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Indonesia News Digest 6 February 8-14, 2007
News & issues
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
M. Azis Tunny and Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Ambon/Jakarta The
conflicts in Ambon, Maluku and Poso in Central Sulawesi are
linked by similar characteristics and all involve Jamaah
Islamiyah (JI) and Mujahidin KOMPAK radical groups, a think tank
The Southeast Asia project director of the International Crisis
Group (ICG), Sidney Jones, told The Jakarta Post in Ambon
Wednesday that a number of Muslim militants in Poso were also
involved in violence in Maluku from 2003-2005.
Among them, she said, were three police fugitives involved in the
2005 attack on a Mobile Brigade (Brimob) police post in Lokki,
West Seram, Maluku.
The three Muklis, Andi and Jodi were from the Poso branch
of Mujahidin and had joined the group in Ambon for a training
camp on Mount Olas to prepare them for a holy war. However,
following the arrests of a number of Mujahidin members, the group
in Maluku had been weakened.
"Although some of them stayed in Maluku after marrying local
women, they are no longer involved in radical acts... I think its
activity is almost over," Jones said.
In its report late last month, the group said JI terrorists had
been recruiting and training on Sulawesi island and could turn it
into the center for a jihad on the government.
JI veterans who fought in Afghanistan and the southern
Philippines have found fertile ground among Muslim fighters
nursing grievances against Christians in religiously divided
Poso, a focal point of violence between Muslims and Christians
that claimed about 1,000 lives in 2000-2001.
"Many Mujahidin Kompak and JI members received their war training
in Ambon. They then went to Poso, which they see as more fertile
ground for conflict than Ambon," she said.
In Poso, she said, the situation would get better following the
clash last month between police and militants accused of a series
of anti-Christian attacks in Poso.
In the past three years, until the arrest of militant Hasanudin
in Poso, police did not know who was behind the violence in Poso,
but it was later disclosed that they came from the same group.
"In Ambon it was the same, the perpetrators were not apprehended
at first. But after the Lokki incident, it's all in the open and
police have become aware of the group and its composition.
"And there is hope Poso can be safe too, since the militants
there were taught by outsiders. If they're captured, I think the
conflict can be contained. In Poso, the danger lies in an outside
group getting in," Jones said.
The JI has been linked to al-Qaeda and blamed for the 2002 Bali
bombings and a series of other attacks across the country.
Meanwhile, 17 men accused of killing two Muslims during the
sectarian conflict in Poso are soon to be tried. The men were
transferred Sunday to National Police Headquarters as police said
they wanted to avoid inciting further unrest in Poso.
"They will be tried for murder under the Criminal Code and the
Terrorism Law," Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Badrotin
Haiti told AFP.
Six other suspects wanted for attacks on Christians were also
transferred to Jakarta on Sunday.
In Jakarta, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Anton Bachrul
Alam said Basri, one of the men captured during the clash, had
confessed that a number of "teachers" from Tanah Runtuh district,
who had been trained in Mindanao in the Philippines and
Afghanistan, had spread extremist ideology to the people.
He said they had also distributed firearms. "According to Basri,
the people also learned how to build bombs from the teachers,
whose names are Rian, Hiban, Mahmud, Yahya, Sahal, Rifki and
Hasanudin," Anton said.
Jakarta Post - February 14, 2007
Jakarta The Indonesian Military and the National Police have
been told by the House of Representatives to stop arguing over
the national security bill.
House Speaker Agung Laksono said Tuesday that the military and
police needed to stop quarreling as their job descriptions and
positions were determined by the President and the House, as
stated in the Constitution.
"The rift must be stopped because it will not be productive and
could lead to clashes between soldiers and police officers in the
field," he said.
Agung said the reform of the defense and security fields would go
on as the House and government planned to deliberate many more
bills on the topic.
The bill, being prepared by the Defense Ministry, has been
rewarded with strong protests from the police, who say its
substance is contradictory to the reform agenda.
In a hearing with House Commission III overseeing legal,
legislation, human rights and security affairs last week,
National Police chief Gen. Sutanto expressed opposition to the
bill, which gives the military authority in dealing with national
The bill also places the police under the Home Ministry in the
same way in which the military is currently under the aegis of
the Defense Ministry. The police is currently under the direct
control of the President.
Contacted separately, Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Edy
Butar-butar said the draft bill would soon be submitted to the
Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.
Meanwhile, chairman of Commission Trimedya Panjaitan has called
on the Justice and Human Rights Ministry to look into the bill
and synchronize it with all existing laws and regulations on
defense and security affairs.
"Currently the House and government are deliberating a bill on
military tribunals and will prepare two more bills on national
intelligence and paramilitary forces," he said.
"Both the military and police should accept civilian supremacy,
which aims for an internal reform in the military and improved
police professionalism," he said.
A member of House Commission I overseeing defense and foreign
affairs, Effendi Choirie, also called on the military and police
to accept civilian supremacy and respect the constitution.
"With both the military and police under ministries, the top
posts in both institutions will no longer be political posts but
"Both the chiefs of the TNI and the National Police will no
longer be included in the Cabinet list or take part in Cabinet
meetings. They will focus on improving their own forces'
News & issues
Conflicts in Ambon, Poso similar, says think tank
House told TNI, police to stop arguing over bill
Aceh province short of qualified judges for sharia courts
News & issues
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
M. Azis Tunny and Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Ambon/Jakarta The conflicts in Ambon, Maluku and Poso in Central Sulawesi are linked by similar characteristics and all involve Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) and Mujahidin KOMPAK radical groups, a think tank said Wednesday.
The Southeast Asia project director of the International Crisis Group (ICG), Sidney Jones, told The Jakarta Post in Ambon Wednesday that a number of Muslim militants in Poso were also involved in violence in Maluku from 2003-2005.
Among them, she said, were three police fugitives involved in the 2005 attack on a Mobile Brigade (Brimob) police post in Lokki, West Seram, Maluku.
The three Muklis, Andi and Jodi were from the Poso branch of Mujahidin and had joined the group in Ambon for a training camp on Mount Olas to prepare them for a holy war. However, following the arrests of a number of Mujahidin members, the group in Maluku had been weakened.
"Although some of them stayed in Maluku after marrying local women, they are no longer involved in radical acts... I think its activity is almost over," Jones said.
In its report late last month, the group said JI terrorists had been recruiting and training on Sulawesi island and could turn it into the center for a jihad on the government.
JI veterans who fought in Afghanistan and the southern Philippines have found fertile ground among Muslim fighters nursing grievances against Christians in religiously divided Poso, a focal point of violence between Muslims and Christians that claimed about 1,000 lives in 2000-2001.
"Many Mujahidin Kompak and JI members received their war training in Ambon. They then went to Poso, which they see as more fertile ground for conflict than Ambon," she said.
In Poso, she said, the situation would get better following the clash last month between police and militants accused of a series of anti-Christian attacks in Poso.
In the past three years, until the arrest of militant Hasanudin in Poso, police did not know who was behind the violence in Poso, but it was later disclosed that they came from the same group.
"In Ambon it was the same, the perpetrators were not apprehended at first. But after the Lokki incident, it's all in the open and police have become aware of the group and its composition.
"And there is hope Poso can be safe too, since the militants there were taught by outsiders. If they're captured, I think the conflict can be contained. In Poso, the danger lies in an outside group getting in," Jones said.
The JI has been linked to al-Qaeda and blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings and a series of other attacks across the country.
Meanwhile, 17 men accused of killing two Muslims during the sectarian conflict in Poso are soon to be tried. The men were transferred Sunday to National Police Headquarters as police said they wanted to avoid inciting further unrest in Poso.
"They will be tried for murder under the Criminal Code and the Terrorism Law," Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Badrotin Haiti told AFP.
Six other suspects wanted for attacks on Christians were also transferred to Jakarta on Sunday.
In Jakarta, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam said Basri, one of the men captured during the clash, had confessed that a number of "teachers" from Tanah Runtuh district, who had been trained in Mindanao in the Philippines and Afghanistan, had spread extremist ideology to the people.
He said they had also distributed firearms. "According to Basri, the people also learned how to build bombs from the teachers, whose names are Rian, Hiban, Mahmud, Yahya, Sahal, Rifki and Hasanudin," Anton said.
Jakarta Post - February 14, 2007
Jakarta The Indonesian Military and the National Police have been told by the House of Representatives to stop arguing over the national security bill.
House Speaker Agung Laksono said Tuesday that the military and police needed to stop quarreling as their job descriptions and positions were determined by the President and the House, as stated in the Constitution.
"The rift must be stopped because it will not be productive and could lead to clashes between soldiers and police officers in the field," he said.
Agung said the reform of the defense and security fields would go on as the House and government planned to deliberate many more bills on the topic.
The bill, being prepared by the Defense Ministry, has been rewarded with strong protests from the police, who say its substance is contradictory to the reform agenda.
In a hearing with House Commission III overseeing legal, legislation, human rights and security affairs last week, National Police chief Gen. Sutanto expressed opposition to the bill, which gives the military authority in dealing with national security.
The bill also places the police under the Home Ministry in the same way in which the military is currently under the aegis of the Defense Ministry. The police is currently under the direct control of the President.
Contacted separately, Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Edy Butar-butar said the draft bill would soon be submitted to the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.
Meanwhile, chairman of Commission Trimedya Panjaitan has called on the Justice and Human Rights Ministry to look into the bill and synchronize it with all existing laws and regulations on defense and security affairs.
"Currently the House and government are deliberating a bill on military tribunals and will prepare two more bills on national intelligence and paramilitary forces," he said.
"Both the military and police should accept civilian supremacy, which aims for an internal reform in the military and improved police professionalism," he said.
A member of House Commission I overseeing defense and foreign affairs, Effendi Choirie, also called on the military and police to accept civilian supremacy and respect the constitution.
"With both the military and police under ministries, the top posts in both institutions will no longer be political posts but career jobs.
"Both the chiefs of the TNI and the National Police will no longer be included in the Cabinet list or take part in Cabinet meetings. They will focus on improving their own forces' professionalism."
Jakarta Post - February 10, 2007
Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh Aceh needs at least 100 more judges to fully implement sharia across the province, with many sharia courts operating with only three to five judges.
Sharia High Court judge Marluddin said that currently there are 19 sharia courts in each regency. "We need more judges to deal with the many violations being taken to the courts," he told The Jakarta Post in Banda Aceh on Friday.
He said a sharia judge had to be able to read the Koran and kitab kuning, or classical works on Islamic law.
This makes it difficult to recruit sharia judges, Marluddin said, because kitab kuning skills are generally limited to graduates of sharia departments at universities.
"It's not easy to pass these departments, which is maybe why it's a bit difficult to find sharia judges," Marluddin said.
Aceh has implemented sharia since 2003, including the passage of seven sharia-inspired qanun (local ordinances). Among the qanun are ordinances against khamar (drinking), maisir (gambling) and khalwat (premarital sex), and one on dress.
District courts in the province no longer deal with cases which fall under the purview of these seven qanun, with such cases being heard at sharia courts.
A regulation on the establishment of the Sharia High Court was introduced in 2005, and it has since dealt with 157 cases. Of these cases, 103 were brought to the court in 2005, 53 in 2006 and one case has been taken to the court this year.
"Most of the cases tried relate to drinking and gambling," said Sharia High Court head Soufyan Saleh.
Dress code violations are not being tried in court. Violators receive a lecture and sign a pledge promising to adhere to Islamic dress.
Many of the defendants tried at the sharia courts are not represented by lawyers, he said. "The violators are usually caught in the act, so many of them prefer not to appeal the case to the higher court since it would be a waste of time," he said.
Although based on sharia, legal decisions at sharia courts still refer to Indonesian law, with investigators and prosecutors still involved, as well as the police.
"There are sharia police, or wilayatulhisbad, but their job is only to give advice, not to arrest and interrogate," Soufyan said.
The introduction of sharia in Aceh was made possible under the special autonomy status granted the province in 2001. However, many people have criticized the enforcement of sharia as focusing solely on average people.
"Sharia should not only focus on gambling, drinking or premarital sex. It should also deal with the corruption charges that involve many big names," said a Banda Aceh resident who asked not to be identified.
Asia Times - February 9, 2007
Fabio Scarpello When former rebel Irwandi Yusuf was sworn in on Thursday as the first directly elected governor of Indonesia's Aceh province, the ceremony capped one of Southeast Asia's most extraordinary democratic transitions.
The landmark August 2005 peace deal between the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government, which brought a crushing 30-year civil war to an end, also ushered the way for Irwandi's election, which he won convincingly with 38% of the vote. The Acehnese have so far taken enthusiastically to democracy, where 80% of the province's 2.2 million eligible voters cast their ballots.
Those elections were held in an almost festive atmosphere, and were deemed free and fair by both local and international monitors. Hence there are high democratic hopes pinned on the secular 47-year-old Irwandi's governorship, a five-year term that will be empowered through an unprecedented degree of local autonomy.
How the former GAM spokesman addresses growing calls for the implementation of sharia (Islamic) law and tackles the bigger challenge of Aceh's notorious culture of corruption, which has badly stunted the province's post-tsunami recovery, will go a long way in determining the success or failure of Indonesia's center-to-periphery decentralization drive.
An estimated 30,000 people were killed during Aceh's bruising civil war, which was attended by gross human-rights abuses on both sides. The road to peace was paved by the tsunami that hit Aceh on December 26, 2004, which destroyed large swaths of the province, killed nearly 170,000 people, rendered another 500,000 homeless, and dwarfed GAM's and Jakarta's competing political ambitions for the region.
In the midst of unprecedented human disaster, it took only 26 days of consultations before the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU). The agreement gave Aceh a large degree of local autonomy in exchange for rebels laying down their weapons and agreeing to co-exist peacefully within the Indonesian republic. The peace deal also significantly included provisions that grant Aceh's local authorities control over 70% of the income generated by the province's rich natural resources, including big deposits of oil and natural gas.
More exceptional, the deal allows for the establishment of local political parties in Aceh, which is still forbidden everywhere else across the Indonesian archipelago. Jakarta withdrew more than 25,000 troops from the war-torn region and granted a full amnesty to former GAM rebels, including those who were either in prison or in hiding in the province's thick jungles. Among those was Irwandi.
Born in Aceh in 1960, Irwandi was a latecomer to GAM's struggle, joining the resistance in 1998 after years of teaching veterinary science at Aceh's Syah Kualan University. A military strategist and counter-intelligence expert, he was intimately involved in changing GAM's military structure from a territorial one which implied a loose guerrilla presence throughout the province to one based on more established battalions and platoons. He also was a participant in the failed 2003 peace talks.
When then-president Megawati Sukarnoputri declared a military emergency, Irwandi was arrested and sentenced to nine years in prison. He was literally freed by the tsunami, which smashed through the prison where he was held.
Thereafter Irwandi fled Indonesia and joined the GAM leadership in Helsinki, Finland, where peace talks with the government had already commenced. Once the MoU was signed, Irwandi became GAM's representative to the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), the European-led mission entrusted to monitor the implementation of the peace deal.
Disagreements with the senior leadership based in Sweden where GAM held a government-in-exile during the conflict led to Irwandi losing his job at the AMM and to his decision to run as an independent candidate, paired with Muhammad Nazar, the president of the Center for Information on a Referendum for Aceh (SIRA), a prominent pro-independence non-governmental organization. Nazar likewise spent time in prison for his affiliation with GAM.
Mending the rift within GAM, which some fear could, if not handled delicately, unravel the peace deal, is clearly one of Irwandi's immediate priorities. Significantly Irwandi was not the first choice of GAM's senior leadership, who had put forward Hasbi Abdullah, the brother of GAM's Sweden-based foreign minister Zaini Abdullah. But Hasbi did not have the respect of the Aceh-based commanders and fighters, who resented the fact that he lived abroad during the conflict.
Irwandi soon become the leader of a rebel faction inside GAM, and when a compromise could not be reached, he decided to branch out and run as an independent candidate. Hasbi eventually ran as the vice-governor candidate on a ticket with local academic Humam Hamid, but came in a distant second with 16.2% of the vote proving to some that GAM's Sweden-based leadership is out of touch with the group's grassroots.
Irwandi has made it clear that he hopes to mend fences, but on this matter, GAM's prime minister, Malik Mahmud, has so far maintained a steely silence since his election win. Splits within GAM could undermine Irwandi's effectiveness as governor and weaken the group's political appeal, local analysts say. GAM is planning to transform itself into a full-blown political party and run candidates in the 2009 national general elections, when seats for the provincial assembly will be up for grabs.
Irwandi's most pressing challenge will be to improve the living standards of the 4 million Acehnese, and that means tackling deep-rooted corruption. Despite its bounty of rich natural resources, Aceh is currently the fourth-poorest province in Indonesia. That poverty was intensified by the tsunami, and widespread corruption has misappropriated huge amounts of foreign relief funds earmarked for reconstruction.
About US$7.1 billion was dedicated to Aceh, although only an estimated $4.5 billion has since been committed because of concerns about the local administration's capacity to absorb it. According to the Aceh-based Anti-Corruption Movement, graft has tainted at least 40% of all reconstruction projects. The United Nations estimates that only a third of the homes destroyed by the tsunami have been rebuilt two years on.
Irwandi's has already said he plans to open Aceh's economy to international markets, especially through enhanced trade links with nearby Singapore and Malaysia. Currently the province's main agricultural and fishery products are sold exclusively to and fetch low prices in Medan, the capital of the nearby Indonesian province of North Sumatra.
To pave the way for more foreign trade, Irwandi plans to improve substantially the province's shattered infrastructure, through upgrading ports and airports and creating a direct road link between the eastern and the western coasts of the province. He also has populist plans to offer government soft loans to fishermen, provide cheap land to farmers, make the first 12 years of schooling free to all students, and improve the province's creaky health-care system.
To ram those ambitious plans through, however, Irwandi will need the cooperation of the local parliament and civil service both viewed widely as the root of the province's corruption scourge. And the two sides are already on collusion course. The 69-member local parliament represents only Jakarta-based parties and was elected for a five-year term in 2004.
He has already threatened to mobilize his grassroots supporters should the parliament, in demands for kickbacks, move to block his development plans. Meanwhile, local bureaucrats appointed by Jakarta have already expressed their concerns that Irwandi may lead a purge of the civil service to replace them with former rebels.
The new governor will also have to contend with the growing power of the local ulama (body of Muslim scholars), which is bent on implementing a stricter interpretation of Islamic sharia law. Known in Indonesia as the "Veranda of Mecca", Aceh was granted the right to legislate provisions of sharia law in 1999, under Abdurrahman Wahid's presidency, when the province was granted special status.
In 2001, president Megawati Sukarnoputri further strengthened the position of sharia by establishing a special Aceh autonomy law, which allowed the creation of Islamic courts. Today the province is the only one in Indonesia that has the legal right to implement sharia in full, although to date it has only been partially applied.
The application of certain Islamic codes has already given rise to a chorus of condemnation from outspoken civil-society groups, who say the laws are biased against women and the poor. Over the past 15 months, at least 135 Acehnese have been whipped for perceived crimes as diverse as drinking alcohol, gambling or having relations deemed illicit with the opposite sex. Women also face lashes for not wearing their headscarves properly in public.
Significantly, GAM has always been a secular movement, and Irwandi has made it clear that he does not support harsh sharia- based punishments. On the election trail, for instance, he took a hard public stand against an ulama-led proposal calling for the dismemberment of people caught and convicted for stealing. At the same time, he cannot risk alienating the ulama in a province that is considered among Indonesia's most devout.
Irwandi will likely need even greater diplomatic skills in his dealings with the central government. He has repeatedly stated his commitment to work within the peace deal's autonomy framework, yet the former rebel is still viewed with suspicion in certain political circles in Jakarta by those who fear he will manipulate his democratic victory as a basis to push for full- blown independence.
Those suspicions have been stoked by Irwandi's stated intention to push for amendments to the Law on Governing Aceh, which was derived from the original understanding. Irwandi has said he believes GAM was shortchanged in the transition, including in relation to the new law on natural-resource management, the role of the military in the province, and the central government's right to make decisions concerning Aceh after mere "consultations" rather than with local "consent".
He is bound to run up against strong opposition from powerful political factions in Jakarta. Chief among them is former president Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which initially rejected any political role for GAM. Last August, Megawati refused to attend Indonesian National Day celebrations as a protest against the concessions granted to GAM.
Another potential sticking point is the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission, a provision requested in the MoU. The creation of a body allowed to probe the darkest days of Aceh's conflict would no doubt upset the military, the main culprit of the conflict's many human-rights abuses. The military has so far stayed the course and respected Jakarta's push for peace, but some fear this could change if a legally backed blame game begins.
Irwandi's governorship, and by association Aceh's young democracy, will soon face several crucial tests.
[Fabio Scarpello is AdnKronos International Southeast Asia bureau chief.]
Jakarta Post - February 9, 2007
Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh After surviving Aceh's long struggle and even being jailed in 2003, former rebel leader Irwandi Yusuf has been installed as governor of the once-defiant province.
Hundreds of national and international guests flocked to the inauguration, held under tight security at the Aceh Legislative Council building in Banda Aceh. Large numbers of ordinary Acehnese stood outside the building and applauded after the swearing-in session.
Home Minister M. Ma'ruf presided over the ceremony. He urged Irwandi and his deputy, former jailed dissident Muhammad Nazar, to act as the central government's representatives in maintaining the cohesiveness of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia.
In addition, he asked Irwandi and his deputy to work together with the provincial legislative council to improve the welfare of the Acehnese. "The new governor is also expected to work with the provincial legislative council as partners, not as rivals," Ma'ruf said.
The minister urged the new governor to cooperate with the Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for the benefit of the people of the tsunami-hit province.
Thursday's inauguration constituted a new era in the administration of Aceh, putting the province's leadership in the hands of former members of the now-defunct Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
Javier Solana, European Union high representative for the common foreign and security policy, sent a congratulatory message to the Indonesian government.
"I commend the Indonesian government, the Free Aceh Movement and the people of Aceh for fully endorsing the outcome of the first ever direct and democratic local elections and their will to work peacefully and in partnership for a common future," Solana said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post.
"I'm confident that the choice of a former GAM representative, Irwandi Yusuf, as governor of Aceh will be beneficial for the continued peace process as well as the further reconstruction of Aceh following the tsunami disaster."
The US Embassy in Jakarta said Thursday that the inauguration of Irwandi and Nazar was a positive step forward in Indonesia's democratic development and in the Aceh peace process.
"We welcome the fact that all sides have taken a constructive approach to the election and have publicly committed to working together to develop the province and continue the peace process," the embassy said in a statement.
A traditional inauguration ceremony for the new governor was later held at Safiatuddin Park in Banda Aceh. The ceremony was attended by about 10,000 ordinary Acehnese, who came from nearly all parts of Aceh. They were invited to have a meal together as a symbol of thankfulness.
They were all supporters of Irwandi and Nazar, but their number fell short of the organizing committee's claim of about 50,000. Acehnese witnessing the inauguration ceremony expressed their desires and hopes for the future, centering not just on improved security, but economic development.
"I have never gotten any assistance. I hope the new government cares more about us, the victims of the conflict," said Nursyiah Abubakar from Alue Ie Puteh in North Aceh regency.
Nursyiah said she used to ask the government for help, but she got no answer. She said she hoped Irwandi and Nazar would be more attentive to people's welfare, since they know a lot about the needs of conflict victims. "If they fail to meet their promises, we will not elect them again... Just wait and see," she said.
Mustafa Yusuf, a resident of East Aceh regency, hoped the new provincial administration would be fair and honest. "They would be nothing if the people did not elect them... so after becoming our leaders, let's see what they will do for us," he said.
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Putting decades of armed conflict and the devastating tsunami behind it, Aceh will embark on a new era when the new governor takes office Thursday. Outgoing acting governor Mustafa Abubakar talked to The Jakarta Post's Dwi Atmanta recently about the legacy of his administration and the landmark transfer of power, which he expects to lead the province to prosperity.
Question: How do you see the potential relationship between Jakarta and Aceh, given the fact that the people in the province elected a former rebel as the new governor?
Answer: I have asked the elected governor to build good communication with the central government, the legislative council and his constituents. The central government responded positively to the election results and congratulated Aceh on the successful, peaceful and democratic election. Jakarta has shown no sign of worry at all. Instead the central government has always provided assistance and taken efforts to make sure the future government will run well for the sake of Aceh's welfare.
Few had anticipated the election results, but no one has denied the credibility of the poll. The election turnout reached 70 percent, which might not happen in other regions. No election disputes followed. The central government acknowledges the people's choice.
The government cares about Aceh's development, therefore the President has officially asked Sofyan Djalil (minister of information and communications), Hamid Awaluddin (minister of justice and human rights) and myself, as the former governor, to provide assistance and advocacy for the new governor and deputy governor for an indefinite period. It seems that the new leaders are in need of such help.
How will Aceh's economy grow in the future?
Aceh is rich in energy resources like coal, geothermal power and hydropower. If the assets are managed well there will be no energy crisis in Aceh, and furthermore the province will emerge as an energy exporter.
Thanks to the Aceh governance law, the new provincial government will control the oil and gas reserves along with the central government. We are also blessed with potentials in agribusiness, including huge tracts of land that will support the national biofuel program. We have allocated 500,000 hectares of land in North Aceh for the project, with a possibility of doubling that size.
We have sensed a great opportunity in the fishery business as well. Therefore we will start building this year a fish port as big as the one in Jakarta on no less than 50 hectares of land. A tuna breeding center will follow in a bid to develop Aceh as a major supplier of fresh tuna in the world.
The existing industries in Lhokseumawe KKA paper producer, Arun gas field, ExxonMobil, PT Iskandar Muda fertilizer companyare other valuable assets. To solve a crisis in gas supply for the industries, we will develop alternative energy, including coal.
In terms of infrastructure, Aceh is seeking to build Sabang as an international seaport. During meetings with Republic of Ireland government officials and businesspeople, we considered a cooperation to develop Sabang into a seaport on par with the Dublin port. We will also expand Sultan Iskandar Muda airport to enable it to serve as an embarkation point for our haj pilgrims.
In the long run we will construct a two-lane highway linking Banda Aceh and towns along the eastern and northern coasts. The infrastructure will significantly help Aceh's economy grow.
Does Aceh have enough human resources to realize these dreams?
The Aceh administration and the BRR (Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency) have initiated a program to send 1,000 students to universities across the country to pursue bachelor and master's degrees. The program will last until 2009, just when Aceh will be ready to use Rp 4 trillion in special autonomy funds to develop all its available potentials. The year will see Aceh development start to run at full speed. Hopefully peace and security will last so that Aceh economic development will succeed in improving people's welfare.
Will the political dynamics disrupt the key development programs?
The new government, as well as the political elite, should focus on economic development now that peace has prevailed. I praise the elected governor for his great attention to improving education and healthcare. We have discussed the possibility of forming a special body to manage a trust fund for education. Empowering the people's economy, free education and healthcare and good governance are all that the new governor needs to win popular support.
Should the new government take over the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency to speed up Aceh's recovery from the tsunami?
It is unlikely as there is too much money, some Rp 60 trillion (US$6.6 billion), from international donors involved that requires the central government to manage. A regional government has no capability to do this. There were statements in support of the takeover idea, but they were just a spontaneous response and have been retracted.
The agency is not working slowly. There were some problems with data collection on land titles. The recovery program looks to have run at a snail's pace because we, the local government and the agency, have been dealing with reconstruction and reintegration work.
Jakarta Post - February 14, 2007
Nethy Dharma Somba, Merauke Papuans must not be sidelined in the possible establishment of an autonomous South Papua province, but should benefit from it as stipulated in the 2001 special autonomy law for Papua, a member of the Papua People's Assembly (MRP) says.
"Just like a farmer cultivating his farm, don't let others enjoy the yields from the farm. It's the same as the current issue on the petition to establish an autonomous province in Papua... don't let it create opportunities only for other people to obtain positions, while Papuans just become spectators in the development process," an MRP member from Merauke regency, Erna Mahuse, said in Merauke on Tuesday.
According to Erna, the MRP can discuss issues related to autonomous provinces in Papua as long as the proposal being considered does not violate the autonomy law.
"It is not a taboo to discuss it, so long as it is in accordance with mechanisms of Law No. 21/2001 and benefits Papuans, because the main aim of an autonomous province is to shorten the reins of development," she said.
On Monday in Merauke, Regent John Gluba Gebze announced the formation of a South Papua province in a traditional procession of the Marind tribe, the largest tribe in southern Papua. The event was attended by thousands of people.
Gebze marked the occasion by planting a Masi tree along with Boven Digul Vice Regent Mercelino Yamkomdow and Asmat legislative council vice speaker Eduardus Kaise. "The tree symbolizes our spirit to establish the South Papua province," said Marind tribal figure Imbuti Kasimirius Ndiken.
Gebze, a Marind tribesman, joined in the Gatzi traditional dance during the event.
Gebze told reporters the day before the event that the establishment of the South Papua province was a continuance of a colonial-era plan to form territories in Papua. The Dutch administration had divided Territory V in four regencies, he said: Merauke, Boven Digul, Asmat and Mappi. "We just have to continue with the plan prepared by the Dutch."
The territorial divisions, said Gebze, had based on sociological and anthropological aspects to form an area in which the tribes would live and govern in one cluster under a territorial administration.
Associated Press - February 13, 2007
Jakarta Police and soldiers opened fire on each other Tuesday in Indonesia's Papua province, leaving one officer dead, a police spokesman said.
The incident the latest in series of clashes around the country between the two underpaid and poorly disciplined forces took place in the highland town of Mulia, spokesman Kartono Wangsadisastra said.
Clashes elsewhere in Indonesia between the two forces have been typically triggered by turf wars, often over illegal rackets such as drugs, smuggling and prostitution.
Wangsadisastra said police and soldiers had returned to their barracks and the town was calm. He did not say what sparked the clash or how long it lasted.
Thousands of police and soldiers are stationed in Papua, some 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles) east of Jakarta, tasked with putting down a small rebellion by locals seeking an independent state.
Jakarta Post - February 12, 2007
Neles Tebay, Jayapura Indigenous Papuans are supposed to be enjoying a peaceful life in Papua province. However, their experiences under Indonesian rule create a different impression.
At times they are forced to live as strangers or foreigners, even in their own ancestral land.
The latest example of this is that thousands of indigenous Papuans have been seeking refuge since Jan. 6 in Puncak Jaya regency, from an open war between the Indonesian Military and police troops and members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) rebel group under Goliath Tabuni.
The Association of Papua Churches (PGGP), after having conducted a visit to Puncak Jaya, announced that some 2,000 Papuans had already taken refuge in other villages and some 5,000 were facing hunger. They were living in desperate conditions (The Jakarta Post, Jan. 30).
They were forced to leave their ancestral land, villages, food gardens, domesticated pigs, and church buildings, and to live as strangers in another place.
They have been facing shortages of food and living in fear and anxiety. Children have suffered from diarrhea, hepatitis and malaria, which are the most common illnesses. Four refugees have already died, namely Tanno Talenggen, 50; Laya Morib, 30; Mitiles Morib, 20; and Walia Wonda, 41.
As expected, the local government in Puncak Jaya regency and the Trikora Military Command which oversees Papua and West Irian Jaya through its spokesman Lt. Col. Imam Santoso, in Jayapura, denied the church report. The PGGP, according to the military's spokesman, gave "false information" (The Jakarta Post, Feb. 2).
Whether the Papuans fleeing a crackdown on separatists should be classified as refugees is debatable. Yet, the truth is thousands of people have involuntarily left their ancestral land. Their emotional ties with their ancestral land have been cut off.
From a cultural perspective, the broken emotional ties pose a serious danger to Melanesians, including the Papuan people. A Melanesian never enjoys a peaceful life on a land belonging to other people. A sense of security is always found in their ancestral land.
Thousands of Papuans are seeking refuge due to fear. What are they afraid of? According to the local government and the military, the Papuans took refuge in order to avoid the attack launched not by the Indonesian security forces but by the OPM members.
According to the churches, people were seeking refuge because they were afraid of being attacked both by the Indonesian security forces and the OPM.
While acknowledging the real reason must be done through a credible investigation conducted by an independent inquiry team, past experiences might be helpful in understanding why the people are seeking refuge.
We can take Papuans' experience of being refugees in 2004 as an example. Due to the military operation conducted by the Indonesian security forces against the OPM, as reported by the church leaders, some 5,000 Papuans from 27 villages in Puncak Jaya regency fled the troops.
These displaced Papuans used to be afraid of entering their village or the capital of the regency, for any Papuan who came out of the forest was suspected and accused of being a separatist by the Indonesian security forces.
During the military operation the whole region was reportedly closed off. Humanitarian workers were not allowed to visit the region, and therefore the suffering people could not be assisted.
That is why the leaders of the churches in Papua called upon the government and the military "to open the region to humanitarian workers."
Thus thousands of Papuans might be seeking refuge because they are afraid of being suspected of being members of the OPM by the Indonesian security forces, as acknowledged by the head of Yamo district (Cenderawasih Pos, Feb. 2).
As long as the root cause of Papuan separatism is not tackled these Papuans might continue to be suspected of being supporters or collaborators of the Papuan separatist group led by Goliat Tabuni.
The deployment of more troops and the establishment of more military and police stations does not necessarily bring about lasting stability.
The central and provincial governments are facing the challenge of providing human security for the Papuans, without which they cannot work for themselves, participate in the development of their villages or improve their future prospects.
The government and representatives of the Papuan people can together work out the content of the conflict-prevention policy through a peaceful dialog facilitated by a neutral third party.
Whether this dialog happens depends very much on the Jakarta- based government.
Jakarta's unwillingness to engage in a dialog with the Papuans could be perceived by the Papuans as the government ignoring the suffering of indigenous Papuans.
[The writer is a professor at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, Papua.]
KHNL TV (Hawaii) - February 10, 2007
Honolulu Peace is possible in Indonesia's troubled eastern province of Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya. But, according to a recently published East-West Center Washington Policy Studies, getting there will entail journeying down a different road than that recently traveled in the successful search for peace in Aceh, another unsettled Indonesian province.
Dr. Timo Kivimaki, a senior researcher at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in Copenhagen and author of the recent EWC Washington publication Initiating a Peace Process in Papua: Actors, Issues, Process, and the Role of the International Community, says while peace is possible in Papua the problem in the eastern Indonesian province is more complex than that Jakarta faced in Aceh. He says this is, in part, "because Papua has a larger scale of migrants and a less-organized form of resistance."
But the roots of the problems in Papua go back over forty years. Kivimaki says, "The main issue of contention between Papuans and the Indonesian central administration is related to the Indonesian rule of Papua." Papua was declared part of Indonesia in 1945 and has been under Jakarta's control since 1963. As Jakarta consolidated its control over the province in the 1960's attempts to "Indonesianize" Papua were undertaken, apparently with more than a small measure of success. It's estimated that in 1960 the Indonesian population of the province numbered only 18,600, about 2.5 percent of the total population. By the year 2000, the number of Indonesians in Papua were said to have jumped to almost 750-thousand, some 35 percent of the total population.
To make matters more complicated, Jakarta embarked on a divide and conquer plan in the former Irian Jaya province. The province has been separated into three provinces, with two of the new entities (Papua and West Irian Jaya) existing not just as a legal reality but also political ones as well, having elected their own governors less than a year ago. This even though the Papuan Special Autonomy Law still recognizes the entirety of the former Irian Jaya province as one entity.
Kivimaki says that the ongoing conflict between the diverse Papuan resistance and Jakarta's troops has killed, according to Amnesty International and several other organizations, about 100,000 Papuans (official Indonesian estimates of casualties are far lower) has not helped the climate for peace.
According to Kivimaki, who played a role in the successful Aceh peace talks, despite the continued resistance in Papua lessons can be learned, both good and bad, from the Aceh talks and the experience of the Papuan special autonomy consultations of 2001 and 2002. But he points out, "the vital lessons Papua needs to learn are related to the identification of the actors in the dialogue, the issues to be covered, and the possible role of the international community."
For a peace process to have a chance in Papua, Kivimaki says it would "probably require the initiative of some courageous individuals working in their private capacity to assist the relevant conflicting parties and trusted external communities." He acknowledges that even this would "probably be impossible to represent all the resistance groups in the negotiations," and that the Papuans would have to organize a way to include those who "do not feel ownership toward the dialogue process."
Not an easy task. But, Kivimaki adds the resistance movement in Papua "needs to keep in mind that once a peace agreement is enabled, a better mobilization of Papuan representation can be formed mistakes made by imperfectly representative parties to peace talks can always be rectified."
To overcome the lack of trust between Papua and Jakarta, Kivimaki says "the attention of the international community" is required. Among the ways the international community could help the process, he adds, is offering the venue "of negotiations themselves and... the monitoring of the implementation of any peace agreement that emerges." And Kivimaki points out that "due to the presence of more complicated problems than existed in Aceh related to the Indonesian and international corporations operating in Papua, some level of involvement or representation of these stakeholders should also be considered."
One of the main issues to be considered in any Papuan-Jakarta dialogue, according to Kivimaki is the question of Papua's political status. But that is not the only one. He says cultural grievances, including the control of immigration; economic inequities; security concerns; and political empowerment of Papuans need to be dealt with in any dialogue "between supporters and opponents of Indonesian rule."
Despite the difficulties Kivimaki believes "if the conflicting parties are willing to negotiate in good faith and if they accept each other as worthy of dialogue, the Papuan conflict can be resolved." This means that the government has to accept to negotiate with rebels it has marginalized as illegal, including a variety of militant and ideological groups under the umbrella of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM). But he acknowledges "A permanent resolution requires that both sides are able to secure their fundamental interests, so the parties involved need to develop lenses that enable both sides to see the settlement as a victory rather than a defeat."
Jakarta Post - February 10, 2007
Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura Representatives of four regencies in southern Papua met with the provincial legislative council Friday to demand the establishment of a South Papua province.
Some 70 representatives from Merauke, Mappi, Boven Digoel and Asmat regencies, led by Merauke Deputy Regent Maryoto, met with councillors. The delegation was received by the council's deputy speakers Komarudin Watubun, Yop Kogoya and Paskalis Kossay.
Yoseph Mehuze, a spokesman for the group, said the four regencies were acting like "a son" asking his parents' blessing to get married. "We're ready to get married and we ask for the blessing of Papua province, as our parent," he said.
According to Merauke regency administration official Agustina Basik-Bakis, the idea of an autonomous South Papua has been around since even before Indonesia's independence.
She said the creation of the new province would help the region catch up in terms of development, as well as shortening bureaucratic procedures and improving services to residents.
The four regencies demanding their own province were previously incorporated under one regency, Merauke. Mappi, Boven Digoel and Asmat were separated from Merauke in a 2002 law on the formation of 14 regencies in Papua province.
Responding to the demand, legislative council Deputy Speaker Komarudin said that if a son is ready to get married, the parents will give their blessing, but at the same time the parents have to ensure it is the correct decision.
He said the council would set up a special committee to discuss the proposal. The committee's recommendation will then be passed on to the Papuan People's Council.
However, he said the legislative council is currently deliberating the provincial budget, and any discussion on the creation of the new province would have to wait until the deliberations were completed.
Representatives from Sorong regency in western Papua met with the legislative council in the middle of January to demand the formation of a Southwest Papua province.
However, at least one community leader, Lazarus Indow, chairman of the Manokwari Arfak Intellectuals, said the petition for the creation of Southwest Papua province was incorrectly taken to the Papua Legislative Council, because the territory in question is located in West Irian Jaya province.
"They should have conveyed their demand to the West Irian Jaya legislature (in Manokwari) instead, and not the Papua legislature. West Irian Jaya has its own governor and legislature now," he said.
Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu said all petitions on the establishment of a new province had to go through all legal procedures, as outlined in the 2001 law on special autonomy for the territory.
The governor did not say if, in the case of the petition on Southwest Papua, it should have gone through the Papua or West Irian Jaya legislature.
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura The name of West Irian Jaya will be changed to West Papua to match the preferences of local people, the provincial government announced Tuesday.
The chairman of the West Irian Jaya Legislative Council, Jimmy Demianus Idjie, said the name change was announced by provincial Governor Abraham Octovianus Atururi to coincide with the province's fourth anniversary.
Jimmy emphasized that the name change had to be followed by solid improvements to the welfare of the province's residents. "What's the meaning of a name change if the welfare of the people doesn't improve?" he asked.
Jimmy said the West Irian Jaya Legislative Council would evaluate the name change before approving it at a plenary session. "After that, the name change will be proposed to the central government for approval," he said.
Straits Times - February 14, 2007
Salim Osman, Jakarta Soldiers from the United States and Indonesia should train together to strengthen military ties between the two countries, said visiting US military chief Marine General Peter Pace.
He said that putting troops through their paces side by side in military exercises would promote better military partnerships as they interact during training.
'It would be good for the two countries,' said Gen Pace, who is chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, at a press conference in the Indonesian capital.
He had earlier met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono, armed forces chief Djoko Sutyanto and the chiefs of the three services of Indonesia's armed forces.
Washington sees Indonesia as a key ally in the fight against terrorism. It restored full military ties with Jakarta little more than a year ago after cutting them over human rights abuses linked to Indonesian troops in East Timor, now named Timor Leste.
In his talks with Dr Yudhoyono, Gen Pace said, they also discussed the possibility of peacekeeping duties by Indonesian troops in Lebanon. In addition, he said: "We talked about the possibility of having more officers and non-commissioned officers from Indonesia for training in the US."
The general responded candidly to questions about the US reaction to Indonesia's move to diversify its military purchases and reduce its reliance on the United States.
"Indonesia is a sovereign country," he said. "Your government made a decision which it thinks is the best for your country." But the US, he said, would want to compete for the defence contracts.
He was comfortable with the state of military relations between the two countries. 'The US has shown that when Indonesia needs our help, we will come and that when you no longer need the help, we will leave.'
He said that both sides expressed their mutual concern over the development of nuclear power in Iran.
Agence France Presse - February 13, 2007
Jakarta The United States and Indonesia are discussing ways to further their military partnership and work together in the region, top US General Peter Pace said.
Pace, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other Indonesian military leaders to discuss how to strengthen ties.
"I'm very comfortable with the relationship that exists right now, and especially between the Indonesian armed forces and the US armed forces," he told reporters.
"I came here only to talk on how the US and Indonesian military can work together regionally for the betterment of both our countries," the general said.
"We had our problems 10 years ago that we no longer have, and I'm very pleased that we're beyond that," said Pace.
The US restored full military relations with Jakarta in 2005, lifting restrictions imposed in 1991 in response to human rights abuses by the Indonesian military during a bloody crackdown in East Timor.
Fears of militant Islamic groups mushrooming since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US have spurred Washington's efforts to deepen security ties with Indonesia.
Pace said he and Yudhoyono discussed the possibilities of working in peacekeeping missions, but no decisions were made.
"We want to be a dependable friend," he said. "We very much appreciate the leadership Indonesia naturally exerts in this region."
On China's influence in the region, Pace said he was optimistic about bilateral relations despite Beijing's recent test of a satellite-killing missile.
"Certainly the Chinese are increasing their capacity, they had their anti-satellite test recently, they are building more navy platforms, more submarines," he said.
"But certainly I am not aware of any intent on their part to use any of those capacities in an aggressive manner," he said.
Pace said he and Yudhoyono, a former general, also talked about their mutual concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.
Jakarta Post - February 12, 2007
Jakarta Activists plan to report Governor Sutiyoso and Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie to the National Human Rights Commission over the recent deadly flooding in the capital.
Jakarta Resident's Forum (Fakta) chairman Azas Tigor Nainggolan said Saturday that the incident that claimed 48 lives was a human rights violation.
"Negligence in failing to anticipate the floods caused people to die. It is categorized as a violation of human rights," he said in a press conference at the Indonesia Consumers' Foundation's office.
Fakta earlier reported Sutiyoso to the House of Representatives' Commission VII overseeing the environmental affairs.
In the meeting, Fakta asked the commission to summon Sutiyoso and urged the administration to stop converting much-depleted green space into commercial premises in the capital.
They also called on the administration to demolish high-rise buildings located in water catchment areas, including Pluit Mall in East Jakarta, Taman Anggrek Mall in West Jakarta and the Cibubur Junction mall.
Fakta also requested Sutiyoso apologize to the public and resign from his post over the administration's failure to prevent the flood.
"Firing Sutiyoso might not resolve the problems surrounding the floods, but it would be a starting point to make the Jakarta governor take responsibility for the incident," Tigor said.
Fakta also called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to sack Aburizal over his controversial statement that the flood was not a major issue as displaced residents could still laugh.
Sutiyoso has repeatedly said that last week's flooding was part of a natural five-year cycle. However, environmentalists insisted that the flood were man-made, caused by the city's massive constructions on water catchment areas.
The government estimated that the floods caused at least Rp 4.1 trillion in financial losses.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) lamented the Jakarta administration's late response in anticipating the floods.
It said that, although the administration had increased its flood budget by 250 percent over the past five years, the flooding was still far worse than in 2002. The forum said the administration upped the budget to Rp 375 billion this year, from Rp 150 billion in 2002.
"The budget for this year's flood rose sharply, but the flood impacts are worse than in 2002," Roy Slam of Fitra said Saturday as quoted by the Tempointeraktif.com news website.
Fitra asked the Supreme Audit Agency to audit the budget set aside for flooding to promote transparency and accountability.
Jakarta Post - February 13, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta Rukman, a former construction worker from Pondok Cabe, just south of Jakarta, cried out when Tangerang prison authorities recently turned down his request for a three-day leave to see his dead mother in Palembang, South Sumatra. He is serving a 20-year jail sentence for killing a four-member family in 1995.
Rukman's family could do nothing to help him. They had no money. Nor did they have access to public officials, who could obtain notes to get approval from the prison's warden to take him to see his mother's body for the last time.
The case of the former head of Jakarta's transportation agency, Rustam Effendi, presents a stark contrast. Rustam has been in Cipinang Prison for corruption charges related to Jakarta's multi-billion rupiah busway project. He was recently allowed to leave Cipinang to attend his daughter's wedding party.
Lawmakers questioned Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin on Monday on the latest example of preferential treatment given to a high ranking official, this time the treatment of former National Police top detective Com. Gen. Suyitno Landung.
Instead of sending him to Cipinang Penitentiary, National Police chief Gen. Sutanto sent him to a police detention center in Kelapa Dua, Depok, citing fears for Suyitno's "safety".
Lawmakers from the House of Representatives Commission III also queried the increasing number of inmate suicides.
House Commission chairman Trimedya Panjaitan asked the government to enhance security at prisons, saying the increased levels of suicide and physical abuse had a lot to do with prisons being overcrowded.
"This has contributed to an increase in suicide, drugs, physical abuse and the poor health condition of inmates. Most prisoners are facing malnutrition because the number of inmates is increasing while the prisons' budget is constant," he said.
Hamid denied giving special treatment to Suyitno, saying the transfer was caused by the fact that the prison at Cipinang was already overcrowded "Overcapacity at Salemba Prison has reached 350 percent while that at Cipinang Prison has reached 250 percent," he said.
He also said increasing suicides in prisons had something to do with inmates' psychological condition rather than issues of security. "The psychological condition is quite fragile for inmates serving a lengthy jail term and for those whose cases are being tried," he said.
Kompas - February 12, 2007
Jakarta The end of efforts to solve cases of human rights violations indicates the strength of the political influence of human rights violators on the government. A House of Representatives' (DPR) recommendation to the president to form an Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal based on a proposal by the DPR's Commission III will be difficult to make a reality.
Speaking in Jakarta on Sunday February 11, the Deputy Director of the Human Rights Working Group, M Choirul Anam, said that the government and the DPR are both reluctant to resolve human rights violations. The Attorney General persists in wanting to form an Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal first of all to follow up on the results of the investigation by the National Human Rights Commission. This is has caused the government to be seen as still wanting to protect human rights violators. "The political influence of the real perpetrators of human right violations is still extremely strong", he said.
The are still no assurances that the DPR's proposal to the president for an Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal will go ahead because the case has a direct relationship with the DPR member's constituents. The Trisakti, Semanggi I and II, the 1998 May riots and the forced disappearance of 13 activists in 1997-1998 are different from the Tanjung Priok case, which involved the actual constituents of the political parties.
According to Choirul, the delays in dealing with various human rights cases also occurs in other countries that are facing a phase of political transition. The DPR should take more initiative in pushing for past human rights violations to be resolved.
Choirul went on to say that particularly in the case of the forced disappearance of the 13 activists, the Attorney General should not need to wait for the formation of an Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal. The victims have still not been found so the legal proceedings into these cases are still ongoing.
Meanwhile the head of the Impunity Monitoring and Institutional Reform Division of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Haris Azhar, proposed that the DPR present an interpellation motion to the president over the Attorney General's refusal to investigate the human rights perpetrators. "There should be an interpellation motion", said Haris. (mzw)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Tempo Interactive - February 12, 2007
Sandy Indra Pratama, Jakarta The families of victims of gross human rights violations are disappointed with the endless foot dragging by the Attorney General and the House of Representatives (DPR) Legal Commission over investigating cases of gross human rights violations. They believe that the Attorney General has betrayed the mandate of his office.
"So it would be better to just remove the Attorney General", said the coordinator of the Indonesian Association of the Families of Missing Persons (Ikohi), Mugiyanto, during a press conference at the offices of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) on Monday February 12.
According to Mugiyanto, the Attorney General's argument that there needs to be a prior recommendation from the DPR before being able to conduct an investigation has been contrived to protect certain political interests. This is in contradiction with Law Number 26/2000 on Human Rights Court, meaning the government is not meeting its constitutional obligations.
The families of the victims are asking that there be a meeting between the DPR's Legal Commission, the Attorney General and the National Human Rights Commission. Mugiyanto said that this meeting would represent a serious effort to seek a solution to the problems of upholding human rights in Indonesia. "Don't sacrifice us again", he said.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Tempo Interactive - February 8, 2007
Imron Rosyid, Solo The families of activists abducted in 1997-1998 are calling on the House of Representatives (DPR) to summon President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) following a statement by the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), Abdul Hakim Garuda Nasution, that Yudhoyono has information pertaining to the fate of the activists which after years and years has still not been clarified.
Sipon, the widow of Wiji Thukul, a People Democratic Party (PRD) activist who disappeared in 1998, said that in addition to seeking information, the summoning of the president by the DPR would also be used to question the commitment of the Attorney General. "The key now lies with the president and the DPR", Sipon told Tempo on Wednesday February 7.
According to Sipon, she is convinced that the president has a great deal of information on the fate of the abducted activists. She said that currently there are no other avenues that the families of the victims can pursue except to ask the president to be candid in revealing all the information that he has.
"The president is a former military general right, who at the time the abductions occurred was an important person. It is impossible that SBY doesn't know. Now it depends on whether he is willing or not. The DPR and the president must cooperate in uncovering this issue", she said.
Earlier Komnas HAM had said it believed that Yudhoyono has information about the fate of the activists abducted in 1997- 1998. When the abductions took place, Yudhoyono was the Indonesian Military's (TNI) head of Social and Political Affairs and was once a member of the TNI's Honorary Council, which questioned a military officer suspected being involved in the abductions. "So SBY could provide information because [he] had once been a member of the honorary council", said Nusantara during a public hearing with the DPR's Legal Commission yesterday.
Sipon herself admits to being pessimistic that what happened to her husband and is friends will be uncovered saying she believes that the reluctance on the part of the Attorney General to accept a report from Komnas HAM is a sign that the gross human rights violations will be put on ice. She says that what happened to her husband may not be very different from the fate suffered by activists during the slaughter in 1965, which to date has still has yet to be revealed. "At most it will be put on ice like the 1965 cases if the president doesn't intervene", she said.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
BBC News - February 14, 2007
Issues facing Indonesia's domestic workers abroad get attention Indonesia is failing to protect its domestic workers and leaves them vulnerable to abusive employers, Amnesty International has found. The country's estimated 2.5 million domestic workers some as young as 12 are generally considered second class citizens, the rights watchdog said.
The government has admitted the law is failing domestic workers and said talks are under way to amend it. But part of the problem is the failure to enforce existing laws, Amnesty said.
After years of concern over conditions faced by its domestic workers abroad, Indonesia is now facing criticism of its own treatment of workers in the home, the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Jakarta says.
Amnesty International, in its report, gives examples of domestic workers who have been abused, raped and even beaten to death by their employers.
Workers in the home are being failed by a two-tier legal system which means they do not get the same rights as those employed in registered businesses, the London-based organisation said.
The Indonesian government submitted a draft law on domestic workers to parliament last year, but it omitted fundamental workers' rights, such as clearly defined daily hours of work, rest periods and a minimum wage, Amnesty found.
Workers in the home are also protected by a law on domestic violence, but most people are unaware that it applies to domestic workers.
"The government needs to stop viewing domestic workers as inferior and give them the same legal protections as other workers," Natalie Hill, Deputy Asia Director at Amnesty International, says.
"It also needs to educate police, the courts, employers and recruitment agencies on the fact that violence against domestic workers is a criminal offence."
Amnesty's report is expected to provide ammunition for human rights groups in Indonesia who this week mark National Domestic Workers' Day to raise awareness of the problem, our correspondent says.
Jakarta Post - February 14, 2007
Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta Lila Rohila, 38, had never thought the decision she took last Idul Fitri to wear a headscarf would ever become an issue for her or her company.
After working for 15 years at Sogo Department Store in Plaza Indonesia, Central Jakarta, she was told to accept a demotion or resign.
"They told me that if I wanted to continue working here and wear my headscarf I had to work in the back office, which would mean a lower salary," she said Tuesday.
The "back office" is the place where merchandise is packed and stored and the stock database compiled. She is now working in food and beverages.
A cashier at the department store, Indarti Subari, 28, has a similar story. Despite her solid work performance reflected by a 12 percent raise last year Indarti was also "asked" to resign.
The department store is planning to dismiss 150 employees as its parent company, publicly listed PT Mitra Adiperkasa (MAPI), has decided to close its branch in Plaza Indonesia at the end of the month.
Those whose jobs are at risk include five women who wear the headscarf, security guards and a number of men and women approaching retirement age.
Thirty-seven Sogo employees including the five women have entered into discussions with the store's management, demanding to work at another branch of Sogo or one of MAPI's retail arms.
Indarti refuses to buy the management's story that staff layoffs are necessary because the company is facing financial difficulties.
"When I asked them whether it was because I wore this (pointing to her headscarf), they refused to comment." She too was offered a less-visible position.
This is not the first time the company has been accused of discrimination during layoffs. According to the company's labor union, the Independent Labor Union Forum (FSPM), it also dismissed three women in 2002 who had refused to take off their headscarves for work.
MAPI's head of investor relations Ratih D. Gianda told The Jakarta Post it was true the branch would be closed but dismissed allegations Sogo employees had been fired or demoted for wearing the headscarf.
"The decision to put people in customer contact jobs does not rest on whether they wear the headscarf." She said the company employed a number of women who wore the headscarf in a range of capacities. Ratih also said the company would comply with the Labor Law, including on severance payments for dismissed employees.
MAPI is one of the largest retailers in Indonesia and the license-holder of Sogo and Debenhams department stores, Starbucks cafes and Kinokuniya bookstores.
The company booked a 16 percent increase in net profit to Rp 132 billion (US$14.5 million) in 2005, while it recorded Rp 35.46 billion in the first half of last year.
Jakarta Post - February 14, 2007
Urip Hudiono, Jakarta The government will import another 500,000 tons of rice to help keep prices from rising further after monsoonal flooding across the country disrupted the production and distribution of the nation's staple foodstuff.
The rice will be imported in March and April, Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters Tuesday after a meeting with economics ministers at the headquarters of the State Logistics Agency (Bulog). The Vice President said bids from suppliers had already been solicited.
"We need to secure the supply of rice to the market and distribute as much rice to the poor as is needed. That's why importing rice is reasonable in these circumstances," he said.
The government imported 500,000 tons of rice in January, saying that it would import more over the course of the year as required.
A total of 138,000 tons of imported rice will be delivered this month, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono had earlier said, with another 350,000 tons arriving in March so as to buffer the country's rice stocks until such time as local production kicks in during the harvest.
The original decision to import rice came after prices rose to Rp 5,000 (55 US cents) a kilogram in December and January, threatening a possible uptick in inflation.
The government then also instructed Bulog to supply the market with rice at a subsidized price of Rp 3,700 a kilogram. Recent torrential rains have, however, disrupted rice production and distribution, prompting further increases in rice prices to more than Rp 5,000 a kilogram in some regions.
Crops on more than a quarter of the 135,115 hectares of farmland that were flooded have been completely destroyed, while many distribution routes including routes through the national capital, Jakarta, which was among the areas worst affected by the floods were badly disrupted.
Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono had earlier said there could still be a rice shortfall of as much as 370,000 tons this month in the run-up to the harvest.
The government expects the harvest to be delayed until April because of the rains, and sees drought conditions later this year as being likely to affect production again as a result of the El Nino weather cycle.
Kalla said that Bulog would continue to supply the market with subsidized rice from its stocks, which would be augmented by the imported rice, so as to stabilize prices at some Rp 4,000 a kilogram.
Importing rice has always been a controversial issue for Indonesia, with the focus of the debate being whether to side with the country's consumers or rice farmers.
A recent World Bank report on poverty in Indonesia noted that rising rice prices had contributed to an increase in the number of people living in poverty.
Associated Press - February 12, 2007
Irwan Firdaus, Muara Bakti Farmers living outside Indonesia's flood-hit capital said Monday they were struggling to survive after hundreds of square miles of land were inundated, destroying rice and other recently planted crops.
With waters receding, many returned to their washed-out fields Monday to survey the damage. "I have nothing," said Marda, 43, looking out at his small plot of muddy land. "The plants, all the money that went to buying fertilizer, hiring mini-tractors. Gone."
Marda, who like many Indonesians uses one name, said he lost $1,100 half what he earns in a year.
Seasonal downpours last week caused rivers to break their banks in Jakarta, a sprawling metropolis of 12 million people, covering half the city with black, smelly water in the worst floods in recent memory.
Nearly 100 people were killed, most drowned or electrocuted, in the capital and its two neighboring provinces, Banten and West Java, where Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono estimated 500 square miles of land was destroyed.
As result, national rice stocks will be depleted by 370,000 tons this month, he said. The price of Indonesia's staple food already has climbed 30 percent in some areas. Spinach, corn and other crops also were washed away or badly damaged.
"We have to start all over," said Rohimin, 40, who shares the profits of rice harvests with the owner of his tiny piece of land east of Jakarta. "I'll have to sell some of my chickens and borrow money from my boss for new seedlings and fertilizer." Hundreds of families who were camped out on a road alongside muddy fields begged the government for help as others returned to small bamboo shacks to begin the cleanup process.
"We don't have anything to eat," said Ninia, a mother of five who uses only one name, as others desperately gathered around saying, "Noodles, noodles". "Please, we need rice, we need cooking oil, we need food," she said.
Jakarta Post - February 12, 2007
Jambi Local police are investigating the disappearance of 69 poll booths that were being stored at Jelutung Sports Hall in Jambi city.
Police were contacted after Jambi General Elections Commission (KPUD) chairman Najamuddin went to check on stored election materials that will be used in next year's mayoral election. It is unclear when the booths, imported from Japan, were stolen.
Najamuddin said the KPUD had 5,739 poll booths in 2004, but only 5,667 now remained. "The theft has caused a loss of Rp 500 million to the state," he said.
Jelutung Police chief Adj. Comr. Nainggolan said officers were questioning four security guards at the sports hall as witnesses in the case.
Jakarta Post - February 11, 2007
Jakarta Political observers have suggested that the country needs direct and open general elections that allow people to choose their own candidates.
Speakers at a discussion at the University of Indonesia on Saturday told the public to scrutinize the background of their preferred candidates for the 2009 general elections.
"To date, the people don't know whom they are voting for because they only chose political parties instead of the candidates," former Golkar leader Akbar Tanjung told the audience.
"Should people vote for politicians directly; the voters will be more objective and the elected candidates will be more accountable and closer to their constituents."
Akbar also warned politicians not to underestimate the electorate, saying they were not stupid.
Syafii Maarif, former chairman of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, agreed with Akbar, saying: "People with a sound mind can tell the essence of political parties and what's better for them."
Revisions to the general elections law were needed to allow direct elections, said Boni Hargens, a political science lecturer at the university.
"Current law on general elections authorizes political parties to determine the sequence on a list of running candidates fielded for the general elections," he said.
"Under this scheme, potential candidates tighten their relationships with party leaders, while they ignore the people's voice," Akbar added.
The speakers also said that the current procedures had caused the politicians to become "immoral". "Today, many politicians are boosting their fortunes with their political power," Boni said.
Akbar said many contemporary politicians simply aimed to amass power in any way, "including immoral ones" and that such practices had degraded their moral legitimacy.
"Those politicians must uphold idealism if we want the hazy current political ambience to become transparent," said Syafii.
"Idealists are not necessarily poor people, as long as they utilize their political will for the people," he added.
"They have to have strong idealism for the sake of the people when contesting the elections," Akbar added.
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta Jakartans have seen floods before the last major inundation was in 2002 but they were surprised by the vast area of the city that was covered by water this time around.
Governor Sutiyoso and his deputy Fauzi Bowo, who will end their second term of office in October, contend they should be held blameless, although they did not do all they could to minimize flood damage. The floods have killed 54 people and swamped thousands of homes, causing billions of rupiah in losses.
The victims have condemned the governor who, they say, appears to be removed from disaster management to the same extent that he is removed from the everyday realities of Jakartans.
They say the governor failed to identify the two main problems plaguing the city: yearly flooding and daily traffic jams. He responded to flood warnings only as the water gushed into streets and houses as though it only happened once every 50 years.
Sutiyoso must be held accountable, but the people do not have the power to do that, because he was elected by the City Council, they said.
"Under the direct elections system, the city will no longer be governed by a man with poor leadership. He (Sutiyoso) could not cope with the two main issues," said Arius Sinaga, a resident of Semper, the worst-hit subdistrict of North Jakarta.
Rustriningsih, a resident of Jati Pulo subdistrict in West Jakarta, said she was sure Jakartans would make careful choices among the set of candidates in the upcoming election.
"Gubernatorial candidates who have nothing to say about the flood and transportation problems will certainly lose the election," she said, adding that the government like the people must accept an increased risk of flooding and plan accordingly.
She said thousands of people were sheltering in schools and mosques in the subdistrict, "but until now, we have received no food aid or medicine".
Zuhairi, a father of three in Cililitan Besar subdistrict in East Jakarta, called on the governor and the vice governor to step down over their failure to take the appropriate precautions.
"Sutiyoso has failed in his duty to protect the people and should therefore resign. The floods of the past two decades have cost the people dearly."
Former chief of the Army's Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) Lt. Gen. Bibit Waluyo, a likely candidate for the gubernatorial election, said he was aware candidates might find it advantageous to air out views on disaster management.
"Whether the region is prepared for floods has become a crucial issue," he said, adding that the Jakarta Spatial Plan including details of zoning and planning in the city must be put into practice.
Bibit who is seeking support for his nomination from major parties, said human rights had to be respected but those living in restricted areas also needed to be relocated, for their own safety. He said tough measures were in everyone's interest.
Gubernatorial candidate Faisal Basri said that besides introducing people-oriented economic policies, priority should be given to flood control and the development of a mass rapid transit system.
"We need to improve the living standards of low-wage earners so they can afford to buy homes away from flood-prone locations. The establishment of flood canals will also minimize flood damage."
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Duncan Graham, Surabaya Bureaucrats everywhere seem to be afflicted with the same handicap: They don't listen to advice from those they're supposed to be serving. This is particularly so when they deal with the poor and disadvantaged.
As educated people, these bureaucrats know the theories and figures. As civil servants (a term many reject), they live in a different world, far from squalor and penury. They see their job as telling people what they should do and can have. They don't consult because the poor are not their equals or superiors.
Now imagine a government agency that treats clients with respect, gives information on their rights and options, and their real needs recognized as opposed to the needs shown on a pie chart. That's the idea behind a refreshingly robust World Bank report called Voices of the Poor: Making Services Work for the Poor in Indonesia, billed as "the most comprehensive assessment of poverty in Indonesia for the last ten years".
The report was assembled by researchers who went into villages and kampongs with a simple trigger question: What do you think about the services you get and how can they be bettered?
There's always a danger of raising expectations when running major social surveys, particularly with people unused to positive attention. Interviewees sometimes assume that discussions with outsiders wearing shoes and carrying clipboards are a harbinger of change.
"We were aware of that," said community development specialist and report author Nilanjana Mukherjee. "Our researchers were Indonesians who identified themselves with the academic institutions or other agencies they work for, not the World Bank.
"When we started talking to one person, we often ended up with 50 keen to give their views."
The researchers focused on issues that feature in the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The Indonesian government is a signatory to the MDG, a worldwide bid to reduce poverty by 2015. Governments have agreed to do their jobs better and tackle issues of education, maternal health, gender equality, child mortality, AIDS and other diseases.
The responses from almost 500 people should rock any decent administrator who joined the government to serve their fellow citizens. Here are some of the complaints revealed in Voices of the Poor:
It all sounds colonial, and it is.
"Poor men and women are aware they are often not served well, but they don't know what to do," said the report.
"Complaining to local political leaders or the mass media is alien to most of them; they cannot imagine reaching such people nor do they believe that these elites will pay attention.
"Residual memories of the harsh tactics of the Soeharto regime stifle most dissent."
And the cynics are right. In the few protests by villagers recorded by the World Bank's researchers, nothing changed. Distrust of officials remains high.
One birth control campaign at the time forced all married women to have a coil in their wombs, with dissenters being chased down by government workers. Many suffered from months of bleeding and pain.
So the lax, corrupt and indifferent service providers suffer no penalties for their immoral behavior and ineffective procedures. The system grinds on, powered by outdated policies that don't work according to the informants.
Those policies have been the use of subsidies, scholarships and health care cards with all services delivered by the government on the assumption that this is the most efficient way.
It could be if the bureaucrats were driven by the essential qualities required of all welfare providers professionalism, objectivity, diligence and care backed by speedy systems that are flexibly managed and humanely delivered.
The introduction of democracy and decentralization has created big opportunities for regional administrations to do things differently, but few seem to have taken up the challenge.
Mukherjee said she was optimistic that things would change, though putting in projects was not the World Bank's job. No targets had been set. It was up to regional governments to discuss the issues raised by the report and respond.
"I've seen some radical changes in the past few years and a lot more people in the bureaucracy are open to dialog," she said. "I think the water problem may be fixed, but I fear the sanitary issues may not be addressed. There are major environmental problems here and the government isn't doing a lot.
"Change happens when intermediaries, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) get involved to help the poor."
[The English and Bahasa Indonesia versions of Voices of the Poor are available from the World Bank's Indonesia Development Information Services (IDIS), Jakarta Stock Exchange Building, Tower 2, 13th Floor, Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav 52-53. They can also be obtained from 20 regional information centers and libraries across Indonesia linked to the World Bank IDIS network. For more information, visit web.worldbank.org or email email@example.com.]
Jakarta Post - February 13, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat and M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta The House of Representatives threw its weight Monday behind regional councillors who have demanded the government retain a controversial regulation granting them a large allowance increase.
House Speaker Agung Laksono, presiding over a plenary House session with the councillors, said the House understood the councillors' demand and would lobby the government to maintain the regulation granting the allowance raise, which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced he would annul recently.
"The House along with the Home Affairs Commission will follow up the councillors' demands immediately to avoid any political instability nationwide," he said before closing the session.
Yudhoyono signed the regulation last November granting each councillor around Rp 60 million (US$6,666) on average for the so-called operational and communication allowance. The final amount was to be decided by each local council.
The President then announced he would revise the regulation, following strong criticism from civil society groups, who argued the allowance constituted corruption and was inappropriate given the country's financial difficulties.
During the plenary session, three councillors representing provincial legislatures, regency legislatures and municipal legislatures urged the President to keep the regulation, arguing they needed the allowance to properly carry out their duties.
The councillors also threatened to file a lawsuit against experts and NGOs who accused the regional councillors of corruption for taking the allowance.
Chairman of the home affairs commission E.E. Mangindaan said that despite strong opposition, his commission and Home Minister M. Ma'ruf have agreed to enforce the government's regulation, albeit with the revision of certain points.
"The regulation is still in effect but we will review especially chapter 14 which has allowed interpretations by regional administrations," he said.
Ma'ruf, following the President's decision to call back the allowances, had already set late this year as the deadline for councillors and chief councillors to return all allowances they received under the controversial regulation and threatened to impose sanctions against those failing to meet the deadline.
Meanwhile, State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra said that the councillors' protests against an amendment of the regulation were premature. Yusril said that the government had not yet completed drafting the amendment.
"There has been no official decision whether or not councillors should return allowances that have been disbursed based on the regulation," Yusril told reporters at the Presidential Palace on Monday. "Whether councillors have to return the allowance will have to wait for the issuance of a new regulation on the matter."
Yusril's comment contradicted presidential spokesman Andi Alfian Mallarangeng's statement saying that all lawmakers who had received allowances had to return them before December 2007.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is expected to convene a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to decide on details of the amendment.
Jakarta Post - February 10, 2007
Jakarta The fight against corruption is apparently taking a back seat to poverty eradication programs, at least in terms of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's instructions to the Presidential Unit for the Management of Reform Programs (UKP3R).
Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi said that in a meeting with three members of the team, Yudhoyono asked for help implementing the programs outlined in his State of the Nation speech on Jan. 31.
In the speech, he pledged to raise millions of people out of poverty through pro-poor and infrastructure programs worth trillions of rupiah.
"The programs include poverty eradication, direct cash aid, improvement in public services such as health and education," Sudi told reporters after a meeting between Yudhoyono and UKP3R members Marsillam Simandjuntak, Edwin Gerungan and Agus Widjojo on Friday.
In the meeting, Yudhoyono also agreed that members of the special unit would brief him on their work weekly.
Sudi said the team was further tasked with helping to improve Indonesia's investment climate. "The President also said that investment must continue to grow," Sudi said.
Yudhoyono established the UKP3R in October to push for the changes needed to lure investment and fight corruption.
The team is headed by Marsillam, a former attorney general, known for his steadfast anti-graft stance. A presidential decree empowers members of the UKP3R to attend cabinet meetings.
The formation of the team and the appointment of Marsillam as its chairman drew the ire of Golkar party leadership and stirred controversy last year.
Golkar, the political vehicle of former president Soeharto, has been accused of fostering corruption. Analysts have said that the party would be the target of any reform drive by the team.
Some Golkar leaders even called for the party to withdraw its support for the Yudhoyono administration in protest against the team.
The dispute died away, however, after Golkar reiterated its support for Yudhoyono's administration in a national leadership meeting in November.
The future of the presidential unit has become uncertain following the passage of a law in December mandating the establishment of a presidential advisory board.
Marsillam said little after the meeting, commenting that what his team had done was not newsworthy.
"We are part of the Presidential office. We don't propose anything, we just do what the President asks us to do, so there is nothing interesting for the press," Marsillam said.
|War on corruption|
Jakarta Post - February 9, 2007
Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta A study on corruption in Indonesia has found that although the government's political will to fight the crime is increasing, it still lacks the authority to implement anti-graft programs.
As of mid-2006, the anti-corruption track records of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) were positive in some respects, but disappointing in others, according to the study's authors.
"There has been progress with political will. Unfortunately, if the gain is not sustainable, then fighting corruption will not be effective," independent researcher David G. Timberman said Thursday.
Timberman co-wrote "Curbing Corruption in Indonesia 2004-2006: A Survey of National Policies and Approaches" with Soren Davidson and Vishnu Juwono, with the support of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
He said the government's political will had yet to be matched by the ability a function of authority, knowledge competency and resources to push through reform in various sectors.
"Progress is still needed in many different areas, such as in prosecution, education and investigation," Timberman said. He added that the National Police and Attorney General's Office had to be reformed as part of these reforms.
The study suggested the government continue increasing the number and quality of its audits, both at the national and regional levels.
According to the study, the Corruption Eradication Commission has also been less than successful in promoting preventive reforms, despite its success in investigations and prosecutions. "The government has to have the right mix of incentives and sanctions to corruption," Timberman said.
Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng, who spoke during the report launch, said combating graft was difficult because it had become so ingrained in the bureaucracy. "We do have the political will, but graft has been hard to overcome because there are far too many 'dirty spots' in the country," Andi said.
He said the KPK was free to investigate all state officials. "There is no such thing as 'selecting' the suspects." "This report is optimistic. However, attendees and comments during a discussion like this are always pessimistic," Andi said.
Teten Masduki, chairman of Indonesian Corruption Watch, said it appeared to him some state officials were off-limits when it came to graft investigations. "We haven't seen any high officials from the economic sector, such as from banking or customs offices, being investigated," he said.
Teten added that one reason fighting corruption was so difficult was because the President always made decisions based on political calculations. "The President has to establish a coalition (to fight graft) that is directly responsible to him. This coalition should also involve civilians," he said.
He added that the KPK needed to work in phases, focusing on one institution before moving on to the next. "For example, the agency should focus on investigating the police first. After they are done, then they can move on and investigate other institutions."
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Jakarta The World Bank has banned 40 Indonesian firms and 29 individuals from participating in its projects for between 1 and 5 years due to their alleged involvement in fraud and corruption, the bank said in its latest report Wednesday.
The 40 Indonesian firms include the subsidiaries of a major automotive manufacturer, private and state publishing companies, and public works contractors located in big cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya and Makassar.
As a result of its investigations, the bank had also issued six reprimands to four Indonesians, and an Indonesian private printing and publishing firm. However, they still remain eligible to tender for World Bank-financed contracts.
The World Bank is the only multilateral development bank that publicly announces the names of the firms it sanctions for corrupt practices.
The World Bank Group's independent investigative arm, the Department of Institutional Integrity, has investigated a total of 441 external fraud and corruption cases in bank-financed projects carried out during 2005 and 2006, which resulted in 58 firms and 54 individuals throughout the world being debarred by the bank.
Those firms and individuals have addresses in various countries, including Indonesia, Timor Leste, China, Cambodia, the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Albania, Lithuania, Russia and Burkina Faso.
Since 1999, the Bank has publicly sanctioned 338 firms and individuals for corrupt practices worldwide.
The Bank's integrity department probes not only allegations of fraud and corruption in bank-financed projects, but also allegations of possible staff misconduct. The department, for example, completed 227 internal investigations involving staff misconduct over the past two fiscal years.
It substantiated allegations in 77 of the cases involving 78 staff members, resulting in the termination of 34 personnel. It cleared the other staff members of any wrongdoing in 44 internal cases.
Director of the Department of Institutional Integrity, Suzanne Rich Folsom, said, "Corruption has a devastating impact on the capacity of governments to function properly; on the private sector to grow and create employment; on the talents and energies of people to add value in productive ways; and ultimately on societies to lift themselves out of poverty."
"The World Bank and the integrity department must continue to do everything possible to ensure that the funds entrusted to our institution by its shareholders are used for their intended purposes," she said.
Jakarta Post - February 13, 2007
Jakarta The Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) is suing gas exploration company PT Lapindo Brantas over the mudflow in Sidoarjo, East Java.
The green group filed a civil suit at the South Jakarta District Court on Monday, accusing Lapindo of violating the 1997 Law on the Environment.
In the suit, Walhi also states that it is also holding the President, the minister for energy and mineral resources, the state minister for the environment, Upstream Oil and Gas Regulator BP Migas, the East Java governor and the Sidoarjo regent accountable for the mudflow.
Walhi is seeking financial compensation, money that will be used to stop the mudflow and fix the massive environmental destruction wrought by the disaster.
"The plaintiffs must recover the damaged environment so that it can function the way it did prior to the catastrophic sludge," Walhi executive director Chalid Muhammad said in a statement on Monday. Walhi states in the suit that the mudflow has displaced 8,200 people living in eight villages in Sidoarjo regency.
Hundreds of hectares of farmland have been destroyed, and dozens of factories have been forced to close. The greatest victim, however, has been the ecosystem along the Porong River and the Sidoarjo Delta.
Despite most of the blame for the mudflow falling on Lapindo, which is accused of causing it by drilling an exploratory gas well in the area, none of its executives have been arrested.
So far, police have held only six people responsible for the mudflow, arresting two Lapindo employees and four officials from Lapindo subcontractor PT Medici Citra Nusantara.
Eight months after the mud first spewed out of the drilling site there is no sign that it will stop at any time in the near future.
While a national team was assembled to find a solution to the problem, their efforts have been futile. Sludge from the site has spilled into the Porong river and is kept behind an ever- expanding embankment.
The team is now attempting to shut down the mud volcano that is believed to be the source of the flow with giant concrete balls. Some geologists have said that it may be impossible to stop the mudflow as there is no way of knowing what triggered it.
It has also been suggested that the government may be able to use the flow as a source of geothermal energy or the mud itself to make bricks.
Jakarta Post - February 13, 2007
Abdul Khalik, Jakarta Indonesia on Monday rejected Singapore's accusation that the ban on sand exports to the city-state was unnecessary, replying that Indonesia had good reason to impose the ban and that such attacks were unjustified.
"We have very strong reasons to ban sand exports to any country, including Singapore," Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said.
Desra, who is also the ministry director for international security and disarmament, said the sand mining had caused very severe environmental damage in many Indonesian islands, including in Sebayik and Nipah islands.
A high-ranking official at the ministry said that sand mining had deteriorated areas of Indonesia's outer islands, threatening to narrow the nation's territory.
The official, who asked for anonymity, added that since some parts of the Indonesia-Singapore border were still in dispute, the mining, which is often in these areas, could cause Indonesia to lose the basis for some territorial claims.
Indonesia's ban on the export of sand took effect last week, and applied to all states. But Singapore was hit hardest by the ban. The nation has been by far the largest importer of Indonesian sand, for use on its ongoing land reclamation projects.
The ban sent shares in the nation's construction companies plummeting amid speculation they would have to import concrete sand from more expensive sources.
Singaporean ministers promptly responded to the ban, saying Indonesia had no grounds for banning sand exports to the country.
Singapore's National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan told the nation's Parliament on Monday that the ban was unjustified, and that the price of the exports was already supposed to have factored in the cost of environmental degradation.
"Based on what we know, the Indonesian sand suppliers who are licensed by the Indonesian government are obliged to plow some of their proceeds... into environmental reconstruction, and that is built into the price of the sand," he told The Associated Press.
Mah also said it was regrettable that Indonesia did not take up Singapore's offers to assist in addressing environmental concerns over sand mining before imposing the ban.
Foreign Minister George Yeo also disputed Indonesia's claims the ban was imposed to protect the sprawling archipelago's national border.
"It is not possible for Indonesia's export of land sand to affect its maritime boundaries," Yeo was quoted as saying by AP in the same Parliament session.
"According to our contractors who imported the land sand from Indonesia, the sources of their Indonesian suppliers were from inland locations away from the border islands of Indonesia," Yeo said.
Singapore's building authority on Jan. 31 said it would release concreting sand from its stockpile to make up for shortfalls caused by the ban.
Mah said that sand from alternative sources was expected to be more expensive due to higher transportation costs, and said it would only increase the overall cost of project development by a "manageable" one to three percent.
Jakarta Post - February 12, 2007
Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta Dozens of policies created to protect the environment in Jakarta, Bogor, Puncak and Cianjur, also known as Jabopunjur, have been fruitless due to poor law enforcement, research into the issue has found.
The research, conducted by the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), which made its findings public over the weekend, says the environmental policies had been freely translated by each regional administration to its own benefit.
"There are 34 regulations related to the Jabopunjur spatial plan, but damages to the environment continue to worsen. The region has made a multi-interpretation on the policies," Masayu Hanim, one of LIPI's researchers dealing with public policy, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
She said most of the regulations failed to detail specific measures to be taken to protect the environment. "Thus, developers could easily find loopholes when they develop areas into commercial premises."
For example, she said, Kota Bunga, the 100-hectare housing estate located on the 45-degree slope of Puncak hill, was built despite the prohibition of new developments stipulated in the 1999 presidential decree on the management of Jabopunjur.
As of this year the government has issued six more presidential decrees to manage spatial planning in the Jabopunjur region.
There are also numerous laws able to save the region, covering spatial planing, environmental management and water resources, that are not being implemented. In addition, each administration has also issued ordinances on the management of Jabopunjur.
Masayu, however, doubts that another presidential decree on the coordination of regional administrations concerning the protected area would be effective unless it contained detailed measures.
"There are several weaknesses of the planned decree. It doesn't specify the protected zones and there is no article explaining about flood-prone areas," she said.
A draft of the presidential decree made available to the Post shows that Bekasi, Depok and Tangerang would also be included in the protected area, which would assume the name Jabodetabekpunjur.
The Jabodetabekpunjur idea was first floated by Governor Sutiyoso in his megacity concept. The governor said cooperation among the cities was one way to resolve long-standing environmental problems in the capital.
However, the draft, which awaits the president's approval, did not mention the megacity concept. It was prepared by a government team led by the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Boediono.
It said that city planning in Jabodetabekpunjur would be under the control of the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy.
The draft said that governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java would be required to regularly report on the development of land in their areas to the minister.
The draft also bans activities that downgrade the functions of conservation areas and industries consuming large amounts of groundwater in residential areas.
Masayu said the government needed to educate the public on the regulation. "To make it work, the government must also involve heads of villages or neighborhoods who will explain the regulation to residents," she said.
Sydney Morning Herald - February 10, 2007
Mark Forbes, Jakarta Receding floods across Jakarta exposed a rank, muddy mess of sodden belongings littering countless streets and homes.
The deluge that inundated most of the city also revealed gaping flaws in Indonesian planning and administration, and raised questions of abandoning the capital altogether. As residents began salvaging and beginning anew, anger grew at the lack of help from officials at all levels. No one took responsibility and relief agencies were uncoordinated.
The President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, did not intervene but called on governors around the city to co-ordinate future flood mitigation efforts.
The Governor of Jakarta, Sutiyoso, said he was not responsible because the rains were "a natural cyclical phenomena", and the national government had not provided enough funding for flood- relief canals. He also criticised the upstream holiday region of Puncack, claiming villa developments had destroyed water catchments.
The Environment Minister, Rachmat Witoelar, said new shopping malls which lacked proper drainage across Jakarta had contributed to the disaster.
More than 50 people have died in the floods and almost half a million people have been displaced. Thousands were stranded on rooftops for days.
With mosques and even cemeteries overflowing with evacuees, complaints about the lack of food, water or government help were widespread. On receiving a small donation to help feed 300 victims jammed into his Nur Huda mosque, Imam Rahman Sani said he would tell Friday prayers "even the journalists help us, but the Government does nothing".
The Social Affairs Minister, Bachtiar Chamsyah, eventually conceded the obvious the Government lacked resources to feed and help most victims.
Environmentalists blamed poor planning in a city that has seen a construction boom since the financial crisis of the late '90s. Environmental guidelines are flouted, with developers routinely bribing officials.
Massive real estate developments have replaced thousands of hectares of irrigated paddy fields, small lakes and other catchment areas. Parks across Jakarta have been swallowed by new offices and shopping malls.
By law, at least a quarter of Jakarta should be reserved for green zones, but parks take up less than 10 per cent of the city.
The drainage system depends on canals built by Dutch colonisers more than 200 years ago to protect the 500,000 people in what was then Batavia. Central Jakarta's population has swelled to more than 12 million, living on low-lying swamp land.
A master plan to rebuild the system was drafted 20 years ago and revised after the last devastating floods in 2002, but almost nothing as been done.
The city secretary, Ritola Tasmaya, said the plan had been "difficult to materialise, we expected the central government to take it over". Without participation by nearby regions, it would be impossible to set up.
Keith Loveard, a consultant with the security firm Concord, believes Jakarta's future as Indonesia's administrative and business centre is in doubt. Aside from the ever present risk of floods, the city is exhausting its supply of ground water resulting in subsidence leaving 40 per cent of Jakarta below sea level.
Yesterday the National Awakening Party, the third-largest in parliament, said the flood showed Jakarta needed to be relocated. "Jakarta is now too chaotic, and its ability to support both the centre of the country's government and the centre of the country's economy is declining," the parliamentary leader, Muhaimin Iskandar, said.
Reuters - February 11, 2007
Ade Mardiyati and Jerry Norton, Jakarta Mud and debris from flood-damaged homes on Sunday after days of relatively dry weather, but for many it could be one or two months before they can actually move back into their houses.
At the height of the flooding that began more than a week ago, officials reported over 400,000 people displaced by the high water in the Jakarta metropolitan area of 14 million.
By Sunday estimates had declined to 77,196 for Jakarta proper and a combined total of 218,583 for nearby West Java and Banten provinces, which stretch well beyond greater Jakarta.
However, for tens of thousands still in cramped and sometimes unsanitary temporary shelters, the wait to return home could be lengthy.
In one South Jakarta neighborhood some 30 policemen worked with residents on Sunday to clean up mud one to two meters deep left inside their houses by the floods, which began with torrential rains more than a week ago.
"It is impossible for the residents to return to their homes (to live) soon. The mud is piled too high inside," Jakarta police officer Sukadi told Reuters by telephone.
"There is nothing left here in our house. Everything is soaked in the mud," said resident Uki, 28. He and his family were evacuated a week earlier to the nearest shelter.
Some people faced worse problems. In the suburban area of Tangerang, water was still two-meters deep in some places and had turned black, causing skin diseases and diarrhoea, Yus, the chief of the neighborhood unit, told Elshinta news radio.
He added that officials lacked boats to get stranded people to safer areas, although some residents had made rafts from scrap material. "We really need rubber boats to help evacuate the people here," Yus said.
Estimates of deaths from the floods vary. The national disaster coordination agency put the figure at 48 on Sunday for Jakarta alone, while one newspaper said another 32 people had died in West Java and Banten, which would make the total 80.
Fears lingered that disease could spread as people stay in cramped emergency shelters or move back into houses often lacking clean water and working plumbing and power.
Authorities are on guard for diarrhoea, cholera and skin diseases, among other illnesses. The rainy season has several weeks left to run.
Jakarta Post - February 10, 2007
Fadli, Batam The head of a waste management group says the repeated dumping of oil in the waters near the Riau Islands is causing serious environmental damage.
Tankers in the Malacca Strait are believed to dispose of the oil when cleaning their tanks.
The chairman of the Association of Batam Toxic and Hazardous Waste Management Companies (Aspel B3), Kurniawan, told The Jakarta Post that waste from illegal tank cleaning activities in the waters between Indonesia and Singapore ended up polluting the province almost every year.
Foreign tankers usually dump the waste in Indonesian waters, he explained. It eventually winds up on Batam, Bintan and Karimun islands. Evidence occasionally washes ashore, he added, such the specialized plastic bags filled with sludge oil that turned up in Batam last December.
"Many foreign tankers do their own cleaning to save costs. They just have to buy the containers and dump them in the sea," said Kurniawan.
The government has so far been unable to catch the perpetrators or prevent the problem from recurring.
Tank cleaning within Indonesia is supposed to follow strict standard procedures laid out in the 1997 law on environmental management.
According to the law, the process must be carried out by a certified company which has expertise in the field, and monitored directly by officers from the Ministry of Environment or the local Environmental Impact Control Agency (Bappedal). The cost is not trivial, sometimes going as high as Rp 50 million (US$5,500).
Based on the Aspel B3's data, three companies offer the service, but are mostly inactive due to limited work orders.
The latest case of waste dumping was reported in Bakau Serip village, Nongsa, Batam, at the end of December. Hundreds of sludge oil containers were found scattered on the beach and leaking into the sea, hurting the livelihoods of local fishermen.
The Batam Bappedal has collected hundreds of containers and will ship them to the toxic and hazardous waste disposal center in Cileungsi, Bogor, West Java, to be destroyed.
According to Kurniawan, there is an urgent need for the government to establish a monitoring agency on sea pollution, with the aid of a satellite to track down the responsible parties.
"The Malacca Strait only provides benefits to Malaysia and Singapore, while we are the ones being disadvantaged by the busy ship traffic. We must do something so as not be on the short end of the deal forever," said Kurniawan.
The head of the Batam Bappedal, Mawardi Badar, said the waste dumping had seriously affected fishermen in the province.
His office still does not know who the perpetrators are, he added. "There's sure to be waste oil washing ashore in Batam every year. We have always spent money to deal with it. However, we have limited means to search for those responsible," said Mawardi.
Reuters - February 9, 2007
Achmad Sukarsono and Sugita Katyal, Jakarta Fears of disease gripped Indonesia's flood-hit capital on Friday with thousands of people living in cramped emergency shelters and some streets still inundated a week after the city's worst floods in five years.
Authorities are on guard for outbreaks of diarrhea, cholera or skin disease as torrential rains overnight triggered fresh flooding in the low-lying city of around 14 million people.
"We are concentrating on health issues to prevent diarrhea, cholera and leptospirosis (a disease spread by rats and mice) outbreaks by clearing up places and water sanitation," Rustam Pakaya, the health ministry's crisis center chief, told Reuters.
"There are three cases of leptospirosis reported. All of the patients are treated. No cases of tetanus have been reported."
The floods in Jakarta have killed 57 people and more than 250,000 are still displaced from their homes, many sheltering under flyovers or in plastic tents near graveyards.
A group of horse carriage operators huddled under one East Jakarta flyover with their carriages and horses as ankle-high manure spread around and mixed with cooking utensils.
Several blocks away in a seaside slum, children tried to net small fish in a wide gutter where brownish water gushed while a flock of ducks swam on a garbage-filled river nearby. Traffic moved slowly and several cars broke down as parts of a city highway were inundated by water following the floods that have also caused blackouts and cut telecommunications.
In North Jakarta's Plumpang slum, displaced women and children crammed the upper floor of a mosque while boxes of aid filled its veranda, halving space for Friday prayers.
"Why have disasters hit this country over and over again? We are being tested by God so that we do not stay selfish," said Haji Siswandi, the mosque's imam, during his sermon to a congregation of 200 sitting on the domed building's lower floor.
"Our leaders are selfish, our economic players are selfish. Their moves never consider the little people," he said, adding Jakarta's government failed to learn lessons from the 2002 floods and make good use of funds earmarked to prevent repeats.
Officials and green groups have blamed excessive construction in Jakarta's water catchment areas for making the floods worse, while a deputy environment minister told Reuters on Wednesday that climate change was contributing to the problem.
Young mother Desi Julian, living at the mosque for a week with her four-month-old baby, said water was still chest deep in her house on one of the district's messy alleyways.
"We have received aid but we have to share because many have evacuated here. If we get food in the morning, we won't get any in the evening," she said after breastfeeding her baby.
Other evacuees complained more attention has been given to relatively affluent flood victims living in the adjacent district of Kelapa Gading where upscale apartments, glittering malls and gated housing compounds have mushroomed in recent years.
"We have been forgotten. Aid is going more to the affected rich than poor people like us," said mother of two Eni Mutmainah.
Through the week pictures of the flooded elite area and its residents saving their pets have been splashed across the front pages of Indonesian dailies to show all groups are affected.
A previous flood disaster in 2002 saw widespread looting, but National Police Chief General Sutanto said there had been no repeat this time and he had dispatched 14,000 police officers to flood-hit areas, Antara news agency reported.
Indonesia's largest telecommunications firm PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk (Telkom) had suffered losses of around 18 billion rupiah ($1.99 million) due to flooding in areas in and around Jakarta, its chief was quoted by one newspaper as saying.
However, despite the flood's disruption of various business operations, and sporadic difficulties with telecommunications, Indonesia's rupiah currency was holding firm against the dollar on Friday, while the share market key index was down less than a percentage point near the day's close.
[Additional reporting by Mita Valina Liem.]
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Prodita Sabarini, Jakarta Squatting, a man stared intensely down at the water in front of him. Feeling a tug on his fishing line, he gave a quick yank. "Awww, not fast enough!" said the growing crowd of onlookers, as the man pulled up his empty hook.
Baban, 51, re-baited his hook and plunged it into the overflowing channel in Grogol, West Jakarta.
Flooding in the capital has caused havoc with homes and roads, but it also has given amateur anglers an opportunity to get their lines wet in their own front yards.
Floodwaters in Grogol, where houses and even the first story of Sumber Waras Hospital were submerged, began receding Wednesday, leaving behind water-filled channels and gutters teeming with fish. "I don't know, maybe the fish came from people's ponds," Baban's fishing partner, Dadang, 45, said.
The floods, which hit Jakarta and surrounding areas over the weekend, did not submerge his house on Jl. Setiakawan in West Jakarta, but they have prevented him from earning a living selling snacks.
"I usually sell snacks near Tarumanegara University, but since the floods the campus has been closed so there is no point selling snacks there," he said.
He said he usually fished in Cengkareng, paying Rp 10,000 for every kilogram of fish he caught. "Now I get to fish for free." "We could only go fishing after the water started to abate and became calm. Previous days the current was still too strong," he said.
Baban, an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver, said he had been out since the morning and had already caught three fish. In his bucket was a catfish and a couple of other fish.
He said the flooding meant he could not earn any money driving his motorcycle. "People don't want to take an ojek in the flood, they don't want to get wet."
"I haven't had any passengers today even though the water has subsided," he said. With no passengers, he decided to pass the time, and catch dinner, fishing.
It wasn't long before Baban and Dadang had a large audience, with many people waiting around to see if the two anglers had any luck. Not long after the two began hooking the fish, another man showed up with his fishing line.
Baban said he would fry the fish once he got home and share it with his family. "It's today's meal," he said.
In Kemang, South Jakarta, some children are spending their unplanned school holiday fishing.
Fifth grader Raju Yozar said he and his friends were fishing in the waters near their flooded houses. "It's fun, although if my mother knew she would not be happy," he said.
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, Padang West Sumatra's new local ordinance requiring all Muslim students and couples intending to get married to be able to recite the Koran received mixed reactions Wednesday.
Most school principals warmly welcomed the move, while others questioned the regulation's fairness, since it failed to take into account other religions.
Veridiana Sumanto, principal of SMA Don Bosco senior high school, criticized the regulation for targeting Muslim students while excluding students of other religions who may also need to boost their religious knowledge.
She said the religious office has sections in charge of the five recognized religions, but the ordinance failed to live up to the same standard.
"If the new local ordinance is being implemented in our school, we have to draw up our own guidelines for students from other religions to allow them to get religious teaching on a level with their Muslim colleagues," she said.
The ordinance, which was approved Tuesday after being deliberated in just one month, requires schools to teach local content in Koran classes for Muslim students. Veridiana said that would force schools to come up with local content for other religions as well.
She praised the West Sumatra legislative council and administration for their attention to education in issuing the ordinance, but said the move focused only on improving morality, while neglecting the students' intellects.
"The council and administration are taking care of only the SQ (spiritual quotient) and not the IQ (intelligence quotient), while the two should be in balance to improve our quality of education," she said.
"Actually there has been a call from the city administration to require (Muslim) students to wear head scarves and present a certificate saying they can read the Koran when applying to senior high school, but in accordance with the school foundation's policies we haven't followed the call yet," she added.
Another principal, Rosdiana Azwar, welcomed the new regulation. "Most West Sumatra people are Muslims, it's a pity we can't read the Koran," said the principal of SMPN 12 junior high school in Padang.
She praised the move to require Koran education at formal schools and said the move would not overlap with similar instruction currently provided at non-formal schools, such as in mosques. "Other school subjects like math, English and others are also taught outside schools in courses and there is no problem," she said.
Cesar Zehan Camille, a third-year student at SMPN 1 junior high school in Padang, said the ordinance could help the younger generation avoid the negative influences of modernization. He said similar requirements should be placed on members of other religions, though.
"The local ordinance should regulate religious teaching, not only about the Koran, so students of other religions get similar attention. This is not fair," he said.
Jakarta Post - February 14, 2007
Stevie Emilia, Sanur Muslim leaders were urged Tuesday to thrown their weight behind a revitalized national family planning program, which had success during the New Order but has flagged since the advent of the reform era.
National Family Planning Coordination Agency (BKKBN) chairman Sugiri Syarief said Tuesday the success of the family planning program was closely linked to the involvement of religious leaders.
"Religious leaders play a central role within the community. They are people's role models. People listen to their views and follow them," he said in Sanur, Bali, during the International Conference of Muslim Leaders to Support Population and Development Programs to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Muslim organizations, in particular Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, the country's two largest Muslim groups, have released edicts on family planning issues as far back as the 1960s.
One edict, issued in 1983 during the National Conference of Ulema, states that Islam supports family planning to protect the health of mothers and children.
The three-day conference in Bali, which was opened by Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni on Tuesday, is being attended by 125 Muslim leaders from 14 countries, as well as representatives from the provinces, international organizations and donor institutions.
The event, which is expected to produce an action plan to assist Muslim leaders in their efforts to promote population and development issues in their respective communities, is a joint initiative between the government, the BKKBN, the United Nations Population Fund and the International Conference of Islamic Scholar (ICIS).
Nasarudin Umar, the director general of community guidance at the Religious Affairs Ministry, said a successful national family planning program was impossible without the backing of religious leaders. He said such support was necessary to counter "the people who use religious arguments to reject family planning and to maintain persisting views legitimizing discrimination (against women)".
Muslim leaders are seen as having played a less active role in family planning programs since the start of the reform era, with fewer sermons on the issue being delivered in mosques and at public gatherings.
NU deputy chairman M. Rozy Munir acknowledged that family planning issues were now rarely touched upon by religious leaders speaking at mosques. "Family planning is important to lower population growth. It's like the interest on a bank loan, it keeps on increasing," he said.
With around 220 million people, Indonesia is already the world's fourth most populous nation and its population has grown by about four million people annually over the past few years.
NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi, who is also the secretary-general of the ICIS, said the organization's preachers have promoted family planning for years, but have now largely taken the issue out of the mosque and focused efforts on publishing books on the issue.
"For our preaching in mosques, we now focus on topics such as maintaining tolerance, harmony and unity, as well as encouraging people to stay strong while facing disasters," he said.
UN Population Fund Asia Pacific Director Sultan A. Azis said the experience of several Muslim countries showed that biased cultural norms and the misinterpretation of religious teachings posed barriers to the implementation of population, gender and reproductive health programs. However, he said these problems could be overcome by improving the capacity of religious leaders by providing them necessary information and teaming them up with relevant policy-makers and program managers.
He said Muslim leaders have served as agents of change by speaking up about harmful traditional practices in Bangladesh and Nigeria, and are the driving force behind family planning programs in Iran, Egypt, Thailand, southern Philippines and Indonesia.
"In the face of a global rise in religious extremism, it is time to promote Muslim leadership in social and economic development, because development has been historically linked to peace and security," Azis said.
Jakarta Post - February 12, 2007
Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung Dozens of residents of Warung Satangkal kampong in Majalaya, Bandung, rallied in front of a house belonging to a Christian family Sunday in reaction to the use of the house as a venue for religious rituals.
The rally was backed by around 60 people who claimed to be members of the Anti-Apostasy Movement of the Indonesian Ulema Congregation Forum.
No incidents were reported during the rally as church parishioners voluntarily left the house, which was reportedly converted into a church.
Omay Komarudin, head of the Warung Satangkal community unit, said the rally was held because local residents had been disturbed by religious activities held once a week in the house over the last three years. Moreover, their activities were held near a mosque, he said.
Omay said that residents frequently asked the house's owner to stop the religious activities inside. They eventually sent a letter to the management of the Majalaya chapter of the Indonesian Bethel Church.
"But our letter was not heeded. We, as a Muslim majority here, are greatly disturbed. On Saturday night, one of their representatives visited my house under the influence of liquor and criticized our protest letter," Omay said.
Residents' anger rose over the incident as they gathered at 7 a.m. on Sunday in front of the house of Ayun Sobandi, who is the representative of the church. Alner, another church representative decided to stop the church rituals.
"We're aware that this church has no permit so I've taken the initiative to stop it and disperse. It's really difficult to process licenses for the construction of churches, especially permits from nearby figures and other local noted figures (as required by the existing law)," Alner said. Alner signed a statement, and promised not to hold religious activities in the house until a license was issued by the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Alner said around 100 churchgoers in Majalaya routinely took part at the religious rituals at Ayun's house. Three families in the vicinity became members of the church communion, while others came from surrounding areas in Majalaya.
Alner said they converted the house into a place of worship because they did not have a church which was free from disturbances. "We haven't had a license, but we frequently consult with local apparatuses, including the police. Moreover Pak Ayun is an indigenous resident, who has lived here since 1986," Alner said.
Reuters - February 12, 2007
Rob Taylor, Canberra Australian rights activists on Monday criticised a security pact with Indonesia, telling parliament in a submission that it could help Jakarta brutally put down separatist groups in the archipelago.
The pact, signed on the Indonesian island of Lombok in November, aims to smooth often-prickly ties between the two neighbours and underline Australian support for Jakarta's sovereignty over restive provinces including the Papua region.
But pro-Papuan independence groups and the Australian Civil Liberties Union told the Treaties Committee of the Australian Parliament, which must approve the pact, that parts of the document were at odds with the country's democratic values.
"We cannot dictate to a neighbouring nation, but nor can we hide our colours without diminishing our nation and ourselves as individuals," Civil Liberties Australia chief executive Bill Rowlings said in a submission.
The Australian parliament, he said, should insist on a yearly reporting and monitoring role in Papua, where separatists have waged a low-level insurgency against Jakarta rule for decades.
"Monitoring is required to make sure that the new treaty does not inadvertently provide a paper cover for human rights abuses in Papua, particularly by or under the control of the (Indonesian military)," the submission said.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last year the pact would lead to stronger anti-terrorism cooperation and joint naval border patrols, as well as joint civilian nuclear research and Australian sales of uranium to Indonesia. The treaty was agreed following militant bomb attacks in Bali in 2002 and 2005, as well as on Australia's Jakarta Embassy in 2003, which together killed 92 Australians and scores of Indonesian and foreign bystanders.
But the Australia West Papua Association blamed rapacious Indonesian security forces in Papua for instability and warned against plans to boost military training between Australia and Indonesian special forces.
"We believe that any aid or training given to the Indonesian military will only be used to oppress the West Papuan people," the association said, listing rights abuses in the far-flung mineral-rich province.
The new pact was almost scuttled last year when Canberra granted protection visas to 43 Papuan asylum-seekers who claimed persecution at home by Indonesian security forces.
Indonesia tore up a previous defence pact with Canberra seven years ago when Australia led an international peacekeeping force into East Timor to restore order after the territory voted to break from Jakarta.
Rowlings said the new pact, which Canberra has hailed as a model for the region, should contain clauses protecting Australians from the Indonesian death penalty as a group of Australian drug smugglers fight the firing squad on Bali.
Jakarta Post - February 10, 2007
Donald E. Weatherbee, Honolulu For six years the administration of George W. Bush has nurtured a restored relationship with Indonesia. The US views Indonesia as a key partner of the United States in dealing with the immediate concerns of counter-terrorism.
Perhaps even more important for the US will be Indonesia's role in shaping the longer term architecture for a stable and peaceful Southeast Asian region in which the US will be a full participant.
A critical turning point in redefining the post-East Timor, post-Clinton Indonesia US relationship came in November 2005 with the waiver of all remaining legislative restrictions on US military assistance to Indonesia. For the US, it was time to look forward to cooperation with democratic Indonesia rather than placing relations in the context of the past. In 2006, both governments at the highest levels could speak of a strategic partnership.
The outcome of the November 2006 US congressional elections, however, puts a yellow light on the bilateral road ahead. A Democratic majority in both houses has brought back to key committees chairs, members (and staff) who may not feel the same level of comfort with Jakarta as do President Bush and his people. Issues of human rights, military reform, and Papua will resurface. Even if they do not result in action, the airings will roil the bilateral calm as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gears up for his 2009 reelection campaign.
The new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies is Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy. Leahy has been one of the most persistent critics of Indonesia's military. It was the Leahy Amendment in 1999 that put the nail in the coffin of normal US Indonesia military- to-military relations.
As ranking minority member of the subcommittee in 2005, he was outraged by the waiver lifting the restrictions, calling it an abuse of discretion and an affront to Congress and said that it made a mockery of the process and sent a terrible message. His eye is also on the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. Leahy has voiced the suspicion, shared by many, that the Indonesian national intelligence agency was involved.
He authored an amendment to the FY 2007 foreign operations appropriation bill requiring a report on human rights including the Munir murder. The continuing cover-up, in Leahy's words, makes it appear that a culture of impunity remains deeply embedded in Indonesian society. It can be expected that when it comes to FY 2008 appropriations, Leahy will want to send a different message than did the Republican majority.
On the House side, the new chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment is Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, the representative since 1989 from American Samoa and the fourth most senior member of the full House Foreign Affairs Committee. His subcommittee has broad oversight over US foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Faleomavaega has already indicated that he has his sights trained on Indonesia. In a statement on Jan. 23, he announced that he intended to review human rights and democracy efforts in Indonesia. Moreover, he stated that "I continue to have concerns about the situation in West Papua and look forward to working out reasonable solutions that bring about peace." A member of the House Human Rights Caucus, the congressman has a personal interest in Papua; he has relatives who have done Christian missionary work there.
His notion of peace in Papua was made more specific in an interview in which he said, "If you want to talk about fairness, give the people of West Papua the right of self-determination." He plans public hearings on Indonesia's actions in Papua which will spotlight the advocates of West Papua independence.
Faleomavaega's attitude and intentions have already been noted in Jakarta where any sign of external questioning of Indonesia's sovereignty in its West Papuan provinces raises a red flag. It is a very sensitive topic for bilateral relations. The Australians found that out in March 2006 when Indonesia recalled its ambassador in Canberra over 42 Papuan asylum-seekers.
The issues involved were not resolved to Indonesia's satisfaction until the Australians in the November 2006 Lombok security pact gave a written commitment to respect Indonesia's territorial integrity.
The Bush administration has always categorically asserted a similar position. For this now to be questioned by a senior Democratic congressman in a policy-influential position encourages the pro-Papuan independence NGO networks and alarms Jakarta, given the context of a lame duck Republican president and the prospect in 2008 of a Democratic president. An Indonesian nationalist backlash to a renewed Congressional assault on Indonesia will force President Yudhoyono into a defensive posture vis-a-vis the US He is already on guard against economic nationalists, as demonstrated by the termination of the Consultative Group on Indonesia.
He also has to ward off the radical Islamists who accuse him of abetting what they charge is an American war on Muslims.
His public posture toward the US at least will have to reflect the Indonesian domestic political environment, which will be altered as his political opponents seize on the American connection. One can only hope that the light doesn't turn red, interrupting the bilateral cooperative and productive political, security, and economic links forged so far during Yudhoyono's presidency.
[The writer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Donald S. Russell Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of South Carolina. The article is published with the kind permission of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based non-profit research institute affiliated with thr Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.]
BBC Hard Talk - February 9, 2007
In little more than a decade, Indonesia has transformed itself from international pariah to indispensable regional power. Both George Bush and Tony Blair have made supportive visits to Jakarta in the past year. My guest today is Indonesia's foreign minister. Behind the diplomatic smiles is there still a gulf between Indonesia's views on human rights and democracy, and those in the west?
Host Stephen Sackur: Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda welcome to Hard Talk.
Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda: Thank you very much.
Stephen Sackur: Prime Minister Tony Blair has described your government as a crucial partner in the war against global terrorism. Are you comfortable to be seen as a crucial partner of Tony Blair and George Bush?
Hasan Wirajuda: We are, because we truly believe that terrorism is an international threat to, a threat to Indonesia's peace and security and for that matter we are for strong cooperation in combating terrorism.
Stephen Sackur: Comfortable to be a crucial partner to Bush and Blair who currently have 100,000 and more troops in Iraq, occupying Iraq?
Hasan Wirajuda: Certainly we have differences as friends but on the very fundamental issue on combating terrorism we do share, and in fact we have been cooperating with both the United Kingdom and the United States. And in many ways we benefit from our cooperation, in particular in strengthening our capacity to combat terrorism.
Stephen Sackur: In many ways though you as well don't you? You suffer at home politically.
Hasan Wirajuda: Indeed.
Stephen Sackur: Because many of your own people...
Hasan Wirajuda: Indeed.
Stephen Sackur: ...Believe that it is entirely wrong to be a crucial partner of the United States and Britain?
Hasan Wirajuda: As you said that we have home grown terrorist groups, and we have experienced these, suffered terrorist attacks in even parts of Indonesia.
Stephen Sackur: But I'm not just talking about terrorists, I'm talking about moderate Islamic leaders as well. Like Din Siem Sidim (?) who have spoken out against the alliance with the United States and with Britain, and they say that the occupation of Iraq, I'm quoting from Mr. Siem Sidim, "the occupation of Iraq is promoting more radicalism and new acts of terrorism."
Hasan Wirajuda: I said that we may have disagreements with our partners the United States on the situation and effort to find resolution to the conflict of Palestine and Israel, but also on the Iraqi issues. But on the very fundamental issue on countering terrorism we have no dispute because we believe that terrorism is a threat to our own national security. Terrorism is a threat to international peace and security. So there are areas in which we can cooperate, but there are differences. Certainly they should not prevent us to cooperate and work together on the fundamental issues.
Stephen Sackur: If you believe that terrorism is indeed, as you say, a threat to your own country, why have you allowed Abu Bakar Bashir, who is widely acknowledged to be the leader of the Jemaah Islamiah, why have you allowed him to travel freely and preach in your country despite his conviction for quote unquote "an evil conspiracy connected to the Bali bombings of 2002"?
Hasan Wirajuda: Well, in the new open and democratic Indonesia we have decided as a matter of policy to balance our security needs, for that matter our strong efforts in combating terrorism, with democratic process and respect for the rule law and human rights. As long as we have evidence, certainly not... I mean we will not only arrest perpetrators and anyone involved in terrorism, but we will, as we have brought many of them to trial.
Stephen Sackur: But can we just be clear. Do you regard Abu Bakar Bashir as the leader of Jemaah Islamiah?
Hasan Wirajuda: It's difficult as our legal process has proven. It's difficult to have concrete evidence for that matter. Abu Bakar Bashir was sentenced not based on his involvement in the terrorist activities, but on other criminal aspects. That's...
Stephen Sackur: He was convicted of, and I'm quoting again, "an evil conspiracy connected to plots to bomb inside Indonesia".
Hasan Wirajuda: That was not proven when the Supreme Court of Indonesia reviewed his case. That's why the Supreme Court decided to release him. And in...
Stephen Sackur: They overturned, there had been earlier...
Hasan Wirajuda: They overturned an earlier decision, yes...
Stephen Sackur: And you were satisfied that the court process had been entirely free and fair?
Hasan Wirajuda: The court process in Indonesia today is a very independent and free process in the way the government could influence the process...
Stephen Sackur: I only ask because we began the conversation with you saying yes we are indeed a crucial partner of the United States and of Britain in the War on Terrorism. I'm reading an official US government statement which says quote, "As Jemaah Islamiah's top leader, Bashir has authorized terrorist operations and the use of J.I. operatives for multiple terrorist operations in Southeast Asia". That is what the official American view of this man is.
Hasan Wirajuda: Well, they may have their own view, but we are entitled to have our own. That's why we rely on our legal process and due process of law. We cannot simply sentence anyone to imprisonment simply because the media or anyone said that someone is involved in certain criminal activities, so we need to have evidence on that.
Stephen Sackur: I understand what you're saying. Here's perhaps a bit of evidence that would backup the American position, that he is indeed the top leader of J.I. After his release in the summer of last year he was interviewed by a journalist from the Sunday Times. And he said "these bombings", he was talking about a series of bombings across the world connected to Al Qaeda and Islamist militant groups, "these bombings are a reaction by Muslims to defend themselves. Muslims have been tortured everywhere, from Afghanistan to the Philippines and these reactions against America are global." Doesn't sound like a man who has given up on the struggle against the United States.
Hasan Wirajuda: He's in a free and open Indonesia, he's entitled to have his own views. But he only can be reached by the legal process if we have clear cut evidence proven at the court that he is somewhat responsibility on certain matters...
Stephen Sackur: He runs a religious school in the Indonesian city of Solo, doesn't he?
Hasan Wirajuda: Yes he does.
Stephen Sackur: And we know as a matter of fact that previous graduate students from that school have been involved in bombings. Indeed, one of them was the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombing. You're quite happy for that school, that religious school, to continue to operate...
Hasan Wirajuda: Certainly we are not quite happy to see some Alumnae's of this school got involved themselves in the terrorist acts, but we cannot generalize that school is a source of terrorism. We have in Indonesia the most wanted terrorist, Dr. Azahari, who got his doctoral degree in physics from the University of Redding. You cannot say that the University of Redding is involved in one way or another in terrorist acts you know. So we should differentiate here on the actors, the perpetrators, and the institution that he might have studied.
Stephen Sackur: Are you complying with UN security council resolution 1267?
Hasan Wirajuda: Certainly, yes.
Stephen Sackur: You are?
Hasan Wirajuda: Yes.
Stephen Sackur: So all sorts of different financial and travel sanctions are currently in place on Abu Bakar Bashir...
Hasan Wirajuda: We have not only regularly submitted our reports on the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 1267, but we have been actively working together with the committee.
Stephen Sackur: But surely if you were fully implementing that resolution, Abu Bakar Bashir would find it much more difficult to operate inside Indonesia than he finds it at the present time?
Hasan Wirajuda: He has no difficulty to operate with regard to his activities and giving public lectures as well as teaching perhaps in his own school. But he certainly has no freedom to involve, get involved himself in any terrorist activities. Certainly it will be easily within the reach of our authorities.
Stephen Sackur: The Australian government, when he was released, described it as "deeply disappointing". You're the foreign minister of Indonesia, what have the Americans, the Australians been saying to you about your stance on Abu Bakar Bashir?
Hasan Wirajuda: At the same time I think it's also sad that had the cooperation was expanded when Abu Bakar Bashir was brought to trial. If say our partners could give us more information and evidence from their interrogation process of a number of perpetrators of terrorist bombings.
Stephen Sackur: You're saying you felt let down by the Americans because they didn't help you?
Hasan Wirajuda: We didn't receive the support as we wanted. In particular on the trials of Abu Bakar Bashir.
Stephen Sackur: You say that in the end there's a limit of what you can do against this man because you uphold basic principles of human rights in your country. A lot of people question that. In the past year 47 human rights organizations in 8 different countries, including Human Rights Watch, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, they've all accused you of quote unquote, "a policy of brutalization toward the people of West Papua".
Hasan Wirajuda: That's ...I find this a mere allegation. I'm wondering if they have any proof or evidence in supporting that claim.
Stephen Sackur: Well, I suppose that one piece of evidence is that when 42 West Papuans managed to flee, they took a boat, they ended up in Australia, there was a court case in Australia and the Australian courts decided that these people had a genuine fear of persecution and gave them leave to stay.
Hasan Wirajuda: Well in fact the Australian media also published reports that there was a conspiracy more or less for these people to leave West Papua and sought asylum, sought protection in Australia.
Stephen Sackur: What will it take for you to actually accept that you have a problem in West Papua, and the problem of human rights...
Hasan Wirajuda: Well...
Stephen Sackur: ...And a problem of human rights. I can quote you Ed McWilliams, the head of the political section of the US embassy in Jakarta until quite recently. He said just a few months ago, the Indonesian Army the "TNI impunity, corruption, and violation of human rights has continued on their behalf and in some ways worsened." That was just a few months ago he said that. He used to be the director of the political department in the US embassy in your capital.
Hasan Wirajuda: I wish he could come up with more supportive materials to strengthen his claim but...
Stephen Sackur: You think he's lying?
Hasan Wirajuda: I am not saying that he's lying but as government he knew that there's been improvements of the situation in West Papua. And it was, it is part of the policy of the government to solve whatever problems we have in Papua through dialogue and negotiation. We are no longer in an environment, a domestic environment, which the government or government apparatus including the military could easily use force and for that matter violate human rights. We are in a new Indonesia and for which in no way the old yardstick to measure Indonesia can be applied to measure us.
Stephen Sackur: Well, with respect, I think that people would believe that, or be more inclined to believe that, if in key litmus tests of human rights, alleged human rights abuse, you have been seen to pursue and deliver justice. But one can go through a catalog of cases where justice patently has not been done. I'll just give you one example. September the 7th 2004 the Indonesia Human Rights lawyer Munir Said Thalib was murdered, as you know, he was poisoned on a Garuda airlines flight. Who do you think was responsible for that murder?
Hasan Wirajuda: Well the fact is the case is still being investigated. The President himself established a group comprising of some lawyers and also NGO leaders...
Stephen Sackur: A fact finding team was setup...
Hasan Wirajuda: Fact finding team...
Stephen Sackur: But the President promised the wife of the slain man that he would deliver justice through this fact finding team. And yet, he has refused to publish the findings from this team that he setup. Why?
Hasan Wirajuda: Well by nature, from the very beginning as part of the term of reference of the establishment of this fact finding team, the teams would report their works, the result of their works to the President, not for the public. But certainly the report was used by our police to investigate the case. Of course I must admit it's not an easy process, but even when our Supreme Court recently overturned the decisions of lower courts, the President certainly decided to, I mean he instructed our national police to further investigate. So the case is still pending...
Stephen Sackur: You say the case is still pending. We've had two and a half years since this key human rights lawyer, a man who ran a commission which was investigating the disappearance of victims over many years as a result of government actions. This man was murdered by someone. The only individual who was prosecuted was an off-duty pilot who had clear links to the intelligence services, who was convicted and has since been acquitted. Is that satisfactory?
Hasan Wirajuda: Can you imagine that a person such as President Kennedy was killed and murdered and for more than 40 years the case was not solved. But important here is that as government we are working to solve, and for that matter our Chief of National Policy has been traveling to the United States to seek cooperation from relevant agency FBI. He also seeks cooperation from countries like Netherlands and France to help us in what way we can in fact investigate this case fully.
Stephen Sackur: When can the widow of Munir Said Thalib expect to see those who ordered his murder brought to justice. When?
Hasan Wirajuda: I cannot specify. But as the investigation is going on hopefully we still see the perpetrators or those who are responsible in the killing would be made public.
Stephen Sackur: In this interview you've used the phrase 'the new Indonesia'.
Hasan Wirajuda: Yes.
Stephen Sackur: You are the face of the new Indonesia. You come to capitals like London, you talk to governments and you convince the outside world that Indonesia is going places, there's a new momentum behind your country. How can people believe that when they see that President Suharto and all of those senior military leaders who ordered so many of the killings and the human rights abuses that we saw in the 70s, the 80s, even in the '90s as well, going up to 1999 in East Timor. None of those people have ever been brought to justice.
Hasan Wirajuda: You cannot simply discount our achievements, the difficult process of transformation that we have gone through from military dominated government to, I can say a full-fledged democracy. Of course at the same time we've had to deal with our past. You mentioned for example how Indonesia, together with the government of Timor-Leste deal with our, dark chapter in our history. But we are trying to be constructive. We have established commissions of truth and friendship with Timor-Leste. The commission is working and likewise the case of former President Suharto. The case is still pending in the Indonesian courts but, and depending his health condition...
Stephen Sackur: The case is still pending, let's talk about Suharto...
Hasan Wirajuda: Yes.
Stephen Sackur: ...Then we can perhaps talk about military officers. But Suharto left power in 1998. Transparency International has him as the number one rapacious dictator of all time. They say that he looted your country of between fifteen and thirty billion dollars. Six years on from his departure from office you're saying a case is still pending. Don't the Indonesian people deserve better?
Hasan Wirajuda: Certainly we deserve better, including myself. And that's why a court process, a legal process but...
Stephen Sackur: Prosecution this last year decided to drop the case because they said he was too ill.
Hasan Wirajuda: The fact that he's too ill, that's why...
Stephen Sackur: So there will be no truth, no fact finding commission, because President Suharto is too ill. Is that satisfactory?
Hasan Wirajuda: That's with regard to the criminal proceedings. But with regard to efforts to recover from the wealth that the President Suharto and his family. The private law proceedings will be started actually, this is what the Attorney General of Indonesia has been saying.
Stephen Sackur: Do you think he will ever face criminal trial?
Hasan Wirajuda: Well the fact that, as I say, he is getting older and his health condition has not allowed him for trial. I myself am not certain whether...
Stephen Sackur: That sounds like no, it sounds like you're saying no.
Hasan Wirajuda: The fact has been that the case is still pending.
Stephen Sackur: So you're saying no.
Hasan Wirajuda: If he's one day getting healthier, why not?
Stephen Sackur: Let's talk about the senior military officers who ordered what Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International have called "atrocities" in East Timor in 1999. Not one of them has ever been punished. The only person who has been imprisoned as a result of what happened there in 1999 was actually a militia leader from East Timor. How can that be regarded as justice, a new Indonesia?
Hasan Wirajuda: First. As a nation, as I said it before that we are trying to deal with these dark chapter in our, in our history, in particular in dealing with Timor-Leste. We have tried a justice approach for that matter, an ad hoc human rights court was established...
Stephen Sackur: Well I know that, the result of which not one government official or military officer was...
Hasan Wirajuda: It will not stop there, you know. We tried to address the issue, and for that matter the Indonesia Timor-Leste commissions of truth and friendship. In other words we know the limitation of justice approach, but at the same time we should find the truth, establish the truth and for the two countries Indonesia and Timor-Leste to deal with it. Not through prosecutorial justice, but rather reconciliation.
Stephen Sackur: Foreign Minister isn't it the truth that your president, your boss, President Yudhoyono is hamstrung because in the end power in Indonesia still rests with the military?
Hasan Wirajuda: Not as it used to be.
Stephen Sackur: They still are self-financing. They run logging operations, mining operations, they dominate the economy. Until you address that fundamental fact, Indonesia cannot truly reform and modernize.
Hasan Wirajuda: That's what I, what I mean when I said that don't use the old yardstick to measure Indonesia. Because on what you said, practically it's no longer there you know. The military and the civilians in democratic Indonesia politically they follow, they obey, and decisions of the civilian's government in the democratic Indonesia and for that matter they are no longer powerful as it was...
Stephen Sackur: We have to end it there. Hasan Wirajuda, thank you very much for being on Hard Talk.
Hasan Wirajuda: Thank you very much.
|Economy & investment|
Jakarta Post - February 13, 2007
Jakarta The losses caused by the massive flooding in Greater Jakarta last week may reach up to Rp 8 trillion (US$879 million), almost double the earlier estimate of about Rp 4.3 trillion, a senior official at the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) says.
Speaking Monday in Jakarta, Lucky Eko Wuryanto, the Bappenas director for urban and rural spatial planning, said that the latest estimate was based on figures provided by industry and institutions affected by the flooding.
"Bappenas will have the final figure for flood losses on Feb. 16, which will then be used to decide how much the government will spend on reconstruction and rehabilitation work," said Lucky.
The final figure would include damage to public and privately owned infrastructure, and losses suffered by small and medium enterprises, and the industrial sector.
State Minister for National Development Planning Paskah Suzetta said last week that the losses caused by the one-week-long floods, which affected more than 60 percent of Jakarta and its surrounding areas, were estimated at Rp 4.1 trillion.
The public infrastructure damaged by the flooding included 57,470 meters of public roads in Jakarta. The worst damage to the roads occurred in West Jakarta, affecting a total road length of 22,650 meters, according to the Detik news portal.
Many industrial firms located in Jakarta and its environs, including Astra Toyota Motor and hundreds of textile and garment producers, were forced to halt production due to the floods.
Besides spending on rehabilitation and reconstruction, the government recently decided to contribute Rp 2.7 trillion to accelerate the construction of new flood defenses in Jakarta.
The decision, announced Saturday by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, will see the allocation of Rp 500 billion for land procurement for the construction of the East Flood Canal, and remedial works on the West Flood Canal. In addition, about Rp 250 billion will be spent on remedial and dredging works on rivers and the digging of 150 retention ponds.
Other projects will include the installation of a giant water pump in Pluit, North Jakarta, drainage works and the installation of pumps along the Ciliwung River to divert floodwaters to the sea.
Jakarta Post - February 13, 2007
Urip Hudiono, Jakarta As a result of prudent macroeconomic policies, the Indonesian government now has sufficient resources to finance the country's infrastructure development and reduce poverty, according to a World Bank report.
The reduction in fuel-subsidy spending in 2005, declining debt- service costs and increasing revenues have all resulted in a total of US$15 billion in additional financial resources the largest amount since the 1973 oil-boom windfall being available to the government to finance the development effort, the World Bank said in a review of public spending.
Indonesia should now build upon this "fiscal space" and previous efforts to expand basic services by increasing and improving the quality of its public spending, particularly in the fields of infrastructure, education and health services, so as to keep the country's economy competitive in the long run.
"The challenge now is to move to the next generation of reforms in public services and infrastructure so Indonesia can achieve the kind of growth rates seen in many neighboring countries today," World Bank country director Andrew Steer said during the launching of the report Monday.
The document suggested that Indonesia increase its infrastructure spending by at least two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 5.4 percent or $6 billion a year with the power and water sectors being the most crucial areas requiring investment.
For the power sector, the government should consider reallocating existing electricity subsidies so as to encourage expansion of the grid, which a third of the country's 220 million people still lack access.
The government should also provide incentives to the regions to encourage them to maintain local roads and improve water services.
Further reform of public spending at the local level could be achieved by giving local administrations more flexibility in using their general fund (DAU) transfers from the central government to support priority sectors, rather than just paying civil service salaries. This, however, would imply a greater effort to improve governance in the local administrations.
Fighting corruption of public funds both at the national and local levels remained an important issue as it would determine whether public spending and investment produced lasting benefits for the Indonesian people, the report said.
Meanwhile, on education and health-service spending, Steer acknowledged Indonesia's progress in the two sectors, but said things could still be improved.
The report suggested that the 20 percent of budget spending on education mandated by the Constitution cover teachers' salaries, local-government spending, efforts to improve the student-teacher ratio, and the proper decentralization of the country's education system.
Steer said he expected that higher spending on education and health services would support two of the government's existing programs the rural development project and conditional cash transfers to the poor related to education targets.
The World Bank's latest report on poverty in Indonesia notes that nearly 50 percent of the country's population still live on less than $2 a day.
Jakarta Post - February 13, 2007
Andi Haswidi The presidential regulation on the modern retail market scheduled to be issued in March will not restrict the operation of foreign retail chains, which have been criticized by some for the massive inroads they are making into the Indonesian market.
Speaking Monday at a seminar on foreign investment in the modern retail market, the Trade Ministry's market development and distribution director, Gunaryo, said speculation that the regulation would be aimed at restricting the expansion of foreign retailers was groundless.
"The regulation is aimed at creating harmonious competition between the modern and traditional retail markets. Don't be mistaken. The regulation will not restrict foreign ownership," Gunaryo stressed.
Gunaryo said that this was because all matters related to foreign investment were governed by the existing Investment Law, which was currently being amended by the House of Representatives.
"The presidential regulation on the modern retail market will be in line with the legal procedures set out in the Investment Law, as amended," he said.
House member Didik J. Rahbini, who takes an active interest in economic affairs, explained that the issuance of the regulation had actually been recommended by the House, and was supposed to have been finalized in December.
"We gave the Trade Ministry one full year, but they still couldn't finish it. This is a pressing issue. There is unbalanced competition in the market, which has resulted in losses to traditional retailers," he said.
Didik said that even developed countries, such as Japan and Germany, had regulations that protected small retailers and traditional market outlets from the large retail chains.
Asked how the amended Investment Law would affect the role of foreign investment in the country's retail industry, Didik said that he could not comment as the amendment bill was still under discussion. Nevertheless, the amended law would definitely protect the interests of traditional market outlets.
According to a study by AC Nielsen, the total value of the Indonesian grocery trade stood at Rp 63.5 trillion (about US$7 billion) in 2006, which was 14.3 percent higher than in 2005. Of this total, the value of groceries sold through traditional outlets grew by 9.6 percent, while the value of those sold through modern outlets increased by 23.8 percent.
However, the study also found that 99 percent of Indonesian people still do their shopping in traditional markets, and that the market share of modern markets in revenue terms stands at about only 16 percent.
Also speaking during the seminar, Association of Indonesian Modern Retail Outlet Suppliers (AP3MI) chairman Susanto said that with their financial strength and superior bargaining position, modern retail chains had the power to impose cutthroat terms on their suppliers.
He also complained that the ability of modern retailers to sell items at a loss in order to attract more customers could undermine fair competition.
"They can sell eggs that cost Rp 7,000 per kilogram at Rp 6,000, and advertise this in the media. While they lose Rp 1,000 per kg on the eggs, they make more on the other goods purchased by customers attracted by the promotion," he said.
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Ary Hermawan, Jakarta The losses suffered by manufacturing firms due to the floods that have paralyzed the capital since last Friday may reach more than Rp 1 trillion (US$105.2 million).
"We're still calculating the losses. It will take us at least two weeks to do this before we can file insurance claims. But, we estimate that it will cost us not less than Rp 1 trillion," Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman Sofyan Wanandi told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
State planning minister and National Development Planning Board chairman Paskah Suzetta said earlier that the floods had likely inflicted losses of about Rp 4.1 trillion on the economy.
The planning board said it would announce the actual losses within the next two weeks.
Apindo said factories in industrial estates in Bekasi, Tangerang, Pulogadung and Kerawang had mostly been forced to halt operations due to the flooding.
At the height of the floods, many workers had been unable to get to work. Electricity and telephone services had also been cut, while diesel generators turned out to be useless as timely supplies of additional diesel were unavailable.
"It was the worst flood disaster to have affected manufacturing industry in the last 30 years," Sofyan said.
Apindo secretary-general Djimanto said capacity utilization by manufacturing firms in Greater Jakarta dropped by 15 percent and 30 percent on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Things got even worse Monday, when it declined by 50 percent due to the flooding.
The Indonesian Textile Association (API) reported that 16 garment factories in Pulogadung, East Jakarta, had been paralyzed and that losses were estimated to have reached US$9.6 million.
Dozens of food and beverage companies halted operations as the homes of hundreds of thousands of their employees were inundated, the industry association said. Losses suffered by the industry were estimated at about Rp 100 billion.
Sofyan said manufacturing companies were now focusing on resuming the flow of exports and imports through Tanjung Priok Port, which has also been seriously affected by the flooding
On Wednesday, only 3,500 containers arrived at the port, far lower than the 9,000 to 10,000 containers that arrived on normal days.
Sofyan said that manufacturing firms were not only concerned about the losses and damage caused by the flooding, but also about possible complaints from disgruntled overseas buyers about late delivery.
"We don't know. Companies overseas may complain if we fail to deliver the goods on time," he said.
He expressed the hope that state electricity company PLN would immediately restore power supplies to flooded areas as many factories in Pulogadung and Cilincing, both in North Jakarta, were still blacked out.
"We can deal with the transportation problems, but there is nothing we can do about electricity and fuel supplies," he stressed.
Jakarta Post - February 8, 2007
Andi Haswidi, Jakarta Policyholders whose homes, cars and other property were damaged by the floods over the past days may find themselves being turned away by their insurance companies, even if they have all-risk insurance.
"All-risk does not mean that all of the risks are actually covered," the chairman of the Indonesian General Insurance Association (AAUI), Frans Y. Sahusilawane, told reporters Wednesday in Jakarta amid growing complaints from policyholders that their claims under all-risk policies had been rejected.
The term "all-risk", which is used by many insurance firms, often causes confusion among customers, especially given that many of them fail to read the small print in their policies, Frans said.
"The standard insurance policy for property and vehicles does not cover flood risks, even if it is called 'all risk'. Insurance cover for flood damage is provided as an extension to the standard policy, based upon the payment of an additional premium, of course," he explained.
He said that apart from standard and all-risk policies, insurance firms also offered insurance packages specifically tailored to satisfy individual policyholders' needs.
"Whether there is actually a clause that covers flood risks will depend on the agreement," he said. "We, the association, do not use the term "all-risk". We instead use the term "comprehensive". However, we cannot forbid our members from using the term in the absence of a regulation to that effect," Frans said, while acknowledging that the term "all risk" could lead to confusion.
Frans urged policyholders affected by the floods to submit their claims within the set deadlines so as to avoid difficulties, although he added that in the case of a disaster, such as the Jakarta floods, insurers would be expected to show leniency.
He said the time required for settling claims varied, and depended greatly on cooperation on the part of the customer. A simple house-insurance claim, backed by complete policy records, could take between one and two months to settle, while a more complex one, such as a claim for damage to a factory, could take between four and six months. Frans stressed that the country's insurance firms were committed to settling all claims resulting from the floods, with the total amount of claims expected to top the US$200 million paid out following a similar flood disaster in 2002.
"There is no definite estimate yet for this year's losses. Just to give an example, in 2002 we had to pay out about US$200 million, consisting of 1,145 claims for damage to homes, 1,804 for motor vehicles, 547 for commercial buildings and 780 for factories," he said.
"We can confidently state that all general insurance firms will suffer underwriting losses due to the floods," he said, adding, however, that he was optimistic that no firm would go bankrupt as part of all insurance cover was reinsured with local and overseas reinsurance firms.
"Even if this year's total loss doubles from $200 million, it wouldn't be a significant blow to the international reinsurance firms. For them, it would be like a tiny peanut divided into seven slices. One of the slices would be made up of the claims arising from the flood," he explained.
Frans said that international reinsurance firms were more concerned about such disasters as the tsunami in Aceh and earthquakes, which had increased Indonesia's country-risk level.
"Other than that, they are also concerned about Indonesia's instability from a political point of view," he said. Frans added that the insurance industry could do more to help people after disasters if insurance penetration was higher.
Indonesia's general insurance penetration level compared to the country GDP was about 0.65 percent last year, far lower than China's 4 percent and Europe's 11 percent.
|Opinion & analysis|
New York Times - February 9, 2007
Seth Mydans, Jakarta Too many shopping malls in the city. Too many squatters on the riverbanks. Too many villas on the southern hillsides. Or a curse hovering over the president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
A man emptied his Jakarta house on Friday of mud left by a flood last week, one of many calamities to strike Indonesia in the last two years.
Filthy water still fills much of the city a week after the start of the worst flood in decades, draining slowly away during dry spells, then topped up again by new rain storms. Officials say 80 people have now died, mostly by drowning and electrocution.
And along with the misery of homelessness, power failures and traffic jams, the city is troubled by a babble of theories, recriminations and superstitious whispers about why Indonesia is plagued by natural disasters.
Over the past two years, Indonesia has suffered an encyclopedia of troubles, from the devastating tsunami of December 2004 to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, bird flu outbreaks, landslides, airline crashes and a vast, bizarre geyser of mud a constant pounding of catastrophes that has worn down the national psyche and convinced many that something supernatural is going on.
"Since the day he took office there have been unending disasters," said Permadi, a member of Parliament and a mystic, of the president. Like many Indonesians, he uses only one name. Mr. Yudhoyono was born under a bad sign, he said, and nature is demonstrating its anger at him and the nation.
But the flood that at one point inundated up to 70 percent of the city is traceable to more tangible problems, many here say. It exposes the limitations and dangers of Indonesia's aging infrastructure. And it demonstrates the growing pains of a democratic transformation that could produce more responsive governments.
To begin with, this port city of 43 lakes and 13 rivers that lies partly below sea level still relies on flood canals and sluice gates that were built by the Dutch 160 years ago.
The clearing of trees on nearby hillsides has removed a natural check on flooding, while the housing developments that have replaced them have put a further strain on public works.
This uneven development is an example of the central problem of Indonesian infrastructure, said Ramesh Subramaniam, principal economist at the Asian Development Bank in Indonesia. "It is essentially a conflict between private consumption, which is going up, and public investment in infrastructure, which is almost stagnant," he said.
As the economy grows about 6 percent a year, with a proliferation of homes, offices and shopping centers, almost no new roads, bridges, airports, power lines or water systems have been built since the Asian economic crisis a decade ago. More malls, more squatter communities, more hillside villas: all contribute to breakdowns in urban services and to disasters like the flood.
"There is no question that the economy is growing now at a healthy clip," said Douglas E. Ramage, the country representative of the Asia Foundation. "But the growth is going to bump smack up against infrastructure limitations."
Because of complex regulations and legal uncertainties, there has been very little foreign investment in infrastructure in recent years. Two conferences in the past two years that offered nearly 100 projects to foreign investors produced no contracts.
"China has built more roads in the last year than Indonesia in the last 20 years," said Jim Castle, chief executive of CastleAsia, a consultancy and research firm. "I think they have installed more telephones in six months than Indonesia has installed in 10 years."
Attempts to overcome this problem, and to become more responsive to disasters like the flood, have been complicated as Indonesia reconfigures its democratic system. It is dispersing power from the center to local governments and instituting direct elections of government officials.
With weaker central control, different levels of government and different jurisdictions can now find themselves at odds. Trees are cut down and housing developments are built without coordination on Jakarta's outskirts. And when a disaster strikes, the response is often uncoordinated and, as a result, chaotic.
Eventually, though, political analysts say local accountability and direct elections will push officials to be more responsive to the needs of their constituents.
This, too, is expected to be part of the story of the Jakarta flood. This summer, for the first time in its 450-year history, Jakarta will directly elect a governor, and the flood is expected to be a major issue.
"This is as much a governance issue as a natural disaster," Mr. Ramage said. "All over Indonesia, as cities get to elect their mayors and provinces directly elect their heads, we are beginning to see more responsible government."
Responding to the emergency much as they have in the past, incumbent officials were busy this week pointing fingers at one another.
The city's governor, Sutiyoso, blamed deforestation and overbuilding in neighboring areas and a lack of financing from above. Environment Minister Racmat Witoelar blamed officials for issuing improper building permits. The Public Works Ministry blamed people whose land blocks the route of a new flood canal.
The coordinating minister for the people's welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, took himself off the hook, saying news coverage of the flood had been exaggerated. "We see that victims are still laughing," he told a television reporter.
Mr. Sutiyoso has served for a decade as governor without having to worry about votes and has paid little political price for his inaction after a similar major flood in 2002.
It is even possible to imagine that Mr. Permadi, the mystical member of Parliament, is engaging a little more with what is sometimes called the reality-based world.
"From a spiritual perspective," he said, "there are two ways of looking at the flood." One is the bad karma of both national and local leaders. "The other is that it is now rainy season."
Jakarta Post Editorial - February 9, 2007
In between the nonstop television news coverage of the Jakarta floods this week was a report from Australia about a man plucked from a tree by a helicopter as floodwaters raged below. The contrast was stunning: a single man rescued in Queensland while hundreds of flood victims in Jakarta have been trapped in their houses for days.
It is often said that life is cheap in this country. More than 50 people have died in the flooding in this city of 10 million. Three-fourths of the city, which is about the size of Singapore, has resembled a giant lake for a week, with water reaching heights of three meters in some parts.
As is their habit, officials were soon slinging mud. Jakarta officials blamed regional officials for cutting down trees in the mountains to make way for villas, while regional officials blamed Jakarta officials for turning the capital into a forest of concrete.
If the past is any guide, not much will be learned from these latest floods. Layers of faulty policies have stacked up in recent decades, and new layers will be added because nobody is ever held accountable.
While preoccupied with its own urban woes, Jakarta has lagged behind in responding to a spate of recent reports on climate change. The Stern Report issued by the UK government in October failed to jolt anybody here.
Named after Britain's development economist and former chief economist at the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern, the report says that "our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity later this century and in the next on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the twentieth century".
This would certainly be a catastrophe of a much greater proportion than our floods in Jakarta.
Stern argues that spending large sums of money now on measures to reduce carbon emissions will bring dividends on a colossal scale. It would be wholly irrational, therefore, not to spend this money, he says.
In December, researchers from Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, both in the Netherlands, announced that Indonesia is the world's third leading producer of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, after the United States and China. The majority of the carbon dioxide does not come from vehicles or industries, like in the US and China, but from the annual forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
The researchers said the drive to obtain biofuel had caused huge tracts of Southeast Asian rain forest to be razed and the overuse of chemical fertilizers.
Scientists also have learned that biofuels may sometimes produce more harmful emissions than the fossil fuels they replace. This has forced many countries to rethink their billions of dollars in subsidies for what were until recently considered "eco-friendly" fuels.
The International Herald Tribune reported this week that global warming will continue for hundreds of years and that human activity is "very likely" to blame. The bleak warning came from a leading international network of climate change scientists.
And the United Nations' Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change said in Paris on Feb. 2 that global warming was caused by human activity, causing a rise in the number of heat waves, more extreme storms and droughts, as well as ocean warming and changing wind patterns.
Although there are scientists who contest these reports, prepared by more than 2,500 scientists from some 130 countries, it is high time for the Indonesian government to look into them very closely. At the very least it should summon the nation's best scientists to explore the issue. Due its sheer size and its vast tropical forests, second only to Brazil's, Indonesia plays a crucial role in the global climate.