TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Tri Rismaharini's determined tone seemed to placate the party on the other end of the telephone line. "Alright, I will not resign. Disperse your friends," said the Surabaya mayor, last week. One of her biggest supporters on the telephone had just informed her that crowds had gathered to protest when news spread that Risma had decided to prematurely resign from her mayoralty term from 2010 to 2015.
Tempo's interview was interrupted by that telephone call, and it was not the only one. It was a topic on many people's minds since rumors spread that Risma planned to resign, following a dispute soon after the decision to hold elections to replace outgoing Deputy Mayor Bambang D.H., who resigned to run in East Java's gubernatorial election. Without consulting Risma, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) nominated Wisnu Sakti Buana.
On Tuesday last week, Risma spoke with Tempo reporters Budi Setyarso and Jobpie Sugiharto. This lady mayor, who has received a number of awards for her city planning programs, spoke frankly about her predicament. The interview was taken over by Suci Rahayu the following day at Risma's office.
Is it true you plan to resign?
Let's wait and see. I am sure to get some guidance from God Almighty. I will pray for it.
Well, I am reminded of the story of Prophet Yunus, who left his flock and was punished by God. So, I asked myself: if I resign, would I be forsaking the people?
Why did it cross your mind?
If I thought about winning and losing, I would have left this job a long time ago. I worry about my accountability to the people. I never asked to be mayor, never prayed to be one.
It's not about the election of the deputy mayor is it?
Actually, it's not who should be the deputy mayor, because I always obey regulations.
You don't think the election of the deputy mayor is according to regulations?
Yes, people yesterday protested about that. So, let's wait for the result, what the Home Affairs Ministry will say. I don't want it to impact on me. People say Bu Risma talks a lot, is too fixated on rules and too clean. But that's not the case, right. I just want to survive.
Why did you think about resigning?
I'm sorry, sometimes I feel I don't care, that my job should not be a burden. But I do think about the people, something that I always worry about.
How bad is the pressure that you almost gave in?
Bad. I just don't want to go into details. But if I am asked to give up the job, I would not mind.
You are close to PDI-P Chairperson Megawati. Why not complain to her?
Bu Mega had planned to come. But she asked Pak Tjahjo (secretary-general Tjahjo Kumolo) to come to my house instead. If it's just about facing the DPRD it wouldn't be difficult, because I believe that position is managed by God. But if they want me to resign, I'm ready.
You should be able to fight those pressures…
To be honest, I cannot read politics. I believe what people say, unless I know this person's track record. It is about my honor, because when I heard that the Home Affairs Ministry did not do anything about it, that's when I felt that I'd been hit. (*)
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine.