[Updated at 8:38 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, 2013]
The government should use a recently-passed law on mass organizations to disband the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front, known as the FPI, if it continues to conduct acts of public violence, a senior politician from the Democratic Party said.
“If the FPI acts this way, they have to be disbanded. There is no need for hesitation from the police with the ratification of the mass organization bill, [which can be] linked to our criminal law. Those involved should be punished severely,” Ruhut Sitompul said in Jakarta on Friday.
His comments came shortly after the forceful closure on Wednesday by the Islamic organization of an entertainment establishment in Sukorejo, Central Java. The raid turned violent amid protests by local residents.
On Thursday, a Toyota Avanza whose occupants included FPI activists fleeing from hundreds of angry Sukorejo residents, hit and killed a woman, Tri Munarti. At the time of the incident Tri was riding a motorcycle with her husband Yulianto, who survived the crash.
The FPI activists were reportedly on their way back to Sukorejo to pick up two activists who had been detained by local police in the previous day’s riot.
The incident garnered considerable public attention, especially after an amateur video of it circulated on the internet over the weekend.
Responding to the claims, FPI chief Munarman called Ruhut a “broken TV” which should be ignored.
“Just pretend he is a broken TV, without sound or picture,” he said. “He is loud, but does no work other than currying favor with higher-ups.”
In response to the incident, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Sunday said he would not tolerate the acts of violence that occurred on Thursday.
“The state’s position and my position are very clear: no tolerance will be given to those who conduct violent and vigilante acts in this country,” Yudhoyono said at a fast-breaking event in Jakarta on Sunday. “Law enforcement must be upheld. Conflicts or group clashes involving violence and destruction must be avoided by everybody, including the FPI."
He commended the actions taken by police during the incident and condemned religious-motivated violence.
“If it [the violence] was in the name of Islam, that is against Islam itself," Yudhoyono said. "Islam is not compatible with violence, vigilantes and destructive acts. If there is an individual that has conducted it [violence], he has embarrassed and hurt Islam."
Yudhoyono also called on the public to remain calm.
FPI’s Yogyakarta head, Bambang Tedi, has denied that the driver of the car was an FPI member.
“We would like to confirm that the “deadly driver” in Sukorejo, Kendal, is not an FPI member but instead a driver for a car rented by FPI’s Magelang branch,” he said on Sunday, as quoted by Antaranews.
He also sought to distance the organization from the vehicle. “The car also does not belong to the FPI. So we hope the public understands the facts, that the individual who killed the victim is not an FPI member.”
Bambang said he understood the public’s anger over the accident, which saw the car burned after the crash.
Reported as many as seven other cars were also reportedly burned in the chaos.
Bambang refused to concede the fact that other cars at the scene were burned. “We can understand if the Avanza was burned [by the public]. But for the seven other cars belonging to our members, we cannot accept that. We hope the police would investigate that.”
A politician from the Prosperous Justice Party said the FPI may have had a religious reason for conducting such a raid but suggested that the group went about it wrongly.
“The FPI has a religious justification, but it should be remembered that efforts to uphold righteousness should also be conducted with righteousness. [But] this does not mean the PKS stands against the FPI, do not cut this [statement],” chief of PKS’ public relations Mardani Ali Sera said on Friday.
Mardani suggested that the government engage FPI, offer them guidance and seek to cooperate as partners in their efforts to eradicate immorality in the country.
“There should be communications between the people. They should work together. Maybe the FPI simply wanted to eliminate immorality which failed to respect the holiness of Ramadan,” he said, without elaborating what type of immorality was meant.
“But the public is unaware [of the group’s intentions] and may reject them. The lesson from this incident is to communicate and establish a partnership to strengthen Islamic relations.”
Former vice president Jusuf Kalla expressed his disappointment over the Sukorejo incident and called on police to be vigilant in the interim before the new law on mass organizations takes effect.
“The law has yet to come into effect, but we should not conduct raids on just anything. The police should be the first, the police should not be late,” Kalla said on Friday.
“The police have to punish whoever is guilty, be it mass organizations or anyone else.”
Deding Ishak, the deputy chief of the Mass Organization Bill task force said on Friday that the policy will take effect only after having been signed by President Yudhoyono or 30 days after having been ratified by the parliament.
“Let us push the president to immediately [sign this bill],” Deding said as quoted by Tempo.co.