Jokowi calls for unity among Indonesians ahead of 72nd Independence Day

Indonesia president Joko Widodo (C) with his wife Iriana (R) with parliament members pose for pictures after delivering a speech in front of parliament members ahead of Thursday's independence day in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 16, 2017.
Indonesia president Joko Widodo (C) with his wife Iriana (R) with parliament members pose for pictures after delivering a speech in front of parliament members ahead of Thursday's independence day in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 16, 2017. REUTERS
 Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, shown in this file picture dated July 4, 2017, calls for unity ahead of the country's Independence Day on Thursday (Aug 17, 2017).
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, shown in this file picture dated July 4, 2017, calls for unity ahead of the country's Independence Day on Thursday (Aug 17, 2017).PHOTO REUTERS

JAKARTA - To achieve global recognition as a developed nation, Indonesians must unite against corruption, threats against national unity, and work towards equality for all, said President Joko Widodo on Wednesday (Aug 16) in his annual address to Parliament on the eve of Indonesia's 72nd Independence Day.

He also warned that more must be done to safeguard Indonesia's principles of pluralism and diversity in the wake of racial and religious tensions in the country.

These include growing Islamic radicalism as well as anti-Chinese sentiments; with the latter gaining prominence among Muslim hardliners and eventually leading to the imprisonment of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjhaja Purnama, a Chinese-Christian, in May for blasphemy against Islam.

"We must be firm when dealing with ideological infiltrations such as extremism, radicalism (and) terrorism, which can destroy the unity of our country," he said, adding that Indonesians must hold fast the principles of Pancasila, the country national ideology of "unity in diversity".

"We want to work together, not only in creating an equitable economy, but also in ideological, political, social and cultural developments."

 

Mr Joko, popularly known as Jokowi, was elected in 2014 on a platform of reform and clean government. As he approaches his three-year mark in October, his promise of change has yet to be fully realised.

 

Besides having to deal with a slower than expected pace of economic growth, the rising threat of terrorism, as well as racial and religious strife, the president also had to grapple with an ugly showdown between the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and some lawmakers over an ongoing probe into a trail of kickbacks for politicians in a multi-trillion-rupiah electronic identity-card project in 2010.

Mr Joko has always maintained that a strong and independent KPK is essential if Indonesia wants to tackle a historical culture of corruption, including cases involving high-level officials, politicians and businessmen.

But this effort to eradicate corruption and raise Indonesia's competitiveness must not only involve the government, but all parties, said Mr Joko.

"We will become a developed nation, recognised by other nations in the world when we are competitive, but one of the hindrances to our competitiveness is corruption, it is our common enemy."

In his speech, the president also shared his vision for equality and for all Indonesians to "move forward together, prosper together".

"We do not want prosperity to be enjoyed only by one person or one group of people," he added. "In the past three years, the government has focused on fighting poverty, curbing inequality, and reducing unemployment."

He told Parliament that because of the government's efforts, the number of Indonesians that live under the poverty line fell from 28.6 million in March 2015, to 27.8 million in March this year.

Plans to enhance Indonesia's transportation infrastructure to increase connectivity across the archipelago by air, sea and land are also on track, said Mr Joko.

These include the building of new airports, sea ports, and tollways, not just across Java island, but also in provinces such as East Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara and Papua.

In closing, the president also paid tribute to the Indonesian National Police for maintaining law and order, as well as other security agencies such as the National Narcotics Agency for its efforts in the war on drugs.

Mr Joko said the capabilities of the Indonesian military and police must continue to be strengthened due to the complex and fast-changing security challenges the country faces.

"The threats we are facing are no longer just an invasion from another country, but new threats from extremism, radicalism, terrorism, human-, drug-, and weapons-smuggling, as well as cyber-crimes."