Jakarta activists denied Singapore access

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, second left, has eccentric taste in shirts. Source: Wikimedia

The Singaporean Embassy in Jakarta has rejected claims that two Indonesian activists were arrested at Changi airport on Saturday, saying they were denied entry as they intended to carry out political activities.

“Two members of ‘Teman Ahok’ were not detained while they were in Singapore,” the embassy said.

Teman Ahok (Friends of Ahok) campaigns for Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, 49, to run for re-election as an independent in the 2017 election.

Basuki, considered a political outsider as an ethnic Chinese Christian in charge of the largest Muslim nation’s capital, has shaken the political establishment with his decision to run as an independent.

Most of the 10 parties with parliamentary seats are run by political dynasties, former generals or the business chiefs who support them. The others are Islamic groups with fluid ideologies depending on who they can form a coalition with.

Jakarta accounted for 16 per cent of the Indonesia’s GDP last year, according to the nation’s Central Statistics Bureau.

Independent candidates need to collect 532,000 photocopies of voter identity cards. The Jakarta Post reported that Teman Ahok has collected 900,000.

Ahok, Jakarta vice-governor when Joko Widodo was governor, assumed the top job in 2014 when Joko became president. In September 2014, Ahok left the Gerindra party and has been an independent since.

The Singaporean statement about the activists added: “They … were interviewed by Singapore officials. They informed immigration authorities that they were in Singapore to conduct political activities including raising campaign funds. They were therefore denied entry into Singapore and arrangements were made for them to return to Indonesia.

“They were aware that they were not allowed to conduct any political activities in Singapore but nevertheless still decided to travel to Singapore,” the statement added.

The Indonesian Embassy in the city-state also said the pair were “not detained”, adding that “Singapore law forbids political activities from being conducted in Singapore, and this law should be respected”.

The statement added: “The embassy had been in communication with Singapore authorities to facilitate their return to Jakarta. However, because of technical difficulties in the field, the two activists could not return on the last Garuda flight departing Singapore and would depart on the first Garuda flight out of Singapore on June 5, 2016, instead.

“Singapore immigration authorities had provided accommodation and sufficient services to the two activists. We will not allow foreigners to use Singapore as a platform to conduct any political activities. Any contravention of this by any individual will be dealt with in accordance with our laws.”