Columnists

Along The Watchtower

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A sex scandal amid the jailing of ex-governor Ahok

Supporters of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, gather at city hall a day after after a court sentenced him to two years in jail following blasphemy charges, in Jakarta, Indonesia -Reuters

Supporters of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, gather at city hall a day after after a court sentenced him to two years in jail following blasphemy charges, in Jakarta, Indonesia -Reuters

AN air of dismay hangs over Jakarta and much of Indonesia in the wake of former governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s conviction for blasphemy.

Protests were held in the capital and various parts of the country with people holding candlelight vigils demanding suspension of the sentence pending appeal.

The ethnic Chinese and Christian governor was originally charged with committing blasphemy under Article 156a of the country’s criminal code and with defaming Muslim leaders under Article 156.

However, on April 20, a day after Ahok lost in the runoff election to seek his second term, to former Education Minister Anies Baswedan, the prosecutors dropped the blasphemy charge, citing lack of evidence.

Instead, they urged the court to place him on two years’ probation if found guilty of vi­o­lat­ing Ar­ti­cle 156 of the Crim­i­nal Code on show­ing an­i­mos­ity to­ward oth­ers and jail him for a year if he committed the offence again. The judges completely ignored this.

And in a curious turn of events, three of the five judges were promoted a day later, a move which Indonesia’s Judicial Commission described as “questionable”.

Both the prosecution and Ahok’s lawyers have since filed appeals against the two-year jail term.

To many Indonesians, the verdict signals the rising power of religious extremists and growing contempt for Pancasila, the five-pronged philosophical basis of Indonesia’s nationhood.

There is also anxiety that the country remains vulnerable to the powerful elite capable of using whatever means, including religion, to return to power, despite the hype of democracy, diversity and religious tolerance in the post-Suharto era.

The former governor’s crime was to criticise opponents who used a verse in the Quran to discourage Muslims from voting for non-Muslim leaders.

It sparked outrage among the radicals. Huge rallies were held, during which there were calls for Ahok to be jailed and even killed for allegedly insulting Islam.

Poet and former Tempo magazine editor Gunawan Mohamad analysed it well in a Facebook post and predicted the court’s findings.

Among other things, he wrote: “The use of the label against Ahok is probably the most successful stigmatisation technique in the history of Indonesian politics. A stigma derived from slander.

“He did not insult Islam, but the charge was continuously repeated. If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes ‘the truth’, the Nazis’ propaganda chief used to say.”

Anies, a former student activist involved in the ouster of Suharto’s regime, was in the Cabinet briefly under President Joko Widodo.

In January, the politician, who was regarded as a moderate, spoke at a gathering of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a key moment in boosting his popularity.

As Ahok’s fate hangs in the balance, there is another interesting but less highlighted story linking key players in the drama.

It’s a probe into pornography and violation of a law covering steamy WhatsApp chats and salacious images, and the main suspects are a religious leader and a woman being investigated in a case of treason.

And Malaysia has come into the picture too, no thanks to the arrival of the firebrand preacher deemed a fugitive in his country.

No, it’s not Dr Zakir Naik, the Indian national who was given Permanent Resident status in Malaysia, along with awards and accolades.

The man in question is FPI leader Rizieq Shihab, an Ahok adversary who was called in as an expert witness in the trial.

The woman is Firza Husein, coordinator of the Suharto-linked Solidaritas Sahabat Cendana foundation.

When the story broke, both denied the allegations, claiming that the pictures, erotic chats and a recorded conversation between Firza and another woman over the affair, were all a hoax.

Firza, a divorcee and a single mother, was charged with plotting to overthrow the Government after an anti-Ahok protest on Dec 2 last year together with 10 others, including Suharto’s son, Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra.

She was freed from detention on

Feb 24, on grounds of failing health, but remains a suspect.

There have been sketchy reports about Rizieq having gone to perform the Umrah in Saudi Arabia and to Yemen, apparently to see his newly born third grandchild before coming to Malaysia.

National Police spokesman Insp Gen Setyo Wasisto said Interpol’s help had been sought to bring Rizieq back to Indonesia for ignoring two summonses over the pornography case.

But according to an Antara news report, the cleric is in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, as a PhD candidate at the Universiti Sains Islam (USIM), where he did his master’s degree.

By the way, Rizieq, who is also wanted for insulting Indonesia’s state symbols, is an ex-convict.

In 2003, he was jailed seven months for inciting people against the security forces, and being involved in damaging entertainment outlets in Jakarta.

In 2008, he was jailed a year and six months, for attacks against supporters of the National Alliance for Freedom of Faith and Religion at the National Monument square.

Will he be handed back to Indonesia or allowed to finish his studies here? Based on past examples, I dare not hazard a guess.

> Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead: Religion is the last refuge of human savagery.

Tags / Keywords: M Veera Pandiyan , columnist

More Articles

Filter by

Steadfast friends: Former cyclists Joo Pong (left) and Conrad.

Our forgotten sports heroes

26 July 2017

With Malaysia again hosting the SEA Games after 16 years, it is a shame that our sports heroes of the past are not given due recognition and rewards for their contributions.

Accord to end nukes

12 July 2017

In a landmark decision, 122 UN member states approved a treaty to eliminate atomic weapons, but the countries with nuclear arsenals are against it.

May loses gamble, media eats humble pie

14 June 2017

British PM got a hung parliament while newspaper columnists and political commentators failed to read the pulse of Britain.

Donald Trump – from zero to hero

19 April 2017

The gushing praise for the US president from the media and politicians reflects the country’s constant appetite for war, no matter what the reason is to declare one.

The May 13 cemetery in Sungai Buloh. - filepic

We need to redress a grave injustice

5 April 2017

Turning the May 13 cemetery into a heritage site would be a step towards truly learning from a tragic episode.

Quest for food security

22 March 2017

Malaysia is not likely to face food shortages but food security, especially for our staple of rice, should not be taken for granted.

Time to rethink our Datukships

22 February 2017

While many who are conferred awards deserve the accolade, the rising number of titles being given to criminals and scumbags makes a mockery of the honour.

A Barcelona solution for Malacca?

8 February 2017

Traffic congestion in the country’s historic city has gotten worse and ironically two traffic dispersal projects under construction have become part of the problem.

Well done, Tigress! Good luck, ice stars!

25 January 2017

The Malaysian women’s hockey team deserves praise for making it to the next round of World Cup qualification, and more sponsorship is needed for the country’s ice sports athletes.

Timor-Leste’s win against Goliath Oz

11 January 2017

A treaty that is unfair to one of South-East Asia’s poorest countries will be repealed to enable it to redraw a more realistic border with Australia.

  • Page 1 of 1

Go to page:

advertisement

Recent Posts

More Columnists

advertisement