More than a thousand people pay tribute to Ahok

Supporters of outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama gathering at the City Hall in Indonesia's capital city yesterday. Many had gathered outside his office early in the morning. As he arrived at 7.30am, the crowd started chanting his Chines
Supporters of outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama gathering at the City Hall in Indonesia's capital city yesterday. Many had gathered outside his office early in the morning. As he arrived at 7.30am, the crowd started chanting his Chinese nickname, "Ahok, Ahok".PHOTO: ISTIMEWA
Flower stands with messages of gratitude for Basuki and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat at City Hall yesterday.
Flower stands with messages of gratitude for Basuki and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat at City Hall yesterday.ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

More than a thousand people gathered at City Hall in Jakarta yesterday to greet outgoing governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, as he arrived for work a day after the end of his blasphemy trial.

As Basuki, who just a week ago was trounced at the polls by rival Anies Baswedan, arrived at 7.30am local time (8.30am in Singapore), the crowd started chanting his Chinese nickname, "Ahok, Ahok!"

Many had gathered outside his office as early as 6am, hoping to pay tribute to him with flowers and decorated balloons.

Hundreds of others sent massive flower stands with messages expressing gratitude and encouragement for him and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

It is a tradition in Indonesia to send flower stands, which look more like massive signboards adorned with flowers, on special occasions or to mark an event.

Earlier yesterday, a groundsman said there were more than 700 flower stands, which started arriving at City Hall from last week.

But by the end of yesterday, the number of flower stands swelled to more than a thousand, spilling out on to the street.

They had been sent by individuals, families, schools, and groups across the country.

Many contained messages such as, "You are the best governor Jakarta had and will ever have" or "We hope Ahok will continue to contribute in whatever position he may later have."

A particularly interesting one was sent by a group who called themselves "The Empire", which had the message, "Thank you Ahok-Djarot, may the force be with you," referencing a popular line from the Star Wars movies.

"We trust him and we believe he will always fight for what is right and fight against corruption," said Mr David Silano, a worker in a property firm who was at City Hall from 7.30am.

Mr Danny Oei Wirianto, an entrepreneur, said: "I have never seen a public official being praised and cheered for like that."

Basuki has endured a tough year. From being a shoo-in to be elected as Jakarta governor, he was charged with blasphemy and lost the gubernatorial election last week to Mr Anies, a former culture and education minister.

A court is set to rule on Basuki's case on May 9, with the prosecution recommending that he be sentenced to two years' probation in lieu of a suspended jail term.

Mr Anies is set to take over from Basuki officially as governor in October.

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'More than a thousand people pay tribute to Ahok'. Print Edition | Subscribe