Marchio Irfan Gorbiano, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has defended his presidential expert staff member Gracia Billy Mambrasar for recent controversial remarks on Twitter, asking the public to forgive the 31-year-old for his blunder.
Jokowi said it was understandable that Billy – one of the newest members of the President's closest circle – had made the controversial statement because he was still young and high-spirited.
"He was just too on fire while talking," Jokowi told journalists on Monday. "It's OK. He made some mistakes because he's still young. If he made small mistakes, just forgive him."
Billy posted the controversial tweet on his official Twitter account, @kitongbisa, at 7:12 p.m. on Saturday. He recapped the day's activities, which included "talking about Pancasila (which had people from kubu sebelah [the other camp] gasping for air)".
During the 2019 presidential election, which pitted Jokowi against erstwhile rival and current Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, the term kubu sebelah was commonly used to refer to people who supported a different presidential candidate.
Netizens criticized Billy for using the divisive term. Twitter user @R4jaPurwa said the expert staffer had "divided the nation."
"We don't appreciate that one of your expert staff members, who is paid by our taxes, is dividing the children of the nation – like what Billy Mambrasar did. Thank you," @R4jaPurwa wrote on his account.
Billy deleted the tweet at about 9:24 p.m. and wrote a clarification: "For those who misinterpreted the term, I referred to haters and pessimists about my work progress. It shouldn't be connected to the presidential election, because I didn't mean to talk about that."
A day later, Billy tweeted again and wrote a longer clarification on a thread of tweets. He apologized for his remarks on Saturday.
"I didn't mean to be tendentious against any groups. I have made a clarification and deleted the tweet. I hope I can be forgiven for such a misunderstanding," he tweeted on Sunday morning.
It has been two weeks since Billy – the CEO and founder of Kitong Bisa, a foundation focusing on the education of Papuan children – and six other "millennials" between 23 and 36 years old were introduced by Jokowi as new members of his presidential expert staff.
The President hoped the young staffers, who came from a variety of different backgrounds and had different areas of expertise, would provide him with "out-of-the-box ideas" and "leaping breakthroughs" towards development. (kuk)