Indonesian youth urged to chart course for country

Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono with S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies executive deputy chairman Ong Keng Yong ahead of delivering his lecture yesterday. The 39-year-old son of Indonesia's former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is tipped a
Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono with S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies executive deputy chairman Ong Keng Yong ahead of delivering his lecture yesterday. The 39-year-old son of Indonesia's former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is tipped as a possible candidate for next year's presidential polls.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Ex-president's son says political ignorance among youth will be detrimental in long run

Young Indonesians have helped propel their country forward at critical junctures in its turbulent history and they must once again flex their political muscle to help chart the nation's course during a period of global change and uncertainty, an upcoming young politician said yesterday .

"Political ignorance among the youth will be detrimental in the long run," said Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the 39-year-old son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

He was delivering a lecture at the Marina Mandarin Singapore organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Mr Agus cited history yesterday, recounting how university students sparked the Reformasi movement that led to the end of the 30-year New Order regime of strongman Suharto. A group of young intellectuals had also founded the country's first political movement, Budi Utomo, marking the start of Indonesia's modern nationalism. Decades later, in 1945, it was young activists yet again who pressured the nation's founding fathers to proclaim independence.

"Young people in Indonesia have always been at the forefront of changes, and they are always present at critical junctures in our history," said Mr Agus, who is the executive director of The Yudhoyono Institute, a think-tank aimed at developing young Indonesians.

"This is exactly why I urge many more young Indonesians to participate in the politics of the country, to one degree or another," he said, adding that this could be through voting, joining a political party or stepping forward as a candidate.

  • 52%

    Percentage of eligible voters in Indonesia who are aged between 17 and 35.

Youths not only have to face challenges on the economic front, including fierce competition and a changing world economy, but must also contend with threats to the country's social fabric such as the rise of hate speech and identity politics.

Mr Agus also pointed out that the young were already a key force at the ballot box, with nearly 52 per cent of eligible voters in Indonesia aged between 17 and 35.

He said young politicians made their mark with their "fresh approaches, energy, and stamina" in June's regional elections, citing the example of 33-year-old Emil Dardak, a Raffles Institution alumnus, who paired with the veteran, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, and won in East Java.

A former army major, Mr Agus himself left a high-flying military career in September 2016 to contest in the gubernatorial election in Jakarta. "I want to set an example for young people to actively exercise their political rights," he said yesterday. Mr Agus' political journey did not stop after his failed bid for office in 2017.

Earlier this year, he was appointed chairman of the Democratic Party's joint task force for the 2019 election and is now tipped as a possible candidate for next year's presidential polls.

Mr Agus also made clear yesterday that the young need not just contribute in the political arena.

"Patriotism in the 21st century takes a different meaning than in the past. They do not need to raise arms or fight wars," he said.

"There are many paths to contribute... I have high hopes and confidence that the young generation of Indonesia will be able to collaborate and work together towards a better future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesian youth urged to chart course for country'. Print Edition | Subscribe