It has long been predicted by many that race would become a major issue in next year’s Jakarta governor election, but that prediction is coming true even sooner than we would’ve expected. The incumbent (and, by far, the early frontrunner) Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, is a Chinese-Indonesian Christian who has often been attacked for his race and religion. Although the next election is still a long way off, the racists attacks have already started, with rival gubernatorial candidate Ahmad Dhani already arguing that Ahok was not fit to rule Jakarta since “Indonesia is not the land of his ancestors”
But Dhani is, frankly, a joke – a musician with political ambitions but no experience (except for campaigning for former failed presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto while wearing a Nazi uniform). So we were much more shocked to see a high-ranking Indonesian diplomat had recently made a similarly racist attack on Ahok.
The Indonesian ambassador for Japan, Yusron Ihza Mahendra, on Monday tweeted two threatening messages from his official Twitter account directed towards Ahok:
“The advice of the 3-star general is worth listening to: If you love the ethnic Chinese who are good but poor, [they] cannot flee the country if there are ethnic riots”
“So Ahok should not to be arrogant while governing. Feel sorry for the other Chinese who are poor, kind and innocent if they become victims”
The 3-star general Yusron was referring to is Suryo Prabowo, a retired 3-star army general, who previously warned Governor Ahok that his arrogant ways could lead to anti-Chinese sentiment and “ethnic riots” – a clear allusion to the anti-Chinese riots of 1998 that claimed many innocent lives.
How could an ambassador write something like that? Well, it becomes a little easier to understand once you know that Yusron is the younger brother of Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who is planning to represent the Crescent Star Party (PBB) as Ahok’s rival in the next gubernatorial election.
Ahok did not mince words while criticizing Yusron’s tweets.
“If he (Yusron) tweeted to threaten me by saying be careful you poor Chinese or you’ll be slaughtered because of Ahok, then it’s vulgar and racist. Moreover, he is the Ambassador to Japan and the younger brother of Yusril,” Ahok said today as quoted by Kompas.
Ahok went on to say that he had reported Yuron’s comments to the diplomat’s boss, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
“I told Ibu Retno, if you have ambassadors like this, then this is not Indonesia,” he said.
Ahok also sharply criticized anybody who would try to use religion or race to attack him.
“Selling religion is an act of cowardice and is blasphemous to God. God isn’t racist. You are Muslim, I am Christian, however we breathe the same air from God,” Ahok said.