Government allies ready to block Ahok inquiry initiative
Margareth S. Aritonang
The Jakarta Post
Amid escalating support at the House of Representatives for an inquiry into the disputed return to office of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, allies of the government have prepared moves to block the plan.
Led by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which supported the incumbent in the Jakarta election, the parties that support President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said the move to investigate the Home Ministry for allowing Ahok to keep his job, despite being on trial for blasphemy, was aimed at ousting the president.
According to Article 83 of the 2014 Regional Administration Law, a regional head or deputy regional head who is charged with a crime that carries a minimum sentence of five years, should be suspended.
Ahok is facing a maximum sentence of five years for his charges, which leads some to interpret that he has to be suspended until the trial is over.
Initiated by the Democratic Party, which has nominated Agus Harimurti, the son of party chairman and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in the Jakarta gubernatorial race, the supporters of the inquiry said the government’s decision not to suspend Ahok’s was an example of government bias toward the governor, who is seeking reelection.
“The House can summon the Home Minister who is in charge of the matter to get the explanation they want in a hearing instead of hastily exercising the inquiry right to initiate an investigation,” lawmaker Jhonny Plate from the NasDem Party said on Tuesday.
The deputy secretary of the NasDem faction at the House of Representatives described the proposal for an inquiry as an overreaction that would only distract Jokowi from focussing on running the country.
“Initiating an inquiry amid the tension of the Jakarta election will only divide the nation. It will also open the door to impeaching the President,” Jhonny claimed.
Leading members of other parties in the government coalition have expressed similar concerns, lambasting the initiators for inappropriately bringing the discussion into the legislative institution and making it a national issue.
Such concerns have also been expressed by the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the United Development Party (PPP), which unlike other pro-government parties have endorsed Agus in the Jakarta election.
According to the PPP’s secretary-general Arsul Sani, questions regarding the return of Ahok should be directly addressed to Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, who made the decision, in hearings. “Thus, we disagree with exercising our inquiry rights to ask for an investigation of the matter,” he said.
In addition to NasDem, the PKB and PPP, opposition to an inquiry also comes from the Golkar and Hanura parties, as well as the PDI-P.
However, coalition partner the National Mandate Party (PAN) believes differently, as the party has seen a growing number of its lawmakers supporting the call for an inquiry. As of Tuesday, 18 PAN lawmakers had signed the inquiry demand along with 82 politicians from the Gerindra Party, the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
PAN lawmaker Yandri Susanto, a member of House Commission II overseeing regional administrations, said he supported the investigation to help correct the government when it made a mistake.
Yandri said he shared the opinion of party colleagues, believing that PAN as a party was also on the same side. PAN chairman Zulkifli Hasan, who is also speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) denied this. Zulkifli referred to the move by PAN lawmakers as a “spontaneous reaction.”
“It is their right as lawmakers whether or not to support [the inquiry call]. But I don’t share their stance because we haven’t discussed it internally,” Zulkifli said.
House leaders are set to present the proposal for approval in a plenary meeting slated for next week. There will be a vote before the House announces its final decision.
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