In an unprecedented move, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has launched a tirade against the government, accusing it of producing a false intelligence report about him and his family.
The conflict between Yudhoyono and his successor, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, seemed to have reached a boiling point on Wednesday, when Yudhoyono invited journalists to his residence in Cikeas, Bogor, West Java, to quell rumors that he is behind an upcoming rally involving thousands of hard-line Muslims in the capital.
The rally has been organized to urge the police to charge Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who is seeking a second term in the February gubernatorial election, with blasphemy over his statement about a Quranic verse.
Ahok, a close friend of Jokowi, is running against former education and culture minister Anies Baswedan and Agus Harimurti, Yudhoyono’s eldest son.
A visibly emotional Yudhoyono claimed he had nothing to do with the planned rally, saying that circulating information that suggests he is the mastermind behind the rally was an “intelligence failure and error”.
“It is slanderous and insulting for [a party] to accuse certain people or political parties of [masterminding the rally] in the name of intelligent analysis,” Yudhoyono said in a high tone of voice. “And it’s very dangerous for the country.”
Yudhoyono said he had tried to make a clarification regarding the information with Cabinet members. On Tuesday, he met with Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto and Vice President Jusuf Kalla to clarify the allegation.
He said the state should not consider information shared on social media to be reliable intelligence, particularly information spread by “buzzers” or social media users paid to spread political propaganda.
“Intelligence bodies [during my administration] never reported something that hadn’t been proven to be accurate,” Yudhoyono said.
The former president said the rally planned for Nov. 4 and the gubernatorial race were two separate things, emphasizing the need for Ahok to go through the legal process for his alleged blasphemy.
A legal case against Ahok could seriously hurt his chances in the gubernatorial race.
Jokowi has promised not to interfere in Ahok’s legal quagmire, while the police have repeatedly said they would follow up on the blasphemy allegation.
Yudhoyono has claimed to have been a target of a number of political attacks since his party and his allies decided to field Agus in the Jakarta race. It is believed that Agus, a former Army major, is being groomed by Yudhoyhono as his political heir and a possible presidential candidate for the 2019 election.
He said he was irked by the information in the media about him receiving a new house from the state, emphasizing that the regulation had been in place since 1978 and his administration had only made minor revisions to it.
“Don’t think that it’s only me that has received such a house from the state,” he said.
He also questioned the government’s move to put the blame on him for the missing investigation report into the murder of prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib.
The Attorney General’s Office (AGO), he said, planned to question him about the report. “It is absurd for SBY to be accused of being complicit in the Murnir killing. Come on, use your common sense,” he said, adding that it was now the Jokowi administration’s job to resolve the case.
Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung declined to comment on Yudhoyono’s claims.
Wiranto said the government did not want to be engaged in a blame game and, therefore, he did not need to respond to Yudhoyono’s statements.
“As a former state official, he is aware of what he says. And those are his personal statements,” Wiranto said, adding that the public had the right to respond as they wished.
Senior political expert Siti Zuhro from the Indonesia Institute of Science (LIPI) said Yudhoyono and Jokowi were now engaged in open conflict.
“Yudhoyono is very offended and feels driven into a corner by all the blame put onto him. Those are all very serious [allegations] that could hurt his dignity. So, it’s not surprising that he wants to make a clarification,” Siti said.
Political expert from Al-Azhar University in Jakarta Rachmat Bagja said that Yudhoyono wanted to remind people that he remains a political power to be reckoned with.
“He wants to show he still exists and that his son will compete on the national political stage,” Rachmat said.
“Who knows, maybe he will run in the 2019 presidential election. No law prohibits him from doing so,” he added.