Jakarta Fourteen years ago, it was normal to see dozens of soldiers guarding Jl. Cendana in Menteng, Central Jakarta, which was then probably the nation's most famous address.
Only those with special permits could traverse the street, which was home to the private residence of then president Soeharto.
Now, more than a decade after its most famous resident disappeared from the Indonesian political scene, the street has become just another address in Menteng.
Soeharto died on Jan. 27, 2008, almost 10 years after he resigned. He owned three houses on the street numbers 6, 8 and 10 which were vacated soon after his death. Today, only a few servants, cooks and security guards remain.
Tejo, 65, one of the security guards in the complex, said that the "Cendana family" referring to the Soehartos has plans to turn the houses into a museum. "I don't really know about the details. I think the family members are still discussing it," Tejo said.
It used to be that foreign dignitaries and other very important people visited Soeharto on Jl. Cendana, for business purposes, bilateral negotiations or for friendly visits, even after his resignation.
After Soeharto died, however, such guests have been few and far between, except on Idul Fitri. Soeharto's oldest daughter, Siti Hardijanti "Tutut" Rukmana, usually holds an open house on the Muslim holiday, inviting her father's former associates to visit.
Mandra "Jack" Guna, 52, a security guard in the area, bore witness to how important the street was during the New Order.
When Soeharto was in power, the local community unit (RW) leader told Jack not to allow scavengers to enter the area, he said. "Jack, don't let any scavengers enter Jl. Cendana after 6 a.m.," Jack said, repeating the words of the community leader.
The area was also considered a "sterile" quarter, where no civilians were allowed. Soldiers guarding the house would punish violators by forcing them to perform squat jumps.
Other members of the extended Soeharto family continue to live in the neighborhood, including Soeharto's sons Bambang Triatmodjo and Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra.
Andi, 63, a bakso (meatball) vendor who has set up shop next to Tommy's house since 1970, said that much had changed on the street since Soeharto's death. "It's just another road in Jakarta now. No more military personnel, no more people squat jumping. People can aimlessly travel through this road now," he said.
Also gone are the barbed wired barricades and the soldiers guarding the house, Andi added.
He recalled that several of Soeharto's associates regularly came to visit the president after he resigned, including, former Indonesian Military commander Gen. (ret.) Wiranto; his former vice president, Try Sutrisno; and senior Golkar Party politicians such as Agung Laksono.
Andi also told stories that illustrated exactly how serious the former president was about security along Jl. Cendana. According to Andi, Soeharto once ordered that the Embassy of the Soviet Union be moved because he thought it was too close to his private compound.
The site of the embassy was then transformed into the headquarters of the Presidential Security Forces (Paspampres). The headquarters of Paspampres has since moved. Tommy is said to be building a new home on the site.
However, 14 years after Soeharto's resignation, one thing is clear: People no longer mention Jl. Cendana in hushed tones. The epicenter of power, at least for the next two years, has moved to Cikeas, in Bogor, West Java, where President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono resides. (fzm)
Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta Fourteen years after president Soeharto stepped down, which marked the ushering in of democracy and reform, former student activists who took to the streets on the days leading up to the historic May 21, 1998 resignation say the country has gone back to square one with a small group of elites once again controlling the country's politics for their own interests.
Former student activist Ray Rangkuti, who currently chairs the Indonesian Civil Society Circle (Lima), said democratization had failed because politicians continued to compromise the country's political system.
"In terms of regulations and laws, our political system is actually more democratic. However, elites tend to manipulate their mechanism to serve certain interests. They have turned a blind eye to the ideals that we have been fighting for since 1998," Ray said over the weekend.
He said that the regional direct elections system, which had been praised as the crowning achievement of the country's democratization process, had failed to bring tangible improvements to the people's welfare. "Democracy is only seen as a mechanism without its true values being implemented," Ray said.
Another former student activist, Haris Azhar, now Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator, said that reform in the human rights sector only yielded legislation without sincere efforts to resolve past human rights abuses.
"We have actually seen progress in terms of human rights diplomacy in international politics. However, the lack of real efforts to deal with domestic human rights problems has led us to think that the government only cares about its standing in the international community," Haris said.
He also said that the failure to prosecute those responsible for human rights abuse had enabled them to benefit from the system. Haris blamed the administration of President Yudhoyono for this failure.
"It is so bad that precedence of impunity has allowed many human rights violators to continue to violate the rights of people as well as to serve firms or political parties," he said. "It has been 14 years since Soeharto's fall, but the political transition has been abused by those wishing to serve only their interests," he added.
And the fact that vigilante groups could grow in power against minority groups had made a lie of the claim that the country had made progress in human rights issues, Haris said. "People even have the impression that these violent groups are supported and protected by the government," he said.
Haris said that Yudhoyono shared the blame for the problem as he appeared busy securing his position until his tenure ended in 2014.
Younger activists also share the conviction that the reform movement had reached an impasse.
The chairman of the Indonesian Students' Association (PPI) in the United Kingdom, Miftachudin, said people no longer believed in the government as it reneged on the promise of reform. "The government has been inconsistent in its efforts to deliver on its promises, and as a result people have lost trust in the government," he said.
Miftachudin, however, said the heroism from the 1998 student uprising would live on. "It was a hard-won victory by our brothers in 1998, we will keep the spirit alive," said Miftachudin, who has lived in Manchester for one year.
Jusman Dalle, a college student from Makassar, South Sulawesi, said the only good thing about the reform era was that the economy continued to grow after the debilitating financial crisis in the late 1990s.
"The only positive achievement I can see in this reform era is the economy has continued to grow, although the effects have yet to reach people at all social levels," he said.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Bayu Marhaenjati When President Suharto was in power from 1966 to 1998, no one dared speak ill of him or his family without fear of reprisal or imprisonment.
So when Suharto's youngest son, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, was convicted of graft in 2000, it marked yet another a point in the decline of the once-powerful Cendana clan, named after the leafy stretch of road in Menteng, Central Jakarta, where Suharto lived.
After Suharto passed away in 2008, the family's influence in Indonesian politics diminished further. His eldest daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, known as Tutut, failed to make anything out of her fledgling political party, while Tommy was soundly defeated in his bid to become the chairman of the Golkar Party, which for decades was Suharto's political vehicle.
Tommy went on to found the National Republican Party, but it failed to qualify for the 2014 legislative elections. Now he is reportedly considering a move to the People's Conscience Party (Hanura), founded by Wiranto, Suharto's last military chief.
"There are attempts by Tommy to enter Hanura, but nothing is certain yet," a source in the party told the Jakarta Globe.
Saleh Husin, a Hanura legislator, would not confirm the reported move. "If Tommy wants to join Hanura, then it's good. We welcome anyone," he said.
As political figureheads, the remaining members of the clans are effectively outcasts, says Arya Fernandez, an analyst at Charta Politika. Behind the scenes, though, they still retain huge clout. He says none of the children has the character or political authority of the clan patriarch himself necessary to front a political party.
"The only way the Cendana clan can survive in the Indonesian political scene is to revive the old networks from Suharto's time and build new ones," Arya says. "In other words, they have to remain behind the scenes."
In its business holdings, the family has also experienced a decline, though not as severe as in the political arena.
In its heyday, the family and its cronies owned hundreds of companies, including television stations, banks, hotels, real estate firms and mining and logging companies.
In May 1999, Time magazine estimated the Suharto family fortune at $15 billion, including $9 billion reportedly stashed in an Austrian bank. During its time in power, an estimated $73 billion passed through its hands, the report said.
But soon after Suharto died, Tutut became embroiled in a business dispute over Televisi Pendidikan Indonesia, a TV station she founded in the 1990s with media mogul Hary Tanoesoedibjo. Hary eventually wrested control of the station and renamed it MNC TV, prompting Tutut to launch a legal case over what she saw as an illegal takeover.
The Tanoesoedibjos also took over a majority stake in Bimantara Group, a holding company co-founded by Bambang Trihatmodjo, Suharto's third child. Bambang saw his stake in Bimantara slashed from 40 percent to 10 percent since 2008, before he eventually left the company last month.
Ari Sigit, the son of Suharto's second child, Sigit Hardjojujanto, has become the latest of the Cendana family to be entangled in a business dispute.
Ari was named a suspect earlier this month after a firm he was linked to was accused of taking a Rp 2.5 billion ($270,000) advance payment for a dredging project without actually doing the work.
But Arya says the family continues to hold its own when it comes to its businesses. The clan's main strength has always been in business, he points out, even during Suharto's rule.
That, he says, is why most of the family's business cronies continue to profit from their dealings despite being ostracized from politics. "They have maintained their businesses quite well," he says.
Banjir Ambarita, Jayapura Police in the violence-wracked town of Mulia in Papua's Puncak Jaya district have confirmed that three civilians were shot and injured on Thursday by suspected separatists who killed a motorcycle taxi driver earlier in the day.
Sr. Comr. Wachyono, the Papua Police's chief of detectives, said that following the fatal attack on Arkilaus Refwutu, 48, a joint police and military patrol was dispatched to search for the assailants.
"When they swept the area in the vicinity of the crime scene, they discovered three civilians who had also been shot," he said.
He added that the three men were immediately taken to Mulia Hospital, where they were placed under intensive care for gunshot wounds. "All we know for now is that three civilians were shot, but we don't know how the incident played out," he said.
The injured people have been identified as Tarinus Tabuni, 17, a high school student who was grazed in the head by a ricochet; Teringgen Murib, 55, a farmer who was shot in the leg; and Yuniter Murib, 20, another farmer who was shot in the leg and grazed in the arm by a bullet's ricochet.
Teringgen was later evacuated by air to a larger hospital in Jayapura due to the severity of his injury, said Adj. Sr. Comr. Marcelis, the Puncak Jaya Police chief.
All three men were found shot and bleeding following the earlier ambush on Arkilaus, a motorcycle taxi driver who was shot in the head by unknown assailants as he was driving a customer home to Yalinggua village in Mulia.
The police took Arkilaus's body to Jayapura late on Thursday for an autopsy as part of the investigation into the shooting.
The police initially suspected an "armed civilian group" of killing the motorcycle taxi driver, but they now say that the follow-up attacks against the three other civilians indicate the attackers were likely members of the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM), a militant group that has been waging a decades-long, low-level insurgency in the province.
The attacks on Thursday were the latest acts of violence to hit Mulia recently. Since the start of the year, there have been at least six shootings of civilians and security personnel there, leaving six people dead.
Banjir Ambarita Police from the mobile brigade unit (Brimob) reportedly shot five civilians in Paniai, Papua on Tuesday evening one victim is dead and four are said to be critically injured.
The shooting took place during a brawl between the five men and three Brimob officers at a billiard-hall near a traditional gold mining site in Nomowodide village, Paniai. The civilians include Melianus Kegepe, who has died, Lukas Kegepe, Amos Kegepe and Alpius Kegepe. The fifth man has yet to be identified.
Paniai Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Anton Diance said the victims were in critical condition and would be flown to the neighboring district of Nabire. "We're awaiting the plane to evacuate the critically-injured victims to a hospital in Nabire," he said.
Anton made it clear the three Brimob officers identified as First Brig. Ferianto Pala, Second Brig. Agus and Second Brig. Edi were responsible for the shooting, saying the officers were forced to retaliate when the men attacked them.
Anton explained that the incident began when the five civilians arrived at the billiard-hall owned by a local resident. All the tables were occupied, but the five men reportedly forced their way onto a table while yelling and threatening the owner, who then reported them to officers at a nearby Brimob post. The officers arrived shortly after.
"But, suddenly one of them hit Ferianto very hard with a billiard que, causing the officer to fall then the five tried to grab his weapon," Anton said. Second Brig. Edi shot one of the men, when another man pulled out a knife. Edi fired another shot, according to Anton.
"It became chaotic then," Anton said. "We suspect that this incident was planned, to provoke the officers. We've instructed our officers around the location to control their emotions, and to not easily fire their weapons." he added.
Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh Aceh Party politician Syukri Abdullah and his female business colleague were shot dead on Tuesday night as they were driving through the district of Bireuen to their respective homes in the neighboring province of Lhokseumawe. A third passenger in the victim's vehicle sustained minor injuries.
Syukri, 36, and Cut Yetti, 39, were shot dead near the village of Paya Rangkuloh at around midnight on Tuesday. "The perpetrator drove a minivan in front of the victim's automobile and fired shots," Gustav Leo, a spokesman for the Aceh police, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.
The victims were in the front seats of a Honda CRV a third passenger, Yetti's nephew T. Muhammad Yasir, 16, was injured from pieces of shattered glass.
Aceh Party spokesman Fachrul Razi said Syukri was a secretary to the party's Lhokseumawe branch, and the commander of the Lhokseumawe branch of the Aceh Transitional Committee, the body set up to accommodate former members of the now-defunct rebel group Free Aceh Movement (GAM) the local Aceh Party was formed by former GAM guerillas.
Gustav believes the shooter used an AK-47 rifle, and said police found a number of bullets at the crime scene. But police have yet to say how many assailants were involved. "We suspect that the perpetrator had been following the victim several hours before the shooting," Gustav said.
Gustav could not speculate on a possible motive, but said that the killing did not seem political because Syukri was not involved in any immediate elections. "The motive seems personal, but we are still working on the case," he added.
A number of shootings many of them fatal were reported in Aceh ahead of April's elections for provincial heads, district leaders and their deputies. Bireuen will hold a separate election to select the new district and the deputy next month.
The government is drastically cutting the budgets of three independent commissions that focus on rights protections, potentially crippling their advocacy programs and studies.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak) will see their budgets slashed by 30 percent for the remainder of the year.
The commissions said in a joint statement that the cuts would have a significant impact on their ongoing programs. "The unilateral budget cuts automatically have implications for the fulfilment of human rights and the constitutional rights of [Indonesian] citizens," said Masruchah, the deputy chairwoman of Komnas Perempuan.
Desti Murdijana, the secretary general of the organization, said the cuts would have an effect on women. "One of the impacts of the budget cuts will be the delay of our annual study on violence against women in Indonesia. [The study] is our way of tracking down the figures and trends each year," she said.
Masruchah said her commission would only receive Rp 7 billion ($755,000) this year. "This will affect 85 percent of our programs," she said. "There was no discussion before this [announcement]. We tried sending a letter to the Finance Ministry but we did not get a response."
Komnas Perempuan also gets funding from donors, which Masruchah said was just enough to cover its overhead costs.
Komnas Anak chairwoman Maria Ulfa Anshori said her agency was already struggling to keep programs running on a shoestring budget of Rp 8.6 billion last year.
Joseph Adi Prasetyo, deputy chairman of Komnas HAM, said that his agency's budget had already dwindled by as much as Rp 7.3 billion from last year's Rp 53.7 billion. The figure was reduced again last month to Rp 31 billion. "My question is, are human rights still high on the government's agenda or has the government simply stopped caring about human rights?" he said.
The commissions are urging the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) and the Finance Ministry to reconsider the cuts and have asked the House of Representatives to relay their concerns.
The government has been slashing spending since the House rejected a plan to raise the price of subsidized fuel.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta Representatives from human rights groups say they will urge the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to issue recommendations forcing the Indonesian government to guarantee the rights of religious minority groups.
"We will specifically address the increasing violence against religious minorities so that the UN's human rights body can decide on concrete recommendations for the Indonesian government," Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) executive director Rafendi Djamin told The Jakarta Post from Geneva.
Rafendi added that the NGO delegation would also highlight the murder of rights activist Munir Said Thalib to add urgency to the need to abolish impunity.
The Indonesian delegation to the UNHRC's quadrennial Universal Periodic Review comprises government officials, representatives from the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the National Commission on the Protection from Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and the National Commission on Child Protection (KPAI), as well as members of a number of rights groups, including the HRWG and the LGBT rights group Arus Pelangi.
Rafendi said that the HRWG and other civil society organizations had also prepared a damning assessment of human rights in the country.
In a 17-page summary report prepared for the UNHRC summit, 32 rights groups concluded that "in the past four years, there have been a series of retrograde steps in the implementation of state obligations to respect, fulfill and protect human rights, mainly in the freedom of religion, the protection of migrant workers and corporate responsibility in respecting human rights".
The report further says that freedom of religion has suffered a significant setback, as reflected in the attacks on Ahmadis in Cikeusik, Banten, and the constant harassment of the GKI Yasmin congregation in Bogor, West Java.
"The situation for religious minorities has significantly worsened since 2008," the report says, citing Human Rights Watch (HRW) data on the increasing attacks on minority religious groups nationwide from 135 incidents in 2007 to 216 in 2010 and 184 attacks in the first few months of 2011.
The report adds 30 cases, including the recent closure of 17 churches in Aceh, recorded by the HRWG between Jan. 1 and May 7 this year.
The report also highlights violence against women, children, migrant workers, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as internally displaced persons.
The Indonesian government had also issued 207 regulations deemed discriminatory toward some members of society as of August last year. The regulations include the 2008 Pornography Law, a decree on female circumcision issued by the Health Ministry in 2010 and more than 200 ordinances issued by local governments, the report says.
In the report civil society organizations also urge the UNHRC to recommend that the Indonesian government resolve past gross human rights violations including the anti-Chinese riots of 1998, the Semanggi shootings and the Wasior and Wamena massacres in Papua.
Separately, the human rights watchdog Setara Institute said that the government must resolve past human rights abuses or it would be found guilty by omission by the international community.
"The government is committing violations of human rights if it allows so many perpetrators to walk freely. Therefore, it must soon take action to bring those criminals to justice to prove to the international community that we respect human rights in this country," Setara Institute chairman Hendardi said.
Fidelis E. Satriastanti The government's upcoming report on human rights conditions here to the United Nations is a fluff piece that glosses over the true state of affairs in the country, a rights activist said over the weekend.
Elfansuri, a senior official at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said on Saturday that the report for the Universal Periodic Review was "quite normative."
"It talks about the positive when it doesn't need to," she said. "It should talk about the problems, such as the growing intolerance toward minority groups who should be getting protection from the government."
She also said the report, to be presented at the UPR in Geneva on Wednesday, made it seem as if the long-running standoff over the GKI Yasmin church in Bogor was over, when in reality the local authorities were continuing to keep it sealed off in spite of a Supreme Court order to reopen the church.
"The report just says that there has been a ruling on the matter by the Supreme Court, which any uninformed person would assume meant the conflict was resolved. But it's not, the terror continues," Elfansuri said.
"It also says that Komnas HAM is working with the police on the issue of LGBT and minority rights, and while that's true, it doesn't mention whether there's been any change in attitude by the police."
She added that in 2010 and 2011, the rights commission had received 30 reports of disputes involving houses of worship.
Choirul Anam, a member of the Indonesian delegation to the UPR, denied that the government had withheld the truth in its report. "The government, with great courage, admits there are a lot of human rights problems here and promises to make changes," he said.
Choirul, from the Human Rights Working Group, said he hoped the upcoming review in Geneva, at which all of the UN member states will present a summary of human rights conditions in their countries, would deliver recommendations that Indonesia could follow up on.
He said that on the issue of religious freedom, there have already been recommendations from civil society groups for the government to repeal a controversial joint ministerial decree on houses of worship.
Since being issued in 2006, the decree has been used by conservative and hard-line Muslims to oppose the presence of churches and mosques belonging to the Ahmadiyah sect.
Another recommendation is for courts to stop "letting the perpetrators off and instead punishing the victims" in cases of religious conflict, and for the police not to show bias in such cases.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta Rights group have urged the Indonesian government not to deny the true state of the country's human rights record when it presents a report before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) later this week.
The Indonesian delegation, comprising government officials and representatives of a number of rights groups, is scheduled to present a report on the condition of the country's human rights at the UNHRC's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 23.
"Of course, there is progress, but we also have to admit that Indonesia has seen major threats against religious minorities and people of different sexual orientation. I believe that the international community has also witnessed this and for this reason, we challenge the government to acknowledge this at the forum because we have not seen this in the report submitted to the UNHRC," Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) executive director Rafendi Djamin said over the weekend.
HRWG deputy director Choirul Anam said that the government's written report gave no specifics on a number cases of human rights abuses.
"There is nothing about the perpetrators of assault against religious minority groups and those of different sexual orientation. Most of people who attacked members of minority groups like the Ahmadis in Cikeusik, West Java, could walk free," he said.
The group also alleged that the government attempted to mislead the international community on human rights issues. "The report will likely lead people to believe that the GKI Yasmin saga has been settled, or that nothing serious occurs here against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) communities," Choirul said.
In the report, the Indonesian government claims that it is looking for a solution to the Ahmadi problem. The government claims that Law No. 1/PNPS/1965 does not prohibit Ahmadis from professing and practicing their beliefs but protects them in perform their activities as it only regulates religious proselytization."
The report also cites the 2008 joint ministerial decree on the Ahmadiyah as a legal foundation to prevent violence against minority groups, including the Ahmadiyah.
In its recommendation, HRWG and other rights groups said the regulation served as a means to limit the rights of minority groups. "We therefore endorse any efforts to revoke these regulations as they have been used to legitimize violence against minority groups," said Choirul.
The groups also endorsed a resolution to review the murder case of rights activist Munir Said Thalib, as well as the alleged involvement of former State Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy chief Muchdi Purwopranjono in the plot. Separately, the Foreign Ministry said the government would give a comprehensive report during the meeting.
The ministry's director for human rights and humanitarian affairs Muhammad Anshor told The Jakarta Post that the government would also give details on a number of challenges, including the GKI Yasmin saga.
"We will present all the developments in terms of laws and institutions. The country has achieved a lot since 2008. But we also have to admit that tolerance is still a problem. We keep working to find solutions. We have yet to meet all the recommendations made by the UNHRC in 2008," he said.
The Foreign Ministry is in charge of making the report, including compiling reports from relevant ministries and agencies at local and national levels.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Ismira Lutfia Every Thursday afternoon without fail, they turn up outside the front gates of the State Palace in Central Jakarta, a group of just over a dozen elderly people.
Among them is Maria Catarina Sumarsih, the mother of Benardinus Realino Norma Irawan, one of the university students shot and killed by the military in the Semanggi shooting in November 1998, during the heady days of transition in the months after Suharto's downfall.
Seventeen civilians were killed during that three-day period, but the crime was never resolved and the perpetrators never brought to justice.
"After so many years the [police] dossier on the case was rejected by the Attorney General's Office," Sumarsih says. "At the House of Representatives too, our case has languished. But as the families of the victims, we demand that the third agenda of the reform era, which is supremacy of law, be upheld."
So to press their case, Sumarsih and her group have for years gathered outside the palace once a week to call for a full resolution of the Semanggi incident as well as other human rights abuses committed under Suharto's New Order regime.
Known as "Kamisan" (Kamis is Indonesian for Thursday), the group takes its inspiration from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina who struggled to get to the truth of the forced abductions of their children.
For Sumarsih, the Kamisan movement is meant to keep the past violations in the national conscience in order to prevent a greater crime that of forgetting.
"If we stayed quiet, the government would also remain silent and there would be no attempt to bring these cases to justice," she says.
Forgetting, she adds, is a typical Indonesian trait to bury the ghosts of the past rather than confront them. "The slaughter of 1965 [of suspected communists] remains forgotten and unresolved. Sooner or later, so will the events of 1998," Sumarsih says.
This is already happening, she argues. She cites the case of Prabowo Subianto, the commander of the Army's notorious Kopassus special forces during the tumultuous early months of 1998 leading up to Suharto's resignation.
Though tarred with allegations of human rights abuses, coupled with his family ties to the strongman, Prabowo has since reinvented himself as a populist politician.
He founded the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) in 2008, and a year later it won enough votes to join the House. A year later, Prabowo joined the presidential election as the running mate to Megawati Sukarnoputri. The pair finished second to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Boediono.
Sumarsih says that what really outraged the Kamisan participants was that some polls now name Prabowo as the favorite to win the 2014 presidential election.
"We asked the pollsters why this was, and they said that they didn't take the candidates' past human rights records into account when formulating the questions for the poll," she says. "Imagine that. If researchers have already forgotten about it, what about ordinary people? Forgetfulness is how these people cover their crimes and stay in power."
For Sumarsih and the other families, the true reform will come when those responsible for past atrocities are finally held accountable. "A court trial will be the true measure of the country's progress, proof that Indonesia upholds democracy, supremacy of law and human rights," she says.
The rest of the world thinks, however, Indonesia has already made progress on that front. It is listed as a "free" country in the Freedom in the World 2012 report from US-based rights watch group Freedom House. The report defines a free country as one where there is open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life and independent media.
Human Rights Watch has also acknowledged the strides made since Suharto's downfall, including greater protection for freedom of expression, the birth of a civil society and independent media. "And obviously, no more atrocities, killings and disappearances," says Elaine Pearson, HRW's deputy director for Asia.
But democracy and freedom of expression have come at a cost, particularly in the rising tide of religious violence, which Pearson says has "actually gotten a lot worse than in the Suharto era."
"I think under Suharto, everyone was suppressed equally, including the Islamists," she says. She says freedom of expression has emboldened Islamic hard-liners to push their own demands, including a crackdown on the Ahmadiyah sect they consider heretical.
In the past four years, at least 30 Ahmadiyah mosques have been forced to close while violence against religious minorities including the Ahmadis has increased dramatically, Pearson says. A study by the Setara Institute showed the number of attacks almost doubled from 135 in 2007 to 244 in 2011.
The government claims it has addressed the problem of the anti-Ahmadiyah violence through a joint ministerial decree issued in 2008 that "regulates the proselytization of the Ahmadis as well as call on people to forbid any level of violence against religious groups."
However, Pearson says the decree fails to address the fact, or the reality that the police are siding with the militants on the grounds of supporting harmony in the community.
"I was in Indonesia last November and visited an Ahmadiyah mosque in Bekasi. The imam told me that the mosque had been there for 30 years and prior to 2005, non-Ahmadiyah actually came to that mosque and prayed," she says. "However, as a result of the decree, the militants started threatening members of the community and the mosque was forced to close."
Banning these militants groups is not the solution, Pearson insists. She says watchdogs like HRW want better law enforcement to stop the militants from abusing their freedom of expression by threatening violence or inciting criminal action against all minority groups.
"It is problematic when a situation turns to violence and people start breaking down the door to interrupt, whether it is a press conference, a congregation of people praying, and they physically beat and assault people," she says. "There should be repercussions for that but there aren't any."
The government's report for the Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 23 states that the promotion and protection of human rights is a "continuous process and that there are still challenges on issues like religious freedom."
Mainstreaming human rights issues by improving coordination between all stakeholders including relevant ministries and agencies is among the challenges cited, as well as further harmonization of the inconsistencies between regional bylaws and the higher national laws.
But the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) says that these are only "government claims" to protect religious harmony.
"[Other] countries should not be fooled when Christians and Ahmadis are under pressure every day to close their places of worship," says Haris Azhar, the Kontras coordinator.
He also calls for the repeal of a decree on houses of worship, which largely makes it hard for Christians and other minority congregations to build churches. "Revoking discriminatory laws and upholding basic rights would be the best way of ensuring religious harmony," he says.
Fourteen years ago this week, Indonesia was besieged by riots that led to the fall of President Suharto. In this special five-day series, we take a look at the changes Indonesia has seen since then, and whether they were worth the price.
Jakarta Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Faisal Basri is calling on police to stand up against aggressive organizations threatening violence over US singer Lady Gaga's concert in the capital.
Faisal, an economist from the University of Indonesia, said late Tuesday that while the Constitution guaranteed the rights of Indonesians to form community organizations, the groups should not disturb the peace of other members of society. "The police should not bow down to pressure from such groups," he said, as quoted by tempo.co.
Islam Defenders Front (FPI) Jakarta branch chief Habib Salim Alatas has said he would deploy FPI members to intercept the singer upon her arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang. FPI chairman Habib Rizieq also said in April that "if you want chaos in Jakarta, just go on with the concert."
The controversial diva, known for her over-the-top performances and eccentric fashion sense, has sparked protests, particularly from hard-line groups. She is slated to perform in the capital on June 3.
Faisal said the public "should not relent to any group to tell them what is right and what is wrong". (asa)
Bayu Marhaenjati More Islamic organizations came to Jakarta Police headquarters on Wednesday to denounce Lady Gaga's upcoming concert in the capital, as the Jakarta Police stuck to its stance to withhold its recommendation for the show.
The groups included Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the Indonesian Chinese Islamic Union, Syarikat Islam Hidayatullah, the Muslim Lawyers' Team and Tarbiyah Islam.
They followed in the footsteps of the eight other groups, including the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Islamic People's Forum (FUI), that visited the Jakarta Police headquarters earlier this month to demand the show, scheduled for June 3, be cancelled.
"We reject the Lady Gaga concert on a number of considerations, including cultural liberalization, which degrades the morality of the younger generation," HTI chairman Muhammad Rahmad Kurnia said after a meeting with the Jakarta Police chief on Wednesday.
"We support the stance of the Jakarta Police not to recommend the concert." Muhammad added that the HTI would stage a protest on Thursday. "If they go on [with the plan], each organization will continue rejecting it through different ways," Rahmat said.
Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Untung S. Rajab said his office still refused to recommend the concert to the National Police, which must issue the concert promoter a permit before the show can go on.
But Untung did say the Jakarta Police would recommend the show once the promoter managed to meet administrative procedures and secure a permit from the National Police.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said earlier on Tuesday that his office would dispatch up to 4,000 personnel to secure the concert, if the permit was issued. "We'll give a recommendation if the organizer manages to meet the administrative requirements and comply with moral norms and laws existing in Indonesia," Untung said.
He said he regretted that the promoter, Big Daddy, had sold more than 52,000 tickets even though the required permit had not been obtained. The National Police have said they will decide early next week whether to issue the permit. (BeritaSatu/JG)
Markus Junianto Sihaloho The Islamic People's Forum, one of the hard- line groups that has come out against Lady Gaga's upcoming concert in Jakarta, said it had been offered a bribe by the show's promoter, Big Daddy, to change its stance.
The forum known as FUI, along with the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and some other groups, have demanded that the concert, scheduled for June 3, be cancelled, prompting hesitance from the National Police over whether to issue a permit for the show.
FUI spokesman Munarman said Big Daddy offered the group hundreds of millions of rupiah. "The promoter has called me, saying they wanted to go on with the concert. Some people tried to bribe us, but we rejected them," Munarman said in Jakarta on Tuesday.
He wouldn't say exactly who made the offer. "I don't want to disclose [the names]; it is unethical," Munarman said. FUI still rejected the concert and would soon stage a rally to protest it, Munarman said.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said earlier on Tuesday that the National Police were expected to decide on whether they would issue a permit for the June 3 concert by early next week. (BeritaSatu/JG)
Lenny Tristia Tambun The Jakarta Police say they were ready dispatch 4,000 officers to secure Lady Gaga's Jakarta concert, scheduled for June 3, and warned the Islamic Defenders Front against attempting to mess up with the show.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said on Tuesday that his office was awaiting the National Police's final decision regarding the concert, regarding whether to issue it the permit it needs to go on.
If the National Police grant the permit, the Jakarta Police would dispatch between 2,000 and 4,000 personnel to secure the concert, Rikwanto said.
"We'll anticipate any possibilities. We're even ready to smuggle some police officers into the middle of the crowd of audience," he said, adding that the officers would not wear their uniforms.
On Monday, the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said it had purchased 150 tickets for the Lady Gaga concert so it could enter the venue and stop the show from going on.
Such an action would not be unprecedented: earlier this month, FPI members stormed the Salihara cultural center where Canadian writer and liberal Muslim activist Irshad Manji was holding a book launch event and threatened violence if it didn't cease immediately. Manju had to be escorted out under a heavy guard as the police shut down the event.
The FPI is one of several groups that voiced their opposition to the Lady Gaga concert last week, citing the singer's "vulgar" outfits and performances. That previously caused the Jakarta Police to refuse to issue a recommendation for the show, earlier cited by the National Police as one of the "requirements" for it to issue the permit.
On Friday, though, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyantoko said all parties involved should try to reach some sort of compromise, which could involve certain requirements about Lady Gaga's lyrics, choreography and appearance. And on Monday, National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo was summoned by the House of Representatives to answer questions regarding the Lady Gaga controversy and other disputes.
After that, the National Police said they might issue a permit for the show, and the Jakarta Police said they would abide by such a decision.
On Tuesday, Rikwanto warned the FPI against making trouble during the concert. "There will be legal sanctions for those abusing the law," he said.
More than 52,000 people are set to attend the sold out show at Bung Karno Stadium (GBK) in Central Jakarta. The promoter, Big Daddy, said on its Twitter account that was going on with its preparations for the show, although the National Police said they wouldn't announce their decision about the permit until next week.
"We'll divide the GBK into several security rings. Sorry, as the impact it will require longer time to enter the venue; as there will be many checkpoints," Big Daddy said on one of its tweets on Tuesday morning. It added it was hiring some security experts to ensure safety at the show.
On Monday night, Lady Gaga played the first of two shows in Manila, after Christian youth groups had protested for days against the show. The singer is in Asia as part of her world tour, "The Born This Way Ball." (BeritaSatu/JG)
Markus Junianto Sihaloho The Islamic People's Forum (FUI) a unit of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said on Tuesday that Indonesian Christians should be upset with Lady Gaga, and opposed to her upcoming concert in Jakarta because she often wears Christian symbols "inappropriately."
FUI spokesman Munarman compared the debate in Indonesia with the Philippines, where Catholic youth protested against the concert. "Lady Gaga wore the cross on her genitals. Many of her songs are insulting to Christian beliefs. I wonder why we are the ones that are attacked when opposing her," Munarman said.
Munarman said the Lady Gaga concert was an exploitation of people who did not understand global capitalism. "People who oppose it still have a healthy mind to reject a fool industry like this," Munarman said. "This is clearly exploitation."
Munarman made his statement following a meeting with the House Commission III to clarify the reasons behind the FUI's objection toward the concert, and to urge the House to support their objections. He said that he did not believe that the promoter, Big Daddy, would abide with the law by adjusting the concert to adhere to Indonesian culture.
"Lady Gaga refused to be regulated by the Philippines," he said. "Lady gaga said she was not a [Filipino] and therefore did not have to comply with Philippine law. We should not believe the statements of someone who can not be trusted."
While some hardline Islamist groups opposed the June 3 concert, the Indonesian Council of Churches said last week that the show should be allowed because it represented freedom of expression.
"Don't teach our young generation pseudo-formality by wearing good outfits, but being bad on the inside," Gomar Gultom, secretary general of the Indonesian Council of Churches (PGI), said responding to complaints about Lady Gaga's wardrobe.
Jakarta After a two-hour meeting deliberating whether they would grant US pop diva Lady Gaga a recommendation to perform in Jakarta, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) decided on Tuesday that it would stick to its original decision rejecting the artist.
The meeting ended with a unanimous vote by MUI's leaders to reject Gaga's planned June 3 concert at Bung Karno Stadium in Central Jakarta. The reason for this, according to MUI official Aminudin Yakub, is that "Lady Gaga will destroy the morals of the nation's youth".
Another MUI official, Asrorun Niam, said that the artist "is at odds with the nation's belief in the one and only God" and that she "debases religion".
"Lady Gaga is a pornography icon. She is anti-God and supports freedom without limits," said Asrorun Sholeh, an MUI commission secretary, on Tuesday, as quoted by tempo.co.
The MUI also said that Gaga's concert was not suitable with current Indonesian conditions where there were a lot of people suffering from starvation while the "Pocker Face" singer's concert was considered nothing but hedonism.
The National Police had said on Monday that concert promoters need to get recommendations from the MUI and the Religious Affairs Ministry before they can issue a permit.
They also wanted recommendations from the Tourism Ministry, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Director General of Immigration over Lady Gaga's visa and the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry.
The National Police also wanted promoters to provide a copy of a permit from the management of Bung Karno Stadium. Only then will the National Police issue a permit for Gaga's concert.
More than 50,000 tickets, with prices ranging from Rp 465,000 (US$50.75) to Rp 2.25 million, have been sold for the Grammy Award-winner's concert since they went on sale on March 10. (png)
Farouk Arnaz & Markus Junianto Sihaloho The National Police revised its stance on the Lady Gaga concert on Monday, saying it might issue the permit the show needs to go on.
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said that if the promoter could get recommendations from the concert venue and the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, as well as prove it was a legal entity, the National Police would issue the permit. "As long as it meets those three requirements, [the concert] will be staged," Saud said.
Last week, the National Police said it would not issue the permit, citing the Jakarta Police's refusal to give its own recommendation for it. The Jakarta Police had cited public opposition to Lady Gaga and safety concerns after eight groups, including the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), announced their opposition to the singer.
But on Monday, Saud did not mention the Jakarta Police's recommendation as one of the requirements needed for the permit. "If they fulfill the requirements, National Police will handle the recommendation from the Home Affairs Ministry, Religious Affairs Ministry and MUI (Indonesian Council of Ulema)," he said.
The Jakarta Police said on Monday that while it still wasn't giving its recommendation, if the National Police decided the issue the permit, it would comply with that decision and secure the concert. "We have to be ready to do our duty, including securing the concert if it is allowed," Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said.
Rikwanto added that the only reason the Jakarta Police hadn't given its recommendation was because the promoter, Big Daddy, had failed to include all the necessary paperwork when it applied for the permit. That was a departure from comments he made last week about the FPI and safety concerns.
The police's about-face follows Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyantoko's announcement on Friday that all parties involved should try to reach some kind of compromise, which could involve certain requirements about Lady Gaga's lyrics, choreography and appearance.
On Monday, Saud said that if Lady Gaga was polite and guaranteed she would not do anything vulgar, there would be no problem having her perform in Indonesia.
The promoter has until three days before the concert, scheduled for June 3, to get the permit, Saud said. Home Affairs Ministry Gamawan Fauzi took the utilitarian view, saying on Monday that the concert should be allowed as long as it did more good than harm.
"If the benefit is more than the negative impact," the concert should be allowed to go on, Gamawan said. "If the damage is more, it better not, as it would bring losses to our people."
Lady Gaga is set to perform tonight in the Philippines amid planned street protests by conservative Christians there, and with censors in the house on orders to report any hint of blasphemy, devil worship, nudity or lewd conduct.
Hard-line group the Islamic Defenders Front has purchased 150 tickets to upcoming Lady Gaga concert, which it will use to enter the venue and stop the show, a spokesman for the group said on Monday.
"The tickets are original, the price around Rp 400,000 [each]," FPI's Bekasi chapter chairman Murhali said on Monday as quoted by detik.com.
Murhali had posted on his Facebook account a picture of an FPI member, wearing a turban and sunglasses to conceal his face, holding a ticket. The photo's caption said, "We have gotten Lady Gaga tickets, not to watch [the concert] but for us to enter. Whatever will be will be, we're ready for the risk."
Murhali told detik.com that FPI was ready to stop the concert, but he stressed that FPI would not attack the audience. The only target was Lady Gaga and her crew, he said.
"Hopefully, the concert is canceled," Murhali said. "We have sent a letter to Lady Gaga through our friends in Canada. "We hope [the promoter] will return the money if the concert canceled."
FPI has previously threatened to intercept Lady Gaga on her way from the airport if she dares set foot in Jakarta.
Ahmad Pathoni About 50 Indonesians staged a flash mob on Sunday to demand that Lady Gaga be allowed to perform in the country amid uncertainty about her scheduled concert in Jakarta.
The police announced last week it would not issue permit for the June 3 concert, citing objections from conservative Muslim groups who deem her stage act to be "incompatible with Indonesian culture." Promoters said they were negotiating with the police to allow the show to go ahead.
Fans performed Lady Gaga's dance moves at the National Monument Square and unfurled a banner saying "Indonesia Wants Lady Gaga," during an event that organizers described as "a flash mob."
"I and thousands of other fans are disappointed by the police's decision to ban Lady Gaga's concert," said Simon, who took part in the event. "Lady Gaga is harmless because she's just an artist," he added.
About 50,000 tickets have been sold for the concert at the Bung Karno national stadium, part of Gaga's Born This Way Ball tour.
A cabinet minister has waded into the controversy and called for a compromise. "Maybe the concert can be adjusted to Indonesian culture," Coordinating Minister for Law, Politics and Security Djoko Suyanto was quoted as saying by the Kompas daily on Saturday.
Conservative Muslim groups said Gaga's "pornographic" stage act could poison the morals of the country's youth. The Islamic Defenders' Front, a group known for sometimes violent campaigns against vice, had threatened to block the gig.
Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, is known for her eccentric and risque outfits in videos and on stage.
International acts are flocking to Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, to take advantage of its strong economy and a growing middle class with disposable income.
In the past year, pop stars such as Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Kylie Minogue have performed in Indonesia without incident.
The National Police said on Friday they have not yet decided whether they will issue a permit for Lady Gaga's scheduled Jakarta performance on June 3.
"There has been no decision taken to cancel the Lady Gaga concert," said Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyantoko, as quoted by seputar-indonesia.com. "National Police will still analyze and evaluate public opinion, both pro and con, toward the concert."
Djoko said that National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo should use the time before the concert to compromise with all parties involved to reach the best solution possible, including discussions with Lady Gaga's management, Big Daddy (the show's promoter) and interested groups.
"Requirements could be applied, such as appearance, lyrics and the songs that should be adjusted to Indonesian social and cultural conditions," Djoko said.
"The stage arrangement and choreography should also be discussed both verbally or written in an agreement." Djoko said, adding that a positive dialogue with each party could prevent Indonesia from being judged negatively for intolerance toward foreign cultures.
A National Police spokesman recently said that it would comply with the decision taken by the Jakarta police to not issue a concert permit.
But National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. M. Taufik stressed that no decision had been made. "We will analyze everything, including those in the public who oppose it and support [the concert]," he said.
Arientha Primanita Groups opposed to the appearance of Lady Gaga in concert filed a formal objection letter with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's office, according to reports. The president immediately forwarded the letter to the State Secretary, who in turn gave the letter to the National police, according to a statement.
"Indeed, there was an [objection] letter sent by several organizations regarding Lady Gaga's concert to the president, but they have been given to State Secretary Minister Sudi Silalahi," said Julian Pasha, the president's spokesman on Thursday. "[The letter] had been submitted to Jakarta police with a note for them to review, analyze and evaluate it," he added.
Julian emphasized that the concert permit was not "the president's business," and that the president had faith in the National Police to carry out their duty in maintaining security and order.
It is not clear which groups sent the letter to the president, but Julian paraphrased the letter's sentiment, saying: "[The groups] were worried that the concert would create unrest and potentially disturb security."
The National Police refused to issue a concert permit on Tuesday after harsh protest and threats of widespread demonstrations from Indonesia's hard-line Islamist organizations.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said on Thursday that police were not bowing to pressure from the groups, and were only concerned about security.
Julian echoed the police's attitude: "So, if there is potential chaos created by certain activity, the National Police has the right to ban it," he said. "If [the concert] would not create a destructive impact, the National Police certainly would issue a permit."
Julian added that the president wanted the Indonesian people to think with clear minds by not judging the National Police for supposedly taking sides on the issue of Lady Gaga's appearance. "They work professionally in carrying out their duty to maintain security and order."
Jakarta Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali has voiced appreciation for law enforcement agencies for not recommending that American diva Lady Gaga be allowed to perform in the capital, claiming that the racy musician is "a devil worshipper".
Suryadharma, who chairs the United Development Party (PPP), said Thursday that Gaga would have a negative influence on young Indonesians, citing that the singer "indulges in pornography by wearing revealing costumes."
"Her lyrics indicate that she is also an anti-religious person. During her concerts, Lady Gaga looks like a devil worshipper," said the minister, who admitted he had never watched any of Gaga's music videos, as reported by kompas.com.
He was responding to the decision by the Jakarta Police recently to not recommend the National Police issue a permit for the Grammy award-winning singer's concert.
The diva was slated to perform before tens of thousands fans, known as Little Monsters, at the Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on June 3. She is the first foreign performer to be denied a permit by Indonesian authorities.
Commenting on this, Suryadharma said that the metropolitan police's decision not to endorse Gaga's concert should become a model for authorities in other parts of the country.
The politician denied that banning Gaga's performance was a violation of Indonesians' freedom of expression, saying that the authorities were responsible for protecting citizens from "negative foreign influences".
The PPP is an Islamic party that holds 38 of the 560 seats at the House of Representatives. (asa)
Zaki Pawas The Jakarta Police said on Thursday that they would disperse Lady Gaga's concert in the capital originally scheduled for June 3 if the promoter insists on going on with the event.
Earlier this week after eight groups objected to the concert, the police said they would refuse to issue a permit for it, citing security concerns. One of the groups, the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), said it would dispatch 30,000 of its members and supporters to prevent Gaga from entering Jakarta.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the Islamic People's Forum (FUI), the Anti-Misdeeds People's Movement (Gumam), Wahdah Islamiyah and the Indonesian Culture Institution, as well as the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and United Development Party (PPP) party factions at the House of Representatives, are also among the eight.
"Basically they think her concerts are against our national culture and traditional values because they deem those concerts to be vulgar," Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said on Thursday. "We've analyzed the situation. The result is, it may potentially trigger conflicts," he added.
Rikwanto said the police were not bowing to pressure from the groups, only looking out for security. "If they insist on [holding the concert], conflicts may emerge between people who support and reject the show," Rikwanto said. "The impact won't be good."
He added that Lady Gaga's outfits generally violate Indonesia's Pornography Law, and that it was the police's job to uphold the law.
The authority to issue permits for foreign entertainers performing in the country lies with National Police. The National Police have issued permits for 53 foreign entertainers performing in Indonesia between January and May.
Even after the police announced they would not issue a permit for the Lady Gaga concert, the promoter for the concert, Big Daddy Productions, expressed optimism that the show could go on.
"The process of our permit application is still ongoing and we will update again on new developments of the situation," Michael Rusli, the president director of Big Daddy, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.
Iman Mahditama, Jakarta Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Untung S. Rajab insisted on Wednesday that stopping American pop diva Lady Gaga from holding a concert in Jakarta was part of his duty to "protect the nation's culture".
"The reasons behind the police's refusal to issue a permit for the show not only include security issues but also the police's duty to protect the nation's culture," he said.
"You have to view [the decision to not issue the permit for the concert] objectively. There will always be those who like and those who oppose every decision," he said.
Untung also said that the police would have to forcefully close down the show, should the promoter decide to go ahead with the plan of holding the concert at the Bung Karno Main Stadium on June 3.
"I'm not banning [Lady Gaga], I just refuse to recommend [the June 3 gig be held]," he told reporters. "If [the promoter] insists on holding the show, then it may be deemed as unlawful, and the show will have to be closed down."
The police have revealed that this is the first time authorities have ever banned a foreign singer from performing in Indonesia. Over the years, several foreign performers have canceled their scheduled concerts in Indonesia for various reasons, but none of them were banned by law enforcement agencies.
Jakarta The US pop diva Lady Gaga's scheduled concert fiasco proves that certain hard-line groups have been successfully pushing local authorities to meet their demands, indirectly controlling the nation, a Muslim scholar says.
Rector of the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University Komaruddin Hidayat told The Jakarta Post that certain groups within society had successfully influenced the government to intervene against Indonesian's freedom of expression, adding that authorities should have protected it.
"This is a setback and a pathetic situation in which we find the public sphere where Indonesians should be able to express themselves without restraint in fact faces intervention from one community that has become a powerful force in this nation," he said Wednesday morning.
He added that while hard-liner groups had pressured the authorities, several members of the government apparently had relented to their demands, saying that it was a "politically correct" move to do. "This situation proves that there are fraudulent officials that have been using the hard- liner groups to further their own political interests," he said.
Komaruddin was responding to the National Police's refusal to issue permits to Lady Gaga's Jakarta concert.
The Police claimed that the eccentric singer "does not resemble the country's local culture."
Lady Gaga is slated to perform at the Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta on June 3.
The singer, known for her pop songs such as "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance", has sparked strong opposition from groups such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Islam Defenders Front (FPI), United Development Party (PPP) and the Islamic People's Forum (FUI).
MUI and FUI sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono requesting him to consider rejecting the concert's permit.
In 2007, American R&B diva Beyonce was scheduled to perform in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, but the concert was cancelled because the sexy songster refused to abide by the nation's so-called "decent" dress- code for women.
The Kuala Lumpur concert's cancellation turned out to be Jakarta's gain, because the diva decided to stop in the capital of the biggest Southeast Asian economy instead.
In 2012, however, it was Indonesia's law enforcement agencies that denied issuing a permit for Gaga's concert in Jakarta.
Komaruddin refused to comment on the changing situation but affirmed that the hard-liner groups were better off "fighting corruption practices" than disrupting Indonesians' freedom of expression. (asa)
Cultural sensitivity, along with a difficult political climate, are two reasons why conservative groups are winning in their fight to have artists like Lady Gaga banned from performing in Indonesia, a political communication expert says.
Police say US pop singer Lady Gaga has become the first foreign artist to be denied a concert permit by Indonesian authorities, with the National Police declaring on Tuesday that they would not issue a permit for the singer's planned June 3 concert at Bung Karno Main Stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta, one of the first of many stops in her "The Born This Way Ball" world tour.
According to Effendi Gazali, Lady Gaga's controversial reputation is one reason why "when we defend artists like Lady Gaga who have a reputation more for eroticism than for things like political substance, we are automatically on the losing side against groups that claim to defend cultural and religious values," Effendi told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Lady Gaga has sparked strong opposition from groups such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the United Development Party (PPP), an Islamic party with 38 out of 550 seats in the House of Representatives.
Considering that the government has a lot of other problems on its hands right now, Effendi says that it can't be bothered to exercise extra effort in defending artists like Lady Gaga.
"They've got elections to look forward to, as well as political corruption issues to deal with. Then there's also the recent Sukhoi Superjet 100 accident," Effendi said over the phone, referring to the recent referring to the Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 that crashed near Mt. Salak in West Java last week.
"As such, the government doesn't want to look for enemies. This is why they are caving in to pressure from certain groups. On the other hand, if the police were to ban a political artist from performing in Indonesia, the government might care a lot more about getting involved."
Effendi compared what he called "today's difficult political climate" with the early days of Yudhoyono's presidency, which Effendi said was a period when the country was more "euphoric" and tolerant of the exercise of certain freedoms. "We had a new president and a new government. People were celebrating their freedoms. That's why it was much easier for artists like Beyonce, who have a reputation for erotic dances like Lady Gaga, to perform in the country," Effendi said.
American R&B diva Beyonce performed in Indonesia in November of 2007 as part of a world tour.
"Back then, because the government was new, they were compelled to fulfill their campaign promises and to enforce the law. Now, however, things have changed, with the government under so much scrutiny because of their problems."
Aside from the difficulties the government is facing, Effendi noted that cultural expression issues are hot right now in Indonesia. The government is already having difficulties finding ways to deal with religious freedom issues like the disputes over churches in a number of areas.
"They just can't be bothered to deal with another issue of cultural expression," Effendi said. (png)
Iman Mahditama, Jakarta The battle to hold a concert for American pop diva Lady Gaga in Jakarta reached new heights Tuesday with attacks coming from many corners against the Jakarta Police's decision not to endorse the issuance of a permit for the long-awaited event.
Although Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said they had met with local promoter Big Daddy Entertainment earlier in the day and that the latter "understood the reasons behind the police's refusal to issue a permit for the show", and that the police would oversee ticket refunds, the organizer wrote on its Twitter account @bigdaddyid on the same day that the show was still on.
"We've met several public representatives. Be patient, Little Monsters," the account read at 6:51 p.m., referring to the fans of the Grammy Award- winning singer and songwriter of such global hits as "Poker Face" and "Born This Way". "We'll keep updating you. The fight is still on."
The Mother Monster's concert was due to take place on June 3 at Bung Karno Main Stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta.
Rikwanto said the police had received input from various organizations including the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and the Islamic People's Forum (FUI) in reaching the decision to withhold a permit for Lady Gaga.
He said it was the first time authorities had ever banned a foreign singer from performing in Indonesia. Over the years, several foreign performers have canceled their scheduled concerts in Indonesia for various reasons, but none of them were banned by law enforcement agencies.
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution claimed the decision was aimed at maintaining Jakarta's calm, given the rampant rejections from the groups.
The PPP's secretary-general, M. Romahurmuziy, said that the party had called on the police to ban Lady Gaga's concert because she was anti- religion, while PKS deputy chairman, Mustafa Kamal, said the party strongly supported the police decision, as the artist would likely promote "inappropriate culture" among Indonesians.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmakers, however, criticized the police for bowing to pressure from hard-line groups.
"The police should not side with the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) or any other groups, as they must uphold freedom of speech as well as expression at all costs. This decision is an obvious reflection of the police's inability to control the FPI. They play safe rather than taking the risk of facing up to the group," PDI-P lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari said.
Jakarta is among the first stops on Gaga's "Born This Way Ball" world tour. More than 50,000 tickets have been sold since selling opened on March 10. The show's cancellation would be a backward step in efforts to develop a more open Indonesia and bad news for business.
The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry's director general for cultural value, arts and film, Ukus Kuswara, said the ministry would be disappointed if Lady Gaga had to cancel her performance as she would help boost tourism in Indonesia.
"A singer like Lady Gaga will help improve Indonesia's image as a tourist destination as well as a country that appreciates the arts," Ukus said.
According to his data, some 12,000 foreign tourists from Australia, the Philippines, and other ASEAN and Middle Eastern countries had bought tickets and booked rooms in three- and four-star hotels in Jakarta to watch the gig. "Image is very important in tourism and we are still struggling to create ours," he said.
The authorities' decision has been the source of widespread debate on the Internet, with the hashtag #IndonesiaSavesGaga appearing incessantly on Twitter.
"Lady Gaga can't hold a concert in Indonesia because they say she's vulgar, and yet lawmakers shot to fame by starring in porn videos," @Dininabobo said. (nfo)
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta The House of Representatives' Commission III overseeing law and human rights will summon the National Police due to escalating violations of basic freedoms nationwide.
"Recent cancellations of book discussions by force, as well as the ban on singer Lady Gaga, have shown the police's inability to uphold freedom in the country," commission chairman Benny Kabur Harman said Wednesday.
"The police must not bow to the Islam Defenders Front [FPI] or any other hard-line groups. We will arrange a meeting with the people to further discuss this." The Democratic Party lawmaker added that the police's favor of violent groups would trigger people to impose vigilante justice.
"It doesn't make sense when the police ban Lady Gaga from performing here in the name of morality, while they do nothing with rampant prostitution and gambling, for example. It appears to me that the police have inconsistently approached the issue from the morality point of view," Benny said, adding the state should take its hands off morality. (mtq)
Jakarta US pop singer Lady Gaga has received the dubious honor of becoming the first foreign artist to be denied a concert permit by Indonesian authorities.
Despite the long string of concert cancellations over safety concerns, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that his force's decision not to recommend that the National Police issue a permit for Gaga's concert was a first.
Gaga was scheduled to hold a concert at Bung Karno Main Stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on June 3. The gig could be one of the first stops on Lady Gaga's world tour, titled "The Born This Way Ball", slated to run from April to October. "We haven't done a similar thing before," Rikwanto said in a text message to The Jakarta Post.
Earlier, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said that his office had denied the concert after receiving recommendation from the Jakarta Police, along with hearing objections from various groups.
Lady Gaga, who is well-known for her controversial fashion choices, has sparked strong opposition from groups such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), notorious hard-line group Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the United Development Party (PPP). The PPP is an Islamic party holding 38 seats from a total of 560 at the House of Representatives.
Over the years, several foreign performers have cancelled their scheduled concerts in Indonesia for various reasons, but not one of them was banned by law enforcement agencies. On May 1, US heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold cancelled a concert at the last minute, blaming the promoter for not ensuring the safety of the stage at Karnaval Beach in Ancol, North Jakarta, as they had demanded.
Last year, on Nov. 26, the failure of local organizer Starlight Management to meet Korean band CN Blue's demands, including over ticket sales, triggered the group's management to call off their scheduled performance.
US glam metal band Motley Crue canceled their concert in Jakarta last October. Concert promoter Mlive Music claimed that provocative comments on Twitter had prompted the band's decision.
In 2009, US hip-hop group N.E.R.D (No One Ever Really Dies) cancelled their March 22 Jakarta concert following an unpleasant experience in Malaysia, where local authorities held band members' passports.
The group reportedly still performed in Kuala Lumpur, even though the local promoter's request for a permit to hold a show in the country had been rejected by the authorities.
While the law enforcement agencies did not stop the show, group members were detained and their passports were held immediately after the show was over.
American singer Rihanna also pulled out of her planned gig in Jakarta scheduled for Feb. 12, 2009, after having a violent row with her then boyfriend, R&B star Chris Brown. Rihanna had also been scheduled to perform in Jakarta on Nov. 14, 2008, but she called off the show over security fears after the Australian government issued a travel warning for Indonesia following the executions of the three Bali bombers.
In 2008, Rappers 50 Cent and Akon also cancelled their planned performances. (asa)
Jakarta The Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) is planning to report the murder case of Bernas daily journalist Fuad Muhammad Syarifuddin, also known as Udin, to the United Nations.
"Should the case remain unresolved, we will bring the matter to the UN," AJI advocacy division member Iman D. Nugroho said in Yogyakarta on Monday.
Iman, who was speaking at a seminar on the murder case, said that settlement of the Udin case was also the responsibility of other journalists. "Our plan to bring this to the international level is also an effort to push local authorities to solve this 14-year-old case," he said.
Udin was attacked by unidentified people on Aug. 13, 1996 at his rented house in Bantul, Yogyakarta He died three days later. Udin was known for his strong criticism of local policies and alleged misappropriation of authority. The unsolved murder case will be closed in 2014.
"We don't want the case to simply expire without proper settlement if it does, it will show that we cannot rely on the state anymore," he said as quoted by Antara news agency. (swd)
Markus Junianto Sihaloho Wiranto, a retired Army general who was strongman President Suharto's last military chief, said on Tuesday that he would run for president in 2014, claiming that leaders of the party he founded and chairs still considered him a popular figure.
Wiranto said in Jakarta that leaders of all 33 provincial branches of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) reached a consensus in a recent national working meeting of the party, agreeing that Wiranto was the party's best shot at the presidency.
"Considering the very high popularity of the chairman, the provincial branches have asked Hanura to again nominate the chairman as a presidential candidate in 2014," Wiranto said, referring to himself.
Wiranto said that Hanura had yet to make a final a decision on whether to nominate him, and that he still hadn't decided whether to run.
Wiranto first ran for president in 2004, Indonesia's first-ever direct presidential election. He was backed by the Golkar Party, which was Suharto's political vehicle. Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader Salahuddin Wahid served as his running mate. But Wiranto lost to current president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
In 2006 Wiranto founded Hanura, and he was on the ticket again in 2009, this time as the running mate of Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla. But the pair lost again as Yudhoyono was appointed to his second term as president. (BeritaSatu/JG)
Bayu Marhaenjati With his Democratic Party struggling to produce a strong presidential candidate to put up in the 2014 election, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appears to be looking beyond the party for a possible successor, analysts say.
Yudhoyono's meeting last Monday with Prabowo Subianto, founder of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), in Bali is seen as part of efforts to recruit a popular figurehead with a chance of winning the presidential election.
The president sent a special invitation to Prabowo for a reunion of the Indonesian Armed Forces Academy's graduating class of 1973, even though Prabowo graduated a year later. During the gathering, Yudhoyono took time for a private talk with Prabowo.
While officials from both parties have played down the meeting as just a chat between two old friends, others say a Democratic ticket featuring Prabowo could be possible.
"It must have been more than just a reunion of military academy alumni," said Burhanuddin Muhtadi, from the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI). "There must have been something said regarding the 2014 presidential election."
Recent surveys show Prabowo trailing only Yudhoyono and Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), in terms of popularity.
Yudhoyono is barred by a constitutional term limit from running for re- election, while Megawati, the losing candidate in the two previous elections, is under pressure from inside her party to stand aside for a younger candidate.
"So Prabowo could be the strongest candidate now," said Aleksius Jemadu, dean of Pelita Harapan University's School of Social and Political Sciences. "We can understand why Yudhoyono is approaching him, because he doesn't want to back the wrong horse and only wants to back the likely winner."
He said teaming up with Prabowo would not only provide a needed boost for the Democrats' sagging popularity but would also give the party the all- important support of the military.
A series of corruption cases have hobbled the Democrats, the country's biggest party, while several former generals have expressed dissatisfaction with the way Yudhoyono is running the country. "It's like killing two birds with one stone," Aleksius said. "Yudhoyono and Prabowo have had their arguments in the past, but now it's time to bury the hatchet."
The Democrats were earlier believed to be eyeing a tie-up with the Golkar Party, nominating either Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie or Jusuf Kalla, the former chairman and a former vice president under Yudhoyono.
But Burhanuddin said Yudhoyono was unlikely to put his party's destiny in the unpredictable hands of Golkar.
"It's difficult for Yudhoyono to trust Golkar," he said. "Siding with Prabowo, a fellow military man, is more manageable and less complicated than with Golkar," Aleksius said.
Markus Junianto Sihaloho The House of Representatives is forming a legal team to defend the newly enacted law that regulates the 2014 legislative elections against challenges by political parties.
Marzuki Alie, the House speaker, said the passage of the law was a long and often difficult process, and lawmakers were prepared to defend their work.
Speaking at Monday's plenary session that marked the lawmakers' first day back to work after a recess, Marzuki also said any court challenges could derail preparations for the elections.
"Preparations for the 2014 elections must not be hindered," the speaker said. "The House has to be prepared [for challenges] by forming a legal team that will represent the House's interests and offer context to all the issues that went into the passage of the law."
Just days after it was enacted last month, former Justice and Human Rights Minister Yusril Ihra Mahendra, a co-founder of the Crescent Star Party (PBB), filed a motion with the Constitutional Court seeking amendments to the law.
The law increased the legislative threshold from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent while maintaining an open electoral system and the method of using all votes in electoral areas.
Smaller parties have protested the higher threshold, which requires parties to secure at least 3.5 percent of the total national vote to take a seat in the House. They say it unfairly punishes parties that may not have the same level of funding as the big parties. The PBB failed to reach the old elector threshold in the 2009 elections.
Yusril is also representing the Ulema National Awakening Party (PKNU), the Regional Unity Party (PPD) and other parties in the legal motion.
While some major parties, including the Golkar Party, say the 3.5 percent threshold is too low, smaller parties have argued it violates the Constitution by keeping people's chosen representatives from the House.
The 2.5 percent threshold for the 2009 elections only allowed nine parties to gain seats. Small parties fear the 3.5 percent threshold will permanently block them from the legislature. It is not clear if the Constitutional Court will agree to hear Yusril's challenge.
Marzuki said a revision of the law would further complicate preparations for the 2014 elections, which are already off to a late start after all the delays in the enactment of the original law.
The House speaker said lawmakers were deliberating a new law on gubernatorial and district head elections that would replace existing legislation.
In his address to lawmakers on Monday, Marzuki said there was a need for regulations on district heads and governors jumping to positions in other regions.
He pointed to the upcoming gubernatorial election in Jakarta, which is scheduled for July 11. Among the six candidates running for the top position in Jakarta are the current governor of South Sumatra, Alex Noerdin, and mayor of Solo, Joko Widodo.
"This needs to be regulated in a new law dealing with the eligibility of people holding office in one region to run for office in another," Marzuki said. "In particular, we need to address their responsibility to the voters in their original region."
Margareth S. Aritonang and Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta Speculation of a deal being cut between the Democratic Party and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) for the 2014 presidential elections is rife after party patrons met at the Tampak Siring Presidential Palace in Gianyar, Bali.
But politicians from both sides denied the meeting between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Gerindra patron Lt. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto was about joining forces.
They claimed the two leaders were only attending a military academy reunion, despite Yudhoyono being in a different class to Prabowo.
"The meeting on Monday was a reunion for the Military Academy [AKABRI] graduates of the class of 1973 and the President invited Prabowo to attend because both are graduates. They are also old friends, and it was just a reunion. No politics was on the table, as far as I know," Gerindra secretary general Ahmad Muzani said on Tuesday.
Senior Democratic Party members also denied the speculation. "I believe it was just a regular reunion, where graduates meet after so many years," said Hayono Isman, a member of the party's board of patrons.
"Besides, the Democratic Party has yet to discuss anything related to the presidential election because we have more important things to do right now. We will begin to start the discussions early next year."
Yudhoyono reportedly squeezed in a private meeting with Prabowo, despite the latter graduating in 1974.
The Democratic Party is lacking credible candidates for the 2014 presidential race. There is speculation that it is considering former vice president Jusuf Kalla, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono.
Over the weekend, several Democratic Party politicians suggested that Ani could be a candidate, despite Yudhoyono's pledge that none of his family members would run.
Party spokeswoman Andi Nurpati said Ani could be the best candidate as she meets all the requirements to take the place of her husband.
"She has the experience to be a leader because she was once the party's deputy chief patron. She was also involved in establishing this party. Her experience in accompanying the President can boost her capacity," Andi told reporters.
Andi was quick to add that decision on a presidential candidate would be Yudhoyono's to make as the party's chief patron.
But Hayono has insisted that Ani would not be nominated. "It's true that Ani has the potential to be a candidate, and I am the first person to acknowledge this. However, we must not forget what the President has said he would not nominate his wife to be his successor. All party members, including the female ones, must respect this. I don't expect any changes on the president's decision," he said.
Besides the First Lady, Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Marshall (ret.) Djoko Suyanto is also reportedly a potential successor. He shrugged off the speculation by saying: "Who said that?"
Jakarta Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar says Indonesia is imposing a moratorium on the travel of Indonesian migrant workers to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and Syria indefinitely.
"We won't lift the moratorium as long as our workers abroad have yet to see more certain policies regarding legal protections and the fulfillment of their basic rights," Muhaimin said, as quoted by Antara news agency, on the sidelines of a meeting with families of migrant workers in Tulungagung, East Java, on Monday evening.
Muhaimin said his ministry was concerned that many Indonesian workers were implicated in legal cases in those countries, but stopped short of detailing the exact numbers.
However, he claimed that his ministry has been trying to lobby the relevant authorities to demand more protections, social guarantees and safety assurance for Indonesian workers, but so far the efforts have yet to achieve any significant outcome.
Muhaimin compared the slow progress with the Middle Eastern states to new deals reached between the Malaysian and Indonesian governments.
Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti Unless the rapid deforestation in one of the world's most richly-forested countries is controlled, Indonesians may one day wonder, "where are all the flowers gone." To those lyrics by legendary US singer Joan Baez they might also have to add, and where are all the tigers, elephants, orangutans, birds and ancient forest communities gone.
While the 1960s icon was singing against the US war in Vietnam, green groups in Indonesia are waging war against deforestation, in a country that is home to about 15 percent of all known species of plants, mammals and birds. Some are already critically endangered as a result of deforestation by the palm oil, mining and paper industries.
As Indonesia marks the first year of a two-year moratorium on deforestation that followed a pledge of a billion dollars from Norway, a coalition of international and local green groups urged Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this week to strengthen the moratorium so that it becomes a real instrument to reduce, and ultimately halt, deforestation in the country.
"The existing moratorium only suspends the issue of new forest use permits, it did not order a review of existing permits. There are other glaring loopholes in the moratorium which need to be addressed if Indonesia is to honor its international commitments," Yuyun Indradi, forests policy adviser, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said at a press briefing on Monday.
Such concerns are being raised ahead of the Rio+ summit on sustainable development next month.
The environment groups say the ban is being undermined by weak legislation and weak enforcement, and provides little extra protection for forests or carbon-rich peatlands, and nothing to protect the rights of forest- dependent indigenous peoples and local communities.
They added that if deforestation rates continue to average more than a million hectares a year, all of Indonesia's forests will have been destroyed within the next 50 years.
Earlier this month, the groups said they had witnessed continuing forest destruction by several companies despite the moratorium. They estimated that 4.9 million hectares of primary forests and peatland, out of a total 71.01 million hectares covered by the moratorium, will be lost to palm-oil industries, coal mines and other forest conversions by the end of May.
Last week, Indonesia's Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of the world's largest paper companies and one that has been most criticized by green groups, announced that it would suspend natural forest clearance from June 1, and would hold better environmental procedures.
The announcement brought a quick reaction from Greenpeace, denying good practices from APP. It said images from their latest overflight in February indicate ongoing clearance of forests across Sumatra region.
Deforestation is devastating wildlife. Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers remain in the wild, orangutans on Sumatra island have gone down from 1,000 in early 2000 to less than 200 in 2012, while only 3,000 Sumatran elephants are still in the wild, half the number since 1985, the groups say.
"It is reasonable to expect that there are many threatened undocumented species," Louis Verchot, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), told Inter Press Service.
Deforestation has also affected whole communities of indigenous people dependent on the forest for food, shelter and their livelihood. Since most of the land belongs to the state, the government has given up ancestral rights of the native communities to businesses, according to indigenous rights groups.
The deforestation taking place in Indonesia goes much beyond the archipelago's more than 17,000 islands. The country is the third largest emitter of climate changing greenhouse gases after China and the United States.
Greenpeace says a large volume of the gases comes from the destruction of Indonesia's peatlands, considered the world's most critical carbon stores. They are believed to store about 35 billion tons of carbon, and when drained, burned and replaced by acacia, eucalyptus or palm oil plantations, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
While green groups believe Indonesia should do more to stop deforestation, some Indonesian officials believe the country needs more incentives to do so.
"The Ministry of Forestry needs a budget of Rp 5 trillion ($538 million) per year to fight deforestation," Darori, director general of the Forest Protection and Nature Conservation from the Ministry of Forestry, told IPS. With a wave of his hand Darori dismissed the billion dollar pledge by Norway as "not enough." Indonesia "needs the support of the world" to carry out this task, he said.
Commenting on Darori's remarks, Greenpeace spokesman Indradi said money "is never enough if we cannot solve the corruption problems in the forestry sector."
CIFOR's Verchot said, "the pledge by Norway was not supposed to solve the whole problem, but it has transformed the discussion in Indonesia, and in that sense it is successful... Norway's pledge over several years is significant and if it paves the way for additional REDD + money, then the programme can become sustainable." REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus) is a global mechanism to reduce emission and deforestation as well as forest degradation.
Darori, the Indonesian official, told IPS that authorities have given eight-year jail terms to 12 plantation owners in Sumatra for illegal logging, and imposed five billion rupiah ($534,000) fines on each.
Indonesian President Yudhoyono has pledge to cut emissions in his country between 26 percent and 41 percent with the help of the international community by 2020. But he has pointed out the importance of the contribution of the forest-based industries to the country's economy.
A recent study showed this contribution to be approximately 21 billion dollars a year 3.5 percent of the national economy. The sector employs around 4 percent of the working population.
Jakarta Indonesia's progress in reforming its forestry sector will not be sufficient to meet its pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020, Norway's environment minister said on Tuesday.
Indonesia imposed a two-year moratorium on clearing forest last May under a $1 billion climate deal with Norway aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation, despite resistance from some government departments and from resource firms looking to expand in the archipelago.
Norway has been impressed by what Indonesia has achieved in terms of transparency in the forest sector and by a change towards being more pro- environment in policy debates around land use, said its environment minister, Berd Vegar Solhjell.
However, deforestation continues in areas not covered by the moratorium as well as illegally in the country's carbon-rich tropical forests and peatlands. Permits to clear land are often given out by local governors and there is a lack of central government enforcement.
"We know that the moratorium itself is not sufficient to reach the climate mitigation pledged, or to stop deforestation in the speed that is necessary," Solhjell told Reuters in an interview.
It was the first time Norway indicated the moratorium may not be working.
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed up to the Norway deal and moratorium as part of his pledge to slash emissions this decade, but there have been few other policy steps to curb emissions in the fast- growing G20 economy. "It's a very progressive pledge but it's also very challenging to actually put it into place," said Solhjell.
The country is attracting increasing foreign investment in manufacturing industries such as steel, cement and power that are all heavy emitters of greenhouse gases, while sales of energy-guzzling SUV cars, mobile phones and flights are surging.
Higher energy demand from power use, mainly produced from coal, will boost carbon emissions. Indonesia does not provide annual emissions data, though the World Bank rated it as the world's third largest emitter in 2005 because of deforestation.
The $1 billion Norway has promised under the deal is contingent on policy change and proven emissions reductions from the forestry sector. The forestry ministry makes billions of dollars from selling permits to use forests each year.
Only months after Yudhoyono signed the forest moratorium, the former governor of the country's westernmost Aceh province breached the ban by issuing a permit to a palm oil firm to develop carbon-rich peatland.
The permit prompted legal action from environmental groups and investigations by the police and several government bodies, making the case a test of the country's commitment to halt deforestation in the world's largest exporter of palm oil.
After the investigation, the government said on Monday that the permit was issued to palm oil firm Kallista Alam without following proper procedures, and that it would protect the strip of peatland in Aceh.
The forest, home to endangered orangutans, was partly cleared by burning even before the permit was issued, said Mas Achmad Santosa, a government official.
"The case of Kallista Alam in Aceh is the typical problem we are facing... some parts have been turned to palm oil plantations, some have been burned, and it turned out the permit does not exist," said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who is in charge of overseeing forestry sector reform.
Tunggadewa Mattangkilang, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan One of the largest tracts of protected forest in Indonesia has been decimated by illegal loggers and miners to the extent that it no longer holds any scientific value, a researcher said on Thursday.
Chandra Boer, director of the Tropical Forest Research Center at Mulawarman University in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, said the patch of forest in Kutai Kartanegara district was now in "very poor" condition.
The 20,271-hectare research forest, inside the Bukit Suharto community forest, has for years been used by forestry students at Mulawarman for study purposes, thanks to its high biodiversity.
Now just 6,000 hectares remain intact, with the rest razed by loggers, miners and property developers, Chandra said.
He added that these commercial activities had spilled over from other parts of the 61,850-hectare community forest, where 22 companies have been granted concessions, despite the forest being protected for conservation. Thirteen of those concessions include parts of the university's forest.
"In the state that it's in, you can't call Bukit Suharto a conservation forest anymore," Chandra said. "It's been mined so extensively and there are many settlements inside it."
Kahar Al Bahri, the coordinator of the East Kalimantan branch of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), agreed that mining in the forest had reached "alarming levels." He said Jatam had reported several companies to the police for illegal mining, but there had been no effort by the authorities to stop the practice.
Andi Harun, a deputy speaker of the provincial legislature, said he would call the Mulawarman rector to testify about the damage to the university's research forest. He said university officials would be questioned about reportedly approving the logging and mining operations in their forest.
"We will summon the rector in the near future to clarify the issue of the university's recommendation for commercial activities," Andi said. "How is it that they could allow mining inside the forest when it's clearly meant for students to carry out research?"
The status of the Bukit Suharto forest has changed several times since it was established in 1976, initially as a production forest. Since then, it has been designated a partially protected tourism forest and now a community forest, where commercial forestry activities are prohibited.
Tunggadewa Mattangkilang, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan The fast rate of deforestation in East Kalimantan over the last few years has made it the country's third largest carbon emitting region.
According to the East Kalimantan Climate Change Council (DDPI), the province emitted 255 million tons of carbon dioxide last year, behind only Riau (358 million tons) and Central Kalimantan (324 million tons).
Daddy Ruchiyat, chairman of the DPPI, said that just five years ago the province was the bedrock of the country's natural forests and helped minimize the impact of carbon emissions.
"Now, we are the third largest emitter because more and more forests are turned into mines and residential areas," he said in Balikpapan on Monday.
Daddy said the province's carbon emissions increased by 1.4 percent annually because the local administration had allowed more forest conversion in recent years in a bid to make more money.
"The biggest contributor to the province's emissions is forest conversion; we have fewer green forests. Aside from the legal conversion into mines and residential areas, we also have rampant illegal logging across the province," he said.
Daddy urged the provincial administration to enforce a regulation requiring companies intending to open mining sites by clearing forests to implement adequate reclamation and reforestation programs.
"So, the companies must conduct a study on how much carbon is released, and accordingly, plant trees to absorb back the same amount of carbon released. All along, the administration is reluctant to enforce the regulation while the companies just play dumb," he said.
Niel Makimuddin, the Nature Conservancy's program manager, agreed with Daddy, saying that forest destruction in East Kalimantan had reached an alarming level because of unregulated conversion.
"We have raised deep concerns because the destruction continues, and nothing is done to stop it," he said.
Niel also expressed alarm about the illegal logging that he said seemed unstoppable in the province. "The combination of legal and illegal logging has created high deforestation levels, and created more carbon emissions," he said.
East Kalimantan only has 4 million hectares of forest cover out of the province's total size of 14.
million hectares. Meanwhile, Fathur Roziqin, director of East Kalimantan's Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), said that carbon emissions had begun to create extreme weather and unpredictable changes in climate.
"The changes have been felt by our farmers and fishermen. They can no longer correctly predict the season and it negatively affects their ability to cope with climate behavior and to earn a living," he said.
Fathur said the government should enforce the law, and join forces with civil society groups and local communities to protect the forests.
Made Arya Kencana, Denpasar The country's leading children's rights group is threatening to sue the government unless it issues a regulation banning all tobacco advertising, which it blames for the large number of child smokers in the country.
Arist Merdeka Sirait, the chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), said on Saturday that the paperwork for the lawsuit was being drawn up and the suit could be filed by the end of this month.
He accused the government of ignoring the impact on society of smoking and said it was not serious about restricting cigarette advertising, sponsorship or promotions.
"This country has been losing out to the tobacco industry for far too long," Arist said at a workshop in Denpasar "It figures, though. Even against mass organizations, the government loses."
He said that although mandatory warnings on cigarette packs and higher taxes had been imposed over the years, the real problem was that tobacco advertising remained largely unrestricted and was targeted at young people as much as adults.
He argued that China, though home to the largest number of smokers in the world, had a virtually negligible proportion of child smokers, thanks largely to stringent regulations on advertising, promotions and sponsorship.
In Indonesia, children between the ages of 10 and 14 account for some 1.2 million of the country's 89 million active smokers, according to data from Komnas Anak.
More worrying still, Arist said, new data showed that there were 239,000 smokers under the age of 10. In one case, the commission found a child in South Sumatra who had started smoking at just 11 months old.
He said the vast majority of child smokers, 83.7 percent, took up the habit because they were influenced by cigarette ads, particularly on television.
Other factors included the handing out of free packs of cigarettes at places and events where children and young people typically gathered, including malls, concerts and sports events, Arist said.
A recent study by the medical school at Bali's Udayana University found that 60 percent of youths in Denpasar aged 13 to 22 years old who smoked were still in junior high school.
"They start off smoking in the school toilets, then they pick up the habit and eventually develop a high-level addiction to smoking," said Made Kerta Duana, a researcher from the school's Community Health Studies program.
Elly Burhaini Faizal, Jakarta Indonesia's family planning program remains stagnant due to poor access to reproductive and sexual health services, which could further affect the country's success in achieving its targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, a visiting UN specialist said.
Special adviser to the UN secretary-general and his special envoy on HIV/AIDS in the Asia-Pacific, Nafis Sadik, said Monday that fertility rates in Indonesia showed slow progress during the last decade partly due to sustained high levels of unfulfilled needs.
"The number of children born to a woman came down to 2.4 in 1997 from 6 in 1965. After that, it has not moved. It's been at that level until now," she said after a talk show.
The talk show titled "Beyond the MDGs: Indonesia's Role as a Middle Income Country on HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights" was held by the Office of the President's Special Envoy on MDGs, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UNAIDS and the University of Indonesia's School of Medicine.
Sadik said poor access to sexual and reproductive health services, especially among adolescents and young people, particularly girls, would not only cause a sustained fertility rate, but might also further affect programs to reduce HIV/AIDS infections in this country," she said.
According to data from the National Demography and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN), unmet needs for family planning services in Indonesia stands at 9 percent, remaining stagnant over the last decade.
Health Ministry data showed that 186,257 people in Indonesia were infected with HIV in 2009. Without accelerating preventive measures, the country will have see the number of people infected with HIV increase to 541,700 people by 2014.
During the 1970s to 1980s, Indonesia became one of few countries that managed to increase the use of contraception to a rate above 50 percent.
"Currently, the use of modern contraceptive methods is around 56 to 57 percent, just a bit lower than 60 percent. A poor contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) has been continuing for over 10 years," said UNFPA Indonesia representative Jose Ferraris.
Decentralization was one of many factors causing the poor CPR rate in Indonesia. "I think it is challenging for a country as big as Indonesia, which has more than 17,000 islands, to ensure that contraceptive services are available in poor, remote and rural areas throughout the country," he told The Jakarta Post.
Over the past two years the BKKBN has begun to revitalize Indonesia's family planning program. This year, the agency is piloting a program called "KB Kencana" specially designed to further revitalize family planning programs in the country. The program offers a number of strategies to address the issue of why the family planning program has not progressed as expected.
"We are very excited about this and the UNFPA is currently providing technical assistance to the BKKBN in implementing the program," Ferraris said.
Jakarta Deputy Health Minister Ali Ghufron Mukti warned on Tuesday that maternal and infant deaths in Indonesia remained high despite improvements over the last few years.
Maternal and infant mortality rates, he said, were two of the main indicators of the general health among a country's people indicators that have remained stubbornly high and difficult for the government to address.
"We must make maternal and child health care a priority," Ali told a national workshop on midwifery, held by the Health Ministry on Tuesday to celebrate this year's World Midwife Day, which fell on May 5.
Currently, the maternal mortality rate in Indonesia is still three to six times higher than other ASEAN member countries, although it has declined to 228 per 100,000 live births, the 2007 Indonesia Demography and Health Survey (SDKI) showed. The same data shows that the country's infant mortality rate has decreased to 34 per 1,000 live births in 2007, showing quite good progress. "Still, it is about two to five times higher than our neighboring countries in the region. I must say that the reduction of child deaths has stagnated," said Ali.
Extreme gaps between the rich and poor, as well as between rural and urban dwellers, still pose the most critical challenges and the still high numbers of infant and maternal deaths.
Jakarta As the world marked the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on Thursday, one sociologist pointed to recent situations as evidence that homophobia remains high in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslims country.
Dede Oetomo, a sociologist from Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, said, "It was very painful to see a number of Indonesians still shamelessly harassed people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or LGBT community at the dawn of the commemoration."
The international day was founded at the 2006 International Homosexual and Human Rights Activist Conference in Montreal, Canada.
Dede added, however, that there was still a positive side to the situation, referring to his high hopes for the delegation from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that will review the human rights situation in Indonesia from May 21 to June 4.
"I bet they will evaluate the recent condition in the country, particularly the fact that the authorities have washed their hands of this situation," the gay rights activist Dede told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Introduced in 2006, the quadrennial review is a part of the UN's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to evaluate the human rights records of the UN's 192 member nations.
A book discussion featuring Canadian writer Irshad Manji at the Salihara cultural center in Jakarta on May 5 was interrupted by metropolitan authorities who claimed that the event's organizer did not have a permit to invite a foreign national.
However, dozens of people claiming to be local residents who protested the event claimed that their rejection of Manji, who is openly gay, was because they viewed her opinion that Islam should accept homosexuality as "unacceptable".
Last Wednesday in Yogyakarta, a similar discussion with Manji was disrupted when a mob representing the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) raided the LKiS (Social and Islamic Studies Institute) Foundation office, and assaulted participants, denouncing Manji for being open about being a lesbian. The police have yet to arrest the assailants.
Hard-liner groups in the country also denounced American pop diva Lady Gaga, who is slated to perform in Jakarta on June 3, saying that the controversial singer "indulges in pornography by wearing revealing clothes." Law enforcement agencies stated that they would not issue the concert's organizer a permit to hold the event.
Lady Gaga, who is known for her advocacy for gay rights issues in her music, launched her non-profit organization The Born This Way Foundation in March of this year. The foundation focuses on preventing bullying among youth, including the LBGT community. Workshops on LGBT issues in the country have also been attacked by hard-line groups.
Munarman, spokesman of the notorious Islam Defenders Front (FPI), insisted that "not a single religion in the world endorses lesbianism or homosexuality."
"If there are people who support lesbianism and homosexuality, they are demented and sick people. Let's say that there is someone who promotes corruption practices, wouldn't people reject him?" he said in a respond to the Post's query.
Commenting on this, Dede, who is a candidate for a position on Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said that he still believed many Indonesian citizens would tolerate the existence of LGBT people.
"For instance, most Indonesians would still go to the beauty salon even if the beauticians are transvestites. I am also optimistic that many youngsters in this country will accept the community in the future years," he said. (asa)
More than a third of the 470 regional heads voted into office since 2004 have been implicated in corruption cases, the government revealed on Monday.
Reydonnyzar Moenek, a spokesman for the Home Affairs Ministry, said 37 percent of the regional heads, or 174 officials, had been named witnesses or suspects in various graft cases. "Seventy percent of them have been convicted in court and removed from office," he said.
Reydonnyzar blamed the high rate of corruption among regional leaders on their wide and often non-political backgrounds people entering elected office from such backgrounds generally understood very little about the bureaucracy, including regional finances, the Ministry spokesman said.
Reydonnyzar said that such misunderstandings often inadvertently led officials to carry out procedural violations that prompted graft charges, "when in fact they never meant to commit corruption."
In addition, Reydonnyzar said the appointment of incompetent or genuinely corrupt officials to important posts by the regional heads in exchange for helping in their campaigns also led, in an indirect manner, to the regional heads involvement in graft.
And some regional heads openly and knowingly engaged in corruption and regularly embezzled funds from local coffers to pay back campaign contributions, Reydonnyzar added.
Reydonnyzar said the ministry appreciated the work by law enforcement officers to crack down on corrupt officials and help clean up the bureaucracy. "We hope they continue to go after these corrupt officials all over the country, obviously in a fair and just manner," the spokesman said.
The ministry notes that regional heads are not the only problem. Since 2004, the ministry has granted permission for police to question nearly 3,000 regional legislators in a variety of cases. A third of the 2,976 cases center on graft, but others involve assault, fraud, sexual abuse and murder. (SP/Robertus Wardi)
Apriadi Gunawan, Medan Fourteen people who have been sentenced to various prison terms by the Medan Corruption Court in North Sumatra are reportedly still free and carrying on with their daily lives.
Those sentenced include suspended Binjai legislative speaker Haris Harto, who was sentenced to two years; former Medan Development Planning Board (Bappeda) head Harmes Joni (18 months); Binjai's National Sports Council secretary Akhmad Kuasa (one year); PT Indah Karya director Fadjrif Bustami (one year) and Medan municipal official Susi Anggraini (two years).
The court reportedly has yet to issue letters authorizing their arrests.
The Medan Legal Aid Institute (LBH) plans to file a report with the Judicial Commission against the Corruption Court judges who were said to have allowed the convicts to remain free. The commission was asked to investigate the case.
LBH Medan director Nuriono voiced suspicion over the judges' reasons for not ordering the convicts' imprisonment.
"This is weird, because the graft convicts have not been imprisoned, but those involved in petty crimes are often detained immediately. This is discriminatory and at the same time proves that our law enforcement is a failure," Nuriono told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
He said his institute suspected there was a conspiracy behind the judges' decision of not ordering the arrests. He added that the Medan Corruption Court often ruled in favor of graft suspects who had been legally proven guilty.
Medan Corruption Court spokesman Ahmad Guntur, who is also a judge at the court, acknowledged that 14 graft convicts had been found guilty and sentenced by judges but not detained.
Guntur said one of them was Medan municipality master plan official Susi Anggraini, who was found guilty of corruption related to the Medan master plan project in 2006. "I did not issue an order to detain Susi because she was never detained from the start of the legal process," Guntur told the Post on Wednesday.
Guntur said that other judges did the same, because in general many offenders had never been detained after being tried at the Corruption Court, so the judges did not feel that it was their responsibility to detain them.
Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi said the government was concerned by a recent court ruling in favor of graft convict Agusrin Maryono Najamuddin, saying he would strengthen the legal framework in anticipation of similar cases in the future.
Gamawan said the ruling could be used as a legal precedent by other local administrators to challenge government policy. According to him, there had been cases in which local leaders charged with corruption tried to fight back. But Agusrin's move was unprecedented, he added.
"From now on, the government will be more cautious and strengthen the legal framework," Gamawan told reporters on the sidelines of the third National Coordination Meeting of Regional Inflation Control Teams (TPID) at a hotel in Jakarta on Wednesday.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono dismissed Agusrin from his post as Bengkulu governor after the Supreme Court sentenced the latter in January to four years in prison for corruption. The President also appointed Agusrin's deputy Junaidi Hamsyah as the new governor.
Agusrin, represented by his lawyer Yusril Ihza Mahendra, a former justice and human rights minister, challenged the dismissal and filed a lawsuit against the dismissal.
The Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) on Monday ruled in favor of Agusrin and ordered the government to suspend the inauguration of Junaidi who was due to act as Bengkulu governor until 2015.
The ruling, which was issued only hours before Junaidi was supposed to be inaugurated, ordered the government not to appoint anyone to the post of Bengkulu governor until the case is completely settled.
Gamawan, a former West Sumatra governor, said local administrators who were charged with corruption usually hired high-profile lawyers to appeal their sentences up to the Supreme Court. "But they have never filed their case through the administrative court like Agusrin just did. It could be seen as a new precedent," Gamawan said.
The minister cited Subang Regent Eep Hidayat and Bekasi Mayor Mochtar Mohammad as examples. Eep and Mochtar are currently in prison after the Supreme Court handed them five- and six-year sentences respectively for corruption.
The two disgraced politicians, however, have filed appeals using the case review mechanism (PK), which is the final appeal stage in the Indonesian justice system. A PK can only be filed if new evidence, which has never been presented before judges, is found.
Separately, State Secretary Minister Sudi Silalahi downplayed the court ruling favoring Agusrin.
"This is not about winning or losing, or who is right and who is wrong. And this is definitely not a symbol that our anti-corruption efforts have failed. You have to believe that this country's legal system will never protect corruptors," Sudi said.
"The government has always respected the law. That is why we decided to obey the ruling and not install Junaidi for the time being," Sudi said.
Yusril said he believed the court would rule in favor of his client and order the government to revoke Agusrin's acquittal. "The President's decree is illegal. The 2004 Law on Local Administration stipulates that a local leader can be permanently dismissed only if he or she has been found guilty of a criminal act that carries a five-year minimum punishment," he said.
Ina Parlina, Jakarta Despite the fair treatment she receives at the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) detention block, Democratic Party lawmaker Angelina Sondakh feels she is facing discrimination.
On Tuesday, the former beauty queen requested an electronic Koran with an electronic pen, the same two items she demanded last week. Her lawyer, Teuku Nasrullah, argued that the electronic Koran and pen "would help her recite Koranic verses because she doesn't know how to read it [Arabic]".
Angelina is being detained for her alleged role in fraudulent budget deliberations at the House of Representatives (DPR). On Tuesday, the KPK extended her detention for another 20 days.
The KPK provides Angelina with an ustadz (teacher) every Wednesday to help her recite Koranic verses. However, Nasrullah insisted that Angelina "wants to recite the Koran every night, which is why she has requested the electronic tools".
"She told KPK investigators that she has lost everything position and [social] status. She begged to not lose Allah, Nasrullah said after visiting Angelina on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Angelina requested a canvas board and painting tools, as well as a guitar. She made the request after being in detention for only two days. The KPK has yet to grant the request
She also requested surgery for an old wound on her shoulder. Nasrullah said that she wanted "to be fit when she faces trial".
A KPK doctor checked her condition right away and recommended that Angelina be treated at the Metropolitan Medical Center (MMC) last week. However, Angelina suddenly declined the treatment.
Nasrullah said that Angelina wanted to be treated by her doctor at Muhammad Husni Thamrin Hospital as she did not want to start her treatment again from scratch.
Only days after her arrest, Angelina was hospitalized for sinusitis after repeatedly complaining about her condition through Nasrullah. She was checked by the KPK's doctor and later recommended treatment at Proklamasi Otolaryngology (Perhati) Hospital.
Angelina's lawyer insisted on Tuesday that her client had never requested special treatment from the KPK, only fair and decent treatment, just like other detainees.
"She felt she was being discriminated against. There are people [in jail] who are treated much more humanely," Nasrullah said. "She is not even allowed to exercise."
The 34-year-old mother of three questioned her detention on Tuesday. "Angelina told me that she wanted to give [further] testimony right away, yet the investigators have only questioned her twice in the past 20 days," Nasrullah said. "Is her detention really necessary?"
Nasrullah said that the KPK imposed strict visiting hours for Angelina's parents and her children, who were only allowed to visit her on Monday and Thursday. She asked that the KPK allow her son to visit her every day "for just 30 minutes".
KPK spokesman Johan Budi dismissed Angelina's claims, saying that the KPK "has never barred her from meeting her family during official visiting hours".
Johan also said that visitors could meet Angelina on Saturday and Sunday if they got approval from the KPK. Moreover, he added that the KPK cared about Angelina's health, pointing out that the KPK's doctor gave recommendations to her several times, saying "how can we not pay attention to her here?"
Johan said that the investigators were confident that her detention was needed for their investigation into her role. He added that the KPK was still a long way from completing the case.
"The effectiveness of our investigation is not determined by how many times we have examined the suspects," Johan said. "Our investigation into her role in the case is not over as we are still questioning witnesses. We will question her further again soon."
Arientha Primanita Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali refuted claims that the Indonesian government had poor record protecting minorities on Wednesday, calling Indonesia "the most tolerant country in the world."
Suryadharma was responding critically to a plan by some rights groups to report the Indonesian government to the United Nations' rights council for its failure to protect minority rights. "We treat equally the minority and the majority," the minister said in Jakarta. "Indonesia's religious harmony is the best in the world."
Suryadharma said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Vice President Boediono and himself always attended commemorations for Indonesian holidays, no matter which of the country's six official religions they belonged to.
"The president, the vice president and the religious minister are Muslims, but we attend celebrations of Christmas and the Hindu, Buddhism and Confucianism holidays," he said.
He accused the rights groups of trying to taint the country's image with their reported plan to bring cases of abuse against religious minorities to the upcoming UN Human Rights Council meeting, set for May 23-25 in Geneva.
"I cannot understand why an Indonesian organization would give bad information about our country when the information is probably wrong," said Suryadharma, who chairs the United Development Party (PPP). "Don't discredit and politicize religions."
The Indonesian government has received an upsurge of criticism during the past few years for its failures to protect the rights of some religious minority groups, most notably members of the Ahmadiya faith, a minority Muslim sect, and the several church disputes.
Earlier this week, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Indonesia is No Model for Muslim Democracy," Indonesian journalist Andreas Harsono wrote, "The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled" in Indonesia, and called on the president to stop Islamic militants from committing crimes against them. (BeritaSatu/JG)
Agus Triyono Trying to counter the growing intolerance in Indonesia, the country's two largest Muslim organizations have expressed support for the protection of people's constitutional rights to religious freedom amid several incidences of unilateral church foreclosures in the country.
"By law, the government has a duty to offer security and protection if there is a citizen, regardless of religion, who feels that they cannot perform their religious duty, or feels threatened when doing so, including building places of worship," Abdul Mufti, the secretary of Muhammadiyah, said on Sunday. "The government should be more stringent in enforcing the laws of this country."
Muhammadiyah is the second-largest Muslim organization in the country.
The spotlight during the past week has been on a church belonging to the Batak Protestant Congregation (HKBP) that the Bekasi government has kept shuttered despite a Supreme Court decision overruling it. The congregation, which has been forced to pray on the streets because of the government's stubbornness, was attacked by a mob of hundreds of Islamic hard-liners on Ascension Day on Thursday, and again on Sunday.
Nusron Wahid, the chairman of GP Ansor, the youth wing of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, said it would mediate between the HKBP congregation and those opposing the church's presence. "We don't want what happened to GKI Yasmin, where they are going at each other head- to-head, to happen here," he said on Sunday.
He was referring to Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin in Bogor, where congregation members are forced to pray in secret after facing threats and attacks from hard-line groups there. "We will try to create a joint activity, have a dialogue so there can be understanding and trust," Nusron said.
Aside from the cases involving the HKBP and GKI, officials in Aceh Singkil district sealed off 16 Christian houses of worship earlier this month after protests from conservative Muslims.
District head Razali Abdul Rahman insisted on Tuesday that the 16 gathering places, known as undung-undungs, were shut down for "not having permits" and "to prevent interreligious conflict." But Mufti said conflicts would only become inevitable if such closures were allowed.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Budiman Sudjatmiko also said religious freedom was waning in Indonesia. "The job of the government and of law enforcers is to ensure there is religious freedom and tolerance for all Indonesians in every corner of this country," he said.
NU chairman Said Aqil Siroj recently highlighted attacks against another minority group, Shia Muslims, on the island of Madura. A Shiite community was attacked by mainstream Muslim groups in December, but police instead accused local Shia cleric Tajul Muluk of blasphemy.
"What we must emphasize is togetherness and tolerance," Said said. "There is no religion that teaches violence. There mustn't be any group which takes the law into its own hands, especially claiming to act on behalf of their religion. That will only smear religion itself."
Said also highlighted the recent controversy over pop star Lady Gaga's concert, scheduled for June 3 in Jakarta, which has been attacked as "satanic" and "promoting pornography." "For NU, if there are a thousand Lady Gagas, it won't change our faith," he said.
Muhammadiyah chairman Dien Syamsuddin said religious groups should focus on finding common ground. "We must face our common enemy. Our enemy is not each other, but problems facing humanity like poverty, ignorance, backwardness, injustice and violence," Dien was quoted as saying on the Muhammadiyah website.
The Asian Human Rights Commission called on Bekasi district Chief Neneng Hasanah Yasin to safeguard religious freedom and to enforce the law following several cases of assault, violence and intimidation against the Congregation of Batak Protestant Churches (HKBP) Filadelfia parish.
In an open letter to Neneng, the AHRC urged the district chief, who was inaugurated on May 14, to protect her constituents.
"We are sending this letter to draw your attention on the matter of freedom of religion in Bekasi, as the previous district chief has failed to take steps that are in line with the law and human rights principles in overcoming the matter," Wong Kai Shing, the executive director of Hong Kong-based AHRC, said.
Wong summarized his concerns over the intimidation, threats and attacks against the HKBP Filadelfia church in Jejalen Raya village in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta. The most recent attack was on May 20, when several residents threw stones, bags of urine and rotten eggs at members of the church's congregation. Reverend Palti Panjaitan from the church also reported a death threat made against him to the National Police.
"AHRC deplores that the government of the Bekasi district has not yet taken steps in line with the law and human rights to overcome this problem," Wong said in the letter.
Wong also expressed his regret that the Bekasi district government under the previous chief had worsened the conflict by refusing to issue a permit for the congregation to build their church. The previous district chief, Sa'duddin, had also refused to abide by the verdicts of the West Java state administrative court and the Supreme Court, both of whom approved the church.
"We hope that you, as the new Bekasi district head, can offer changes and settle this case in line with the law and human rights. You and your regional apparatus have the obligation to uphold the law, including the verdicts of the state administrative court and the Supreme Court," the letter said.
Wong also called on Neneng not to get involved or to take part in activities that curbed the church congregation's right to worship on their land.
The AHRC is a regional non-governmental organization that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform.
Mataram The West Nusa Tenggara government put dozens of Ahamdiyah Muslims at the bottom of its list to register for an electronic identity card, known as e-KTP.
Lalu Sajim Sastrawan, head of the province's administration bureau, said on Tuesday that e-KTP registration was not prioritized for "troubled people". "It is not that they're not going to get it, but they will be registered at the end of the program from August to September," Sajim said.
West Lombok's Ahmadis have accused the district's Population and Civil Registry Office for discriminating against them by ignoring their repeated attempts to register for the e-KTP program.
More than 100 Ahmadis have lived in a run-down government Transito shelter in Mataram since 2006, when a mob of their fellow villagers who deemed them deviant drove them out of their homes with machetes and fire and destroyed their houses.
It is estimated that there are 180 people Ahmadiyah living in West Nusa Tenggara.
Jakarta An angry mob once again assaulted the members of the Congregation of Batak Protestant Churches (HKBP) Filadelfia on Sunday morning as the parishioners were trying to attend their house of worship the second attack within a week.
The congregation was reportedly entering their church, located on Jejalen Raya village in Bekasi, West Java, at around 9 a.m. when a group of people suddenly began throwing objects at them.
"They threw mineral water in plastic cups, mud, rotten eggs and water from drainage ditches at us. Some of them were still harassing parishioners after the congregation had already dispersed," HKBP Filadelfia Rev. Palti Panjaitan told The Jakarta Post.
He added that the plastic cups that were thrown by the crowd also hit Bekasi Police chief Sr. Comr. Wahyu Hadiningrat and Bekasi Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) chief Agus Rismanto, whose members were unsuccessfully trying to provide safety.
"Our lawyer [Judianto Simanjuntak] and some reporters were chased by members of the intolerant group after the group had been scattered," he said.
A similar incident took place last Thursday during the day of the Ascension of Jesus Christ. On Thursday a group of intolerant people threw "urine, sewage and frogs" at worshippers, all of which also hit the policemen who tried to shield the parishioners from the angry mob as they tried to reach their place of worship to conduct services. The parishioners only managed to pray for five minutes before being forced to leave.
The Bekasi regency sealed off the church site in 2010 after local residents objected to the construction of the church. The Bandung State Administrative Court ruled in favor of HKBP Filadelfia, but the administration has yet to reopen the site. (asa/swd)
Ronna Nirmala "Why would they build a church here when most of the residents are Muslim?" Taupik says. "What reason could they have unless it was to convert us all?"
Now in his 50s, Taupik has lived in Jejalen Raya village in Bekasi all his life. For him and many of his neighbors in North Tambun subdistrict, the first mention of the planned HKBP Filadelfia church to be built in their midst seemed like a sinister plot the start of a wider Christian conspiracy to undermine the local Muslim community.
"What I'm worried about is my grandchildren's future. I don't want them to be influenced by infidel activities because there's a church here," he says.
The deeply ingrained mistrust toward the church can be traced back to 2005, when plans for the building were first released. At the time, a prominent local cleric, Naimun, wrote an open letter to all residents urging them to reject the church.
The letter, addressed ironically enough to "All those people in the village whose thinking isn't backward," claimed that the church was meant to lead local Muslims astray. "Our peace has been disturbed because in front of our eyes is being built a gateway to apostasy that beckons to our children and grandchildren," the cleric wrote. "This door to perversion is none other than the construction of the HKBP Filadelfia church."
He added that he hoped the letter, and an attached petition from some 300 residents, would persuade the village chief to reject the congregation's request to build the church.
Though it kicked off the now-widespread animosity felt by residents toward the church, the letter failed to sway local authorities from continuing to process the request for the building permit. But the church's progress on this front, Taupik claims, was achieved through trickery and lies.
He said that toward the end of 2007, he attended a meeting that the subdistrict head called with several local clerics and community leaders. They were shown a letter from the Jejalen Raya village head recommending the congregation for a building permit.
Under the terms of a 2006 joint ministerial decree, congregations of all faiths seeking to build a house of worship must get the signed support of local residents before a building permit can be issued.
"But they manipulated the petition from our residents," Taupik claims. "We set up a team to check it and we went door to door, asking people in the area if they'd approved of a church being built there." He insists that the team found that most of the residents "had been cheated" into signing blank forms that they knew nothing about.
"Some were told they'd get Rp 200,000 [$22] for signing, others that they would get access to loans and others that they would get free goods," he says. He also claimed that many of the 259 people who signed the approval were unfit to do so, "being either insane or dead."
With opposition mounting, the Bekasi administration withheld the permit, despite the congregation meeting all the requirements. At the end of 2009, the district head went a step further and banned the members of the congregation from worshipping on the land, forcing the 560 worshipers to hold services by the side of the road fronting the property.
Church leaders challenged the ban at the Bandung State Administrative Court (PTUN), which ruled in September 2010 that the decision to ban services on the church's property was unconstitutional.
Subsequent appeals to the Jakarta PTUN in March 2011 and the Supreme Court three months later led to the earlier ruing being upheld. The nation's highest court ruled that barring the congregation from worshiping on church property was illegal.
But these decisions have done nothing to sway the administration or the residents. "If from the very beginning there have been irregularities, why would we now agree to having the church?" Taupik says. "It's definitely twisted."
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta The House of Representatives plans to summon National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo for failing to prevent numerous acts of violence against religious minority groups across the country.
Benny Kabur Harman, chairman of House Commission III overseeing legal affairs and human rights, blamed the National Police for poor law enforcement and protection of minority groups.
He said police condoned violent acts carried out by hard-liners, triggering human rights violations. "The police must not bow down to the Islam Defenders Front [FPI] or any other hard-liners," the Democratic Party lawmaker told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
The FPI notoriously uses violence to push its ideology onto others. The Cikeusik Muslim Movement, another radical group, has allegedly killed three members of Ahmadiyah sect in Banten.
The Shiite community in Sampang, Madura, has been the target of attacks by another group. Christians have been banned from performing religious services in church buildings in Bekasi and Bogor, West Java. In some cases, arguments between groups turned violent despite the presence of police.
Benny said the commission would have an internal plenary meeting on Monday to set the date for a meeting with the police.
Fellow commission member Eva Kusuma Sundari expressed concern over the police's bowing to the demands of hard-line groups to cancel or ban religious and cultural events that contradict their ideologies.
"Hard-liners such as the FPI don't have the authority to ban such events, but it's obvious that the police have always complied with these violent groups. This is a democratic country and the police are obliged to protect the rights of all people," the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker said recently.
The attacks on Canadian liberal Muslim activist Irshad Manji's book discussions, in addition to a number of unresolved violations of human rights in the past, has tainted the image of a country that is globally recognized as democratic, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) says.
Komnas HAM chairman Ifdhal Kasim said recently that the escalating violence has not only disgraced the country's commitment to uphold rights, but also put Indonesia's membership and leadership of international organizations at risk.
"Indonesia's poor human rights record is mainly caused by the failure to enforce the law as the police have mostly chosen to evacuate victims of violence from 'unwanted' events instead of tightening security to prevent opposing groups from approaching them at all costs," he said.
In a summary of Indonesia published on its website, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) quotes Komnas HAM as saying that any education on human rights for law enforcement officials "had not demonstrated results. This was evident from human rights abuses committed by security forces, especially the police."
It also said that of 4,926 complaints it received in 2009, 890 were of concerns about police investigations and 177 questioned the legal basis for police detention.
In a report to the UNHRC, Komnas HAM identified cases, like the May 1998 riots, that the Attorney General knew of but took no action. The UNHRC will begin a two-week review of Indonesia's human rights record on Monday.
Jakarta The Congregation of Batak Protestant Churches (HKBP) Filadelfia branch will file a report to the National Police headquarters in Jakarta following Thursday's mob attack against their house of worship in Tambun, Bekasi, West Java.
Church attorney Judianto Simanjuntak said Friday that hundreds of people blocked the church congregation as they headed toward their church to commemorate the ascension of Jesus Christ on Thursday morning. "A similar attack occurred on May 6," he said as quoted by tempo.co.
In addition to these attacks, the lawyer revealed that HKBP Filadelfia's Rev. Palti Panjaitan had received a death threat on April 15, which the church will also report to the National Police. "We will go to the National Police headquarters on Saturday morning," he said, adding that the congregation will also ask for protection.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto was quoted by tempo.co late on Thursday as saying that the police were not trying to disperse the mob that threw water on the church followers on Thursday. "We were just trying to avoid riots," he said.
He was responding to a query over police action in dealing with a group of intolerant people who interrupted the Filadelfia church congregation on Thursday morning.
Palti told The Jakarta Post that that the crowd had thrown "urine, sewage and frogs" at the worshippers, some of which also hit policemen who were protecting parish members from the mob.
The church and local residents have been involved in a building permit dispute for several years. Palti said that the church had already obtained the necessary legal paperwork, claiming that the Bekasi administration's decision to close the church in 2010 was overturned by the Bandung State Administrative Court in West Java in 2011. (asa/swd)
Sita W. Dewi and Novia D. Rulistia, Jakarta In the latest act of intolerance that further undermines the country's effort to present itself as beacon of democracy for the Islamic world, a group of radical Muslims in Bekasi, West Java, prevented a Christian congregation from holding a service by hurling urine, sewage and frogs at them, a parishioner said.
The Congregation of Batak Protestant Churches (HKBP) Filadelfia was forced to halt its service commemorating the ascension of Jesus Christ at their half-built church in Tambun, Bekasi, after being harassed by a group of people who oppose the church's construction.
Filadelfia congregation leader Rev. Palti Panjaitan said the protesters blocked access to the church building, located in Jejalen Raya village, at 8:30 a.m. when the congregation was about to enter the church and start the service. "We [the congregation and the people] were only separated by a barricade of police officers who managed to protect us when the groups tried so hard to break through the barricade.
"They threw urine, sewage and frogs at us all of which also struck the policemen," he said. The group of people, who according to Palti, did not carry any flags or symbols that would identify them, also yelled at the churchgoers using a loudspeaker, Palti said.
The parishioners managed to pray for only about five minutes and were not able to conduct other liturgies, he said. "We tried to negotiate with all parties, including that group and representatives of the local administration. We were told to abandon the service," he said. "We finally gave in at 10 a.m."
Palti said that church representatives were considering filing a police report concerning the incident. "We want the mastermind arrested," he said.
Tambun Police chief Comr. Andri Ananta, however, denied that any harassment took place. "There was a demonstration; protesters who prevented them from holding the service at the site, but we managed to control everything. Nobody threw anything and there was no clash," he said.
A total of 402 police officers, military personnel and local public order officers were deployed to secure the service, he said. "We set up a barricade and had closed the road since 8:30 a.m. Everything has returned normal as of 10:30 a.m.," Andri said.
One of the protesters, Naimun, 78, said that the Jejalen residents protested as they usually did, but more people came to the site during Thursday's service. "There were many people in the demonstration and we could not control what happened," he said. Naimun also suspected that the parishioners were not Jejalen Jaya residents and suspected the church brought in people from other places.
He said that protesters would keep going to the site whenever a service was to be held until the congregation agreed to move to another place provided by the Bekasi administration. "We will keep rejecting the church's construction in our village," he said,
Recently, an activist from the Association of Journalists for Diversity (Sejuk), Tantowi Anwari, was stripped and beaten by dozens of members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) when he supported the Filadelfia congregation's right to hold services.
The Bekasi regency sealed off the site in 2010 after local residents objected to the construction of the church. The Bandung State Administrative Court ruled in favor of HKBP Filadelfia, but the administration has yet to reopen the site.
The intimidation against the Filadelfia congregation intensified as the government failed to overcome a standoff over the Indonesian Christian Church Yasmin in Bogor.
The latest solution offered was to build a mosque adjacent to the church, but Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto has rejected the idea.
The incident in Bekasi came in the wake of a series of incidents that critics say have put Indonesia's commitment to freedom of expression into question. Recently, a Canadian author was banned from speaking at a seminar as she was accused of promoting homosexuality.
In another example of the growing clout of the country's Muslim conservatives, the Jakarta Police have refused to endorse American singer Lady Gaga's concert in June following strong opposition by the FPI. (cor)
Camelia Pasandaran A mob of Islamic hard-liners threw stones and bags of urine at the HKBP Filadelphia congreagation of the Batak Christian Protestant Church in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta, at an Ascension Day service on Thursday.
Police tried to stop the mob of some 300 people, but were also attacked, according to reports.
"They assaulted the congregation members," Rev. Palti Panjaitan told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday. "Police tried to talk to them, but the mob passed through police and showered us with urine and dirty water. Others threw stones at us."
The mob reportedly attacked the congregation as the service started, and also shouted profanity and threats. "Even after the service, which lasted one-and-a-half hours, the mob chased after us," Rev. Palti said. "Thank God the police escorted us to a safe area.
HKBP Filadelphia submitted an application for a building permit in 2007, but church leaders say that despite meeting all the requirements, including the agreement of their neighbors, a permit was never issued.
On Dec. 31, 2009, the Bekasi district head issued a letter banning the members of the congregation from worshiping on the land, forcing the 560 members to hold services along the side of the road fronting the property.
In July 2011, the Supreme Court overruled the Bekasi administration's decision, saying the church was eligible for a building permit. The court ordered Bekasi to issue one but the district government ignored the ruling.
Members of the congregation say that Islamic hard-liners have been intimidating and threatening them at their services since January.
Apriadi Gunawan, Medan At least 24 people were injured, some severely, as a clash broke out between local residents and security guards hired by state plantation company PTPN II in Namorobe Julu in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, on Tuesday.
Seventeen of those injured were PTPN II security guards. Most suffered from slash wounds, while others were shot by air rifles or poisoned arrows. The injured guards were taken to Dangkatan Hospital in Binjai, while the seven residents injured in the clash were taken to Bina Kasih Hospital in Medan.
Five trucks were also set on fire during the clash, which erupted at 10 a.m. local time when hundreds of guards on 19 trucks arrived in the village to take disputed land from the residents. Tono, a local resident, said the clash was unavoidable since they had refused to vacate.
The situation quickly turned chaotic as the two camps attacked each other. "It was like a war," Tono told The Jakarta Post.
PTPN II spokesman Rahmudin confirmed the incident, saying that the clash broke out when the company's guards were about to evict the residents. "The land on which the residents grow various crops belongs to PTPN II," he said.
North Sumatra Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Heru Prakoso said that the security situation in the village returned to normal after officers from the provincial police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) special operations unit were deployed. "Brimob personnel are still on scene, but the situation has already been placed under control," Heru said.
One person was shot and killed in a previous land dispute involving PTPN II in Deli Serdang in January. That clash was reportedly triggered by local residents looking to maintain their right to grow crops on the disputed lands.
In a separate incident, police shot and injured five residents and arrested five others in February after land disputes turned violent in Tambusai and Rokan Hulu in Riau.
The residents clashed with guards employed by PT Mazuma Agro Indonesia (MAI) and Brimob officers over a disputed plot near the border between Riau and North Sumatra.
Separately, the legal advisor for the Batang Kumu residents, Nasir Sihotang. said the clash was triggered by the presence of heavy machinery owned by PT MAI on the disputed land.
Rahmat, Makassar Angry students in Makassar ran amok on Monday, destroying rooms in the South Sulawesi legislature building, prompting locals to complain that police should have done more to stop them.
The students and members of nongovernmental organizations initially staged a rally in front of the council building demanding councillors address allegations of bribery in the province's land agency, which they said issued a fake land certificate for a businessman.
They claimed the 2.3-hectare plot of land belonged to Amiruddin Pase, who also owns a certificate for the land. The students accused land agency officials of taking bribes to issue the fake certificate for businessman Welly Engriwan.
"We ask the council and [land agency] to examine the falsification of the certificate," said Hasri Jack, the protest coordinator.
The group then demanded that members of the council's Commission A, which oversees governance, legal issues and information, meet with them. However, as no Commission A members were present, some councillors from Commission B met with the protesters.
As their anger grew, the students refused to talk with the councillors and broke into the Commission A meeting room, looking for the councillors. As the meeting room was empty, they started to destroy items including chairs, desks, door and windows.
Outnumbered and with no police officers on the scene, the council's security officers stood aside. Satistified with their action, the protesters moved to Welly's house. This time, however, police officers stopped them, arresting 13.
South Sulawesi Police Chief Insp. Gen. Muji Waluyo did not say why his officers failed to guard the council building. "We will enforce the law. They should be responsible for the destruction," he said after the arrests.
Students in Makassar are notorious for their use of violence in protests, with many criticizing the police for not being tough enough on them.
In March, students attacked the governor's office, pelting windows with rocks and shaking the office's main gate until it collapsed. A day earlier, hundreds of students attacked police stations and an auto showroom with Molotov cocktails.
Several days before, other students armed with rocks, slingshots and Molotov cocktails attacked a police station and burned down a police post, starting a fire that nearly spread to an Islamic high school before local residents were able to extinguish it.
Anita Rachman Marzuki Darusman can still remember what the House of Representatives was like before the tumultuous events of 1998 that led to the downfall of former President Suharto.
A legislator from 1978 to 1992 for the Golkar Party, which at the time did not consider itself a political party, Marzuki acknowledged that the House was once "a stabilizer institution," which meant that although institutionally it was tasked with balancing out the executive branch of government, it never actually did "We supported the government," the former attorney general said.
The House was once famously called a rubber-stamp assembly for Suharto, and its representatives were called "5D" people in reference to their token roles of datang, dengar, diam, duduk and duit (come, listen, be silent, sit and money).
In the years since, the House has gone through rigorous changes, but have 14 years of reform led to a better breed of lawmakers?
Legislators in Suharto's day could be ostracized by their factions or even fired for being critical of the president's policies or administration, according to the book "The Political Role of DPR Indonesia in the Reform Era," published by the House Secretariat.
But after Suharto stepped down, changes swept through the House. Previously limited to proposing bills, legislators now have three main tasks of legislating, budgeting and monitoring. They can also grill ministers in oversight hearings and summon top officials through a right to make inquiries. Vice President Boediono was hauled in this way over the controversial bailout of Bank Century, which, according to a House resolution, broke the law.
Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said things had changed for the better at the House, in terms of legislators' freedom to express their opinion and monitor the government's performance.
However, he said it might be time to review all the powers the House now enjoys, particularly in light of controversies and criticism.
He cited several problems that the House has had with its expanded powers, including controversies over its selection of officials for important posts such as ambassadors, police chiefs and anticorruption commissioners. Political parties have also been accused of engaging in political horse- trading and bartering in exchange for backing certain candidates.
"It's true that there's been some progress," Ikrar said. "They're now free to express their opinions. But progress should also have been made in other areas, such as the quality of legislation and accountability."
No longer seen as a rubber-stamp assembly, the House has still not managed to earn public trust 14 years after the fall of Suharto. Numerous surveys rate the House and its members as among the least trustworthy government bodies. One poll, conducted by the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) last October, showed that only 23 percent of respondents trusted politicians, down from 44 percent in 2005.
Saldi Isra, a legal expert at Andalas University in Padang, West Sumatra, said the House had focused far too much on its function of monitoring, at the expense of its responsibility to legislate. As an example, he said it set up a monitoring team for the Century bailout that had yet to yield no clear resolution. The House, he said, should leave such cases to law enforcement institutions.
He added that the quality of new laws had regressed during the reform era. "People will look at the quantity and quality, and both are declining," he said. "Many of the bills that are passed are challenged at the Constitutional Court."
Marzuki said that although he could not remember how many laws were passed in his time, he could "tell it was pretty quick to process each bill, because they all came from the government.
"And we only had Golkar, the Indonesian Democratic Party [PDI] and the United Development Party [PPP]. Golkar, of course, dominated the House with around 70 percent of seats, and we also got support from ABRI [the Armed Forces faction]."
Sidarto Danusubroto, a legislator with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) who has been in the House since 1999, acknowledged a decline in legislative output. "We've passed many laws. But now, both our quality in legislating and budgeting are declining," he said.
Since early 2010, the House has passed just 47 of the 247 laws it targeted for passage by 2014, according to data from the House Legislative Body.
Ignatius Mulyono, the head of the body, said that in the previous five-year period, the House passed 192 laws. On average, it targeted around 70 bills for passage each year but always fell short.
He blamed the government, which he called a "disappointing" partner in drawing up and discussing bills. In 2010, the government completed eight of the 34 bills it was supposed to submit to the House, while the House managed to draw up 24 of the 36 bills it was supposed to draft.
Eva Kusuma Sundari, a PDI-P legislator, said that comparing the current House to the pre-1998 institution was unfair due to the different powers that were vested in each body.
"We can now form special committees for certain cases, and we're working on human rights abuse cases and so on, not to mention that women are now also given a bigger role in politics," she said.
The accountability issues, she said, were a consequence of the process. In the past, corruption was concentrated within Suharto's inner circle, but not anymore. "What I'm saying is, corruption is a consequence of the euphoria of learning how to legislate," she said.
She also claimed graft was a problem at other institutions, such as the Supreme Court and the tax office, "so don't hope for an angelic House of Representatives."
House Speaker Marzuki Alie said 14 years was not enough time to completely reform the legislature. "We're open to criticism, but I must say it's only a small number of House members who are embroiled in corruption scandals. So is it fair to say that we have an accountability issue?" he said.
Eva and Marzuki Alie said the solution to the House's problems rested with the parties. As long as parties did not undertake serious reforms, including to ensure the quality of their members, the House would retain its reputation, they said.
Fourteen years ago this week, Indonesia was besieged by riots that led to the fall of President Suharto. In this special five-day series, we take a look at the changes Indonesia has seen since then, and whether they were worth the price.
Rizky Amelia & Lenny Tristia Tambun Indonesia Corruption Watch has alleged that Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo used Rp 9.7 billion ($1 million) from the 2012 provincial budget for programs for his own reelection campaign.
The ICW, along with the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), said the fund was used to finance a number of activities believed to be part of the incumbent's "concealed campaign" ahead of the July 11 Jakarta gubernatorial election.
The activities include the governor awards for a maternity hospital contest, which cost Rp 37.4 million, a pencak silak tournament (Rp 150 million) and a bowling tournament (Rp 100 million).
There was also a gathering with families of national heroes (Rp 600 million) and a war against mosquitoes campaign (Rp 200 million), the ICW and LBH Jakarta told a press conference in Jakarta on Tuesday.
Fauzi expressed his anger over the report, accusing the ICW of lacking knowledge on the drafting process of the provincial budget.
"Those grants were decided by the Jakarta Council and have been approved by the Home Affairs Ministry through a bylaw. Exactly where is the abuse?" Fauzi said on a separate occasion.
"They probably don't even understand the matter, saying things like that. Don't listen to stupid people," he added. (BeritaSatu/JG)
Agus Triyono & Bayu Marhaenjati An antigraft group, the Indonesia Budget Center, has highlighted a recent surge in the value of grants issued by the Jakarta administration, which it says could benefit Governor Fauzi Bowo as he seeks another five-year term in office in the gubernatorial election on July 11.
The IBC said that in 2008, Jakarta earmarked Rp 367 billion ($39.6 million) for grants to social and charity organizations, but the figure rose to Rp 434 billion in 2010. This year, the IBC said, that figure more than tripled to Rp 1.3 trillion.
IBC researcher Roy Salam said the increase appeared to be more politically motivated than based on actual need, adding that the watchdog suspected Fauzi, who has the power to determine how the budget is used, could be using the fund to win votes by channeling them to certain charities.
"This [grant] fund is determined by the heads of the respective regions and the use is never detailed in [the region's annual accounting report]," Roy said. "How this fund is used is at the discretion of the regional heads and could easily be exploited to the advantage of incumbents [seeking re- election]."
Ma'amun Amin, the chairman of Fauzi's campaign team, denied the funds were being used to buy votes. "The funds are managed by the Jakarta administration. We don't interfere with that kind of thing," he said.
Roy said such schemes had often been used in other regions, including in the 2011 gubernatorial election in Banten. "According to an investigation [by other groups], there were irregularities in the use of the [Banten] grant funds. The same could happen in Jakarta," he said.
In 2011, the Banten administration earmarked nearly Rp 400 billion in social aid funds, according to Indonesia Corruption Watch and the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra).
The groups noted that in 2008, Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah spent Rp 105 billion in grants, Rp 100 billion in 2009 and Rp 101 billion in 2011. Atut was re-elected in a landslide victory last year.
Komari, a spokesman for the Banten administration, previously confirmed that among the grant recipients were the provincial elections commission, or KPUD, and supposedly independent polling officials.
Roy urged the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to monitor how the grants in Jakarta were being used, adding that the City Council, which is supposed to monitor government policy, had been ineffective.
Lenny Tristia Tambun Five pairs of gubernatorial and vice-gubernatorial candidates promised on Saturday that if elected, they would not ban the construction of houses of worship, so long as all legal requirements were met.
The promise came on the same day that the Filadelfia congregation of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Bekasi reported an incident of violence at their place of worship to the National Police. The congregation was attacked on Thursday during an Ascension Day service at their church in Bekasi.
At an event hosted by the Indonesian Catholic Society (FMKI), vice- gubernational candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, backed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) blamed out-of-touch political elites for the problems faced by the Bekasi church, and the beleaguered GKI Yasmin in Bogor.
"Just imagine, many political elites say that this is not a religious issue. It clearly is. I resent the hypocritical and backward political elites who have mishandled this religious problem," Ahok said.
Ahok is paired with gubernatorial candidate Joko Widodo, or Jokowi. Together, they promised to protect the freedom to establish a house of worship in the capital, so long as it meets legal requirements.
"The point is, we adhere to the Constitution. If everything is in order, then go ahead and build," Ahok said. " If there is something that disturbs the interests of any religious community, we will weed it out."
Golkar vice-gubernatorial candidate Nono Sampono said that there were still a number of other houses of worship that had problems with their permits. Because of that, he would establish a regulation for houses of worship in Jakarta.
"If a church has all the permits, such as the building permit [IMB], and has the support of the surrounding community, then it must be built right away. It mustn't get to the point that the local government starts to dispute the permits," he said.
Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) gubernatorial candidate Hidayat Nur Wahid said that no Christian community had been banned from building a church or worshipping in the capital, and that the problem lay outside Jakarta.
Ulma Haryanto Between murky business practices, corruption and fighting with each other, the military and the police seem to have little time for improving their professionalism.
To avoid overlapping duties, the two institutions were officially separated in 2000 following a decree by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), which said the military should be a defense force while police officers should take care of public security and order.
After more than a decade, however, the reform effort seems to have achieved little, if anything.
In 2011 alone, there were 1,262 complaints against the police and 181 against the military, according to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
"Initially, the idea of separating them was the right thing to do, because the police are not an instrument of war or defense but a force for national security, with a duty to bring public order," said Haris Azhar, from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).
But as recent incidents show, several communities believe the police are not actually doing that job.
Just last week, the Salihara cultural center reported two police chiefs for bowing down to the demands of hard-liners trying to disrupt a book discussion with Canadian writer Irshad Manji, author of "Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom."
It was the latest in a string of incidents involving hard-liners, including conflicts with local church congregations and harassment of liberal groups.
Earlier this month, for instance, some 200 members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attacked a group of residents in Solo, injuring two people while police officers appeared to stand aside.
In contrast, less than 24 hours after an FPI member was stabbed to death in Bogor, the police arrested a suspect.
The police have been criticized for lacking the courage to stop hard- liners, though authorities have denied these charges.
"When facing a social problem, especially if it is related to religious harmony or mass protests, we work with the appropriate ministry," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said. "But if it is against the law, then we start the legal process."
Analysts say the method of separating the police from the military caused problems of its own, creating reasons for jealousy that have fueled a rivalry between them.
"[After the split] the police were given a prestigious position, directly under the president, while the military is now under the [Defense] Ministry," legal analyst Bambang Widodo Umar said.
Analysts say jealousy has also flared over the police's huge budget, particularly for countering terrorism.
The police's counterterrorism unit, Densus 88, is equipped with the latest equipment, and its officers attend training sessions in far corners of the globe.
The military has tried to get involved, and with some success.
Imparsial said that when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a decree forming the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) in July 2010, the decree contained a loophole allowing the military to take part in counterterror missions.
When the BNPT became operational in 2011, it immediately gave military officers the authority to handle several jobs, from investigating suspected terrorists to telling radical preachers to tone down their sermons.
Regulations after Suharto's downfall also prohibited the military from taking profit from personal businesses or having political power, but on the ground, the reality is different.
Imparsial, which last year asked the Defense Ministry for information about the reform of military businesses, has criticized the government for lacking transparency.
"We think the process of [reforming] military businesses is not transparent," said Imparsial program director Al Araf. "It's very, very closed, and given that we think there is a tendency for the abuse of power or corruption."
When the Jakarta Globe submitted a similar information request, the ministry's secretary general, Lt. Gen. Eris Herryanto, said the ministry did not have any information about the reform, which he said ended in 2010. He added that there were no more military businesses.
With little information, critics say it has been hard to note any progress. "Aside from the human rights training with various NGOs, the reform in both institutions seems to have stopped," Haris of Kontras said.
The police admit that reform efforts have not gone as planned. "Every year, 200 to 500 officers who violated the rules or code of ethics are discharged," Comr. Gen. Nanan Sukarna, the National Police's deputy police chief, told state news agency Antara last week.
"Arrogance is a personal issue but it has tarnished the police's image," he continued, adding that the police are still trying to reform in order to create officers with a commitment to public service.
Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta The government has spent just over 10 percent of the total 2012 capital spending budget in the first quarter of the year, Deputy Finance Minister Anny Ratnawati says.
Anny said that the government aims to disburse 25 percent of capital spending, also known as infrastructure spending, by the end July. "By then, most of them [projects] will have begun tenders and some of the first-term payments will have been made," she said.
This means that 75 percent of capital spending allocated in the 2012 budget will be disbursed in the third and fourth quarters, a situation that has been criticized by many economists as one of the major factors that has hindered Indonesia from reaching its best potential economic growth through infrastructure development.
Anny, however, said that the current rate of disbursement was better than in previous years. "The rate recorded in this year's first quarter was three-times that recorded last year," she said.
The state has allocated Rp 168.87 trillion (US$18.23 billion) for capital spending this year.
Jakarta The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) has bemoaned the slow growth of the nation's economy, attributing most of the blame on an extensive bureaucracy.
"In nearly 10 years there have not been significant changes, complaints from the business players remain year to year, completion of projects are slow, and the result is that it effects the nation's economy," Kadin vice chairman Natsir Mansyur said, as quoted by Kompas.com on Monday.
Mansyur noted a number of problems that still haunt the nation's economy, such as the high costs of production and logistics, weak competitiveness, bureaucratic problems and high interest rates. More specifically, he said that many ministerial decrees widely contradicts and troubles business people.
"The decrees that are issued by the government only add to the number of issues that slows down national economic growth," he said. "Sometimes the government makes its own policies, which trigger protests from business players. This requires the attention of the government that only has three years left in office."
Kadin hopes that ministries will not issue too many unimportant decrees, especially without consultation with business people. "Let's hope ministerial decrees are not faster or more numerous than the growth of trade and industry at this time. Otherwise, the economy can suffer a slowdown if there are too many decrees," he said.
Standard & Poor's rating agency, the lone holdout among its peers in keeping Indonesia's sovereign debt rating one notch below investment grade, says corruption is choking off foreign direct investment.
In a report on Thursday titled "Indonesia's Foreign Direct Investments Surge Despite Some Less Alluring Factors" analysts Agost Benard and John Chambers said bureaucracy, corruption, legal uncertainty, infrastructure deficiencies and inflexible labor markets had long hampered foreign investment in Indonesia.
Benard said Indonesia's large domestic market and rising income per capita makes the country a compelling investment destination for consumer goods manufacturers, "especially when viewed against the anemic growth outlook and saturated consumer markets of the EU and US."
S&P left the status of Indonesia's sovereign debt at junk, citing the nation's failure to reduce the fuel subsidy among its concerns over government policy.
The rating agency on April 23 affirmed the country's long-term credit rating at BB+ and short-term credit at B, it said in a statement released on Monday. The country's outlook remained positive. Both credit ratings are one notch below investment grade.
"International comparisons of operating environments still rank Indonesia as a difficult place for foreign investors to work in," the agency said.
"In the World Bank's Doing Business survey , Indonesia is ranked 129th out of 183 countries, with particularly high scores [implying greater difficulty] in the areas of starting a business, getting electricity, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency."
Indonesia's FDI rose 18 percent toRp 175.3 trillion ($18.9 billion) in 2011, led by the transportation, storage and communication sector.
"However, FDI in Indonesia is still very low by international standards," the S&P report said. "Similarly rated peers such as Colombia, Turkey and India, or some regional peers, such as Malaysia and Thailand, have been able to attract much higher levels of FDI," it said.
Both Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors Service have raised Indonesia's debt to investment grade in the past year.
The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono aims to spend $18 billion this year on infrastructure projects, such as toll roads, seaports and bridges, with the bulk expected to come from the private sector.
Standard & Poor's is one of many organizations to note the impact of corruption on Indonesia's economic prospects.
The trouble with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa is that he has probably spent too much of time travelling abroad to really understand what's going on in his own country. On Monday he said the government has done enough to protect the interests of Indonesia's religious minorities.
On the eve of a periodic review of Indonesia's human rights record before the UN Human Rights Council, Marty toed the official line, saying the government has done whatever was necessary to protect the followers of Ahmadiyah by citing a number of laws and regulations enacted in the name of religious harmony.
Here is a piece of news most of us are already aware of: The country's laws and regulations mean nothing when it comes to protecting freedom of religion. They did not protect the Ahmadis scattered across the country from being attacked and even killed by radical groups who dislike their presence. They failed to protect the followers of the GKI Yasmin Christian Church in Bogor or the Filadelfia HKBP Church in Bekasi from attacks even when the courts clearly ruled in their favor.
The government may be right in claiming that these attacks were perpetrated by private organizations so that it can deny, as it would, that there has been an official persecution against religious minorities.
But the attacks on Ahmadis and the Shiites have the official blessing, if not approval, of Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali. In the case of the GKI Yasmin and Filadelfia HKBP churches, the mayors in Bogor and Bekasi chose to turn a blind eye and even refused to uphold the court ruling.
And where were the police in all this? They were dismally absent.
Religious intolerance is indeed a big problem, and in today's atmosphere, perhaps a problem not exclusive to Indonesia. But the bigger problem facing Indonesia is that our government through the police has simply failed to protect people, most particularly minorities, from attacks against those who have demonstrated their intolerance through violence.
A state that is failing to protect its own people is called a failing state. Forget about Indonesia's status as the world's third-largest democracy or the largest democracy in the Muslim world. Unless the government puts a stop to this soon, Indonesia would soon become a pariah state.
It is not only freedom of religion that is at stake now that the government is clearly unable or unwilling to clamp down against radical groups that have been tormenting, harassing and killing others. Of late, we have seen cases where freedom of expression and freedom of gatherings are also being violated without the state lifting a finger to protect the people.
We welcome the government's voluntary decision to put Indonesia's human rights records to test at the Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, but we lament the report that the government has submitted for its less-than- honest assessments about the true conditions in the country.
We fully understand that it is the job of our diplomats to lie for the country, but this state of denial is the beginning of a downhill fall for the nation's human rights conditions. How are we expected to address and solve them unless we admit our own failings first and foremost?
We hope governments represented in the Human Rights Council will use the opportunity in Geneva this week to grill Indonesia thoroughly and come up with a strong reprimand and specific recommendations about what the government should do. While improving human rights is ultimately a battle that the Indonesian people must wage themselves against a stubborn and failing government, a little push from outside always helps.
Andreas Harsono It is fashionable these days for Western leaders to praise Indonesia as a model Muslim democracy. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has declared, "If you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can coexist, go to Indonesia." And last month Britain's prime minister, David Cameron, lauded Indonesia for showing that "religion and democracy need not be in conflict."
Tell that to Asia Lumbantoruan, a Christian elder whose congregation outside Jakarta has recently had two of its partially built churches burned down by Islamist militants. He was stabbed by these extremists while defending a third site from attack in September 2010.
This week in Geneva, the United Nations is reviewing Indonesia's human rights record. It should call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to crack down on extremists and protect minorities. While Indonesia has made great strides in consolidating a stable, democratic government after five decades of authoritarian rule, the country is by no means a bastion of tolerance. The rights of religious and ethnic minorities are routinely trampled. While Indonesia's Constitution protects freedom of religion, regulations against blasphemy and proselytizing are routinely used to prosecute atheists, Bahais, Christians, Shiites, Sufis and members of the Ahmadiyya faith a Muslim sect declared to be deviant in many Islamic countries. By 2010, Indonesia had over 150 religiously motivated regulations restricting minorities' rights.
In 2006, Mr. Yudhoyono, in a new decree on "religious harmony," tightened criteria for building a house of worship. The decree is enforced only on religious minorities often when Islamists pressure local officials not to authorize the construction of Christian churches or to harass and intimidate those worshiping in "illegal" churches, which lack official registration. More than 400 such churches have been closed since Mr. Yudhoyono took office in 2004.
Although the government has cracked down on Jemaah Islamiyah, an Al Qaeda affiliate that has bombed hotels, bars and embassies, it has not intervened to stop other Islamist militants who regularly commit less publicized crimes against religious minorities. Mr. Yudhoyono's government is reluctant to take them on because it rules Indonesia in a coalition with intolerant Islamist political parties.
Mr. Yudhoyono is not simply turning a blind eye; he has actively courted conservative Islamist elements and relies on them to maintain his majority in Parliament, even granting them key cabinet positions. These appointments send a message to Indonesia's population and embolden Islamist extremists to use violence against minorities.
In August 2011, for example, Muslim militants burned down three Christian churches on Sumatra. No one was charged and officials have prevented the congregations from rebuilding their churches. And on the outskirts of Jakarta, two municipalities have refused to obey Supreme Court orders to reopen two sealed churches; Mr. Yudhoyono claimed he had no authority to intervene.
Christians are not the only targets. In June 2008, the Yudhoyono administration issued a decree requiring the Ahmadiyya sect to "stop spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam," including its fundamental belief that there was a prophet after Muhammad. The government said the decree was necessary to prevent violence against the sect. But provincial and local governments used the decree to write even stricter regulations. Muslim militants, who consider the Ahmadiyya heretics, then forcibly shut down more than 30 Ahmadiyya mosques.
In the deadliest attack, in western Java in February 2011, three Ahmadiyya men were killed. A cameraman recorded the violence, and versions of it were posted on YouTube. An Indonesian court eventually prosecuted 12 militants for the crime, but handed down paltry sentences of only four to six months. Mr. Yudhoyono has also failed to protect ethnic minorities who have peacefully called for independence in the country's eastern regions of Papua and the Molucca Islands. During demonstrations in Papua on May 1, one protester was killed and 13 were arrested. And last October, the government brutally suppressed the Papuan People's Congress, beating dozens and killing three people. While protesters were jailed and charged with treason, the police chief in charge of security that day was promoted.
Almost 100 people remain in prison for peacefully protesting. Dozens are ill, but the government has denied them proper treatment, claiming it lacks the money. Even the Suharto dictatorship allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit political prisoners, yet the Yudhoyono government has banned the I.C.R.C. from working in Papua.
Instead of praising Indonesia, nations that support tolerance and free speech should publicly demand that Indonesia respect religious freedom, release political prisoners and lift restrictions on media and human rights groups in Papua.
Mr. Yudhoyono needs to take charge of this situation by revoking discriminatory regulations, demanding that his coalition partners respect the religious freedom of all minorities in word and in deed, and enforcing the constitutional protection of freedom of worship. He must also make it crystal clear that Islamist hard-liners who commit or incite violence and the police who fail to protect the victims will be punished. Only then will Indonesia be deserving of Mr. Cameron and Mrs. Clinton's praise.
Desi Anwar I'm not going to write about the Lady Gaga saga. It's too depressing. Besides, too much has been discussed about it already.
Suffice to say that if I had my way, I would nuke those hard-liners until they glow. Or, as my war-minded friend says, make them disappear the mysterious way, just like the criminals in the old Suharto days when he was the dictator around here. Instead, we have these moral dictators who think they're doing God's work by intimidating people minding their own business.
No, I would rather talk about this gem of a seafood place I tried for the first time the other day.
I also have no comment on our police who, lacking the manliness to square up to the thugs, prefer to keep the peace by petting and feeding the mad dogs rather than locking them up where they belong while telling everyone else to stay at home and not venture to the street because it's dangerous out there. Because protecting sane and ordinary people from crazy and uncontrollable attacks is just beyond their professional skill.
Instead, it seems the police are more interested in protecting our so- called "culture" from the wicked influence of Lady G than upholding the law and cracking down on unruly behavior. Why the police think we need them to dictate our musical taste is beyond me, but one cannot help wonder what culture they have in mind that needs protecting. With Indonesia one of the most corrupt countries in the world and a voracious consumer of Internet porn, it could hardly be said that our morals are beyond reproach. When it comes to erotic performances, surely Lady G's pale in comparison to the sexy gyrations of some local dangdut artistes.
As to corrupting our youth, we can leave that to the shameful shenanigans of many of their leaders and elders who make a living out of being appalling role models, not to mention robbing the next generation of a better future through their inability to do their job of improving welfare and education.
If anything, Lady G could teach our young people a thing or two about the merits of hard work, the importance of developing talent and creativity and what it takes to be a global success at a young age.
Said seafood place is in North Jakarta, an area that I rarely frequent. The last time I was there was a long time ago, when the eating places had dirt floors and hard wooden benches to sit on.
But the seafood, big fat crabs and juicy prawns, was out of this world. This time, the whole place felt out of this world. At least out of Jakarta. It's in an area called Muara Karang, in a huge seaside estate called Pantai Indah Kapuk, where massive development has transformed this former marshland into a dream city of concrete, tall buildings, bright lights and shopping spaces for the ethnic Chinese community.
That's the beauty of a democracy in a pluralistic country. Diversity is seen as a blessing rather than a curse. This, after all, was the vision with which Indonesia was founded. Ideally, there is a place for everybody, where all can feel safe and their freedom to express their religion protected.
Unfortunately, for democracy to work requires the ability and the will of communities to live alongside each other and accept each others' differences. Where this will is lacking, for example in cases where minorities rub shoulders with an unwelcoming majority, democracy by voting or consensus cannot be implemented. It would be like Switzerland voting on the building of minarets. The answer would always be a rejection of what is outside the norm. Instead, it is for the government to ensure the protection of these minorities from the tyranny of the majority through clear policies and law enforcement.
Unless, of course, the government is a lily-livered bunch of politicians more concerned with vying for the next election and pandering to the lowest populist sentiment than actually doing what is good for the integrity of the country.
Yanto Soegiarto Thousands of students demonstrated in Jakarta last Saturday to commemorate the May 12, 1998, Trisakti University shootings that killed four students Elang Mulia Lesmana, Heri Hertanto, Hafidin Royan and Hendriawan Sie.
Those shootings and the wider context of economic hardship at that time triggered the collapse of the New Order regime and toppled President Suharto. But despite this remarkable achievement, not enough has changed.
Last weekend, the students carried banners reading "Do we still have human rights in this country?" and "We won't forget the May 12, 1998, tragedy until we die." They demanded justice and compensation for the bereaved families of the victims, still unresolved in the 14th year of the reform era.
To date, there has not even been a formal apology from the government for the killing of the students. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has named the four "martyrs of freedom and reform," but that is not enough. The perpetrators are still at large and there seems to be no serious effort to bring them to justice.
In these economic boom times, it is easy to forget what happened in the late 1990s. But that would be a grave mistake. In mid-1997, due to the Asian financial crisis, the rupiah went into free fall, as did the stock exchange.
A month later, 16 banks closed and thousands of people's savings accounts were frozen. The country's foreign debt stood at $200 billion. Private- sector debt was around $65 billion. Up to 80 percent of corporate Indonesia was technically bankrupt. This left Suharto with no choice but to bow to the International Monetary Fund's far-reaching austerity demands in exchange for a $43 billion recovery package.
By May 1998, the rupiah had lost 80 percent of its value in a year. Foreign exchange reserves almost disappeared and the central bank began to print money recklessly, causing hyperinflation. The crisis deepened and basic survival became a challenge for many as food prices soared while wages were frozen. Subsidies that meant the difference between life and death for millions of Indonesians were cut. And every day people were laid off as companies came crashing down. On average, more than two million workers lost their jobs each month in this period.
Student activists called for change, sparking mass demonstrations. Rioting fueled by hunger, rising prices and unemployment destroyed shops, restaurants and churches. Much of the anger was directed at the government and symbols of the ruling class.
Amien Rais, chairman of the 25-million-strong Muhammadiyah organization, led student demonstrations and occupied the House of Representatives the home of the rubber-stamp lawmakers. As the crisis deepened, pro-democracy demonstrations spread like wildfire across the archipelago.
Suharto called on the military to take stern action against student demonstrators. The Army chief at the time, Gen. Wiranto, and the dean of the prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Wiranto Arismunandar, warned students not to take the protests off campus. Many were arrested and some disappeared, presumed dead.
Campuses became battlefields surrounded by water cannons and bombarded with tear gas. Workers, professionals, housewives and even nuns joined the student protests. By May 15, Jakarta was like a deserted battlefield. Few people ventured out. More than 5,000 buildings had been destroyed or damaged. On May 20, Indonesia commemorated National Awakening Day: the birth of Indonesia's nationalist movement. And the following morning, at 9 a.m., Suharto stepped down. A people's movement had ousted him.
May 1998 marks a crucial moment in the history of Indonesia and serves as a lesson a warning even to the nation's elites that today is as valid as it ever was. Social justice and the economic welfare of the people must not be neglected. This starts with closure for the families of those four students who paid the ultimate price for the sake of the nation.
Galuh Wandita, Jakarta Back in 2005, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a pledge to rehabilitate former political prisoners from the 1965 purges. It was a welcomed promise, a sip of water in a desert of denial and discrimination.
However, seven years have passed and little progress has been made. A law on the National Truth Commission was annulled by the Constitutional Court in 2006, and the promise for some kind of presidential committee or apology continues to be resurrected and then abandoned. Many of the victims who took the pledge to heart have passed. Some have lost hope, while others hold on.
In 2008, the National Commission on Human Rights undertook an investigation into the 1965 atrocities. The inquiry has taken more than four years to complete, and the long-awaited results of this inquiry have continued to be postponed. Growing more skeptical, victims continue to wait for a finding confirming what they know to be true - that these massive crimes constitute a systematic pattern of abuse, reaching the threshold of crimes against humanity.
These are big words, describing a complicated legal concept. The essence of it is that the killings of more than 500,000 people and the illegal detention and torture of another 1 million people in 1965 were not individual, unrelated or random acts. At that time, these crimes happened everywhere, every day and on a large scale.
The crimes were connected to one another, planned and discussed somewhere, and carried out by a lot of people with a lot of resources. Somehow the targets of these crimes were not seen as human beings.
During the 32 years of Soeharto's rule, school children were made to watch a movie that depicted a particular version of those events. Scholars were not allowed to research these events and books were banned. There are still a dozen or more regulations that discriminate against these victims and their children.
In a way, Indonesia is a new democracy in its adolescent years. And yet, a sign of our growing maturity will be our capacity to deal with the legacy of these past violations. When horrific stories are not given any space in our public consciousness, they fester and spill into the next generation.
In Indonesia, there is a growing movement dedicated to "fighting forgetting". Civil society and organizations set up by the victims are, piece by piece, collecting thousands of stories of repression that have been denied.
Take, for example, the story of Pak Rahim, a former political detainee from the 1965 purges. He is about 70 years old now, having survived more than a decade in a prison in Central Sulawesi, during which he and hundreds of others were tortured and forced into slavery.
In 2006, he joined a victims' self-help group in Palu, and single-handedly collected almost 400 stories from his fellow former detainees. The group, Victim's Solidarity Palu (SKPHAM Palu) has now collected more than 1,000 stories (in only four districts!) and the stories are mind-boggling.
The group documented 13 public infrastructure sites (buildings, dams, roads, and parks) built by slave labor. The prisoners were unpaid and given only one meal a day. This forced labor started in 1966 and lasted for 13 years until 1983. I bet a shiny penny that these development projects were funded by the state and someone somewhere pocketed the money.
On March 24, 2012, the group organized an event to mark the international day on victims' right to truth, where victims talked about their experiences. Among the invitees was the mayor of Palu. At the end of the event, the mayor recounted how he, as a 15 year-old member of the boy scouts, rounded up and beat up people during this time. He then apologized.
He said, "Now, we cannot repeat these crimes. At the time, the state was like that. I didn't know anything. We were conditioned to detain a lot people, to kill them. It was a massive provocation only because of different ideologies. I can only say I am sorry, on a personal basis and in the name of the government of the city of Palu. I ask for your forgiveness."
We only wish that our leaders would take heed of this example.
It takes a lot of hate to commit crimes on a massive scale. The hatred and confusion are still strong in the psyche of this nation. And yet, the official reluctance to deal with this problem is debilitating.
How do we move on as a nation, as a people, when the skeletons in our closet are so firmly tucked away? When will we be able to face our own gulag, when a nation turned on its own citizens, when the rules that make us a civilized culture were violated with a voracious appetite for blood?
At the end of the day, these difficult truths are hard to stare at, to understand and to swallow. And yet is a bitter pill that we need for our survival. The truth holds our future.
The first step is to know what happened. The inquiry by the rights commission is a small step. Collecting only some 300 testimonies is a mere drop in the bucket.
When crimes against humanity are committed, they cannot be wished away. International human rights obligations dictate that victims have the right to truth, justice and reparations. These rights are not diminished by time, and these crimes have no statute of limitation due to their severity. The great orator Martin Luther King Jr. said that "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."
We wait for a sign of hope in this long journey for truth.