World

Jakarta rally goes peacefully

JAKARTA Thousands gathered along the main thoroughfare in downtown Jakarta during the capital's weekly Car-Free Sunday to celebrate Indonesia's diversity.

The We Are Indonesia event came just two days after half a million Muslims took part in a mass prayer as part of a protest against Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy.

The Golkar and NasDem parties denied they organised yesterday's event to "counter" Friday's protest.

"We want to remind the public that we are a pluralistic nation and encourage (the) public and political figures not to disseminate hatred," NasDem executive Taufik Basari told The Jakarta Post yesterday.

Mr Basuki, better known as Ahok, 50, is a Chinese-Christian politician running for re-election but now faces charges for insulting Islam.

A close ally of President Joko Widodo, his re-election bid is backed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

No official attendance count for yesterday's event was available, but organisers had expected half a million to participate.

A 5km-stretch of road from Jalan Jenderal Sudirman and Jalan M. H. Thamrin was closed to traffic.

The rally started at 8am and went on peacefully. The crowds dispersed just before the roads were re-opened to traffic when the car-free period ended at 11am.

The anti-Ahok protest on Friday - the third in as many months - has turned February's gubernatorial election into a test of racial and religious tolerance for the Muslim-majority country.

Mr Joko had hinted after the second protest that "political actors" were using these protests to destabilise the country.

The police said on Saturday that they had arrested 11 people - including Ms Rachmawati Sukarnoputri, a daughter of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno - over an alleged conspiracy to topple the government during Friday's protest.

Investigations into the attempted coup are still ongoing. - WIRE SERVICES

Race & Religionindonesiapolitics