19 July 2010

Presidential PR -- SBY Has Got No Game!

Creating and leaving a presidential legacy is just as much about good public relations (PR) as it is about making substantive changes and reforms to a broken system. The current Indonesian president, SBY, came to office an a tidal wave of public support and expectations. He has failed to deliver on all of his key election promises. Therefore, any good publicity would be most welcome. It might just prove to be the impetus that reinvigorates a stale and decaying presidency that appears increasing out of touch with the real every day issues that afflict the people of Indonesia.

In this regard, a good dose of positive PR would have been a most welcome respite for the president. However, his minders and those with his ear have missed a perfect opportunity for the president to be presidential, to take the high moral ground and berate big business for failing the people, and to show that he is a man of compassion who understands the plight of the little people that form the great majority of Indonesian citizens. But, alas rather than meet with a poor helpless mother and her badly burned son, a bevy of the president's meanest and nastiest looking bunch quickly bundled her up and ushered her away and out of sight.

Shame on you Mr. President!

This is a story of exploding gas cylinders. This is not a new story, but an old one. The government in its infinite wisdom has decided to push its policy of conversion from kerosene to gas aggressively. The policy is one that ultimately has to succeed.

Quite simply Indonesia needs to move away from kerosene to alternative fuels such as gas. However, the conversion process mandates that the 3kg gas cylinders that ordinary citizens are going to have thrust upon them need to be safe. These cylinders are clearly not safe. How unsafe are these cylinders, you ask? A quick Google search reveals the extent of the danger here.

Susi Hariyani and her son, Rido Januar, are the faces of what is going so horribly wrong with this policy and the program. Her recent attempt to meet with the president and get his help in treating the serious burns her son has suffered as a result of a government sponsored 3kg gas cylinder was rebuffed. This was a PR mistake. In more human terms, it was a mistake because a little bit of compassion can go a long way. And, to help is just the right thing to do.

In the larger scheme of things, the president could have stamped his authority all over this policy and program by intervening in a public way. However, he kept true to form. This is a president who keeps his distance from everything to ensure that he is safe from any criticism. This in effect ensures that he is constantly being criticised. Mr. President, there is no plausible deniability here. You are the president and ultimately all these things are your responsibility, the buck (rupiah) stops with you!

It might be true that you get the government and the president that you vote for, but it is almost certain that no-one was expecting to get this when they cast their votes!

Shame on you Mr. President!

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