Indonesia: Jokowi’s Millennial Staffers in Trouble

  • This "polemic" arose because the profile of Ruangguru appeared on the Pre-Employment Card form, intended for those who lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Another business leader, Andi Taufan Garuda Putra, was accused of abuse of authority.
  • President Joko Widodo announced a series of millennial special staff in November last year.

Adamas Belva Devara, one of Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s millennial special staff, resigned Tuesday following a controversy involving his company and the Indonesian government. “I submitted my letter of resignation to the President on April 17,” the CEO and co-founder of Ruangguru said on his Instagram account.

Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, is an Indonesian politician who is the seventh president of Indonesia. Elected in July 2014 as the first president not to come from an elite political or military background, he was previously the Mayor of Surakarta from 2005 to 2012, and the Governor of Jakarta from 2012 to 2014.

“I made this hard decision to avoid prolonged polemics that could eventually break the President’s focus in handling the COVID-19 pandemic,” Belva added. Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung confirmed to reporters Tuesday related to this resignation and said President Jokowi could understand Belva’s steps.

This “polemic” arose because the profile of Ruangguru appeared on the Pre-Employment Card form, intended for those who lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. On April 15, Belva, through his Twitter account, gave an explanation that he was not personally involved in any decisions in the pre-employment program. “All are carried out independently by the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs and Managing Management (PMO),” he said.

But a number of responses came in saying Belva’s tweets did not answer “accusations of conflict of interest.” Polemics also appeared against the special staff of another business leader, Andi Taufan Garuda Putra, who was accused of abuse of authority. The Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) anti-corruption organization said President Joko Widodo had to fire special staff who were suspected of having conflicts of interest.

Andi Taufan Garuda Putra, at the beginning of the month, wrote to subdistrict heads in all regions of Indonesia regarding the cooperation program between the government and PT Amartha Mikro Fintek related to Lawan COVID-19 Village Volunteers. In addition to serving as a staff member, Andi is the founder and chief executive of Amartha. He finally withdrew the letter with the Cabinet Secretariat’s letterhead and apologized.

“Once again, thank you and I apologize for the upheaval and inconvenience that arises. Whatever happens, I still help the village in my capacity and limitations,” Andi said in an open letter Tuesday. The Indonesian Corruption Watch or ICW anti-corruption organization considers Andi’s steps to be problematic and led to conflicts of interest.

ICW researcher, Egi Primayogha, said he was worried other special staff would act similarly and abuse their authority for personal gain. “First, when we choose individuals to occupy public office positions, what is seen should not be solely a matter of age or the label ‘millennial’ itself. But it must be seen, its capacity, integrity is the most important,” Egi said.

“His capacity and integrity must also be seen from the point of view of how he understands to act in the public sphere. So it is not solely when he is able to run a private company, then he can be considered worthy to occupy a public position. These two things are actually different. When he manages a matter which is private like companies with public positions,” he added.

He also urged President Joko Widodo to evaluate their performance, and also the relevance of the staff’s position, including if the position was indeed relevant or not. Apart from the millennial label, intended to reflect a new generation that is far from corruption, Egi said in this case, the actions of the staff in the public sphere were not much different from the previous generation.

PT Ruang Raya Indonesia, doing business as Ruangguru (Teachers’ Room) is a startup company focusing in education. Ruangguru was founded in April 2014 by Adamas Belva Syah Devara and Muhammad Iman Usman to aid students to find various tutors online.

“When there are appointments of millennial staff, their fanfare is better, they are cleaner and so on. But in terms of actions in the public sphere, it is not much different from the older ones. Therefore, regardless of age, to occupy public positions, they must be holding public ethics too and holding that principle,” said Egi.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Expert Staff of the Presidential Staff Office, Donny Gahral Adian, said that the actions of the presidential staff who are commonly referred to as millennial staff should be tolerated.

“It needs to be understood because they are professionals at first, not bureaucrats. So they do not really understand the ethics of bureaucracy, how bureaucrats should behave,” Donny said by telephone on Wednesday. “Their intentions are good. Andi’s intention is to help COVID-19 volunteers in the villages, Belva’s intention is to assist in the Pre-Employment Card training.”

President Joko Widodo announced a series of millennial special staff in November last year. There were six young people, who were described as being able to assist the president’s tasks, through unusual ways. At that time, the president said he needed fresh ideas. However, some have questioned the effectiveness of this special millennial staff.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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