JAKARTA, Nov 22 – Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said yesterday he was determined to “prevent the growth of radicalism”, apparently responding to rumours that extremists were planning protests to destabilise his government. Officials say there has been mounting alarm within the government since more than 100,000 Muslims, led by hardliners, took to the streets of Jakarta on Nov 4 to demand the ouster of the capital’s governor, a Christian, over alleged blasphemy.
National police chief Tito Karnavian warned on Monday that certain groups may try to storm parliament during rallies that are expected this Friday and on Dec 2. “There are hidden methods by certain groups to enter and occupy parliament. If (these actions) are intended to overthrow the government, that’s a violation of the law,” he said, according to media.
Jokowi has blamed “political actors” for fanning violence that erupted during the Nov 4 protest, though he has not named anyone. Analysts have said opponents of Jokowi, the first Indonesian president to have come from outside the political elite or military, are using the furore over the Jakarta governor to undermine him.
Jokowi held talks with a senior coalition partner yesterday, the latest in a series of meetings with top political, religious and military officials to signal the unity of his government and support from the security establishment. “I want to emphasise the spirit of pluralism … and the government is determined to prevent the growth of radicalism in this country,” the president said after the meeting at the presidential palace.
Jokowi has met repeatedly with the military and called for security forces to be on alert against further unrest. He has also met with top politicians, including the leader of his backing party, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and opposition leader Prabowo Subianto. The three have jointly called for calm.
The trigger for the tension was a comment that Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the first Christian and ethnic Chinese in the job, made about his opponents’ use of the Quran in political campaigning. Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population but is also home to sizeable Christian and Hindu populations. — Reuters