TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Although he does not yet have a campaign team, Gatot Nurmantyo does have a team of people managing his social media presence. He has adopted a more relaxed style than when he was still commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI). When he visited Tempo`s headquarters last Tuesday, he spoke freely on various topics, laughed often and deftly dodged tricky questions.
Despite his low electability, Gatot often trails right behind Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto in the polls. He appeared in the "212" mass protest and has a conservative Muslim voters' base.
A few days after meeting with former Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Gatot Nurmantyo at the Al-Azhar Mosque, South Jakarta, on March 3, Rama Yumatha received a visitor. The guest asked him questions about his background, and who was behind the Selendang Putih Nusantara Volunteers, an organization founded by Rama.
When Rama was not at home, a different man came to his house and asked his wife similar questions. The two guests never explained where they came from. "I suspected they were Gatot's people. He would surely want to know why we've asked him to run for president," he said last Wednesday.
Gatot had come to the Al-Azhar Mosque to give an early morning speech along with Jimly Asshiddiqie, the former chair of the Constitutional Court (MK). During a break in the event, Rama met with the recently retired army general for 10 minutes and expressed the Selendang Putih organization's wish for him to run in the upcoming presidential election.
According to Rama, Gatot said he had already heard about Selendang Putih from the media. "He thanked us for the support." At the end of their meeting, Rama asked Gatot to say a few words to the Selendang Putih members, to be recorded on video. "Hello, Selendang Putih," was all Gatot said in the recording.
The two met again on Mata Najwa, a Trans7 television program 11 days later. Since then, Selendang Putih has been in intensive communication with Gatot. "Through people close to him," said Rama.
Rama founded Selendang Putih in early January. He had posted on Facebook, calling people to support Gatot as a presidential candidate. "As it turned out, many responded," he said.
He then organized support by forming a group of volunteers called Selendang Putih, meaning "white shawl." According to Rama, he took the name from a movement supporting Abdurrahman Wahid's presidential candidacy in 1999. "(The movement) was only around for a short time," he said. "I was a member."
Rama, a drummer in the band Ome & the People and a music producer at PT Remz Music Indonesia, used his own money to set up the organization. "I sold a drum set and two guitars," he said. "(I) got Rp25 million."
Today, Rama claims that Selendang Putih has about 2.7 million members in 116 regencies and cities across 28 provinces. Nearly half are from Jakarta and West Java. "Some of them are 212 alumni," he said, referring to the mass protest held on December 2, 2016, demanding then-Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama's imprisonment. The figures already mentioned come from volunteers' personal data submitted to Selendang Putih.
The volunteer organization believes that Gatot will likely become a candidate for president. Rama says those in Gatot's circle gave him assurance when he attempted to clarify news that the general had stepped forward as Gerindra general chair Prabowo Subianto's running mate. "(He) will definitely be running for president," said Rama, quoting someone whom he refers to as Gatot Nurmantyo's assistant.
Read the full article in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine