Jakarta Governor to resume duties on Sunday

Basuki, seen in a file photo taken last November, is seeking a fresh term in the gubernatorial election next Wednesday. He has been accused of insulting Islam at an event last September.
Basuki, seen in a file photo taken last November, is seeking a fresh term in the gubernatorial election next Wednesday. He has been accused of insulting Islam at an event last September.PHOTO: REUTERS

Home Affairs chief to decide if blasphemy trial would affect Ahok's return

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, will resume his duties at City Hall on Sunday, amid calls from his rivals to have him suspended while he stands trial for blasphemy.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said he will soon make a decision on whether the trial would affect Basuki's return to office, although he did not give a timeframe.

The ministry has been facing pressure from opposition lawmakers as well as Basuki's political rivals to suspend him.

Acting Jakarta Governor Sumarsono, who is also the Home Affairs Ministry's director-general of regional autonomy, confirmed that Basuki would be reinstated on Sunday. But he added that this could change, as Basuki's fate may be decided only after prosecutors submit their sentencing recommendation.

"A recommended sentence of under five years would entail reinstatement. Otherwise, he will be suspended," said Mr Sumarsono.

Under Indonesian law, office- holders facing charges with a jail sentence of five years or more may be suspended until the trial is over. Blasphemy comes with a maximum jail term of five years.

I'LL BE BACK

I'll be back at City Hall on Sunday, but various parties involved in the development of the Kalijodo park want me to inaugurate it personally.

JAKARTA GOVERNOR BASUKI TJAHAJA PURNAMA

Basuki said his first order of business would be to inaugurate a new park in the old Kalijodo red-light district, which he shut down last year.

"I'll be back at City Hall on Sunday, but various parties involved in the development of the Kalijodo park want me to inaugurate it personally," he told reporters on the campaign trail on Wednesday.

Kalijodo was Jakarta's biggest red-light district, where crime was rampant and thugs openly ran vice dens and sold drugs.

 
 
 

Basukicleaned up the area and relocated residents to government- subsidised flats. A private developer has since turned the area into a garden with a skate park and futsal courts, as well as jogging and cycling paths.

The Chinese Christian politician, who assumed office in 2014, is seeking a fresh term in the gubernatorial election next Wednesday. He has been on leave since last October to campaign for re-election.

He was put on trial in December for insulting Islam, after he allegedly made an inappropriate reference to a Quranic verse at an event last September.

If he is suspended, Mr Djarot Saiful Hidayat, his deputy and running mate for the upcoming election, will take over until October when the next governor is sworn in.

Owing to the highly politicised nature of the case, Basuki has little legal wiggle room to avoid a suspension, said veteran lawyer Risza Fransiscus. Mr Risza said that even if Basuki was suspended, it would not have an averse impact on Jakarta.

"Ahok will likely be suspended but the day-to-day running of the city will continue under Djarot, along the lines of policies that have previously been set by Ahok and approved by the local regional House of Representatives," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Jakarta Governor to resume duties on Sunday'. Print Edition | Subscribe