Jakarta's governor this week vowed to shut down one of the city's biggest red-light districts and was met with threats of resistance by local gangs. Meanwhile, a former minister under Yudhoyono was jailed for embezzlement, and public attention remained glued to a mysterious death allegedly by poisoned coffee in a Jakarta mall.
Governor Ahok on Wednesday pledged to shut down the red-light district of Kalijodo after a drunk driver was reported to have killed four people on his way home from the night-spot on Monday night. The district on the banks of the Ciliwung River has been a target of Ahok's since he was vice governor to Jokowi for its illegal activities and because the area is supposed to be part of a green corridor to help prevent floods.
Monday's accident prompted Ahok to renew his pledge to flatten the strip. Local gang members and sex workers warned there would be riots if Ahok tried to evict them, and said he would have to use a tank to get them to leave. Ahok quickly responded that he would borrow a tank from the army if that's what it took.
Ahok's hard-headed approach to leadership has attracted him his fair share of enemies but also plenty of supporters from very different sides of politics. Hardline Islamist group Front Pembela Islam, previously one of Ahok's biggest critics on the grounds of him being a Chinese-Indonesian Christian leading a Muslim-majority city, have welcomed the Governor's initiative to clear out Kalijodo. Separately, a group called Teman Ahok (Friends of Ahok) is working to support the Governor to run as an independent in next year's election, hoping that he can continue to steer clear of the influence of party politics. The group has already collected more than the required 600,000 declarations of support from voters, and is aiming for a new target of one million. However, Ahok surprised the group on Thursday by floating the idea of joining Jokowi's party, the PDI-P, prompting speculation that he may be looking further ahead than the gubernatorial election in 2017 and on to his chances of running for president or vice president in 2019, for which he'll need party membership.
Jokowi's current Vice President, Jusuf Kalla, attracted criticism this week for testifying in support of former minister Jero Wacik, who was found guilty of embezzlement on Tuesday. As tourism minister and then energy minister under President Yudhoyono — and for part of that time under Jusuf Kalla as Vice President — Wacik was found to have embezzled billions of rupiah from state funds, and received billions more in kickbacks from energy companies.
Reports say he spent much of the money on concert tickets and holidays for his family, luxury handbags for his wife and daughters and weekly trips to massage parlours. Yet Kalla defended Wacik in the trial, saying that it was not easy for a minister to draw the line between personal and professional expenses. Judges added that considerations were made for Wacik's current expenses, such as his wife's medical bills and his daughter's university tuition. Far below the prosecutors' demands of nine years, Wacik was sentenced to only four years in prison, and ordered to pay several billion rupiah in fines and restitution for state losses. Upon receiving the reduced sentence, he thanked Yudhoyono and Kalla for their defence.
While this high-profile corruption trial was unfolding, local media was distracted by the mysterious case of a young woman who died of cyanide poisoning after drinking a coffee with friends at a Jakarta mall. In a convoluted story that has played out like a sinetron soap opera in local headlines for weeks, the main suspect has been identified as one of the three friends at the cafe, and the only one who didn't take a sip of the allegedly poisoned coffee.
Even the Australian Federal Police have been drawn into investigations since questions were raised about the nature of the relationship between the victim and the suspect when they studied together in Australia. The suspect, Jessica Kumala Wongso, is now an Australian resident, and could receive the death penalty if found guilty of murdering her friend, Wayan Mirna Salihin. Details are still unfolding.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Matthew Kenwrick.