Restoring dams, relocating people, and Jokowi's increasing popularity

Riwanto Tirtosudarmo

Solving the problem of regular flooding (and traffic jams) could be the litmus test of any governor of Jakarta. Since the first day in office, Jokowi and Ahok have given top priority to resolving this flooding problem. They are very aware that the impact of flooding could be lethal and paralyzing for Jakarta. Among many other ways to reduce the impact of flooding, they are restoring the dams that were originally designed to be water catchment areas.

One of the immediate impacts of Jokowi's policy on restoring the function of dam as water catchment in the rainy season is the relocation of residents that illegally occupied the land that covered the dam. After successfully relocating them from the Pluit dam in the north Jakarta, Jokowi is turning his attention to the Riario dam, in the east of Jakarta. Apart from relocating residents from dam areas, residents residing in the Ciliwung riverbank and in several slum areas like in Mauara Angke in north Jakarta were also relocated.

The Riario dam is much smaller than the Pluit dam but the issues are just as complex. As the move to revive the dam began, the city government notified around 350 families that they had to move into the apartments that had been prepared for them. There was much resistance to the relocation plan, and negotiation has become a critical part of the relocation process. In the case of the Riario dam, a group of families claimed reside in a legal land that belongs to the family of Adam Malik – a former vice president during the Suharto period. Other groups claimed that they had legal rights to the land, and even possessed land certificates. They even have lodged rights violations complaints against the city with the National Human Rights Committee.

In response to these accusation, Jokowi simply handed (in person) to the office of National Human Right Commission all the legal proof that the land belongs to the city government. Such a response shows how Jokowi (and Ahok) have always based their policies on the existing laws and regulations. In this regard, it is interesting to note how Ahok has always argued that as a state official, he has upheld the constitution, not the constituent.

The Pluit project has been very successful as the dam is restored and has been transformed into a green public space. The residents have been finally relocated into low-cost apartments subsidized by the city government. The public has seen how Jokowi has transformed the slum into a nice city garden where everybody can enjoy the fresh air. Jokowi is very optimistic that Riario will follow the experience of Pluit. He believes that what is needed by the people is a proof of the fulfillment of promises. Although at present Riario's residents still resist relocation, Jokowi is confident that it will be resolved since the new housing complex in Pinus Elok is slowly being redone to be house these relocated residents. The city government also has rearranged the route of public transportation to make it pass by the Pinus Elok apartment, making it easier for residents to move around.

The public has seen Jokowi deliver on his promises; Jokowi is becoming the most popular public figure in Indonesia, as shown by various pooling surveys conducted to rank the most acceptable leader for the next presidential election. The race toward the presidency has already began, although the election isn't until June 2014. The popularity of Jokowi and the attraction to join the race for presidency is actually worrisome, as some think that Jokowi should to focus his energy on solving Jakarta's problems. They worry that if Jokowi becomes president - which is likely - nobody will take care of Jakarta.

Jokow is fully aware of this dilemma, but he could not resist running if his party nominated him as the 2014 presidental candidate. Although he has always said that he isn't interested being president and argued that he wants to focus on solving Jakarta's problems, he has, in some occasions, seemed to imply that Jakarta's problems cannot be solved by the governor alone, and that a higher level of government is needed to take care of Jakarta. Some therefore think that if Jokowi became president, he would be in a better position to resolve Jakarta's problems.

As the press continues reporting almost everything he does, everybody knows that the decision is in the hands of his party chairwomen Megawati Soekarnoputri. So far, no decision has been made, but as public pressure increases, it seem that there is no other alternative to Jokowi being nominated as the 2014 presidental candidate.

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