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A wave of criticism by Indonesia’s academic community against the leadership of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo continues to grow as the republic faces a presidential election next week.

In the latest incident a council of professors, rectors and students at Yogyakarta Muhammadiyah University (UMY) in Bantul, Yogyakarta province, has issued a national message and moral appeal to “Safeguard Indonesian Democracy”.

In a statement read by UMY’s Professor Akif Khilmiyah last Sunday, the academics and students stated that an escalation of constitutional violations and the loss of state ethics had continued over the past year.

“Starting with the emasculation of the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission], officials who are fond of corruption, the DPR [House of Representatives] which does not function to defend the country’s children and some MK [Constitutional Court] judges who do not have any ethics or self-respect,” she said.

The culmination this, continued Professor Khilmiyah, was the “shackling” of the Constitutional Court judges by the “ambitions of the country’s rulers” and a loss of ethics in the political contest ahead of the 2024 elections on February 14 — Valentine’s Day.

Instead of thinking about ordinary people who were “eliminated by the power of the oligarchy“, according to Professor Khilmiyah, the country’s rulers appeared ambitious and were busy pursuing and perpetuating their power.

“The fragility of the state’s foundations is almost complete because the state’s administrators, the government, the DPR and the judiciary have failed to set a good example in maintaining their compliance with the principles of the constitution and the country’s ethics that should be obeyed wholeheartedly,” she said.

Upholding principles
As a democratic country and based on the constitution, state administrators should be the best examples of upholding the principles of the constitution and setting an example in upholding the country’s ethics for citizens.

Without this, the professor said, the Republic of Indonesia was at risk of becoming a failed state.

“Without exemplary state administrators, Indonesia will be on the verge of become a failed state,” she said.

The ordinary people must be active in reminding all state administrators so they complied with the constitution and cared for Indonesian democracy.

“[We] urge the President of the Republic of Indonesia to carry out his constitutional obligations as a state administrator to realise the implementation of the 2024 elections that are honest and fair,” Professor Khilmiyah said.

“The use of state facilities with all the authority they possess represents a serious constitutional violation,” she said, reading out the demands of professors and the UMY academic community.

The academics urged the political parties to stop the practice of money politics and abuse of power in the 2024 election contest, demanding that they prioritise political ideas and education to enlighten ordinary people.

Independent judiciary
They demanded that judicial institutions, namely the Supreme Court and the courts under its authority and the Constitutional Court, be independent and impartial in handling various disputes and violations during the 2024 elections.

Appealing to all Indonesian people to jointly safeguard the implementation of the 2024 elections so that they were dignified, honest and fair to enable the election of a leader who was visionary and had the courage to uphold the principles of the constitution.

The wave of criticism from campuses around Indonesia has continued to spread.

Earlier, several campuses issued petitions addressed to President Widodo, starting with the Gajah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, Central Java, which released a “Bulaksumur Petition” (a long road hemmed in by rice fields where a well is found) because of their disappointment with one of the graduates of the university — President Widodo.

Protests on campus by the academic community against the Widodo leadership then became more widespread such as at the State Islamic University (UII) in Yogyakarta which called for an “Indonesian Statesmanship Emergency”.

Last Friday, on February 2, at least three more campuses issued statements criticising President Widodo. In a statement, the University of Indonesia (UI) claimed it had been called on to beat the drums of war to restore democracy.

Meanwhile, several professors and academics from Hasanuddin University (Unhas) in the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar warned President Widodo and all state officials, law enforcement officers and political actors in the cabinet to remain within the corridors of democracy, prioritising popular values and social justice and a sense of comfort in democracy.

Lecturer coalition
A coalition of lecturers from Mulawarman University (Unmul) in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, also joined in calling on people to take a stand to save democracy and asked President Widodo not to take sides in the 2024 elections.

The palace itself has already responded to the wave of calls from Indonesian campuses. Presidential Special Staff Coordinator Ari Dwipayana responded by saying it was normal for a contest of opinions to emerge ahead of elections. He also touched on partisan political strategies.

“We are paying close attention in this political year, ahead of elections a contest of opinion will definitely emerge, the herding of opinions,” said Dwipayana.

“A contest of opinions in a political contestation is something that is also normal. Moreover it’s related to partisan political strategies for electoral politics.”

Nevertheless, Dwipayana emphasised that the criticism by campus academics represented a form of free speech and was a citizen’s democratic right.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “UMY Kritik Pemerintahan Jokowi: RI di Ambang Pintu Jadi Negara Gagal”.

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