Agitation and Disorder in Jakarta

“I live in an apartment. It has air conditioning, a personal bathroom and a river view. I love it,” a man said in one scene of Ascan Breuer’s documentary Jakarta Disorder. While the man might sound like a typical member of Jakarta’s upper middle class, he is a slum dweller who makes a living by refilling mineral water dispenser barrels along the train tracks.

The apartment is a semi-permanent hut built on the side of a dirty, polluted river in Jakarta. The air conditioning, according to the man, uses very environmentally friendly technology — the wind.

In another satirical scene from the documentary, Ascan presents a man wearing typical business attire, explaining that rapid development of a superblock that will integrate business and residential areas in the center of Jakarta.

The businessman claims that the superblock will enable residents to live close to business centers so that they can avoid traffic.

When asked if he himself could live in the superblock, the businessman scowls and admits that he would not be able to even rent an apartment there.

The superblock, Ascan shows us, is located just a couple of yards from the first man’s slum “apartment”, which is slated for demolition to make way for development to serve the rich.

Jakarta Disorder explores the marginalization of the city’s poor and how they resist exclusion from economic development by developing their political knowledge — and by putting all their experience into practice in two presidential elections.

Ascan, of mixed Chinese, German and Indonesian heritage, says that the idea for the project emerged in 2006 when he first visited Indonesia.

“I wanted to see the old country of my mother […] I am interested in democracy and in civil society. I did a lot of research. I started interviewing many groups of activists and artists,” Ascan said during a recent screening of Jakarta Disorder in Jakarta.

The 39-year-old director met with Wardah Hafidz, then coordinator of the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC). “Wardah told me about the ‘political contract’ plan from the urban poor dwellers. So, we started the film.”

He was referring to the UPC-inspired manifesto that demands that presidential candidates sign an agreement to guarantee five basic necessities — work, a home, education, health insurance and formal recognition of the informal economy — before gaining the support of the urban poor.

In the 2009 presidential election, none of the candidates were willing to sign the contract. In 2014, however, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo did sign it.

Jakarta Disorder shows how the city’s poor, regardless of their education, can realize their rights as citizens and to how to use politics to their advantage.

In one scene, for example, one woman says that while she knows that the political contract is not legally binding, it could be used as an instrument to socially punish public officials who do not fulfill their promises.

“If the President fails to meet the requirements in the contract, we can reveal the content and his broken promises to the public. This way, we will shame and punish him,” she said.

The wit and political knowledge displayed by the urban poor as depicted in Jakarta Disorder shows that political rights not only belong to the educated and established segments of society but also to those at its margins.

Jakarta Disorder is the third film in Ascan’s Javanese Trilogy of documentaries that focus on the marginalized in Indonesia. The earlier films were Paradise Later and Riding My Tiger.

Source : Hans David Tampubolon
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Feature | Sat, November 08 2014, 11:16 AM

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