Hundreds of protesters from the local community in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, staged a protest on Saturday at the Tjilik Riwut airport to block the arrival of four senior leaders of the Islamic hardline group Islam Defenders Front (FPI).
Some of the protesters, largely from the Dayak tribe, managed to force their way onto the airport’s apron and runway to search for the FPI officials, who came to Palangkaraya to inaugurate the provincial branch of the organization.
Following the security breach, management of the airport ordered the FPI members to remain on board a Sriwijaya Air plane while other passengers disembarked. The four FPI members were then flown to Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan.
The protesters dispersed only after they were assured by the airport operator that none of the FPI members had got off the plane.
Initial reports said that FPI chairman Habib Rizieq Syihab, was on the plane.
Secretary general of FPI Ahmad Sobri Lubis denied the report, saying that Rizieq was not bound for Palangkaraya.
“Habib was not on the plane. He was in Jakarta and is currently ill,” Ahmad told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview on Saturday.
In fact, it was Sobri who led the four-person delegation to Palangkaraya. “I was the one who boarded the flight to Palangkaraya,” he said.
He confirmed that there were three other senior members of FPI on the plane, who later ended their journey in Banjarmasin.
“The plane was surrounded by Dayaks at the [Tjilik Riwut] airport,” he said.
Sobri said the four FPI members were going to attend a mass prayer in the city and the inauguration of a provincial chapter of the organization, headquartered in Palangkaraya.
Lucas Tingkes, deputy chairman of the Central Kalimantan Dayak Tribe Council (DAD) said that the organization had asked the Central Kalimantan Police to ban the FPI provincial chapter.
“We have concerns that FPI’s presence will create tension because the organization’s activities often create anxiety among members of the community. Central Kalimantan is known as a place conducive to religious harmony,” he said as quoted by Antara newswire.