TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - An investigation by a special team from Tempo strengthened the findings made by Ismail Fahmi, that those who are pushing the issue of Chinese workers are the same ones who are actively pushing the issue of the blasphemy charges against Basuki. If it is traced back further, those being monitored are the ones who spread the rumor that Jokowi was of Chinese descent during the presidential election.
From a week-long tracking from Wednesday two weeks ago to Tuesday last week, the issue of the Chinese workers emerged after Jokowi signed Government Regulation No.59/2016 on the Establishment of Social Organizations by Foreign Nationals on December 2, 2016. Two days before that, social media platforms were in an uproar over photographs of some Chinese citizens wearing the uniform of the Forum Bhayangkara Indonesia (FBI), which resembles the uniform of Indonesia's national police force.
This organization was established on April 19, 2014, by a retired Indonesian police general. FBI Vice Chairman Kasran Siregar said he did not know of Chinese nationals using the FBI uniform. However, he said that there was a liaison team to attract investment from Singapore. "There are no Chinese citizens who are members of the FBI," he said.
According to Kasran, the issue of Chinese citizens becoming members of the FBI was spread by a fake account on Facebook. He suspects that this was done by an FBI member who is after the position of chairman after Renny Masmada died last July. This organization had been riddled by internal conflict after a split over whom to support in the 2014 presidential election. "That photo was misused to create a race issue," he said.
After the FBI photo, the rumors grew wilder. Rizieq Syihab, leader of the Defenders of Islam Front (FPI), who organized the protests calling for the imprisonment of Basuki on November 4 and December 2, 2016, got involved and livened up the fuss on social media over the issue of Chinese workers in Indonesia. He said that Indonesia would soon be taken over by the Chinese and it would become a part of that Communist country.
On his account @SyihabRizieq, he tweeted that land reclamation over the Jakarta Bay could bring in millions of Chinese citizens to Jakarta. He called on his 74,700 followers to compile data on companies employing Chinese nationals.
Since then, the issue of Chinese workers in Indonesia gained traction. Well-known social media accounts got involved in the discussion of this issue, especially on Facebook. On Twitter, most of the accounts which spread this debate were anonymous. From the mapping done by "Drone Emprit" and the Tempo special team, this was generally done by those who sympathized with Rizieq and the FPI.
Rizieq said that this movement on social media was a form of solidarity to defend Islam, as a form of the Muslim community's disappointment on news about the Ahok blasphemy charge on the internet. He felt the government did little to cool down the situation. "This pushed Muslim netizens to take action in their own way," he told Iil Askar Mondza, a Tempo contributor in Medan.
One of the most active accounts in social media with regards to the Chinese workers rumor has been @maspiyungan, which had often expressed doubts about the background and religion of Jokowi during the presidential election campaign. This account with 130,700 followers disseminated its analysis based on material from basically anonymous blogs and media. The account @maspiyungan and portalpiyungan.co are modifications of @pkspiyungan and pkspiyungan.org, two official media outlets of the Prosperity Justice Party (PKS), which are managed by Solihun.
According to Amir Syarifuddin, Bantul PKS chairman, Solihun is a party sympathizer who was active in distributing aid to victims of the earthquake in Yogyakarta, an event which triggered the opening of those two accounts. Amir stressed that the PKS had no further links to Solihun. "He planted Rafflesia plants in other people's yards. So it makes sense if homeowners remember him," said Amir.
Cahyadi Takariawan, Chairman of the PKS Central Office, said that Solihun published news reports which were not in line with party policy. "But that website does belong to the party," he said. In January 2006, Cahyadi asked Solihun to take off the PKS logo if he wanted to continue running the portal. Since then, pkspiyungan.org was changed to portalpiyungan.co and @pkspiyungan was changed to @maspiyungan.
After distancing itself from the PKS, portalpiyungan.co used an advertising consultant, Andri Setiawan, who lives in Pontianak, to bring in revenue. Andri offered his services because, before the 2014 general election, the hits on pkspiyungan.org portal were high, but ads were bringing in just Rp1.5 million per month. After he started managing it, the ad revenue jumped to Rp30 million during the first month.
The ad revenue continued to grow, and in the past three months reached Rp150 million per month. "According to my calculations, since I've been running it, at least Rp1 billion has come in," said Andri. He said that from the profit-sharing for ad revenue he receives as a consultant is only 20-30 percent on average.
Solihun's telephone number was not active. Andri declined to put Tempo into contact with him. The house said to be rented by Solihun in Piyungan was empty. "Solihun moved a long time ago," said one neighbor.
(Read the complete story in January 2017 first edition of Tempo magazine with the main story entitled 'Twitter Tussle in Social Media.')