The streets of Jakarta were quiet over the past week as millions left the capital to return to their hometowns for the holidays. Meanwhile, rumours grew louder over a predicted reshuffle for President Jokowi's cabinet, and police in Jakarta moved swiftly to stop radical groups from escalating tensions in Papua.
Jakartans enjoyed some relief from the usual traffic jams this week as the city emptied out for Lebaran, the longest yearly national holiday that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Police in the capital took on additional duties related to the season such as watching for burglaries in unattended homes and monitoring impromptu parades and road convoys. Another annual event that coincides with the holidays is the tradition of visiting the homes of friends and relatives to exchange greetings and ask forgiveness for any wrongdoings that may have been committed throughout the year. High-profile figures will often host an 'open house' day to let colleagues know when they are welcome to visit.
Megawati Sukarnoputri, Jokowi's party leader, placed a sign outside her residence in Jakarta announcing that she would not host an open day on the first day of Lebaran. Nonetheless, a stream of influential people stopped by her house to pay their respects. One person of influence who was notably absent was President Jokowi, who broke tradition by leaving the capital for the holiday to celebrate in the far western province of Aceh.
Commentators saw the move as an attempt to avoid meeting with Megawati before announcing a cabinet reshuffle. The current cabinet line-up, like the rest of Jokowi's decisions as president, has been criticised as showing too much influence from Megawati. To avoid the label of being Megawati's 'puppet', Jokowi wants to show that the next cabinet will be formed at his discretion alone, observers say.
However, Jokowi says his visit to Aceh was just the start of a new annual tradition of visiting the regions for the holiday, hoping to show that 'There is more to Indonesia than just Jakarta.' Aceh is often referred to in Indonesia as the 'verandah of Mecca', since it is believed to be the entrance point for the spread of Islam in the country. Jokowi on his visit expressed hope that it would also become a 'gateway of peace' and a 'seedbed for the value of humanity'. He prayed at the Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, visited tsunami survivors and handed out packages of staple foods to the people. The president later visited his hometown of Surakarta, where he previously served as mayor, before returning to Jakarta. He finally met with Megawati on Tuesday along with State Secretary Pratikno, who made it clear to local media that the two leaders did not discuss a reshuffle.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the archipelago, a violent incident disrupted the Muslim holiday in the majority-Christian province of Papua.
The violence reportedly began when a group of evangelist Christians threw rocks at Muslims performing prayers at a subdistrict military command in Tolikara. According to reports, several kiosks were set on fire, which spread to a nearby Muslim prayer house. Police responded with gunfire, killing one and injuring at least six others, who all claimed to be bystanders. The National Police have taken responsibility for all shooting injuries. The response by authorities has been swift compared to other cases of violence against minority religions. Jakarta police held a discussion with Islamic groups to prevent further backlash over the incident. A leader of the extremist Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) said the discussion broadened his perspective on the incident, but threatened that his group may retaliate if law enforcement is not seen to follow through.
Photo by Flickr user carol mitchell.