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Jakarta governor speech prompts mass walkout

Jesuit school alumni object to Anies Rasyid Baswedan at anniversary gathering over his sectarian election win

Jakarta governor speech prompts mass walkout

Anies Baswedan delivers a speech on Nov 12 at the 90th anniversary gathering at Canisius College, a Jesuit senior school in Jakarta. (Photo from Anies Baswedan’s official Facebook account)

Dozens of alumni of a prestigious Jesuit run high school in Jakarta walked out in protest when the city’s governor, Anies Rasyid Baswedan, attended an event to mark the school's 90th anniversary on Nov. 12.

They said inviting the governor who employed a divisive sectarian agenda to win office early this year was a big mistake that went against the school’s values.

As Baswedan began his speech during the gathering marking the all-male Canisius College’s 90th anniversary on Nov. 12, at least 100 alumni, led by well-known Indonesian musician Ananda Sukarlan, shocked the hundreds of other attendees by storming out of the exhibition hall.

Sukarlan, a Muslim, said he walked out because he could not accept the presence of Baswedan who won the governor’s election in April by exploiting race and religious issues to defeat Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese Christian.

"I am a Muslim but what Baswedan has done is against the values taught during my years at this school," Sukarlan said. 

He also criticized the school administrators for inviting the governor who was backed in the polls by Islamist militants. 

"I'm not playing politics here, but it's a matter of conscience," he said.

Sukarlan drew criticism on social media from Baswedan’s supporters who called his protest "uncivilized."

Yunarto Wijaya, a Catholic political analyst, sprang to Sukarlan’s defence on Twitter.

"Why do you call it uncivilized when someone walks out on a speech? Then what do you call an official who goes to mosques, is called an infidel and told to leave," Wijaya Tweeted, referring to treatment meted out to Purnama during his election campaign.

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School administrators were unavailable for comment.

Lucius Karus, a political observer, said the reaction to Baswedan’s presence demonstrated how divisive the Jakarta election was. 

He said sectarian politics has a bad impact on people, but politicians will likely continue to use it in next year’s local elections, as well as presidential election in 2019, because that’s the easiest way to get votes.

"People no longer care about maintaining ethics in politics," he said, which is exacerbated by politician’s jumping into bed with radical groups.

Angelo Wake Kako, chairman of the Catholic Students Association said that it is impossible to completely remove sectarianism from Indonesian politics. 

"Increasing dialogue with youth from other religions, as well as with political parties can ease the pain," he said.

"Continuous dialog can help heal divisions. Otherwise, they will grow wider and wider, as happened after the Jakarta election," he said.

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