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Wanted badly: A Malaysian Jokowi

February 20, 2013

At a time when much of the focus in Malaysia’s socio-political governance lies in fault-finding, Jokowi's story should at least provoke a change in mindset in all of us.

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By Syed Nadzri Syed Harun

In this season of blazing politics ahead of an anticipated tumultuous general election, the story of Jokowi should serve to inspire – if not all of us, at least those seeking to serve the rakyat as elected representatives. Joko who?

Jokowi. Full name Joko Widodo, who, I’m sure, doesn’t quite ring a bell around here even if he is the governor of Jakarta. Jokowi’s no joke. This is no ordinary city chieftain because he has just been judged the third best mayor in the world for 2012. He was mayor for Solo before the Jakarta position.

Jokowi’s story was all over the foreign papers the past weeks, including in The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

It also landed in the inbox of several e-mail groups.

At a time when much of the focus in Malaysia’s socio-political governance lies in fault-finding and finger-pointing, his story should at least provoke a change in mindset in all of us.

I quote an excerpt of his story in The Economist, the Jan 26 edition:

“Since taking office last October, Joko Widodo, the unassuming, populist governor of Jakarta, has lived up to his reputation as Mr Fix-It. Having turned Indonesia’s political order on its head by unseating the incumbent governor in the capital, he has set himself apart from other politicians, many of whom are seen as corrupt, arrogant and aloof.

“Widodo, fondly known as Jokowi, takes unannounced strolls through slum areas speaking with residents about access to healthcare and education. Giggly housewives want their photo taken with him.

“On Jan 9, he ordered the construction of six new toll roads and announced a plan to relocate street vendors to help reduce Jakarta’s legendary traffic jams.

“His administration has also drafted a proposal for a huge underground drainage tunnel to reduce the capital’s frequent flooding.

“Widodo took to the streets to pledge more action to prevent floods, his sense of urgency a welcome change in a country used to vague political deadlines. On Jan 8, he was voted the third-best mayor in the world by the 2012 World Mayor Project for his previous success running the city of Solo.

“The new governor’s tenure has not been without controversy: he raised eyebrows by opposing a US$1.6 billion [RM4.69 billion] mass rapid transit [MRT] project for Jakarta that was decades in the planning and had been scheduled to break ground this year.

“Instead, he suggested reviving a US$495 million, privately funded monorail proposal for the city centre. Jakarta is one of the few big cities in Asia without an MRT, and beleaguered city residents view building one as a last hope to end the gridlock.

“Experts say a monorail circling central Jakarta’s shopping and business districts will not help because it would not connect commuters in the suburbs.

“Now, though, Widodo has backed down on the monorail, after pressing the national government to agree to increase its funding commitment for the MRT project to nearly 50%. Some say his support for the monorail was a ploy to that end. With a governor apparently as canny as he is competent, it is no wonder Widodo is being touted as a possible future president.”

Hardball politics

Shall we wish for somebody like him here? Not that there aren’t already. Maybe just a shade in character but we often spoil it all, spilling almost everything with hardball politics plus a zero-sum game.

We look around us: so many people struggling to get decent and uninterrupted tap water supply and the people supposed to take care of business are playing politics.

Look around us. The daily traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru and Penang is taking a heavy toll on quality of life. And, even with the construction of the MRT line in Kuala Lumpur, clogged streets are unfortunately viewed as normal.

Added to that, the ongoing work to extend the light rapid transit line is shoddy and has created an agonising mess for residents and road users around Subang Jaya for months now. The streets are dirty and full of potholes. And nobody in authority cares because their minds are on politics.

Look around us. Snatch theft, housebreaking and car-jackings are on the rise again. Two of my neighbours in Subang were robbed within the last one week. And some people are more concerned with the debate over crime index.

We need someone like Jokowi here. And he has said it very clearly – he doesn’t want to be president. Just doing an honest job.

Syed Nadzri is Redberry Group media advisor. Feedback: [email protected].

This content is provided by FMT content partner The Malaysian Reserve.


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