Piece of Mind: Alms-Giving Tragedy Exposes Fauzi’s Disregard the Poor
Posted September 25, 2009on:
published by Jakarta Globe, September 24, 2009
One of the most embarrassing moments for Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo occurred on the second day of this year’s Idul Fitri holiday. What could be worse than that?
It was indeed a sad sight for all of us. I was sitting on my comfy couch enjoying my Idul Fitri food when I saw people on TV crying for help. They were being sandwiched like animals. I suddenly felt guilty for enjoying my Lebaran moment.
I later found out that it was all because of zakat (alms) worth Rp 40,000 ($4.16) per person and packages that the governor was giving out at City Hall. Two people were sent to hospital with serious injuries.
Watching the news I realized how poor this country really is. On a day when Muslims are supposed to enjoy themselves, there were people screaming and yelling for only Rp 40,000. Any government official who also watched the news should have felt ashamed.
But of all people, it is of course Fauzi who should carry the most guilt. The shameful tragedy happened in front of City Hall as he tried to celebrate Lebaran.
There are two things Fauzi should think about during his time as governor of Jakarta.
First, he needs to improve the quality of life for people in this city. The tragedy gave us all a clear message that poverty does exist in Jakarta. The officials might be able to present us with statistics showing how welfare has been boosted, but that’s only on paper.
The reality is, people are still poor. They are hungry and they don’t have decent jobs. We are indeed a poor city with countless slums and dirty rivers.
All those tall office buildings and fancy shopping malls that Jakarta’s officials might be so proud of are just an illusion. Behind those high, strong walls, people live in tragic conditions.
What Fauzi should think hard about is how he and his men can develop the right strategy to make this city a better place for everybody. He should realize that this city has long been unfair to many.
Jakarta is heaven for people with money. We have it all. We arguably have some of the world’s best shopping centers. We have many expensive restaurants and cafes. Some of my friends even say that Jakarta’s nightclubs are better than those in Singapore or Bangkok.
But those places only satisfy a small group of people. The majority are left with no choice.
Second, Fauzi should think about why he and his staff made such an embarrassing mistake.
He said similar alms-giving events had been conducted by previous governors. But if it was a regular event, why did we witness such horror?
I remember I participated in an event called Sahur on the Road, conducted by the Central Jakarta administration a few weeks ago. The event began with the mayor explaining that any gift distribution to the poor should be done in an orderly manner. She said, “It’s our official policy.”
But the “official policy” was not what I saw on TV.
It’s so typically Indonesian for government officials and politicians to always boast of their commitment to the public, how they care about the poor, and how they always put the people’s needs as the country’s first priority.
But the truth is, the poor are always treated as a political commodity. The latest tragedy we saw this Lebaran was a clear example.
Fauzi told the media the event was a Lebaran gathering, not a zakat distribution. So why were money and gifts involved?
Because the less-fortunate won’t come to an event if they don’t get money. That’s how easily they can be exploited by government officials and politicians.
If the governor wanted to give alms to his people, he should have given through the appropriate institutions — as he said he had also done.
If the governor wanted to have a Lebaran gathering, there was no need to distribute money. If he hadn’t, we could see whether or not the poor really love their governor.