At this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in early October, Emma Harrison Clark grabbed the chance to ask Pangeran Siahaan , part whizz-kid, part renegade about his writing, politics and what drives him to speak out so passionately.
Pangeran Siahaan was quiet as a kid. Though he was quick witted, his mouth literally couldn’t keep up with his brain. A speech impediment stopped him speaking his mind until the last year of high school.
Then speak he did.
At the age of 27 years old, he is now a writer and TV presenter with one foot in the passionate world of football, and the other firmly planted in the political arena of Indonesia’s future.
Pangeran grew up in Jakarta where football became his obsession and inspiration and, eventually, a springboard for his early career as a football commentator, journalist, blogger and editor.
He began writing for Super Soccer, feeding the Indonesian public’s daily hunger for football stories with interviews and opinion pieces that quickly showcased both his ability to write, and his love of the game.
He continued to freelance blog and report for various publications and came into his own in 2010, as the Chief Creative Writer for Provocative Proactive. It was an explosive entry into both television and politics and the show ran for 18 months on Metro TV, becoming notorious for its risqué critiques and fearless crusades to voice opinions.
People started to take notice of Pangeran’s satirical views. With a large and growing list of publications under his belt, he established himself not only as an expert in the football genre—his new book, The Big Pang Theory, will be out before the end of this year—but also, in the past 18 months, Pangaraan’s new role as an editor and writer for Ayo Vote has caught the public’s eye.
Ayo Vote is an initiative he co-founded to encourage and educate young non-voters in the 2014 legislative and presidential election. Ayo Vote is a non-partisan movement – but not affiliated with any political parties – Pangaraan is forthcoming with his own political opinions.
Indonesia’s recent elections, both legislative and presidential, were a healthy indicator, he believes, of how far Indonesia has grown as a democratic nation.
‘We just held the third-largest democratic election in the world without any significant trouble. We are, dare I say, the most democratic country in the region,’ he said.
‘Those who think that we were better off pre-1998 are either deluded, or directly took benefit from the ruling New Order administration.”
Like the many who voted for ‘Jokowi’ (the nickname of Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo), Pangeran has high expectations and he, together with his colleagues in Ayo Vote will be watching closely. As the next generation of Indonesia, their future may well depend on it.
Pangeran was open about his political concerns, among them a new law to abolish direct election, requiring the election instead of regional leaders.
‘It’s only been 10 years since the people were granted constitutional rights to vote their regional leaders in and now that’s been removed,’ he said. ‘If people are deemed incapable to elect their governors and mayors, what will stop the same parliament deeming people incapable of directly electing their president?’
Pangeran is an admirer of Indonesia’s founding fathers, especially those overlooked in history. He names Tan Malaka and Amir Sjarifuddin. ‘They’re my heroes and I draw inspiration from them. For some people, being in politics is a personal opportunity. As a citizen of this country, I see it as a moral obligation.’
Pangeran’s sessions at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival were sold out. His contagious energy roused the crowd to wolf whistle and cheer more than once. He was funny and charismatic and … the perfect young politician.
‘The role of the writer in modern politics is to be the voice of conscience, the vanguard of the people. Writers are always able to capture the dynamics within society and put themselves in a good position to provide reflection for the government and people alike.’
Whether Pangeraan ends up speaking for Indonesia, or following his passion to write, this guy is one to keep an eye on.