A Call to Occupy In Indonesia Needs more than Twitter

What would it take to occupy Indonesia’s parliament?

Sara Schonhardt

What would it take to occupy Indonesia’s parliament?

A lot more than a hashtag on social media, says Pangeran Siahaan, a writer and political satirist trying to move online protests into the streets.

“We signed the online petition, of course we tweeted the hashtags, but we have to come together as a society,” said Mr. Siahaan. “Protests have to happen on a bigger and more massive scale.”

Globally, rally cries that began online turned into occupy movements on Wall Street and, now, in Hong Kong. In Indonesia, the hashtag #occupyDPR popped up on Twitter after lawmakers at the House of Representatives, or DPR, voted to pass a law that scraps direct elections for governors, mayors and district heads.

The call gained support after the House erupted into chaos on its first day, with some lawmakers walking out on swearing in where the most important posts went to a coalition of parties opposed to president-elect Joko Widodo.

But Mr. Siahaan says trying to organize people isn’t easy without the support of key influencers.

The 27-year-old co-founded Ayo Vote, an initiative aimed at encouraging youth to participate in elections. He is now part of a coalition of non-governmental organizations working to get people out to the streets to voice their opposition to the newly passed legislation. Although it is being contested in court and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is pushing a decree to reverse the law, it is set to go into effect within the next three weeks.

Among the people protesting the elections change, he said, are those who think going to the street is not necessary, while others think that just tweeting protests isn’t effective.

“I still believe going to the street is the ultimate embodiment of democracy, that you can show force,” said Mr. Siahaan. But that requires the help of what he calls the “Twitter elite,” those with hundreds of thousands of followers, the influence and the access to reach the masses.

“It has to be wider than the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) – it has to include the real people, students. The beautiful thing about the protests in Hong Kong is that it’s the common people. We need those people to join the protests.”

Haris Azhar, a coordinator at a human rights commission and former student protester during Indonesia’s reform movement in the 1990s, says social media is at least a way of inviting people to participate. His organization has registered 4,000 people who are seeking court challenges to the new elections law and helped arrange a small street protest in Jakarta last weekend. He says as anger over the current political fracas grows, the street protests will too.

People are disappointed with their lawmakers, he said. “Disappointment is a good reason” to take to the streets.

For the moment, people are just starting to express interest in an occupy movement (at least, on social media).

But Mr. Siahaan says he doesn’t think an occupy push will happen any time soon in Indonesia. Several people asked by The Wall Street Journal said they were bored of politics, they weren’t interested or didn’t have the time.

“I have to work to make a living,” said Komang, 30, who works for a motorbike rental kiosk in Bali. “Politics, that’s just how it is.”

Mr. Siahaan said many people don’t care about the parliament because they don’t know who the members are – and after the chaos on Thursday, many have said it’s proof of why they don’t get involved in politics.

Mr. Siahaan argues that’s exactly why people should vote, though he also recognizes that carving a chunk out of the day to go occupy the parliament building is a big ask for most people. At the moment, people are sticking by with the Internet because, well, it’s just easier, he says.

SOURCE blogs.wsj.com