Social Affairs Minister Risma accused of being a drama queen amid alleged staged ‘blusukan’ stunt

Indonesia’s Social Affairs Minister Tri Rismaharini. Photo: Instagram/@trirismaharini
Indonesia’s Social Affairs Minister Tri Rismaharini. Photo: Instagram/@trirismaharini

The once-popular popularity-boosting method of blusukan may be outdated in Indonesia with the ridicule of a recent stunt involving newly-appointed Social Affairs Minister Tri Rismaharini, who is popularly known as Risma.

Blusukan roughly means impromptu field visits, and the term became synonymous with President Joko Widodo, who often went to great lengths to inspect public facilities in Jakarta, including sewers, when he was the governor of the province prior to 2014. Risma, who, like Jokowi, is a cadre of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), also had a strong tendency to go blusukan when she was mayor of Surabaya before her appointment as social affairs minister in December 2020.

On Monday, PDI-P posted several videos of Risma going blusukan on Central Jakarta’s main commercial thoroughfare of Sudirman-Thamrin, where the minister spoke with several men who were said to be homeless. Risma then offered them to come with her to a shelter and promised that she would help them find jobs.

Suspicions arose when one viral social media post alleged that at least one of the supposedly homeless men actually owns a stall selling coconuts in South Jakarta. The name Risma and hashtags like #RismaRatuDrama (Risma is a drama queen) have since gone to become among the top trending topics on social media, filled with people accusing Risma of staging her blusukan for clout.

While there is undoubtedly a homeless problem in Jakarta, anyone who frequents Sudirman-Thamrin may attest that there are very few, if any, homeless people camped out on the commercial thoroughfare. 

“I have lived in Jakarta since I was four and I’ve only just heard about homeless people on Sudirman-Thamrin,” Jakarta Vice Governor Ahmad Riza “Ariza” Patria said yesterday.

Nevertheless, immediately following Risma’s blusukan, Governor Anies Baswedan instructed Central Jakarta’s Social Agency to scour the city for homeless people and offer them aid. The agency said it found 29 people and placed them in a makeshift shelter at a sports hall in Tanah Abang. It’s not yet known if they had camped out in Jakarta all this time, but the agency suspects that many had come from outside the city in the hopes of receiving aid from Risma through her many field inspections.

Risma has yet to directly respond to the accusations. It must be noted that as far as social affairs ministers go, the bar has been set extremely low given that her two predecessors were arrested for corruption.

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