Indonesia minister says government not losing to radicals


A senior Indonesian cabinet minister on Thursday said the government is not losing the fight against radicalism despite the success of hardline Islamic groups in attracting hundreds of thousands of people to protests against the capital's Christian governor.

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who is close to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, said the government needs to reinforce Indonesia's founding ideology "Pancasila," whose five principles include national unity and social justice. He said it has been neglected since the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998 ushered in democratic rule.

Pandjaitan told a Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club event: "We are not losing control."

The Jakarta governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, is on trial for alleged blasphemy and faces up to five years in prison.

Massive protests demanding his arrest have challenged the image of Indonesia as practicing a moderate form of Islam and shaken the secular government. The blasphemy furore has also given a national stage to the Islamic Defenders Front, previously better known as a morals vigilante group with members involved in protection rackets.

Its leader, Rizieq Shihab, told a December 2 protest in Jakarta that Indonesia would be peaceful if there was no blasphemy and other problems such as gays.

Pandjaitan suggested the government has Shihab in its sights.

"We have quite detailed data about him. We'll see what happens. We know what we are going to do," he said. "The president is very brave, to do whatever is necessary for the benefit of this country. No hesitation at all."

A November 2 protest against Ahok in Jakarta turned violent, with one death and dozens of police and protesters injured.    (AP)

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