Sunday, May 14, 2017

Why I Came Back - Oprah: "Life is like a cup of coffee" (Part 1 of 4)


I just read a blog post by Petrus Wu titled “Ahok Dipenjara, Buat Apa Pulang ke Indonesia” (Ahok jailed, what would you return home to Indonesia for)

I’d like to share three personal stories to answer it.

My first story is about love, stronger than fear.

It began on Valentine’s Day 2017 – a day before historic election for governor of Jakarta. For the very first time in Indonesia’s history, a man with double minority background – Pak Ahok is both non-Muslim and of Chinese heritage – stood as incumbent for election as governor of the Special Capital District.

I was helping Swiss Radio with an official reporting. We toured Kalijodo – a slum and a red-light district which was once illegally built on flood canals, now turned into a public park. Then we visited Marunda – where apartment blocks were built to house the people relocated from Kalijodo. To understand the people who were about to vote the next day.

Of course we hear the common theme. That the relocation process – led by Pak Ahok – was “inhumane”. Many were relocated against their will. People lost their livelihoods and incomes. Sex tourists used to visit Kalijodo in droves, spending millions of dollars annually on sex and entertainment. Not everyone was involved in the sex industry of course – many others sell halal food, daily essentials, and normal clothes. But without the cash provided by the sex industry, now nobody has money to spend. Such is the situation in Marunda: plenty of legacy shops from Kalijodo, but no customers with cash to spend.

It was no surprise that the majority seem to reserve their hatred for the incumbent Governor. That “Chinese Pig”.

Curiously, though – there were also some who quietly reserve appreciation for Pak Ahok. “My house used to flood every year up to the roof. We once slept for a whole month in the attic. With rats and filth. Now we have a nice flat, with proper and clean kitchen. Our kids go to school gratis. Even transportation on public bus is free of charge. We can’t be more thankful. But we can’t vote for him, because for Muslims it is haram to vote for a Christian.”


February 15th, 2017. The day of the first round of voting. Full of hope, I arrived at the poll station at 8 AM sharp. I posted the picture of my ink-stained pinky on Facebook.


February 16th, 2017. The official results from KPU – the election committee – came out. As an engineer and data scientist, I scoured over the data – down to the specific neighborhoods and apartment blocks. And I was in for quite a shock. In some apartment blocks housing relocated Kalijodo residents, Ahok won the first round outright by 40% of the vote. Forty percent!!!

Let’s put that in perspective: at least half the population in Marunda were directly connected to the lucrative sex trade, and they were vivid about their hatred for Ahok for taking away their sex-funded lifestyle.

Yet 40% meant that nearly all those who worked “halal” lives voted for him. That’s a hell lot of Muslims who dared to defy their imams and risk eternity in hell. We are not talking about 2 years of jail sentence here. We are talking about eternity in hell. Yet virtually all those devout Muslims who lived “halal” lives – defied their imams and voted for Pak Ahok.

Indonesia’s highest Muslim body, the MUI – equivalent of Vatican’s college of cardinal – has decreed that casting a vote for Pak Ahok is haram. Casting vote for Pak Ahok is like eating pork or enjoy pre-marital sex. It’s haram. Illegal in the eye of Islam. Those voting for Ahok risk eternity in hell. Yet they took the risk.


By the numbers: 85% of registered Jakarta residents are Muslims. Simple math will show that there are more Muslims voting for Pak Ahok than there are non-Muslims in Jakarta (and there are many non-Muslims who did not vote for Pak Ahok for their allergies of clean and transparent government).

Behind the thousands of candles lit the night he was incarcerated – are the 1.7 million Muslims plus 0.5 million non-Muslims who had quietly cast their votes for the man who had changed their lives. Who had touched their hearts. For the man they believed could change the world.

That is love – stronger than fear.

So why, do you ask, he is now in jail? For all his service – why is he in jail?

Because his struggle is not yet done. Our struggle is not yet done. Pak Ahok has changed the lives of many and touched the hearts of many. But not enough. Not enough. Not yet enough.

Pak Ahok has changed the lives of the thousands now living in Marunda flats – and they voted for him. Pak Ahok has changed the lives of the thousands who live in Kalijodo – and they voted for him.

Never allow the “opinion” of three judges to blur that fact.

Pak Ahok has only been in the job for 2 years. The job is not yet done. The fight must go on. The struggle must continue.

So, if you ask “what for”? The first answer is: to pick up the baton and to spread love, stronger than fear.

( … to be continued … )