Ahok's jailing: Yudhoyono's party calls on Jokowi to quell tensions

Supporters of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, holding a candlelight vigil in Denpasar, Bali, on Thursday. The Christian-Chinese leader was sentenced to two years' jail for blasphemy.
Supporters of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, holding a candlelight vigil in Denpasar, Bali, on Thursday. The Christian-Chinese leader was sentenced to two years' jail for blasphemy.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Democratic Party urges Indonesian President to take action against 'time bomb'

The political party of Indonesia's former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yesterday called on his successor, Mr Joko Widodo, to take action to quell rising tensions in the capital city following the imprisonment of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

Supporters of the Christian-Chinese politician have been facing off in heated exchanges over social media with Muslim conservatives who oppose him, following Tuesday's guilty verdict against Basuki for blasphemy. He is now being held in a high-security detention centre after his supporters surrounded the Jakarta jail he was initially sent to.

The Democratic Party, controlled by Dr Yudhoyono, in a statement urged President Joko to take firmer action to prevent the situation from worsening, referring to the issue as a "time bomb". It did not say what action Mr Joko should take.

"The President cannot sit idle seeing his people moving towards the brink of divisions," the statement said. The party was founded by Dr Yudhoyono in 2001, and he has had tense relations with President Joko in the recent past. "The sensitivity of a president as the top leader of this country and as the protector is really needed," it said.

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The statement by Dr Yudhoyono's party is the first by a major political organisation commenting on the rising tensions.

Support for Basuki, popularly known by his Chinese name Ahok, has been coming not just from those in the capital but also from non-Muslims and Muslims in Yogyakarta, Central Java, Manado of North Sulawesi, and Papua where thousands have gathered to hold candlelight vigils and mass prayers for the minority politician.

DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT

The President cannot sit idle seeing his people moving towards the brink of divisions.

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, in a statement urging Mr Joko Widodo to take action.

Those who rallied behind him called for his release and accused the five-judge panel, which passed the ruling to jail him for two years, of being biased.

The charge against Basuki involved a speech he gave last September, when he referred to a verse in the Quran when telling constituents that they should not be deceived by his opponents into believing that Muslims cannot elect a non-Muslim leader.

Conservative Muslims who back the court's decision have responded fiercely against these supporters of Basuki, who is seen as someone who had insulted Islam.

RESPECT LEGAL PROCESS

...we all believe in legal mechanisms to settle problems.

PRESIDENT JOKO WIDODO, on the court's decision.

Mr Joko has so far commented once on the court's decision, asking everyone on Tuesday to "respect the legal process, including the verdict" and Basuki's right to appeal. "Most importantly, we all believe in legal mechanisms to settle problems."

Meanwhile, the leader of a powerful Indonesian Islamist organisation that led the push to jail Basuki has laid out plans for a racially charged campaign targeting economic inequality and foreign investment.

In an interview with Reuters, Mr Bachtiar Nasir said the wealth of Indonesia's ethnic Chinese minority was a problem, and said there should be an affirmative action programme for native Indonesians.

"It seems they do not become more generous, more fair," the cleric said, referring to Chinese Indonesians, who make up less than 5 per cent of Indonesia's population but control many of its large conglomerates.

Mr Nasir chairs the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwas of the Indonesian Ulemas Council, which organised protests by hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Jakarta late last year over Basuki's comments.

He also said foreign investment, especially investment from China, has not helped Indonesians in general.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Ahok's jailing: Yudhoyono's party calls on Jokowi to quell tensions'. Print Edition | Subscribe