It’s tiring if you play a role to maintain a good image. One day your true character will be discovered.

It’s tiring if you play a role to maintain a good image. One day your true character will be discovered.

My Sister Liz and I were inspired by meeting Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama when he was Regent of Belitung Timur in 2006

The major capital city newspaper, writing about the upcoming election, wrote “hate speech has gotten out of control.”

While they could have been speaking about some of the more extreme things we have seen coming out of the most bizarre U.S. election any of us have ever seen, they weren’t.

They were talking about the upcoming Gubernatorial election in Jakarta where the first ever Christian to hold the office is facing massive and violent opposition from hardline Islamists.

I met Governor Basuki back in 2006, and the meeting was inspirational. I imagine it would have been similar to meeting a young William Wilberforce who had a sense of call to politics, not because of a personal desire for power, but because of a real love for his country.

Today more than 50,000 Muslims took to the streets in the capital city of the world’s most populous muslim nation, to demand his arrest. They claim that he committed blasphemy against the Koran. According to ABC news, “During the protests, some began throwing rocks and bottles at riot police while others chanted that the Governor should be killed.” 

Basuki’s “blasphemy” was apparently saying that “his opponents had deceived voters by attacking him using a verse from the scripture.” This isn’t the first time Basuki has been accused of blasphemy. Hardliners also took to the streets when he declared that girls who don’t want to wear head coverings shouldn’t be forced to when they go to school.

Basuki is in a precarious situation. According to CNN:

“Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose son is running against Ahok, made a speech two days ago calling for the governor to be persecuted to placate the Islamist opposition and quell the protests.”

Did you read that? Someone with a very clear political motive is calling for persecution of someone who stands in his way, even admitting that this has nothing to do with the law but the disquiet of the protestors. Yudhoyono has actually expressed support for the protests on national television.

Basuki has actually become a very popular figure across the city. For the past couple of years he has been working hard to root out corruption and clean up one of the world’s dirtiest cities. He is best known for being willing to speak out in a very direct and forthright way. In 2015 he was named Globe Asia’s “Man of the Year”.

What was clear to me in 2006, and is clear now, is that Basuki is a leader.  He told the Globe Asia reporter:

“I can handle criticism. The only thing they [the protesters] can do is not elect me for the next term. So I am focusing on my remaining three years so I can prove to them that I did something,” he said. “I don’t ever think about my image. What’s in my heart and what comes out of my mouth are the same. Do you need someone with substance or someone with a polished skin?” he asked.

“The only problem is that people out there still can’t accept the fact that I, with slanted eyes and a Christian, can be governor,” Basuki said.

“Don’t oppose me just because I’m ethnic Chinese and a Christian. That’s not fair. Judge me for my work,” he said, adding that he was accustomed to tough times.


Basuki faces more challenges. The National Police chief says he will be questioning him further over the blasphemy allegations. Real leaders will face real opposition, and sometimes the wrong thing will be allowed to happen. However real leaders will not shrink from the fight, and ultimately they will win. As the towering symbol of this truth, Martin Luther King Jr. said:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Martin Luther King gave his life, but a handful of decades later, a black man was elected President.

I hope that Basuki doesn’t have to give his life, but I do know his fight against corruption, pollution and dysfunction is the fight for justice, and that ultimately, if more people like him can rise, the battle will be won.

Basuki stands in sharp contrast to both sides of the U.S. Election.

We are told that the toxic nature of the political climate in the states precludes real leaders from emerging. We are told that the prejudices of the electorate mean that nothing productive can get done. Baskuki, the first ever Christian governor, the first ever ethnically Chinese governor, is facing a much more serious, even life=threatening, situation, and yet somehow he is able to stand up and say, “judge me for my work.”

Basuki is proof that real leaders lead, and don’t need to resort to the kind of personality politics we have seen on both sides of the North American political spectrum.

Let’s hope and pray that more leaders will emerge in the U.S., Australia, Canada and the U.K. who are able to say, like Basuki does:

“Once you become a public official, it’s tiring if you play a role to maintain a good image. One day your true character will be discovered. I never pretend to be who I am. I’ve always been like this.”

That’s the kind of leadership the Western World truly needs.

2 thoughts on “It’s tiring if you play a role to maintain a good image. One day your true character will be discovered.

  1. As always Matt, Thanks for sharing!, Shall follow Basuki going forward ….. My first glimse of Asia was when I flew into Jakarta as a 20yo with the Salvo’s Youth Mission Programme….. Would love to see the changes now…. Nearly 20years later!! Love to the family… JO!

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