Jakarta politics heating up
The recent power struggle among political elites may have spilled out onto the street on Friday, as a hardline group with informal ties to defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto held a rally in front of Jakarta City Hall that erupted into what police believe was a coordinated riot.
The Jakarta City Police have arrested at least 20 members of the group, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), following a protest at the City Hall compound on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta on Friday.
More than 10 police officers, including the Gambir Police Precinct chief, were injured, while a number of cars were damaged after hundreds of protesters waving FPI flags threw rocks of considerable size toward the City Council building.
A nearby Transjakarta bus shelter was vandalized and several luxury cars belonging to city council members were damaged.
The FPI had rallied in opposition to Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Chris-
FPI chairman Habib Rizieq apparently refuses to turn over alleged ringleaders Gerindra thanks FPI for the rally
tian of Chinese descent, objecting to his religious affiliation and ethnic background. Later this month, Ahok will replace president-elect and outgoing Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
The FPI has publicly repudiated Ahok, claiming to speak for all Muslim Jakartans when they said they did not wish to be led by a Christian leader — a tenuous claim as the group has no credibility to speak for the larger Muslim community in Jakarta or elsewhere.
The group also took issue with the fact that Ahok, as governor, would automatically head a number of Islamic organizations in Jakarta.
Jokowi was not present at City Hall during the protest and Ahok was in South Korea attending the closing ceremony of the Asian Games.
Jakarta City Police chief Insp. Gen. Unggung Cahyono said that the FPI had engineered the rally to end in violence as the protesters — several of whom had traveled from Bandung, Majalengka and Tasikmalaya in West Java to attend — arrived with rocks in their trucks.
“It’s not a spontaneous [violent protest],” said Unggung, who later led at least 200 officers to cordon off FPI headquarters on Jl. Petamburan in Central Jakarta to locate Habib Shahab Anggawi and FPI secretarygeneral Novel Bamu’min, the al- leged coordinators of the violence.
FPI chairman Habib Rizieq apparently refused to turn over Shahab and Novel to the police, instead giving up their assistant, Irwan.
“We’re still negotiating with Habib [Rizieq],” said Unggung, who was installed as police chief in early September.
The FPI has acquired a reputation for carrying out violent vigilante acts to “reinforce Islamic teachings”.
Gerindra Party Jakarta chairman and council deputy speaker M. Taufik, who once served several years in prison for graft, thanked the group for holding the rally and promised that he would do whatever was necessary to end Ahok’s career. “Ahok is to blame for this violence,” Taufik said.
The FPI supported Prabowo, Gerindra’s patron, during the recent presidential election.
Gerindra’s anger toward Ahok stemmed from the latter’s recent decision to resign from Gerindra in protest at the party’s support of a regional election law that scrapped direct elections for governors, mayors and regents.
Prabowo and his brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, have vented their resentment at Ahok publicly, calling him a “jumping louse” for his purported penchant for changing parties.
The FPI protests, however, may not be limited to a repudiation of Ahok’s background and fitness to lead, as the group demanded Ahok retract a statement calling councilors who supported indirect elections “extorters”. The Prabowo-led Redand-White Coalition are staunch supporters of indirect elections. (
Pawn swap: Plainclothes police officers escort a member of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), Irwan (center, wearing jacket), from the hard-line group’s headquarters in Petamburan, Central Jakarta, on Friday.