The Jakarta Post
Friday’s rally in the capital, which was held to demand Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama be removed from his post, failed to repeat the scale of last year’s rallies against Ahok, considered among the largest protests the country had ever seen.
The considerably smaller crowd signalled waning enthusiasm from Muslim conservatives in their attempt to unseat Ahok, with two of the country’s largest Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, plus the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), denouncing the rally prior to it taking place.
One of the protesters, 50-yearold Helmy from Depok, West Java, said that he was disappointed by the lower attendance, adding that he thought there would be as many protesters on Friday as in previous rallies.
“It’s discouraging to see this, but the message is still clear. We want Ahok arrested as soon as possible,” he said.
Even those who joined the rally, initiated by the Muslim People’s Forum (FUI), appeared to be less enthusiastic, with some of them returning home before the rally started after Friday prayers at the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta.
Ahmadio Putra, a 16-year-old high school student, for instance, said he decided to go home early, right after Friday prayers, because the rally activities were too tiring. “I’m exhausted,” he said. The members of the crowd also shifted their demand from being the immediate arrest and dismissal of Ahok to being the release of rally coordinator Muhammad Al Khaththath from custody after the Jakarta Police arrested him and four other people on Thursday night for alleged treason and conspiracy.
Usamah Hisyam from the Indonesian Muslim Brotherhood (Permusi) told the crowd that Al Khaththath got arrested on Thursday when they were preparing materials for Friday’s protest.
“Now I announced that our demand has just been improved. We want the police to immediately release Ustad [Muslim scholar] Al Khaththath from prison,” he said.
Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono said that Al Khaththath and the four others were arrested because they held some meetings to discuss overthrowing the government, which had nothing to do with the protest.
He said they were interrogated at the Mobile Brigade Command detention center (Mako Brimob) in Kelapa Dua, Depok. The five people would be charged under Article 107 and Article 110 of the Criminal Code, said Argo.
Meanwhile, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said the police had not found a connection between this possible treason plan with a previously alleged treason plot.
Unlike last year’s anti-Ahok rally on Nov. 4, which turned violent after the protesters refused to disperse after the time for the rally ended, the crowd in Friday’s rally started to disperse peacefully from the Arjuna Wiwaha Monument in Central Jakarta at 3 p.m. The police had given a permit to stage the protest until 6 p.m.
The protesters also failed to meet Jokowi at the State Palace as they had demanded. Instead, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto received nine representatives of the rally in his office.
Speaking after a one-hour closed-door meeting with the representatives, Wiranto said he had been instructed by the President to receive them so that the government could listen to their demands.
In February, Wiranto had a friendly meeting with the initiators of last year’s anti-Ahok rallies, including firebrand Islam Defenders Front (FPI) patron Rizieq Shihab, saying that they were his old friends, especially Rizieq whom he had known since well before 2000.
Marguerite Afra Sapiie contributed to the story.
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