Presidential election candidates in spirited exchanges over corruption and bias issues

Indonesian president Joko Widodo (left) with vice-presidential candidate Ma'ruf Amin (second, left); and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto (second, right) with vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno (right) during the first presidential debate in Jakarta, on Jan 17, 2019. PHOTOS: BLOOMBERG

JAKARTA - From the salaries of civil servants to the presence of women in positions of power, the first debate for the presidential election on Thursday (Jan 17) was a varied affair.

Questions on corruption and bias drew the night's most spirited exchanges between incumbent Joko Widodo and his challenger Prabowo Subianto.

The Straits Times highlights two of these.

1. "Come forward with evidence''

The debate turned feisty when Mr Joko took a swipe at one of his opponent's ex-campaigners, who last year lied about being assaulted to cover up her plastic surgery.

Mr Prabowo said there was sentiment on the ground of state apparatus being biased, and charged that some village heads in East Java were detained after declaring their support for him.

"That's also unfair because stating an opinion is protected by basic laws," he said.

Mr Joko - to raucous cheers by his supporters - responded: "Don't make such accusations, Pak Prabowo. We are a country of laws. There are legal procedures, there are legal mechanisms."

If there is evidence, come forward, he urged.

"For example, the face of one of his supporters was bruised. She said she was assaulted, held a press conference. It turns out it was from plastic surgery," said Mr Joko.

He was referring to anti-government activist Ratna Sarumpaet, who resigned from Mr Prabowo's campaign team after police investigations found that she had lied.

"If there is evidence, go through the legal mechanisms, make a report. Why must we throw accusations?"

2. "I will put them in jail myself''

Mr Joko took aim at Mr Prabowo's Gerindra Party, noting that, according to the Indonesia Corruption Watch, some of the party's candidates were former graft convicts.

Mr Prabowo, the party's chairman, responded: "Maybe ICW said that, but I myself haven't gotten that report... And I think that's subjective. I guarantee that the Gerindra Party will fight corruption to its roots.

"If there are corrupt Gerindra members, I will put them in jail myself."

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