Ahok - 'call me BTP' - to be released from prison today

Jakarta's former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, in this photo taken just after he was sentenced to two years' jail in May 2017 for blasphemy against Islam. His lawyer Teguh Samudera said on Tuesday that Basuki has plans to
Jakarta's former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, in this photo taken just after he was sentenced to two years' jail in May 2017 for blasphemy against Islam. His lawyer Teguh Samudera said on Tuesday that Basuki has plans to get into the oil business, in addition to hosting a TV show.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Former Jakarta governor to get out earlier for good behaviour, plans talk show, may even be remarrying

Jailed former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama will be released today, with projects such as hosting a talk show, travel plans, and perhaps even a new bride awaiting him.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said on Tuesday that Basuki will be released from the Mobile Brigade Command detention centre in Depok, West Java.

Mr Yasonna would not say when exactly the 52-year-old will be released, only that it will take place "during working hours".

Basuki will then need to settle administrative matters at Cipinang prison in East Jakarta, where he was held before being transferred to Depok for security reasons.

The Christian-Chinese politician, who was sentenced to two years' jail for blasphemy against Islam, is getting an early release mainly due to remissions given for his good behaviour, officials have said.

The former governor, widely known by his Chinese nickname Ahok, recently asked supporters to refer to him as BTP instead.

In May 2017, a Jakarta court sentenced him to two years' jail after finding him guilty of insulting Islam. It was another blow as he had lost the race for governor to former culture and education minister Anies Baswedan a few weeks earlier.

  • UPS AND DOWNS OF HIS CAREER

  • 2004: He becomes a member of the regional legislative council in his native East Belitung Regency, Bangka Belitung islands province, through New Indonesia Alliance Party. He quits after only a few months.

    2005: Runs for regional election and becomes East Belitung Regent. He is known as a reform minded-leader, building roads, providing free healthcare services and improving educational services.

    2006: Resigns as regent to run in gubernatorial election.

    2007: Loses gubernatorial election.

    2008: Joins Golkar Party.

    2009: Elected as a lawmaker for a five-year term.

    2012: Backed by Gerindra, he advances in Jakarta gubernatorial election with then Surakarta Mayor Joko Widodo, who is supported by Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). He becomes deputy governor.

    September 2014: Resigns from Gerindra over disagreement with party's position on Regional Election Bill. The move is also attributed to Mr Joko's move to challenge Gerindra chief Prabowo Subianto in the presidential election.

    November 2014: Becomes Jakarta governor after Mr Joko is elected Indonesian president.

    September 2016: PDI-P throws support behind Ahok's re-election bid. In a pre-election speech later the same month, Ahok accuses his rivals of using a Quranic verse to trick voters into not voting for him.

    December 2016: Faces trial for blasphemy.

    April 2017: Loses Jakarta gubernatorial election to Gerindra-backed Muslim candidate Anies Baswedan.

    May 2017: Sentenced to two years' jail for blasphemy.

    April 2018: Divorces wife of more than 20 years, Madam Veronica Tan.

    Jan 24, 2019: Released from jail.

In April last year, he formally divorced his wife of more than 20 years, Madam Veronica Tan, after a court found sufficient evidence of her infidelity.

However, Basuki, known for his tough-speaking style, still has many supporters.

Ahead of his release, there have already been media reports and a lot of chatter online about him hosting a talk show and being invited to speak in several countries.

There is also talk that he will marry a police officer next month.

A big Basuki supporter, Ms Tjuk Sudiarti, is very happy about his release and said she will watch that moment on television.

"Hopefully, he will have a happier life out there," she said.

Last year, the 78-year-old, together with her daughter and friends, visited Basuki in the Depok Centre, where he joked about becoming a stand-up comedian and spoke about travelling overseas.

"I hope he returns to work as a government official, but I know many people might not like him," said the mother of three, who admires Basuki for his "discipline, honesty and firmness" which brought breakthroughs, such as bureaucratic reforms, when he was governor.

Ms Shintya Kurniawan, who works in a humanitarian organisation, is curious to know why he wants to be referred to as BTP.

 
 

"His name, Ahok, has an ethnic association. Is his request to people to call him BTP because he wants to appear more Indonesian?" the 34-year-old wondered.

Like Ms Sudiarti, she would like Basuki to continue working in government. "I think, with all his experience, skills and power, he will make a greater contribution by working in the public sector," she said, suggesting options such as government adviser or chief graft-buster.

Basuki's lawyer Teguh Samudera said on Tuesday that Basuki has plans to get into the oil business in addition to hosting a TV show, Antara reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'Ahok - 'call me BTP' - to be released from prison today'. Print Edition | Subscribe