Indonesia & East Timor News Updates - February 15, 2018

* Aceh trans women who were stripped naked and beaten speak out about ordeal
* Authorities bar art exhibition in Yogyakarta
* Indonesia warns MSG states not to meddle in other countries' affairs
* ULMWP leaders welcomed to Port Moresby
* Major online media outlets publishes article on positive effects of smoking
* Sexual assault suspect says was turned on by victim's dress, Komnas PA: Stop victim-blaming
* Indonesia dishonors rule of law with award to Philippines' top cop
* Indonesian police round up amorous couples amid celebration ban
* Valentine Day worthless: MUI
* Campaigning kicks off in Indonesia's crucial local elections
* Indonesian President Jokowi boosts ties with military in power shift
* Jokowi sets sights on equality in 2019 national programs
* Indonesia records $670m trade deficit in January: BPS


Aceh trans women who were stripped naked and beaten speak out about ordeal

Pink News - February 15, 2018

Meka Beresford -- A group of trans women who were stripped and beaten in Indonesia have spoken out about their ordeal.

Last month, 12 women had their heads shaven, were forced to wear typically male clothing and forced into demeaning exercises in an effort to "turn them into men".

The raid was called "operasi penyakit masyarakat," which translates as "community sickness operation".

The horrendous abuse was carried out in Aceh, Indonesia. It is the only province in the country which practices Sharia Law.

The 12 women have recounted to Amnesty International Indonesia exactly what happened on the night of January 27 when they were rounded up as part of the "clean up" operation. Police conducted multiple raids on local salons to find the trans women and then they were brought to a central part of the town.

In front of a group of onlookers, the women reported that the police chief delivered a speech condemning their gender identity and provoked the crowd to jeer at them. "Oust them. Just burn them. Just kill them," the onlookers reportedly chanted.

The women said that they were then marched in a military-style manner to a nearby park where they were forced to carry out mock military training to make them "manlier". They were also forced to strip naked.

They were ordered to roll on the ground, but when one woman refused a warning shot was fired to scare her. Another woman said she had water thrown on her for protesting the treatment.

One begged the police to "just shoot me", and told them that she would rather die with "dignity" than be tormented and humiliated. "You as a transgender do not have the right to have dignity," the police chief allegedly responded.

Six of the women had their hair cut off and were told to urinate in a bottle for a drug test. One woman was told to hose down the others, but she was kicked by authorities for not doing it properly. They were told to shout "like men" and were slapped with shoes.

After being soaked through with the hose, the women say that they were detained and made to sleep in a cell with no mattress on a cold floor in wet clothing.

The following day, they say that 11 of them were "released" but forced to go to a religious sermon where a Muslim cleric told them that they should "return" to their "nature". He also allegedly said that it was "ok to kill transgender or other LGBT people because they are more eying than kafir (an infidel)".

The one woman who was not released was detained because of an explicit video found on her phone.

Amnesty said that the treatment was "cruel, inhuman and degrading" and could be defined as torture under international law.

Usman Hamid, the Executive Director for the Indonesia branch of the charity said that the arrests and abuse was based on nothing but discrimination. "It is appalling that a group of heavily armed police officers raided and arrested transgender women on the basis of nothing but hatred."

"Local authorities and ordinary people, in the name of Shari'a law, have colluded to attack and humiliate these transgender women. We believe the actions of the police amount to torture under international law," Hamid said.

The women are said to have been left "deeply traumatised" by the raid and felt forced to flee the province out of fear for their safety. Some were intimidated by neighbours or family members.

One woman was kicked and had a stone thrown at her. A number were also fired from their jobs because employees were afraid to keep employing them because of unwanted police attention.

Amnesty made a call on Indonesian authorities to investigate into the "War against transgenders".

"The harrowing tales of these women must be a wake-up call to the Indonesian authorities and people everywhere. The human rights of all Indonesians... must be upheld and protected equally.

"President Joko Widodo must instruct the National Police to order North Aceh police to stop attacking and start protecting transgender people, should they receive threats and intimidations from local people," they said.



Authorities bar art exhibition in Yogyakarta

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2018

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta -- Local authorities in Yogyakarta barred an art exhibition initiated by a group of activists protesting of the construction of a new airport in Kulonprogo regency, Yogyakarta.

The exhibition, titled "Tanah Istimewa" (Special Land) and initiated by a group called "Teman Temon" (Temon's friends), was initially to be held at Lorong Gallery in Kasihan district, Kulonprogo.

Local authorities, however, prevented the exhibition's opening, citing the organizer's failure to lodge a notification letter with the local authorities as the reason.

"After we checked with the village head, we found out that the organizer had not submitted a notification letter about the event to local authorities. The Lorong Gallery [management] voluntarily cancelled the exhibition," Kasihan Police Precinct head Comm. Supardi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Lorong Gallery curator Arham Rahman, however, said a village head in Kasihan, Joko Pramono, had called him while he was preparing the opening of the exhibition of Wednesday evening. During the meeting, Joko claimed that the police had warned him not to let the exhibition go on because "it triggers unrest among society".

The planned two-day exhibition was held in solidarity with local farmers affected by the construction of a new airport in Kulonprogo. The farmers were allegedly evicted from their plots of land to make way for the airport construction. The exhibition had planned to display paintings, art installations, posters, short films and pieces of evidence indicating evictions in Kulonprogo.

The Post was unable to reach Joko for comment. (swd)



Indonesia warns MSG states not to meddle in other countries' affairs

Radio New Zealand International - February 15, 2018

Indonesia has warned Melanesian Spearhead Group member states against meddling in other countries' affairs.

The warning was delivered by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry's Director General of Asia-Pacific and African Affairs, Desra Percaya, at this week's MSG leaders summit.

The summit was hosted by Papua New Guinea's prime minister Peter O'Neill in Port Moresby. It was attended by leaders and officials from the other four full MSG members: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia's FLNKS Kanaks Movement.

Indonesia, which is an associate member, was represented by Mr Percaya who endorsed the MSG's plan on regional co-operation and common prosperity. Antara reported that he warned the other states not to meddle in other countries' sovereign matters.

This came amid the MSG's ongoing deliberations on whether to admit the United Liberation Movement for West Papua as a full member. The Liberation Movement currently has observer status.

"We remind member states (of their obligation) to continue to implement the mandate in accordance with the principles of forming MSG, including refraining from meddling in other countries' businesses much less than their sovereignty," Mr Percaya said in a press statement.

Indonesia's inclusion in the MSG in 2012 was controversial, seen by many critics as solely an attempt to quell support for West Papuan independence aims.

But Jakarta argues that with eleven million Melanesians across five of its provinces, Indonesia has the biggest Melanesian population in the world and is an important part of the region.

Leaders of the five full MSG members have been divided over whether to grant the West Papuans full membership. Yet they mostly agree on the need to remain engaged with Jakarta on their ongoing concerns about human rights abuses and the lingering self determination issue in Papua.

Meanwhile, the Moresby summit resulted in the MSG leaders endorsing new guidelines on membership criteria. They also referred the Liberation Movement's application for full membership to the MSG secretariat for processing.



ULMWP leaders welcomed to Port Moresby

Vanuatu Daily Post - February 15, 2018

Len Garae -- The four West Papuan official representatives of United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) led by Chairman Benny Wenda, have been provided with historic VIP welcome by the Melanesian Spearhead Group host, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O'Neil on arrival at Port Moresby last weekend.

Speaking for ULMWP in Port Vila, Executive Member Andy Ayamiseba says it gives his organization and the people of West Papua great joy to know that the 21st MSG host has demonstrated true Melanesian diplomatic respect for their leaders, by making them feel a true part of Melanesian brotherhood.

Ayamiseba says he has received reports from Port Moresby that on arrival, his leaders were saluted, provided with official black diplomatic cars and driven to Stanley Hotel, the venue of the meetings in PNG's Capital City.

After signing declaration after declaration for about 50 years, ULMWP Leaders made an unanimous decision that the signing ceremony to endorse OPM Leader Jacob Prai and the Liberation Army of West Papua into ULMWP at Grand Hotel in Port Vila last week was the "final declaration".

Now they are confident that West Papua is about to enter a new dawn with Melanesia.



Major online media outlets publishes article on positive effects of smoking

Coconuts Jakarta - February 15, 2018

Indonesia has the unfortunate distinction of having one of the highest smoking rates in the world, especially among men and underage children and an estimated rate of over 200,000 deaths per year due to tobacco-related diseases.

And it's still rising. This is due in large part to a lack of government regulations on smoking advertisements -- most Indonesians are bombarded with tobacco ads from every angle, even (especially) children around schools.

If you think things might any different online, check out this article that was shared through the Facebook page of, which has 8.5 million followers and belongs to one one of the biggest online media outlets in Indonesia ( is the #8th most visited website within Indonesia according to Similarweb).

The headline translates to: "Not Just Bad Effects, It Turns Out Smoking Also Has Some Positive Sides"

Now when you visit the link you'll notice it takes you to the website, not While that site is filled with articles, many of them conspicuously advertorial in nature, the name suggests it is not a real news site but a blog and so perhaps it could be argued that it shouldn't be held to the same standards as a news site like

Except, of course, that it was shared via's official Facebook page (the one with 8.5 million followers). And it is included in the news/health content category.

At any rate, what does the article argue are the positive effects of smoking? Although it doesn't link to any sources, it says smoking lowers the risk of knee joint surgery (one reason -- smokers are less likely to run), Parkinson's disease, obesity, the risk of death after a heart attack, and improves the effectiveness of the heart medicine clopidogrel. Some but not all of those points cite studies that prove them (again with no links but they do seem to have cited real studies).

While some of the article's specifics may be true, it never makes the point of saying that overall the negative health impacts of smoking far, far, far outweigh any potential benefits. Read with an uncritical eye, there is no doubt an article like this could only make a reader think smoking is less dangerous than it actually is.

Is it unethical? Well, if you consider publishing and promoting information that is dangerous to the public (like posting bomb-making instructions) unethical, then yes.

Media companies in Indonesia can and do get into trouble for ethical breaches, but the chance that anybody else will call Tribun on this are small. After all, they don't have the most sterling reputation for journalism anyways and they've insulated themselves by posting it to a sister "blog" site (as some other media outlets here do too, generally to publish articles that adhere to few, if any, journalistic standards).

And, on top of that, arguing the benefits of smoking is seen as legitimate discourse in Indonesia still. Politicians have long used arguments about tobacco's supposed medicinal qualities, in tandem with arguments about how regulations will hurt poor tobacco farmers, to reject even moderate regulations on the lucrative industry.

Western countries like the United States struggled for decades to dismantle the power of their tobacco industries, who also used phony arguments about the health benefits of their products to stave off regulations. But those arguments, and the many multi-million dollar lawsuits they set off, have been settled.



Sexual assault suspect says was turned on by victim's dress, Komnas PA: Stop victim-blaming

Coconuts Jakarta - February 15, 2018

Police on Tuesday arrested a suspect in the sexual assault case in Jatinegara, East Jakarta, CCTV footage of which has gone viral recently showing an assailant tackling a woman to the ground and grabbing her private parts before running away.

With the help of the footage, the Jatinegara Police identified a suspect, known by his initial R, a married man and father who lives near the victim's neighborhood. After the arrest, police say R confessed that he acted "spontaneously" when he saw the victim, who has been identified by her initials DK.

"He was [driven by] desire, just spontaneous like that because the victim was wearing a house dress which was somewhat see-through because of the lighting in the area," said Jatinegara Police Chief Supadi, as quoted by Detik yesterday.

Though the police were just conveying R's motive to the public, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) condemned the suspect's attempt to deflect blame from himself.

"The culture of victim-blaming must be stopped. The reason that the suspect gave [for the assault] shows that discriminative viewpoints against women are still very strong within our society," Komnas Perempuan head Azriana Rambe said yesterda, as quoted by Detik.

Azriana added that it's imperative to educate men that women aren't merely to be seen as sexual objects and that women's clothing is never an invitation to sexual harassment or assault.

"Just like men, women have the right to wear whatever they want," she said. "Human rights values and gender equality must be integrated into formal and non-formal educational curriculum, including education in families. People have the right to their own bodies."

While victim-blaming in sexual assault cases like this one is unfortunately still common in Indonesia, the argument that wearing more conservative dress helps prevents women from getting harassed simply does not hold weight. For example, one of the most talked about sexual harassment cases so far this year involved a woman in the city of Depok who was wearing a hijab when a passing motorcyclist groped her breasts.



Indonesia dishonors rule of law with award to Philippines' top cop

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - February 14, 2018

Phelim Kine -- The Indonesian government debased the rule of law today by awarding Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald dela Rosa its highest honor, the Medal of Honor.

Indonesia's National Police Chief, Gen. Tito Karnavian, praised dela Rosa for his "rock star-like inspiration to the Indonesian national police and the Indonesian people on how to fight the war on drugs." That's a perverse assessment of a Philippine government official implicated in possible crimes against humanity for inciting and instigating killings linked to the government's "war on drugs."

Since June 2016, that campaign has killed more than 12,000 people, according to estimates from reliable nongovernmental organizations and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. Most victims, including a number of children, have been urban slum dwellers. Human Rights Watch and investigative journalists have documented that many of those deaths amount to extrajudicial killings by Philippine police personnel and their agents. Dela Rosa has obstructed calls for accountability for those deaths by dismissing requests for independent investigations as "legal harassment" and declaring that such demands "dampens the morale" of police officers.

The handful of prosecutions of police personnel implicated in the killings have not resulted in convictions. In July, dela Rosa reinforced the anti-drug campaign's culture of impunity by reinstating 18 police officers facing homicide charges in the 2016 killing of Rolando Espinosa Sr., mayor of Albuera, on Leyte island. This, despite compelling evidence that the officers committed "premeditated murder" when they shot Espinosa to death in a Manila jail cell on November 5, 2016.

Indonesia's police chief Karnavian has expressed fondness for violent extrajudicial approaches to illegal drug use previously. In July he publicly touted the shooting of drug dealers as the ideal approach. That's possible instigation of deadly violence given that a University of Melbourne analysis indicates that Indonesian police killed an estimated 49 suspected drug dealers in the first six months of 2017. That is a sharp rise from 14 such killings in all of 2016 and 10 in 2015. Ominously, more than one third of the total police killings in Indonesia from January to June 2017 occurred after the suspects had surrendered to police.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo should join calls for a United Nations-led international investigation into the Philippine "drug war" rather than honoring one of its chief architects.



Indonesian police round up amorous couples amid celebration ban

Agence France Presse - February 15, 2018

Jakarta -- Valentine's Day was banned in some Indonesian cities as police rounded up amorous couples, giving the official kiss-off to a tradition which critics say does not deserve any love in the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.

The prohibitions come amid concerns that traditionally tolerant Indonesia is taking a sharp fundamentalist turn by pushing to make pre-marital sex, including gay sex, illegal and punishable with jail time.

Authorities in the country's second biggest city Surabaya briefly detained about 24 couples during a raid to sniff out any sign of Valentine's Day celebrations yesterday. They were expected to be released with a reprimand.

Mataram city, located on the tourist island of Lombok, issued its own Valentine's Day ban and ordered police to raid schools in the hunt for passionate students unable to keep their hands off each other. However, romantic parties at hotels and cafes were left alone, according to authorities.

Syamsu Rizal, the deputy mayor of Makassar on the island of Sulawesi, said his city prohibited Valentine's celebrations, while Depok on the outskirts of Jakarta followed suit.

"It has never been declared by the government to be a celebration in the country" and the ban would prevent hanky-panky among students, Rizal said.

Makassar has imposed bans on Valentine's Day for the past few years. Last year, city authorities raided convenience stores to seize condoms in a bid to stop teenagers from having sex on Feb 14.

At least 10 cities across the nation issued full or partial bans on Valentine's Day celebrations.

Aceh province, the only place in Indonesia that imposes Islamic law, issued a fresh Valentine's prohibition yesterday, citing religious norms. It has ordered similar bans in previous years.

"Valentine's Day reflects a culture which is not in line with Aceh's and Islamic law," provincial governor Irwandi Yusuf said in a statement.

Islamic clerics and some pious Muslims use the occasion to criticise what they see as Western decadence. But many Indonesians practise a moderate form of Islam and celebrate Valentine's Day with cards, chocolates and flowers for their loved ones.



Valentine Day worthless: MUI

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2018

Jakarta -- Valentine's Day has no value and therefore celebrating it should be forbidden, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has said.

"We should prohibit Valentine's Day because it is worth nothing. It will only cause a fuss and destroy norms and morality," MUI chairman Ma'ruf Amin said as quoted by on Tuesday.

He encouraged every governor and mayor to examine the positive and negative impacts of Valentine's Day celebrations.

"Every ban has its own cause, and each region has a different level of vulnerability. Hence, not every region must ban Valentine's Day celebrations," Ma'ruf said.

Aceh is one of the provinces that has banned Valentine's Day celebrations. Aceh Besar Regent Mawardi Ali has issued a circular banning all Valentine's Day festivities.

"We have informed heads of districts, villages, schools and public institutions to help spread awareness on the importance of banning Valentine's Day celebrations in Aceh Besar. We must respect the people of Aceh and Aceh Besar, who abide by sharia," Mawardi said. (sha/ebf)



Campaigning kicks off in Indonesia's crucial local elections

Nikkei Asian Review - February 15, 2018

Jun Suzuki and Erwida Maulia, Jakarta -- Campaigning kicked off in Indonesia on Thursday for local elections that will have a significant bearing on President Joko Widodo's bid to retain the presidency next year.

Gubernatorial elections will be held in half of Indonesia's 34 provinces on June 27, as will polls in 39 cities and 115 regencies.

Some parties will only select their candidate for the April 2019 presidential race once they have seen how they fare at local level this year.

The polls will also be a chance for parties to map out a strategy and consider coalition partners for the national elections, according to Djayadi Hanan, executive director of pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting.

As a result, June's local elections are likely to see the kind of full-scale campaigns that would be run at national level.

Within the ruling coalition, the Golkar party has already come out and backed Widodo for the presidency. His own Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, headed by former President Megawati Sukarnoputri, on the other hand, has yet to officially pick a candidate.

Prabowo Subianto is expected to lead the opposition group. The former son-in-law of the late ex-President Suharto ran Widodo close in the last presidential election in 2014.

The two are currently seen as the only candidates who can realistically win enough support in parliament to have a shot at the presidency. Under Indonesia's political system, presidential candidates require support from groups that command a minimum of 20% of parliamentary seats.

More importantly, the governors who emerge victorious in June will be pivotal in mobilizing votes in the presidential race. In 2014, the governors of West Java, West Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara managed to sway the electorate in favor of Subianto, Hanan pointed out.

Of particular interest will be the gubernatorial elections in the country's four most populous provinces of West Java, East Java, Central Java and North Sumatra.

A number of candidates launched their campaigns at religious centers. West Java hopeful Ridwan Kamil visited an Islamic boarding school in Purwakarta regency on Thursday.

"I come here to listen to the hopes of students and the ulemas, as well as to ask for the ulemas to pray for me in my nomination," said Kamil, the current mayor of the provincial capital Bandung.

Saifullah Yusuf, the incumbent deputy governor of East Java now running for the top job, is scheduled to visit clerics in the province, a stronghold of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Muslim organization.

Yusuf himself is an NU member. His rival, former Minister of Social Affairs Khofifah Indar Parawansa, is a prominent figure in the organization's women's wing.

Parawansa began her campaign with a visit to a fishing village, where she promised to empower 4,000 working women by improving family welfare.

Having carried out extensive reforms and anti-corruption campaigns as mayor of the ancient city of Surakarta and later governor of Jakarta, Widodo was elected president by voters who saw him as a hands-on leader who gets things done.

With the public sick and tired of widespread corruption, similarly no-nonsense local government chiefs have gained extensive support.

A serious concern at the coming elections is the threat of renewed religious and ethnic discord.

The 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, in which Anies Baswedan defeated the incumbent ethnic-Chinese Christian Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was accompanied by large anti-Basuki rallies that had been organized by conservative Islamic groups.

"Religion was the key factor that explains the victory of Anies and Sandi," said Burhanuddin Muhtadi of pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia, referring to Anies' running mate Sandiaga Uno.

"Given the success of identity politics, it would be unsurprising if candidates use the strategy as a winning template in other regions."

There are concerns that the growing influence of hardline Muslims could affect foreign companies' investment decisions. Southeast Asia's largest economy has seen considerable advances in democratization since the collapse of the long-running Suharto dictatorship in 1998.

In particular, national and local elections in recent years have strengthened democratic institutions and political stability. The resulting economic benefits, such as increased foreign investment, have seen Indonesia join the Group of 20 leading economies.

But the country still has a long way to go in terms of transparent campaign spending. Parties use colossal sums during election season, often staging events like pop concerts to win over voters.

One influential person gave up running for governor in East Java, revealing it would cost in the region of 40 billion rupiah ($2.93 million) to run a successful campaign.

Meanwhile, the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, already revealed a case allegedly involving a candidate. "The KPK deeply regrets that bribery of regional leaders keeps happening. The KPK found in one of our raids in 2018... that a bribe had been used to fund an incumbent's re-election campaign," the anti-graft body said in a statement on Thursday.

"Everything is as usual in Indonesia as elections are held almost every year," said Widodo in an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review in December last year. Now that campaigning is underway, the government will have to mitigate any adverse effects they have on the country's economy.



Indonesian President Jokowi boosts ties with military in power shift

Straits Times - February 15, 2018

Jakarta (Bloomberg) -- Standing before thousands of soldiers, Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto delivered a blunt message intended to resonate far beyond the army's strategic command headquarters in East Java.

The Indonesian military's neutrality in upcoming elections is "non-negotiable", he told 1,500 troops late last month at an army base in Malang. "The politics of the TNI is the politics of the state."

Where his predecessor Gatot Nurmantyo was perceived as harbouring political ambitions and courted controversy with notions of a resurgent communist threat, the new chief has signalled the military is set to fall in behind President Joko Widodo at a critical juncture for Indonesia.

As the first president to come from outside the military and political elite, Widodo last month moved to further shore up links with Indonesia's armed forces, appointing former TNI chief General Moeldoko as his chief of staff and former special forces commander General Agum Gumelar as an adviser.

"President Joko Widodo's recent appointments -- during last month's mini-reshuffle -- are clearly aimed at strengthening his ties with the military," said Peter Mumford, Southeast Asia director at Eurasia Group.

"Surrounding himself with more generals is part of the president's shift to a more conservative stance and image as he tries to widen his support base ahead of regional and local elections this year and the presidential vote in 2019."

Growing Islamisation

For Widodo, known as Jokowi, the appointment of Tjahjanto also provides a bulwark against the Islamic groups that last year lead a bitter campaign against Jakarta's then governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or 'Ahok', a Christian, and threatened to engulf the president.

Sectarian unrest is not only a risk for Indonesia's reform process but to Widodo himself as he prepares for a long presidential campaign and seeks to woo hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment.

And while the world's biggest Muslim country faces a growing influence from radical Islam at home, Indonesia is also seen as crucial in efforts to contain regional security risks.

"Indonesia is hugely important in terms of countering the threat of terrorism, both because of the security risks within the country itself but also the potential for extremists in Indonesia to travel overseas, as has already occurred, to become foreign fighters, drawn into conflicts such as the insurgency in Marawi, Philippines last year," said Mumford.

Power play

Within weeks of his appointment in December, Tjahjanto moved swiftly to assert his authority over the ranks, purging dozens of senior officers who'd been recently appointed to high-ranking positions by his predecessor.

He also made a fresh appeal for the military to be given a greater role in the fight against terrorism. In a letter to the parliamentary committee examining Indonesia's terrorism laws, he wrote that the current bill limits Indonesia's efforts.

"Although ties between the government and military are stable, this is essential but not sufficient to tackle terrorism and other threats," said Mumford. "The growing Islamisation of the political environment could make it harder to tackle terrorism if it prevents the parliament passing tough new anti-terror laws."

Muhammad Syafi, a Gerindra lawmaker and the chairman of the committee, said the letter was "just a proposal" that can be accepted or rejected. "But the TNI will not be involved in law enforcement because that is the responsibility of the police," he said in an interview.

While the military's influence in politics has waned since Suharto's 32-years in power ended in 1998, it remains a prominent fixture in Indonesian society -- many former generals enjoy powerful roles in the country's political arena, including holding key positions in Widodo's cabinet.

Twenty years since Suharto's fall, its push for more power is raising concerns the TNI wants to expand its presence in civilian life.

The Indonesian military has not responded to requests for comment. But a senior official from the Security Ministry said that terrorism "continues to pose a serious threat" that no single law enforcement could deal with alone.

Critical support

Indonesia is set to hold simultaneous elections in 171 regions including 17 provinces across the country in June, followed by a long presidential campaign that starts in September and could take almost a year to conclude.

The potential for these polls "to inflame religious and ethnic tensions" means the loyalty of the TNI commander and his ability to work closely with other key security agencies "will be critical," Greta Nabbs-Keller, a Senior Research Associate at the University of Queensland's Centre for Policy Futures said.

The former TNI commander was accused by some of trying to push his own political agenda. "The combination of Nurmantyo's political proximity to hard-line Islamic groups, most obvious during the late 2016 anti-Ahok protests, and his xenophobic and proxy war discourse revealed a readiness to exploit social cleavages for personal political ambition," Nabbs-Keller said.

Jokowi and Tjahjanto, however, have had a close relationship since their days together in Solo, where the president served as mayor before becoming the Jakarta governor and Tjahjanto commanded the Abdurachman Saleh Airbase.

"Tjahjanto will be a very different TNI commander and one Jokowi can rely on as he wards off powerful opponents in his bid for a second presidential term," she said.



Jokowi sets sights on equality in 2019 national programs

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2018

Jakarta -- President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has raised the theme of equality for quality growth in the 2019 government work plan, the final year of his current term in office and the year the legislative and presidential elections will be held.

National Development Planning Minister/National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) head Bambang PS Brodjonegoro said that equality was not only about reducing the wealth gap between the rich and the poor, but also concerned interregional equality.

"The work plan is elaborated in five national programs and 24 prioritized programs," said Bambang on Wednesday in Jakarta during the kickoff of preparations for the 2020 census, as quoted by

The five programs for 2019 are developing human resources, reducing interregional inequality, improving added value products and services, stabilizing national security and stabilizing the provision of food and energy, Bambang said. He added that the government introduced 10 national programs this year.

Bambang said the government stressed the importance of national security stability, because it was closely related to ensuring smooth progress in efforts to attain equality.

"There have been questions as to why the government linked national security stability and equality," he said, answering that if equality could not be attained, certain people might feel they were discriminated against.

In discussing the 2019 work plan at a Cabinet meeting recently, President Jokowi stressed the continuing need for the country to boost investment and exports to support economic growth. He also called on regional leaders to support the economic program by improving the investment climate in their regions. (bbn)



Indonesia records $670m trade deficit in January: BPS

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2018

Stefani Ribka, Jakarta -- Indonesia booked a US$670 million trade deficit in January, an unusual situation in the past three years, where January has usually seen trade surpluses, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) announced on Thursday.

BPS head Suhariyanto said the deficit was due to a significant import surge by 26.44 percent year on year (yoy) to $15.13 billion and moderate export growth of 7.86 percent yoy to $14.46 billion. "The import surge mostly occurred for vehicles [helicopters] and their components," he said.

All import types surged sharply -- consumer goods, dominated by garlic, fresh apples, grapes and frozen meat, up by 32.98 percent; materials, mostly airplane and helicopter components, printed circuit boards and other electronic integrated circuits, up by 24.76 percent; capital goods, helicopters, floating machinery and other machinery, up by 30.9 percent.

Exports of oil and gas, meanwhile, were only up by 1.11 percent; agricultural products were down by 8.27 percent and processed goods up by 6.85 percent.

"Most of our exports still go to China, the United States and Japan, meaning we're still highly dependent on these three markets so we need to diversify," said Suhariyanto. (bbn)



Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN)