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Jakarta Post

Racially charged online debate raises concerns on national unity in digital age

  • Rizki Fachriansyah
    Rizki Fachriansyah

    The Jakarta Post

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Jakarta   /   Thu, February 4, 2021   /  07:33 pm
The Jakarta Post Image
A motorcycle passes a mural with the words "If we're monkeys, don't force monkeys to fly the Indonesian flag."(JP/P.J. Leo)

A case of two public figures entangled in controversy over alleged racist comments has stoked fears of an ensuing polarizing public discourse, which some say could jeopardize social cohesion along ethnic and racial lines. Natalius Pigai, a former National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioner, and Ambroncius Nababan, a Hanura Party politician, have had to face a barrage of criticism for their contentious use of social media in recent weeks. The social media furor, which has culminated in legal action against the parties involved, seemingly spun into a public referendum on racial and ethnic identity – a stark reminder of the compromises made to maintain national unity in the digital age. The tug-of-war began when Ambroncius purportedly attempted to criticize a statement Natalius made in a televised interview on Jan. 18, during which the Papuan native advocate...