By Ahmad Cholis Hamzah*
In the past foreign powers colonized Indonesia for long time such as Dutch, Portuguese, British and Japan so you can find names of many heroes from each provinces of this - 17.000 Islands archipelagic country who fought for independence. Most of Indonesian students know by heart some of their names. They are known of “National Hero”. However, there are some other “heroes” title in the country for example “Hero Without Medal” refers to those teachers who earn meager salary but with sincerity are willing to provide education to their students. Many of them are in remote Islands and with fewer infrastructures, yet with their tireless efforts they go to the distance away to reach their beloved students. Those teachers produce people that in the future becomes wealthy businessmen, successful parliamentarians, civil servants and even presidents and yet they do not ask something in return. Therefore, they are called Heroes without Medal.
Indonesians also know other heroes, such as “Revolution Heroes”, referring to those army generals that were brutally killed and slaughtered by members of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965 during its failed coup d’état. Then “Heroes of 10 November” refers to those thousands of Indonesian freedom fighters who fought fiercely against British forces in Surabaya, the second largest city in the country in November 1945.
Now, Indonesians begin to be familiar with new hero title – “Heroes of Democracy”, it refers to those civilians who died due to fatigues and stress as they involved in “the world’s most complicated election”. It was a massive election ever since this 17 April 2019 election involved nearly 6,000,000 election workers and more than 800,000 polling stations across the country. The Indonesian Election Commission announced that ten days after the election, (as I am writing this article) as many as 272 election staffs/officials died for overwork, while more than 1,800 others had fallen sick.
The elections were a massive undertaking since all elections – presidential, national and provincial as wells local/city and senators all taking place at the same time with around 193 million eligible voters spread across three time zones from Sumatra in the west to Papua in the east of more than 5,000 kilometers away. And there are more than 245,000 candidates contesting 20,000 sets across the country.
Such simultaneous elections is the first time in Indonesia aimed at abolishing the previous elections that were considered too costly and drained national and provincial as well as local state budget.
However, this trial and error election has proven to be unhealthy jobs for those who worked at the polling stations as they worked at almost 24 hours around the clock since the preparation of spreading invitations to voters in their respective areas, erecting tents for polling stations until counting millions of ballot papers by hand.
Civic society such NGOs and Universities lodged their concerns about this “democratic experiment”. For example, Budi Wijayanto, Secretary General of Alumni Association of Airlangga University Surabaya in the Association’s letter has urged government to review such unhealthy elections. He is not the only one who expressed such voice as many prominent leaders including Ministry of Home Affairs shared similar concern.
Hopefully there would be no more “Heroes of Democracy” in Indonesia in the future.
*Alumni of Airlangga University
Surabaya Indonesia, University of London, UK
Special Staff for Rector of Airlangga University on International Affairs.