Jokowi shows how to escape a traffic jam - alight and walk

President Joko Widodo shaking hands with villagers as he walked the rest of the way - about 2km - to the venue for a military parade to mark the 72nd anniversary of Indonesia's national armed forces in Cilegon, Banten province, yesterday. He had got
President Joko Widodo shaking hands with villagers as he walked the rest of the way - about 2km - to the venue for a military parade to mark the 72nd anniversary of Indonesia's national armed forces in Cilegon, Banten province, yesterday. He had got out of his limousine, stuck in traffic in Cilegon, just after 8am, and arrived at the venue at about 8.40am, according to local reports.PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesian leader wins praise as videos showing him walking 2km to military parade venue go viral

President Joko Widodo was not about to let a terrible traffic jam make him late for a military parade to mark the 72nd anniversary of Indonesia's national armed forces (TNI).

The unassuming leader got out of his limousine, stuck in traffic in the port city of Cilegon, just after 8am yesterday and walked the rest of the way - about 2km - to the venue. He arrived at about 8.40am, according to local reports.

People applauded when they saw Mr Joko - dressed in a black suit with a red tie and songkok - with some saying it was classic Jokowi, as he is popularly known in Indonesia.

"Have you ever seen a president who is willing to do this so that his people are not kept waiting?" said deliveryman Harlangga.

"That's Jokowi, I'm proud that he is our leader."

Once he arrived at the venue where the parade was to be held, Mr Joko got down to the business of being guest of honour.

In his speech at the ceremony, where thousands of people had gathered, he paid tribute to the country's servicemen, but also reminded them of their sacred duty to defend the country.

"The TNI belongs to the nation and must always guarantee it is politically neutral in today's democratic era," said Mr Joko. "TNI should not be divided into different factions based on political interests, and should not get involved in politics."

His remarks were seen as a veiled reminder to TNI chief Gatot Nurmantyo, who is due to retire next March and who some observers believe has political ambitions.

In his speech, General Gatot apologised for the gridlock in Cilegon in Banten province, about a three-hour drive from Jakarta.

"We offer our utmost apologies," he said. "Even the President had to walk 2km… People have come here since 2am, but all this happened because people love the TNI."

He also echoed the President's words, saying the TNI will stay loyal to the nation forever.

Yesterday's celebration included a military tattoo showcasing the TNI's latest weaponry, land attack vehicles, aircraft and naval assets.

But it was the videos and photos of the President walking with his entourage, including his bodyguards and police chief Tito Karnavian, that went viral.

In the videos, uploaded by netizens and officials, ordinary Indonesians cheered their leader on, many of them shouting "Jokowi, Jokowi!".

Some also reached out to shake Mr Joko's hand.

YouTube user Makhsun Al-Makky described what Mr Joko did as "extraordinary".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline 'Jokowi shows how to escape a traffic jam - alight and walk'. Print Edition | Subscribe