Beyond Maritime Diplomacy: Foreign Ministry’s Roles in Implementing the Indonesian Ocean Policy

On February 2017 the government issued the Presidential Decree on Indonesian Ocean Policy (IOP). The decree was designed to achieve the Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) vision of Indonesia as a sovereign, advanced, independent, strong maritime nation that is able to provide positive contribution for peace and security in the region as well as to the world.

The IOP contains seven pillars and one of them is maritime diplomacy. The inclusion of maritime diplomacy as one pillar of the IOP can be seen from two points of view. First, it underlines the significance of the international dimensions of the policy. The government, by incorporating maritime diplomacy, realized the key role of international cooperation in supporting its efforts in accomplishing the GMF vision. Second, considering that contribution to regional and global security is mentioned as part of the GMF vision, the inclusion of maritime diplomacy is indeed a necessary. It is impossible to put the IOP in the global context without diplomacy.

The inclusion of maritime diplomacy as well as the presence of the world ‘global’ in the title of the doctrine indicates that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has huge tasks and responsibilities in the implementation of the IOP. To analyze how the MOFA can significantly contribute in achieving goals of this policy, first we have to look at the definition of maritime diplomacy as stipulated at the IOP. Maritime diplomacy is defined as form of foreign policy implementation which is not only related to maritime aspects at bilateral, regional, and global levels; but also related to the utilization of maritime assets, civilian and military, to fulfill national interests in accordance with national laws and international law.

The above definition indicates the prominence of security-based approach in maritime diplomacy. Such a prominence is also reflected in seven strategic policies to conduct maritime diplomacy explained at the Presidential Decree. Those strategic policies are focused on leadership on maritime cooperation, regional and global security, norm-making, maritime boundaries, submission of extended continental shelf, representation in related international organizations, and verification of names of islands.

Considering this security-based approach, it is important to note that the MOFA should take roles beyond maritime diplomacy. MOFA’s tasks and responsibilities in implementing the IOP should not be limited to conducting maritime diplomacy but engaging to the other six pillars. The main consideration behind this view is the fact that the international dimension of IOP is not only related to security aspect but also, not less importantly, economic aspect. MOFA’s main responsibility in conducting maritime diplomacy, therefore, should not undermine its important roles in the other six pillars.

After reviewing the definition of maritime diplomacy in the context of IOP, the following policy recommendations are proposed to answer the question of how the MOFA can significantly contribute to the implementation process. First, the MOFA should integrate the goals of IOP in its programs. That is to say that the MOFA should be able to incorporate IOP’s strategic policies and plans of action into its existing programs and activities at bilateral, regional, and global levels. To do so the MOFA should develop clear guideline on how its organizational units as well as Indonesia’s diplomatic and consular missions can incorporate the IOP into their respective programs and activities. The MOFA can assign its research and policy development unit – in collaboration with other related units – to develop the said guidance.

Second, considering that the MOFA has the main responsibility in conducting maritime diplomacy, it should also develop a comprehensive guideline on seven strategic policies on maritime diplomacy as emanated in the Presidential Decree. The MOFA should identify existing mechanisms – at bilateral, regional, and global levels – that can be utilized to achieve IOP goals. The MOFA, for example, can use existing maritime-related forums in ASEAN and the UN to promote IOP goals. When necessary, the MOFA may also develop new mechanisms to further implement the IOP.

Third, as stated earlier that the MOFA should go beyond maritime diplomacy, it is important for the Ministry to define its contribution in the other six pillars of IOP. MOFA’s possible contribution in each of those pillars can summarized as follow.

  • Marine and human resources development

The MOFA can contribute by providing analysis on good practices and lessons learned from other countries than have been at the advanced stage on this particular area. The MOFA can also seek technical assistances from related international organization to further enhance marine and human resources development in Indonesia.

  • Maritime Security, Law Enforcement and Safety at Sea

The MOFA can play a leading role in negotiations related to this issue at bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels.

  • Ocean Governance and Institutions

The MOFA can contribute by actively participating at norm-setting negotiations to ensure that Indonesia’s national interests on maritime issues are accommodated in the norm.

  • Maritime Economy Development

The MOFA can contribute by integrating the goals of IOP into its economic diplomacy. Promotion of Indonesia’s maritime commodities, investment opportunities, and maritime tourist destination should be designated as main priorities.

  • Sea space management and marine protection

The MOFA can play an active role in negotiations related to this issue. Main goal to achieve is to ensure that Indonesia’s national interests are proportionally reflected on the outcomes.

  • Maritime culture

The MOFA can contribute by providing good practices and lessons learned from other countries on how to develop good maritime culture.

To conclude, the IOP is a comprehensive policy comprises goals, policies and plans of action in various sectors. Collaboration among stakeholders in the key to ensure the effectiveness of its implementation. To significantly contribute, the MOFA should implement a holistic approach. The MOFA should not restrict its roles and responsibilities only in the pillar of maritime diplomacy. The MOFA has a lot to offer in the other six pillars. We have to bear in mind, however, that the significance of MOFA’s contribution will depend on how it can develop a clear guideline. Without a guideline MOFA’s role will only be sporadic and unsustainable.


Palm oil and challenges to Indonesia’s plantation commodities’ sustainability

According to current statistics published by the Ministry of Trade, in 2017 the plantation sector contributed USD 41.9 billion to Indonesia’s export. This value is equivalent to 27% of overall Indonesia’s export value of USD 153.2 billion. This figure shows that the plantation sector has a significant contribution to Indonesia’s economy. Any disruption to plantation commodities’ global trade, therefore, will significantly affect Indonesia’s economy. Such a disruption will not only reduce incomes from export but also can increase employment rate at the domestic level.

The decision of the European Parliament to propose a ban on palm oil has raised concern about the future of Indonesia’s plantation export commodities. The EU questioned the sustainability of Indonesia’s palm oil in making their decision. Palm oil plantation, according to them, has caused deforestation and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Based on this view the EU decided to exclude palm oil from their Renewable Energy Directive (RED) scheme. Interestingly they still allow all other oilseed crops to continue operating under the RED scheme. Considering that the European Union (EU) is the second-largest Indonesia’s palm oil export destination, EU decision will cause a considerable impact to Indonesia’s economy.

We may consider EU’s decision as an unfair one and as part of non-tariff trade barriers imposed to protect their own agriculture-based oil industry. Nevertheless, we must accept this reality as part of competition in current global trade. Instead of blaming the EU, it is better for us to convince the global audience that Indonesia in on the right track in the efforts to implement the principles of sustainability in its palm oil plantation and industry.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to lead a concerted effort in encountering EU’s negative views on Indonesia’s palm oil sustainability. The Ministry also has a responsibility in preventing the spread of EU’s view to non-EU countries, particularly in countries currently importing palm oil from Indonesia. We should bear in mind that the EU as a global major power has the ability to influence other countries to follow its policy.

The effectiveness of Foreign Ministry’s efforts in encountering EU’s views will depend on two main factors. The first factor is how far the government can guarantee the sustainability of palm oil plantations in Indonesia. In 2010 the government launched the Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) initiative aimed to make palm oil production sustainable and in compliance with Indonesia’s laws and regulations. There are 98 indicators which elaborate seven principles and criteria contained in the ISPO. These seven principles cover 1) the plantation licensing and management system 2) the application of technical guidelines for palm oil cultivation and processing; 3) environmental management and monitoring; 4) responsibility towards workers 5) social and community responsibility; 6) empowering the community economy and 7) sustainable business improvement.

The effectiveness of campaigns on Indonesia’s palm oil sustainability at the global level will heavily depend on the achievement of ISPO targets at the domestic level. Yet in August 2017 the Ministry of Agriculture acknowledged that only 16,7% of palm oil plantations that had met ISPO standards. This figure is alarming. It shows that after seven years we are still far from reaching ISPO standards. It is a huge task for the government and other related stakeholders in palm oil industry to accelerate the achievement of ISPO standards.

The second factor is the way the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – in cooperation with other related stakeholders – handle the campaign. There are some element the Ministry should consider in organizing such a campaign. First, EU’s decision has not been finalized. This means that there is still a room for Indonesia to maneuver by approaching the EU and its member states to reconsider their stances on Indonesia’s palm oil sustainability. Indonesia’s diplomatic missions accredited to members of the EU have crucial role to convince their respective host countries on this matter.

Second, EU’s decision was highly influenced by the interests of its business community. Indonesia, therefore, should not only get in touch with the EU and governments of its member states but also with the European business community. In approaching business community Indonesia should involve private stakeholders in the palm oil industry. Considering that not all of those private stakeholders have experiences in international negotiation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has crucial role in enhancing private stakeholders’ competence on international negotiation.

Third, Indonesia should continue disseminating good progress of the efforts to achieve palm oil sustainability to counter negative campaigns conducted by other parties on this issue. Indonesia should disseminate related data and information in a concerted manner and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should take a leading role at this stage. The Ministry should enhance coordination with other stakeholders – from both government and private sectors – in developing contains of such campaign as well as in conducting the campaign.

To sum up, Indonesia has to take EU’s decision seriously. We must acknowledge that the EU has crucial role in determining the future of Indonesia’s palm oil in global market, not only because around 16% of our palm oil export goes to them, but also because their decision can influence other parties to follow suit. We should also anticipate the possibility of the application of sustainability standards by the EU in the future to other plantation commodities. It is important for the government and related stakeholders, therefore, to ensure that Indonesia’s plantation sector can meet globally-accepted standards of sustainability on the basis of equality among all members of the international society.

Indonesia’s position in global discourse on corruption

In the 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) recently released by Transparency International, Indonesia is ranked 96th out of 180 countries. With CPI score of 36 Indonesia, unfortunately,  is still perceived as corrupt. Among G20 countries, for example, Indonesia is ranked 16th together with Brazil. Only two G20 countries – Russia and Mexico – whose scores are worse than that of Indonesia and Brazil. Meanwhile in ASEAN Indonesia is ranked 4th after Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and Malaysia.

We must admit that Indonesia’s CPI score, like it or not, reflects the big picture of corruption as serious problem in the country. This is an alarming situation because in the last 15 years Indonesia has been taking various efforts to eradicate corruption both at the domestic and global levels. Circumstances cited above lead to questions about Indonesia’s stance in the global discourse on corruption. Should Indonesia adjust its approach in the global discourse on corruption? What issues can Indonesia now bring to global discussions on corruption eradication?

In early 2000s, when Indonesia was in the initial stage of its political reform era, the democratically elected government started to put corruption eradication as a matter of priority. In 1999 the law on the eradication of corruption was adopted. In 2002 the government founded the Eradication Corruption Commission (KPK) and Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPTAK). The establishment of those two institutions underlined government’s strong determination in eradicating corruption and other related crimes.

This development enhanced Indonesia’s self-confidence in taking a leading role in the global discourse on corruption. Indonesia, for example, actively involved in the negotiation of United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2002-2003. Indonesia signed the Convention shortly after its adoption and became state party to the Convention in 2006. To further show its strong commitment in global campaign against corruption, in 2008 Indonesia hosted the Second Session of the Conference of States Parties of UNCAC. As member of G20 Indonesia also actively participated in various G20 and OECD anti-corruption initiatives.

During this period Indonesia confidently brought its experiences in radically shifting domestic anti-corruption policies to global audience. In many occasions Indonesia shared its ‘success stories’ in eradicating corruption and handed over lessons learned from such stories to other countries. Indonesia also emphasized the importance of technical assistance from developed countries and international organizations to developing countries. The message was clear that developing countries required technical assistance to solve the problem of corruption.

Two decades after political reform Indonesia still faces tough tasks in achieving goals of its anti-corruption policies. Recent data from KPK shows that the number of corruption cases in the country is still high. According to the last annual reports published by KPK the corruption cases investigated by this institution increased from 99 cases in 2016 to 118 cases in 2017. To make this data more miserable, most corruption cases occurred in public sectors.

Corruption is indeed a global problem and all members of international community should work together to eradicate this crime. Despite of the distressing situation at the domestic level, Indonesia should continue its active participation in the global discourse on corruption. In my opinion, however, Indonesia has to adapt this new development by alternating its approaches. It is irrelevant for the country at this stage to bring to global audience similar themes as it brought in 2000s.  Indonesia can no longer share its success stories in eradicating corruption to global audience. Indonesia also cannot assert its experiences at the domestic level as ‘good lessons learned.’ We must acknowledge that despite of various efforts and technical assistance, Indonesia still faces corruption as one of the most serious problems to overcome.

Considering dynamics at the domestic level I would like to recommend the following aspects to be conveyed by Indonesia at global discourse on corruption. First, Indonesia has to deliver strong message to underscore its commitment and determination in eradicating corruption. Indonesia, for example, should persuade global audience to put recent high number of corruption cases investigated by KPK in the context of government’s firmness in combating this crime. Indonesia must also emphasize that this high number should not be perceived as a sign of lack of commitment in eradicating corruption.

Second, Indonesia has to inform global audience its ongoing and upcoming programs and projects aimed to eradicate corruption. It is important to reassure the global community that the government does not work alone in eradicating corruption but with support and involvement of non-governmental elements such as private sectors and civil society.

Third, Indonesia has to emphasize the importance of members of the international society to continue their collaborative works in eradicating corruption. Governments, international organizations, and civil society should work together in finding most suitable solution to combat this crime by examining its context. Indonesia should underline its readiness to work together with other parties in the areas of prevention and law enforcement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Indonesia should also reaffirm its view on the importance of technical assistance for developing countries, particularly in the area of capacity building.

The reality of high number of corruption cases despite of all efforts have been taken has put Indonesia in a difficult situation. Being perceived as a corrupt state leads to the damage of Indonesia’s image as the third largest democracy. No doubt that government and people of Indonesia are bearing the highest responsibility in solving the problem of corruption in their home. Indonesia, however, cannot solve the problem alone. It needs assistance from other members of international society. Indonesia’s active role in the global discourse on corruption, above all, should be aimed to support its efforts in achieving its anti-corruption policy goals at the domestic level.

The Rohingya Crisis and Indonesia’s Possible Leading Role in Securing Asia-Pacific Regional Architecture

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi discusses recent development in the Rakhine State with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. (Source:

Indonesia perceives regional stability as one of its national interest. Hence, Indonesia has been actively taking part in various efforts to develop a regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific. Pinthong (2015) defines regional architecture as creation of an optimal regional conditions for economies to prosper, societies to progress and human security to flourish. Pinthong further describes that such an architecture involves promotion of order and stability, as well as enhancement of the insurance against outbreak of conflict.

Recent development in Myanmar has been threatening ‘the optimal conditions’ cited above. The outbreak of violence and ensuing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has put collective efforts in developing a regional architecture in jeopardy. Such demeanours are in contradiction of the spirit of protecting human security. Those can also lead to the outbreak of a broader conflict.

Responding to the escalation of human rights abuses against the Rohingya – one of Myanmar’s minority ethnic groups – Indonesia pledged it commitment to take a leading role in assisting Myanmar to end the crisis. Indonesia took this decision as continuation of its engagement-driven policy towards Myanmar. As the biggest nation in Southeast Asia Indonesia played a prominent role in Myanmar’s accession to ASEAN. Indonesia also contributed to Myanmar’s transition to democracy.

Discussing Indonesia’s policy on the Rohingya issue, one may take two reasons into consideration. First, the Constitution of Indonesia clearly mentions that maintaining world peace and order is part of its responsibilities as member of the international community. We understand that the concept of regional architecture substantially connects with the concept of order. Order, as defined by Baylis and Smith (2006), refers to any regular or discernible pattern of relationship that are stable overtime. It also refers to a condition that allows certain goals to be achieved.

Based on this definition, Baylis and Smith further define world order as the degree of order based on the delivery of certain goods including security, human rights, basic needs and justice. From this point of view, crisis in Myanmar has put the regional order at risk. In line with its Constitution, Indonesia has the responsibility to assist Myanmar to end the crisis.

Second, Indonesia has cordial relationship with Myanmar. Last year Indonesian Foreign Minister visited Myanmar proposing a formula to solve the crisis. Indonesia should use the willingness of Myanmar to accept its views as diplomatic asset. Compared to other countries in the region, Indonesia has wider opportunity to urge Myanmar to stop cruelty against the Rohingya.

The next question is how to implement that role at the operational level. During her visit to Myanmar, Indonesian Foreign Minister proposed a plan to solve the Rohingya crisis. The proposal contains five main aspects: humanitarian services, conflict prevention, reconciliation, institution-building, and long-term development. We must bear in mind that the proposal is not only inclusive but also encompassing a wide range of aspects and phases. For sure, Indonesia will not be able to accomplish all of them without partnership with other stakeholders.

Reviewing the inclusiveness of the said proposal, I wish to suggest the following strategies. First, at the bilateral level Indonesia should invite other like-minded countries to participate in assisting Myanmar to end the crisis. At the regional level Indonesia should utilize relevant regional institutions and mechanisms to pursue the objectives of its proposal. At the global level Indonesia should summon non-government organizations and international organizations to take place. Considering the sensitivity of the issue and ensure the effectiveness of this approach, Indonesia should consult Myanmar recurrently on prerequisites of third-parties’ participation.

Second, Indonesia should put humanitarian services as matter of priority. Humanitarian services contain not only delivering logistics but also – more importantly – ensuring that the government of Myanmar utilize its resources to halt the human rights violation towards the Rohingya.

Third, Indonesia should talk with countries that have great political and economic influences on Myanmar. It is indeed important to discuss the proposal with Myanmar’s immediate neighbours like Bangladesh and Thailand. To further enhance comprehensiveness of its proposal, however, Indonesia should also talk with other great powers in the region such as China, Russia, and the United States. Endorsement from those three countries will significantly boost Indonesia’s proposal at multilateral stages such as in the United Nations.

Fourth, still Indonesia must oblige the global norm of sovereignty. Considering that Myanmar is still at transition period to democracy, inappropriate approaches to Rohingya issue may lead them to close their doors to foreign assistances. Indonesia, therefore, must prioritize the constructive engagement policy instead of alienating Myanmar. In other words, Indonesia must perceive Myanmar as part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Myanmar holds the biggest share of obligation in solving the Rohingya crisis. As a part of the international community, however, Indonesia has a responsibility to ensure the protection of human rights as inseparable part of an Asia-Pacific regional architecture. Finally, accomplishment in assisting Myanmar to solve the crisis in the Rakhine State will boost Indonesia’s credentials as an important player in the region. In a wider perspective, Indonesia’s capability to assist Myanmar in solving the Rohingya issue will not only benefit both nations but also put the development of Asia-Pacific regional architecture back on the right track.


Baylis, John and Smith, Steve. 2006. The Globalization of World Politics Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pinthong, Chitriya. 2015. “The Evolving Regional Architecture for the Asia-Pacific: Toward an Indo-Pacific Idea.” Rangsit Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Vol. 2, No. 1, January – June 2015.

President Joko Widodo visits Rohingya refugees at Cox Bazaar, Bangladesh. (Source:

Penangkapan Diponegoro

Tahun 1990, atau 1991, saya berkesempatan mengunjungi rumah tempat Pangeran Diponegoro ditangkap Belanda. Terletak di sisi barat kota Magelang, rumah yang kini difungsikan sebagai museum berada di lingkungan yang asri. Dari halaman rumah terhampar pemandangan indah lereng Gunung Sindoro dan Gunung Sumbing.

Setelah lima tahun berperang, Diponegoro memutuskan menerima ajaka Belanda untuk berunding. Ternyata ajakan berunding itu tipu muslihat belaka. Alih-alih diajak bernegosiasi, Diponegoro ditangkap oleh Letnan Jenderal De Kock. Diponegoro kemudian diasingkan ke Manado, lalu dipindah ke Makassar.

Minggu lalu saya berkesempatan melihat lukisan Penangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro karya Raden Saleh. Lukisan yang termasyhur itu sedang dipamerkan di Galeri Nasional bersama dengan sejumlah lukisan lain koleksi Istana Presiden.

Penangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro dilukis pada tahun 1857. Melalui lukisan ini Raden Saleh mempersepsikan penangkapan yang terjadi pada tanggal 28 Marer 1830.

Satu hal yang menonjol adalah bagaimana Raden Saleh melukis bentuk tubuh orang-orang Belanda secara tidak proporsional. Berbeda dengan bentuk tubuh Diponegoro dan pengikutnya yang dilukis secara proporsional. Untuk pelukis dengan kaliber maestro, melukis tubuh orang dalam bentuk yang tidak proporsional tentulah bukan suatu kebetulan, apalagi kecelakaan. Bentuk tidak proporsional ini mengandung pesan tentang ‘ketidaknormalan’ Belanda karena telah berlaku lancung. Mereka pura-pura mengajak berunding, namun ajakan itu ternyata jebakan. Mereka telah mengkhianati niat baik Diponegoro.

Raden Saleh juga menggambarkan sosok Diponegoro yang gagah, terlihat seperti melakukan perlawanan terakhir sebelum dimasukkan kereta milik Belanda. Sosok Diponegoro versi Raden Saleh berkebalikan dengan sosok yang digambarkan dalam lukisan mengenai peristiwa yang sama karya pelukis Belanda Nicolaas Pieneman. Dalam lukisan yang diselesaikan tahun 1835 itu Diponegoro digambarkan sebagai sosok yang lesu dan terlihat tak berdaya di hadapan Belanda.

Meski ‘dibesarkan’ oleh Belanda, Raden Saleh tidak kehilangan jati dirinya sebagai orang Indonesia. Melalui lukisan itu Raden Saleh menciptakan suasana baru peristiwa penangkapan Diponegoro, bertolak belakang dengan apa yang digambarkan Pieneman. Raden Saleh juga mencibir De Kock dan kawan-kawannya sebagai orang yang tidak normal karena sifat mereka yang licik dan menghalalkan secara cara.

Tahun 2011 saya berkunjung ke Makassar, tempat Pangeran Diponegoro wafat dan dimakamkan. Karena waktu yang terbatas, makam dan museum Diponegoro urung dikunjungi. Mudah-mudahan ada kesempatan lagi di lain waktu untuk mengunjungi tempat peristirahatan sang pangeran yang pernah membuat Belanda kewalahan ini.

Sapu Tangan dan Perjuangan

Beberapa waktu lampau sapu tangan adalah benda penting. Bukan hanya karena fungsinya, tetapi juga karena nilainya sebagai pengikat memori. Setidaknya itu yang tersirat dari beberapa lagu  jadul.

Sapu Tangan dari Bandung Selatan adalah salah satu contoh. Lagu ini berkisah tentang asmara yang berkobar di tengah perjuangan mempertahankan kemerdekaan. Seperti pergulatan antara cinta kepada kekasih dan cinta kepada tanah air. Di akhir lagu sang gadis pujaan merelakan kekasihnya mendahulukan cintanya kepada negara. Sapu tangan menjadi ‘tanda kasih jaya sakti’ mereka.

Setelah kemerdekaan diraih muncul lagu tentang ‘sapu tanganku warna merah jambu.’ Saya lupa judul lagu itu. Jika tidak salah sapu dalam lagu ini juga menjadi tanda ikatan kasih asmara ‘di zaman susah.’

Saat belum alamat email, pin BB, dan nomer HP belum menjadi bagian dari peradaban, para pecinta berharap sapu tangan dapat menjadi penolong mereka untuk bertemu dengan kekasih yang hilang entah kemana. Setiap hari sapu tangan itu mereka pandangi, seperti orang zaman sekarang memerhatikan telepon genggam menunggu pesan atau panggilan masuk.

Di zaman perjuangan sapu tangan memiliki makna yang tidak kalah penting dari senjata. Jika senjata mewakili kedahsyatan – atau kebrutalan – sebuah perang sebagai bagian dari pejuangan, sapu tangan menggambarkan sisi lain dari sudut pandang kemanusiaan. Saat perang berkecamuk, soal asmara tetap ada dan bergelora.

Dua minggu ini sapu tangan juga kembali menjadi benda penting bagi saya. Bukan sebagai penanda kekasih yang hilang, tapi sebagai senjata dalam perjuangan melawan macet di Jakarta yang panas. Memang sapu tangan itu tidak lagi menyimpan kenangan manis, tetapi bau apek keringat yang mengering dan debu jalanan yang tertinggal di badan. Tidak disimpan sebagai kenangan, tetapi harus dicuci setiap hari agar bisa dipakai lagi esok lusa.

Nonton ‘Siti’ di Vienna Film Festival

Setelah sekian lama tidak menyaksikan film Indonesia, kemarin sore saya berkesempatan menonton sebuah film berjudul Siti di layar lebar. Kebetulan film besutan sutradara Eddie Cahyono produksi tahun 2014 ini diputar di ajang Viennale atau Vienna International Film Festival. Siti menjadi satu-satunya film karya sutradara Indonesia yang diikutkan dalam festival film tahunan di ibukota Austria ini. Oleh karenanya kesempatan menonton film ini sangat sayang untuk dilewatkan begitu saja.

Deskripsi film Siti di buku program Viennale.

Saat film mulai diputar, di layar terpampang adegan dalam format hitam putih. Saya berfikir format hitam putih hanya digunakan sebagai pembuka, untuk menambah kesan flashback yang kuat pada adegan yang menggambarkan masa lalu Siti sang tokoh utama. Berikutnya saya dengar dialog pembuka dalam bahasa Jawa. Lagi-lagi saya menduga penggunaan bahasa Jawa ini hanya sementara. Hanya untuk menegaskan setting film di pesisir selatan Yogyakarta.

Ternyata dugaan saya keliru. Format hitam putih dipakai di sepanjang film, menguatkan nuansa pahit getir kehidupan yang dijadikan tema utama film Siti. Hampir seluruh dialog juga diucapkan dalam bahasa Jawa. Penggunaan bahasa Jawa ini membuat suasana terbangun begitu sempurna, menggambarkan kondisi yang sebenarnya. Karena kebetulan berasal dari Jawa Tengah, saya tidak perlu melihat subtitlebahasa Inggris di layar untuk menghayati dialog di sepanjang film. Sementara tiga teman yang kebetulan lahir dan besar di Jakarta harus melihat subtitle agar bisa memahami dialog dengan sempurna.

Cerita film Siti menggambarkan secara lugas fenomena yang banyak dijumpai di kalangan bawah. Kali ini yang dimunculkan adalah kegetiran hidup sebuah keluarga nelayan. Bagus – suami Siti – mengalami kelumpuhan akibat kecelakaan saat melaut. Tidak hanya itu, kapal yang dibeli dengan uang pinjaman karam dalam kecelakaan itu. Akibatnya Siti harus berjuang mati-matian untuk melunasi pinjaman serta menghidupi Bagas, anak mereka satu-satunya yang duduk di bangku SD.

Penghasilan dari berjualan kerupuk jingking di pantai Parangtritis yang tidak seberapa membuat Siti harus mencari pekerjaan lain. Tidak tamat SMA, Siti tidak memiliki banyak pilihan. Bahkan mungkin tidak memiliki pilihan. Tuntutan hidup membuat Siti terpaksa bekerja sebagai pemandu lagu di warung karaoke remang-remang tidak jauh dari rumahnya. Sejak Siti bekerja sebagai pemandu lagu, Bagus suaminya tidak mau lagi berbicara dengan Siti.

Inti dari film ini adalah konflik batin Siti. Pada satu sisi dia masih mencintai suaminya Bagus yang saat ini hanya bisa terbaring lemah di tempat tidur. Namun di sisi lain di harus mencari uang untuk menyambung hidup dan melunasi hutang. Kemudian juga muncul tokoh Gatot – seorang bintara polisi yang jatuh hati dan mengajak Siti menikah. Meski sebenarnya kehadiran dan peran Gatot di film ini patut dipertanyakan. Jika memang dia mencintai Siti, kenapa dia – misalnya – tidak mengingatkannya untuk berhenti mencari nafkah di ‘kehidupan malam’. Kelihatannya sutradara perlu menambah tokoh untuk meningkatkan kerumitan konflik batin Siti.

Cerita berakhir dengan keberhasilan Siti mengumpulkan uang lima juta rupiah untuk membayar hutang. Gatot – sang polisi yang baik hati – memberi Siti uang. Juga pemilik warung karaoke yang setelah berdemonstrasi ke Polsek diizinkan lagi untuk membuka usahanya.

Pulang dalam keadaan mabuk dan sakit perut, Siti berkata kepada Bagus bahwa ada lelaki bernama Gatot yang mengajaknya menikah. Siti minta pendapat Bagus. Menjawab pertanyaan Siti, Bagus membuka suara – untuk pertama kalinya di sepanjang film – dan dengan nada getir mengizinkan Siti pergi. Mungkin karena kecewa mendengar jawaban tersebut, Siti meraung – maaf – “Asuuuu…” Dalam subtitle bahasa Inggris raungan Siti diterjemahkan sebagai – sekali lagi maaf – asshole.

Tertatih-tatih sambil menahan sakit di perut Siti mengambil uang dari lemari dan menyerahkan kepada ibu mertuanya. “Nggo mbayar kapal, Mbok”. Dia membangunkan Bagas anak satu-satunya namun Bagas menolak dengan alasan mau tidur karena besok haris ke sekolah. Siti keluar dari rumah di pagi buta. Sang ibu mertua tak kuasa menahannya.

Tiket nonton Siti di Bioskop Gartenbau, Vienna.

Saya lihat penonton – meski jumlahnya tidak begitu banyak – tidak ada yang beranjak dari kursi selama film diputar. Mereka tampak menikmati adegan demi adegan dalam film yang mengalir dan tidak membosankan. Sutradara patut diacungi jempol karena berhasil membangun cerita yang padat, tanpa dialog yang bertele-tele. Sutradara juga membuka mata penonton dan menunjukkan sisi lain dari kehidupan sehari-hari di Indonesia. Getir namun artistik. Sangat pantas jika film ini meraih penghargaan di festival film Hamburg (2015), Taipei (2015), dan Singapura (2014).

Saat beranjak dari kursi, saya menduga para penonton keluar bioskop sambil bertanya-tanya bagaimana nasib Siti selanjutnya. Film ditutup dengan adegan Siti yang dengan tertatih-tatih berhasil mencapai garis pantai. Apakah Siti akan melompat ke laut? Apakah sakit perutnya serius? Apakah sakit perut itu disebabkan oleh minuman keras oplosan yang ditenggaknya di tempat karaoke? Atau ibu mertuanya meminta bantuan para tetangga untuk mengejar Siti? Semua hanya bisa menduga dan menerka.

Siti adalah kisah hidup yang getir namun nyata dan masih banyak dijumpai di Indonesia. Siti adalah potret perempuan marjinal yang dipaksa oleh keadaan menjadi ujung tombak ekonomi keluarga. Dia harus bekerja meski batinnya menjerit karena menjadi pemandu lagu tidaklah sejalan dengan nuraninya.

Saya tidak tahu apa yang muncul di benak penonton Austria saat mereka menyaksikan rumah beralas tanah dan berdinding bambu tempat tinggal keluarga Siti. Juga peralatan rumah tangga yang begitu minim dan orang sakit yang terbaring di tempat tidur tanpa jaminan kesehatan. Bagi mereka yang hidup di negara maju dengan sistem jaminan sosial dan kesehatan yang tertata rapi, kehidupan yang dialami Siti mungkin dianggap sebagai dongeng. Padahal banyak Siti-Siti lain – bahkan dengan kondisi yang jauh lebih memprihatinkan – yang ada di Indonesia.

Angin dingin musim gugur senja itu segera menyambut saya saya keluar dari bioskop. Sepanjang perjalanan pulang saya terus berusaha menduga akhir kisah Siti. Saya berharap Bagus suaminya sembuh dan bisa kembali bekerja sebagai nelayan, Siti tidak lagi menjadi pemandu lagu, dan Bagas bisa lebih berkonsentrasi dalam belajar untuk mewujudkan cita-citanya sebagai pilot.