They bob and dance as Jokowi oozes 'love' during Batam rally

Indonesian President Joko Widodo making a point during his rally yesterday in Batam. He hoped the islanders will give him and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin at least 70 per cent of the votes.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo making a point during his rally yesterday in Batam. He hoped the islanders will give him and his running mate Ma'ruf Amin at least 70 per cent of the votes.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

The Indonesian island of Batam, just a ferry ride away from Singapore, transformed into a carnival of colours and music yesterday as President Joko Widodo flew in for a rally less than two weeks before the election.

Under the scorching sun, thousands of supporters gathered in an open space near Temenggung Abdul Jamal Stadium to cheer, dance and sing in support of Mr Joko, who is seeking re-election against former army general Prabowo Subianto.

They bobbed their helmet-covered heads to eardrum-shattering rock songs by local band Jamrud and swayed to more melodious tunes. Upbeat campaign songs, from "Goyang Jempol, Jokowi Gaspol", which roughly means "shake a thumb, Jokowi at full throttle" in Bahasa Indonesia, to "Jokowi Wae", or "Just Jokowi" in the Javanese language, blared from speakers.

"Yo yo Ayo, yo Ayo, we will choose Jokowi who will certainly win," sang housewife Iswanti, 45, as she twirled, a toddler hanging onto her leg. She was referring to the President by his nickname.

"I had coaxed my husband to take us out to see Jokowi. I refuse to shake with my wok and ladle in the kitchen today. I want to shake my hips and party," she told The Sunday Times.

"Water, water, spray water on us. It's very hot," the crowd pleaded with the emcees, as they surged ever closer to the stage, giant Indonesian flags in hand. "Oh dear, someone is fainting, make way," shouted a man, as he helped a pale woman out of the scrum.

"Don't push, don't shove, otherwise more will faint," said Mr Joko.

"I'm drenched, my shirt is drenched, my trousers are also drenched. Batam is extraordinary. I wouldn't be in Batam if not for love," he said.

"Oh, don't worry, we love you too!" yelled a supporter.

Mr Joko said he hoped to be able to garner at least 70 per cent of the votes from the islanders in the April 17 presidential polls, higher than the 59 per cent in the 2014 election.

 
 
 
 

The resort island of 1.2 million people was among the stops on the campaign trail for the two presidential candidates and their respective running mates. Mr Prabowo was in Batam last month.

A free trade zone and home to hundreds of companies, including shipyards and electronics factories, Batam has faced stagnant growth and falling investments in recent years. Mr Joko's administration has been pouring investments into the island in hopes of turning it into the country's digital and shipping hub.

Among other things, the authorities are upgrading Batam port with a 1.2 trillion rupiah (S$115 million) injection from state port operator Pelindo I, and looking to develop two special economic zones offering enhanced tax breaks for businesses, including those from Singapore - one of its main investors.

Mr Joko reiterated his pledge yesterday, and promised to get a team ready next month to look into details of a bridge project linking Batam and nearby Bintan to boost connectivity in the Riau Islands.

The President called on supporters not to believe in fake news and hoaxes about him and vice-presidential candidate Ma'ruf Amin.

Batam resident Surya, 20, said: "Jokowi is a good and honest man. His work speaks for itself, and in Batam, we can definitely see progress. He deserves to become our president again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 07, 2019, with the headline 'They bob and dance as Jokowi oozes 'love' during Batam rally'. Print Edition | Subscribe