Angry protesters in Aceh hit out at governor who calls for tolerance

Angry protesters in Aceh hit out at governor who calls for tolerance
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo arrive at Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport in Banda Aceh, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, on Saturday
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

After making strongly worded remarks against radicals propagating intolerance in his province, West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis was less than welcome by a group of conservative Muslims in Aceh.

The group, calling itself Islam Defender Troop (LPI), visited the hotel where the visiting governor was staying in Banda Aceh on Saturday, demanding he leave the city over statements they deemed "intolerant" and "provocative."

They claimed Cornelis' statements had been the reason for two clerics being turned away from Pontianak a day earlier.

"Aceh land is haram for those who hate ulemas and Islam, including Cornelis," said Tengku Achmad Shanjy, one of the protestors.

Cornelis had come to the city for the opening of a national meeting of farmers and fishermen, which was also attended by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, on Saturday.

The protesters lingered in front of the hotel until the hotel management said the governor had already checked out from the hotel.

Over the past two weeks, West Kalimantan has been gripped by a filmed speech that went viral on social media, in which Cornelis threatened to oust radical and provocative individuals who had "the guts" to enter his province.

Many considered the footage provocative, claiming it stirred up sectarian sentiment.

Speaking in Pontianak on Thursday, Cornelis addressed the controversy over his speech, saying he would fight intolerance in his province.

"With regard to intolerance, I frankly challenge those who are radical and intolerant to leave West Kalimantan," Cornelis said.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician added that history showed that 17 massive riots had occurred in the province so far, resulting in West Kalimantan being economically poor and left behind.

"I don't want this to occur again," he said during the handover ceremony of the West Kalimantan police chief post from Insp. Gen. Musyafak to Brig. Gen. Erwin Triwanto.

Erwin promptly held a meeting after his swearing in ceremony with representatives of different religious and ethnic groups in the province to talk about rising social tensions.

The meeting was held in response to a planned visit by Sobri Lubis and Hidayat Quaiandri Batangtaris, clerics from the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), to Mempawah regency.

When the two arrived at Supadio Airport in Pontianak, police asked them to go back to Jakarta, citing security concerns.

"We have told the organising committee that [it is not recommended] to invite figures considered to be provocateurs," Erwin said.

Earlier, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy secretary Tengku Zulkarnain, who travelled along with Dayak Culture Council (DAD) leaders from Pontianak, faced rejection from a group of people upon arriving at Susilo Airport in Sintang regency.

The cleric was turned away because he had allegedly insulted the Dayak.

A staff member who accompanied Cornelis to Aceh, Awie, said the visit had gone well despite the protests from conservative groups.

He said Cornelis and his wife had still spent Saturday night in Banda Aceh and the governor had taken the opportunity to meet local leaders.

"[Cornelis] was safe and Madam Governor could still shop for souvenirs. I was there with them," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday night.

He refused to confirm whether the governor's entourage had to change hotels after the protests.

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