President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo proved again his commitment to give a direct and personal touch to various issues in the country by holding a teleconference with Indonesian migrant workers in several countries on Sunday.
In an activity he called an “e-blusukan” (which means meeting citizens through a video call), the President conversed virtually with representatives of migrant workers from eight countries and made some crucial decisions to ease problems faced by Indonesians working overseas.
The e-blusukan took place at the Bina Graha presidential office. President Jokowi was accompanied by, among others, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and Manpower Minister Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri.
Yatik, a migrant worker in Singapore, asked Jokowi to review a policy that obligates migrant workers to have an overseas working card, known as a KTKLN, since it made them subject to extortion and discrimination by immigration and airport officials.
“If the government cannot eradicate such problems, then we are hoping to see the KTKLN card scrapped,” she said.
While most of the migrant workers involved in the video conference highlighted financial problems, like rampant extortion and high-cost placement fees, a migrant worker in South Korea preferred to use his face-to-face conversation with the President to request the extension of the operating schedule of the local Indonesian Embassy.
“Please open the embassy on Saturday and Sunday because we only have holidays on weekends,” he said.
Learning from the workers’ complaints, Jokowi, who was surrounded by dozens of his former volunteers from his presidential campaign, surprised his ministers by making some on-the-spot decisions.
“We are scrapping the KTKLN,” he said, an announcement that was followed by applause from the migrant workers, whose faces appeared on a large screen.
Jokowi also quickly asked Retno, who sat beside him, to extend the operating hours of the Indonesian Embassy in Seoul.
“I have asked the foreign minister to open [the embassy] on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Will it be enough?” he asked a group of migrant workers in South Korea.
Shortly after being inaugurated on Oct. 20, President Jokowi held a teleconference with residents in various cities across Indonesia to hear their views on urban problems.
Jokowi later combined the practise with the concept of his signature impromptu visits, known as blusukan, that he often undertook when serving as Surakarta mayor and Jakarta governor.
A second teleconference took place a few weeks later, during which Jokowi talked to a number of residents who had fled from natural disasters in Aceh and Sinabung.
Sunday’s teleconference was the first time Jokowi involved Indonesians living overseas.
Ainun Najib, an Indonesian IT expert living in Singapore, appreciated the President’s efforts to seek feedback from the public.
Ainun, the man behind kawalpemilu.org, a website that independently tabulated and published vote counts from the General Elections Commission’s (KPU) website, even loaned his apartment to accommodate two dozen migrant workers who wanted to directly communicate with the President.
“We set up the teleconference independently,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Migrant-worker representatives in Saudi Arabia, however, were unable to share their problems since their Internet connection could only deliver their images, not their voices.
Sony Subrata, Jokowi’s former campaign volunteer who organized the President’s e-blusukan, admitted that the virtual conversation, which was set up independently by volunteers, was prone to technical errors.
“Unlike video conferences facilitated by the Indonesian embassies, this e-blusukan has been set up independently by volunteers who can choose their gathering location,” he said.