INDONESIA - For the first time after seven months in office, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo met his campaign volunteers in public, asking them to support his recent policies, including the slashing of fuel subsidies and the execution of drug convicts.
During a speech on Saturday at the Cibubur camping grounds in East Jakarta, Jokowi said he would face the consequences of his controversial policies.
"I'm ready to become unpopular. I'm ready to be attacked. Don't ever think that Jokowi is a coward. Keep that in mind," the President said.
On executing drug traffickers, Jokowi said he would do anything to protect the nation's interests and sovereignty. "When [the government] was about to execute the drug traffickers, I was warned that there would be foreign pressure, including from Amnesty [International], the United Nations and leaders from other countries. But I insisted that we have the legal sovereignty - that our law recognizes the death penalty," he said.
Jokowi repeated his standard talking point on defending capital punishment. "Fifty people die [in Indonesia] every day and 18,000 every year because of drugs, so why do we need to take care of one or two people who have been convicted as drug traffickers?" he said.
Defying international pressure, the government executed 14 death row prisoners in the first four months of the year, including 12 foreign nationals.
Despite his popularity in the months prior to last year's presidential election, Jokowi, an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician, did not secure the nomination from his own party until March, less than a month before the legislative election and four months before the presidential election.
Observers said that the volunteer organizations supporting Jokowi put pressure on former president and incumbent PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri to drop plans to run again and instead give the ticket to Jokowi.
Jokowi won the election by a slight margin, a victory attributed to his volunteers.
Among the groups that organized Saturday's event were the Volunteer Front for Jokowi for President (Bara JP), Pro Jokowi, the Coalition of Youths and Volunteers for Jokowi (Kawan Jokowi) and the People's Struggle Post (Pospera).
Representing the organizations, Pospera leader Mustar Bonaventura said such gatherings would be held regularly. "This is just a start. The volunteer groups must continue existing and consolidate themselves," he said.