Indonesia: Official Accused of Inciting Racist Riots Against Chinese Jakarta Governor

INDONESIA, JAKARTA : Indonesian President Joko Widodo (L) walks next to acting Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (alias Ahok) at the presidential palace in Jakarta on October 22, 2014. Joko Widodo was inaugurated as Indonesia's president October 20, capping a remarkable rise from an upbringing in a riverside slum. AFP …
Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama (AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY)

Incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has asked the government to fire Ambassador to Japan Yusron Ihza Mahendra for a tweet in which the latter allegedly incited violence against ethnic Chinese people in Indonesia.

Translation: “Ahok should not to be arrogant while governing. Feel sorry for the other Chinese who are poor, kind and innocent if they become victims [of ethnic riots]”

Yusron’s tweet refers to the 1998 sectarian riots.

Jakarta broke out in riots in 1998 that targeted Chinese shops and ethnic Chinese. Over 500 died during the week-long protest. Most of those died while trapped in fires. The government deployed 10,000 troops into the streets to keep order and arrested 1,000 people. Rioters hit “more than 3,000 buildings” and wrecked “nearly 1,500 vehicles.”

Ahok is a Chinese-Indonesian Christian.

Yusron is also “the younger brother of Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who is planning to represent the Crescent Star Party (PBB) as Ahok’s rival in the next gubernatorial election.”

“Why did he tweet such threatening message?” responded the governor. “Hey poor Chinese, be careful you will get slaughtered because of Ahok. That’s out of line and racist.”

He added: “And he’s an ambassador for Japan. Yusril’s brother. I have told Retno [about the tweet]. How can Indonesia have an ambassador like this?”

Ahok once said Yusril tried to discredit him “by falsely claiming that the Jakarta administration would demolish the ancient Luar Batang Mosque in North Jakarta.” He blasted Yusron for using religion against him.

“Even God is not racist,” he continued. “You are a Muslim and I am a Christian, we breathe the same air. If God deems Christians to be infidels, He may just kill me now.”

Ahok currently leads in the polls:

The survey – conducted from March 15 to March 20 and involving 400 Jakartans living across the city and the Thousand Islands – placed Basuki at the top of a list of 14 governor candidates, with 51.8 percent of the respondents saying they would vote for him, leaving Yusril at second place with only 11 percent saying they would support the former state secretary and justice minister.

Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini took third place with 7.3 percent, followed by Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician Hidayat Nur Wahid with 3.3 percent and former minister Adhyaksa Dault with 3 percent.

Businessman Sandiaga Uno was in sixth place with just 1.5 percent, just behind controversial Jakarta City Council deputy speaker Abraham Lunggana, or Lulung, at 1.8 percent.

“Yusril is the closest contender to Basuki, but the gap is still pretty wide,” explained Yunarto Wijaya, executive director of Charta Politika. “But this head-to-head battle is unlikely to happen as Yusril will likely struggle to get all the political parties to support him, while Basuki is well on his way to nab the support of a million Jakarta citizens to allow him to run as an independent.”

Ahok also asked his opponents to concentrate on Jakarta instead of attacking him.

“So it would not only be to band together to beat Ahok. I feel sorry for Jakartans if that’s what you aim to do. If you want to beat Ahok and succeed, what then? You need to have clear programs,” he stated.


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