In the lead up to the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial elections, incumbent Governor Basuki “Ahok” Purnama Tjahaya is already facing racist opposition.

On 15 March, Indonesian Army General Surya Prabowo tagged Ahok and asked those friendly or affectionate with Chinese-Indonesians to remind them that they should not be arrogant with power or authority.

The Facebook image (you can see it here) he posted along with the message showed historic tragic dates on which Chinese-Indonesians had suffered slaughter.

In commentary reminiscent of New Order style coercion, Surya Prabowo asked his followers to pity ethnic Chinese-Indonesians who are good or poor because if there are those that want to butcher them, they cannot run to another country.

He then closed by asking his followers to keep “harmony in diversity” (not unity in diversity, the Nation’s famous motto). His post has since been deleted.


Thankfully there is plenty of support for Ahok from all quarters of Indonesian society.

But those who suffered the egregious anti-Chinese violence in Jakarta during the immediate reformasi period must surely feel that violence is only sustained with such irresponsible a commentary from a senior Indonesian general.

Professor Dr Joko Santoso is a professor of sociology at the University of Orba Dua.