Published in Malay Mail Online
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was the front-runner and set to be re-elected as Jakarta governor this year, before a blasphemy scandal cut his campaign, and ultimately his career, short.
The no-nonsense Chinese-Christian politician popularly called Ahok was charged with inciting religious and ethnic hatred in November last year, merely months before the gubernatorial election. Two mega rallies against him were mobilised by hardline Muslims.
By April, Ahok was trounced in the second round of the election by Muslim challenger Anies Baswedan. Just a day after his loss, prosecutors recommended only probation as punishment but he was still sentenced to a two-year jail term earlier this month.
With his life in shambles as the result of a blasphemy accusation, it must have been agonising for Ahok to finally withdraw his appeal this week. His wife, Veronica Tan, was in tears as she publicly read a letter hand written by Ahok from behind bars.
For his supporters, near and far, it was baffling for Ahok to throw in the towel so quick. But the letter betrays Ahok’s thoughts, to show he never took the decision lightly.
“Jakartans would otherwise suffer great losses, in the form of traffic congestion and economic losses resulting from the rallies,” said Ahok.
“It is inappropriate to rally and demonstrate during what I go through. I worry that there will be many parties that will manipulate the rallygoers, what more clashing with those who are against us.”