Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | 20:30 WIB

Jokowi’s most fearsome opponent: He himself

Hersubeno Arief
Senior journalist, media and political consultant

IO – Within a matter of days, the map of competition towards the 2019 Presidential Elections has changed again. Last week, Jokowi’s biggest opponents were the data and facts submitted by NGOs, the media, and his own helpers – including Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Chief of Presidential Staff Moeldoko, and Commander of the Presidential Guards Maj. Gen. of the Army Maruli Simanjuntak. They united to resist and correct data and facts issued by Jokowi during the Second Presidential Debate. Jusuf Kalla denied Jokowi’s statement concerning Prabowo’s land ownership. Moeldoko and Maruli denied Jokowi’s statement that he visited a fishermen’s village in the middle of the night accompanied only by his chauffeur.

This week, Jokowi is facing his true opponent – the biggest opponent that is very hard, if not impossible to defeat: himself.

How come? This is something worthy of inclusion in the old TV show Ripley’s Believe It or Not. It is strange, but true. We can also submit Jokowi for entry in the Indonesian Museum of Records (Museum Rekor Indonesia MURI), or even The Guinness Book of Record, for the sheer amount of erroneous and exaggerated data that he cites. In his visit to Gorontalo on Friday (1/3), Jokowi challenged Prabowo to show data that proves that the total of Indonesian wealth sitting pretty in foreign deposits reaches Rp 11,000 trillion. “Well, if the data is there, if you have the proof about it, just submit it to the Government. We will follow it up for sure,” he said.

Prabowo mentioned the trillions in Indonesian funds deposited abroad during a speech before his supporters in Yogyakarta (27/2). On several occasions, Prabowo has also alluded to this issue, as he is worried about the sheer amount of Indonesian wealth flowing out of the country. He claimed to have obtained the data from a Minister in Jokowi’s cabinet and has read about it on the media. However, the Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs Luhut Panjaitan expressed doubt about Prabowo’s statement. “That was amazing! I know nothing about it, I need to check first. But that’s not possible, that’s simply too fantastic,” Luhut said in his office on Wednesday (27/2).

The supporters of Presidential Candidate 01 immediately cooked up the issue as usual. They immediately implemented their favorite step of accusing Prabowo of concocting a hoax. “It’s a pity if it’s just careless talk. We don’t want it to be a gossip that would bite Pak Prabowo back. Anyone can say as they please, but they must use valid data. Especially him, because he is a presidential candidate. His word is his bond,” said the Vice Chairman of Jokowi-Ma’ruf’s National Campaign Team (Tim Kampanye Nasional – “TKN”) Johnny G Plate. Plate suspects that Prabowo’s data is actually the wealth of Indonesians deposited abroad before the tax amnesty program.

The Head of the Ministry of Finance’s Bureau of Communications and Information Services Nurfransa Wirasakti also denied the statement. According to him, in the tax amnesty program, the declared wealth of Indonesians deposited abroad is only Rp 1,036 T. Of this amount, we have repatriated Rp 147 trillion of Indonesia’s wealth.

So which statement is true?

Once the digital sources were reviewed, it turns out that Prabowo was correct, as he was quoting a statement made by then-Minister of Finance Bambang Soemantri Brodjonegoro. The Minister of Finance calculated that the potential amount of Indonesian money deposited abroad is bigger than Indonesia’s GDP at Rp 11,400 trillion. “Well, according to our calculations, it is potentially bigger than our GDP. In other words, more than Rp 11,400 trillion,” he said.

This amount, when deducted with the repatriated amount as reported by Nurfransa at Rp 147 trillion, still exceeds Rp 11,000 trillion. Still bigger than what Prabowo has stated. On this basis, the Government thought up the idea for tax amnesty. Past tax is eliminated, if the owners of this super jumbo amount of money bring back their funds to Indonesia.

President Jokowi was very enthusiastic in getting these foreign deposits. He actively met with many entrepreneurs and disseminated information about the tax amnesty program with them, with a little threat thrown in. “There is a huge amount of Indonesian-owned monies abroad. I have the data in my pocket, at the Ministry of Finance, they calculated that about Rp 11,000 trillion is deposited abroad. The data in my pocket is different, there’s more than that. That’s because our sources are different,” Jokowi said at JIExpo, Kemayoran, Jakarta, on 1 August 2016.

He further stated that he intended to bring back these funds in order to use them for domestic development. “The most important thing is how to get these monies back to our country, because we need your participation for our country and nation,” Jokowi stated to the 10,000 participants of the dissemination of information about tax amnesty.

Jokowi made a similar statement during his speech at Clarion Hotel, Makassar, on 25 November 2016. “The data contained by the Ministry shows a total of Rp 11,000 trillion. The list is in my pocket. I remember those who are present here: one or two of you still keep your money abroad,” Jokowi said confidently. He then reminded the attending entrepreneurs that the Law on Trans-boundary Tax Information Exchange will apply in 2018, as all countries have agreed on the international regulations about the transparency of information. “How much Indonesian monies are deposited in Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong? Everything will be laid bare, because it’s an international regulation that all countries have signed. This is the mark of the era of transparency,” he said.

“I Don’t Know What I Say”
The challenge levelled by Jokowi and his close officials to Prabowo to prove his statement is confusing. How could Jokowi deny what he himself said before? Earlier, the president’s bad joke “I don’t read what I sign” has gone out wide. Now it seems that we need to update the joke to “I don’t know what I say”!

The statement “I don’t read what I sign” painfully explains the reason why so many of the policies Jokowi signed get amended, or even cancelled, within a very short period of time. The most scandalous among these was the cancellation of the release of Ustadz Abubakar Ba’asyir and the granting of remission to Prabangsa, a former cadre of the Democratic Party of Struggle of Indonesia (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan – “PDIP”) who was the brain behind the murder of a Balinese journalist. The appointment of Lieut. Gen. of the Army Doni Monardo as the Head of the National Agency for Disaster Mitigation (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana – “BNPB”) was also delayed, while invitations had been distributed. It was only later known that the position could not be held by an active Armed Forces Officer. The Law and supporting regulations must first be amended before Doni could be appointed for this position.

There are also many other examples of the President’s decision being cancelled within mere days, even hours: the increase of petroleum fuel price, for one, and most sensationally, the appointment of Archandra Thahar, a citizen of the United States, as the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources.

Now, by challenging Prabowo to prove the existence of Rp 11,000 trillion in funds being deposited abroad, Jokowi is actually challenging himself. Prabowo can turn it around easily. He could simply use the step Jokowi takes whenever he gets cornered: “If there is proof that Jokowi never said something like that, find it! I’m waiting for it now!”

This time, it will be very difficult for Jokowi to veer off: his digital tracks are spread out everywhere. Netizens and medias simply race off to dig out and show data and facts that Jokowi did something like that.

Knowing this, why on Earth did Jokowi dare to challenge Prabowo to prove his statement? It really imperils his own integrity and credibility! The public, including his fanatic supporters, are now questioning the issue: “Is he really a leader to look up to because his words and his actions match, or is he a leader whose words cannot be trusted?”

If we want to give him the benefit of the doubt, we might say he simply forget what he said before. Understandable, after all he has so many things to attend to. On the other hand, it could be in his nature: that “it is Jokowi’s nature to spout out what he doesn’t really understand.” Our Javanese ancestors remind us, “watuk bisa disembuhkan bisa diobati, tapi watak tidak ada obatnya, ginowo mati” (“you can cure a cough, but there is no cure for character, it stays with you till death”).

It would be well for Jokowi to remember the sage advice of the 16th American President, Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”