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Indonesia News Digest 40 October 25-31, 2007
News & issues
Kompas - October 30, 2007
Makassar, Kompas On the morning of Monday October 29, police
officers from the East Makassar district police in South Sulawesi
sabotaged a planned meeting of the National Liberation Party of
Unity (Papernas) that was to be held at the Makassar Bhumibhakti
Adhiguna Public Hall. Police said that meeting organisers did not
have a permit.
In the end, the meeting that was initially planned to run for two
hours and take up the theme of the Spirit of the 1928 Youth
Pledge, was trimmed down to just a 20 minute speech. Because it
was guarded by scores of police officers, the mass of Papernas
supports the majority of which were housewives were only
able to stand in front of the entrance to the building and listen
to a speech by Papernas presidential candidate Dita Indah Sari.
In her speech, Dita condemned the police's actions saying that it
violated the 1945 Constitution on citizen's freedom of assembly
and association. At the end of the speech, Dita asked that the
scores of people gathered outside disburse immediately.
In relation to the incident, East Makassar District Police Chief
Deputy Senior Commissioner Kamaruddin said that police had only
been following regulations. The organisers of the meeting did not
have a permit so the Papernas meeting was illegal.
Dita however believes that the prohibition by police had
absolutely no basis because the organisers of the even had
already sent a written notification to the Greater Makassar
Regional Police and the East Makassar District Police Chief. She
said that the prohibition is part of a systematic attempt to
sabotage Papernas activities, particularly in Makassar and South
Sulawesi. "We will be submitting a complaint over the matter",
In the past, attempts to prevent Papernas activities from going
ahead have often occurred in Java. Obstruction has not just come
from police, but also from mass organisations that accuse
Papernas of having a communist ideology and say that the
organisation should banned. (DOE)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - October 28, 2007
Alfian, Jakarta Indonesia's future leaders should ideally be
aged under 40 years as they are less likely to have been
"contaminated" by the New Order regime, an observer said
Bima Arya Sugiarto from the Lead Institute at Paramadina
University said that the older generation should no longer lead
the country as they were exposed for too long to the New Order
Speaking at a discussion titled "It's time for the youth to lead
Indonesia", Bima said the younger generation should take over all
levels of leadership. Indonesia will hold its next general
elections in 2009.
"The 2009 presidential election should at least have the vice
president and half of the Cabinet from the younger generation,"
Bima said. One young leader, however, said it was not yet time
for her generation to take charge.
Zannuba "Yenny" Ariffah Chafsoh Rahman Wahid, secretary general
of the National Awakening Party (PKB), said she was not ready to
be a leader, saying she still needed to learn a lot about the
"It's not about my age but the are plenty of problems I still
have to study," she told the discussion. "Running for president
is also very expensive when compared to running for mayor, regent
Yenny said the most important thing to do when leading the
country was to have empathy. "Most people are confused about what
to do when they are appointed or elected to a public position."
The discussion coincided with the commemoration of Youth Pledge
Day on Sunday.
Also speaking at the discussion were Indonesian Democratic Party
of Struggle (PDI-P) executive Maruarar Sirait and well-known
movie director Garin Nugroho.
Currently only former president and PDI-P chairwoman Megawati
Soekarnoputri has been openly nominated by the party to run for
the presidency. The PKB has not officially named its candidate
but it is likely to be founder and chief patron Abdurrahman "Gus
While there are yet to be new names for presidential candidates,
Bima said major parties already had young members with potential.
"Regulations on elections allowing direct elections and
independent candidates are very supportive for the emergence of
new figures," he said. "Society is also demanding such a change."
While agreeing that the young generation should be involved more
in the political realm, Yenny Gus Dur's daughter said both
old and young generations should not dichotomized.
She also criticized the attitudes of some young politicians.
"Some young politicians seem very idealistic at the beginning but
once they get power, they also become corrupt," she said.
In this regard, Bima said young politicians should have three
assets in addition to capacity and integrity. "They must
independent financially, faithful and should enter politics
together with other young politicians," he said.
Although all speakers agreed the younger generation was needed in
Indonesian politics, they thought it was unlikely that any party
would nominate a young member as a presidential candidate.
"We still named Megawati as a presidential candidate because she
is the only figure that can compete with Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono," said Maruarar, adding that Megawati's nomination was
also supported by the party's younger members.
News & issues
Police sabotage Papernas mass meeting in Makassar
Indonesia 'needs younger leaders'
'Business interests' hamper press freedom
News & issues
Kompas - October 30, 2007
Makassar, Kompas On the morning of Monday October 29, police officers from the East Makassar district police in South Sulawesi sabotaged a planned meeting of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) that was to be held at the Makassar Bhumibhakti Adhiguna Public Hall. Police said that meeting organisers did not have a permit.
In the end, the meeting that was initially planned to run for two hours and take up the theme of the Spirit of the 1928 Youth Pledge, was trimmed down to just a 20 minute speech. Because it was guarded by scores of police officers, the mass of Papernas supports the majority of which were housewives were only able to stand in front of the entrance to the building and listen to a speech by Papernas presidential candidate Dita Indah Sari.
In her speech, Dita condemned the police's actions saying that it violated the 1945 Constitution on citizen's freedom of assembly and association. At the end of the speech, Dita asked that the scores of people gathered outside disburse immediately.
In relation to the incident, East Makassar District Police Chief Deputy Senior Commissioner Kamaruddin said that police had only been following regulations. The organisers of the meeting did not have a permit so the Papernas meeting was illegal.
Dita however believes that the prohibition by police had absolutely no basis because the organisers of the even had already sent a written notification to the Greater Makassar Regional Police and the East Makassar District Police Chief. She said that the prohibition is part of a systematic attempt to sabotage Papernas activities, particularly in Makassar and South Sulawesi. "We will be submitting a complaint over the matter", said Dita.
In the past, attempts to prevent Papernas activities from going ahead have often occurred in Java. Obstruction has not just come from police, but also from mass organisations that accuse Papernas of having a communist ideology and say that the organisation should banned. (DOE)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - October 28, 2007
Alfian, Jakarta Indonesia's future leaders should ideally be aged under 40 years as they are less likely to have been "contaminated" by the New Order regime, an observer said Saturday.
Bima Arya Sugiarto from the Lead Institute at Paramadina University said that the older generation should no longer lead the country as they were exposed for too long to the New Order regime.
Speaking at a discussion titled "It's time for the youth to lead Indonesia", Bima said the younger generation should take over all levels of leadership. Indonesia will hold its next general elections in 2009.
"The 2009 presidential election should at least have the vice president and half of the Cabinet from the younger generation," Bima said. One young leader, however, said it was not yet time for her generation to take charge.
Zannuba "Yenny" Ariffah Chafsoh Rahman Wahid, secretary general of the National Awakening Party (PKB), said she was not ready to be a leader, saying she still needed to learn a lot about the country's problems.
"It's not about my age but the are plenty of problems I still have to study," she told the discussion. "Running for president is also very expensive when compared to running for mayor, regent or governor."
Yenny said the most important thing to do when leading the country was to have empathy. "Most people are confused about what to do when they are appointed or elected to a public position."
The discussion coincided with the commemoration of Youth Pledge Day on Sunday.
Also speaking at the discussion were Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) executive Maruarar Sirait and well-known movie director Garin Nugroho.
Currently only former president and PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri has been openly nominated by the party to run for the presidency. The PKB has not officially named its candidate but it is likely to be founder and chief patron Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.
While there are yet to be new names for presidential candidates, Bima said major parties already had young members with potential.
"Regulations on elections allowing direct elections and independent candidates are very supportive for the emergence of new figures," he said. "Society is also demanding such a change."
While agreeing that the young generation should be involved more in the political realm, Yenny Gus Dur's daughter said both old and young generations should not dichotomized.
She also criticized the attitudes of some young politicians. "Some young politicians seem very idealistic at the beginning but once they get power, they also become corrupt," she said.
In this regard, Bima said young politicians should have three assets in addition to capacity and integrity. "They must independent financially, faithful and should enter politics together with other young politicians," he said.
Although all speakers agreed the younger generation was needed in Indonesian politics, they thought it was unlikely that any party would nominate a young member as a presidential candidate.
"We still named Megawati as a presidential candidate because she is the only figure that can compete with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono," said Maruarar, adding that Megawati's nomination was also supported by the party's younger members.
Jakarta Post - October 25, 2007
Irawaty Wardany, Jakarta While press freedom in Indonesia has moved ahead in leaps and bounds in recent years, most media sources are still controlled by players who prioritize economic interests above all else, a discussion concluded Tuesday evening.
"We cannot deny the mass media is affected by capital, therefore those working in the media should develop their own philosophy and outlook to determine how they work," the founder of Kompas Gramedia Group, Jacob Oetama, told the discussion on press freedom, business interests and journalism in the era of democracy.
"Personally I think the media should be independent financially so it can remain impartial, because it cannot continue to operate without subscribers," he said. "But of course this opinion is debatable."
He said media players should aim to find a balance between economic interests and the need for the media to be impartial so it can continue shaping democracy in the country.
Ishadi S.K., the director of Trans TV, said the mass media could not escape from economic and political pressures.
"During the New Order regime, the government controlled all information received by the public," he said. "But now what is passed on to the people depends on the policies of each media source."
He said it was positive that media players competed to pass on the best information to the public. "This is why the media has become very democratic, because people choose which television station they want to watch and which newspaper they will read every day," Ishadi said.
He said it was more difficult to separate business interests from ideologies in the television industry as stations were capital intensive and faced stiff competition from both domestic and international broadcasters.
The executive director of the Science, Esthetics and Technology Foundation, Garin Nugroho, said television stations today were focused on achieving high ratings rather than delivering quality products.
"Most television programs are based on pop culture and do not offer any skills," he said. "Indonesian people are living in communicative times but they are becoming less communicative. While people continue to talk, these conversations are not productive."
He said the influence of "technology capitalists" was too heavy in the television industry. "It has become difficult to differentiate citizens from consumers," he said.
|Demos, actions, protests...|
Tempo Interactive - October 30, 2007
Rudy Prasetyo, Jakarta Hundreds of people from various organisations will hold demonstrations in different parts of Jakarta today. Based on data from the Metro Jaya Regional Police Traffic Management Center, the actions will take place between 9am to 2pm local time.
At 9am some 100 people will demonstrate at the central offices of the State Bank of Indonesia (BNI) on Jl. Jenderal Sudirman in Central Jakarta. They will be demanding clarification over the status of former night security contract workers at BNI.
One hour later, around 300 people from the Association of Former and Current Hotel Indonesia Employees (HMKHI) will demonstrate at the offices of PT HIN Graha Inna on Jl. Buncit Raya in South Jakarta. They will be demanding a resolution to the payment of severance pay for former employees of Hotel Indonesia and the Wisata Inn.
At 11am to 1pm, 100 or so people will be demonstrating in front of the Metro Jaya regional police headquarters calling on police to clarify the outcome of a complaint submitted by workers and a report from the management of the grand Melia Hotel.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Tempo Interactive - October 25, 2007
Sofian, Jakarta A number of parts of Jakarta will be congested today, Thursday October 25. One of the reasons being that seven demonstrations will rock seven points across the city. According to information obtained by Tempo from the Metro Jaya regional police intelligence directorate, the first demonstration will be held by the Indonesian Metal Trade Workers Federation (FSPMI).
The group will go to the Japanese Embassy on Jl. M.H. Thamrin in Central Jakarta then go on to the Vice Presidential Palace on Jl. Merdeka Selatan. They plan to finish the protest in front of the House of Representatives building on Jl. Gatot Subroto, Central Jakarta. The action, which is planned to start at 9.30am, is expecting to attract between 1,000 to 1,500 protesters.
Around the same time, the North Maluku Social Patriots (PMMU) will be holding a demonstration at the offices of the Home Affairs Department, the General Elections Commission and the Indonesian national police headquarters.
Shortly after this, United Indonesian Solidarity (SIB) will be demonstrating at four different locations, first in front of the State Palace, then the Attorney General's Office, the national police headquarters and finally at the Department of Justice and Human Rights.
The Volunteers for Democratic Struggle (Repdem) Banten, a social organisation affiliated to the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, will be organising an action at three locations, the Ministry for State Owned Enterprises, the Supreme Audit Agency and the Attorney General's Office.
Later in the afternoon at around 1.30pm, workers from the United Federated Trade Union for State Owned Enterprises (FSPBB) will hold a protest at the offices of the Business Competition Supervisory Commission on Jl. Juanda, which will be continued at the State Palace.
The Corruption Eradication Commission will also not be spared today, with a demonstration being planned by the Anti-Corruption Student Network (JMAK).
Finally, the Solidarity Network for the Families of Victims of Human Rights Violations (JSKKPH) will also be holding a protest at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - October 29, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat and Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam could face an unemployment explosion in two years after reconstruction work in Aceh is completed, says a local manpower office official.
"Some 20,000 workers will lose their current jobs upon the completion of the reconstruction work in the province," chief of the provincial manpower and transmigration office, Syamsuddin Daud, said here over the weekend.
"They will lose their jobs after their contracts with foreign non-governmental organizations expire and a bigger part of those employed by the Aceh-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency will face a similar fate before the provincial administration takes over the reconstruction work in 2009."
He added that those recruited from North Sumatra, Java and other provinces were expected to go back to their hometowns but local workers would be seeking new jobs.
He said the provincial authorities should seek a solution to ease the unemployment problem in the province.
According to data at the manpower and transmigration office, the work force in the province has increased to 55,000 in 2007 despite the 2004 tsunami, which claimed more than 210,000 human lives.
Following the disaster, local and foreign NGOs have employed some 30,000 workers, mostly in the construction sector.
The chief of the industrial relations and labor norms section at the provincial manpower and transmigration office, M. Yunan, said that as of October, 1,200 local workers directly employed by foreign NGOs in construction project had had their contracts terminated and some 2,000 more would lose their jobs by the end of this year.
"The labor contract's termination is unavoidable and their employers are expected to pay an non-compulsory severance payment to allow them to survive while seeking new jobs," he said.
Arwin Soelaksono, operations director of Habitat for Humanity which has been building homes in Aceh Besar, Pidie, Aceh Jaya and West Aceh regencies, said thousands of workers employed in the organization's construction projects would have their contracts terminated by the end of this year.
He said the provincial authorities should intensify its development programs and projects and invite foreign companies to invest in the province to generate job opportunities.
Chairman of the provincial chapter of the Indonesian Employers' Association (Apindo) M. Dahlan asked the provincial authorities and regency administrations to intensify development projects to help address the unemployment problem.
He said Aceh would be able to generate more job opportunities because the province will receive Rp 30 trillion (US$3.2 billion) in special autonomy funds from the central government in the 2008 fiscal year.
"The unemployment problem could be eased if the provincial and regency administrations commit to setting a priority list of development projects to be completed this year and in 2008," Dahlan said.
Jakarta Post - October 27, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat and Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh Since the establishment of the GAM Party in 2006, five more local political parties have been set up, although none has registered with the provincial authorities, a prerequisite for achieving formal recognition.
The five parties, all of which plan to contest the 2009 legislative election at the provincial, regency, and municipal levels, are Tha'at and Takwa Besaboh Aceh Generation Party (GABTHAT), Acehnese People's Alliance Party (PARA), United Archipelagic Veranda Party (PSPNS), Darussalam Party and Acehnese People Party (PRA).
Each of the parties says it is in compliance with the requirements of the 2006 Aceh administration law.
The chairman of the legal section of the provincial justice and human rights affairs office, Jailani Muhammad Ali, confirmed the request of five local parties to be registered. But he said his office has yet to follow up because it "lacks technical guidance and finances from the central government".
He indicated that his office planned to verify the requests and allow the parties to become registered.
PRA chairman Rahmat Djailani said the presence of local parties is linked to the victory of independent candidates in past local elections and the Acehnese people's disappointment with national parties, which have failed to made good on pledges.
"There is a political trend that Acehnese people prefer to establish their own political parties to channel their aspirations for provincial, regency and municipal legislatures, and it has also been difficult for locals to control the elected leaders nominated by national parties.
"It will be easier for policymakers from local parties to communicate and coordinate with constituents. The golden era of national parties has ended in the province," he told The Jakarta Post here Wednesday.
PARA chairwoman Zulhafah Luthfi expressed her optimism that her party, dominated by women, would be able to end the dominance of national parties in 2009 through support from Acehnese women.
"This party exists to empower women in politics and to fight for the political interests of women and children in the decision- making process," she said, adding her party has branches in most regencies, subdistricts and villages of the province.
Meanwhile, five brand-new local parties are waiting in the wings, expected to declare their establishment in the near future: Aceh Islamic Aneuk Party, United Dayah Party, United Aceh Local Party, United Aceh Party and Prosperous Aceh Party.
Chapter 75 of the 2006 Aceh administration law stipulates that 50 people (21 years or older) are required to establish a local party, parties are to have branches in an least 75 percent of the regencies and subdistricts and at least 30 percent of party functionaries are to be women.
Chairman of the Independent Election Committee (KIP) Muhammad Djaffar said KIP was waiting for a government regulation further stipulating administrative and legal requirements for local parties wishing to contend legislative elections.
"The government regulation will likely be issued following the endorsement of political bills which are still being deliberated by the House of Representatives and the government," he said, adding that KIP has proposed to the government that local parties be allowed to form coalitions with national parties in contending for the 550 seats in the House.
Nasir Djamil, a legislator of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) from Sigli, and Zaini Djalil, secretary of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's provincial chapter, commented on the affect of the mushrooming of local parties on the development of true democracy in the province.
They said the local parties would likely affect the performance of national parties in the 2009 general election but their fate would be in the hands of Acehnese people.
"The national parties have qualified human resources and the financial strength to support political networks to win the legislative election in the province," said Nasir.
He said the people would evaluate whether local parties and regional heads and the governor who won the 2008 local elections would be able to channel their political aspirations in the coming two years.
"While things are peaceful at present, livelihoods haven't improved under the new local administrations which are, by and large, former independent candidates," he said.
Adnkronos International - October 29, 2007
Jakarta Human rights activists are calling for the immediate release of Sabar Iwanggin, a Papuan lawyer, arrested because he forwarded a mobile phone text message, said to be offensive to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Frederika Korain, a lawyer with the rights groups Secretariat of Justice and Peace, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the arrest had no legal basis. She was also worried about possible abuse of Sabar Iwanggin.
"We are opposing this arrest. How can he be accused to encourage violence for forwarding an SMS?" she said.
"We are also worried because in the past, several Papuans were taken away from the island and some died due to 'unknown reasons.' We don't want that to happen to Iwanggin," she added.
Sabar Iwanggin was reportedly arrested on 18 October in Jayapura, Papua's main city. Last Thursday he was transferred to Jakarta.
Iwanggin, a lawyer with human rights group Elsham, has been charged under the criminal code for offending the president and inciting disorder. If found guilty, he risks up to six years in jail.
The incriminating SMS reads "The president has an agenda of wiping out Papuans by poisoning food and hiring members of the army as doctors, restaurant workers, and motorcycle taxi drivers to kill Papuans."
But according to media reports, Jayapura police say the arrest of Iwanggin is a criminal matter and deny he was arrested by the anti-terrorism police.
Human rights activists in Jayapura say this SMS message has been forwarded across Papua since July 2007, and that thousands of people in Papua have received it.
Situated at the east-end of the Indonesian archipelago, Papua was controversially annexed by Indonesia in 1969.
It is believed that most of the population has never accepted the integration and a strong opposition movement is active and asking for a new referendum.
However, throughout the years, the Indonesian armed forces' response has reportedly been harsh and tainted by widespread allegations of human rights abuse.
Reuters - October 30, 2007
Telly Nathalia, Jakarta Indonesia's Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that executing drug smugglers did not breach the constitution, rejecting a bid by three Australians and two Indonesians who are on death row to challenge the law.
Lawyers for the three Australians members of the so-called Bali Nine, who were caught trying to smuggle heroin out of the resort island of Bali and for the two Indonesian drug offenders argued that the death penalty was unconstitutional because the constitution guarantees the right to life.
The three Australians can still appeal against their death sentences. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said earlier on Tuesday that Canberra would appeal to Indonesia for clemency for the nine convicted Australian drug smugglers once all legal appeal possibilities had been exhausted.
"We oppose capital punishment and will do what we can for Australians who are on death row," he told local radio before the decision was announced.
A panel of nine judges at the Constitutional Court ruled that the death penalty for serious crimes such as drug trafficking was not against the constitution nor human rights.
"For the sake of legal certainty and justice, the constitutional court recommends that all death sentences that have permanent legal force be carried out," court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie said.
The court also ruled that the three Australians had no right to challenge Indonesian laws because they were foreigners.
The Bali Nine eight men and one woman were arrested in Bali in April 2005 while trying to smuggle more than 8.2 kg (18.3 pounds) of heroin out to Australia
Three of them Scott Rush and accused gang masterminds Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan launched the constitutional challenge in January. Three other members of the group were sentenced to death, but were not included in the petition.
Two members were given life sentences and the only women in the group is serving 20 years in jail.
Downer said Canberra's clemency appeal would extend only to Australians facing an Indonesian firing squad and his government would make no pleas on behalf of three men sentenced to death for carrying out the Bali bombings in 2002.
More than 200 people were killed in those blasts, including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesian citizens.
"We are opposed to capital punishment, but as far as the Bali bombers are concerned, these people have committed a terrible atrocity against our people," Downer said.
Indonesia imposes the death sentence for many narcotics offences, defending the penalty as necessary to deter others in a country with a growing drugs problem. Two Thai nationals were executed for drugs offences in October 2004.
(Additional reporting by Rob Taylor in Canberra)
Jakarta Post - October 29, 2007
Abdul Khalik, Jakarta Despite being a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Indonesia is among those countries that continue to refuse a visit by a UN official responsible for investigating extrajudicial killings.
UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston has expressed frustration over the lack of response from countries he believes need to answer questions about alleged extrajudicial killings, including Indonesia, to his requests for access.
"From the perspective of my mandate to respond to alleged killings, the majority of governments are failing the basic test of accountability," Alston was quoted as saying by AP on Saturday.
"If a country has problems of extrajudicial executions and doesn't let (me) in, that should be of concern to the General Assembly and Human Rights Council, but none of those countries are ever really challenged for their failure."
He said this was especially serious for the Human Rights Council members that have failed to respond to his requests Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia "because the council members are supposed to have said, 'We promise to cooperate fully with the council' as part of being elected."
Many domestic and international parties have accused Indonesia of extrajudicial killings during its contemporary history, including the "mysterious killings" of criminals in the 1980s, the disappearance of political activists in the 1980s and '90s, the Tanjung Priok massacre, Timor Leste killings and the more recent murders of Trisakti university students in 1998 and noted right activist Munir Said Thalib in 2004.
While acknowledging Alston's request for access, the Foreign Ministry's director general for multilateral affairs, Rezlan Izhar Jenie, said Indonesia saw no need for the special rapporteur to visit the country.
"Judging from his mandate, we have not seen the need for him to come because we are still in the process of investigating the matters (extrajudicial killings)," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Rezlan said Indonesia had received numerous UN special rapporteurs on various human rights issues, including United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and Hina Jilani, the special representative to the UN secretary-general on the situation of human rights defenders.
He added the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, was scheduled to visit Indonesia in November.
A member of House of Representatives Commission I on security and international affairs, Marzuki Darusman, said most recent killings, including Munir's murder, were still being investigated and thus could not yet be categorized as extrajudicial killings.
"But we do have several extrajudicial killing cases, such as killings during the New Order era, that need to be explained to the international community. I think our slow response has been caused by a lack of clearance on which institution is responsible for the problems, and lack of coordination among government agencies," he told the Post.
Canberra Times - October 29, 2007
He is responsible for the repetitive television advertisements calling on the Howard Government to act for West Papua, and he is about to embark on a letterbox campaign to sway votes away from the Liberal Party in the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro.
So who is Ian Melrose? Owner of the Optical Superstore, a chain of 50 stores offering glasses and eye testing, Melrose, a Perth accountant, invested wisely and ended up richer than expected. He channels the surplus into a particular brand of philanthropy with a political twist.
"I have money, I don't need any more money, and it upsets me that my country has acted as poorly as it has." Rather than directing his superfluous wealth into luxury yachts or polo ponies, Melrose chooses to spend it on his multimillion-dollar mission to emancipate the people of West Papua from Indonesia.
"It all relates back to people's capacity but our capacity to give more is greater than other people's capacity, so we put our money where our mouth is. More to the point, we put our money where our morals are."
For Melrose, his morals were activated when he read a 2004 newspaper article telling of the extent of the poverty in East Timor, formerly occupied by Indonesia.
"[It] described the death of a Timorese 12-year-old girl who regrettably died of roundworm, 20 to 30cm long roundworm, infestation. She hadn't eaten for two to three days. The worms in her abdomen, searching for food, went to her stomach, still no food, and then went up to her throat and choked her to death.
"It upset me. I walked around the house a few times. I read it again and decided that I wasn't going to accept my country, Australia, the richest country in Asia, stealing from the poorest country in Asia, East Timor."
Aware of the negotiations to carve up East Timor's oil and gas revenues, Melrose decided to launch a campaign lobbying the Australian Government to give the new nation a fairer proportion of the profits to provide money for improved health services.
His campaign included television advertising designed to shame the Government for what Melrose saw as its avarice and misuse of power.
"The Australian Government then proceeded to well, to put it as bluntly as a bricklayer then proceeded to screw East Timor, to take what under international law would not belong to us.
"You and I can't decide to withdraw recognition of our courts, you get a speeding fine or a parking fine you can't decide you won't recognise the court and not pay it.
"The Australian Government did something similar to that, that is it decided to withdraw from international law and wasn't going to be bound by international conventions and international standards in relation to this matter."
Melrose says his intervention shamed the Howard Government and changed political history. "It did make a difference and [the East Timorese] did get more than they were going to get."
Now, while he continues to be involved in funding health programs in East Timor, with the assistance of the Optical Superstore's coffers, his political attentions have swung firmly towards West Papua.
"The common theme with East Timor and West Papua is that both countries have been invaded by the Indonesian military and they've both been brutalised by the Indonesian military."
Which is why lounge rooms nationally have withstood repeated televisual visitations from Clemens Runawery, Wim Zonggonau, Sonia Vitro and Hugh Lunn, who tell of the tyranny of the Indonesian military and the Australian Government's complicity in human rights abuses.
"The focus is the Australian Government and our foreign policy is responsible for people's deaths, and that's not good. It's the ugly truth."
The maverick Melrose concedes the ads have been designed to be repetitive, even to irritate, in order to get the message into the minds of the Australian population.
He also admits the Canberra audience cops an additional serve, with the ads screening on high rotation during parliamentary sitting periods because, "All the bees come to the honey pot."
These days the benefactor doggedly avoids talking about dollars, but by 2005 the East Timor TV ads had accumulated a price tag of about $900,000, which was in addition to the outlay for political lobbying, other media advertisements, and mail outs.
"Our business has a social conscience, we did give quite reasonable amounts of money to help programs in Timor, not small amounts."
Asked if he has business partners, he replies that three of his stores are jointly owned, and those shareholders, luckily, support his fervour for a cause. "The people who own them are of the same mind, it's discussed with them, they all agree."
His wife also shares his interest and has used her skills as a dietician in East Timor. However, he doesn't know how his 14-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son feel about him spending their inheritance on his campaigning. "I actually haven't asked that question, I might not like the answer."
Regardless, he's not about to stop and is gearing up for a federal election onslaught. Last election he campaigned in three marginal Adelaide seats, but this time he's upping the ante by targeting 16 marginal seats nationwide, including Eden-Monaro.
"In the 2004 election I focused on three marginal Liberal seats, two of those marginal Liberal seats were lost."
One of those seats alone contained more than 14,000 Optical Superstore customers, who were sent material designed to highlight the winter/spring range of spectacles, as well as sway votes away from the sitting Liberal candidate.
The pamphlets provided information on the oil and gas negotiations and an appeal for patients to "Please make John Howard and Alexander Downer's Government act honestly for Australia", showing that not only business partners but customers of Melrose's enterprises are conscripted to his causes where possible.
In Eden-Monaro the letterbox drop will go beyond the Optical Superstore database to target the entire electorate.
"There are certain people that are staunch Labor and others that are staunch Liberal and they'll never change their position. A lot of people that are sitting on the fence they may not be happy about Labor and Liberal environmental policies, climate change policies, they may be unhappy about foreign affairs issues as well. It doesn't require many people to change their position and there's a change of that seat."
Liberal incumbent Gary Nairn will be suffering for the sins of the Government.
"The campaign really comes down to, and it's a big ask, but it's trying to get the Howard Government to act honestly. That's not an easy task to achieve."
But a change of government may not be the solution because Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has refused to meet Melrose. So a campaign objective is to move votes toward the minor parties.
"I hope that the Greens and Democrats gain extra power. Because they do have a conscience." And conscience is what Melrose says he's all about. It's not money, it's the people's lives, and the way they've died because the Indonesian military doesn't just put thoughts in people's minds, they specifically torture them to death."
Kompas - October 28, 2007
Palembang, Kompas The Munir murder case could become a political commodity in the 2009 elections if the government does not quickly solve the issue. In the end the case will only be politicised to improve the image of the political parties, presidential candidates or to hit out at their political opponents.
This statement was made my the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Person and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Usman Hamid during a break in a discussion titled "Democracy and Upholding Human Rights", which was organised by the Indonesian Flower Foundation (YPI) and the Indonesian Community for Democracy (KID) on Saturday October 27 in the South Sumatra city of Palembang.
Hamid said that up until now the Munir case has only raised as a political promise, but has never been fully resolved as an effort to uphold the law and justice. Moreover the case could be used to bring down political opponents.
"For example, the Munir murder case could be taken up to point out to the public that the murder occurred during the administration of [former President] Megawati [Sukarnoputri]. Meaning don't vote for Megawati. But, I hope that will not happened because ideally the Munir case could be solved in 2008", said Hamid.
According to Hamid, in judicial terms and based on the Criminal Procedural Code (KUHAP), the Munir case could be solved in 2008 because only one more step remains to be able to go after the intellectual actor behind the murder. This is because former Garuda Indonesia Airlines Executive Director Indra Setiawan has already admitted to writing a letter for Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto at the request of the deputy director of the National Intelligence Agency M. As'ad to allow him to joint the flight on which Munir was poisoned.
"If by 2008 it's still not solved, there is concern that this will really happen, that is that the Munir case will only become a political discourse in the lead up to the elections", said Hamid.
Hamid asserted that even if the Munir case is not solved by 2008, Kontras will continue to fight for the case through the political parties as well as the presidential candidates that come forward in the 2009 elections.
He also confirmed that they would be intensifying their campaign so that the public becomes progressively more adroit, thorough and careful in choosing the political party and leader that is able to resolve outstanding legal and human rights cases, including the Munir case.
According to Hamid, they will also be conducting an international campaign. In November, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture will visit Jakarta along with a number of regions including Aceh and Papua. They will also be holding meetings with government agencies and several non-government organisations. Hamid said that this endeavour has made him optimistic that the Munir case can be resolved, providing that there is political will on the part of the government. (WAD)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - October 25, 2007
Irawaty Wardany, Jakarta The Central Jakarta District Court refused on Wednesday a request to postpone the detainment of former president director of Garuda Indonesia Indra Setiawan, who is being tried in the murder of a prominent human rights activist.
Indra, who faces a 14-year jail term should he be convicted, has been held at the National Police headquarters since April for his alleged involvement in the murder of Munir Said Thalib.
Indra and Rohainil Aini, a former secretary to Garuda's chief pilot, have both charged with premeditated murder.
Rohainil is also charged with forgery as she allegedly provided fake documents allowing acquitted suspect Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto to board Munir's flight under the pretense of being an aviation security officer.
Munir was poisoned with arsenic on Sept. 7, 2004, during a flight to Amsterdam that included a stop in Singapore.
"Pak Indra has been detained for more than 180 days so he was requesting the court's approval to postpone his detainment temporarily," a lawyer for Indra, Antawirya J. Dipodiputro told The Jakarta Post. "But apparently the court rejected our request without a clear explanation."
In the second session of the trial on Wednesday, presiding judge Heru Pramono said the court still needed Indra to be in detention. "We don't know what this statement implies," Antawirya said.
In the previous trial session, Indra's lawyers said that prosecutors did not have a strong legal basis to detain and prosecute Indra as Pollycarpus had been acquitted of his murder charges by the Supreme Court in October 2006.
The prosecutors, however, told the court that they had met all the requirements for a valid indictment and told the judges to continue the trial. The judges will rule whether or not to continue the trial on Oct. 31.
Rohainil is being tried separately. She will appear on Thursday, when the defense's statements will be heard.
Jakarta Post - October 30, 2007
Jakarta Scholars have criticized the lack of legal protection for Indonesian migrant workers, citing many loopholes in the law's implementation.
Atma Jaya University law professor Henny Wiludjeng said there had been a vacuum of legal protection for migrant workers since the enactment of Law No. 39/2004.
He said the previous law had provided better protection for workers overseas. "The implementation of the 2004 law is not optimal yet," Henny said. "And it may worsen the ongoing problems of migrant workers."
She said the law should have prohibited private labor exporters to meet directly with the workers.
Henny said this would prevent "sweet talks that could lead to deceptions". "Many of the labor exporters have merely searched for the workers and sent them abroad without proper legal documents and adequate skills."
Skill and language certification was imperative for all migrant workers, she said. "The law covers an obligation for workers to attend training before being qualified to be sent abroad," Henny said.
"But the high demand from other countries for our workers has resulted in limited training being conducted. Therefore, many of them are unable to speak in the native language of their destination counties and they arrive there unskilled. This has caused abuse because many employers have demanded the (level of service) provided by the (Indonesian) workers to be equal with the money they have spent to pay them," Henny said.
Indonesia's migrant workers contribute significantly to the country's economy through their remittances home. Central Bank data shows during the second quarter of 2007 the country gained US$1.5 billion from migrant workers, a 5.4 percent increase from the same period last year.
The revenue increase was in line with an increase in demand for migrant workers. But an increased demand for the workers was not balanced with appropriate legal protection from the government, a legal expert from Krisnadwipayana University, H.P. Rajagukguk, said.
Many Indonesian migrant workers have reported cases of abuse by their employers. Some workers were underpaid and often worked more than 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and were forced to leave their passports with their employers, Rajagukguk said.
"The valid labor protection law cannot provide proper protection yet for Indonesian workers abroad," he said. "As for every labor problem, it was the employer's country's law that was used to settle the problem, not the Indonesian law," he said.
But a director with the National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Overseas Labor (BNP2TKI), Ramiany Sinaga, said more than 80 percent of migrant worker problems were domestic and started with the recruitment process.
Ramiany however said her agency had made efforts toward reducing the sector's problems. "In cooperation with the police, we have raided places considered shelters for illegal workers," she said.
"We've also provided the workers with documents complete with numbers and addresses to contact when they face troubles. But the documents are often seized by the labor agents, so the workers are clueless when they find themselves in trouble," she added.
Tempo Interactive - October 25, 2007
Mustafa Silalahi, Jakarta Around 3,000 workers from the Indonesian Metal Trade Union Federation (FSPMI) and ex-workers of Panasonic and Nippon Glass held a demonstration in front of the Japanese Embassy, in Jalan MH. Thamrin, Central Jakarta this morning (25/10).
They were demanding that Japanese companies, including PT PEDIDA and PT MTPDI that belong to Panasonic, and PT Negi of Nippon Glass, be shut down. "Japanese entrepreneurs mustn't easily take out their capital from Indonesia," FSPMI president, Said Iqbal, told reporters today (25/10).
There was tight security at the demonstration from around one hundred vital object police officers and Transportation Service officers.
This is because half of the street was used by the crowds to gather and park their vehicles with the result that the traffic from the Indonesia Hotel Roundabout heading towards Monument National was blocked.
According to Said, the rally would be continued in front of the Vice President's Palace. The demonstrators came to the location on motorbikes and in buses.
Jakarta Post - October 30, 2007
ID Nugroho, Sidoarjo Residents in Sidoarjo, East Java, have reported that pollution from the mudflow has left the water in their wells unfit for consumption.
Residents say they can only use the water for cleaning, and have to purchase water for drinking and cooking.
Pollution is particularly bad in Pajarakan Selatan village, across from where Lapindo Brantas Inc., the company at the center of the disaster, has installed pumps to channel mud into Porong River, which flows to the Madura Strait.
Villagers blame the pollution on the dumping of mud into the river.
"Before the river was used to dump the mud, the water source in our village was nothing like this. Now, the river no longer flows due to mud deposits, and our water source has turned smelly and murky," said Pajarakan Selatan villager Musholi, 40.
He said people now had to buy all their drinking water. "Previously, we only bought potable water during the dry season, but now my family has to buy it almost every day," he said.
Each family in Pajarakan Selatan spends an average of Rp 1,000 (11 US cents) daily on water, or Rp 30,000 monthly, a significant amount since most residents make a living as farmers and factory laborers.
Villagers are also concerned by the risk of floods during the rainy season due to the mud-clogged Porong River.
The river has badly silted up since mud began to be channeled into the waterway about a year ago. Sedimentation has created island-shaped masses in the middle of the river.
"Residents in Pajarakan Selatan are afraid that when the rainy season arrives, the river will be unable to hold water and overflow to residential areas, causing major flooding," resident Sholihin told The Jakarta Post.
"See for yourselves. It's the dry season and the water cannot flow, so what's going to happen in the rainy season?"
|Poverty & development|
Jakarta Post - October 25, 2007
Adianto P Simamora, Bogor A coalition of local and international environmental activists has warned that efforts made by developing countries to combat climate change will be hampered if they dig into natural resources to repay massive foreign debts.
The coalition spokeswoman, Farah Sofa, said rich countries should cancel these debts before involving developing countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"There is a need to resolve odious debts in developing countries." the coalition said, in a statement read at a ministerial meeting on climate change at the Bogor Presidential Palace on Wednesday "The repayment of debts of developing countries has for a long time been made at the expense of natural resources, leaving communities vulnerable to the impacts of climate change."
The organizer of the Bogor meeting gave only seven minutes for the coalition to read its statement during a dinner session.
The coalition members include Walhi Indonesia, the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Kehati), the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law, Forest Watch Indonesia, the Indonesian Institute of Energy Economics, Greenpeace South East Asia, World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) and Friends of the Earth Indonesia.
The coalition also called on rich countries to promote green lifestyles with concrete actions such as reducing the consumption of energy to save natural resources.
"We can't afford to maintain a position where the lifestyles of the rich are not up for negotiation," Farah, also deputy director of Walhi, said. "We must live simply so that others may simply live."
In terms of technology transfer, the activists also expressed concern over the use of nuclear energy, genetically modified trees and bio-fuels, saying they would endanger the environment. "We consider these not to be ways to combat global warming," she said.
Many countries, including Indonesia, plan to introduce nuclear power plants to meet rising energy demands.
The Kyoto Protocol requires developed countries transfer eco- friendly technologies to help reduce emissions from, among others, the use of fossil-fuels and coal-fired power.
Fossil energy is still the worlds main source of power. Data from the government shows that emissions from the energy sector reached 293.3 million tons in 2005.
The coalition urged leaders to set up burden-sharing principles to avoid a climate change catastrophe. "For the post 2012-regime there must be an agreement on burden sharing principles between rich and developing countries," it said.
Signatories from 196 countries would meet in Bali in December to discuss concepts for new commitments to take effect when the Kyoto Protocol expires.
Jakarta Post - October 25, 2007
Jakarta While poverty remains the leading cause of child trafficking in Indonesia, the attitudes of parents and a wide- scale lack of education in certain areas of the country also contribute, officials told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Budhy Prabowo, a child protection official at the State Ministry for Women's Empowerment, said several areas in the country were known as child trafficking "sources", including Indramayu and Karawang in West Java and Blitar and Banyuwangi in East Java.
"However, since the 1997 monetary crisis, all regions of the country have become susceptible to child trafficking," he said.
Emmy LS from the National Presidium of Indonesia Against Child Trafficking said 70 percent of East Java's 38 regencies were regularly the source of children for labor or prostitution.
"Poverty is exacerbated by other factors, such as the attitudes of parents, a lack of birth certificates and a lack of education," she said. "The most significant additional factor causing child trafficking is the consumerism of parents," she added.
Budhy said parents themselves often sold their children for money. "Many children coming from poor villages are told to become beggars or street musicians," he said.
Emmy said some parents only saw their children as "investments" that could bring in easy money. "The ball is actually in the parents' court. Some low-income parents protect their children no matter what, but other parents decide to sell their children," said Emmy.
She said a common way to sell children was by falsifying their identity cards. "So parents may write that their child is 19 years old when in reality they are only 16 years old," Emmy said.
Budhy said issuing birth certificates would prove the ages of children so that irresponsible parents or relatives could not benefit from their powerlessness.
Children and teenagers from economically disadvantaged families often lack skills and education, making them more powerless, Emmy said. "So all they can do is follow what their parents or relatives say to get money," she said.
Aris Merdeka Sirait, the secretary general of the National Commission for Child Protection, agreed that poverty in general remained the most prominent cause of child trafficking.
"This phenomenon can be seen in the post-Idul Fitri holiday season when many people will be trying to persuade villagers or children to come to Jakarta to make money," he said.
Data from the commission in 2006 indicates that 32 percent of Jakarta's estimated 70,000 prostitutes are underage.
Emmy said there was often a very fine line between underage girls working as housemaids and prostitutes, and that both professions generally involved abuse. "Children working as domestic helpers are also often abused," she said, adding that sexual harassment was also common.
Emmy, who recently completed research into child trafficking in cooperation with US-based non-governmental organization Save the Children, urged the government to take concrete steps to solve the problem by issuing free birth certificates and providing affordable education for all children. "We must provide children with proper education so they will have more hope of being able to earn money in their hometowns," she said.
|War on corruption|
Jakarta Post - October 30, 2007
Jakarta Prosecutors have rejected a defense statement provided by lawyers representing former president Soeharto in relation to the Supersemar Foundation, saying the foundation channeled more funds into the business sector than the education sector.
"The foundation channeled about Rp 500 billion (US$55 million) into the education sector between 1975 and 2006, but this is nothing compared to the US$419 million the foundation handed over to PT Bank Duta in capital investments," Prosecutor Dachamer Munthe told a civil court hearing at the South Jakarta District Court on Monday.
"Therefore, we conclude that the foundation has violated the rule of fairness, which also means the foundation has violated the law," he said.
The foundation gained no profit from lending agreements made with several companies, Dachamer said, adding that most of these borrowed funds were yet to be returned. "The foundation could have distributed funds to a larger number of needy students if all of the funds were distributed correctly," he said.
The prosecutors said in their lawsuit the foundation transferred funds totaling US$420 million and Rp 185.91 billion (US$20.31 million) to PT Bank Duta, Sempati Air, PT Kiani Lestari, PT Kiani Sakti, PT Kalhold Utama, PT Tanjung Redep Hutan Tanaman Industri, PT Wisma Kosgoro and Essam Timber.
Of these companies, only PT Wisma Kosgoro had returned Rp 212 million from the Rp 10 billion handed over by the foundation in 1993.
Dachamer said the foundation had caused state losses and therefore prosecutors insisted Soeharto and the foundation's board members reimburse US$420 million and Rp 10 trillion to the state.
However, Soeharto's lawyers said the lending agreements had not violated any regulations and they had been approved by both Soeharto and the foundation's board as an effort to improve the foundation's funds.
"The foundation's internal ruling enabled its members to manage funds in order to gain profits that could be used to help needy students. If it turned out investments were not profitable, the foundation lost money, not the state.
"Therefore, prosecutors cannot claim to be representing the people and the government in this case because no state losses were inflicted," lawyer Muhammad Assegaf told reporters.
Assegaf said accountability reports submitted by the foundation's board had been endorsed without complaints at the foundation's annual meeting. Presiding judge Wahyono adjourned the hearing until Nov. 6.
Jakarta Post - October 25, 2007
Syofiardi Bachyul Jb, Padang A West Sumatra independent corruption watch body said it was suspicious of the recent release of 10 former legislative members from all corruption charges.
West Sumatra Awareness Forum coordinator Zenwen Pador said he became suspicious when the Supreme Court decided to release 10 former members of West Sumatra Legislative Council serving 1999- 2004 terms for corruption charges related to the embezzlement of the 2002 provincial budget.
The decision was in contrast with the Supreme Court's appeal decision which found the other 33 former council members guilty.
"My suspicion is that after making the decision to release the 10 former council members, the Supreme Court will let the other 33 former council members tried free too," Zenwen said. "They have just been waiting for the court's decision on their case review."
He said if released the graft convicts would appear heroic "like in a television series... where the leading actors have to first suffer before living happily ever after".
Zenwen said the graft case had developed from the outset "in a suspicious way". The Supreme Court's verdict over the appeal, he said, was made three years after it was first proposed. But the decision on the 10 convicts was made two years after the other 33 graft convicts received theirs.
The 33 graft convicts were waiting for the Supreme Court to deliver a verdict on their case review. The 33 convicts have not been placed behind bars because the prosecutor's office said it was determined to wait for the Supreme Court's verdict on the review.
Zenwen's awareness forum and its activists consistently report graft cases to the prosecutor's office and often serve as witnesses during court proceedings.
The forum's efforts have triggered investigations into corruption cases within legislative councils. They said the Supreme Court's latest decision has made them worried.
"Before, West Sumatra has rolled the ball to fight against corruption," Zenwen said. "But the ball has hit a huge bureaucracy wall at the court, which is full of interventions and intrigues."
Zenwen said he has demanded the prosecutors' office immediately propose a case review of the Supreme Court's decision by presenting new evidence.
He also wants the office to immediately put the 33 former council members, who have been found guilty, into jail.
"If the prosecutors' office does not immediately put them behind jail, it will show the office is part of the black scenario in this country's fight against corruption," he said.
Head of Padang prosecutors' office Zulbahri Munir said he had read of the release but had not received a copy of the Supreme Court's decision.
"We cannot make any decision (yet)... but we'll be very open in handling this case," he said.
When asked about the awareness forum's statement, he said it was only an opinion and his office would wait for a copy of the verdict.
Legal observer Saldi Isra from Andalas University asked the prosecutors' office to review the Supreme Court's decision.
However, he criticized the prosecutors' office for having no desire to finish the case.
"The prosecutors keep postponing things, including any detention of the 33 convicts," Saldi said. "If they had been detained early on, it might be a different case."
Jakarta Post - October 31, 2007
Irawaty Wardany, Jakarta A US political scientist on Tuesday dismissed the idea that democracy cannot develop in countries with large Muslim populations, citing Indonesia as an example of a smooth democratization.
"Our current qualitative assessment found that six non-Arab Muslim majority countries Turkey, Senegal, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mali and Nigeria were more electorally competitive than Arab Muslim majority countries," Alfred C. Stepan, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Tolerance and Religion at Columbia University in New York, told a discussion.
The assessment, he said, was based on two criteria: government springing from reasonably fair elections, and a government capable of filling the most important political offices.
Therefore, he said, Arab countries could not be a benchmark to evaluate the implementation of democracy in the Muslim world since they have a very different pattern of actual democracy. "So if you focus on Arab countries you'll get a total misconception," he said.
In fact, about half of all the world's Muslims, or more than 600 million people, live in democratic, near-democratic or intermittent democratic states.
Unfortunately, he added, many Americans tend to conflate Arab and Islam, even though Arabs make up only 22 percent of the entire global Muslim population. He said this had led to the false impression that there were no Muslims living under democratic systems.
"Democratization is not a problem in the Muslim world but it is a problem in the Arab world because most of them are governed by monarchs or dictators," he said.
"In your country it is very impressive to see that the two largest Muslim organizations in the world, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, have very explicitly come out for basically a policy that I would consider twin tolerations," Stepan said.
He said what he meant by "twin tolerations" was that the government must be free from the influence of religious institutions to generate policies, while the religious institutions should not have a constitutional privilege that allows them to mandate the elected government regarding public policies.
"What democrats require or what is needed from a religion is simply that religious authorities not be considered so powerful that they can constrain and block democratic politics from passing laws."
He said religious institutions in Indonesia received a high level of support from the government and that they increasingly felt comfortable with the government.
"In Indonesia, Muslim identities are often moderate, syncretic and pluralist," he said, adding that in this context there was space to foster a transition to democracy.
Jakarta Post - October 30, 2007
Jakarta National Police chief Gen. Sutanto has ordered all provincial police chiefs to contact and question leaders of the controversial Islamic sect Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah.
He said the order had two purposes: to prevent the sect from spreading false teachings, and to protect sect leaders from possible attacks by Muslim groups.
"We have issued orders for police chiefs nationwide to search for the sect leaders as the sect has caused great anxiety among the public," Sutanto told reporters, as quoted by Antara newswire.
"We will ask the leaders about their motives behind the establishment of this new sect, while for the sect members, we will ask them to give up their ideology and return to their previous faiths."
Sutanto said police were carrying out investigations to determine whether Al-Qiyadah members had broken any laws or regulations since the sect's founding seven years ago. "If the sect teachings are found to have insulted religion (Islam), as stipulated in Article 156(a) of the Criminal Code, the sect officials could face a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison."
Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah was founded by Haji Salam, later known as Ahmad Moshaddeq, sometime in 2000 at Gunung Sari, Bogor, West Java. Ahmad declared himself a Muslim prophet, replacing Prophet Muhammad, on July 3 this year after what he claimed to be 40 days of meditation at Gunung Bunder, also in Bogor.
There are thought to be hundreds of Al-Qiyadah members. The sect has been reported in several cities across the country, including Bogor, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Padang, Batam and several cities in South Sulawesi and East Java.
Some Muslim groups have protested against Al-Qiyadah's existence, saying it spreads misleading and false teachings. Indonesian Islamic Movement leader Habib Abdurahman Assegaf said the sect insulted not only Muslims, but also the government.
"Therefore, we demand the government through the police arrest the sect's officials and disband the sect immediately, or else we will disband it ourselves," he said at National Police Headquarters in Jakarta.
He said he would give the police until Thursday to deal with the matter, after which he would deploy movement members to destroy any sect buildings and facilities.
Al-Qiyadah teaches members, among other things, that they do not have to pray five times a day. It tells members they only have to pray once daily, a teaching dismissed by Muslim leaders here.
Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin asked people not to take the law into their own hands and to allow the police do deal with the sect.
"Despite all of their wrong teachings, we should ask them whether they want to joint us in faith or else they can form a new religion apart from Islam. But let's do it in peace," Din said, as quoted by detik.com newsportal.
Jakarta Post - October 31, 2007
Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta City Council members gave a mixed response Tuesday to the ambitious 100-day program Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo unveiled the previous day.
The chairman of Commission D for city development, Sayogo Hendrosubroto, said he was optimistic the governor's 100-day plan could be achieved.
"Me and my commission members are sure the programs (in the plan) will be finalized within 100 days," Sayogo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle told The Jakarta Post.
Fauzi on Monday announced his 100-day plan, which covers the period of Oct. 8 to Jan. 15, or his first 100 days in office. The plan contains 19 priority programs.
The governor said he would bind his staff with a contract to ensure the programs are implemented within the timeframe. The contract will contain punishments, including transfers, and rewards. He also said the City Council had allocated money from the revised 2007 city budget for the 19 priority programs.
According to Sayogo, the 2007 revised city budget is still at the Home Ministry awaiting approval, which is expected this week.
Agus Darmawan, a member of Commission E for public welfare, said he endorsed the governor's plan "and so should the people".
"Making the city a better place to live and more comfortable for everyone is what people need, despite different definitions of comfort. But the governor must match the human resources and funding with his programs," said Agus who is from the National Mandate Party.
He acknowledge he did not know the details of the governor's 100-day plan, saying he had just returned home from a minor haj pilgrimage.
One of the priority programs is easing chronic traffic jams caused by the ongoing construction of busway lanes. Three new corridors are being built, linking South Jakarta's Lebak Bulus to Central Jakarta's Harmoni; East Jakarta's Pinang Ranti to North Jakarta's Pluit; and East Jakarta's Cililitan to North Jakarta's Tanjung Priok.
The governor also promised the Mass Rapid Transit project, which eventually will stretch 14.3 kilometers from South Jakarta's Lebak Bulus to Central Jakarta's Dukuh Atas, would begin by the end of the year.
Another program calls for the administration to finish acquiring land for the East Flood Canal, a project that is expected to help reduce annual flooding in the capital.
Though Fauzi has promised the commitment of city administration staff in realizing these programs, Commission D deputy head Mukhayar is pessimistic about their chance of success.
"I doubt Fauzi will successfully implement his 100-day plan. For example, traffic jams have been an issue for years. What can he possibly do within 100 days?" he said. "Moreover, nothing is new in his programs. All he's going to work on are old programs."
Jakarta Post - October 30, 2007
Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo on Monday unveiled the working plan for his first 100 days in office, with his priorities focused on tackling some of Jakarta's most pressing problems.
Speaking at a press conference at City Hall, the governor said his 100-day plan, which covers the period of Oct. 8 to Jan. 15, included 19 priority programs that "will help create a more comfortable Jakarta for everyone".
"I guarantee you that we'll finalize these 19 programs within 100 days. These programs have also been taken into account in the 2007 revised city budget," Fauzi said.
"I have my staff to support me. I'll bind them with a contract that will stipulate punishments and rewards for those involved. All you have to do is just watch the process."
The governor did not elaborate on the planned punishments and rewards.
One of the priority programs is easing chronic traffic jams caused by the ongoing construction of busway lanes.
Three new corridors are being built, linking Lebak Bulus in South Jakarta to Harmoni in Central Jakarta; Pinang Ranti in East Jakarta to Pluit in North Jakarta; and Cililitan in East Jakarta to Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta.
"We'll expand the streets alongside the busway lane construction and build ramps on busway lanes for motorists temporarily to use them, as well as assigning officers from the public order and city transportation agencies to monitor areas prone to traffic jams," Fauzi said.
The governor also promised the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project, which eventually will stretch 14.3 kilometers from South Jakarta's Lebak Bulus to Central Jakarta's Dukuh Atas, would begin by the end of the year.
"The loan for the MRT, or subway, project is now secured. We're expecting to have a company to handle the project by this year, with recruitment to be opened soon," he said.
The money for the MRT project, which is expected to cost Rp 8.3 trillion (US$910 million), will be provided by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation in soft loans.
Another program calls for the administration to finish acquiring land for the East Flood Canal, a project that is expected to help reduce annual flooding in the capital.
The administration needs to complete the acquisition of 13 hectares of land from residents of North Jakarta's Rorotan and Marunda subdistricts.
Fauzi's priority programs
|Language & culture|
Jakarta Post - October 29, 2007
Jakarta The year was 1928 when young nationalists declared the Youth Pledge, which included a call for a national language, Bahasa Indonesia.
Today's youth in Jakarta are creating their own language, and the slang being invented by the young people in the melting pot that is the country's capital is increasingly making it out to the rest of the nation, spread through TV, radio broadcasts, teen literature and youth magazines.
Young people use the Betawi words gue (meaning I) and lo (you) among themselves, and the formal saya when they want to create some distance with their interlocutor.
In addition to Betawi words, youth are also quick to borrow English terms and use them when talking to their peers.
Indonesians first heard the term bahasa gaul, which means slang, when it was coined by actress Debby Sahertian in 1999 with her dictionary, Kamus Bahasa Gaul.
Debby said she borrowed many of the slang words for her book from the transsexual community, which she spent a lot of time with.
"Later on, I used those words to talk with fellow actresses about things that were confidential," she said. "Perhaps because many celebrities spoke that lingo expressively, people became interested in learning the language."
Debby says every community has its own lingo, like the police, for example, so non-members can not understand their conversations.
Well-known poet Sapardi Djoko Damono, who teaches literature at the School of Letters at University of Indonesia, said youth had their own language, which, to them, is more familiar, vocal and expressive.
"A language has its own character. People use a lingo based on the place where they exist," he said.
Eko Endarmoko, who wrote the first-ever Indonesian thesaurus, shares this opinion. "When using a language, we have to see the situation first. We use a different parlance in school than in the coffee shop, for example. Our language is bound by the user and the place where it's spoken," he said.
The process of adopting English terms into the Indonesian language, said Sapardi, is part of a continually evolving cultural process.
While the language being spoken by younger people does have an effect on the Indonesian language, Eko says this is not a cause for concern. "Well, you don't need strict rules to speak a language. Just go with the flow," he said.
Sapardi said youth lingo would not damage Indonesian. "On the contrary, it might develop our language," he said. "A language will only cease if the nation perishes."
Jakarta Post - October 29, 2007
Jakarta For many young people, more accustomed to slangy speech, having to revert to formal Bahasa Indonesia can be a daunting task, if not altogether impossible.
"Awkward," said Dea, 16, commenting on a friend using formal Indonesian during a conversation. "That sounds ridiculous," said Ricky, 16, Dea's classmate.
Both are second-year students at state high school No. 70 (SMUN 70) in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. Dea says she rarely uses formal Indonesian when talking to friends. "I speak to my friends in a very slangy language," she said.
Ricky agreed that speaking in formal Indonesian was difficult simply because he was so out of practice. Although he said he earned good grades in his Indonesian language classes, Ricky said he rarely used formal Indonesian outside of the classroom.
"It's needed in speech, for scientific articles, in the classroom or when we talk to teachers or older people, but it's not necessary in conversation with friends," he said.
While Ricky and Dea still look at Indonesian as one of their easier classes, two third-year students at state vocational high school No. 13 (SMK 13) in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, struggle with the subject.
Deni, 18, says Indonesian language classes are not as easy as some people think, while Agus, also 18, considers Indonesian a more difficult subject than English. "Sometimes we have to use words that are not at all familiar. I have better scores in English than in Indonesian," Agus said.
However, Agus and Deni agree formal Indonesian is needed for certain occasions. But when it comes to everyday talk with friends, they prefer an informal Indonesian. "I consider friends who speak correct Indonesian when talking to me arrogant and too tongue-tied," said Deni.
An Indonesian language teacher at SMUN 70, Lulu Inarti, 51, does not seem to mind the use of informal Indonesian in daily conversation.
"We have to use the Indonesian language properly and correctly. Proper means using the right language at the right time. That is, we have to speak formally in formal forums and speak informally in informal forums," Lulu said.
She said it would be improper for a person to use formal language in informal situations, and vice versa. "Many of my students still speak informally in what is supposed to be a formal forum, such as student organization meetings, but overall, I think they use the Indonesian language quite properly."
Separately, Pius Pope, a former announcer at Radio Sonora, said many students today were unable to speak Indonesian in a structured manner. Pius said the use of slangy language would gradually damage the language skills of young people.
"The media plays an important part in this. A lot of youngsters listen to radio and, somehow, they are affected by the way radio announcers speak Indonesian," he said. "If this continues, this will influence the way youth think, argue and speak."
Jakarta Post - October 30, 2007
Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta A US political analyst has lauded the Indonesian Military (TNI) for helping to improve the country's democracy by staying out of active politics for the past nine years.
Alfred C. Stepan, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Tolerance and Religion at Columbia University in New York, said Monday he was impressed by the TNI's commitment to remain out of political activities, and this commitment had contributed to the country's progress toward democracy.
"During nine years of this transition era, it is good that the TNI has never attempted to take back their power like they used to have during the New Order era. There were moments of temptation, but they never did that because they know it would be dangerous for them," Stepan said after speaking at a seminar on the role of the military in countries making the transition to democracy.
"In a democratic country, the people do not want any state institution to take over the entire state affairs.
"The fact that the military gave away their seats at the House (in 2004) and that they accepted the military's dual-function concept being erased and the police being separated from them (in January 2001) is impressive."
During the New Order regime, the then Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) were provided 100 seats in the House. Besides active involvement in politics, ABRI functioned to safeguard the nation and also undertook the task of "building the nation", a role that was open to interpretation.
Despite the progress, Stepan said more effort was needed by the TNI to help establish safety and security in the country, including reforming its relationship with the police.
He did not touch on the issue of the TNI's involvement in business. To improve the professionalism of the military, the government has prohibited military personnel from involvement in business activities, as stipulated in the 2004 law on the TNI.
The law also says the military should give up its business interests and activities and turn over all assets to the government. The TNI has said it will hand over its business units to the government, but wants the government to be responsible for fulfilling all the military's budgetary needs.
Military analyst Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said he agreed the military should not be involved in business, because it could divert their focus from safeguarding the nation.
"In fact, TNI businesses only contribute 1 percent to their budgetary needs. It is therefore unreasonable if the TNI does not want the government to take over its businesses, as it may indicate illegal dealings behind their real businesses," Kusnanto said.
Jakarta Post - October 29, 2007
Irawaty Wardany, Jakarta The House's honor council should better concentrate its investigations into legislators allegedly involved in the procurement of weapons and defense equipment for the Indonesian Military (TNI), experts said.
Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said last week several House of Representatives legislators had acted as agents for the procurement of weapons and military equipment for the TNI.
"Even if the defense minister did not uncover who the persons (brokers) are, the House's honor council still has to follow up and investigate his (Juwono's) statement," Syamsuddin Haris, a military observer at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
He said the honor council should ask the minister to uncover who the legislators were. "It would be better if the minister prepared the data to support his statement so that the council could investigate the allegation," he said.
Syamsuddin said the minister's statement was a positive move toward a better and more transparent future government, but said it would initially harm the relationship between the House and the government.
University of Indonesia military observer Arbi Sanit said he agreed with Syamsuddin.
"I think the defense minister must have strong reasons in issuing such statements," Arbi said. "I think (Juwono's statement) is likely true because the same (brokerage allegation) reportedly exists around the establishment of new autonomous regions."
He said the draft law on the expansion of new regions was still being deliberated in the House while new regions continued to be named. "I've heard many stories of regional administrations giving money to House members in order to pass their proposals and to establish new regencies and mayoralties," he said.
Arbi said he believed the same had occurred in the procurement of military weapons and equipment. "They (House members) increase the defense budget on purpose, so that they can get some incentives from those in the weaponry business," he said.
He said if the honor council really intended to uncover the case, it would track down legislators heavily involved in determining the defense budget and investigate their relationship with weaponry businessmen. "They (legislators) cannot just deny the allegations," Arbi said.
Legislator with the House's commission I overseeing defense affairs Djoko Susilo said the allegations had not been deliberated because the House was still in recess. "We will talk about this in November," Djoko said.
But he condemned the minister for issuing the statement, saying it would harm the image of the House in general and demoralize its members. "It would be better if he could just point out the names, so that his allegations can be clearer," he said.
Agence France Presse - October 28, 2007
Jakarta Indonesian army chief General Djoko Santoso on Sunday defended the shooting of a suspected smuggler who crossed from East Timor, saying soldiers had followed proper procedures before opening fire.
Soldiers manning the border between Indonesian West Timor and East Timor shot at four men believed to be members of a smuggling gang in the early hours of Friday, the military said. One was killed and the other three escaped.
An investigation showed that the four were East Timorese nationals who had illegally crossed into Indonesian territory.
"The shooting at the border was made after following the prevailing procedures," Santoso told journalists on the sidelines of a ceremony at the Jakarta military headquarters.
"This took place because our patrol met with a smuggling attempt. The procedures were followed, they were warned, they ran, we went after them but they resisted, so shots were fired," Santoso said in a broadcast on Elshinta radio, adding that no action would be taken against the soldiers.
The head of the military command that oversees security at the border, Major General Syaiful Rizal has said the men attacked the soldiers with machetes when they were pursued.
It was unclear what the men were smuggling but the Kompas daily has quoted a border security officer as saying security had been tightened because of reports of planned smuggling of fuel and motorcycles into East Timor.
Jakarta Post - October 27, 2007
Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta It is not necessary for the Indonesian Military (TNI) to deploy civilian defense groups to handle internal conflicts in the country such as the 1999 violence in Timor Leste, a military analyst said Friday.
A civilian defense group, or Wanra (Perlawanan rakyat, people's resistance), should take part in a conflict to help the TNI only if the country faces an outside threat, said Kusnanto Anggoro from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"As the main element in the country's defense system, the TNI should always be in the frontline, especially in handling communal conflict," Kusnanto told The Jakarta Post.
"A Wanra group consists of civilians trained by the TNI (and) only acts as a supporting element in the system to help the military in inter-state conflicts."
"If the TNI deploys the group to take part in a conflict between local communities, like in East Timor, it means that the military is playing one off against the other."
The 1999 violence occurred after the secession of East Timor from Indonesia and implicated groups of pro-integration civilians, who were said to have been trained and armed by the TNI.
Following the widespread chaos, martial law was declared in the former Indonesian province.
East Timor's then martial law commander Lt. Gen. (ret) Kiki Syahnakri, who testified at the public hearing of the Indonesia- Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship, said that the trained and armed civilian groups were Wanra, which was legally justified in the country's defense system.
"Even though the act of deploying Wanra is legally justified, it is not a good military principle. The TNI should play their role first in handling the conflict before asking for help from the Wanra," Kusnanto said. The 1945 Constitution and the 1988 Defense Law stipulate that civilians have the right and obligation to defend the state by joining basic military training.
Kusnanto said that the defense law should have clearly stipulated the role and mechanism of Wanra and that they should not be deployed in an internal conflict.
Yusron Ihza Mahendra, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives' Commission I overseeing defense affairs, however, said that the TNI could use Wanra to help them handle any conflict, including those which were internal.
"It is allowed for the military to use Wanra groups under any military threat as long as they did not commit any defiance when they were on duty," Yusron told the Post.
Meanwhile, Defense Ministry spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edi Butar Butar said that the current defense law did not recognize the terms Wanra and Sishankamrata (sistem pertahanan rakyat semesta, people's defense and security system).
"The 2002 Defense Law only recognizes the TNI as the defense system's main component, which is backed by supporting and reserve components. Civilian defense groups belong to the reserve component," Edi said.
Edi said that the survival of civilian groups, which are established in regions, was now the responsibility of the provincial administrations, and that the TNI was only responsible for the groups' military training.
|Opinion & analysis|
Jakarta Post Editorial - October 31, 2007
Consider the different fates of these two organizations. Both are small and both are trying to propagate their own brand of Islamic teachings. The one called Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is notorious for its violent tactics; the other, going by the name Al Qiyadah al Islamiyah, has no history of violence, at least none that we know of, in spreading its teachings.
No prize for guessing which followers and leaders of these two groups are being persecuted by the authorities, and which are being tolerated.
No, the police have not confused Al Qiyadah with al-Qaeda, the international terrorist organization of Osama bin Laden, with which JI has links. When they began arresting the followers of Al Qiyadah last month, the police were pretty sure they had the right group.
The Islamic sect, with a few thousand followers, had earlier been condemned as practicing "deviant" teachings by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and creating "restlessness" among Indonesian Muslims. As the umbrella organization for all Islamic organizations in the country, the MUI issued a fatwa (religious edict) pronouncing Al Qiyadah Al Islamiyah a threat to Islam.
One did not hear such fatwas or condemnation when suicide bombers from JI killed hundreds of innocent people in Bali and in Jakarta between 2002 and 2004 in the name of Islam.
Obviously the deadly methods deployed by JI to spread its violent version of Islam, by taking innocent lives, are not considered as serious a threat by the MUI. They are not even considered as creating public unrest, which would have prompted the police to take action against the group.
The government has come under strong pressure from some Islamic groups and Islamist political parties to outlaw Al Qiyadah Al Islamiyah, whose existence came to light during the Ramadhan fasting period last month.
Under the law, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has the power to declare any organization illegal if it is deemed a threat to the nation. He is apparently considering doing so, as Attorney General Hendarman Soepandji indicated Monday he was still waiting for a presidential ruling banning the group before his office could take any action.
National Police chief General Sutanto said he had instructed his men to arrest all the leaders of Al Qiyadah Al Islamiyah even if the presidential decision had yet to be issued.
The detention was also for these leaders' own safety, according to Sutanto. At least one Islamic organization has publicly threatened to take the law into its own hands unless the government outlawed Al Qiyadah.
What the MUI, the police, the radical Islamic group threatening to attack Al Qiyadah and, God forbid, the President if he goes ahead with the ban, are doing is depriving a basic human right of all Indonesian citizens. The 1945 Constitution and Pancasila ideology both guarantee freedom of religion and freedom for people to practice their faith.
The state, of all the institutions, has the constitutional duty to protect and ensure that this right is observed and protected for all citizens. Instead, the state is putting the heat on Al Qiyadah leaders and followers. This is nothing short of religious persecution by the state.
One is quickly reminded of the Ahmaddiyah group, which suffered the same fate a few years ago. Its hundreds of thousands of followers are currently living in abject conditions in temporary shelters, after their houses and villages were attacked and torched by mobs, without any protection from the police. In the case of Ahmaddiyah, the MUI says the group is free to practice its "deviant" beliefs and teachings as long as it does not use the name Islam.
All these incidents raise some questions about the role of the MUI and the government's collaboration in preventing people from practicing their faith.
Upon whose authority does the MUI act each time it declares a particular sect "deviant"? Islam, unlike Roman Catholicism, does not have one single authority that decides which teachings are right and which are wrong.
And what right does the MUI have to decide which group is more Islamic than the other? Who has the right to use the name Islam or who has the right to issue sanctions if one group is allowed to call itself Islam? Are Al Qiyadah and Ahmaddiyah less Islamic than Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda? Which of these are the bigger threats to Islam? Who makes such judgments?
Islam teaches its followers to respect other people's beliefs, for only then will others respect their faith. La kum di nukum wali yaddin (unto you your religion, unto me my religion) is the clearest verse in the Koran that teaches followers to be tolerant. Another verse teaches Muslims to compete in doing good deeds in this world to win the favor of God, the holder of absolute truth.
Someone in this country is obviously trying to play God by claiming to have the absolute truth in their hands. And the state, for some unexplained reason, is part of this conspiracy in violation of the 1945 Constitution and the state ideology Pancasila.
Jakarta Post - October 30, 2007
It's ironic Indonesia refuses to appropriately respond to United Nations' moves to investigate alleged gross crimes against humanity in this country, despite its membership with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNCHR).
What is more worrying is there has been no sign of change in the government's mind-set, nor any appearance of guilt.
The country's status quo was made public during a recent and frustrated statement made by UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston.
Indonesia has repeatedly pushed back UN efforts to question the serious human rights violations alleged to have occurred in the past, Alston said in his report. Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have also made such denials, but their level of cooperation with the UN rapporteur is understandably beyond comparison with that of Indonesia's.
Indonesia, despite its role in the UNCHR, has failed to face its responsibilities and continues to fulfill its image as a nation that provides impunity to suspected perpetrators of past human rights abuses.
There have been many extrajudicial killings that have remained unresolved. And to make matter worse, all the administrations since Soeharto have lacked the political will or ability to seek out the truth surrounding these crimes let alone bring any perpetrators to justice.
The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono dragged its feet around the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Dozens of government critics are still missing.
Thousands of people continue to suffer a communist stigma. And many other victims of violence in Aceh, Papua, Jakarta and elsewhere have been fighting for justice to no avail.
Needless to say, the continuing debate over human rights demonstrates the domestic power play between new political elites that emerged following the fall of Soeharto in May 1998 and the remains of the old established force along with those who would feel insecure if the abuses were settled.
Perhaps only when the ongoing transition from a militaristic style of government to a fully-fledged democracy is completed will the dark side of our history be unraveled.
If alleged gross human rights violations at home are consistently denied, it should be no surprise the recent conflict in Myanmar failed to see our policy makers raise the issue internationally.
Indonesia has opted to waste a golden opportunity to see Myanmar become a key issue as the republic prepares to become UN Security Council presidency next month. Such lack-luster diplomacy will discourage a concerted international effort to address the Myanmar issue. But fortunately, Myanmar should receive a lifeline when UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari makes a second visit to Myanmar next month.
As one of ASEAN's co-founders, Indonesia has been reluctant to take tough measures against the Myanmar military junta, partly because Indonesia's own track record around human rights abuses is not very convincing.
Recent violence in Myanmar saw its military crack down on pro- democracy monks and protesters actions reminiscent of Indonesia's past. Only if Indonesia can prove it sees human rights abuses as a serious issue, will it manage to convince Myanmar to follow suit.
Pikiran Rakyat - October 25, 2007
Agus Rakasiwi The 1998 reform movement finished the task of removing Suharto from the Indonesian presidency. But have Indonesia's problems now ended?
Social activists, including students in Indonesia, have in fact long dreamed about "another world" aside from the capitalist system. After the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s and China was transformed into the new capitalist power in East Asia, a conceptual illustration that struggled for the poor was also lost to the world.
Actually, strategies to seek "another world" have already been tried throughout the world, including in Indonesia, in the form of various alternative models of reform against the enemy called neoliberalism. These have emerged because neoliberalism has given birth to a global community that shares the same things: the same suffering, poverty, backwardness and dependency that is a consequence of domination by the western capital powers.
Over this last decade, names such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez have already become icons in the Latin American region. Castro has long been a Latin American icon who has frequently rebelled against the power of the US.
Castro as the president of Cuba and Chavez as the holder of power in Venezuela are not just icons that were simply elected by their people. Social activists in Indonesia have also begun to look to the repercussions of the struggle and idealism demonstrated these leaders.
But what have these two names actually done, or are doing within the constellation of our world right now? "Many people don't know because most of the mainstream mass media doesn't write about their achievements in fighting America and other neoliberal forces", said Zely Ariane, a student activist who once studied International Relations at the Padjadjaran University in Bandung.
The idea of campaigning around this then crystallized into the formation of an organisation. As it turned out, the groups that initiated this included among others the Institute for the Liberation of Media and Social Science (LPMIS), the Institute for Global Justice (IGJ), the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) and other individuals that have put together a blog about Latin America.
The blog http://amerikalatin.blogspot.com represents part of the campaign for "another world". The blog is under the umbrella of a non-profit community called Indonesian Student Solidarity for an Alternative Latin America (Solidaritas Rakyat Indonesia untuk Alternatif Amerika Latin, Serial). Zely Ariane is the coordinator of the group.
Not long ago in Jakarta, Kampus had an opportunity to speak with Zely about Serial's activities in Indonesia. Starting with a general question about what the importance is of studying the conditions in another country rather than one's own country.
Kampus: How was Serial initially formed?
Zely: The idea of forming Serial emerged within a backdrop of the myth that an economic system outside the existing capitalism system a the moment cannot possibly happen. Serial has been active since 2006. Initially it was through discussions with various foundations and individuals about alternative reforms.
Prior to this, I also had an opportunity to visit Venezuela to attend the Youth Festival (2004) and an invitation from the Venezuelan parliament (2005). I brought back the discourse developing in Venezuela to forums and meetings here.
After Serial was formed, our target was to conduct campaigns about the social developments that are taking place in Latin America society. One of these are students because they are the group that has had the time to undertake studies and discussion about the issue. But, we are not just a data provider.
Initially, it was indeed difficult to conduct this campaign because much of the material was still in Spanish and some also in English. In order that the campaign would succeed, a lot of material was translated into Indonesian. One important thing was that we wanted to have an interactive communication with students, academics and other intellectuals. Additional and valid information could assist this campaign.
Serial doesn't just present materials in the form of text. But also in form of films, such as "The Revolution Will Not be Televised" and "Los Pobres Del la Tierra" (Together With the World's Poor).
There is a blockade of information and lack of objectivity about the discourse, thinking and alternative paradigms in Latin America particularly about Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia by the mass media that dominates the international news, which seriously inhibits the spread of alternative discourse in this country.
Kampus: Venezuela is seen as a rebel in the Latin American region, and along with Cuba many lay people know that these two countries are also poorer than Indonesia. So what is there to campaign about?
Zely: When I traveled through Venezuela, poor people did indeed still exist. There were several developments that were underway. But when you get into the education, housing and healthcare program, only then can you see the meaning of their struggle.
In Venezuela, an average of no less than 2 billion dollars US per year (in 2006 this even reached 4.5 billion dollars, around 40.5 trillion rupiah) is allocated by the government (from oil profits as well as National Development Funds or FUNDEN) for social programs (such as education, healthcare, housing, credit and job training). Housing is free in the country, an not built from cheap materials.
The state has also designated a new program called the Ciencia Mission (science) with other programs that are currently running, which include among others the provision of free software and a basic level of computerisation in all primary schools.
Other Latin American countries are also starting to look into what is being done in Venezuela. And, their concept is actually to besiege the United States. Uniquely, the inter-country cooperation is not being built to pursue profits, but to assist poor countries. For example, Venezuela is exporting oil at 12 dollars US per barrel to Cuba. Cuba however doesn't need to pay any money but sends doctors to Venezuela instead.
Kampus: How then does this become an important issue for Indonesia? Do we not also still have unfinished homework, studying our own history and formulating reform based on our own country?
Zely: Serial is still studying the history of our own country. This campaign is like study materials for activists and those that are thinking about social change. Essentially, that resisting the global powers that be is possible and has been proven so in Latin America.
The campaign is also a part of fighting the views of our elite, who often draw careless conclusions. For example, Chavez is said to be a military figure who leads without democracy but with prosperity. Whereas what happened, is there they have taken up a democracy referred to as participatory democracy.
Referring to Chavez as undemocratic is something that is quite normal, because many in our military want to return to power. Because of this the presence of a community such as is important this to fight against issues that contradict what is actually taking place there.
We are using these ideas about reforms to push the government. At least wanting to build cooperation with Venezuela, although of course this would require having to fight the United States. And, Venezuela itself has actually not yet looked at the importance of Indonesia.
Kampus: Could these methods be applied directly in Indonesia?
Zely: Of course not. We have a different culture, a different history and a different political outlook. But we are similar to them in terms of poverty resulting from neoliberalism and the control of state assets by foreign capital.
[Zely Ariane is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) and the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas). She is also active with the Urban Poor Union (SRMK) in Jakarta. Kampus (Campus) is a column published once a week by the Bandung based Pikiran Rakyat newspaper. Translated by James Balowski.]