Politician accused of racism after posting meme of Anies Baswedan in traditional Papuan attire

Indonesian netizens are outraged and mortified, with many calling for the prosecution of politician Ruhut Sitompul over what they say is a racist meme featuring Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician, who is an outspoken critic of Anies, spoke about his trolling game in a tweet dated May 11. In the tweet, Ruhut appeared to poke fun at the sentiment shared by many Betawi residents of Jakarta that Anies is a hardworking governor.

For no immediately apparent reason, Ruhut’s tweet is accompanied by a meme depicting Anies’ face imposed on that of a shirtless man dressed in traditional Papuan clothing.

Netizens were quick to accuse Ruhut of racism and are calling for his prosecution for hate speech under the Electronic Information and Transactions Act (UU ITE). The hashtag #RuhutLanggarUUITE (Ruhut violated UU ITE) is the most trending topic on Twitter in Indonesia today.

Jakarta Metro Police today said they had received a formal hate speech complaint from a Papuan youth group against Ruhut, and pledged to analyze the matter before possibly filing a complaint against the ‘politician.

Ruhut said he was not troubled by the threat of lawsuits, saying he had no intention of poking fun at a race.

He said the tweet merely alluded to the fact that Anies, who is widely seen as a major candidate in the 2024 presidential election, likes to get used to the traditional clothing of each region when visiting.

“In Yogyakarta, he becomes a Yogyakartan. In Central Java, he becomes someone from Banyuwangi. So people say he’s a real Indonesian,” Ruhut said.

“Why [is the tweet seen] as an insult? There is no insult. They are the ones (Anies supporters) who like to insult others.

Anies did not issue a statement on Ruhut’s tweet.

Under the UU ITE, online hate speech is punishable by up to six years in prison.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that Ruhut has been in hot water over political speech. In 2010, the lawyer turned politician turned soap opera star who represented the Democratic Party at the time, called fellow politician Gayus Lumbuun (who at the time represented the PDI-P) an “asshole” and told him to “shut up” during a parliamentary meeting to discuss a huge corruption scandal.

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