The leader of the East Java regency of Banyuwangi has been accused of blasphemy.
Muslim clerics in the town led a mass rally of thousands of people outside the local government office yesterday demanding that regent Ratna Ani Lestari stand down. The clerics complain darkly that the regent, a Muslim, practises a different religion from the one stated on her identity card, and cite as proof her marriage to the Hindu regent of Jembrana in Bali. She is an apostate, they allege.
She was also accused of having "distorted" verses of the Muslim holy tract, Al Quran. Allegations of this nature first arose in July 2005 when a group calling itself the "Forum Concerned for the Safety of Banyuwangi" reported her to the local police for allegedly using Koranic verses as part of her electioneering.
Complaints have also arisen, or been manufacturered, over the inclusion of the pork price in the regency budget, pork being a food that Muslims have no stomach for.
The clerics gave the regent two days' notice to resign, however she is, as of the moment of writing, standing firm. Today she was summoned to the office of the East Java governor, Imam Utomo but results of the meeting are not yet known.
All parties in the regional parliament support the call for Ratna's head, except the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which originally endorsed her bid for the regency leadership.
We fully support the request by ulemas for Ratna to resign. She has hurt the feelings of ulemas and the people.
said the speaker of the house, Ahmad Wahyudi.
The PDI-P believes that political shenanigans are at work. The party's Banyuwangi branch chairman, Hermanto, said that the council's support for Ratna's resignation was premature and legally suspect because she was not formally accused of a crime.
We reject the demand from the parties because it is in the interest of only a handful of people and does not represent the aspirations of the Banyuwangi people.
Banyuwangi town has been put on Alert Status 1, ie red alert, by the police and policeman have shoot-to-kill orders for any demonstrators that become unruly. Banyuwangi however remains calm.
On May 9th 2006 the Jakarta Post reported that Muslim clerics and local councillors had taken their demands for Banyuwangi Regent Ratna Ani Lestari to step down to the national parliament, after earlier failing to meet East Java governor Imam Utomo.
The delegation, which included Nahdlatul Ulama Banyuwangi chapter head Masykur Ali, the NU's Ali Hasan and Islamic Defenders' Front chairman Gus Hasan, ended up conveying their demands to the governor's assistant, Chusnul Arifin, because Imam was out of town.
The group then left for Jakarta to take their case to Home Affairs Minister M. Ma'ruf and parliamentarians.
Members of the delegation accuse Ratna, a Muslim by birth, of blaspheming Islam for allegedly practicing a different religion from the one stated on her ID card. They also accuse her of underfunding Islamic boarding schools in the area, for improperly using Koranic versus in election materials and for including the price of pork in the regional budget.
Ratna's supporters say she is the target of a religiously motivated smear campaign because she is married to a Hindu, Bali's Jembara regent. The Banyuwangi regional legislature voted to oust Ratna from office, although most political observers believe the move is illegal.
On Saturday, a Ratna spoke to a Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) audience in Surabaya in East Java, telling them she would not step down because she had done nothing wrong. Ratna received support from the PDI-P's powerful central board and its leader, Megawati Soekarnoputri.
If Ratna is seeking support from the PDI-P, we will also ask for support from other parties through a number of factions at the House (of Representatives).
Banyuwangi regional legislature chairman Ahmad Wahyudi said.
Responding to the complaints from the delegation, Chusnul said the governor would consider its demands as long as they were in line with existing regulations. Imam also planned to meet Ma'ruf this week to report on the findings of an team sent to Banyuwangi to investigate the opposition to Ratna.
The team left for Banyuwangi last week soon after religious groups in the area took part in a large rally, demanding Ratna's resignation.
In Banyuwangi, Ratna went to her office as usual and made a public statement to clarify she had no plans to step down. Speaking in Jakarta on Monday, Ma'ruf said it would take more than a local council decision to oust Ratna.
Under the Regional Administration Law any decision to dismiss a regent must first go to the nation's Supreme Court before the President, who has the final say, ruled on the court's judgment, Ma'ruf said.
The local council can set up a special committee to launch a investigation (into a regent), the result of which can then be proposed to the (council's) plenary session. The result is then brought to the Supreme Court. So (the local council) cannot just dismiss a regent from her post because this requires a legal mechanism.
Ratna has fought an organized political campaign against her office since October when she was elected Banyuwangi regent in a surprise win. Observers say she has little support on the legislative council because none of the 18 small political parties that nominated her for regent won any seats on the body.
Despite winning initial support from the local PDI-P Banyuwangi branch, Ratna only received backing from the party's central board just recently. During the elections last year, the main party organization threw its weight behind another candidate.
Then on May 11th 2006 the Post reported that Ratna Ani Lestari had started to "communicate" with local ulema and representatives of political parties in the regency.
I have communicated with the ulema and noted figures in Banyuwangi. I've also held meetings with representatives of political parties and members of the (local) legislative council.
Ratna said after meeting with the secretary of the East Java provincial administration, Soekarwo, in Surabaya on Tuesday.
Several parties, including non-governmental organizations, local community leaders, ulema and journalists consider Ratna a poor communicator.
Ratna said she had tried to meet the governor twice but he assigned his subordinates to meet her, after the Banyuwangi legislature called for her resignation. She said that the meeting with officials of the provincial administration was not aimed at gathering support, but to report on the latest developments in Banyuwangi.
Later again Ratna was said to have apologized to the public.
I've apologized if my policies are considered wrong, and I've also sought support from all parties for the sake of continuing development programs in Banyuwangi.
Due to the mounting calls to resign from ulemas and members of the Banyuwangi Legislative Council, Ratna approached a number of parties for support, including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi, and the chairman of the East Java chapter of NU, Ali Maschan Moesa.
Several parties who felt the call for dismissal was caused mainly by a lack of political communication advised Ratna to apologize. One of the ulemas who was present at the gathering where Ratna apologized was chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council Dailami Ahmad.
Does the apology end the rift? Apparently not, because despite the withdrawal of security officers safeguarding the regency, those seeking the dismissal of Ratna still pressed their demands.
The chairman of the Forum Ulama Banyuwangi Bersatu (FBB), Mas Soeroso, said he would not change his position on unseating Ratna. He said fresh rallies would be held.
Soeroso said the gathering held by Ratna constituted merely a political maneuver. "Is she really trustworthy?" he asked.
On 17th May Metro TV reported that the Forum Ulama Banyuwangi Bersatu (FBB) had issued an order that Banyuwangi citizens were forbidden to take part in any event attended by Ratna. Chairman of the FBB, Suyuti Thoha, demanded again that Ratna resign. He said this at an event attended by hundreds of religious leaders. Four parties, Golkar, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan, Partai Demokrat, and Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa supported the demands of the FBB.
Suyuti Thoha said that Ratna's worst offence was to have forbidden Islamic religious meetings in the city.
These last reports have not been followed up with any new ones and the matter appears to have fizzled out.
Whatever you’re, now we have to believe in Ratna Ani Lestari as our Leader to lead Lare Osing become Masyarakat Adil dan Sejahtera.
I interested about her family background (her husband) to make growth Banyuwangi as Bali. What will you do for Lare Osing as Muslim majority population & culture..?, did you have great concept for that..?
Dont ever change our identity because we proud to be come Lare Osing