A Souvenir from Ternate

Published on The Jakarta Post (http://www.thejakartapost.com)
Jo Ou Ma Boki Ratu Nita Budhi Susanti Mangaloa: A Queen of many thrones
The Jakarta Post | Tue, 05/04/2010 3:43 PM | People

A Queen of many Thrones

Meet Her Royal Highness Jo Ou Ma Boki Ratu Nita Budhi Susanti Mangaloa, or simply call her Boki, which means Her Majesty the Queen.

Officially, she is the queen of Ternate Sultanate. Unofficially, she wears many hats. She is the member of the House of Representatives’ Commission XI on finance and the economy. She advises the Democratic Party in North Maluku and the Indonesian Association of Village Administrations (Apdesi). In fact, she holds so many other positions they would take too long to list.

But above all, she sees herself as the mother of the Ternate people.

“And that is a lifetime job,” said the 42-year-old.

When she became queen, she said she enjoyed all the luxury and privilege one could get in life.

But, she quickly added, “along with all the grace and joy, comes all the responsibilities and public expectations”.

She believes her ultimate goal as a queen, which she became upon marrying the Sultan of Ternate Yang Mulia Sri Sultan Mudaffar Sjah, is to meet the expectations of the sultanate and its people – to keep an ancient system alive.

“A system that exists to preserve tradition and religion,” said the mother of five, who served as a member of the Indonesian senate, the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), before sitting in the House.

In Ternate, she said, tradition was highly valued because it shaped many of the local practices, including in politics, social issues, the arts, the economy and the law.

Such reality influenced her stance as a member of the House. She quickly became one of the advocates of the hukum adat (customary law) reenactment campaign, spearheaded by a few of the country’s nongovernmental organizations, such as the Indigenous People’s Alliance (AMAN).

Besides balancing modernity and tradition, a Ternate queen has to advocate the voice of people in North Maluku whenever their regional administration turns deaf or blind, and fails to absorb the aspirations of its constituents, she said.

“When the government, [or provincial and district administrations] fail to listen to the people, we step in, we intervene. We bridge the gap, mediate the talks, and break the deadlocks,” said the woman, who claims to be a mixed-blood descendant of Japanese, Portuguese and Dutch origin.

To be able to understand what people want, she and her husband go on routine tours, journeys to areas where people consider talking to, or kissing the hand of the Sultan is a lifetime privilege.

On those occasions, the woman who grew up in Semarang, Central Java, shows her true colors. She demonstrates that being a queen of an ancient Islamic Sultanate does not mean keeping the old paradigm unchecked.

When faced with a woman who wept over her husband’s second marriage, Boki gave her a simple piece of advice, yet considered revolutionary for an Islamic Sultanate that acknowledges polygamy.

She told the woman, “yes, your husband is allowed to marry another woman, but you have to ask him whether he is able to share himself equally?”

She was referring to the stories of Prophet Muhammad, who practiced polygamy only because he could treat all his wives in a fair and just manner in all aspects of their lives.

Rumor has it that she and her husband, the 48th Sultan of Ternate, also cure people. But empirical studies need to prove whether they actually have magical hands, or simply manage to implant suggestions or affirmations to whoever comes to them.

Modern neurology and medical science have recognized that such treatment is effective because people often fall sick when their mental state is disturbed.

Boki is living proof of the power of suggestion or, as she called it, a “hunch”.

“From when I was a child, I always played the role of queen. Whatever games my siblings or my friends and I played, I always played the queen,” said the woman, who took a postgraduate management program at Diponegoro University’s Faculty of Economics.

What is not a rumor is that she has paid serious attention to the revitalization of economic systems in Indonesia.

Several news reports have mentioned that she is a strong promoter of the use of dinar and dirham, Arab’s gold and silver coins.

The woman, who is now a frequent traveler to Jakarta, cited a series of studies that have proved the use of the two coins is safer and more profitable.

“Gold has never depreciated. And therefore, it is a great investment,” she said.

Her interest in the economy is beyond micro and macro financial system. She also speaks about the economics of health.

She believes the more small- and medium-scale businesses grow in the province, the healthier people in North Maluku will be.

“[Should that happen] we will be free of malaria and will have no more malnutrition,” she said, referring to two of the most worrying health threats in the archipelagic province that consists of more than 1,400 islands.

North Maluku is one of the country’s provinces where malaria is highly endemic. Although data on the economic losses from malaria in the province is unavailable, the province’s health office head Husein Kausaha said “it could reach billions” referring to work absenteeism and the treatment costs a malaria patient has to bear.

This public health issue has hindered the development of the province, which is listed as one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia.

She appreciates the Health Ministry and Unicef’s initiative in tackling malaria in North Maluku through supporting the establishment of an integrated anti-malaria post command called the Malaria Center, and the free distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets for pregnant women and immunized children.

However, she said that health promotion programs should not only focus on modern treatments but offer traditional and herbal medicine too.

“There are many things in our surroundings that could be used as medicine. Grass, leaves, fruit … we are rich in natural resources,” she said, pointing out that spices were the reason European countries came and colonized most parts of the archipelago for some 300 years.

But she stressed that she could not succeed in all the things she was fighting for without strong political support.

“The essence of real politics is to improve people’s welfare, and the economy and health are indicators of whether or not the targets are being achieved,” said the queen, who said running for North Maluku’s top seat is not unthinkable.

“It all depends on the aspirations of the people.”

— JP

Copyright © 2010 The Jakarta Post - PT Bina Media Tenggara. All Rights Reserved.
Source URL: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/05/04/jo-ou-ma-boki-ratu-nita-budhi-susanti-mangaloa-a-queen-many-thrones.html