Jokowi determined to 'prevent growth of radicalism'

Indonesian leader signals govt unity after talk of extremists' plan to storm Parliament

JAKARTA • Indonesian President Joko Widodo says he is determined to "prevent the growth of radicalism", apparently responding to rumours that Islamist extremists are planning protests to destabilise his government.

Officials say there has been mounting alarm within the government since more than 100,000 Muslims, led by hardliners, took to the streets of Jakarta on Nov 4 to demand the ouster of the capital's governor, a Christian, over alleged blasphemy.

Mr Joko held talks with a senior coalition partner yesterday, the latest in a series of meetings with top political, religious and military officials to signal the unity of his government and support from the security establishment.

IMPORTANCE OF PLURALISM

I want to emphasise the spirit of pluralism... and the government is determined to prevent the growth of radicalism in this country.

PRESIDENT JOKO WIDODO

National Police chief Tito Karnavian warned on Monday that certain groups may try to storm Parliament during rallies that are expected this Friday and the next.

"There are hidden methods by certain groups to enter and occupy Parliament... If (these actions) are intended to overthrow the government, that's a violation of the law," Mr Tito said.

Mr Joko has blamed "political actors" for fanning violence that erupted during the Nov 4 protest, though he has not named anyone.

Analysts have said opponents of Mr Joko, Indonesia's first president from outside the political elite or military, are using the furore over the Jakarta governor to undermine him.

"I want to emphasise the spirit of pluralism... and the government is determined to prevent the growth of radicalism in this country," Mr Joko told reporters at the presidential palace.

Mr Joko, also known as Jokowi, has met the military repeatedly and called for security forces to be on alert against further unrest.

He has also met top politicians, including the leader of his backing party, Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, and opposition leader Prabowo Subianto. The three have jointly called for calm.

Following Mr Joko's meetings with Mr Prabowo, speculation was rife that the opposition Gerindra Party could soon join the government coalition.

"I am ready to help the government at any time," Mr Prabowo said after his meeting with Mr Joko. But Gerindra deputy chairman Sufmi Dasco Ahmad has dismissed the speculation.

The trigger for the tension was a comment that Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, the first Christian and ethnic Chinese in the job, made about his opponents' use of the Quran in political campaigning. Mr Joko is seen as one of the governor's main supporters.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population and is also home to sizeable Christian and Hindu populations.

Ahok is running for re-election in February against two Muslim candidates, including the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Mr Joko's relationship with his predecessor has deteriorated after Mr Yudhoyono accused the government of producing a false intelligence report about him masterminding the Nov 4 rally.

Officials are also investigating a social media campaign calling for a run on banks on Friday in protest over the government's handling of the complaint against Ahok, the police press relations department said on Twitter.

"It is our shared responsibility not to follow suggestions that are intended to inflict damage," Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Monday, in response to a question about a possible run on banks.

"Economic recovery and stability are very important for the public," she added.

REUTERS, JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Jokowi determined to 'prevent growth of radicalism''. Print Edition | Subscribe