Indonesia: Non-Muslim Ward Chief Stays On

Opposition against a South Jakarta ward chief for being a non-Muslim heated up on Wednesday after protesters delivered a coffin and a yellow flag, a symbol often associated with death, and demanded that she be removed from her position.

Some 600 residents rallied against Susan Jasmine Zulkifli on Wednesday, rejecting her as their ward chief and claiming that 99 percent of the population in Lenteng Agung, the area she represents, is Muslim.

“This is a symbol of the death of conscience of the Jakarta administration, which refused to listen to our demands,” Nasrullah, the demonstration’s coordinator, said on Wednesday. He held a white banner for residents to sign in rejecting Susan, who is Christian, as ward chief.

Nasrullah said the residents were becoming impatient because Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo had not responded to their letter demanding Susan be replaced.

Joko — who appointed Susan — had previously defended her, saying he would not replace her unless she made a serious mistake as a public official.

After Wednesday’s protest, however, Joko took a more neutral stance, saying the mayor and subdistrict head would decide on the matter, in line with normal procedures.

“There will be no position change, and I don’t have to handle the matter myself. It’s the subdistrict chief’s and the mayor’s business,” Joko told the Indonesian news portal

Joko said the city administrative always evaluates their public officials based on their work performance and integrity.

“All this time I have evaluated the public officials based on their integrity and their ability to finish the tasks assigned to them. We only care about their achievement, whether or not they can serve the public,” he said.

Joko said he could not evaluate Susan’s performance because the Index Government Service (IGS) survey has not yet been published.

“I haven’t received the report yet. Only after I have received it can I decide whether or not she should be replaced, and the decision won’t be made based on a religious reason,” he said.

Lenteng Agung residents had previously circulated a petition calling for Susan’s dismissal, but the request was turned down by the provincial government, which is responsible for her appointment.

Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said the city administration is not afraid of the protesters and called on them to remain peaceful if they choose to rally.

Basuki continued his criticism of the Lenteng Agung residents’ opposition. He even threatened to take legal action if the protests turned violent.

He called on Lenteng Agung residents to accept the city’s decision to appoint Susan as their ward chief, adding that the city’s decisions could not satisfy everyone but were intended to improve the prosperity of Jakarta residents.

The Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based human rights group, said the petition to oust Susan constituted intolerance and discrimination, and called on Joko and Basuki to oppose the prejudice.