Does Supporting Movement To Ahok Rise Sectarian Tensions?

Does Supporting Movement To Ahok Rise Sectarian Tensions?

The highly divisive blasphemy conviction against non-active Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has sparked tensions in some regions, with supporters of the Christian governor upping the ante against the Islamist group that has been calling for his incarceration.

The situation in West Kalimantan, which saw hundreds of people killed in two bloody ethnic conflicts in 1996/1997 and 2001, is particularly worrying as rising sectarian tensions in the capital have reignited suspicions among different religious and ethnic groups in the province. People had heard rumors, mainly from social media, that raids were imminent against Dayak people and Christians.

The rumors were triggered by a speech made by West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis, in which he said he would oppose the presence of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, a vocal anti Ahok figure, in the province. The Dayak people, one of West Kalimantan’s largest ethnic groups, have expressed their support for the governor’s stance.

Previously, two FPI leaders, Sobri Lubis and Hidayat Quaiandri Batangtaris, who came to Pontianak to inaugurate members of a local FPI branch, were forced to return to Jakarta only 30 minutes after landing at Supadio International Airport. Authorities said they asked the two FPI leaders to return because of security concerns.

The incident has angered a group of people claiming to represent Malays and Muslims. They called on authorities to prosecute the governor for stoking sectarian tensions. Meanwhile, rumors are also rife that some Malay and Muslim groups plan to disrupt an annual cultural event to be held by Dayak people in the city on May 20.

Leaders of Dayak and Malay communities have met to respond to the rumors and called on the public to remain calm. The Pontianak Police have also beefed up security in the city and gave an assurance that authorities would act professionally in handling possible clashes.

Dayak people account for around 35 percent of West Kalimantan’s population, followed by the Malay (34 percent), Javanese (10 percent) and Chinese (8 percent). Sixty percent of the province’s population is Muslim, while 34 percent is Christian.

Separately, in predominantly Christian Manado, North Sulawesi, hundreds of people on Saturday swarmed Sam Ratulangi International Airport and the governor’s office to protest againts the presence of House of Representatives deputy speaker Fahri Hamzah, who was accused of supporting the FPI. The protests came just three days after thousands gathered in the city for a candlelight vigil supporting Ahok, who is now detained after being sentenced to two years for citing a Quranic verse in a speech deemed as blasphemous. “Fahri Hamzah is not a tolerant person. That is why we reject his presence here,” said Brian Maloor, chairman of a local group that participated in the Sam Ratulangi rally. Fahri had to be evacuated by the police after spending only six hours in the city.

In other regions, the FPI has been more daring in carrying out their actions. In Makassar, South Sulawesi, dozens of alleged FPI members attempted to disperse a group holding a candlelight vigil for Ahok. Meanwhile, Indonesian diasporas in major cities abroad have held rallies to support Ahok and Indonesian diversity, including in Amsterdam, Auckland, Los Angeles, New York, Perth, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto and Vancouver.

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.

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.f 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.

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.

Rising sectarian tensions

However, being admitted or not, supporting movement to Ahok has been rising sectarian tensions, which believed could threaten the country’s diversity and its could be triggered horizontal conflicts, because of that all national stakeholders must aware to prevent it or to minimalize it.

Actually, a massive rallies and candlelight vigils to support Ahok or to delay Ahok’s incarceration must be stopped because it’s has been broken law mechanism and its has given a negative image for Indonesia’s law enforcement.

Basically, the presence of state and government to protect the diversity of Indonesia through law enforcement is given Ahok with a proportional verdict. It must be understood for Ahok’s supporters or symphatizers. If Ahok’s supporters has been rallying protest against those verdict, indirectly it could be called as breaking law mechanism and interfere law enforcement.

The central government must be warned the local government or the province or district which stimulated jeopardizing situation through “sectarian policy”. Every government apparatus must remember to their main task to protect our national diversity through equal treatment for all of national stakeholders without looking their differences on political mindset, religious and tribes.

The central government must be prohibited whatever political movement including an internationalizing domestic issues           which could be raised sectarian tensions in Indonesia. Every people of Indonesia must obey to Indonesia’s law mechanism. Every movement which against law mechanism must be punished with strongest verdict.

*) Wildan Nasution, a senior researcher at Center of Risk Strategic Intelligence Assessment (Cersia), Jakarta.

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