Tia Hapsari, Depok Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro will investigate the Facebook account of the Indonesia Communist Party to know the motive behind its creation.
"I want to know the motive," said Purnomo at Indonesia University, Depok, yesterday.
According to him, any policy against the account could not be carried only by the Defense Ministry, but it must also involve the Communication and Information Department. "We cannot directly take such a decision," he said.
Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta The power of Facebook to rally for social and political causes has triggered a number of left- leaning Indonesian Facebook users to re-establish the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in the virtual world.
The existence of a PKI 2010 Facebook group was first reported by news portal detik.com on Saturday. As of Sunday afternoon, the group had gathered more than 2,000 supporters.
In its information tab, the group claims it will strive to clear false allegations against the PKI, which was declared an illegal party by the New Order regime following an alleged coup d'etat attempt that cost the lives of a number of Army generals in 1965.
Following the alleged coup attempt, millions of people, said to be affiliated with the PKI, were slaughtered by security forces.
Millions were either killed, kidnapped or exiled. The children and families of these victims had to state on their identification cards that their relatives were connected with the PKI, and for decades were being discriminated against until the downfall of the New Order regime in 1998.
Ribka Tjiptaning is a victim of the PKI stigma who managed to survive the repressive New Order. She is a Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator at the House of Representatives.
"Back then, we had to survive using whatever means necessary. I went through college working day and night, doing everything I could from pick-pocketing to working as a bus conductor. I hunted mice and cats for food. The only person supporting me was my mother," she told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
Ribka also said she considered the criminalization of the PKI was wrong. "A political party can only die if its members choose to disband through a congress. The PKI, once the largest party in the country, has never been officially disbanded through a congress," she said.
"If we are a real democracy, then we should allow people to re- establish communist-based parties like the PKI. Let the people judge whether the party's ideas suit them or not," she added.
A researcher from Imparsial Human Rights Watch, Bhatara Ibnu Reza, said the existence of a pro-PKI group on Facebook showed that communist ideas had managed to draw the attention of a younger generation, who have sat up and taken notice despite a prohibition by the government.
"This group is a reaction to the government's policy of banning everything communist-related. The government must realize that banning a party does not necessarily mean it will stop the ideas from developing. Ideas, once absorbed, will never die," he said.
"So, we should all calm down about communism. I believe Indonesians in general are smart enough to determine which ideologies suit them. Let them choose. I believe freedom of expression should always be embraced, upheld and respected," he added.
A number of political figures, however, have supported the ban against the PKI, saying it was still relevant. "We think the [PKI] must be forbidden. Not only because party officials committed treason, but also because communism is antithetical to democratic ideals," Anas Urbaningrum from the Democratic Party said.
Golkar Party's Azis Syamsudin said the existence of the PKI was a violation of the Constitution and therefore the ban was not debatable.
A legislator from the People's Conscience Party (Hanura), Akbar Faisal, said if the government really wanted to prevent communism from growing in the country, it should truly serve the people and fulfill their basic needs.
"The government must be able to resolve the basic issues such as poverty and education, otherwise, Marxist ideologies have plenty of opportunities to take hold in the minds of the people," he said.
There are also several other groups supporting the PKI in Facebook as well as those critical of communism and the PKI.
In addition to the alleged 1965 coup attempt, the PKI had launched an earlier coup attempt in 1948 against the Indonesian government, which was facing Dutch aggression at the time. The PKI had also tried to stage a revolt against the Dutch colonial authorities in 1926.
Wicak Hidayat, Jakarta The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), an organisation banned in Indonesia, has again resurfaced. This time on Facebook.
Complete with the symbol of the hammer and sickle, it is as if the PKI has been brought back to life on Facebook, the most popular social networking website in Indonesia. This was what Detik.com found on Saturday January 9 after receiving information from readers.
The PKI on Facebook refer to themselves as the 2010 Indonesian Communist Party (PKI 2010). Presumably this name seeks to indicate that party with a communist ideology in Indonesia has resurfaced in 2010. Below is information on the PKI 2010 carried on the website.
The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) is a political party in Indonesia with a communist ideology. During its history, we, the PKI, endeavored to organise a rebellion against the Dutch colonial government in 1926, masterminded the PKI rebellion in Madiun in 1948 and were stigmatised by the New Order regime for masterminding the G30S (30 September Movement) affair in 1965.
The accusations that the PKI masterminded the 1965 rebellion however have never been fully confirmed by the evidence, and it is all simply an accusation that the rebellion was masterminded by the PKI. In fact we have provided other evidence that the PKI in 1965 was not involved, rather it was masterminded by Suharto (and the CIA).
And now in 2010 we have resurfaced to set history straight.
Long Live the People (Hidoep Rakjat!)
It is unclear whether or not the PKI 2010 Fan Page on Facebook is indeed serious or just in fun. The discussion that has appeared on the page is also marked by arguments between fellow visitors. (Detik.com, 9/1/2010)
Ramadhian Fadillah, Jakarta The PKI support group that has emerged on the Facebook social networking site may not just be for fun, because communist ideology has never died.
"Actually communist ideology has a very strong hold. It is not made obsolete by time. Communism finds fertile ground among the poor," said University of Indonesian political observer and sociologist Musni Umar when contacted by Detik.com on Saturday January 9.
Umar explained that it is quit possible that it no longer uses the name PKI or caries the embellishments of the communist name, but the movement is still the same as the communist party. "It could be another party or movement, but it character is still radical like communism. Anti-bourgeoisie and other communist characteristics," explained Umar.
According to Umar, as long as there is a high level of inequality between the rich and poor, such as in Indonesia, communist ideology will have a chance to grow and develop. Never mind that Indonesia will soon enter into an era of free trade.
"This will make it even more difficult for the little people. Admittedly communism only offers the promise of heaven, but the little people will feel they have a source of hope," he explained.
The way to combat communism, according to Umar, is to increase social welfare. He appealed to government officials not to flaunt their wealth and offend the ordinary people. "Government officials must live simply," he explained. (Detik.com, 9/1/2010)
Anwar Hidayat, Bogor The emergence of the PKI account on the Facebook social networking site has attracted controversy. Justice and Human Rights Minister (Menkumham) Patrialis Akbar has said he is afraid to comment at length and they are still studying the matter.
"Regarding the FB PKI account, we are still studying it. (I'm) afraid to comment, [in case I get accused] of being wrong later," said Patrialis during a visit to the Paledang Correctional Institution in Bogor on Sunday January 10.
Patrialis added that his fear was similar to that surrounding the launch of the book "Unmasking the Cikeas Octopus: Behind the Bank Century Scandal". "Like before with the book launch, we made a comment, then it was said that the Menkumham had banned the book", he said.
The motivations of the fans supporting the PKI on Facebook meanwhile appear to vary. There are some who are serious and others who are just having fun. (Detik.com, 10/1/2010)
Amanda Ferdina, Jakarta The PKI 2010 group of supporters on the Facebook social network will not flourish and will be shunned by the public.
"I'm sure that although there are people who are promoting it, it will die off of its own accord," said House of Representatives (DPR) Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung at the DPR in Senayan, Jakarta, on Monday January 11.
Anung is convinced that groups that support communism will not flourish in Indonesia because communistm has no place in a society that has an understanding of nationalism and [the state ideology of] Pancasila. "This nation is already quite mature. There will be censorship from society itself," said Anung.
The 2010 PKI group has quite a large number of followers with a membership of around 1,200 people. The group aims to discuss communist ideas, but there are also some who are just having fun. (Detik.com, 11/1/2010)
[Translated by James Balowski from four reports on the Detik.com news portal between January 9 and 11.]
Palembang Thousands of contract workers employed at schools in South Sulawesi marched on the provincial administration building Friday, demanding the full time status of civil servant.
Protest coordinator Adrian said the protesters were employed as non-permanent school staff for a long time but had still not been promoted to civil servants.
He placed the number of non-education staffers in South Sulawesi at 4,017. They are paid only Rp 500,000 a month, Adrian added.
"The allowance is nowhere near enough to meet daily needs, particularly for those who have families. We ask the provincial administration to meet our demands. We also urge them to improve our welfare with subsidies."
Student groups and activists plan to hold rallies on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 in Jakarta to mark the first 100 days of the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and to pressure Yudhoyono and Vice President Boediono to step down.
Haris Rusli Muchti, a coordinator for the Petition of 28 Forum, said dozens of activists from local student and labor organizations had held a number of meetings to prepare for the rallies.
"We demand that SBY and Boediono resign because citizens can no longer expect anything from them to resolve our country's problems," he said on Sunday.
Haris said Jan. 28 and Jan, 29 would be "the days that mark the failure of the SBY-Boediono government." He called on students to join the movement to oust the pair from their positions due to their failure to lead the country.
Among the indication of their failure, he said, was the recent friction between the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the National Police and now tensions within the police itself.
Haris said the cases were linked to the government's controversial decision to bail out PT Bank Century, which some critics have alleged benefitted Yudhoyono and his close aides.
"It shows the incapability of the current government to manage the country as we can also see that there is a growing number of poor people," Haris said.
An alliance of 30 university students associations in Jakarta announced on Sunday that they would join the demonstrations.
"Around 10,000 students are ready to join in. On January 28, we will occupy the State Palace to force SBY and Boediono out," alliance spokesman Anton Cornelo said.
Anton stressed that their decision to demonstrate was free from political intervention. "This movement is not just a common crowd and we are not being exploited by any political party. It is purely from Indonesian students," he said.
A threat to hold a mass rally against the SBY-Boediono government was announced by another member of the Petition of 28 Forum, Adhie Massardi, during a press conference in Jakarta on Jan. 3.
Besides Haris and Adhie, who was a presidential spokesman for late former President Abdurrahman Wahid, other figures involved in the forum include retired Army Chief Gen. Tyasno Sudarto and political analysts Bonny Hargens and Bingki Irawan. None of the figures has any party affiliations.
Fears of political unrest and traffic gridlock proved unfounded on International Anticorruption Day, when only around 5,000 demonstrators gathered in Jakarta to call for the ouster of Yudhoyono and Boediono in the wake of the Bank Century scandal.
Karima Anjani and John M. Glionna, Tokyo and Jakarta Three members of a civilian patrol that enforces Islam's strict Sharia law in Indonesia's Aceh province have been accused of gang-raping a 20-year-old university student, authorities there said.
The attack allegedly occurred this month at a small-town police station after the patrol members, known here as the Sharia police, took the woman into custody. Two men, ages 27 and 29, were arrested and one is still being sought, authorities said.
Activists say the accusation seriously undermines the credibility of the controversial Sharia police patrols.
"They don't have the authority to detain people their role is to give moral advice, that's it," said Norma Manalu, director of Aceh's human rights coalition. "They misused their power."
Aceh's "vice and virtue patrol" enforces religious codes across the only province in the nation to employ Sharia, or Islamic law, for its criminal code. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country.
Sharia was introduced in 2002 after the region was granted autonomy as part of efforts to end a decades-long guerrilla war. Supervisors say the Sharia police, formed three years later, consider themselves the community's public conscience.
In September, Aceh's provincial parliament passed a law saying that people who commit adultery can be sentenced to death by stoning. The measure, which still must be approved by the governor, has outraged human rights groups here, which say it will be used to unfairly target women.
The Sharia policemen allegedly stopped a couple by the road near a plantation. In an interview, the victim's father said his daughter's friend was beaten by the group and the couple was then brought to a nearby Sharia police station.
The men later returned while off duty and raped the woman, investigators say. "She was treated like an animal. They suffocated and raped her it was inhumane," the victim's father said. "She's in deep trauma."
Marzuki Abdullah, head of the 1,500-member Sharia police force, said the case was not linked to the patrols because any crime the officers might have committed was done while they were off duty. Activists say the case should bring a review of the patrols.
"It's time for the Sharia police to introspect their institution, role and officers," said Manalu. "Are they really needed to judge our morality? We don't have any guarantees that they have a higher moral standard than us."
Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh - Shariah Police officers who are suspects in Friday's alleged gang rape of a 20-year-old university student may find some respite from knowing they will be charged under the Criminal Code and not the province's Islamic law.
The controversial Qanun Jinayat, Aceh's set of local bylaws passed to replace parts of the Criminal Code with aspects of Islamic law for Acehnese Muslims, was passed in September by Aceh's legislative council. Governor Irwandi Yusuf, however, refused to endorse it after local and international human rights groups spoke out against it because of what they called cruel and unusual punishments, such as stoning to death for adultery.
"The suspects will be charged under Article 285 of the Criminal Code," Langsa Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Yosi Muhammartha said on Thursday. "I do not work based on any qanun, only the Criminal Code." Article 285 carries a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison for rape.
A single signature, or the lack thereof, has effectively prevented the officers from being charged under Article 29 of the Qanun Jinayat, which stipulates that those convicted of rape can receive 100 to 200 lashes, or a minimum prison sentence of 100 months and maximum of 200 months.
The three officers allegedly took turns raping a 20-year-old student in a detention cell in the early hours of Friday.
The qanun imposes harsh punishments, including stoning and lashing, for offenses such as adultery, premarital and homosexual sex. The bylaws also mandate corporal punishment for rapists, child molesters, drinkers of alcohol and gamblers.
The regulations strictly police people's interactions with members of the opposite sex who are not their relatives or spouses.
Teungku Faisal Ali, secretary general of Aceh's Daya Ulema Association, however, said the suspects should face the maximum penalty in accordance with the Islamic code for humiliating the Shariah Police.
"They should have been role models in upholding Shariah, but what they did marred the symbol of implementation of Shariah because they are part of it," he said.
"Aceh's ulema condemn this shameful act. We hope [the suspects] will be tried with the Qanun Jinayat that is the most appropriate law to apply.
"Their duty is to guard the morals of the Acehnese, but they have deplorable morals themselves, so it's only fitting that they be given the harshest sentence so the public and the outside world will see that Islamic law is applied in an indiscriminate fashion in Aceh."
Marzuki Abdullah, commander of Aceh's 1,500-member Shariah Police, however said it was a "one-off" case.
"The incident occurred when the officers were off-duty. They had arrested a pair of fornicators and taken them to the police station for re-education," Marzuki said, adding that after "re- educating" the couple, the three officers left only to return to rape the girl.
"They will also be lashed and may be discharged from their unit," he said, without elaborating on the possible number of lashings to be handed down to the suspects.
Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh Having gang-raped and tortured a female student at the Langsa Shariah Police station in Aceh, the three officers responsible have forever blackened the name of the religious police as upholders of Islamic law, Aceh's Shariah Police deputy commander said on Wednesday.
"We are enraged by this. We are ashamed by their actions. The shock is still there. The actions of these three individuals have marred the image of Shariah Police in the eyes of the Acehnese forever," Syarifuddin told The Jakarta Globe.
"They should have been role models for upholding Islamic law but their actions did not in any way reflect the behavior of men of honor," he added.
Police have arrested two of the alleged rapists, members of the Wilayatul Hisbah or Shariah Police, and are tracking down a third officer, who has already been declared a suspect.
The three officers had allegedly taken turns raping a 20-year-old student in a police detention cell in the early hours of Friday morning. Friday is considered "a day of goodness" in Islam and afternoon prayers on Friday are mandatory for Muslims.
The two officers in custody, identified only by their initials as FA, 28, and MN, 29, continue to be questioned over the "arrest" of the university student.
The victim was taken into custody for allegedly engaging in an immoral act with her boyfriend on Jalan Lingkar, near the PTPN-I Langsa ring road. Both the girl and her boyfriend were brought in by police and questioned over the alleged violation of the Shariah Public Indecency Law 2003.
"There is a manhunt across Aceh for the third suspect," Langsa Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Yosi Muhammartha said.
He said the three officers under suspicion had been hired on a contract basis.
A medical examination confirmed that the victim had been grievously sexually assaulted and that she had suffered a severe hemorrhage as a result of the rape.
"This is now a top priority case for us, considering that the suspects have completely humiliated the Shariah Police," Yosi said.
Syarifuddin added that the authority of the provincial Shariah Police was restricted to coordination alone and that police at the district and community levels acted of their own accord.
"The individuals involved in the rape had been hired by the chief of Langsa Shariah Police, not by us at the provincial level," he said. He insisted his office had sent recruitment guidelines to every Shariah district police precinct, which included requiring candidates to pass psychological screening and a religious knowledge test.
"But not every region abides by the rules we set up," Syarifuddin said. He added that the recruitment process would be made more stringent in future to avoid similar incidents occurring again. "We will not intervene in the current investigations and hope that [the suspects] get heavy sentences," he said.
In 2003, Aceh province opened its first Shariah court, which implements laws based on Islamic teachings. These laws cover almost all elements of life in the province, including obligating Muslim women to wear a jilbab.
Any Muslim who breaks these rules can be sentenced to a public caning or a fine.
Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh A serious blow to the credibility and morality of sharia police in Aceh province, has occurred after several members were detained for an alleged gang rape in Langsa regency.
Police in the regency said Tuesday they had arrested two sharia police officers, or Wilayatul Hisbah, for reportedly raping a female detainee at the Langsa Sharia Police Station. The Langsa Police are also hunting down another suspect who is currently on the run.
Langsa Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Yosi Muhammartha said the three suspects were accused of jointly raping a university student when she was held in a cell at the station. The woman was gang-raped by the three sharia policemen during her interrogation, he added.
Yosi said the issue began when sharia police officers were conducting patrol on the night of Jan. 8, and found a couple on the side of the PTPN-1 Langsa ring road.
The police brought the pair to the sharia police office in Langsa. The suspects then questioned the couple in relation to violating the 2003 Sharia Public Indecency Bylaw.
Based on a medical report issued by the Langsa General Hospital, the victim suffered a severe hemorrhage due to the rape.
"We have named the three sharia police officers as suspects. We have detained two of them and are looking for the third," Yosi said.
He said the two detained suspects admitted their crime to police investigators. He also said the police were developing a probe into the case. The police have also conducted a criminal reconstruction at the Langsa Sharia Police Station's detention cell.
"Apart from the medical report, we have also obtained evidence from the victim's clothes, but we are waiting for a written medical report from the hospital," Yosi said.
News of the gang rape spread quickly across Aceh, the only Indonesian province that enforces Islamic sharia law. "This is a shameful act," Lucy Paramita from the Indonesian Women's Coalition, a local women's NGO, said.
She added that the case illustrated that law enforcers committed many violations. "People's trust in law enforcers fades after these incidents," she said.
Lucy said a state institution such as the sharia police should protect the community from violations against Islamic law, but the rape case shows women could become victims of abuse by law enforcers.
The Aceh Ulema Association has condemned the rape and urged authorities to hand out heavy punishment to the suspects, saying the immoral act had tainted the implementation of Islamic sharia law in Aceh.
"We strongly condemn the rape involving the sharia police. They must be harshly punished by using the Jinayat criminal code. This code requires violators be punished severely," association secretary Faisal Aly said.
The Islamic criminal code was amended by the Aceh legislative council last year, allowing adulterers to be stoned to death.
A team of 50 police officers on Wednesday received special commendations from the National Police headquarters for shooting and killing Kelly Kwalik, the charismatic leader of an armed faction of the pro-independence Free Papua Movement, in December.
"All police members involved in this operation will receive priority attention in regard to promotion," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Edward Aritonang said.
One of the team members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were now tracking down Goliath Tabuni, a more senior member of the rebel group, also known as the OPM.
The police claim that Kwalik was involved in series of attacks in Papua, including a deadly 2002 ambush of a convoy of buses near the huge gold and copper mining operation of the Indonesian subsidiary of Freeport McMoRan.
Markus Makur, Timika Police on Wednesday arrested a tribal war chief and seven members of the upstream group in Kwamki Lama village as part of efforts to end days of fighting between the village's two rival groups.
Personnel from Mimika Police and Mobile Brigade in Papua scoured the area around the Jl. Mambruk II complex in Kwamki Lama, Harapan subdistrict, to make the arrests. They also seized bows and arrows, spears, machetes and axes.
Tribal war chief Stefanus Kula and his men are currently being held at the Mimika Police office for interrogation.
The raid followed an attack on PT Freeport Indonesia employee Ayub Rumbiak, 40, which was blamed on members from the upstream group on Jl. Mambruk II in Kwamki Lama.
Ayub, an employee at the dewatering department at Amamapare Portside harbor, sustained arrow wounds on his right thigh as he was passing along Jl. Freeport Lama, north of Kwamki Lama, at around 5.50 a.m. Wednesday.
He was on a motorcycle taxi heading to work when he was allegedly attacked with arrows by members of the upstream group on Jl. Mambruk II. He received treatment at the Kuala Kencana Clinic and was later referred to Tembagapura Hospital for intensive treatment.
At 6:30 a.m. local time, members from the Mimika Police and Mobile Brigade unit from the Papua Police headquarters, led by Mimika Police deputy chief Comr. Jeremias Runtini, combed the downstream group's neighborhood in Yuni Kama, Kwamki Lama. They then scoured the upstrem group's neighborhood on Jl. Mambruk II, and nabbed eight residents, including tribal war chief Stefanus Kula.
Jeremias told The Jakarta Post the police had carried out the operation to end the tribal war between the two rival groups in Kwamki Lama.
The upstream group in the Mambruk housing complex wished for peace, so the police had to arrest its war chief and a number of local residents, he added.
The clashes erupted between the two groups more than a week ago due to an unpaid compensation demanded by the downstream tribe for a rape allegedly committed by a man from the upstream tribe.
The warring groups have so far defied the police's call to end the violence, with one side vowing to avenge the death of one of its members after last week's clashes.
The Mimika regency legislative council has formed a task force headed by Elminus Mom and issued six recommendations to end the feud. The task force was to assist security forces by carrying out persuasive approaches to end the conflict.
The council also suggested the security forces take stern action against tribal war chiefs and arrest them if needed to enforce the law.
Former Mimika acting regent Athanasius Allo Rafra, now a Mimika council member from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said the Mimika regency administration should play a key role in ending the recurrent tribal war in Kwamki Lama.
"The Mimika legislature will urge the regency administration to immediately settle the issue so both the rival groups can achieve peace."
Markus Makur, Timika A new clash broke out between two rival groups in Kwamki Lama village in Timika district, Papua, on Friday.
A day earlier police had managed to stop the fighting that started on Monday afternoon. So far the clashes have left one man dead and dozens of others injured.
The new clash began at around 5 a.m. local time Friday following provocation from one of the groups since Wednesday night. At least 16 people were wounded in the latest fighting. They were taken to Mimika General Hospital and Mitra Masyarakat Hospital (RSMM) for treatment.
One of the injured was identified as Niko Magai who sustained arrow shot wounds to the back.
The rival groups, fighting using traditional weapons, picked a forest area as their new battlefield in Kwamki Lama, after local police parked an armored vehicle on the street on Jl. Cendrawasih between the two warring neighborhoods on Wednesday.
Police said the feud started because compensation, demanded by one tribe for a rape allegedly committed by a member of the rival tribe six months ago, remained unpaid.
The rival groups defied the police's call for an end to the violence, with one of them wanting to avenge the death of one of its members after Monday's clash.
Witnesses said the police found it difficult to stop the clash until one person from the rival group was also killed.
"The Upstream Group led by Karminus Kinal insisted on rejecting peace because one of its members had been killed.
"There must also be a death from the Downstream Group," a local resident said. Police deployed around 200 personnel to Kwamki Lama to quell the fighting, but failed to restore peace between the two tribal groups, which are also linked by family ties.
So far, up to 70 people have been injured and one man killed in clashes since Monday. The deceased was identified as Albert Mom, 32, who died Tuesday at a hospital suffering a serious arrow shot wound.
Local community figure Yohanes Magai said Wednesday the clashes had caused many disadvantages to residents in Kwamki Lama. The fighting had disrupted classes at SD Inpres state elementary school in the village.
Clashes between tribes are common in Mimika, home to one of the world's richest gold mines. A protracted conflict in 2006 killed 18 people and another between tribes in Kwamki Lama claimed eight lives in 2007.
Hotli Simanjuntak, Banda Aceh Papuans can learn Aceh's transition to democracy, which has been far more successful than Papua, an activist from South Papua's Association of Pegunungan Tengah Students (IPMPT) says.
Association deputy chairman Hermina Gurit said that while Aceh was once embroiled in a prolonged conflict its community had eventually found peace following the signing of a peace agreement between the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian government in 2005 in Helsinki.
"Aceh is now at peace and upholds the values of democracy well," Hermina told on Aceh-Papua democratic movement reconciliation forum in Banda Aceh on Thursday, which was organized by the Aceh Inong League (LINA). LINA, an institution that provides education on democracy to Acehnese women, invited Papuans to the event to allow them to see firsthand how peace had been achieved in Aceh.
Hermina said what Aceh had achieved could serve as a lesson for Papua, especially in how it had dealt with armed conflicts involving the community and the central government.
Hermina also said the special autonomy assigned to Papua had not achieved its intended function, particularly because it had been carried out half-heartedly by the central government. "There are many things that need straightening out," she said.
Another Papuan student, Jeffrey, who currently lives in Jakarta, agreed, saying Papua's special autonomy had not been implemented seriously or correctly by the central government.
"It is true the central government has given the head to Papuans, but it still holds the tail, creating an imperfect implementation of special autonomy," Jeffrey said, blaming the failure on the central government's centralistic system.
Jeffrey said that prior to the allocation of special autonomy, the central government never involved Papuans in the deliberation of its regulations for the province.
It's not surprising, he said, that many Papuans see Papua's special autonomy as a devide et impera political move that will only create internal conflicts among the Papuan community.
"So far, the special autonomy has only been successful in the infrastructure development sector, as shown by the presence of numerous new government buildings and new cars on the streets," Jeffrey said.
Because of the failure of democracy in Papua, he said, many still lived in fear and poverty, leaving the education sector even further behind and creating gaps in human resources.
Jakarta President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is being asked to immediately issue a presidential regulation in accordance with a request by the 2004-2009 House of Representatives (DPR) to establish an ad hoc human rights court. Neglecting the human rights agenda will have an affect on the gloomy outlook for human rights in 2010.
"This is a mandate from the law, the DPR's recommendation must be followed up with a presidential regulation. The president cannot not implement this recommendation", said the former chair of the DPR's special committee on the forced disappearances of activists in 1997-1998, Effendi Simbolon on Tuesday January 12.
Earlier, Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) in its evaluation of human rights in 2009 underlined that existence of partiality in the upholding of human rights in Indonesia. "The state has failed to uphold human rights because it up until now has only been of a normative character", said Imparsial Program Director Al Araf.
Bhatara Ibnu Reza, in the capacity of Imparsial's human rights research coordinator said that Yudhoyono failed to include the ad hoc human rights court as part of his administration's 100 day program. "We are waiting and watching, the president should take concrete steps. Don't just leave it until the DPR's recommendation disappears just like that," said Al Araf.
According to Simbolon, the ball is now in the president's court. The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has conducted investigations and forwarded the results to the Attorney General's Office, and the AGO has asked for a political decision to go ahead and form an ad hoc human rights court.
In its 2009 end of year report, Imparsial said that in the handing of past human rights violations, the government had shown no political will to try the perpetrators. No human rights court was formed in 2009 or during the period of Yudhoyono's first administration.
Imparsial also underlined the threat against human rights defenders in Indonesia, which has been quite significant throughout 2009. The criminalisation and the use of the threat of defamation by state as well as non-state actors is becoming a trend. "There were around 18 cases of violence against human rights defenders in 2009", said Al Araf.
In 2010, human rights will be remain very much dependent upon efforts by the victims. Papua will continue to be a conflict prone region particularly if the government does not change its policies from a security approach to one of dialogue. (EDN)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta A sex-and-murder scandal reached a new climax yesterday when the sacked head of Indonesia's anti- graft commission dismissed claims he forced a beautiful young golf caddy to perform indecent acts on him in a south Jakarta hotel.
Antasari Azhar, a former public prosecutor charged with murdering an alleged rival for the caddy's affections, appeared relaxed in his first court appearance, nine months after being arrested.
His prosecution ties into a life-or-death struggle over how to fight corruption in Indonesia, a question that has increasingly brought into question the transparency of the country's self- proclaimed graft-buster-in-chief, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The case is one of several testing the powerful Corruption Eradication Commission against the combined dark forces of Indonesia's pre-reform era, which it was designed to clean up, including elements in the police, the Attorney-General's Department and the national parliament.
Mr Antasari's all-day appearance in South Jakarta District Court followed a sensational surprise appearance on his behalf last week by the recently sacked national police chief of detectives, Commissioner-General Susno Duadji.
General Susno is now officially under investigation, after skipping work last Thursday to appear in court, where he denied he had ordered another senior policeman to fabricate a dossier against Mr Antasari.
General Susno is already under a cloud over his handling of an unrelated investigation concerning the CEC, the body Mr Antasari headed until his arrest on the murder charges.
That case was into the mishandling of funds during last year's multi-million-dollar bailout of the ailing Bank Century. The general was ultimately sidelined as chief detective in November after being connected to a plot to discredit two of Mr Antasari's deputies, and after having likened the commission to a "gekko" trying to take on the "crocodile" of the police force.
But General Susno said on Monday he had been forced to send his family into hiding after receiving deaths threats following his support of Mr Antasari last week.
The case against Mr Antasari is intricate, but so far apparently without any smoking-gun proof, leading to suggestions it is related to attempts to bring down the commission by elements of Jakarta's elite feeling under threat.
The man he is alleged to have killed may yet prove to have been a pawn in that struggle, although there are suggestions the murder target might have been silenced by other unidentified blackmail targets.
Mr Antasari is charged with having ordered the shooting assassination of former state-owned company director Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, after receiving death threats via text message from Nasrudin.
The threats were said to have related to a sexual relationship Mr Antasari was allegedly having with a golf caddy, Rhani Juliani, 23, whom Nasrudin had already secretly taken as his third wife.
However, during questioning of Rhani in November, it emerged that her claims of having been sexually molested by the anti-graft chief, including his forcing her to perform sex acts on him in a hotel in Jakarta's Blok M nightclub district, were fabricated.
Mr Antasari yesterday backed that assertion, insisting he and Rhani were sitting on "two separate sofas" during the 15-minute meeting, during which she claimed he unzipped his trousers and molested her.
Nonetheless, prosecutors have continued to allege that threats by the businessman against Mr Antasari over the sexual encounter were the reason for the former's murder.
Mr Antasari denied yesterday he had received any threats from Nasrudin.
Five men have already been jailed over the assassination, which was carried out by two armed motorcyclists as Nasrudin left a Jakarta golf course last March.
Ulma Haryanto Prisoners with money live like royalty in Indonesian prisons, enjoying just about anything their hearts desire.
It could be treats as small as a bag of methamphetamine, or an air-conditioned cell decorated according to the occupant's wishes and furnished with an exercise machine or a guest to warm your bed. "What was found from the surprise inspections was not really a surprise. Nobody gets sanctioned for this," Patra M Zen, chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.
Patra was referring to Justice Ministry officials' surprise inspection on Sunday of the Pondok Bambu Penitentiary in East Jakarta. The inspection was part of the ministry's plan to revamp the country's penitentiaries. "It's hilarious when you see cells designed to look like hotel rooms," Patra said.
Local media reports have long since pointed out the luxuries afforded by the privileged in prison. They have included the air-conditioned "cell" of Mohamad "Bob" Hasan, the crony of the late strongman Suharto, at Nusa Kambangan prison in Central Java, and the room tastefully furnished for Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, Suharto's youngest son and the convicted murderer of Supreme Court Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita.
Several print media outlets have reported that a helicopter was made available for Bob Hasan during his time in jail, while renovations to Tommy's quarters at Cipinang Penitentiary cost anywhere from Rp 50 million ($5,450) to Rp 75 million.
According to some media reports, Tommy enjoyed long conjugal visits in his private quarters. Meanwhile, regular inmates must wait for normal visiting hours, when they can pay off a guard to get intimate in the toilet.
Tommy's business associate, corruption convict Ricardo Gelael, received similar privileges in his cell, and extra visiting hours. During his time in prison, he was rumored to have conducted several business meetings there. Former Riau Governor Huzrin Hood had his own bodyguard.
Convicted Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby was reported to have been frequently "smuggled out" of prison for dinner visits to one of Kuta's kebab restaurants.
And Brig. Gen. Gorries Mere, a top detective, made international headlines when he escorted convicted Bali bomber Ali Imron to discuss possible terror networks over coffee at Starbucks at Plaza eX in Central Jakarta.
A noted investigative TV journalist, Dhandy Laksono, said that at Cipinang Penitentiary senior inmates were assigned to pool money for bribes.
"Not all prisoners can bribe guards directly. They have to hand it over to senior inmates," Dhandy said. "Amazingly, they do it in rooms with CCTV [surveillance cameras]. So it's impossible that the officers do not know about this.
"The senior inmates will arrange everything, the room, the schedule and payment for guards. In Cipinang you can also rent prostitutes. Tommy Suharto was the one who first brought a spring bed into Nusa Kambangan."
"You can also rent the guard's room for Rp 200,000 an hour if you want to have private meetings," he added.
Dhandy mentioned other "privileged criminals," such as Abdullah Puteh, the former Aceh governor who was sentenced for corruption but reportedly managed to enjoy "outdoor trips" with Hamid Awaluddin, former justice minister.
Of course, some prisoners who made positive contributions in the jails where they served time, Dhandy said, noting that Bob Hasan built a tennis court at Nusa Kambangan.
An ex-Cipinang inmate who chose to remain anonymous acknowledged that he had it pretty good while in prison.
"I was with five or six people. We got our own small kitchen, a rice cooker and a water dispenser," he said. "There was a room next to me with 13 to 15 people. They sold porn DVDs, cigarettes, instant noodles. They never locked my room, nor the VIP room." He also said that there was one room next to theirs for the "errand boy."
"Errand boys clean the rooms, do laundry and cook our meals," he explained.
Ulma Haryanto Amid public outrage over the revelation that moneyed convicts could serve their prison sentence in luxury, Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar on Monday promised quick action and sanctions, even as inmates and prison officials rushed to deny the reports.
On Sunday evening, the judicial mafia task force made a surprise visit to East Jakarta's Pondok Bambu Women's Detention Center on a tip-off.
The team discovered high-profile inmates such as Artalyta Suryani who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2008 for bribing a top state prosecutors with $660,000 enjoying special privileges, including a karaoke room, spa treatments, air conditioning and LCD televisions.
"There are special facilities, yes. I think we cannot deny that," said Patrialis, adding that he had ordered a thorough investigation into the team's findings. "I will take action against anyone responsible."
He said prison officials would be rotated to prevent them from becoming "a little king with his little kingdom in a detention center." Prison bosses would also be asked to report to him directly each week about their jurisdictions.
But Pondok Bambu's director, Sarju Wibowo, denied that Artalyta and convicted drug dealer Limarita aka Aling had special accommodations.
"This room is for our women's organization [Dharma Wanita]. The women have been using this for karaoke practices, kasidah [Islamic music group] and Koranic recitals. This room is utilized by many people, not only by one," he said, referring to a large room that was allegedly Aling's. The so-called cell had an adjoining private karaoke room with dark wallpaper. Both rooms had wall-to-wall carpeting.
The karaoke room was almost bare on Monday, save for an LCD television. Boxes full of electronics, including a desktop computer, were outside the room along with a sofa, a refrigerator and another television.
Sarju claimed that 10 inmates were using the room daily, while staff held karaoke nights and singing practices.
"I am their karaoke coach," Aling told the Jakarta Globe. "This is not my room. My room is the 2-by-3 [meter] one in Block E. This belongs to Dharma Wanita," she said, pointing to the organization's mission framed on the wall.
"Now all the equipment has to be taken away. We will have no more karaoke practices, and that's sad," said Muryani, an officer in charge of inmates' activities. She said the room would now be restored to its original function: a coaching and handicraft room.
In Artalyta's living room, where task force officials caught her having a facial with a laser, the bulky cosmetic equipment and several pieces of furniture were gone by Monday. A group of inmates instead focused on producing handicrafts there on a mat on the floor.
The room had a baby corner with a crib, a stroller and toys that Sarju claimed Artalyta had bought. Babies younger than 10 months old are allowed to be with their mothers in the prison.
Sarju denied the cosmetic treatments, saying the laser was to treat a "thick blood condition." Sarju also said Artalyta had a doctor's letter confirming her illness.
Artalyta shares a separate cell with another inmate, Asmiyati. It has a queen-size bed with a pink duvet, air conditioning, a TV and an exercise machine.
Elsewhere in the prison that was designed for 540 inmates, 1,160 detainees live in cramped quarters. Some cells, designed for eight, housed 25 inmates.
Hans David Tampobolon and Erwida Maulia, Jakarta Even after public pictures of five-star hotel facilities given to rich prisoners inside their cells, the government has yet to take firm action against officials responsible for providing these services, and allegedly receiving bribes in return. One official even said the facilities were "normal".
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's new task force on the eradication of the judicial mafia recently discovered that rich inmates, such as bribery convict Artalita Suryani, are receiving luxury treatment in jail following a snap inspection at the Bondok Bambu women's penitentiary in East Jakarta.
The team found during the inspection that Artalita's cell is connected to a 64 square-meter room equipped with a number of facilities. It found a spacious bed, refrigerator, television, a living room complete with sofa, tape player and a working table, and a karaoke room in the cell of another prisoner, Liem Marita alias Aling.
But the day after these discoveries, Yudhoyono asked the Justice and Human Rights Ministry to check on the report.
"There shouldn't be any special treatment, dispensations or similar privileges enjoyed by certain inmates," Presidential Spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday.
Julian refused to comment as to why the President did not order a thorough investigation by the police or the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), as observers said it was impossible for such facilities to be provided without bribery.
Julian also refused to comment on special treatment enjoyed by Aulia Pohan, former deputy governor of the central bank and the father-in-law of Yudhoyono's eldest son Agus Harimurti, in Kelapa Dua penitentiary in Depok, West Java, as reported by Tempo magazine.
Meanwhile, Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar only promised he would investigate the matters rather than directly giving punishments to his subordinates.
His direct subordinate, Director General for Correctional Institution Untung Sugiono, even defended his office saying the facilities were normal, and did not break regulations.
Former junior attorney general for intelligence Syamsu Djalal, however, was quick to say Untung should be held accountable and sacked.
Observers quickly said that the finding confirmed that judicial mafia practices have been tainting the the countries' justice system.
In November last year, the Constitutional Court revealed alleged judicial mafia practices, such as fixing evidence at the law enforcement level, by playing a tape containing conversations between Anggodo Widjojo and several high ranking officials at the National Police and the Attorney General's Office (AGO).
Anggodo, the younger brother of graft fugitive Anggoro Widjojo, was heard to be masterminding the possible frame-up of two KPK deputy chairmen Chandra M. Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto. The House of Representatives Commission III on Law and Human Rights will summon Patrialis to question him about the issue.
"Exclusive facilities given to high-profile convicts have been a public secret for years," commission chairman, Benny K. Harman from the Democratic Party said.
"The Justice and Human Rights Minister has to be held responsible. Since this issue has been around for many years, we might also summon the previous minister, Pak Andi Matalatta," he added.
A former prisoner revealed on Metro TV on Tuesday the systematic abuse faced by new prison inmates unless they are able to provide security money payments to guarantee their own welfare.
Speaking live on air while wearing a mask, the former prisoner from the Salemba Detention Center in Central Jakarta added more fuel to the fire currently surrounding revelations over special privileges for inmates with money.
The anonymous prisoner, nicknamed Mr X, said that new inmates were often forced to pay security money or risk being beaten daily.
"There are inmates who we called 'tamping.' Their job is to assist the prison guards so they know if there are new inmates. When I was new, I was asked for money but I didn't have any. The consequences were painful, I was beaten up every day," he said.
Mr X said he later joined the tamping and collected various kinds of fees from inmates. "From security money alone, my friends and I got between Rp 500,000 ($50) to Rp 1 million every day. We split the money with the guards," he said.
As for privileges like air-conditioned cells, a special fee was charged. "The most expensive fee for privileges like AC was Rp 2 million a month, but everything is negotiable," he said.
"Sometimes we're the ones who offered the privileges. Whatever they needed, we could provide it. Money talks."
Meanwhile, following the discovery of luxurious cells at Pondok Bambu Women's Detention Center on Sunday by the judicial mafia eradication task force, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights suspended the detention center's director, Sarju Wibowo, on Tuesday.
Febriamy Hutapea Pramono Anung, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, said he was shocked after finding out that some prisoners at East Jakarta's Pondok Bambu Detention Center enjoyed privileges in prison like special rooms with beauty and karaoke facilities.
Pramono said that the head of the detention center must be fired. "I was shocked to hear that there were so many privileges for a prisoner whose case is a high profile one," Pramono said on Monday.
Pramono said it was obvious that Artalyta and other inmates received special protection in prison.
"A convict in a high profile case receives such protection but there are other convicts whose cases are smaller than hers (Artalyta's) but they receive heavier punishment. I think it strengthens the allegations that the judicial mafia exists, privileges exist and there are people with immunity from the law," he said.
Pramono said that he hoped Minister of Justice and Human Rights Patrialis Akbar was brave enough to eradicate such violations.
The 'judicial mafia' eradication task force conducted an unscheduled inspection at Pondok Bambu Detention Center in East Jakarta on Sunday night and discovered that a number of inmates were enjoying special facilities, including a karaoke room, spa treatments and an LCD television.
The inspection was conducted based on inside information that four inmates facing corruption charges Artalyta Suryani, Darmawati, Ines Wulandari and Eri as well as one inmate facing drugs charges, Aling, had access to special facilities in rooms other than their cells.
When the task force arrived for the inspection, they did not find Artalyta Suryani in her cell because she was having a facial treatment in her special room on the building's third floor. The air-conditioned room was equipped with a bed, a work desk and a flat screen television. Artalyta's car was parked in front of the building and the task force learned that she had left the detention center twice. Once was for a visit to the dentist and the other was to visit a relative.
Another inmate who also had a special room was Aling. The convicted drug dealer's room on the second floor was equipped with an air conditioner, television and karaoke facility.
A task force member, Denny Indrayana, said that they had questioned the head of detention center, Sarju Wibowo, about the facilities.
"We asked the head of the detention center how an inmate could receive such luxurious treatment but he could not answer," Denny said on Sunday night.
Denny said the task force would give written recommendations to the Minister of Justice and Human Rights about the findings. The task force said they would aim to improve the system in every prison or correctional center in Indonesia.
Dicky Christanto, Jakarta Last Thursday's testimony by three- star police general Susno Duadji in the trial of the murder of Nasruddin Zulkarnain, has broken the public's trust in the police while hinting that officers were pursuing other agenda in the case, experts say.
In his testimony, former chief detective Susno told the court his deputy at the time, Insp. Gen. Hadiatmoko, was in charge of the murder investigation, in which former chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Antasari Azhar is the key defendant.
Susno at the same time accused Hadiatmoko of lying under oath. "It was toward the end of the investigation that I knew Hadiatmoko chaired the team supervising the investigation," Susno said.
In previous testimony, Hadiatmoko denied playing any role in the investigation when testifying against Sr. Comr. Wiliardi Wizard, another defendant in the case. Wiliardi had said it was Hadiatmoko who forced him to admit that Antasari had ordered Nasruddin's murder.
Hadiatmoko denied the allegation at the time, saying he could not issue such an order as he shared no responsibility and had no interest in the investigation.
Susno also said Hadiatmoko did not report to him, and he later learnt National Police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri had established a team to establish Antasari's motives to strengthen the case.
Susno's testimony was seen by commentators as a blatant attack on his colleagues, with Bambang ordering an investigation into whether Susno broke police procedures by testifying, while limiting his movement by revoking all privileges and access.
A special police terrorist task force has also reportedly surrounded Susno's house. National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Edward Aritonang, however, countered that Susno was actually aware of the investigations in the case.
"As chief detective, Susno received progress reports on the investigation at every stage. It comes as a surprise to hear him claim he knew nothing about the investigation," he said.
Legal expert Chaerul Umam said Susno's testimony was apparently used by defense lawyers to publicly claim there was an ulterior motive to the investigation of Antasari.
"Susno's testimony was designed to show the public that the investigation may not have been above board. The testimony was meant to highlight the National Police chief and other officials as the ones responsible," he told The Jakarta Post.
Echoing Chaerul's analysis, criminologist Adrianus Meliala added that Susno's testimony should be seen as part of the defense team's strategy to inform the public that there were irregularities behind the investigation.
"The police leaders should prepare themselves for another surprise in this case that might once again come from Susno," he said.
Adrianus said the police should be ready for Susno to air more dirty laundry, as he was privy to a lot of police secrets.
When asked what could have been the hidden agenda behind Susno's testimony, Neta S. Pane of the Indonesian Police Watch said Danuri's leadership could be the actual target.
"This whole mess within the police organization shows the current National Police chief's inability to lead the force. I'm afraid this may lead to Danuri being replaced," he said.
Dicky Christanto, Jakarta While the murder of Nasruddin Zulkarnaen was initially regarded by police and the public as just another murder case, shocking surprise after surprise has emerged during investigations and suspects' testimonies.
The changing views were summed up by then Jakarta Police general crimes investigations director Sr. Comr. Muhammad Iriawan.
"We discovered who the field operators were and began to arrest them, one by one. At that point, nothing seemed too extraordinary about this case," Iriawan said recently.
Then, he continued, everything seemed to change, when the field operators said the order to murder Nasruddin had come from one of the country's most important figures, Antasari Azhar, then chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
A team of detectives then moved quickly to investigate the case further, he said. A string of evidence pointed police to the involvement of media mogul Sigid Aryo Wibisono, former South Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Williardi Wizar and night club businessman Jerry Hermawan Lo.
Uncovering what seemed to be a clear scenario, police were confident in saying the murder had been masterminded by Antasari Azhar, claiming that all evidence pointed to his involvement in the murder.
However, during hearings the public began to see there was a possibility that the investigations were manipulated.
In Wiliardi's testimony, he said he was forced by Insp. Gen. Hadiatmoko, then deputy chief detective, to testify that he was ordered by Antasari to murder Nasruddin.
According to Williardi, this false testimony was aimed at dragging Antasari to prison. However, Wiliardi's testimony was then denied by Hadiatmoko, who was also summoned to the hearing for clarification.
Speculation emerged in the public that Antasari could have been framed, and that his arrest was an attempt to weaken the KPK, which had drawn many enemies from various circles after arresting numerous high-ranking officials including mayors, governors, legislators and ministers even Aulia Pohan, the father-in-law of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's son.
Others suggested that Antasari was arrested to stop the KPK's investigation into the alleged fraud at the National Election Commission, which could have affected Yudhoyono's recent victory in the presidential race.
Hadiatmoko claimed he had never ordered Wiliardi to admit to the murder. He also said he had no interest in the case.
Last Thursday, Susno Duadji, however, testified that Hadiatmoko was in fact the head of a team overseeing investigations into Antasari's case.
Other suspicious issues concerned the condition of the remains of Nasruddin, and the bullets and guns that were allegedly used to kill him.
Forensics expert Mun'im Idris testified that the body had been arranged so as to satisfy certain conditions required by police.
Mun'im also said he was forced by a police officer not to fill in part of the report on the cause of death that stated the caliber of the bullets that hit the victim.
Earlier, ballistics expert A. Simanjuntak said the bullets presented in the trial had not matched the type of gun allegedly used to kill Nasruddin.
Mun'im had also said that judging by the wounds to the body and considering the caliber of the guns allegedly used, his killers must have shot him from a fair distance away because the bullets had not passed through the body. The police and prosecutors have refuted all allegations.
Paul Maley Four of the Tamil asylum-seekers rescued by the Oceanic Viking and offered a special deal by the Rudd government will be refused visas after ASIO determined them a threat to national security.
The government lobbied furiously to resettle the 78 Sri Lankans swiftly following their stand-off aboard the Australian Customs boat, but The Australian can reveal that four of the Tamils being held at Christmas Island have been issued with adverse security assessments by Australia's chief domestic security agency, ASIO.
In a further complication for authorities struggling to manage a fresh wave of boat-borne asylum-seekers, it is believed one of the four is a woman who travelled to Australia in the company of her two young children.
The situation presents a conundrum for the government, which cannot return the four to Sri Lanka without exposing them to potential harm from the Sri Lankan government, which in May crushed the decades-old Tamil insurgency with a comprehensive military offensive. Australia would also be in breach of its legal obligations if it returned the four, as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has designated all 78 of the Sri Lankans as legal refugees. However, people subject to adverse security assessments are by law ineligible for an Australian visa, which means the four have no hope of coming to the Australian mainland.
Other countries will also be highly reluctant to take them now that Australia has deemed them a security risk.
The four were part of a group of 16 Tamils who flew from Indonesia to Australia in the final days of last year, amid concerns about their background. They had been held in Tanjung Pinang for about a month after agreeing to leave the Oceanic Viking.
On December 29, six of the Sri Lankans, including the four who have been issued adverse security assessments, flew via charter aircraft from Indonesia directly to Christmas Island.
The next day, 10 of their fellow passengers flew on a commercial flight into Australia, where they joined other Oceanic Viking passengers, who had flown in before Christmas.
Of the 78 rescued, 44 are in a UN transit facility in Romania awaiting resettlement in the US and Canada, 18 have come to Australia and 16 remain in Tanjung Pinang.
The revelations pose new questions about the Rudd government's handling of the stand-off and whether the decision to offer a special deal to leave the boat was driven by security fears.
Yesterday, ASIO refused to comment on the matter. However, an Immigration Department spokesman, Sandi Logan, confirmed adverse security assessments had been issued.
"The passengers from the Oceanic Viking who received adverse security assessments will not be granted permanent visas to resettle in Australia," Mr Logan said.
"They are being held in secure and appropriate detention arrangements while Australia continues to explore resettlement options or they choose to depart voluntarily." Mr Logan confirmed Australia would not seek to deport the four to Sri Lanka, acknowledging it would be a breach of the UN Refugee Convention.
It is not clear precisely what security concerns ASIO identified with the four. However, it is all but certain the concerns would relate to alleged links with the defeated Tamil Tigers.
ASIO is known to be highly concerned that ex-Tamil Tigers fighters may be among the hundreds of Tamil asylum-seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat since the fighting began.
The security concerns are slowing the processing times for Tamil refugees, which refugee advocates say is contributing to rising tensions inside the Christmas Island facility.
The four are understood to comprise three men and one woman whose husband arrived in Australia on an asylum boat months earlier and who is also being held on Christmas Island.
In October, the Oceanic Viking rescued the 78 whose boat was foundering in Indonesian waters. The Viking took the passengers to the Indonesia port of Tanjung Pinang. However, the 78 refused to leave the boat, sparking a political crisis for the Rudd government.
Relations with Indonesia also came under strain, as Jakarta had only days earlier agreed to intercept a boat carrying 255 Tamils following a call from Mr Rudd to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
In order to end the month-long standoff, the Rudd government offered the 78 a special deal, promising all refugees would be resettled in a third country within four to 12 weeks.
Canada, the US, New Zealand and Norway have since agreed to take some of the Sri Lankans.
Revelations that at least four of the rescued Tamils are considered security threats throw new light on the stand-off.
It is not known if the Australian government was aware of the security concerns surrounding some of the Tamils when they were managing the situation and deciding whether to evict the Sri Lankans by force.
The revelations came as authorities intercepted another boat on Sunday night. The boat was carrying 14 asylum-seekers and two crew and was intercepted 5 nautical miles off Christmas Island. It is the fourth asylum boat to arrive this year.
The overflow has forced the department to resort to demountables and tents, a move that has led to stringent criticism from refugee advocates.
One advocate, Ian Rintoul, said even the Immigration Department had acknowledged the centre was overcrowded.
Mr Rintoul said that at a meeting last week between Immigration Department officials and a number of Tamil detainees, staff had conceded the problem existed.
Yesterday, the department declined to comment on Mr Rintoul's claims.
Angus Hohenboken Tamil asylum-seekers were "interrogated" by a Sri Lankan navy officer within the walls of an Indonesian immigration detention centre yesterday, a refugee advocate in Australia said.
Saradha Nathan, of the Australian Tamil Congress, last night said Captain Kapil and two other navy officers from the Sri Lankan Embassy had visited eight asylum-seekers from the boat moored at Merak in their detention centre in Jakarta.
She said Indonesian immigration officials escorted the Sri Lankans into the centre to talk to the asylum-seekers, who had signed Indonesian immigration forms two days before, several weeks after disembarking from the ship.
The navy officers were trying to negotiate the return of the Tamils to Sri Lanka and had threatened to deport them to Boosa jail in Sri Lanka, Ms Nathan said.
Fears were held for the security of their personal information, which could endanger their families in Sri Lanka. Ms Nathan urged the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to protect the asylum- seekers from interrogation.
"Indonesia should not allow Sri Lanka to have access to the asylum-seekers when they are trying to flee from persecution in Sri Lanka," Ms Nathan said.
"Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention in Relation to the Status of Refugees and these asylum-seekers are not safe in Indonesian detention. They need to be brought to Australia immediately to have their cases processed in a country that provides asylum to refugees."
A further 244 asylum-seekers are still on the boat refusing to leave for fear of being sent back to Sri Lanka. They are pleading to have their cases for asylum processed in Australia.
The Indonesians were last year accused of restricting water supplies to the ship to force its occupants to ashore.
Anita Rachman Lax safety standards on job sites are behind the relatively high rate of work-related accidents each year, a safety official said.
About 23 out of every 100,000 workers die in work-related accidents each year a higher rate than in neighboring countries.
"Other country's figures are much lower," said Harjono, the president of the National Safety and Health Council of Indonesia. "Malaysia and Thailand only reported six casualties per 100,000, Japan 2.5, Singapore 3.5 and Scandinavian countries 1.5. Our figures are just too high."
Harjono said reducing the loss of life was important, but the poor work-safety record also hurt the economy.
"We're also talking about productivity here," he said. "Because of these [workplace health and safety] issues the country loses Rp 40 trillion to Rp 50 trillion annually, one percent of our national GDP," he said.
This Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration has launched a monthlong campaign aimed at ensuring workplace health and safety measures are implemented across all relevant industries by 2015.
Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar kicked off the Work Health and Safety (K3) month this week, saying it would stress the importance of adhering to health and safety principles in reducing the number of industrial accidents.
"We will not only promote the K3 month, but also begin overseeing [companies] to ensure the strict implementation of K3 in the workplace," he said. "The employees' day-to-day health should also be given attention, so that it will increase productivity, both in the private and state sectors."
Muhaimin said safety equipment such as helmets should be compulsory for those employed on a construction site, for instance. He said his ministry was responsible for the supervision of K3 compliance.
"Because this month is K3 promotion month, there will be no sanctions, but next month we will move into the sanction phase," he said. "Those who neglect K3 will be held responsible."
Arief Supono, the ministry's director for monitoring work safety and health norms, said on Friday that the ministry would also monitor how industries kept their employees healthy. He said a company must provide a medical check-up before an employee joined the company and then hold regular check-ups over an employee's career.
"And companies must provide special treatment when their employers have to work under certain conditions. For example, companies should provide x-ray services for those who work in dusty places."
Safety equipment and safe machinery and tools were important in reducing accidents, he said. "Machines that could endanger lives shouldn't be used. They should be re-engineered," he said.
Local monitoring teams would regularly check companies and legal action could be taken against those that do not abide by the standards. "We will first warn the offenders, but if they keep ignoring our warnings, they will be taken [to court]. The penalties could include three months imprisonment or a fine," he said.
Harjono welcomed the campaign. But he said companies and their employees needed to work together to make it a success. Companies must be committed to implementing all the regulations issued by the government, he added.
Jakarta Hundreds of workers from labor unions across Jakarta rallied outside City Hall on Tuesday to demand a revision to the provincial minimum wage, which they said was too small.
The protesters demanded Governor Fauzi Bowo increase the monthly minimum wage of Rp 1,118,009 a raise of 4.5 percent from last year to Rp 1,317,710, in line with standard living costs.
"The recent increase is too small. We want the city to follow realistic living costs determined in a survey conducted by the Wage Council," National Workers Union (SPN) representative Halili said.
It was the second protest since the city announced the increase in October last year.
Jakarta State-owned insurance company PT Jamsostek has warned of massive layoffs this year following the implementation of the ASEAN-China free trade area (ACFTA) starting this year.
"Millions of workers in the formal sector will lose their jobs as many manufacturing companies are expected to be unable to compete with Chinese products that will flood the Indonesian market," Jamsostek's operation and service director Ahmad Anshori told The Jakarta Post here on Monday.
He said more and more workers would enter the informal sector leaving them unprotected and underpaid.
Millions of workers, including those dismissed due to the negative impacts of the 2008 global economic crisis, have entered the informal sector, composing almost 70 percent of the workforce of 105 million.
"Besides the crucial impacts of the global financial crisis and the free trade area on employment conditions in the future, Jamsostek's income and profit will also decline.
"We are preparing programs, including voluntary social security programs for informal workers, in anticipation of the negative impacts," said Ahmad.
Quoting the results of numerous studies, Ahmad said that around 2.5 million workers in the labor-intensive leather and garment factories and agribusiness industries would lose their jobs as a result of the free trade agreement with China.
As of January this year, cheap garments, agribusiness and steel and leather products from China have entered ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, with zero tariffs, in implementation of the free trade agreement between the Southeast Asian countries and China.
Separately, labor economist and observer Payaman Simanjuntak said that all stakeholders, mainly employers, the government and labor unions should play an active role in improving workers' skills to improve their productivity, company productivity and enable Indonesian products to compete with those from China and other ASEAN countries.
Indonesia's labor-intensive garment, textile and agriculture products will be unable to compete with similar products from China mainly because of the low quality of human resources, he said.
"To win the competition and make our products marketable, we have to improve workers' skills to make them more creative and productive in producing cheaper and better quality products," he said.
Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu denied the free trade's negative impacts, saying that Indonesia would be limited to products from six sectors only, and that the ACFTA would also enable Indonesia to import machinery in the six sectors without any taxes.
Meanwhile, Jamsostek's CEO Hotbonar Sinaga expressed concern over the slow reaction by the government and employers to address the potential impacts of the free trade agreement on domestic employment.
"Besides strengthening the formal sector by improving their skills, the government should pay more attention to the informal sector.
"Both the government and employers should start implementing the national social security system for all, the special benefit program for dismissed workers, and improve the quality of workers in the formal and informal sectors," he said.
Ardian Wibisono & Antara In the latest and most authoritative warning about a new region-wide free-trade agreement with China, an executive with the state social security provider PT Jamsostek predicts that as many to two million Indonesians will be laid off because their firms can't outperform their Chinese rivals.
"Free trade will affect local companies' performance, but it is unavoidable because the Asean-China Free Trade Area [ACFTA] has been agreed to for a long time, so we have to abide by the agreement," warned Ahmad Ansyori, Jamsostek's operational director.
The trade pact, which came into effect on New Year's Day, removed tariffs on thousands of products between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, creating the world's third-largest free-trade area overnight.
Ahmad said there were a number of studies on the agreement's impact on Indonesia's domestic industries and most concluded it would directly harm workers.
Several, he said, predicted that about 2.5 million workers could face layoffs, notably in industries such as leather processing, clothing production, textiles and steel.
Hundreds of labor-intensive and small companies would bare the brunt of the downturn, he said. "I don't think the figure will be that high, but it will be about 1.8 million," Ansyori said.
Others have made more alarming predictions. Last month, Djimanto, a senior official at the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), warned of layoffs for as many as 7.5 million workers about a quarter of the nation's 30 million-strong formal sector workforce. He also feared many factories would close outright because they couldn't compete with cheaper Chinese products.
Based on some of the studies, Ahmad predicted that layoffs would begin gradually in about eight months' time.
"I am sure the government will formulate a policy with regard to this matter if the free-trade area massively weakens local industries," he said. "Probably, the government would provide incentives... as well as expand infrastructure projects and agribusiness development."
Indonesia last week asked Asean to delay the removal of 228 tariff categories in eight industrial sectors.
On Sunday, Yanuar Rizky, president of the Indonesian Workers Association, said that regardless of the trade pact, the nation has been unable to compete with China's cheaper production costs because of high costs here associated with bureaucracy, old machinery and steep interest rates on working capital loans.
"ACFTA is just a catalyst to show that we are far less competitive compared to other countries in the region, and that the government has no clear vision about the country's manufacturing sector development. The threat of massive layoffs is real unless the government decides to shut the door on ACFTA, because we are not ready," Yanuar said.
Although analysts have said Indonesia would face China's wrath for reneging on the free-trade agreement, Industry Ministry officials have proposed maintaining import tariffs on more than 200 items in sectors where Indonesia is believed to be vulnerable to Chinese imports, including textiles, electronics, furniture, footwear, cosmetics and herbal medicine.
Around 200 employees of Indosiar, a private television station in Indonesia, were staging a rally in front of their office building on Jalan Daan Mogot in West Jakarta on Monday demanding better salaries and facilities.
The staff alleged that many employees had not received a pay raise in six years. The demonstrators wore black Indosiar uniforms and red headbands. They carried posters with slogans on them such as "six years with no pay raise" and "don't fool us."
The head of Indosiar's employee union, Dicky Irawan, alleged in his oration that Indosiar had not obeyed the Labor Law.
"There are many Indosiar employees who have worked here for five years but their basic (monthly) salary is under Rp 350,000 ($38). Overtime pay on holiday is only Rp 40,000 ($4.38). It is against the Labor Law," Dicky said.
Yanri Syawal, a rally leader, told the press that the rally was purposefully conducted on the station's 15th anniversary.
"We want the company to pay attention to how small our basic salary is. We also hope the management will be transparent about employees' welfare. There are many new employees who have ties with the management and their salaries are above the old employees," Yanri said.
Yanri added that it was the first rally the employees had ever staged.
"This is the first and we hope this will be the last, if the management decides to give in to our demands. Otherwise, we will hold a strike as regulated by the Labor Law," he said.
The demonstrators will travel to Wisma Indocement on Jalan Jenderal Sudirman where the Indosiar management office is located.
Indosiar was launched in 1994 by Salim Group. PT Indosiar Karya Media Tbk is listed on the Indonesian Stock Market.
The station reached its peak in popularity with a reality singing contest, Akademi Fantasi Indosiar or AFI, between 2000 to 2006.
Indosiar took AFI off the screen in 2006 and replaced it with other reality talent contests titled Mamamia and Super Mama. In 2009, the station gained more popularity through a reality dating show, Take Me Out Indonesia.
Indosiar has not issued any comments in relation to the protests.
Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta The Forestry Ministry's plan to allow more mining firms operate in forests could hinder the government's efforts to meet emission reduction targets, as pledged by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
The ministry said it planned to allocate 2.2 million hectares of forests for mining activities between 2010 to 2020.
"The plan to convert 2.2 million hectares of forests for mining could release about 550 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere," Greenomics Indonesia executive director, Elfian Effendi, said.
"This policy runs counter to President Yudhoyono's speech [in Copenhagen] on emission reduction targets."
The government has pledged to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020 using its own budget of Rp 83 trillion over five years. President Yudhoyono also said the country could reduce emissions by 41 percent if developed nations provided about Rp 168 trillion in financial aid to mitigate climate change in Indonesia.
Given current trends, Indonesia is forecasted to emit 2.95 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2020.
With a reduction of 26 percent as targeted, Indonesia could reduce this figure by 0.7 billion tons, mostly from forests and wetlands.
The country's carbon emissions come mostly from the change in land use and forestry (accounting for 48 percent of total national emissions), energy (21 percent), peat fires (12 percent), waste (11 percent) and agriculture (5 percent).
The climate change working group chief at the Forestry Ministry, Wandojo Siswanto, said the ministry would tighten permits on the use of forests for mining activities.
"The ministry receives many proposals to convert forests into mining areas, but we need to issue permits selectively and consider the expected emissions," he said.
He said the ministry would slash about 20 percent of hotspots to minimize forest fires and combat deforestation.
Wandojo said emissions would be cut through means such as combating illegal logging, avoiding deforestation, rehabilitating land and forest watersheds, restoring production forest ecosystems and improving fire management.
Between 2004 and 2009, the ministry allocated 1.2 million hectares of forests for mining activities.
The government has long been under pressure from environmental activists over mining activities in forests that has damaged the environment and kept surrounding villagers in poverty.
Indonesia is home to 120 million hectares of rainforest, making it the third-largest rainforest country after Brazil and the DR Congo.
Deforestation in Indonesia claimed to be the world's worst with an area the size of Switzerland lost every year has already led to the damage of 59 million hectares of the country's forests.
Jakarta The National Commission on Human Rights has deepened its investigation to find out whether gross human rights violations were committed against the thousands of people living in a 90-hectare area in Porong, Sidoarjo, East Java, by a company drilling for oil and gas there.
Legally, the commission has the authority to conduct legal investigations and collect evidence and then submit it to the Attorney General's Office (AGO), which will prosecute the case.
Commission chairman Ifdhal Kasim said they would investigate all key officials of the contractor, PT Lapindo Brantas, which is owned by Aburizal Bakrie, the coordinating public welfare minister at the time of the disaster on May 29, 2006.
"Although it is clear human rights violations have occurred, we must determine whether they were gross human rights violations. We must also conclude whether the disaster was due to human error or natural causes. We must tread carefully as this a legal investigation," he said.
Ifdhal added the commission would announce and submit its findings to the AGO in April.
In its preliminary investigation last year, the commission concluded the hot thick mudflow, which has forced locals to flee their homes and rice fields, was triggered by careless drilling activities carried out by Lapindo.
The commission accused Lapindo of committing "very serious human rights violations." "That was our opinion then. Now, we are conducting a legal investigation that could bring the company to the human rights court," Ifdhal said.
Earlier, commission member HM Kabul Supriyadhie said his office had, since the middle of last year, formed a 19-member ad hoc team to thoroughly investigate the large scale abuse of human rights allegedly following on from the disaster.
Kabul said Lapindo had allegedly violated at least 18 human rights, including the victims' basic rights of living.
Deputy Attorney General for Special Crimes Marwan Effendi said he looked forward to the results of the commission's investigation.
The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) concluded in a report published in Oct. 2008 that the Lapindo mudflow occurred due to human error, and not seismic activity, as stated by Lapindo.
In response to the report, Lapindo spokeswoman Yuniwati Terryana said in Nov. 2008 the company regretted the results of the report, saying they were not based on research by experts.
Spokesman for the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Erwin Usman, said the forum had inspected the area at the end of the year. "Hundreds of families still don't have access to adequate housing," he said.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a 2007 presidential decree stipulating that the mudflow victims would receive compensation for damaged houses and land in installments. The government will cover parts of the damages.
Erwin said the issuing of the decree had led to alleged corruption of the distribution of Rp 4 trillion (US$422.49 million) in state funds.
Walhi reported Lapindo to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Dec. 16. The KPK said it would follow up the forum's report.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho The National Commission on Human Rights has extended to April the working period of an ad hoc team tasked with investigating allegations of gross human rights violations in the 2006 mudflow disaster in Sidoarjo, East Java.
Hesti Armiwulan, a spokeswoman for the commission, also known as Komnas HAM, said on Sunday that the team was expected to report all its findings to the commission's plenary meeting earlier this month.
"But we decided to extend the ad hoc team's working period until April. They still need to summon some people to testify in the case," she said.
Komnas HAM had earlier declared that the catastrophic mudflow disaster had been caused by human error allegedly committed by oil and gas company PT Lapindo Brantas, which is owned by Golkar Chairman Aburizal Bakrie, through its failure to use a safety sheath during drilling.
Its findings contradicted those of the National Police and House of Representatives, both of which concluded the disaster was caused by natural forces. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced and thousands of homes submerged by millions of tons of toxic mud.
Komnas HAM decided to move forward by establishing a special ad hoc team to investigate possible human rights violations committed by Lapindo.
Hesti said the decision was based on previous commission findings that there was strong evidence showing 13 violations of social, economic and cultural rights.
"If in April we find strong evidence of gross human rights violations in the mudflow case, we will recommend the Attorney General's Office arrange the prosecution," she said.
Separately, Paring Waluyo Utomo, a representative of the mudflow victims, said the commission's efforts were appreciated. "When a team from Komnas HAM came here [to Sidoarjo] to collect information, many of the victims welcomed them warmly," he said.
However, rather than thinking about allegations of human rights abuses, it was more important for the victims to get their compensation from the government, Paring said.
He said about 70 families were still yet to receive any compensation as promised by Lapindo, while others only received payments in monthly installments, as was determined by Lapindo.
Paring said the original decree issued in 2007 had ordered Lapindo to pay the initial 20 percent of the value of lost property up front by last year. Under the decree, PT Minarak Lapindo Jaya, a subsidiary of Lapindo, was appointed to handle compensation claims.
"There are currently two kinds of victims here. The first group is compensated directly by the government, while the other group's compensation is handled by Lapindo," Paring said.
"We demand the government pay all the compensation claims, which will then be reimbursed by Lapindo. The victims must move forward and rebuild their lives."
Lapindo could not be reached for comment.
Oyos Saroso H.N., Bandarlampung The presence of mobile sawmills around Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (TNBBS) in West Lampung, Lampung province, poses a serious threat to the park.
Widespread illegal logging in limited production forests next to the national park is strongly believed to be a result of the many sawmills, especially mobile sawmills, locally known as walking sawmills.
In 2005, West Lampung Forestry Office closed all sawmills and no longer issued logging permits to community-owned forests (IPKTM), or authorized timber product certificates (SKSHH), because the sawmills and permits were believed to exacerbate the illegal logging problems in the province.
"The mobile sawmills have reopened because of the high demand for illegal timber from outside the area, especially from Bandarlampung and major cities in Java.
In West Lampung and Tanggamus regencies, a limited number of sawmills have been allowed to remain open those equipped with IPKTM certificates," Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Lampung chapter director Hendrawan said Thursday.
Hendrawan said the huge volume of logs and processed timber in limited production forests and TNBBS showed that the mobile sawmills were still operating, especially since from a number of illegal logging cases, most of offenders were sawmill owners.
"The mobile sawmills have become a serious threat because their owners are hard to detect. They work in a careful manner. After sawing timber into particular sizes, illegal timber is floated downstream to trucks waiting at the river mouth, to be transported to Bandarlampung and Java through Bakauheni Port," Hendrawan said.
In the middle of last year, Walhi found 92 cubic meters of processed timber ready to be taken out of Bengkunat-Belimbing limited production forest, which borders next to TNBBS.
The timber was placed in a position ready to be floated downstream in a river linking the forest with an estuary in West Lampung.
Investigations conducted by West Lampung Forestry Office and the TNBBS Center found that the ready-for-sale processed timber was owned by a sawmill company that did not have an IPKTM permit. However, the sawmill owner was not punished despite being proven to have conducted illegal logging.
In March 2009, forest rangers discovered dozens of cubic meters of timber believed to not have IPKTM certification in the upstream area of Way Upang, West Lampung.
In mid February 2009, forest rangers also found 30 cubic meters of illegal timber in Ujungpandang hamlet, West Lampung, believed to have originated from a preserved forest or TNBBS.
TNBBS Center head Kurnia Rauf said illegal logging in the park had apparently dropped, adding that no cases were recorded last year.
"Illegal logging still exists, but the illegal loggers have shifted to trees found in buffer zones, such as preserved forests and limited production forests near TNBBS," he said.
Kurnia added that based on investigations conducted by the TNBBS Center, illegal logging was rampant in protected forests and limited production forests. Loggers usually gathered felled logs neatly in those forests. However, efforts to uncover these cases were futile.
"The lack of witnesses has become a problem in revealing perpetrators. Local residents have also remained silent because they are afraid," he said.
Oyos Saroso H.N, Bandarlampung Health insurance for the poor (Jamkesmasda) provided by the regional administration is being denied to 30 percent of poor families in Lampung because some of the insurance has wrongly been earmarked for rich people.
The coordinator for the Coalition for Healthy Lampung (KULS), Herdimansyah, blamed the misappropriation on scalpers offering to apply for the insurance program on other people's behalf for a fee.
"They operate not just at hospitals and health centers, but also at the subdistrict level," Herdimansyah said Wednesday.
He added that there were many heads of neighborhood units (RT) who did not distribute Jamkesmasda cards to the poor, but sold them to scalpers instead.
"There are many who enjoy free healthcare using Jamkesmasda insurance cards despite the fact they own luxury houses, cars and good business," he said.
He added that if the Rp 73 billion fund allocated by the Lampung provincial administration in 2009 to provide free healthcare to the poor was properly allocated, the number of people suffering from tuberculosis, polio and malnutrition in the province would drop significantly.
"It's very worrying to know that three people from impoverished backgrounds committed suicide last year because they did not have the money to see a doctor to treat their illnesses," Herdimansyah said.
The Jakarta Post conducted observations at hospitals in Bandar Lampung and saw many scalpers operating, claiming to be working for an NGO.
They approached the families of patients in the emergency wards and offered to process Jamkesmasda cards for a fee, according to the illness suffered by the patient.
"I usually ask for between Rp 100,000 and Rp 300,000 per card," a scalper at a hospital said.
The director of Bandar Lampung's Abdoel Moeloek Hospital, Wirman, denied scalpers were operating at his hospital. "There were some before, but there are none now. We have made announcements calling on patients' families not to seek free health services through scalpers," he said.
The head of the Lampung provincial health agency, Wiwiek Eka Maeni, said the fact that many poor families did not have Jamkesmasda cards could be blamed on poor distribution of the cards by heads of subdistricts and neighborhood units.
"Another possible reason may be that data on poor families reported by the Central Statistic Bureau to state-owned insurance company PT Askes does not match the reality in the field," Wiwiek said.
Wiwiek declined to comment on the alleged misappropriate use of the insurance by rich people.
Wiwik said the amount allocated to the Jamkesmasda program for 2010 was Rp 41 billion, an almost 50 percent decrease from 2009. The provincial budget contributed Rp 31 billion, with the remaining Rp 10 billion from the state budget, she said. "We actually need Rp 73 billion for the program this year," she added.
Herdimansyah said that a change to the way the Jamkesmasda program was implemented was needed to avoid misappropriation and prevent unnecessary budget increases.
"What is more important is that economically disadvantaged families have to be prioritized. Hospitals should no longer reject treatment because patients cannot afford the down payment," Herdimansyah said.
Oyos Saroso H. N., Bandarlampung Hundreds of billions of dollars from a fund for local education has been "embezzled" by school principals and committees due to a lack of supervision.
Forged financial reports, reduced funding for school activities and not spending funds from the central government in accordance with their allocation were the means used to embezzle the money.
An activist from the Lampung branch of the Indonesian Teachers' Dignity Forum, Rifian Al Chepy, said the misappropriation of education funds no longer occurred at the education office, but was ongoing in schools.
Many school principals own receipts or proof of purchase documents and false rubber stamps that enable them to provide legitimate paperwork to cover illegal activities.
The decentralized funds are part of the National Education Ministry's assistance to governors to finance educational programs that are under the jurisdiction of the central government in the provinces.
The funds are specifically aimed at supporting the nine-year mandatory education program.
"The public cannot oversee fund usage due to a lack of transparency. Even legislative councilors have no access to data on the amount of local education funds and what they are used for, let alone members of the public," said Chepy on Friday.
According to Chepy, members of the public have raised concern that many elementary school principals in Lampung have misappropriated school operational funds (BOS), but none of these cases have been legally processed.
The BOS are just a small part of the educational funding provided by the central government to provincial heads across the country.
Besides BOS, other education funds provided to provinces include welfare and qualification improvement funds for teachers, school building renovation and reconstruction funds, scholarship programs for needy students, textbook funds, national examination funds and other funds for education-related infrastructure and facilities.
"Nationally, the allocation of local education funds for the 2006-2008 period amounted to Rp 58.73 trillion (US$5.8 billion), which is broken down into Rp 17.88 trillion in 2006, Rp 18.77 trillion in 2007 and Rp 22.11 trillion in 2008.
"Lampung receives Rp 1.3 trillion in decentralized education funds annually," said Chepy.
Anti Corruption Committee coordinator Ahmad Yulden Erwin said that besides being prone to misappropriation, the decentralized education funds were also often used as a means to shun responsibilities, especially when corruption was involved.
"The education minister says the decentralized education funds are the responsibility of the governor, while the governor says the management of the funds is under the authority of the central government," said Erwin.
"In 2007, four provinces received more than Rp 1 trillion in the local education funds - West Java [Rp 3.15 trillion], Central Java [2.65 trillion], East Java [2.06 trillion] and North Sumatra [Rp 1.07 trillion]," said Erwin.
The government will again provide Rp 1.147 trillion in education funds to Lampung this year, a considerable amount compared to its total provincial budget of Rp 1.8 trillion.
Lampung Police are currently investigating a BOS case at the SDN 2 Sukabanjar state elementary school in West Lampung and are investigating its principal Edy Gunawan who is strongly believed to have submitted false data on the number of students receiving BOS funds.
Three Lampung Education Office heads have so far been convicted of embezzling education funds.
Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta A coalition of education activists from various NGOs criticizes President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as ignorant of public rejection concerning the controversial National Exam program.
Yudhoyono has thrown support towards the National Education Ministry to launch the exam, despite his earlier request for a review following a Supreme Court order for the government to first improve the quality of education across the country.
National Education Minister Muhammad Nuh argued that the exam was the only viable evaluation instrument for the country at this time.
Nuh also acknowledged there were many setbacks within the country's current educational system and the exam, but there were more positive aspects than negative ones.
Students and parents across the country have also despised the national exam because the assessment determines their eligibility to graduate from elementary and secondary schools, yet it is reported difficult to pass across the country in the midst of the disparity in education quality among regions.
For seven years, the country has also witnessed students suffer extreme stress as a result of the exams such as fainting or panic attacks.
Education analysts have continuously condemned the exam, because they deem it does not depict education's true purpose, which aims to empower people with knowledge, opposed to teaching them to remember answers.
"In my opinion, Yudhoyono does not listen to what the people want for the exam. It has been a seven-year discussion. We and probably the media are also bored of talking about the exam, but the President seems to have closed his ears," education expert Jimmy Paat said as quoted by kompas.com on Friday.
Jimmy said that Yudhoyono might have changed his mind following a meeting with Nuh.
"It is clear that the exam is about politics, not education. Therefore, we need to fight against it using political instruments. Students, teachers and parents must rally together," he said.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) coordinator Ade Irawan said the exam did not only rob students of their right to learn the best way, it also carried a bad precedent of corruption.
ICW findings show that the state has allocated a significant amount of budget for the exam. In 2004 the state allocated nearly Rp 260 billion (US$28.3 million).
The budget fell to around nearly Rp 250 billion the follwoing year, before rising to Rp 255 billion in 2006. The budget then decreased to Rp 244 billion in 2007, but then increased more than the doubled amount in 2008 to Rp 573 billion. Last year, the budget was around Rp 439 billion.
"Even though the government claims that it costs nothing for students to participate in the exam, the fact shows that parents and communities have been burdened with exam costs long before the examination takes place," Ade said.
"The National Education Ministry must transparently reveal its fund usage for conducting the exam. We also want the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) to audit the implementation of the exam budget," he added.
Febriamy Hutapea & Muninggar Sri Saraswati Embattled Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati got high grades for her performance on Wednesday in front of the House of Representatives special committee probing the PT Bank Century bailout, but the bulk of the legislators did not score nearly as well.
"The lawmakers keep repeating the same questions to the witnesses," said Yunarto Widjaja, a researcher with Charta Politika. "Instead of digging into the facts regarding whether or not the bailout was linked to a certain party for the election campaign, the lawmakers preferred to question her about gossip in the media."
Yunarto slammed the lawmakers for turning the questioning session into "a political idol contest" by posing "unsubstantial questions" apparently just to ensure that they would appear on live television.
He said Sri Mulyani outshined the lawmakers, who at times could be seen laughing amongst themselves when a colleague asked a question.
Deddy Mulyana, a political communication expert from Padjadjaran University, said Sri Mulyani "appeared confident and well- prepared," though at time seem bored.
He noted that Sri Mulyani also engaged in some one-upmanship by repeating 2008 statements in support of the bailout by committee members Bambang Soesatyo of the Golkar Party, Maruarar Siahaan of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Drajad Wibowo of the National Mandate Party (PAN). The trio now maintain they opposed the bailout.
The hearing began well for Sri Mulyani, a respected technocrat favored by the markets who approved the bailout after strong urging from Bank Indonesia, which at the time was headed by Vice President Boediono.
Sri Mulyani arrived carrying a bouquet of flowers and waved to a large group of supporters in the public gallery, including her husband and members of the Ministry of Finance though a number of legislators grumbled that they should have been at work.
Melchias Markus Mekeng, from Golkar, said he was disappointed that Sri Mulyani's answers were inconsistent. "She said Indonesia was on the brink of a crisis prior to the Century bailout," he said. "But in the 2008 central government financial report, she said Indonesia's economy was in good shape. That was inconsistent."
Many lawmakers also attempted to corner the minister over her controversial decision to inject cash into the ailing bank on the grounds that its potential collapse posed a systemic risk to the domestic banking sector and economy.
Sri Mulyani, however, stood by her decision, alluding to allegations that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Democratic Party benefited from the bailout by saying the decision benefited all Indonesians.
"All the horrid economic prediction about layoffs, growth contraction and enormous crisis cost did not materialize. Instead, today our state budget is one of the best in the world and [we are] one of the best-growing countries," she said, drawing warm applause from her supporters in the room.
Fauzi Ichsan, the chief economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Jakarta, and Purbaya Yudhi Sadewa, the chief economist at the state-run Danareksa Research Institute, also praised Sri Mulyani's performance at the hearing.
"I was worried that she would be very emotional since the question and the tone of the special committee members was often meant to corner her, but she remained calm," Purbaya said.
Muninggar Sri Saraswati & Febriamy Hutapea Two Political parties have removed three outspoken members of the House of Representatives special committee investigating the PT Bank Century bailout after the Democratic party appeared to threaten that cabinet positions were on the line if coalition partners didn't tone down their criticism of the scandal.
Both the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) rejected accusations that replacing the committee members was linked to talk of a cabinet reshuffle after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's evaluation of his cabinet's first 100 days in office even though the committee, which convened on Dec. 5, only has three weeks left to complete its inquiry.
The withdrawal of the committee members follows the weekend election of Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa, a key ally of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to lead the PAN a move commentators described as a way for the president to consolidate his ruling coalition.
PAN secretary general Taufik Kurniawan denied that replacing Chandra Tirta Wijaya with Asman Abnur was an attempt to weaken the committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the allegedly illegal bailout in 2008, which critics allege benefitted Yudhoyono and the Democratic Party.
"It's just a common move to refresh the personnel. There was no pressure whatsoever," Kurniawan said, adding that the membership of the special committee was "very flexible."
Taufik said Asman was initially appointed to sit on the committee, but it was Chandra who assumed the position because Asman was busy preparing PAN's national congress.
"Chandra was sitting on the committee temporarily. Since the congress has been concluded, Asman should take over his position," he said.
The PKB, which pulled Marwan Ja'far and Anna Muawanah from the committee and replaced them with Agus Sulisyono and Muhammad Toha, similarly denied the replacements were politically motivated.
The replacements were necessary to "refresh and improve" the performance of PKB lawmakers both on the committee and the House, PKB secretary general Lukman Edy said.
"We expect Marwan to focus more on the PKB faction," he said, saying that his position as the PKB faction chairman already required him to extend himself due to his heavy workload.
The PKB, Lukman said, did not want Marwan's management of the faction to be distracted by the Century probe.
Bachrudin Nasori, PKB's central board general treasurer, said the two members' replacement occurred following a meeting of faction leadership with PKB Chairman Muhaimin Iskandar on Tuesday.
Both Lukman and Taufik claimed the replacements of the three lawmakers, who have been involved in the committee since the very beginning, would not affect the performance of their factions during the probe.
Lukman said the new members would be as critical as the lawmakers they replaced, adding that they would learn quickly.
Democratic Party faction leader Anas Urbaningrum denied the possible intervention of the Democrats. Anas said the evaluation that had been mentioned by Yudhoyono would be more comprehensive in order to improve the coalition scheme and ties.
"What we [Democrats] want is simple how all coalition parties can be consistent and firm in holding the coalition and ethics together," he said. "We want the 'coalition faith' to remain strong and not be easily shaken by the political dynamic," he added.
Febriamy Hutapea, Dion Bisara, Anita Rachman Indonesian Vice President Boediono on Tuesday exasperated lawmakers and activists with vague and reluctant answers to questions from the House of Representatives special committee investigating the Bank Century bailout.
"My personal judgement [is that] it is not [state money]. But I leave the matter to the legal experts," Boediono said, replying to Ahmad Muzani, a lawmaker from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra). Ahmad had asked whether the Deposit Insurance Corporation (LPS) had used state money to bail out Century.
His answer angered Ahmad La Ode Kamaluddin, an activist from the Anti-Corruption Youth Action Committee. "Boediono is a thief. Investigate and bring Boediono to trial," he shouted, before security guards escorted him to Jakarta Police headquarters.
Boediono was Bank Indonesia governor at the time of the Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) bailout in 2008. According to tape- recordings of meetings in which the decision was debated, he insisted that Century's failure could threaten the entire banking sector as the global financial crisis was unfolding and banks were suffering severe liquidity problems.
Despite the aggressive grilling by lawmakers, Boediono avoided offering a firm answer on whether state funds were used in the bailout. "I don't have any decision on whether the bailout used state money. I'm not in a position to judge it," he said.
However, when asked why Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati had been involved in an emergency meeting on the bailout on Nov. 21, 2008, Boediono said that as chair of the Committee for Financial Sector Stability (KSSK) she was required to be involved "because it was related to state funds."
Lawmakers professed confusion over Boediono's apparently contradictory answers.
"How could you give a judgment about the supposed systemic impact [on the banking sector] but could not say firmly whether the bailout used state funds," said Maruarar Sirait, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Boediono said the LPS's money consisted of an initial Rp 4 trillion from the government and premiums paid by banks for the corporation's deposit-guarantee program. Some organizations, such as the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK), believed that the LPS funds consisted of state money.
Boediono also denied that Marsilam Simanjuntak, the head of the President's Working Unit for the Management of Reform Programs, was asked to attend the meeting by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to back the bailout.
"Marsilam was clearly not involved in the decision-making. His presence was only as a source," Boediono said. "He was asked to give advice on legal matters because economic problems are linked with legal matters."
Boediono said Sri Mulyani had reported the bailout decision to Yudhoyono, who was overseas, after the conclusion of the KSSK meeting.
Replying to a question about why then-Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who was then acting head of state, was not notified, Boediono said, "Bank Indonesia had no obligation to report to him."
Kalla, whom Boediono replaced as vice president in October, is scheduled to face questioning by the House special committee today.
Febriamy Hutapea President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been accused of attempting a "trick" to legitimize the bailout of PT Bank Century after the fact.
Bambang Soesatyo, a Golkar Party legislator, said Yudhoyono was seeking to revive the Financial System Safety Net (JPSK) bill, which he said had already been rejected by the outgoing House of Representatives in September, by asking for it to be withdrawn.
Bambang said the president's request was a "trick" to protect Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Vice President Boediono from possible charges related to the Bank Century bailout, which cost taxpayers Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million). "The House should be firm in rejecting the president's request," he said.
In September, the outgoing House rejected a resubmitted draft of the JPSK bill over an article that some lawmakers claimed was covertly inserted by the government to legitimize the Bank Century bailout after the fact.
The JPSK bill essentially covers the emergency regulation in lieu of law, or perppu, issued by the president on Oct. 15, 2008, allowing the establishment of the Financial System Stability Committee (KKSK), a joint committee comprised of top officials from the Ministry of Finance and central bank. Led by the finance minister, the committee was granted the authority to decide whether to bail out troubled financial institutions that threatened the entire financial system. In November 2008, it decided to bail out Bank Century.
Sri Mulyani was quoted in September as saying the decision to bail out Bank Century was based "on the regulation in lieu of law." However, she has also said the bailout was justified by several other government regulations.
Lawmakers had said the resubmitted draft of the JPSK bill included an article that would have made the perppu on financial safety net protocols valid prior to the bill's coming into effect.
Harry Azhar Azis, deputy chairman of the House budgetary commission at the time, said that if the clause had been accepted, the Bank Century bailout "would be fully legitimate."
The confusion over whether the bill was rejected or merely delayed resulted because former House Speaker Agung Laksono had asked the government to resubmit it after it was not endorsed last year.
House Deputy Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso confirmed over the weekend that Yudhoyono last month sent a letter to the House seeking to withdraw the bill, which meant that in the government's view, the House had not yet rejected the bill but had merely delayed debating it.
"We're worried that if we follow the president's request, the bill will still be deemed legitimate," he said.
If the JPSK bill had not been rejected by the House in September, this would have meant that any decision made based on the perppu from the time it was issued until the time it was eventually revoked, which includes the Bank Century bailout, was legal.
Priyo said if the House accepted the president's request to withdraw the bill, it would mean that the House special committee probing the legality of the bailout could be dismissed on the grounds that the bill was still considered legitimate.
"We will announce the [president's] proposal to the plenary session [on Tuesday] and conduct a factional leaders' meeting to decide on our response to the request," Priyo said.
Febriamy Hutapea & Antara In his harshest comments yet on the controversial PT Bank Century bailout, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla denied claims by former Bank Indonesia officials that if the lender had been allowed to fail it would have had a systemic impact on the country's banking system and economy.
"The Bank Century scandal is a robbery," Kalla said during a seminar, titled "Time for the Conscience to Speak," at Hotel Sahid Jaya in Jakarta on Friday. "Anyone who supports Bank Century, supports a robber."
He said Bank Century, since renamed PT Bank Mutiara, got into trouble because its funds had been stolen, not because of the financial crisis, and that its failure would not have affected the rest of the banking system.
"But to this day it is still not transparent what the case is about," the former Golkar Party chairman said in comments that appeared to be directed at the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Kalla said the scandal had inflamed the public and could have disastrous consequences, reminding his audience of the events surrounding the downfall of former President Suharto in 1998, when economic frustrations led to huge protests and riots.
Kalla said he hoped the House of Representatives special committee investigating the scandal arrived at a judicious decision that was in keeping with the people's sense of justice.
Meanwhile, a recommendation by the special committee to suspend Vice President Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati during its inquiry has been rejected by leaders in the legislature.
Deputy Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso, of the Golkar Party, said the House Consultative Body comprised of party faction leaders in the House had agreed in a meeting to stash the proposal "in the desks of House leaders."
During the meeting, the Golkar Party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and People's Conscience Party (Hanura) voted to forward the proposal to a full House plenary session. They also supported sending an official letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono demanding he fire the vice president and finance minister.
However, all of the parties in Yudhoyono's Democratic Party-led coalition except for Golkar fell into line and rejected any further action.
Priyo, speaking about the ongoing Bank Century scandal during a discussion at the House, conceded there had been a "little debate" in arriving at the decision not to proceed with the suspension request, but when House Speaker Marzuki Alie, of the Democratic Party, "banged the gavel, no one argued with it."
The special committee has been criticized for its "malicious attempts" to oust the two professionals from their posts, while Yudhoyono rejected outright calls for dismissal. It has faced further criticism for allegedly politicizing the inquiry rather than focusing on investigating the circumstances surrounding the Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) bailout.
Meanwhile, Sri Mulyani, who chaired the Financial Sector Stability Committee (KSSK) that decided on the Bank Century bailout, is scheduled to appear before the House inquiry committee on Wednesday.
Febriamy Hutapea & Nivell Rayda A senior Democratic Party leader sought to calm the party's coalition partners on Thursday, saying the evaluation of the alliance, called for by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was not a threat in response to their aggressive stance in the PT Bank Century probe.
"It should not be seen as a threat to frighten coalition parties. It's actually to keep the coalition's spirit up," said Anas Urbaningrum, chairman of the Democratic faction in the House of Representatives.
Yudhoyono, who heads the Democratic Party Advisory Board, announced on Wednesday that he would conduct a review of the coalition agreement.
"The performance contract, integrity pact and coalition agreement will be evaluated," Yudhoyono said after inaugurating three deputy ministers. He also reminded coalition partners to remain loyal and consistent in their support.
The president's comments came as lawmakers on the House special committee investigating Bank Century intensified moves to question state and former Bank Indonesia officials, including Yudhoyono's in-law Aulia Pohan.
"The evaluation only emphasizes the president's initiative to keep the spirit. It has nothing to do with the investigation of the Century case," Anas said.
The Democrats' coalition consists of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Golkar Party and the United Development Party (PPP).
"The establishment of the House special committee is decided based on agreement in the House. If there is tension during the committee's investigation, I think it's normal and does not break the coalition platform," PKS faction chairman Mustafa Kamal said.
He added that PKS representatives in the cabinet had been professional in their duties and he was confident the evaluation would not damage their positions.
"The evaluation is normal. It should not be looked at as an effort to threaten certain parties," he said.
In the investigation, Marwan Ja'far, special committee member from the PKB, said some Century depositors reimbursed after the Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) bailout had names similar to or the same as five senior officials and politicians. He listed the depositors as Sri Mulyani, Fran Seda, Hadi Utomo, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Fahmi Idris.
The Financial Transaction Report and Analysis Center (PPATK) on Wednesday handed the committee the list of the key depositors. But their profiles, including personal data such as address, age and profession, were different from the officials and politicians they shared similar names with. Each account held less than Rp 2 billion, according to the PPATK.
Other names on the list were said to be similar to the relatives of lawmakers, such as Satya Kusuma Sari, the wife of Hartanto Edhie Wibowo brother of first lady Ani Yudhoyono and Armand Omar Moeis, the son of PDI-P politician Emir Moeis.
Marwan said the House would soon summon the PPATK to question it over possible connections between the political figures and depositors with similar names.
The committee on Thursday also questioned two Bank Indonesia deputy governors, Muliaman Hadad and Budi Mulia.
Separately, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) continued its probe into the bailout, questioning Fuad Rahmani, chairman of the Capital Market and Financial Institutions Supervisory Agency (Bapepam-LK). KPK spokesman Johan Budi would only say that the agency had questioned Fuad "in connection to the Century case."
The KPK also interviewed Darso Wijaya, an executive of Bank Century, now renamed Bank Mutiara. Darso declined to comment after facing five hours of questioning.
Including Raden Parded, the secretary of the Financial Stability System Committee (KSSK), which issued the decision to rescue the bank, a total of six people have been questioned by the KPK in connection with the bailout.
Ulma Haryanto & Febriamy Hutapea A senior lawmaker on Thursday accused President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of capitalizing on the prison corruption scandal to boost his own popularity, which has taken a hit due to investigations into the PT Bank Century bailout.
Trimedya Panjaitan from the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) said the judicial mafia task force's surprise inspection of East Jakarta's Pondok Bambu Women's Detention Center on Sunday was a desperate bid to divert attention from the House of Representatives special committee's probe into the controversial Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) bailout in November 2008.
"This was an image-building exercise," said Trimedya, a member of House Commission III overseeing legal affairs, during a discussion at the House. "Efforts to eradicate the judicial mafia should not be simply conducted through inspections followed by purges of the legal apparatus."
The task force recently established by Yudhoyono to tackle graft in the country's legal system visited Pondok Bambu after receiving a tip-off about rampant corruption at the jail. The team discovered high-profile inmates such as Artalyta Suryani who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2008 for bribing state prosecutors enjoying special privileges, including spa treatments, air-conditioning and even a karaoke room. The prison's director, Sarju Wibowo, was suspended as a result.
Real reform, Trimedya said, came from substantial moves to overhaul the correctional system, instead of merely inspecting one prison and then failing to clear up the mess.
He also pointed out that the team's members, made up of accomplished technocrats, would no longer be focused on their primary duties because of the wide scope of the task force.
One member, Yunus Husein, chairman of the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), has been ordered by the House special committee to track down the funds used in the Bank Century bailout.
Emerson Yuntho, deputy chairman of Indonesia Corruption Watch, told the Jakarta Globe that the president's judicial mafia task force "might be a way to cover up some of the government's embarrassments."
He went as far as to say that the suspended prison warden might have even been made a scapegoat. "More comprehensive investigations are needed because it is known by all that [corruption] does not only happen at Pondok Bambu, but also at other penitentiaries," he said.
Furthermore, Emerson said the sanction would not solve the problem of graft in the correctional system. "If suspension is the only punishment, then people like Sarju may laugh it off," he said, adding that it could be used as an excuse to ask for more bribes because they can say their jobs were now at stake.
Emerson said prison officials caught engaging in graft should be dishonorably discharged.
"Penitentiaries have two major problems poor provision of facilities and negligence in supervision," he said. "There should be more surprise inspections, they need to improve the infrastructure and the facilities of penitentiaries, reinforce the system of monitoring and supervision."
Patra M Zen, chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), told the Jakarta Globe that the government needed to do more than dole out administrative sanctions. "Alleged criminal activities must be investigated particularly bribery," he said.
Darmaji, chairman of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights' General Audit Inspectorate, said investigations were continuing into corruption at state penitentiaries.
"Right now we are doing a thorough inspection of the Pondok Bambu case," he said. "We are tracking down former wardens and top-level officials involved in the provision of those luxurious facilities at Pondok Bambu. Some have already been transferred to Bandung, Palembang and other cities, but it does not mean that we are not pursuing them."
Nivell Rayda & Antara In what could be a major blow to the respected Corruption Eradication Commission, Constitutional Court chief Mahfud MD has reportedly forwarded allegations to the judiciary mafia task force that the antigraft agency extorted a witness out of Rp 20 billion ($2.2 million).
Deny Indrayana, secretary of the task force, said Mahfud had contacted his office about the allegations and would present all the relevant documents to support his claims. The chief justice, he said, based the claims on a formal complaint from a witness.
"The report must be dealt with carefully. We don't want to tarnish the reputation of the KPK," said Denny, as quoted by the state Antara news agency, referring to the antigraft commission. "Many people have impersonated KPK officials in the past and we don't rule out that possibility."
Denny said the task force would closely examine Mahfud's report before taking any concrete action. The task force is planning to meet with leaders of the Constitutional Court about the matter, but Denny said the team would immediately ask Mahfud to submit all evidence.
KPK spokesman Johan Budi said the antigraft agency was ready to launch its own investigation into the allegations. "We have an internal system that allows anyone to complain about being extorted by a KPK official. The report can be made anonymously," he said. "But if the perpetrator is someone impersonating a KPK official, then the case would be forwarded to the police."
Since the KPK was established in late 2003, more than a hundred people have been arrested for claiming to be officials of the agency in order to extort money.
On Monday, the task force visited the offices of the Judicial Commission and the Supreme Court to hold meetings with the leadership of the institutions to discuss its broader mission.
Judicial Commission Chairman Busyro Muqqodas welcomed the team and offered full access to commission information to aid it in its drive to eliminate the judicial corruption, which has long tainted the legal system. "We expect [the task force] to pursue our reports," he said during the meeting.
The commission also urged the task force to push the House of Representatives to debate a bill designed to strengthen the commission's authority.
Currently, the Judicial Commission is only authorized to investigate cases against judges and other members of the court but is not able to charge or try them. The controversial Supreme Court Law states the commission can only file investigation reports with that court, which is perceived to be one of the nation's most graft-ridden bodies.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Harifin Tumpa claimed the court, which oversees the district and high courts, would not hesitate to seek the task force's assistance should it encounter problems with the judicial mafia.
He said, however, that the Supreme Court had done its part in the crackdown by taking "harsh measures" against court officials involved in corruption or other crimes.
In 2009 alone, some 200 judges, court clerks and court officers have been sanctioned, he said, adding that some judges were banned from hearing cases while others were transferred.
Task force chairman Kuntoro Mangkusubroto welcomed the Supreme Court's commitment to fight corruption in the justice system, saying that he was "happy" with the progress so far.
Less than two weeks ago, the Judicial Commission criticized the Supreme Court for failing to act on its recommendations to sanction 28 judges who had been questioned by the commission over alleged irregularities in their verdicts.
Jakarta Last year's poor performance of law enforcement institutions, especially the district courts, in fighting corruption has once again been thrust into the spotlight after a recent report from Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW).
The latest report shows that 224, or 59.26 percent of 378 suspects tried for alleged involvement in corruption in 2009 were acquitted from all charges.
ICW disclosed that the 224 suspects released last year were implicated in 199 corruption cases, believed to have caused the state Rp 1.7 trillion (US$178.94 million) in losses.
"The number of suspects acquitted in district courts throughout Indonesia occurred at all levels, from the trial to appeal stages," ICW legal researcher Febridiansyah said as quoted by detik.com on Monday.
In addition, the report also highlighted the tendency of judges to hand out sentences of less than one year.
This fact, according to ICW, shows the Supreme Court under the leadership of Harifin Tumpa has failed to meet public expectations about the eradication of graft in the country.
He explained that 154 suspects were punished, but only lightly, thereby failing to suitably discourage future perpetrators.
"Of the 154 suspects, only one was sentenced to more than 10 years in jail," Febridiansyah said, adding that those sentenced to less than one year totaled 81, while 23 suspects were sentenced to between 1.1 and 2 years in jail.
"Twenty-six people were sentenced to between 2.1 and 5 years, while 6 others were sentenced to 5.1- to 10 years," he said.
The most deplorable fact, he said, was that 16 suspects were sentenced to probation.
As an example, Febridiansyah cited the lightest sentence of 3- months imprisonment given by the Sumbawa District Court in West Nusa Tenggara to Umar and Ali Ibnu Husein, two legislative councilors from Sumbawa, for graft in relation to the 2003 regional budget.
"Nursetyadi Pamungkas [president of PT Sentra Artha Utama] received the heaviest sentence of 12 years in jail from the Situbondo District Court in East Java for involvement in misappropriation of the regency budget worth Rp 45.73 billion," he said.
The most striking aspect of the 378 suspects, he said, was the high number of government officials involved in graft. More than 116 were former members of local legislative councils, 52 were state officials, 63 were heads of government institutions and 69 were private employees.
"The 224 suspects acquitted from all charges by district court raised the number of those acquitted for alleged corruption to 883 as of last year," he said.
According to ICW's report, the Makassar District Court in South Sulawesi is a "heaven" for corruption, where 38 suspects were released, followed by Tahuna Talau District Court in North Sulawesi where 20 suspects were acquitted from their charges. The Supreme Court released 18 corruption suspects last year.
Nivell Rayda To the chagrin of human rights and anti-graft activists, the Corruption Eradication Commission on Friday declined to name businessman Anggodo Widjojo as a graft suspect despite 10 hours of questioning and his previous admission to having paid bribes.
Emerson Yuntho, deputy chairman of Indonesia Corruption Watch, said courage, or the lack of it, was all that stood between Anggodo and charges of attempted bribery and obstructing a graft investigation by the commission, known as the KPK.
"The KPK should have named Anggodo as a suspect and arrested him. The case already has ample evidence. What is the KPK waiting for?" Emerson said, adding that the results of Friday's inquiry had disappointed antigraft activists.
Anggodo answered the KPK's summons despite suspicions that he would not. He ignored an initial KPK summons on Dec. 30, and had said he would not respond to a second summons.
Former KPK deputy chairman Erry Ryana Hardjapamekas said the decision not to arrest Anggodo would "damage people's trust in the KPK."
Anggodo's name dominated public discussion shortly after secretly taped phone conversations between the businessman and several law-enforcement officials were played at a Constitutional Court hearing. The recordings indicated he was at the center of efforts to fabricate a graft case against two KPK deputy chairmen Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M Hamzah. He claimed that he had provided Rp 5.1 billion ($556,000) to the pair in a bid to stop the KPK's investigation of his brother, Anggoro Widjojo, now a fugitive in a graft case.
The allegations against Bibit and Chandra were never proven. The Attorney General's Office dropped the charges of extortion and abuse of power against them on Dec. 1, in the face of overwhelming public pressure and a public statement by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
KPK spokesman Johan Budi said Anggodo would face more questioning on Monday. "Based on his explanation, Anggodo is ready to be questioned again," he said. "We haven't had the chance to ask him about the recordings yet."
After the questioning, Anggodo, his lawyers and KPK's security personnel were involved in a scuffle with journalists, all eager to ask the businessman for comment on his questioning. Some 30 KPK security officers helped him get into his vehicle.
Bonaran Situmeang, Anggodo's senior lawyer, said Anggodo was asked 26 questions by KPK investigators. When asked about the chance of Anggodo escaping, Bonaran said it would be "impossible. We are ready anytime."
Anggoro is still wanted by the KPK in connection with the illegal procurement of a radio-communication system by the Ministry of Forestry in 2007 from his company, PT Masaro Radiokom. Anggoro allegedly gave more than $1 million in kickbacks to politicians and ministry officials.
In addition to Anggoro, three people have been declared suspects in the Ministry of Forestry case. A former politician from the National Awakening Party (PKB), Yusuf Erwin Faishal, is now serving a four-and-a-half year prison term.
Khairul Saleh, Palembang Disappointed by a protracted land dispute, thousands of villagers in South Sumatra have reclaimed plantation land managed by state-owned plantation company PTPN VII Cinta Manis.
The residents of Rengas village, Payaraman district, Ogan Ilir regency, placed poles along the disputed land and planted pineapple and rubber trees on the land on Saturday.
Similarly, residents in neighboring Lubuk Bandung and Betung villages also reclaimed land managed by the plantation company.
The dispute over 1,529 hectares of land had triggered a shooting incident recently. Police mobile brigade officers shot protesters, injuring dozens of villagers. Eleven of the residents were treated at hospital for their wounds.
The residents' efforts to reclaim their land was supported by several NGOs, including the Palembang Legal Aid Institute (LBH), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Indonesian Farmers Union and the Agrarian Reform Consortium.
Muhammad Firli of the Ogan Ilir Farmers Union said the Regas villagers' actions were aimed at taking over the land, which had been controlled by the plantation company for 27 years.
"The residents are ready to face any violent consequences resulting from this act," Firli said in Palembang on Saturday.
Palembang LBH executive director Eti Gustina added the act aimed to increase the residents' bargaining power as they had not been able to access their land for decades. "This seizure is the right option at this time," he said.
Meanwhile, South Sumatra Walhi executive director Anwar Sadat said the NGOs supported the action, and hoped security personnel did not hinder the residents. "Military and police officers should not prevent the villagers from reclaiming their rights to the land," Anwar said.
He said many documents showed the land rightfully belonged to the residents. He added the plantation company was in a legally weak position since it had no land use certificate (HGU) for the land.
Anwar added that South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin had called for the plantation company to return the land.
Plantation spokesman Sonny Soediastanto said the company would not take legal action against the residents, and instead take a persuasive approach involving the government.
"However, we regret that the dispute has spread further afield," Sonny said in reference to the involvement of residents from the neighboring villages.
Sara Schonhardt, Jakarta Nasir Abas' easy smile grows when asked to explain the aims of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the radical Southeast Asian terror group he once led and which stands accused of plotting some of Indonesia's most deadly terrorist attacks, including the 2002 bombing of a Bali nightclub that took more than 200 lives.
JI has long called for the creation of an Islamic caliphate in Muslim areas of Southeast Asia, including across Indonesia, but that objective has over the years come at the expense of civilian lives. Nasir remains at heart a jihadi, but he now uses words rather than weapons to challenge Islamists about the killing of other Muslims.
Over a plate of sushi and a cup of Oolong tea, Nasir spoke with Asia Times Online on his views about the diminished threat of Indonesian extremism, why the creation of an Islamic state would never work in Indonesia and how talking with terrorists is the best way to stem the spread of violence and radicalism.
After his arrest in 2003, Nasir was the first JI leader to provide assistance to Indonesia's special counter-terrorism task force, Detachment 88. The unit was formed by the national police in the wake of the Bali bombing and has received technical assistance and training from US and Australian authorities.
Tasked with rooting out JI and its terror networks, Detachment 88 has succeeded in co-opting former radicals like Nasir, who said then-counter-terrorism head, Brigadier General Bekto Suprapto, won him over by speaking to him as an equal, commander to commander.
"He gave me trust, so I decided I should give him trust," said Nasir, who detailed his own time in detention to explain why programs aimed at de-radicalizing terrorists require dialogue and religious guidance.
Nasir currently leads discussions with prisoners convicted on terrorism charges and trains Islamic clerics on how to relate better to former and current JI members. The foundation he assists, Ikrar Bina Umat, or Human Development Pledge, has also approached the children of convicted terrorists to help them understand why their family members have been imprisoned.
A recent study conducted by the University of Indonesia's psychology department, in collaboration with Nasir, challenged inmates convicted of terrorism in a debate over the use of violence that involved Islamic leaders and psychologists. Prison de-radicalization programs in Yemen and Saudi Arabia also use theological debate as a tool of reform, but critics say mere discussion fails to change fundamentally extremists' mindsets.
"When [terrorist inmates] start to have discussions, it means they are opening their minds to accept other ideas," said Nasir. "The dangerous people are those who don't want to sit down and talk."
Indeed, therapeutic conversation doesn't always work; some inmates who have participated in rehabilitation programs have later returned to their radical networks. At a counter-terrorism conference held in Jakarta in November, Detachment 88 chief, Usman Nasution, spoke to the need for more vigilance in post- release monitoring of former terrorists.
He raised the case of Urwah, a JI member arrested and jailed for four years in connection with the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing who on release took part in last July's J W Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotel attacks.
Nasir argues that such recidivism occurs because of a lack of funding and effort in government de-radicalization programs. He believes that most JI members are not criminals, but rather people who have been misled. It takes time and effort to gain the trust needed to get extremists thinking differently, Nasir said.
That's because the JI movement has deep ideological and historical roots. JI splintered from the Darul Islam, an Islamic group that had for decades sought the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia. After forming in 1993, JI carried on DI's mission, until, in 1998, al-Qaeda go-between and JI operations chief, Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, carried a message from Osama bin Laden that called for revenge against the United States and its allies.
The message didn't resonate well with Nasir and other JI leaders who believed a tit-for-tat battle with the West was counterproductive to their overarching goal of creating an Islamic state. Bin Laden often referred to scriptures in the Koran to justify terror attacks against soft targets, Nasir said.
In recent years, terrorist targets in Indonesia have varied, waged sometimes against what radicals consider an infidel government since it does not operate according to Islamic law, and other times against Western interests, evidenced in the July bombings of Western-owned and frequented hotels.
Despite disagreeing with some of bin Laden's ideas, Nasir said he still respects the al-Qaeda leader for leading a life that is pure and sacred. "Osama is a good person, but he committed a crime," said Nasir, referring to the terror leader's advocacy of attacks on innocent civilians.
The former JI commander Nasir laughs when talking about the intellectual rather than jihadi debates he now prefers to wage. He says he frequently makes house calls to his former JI colleagues or holds coffee conversations that range from the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims in Malaysia to the US-led war in Afghanistan.
"People believe Afghanistan and Pakistan have a right to be against America because the Americans invaded them," said Nasir, who claims he is no longer part of JI but needs to stay integrated in its culture to maintain credibility among those he wishes to reform.
That also means not aligning himself too closely with the police: "I'm not working with the police. I'm not cooperating, I'm assisting. The wording is very important to me."
Nasir's job has become easier as al-Qaeda's increasingly brutal tactics, including attacks on hotels and other public places, have isolated Indonesia's already small segment of extremists. The idea of using dialogue in the war against extremism has also recently gained traction in government with the formation of an agency that will coordinate across ministries and the departments of Education, Social Affairs and Industry.
To be sure, few terrorists imagine a life after jihad that involves selling kebabs, raising chickens or providing herbal medicine to poor Muslim communities. But that is the goal of some civil society groups in Indonesia working with government to provide jobs and economic assistance for convicted terrorists after they are released from prison.
"The idea is that terrorism is not dealt with only by combat, but also by winning the hearts and minds of terrorists," said Rhousdy Soeriaatmadja, coordinator for international cooperation at the Security Ministry's Counter-Terrorism Coordinating Desk. The elevation of that desk to agency status, whose head reports directly to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is part of the government's 100-day plan to supplement its use of force and intelligence with terror prevention techniques.
If all goes to plan, the agency would diminish the current ad hoc nature of counter-terrorism efforts and improve cooperation with civil society groups looking to improve the lives of the poor and marginalized who are most easily persuaded by radical propaganda, said Dharmawan Ronodipuro, spokesman for the head of the Counter-Terrorism Desk.
According to Rhousdy, that would include post-release monitoring not only by the police, but also by local people in areas where terror convicts are released. His desk has led an education program that uses wayang puppet shows to teach people the dangers of terrorism.
The initial training, which involved 103 puppet masters in Bandung and another 107 in Central Java, provided puppeteers with information and materials about terrorism. Five performances took place in 2009, but the ministry has been muted about its involvement for fear that people would be less accepting if they felt the show was government propaganda.
"De-radicalization efforts need to come from the government, but socialization should be tied to other sources," said Rhousdy.
So far, counter-terrorism operations have focused mainly on intelligence-gathering, which led to a series of successful operations last year. For instance, a raid in September killed JI mastermind and bombing expert, Noordin Top, but it also raised criticism from human-rights groups that accused the police of using excessive and disproportionate force in their operations.
To dismantle JI's ideological infrastructure, including the schools and radical publishing houses that give rise to and disseminate extremist ideologies, police and military officers have called for stronger anti-terrorism laws similar to those in use in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.
Yet draconian detention laws fuel the grievances and resentments created by indiscriminate police sweeps in search of those involved in plotting terrorist acts, said Noor Huda Ismail, whose Institute for International Peacebuilding runs a pilot de- radicalization program in some of the prisons where Indonesia's 148 terrorist inmates are held.
Security analysts and foreign governments continue to monitor Indonesia's brand of extremism to determine how deep the roots of terrorism run in the world's largest Muslim country. Detachment 88 chief Usman has said that Indonesia is still at risk from attacks by new cells that formed in the wake of Top's assassination. Even the likes of Nasir say they would return to jihad if Indonesia were threatened by an attack from outsiders.
But the ideological drive to create an Islamic state seems to have cooled among former extremists, according to Nasir. He notes that an Islamic state has been achieved in Aceh the one province in Indonesia that operates according to strict sharia law.
But with Muslims still discriminating against other Muslims, "There is no guarantee they could establish a good Islamic state here," said Nasir, referring in particular to recent clashes between conservative Muslims and an Islamic sect viewed by hardliners as heretical.
While some believe that JI has lost strength through recent arrests and assassinations of its top members, the ideology of jihad lingers. And as long as those ideologies persist, said Dharmawan and others, the threat of terrorism in Indonesia is still clear and present.
[Sara Schonhardt is a freelance writer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has lived and worked in Southeast Asia for six years and has a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University.]
Erwida Maulia, Jakarta Indonesian Muslim organizations have been asked to remind followers not to follow in the steps of recent church attacks in Malaysia, following a Kuala Lumpur court ruling lifting the ban on the use of the word "Allah" by non- Muslim Malaysians.
Noted Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra said although Indonesian Muslims were more tolerant regarding the use of "Allah" by non- Muslims, there remained the possibility of similar attacks by a few small but radical Muslim groups here.
"It could likewise happen in Indonesia because there are a few small groups here that might go to such lengths. They have often caused disturbances, albeit on a small scale," Azyumardi told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
He urged the government to coordinate campaigns against church attacks by involving Muslim organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and other institutions including the police and the Religious Affairs Ministry.
"What's important is to inform the public not to let similar incidents happen in Indonesia," Azyumardi said. He added the police should monitor the security of local churches, but reminded them against doing so conspicuously.
"If it's too indiscrete, I'm afraid it could spark unexpected reactions instead," Azyumardi said, suggesting that police officers monitor covertly. He also urged police to harshly punish any groups or individuals committing such acts.
Firebombs were thrown at three more churches in Malaysia on Sunday and another was splashed with black paint, the latest in a series of assaults on churches, the Associated Press reported Sunday. Four were reportedly attacked Saturday.
Prominent NU and Muhammadiyah figures called on Indonesian Muslims not to draw inspiration from the Malaysian church attacks.
"Don't be influenced by the incidents in Malaysia. Don't attack churches. It is against the teachings of our religion and the laws of our state," NU deputy chairman Shalahuddin Wahid was quoted as saying by Koran Jakarta daily on Saturday.
Former Muhammadiyah chairman M. Syafii Maarif, meanwhile, emphasized the need for religious organizations such as NU and Muhammadiyah to call on their followers to avoid settling problems through violence.
"Having NU and Muhammadiyah communicate directly with their followers is a more effective approach as these organizations can reach the grass roots," Syafii said of two largest Muslim groups in Indonesia, which claim to have 40 million and 20 million followers, respectively.
Executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops' Council (KWI), Father Benny Susetyo, said what happened in Malaysia was merely a language problem.
"This is actually a mere matter of language use. A group says the use of the word "Allah" is exclusive to Islam. Yet the naming of God is a supernatural matter, in which mankind gives a name to a power beyond their own," Benny said.
The KWI's deputy head of religion and humanity relation, Ismartono, expressed his sympathy for the Malaysian government, which has condemned the church attacks.
He asked the Indonesian public to not immediately relate the attacks with disputes over the use of the word "Allah" by non- Muslim Malaysians.
Apriadi Gunawan and Khairul Saleh, Medan/Palembang Demands to block TV programs the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) considers detrimental to the mentality and morality of the public have expanded to Sumatra island.
In Medan, North Sumatra, delegations from all MUI chapters on the island issued a recommendation for Religious Affairs Minister Surya-dharma Ali to stop mystical and gossip programs from being aired on TV.
"They are damaging mentality and morality and therefore must be stopped, to prevent younger generations from being misled and losing their identity," Muslim Ibrahim of MUI's Aceh chapter said while reading out the recommendation, at a gathering at Merdeka Square, Medan, on Sunday.
Muslim also said all MUI chapters in Sumatra were in support of the Religious Affairs Ministry and the MUI's decision to declare gossip infotainment programs haram (forbidden under Islam). Gossip programs had no educational value, he said.
MUI chairman Nazri Adlani welcomed the recommendations and promised to support them until they were implemented by government.
In response, Suryadharma said he was also in support of the recommendations. "Let's pray to have the recommendation implemented," he told thousands of Muslims attending the forum.
In Palembang, MUI South Sumatra chapter on Saturday declared that television programs that screened hypnosis, fortune telling and match-making were haram.
The head of the chapter's edict commission, Luthfi Izzudin, said that according to Islamic teaching, making people lose consciousness to reveal information from them to be made public was sinful.
At a meeting of Islamic scholars in Surabaya in 2006, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) declared that infotainment programs were haram because they presented ghibah (gossip), which is forbidden in Islam.
However, NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi said late last month that whether infotainment programs were haram depended on their content. "If they contain gossip, pitting one side against another, rummag- ing through people's family life, that is surely against religion," he said.
Luthfi further said match-making TV programs were similarly haram because the morality of the nation and the values and principles of a marriage according to Islamic teachings were widely ignored by them. "Such programs have had numerous negative impacts," he said.
Luthfi said mystical and fortune-telling programs also had negative impacts on viewers. Many had even been proven to be untruthful.
Luthfi said his chapter would deliver its statement to the South Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPID), which is authorized to impose sanctions on TV stations considered to be damaging the morality of the nation.
In response, South Sumatra KPID chairman Mudrik Qori said his office could stop a particular TV program within two months after issuing a warning letter to stations concerned. During that period stations are also not allowed to rebroadcast the program.
Hasyim Widhiarto, Jakarta Around 100 members of a church congregation in Bekasi held their Sunday service under tight police security after hundreds of local residents held a rally to protest the legality of their church that is currently under construction.
Wearing white, more than 200 residents of Jejalen Jaya subdistrict gathered at around 9 a.m. in front of a block of a land surrounded by a two-meter-high wall, where members of the Filadelfia Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) congregation held their Sunday service.
Shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) and yelling words like "Go Away" and "We have been deceived", residents forced their way into the compound, but were blocked by 200 police officers, deployed from Bekasi Police and seven other precincts to secure the area and ensure that the congregation's services could continue.
Nesan, a local leader who led the protest, said the congregation must stop the service and any other religious activities there until they obtained a building permit for their church. "[The congregation] never had permission to hold services here," he said.
Established in 2000, the Filadelfia HKBP congregation in Tambun Utara, Bekasi, currently has around 500 members. For almost 10 years the congregation has held services at members' homes. In 2007, the congregation bought a 1,000-square-meter plot in Jejalen Jaya, to build its own church.
Church officials claim they informed local residents and subdistrict officials that they intended to use the land for a church. The church construction committee had submitted a request for a building permit to Bekasi administration. Their request, however, remains unanswered.
In October 2009, the committee earned permission from the local subdistrict to hold services on the empty block of land. The committee then built an 8-by-10-meter semipermanent building to store items such as tables and chairs.
Responding to the incident, Bekasi regent Sa'duddin issued an official letter on Dec. 31 ordering the congregation to stop any construction or religious activity on the land until a building permit for their church "had been processed according to the existing law".
The letter, however, did not explain when the administration would begin processing the church's building permit application.
Bekasi administration says it would facilitate a meeting on Tuesday between representatives of the Filadelfia HKBP congregation and Jejalen Jaya residents, hoping to resolve the problem.
Olivia Rondonuwu Plans to charge six Indonesians under a controversial anti-pornography law for staging a "sexy dance" during New Year celebrations sets a dangerous legal precedent, a women's rights group said on Friday.
The law which bans public displays of flesh and behavior that could incite lust was passed in 2008 with the support of Islamic parties, provoking an outcry from many Indonesians who saw it as a threat to artistic, religious and cultural freedom.
The case in Bandung is one of the first times the law could be used since it was introduced.
"We regret the implementation of the pornography law, which criminalizes women," said Elin Rozana, the head of Institut Perempuan, a Bandung-based women's rights group. "We see this as a bad precedent for the implementation of the law in Indonesia."
Police in Bandung, 125 kilometers southeast of Jakarta, detained four female dancers and two men involved in management over the alleged performance.
Arman Achdiat, Bandung's head of detectives, said the six could be charged under the criminal code or the anti-pornography law, depending on prosecutors.
He did not elaborate, but according to local media the dancers were wearing underwear and police had seized tips they received from the audience.
Those prosecuted under the anti-pornography can face a maximum jail term of 15 years. A number of rights groups have previously lodged a judicial review at the Constitutional Court demanding the law be dropped.
The political fortunes of the National Awakening Party were dealt another blow on Tuesday, after a spokesperson for Zannuba Arifah Chafsoh said a rival party would be launched.
Zannuba, better known as Yenny Wahid, the daughter of the late former President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, is expected to officially announce the formation of the splinter party at the end of the official 40-day mourning period. Gus Dur passed away on Dec. 30.
Imron Rosyadi Hamid, a spokesman for PKB Kalibata, a rival faction of the National Awakening Party, or PKB, said the decision to form a new party was reached after a meeting at Gus Dur's former residence in Ciganjur, South Jakarta, on Monday.
PKB Kalibata is led by Yenny and named after the area in South Jakarta where the faction's offices are based. "We are arranging the party structure now," Imron said. "Hopefully, we will be able to hold a national meeting in March or April."
He said the rival party, which is yet to be named, would follow the teachings of Gus Dur. He added that the former president was considered a true reformer and nationalist known both for his secular beliefs and moderate religious views.
PKB Kalibata, he said, had received the support of more than 100 senior clerics within Nahdlatul Ulama, the nation's largest Islamic organization.
Nahdlatul Ulama was founded by Wahid's grandfather, Hasyim Asya'ri. Gus Dur was its longtime chairman before he was encouraged to establish the PKB after the downfall of Suharto in 1998.
A split could prove disastrous for the PKB. The party received just 4.9 percent of the vote in last year's legislative elections, down from 10.6 percent in 2004 when Gus Dur was at the helm.
Febriamy Hutapea & Muninggar Sri Saraswati The weekend election of economic czar Hatta Rajasa to lead the National Mandate Party should provide much-needed positive political news to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and enable him to further consolidate his ruling coalition.
But analysts warned that Yudhoyono's government remained vulnerable to threats from the House of Representatives' special committee investigating the controversial Rp 6.7 trillion ($710 million) bailout of PT Bank Century.
This could be a week of high drama as lawmakers begin examining the government's policy in approving the November 2008 bailout.
On Tuesday, Vice President Boediono will appear for questioning a second time, while Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati will appear on Wednesday and Friday.
Hatta, the coordinating minister for the economy and a close ally of the president, was chosen as chairman of the party, also known as PAN, on Saturday during its national congress in Batam, having received the blessing of party founder Amien Rais.
However, Sunny Tanuwijaya, a researcher from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said on Sunday that Hatta's triumph would not automatically mean he could control PAN lawmakers investigating the Bank Century.
Given past experiences within PAN, and the fact that direct legislative elections render lawmakers less beholden to party bosses, Tanuwijaya said Hatta would not be able to discipline lawmakers who did not follow the coalition line. The party had previously distanced itself from Yudhoyono's government under the leadership of Rais, who had called on Boediono and Mulyani to step down because of the Century case.
"However, [Hatta's] probability of influencing his party members will be better due to his logistical resources [as economic minister] and charisma as a canny politician," Tanuwijaya said.
Airlangga Pribadi, a political observer from Airlangga University in Surabaya, said that while PAN appeared to be a loyal member of the coalition led by Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, anything could happen. He noted that PAN stood to benefit if Boediono were forced to resign due to the Bank Century probe as Hatta would be a leading candidate to replace him as vice president.
"PAN is still observing the situation. It may change its stance in line with political negotiations within the ruling coalition," Pribadi said.
Boediono was central bank governor and Mulyani headed the Committee for Financial Sector Stability (KSSK) when the bailout occurred. Both pressed hard to save the troubled bank.
Muninggar Sri Saraswati Yenny Wahid, the daughter of late former President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, has rebuffed peace overtures by National Awakening Party chairman Muhaimin Iskandar and announced plans to establish her own political party.
Imron Rosyadi Hamid, a spokesman for Yenny's rival camp within the party, known as the PKB, said they had decided to establish a new party known as PKB Kalibata rather than join Muhaimin.
"As long as Muhaimin's camp rules the PKB, Gus Dur supporters are not interested in joining. We prefer to set up a new vehicle," he said.
Muhaiman had been engaged in a long dispute with Gus Dur, who founded the party, that ended up with the latter losing his post with the party in 2008. Gus Dur was Muhaiman's uncle.
Yenny has said she is confident PKB Kalibata would attract more supporters than the mainstream party, just as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) did when Megawati Sukarnoputri broke away from the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) during the New Order era.
A split could prove perilous for the Islam-based PKB, which received just 4.9 percent of the vote in last year's legislative elections, a decline of more than 50 percent from the 10.6 percent it received in 2004 when Gus Dur was at the helm.
Also on Sunday, Muhaimin said he expected to seek the support of senior clerics with the Nahdlatul Ulama, the nation's largest Islamic organization and the PKB's base, to help in attempts to establish a dialogue with Yenny.
"We welcome those who want to reconcile. For those who don't want to, that's fine. We are still open. Let things happen naturally," he said.
Muhaimin claimed his camp had been discussing the possibility of reconciliation with Gus Dur's faction since July. Gus Dur passed away on Dec. 30. "We will integrate those [who agree to reconciliation] within the PKB structure," he said.
Lily Wahid, a former deputy with the PKB advisory council, said a number of senior NU clerics would hold a meeting to discuss the reconciliation of the camps of Muhaimin, Yenny and Choirul Anam, a former PKB member who formed the splinter party Ulema National Awakening Party (PKNU) in 2006.
"The senior clerics are of the opinion that the rift is not favorable for the NU," she said. Senior clerics Mustofa Bisri and Muchid Muzadi, who also helped establish the PKB, have supported efforts to unify the party.
Camelia Pasandaran With one Islam-based political party already tearing itself in two, the National Mandate Party was running the same risk by selecting Hatta Rajasa and Drajad Wibowo as party chairman and deputy chairman, respectively, a political analyst said on Sunday.
Burhanuddin Muhtadi, from the Indonesia Survey Institute (LSI), told the Jakarta Globe that Hatta and Drajad, both named to their positions on the final day of the party's national congress in Batam on Saturday, had different vested interests, with Hatta, the coordinating minister for the economy, close to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Drajad wanting the party to take a more oppositional stance.
"For example, in the Century case, Hatta might see harmony within the president's coalition as more important, especially after Yudhoyono said he would later evaluate the effectiveness of the coalition," Burhanuddin said. "However, Drajad wants to adopt a contrary position. If they are not careful, these [differences] could lead to the party fracturing."
In the run up to the national congress, Drajad was expected to challenge Hatta as a replacement for outgoing chairman Sutrisno Bachir, but he withdrew from the race after being offered the deputy position. He was by far the underdog, having secured only the support of the party's Central Java branch, while 29 branches backed Hatta.
The party, also known as PAN, is likely to solidify its support for Yudhoyono's Democratic Party-led coalition. Currently, the cabinet includes three ministers from PAN's ranks.
After his election, Drajad again demanded a full investigation of the PT Bank Century scandal and allegations the Democratic Party and Yudhoyono benefited from the bailout.
He reminded all party members that PAN had been formed out of the Islamic organization Muhammadiyah, which has been critical of the government for the bailout.
Arbi Sanit, a political expert from the University of Indonesia, said that under normal conditions, Hatta should have stepped down as minister when he decided to run as the party's leader.
"The strategy of placing Drajad as the deputy chairman makes Hatta's [dual] positions safe [because] his day-to-day role as party chairman can be delegated to Drajad," Arbi said. "This is also good for Drajad, as it was better for him to withdraw [from the chairmanship race] rather than to lose the game."
Arbi said because PAN is a member of the coalition, whoever is in charge of the party will not distance it from the government.
Febriamy Hutapea The smallest political party with seats in the House of Representatives, the People's Conscience Party, has formed a coalition with seven obscure political parties to focus on the 246 district, municipal and provincial elections this year, as well as the 2014 general elections.
Wiranto, chairman of the party, also known as Hanura, said on Friday that the coalition was looking to capitalize on the public's loss of confidence in the bigger parties.
"Transactional politics has impaired our idealism and nationalism and created public apathy," he said on the third birthday of his political vehicle at the five-star Sahid Jaya Hotel in Jakarta.
The celebration of Hanura's anniversary was marked by the agreement between the eight parties, which all have similar views on the political situation.
"Current problems such as the conflict between the 'gecko' and 'crocodile' and the Bank Century scandal are all problems about honesty," he said, referring to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and National Police, respectively. "Conscience, which is actually the compass of honesty, has been thrown away."
Wiranto, a former general implicated in human rights abuses during his time in the military, is a former presidential and vice presidential candidate, though he has never been able to garner any serious support from the national electorate. He said the political parties had agreed to establish a joint secretariat to cooperate in elections and to criticize government policies when appropriate.
The event was attended by Wiranto's running mate in July's election, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, as well as former Golkar legislator Yuddy Chrisnandi, lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution and Din Syamsudin, the chairman of the Muhammadiyah Islamic organization.
The seven parties are Star Crescent Party (PBB), Prosperous Peace Party (PDS), Reform Star Party (PBR), Ulema National Awakening Party (PKNU), National Sun Party (PMB), Democratic Reform Party (PDP) and National People's Concern Party (PPRN).
Novan Iman Santosa, Jakarta The debate continues on whether the newly created deputy defense ministerial post can be held by an active military officer or should be filled by a civilian bureaucrat.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Wednesday installed Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as deputy defense minister. Sjafrie is still the ministry's secretary general until a new official is appointed.
Anak Agung Banyu Perwita, a defense expert from Parahyangan Catholic University in Bandung, told The Jakarta Post on Friday the deputy defense minister should be a civilian as stipulated in regulations.
An article from the 2008 State Ministry Law states that a deputy minister can be appointed by the President if there were duties needing special handling.
The stipulation is repeated by an article in the 2009 Presidential regulation on the establishment of state ministry organization.
Another article in the regulation says a deputy minister is a career official not a Cabinet member and a I.a-ranked civil servant.
"Ideally the deputy defense minister should be a civilian to uphold civilian supremacy over the military," Banyu said in a telephone interview. "This would adhere to democratic and security sector reform principles."
However, Banyu admitted civilian bureaucrats at the Defense Ministry were not up to the task.
"This is the right moment to conduct bureaucratic reform at the ministry to empower its civilian officials to hold more strategic posts.
"The challenge for the defense minister and state bureaucratic reform minister is to initiate reforms in the Defense Ministry," Banyu said.
"Ideally, in five to 10 years, 70 percent of the officials in the ministry should be civilians. Military officers are still needed to set defense strategy and procure weapons systems."
Countering this view, Jaleswari Pramodhawardani from the Indonesian Institute of Science said whether the deputy defense minister was a military officer or civilian was not a problem as long as the person was capable of performing their duties.
"We shouldn't draw distinctions between civilian and military," she told the Post over the phone, adding that the defense minister should be a civilian.
Jaleswari said the more pressing issue was the fact that Sjafrie was due to retire in October. "Regulations state that those who are nearing retirement cannot be promoted," she said.
Both Banyu and Jaleswari agree that Sjafrie was qualified for the post and that civilian officials at the ministry should be encouraged and given more opportunities to lead strategic posts.
"The appointment of a military officer shows the lack of depth of capable civilian bureaucrats in the ministry," Banyu said.
"The ministry should be more selective in recruiting civilian employees, and look to those with a background in defense studies," Jaleswari said. "Or we could also improve the quality of the current civilian officials."
The Society for Democracy Education (P2D) said by appointing Sjafrie as deputy defense minister, Yudhoyono violated the 2004 Indonesian Military Law prohibiting active soldiers from running for legislative posts and other political offices.
"The deputy defense minister post is a political appointment," P2D secretary general Robertus Robert said Thursday.
"Additionally, a 2000 People's Consultative Assembly Decree stipulates that military personnel can only assume civilian post after resigning or retiring from active military duty."
Emmy Fitri The ongoing debate over recent book bans aside, one thing is certain: The written word still has a powerful influence on society, sharpened and fueled by today's digital era with blogging and networking sites such as Facebook.
Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, a former legislator and rights activist, has said that books helped make her the person she is today. Growing up in a family of readers, the young Nursyahbani spent countless hours lost in the pages of all variety of books.
"Books have taught me a lot about free thinking, freedom of expression and human struggle," said Nursyahbani, a former lawmaker from the National Awakening Party (PKB).
She said she founded the Women's Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Apik) after having been influenced by the words of Raden Ajeng Kartini, a national heroine, in "Habis Gelap Terbitlah Terang" ("After Darkness Comes Light"), which inspired her to fight for women's rights. She said she also took inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi's writings on the principles of nonviolent protest.
Nursyahbani said two books by founding President Sukarno "Dibawah Bendera Revolusi" ("Under the Flag of Revolution") and "Sarinah" taught her the significance of the country's history. And she said the poetry of Chairil Anwar and Federico Garcia Lorca and the politically-charged works of Boris Pasternak and Leo Tolstoy also influenced her thinking.
She said the storm of protest across the country after the Attorney General's Office banned five politically-sensitive books in December showed that many others felt the same way about the written word.
"Books influence the way people think, the way they act. To me, the ban is an insult to our intellect," she said.
"The AGO considers the public incapable of filtering what they read. Any statement indicating or suggesting that the banned books could or would incite public disorder is an unfounded allegation this is something that has never occurred in our history."
Adding insult to injury, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is now considering banning even more book.
The 1963 law used by the AGO to ban the books in December, according to Nursyahbani, is unconstitutional. The Constitution, she said, guarantees freedom of expression. Nursyahbani plans to challenge the 1963 law at the Constitutional Court on Jan. 25.
The AGO said the five books it banned had the potential to erode public confidence in the government, cause moral decadence or disturb national ideology.
The banned books include "Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto's Coup d'Etat in Indonesia," by John Roosa, and "Lekra Doesn't Burn Books," jointly written by Rhoma Dwi Aria Yuliantri and Muhidin M Dahlan.
According to authorities, three religious books are being studied and could be hit with bans. The books are "Church Voice for the Suffering People: No More Blood and Tears in West Papua," by Socrates Sofyan Yoman; Darmawan's "Six Ways to God"; and "Uncover the Mystery of Religious Diversity," by Syahruddin Ahmad.
Another book, "Unraveling the Cikeas Octopus: Behind the Bank Century Scandal," by George Junus Aditjondro, has been withdrawn from most major bookstores because of the political controversy surrounding it.
Activists have criticized the bans, saying the government has reverted to the "old ways" of President Suharto's repressive New Order regime, which banned numerous left-wing publications, including novels by the award-winning Pramoedya Ananta Toer that are now considered among the country's best.
But in this digital age, the bans are seen as irrelevant when people can simply turn to the Internet and download a version of Roosa's book, for example.
Nursyahbani said she had already read the English version of " Pretext for Mass Murder." "There is no doubt that this book can be held accountable, with its thorough research," she said. "And since people can go to the Internet and download it, such a ban is no longer effective."
Martin Aleida, a novelist, said he was not concerned that the government could one day ban his books.
"I am not afraid of people disagreeing with my thoughts, expressed in my work; people have the liberty to agree or disagree," the former Tempo journalist said. "We have to be ready for praise or condemnation of our work.
"What do we expect our nation to become if this ban continues? Parents send their children to school in order to make them articulate and to be able to express what they think."
Martin's works largely cover the events of 1965 and the aftermath of the failed coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). He spent much of his youth in jail as a political prisoner for his alleged involvement with the banned party.
"I took a path to be a journalist and later a writer," he said. "I feel privileged to be able to testify about what I saw and felt."
Indonesian journalists will appeal the country's decision to ban the Australian film Balibo.
Indonesia's Film Censorship Agency banned Robert Connolly's acclaimed film in December due to its political content.
Based on the true story, the film depicts Indonesian soldiers brutally murdering five Australia-based newsmen in the East Timorese border town in 1975, contradicting the official explanation they were killed in crossfire.
Indonesia's Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI) has defied the ban, risking jail terms and heavy fines by staging a series of free public screenings across the country.
But AJI has this week decided to go one step further by formally challenging the ban in Indonesia's State Management Court, which deals with complaints against state institutions.
"In a democracy, the right to create art should not be forbidden," AJI lawyer Hendrayana, who goes by only one name, said.
"And as we've seen from the AJI screenings, this film does not create problems. It shows the ban is just paranoia."
AJI plans to lodge its appeal in the coming weeks.
The film's release in Australia last year came just weeks before federal police announced they would conduct a formal war crimes investigation into the killings.
The AFP probe follows a 2007 coronial inquest that concluded Indonesia deliberately killed the journalists to cover up their East Timor invasion.
Ismira Lutfia Media activists on Wednesday came out against the government's plan to merge public broadcasters Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI) and Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) into a single entity, with government officials acting as its advisers.
The activists described the plan as an attempt by the government to acquire more power over the media. They also rejected any attempts to legalize the government's authority to meddle with the two public broadcasters' policies through the drafting of a new government regulation on public broadcasters.
Leo Batubara, deputy chairman of the Press Council, said he supported the idea of pairing up TVRI and RRI as a media organization with an integrated newsroom, but he opposed the idea of merging the two into a single entity, which would be called Radio Televisi Republik Indonesia (RTRI).
"We reject the government's draft regulation that would turn TVRI and RRI into a government mouthpiece," Leo said. "The draft also states that the supervisory board would appoint the board of directors with the approval of the minister [of communications and information technology]."
Media observer Agus Sudibyo said that the loss of TVRI and RRI would be a setback for the two organizations and would not improve their broadcast quality.
"The draft is a threat to the existence of public broadcasters, which people still need [as an alternative] to the domination of private broadcasters," Agus said. He added that the draft showed that the government had failed to understand the role played by public broadcasters.
He said TVRI and RRI "should remain public facilities from which the public can obtain correct and balanced information."
Hariono, TVRI's chief executive, told the Jakarta Globe in September that the planned merger was a rational step. He added that once the right mix was found, the merger of the two public broadcasters would result in financial and bureaucratic efficiencies.
Thousands of Indonesians have flocked to guerrilla screenings of Balibo since the Australian film was banned last month.
Indonesia's Film Censorship Agency banned Robert Connolly's Balibo just hours before its Jakarta premiere in December, due to its political content.
The acclaimed film depicts Indonesian soldiers brutally murdering five Australia-based newsmen in the East Timorese border town of Balibo in 1975, contradicting the official explanation they were killed in crossfire.
But Indonesia's Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI) has defied the ban, risking jail terms and heavy fines by staging a series of free public screenings across the country. The final screening will take place in Bali on Wednesday.
"Thousands of people have watched it at AJI screenings in more than 20 cities all over Indonesia," AJI's Ezki Suyanto said."It's been welcomed warmly everywhere."
At one screening in the Javan city of Bandung about 700 people turned out to see the film that few Indonesians had heard of before the ban.
AJI says it is still contemplating launching a legal challenge against the ban. "At this moment, we're still considering which court to go," said AJI lawyer Hendrayana, who goes by only one name.
The film's release in Australia last year came just weeks before Australian Federal Police announced they would conduct a formal war crimes investigation into the killings.
The probe follows a 2007 coronial inquest that concluded Indonesia deliberately killed the journalists to cover up their East Timor invasion.
Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta Scholars and free speech activists have signed a statement saying the government has violated basic human rights following the decision of the Attorney General's Office to ban five "disruptive" books.
"Book bans violate basic human rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Human Rights Law," Jaleswari Pramodhawardani, a scholar from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, told Antara in Jakarta on Friday.
Jaleswari added the government's decision to once again ban books would only ignite fears among intellectuals regarding the trade of ideas.
She added such bans could hinder Indonesia from achieving the goal mandated by the Constitution, which says one of the nation's main aims is to empower its people through the free spread of knowledge.
"Banning books will tarnish Indonesia's reputation as a democratic country. In a democracy, bans can only be justified towards books that blatantly promote hatred based on racism, religions and ethic groups, and those that promote violence and war propaganda."
Other scholars signing the petition included Adnan Buyung Nasution, Asvi Warman Adam, Goenawan Mohamad, Mas Achmad Santosa and Nursyahbani Katjasungkana. Also signing the petition were Patra M. Zen, Todung Mulya Lubis, Usman Hamid, and Yosep Adi Prasetyo.
Goenawan said book bans would only bring the country back not only to the painful memories of the New Order regime, but also further back to the pre-1960s era.
"Indonesia has a long history of banning books. Until the 1960s, there were no banned books, but everything changed under Sukarno's guided democracy era. Unfortunately, the policy continued in the New Order regime."
Goenawan said that he truly regretted that such a policy was maintained in the reform era, because it would only halt the flow of information.
Nursyahbani said book bans hindered freedom of expression, while Adnan said he felt really disgruntled. "The bannings are setbacks for our growing democracy."
Heru Andriyanto A group of prominent activists on Friday demanded the Attorney General's Office put an end to the controversial policy of banning politically sensitive books.
"Banning books constitutes a violation of the human rights recognized in the 1945 Constitution and is against the universal declaration of human rights," said Jaleswari Pramodawardhani, a senior researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
"In a democratic country, restrictions should apply only to books that clearly spread racial and sectarian hatred, war propaganda or violence," she said, reading a statement signed by 82 lawyers, human rights activists, senior journalists and clerics.
Any publication restrictions should be decided in a fair trial, the group said. The signatories include renowned lawyers and rights campaigners Adnan Buyung Nasution and Todung Mulya Lubis, senior journalist Goenawan Muhammad and noted rights activists Patra M Zen and Usman Hamid.
The AGO last month banned five books that were described as "having the potential to erode public confidence in the government, cause moral decadence or disturb the national ideology, economy, culture and security."
The five, all written in Bahasa Indonesia, include two left-wing books, "The September 30 Mass Killing and Coup by Suharto" and "Lekra Doesn't Burn Books."
Three religious books are also being examined: "Church Voice for the Suffering People: No More Blood and Tears in West Papua," "Six Ways to God" and "Uncover the Mystery of Religious Diversity."
AGO spokesman Didiek Darmanto said the ban was not meant to restrict the freedom to express opinions. "The ban is imposed on the publishers, not the writers of the books. Those five books must not be distributed or reprinted, but the AGO doesn't ban people from expressing their opinion," he said.
According to a law issued in 1963, the AGO has the authority to control publications for public order. The AGO is therefore "breaking no rules" in banning publications if they are considered harmful to public order, he said.
But bans can only be issued following a joint meeting of prosecutors, police and officials from the National Intelligence Agency, the Ministry for Religious Affairs, the Ministry for National Education and the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs.
During his 32-years of authoritarian rule, former President Suharto banned the publication of all left-wing books, based on a 1966 decree by the People's Consultative Assembly.
The decree states that the spread of communist teachings, in all forms, is strictly banned in the country. Suharto took the presidency in 1966 after a failed 1965 coup attempt blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party.
According to an AGO regulation issued in 1998, prosecutors may ban books that could "erode the government's authority or cause public disorder."
[Additional reporting by Antara.]
Andi Saputra, Jakarta In response to the recent banning of five books and moves by Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar to examine 20 more for possible banning, 83 intellectuals and pro-democracy activists have rejected the banning of books by the government.
"I don't know how the minister of justice and human rights understands human rights. This is a step back for democracy," said one of the declarators of the group Reject Book Bannings (Menolak Pelarangan Buku), Goenawan Muhamad at the Nikko Hotel on Jl. MH Thamrin in Jakarta on Friday January 8.
Also present was Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) advisory board member Adnan Buyung Nasution, Islamic intellectual Ulil Abshar Abdala, women's activist Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, Freedom Institute researcher Luthfie Assyaukani, film director Riri Riza and poet Sitok Srengenge.
The groups said that it if the government continues banning books, it will create a fear of expressing and exchanging ideas and inhibit artistic and intellectual exploration. Banning books will also hamper the free intellectual development of the nation.
"This is a symptom of retreat from the process of democracy that I challenge," said Nasution.
The banning of books can only be justified if they obviously spread racial, religious and ethnic hatred along with propaganda supporting violence or war.
These restrictions should be applied through a judicial process that is honest, free and unbiased. This is especially so in the digital era and the internet where banning books will not stop them from being read.
"I totally reject the banning of books because it contradicts freedom of expression", concluded Nursyahbani Kajtasungkana. (asp/fay)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Ismira Lutfia & Anita Rachman Sick of morally degrading television programs? You may be able to switch to an Islam-based television channel soon.
Embracing technology, the branches of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) in Sumatra have proposed the establishment of such a TV station and the creation of an accompanying blog to the their central board.
The chairman of the MUI's West Sumatra branch, Buyagus Rizal Gazahar, said on Friday that all branches in Medan, North Sumatra, earlier this week agreed to establish an Islamic broadcaster to counter the dominance of private television stations with poor programming content.
"That we should have an Islamic channel came out of the 2005 national assembly but because of the poor response from the central board, we have proposed it again. We are hoping for a quick response," Buyagus said.
The Medan meeting also agreed to create an MUI blog to advance dakwah [the spreading of the word of Islam] according to developments in information technology.
Central board secretary Ichwan Sam said "ulemas must be are aware that they are no longer standing at a dakwah podium but are facing the modern world," Ichwan said. "They should spread the word that Islam is a religion that can adapt to developments around the globe," Ichwan said.
Buyagus said many mainstream television programs portrayed a way of life that was contrary to Islamic tenets. "Even soap operas claiming to have Islamic themes don't convey Islamic values as most of them include mysticism," he said, adding that television should be used to spread Islamic teachings.
Ismira Lutfia Inspired by the growing reach of social networking sites, as seen in the online movements to support Prita Mulyasari and the Corruption Eradication Commission, a 20- something guitarist concerned with the poor quality of television programming in Indonesia has created a Facebook page to lift his cause.
And according to online traffic, thousands of others believe in what he's fighting for.
Since Roy Thaniago launched Masyarakat Anti Program Televisi Buruk (Community Against Bad Television Programs) less than a month ago, more than 2,300 people have already signed up to support it, and he's getting hundreds more by the hour.
"I came up with idea because I am fed up with the content of television programs," Roy told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.
Usually, sharp criticism of low-quality television broadcasting comes primarily from academics and intellectuals and "lacks the element of people power," Roy said.
"The television stations have been turning a deaf ear to the criticism. They have no heart and only think about ratings without considering their programs' impact on the people," said Roy, who is also a writer and observer of artistic and culture issues. He said that poor broadcasting also encompassed news media, citing Metro TV and TV One, the country's two news channels, as often ignorant of journalistic ethics.
"Sometimes TV One's news programs can be too bombastic, and its on-air debate involving two opposing sides often only exacerbates the conflict," Roy said.
Media analyst Ignatius Haryanto, who is also a supporter of Roy's Facebook's effort, told the Globe that the group's membership numbers so far were reasonably good, even though the issue was not political.
"This shows that there are public rejections of poor television programs and I support the idea," Ignatius said, adding that this could be an eye-opener to commercially oriented private television stations.
Media expert Abdullah Alamudi, himself a staunch critic of bad television, welcomed the movement and hoped that the number of supporters would increase.
"It is the citizens' right to complain about the contents of television programs," Alamudi said, adding that he hoped the group's supporters could flood the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) and private television stations with criticism.
In his online description of his group's Facebook page, Roy said in might initiate a boycott of products advertised on low-rung programs in its efforts to pull the plug on lackluster television programming.
Alamudi said that such boycotting had proved effective in other countries to put pressure on television stations to discontinue poor programs.
However, despite the growing number of supporters, Roy said that he had some doubts about the supporters' commitment to the cause.
"Joining a cause group on Facebook does not require much effort than a click," Roy said, adding that he often wondered if some of the members were only following the growing trends of joining a cause group on the popular social networking site.
However, he said he maintained his optimism on the group's movement, thanks to the lively online discussion among some of the most active members as well as positive feedback to his initiative.
"I think there is no other way to oppose them but to call on people to shun poor programs," Roy said.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho Military officials and analysts foresee no significant threats from foreign countries, as the Armed Forces prepare to meet next week to discuss its future role.
"I predict that there will be no military or war threat against us. But we must face a more dangerous threat of globalization," said Air Vice Marshal Sagom Tamboen, a military spokesman.
The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) will hold a national meeting next week to examine the existing and future threats faced by the country and to set out a new doctrine that will guide its role, he said.
"We hope that this time, we finish the new doctrine. The direction [of the national meeting] is how to establish a new doctrine that fits with the laws and current situations," Sagom said.
During former President Suharto's 32-years of authoritarian rule, the military was the most powerful institution in the country. However, the Armed Forces revised its doctrine in 2007 by issuing the "Tri Dharma Eka Karma," which stressed that the TNI was no longer in politics. It also stipulated that the main task of the TNI was to defend national sovereignty and eradicate any enemies on behalf of the state.
"The new doctrine will affect everything, including how to form the defense posture, how we should prepare strategy in carrying out our duties," Sagom said. "For us, this doctrine is like a vein," he added. "We cannot do the job without it."
Another issue that will be discussed during the meeting is how to empower the TNI and its troops "in the context of non-military operations," he said. "We would like enhance cooperation with other government institutions, including in some research projects."
He added that the military would also discuss how to optimize its strengths when guarding border areas.
Andi Widjajanto, a military analyst at the University of Indonesia, said the TNI should base its new doctrine and threat perception on what has already been laid out by the Ministry of Defense.
"I think the 2010-2019 strategic defense review by the ministry could be made as the basic reference for the military during their meeting," Andi said.
When asked about future challenges to Indonesia, Andi said that there would be no significant military threat for Indonesia from foreign countries in the next 20 years.
He predicted that the military would define all border areas especially the waters off Kalimantan and Ambalat that have been disputed with Malaysia and regions prone to local conflict like Papua as flash points that needed more troops.
"I think they will increase the threat level of Papua because, beside the existence of the Free Papua Movement, we can see more intertribal conflict happening there," he said.
"Depending on conditions, maybe the military will support the previous Army chief's suggestion to establish a new military command in the province."
The Army had earlier announced that it planned to establish a military command in West Kalimantan in 2010, while a study for a possible new command in Papua is expected to begin next year.
Andi added that the Ministry of Defense's 2009-2029 strategy did not include plans to establish a new command in Papua.
Hari T Prihartono, a military analyst from the Pro-Patria Institute, suggested that the TNI also needed to revise its doctrine related to the professional military principle.
"They need to add other points like ethics and rewards and punishments for soldiers, which will be useful for establishing a more professional military and soldiers," Hari said. "We can't find this issue in the previous doctrine."
Markus Junianto Sihaloho The Indonesian Armed Forces and the National Team for the Military Business Transfer denied a claim from New York-based Human Rights Watch on Tuesday that the military had failed to dismantle its "dangerous business empire," as ordered under a 2004 law designed to enhance civilian rule in the budding democracy.
Promises of increased oversight by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a market-friendly former general, were "totally inadequate" and left the military unaccountable to the government, the advocacy group said in a report.
"It's outrageous that despite the parliamentary directive, the government has no plan to take over ownership or management of a single business," HRW researcher and report author Lisa Misol said in a statement. "Promising to monitor them more closely simply isn't good enough."
Despite a 2004 law ordering the military, also known as the TNI, to get out of the business sector by the end of 2009, the generals still control 23 foundations and more than 1,000 cooperatives, including ownership of 55 companies, the report says. These interests had gross assets worth $350 million in 2007 and turned a profit of $28.5 million, according to official figures cited by the report.
Military Spokesman Air Vice Marshall Sagom Tamboen claimed, however, that in reality the armed forces had nothing to do with any activities related to making money, saying that what was left from past military businesses was only a number of small-scale foundations and cooperatives limited to nonprofit activities.
"The cooperatives and the foundations are out of the military structure, and we have laws protecting citizens' rights to establish cooperatives and foundations," Tamboen said.
"So if I myself become a member of a cooperative, it's not because I am a soldier, but because I am a citizen. How can a citizen be banned for being active in a cooperative or foundation?"
Silmy Karim, spokesman for the National Team for the Transfer of Military Businesses, also denied the HRW's claim, saying the government had issued a decree stipulating the military business transfer before end of 2009.
It was followed by another directive from Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro in November, he said, to establish an independent team to prepare the military business transfer process.
All the decrees commonly define what the military businesses are, how the transfer process would be conducted and how to manage cooperatives and foundations that use state assets in their operations.
Silmy said the military could not be banned from establishing cooperatives and foundations. However, he said, the military must conduct reorganization with the aim to prevent any structure of cooperation and foundation from integrating with the military organizational structure.
"And no active military soldiers can become member of the cooperative or foundation management board," he said. "The decree also stipulates that the cooperatives and foundations must only be used for soldiers' welfare, like for educational or health subsidies.... So I can't agree if they say that the government had failed."
"We admit that there are many things still left to be done. But the government and the TNI must be appreciated for the progress and willingness to conduct the reform. Of course all these processes are heading in the right direction."
The HRW also said in its report that money-making ventures by the military "contribute to crime and corruption, impede military professionalism and distort the function of the military itself."
In 2007 in Pasuruan, East Java, HRW said Navy personnel killed four people when they opened fire on villagers who were protesting expropriations of land by the Navy decades earlier. The sailors were providing security for a state-owned company that had leased the land from the Navy to operate a plantation.
"In other examples, the military has had a prominent role in large timber operations that have displaced communities from their ancestral lands and fueled rampant illegal logging," the report said.
"Military units providing protection services to companies have earned off-budget cash payments, raising serious corruption concerns. The military has also been implicated in illegal businesses and extortion operations."
The report also said that former Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono acknowledged last year that "rogue elements" of the military could be behind a spate of shootings targeting employees of US miner Freeport McMoRan in Papua.
Sagom said the military never received any report indicating soldiers were behind the attacks. "Please, show us the evidence," he said.
He also said that the HRW or any other activists should change their perspective about incidents like the one in Pasuruan. Tamboen said the military never permitted its members to be involved with or provide any kind of security services for a corporation.
"So please differentiate between illegal actions of naughty soldiers with TNI decisions as an institution, because the TNI had never ordered its members to provide security services," Tamboen said. "If any soldier was found breaking the rule, of course with evidence, then we would punish him," he said.
Stephen Coates, Jakarta Indonesia's military has failed to dismantle its "dangerous business empire" as ordered under a 2004 law designed to enhance civilian rule in the budding democracy, a human rights watchdog said Tuesday.
Promises of increased oversight by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a market-friendly ex-general, were "totally inadequate" and left the military unaccountable to government, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.
"It's outrageous that despite the parliamentary directive the government has no plan to take over ownership or management of a single business," HRW researcher and report author Lisa Misol said in a statement. "Promising to monitor them more closely simply isn't good enough."
Despite a 2004 law ordering the military (TNI) to get out of the business sector by the end of 2009, the generals still control 23 foundations and over 1,000 cooperatives including ownership of 55 companies, the report says.
These interests had gross assets worth 350 million dollars in 2007 and turned a profit of 28.5 million dollars, according to official figures cited by the report.
Yudhoyono issued a decree on October 11 promising greater oversight, but HRW said the measures merely entailed a partial restructuring of the business entities and required no divestment.
An inter-ministerial oversight team established on November 11 has no clear authority, lacks independence and is not required to report publicly, HRW said.
"Nor do the new measures address accountability for human rights violations and economic crimes associated with military business activities," it added, citing examples including the killing of protesters by military personnel.
In 2007 in Pasuruan, East Java, HRW said navy personnel opened fire on villagers who were protesting over expropriations of land by the navy decades earlier, killing four.
The sailors were providing security for a state-owned company that had leased the land from the navy to operate a plantation.
"In other examples, the military has had a prominent role in large timber operations that have displaced communities from their ancestral lands and fuelled rampant illegal logging," it said.
"Military units providing protection services to companies have earned off-budget cash payments, raising serious corruption concerns... The military also has been implicated in illegal businesses and extortion operations."
HRW said money-making ventures by the military "contribute to crime and corruption, impede military professionalism and distort the function of the military itself".
Former defence minister Jowono Sudarsono admitted last year that "rogue elements" of the military could be behind a spate of shootings targeting employees of US miner Freeport McMoRan in eastern Papua province.
Unidentified gunmen ambushed and killed an Australian mine worker and two Indonesians including a policeman in July near Freeport's massive gold mine, which pays troops for protection.
Sudarsono rejected suggestions of direct military involvement and police have blamed poorly armed Papuan separatists, but the mine has long been linked to alleged human rights abuses by the security forces.
During his tenure as defence minister from the time Yudhoyono took office in 2004 until last year, Sudarsono argued the military should be allowed to keep its smaller business interests to support soldiers' families.
The task of bringing the Indonesian military fully under civilian control remains incomplete more than a decade after the collapse of general Suharto's military-backed dictatorship.
Farouk Arnaz & Muninggar Sri Saraswati Zero coordination were the operative words on Thursday as the National Police made conflicting statements in regard to internal investigations into Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji, the nation's former top police detective, who appeared last week without his boss's consent as a defense witness in a murder trial which his own office had probed.
A National Police spokesman insisted there was no need to summon Susno because he had already "clarified" his position to police intelligence chief Insp. Gen. Saleh Saaf.
"Clarification was provided regarding death threats received by Susno and his court appearance to defend Antasari," police spokesman Insp. Gen. Edward Aritonang said on Thursday, adding that Saleh was part of the team questioning Susno over his court appearance at the murder trial of Antasari Azhar, the former chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Edward said police investigators were in the process of determining whether the information they had collected was enough to go forward with an ad hoc ethics trial of Susno.
Susno had recently said that he began receiving death threats via text message shortly after his trial appearance last week.
However, Insp. Gen. Oegroseno, head of the National Police's Professionalism and Security Division, said on Thursday that Susno's name was still on the list of those to be summoned over his surprise presence in court.
"We have already summoned a number of witnesses from the South Jakarta District Court. We still need to question other witnesses before we summon Susno," Oegroseno said. He also contradicted Edward by saying Saleh was not part of the team questioning Susno.
"However, it is quite likely that the task is extended to others. According to information we receive, we will make a recommendation to the police chief as to whether an ethics trial is required," Oegroseno said.
Many consider Susno powerful because he formerly occupied the post of deputy chairman of the Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center (PPATK), which has complete access to detailed financial documents of anyone being investigated for money laundering, as well as the power to freeze assets linked to crimes.
Susno lost his post as chief of detectives in December. His demotion followed his involvement in high-profile charges allegedly fabricated against two deputy chairmen of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Neta S Pane, the coordinator of Indonesia Police Watch, and Hermawan Sulistyo, from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said that should police decide not to formally question Susno, it was because he had been effective in defending his actions.
"It is at the discretion of the police, but they must be responsible for their actions. I believe the National Police have considered the reasons Susno had to attend the trial," Hermawan said.
Neta said that according to the Criminal Code there was no reason for the National Police to bring Susno before an ethics court.
"I believe there now is a common understanding between police headquarters and Susno. I also believe that he is expected to make peace with the police chief sometime next week," Neta said.
Arriving in a white shirt and tie, Susno visited National Police headquarters on Wednesday to chat with Saleh, after the police intelligence chief visited Susno at his residence in Depok.
Saleh had said earlier the police "would not fire" Susno and that the two had met to discuss, among other things, Susno's claims of death threats.
Farouk Arnaz It appears that luck has run out for the nation's most disliked police officer. Having weathered a storm of controversies, Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji may have crossed the line on Thursday when he made a shock appearance to testify in the murder trial of Antasari Azhar not for the prosecution, but for the defense.
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Edward Aritonang immediately condemned the controversial appearance as a "forbidden" act.
"Please believe us that we will take firm action against him for allegedly breaching our code of ethics and professional conduct," Aritonang said during a hastily convened news conference. "The Internal Affairs Division will deal with him internally, most likely starting next week."
He said Susno could be dishonorably discharged if he was proven to have breached the police's code of ethics and rules of professional conduct.
"Any member of the police must obey every command and obey the leadership of official orders," Aritonang said. "Today, Susno came to court without permission, and that cannot be justified, even though he claimed he was testifying in a personal capacity only."
Aritonang said police would not intervene in the ongoing trial of Antasari, the former head of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
"I don't want to comment on what Pak Susno said during his testimony in court. I will just say that he violated our rules by going to court as there is no legal letter from the court to invite Susno as a witness."
In an interview with Metro TV on Thursday evening, Susno said: "I am a three-star general. I know the rules and the code of ethics. If they fire me, it's because they dislike me."
The beleaguered officer, recently passed over for the National Police deputy chief post, was a surprise witness for Antasari in his trial at the South Jakarta District Court for the murder of businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen.
Susno told the court the police investigation team had earlier failed to find any motive on which to impose the murder charge.
"I found out after they came to me and told me about the problem. The team was under the supervision of the deputy chief of detectives, who reported directly to the police chief," said Susno, who at the time held the position of chief of detectives.
Susno was recently removed from his post amid public outrage over an alleged plot to bring down KPK deputy chairmen Chandra M Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto. The conspiracy was allegedly motivated by a KPK investigation into details of the PT Bank Century scandal, which implicated Susno in alleged corruption.
Despite massive publicity, calls for his resignation and recommendations from a special presidential team that the legal process against Susno be completed, he survived an internal police investigation, though he was demoted to a senior staff position within National Police headquarters.
Andrianus Meliala, a police science lecturer at the University of Indonesia, said the National Police's quick response to Susno's testimony was a signal that they were having difficulties handling him.
"I see that Susno understands how weak the police are in controlling him," he said. "The National Police realize this and will take firm action in an attempt to control him."
In the trial, prosecutors questioned Susno's appearance as a witness, demanding that he produce a permit from the police chief authorizing the court appearance, especially since he came in his work uniform. The panel of judges ruled that the hearing would hear Susno's testimony.
Hard days seem to be on the horizon for former National Police detective chief Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji after his controversial move to testify at the Antasari Azhar trial, with the police counterterror squad allegedly showing up at his house on Thursday night after the hearing.
Susno told detik.com that a Densus 88 truck arrived at his private residence on Thursday night and parked outside after he testified at South Jakarta Court in Antasari's trial for the murder of businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, making allegations against his fellow National Police officers.
"A Densus 88 truck came to my house last night. My wife and children were very scared," Susno told detik.com.
Susno Duadji had already moved out of his official house at Jalan Panglima Polim, South Jakarta. The mansion is occupied by his successor, Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi, and Susno lives at his private residence on the outskirts of South Jakarta.
Susno said that he regretted that the National Police considered his testimony "a problem." "I never thought that sad consequences would await a high-ranked official with three stars who answered a court summons to be a witness as a law abiding citizen," he said.
According to Susno, the consequences have included the withdrawal of his chauffeur, personal assistant and bodyguards, as well as the menacing appearance of the Densus 88 truck. Police have not yet responded to Susno's claims.
Meanwhile, Sumardi said Susno should have asked for his superior's permission before he took the witness stand at Antasari's hearing. "He should have asked for permission from the National Police chief first," Ito said at the National Police Headquarters on Thursday.
Ito said that, according to procedure, a police officer who conducts any activities outside office during working hours must notify and ask for his superior's permission. Ito said the National Police will conduct an internal investigation.
Janeman Latul The government will scrap import duties on equipment needed to build power plants to encourage independent companies to build plants in the second phase of its "fast-track" electricity generating program.
A presidential decree to this effect, obtained by the Jakarta Globe on Thursday, was signed last week.
"The construction of power plants will be exempt from import duties and enjoy other facilities that will be regulated by the Finance Ministry," the decree said.
However, one private sector energy firm interested in participating in the fast-track program said the government would need to offer more incentives to independent producers if it wanted them to build plants in the second phase of the program.
The ambitious $15.6 billion program calls for the construction of 82 new coal-fired, geothermal, hydroelectric, and natural gas- fired power plants across the country to alleviate chronic power shortages, with the plants expected to come online between 2013 and 2015.
The government hopes to entice independent producers to build the majority of the plants 58 and supply a total capacity of 4,262 megawatts of power. Many of the plants to be built by independent producers would be in remote, sparsely populated areas. PLN will build the remaining 24 plants with a combined capacity of 6,415 MW.
Erwin Aksa, president director of PT Bosowa, a diversified business conglomerate involved in the energy sector, said that while he welcomed the presidential decree it was unlikely to be enough to encourage independent producers to get more involved in the sector.
"It's a good start, but the power producers need more certainty because we're not the only country in Asia that is trying to attract investors to infrastructure projects," Erwin said. "Investors would first be looking to see whether our project offers a better return than in other countries. Incentives, including tax breaks and guarantees on land acquisitions, should also be included in the decree, to make the policy comprehensive and attractive."
The decree also guaranteed that PLN would purchase electricity from independent producers involved in the "fast-track" program, with the details to be issued later by the Finance Ministry.
Currently, state electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara's generating capacity is only sufficient to supply about 60 percent of national demand for electricity. PLN buys electricity from private producers to partially meet the shortfall.
Independent producers have only recently been allowed to supply PLN with power. Previously, they were only permitted to supply large industrial users with factories located near their plants.
Jacobus Purwono, the Energy Ministry's director general of electricity and energy utilization, said on Wednesday that the government planned to subsidize the cost of power PLN bought from private producers.
Currently, government subsidies on electricity force PLN to sell power at as little as 40 percent of production costs, and it has often demanded equally low prices from independent producers.
Low electricity prices and a lack of government guarantees on projects have scared many investors away from "fast-track" projects.
In the first phase of the "fast-track" program, which is still ongoing, PLN is building 14 new coal-fired plants.
Indonesia has asked to re-write a new regional trade pact with China, citing fears of job losses due to a flood of cheap Chinese imports across various sectors, officials said Wednesday.
The government has sought to maintain 228 tariff lines for another two years rather than cut them as required under the Asean-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which Jakarta first signed in 2002 and took full effect on January 1.
"The letter of notification on negotiations to discuss modifications to the 228 tariff items was submitted on December 31," Trade Ministry official Gusmardi Bustami said.
Trade Minister Mari Pangestu has refused to comment on the pact and would not confirm that a formal request for further protection had been sent to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
"I won't comment on the notification letter. I've informally discussed the 228 tariff items with Asean," she told reporters in response to repeated requests for clarification of Indonesia's position.
She had previously said only that Indonesia would honour its commitments under the free trade pact.
Industry ministry spokesman Muhdori said a two-year reprieve from zero tariffs was required in sectors including electronics, machinery, furniture, steel, textiles and chemicals.
Asean officials have said it would be strange for Indonesia, which has the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, to try to back out of its commitments at such a late date.
Any such request for a delay in tariff reductions would go against ASEAN's long-standing drive toward more open regional markets and would require the agreement of the nine other Asean members, which is unlikely.
The ACFTA comprises a market of 1.9 billion people, making it the largest trade pact in the world in terms of population size.
It has a combined gross domestic product of some six trillion dollars and a total trade volume of 4.3 trillion dollars, according to Asean figures.
Indonesian industry bodies have complained that the government has failed to prepare domestic producers to compete with Chinese goods, a failure acknowledged by the industry ministry spokesman.
"The reason for the delay is because we want local industries to be ready for competition with imported goods," Muhdori said.
Indonesian Furniture Producers Association executive director Tanangga Karim welcomed the government's request for a delay amid fears that hundreds of thousands of Indonesian workers could lose their jobs.
"A local computer desk made from particle wood sells for about Rp 600,000 ($65). A Chinese computer desk made from similar materials can sell for about 400,000 here," Karim said.
"The free trade agreement between Asean and China will spell huge job losses at the big furniture makers here. Tens of thousands of employees could be laid off soon."
Indonesian Employers Association chairman Sofyan Wanandi said that while some sectors would benefit from cheaper Chinese inputs and access to Chinese markets, on the whole the ACFTA was bad for Indonesia.
"Our products can't compete with cheap Chinese products and as a result many factories will close down and there will be unemployment," he said.
Asean officials have said Southeast Asian consumers stand to benefit from cheaper goods such as Chinese-made mobile phones, while regional manufacturers would be better placed to piggy-back on China's industrial development.
Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta The business community sees a fairly bright economic picture this year, revising upwards its growth projection for a number of key industrial sectors, in part because of higher estimates both for domestic investment and for inward foreign direct investment.
With these higher growth estimates in key sectors, the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) Tuesday revised upwards its own economic growth forecasts, having initially forecast growth rates between 5.4 percent and 5.9 percent.
It now forecasts that economic growth is more likely to land between 5.4 percent and an optimistic 6.5 percent.
"The government's [growth] estimate is 5.5 percent. But we expect an even higher figure than that," Kadin's head of the Institute for Economic Studies, Research and Development, Faisal Basri, told the media.
Faisal said that the upward revision was based on optimism on investment growth, which Kadin now estimates will increase between 7.5 and 8.6 percent, boosted by advance estimates that higher-than-expected domestic and overseas investments can be expected.
Bank lending, the main source of domestic investment, is estimated to grow this year by 20 percent even higher than the 15 percent target set by the central bank.
As of November 2009, the growth rates for 2009 for working capital loans stood at 13.54 percent, investment loans 12.66 percent and consumer loans 15.92 percent, according to central bank data.
"The loan to GDP [Gross Domestic Product] ratio in China is 140 percent, in Malaysia is 120 percent and in Vietnam is 100 percent. Why are we at only 30 percent?" Faisal said, underlining one reason why lending would improve this year.
Concerning sectors, the largest upward revisions came from key growth industries such as manufacturing (from 3.9 to 5 percent), construction (from 6.9 to 7.5 percent) and hotels and restaurants (from 5.7 to 6.5 percent), although financial sector growth could be lower at 6.9 to 7.4 percent.
"In all honestly, this [upward revision] shows to the government that the business community is optimistic [this year]," said Faisal.
On the trade balance, Kadin estimates that growth of goods and services exports would be offset by surging imports in the coming year. "Export growth would be lower than import growth."
Growth targets for exports of goods and services have been revised upward from 6.4 percent to a maximum of 7.1 percent, while imports of goods and services are forecast at between 8 percent and 8.8 percent this year.
Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu has said the government has forecast that exports will grow by 5 percent this year as the global economic downturn is giving way to an economic recovery phase.
According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), total exports of goods stood at US$86.64 billion in the January-November period last year (2009), 19.5 percent lower than the $103.15 billion recorded in the same period a year earlier (2008).
Meanwhile, the country spent $86.58 billion on total imports of goods in the January-November period last year, down by 28.75 percent from the $121.5 billion booked in the same period in 2008.
Faisal said Kadin had taken into account the impact of free trade agreements between ASEAN and China (AC-FTA) and among ASEAN members (AFTA) in forecasting this year's export and import growth.
He added that these FTAs would not affect the economy significantly as Indonesia had started to gradually liberalize its domestic market since 1998, leaving only 5 percent of all the categories of goods still protected.
We hear all kind of stories about life behind bars. Mostly unpleasant or horrific, they reflect the rough conditions of prison life. Our views of prison life are shaped by the many books written and movies made on the subject. And society seems to have accepted that by and large, as bad as life seems inside prison, we should not interfere. Let it be. Those inside deserve what they get.
But now we are told there is a totally different kind of life in prison to what the books and films tell us.
And we learn this courtesy of an impromptu inspection by a special team commissioned by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to look into corruption in the judiciary, and also from the cover story of the latest issue of Tempo magazine. Some convicts, unlike most other inmates, actually lead a privileged life inside our prisons.
Socialite and lobbyist Artalyta Suryani, according to the reports, has a spacious 64-square-meter room all to herself, complete with amenities one might usually find in a five-star hotel air-conditioning, leather couch, work desk and a desktop computer in the Pondok Bambu Women's Penitentiary in East Jakarta. When the team visited her Sunday, she was being treated by a beautician. Another inmate has karaoke equipment in her room. Given the facilities these rooms come with, you could hardly call them cells.
What is most amazing about Artalyta's story is the fact that despite serving a five-year sentence for bribing a senior prosecutor at the Attorney General's Office, she apparently continues with her corrupt practices, paying off the prison guards to ensure she has the life amenities she was used to outside.
She is even allowed to run her business from the inside, with not only her employees visiting and reporting to her on a daily basis, but business clients also meeting her in jail. The Justice and Human Rights Ministry defended its decision to let her manage her business because she employs 85,000 people. Whatever happened to the principle equality before the law?
The revelation is actually not all that surprising. For years we have heard stories that these things were going on all the time, with rumors of some people continuing to lead a luxurious lifestyle behind bars, for the right price. There have been allegations that many high-profile criminals, particularly those serving time for corruption, were even free to come and go as they pleased.
But this is the first time that an impromptu visit has caught inmates actually enjoying the facilities. And Tempo's investigative reporting is irrefutable proof of the kind of games being played inside many of our prisons.
On Tuesday, the director of the Pondok Bambu detention center was replaced in the wake of the controversy. But that is only one of dozens of penitentiaries across the nation where similar practices are believed to be taking place. The issue will soon die down, but the practice will likely resume before the next discovery, whenever that happens.
Artalyta is making a complete mockery of the ongoing antigraft campaign and of the fine work that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which sent her to jail, has done all these years.
The revelation raises serious questions about the deterrent effect that jailing corruptors has on others still out there: Almost none. On the contrary, the message Artalyta sends to the outside world is that if you are going to corrupt, do it in a big way, for if you are ever caught, you can still bribe your way to a life of luxury behind bars.
John Roosa, Vancouver, Canada When I heard the news that the Indonesian translation of my book, Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Soeharto's Coup d'etat in Indonesia, was banned, I was perplexed.
What year was it? Was Soeharto still in power? In the midst of the remarkable progress in legal reform since Soeharto's fall in 1998, book banning has become anachronistic. The Dec. 23 announcement by the Attorney General's Office (AGO) is like some antique brought out from a dusty storeroom.
Indonesian citizens have gained a sense of self-confidence in the face of officialdom. University rectors, historians, lawyers, journalists, students, among others, have condemned the banning.
The typical comment today is that the banning insults the intelligence of citizens to judge books for themselves. To borrow a phrase from Benedict Anderson, who was banned from the country for decades for his writing on the Sept. 30 Movement, Indonesia has a new society and an old state.
As a historian, I am impressed by the long-term continuity of Indonesian laws on censorship. The AGO announcement banning my book cites Law no. 4 of 1963 a presidential order (penetapan) of President Sukarno's that harkened back to colonial-era laws.
Its preamble states that it was designed to "safeguard the path of the Indonesian Revolution." That was Sukarno's language. Is the AGO today banning publications for the sake of "the Indonesian Revolution"? Are we still out to crush Malaysia?
If the AGO is committed to Sukarnoism it should praise my book. However much I dislike his authoritarian Guided Democracy, I have great respect for Sukarno's intelligence, basic decency, and anti-imperialist foreign policy.
I think my book works nicely as an elaboration of his all-too- brief, three-fold analysis of the Sept. 30 Movement: The cunning of imperial and neo-colonial subversion, the foolishness of the PKI leaders, and the presence of many individuals who were "not right" (apparently meaning Soeharto and his associates). My book endorses his simile about the mass violence carried out in the name of repressing the Sept. 30 Movement: It was like burning down a house to kill a rat.
The key task of the Reformasi period has been to overcome the legacy of two authoritarian polities and create a government based on the rule of law.
Two outstanding achievements have been President B.J. Habibie's canceling of the notorious Anti-Subversion Law of 1963 and the late President Abdurrahman Wahid's closing of Bakorstanas, an intelligence body with sweeping, undefined powers originating in the emergency of October 1965.
Reformasi has wounded Law no. 4 of 1963 but has not yet killed it. The laudable press law of 1999 eliminated its application to newspapers, magazines, and serials, while leaving untouched its application to other printed materials.
So we have the strange situation now where the AGO is forbidden from censoring or banning the press but has been left free to ban books, pamphlets and posters. The former head of the Constitutional Court, Jimly Asshiddiqie, has stated that Law no. 4 is "out of date."
My publisher and I have no idea why my book was banned. Right now we're in Kafka-land: Declared guilty without being told what the crime is.
The AGO's press statement claims that my book "disrupts public order." How it does that goes unexplained. So far the AGO hasn't even provided the text of the "letter of decision" (Surat Keputusan).
The AGO spokesperson mentioned that his office had catalogued 143 objectionable passages in my book. It would be edifying for me, other scholars of Indonesian history, and the general public to see the full report.
In most democratic polities that allow for the banning of books (in the name of suppressing pornography for instance), the banning is usually done through the courts. Prosecutors have to publicly explain their case against a publication and persuade a judge or jury that it is indeed in violation of the law.
Authors and publishers present their counter-arguments. The German laws against Holocaust denial work in this way; prosecutors there do not unilaterally ban books. While I am opposed to any kind of book banning, I will admit that an open, transparent procedure in the judiciary is preferable to a secretive, arbitrary procedure inside an inscrutable bureaucracy.
Many books have been published in the last ten years that have been critical of the Soeharto regime's version of the events of 1965-1966. Except for some textbooks in 2007, none have been officially banned. I do not think my book is special enough to deserve the AGO Prize.
My book actually endorses part of the Soeharto regime's version (on the role of the PKI's Special Bureau) even while it rejects other parts (such as the claim that every PKI member should be held responsible for the Sept. 30 Movement). My book is a work of scholarship that brings out new primary sources and critically evaluates the fullest possible range of sources. It should be useful even to people who disagree with my conclusions.
Some publishers want their books to be banned so they can use the AGO for free advertising. To ensure that no one thinks we will profit from the new interest in my book, my publisher and I have decided to withdraw the copyright on it.
The entire text of the Indonesian translation is available online to be downloaded for free. My publisher, the Indonesian Institute of Social History, has stated that there should be no barriers to knowledge except narrow-mindedness and I suppose a slow internet connection.
The AGO banning of my book does a disservice to the great advances in legal reform that Indonesia has achieved since 1998. It gives the international community the wrong impression of the country.
If I were an Indonesian to modify the title of Ki Hajar Dewantara's famous essay banned by the colonial state in 1913 for "disrupting public order" I would believe, along with Ki Hajar, Indonesia's "Father of Education," that the nation's progress lies in reading more books, not banning more books, and in the self-assurance and free-thinking of its people, not in state-imposed intellectual conformity.
[The writer is Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.]
This question should make it into a pocketbook of party jokes: What is it that students hate, teachers dislike, parents abhor, the public decries, but bureaucrats love?
But our national exams are no laughing matter. They have become a nightmare for hundreds of thousands of students who continue to fail them and are thus deprived of the chance to graduate and force to repeat a year or more. It is a nightmare for parents alike.
We don't understand why the government insists that the results of the exams must determine students' eligibility for graduation. Years of learning at schools are waved aside in determining this.
Teachers' quarterly or half-yearly evaluations of students' performance do not determine it either.
Worse, the government keeps increasing the passing grades, from 3.01 in 2003 to 4.01 in 2004 to 4.25 in 2005 and now to 5.5. This has caused reversed affects for students and teachers alike. In many places in the country, reports have it that teachers are turning a blind eye to students cheating in the national exams, and in some places, teachers, with the blessing of their schools, even help students do the exams so they can pass.
We simply don't understand why our bureaucrats love such controversial national exams. Their most-quoted argument is that the national exams are currently "the most appropriate means of assessment". Are they really? These people are just too lazy to find other, better and most importantly acceptable ways to gauge students' performance.
Our government turned a blind eye to this controversial issue of the national exams. The government has even ignored a ruling by the Central Jakarta District Court that faulted the President, the education minister and the head of the Education National Standardization Agency (BSNP) for holding the national exams.
The ruling, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, declared the government had violated the educational rights of those who had failed the national exams, and ordered them to take concrete action to address the students' psychological and mental problems as a result of the national exams.
The court also ordered the government to improve the quality of teachers, teaching-learning infrastructure at schools and access to information for all schools before holding any more national exams. The court also told the government to review the national education system.
But what we see is a government that remains defiant, heeding neither the people nor the court ruling, and pressing ahead with business as usual. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seemed to respect the ruling when opening a Cabinet meeting on Thursday by suggesting two alternatives. But hours later, his education minister, Mohammad Nuh, announced the President supported the national exams, and therefore the exams would be held earlier than scheduled, to accommodate make-up exams.
So the new thing is the make-up exams. Minister Nuh still said the students "have to pass the national exams". Rather than declare that the national exams will not determine students' eligibility for graduation, the government will hold two exams this year. What a waste of resources.
After all, the exams are the logical consequence of our unified national education system. Therefore we believe we should all pay more attention to the last point made in the Central Jakarta District Court's ruling, asking the government to review our national education system.
Maybe, as a first step, we should rename our National Education Ministry the Education Ministry (eliminating the word "National"), and thus allow regions and schools to tailor their curricula to local and individual needs. This way, we don't need national exams.