INDONESIAN President Joko Widodo is coming into world prominence not by grabbing the microphone to make thunderous speeches about race and religion or picking on ethnic Chinese businessmen, foreigners and Western imperialists as scapegoats for his country’s endemic corruption, inefficiencies and economic backwardness.
Instead, he is getting admiration at home and abroad by being humble and getting on with the job he was elected for.
His bold move to cut down on subsidies will not endear him to the millions of poor Indonesians, but it is precisely the kind of action needed to show he means business in his promise to strengthen the economy and find the money to build roads, schools and hospitals.
It’s also a warning sign that he is not afraid to take unpopular measures to stop the wastages and abuses that have plagued the country. The Muslim world can also look up to him to lead in the path of moderation and pragmatism.
His brave statements condemning Islamic terrorism and extremism during the election campaign show that he is not afraid to speak his mind for fear of losing votes.
Nor was he deterred when Islamic groups tried to stop him from appointing an ethnic Chinese to be governor of Jakarta.
I will not be surprised that in the near future, he will act on blasphemy laws, which Amnesty International has highlighted for the cases of injustice inflicted on non-Sunni religious minorities.
Being a former businessman himself, Jokowi knows that Indonesia cannot let religious extremism and unfair Islamic laws to fester because it will have a negative impact on investment.
Jokowi and his wife travelled to Singapore recently on economy class to attend their son’s graduation from Anglo-Chinese International University.
By this simple act of not abusing his position to use his presidential plane for a private visit, he has sent a signal to his countrymen that he is going to be an honest president.
Cynics may dismiss this act of humility as political showmanship but to the poor people who still remember the grandeur of their past presidents and their first ladies, Indonesia is changing for the better.
All the best to Jokowi as he leads the country with the largest Muslim population in the world towards economic progress and, by so doing, make himself as an example for Muslim leaders to follow.