|Home > South-East Asia >> Indonesia|
Indonesia News Digest 7 February 15-21, 2007
News & issues
Jakarta Post - February 21, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta Rectors of 61 universities told
the government Tuesday to tackle poverty and unemployment, as
they were key problems that could threaten the security and
stability of the country.
In a closed-door meeting with Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono
here, the Forum of Rectors, consisting of representatives from
state and private universities nationwide, expressed their deep
concern over the increasing level of poverty and the unemployment
rate, saying they were far more serious than threats from outside
The rector of Yogyakarta's Gadjah Mada University, Sofian
Effendi, who acted as spokesman for the forum, said after the
meeting that the government would not have to deal with domestic
security threats if President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice
President Jusuf Kalla fulfilled their 2004 election pledge to
improve the people's livelihoods.
He said social welfare was a crucial issue because the
government's failure to deliver it would only invite people to
take the law in their own hands.
"Poor people are prone to commit violence or to get involved in
moves to topple a legitimate government," he said.
"The Indonesian poverty level has already reached 30 percent and
this has been worsened by the natural disasters that have rocked
the country in the past three years," he said.
Sofian said that if the poverty level reached 45 percent, the
government would have difficulties convincing the public that it
has done its job to cope with the problems.
University of Indonesia rector Usman Chatib Warsa said natural
disasters, such as flooding and earthquakes, would put whoever
was running the government at the time in a very difficult
He said that while the government had done a lot to overcome
poverty, there was still much work to be done.
Usman said education was pivotal as in the long run it would
produce more intellectual people to develop and foster the
country. "Globalization is also a threat to our national defense
as it brings problems of injustice and terrorism," the rector
J. Kristiadi, a political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and
International Studies, agreed with the rectors. He asked the
defense minister and the rectors to bring the issue to the
attention of the President so that the government would work
harder to solve the problem.
"Other countries have expressed their commitment to supporting
Indonesia's sovereignty and national security for the sake of
their economic interests, but the government itself has yet to
optimally address the problems that could pose serious security
threats," he said.
He said the government should take concrete measures to improve
labor conditions and the investment climate, reform the corrupt
bureaucracy and combat corruption.
Separately, Minister Juwono defended the government's move to
continue with the planned purchase of six more Sukhoi jet
fighters from Russia, saying that the move had already been
endorsed by the House of Representatives.
"The purchase of the Sukhoi fighters is included in the Rp 3.7
billion (procurement) package that has been approved by the
House," the minister said after the meeting.
He said further that the government had planned to complete its
Sukhoi fleet within the next three years and to refurbish its
existing American F-16 jet fighters.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Slamet Susanto and Oyos Saroso H.N., Yogyakarta/Bandarlampung
Authorities have responded to rising rice prices by releasing
stocks of the subsidized commodity to the market, but Yogyakarta
Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X expressed concern Friday the
effort has failed because of hoarders and speculators.
Speaking in Yogyakarta, the governor said much of the subsidized
rice was snapped up by speculators and never reached the poor
people it was designed to help. He said speculators bought up the
cheap rice and then turned around and resold it at marked up
"The speculators bought the subsidized rice for Rp 3,900 (38 US
cents) per kilogram and then resold it for Rp 4,000 to Rp 4,500
per kilogram. This has really hurt those people the subsidized
rice was intended to help," he said.
By comparison, rice prices in the ordinary market have reached
more than Rp 6,000 per kilogram.
The governor said in the future, subsidized rice should be
released directly through village head offices, village halls or
other locations near residential areas, to prevent this sort of
Adding weight to the governor's remarks was a recent study by the
University of Lampung, which found hoarding was common in these
types of subsidized rice operations, with the rice then being
resold in different locations.
"In coordination meetings with teams in charge of the rice
operations in regencies and mayoralties, it was reported that all
the rice was sold out. When the situation in the field was
checked, however, rice prices were still high," Marselina
Jayusinga, a researcher at the university, said in Bandarlampung,
Lampung, on Thursday.
Marselina said that in Bengkunat, Lampung, a kilogram of rice was
selling for as much as 7,000.
The failure of these operations to bring down prices, she said,
was caused mainly by hoarding by speculators and a lack of public
information about the operations themselves.
"Speculators buy up the entire stocks for resale in other
locations. Officials in regency administrations later simply say
that all the rice stocks were sold," she said.
Marselina urged regional administrations to do a better job of
letting the public know when a rice operation was going to be
held. She said officials also had to be more careful in choosing
which stores the subsidized rice would be sold from.
"Regional administrations have to be selective when it comes to
choosing the kiosks for channeling the rice. These kiosks should
be located in poor residential areas."
In Cirebon, West Java, it is feared rising rice prices will drive
up the prices of other basic commodities. People in the areas
have complained in recent days of a jump in rice prices.
Yayat, who owns a small stall in Mundu district selling basic
goods, said that increases in rice prices were usually followed
by increases in the prices of other products.
"Even though the prices of other products have not increased yet,
if the price of rice stays high it will affect other prices as
well," she said.
[Nana Rukmana contributed to this report from Cirebon, West
News & issues
Forum tells government to act on poverty
Speculators accused of buying up cheap rice
Speculators profit from government rice
News & issues
Jakarta Post - February 21, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta Rectors of 61 universities told the government Tuesday to tackle poverty and unemployment, as they were key problems that could threaten the security and stability of the country.
In a closed-door meeting with Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono here, the Forum of Rectors, consisting of representatives from state and private universities nationwide, expressed their deep concern over the increasing level of poverty and the unemployment rate, saying they were far more serious than threats from outside the country.
The rector of Yogyakarta's Gadjah Mada University, Sofian Effendi, who acted as spokesman for the forum, said after the meeting that the government would not have to deal with domestic security threats if President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla fulfilled their 2004 election pledge to improve the people's livelihoods.
He said social welfare was a crucial issue because the government's failure to deliver it would only invite people to take the law in their own hands.
"Poor people are prone to commit violence or to get involved in moves to topple a legitimate government," he said.
"The Indonesian poverty level has already reached 30 percent and this has been worsened by the natural disasters that have rocked the country in the past three years," he said.
Sofian said that if the poverty level reached 45 percent, the government would have difficulties convincing the public that it has done its job to cope with the problems.
University of Indonesia rector Usman Chatib Warsa said natural disasters, such as flooding and earthquakes, would put whoever was running the government at the time in a very difficult situation.
He said that while the government had done a lot to overcome poverty, there was still much work to be done.
Usman said education was pivotal as in the long run it would produce more intellectual people to develop and foster the country. "Globalization is also a threat to our national defense as it brings problems of injustice and terrorism," the rector said.
J. Kristiadi, a political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, agreed with the rectors. He asked the defense minister and the rectors to bring the issue to the attention of the President so that the government would work harder to solve the problem.
"Other countries have expressed their commitment to supporting Indonesia's sovereignty and national security for the sake of their economic interests, but the government itself has yet to optimally address the problems that could pose serious security threats," he said.
He said the government should take concrete measures to improve labor conditions and the investment climate, reform the corrupt bureaucracy and combat corruption.
Separately, Minister Juwono defended the government's move to continue with the planned purchase of six more Sukhoi jet fighters from Russia, saying that the move had already been endorsed by the House of Representatives.
"The purchase of the Sukhoi fighters is included in the Rp 3.7 billion (procurement) package that has been approved by the House," the minister said after the meeting.
He said further that the government had planned to complete its Sukhoi fleet within the next three years and to refurbish its existing American F-16 jet fighters.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Slamet Susanto and Oyos Saroso H.N., Yogyakarta/Bandarlampung Authorities have responded to rising rice prices by releasing stocks of the subsidized commodity to the market, but Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X expressed concern Friday the effort has failed because of hoarders and speculators.
Speaking in Yogyakarta, the governor said much of the subsidized rice was snapped up by speculators and never reached the poor people it was designed to help. He said speculators bought up the cheap rice and then turned around and resold it at marked up prices.
"The speculators bought the subsidized rice for Rp 3,900 (38 US cents) per kilogram and then resold it for Rp 4,000 to Rp 4,500 per kilogram. This has really hurt those people the subsidized rice was intended to help," he said.
By comparison, rice prices in the ordinary market have reached more than Rp 6,000 per kilogram.
The governor said in the future, subsidized rice should be released directly through village head offices, village halls or other locations near residential areas, to prevent this sort of hoarding.
Adding weight to the governor's remarks was a recent study by the University of Lampung, which found hoarding was common in these types of subsidized rice operations, with the rice then being resold in different locations.
"In coordination meetings with teams in charge of the rice operations in regencies and mayoralties, it was reported that all the rice was sold out. When the situation in the field was checked, however, rice prices were still high," Marselina Jayusinga, a researcher at the university, said in Bandarlampung, Lampung, on Thursday.
Marselina said that in Bengkunat, Lampung, a kilogram of rice was selling for as much as 7,000.
The failure of these operations to bring down prices, she said, was caused mainly by hoarding by speculators and a lack of public information about the operations themselves.
"Speculators buy up the entire stocks for resale in other locations. Officials in regency administrations later simply say that all the rice stocks were sold," she said.
Marselina urged regional administrations to do a better job of letting the public know when a rice operation was going to be held. She said officials also had to be more careful in choosing which stores the subsidized rice would be sold from.
"Regional administrations have to be selective when it comes to choosing the kiosks for channeling the rice. These kiosks should be located in poor residential areas."
In Cirebon, West Java, it is feared rising rice prices will drive up the prices of other basic commodities. People in the areas have complained in recent days of a jump in rice prices.
Yayat, who owns a small stall in Mundu district selling basic goods, said that increases in rice prices were usually followed by increases in the prices of other products.
"Even though the prices of other products have not increased yet, if the price of rice stays high it will affect other prices as well," she said.
[Nana Rukmana contributed to this report from Cirebon, West Java.]
Jakarta Post - February 19, 2007
Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta Lenny had been waiting almost two hours Sunday for the truck delivering low-cost rice to arrive at the Pasar Minggu traditional market in South Jakarta.
The solid gold bracelet on her right wrist suggested she was not among the intended targets of a government market operation aimed at keeping rice affordable for poor people and flood victims. "I resell the cheap rice in a small grocery shop in my house," she told The Jakarta Post.
The resident of Jagakarsa earned a larger margin from the inexpensive rice since she only had to pay Rp 3,750 (41 US cents) per kilogram, and she could sell it at the "normal" price of Rp 5,000 at home. Usually she would have to pay a rice seller Rp 4,500 per kilogram for the same type of rice.
The scorching heat of the day had spoiled her makeup by the time the truck arrived at 11:20. To her disappointment, the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) employee allowed her to buy only one 20-kilogram sack of rice. "They usually allow me to buy two or three sacks," she grumbled, and went home.
The recent floods in the city and in rice-producing areas of Indonesia have sent rice prices into the stratosphere for the past few weeks.
Even though the administration provided 80,000 tons of rice from Bulog stockpiles and the city's primary rice market in Cipinang, East Jakarta, prices kept soaring and reached more than Rp 6,000 per kilogram.
Bulog, who had been given the right to sell rice in every traditional market in a bid to stabilize prices, failed to identify who was buying. Sellers in the traditional markets and roadside stands used the opportunity to speculate on prices.
Nasir, a rice seller at Senen traditional market, Central Jakarta, said that he had been buying as many as 15 sacks of rice daily during the Bulog operation.
"Of course, I do not buy all the sacks myself. I usually hire people to buy separate stocks for me," he said. He sold the rice for Rp 6,300 per kilogram when Bulog did not come for more than a day.
If the quality of the rice was quite good, he would sell it immediately at a high price. If it was not as good, he would mix it with higher-quality rice and sell it at half price.
Each Bulog truck that comes to the 151 traditional markets in Jakarta usually carries up to six tons of rice. They generally stay for just two hours since most buyers purchase sacks instead of a few kilograms.
"How can I know which of them is poor or rich? I sell to everyone who comes to the truck," said Selamat, a Bulog officer who led the market operation at Pasar Minggu on Sunday. He was satisfied when all of the rice had been distributed to people in the area.
Jakarta Trade and Industry Agency head Ade Suharsono said rice stocks in the city were fine, but added that it was hard for his agency to stop rice speculation.
"According to the administration bylaw, each wholesaler has the right to stock up to five tons. But we are focusing on distributing rice instead of checking on wholesalers' warehouses," he said.
Ade said the floods had affected stocks of high-quality rice in the city as regions, especially in West Java, held onto their stocks in anticipation of a harvest failure in March.
Ade said the city could still overcome the low amount of high quality rice by importing rice from Vietnam.
The administration has been importing 5,800 tons of rice from Vietnam every five days to help meet the city's demand of 2,500 tons per day."It will be fine as long as the media does not make more of market jitters than they should," he said.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Jakarta A coalition consisting of 56 non-governmental organizations is seeking support from religious organizations to revoke the government allowance for regional councillors, which they have said legalizes corruption.
"We hope the country's largest Muslim organization, Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), will take the lead to advocate the annulment of the government regulation," Adnan Topan Husodo, an executive at Indonesian Corruption Watch, said at NU's headquarters here Thursday. "The regulation is associated with legalized corruption."
The coalition is against the implementation and the revision of the regulation, which grants each councillor up to Rp 60 million (US$6,666) a year in the form of an operational and communications allowance. Local councils are to decide on the final amount councillors receive.
The coalition says that the regulation will encourage corruption while taking money away from health care and education projects.
NU vice chairman Masykuri Abdillah said he would convey the coalition's message to chairman Hasyim Muzadi.
"I agree that it's inhumane to ask for high allowances amid the natural disasters that have hit the country in a row and with around 45 million impoverished people living here," said Masykuri, adding that he applauded those who had rejected and returned the allowance.
On Monday, hundreds of councillors from the country's provincial, regency and municipal legislatures flooded the House of Representatives to express their opposition to a planned revision of the regulation. The councillors said they needed the operational and communications allowance to properly carry out their duties.
Commenting on the councillors' protest, Hasyim described it as "humiliating" and said it was a poor move for political representation in the country. The coalition said that most of the visiting councillors had traveled to Jakarta on money taken from their local administrations' budgets.
Coalition members also met with Father Beny Susetyo, the executive secretary of the Bishop's Council of Indonesia, at his office later on Thursday. "With other religious leaders, we will carry out civil disobedience if the government declines to revoke the regulation," Father Beny was quoted by Adnan as saying.
Father Beny told the coalition he would call on Hindu and Buddhist religious leaders, while the coalition is also planning to meet with the chairman of the country's second largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah.
"Regional administrations with little money will push their budgets to the limit just pay councillors' allowances if the revisions made by the government stipulate clusters of regional administrations with low, medium and high budget competencies," said Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency secretary general Arif Nur Alam.
"In order to generate more revenue, they will impose higher taxes that will be paid by the people. Therefore, the regulation must be revoked," he added.
Jakarta Post - February 15, 2007
Jakarta Citing improved security conditions in Poso, Central Sulawesi, National Police chief Gen. Sutanto said the non-organic police force would be withdrawn from the conflict-torn region.
Sutanto said that there was no reason for the police to maintain a large numbers in Poso as calm had once again returned to the region.
"All main suspects have been arrested and Poso is now safe and the withdrawal will be carried out soon," Sutanto told reporters after a cabinet meeting Wednesday.
However, Sutanto said no target was set as to when the non- organic police personnel would be completely withdrawn from Poso. "I leave details on the matter to the Central Sulawesi police chief," he said.
Sutanto declined to give details as to whether an anti-terror squad deployed in the area would also be withdrawn.
Jakarta Post - February 15, 2007
Stevie Emilia, Sanur The government plans to introduce a mosque-based community empowerment program in 11 provinces this year to help in poverty alleviation and human resources development, while also revitalizing the national family planning program.
Haryono Suyono, vice chairman of Jakarta-based Damandiri Foundation, on Wednesday announced details of the program in Bali.
He said the program would be a joint effort between the National Family Planning Board, local governments and Damandiri, a center for national and international cooperation and training in social development.
He said the first post had been opened in a mosque in Pemalang, Central Java, last Sunday by Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, and that by the end of February a second post would be opened in a mosque in Bantul, Yogyakarta.
"By the end of this year, we hope to have some 50 to 100 of these mosque-based posts set up around 11 provinces," Haryono, who is also a former family planning board chairman, told journalists at the International Conference of Muslim Leaders to Support Population and Development to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Sanur, Bali.
The mosque-based posts, called Posdaya, are seen as an improvement over their predecessors, the integrated health posts known as Posyandu that are found throughout the country.
While the Posyandu focus on the health and welfare of mothers and children through family planning and vaccinations, these new posts are meant to empower all members of the family and all segments of society, including the handicapped and the elderly. These mosque-based posts will deal with healthcare, education, employment and business issues, and religion.
Haryono said the Posdaya would, in short, help empower all of society. "The versatility of this model is that it can be applied to all family and community activities, such as economic ventures, religious activities and even cultural rituals."
One of the main goals of the new posts will be to ensure access to education for all children. "Improving education will help us alleviate poverty," he said.
Haryono acknowledged the program could meet with some resistance in the beginning, particularly from the mosques' imams who will have to coordinate the day-to-day activities at the posts.
"There might be questions like, 'This is a mosque. How can a mosque be turned into a kindergarten?' and 'Why is a mosque being used as business training ground?'", Haryono said. "But an imam is not an expert on all matters, and they will receive assistance at the posts from professionals."
But Haryono is optimistic the community empowerment program will be accepted. "The difficult part will be in setting up the posts, but hopefully everything will run as expected," he said. "The Posdaya are vital to efforts to reach the MDGs at the grass roots."
He added that the program could eventually be expanded into other places of worship, such as churches and temples.
Responding to the program Wednesday, M. Rozy Munir, the deputy chairman of the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahddlatul Ulama, suggested further study was necessary.
He added that organizers should also take into account that many mosques are an integrated part of pesantren, or Islamic boarding schools, thus necessitating a different approach. He said that if a mosque is led by an imam, a pesantren is led by a kyai, who are influential within their respective communities.
"So the bottom line is, the idea is good but it needs more study," Rozy told The Jakarta Post.
Catholic priest Mudji Sutrisno, who is attending the conference in Bali, praised the community empowerment posts, saying places of worship were ideal places for serving the needs of the community.
"But for this program there is one requirement, that religious figures unite with professionals who are experts in family planning issues," he said, adding that interfaith dialog would also be necessary to achieve the goals of the program.
"If we want to live together peacefully and in harmony, let's work together to empower a prosperous community."
Reuters - February 21, 2007
Ed Davies, Jakarta Indonesia is continuing to arrest and hand down heavy prison sentences to activists in Papua for peacefully supporting independence in the remote eastern area, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
Papua, two provinces on the west half of New Guinea island, has long been under the scrutiny of Western groups critical of how Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, treats the mainly Christian and ethnically distinct area.
Indonesian security forces have been fighting a low-level separatist insurgency in Papua for decades.
"All too often Papuans not involved in the armed insurgency are caught up in anti-separatist sweeps or arrested as troublemakers for peacefully expressing their political views," the rights group said in a report.
The report noted yearly problems when some activists tried to raise the Papuan national flag on Dec. 1 to commemorate the day in 1961 when colonial ruler Holland offered the area independence.
"Most years these attempts end in clashes with local security forces intent on stopping what they see as treasonous activities," it said, adding that arrests almost always occur, and sometimes trials and convictions.
"At other times activists are arrested merely for publicly expressing support for Papuan independence, or for attending peaceful meetings to talk about self-determination for Papua."
A senior Indonesian government official said the government did not interfere in the courts, but if by flying a flag or holding protests activists were shown to calling for the break up of Indonesia, it was right they should be examined by courts.
"Nowadays, such things are rare. NGos are trying to blow things up so that they can get funding," Setya Purwaka, head of the Papua desk at the office of chief security minister, told Reuters. He was responding to the general theme of the report.
Colonial era laws
The report said two sets of criminal laws were generally used, including colonial era articles of Indonesia's Criminal Code, criminalising "public expression of feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt toward the government."
The other most often used was one outlawing rebellion, frequently used against those arrested for alleged participation in, or support of, separatism, the report said.
Jakarta took over Papua from Dutch colonial rule in 1963. In 1969 its rule was formalised in a vote by community leaders which was widely criticised as political theatre.
The report highlighted the case of two independence supporters, Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage. It said the two were jailed in May, 2005, to 15- and 10-year terms for organising peaceful celebrations and flying the Papuan national flag in the provincial capital of Jayapura on Dec. 1, 2004.
It also detailed other cases where it said defendants were convicted for peaceful expressions. "These convictions are not an aberration. They reflect government policy," the report said.
Owing to restrictions on access to Papua, the report said it relied on interviews with defence lawyers, local rights groups and analysis of trial documents.
Indonesia has denied any systematic rights abuses. Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said last year there were some "violations" in Papua by rogue elements in the military but insisted these acts were perpetrated by individuals. He also suggested the media exaggerated problems in Papua.
A 2001 law also gives Papua, with a population of two million, a bigger share of revenue from its rich mineral and natural resources and more freedom in running its own affairs.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said he wants to end conflict in Papua and to speed up development.
The report urged Jakarta to unconditionally release anyone held or imprisoned for peaceful expression of political views.
It also called for a repeal of some of the articles of law used in these cases and to end restrictions on access to the area for journalists, diplomats and human rights organisations.
Jakarta Post - February 21, 2007
Nethy Dharma Somba, Manokwari Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu and West Papua Governor Abraham (Bram) O. Atururi signed an agreement here Tuesday to settle their differences, the first cooperative move by the two leaders since they were installed six months ago.
The reconciliation appears to bring an end to long-standing bickering over the legal basis for the establishment of West Papua. Opponents argued the creation of the province violated the Special Autonomy Law on Papua.
The signing was held on Mansinam Island, a symbolically important island for Papuans since it is where two preachers from Europe landed on Feb. 5, 1855, and began spreading Christianity. The introduction of the Bible marked a new era for Papua, and the rapprochement was meant as another new start.
The ceremony was titled "One but Two, Two but One", meaning that Papua's culture, economy and infrastructure development are unified even as its government has split into two provinces.
The three-step process included an agreement on the legal basis for the creation of the new province under the Special Autonomy Law; the handover of documents on personnel, financing, equipment and other issues from Papua province to West Papua; and a pledge to jointly manage the economy and infrastructure.
The agreement means that the two provinces will share management of the special autonomy funds, which account for 2 percent of the central government's general allocation funds.
The special autonomy law, along with its attendant funding, is intended to speed Papua's development and give the region more control over its rich natural resources. The funds have thus far been managed by Papua province in cooperation with regency and mayoralty administrations throughout Papua, including those in West Papua.
The reconciliation meeting was held in a very friendly atmosphere. The two governors and their entourages were greeted with traditional dances and all the civil servants of West Papua province lined the road where the guests passed. Governor Suebu shook hands with all of them.
In front of Laharoi Church, the oldest in Mansinam Island, three tents were erected to accommodate the guests from the two provinces.
The Mansinam agreement will be deliberated by a special team before it is discussed at a joint working meeting between the two governors and all regents and mayors in the two provinces in Biak.
"We will try to complete the deliberation as soon as possible so that we can hold the next meeting, thereby enabling us to work and build," Bram said.
The reconciliation has melted the cold relations between the two provinces following the creation of West Papua province, which was initially named West Irian Jaya province.
"On this day the conflict between the province of West Irian Jaya, which was later called West Papua, and the province of Papua must end," Suebu said.
He added that the two provinces must work together in thought, feeling and spirit to build a new Papua.
Radio Australia - February 19, 2007
Church leaders in Papua say as many as 5,300 people have been displaced because of fighting between Free Papua Movement Rebels and Indonesian military. The leaders say the people are starving and in need of medical attention. But local authorities are accusing Papua's clergy of lying.
Presenter/Interviewer: Katie Hamann
Speakers: Reverend Lipiyus Biniluk, head of the Indonesian Evangelical Church; Commissioner Kartono, spokesman, Papua police; Socratez Yoman, president, Papua's Communion of Baptist Churches
Hamann: They're not images you're likely to see on your television screen anytime soon and that's exactly the way Indonesia wants it.
Refugees of their own land. According to reports at least 5,300 West Papuans seeking refuge in the hills and villages of Puncak Jaya regency, two days walk from the nearest town. A trickle of information about their plight has been buried in the opinion pages of The Jakarta Post in recent weeks and passed completely under the international radar.
But Papuan church leaders and human rights activists say they have very grave fears for their people. They say few outsiders or aid has reached the refugees who are camped in an area heavily protected by both TNI forces and Free Papua Movement rebels. Most consider it too dangerous to even attempt the journey. Four people died last month as a result of disease.
Reverend Lipiyus Biniluk is from Puncak Jaya and heads the Indonesian Evangelical Church.
Biniluk: Four days ago they say that people still need food, people don't stay in their own home, because they are afraid of the army and OPM leaders. So they still need food and medicine because no-one helps them.
Hamann: But Indonesian police and military have consistently denied the existence of any displaced persons. They say fighting between Indonesian forces and FPM rebels, which broke out in December, has ceased and everything is calm and accuse Church leaders of lying.
A spokesman for the provinces police, Commissioner Kartono, who goes by one name, says his forces are protectors of the people.
Kartono: The story about the refugees is actually a hoax. They do not exist. Why should they be afraid? That's a lie, there are no refugees here in Mulya. Moreover you said they are afraid of the police. We police officers are people protectors. That's a lie, okay, that's a lie. I know that this kind of thing gets made up and the intention.
Hamann: Socratez Yoman, President of Papua's Communion of Baptist Churches, says history does not judge the Indonesian's well.
Yoman: You don't believe Indonesian police. You believe the church leaders because we tell you about the evidence, we will tell you the truth. The police and the Indonesian military, they will always give you misinformation to the Indonesian community.
Hamann: When asked why Papua's leading clergymen would lie, Kartono said he didn't know but that the Australian media was also good at spreading stories about refugees. Perhaps Commissioner Kartono has heard about the television advertisements featuring West Papuan refugees that began screening in Australia last week.
Their stories of abuse and repression at the hands of Indonesian military and police are underwriting a campaign to force the Australian government to negotiate a human rights clause in it latest security pact with Indonesia. It's a message many in Indonesia may well be digesting soon too, if plans to screen the ads in Southeast Asia go ahead.
But at least for the moment, no one is looking in Papua, and the indigenous population will have to rely on the Indonesian forces to be as they say they are protectors of the people.
Australian Associated Press - February 15, 2007
Kate Corbett, Canberra An Australian businessman has funnelled thousands of dollars into a TV advertising campaign attacking Prime Minister John Howard accusing him of ignoring human rights abuses in Papua.
This is the second commercial funded by optical store millionaire Ian Melrose on the plight of Papuans. His first was released last month.
The new ad, airing for the first time today, calls for the new Australia-Indonesia security treaty to be amended to ensure human rights are monitored and foreign journalists allowed into Papua. It will initially be aired across Australia and then overseas on ABC Asia-Pacific and potentially on Indonesian television.
Mr Melrose launched the commercial at Parliament House in Canberra today, joined by a number of politicians. Independent MP Peter Andren said it was evident that Australia had ignored the situation in Papua for far too long.
"We realise there's been a secrecy and suppression around what's been occurring in West Papua for many, many years," Mr Andren told reporters.
The Australian government has signed the security treaty with Indonesia, but the treaty has not yet been ratified and is currently before a parliamentary inquiry.
The Australian Greens senator Kerry Nettle said the government had not involved the public on the treaty until the current inquiry started. She said Australians now had a chance to have a say, but must do so within the next week.
"It's an opportunity for people to say we want our human rights and the human rights of the West Papuans and of others in Indonesia put in the forefront of this treaty," Senator Nettle said.
Labor's Duncan Kerr and the Australian Democrats' Natasha Stott Despoja were also at the launch today and said they were united on the issue of human rights.
The politicians also heard from two Papuans and one woman from East Timor, who spoke of the hostility of the Indonesian security forces.
"I have seen with my own eyes how they shoot my people down when they try to do things differently, to stand for their rights," human rights worker Paula Makabory said. East Timorese asylum seeker Sonia Vitro told how the Indonesian military had killed her father.
Mr Melrose said he was determined to alert Australians to the plight of Papuans and is not concerned about the cost of the campaign.
But the successful businessman would not say how much he had spent. "That's not appropriate," he told reporters.
Reuters - February 16, 2007
Jakarta Indonesia needs to speed up development in the eastern area of Papua, a remote part the country where a low-level armed rebellion has simmered for decades, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Friday.
Papua, comprising two provinces on the west half of New Guinea island, has long been under the scrutiny of Western groups critical of how Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, treats the predominantly Christian and ethnically distinct area.
"The improvement of peoples' prosperity in two Papua provinces is slow. Special autonomy has not been implemented in a good way," Yudhoyono told reporters after a cabinet meeting on the issue.
"I will issue a presidential decree to accelerate the development in the two Papuan provinces. Funds will come from the region and the central government," he said.
Papua, with a population of two million occupying a land area almost as large as Iraq, has around 300 indigenous tribes, some still living in virtually Stone Age conditions, with different sets of languages and traditions.
Yudhoyono said transport infrastructure would be priority to boost the local economy. "We hope in three to five years we will see significant results of this acceleration programmes," he said.
After human rights abuses against indigenous Papuans under the autocratic rule of President Suharto were unearthed, the Indonesian government in 2001 issued a law giving Papua a bigger share of revenue from its rich mineral and natural resources and more freedom in running its own affairs. Suharto left office in 1998.
Despite the pledge, critics say Papuans have often failed to gain much from the resources in the area.
Mining giant Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., operates the world's second-largest copper mine, Grasberg, in Papua.
The Freeport operation has been a frequent source of controversy in Indonesia, with issues ranging from its impact on the environment and the share of revenue going to native Papuans and the Papua government to the legality of payments to Indonesian security forces who help guard the site.
Radio Australia - February 16, 2007
An Australian millionaire is preparing to run television ads across Southeast Asia urging Jakarta to let human rights monitors into the Indonesian province of Papua.
Presenter/Interviewer: Graeme Dobell
Speakers: Australian millionaire businessman Ian Melrose; Papua activist Clemens Runawery.
Dobell: The television ad has pictures of Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, and Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Earlier versions started running in Australia last month. Now a new series is set to be run across Southeast Asia as well. The ads were launched at a press conference in Parliament House in Canberra hosted by four Members of Parliament an independent MP and a Labor MP from the lower house, and senators from the Democrats and the Greens Parties.
The focus is on the new Australia-Indonesia security treaty signed in November. While signed the treaty is yet to to be endorsed for ratification by the Australian Parliament's Treaties Committee. The tv ads call for the treaty to be amended so it has a human rights clause. The sponsor of the ads, millionaire businessman Ian Melrose, ran a similar campaign to embarrass the Australian Government over its dealings with to East Timor. Mr Melrose says he'll run tv ads across Southeast Asia to discomfit Australia and Indonesia over human rights in Papua.
Melrose: My hope is that as a result of this both governments decide to put human rights monitoring into the treaty with Australia and that would be a good outcome for both the West Papuans and Indonesia. There would be no losers.
Dobell: How would running the ads in Asia, would have more of an impact than running the ads in Australia?
Melrose: Australia and Indonesia are sensitive to other countries opinions. Airing the issue and letting everyone know what's happening at present isn't right, isn't honourable, is going to cause a sensitivity to both governments and they may well both work on implementing human rights monitoring in West Papua and access for journalists. If journalists are allowed access, human rights monitoring will be a much easier process because the Indonesian military won't want to be caught out doing the things that it does so well.
Dobell: Are you having trouble getting the ads placed in Asia? Are some television networks worried about offending Indonesia?
Melrose: Hm, I don't think that's going to be the case. There's going to be some people that take the money.
Dobell: Other ads feature Clemens Runawery, who fled from Papua in 1969 and lives in exile in Papua New Guinea. He says there's a slow process of genocide in Papua, because of the influx of people from the rest of Indonesia. Mr Runawery says that under Dutch rule in the early 1960s, Papuans made up 96 percent of the population of what is now an Indonesia province. Today, he says only 65 percent of the population is Papuan, the other 35 percent from the rest of Indonesia.
Runawery: The over population for the Indonesian side is growing much faster than the Papuan population. Now one may wonder why, but the answer to that will be through the trans-migration, official and non-official or the so-called spontaneous migrants. They are coming in almost 5,000 a week and that is this policy is devastating, is detrimental to its Papuan existence, in terms of maintaining the cultures and the dignity as an ethnic group.
Jakarta Post - February 15, 2007
Urip Hudiono, Jakarta The government will speed up development in the provinces of Papua and West Papua after an assessment found both still lacking in terms of infrastructure and economy, a senior minister said Wednesday.
"The development policies to be prioritized will therefore be developing basic transportation infrastructure," Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo A.S. told reporters after a Cabinet meeting at the State Palace.
"It is important to improve access and mobility to remote areas, and those near the border, so that people in these areas can be reached more easily."
Papua province shares a common border with Papua New Guinea.
Widodo further mentioned the need to develop suitable plantations and crops in the two provinces to promote self-sufficiency. "We are considering developing oil palm plantations, among other things," he said. "This will also help create employment in these areas."
Papua and West Papua are among the most impoverished regions in the country, even though the land is rich in natural resources and major mining companies operating there make handsome profits.
Famine even struck Yahukimo last year after crops failed, likely adding to a growing resentment toward the central government. The sense that development here has been slow, particularly compared with Java, feeds demands from the two provinces for more autonomy over their own affairs and resources.
Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya province, has been divided into two provinces. There have been calls to create a third province of South Papua there.
The second province, West Irian Jaya, was established in February 2003. On its fourth anniversary, the provincial administration renamed the province West Papua, although this has yet to be approved by the central government.
West Papua Governor Abraham Atururi acknowledged the development challenges in the two provinces, and said future strategies should also focus on developing the local human resources.
"Papua is said to be a land of riches; the problem is in its human resources," he said. "We hope this can be changed for the betterment of all."
Officials from the two provinces will meet soon in Manokwari, he said, to discuss cooperation in implementing future development policies.
Jakarta Post - February 21, 2007
Commercialized courts and limited access to legal aid have caused poor people to face inequality before the law, say observers.
"Every time we want to file a case with a court, starting from the registration to taking the oath, we spend a lot of money, which is actually not stipulated in any regulation," Jakarta Legal Aid Institute director Asfinawati said Tuesday, after the launch of a book on legal aid for the poor.
"That has hindered poor people from receiving adequate treatment before the law," she added.
Poor people, she said, tended to become pessimistic and apathetic prior to filing a case. She said that they generally believed they would have to spend a lot of money and that the verdict the court handed down would not be objective.
Taufikurrahman Saleh, a member of House of Representatives Commission III, overseeing legal and human rights issues, said: "We know that judicial institutions are still being selective when handling cases, from the indictment to the verdict."
"Oddly, police, the Attorney General's Office and the Corruption Eradication Commission, always deny that," he added.
Prominent lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution said that the 2003 Law on Advocacy had limited the provision of legal aid.
"Under the law, state officials limit the authority of activists providing legal aid," said Buyung.
"Activists can work only under the supervision of police and prison wardens. This is not right," he said, adding that the situation had resulted in fewer poor people having access to legal aid.
Asfinawati said that the image of the legal profession had resulted in fewer lawyers being interested in representing the poor.
"The people see that lawyers only appear in expensive suits, work in skyscrapers along Jakarta's main thoroughfares, making lawyers seem expensive, while lawyers tend to work solely on commercial cases," Asfin said. "This commercial attitude makes lawyers unconcerned about poor people," she added.
According to official data, as many as 16,000 lawyers serve Indonesia's 220 million people, 20 percent of whom earn less than US$2 a day.
"The statistics show that the country does not have an adequate number of lawyers. This shortage is exacerbated because they tend to work only on commercial cases," Asfinawati said.
The institute is planning to submit a draft of a bill that guarantees poor people equality before the law. "We have drafted a bill on legal aid and hope to have the House discuss it this year or early next year," Asfinawati said.
The chairman of the House's legislation body, F.X. Soekarno, said it would be impossible to discuss the draft bill this year. "The House already has 80 bills to be discussed this year, but it will be possible to put the draft bill on legal aid on next year's schedule," he said.
Jakarta Post - February 19, 2007
Jakarta Activists said Sunday that district and Islamic religious courts, particularly in Jakarta, had violated the child protection law in their handling of custody decisions.
"Although the government has enacted the law, these courts still ignore children's voices in their verdicts," Arist Merdeka Sirait, secretary general of the National Commission for Child Protection, told The Jakarta Post. "The judges don't care which guardian the children want to be with," he said.
The 2002 Child Protection Law guarantees children's opinions will be taken into account in every livelihood-related decision made by the people, the legislative and judicial bodies and the government.
"Using the Compilation of Islamic Laws, judges in religious courts always decide that children below 12 years old must be placed under their mother's custody," Arist said.
The compilation states that child under the age of 12 must be placed in the mother's custody while the father must provide financial support.
Arist said the divorce of actress Tamara Bleszynski and businessman Teuku Rafly Pasha was an example of the situation, with the court handing guardianship of the six-year-old son to the mother.
"This caused the son to send a letter to the Supreme Court asking to live with his father," he said. The Supreme Court eventually granted the son's request.
The commission said a survey had found more than 20 children aged seven and eight years old who "felt depressed" after court custody verdicts.
"Of the 1,124 complaints we received through our hotline service, around 64 percent were (related to) divorce cases that have inflicted distress on children," said Arist.
He said more than 3000 divorce cases were filed each year with the district and religious courts in Jakarta.
Commission chairman Seto Mulyadi said any verdicts that did not consider a child's opinion could cause "a lifetime of torture."
"Children who object to the custody verdict but have their opinions ignored could lose their identity, be hindered from enhancing their self-competence and productivity, and (end up with) aggressive personalities," he told the Post.
"...when I was an expert witness in a Vancouver court in Canada, an eight-year-old said he would kill his mother if he saw her," he said. Children depressed by "a false court's verdict" over custody, he said, must be acknowledged and heard.
Seto said the commission had sent a letter to the Supreme Court, urging it to educate the district and Islamic courts on managing child custody cases.
For complaints about child protection, the commission can be reached at (021) 87791818.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta New York-based Human Rights Watch on Friday urged the Indonesian government to take over all military-owned businesses in a bid to make the country's armed forces more professional and to minimize rights abuses.
"Three years after the enactment of Law No. 34/2004 on the TNI, no companies have been taken over even though the law only gives five years to complete the takeover," Human Rights Watch researcher Charmain Mohamed said during the launch in Jakarta of a report on human rights in Indonesia.
The report is an Indonesian version of a 159-page report first published in June 2006: Too High a Price: The Human Rights Costs of the Indonesian Military's Economic Activities.
Based on a two-year survey, the report details the military's long practice of involvement in business to finance its activities.
"When the report was published last June, numerous high-ranking government officials expressed their agreement that the involvement of military personnel in the economy has weakened civilian control and encouraged human rights violations, crimes and corruption. "But, now, no action has been taken in this matter," said Charmain.
She also questioned the indefinite postponement by an inter- ministerial team of the government's takeover of military-owned businesses, saying the government appeared to be buying time in the hope people would forget the issue.
"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should take a leading position in accomplishing internal reform in the military as a preliminary requirement for strengthening democratic institutions and improving human rights protection in the country," she said.
The coordinator of the Committee for Human Rights Victims, Usman Hamid, who attended the report's launch, asked why the government only planned to take control of some 1,000 military-owned business units with total assets of Rp 1 trillion (US$111 million).
"We are sure there are more than 1,000 military-run businesses and that they have assets of more than Rp 1 trillion. But even the takeover of these businesses has been suspended," he said.
Charmain and Usman said the government should take control of all military businesses, including cooperatives, and allocate an adequate defense budget to create a professional armed forces, as mandated by the law.
They also asked the government to phase out the military's territorial function and liquidate all military networks in the regions, including military commands, resorts and posts. They said this would sever their ties with politics and business.
"The House has endorsed a number of laws to speed up internal reform in the military but the President has yet to show his political will to enforce the laws," said Usman.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta Activists have said that they are skeptical of the House of Representatives' commitment to bringing to justice retired and active Army generals implicated in human rights abuses.
The House is set to submit a report on three shooting incidents in 1998 and 1999 to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono next Tuesday.
House Commission III overseeing legal, legislation, human rights and security affairs has recommended that the 1998 Trisakti shootings that killed four students and the 1998 and 1999 Semanggi shootings that killed a total of 18 people go to trial.
Contacted separately, Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Usam Hamid, Charmain Mohamed of New York-based Human Rights Watch and executive director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (Demos) Asmara Nababan said they were unconvinced about the move.
Usman said Kontras and the relatives of the victims feared that the House's recommendation was only a formality designed to avoid angering the public and that the House knew the eventual outcome would be that "justice is not upheld".
"Strong political support from the House and political parties is required to press the President to set up an ad hoc court with a presidential decree and to order the Attorney General's Office to thoroughly investigate the tragedies," he said. Charmain agreed with Usman, saying the credibility of the House and the government was being tested.
"We fear the outcome of the trial, if the ad hoc court is established, that the three shootings will be similar to that of the Tanjung Priok and Timor Leste cases," she said. All military and police officers tried in the Tanjung Priok and Timor Leste cases were acquitted of all charges.
The National Commission on Human Rights found gross human rights crimes in its investigation into the three shootings, but the Attorney General's Office has declined to follow up the findings and has said that the rights body has no authority to investigate the incidents.
Asmara said he was skeptical because the way the incidents were being investigated contradicted the 2000 Ad Hoc Court Law.
"The law requires the Attorney General's Office to follow up the rights body's findings by collecting evidence and questioning those involved in the incidents.
"After the (Attorney General's Office) gets strong evidence and suspects, the House makes a political recommendation for the President to set up an ad hoc court. The ad hoc court will be idle if no suspects are declared in the cases," he said.
Former defense minister and Indonesian Military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, former Army Special Forces commander Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subiakto and Defense Ministry secretary general Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin have been linked to the incidents. All three have denied their involvement in human rights abuses.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
ID Nugroho and Yemris Fointuna, Jakarta The draft revised Criminal Code currently being deliberated at the House of Representatives contains articles that limit freedom of expression and target the media, say observers and lawmakers.
Speaking at a workshop on the revised Criminal Code this week, legislator Soeripto, of the Prosperous Justice Party, said that other bills also currently being drafted also had the potential to restrict free speech.
"The draft laws will restrict freedom of expression, such as the bills on state secrets, intelligence and national security," he said, adding that it would make room for the state to oppress citizens and be contradictory to the spirit of reformasi.
"That means reformasi is yet to be achieved due to the lack of cultural changes on the part of state leaders and clear signs the government is not siding with the people."
Soeripto, who is a member of House Commission I, added that there needed to be constant public access to the government, without excluding transparency and accountability. "Last but not least is the need for international pressure," he said.
The Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) says that at least 60 of the new articles added to the revised criminal code could be used to stifle people's freedom. These include articles on agitation directed at the government, airing misleading reports and news, defamation of the government and state institutions, defamation of individual reputations and divulging state secrets.
"A punishment of seven years' imprisonment awaits those who divulge state secrets, (but they don't say) what sort of secrets they are (talking about)," said LBH Pers director Hendrayana.
Hendrayana said the articles could inhibit people's freedom of expression and stifle the right to obtain information through the media.
The article on the defamation of "one's good reputation", for example, states that "a person who verbally damages the integrity or good reputation of another person by accusing him or her of a certain matter with the intention of publicizing it" can be convicted of libel, which carries a sentence of a year in prison or a fine of Rp 7.5 million (US$835).
The article on agitation aimed at the government mandates two years in prison or a Rp 30 million fine for anyone found guilty of insulting the government in a manner that incites public unrest. "What can the people do if everything is forbidden?" asked Hendrayana.
Leo Batubara, a member of the press council, said bills suppressing the freedom of expression were a manifestation of struggle between good and evil in Indonesia and were part of the move to revise the press law.
"Calls to revise the press law are against the people's will but in favor of the corrupt, because a free press will hinder corruption," he said.
Leo said that many law enforcement personnel preferred a Criminal Code that did not side with the people. "A revised Criminal Code that does not side with the people will be economically beneficial for those who are corrupt," said Leo.
Jakarta Post - February 16, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta The House of Representatives will ask President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to set up an ad hoc court to hear rights abuse cases from 1998 and 1999, allegedly involving retired Army generals and police officers.
Speaker Agung Laksono said Thursday a letter would be sent to the President after a House leadership meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, which will follow up on recommendations from House Commission III overseeing legal, human rights and security affairs.
The commission recently recommended reopening investigations into the Trisakti shootings in 1998 and the Semanggi shootings in 1998 and 1999.
Four students were killed in the Trisakti incident and a total of 18 people, mostly protesters, died in the two Semanggi incidents.
"The recommendation will be brought to the leadership meeting for endorsement before the letter is delivered to the President," Agung said after receiving the recommendation.
Commission III recommended reopening the investigations after the National Commission on Human Rights said it had found evidence of gross human rights abuses in its 2005 investigation into the three incidents.
The House carried out an investigation in 2003 and announced it had found no gross human rights abuses in the cases. However, the results of this investigation were annulled last year, following a change in the political climate and in the face of increasing demands that the perpetrators of these shootings be brought to justice.
Commission III chairman Trimedya Panjaitan said it recommended the reopening of the investigations after Attorney General Abdurrahman Saleh declined to follow up on the results of the national rights body's investigation into the shootings.
"During the hearing with the Attorney General last Thursday, my commission offered preliminary evidence that indicated gross human rights abuses in the tragedies, but he remained reluctant to look into the results of the rights body's investigation," Trimedya said.
During the hearing with the commission, the Attorney General brushed aside the rights body's findings, saying it did not have the authority to investigate the tragedies.
Trimedya said that according to the 2000 law on ad hoc trials for rights violations, the rights body does have the right to investigate alleged rights abuses. He also denied the House had a political agenda in calling for the reopening of the three cases ahead of the 2009 presidential election.
Former defense minister/Indonesian Military chief Gen. (ret) Wiranto, who is allegedly connected to the three cases, recently confirmed he would be seeking the nomination for the presidential election.
The names of Defense Ministry secretary-general Lt. Gen. Safrie Sjamsudin and former Army Special Forces commander Prabowo Subianto have also come up in connection with the cases. All three have denied any involvement in rights abuses.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Indrasari Tjandraningsih, Bandung On Jan. 29, 2007, The Jakarta Post editorialized about labor and business. The editorialist identified the core issue as insufficiently flexible labor regulations that disadvantage the investment climate in Indonesia.
In fact, labor flexibility has already been incorporated into the 2003 Labor Law. Problems have arisen because some interested parties consider that flexibility to be insufficient, so they proposed further revisions.
The proposed changes included, among other things, the removal of state protections for workers and the opening up of competition between domestic and foreign workers.
Workers strongly rejected the proposed revisions because they threatened to deteriorate working conditions and welfare. The proposed changes also violated the principles of decent work stipulated by the International Labor Organization.
The basic aim of flexibility is to stimulate corporate competitiveness. One key way to accomplish this is to weaken or remove regulations that protect workers and replace them with more liberal ones that ease the recruitment and dismissal process.
What this leads to is greater worker vulnerability. Wages and overtime opportunities get cut, and jobs get changed from permanent to temporary.
Since the 2003 law came into effect, there has been a massive move by employers to change permanent positions into contract labor. This trend has occurred particularly in the large, labor- intensive industries that produce garments, footwear, electronics and food.
The outsourcing system regulated by the Labor Law provides a legal basis for companies to replace permanent workers with contract labor. The problem is that employers do not follow the procedures. Companies close down without fulfilling the requirements, leaving thousands of workers laid off without their rights. The companies that close down then reopen somewhere else and recruit both former workers and new workers into contract positions.
As contract workers who are signed up by a labor recruiting company many of which have been established in industrial centers and become lucrative businesses workers receive only a basic wage, equal to the regional minimum wage without any other allowances, even though they do precisely the same tasks as permanent workers. Their work contracts are generally very short, ranging from one to six months, and can be ended at any time.
These short-term contracts create uncertainty in employment and even more so in career advancement. These workers also lose the opportunity to form unions because, both implicitly and explicitly, the recruiting company and the hiring company threaten their jobs if they unionize.
The labor outsourcing system has also given rise to abuses by employment agencies. It has become common for a person who is looking for work to pay a sum of money, on top of the standard service fee, to the agency. The worker's bargaining position with the recruiter is very weak because he or she can easily be replaced by another person.
Insufficient law enforcement has also put workers at a disadvantage. This highlights the state's weakness in the face of capitalists. Since the government is desperate to overcome 11 percent unemployment, "anything goes" when it comes to job creation, even to the point of putting aside the protection of laborers as the main agenda.
This situation is reminiscent of the 1980s, when foreign investment was wooed to set up labor-intensive manufacturing industries with various incentives and a high level of state tolerance toward the infringement of workers' rights.
Deterioration in workers' welfare is in reality a threat to investment, because low welfare among workers hurts their purchasing power. That, in turn, means the markets for industrial products cannot expand.
This whole situation explains why there has been such a strong reaction against making labor regulations more flexible. While a number of other Asian and European countries have adopted flexible labor policies, these are tightly overseen by the state with keen attention to the welfare of workers. These countries have also balanced the application of labor market flexibility with adequate social security measures to support people's welfare.
The challenge for the Indonesian government is to help all of its people fairly, without sacrificing any one group. It is not too late to reconsider and restructure the system so that a flexible labor market will bring benefits to all concerned. A friendly investment climate can be created in ways that do not put workers at a disadvantage. This will make it easier for the government to regain workers' trust, which it is increasingly depleting.
[The writer is researcher at the AKATIGA-Center for Social Analysis, Bandung. She can be reached at email@example.com]
Jakarta Post - February 16, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta The International Labor Organization (ILO) urged the government to take a comprehensive approach to eliminating the worst forms of child labor, with schools playing a key role in keeping children out of work.
The organization has set up a partnership with the government and other stakeholders to design school-related schemes to bring down the current figure of 3.2 million children in work.
"In cooperation with the World Bank, the ILO has supported the government's conditional cash transfer scheme to encourage poor families to send their school-age children to school, withdrawing child laborers from risky workplaces," ILO media officer Gita Lingga said Wednesday.
Gita added that the organization was also proposing to the Education Ministry that it focus part of its school funding, known as the school operational allowance, on enabling poor families to send their children to school.
"The ministry has accepted the ILO's comprehensive approach to empowering poor families to afford expensive education and to help make the nine-year compulsory education program a success," Gita said.
ILO said that child labor numbers are expected to multiply, reflecting the prolonged economic hardship affecting 19.2 million poor families. More school-age children are becoming involved in the worst forms of child labor, such as prostitution and drug trafficking.
A 2005 study by the Atmajaya Catholic University in Jakarta found out of 500 drug users aged up to 18 studied, 92 percent were also involved in drug trafficking, with 94 percent of them being boys. According to the ILO's 2002-2003 assessment, more than 28,000 women work as sex workers in Jakarta with 5,100 of them aged below 18.
Another ILO spokesperson, Abdul Hakim, said the organization was speaking with the Confederation of Indonesian Prosperous Labor Unions, the All-Indonesian Workers Union and the Indonesian Trade Union to improve their participation in monitoring the implementation of the school operational allowance scheme, to ensure it was reaching its intended beneficiaries.
"The ILO has also enhanced cooperation with civil society to provide vocational training, open elementary and high schools for under-18-year-old children and to move child laborers from risky employment to safe employment.
In the last two years, the ILO and NGOs have been concentrating on withdrawing child laborers in risky jobs in the mining, fishery and manufacturing sectors in North Sumatra, Jakarta, East Java and East Kalimantan," he said.
To enforce the ILO convention on the elimination of the worst forms of child labor, Indonesian labor laws and the child protection law, the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry has set up a national committee for the elimination of child labor. The Ministry will use its provincial branches to encourage local governments to step up their efforts to tackle child labor.
|War on corruption|
Jakarta Post - February 20, 2007
Jakarta Legislators in the House of Representatives said Monday the National Police had performed well under the leadership of Gen. Sutanto, but not well enough.
The police must have more power when dealing with corruption involving high-ranking state officials, legislators said during Gen. Sutanto's hearing with the House's Commission III, which oversees legal issues, human rights and security.
"The police are good when combating gambling, drug trafficking and prostitution. But they are weak when faced with corruption cases," deputy commission chairman Al-Muzammil Yusuf said.
"We believe corruption cases are tough ones because many high- ranking officials are involved," added Yusuf, a member of the Prosperous Justice Party.
He cited the case of North Sumatra Governor Rudolf Pardede, who was charged in 2005 with allegedly falsifying his high school diploma. The case has not been finalized due to a disagreement between the police and the Attorney's General Office (AGO). Rudolf remains in office.
"(The Rudolf case) is proof of the lack of coordination among state agencies," Yusuf said.
Yusuf said this lack of coordination was also apparent when Gen. Sutanto placed former top National Police detective Comr. Gen. Suyitno Landung Sudjono at the Mobile Brigade detention center in Kelapa Dua, Depok, instead of at the Cipinang penitentiary, East Jakarta, on claims it was "for Suyitno's own safety".
Meanwhile, Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin said the decision to move Suyitno was not due to security concerns, but to overcrowding at Cipinang prison.
Suyitno was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined Rp 50 million (US$5,510) after being found guilty of receiving a Nissan X-Trail sports utility vehicle from Adrian Waworuntu, while investigating him over the 2003 BNI bank lending scam.
Commission member Gayus Lumbuun added that the police must give its intelligence division stronger authority, comparable to the AGO's intelligence department, in order to tackle crime. He said most cases involving big-time criminals were only following up information from intelligence agencies.
"Former director of state run oil and gas company Pertamina, Tabrani Ismail, was an AGO fugitive and was finally recaptured by its intelligence department," cited Gayus, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Tabrani was convicted for corruption relating to a Pertamina export-oriented refinery project and sentenced to six years jail, with a fine of Rp 30 million. He caused losses to the state of US$189.58 million.
Tabrani had been a fugitive since August 2006 and was caught last week.
Meanwhile, a member of the National Mandate Party, Azlaini Agus, criticized the National Police for being selective in arresting illegal logging suspects.
"Why do police only arrest those who drive trucks carrying logs, but not the ones who mastermind the logging?" she asked. She suggested the police develop legal procedures for investigating illegal logging cases.
Jakarta Post - February 20, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta Legislators have described as unethical a minister's move to counter an ongoing investigation by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
They said the commission should continue with its investigation into the graft case at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry, in which State Secretary Yusril Mahendra is implicated.
In a hearing with National Police chief Gen. Sutanto here Monday, Patrialis Akbar of the National Mandate Party criticized Yusril's filing of a legal complaint last week with the KPK against commission chairman Taufiequrrahman Ruki over the KPK's decision to directly appoint a third party to procure monitoring equipment in 2005.
Patrialis said Yusril's move was unethical because he had filed the complaint just a day after being interrogated by the KPK as a witness in a 2002 graft case at the justice ministry, where Yusril was minister from 1999 to 2004, when he was named state secretary in the current Cabinet.
"Yusril's move is retaliation and discourages the eradication of corruption in the country, although irregularities were found in the procurement of the KPK's interception equipment," Patrialis said.
The legislator said he had obtained information from sources at the State Palace that the KPK had met the formal procedures for purchasing equipment in that it had obtained permission from the President for the deal to be exempt from the normal regulation.
"The KPK directly appointed a third party to supply the costly equipment from Germany for technical reasons, because the procurement of such equipment must be done covertly to prevent other countries from intercepting it when it is in use," he said.
The law commission will stand behind the minister if he is able to reveal any irregularities in the procurement of the equipment, he added.
A 2003 Presidential decree on the procurement of goods and services requires public bidding in deals worth Rp 50 million (US$5,510) or more to ensure transparency and accountability.
Nursyahbani Katjasungkana of the National Awakening Party also criticized Yusril, saying he was temperamental and arrogant, and asked the President to allow the KPK to question the minister in the investigation into the graft case in the procurement of finger-print equipment at the justice ministry.
"Yusril's actions should not be used as an excuse for legal action against him in the graft case. The KPK should declare him a suspect and bring him to justice if the commission has adequate evidence to do so," she said.
Deputy speaker at the House of Representatives Muhaimin Iskandar called on the President to ask the KPK to be objective and professional in its handling of the graft case at the ministry, even though it involved one of his Cabinet members.
Meanwhile, around 100 activist members of the Alliance of Law- Literate Society staged a protest outside the KPK's headquarters, demanding the commission investigate the case at the justice ministry, which cost the state Rp 6 billion.
The protesters also condemned Yusril's behavior, calling it "arrogant" and saying it was an attempt to intimidate the KPK and prevent it from investigating the corruption case.
Sydney Morning Herald - February 16, 2007
Mark Forbes Indonesia is planning to abolish its anti- corruption court in a move likely to reduce sentences for graft, prompting a walkout by watchdog groups which had been helping to draw up the new law.
A team formed by the Justice Minister, Hamid Awaluddin, is completing a bill to sack specialist anti-corruption judges and order graft trials be held in the Supreme and District courts. But Indonesian Corruption Watch claims these changes will curtail President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's drive to eliminate corruption, leaving anti-corruption agencies toothless.
"The anti-corruption court has been very powerful, important and credible," the watchdog's coordinator, Danang Widiyoko, said. "But now the system will be erased."
Established three years ago, the court has handed down tough sentences against 20 people. The draft bill reduces the role of the Corruption Eradication Commission and would dissolve the court which normally hears the commission's cases, Mr Widiyoko said.
The head of the World Bank's Indonesian governance unit, Joel Hellman, said both institutions were proving effective in combating corruption and "we would like to see them continue".
The chairman of the team drafting the anti-corruption law, Andi Hamzah, accused the court's ad hoc judges those not seconded from other courts of not knowing their jobs a statement described by a court spokesman as "an insult". Most of the 21 ad hoc judges had more than 20 years experience as judges, prosecutors and lawyers, he said.
Mr Widiyoko urged the President, who he said has spoken about the importance of combating corruption, to intervene.
[With Karuni Rompies.]
Jakarta Post - February 16, 2007
Jakarta The central bank uncovered more than 130 cases of banking-sector crimes involving losses of more than Rp 1.2 trillion (US$133 million) in 2006, revealing little improvement from previous years.
Bank Indonesia legal officer Hendrikus Ivo said that the central bank in cooperation with the National Police and the Attorney General's Office had uncovered 43 cases of criminal activity involving 33 banks, and another 91 cases involving rural credit banks (BPR).
"Total losses amounted to Rp 1.209 trillion and US$52 million, respectively," Hendrikus was quoted Thursday as saying by Antara, during a workshop on white-collar crime held in conjunction with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in Bandung.
The BI data revealed that most of the cases totaling some 600 uncovered during the period from 1999 to 2006 consisted of irregularities in the disbursement of loans (30 percent), irregularities in the management of central bank liquidity support funds, and the fabrication of financial data (17 percent in both cases).
Other cases involved abuse of office, markups and embezzlement. Total losses during the period from 2003 to 2006 alone amounted to Rp 5.32 trillion and $129.02 million, respectively.
Hendrikus said that the size of the losses would encourage BI and law enforcement agencies to further crack down on banking-sector crimes, which were becoming increasingly sophisticated.
BI and the KPK signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) last December to improve cooperation in the prevention and tackling of corruption in the banking sector through the establishment of an integrated customer data assessment center.
There are also programs to improve the capacity of the two institutions in handling banking-sector crimes.
The central bank had previously signed similar MoUs with the National Police, the AGO, and the country's money-laundering watchdog, the Financial Transactions Reporting and Analysis Center (PPATK).
For its part, the KPK has also entered into an agreement to strengthen cooperation with the PPATK.
BI has been active in promoting transparency and accountability within the banking sector, requiring lenders to implement such principles as "Know Your Customer", good corporate governance and proper selection tests for bank managers and owners.
Agence France Presse - February 20, 2007
Jakarta Devastating floods in the Indonesian capital earlier this month have caused nearly one billion dollars worth of damage and losses.
National Development Planning Minister Paskah Suzetta said direct losses from infrastructure damage and state revenue were at least 5.2 trillion rupiah (572 million dollars), higher than his earlier estimate of 4.1 trillion rupiah. Potential economic losses were estimated at another 3.6 trillion rupiah, newspapers quoted him as saying.
The floods which hit on February 2 covered much of the city and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. Some 85 people were killed in the sprawling city and surrounding districts.
Businesses and private individuals bore the brunt of the flood damage, accounting for 4.5 trillion of the estimated 5.2 trillion rupiah, while the government and related institutions and enterprises suffered about 650 billion rupiah in losses and damage.
He said the figures did not yet include damage to social and public facilities such as schools, clinics and hospitals.
"The flood has the potential to lower Jakarta's GDP growth by 0.59 percent in the industry and trade sector" and also hit growth in surrounding towns, he said.
Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar has blamed the floods on excessive construction on natural drainage areas, while city governor Sutiyoso has dismissed them as a "cyclical natural phenomenon."
Vice President Jusuf Kalla has told AFP that Sutiyoso and other officials should take responsibility for the devastation because of over-building which had not been accompanied by improved drainage.
"The richer people are, the more villas they build. So the mountains are full of villas. The green areas, including the rivers, are getting smaller and it is not balanced with a proper drainage system," he said.
Old Batavia, the former colonial port under Dutch rule from where Jakarta has expanded, was built on marshland and some areas of the capital are below sea level.
Detik.com - February 21, 2007
Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso is still a popular target of protests by victims of recent floods. Carrying children on their hips, on Wednesday February 21 hundreds of housewives rallied to call on the Number 1 person in Jakarta to resign.
The housewives, who came from the Urban Poor Union (SRMK), started the demonstration at around 10.30am by marching from the National Monument to the City Hall on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta.
The action was enlivened by speeches and shouts of "The government is flooded with money, the people are flooded with water" and "The government is flooded with money, the people are flooded with disease".
The protesters also brought a banners with the messages "Corruption is massive, the state foreign debt is massive, the legislator's wages are massive, the floods were also massive" and "The floods are the responsibly of Sutiyoso, President Yudhoyono and Vice President Kalla".
Posters meanwhile had messages such as "Houses on the flood plains are prohibited, but apartments are expensive", "Commercial buildings block the flow of water, the rubbish of the little people is blamed" and "Since the Dutch period the floods have not been solved".
The protesters then moved off to the offices of the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare and the State Palace. (aan/sss)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta Residents of Menteng, Central Jakarta, reported Governor Sutiyoso to the city police Friday over the ongoing redevelopment of the historic Persija soccer stadium.
The residents alleged the renovation had violated environmental and heritage laws and caused construction damage to the surrounding park.
"The redevelopment of Persija stadium is illegal. It violates the laws on the environmental impact analysis (Amdal) and the heritage conservation of Persija soccer stadium," a resident, Nazly Pujihati Siregar, said.
She said the project had caused a number of houses and streets in Menteng to flood up to 50 centimeters deep. The law on heritage conservation declares the Menteng soccer stadium, which was built by the Dutch administration in 1921, a heritage site.
Before lodging their complaint, about 15 residents protested outside the park. Workers stopped them from going any further.
German-born historian A. Heuken, who has lived in Menteng since 1960, said the project was not in line with current spatial planning frameworks, which showed more green areas than previous plans had.
"It does not fit with Sutiyoso's promises as over 40 percent of the property has been cemented over, damaging water catchment areas. The park is now located higher than its surrounding, thus the water will flow onto the streets or residential areas," he said.
The administration demolished the soccer stadium last year, despite protests from Menteng residents and Persija club members.
The administration began landscaping the park last October. On the four-hectare property there is a grassy area, two greenhouses, sports facilities, a playground and a four-story parking lot, which can accommodate more than 130 cars.
The sports facilities include soccer, basketball, roller-skating and jogging facilities, while the two greenhouses are to be used for flower shows. An official said Sutiyoso would inaugurate the park next month.
"We will go ahead with the plan to beautify the area. It is for the sake of the public. They can start playing sport in the park after the inauguration ceremony," said Juli Lubis of the central Jakarta municipal office.
He said there was no connection between the flood and the park's construction. "The claims the project worsened the floods do not make sense. It (flooding) has been happening for many years now. We built 48 rainwater seepage pits in the park in addition to the drainage system."
The redevelopment of Persija park is part of the city administration's plan to convert 14 percent of Jakarta's area, or 9,156 hectares, into green spaces by 2010.
Protests directed at Sutiyoso in the aftermath of the floods, which affected around 70 percent of the capital, are mounting. Earlier on Tuesday, the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta) also reported Sutiyoso to the National Commission on Human Rights over the floods.
Forum chairman Azas Tigor Nainggolan said the floods, which claimed 98 lives in Greater Jakarta, were categorized as a human rights violation.
Jakarta Post - February 15, 2007
Jakarta When a new regulation comes into effect next month, all buildings in the city's protected upland areas must come down.
In order to prevent further environmental damage in protected areas, the government is revising it spatial planning strategies and policies.
The draft of a presidential regulation on spatial planning in Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, Puncak and Cianjur collectively known as Jabodetabekpunjur states that all existing structures in protected areas must be demolished.
"The protected upstream areas must again function as water catchments, while the administrations in downstream areas should be encouraging the construction of multistory buildings to create more open spaces," Bambang Setyabudi, a member of the working committee drafting the regulation, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The regulation, which will replace the 1999 presidential decree on spatial planning in Jabodetabekpunjur, is expected to be effective next month.
Bambang, who is also deputy assistant to the State Minister for the Environment, said the committee was now discussing the status of mangrove swamps in Muara Gembong, Bekasi. There are currently 10,800 hectares of protected forests in Muara Gembong.
"However, most of the areas have been converted for commercial purposes, such as fish farming. The Forestry Ministry then issued a decree to convert 5,170 hectares of the area into productive forests," he said. "But the West Java administration wants the forests to be protected areas."
The committee says it will reach a decision on the issue on Monday, before submitting the final draft to the State Secretariat for presidential approval.
Bambang conceded the success of the regulation depended on the local administrations. "The committee does not have the authority to monitor the implementation of the regulation in the field," he said.
There are currently 34 regulations on the Jakarta, Bogor, Puncak and Cianjur spatial plans. Due to weak law enforcement, environmental problems in the regions continue to get worse. Research conducted by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) concluded each administration interpreted the policies to serve their own interests.
Bambang said sanctions for violators should also be stipulated in the regulation. The regulation includes directives on the integrated transportation and drainage systems in the region.
The governors of Jakarta, Banten and West Java are required to regularly report on the development of land in their areas to Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla has expressed concern about the overdevelopment of upland areas, seen as a major cause of the annual floods in the city. In his recent meeting with the three governors, Kalla urged the administrations to reforest critical areas of Puncak.
Jakarta Post - February 21, 2007
Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta A plan to plug the Lapindo exploratory gas well at the heart of the East Java mudflow might be ineffective and dangerous, an expert said Tuesday.
The national mudflow response team plans to drop high-density chained balls into the well in an attempt to curb the pressure from below, a move that is also hoped to reduce the volume of the mud coming out of the well by 70 percent.
"Plugging the well with chained balls made of sand and iron pellets might have repercussions from below and create a strong burst of balls (from the well) afterwards," said Dodd Nawangsidi, an engineer from the Bandung Institute of Technology, at a seminar on the mudflow.
Doddy, speaking at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BBPT)'s two-day International Geological Workshop on the Sidoarjo Mud Volcano, said the plan would not last long as a strong burst was likely to occur within a few months.
"The plan actually sounds rather funny as it's generally unfeasible," he said of the project, which could cost up to Rp 4 billion (US$442,000).
Soffian Hadi, a geologist from the national team, said that the project would be completed in several careful stages should it go ahead, with 25 to 100 balls being placed in the well each day.
"However, this resolution still needs to be studied further so as to check its feasibility," he told reporters.
He said the balls, measuring 20 and 40 centimeters in diameter and weighing up to 350 kilograms each would be attached four at a time to chains. "A solid crane will lower the balls down the well from between two towers," he added.
The team has been dealing with the mud by channeling it to the Porong River, which then carries it out to sea. Relief walls have also been used to stem the flow, although critics have said that they are not enough.
BBPT said the efforts to try to stop the mud from below ground were unprecedented and that no one had tried to block up a mud volcano before.
"Indonesia is unique because in other countries, what we call a mud volcano occurs far away from the people's residences or infrastructure," said Yusuf Surachman, a BPPT researcher.
Yusuf said people should continue to be concerned about the issue. "Just because time passes does not mean that we should be aloof to the problem," Yusuf said.
A professor from Kyoto University in Japan, James Mori, who oversees the university's disaster prevention research institute, said that there was no technology available to properly curb a mudflow.
"There's no way to stop it now. However, many people have tried to stop it. If anyone has a new idea then they should go ahead and try it," he said.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Rita A. Widiadana, Nusa Dua If you wished to better understand the condition of Indonesia's tropical forests, you could imagine them as a person suffering fourth-stage cancer very sick and hopeless.
This almost desperate statement was uttered by the nation's No. 1 person in the Forestry Ministry. In reality, it is much worse on the ground.
For more than 40 years Indonesia's forests have been prolific gold mines for a handful of elites in government and the business community.
Their illicit practices, usually immune to existing legal instruments, have caused tremendous destruction to the rich 120 million hectares of natural forests in Indonesia over the last four decades.
Almost 60 million hectares worth of forests in the country have been seriously degraded due to massive logging operations, both legal and illegal. The vast replacement of natural forests with industrial and production areas has also contributed to the large-scale destruction.
Such exploitations of nature damage 2.8 million hectares of forests every year.
Excessive exploitation of Indonesia's forests has resulted in tremendous disasters, including floods, landslides and a choking haze, being inflicted upon the nation's people, in addition to over 70 million people living in Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Southern Philippines and Southern Thailand. Such activities have caused irreparable damage to the environment.
"It will take 100 years to fully rehabilitate our degraded forests. The costs will be so huge it will be beyond our technical and financial capability," said Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban, adding that the current rehabilitation of 3 million hectares of forests had already absorbed US$190 million.
Pekka Patosaari, director of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), told The Jakarta Post during the forum's Country-Led Initiative meeting here in Nusa Dua early this week that Indonesia was both a rich and poor country.
"Indonesia is very rich. The country has abundant natural resources but lacks proper management and controls. The country losses potential revenue that can be used to improve its people's welfare," Patosaari said.
Hans P. Hoogeveen, chairman of the UNFF-7 Bureau, said Indonesia had gained a significant level of international attention. "Indonesia's forests have been the world's most precious lung. International cooperation will be arranged to help this country manage its natural resources wisely and effectively," he said.
Indonesia has the third largest area of tropical forests in the world. The country's forests are home to 10 percent of the world's plants, 12 percent of its mammals and 17 percent of its bird species. With this in mind, Indonesia's forests become one of the richest and most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world.
Unfortunately, few people have benefited from this potential. During the New Order era, beneficiaries of the Indonesian forests were those closest to then-president Soeharto. These included his children, and political and business cronies, as well as timber tycoons who had been granted concessions of more than 60 million hectares of forest land.
After the fall of Soeharto's regime, this list was extended to include new timber tycoons, governors and regents especially after regional autonomy was enforced in 2001.
"The government should not close its eyes to the bleak reality that there is a continuous joint effort from policy makers, business people, and military and police officials in exploiting Indonesian forests for their own benefits," the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) stated in a recent report.
The government, the report said, had failed to strictly control forestry and plantations for decades, adding that Indonesia's forestry management had been marred by corruption, incompetence and indifference.
Kaban admitted that despite efforts that have been made, the issue proved to be more complicated than was first thought. "There are many parties involved in the activities and their network has been extensive," he said.
Many "actors," or environmental criminals, continued to safely exist in the government bureaucracy, legislative bodies, the military and business. Drastic and brave action is sorely needed to bring these irresponsible and greedy people to justice in order to save the country's forests from enormous destruction.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Fadli, Batam Sand continues to be smuggled from Indonesia to Singapore despite a recent crackdown, Riau Islands Police chief Brig. Gen. Sutarman said in Batam on Friday.
Sutarman discussed the issue with the acting head of the Sea Security Coordinating Agency, Vice Adm. Djoko Sumaryono, during a ceremony in Batam.
"As I was returning home from Johor, Malaysia, by ferry on Thursday, I saw for myself at least 10 barges flying Indonesian flags filled with sand and granite heading toward a reclamation project in Singapore. Sand smuggling is apparently still going on. We urge the central government, through the agency, to deal with the problem because the police do not have the necessary resources," said Sutarman.
Riau Islands Police will begin posting officers at every sand quarry in the province next week in an effort to curb the smuggling. "They will monitor where the sand is being sent, whether it's for Indonesia's purpose or is being smuggled out of the country," said Sutarman.
Police will also monitor sand exporters, to stop them from shipping sand to other provinces before rerouting the shipments to Singapore. "We will also inspect every shipment of granite which might just be a camouflage to carry sand," said Sutarman.
Djoko said his office would follow up on the report of the illegal sand shipments to Singapore. The Trade Ministry issued a ban on exports of coastal sand, earth and top soil on Jan. 22. The ban came into effect on Feb. 6.
"We urge related agencies in the provinces authorized to secure the sea to be firm and cooperate in curbing this problem, because we cannot do the work alone," said Djoko.
Djoko accused Singapore of not treating Indonesia fairly when it came to the issue of sand exports. He said that prior to the ban, Singapore was only paying S$5 per cubic meter of sand. After the Indonesian government issued the ban, Singapore raised the price to S$16 per cubic meter.
"Singapore is now offering to pay S$31 for each cubic meter, while it buys sand from China for S$48 per cubic meter. This is just an example of how Singapore treats us. Our job is to raise awareness to prevent Indonesia's natural wealth, including sand, from being smuggled out of the country," said Djoko.
Djoko said his agency was officially launched on Dec. 29, 2006, by Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs Widodo AS, who also acts as agency head. It was set up based on a 2005 presidential decree on sea security.
The agency coordinates with 12 state institutions involved in securing the sea, including the Navy, water, air and port police, and customs office. It will set up five territorial offices in the provinces to facilitate operations, including one in Batam, Riau Islands.
The head of the agency's Sea Security Policy Preparation Center, police Brig. Gen. E.H. Allagan, said the agency would lease four satellites at a price of US$96,000 per year to monitor activity in the country's waters.
These satellites will be able to monitor activity at various ports, as well as sea traffic in the country. The agency will also be able to use the satellites to check on cargo carried by ships passing through Indonesian waters.
"The operational costs will be covered by the state budget, and it is being discussed by the government now. The satellites are urgent, keeping in mind that a great deal of our country's natural wealth has been stolen and smuggled overseas. And don't try to collaborate with smugglers, because we know what you are doing," said Allagan.
Jakarta Post - February 15, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta Environmental organizations are at odds over a forest trade-in deal signed by the government and a number of forestry companies to enlarge a national park in Riau.
The trade-in deal backed by the global conservation organization WWF is an effort to expand the 38,000-hectare Tesso Nilo National Park to some 100,000 hectares. Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban recently accepted the trade, which would convert 52,000 hectares of forest into industrial forest in exchange for the inclusion of some 60,000 hectares of forest managed by several companies in an expanded park.
Greenomics Indonesia wants the government to revise the deal, calling it unfair and devastating and arguing that it threatens local people's access to the forests, which are rich in biodiversity. It also alleges the deal endangers rare species and the ecosystem of the conservation forest.
"We will raise the issue in international forums to show that the government has no commitment to protecting the environment and rare species," Greenomics executive director Elfian Effendi told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The trade-in was proposed by WWF and Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Ltd (APRIL) owned by Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) representing three forest concession owners: PT Hutani Sola Lestari, Nanjak Makmur and Siak Raya Timber.
WWF proposed the park enlargement to save elephants and other rare species whose habitats have been converted into palm oil plantations and farms.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) agreed with Greenomics, saying it would campaign against WWF in the international arena and ask donor countries to suspend their financial aid to the organization.
Walhi said both the government and WWF had failed to consult local environmental groups before inking the deal.
With the trade-in, critics said, areas to be converted into industrial forests could no longer function as water catchments to supply water for locals and prevent floods in Riau and the neighboring provinces of Jambi and West Sumatra. The industrial forests around the park would also prevent locals from gathering wood and ingredients for herbal medicines from inside the park.
The WWF said the deal was spearheaded by the Forestry Ministry. "The trade-in proposal is a realistic and quick solution to save endangered wildlife in Riau," said WWF policy and advocacy director Nazir Foead.
He said WWF did approach the forest concession holders to secure part of their concession forest areas for the enlarged national park and "they came up with a proposal that was then finally accepted by the Forestry Ministry."
He defended the government's decision, saying it was unrealistic for the government and WWF to wait until the forest concessions expired in the next 20 years to enlarge the park. Some 200 elephants badly needed more space, he said, so as not to destroy local residents' farms and houses.
Jakarta Post - February 15, 2007
Urip Hudiono, Jakarta The government plans to reclaim, for a second time, up to 500,000 hectares of peatland in Central Kalimantan for agricultural and plantation use as part of a nationwide effort to revitalize the agricultural sector.
The land in question was part of a failed New Order-era project to turn one million hectares of peatland in the province into agricultural land, before being largely abandoned.
Central Kalimantan Governor Teras Narang said the vast tracts of peatland which traverse the province's Barito Selatan, Kapuas and Pulang Pisau regencies, within easy reach of the province's capital, Palangkaraya will be planted with rice and other field crops. Some of the land will also be used for cattle raising and aquaculture.
Another 600,000 hectares of peatland will be conserved to reduce damage to the ecosystem, the governor added.
"This marks the resurrection of the 'one million hectares of peatland' program," he told reporters Wednesday after attending a Cabinet meeting at the State Palace. The governor was referring to the failed Soeharto-era peatland reclamation program.
"We hope that what is now a land of a million woes will be converted into a land of a million hopes again."
Teras said that the central government had agreed to support a collaboration between local administrations and the private sector in the implementation and management of the program.
"We will be ready to go as soon as the official presidential instruction for the program to start has been issued," he said. "How much development financing will be needed and the program's timeframe are still being assessed and discussed."
Indonesia's boasts the fourth-largest area of peatland in the world at 17 million hectares, with 13 million hectares having the potential to be developed for agriculture.
Previous efforts to convert the peatlands into productive agricultural areas have, however, met with disastrous results. The 1.1 million hectares of peatland included in the new program are, in fact, part of the 1.4 million hectares that the Soeharto administration had planned to reclaim in 1995.
Lack of proper planning resulted in the failure of the program after some Rp 1.2 trillion (US$133 million) had been wasted. The collapse of the project also stranded 64,000 transmigrants from Java on land they could not cultivate. The project resulted in an environmental disaster, with only 6,000 hectares being successfully reclaimed. The rest of the area turned into a barren wasteland.
Last year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched a nationwide program to revitalize Indonesia's agricultural sector, aimed at increasing domestic rice production and utilizing idle land for biofuel plantations.
As part of this revitalization program, 13,000 hectares of peatland in Central Kalimantan have been reclaimed for agriculture, with the first harvest being brought in last September. The government wants to increase local rice production this year by two million tons to 32.9 million tons in order to secure supplies, which frequently have to be augmented through imports.
The government also plans to develop biofuel plantations covering 6.5 million hectares, and has allocated some Rp 13 trillion for the purpose. This forms part of the effort to replace 10 percent of the country's fuel needs which amounted to 70 million kiloliters last year with biofuels by 2010.
|Health & education|
Jakarta Post - February 21, 2007
Jakarta The National Commission for Child Protection urged the House of Representatives on Tuesday to pressure the government to restrict the sale of single cigarettes, in a bid to protect children from tobacco.
"Nowadays, cigarette firms are targeting children (anyone below 18 years old) in commercials on television, posters, billboards, and even in the sponsorship of music (and) sporting events," commission Secretary General Arist Merdeka Sirait said during a hearing with the House's Commission VIII, which oversees religious, social and women's empowerment issues.
"Allowing downstream distributors to sell single cigarettes for only Rp 500 (5.5 US cents) each eases children's access to tobacco," he added.
A student who joined the National Commission at the hearing said the price of a single cigarette was the same as for one pisang goreng (fried banana), making them affordable for children.
A 2006 study by the Global Youth Tobacco Survey showed 14.4 percent of the country's children aged between 13 and 15 years old had been offered free cigarettes by manufacturers, despite the practice being prohibited by a 2003 government regulation. As many as 93 percent of the surveyed children had seen cigarette commercials on billboards and 83 percent had seen them in newspapers and magazines.
According to a 2006 survey by the Drug and Food Monitoring Agency, 14,249 cigarette commercials appeared in the mass media and communal places throughout the country during that year.
The number of smokers aged below 19 years increased from 69 percent in 2001 to 78 percent in 2004, proving that child smoking was a widespread problem, Arist said.
The government said last week it would start imposing retail price increases for cigarettes in March and raise the special tax on tobacco products in July, despite mounting protests from cigarette makers.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati stated in December that the retail price of cigarettes would rise by seven percent from March 1 this year.
Cigarette producers will also be required to pay a special tax on top of standard tobacco excise duties of Rp 7 per cigarette in the case of cigarette firms with an annual production of more than 2 billion cigarettes (so-called category one firms); Rp 5 per cigarette for firms with an annual production of between 500 million and 2 billion cigarettes (category two firms); and Rp 3 per cigarette for firms with an annual production of less than 500 million cigarettes a year (category three firms).
Currently, excise duty is imposed at a rate of 40 percent of the official price for category one firms; 36 percent for category two firms; and 26 percent for category three firms.
Arist said the government's price rises did not go far enough. "The country sells cigarettes at lower prices compared to neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. To address this gap, a pack of cigarettes should be sold for at least Rp 20,000," he added.
The chairman of Commission VIII, Hasrul Azwar, said he would put the National Commission's suggestions on his agenda for meetings with the government.
Reuters - February 17, 2007
Jakarta Indonesia faces a growing AIDS problem particularly among drug users and prostitutes while a recent survey shows two percent of the Papua population infected with HIV, the World Health Organisation said on Saturday.
The sprawling, developing nation of 220 million people also faces constraints and lack of resources to cope with the problem, Bjorn Melgaard of the WHO said at the release of the report.
"Indonesia has one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in Asia. Although the HIV prevalence among adults is still generally low, it has reached high levels among specific populations like injecting drug users and sex workers," the report said.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation but many of its citizens have a liberal attitude toward sex and prostitution is a thriving part of the economy in many areas. Drug usage has also been growing, police say.
The WHO report highlighted a growing concern over HIV cases in the remote eastern area of Papua, where it said a recent survey showed that prevalence of HIV in the general population was 20 times the national average and two percent were infected with HIV.
The report said there was "recent evidence of a generalised epidemic" in Papua and cited the undeveloped health care system and a lack of resources to cope with the problem.
Papua, with a population of two million occupying a land area almost as large as Iraq, has around 300 indigenous tribes, some still living in virtually Stone Age conditions, with different sets of languages and traditions.
The Southeast Asian country overall faced constraints dealing with the problem ranging from weak preventative programmes among high risk groups, blood safety issues and poor quality of clinical care, Melgaard said.
The report did not provide estimates on cases in Indonesia, but Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari warned in November that the country could see half a million HIV cases by 2010, and double that if preventive steps are not taken.
At that time, estimates put the number of cases in a range of 169,000-216,000 in Indonesia although only about 7,000 full-blown AIDS cases had been reported. That represents an overall estimated HIV infection rate of about 0.1 percent of the population.
|Economy & investment|
Jakarta Post - February 20, 2007
Andi Haswidi, Jakarta To help make state companies more efficient and competitive, the government plans to reduce the number of nationalized firms to 69 over three years from the current figure of 139.
The plan will be implemented through various mechanisms, including merger and privatization.
"The target is to reduce the number of state firms to 69 through mergers, privatizations, liquidations and other mechanisms," Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters Monday after a limited ministerial coordinating meeting.
The plan, Kalla said, was expected to bolster the performance of state firms amid increasing competition, both domestic and global.
He insisted that signs of progress in the state sector were already becoming apparent, pointing out that this year the government was targeting 22.5 percent growth in state-firm profits from the Rp 72.44 trillion booked last year.
"We are targeting a minimum of 20 percent growth, but we have agreed on 22.5 percent on average. So, it's good. State-owned companies will now be required to fast-track all the programs in their pipelines," Kalla said.
"These companies have to increase their investment levels for the sake of the nation's development. There are high-performing companies and there are also weak ones," he said.
State Minister for State Enterprises Sugiharto gave the following details of the resizing plan: reducing 139 companies to 102 in 2007, to 87 in 2008, to 69 in 2009, to 50 in the period between 2012 and 2015, and a further reduction to 25 after 2015.
However, the plan would still have to await an agreement between the coordinating ministries, the Finance Ministry and other relevant ministries, as well as the approval of the House of Representatives.
"All the processes, such as mergers, ownership dilution, divestment, etc., will need the support of all the stakeholders, including the legislators," Sugiharto explained.
For the short term, he said, it was expected that at least 4 state firms oil and gas firm Pertamina, a proposed holding company for state mining firms, state gas company PT PGN, and a proposed holding company for state plantation firms would come close to completing fast-track restructuring in 2007 and 2008, and that these would serve as pioneers capable of competing globally.
As for the state-bank sector, Sugiharto said that the issues involved were still being discussed internally and that consultations would soon be carried out with Bank Indonesia soon.
"I cannot say whether there will definitely be bank mergers. But the Vice President suggested the need to study the concept of a development bank, like those that exist in some overseas countries," he said.
A development bank would be beneficial as it would provide long- term loans, unlike Indonesia's private banks, which tend to cater to short-term financing needs, Sugiharto explained.
Under the 2007 national budget, the government is targeting a total of Rp 3.3 trillion in privatization proceeds, with Rp 1.300 trillion of this being injected as fresh capital for 8 state firms: PT KAI, Garuda, Kertas Leces, PIM, INKA, Perum SPU, BBI and PTPN XIV.
Sugiharto said that he also expected total capital expenditure by state companies to increase this year by 62.78 percent to Rp 114.1 trillion from Rp 70.1 trillion in 2006.
Jakarta Post - February 17, 2007
Jakarta Outstanding loans to small and medium enterprises amount to Rp 426 trillion (about US$47.33 billion), or more than 50 percent of the total loans extended by the banking industry,
However, the impact on job creation has been minimal as most of the loans are extended to trading businesses, which pose less risks than industrial enterprises, says Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) commissioner Aviliani.
"The banks are reluctant to give loans to the productive sector as the risks are higher compared to the trading sector," Aviliani said Thursday during a seminar on microfinance.
She said that for many banks, the risks posed by the industrial sector were too high as manufacturing businesses still had problems as regards marketing and securing raw materials.
"The government must establish a clearly defined structure for the industrial sector so that upstream and downstream industries can support one another," she explained.
According to Bank Indonesia figures, outstanding loans to micro, small and medium-scale businesses rose by 15.6 percent to Rp 426 trillion in 2006. The greater part of the overall loans in value terms went to trading businesses.
Loans to micro, small and medium-enterprises accounted for 52.9 percent of the total of Rp 832.9 trillion lent out by the country's banks in 2006.
In BRI's lending portfolio, for example, the trading sector secured 26.01 percent of total-loan value for micro, small and medium-enterprises, while the industrial sector only received 8.27 percent of the total.
Bank Indonesia Deputy Governor Muliaman D Hadad said that the country's current macroeconomic stability would not be sufficient on its own to alleviate the unemployment and poverty problems.
"We predict that our economy will grow by between 5.9 and 6.3 percent this year, but this will not be enough to overcome the unemployment and poverty problems as growth is being driven by consumption, rather than by new investment," he explained.
He said that the strengthening of the micro, small and medium- enterprise sector would be one effective way of overcoming unemployment and poverty.
Unfortunately, he said, these types of enterprises faced various intractable problems, such as a lack of capital. Meanwhile, it was difficult for them to access bank loans due to their inability to provide collateral and satisfy other loan requirements.
"Lending to micro, small and medium industrial enterprises is still far from satisfactory as the banks lack sufficient information on prospective sectors in these industrial categories," he explained.
Therefore, he said, it was essential that bankers had access to better information on prospective businesses. "In addition, the use of insurance should be also promoted in order to help reduce the risks for micro, small and medium enterprises."
|Opinion & analysis|
Green Left Weekly - February 21, 2007
Peter Boyle, Jakarta Dita Sari is arguably the most well-known progressive activist in Indonesia today. A former trade union leader and political prisoner under the Suharto regime, she is now the chairperson of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), which is the leading force in the new, broader National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas). Sari was interviewed in Jakarta by Green Left Weekly's Peter Boyle after the founding conference of Papernas in January, which selected her as its candidate for the 2009 presidential elections.
Now that Papernas has been launched, what is the future of the PRD?
The whole resources, infrastructure, energy, finances and political attention of the PRD are to be devoted to Papernas. Papernas will be our political face at least until the 2009 presidential elections.
This is not a new tactic for the PRD. Since the Suharto dictatorship fell, the PRD has participated in the elections in 1999 and 2002. We were not successful but we are trying to repeat this tactic with more preparation and concentration.
We also see this as an opportunity to grow. We are using the conditions set for electoral registration to set up many new branches.
We see that the extra-parliamentary movement, the one that we focused on very much since the 2004 elections, has failed to make a qualitative development. Mostly these movements are based on local and sectoral issues and the effort required to consolidate them into a more long-term political movement hasn't yet succeeded. So we see the 2009 presidential elections as an opportunity to do this.
With the focus now on building Papernas with a more limited political platform, what will happen to the PRD's political program?
The PRD tried to participate as much as possible in struggles on many issues. But we realised that we could not allow the fragmentation in the movements to result in the fragmentation of the party's energy. If we distribute our energy over many issues we will not be able to maximise our impact. So we see this presidential election campaign as a way of concentrating the party's energy.
We are going to prioritise building Papernas in the next period. We have had to choose between what issues we can take up and what issues we cannot, even in the mass organisations, like the unions. This was not a very easy decision because the PRD is very much a party of the movements. So it was not easy to convince many comrades to take this road. But we have made a decision and we must carry it out.
What will you do if despite your best efforts Papernas is unable to break through the domination of electoral politics by the parties of the rich elite?
Even to fulfill the requirements for electoral registration is very difficult. The department of justice requires that we have 180 branches. We have only 140 so far, so we still have a lot of work to do and only six months to get the next 40. And the electoral department requires that we have branches in at least 75% of all the districts in Indonesia. That is very hard. It means we will need about 270 branches!
If we fail to do this we are also preparing a second scenario of forming coalitions with other political parties to fulfill the requirements of the electoral laws.
Even if we are marginalised in the elections, we will have formed more branches and spread progressive political consciousness. We already have more people drawing nearer to us than before through Papernas. So even in the worst case scenario in the elections, we will have the big job of consolidating all these new Papernas branches, politically educating the new members and trying to win them to the politics of the PRD.
Will the PRD still retain its basic organisation and structure during this big turn towards building the new party?
I am the chairperson of the PRD but most of my work now is building the broader alliances on behalf of Papernas so that we can respond to the presidential elections. Some projects of the PRD will still carry on, such as our publication Pembebasan.
Our basic organisation will still be there. PRD is the driving force in Papernas. Before PRD members go to Papernas meetings we will discuss first as PRD members what we are going to bring to those meetings. But while the PRD will still be preserved, its structures will be reduced as Papernas structures develop.
The PRD has come to be associated with more than anti-imperialist and national-democratic politics. It is associated with socialist politics. Will this continue to be projected while you build Papernas around a more limited anti-imperialist platform?
Participating in the electoral process places some political limitations on us in Indonesia today. We knew that was one of the consequences of deciding to participate. We are willing to work within those limitations because it is necessary, but at the same time we seek to go beyond that. For instance, we will be campaigning against all attempts to introduce repressive electoral legislation, but we will still have to work within the framework of such laws.
It is almost impossible to campaign for socialism in the electoral sphere at present. But if there is a chance we in the PRD will seek ways to campaign for socialism, but perhaps not through Papernas.
You are probably best-known around the world as one of the founders and leaders of the FNPBI trade union federation. What is its future in this period of extreme neoliberal pressure, where workers are being laid off by the thousands and union militants victimised?
The FNPBI seeks to present political leadership in the trade union movement and part of this leadership is pointing out to the other trade unions that, if they want to survive in the current extremely difficult conditions, we need to make a political breakthrough. If unions simply try and organise in the traditional way, they will be defeated.
What is the approach of Papernas to the political movements for self-determination in Aceh and West Papua?
We understand that Indonesia is not a final project and that there has been repression of many regional movements that questioned being part of Indonesia. Papernas has not yet formally adopted a position on self-determination. But I am certain it will strongly oppose the intervention by the military or the police against any local political movements and respect their right to self-determination, whether that includes a demand for independence or not. That is a basic democratic right and so far we agree on those principles in Papernas. We have not gone beyond that to advocate independence for Aceh or West Papua.
Jakarta Post Editorial - February 20, 2007
The mudslinging between the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra poses yet another test for the government's graft fight.
At the same time, the anti-corruption body is facing a moment of truth to prove that its work is genuine and free from political motives.
Yusril was appointed to the Cabinet after supporting Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the 2004 presidential campaign, despite his position as the justice and human rights minister under then President Megawati Soekarnoputri. Yusril's Crescent Star Party was among three minor parties along with the Democrat Party and the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party that nominated Yudhoyono as president and Jusuf Kalla as vice president.
The public has been carefully watching the commission's investigation into the 2002 procurement of a Rp 18.4 billion (US$2.04 million) Automatic Fingerprint Identification System by the Yusril-led Justice Ministry. Unfortunately, with Yusril and the graft commission trading barbs, the case involving the state secretary has taken on the appearance of a political struggle.
Shortly after being questioned as a witness in connection with the alleged inflation of the purchase price of the system, Yusril pressed a graft charge against KPK chairman Taufiequrrahman Ruki for allegedly failing to hold an open tender for the procurement of wiretapping equipment worth Rp 34 billion, as required by a 2003 presidential decree on government procurements.
It is interesting to note, however, that Yusril, as the state secretary, signed the letter from the President giving the KPK approval to directly appoint the company that procured the equipment in 2005.
The graft body insists the fingerprint identification system project violated the same presidential decree, and caused Rp 6 billion in state losses, which Yusril has denied.
In firing back at the commission, Yusril, himself a lawyer, has referred to the same laws used by the KPK to make him undergo questioning, which to many people had the appearance of a trial. In fact, many active and retired officials have played a waiting game to try and distract graft investigators from their cases, or simply to show them who holds the real power.
There is a good possibility this current tussle will lead to the corruption case involving the Justice Ministry being dropped or simply forgotten.
Nobody but President Yudhoyono is capable of putting an end to the open conflict between the KPK and Yusril, given the fact that the President directly oversees both parties. To the domestic and international communities, the dispute simply highlights a fissure within the Yudhoyono administration and the President's failure to address this problem will raise more doubts about his managerial competence.
Yudhoyono needs to clarify the graft allegations against the KPK, a body which to this point has provided a ray of hope that corruption in Indonesia can be curbed. But more importantly, the President has to order the KPK to go ahead with its investigation into the graft case involving the Justice Ministry and Yusril, given his promise to start the war on corruption from his office. He has also vowed not to protect government officials implicated in corruption cases, and so far he has lived up to this promise by issuing permits for investigations into dozens of governors, regents and councilors.
This does not mean the graft body can play down the corruption allegation raised by Yusril, but it should maintain its focus on the high-profile case at the Justice Ministry and pursue the investigation of the KPK chairman later.
On top of that, the President must prove accusations the current anti-corruption drive is specifically targeting government officials under his predecessor Megawati are false.
Yusril is not the only former Megawati official to be investigated by the graft body. Former minister of religious affairs Said Agil Al Munawar was sentenced to five years in jail in February last year for graft, and former fisheries minister Rokhmin Dahuri is standing trial for allegedly collecting levies for his personal use. KPK deputy chairman Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas has denied a selective crackdown, saying the anti- graft body would investigate anyone if it had solid evidence of wrongdoing.
President Yudhoyono needs to convince the public that only the entire nation, not him or any other party, can win the war on corruption.
Asia Times - February 16, 2007
Bill Guerin, Jakarta Singapore's aggressive regional investment strategy has already taken bilateral relations with Thailand to an all-time low, but a rising tide of economic nationalism and unresolved extradition issues with neighboring Indonesia potentially represents a more crucial test for the island state's economic diplomacy.
Last week the Indonesian navy seized and later released three vessels flying Singaporean flags in waters separating Singapore from Indonesia's nearby Riau Islands. One week later, eight warships from Indonesia's Western Fleet continue to patrol the waters to enforce a recent government ban on sand exports to Singapore.
Controversy over Singapore's land-reclamation projects, which entail huge imports of foreign sand and soil, represent the latest spat in a historically prickly bilateral relationship one that is coming under increasing strain that threatens Singapore's Indonesia-based investments.
Former Indonesian president B J Habibie famously referred to Singapore as that "unfriendly little red dot" built from Indonesian sand and migrant Indonesian laborers. Such sentiments are long-standing, but Singapore's sandbagging over Jakarta's request for a bilateral extradition treaty has kept relations on a high boil for the past decade.
The two sides have been negotiating the issue on and off for more than three decades, although the issue became particularly heated after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, when a number of ethnic-Chinese Indonesian businessmen absconded with huge amounts of cash they allegedly illegally deposited in Singaporean bank accounts.
In Singapore's drive to position itself as a regional financial center, it maintains strict banking-secrecy laws, earning it the reputation as the "Switzerland of Asia". Officials claim they have put enough safeguards in place to prevent the island state from becoming a money-laundering center. However, until recently Singapore conspicuously refused to include any economic crimes in the draft of a proposed extradition treaty between the two countries.
News this month suggests the two sides are moving closer to a draft agreement that would potentially include extradition for certain still-undefined economic crimes. However, a final agreement is still likely a long way off because the two countries agreed in October 2005 that any extradition treaty must be linked to a defense-cooperation agreement, of which negotiations have barely begun.
As the sand ban and other bilateral tensions mount, Temasek Holdings, Singapore's state-linked investment arm, is starting to stir nationalistic sentiments through its growing list of Indonesia-based acquisitions. Temasek now holds significant stakes in Indonesia's biggest mobile-telecommunication operators, PT Telekomunikasi Selular (Telkomsel) and PT Indosat controlling stakes that are now under the scrutiny of the government's anti-monopoly agency.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the son of Lee Kuan Yew, previously headed Temasek when he served as deputy prime minister. It is now headed by his wife Ho Ching. Temasek now controls more than US$100 billion of government investments, including 67% of Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) and 100% of Singapore Technologies. ST Telemedia, a subsidiary of Singapore Technologies, in January 2002 bought a 41.94% stake in Indosat, Indonesia's giant satellite-telecommunications company, from the Indonesian government for US$650 million. SingTel later in 2003 paid US$1billion for a 35% stake in Indonesia's leading mobile-phone operator.
Both deals came soon after the government broke PT Telekomunikasi's monopoly on telecommunications, and foreign expertise and capital was expected to improve the country's laggard infrastructure and services. Five years on, nationalist legislators are alleging that both operators which between them dominate 80-90% of the local cellular market have joined forces to fix prices and block new entrants to the market.
Legislators say this has made international Internet network tariffs in Indonesia prohibitively expensive, badly stunting the country's Internet growth rate. Bakrie Telecom, part of Indonesia's top conglomerate Bakrie Brothers, controlled by the family of Indonesia's coordinating minister for welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, is allegedly behind the legislative backlash.
Bakrie Telcom currently has only a million subscribers, but last month the government granted the politically connection company a license to operate nationally, expanding on its original concession, which restricted it to the archipelago's main island of Java. Drajad Wibowo, a member of the parliamentary budget commission, has recently warned that foreign dominance in the national telecommunication industry could have dangerous national-security implications and has urged the government to buy back Temasek's Indosat shares.
That echoes the sentiments of Thailand's nationalistic military- coup makers, who have publicly accused Singapore of eavesdropping on military officials' telephone communications through the communications satellite Temasek obtained through its controversial US$1.9 billion purchase of the Shin Corporation in January 2006. It's also similar to the nationalistic policies Malaysia has put in place on exporting sand and possibly limiting water supplies to the island state.
Parliamentary grandstanding has undermined Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's diplomatic attempts to reconcile bilateral ties and encourage more Singaporean investment into the country. Earlier Yudhoyono had vowed to resolve "rationally" outstanding issues and avoid the "megaphone" diplomacy through the media that in the past had complicated bilateral relations.
Three months into his term, Yudhoyono in 2004 came under fire from the parliamentary commission of defense and security, which demanded that military training and cooperation with Singapore be halted if the island state continued to dally on signing a comprehensive extradition treaty.
That conciliatory approach has often brought him into conflict with Parliament, which has frequently played the nationalist card in an attempt to turn public opinion against his pro-Singapore and pro-foreign-investment stance. He will likely be more sensitive to those xenophobic calls as competing political parties gear up for general elections in 2009. And, significantly for Singapore, those calls are mounting.
Opposition politician and popular political soothsayer Permadi Satrio Wibowo recently demanded that the government sever diplomatic relations with Singapore if it doesn't soon sign an extradition treaty. House of Representatives commission member Djoko Susilo, who is charged with overseeing security and international affairs, led angry lawmakers in a rally last year to demand a public apology and explanation from Singapore's Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew for comments he made insinuating Indonesia's minority Chinese community was "systematically marginalized".
Even with that growing public and parliamentary outcry, Singaporean lawmakers are still putting more fuel on the fire. Singaporean legislator Madam Ho Geok Choo asked in parliamentary session this week if actions like Indonesia's recent ban on sand exports arose from the "politics of envy". Perhaps, but the wealthy island state may soon find it has one fewer regional destination in which to invest its huge surplus of capital.