Monday 18 Feb 2019 | 05:40 | SYDNEY
Monday 18 Feb 2019 | 05:40 | SYDNEY

This week in Jakarta: Uber, Batman and radicals



18 March 2016 08:23

As many as 2000 drivers of taxis, buses and motorised rickshaws went on strike in Jakarta this week over what they called unfair competition from ride-hailing apps. Mobile applications like the San Fransisco-based Uber, as well as Singapore's Grab and the homegrown Go-Jek, have transformed Jakarta's transportation sector over the past year, finding an eager audience among the city's gridlocked commuters.

It's a familiar tale from other parts of the world, including Australia, in that Jakarta's taxi drivers are demanding that app-based drivers be brought to a level playing field. But in Jakarta, the playing field is more like an undefined arena of informal transport providers, formal cooperatives, public transport services and more than a dozen taxi companies of varied repute. 

Tunnel boring machines on Jakarta's streets for construction of the Mass Rapid Transit system. (Getty/Barcroft Media.)

As construction work continues on a mass rapid transit (MRT) system optimistically due to open mid next year, worsening traffic conditions have driven commuters to embrace a growing selection of app-based services, including those offering door-to-door transport, shopping, food delivery and even beauty treatments. Innovations like these have been welcomed by the city government, keen to keep business growing and a daytime population of more than 20 million people on the move. A short-lived ban in December by the Transportation Ministry on ride-hailing apps lasted for less than 24 hours, as public outrage prompted President Jokowi to reverse the ban in support of Indonesia's growing mobile app industry.

In the wake of this week's protests, the central government was quick to offer a longer-lasting solution: ride-hailing apps would be encouraged to form cooperatives from which to operate legally in line with regulations under the Transportation Ministry. The Communication Ministry also offered to assist app-based transport services providers in securing appropriate permits for their businesses. By Wednesday, GrabCar had already formed the Indonesian Car Rental Cooperative (PPRI) and had it recognised by the government. In response, public transport drivers have threatened a repeat of protests this coming Monday.

In local politics, Governor Ahok is still riding high on last week's announcement of his plan to run as an independent in next year's election.

His volunteer campaigners at Teman Ahok have reported a renewed outpouring of public support in the past week, bringing the number of registered pledges of support from voters to nearly 100,000. Aside from these 'Friends of Ahok', the governor has also found a new source of support from a group calling itself 'Batman', forcing the acronym from a title based around the governor's full name: Basuki Tjahaja Purnama Mania. The name has been embraced by local news editors who now get to pen headlines like 'Why Batman Supports Ahok'. In its public statements, the group has compared Jakarta to Gotham City, saying it needs a 'Batman without a mask' like Ahok to eradicate crime in the capital.

But not everyone is elated by the governor's news. Suspiciously soon after Ahok announced his independent run,  factions in parliament moved to raise the quota of public support needed to approve independent candidates in regional elections. Currently, independent candidates must secure pledges of support from 6.5-10% of the voter list to run in an election. One commission in the House of Representatives this week suggested the possibility of raising the quota to as much as 15-20%, in line with the requirement for political parties. However, the suggestion was swiftly rejected. The burgeoning support for Ahok as an independent has revealed declining confidence in the major parties, and has sparked warnings regarding the consequences of deparpolisasi, or party decline. 

Meanwhile, as Australia's travel advisory for Indonesia continues to warn of advanced plans for terrorist attacks, Indonesian authorities claim to have the country's most-wanted terrorist surrounded in the jungles of Central Sulawesi. Santoso, leader of the pro-ISIS East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), is said to have been located within a five-square-kilometre area with a group of supporters. Three women claiming links to the group have announced their intention to surrender, one of them rumoured to be Santoso's wife.

The National Counterterrorism Agency this week has warned that stronger deradicalisation efforts are needed to effectively eradicate terrorism in Indonesia. One of the perpetrators involved in the recent attack in Jakarta was found to be a former terrorist convict, indicating a failure to deradicalise known terrorists. 

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