Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf has defended the provincial sharia police’s decision to arrest 65 youths during a recent punk rock concert in Banda Aceh, following protests from local and overseas punk communities.
Irwandi said that the youths had been arrested because they had falsified documents in order to obtain a permit for the concert from the police and the Aceh branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council.
“It was no charity concert for orphans [as they claimed],” he told journalists at the State Palace on Tuesday, as he received the 2012 budget plans from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
He also said that people had erroneously related the treatment of the youths, who had their spiky mohawks shaved off by the police, to the enforcement of shariah law in Aceh.
“One has nothing to do with the other,” he said.
“It is untrue that the police arrested them. That’s not it. The truth is that the police are helping them develop [their skills].”
Irwandi said that the administration was concerned because many of the youths did not attend school or have jobs.
“As part of the administration, we have to think of their future, too. What will they become if they don’t have jobs now?” he said.
“The police are helping them find opportunities, for example, becoming security officers — if that suits them, or if there are any of them who want to go to school, we will provide them with scholarships.”
Irwandi’s statement contradicted that of Aceh Police chief Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan’s who had said earlier that the youths were rounded up and detained because they were insulting Islam.
The police rounded up 65 youths during a concert in Banda Aceh, on Wednesday last week, and brought them to a detention center where their spiky Mohawk hairstyles were shaved off.
The police crackdown prompted protests in some parts of the world, including in Moscow and San Francisco.
In Jakarta, a group of youths, who called themselves Solidarity for Aceh Punks United, staged a rally in front of the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta on Monday.
One of the activists from the movement, who identified himself as Arok, said that the government must show fairness in dealing with punk communities.
“If they [the punk rockers] were arrested because they falsified concert documents, then why should they all get such bad treatment? They should have been charged under the prevailing law,” he told The Jakarta Post.
He said that if the concert documents were the issue, then the gig organizer should have been punished. “It should just be one or two people.”
Arok said that if the problem was that the youths had insulted Islam, then the solution should be to educate them about Islamic values rather than arresting and detaining them and shaving off their Mohawks.
“Whatever the real issue here, whether it is opposing the values of sharia or a criminal act, we still cannot accept this kind of harsh treatment,” he added.
Following the raid, speculation was rife that the arrests were related to public relations campaigns conducted by candidates running in the 2012 gubernatorial election.
On Tuesday, around 20 people staged a protest in front of the Indonesian Consulate General in San Francisco in a show of solidarity for the Aceh punks.
“We have met with them [protesters] . They said they were concerned about the arrests and wanted to show their solidarity for their punk friends in Aceh,” the spokesman for the Indonesian consulate in San Francisco, Tubagus Edwin Suchranudin, told the Post.
In Russia, members of a punk community declared their support for their fellow punks in Aceh by reportedly spray-painting “Punk is not a crime” on the wall of the Indonesian Embassy in Moscow. (rpt)