Arlina Arshad – When Indonesian Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan asked President Joko Widodo recently about his retirement plans, he was surprised to learn that Mr Joko wanted his government-provided house to be built in Solo city, his hometown in central Java, instead of Jakarta which was the choice location of previous presidents.
"Pak Luhut, cheaper land, why should I stay in Jakarta?" the President had replied.
"I asked him again, 'What are you going to do after you retire?'... He said 'I just want to go back to be a carpenter'."
"It's very touching. So a president like this gives a very good example to the people in Indonesia, to the members of his Cabinet. How do we dare to (commit) corruption?" he said.
Even after winning the presidency for a second term, Mr Joko remains a humble man with no personal interest, said Mr Luhut, who has known Mr Joko – popularly known as Jokowi – since he was a four-star special forces general and Mr Joko, a furniture businessman and the mayor of Solo.
"I respect him very much and he brings this aura to the people of Indonesia, 'Let's move together'. That's why we are moving very fast," said Mr Luhut.
But compared with the previous term, Mr Joko has become "much more comfortable" and confident, picking young people to join his Cabinet and appointing his presidential rival and retired three-star army general Prabowo Subianto as the country's defence minister.
Mr Joko had sought Mr Luhut's advice and Mr Luhut, who knew Mr Prabowo "very well" as his senior at the Indonesian Military Academy, had expressed his support.
"It's good, so you can consolidate power and Prabowo is very nationalistic," said Mr Luhut.
"Now I look at Prabowo (who) has become very loyal to the President, we have consolidated the power so we can focus to improve our economy. I don't see any problem there," he added.
During the dialogue yesterday, Mr Luhut stressed the importance of keeping one's ear to the ground and serving the country with heart.
He said: "I told my staff we are serving the people, not the people serving us. So we have to go down to the ground... (There are) many smart people, but if you don't work with heart, you won't be successful."