Organised to protest against the capital’s governor, who stands accused of blasphemy, the rally turned into a peaceful prayer meeting following the intervention of the authorities and the country’s ulema. Joko Widodo expressed his "appreciation for the large orderly crowd." Police arrested some "provocateurs" who wanted to manipulate the event to criticise the government.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla spoke directly to some 200,000 people who had gathered in central Jakarta in a mass demonstration announced days ago.
Under the rain, the two leaders greeted the crowd in front of the National Monument (Monas). "I want to express my appreciation for the large number of Muslims taking part in this public, peaceful and orderly prayer,” Widodo said. After his speech, the president invited those present to go home in an orderly fashion.
As of yesterday, tensions were running high. According to the radical movements that organised today’s rally (like the Islamic Defenders Front, FPI), the event was supposed to be a protest against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Purnama Tjahaja, who has been accused of blasphemy.
Ethnic Chinese were particularly worried, concerned about possible vandalism and violence by Muslims. A local doctor told AsiaNews that he tried to get out of Jakarta by plane, but found that every seat had already been sold.
Fortunately, a few days ago, police and protest organisers reached an agreement that changed the nature of the march. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) took part in organising the event.
Police Chief General Tito Karnavian told radical groups that Basuki was already under investigation for blasphemy and that his case would go to court. Thus, the rally turned into a peaceful prayer meeting.
Still, despite the tranquil setting, police took into custody as a preventive measure people accused of inciting protests. A few hours before the event, agents detained some “provocateurs" who had spoken out against the governor and President Ahok Widodo, who has been accused of "selling out" Indonesia to foreign nations.
One of the detainees is Rachmawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia’s first president Sukarno, and sister of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri. She has been criticised for her close ties with FPI leader Rizieq Shihab.
General Boy Rafly Amar said that those arrested were planning to manipulate the event in order to provoke Joko Widodo’s downfall.