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Catholics' legal fight with Jakarta governor to continue

Activists to appeal court ruling throwing out hate speech lawsuit against Anies Baswedan

Catholics' legal fight with Jakarta governor to continue

Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan speaks at a forum in Jakarta in 2016. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ ucanews.com)

Konradus Epa, Jakarta
Indonesia

June 5, 2018

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Catholic activists have vowed to appeal a court ruling dismissing their lawsuit that accused Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan of making inflammatory and discriminatory remarks in his inaugural speech last October.

The activists — members of a group called the Anti Race and Ethnic Discrimination Advocacy Team — said they would take their lawsuit to the High Court after the Jakarta District Court rejected it on June 4.

The ruling said the plaintiff and defendant had no legal relations so the case cannot be heard in a civil court.

In his controversial speech Baswedan — who defeated former Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in last year's governor election — said it was time for the pribumi, or native Indonesians, to be back in charge of their own land again.

"We pribumi people were oppressed and defeated. Now, after independence, it is time for us to be masters in our own country," he was reported saying during his speech.

The speech was roundly criticized for being racially divisive with observers saying it accentuated the religious and racial divisions forged in the election campaign.

Baswedan, responding to the criticism, said the term was referring to the Dutch colonial era when pribumi were placed below Europeans and people from other Asian countries such as China.

However, according to the Catholic activists, categorizing Indonesian citizens, as native and non-native was erroneous and dangerous to the country's pluralism.

They filed the lawsuit against the governor the following month in November, saying his address was tantamount to hate speech.

"This was a bad precedence for our democracy. A public official, cannot make such a statement," said Hermawi Fransiskus Taslim, coordinator of the group.

"We will appeal to a higher court immediately because we don't want other public officials to follow [Governor Baswedan] in making discriminative statements," he told ucanews.com.

In Indonesia, racist and discriminative speeches violate a 2008 law designed to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination, and also the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Ordinary Muslims like Saiful Imam, 41, who lives and works in Jakarta, said Baswedan needed to be prosecuted because public figures should be prevented from being insensitive toward other races and religions as it threatens to hurt the nation.

Petrus Selestinus, coordinator of the Indonesian Democratic Defenders Forum, a pro-democracy non-profit group, said the law needed to be applied in this case.

"Calling others indigenous or non-indigenous is against the law," said Selestinus said, and encouraged the activists to appeal to a higher court "to teach public officials to respect diversity."

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