Call me Jokowi, says Indonesia's informal new president, Joko Widodo

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 October, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 October, 2014, 3:59am


Indonesia's new president says he wants to be called by his nickname, and has revealed who first gave it to him: a French furniture buyer.

Joko Widodo, who was sworn in as president on Monday, has long been widely known as Jokowi, a contraction of his names.

Asked by a journalist from The Jakarta Post newspaper what he would like to be called, he said "Joko" would be awkward, and "Mr Widodo or President Widodo" would sound strange.

"President Jokowi," he said, for those who insist on attaching his official title. "But otherwise, just Jokowi."

Kompas daily quoted him as saying a Frenchman gave him the name when he was buying furniture from Widodo in his days as a businessman before going into politics in 2005.

The Frenchman was buying on Java island from several people called Joko, so he added the "wi" to help him.

The paper said the man, "Bernard," visited Widodo on Monday in Jakarta and published a photo of them together.

Widodo's predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was better known by his initials, SBY.

Abdurrahman Wahid, another former president, was often addressed as Gus Dur (Gus means "older brother"; the 'Dur' was taken from Abdurrahman).

Some foreign leaders and officials already refer to the current president, Indonesia's seventh, as Jokowi, as do some local and foreign media.

On Tuesday, Widodo met President Xi Jinping's special envoy Yan Junqi at the presidential palace in Jakarta. Yan, who attended Widodo's inauguration, is also vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

Widodo said he hoped to meet Xi during next month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing.

On the domestic front, Widodo is already facing challenges. Yesterday, the new president dropped eight candidates for his cabinet that failed a screening by the country's anti-graft agency - effectively delaying the formation of his government.

He said the cabinet would be announced soon, but could not give a timeframe.

The formation of the cabinet is a test for Widodo to show how resilient he is to political demands as he seeks to fulfill promises to curb corruption, cut fuel subsidies, reduce bureaucracy and build infrastructure.

Widodo declined to give the names of those rejected by the Corruption Eradication Commission. The commission, which assessed people on their declaration of wealth and whether they were involved in any corruption investigations, warned against 10 out of 43 names submitted to the body, said spokesman Johan Budi. This was the first time a president had asked the agency to screen candidates, he said.

Widodo plans to appoint 18 professionals and 15 politicians to lead 33 ministries. "Everyone wants us to work quickly but what happens if we are mistaken? We need to be quick, but also correct," Widodo said.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg and Reuters