Indonesian diaspora rallies around jailed Jakarta governor Ahok
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Indonesian diaspora rallies around jailed Jakarta governor Ahok

DUBAI to Sydney, Tokyo to Los Angeles, Indonesians living abroad have turned out in the thousands to show their solidarity with former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama who was imprisoned last week for two years on charges of insulting Islam.

Expatriate Indonesians rallied together in cities around the world on Sunday to sing patriotic songs including the national anthem Indonesia Raya and Rayuan Palau Kelapa, following on from demonstrations in cities across the archipelago, including Bandung, Surabaya and Yogyakarta.

Indonesian politics has been shaken by the jailing of Ahok, a Christian of Chinese ethnicity, which is seen by many as a threat to freedom of speech, minority rights and a historically tolerant form of Islam in Southeast Asia’s largest democracy.

SEE ALSO: Ahok supporters come out in force to protest jailing for blasphemy

Thousands of Indonesians had rallied outside the of the Cipinang Detention Centre in Jakarta where Ahok was initially detained after the court’s verdict was handed down on May 9, followed by candlelit vigils in urban centres across the country last week.

Tempo reports that a rally in Pekanbaru, Riau, was cancelled by a “mob” opposing the protest.

Singapore’s authorities warned pro-Ahok organisers not to host a rally if it had not secured prior approval from the police, as public assembly is tightly controlled by the government.

But that didn’t stop groups elsewhere from showing their support for the jailed Christian politician and Indonesia’s pluralistic nationalism – founded upon its state ideology of Pancasila, which enshrines freedom of religion and tolerance.

The hashtags #SaveAhok and #SaveNKRI (save the Republic of Indonesia) were widely used. In Indonesia’s closest neighbour Australia, demonstrators turned out in Sydney, Canberra, Perth and Melbourne.

Even in Timor Leste, which gained its independence from Indonesia in 1999, Indonesians and other protesters turned out in support of Ahok.

Elsewhere in Asia, from Japan to Hong Kong, people protested the jailing.

Pro-Ahok demonstrators also protested in Dubai.

Shows of support were also very strong in North America, with demonstrations in major urban centres such as San Francisco, Atlanta and Toronto.


SEE ALSO: Indonesia: Government responds to international criticism of Ahok jailing

Indonesians in Europe also rallied around the jailed governor in the UK, Netherlands and Belgium.

“I am worried about the loss of the conscience of the nation and the unity of the Republic of Indonesia. I usually keep silent, but now is not the time to be silent anymore,” an Indonesian in Amsterdam told the BBC Indonesia.

“More than that, I think the whole nation is in crisis.”

Several thousand flower boards had previously been sent to Jakarta city hall in support of Ahok when he lost the April 19 gubernatorial runoff election, after a sectarian campaign in which hardline Islamic groups staged mass demonstrations against the Christian governor.

The court’s handing down of prison time last week came as a surprise to many, given prosecutors had downgraded Ahok’s charges to hate speech rather than blasphemy. Both his defence lawyers and prosecutors will file appeals.

“I have never seen such international solidarity for an Indonesian leader ever,” wrote one netizen.