Jakarta, IO – Being invited to the state palace, sixteen MotoGP racers, fancy and neatly dressed, attended the invitation; Marc Marquez, Joan Mir, Alex Rins, Francesco Bagnaia, Jack Miller, Maverick Viñales, Alex Marquez, and Takaaki Nakagami had the opportunity to take photos with President Jokowi.
The President then showed the racers his beloved motorcycle, rode it and took photos with the racers again. The President intended to join the racers’ convoy but was not allowed by the President’s Security Guard for safety reasons.
This MotoGP celebration is interesting, as if this year is the first time for Indonesia to ever host MotoGP. The celebration seemed to purposely forget the fact that this is the third time for Indonesia to host MotoGP and not the first time.
The celebration also struck as a diversion towards the cooking oil scarcity and other increases in the staples prices in the market. Indonesia first hosted MotoGP in 1996 and in the following year for the second time in the Sentul International Circuit during President Soeharto’s presidency.
Sentul International Circuit was not built by the will of the people, but based on the suggestion of “The Cendana family” and supported by the cronies of the New Order regime.
The Circuit began construction in 1990, led by Hutomo Mandala Putra, the youngest son of the President of the Republic of Indonesia; it was officially inaugurated by former President Soeharto.
The MotoGP occurred back-to-back on April, 7, 1996 and September 28, 1997 at Sentul Circuit. The second MotoGP was held when Indonesia was in the middle of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.
People in ASEAN countries began to be impacted by the monetary crisis from May 1997. It sparked off in Thailand in July 1997, after the Thai Baht plunged in value. A crisis then swept over East and Southeast Asia, hitting Indonesia in June – August 1997.
MotoGP 1997 was held in September 1997, when the Rupiah was slumping badly and the public intensely worried about the devalued prices in the markets and other asset prices. The authorities, putting on a brave face, covered up the actual crisis by holding the 1997 MotoGP and its celebration.
As though the history repeats itself, similar to the 1997 MotoGP, the 2022 MotoGP is being held amid a chorus of rising prices for Indonesian staples and a scarcity of cooking oil.
In the 1997 MotoGP, President Soeharto attended, in a special box at Sentul Circuit, and watched the race for five hours, with a win by Italian rider Valentino Rossi in the 125cc class. He had joined the Aprilia team when he was only 18 years old.
MotoGP celebration and staples scarcity
Both the 1997 MotoGP and 2022 MotoGP were being hosted when our country was not in good shape. The 1997 economic crisis began to affect Indonesia exactly one month prior to hosting the MotoGP, with the Rupiah exchange rate spiraling downward as prices shot up.
In 2022, Indonesia is back at hosting MotoGP, when a cooking oil scarcity is coming to pass, and we are threatened with a potential price surge as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war.
A similarity between the 1997 MotoGP and the 2022 MotoGP lies in how grand and exciting the MotoGP celebration is showcased, as a diversion to deliberately bury public adversities.
However, the Indonesian government hosted the 2022 MotoGP, while declaring its intention to postpone the oncoming election and extend the presidential term.
The President is in need of momentum to boost his executive image and strengthen his electability, to gain the people’s approval and support in delaying the election and extending his presidential term.
President Jokowi appears to be sharper than former President Soeharto. The power brokers exploit this celebration to disguise several agendas: killing two birds with a stone. Boosting the political image and diverting the public’s life adversities in one MotoGP celebration.
The same public that watched MotoGP celebration also witnessed how housewives had to queue in long lines to get cooking oil at reasonable prices. A life was even lost during the upheaval.
We are witnessing, in the thick of the surging staples’ prices, how President Jokowi prepped for the world-class racing event in huge ceremonial style, leading festivities which contribute nothing to persistent problems.
The government is considered to lack any sense of crisis about swelling challenges. MotoGP stood as their means of public communication, focusing more on building and creating an image, instead of tackling food staple and economic problems. The President does not address the fulfillment of people’s needs properly.
The President should have been more focused on the attempt to reign in price surges and staple scarcity, as they directly affect the lives of his people; that should have been prioritized.
President Soeharto likely expected that the MotoGP celebration in 1997 would be followed by economic revival; a worsened economic crisis engulfed the nation instead.
Should President Jokowi wish to undergo a different fate in the course of eight months following the 2022 MotoGP event, then he ought to start thinking about his people, more than mere celebrations to entertain and satisfy certain elites. May the President hear our plea. Hear! hear!