ELIZABETH SOELISTIO WRITES – Along with his usual feistiness and candor, former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama is showing a new side to his personality: Bravery and nobility. In a letter written from jail, read to the media by his tearful wife, Ahok has explained why he won’t appeal his recent blasphemy convication. Bottomline: Staying incarcerated lessens the chance for violence between his supporters and opponents.

Veronica Tan, Ahok’s wife, read the letter with tears flowing. She revealed that Ahok’s main reason for withdrawing was to keep peace across the nation.

Veronica Tan in tears during the reading of her husband’s letter (Geotimes).

 

“I [Ahok] know that it’s hard for you to accept this, let alone for me. However, I have learned to forgive and accept all of this, if this is for our common good in building the nation and state,” Tan read.

Tommy Sihotang, Ahok’s defense lawyer, expanded on Ahok’s situation, claiming that the blasphemy case has become overly politicized and the consequences of filing an appeal would be major. “Anything could happen in an appeal – including the possible lengthening of the governor’s sentence, which has happened in other appeals to the Jakarta High Court, or clashes between his supporters and opponents.”

Ahok’s letter implied that his withdrawal was less concerned with the possibility of a stricter sentence, and more concerned with the wellbeing of his supporters and country. In the letter, Ahok wrote he was frightened that his supporters would riot against those who supported his sentence.

Although the jail sentence questions the quality of Indonesia’s justice system, it also shows the separation and division among Indonesian citizens. As the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, division is growing in Indonesia, driven by built-up religious tension from perceptions of conspiracy and inequality.

For Ahok supporters, his prosecution is widely seen as an organized action by political rivals to use race and ethnicity as powerful, political weapons. As a Christian and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, it’s not unusual for a double-minority like Ahok to be attacked by his political opponents, particularly fundamentalist Muslims.

Indeed, there is the theory that public pressure from the anti-Ahok and hardline Islamic groups influenced the court’s decision finding Ahok guilty and sentencing him to two years imprisonment. But apparently looking to dampen such talk, Ahok wrote in his letter, “It’s not right to hold rallies for the process that I should face.”

Despite the religious division, Ahok included references to God in his letter, staying true to his faith and values. He included the Javanese phrase, “Gusti ora sare,” meaning that God does not sleep.