The North Jakarta District Court’s decision to sentence inactive Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama to two years in prison for blasphemy has sparked nationwide dismay, with many people believing the verdict is unjust and could become an ugly precedent for freedom of speech in the country.
Ahok’s incarceration at the National Police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob) detention center in Kelapa Dua, Depok, West Java, has triggered peaceful protests in Jakarta and other regions, like Yogyakarta and Papua, with demonstrators holding candlelight vigils and delivering speeches to demand the suspension of Ahok’s detention.
Some have even gone the extra mile by volunteering as guarantors who are prepared to pay a monetary penalty to the court should Ahok escape.
His supporters have been collecting signatures and photocopies of identification cards since Wednesday in their effort to meet the requirements of serving as a guarantor.
Their campaign took place at City Hall in Central Jakarta, as well as through WhatsApp messenger groups and various social media platforms.
Susy Rizky, one of the coordinators of the campaign, said around 3,000 people had, as of Friday, submitted their ID cards to become guarantors.
“We want Ahok to be released. He doesn’t deserve to be detained. We can’t accept that Ahok is being treated like this,” Susy said.
Copies of the ID cards will be submitted to Ahok’s lawyers, who filed on Tuesday a suspension request for Ahok’s detention with the Jakarta High Court.
Indonesians living abroad have also joined the effort, submitting some 500 snapshots of ID cards, according to campaign coordinator Slamet.
Residents of other cities, including Jefritson Riwu Kore, the mayor-elect of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), also offered copies of their IDs.
“Jakartans are not the only ones willing to vouch for Ahok,” Slamet said.
Volunteers who have signed up to act as guarantors so far include Ahok’s family members, such as his wife, Veronica Tan, and his eldest son, Nicholas Sean Purnama; several of Ahok’s lawyers; as well as acting Jakarta governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat.
Also on the list are several politicians, including United Development Party (PPP) chairman Djan Faridz and Jakarta Legislative Council speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi, who is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
However, the number of people willing to be guarantors may ultimately amount to nothing more than moral support as it would not guarantee Ahok’s freedom, said Edi Danggur, one of Ahok’s defense lawyers.
“We hope the judges can recognize the people’s sense of justice, which is felt by Ahok and us, his lawyers,” he said.
Jakarta High Court spokesman Johanes Suhadi said that a panel of judges, which would be formed after the court received Ahok’s case dossier from the North Jakarta District Court, would determine whether Ahok’s detention would be suspended.
“The submission of ID cards would be taken into consideration by the judges,” he added.
Meanwhile, efforts to free Ahok is being hampered by administrative issues.
The Jakarta High Court has yet to receive the required dossier from the North Jakarta District Court, which means the latter has not started gathering its judges to review Ahok’s case, Johanes said on Friday.
He expects the dossier to be submitted next week, slowing down the process to suspend Ahok’s detention.
Also on Friday, North Jakarta District Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi explained the delay, saying the necessary documents were still being collected to create Ahok’s dossier.
However, Ahok’s lawyer have argued that Indonesian law would not require a high court to wait for the submission of a case dossier to start the process of suspending Ahok’s detention.
Edi further pointed out the fact that the high court had immediately issued a warrant to detain Ahok even though it had not received a case dossier from the district court.
Therefore, the high could should still be able to review Ahok’s detention without having to wait for his dossier.
Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who was named acting governor of Jakarta after his boss Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was sent to jail on Tuesday for blasphemy, shoulders the tremendous burden of continuing the pair’s work throughout his remaining six months in office.
Djarot’s competence is being tested to ensure that the Ahok-Djarot governorship will leave a good legacy that will epitomize the impeccable job that earned them a good reputation: running a bare-knuckled, transparent anticorruption regime, providing more efficient public services, modernizing transportation systems and promoting cleanliness, to mention a few achievements.
Expediting projects started by Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who was elected Jakarta governor with Ahok as his deputy in 2012, will not only lighten the load of incoming governor Anies Baswedan but, more importantly, will ensure the Ahok-Djarot legacy.
After seeing Ahok at the Cipinang detention house late on Tuesday, Djarot assured a sea of heartbroken supporters he would accelerate the major development programs as Ahok had cajoled him to do during their brief meeting that night.
Among the most urgent programs is the provision of low-cost apartments to house people displaced from their homes to make way for public development, the inauguration of the new Semanggi overpasses scheduled for Aug. 17 and the development of a new busway lane connecting Blok M in the south and Cileduk in the west.
Ahok also asked Djarot to anticipate price increases ahead of the Islamic Idul Fitri holiday in late June. Another pressing issue is the need to revise the 2017 budget together with the City Council.
Since part of the revised budget worth Rp 70 trillion will be implemented by the next governor following the transfer of office this October, naturally Anies must be involved in the drafting to ensure that the updated budgetary plans accommodate the programs he promised on the campaign trail.
Obviously, collaboration over drafting a budget will unlikely be easy amid lingering animosity between the supporters of Ahok and Anies. Ahok has rejected his rivals’ request to accommodate Anies’ programs in the upcoming revision of the 2017 provincial budget, apparently fearing this would complicate the drafting.
Ahok has harbored suspicion of the transitional team that Anies formed to prepare for a smooth transfer. The team aims to “harmonize” the incumbent’s budgetary plans with those of the governor-elect.
If there is anything the public should closely watch, it is a possibility of a conspiracy involving pay-offs to the political parties backing Ahok and Anies. Unscrupulous politicians may take advantage of Ahok’s absence.
A popular habit of Ahok and Djarot was to arrive at the office early to meet with people patiently waiting in line to air their grievances directly to them. This tradition began when Jokowi was governor.
Despite being incarcerated for a dubious crime, no doubt Ahok retains his popularity as a continuing stream of people from across the country shown by. Practically all by himself, Djarot now bears the responsibility of fiercely guarding the incumbent’s reputation that serves as a benchmark for other heads of government in Indonesia.