Indonesia & East Timor News Updates - May 25, 2017

* Indonesian president urges calm after suspected suicide attacks in Jakarta
* Jakarta suicide bombing linked to Islamic State: police
* Jakarta bombing attack a retaliation against police: Analyst
* Amid rising Islamist politics, Indonesia prepares for more stringent Ramadan
* Komnas HAM criticizes police for 'inhumane' raid on alleged sex party
* Indonesian caning of gay men strains Australian relationship, says Liberal MP
* Humanitarian Islam movement begins in East Java
* Indonesian teachers group declares anti-tobacco stance
* Timor-Leste's big spending: a brave way to tackle economic crisis or just reckless?


Indonesian president urges calm after suspected suicide attacks in Jakarta

Reuters - May 25, 2017

Indonesia's president urged people to remain calm on Thursday, a day after suspected suicide bombers killed three police officers on duty at a Jakarta bus terminal in an attack authorities said bore the hallmarks of globally inspired Islamist militants.

Ten people, including five police officers and five civilians, were also wounded in the twin blasts that were detonated five minutes apart by the two suspected attackers in the Indonesia capital late on Wednesday evening, police said.

The attack was the deadliest in Indonesia since January 2016, when eight people were killed, four of them attackers, after suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the capital.

"We must continue to keep calm (and) keep cool. Because... we Muslims are preparing to enter the month of Ramadan for fasting," President Joko Widodo said in a statement.

Authorities in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation are increasingly worried about a surge in radicalism, driven in part by a new generation of militants inspired by the Islamic State group.

National police spokesman Awi Setyono described the Jakarta blasts as a "global terrorist attack", but said police were still investigating whether the attackers had direct orders from Syria or elsewhere.

Police have not yet named the two dead suspects but a law enforcement source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they may have been linked to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, an umbrella organisation on a U.S. State Department "terrorist" list that is estimated to have drawn hundreds of Islamic State sympathisers in Indonesia.

Indonesia has suffered a series of mostly low-level attacks by Islamic State sympathisers in the past 17 months.

Residents helped clean up debris at the bus terminal in East Jakarta on Thursday, where splattered blood stains and broken glass remained after the attacks.

"After what happened in Manchester, in Marawi in the Philippines, maybe the cells here were triggered by the bombs and that lifted their passion to start bombing again," Setyono told television station TVOne.

He was referring to the suicide bombing that killed 22 people in a crowded concert hall in the British city of Manchester this week.

In the southern Philippines, thousands of civilians in Marawi City fled their homes this week after Islamist militants took over large parts of the city, leading to a declaration of martial law.

While most recent attacks in Indonesia have been poorly organised, authorities believe about 400 Indonesians have joined Islamic State in Syria and could pose a more lethal threat if they come home.

Police said Wednesday's attackers had used pressure cookers packed with explosives. A similar type of bomb was used by a lone attacker in the Indonesian city of Bandung in February. Authorities suspect the attacker, killed by police, had links to a radical network sympathetic to Islamic State.



Jakarta suicide bombing linked to Islamic State: police

Sydney Morning Herald - May 25, 2017

Jewel Topsfield and Karuni Rompies, Jakarta -- Indonesian police say a suicide bombing that killed three police officers at a busy bus terminal in East Jakarta on Wednesday night was linked to the Islamic State group.

The officers and two suicide bombers died in twin explosions near the Kampung Melayu bus terminal at about 9pm on May 24. Another 11 people -- including six police officers -- were wounded in the blasts caused by pressure-cooker bombs.

Asked if the attack was IS related, police spokesman Awi Setiyono said: "Yes, it is related".

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued an updated travel warning on Thursday warning Australians to be vigilant in Indonesia, including in Bali. The overall level of travel advice -- exercise a high degree of caution -- remained unchanged.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo extended his deep condolences to the victims and their families and called for calm and unity while police were doing their job.

"We have to safeguard calm because within days we Muslims are preparing to enter the month of Ramadan to carry out fasting," he said.

Jakarta-based terrorism analyst Sidney Jones said it was about "90 per cent certain" the perpetrators were from a pro-IS group.

Share on Facebook SHARE
Share on Twitter TWEET

Police officers carry the coffin of their colleague Sergeant Gilang Imam Adinata who was killed in Wednesday's bombings...
Police officers carry the coffin of their colleague Sergeant Gilang Imam Adinata who was killed in Wednesday's bombings in Jakarta. Photo: AP

Ms Jones said the perpetrators were likely to be linked to Bahrun Naim -- an IS leader in Syria who uses social media to instigate attacks on police -- or to the IS-affiliated Jamaah Ansharut Daulah?, which was this year named as a terrorist group by the United States, or another group.

Gruesome images of a decapitated head near the bus terminal and scattered body parts were widely circulated on social media in the wake of the attack.

The explosions came within five minutes of each other at the bus stop and a nearby toilet.

The blasts came after 22 people were killed in a blast at the Manchester Arena in the UK on Monday night after a concert by US singer Ariana Grande and at least 21 people were killed when IS-linked militants swept through the Philippine city of Marawi.

However Ms Jones said it was very unlikely an attack could be mounted in the space of two days in solidarity with two separate incidents in other parts of the world.

"The likelihood is that attacks were in the works in the lead up to Ramadan because we have seen in the past attacks are seen to take on a greater significance," she said.

"Last year, there was an exhortation about a month before Ramadan from the spokesperson for ISIS in Syria to people to wage war at home if they couldn't emigrate to Syria. And that call was heeded by a number of different pro-ISIS groups around the world."

Witness Wilson Mangala told Metro TV he was buying phone credit about 500 metres away from the bus terminal when the attack happened.

"The first explosion I thought was just the normal sound of a bus tire exploding, because we are close to a terminal. About a minute after there was another explosion. Then a man ran by, carrying a victim with a bloodied leg. I asked: 'What is it, pak [Mr]? He said 'bomb, bomb'."

"I didn't believe it at first, there was quite a big crowd, there were scared people who ran and hid in the alleys around here. Some were crying, they were afraid of another explosion. "I saw body parts, I got so scared, I don't want to look anymore."

Indonesia's largest Islamic civil organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said terror groups had a strategy of attacking police in order to break down social order.

"So they try to scare off the police and if police become afraid of them, it is very dangerous," said Supreme Council General Secretary Yahya Cholil Staquf. "This strategy has been shown in the last few attacks in Tangerang, Jakarta and last night in Kampung Melayu. Their focus was the police."

National Police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said police officers had been providing security for a torch parade to celebrate the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan which starts on Friday.

Evidence found at the crime scene included nails, metal parts and a receipt for a pressure-cooker. A similar bomb was used when a suspected militant linked to IS blew himself up in Bandung in February.

Mr Setyo said police were still investigating whether the blasts were linked to recent attacks around the world.

He said police would provide security ahead of and during Ramadan.
"I call on people not to be afraid," he said. "We must fight terrorism by watching our own neighbourhoods carefully especially if there are unusual things happening."

Mr Setyo praised netizens who posted on social media using the hashtag #KamiTakTakut (we are not afraid). Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted that Australia stands with Indonesia and condemns the "murderous attack" on civilians and police



Jakarta bombing attack a retaliation against police: Analyst

Jakarta Post - May 25, 2017

Jakarta -- The double suicide bombing on Wednesday night near a Transjakarta bus station in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, that killed three police officers was an act of retaliation against the police, an analyst has said.

The director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), Sidney Jones, said on Thursday that the police had been seen as protectors of a thogut state that rejects application of Islamic law. In Islamic theology, thogut refers to those who worship anything other than Allah.

"The police are the ones who arrest mujahidin [one who engages in jihad] and sometimes kill them in operations [...]," she said on Thursday.

She said the purpose of the attack was also to show their presence following numerous police actions in past years that had weakened terrorist groups in the country.

Three police officers fell victim to the Kampung Melayu bomb blast while escorting a pawai obor (torch parade) to welcome the fasting month of Ramadhan, which begins on Saturday.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Setyo Wasisto previously said that the police had detected possible attacks in Jakarta, but were not able to identify when or where they might happen.

"No country in the world can prevent terrorist attacks. Look at the United Kingdom, which has one of the most sophisticated intelligence operations in the world," Sidney said, referring to a suicide bombing at a pop concert in the British city of Manchester, late on Monday. (fac)



Amid rising Islamist politics, Indonesia prepares for more stringent Ramadan

Voice of America - May 25, 2017

Krithika Varagur, Jakarta, Indonesia -- Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting that starts Friday, has typically been a relaxed affair in the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia. But in the last few years there has been rising intolerance against activities like selling food during daylight hours. This year, after a divisive election cycle that marked the first true emergence of Islamist politics in modern Indonesia, many are preparing for the most austere Ramadan in recent memory.

There has also been a spate of disturbing crackdowns on gay Indonesians and a suicide bombing attack Wednesday in an East Jakarta train station. Experts have speculated that at least one factor behind the former is a desire for high-profile value signaling before the holy month.

Moral police

For at least the last five years, hard-line groups like the Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) have staged unofficial sweeps of restaurants, bars and clubs they claim disrespect Ramadan, during which Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, alcohol and sex from dawn to dusk.

Last year, a 53-year-old food stall proprietor in West Java was attacked by local officials for preparing food in daytime during Ramadan and forced to go into hiding. Jakarta's Chinese-Christian governor Ahok tried to stem these groups, which operate outside official legal channels. But Ahok was unseated last month after an election during which his opponent actively allied with Islamist groups like FPI and heavily promoted his Muslim identity. As such, the country's secular facade is dropping.

The emergence of Islamic majoritarianism means this year's Ramadan will be more strict on a societal level, said Alissa Wahid, national coordinator of the GUSDURian Network for social activism.

"Even though the police has repeatedly stated that sweeping won't be allowed... in the past they generally actually took a soft stand [with them], either helping or escorting the sweepings," Wahid said.

Although Indonesia is an officially secular country that recognizes and protects six religions, Sharia-inspired bylaws have been on the rise in recent years -- numbering about 440 in 2015, according to one researcher's estimate.

Moral signaling

Both the police and the FPI habitually raid red-light districts and other sites of the sex trade before and during Ramadan. In 2011, FPI illicitly raided bars in Surabaya, East Java.

That can be seen as a precedent for the last Sunday's bust of a popular gay sauna in Jakarta, where 141 men were arrested at a "sex party." Earlier in May, 14 gay men in Surabaya were arrested at a similar party and forced to have HIV tests. This week, West Java police announced a task force to target gay Indonesians.

The fact that all of these occurred in close succession is typical of the "virtue" based crackdowns before Ramadan, said Dede Oetomo, a prominent gay rights activist. "There's very little social cost to it because few people vocally defend LGBT rights in Indonesia," he said.

Although it had been on the books for two months, Indonesia's first caning of a gay couple for homosexuality, in the conservative, Sharia-ruled province of Aceh, happened Tuesday, adding grim context to the other raids.

Another twist to this turbulent month came in the form of a suicide bombing in an East Jakarta bus station Wednesday that killed three policemen and one of the bombers. Details are still emerging on the motivation behind the attack, but it adds to the chaotic feel of Indonesian current events.

Terrorist attacks frequently spike during Ramadan as extremist groups interpret the holy month's imperative for heightened good conduct as a call to jihad.

The whole story

How the next month unfolds in Indonesia will be of interest. Bad news tends to monopolize headlines, and distort the reality of most Indonesians' Muslim life. Islam has been in the archipelago for at least eight centuries and been absorbed into hundreds of local cultures. Indonesians have historically debated even the starting date for Ramadan -- it hinges on a point about sighting the full moon -- which points to the plurality of traditions that can be good-naturedly accommodated in the region.

"My stall will be open for business all day every day, Ramadan or not," said Ahmad, an observant Muslim who runs a fried-noodle food stall in South Jakarta. "I'm not worried about any sweeping. I don't even care if Muslims come to eat here during Ramadan. It's just not important. For me, or," -- he gestured to the row of vendors sharing the sidewalk with him -- "really any of us."



Komnas HAM criticizes police for 'inhumane' raid on alleged sex party

Jakarta Post - May 25, 2017

Jakarta -- The North Jakarta Police have garnered protests and backlash from various public groups for their recent raid on an alleged gay sex party at a gym in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, where men were allegedly stripped naked and photographs taken of them during the raid went viral.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on Wednesday called the raid, in which 141 men were arrested, "inhumane."

According to those arrested, the police had forced them to get into public vehicles naked and took pictures of them, Komnas HAM commissioner Muhammad Nurkhoiron said as quoted by

"The police action was an extensive abuse of power disrespecting human rights, as well as taking away the presumption of innocence," he said.

Separately, the Jakarta Police denied the allegations, saying that its officers had not taken pictures of the men. "We do not know who took the pictures and shared them," said Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono.

On Tuesday, the police released 126 of the arrested men. National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has instructed his officers to investigate the reports of shared pictures. (agn)



Indonesian caning of gay men strains Australian relationship, says Liberal MP

Australian Associated Press - May 25, 2017

A Liberal MP says the "cruel and sickening" caning of two gay men in Aceh has cast a cloud over Australia's relationship with Indonesia.

Australia should not stand by and ignore the inhumane treatment of the men who were caned 85 times under sharia law for having consensual sex, the gay backbencher Trent Zimmerman told parliament on Tuesday.

He was grateful the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, had raised the matter with her Indonesian counterparts but called on others, including the Muslim community in Australia, to take a stand.

"Our friendship with Indonesia has been strengthened by our perception of a pluralistic, democratic and moderate Islamic nation," Zimmerman said. "Sadly, recent events have given us cause to question that understanding.

"Nothing should absolve the Indonesian government of its obligation to ensure all its citizens are afforded the basic human rights it has agreed to uphold through its international commitments."

The crossbench senator Derryn Hinch has called for Australia to suspend its foreign aid to Indonesia over the matter.

"I believe Australian aid should be suspended to show our disapproval and disgust," Hinch said. "I'm disappointed by our government's silence on this cruelty."



Humanitarian Islam movement begins in East Java

Jakarta Post - May 25, 2017

Jakarta -- A movement to address the contextualization of Islamic teaching, dubbed Humanitarian Islam, has been inaugurated in Jombang, East Java.

GP Ansor, the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, inaugurated the movement during an event attended by over 300 worldwide religious scholars.

"Muslims should be able to identify problems within Islamic orthodox teaching," GP Ansor chairman Yaqut Qoumas said in a press release made available on Monday.

Included in a road map of the movement was a call for "a serious, long-term socio-cultural, political, religious and educational campaign to transform Muslims' understanding of their religious obligations, and the very nature of Islamic orthodox."

The Humanitarian Islam movement was declared as having officially begun during an international gathering of ulemas held from May 21 to 22 attended by scholars from South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East.

The event focused on discussing problematic elements in Islamic orthodox teachings that often prevents Muslims from adapting to modern civilization. The scholars addressed crises Muslims were facing and the role of Islamic orthodox teachings.

"It is false and counterproductive to claim that the actions of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and other such groups have nothing to do with Islam, or merely represent a perversion of Islamic teachings. They are, in fact, outgrowths of Wahhabism and other fundamentalist streams of Sunni Islam," Yaqut said. (rdi)



Indonesian teachers group declares anti-tobacco stance

Jakarta Post - May 24, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta -- Ahead of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, Indonesia's largest teachers group signed on Wednesday a declaration to underline the role of educators in supporting measures for tobacco control.

Created by the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI), the declaration consists of six points, which include teachers' commitment to "protect students from the dangers of smoking" and "oppose CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] campaigns from the tobacco industry."

Teachers also called on the government to create a comprehensive tobacco control regulations to curb cigarette consumption.

"Teachers have to be role models for their pupils by not smoking [...] Exemplary acts by teachers are very strategic in the [anti-tobacco] campaign," PGRI chairwoman Unifah Rosyidi said at the declaration's signing event in Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Wednesday.

The event was organized by the National Commission on Tobacco Control (Komnas PT), a coalition of organizations that has been staunchly campaigning for tobacco related issues in Indonesia, one of the world's biggest tobacco consumers.

Komnas PT chairman Prijo Sidipratomo welcomed the declaration, saying that it was in line with one of PGRI's missions to support the country's development.

"Some 25 percent of students' daily time is spent at school, which highlights the role of teachers in shaping their way of life," Prijo said. (rin)



Timor-Leste's big spending: a brave way to tackle economic crisis or just reckless?

The Guardian (Australia) - May 25, 2017

Helen Davidson in Oecusse and Dili -- In Timor-Leste's Oecusse province, a band of children wash in the river beneath a multimillion-dollar bridge, yet to open. On a freshly paved road towards a US$9m-plus irrigation project, a young girl hauls a bucket of water out of a ground well.

Across the road from the construction site of a three-star hotel, a young family lives in a small hut from which they operate a store. Augustina, 15, has learned some English and says she wanted to become a doctor.

They are among 70,000 people living in this Timor-Leste community, a remote coastal enclave surrounded by Indonesian West Timor, where the Portuguese landed more than 500 years ago. Like all of Timor-Leste, it was devastated by the Indonesian occupation and the violent withdrawal of forces at the end of last century.

Today, the Oecusse special economic zone hosts one of several Timor-Leste infrastructure projects of breathtaking scale, which the government is hoping will bring economic sustainability before its current lifeline of oil and gas reserves dries up.

Timor-Leste has a very short window in which to achieve its goal. More than 90% of its US$1.3bn-1.4bn ($1.75bn-$2bn) annual budget comes from the petroleum fund -- a sovereign wealth reservoir of more than US$16.2bn drawn from the Bayu-Undan oil and gas field which is expected to stop producing in the next few years. An ownership dispute with Australia over further reserves in the Timor Sea is in arbitration in the Hague.

The government says tight legislation around the use of the petroleum fund ensures its stability, but also acknowledges the 3% annual spending has been frontloaded to 2022 in order to "improve capabilities" in government and "resolve bottlenecks".

Among other projects around the country, almost $500m in public funds have already been poured into Oecusse's bridge, irrigation dam, a port and what will be Timor-Leste's largest international airport, in the name of economic diversification.

"No development around the world is without risk," says former prime minister and now head of the Oecusse project, Mari Alkatiri. "I do believe that if you don't take a risk you will never have anything."

But observers are concerned about the Hail Mary pass, and watchdog groups have criticised a lack of transparency and accountability, saying there has been no public cost-benefit or risk analysis, and no significant private investment to boost the public funds.

Dili-based organisation Lao Hamutuk has accused the government of focusing on roads, bridges and airports over water, schools and hospitals. Former deputy prime minister Mario Carrascalao, who passed away last Saturday, also criticised the government's big spending before addressing healthcare and social needs for "the small people".

The government says it is doing both. Standing next to the US$9m-plus dam, where shrieking children play in the irrigation channels, Arsenio Bano, the regional secretary for education and social issues in Oecusse, says the administration's initial focus is on basic infrastructure, including roads, water, and electricity, to lift the living standards of the people.

He says electricity has been brought to more than 80% of households already, and 2,000 homes have solar power. The irrigation project will deliver water to 1,100 hectares of rice paddy fields and the homes on them, in an aim to reduce rice imports by 50%.

It is also creating jobs. At the Oecusse store Ruban Lanos, 24, says he is happy because the project has brought employment to the people of Oecusse.

The major construction projects are largely Indonesian-run and Portuguese-supervised with about 70% local workforce, Alkatiri says, but a lack of skilled labour has been an issue and has caused delays.

Lao Hamutuk has visited Oecusse and is sceptical about the 70% figure -- finding most sites to be primarily staffed by Indonesians and Chinese workers.

An unknown number of families have also been forcibly evicted, according to Dr Silverio Pinto Baptista, the provedor for human rights and justice.

While people benefit from the spread of electricity and water, sanitation and industry, and employment, the investments are primarily to draw foreign investors from the finance, agribusiness, and tourism sectors. "If I open the door tomorrow, I will have investors," says Akatiri in Dili.

Alkatiri says agreements have been signed with Singaporean and Swiss training institutions, and he tells the Guardian there have already been applications from foreign investors and joint ventures to the tune of $100m-$350m, but won't detail what they are.

He later says some airlines have expressed interest, and suggests a casino also, but that would not likely be approved because "people were not ready".

Timor-Leste is already offering attractive incentives to foreign investors -- including a 10% corporate tax and a "no profit no tax" promise.

Alkatiri says Oecusse offers the comfort of better governance and efficiency than in Dili, without corruption, and Bano says land lease deals could further sweeten the deal to draw companies to Oecusse instead of Dili. Bano predicts the region is five years away from welcoming mass tourism and it needs to be making money within 15 years.

Government leaders look to places such as Bali, and hope Oecusse's future tourism industry emulates it. A number of government bureaucrats and diplomats tell the Guardian that Australia's high-risk travel warning against the country is a particular roadblock.

But the Guardian hears of instances of rushed spending, including the planned rebuild of a monument to the Portuguese arrival. An unfinished amphitheatre sits next to the main statue which is surrounded by parklands. Bano says work has stopped because they don't like how it has turned out and will redo it all, at a cost of $500,000 to $700,000.

Civil society groups have pointed to a lack of transparency around the project, including the far lower reporting requirements for the administration's spending compared with other government departments.

Niall Almond, researcher on natural resources and economy at Lao Hamutuk, says there have been questions around the project since the early stages. "Initially very few details were being published in the state budget about how money was being allocated," he says.

"It's gradually improved in terms of the proposal for spending -- there is now detailed information about theoretically how the money will be spent but there's not transparency in terms of actual spending."

The government "transparency portal" website gives little beyond top-line figures of money pledged and received.

"We're basically pushing for public cost-benefit analysis, increased transparency so people can actually track where the money is going, and an emphasis on more public consultation than has been done in the past."

Alkatiri says "of course" there was economic analysis done but "the decision is mine" in the end. "I'm not an economist, I don't use Excel paper. I'm using my feelings," he says. "This is a holistic development of a territory. It's going to be a reference for the country."

Alkatiri dismisses the criticisms of civil society groups such as Lao Hamutuk, as coming from groups "unfamiliar with these kinds of things".

Alkatiri says he has had "no time" to release the economic analysis of the project which they were requesting, but insists such work was completed. When asked if he could instead release reports, Alkatiri says yes, but Timorese people didn't like to read.

At a G7+ conference in Dili on Monday, delegates from conflict-affected countries discussed how their respective nations could move from "fragility to resilience", with a particular focus on the Sustainable Development Goals.

UN officials privately express their support for the host nation's plans, given the desperate context. Timor-Leste is the second most oil-dependent country in the world, but its current reserves will run out first. They must try anything to diversify.

And so the level of ambition -- and cash -- thrown at projects such as Oecusse is sometimes seen as more brave than reckless, especially by other nations also trying to rebuild after being torn apart by conflict.

With little to no tax for corporations, Timor-Leste may find success as a financial hub or a tax haven. With world-class reefs and beaches -- both in Oecusse and Timor-Leste main -- it would be unsurprising if a tourism boom approaches.

In the meantime it treads a fine line between lifting up the more than one third of the population living in post-conflict poverty, and securing the nation's economic future.



Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN)