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Pujiono a new kind of Idol for an uncertain Indonesia

Pujiono a new kind of Idol for an uncertain Indonesia
Published 4 Feb 2014 

The Indonesian Idol clip mentioned this morning in Elliot Brennan's links has already reached over a million hits on YouTube.

The video shows the audition of Pujiono, a parking attendant, busker, night watchman and songwriter from Cilacap, Central Java. Pujiono didn't pass his audition, but has found a huge fanbase online for the song he wrote and performed, Manisnya Negeriku, 'The Sweetness of My Country'. The song praises the ethnic and religious diversity of Indonesia, united under the national motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) and Pancasila, the national ideology. The chorus:

Indonesia, our beloved country,

We are all obliged to look after it,

Don't let it be broken apart by outsiders.

Pancasila, the basis of our country,

Under the 1945 Constitution,

Don't let us by played off against each other by other countries.

The song does not mention Australia, but it hits at the heart of sensitivities that often arise in the Australia-Indonesia relationship, usually when Australia is seen as not respecting the territorial sovereignty of Indonesia. [fold]

Australia's hand in East Timor's independence and perceived interference in the Papuan independence movement are viewed as violations of the unity forged by Indonesia in 1945 (though of course neither of these territories were part of Indonesia at that time). Allegations of spying on the president and his inner circle, as well as reports of Australian naval vessels entering Indonesian waters without permission, are understandably received with indignation by a nation that fought for its independence from foreign powers.

The popularity of Pujiono's song online shows that patriotic pride is alive and well in Indonesia's younger generation. The question for Indonesia's upcoming election is whether this patriotism will be expressed as a wish to return to past styles of leadership, or as a commitment to continuing the country's democratic development. In a talk at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dr Marcus Mietzner from the Australian National University characterises the former ambition as belonging to Prabowo Subianto's support base and the latter to those supporting Joko Widodo.

Pujiono's lyrics may sound almost militaristic to outsiders, but his appeal within Indonesia is that he is an everyday citizen who loves his country and wants to make it a better place. The judges on Indonesian Idol may have rejected him for not fitting the usual mould, but if online popularity is any measure, it seems the Indonesian public is looking for a new kind of idol.

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