Putting Into Perspective: Rain, Gridlock, and Election Year

If you’re a Jakartan chances are recently you’ve been held in due to rain outside, stuck in traffic when braving a downpour, or trapped in a flooded area. Some Jakartans have experienced all.

Just as our luck, the wired Jakartans who go on social media to question, discuss or vent are immediately presented with two thin options by the increasingly polarizing Netizens; either the new gubernatorial duo Jokowi-Ahok has done their best, or has failed the worst. Picking one, the other camp would mob you. Trying to be objective, both camps would lynch you. Been there, suffered that.

Flood problems are never one-dimensional. It doesn’t take an expert to see that Jakarta’s drainage and sewage systems are narrow, shallow, disjointed and often incomparable to the volume produced by the neighborhood. To make it worse, the sewers are often clogged by trash or covered on the top by concrete slabs to make parking space—a common sight on previously residential areas turned into commercial like Kebayoran Baru and Kemang. When extra volume of water is pouring during rainy season, it easily fills up the inadequate sewers and has nowhere to flow to but onto the streets.

It then gets really ugly because it will meet the lovechild of poorly disjointed mass transportation system and population’s increased income; the massive amount of private vehicles. Clogged sewers, clogged streets, clogged arteries of our very distressed bodies. Realize how people have started to die in their thirties now?  Jakarta has become very inhospitable to its inhabitants.

Now, what has the new city-province head executives done to improve our living? For starters, the duo has put into effect a few policies to manage better Pasar Tanah Abang, banish illegal parking in certain downtown spots, return busway lane fully to Transjakarta buses and reform bureaucracy under their command. The duo was lucky to start term after the long preparatory stages of MRT and canal cleaning that, let’s all be honest, were initiated and budgeted by the previous governor.

Is it reasonable to expect Jokowi-Ahok to fix floods and traffic problems overnight? Absolutely not. Have the residents shown their appreciation to the early efforts done? In different ways, mostly yes. Are Jakartans eligible to question, criticize, and demand more of their elected leaders 15 months and 2 rainy seasons into their 5-year term? Democratically, resoundingly yes.

Isn’t accountability reviewing by constituents an integral part of democracy? Beyond the extreme first-100-day reviews there’s a more common annual performance reviews. The bad thing about Indonesian bureaucracy is there are no explicit, quantified and time-tabled personal goals for public servants to link to reward & punishment—something that corporate employees have been measured against for decades—so everyone gets subjective and easily polarized into all-positive worshippers or all-negative haters.

Yet the polarizing debate would have probably been less fiery if only this wasn’t presidential election year. Jokowi’s well-documented achievements as mayor of 1-million population Surakarta and early efforts in capital Jakarta has made him a freshly-scrubbed darling for the presidential bourse that’s so far dotted with old faces and their baggage, even if Jokowi himself never announced intention to run. Enough factions vying for him to be on their running ticket, to the point that they get flamingly hostile when a critique, however objectively justified and raised by a Jokowi-Ahok voter, is addressed to Jokowi—in stark contrast to Jokowi’s famed friendly demeanor. On social media some of them may even call you names or accuse you of being paid off, as if one can’t tell the difference between professional (negative) buzzers to random citizens mustering enough intelligence to provide feedback. Insulting at best, damaging to Jokowi’s own long-term leadership at worst.

I value leaders’ commitments more than their smiles. After all, we elect them to lead and execute, not to be our tea-party guests. I think Jokowi and Ahok must step on gears much faster, step on some toes if must, to really turn around this badly-mismanaged metropolitan in the next 3.5 years. New rules may not be needed as much as upholding the current rules for any citizen, even at the risk of being accused of not favoring ‘the little people’—a political capital the duo has been banking on since the beginning—or irking the elite for not turning the other cheek.

Elected leaders to stay full term in office to fulfill campaign promises, especially if the situation is this dire, before I can even think of voting them into a bigger office. For those who’ve argued that if elected Jokowi could still ‘reform’ the 15-million populated DKI Jaya province from Merdeka presidential palace, how colossally egoistic you are to expect the elected President of 245 million citizens to still be absorbed by our monumental problems just because we house his office? Indonesia stretches so far beyond Jakarta and your narrow attention span or political gain, just in case you forgot.

To Jokowi and Ahok, soldier on in Jakarta, much faster and more decisively. Deliver your campaign pledges, like honorable adults do. To Indonesians, Jokowi and Ahok already have full-time jobs, so we need to keep searching elsewhere for presidential candidates however grim these early prospects are because, fellow citizens, that would be the honorable and adult thing for us to do.

As published: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2014/01/18/urban-chat-putting-things-perspective-rain-gridlock-and-election.html

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