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This week in Jakarta: Rivalries, 'Twiplomacy', Pancasila and a 'Funtasy' spat

This week in Jakarta: Rivalries, 'Twiplomacy', Pancasila and a 'Funtasy' spat
Published 3 Jun 2016 

Indonesia and Singapore verged on a diplomatic spat this week over a collection of islets renamed the 'Funtasy Island' eco-resort. Meanwhile, Jakarta governor Ahok discovered that he has a million friends but still a few enemies, while President Jokowi established a new public holiday and was named among the most effective world leaders in Twitter diplomacy.

Gedung Pancasila, scene of Sukarno's Pancasila speech of 1945. (Flickr/sbamueller.)

The Indonesian military dispatched troops to the Pulau Manis islands in Batam this week to assert sovereignty over the Singapore-run 'Funtasy Island' eco-resort, due to open at the end of the year. Red and white flags were reportedly planted by the troops on the highest point of one of the islets to remind Singapore who the territory belongs to. The move was prompted by an insensitively designed map on the resort's website that presented 'Funtasy Island' in the same colour blue as the rest of Singapore's territory, rather than in white like the rest of Indonesia.

The colour coding of the map  was questioned by the Riau Islands Tourism Agency, and one maritime expert urged Indonesia's foreign minister Retno Marsudi to send a letter of protest to Singapore over the incident. Further concerns were raised that the eco-resort would only be accessible by direct ferry from Singapore, excluding local access from Indonesia. But Singapore's foreign ministry assured Indonesia that there was no dispute over the territory. Indonesia's foreign ministry on Wednesday agreed that the issue was 'basically resolved'. The online map has since been redesigned, with the resort coloured red to resemble the Indonesian flag.

In Jakarta, another rivalry was played out this week between Governor Ahok and his would-be political opponent Ahmad Dhani. While Ahok's supporters held a successful fundraising fair for his campaign over the weekend, Dhani's plans for an anti-Ahok concert were shut down by police. [fold]

Both Ahok and Dhani have roots in Prabowo's Gerindra party — Ahok is a former member, while Dhani is a longtime supporter who even lent his rock 'n' roll talents and inappropriate fashion sense to a bungled campaign video during the presidential election. But now Dhani appears to be on a mission to take down his former ally.

After realising it would be too expensive to take Ahok on directly for the governorship, Dhani rallied Ahok's opponents last month to forge an alliance called Orang Kita ('Our People'), in what could easily be interpreted as a racial dig at the governor's minority Chinese ethnicity.

In his latest efforts, the singer this week planned to hold a protest concert outside the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) using the slogan 'Arrest Ahok'. But police stopped the convoy of vehicles bringing sound equipment to the KPK, saying the demonstration did not have a permit and would obstruct traffic. Dhani complained to the press that police said his protest was cancelled by order of President Jokowi, which the police outright denied.

Ahok's volunteer support group Teman Ahok ('Friends of Ahok') staged a crowded fun fair on the weekend, raising up to $142,000 to continue collecting pledges from voters to back Ahok's run as an independent candidate. Entertainment included performances by popular indie bands, a hipster food market and, reports say, an opera telling the story of Ahok's life. Using the tagline 'A Million Friends, a Million Hopes', the event was hailed as a new style of campaigning in Indonesian politics.

President Jokowi was also busy winning friends this week by adding a new public holiday to the already crowded state calendar. The president on Wednesday named the first of June 'Pancasila Day' to commemorate the foundation of the Pancasila, the five principles that make up the national ideology. However, since the announcement was made on the day itself, it was decided that the public holiday would come into effect in 2017.

The Pancasila was established by Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, who is also the father of Jokowi's party leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri. It has been used in different ways by different presidents. Sukarno used it to unite the Republic of Indonesia as a religious, but not Islamic, state. The second president, Suharto, later used it as a tool for suppressing opposition by requiring all political parties and mass organisations to use the Pancasila as their foundational ideology. Announcing the new holiday this week, Jokowi said the Pancasila represents Indonesia's ability to stop 'terrorism, extremism and radicalism' while promoting peace, tolerance and diversity.

If not friends, then the President certainly has a lot of followers. Jokowi this week ranked high among world leaders in a study of Twitter diplomacy. In the '2016 Twiplomacy Study' conducted by New York-based PR firm Burson-Marsteller, Jokowi came in as the 12th most followed and ninth most influential world leader on Twitter. In both cases, the Indonesian president was outranked by leaders in the US, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, and the Pope in the Vatican.

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