Don't judge people by appearance: Indonesia President Joko Widodo's message backfires on social media

In a video posted on Indonesian President Joko Widodo's Twitter account, a man who appears to be a cartoon version of Mr Joko takes his grandson out on a trip aboard a commuter train. PHOTO: JOKO WIDODO/TWITTER

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A comic strip posted on President Joko Widodo's Twitter account that conveys the message of looking past appearances and instead judging people by their actions has been met with a less-than-favourable reception on social media, with many users pointing out the comic's inherent irony in regard to the various instances of discrimination still plaguing the government's bureaucracy.

In a video that was viewed over 2.1 million times and retweeted by over 33,900 Twitter users as of 1pm on Tuesday (Jan 21), a man who appears to be a cartoon version of Mr Joko takes his grandson out on a trip aboard a commuter train.

As they look for available seats on the train, the grandson is scared when he sees a man with dyed hair and dressed in stereotypical "gang" attire sitting across from him.

"Grandpa, there's a scary-looking man," the grandson said.

"It's okay. Don't be scared," the grandfather replied.

On the next page, an elderly woman is shown boarding the train when it arrives at a station. The man with dyed hair catches sight of her and tries to get her attention, prompting fellow passengers to suspect that the man is up to no good.

Throughout the last several panels, the man is revealed to be a considerate individual who offers to give up his seat for the woman. The man then tells the elderly woman that she was once his school teacher who had taught him that being an intelligent person was not enough, as he must also be kind to others.

In the last panel, the grandfather - who is wearing a white shirt, similar to Mr Joko's trademark style - is shown giving advice to his grandson.

"Don't judge a person by their appearance. Judge them by their actions," the man tells his grandson at the end of the strip.

The comic has since garnered a deluge of responses from social media users, including those who have criticised Mr Joko's administration for failing to heed the advice.

Scores of Twitter users flocked to Mr Joko's Twitter thread, with some posting sarcastic messages to express their disappointment at the government's discriminatory policies, including several regulations that prohibit members of the public who have tattoos from taking office as civil servants at a number of state institutions and bans on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

"But why are (poeple) who have tattoos not allowed to work as civil servants, pak?" Twitter user @PamanKevin tweeted in reply to the comic strip.

Another user, @strawberrychaoz, wrote: "I still don't understand why LGBT people are not allowed to apply for work as civil servants."

"Why can't those who have tattoos apply for work as civil servants? Why are transgender people still not given the right to formal work?" @_banggiel tweeted.

Rules forbidding public servants from having tattoos have been in place in the country since the New Order era. Although some government institutions did not stipulate the ban in job requirements during the civil service recruitment last year, some institutions, including the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and the National Civil Service Agency (BKN), still ban tattooed applicants.

Meanwhile, at least two institutions banned LGBT applicants during last year's civil service recruitment, namely the Attorney-General's Office (AGO) and the Trade Ministry - although the Indonesian Ombudsman said the latter had removed such requirements shortly after receiving a backlash.

The AGO's special requirement even went as far as categorising homosexuality and transgenderism as mental illnesses: Applicants "must not be mentally disabled, including having deviant sexual orientation and deviant behaviour".

The requirement raised eyebrows as the country's Diagnostic Classification on Mental Disorder Guidelines (PPDGJ) III, issued in 1987, states that homosexuality is not a mental illness.

At the time of the writing, neither Mr Joko, through his official social media channels, nor his staff or ministers had released a statement regarding the comments.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.