Jakarta governor's supporters apologise for protest threat

A volunteer group that supports Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's re-election has apologised for threatening to stage a protest at the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta, over the "detention" of two of its members in Singapore.

"We apologise for being emotional," said Teman Ahok spokesman Singgih Widyastomo at a press conference on Sunday night, after the group reportedly threatened to swarm the embassy.

Teman Ahok, or Friends of Ahok, is a group of Indonesian youths who champion Mr Basuki's bid for re-election in 2017, but has no official affiliation with the governor.

One of its founders, Ms Amalia Ayuningtyas, and Mr Richard Handris Saerang, were denied entry into Singapore on Saturday after they told immigration officers that they were in the country to conduct political activities.

Teman Ahok coordinator Aditya Yogi Prabowo, however, claimed that the two activists were held by Singapore authorities and denied consular assistance.

His allegation and other similar reports went viral on social media over the weekend, prompting Singapore to refute the claims that Ms Amalia and Mr Richard were detained.

The Singapore Embassy in Jakarta said on Sunday that the two activists were turned away because Singapore does not allow foreigners to use the Republic as a platform to conduct any political activities. Arrangements were also made for the two activists to return to Indonesia, the embassy said in a Facebook post.

The Indonesian Embassy in Singapore also said it was informed of the matter and allowed consular access to the two.

Ms Amalia, who was also present at the press conference, denied she planned to carry out political activities, reported The Jakarta Post.

She also said the situation was exacerbated by the slow response of the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore, adding that consular officers were late in providing assistance as the embassy was closed on Sundays. "If they had been with us, I believe things would have been a lot easier," she said.

Teman Ahok, however, admitted that it had planned to hold an event in Singapore to raise funds, as well as to collect endorsements from Mr Basuki's supporters.

The incident drew mixed reactions from Indonesian politicians yesterday, but most, including Mr Basuki, called on Indonesians to respect the laws of other countries.

Mr Singgih said the group will be more careful in future. "The important thing is that our friends are back," he said. "And this will be a lesson and an experience for us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta governor's supporters apologise for protest threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe