Indonesia’s Joko Widodo rejects end to direct votes, relaxing term limit

Indonesian President Joko Widodo won a second five-year term in April, his last under current rules. (Reuters)
Updated 02 December 2019

Indonesia’s Joko Widodo rejects end to direct votes, relaxing term limit

  • Joko Widodo, who won a second five-year term in April, said his ‘position was clear in disagreeing with a three-term presidency’
  • ‘I’m a product of the post-reform constitution’

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo rejected on Monday proposals by some politicians and a Muslim group to amend the constitution to end direct elections for the presidency and relax term limits in the world’s third-biggest democracy.
Widodo, who won a second five-year term in April, his last under current rules, said in a Twitter message his “position was clear in disagreeing with a three-term presidency.”
Separately, he told reporters that discussions on the amendment had referred to plans for an eight-year, one-term presidency or three terms of up to 15 years in total. “It’s better not to amend,” he said.
Indonesian activists have warned the proposals would mark a setback for democracy, restored after the 1998 overthrow of dictator Suharto, who had ruled for more than 30 years.
Some politicians, including from Widodo’s own party, the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P), and coalition partners, have called for the reinstatement of a Suharto-era set of national development goals known as the Broad Guidelines of State Policy.
Under the Broad Guidelines, a People’s Consultative Assembly, or MPR — then stacked with army officials and Suharto supporters — picked the president.
“I’m a product of the post-reform constitution,” Widodo also said in his tweet. The former furniture salesman and small-town mayor is the first Indonesian president from outside the country’s political and military elite.
Since the return to democracy, the constitution has been amended four times, to separate legislative and executive powers, decentralize the government, directly elect presidents and limit leaders to two terms.
Hendrawan Supratikno, a PDI-P lawmaker, said his party rejects the idea of ending direct election of the president, but is in favor of reinstating the Broad Guidelines.
Last week, Indonesia’s largest mass Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) suggested the idea of having the MPR elect the president, according to its website.
Titi Anggraini, executive director of the Association for Elections and Democracy, welcomed Widodo’s rejection, saying the proposals had not been explained properly to the public.
“The president should make sure that these coalition parties are in line with his stance,” Anggraini said. “This could be a solidity test on Widodo’s political attitude.”


Riyadh’s Sri Lankan gem tycoon dies at 80

Updated 32 min 51 sec ago

Riyadh’s Sri Lankan gem tycoon dies at 80

  • Razeen Salih entered the Guinness Book of World Records for purchasing a 41.3 carat diamond for $4.6 million at a gem auction
  • He was the founder of Sri Lankan International School in Riyadh

COLOMBO: Razeen Salih, the celebrated Sri Lankan gem tycoon in Riyadh, died in India on Sunday night during a visit to the Tamil Nadu capital of Chennai.

The owner of Al-Nadeera Gem and Jewelry in Riyadh, 80-year-old Salih started his business in the Kingdom in late 1970s with his first shop, Al- Sharq Jewellers, in the Saudi capital.

In the early 1980s, Salih entered the Guinness Book of World Records for purchasing a 41.3 carat diamond for $4.6 million at a gem auction in Geneva. The diamond, “Polar Star,” was once owned by the brother of the French Emperor Napoleon, and this was thought to be the highest price paid for a piece of jewelry at the time.

Salih, a renowned philanthropist, helped to set up the Sri Lankan International School in Riyadh, which has 1300 students today.

He attended Zahira College, Colombo, during the golden era of Dr. A.M.A. Azeez’s principalship, where he was a senior prefect and also represented the college at rugger. Everybody in College adored him for his enviable personality and his courage.

The Sri Lankan Ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Azmi Thassim said that the death of Razeen Salih came as a great shock to the Sri Lankan community in the Kingdom. “He was our pride and his contributions towards the community are immeasurable. We hope and pray that Allah will give him the best place in Jannah for his valued services for the community uplift,” Thassim said.

Azad Yousuf, an accountant at a private medical hospital in Riyadh said that Salih had left a vacuum which no one else could fill it: “He was an icon in the Saudi business circle who brought Sri Lankan gems and jewelry to the Kingdom’s market.”

Salih is survived by his two daughters Aysha and Jamaaliyah.

His remains will be flown to Philadelphia, USA.