What former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama is going to do after he leaves prison next week has been the subject of much speculation in Indonesia, but in a heartfelt open letter that he wrote yesterday, he seems most concerned with turning a new leaf and becoming a better man thanks to his time in prison.
In the letter, which was posted on his official Instagram account, Ahok began by saying how grateful he was for all the donations of food, clothes, books and more from his supporters during his two years in prison, which amounted to more than he ever received at any other time in his life.
He then pleaded with his supporters not to greet him – or camp overnight outside the prison to do so – when he is scheduled for release next Thursday, Jan 24. He said that both the Cipinang Penitentiary and Mako Brimob Correctional Facility in Depok (he's being held in the latter but he must first go to the former for administrative clearance before his release) are located on busy roads so crowds gathering to witness his release would only create obstacles for people in both neighborhoods from going to work in the morning.
Then Ahok reflected on his time in prison and his loss in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, exhibiting newfound wisdom by saying he has learned invaluable lessons during his captivity and that he wouldn't trade it for anything.
"If we could go back in time and someone asked which would you choose [going to prison or winning the election]? I would say I choose to be imprisoned at Mako to study for two years (minus the 3.5 month remission), so that I could maintain self-discipline for the rest of my life. If I were reelected, I would have become more arrogant, rough, and I would have hurt more people," Ahok wrote.
The former governor further emphasized that he was becoming a new man by asking people not to call him by his long-time nickname, Ahok, but by his initials, BTP, after he gets out.
In the second page of his letter, Ahok once again reminded people not to abstain from the 2019 presidential election (he conveyed the same message in another letter earlier this week) and then quoted the nation's founding father, Soekarno, by writing that Pancasila, Indonesia's ideological foundation, is in all of us and it's up to us to defend and uphold it.
During his time as governor, Ahok was seen as an incorruptible, no-nonsense figure who didn't mince his words when attacking his enemies nor pull his punches when carrying out policies he believed were of the greatest benefit to the capital's citizens.
While that endeared him to many of his supporters, it also led to his imprisonment for blasphemy against Islam as it was a speech he made mentioning that his enemies had used a certain verse in the Quran to convince others not to vote for him – a Chinese Christian – that triggered his conviction and defeat in the 2017 election.
While there have been many rumors about what the former Jakarta governor will do after he is finally released from prison on Jan 24 – everything from joining PDI-P and President Joko Widodo's campaign to marrying his ex-wife's former bodyguard and going into business – nobody except Ahok himself knows for sure yet.