Police ban 2 planned protests against Jakarta governor Ahok

Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is also a member of Indonesia's ethnic Chinese minority, gestures as he speaks to residents during his campaign for the next round of the governor elections in Jakarta.
Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is also a member of Indonesia's ethnic Chinese minority, gestures as he speaks to residents during his campaign for the next round of the governor elections in Jakarta. PHOTO: AFP

Indonesian police have banned two upcoming protests in capital city Jakarta targeted at gubernatorial candidate Ahok over blasphemy allegations, with a warning by national police chief Tito Karnavian yesterday that anyone plotting to "topple the government" will face serious consequences.

Jakarta's police chief, Inspector General M. Iriawan, on Saturday banned the planned protests, urging people instead to allow the police investigations into the alleged blasphemy against Ahok - whose real name is Basuki Tjahaja Purnama - to take its course.

General Tito told reporters yesterday police have picked up information that the planned street marches against Mr Basuki on Friday and Dec 2 had a hidden agenda to overthrow the government led by President Joko Widodo.

The police chief did not name the conspirators, but his hard stance follows a ban the capital city police issued to the people behind the movement, who call themselves the National Fatwa Guardians of the Indonesian Ulema Council (GNPF-MUI).

The Indonesian military (TNI) commander, General Gatot Nurmantyo, who stood beside Gen Tito, said the armed forces is ready to back up the police in maintaining security.

The police and TNI intelligence officials will work together to identity the mastermind and lead actors behind the recent protest, he added.

Mr Basuki, the popular governor of Jakarta, is seeking re-election in the Feb 15 election. He is a close ally of President Joko.

"If they mean to topple the government, we can use the 'makar' clauses," Gen Tito told reporters, when speaking about the political conspirators.

He was referring to the term in Bahasa Indonesia that translates into "attack against the government" as stipulated in Indonesia's Criminal Code. Gen Tito specifically mentioned clauses 104 and 107 of the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code's clause 104 stipulates that anyone carrying out an act of "makar" with the intention of making the President or Vice-President unable to perform their government duties, faces a maximum death sentence, while clause 107 covers those intending to topple the government, who will face a maximum 15 years in jail.

The GNPF-MUI, dominated by hardline organisations including the Islamic Defenders' Front, led the Nov 4 rally attended by more than 100,000 people.

In the Nov 4 demonstration that was marked by a riot, protesters demanded that police take stern action against Mr Basuki for allegedly insulting Islam.

"Expressing aspirations is a constitutional right, but it should not breach other people's rights, such as by blocking the city's main roads," Gen Tito said.

Police last week named Mr Basuki as a suspect over the alleged blasphemy and barred him from travelling abroad, with the case likely heading to a trial.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2016, with the headline 'Police ban 2 planned protests against Jakarta governor'. Print Edition | Subscribe