Jakarta Governor Anies slammed over controversial word

Governor Anies Baswedan at the swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday. His inauguration speech prompted some people to accuse him of trying to stoke hatred against minorities again.
Governor Anies Baswedan at the swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday. His inauguration speech prompted some people to accuse him of trying to stoke hatred against minorities again.PHOTO: REUTERS

Many object to use of term 'pribumi' and call to regain control of country from foreigners

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan came under fire over his choice of words in his inauguration speech that some said harked back to the racially charged gubernatorial race, whose outcome still divides the capital.

Many took issue with his use of the word pribumi, which historically refers to the indigenous people of Indonesia, to describe himself, who is of Arab descent.

Mr Anies, speaking after he was sworn in at the Istana on Monday, also suggested that it was time for promises made to Indonesians to be fulfilled, and for the people to regain control of the country from foreigners. "In the past, we pribumi were oppressed and defeated; now we are independent, now is the time for us to be masters in our own country," he said in a 20-minute speech at City Hall.

According to The Jakarta Post, the term pribumi was coined by the Dutch to describe native Indonesians in 1854. They then placed the pribumi at the bottom of a three-tier classification, after the Europeans and non-European races, such as Arabs, Chinese and Indians, who were already in Indonesia.

The use of the word was banned in 1998, after the fall of former president Suharto and the collapse of the New Order regime.

Mr Anies' speech, which also contained anti-colonial slurs, did not go down well with many people, including some who took to social media to accuse him of trying to stoke hatred against minorities again, particularly the Chinese.

According to CNN Indonesia, the local youth wing of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) in Banten province and the Pancasila Movement yesterday lodged a police report against Mr Anies for his pribumi remark.

NO DIVISIONS

Let's not dichotomise, and have pribumi or non-pribumi groups here.

MR LUHUT PANDJAITAN, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, , when asked to comment on the governor's speech.

The PDI-P is the leading party in the ruling coalition, while Pancasila refers to Indonesia's national principles of pluralism and tolerance. The police confirmed they had received the complaint and will be looking into the matter.

Mr Anies' election victory in April over former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese-Christian politician, was marred by racial and religious tensions in what used to be a tolerant city.

Muslim hardliners like Mr Bachtiar Nasir, who had backed Mr Anies, also tried to incite dissent against minorities by saying the wealth of Chinese Indonesians was a problem and there should be affirmative action programmes for indigenous Indonesians.

The governor's spokesman did not respond to queries from The Straits Times, while Mr Anies was quoted by local reports as accusing the media of misconstruing words meant to describe Jakarta during its colonial days. But by yesterday afternoon, the hashtag #Pribumi was trending on social media platforms, with many criticising the new governor, calling him a racist.

ABOUT CONTEXT

He was talking about colonialism. So the context is history... He is not being discriminatory.

VICE-PRESIDENT JUSUF KALLA, who came to Mr Anies' defence.

"@aniesbaswedan you should've known better. #Pribumi," Twitter user @cliffcharito said in a post.

Another user, Dee Lestari, tweeted: "Waking up and feeling so pribumi. Not."

Senior Indonesian officials were drawn into the fracas online, with many urging Mr Anies not to incite divisions among races and religions. "Let's not dichotomise, and have pribumi or non-pribumi groups here," said Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan.

Still, there were others, such as Vice-President Jusuf Kalla, who defended Mr Anies. "He was talking about colonialism," said Mr Kalla. "So the context is history... He is not being discriminatory."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2017, with the headline 'Jakarta Governor Anies slammed over controversial word'. Print Edition | Subscribe