Divisive Jakarta Campaigning Could Rekindle Old Hatred: Hippi
Lenny Tristia Tambun
Negative campaigning along ethnic and religious divides will not just taint the Jakarta gubernatorial runoff election next month, but also undermine the security situation in the capital, a business group has warned.
Sarman Simanjorang, chairman of the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Indigenous Entrepreneurs Association (Hippi), called on Friday for an end to the current smear campaign against Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian, ethnic Chinese running mate of front-runner Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
He warned that targeting of Ahok’s ethnicity and faith, believed to be carried out by supporters of Governor Fauzi Bowo, could prove dangerous in a city that has still not come to terms with the anti-Chinese pogrom of 1998.
He said that if the political attacks escalated, they could lead to a very real security threat in the capital.
“If it’s no longer deemed safe, foreign businesspeople, investors and tourists will stop coming to Jakarta,” Sarman said.
“Security is the main factor underlying Jakarta’s economic growth.”
He said the anti-Chinese rhetoric could be particularly damaging given that businesses and tourists from China and Singapore accounted for around a fifth of all foreign arrivals coming to Jakarta each month.
He said the security situation in the city during the first five months of the year, before campaigning for the first round of the election on July 11 began, was seen as largely safe and visitor numbers increased steadily accordingly.
Visitor numbers during May reached a year-high 191,000, which was up 14 percent from the month before, Sarman said.
But they slipped in June to 175,000, coinciding with the start of campaigning.
“If between July and September we can’t restore an atmosphere and sense of safety, security, comfort and order to the city, and if the negative campaigning continues all the way through to the runoff election, then we fear the visitor numbers will just keep declining,” Sarman said.
“As a consequence, there will also be a slowdown in economic growth.”
He called on both campaign teams to tone down their ethnic and religious rhetoric and to campaign cleanly ahead of the Sept. 20 ballot.
“They should be campaigning in an educated manner, not inciting ethnic and religious tensions simply to win. That kind of strategy will only come back to hurt them,” he said. Lenny Tristia Tambun