demonstrations to public parks such as in and around Monas. Why not go the whole nine yards and allocated special days for protests to be held in the out-of-the-way surrounds of the Ragunan Zoo. The Jakarta Post then goes even further with this gem:

"It is high time for Indonesians to avoid such past practices for changing the state leadership to the more modern, constitutional means: the five-yearly democratic election."

This I am guessing is a suggestion that protests and demonstrations should be banned altogether and the only permissible protest by the community must come at the ballot box and only every five years. Maybe the Jakarta Post should be telling Zimbabweans that the best way forward is not street protests but accepting your fate and then voting the office holders out at the next election.

If the Jakarta Post is not in the mood to go that far, why not editorialize something much closer to home such as the inept generals of the Burmese regime, who in their citizens' moment of most critical need they are ummmming and ahhhing about whether or not to let foreign aid workers in. Maybe street protests, although sometimes violent and violently suppressed by authorities are the best way to bring attention to one's plight.

The right to protest is a democratic right and this must not be curtailed for reasons of convenience. Maybe if we all paid a little more attention and demanded a lot more of our elected governments then protests would occur a whole lot less frequently! The photograph is courtesy of the Jakarta Post and photographer Ricky Yudhistira.


LavanyaLea said...

arghhhh!!! blogspot ate my comment. my lengthy, heartfelt comment!!

i originally wrote that i've read that JP comment and i was so tempted to post a reply that sounds sth like what you said here, bt unfortunately i had better things to do, like revising for my exams (arghhhh)...

thing is, over here when you want to speak out your opinion you have the option to write to your MP, not that i know her name off the top of my head but I can quickly find who my MP is, etc etc.... (and she actually replied!!), so yeah... maybe if I had been stuck in that traffic jam the first thing I'd do when I got home would be write an (angry) email to my MP, or sth like that.

But I don't think it's something we can do in Indonesia, eh? How can I find out who is representing me in the parliament????

PS: SBY cancelled his official trip to London because of this lil domestic problem :p good to see that he's actually working on it, instead of running away (or maybe he's running away from US??)

Rob Baiton said...


Sorry to hear that blogspot is doing nasty things like that!

Studying for exams is probably a good thing :D

Check out the DPR website or if that doesn't work let me know and I will tell you. I only need to know generally where you live (that is registered to vote). I have a really big thick book of all current members of parliament sitting on the bookshelf!

I am used to writing letters to my local member or bailing him up at party meetings. I am a labor party member and so is he. I haven't done that for a while considering I have been living in Jakarta!

I guess it depends on your definition of working on it :)

LavanyaLea said...

whoahhh!!! they have an up and running website (DPR) - one that hasn't been hacked by some Free Kosovo Movement lol! Hmmm I tried "hubungi kami" but that's just a general email/query and it's definitely not gonna be read by my rep!

and then i tried to find just who the hell my rep is, but i need to login for that, so i guess my quest is over!

hmmm i live in central jkt and the post code is 10710 is that enough info??

Rob Baiton said...


Yep, enough information!

I will post the name of your member later tonight and hopefully an email contact...I could probably ring around and even get a mobile number :D

Email first though...