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Petruk Pengen Terus Dadi Ratu (Petruk Insists to Continue Being the King)

April 21, 2017

This week in TWISEA we are featuring an article by our MA student Dimas Romadhon in response to Dr. Giora Eliraz’s article “Ahok, Islamism and Indonesian Democracy.”

Petruk suddenly becomes king. He leads rudely, but he is correct. He bulldozes the dilapidated system of the existing government. He challenges old rulers and elites, strips down their abominations. People, who had no power in the past, now are cheering. The deceitful old leader, corrupt family, and cronies who sucked people’s blood were all burned by Petruk into char. All done overnight.

Then Semar comes and says, “It’s enough, Son, go back home.”


The play above is familiarly known as Petruk dadi Ratu (Petruk becomes the king). This is a play about politics, about democracy. Petruk, only an ordinary people with no support from political elites, surprisingly became a king. He destroyed the bad system of past government, devastated the bureaucracy, and attacked those who enjoyed authorities around the throne. He came to power and became the public’s idol. Petruk is like Ahok, the incumbent Jakarta governor who ran for his second election. He was a man of nowhere and came from a minority. He was assertive and bold, hit fro, reformatted the system, and silenced dirty politicians. But what placed him as the center of attention during the local election in Jakarta is that he was accused of blasphemy by a number of (Islamic) organizations.

The second cycle of the local election has recently been held in Jakarta on April 19. The winner has not been officially concluded, but according to the results of the Quick Counts from survey institutions, Ahok lost by a large enough margins, up to 9%. Popping news skewed, even before the Election Day, that Ahok’s loss will prove Islamists and intolerant movements’ victory upon democracy in the nation. Dr. Giora Eliraz’s article titled Ahok, Islamism and Indonesian Democracy published by Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council writes that Ahok’s case is a challenge for national maxim “Unity in Diversity” embraced by Indonesians. In his analysis, Eliraz argues that Islamism movements in Indonesia, that are currently accusing Ahok for blasphemy, is rooted in the debate between Islamists and secularists during the early formation of the Five Principles (Pancasila). On later days, this Islamist movement was closely related to DI/TII rebellion led by Kartosuwiryo. Fortunately, said Eliraz, democracy in Indonesia has been mature enough to face religious issues, proven by Ahok’s win at the first cycle of Jakarta election.

I think the opinion that Ahok loss will damage the value of democracy in Indonesia is a naïve opinion. What if the Ahok case is just a scapegoat for Ahok’s declining electability after a spate of unpopular policies? Massive relocation, reclamation plus Ahok rough’s and stubborn attitude of course also contribute several percents to Anies’s votes. We also need to look at Jokowi’s factor in making Ahok governor. The pair won the 2012 local election in Jakarta before Jokowi left his position for being president in 2014 and the governor position was automatically given to Ahok. This 2017 loss indicates that Jokowi (and Ahok as a pair) was actually elected by Jakarta citizens in 2012 election. So when Ahok paired with Djarot, who has no strong roots in the capital city, the electability would not be the same as the 2012 result. Their rival is Anies, a former minister, who is pairing with Sandiaga, a popular businessman. These factors also need to be considered by observers as well as Ahok supporters, who are known as loyal and die-hard, as the reasons for the defeat of Ahok.

Something we learned from Ahok case is that in this democratic era, Indonesian politicians are still immature. The principle of not mixing religion and politics should be interpreted broadly as not to bring any religious issues into the campaign, not even from his own religion or someone else’s religion. It should be understood as a basic manner for politicians, not only Ahok. For the same understanding, Nahdlatul Ulama, the biggest Muslim movement in Indonesia dissolved the NU Party in 1984 so that no more religious issues would be used as a commodity within politics. Due to the use of religion as a commodity in his campaign, Ahok seemed to provide an open stage for hard-line Islamists movements to re-appear in Indonesian’s political milieu. If Eliraz argues that “the current excited reaction by the Islamists … will prove again that the prospects of realizing their vision in the Indonesia polity are fading even further than view, rather than any confidence on their part,” the fact in Jakarta shows differently, that the using of religion as commodity in politics appeared as an opportunity for reintroducing the hardline Islamists’ vision. It can be seen from millions of people who came to Jakarta for anti-Ahok demonstrations initiated by the Islamists. Compare it to the number of people who joined the hard-line Islamists actions before the Ahok case. We can see the difference.

In addition, we have to stop to see what happens in Jakarta as a reflection of Indonesia. Regardless of Jakarta being the capital of the state, Indonesia is too vast and diverse to be assessed only from a small region named Jakarta. Even Uhlenbeck (1964) and Osterhammel (2010), who study colonialism in the Dutch East Indies, argue that Batavia (now Jakarta) has been uprooted from being a part of Java, even Indonesia. Why do we still insist to make democracy in Jakarta as a reflection of democracy in Indonesia? Relating to minority issues in elections, please take a look at Sula Island, North Maluku, where a Chinese-Christian figure from a minority won the local election.

And now we get back to the wayang play Petruk dadi Ratu. One thing to keep in mind is that Petruk was only on the throne in one night. What if Petruk refused to stop and continued to run for his second night on the throne?


Petruk Pengen Terus Dadi Ratu (Petruk Insists to Continue Being the King)

“It’s enough, son. The second night will not be the same.”

“But Romo, my people need me. I have made a new foundation for the emerging system, a restoration of bureaucracy. This is what my people need and it is not finished yet. Don’t worry. I am with them. I will not fall into the political elites’ circle.”

“Son, stone in the river shifts when a small stream of water breaks through its gap. Teak becomes brittle when a termite begins digging at its branch. Of the power at this moment you stand on, there will be a small greed to shift your legs and make your standpoint brittle.

“Romo, I have passed the first night, and I am not shifting, I still can see clear enough. I grow stronger because my people become the root that plugs my body deep into the earth. Look, when I was in war with political parties, they independently formed the Kawan Petruk movement to support me.”

“Son oh my son, they supported Petruk who was independent and the overnight king, not Petruk who wants to save his throne. They love you because you bravely challenged the elites who entrenched at the palace. They love you because you were not a part of the corrupt and disgusting system. But where are you now? You kiss their feet, elites whom you spat on last night. You ask for their support while you left those who independently supported you.

“They, my people, still love me. They still defend me even when I know I have acted too bad.”

“That’s your failure. You are a deified leader. A deified leader will turn off the logic. Their support will only make you feel you can do anything you want. And soon after that, you will forget all your vision.”

“Romo, democracy allows someone unknown like me to be a leader. And if I win, it will be the enforcement of real democracy.”

“You are too lulled by the dream of minority democracy, you forget that in democracy, there should not be a too revered leader. Democracy is all about listening to the people, not only about people support.”

Petruk silences, his eyes narrowed refusing his Romo’s words. Semar walks away, slowly. His body trembles anytime he steps down his feet.

“I came to tell you this as I know you are not you last night. You, in this present, are no different from those whom you kicked away from the palace. It is not about minority rights that you said to me minutes ago. Minority is only a commodity that people can sell to everywhere in every occasion. I came to you because I know your heart has passed the line. Your heart is uncontrolled like your actions and your words. You are no different from those elites that you spat on last night, but you are more uncontrolled. I have reminded you, my son, I have reminded you. And I think my duty has been fulfilled. I have another task to do. I have to decentralize the world by now so that no one can say that the world is in trouble only from seeing troubles in your kingdom. I am leaving.”



Disclaimer: Opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily the Southeast Asia Center.