Islamic group threatens 212 mass rally if regional elections go ahead amid pandemic

Protesters gather at Jakarta’s National Monument park as part of a rally against Jakarta’s former Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, 2016. Photo: AFP
Protesters gather at Jakarta’s National Monument park as part of a rally against Jakarta’s former Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, 2016. Photo: AFP

After getting nothing but a light slap on the wrist over recent crowded events, hardline Islamic groups say they are going to defy Jakarta’s crowd ban and press ahead with a planned mass rally if Indonesia goes ahead with its regional elections in December, because apparently the best way to correct a wrong is with another wrong.

Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (PA 212), an umbrella organization comprising some of Indonesia’s most notorious hardline Islamic groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), planned to hold its annual mass rally at Central Jakarta’s National Monument (Monas) on Dec. 2. The rally, first held to demand the imprisonment of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy against Islam, has become an annual event where tens of thousands of Muslims gather at the landmark to celebrate their unity and denounce perceived transgressions against Islam.

As Jakarta is still under partial lockdown and Monas is closed to the public, the Jakarta Metro Police refused to give PA 212 permission to hold the event this year.

In a press conference yesterday, PA 212 Chairman Slamet Maarif said the organization will respect the authorities’ wishes, but only if the simultaneous regional elections scheduled for Dec. 9 are postponed as well. Before Slamet, there have been calls from various groups to postpone the regional elections in order to prioritize the public’s health and safety.

“If the government allows crowds [for campaigning and at the elections] then the 212 Reunion event in 2020 will go ahead,” Slamet said.

Should the event be held on Dec. 2, Slamet said attendees will observe health protocols. He said the organization will hold a mass prayer asking for COVID-19 to be eradicated from Indonesia.

PA 212 and affiliated groups don’t exactly have a great track record at health protocols compliance. Just last week, thousands swarmed the Soekarno-Hatta Airport to welcome home FPI leader Rizieq Shihab from his self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia. Aside from causing flight delays and damage to public property, gathering in such large numbers is prohibited under Jakarta’s partial lockdown measures.

Jakarta Metro Police Nana Sudjana has taken the fall for the crowded events, as he was reassigned this week amid outrage that Rizieq and his supporters were able to hold massive events amid the pandemic. Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and several other city officials are under police investigation for possible negligence in allowing the events to take place, thereby violating the health quarantine law.

Immediately following Rizieq’s events, the Jakarta Provincial Government stressed that large public gatherings are still prohibited, and the rule applies to Christmas and New Year celebrations.

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