THE small building in a crowded neighbourhood at the edge of Jalan Pos Pengumben (Pos Pengumben Street), West Jakarta is named “FBR GARDU 0214”. It is painted bright green. At the left and right sides of the post fly small green flags with three letters, F-B-R (Forum Betawi Rempug, or Betawi Brotherhood Forum). Most people in the neighbourhood know it as one of FBR gardu, a small security post. Although it was claimed to secure the area from thugs, especially at night, the gardu was often used to run informal meeting and baiat or oath of loyalty for new member.
Inside the post, there are two big photos of a man wearing black-white turban. Below the photos, it is written “KH DR Fadloli El Muhir, Pimpinan Yayasan Pondok Pesantren Yatim Ziyadatul Mubtadi’ien dan Mubtadi’at (Chairman of Foundation of Ziyadatul Mubtadi’ien and Mubtadi’at Religious Boarding and Orphanage School). In the 2009 general election, Kiai Fadloli the founder of FBR was elected to sit in the house of representative. He died from a heart attack in March 2009.
“We’re going to continue the late Kiai (Islam religious scholar) Fadloli spirit to unite the Betawi people. Only by uniting, we’ll be the master and owner of our own land (Jakarta city),” said Hery, secretary of Forum Betawi Rempug (FBR) GARDU 0214. He has a small dressmaker enterprise near the gardu.
According to National Census Data on 2000 as cited in Indonesia’s Population: Ethnicity and Religion in a Changing Political Landscape (Leo Suryadinata, Evi N. Arifin, and Aris Ananta. 2003) the Betawi comprise 27.65 per cent of Jakarta’s population, numbering about 2.7 million. It is the second largest population in the capital of Indonesia after Javanese that comprises about 35 per cent. They can trace their origins in Jakarta back to its founding in the 15th century.
Hery joined the FBR about two and a half years ago. The 31-year-old Betawi man admitted that what attracted him to the organization was its influence among other Betawi organizations, and that it defended the rights of the Betawi community and their devotion to Islam.
“We welcome other ethnics to live in Jakarta, but they must behave properly and respect our rights as the original inhabitants,” Hery continued, adding he has been living in Jakarta since he was born 31 years ago.
The FBR first emerged in July 2001 in the wake of a series of violent incidents between Betawi and Maduranese in Cakung-Cilincing, a border between East and North Jakarta. As media reported, the conflict sparked over control of parking territory market in the area between Maduranese thugs and FBR members. In July 2002, a half dozens were died and several seriously injured as the conflict turned to mass riot and ethnic violence. The conflict tension abated as the police confiscate number of perpetrators, and the leaders of the two ethnic agree to reconcile.
Fadloli el-Muhir, an Islamic preacher, a former journalist and a politician within the Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (Indonesian Democratic Party, or PDI) created the FBR and made it an influential organization. When he died in March, Kiai Haji Lufti Hakim took over the leadership.
The FBR is just one out of 116 Betawi organizations in Jakarta. Yet, it is one of the most active, and has strong influences as it has large number of members and backed by the local police. They joined in series mass rally to fight Law of Pornography with Islamic organizations, and raided places reckoned as source of ‘wickedness’, such as café, bar, and discotheque. In order to obtain recognition and to strengthen its influence, however, the organization elites developed alliances with other ethnic groups, religious associations and political parties.
The FBR claims to have more than 2 million members, almost half of the Betawi communities in Jakarta. The organization aims “to act as a vehicle through which to struggle for the rights of the Betawi community, which till now have been oppressed, both structurally as well as culturally, so that they may become ‘the real owner of the island’”.
Most of the FBR members work as ojek (motorcycle used for public transport) driver, security, parking attendant, and preman, an informal term for a thug or gangster. Most of its member has not had much schooling, including Hery.
Yet many FBR elites have close ties with high-ranking police and state security. It is linked over informal economy and security service enterprise which owned by the elites including the late Fadloli. In addition to teach Islamic lessons at the pesantren, he is one of shareholders of PT Fajar Berkah Restu, a general supplier and security service company. He is also the owner of PT Fajar Betawi Rempug which is run a security service.
The FBR has developed relatively monopolistic control over the informal economy in considerable areas of Jakarta, most notably the semi-industrial and commerce sections, including the traditional markets in Jakarta such as Kuningan, Pulo Gadung, Pasar Senen, Kebayoran, and Pasar Minggu.
The organization is likened to be the mafia or a gang. They admitted most of its members are preman and poor people.
“But we’re not a preman or illegal organization. Otherwise we’ve been registered as a formal and ethnic organization,” Hery said, quoting his top leader Kiai Lutfi.
Before thousands of FBR member in the 8th organization anniversary early August in Ragunan, South Jakarta, even Kiai Lutfi challenges those who alleged the organization as gang, and who tended to forbid its activities.
“If they want to stop FBR, they must first disband the parliament!” he said. He declined if his organization emulates the mafia or gang.
“Those who behave like gangster or preman are not representing FBR. Just like those who alleged for embezzlement of state budget in the parliament, we can’t say all the parliament members are corruptor,” he argued.
The 2009 Election
“FBR GARDU 0214” is one of 300 security posts spread out throughout Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang and Depok. Most are near intersections, markets or bus terminals. As David Brown and Ian Wilson wrote in Ethnicized Violence in Indonesia: The Betawi Brotherhood Forum in Jakarta (2007), these small security posts resemblance the territorial command structure of the Indonesian military. Each gardu has a coordinator and an advisory council. They basically have a mandate by the central leadership to seek funds and take action against drug traffickers, alcohol vendors and entertainment venues considered immoral.
Yet, in 2009 general election, the gardu took on another role. It gathered and mobilized FBR members.
“Our members participated voluntarily to secure so the event runs properly in peace, free and fair. For us, the national sovereignty is everything,” Feri said. He claimed that they aim was just to help the police officers and General Election Commission to secure the election process during the election day in most of voting booth at greater Jakarta.
“It (to secure the election) is also part of our baiat (oath of obedience and loyalty) to the organization and our imamah (leader),” Hery added. The baiat consist of nine statement of loyalty to the organization, among other is to cooperate and help the security apparatus, such as to fight against terrorism, as long as not violated Sharia.
With more than 2 million members, political parties recognize FBR as an ethnic organization that can mobilize the Betawi vote in Jakarta. Many political parties asked FBR elites to run for local office.
“In fact, we’re independent organization. The late Kiai recommend to the members to cast their vote based on their conscience,” Feri argued.
In the 2009 election, five FBR elites with support from Partai Amanat Nasional (Indonesian National Mandate Party, or PAN) registered to run for local office in Jakarta province. PAN is a moderate Islamic party. The other FBR elite ran for national office with support from Partai Golongan Karya (Golkar).
Five of the FBR elites supported by PAN did not to pass electoral threshold as they didn’t get enough votes. Some of them say they will run again and are preparing for the 2014 election.
“I will try again in the next election,” Haji Solahuddin said. He was one of the PAN’s candidates from FBR, yet failed to get enough votes in the recent election. He is also the chairman of FBR in South Jakarta territorial.
“Of course, I will fight for the Betawi’s welfare. But I can’t tell you now what will I promise to in detail,” he added.
Ian Wilson of the Asia Research Centre in Australia whose work specializes on the FBR and ethnic violence in Indonesia has noted the organization’s political agenda behind the recent election. In email correspondence, Wilson observed that the major agenda of FBR in the recent elections was to attempt to make the transition from ‘informal power’, in particular to turn their street presence into formal political power.
“If they do gain this formal power, the primary objectives are to further the direct interests of the group,” he wrote.
The agenda, he continued, includes FBR’s long standing requests to the government of Jakarta for special training facilities for their members, small enterprise subsidies as well as a formalized legal status of the Betawi as the original people of Jakarta. Legal status would include attendant rights of land, and employment by making it obligatory for businesses to hire Betawi over other groups. FBR also is pushing for an anti-migration agenda to restrict the number of people allowed to settle in Jakarta.
Amsori, deputy of Law, Political and Cultural division of Central FBR, said the organization is now looking to the 2014 election. But he said it will likely not side with only one ‘political vehicle’. Instead, the late Fadloli told members to affiliate with which ever political party makes them the most advantageous offer. Just like the recent election, FBR members were involved with a range of parties, such as United Development Party (PPP), Golkar, Democrat Party (PD) and PAN.
“If we want to be a master in our homeland, then we must fight for it, including by political means,” Amsori explained.
“In the next election, we already have a target that some of the FBR members have to sit in the house of representative. And, if any FBR member or elite runs for office, then it is the member obligation to support them fully,” he continued.
In the presidential election, July 8th 2009, the FBR threw its support behind the incumbent candidates Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Budiono (SBY-Budiono), after the candidate’s campaign team came to and lobbied the FBR elites. As they recognized and promised to guarantee the organization existence, later then the FBR leader KH Lutfi Hakim ordered every gardu coordinator to mobilize their member to work for the candidates. The guarantee can be implied as indirect support and back up to the organization activities and existences.
“Together with other members across Jakarta, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi and Bogor regency, I joined the candidate’s campaign,” Gunawan said. The 29-year-old man is another member of FBR who worked as illegal parking attendant at Batusari, Palmerah district, West Jakarta.
“Regardless any consideration, we must obey imamah. If our leader told us to vote SBY-Budiono, then we must vote them,” Gunawan continued. “Those who disobey imamah are betrayer.”
The candidates Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Budiono (SBY-Budiono), won the election. Fahrul Razi, a 32-year-old-Betawi who worked as ojek driver near Rawa Belong Flower Market, Palmerah district, was a bit cynical at the outcome.
“Although I voted the candidates, it will not going to change our fate as the poorer,” he said. *END