Ahok sworn in as Jakarta governor

Inauguration culminates show of support from Indonesian community after weeks of FPI demonstrations.

By Aditya Surya for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

November 20, 2014
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Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on Wednesday (November 19th) became governor of Jakarta after weeks of opposition protests by Islamic Defender Front (FPI) – and calls of support from many Jakarta residents.

  •  Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) congratulates new Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama after his swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday (November 19th). [Bay Ismoyo/AFP]

    Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) congratulates new Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama after his swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday (November 19th). [Bay Ismoyo/AFP]

Ahok, as he is known, took the oath of office from his predecessor, President Joko Widodo ("Jokowi"), becoming the first ethnic Chinese and the second Christian ever to lead the capital city.

Weeks of noisy protests by a fringe element of radical Muslims led to a ground swell of support for the new governor, who had been functioning as acting governor for weeks.

On Monday, a group calling itself Dzikrul Ghofilin met with Ahok to express their support, according to The Jakarta Post.

"The media has focused on the anti-Ahok movement launched by the FPI. It has tarnished Islam and is very bothering. Islam loves and teaches peace," its leader, Muhammad Subchi, told reporters outside City Hall.

In the run up to the inauguration, an "I am Muslim and I support Ahok" campaign gained traction on social media. On Sunday, a group calling itself the Indonesia Volunteers Front unfurled a giant banner supporting Ahok at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, the paper reported.

"Embarrassing the Muslim community"

Various FPI protests had sought to discredit Ahok since Jokowi officially left office. Hardliners carried banners including "Evil Ahok," "devil's spawn," "Arrogant Ahok," and "Let's oust Ahok". At least one protest turned violent , leading to ten police officers getting injured.

In appearances prior to his inauguration, Ahok called the actions of FPI inappropriate and called for the group's disbanding .

"I studied at Islamic schools for more than a decade, from elementary school to senior high school. I've learned good values from Islamic teaching, rahmatan lil alamin (Arabic for mercy for people)," he explained to reporters at Jakarta City Hall on November 10th.

"Many FPI protests aimed to oppose me because I am Christian and that is against our constitution."

"FPI's actions of intolerance are embarrassing to the Muslim community. FPI does not deserve to exist in Indonesia," he said. "They are also not good citizens because they reject democracy."

Many Jakarta residents agreed.

"FPI was marching on October 3rd to reject Ahok's position to become Jakarta governor, and until now, the group has continued protesting," 49-year-old Jakarta resident Andang Sudharma told Khabar Southeast Asia on November 14th. "But I think FPI's action is wrong because Ahok's position is in accordance with local and national law."

Andang continued, saying "FPI should accept the consequences of democracy" and that personally, he would not have voted for Ahok because of his policies, not because of his ethnic or religious background.

"However, I accept his new position because it's legal and that’s how we appreciate our democracy," Andang said. 'I think FPI needs to learn how to pursue democracy without violence."

City Council endorsement

Two days after FPI's counter claim, the final obstacle of Ahok's succession was cleared after Jakarta City Council endorsed him for governor with only 44 of 106 members attending.

"I declare and recommend to the President of Republic Indonesia through the Home Affairs Ministry that Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the acting governor of Jakarta, be inaugurated as the new Jakarta governor for the remaining period of 2012-2017," Speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi said.

After the vote, Boy Bernardi Sadikin from the People's Representative Council (DPR) explained to Khabar by phone the reason for the many absentees.

"The City Council members under the Red and White Coalition are mostly opposed to Basuki even though [his appointment] is legal," he said.

These politicians demanded that laws automatically giving the elected deputy governor the top spot once Jokowi resigned should be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Some Muslim groups argued that policies put in place during his tenure were harmful, and he had earned some enemies for his outspoken manner, an Antara report said.

Still, Boy said, Indonesians appreciate the constitution.

"Basuki (Ahok) becoming Jakarta governor is fully legal, and it is stated in our constitution. The decision might be hard, but this is part of the democracy that we believe in," said Boy.

Hasbiallah Ilyas from the National Awakening Party (PKB) called the council's decision "fair".

"Let all citizens respect this decision. After all, we want Jakarta to continue to improve and that Basuki (Ahok) will deliver his best effort for a prosperous and secure Jakarta," he stated.

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