Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – In a speech made at the Gerindra Party National Conference in Bogor, West Java, on Monday, Gerindra chairman and presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto told thousands of his party members that Indonesia could go "extinct" if he did not prevail over President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in the upcoming election.
"We must not lose. If we lose, this country could go extinct," he said. "Because the Indonesian elites are always disappointing, always failing to carry out the mandate given by the Indonesian people."
He said the country had been heading in the wrong direction for decades. "If the same system is continued, Indonesia will become weak. Indonesia will become even poorer, even more helpless and could even go extinct," he said.
The statement was met with criticism and derision from Prabowo's political opponents, who said that the former general's speech was exaggerated and overly negative.
"Pak Prabowo never repents. He's always trying to scare the people," Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) secretary-general and Jokowi-Ma'ruf Amin campaign team spokesman Raja Juli Antoni told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday. "What can be expected from a presidential candidate that can only spread fear and pessimism?"
He added that he did not see a correlation between Prabowo losing and the dissolution of Indonesia. "Indonesia will be just fine or even better if Prabowo loses," he said.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said the public should not be alarmed by Prabowo's statement.
"If after the election, Prabowo loses and Indonesia remains intact and not extinct, then [Prabowo's] Hambalang house should be given to me," he said jokingly on Tuesday. "If, on the other hand, Indonesia becomes extinct, then my house will be given to Prabowo, because if everything goes extinct, than what would we need houses for?"
Jokowi's running mate Ma'ruf Amin gave a similarly lighthearted take on Prabowo's speech. "Indonesia will not go extinct, it's not an ancient animal," he said on Tuesday as quoted by tempo.co.
This is not the first time Prabowo has expressed a gloomy outlook for the country. In March, he said that Indonesia could fall apart by 2030.
"Brothers and sisters! We are still holding flag ceremonies, we are still singing patriotic songs, we are still using national symbols and the pictures of our founding fathers are still here," he said at the time. "But in other countries, they have conducted studies that say that the Republic of Indonesia will no longer exist by 2030."
Prabowo later admitted that he was referring to techno-thriller novel Ghost Fleet, which was written in 2015 by American political scientist PW Singer.
Prabowo-Sandiaga Uno campaign team spokesperson Dahnil Aznar Simanjuntak said Prabowo's statement was referring to the overconcentration of resources in the hands of a few.
"Prabowo-Sandi wants to develop Indonesia, not just develop in Indonesia," Dahnil told the Post on Tuesday. "The country's sovereignty is being eroded because everything is being controlled by a few large capital owners. This makes the government unable to maintain political, economic and cultural sovereignty. If these conditions continue, that means the country could go extinct."