JAKARTA’s minority Christian governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama is expected to return to his City Hall job this weekend, once his three-month official leave of absence is up.
Jakarta Post quoted acting governor Sumarsono as confirming the matter, saying the Home Ministry would allow Ahok’s return, despite previous claims that he would be suspended due his status as a suspect in his ongoing blasphemy trial. The ministry is in charge of overseeing the work of Indonesia’s 34 governors.
“My term will expire soon and so far, there won’t be another replacement,” Sumarsono was quoted saying.
It was previously speculated that Ahok’s deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat would be named acting governor in Ahok’s stead, once he returns from leave.
Sumarsono, who is also Home Ministry regional autonomy director-general, took over from Ahok on Oct 28 last year, when the latter had to go on a legally-mandated leave of absence during the official campaign for the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial poll. Ahok will be defending his seat in the Feb 15 election.
Jakarta Post quoted another official from the Home Ministry as confirming Ahok’s return.
The official Dodi Riatmaji, however, said that this is pending a decision from Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo on Ahok’s fate as governor.
“As the [home] minister has said, Ahok’s position as governor will be decided by the prison term demanded by prosecutors [in his blasphemy trial],” he said.
Ahok faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of the blasphemy charge under Article 156(a) of the Criminal Code. The Christian and Chinese-Indonesian was charged last year with blasphemy as well as under Article 156 on hate speech, which carries a maximum four-year jail term upon conviction.
The charges were filed after Ahok was accused of insulting Islam in remarks he made to supporters that were reportedly edited out of context.
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“As he was charged [by the police], it is a dilemma for us. Therefore, we need to deliberate this more thoroughly with our legal department,” Dodi said.
According to the daily, Indonesian regulation on regional administrations states that leaders will automatically face suspension if they are defendants in a trial for offences punishably by a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Meanwhile, as officials continue deliberate his fate, Ahok says he is well prepared to return to his duties as Jakarta governor, a role he has held for two years.
On his first day back, Ahok intends to look into the performance indicators of civil servants under his charge.
“Those who are lazy will be demoted and those who show good performance will be promoted,” he was quoted saying during a rally on Monday.