More than 10,000 in Jakarta calling for unity in diversity

ST VIDEO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

More than 10,000 people gathered at the heart of Jakarta on Saturday morning (Nov 19) to promote pluralism and to appeal to fellow citizens not to be divided because of politics, as the capital is gearing up for the Feb 15 gubernatorial election.

"We came here not to protest, but to show that we are united - Bhinneka Tunggal Ika," a speaker on the stage told the crowd, referring to the motto and the spirit of life of Indonesia that promotes unity in diversity.

The gatherings come two weeks after massive street rallies led by hardline Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) that demanded Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama to be arrested for alleged blasphemy against Islam, an issue Mr Basuki claimed to be politicised as a move to block him from participating in the Feb 15 gubernatorial race.

The mass demonstration on Nov 4, which drew an estimated 100,000 protesters - a majority of whom were believed to have been ferried into the capital for the street march by Mr Basuki's rivals - was marked by a riot. President Joko Widodo said "political actors" were riding on the Nov 4 demonstration.

The Chinese-Christian polititician, better known as Ahok, and running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat, are up against the Gerindra Party pair of former education minister Anies Baswedan and businessman Sandiaga Uno, and the Democratic Party's Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono - an ex-army major and son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - and veteran bureaucrat Sylviana Murni.

"We don't want to be Syria. We don't want to be Afghanistan. We want to be Indonesia. Show them we cannot be divided," another speaker on the stage appealed to the cheering crowd.

The national anthem Indonesia Raya was sung and the traditional East Java's Reog Ponorogo dance was performed on the stage.

The gatherings that started at 8 am local time will be followed by a parade of pluralism and end at noon.

The organisers of the event have suggested participants wear either red-white clothing to reflect the national flag or any national costume. No one should bring any flags or banners that represent certain organisations, groups or political parties.

Wahyudis@sph.com.sg