Jakarta – The Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno election campaign team (BPN) has admitted that three housewives in Karawang, West Java, who went door-to-door telling people that “the call to prayer would be banned and same-sex marriage would be allowed if Jokowi wins” are indeed election campaign volunteers.
BPN spokesperson Ferdinand Hutahaean said that the women were members of the pro-Prabowo volunteer group Pepes.
“They are volunteers from Pepes. I don’t know what their full story is. But they are indeed from Pepes. They’ve already got a certificate from the BPN”, said Hutahaean when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Monday February 25.
The volunteer housewives from Pepes attracted controversy after a video of them campaigning door-to-door for Prabowo went viral on social media.
In the video, the housewives, speaking in the West Java dialect of Sundanese, could be heard telling people that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would ban the Muslim call to prayer and allow same-sex marriage if he wins the 2019 presidential election.
“Moal aya deui sora azan, moal aya deui nu make tieung. Awewe jeung awene meunang kawin, lalaki jeung lalaki meunang kawin”, they were heard saying on the video.
This translates as: “The azan [call to prayer] from mosques will be forbidden, no one will wear the hijab [Islamic veil] anymore. Women will be allowed to marry women, men will be allowed to marry men”.
The name Pepes is short for Mothers Defend Prabowo-Sandi Party. Although Hutahaean claimed not to know who within the BPN certified Pepes as Prabowo-Sandiaga volunteers.
“Prabowo didn’t sign [the certificate] himself. Volunteers are usually certified by the BPN’s chairperson, deputy chairperson or volunteers director”, said Hutahaean.
Furthermore, Hutahaean asserted, the BPN does not direct volunteer groups to campaign on particular issues, including Pepes. The issues which are taken up by volunteers in different parts of the country are discussed independently by volunteer groups themselves.
Nevertheless, Hutahaean rejected accusations that the campaign by the women could be categorised as a black campaign. According to Hutahaean, the women were just conveying their own concerns about what would happen if Widodo is reelected.
“They were conveying what they felt and believed would happen. So they were conveying a presumption”, said Hutahaean.
Hutahaean suspects that the housewives’ concerns were caused by several things. First of all, he said, it was related to concerns over the issue of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people, which he believes has become widespread during the Widodo era.
Hutahaean said that the LGBT issue is regulated under the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence (RUU PKS). Although he did not explain in detail, he said that RUU PKS allegedly legitimises LGBT practices.
“There has been information on things like this, that (LGBT) won’t be allowed to be criticised, because later it will be deemed to be an act of [sexual] violence against certain groups”, he said.
Hutahaean suspects that the other issue which would have trigged the women’s concerns is the recent polemic about the volume of the azan.
“It has only been under this regime that fuss has been made over it and it’s become an issue that has to be discussed. Even minority communities are prepared to protest the azan. This is not a good sign and didn’t happen in earlier eras. It was on this that the housewives were campaigning, they were conveying a presumption”, said Hutahaean.
“So it wasn’t a black campaign. It would be the same as me saying ‘If Jokowi wins I’m worried that the Indonesian economy will collapse’. That’s not a [black] campaign because I have a basis, data supporting my concerns. The housewives’ way of thinking is the same as mine”, he added.
He also challenged Widodo and running mate Ma’ruf Amin’s election campaign team (TKN) to respond to the housewives’ concerns rather than having them reported to police and referring to it as a black campaign.
“Our message to the government, and in particular Jokowi and his team, is please counter this issue with political arguments. Don’t just jail people for every little thing”, said Hutahaean.
The video of the door-to-door campaign in Karawang went viral after it was uploaded by the Twitter account @citrawida5. The digital signature of the upload has already disappeared but police have succeeded in detaining the owner of the account.
Hutahaean said that they would be providing legal assistance to the housewives if they ended up being charged by police.
“I’ve only just heard that someone has reported them to the police. I don’t know if they have been arrested or not. But of course we will provide them will legal assistance”, said Hutahaean. (wis`)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “BPN Akui PEPES Kampanyekan ‘Jokowi Menang Nikah Sejenis Sah’”.]