Indonesia: Water buffalo banned in rallies

President Yudhoyono of Indonesia was reelected with an overwhelming mandate last year, promising to focus on bureaucratic reforms and stricker fight against corruption, including the eradication of the Judicial Mafia on his first 100 days in office.

His efforts were deemed insufficient and too slow by the people, and scholars [id] think that anti corruption efforts are lacking strategies and far from being well planed.

End of January, a demonstration took place in Jakarta and several Indonesian big cities marking the first 100 days of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's second term.

During the rally in the capital, a group of youth calling themselves Pemuda Cinta Tanah Air (Youths Love Motherland [PECAT]) brought along a rented water buffalo attaching a big photo of the head of state on the beast's buttocks.

A couple of days ago, the same group planned to stage a similar anti-government protest using the same rented water buffalo. Alas, they were halted by the police just outside the capital and the water buffalo, bearing the white painted name “SiBuYa” (perhaps coincidentally its has the same initial like the president) on its body, confiscated.

“We don't know their real reason. They said (it) disturbs public order,” according Yosef Rizal, the protest coordinator, as quoted[id] by the local journal Kompas.

Water buffalo is considered a gentle, hardworking, and noble animal to most agrarian Indonesians, except in Java.

In Javanese culture, comparing someone with water buffalo is considered rude, an utter disrespect. “Sleeping like a buffalo” is to call a sleeping person who's lazy and doesn't care about his/her surroundings.

To the Torajans [id], inhabitants of Sulawesi, water buffalo plays an important role in society. Besides being used to work the fields, water buffalo is also a currency (i.e: down payment, dowry, inheritance,etc.), and most importantly used as animal sacrifice in various traditional ceremonies.

Asiatic Water Buffalo. Photo from the Flickr page of cskk

Asiatic Water Buffalo. Photo from the Flickr page of cskk

To most Indonesians, the buffalo is no different to other animals brought in as attribute to the demonstration last January.  However, since President Yudhoyono shared his personal feelings about the buffalo in front of a national governors conference, bloggers and twitterers started to discuss whether the action should be deemed inappropriate.

According to Andy Syoekry Amal, who wrote a post on Kompasiana:

Menurut hemat saya, pernyataan SBY tersebut juga patut dihargai. Betapapun SBY adalah presiden, sedangkan presiden adalah kepala negara sekaligus kepala pemerintahan. Sebagai kepala negara, Presiden adalah simbol resmi negara Indonesia di dunia. Kita tentu tidak ingin simbol resmi negara kita disamakan dengan kerbau. Karena jika demikian, maka kita sebagai rakyat Indonesia juga adalah kerbau, karena dipimpin oleh “presiden kerbau”.

In my humble opinion, (president) SBY's statement need to be respected. He, however, is the president, the head of state and government. As the head of state, the president is the official symbol of the Indonesian state in the world. Of course we don't want our state leader to be liken to a a water buffalo. If he's indeed a water buffalo, than us the citizens are no different.

Another blogger, who coincidentally named Andy said:

kalau memang merasa tersinggung dengan yang dibawa para pendemo (ya si kerbau bertuliskan SiBuYa itu), ya perbaiki dong kinerjanya, jangan malah mellow, melankolis, dan sentimentil…

If he really does feel offended by the protester (I mean, the water buffalo with the word “SiBuYa” written on it), he should fix his (leadership) performance instead of being mellow, melancholy and sentimental..

Blogger Mas Abdi posted his opinion on Politikana:

Secara pribadi saya ingin mengatakan bahwa masalah demo kerbau sebaiknya tidak usah ditanggapi secara serius oleh SBY, karena seperti telah saya katakan pada awal tulisan ini, bahwa demo kerbau itu tidak pernah diperhatikan serius oleh masyarakat, bahkan lebih dari itu masyarakat pun sudah melupakannya.

Personally, I think the demonstrating water buffalo shouldn't be taken seriously by the president, because as I said on the paragraph above, it wasn't really taken seriously by the people, moreover, the people has already forgotten it.

On his blog, Rinaldi Munir said that the protesters were lacking respect against a state symbol:

Sebagai simbol negara, maka dia adalah representasi negara. Kalau Presiden pergi ke luar negeri maka, dia mewakili negara yang besar ini. Apa yang diucapkan oleh Presiden adakah pernyataan resmi yang mewakili negara. Jadi, pelecehan terhadap SBY dengan menyamakannya sebagai kerbau tentu adalah pelecehan terhadap negara itu sendiri.

Saya melihat para demonstran itu tidak mengerti etika berdemonstrasi. Mereka lebih banyak mengandalkan emosi kebencian ketimbang berdemonstasi secara cerdas dan santun.

As a state symbol, he represents the country. If he goes abroad then he's representing this great nation. What he said officially represents the state. So disgracing him by comparing him to a water buffalo automatically means disgracing the state itself.

All I'm seeing are protesters who don't know the ethics when they're demonstrating. They rely on animosity instead of protesting in a smart and decent (ways).

Rinaldi also adds that despite so, the president should keep it cool:

Seharusnya SBY bersikap tenang, tidak reaktif, dan tidak merasa panik karena adanya wacana pemakzulan dirinya akhir-akhir ini


Biasa sajalah, tenang man, senyum dong, toh rakyat bisa menilai sendiri siapa ingin memakan siapa. Apa yang terjadi di gedung parlemen dan di istana negara adalah panggung drama yang disaksikan oleh jutaan rakyat. Pada akhirnya rakyat sendiri yang menyimpulkan dan menilai setiap aksi pelaku peran di panggung itu.

SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) should remain calm, not too reactive, or panic because of the recent impeachment rumor.


Take it easy, relax man, smile if you will, the people can judge by themselves who the backstabbers are. The parliament building and the state palace are the drama stages watched by millions of people. By the end of the day the people will conclude and assess each act of the actors on those stage.

Most twitterers said that Yudhoyono was too quick to complain, instead of dealing with many overwhelming issues in the country. However, some of them also sympathize with Yudhoyono.

adityainsani: Again, President Yudhoyono complaining and acting like an uneducated boy, how can you lead this country sir??

aiiuntari: presiden dapat berkomentar soal kerbau, namun tutup mulut ketika diminta pendapat tentang wakil-nya yang tidak punya etika

the president would comment about water buffalo, but keep his silence when asked about his unethical VP.

fauzanhamdi: kebebasan berekspresi disalahgunakan menjadi kebebasan menghujat/menghina. (tentang si kerbau)

A misuse of the freedom of expression by turning it into freedom of condemning/insulting. (I'm talking about the water buffalo)

Over night, the water buffalo named by student protesters became a popular icon of democracy. In other Indonesian cities, however, the police are still confiscating the animal brought by protesters.

ruliharahap: Police Detain Student Protesters and a Buffalo as Yudhoyono Arrives In Palembang | See BeYe (note: Yudhoyono)? This is your own doing


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