The Jakarta Post
Dozens of Democratic Party (PD) flags and banners were found ripped off and torn in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Saturday, just as chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) is visiting the city.
Most of the torn flags were found near Pangeran Hotel, where the country’s former president is staying with his wife and several other party leaders.
The banners were placed at the same location as dozens of flags from the government’s supporting parties, the Golkar Party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Indonesia Solidarity Party (PSI). Their officials were present as the city hosted on the same day an event that was attended by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
Their flags were left untouched and remain standing.
PD leaders, including SBY himself, condemned the incident.
“For the good of all of us, I order all Democrat flags and banners be removed. That’s better than seeing them destroyed and thrown into the gutter,” Yudhoyono said.
PD secretary-general Hinca Pandjaitan called on all party members in the region to remain calm and not be provoked. He also claimed that the perpetrator, who had been apprehended, had been paid by a group that intended to stir up conflict.
“He [the suspect] confessed that he was paid Rp 100,000 [US$6.86] only to destroy the flags. We are sure there is [someone else] behind it,” Hinca said.
According to Andi Arief, another party executive, the perpetrator claimed that he had been hired by members of the PDI-P but urged caution.
“A perpetrator, who was caught [on Friday night] by the PD’s local chapter members, said he was ordered by the PDI-P. It is unwise to rush to conclusion. The police should investigate,” he said on his Twitter account @AndiArief_
Keterangan pelaku perusakan yang ditangkap DPC Demokrat malam tadi menyebut dia disuruh Pengurus PDIP. Info awal itu terlalu gegabah jika dipercaya begitu saja. Selama ini hubungan kami baik. Tugas polisi menyimpulkannya. Tidak ada alasan, pelakunya ada. Beda dg kasus lain.— andi arief (@AndiArief__) December 15, 2018
Yudhoyono is scheduled to visit Pekanbaru from Friday to Monday for the 2019 legislative election campaign.
For the presidential election that will be held concurrently with the legislative polls, Yudhoyono’s party has endorsed Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto, the only challenger for Jokowi who is seeking reelection.
PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto immediately denied any involvement in the incident.
“To those who accuse that we [the PDI-P] are responsible for the destruction of the flags, we emphasize that we had nothing to do with that. This sort of behavior is not a characteristic of the PDI-P,” Hasto said.
Hasto said the party had no issues with the Democrats, adding that the PDI-P only competed with Gerindra in the legislative race.
The PDI-P, which secured more than 23 million votes in the 2014 legislative election, has become the largest party at the House of Representatives, followed by Golkar and Gerindra.
The PD finished fourth in the election four years ago, securing more than 12 million votes.
The Pekanbaru Police have arrested a suspect in the case, Heryd Swanto, 22, who was caught trying to rip up a banner with a box cutter early on Saturday at 1.45 a.m.
“A witness shouted at the alleged perpetrator, who jumped, fell and ran away,” said National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen Dedi Prasetyo.
The police are still investigating the motive behind the vandalism.