If there’s one thing that brings older Indonesians more happiness than seeing their kids getting married, it’s seeing their kids having cute grandchildren. President Joko Widodo’s grandchild, Jan Ethes Srinarendra, is certainly adorable and, in the run-up to April’s election, has been pictured playing with his grandfather numerous times in the Indonesian media and even participated in family interviews, leading some of the president’s opponents to accuse Jokowi of using his grandchild as a part of his campaign.
Yesterday, the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) joined those voicing concerns over Jan Ethes’ involvement in the 2019 presidential election, sending a letter to the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) asking them to investigate the matter as it could potentially constitute a violation of the two-year-old’s rights (he’ll be 3 years old in March).
“KPAI is looking into this to see if there is a systematic effort [towards exploiting Jan Ethes]. From the results of our investigation, after [the accusations about Jan Ethes’ participation in the campaign] went viral, of course there were debates both pro and contra. So we wrote to Bawaslu two days ago because there was a [memorandum of understanding] on the involvement of children in politics. Our guess is that there has been an effort to attract Jan Ethes into the arena of political contests,” KPAI Commissioner Jasra Putra said in a media discussion in Jakarta on Sunday as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
The issue of Jan Ethes’ involvement in the campaign has been criticized several times by campaigners for Prabowo Subianto, Jokowi’s election rival, who have argued that it not only a violation of laws limiting the involvement of children in politics but also a form of exploitation that could harm the child in the future, as seen in this tweet by Prabowo campaign official Ferdinand Hutahaean:
Di samping dilarang undang-undang, Jan Ethes tidak patut dieksploitasi untuk kepentingan politik lantaran belum cukup umur. Politik Indonesia cenderung keras, bahkan kejam.
"Kasihan Jan Etes nanti kalau jadi korban bully akibat politik”https://t.co/9lTBUhARDX
— FERDINAND HUTAHAEAN (@Ferdinand_Haean) January 28, 2019
“In addition to being banned by law, Jan Ethes does not deserve to be exploited for political purposes because he is not old enough. Indonesian politics tend to be hard, even cruel. ‘Poor Jan Ethes, if later he becomes a political bullying victim'”
Jokowi’s campaign hit back with accusations that Prabowo’s camp were the ones really bullying Jan Ethes, while President Joko Widodo responded: “I’m not allowed to play boom-boom cars [with him]?
Yesterday, Bawaslu responded to KPAI’s letter, saying that they would investigate the issue and report their findings in about 14 days.
Although Indonesia’s child protection law specifically prohibits the involvement of children under voting age from political campaigning, the regulation is unclear on what exactly constitutes campaigning. Theoretically, a violation of the law could involve criminal charges and even jail time of up to five years, though even if Bawaslu found Jan Ethes to have been involved in the campaign, it seems extremely unlikely such charges would be brought against the president.