Indonesia & East Timor News Updates - December 15, 2017

* Indonesia sentences gay club workers to 2 years in prison
* Court ruling on extramarital, gay sex draws mixed reactions from netizens
* Mass organizations to rally against rave music festival
* 'Watch the sky and pray': Bali's volcanic Mt Agung looms large but local miners have little choice but to keep working
* Tempo News: ICW Launches Indonesialeaks to report corruption
* Airlangga takes charge amid drop in electability
* Court rules marriage ban between coworkers 'unconstitutional'
* Real income of farmers, construction workers declines as result of inflation: BPS
* Indonesian trade hits lowest monthly surplus in November: BPS
* Celebrity lawyers fail to show up for questioning in BLBI graft probe


Indonesia sentences gay club workers to 2 years in prison

Associated Press - December 15, 2017

Jakarta, Indonesia -- An activist says an Indonesian court has sentenced eight men involved in running a gay club and sauna to two years in prison.

They were among more than 140 men detained after a raid in May on what police said was a sex party at the Atlantis spa in Jakarta.

Most were released as homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but 10 men were charged under anti-pornography laws.

Imam Shofwan from Pantau Foundation, which has been monitoring the trial, says the sentencing occurred Thursday. A North Jakarta District Court spokesman did not answer calls Friday.

Those sentenced included a director and several employees including strippers, a gym trainer, a receptionist and a security guard.

Shofwan says verdicts for two defendants who allegedly performed oral sex were adjourned until next week.



Court ruling on extramarital, gay sex draws mixed reactions from netizens

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2017

Jakarta -- A Constitutional Court ruling that rejected a petition to outlaw extramarital and gay sex on Thursday has drawn mixed reactions from netizens.

Some applauded the decision, saying it upheld human rights and protected people's private lives as well as minority groups.

Twitter user Gita Putri wrote on her Twitter account that Indonesian law should be influenced by a sense of justice, instead of religious sentiments.

The Masyarakat Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), one of the groups opposing the petition, said on Twitter that it hoped the court would "not bow to any pressures from various groups that often act in the name of religious morality."

Negative responses also mushroomed on the social networking site, with some arguing that extramarital and gay sex was immoral and forbidden by religion.

Filed by conservative academics, the petition not only brought to the courtroom an intense debate, but it also sharply divided the bench, with four out of nine justices, including Chief Justice Arief Hidayat, dissenting.

Meanwhile, justices Saldi Isra, Maria Farida Indrati and I Dewa Gede Palguna -- all of whom are considered progressive -- were among the five justices who rejected the petition.

Saldi appeared to play a key role in influencing the outcome of the case, which was started when former justice Patrialis Akbar, known for his conservative statements, was in office. Saldi joined the court in April, replacing Patrialis who was arrested for bribery in late January. (nmn/ipa)



Mass organizations to rally against rave music festival

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2017

Jakarta -- Central Jakarta Police have said they will provide security for the planned rallies against the annual electronic music festival Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP) set to be held at JIExpo, Kemayoran over the weekend.

Police chief Sr. Comr. Roma Hutajulu said the organizer had made sure no alcoholic beverages would be sold during the event. Mass organizations have previously argued the music festival would degrade the morals of the youth, expressing concern about the consumption of drugs and alcohol.

"The Constitution specifically says that people are free to express their opinions in public. We will provide standard security as long as it does not lead to a riot," said Roma on Wednesday.

Society Allies, and several others plan to stage rallies in front of the festival venue on Thursday.

"The organizer has guaranteed that no drugs and the like will be permitted. We have deployed the National Narcotics Agency [BNN] to cooperate," Roma said.

Last week, the Jakarta administration said they would dispatch a surveillance team to supervise the nation's biggest music festival to ensure no drug or alcohol related activities would be present. (dpk)



'Watch the sky and pray': Bali's volcanic Mt Agung looms large but local miners have little choice but to keep working

South China Morning Post - December 15, 2017

Nathan Thompson -- Ketut Suweni shovels gravel on the slopes of Mt Agung while the volcano spews ash clouds. For a second her sandal slips on the pile of black and grey stones and she stumbles onto her hands and knees.

"I keep an eye on the volcano while I work," she said, wiping grime from her face. "The ash is quite light right now but if the sky turns dark I will leave."

Trucks carrying sand and gravel, and a few locals on motorbikes, are the only traffic left in the danger zone around Mt Agung. Roughly 100,000 residents were evacuated in September when the ground shook and geophysicists predicted a major eruption. About 55,000 are living in dank, wet evacuation camps outside the 12km danger zone.

The volcano is in Bali -- the Indonesian island home to 4 million and popular with tourists, although many are choosing to holiday elsewhere since the eruptions. Currently, hotels have 25 per cent occupancy compared to 80 per cent this month last year, according to the Malay Star.

However, miners like Suweni do not have a choice. They need the US$73 for each truck they fill -- a fee they split. Suweni earns about US$15 a day. This gravel is used to build roads and in rock mixture to make bricks.

"We do not have a licence to mine here," she says. "We have a partner who pays the police off."

About 70 per cent of the miners do not have permits, according to Wired magazine. It is cheaper to bribe the police than get a licence that requires the group to pay for land restoration once the project is complete.

Suweni works in sandals and thin, patterned clothes shovelling rocks. Above her, on a ridge cut from the mountain, men swing hunks of rock into grinding machinery.

They all dashed for safety on November 25 when a colossal ash cloud darkened the sky and cinders fell like rain. The volcanic ash clouds grounded flights in Bali and the nearby island of Lombok for several days, causing travel chaos. Magma glowed like a cigarette against the dark clouds but it did not spill.

Within days, Suweni was swinging her shovel again. "I'm very worried," she says. "But we must earn money."

At the main observatory in Rendang, Dr Gede Suantika, a geophysicist, expressed concern for the miners. "They should leave for their own safety," he said.

"We have sirens set up around the volcano that may be able to warn them. But if the volcano releases hot clouds there may not be enough time for them to escape."

Hot clouds, known as pyroclastic flows, are clouds of fast-moving volcanic matter. Most of the 1000-plus people who died during the last eruption in 1963 were killed trying to outrun hot clouds.

The state of alert remains at its highest level but Suantika said: "If the ash clouds remain small then we will consider reducing it in a couple of weeks."

Not that Suweni would know. She says her group do not listen to the radio for updates and none of them have smartphones. "We can only listen to the mountain," she says. "If the earth shakes, we run."

It is not easy for people to leave their livelihoods even if it is dangerous. Ketut Urianda has not seen a customer at his restaurant and guest house on the edge of the danger zone for a fortnight.

"People here struggle to earn a living," says Urianda, a retired teacher. "Rice farming is unpredictable as the crops can fail and you can't get a job in the tourism industry if you do not speak English."

Balinese miners are part of a worldwide industry. Sand and gravel "account for the largest volume of solid material extracted globally," according to a 2014 report from the United Nations Environment Programme.

It is used in the multibillion-dollar construction industry and as countries start to ban sand exports, citing environmental damage, the value is likely to rise.

Suweni and several other women wait at a damp bus stop for their husbands or friends to take them home. "Usually I live near here but now I'm staying with family further away from the volcano," she says.

Her drive back to where she is staying goes through eerily deserted streets and past boarded up houses, speckled with grey ash. "I just watch the sky," she says. "Watch the sky and pray."



Tempo News: ICW Launches Indonesialeaks to report corruption

Tempo - December 14, 2017

Chitra Paramaesti, Jakarta -- The Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), in collaboration with Indonesian mass media, today launched a whistleblower platform, called Indonesialeaks, for the public to report corruption acts.

"We refer to the legality basis related to corruptions defined in the Anticorruption Law," ICW coordinator Adnan Topan Husodo said during the event today, Dec. 14.

According to Adnan, the ICW will guarantee the anonymity of people who report any corruption acts. "Regarding the security issue, we have the code of ethics. We can't reveal information to anyone," he said.

Adnan hopes that the public will participate in the corruption eradication effort. He pointed out that the state has not appreciated people who reveal corruption practices.

"We're not talking about money, but appreciations. For instance, a civil servant who reveals a corruption practice should be rewarded with a promotion. Therefore, we can be aware of corruption practices," Adnan explained.

Indonesialeaks is an independent platform founded by ten mass media outlets and five non-governmental organizations (NGO). The platform allows the public to submit data or documents related to public interests anonymously. The media outlets will verify the data or documents in light of journalism aspects.

Institutions participating in the launch of Indonesialeaks are Tempo, CNN Indonesia, KBR, Bisnis Indonesia,, Jaring,, the Jakarta Post, Sindo Weekly, Liputan 6, ICW, LBH Pers,, Greenpeace, Auriga, PPMM, and Free Press Unlimited.



Airlangga takes charge amid drop in electability

Jakarta Post - December 15, 2017

Rendi A. Witular, Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Kharishar Kahfi, Jakarta -- The newly appointed chairman of the Golkar Party, Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto, is gearing up to face significant challenges, not only on the electoral front but perhaps more importantly in internal party matters.

He said his highest priority in reforming Golkar was ensuring party unity, and that he would not rock the boat to immediately root out the bad apples in the party.

"Golkar consists of diverse interests. My priority is to unite all elements in the party at a time when our electability, based on recent surveys, is alarmingly low at 11 to 12 percent," he said on Thursday evening.

Despite being the second-largest party in the House of Representatives, Golkar's popularity among voters has nose-dived recently, mainly as a result of the involvement of former chairman Setya Novanto in the highprofile e-ID corruption case for which he is currently standing trial.

During Wednesday's late-night plenary meeting, Golkar decided to appoint Airlangga as party chairman and remove Setya. The party will inaugurate Airlangga in an extraordinary congress on Dec. 19 and 20 in Jakarta.

Airlangga said the unity of Golkar would again be tested during the upcoming congress. "I am not sure whether all elements in Golkar are firmly behind me. The outcome of the congress will serve as confirmation of the level of support and unity in the party," he said.

The congress will mark the second time the party has appointed its chairman by acclamation, following the acclamation of Aburizal Bakrie in 2014. Aburizal's appointment then led to a prolonged internal conflict that divided the party, with rival camps claiming Aburizal and Agung Laksono as party chairman.

Airlangga's appointment did not run smoothly. There were concerns that leading party officials would oppose the plenary meeting's decision and demand a vote to elect the chairman as several other senior members had previously expressed a desire to run for the chairmanship.

Senior lawmaker and Setya loyalist Aziz Syamsuddin had stated his readiness to be a chairman candidate. Secretary-general Idrus Marham and Siti Hedijati "Titiek" Soeharto, the daughter of former president Soeharto, also planned to throw their hats in the ring.

Several party executives confirmed that Aziz was backed by Aburizal, who would use Aziz as his "tool" to withdraw Golkar's support for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. However, they all stepped back in the last minutes preceding the plenary meeting after lobbying by Airlangga, a top party member said.

Believed to be close to Jokowi, Airlangga has guaranteed Golkar's support for the Jokowi administration and has committed to endorsing Jokowi for re-election in the 2019 presidential election. He has ordered all party members to abide by this commitment.

"I demand all Golkar members follow the mandate [supporting Jokowi]. Going forward, [there should be] no more factions in the party," Airlangga said, adding that he would make the party more transparent.

"My other priority is to eliminate the brokerage practices that are deep-rooted in the party. We will make a system in which candidates for local leadership will no longer deal with middlemen to get on the tickets. We should also ensure that Golkar will not be a family-run party; we are a 'publicly listed party' so we should not allow any room for this to flourish," he said.

Airlangga is likely to reorganize the central board and put in people he can trust. Golkar executive chief Nurdin Halid said such an arrangement would be on the agenda of the congress.

"After the inauguration of the new chairman, we will continue with the selection and appointment of new board members and then inaugurate them," he said after the congress' organizing committee meeting. "Should any member raise any objection in the congress, he or she can be dismissed [from the party]."

Airlangga will need executives who will support his political direction. "Airlangga has a tagline of Golkar Bersih [Clean Golkar]. Did the previous [leaders] have that kind of spirit?" Golkar deputy secretary-general Ace Hasan Syadzily said.

Idrus, however, demanded that Airlangga accommodate all members. "Power sharing is important -- we have to consider those party members who have the skills for that [holding positions on the executive board]."



Court rules marriage ban between coworkers 'unconstitutional'

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta -- The Constitutional Court has ruled on Thursday that a provision in the 2003 Labor Law allowing a company to ban marriages between its employees violated the 1945 Constitution.

The court argued that marriage between coworkers did not affect the rights of other people, nor would such a union undermine their productivity. "The court declares the petitioners' arguments legally valid," justice Aswanto said.

The petition for judicial review was filed by members of state electricity company PT PLN's labor union. They challenged Article 153 of the Manpower Law that permitted companies to lay off a worker for marrying a colleague.

Most companies prohibit employees from marrying their colleagues, and require one employee of the couple to resign if they intended to proceed with the marriage.

One of the plaintiffs, Jhoni Boetja, argued that marriage was a religious institution and the bond between a man and woman who loved each other could not be denied.

"This regulation can be abused by parties that want to terminate workers," he said. (ahw)



Real income of farmers, construction workers declines as result of inflation: BPS

Jakarta Post - December 15, 2017

Jakarta -- The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) has said that, despite the increase in income of both small farmers in villages and construction workers in urban areas, their real income has declined as a result of inflation.

According to the BPS, although the income of small farmers increased by 0.21 percent in November, the inflation rate in villages was 0.21 percent in the same month, thus decreasing farmers' purchasing power.

"The real income of small farmers declined by 0.15 percent," said BPS head Suhariyanto in Jakarta on Friday as reported by

He called on the government to pay attention to the fate of small farmers because Indonesians relied on the agricultural sector.

Similarly, the income of construction workers in urban areas grew by 0.02 percent in November, while the inflation rate in these areas was 0.2 percent.

It meant that the real income of construction workers in urban areas declined by 0.18 percent, Suhariyanto said. (bbn)



Indonesian trade hits lowest monthly surplus in November: BPS

Jakarta Post - December 15, 2017

Stefani Ribka, Jakarta -- The monthly trade surplus hit US$130 million in November, the lowest level this year, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) announced Friday.

In November, exports increased slightly by 0.26 percent month on month (mom) to $15.28 billion. The increase was lower than imports, which rose 6.42 percent to $15.15 billion.

"The surplus is very thin and it has gone down starkly since September at $1.78 billion. The surplus in October stood at $1 billion," said BPS head Suhariyanto.

Import growth came from mostly capital goods, which grew 20.65 percent mom to $2.64 billion, followed by consumer goods, which grew 8.22 percent and raw materials at 3.32 percent.

"We hope that this capital goods import growth will affect our economic growth positively at the end of this quarter in terms of investment," he added.

Non-oil and gas imports grew 1.22 percent and oil and gas imports increased 7.37 percent. Meanwhile, non-oil and gas exports increased 1.82 percent and oil and gas exports declined 14.22 percent.

"The thin export growth was caused mainly by the decline in mining exports in November after it went up significantly in October. Imports, meanwhile, were up in all categories of goods [consumer, raw materials and capital goods]," Suhariyanto explained. (bbn)



Celebrity lawyers fail to show up for questioning in BLBI graft probe

Jakarta Globe - December 15, 2017

Alin Almanar, Jakarta -- Prominent lawyers Todung Mulya Lubis and Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara failed to attend questioning on Thursday (14/12) as witnesses in a high-profile graft case related to the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) bailout funds.

The lawyers would have testified against former Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (BPPN) chairman Syafruddin Arsyad Temenggung, who was named a suspect in the case earlier this year.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators did not explain why Todung and Abdul failed to show up, but said the meeting will be rescheduled.

A total of Rp 144.5 trillion ($10.64 billion) in BLBI funds were disbursed to 48 commercial banks during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.

Bank Dagang Nasional Indonesia (BDNI) received Rp 28 trillion from BLBI and had to return Rp 4.8 trillion, but Syafruddin issued a letter releasing BDNI owner Sjamsul Nursalim from the obligation to pay Rp 3.7 trillion of the debt.

Such letters should only have been released officially by the BPPN in coordination with the Financial Sector Policy Committee (KKSK), whose involvement in the BLBI scheme is also currently being examined by KPK investigators.

"The witnesses had been hired to provide legal assistance for KKSK," KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah told the Jakarta Globe.

Thursday's questioning would have been "on what the witnesses knew of the conditions at BDNI and of Sjamsul Nursalim at that time," Febri said.

KKSK was established by then President Habibie to oversee the BPPN when it was trying to get money back from BLBI recipients.

A 2002 presidential instruction issued by Habibie's successor, President Megawati Soekarnoputri, strengthened KKSK's mandate. The KKSK was headed by then Coordinating Economic Minister Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti.

Its members included then Finance Minister Boediono, National Development Planning Board Chairman Kwik Kian Gie, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Laksamana Sukardi and Trade and Industry Minister Rini Soemarno.

Dorodjatun, Kwik Kian Gie and Laksamana Sukardi have all faced KPK questioning as witnesses in the BLBI case.

The prolonged graft investigation commenced about four years ago. Former BPPN chairman Syafruddin remains the sole suspect in the case.



Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN)