Tifa Asrianti, Jakarta The rising number of extractive-based activities has escalated natural-based conflicts and environmental damages across Indonesia, NGOs reported.
The Peace Building Institute, that monitored news in local media on escalating conflicts for the past two years, found that violence patterns no longer see rising religious and tribal-based conflicts, but rather conflicts over natural resources.
In 2009, there were 54 incidents, or 9 percent of 600 total conflicts. The number was recorded to increase to 74 cases as of June 2010.
Provinces with most conflicts on natural-based resources are West Nusa Tenggara, Papua, North Sumatra and Southeast Sulawesi.
Ichsan Malik, the institute's chairman, said that there were several analysis regarding the rising number of natural resource-based conflicts.
First, the capital accumulation requires spatio-temporal fixes and production of new space. It also involves eviction in the process.
Second is the mismanagement of natural resources by the government. Although the Constitution mandates the natural resource management for the people's welfare, in reality people often become the victim of the state's policies.
"Decentralization and regional autonomy that are dominated by economic motives, and disregard environmental concerns and local residents' welfare," Ichsan said.
Local administrations, he said, often involved in concessions with private parties without the consent of residents who own the lands.
The NGO recorded a total of 600 incidents happening in 2009 and 752 incidents until the mid of 2010. It means that there are four cases of conflict and violence every day. The result was surprising because in 2008, a conflict only happened every one and a half days.
Andrie S. Wijaya from NGO Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) said that his organization had been recording that 2010 had been the year that recorded the highest permits issuance, especially for coal mining, manganese mining and mine openings in conserved areas.
"From the facts found in the field, we found that there were spatial conflicts and overlapping land use. It turned out that there were activities such as agriculture in the mining concession area. Such a condition has led to conflict," he said.
Andrie said that in order to stop and solve the conflicts, the government should stop issuing new mining concession permits and conduct a thorough review on the issued permits.
In 2010, Jatam recorded that the government issued a mining concession for 1.5 millions hectares of forest, including North Sumatra's Batang Gadis National Park, Gorontalo's Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park and Sumba's Wangameti National Park.
"We believe that 2011 will see more land clearance for mining, because that 1.5 million hectares has yet to include the coastal area," he said.
Rampant extractive activities in Indonesia have been prevalent and difficult to stop since they are also the result of regulation loopholes that the government has in forest-licensing and definition of land.
Earlier, Greenomics Indonesia reported escalating forest-clearance in 2010 that harvested 12.18 milion of cubic meters in 2010.
With the raising forest-clearing as well as mining and plantation activities, environment activists have doubted that the Indonesia government could realize its commitment to stop forest-clearing for the next two years, starting this year.
Beside the natural resource-based conflicts, other conflicts on the rise were brawls, mass judgment actions and political-based conflicts. In 2009, the NGO found that there were 74 political-based conflicts. The number jumped to 117 cases as of June 2010.
"Nowadays, the conflicts are more dispersed, sporadic, routine and spontaneous, with a larger variety of conflicts and involving various communal and collective actors," said Ichsan.
With the rising number of conflicts, the number of casualties and loss also increases. In 2009, 70 died and 395 were wounded due to conflicts, while as of June 2010, the numbers were 53 and 1126 respectively.
Mohamad Miqdad, executive director of the Peace Building Institute, suggested that the government strengthen related stakeholders, such as intelligence institutions and the police, in order to create an early warning system of conflict.
"In the past, the intelligence institutions were considered as part of the problems. But in the future, they should play an important role to prevent conflict. Otherwise, we will always have our hands full dealing with conflicts, instead of moving forward," he said.
Nurfika Osman Fancy an evening in front of the TV after a hard day at school? Not an option if you're a student in Depok.
A controversial new bylaw in the Jakarta satellite city requiring students to study at night has education activists up in arms about its purported merits and questionable effectiveness.
The bylaw, passed by the Depok City Council, stipulates that children must study between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. During that time, they are also required to study the history of the city. However, the curriculum on local history is only expected to be available in 2012.
Sri Rahayu, deputy chairwoman of Depok City Council's Commission D overseeing education, and a wife of the ever-controversial Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring, said the bylaw had been passed to promote scholarship.
"Studying should be part of our culture," she said. "We shouldn't have to push ourselves to study."
She also called on parents to make sure kids stay on task by "turning off cellphones and other entertainment devices such as radio and television sets during that period."
She added there would be no punishment for anyone failing to comply, but the community was encouraged to support it. "Neighborhood and community heads are expected to participate in creating an atmosphere conducive to studying," she said. "They can create study groups and bring in teachers."
However, a parents' association has rebuffed the measure, calling it laughable. "Any bylaw can only be effective if it's supported by the community, and we don't see that happening with this new bylaw," Jumono, chairman of the Alliance of Parents Concerned About Education, told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.
"Besides, the monitoring of the implementation remains the big question here. Who'll be in charge of monitoring the children to ensure the bylaw is being enforced?"
Arief Rachman, an education expert and the head of the Indonesian National Commission for Unesco, also questioned how this was to be enforced.
"Where are the children expected to study? If it's at home, who'll be in charge of ensuring the bylaw is effectively implemented?" he said.
"This bylaw is meant to improve the education system, but if it doesn't work, it'll backfire on the Depok administration."
The bylaw has also not gone down well with Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Islamic organization.
Neni Anggraeni, head of education affairs at the NU council in Depok, said the bylaw would be useless as long as it prescribed no punishment for those failing to adhere to it. "The community will simply ignore the bylaw because there are no sanctions," she said.
Neni also shot down the notion of learning Depok history, saying it would overburden students. "It'll be enough for them to learn it from their teachers once the subject starts getting taught in class," she said.
National Education Minister Muhammad Nuh said he had not yet heard of the bylaw, but believed students should not need a such a measure to motivate them to develop better study habits.
Jakarta Nothing was on his mind except for love when Edgar Martinez, a Philippine national, met Mercy Nababan 14 years ago. Inseparable, they decided to marry and live in Indonesia.
It took a while for them to realize that a mixed marriage was not easy, especially for those choosing to live in Indonesia. They have stumbled upon not only cultural differences, but also many issues given Edgar's nationality.
Edgar has failed to obtain the permanent resident status required to allow him to work here. "I have fulfilled all the requirements needed to get a permanent stay permit [KITAP]," he said Tuesday on the sidelines of a discussion on a draft immigration law.
Constantly failing to obtain the permit, which would allow him to stay in Indonesia for five years at a time and somewhat ease the process for acquiring a work permit, he decided to work on a cruise ship, which meant he was forced to leave his family for at least a year on each trip.
Currently, he has to apply for a temporary stay permit each year, although he is married to an Indonesian national and his children are Indonesian nationals as well.
Edgar is not the only foreign national facing difficulties in becoming a permanent resident.
Rulita Anggraini, an Indonesian married to American national Mark Winkel, said mixed marriages were a reality in Indonesia, but that there were no laws or regulations to properly address the issues of mixed marriage families.
"No protection is provided by the country for mixed marriage couples," said Rulita, who chairs PerCa Indonesia, an NGO advocating for more rights and equality for mixed marriage couples.
"The government make it difficult for mixed marriage couples who want to live in Indonesia with their families," she told The Jakarta Post.
Apart from complicated procedures, mixed marriage couples are also forced to spend a lot of money to obtain officials documents. For example, a foreign spouse is required to pay Rp 700,000 (US$77) for a temporary stay permit (KITAS) and Rp 2 million for a KITAP. However, they usually pay more for these permits, with documented cases of foreign nationals paying Rp 7 million for a KITAS and much more for a KITAP.
Any foreign spouse who fails to obtain a work permit must pay $1,200 per year into the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry's skill improvement fund.
The government, Rulita said, should show its commitment to protecting human rights, including the economic, civil and social rights of Indonesian citizens in mixed marriages.
Marilyn Adipradja of the International Rainbow Alliance, another group lobbying on behalf of mixed marriage couples, said Indonesian law made it complicated for foreigners married to Indonesian citizens to permanently reside in the country with their children.
She added that children from mixed marriages faced difficulties if they chose to be foreign citizens when adults.
"They are not even given the chance to work to make a living in Indonesia, except if they are sponsored by a large company," said Marilyn, a foreign national who has been married to an Indonesian, Mustakim Adipradja, for 40 years.
The director of stay permits and immigration status, Pramuningtyas Hadiwojoyo, said there were problems around the issuance of permanent residency papers. He said work permits for foreigners were regulated by the 2003 Manpower Law, which sets out tough requirements. (ebf)
Armando Siahaan, Jakarta Against a backdrop of growing concern that inflation could dent the armor of what has been a resilient and robust national economy, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday issued 10 specific directives to guide the government's working program in 2011.
Speaking before district heads, cabinet ministers and other officials gathered at the Jakarta Convention Center for the National Working Meeting, Yudhoyono topped the list with the current spike in food and energy prices.
"Let us take measures to deal with the global food and energy price increases," he said.
"In the long run, we must have food self-sufficiency and energy security." With 2011 already marked by concerns locally and worldwide over the rising cost of oil and food, the government will need to stabilize domestic prices through measures such as market operations ("operasi pasar") and fiscal incentives, Yudhoyono said.
During the meeting, which traditionally kicks off the agenda for the year, the president stated the government's economic targets for 2011 as 6.4 percent economic growth, 5.3 percent inflation, 7 percent unemployment and a poverty rate between 11.5 and 12.5 percent.
In order to reach these targets, the president listed three further economic directives.
First, he said that it is imperative to manage state and regional budgets carefully, emphasizing correct subsidy levels and optimal and timely spending of the budget.
Yudhoyono also underlined the continued urgency of infrastructure development and electricity generation. "If there's already a program, a plan, an allocation and the available workforce to build the infrastructure, then we cannot miss [the target]," he said.
Acknowledging the need for government-private partnerships and increased investment, the president instructed all government officials to create a hospitable investment climate.
The keys to achieving such a climate, he said, are easy, quick and inexpensive permits, legal certainty and the absence of regulatory conflicts between the central and local governments.
Turning to another perennial issue, the president also stressed the need to suppress corruption. He singled out the tax office, procurements and regional elections as areas where graft is still rampant.
"We need to continue reforms in all law enforcement agencies," he added. "Of course, the eradication of corruption is not something that will just fall from the sky; we must be committed to this goal."
The president also took a tough stance on environmental issues, such as illegal mining and deforestation.
"We need to prevent collusion between government officials and businessmen. The times have changed, let us not return to a culture of collusion," he said, adding that sanctions against those who conduct such illegal practices must be firm.
Yudhoyono also said he wanted to curb the practice of money politics by tightening the supervision and examination of campaign activities. Moreover, he said, he wanted the rising costs of running for office to be lowered without sacrificing the values of democracy.
He next turned to the welfare sector, urging better treatment for marginalized groups and victims of natural disasters, as well as better disaster preparedness.
Finally, he said, the government must provide better protection to migrant workers.
Placement agencies need to "train and prepare [workers] properly" so they understand their rights and responsibilities, while government representatives abroad must support those workers, he said.
Indonesian soldiers on trial for the alleged brutal abuse of two Papuans should be charged with torture rather than the minor offence of disobeying orders, Amnesty International said on Saturday.
The three soldiers appeared Thursday before a military tribunal, after the online broadcast of a video showing the torture of unarmed men sparked an outcry.
But they were charged with disobedience to orders rather than more serious crimes such as illegal detention and abuse. In the video, posted on YouTube last year, soldiers place a burning stick to the genitals of an unarmed man and threaten another with a knife as part of an interrogation about the location of weapons.
"Amnesty International urges the Indonesian authorities to ensure that the three soldiers... [are] tried in full criminal procedures for torture or similar crimes," Amnesty's Asia-Pacific Deputy Director Donna Guest said.
Military prosecutors have said they lacked evidence of torture because the victims would not testify, despite the existence of a CD of the video and detailed statements given by the victims to human rights groups.
According to the National Human Rights Commission, the victims would like to testify but were terrified of military reprisals, and had not received adequate safety guarantees.
"Amnesty International believes that the civilian courts are much more likely to ensure both prosecution for the crimes involving human rights violations and protection for witnesses than the military system," Guest said in a statement received by AFP.
Indonesia had pledged to rein in military abuses in regions such as Papua and the Maluku islands in return for renewed US military exchanges. The soldiers face a maximum sentence of two and half years in jail.
Banjir Ambarita, Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Nivell Rayda, Jayapura Three soldiers faced a military court here on Thursday over the torture of two Papuan men that was captured on video and circulated on the Internet, prompting an international furor late last year.
The soldiers, from the Army's 753rd Infantry Battalion in Nabire, Papua, were identified as Second Sgt. Irwan Rizkiyanto, First Pvt. Jackson Agu and First Pvt. Thamrin Mahamiri.
The soldiers were manning a military checkpoint near Gurage village in the restive mountainous region of Puncak Jaya when the torture occurred. Military prosecutors have charged the men with insubordination, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 months in prison.
"Before they were sent to their post, their commander instructed them not to commit any acts of physical or emotional violence against civilians. But they were disobedient," said the lead prosecutor, Maj. Soemantri.
He added that the men could have been charged with the more serious offense of assault under the civilian Criminal Code, but prosecutors had been unable to obtain the necessary physical evidence and statements from the victims.
"We need physical evidence like medical examinations and witness testimonies, that is what we failed to get," he said. "We only have the video to rely on as evidence."
The three defendants were among a group of six soldiers featured in a 10- minute video that depicted soldiers interrogating two bound Papuans. The video was uploaded onto YouTube last October and quickly went viral.
Military officials promised swift action to organize a court-martial and rights activists were pleased when a trial was announced in November. But that court-martial turned out to be for a different case, involving four soldiers accused of assaulting Papuan civilians in March.
The video posted on YouTube in October showed one of the victims, Tunaliwor Kiwo, being burned on the genitals with a smoldering stick. Telangga Gire, the other victim, was seen being threatened with a large knife.
Members of the Papuan Customary Council were able to meet with Kiwo, who had gone into hiding, and record his testimony.
In the testimony, Kiwo said he had been tortured for more than 48 hours, was repeatedly beaten, suffocated and burned with cigarettes. He said his toes were crushed with pliers and that soldiers rubbed chili paste, detergent and salt into his open wounds.
Prosecutor Lt. Col. Edy I said the defendants believed the victims were members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), an armed separatist group, because Kiwo was wearing a type of blue necklace commonly worn by members of the organization.
The closed-door trial is scheduled to resume on Monday.
Haris Azhar, chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said he respected the victims' reluctance to cooperate with the military investigation. "This trial is biased, unreliable and offers no protection for the victims," he said.
The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), he added, should declare the incident a gross human rights violation, take over the investigation and push for the military chief to move the prosecution to the civilian courts.
Separately, Rafendi Djamin, Indonesia's representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, said the government needed to hand out harsher punishments to stop such violations occurring.
The Military Tribunal Law is not enough of a deterrent and should be revised, he said. Most of the articles in the law treat infringements by soldiers as disciplinary violations, he added.
Rafendi warned that if the county failed to act, then victims and civil society groups could take these cases to international bodies. "Violators," he said, "could face court in foreign countries."
Washington The United States is closely monitoring the trial of three Indonesian soldiers accused of torturing two Papuans, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on Thursday.
"It's vitally important for Indonesia to reform its security forces and hold those forces to high standards, in terms of individual conduct and human rights," Crowley said. "We will be closely monitoring these cases."
The soldiers appeared Thursday before a military tribunal, after the online broadcast of a video showing the torture of civilians. They were charged only with disobeying orders.
In the video, posted on YouTube last year, soldiers place a burning stick to the genitals of an unarmed man as part of an interrogation about the location of weapons.
The Indonesian government had pledged to rein in military abuses in the regions such as Papua and the Maluku islands in return for renewed US military exchanges. "We're going to hold Indonesia to those commitments," Crowley said.
The soldiers face a maximum sentence of two and half years in jail.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho, Jakarta The Indonesian Military says it welcomes the United States governments pledge to closely monitor the trials of three Indonesian soldiers accused of torturing two Papuans.
TNI spokesman First Admiral Iskandar Sitompul said on Friday that the military tribunal described by Human rights activists as a sham was open to the public and anyone was permitted to attend the hearings.
"For us, interest in the case from anyone is not a form of [foreign] intervention. The trial is open to the public," Iskandar said.
He claimed, however, that the legal process must be conducted independently by those involved in the legal process. "[The United States] knows this and they will respect it."
Jayapura Two civilians were killed and a soldier was injured as three people were reported to have attacked a military post in Merauke, Papua, on Friday.
The attack reportedly took place at 8 a.m. local time, or 6 a.m. Jakarta time.
The two victims were identified as Clemen Basik-Basik and Amandus Basik- Basik. The former was killed during the attack while using arrows, and the latter was shot dead when he fleeing with guns seized from the post.
"The three attacked the military post using traditional weapons. They attacked and seized the guns" Cendrawasih Military Command official Lieu. Col. Harry Priyatna told The Jakarta Post by phone.
Harry believed that the attack was related to an incident the day before when Clemen Basik-Basik was questioned by police officers following complaints that he was consistently blamed for causing public unrest.
Jakarta - Three members of the 753 Battalion are being tried by the Jayapura III-9 Military Court in the case of the torture of Papuans that was uploaded on the YouTube website.
This was conveyed by army (TNI AD) information office chief Brigadier General Wiryantoro on Thursday January 13. "The trial is open in nature and will be conducted in the framework of achieving legal certainty", said Wiryantoro.
Wiryantoro said that on the one hand the soldiers were carrying out their official dues. They were also under pressure because there was evidence and information that many armed people were carrying out attacks. "However methods of interrogation such as this cannot be condoned and violate human rights", said Wiryantoro.
According to the state-owned Antara news agency, the three members of the Cendrawasih Regional Military Command (Kodam) are Second Sergeant Irman Risqianto, Private First-Class Yakson Agu and Private First-Class Thamrin Mahanggiri.
At the first court hearing, the three were declared guilty of being involved in the mistreatment of local people while on duty during a security operation in an unstable area in Gurage village, Tinggi Nambut sub-district, Puncak Jaya regency, Papua.
They were charged under Article 103 of the Military Criminal Code, namely failure to comply with the orders of a superior, and face a possible jail sentence of two years and six months jail. Major Soemantri, an auditor, stated that because there was no testimony by the victims, the three were not charged under the articles on torture.
Earlier, four people were charged under the same articles and sentenced to five and seven months in jail. They are currently in the process of submitting an appeal.
Human Rights Working Group Director Rafendi Djamin said that international concerns over various cases in Papua has yet to provide the impetus for a concrete resolution to the human rights violations in Papua. (EDN/DAY)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Human rights violations: Three members of army on trial in military court".]
Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura Church leaders across Papua have asked the government to stop the election process of Papua People's Council (MRP) members until a national dialog between Jakarta and Papua is held as demanded by Papuans during a rally in June last year.
The rally, held on June 18, 2010, demanded the region's special autonomy be restored.
"We urge the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Papua and West Papua governors, speakers of Papua and West Papua legislative councils to stop the whole process of the MRP election," said Jemima Krey, chairman of the Papuan Injili Christian Church's (GKI) Synod in Jayapura, on Monday.
Jemima said the government had not yet provided a concrete answer regarding the demand but had moved forward with conducting the election process of MRP members. He expressed concern that this would render the result illegitimate by the Papuan indigenous people.
Jemima said through the national dialog Papuans wanted to discuss the dignity of indigenous Papuans that up to the present had not yet been accommodated to in the law on special autonomy.
As a result, the special autonomous status had failed to provide prosperity to indigenous Papuans as well as acknowledge and protect the rights of indigenous Papuans, he added.
"It would be much better if the election process was held after the national dialog," said another priest, Benny Giay, who is also chairman of the Papua Kingmi Church Synod.
Benny expressed fear that if the election continued before dialog was conducted, church leaders would not be willing to recommend representatives to be elected as MRP members representing religious groups.
Jemima said there was no need to be afraid of the term "dialog". "Never expect Papua to directly receive independence once the dialog is held. What we need is a dialog to discuss all things that have the potential to restore the special status," he added.
Other participating church leaders include chairman of the Baptist Church Association Socrates Sofyan Yoman and chairman of Papua Pentecost Bethel Church Synod Tony Infandi.
According to the schedule prepared by the Papua provincial administration, dissemination of the MRP election is being conducted throughout the region. The 75-strong 2011-2016 MRP is scheduled to be sworn in by the Home Minister.
Dicky Christanto and Ina Parlina, Jakarta The Papua Customary Council (PCC) blasted the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) probe into a string of cases of torture in the restive province, calling it a mere "bluff and formality".
Council member Markus Haluk said Sunday the Komnas HAM investigation failed to provide solutions for ending recurrent cases of human rights abuse in Papua.
The commission last Tuesday announced the results of their investigation into three recently revealed cases of torture by members of the military perpetrated against native Papuans.
The rights body recommended the government review its security approach in the province, but ruled out calls for the establishment of right tribunal to prosecute the culprits because the crimes could not be categorized as "gross violations".
"No one will bow to non-binding recommendations," Markus said, adding that whether "serious" or "gross" violations of human rights, the commission should be able to ensure that the perpetrators would not go unpunished.
"I say bringing them before a military tribunal won't solve the problem and won't stop similar incidents from happening again," he said.
A military tribunal is widely perceived as a tool to whitewash rights offenders by only charging them with disobedience. "In cases of human rights violations, the culprits should be brought to a real hearing, a human rights tribunal, to process their mistakes against civilians," Markus said.
Rights activists in Jakarta also questioned the commission's investigation result.
"The report only mentions that there were serious human rights violations that have taken place in the Puncak Jaya district in Papua, but it fails to provide concrete recommendations regarding these violations," rights watchdog Imparsial executive director Poengky Indarti said over the weekend.
Imparsial advocate Al Araf said that the least the commission could do was to order the military to bring the cases to a civil court.
"The Military Criminal Code doesn't recognize torture as crime that requires severe punishment. That is why the military court process is unable to provide a deterrent effect to perpetrators," he said, referring to a recent torture trial in which the defendants were sentenced to only a few months in prison.
In many violations that have been reported in Papua, including those that became the grounds for the latest Komnas HAM inquiry, the military has often stated that their actions were unavoidable because they faced the dangers of a separatist movement in the area.
Imparsial recorded that between 1998 and 2007 there were 242 violations committed by Indonesian soldiers in various locations in Papua and West Papua.
Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta The Jakarta Police said they were not yet capable of solving the violent cases involving an alleged assault on Tama S. Langkun, a researcher for the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), and a Molotov cocktail which was thrown into Tempo magazine's office.
Tama was physically assaulted on July 8, two days after unknown assailants lobbed Molotov cocktails at the Tempo office in Central Jakarta.
Prior to the alleged attack, Tempo ran an article on an alleged corruption case within the police institution as a headline. The magazine reported that at least seven high-ranking police officers were suspected of hoarding billions of rupiah in their bank accounts, transferred from third parties. Tama was the investigator behind the article.
The seven suspected officers included Insp. Gen. Budi Gunawan, the head of the police internal affairs division and a former adjutant to the president during Megawati Soekarnoputri's administration, East Kalimantan Police chief Insp. Gen. Mathius Salempang, former police Mobile Brigade chief Insp. Gen. Sylvanus Yulian Wenas and police School for Leadership (Sespim) lecturer Insp. Gen. Bambang Suparno.
Semarang Police chief and former West Jakarta Police chief, Sr. Comr. Edward Syah Pernong, and the former section head of the vehicle registration (STNK) department of the Makasar Police, Sr. Comr. (ret.) Umar Leha, as well as the troubled former National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji were also on the list.
"We admit that we cannot yet resolve these two cases because of the lack of evidence and witnesses. However, we will arrest the culprits once we find sufficient proof and eye-witness," said Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Sutarman during his visit to the Tempo office in Central Jakarta on Wednesday.
"We work based on evidence, not predictions," he added as quoted by tempointeraktif.com.
Sutarman said that the police had distributed the sketches of Tama's assailants to the public. "Tama personally provided corrections if our sketches were not similar to the assailants, but it is difficult to track them down," Sutarman said.
Sutarman also denounced the notion that the police had tried to conceal the truth behind the Molotov cocktail attack on the Tempo office to make it look like as if it was a result of an internal conflict at Tempo.
"If we have to, we will interrogate our own members who were there during the attack," he said. "We have no vested interest. We would never distort the case to be part of a conflict within Tempo," he added.
Jakarta Police Crime Unit head Comr. Sr. Herry Rudolf Nahak said that as long as the evidence and witnesses were insufficient, the police could do nothing. A coalition of civil societies such as the ICW and the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation, met with Sutarman on Tuesday and demanded that the police resolve the Tama and Tempo cases as soon as possible.
Ulma Haryanto, Zaky Pawas & Farouk Arnaz - A raft of cases of torture at the hands of Indonesian police are reported to humanitarian watchdogs every year, but two stand out in the mind of Nurkholis Hidayat.
The director of Jakarta Legal Aid said on Tuesday that although his office dealt with 10 cases of police torture last year, two cases from two years ago continued to trouble him. The cases were reportedly followed up by the police, but the results of their investigations were never made known to Jakarta Legal Aid, much less the public, Nurkholis said.
"A transvestite in South Jakarta was severely abused, beaten up and urinated on while police officers, several of them drunk, interrogated [the transvestite] about a stolen mobile phone," Nurkholis said.
Rico Saputra, who was 24 at the time of the incident, said that around 20 officers from the South Jakarta Police "pushed my head to the wall, urinated on me, doused me with beer and burned me with cigarette stubs."
The second case involved a woman from North Jakarta, the wife of a bank robber named Mulyana. Mulyana was arrested in July 2009 over a Rp 15 billion ($1.65 million) bank heist, Nurkholis explained.
Edy Halomoan Gurning, another Jakarta Legal Aid official, said the woman was given electric shocks on 13 points of her body to get her to reveal the whereabouts of her husband.
"All of these cases were reported to Propam [the Bureau of Professionalism and Security Affairs]," Edy said. "However the results of their investigations were never made known to us."
In a search for answers in these cases, and dozens of others that have seen investigations either stall or close down, activists from several prominent civil society organizations such as Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy and the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) visited the Jakarta Police on Tuesday.
Indria Fernida, Kontras deputy coordinator, demanded Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Sutarman explain "what progress, if any" had been made in the case of Tama Satrya Langkun, an ICW researcher brutalized by unidentified attackers over his investigations into police corruption.
"Since this capital got its new police chief, we have not received any information on this case's progress," Indria said.
"We ask the Jakarta Police Chief, as the highest security authority for Jakarta's residents, to be more firm in taking action against vigilante groups," Indria said. Tama sustained multiple bruises and cuts to his head and was hospitalized for several days last year.
Nationwide headlines and continuous reportage on the attack eventually saw him receive a hospital visit from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. When the news coverage stopped, however, investigations into the case stalled.
"Each of us have our own questions to ask. Personally, I am not satisfied with the police's investigations," Tama said.
"ICW as an institution, other NGOs and the public are also dissatisfied," he added. "We want to know who did this! Who was behind it? This is a challenge for police."
Indria also pointed out that police torture had at times been accompanied by fabricated reports, particularly when it came to drug cases.
"In drug-related cases, it is not uncommon for police to set people up, intending to lead a person into being caught red-handed with drugs in their possession," Indria said.
Ricky Gunawan, program director at the Community Legal Aid Foundation, said that he was familiar with cases of innocent people being framed over drug possession, as well as the unnecessary abuse of drug addicts.
"Our sources on the ground tell us that some police precincts have quotas to fulfill every month regarding drug cases," he said.
Susandhi Sukatma, a man accused of possession of 0.1467 grams of ecstasy residue, said that officers from the Maluku police interrogated him and tortured him in a Jakarta office building, but they remained unpunished.
"Even though a police ethics tribunal found those officers in breach of ethical conduct, nothing really serious happened to them," he said.
The Jakarta High Court recently overturned a district court ruling that acquitted him of all charges. The High Court instead sentenced him to four years in prison and Rp 800 million in fines. Susandhi is filing his appeal with the Supreme Court today.
Separately, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Patrialis Akbar said he was aware of the problem and to begin addressing the issue, the government had organized a human rights workshop for officers of the National Police's elite Mobile Brigade (Brimob).
"When they make an arrest, there must be enough evidence to charge suspects," Patrialis said. "Interrogation should be done without torturing suspects."
The planned workshop would be held at the Brimob headquarters in Depok, he added. "This is just the beginning. After this [workshop] we are going to do it with others institutions."
Kontras has accused the National Police of being the state institution guilty of committing the highest number of acts of violence against the public in 2010.
Kontras coordinator Haris Azhar said that 34 cases of police violence against the public had been reported.
Most involved torture, especially during investigations. The excessive use of force and abuse of police weapons was also common, he said.
Jakarta Law enforcement throughout 2010 has been corrupt and discriminatory. A joint statement by victims of human rights violations and their families, which were conveyed by the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) on Sunday January 9, expressed the hope that the government will make 2001 a year of awakening from the bankruptcy of morality and justice.
"Victims are still hoping for improvements for the sake of the nation. [But] We are not just counting on the government alone", said Kontras Coordinator Haris Azhar when contacted in Jakarta.
Haris said that the victims and families of victims of human rights violations see law enforcement in 2010 as very manipulative. Cases that have befallen the common people such as the theft of a cow are quickly resolved. Cases that involve important people or politicians meanwhile appear to get repeatedly postponed and left hanging.
"The victims and the families of victims have agreed to consistently voice demands for law enforcement and political policies that are just and clearly support the common people. Law and politics must side with the common people. We believe that the current system that is corrupt and discriminatory will not last forever", said Haris.
The joint statement was signed by the victims of 33 cases of human rights violations. They are the victims of land disputes with the Indonesian military (TNI) in Bojong-Kemang, violence against children, land evictions, the 1965 affair, the Tangerang Friends of Munir, the victims of forced disappearances in 1997- 1998, the victims of judicial manipulation and violence, the victims of the Tanjung Priok shootings in 1984, the victims of the Semanggi I and Semanggi II student shootings in 1998-99, evicted Block M traders, victims of malpractice, the criminalised ITC petitioners and the Talangsari Lampung massacre in 1989.
The victims are demanding that the state improve the accountability and performance of state institutions, particularly law enforcement and human rights institutions, primarily in ending violence practices and providing guarantees of security and survival for all Indonesian citizens.
"Victims are demanding that their rights be fulfilled and the protection of poor, venerable and minority groups, along with workers, farmers, fisherpeople and groups that have been marginalised", explained Haris. (ONG)"
[Translated by James Balowski. The title of the articles was "Justice - Law enforcement corrupt".]
Amir Tejo, Surabaya Head of the Surabaya City Police Sr. Comr. Coki Manurung on Friday denied that police had disbanded a discussion on pluralism the previous day, as organizers had claimed.
"Police did not disband any discussion yesterday so there is no need to overexpose the issue," Coki said, immediately ending a telephone interview with the Jakarta Globe.
Members of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, a group that advocates pluralism and freedom of worship, said they were participating in a discussion at a coffee shop at Surabaya's Inna Simpang Hotel with groups including Surabaya Legal Aid and members of the minority Ahmadiyah sect.
The meeting was to discuss solutions for eradicating discrimination and protecting religious freedom in East Java.
Setara said the meeting was disrupted by dozens of members of a group calling itself the Force of the Defenders of Islam (LPI). The LPI members accused organizers of hosting an illegal gathering and demanded that the event be halted immediately.
According to Setara, several police officers later arrived at the venue and, after discussing the problem with the hard-liners, ordered the meeting be disbanded, citing security concerns and the absence of a permit for the gathering as their reasons.
Akhol Firdays, an activist from the Center for Marginalized Communities Studies (CMARS) who had attended the discussion, said the officers mentioned the name of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to give weight to their order.
The police argued that the discussion could give rise to conflict during the president's current visit to Surabaya and could therefore endanger his safety, Setara said in a joint statement with seven other advocacy groups.
"SBY should act firmly against those police personnel who consciously made use of his name to forcefully disband the discussion," Akhol said. Failure to act, he added, would clearly show the public the extent of Yudhoyono's commitment to the enforcement of law.
Akhol said the president should take the opportunity to prove his commitment to guaranteeing human rights in the country, including freedom of religion, association and expression.
Yudhoyono, he said, should also come out with firm instructions for the police force, which has continuously appeared to bow to violent pressure frline groups.
Members of the gathering alleged the LPI are connected to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a fundamentalist group known for imposing their religious views on others by force.
Chairman of the East Java chapter of Nahdlatul Ulama, Mutawakkil Alallah, said he agreed with the LPI's actions in disrupting the event, as it involved members of the Ahmadiyah sect, but also cautioned against the use of violence. He said that Ahmadiyah could continue to exist in Indonesia as long as they did not claim to be part of Islam.
Mainstream Muslim groups accuse Ahmadiyah of professing its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a prophet, which runs directly against a tenet of Islam identifying Muhammad as the final prophet.
Dicky Christanto and Indra Harsaputra, Jakarta/Surabaya Recent pressure by local military chiefs in East Java to cancel the scheduled airing of an opera about a prominent Indonesian communist leader has sparked controversy.
Indonesian Military (TNI) spokesman Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said Tuesday that the military's authority did not extend to non-defense and security affairs.
When questioned by The Jakarta Post on whether TNI headquarters had issued an internal policy ordering subordinates to ban all things related to leftist ideology, Iskandar insisted that "the military does not have the authority to ban things".
He said he had contacted local military authorities in Malang and Kediri, East Java, questioning them over the ban, and said none of them claimed to have issued such a decision.
However, Kediri military command chief Lt. Col. Bambang Sudarmanto confirmed that he had issued a ban on Opera Tan Malaka and demanded that local broadcaster KSTV Kediri not air the show. But he also insisted the decision not to air the program was made by the TV station itself, and not because of his coercion.
"The reason for my decision [to demand the cancellation] was to maintain conducive conditions here," he told news portal detik.com on Tuesday. "Those versed in history remember Tan Malaka and his school of thought very clearly," Bambang said.
Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) chairman Dadang Rahmat Hidayat said his office would discuss the controversy on Wednesday, when the East Java branch of the KPI will present its report. "We are still gathering all the facts," Dadang told the Post.
The Tan Malaka opera was first performed at Jakarta's Salihara Theater last year, and was later aired by eight local TV stations and produced by Tempo TV.
During Soeharto's 32-year rule, the TNI was heavily involved in nearly all aspects of daily Indonesian life, including media censorship. It was a common occurrence for the military to contact media organizations to prohibit them from broadcasting or printing anything they regarded as anti-government or critical of the government. After Soeharto's downfall, the military retreated to play a lower profile role.
First president Sukarno declared Tan Malaka a national hero in 1963. Along with Muhammad Hatta and Sukarno, Tan Malaka has been described by many historians as one of Indonesia's founding fathers. But during the Soeharto era, Tan Malaka was all but erased from history books because of his leftist ideology, although his recognition as a hero was never repealed.
Ahmad Basarah from the House of Representatives' law commission said the military was in grave violation of the law if it had indeed pressured stations to effectively censor themselves.
"The military is wrong if it argues that the opera is worth banning because it is perceived to spread values closely associated with socialism and communism. They are wrong because first and foremost the authority to ban is no longer theirs," he said.
"Preventing an event from taking place can still be justified if there are public safety and security reasons at play. So, for example, the police have the right to stop a performance of the opera if they believe it can create serious trouble," Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator Lt. Gen. (ret.) Tubagus Hasanuddin said. He insisted, however, that the TNI did not have the power to issue such a ban.
National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar admitted he was still in the dark about the ban. He declined to comment on the decision by the local military officers.
The Malang branch of the Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) criticized acts of censorship by the police and military. "We deplore the acts. They are a violation of the press freedom guaranteed by our law," chairman Abdi Purnomo said.
Jakarta A performance that was banned in the past is being showcased in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's era. The show, Opera Tan Malaka, was once performed at Salihara Theater in Jakarta. The banning occurred in Malang and Kediri, East Java.
The banning applied to three local TV stations in the two cities BatuTV, Malang TV and KSTV Kediri. Certain people from local authorities considered the opera to hold a leftist teaching, which was feared to stir unrest, according to detik.com news portal.
Records of the opera, which were performed at Salihara Theater from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20, 2010, were later aired by local TV throughout Indonesia. They were successfully aired by eight local TV stations Duta TV in Banjarmasin (Jan. 5 and 7), Tarakan TV (Jan. 7), Madura Channel (Jan. 9), Taz TV Tasikmalaya (Jan. 9), Bengkulu TV (Jan. 7), Siak TV Siak (Jan. 8i), TVKU Semarang (Jan. 8) and KRTV Aceh (Jan. 8).
In Malang, however, a police officer identified as Sukoco went to BatuTV, asking the station not air the record of Opera Tan Malaka produced by TEMPOTV. Two soldiers from the local military district command also arrived at the TV station later at a different time.
KSTV Kediri, meanwhile, planned to air Opera Tan Malaka from Jan. 9 to Jan. 16, but was forced to cancel it because of a similar call by local police officers and others from the local military district command.
M. Azis Tunny, Ambon Police have arrested five suspects in the murder of Alfrets Mirulewan, chief editor of the Pelangi Maluku weekly tabloid.
Mirulewan's body was found floating in the harbor at Pantai Nama Port, Kisar Island, Pulau-Pulau Terselatan district in West Southeast Maluku regency. One of the suspects is a member of the Maluku Water Police Directorate.
Maluku Police Detectives Unit director Sr. Comr. John Siahaan said his unit had named five suspects in the case. "We have detained them at Maluku Police Headquarters and the Pulau-Pulau Terselatan Police station," John said on Monday in Ambon.
The five are identified as First Brig. Markus Sahireka, a Maluku Polair member; Richard Silampessy, the son-in-law of Subsidized Fuel Distribution Depot owner Titus Tilukay from Kisar; Thomas Rupilu and Imanuel, Tilukay's employees; and Risan Austen, a Pantai Nama Port employee.
Sahureka and Silampessy were arrested in Ambon, while the other suspects were apprehended in Kisar on Jan. 9. According to Siahaan, the number of suspects in the case will increase. "Of the 33 people examined as witnesses, two key witnesses might also be named as suspects," he said.
He added that the National Police Headquarters was following the case seriously. A 12-member team led by a police general is scheduled to arrive in Kisar on Wednesday.
"The team will conduct an investigation at the crime scene and a repeat autopsy on Mirulewan. We will hold a press conference after that," said Siahaan.
Maluku Media Center (MMC), which is providing advocacy to the murder case, believed Mirulewan's death was connected with an investigation he was doing on a fuel syndicate at the Pantai Nama Port.
"Mirulewan's death was connected with his investigations," MMC coordinator Insany Syahbarwaty said.
Based on an investigation by MMC in Kisar between Dec. 25 and 30, 2010, Mirulewan was reported missing since Dec. 15 after he was involved in a quarrel with Indonesian Coast and Sea Guard Unit officer Giovani Alfons Assan at around 11 p.m. local time on the night of Dec. 14.
The argument between Giovani and Mirulewan was recorded in Mirulewan's cell phone memory card. In the voice recording, Giovani claimed that fuel being unloaded from a tanker was owned by the local Port Security Unit commander First Brig. Evert Fasse.
Based on the regulation, the fuel should be supplied to the Subsidized Fuel Distribution Depot in Kisar and later to retailers. It turned out that Fasse, who is also a fuel retailer, had taken fuel in a great volume from the tanker.
A number of state apparatuses at Pantai Nama Port are believed to be involved in the illegal trade of subsidized fuel. For example, they buy premium gasoline at the subsidized price of Rp 4,500 directly from tankers during delivery, later reselling it to the public at a higher price.
Andi Hajramurni, Makassar A journalist with the Tribun Timur daily was beaten by supporters of controversial Gowa Regent Ichsan Yasin Limpo during a protest rally in front of the regent's official residence Monday.
The journalist, who the police identified only as Edi, was attacked as he was covering a clash between the regent's supporters and supporters of the opposition candidates, who lost out to Ichsan in the recent regency election.
Edi was asked by Ichsan supporters to produce ID, but he replied that he was a journalist covering the clash, it was reported. He was then set upon and beaten by several assailants.
"When I was about to open my bag to take out my ID, I was hit from behind," Edi said as quoted by kompas.com news portal. He said he did not know who hit him, but that he would likely be able to identify his attacker if provided with a police lineup of 30 people.
Gowa regental administration spokesman Arifuddin Saeni said he deplored the incident and apologized on behalf of the regional government. "We are sorry as the masses did not know each other," he said.
Edi sustained a number of wounds to his face and body. The brawl also involved civil servants and police officers.
Ichsan's reelection has been the subject of great controversy since it was revealed that he applied to run as a candidate using a falsified junior high-school diploma.
Two clashes occurred on the day; the first broke out at about 11 a.m. local time when two groups started throwing rocks at each other.
The first group of protesters made a speech, in which they demanded the resignation of Ichsan. A rock was thrown into the group, which then began throwing rocks back. Police and Mobile Brigade members broke up the brawl about 20 minutes later.
The second clash broke out at about 3 p.m., when police fired tear gas into a crowd of protesters. The protesters attacked the police using stones, bamboo poles and spears. They also unfurled banners depicting the Gowa Kingdom. The police arrested dozens of protesters from both groups.
Many have demanded that Ichsan, who is the younger brother of South Sulawesi Governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo, be named a suspect in the alleged forgery of his junior high-school diploma, a case in which several other people have been named suspect.
An administration officer at junior high school SMPN 27 has been named a suspect for allegedly issuing the bogus diploma, as has the headmaster of state high school SMPN 27 and a courier who was allegedly in charge of processing the fake diploma.
The results of a forensic investigation led by the National Police headquarters concluded that Ichsan was not registered as a participant in the final exams at SMPN 27 in 1976.
The number 1191 on Ichsan's diploma suggests that it actually belonged to Abdul Rahman, who died before the exams were held in 1976.
"If the police have named three suspects in the diploma forgery, why hasn't Ichsan, as the user of the fake diploma, been questioned and named as another suspect?" protest coordinator Amiruddin said Monday. "We are fed up with the case as it is time consuming and arduous," he said.
Amiruddin said the protesters had held up Gowa Kingdom flags because what they sought to defend the dignity of the Gowa Kingdom.
The Gowa people do not want to be led by an immoral regent who got his position by using a fake diploma, he said, adding that the regent had tarnished the national education system.
Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta An NGO lodged a complaint to the Central Information Commission (KIP) on Thursday regarding the rejection of 37 state bodies to disclose documents on budget allocations.
The Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA) filed information requests to 65 state institutions, but only 28 had provided proper documents on the 2010 Approved Budget Allocation List (DIPA).
"Because they rejected our requests to provide the DIPA documents, which are public domain according to the 2008 Law on Freedom of Information, we reported the institutions to the commission," FITRA investigation and advocacy coordinator Uchok Sky Khadafi said.
Among the 37 state bodies were the Trade Ministry, the Forestry Ministry, the National Education Ministry, the Religious Affairs Ministry and the State-Owned Enterprise Ministry, as well as non-ministerial bodies such as the Constitutional Court, the Attorney General's Office, the National Police, the State Intelligence Agency, and the Supreme Audit Agency.
"Ironically, the House of Representatives, which endorsed the Freedom of Information Law, also rejected our request," Uchok said.
FITRA found that only five ministries provided budget information, including the State Secretariat, the Industry Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, the Transportation Ministry and the Culture and Tourism Ministry.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), meanwhile, was the only law enforcement institution answering the queries.
"We have sent request letters since last year. However, most of the recipients completely ignored the requests, while others gave various excuses on why they wouldn't want to provide budget information," Uchok said.
Some ministries the Defense Ministry, Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry and the Research and Technology Ministry even declared that DIPA lists were not for public consumption, he added.
"The Public Works and Finance Ministries indeed responded to our requests, but they did not give us the DIPA lists as requested," he said.
KIP chairman Ahmad Alamsyah Saragih said the commission would study the case and summon representatives from the reported institutions for clarification.
"We will decide within 14 days whether the cases should go to mediation for settlement," he said, adding that should mediation fail, the cases would go to an adjudication hearing, similar to a criminal court hearing.
The ruling of an adjudication hearing is final with no appeal. The 2008 Freedom of Information law says any party refusing to execute such a ruling can be punished with up to three years in jail and a Rp 20 million (US$2,240) fine.
Alamsyah confirmed that any state budget-related information was supposed to be open for public.
"State bodies run their institutions using public funds, so the public deserves to know the allocation. But let us process the reports as stipulated by the law. Maybe some misunderstanding has taken place," he said.
Established in August 2009, the KIP, with three offices all in Java, has so far received 31 information disclosure requests from the public.
Besides FITRA, the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) has also filed a number of information dispute cases with the KIP. The ICW has requested the commission settle disputes with the National Education Ministry, the National Police and five state schools in Jakarta.
Transparency International Indonesia (TII) secretary-general Teten Masduki said having freedom of information after 30 years of an "opaque" regime was not easy, but it was important to maintain as a means of preventing corruption among state officials.
Nani Afrida, Jakarta An unfavorable performance review of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Cabinet led many to believe the President would carry out a comprehensive reshuffle of his ministers, but fear of losing political support may rule out any such a restructure, experts say.
"I am sure the President won't carry out a major reshuffle. He still needs support from political parties," Indonesia Survey Institute senior researcher Burhanuddin Mukhtadi told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Burhanuddin pointed out that Yudhoyono would likely take into account recent developments before restructuring his Cabinet, including a fresh ruling issued by the Constitutional Court on a clause in the 2009 Law on the People's Consultative Assembly, Regional Representatives Councils and the Regional Legislative Councils that makes it easier for legislators to impeach a president.
Burhanuddin said Yudhoyono would avoid any move that might irk his supporters, such as replacing ministers from parties within the pro- government coalition. "A Cabinet shakedown will certainly make the political parties unhappy," he said.
He also suggested that Yudhoyono might do well to consider a recent statement from Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri. "Megawati has said that the party [PDI-P] will not join the coalition with the government," Burhanuddin said.
On Thursday, top presidential aide Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said he had submitted the Cabinet evaluation results to the President. Two of four ministers in the Cabinet were given "red marks", Kuntoro said.
Yudhoyono's Cabinet consists of 35 ministers, more than half of them come from the coalition parties. Rumors of a major shakedown surfaced following rising tension in the ruling coalition amid boiling rivalry between the Golkar Party and Yudhoyono's Democratic Party over some contentious issues, including the special status of Yogyakarta.
Siti Zuhro, an expert on regional autonomy with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said that right now Yudhoyono was in an unfavorable position.
"The fact that most ministers who belong to political parties have set their own agendas makes it difficult for Yudhoyono to control his Cabinet. It is difficult for Yudhoyono to ensure commitment from the ministers in carrying out the development programs," she said.
Yudhoyono, she added, would likely prefer to maintain good relations with political parties rather than spoil them. "A peaceful relationship sometimes spells status quo," she said.
Concurring with Siti Zuhro, Burhanuddin said he was disappointed by the lack of progress made by the Cabinet.
"You can see there has been no progress in micro-economic sectors, for instance. Since most ministers are from political parties, they have no capability to handle their respective fields," he said.
Armando Siahaan & Anita Rachman A court ruling that set a lower quorum requirement for the House of Representatives to launch an impeachment inquest could tip the balance of power against the ruling Democrats, lawmakers said on Thursday.
The court on Wednesday upheld a constitutional provision that required a two-thirds quorum and the support of two-thirds of those in attendance to invoke the right to express an opinion, the first step in the impeachment process.
It voided an article in a law that set the quorum at three-fourths and a minimum of three-quarters of those present to vote in favor of invoking the right to express an opinion.
Pramono Anung, a Deputy House Speaker and a member of the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said the ruling would limit the Democrats' power to block impeachment moves.
"This will serve as new ammunition, new fuel for the coalition partners in terms of their bargaining position," Pramono said. "There will be a trade- off with the ruling power."
Legislators in favor of the court decision said it made the Democrats' hold on the majority of House seats useless. The country's biggest party has 148 of 560 House seats, or 26 percent.
Achmad Mubarok, a member of the Democratic Party's advisory board, said the court ruling would encourage "impeachment politics," where rival parties could paralyze the state by threatening to unseat the president or vice president.
"The impeachment itself might not happen, but a great deal of time would be spent on the process," he said. "The country would be held hostage by political interests, and it could lead to political transactions."
An impeachment effort, he added, could also disrupt the government's activities.
Lawmakers had previously tried to impeach Vice President Boediono, a central figure in the 2008 Bank Century scandal. He was the central bank's governor at the time of the controversial Rp 6.7 trillion ($744 million) bailout of the troubled lender.
At the time, three coalition partners the Golkar Party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the United Development Party (PPP) voted against the Democrats, saying the bailout was irregular.
More than 100 lawmakers signed a petition to invoke the right to express an opinion but stumbled in the face of intense opposition from the Democrats.
Achmad decried recent moves to revive the impeachment effort against Boediono following the Constitutional Court's decision to lower the quorum.
However, Golkar's Priyo Budi Santoso, another Deputy House Speaker, and Mustafa Kamal, who leads the PKS faction in the legislature, both said their parties would not use the lowered quorum requirement as a means to attack the Democratic Party.
"PKS is committed to support [President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's] government," Mustafa said. "And we are tied to a contract between the coalition and SBY."
Despite complaints from its members, Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum welcomed the court decision, saying it did not pose a threat to the government.
Instead of focusing on a political power play, he said, the state should carry out its duties.
"Politics is not just about numbers and percentages," Anas said in a text message. Politics will bring rationality, common sense and understanding. A politician's dream is to serve the people, not impeachment," the chairman added.
Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta The Constitutional Court (MK) issued a ruling Wednesday that will make it easier for lawmakers to impeach a president.
The court annulled a clause in the 2009 law on the People's Consultative Assembly, the House of Representatives, Regional Representatives Councils and the Regional Legislative Councils that says the legislature's constitutional right to express political opinions can only be carried out in a plenary meeting with at least three-quarters of the members in attendance and with approval from at least three-quarters of the lawmakers attending the meeting.
The court said the clause was against the 1945 Constitution, which stipulates that a legislative quorum was two-thirds of total lawmakers. "The article hampered the checks and balances function of the House of Representatives," court chief justice Mahfud MD told the hearing.
The House's right to express a political opinion is one of the required processes in a move to impeach a president or vice president.
The judicial review of the 2009 law was requested by three lawmakers, namely Bambang Soesatyo of the Golkar Party, Akbar Faisal of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) and Lily Chodidjah Wahid of the National Awakening Party (PKB).
They were among five lawmakers who last year petitioned to impeach Vice President Boediono, who they said was responsible for the alleged illicit disbursement of Rp 6.7 trillion (US$743.7 million) in bailout funds to the ailing Bank Century in 2008.
A House inquiry into the bailout ended in a plenary meeting in February last year that concluded that the bailout was flawed and contained legal offenses in the processes. The five lawmakers used the conclusion as the basis for their impeachment move.
However, the move was eventually stalled due to the lack of political support in the House. Politicians at that time saw impeachment as an "impossible mission" due to the now annulled clause.
President Yudhoyono's Democratic Party has 148 lawmakers, or 26 percent of the total 560 legislative seats, meaning that in the past the party would need only to skip a plenary to prevent it from having three-quarters of the members in attendance as required by the clause.
"But after MK's ruling, it will no longer be impossible. The constitutional right to express a political opinion can be carried out with a plenary meeting attended by 360 lawmakers," Bambang said.
Deputy House Speaker Anis Matta from the Prosperous and Justice Party (PKS) also welcomed the ruling. "Now the chance to initiate an impeachment becomes bigger."
Under the 1945 Constitution, if the House conveys an official political opinion on this case, it would provide legal grounds for the Constitutional Court to decide whether the President or Vice President was guilty of breaking the law or of misconduct.
If the court declares the President or Vice President guilty, the impeachment move goes to a People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) plenary meeting, which must be attended by at least three-quarters of its members. The MPR consists of all lawmakers plus 132 regional representatives.
The impeachment then requires approval from at least two-thirds of the attending MPR members.
Indonesian Civilized Circle (Lima) director Ray Rangkuti said the lawmakers would likely use MK's ruling as a mere bargaining tool rather than a way to impeach.
Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum said he found no problem with the ruling. "Politics is not only about numbers or percentages but also rationality. I believe politicians will put the state's interest above all else," he told The Jakarta Post.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho Stop bickering and get to work helping the people, former President Megawati Sukarnoputri said on Monday as the opposition leader chided the government and its allies.
The chair of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said internal political battles are a "chronic disease" within the current government, contributing to its failure to fulfill its constitutional mandates.
In a statement during the party's 38th anniversary celebration in Jakarta, Megawati said virtually all political leaders within the ruling coalition are busy talking about the political maneuvering of the Joint Secretariat or a possible cabinet reshuffle, but they are not serious about lifting the people out of poverty. "This is a mentality disastrous for our nation," she said.
Megawati also said she was uncomfortable over the ongoing approaches being made toward the PDI-P by members of the ruling coalition, stressing that almost all national politicians enjoy their proximity to power without understanding the negative implications of such an attitude.
"Our historical aspiration as a party is bigger than just seats in the legislature, seats in the cabinet or playing a role at the State Palace," she said. "Struggling for the sake of the poor is more important than political power per se."
Officials of the ruling Democratic Party have acknowledged approaching the PDI-P the only significant opposition party in the House of Representatives about cooperating with the governing coalition. But so far Megawati has rebuffed the courtship.
On a range of issues, from inflows of volatile foreign money and the stock exchange to rising food prices, Megawati said the current government is not thinking about the common people.
On legal affairs, she said, the ruling coalition has failed to settle the "illegal" 2008 Bank Century bailout and the ongoing tax mafia case involving Gayus Tambunan. "Is this what the government claims is 'working for the people?' " she said.
Democrat Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum, who attended the speech, said Megawati's statements were normal for the leader of the opposition.
"Her statements can motivate us to do better. Most importantly, we share with the PDI-P the goal of increasing the people's welfare," Anas said.
Megawati said the discussion about who will be leading the party in the election year 2014 is still premature.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho After claiming to have already secured the support of dozens of senior clerics from Nahdlatul Ulama in East Java, the United Development Party has vowed to continue to seek more support from Muslim leaders in the area.
Romahurmuzy, deputy secretary general of the party, also known as the PPP, said on Sunday that its general chairman, Suryadharma Ali, had on Saturday met with influential clerics in Malang and Banyuwangi to discuss future collaboration.
During the meeting, Suryadharma talked about the party's prospects for the 2014 elections and a possible role in uniting the Muslim vote across the country, Romahurmuzy said.
He said the clerics had expressed enthusiasm in supporting the PPP at the next polls, although there were two other political parties that traditionally represented NU communities: the National Awakening Party (PKB) and Ulema National Awakening Party (PKNU).
According to Romahurmuzy, the clerics had also said the Muslim vote needed to be reinvigorated in order to create leverage in the House of Representatives when pushing for legislation that would "accommodate aspects of the Muslim way of life."
"The PPP is ready to be the foundation for Islamic politics in Indonesia. If certain political powers keep trying to marginalize the Muslim vote, disharmony is likely to happen," he said.
During the meetings, the PPP leadership also underlined the importance of creating a Muslim-voter bloc in East Java to help win local elections.
"We want to return to the past era when East Java was the largest contributor of Muslim votes. If the PPP can secure the votes from this area, it will surely bring betterment to the people in the area," he said.
Saturday's meetings follow up earlier meetings with clerics in East Java. The first was held on Dec. 25, with about 36 senior NU clerics from the western parts of East Java pledging to support the PPP in 2014.
That declaration was disputed by the PKB, which considers itself to be the main political vehicle for the NU, and sparked protests from senior PKB officials.
Prominent figures such as Yenny Wahid, daughter of the late President Abdurrahman Wahid, a patron of the NU, and Marwan Jaffar, head of the PKB faction in the House, said the clerics who made the deal with the PPP did not have a strong supporter base.
Yunarto Widjaja, an analyst from Charta Politika, said the PPP was vying for support in East Java as a way to secure its voter base in light of recent moves to raise the threshold needed to gain representation in the legislature.
He warned, however, that support from clerics had in the past proven to be fickle. "The clerics' support guarantees nothing," he said. "Jusuf Kalla gained similar support in 2009 but still lost. The NU's followers nowadays are more independently minded."
Yunarto said now was the best time for the PPP to pick up NU support because the PKB was currently suffering from deep internal divisions between supporters of Yenny and those of Wahid's nephew, Muhaimin Iskandar.
"The strategy is to regain control of Muslims, mainly from the NU and from East Java, because they largely voted for the PPP during the New Order regime," he said.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho A coalition of 17 minor political parties plans to file for a judicial review of a newly passed law which it claims intends to freeze minor parties out of the 2014 legislative elections.
Didi Supriyanto, a spokesman for the National Unity Forum (FPN), said on Monday that the group would file its motion with the Constitutional Court next week, a month after the amended Law on Political Parties was passed by the House of Representatives.
He said several of the amendments aimed at tightening the requirements for parties seeking to contest elections denied smaller parties the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association.
"The House legislators intend to kill small and new parties through this law," Didi said. "That's their strategy before they embark on the real war for the 2014 elections."
He added the amended law, which among other stipulations requires new parties to have a representative office in all 33 provinces, was drawn up in such a way to end "our freedom to establish a party or have an opportunity to contest the next polls."
However, the House has denied the law is unconstitutional or that it set out to deliberately hurt smaller parties.
In his speech on Monday to mark the reconvening of the House after its year-end recess, House Speaker Marzuki Alie said the amendments were meant to usher in "a new political culture that suits real democratic principles."
He said the House would this year continue deliberating other bills relating to elections, including amendments to the laws on election organizers.
"We must do it quickly and pass all these bills this year," he said. "If not, it will disrupt preparations for the 2014 elections."
Tommy Legowo, from the watchdog group Concerned Citizens for the Indonesian Legislature (Formappi), agreed the bills needed to be prioritized, but cautioned against rushing the amendments through without due consideration.
He said the FPN's opposition to the political parties' law should serve as a warning to legislators that they need to pass laws that satisfy all elements of society.
"The aspirations of all parties must be accommodated," he said. "The House shouldn't just pay heed to the interests of the big parties."
The recently passed law is the latest attempt by the House to trim the number of parties in the legislature.
Another measure currently being proposed for the amended elections law is to double the legislative threshold to 5 percent. The threshold is the minimum share of votes a party must win in the legislative elections in order to be represented in the House.
On Monday, Democrat legislator Jafar Hafsah said his party was willing to absorb smaller parties unlikely to meet the threshold in 2014. "The Democrat vision is for there to be only two parties in Indonesia, like in the United States," he said.
However, Romahurmuzy, deputy secretary general of the United Development Party (PPP), said Jafar was "delirious" to raise such an idea.
"Such a statement only shows that some of the Democrat elite have failed to reach political maturity," he said. "It clearly shows the hidden agenda behind the proposal to double the legislative threshold."
Amir Tejo, Surabaya The importance of electing a new leader for Ansor, the youth wing of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Islamic organization, looks set to be overshadowed by issues other than the election itself.
Present during Thursday's opening of the Ansor congress in Surabaya, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono referred to recent statements by nine religious leaders accusing the government of lying to the people.
Yudhoyono said that whatever the government had failed to achieve, it would not try to hide it from the public.
A day later, a smear campaign was apparently at work ahead of the Ansor election. A text message circulating at the Ansor congress spoke of "outsider intervention."
"What we know is that a businessman with the initials ARB has disbursed Rp 100 billion [$11 million] to get NW elected as Ansor chairman so that Ansor can be drawn into the political arena," said the message, which was said to be from the campaign team of Chatibul Umam W.
Chatibul, a Democratic Party lawmaker, is one of the candidates for the chairmanship. The message is believed to refer to another candidate, Nusron Wahid, a lawmaker with the Golkar Party, chaired by businessman Aburizal Bakrie.
Nusron joked about the allegation, saying he would be happy to have such a large sum of money, adding that he "would donate it to orphans and Islamic boarding schools."
Giri Sancoko, who heads Chatibul's campaign team, denied the text message originated from his camp.
Khoirul Rijal, chairman of another youth group, the Nahdlatul Ulama Savior Movement (GPNU), said there was concern that money politics would play a part because most election candidates were affiliated with parties.
Hasyim Muzadi, a former NU chairman and now an adviser, said: "I hope the Ansor congress is able to reject money politics, even though it is difficult because Indonesia has now turned into an industry." Besides Nusron and Chatibul, the other candidates include Malik Haramain from the National Awakening Party (PKB), Shaiful Tamlica from the United Development Party (PPP) and Democrat Marwan Jakfar.
Armando Siahaan & Anita Rachman Critics have lashed out at two top ministers for "overreacting" to accusations that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration had lied to the Indonesian people.
The controversy centers on an editorial published in Wednesday's edition of Media Indonesia, which reported that nine religious leaders had on Monday accused the administration of lying to the people and failing to carry out its mandate.
Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, and Hatta Rajasa, the coordinating minister for the economy, quickly took offense, with Djoko saying "claims that the government is lying [are] going too far."
On Thursday, however, Media Indonesia struck back, noting in its editorial that "the government is suddenly allergic to the word 'lie.'?"
The editorial also said that any democratic government should be open to criticism and public debate.
"Any discourse that creates trust or doubt, success or failure, truth or lies... becomes a public debate because we believe in democracy," it said.
"If a number of figures say the government is lying... that is a naked reflection on integrity. It is all too easy for the people to see the difference between what the leader says and does."
Fajar Rizal Ul Haq, executive director of the Maarif Institute think-tank, said the government's reaction was "excessive and leaning toward frightened."
"The government shouldn't close its ears or be resistant [to criticism]," he said. He added the liar label most likely came from widely held perceptions that Yudhoyono had failed to keep his campaign promises.
Pramono Anung, a House of Representatives deputy speaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the main opposition faction, said the ministers had overreacted.
"The government should not have overreacted in responding to [the claim] made by the religious figures," he said.
Pramono said the government was obliged to listen to input from all elements of society. "The critical input of these religious figures should have been responded to in a positive manner by the government," he said.
However, Effendi Gazali, a political communications expert from University of Indonesia, on Wednesday said the government's reaction was "normal."
"It's their right to respond," he said. "The government should study what those alleged lies are and then try to disprove them." However, he added there must have been a reason behind religious leaders' allegations.
Ina Parlina, Jakarta Nine prominent religious leaders of five religions in the country gathered on Monday, calling for the government to explain "at least 18 lies" within four days and end the lies altogether this year.
The nine leaders, along with nine prominent activists on the environment, economy, society and human rights, said the government had told at least nine old lies and nine fresh ones.
Noted Islamic scholar Ahmad Syafii Maarif said the most embarrassing lie the government told its citizens was related to poverty.
"The government has repeated its claim on poverty eradication success, the latest figure stated 31 million live under the poverty line," the leader told activists at the gathering hosted by Maarif Institute.
"But the same government said in 2010 that 70 million were eligible for the rice for low-income earners program, and 76.4 million were eligible for low-income earner health subsidy."
"It claimed that 5.8 percent of economic growth was a success, yet, small people did not feel the benefits."
The list of new lies includes President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's promise in his speech in August last year on upholding pluralism, tolerance and freedom of religion. The fact was in 2010 there were 33 attacks in the name of religion, the group said in the discussion titled "Fight against Government Lies".
Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, condemned the government as "not only lying, but not keeping promises".
Senior Indonesian Buddhist monk Sri Pannyavaro Mahathera said that it was most dangerous if the leaders were lying and they did not feel it was wrong. He said he feared such lies eventually became a normalized mental attitude accepted by the public. "If the government makes no improvement, the fight against the lie will be in vain," he said.
Chairman of the Communion of Indonesian Churches (PGI) Andreas Yewangoe said people often let depravity in the government occur.
He feared that at some point the public might embrace such lies, saying that one lie led to another, which at some point would be perceived and accepted as the truth. Hindu leader I Nyoman Udayana Sangging said that the reality did not fulfill the people's expectation.
"Therefore, we are determined, according to each teaching of religion, that lies should not be maintained and truth must be disclosed," he said.
Maarif added that, "If the government does not listen to the religious leaders who just like hermits come down the mountain to give moral lessons, then, who will the government listen to?"
Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) deputy chairman Shalahuddin Wahid, head of the Indonesian Council of Bishops (KWI) Martinus Situmorang, Catholic priest Franz Magnis-Suseno and Catholic priest Benny Susetyo were among the nine religious leaders.
Among the activists were Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence coordinator Haris Azhar, Econit Advisory Group director Hendri Saparini and Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah.
Anis said among the President's lies was his promise to equip migrant workers with mobile phones.
The nine old government lies according to the leaders and activists were on poverty statistics, food security and energy, access to basic needs, the fight against terrorism, human rights protection, education budget, adequate settlement for Lapindo mudflow victims, case handling on Newmont, which was accused of dumping untreated mine waste in to the sea, and Freeport's unfulfilled contract renegotiation promised in 2006.
New ones include religious freedom and national unity, freedom of the press, protection of migrant workers, government transparency, the fight against corruption, the handling of polices' dubious "piggy bank" accounts, clean politics, handling of the judiciary mafia case and the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia in relation to the arrest of three officers of the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry in Malaysia recently.
Medan, North Sumatra Thousands of workers from the Medan Industrial Area (KIM) II rallied at Lubuk Pakam District Court in Deli Serdang regency on Monday demanding the court stop repossessing PT KIM II's land and facilities spanning 46.11 hectares in the industrial zone.
During the rally, led by PT KIM II managing director Gandhi Tambunan, protesters tossed rotten eggs at the court house as a mark of their disappointment because no official was willing to meet them. The protesters threatened to put up a fight if the repossession process continued.
Gandhi said his management and workers remained opposed to the repossession carried out by the court. He added around 15,000 workers working in KIM II would lose their jobs if the repossession proceeded.
"Many workers will lose their livelihood if the repossession continues. This must be considered because it could trigger social issues," Gandhi addressed the crowd.
On Jan. 6, Lubuk Pakam District Court ordered the repossession of part of PT KIM II's property, starting with the demolition of a 100-meter wall, which met resistance from the workers, so the repossession process stopped temporarily.
Gandhi said they would continue putting up a fight if the repossession proceeded. He expressed concern that if the repossession continued, workers would become angrier, which may lead to an uncontrollable situation.
Fidelis E. Satriastanti The government's pursuit of increased revenue at the expense of environmental conservation could see the number of water pollution cases nationwide increase by 50 percent to 70 percent this year, activists say.
The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said on Wednesday that it expected a significant increase in the number of major water pollution cases, with mining and palm oil plantation operators once again the main culprits.
Mukri Friatna, head of advocacy at Walhi, said there were at least 79 major water pollution cases last year, affecting 65 rivers across the country. Twenty-two were linked to palm oil operators, 18 to coal miners and 7 to gold miners.
Walhi said the expected increase could be traced to several factors, including more mining and plantation concessions being awarded, outdated waste disposal standards and a lack of enforcement of environmental impact analysis, or Amdal, requirements.
"Walhi has since 2000 warned the government about these ecological disasters, which also lead to frequent floods and landslides, but there has been no response at all," Mukri said.
"In fact, looking at the environmental regulations that have been issued so far, the country's environmental condition is only going to worsen."
He said the government's attitude could be summed up by a decision it made in 2004 to grant 13 companies permits to mine in natural forests, valuing the land in the deals at only Rp 120 to Rp 300 per square meter.
"The benefit to the country from these mining activities is not worth the damage that it does to our forests," Mukri said.
"In 2009, the state only received Rp 168.7 billion in revenue from 101 corporate taxpayers in the mining sector, while in 2010, that figure was down to Rp 78.7 billion from 112 companies."
He said these amounts paled in comparison to the estimated Rp 6.66 trillion ($740 million) lost due to corruption in the forestry sector in just nine provinces.
Mukri also took the government to task for its lack of law enforcement, pointing out that of 20 people charged with breaking environmental laws last year, only five were convicted, one was given probation and the rest were acquitted.
Rhino Subagyo, executive director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law, a nongovernmental group, said the country had progressive green laws that emphasized sustainable development, but had failed to implement them.
He cited the 2009 Environmental Management and Protection Law as a case in point, saying it gave the Environment Ministry greater powers to arrest violators, whereas in the past it could only flag violations.
"However, the law hasn't been fully enacted by the government," he said.
"The government has simply acknowledged that it's an important law, but has done nothing in practice to support it." He said this lack of commitment was also apparent in the Environment Ministry's Proper Index, which rates companies based on their environmental credentials.
While the index serves to name and shame polluting companies, it does not prescribe punishments or require them to clean up their act.
"When you see the Proper Index, it's obvious that the government still has no clear idea how to protect the country's natural resources," Rhino said.
A first step, he said, is for the government to issue the necessary regulations to enact environmental laws.
Walhi estimates that ecological disasters, including floods, landslides and pollution, cost the state up to Rp 20 trillion last year. That doesn't include damage from Mount Merapi's eruptions.
Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta The delay of a scheduled moratorium on forest conversion that was supposed to be enforced at the beginning of the year is the result of lobbying by businesses operating in the country's forests, an official says.
Head of the presidential taskforce on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD plus) Kuntoro Mungkusubroto said that the lobbyists included people from mining companies and oil palm plantations who were seeking to protect their own interests.
"Our move [on the forest moratorium] has been sharply observed by lobbyists such as mining companies and oil palm plantations," Kuntoro said as quoted by Antara news agency on Tuesday.
The Norway government pledged to provide US$1 billion to Indonesia on the condition that Indonesia could halt deforestation of natural forests and peatlands. A stipulation of that agreement required Indonesia to outlaw forest clearing for two years starting on the first of this month.
An estimated 1 million hectares of forest are destroyed every year in Indonesia.
This massive deforestation rate is in large part caused by expansions of oil palm plantations and mining firms. The government earlier said technical issues had prevented it from imposing the moratorium, including conflicting definitions of what a forest is.
A number of business people from oil palm plantations and mining firms have expressed concern that the moratorium on natural forests and peat would hamper the expansion of their businesses.
They argued that the government's pledge to allow them to expand their businesses on to idle forest would not resolve the issue, as there was no concrete legal definition for the term idle forest.
The government has said that it will allocate 40 million hectares of land as idle forest land, which industries could expand onto.
The REDD taskforce said that it had received some proposals for the implementation of the forest moratorium.
But Kuntoro insisted that he would reject any proposal that demanded the government include in its definition of idle forest any area with harvesting trees, with the stipulation that such trees could be replanted elsewhere to make way for conversion projects. "Once a forest stands, it should remain standing," he said.
The Forestry Ministry said that about 2 million hectares of forest had been converted illegally by oil palm and mining businesses.
Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said the debate on the forest moratorium was currently centered on whether business activities would still be allowed to convert secondary forests, or areas that had been converted for business purposes.
"It is clear that primary forests and peat will be protected. The talks are now centering on the status of secondary forests," he said on Tuesday.
Greenomics Indonesia has said the government must be serious in following up on its promises to stop the conversion of forests.
Greenomics reported that the conversion of natural forests had increased by 100 percent last year from 2009, and that the volume of wood removed from natural forests rose to 12.18 million cubic meters in 2010.
"The increase of the conversion of natural forests shows there have been no changes in forest protection since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made his speech at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 and the letter of intent (LoI) with Norway," Greenomics' National Coordinator Vanda Mutia Dewi said.
Jakarta Conservation association Burung Indonesia said Tuesday that 122 Indonesian bird species included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list could go extinct without tougher efforts to protect them from loss of habitat and illegal capture.
Burung Indonesia program manager Ria Saryanthi said that Indonesia had the highest number of birds that could go extinct.
According to Burung Indonesia, 18 bird species in Indonesia are in critical condition, 31 species are endangered and 73 species are categorized as vulnerable.
"It is important for us to preserve the habitat of birds by protecting trees and forests from deforestation," Ria said in a press statement to commemorate A Million Trees Day, celebrated on Jan. 10th every year.
Forest was the most important habitat for bird life, she said, adding that 50 percent of the world's total bird species face extinction due to increased forest degradation caused by human activity. Half of Indonesia's endangered bird species live in forests.
Citing an example, Ria said that doves and pigeons in Indonesia, including the forest pigeon (Columba sp.), barred cuckoo-dove (Macropygia unchall), ground doves (Chalcophaps sp and Gallicolumba sp.) new imperial pigeon (Ducula sp.) and fruit dove (Ptilinopus sp.) depended on forest habitats.
"It doesn't sound strange for us that 12 out of 122 endangered bird species are Columbidae [doves and pigeons]," she said.
Indonesia has a tremendously diverse variety of bird species. According to Ria, 1,594 bird species from a total 10,000 known birds in the world are endemic to Indonesia. This ranks Indonesia fifth in terms of nations with the greatest diversity of bird species.
Apart from illegal hunting and trade, Ria said that significant pressure on Indonesia's bird species came from habitat loss caused by forest conversion for industry, agriculture and plantation areas.
The public could participate in conservation management, including brokering agreements with land owners not to give up their land, she said.
"The voluntary agreements provide more flexibility in utilization of natural resources," she said, as quoted by Antara news agency.
"Citizens and the government could cooperate to manage conservation areas," Ria said, adding that such agreements could be beneficial for local communities living nearby.
Another option was to rehabilitate decaying ecosystems by restoring biodiversity capacity, she said.
[18 bird species are in critical condition, 31 species are endangered and 73 species are categorized as vulnerable.]
Jakarta Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday ordered provincial governors to act more firmly against mining and plantation firms which continue to destroy forests in the country.
"A number of mining and plantations operations remained destructive to the environment. I urged governors to carry out firmer actions against them," he told a national forum attended by high-ranking officials in the capital.
Indonesia is considered the world's third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, due mainly to rampant deforestation by palm oil, paper and mining industries, which is fuelled by corruption.
Yudhoyono said he would personally oversee his instructions were implemented.
His administration has been under pressure from environmentalists to implement a two-year moratorium on the clearing of natural forest and peatland, which was due to begin January 1 this year. Norway agreed in May to contribute up to a billion dollars to help Indonesia fight deforestation.
"Massive efforts are being made by the industries and its representatives in the government through the forestry ministry to undermine, dilute and stall the action plan," Greenpeace forest campaigner Joko Arif told reporters on Friday.
"The president must thwart these attempts and make sure that his government is able to follow best practices as recommended by civil society and as required under the Norway agreement," he added.
Jakarta Indonesia has a higher percentage of young smokers than any other country, but ignorance and a powerful tobacco lobby are making it difficult to stamp out nicotine addiction, say health workers and the government.
With a population of 230 million, Indonesia ranks third in the world according to the number of smokers, after China and India, whose respective populations are more than one billion, according to the former head of Indonesia's Medical Association, Kartono Mohamad.
While China and India may have more smokers given their larger populations, Indonesia has a higher prevalence among youngsters, he added.
According to the Indonesian Health Ministry's 2008 health profile, 29 percent of Indonesians aged 10 and above smoke an average 12 cigarettes a day.
Some 10 percent started smoking at between 10 and 14 years while 0.1 percent started as young as five, according to the report, which was released in 2010.
"Three in four adult males in Indonesia smoke and the worst thing is they smoke in the presence of children and pregnant women," said Mohamad, now a campaigner for the Indonesian Tobacco Control Network, an NGO.
"The epidemiology of smoking in Indonesia isn't fully established but cases that have been reported in the media indicate that the situation is serious and worrying because they aren't only confined to one region," he said.
A video of a two-year-old from the western Indonesian island of Sumatra chain-smoking has been viewed more than one billion times after it was posted on the internet last May.
The child has since been treated for cigarette addiction under the care of the country's child protection commission.
The commission said last September that the boy, Aldi Rizal, had overcome his nicotine addiction, but experts believe the case points to larger problems in regulating tobacco.
A 2009 health law lists tobacco as an addictive substance but farmers from one of the country's most fertile tobacco-growing regions, Central Java, are fighting this label in a constitutional court, citing the threat to their livelihoods.
Mohamad said the government had been reluctant to regulate tobacco strictly because of pressure from the tobacco industry.
Nevertheless, it is preparing national tobacco regulation that seeks to restrict cigarette advertising and sponsorship to enforce the 2009 health legislation, said Lily Sulistyowati, director for health promotion at the Health Ministry.
"It is impossible to close down cigarette factories but we seek to inform the public that smoking is dangerous to their health and people who can't stop smoking [should] understand that and not put their families in danger," she said. But the country's youngsters have little understanding of those dangers.
Dimas Riyadi, a 15-year-old street child, said smoking helped him to mix with his peers.
"All my friends smoke so it's natural that I smoke too," said Riyadi, who makes a living doing street performances for motorists at a busy intersection in the centre of the capital, Jakarta.
"I have not been sick because of smoking," he added.
According to 2005 government research, almost $20 billion was spent annually on health treatments related to smoking, three times more than what the state receives in cigarette taxes, said Mohamad.
There is no insurance for the treatment of smoking-related diseases.
The 2008 government health profile showed 60 percent of deaths in Indonesia were caused by non-communicable diseases including smoking an increase from 48.5 percent in 2001.
Worldwide, non-communicable diseases caused almost 60 percent of deaths and 43 percent of the disease burden a decade ago, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Based on current trends, by the year 2020 these diseases are predicted to account for 73 percent of worldwide deaths and 60 percent of the disease burden, estimates WHO.
Fitri Hundreds of children across West Nusa Tenggara continue to suffer from malnutrition in early childhood, the head of the province's health agency said on Sunday.
Mohamad Ismail said that last year the province recorded 756 cases of children suffering from malnutrition, including severe forms of protein- energy malnutrition such as marasmus and kwashiorkor.
"This figure was arrived at from data collected from 10 districts in West Nusa Tenggara," he said. "Of those 756 children, 25 have since died."
Ismail added that his office recorded an average of 60 cases of malnutrition in children under the age of 5 each month last year. He said these figures still showed a decline from previous years.
There were 926 cases recorded during 2009 and 1,207 cases in 2008. Ismail said, however, that there was still a lot of work to be done, particularly in the districts of West and Central Lombok.
He said children suffering from malnutrition tended to come from the families of migrant workers. He said parents, usually mothers, left their children in the care of elderly relatives who often failed to provide adequate nutrition for the children.
"According to my office's records, the primary cause of malnutrition in these children is inadequate, or total lack of, feeding by grandmothers or elderly aunts, who have been left to care for the children by parents who are working abroad as migrant workers," he said.
"In some cases, we found grandmothers were feeding children the same food they were eating themselves," he said. "These diets were completely lacking in the nutrients required for growing children."
Ismail said some of the cases handled by his office were so bad that the agency was considering asking the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration to ban parents with children under the age of 5 from working abroad unless they could first show proof that their children's nutritional needs would be taken care of.
Nuraini, a young girl begging on the streets of Mataram, the provincial capital, was carrying a baby in her arms. She said the baby, who had a swollen stomach, patchy hair and swollen eyes, was not hers.
"This is my niece, her mother is a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia," Nurani said. "I bring her with me when I beg, because nobody is taking care of her at home. My grandmother is also sick," she said
Khairul Anwar, a health official in West Nusa Tenggara, said one of the biggest worries was that malnourished children were more susceptible to diseases like diarrhea, tuberculosis, pneumonia and heart and respiratory problems.
It is a problem he said his office was trying to deal with. "One of the greatest killers in children suffering from malnutrition is uncontrollable diarrhea," Khairul said.
In January 2010, a United Nations Children's Fund report found that at least 7.6 million Indonesian children under the age of 5 or one out of every three suffered from stunted growth, a primary manifestation of malnutrition.
The report ranked Indonesia as having the fifth largest number of children under the age of 5 suffering from stunted growth worldwide.
Tifa Asrianti, Jakarta Women teachers have a lower success rate compared to their male counterparts since housechores hold them back from attaining minimum degree required for certification in the profession, an official says.
Subandi Sardjoko, director of demography, women's empowerment and child protection at the National Development Planning Board, said that the percentage of men obtaining teaching certifications was greater than the percentage of women.
"This has led to greater number of male principals despite a greater number of female teachers," he said.
A greater number of women principals are only found at the kindergarten level.
Data from the National Education Ministry showed that in 2007 women accounted more than a half the number of school teachers from the elementary to high school levels while the situation was reversed when it came to principals.
For elementary schools, 66.22 percent of principals were men and 33.78 percent were women. For junior high schools, 86.65 percent of principals were men and 13.35 percent were women.
For high schools, 88.19 percent of principals were men and 11.81 percent were women.
Kindergartens had the highest number of female principals, 96.26 percent; only 3.74 percent of kindergartens had male principals.
The certification policy for teachers that started in 2006 bars those who do not have an undergraduate degree from being appointed as principals.
The ministry's directorate general for teacher quality improvement said that 66 percent of male mathematics and natural science teachers were certified as of 2008, while only 34 percent of female teachers certified.
Subandi said that to be a principal, a teacher should be a university graduate. For teachers living in remote areas, this meant they had to leave their families and homes for a while, he added.
He said that most women teachers preferred to take care of their families rather than pursuing careers.
"Perhaps in the future, we might create a distance learning system for the women teachers so that they could take care of their families and receive equal treatment in their education and careers," he said.
Soedijarto, an education expert at Jakarta State University, said that he had yet to see any problem for women or men in becoming principals.
"Everyone has the same opportunity to be principals. Teachers who want to be principals should have good leadership and management skills since principals today are required to manage the school. Not everyone has this leadership potential. The ministry should hold managerial training for principal candidates," he said.
Soediharto said that to receive certification, teachers were supposed to have university degree. However, he added, teachers also needed to evince a high teaching competency.
"We can set benchmarks such as used in Germany or the US that apply a kind of probation period for teacher candidates. In Germany, teacher candidates must teach for 18 months before being declared fit and proper to be teachers, while in the US teacher candidates must study at university for one year," he said.
According to the National Education Ministry, the nation had more than 2.6 million teachers in 2009 630,000 at private schools and 1.97 million at public schools 57 percent of whom lacked university or college diplomas and 78 percent of whom were uncertified.
Subandi said that there should be a gender pathway analysis that to serve as a basis for creating gender-responsive policies. He said that such an analysis should provide data that was classified by sex and recognize gender issues in each institution.
Women spent less time in school than men, according to researchers. The 2008 National Social Economy Survey said that men in urban areas spent 9.4 years in school while women spent 8.5 years. In rural areas, the numbers were 6.6 years and 5.7 years, respectively.
The survey also showed a disparity in literacy rates between men and women over 45 years old. In urban areas, the literacy rate was 93.35 percent for men and 80.86 percent for women, while in rural areas the rates were 84.24 percent and 65.54 percent, according to the survey.
"However, for boys and girls between 10 and 14 years of age, the percentage is equal in both urban and rural areas. It means that the current generation has equal opportunities in education, regardless of gender," Subandi said.
Nurfika Osman The notion that Islam relegates women to the background and discourages them from participating in public life is a narrow-minded one, scholars said at a discussion on Thursday.
Husein Muhammad, a theologian and member of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said this misconception stemmed from a single line in the Koran that was not supported by the rest of the holy book.
"The problem is that we tend not to view the Koran as a whole, while our education system doesn't provide an opportunity for dialogue," he said at the discussion titled "Women, the Public Sphere and Islam."
"People tend not to question what they're told, and so we keep repeating the same thing and end up believing it's true."
The line often quoted from the Koran from the An Nisa verse reads: "Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth."
Husein said this line was contradicted by another in the At Taubah verse that reads: "The believing men and believing women are allies of one another."
"We need scholars to invite more dialogue with academics and the public so that people don't adopt a mistaken view that may limit women's activities," Husein said.
Linda Amalia Sari, women's empowerment minister, who also took part in the discussion at Jakarta's Paramadina University, agreed with Husein and argued that Islamic scholars tended to overlook the prominent role played by the wives of the Prophet Muhammad.
"His first wife, Khadijah, was a great merchant, while Aisyah, his fourth, was one of the best war leaders of the time," Linda said.
She added the fact that the Constitution has provided for gender equality should reflect the country's standing as home to the world's biggest Muslim population.
"The amended Constitution recognizes no difference between rights for men or women, they're equal," she said. "That means women have the same opportunity as men to aid in the development of the country."
A tolerant view of women in Islam was also a factor in Megawati Sukarnoputri being appointed the country's first female president in 2001, Linda said.
She said the widely held belief that women be subservient to men needed to be abolished.
"We need to change our patriarchal mind-set," the minister said. "Women should also be more active in the public sphere, for instance, in politics."
Women won 18 percent of seats in the House of Representatives in 2009, up from 11.8 percent in 2004, but Linda said the figure remained far too low.
She added that some regional legislatures had no women at all among their members. "We need to push women to participate in politics because we need them to promote polices of interest to women," Linda said.
Danish Ambassador Borge Petersen, who also attended the seminar, said women's future in Indonesia was promising. "Here, like in Denmark, women are guaranteed to have the same opportunity and... should be granted the right to pursue their personal ambitions."
Jakarta Free trade, weak government and rising religious fundamentalism made Indonesian women's lives more miserable last year, the Indonesian Women Coalition said.
Fluctuating prices of food commodities, such as chillies, have born extra burdens for women, as many in Indonesia are still traditionally responsible for preparing meals for their families, the coalition said in the notes of its 2010 review, made available over the weekend.
"The root of the high prices lies in the liberal trade policy," coalition secretary general Dian Kartika Sari said in the notes.
The coalition said 3-kilogram gas canisters used for cooking, which they called "bombs at poor people's kitchens", have robbed many women of their sense of security in their own kitchens.
The group pointed to the government's weak management in distributing the canisters. "The conversion from kerosene to gas was not followed by giving women enough instruction to know how to use them safely," Dian said.
The group's study showed that in 2010 at least 20 people died from fires caused by faulty gas canisters, and over 100 women, children and elderly people were permanently injured from LPG canister explosions, while thousands of others lost their homes.
Last year, Susi Haryani visited the Presidential Palace to plea her case before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, carrying her four-year-old son who suffered severe burns caused by a defective gas canister.
The coalition, established in 1998 by 75 women activists and 500 supporters, also addressed the country's domestic workers, both at home and abroad, whom they said were perpetually impoverished due to the lack of legal protection from the government. It pushes for the deliberation of the domestic workers bill to recognize and protect migrant workers, upon whom millions of Indonesian families depended.
Religious fundamentalism also took its toll among women in 2010, Dian said.
Anisah, the head of Pelimbang district in Bireun regency, Aceh, had her leadership qualifications questioned by the local council because of her gender. The councilors said according to Islamic law, or sharia, women are not allowed to lead.
Bireun council speaker Ridwan Muhammad said they did not single out Anisah, as they wanted all leaders in Bireun to be male. The regent, however, did not succumb to the councilors' demands and allowed Anisah to continue leading the district.
In their year end notes, another women's rights group, LBH Apik, said Bireun's councilors failed to understand Aceh's history, which has had many prominent women leaders, such as Cut Nyak Dien, Cut Meutia, Laksamana Malahayati and Sultanah Safiatuddin.
LBH Apik also addressed problems surrounding discriminative bylaws, which reportedly reached 182 as of 2010. LBH Apik also noted love affairs involving male legislators, reported by their wives to the House of Representatives' Ethics Board, and weak enforcement of the domestic violence law.
Nivell Rayda The words came quickly as Wen Ling recounted being hunted by the Chinese government and living in hiding for more than 11 years. But when asked about her son, whom she hasn't seen since 2004, there was a long pause.
"Yes, I did try to contact my son," the 54-year-old woman told the Jakarta Globe during in an interview in Jakarta in late December.
Wen, a Chinese citizen and a member of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, was overcome by tears and the interview had to be ended. It was a full two weeks before she was ready to speak to the Globe again about how she managed to be briefly reunited with her son in 2004.
She said that in an attempt to convince her son that she was not a criminal as the government had claimed Wen returned home in disguise.
"I opened the door and there he was, my only son, all alone at home. He was stunned and immediately asked me to leave, fearing for my safety," she said.
Wen refused to leave. As her son got down on his knees, begging her to flee, she said she embraced her child and whispered: "Son, you must always remember that Falun Gong is good. Your mother is not a criminal. It is the Communist government that forces us to live like this and tears our family apart."
"That was the last time I saw him," she said.
After spending years as a fugitive, Wen left China for Indonesia last August in a bid to tell the world about the suffering that Falun Gong practitioners have endured in her native country.
Falun Gong is a spiritual movement founded by Li Hongzi in 1992 that cultivates mind, body and soul through a series of slow-motion meditative exercises on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
The teachings include ideas from Buddhism, Taoism, Qigong and other traditions that date back to Chinese antiquity. Wen joined Falun Gong in 1994 and soon became one of its most active campaigners.
But China banned the movement on July 20, 1999, calling it a cult "that poisons people's minds." Months later Wen found herself being hunted by Chinese authorities.
Members of Falun Gong believe the regime felt threatened by the growing size of the movement, which was estimated to have around 70 million followers shortly before it was banned. "I felt that such accusations were baseless," Wen said.
"We are not a political organization. Falun Gong's aim has always been a spiritual one. So, in October , thousands of practitioners gathered at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the hopes of talking with officials from the central government to set the record straight."
Police instead came down hard on the rally. Wen and many others were detained and questioned for days. She was only released after confessing to treason.
Ta Yuan, a Falun Gong member from China's Hunan province, was not as lucky. He refused to sign a confession and was taken to a police station.
"Soon the station was filled with Falun Gong members and we were cramped into a tiny cell," he told the Globe.
Amnesty International said thousands of Falun Gong members were sent to prison for "using a heretical organization to subvert the law" and thousands more to labor camps.
"The guards always used non-Falun Gong inmates mostly hardened criminals and drug addicts to torture us. The guards themselves never got involved in the actual torture to avoid being blamed for human rights violation," Ta Yuan said.
During his time in a Hunan prison, Ta Yuan went on a three-day hunger strike to protest his arrest.
"Finally I was force-fed," he said. "I was tied to a wall. My hands, feet, waist and neck were strapped tightly in place. One of the prisoners was told to close my nostrils and another prisoner lodged a cut bamboo tube into my mouth as I was gasping for air. Food would then be channeled through the tube."
Amnesty said other Falun Gong members were subjected to cruel medical tests and psychological torture designed to alter their mental state.
Officials from the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta declined to provide an official statement when asked about allegations of human rights violations against Falun Gong members.
Instead, it provided the Globe with a number of articles from Chinese media. "Here's some background on Falun Gong," Cathy, an embassy official, told the Globe.
One article said the movement was trying to sabotage China's relations with other countries through baseless claims of human rights abuses, which the article called "propaganda tactics."
"Falun Gong continues to mislead the international community, posing as a spiritual organization when in fact it is a cult that spread the word among its followers that doomsday was eminent and that people should accept its leader as the sole savior," the article said.
Other articles had claims such as "Falun Gong leads my brother to commit suicide," "Falun Gong mother chokes daughter to death" and "Falun Gong fanatic murders uncle."
The embassy also drew attention to remarks made by those who claimed to be Falun Gong "survivors," detailing how the movement allegedly brainwashed its members and turned them against the government.
"Former Falun Gong Followers Say Cult Leader Should Be Tried" was the headline of one article, referring to Li Hongzi, who now resides in the United States.
Li Siu Hong, another Falun Gong member from China, said this was all propaganda.
"All of the cases of abuses and killings of Falun Gong members are neatly covered up by the government. News about the movement is not only censored but also monitored. If we were to download information about Falun Gong, our house would soon be raided," Li Siu said.
"People in China are unaware of the atrocities that occur daily. There have been numerous occasions where the Chinese government spin-doctored cases of murder and suicide and forced victims to say that they were perpetrated by Falun Gong members."
Human Rights Watch researcher Philem Kien said it was irrefutable that Falun Gong members had been subjected to torture and degrading treatment by the state, but that all the allegations were difficult to substantiate.
"It is very difficult to provide an accurate description of the real conditions in China today," Kien said.
"What is unquestionable is that China and the Falun Gong are engaged in a propaganda battle both armed with claims that are difficult for third- party institutions to verify."
After arriving in Indonesia in August, Wen met 44-year-old Zhao, a Falun Gong follower who arrived from Singapore a year earlier.
For most of her time in Singapore, Zhao was able to practice Falun Gong exercises, joining other members from China who regularly met in Esplanade Park, a major tourist site in the city-state.
But in 2009, around the time of a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Singapore cracked down on the movement, saying the group's activities were "disrupting public order."
Posters about the movement, which were put on the park's walls, were said to be "damaging public property."
When Zhao was unable to extend her Singaporean visa, she came to Indonesia, leaving her daughter behind with her sister.
Bantarto Bandoro, an international relations expert from the University of Indonesia, said China was known to have exerted political pressure on countries like Singapore and Indonesia.
"China has a huge political and economic influence in Asia. Breaking ties with China would do more harm than good, particularly for Southeast Asian countries," he said.
"On issues like the Falun Gong, Tibetan refugees and other [controversial] groups, China has the upper hand."
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees notes that several other countries like Cambodia and South Korea had also deported Falun Gong members.
But Bantarto said Chinese pressure on Indonesia, a country also under international scrutiny over its human rights record, would likely be subtler.
Zhao said one of the main reasons followers fled to Indonesia was so they could practice Falun Gong freely and expose to the world the torture and prosecution of movement members.
In Indonesia, it wasn't hard for Zhao to find those willing to assist and house her. Falun Gong is booming in the country and has spread to more than 15 provinces, with dozens of small but close communities in Jakarta and Bali.
Zhao, Wen and Li Siu eventually found work, teaching Mandarin to advanced- level students. With limited knowledge of English and even less of Indonesian, it is the only job they can get.
Maroloan Barimbing, a spokesman for the Directorate General of Immigration, said the government allowed Falun Gong followers to remain here out of "humanitarian considerations."
But it's still not smooth sailing for the movement in the country. "Recognizing Falun Gong as a legitimate entity in Indonesia is another matter," Bantarto said.
Nyoman Suryanata, a Falun Gong practitioner from Indonesia, confirms this. "As our movement grew, the Indonesian government said, 'Hey, if you organize and gather this many people for your activity, you have to become a legitimate organization,'?" he told the Globe.
"So we did. We submitted all the required documents in 2003 and again in 2010 but they refused to recognize us."
The Falun Gong practitioners filed an appeal and the Jakarta State Administrative Affairs Court is expected to deliver its decision today.
Ina Parlina, Jakarta Amid political bickering in the House of Representatives over a plan to impeach the vice president, the nation's antigraft chief said politics was undermining the fight against corruption.
"Political issues are difficult to avoid. They hamper efforts to stop the abuse of state funds," Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chair Busyro Muqoddas said Friday.
His statement came following the renewed attempt by several legislators to push the House of Representatives to pursue the Bank Century case further, which could lead to the impeachment of Vice President Boediono who may be culpable in the case. This move is possible due to a Constitutional Court ruling that lowered the quorum required to initiate a House inquiry.
The KPK has been criticized for allegedly dragging its feet in the investigations of three politically charged cases: The Bank Indonesia (BI) vote-buying case, the Bank Century bailout and the tax mafia case surrounding Gayus H. Tambunan.
The KPK has named 25 former and current legislators as suspects in the vote-buying case from the 2004 election of Miranda S. Goeltom as BI's senior deputy governor. More than half of the suspects are politicians from the government's opposition party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Its senior politician, Panda Nababan, is accused of receiving Rp 1.45 billion (US$160,950) in bribes.
The PDI-P has not decided whether it will join the move to impeach Boediono.
KPK spokesman Johan Budi told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the 25 suspects would be brought to court for prosecution next month.
The commission has so far failed to summon Nunun Nurbaeti, the wife of Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician and former National Police deputy chief Adang Daradjatun. She is considered a key witness in the case.
On Thursday, the KPK questioned BI deputy governors Hartadi A Sarwono and Budi Rochadi, who had vied with Miranda in the 2004 vote, as witnesses. On June 8, 2004, 54 legislators voted on the central bank post, with Miranda receiving 41 votes, Budi 12 and Hartadi one vote.
Regarding the Bank Century bailout scandal, legislators have lambasted the commission for failing to name a single suspect. As of today, the KPK has failed to find any indication of corruption in the Rp 6.7 trillion debacle. "The KPK is conducting a thorough preliminary investigation of the case," Johan said.
The politically charged inquiry into the Bank Century case divided the government's ruling coalition in 2010, and forced former finance minister Sri Mulyani, who was critical of the abuse of political power, to resign from her post.
The antigraft body is currently studying the Gayus case and looking into the possibility of a case against the companies that allegedly bribed the notorious taxman. Gayus has said they included several firms linked to powerful politician Aburizal Bakrie.
"We will look into the allegations that several companies bribed Gayus in order to avoid paying taxes," Busyro said Thursday.
Busyro said law enforcement should be independent, but in reality was influenced by many things, including politics. He added that several government policies seemed designed to benefit particular groups.
Ridwan Max Sijabat and Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta The House of Representatives set up a working committee to investigate the case of Gayus H. Tambunan, a former tax official facing charges of helping firms evade taxes, and his ties to an alleged tax and court graft ring.
The chairman of the House's Commission III on legal affairs, Benny K. Harman, said the working committee would start working next week and would question at least three main figures in the case: Gayus, National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo and Gayus' lawyer, Adnan Buyung Nasution.
"The working committee's main mission is to establish plausible reasons and political hurdles into why police submitted a weak indictment against Gayus, and why the tax manipulation ring can't be brought to court," he said on Thursday.
The weak indictment and prosecution of Gayus have led to fierce criticism from the public, with police failing to identify those involved in the tax mafia or to trace the flow of funds to Gayus from 49 large companies that bribed him to lower their taxes.
Gayus is being tried at the South Jakarta District Court on graft charges. He also faces other charges of forging documents and bribery.
His case has exploded into a complex web, with police now investigating his recent illicit trips to Bali, Malaysia, Singapore and Macau and attempting to identify how he received a passport while supposedly behind bars.
However, legislators expressed their skepticism about the effectiveness of the committee.
Pieter Zulkifli from the Democratic Party said the committee "will likely be a forum of political negotiations among parties and will never go into its main substance. We have proposed the formation of an inquiry committee but it was strongly opposed".
Eva Sundari of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Achmad Yani of the United Development Party (PPP) and Syarifuddin of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) also said the working committee would look deeper into the issue because "it wants to protect the interests of certain businesspeople and foreign corporations".
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) said it would soon summon Gayus for questioning. KPK chairman Busyro Muqoddas said commission leaders had agreed to question Gayus, but did not specify a date.
Busyro also hinted that the KPK would also question the companies that allegedly bribed Gayus.
Also on Thursday, Gayus' lawyer Buyung met with KPK leaders. "I was invited to work [with them] on my client's corruption case. It's good to hear the KPK will also investigate the case. The probe carried out by the police has been unprofessional, leaving many of those pulling the strings untouched," Buyung said.
Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) chairman Yunus Husein said Gayus "has put some of his assets in a neighboring country".
Yunus added that the PPATK had sought information from authorities in Singapore, Malaysia and Macau. "We are prepared to work with those states in order to find evidence [on Gayus' assets]."
Anita Rachman & Armando Siahaan Concerned by law enforcement's investigation into the convoluted case of high-profile graft suspect Gayus Tambunan, lawmakers on Wednesday said they would set up a working committee to aid in the fight against the tax mafia.
Benny K. Harman, chairman of House Commission III which oversees legal affairs, said the working committee was not being formed to take over the legal process from law enforcement institutions.
He said the committee would monitor, help and strengthen law enforcement efforts.
"So that [law enforcers] will have the moral courage to carry out the legal process, indiscriminately, to resolve the tax mafia case by summoning all alleged linked elements," he said. He also vowed the committee would not politicize the case.
He said the committee would have its first meeting next week and would be chaired by Commission III deputy chairman Tjatur Sapto Edy, from the National Mandate Party (PAN).
Benny said the committee would start by laying out an agenda, including possible parties to be summoned.
Although he refused to mention Gayus specifically, he said the committee would call for questioning all parties connected with his case. "We will summon all elements without exception if they are indeed related," he said
The Democratic Party lawmaker said the committee's own investigation would produce recommendations on the improvement of law enforcement policies.
Fahri Hamzah, Commission III deputy chairman from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said the working committee wanted to refocus the investigation's direction.
He said the high drama of the Gayus case had diverted too much attention, and the system that allowed the taxman to commit his crimes needed to be scrutinized more closely.
"Such as to whom he transferred the money to," he said, and the mechanisms that were used to make the transfers.
However, Aziz Syamsuddin, Golkar lawmaker and another commission deputy chairman, said Gayus could only divulge all of the details in front of a court, and not at a lawmakers' hearing.
"If that [the summoning of Gayus] really happens, then there will be an intervention in the legal area," he said. "Commission III doesn't need to step in, we are not a legal institution."
Separately on Wednesday, Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said his ministry was ready to provide any information needed by the police as part of the investigation into the tax mafia surrounding Gayus.
"On Dec. 20, the National Police chief sent a letter requesting the data," Agus said. "We will hand it to them within the next one or two days."
Gayus claims to have amassed a huge fortune from bribes he received from 149 companies, including miners Kaltim Prima Coal, Arutmin and Bumi Resources, all of which are part of the Bakrie Group, owned by the family of Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie.
Police have maintained that they needed evidence before investigating the Bakrie companies.
Sri Wahyuni, Yogyakarta Indonesia made disappointing progress in the fight against corruption in 2010, according to researchers at Gadjah Mada University's Center for Anticorruption Studies (Pukat) in Yogyakarta.
Pukat researcher Danang Kurniadi said political interests continued to hinder the nation's fight against corruption throughout 2010. "That is why we called 2010 an insignificant year for corruption eradication," Danang said.
Apart from naming 26 legislators from the previous legislative term as suspects in the bribery scandal related to the election of Miranda S. Goeltom as a senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia, no other large-scale corruption case received adequate attention, according to a report issued by the center.
"It's not an exaggeration to say that corruption eradication in 2010 was very disappointing," Danang said.
High public expectations went unfulfilled, he said, likening the nation's fight against corruption to a soap opera, wherein the same stories and actors were recycled regularly.
"Everything looks good at the beginning, but there's never a satisfying ending," he said.
Pukat director Zainal Arifin Mochtar agreed, saying that the problem with the nation's corruption eradication efforts was a lack of will from the government.
"This is an acute disease. If we have the capability but lack the will we will never be able to deal with it," Zainal said. He added he was concerned and frightened about the chances for anticorruption efforts in 2011.
An early-warning system was needed to prevent a recurrence of problems from 2010 and the emergence of new problems in 2011, he said. "We need a real breakthrough, not just speeches or oral commitments from the government," Zainal said.
Apriadi Gunawan and Agus Maryono, Medan/Purbalingga Legal Aid Institute (LBH) Medan has submitted evidence of alleged corruption and bribery in the recruitment of civil servants in several regions in North Sumatra to the nation's antigraft body.
LBH Medan director Nuriono urged the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to respond to the report as soon as possible.
"We've handed over all the reports and evidence of the corruption and bribery to the KPK. This case has to be uncovered as soon as possible to prevent it from recurring," Nuriono said.
He said LBH Medan would also file a citizen's lawsuit over the alleged corruption.
He said this was a move to uncover those responsible for the illicit recruitment process, which had been going on for a long time in North Sumatra. "By the end of this week at the latest we will file a lawsuit at the Medan District Court," he said.
The lawsuit will argue that 17 civil servant applicants were victimized by illicit recruitment practices.
"Through their actions the mafia members sacrificed those who passed the exams and in turn passed those who actually failed the exams," he said.
Medan city administration spokesman Hanas Hasibuan denied the accusation.
Last year, 18,423 applicants sat exams in Medan to work for the city government. It was announced on Dec. 22 through the media and the city's official website that 324 of the applicants had passed.
The announcement was signed by Mayor Rahudman Harahap, but the copy of the announcement shown on the website did not have his signature, Hanas said.
In Purbalingga, Central Java, applicants who were angry at having failed the test seized two cars belonging to Supriyanto, head of the Purbalingga Community Protection Office.
Supriyanto had disappeared with his family after he was implicated in the corruption involving the recruitment process.
The applicants then flocked to the city administration office, where they demanded the public be repaid the money they alleged had been paid to the perpetrators of the corruption.
In Pekanbaru, the results of civil servant application tests were announced simultaneously throughout Riau province on Tuesday. Of the 53,090 applicants who took the exams in the 10 regencies and cities, 2,738 passed.
Riau province secretary Wan Syamsir Yus said that those who had passed were asked to reregister from Jan. 11 to 18 at their local employee agencies.
"They have to show up themselves and those who do not reregister will be considered to have pulled out," he said.
[Rizal Harahap contributed to this article from Pekanbaru, Riau.]
Reports of anomalous financial transactions rose by more than 36 percent last year compared with the same period in 2009, the country's anti-money laundering agency said on Monday.
Yunus Hussein, chairman of the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK), said the spike was caused in part by the increased number of institutions required to report suspicious deals.
As of Dec. 26, he said, the PPATK had received 63,440 reports on suspicious transactions from 334 institutions. The previous year, 302 agencies flagged 46,576 such transactions.
Banks, stock brokers, investment managers, money changers and insurance companies are required to disclose their records to the PPATK.
The majority of 2010 reports were cleared of suspicion, but 1,425 reports were believed to be linked to criminal activities.
Among the PPATK's findings were 54 deals related to embezzlement, 64 indicating fraud and 11 showing bank violations. The center said five reports were related to terrorism, four to gambling, 20 to bribery, 26 to narcotics crimes and eight to theft.
Since its founding in 2004, the PPATK has analyzed over 2,400 suspicious transactions, with 92 percent of these reports passed on to the National Police for further investigation.
Several reports signaling criminal activity were also submitted to prosecutors' offices. So far, only 26 cases have ended in convictions.
In two cases handled by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), investigators used data from the PPATK to prosecute 36 errant lawmakers, 10 of whom were later found guilty of malfeasance.
Despite the growing number of financial crimes detected by the PPATK, Yunus said, law-enforcement agencies had often failed to successfully pin down guilty parties. "Money-laundering prevention and eradication has not been optimum," Yunus said.
He said there was a need for "better coordination and partnership between public institutions to build an anti-money laundering culture in Indonesia."
Ronna Nirmala, Indonesia Like father, like son could not be more appropriate to describe how children of some convicted terrorists dream to follow in their footsteps and one day become holy warriors.
Nusaibah, 15, the eldest child of Abdul Ghoni, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings, has no doubts about wanting to be a mujahid [holy warrior]. "That's what all Muslims are supposed to do; fight on the right path according to the religion," he says.
Nusaibah has been separated from his father since 2003 and lives with his mother and sister in Karanganyar, Central Java, where he is studying at an Islamic boarding school.
"I don't have any problems with my neighbors, I do have friends at school and I don't really care about any stigma affecting terrorists' children because I'm proud of my father," he says.
Separately, the fourth daughter of Joko Handolah, aka Joko Purwanto, who was detained for his involvement in an armed paramilitary group in Aceh, says she has nothing but vitriol for Densus 88, the police antiterror squad that arrested her father last year.
"I hate them, they are evil. My father is a good man," she says, not wanting to be identified. "Let God punish them with painful punishments in the hereafter."
Joko was arrested at his workshop in Solo in May. His daughter was returning home from school when she saw Densus 88 officers apprehending him.
"I ran home and cried into my mother's arms. But then mom told me that my father will be fine his faith was being tested by God and she also told me to proud of him. And I am proud of him," she says.
Joko has six daughters and a son from his second marriage. Since his arrest, his wife has been trying to support the family by selling honey.
Aulia Syahidah lives with her 1-year-old daughter and elderly mother in Boyolali, Central Java. Aulia is the wife of Joko Sulistyo, who was arrested in March for his involvement in the Aceh paramilitary group, and also happens to be the sister of Amrozi, who was executed in 2009 for his key role in the 2002 Bali bombings.
She says she continues to receive threats ever since her husband was arrested.
"I often get anonymous letters, mostly telling me to leave my home, my faith. And there's also one letter that told me to leave my husband," she says. "The most cruel letter I've ever received was about two months ago. It said my husband was a playboy, and they also said they planned to kill my husband and take his skull and heart."
The field where Aulia plants vegetables was also vandalized recently, right before harvest. She says that some of her neighbors refuse to talk to her.
But in spite of the continuing harassment and threats, Aulia says she has no intentions of moving away and is planning to stay in Boyolali until her husband is released from prison.
Arist Merdeka Sirait, head of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), says the children of convicted terrorists should be afforded special attention to protect their rights and address their psychological needs.
"They also have the basic right to an education, playgrounds, security, etc., just like any other normal child," he says.
According to Arist, the state should be responsible for the well-being of the children until they reached 18 years of age, including shielding them from persecution. "These children could be victims of discrimination and stigma for what their fathers have done, and we should all protect them from this discrimination, which could adversely affect their psychological and mental growth," he says.
Asvi Warman Adam, a historian from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), says the fate that befell the children of suspected communists and supporters of the botched coup attempt in 1965 should not be repeated with the children of convicted terrorists.
"It's different era. Since the reforms, discrimination has been rolled back and the government should be on the front line in efforts to guarantee that discrimination does not happen again," he says.
Asvi says that although they experience discrimination in their local communities, "discrimination from the state should not be a threat to them."
Harry Hikmat, head of children's services at the Ministry of Social Affairs, says special programs have been set up to support the children of convicted terrorists. "We realize that if they are not handled properly by the state, they could become a threat in the future because they may want to become like their fathers," he says.
Harry says that the ministry has specific policies to deal with children who have special needs orphans, the homeless, the abandoned, those with disabilities, youths in trouble with the law and those in need of special protection.
"And the terrorists' children fall under the category of children in need of special protection, with social workers in 25 regions across Indonesia according them full-time protection," he says.
The social workers, he adds, keep the children company, provide counseling and help protect their rights. They are also tasked with approaching members of the community to help prevent discrimination. But Harry says the most important thing is for the social workers to help build up the confidence of the children and to provide psychological balance in their lives.
"We're trying to avoid creating new terrorist networks, as these children live in the same environments and share the perceptions about becoming mujahid," he says.
The Social Affair Ministry has set aside funds for annual scholarships of Rp 1.5 million ($165) for each child, which are set to be disbursed for the first time this year. But only children officially registered with the ministry are eligible for the funds.
"We are open to anyone who has information about children in need, and sometimes we even get information from the media," Harry says.
But at the same time, he also warns the media against exploiting the children, causing further psychological damage.
But Sri Ida Royani, Joko Handolah 's wife, has rejected the scholarship scheme out of hand.
"I don't think I need any government assistance for my children," she says, "fortune comes from God, not from the government. Aside from that, I'm not sure whether the funds are halal [permissible under Islam]."
Sri Ida says that while she does not hate the government for arresting her husband, she will not support it. "As long as our government is still running the country not based on Islamic Shariah laws, that means that me and my family won't side with the government," she says.
Aulia echoes Sri Ida's sentiments, saying that she has both the means and capability to look after her daughter. "I don't think I need government handouts," she says.
Some charity foundations, mostly linked to hard-line Muslim figures or groups, are also sending aid to the families of detained terrorist suspects and convicts. The funds are meant to help families cope with rent and living costs while the breadwinner is absent. Some aid is also given in the form of loans to help families set up small businesses.
Harry says that while he understands it is not easy for families to accept assistance from the government, patience would yield results.
Nurul Huda, a terrorism expert, says it is important the government does give up. "There are many ways to help these children," he says.
The government, he says, needs to understand that these children come from a different environment with a "special" perspective on life. "There should be an institution or someone who can come and help give them a new perspective on life a better and more convincing one," he says.
According to Nurul, the children of terrorist convicts, especially the young ones, are the "true victims" of their fathers' deeds because they are the ones left to face the consequences.
"We are talking about children who've been living in an environment that taught them to do just the same as their father, so no wonder they share the same aspirations," he says.
"Sometimes, if you hear them saying they want to be just like their father, you must understand that it's probably not what they really want, but it's because that's all they've been taught."
Nurul also believes Densus 88 needs to make changes to its operations, because many raids have been carried out in the presence of family members.
"This triggers the children's hatred toward the police, and this will not solve the problem," he says. "We cannot fight violence with more violence."
Mohd Adhe Bhakti A suspected militant on trial for taking part in a paramilitary training camp in Aceh told the court on Thursday that firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir donated $25,000 to their cause.
Members of the camp, uncovered by authorities in February last year, were believed to be plotting Mumbai-style attacks on key targets, including the president, prompting a series of nationwide raids and arrests.
One of those arrested, Luthfi Haidaroh, testified during his trial at the West Jakarta District Court that Bashir had given him Rp 180 million ($20,000) and $5,000 in stages.
"Of that amount, at least Rp 120 million was handed to me directly by Abu Bakar Bashir himself," he said.
Bashir, widely believed to have been the spiritual leader of regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, has been arrested and is awaiting trial for financing the Aceh group.
Luthfi said the money he received from the cleric was part of the total Rp 500 million raised from various donors.
The money, he said, was then channeled to several key militants in the group, including Abdullah Sonata, Agam and Dulmatin, who was killed last March in one of the police raids targeting the Aceh group.
Luthfi said they used the money to buy weapons and other items needed by the group.
The trial has been adjourned to Jan. 27, when prosecutors will recommend a sentence for the defendant.
In a separate hearing at the same courthouse, a former university lecturer was sentenced to six years in prison for concealing information about Dulmatin from the authorities.
The court ruled that Bhakti Rasna had met Dulmatin several times from 2008 until Dulmatin's death in 2010.
Bhakti, who taught accounting at Pancasila University in Jakarta and later became a trader before his arrest, previously denied knowing Dulmatin was a wanted terror suspect and claimed he knew him as Hamzah.
However, Judge Muzaini Ahmad, who presided over the trial, said that Bhakti was close enough to Dulmatin to have known that his friend was wanted by the authorities.
The judge said that the night before Dulmatin was killed in the police raid, he and the defendant had stayed at the home of another friend, identified as Fauzi Syarif.
Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta The Jakarta Police remain undecided on whether to take coercive measures against mass organization Forum Betawi Rempug (FBR) after a recent clash involving the latter severely injured a police officer.
West Jakarta Police operational unit chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Suparmin sustained a severe injury to his nose after trying to settle a violent conflict involving FBR and a group of men from East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) at Tubagus Angke, West Jakarta, on Sunday. West Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Yazid Fanani said on Monday that Suparmin would require surgery.
Suparmin was injured after he was struck in the nose with a solid object thrown by one of the culprits involved in the conflict. He was taken to Sumber Waras hospital in West Jakarta.
Jakarta Police public relations head Sr. Comr. Baharudin Djafar told The Jakarta Post that, for the time being, the police would only focus on Suparmin's recovery. "Firm measures [on mass organizations] would depend on the situation," he said.
Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Usman Hamid told the Post that it was time for the police to take a firmer stance against violent mass organizations.
"The police have been tolerating such mass organizations because they have political ties. I suggest the police halt that kind of relationship altogether," Usman said. "By erasing that relationship, the police can take stricter measures on mass organizations, starting from bringing its members to justice, including the leaders," he added.
Usman said that the police could not disband mass organizations because it would violate their basic right to organize.
In August last year, then National Police chief Gen. (ret.) Bambang Hendarso Danuri told the House of Representatives that there were 107 incidents of violence involving mass organizations between 2007 and 2010.
Most of the incidents were reportedly perpetrated by the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI), the FBR and the Betawi Youth Front.
Ulma Haryanto, Jakarta An Indonesian ID card, like any other around the world, tells who you are, but here it also identifies what you believe in, which can be a source of trouble if you're a member of a faith that the state does not recognize.
Believers who do not subscribe to the six state-recognized religions will tell you this is not something they can take lightly, particularly during the birth of a child, a marriage or registering for schooling. Regulations on civil registration can prevent some from getting their rights as citizens if their are true to their religions.
"I didn't care about ID cards until I wanted to get married," Asep Setia Pujanegara, who has faced many challenges because of his Kaharingan religion, said at a discussion in Jakarta on Friday.
The 40-year-old said he had filed a complaint against Bandung's Civil Registration Agency in 2001 for refusing to register his marriage because he was not a member of one of the six approved religions.
He says the legal process took more than six years and that he "only received a copy of the Supreme Court ruling in February 2008, even though the ruling itself was issued in March 2006."
"During the process, my wife gave birth to our first son in September 2003. Since our marriage was, at that time, not acknowledged by the state, our son's birth certificate only recognized my wife as his official parent."
With the ruling in hand, the couple registered their marriage and asked authorities to amend their child's birth records.
"That experience taught me and everyone I know that to get justice in this country, if you are a believer of an [unrecognized] faith group, one has to go through a long and complicated process."
"It also had a social and psychological impact on me, because members of my faith group were told to always be compliant to the state. They told us that we were hare-brained," Asep said.
Under the Constitution, only Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Confucianism are recognized and protected by the state. The law makes it illegal to "publicize, recommend or organize public support" for other religions or non-orthodox versions of the approved faiths.
Jakarta resident Prayogo Al Kelik, a member of the Ajisaka faith, said the government had simply put the word "group" next to the religion category when he renewed his ID card last year.
"Previously it was only a hyphen in brackets. My wife even has 'faith' listed as her religion. So together we form a 'faith group,'?" he said with a laugh.
Asep said different interpretations of the law made at the local level made it difficult for people from unrecognized faith groups to register events such as child births and marriages.
"A pattern of institutionalized discrimination starts right from the beginning, when you apply for an ID card," said Febi Yonesta of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH).
"Some people recommend that 'religion' be removed altogether from the ID card. We used to have 'tribe' on the cards before, but now we don't. So why can't we do the same with religion and remove it altogether?"
Gendro Nurhadi, head of the traditional faith group directorate at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, acknowledged that he had received complaints from unrecognized religious groups who tried to register themselves at local administration offices.
"I would like to see where the discussion is heading. When a [decree on public administration] was issued nearly four years ago, it said the government would leave the religion section of ID cards blank in such cases. But now we see that doesn't work on the ground," he said.
According to Gendro, in the 1980s there were about 250 different faith groups in Indonesia.
"But we never updated the number. My directorate is trying to update our database. It's been three years since the project began and we plan to finish it in another three years," he said.
In theory, Indonesia acknowledges the existence of other faith groups alongside the six religions, but this is seldom true in practice. These faith groups fall under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Gendro also said that only traditional faith groups that have clear historical origin are recognized by the state.
Kristin Lilik, an official from the Ministry of Home Affairs, said the 2006 Law on Public Administration explained how those who did not adhere to one of the six religions could still be acknowledged as citizens.
"I perceived this as a localized problem, which we would follow through and remind people about at the local levels. Members of these groups could also ask for a statement from the local registration office if they fear being recognized as atheists," she said.
Ulma Haryanto The Supreme Court's decision to reject Bogor officials' request to uphold a controversial revocation of a building permit for a Christian group there has been greeted with delight by human rights activists, but caution by both the city administration and the church itself.
The Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) has been causing controversy in Bogor by holding its services on the sidewalk in front of its sealed, half-constructed church for months.
The construction site was closed off in March after years of wrangling with the Bogor administration, which originally issued a building permit in 2006, only to revoke it in February 2008. That decision came in the wake of protests from Islamic hard-liners.
The church did not back down and brought the case to State Administrative Courts, both in Jakarta and in Bandung. Both ruled in favor of the church and instructed Bogor authorities to end the closure of the church site. But the city filed a case review and had refused to comply with court orders.
GKI Yasmin celebrated Christmas last month on the sidewalk surrounded by 150 armed police officers and about 100 vociferous protesters from surrounding areas who disapproved of the congregation's presence.
Bogor officials refused to comment on the court's decision on Friday. "We are going to discuss it first," City Secretary Bambang Gunawan said.
Bona Sigalingging, spokesman for GKI Yasmin, said representatives from the church and the Bogor administration had met with a clerk from the Supreme Court to discuss the recent ruling.
"They told us that the city's request [to uphold the revocation of the building permit] was rejected and a hard copy of the ruling would be distributed within the next week," he said.
Bona added that the congregation would wait until Jan. 23 before going back to the church site.
"We want to give the government time to announce the ruling to all relevant parties, so that when we finally come back to our church there is no more opposition," he said.
The Supreme Court's Web site said the decision on the case was issued on Dec. 9 by a judicial panel composed of Valerine J.L. Kriekhoff, Marina Sidabutar and Imam Soebechi.
Choirul Anam, from the Human Rights Working Group, welcomed the ruling and demanded that the city administration respect it immediately. "They should provide full protection toward the congregation's right to worship in peace," he said. "They will have to announce this intention soon."
Choirul added that he regarded the Supreme Court ruling as the highest legal decision. "If they do not obey then they'd better get out of Indonesia," he added. However, the ruling will not set a precedent for all such cases in the country because it originated as a civil dispute.
Amir Tejo, Surabaya Police and Islamic hard-liners on Thursday disbanded a discussion on religious tolerance in Surabaya, said members of a humanitarian watchdog who were in attendance.
Members of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, a group that advocates for pluralism and freedom of worship, said they were participating in the discussion at a coffee shop in the Inna Simpang Hotel with groups including Surabaya Legal Aid and members of the minority Ahmadiyah sect.
They said the meeting was disrupted by dozens of members of a group calling itself the Warring Defenders of Islam (LPI).
Setara activists said Sasmito, a man identifying himself as the head of the LPI, told the attendees the discussion was illegal and would have to be disbanded. Shortly afterward, the activists said, Surabaya Police arrived and conferred with the LPI, after which the hard-liners left.
The tolerance discussion resumed, but police returned and ordered an end to the gathering, Setara members said. "We request that you stop with this discussion, because you have not informed us that you were going to hold it," a police officer said, according to Setara official Bonar Tigor Naipospos.
Bonar said he demanded police tell them what law required police permission to hold a meeting.
"This was no demonstration which requires a permit. This was a meeting involving 15 people at a hotel. Why were we stopped from meeting?" Bonar told the Jakarta Globe.
He said police told him the meeting could pose a security risk because it was held not far from a building where President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would be staying during a working visit.
"This was a fabricated reason," Bonar said. "Yudhoyono's visit anywhere would have extraordinary security. This was just a discussion."
He added that organizers had sent a text message to East Java Police Chief Insp. Gen. Badrodin Haiti informing him of the meeting, but that he hadn't responded.
"We did not meet to conduct anarchic activities or to attack the country," Bonar said. "We met here to find a resolution for an ongoing problem. To find a resolution we must listen to all parties involved. This was meant to be positive."
Members of the gathering said they believed that the hard-liners were connected to the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a fundamentalist group known for forcibly imposing their religious views on others.
Setara Institute founder Hendardi on Thursday said he condemned the police's failure in stopping hard-liners from disrupting human rights discussions.
"This is a clear threat to our constitutional rights to freely express our opinion," he said. "Police in the regions can no longer be separated from radical Islamic organizations, who continue to persecute and intimidate minority communities, including those organizations that fight for the rights of these communities."
Ulma Haryanto The Supreme Court has rejected the Bogor City administration's request to uphold the revocation of the Indonesian Christian Church's (GKI Yasmin) building permit in Bogor.
"A clerk from the Supreme Court invited representatives from the church and the city administration regarding the result," Bona Sigalingging, spokesman for GKI Yasmin, told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
"They told us that the city's request [regarding the revocation of our building permit] was rejected and a hard copy of the ruling would be distributed within the next week."
The information about the case can be viewed on the Supreme Court's Web site. According to the Web site, the decision was issued on Dec. 9 by a panel composed of judges Valerine J.L. Kriekhoff, Marina Sidabutar and Imam Soebechi.
GKI Yasmin has been holding its services on the sidewalk in front of its half-constructed church. The site was sealed for much of 2010 after years of wrangling with the Bogor administration, which revoked its building permit in March 2010.
In June 2009, the church won a court appeal filed against the revocation, with the State Administrative Court ordering Bogor municipal authorities to put an end to the closure of the church site.
But the city filed a case review and has refused to comply with the court order pending a new verdict. Bogor authorities have said that sealing the church was at the request of residents who opposed the church's presence in their community.
GKI Yasmin had to celebrate Christmas last month surrounded by 150 armed police officers and about 100 protesters from surrounding areas who disproved of the congregation's presence.
The hard-line organization Indonesian Muslim Communication Forum (Forkami) and other Muslim groups have alleged that some of the signatures needed from neighboring residents to gain approval for the construction of the church building were falsified.
Ulma Haryanto Leaders of hard-line Islamic organizations are expected to hold a meeting to discuss the Setara Institute of Peace and Democracy's "slanderous" report against them.
Setara, an organization known for advocating pluralism, released a report in December 2010 titled "Religious Radicalism in Greater Jakarta and West Java," detailing how radical Muslim groups were shoring up their support by forging political alliances and embracing more liberal groups and moderate clerics.
Muhammad Al Khaththath, the leader of Islamic's People Forum (FUI), told Islamic news portal voa-islam.com that they intend to counter the slanderous claims in the report. "[Setara] has tainted the good name of the organizations and their leaders," he said.
The news portal has been noted by the International Crisis Group as a key media node for the Islamist movement in the country, as well as a facilitator of the tactical alliance between violent and non-violent extremists.
Al Khaththath received special mention in the report as the founder and leader of FUI, a relatively new group founded in 2005. He was described as "an expert lobbyist" who appeared to be particularly adept at courting politicians and infiltrating the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI).
"The report is bogus, not credible and baseless," Al Khaththath said. "I was never even interviewed by Setara."
Al Khaththath started out with well-known ultra-conservative group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, and was one of its chairmen when the HTI formed the FUI along with eight other organizations, including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah, Indonesian Islamic Propagation Council (DDII), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Crescent Star Party (PBB).
NU and Muhammadiyah, the nation's two biggest Islamic organizations, are considered moderate. The conservative PKS is the fourth-biggest political party in the country.
But Setara's Ismail Hasani explained that the information on Al Khaththath in the report was gathered through covert interviews, because they were worried they wouldn't get truthful answers if the interview subjects knew that the questions were for.
"Covert and in-depth interviews with knowledgeable sources whose identities are protected is a verified research method. Besides [the leaders'] numerous public statements in media can also be used," he said.
Aside from FPI's Habib Rizieq and FUI's Al Khaththath, other organization leaders mentioned in the report were directly interviewed by Setara.
Imung Yuniardi, Semarang cases of religious intolerance in Central Java significantly dropped in 2010 compared to 2009, according to an annual report.
Data at the Semarang office of the Religion and Social Studies Institute (ELSA) showed that only nine cases related to religious intolerance took place in 2010 in Central Java, seven of which involved communities and the remaining two involving the state.
"Our data shows that religious intolerance stood at 32 cases in 2009, thus indicating a significant drop in 2010," said ELSA director Tedi Kholiludin in an annual report on the religious climate in Central Java in 2010 on Monday.
One case involving the state was the two-year sentence given to Marjono, a former lecturer at Widya Dharma University, by the Klaten District Court early this year for comments he made in a speech at the university that were considered to constitute blasphemy.
The second case was Wonogiri Regent Danar Rahmanto's banning of three annual cultural events in the regency jamasan, larung ageng and sedekah bumi as part of his political contract with his constituents.
"The latter is dangerous because it could lead to further state intervention if it is allowed and eventually result in defending a particular group wishing to impose its will on those of other faiths. Leaders tend to pursue political support rather than inter-religious tolerance," he said.
Religious intolerance cases taking place in the cultural arena but not involving the state also occurred in 2010, such as the removal of a Buddha statue created by Cipto Purnomo that resembled Gus Dur after the Indonesian Theravada Youths central leadership board objected to it.
Another case was the banning of a wayang puppet performance in Sukoharjo and other areas in Surakarta by the Laskar Jihad, as it deemed it polytheistic.
Another case of intolerance was the banning of religious activities and schools deemed deviant. According to Tedi, the data does not indicate that religious tolerance among the communities in Central Java has improved.
"The cases are those that came to light. It is highly likely that there are other religious communities that tend not to disclose cases to the media, government or non-governmental groups," he said.
Inter-Religious Youth Network coordinator Rony Chandra Kristanto concurred, saying cases exposed by the media or government reports could not serve as a benchmark of the quality of religious tolerance in Central Java.
Dessy Sagita & Reuters The United Nations' condemnation of Indonesia for its high number of attacks on religious minorities showed how the country's reputation had been tainted by radicals, observers said on Sunday.
Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said over the weekend that countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia have a moral and legal duty to protect freedom of religion by quashing sectarian violence and rooting out discriminatory laws that can lead to full-fledged conflict.
"Attacks on churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other religious sites around the world, as well as targeted attacks against individuals, should act as a wake-up call to all of us," Pillay said in a statement.
Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Ahmadis have been targeted in the past year, according to Pillay, a former war crimes judge. She specifically condemned attacks in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
She did not single out particular faiths for blame, but the examples she cited were mostly of Muslim countries where Christian minorities or rival Muslim sects have been targeted.
"I am concerned that divisive or weak state laws and policies in many countries foster the religious discrimination that feeds extremism," she said. "It is also vital that authorities discourage the exploitation of religions for political agendas."
Hendardi, chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said that Pillay's statements only confirmed the general opinion that over the past five years religious intolerance in Indonesia was getting worse.
"It projects a bad image of Indonesia and it will affect the way other countries perceive us," he said on Sunday.
Nathan Setiabudi, the former chairman of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), said that while it was understandable the UN would seek to criticize Indonesia over recent attacks against minorities, it was unfair to suggest that religious intolerance was on the rise in Indonesia generally.
Indonesia's reputation has been tainted by a small group of radicals, Nathan said. "Looking at the bigger picture, most Muslims are very tolerant toward other religions, including Christians," he said.
Firdaus Mubarik, an Ahmadiyah activist, said weak law enforcement had allowed Indonesian radicals to create widespread terror. "To be honest, the radicals who terrorized Christians, Ahmadiyah and Bahai followers are basically the same group, they just go by different names," he added.
Firdaus said that it was frustrating that the government sat idle even though the instruments to stop the violence existed. "The constitution is already there, why not use it?" he said.
Heru Andriyanto Lawyers for Nazril Irham on Thursday slammed the prosecution for demanding the pop star serve five years in jail for distributing pornographic videos on the Internet despite the lack of evidence connecting him to the crime.
In a closed session at the Bandung District Court, the lawyers demanded that their client, also known as Ariel, be acquitted.
"There is no witness who can tell the court that they saw Ariel distributing the videos," Otto Cornelis Kaligis, head of the defense team, told the Jakarta Globe in a telephone interview after the trial. "We are confident that Ariel will walk out of this a free man."
The defense read a 107-page statement to the court on Thursday, while Ariel read a three-page personal statement, titled "Nazril Irham, a victim of brutality."
Boy Afrian Bondjol, another of Ariel's lawyers, said separately that the Anti-Pornography Law was irrelevant to this case "because the suspected crime, if it occurred at all, occurred in 2005 and 2006, while the law was passed in 2008. The law doesn't apply retroactively."
"More important, throughout the hearings, the prosecutors were unable to present witnesses or evidence to support their claims that Ariel took part in or helped with the distribution of the videos. We simply asked the judges to acquit him on all charges."
Moreover, Boy said Ariel was the victim of "brutal violations" of his privacy.
In addition to the jail term, the prosecution also demanded that Ariel, the frontman for the popular band Peterpan, be fined Rp 250 million ($28,000).
The case was adjourned until Monday, when the court will hear the response of the prosecution.
Several hard-line groups braved the rain on Thursday to rally outside the courthouse to demand Ariel receive the maximum punishment, according to Antara state-run news agency.
The groups, calling themselves the People's Movement to Hang Adulterers and the People's Alliance Against Pornographic Devils, said the singer should be punished because he was supposed to be a role model.
"What Ariel has done has already become well known around the world," one protester said.
Ariel, 29, has been behind bars since he surrendered himself to police on June 22 amid a media circus over explicit videos that allegedly show him having sex, on separate occasions, with two television celebrities, Luna Maya, his current girlfriend, and Cut Tari, a former girlfriend.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Ismira Lutfia In a new twist to the communication minister's campaign to block BlackBerry users from accessing porn sites, his party is now saying the move is ultimately to protest against the maker of the smartphones and its business practices in Indonesia.
Communication Minister Tifatul Sembiring has given Research in Motion, the Canadian company behind the wildly popular BlackBerry device, until Jan. 27 to filter its BlackBerry Web services for pornography, or risk losing its license to operate in the country.
On Tuesday, Machfud Siddiq, a legislator from Tifatul's Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said the campaign was more than just about blocking porn.
He said the main purpose of the ultimatum was to highlight how RIM was "taking too much money from Indonesians without even paying any taxes here."
"The company brings no economic benefits to Indonesia, yet they take so much money from here," he said. "And because the company is based in Canada, it pays taxes there, not here."
"So this isn't just about Web filtering," Machfud added. "It's about justice in doing business. Indonesia shouldn't be treated like a cash cow."
RIM is not required to pay taxes in Indonesia because it is not involved in the retail sale of its phones in the country.
Instead, BlackBerrys are imported by authorized local agents, who pay the requisite customs and excise fees and government sales taxes for the phones, as well as their own corporate taxes.
There are an estimated two million BlackBerry users in Indonesia, out of the total 11.9 million worldwide, making it one of RIM's biggest markets.
Machfud said Indonesian consumers should support the government's efforts to push large corporations to invest and create jobs in the country.
Tifatul on Tuesday again took to Twitter to explain his campaign against RIM and try to get Indonesians on his side.
In his messages, the minister claimed there were three million registered BlackBerry users in the country and another one million using black-market phones.
"With an average monthly subscription fee of $7 per customer, RIM makes a net income of Rp 189 billion [$21 million] a month or Rp 2.268 trillion a year," he wrote.
"That's the Indonesian people's money going to RIM," the minister tweeted. However, the subscription fee is paid to the local carriers offering BlackBerry Messenger and push-mail services.
Tifatul claimed RIM was making all this money without paying taxes to the Indonesian government or building network infrastructure here.
"Is it wrong to ask for a slice of the pie for Indonesia, such as the hiring of local people, the inclusion of more local content and compliance with local laws and regulations?" Tifatul tweeted.
The minister added, "Do we have to give RIM privileges and exceptions? Do we always have to bow to foreign [entities]? Is it arrogant to remind foreigners to respect our laws and regulations? [Let's] demand greater rights for our respected nation."
Ismira Lutfia As the deadline looms for BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion to filter pornographic Web sites on its handsets, Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring on Sunday continued his threats against the company.
Tifatul repeated on his Twitter account that he would not hesitate to curb the popular smartphone's services should RIM fail to meet the government's Jan. 21 deadline.
This time Tifatul appealed to nationalism to build support against RIM for failing to block access to pornography on its BlackBerry devices.
"If there is nationalism in your heart, and should you want us to be a strong nation, I am certain a portion of you will agree to the points I have made here about RIM," the minister tweeted.
"So far, it seems that RIM is dragging its feet in carrying out its commitment. As a nation, do we want to be treated like that?" Another of his tweets was more direct. "We are not negotiating," he said. "If RIM does not comply with the laws of Indonesia, then enough is enough!"
He also called on the Canadian company to establish local servers so that the government could monitor messages sent by the country's more than two million BlackBerry users.
"We demand RIM build a server/repeater in Indonesia so that our law enforcers can conduct investigations against corruptors," he said. "We want RIM to use as much Indonesian content as possible, particularly in regard to software. We want RIM to recruit Indonesian workers in a proportional manner."
State-owned Telkomsel, which offers BlackBerry service, said it would comply with the country's pornography laws.
Febriati Nadira, a spokeswoman for XL Axiata, said it was talking with the government to find the "best solution" to the matter.
Andy Sjarif, chief executive of Sitti, an Internet and online advertising developer, said if the government simply focused on the negative aspects of technology, it would overlook the many positives.
"Professionally, I benefit a lot from using my BlackBerry. It's a shame that a technology that brings so much benefit is only regarded for its negative side."
He said smartphones were used far more often for social networking than for viewing pornography.
"This is statistically proven," he said. "Easier access to social networking sites to kill time has taken over the habit of accessing porn sites for Internet users."
Argo Cahyono, a public relations executive at an oil and gas firm, said he relied heavily on the BlackBerry's push e-mail and Messenger features.
"It's easy to coordinate internally to arrange a meeting, for example, no matter where we are since we communicate through a BlackBerry Messenger group," he said.
Another avid user of the smartphone, Vina Posuma, said her device was a "super-duper help" in her job as a health care services executive, and that she would be devastated if the government imposed a ban on BlackBerry services.
"My job requires me to be really mobile," she said. "I couldn't imagine if the e-mail service was shut down, which means I would have to be stationed in front of a computer."
Vina said BlackBerrys were created to help make work easier for people, not to help them access pornography.
Rahmat, Makassar A clash erupted on Thursday between thousands of students and the National Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) in part of a land dispute that has raged for years in the Polewali Mandar district of West Sulawesi.
The confrontation left at least 20 students and two lecturers of Asariyah Mandar University injured. At least two of them reportedly sustained gunshot wounds. At least 15 police officers were also injured in the melee.
Hours before the fight, officials from the Polewali Mandar District Court, accompanied by hundreds of police officers, arrived at the university grounds. They demanded that the return of the disputed land the campus grounds be carried out in accordance to court orders.
The dispute dates back to 2005, when a court ruled that the Polewali Mandar branch of the religious educational institution Darud Dakwah Wal Irsyad (DDI) was the rightful owner.
"The clash erupted an hour after negotiations between the university and the district court ended badly. This land dispute has been going on forever," said Syariat Tajuddin of Asariyah Mandar University.
Syariat told the Jakarta Globe that the court officials, accompanied by police officers led by Polewali Mandar Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. I Gusti Ngurah Rai Mahaputra, insisted the land be officially handed over on Thursday, even as thousands of students and people living in the area were still present.
"The students insisted on holding onto the campus grounds and did not even allow court officials to approach the campus gates," Syariat said. "During the clash, blocks of wood, rocks and Molotov cocktails were thrown toward the police officers. This went on for two hours and police fired on the students several times.
"The situation was completely out of control. Both students and lecturers were being beaten by police officers.
Tension eased slightly at around 1 p.m. with the arrival of Polewali Mandar Deputy District Head Nadjamuddin Ibrahim, and by 2 p.m., police began to gradually retreat from the campus. The execution of the land did not go ahead as a result of the clash."
West Sulawesi Police Chief Insp. Gen. Johny Wainal Usman said Thursday's attempt was the third to get the university to officially hand over the illegally occupied land to the DDI.
"This [measure] is based on a court ruling. The DDI has won the case. We just followed procedure," Johny said. "They [the rioters] brought rocks and Molotov cocktails. We were cornered and they were in the thousands," he added.
"Police officers fired warning shots into the air, but we didn't fire on people."
Markus Junianto Sihaloho The House of Representatives leadership has rebuffed calls by a minor opposition party to halt the construction a new office building for legislators, dismissing the move as an attempt to gain popularity.
The Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) filed an official objection to the plan on Tuesday, following the example of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura), also in the opposition camp.
In its objection, Gerindra said the building would be redundant if the government moved ahead with a plan to relocate the capital from Jakarta.
The party also said the House (DPR) did not need a new building, while the projected cost of more than Rp 1 trillion ($111 million) would be better spent on programs to alleviate poverty.
However, Priyo Budi Santoso, a deputy House speaker from the Golkar Party, on Wednesday criticized Gerindra's statement as a simplistic ploy to garner public support.
He said that by filing a formal objection, Gerindra had shown a disregard for the House's commitment to the plan so far.
Priyo also accused Gerindra of "trying to revoke the fact that all parties had agreed to the plan as long as it was supervised by state auditors."
"So if Gerindra wants to look for a bit of public sympathy, I suggest they ask the other parties to join in and not hog the limelight themselves," Priyo said.
He added the project, for which construction is expected to begin in the middle of the year, could not be postponed because nothing in the planning stage had violated any laws.
Anis Matta, the deputy speaker from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), agreed, saying construction would proceed as planned. "All parties approved the plan, so it will continue," he said.
However, Gayus Lumbuun from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said the project should be halted and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) brought in to probe graft allegations linked to it.
A budget watchdog has previously alleged that legislators had been promised kickbacks from a coal-mining magnate vying for a contract in the project.
Gayus said Taufik Kurniawan, the deputy speaker from the National Mandate Party (PAN), had also raised concerns about legislators being bribed. "The plan must be aborted and the KPK must launch an investigation," Gayus said.
Dicky Christanto, Jakarta Heavily criticized last year for widely missing their bill target, legislators did little to instill confidence Monday the first day of this year's hearing period as only 290 of the 560 House members showed up.
Sebastian Salang of the Indonesian Parliamentary Watchdog (Formappi) said he doubted that there would be much productive legislation this year, given increasing political tension among political parties at the House and the fact that there were more sensitive bills to be discussed this year.
"Somehow, I greatly doubt that the House will be able to finish all 70 bills as promised this year," he told The Jakarta Post.
Marred by political tension and high-profile cases including the unresolved Bank Century bailout controversy, the House passed 16 out of its target of 70 bills in 2010.
The laws that were passed last year included a revision to the 2008 Law on Political Parties and the newly deliberated 2010 Law on Public Housing and Settlements.
At the end of the 2010 legislation period last month, the House leadership pledged to finish 70 bills this year, including those that they had failed to pass last year.
Bills that were said to be top priority included the Yogyakarta special status bill and the migrant workers bill. "I expect that we will be able to maximize our efforts so that we can meet this year's target," House Speaker Marzuki Alie said in his keynote speech at the plenary meeting on Monday.
He said the House also planned to deliberate political package bills, which comprised the general elections organizer bill, the general elections for the House of Representatives (DPR), Regional Representatives Council (DPD) and Regional Legislative Councils (DPRD) bill and the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) bills.
"Especially for the general elections organizer bill, I am optimistic that we will be able to finish the deliberations in April," Marzuki said.
Commenting on these political package bills, he said it was the joint secretariat, a coalition of political parties comprising President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's supporters, that would play the most significant role.
"In reality, the joint secretary has managed to secure 75 percent of the votes at the House. Thus if the coalition is rock solid then they will face no difficulties in passing the bills into laws," he said.
However, many perceive the joint secretariat to be on the brink of fragmentation, as some legislators from center parties have threatened to join the main opposition party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Some appear to have become disillusioned by the dominance of the coalition's two largest parties, the Democratic Party and the Golkar Party.
The Prosperous Justice Party's (PKS) top cadres, for example, were not able to hide their disappointment over rumors that President Yudhoyono planned to replace controversial Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring.
Legislators from the National Awakening Party (PKB) differed in opinion on setting the terms of the parliamentary threshold, which determines how many votes a party needs to enter the House, with Golkar and the Democratic Party, which called for the parliamentary threshold to be increased to 4 or 5 percent.
PKB legislator Ida Fauziyah said the parliamentary threshold should be set at a more conservative figure of 2.5. Smaller parties would have a higher chance of winning House seats with a lower threshold.
Sebastian said a strong coalition to back the ruling Democratic Party at the House was key to more productive legislation.
"If [President] SBY wants to keep the coalition solid then he should cast out those who oppose him. It is quite simple," he said.
Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta Legislators should raise work more effectively to deliberate targeted bills and give more attention to issues in the people's interest as the House of Representatives resume a hearing session on Monday, a parliamentary watchdog warned.
The House has set a target of 93 bills for this year's legislation priority, including 23 bills from last year.
The Indonesian Parliamentary Center (IPC) said the House should cut agendas that could affect its performance such as foreign trips for comparative study tours. "The foreign trips cut into legislators' work and it only wastes a lot of time," the IPC's researchers said in its analysis made available to The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
It said that overseas study tours would no longer be relevant in the era of sophisticated technology where legislators could access information to support deliberation through the Internet. The IPC said the House should consider reducing the duration of the recess period, currently held four times per year.
The IPC listed two crucial bills as a priority that should be completed this year ahead of the much-debated 2014 general elections. The two bills are the revisions of the 2008 Legislative Elections and the 2007 General Election laws.
"The revision of the two political bills should be completed this year to build a strong democracy in preparing the 2014 election," it said.
Critics and political observers have advised the legislators to finish the laws soon if they want smooth election processes.
Major parties such as the Democratic Party, Golkar Party and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) have pushed for plans to raise the parliamentary threshold from the current 2.5 percent, as stipulated in the 2008 Legislative Election Law, to between 4 and 5 percent.
The government has promised to submit the bill on the Criminal Law Procedure Code (KUHAP) to the House for deliberation this year. "We hope to submit the [KUHAP] bill in March at the latest," Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar said in Pekanbaru as quoted by Antara on Saturday.
The IPC also called on the legislators to address current issues such as rising food prices, Indonesia overseas worker protection, tax office corruption, the Indonesian Football Association opaque management and oil and gas blocks tenders.
The House has been under fire for its poor legislative performance. Civil society groups condemned the House when it proposed the rehabilitation of legislators' housing in Kalibata, South Jakarta, the allocation of pork barrel funds for legislators and the construction of the new building to include a swimming pool and spa. House speaker Marzuki Alie on Friday insisted that the new building have a swimming pool despite criticism from the public and several legislators. He said construction would begin this year.
The IPC said the House should perform better before demanding new facilities such as the building and recruiting three more expert staffers for each legislator. "Having a new building is fine, but the House should first resolve its classic problems."
Ina Parlina, Jakarta Legal analysts called on the Supreme Court to clarify its double verdict in the graft case of Sumita Tobing, the former director of state-owned TV broadcaster TVRI, if it wanted to maintain its credibility.
On Thursday, the Court sentenced Sumita to 18 months in prison despite the fact it had upheld a ruling by the Central Jakarta District Court acquitting her in August 2009.
Supreme Court chief justice Harifin A. Tumpa acknowledged the Court's website had made public a decision in 2009 upholding the Central Jakarta District Court ruling, but he brushed it off as an "error", insisting the latest ruling was correct.
University of Indonesia criminal law expert Rudy Satrio said the incident was shameful and urged the Court to clarify its decision. "The Court can't hear two appeals in the same case, let alone have two panels of judges issue different verdicts for one appeal," he told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. "This incident is scary. One of the two decisions is phony."
Sumita told the Post although she never received an official letter from the Court, she possessed a print-out of the 2009 verdict posted on the Court's official website, www.mahkamahagung.go.id. As of Saturday, the Web page was not accessible.
Sumita also received a notification of the 2009 ruling in a letter stating the prosecutors' appeal against her had been heard by the Court panel of justices consisting of Andi Abu Ayub Saleh, Djafni Djamal and Muhammad Taufik.
She said she received a second notification letter, stating justice Timur Manurung would preside over the hearing. "This was strange. They had confirmed the latest panel of justices would hear the same appeal," she said.
Thursday's ruling was issued by a different panel of justices, presided over by Artidjo Alkostar, who said he himself, M. Taufik, and Suryadjaya had reached a unanimous verdict to declare Sumita guilty.
Muhammadiyah University criminal procedural law expert Chairul Huda agreed with Rudy, saying the incident was absurd. "There cannot be two rulings for the same appeal," he said, adding the appellants could only file an appeal against a ruling in an appeal using a case review, or PK, which is the final stage of an appeal.
Chairul, however, said the statement on the Court's website could not be used as an "official" reference. Rudy added the error was a perfunctory excuse.
"There's no way the Supreme Court uploaded the wrong document and displayed the wrong ruling," he said, saying the two-year time gap between the two rulings was too large to be a mistake. "I urge Sumita to ask the Court to clarify the matter," Rudy said, adding she could request a copy of the verdict sent to the prosecutor in her case.
He emphasized the Court could face legal repercussions if Sumita could provide proof of the first Court ruling upholding her not-guilty verdict.
Sumita said she felt cheated by the Court's "double decisions".
"I never received a copy of Thursday's ruling. The Supreme Court all of a sudden told the public at a press conference they had sentenced me to prison."
In February 2009, the Central Jakarta District Court cleared Sumita of corruption in a TVRI production equipment procurement process. Prosecutors appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the verdict.
Media reports in 2003 said Sumita's corruption case was fabricated by four former TVRI directors after she implemented bureaucratic reforms at TVRI when she was president director between 2001 and 2003.
Activists from several prominent non-government organizations visited the Jakarta Police headquarters on Tuesday to ask about the seemingly lack of progress in solving a number of big cases from last year.
Indria Fernida, the deputy coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), specifically cited the attack on Indonesia Corruption Watch researcher Tama Satrya Langkun and the molotov bomb attack on the office of Tempo weekly magazine.
"Since the Jakarta Police has had a new chief, we haven't received any information about the case updates," she said.
The NGOs, among them Kontras, ICW, the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) and the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, are united under the Public Coalition for National Police Reform.
Both attacks have been linked to a 2005 case involving suspicious bank accounts supposedly belonging to 15 National Police generals.
In June 2010, the ICW tried to revive the case and submitted to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the judicial mafia task force proof of wire transfers to several accounts connected to one of the generals involved in the 2005 case.
A month after, two unidentified men threw molotov cocktails at Tempo magazine's office on July 5.
The week of the attack, the magazine had featured an in-depth report on the case. The morning the magazine was to have gone on sale, 30,000 copies were bought up by unknown parties, although there were reports that stacks of magazines were loaded into police cars.
Three days later ICW researcher Tama Satrya Langkun was ambushed by four unknown assailants upon his return from watching a World Cup soccer match in South Jakarta. Tama sustained multiple bruises and cuts to his head and was hospitalized for days. To this day, parties responsible in both attacks remain a mystery.
"We still don't know who was responsible for those attacks," the Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Sutarman said at the end of December.
Police have also refused to conduct any formal investigation into the suspicious accounts, saying that only two reports were connected to criminal activities and the officers involved had been charged long before the ICW made the allegations.
The activists also called on the police not to ignore the violence perpetrated by vigilante groups.
"We are asking the Jakarta Police Chief, as the highest security leader for Jakarta residents, to be more firm in taking legal actions against vigilante groups," Indria said.
The NGOs also alleged that police fabricated cases, especially those involving illegal drugs. "In drug-related cases, it is not seldom that police set people up, intending to lead a person to a position where he or she is caught red-handed with the drugs in their possession," she said.
Camelia Pasandaran Convicted businesswoman Artalyta Suryani will walk free from Tangerang prison in two weeks, after serving just half of a five-year sentence for graft.
Artalyta was sentenced to five years in jail in July 2008 for bribing a public prosecutor to drop a high-profile embezzlement case.
Artalyta, who is also known as Ayin, was found to have paid $660,000 cash to prosecutor Urip Gunawan in return for halting an investigation into businessman Sjamsul Nursalim.
Urip led the investigation into the alleged misuse of $3 billion of Bank Indonesia bailout funds by Sjamsul's bank, PT Bank Dagang Negara Indonesia, at the time of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
Artalyta, who spent part of her incarceration in a scandalously lavish prison cell, is believed to have received remissions of three months and 10 days in total.
These remissions came on top of a six-month reduction in her sentence, granted by the Supreme Court in April 2010. The Supreme Court initially rejected her appeal against her sentence in February 2009. However, after conducting a case review, it eventually ruled to reduce her sentence.
Even accounting for these concessions, Artalyta has served two and a half years in prison.
Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar has insisted, however, that she has served her time, and that she did not receive any additional cuts.
"She did not receive a remission on Independence Day last year," Patrialis said. "The Correctional Facilities Directorate [of the ministry] delayed providing her with any further remissions."
Reports had suggested the chief of the Tangerang Penitentiary had proposed providing her with additional remissions for good behavior, but his request was rejected.
"She is being released because she has served her time," Patrialis said. "If she received any further remissions she would have been out of prison by now."
Jakarta The World Bank expects Indonesia's economy to expand 6.2 percent in 2011, less than the official government estimate of 6.4 percent.
World Bank (WB) senior economist for Indonesia Enrique Blanco Armas said Thursday the economic growth target was not considered pessimistic, despite a recent statement by Vice President Boediono that the Indonesian economy could expand by up to 8 percent this year.
"I wouldn't consider this pessimistic if you see conditions in Europe," Enrique said at the World Bank office in Jakarta on Thursday.
Last month, the World Bank cut its economic growth estimate for Indonesia to 5.9 percent from 6 percent for full-year 2010, because of domestic- related supply constraint issues caused by weather anomalies that hampered harvests.
Local economists have also said weather anomalies have not only hampered economic growth but caused inflationary pressures mainly from volatile food prices.
The World Bank released its latest global report on Thursday, in which soaring food prices were considered the main focus for domestic consumption-reliant economies such as Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy with more than 230 million people accounting for 60 percent of its economy.
"Inflation is high or on the rise in many developing countries, notably China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka... Inflation mainly reflects drought-related increases in food prices," the report says.
The World Bank sees 2011 headline inflation at 6 percent for Indonesia, in line with the central bank's 4 to 6 percent target.
"What's more important is to monitor development in the next few months, most importantly on core inflation. Headline [inflation] increased mostly as a result of high food prices, so it's weather related. The government should address the supply side," Armas said. (est)
Bernie Moestafa Indonesia's stocks tumbled, with the benchmark index set for the biggest drop in more than two years, amid concern accelerating inflation will curb returns and prompt higher interest rates.
The Jakarta Composite index, the best performer among Asia's 15 biggest markets last year, fell 4 percent to 3,485.52 as of the noon local-time break, the most since December 2008 and extending a three-day drop to 7.9 percent. PT Bank Central Asia, Indonesia's largest lender by market value, sank 7 percent and PT Indosat, the nation's No. 2 telephone company, plunged 7.5 percent. Indonesia's rupiah was near its weakest level in two weeks.
The central bank may raise its benchmark interest rate by a "cumulative" 100 basis points starting in February to curb inflation, Morgan Stanley said in a note today. December inflation accelerated to 6.96 percent from a year ago compared with the central bank's rate of 6.5 percent.
"People expect the real interest rate to stay positive and they're not seeing this here," said Fadlul Imansyah, who helps manage $210 million at Jakarta-based PT CIMB Principal Asset Management. If the difference between inflation and the benchmark interest rates "is negative that may prompt investors to leave the market for a while."
Indonesia's stock index jumped 46 percent last year as the central bank kept its benchmark rate at a record low for 17 months to boost Southeast Asia's biggest economy. The index has fallen 5.9 percent this year as inflation accelerates, increasing speculation that borrowing costs will increase.
Palm oil futures have risen 46 percent in 12 months while crude oil has climbed 7.9 percent, adding to food and energy input costs.
Indonesia is preparing a national campaign to encourage people to plant chilies, a component in the consumer price index, to help curb inflation, the Jakarta Globe reported Jan. 6, citing Agriculture Minister Suswono.
The government will remove import duties on wheat flour, soya beans, rice and livestock feed starting this week to help stabilize prices, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa said on Jan. 7 after data last week showed consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in 20 months in December. The rupiah, which advanced 4.6 percent last year, has lost 0.5 percent so far this year on concern European nations will struggle to raise funds, slowing a global economic recovery.
The rupiah traded at 9,050 per dollar, compared with 9,028 at the end of last week, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The currency reached 9,041 on Jan. 7, its weakest level since Dec. 28.
Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, may not exceed 5 percent this year even as costlier commodities threaten to push consumer-price gains above 6 percent, the central bank said Jan. 7. Indonesia ordered banks to set aside more cash as reserves to reduce inflationary pressure in 2010, while refraining from joining Malaysia, Thailand and India in boosting borrowing costs.
"Interest rate normalization should start in February 2011 to buy insurance against what are clearly rising inflation pressures and to prevent rising inflation expectations from becoming too sticky," Morgan Stanley economists Deyi Tan, Chetan Ahya and Shweta Singh wrote in a note today. "This could be delayed by one to two months if Bank Indonesia waits for core inflation to actually edge closer to 5 percent."
Bank Central Asia fell 7 percent to 5,950 rupiah. PT Bank Mandiri, the nation's largest bank by assets, declined 6.3 percent to 6,000 rupiah while PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia, the second-biggest by assets, dropped 6.6 percent to 9,150 rupiah.
Indosat lost 7.5 percent to 4,950 rupiah and PT Astra International, Indonesia's biggest company by market value, dropped 5.6 percent to 46,250 rupiah.
PT Matahari Putra Prima, an Indonesian retailer, plunged 7.8 percent to 1,540 rupiah after saying it will retain its hypermarket business while inviting "strategic partners" to invest in or buy a majority stake in the company.
In a decision that not only upholds the Constitution but also sends a strong message to all Indonesians, the Supreme Court has struck down the Bogor administration's request to uphold the revocation of a building permit for a local Christian church.
The right to worship is enshrined in the Constitution and with this decision, it is hopefully now enshrined in the country's social fabric. We applaud the court's brave decision despite the pressure exerted by fringe fundamentalist groups.
Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) has been holding its services on the sidewalk in front of its half-constructed church for the past year. The site was sealed for much of 2010 after years of wrangling with the city administration, which revoked its building permit in February 2008.
In June 2009, the church won a court appeal filed against the revocation, with the State Administrative Court ordering municipal authorities to put an end to the closure of the building site.
But the Bogor administration refused to comply, sealed the site again in March 2010 and said it would stay closed until the case was reviewed by the Supreme Court.
This decision reflects the country's maturing democracy and the court's role in strengthening that democracy. It is critical that both the judiciary as well as the administrative arms of the government perform their duties independently and impartially if the people and the nation are to benefit from democracy.
Religious freedom has come under strong and sustained attack in recent years. Hard-line groups have been allowed to ride roughshod over and intimidate minorities. The court's decision will hopefully send a strong signal that no group can violate the Constitution with impunity.
The Bogor administration must now allow the church to build its place of worship without delay. The Supreme Court verdict is binding and is the last word on the case. There is no excuse for the city not to comply.
This sad situation has dragged on for far too long. We have seen how the congregation has had to worship on the side of the road, even on Christmas, and sometimes to the jeers of a vociferous crowd of protesters kept at bay by police personnel.
This ridiculous situation should, and must, now be put to rest.
Indonesia can only be a great nation if all Indonesians feel that they are treated equally under the law. That they have the right to free speech and freedom of worship in accordance with their faith. The very same freedoms that our Constitution guarantees.
The Supreme Court has set down a precedent on how it views these critical issues. The government must follow its lead and provide the protection that all minority groups rightfully deserve.
Oktovianus Pogau It's been almost 10 years since the 2001 Law on Special Autonomy in Papua came into being. The law was introduced to solve the numerous problems, especially issues of social inequality, between Papua and other regions in Indonesia.
The Special Autonomy Law was the greatest delegation of power the Indonesian government would allow itself to give to the indigenous people of Papua.
As such, the law was expected to provide more opportunities to and expand the participation of the indigenous people of Papua in all areas of development. However, many Papuans believe autonomy has failed.
Why and how could this have happened?
To facilitate the process of special autonomy, the central government established the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) as a culturally representative institution of indigenous Papuans.
It came into being two years after special autonomy was enforced, through a December 2004 presidential decree. The main functions and tasks of the MRP were to protect the rights of all Papuans, based on respect for tradition and culture; empower Papuan women; and strengthen the harmony of religious life in the region.
In keeping with the spirit of the Special Autonomy Law, the assembly consists of a mix of Papuans selected to represent indigenous men, women and the region's various religious and ethnic groups.
There are currently 45 members in the MRP 41 representatives plus four leaders. However, the assembly's performance to date has been less than satisfactory. In February 2008, Papuan protesters and college students gathered at the MRP office demanding that the ineffective body be disbanded.
Papua's special autonomy came into force coupled with a large amount of central government funding. This funding was expected to be used to help the region catch up with other areas in Indonesia in terms of development.
Government funding has ranged from Rp 2.4 trillion ($266 million) in 2004 to an estimated Rp 5.8 trillion in 2011. The money was intended to finance various vulnerable sectors such as the economy, education and health care for the people of Papua.
However, in many ways these sectors have seen little improvement, while local officials have taken advantage of corruption opportunities presented by the inflow of government money.
Special Autonomy Fund money also appears to have gone astray.
Papua's governor, Barnabas Suebu, wrote in his book "We Do the Planting, We Do the Watering, God Makes it Grow" that about 80 percent of the Special Autonomy Fund went to provincial and district government officials and was wasted rather than used to fund development in poor communities.
The process of awarding funds to Papua in the form of block grants has proven to be an inappropriate policy. This is because the block grants are provided to the provincial government without clear tasks or functions. The money is then misspent and does not reach its intended target the people in the villages.
Because of the misuse of the Special Autonomy Fund, living conditions for the people of Papua are deteriorating rapidly.
Despite the government budget allocation of Rp 22 trillion to the region of four million people, infrastructure remains underdeveloped. In contrast, West Java has a population of more than 40 million people and receives only Rp 10 trillion, but has much better infrastructure.
A thorough evaluation of the Special Autonomy Law should be conducted, and the Special Autonomy Fund audited.
These are the appropriate and necessary measures that need to be taken in order to keep special autonomy on the right track in the next few years and support its implementation.
In addition to auditing the Special Autonomy Fund, the central government also needs to establish an independent institution responsible for controlling and supervising the use of the fund. It would be better if this institution was not bound by the governing bureaucracy.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made public calls for Papua's special autonomy to be evaluated immediately, including an audit of the Special Autonomy Fund.
Areas that need to be carefully evaluated include budget management and supervision. The evaluation and auditing of autonomy funds may just be the wisest step the government could take to support Papua's Special Autonomy Law in the future.
The Papuan people are still waiting for the best way to improve their living conditions and welfare. We remain hopeful.
[Oktovianus Pogau is a member of the Papua Solidarity Society. He lives in Jakarta.]
Local military chiefs in two regencies in East Java set an unwanted political precedent last week by heavily and effectively demanding two local TV stations cancel the scheduled broadcasting of an opera on our prominent but controversial national hero, Tan Malaka.
In this country where many people are paranoid about communism, tolerance and pluralism, the action of Kediri military commander Lt. Col. Bambang Sudarmanto and his Malang counterpart naturally win a big applause.
Bambang, as reported by The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, insisted that the Opera Tan Malaka TV show should be banned because the central figure in the program was a communist. But he forgot that Tan Malaka is a national hero, and was one of the country's most outstanding founding fathers.
Some may regard the Army officers act of forcing their will on media institutions as heroic, but they have committed two fundamental violations of the Constitution.
First, the military leaders have blatantly defied the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
The nation made an amazing progress in transforming its state from authoritarian into a full-fledge democracy in less than a decade after the fall of Soeharto in May 1998. Any attempts to weaken the pillars of our democracy therefore should not be tolerated as they threaten the fundamentals of this nation.
Second, the TNI has committed to the civil supremacy principle as a result of its sweeping reforms. The amended Constitution restricts the military's role to merely national defense or simply directing the military "to return to the barracks".
It is a big relief, however, that the Indonesian Military (TNI) spokesman made it clear Tuesday that the military should not be involved in politics.
We must fairly acknowledge the military's tremendous progress in the reform process. Now we hardly see traces of their past deeds. Of course it still has many unresolved issues on its hands, especially past human rights violations cases implicating the armed forces and military business.
But we should not let temptations facing the military to regain its lucrative power remain there. A widening gap of living conditions between the military and police personnel is just an example of the pull factors that might mean a possible return to the good old days The police force, which used to be part of the military under Soeharto, is now fully in charge of domestic security and public order, depriving the military of extra income.
The government has moved to improve the military's welfare. But in a country where corruption is so rampant, civil servants and the military are often very dependent on side jobs.
But no matter how sympathetic we are with the reality of confronting the military, we should allow no room for excuses and no room for a military regime to revive.
The ban on the opera in Kediri and Malang is a litmus test for the TNI to prove its pledge to guard democracy and reforms, and for the government to protect freedom of expression of citizens.
Donny Syofyan, Padang The newly revised Law on Political Parties has sparked public concern after the House of Representatives recently passed it. The law raises the ceiling for donations to political parties by corporations by 67 percent to Rp 7.5 billion (US$833,000) for individuals to a maximum of Rp 1 billion per year.
House legislators argued that increasing the donation ceiling was necessary since political parties need a lot of money to finance their activities.
Abdul Malik Haramain, a National Awakening Party (PKB) politician and member of House Commission II on legal affairs, said the core argument for the increase was to augment the parties' grassroots capabilities. He said the people had to be educated before the revised law came into effect.
The law is laden with shortcomings.
Although the law requires that all contributions be voluntary and transparent, it does not provide measures to ensure transparency and proper auditing. Neither does it ensure that corporations do not violate the cap.
Transparency seems to have been placed in a corner since the law has no clauses addressing the disclosure of donor identities. It is no secret that some major donors do not wish to be identified, while the General Elections Commission and Election Supervisory Board lack the time to verify donors. Further, the origins of corporate donations are seldom questioned by political parties and may easily come from illegal sources.
The essence of political funding reform is to increase the transparency of political donations. Even if recipients do not properly report donations, they would likely be able to escape criminal liability by filing a revised financial report later. Recipients will only get into real trouble if investigators such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) can prove that a donation was unreported due to serious negligence or was made with criminal intent.
To increase transparency, the law should severely punish those who falsify reports on political donations, regardless of whether the acts were accidental or intentional. It is necessary that people found guilty of intentionally making false reports not only face years in prison and fines of hundred millions of rupiah, but also lose the right to run in elections and vote for a specific period.
The law should ban contributions to individual legislators, where contributions are made to a political party before making their way to the legislator's pocket.
Currently, the origin of contributions paid to individual legislators or politicians through a political party or its fund management organ can be concealed, clearing the way for industry lobbies to bribe legislators. To stamp out this practice, the practice of earmarking donations for a specific legislator must be banned. The absence of transparency will easily drive political parties to side with corporations instead of representing the public.
People have already witnessed, particularly at local level, that the government offers protection to corrupt businessmen. Moreover, heaps of legislators are blinded by greed. Legislators often say they need a lot of money for political activities, but they decline to cut spending. Do they need to spend a lot of money holding meetings at expensive hotels or use money to hire women as party companions? The answer is "no."
Political parties have never made public their sources of funding. It is too bad that the revised law does not assign one central body where all the reports are filed in a unified database so that the general public can have easy access to the information. The body could then serve to reduce flaws in the reporting system. Many found that political parties' accounting has always been sloppy. Once the a report has been submitted, no one checks it for accuracy.
Legislators may claim that parties will not risk their credibility by taking money from obscure sources. Yet, it is not impossible for cover-ups and distractions to muddy the waters of investigations which would, in turn, lead politicians into playing a cat-and-mouse game with law enforcement.
The issue of politics and money always boils down to the issue of legal control. But legal control always leaves a way for politicians and lobby groups to exploit loopholes. The proposed law suits wily and cunning politicians, exposing the shady relationship between politics and money.
[The writer is a graduate of the University of Canberra in Australia and lecturer at Andalas University, Padang.]