Ex-wife of former Jakarta governor Ahok hid affair, court told

Veronica Tan breaking down as she reads a handwritten letter from her husband, former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, during a press conference in Jakarta on May 23, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Ms Veronica Tan was 19 when Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, proposed to her.

She had just enrolled in the architecture faculty at Pelita Harapan University in Tangerang, a satellite town of Jakarta.

Ms Tan and Basuki, 11 years older than her, did not need to date before marrying each other on Sept 6, 1997. Both were active members of the Kristus Yesus church in Pluit, North Jakarta. She was a member of its choir, while he was on the church committee.

She was impressed with his resolute character, while he loved the way she sang and played the piano.

She also sported a natural look and wore no make-up, Basuki was to recall later.

Ms Tan was born and raised in big cities.

The oldest of three siblings, she went to primary school in the North Sumatra provincial capital of Medan. Her mother set great store by education, and she was sent to Jakarta for her high school education. She lived there with an aunt.

Despite her urban upbringing, Ms Tan was willing to follow her husband where his career took him. For example, the newlyweds moved to rural Belitung Island, Basuki's home town, where he owned a quartz mine that yielded raw material for construction.

Basuki's decision to join politics took Ms Tan by surprise, but she decided to support him.

He became a member of the Belitung Timur regency's Parliament, and was then elected the regent there. In 2009, he was elected to the national Parliament, and the couple moved back to Jakarta.

On the surface, they remained close, even as Basuki's political star kept rising.

In 2012, when partnered with Mr Joko Widodo - also known as Jokowi - they were elected deputy governor and governor of Jakarta, respectively. He took over the governor's post in 2014, when Mr Joko became president of Indonesia.

All this while, Ms Tan came across as a loving mother, ferrying her three children to school while performing her role as the wife of a successful politician.

Unknown to the public, she was having an affair with married businessman Julianto Tio.

Businessman Julianto Tio.

Some details were revealed when presiding judge Sutaji read out the divorce verdict in court.

He said Ms Tan had concealed the identity of her "good friend", Mr Tio, on her mobile phone by using a nickname for him.

"To deceive anyone, including her husband, Ms Tan changed the name of Julianto Tio on her mobile phone to another name, Medan Elang," the judge said. Elang means "eagle" in Bahasa Indonesia.

Ms Tan would also speak to Mr Tio in Hokkien - a language that her husband does not speak - said the judge.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.