On Sunday, President Joko Widodo made fashion headlines for wearing a traditional Batak outfit while attending an independence day carnival in the Toba Samosir regency of North Sumatra.
Sadly, Jokowi’s traditional dress failed to impress. Many netizens derided the elaborate set up, saying that it looks nothing like an actual Bataknese traditional outfit. Some even pointed out that the hat and hairpiece combo Jokowi wore looked like something that eccentric pop artists Lady Gaga or Sia would wear.
Some had strong words about the costume, particularly two netizens who took to social media to say that Jokowi looked silly in it and that his wearing it was an insult to Batak culture. One of them even called Jokowi “Lady Gagal” (gagal=fail).
Their posts could easily be construed as an insult to Jokowi himself, therefore opening them up to the possibility of a lawsuit for defamation in accordance with the country’s infamous Information and Electronic Transactions Law (UU ITE) which criminalizes any online communication that could be considered defamatory or slanderous.
But, in an unexpected plot twist, a cultural alliance group in the region reported the social media critics to the police, not for insulting Jokowi, but for insulting Batak culture.
“We’re insulted, as a Batak native I’m insulted. When Jokowi was given a Batak traditional costume and he wore it, that’s what they (the posters) insulted. This involves UU ITE,” said head of the alliance, Lamsiang Sitompul, as quoted by Merdeka yesterday.
“We’d report anyone who insults Batak traditional costume. It so happened that the president was wearing it.”
The authorities have not revealed whether or not they’re going to act on the complaint. But should they go forward with the case, the posters may be charged with up to 2 and a half years prison.