Gafatar evacuations begin amid criticism
Tama Salim and Wahyoe Boediwardhana
The Jakarta Post
Hundreds of members of the controversial Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) who fell victim to a recent mob incident in Mempawah regency, West Kalimantan, have started returning to their respective hometowns in a government-sponsored evacuation that will continue for the next several days.
On early Saturday morning, 387 people, including 183 children, arrived at Juanda International Airport in Sidoarjo, Surabaya, East Java, from Pontianak on two different flights operated by Lion Air.
The majority of first-batch evacuees resided in East Java before moving to West Kalimantan to run communal farms with other Gafatar members from across the archipelago.
The newly arrived evacuees, who looked exhausted, were later transported by several buses to a transit hall managed by the province's manpower, transmigration and population agency in Margorejo, Surabaya, to rest.
The evacuees will be housed in a transit hall for an estimated four days to complete registration. They are also required to attend religious counselling sessions before they are sent back to their hometowns.
Separately, 564 evacuees, including four infants, also safely arrived at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, early on Saturday, on three different flights.
'The Gafatar members arrived [at Soekarno-Hatta] on chartered Lion Air flights directly from Pontianak,' Soekarno-Hatta Police chief Sr. Comr. Roycke Harry Langie said on Saturday.
Roycke said the majority of the evacuees that had arrived would be sent straight to a protection and trauma shelter in Bambu Apus, East Jakarta, while another 100 would be temporarily accommodated by the Jakarta Social Affairs Agency.
On Tuesday, thousands of people besieged Gafatar members' houses in Mempawah, forcing police and military personnel to evacuate them before the mob proceeded to burn down houses and a car belonging to the group.
The people were forced out of their homes amid media controversy surrounding the group.
Gafatar is reportedly a successor organization to Al Qiyadah Al Islamiyah, which was founded by Ahmad Mussadeq, who was sentenced by the South Jakarta District Court to four years in prison in 2008 for blasphemy. Ahmad reportedly claimed to be a new prophet.
Gafatar leaders, meanwhile, have repeatedly denied that their organization, which was established in January 2012 and banned by the Home Ministry in November of the same year, is based on or affiliated with any religion, insisting it cleaves instead to the state ideology, Pancasila.
Gafatar spokesperson Wisnu Windani said recently that the organization had dissolved itself in August last year, with its members retreating to Mempawah to engage in communal farming.
Despite the ongoing evacuation efforts, human right activists have condemned the government for its indecisiveness in resolving the conflict.
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) chairman Nur Kholis expressed his disappointment over the government's lack of initiative in mediating the social unrest in Mempawah, particularly blaming the Religious Affairs Ministry, which he said could have prevented the violent incident from occurring.
'The religious affairs minister should have played the central role of mediation, if only for the sake of gaining people's trust,' he said during a discussion in Central Jakarta on Saturday.
'It is the state's duty to protect [its citizens], not only in terms of religion, but also their livelihood and culture.'
Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) deputy coordinator for strategy and mobilization Puri Kencana Putri, meanwhile, criticized local authorities in West Kalimantan for dispersing negative sentiment about Gafatar, which she said only exacerbated the conflict between residents and former members of the group.
'It is terrible to think that the government might have oversimplified this social anomaly by attaching to it a stigma of misguidedness,' she said.
Meanwhile, NasDem Party lawmaker Teuku Taufiqulhadi criticized the government for being negligent in monitoring Ahmad's movements following his release in 2012, arguing that proper oversight would have dampened stigmatization and prevented social unrest.
'If the government was observant, things would not have gotten out of hand; now it has turned into a horizontal conflict and people are turning against them,' he said.
According to data from the Home Ministry as of Friday, there were are at least 1,611 Gafatar members sheltered in military barracks in Kubu Raya regency, with 712 of them native to East Java, 276 to Yogyakarta, 247 to West Java, 145 to Central Java, 90 to Jakarta and four to Banten.
Others hail from areas outside of Java, with 99 from Riau, 13 from Medan, eight from Riau Islands, four from West Sumatra, Lampung and West Kalimantan, three from Central Kalimantan and two from South Sulawesi and Aceh.
The evacuations will continue as the government recently said that it would deploy three Navy warships to transport Gafatar members back to their hometowns by next week.
Earlier on Friday evening, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin called on Indonesians to properly treat people who were affiliated with Gafatar by, for example, not attacking their beliefs.
'We appeal to the public to not ostracize them or deny their existence,' he said, as quoted by Antara news agency.
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