Indonesia’s Joko Widodo kicks off fresh term after wave of crises

School children from the hometown of Indonesian President Joko Widodo hold placards as they gather in Solo, Central Java ahead of Jokowi’s inauguration as president for a second term. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Indonesia’s Joko Widodo kicks off fresh term after wave of crises

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo will kick off a fresh term Sunday, facing a wave of crises and with Jakarta under heavy security days after Islamist militants tried to assassinate his top security minister.
More than 30,000 security personnel were deployed in the capital amid fears of another attack during the inauguration of Widodo, 58, and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, 76.
The ceremony, attended by foreign delegations and heads of state, is scheduled to start around early afternoon
A crowd of several hundred supporters formed near the presidential palace Sunday. But celebrations will likely be muted after mass demonstrations were banned as militancy continues to plague the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.
Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, met several visiting leaders including Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison before the swearing-in.
Jokowi — a popular, heavy metal-loving former businessman from outside the political and military elite — was hailed as Indonesia’s answer to Barack Obama when he was first elected in 2014 to lead the world’s third-biggest democracy.
But his leadership is under mounting criticism after a string of challenges in recent months.
These range from nationwide anti-government demonstrations in which three students died and smog-belching forest fires that sparked diplomatic tensions with Indonesia’s neighbors, to deadly unrest in Papua province and a slowdown in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
“This is the weakest point in Jokowi’s political leadership,” said Arya Fernandes, a researcher at the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“It’s a test for the president in critical times.”
Recent protests across the archipelago of 260 million were among the biggest student rallies since mass demonstrations toppled the Suharto dictatorship in 1998.
The headwinds threaten to cast a shadow over Jokowi’s second and final term — a stark reversal of fortune just months after he scored a thumping re-election victory against a former military general.
The Indonesian leader’s April re-election was partly driven by a roads-to-airports infrastructure drive.
Jokowi has said he will press on with reforms including cutting red tape, tackling rigid labor rules and luring more foreign investment. But he’ll be grappling with an economy feeling the sting of the US-China trade war and tepid global growth.
Sunday’s inauguration comes a little over a week after his chief security minister was stabbed in an attack by two members of a local extremist outfit allied to the Daesh group.
The two suspects were arrested at the scene, while dozens of suspected militants have since been detained in a country-wide dragnet following the assassination attempt on Wiranto, a former general who goes by one name.
The 72-year-old is recovering in hospital.
“Jokowi really listens to the people,” Wiranto told reporters on Saturday in his first public appearance since the attack.
“A good government is one that is responsive to the aspirations of its people.”
Jokowi’s new term, however, comes against the backdrop of fears that Indonesia’s two decades of democratic reforms are being eroded under the watch of a man once lauded by Time magazine as “A New Hope.”
Choosing conservative cleric Amin as his vice president has also thrown Indonesia’s reputation for tolerant Islam into question.
Jokowi’s administration appeared caught off guard when thousands of students hit the streets in protests last month against a raft of divisive reforms, including banning pre-marital sex and changes that critics said would weaken the anti-graft agency.
The criminal-code reforms were delayed after the backlash, while a bill that limits the power of Indonesia’s corruption buster, known as the KPK, has come into effect.


Afghans honor Japanese aid worker killed in ambush

Updated 07 December 2019

Afghans honor Japanese aid worker killed in ambush

  • On Saturday, in a memorial ceremony after accompanying the body to Kabul airport, Ghani called Nakamura a hero
  • “Nakamura was a great personality who dedicated his life to the goodness and strengthening of Afghanistan’s deprived people,” Ghani said

KABUL: A 73-year-old Japanese aid worker killed in an ambush outside Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan has been described as a “hero” by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Testu Nakamura and five fellow aid workers died when gunmen attacked their car on Wednesday.
Tributes to the popular aid worker continued to pour in on Saturday with candlelight vigils held in different areas of the country. Schools erected posters of the aid worker while the national airline displayed images of him on its aircraft. 
“The level of grief and respect expressed by Afghans show how much people loved him. None of our current leaders would receive so much respect and attention should any of them die like this Japanese aid worker,” Rasoul Dad, a civil servant, told Arab News on Saturday.
Nakamura’s wife, daughter and three of his colleagues, including a childhood friend, arrived in Kabul on Friday as the Afghan government prepared to return his body to Japan.
The Afghan leader met them at the presidential palace and described Nakamura as a “hardworking personality.”
On Saturday, in a memorial ceremony after accompanying the body to Kabul airport, Ghani called Nakamura a hero.
“Nakamura was a great personality who dedicated his life to the goodness and strengthening of Afghanistan’s deprived people,” Ghani said.
The Afghan national flag was placed on Nakamura’s coffin as his family, accompanied by Japanese Ambassador Mitsuji Suzuka, left for Japan.
Nakamura, who spent more than half his life helping Afghan refugees as a doctor in Peshawar and later worked on several projects in the country, has become a national hero for many Afghans.
He was granted honorary citizenship several years ago after deciding to remain in the country despite the attempted abduction and murder of one of his colleagues.