The Jakarta administration says it will not bow to pressure from a group of South Jakarta residents requesting the dismissal of their local ward chief for being a woman and a Christian.
A petition — signed by 2,300 Lenteng Agung residents, 1,500 of whom had submitted their identity cards — was delivered to the city administration to demand the removal of Susan Jasmine Zulkifli as ward chief, a position appointed by the provincial government.
Jakarta Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama said the protest was illogical and irrelevant to her role as leader of a ward, the fourth tier of public administration down from the province.
"I don't think we are going to process the objection to the Lenteng Agung ward chief just because she has a different religion from the people that she leads," Basuki said at City Hall on Thursday.
Basuki said the administration can only accept an objection if the ward chief is considered incapable of carrying out his or her duties or if the person has failed to improve the welfare of local residents.
"We cannot replace her. The objection based on religion is irrelevant. She's a problem if she stole or refused to provide service," he said.
Basuki said he was disappointed that local residents had petitioned against Susan on the grounds of religion and gender, saying that Lenteng Agung residents should judge people based on their performance and commitment in carrying out their duties.
"Many also collected identity cards [to form a petition] when I ran for Jakarta deputy governor," the Christian politician said.
"There were only 52.7 percent people in Jakarta that voted for me. This means more than 40 percent didn't want me as a deputy governor. So, I would like to emphasize here that performance is not related to religion. We only obey the Constitution and not the constituents."
Human rights group the Setara Institute said the petition constituted intolerance and discrimination against Susan, and called on Basuki and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo to oppose the prejudice.
The leaders "must show firmly that the administration is run based on the Indonesian Constitution and the law," Setara Institute chairman Hendardi said on Thursday.
Hendardi said that every citizen has an equal right to assume a position and that caving into the request would create a bad precedent and spread intolerance.
Some 87 percent of Indonesians identify as Muslim.
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