December 21, 2023
JAKARTA – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was absent from Gadjah Mada University’s (UGM) anniversary event in Yogyakarta on Tuesday after strong remarks from the university’s student body calling him the “most embarrassing” alumnus.
Following the controversial Constitutional Court ruling that enabled his eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka to run in the 2024 presidential election, the President, who has maintained high approval ratings in his final months in office, has received sharp public criticism, including from university students.
One of the strongest protests came from UGM students, with the university’s student body staging a protest on Dec. 8 that included a large banner reading, “Awarding the Most Embarrassing UGM Alumnus Nomination” with Jokowi’s image divided into two, one side adorned with a crown and the other a farmer’s hat.
“[The President’s] schedule is busy. He just arrived very early today from a visit to Japan,” said presidential expert staff coordinator Ari Dwipayana on Tuesday, as quoted by tempo.co.
The President inaugurated Otto Iskandar Dinata Bridge in Bogor, West Java, and did not have any official schedule until the afternoon. He departed to the site of the new capital Nusantara in East Kalimantan on Wednesday.
The UGM anniversary event was held at the university’s Grha Sabha Pramana (GSP) building on Tuesday and was attended by presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo. Like Jokowi, Ganjar is also an alumnus and a member of the ruling party of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Cabinet Secretary Pratikno, the university’s board of trustees chairman and former rector, also attended the event.
A proud UGM alumnus, Jokowi appoints many of the university’s prominent scholars into his administration. Jokowi also usually participates in the university’s anniversary events, whether in person or by sending a recorded speech. However, Jokowi’s speech was notably absent from this year’s celebration.
During the Dec. 8 protest, Gielbran M. Noor, head of UGM’s student executive board, outlined three reasons behind the decision to call Jokowi “the most embarrassing” alumnus. First, the democracy index had experienced a significant decline throughout President Jokowi’s leadership, second, there had been constitutional setbacks during Jokowi’s tenure and last, because of the President’s efforts to establish a political dynasty.
Responding to the protest, Jokowi reminded the students about etiquette and the importance of adhering to “Eastern culture”, values that call for respect and politeness for one’s seniors.
Besides Jokowi’s absence, Gielbran said he has experienced “intimidation” following the protest.
“My faculty was visited by someone who said that he is an [intelligence officer], asking for my personal data from campus officials,” he said during an interview on YouTube.
Gielbran said he was lucky because the campus officials refused to give his personal details since the person did not carry any formal assignment letter from authorities.
Separately, at the University of Indonesia (UI), student body head Melki Sedek Huang, who had arranged protests following the court decision, was suspended from his position due to a sexual harassment report filed against him. The university management has confirmed that there has been a sexual harassment report against Melki and his suspension is part of the investigation procedure.
Known for his criticism of government officials, including House of Representatives Speaker Puan Maharani, Melki claims his innocence.
“I have no idea about the case. I don’t know the chronology of the case and the person who has reported me,” he said, as quoted by detik.com.
Melki added that he would follow all of the procedures since creating a safe campus and acting against sexual harassment perpetrators was part of his commitment when elected as student body chief.