The trial of the Jakarta governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or popularly known as “Ahok” was concerned with his alleged blasphemous remarks. Many have regarded the trial as a major turning point in Indonesia’s image as a moderate society.
It is not only a test of the country’s progress in the rule of law, but more importantly its ability to maintain tolerance as the world’s largest Muslim democracy. When the guilty verdict was delivered by the North Jakarta District Court on May 9th, there was mixed reactions across Indonesia. Hardliners called it a justified punishment while others are skeptical of Indonesia’s vision to become a pluralist country.
Prior to the sentencing, Jakarta has already been hit by a series of large-scale protests. The demonstrations demanded Ahok’s removal from office, as well as, the public to vote for his team in the gubernatorial election between February and April 2017. After making it through the first round of voting, Ahok and his partner, Djarot, were eventually defeated by Anies Basdewan (now governor-elect) and his running mate, Sandiago Uno in the second round.
Despite enjoying widespread endorsements as an abled administrator, the almost recurring protests did take a toll on Ahok’s popularity. He was pit against Muslim hardliners, such as, the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI). The movement mounted a massive protest in Jakarta on November 2016, resulting in a riot that left hundreds injured. Since then, protests against Ahok have regularly occurred in Jakarta, causing travel disruptions to locals and travelers alike.
During this period, SAFEY continued to provide updated information to its users. Alerts were send concerning upcoming protests, as well as, measures that can be taken to ensure safe travels while in Jakarta. Likewise, updates on transport disruptions, such as those on the TransJakarta busway services. All alerts were sent to users in English.
In general, users are advised to do the following when they encounter a protest:
- Remain aware of signs of increased tensions in your vicinity
- Avoid all protests and large public gatherings due to potential for escalation
- Be aware of the risk of traffic disruption in your vicinity
- Monitor local media outlets and SAFEY regularly for updated information
Apart from the protests against Ahok, the service also provided continuous updates about his trial and the solidarity events that followed his guilty verdict. As of mid-May, Ahok has been held at the National Police Detention Centre (Brimob) in Depok, south of Jakarta where a large amount of his supporters had turned up for candlelight vigils.
It is worth noting that Indonesia itself is no stranger to protests. Large trade unions regularly hold such events to campaign for the welfare of workers. However, the protests against Ahok were not only mere expression of anger but also a huge test of the country’s willpower to steer itself away from the danger of extremism in the future.