Jayapura, Jubi West Papua's most famous ex-political prisoner, Filep Karma who was sentenced to 15 years in jail just for raising the West Papuan flag, has visited the Netherlands where alongside Free West Papua Campaign Netherlands he has been raising awareness and support for West Papua's freedom and self-determination.
He also showed his support for the Global Petition for West Papua that will be taken to the United Nations by the "Swim for West Papua" team across Lake Geneva this August. Filep Karma was very excited to hear about Swim for West Papua, saying "We should join the Swim for West Papua. Why not? It's our struggle." Karma said.
Filep Karma is the latest famous figure to personally support the Swim for West Papua and the Global Petition for an Internationally Supervised Vote in West Papua. Other notable supporters include: Benny Wenda, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Benjamin Zepahniah, Nili Latu, Marcus Watts and Rev. Steve Chalke. (*)
James Borrowdale Benny Wenda looked entirely incongruous as his face hovered over a plate of bacon and eggs, his chieftain's neckwear, pig tusks at the end of a necklace adorned by shells he calls it his "tie" hanging from his neck to rest against his tiny frame, as we sat in the dining-room of a house in a sleepy South Auckland suburb. I was asked not to identify its location for fear of Wenda's safety, or photograph him with any locatable features in the background; Wenda had that morning flown in from England, and his team told me they had suspicions that people with ties to the Indonesian Government had monitored his arrival.
That same government arrested Wenda in 2002, accusing him of inciting a riot in Abepura, even though he wasn't in the country at the time. Fearing for his safety he broke through the ventilation unit of a bathroom, and scaled a wall topped with broken glass he leaned across the table to show me the scars on his palm dodging searchlights and guards, eventually fleeing through the jungle and across the border to Papua New Guinea. He was later granted political asylum in the UK.
We spoke for close to an hour as he recounted his life and the struggles of his people, at times his eyes filling with tears, at others with laughter. I asked him how it felt to have been away from his home for such a long time. "Very difficult because my heart and my mind is with our people and our land and our mountain. It's very difficult... I am not in the UK for a better life, but because my people are crying for justice and freedom. I'm on a mission. That's why I keep going and fight until my people are free in their own land."
Wenda has never known a West Papua free of Indonesia. "I myself have been a witness," he told me as we began. "I was born with this issue and I grew up with this issue." Indonesian troops first set foot in West Papua in 1961; in 1962, Indonesia formally took control over the former Dutch colony under the New York Agreement, with the promise of a vote on independence by 1969. In 1967, Indonesia granted Freeport McMoRan now the country's largest taxpayer mining rights in West Papua. When the promised vote arrived in 1969, it was a sham, the so-called Act of Free Choice, in which just 0.2 percent of the West Papuan population voted to ensure West Papua remained part of Indonesia. Wenda was born in 1975.
Wenda's Lani tribe rebelled against Indonesian rule, prompting retaliation. A bombing campaign ensued, forcing Wenda and his tribe to live in hiding the Asia Human Rights Commission reported that these acts met the criteria for genocide. "From 1977 to 1985 we were hiding in the bush. Many friends died because our crops were destroyed... Every time I talk about this," he looked on the brink of tears, "I really cry hard." Wenda's tribe eventually surrendered to the Indonesian occupiers. He went to school, encountering acts of petty racism along the way, and studied politics and sociology at university in Jayapura. In 1999 he was made chief of the Lani tribe, putting him on course for his arrest.
"The killing is continuing... to this very day," Wenda said. Some recent high-profile examples: preceding Wenda's arrest, in 2001, Theys Eluay, leader of the Papua Presidium Council was shot dead by members of Indonesia's Special Forces. In 2012, Mako Tabuni, Vice-Chairman of the National Committee for West Papua, was killed by police officers who claimed he had a gun, which witnesses denied. In December 2014 security forces opened fire on a crowd of 800 people in the Paniai Regency who had gathered to demonstrate; at least four school children died, and 17 more were injured. A recent New Internationalist article mentions stories of villagers stacking skulls in caves to record for posterity atrocities that have occurred.
Not that you hear much about it. Until recently, a foreign journalist needed approval from 18 separate government agencies to enter West Papua. Local journalists hardly fare much better: the Journalist Alliance of Jayapura recorded 38 cases of intimidation and violence between 2013 and 2014. Which brings Wenda to the work he's doing now: "We got out, and are trying to educate the world in this region to understand about our struggle." He leads the United Liberation Movement of West Papua, an umbrella group for the previously splintered resistance, which was formed in 2014.
He believes that momentum is on his side. The International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) now has signatories from countries as diverse as New Zealand, Scotland, and the Czech Republic; nine more, across four parties, were added this week after Wenda met with New Zealand MPs. Earlier this year, seven Pacific nations Tonga, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu called on the United Nations' Human Rights Council to investigate the allegations of widespread abuses in West Papua.
Wenda wants to bring his nation back into the Pacific family, and this is what brought him to Aotearoa. That evening, he was welcomed onto Orakei Marae by Ngati Whatua, where much of the talk was of the Kiwi's own proud resistance to colonisation and its position at the forefront of Pacific solidarity. Wi Popata, one of those who welcomed Wenda on behalf of Ngati Whatua, told me later: "The Pacific needs to unite on this. Our own Maori people need to unite on this as well. This is a big kaupapa, this is a big thing for our brothers and sisters over in West Papua.
"It's a challenge for our own people to get out of our comfort zone, to get out of our settlement thinking and to start helping these people out from West Papua.
"It's a challenge for our own people to get out of our comfort zone, to get out of our settlement thinking and to start helping these people out from West Papua. If we need to organise another hikoi, we'll do that; if we need to march up Queen Street, let's do that too."
Green MP Catherine Delahunty, an IPWP signatory and a long-time supporter of West Papua's bid for freedom, was also in attendance. She said it was time New Zealanders shed their ignorance of this issue. "It's very much time Kiwis stopped seeing the Pacific as a playground and started recognising real conditions in life. This one is the most serious genocide, the most serious human rights abuse, that's been going on since the late 60s in our region. Every citizen of this country needs to know about it so we can pressure our government into taking action."
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told VICE the head of the Ministry's regional division dealing with Indonesia relations met with Mr Wenda during his visit to discuss the human rights situation in Papua.
"Successive New Zealand governments have recognised Papua as a part of Indonesia. New Zealand actively seeks out information about the human rights situation in Papua, including through diplomatic visits, and has raised human rights issues directly with Indonesia and in international forums including the United Nations Universal Periodic Review process."
Wenda himself, when it was time for him to speak, said being on the marae felt like coming home. Of course, it's been a long time since he's been to his real home, but before he escaped, he made himself a promise: "Today I am leaving with tears, but one day I will come back and I will smile. I promised to my land, my people, my forest, my mountain."
Jakarta A six-member television crew from Japan was deported from the easternmost Indonesian province of Papua on Thursday for immigration violations, a local immigration official said.
Yopie Watimena, chief of the immigration office in the provincial capital of Jayapura, said that one of the six Japanese nationals entered Indonesia via Jakarta's Sukarno-Hatta international airport on May 1, while the rest entered the country on May 2.
According to Watimena, the six came to Papua to make a documentary film on the life of native tribes in the province, but failed to obtain proper documents, including journalist visas.
"They had already made footage of the Mamuna and Korowai tribes in a remote area in the southeastern part of Papua and were on the way to the town of Wamena (in the mountainous regency of Jayawijaya) when we arrested them," the official said, adding that two Papuan tourist guides who accompanied them were also detained before finally being released.
Watimena said that based on the information gained by the Papua Strategic Intelligence Agency, the six Japanese nationals work for the Nagano Production House in Japan.
"They were deported to Japan today (Thursday) after having been interrogated since Wednesday," he said.
There were no further details about the six Japanese citizens.
Johnny Blades This week's visit to New Zealand by a West Papuan independence leader has thrown the polarisation around his cause into stark relief.
Benny Wenda visited New Zealand to meet MPs, Foreign Affairs officials, trade unionists and the general public to raise awareness about his homeland.
The international spokesman for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Benny Wenda fled the Indonesian-administered region of Papua, or West Papua, in 2003.
In recent years he's travelled widely from his British base to lobby international support for legitimate self-determination for West Papuans.
Questions around the legitimacy of the UN-sanctioned process by which the former Dutch New Guinea was incorporated into Indonesia in the 1960s have never really abated.
The problem of human rights abuses by security forces in Papua, recognised in part by Indonesia's government under President Joko Widodo, has informed a growing international solidarity movement.
However, Jakarta says Indonesian sovereignty over Papua is final, and has rejected the legitimacy of the Liberation Movement. NZ parliamentarians on board
But this week, after hearing from Mr Wenda, eleven MPs from four New Zealand political parties signed a declaration by the International Parliamentarians for West Papua.
This international organisation of MPs, which includes Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, is calling for an internationally supervised self-determination vote in Papua. Mr Wenda said the cross-party New Zealand support was a sign of growing global solidarity.
"It's not one particular party but Labour, Greens, National (and Maori Party), they're all signing the declaration. So this is, they show that around the world this fight is about a humanitarian issue. People believe in justice and freedom."
Tellingly, while he was in Wellington, Mr Wenda was not required to provide background for a parliamentary select committee considering a petition calling for action by New Zealand's government on rights abuses in Papua.
Instead, he had a brief meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where officials politely heard his pleas for more action on Papua, then saw him on his way.
The government has appeared reluctant to push Jakarta too hard on Papua, even though it did mention concern at Indonesia's UN periodic human rights review this month.
The sensitivity around West Papua was evident during Mr Wenda's time in Wellington. He participated in a protest march to the Indonesian embassy in Kelburn where demonstrators gathered in the rain to call loudly for West Papuan freedom.
Proceedings became tense after the embassy front door opened and an Indonesian official stepped out to meet the protest.
Firdauzie Dwiandika, a Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs, stood near where Mr Wenda and the New Zealand Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty addressed the crowd.
After listening for a while to the two, Mr Dwiandika told them they were wrong about human rights in Papua, and that people in Papua knew the truth.
"You can no longer hope that we will buy the story," Ms Delahunty retorted. "You have tried to marginalise these indigenous people, you have tried to lock them inside their border, you have starved their children, you have ignored their health crisis, you have taken their resources!"
But "Papua has changed," said Mr Dwiandika, ascending back up the steps to the embassy door.
It's rare to have an Indonesian official fronting at such protests, which themselves have become fairly frequent. Yet it's common for Indonesians to attend West Papua solidarity events, as was the case last night when Mr Wenda addressed a public meeting at Wellington's Victoria University.
One of the Indonesians in the crowd who repeatedly challenged Mr Wenda's take on the Papua situation felt compelled to leave as local students launched into a passionate haka.
The somewhat heated exchange demonstrated how deeply Maori and Pasifika students in particular have taken on the Papuan cause.
"There is zero trust between Jakarta and Papuans," Mr Wenda explained. Yet he admitted that Jokowi, as Indonesia's President is known, had spent far more time in Papua than previous Indonesian leaders.
Jokowi, who was in Papua this week inspecting new infrastructure projects, has shown commitment to his 2014 election promise to improve living conditions for Papuans.
"But the reality is, the governments are controlled by military," said Mr Wenda, "so the current president does not have power to change the situation in West Papua."
With the divisiveness of the Papua issue exposed, Mr Wenda flew out of New Zealand and on to the next stop on his seemingly never-ending global lobbying tour.
Freeport has posted signs reminding miners of its right to fire them after five days on strike, because they are unapproved absences, according to the Chemical, Energy and Mines Workers Union (CEMWU).
The miners are protesting Freeport's furlough policy, which saw thousands of workers kept on the payroll but lose their accommodation.
The IndustriALL Global union, with which the CEMWU is affiliated, said 222 workers had lost their jobs this week, with 83 more to come. Freeport did not respond to a request for comment.
The company employs over 30,000 miners at Grasberg but slowed down work when the Indonesian government blocked its copper exports earlier in the year.
There is a six-month agreement now in place as the government and Freeport argue over the much-postponed export ban (designed to make companies build smelters in Indonesia) and the divestment requirements for a new mining licence, which would force Freeport to hand over 51% of its subsidiary.
Grasberg workers have been on strike since May 1, and were joined by some contractors on May 9.
Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua Massive infrastructure developments in Papua during President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration should be appreciated by those in the province, but more needs to be done to develop the region, said religious leader Rev. Sofyan Yoman on Thursday.
"I appreciate President Jokowi's several visits to the land of the Melanesian people. Honestly and openly, I want to convey to you, Pak Jokowi, that your frequent visits to West Papua and massive developments of road and bridge infrastructure show that the central government pays attention to the Melanesian people in the region. However, these two approaches have not yet tackled the core of problems in West Papua and are not the best and most effective solutions to the problems," Yoman said on Thursday.
Among core problems he referred to included systematic and structural violations of human rights in Papua, which he said had been ongoing for 50 years.
Papua Governor Lukas Enembe and Papua Legislative Council Speaker Yunus Wonda expressed gratitude toward Jokowi for the attention his administration gave to Indonesia's easternmost region.
Yunus pointed out that in Jokowi's three years of leadership, he visited Papua six times and brought rapid progress in infrastructure.
Enembe said he would support the President running for a second term. "We support Bapak for a second term to continue the development here," the governor said. (dis/ebf)
MPs from four New Zealand political parties have signed a declaration by the International Parliamentarians for West Papua.
This follows an address at parliament by the West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda who is in New Zealand raising awareness about his Indonesian-ruled homeland.
Eleven members signed the International Parliamentarians' declaration, calling for a self-determination vote in Papua. Mr Wenda said the cross-party support is a sign of growing global solidarity.
"It's not one particular party but Labour, Greens, National (and Maori Party), they're all signing the declaration. So this is, they show that around the world this fight is about a humanitarian issue. People believe in justice and freedom. That's why these MPs are signing the declaration for West Papua internationally-supervised vote."
Benny Wenda also participated in a march today to the Indonesian embassy in Wellington where demonstrators protested against Indonesian rule in Papua.
Kendall Hutt, Auckland A lifelong campaigner for a free and independent West Papua has issued a stark warning to New Zealand politicians as he visits the country this week.
Benny Wenda, a tribal chief of West Papua exiled to the United Kingdom by Indonesia, told Asia Pacific Report that time was running out for West Papua if governments such as New Zealand do not act. "If we live with Indonesia for another 50 years, we will not be safe. We will not be safe with Indonesia."
He said the purpose of his visit to New Zealand was to highlight the importance of West Papua returning to its Melanesian family.
"We really need Pacific Islanders, our sisters and brothers across the Pacific particularly New Zealand and Australia to bring West Papua back to its Pacific family. Then we can survive. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to survive with Indonesia," he said.
Since Indonesia took over West Papua following a controversial Act of Free Choice dubbed by critics as an "Act of no choice" in 1969, Wenda said his people had suffered.
Wenda is calling for the New Zealand government's integral commitment to the campaign for a free West Papua. He said this was because New Zealand had a duty, as a part of the Pacific, to raise awareness of the atrocities in West Papua.
"West Papua is a very close neighbour, so that's why I hope the New Zealand government will speak more about the human rights situation in West Papua."
Wenda said it was high time for New Zealand to pull away from its business, trade and investment focus with Indonesia and speak about Indonesia's human rights abuses.
New Zealand "needs to do more" as a country, he said, because New Zealand is a country which is meant to value human rights, respect the rule of law, freedom of speech and the right to self-determination in other parts of the world.
It is therefore time for New Zealand's foreign policy on West Papua to change. "West Papua's hope is Australia and New Zealand. This is a regional issue, this will never go away from your eyes and this is something you need to look at today. Review your foreign policy and look at West Papua."
"Australia and New Zealand need West Papua. We are the gatekeepers, and for security reasons, West Papua is very important," Wenda said.
Catherine Delahunty, a Green Party MP who has campaigned strongly for West Papua on New Zealand's political front, echoed Wenda's views. "They are insistent the New Zealand government that West Papua is part of the territorial integrity of Indonesia, so we can't get past that critical issue."
She said she therefore did not have much faith in the current government to step up and was looking for future leadership, such as through the Labour-Greens alliance, to move the campaign for West Papuan self-determination forward on the home front.
"I really do think we need a different government that actually has some fundamental commitment to human rights over and above trade and being part of the US military complex around the world. We have to have change to get change. It's not going to happen through these guys."
In her eight years in Parliament, Delahunty said the situation in West Papua was the toughest she had had to face.
"This issue, for me, has been one of the most disturbing things I've ever worked on. It's been one of the most horrible and one of the most powerful examples of the cynical use of power and the way in which people can just completely close their eyes."
Both Wenda and Delahunty said in light of the resounding silence surrounding West Papuan media freedom during Indonesia's hosting of World Press Freedom Day last week that raising awareness of West Papua was key for the world to finding out about the atrocities there.
The mainstream media had a large role to play in this, both acknowledged. "West Papua really needs the media in terms of the publicity. Media publicity is very important," Wenda said.
Wenda said it was time for New Zealand's mainstream to pick up the baton from smaller, independent news agencies and carry stories of West Papua's atrocities themselves.
"I really hope the mainstream media here carries this. It's very important. We need more mainstream media. They really need to pick up on this issue."
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has reported that it was not unusual for both local and foreign journalists in West Papua to be threatened anonymously or by authorities. Data by the Alliance for Independent Journalists (AJI) has revealed there has been an increase in the number of assaults on journalists in the region over the past two years.
There were 78 violent attacks on journalists in 2016, up from 42 attacks in 2015 and 40 in 2014. The AJI found only a few attackers from those 78 attacks had been brought to justice.
Only last week, independent photojournalist Yance Wenda was arrested and beaten by police while covering a peaceful demonstration, prompting condemnation from RSF that Indonesia was 'double-dealing' over media freedom.
Wenda said there was deep-seated inaction on Indonesia's part because of its prejudice in prosecuting people who have attacked and tortured and beaten both West Papuans and also West Papuan journalists.
"Indonesia is getting away with impunity. Nobody is brought to justice. Everything is swept under the carpet."
Delahunty reflected, however, that the world was seeing the lack of free and frank reporting play out in West Papua.
"We see the consequences of nearly fifty years of no honesty about West Papua and it's just up the road. It breaks my heart, but it also fires me up because I really believe there are some very, very brave young people, including journalists, who are committed to this issue and I guess it's that thing: if you have a voice, use it."
This was Wenda's call to an audience gathered at his talk at the Pacific Media Centre-hosted Auckland University of Technology on Tuesday evening. "Today you are the messengers for West Papua."
Wenda highlighted a "united" Pacific was key in raising awareness of the "Melanesian genocide" occurring in West Papua.
He called on his "brothers and sisters", but was deeply thankful of the support given already by several Pacific nations for West Papua's cause.
These nations raised grave concerns regarding human rights violations in West Papua at the 34th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in March.
Recent declarations by both the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu were also acknowledged by Wenda. "We cried for 50 years, but then these countries sacrificed to take on this issue."
Wenda told the Solomon Islanders and the people of Vanuatu gathered they should "be proud" and that their action was something to "take away in your head and heart".
Wenda also told the remainder of his audience it was "ordinary people" and "mostly young generations" who were needed to continue the fight, with social media being their greatest tool. Delahunty added people power and the growing solidarity movement across the globe were also central.
"The only way they'll speak and respond to this issue at all is if we have growing public pressure and that's the job of all of us, both inside parliament and outside parliament to raise the issue and to make it something people will feel accountable for, otherwise we just ignore the plight of our neighbours and the killing, torture, environmental desecration and human rights abuses continue."
Wenda and Delahunty both closed their interviews with a clear message for Indonesia: "Start talking, start listening, and stop thinking that you can ever brow beat people into the dust because you want their resources because in the end, the human spirit doesn't work like that and these people will never give up. It's up to us to support them."
International support for West Papuan self-determination cause is growing, according to a Papuan independence leader.
Last night in Wellington he addressed a group of MPs, after which eleven members signed a declaration by the International Parliamentarians for West Papua.
This international organisation of MPs is calling for an internationally supervised self-determination vote in Papua.
Mr Wenda said momentum was being driven by the Pacific Coalition on West Papua, chaired by the Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare.
"So the Manasseh Sogavare leadership is bringing a big impact on the West Papua issue. And the seven countries (of the coalition) I joined. It is bringing the West Papua case in United Nations level," he said.
"So this is a big thing to change now. So we also got support from African, Carribean and the Pacific. So this is a growing number and solidarity around the world."
Mr Wenda said West Papuans as a people had been through many grave challenges in the last five decades of Indonesian rule, but that they remained ever hopeful.
A growing solidarity network in the Pacific was giving them hope. "The parliamentarians today.... Catherine Delahunty (New Zealand Green Party MP) lead a lot of MPs, bringing them in to sign their support.
"This is the best medicine, I think, for the people of West Papua. That's why their spirit is alive even (though) they're suffering under the Indonesian illegal occupation."
According to Mr Wenda, West Papuans were united under the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
Indonesian government officials have characterised the Liberation Movement as a group of Papuans living abroad which lacks legitimacy to represent Papuans.
Mr Wenda dismissed this, pointing out that the leadership of the Liberation Movement is based both in and, out of necessity, outside Papua.
West Papuan grassroots support for the organisation within Papua was massive, he said.
Hundreds of people have attended an event in Indonesia's Papua province to show support for the embattled outgoing governor of Jakarta.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, was this week sentenced to two years in prison, after being found guilty of insulting Islam.
The former Christian governor was recently voted out after angry protests and debate about his alleged blasphemy derailed his re-election campaign.
While Ahok is expected to appeal the sentence, many communities around Indonesia have rallied to show support for him.
A group named Solidaritas Masyarakat Papua organised the event where over five hundred people in Papua's capital Jayapura lit thousands of candles in support of Ahok.
Those at the Imbi Park event advocated efforts by Indonesia's government and military to dissolve radical organisations in the republic.
Earlier in the week, Indonesia's police chief Tito Karnavian said radical elements behind the street protests against Ahok were a threat to the unitary state of Indonesia.
He warned that if this radical movement wasn't dismantled, it could create unrest in parts of Indonesia such as Papua.
Jakarta President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo visited on Wednesday Mama-Mama Market in Papua, a market he promised to build during his visit in 2014 soon after he was elected president.
The President, who was accompanied by First Lady Iriana, Social Affairs Minister Kofifah Indar Parawansa, Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohanna Yembesi and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno, went on foot from his hotel to the four-story building formerly used as a bus terminal.
In Papua since Tuesday, the President officiated a number of projects in the eastern-most Indonesian province, including the Integrated State Boundary Post in Skouw, Jayapura and the construction of the 50-Megawatt (MW) feed gas-fired plant (PLTMG).
President Jokowi also witnessed the delivery of social assistance in Jayapura, such as through the Smart Indonesia Card (KIP), Indonesian Health Card (KIS) and people's nutrition improvement program.
Papua is the last province visited by Jokowi on his five-day tour across Indonesia starting from Aceh last Saturday.
Before flying to Papua from North Maluku on Tuesday, the President inaugurated three new ports in the province Tapaleo, Wayabuka, and Bicoli. "The government is prioritizing building more ports in various regions," Jokowi stated in North Maluku on Monday.
While in Papua, Jokowi also inspected the progress of the trans-Papua road, the construction of which is being carried out by the central government. (bbn)
Mania Clarke West Papuan independence leader, Benny Wenda has returned to Aotearoa to gain support from indigenous Maori and Pacific people as part of a campaign to free his country.
It's alleged that the Indonesian province has had widespread human rights violations over many decadesThe founder of Free West Papua Campaign is hoping his second trip to Aotearoa will result in freedom for his people.
"I want the people New Zealand and the Maori people to back this, support West Papua and bring West Papua back to the Pacific family. Secondly to support West Papua self-determination," said Wenda.
Free West Papua Campaign claim a genocide of over 500,000 indigenous people have been killed by the Indonesian military.
"Since Indonesia occupied our country 1963 and that's the beginning of the bloodshed till today. It's more killing, imprisonment, torture and media restrictions in West Papua."
In 2003 Wenda fled from his homeland to the UK where he has been living as an exiled refugee, following his arrest for campaigning for autonomy.
"People of West Papua are fighting for independence from Indonesia. That's why the Free West Papua campaign is setting up in UK to raise the awareness broadly."
Wenda will address Maori and Pacific Island MPs in parliament tomorrow to present a declaration calling for the independence of West Papua.
Sharia prosecutors in Indonesia's Aceh province say two men on trial for gay sex should each be punished with 80 lashes, in another blow to the country's moderate image after a top Christian official was imprisoned for blasphemy.
The lead prosecutor, Gulmaini, who goes by one name, said on Wednesday the two men aged 20 and 23 had "confessed" to being in a gay relationship, which was supported by video footage and other evidence found in their rented room.
The men were led into the court handcuffed together and pulled their shirts up to partially obscure their faces.
They were arrested in late March after neighbourhood vigilantes in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, suspected them of being gay and set out to catch them having sex.
Mobile phone footage that circulated online and forms part of the evidence shows one of the men naked and visibly distressed as he apparently calls for help on his cellphone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.
If found guilty the men will be the first to be caned for gay sex under a new sharia code implemented in Aceh two years ago. Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practice sharia law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a years-long war with separatists.
Indonesia's reputation for practising a moderate form of Islam has been battered in the past year due to attacks on religious minorities, a surge in persecution of gay people and a polarising election campaign for Jakarta governor that highlighted the growing strength of hardline Islamic groups.
On Tuesday the outgoing Jakarta governor, a minority Christian, was sentenced to two years' prison for blasphemy against the Qur'an. Protests in Jakarta after Christian governor convicted of blasphemy Read more
In Aceh the sharia court's panel of three judges will announce its verdict next week.
Gulmani told reporters that the men did not accept the court's offer to appoint a defence lawyer. He declined to elaborate but guilty verdicts are certain in most cases that reach the sharia court.
The sharia code allows up to 100 lashes for morality offences including gay sex. Caning is also a punishment for adultery, gambling, drinking alcohol, women who wear tight clothes and men who skip Friday prayers.
Human Rights Watch has called for authorities to immediately release the two men. "These men had their privacy invaded in a frightening and humiliating manner and now face public torture for the 'crime' of their alleged sexual orientation," it said in a statement last month.
Hotli Simanjuntak and Severianus Endi, Banda Aceh/Pontianak After making strongly worded remarks against radicals propagating intolerance in his province, West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis was less than welcome by a group of conservative Muslims in Aceh.
The group, calling itself Islam Defender Troop (LPI), visited the hotel where the visiting governor was staying in Banda Aceh on Saturday, demanding he leave the city over statements they deemed "intolerant" and "provocative."
They claimed Cornelis' statements had been the reason for two clerics being turned away from Pontianak a day earlier. "Aceh land is haram for those who hate ulemas and Islam, including Cornelis," said Tengku Achmad Shanjy, one of the protestors.
Cornelis had come to the city for the opening of a national meeting of farmers and fishermen, which was also attended by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, on Saturday. The protesters lingered in front of the hotel until the hotel management said the governor had already checked out from the hotel.
Over the past two weeks, West Kalimantan has been gripped by a filmed speech that went viral on social media, in which Cornelis threatened to oust radical and provocative individuals who had "the guts" to enter his province. Many considered the footage provocative, claiming it stirred up sectarian sentiment.
Speaking in Pontianak on Thursday, Cornelis addressed the controversy over his speech, saying he would fight intolerance in his province. "With regard to intolerance, I frankly challenge those who are radical and intolerant to leave West Kalimantan," Cornelis said.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician added that history showed that 17 massive riots had occurred in the province so far, resulting in West Kalimantan being economically poor and left behind.
"I don't want this to occur again," he said during the handover ceremony of the West Kalimantan police chief post from Insp. Gen. Musyafak to Brig. Gen. Erwin Triwanto.
Erwin promptly held a meeting after his swearing in ceremony with representatives of different religious and ethnic groups in the province to talk about rising social tensions.
The meeting was held in response to a planned visit by Sobri Lubis and Hidayat Quaiandri Batangtaris, clerics from the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), to Mempawah regency.
When the two arrived at Supadio Airport in Pontianak, police asked them to go back to Jakarta, citing security concerns. "We have told the organizing committee that [it is not recommended] to invite figures considered to be provocateurs," Erwin said.
Earlier, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy secretary Tengku Zulkarnain, who traveled along with Dayak Culture Council (DAD) leaders from Pontianak, faced rejection from a group of people upon arriving at Susilo Airport in Sintang regency. The cleric was turned away because he had allegedly insulted the Dayak.
A staff member who accompanied Cornelis to Aceh, Awie, said the visit had gone well despite the protests from conservative groups. He said Cornelis and his wife had still spent Saturday night in Banda Aceh and the governor had taken the opportunity to meet local leaders.
"[Cornelis] was safe and Madam Governor could still shop for souvenirs. I was there with them," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday night. He refused to confirm whether the governor's entourage had to change hotels after the protests.
Safrin La Batu, Jakarta A number of human rights groups have called for reform of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) after reports showed that the state-sponsored human rights body had shown "little" progress in investigating past rights abuses.
Speaking in a press conference on Sunday, the groups, under the Coalition to Save Komnas HAM, said some cases being investigated by the commission had been left unresolved despite it having been given substantial authority by the state to investigate human rights abuse cases.
For example, investigations into alleged rights abuse by the police and the military in Wasior, Wamena, Papua in 2001 showed improper handling by the commission as some documents relating to victims and witnesses had vanished.
"[Many] investigations conducted by Komnas HAM have failed," said Asfinawati, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI), which is part of the coalition.
Besides failure to complete investigations of past rights abuses, the groups also showed some alleged irregularities regarding the commission's financial report in 2015, as uncovered by the Supreme Audit Council (BPK) past year.
The groups said in its press release that according to the BPK report, there were at least eight indications of financial irregularities regarding the commission's 2015 financial report. One of the irregularities was an indication of fictive procurements totaling Rp 820.25 million (US$61,506) in the commission's report, the groups said. (wit)
Ken Setiawan Last week, Indonesia had its human rights record reviewed for the third time at the United Nations Human Rights Council, through the Universal Periodic Review process.
The Indonesian government undeniably cares about its human rights image. It sent a large delegation to Geneva, led by two senior ministers: Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly. They faced a barrage of criticism, over the country's use of the death penalty, religious extremism, rising intolerance and discrimination towards minority groups, justice for past human rights abuses, as well as rights violations in Papua.
The UPR is held once every 4.5 years, and provides an opportunity the state under review to report on efforts it has taken to improve its human rights situation. National reports are complemented by a report prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights as well as information from external stakeholders, including nongovernmental organisations and national human rights institutions like the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). Other member states are provided with the opportunity to question and comment on national reports and the claims of progress made. The process ultimately aims to enhance state capacity to promote and protect human rights.
In the 2017 review, on 3 May, Indonesia received 225 comments and recommendations from more than 100 states, a high number compared to other states under review. But it wasn't all bad news. Indonesia was commended for its adoption of the 2015-2019 National Action Plan on Human Rights, reforms to the juvenile justice system, the significant budget allocation to education and efforts to strengthen the rights of people with disability.
So far, Indonesia has responded positively, accepting 150 of the recommendations. It said it would continue to review the remaining 75, and provide a response at the September meeting of the UNHRC. Minister Retno noted that Indonesia was committed to the process and that human rights were "part of our [Indonesia's] DNA". Her colleague, Yasonna, added that while Indonesia's human rights achievements were "not perfect, they [were] continually progressing". Similarly, Hasan Kleib, Indonesia's permanent representative to the UN, said that Indonesia had a "solid commitment and political will to make changes for the better".
While human rights groups have expressed appreciation for Indonesia's active engagement in the UPR process, concerns remain. The Indonesian delegation underlined its achievements in terms of legal reform and institutions, including its ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers, the establishment of various independent state bodies with human rights mandates, and Indonesia's leading role at the regional level, particularly in the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). But while Indonesia's "on-paper" human rights record may be relatively strong, its defence of the protection and promotion of human rights was far less convincing.
Predictably, Indonesia defended the death penalty as an important component of its efforts to address drug crime, with Yasonna restating dubious figures to justify the practice, claiming that each day 33 persons die of drug abuse. Allegations of growing intolerance and religious extremism were largely dismissed. The government argued that both the 2014 presidential elections and the recent Jakarta gubernatorial elections were free and fair, and conducted in an inclusive and peaceful manner. These claims stand in sharp contrast with the widespread hate speech that characterised both elections, and particularly the gubernatorial race in Jakarta, which have been widely documented.
In response to the numerous concerns over rights violations in Papua, Retno unsurprisingly asserted that the provinces were an "integral part of the Republic of Indonesia". She underlined the government's investment in the area while dismissing the majority of claims of human rights violations as "purely criminal acts". Meanwhile, speaking on the issue of justice for past violations, Yasonna commented that they would be settled through a "non-judicial body to ensure a lasting resolution of these cases". Indonesia chose not to respond to the many countries that urged greater protection for sexual minorities. Despite ignoring valid criticism in this way, on the whole, the delegation put considerable effort into responding to and mitigating other countries' concerns.
The Indonesian response illustrated that human rights promotion and protection is primarily understood through formal mechanisms. This reflects the pattern of human rights reform in the post-authoritarian era, which has been characterised by a gap between legal guarantees and actual practice. Similarly, the discourse used by the government shows Indonesia's increasing engagement with the international human rights framework and international concerns such as justice for past human rights violations. At the same time, however, it has asserted its supposed uniqueness by seeking a non-judicial approach, and arguing that some recommendations reflected a "lack of understanding of the context".
This balancing act between international concerns and national priorities was also evident in Indonesia's defence of the death penalty, in which it noted the "ongoing public debate" on the issue, perhaps hinting at President Joko Widodo's comments that he would reinstate a moratorium on capital punishment if the majority of the population were in support. The manner in which Indonesia has positioned itself illustrates that despite Indonesia's active participation in this international process, it intends to remain fully in charge of the trajectory and pace of human rights reform.
Indonesia's determination to promote and protect human rights on its own terms raises questions about the value of the UPR. Does the process ever lead to an improved human rights situation on the ground? One of the main criticisms of the UPR process is that the recommendations are non-binding: the state under review has the responsibility to implement them. At the same time, this may also be its strength it facilitates dialogue on human rights between states and stakeholders at home, such as civil society organisations and Komnas HAM. According to Hasan, Komnas HAM had "effectively and constructively engaged" with the UPR process and would have a "strategic contribution in the follow up [of the recommendations]".
Indonesia's active participation presents an opportunity for civil society. The criticism raised by other states on the international stage may legitimise the concerns that have long been made by local organisations. The UPR process also provides a framework for civil society organisations to monitor the state's commitments, which will continue to inform their activities and may in time lead to stronger human rights protections.
Despite the flaws of the UPR process, it remains valuable. Yes, the UPR is unlikely to directly influence Indonesia's human rights record in the short term, but it may well contribute to change in the future.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta This year's selection of National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioners will not take into consideration group representation in an effort to recruit quality candidates committed to protecting and promoting human rights.
Head of the selection team, prominent law professor Jimly Asshidiqie, told The Jakarta Post on Monday that moving away from focusing on group representation would result in better quality commissioners. "Thus, we will focus on quality instead of representation," Jimly said.
He explained that in the past, commissioner recruitment took into consideration representation of gender groups, ethnicities and religious groups. He said the selection, for example, would previously include candidates representing the two major Islamic groups in the country, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, as well as other religious groups affiliated with other faiths.
He said the selection team would be particularly careful in recruiting this year's candidates who, if selected, would lead Komnas HAM until 2022, on account of the leadership crisis that the institution was facing.
The team has selected 60 candidates who are scheduled to present their visions and missions in a public debate held at the Law and Human Rights Ministry on May 17 to 18.
Five of the 60 candidates are incumbent commissioners, namely Hafid Abbas, Imdadun Rahmat, Roichatul Aswidah, Sandrayati Moniaga and Siti Noor Laila.
Jakarta The New Order regime under the late dictator Soeharto had a stronger legal system than the current system in the reform era, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said.
"When the New Order regime collapsed and we organized the reform, our legal system was very weak. The security officers are now overwhelmed in managing the excessive freedom," he said in Jakarta on Saturday as reported by kompas.com.
Wiranto, who was the military commander when Soeharto decided to step down in 1998, gave an example of the terrorists' attack in Jl. MH Thamrin, Central Jakarta in January last year.
He said the terror attacks had actually been detected by the Police. However, the police force could not move to arrest the perpetrators on the back of the Terrorism Law, which required police to have enough evidence before making arrests.
He also cited another example that if, in a gathering, there are people shouting about coup attempts, security officers could not arrest them either as there had not been any actions executed.
"In the past, if five people gathered and discussed [something suspicious], authorities could arrest them. If they were not guilty then they could be released. There is no pretrial motion," he said referring to the attempt made by people challenging the investigators' decision to name suspects. (rin)
Ganug Nugroho Adi, Semarang, Central Java Hundreds of people grouped under the Prophet Muhammad Family's Lovers Association protested a book launch at the Surakarta State Islamic Institute (IAIN) in Surakarta, Central Java, on Tuesday.
They protested the presence of Haidar Bagir, the author of the book Islam Tuhan Islam Manusia (Islam the God Islam the Human Being), whom they accuse of being a Shiite. "We come here to stage a peaceful rally. Haidar Bagir is a Shiite. As stated in an Indonesian Ulema Council [MUI] East Java edict, Shiites are heretical," rally coordinator Tengku Ahzar said.
Azhar, who is also the Surakarta Sharia Council (DSKS) secretary- general, further said the council had approached IAIN Surakarta rectorate officials and the book launch's organizing committee several times to ask them to cancel the event.
However, campus authorities insisted on holding the book launch as scheduled. "Haidar Bagir is the leader of Shiites, which are heretical, in Indonesia. IAIN should know that," said Azhar.
DSKS head Mu'inudinillah Basri said he was worried the book launch would be used as a way to spread Shia teachings, which according to him could trigger dissension in society.
Uda Rahman Hakim, the head of IAIN Surakarta's student council, which held the book launch, said the event was a pure academic activity. "There was no intention of disseminating teachings of a certain religious group to the public," he said. (ebf)
Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta Approximately 30 members of youth organization Pemuda Pancasila (PP) on Monday took down the painting exhibition of an artist cum activist, Andreas Iswinarno.
The exhibition entitled "Tribute to Wiji Thukul: Saya Masih Utuh dan Kata-kata Belum Binasa (I'm still complete and words have not yet been destroyed)" was dissolved as the displayed art work was suspected to have contained communism ideas.
"When we were displaying the paintings, they suddenly came and asked us to stop the exhibition because Wiji Thukul was considered a communist," said Andreas.
Not only banning the exhibition, the PP members also removed Andreas' paintings and Wiji Thukul's poems, which were placed on the walls surrounding the Indonesian Islamic University's Center for Human Rights Studies (Pusham UII) building in Banguntapan, Yogyakarta.
The PP members threatened they would burn the building if the exhibition continued to take place.
"They took five paintings and a set of printed pages of Wiji Thukul's poems," said Andreas. It was reported that one of the PP members had pushed, choked and almost hit the painter as he attempted to defend his paintings.
"I chose Wiji Thukul because his poems are still relevant with the current social political situation," said Andreas about the Indonesian poet whose whereabouts are unknown until today.
"We will report this case to the Yogyakarta Police. We will ask for the fulfillment of the police's promises to protect us," said Pusham UII director Eko Riyadi.
Andreas' painting exhibition, scheduled to be on display in Semarang, Central Java, on May 1 to 6, was also taken down by mass organizations. (ebf)
Sukma Indah Permana, Bantul An exhibition displaying the art works of Andreas Iswinarto in the Bantul regency of Yogyakarta province has been closed down by the social organisation Pancasila Youth (PP).
The theme of the exhibition, "I am Still Whole and the Words Have Not Yet Perished" was displaying Andreas' art work and the poems of street poet Wiji Thukul.
"We were in the process of setting things up and putting up the art work. But 30 or so social organisation members arrived, closing it down and taking down the art work", said Andreas at the exhibition located at the University of Islam Centre for Human Rights Studies (Pusham UII) offices in Banguntapan, Bantul, on Monday May 8.
As many as 35 paintings, 20 posters and scores of poems by Wiji Thukul were to be on display on May 8-11.
Andreas related how prior to the PP's arrival the police had come to the venue to ask about the event. But when the PP arrived, said Andreas, there was no sign of the police.
Exhibition organising committee members attempted to protect Andreas' art work but they could do little when five pieces of art work and several of Wiji Thukul's poems were taken away.
"There were around five pieces of art and a number of poems that were taken. We held on to the rest", said Andreas.
Andreas explained that the exhibition aimed to acquaint people with Wiji Thukul as a labour activist because the month of May is seen as a moment to reflect upon 19 years since reformasi [the reform movement that began with the fall of Suharto in 1998] and the abduction of Wiji Thukul. As part of the event discussions on press freedom were also to be held.
Similar exhibitions have been held in several other cities without incident. "Except in Semarang [Central Java] and Yogyakarta. I'm planning exhibitions in other cities", he added.
Pusham UII researcher Tri Guntur Narwaya claimed to have been pushed around by PP members. "This shouldn't be allowed to happen. This was a campus event", said Guntur.
Pusham UII director Eko Riyadi is determined to report the incident to the Yogyakarta regional police. "As the ones responsible for safeguarding and maintaining human rights and freedom of expression", said Eko.
Interviewed separately, Yogyakarta PP regional leadership board chairperson Faried Jayen admitted that it was indeed his group that closed down the event. Faried claimed that they had been monitoring activities at the event for several days.
"We found indications that the event was cover for a movement of communist children. With this understanding are we not allowed to act. But we warned them about having a permit, there was no permit from the police", said Faried.
"I am [completely] intolerant of communists and separatists. These movements lead to PKI [Indonesian Communist Party] ideas", he added. (sip/mbr)
Street performer and poet, People's Democratic Party (PRD) member Wiji Thukul disappeared in February 1998. It is suspected he was a victim of the military abductions along with other activists which disappeared in Solo (Central Java). The bodies of Thukul and three other PRD activists have never been found and they are presumed dead.
Jakarta The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) has sent warning letters to four Indonesia television stations RCTI, Global TV, MNC TV and iNews TV ordering them to stop airing a United Indonesia Party (Perindo) advertisement.
The broadcast was seen as a violation of The P3 [broadcasting code of conduct] and SPS [broadcasting program standards].
"The broadcast of the Perindo party campaign advertisement is a violation of public interest protection," KPI's content monitoring coordinator Hardly Stefano Pariela said on Friday, as quoted by Kompas.com.
Hardly said the Perindo party campaign was not in line with P3 & SPS requirements, which stipulate that programs are required to be in the public interest and not in the interest of a particular group.
The four stations allegedly violated Article 11 on KPI 2012 broadcasting program standards. "If they repeat this violation, we are ready to take the next step, including making a recommendation to the Communications and Information Ministry that their operational permit be revoked," Hardly said.
At the time this story was published, MNC Groups, the company which owns the four television stations, has not made any comments about the warning letters. (hol)
Jakarta Experts have criticized the open-limited system introduced into an election bill by the House of Representatives.
They claim the system is complicated and might bring about more obstacles instead of solving the problems caused by the open-list system, which was implemented in Indonesia's previous elections.
Proposed by the government, the open-list system allows voters to receive information about candidates they will vote for. However, it is political parties that have the sole authority to determine the candidates who will fill the House seats, regardless of the number of votes they obtain.
The open-list system was implemented in the 2009 and 2014 legislative elections. The system drew sharp criticisms as it was thought to be prone to vote buying practices.
Research from the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) claims that in 193 cases in the 2014 legislative election, candidates who were not placed in the first ranks on ballot papers received a high number of votes during the poll day.
"If we apply an open-limited system, those candidates will not get a House seat because their parties will pick candidates placed in the first ranks," Perludem researcher Khoirunnisa Agustyati said in Jakarta on Friday.
Former General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioner Hadar Nafis Gumay said the open-limited system would undermine the principles of democracy.
"In the open-limited system, the value of votes is unequal. Votes that go to candidates will be worth less [...] because in the end, it is the parties that will have the authority to control who is going to sit in the House," he said. (dis/ebf)
Jewel Topsfield, Hambalang, West Java Prabowo Subianto has been described in Indonesia for years as a "former military strongman" and "The General".
These days he is also known as the man most likely to challenge Joko Widodo for the Indonesian presidency in 2019.
So it is a surprise to watch him gently coaxing ants away from the salmon on his plate: "Hey ants, get off my food please!"
Prabowo is an animal lover and has issued strict instructions that no creature be harmed at his picturesque mountain retreat in Hambalang, West Java. Even spider webs are to be left intact.
"That's the problem with me, you see, they are not allowed to kill any animal here," he tells Fairfax Media over an ethnically-diverse breakfast of teriyaki salmon, scrambled eggs, miso soup, banana and fried noodles.
"Even the ants cannot be touched, so I have to negotiate with them. But you believe it or not, they don't bother my food."
One of Prabowo's advisers points out that King Solomon, revered in Islam as a prophet, had the ability to communicate with ants.
In the 27th sura or chapter of the Koran, Solomon hears an ant warn her people to enter their homes so they will not be crushed by the king's soldiers.
Solomon is reminded of the bounty Allah has bestowed upon him and asks for inspiration to do a good deed of which Allah would approve. "Come on, I am not King Solomon," Prabowo laughs.
But it was Prabowo who cautioned President Jokowi, as he is widely known, against the April 2015 executions of Bali nine heroin smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The Australian government had begged Indonesia to save their lives.
"I said, my opinion is that if the head of a friendly government requests something of Indonesia, I think it will be in our national interest to respect that request. That was my argument, basically. We need friendship, we need good relations. But my advice was not listened to at that time."
Prabowo worries about the death penalty. He has read too many cases of miscarriages of justice in the US, where advances in DNA testing have found, too late, that the executed person was innocent.
In 2013 he hired a top lawyer to fight for Wilfrida Soik, an Indonesian maid said to be a victim of human trafficking, who was facing a death sentence in Malaysia. One of Prabowo's staff tells me he wept when her life was spared.
"So yes, I think... the death penalty must be given in very very rare [occasions] and let's say... cases that you are really convinced, maybe mass murder."
So would he abolish the death penalty if he became president? "Maybe it should still be in the books as a sanction... but the mechanism to give the sentence should be very stringent, a lot of review boards. And the power of the president to commute the sentence I think should be really strengthened."
Prabowo is a member of one of Java's most aristocratic families and was once married to the daughter of president Suharto.
A former three-star general, Prabowo served in the military for more than 20 years, rising through the ranks to become one of the nation's most powerful men.
However in 1998 he was discharged after troops under his command kidnapped and tortured anti-Suharto activists. Two years later he was banned from entering the US over alleged human rights abuses.
But after a stint in Jordan, Prabowo who says he has always wanted to serve the people of Indonesia staged a remarkable comeback.
God has given him wealth, he tells us. His business interests have included oil and gas, palm oil, forestry and mining.
Prabowo says he could have simply enjoyed his life. His tranquil mountain retreat with its horses, helipad, purple bougainvillea and breathtaking views of shadowy blue mountains is 50 kilometres and a world away from the slums and chaos of Jakarta.
But in 2008 he founded his own party, Gerindra, which positions itself as the champion of the orang kecil the little people who, like the ants, are usually overlooked in society.
In 2014, Prabowo ran for president. He was defeated by Jokowi a political clean-skin in the closest presidential election in Indonesia's history. Now the top job seems within striking distance again.
On the day of Fairfax Media's breakfast with Prabowo and the ants, it is announced that Gerindra's candidates in the Jakarta gubernatorial election Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno have officially won with 57.96 per cent of the vote.
It was a hardscrabble victory after a bitter and protracted election campaign that polarised Jakarta along religious and ethnic lines.
The party hopes its win will pave the way for "The General", whose popularity and grassroots campaign helped Anies and Sandiaga. A triumphant banner erected at a Gerindra meeting in Semarang proclaimed: "We have seized Jakarta, Prabowo for president 2019."
So will Prabowo run? "I'm philosophical, there must be a decision in a year or so. I want to serve my country, I want to do good for my people. If I have support, if there is opportunity, yeah, I could run."
But is it something he is seriously considering? "I think so, yeah. I mean, Donald Trump becomes president at what, 70 years old? [Philippine President Rodrigo] Duterte at 71. But again, I will keep my options open. Politics is the art of the possible." The General himself is 66 this year. "I don't feel old," he says.
His energy and military bearing belie his years. He later jests with West Javan cadres, "Don't you dare, even once call me eyang. ["Grandpa" in the Sundanese language.] Bung [brother] Bowo is fine. Eyang?? Are you out of your mind? Do you think I am an old man? I'm still capable of fighting."
Prabowo has invited Fairfax Media to Hambalang for a rare interview. His disillusionment with the Western press goes back 20 years. Prabowo was a major in East Timor when he says he gave an interview to an American journalist who asked to interview five or six prisoners held by his battalion.
"Although they were guerrilla soldiers of opposing forces, they had military etiquette, so of course they stood up to attention when I came into the room," Prabowo says. "I was a bit shocked the final article was very slanted. In the article he [the journalist] said: 'They stood up very stiff and Prabowo showed off his military trophies'."
Prabowo says he got on with his life without giving access to foreign journalists or even countries that traditionally had negative views about Indonesia or the Indonesian military.
"I'm a proud alumnus of the Indonesian military," he says. "A Western... army can be patriotic and do their duty for their country, but if a Third World army is doing their duty for their country it's different. We are always accused of being fascists, power hungry... human rights violators."
But despite Prabowo's misgivings, here we are, to discuss amongst other things the Jakarta election campaign, the most divisive in the history of Indonesia. "I do realise that sometimes we need to open up and give our side of the story," Prabowo says.
Post-election surveys have indicated religion was the number one issue that influenced voters when deciding between Anies, a former education minister who is a Muslim, and the Christian and ethnically Chinese incumbent, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.
Religion only became a major factor after Ahok told fishermen his opponents were deceiving them into not voting for him using a verse from the Koran, which some interpret to mean Muslims cannot be led by a non-Muslim.
"He practically self-destructed," Prabowo says. "In a country like Indonesia, usually political leaders will avoid using verses from other people's religion. Even I don't dare use verses from Islam. I'm a Muslim, I don't dare because I'm not an expert. That's why we have the ulema [religious scholars]."
Ahok's comments were seized upon by his opponents, including longtime provocateurs the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), who spearheaded several massive protests. Ahok was brazenly religiously and racially vilified at the rallies, which repeatedly brought the capital to a standstill. The embattled governor was ultimately put on trial for blasphemy and will be sentenced next Tuesday.
Prabowo will not be drawn on whether Ahok should be jailed: "It's not my decision." He says blasphemy is the realm of the clerics. "I'm not an expert but our Majelis Ulama, the official clerics' council of Indonesia, recognised by the... Indonesian government, I think their finding was blasphemy."
Ironically, it was Prabowo who nominated Ahok to become the vice-governor of Jakarta, which he won in 2012. At the time Ahok was a member of Gerindra. "[Former president] Megawati (Sukarnoputri) didn't want him. I convinced Megawati. Many Muslim clerics were angry at me. I wanted to show our commitment to inclusiveness."
Prabowo's own family embodies the national motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). "I have two sisters; one is Catholic, my younger brother is Protestant, my elder sister is, what do you call it, like kejawen. Kejawen is the Javanese religion even before the all the others came... she's into that, a lot of meditating. So we are pretty laid back about religion."
Prabowo puts the blame for Ahok's demise squarely on what he says is the flaw in Ahok's own character. "I have to say I was the most disappointed because I was the one who pushed his career."
"I think his leadership actually caused a dent in the effort to create a really inclusive and harmonious... society. Had he been a bit more... let's say cool, calming, maybe the situation would be very different."
The international media has largely portrayed the election result as a win for conservative Islamism in Indonesia and a setback for religious pluralism.
Headlines such as "Hard-Line Islamism Gains Ground with Vote in Jakarta" have irritated not just Gerindra but also Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and religious peace activist Yenny Wahid, whose father, the late president Abdurrahman Wahid, was considered a paragon of moderation in Islam.
"I oppose the foreign media's use of headlines saying that radical Islamic groups have won," Yenny, whose husband is a Gerindra member, was quoted as saying in the Jakarta Globe. "There is much diversity behind Anies his success team comprises not only of Muslims."
However many argue that Anies, who had cultivated a reputation as a moderate, ran a dog-whistle campaign by reaching out to groups such as the FPI.
A former fringe vigilante group, the FPI gained notoriety for raids on bars during Ramadan or "enforcing" fatwas banning Muslim shop assistants wearing Santa hats. It has a newfound mainstream status in the wake of the anti-Ahok rallies.
Prabowo is visibly riled about being asked about the FPI. "You, as a foreigner, you come here and ask Indonesians, why do you visit a hardliner?" His voice rises: "You see, this is exactly the Western press, you come here and you only ask me about the FPI. You don't ask me: 'Is there corruption in Indonesia?'... You don't ask me: 'Are the people eating enough?'.
"As if you guys want to frame that Anies and Sandi won because of the FPI. The Western media didn't cover the election, only one frame. It's always hardline, hardline [Islam]."
On the night of the election, FPI leader Rizieq Shihab was among those whom Prabowo thanked at Istiqlal Mosque.
"Indonesia is a large country, we have all spectrums, the FPI is a fact of life," he says. "They have many members. Some people consider them hardline. Who is the judge to say hardline or moderate or extreme or radical? I think people can evolve, organisations can evolve. I am not an apologist but... I believe in engagement. If you don't bring them into the political process, what are you doing? You want to drive them into what? Extrajudicial measures?"
Anies and Sandiaga campaigned on poverty and inequality. They opposed Ahok's forced evictions, promised a zero down-payment housing scheme and vowed to stop the Jakarta Bay reclamation, saying it was harming those who lived around the bay.
"Because if we have inequality, economic injustice, mass poverty, who do you think will prevail?" Prabowo asks. "It's going to be the extremists, the radicals, the demagogues."
Prabowo has two hobbies in life: books and horses. Horses are a motif throughout his grandiose home. White stallions rear at the edge of cliffs in moody oil paintings, delicate metal figurines prance on tables, black and white photographs of Indonesia's founding father Sukarno on horseback stare down from the walls.
Books are everywhere too. Prabowo's taste is eclectic. The Robb Report, an American luxury-lifestyle magazine, is in the bathroom. Among the tomes on his coffee table are Why Nations Fail by Turkish-American economist Daron Acemoglu, Altruism, which explores the power of compassion to change the world, and Prabowo's own book, Paradoks Indonesia. The paradox of Indonesia, according to Prabowo, is that it is a country rich in natural resources while so many of its people live below the poverty line.
Prabowo has developed a personal philosophy late in life: "One thousand friends too few, one enemy too many." "I wished I had learned it as a young officer, I made a lot of enemies I think, among my seniors," he says, laughing.
Despite losing to Jokowi in 2014, he has met with him on a couple of occasions, including, famously, on horseback at Hambalang. (This was the president's people's idea, Prabowo tells us, and he worried the horses would be spooked by photographers' flashes: "Inside me, I'm saying 'My God, if anything happens, they would say I did it on purpose'.")
It is rumoured that Prabowo advised Jokowi to join prayers at the December 2 mass rally, where protesters demanded Ahok be jailed. Jokowi, who briefly addressed the crowd, was praised for defusing tensions in the capital, although some argued he had thrown Ahok under a bus.
Prabowo refuses to confirm he gave advice, saying he has to respect his confidential communications with the president. "I always try to advise whoever is in power, which I think is my duty as a member of the Indonesian political leadership, to communicate, to be a mediator or messenger."
Indonesians must eat, Prabowo tells us, otherwise they cannot think. He invites us not just to breakfast, but to lunch with the West Javan Gerindra cadres.
After lunch, Prabowo urges one of his aides-de-camp, as everyone calls The General's staff, to sing "the Bee Gees, or 'Waltzing Matilda' or something".
The "ADC" chooses the Bee Gees: Don't forget to remember me, And the love that used to be, I still remember you, I love you.
The room has emptied out but many of those remaining are singing along. "That's why radical Islam will never win in Indonesia," Prabowo tells me. "They don't like music and we love it."
Panca Nugraha, Mataram Democratic Party chairman and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has demanded neutrality of the state in the 2018 regional elections as well as the 2019 legislative and presidential elections. Yudhoyono highlighted that the state's bias toward certain groups in the elections would taint the elections and democracy in the country. "The Democratic Party really hopes the state will be neutral and fair in arranging the elections," he said.
"Democracy will be tainted if state institutions, including BIN [State Intelligence Agency], [National Police] and the TNI [Indonesian Military] are not neutral and unfair. Please remember that they have made their vows to God," Yudhoyono said addressing his party's national gathering in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, on Monday.
Yudhoyono further commented on the country's democracy, which he said was far from perfect and needed continuous improvement. "The breath of democracy is freedom. Thus, let's preserve freedom. Don't restrict freedom. However, the Democratic Party disagrees with uncontrollable, unethical and irresponsible freedom."
In his speech, Yudhoyono also raised concerns about friction in society, which he said emerged during the Jakarta gubernatorial election. "The nation is divided because of the Jakarta election. We must seriously resolve this," he said.
Yudhoyono also said that the party has yet to name candidates for the 2019 presidential election. (msa/wit)
Yiyik Kerr, Perth Approximately 500 Indonesians residing in Perth and surrounding areas in Western Australia gathered on the Swan River foreshore on Saturday afternoon to join the waves of support for inactive Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.
Local Indonesian community figures spoke of the need, now more than ever, to stand with the country's leaders, both Ahok and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
"I am a double minority Chinese and Christian and normally I would stay out of politics, but not this time. I feel I have to say something, and I call on the silent majority moderate Muslims everywhere in the country to get vocal, too," Perth resident Daniel Ong said.
He said that despite living in the relative comfort of Perth, the Indonesians gathered that afternoon shared the same sadness and deep concern felt by fellow citizens back home.
Some were seen carrying banners that read #SaveAhok, calling for the suspension of Ahok from detention. Ahok was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.
Through the event, they wanted to express their wish for a peaceful Indonesia and reaffirm their commitment to the country's motto: "unity in diversity."
Wearing red and white, the crowd sang the national anthem and other patriotic songs, before posing for cameras, videos and a drone in the formation of the letters NKRI, an abbreviation for Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia (Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia). (dmr)
Jakarta A protester who joined a recent protest in front of Cipinang detention center, East Jakarta, to criticize the jailing of non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy, has been reported to the Jakarta Police for alleged libel.
Jakarta resident Kan Hiung reported Veronica Koman Liau, former lawyer at Jakarta Legal Aid, to the police on Saturday for allegedly defaming President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in her speech during the rally.
"She [Veronica] shouted that there was no blasphemy [in Ahok's case] but a blasphemous trial and blasphemous judges," he said as quoted by kompas.com on Saturday.
Previously, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, who saw the video footage of Veronika's speech, called on Veronika to clarify her remarks, during which she said Jokowi's government was worse than the administration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Tjahjo also urged Veronika to apologize for her statement, which he said had defamed the government.
On May 9 the North Jakarta District Court sentenced Ahok to two years in prison for committing blasphemy. (cal/ebf)
Jakarta The Central Jakarta Police arrested eight people suspected of being provocateurs during a rally demanding a delay in the detention of non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in front of the Jakarta High Court on Friday.
"We will investigate the matter to see whether the allegations are correct," said Central Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Suyudi Ari Seto as quoted by kompas.com. The suspects have been taken into custody for further investigation, he went on to say.
In the rally in front of the court building in Cempaka Putih, Central Jakarta, Ahok supporters demanded that the court accept the detention delay requests they had submitted. They also called on the court to accept Ahok's appeal.
The police were forced to disperse the rally participants with water cannons as they insisted on staying in the area until Friday evening. (kuk/ebf)
Muhammad Nur Abdurrahman, Makassar A candlelight vigil for Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in front of the Stella Maris Hospital in Losari Beach, Makassar, was forcibly broken up by members of the South Sulawesi Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Makassar Islamic Students Association (HMI) on the evening of Saturday May 13.
Fortunately, officers from the Makassar metropolitan district police (polrestabes) and the TNI (Indonesian military) were overseeing the action so no clashes occurred between the two groups.
The FPI members had earlier prevented Makassar residents from holding a "Night of 1,000 Candles for Ahok" event at the nearby Losari Beach Pavilion.
HMI Makassar branch chairperson Muwaffiq Nurimansyah who led the protests against the candlelight vigil said that the blasphemy conviction against Ahok in Jakarta should not be dramatised and spread to the point Makassar residents became involved.
"The Ahok case is a criminal and personal one, don't turn it into a religious issue because it could provoke SARA [ethnic, religion, race, and inter-group inspired conflict]. Don't hold any more 1,000 candles for Ahok events, we will extinguish them", said Muwaffiq.
Makassar Mayor Ramdhan Pomanto, who intervened in order to prevent a clash, claimed that news of the Ahok solidarity action had only been spread on social media and did not have a permit from police. He also claimed that no social organisations had taken responsibility for the event.
"Makassar people are mature, this can be seen from in a tense situation they can still think rationally, we shouldn't be provoked, we are all sisters and brothers, don't tarnish us with [political] interests that we don't really understand. The plan is for us to hold an inter-religious meeting", said Ramdhan.
Makassar resident and Ahok supporter Jefriar Dunda meanwhile said that he regretted that the solidarity for Ahok event had been forcibly broken up by the FPI.
"We came here wanting to take part in singing the national anthem Indonesia Raya, why was it broken up? We weren't taking up religious issues, because we want to live in a country based on [the principle of] Bhinneka Tunggal [unity in diversity]", said Jefriar. (mna/jor)
Jakarta The Judicial Commission (KY) has said all parties should question the Supreme Court's (MA) decision to promote three of the five judges that handled the blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama at the North Jakarta District Court.
KY spokesperson Farid Wajdi said the promotion of the three judges, including presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, raised questions, because it came only one day after the court had declared the non-active governor guilty of blasphemy in a hearing on Tuesday. "It's understandable if everyone has suspicions about [the promotion]," Farid said on Friday.
Dwiarso and his colleague Abdul Rosyad were promoted to positions at the Denpasar High Court and the Palu High Court, respectively. Meanwhile, Jupriyadi was promoted to head the Bandung District Court.
The North Jakarta District Court stated that, based on evidence and testimonies, all criminal elements of the blasphemy charges against Ahok were fulfilled.
Farid said what the public had to pay attention to was whether their promotion met the formal requirements for promotion, as stipulated in Supreme Court Chief Justice Decree No. 139/2013.
"It would be better if the MA was transparent and would open to public the track record of the three judges, so that everyone could understand whether or not they were promoted on a regular basis in accordance with the MA decree," Farid said.
"Hence, there would be no more public speculation that the promotion [amounted to a payoff] and the MA could prove it was in line with procedures." (hol/ebf)
Jakarta A Gerindra Party Jakarta councillor has defended a controversial photo of dozens of people giving victory signs and posing with a sign reading "congratulations, Ahok imprisoned" and a rice cone, which is traditionally served at thanksgiving parties. The photo went viral on social media.
Councillor Prabowo Soenirman said he, fellow party member Boy Sadikin and dozens of supporters of Jakarta governor-elect Anies Baswedan in the photo were celebrating Anies' election victory over Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.
"It was a statement made to represent people who were evicted and fishermen in Jakarta Bay [affected by reclamation]," he said as quoted by kompas.com, referring to Ahok's eviction policy in river restoration projects.
Prabowo said it was a spontaneous group photo and refused to reveal whose idea it was to take such a photo, but emphasized that it was simply a show of support for people who had been affected by Ahok's policies.
The photograph went viral on social media after the North Jakarta District Court handed down a two-year prison sentence to Ahok for blasphemy. The people in the photo were strongly criticized for their lack of empathy for people like Ahok who faced difficulties. (idb)
Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta Within hours of Jakarta's governor being locked up at Cipinang detention centre on Tuesday, thousands of Indonesians had changed their profile pictures on social media to a black square.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, universally known as Ahok, posed gallantly for photos with detention centre staff, in what one Twitter wag described as "peak Indonesia". These photos quickly circulated on line along with the hashtag #RIPHukum, which means "RIP to the law".
There have been outpourings of grief at candlelit vigils spanning the archipelago from Bali to Papua. They have even gone international the Indonesian diaspora in Australia have organised events in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth on Saturday.
Vice-Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat wept openly at a choir outside City Hall, offering to be a guarantor for Ahok's release from jail while he appeals his sentence. "If anything happens, I'll go to jail," he pledged.
Ahok was a popular, if polarising, reformist governor, who repeatedly received around 70 per cent approval ratings for his performance in office.
He was jailed for two years on Tuesday, not for corruption but for telling people to vote with their conscience, albeit in a provocative and foolish way.
While campaigning for re-election in September, Ahok himself a Christian and ethnically Chinese was critical of his political opponents who used verse 51 of al-Maida a chapter of the Koran to persuade voters not to support Ahok because he was non-Muslim.
His opponents, including hardline groups such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), staged massive rallies calling for his prosecution, paving the way for his blasphemy trial.
Ahok is not the first Chinese Christian to be found guilty of insulting Islam under Indonesia's blasphemy laws, but he is undoubtedly the most high profile.
The laws generally target those belonging to minority faiths, such as Ahmadis and Shiites, whose interpretation of Islam deviates from the mainstream Sunni Islam of Indonesia.
However the most prominent case prior to Ahok's was the five-year jail sentence given in 1991 to Arswendo Atmowiloto, the chief editor of the Jakarta tabloid journal Monitor, who published a poll on readers' "most admired people" which rated the Prophet Muhammad 11th among 50 names.
In March this year, three ex-leaders of Gafatar, which Islamic clerics had called a "deviant sect", were jailed for up to five years after judges found the movement offended Islamic values. The court noted prayers were not obligatory in the Gafatar movement.
However it was Ahok's unexpectedly harsh sentence prosecutors concluded he did not intend to insult Islam and did not request that he be jailed that sent ripples of shock throughout the world.
The European Union issued a statement saying laws that criminalised blasphemy, when applied in a discriminatory manner, could have a serious inhibiting effect on freedom of expression and religion.
Britain's first Muslim ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, tweeted that he knew and admired Ahok and did not believe he was anti-Muslim. This is highly unusual, given diplomats are normally at pains not to comment on the domestic situation in their host country. The United Nations called on Indonesia to review its blasphemy laws.
"Actually we don't need such a rubbery law any more. It is only used to serve certain political targets," Yahya Cholil Staquf, the Supreme Council General Secretary of Indonesia's largest Islamic civil organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), told Fairfax Media. "What happened with Ahok actually shows that this law has numerous flaws."
In a rousing editorial in The Jakarta Post, editor-in-chief Endy Bayuni said Indonesia had come too far on the march towards democracy begun in 1999 to give up now.
"Ahok's guilty verdict was surely a tragedy for democracy," he wrote. "This is no time for regrets however. What is required is hard work on our part to get back to where we were before... One priority area is to get the Constitutional Court to repeal the blasphemy legislation because it has been widely abused and has sent the wrong people to jail."
But Andreas Harsono, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, is pessimistic about the likelihood of the blasphemy laws being repealed.
Indonesia's 1945 constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion but the government only recognises six official faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
In 1965 Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, enacted blasphemy laws to prevent "deviation" and protect religious harmony, amid concerns religions could be tarnished by mystical indigenous beliefs.
However only a handful of people were prosecuted until Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became president in 2004. During his 10-year reign about 100 people were charged with blasphemy, all of whom were found guilty.
In 2009 activists, including former president Abdurrahman Wahid, asked the Constitutional Court to repeal the blasphemy laws, arguing they breached the right to freedom of religion. However the court found the laws were necessary to maintain public order.
"In 2009 when the law was challenged, it was the Islamists with the backing of SBY who defended the laws," Harsono told Fairfax Media. "I think the Islamists are only getting more powerful."
Harsono worries the next target of hardline Islamist groups will be the Christian governor of West Kalimantan, Cornelis, who has publicly warned anyone who is radical or intolerant to leave the province.
His fears have already been realised during a visit by Cornelis to Banda Aceh last week, a group calling itself the Islam Defender Troop (LPI) went to his hotel and demanded he leave the city.
"Aceh land is haram (forbidden) for those who hate ulema (religious scholars) and Islam, including Cornelis," one protester, Tengku Achmad Shanjy, was quoted as saying in The Jakarta Post.
In an interview with Fairfax Media this month, Prabowo Subianto, who is widely tipped to challenge President Joko Widodo in the 2019 election, said religion was a sensitive subject in Indonesia.
He cited the 2013 case of Rusgiani, a Christian who was sentenced to one year and two months' jail in Bali. She had described canang sari the daily offerings Balinese Hindus place in temples or small shrines in houses to thank the deity as "dirty and disgusting".
"In recent years there were several other cases which maybe for foreigners or for people who were educated outside of Indonesian environment and culture and tradition seem to be very small," Prabowo said. "But it is so sensitive."
But most analysts and human rights organisations fear the Ahok verdict ushers in a dark new epoch for Indonesia, where non-Muslims are lesser citizens and religion can be used as a tool for subjugation.
A few careless throwaway lines on the campaign trail, whipped into an outrage by his foes, cost Ahok his bid to be re-elected as governor and two years behind bars.
The NU's Yahya Cholil Staquf believes religion was exploited not just by radical groups but by craven politicians who used their resources to mobilise people to attend the anti-Ahok rallies.
He says the Ahok case verdict will tempt opportunistic politicians to continue to use religion to achieve their political goals. "It has been proven it works," he says. "And this is going to be dangerous for the future unity of the nation."
But while there have been volumes of commentary on the political dimension, Dr Melissa Crouch, an expert in Indonesia's blasphemy laws from the University of New South Wales, says there has been surprisingly little commentary on the role the courts played in Ahok's downfall.
Crouch says the prosecution request that Ahok only be given a suspended sentence seemed like a rather convenient concession to the embattled governor, coming a day after his resounding loss in the gubernatorial election.
"The courts, it seems, were not having any of this," she writes in Policy Forum. "Indonesia's judges are fiercely protective of their independence, to a point that it now borders on a gross lack of accountability."
She also wrote that it was cause for alarm that firebrand Islamist Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Islam Defenders Front who has been jailed twice for inciting violence, was called as an "expert witness" during the trial.
Three of the five judges in Ahok's blasphemy trial were promoted the day after the verdict.
Crouch believes there is a glimmer of hope for Ahok. The staff of a controversial Islamic drug and cancer rehabilitation centre on Probolinggo were jailed for more than four years for writing a book called Through the darkness towards the light, which was judged heretical. "They were acquitted on appeal," she says.
Ahok has the advantage of wealth, resources and the adoration of millions of people. As the flyer for Saturday's Ahok Unity March in Perth says: "Pak Ahok, you'll never walk alone."
"I am worried about the orang kecil [little people] who may fall victim of this law such as Ahmadiyah, Shiite, Gafatar etc," says Bonar Tigor Naipospos, the head of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace. "They don't have big support." with Karuni Rompies
Jakarta The number of copies of ID cards needed to meet a requirement to guarantee the suspension of non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama from detention has reached more than 9,000, a coordinator has said.
Slamet, one of the coordinators of the ID collection push, said some 9,000 Indonesians had submitted their IDs as guarantors for the suspension as of Thursday afternoon. "But it hasn't passed the 10,000 mark," he said as quoted by wartakota.tribunnews.com.
Protests following the announcement of Ahok's prison sentence continue to escalate. Slamet said people had come to submit their IDs after a booth was opened up at City Hall on Thursday morning.
Approximately 500 Indonesians living abroad also sent pictures of their IDs in support, he said. People from other cities, including Jefritson Riwu Kore, the mayor-elect of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, also directly visited City Hall to offer copies of their IDs.
"Jakartans are not the only ones willing to vouch for Ahok," he said. (dea)
Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta The Jakarta-based Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) has slammed a recent court ruling that sentenced non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years behind bars in a blasphemy case, saying it could become a bad precedent as it was based on "irrelevant" laws.
The rights group said in a statement on Thursday that the North Jakarta District Court's move to use a blasphemy law in ruling the case against Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, was proof that the law could be used to pressure and discriminate minority groups.
The group added that Criminal Code's (KUHP) Article 156 (a), which was used to sentence Ahok, had been widely considered as "problematic."
"[This blasphemy article] is problematic because it has been frequently used to criminalize a group or individuals seen as 'different' by others," the HRWG said.
The group also called on the government and the House of Representatives to revise Article 156 (a) of the Criminal Code as well as the 1965 Blasphemy Law, which has also been used by Indonesian courts as a legal basis in ruling a number of blasphemy prosecutions.
The Constitutional Court previously rejected a judicial review request against Article 156 (a) and the 1965 Blasphemy Law, although it acknowledged these two regulations were problematic.
In Tuesday's hearing, the North Jakarta District Court stated that based on evidence and testimonies heard throughout the trial, all criminal elements of Ahok's blasphemy charges were fulfilled. (ebf)
Jakarta Three of the panel of five judges who presided in Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial in the North Jakarta District Court, have been promoted.
Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, who headed the panel, was appointed as a judge in the Denpasar High Court in Bali, while Jupriyadi was appointed as chairman of the Bandung District Court in West Java. Abdul Rosyad was appointed as a judge at the Palu High Court in Central Sulawesi.
A notice posted on the Supreme Court's website on Thursday (11/05) states that Dwiarso was promoted during an internal meeting on Wednesday.
Makassar District Court chairman Cakra Alam Dwiarso will replace Dwiarso, who is also chairman of the North Jakarta District Court. The two remaining judges on the panel, I Wayan Wirjana and Didik Wuryanto, were not promoted.
The North Jakarta Court sentenced Ahok to two years in prison on Tuesday, prompting strong local and international reaction.
The United Nations Human Rights Council also made a recommendation that the Indonesian government revise Article 156a of the Criminal Code on religious defamation.
Jakarta International and local support for imprisoned Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has reached a fever pitch as demonstrators across the archipelago and beyond continue to march in solidarity with the ethnic Chinese and Christian leader.
Ahok, who was been battling blasphemy charges since making light-hearted comments against using Koranic verses for political gain in November last year, was found guilty by the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday (09/05) and sentenced to two years in prison.
In Manado, North Sulawesi, local residents marched in an event dubbed the "1,000 Candles From Manado for Ahok" in the city's center on Wednesday evening.
"Tonight, the people of North Sulawesi declare their solidarity with Ahok and mourn the death of justice in this country," North Sulawesi Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) member Meiva Salindeho Lintang said. "We feel what Ahok feels."
Reverend David Tulaar, a well-known religious leader in Manado, also deplored the recent verdict against Ahok. "We demand that the North Jakarta District Court immediately release Ahok from prison," David said.
Both Meiva and David affirmed that the state must not give in to pressure from hardline religious groups, saying that the court should have weighed the case against Ahok on its merits alone.
Meanwhile, local activist Jull Takaliuang has called on all elements of society to fight against discriminatory and unjust acts. "Although we may differ in our religious beliefs, we are part of one nation, Indonesia, which cherishes the values enshrined in the official slogan of 'Unity in Diversity.' Discrimination must be ended," Jull said.
Hundreds of miles away, in Jayapura, Papua, dozens of residents also gathered on Wednesday to demand Ahok's release.
The spontaneous act started at 6 p.m. local time, as red and white candles in a nod to the official colors of Indonesia's flag marked the city's Imbi Park.
Jayapura residents believe that Ahok is a just and notable figure, especially in taking a hard stance against corruption. "We Papuans have a pure conscience towards the nation, and Ahok is certainly a victim," Papuan Christian Congregation Forum secretary Reverend Jimmy Koirewaoa told reporters.
Jimmy also called on the government and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to work to prevent future discriminatory acts across the archipelago.
Various acts of support also emanated from Indonesian communities abroad, including in Perth, Australia; Toronto, Canada; and West Covina, California.
Mass gatherings and candlelit vigils are planned for May 13 in West Covina and Perth, while Ahok supporters are expected to march on May 12 in Toronto.
Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta The police arrested six people for attempting to disrupt a peaceful rally held by Yogyakartans in support of non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who has been sent to prison for blasphemy.
Hundreds of people held a candlelight vigil at Yogyakarta's main square on Wednesday to demand the release of Ahok when a group of men reportedly tried to disrupt the rally and create unrest.
"The police fired warning shots in the air and then arrested six of the troublemakers," Sr. Comr. Tommy Wibisono told reporters in Yogyakarta, adding that the 30-minute rally ended peacefully.
On Tuesday, the North Jakarta District Court declared the outgoing Jakarta governor guilty of blasphemy for suggesting that people had abused a Quranic verse to block his re-election bid and sentenced him to two years in prison. (dan)
Kate Lamb, Jakarta The jailing of Jakarta's Christian governor on blasphemy charges has sparked outrage from his supporters in Indonesia, rights organisations and the EU.
On Tuesday, a court in the capital of the world's largest Muslim-majority country found Basuki Tjahaja Purnama better known by his nickname Ahok guilty of blasphemy, sentencing him to two years in prison.
"The EU has consistently stated that laws that criminalise blasphemy when applied in a discriminatory manner can have a serious inhibiting effect on freedom of expression and on freedom of religion or belief," the EU delegation to Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam said in a statement posted on its website.
The Jakarta-based rights group the Setara Institute described the verdict as a "trial by mob", while the British ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, who is Muslim, tweeted a message of support.
At City Hall on Wednesday morning, an estimated 1,000 people wearing red and white, Indonesia's national colours, gathered for a spontaneous choir performance in support of Ahok.
Conducted by the musician Addie MS, the crowd sang the national anthem, Indonesia Raya, and Pancasila Garuda, a song about Indonesia's founding principles of unity and diversity.
Others registered their opposition to the verdict and sentencing by tweeting under the hashtag #RIPHukumIndonesia, which means "rest in peace Indonesian law".
The Ahok case has been watched closely as a marker of the commitment to religious tolerance and pluralism in Indonesia, where religious hardliners have been playing an increasingly prominent role in politics.
In an unusual move, the panel of five judges on Tuesday dismissed the prosecutor's recommendations to drop the initial blasphemy charges due to insufficient evidence.
Prosecutors had recommended the governor instead face a sentence of two years' probation, and one year in jail if he reoffended. But the judges citing among others the "expert" opinion of an Islamic vigilante group leader said they found the minority governor convincingly guilty of blasphemy, incarcerating him for two years.
Ahok for months faced the wrath of hardline Islamists after he cited a Qur'anic verse on the campaign trail last September. The verse, he said, had been manipulated by some religious leaders to justify the claim the Muslims should not vote for non-Muslim leaders.
Uproar over an edited version of the speech that went viral spilled into a series of angry mass rallies spearheaded by Islamists since late last year, and has catalysed the deepening of religious and ethnic divides in the capital. Some observers argue that religious hardliners may have swayed the Indonesian judiciary.
International human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said the verdict would tarnish Indonesia's reputation for religious tolerance and pluralism, and urged the country to repeal its "unjust" blasphemy law. Ahok has indicated he will appeal against the ruling.
Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta The Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) has urged the government to ensure that no individual or group of individuals can influence court rulings, as the PGI believes the panel of judges at the North Jakarta District sentenced Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years in prison amid high public pressure.
Tens of thousands of people, under the coordination of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), have taken to the streets in rallies over the past several months demanding the prosecution of Ahok amid accusations of blasphemy. Hundreds of them were also seen outside the Agriculture Ministry auditorium on Tuesday where Ahok's final hearing was taking place.
"Ignoring such phenomenon will lead to the destruction of our nation," PGI chairwoman Henriette TH Lebang said in a statement on Wednesday.
She also hoped the court system remained independent and impartial. "We, therefore, regret that the high public pressure outside the auditorium [on Tuesday] was not handled properly," Henriette said.
Andreas Harsono The Jakarta court that sentenced governor Basuki "Ahok" Purnama to two years' imprisonment for blasphemy against Islam has sent a chilling message to non-Muslims in Indonesia. How could religious freedom slowly decline in Indonesia? And how could political Islam shape the country?
Ahok, himself a Christian, is the biggest political figure to be victimised under the blasphemy law. He is not only the Jakarta governor, backed by Indonesia's biggest political party, but he's also an ally of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Ahok and Jokowi were the dream team: Jokowi with vision, Ahok doing daily management.
Ahok's imprisonment is a big blow for the president. He too might expect to be called infidel, kafir a term used by Islamists to describe their fellow Muslim opponents.
Indonesia's transition from dictatorship to democracy has created space for more freedom of expression for all Indonesians, including Islamists. Emboldened by the government's inaction on discrimination and violence against religious minorities, over the last 19 years Islamists have increasingly sought to enforce laws like the blasphemy law more strictly to "protect" Islam and move Indonesia from a secular to an Islamic state.
Indonesia's 1945 constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But in January 1965, then-President Sukarno issued a presidential decree that prohibited individuals from being hostile toward other religions. Sukarno decreed that Indonesia was to protect six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Sukarno never used that law. He lost power in October 1965.
General Suharto, who ruled Indonesia from 1965 to 1998, used the blasphemy law only a handful of times. Three of his successors B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Sukarnoputri never used it.
The law only became an issue when Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono succeeded Megawati in 2004. Yudhoyono strengthened the blasphemy law offices, which were under the Attorney General's Office, by creating branches in every province and regency. He also took no action against emerging Islamist militant groups that engage in threats and violence against religious minorities. During his decade in power, Yudhoyono's administration sent at least 106 blasphemy cases to courts and all were found guilty.
In March 2006, Yudhoyono decreed a "religious harmony" regulation and set up government advisory bodies, skillfully named the Religious Harmony Forum, in every province and regency. The forum's credo says, "The majority should protect the minorities and the minorities should respect the majority." But it basically denies equal rights to Indonesian citizens. In many Muslim-majority areas, the credo allows Muslims to have effective veto power over the activities of religious minorities. More than 1,000 churches were closed down in that decade.
In 2014, Jokowi succeeded Yudhoyono. Many opinion makers and moderate Muslim leaders advised Jokowi to undo the discriminatory infrastructure he had inherited from Yudhoyono.
Unfortunately, Jokowi declined to take those steps. He instead sought to foster better ties with moderate Muslim groups such as the nationwide Nahdlatul Ulama in the hope that it would strengthen his hand with the hardline Islamist groups. He clearly miscalculated.
The Ahok verdict endorsed an Islamist narrative of blasphemy. One of the five judges, reciting the Qur'an's Al-Maidah 51 verse in Arabic, stressed that Muslims should not elect non-Muslim leaders. The court also adopted the Islamist's position that non-Muslims should not comment on Qur'anic interpretations.
The verdict paints a frightening future for moderate Muslims and non-Muslims who believe in Indonesia's pluralist society. Non-Muslims will think twice before making comments in public or on social media about diversity and pluralism. Beyond elected officials, public servants and executives of state-owned companies may be next in line.
Will it be OK to talk about opening a food vendor during the Ramadan fasting month? Will it be lawful to discuss mandatory wearing of the hijab? Non-Muslims might risk prison time just by venturing into these very ordinary subjects of Indonesian life. If someone powerful and once popular like Ahok could be jailed for blasphemy, who is next?
Jakarta The North Jakarta District Court's guilty verdict against Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama on Tuesday (09/05) is not a victory of Islam over minority groups in the country, but rather a setback that shows how easily politicians can exploit religious sentiment to promote their own interests, experts say.
Ahok, who is a Christian, has been an anomaly in the country's politics since replacing current President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo as Jakarta governor. He was the first Indonesian of Chinese descent to do so in the post-New Order era, which refers to the 32 years of authoritarian rule by former President Suharto.
Initially facing fierce opposition from hardline Muslim groups when he officially took over as governor on Nov. 14, 2014, Ahok later earned praise from the wider public for his commitment to bureaucratic reforms.
However, he was defeated in the second round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election by former education minister Anies Baswedan, who was backed by Prabowo Subianto, a former Suharto-era Army general and strongman. Ahok was supported by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is President Jokowi's main ally.
Vedi Hadiz, a professor of Asian studies at the University of Melbourne, told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday that Ahok's court defeat should not be seen as a victory of Islam over minority groups.
Vedi said from a political perspective, the blasphemy case was successfully exploited as a tool to promote the interests of the "oligarchic elite" affiliated to the authoritarian New Order regime, which supported Ahok's rival in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.
When Anies declared his victory, many old guard figures were present, including moguls Aburizal Bakrie, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Hary Tanoesoedibjo and failed 2014 presidential candidate, Prabowo. All are prominent businessmen or military officers linked to the authoritarian regime of Suharto, who was ousted in 1998.
"The victorious are those in the oligarchic elite faction, who succeeded in using Islamic sentiment for their own interest, without any improvements in the lives of Muslims," Vedi said.
While 90 percent of Indonesia's more than its 240 million people are Muslim, the country upholds the spirit of its national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, or Unity in Diversity. However, there is a rising trend of Islamic groups pushing their agendas that many see as a test for the country's diversity.
Airlangga Pribadi Kusman, a lecturer in politics at Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, said the judges' verdict was a setback for Indonesia's legal system as Ahok's "slip of the tongue" did not constitute an insult against Islam, but criticism of politicians abusing religion for their own interests.
Airlangga said some parties seized this opportunity to diminish the public's rationality and put political pressure on Ahok.
Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch echoed Airlangga's view, saying the verdict as "a huge setback" for minorities and for Indonesia's record of tolerance.
"If someone like Ahok, the governor of the capital, backed by the country's largest political party, ally of the president, can be jailed on groundless accusations, what will others do?" Andreas said.
Jakarta International rights organizations are urging Indonesia to review its blasphemy law following the sentencing of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years in prison for blasphemy against Islam.
Phelim Kine, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, an American-funded international non-governmental organization (NGO), warned of the dangers of Indonesia's blasphemy law, which can and has been used to punish those who deviate from the tenets of Indonesia's six officially recognized religions Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism with sentences of up to five years in prison.
"The law has been used to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities and of traditional religions," Kine said in a tweet on Tuesday (09/05).
He also commented on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's response to Ahok's conviction. Jokowi late on Tuesday called for the public to respect the ongoing legal process, including the verdict against Ahok.
"He should instead deliver on his pledges to promote religious pluralism in Indonesia and abolish the blasphemy law and other discriminatory regulations that threaten the country's religious minorities," Kine said.
Another expression of concerns came from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
"We are concerned by jail sentence for Jakarta governor for alleged blasphemy against Islam. We call on Indonesia to review blasphemy law," OHCHR Southeast Asia regional office said in a tweet on Tuesday.
The Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday that the verdict is "deeply disconcerting" not only for Indonesia, but for the entire Asean region.
Charles Santiago, the chairman of APHR, said in the statement that the verdict places Indonesia's position as a regional leader in democracy and openness in jeopardy "and raises concerns about Indonesia's future as an open, tolerant, diverse society."
Santiago also said that Ahok is a "victim of rising extremism and religious identity politics," noting that the court's decision to sentence Ahok to two years in jail will impact justice in Indonesia overall, not just for the governor.
"It is a triumph for intolerance and an ominous sign for minority rights. At a time when fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, are under increasing threat region-wide, this verdict sends the wrong signal to Indonesia's neighbors in the Asean community," he said.
Amnesty International also voiced a similar response in a statement, saying that Ahok's conviction and imprisonment "will tarnish Indonesia's reputation for tolerance."
This is not the first time Indonesia has been criticized by the international community for upholding its blasphemy law, which many viewed as discriminatory toward religious minorities.
During the country's review at the 27th session of the United Nations Universal Period Review last week, delegations from Sweden and Spain specifically recommended Indonesia to work on repealing the blasphemy law from the national criminal code.
Jakarta The European Union delegation to Indonesia called on the government on Tuesday (09/05) to continue its "long-standing tradition of tolerance and pluralism," following the sentencing of incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years in prison for blasphemy.
In a statement received by the Jakarta Globe, the EU emphasized its agreement with Indonesia to protect and promote freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as freedom of expression.
The delegation warns of "laws that criminalize blasphemy when applied in a discriminatory manner can have a serious inhibiting effect on freedom of expression and on freedom of religion or belief."
The North Jakarta District Court made its ruling on Tuesday morning, after a highly divisive, months-long blasphemy trial that has attracted attention from the international community.
The conviction was met by responses from various human rights organizations, international institutions, foreign governments and representatives.
"I know Basuki. I admire his work for Jakarta. I believe he is not anti-Islam [...] [Indonesian] leaders must protect tolerance and harmony," British Ambassador Moazzam Malik tweeted on Tuesday.
In a statement issued by the US State Department in response to the court verdict, it "encourages Indonesian efforts to uphold the freedoms of religion and speech."
The statement added that the United States opposes blasphemy laws anywhere in the world because it jeopardizes fundamental freedoms.
Jakarta (AFP) Indonesia is facing renewed calls to repeal its controversial blasphemy law after the jailing of Jakarta's Christian governor, with critics pointing to a sharp increase in its use to target minorities.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama known by his nickname Ahok was jailed for two years on Tuesday (May 9) for blasphemy over comments he made about Islam while campaigning for re-election to the capital of the Muslim-majority nation, a far harsher sentence than had been expected.
Critics viewed the case as unfair and politically motivated. The allegations were pushed by hardliners who opposed a non-Muslim as governor, and sparked a series of mass protests that dented Basuki's popularity and contributed to him losing the race for the Jakarta governorship to a Muslim rival last month.
The allegations against Basuki centred on a lighthearted remark he made about his rivals using a verse from the Quran to trick people into voting against him, which judges ruled amounted to blasphemy against Islam.
The blasphemy legislation has been on the statute books since 1965 but was rarely used before 1998, when three decades of authoritarian rule under brutal dictator Suharto who sought to run the country along largely secular lines came to an end.
His downfall brought with it new democratic freedoms and increased interest in more conservative forms of Islam. But it also gave space for the growth of hardline Muslim groups and an increase in attacks on religious minorities, fuelling concerns that the country's inclusive brand of Islam was under threat.
Activists say the growing use of the blasphemy law curbs free speech and is one example of minorities coming under increased pressure. Local rights group the Setara Institute said of the 97 blasphemy cases brought to court since the law was enacted, 89 of them were since 1998.
Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division, said Basuki's conviction made him "exhibit A of the law's danger and the urgent need for its repeal". "The blasphemy law has been used to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities and traditional religions," he said.
Champa Patel, Amnesty International's director for South-east Asia and the Pacific, criticised the "inherent injustice of Indonesia's blasphemy law, which should be repealed immediately", while the United Nations urged a review of the legislation.
A recent case was the jailing in March of three leaders of a banned sect called Gafatar under the blasphemy law, with the men accused of luring followers to practise a deviant brand of Islam.
Another example was in 2012 when Tajul Muluk, a cleric from the Shi'ite Muslim minority, was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy, with judges saying that his teachings deviated from mainstream Islam.
The blasphemy law states that anyone found guilty of "expressing feelings of hostility" towards religion can be jailed for up to five years. It applies to any of the six officially recognised religions in Indonesia but in reality most prosecutions are brought against people accused of blaspheming Islam.
About 90 per cent of Indonesia's 255 million people are Muslim but most practise a moderate form of Islam and the country is also home to substantial minorities of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.
Despite growing pressure to repeal the law, this seems unlikely to be any time soon. Religious affairs ministry spokesman Matsuki, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, conceded there were concerns of misuse but said the government wanted to improve the legislation rather than axe it.
"If we abolished it, more problems would arise," he told AFP. "If blasphemy happens and we have no guidelines, there will be chaos."
Jakarta Supporters of non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and acting governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat flocked to City Hall on Wednesday morning with a choir led by renowned conductor Addie MS.
The supporters, wearing red and white attire as suggested by Addie, sang the national anthem, "Indonesia Raya," and other national songs, such as "Garuda Pancasila," "Rayuan Pulau Kelapa," "Maju Tak Gentar," "Indonesia Pusaka" and "Syukur."
"This is awesome. We now just have to wait for Djarot. It is so sad that Ahok is not here. I imagine he would be proud to see the crowd here," Addie said as reported by kompas.com.
The choir event was initially planned to be held last week. However, it was postponed due to Ahok's busy schedule, he said.
Members of the public went to City Hall to demonstrate support for the state motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Wednesday's choir performance was spontaneous, with members of the public who had shown up in support of the embattled Ahok participating.
"We gather here to support truth. Most importantly, we want to keep the Unitary State of Indonesia [NKRI] and Pancasila," Addie added.
Ahok was detained on Tuesday after the final hearing of his blasphemy trial. He was escorted to Cipinang detention center in East Jakarta shortly after the North Jakarta District Court declared him guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison.
He was moved to the National Police's Mobile Brigade detention center in Kelapa Dua, Depok, early Wednesday for security reasons.
Jakarta Jakartans have started an initiative to be guarantors for the release of non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama from detention.
People who gathered at City Hall on Wednesday morning started collecting signatures and copies of identity cards to meet requirements to act as guarantors for the release of Ahok, who has been detained at the National Police's Mobile Brigade detention center after the North Jakarta District Court declared him guilty of blasphemy.
"We, the supporters of Ahok, will guarantee that Ahok won't flee," said Susy Rizky, one of the initiators of the action, at City Hall.
She said she had consulted with one of Ahok's lawyers, I Wayan Sudirta, about the possibility of citizens being guarantors for his release. She said that those who did not possess Jakarta ID cards could also participate.
Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who has been sworn in as acting governor, has said he is willing to act as a guarantor for Ahok's release. He has submitted a signed letter to the Jakarta High Court and the North Jakarta District court requesting Ahok's release.
"If something happens, I will take the responsibility. I will replace him in detention if something happens," he said on Tuesday.
Ahok was detained immediately after the court ruled against him on Tuesday. (vny)
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta While the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has openly criticized the court ruling against Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, other political parties that back the incumbent Jakarta governor have taken a softer stance.
The Hanura Party, which backed Ahok in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election along with the PDI-P, Golkar and NasDem parties, said everyone must respect the verdict and that Ahok should exercise patience in the matter.
"The judges' decision must have strong a legal basis and can be accounted for," Hanura deputy secretary-general Dadang Rusdiana said on Wednesday as quoted by tribunnews.com.
The North Jakarta District Court ruled on Tuesday that Ahok was guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him two years in prison. Many legal experts and human rights activists have lambasted the verdict, saying it was irregular and based on the draconian Blasphemy Law.
Meanwhile, NasDem executive Taufiqulhadi said people should trust the court. "I have no comment. I trust the court. But to seek more fairness, Ahok can appeal. That's his right as a justice seeker," he said.
Meanwhile, PDI-P politician Eva Kusuma Sundari said the verdict was an expression of hatred, not justice. "The judges used their 'independence' to punish Ahok beyond the prosecutors' demand. And it's a setback in our democracy, because they sacrificed justice," Eva said.
She added that it a bad precedent that tarnished the country's image. (foy/rin)
Jakarta Following the guilty ruling in non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy case, questions linger over the fate of similar cases implicating the top officials of the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI).
FPI leader Rizieq Shihab was reported by the Indonesian Catholic Students Association (PMKRI) and Students Peace Institute (SPI) to the Jakarta Police in December after a video of a sermon he gave was uploaded onto Twitter and Instagram. In the 22-second video, Rizieq is heard saying: "If God gave birth, then who would be the midwife?"
Meanwhile, his confidante, FPI spokesman Munarman, was named a suspect in February by Bali Police for allegedly insulting pecalang (traditional Balinese security guards).
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto said investigations into both cases were ongoing. He denied Ahok's case had been given extra attention. "Everyone is equal before the law," he told journalists at the National Police headquarters on Tuesday.
Ahok was declared guilty for blasphemy and sentenced to two years' imprisonment by a panel of judges at the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday. Upon the handing down of the ruling, he was suspended by the Home Ministry and his deputy governor was appointed acting governor. (hol/rin)
Jakarta Human rights group Amnesty International has said a Jakarta district court's decision to convict outgoing Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama of blasphemy will tarnish Indonesia's reputation as a tolerant nation.
"This verdict demonstrates the inherent injustice of Indonesia's Blasphemy Law, which should be repealed immediately," Champa Patel, Amnesty International's director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The North Jakarta District Court found Ahok guilty of blasphemy for saying that some people "had been deceived" by other people "using Al-Maidah 51," a Quranic verse that some believe prohibit Muslims from electing a non-Muslim leader.
"Despite protests of his innocence and evidence that his words were manipulated for political purposes, he has been sentenced to two years in prison. The verdict will tarnish Indonesia's reputation as a tolerant nation."
Amnesty International highlighted the fact that the prosecutors had dropped the blasphemy charge against Ahok in their sentence demand, but the panel of judges decided to reinstate the charge in their verdict.
According to the group's data, the 1965 Blasphemy Law was only used against 10 individuals under former president Soeharto, who stepped down in 1998. The number spiked after Soeharto's downfall, with 106 individuals prosecuted and convicted under the law between 2005 and 2014 alone. The group has called on Indonesia to repeal the draconian law. (ary)
Bagus Saragih, Jakarta From Sumatra to Papua and in many foreign countries, people have been posting on social media to comment on the guilty verdict and two-year jail term handed down to Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, making #Ahok a worldwide trending topic for quite some time on Tuesday.
Notable artists and journalists, as well as international political observers, joined ordinary Jakartans and other social media users across Indonesia to criticize the verdict. Also, international media outlets ran the breaking news as soon as the judges banged the gavel on Ahok's conviction.
Other related hashtags also went viral, such as #RIPHukum (Rest in Peace the law), #SaveAhok, #FreeAhok, #RIPIndonesiajustice and #Ahokbukanpenistaagam (Ahok is not a blasphemer).
"Even the world of fiction is losing its pull today. Too distracted by this sad news. Can't work," tweeted @deelestari, the prominent author Dewi "Dee" Lestari. The tweet got 901 retweets and 612 likes as of Tuesday evening.
Even the world of fiction is losing its pull today. Too distracted by this sad news. Can't work. #Ahok Dee Lestari (@deelestari) May 9, 2017
Terrorism expert Sydney Jones, via her Twitter account @sidneyIPAC, also had her say. "Ahok was slandered, declared guilty before the trial, held accountable in a questionable legal proceeding and now detained. Is this a state with the rule of law?" she tweeted in Indonesian. Other international observers tweeted similar sentiments.
Ahok: "difitnah, dinyatakan bersalah sblm pengadilan & diadili dgn hukum meragukan" skrng ditahan. inilah negara hukum?? sidney jones (@sidneyIPAC) May 9, 2017
Of all Indonesian politicians, the last one I expected to end up in jail was Ahok. If there's anyone who ought to be in prison, it isn't him. Judith Jacob (@judithpjacob) May 9, 2017
Ahok gets two years jail for blasphemy and Indonesia's judiciary displays itself as weak, inexperienced and inconsistent. [email protected] Ross B Taylor AM (@Indorosstaylor) May 9, 2017
Daniel Ziv, the director of an award-winning documentary about street musicians in Jakarta called Jalanan (Streetside), which once moved Ahok to tears, also expressed his anger: "Ahok's jailing confirms the Islamists & New Orderists aren't satisfied just winning the election, but aim to purge & take over the country."
Ahok's jailing confirms the Islamists & New Orderists aren't satisfied just winning the election, but aim to purge & take over the country. Daniel Ziv (@DanielZiv) May 9, 2017
Many have composed creative memes, mostly in support of Ahok, who has been praised as an anti-corruption champion despite his harsh and outspoken speaking style.
WELL SAID!!!!! #riphukum #IndonesiaMenangis #Ahok pic.twitter.com/nmLD4UfuNK leonardo.slatter (@EyoSlatter) May 9, 2017
Journalist Benjamin Bland (@benjaminbland) quoted a Malaysian politician commenting on Ahok's verdict, saying that it would also disconcert ASEAN.
"The verdict is deeply disconcerting not only for Indonesia, but for the entire ASEAN region"-Malaysian MP Charles Santiago on Ahok jailing Ben Bland ??? (@benjaminbland) May 9, 2017
I once had dinner with this humble, bright and upright man. Now he's in jail for blasphemy. A sad day for Indonesia's justice system. #ahok Christian Kretschmar (@CKretschmar) May 9, 2017
As of 9 p.m., hundreds of Ahok's supporters were reportedly staying outside the Cipinang detention center in East Jakarta where the Ahok had been detained. They wanted to express support for the governor and meet him.
Hours after the verdict, Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo assigned deputy governor Djarot Syaiful Hidayat to be acting Jakarta governor.
Ahok and Djarot were running mates in the 2017 Jakarta election, but lost to the Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, who had considerable backing from conservative Islamic groups.
Supporters of the now suspended Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama burst into tears after a panel of judges at the North Jakarta District Court sentence him to two years in jail for blasphemy. (JP/Seto Wardhana.)
Nethy Darma Somba, Jayapura President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has called on the public to respect the North Jakarta District Court's ruling that handed down a two-year imprisonment sentence to Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy.
"All parties shall respect the legal process, including the verdict, which was just read out by the panel of judges, as well as Ahok's move to file an appeal. Most importantly, we all believe in legal mechanisms to settle problems," Jokowi said on the sidelines of his visit to Jayapura, Papua, on Tuesday.
"The government cannot interfere with the legal process," the President added. Jokowi said he had received reports from Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo on the matter while adding that he would discuss it in detail after he returned to Jakarta.
Ahok was initially charged under Article 156a of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy and Article 156 of the KUHP on defaming clergymen. Prosecutors later dropped the blasphemy charge and demanded that Ahok be sentenced to two years' probation and one year in prison if he reoffended.
However, the judges ignored the prosecutors and said Ahok was guilty of blasphemy, hence sentencing him to two years in prison. (bbs)
Jakarta The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has asked people to respect the verdict in Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy case.
"The MUI appreciates and respects the verdict," MUI deputy head Zainut Tauhid Saadi said Tuesday, as quoted by Antara news agency, referring to the North Jakarta District Court's decision to sentence Ahok to two years' imprisonment after being found guilty in the case.
He said the verdict reflected the judges' appreciation toward the council's opinion on the case. He added that the verdict also showed the validity of the MUI's opinion, which served as a reference in deciding the legal steps in Ahok's case.
The MUI delivered its opinion that the governor had insulted Islam in his speech in the Thousand Islands in September last year, in which he told residents to not be "deceived" by people using Quranic verses to influence decisions. The judges quoted considerations from MUI ulemas in the verdict.
Zainut further said the council had expressed its gratitude to leaders of Islamic organizations, ulemas and other Islamic figures that helped guide the legal process in relation to Ahok's case. He added that the MUI praised Islamic figures who prioritized the spirit of brotherhood and unity in guiding the process.
Rallies were conducted in front of the building where the case hearings were being held since the beginning of Ahok's trial in December, coordinated by a group of conservative and hard-line Muslims grouped under the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa National Movement to Safeguard the MUI's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI). (rdi)
Jewel Topsfield and Karuni Rompies, Jakarta In a shock verdict the Christian Governor of Jakarta has been jailed for two years for blaspheming against Islam despite the prosecution requesting only a suspended sentence for the lesser offence of inciting hatred.
The five-judge panel of the North Jakarta District Court ordered the arrest of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, saying he had been found convincingly guilty of blaspheming against religion.
The trial, which has been widely seen as a litmus test for Indonesia's much-vaunted religious tolerance, derailed Ahok's bid for re-election and ignited sectarian tension across Indonesia.
"As Governor, as a public officer, the defendant should have known that religion is a sensitive issue so he should have avoided talking about religion," Judge Abdul Rosyad said.
Ahok, who was taken into detention at Cipinang in Jakarta, immediately indicated he would appeal.
His supporters wept in court. Thousands of Ahok fans have sent balloons and decorative flower boards to City Hall in recent weeks with messages of support for the embattled governor. Many made reference to Nemo, after Ahok compared himself to the clownfish, who swims against the current, in his unorthodox defence.
Ahok's supporters had hoped he would be acquitted or given a light sentence after prosecutors concluded he did not intend to insult Islam when he quoted verse 51 of a chapter of the Koran called Al-Maidah.
Ahok opened a Pandora's box when he told fishermen in the Thousand Islands province in September that his opponents were using Al-Maidah to deceive them into not voting for him.
Some interpret Al-Maidah to mean that Muslims should not be led by non-Muslims, although others argue it should be interpreted in the context of the time.
Ahok subsequently apologised but the comments were seized upon by his political foes and conservative Islamic groups that had long argued Jakarta should not be led by a non-Muslim.
Several massive rallies, spearheaded by radical groups, called for Ahok to be jailed and even lynched, with some protesters brazenly racially and religiously vilifying the governor, who is a double minority Christian and ethnic Chinese.
Although largely peaceful, the rallies brought Jakarta to a standstill and the government, keenly aware of the street protests that spelled an end to the Suharto regime in 1998, worried they would destabilise the capital.
Ahok was brought to trial on what some political commentators considered trumped up charges aimed at appeasing the hardline groups. He faced a maximum five-year jail sentence.
"I don't understand why the trial is mixed with politics," Ahok supporter Rina Dodi told Fairfax Media outside court. "The trial is unfair. I am sad. Ahok is a statesman, he always takes the side of the people."
But Judge Rosyad said the panel of judges disagreed with Ahok's defence team, who argued the case was related to the April 19 gubernatorial election. "This is a pure crime case," he said.
Ahok was defeated by former education minister Anies Baswedan, a Muslim, despite high approval rating for Ahok's performance in office. Mr Anies will take up the position in October. Exit polls revealed religion was the number one factor that influenced the way Jakartans voted in the election.
Before the verdict, a delegation from the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), had visited the Supreme Court demanding it ensure the judges sentence Ahok to the maximum five years. However, outside court, Benny Haris Nainggolan from GNPF-MUI said he was happy with the verdict. "I am satisfied," he said.
One of Ahok's lawyers, I Wayan Sudirta, said he could understand the sentence due to the high pressure on the court. "However we cannot accept it, we are very disappointed with the sentence."
In what one Twitter wag called "peak Indonesia", pictures soon emerged on social media of Cipinang detention staff posing with Ahok.
The Home Affairs Ministry indicated it would ask President Joko Widodo to terminate Ahok's status as governor and appoint Vice Governor Djarot Saiful Hidaya as acting governor until Mr Anies came to office in October.
Dr Melissa Crouch, an expert in Indonesia's blasphemy laws from the University of NSW, said while many may be surprised by the verdict, it was not necessarily inconsistent.
"Judges fiercely guard their independence in Indonesia, and it may be that in this case they felt that the prosecutor recommended charges that were inconsistent with the original reason the case was brought to court," she said.
"In addition, all persons charged with the criminal offence of blasphemy have been found guilty, so this sentence fits with that pattern. To be accused of blasphemy in Indonesia is effectively to be found guilty. This gives a lot of power to those such as religious leaders who may make the initial complaint to police regarding blasphemy charges."
Dr Crouch said the verdict also raised questions about whether the prosecutor was potentially influenced by politics in its recommendations to the court.
On the eve of the blasphemy verdict, the Indonesian government moved to ban one of the hardline Islamic groups behind the massive Anti-Ahok protests staged in the capital over the past six months.
The government will ask the courts to disband Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a group that seeks to establish a global Islamic caliphate.
Co-ordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said the group's activities threatened peace and order in society and endangered the unity of Indonesia.
He stressed that the decision did not mean the government was anti mass-Islamic organisations but was taken solely to safeguard the unity of Indonesia, that was based on its pluralistic state ideology, Pancasila and the 1945 constitution.
Professor Greg Barton said there were good grounds for disbanding Hizbut Tahrir in Indonesia, with the group already banned in Germany and across central Asia.
He said although the group was fairly innocuous before the rise of Islamic State, it had not revised its rhetoric on a global caliphate since the announcement of a formal Islamic State by insurgents in Syria and Iraq in 2014.
"To support a caliphate, including through jihad, in the way that HTI advocates, effectively contributes to an environment for Islamic State recruitment," said Professor Barton, who is the Chair of Global Islamic Politics at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.
Although the HTI does not have any record of violence in Indonesia, Professor Barton said many of its members had gone on to more violent groups.
"The issue for Indonesia is that getting legislation through Parliament is notoriously difficult," he said. "Going to court is, under the circumstances, a reasonable move because it is very hard to otherwise control what they do."
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta The North Jakarta District Court's decision to sentence Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years' imprisonment is irregular because the sentence is longer than that demanded by prosecutors, rights group Setara Institute has said.
Ahok was initially charged under Article 156a of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy and Article 156 of the KUHP on defaming clergymen. Prosecutors, however, later dropped the blasphemy charge and demanded that Ahok be sentenced to two years' probation and one year in prison if he reoffended.
"Judges are indeed independent but they must base verdicts on facts and evidence. The weak evidence presented by prosecutors should have been able to convince the judges to hand down a lighter sentence than that demanded by prosecutors," Setara chairman Hendari said in a statement.
"The verdict has proved the blasphemy article is prone to misuse by certain parties," he added.
Hendari said the judges seemed to have been working under pressure amid the waves of protesters demanding Ahok be imprisoned. "It was a trial by the mob, which is actually against the rule of law."
He also said the judicial system seemed to be influenced by public pressure. "In legal principle, if judges hesitate in deciding something, they should choose the most favorable option for the defendants," Hendardi said. (bbs)
Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta The defense lawyer of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has said the North Jakarta District Court's decision to sentence Ahok to two years in prison for blasphemy is politically driven and unacceptable.
"We respect the decision but we can't accept it. We understand the pressure surrounding this case, but we're disappointed. We will file an appeal to challenge the decision," Ahok's lawyer, I Wayan Sidarta, said.
The judges sentenced Ahok to two years in prison for blasphemy as stipulated in Article 156a of the Criminal Code (KUHP) despite the prosecutors dropping the blasphemy charge.
Prosecutors claimed on April 20 that Ahok had only insulted Muslim leaders, a move they said violated of Article 156 of the KUHP, and demanded the judges sentence him to two years of probation.
Wayan added that the lawyers questioned the judges' decision to detain Ahok because during the hearing they said Ahok had been cooperative. Ahok was escorted to Cipinang Detention Center in East Jakarta after the judges handed down their ruling.
"Why should Ahok be detained? Ahok will still be governor, so he won't escape," Wayan said, adding the case was politically driven.
Ahok, who lost his bid for reelection last month, has another six months to lead the city before passing the baton to governor-elect Anies Baswedan in October. Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo is set to install Jakarta Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat as acting governor.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta As the court has ruled an unexpected verdict, which drags Christian Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to jail, opposition parties Gerindra Party and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) may feel relieved, showing their high appreciation to the judges.
"I think the verdict has strong legal evidence and represents the justice all people want," Gerindra executive Fadli Zon said at the House of Representatives complex on Tuesday.
The House deputy speaker added the people should learn from the case that no one is allowed to commit blasphemy against religions.
Islamic-based PKS lawmaker Jazuli Juwaini wanted all parties to accept the verdict. "I hope this is fair, and we should also respect Ahok's plan to file an appeal," Jazuli said.
Gerindra and PKS are among parties opposing Ahok, an ally of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, in the Jakarta election. Their candidate Anies Baswedan won the Jakarta gubernatorial election beating Ahok.
It was also Gerindra that supported an inquiry initiated by the Democratic Party on February against the government as the Home Ministry allowed Ahok to keep his job despite being on trial for blasphemy.
The inquiry plan was blocked by the government allies, including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the leader of Ahok's coalition in the election.
Fadli, along with hundreds of thousands of Muslim hard-liners, joined an anti-Ahok rally on Nov. 4. (foy/dmr)
Indra Budiari, Jakarta The guilty verdict against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama resulted in more than 1,000 of his detractors celebrating his two-year prison sentence for blasphemy on Tuesday.
Using a megaphone, one protester praised God after the North Jakarta District Court announced the verdict. He said a close eye should be kept on the overall legal process to make sure that Ahok served his prison sentence.
"Allahu Akbar [God is great]. We should not be satisfied with this verdict but make sure that Ahok really serves his sentence," the man continued. Ahok detractors packed areas around the Agriculture Ministry on Jl. RM Harsono, Ragunan, South Jakarta, where the hearing took place starting from 9 a.m.
After the hearing ended at 10:50 a.m., the situation in the area remained tense, with members of Islamic organizations checking the press cards of journalists covering the event.
In Tuesday's hearing, the North Jakarta District Court declared Ahok guilty of blasphemy for suggesting that some people had abused a Quranic verse to block his re-election bid.
Dwiarso Budi Santiarso, the presiding judge in the case, declared, "The defendant Ir. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok is proven guilty of committing blasphemy."
The governor, whose term ends in October, said he would appeal the verdict. (ebf)
Jakarta Thousands of balloons were delivered to Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaha Purnama at City Hall ahead of the announcement of the verdict in his blasphemy case on Tuesday.
The red-and-white balloons, sent by members of the Women Care for Jakarta (PPKJ) movement and a group called the Sanur community, can be seen alongside floral arrangements sent to the governor and deputy governor following the gubernatorial election.
"We believe the verdict won't negatively affect Ahok because he did not do what [prosecutors] are accusing him of," PPKJ member Ilma Sovriyanti said as quoted by kompas.com.
Ahok's supporters have also urged Jakarta residents to remain calm on Tuesday. A panel of judges comprising four Muslims and one Hindu is set to determine on Tuesday the fate of Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, who is on trial for allegedly insulting the Quran. (vny)
Arbi Sumandoyo "Jakarta is filthy. We have to be macho. Jakarta is filthy. It must be cleaned up... must be cleaned up", shouted a speaker through a loudspeaker from a command vehicle on May Day in front of the Jakarta City Hall.
"So make a pile. All in one place. We'll clean the City Hall of these unclear messages..."
On Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan, as recorded on video, labour demonstrators wearing uniform black T-shirts with long red sleeves collected and dragged away floral tributes and displays sent to Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama which had apparently been sent by his supporters after the incumbent Jakarta governor lost in a venomous gubernatorial election.
Plumbs of smoke quickly blanketed the road. The speaker continued to provoke the demonstrators while other people in the vicinity, including the police, looked on as the floral tributes were burnt.
"We want to create a new history, we want to show Ahok that we the LEM SPSI is cleaning up Jakarta. Agreed? Agreed?"
That afternoon, in the midst of rallies commemorating May Day 2017, workers from the Jakarta branch of the All Indonesia Workers Union-Electronic and Machinery Trade Union (FSP LEM-SPSI) were instead busy setting fire to the floral tributes for Ahok and scuffling with police who tried to extinguish the fires.
The action became the focus of public attention after videos by people watching the incident spread on social media. Because of the incident, May Day 2017 was tarnished giving the impression of something wild even though it did not in any way represent all elements of the working class that had gathered in Jakarta on the national holiday.
There is no doubt that the actions by the FSP LEM-SPSI indicated their political support for the opposing gubernatorial election ticket of Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno. This however was denied by North Jakarta FSP LEM-SPSI member Dadan Muldan. He explained that the incident had absolutely no relationship with the SPSI's sectoral union's support for candidates in the recent elections and referred to it as a "spontaneous act".
"It was spontaneous, we were conveying a message to the Jakarta provincial government so what's the problem? The City Hall should be cleared of all these kinds of things right", said Dadan. Their justification for burning the floral tributes was because they "disturbed public order".
Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) president Said Iqbal said that he knew nothing about the action by LEM SPSI workers. At the time of incident he explained that he was feeling ill and resting in a car near the Antara state news agency offices around 500 metres from where the incident took place. Iqbal then went to the MNC Media offices, around two minutes away by car to take part in a discussion. He said that the flower burning did not involve the KSPI.
"Following the action at 5pm, I was informed by journalist friends about the burning of the flowers. So I checked with my subordinates, there were no FSPMI [Indonesian Metal Trade Union Federation] or KSPI members involved", said Iqbal via an SMS message yesterday, May 7. He insists that the FSP LEM-SPSI's political support for the Anies-Sandiaga ticket in the Jakarta Labour Coalition had no relationship with the burning of the floral tributes to Ahok. "There was no relationship, Brother", said Iqbal.
As part of the Jakarta Labour Coalition, along with 12 other trade unions the FSP LEM-SPSI backed the Anies-Sandiaga ticket to win the Jakarta gubernatorial election. On April 1, two weeks before the vote, they declared their support at the central leadership board of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), led by former General Prabowo Subianto.
The Jakarta Labour Coalitions is made up of the Jakarta FSPMI, the Jakarta FSP LEM-SPSI, the Jakarta Indonesian Association of Trade Unions (ASPEK), the Jakarta National Trade Union (SPN), KSPI's Chemical, Energy and Mining Labour Solidarity Forum (FSP KEP-KSPI), the Private and Honorary Teachers Forum, the Jakarta Health and Pharmaceuticals Trade Union Federation (FSP FARKES) of Reform, KSPI's Fraternity of Indonesian Muslim Workers (SP PPMI KSPI), the Federated Tourism Trade Union of Reform (FSP Pariwisata Reformasi), the Indonesian Multi-Sector Trade Union Federation (FSPASI), the Indonesian Unionists Solidarity Forum (FSUI) and the Indonesian Automotive Trade Union (SPOI).
Prior to declaring their support for the Anies-Sandiaga ticket at the Gerindra offices, on March 30 this coalition of trade unions affiliated with the KSPI went to the Islamic based Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) regional leadership board offices in the Cempaka Putih area of Central Jakarta.
Those present included, among others, Tubagus Arif (Jakarta Regional House of Representatives member from the PKS), Arief Wicaksono (chairperson of the Fisherpeople and Agricultural Workers Division (BPPN) of the PKS Jakarta regional leadership board), Adang Sudrajat (House of Representatives (DPR) Labour Commission member and chairperson of the PKS central leadership board BPPN) and Muhammad Rusdi (KSPI vice-president). Winarso meanwhile represented the Workers' Coalition. Sandiaga Uno was also present. Two days later the Workers' Coalition's support was declared by Iqbal at the Gerindra central leadership board office.
The Coalition's stated reason for supporting the Anies-Sandiaga ticket was because during the time that Ahok was governor of Jakarta he had never fought for decent wages.
KSPI media and communication department head Kahar S. Cahyono said that this support was not the position of the organisation. Those parties supporting the Anies-Sandiaga ticket did so because they "were going to sign a political contract" with workers. One of the points in the political contract, which was referred to by the acronym "Sepultura" meaning "The 10 Demands of the People" was addressing the issue of low wages.
"In Jakarta there was the Sepultura political contract with Anies-Sandiaga, meanwhile it was extremely difficult for the other side (Ahok-Djarot) to get a political contract", said Cahyono by phone. Cahyono claimed that before signing the political contract the KSPI leadership had communicated with the Ahok-Djarot ticket.
Cahyono also responded to the question of why KSPI workers tended to be more critical of Ahok and Widodo. "Because in truth Jokowi [Indonesian President Joko Widodo] and Ahok are representatives of the powers that be. Jokowi is the president and Ahok the governor. So in terms of demands and protests, we directed them at Pak Jokowi and Ahok as the one's currently in power".
Behind the mobilisation of KSPI affiliated trade unions in support of the Anies-Sandiaga ticket, in late 2015 trade unions led by Iqbal took part in mobilising protesters to go to Jakarta to demonstrate against Ahok demanding that he be jailed for alleged blasphemy.
The KSPI leadership setup a coalition of workers in the form of the Indonesian Labour Movement (GPI) and the Indonesian Muslim Workers' Movement (GMPI) in order to take part in playing up religious sentiment. They played a role in mobilising workers to take to the streets of Jakarta during the anti-Ahok demonstrations known as the Defend Islam Actions.
GPMI flags were flown during the Defend Islam Action III; better known as the "212 Action". In addition to GPMI flags, flags of the FSPMI were also flown among the protesters demanding Ahok be immediately jailed for blasphemy.
It was these KSPI leaders that led the trade unions that joined the Jakarta Labour Coalition and made up the GPI presidium that took part in the Defend Islam Actions.
They were Ahmad Jazuli, Ashary, Didi Suprijadi, Herry Hermawan, Iswan Abdullah, Muhamad Rusdi, Mirah Sumirat, Riden Hatam Azis, Roro Dwi Handyani, Sabda Pranawa Djati, Winarso and Yulianto.
Muhamad Rusdi is registered as the vice president of the KSPI. He was also present during a "goodwill meeting" of the Jakarta Labour Coalition. He also attended a "good-will meeting" between the Jakarta Labour Coalition and the PKS's Jakarta regional leadership Fisherpeople and Agricultural Workers Division. When allegations of treason (maker) became public late last year, Rusdi was questioned as a witness in the treason case against Ratna Sarumpaet.
Mirah Sumirat meanwhile is the president of the Indonesian Association of Trade Unions (ASPEK), one of KSPI's sectoral labour unions. On several occasions Sumirat has publically raised the issue of an "invasion of foreign workers" entering Indonesia.
Riden Hatam Azis is the secretary general of the FSPMI and is close to Said Iqbal. When he was the chairperson of the FSPMI Banten regional leadership board, Azis nominated himself as a candidate for the Tangerang Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) with the backing of the PKS.
Other names include Yulianto, chairperson of the FSP LEM-SPSI Jakarta regional leadership board and Sabda Pranawa Djati, secretary general of the ASPEK, who once declared his support for the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa ticket in the 2014 presidential election.
Meanwhile Iswan Abdulah is the chairperson of the KSPI's Department of Wages and Social Security for the period 2012-2017. Abdulah once tried his hand as a legislative candidate for the West Java electoral district VII from the PKS.
Didi Suprijadi meanwhile, who is the chairperson of the KSPI's national assembly for the period 2017-2022 and chairperson of the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI) executive board, once held the position of KSPI deputy chairperson and had expressed criticism of Anies Baswedan when he held the post of education minister.
Kahar S. Cahyono, who took part in the labour contingent of the Defend Islam Actions, said that these various spectrums of political support have no relationship with the labour confederation led by Said Iqbal. He explained that that although the labour leaders affiliated with the KSPI supported the anti-Ahok rallies in Jakarta and signed the "political contract" with the Anies-Sandiaga ticket, this was "not an organisational position".
"In organisational terms, the KSPI is not part of this", said Cahyono, adding that their political support was as individuals although they are leaders of KSPI affiliated groups.
Cahyono explained that the linking of the burning of the floral tributes to Ahok with the KSPI and the PKS has absolutely no basis. Many KSPI members are from different political parties, said Cahyono. Even during the 2014 legislative elections many KSPI members stepped forward as candidates for different parties including the Joko Widodo's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the PKS and even the People's Conscience Party (Hanura).
"It wasn't just the PKS. What happened in Bekasi was that we were able to ensure the victory of two people, two people from the PDI-P (Nyumarno) and Nurdin (Muhidin) from PAN. So it's not true that in hierarchical terms we have become underbouw [affiliated] of the PKS", he said.
"The KSPI has absolutely no relationship with [any political] parties", insists Cahyono. (tirto.id - arb/fhr)
Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta Environmental group Sawit Watch is urging President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to fulfill his pledge to declare a moratorium on the issuance of new permits for oil palm plantations, arguing that a moratorium will provide the necessary momentum to reorganize Indonesia's palm oil industry.
The group said no progress had been made to follow up on Jokowi's moratorium pledged in April last year, when he also promised to halt the issuance of new permits for coal mining operations.
Sawit Watch deputy director Achmad Surambo said in a press briefing on Friday that an oil palm moratorium was badly needed to stop environmental destruction in the form of land clearing for plantations.
Moreover, there was no sign that the government would revise Presidential Instruction (Inpres) No. 8/2015 on a moratorium of new permits for primary forest and peatland areas, which was due to expire on Saturday, he added.
Achmad said Inpres No. 8 and the promised oil palm moratorium were both important to ensure there would be no more land clearing for oil palm plantations. Land clearing was the prime driver of the annual land and forest fires across Indonesia.
"It will be better if Indonesia has a moratorium, as stipulated in Inpres No. 8 and another moratorium for oil palm plantations. They will complement each other," said Achmad.
"During the moratorium, the government could revisit and then reform the management of the forests and the palm oil industry," he went on. (ebf)
Jakarta Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, or HTI, the local chapter of an international movement that aims at establishing a caliphate comprising all Muslim countries, cannot be considered "a missionary organization," the intelligence chief said on Friday (12/05).
Having reviewed activities of the group, which has been present in Indonesian since 1983, the State Intelligence Agency, or BIN, considers it a political movement. "In many countries, both democratic and Islamic ones, Hizbut Tahrir has been banned," BIN chief Budi Gunawan told the Jakarta Globe.
The organization is banned in Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Malaysia, Turkey, France, Tunisia, Denmark, Jordan, German, Egypt, Spain, Uzbekistan, Russia and Pakistan.
The Indonesian government is going to disband HTI, which has millions of followers across the country. The state seeks to disband the organization through a court proceeding, since its ideology is seen as contravening the Constitution and Pancasila.
"In the interest of the state and its sovereignty, disbandment of HTI is legally valid," Budi said.
Indonesia honors the right of its citizens, in accordance with the principles of democracy, but it has its laws and constitution, the former deputy chief of the National Police said.
"Indonesia certainly doesn't have to tolerate any anti-Pancasila movements or civil society organizations that challenge the state ideology," Budi added.
For the sake of the national interest "emergency rules can be applied in a situation of danger" to maintain the unity of the country, Budi said.
HTI is now seeking a backup. On Wednesday, its representative met with Deputy House Speaker Fadli Zon at his office in Senayan, South Jakarta.
"The government's allegations that HTI is anti-Pancasila are untrue. They [HTI] have appended [the principles of] Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution to their internal code of conduct," Fadli said.
"This organization has been around for quite some time and has been recognized by Indonesians. They are present in all provinces and some 300 cities across Indonesia," Fadli said, adding that he is convinced the government has not made any in-depth analysis to support its decision to disband HTI.
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta Worried about the government's move to ban it, hard-line Islamic organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) leaders met lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Wednesday to seek protection.
"We want to seek support and protection from the House on this matter. We don't want the government to move forward with its plan because they have no legal basis to ban us," HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto said.
"The HTI is a legal organization, we have a decree. So, we have a constitutional right to hold events. Our activities are focused on dakwah [religious proselytizing] about Islamic teachings," he added.
The government announced Monday that it was banning the group that achieved legal status in 2014, saying it promoted an ideology that was against the Pancasila and could threaten national unity. The group is known for its aim to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia.
House deputy speaker Fadli Zon of the Gerindra Party said the government's ban of HTI was a misstep as it did not follow procedures. Under the 2013 Mass Organizations Law, the government must send warning letters before banning a group.
Fadli also claimed that the HTI had made positive contributions to Indonesia, for example in the deliberation of draft revision of the 2001 Oil and Gas Law.
"In its internal regulation, HTI has mentioned they adhere to Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. I believe the government has taken the wrong step," he said. (ebf)
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta The government has emphasized that its move to ban the hard-line Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) group does not mean it is against all religious groups.
Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said on Tuesday that the government did not find the HTI's dakwah (proselytization) a problem, "but more so it's political move to change the country's ideology,"
The Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister decided Monday to ban the HTI on the grounds that it was promoting the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia, contravening the Pancasila state ideology and Constitution.
The government's move has caused an uproar from rights groups, which say the government failed to follow the proper legal procedures to ban an organization.
"We will take the issue to court so that the HTI can have the chance to express their defense. That shows that we are not carrying out a repressive act," Lukman said. (foy)
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta Constitutional law experts have said the government's move to ban the hard-line Islamic Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) group did not follow proper legal procedures.
Constitutional law expert Feri Amsari of Andalas University in West Sumatra said the government had not carefully studied the 2013 Mass Organizations Law.
Citing Article 61 of the law, Feri said administrative measures such as issuing warning letters, initiating dialogue, suspending activities and fund freezing should be taken prior to imposing a ban. He said articles 68 and 69 stipulated a decision to ban a mass organization was in the hands of the courts "It's too hasty for the government to immediately ban an organization without carrying out the initial necessary steps," Feri said. HTI earlier claimed that it had never received a warning letter from the government.
The government announced on Monday that it would ban the HTI on the grounds that it promoted values that contravened Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. The HTI's main aim is to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia.
Constitutional law expert Asep Warlan Yusuf of Parahyangan Catholic University said the government's move set a bad precedent. "The approach has ignored all procedures. The government has closed room for dialogue," Asep said.
Political expert Hendri Satrio of Paramadina University shared a similar opinion. "Although many people oppose the HTI's ideology, the government must follow the proper procedures." (ebf)
Jakarta The Indonesian Christian Students Movement (GMKI) has said it disagrees with the government's move to disband the hard-line Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), saying it would not be in line with Pancasila values.
The GMKI stated in a press release on Tuesday that the government's "was reactive" and the move could instead "undermine democracy itself." The GMKI also said the decision to seek a ban for the HTI reflected the government's failure to create programs to guide Pancasila values.
"Every citizen has the rights to learn about any ideologies," it stated, adding that the government's decision was a political move that could irritate Muslims in Indonesia.
"Any policies regarding organizations labelled by the government as radical or anti-Pancasila must stay in the judicial sphere, rather than making an announcement that could create public anxiety," (rdi/bbs)
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta Rights groups have urged the government to respect the legal procedures stipulated in the 2013 Mass Organizations Law following its announcement to ban hard-line Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI).
Activists have also called on the government to make sure freedom of expression was not compromised.
Setara Institute chairman Hendardi said he supported the government's move to ban mass organizations deemed to promote beliefs that contravened the Pancasila state ideology, however such moves must be carried out transparently and through the proper legal mechanisms.
"The government can only ban the HTI as an organization. Its followers, or those who support the idea of an Islamic caliphate, are not subject to criminalization because the state can't restrict freedom of expression," Hendardi said.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto announced on Monday that the government was set to ban the HTI because the group promoted "anti-Pancasila" ideologies and beliefs that contravened the Constitution.
However, the law regulates lengthy procedures, including the issuance of warnings and temporary suspensions, before a request to disband a mass organization can be filed with the court. The HTI claimed it had yet to receive a warning from the government.
The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) is of the opinion that a ban on a mass organization should only be a last resort.
"If the government moves too hasty, it can threaten our rights to freedom of association. It should avoid carrying out repressive acts. Softer measures, such as dialogue, should be conducted before a ban," it said in a statement. (bbs)
Marguerite Afra Sapiie and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta Hard-line group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) has objected to the government's decision to ban the group, referring to the move as arbitrary and unconstitutional.
HTI Spokesperson Ismail Yusanto argued that HTI had not received a warning from the government in relation to the organization's operations in the country, as required by the 2013 Mass Organizations Law
"The HTI is a legal organization. We have been operating for more than 20 years peacefully. We have never violated the law," Ismail told reporters on Monday.
"The government's move to ban us has raised questions because the government has never asked us for clarification or whatsoever. This is regrettable because we have never received a warning, not even one," he added. "It is said that this is a law-based country. Thus the government must uphold the law and not act arbitrarily."
The government has recommended banning the HTI over its activities that are deemed contradictory to the Pancasila state ideology. The move comes following a string of sectarian rallies in the country's capital and other provinces.
The announcement has raised criticism from various groups calling for the government to comply with the law that requires the government to consult the courts in making a final decision.
"The government must uphold and comply with the principles of due process that places the court as the center of the legal process," Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) researcher Wahyudi Djafar said.
Indonesia's minister for security affairs Wiranto has announced legal action to disband the fundamentalist Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), whose activities he said could threaten security and public order.
Wiranto declared on Monday that "the government needs to take firm legal steps to dissolve the HTI," reported BBC Indonesia. "Activities carried out by HTI are strongly indicated to be contrary to the aims of Pancasila," he added.
Pancasila is Indonesia's official state ideology which enshrines democracy, freedom of religion and ethnic pluralism as pillars of the nation.
HTI is part of the global Hizbut Tahrir movement, which advocates a global caliphate that would enforce Shariah law. The group is already banned in most Muslim-majority countries, however since 1998 has operated freely within Indonesia's democratic system.
Most recently, the HTI participated in rolling mass rallies calling for Jakarta's outgoing governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama be unseated and jailed for alleged blasphemy after comments he made regarding the Quran last September.
They have brought the capital to a standstill on numerous occasions, including last November when a rally descended into violence.
Ahok suffered a convincing loss in the April runoff election to Muslim candidate Anies Baswedan in what many commentators have argued was a win for religious conservatism in Indonesia's historically secular politics.
Nevertheless, Islamists once again took to Jakarta's streets last Friday to demand that he be given the maximum sentence for blasphemy of five years' imprisonment.
Prosecutors have downgraded Ahok's charge from blasphemy to harassment citing his "huge contribution" to Jakarta, calling instead for two years' probation with a year in prison if he reoffends.
Soon after the April 19 poll, HTI spokesman Ismail Yusanto declared that the election showed Jakarta did not want a non-Muslim governor because "it is forbidden under Islamic law, to have an infidel leader."
Justifying the proposed ban of HTI on Monday, Wiranto stated that "the activities of HTI have clearly caused conflict in society."
Marguerite Afra Sapiie and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta Following a string of sectarian rallies in the country's capital and other provinces, the government decided on Monday to ban the hard-line Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) group on the grounds that its activities contradicted the Pancasila state ideology and had become a threat to the country's unity.
The ban recommendation, if passed by a court, would be the second time the government banned the activities of religious minorities in the country. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration banned earlier the Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) and evicted members of the group from their settlement in Mempawah, West Kalimantan.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto announced the decision on Monday on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting to comprehensively examine all mass organizations in the country, a move taken amid growing radicalism in Indonesia.
"The President has instructed us to review all mass organizations to identify those with values that contradict Pancasila or the unity of the state. [...] As a legally operating organization, the HTI has no positive role in achieving the national goal," Wiranto told reporters at his office.
"HTI has also promoted values that contradict Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. The activities of the group have also collided with the public, thus poses a threat to the unity of the republic [of Indonesia]. For this reason, the government has decided to ban the HTI," he said.
In the wake of a blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, conservative Muslim groups have staged a string of rallies demanding his prosecution. (wit)
The high-pressure climax to a blasphemy trial in Jakarta involving the city's Christian Chinese governor has laid bare some of the forces at work in Indonesia, and the perilous nature of democracy in the world's largest Muslim nation.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known by Indonesians as Ahok, now faces two years in jail if his appeal is rejected, as it is expected to be.
The concept of blasphemy against the Koran is taken very seriously by most Muslims in this case the governor was tripped up by a simple warning to his supporters not be swayed by those who suggest the Koran bans Muslims from voting for non-Muslims.
It sparked street protests involving hundreds of thousands of Indonesians, some of them Ahok supporters, but the majority were those who opposed him in some cases vehemently calling for his execution.
And as an election strategy it was hugely effective, emboldening the hand of hardline Muslim organisations like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), whose white-clad supporters launched a campaign of disinformation against Ahok and the Chinese community in general.
This included claims that millions of Chinese were to be allowed into Indonesia illegally, that those who voted for Ahok would not be buried in Muslim cemeteries, and that Ahok was a Chinese spy.
The result was a populist mood developing in Jakarta similar in many ways to that in the US and Europe, and victory to Muslim candidate Anies Baswedan. And it's a sign of the increasing intolerance, in a nation built on the very opposite.
"There's been a slow decline in religious freedom," said Human Rights Watch advocate Andreas Harsono. "Here in Jakarta it's just been really blatant during the whole Ahok trial, and it's on the increase."
He said he was also concerned about the increase in blasphemy trials in recent years: "Under General Surharto there were virtually none, in the last decade there have been more than 250."
The protests against Ahok and the blasphemy charges against him are seen by some observers as a fairly thin political veil over a more important aim the neutralising of the president himself, along with his liberal coalition, which contains a number of non-Muslims.
While the FPI only appeared in 1998, groups like it have been present across Indonesia since independence in 1945. FPI supporters have waved black ISIS flags at political rallies, and many openly support both IS and Al Qaeda.
Their funding is murky, but the FPI take a great deal of support from retired military figures, some of whom see the Jokowi administration as too liberal, too "communist", too anti-army, and not Islamic enough. Chief among these is Indonesia's notorious general Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Jokowi in the 2014 poll.
Prabowo crushed the bloody 1998 Jakarta rioting that led to the resignation of his then father-in law, Suharto. He was then thrown out of the army, after admitting responsibility for kidnapping 13 activists, who were never found.
For Mr Harsono, the FPI stood equal with militant extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in its threat to Indonesia.
Following the Bali bombing, the crackdown on JI was brutal and sustained across the region, but Mr Harsono and others have seen the recent re-growth of the group, as some of its leaders emerged from lengthy jail terms, and looked to recruit a new generation. "JI is growing, they now have more than 60 Muslim schools under their influence," said Mr Harsono.
He said it was not just the violent groups that were the concern, it was also the Islamist radical groups who were clever enough to learn the lessons, and avoid a violent path.
"They have their base in the universities, the high schools, the military, and they are becoming the king-makers," he said.
Certainly pressure from groups like the FPI has the attention of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and while he may be a Muslim, the calls for him to step down have grown among the right wing and the numerous populist Islamic groups.
This week the government banned Hizbut Tahrir, a group not involved in violence, but often present at its fringes, and a promoter of sharia law.
Senior Minister Gen Wiranto told reporters: "We want to prevent the embryo from growing, and disrupting public order, and disturbing the existence of a country that is trying to achieve prosperity and justice."
But in the Jakarta court the legal team battling for Ahok told reporters it was exactly that sense of justice in Indonesia that was being tested. Lawyer Sirra Prajuna said Ahok's predicament was a challenge to the Indonesian identity. "Indonesia is a pluralist nation with respect for all faiths," she said. "We cannot let this case sink the dream of the founders of this country, or kill our national motto 'Bhinneka Tunggal Ika'."
The motto translates as "Strength Through Diversity" and underpins what many in the Asia-Pacific perceive to be a "secular Islamic" nation.
"New Zealand needs to watch closely what is actually happening in Indonesia" said Mr Harsono. "New Zealand has always praised Indonesia as a secular power, but things are changing here, and quickly."
Jokowi is up for re-election in 2019, when he will face the same political forces that eventually saw Ahok's political career destroyed.
And Mr Harsono has this warning: "There remains the possibility radical islamist elements and the more authoritarian ex-military side could come together, to form a party that would truly concern New Zealand and Australia"
Jakarta Human rights group Wahid Foundation named after Indonesia's fourth president Abdurrahman Wahid said on Friday (12/05) that religious interpretations and expressions should not be likened to hate speech and urged the government to abolish the country's blasphemy law.
On Tuesday, Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for blasphemy against Islam. The sentence was heavier than the prosecutors' demand.
"The blasphemy law is against freedom of religious belief and freedom of expression. This law had sent more than 100 people to jail since 2014. This law shouldn't be used anymore [...] it should be abolished," Wahid Foundation chairwoman Yenny Wahid Abdurrahman's daughter said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe.
The foundation also emphasized that "religious interpretations and expressions of peaceful intent should not be prosecuted."
Yenny said the court's decision should still be respected, and mass demonstrations should not be organized "to impose views on the ongoing legal process."
A series of shows of solidarity with Ahok was organized across Indonesia following the court verdict announcement. Many of his supporters gathered in front of Cipinang Prison in East Jakarta on Tuesday night and at City Hall and Proklamasi Monument in Central Jakarta on Wednesday.
The statement added that disagreements on the verdict against Ahok should "be expressed through available legal mechanisms."
Indonesia's continued use of the blasphemy law has come under fire with Ahok's sentencing, as citizens and international rights organizations such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and American-funded international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch called on the government to review Article 156a of the Criminal Code on religious defamation, with the intent to abolish it.
Launched in 2004, Wahid Foundation is an Indonesian-based human rights group whose work has focused on religious freedom and interfaith dialogues.
Jakarta The United Nations Human Rights Council has called on the Indonesian government to revise Article 156a of the Criminal Code on religious defamation, following this week's guilty verdict in Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial.
In response to the recommendation, Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, who attended the UN Universal Periodic Review meeting, said his ministry would perform a thorough review of the article in the law.
"There were demands and recommendations [to revise Article 156a] regarding religious minorities, freedom of expression, religious freedom, blasphemy and more. We will discuss it gradually, and a thorough review is also necessary," Yasonna said on Wednesday (10/05).
The North Jakarta District Court sentenced Ahok to two years in prison on Tuesday.
Various responses have emerged following the verdict, while Ahok had been sent to Cipinang State Penitentiary in East Jakarta, hours before he was moved to the headquarters of the National Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) in Depok, West Java.
Yasonna made no promises, and only confirmed that the government will study the UN recommendations. UN Human Rights Asia earlier reacted to Ahok's guilty verdict on its official Twitter page.
We are concerned by jail sentence for #Jakarta governor for alleged blasphemy against #Islam. We call on #Indonesia to review blasphemy law UN Human Rights Asia (@OHCHRAsia) May 9, 2017
Indonesia previously received praise at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, for improvements it made on human rights, including for the ratification of various international human rights conventions.
The UN Human Rights Universal Periodic Review workgroup concluded a discussion on Wednesday last week of a human rights report submitted by Indonesia. It advised the country on sustainable efforts to improve and protect human rights.
Jakarta US Ambassador Joseph Donovan called on government and religious leaders across the archipelago on Wednesday (10/05) to speak out against intolerance.
While the ambassador did not specifically refer to the recent conviction of incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Donovan did say that blasphemy laws jeopardize the right to freedom of religion and expression.
"We [the United States] do not believe that it should be illegal to express opinions about a particular religion," the ambassador said. "We believe that blasphemy laws anywhere in the world jeopardize freedom of religion, expression, assembly and freedom of the press."
He added that with Indonesia's commitment to religious tolerance and pluralism, "[the United States] commends government and religious leaders that speak out against intolerant actions."
On Tuesday, a European Union delegation to Indonesia made similar calls on the government, warning that "laws that criminalize blasphemy when applied in a discriminatory manner can have a serious inhibiting effect on freedom of expression and on freedom of religion or belief."
British Ambassador Moazzam Malik tweeted on Tuesday that he "believes [Ahok] is not anti-Islam" and said Indonesian leaders must work to protect tolerance and harmony in the country.
Francis Chan and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja in Jakarta The Islamic scholar who announced a campaign to target the business interests of rich ethnic Chinese Indonesians and foreign investors from China has been slammed by political observers.
They said Mr Bachtiar Nasir's remarks, which followed Wednesday's imprisonment of Christian-Chinese politician Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy, do not represent most quarters across Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country. Some experts called the GNPF-MUI chief an also-ran who was fuelling anti-Chinese sentiments to gain prominence among Muslim hardliners, in the wake of rising racial and religious tensions in Jakarta.
"Bachtiar Nasir is a demolition man. Whatever he says is meant to destroy," political analyst Boni Hargens told The Sunday Times yesterday. "His intention is to divide Indonesia using the ethnic issue, so that the Chinese in Indonesia will become public enemies."
GNPF-MUI is the local acronym for the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwas of the Indonesian Ulemas Council, a coalition group that opposes Basuki.
Mr Bachtiar, who is the group's chairman, said in a Reuters report last Friday that "the wealth of Indonesia's ethnic Chinese minority was a problem and advocated an affirmative action programme for native Indonesians".
He also said that foreign investments, especially those from China, had not helped Indonesians in general and ethnic sentiment cannot be denied when addressing the issue of inequality among indigenous Indonesians, or pribumi.
The government, which has been courting investments from China, has refuted Mr Bachtiar's accusations that it offers special treatment to Chinese Indonesians or foreign investors.
Presidential spokesman Johan Budi, responding to Mr Bachtiar's comments, said in the Reuters report that the issue of income inequality is high on President Joko Widodo's agenda. Mr Joko is in Beijing today to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to boost economic relations.
Official figures from Indonesia's central statistics agency show that ethnic Chinese make up just 1.2 per cent of Indonesia's population of more than 250 million.
But among them are wealthy business owners such as Lippo Group founder and chairman Mochtar Riady and MNC Group chief executive Hary Tanoesoedibjo.
Professor Ari Kuncoro, from Universitas Indonesia (UI), said while it is a fact that many top Indonesian businessmen are "non-pribumis", they will never outnumber their pribumi counterparts.
"Bachtiar's suggestion is off because he doesn't read data," said the dean of UI's School of Economics and Business. "In fact, the top pribumi businessmen started climbing the ladder during the Suharto era, when he awarded them projects which, in effect, was affirmative action by Suharto then."
It was during the long reign of the former president when resentment against the ethnic Chinese led to riots and outbreaks of violence. The unrest paved the way for the eventual downfall of Suharto in 1998.
The GNPF-MUI, along with other hardline Muslim groups, has organised several mass protests against Basuki since late last year. A riot broke out at the end of one protest on Nov 4, invoking memories of the 1998 incident.
Mr Bachtiar's remarks had a similar effect, but experts have dismissed them, saying Indonesia today is very different from the one in 1998. "Investors should remain calm because Indonesia is still a country with a rule of law," said Mr Harry Su, head of research at Jakarta-based Bahana Securities.
Jakarta The visit of House of Representatives deputy speaker Fahri Hamzah to Manado, North Sulawesi, has triggered violent protests, forcing police personnel to take extra security measures to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
Police personnel fired teargas into the crowd, which staged a rally in front of the North Sulawesi governor's office on Saturday. The angry mob stormed the office building after they heard that Fahri had left Sam Ratulangi International Airport.
In the face of the teargas, the protesters fought back throwing stones at police officers, several of whom were injured. Facing strong resistance, the police deployed a water cannon to disperse the crowd. Protesters managed to break through the entrance gate of the governor's office compound before hundreds of police pushed them back.
Meanwhile, one of the protesters called for calm. "Let us restrain ourselves. Don't riot. To the authorities, we want a meeting with the governor," said a protester through the police's sound system, as quoted by kompas.com on Saturday.
Previously, hundreds of protesters barracked North Sulawesi Governor Olly Dondokambey when he tried to calm them at Sam Ratulangi airport. "Expel Fahri Hamzah!" they shouted.
The protesters said they rejected Fahri's visit because of controversial remarks he is reported to have made that could heighten sectarian tensions in the country.
"We don't want people like him visiting North Sulawesi. We love this country and we don't want it divided," said Olden Kansil, one of the protesters. (mrc/ebf)
Jakarta The leader of a powerful Indonesian Islamist organisation that led the push to jail Jakarta's Christian governor has laid out plans for a new, racially charged campaign targeting economic inequality and foreign investment.
In a rare interview, Bachtiar Nasir said the wealth of Indonesia's ethnic Chinese minority was a problem and advocated an affirmative action programme for native Indonesians, comments that could stoke tensions already running high in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.
"It seems they do not become more generous, more fair," the cleric said, referring to Chinese Indonesians, in the interview in an Islamic centre in South Jakarta. "That's the biggest problem."
Ethnic Chinese make up less than 5 percent of Indonesia's population, but they control many of its large conglomerates and much of its wealth.
Nasir also said also that foreign investment, especially investment from China, has not helped Indonesians in general.
Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy, is a major destination for foreign investment in the mining and retail sectors. Jakarta is also trying to lure investors for a US$450 billion infrastructure drive to revive economic growth.
"Our next job is economic sovereignty, economic inequality," said Nasir, an influential figure who chairs the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwas of the Indonesian Ulemas Council (GNPF-MUI). "The state should ensure that it does not sell Indonesia to foreigners, especially China."
His group organised protests by hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Jakarta late last year over a comment about the Koran made by the capital's governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian.
Purnama was found guilty this week of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison, raising concerns that belligerent hardline Islamists are a growing threat to racial and religious harmony in this secular state.
Nasir, 49, used to have a late-night religious show on one of Indonesia's biggest TV networks. His contract was ended under government pressure after his role in the first anti-Purnama rally was revealed.
He spoke calmly during the interview, identifying other religiously motivated objectives such as restricting alcohol to tourist areas, curbing prostitution and criminalising adultery and sodomy. He insisted he believes in a pluralist Indonesia.
Former President Suharto blocked Chinese Indonesians from many public posts and denied them cultural expression, forcing them to drop their Chinese names. Marginalised politically and socially, many turned to business and became wealthy.
The ethnic wealth gap has long fed resentment among poorer "pribumi", Indonesia's mostly ethnic-Malay indigenous people. During riots that led to the fall of Suharto in 1998, ethnic-Chinese and Chinese-owned businesses were targeted, and about 1,000 people were killed in the violence.
There has been no blood-letting on that scale since then, but tensions have remained. President Joko Widodo was the subject of a smear campaign on the campaign trail in 2014 that falsely claimed he was a Chinese descendant and a Christian.
Bonnie Triyana, a historian who has chronicled Chinese Indonesian experiences, said Nasir was "scapegoating" the Chinese.
"It's very dangerous for our nation. It's playing with fire," said Triyana, who is an indigenous Indonesian. "They are spreading bad information to convince people that their role is to save the nation."
In the interview, Nasir said "ethnic sentiment cannot be denied" when it comes to inequality, and the economic power of Chinese Indonesians needs to be addressed.
"The key is justice, and taking sides," he said. "Justice can be applied if there is a preferential option for indigenous Indonesians from a regulation aspect and in terms of access to capital."
Neighbouring Malaysia, also a Muslim-majority nation with a wealthy Chinese minority, has long followed affirmative action policies that grant native Malays privileges, including job reservations in the civil service and discounts on property.
Johan Budi, a spokesman for Indonesian President Widodo responding to Bachtiar's comments said in a statement to Reuters that income inequality is high on the government agenda and Indonesian Chinese get no special treatment.
"It is not true this allegation that President Jokowi gives wider space to ethnic Chinese in Indonesia," Budi said, referring to Widodo by his nickname. He said Widodo's focus is on the poor, including "indigenous people".
According to the Credit Suisse Research Institute's 2016 Global Wealth Report, the top 1 percent wealthiest Indonesians owned 49.3 percent of national wealth, making it among the most unequal nations in the world.
A Saudi-trained cleric, Nasir formed the GNPF-MUI last year to target Purnama, the now-convicted Jakarta governor.
Although Nasir is not as visible as the firebrand radical cleric Habib Rizieq who led last year's protests, his group carries significant clout because it brings under one umbrella Islamist organisations that have national reach and strong links with mosques and religious schools.
GNPF-MUI includes Salafist intellectuals like Nasir, Rizieq's Islamic Defenders Front and their urban poor constituency, along with middle class and politically connected Islamic groups.
Nasir said GNPF-MUI is a "religions movement", not political. However, he is widely seen as allied to opposition leader Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Widodo in the 2014 election and could be a candidate for the presidency in 2019.
Greg Fealy, an expert on Indonesian Islamic groups from the Australian National University, said GNPF-MUI is developing a national agenda following the Jakarta governor's conviction.
"They are trying to harness that movement to link the Islamist agenda with inequality. It is, in effect, targeting Chinese non-Muslims," he said. "This is all part of a pitched battle in the run-up to 2019."
(Edited by John Chalmers and Raju Gopalakrishnan)
David Robie, Yogyakarta A vision for a progressive activists, writers and researchers retreat in the lush outskirts of Indonesia's most cultural city, Yogyakarta, is close to becoming reality.
The Indonesian Community and Activists Library (ICAL) is already an impressive "shell" in the front garden of Australian author and socio-political analyst, intellectual and consultant Max Lane, arguably the most knowledgeable English-language writer on Indonesian affairs.
Dr Lane, who has been writing and commenting about cultural and political developments in Indonesia, Philippines, Timor-Leste and his homeland since the 1970s, is delighted that completing the centre is so close.
"We have almost completed this building, the library, which will have a reading room, an office, and also some accommodation for those who would like to stay for a few days, or even longer to use the library," he says, gesturing towards the empty rooms at the complex in the rice-producing and tourist village of Ngepas.
"The library will have about 4000 to 5000 books in the field of social sciences, humanities, history, feminism and so on."
The books have been donated, but they mainly comprise the collections of some of Australia's leading activists, such as John Percy, over more than five decades of his life.
Percy was a veteran socialist who co-founded the radical youth organisation Resistance and the Socialist Workers Party in Australia. He edited Direct Action for many years and helped establish Green Left Weekly. He died in 2015 and his passing inspired the library project with Lane, a close friend.
The progressive book collection will help fill a gap in the literature for young activists and lecturers.
"We think the books are going to be very much put to use because this particular collection is probably still very difficult to find in Indonesia because of 35 years of authoritarian rule. Many books were not allowed, or difficult to be positioned, in libraries," Lane says.
Under the Suharto regime between 1965 and 1998, book acquisitions for Indonesian school, university and community libraries were "underfunded and, when funded, narrow and censored".
Lane hopes that ICAL will, in a "small but effective way", help improve the situation. "The books will comprise the collections of Australian progressive activists and intellectuals," he says.
"The complex here is a very nice area to work in. It is less than half an hour from the three main university campuses and we expect university students, lecturers, NGO activists, political activists and others to be using the facilities here.
"It's almost finished. We are still short of funds we need US$3000 or $4000 to finish the central part of the library so people can start to use it. And probably another $5000 or $6000 to finish the accommodation area so people can stay over.
"So I can say it is 80 percent or 90 percent funded and it will only take one or two months for the builder to complete work on it."
Dr Max Lane and his wife, Faiza Mardzoeki, will manage the centre. She is one of Indonesia's leading women playwrights and theatre directors, whose works include the 2006 play Nyai Ontosoroh (Madame Ontosoroh). She will be the day-to-day manager of the library programme.
Their home is a bungalow next door, on the banks of an attractive stream. Dr Lane injected about US$25,000 into the project himself and provided the land on their property.
Between them, Lane and Mardzoeki hope to see the centre become a lively base for creative and cultural activity. Classes, forums, discussions, short course training sessions on a range of topics relating to social sciences and humanities, and literature will be on the bucket list.
Dr Lane introduced the English-speaking world to the celebrated revolutionary Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who was imprisoned by Suharto for a decade on the Maluku island of Buru, by translating his classic Buru Quartet novels, starting with Bumi Manusia (The Earth of Mankind) in 1980. He was an officer working at the Australian Embassy at the time and it was not a popular move among his superiors.
According to an Asymptote profile of Dr Lane by Fadli Fawzi and Nazry Bahrawi, it was a dangerous era. "At this time, Indonesian president Suharto's New Order regime (the Partai Golongan Karya Party of the Functional Groups, known as Golkar) was in power, propped up by foreign investment and backed by the army.
"It was also when heavy-handed repression was the norm in Southeast Asia, and Suharto's New Order government was no exception. In the early 1980s, corpses began surfacing in public places as a result of extrajudicial killings."
This was also a period when the Indonesian military was involved in bloody repression in East Timor after the country was invaded at the end of 1975.
Dr Lane's own extraordinary literary outputs, apart from his translations, include his Unfinished Revolution: Indonesia Before and After Suharto (2008), Catastrophe in Indonesia (2010), and Unfinished Nation (2014) and collections of poetry.
Currently, Dr Lane is visiting senior fellow at the Institute for Southeast Asia Studies in Singapore. Previously he has lectured at universities across the region, including the University of Sydney in Australia and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, and internationally.
The ICAL venture will be supported by a membership drive with the original members being invited on the basis of recommendations from of a panel of university professors and social justice activists.
Prospective new members will need to be recommended by two existing members. More information about ICAL and a donations link are on the centre's crowd-funding page.
Jakarta Deputy governor-elect Sandiaga Uno has apologized for using the Transjakarta lane on Jl. Salemba Raya, Central Jakarta, which is off limits to private vehicles, on Friday.
Sandiaga and his team used the lane on their way to their campaign headquarters on Jl. Cicurug, Menteng, Central Jakarta, to their celebrate victory in the election after attending the declaration of the election results at the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) office, in Salemba, Central Jakarta. His traffic violation was widely criticized by netizens.
"From the depths of my heart, I apologize [...] Insha Allah it won't happen again," Sandiaga said as quoted by tribunnews.com. As the deputy governor-elect, Sandiaga said he and his team would set a good example to Jakartans.
He said that in future he would not avoid traffic jams by using the busway lane, just like other residents, even though the police had let him use the Transjakarta lane. (cal/wit)
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has suffered two successive setbacks since his ally and former deputy Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok as he is widely known, was accused of insulting Islam earlier this year.
In the most recent blows, Purnama failed to win re-election in April as governor of Jakarta. Then, at the end of his trial for blasphemy, he was unexpectedly sentenced to two years' jail, a harsher penalty than even the prosecutor had asked for. These events were a victory for the radical Muslim organizations that had spearheaded a campaign against Purnama, including the staging of mass rallies.
Apparently in response to the Jakarta election result, the Widodo government recently announced it was seeking to ban one of those Islamic organizations, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI). This is a risky option. It is far from certain that Widodo will be able to persuade the judicial system to impose a ban.
Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian handicapped by a brash and tactless personality, was defeated despite his considerable achievements as governor. This was largely because he made it easy for his opponents to paint him as anti-Muslim and even to have him put on trial for blasphemy. Most blasphemy trials in Indonesia deliver jail sentences, but the jailing of a governor for blasphemy is unprecedented. Islam aside, as Indonesia scholars Liam Gammon and Eve Warburton of the Australian National University have argued, Purnama's confrontational style dovetails with and resurrects old Indonesian stereotypes of the Chinese, not only as possessing a disproportionate share of Indonesia's wealth, but also as grasping and unrefined.
Purnama was defeated by the former Minister for Education and Culture Anies Baswedan. He exemplifies the unlimited flexibility of present-day Indonesian politicians. Having been a spokesperson for Widodo's 2014 presidential campaign, Baswedan accepted the support of Prabowo Subianto, Widodo's rival for the presidency, in contesting the Jakarta post.
Despite having an American doctorate in political science and a scholarly approach to Islam that had won him admiration in Western circles, Baswedan had no hesitation in associating with unscrupulous radical Muslim agitators in his bid for the governorship. He adopted a more distinct Muslim profile, while some of his supporters engaged in racial vilification of the incumbent governor and Muslim spokespersons urged their constituents not to vote for a non-Muslim.
The third gubernatorial candidate, Agus Harimurti, the elder son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was defeated in the first round of the election, had similarly drawn on Muslim support despite being a former army officer without any experience in Muslim politics.
Indonesia's radical Muslim organizations are too small to offer their own candidates in the next presidential election in 2019, but they currently wield influence far beyond their size. The main question that Purnama's defeat poses for Widodo is whether other presidential candidates will be able to corral Muslims into joining the kind of campaign that defeated Purnama. No other approach seems likely.
Purnama's defeat and imprisonment also pose questions for Indonesia's future as a country reputed for pluralism and tolerance, as well as for the "moderate" orientation of most of its Muslims. As happened in many Middle Eastern countries in recent decades, secular nationalism appears to be weakening in Indonesia and a less tolerant form of Islam seems to be consolidating itself. Secular nationalism in Indonesia has never found an eloquent and effective champion since President Sukarno, who died 47 years ago.
The tens of thousands of Indonesians who participated in the rallies held over the last six months were by no means all followers of HTI, the Islamic Defenders' Front (IDF) or other radical Muslim groups. According to Greg Fealy, also of the Australian National University, and an astute observer of Indonesia's Muslim politics, many of the participants saw the demonstrations as a legitimate form of religious activity and did not support radical political objectives such as the nationwide adoption of Islamic law.
Those rallies were usually termed actions "to defend Islam," echoing the IDF's name. This highlights an advantage that Muslim activists have over secularist or other opponents. It is much easier to "prove" that Islam is under attack than to show that, for example, secular nationalism is under threat. This is partly because the endless wars taking place throughout the Muslim world, largely waged by the U.S. with its local allies against various Muslim opponents, give an international dimension to claims that Islam is under threat.
Moreover, as Islam is by far Indonesia's majority religion, it is easy to mount the case that Muslims are somehow under-represented. For example, if the governor of the capital city of a Muslim-majority nation like Indonesia is a non-Muslim, it is easy to argue that Muslims are obviously being denied their appropriate place. This is leading to a de facto redefinition, if not abandonment, of Indonesia's longstanding national motto, Unity in Diversity: Non-Muslims may be elected to govern in non-Muslim-majority regions or cities, but not in Muslim-majority ones, according to such a redefinition.
The ideological counterpoint to Islam in Indonesia is Pancasila, the national doctrine or ideology. But its lofty if essentially generic principles lack an emotional pull. They do not lend themselves to being turned into catchy slogans for mass rallies. Nor does Pancasila have any international connection. A massacre of Christians in Egypt, for example, will not be seen to threaten Pancasila or bring pro-Pancasila demonstrators into the streets.
Largely devoid of oratorical skills, Widodo is a poor spokesperson for Pancasila or, more broadly, for secular nationalism. His occasional Pancasila-linked exhortations lack persuasive power. Indeed, most invocations of Pancasila take on a very bureaucratic and formalistic tone. This could be a legacy of the deadening use that the late President Suharto made of Pancasila by instituting mind-numbing courses in the doctrine that were compulsory for government officials, armed forces personnel and others within the state's grasp.
Other pillars of Indonesian national ideology are the unitary state and the 1945 constitution. HTI, the Indonesian branch of an international movement dedicated to creating a global caliphate, could be open to the charge of rejecting the unitary state, or indeed any autonomous Indonesian state. And Pancasila and the 1945 constitution would play no role in a global caliphate.
HTI is a non-violent organization, however, and a court may refuse to ban it merely on the grounds of its long-term objectives. As pointed out by a former justice and human rights minister, the government has so far ignored the complex procedures it should follow before asking a court to ban HTI. The full legal process can take up to a year.
Such a long period will give Muslim organizations ample opportunity to combat what they will condemn as a new threat to Islam. The attempt to put HTI on trial cannot be blamed on Purnama. Instead Widodo will, correctly, be held responsible. He risks being targeted as anti-Muslim if HTI is banned, and as incompetent if it is not. In any case, Widodo has unintentionally offered his Muslim opponents a platform that will allow them to maintain their recent high level of activism.
Indonesia needs to develop an effective strategy for containing hardline currents of Islam, but the Widodo government has none. Focused primarily on securing investment for infrastructure and increasing gross domestic product, Widodo lacks the vision needed to reverse the trend toward intolerance.
Muslim influence from abroad, particularly the increasing spread of Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi Islam, threatens Indonesia's traditions, which urgently require revitalization. Lately, however, the main vehicles for moderate Islam, Nahdatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, have allowed themselves to be upstaged by their radical counterparts. As for Widodo, whether or not he is re-elected in 2019, he does not seem to be a leader capable of restoring balance between political Islam and nationalism, or of inspiring a restoration of traditional Indonesian Muslim values of tolerance and respect for other religions.
Kyle Knight His neighbors had been watching him for weeks. Twenty-year-old Muhammad (a pseudonym) rented a room in Banda Aceh, the capital of Indonesia's Aceh province. On March 28, 23-year-old Hanif (also a pseudonym) arrived at his flat. They didn't know they were being watched. Three hours later, the neighbors barged into the flat, filming the naked men with their camera phones. These vigilantes called the young men "dogs," and phoned the local Sharia (Islamic law) police. The authorities arrived, arrested, and detained the pair young men who, if the prosecutor gets his way, will be the first Indonesians ever to receive public flogging for homosexuality.
The prosecutor this week recommended 80 lashes, 20 shy of the maximum the law permits because the men were young and admitted their guilt. This is not a compassionate sentence but a grotesque reflection of how the enforcement of Aceh's laws ruin lives.
Everything from the snooping, to the Sharia squad tip-off, to the flogging sentence is in accordance with the law in Aceh. Aceh is a devoutly Islamic province in the world's largest Muslim country, that likes to proclaim itself moderate. It is led by a president who touts diversity and pluralism, but who has failed to back that rhetoric with protection for the rights of beleaguered minorities.
Aceh's position within the republic is unique. A 30-year separatist conflict seeded deep distrust between Acehnese and the national government. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami led to a ceasefire that soon ended the war but wrought unprecedented devastation from which the province has not recovered. The 2005 peace agreement ensured Aceh's "special status," making it the only one of Indonesia's 34 provinces that can legally adopt bylaws derived from Sharia (though such provisions, modeled on Aceh's, are spreading nationwide).
Over the past decade, Aceh's parliament has gradually adopted Sharia-inspired ordinances that criminalize everything from non-hijab-wearing women, to drinking alcohol, to gambling, to extramarital sexual relations. The province's 2014 Criminal Code bars both male and female same-sex behavior. Under its Sharia ordinances, Aceh imposed cane lashing against 339 people in 2016; a punishment recognized under international law as torture.
To make matters worse, local government officials have aggressively stoked homophobia. In 2012, then-Banda Aceh deputy mayor Illiza Saaduddin advocated harsh punishments for homosexuality, telling the media: "If we ignore it, it will be like an iceberg... Even if one case of homosexuality [is] found, it's already a problem." The following year, after Illiza was elected mayor, she told reporters that "homosexuals are encroaching on our city." In February 2016, she announced she would create a "special team" to make the public more aware of the "threat of LGBT" and to "train" LGBT people to "return to a normal life" while posting an image of herself to Instagram holding a handgun and vowing to flush gays out of Aceh.
In October 2015, Sharia police arrested two women, ages 18 and 19, on suspicion of being lesbians for embracing in public, and detained them for three nights at a Sharia police facility in Banda Aceh before sending them to a week of religious rehab. Officers repeatedly attempted to compel the two women to identify other suspected LGBT people in Aceh by showing them photographs of individuals taken from social media accounts.
Despite Aceh's odious anti-LGBT ordinances, Indonesia has historically been a unique beacon of tolerance for LGBT people in Southeast Asia. The country has never including when it was a Dutch colony until 1945 criminalized adult consensual same-sex behavior. LGBT organizations first opened their doors in the 1980s and operated in a relatively placid environment for decades.
But that tolerance has proven fragile in the face of government-fueled animus. Anti-LGBT incidents across Indonesia have significantly increased since January 2016 in synch with broader rising intolerance of religious minorities. Last year's LGBT crisis started with vitriolic anti-LGBT rhetoric from officials and politicians and included police raids on suspected gatherings of gay men, and attacks on LGBT activists.
In October, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo broke his long silence on escalating anti-LGBT rhetoric by saying that "the police must act" against actions by bigoted groups or individuals to harm LGBT people or deny them their rights, and that "there should be no discrimination against anyone."
In the case of Muhammad and Hanif in Aceh, Jokowi a faces a test of Indonesia's core national values what he has often proudly touted as "Islam and democracy going hand in hand." These young men are two Indonesians who wanted nothing more than to live their lives and have their privacy respected. Now they await a public flogging. A pluralist president like Jokowi should recognize the right thing to do here is to spare these two the rod.
Binoy Kampmark "The result of all of this, besides the abuse of law, is that people may be afraid to exert their rights to be critical of Muslims who use religion to justify inexcusable actions." The Jakarta Post, Oct 18, 2016
One need not be a zealot in the human rights field to find the latest turn in Indonesian politics disconcerting. Jakarta's governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, was always a nicely packaged target, confident and assertive, very much the beaming confident politician. Being Chinese was one aspect of problem; being a non-Muslim was the other. From that standpoint, vulnerabilities were always going to be emphasised, and slipups pounced upon ruthlessly.
Indonesia's post-colonial history is littered with bloody spectaculars, featuring outbursts of sectarian atrocity or state-directed massacres of political opponents. Ahok's case is not in that league, but it opens a window to it, shining dark rays of foreboding as to what might come. At times, for instance, in 1998, the Chinese minority has found itself to be a convenient target of spoilation and vengeance.
It took one remark by Ahok to light the powder keg. "Maybe in your heart," suggested Ahok last September to unsuspecting fishermen in the Thousand Islands province, "you think you couldn't vote for me but you are being lied to by using Al Maidah 51."
The particular Koranic verse has become something of a crutch, used by candidates who have preferred the weapon of scripture, dubiously interpreted, to the weapon of sound policy. Clerics have waded into the business, some suggesting that al-Maidah: 51 makes the case that non-Muslims should not be leaders in Muslim communities. Be wary, effectively, of the religious foreigner who seeks alliances. As the Jakarta Post surmised, "This kind of interpretation goes against the principle of good citizenship."
As with much theological disputation, there is no agreement, sensible or otherwise, on this point, and the argument that such a passage requires a current modern interpretation is sorely needed. The fundamentalist roadblock here, however, is a formidable one indeed. When linked to political opportunism, it becomes lethal.
The deputy secretary-general of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) gave a demonstration about how moderate he was intending to be by suggesting last October that religious defamation had to be punished by "death, crucifixion or at least hand amputation and expulsion."
Unfortunately for those willing to engage in any sensible debate, the good deputy was referring to the hirabah verses, which stress punishment of such crimes as sedition, piracy, robbery and highway robbery. Islamic State followers would have approved, given their own reference to those passages in justifying their treatment of the infidel.
Individuals such as Rizieq Shibab of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), twice imprisoned for inciting violence, also smelt blood, shifting the focus away from soft-headed clericalism to the Koran itself. Protests were organised, and the fever, once stirred, concerned Indonesian authorities.
The trial gave an inkling that Ahok might still have his day, receiving the lightest of sentences. The prosecution team were not convinced that he had ever intended to insult Islam, and for that reason, pushed for a suspended sentence. The defence were buoyed, and it was one marked by curious references, not least of all the comparison, made by Ahok himself, to the resilient clownfish Nemo, who braves against the current.
His supporters were also to be found aplenty, spanning the spectrum. City Hall was assailed with decorative flower boards and balloons festooned with messages of encouragement. Even for various Muslims, Ahok was their man.
The five judges of the North Jakarta District Court, donning faces and views of severity, thought otherwise, conforming to a long pattern that tends to find blasphemy even where there is none. They were already under pressure from such groups as the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) to impose the maximum sentence of five years. Rizieq, who had also been a witness for the prosecution, made his views felt.
Ahok was to be made an example of, deserving a jail sentence for having deliberately made a nuisance of himself in his position as governor. Not only had he blasphemed with intent; he had also threatened public order.
Judge Abdul Rosyad was in a particularly scolding mood, detecting a certain lack of guilt on Ahok's part. "As Governor, as a public officer, the defendant should have known that religion is a sensitive issue so he should have avoided talking about religion." Not that this meant opponents could not use religion, or at least its pretext, in terms of framing their opposition to Ahok. As ever, the victim in this case deserved punishment rather than protection.
Lynch mob justice is never pretty, and resisting it, if not scotching it altogether, is the hallmark of maturity. It has been a maturity that the current Indonesian president praises, and one seen to have emerged in the post-Suharto era.
Scratching the surface reveals otherwise, a society of tinder waiting to catch fire and conflagrate. The Indonesian government, aware of this, is seeking to have the agitating, pro global-Caliphate group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, disbanded through the courts. But for Ahok, this whole process has meant one thing: the establishment was going to give the protestors what they wanted, though others would have preferred something more appropriately savage.
Sidney Jones Two back-to-back decisions have left Indonesia more religiously polarised than ever. One was politically inept, the second deeply unjust. Both may come back to haunt the Jokowi government.
The first was the announcement on 8 May that the government would ban Hizbut Tahrir, an international organisation that promotes an Islamic caliphate (but not the ISIS version) and full implementation of Islamic law. It helped turn thousands of people out on the streets in late 2016 and early 2017 to demand the prosecution and imprisonment of Jakarta governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok. The second was the court verdict on 9 May sentencing Ahok to two years in prison for blasphemy.
In the first case the government moved against a hardline organisation, but did it so clumsily that Hizbut Tahrir may yet turn it into a legal and public relations victory. In the second, a panel of judges ignored evidence and the prosecution's own case to put one of the country's best-known politicians behind bars for telling a group of civil servants to vote their conscience and ignore political arguments that non-Muslims should not be allowed to govern Muslims.
It isn't the first time Indonesians judges showed no concern for evidence in a high-profile case, but it could be one of the most damaging: it instantly sent a signal that non-Muslims are lesser citizens, and candles in support of Ahok were lit as far away as Atambua, West Timor. It also underscored the rot at the core of the Indonesian legal system, the lack of progress that has been made in judicial reform, and the weakness of constitutional guarantees of equality under the law.
The strength of mob rule stands in sharp contrast to the weakness of the government's move against Hizbut Tahrir ostensibly in support of pluralism and Pancasila, the state ideology that stresses belief not in one religion but in one God.
Police had been warning for weeks that HTI, as the Indonesian branch is known, would be banned. An international membership-based organisation with a secretive leadership, it aims at recruiting the educated middle class and infiltrating centres of power until it has a critical mass to support the overthrow of non-Islamic governments and establish a caliphate. Intolerant, highly disciplined but non-violent, it is loathed by moderate members of the two largest Muslim social organisations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, which have seen it take over many of their schools and mosques. Both organisations support a ban.
While HTI rejects al-Baghdadi's ISIS, its support of a caliphate has led some members to leave HTI for ISIS most notably Bahrun Naim, a Syria-based ISIS leader from Solo who has been encouraging attacks on police, Shi'a, foreigners and government officials, and who was behind the failed attempt last December to recruit a female suicide bomber to attack the presidential palace. Other former HTI members include Mohammed Fachry, who organised many of the ceremonies across Indonesia in 2014 pledging loyalty to al-Baghdadi, and Gigih Rahmat, the leader of a pro-ISIS cell in Batam.
The government could thus have made a plausible case against HTI. The problem is that HTI is a legal association, registered with the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, and there are specific procedures under the social organisations Law for dissolving a body that tries to undermine the state or spreads hatred. Those steps begin with written warnings, and the government could have used these warnings to explain why it considered HTI's ideology so dangerous.
Instead, it had General (Ret.) Wiranto, a tired, old New Order-era holdover who is President Jokowi's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, make a tired, old New Order-like argument for banning an organisation that undermined Pancasila. He offered no specifics, suggesting only that legal procedures would be followed, meaning the ban is not yet in effect. He mumbled about HTI being an 'embryo', but never made clear for what. Human rights organisations predictably condemned the move as a violation of freedom of association, which it is in the absence of a well-argued case on national security grounds.
This gives HTI plenty of time and ammunition to prepare a legal rebuttal, and it could well win in court, especially if the case comes before a panel of conservative judges of the calibre that tried Ahok. This could ultimately strengthen HTI's influence.
Ironically, one of those most delighted with the HTI decision was Bahrun Naim. Writing in a blog post from Syria on 9 May, he said he had long criticised his former colleagues for failing to understand who the real enemy was and taking too flexible a position against apostate officials. Now he said, he hoped HTI would follow the example of Hizbut Tahrir in Uzbekistan, a group which eventually abandoned its do-nothing stance and took up jihad against the government.
The ban on HTI and court cases underway against other hardliners look increasingly ineffectual. In a legal system where truth is not a defence, corruption is rampant and evidence doesn't matter, every case is a gamble. It's in the political arena where pluralism has to triumph.
The jailing of Jakarta's Christian governor for two years for blasphemy is a shocking and harsh ruling in a case that should never have been brought. It goes further than even prosecutors had sought; they had asked for a suspended one-year sentence for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama better known as Ahok on a lesser charge. He had cited a verse from the Qur'an which he said was misused to deceive voters into believing non-Muslims should not lead Muslims. His lawyer says he will appeal.
Indonesia is not only a relatively recent democracy, but the world's third largest; it also has the largest Muslim population. It has been welcomed as proof that Islam and democracy are compatible; and though deeply scarred by periodic outbreaks of communal and inter-ethnic violence of various kinds it likes to pride itself on moderation, pluralism and tolerance.
The trial has raised grave concern at home and abroad. Acquittals are vanishingly rare in Indonesian blasphemy cases. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights has urged a review of the law and Amnesty International called for its immediate repeal. Today's decision reinforces the need to scrap it. If a man as powerful as Ahok a close ally of the president is treated so harshly on such a flimsy pretext, what are the prospects for others? His supporters say this is "mob justice": they believe the court bowed to pressure from hardline Islamist groups who whipped up enormous protests against him with virulent rhetoric and distorted quotes.
As president Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, noted, that does not mean the case should be seized upon as proof of a broad swing towards more conservative forms of Islam. What it does show is that hardliners are increasingly manipulating religion for political purposes with disturbing success. They fomented the row to sink Ahok's campaign for reelection to the post he inherited from Jokowi. He is widely regarded as an unusually clean and competent politician enjoying 70% approval ratings before the blasphemy accusations but is also an abrasive, outspoken one. And he is ethnically Chinese in a country with a long history of anti-Chinese sentiment.
And it is as much about other politicians as it is about Ahok. Jokowi has been conspicuously absent throughout and anxious not to comment, understanding how politically toxic it could be, and how he could be dragged in overtly or covertly. He even agreed to appear at one of the rallies and pray with hardline leaders last year. As a political outsider the first president elected from outside the oligarchical elite he has had to work particularly hard to balance constituencies and priorities. But he should feel chastened as he considers Ahok's defeat at the polls and tough sentence. Others too have played a part. Anies Baswedan, who defeated Ahok in the gubernatorial race last month, had previously been seen as a moderate, tolerant figure but appeared alongside the preacher leading the charge as he courted votes.
The dangers of populism are abundantly obvious around the world at the moment. Indonesia's politicians should take note as they consider the court's ruling. Ignoring the shrillest voices, or worse still pandering to them, is destructive, irresponsible and ultimately self-defeating. Taking them on can be costly. But the mainstream will ultimately pay a far higher price if it fails to do so.
Veronica Koman The need for press freedom in West Papua has never been more urgent: surging numbers at demonstrations over the past year have been met with thousands of unlawful arrests of peaceful protesters. During this crisis, Jakarta has acted to censor West Papua media outlets, intimidate local journalists, and bar foreign reporters from the region.
The irony of Indonesia hosting World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2017 has been noted by the Guardian and other media. As if on cue, just as the press freedom event began in Jakarta on 1 May a West Papuan journalist, Yance Wenda, was arrested and beaten by police while covering unlawful mass arrests at a discussion and prayer event in Jayapura.
There have been at least 65 cases of violence against local West Papuan journalists in the last five years, yet no perpetrators have ever been brought to justice. Indigenous West Papuan journalists face discrimination from officials when reporting, and are stigmatised as being part of the pro-independence movement. A couple of recent examples: on 8 October 2015, Abeth You of Tabloid Jubi was covering a demonstration in Jayapura when police bundled him into a truck then forced him to delete his footage at gunpoint. Abdel Gamel Naser of the Cenderawasih Post and Julian Howay of Suara Papua were also prevented from taking pictures of the same demonstration. On 1 May 2016, Ardi Bayage of Suara Papua was arrested while covering mass arrests in Jayapura. Police took his mobile phone and press ID, threw them to the ground and stamped on them until they were destroyed. He was forced to take off his shirt, ordered to join 2,108 other arrestees in the police headquarters field and interrogated, during which time he was struck several times in the face.
Bribery and intimidation of journalists and their editors is also employed to ensure reports of human rights abuses are spiked before publication. The Sorong chief of police has freely admitted that he summoned local journalists to his office to demand they not report the arrests of 106 activists in the city by his officers on 19 November 2016.
West Papua has been off limits for foreign journalists since Indonesia took over control following a widely-criticised sham referendum in 1969. In recognition of international criticism, during his first year in office President Joko Widodo pledged that foreign journalists would be allowed to travel and report freely in West Papua. Yet just a few months later, Cyril Payen of France 24 was declared persona non grata and banned from returning to report in Indonesia after his 'Forgotten War of the Papuas' documentary broadcast on 18 October 2015. The French ambassador was also summoned over the broadcast to the Indonesian foreign ministry. Two years later, press freedom remains severely curtailed. Foreign journalists have faced long bureaucracy, obstruction, jail or deportation and their local fixers have received threats of violence when trying to document violations by Indonesian security forces.
Censorship is also in place: an officially verified online publication, Suara Papua (the Voice of Papua) was blocked last November, and nine other websites relating to West Papua were blocked last month. This blackout of information both within and about West Papua stifles freedom of expression and allows state violence to flourish with impunity.
At least 30 people were unlawfully arrested at Mimika police station on 3 May 2017, following a peaceful demonstration demanding access for foreign journalists to be opened to Timika.
Concerned that this crisis would not be addressed during WPFD 2017, a coalition of Indonesian journalist and rights groups arranged an unofficial side event for the second day of the program, to raise awareness on the lack of press freedom in West Papua. As the side event began, over a dozen state intelligence officers arrived at Jakarta's Century Park Hotel to order the event committee to halt the public discussion. When committee members refused to do so, police showed an objection letter signed by Yosep 'Stanley' Adi Prasetyo, head of Indonesia's Press Council. The event went on regardless, but over the following days police continued their harassment by phoning and visiting committee member's offices.
That the Indonesian Press Council chose to sidestep discussion of press freedom in West Papua at WPFD is especially disappointing, and shows its leader fails to understand that human rights and press freedom are guaranteed through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Stanley was quoted by the Jakarta Post as defending his move, dismissing the issue as a 'domestic affair'. In fact, the annual WPFD event was established by the UN General Assembly in 1993 as a reminder to all member states to uphold press freedom. It celebrates and evaluates the implementation of fundamental principles of press freedom all over the world. This year, the event discussed specific infringements of press freedom in Turkey, Russia, China, Eritrea and elsewhere. Why should infringements in West Papua be classified as a 'domestic affair' whereas press freedom in other countries was freely examined in the course of WPFD 2017?
The Indonesian Press Council is an independent body given its mandate by Indonesia's Law on the Press. It is not stipulated anywhere that the council must echo government policy. The Council's 'domestic affair' argument, as pathetic as it is, should have been delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the president's office. In this case, the head of press council has failed to uphold its mandate as an independent body in ensuring press freedom.
As the WPFD event closed on its third day, at least thirty West Papuans were unlawfully arrested in Timika, where the foreign-owned Freeport McMoran mine continues to escape direct scrutiny from international journalists for its environmental and human rights abuses. Shortly after, the Press Council chief joined a trip to cap off the WPFD event by visiting an illusion of paradise in the coral reefs of Raja Ampat, West Papua. But West Papua is far from a paradise for journalists, and by consciously shutting out this reality, this year's WPFD has failed in its mission to advance the 'media's role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies'.
Phelim Kine An Indonesian foreign ministry official has confirmed the government has maintained a secretive interagency "clearing house" that has long obstructed foreign journalists from traveling to the provinces of Papua and West Papua, despite promises to shut it down.
That revelation comes just days after Indonesia hosted UNESCO-sponsored events marking World Press Freedom Day in Jakarta, on May 3.
Ade Safira, the director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Civil and Political Rights Protection division, said that the clearing house continued to vet requests of foreign journalists and researchers who want to travel to the two provinces, referred to as "Papua." Safira said the body makes its decisions in consultation with the Papuan provincial government.
Safira's comments contradict assurances of Siti Sofia Sudarma, director of information and media in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who told Human Rights Watch in August 2015 that the government had "liquidated" the clearing house, while still requiring a police permit for foreign media to visit Papua.
Sudarma had said the move was in line with a May 2015 oral directive from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to lift official restrictions on foreign media access to Papua. Jokowi has failed to signal the policy change in writing via presidential instruction, creating a policy ambiguity that has enabled government and security force officials to continue to restrict foreign media from Papua.
The Indonesian government claims that since May 2015, it has allowed 39 foreign reporters to visit Papua. Indonesia's Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), a nongovernmental union, challenges that statistic and says only 15 foreign journalists have been granted official permission to travel to the region in that period.
Human Rights Watch has documented that the Indonesian government continues to restrict foreign media access to Papua and to deport those lawfully in the country who travel to Papua without official permission. They include the French journalists Jean Frank Pierre and Basille Marie Longchamp who Indonesian police deported in March for lacking "necessary documents from related institutions" while filming a documentary sponsored by Garuda Airlines. Some foreign journalists who have traveled to Papua with official permission since May 2015 have subsequently complained of visa blacklisting for reporting that displeased the Indonesian government and the harassment and intimidation of Papuan sources.
Until Jokowi issues an unambiguous written directive lifting foreign media access restrictions to Papua, such abuses will likely continue.
Jeremy Menchik The recent election defeat of Jakarta's Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) raises important questions about whether the Indonesian president Joko Widodo (Jokowi) will also fall to the forces of right wing populism. Jokowi is up for reelection in 2019 and will likely face the same coalition of parties that defeated Ahok. As other scholars have noted, the same forces of class, ethnicity, religion, and their interplay will likely feature in the 2019 election.
Ahok's opponent, Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, rallied all the forces of intolerance: mass mobilisation by the vigilante group Front Pembela Islam and the Islamist Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), a rumor campaign that millions of Chinese were coming to Indonesia illegally and that voters for Ahok would not be buried in Muslim cemeteries, bogus allegations that Ahok had committed blasphemy against Islam, and Baswedan himself comparing the election to the 624 CE Battle of Badr when the prophet Muhammad faced an army of non-Muslims. We should expect to see these tactics again in 2019, when President Jokowi will likely run against former Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto and possibly against Baswedan himself.
There is reason to worry about the future of Indonesia's democracy. The world is in the midst of democratic instability and decline. Military coups in Thailand and Egypt have pushed those counties firmly into authoritarianism. Recep Tayyip Erdoan's Turkey is no longer a democracy. The victory of elected strongmen in the Philippines and even the United States bodes poorly for the future of democracy. Will Indonesia fall sway to the machinations of an autocrat like Prabowo?
And there are further reasons to be concerned about the future. Baswedan was once the archetype of a 'moderate Muslim'. He wrote his PhD thesis at the University of Northern Illinois on the subject of democracy and decentralisation under the renowned political scientist Dwight King. He spent seven years as Rector of Universitas Paramadina, trying to fill the shoes of the pioneering democratic theorist Nurcholish Madjid. There is cause for alarm when a pedigreed intellectual like Baswedan deploys a craven election strategy. He knows better. Like Donald Trump and the increase in hate crimes in the US, Baswedan's campaign rhetoric will make life more difficult for minorities in Indonesia. But Baswedan chose power over pluralism.
Even more troubling is that Baswedan won on that basis. When moderate Muslim voters reward such tactics, there is reason to ask whether the civil Islam underpinning Indonesia's successful democracy has become prone to radicalism. Will Indonesia fall sway to the machinations of a demagogue like Baswedan?
Yet, there is reason for optimism, too. Treating Ahok and Jokowi as the same technocratic centrists running on a coalition of non-Muslims and liberals underemphasises their differences. Jokowi is not Ahok in three ways that matter for 2019.
First and foremost, Jokowi is a Muslim. Ahok is a Christian. Indonesian Muslim civil society leaders support democracy, pluralism, and the basic rights of non-Muslims but that has never meant they are in favor of a non-Muslim becoming president or even governor of a city like Jakarta which is overwhelmingly Muslim. Indonesia's mass Islamic organisations are largely tolerant but they are not liberals who believe anyone should be able to hold any office anywhere, regardless of their religious affiliation. Political analysts have a hard time understanding Muslim voters that are neither liberal-secularists nor Islamists, but the overwhelming majority of Indonesian Muslim voters are neither.
Survey data that I collected among leaders of the Islamic civil society organisations Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah in 2010 demonstrates this point most clearly. 86 percent believe a Christian should be allowed to hold an unspecified government office. Such rates of tolerance are extraordinarily high for a developing country. Likewise, 77 percent believe Christians should be allowed to be mayor in Christian-majority Manado. But only 47 percent believe a Christian should be allowed to become governor in Jakarta. Only 29 percent believe a Christian should be allowed to be president of Indonesia. And only 20 percent believe a Christian should be allowed to be mayor in Banda Aceh. In other words, at most 20 percent of Islamic civil society elites hold liberal views about non-Muslim elected leaders.
If we narrow the survey sample to the leaders of NU alone, the most tolerant of the mass Islamic organisations, only 52 percent believe a Christian should be allowed to be governor in Jakarta. Surveys by Saiful Mujani and R. William Liddle, and by Robin Bush, suggest that the leaders of the mass Islamic organisations are slightly more tolerant than the members, and the members are about 10 percent more tolerant than the broader Muslim public. That means a Christian's winning the governor's office without Jokowi's coattails was always a long shot. We should be cautious about drawing conclusions about Jokowi's election prospects from Ahok's defeat.
Second, Ahok was extremely vulnerable to Baswedan's smear campaign. Unless Jokowi does something heroically stupid, a blasphemy campaign will not stick to Jokowi in the same way that it did Ahok. There are also strategies that Jokowi can use to defend himself that were unavailable to Ahok.
Baswedan is not the first unsavory politician to claim the mantle of 'defending Islam' in order to win political power. Baswedan's predecessors include Madjelis Islam A'la Indonesia (MIAI) in the 1930s, Masyumi in the 1950s, Sukarno in the 1960s, and Amien Rais in the 1990s and 2000s, among others. In the 1930s, the MIAI was a coalition of Muslim organisations united by their shared antipathy to heterodox interpretations of Islam; in that instance, defending Islam worked. Likewise, in 1965 President Sukarno successfully mobilised support from Muslim organisations on the grounds of defending Islam against animist and mystical religious sects in Java. Defending Islam against threats of heterodoxy and blasphemy is often useful to politicians trying to transform a latent Muslim identity into one that is politically salient.
But a common tactic is not always a winning one. In the 1950s, Masyumi failed to hold together a coalition of Islamic organisations because modernist Muslims like Muhammad Natsir marginalised NU's influence. More recently, Amien Rais deployed the politics of demagoguery in the 1990s and again in the 2014 election in support of Prabowo, but has had limited success. In both instances, NU prevented a single group from speaking on behalf of Islam. Such history provides lessons for 2019. Moderates from NU, Muhammadiyah, and other pluralist Muslim organisations will be crucial to defending Jokowi against the charge that he is a 'threat to Islam'.
Ironically, NU and Muhammadiyah's formal distance from electoral politics has had a paradoxical result for democracy. By adhering to the liberal prescription to formally separate religion and politics, they have weakened their ability to steer their followers in the direction of pluralism. Nonetheless, some affinity exists and it is worth Jokowi's attempting to gain support from Islamic civil society.
Many observers would prefer that religion be 'off the table' of Indonesian politics, which is why they savaged Jokowi's admission that religion is inevitably involved in politics. But Jokowi was correct. Survey data tells us that voters overwhelmingly expect their elected representatives to believe in God and to bring religious values to bear on social issues. State institutions reflect those preferences through religious education, mandatory membership in a recognised religion, limitations on inter-religious marriage, restrictions on blasphemy, restrictions on inter-religious proselytising, and other policies. Indonesian democracy is not secular in any meaningful sense of the term, which means that candidates for office often align with powerful religious movements.
Third, Jokowi is Javanese. Ahok is Chinese. Jokowi's Javanese background is likely to be beneficial in 2019. Without more fine-grained data, is difficult to know whether Ahok's ethnicity, religion, blunt manner, or the campaign to 'defend Islam' cost him the most votes. Simplistic depictions of voters as either primordialist or rational ignore the complex ways that identity influences political behavior even in industrialised democracies.
From Jacksonville to Jakarta, ethnic similarity provides a way for politicians to establish trust with voters from different religious backgrounds. In Indonesia, Muslims from religious diverse ethnic groups like Balinese, Dayak, and Javanese tend to be more religiously tolerant than Muslims from more religiously homogenous ethnicities like Sundanese, Acehnese, and Sasak. So, for example, a Javanese Christian would likely have done better among Javanese voters than a Chinese Christian. Given Baswedan's Hadrami heritage, Jokowi may have a comparative advantage in being able to appeal to Javanese voters.
That does not mean Jokowi should play the bumiputra (son of the soil) card in the 2019 election. Again, demagoguery has no place in democratic politics. The long term health of the country depends on the leaders of the state and society promoting the values that make democracy work tolerance, equality, liberty, and popular sovereignty against the visions of xenophobic nationalism and strategic intolerance harnessed by demagogue and autocrats.