[Updated on 07:00 p.m. on Tuesday to add statements from Acting Jakarta Governor Sumarsono]
Jakarta. Banners with provocative anti-Ahok messages are still rife in the capital despite authorities having removed more than 500 of them in the last few days.
Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's running mate in the Jakarta gubernatorial election, current Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, pointed to one of the provocative banners during a visit to Cipulir, a busy market area in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta, on Tuesday (14/03).
The banner read "KJS and KJP are funded by the city. Whoever is elected as governor, KJS and KJP will stay. Let's march to victory! A Muslim governor for Jakarta."
KJS is the city-funded health insurance program, known for its Jakarta Health Card. KJP refers to the city's education fund, known for its Jakarta Smart Card.
Djarot called on Ahok's political opponents to stop playing the religion card ahead of the run-off election on April 19.
"These things have got to stop. You can't exploit religion to get into power," Djarot told reporters during the visit.
Authorities in Jakarta said they had already removed 526 provocative banners from all corners of the capital. One of them had read "Muslims who vote for an infidel or a blasphemer do not deserve a funeral prayer."
Acting Jakarta Governor Sumarsono confirmed that the administration has removed the provocative banners.
However, the Public Order Agency (Satpol) is still conducting patrols to take down any remaining banners.
Sumarsono also urged Jakartans to actively participate by taking them down.
"Two days ago, 35 banners have been taken down, yesterday there were 160 and recently 266 banners. So basically, the Jakarta administration will [make efforts to] take these banners down because they are provocative and contain [sensitive] religious and ethnicity issues. Secondly, these banners were placed in inappropriate areas. It is for the sake of public order and peace [ahead of the gubernatorial election runoff]," Sumarsono said on Monday.
Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, is currently on trial on blasphemy charges, after he made a comment about a Koranic verse in a speech in October last year. He has repeatedly denied the charges.
Concerns have since been mounting over religious and ethnic sentiments surrounding the election, with Muslim hardliners demanding that Ahok step down and voters not to re-elect him.
Ahok is competing with Anies Baswedan, a former education minister, in the Jakarta election, which proceeded to a second round after no candidates won an outright majority in the first-round election on Feb. 15.
Watch Indonesia Highlights at 8 p.m. tonight on the Jakarta Globe News Channel and Facebook Live to find out more about the provocative banners taken off by Jakarta administration.