21st Century Leadership

[dropcap] C [/dropcap]ongratulations to Pak Joko Widodo (53), newly installed as President of Indonesia!


I first went to Indonesia in 1998 a few days after Suharto, dictator for 31 years, was deposed. The city of Jakarta was in shambles as many were killed in the confrontation between the military and the civilians who wanted democratic change.

Since then, four presidents have sought to bring prosperity and change to the nation with varying degrees of success. These well meaning leaders have all helped the established interests of those who have profited from political connections and corruption. Their interests have mostly ignored the poor and have severely limited the development of the nation.

In the meantime, a man coming from among the common people was emerging as a leader interested in efficiency, honesty and real change for the nation.


The first day of a new Indonesia

Enter Jokowi, a man of unparalleled contrasts. A furniture salesman who was impressed with the social justice he saw in Europe and wanted the same for his people. He decided to enter politics without the support of any of the existing political parties and became the mayor of his hometown Solo in Central Java. After a very successful tenure, he decided to run for leadership of the capital city Jakarta.

He surprised everyone by choosing as his running mate Ahok, a Chinese Christian. He won the elections and their leadership has positively changed Jakarta in unprecedented ways.

Today (yesterday in Indonesia) starts a new day for the nation. Jokowi faces significant economic, social and political challenges but he faces them with the calm assurance that as long as people understand the issues they will work with him to improve the lives of 260 million Indonesians.

He has offered to set up a one-stop shop for investors to speed up business permits within six months, gradually cut fuel subsidies within three years, move tax collection online and prioritize maritime logistics and mass public transportation.

Internet for the Village

As President elect Joko Widodo awaits his inauguration next October 20 he has been laying out the ground rules for his administration. In his usual style, he is talking to the common people in the villages, street markets, sports halls as well as diplomatic representatives and visiting business leaders.

Jokowi and Mark FB

Jokowi took Mark to Tanah Abang a traditional market. There, he got him pair of pants.

Yesterday, Mark Zukerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook was in Jakarta for the Internet Developers Summit.

Indonesians are hooked on Facebook. There are 69 million Facebook users out of a population of 251 million (estimate 2014). Making the country the fourth largest FB user in the world, 1 in 4 locals are FB active!

Jokowi, as the new President is affectionally known, wants to empower all Indonesians through education and sustainable business practices and he is convinced that the Internet plays a key role in that process.

Zukerberg’s initiative internet.org has been specifically designed to make that possible. He describes it as a global partnership dedicated to making affordable internet access available to the two-thirds of the world not yet connected by making information available to more people everywhere and by providing more affordable devices, Mark’s initiative is at the forefront of empowering the people in the village at every level.

Out of the mouths of children

Once again young people are making their voices heard at the global stage.

While the implications of the youth led Arab Spring Movement are still being sorted in several nations, young people in Hong Kong are standing up to challenge the seemingly absolute power of Beijing.

Joshua Wong

Joshua Wong speaks persuasively in favor of democracy for Hong Kong

Joshua Wong, who turned 18 yesterday has emerged as one the iconic faces of the Hong Kong Occupy Movement. The skinny young man started his leadership career a couple of years ago when new rules were drafted to teach a new form of Patriotism. He disagreed with the decision and launched the Scholastics Movement designed to oppose changes to the curriculum. The government rescinded it’s plans and Joshua and his friends when back to their classrooms. 

This time, however the stakes are much higher for the protests are directed at decisions made at the highest levels of government of both Hong Kong and China. Joshua was arrested for 40 hours and his detention stirred a response which has brought tens of thousands blocking traffic in one of the worlds most important financial hubs.

However, Joshua is just but one of the unprecedented number of people who have taken peacefully and in remarkable order to the streets demanding that the leaders of the nation live up to the commitments made when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997… the year Joshua was born.

In reality the chances of their success seem quite limited, after all soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are standing nearby ready to follow orders and fully capable to eliminating any dissent.

To understand the reckless behavior of the normally obedient and compliant young people of Hong Kong one must realize that they are standing up for the democratic process promised under the ideal of “One nation, two systems”. This was a solemn agreement signed by the highest representatives of both China and Great Britain. 

Secondly, it is important to recognize that in a very small nation with one of the highest population densities only the full freedoms of a democratic process would afford equal opportunities to the majority. Besides, even if they were allowed to vote for their chosen candidates, China would retain all power as Hong Kong can not make foreign policy decisions and does not have an army.

Thirdly and perhaps of equal importance is the faith which drives Joshua and his friends. As followers of the way of Jesus, they look to the future full of hope and expectation. Furthermore they are clearly motivated by a unparalleled commitment to love their neighbors as they love themselves. This is what explains their rejection of violence as a tool and their unwavering respect for authority.

At a time of increasing political apathy these youthful protestors of Hong Kong are presenting us with a great challenge and a practical model to let our voices be heard.

The question are, are we listening? And will we take steps to also respond to the injustices in our communities?