Authorities Remove Over 500 'Provocative' Banners Ahead of Runoff Election


MARCH 13, 2017

Jakarta. The Jakarta Public Order Agency has removed 526 provocative banners across the capital ahead of the second round of the gubernatorial election scheduled for April 19, acting Governor Sumarsono said on Monday (13/03).

Between Jan. 1 and March 8, the agency pulled down 336 banners that were said to contain discriminatory language targeted against incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is currently on trial for blasphemy.

In separate raids last week, the agency and local volunteers took down at least 190 banners that displayed discriminatory messages, including one that read, "Muslims who vote for an infidel leader or blasphemer do not deserve a funeral prayer at mosque."

Sumarsono said most of the banners that were taken down were not put up by local residents but that it was part of a large, city-wide effort by an unnamed organization. The governor said most of the banners pulled down displayed similar fonts and print types.

"The banners were most likely distributed by a single producer. We've seen the same font and I believe someone has masterminded it," Sumarsono told reporters.

He has ordered police to investigate and arrest those behind the distribution of the banners.

The acting governor will also seek to persuade local community figures to remove any discriminatory banners in neighborhoods across the city to maintain security ahead of the runoff election.

"The Indonesian Mosque Council [DMI] has also issued a circular letter asking local residents to help remove these banners. Our political solution must be one of civil discourse. We cannot allow ourselves to be used for certain political interests in the election," Sumarsono said.

Ahok has been forced to defend himself against hardline Muslim groups since late last year after a video of a speech, in which he spoke out against the misuse of the Koran's Al-Maidah 51 verse for political gain, went viral on social media.