Cops talk tough on Dec. 2 rally
Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Agnes Anya and Nurul Fitri Ramadhani
The Jakarta Post
The authorities have insisted that they will not permit next month’s planned large-scale rally in Jakarta because the demonstration, which was originally aimed at demanding the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy, has been taken over by political elements aimed at destabilizing President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration.
National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo held a meeting on Monday to discuss the planned Dec. 2 rally.
Tito said the police would not allow the demonstration, which was expected to consist of mass Friday prayers performed on Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman, as well as the Hotel Indonesia Traffic Circle, all in Central Jakarta, because “freedom of speech is never absolute.”
Wider concern for the well-being of the public should be the priority, he said. “Based on the 1998 Freedom of Speech Law, [demonstrating] is the people’s constitutional right but it must not contravene other people’s rights or public order and must not close major streets,” said the former Jakarta police chief.
If the protesters insist on staying in the area, or fighting with the police, the police will take stern measures against them, he added. He also threatened to charge the protesters with treason should they become violent or visibly attempt to undermine the government.
Gatot, meanwhile, said the two forces had worked together to uncover the mastermind behind the planned rally. “Intelligence agencies from the police and the TNI have gathered information as to who has encouraged them to take part in the rally,” said Gatot, adding that the TNI were ready to take part in a “jihad” in defense of national unity.
The two made the statement following a plan by Muslim organizations, grouped under the National Movement to Save Indonesian Ulema Council’s Edict (GNPF-MUI), to hold a massive rally on Dec. 2. They claim the protest is aimed at demanding the police detain incumbent gubernatorial candidate and blasphemy suspect Ahok.
The organizations held a similar rally on Nov. 4, in which more than 100,000 people took part, to demand the police charge Ahok with blasphemy, which has since been done. They initially announced they would hold the next protest on Nov. 25.
Tito said the police had received information that there could still be demonstrations on Nov. 25, especially at the House of Representatives.
Firebrand Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab has claimed that the demonstration would be “very peaceful” since it would only comprise Friday prayers, Quran readings, mass prayers, dzikir (chants), as well as shalawat (prayers to the Prophet Muhammad), even though they would occupy the highway from the Semanggi intersection to the State Palace.
Regardless, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. M. Iriawan said full-scale security measures were in place to ensure security in the capital.
Separately, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin also questioned the plan to hold another rally, especially since the police had named Ahok a suspect.
“But if [another rally] is deemed necessary, it should be held in accordance with the law,” Lukman said.
In response, Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) secretary-general Muhammad Al-Khaththath accused the authorities of committing a crime if they prohibited the rally. “[Demonstrating] is guaranteed by the law,” he said.
FPI spokesman Munarman, meanwhile, denied any political motivation behind the planned rally.
“Through this [demonstration] we actually want to deliver prayers so that Indonesia will be saved from ‘actors’ who want to divide the nation,” he said.
Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) civil and political rights division head Putri Kanesia said the authorities should protect people’s freedom of expression.
“Authorities can carry out actions against [the protesters] if they violate the law, however, the enforcement should still be conducted in a persuasive way,” Putri said.
Ina Parlina contributed to this story.
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