Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla has responded to criticism against him on social media over a comment he made about the disparities between Muslim and ethnic Chinese Indonesians during a recent visit to Ambon, Maluku.
Kalla reportedly said that there is only one Muslim businessman for every 10 ethnic Chinese businessmen in Indonesia. This was apparently meant to motivate more Muslims to become entrepreneurs, and not as a provocation.
"First, I did not read [the social media comments], I have never read them. So, I did not feel attacked," Kalla said in Jakarta on Monday (15/05).
Regarding allegations of racism based on his statement, Kalla said he has close ties to ethnic Chinese businessmen in Makassar, South Sulawesi – his hometown. He added that his closest friend, Sofjan Wanandi, is also of Chinese descent.
"Look what happened previously. The issue remains. It has always been an ongoing issue, I do not know why. In Makassar, I have many friends of Chinese descent. My closest friend is also a person of Chinese. Sofjan has always been with me – day and night, morning to afternoon," Kalla said.
During the closing of a Muhammadiyah congress in Ambon on Feb. 24, Kalla reminded attendees that the situation in Indonesia is at a dangerous level, because of the growing gap between rich and poor.
He said most rich people in Indonesia are of Chinese descent – mostly Christians and Confucianists – while the poor are mostly Muslims and some Christians.
The vice president therefore tried to motivate Indonesians to work towards eliminating economic disparities.
"Injustice is also caused by [wealth] gaps. There are many measures being taken [to address this], such as health facilities, inexpensive clinics and more, but they are not sufficient to overcome this injustice," Kalla said.
"There should be joint efforts to create justice," he added.
Kalla said he believed the matter was intentionally brought to the surface following allegations that he supported Governor-elect Anies Baswedan and his deputy, Sandiaga Uno, in the recent Jakarta gubernatorial election.