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Jokowi orders crackdown on Buddhist temple attackers

JAKARTA/MEDAN — Indonesian President Joko Widodo yesterday instructed the country’s police chief General Tito Karnavian to take firm action following the burning and plundering of several Buddhist temples over the weekend in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra.

JAKARTA/MEDAN — Indonesian President Joko Widodo yesterday instructed the country’s police chief General Tito Karnavian to take firm action following the burning and plundering of several Buddhist temples over the weekend in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra.

“I have instructed the national police chief to crack down swiftly on the perpetrators and make sure the incident doesn’t happen again, anywhere,” Mr Widodo told the Indonesian media yesterday.

He said both the country’s majority and minority ethnic groups have to look out and protect each other. He also urged Indonesians to show more tolerance.

The rioting on the Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai, a city near Indonesia’s fourth-biggest city of Medan, began on Saturday when residents reportedly expressed anger at a woman of Chinese descent who they said protested against a mosque that used loudspeakers to broadcast calls to prayer in front of her house.

The situation escalated quickly, with calls for action against the woman circulating on social media.

Indonesia is a Muslim-majority nation but has a sizeable ethnic Chinese minority, many of whom are Buddhists.

Gen Tito had said on Sunday that the attacks on the Buddhist temples were incited by social media, where people had gone online to spread rumours about the incident that incited anger.

The attacks have been condemned by the country’s second-biggest Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, which called for greater religious and racial tolerance in North Sumatra.

As of yesterday, 12 people have been charged with robbery and vandalism. The police had also interviewed 39 witnesses. They are still trying to find the individuals who incited the attacks.

“We’ve charged eight suspects with robbery and four with vandalism,” North Sumatra police spokeswoman Rina Sari Ginting said yesterday. “There could be more suspects as we are still questioning other witnesses.”

Indonesia, where the majority of the population practises a moderate form of Islam, sees sporadic attacks on religious minorities by Muslim hardliners, but the authorities are quick to crack down on any violent incidents.

Hundreds of security personnel were deployed last year when a Muslim mob torched a number of churches in conservative Aceh province, saying they did not have the right building permits. AGENCIES

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