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.


Institutions review links with Britain’s Prince Andrew

Updated 19 November 2019

Institutions review links with Britain’s Prince Andrew

  • The review comes after the BBC broadcast a lengthy interview with the prince on Saturday in which he tried to explain his links to Epstein
  • The unprecedented subject matter tackled in the television interview — and the royal’s apparent lack of empathy for victims — has dominated British media in recent days

LONDON: A British university on Tuesday said it was reviewing its links with Prince Andrew after he defended his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in a TV interview.
But a bank said it would not be renewing its backing for a project he founded.
“We will be reviewing the position of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, as our patron at the next board of governors meeting on Tuesday 26th November,” said London Metropolitan University.
“The university opposes all forms of discrimination of discrimination, abuse, human trafficking and any activity that is contrary to the university’s values.”
Andrew — Queen Elizabeth II’s second son — took over the role from his father, Prince Philip, in 2013. There have been royal patrons at the institution since 1848.
The review comes after the BBC broadcast a lengthy interview with the prince on Saturday in which he tried to explain his links to Epstein, who was found dead in jail in August.
Andrew strongly denied claims he had had sex with a 17-year-old girl allegedly trafficked by Epstein but expressed little regret about his friendship with the disgraced financier.
The unprecedented subject matter tackled in the television interview — and the royal’s apparent lack of empathy for victims — has dominated British media in recent days.
It has also put pressure on those with links to the prince.
Students at Huddersfield University in northern England said they wanted Andrew to resign as a patron, claiming he was “an utterly unsuitable representative” because of the allegations.
Standard Chartered bank meanwhile said it was not renewing its sponsorship of the prince’s [email protected] project, which encourages entrepreneurs and start-ups around the world.
The bank cited “commercial reasons” for not renewing the current agreement when it expires in December.
Accountancy firm KPMG’s backing for the mentoring scheme expired at the end of last month and will not be renewed.
Pharma giant AstraZeneca’s partnership is due up next month. It is also being reviewed.
Insurance giant AON reportedly asked for its logo to be removed from the [email protected] website, according to the Financial Times.