First Presidential Candidates Debate Held

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Durian. The General Elections Commission, KPU, hosted the first presidential candidates’ debate on Jan.17.

The debate was one out of total five sessions prior to April 17 election.

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The first debate was focusing on three issues; law and human rights, corruption and terrorism.

During a 90-minutes debate that was broadcasted nation-wide, both pairs of candidates, namely candidate 01 for Joko Widodo or Jokowi- Ma’ruf Amin and candidate 02 for Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno, presented their visions that were related to those issues.

The Big Durian captured the two pairs’ main statements below:


Both pairs of candidates are relatively similar to one another, except for a few concepts.

Jokowi admitted the “burden of past human rights abuses” and said that the pending resolution has been due to lack of evidence and the length of time that has passed since the incidents took place.

“However, we are still committed to resolve this human rights issue, which will be supported by a fair legal system and a good law enforcement,” Jokowi said.

While, Prabowo highlighted how a successful country must have food security, clean water and a strong government to ensure the fulfilment of human rights.

According to the former army general, the root of the problem is the issue of wages among authorities.

“The root of the problem is that we must increase the quality of life of authorities, so that he is immune to corruption,” Prabowo said.

Law and Human Rights

On this issue, candidate 01 was asked on how they intend to fulfill the rights of people with disabilities.

Jokowi said the 2016 Law on Persons with Disabilities has helped shift attitude toward this group. Efforts to assist the disabled community are now focused on fulfilling their rights as citizens, rather than simply providing social assistance or the likes.

He said the government has been working to facilitate those who have disabilities to live their full lives through employment, housing and public facilities. He used the 2018 Asian Para Games as an example, where the athletes received the same bonuses as their counterparts at the 2018 Asian Games.

While, Prabowo said law enforcement under the Jokowi administration has been unfair and one-sided by giving an example of a village head in East Java that was jailed because of supporting Jokowi-Ma’ruf.

Media reported that Suhartono, head of Sampangagung village in Mojokerto, East Java was sent by local district court to two months in prison and fined of 6 million rupiah after a panel of judges proving him guilty for violating the country’s election law for gathering public supports for vice president candidate from pair 02 in October during Sandiaga Uno visit to the regency.

Jokowi responded the claim by bringing up the Ratna Sarumpaet scandal which related with candidate 02.

“Let’s not rush into conclusions. Mr. Prabowo’s campaign team member, for example, was said to has been assaulted, with her face battered. But then we found out that she underwent plastic surgery,” Jokowi said.

Police have detained the theatrical producer, actress and writer Ratna Sarumpaet after declaring her a suspect in the case after a story she claims to have fabricated to cover up the fact that she had plastic surgery, was used by the campaign team of presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto to attack the incumbent, Jokowi.

Jokowi reaffirmed that Indonesia upholds the rule of law and lawful mechanisms are functioning well, and challenged his opponent by saying that anything against the law should be reported to the relevant authorities.


Prabowo said that corruption in this country is rooted in the low wages received by civil servants. Therefore, he intends on raising taxes in order to address this issue and provide a better standard of living for people working in the government.

“If I lead this country, I will realistically improve the quality of life for all the bureaucrats. The question is where I got the money from? I will increase the tax ratio, which is now stood at 10 percent or even lower. I will return (the tax ratio) to a minimum of 16 percent so we will get at least $60 billion,” he said.

On the other hand, Jokowi said that the focus should be on bureaucratic reforms, especially in terms of recruitment. He emphasized on the importance of recruitments based on merit and competence, as well as strong internal monitoring.


During Thursday’s debate, Prabowo’s take on terrorism in Indonesia focused heavily on terrorism being rooted from other countries.

“I know very well terrorists were sent from other countries. Terrorists are controlled by non-Muslims. I reject the notion that Muslims are terrorists,” Prabowo said.

When it comes to homegrown terrorists, Prabowo claimed most of them were a product of economic inequality and despair.

“Homegrown terrorists come from despair and economic inequality. They were hurt and influenced by radical teachings. I support a deradicalization program. When I am president, I will also invest in health and education,” he said, adding that he will strengthen Indonesian intelligence, police and military also.

Jokowi running mate Ma’ruf, meanwhile, proposed a focus on prevention efforts to suppress radicalism and intolerance, which will involve mass organizations and religious organizations.

This will be paired with a human rights approach, which Jokowi emphasized upon by saying that law enforcement will be trained to conduct operations with human rights in mind.

As for deradicalization, Jokowi and Ma’ruf said this process will heavily depend on the root causes of radicalization itself.

“If it was because of a misunderstanding of religion, then we should provide the rightful understanding and put them back on the right path,” Ma’ruf said, adding that if the reasons were economic, then jobs facilitation and relevant assistance will be provided.

Closing Statements

“There’s not much we want to say. We fully understand the issues facing this country and what we must do. We don’t have a cut of dictatorship or authoritarianism, and we don’t have a track record of past human rights abuses nor issues surrounding corruption,” Jokowi said during his closing statement.

The remark indirectly jabs his opponent, who has faced allegations of human rights abuses from his years in the Indonesian military.

Meanwhile, Prabowo steered clear of the human rights issue by focusing on what he termed as leakages and emphasized the importance of increasing the tax ratio.

“Our country is so, very rich, but there are leakages and our wealth is flowing out of the country,” Prabowo said.

He highlighted once again the importance of increasing salaries for law enforcement authorities in order to ensure they are incorruptible as well as the institutional reforms that are needed to ensure that the root problems are addressed.

Blunder statements

During his turn to ask his opponent, Jokowi raised the issue of ex-corruptors on the list of legislative candidates from Gerindra as published by the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW).

Prabowo responded by highlighting that the cases have been legally processed and the people involved duly punished.

“I think that this is a democracy … if the law allows it, and the candidate is capable and the people want it, and maybe he didn’t corrupt by that much… It is those who have stolen trillions or rupiah that we should go after,” Prabowo said.

While waiting to answer the question, Prabowo was dancing and his running mate Sandiaga gave him some shoulders massage.

Prabowo and Sandiago were calling Jokowi “Mr. President” in several occasions during the debate.

Several times Prabowo also stated that president is “the chief of law enforcement officer” which according to Hasto Kristoyanto, the secretary of Jokowi-Amin’s national campaign team was a blunder statement because president cannot intervene legal process.

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