For many, the inauguration of Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, the first ethnic Chinese Jakarta governor, means more than having a new leader in the capital.
East Jakarta resident Yuanita, 22, who is also of Chinese descent, said that the inauguration, led by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo — Ahok’s former boss — at the State Palace, indicated that society had embraced diversity and tolerance.
“Frankly, I am proud to see Pak Ahok, who is also of Chinese descent like me, being inaugurated to lead Jakarta. It is evidence that someone from a minority group has been acknowledged and even trusted to become a regional leader in a place as important as Jakarta,” she said in Jakarta on Wednesday, adding, “I am sure my parents also share my feelings.”
Support for Ahok, who has seen opposition from hard-line groups, including the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), has continuously flowed both offline and online.
On inauguration day, the hashtag #gubernurAhok topped trending topics on Twitter, with tens of thousands of tweets expressing support for Ahok simultaneously posted by Twitter users across the country.
Twitter user @ekasundari2, tweeted “To Ahok: You will never walk alone!”
Nurhasan, a Central Jakarta resident, said that she fully supported the Jakarta governor, regardless of his religious and ethnic background.
“I don’t really care about background as long as he is a good person, of course I will support him,” she said, adding that she hoped Ahok would soon bring about change for the better in the capital city.
A street vendor in Central Jakarta, Dewi Nukman, shared the sentiment, saying, “I like Ahok for his firmness. I hope he will help us street vendors. Please manage street vendors but don’t get rid of us,” she stated.
Ahok’s ascension was also welcomed by his subordinates in the city administration.
A civil servant with the city administration, Ruki Munggaran, said civil servants had anticipated a change in leadership style after Ahok officially replaced his predecessor, Jokowi.
“Pak Jokowi was the type of leader who preferred to make decisions in the field, while Pak Ahok prefers to do so behind his desk. We expect changes but it won’t change the fact that he is the kind of leader who works fast and expects immediate results,” he said, adding that he hoped all civil servants could immediately catch up with Ahok’s speed and no-nonsense leadership style.
City Secretary Saefullah pointed out that Ahok had already instructed his subordinates to immediately review programs for 2015.
“The city budget for next year will prioritize public transportation and low-cost apartments. We aim to get rid of slum areas and relocate the residents to low-cost apartments. In two years, should the programs run smoothly and consistently, the capital’s face will have changed,” he said.
The president director of city-owned bus operator PT Transjakarta, ANS Kosasih, said he was upbeat that public transportation in the capital would be improved in the near future.
“Improving the Transjakarta bus system has always been among Pak Ahok’s priorities. So I am sure our programs to expand the fleet and refurbish bus shelters will run smoothly because the company has been guaranteed support not only by the governor but also the President,” he said.
Amid the support and best wishes, resident Puti Almas only hoped that Ahok would not leave the capital before his tenure ended.
“I just hope he will work hard and complete his tenure until 2017,” she said.