It wasn’t long ago that presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto had to deal with the PR nightmare caused by his allegedly demeaning joke about the people of Boyolali, but the Gerindra chairman seems to have upset a whole new group of people — Indonesia’s motorcycle taxi drivers (locally known as ojek).
Speaking about the future of the nation’s youth, Prabowo said he feels sad about the employment prospects of Indonesian youngsters, a worry he said was encapsulated in a recent viral meme that implied that the natural progression of Indonesian youngsters after they graduate from school is to become ojek drivers.
“There’s a meme on the internet regarding the career path of youngsters in Indonesia. From elementary school to middle school and high school and after they graduate they become ojek drivers. It’s sad but that’s the reality,” Prabowo said during a speech at the Indonesia Economic Forum yesterday, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
“This is my passion. Deep down in my heart, I want Indonesian youths to become entrepreneurs, pilots, or restaurant owners. Have their own enterprises, farms, not just becoming workers.”
Prabowo’s statement was understandably received coldly by the Two-Wheel Action Movement Presidium (Garda Indonesia), a union representing the interests of ojek drivers across the country, which demanded that Prabowo apologize to them or they would mobilize a “large mass” of people to protest against him.
“The honorable Pak Prabowo, what’s wrong with our profession as ojek drivers that made you say you pity us?” asked Garda Indonesia Chairman Igun Wicaksono in a statement today, as quoted by Kumparan.
“You should pity those who steal money from people, representatives who lie to us. And you should pity the online ojek platforms because they drain the drivers who are on the road everyday.”
Prabowo’s campaign team has gone into PR damage control by saying that Prabowo didn’t mean to insult ojek drivers.
“He didn’t want to humiliate the profession, he just wanted to portray the concerns of young people who cannot find jobs even after finishing school,” Gerindra Deputy Secretary General Andre Rosiade said, as quoted by Kumparan today.
Meanwhile, politicians from incumbent President Joko Widodo’s camp criticized Prabowo’s statement for being insensitive.
“Astaghfirullah, he’s a presidential candidate but he mocked his own people again, after that Boyolali ‘joke’. Being an ojek driver is an honorable job and they exist around the world,” Irma Chaniago, the head of the National Democratic Party’s Central Executive Board, said today as quoted by Kumparan.
The boom in ride-hailing services has undoubtedly made many of our lives easier as well as provided hundreds of thousands of Indonesians with work. But clearly it’s not an easy living, with ojek organizations constantly staging protests demanding better pay and protections from their companies and the government.