TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - SWORN in last month, Jakarta Governor Djarot Saiful Hidajat only has four more months before he leaves office and hands over the post to governor-elect Anies Baswedan. Djarot is Jakarta's third governor in the 2012-2017 period: the first governor Joko Widodo was elected President in 2014, and his successor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama resigned following his religious blasphemy conviction in early May.
Racing against time in his brief term, Djarot, previously the deputy governor, is trying to speed up the programs he and Basuki put together, such as the construction of the child-friendly integrated public parks and the revamping of the Old Town and Taman Ismail Marzuki. This former mayor of Blitar, East Java, also keeps a tight rein on the financial system to prevent fictitious programs from making their way into the regional budget. ¡°Massive projects like the construction of the mass rapid transit system, the light rail transit system and the Asian Games 2018 arena are still underway, but we are making sure they are going according to schedule," Djarot, 55, stresses.
In between his hectic schedule, Djarot routinely visits Basuki now incarcerated in the mobile brigade headquarters in Depok, West Java. He said he has been there four times, and during each visit Ahok, Basuki's nickname, always asks about the progress of their programs, urging Djarot to have all the programs inaugurated during his term.
Last Wednesday, before the Jakarta city hall was flooded with residents celebrating his birthday, Djarot agreed to talk to Tempo’s Reza Maulana, Linda Hairani, Gangsar Parikesit and Raymundus Rikang. After a meal of nasi padang, he spoke about his relation with Ahok and their loss to Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno in the 2017 Jakarta regional head elections. "I’m proud to have run beside Ahok," he said.
Do you visit Basuki Tjahaja Purnama to consult about work?
They are discussions, not consultations. The purpose is to complete our programs by October. Pak Ahok always asks about the progress of the programs we planned together.
What is the urgency to discuss them with Ahok, who is no longer the governor?
It’s true he’s no longer the governor, but there is a unity between Pak Jokowi, Pak Ahok and myself. There needs to be continuity in our programs. So naturally, even though Pak Ahok is no longer governor, we need our discussions to check and re-check our progress. The only difference now is that I am the one who executes, and is responsible for, the policies.
Does President Jokowi still oversee the projects in Jakarta?
Continuously. He often asks about them whenever I’m invited to the palace for meetings. It’s usually about the progress of the MRT project. I said it would be wrapped up by June or July 2018. By then, the roads will be orderly and we can already do trial runs. But it will need about six months to a year of trial runs before it is open for the public.
Do you often communicate with Jokowi?
I’ve known him since I was the Blitar mayor. We are close, so Pak Jokowi doesn’t have problems monitoring development of progress in Jakarta after Ahok left.
What is Ahok’s advice to you for getting your programs done on time?
He said, ‘Mas, if possible, please expedite all the construction projects so it is you who inaugurates them. Just start and finish them.’ He also asked about the progress of the mosque being built in Kalijodo, demanding, ‘Mas Djarot, where is the mosque?’ He keeps tabs on them.
Did you discuss the gubernatorial transition process?
No. Pak Ahok is kind of allergic to that topic. After all, the synchronization or transition team is formed by the governor-elect and is not part of the bureaucracy, so it’s recommendations are not binding. They can report to the Regional People’s Representative Council, if they like. Pak Ahok and myself never discuss anything about election issues.
To be honest, they won because of the religious issue. That issue was stoked at religious gatherings and mosques to scare people against voting for us. Say, the case of people refusing to pray for the deceased who supported the Ahok-Djarot ticket. The wife of a friend said she couldn’t vote for us for fear of going to hell for choosing a kafir (infidel). The PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle) also lost in several regions because of the communist issue. That kind of (campaigning) indicates a setback in our democracy.
Didn’t your team also use religious sentiments to your advantage, like wearing the peci fez in the photo on ballot papers, and sending mosque caretakers on the umrah minor pilgrimage?
If those sentiments are used for a good cause, is that not OK? But they should not be exploited to politicize, to intimidate and to scream out hate speech. Several times I was obstructed from entering mosques and was hurled with insults. The worst was when I came to the memorial gathering for Suharto at the At-Tin Mosque in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah last March. Someone threw a bottle at me. Actually, I wanted to go after the person, but was blocked by my aide. So be it. I just let it pass. Imagine, I was an invitee to the event, and I was about to perform the sunset prayer. Now, after the elections, I can pray anywhere without any problem. I am greeted enthusiastically by the public, and many ask to take their photos with me.
A study shows that only 22 percent of Anies-Sandi’s voters elected based on religion...
Their studies can say anything. But that’s what we experienced.
Some said you lost due to someone’s blunder distributing basic commodities right before the election day.
That is a fabricated story. Go ahead and investigate. Pak Ahok and I are very much against such tactics. In fact, I suspect that we lost due to intimidations ahead of the second round of elections. I went around, and really experienced the eerily quiet atmosphere.
How did the Defend Islam protests impact your votes?
Rallies form opinions. Imagine protestors coming from all over Indonesia to Jakarta.
It apparently is still effective to use religion for politics...
Not just religion. Pak Ahok is a triple minority: he’s Chinese, non-Muslim and has a plain-spoken manner. He always speaks his mind and is often quick-tempered. I don’t try to cover up for him, but later we agreed that I should be the one to do more of the talking.
Is it true that PDI-P Chairperson Megawati was angry because of the defeat in the Jakarta elections?
No, she wasn’t. She said that we had to fight again. This is a sign of a maturing democracy. But we have a strong base in Jakarta: our loyal voters amount to around 43 percent of the population. If not, they would have deserted us under pressure of these religious issues.
The public’s rejection of Ahok was triggered by his statement about the Al-Maidah 51. Looking back, do you regret that moment?
That morning, immediately after the speech, I went to Pak Ahok’s office. I told him that it was a very sensitive topic. I said, ‘I’m a Muslim but I never raise the issue of my religion. That’s the job of clerics.’
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine