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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Ahok ruling raises tension

  • Severianus Endi, Ivany Atina Arbi and Moses Ompusunggu

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, May 15, 2017 | 09:01 am
Ahok ruling raises tension People attend a rally outside the police headquarter jail in Jakarta on May 10, 2017, to show support for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama -- known by his nickname Ahok. Indonesia is facing renewed calls to repeal its controversial blasphemy law after the jailing of Jakarta's Christian governor, with critics pointing to a sharp increase in its use to target minorities. (AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

The highly divisive blasphemy conviction against non-active Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has sparked tensions in some regions, with supporters of the Christian governor upping the ante against the Islamist group that has been calling for his incarceration.

The situation in West Kalimantan, which saw hundreds of people killed in two bloody ethnic conflicts in 1996/1997 and 2001, is particularly worrying as rising sectarian tensions in the capital have reignited suspicions among different religious and ethnic groups in the province.

Mercelina Erni, 46, a Christian resident in the province’s capital Pontianak said she had heard rumors, mainly from social media, that raids were imminent against Dayak people and Christians.

“I had to take down the rosary I used to hang on the rearview mirror of my car when I heard the rumors,” she told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The rumors were triggered by a speech made by West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis, in which he said he would oppose the presence of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, a vocal antiAhok figure, in the province.

The Dayak people, one of West Kalimantan’s largest ethnic groups, have expressed their support for the governor’s stance.

On Friday, two FPI leaders, Sobri Lubis and Hidayat Quaiandri Batangtaris, who came to Pontianak to inaugurate members of a local FPI branch, were forced to return to Jakarta only 30 minutes after landing at Supadio International Airport.

Authorities said they asked the two FPI leaders to return because of security concerns.

The incident has angered a group of people claiming to represent Malays and Muslims. They called on authorities to prosecute the governor for stoking sectarian tensions.

Meanwhile, rumors are also rife that some Malay and Muslim groups plan to disrupt an annual cultural event to be held by Dayak people in the city on May 20.

Leaders of Dayak and Malay communities have met to respond to the rumors and called on the public to remain calm.

The Pontianak Police have also beefed up security in the city and gave an assurance that authorities would act professionally in handling possible clashes.

“We have prepared 4,000 personnel from the police force and the Indonesian Military to maintain security. We will take action against anyone who tries to disrupt security, ” said Pontianak Police Chief Sr. Comr. Iwan Imam Susilo.

Dayak people account for around 35 percent of West Kalimantan’s population, followed by the Malay (34 percent), Javanese (10 percent) and Chinese (8 percent). Sixty percent of the province’s population is Muslim, while 34 percent is Christian.

In predominantly Christian Manado, North Sulawesi, hundreds of people on Saturday swarmed Sam Ratulangi International Airport and the governor’s office to protest againts the presence of House of Representatives deputy speaker Fahri Hamzah, who was accused of supporting the FPI.

The protests came just three days after thousands gathered in the city for a candlelight vigil supporting Ahok, who is now detained after being sentenced to two years for citing a Quranic verse in a speech deemed as blasphemous.

“Fahri Hamzah is not a tolerant person. That is why we reject his presence here,” said Brian Maloor, chairman of a local group that participated in the Sam Ratulangi rally.

Fahri had to be evacuated by the police after spending only six hours in the city.

In other regions, the FPI has been more daring in carrying out their actions. In Makassar, South Sulawesi, dozens of alleged FPI members attempted to disperse a group holding a candlelight vigil for Ahok.

Salim Said, a senior political and security analyst, expressed concerns about the rising sectarian tensions, which he believed could threaten the country’s diversity.

He called on the country’s leaders in Jakarta to be fully aware of the situation to prevent horizontal conflicts.

Meanwhile, Indonesian diasporas in major cities abroad have held rallies to support Ahok and Indonesian diversity, including in Amsterdam, Auckland, Los Angeles, New York, Perth, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto and Vancouver.

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