Jakarta It was a long, long journey from Sidoarjo to Jakarta, but for Hari Suwandi and Hartowiyono, the journey was the least they could do after years of unsuccessful attempts to obtain the remaining compensation promised by oil and gas company Lapindo Brantas.
"We've come 847 kilometers to see the President to ask about the compensation that was promised by Lapindo and we are not going home until we've met the President," Hari told reporters on Monday.
Hari Suwandi, 44, from Kedung Bendo, Tanggulangin, Sidoarjo, East Java is one of the thousands victims of the mudflow, triggered by drilling conducted by Lapindo Brantas, that submerged parts of the regency six years ago.
Hari, who set off from Sidoarjo accompanied by his friend Hartowiyono, 42, on June 14, walked to Jakarta, where he arrived on July 8. "We are urging the President to push Lapindo to pay the compensation as promised," Hari said in a press conference, adding that he was planning also to see lawmakers at the House of Representatives, as well as Aburizal Bakrie, who owned Lapindo Brantas.
Lapindo Brantas, through its subsidiary company PT. Minarak Lapindo Jaya has paid only Rp 2.9 trillion (US$308 million) of Rp 3.8 trillion in required compensation to 4,129 victims from four villages in Sidoarjo: Siring, Jatirejo, Kedung Bendo and Renokenongo.
Minarak Lapindo Jaya said in a written statement in April that they could only afford to pay Rp 400 billion of the of Rp 900 billion outstanding compensation. The statement stipulated that the payments were to commence in June and be completed by December.
"It's July already and they haven't even started to pay the Rp 400 billion, when they actually have to pay Rp 900 billion," Hari said.
Sinung Karto of The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said that Lapindo should compensate the mudflow victims for more than just their property.
"Lapindo is also responsible for the victims' loss of economic rights. These people not only lost their homes, but also their livelihoods and their social standing, which should be accommodated within the total compensation," said Sinung.
Hari Suwandi used to work as a bag handcrafter in Sidoarjo with a total revenue of between Rp 3 million and Rp 4 million per month. The disaster not only took away his livelihood, but also his entire future as a businessman.
"My machines had a total value of Rp 40 million, but they are not considered assets that can be compensated by Lapindo. They only want to pay us for land and buildings," said the father of three. Hari's friend Hartowiyono used to have a teak wood and motorcycle business in Jatirejo, Sidoarjo. He lost his entire assets valued at Rp 426 million in the mudflow.
"I received only the first 20 percent of compensation in 2007, that amounted to only Rp 85.6 million," Hartowiyono said. He said that since 2007, he had not received the rest of compensation that was promised. "We are here to voice the plight of the victims who have been forgotten by the government," Hari said.
According to Khalisah Khalid of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Walhi and Kontras are currently preparing legal back up and seeking ways for Hari and Hartowiyono to meet the President. "We are trying the best we can so they can meet the President but all that we can do for now is to allow them to meet the legislators," Khalisah said on Tuesday.
Non-governmental organizations have slammed the government for spending excessively from the state budget to pay for the mudflow mitigation efforts. The government has spent Rp 6.7 trillion on compensation and reconstruction, and has budgeted Rp 500 billion for 2012 for the same purpose against Lapindo Brantas' payment of only Rp 2.8 trillion in compensation.
In total, the government is expected to spend more than Rp 9 trillion by 2014 for the Lapindo disaster. (nad)
Anita Rachman On June 14, Hari Suwandi embarked on a 25-day journey on foot from his home in Sidoarjo, East Java, to raise awareness of the plight of people from his village, Kedung Bendo, which was buried by a 2006 mudflow.
Hari arrived in Jakarta at 9 a.m. on Sunday and held a press conference at the office of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Menteng, Central Jakarta.
"We want compensation for our losses, payment of which is left unresolved to this day," Hari said. The disaster has led to more than 10,000 families being displaced from their homes.
Although the government never made an official determination of the cause of the disaster, a 2007 presidential decree held Minarak Lapindo Jaya, the holding company of gas drilling firm Lapindo Brantas, liable for compensating the residents for the loss of their livelihoods and property.
Lapindo is linked to the family of Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, who owns the Bakrie Group business empire.
"The [unpaid] figure is around Rp 970 billion [$102 million] which Lapindo has to pay the victims. But it was never paid [in full]. They paid in installments but it is never on time," Hari said. According to Hari, Lapindo paid victims four times in 2010 and three times in 2011. "This year there was only one [money] transfer, in June," he said.
During his stay in Jakarta, Hari said he was planning a protest at the State Palace, the House of Representatives and Wisma Bakrie building, Lapindo's headquarters. "That is why I want to go to the state palace. The government must be firm to say when [Lapindo] must repay our assets," he said.
The father of three said he walked the huge distance to raise support from people he met as he traveled. "I sold [copies of] a documentary video on the Lapindo mudflow for Rp 50,000. Along the way I have garnered support; many people became aware [of Sidorajo people's plight]," he said.
Hari said each day, he traveled 40 kilometers on foot before stopping for some rest. Some days, he walked from dawn till dusk and on others he preferred to walk in the dead of night.
As the affected area grew, from the initial six villages to 16 across three subdistricts in Sidoarjo, so did Lapindo's bill for compensation and the clean up, which now stands at Rp 2.5 trillion for compensation and Rp 1.3 trillion to stem the spread of the mud. The government itself has allocated Rp 6.2 trillion for the compensation process.
But a group calling itself the Savior Team for Lapindo State Budget filed the legal challenge against the provision based on the argument that taxpayer money should not be used to cover for a disaster caused by a private company.
The Constitutional Court began reviewing the provision in the 2012 state budget last month. Lapindo has maintained that the mud volcano was a natural disaster triggered by an earthquake in Yogyakarta 300 kilometers away two days earlier.
Jakarta Activists have called on the Indonesian government to drop its plan to lend US$1 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and channel the fund instead for domestic purposes.
"The government always claims that it runs on a tight budget and that it cannot afford to pay for fuel subsidies or procurement for the new Corruption Eradication Commission [KPK] building, but here they are offering money to the IMF," Anti-Debt Coalition (KAU) program coordinator Yuyun Harmono told The Jakarta Post.
The KPK is currently waiting for the approval from the House of Representatives for the disbursement of Rp 225.712 billion (US$23.93 million) budget for the construction of its new building. Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said that the government could only cover Rp 60 billion for the new building.
"Yet it can still afford to lend the IMF the equivalent of Rp 9.4 trillion," KAU activist Dani Setiawan said. KAU activists also said that contribution to the IMF could entangle Indonesia in a number of the agency's "destructive" actions.
Chairman of the Indonesian branch of the Asia-Europe People's Forum (AEPF Indonesia), Riza Damanik, said that the money would only be used to empower big businesses. "The money will be used to cause misery in all parts of the world," he said.
Finance Ministry had earlier said that the contribution to the IMF would show the country's commitment to playing a greater role in the global community. Riza said the planned contribution was also part of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's public relations campaign to raise his stature in the international community.
"I suspect the President is lending this money so that he can be seen as someone who helped save the world from its current economic crisis," Riza said.
Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta Sand field farmers in Kulonprogo, Yogyakarta, are strongly opposed to a plan proposed by the provincial administration to open an iron-sand mining project in their area, arguing that the plan will only cause them misery.
The farmers' latest thoughts were expressed at a rally in front of the provincial legislative building on Monday, which was attended by 1,000 people.
Chairman of the Association of Kulonprogo Coastal Field Farmers (PPLP), Supriyadi, said that Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X had once told the farmers during a chili grand harvest in Kulonprogo, not to worry about the mining project plan.
He also told them to cultivate the idle lands. "We hold the sultan to what he said that there will be no iron-sand mining in Kulonprogo," Supriyadi said in his speech at the rally.
The farmers' refusal of the plan was due to the planned mining site being located in the fields where local farmers have been successfully growing chili, which has brought them prosperity.
The PPLP also said in a statement that PT Jogja Magasa Internasional, the private company that will run the mining project, was planning to conduct its mining activities on a 3,000-hectare plot in Kulonprogo a coastal area which was claimed as Pakualaman Ground, or land belonging to the Pakualaman principality.
In fact, according to residents, the Pakualaman Ground only covers 200 hectares the rest belongs to the community, as proven by certificates of ownership.
The association also demanded that the Yogyakarta provincial administration revoke Bylaw No. 2/2010 on spatial planning, because Articles 58 and 60 (2b) of the bylaw plot the coastal area as a sand-mining area. The association considers the articles as being against the people's interests.
The same move was also made on the same day by a member of the Yogyakarta Palace's royal family, BSW Adjikoesoemo, who launched a book entitled Pembelaan Tanah untuk Rakyat, Jogja Gate, Pengkhianatan Terhadap Hamengku Buwono IX dan Paku Alam VIII which explains the history of land ownership in the province.
"I deliberately launched the book at the Yogyakarta Police headquarters so that the police would also realize the violation against land ownership and stop the iron-sand mining plan," said Adjikoesoemo, who has been supporting the Kulonprogo farmers.
Adjikoesoemo also said that with the implementation of the 1960 Agrarian Reform Law, there was no longer the Sultan Ground or Pakualaman Ground.
"It doesn't matter whether the Yogyakarta governor is appointed or elected, the most important thing is that the land is for the people," said Adjikoesoemo who joined the rally after launching the book on Monday.
During the rally, the provincial legislative council's deputy speaker, Tutik Masria Widyo, who received the farmers, bought Adjikoesoemo's book for Rp 1 million (US$106). "Hopefully, the money can assist the farmers' fight," Tutik said.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr will meet today with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, after vowing over the weekend that his country was cognizant of human rights issues in Papua.
Carr arrived in Indonesia on Friday and has since visited several projects funded by the Australian government around Yogyakarta, including a village hit hard by Mount Merapi's eruption in 2010. Speaking to the media on Saturday, Carr reiterated Australia's long-held recognition of Indonesia's sovereignty in Papua.
"But we quietly work with the Indonesians to see that there, as elsewhere, reasonable standards of human rights protections are maintained," said Carr, who is on his first visit to Indonesia in the capacity as foreign minister.
When asked if he supported calls for foreign journalists, who are effectively banned from visiting Papua, to be allowed to travel to the province, he said: "More transparency would help and not hurt the Indonesian case."
Indonesia has been criticized for failing to solve bloody conflicts and a series of deadly shootings in the eastern province.
As well as Papua, the foreign ministers will discuss how Jakarta can help stop the flow of asylum seekers to Australia, and how both countries can work together to root out people smuggling. "Yes, the asylum seekers [issue] seems to be high on the agenda," Indonesian Foreign Ministry official P.L.E. Priatna confirmed on Sunday.
Australian officials and civil society groups have complained that Indonesia is not doing enough to combat syndicates smuggling people to the country. On Saturday, Carr said he wanted to "levitate" the dialogue between Australia and Indonesia to a higher level, beyond "transactional" matters of people smuggling and drugs cases.
Australia is the largest provider of foreign aid to Indonesia, and increased its contribution again in this year's budget. (AFP, JG)
Jakarta Unless the government shows goodwill in dealing with Papua and issues policies that touch the hearts of Papuans, conflict in the resource-rich province will never be resolved.
The latest bloody incident in Papua was the killing of three people one soldier and two civilians last Saturday. This took place with authorities still unable to identify those behind the killing of three men earlier this month.
Munafrizal Manan, of Academic Forum for Peace in Papua, said positive signals from Jakarta are needed to encourage Papuans who, for decades, have been subject to human rights abuses. "Jakarta has to make moves that touch the hearts of Papuans. Cutting the number of security forces deployed here, for example," Munafrizal said Thursday.
It is public knowledge that Indonesian Military personnel and the National Police have perpetrated human rights violations in Papua. Common charges include sexual violence, use of excessive force against demonstrators and torture.
According to an estimate by human rights advocacy group Imparsial, around 16,000 soldiers are stationed in the easternmost province. "They are deployed along with nearly 10,000 police officers," Poengky Indarti of Imparsial told The Jakarta Post.
Aside from reducing the number of security personnel in Papua, the government needs to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to court. "Further action from Jakarta should mean cracking down on the people who committed these crimes against humanity," Munafrizal added.
Bringing the violators to justice will help alleviate the distrust ordinary Papuans feel toward central government.
"If the government wants to win the heart of Papua, it should stop calling protesting Papuans separatists. The government also needs to end the security approach when dealing with Papuans," said Thaha Alhamid, of the Papua Presidium Council. "It could also stop viewing Papuans as lazy and stupid."
Pasakalis Kossay, a House of Representatives member from Papua, said that the government should begin treating Papuans exactly the same as other Indonesians. "There is confusion about what it means to be a Papuan. Many Papuans see themselves as second-class citizens. The government doesn't help, often sending mixed signals to Papua," Pasakalis said.
In June, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono downplayed the rise of violence in Papua, calling the deadly shootings of that time as "small-scale incidents compared to those in the Middle East".
Papuans condemned this statement. The Jakarta Post quoted Papuan activist John Djonga as saying that the President's words suggested that the lives of Papuans "don't deserve the government's respect".
Munafrizal said that removing these doubts Papuans have of their status as citizens would open the way toward dialogue. "Communication will begin once mutual suspicion and distrust between Jakarta and Papua is gone," Munafrizal said. "Of course, this means that Papua has its own role in resolving conflict."
Papuans have their own responsibilities when it comes to opening communication channels with Jakarta. "Papuans should show commitment to becoming Indonesians," Munafrizal said "and take action to alleviate the Government's fear of Papuan separatism." (png)
Magelang, Central Java Separatism of any kind in Indonesia must be stopped because it poses a serious threat to national integrity, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in Magelang, Central Java, on Thursday.
"The attempts of those who want to secede from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) are best described not as the freedom of speech but as separatism. It must be stopped," the President said during his speech to the National Defence Forces (TNI) and the National Police (Polri) cadets at the Magelang Military Academy.
Yudhoyono made the statement in response to a question from one of the cadets with regard to the problems that TNI and the Polri personnel faced when carrying out their duties.
The head of state said the nation's security personnel should take the strongest possible action against separatist forces without violating human rights. Citing an example, President Yudhoyono talked about the approach taken by the security forces to tackle separatism in Papua.
"The government took the strongest possible action against the separatist forces in Papua without resorting to massive military operations," he stated.
"The government has taken a societal approach to deal with separatism in Papua," the President said before 836 military and police cadets who had just finished their education and training at Magelang Military and Police Academy.
Subang, west java The government's long-discussed plan to launch a massive food estate in Merauke, Papua in a bid to boost the nation's food production is facing uncertainty amid land acquisition problems, a top ministry official says.
The Agriculture Ministry's research and development agency chief, Haryono, said on Wednesday the total land for the food estate in the area had been reduced from 1 million hectares to 200,000 hectares due to land issues.
"We were planning to have at least 1 million hectares of land [for the project], but then the land problems, such as trying to acquire customary land, occurred; hence the current figure," he said on the sidelines of an international seminar on rice production.
The security situation in some parts of Papua province in recent months has been chaotic with a number of shooting incidents claiming dozens of civilian lives. In response to these events, the agency was planning to conduct new research into the feasibility of building a food estate in the area.
He added, however, that the government was still hoping the Merauke project, known as the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), could still be implemented by 2015 as planned by Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa last year.
Haryono said that, based on the assumption that one hectare of land in the Merauke food estate could produce five tons of rice per harvest then overall, the project would yield at least 500,000 tons of rice if there were two harvest periods annually, even if the available land only amounted to 50,000 hectares.
Indonesia's representative for the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Zulkifli Zaini, said the government should start focusing on other potential areas in which to develop food estates due to the protracted land issues in Papua.
"I think in the short term, the government could focus their attention on other areas, such as East Kalimantan and South Sumatra because, next to the customary-land brouhaha, there are other technical problems with Papua's land, such as the drainage system," he said.
Indonesia is currently the world's third-largest rice consumer. The country has intermittently imported rice to meet the national demand. In 2008 and 2009, Indonesia was self-sufficient but the year after that, it started to import again.
The nation's annual rice consumption tops 139 kilograms per capita. Last year, at least Rp 125 trillion (US$13.25 billion) had been spent on imports according to statistics by the Indonesian Farmers' Association (HKTI). Data by the Central Statistics Agency in 2011 showed the country imported 1.87 million tons of rice.
MIFEE, which is planned to start operations in 2014, is part of the government's master plan to help achieve national food sufficiency, eliminating the need to rely on imports.
The Agriculture Ministry's latest data shows that companies involved in the MIFEE project including PT. Rajawali Corp., PT. CGAD, PT. Central Cipta Murdaya, PT. Hardaya Sawit Papua and PT. Hardaya Sugar Papua have made a total combined estimated investment of Rp 57 billion. (asa)
In recent months, West Papua has come under an international spotlight over Indonesian military and police impunity for brutal assaults on civilians and non-violent activists. Despite the palpable repression on the Papuan street, activists from the self-declared Federated Republic of West Papua on July 10 held a peaceful demonstration in Jayapura, with the theme, "Save Papua from Genocide and Grievances".
Leading up to the demonstration, POLDA (Regional Police command) Papua refused to issue a permit to rally organizers, and even banned activists from the Federated Republic of West Papua to organize any peaceful demonstrations under threat of treason charges being leveled on rally organizers of peaceful demonstrations.
A coordinator of today's rally, Sius Ayemi, told West Papua Media prior to his arrest that police refused permission despite four rounds of intense negotiations and several letter, denying basic rights to freedom of expression. In a phone conversation to the West Papua Media team, Ayemi has challenged the Indonesian government and its military regime to "reconsider military approaches in West Papua," and called on the international community "to stop believing the Indonesian government's rhetoric about its commitment to dialogue, or the (Indonesian) Republic's effort to 'wage peace aggressively'."
The demonstration was to start at several different locations Expo Waena/UNCEN, Entrop/Hamadi/Argapura and Pasir 2/Dok 9 at around 9:30am, then converging to meet at the DPRP (Papuan legislative assembly) office in Jayapura Police blockaded the demonstrators at the first two locations, preventing demonstrators from proceeding to the DPRP office. However, demonstrators from Pasir 2 and Dok 9 were able to march to the DPRP office but were quickly and brutally rounded up by one company of fully armed police.
Markus Yenu, the Federated Republic of West Papua Governor of Manokwari and a planned speaker at the rally, told West Papua Media that the police physically pushed the demonstrators backward with their guns and told them to go home. He told the West Papua Media team by phone, "the moment we arrived in front of the DPRP office, we were threatened, searched and dispersed by police officers and requested harshly to hand-in all the attributes for the rally." He further mentioned that the police confiscated several cameras, megaphones, mobile phones, placards and banners.
According to witnesses on the ground, Sius Ayemi was attempting to negotiate with the police in a disciplined-manner but was quickly surrounded by few police officers who arrested him and bundled him away, together with Edison Kendi who stood next to Mr. Ayemi at the time of the arrest. Until now, both Sius Ayemi and Edison Kendi are still being held at police custody in Jayapura.
West Papua Media attempted to make few phone calls to KAPOLDA Papua, Kapolri and Wakapolda Papua but they all refused to comment about the arrest of the two activists and ended the call.
Local human rights sources have asked for advocacy for the release of Sius Ayemi and Edison Kendi, by calling the below contact details:
Kapolri +62811910277, Kapolda +62811950376, Wakapolda +62811496251
Denpasar US navy warship USS Benfold will conduct an exercise with two Indonesian navy warships in Bali waters, according to the chief of the naval base in Bali, Col I Wayan Suarjaya.
"The exercise will cover tactical manoeuvers, communication, and other safety procedures," he said when receiving the USS Benfold crew members upon their arrival here on Thursday.
"The two Indonesian navy warships that will be involved in the exercise are KRI Hasan Basri and KRI Uling," Suarjaya added. He expressed hope that the exercise would improve the capabilities of the Indonesian Navy personnel.
Meanwhile, USS Benfold commander Adrian Jansen said his ship's presence in the region was part of his tour of Southeast Asia. "In Indonesia, as per plan, we will only visit Bali and be here for four days," he stated.
After that, Jansen said, he would return to the US to conduct other operations. "In Bali, the ship will conduct various activities, including a joint exercise with the Indonesian navy," Jansen added.
The 54-metre-long USS Benfold weighs around 8,900 tonnes and can carry 280 navy personnel.
Sita W. Dewi, Jakarta The Indonesian Ombudsman said that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had failed to implement House of Representatives' recommendation to solve the case of disappearances of rights activists between 1997 and 1998.
"The President should explain why after three years he has not yet issued a presidential decree to follow up on the recommendation," Indonesian Ombudsman deputy chairman Azlaini Agus said on Thursday.
The Ombudsman, a state body monitoring violations by state authorities, wrote to the President on May 15, reprimanding him for his failure to heed the House's recommendation, which called for the establishment of an ad hoc human rights court to examine the violations.
In its recommendation, the House also urged the President to order the Attorney General to investigate the case, find the whereabouts of 13 individuals declared missing by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), pay compensation to their families as well as ratify the UN convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Yudhoyono forwarded the letter to the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto on May 24. "We don't need the minister's statement. What we actually need is the President's statement," Azlaini said. Azlaini said that Yudhoyono's inaction had given rise to legal uncertainty for the victims' families.
Mugianto, one of the kidnapping victims, who now chairs the Families of Missing Persons Association (IKOHI), said that Yudhoyono lacked the commitment to take action. "I don't think the President was unable to deal with the case, he was just unwilling to do it," he said.
Effendi Simbolon, a former member of the House's special committee tasked with solving the abduction cases, suspected that Yudhoyono dragged his feet in resolving the case because he was one of members of the Officers Honorary Council [DKP], which was tasked to investigate the Indonesian Military's Special Forces [Kopassus] members, including patron of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) Prabowo Subianto, who were accused of orchestrating the kidnappings. "He must be reluctant to bring his fellow generals to justice," Effendi said.
State administrative expert Irman Putra Sidin said that the House could in fact pressure the President into following its recommendation. "The House can use its interpellation and voting rights," Irman said.
Political expert Arbi Sanit said that as a last resort, families of the victims could file a complaint to the Constitutional Court, which could recommend the Supreme Court to force the President to comply with the House's recommendations.
Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta The United States Ambassador to Indonesia Scot A. Marciel said lax law enforcement was responsible for cases of violence against minority groups in the country.
Commenting on fatal shootings in Papua and continuing abuses against minority groups, which included church closures and attacks on Ahmadiyah followers, Marciel said that rule of law was key to address human rights abuse and cases of religious intolerance and strict implementation could prevent reoccurrence of these violations in the future.
"Overall, Indonesia, as well as the US, are very tolerant countries where the people respect others' views. But I hear from Indonesian friends growing concerns about intolerant groups," Marciel said during a discussion with Indonesian journalists over the weekend.
Marciel said that he was aware of the alleged involvement of security officials in the fatal shootings in Papua. According to him, the Indonesian government must be able to apply rule of law to address both intolerant acts and alleged violence committed by members of the security forces.
"In the case of human rights violation that appear to have been carried out by government forces or security forces, we consistently talk of the importance of full and credible investigations with appropriate discipline or punishment if necessary," Marciel said.
"It is almost impossible to avoid some incidents [in cases like those in Papua] but it is really important and essential to democracy to have accountability for those violations," he added.
Meanwhile, Donald Steinberg, the deputy administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said his organization supported many programs to address the issue.
"Our goal is not to substitute the US as a judge or jury of human rights practices but to enhance capacity of government institutions and civil society elements in promoting human rights principles," he said.
The USAID has spent US$157.35 million between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012 to finance numerous projects throughout the country. Good governance and democracy were among the agency's top issue areas of focus.
Jakarta The Constitutional Court chief Mahfud MD said on Sunday that no one could be punished for being an atheist or communist, reaffirming his controversial statement on Indonesia's freedom of religion which he made last Tuesday.
Atheists and communists, he said, were considered in violation of the law if they formed an organization which acted against the state's Pancasila ideology.
"They can only be punished if they breach laws or threaten [the nation's ideology]. If they revive the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) or establish an atheist organization, they can be sentenced for opposing Pancasila," he said in Jakarta on Sunday evening as quoted by kompas.com.
Despite allowing people to adhere to atheism or communism, Indonesia still possesses several laws that combat their existence. Several measures have been taken to make people in these groups equal to followers of other faiths, but such initiatives have so far failed.
Indonesia 's ban on communism and Marxist/Leninist ideology is based on the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Decree XXV/MPRS/1966. The late president Abdurrahman Wahid had tried to revoke the decree, but eventually backed down amid widespread protests.
Law No. 5/1965 on Blasphemy stipulates that the state recognizes six official religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
In 2010, seven non-governmental organizations and three individuals, including Abdurrahman Wahid, requested a judicial review by the Constitutional Court, arguing the law was discriminatory, intolerant, and close-minded toward religious diversity and freedom.
All but one of nine judges at the court considered that the law was necessary "to maintain public order and respect for the rights of others " and, therefore, upheld it.
"The petitioners' request has no legal basis either formally or materially," said Mahfud MD when reading out the verdict in April 2010. (yps)
Indra Harsaputra, Sampang Shiite cleric Tajul Muluk described his two- year prison sentence as a politically engineered verdict aimed at alienating Shia Muslims after he was sentenced by the Sampang District Court, East Java, on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters after presiding judge Purnomo Amin Tjahjo declared him guilty of blasphemy against Islam, Tajul insisted he was a victim of slander and vowed to appeal to higher courts.
"This is about my dignity: As if I am an infidel. I have videotaped evidence that this trial was fabricated for political ends," the 39-year- old preacher said.
In his verdict, Judge Purnomo said that, "The defendant was proven to promulgate blasphemy against Islam. Therefore Tajul shall remain in prison under a two-year sentence." As in previous trial proceedings, riot police guarded the court.
Tajul will stay in prison for another 21 months, having been in detention since April 12, following the anti-Shia riot that rocked the small city on Dec. 29 last year.
Prosecutor Sucipto accused Tajul of telling his followers that the current Koran was not the original version, and the true Koran is still in the hands of Imam Mahdi.
According to the prosecutor, the Kyai also allowed siri (unregistered) marriage, commonly practiced among Muslims in Indonesia.
The sentence was less than the prosecutor's demand of five years' imprisonment. "The defendant was polite during the trial and he is financially responsible for his family," said the verdict.
Indonesia's predominantly Sunni Muslims are staunch supporters of predominantly Shia Iran on the international stage, Indonesians are usually much more intolerant of the differences between the sects.
In December, hundreds of residents of Madura Island attacked houses, burning down Tajul's home. Dozens of Shiite followers who fled are still unable to return to their homes because the villagers threaten to kill them if they do.
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has demanded the government ban Shia, and declared another Muslim sect, Ahmadiyah, deviant. The promulgation of Ahmadiyah has since been banned by the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Oppression and violence against minorities, including Catholic and Protestant Christians continues to increase. Hundreds of churches have been burned down or closed by groups claiming to represent Islam.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch urged the government to release Tajul, pointing out that "the government needs to reverse the growing trend of violence and legal action against religious minorities in the country."
An Indonesian court sentenced a Shiite cleric Thursday to two years in prison for blasphemy, saying his teachings deviated from mainstream Islam and had caused "public anxiety."
Tajul Muluk was arrested in April by police on the island of Madura off eastern Java amid anti-Shiite attacks that rights groups say were led by Sunni Muslims.
"Based on witness accounts and evidence presented, the defendant has been proven legally and convincingly guilty of blasphemy causing public anxiety," chief judge Purnomo Amin Tjahjo told the Sampang district court.
During his teachings, Muluk said the Koran was not an authentic text, that Muslims should pray only three times a day, and that the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca was not obligatory, witnesses had told the court.
Mainstream Islam teaches that the hajj is one of five pillars of Islam and that Muslims should pray five times a day.
The judge said that Muluk had propagated Shiite teachings in his village of Nangkernang, where a nearby branch of the country's top Islamic clerical council dubbed the denomination "deviant" from mainstream Islam.
Muluk said that he would file an appeal against the ruling. "I feel that my dignity has been crushed. They accused me of being an infidel. I will file an appeal for the sake of my pride," he told the court.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the court ruling and urged the Indonesian government to immediately release Muluk and repeal the country's blasphemy laws.
The international rights watchdog said that Sunni militants had attacked Muluk's village, burning houses, including Muluk's home, as well as an Islamic school, and forcing 500 Shiite followers to flee their homes.
Indonesia guarantees freedom of religion through its constitution but has in recent years given light sentences to perpetrators of attacks on Christians and those from the Ahmadiyah Islamic minority, some of which have been fatal.
Amir Tejo, Surabaya Lawyers for a Shiite cleric standing trial for blasphemy in Sampang, East Java, have highlighted glaring irregularities in the trial, one day before the verdict is due to be handed down.
Faiq Ashidiqie, one of the lawyers for Tajul Muluk, said on Wednesday that from the very beginning of the trial at the Sampang District Court, prosecutors had portrayed the Shiite faith as subservient to the Sunni majority. "Yet the difference between the two is simply a matter of theology that has long been recognized and accepted," he said.
He said that all the prosecution witnesses presented at the hearings appeared to have been called just to denounce Tajul's teachings and not to actually testify about the case in question. Tajul was arrested in April for allegedly telling his students that the Koran was not the original holy text for Muslims.
Faiq said that at least four of the witnesses lied when they declared the Shiite faith a "heretical belief," despite the fact that it was the second-largest denomination of Islam in the world, with about 200 million followers.
One witness was Abdussomad Buchori, chairman of the provincial chapter of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI). "This witness, when asked by prosecutors, said that the defendant's teachings had caused unrest and disturbed the public peace. By saying this, the witness was acting as if he was the judge," Faiq said.
Akhol Firdaus, spokesman for the Center for Marginalized Community Studies (CMARS), which is monitoring the trial, questioned the credibility of the verdict, due to be issued today, since the closing arguments were delivered on Tuesday.
"That's far too short a time frame for the judges to reach a proper verdict," he said. "We fear the verdict will be a rubber-stamp ruling to appease the majority faith."
He said his organization was concerned that law enforcers were too hasty and rash in prosecuting cases where the sensibilities of Sunni Muslims had allegedly been offended by teachings from other faiths.
"Local authorities should consult with the central government on whether a case constitutes a religious dispute or not," Akhol said. "The central government has been very cautious about this particular case, but the local authorities have done the opposite."
Prosecutors have sought a four-year sentence for Tajul under the Criminal Code article on blasphemy and inciting religious hatred. The article carries a maximum sentence of five years.
Indonesia's Shiite community has been targeted in 15 incidents of religious violence and discrimination since January, up from 10 such incidents the previous year, according to the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy.
Sita W. Dewi, Jakarta Weeks after an openly-proclaimed atheist was sent to prison by a court in West Sumatra, a senior chief justice says that atheists and communists do have a place in the country.
Constitutional Court chief Mahfud MD told visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Indonesian Constitution gave people the freedom to be atheists or communists as it guaranteed equality in freedom.
Mahfud was answering Merkel's questions about freedom of religion and democracy in Indonesia during a visit to the Constitutional Court on Tuesday evening.
"Since its inception, the Constitutional Court has guaranteed the freedom of atheists and communists in this country, as long as they do not interfere with the freedom of people of other religions. Freedom is equality," Mahfud said, as quoted by kompas.com.
The nation would be denying human rights and democracy if it denied atheists and communists their rights, Mahfud said. He, however, said atheists and communists should also respect people who chose to have a religion.
The chief justice's comments came only weeks after Alexander Aan, 32, was sentenced to 2.5 years in jail by the Negeri Muaro District Court in West Sumatra in June for blasphemy and publicly declaring himself an atheist.
The panel of judges declared him guilty of defaming Islam and insulting the Prophet Muhammad through his Facebook account and a fan page titled Ateis Minang (Minang Atheist).
According to the judges, Alexander's actions violated Article 28 of Law No. 11/2008 on Information and Electronic Transactions because he had spread information that had caused hatred and enmity against individuals and groups based on tribal affiliations, religion, race and societal groups (SARA).
The judge also mentioned Alexander's open declaration that he was an atheist, which could be read by many people as unacceptable behavior for a citizen and civil servant under the state ideology of Pancasila and the Constitution, which obliges every citizen to have a religion.
Alex, who acknowledged Islam as his religion on his identity card, said that he was an atheist of Minang descent from Padang, West Sumatra, which is a Muslim stronghold.
Mahfud's statement has won support from prominent religious figures. Abdul Mu'ti, secretary of Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Muslim organization, said on Wednesday that even though Indonesia did not acknowledge atheism, it was tied to international covenants on human rights and religious freedom.
"The first tenet of state ideology Pancasila [five pillars] states 'Belief in the one and only God', meaning that the state gives freedom for people to choose their religion, not freedom for people not to have a religion.
"However, Indonesia, as it is tied to international covenants on religious freedom and human rights, is obliged to protect all citizens practicing their ideology and faith, regardless what that religion or ideology is," Abdul told The Jakarta Post.
Separately, Muslim scholar Komaruddin Hidayat said that as long as it was practiced individually, every citizen had the right to practice any religion or ideology they believed in. "It becomes a problem when their individual expression is against the constitution and ethics," the rector of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University said.
Abdul realized the sensitivity of the issue, saying that it could potentially trigger public furor once it was publicly discussed. He cited the debate over the Ahmadiyah sect as an obvious example.
"Most Muslims deem Ahmadiyah as deviant, as a result, Ahmadis are repressed by the public. It becomes legally convoluted," he said, adding that "the state has to be wise in facing such issues."
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta The surprising first-place finish by Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in Jakarta's gubernatorial election seems to be driving major political parties to reevaluate and change their strategies for the 2014 presidential election.
A quick count from Wednesday's poll shows the Surakarta mayor garnered 42 percent of votes, defeating incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo, who collected 33 percent. The result will see them battle it out in a runoff scheduled for Sept. 20.
Fauzi was backed by the Democratic Party, while Jokowi was nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party. Golkar's candidate, Alex Noerdin, came fifth with 4 percent, below independent candidate Faisal Basri who collected 5 percent of the votes.
"Even though our loss in the gubernatorial election doesn't necessarily reflect the future, Golkar must consolidate in order to win the 2014 election," Golkar lawmaker Agun Gunandjar Sudarsa told reporters on the sidelines of a plenary meeting at the House of Representatives on Friday.
Golkar patron Akbar Tanjung has warned that the party's loss in the gubernatorial election will likely impact the candidacy of the party's chairman, Aburizal "Ical" Bakrie, for the 2014 presidential race.
Golkar is one of three political parties that has already nominated its presidential hopeful. The other two are Gerindra and the National Mandate Party (PAN), which have nominated their respective chairmen, Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa.
In addition to strategies, the success of Jokowi in the gubernatorial election seems to have encouraged parties to consider forming coalitions to win the presidential election.
Senior Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician, Hidayat Nur Wahid, said the party would likely nominate one of its members to be the presidential aspirant. Such a move would be seen as a sign that the party had grown stronger.
Hidayat said all PKS members had supported him in the Jakarta poll, in which he finished third. "This [consolidation] is a powerful tool for us approaching the 2014 election if we can maintain it. I think we can nominate one of the leaders if we can fulfill the requirements," Hidayat said.
He added that the fact that Jokowi was leading in the poll showed that neither religious nor ethnic affiliations played a crucial role in politics.
"Thus, we will no longer determine our collaboration with other political parties based on these elements. It is too naive to support Governor Fauzi, for example, in the upcoming runoff just because he is a Muslim and has strongly defended Islamic values. Jokowi is also a Muslim yet he has garnered more votes than the governor," Hidayat said, hinting that the PKS would adopt the same approach for the presidential election.
PDI-P patron Taufiq Kiemas said it was unlikely his party would maintain the collaboration for the 2014 presidential election. "A successful collaboration in the gubernatorial election doesn't necessary mean that we will retain those ties for the upcoming presidential election."
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is unlikely to collaborate with the Great Indonesian Movement Party (Gerindra) in the 2014 presidential election, even though their coalition has succeeded in the first round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, PDI-P senior politician Taufik Kiemas says.
PDI-P and Gerindra have collaborated to nominate out-of towner Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who will face incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo from the Democratic Party in a runoff scheduled on Sept. 20.
"The successful collaboration in the gubernatorial election doesn't necessary mean that we will continue the ties for the upcoming presidential election, because it has failed previously," said Taufik, who also chairs the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) on Thursday.
In the 2009 presidential election, the PDI-P and Gerindra also collaborated to nominate the former's chief Megawati Sukarnoputri and the latter's chief patron Prabowo Subianto as president and vice president candidates, but they lost to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono from the Democratic Party.(iwa)
Ezra Sihite/Rizky Amelia/Ulin Yusron It's not just Ahok that has been brought into the central leadership board, but scores of retired generals have also joined the ranks of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra Party) elite. In addition to this, there are family members and activists.
Gerindra is very happy at the moment. The candidates they backed along with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in the Jakarta gubernatorial election Joko Widodo as governor and Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok as deputy governor have won the first round of the election.
Ahok's decision to leave the House of Representatives and the party he previously defended, the Golkar Party, has proved to be the correct one. Ahok was chosen by the Gerindra Party who accommodated and pushed him to become candidate for the Jakarta gubernatorial election.
Within the structure of the Gerindra Party's new central leadership board resulting form the party's extraordinary congress on March 17, according to a leak obtain by Berita Satu, Ahok has been rewarded with the position of chairperson for political and state affairs.
Ahok is nestled in between a leadership numbering 314 people. Of this, 99 are women. This exceeds the quota set by the 2009 election law requiring a party's central leadership board to have a minimum composition of 30 percent women.
A document obtained by Berita Satu also cites scores of retired generals from various wings of the TNI (Indonesian military) and national police as being members of the party's board of patrons. These include, among others, retired Lieutenant General (Mar) Suharto, retired Rear Admiral Moekhlas Sidik, retired Major General Glenny Kairupan, retired Major General Johnny Wahab, retired Major General Mahidin Simbolon, retired air force Brigadier General Mutanto Juwono, retired Major General Soenarko and retired police Inspector General Tommy Jakobus.
The other board of patrons members are former prominent Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) leaders Haryanto Taslam and Permadi. Other interesting figures among the ranks of the advisory board are Major General Chairawan, the former commander of the Sandi Yudha Group 4 from the Army's elite Special Forces Kopassus, who was in charge of the Rose Team (Tim Mawar) that was responsible for the abduction of pro-democracy activists between May 1997 and March 1998. Chairawan is the chairperson of the security and national resilience division.
The advisory board is headed up by Major General Haryadi Darmawan with a membership including former Bank Indonesia governor Sudrajat Djiwandono, a former convicted criminal jailed for corruption involving Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support Scheme (BLBI) funds.
The board of experts is chaired by former Bank Indonesia governor Burhanuddin Abdullah, also a former convicted criminal jailed for corruption over the misuse of Indonesian Banking Development Institute (YPPI) funds totalling 100 billion rupiah. Also quite striking in the board of expert's lineup is the inclusion of former labour and transmigration minister Erman Soeparno. In addition to this the secretary general of the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI), Rahmat Pambudi, is also included in the board of expert's lineup.
From activist and non-government organisation circles is the former director of the Jakarta Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) Irianto Subiakto, who is listed as the head of the human rights department. Agus Jabo Priyono, the general chairperson of the People's Democratic Party (PRD) holds the post of chairperson for potential election mapping.
Meanwhile long-term board members who were once victims of the activist abductions by Kopassus in 1997-98, namely Desmond J. Mahesa and Pius Lustrilanang remain in the ranks of the new central leadership board.
The shakeup of the new Gerindra central leadership board was initially leaked to the mass media by technology affairs chairperson Fami Fahrudin. A number of long-term leadership board members have been replaced by scores of generals. Tensions within the new leadership board resulting from the extraordinary congress have already resulted in casualties with the resignation of one of the party's founding members and deputy chairperson Halida Hatta.
Gerindra Secretary General Ahmad Muzani stated that the change in Gerindra's central leadership board was the result of the extraordinary congress, which gave a mandate to the sole leader designate, board of patron's chairperson Prabowo Subianto. "There are names that been promoted, there have been additions, there have been demotions, all of the demotions were done with the prerogative consideration of the board of patrons chairperson", said Muzani.
The most prominent members of the Gerindra's new central leadership board are the scores of generals. The inclusion of these retired generals, according to a Berita Satu source, was the trigger for the internal rift within Gerindra.
In addition to the generals, tensions were also caused by the many leadership board members who are part of Subianto's extended family. There are even leadership board members who are mother and child, or father and child. "The chairperson of the board of patrons has subjective and objective grounds for promoting and dismissing anyone in accordance with the congress", said Muzandi.
Many of the retired military officers in the new central leadership board have controversial backgrounds: Lieutenant General (Mar) Suharto is a former Marine corps commander credited with bringing the May 1988 riots in Jakarta under control; Major General Glenny Kairupan served as deputy sub- regional military command commander in East Timor in the mid-1990s and managed the anti-independence militia program as 'security advisor' to Major General Zacky Makarim during the East Timor independence referendum; Major General Johnny Wahab was the regional military commander in Aceh when the province was designated a military operations zone; Major General Mahidin Simbolon is a former West Papua military commander who served six tours of duty in East Timor and was a key actor in the military campaign of state-sponsored terror against the East Timorese; Major General Soenarko is a former Kopassus commander who in 2009 headed the Aceh regional military command and has been accused of playing a role in politically-motivated assassinations in the 2009 elections; Inspector General Tommy Jakobus is a former West Papua police chief. Suharto's former son-in-law and Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto, along with Chairawan and Gerindra Party founding member Muchdi Purwoprandjono (accused of masterminding the murder of human rights activist Munir) were dismissed from the Kopassus leadership in August 1998 over the abduction of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98, although no charges have ever been brought against the three.
Ezra Sihite A political tug-of-war is taking place over the daughter of one of Indonesia's founding fathers, as two parties offer different versions of just where her loyalties lie.
The Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) of Prabowo Subianto said last week that Halida Hatta, one of its founding members and the daughter of the country's first vice president, Mohammad Hatta, had resigned because she wanted to get out of politics and focus on business.
But National Democrat (NasDem) chairman Patrice Rio Capella now says that Halida left Gerindra because she was disappointed with the direction of the party, and was considering joining NasDem.
"I have no idea if [Halida is disappointed] because her resignation letter given to us states that she left because of her work," Gerindra chairman Suhardi said.
Suhardi said Halida submitted her resignation letter during a dinner with him and Prabowo, a party co-founder and chairman of its advisory council. Halida, he said, never mentioned any disappointment with the party.
According to NasDem, Halida, left Gerindra because of irreconcilable ideological differences with the party
Halida was Gerindra's lead candidate during the 2009 legislative elections, but her bid failed after Gerindra transferred votes to another legislative candidate. Halida's relationship with the party reportedly worsened in subsequent years, a claim Gerindra denied.
NasDem was established last year by media mogul Surya Paloh after he lost his bid to chair Golkar to longtime rival Aburizal Bakrie.
Gerindra is putting a brave face on the Halinda controversy and its secretary general, Ahmad Muzani, said Prabowo had come up with a new lineup of the party's permanent members, which have grown from just 99 to 350.
"There are some members who were promoted, some posts were split among several people and some got demoted," Muzani said. "Everything was done under the prerogative power of the advisory council chairman [Prabowo]."
The new members, Muzani said, will decide the party's candidate for the 2014 presidential election as well and elect members to the party's central leadership board.
Muzani confirmed that the lineup does not include Fami Fachruddin, who until recently was the party's science and technology division head. Fami has gone to the press with claims that he was dismissed for criticizing Prabowo.
"[Prabowo] has his own subjective and objective reasons for appointing or dismissing anyone," Muzani said.
Ezra Sihite The famously outspoken Taufik Kiemas is again butting heads with his wife, Megawati Sukarnoputri, telling the former president that it is time to put away her presidential ambitions and let someone younger run in 2014.
Taufik said his wife, chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), was too old to run despite several recent surveys pointing to her as the front-runner for 2014.
"I think it's time we let the country's young people run in 2014," Taufik, the speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly and chairman of the PDI- P's board of patrons, said on Tuesday.
It's not the first time he has delivered the kind of message most husbands would be afraid to give their wives. He said much the same thing last October, urging Megawati to make way for new blood.
He also said on Tuesday that if the party failed to garner at least 20 percent of the total vote in the legislative elections it could forget nominating its own presidential candidate. "All parties need to go through regeneration and nurture younger leaders. I think it's time for Bu Mega to do this," he said.
On the back of her strong showing in the recent surveys, Megawati has given the strongest hints yet that she may run in 2014. "We need regeneration, but it has to be about pushing forward the best members," she said recently. "Don't make it a power grab."
Megawati, 65, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and 2009, said age should not be an issue. "For me, there's no such thing as old or young. You can have a 20-year-old who, because of drugs, is unhealthy and no longer thinks clearly," she said. "Conversely, you can have an older person who, because of better life choices, has plenty of energy and does well. It's all relative."
A survey by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting last week put Megawati as the front-runner for 2014. She received a positive response from 93.7 percent of the survey's 1,219 respondents.
She was followed by former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, with 88.9 percent. Prabowo Subianto, the former general and leader of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), was third with 78.8 percent, followed by another former general, Wiranto, with 72.8 percent. Wiranto is chairman of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura).
PDI-P youth wing chairman Maruarar Sirait said that although the party had not yet made a decision on its presidential candidate, the youth wing wanted Megawati to run.
It's not a sentiment shared by some analysts. "She will run if she has no shame, because she has been defeated twice in the last two elections," said Fachry Ali, a political expert from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta An internal rift has rocked the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), with the party's founding member and deputy chairperson Halida Hatta resigning in a move that many consider to be a protest against the strong-willed leadership style of the party's chief patron, Lt. Gen. (ret) Prabowo Subianto.
Halida, daughter of the country's first vice president Mohammad Hatta, tendered her resignation in April, which was only confirmed last week.
"I was disappointed with the party's decision to transfer the votes I won in the legislative election to other candidates. I asked for clarification from the party but I never heard anything from them," she told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Publicly, Halida said that her reason for quitting was so that she could focus on her day job, a senior public relations officer for a Japan-based gas company.
Halida also said that recently, she could only contribute a little to the party because on many occasions the party had shut her out of the decision making process. "I think Gerindra could have done so much better if we'd communicated better among ourselves," Halida said.
Rumors abound that the party's internal rift was caused by Prabowo's so- called strong leadership style, which also may have been apparent in the dismissal of Fami Fachrudin, the party's head of science and technology.
Fami said that there was a deep-seated mistrust among party members with military backgrounds of Gerindra's civilian politicians, and that this had served to deepen rifts within the party.
"The culture of this military group has led to an abuse of power. We must not tolerate such authoritarianism. The leadership of Gerindra must realize that criticism is a common thing in a democracy," Fami said on his Twitter web page on July 5.
Fami's ouster was decided by Prabowo, former son-in-law of former president Soeharto, during the party's extraordinary meeting, which took place last March.
Fami is said to be close to a senior figure within Gerindra, the party deputy chairman Fadli Zon, and the former's dismissal was said to be an attack on Fadli.
Fadli dismissed the speculation, saying that Prabowo had the prerogative to fire anybody he wanted. "There is no such thing. Why bother attacking others while they can attack me directly?" he said.
Fadli, however, told the Post that the decision to fire Fami was made without the presence of the party's chairman Suhardi.
Sita W. Dewi, Jakarta None of the popular politicians touted as potential presidential candidates would win a majority of the vote if the presidential election were held today, a new survey has said.
The candidate that would fare best was Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) chief patron Lt. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto, who was backed by 10.6 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by the Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting firm.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri was second, backed by 8 percent of respondents, followed by Golkar Party chairman Aburizal "Ical" Bakrie, at 4.4 percent.
"This indicates that we haven't yet seen a dominant political figure who can triumph in the election," Grace Natalie, the survey firm's chief, said. Sixty percent of respondents said that they remained undecided, according to the survey.
Grace said that the current situation did not bode well for potential candidates, as there had always been a front runner at this point in the election cycle previously.
Two years before the 2009 presidential election, for example, incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was already backed by more than 20 percent of respondents in several polls, Grace said.
The situation was daunting, she added. "Even if we narrow things down to the three most popular names, Megawati, Ical and Prabowo, none of them would gain more than 30 percent of the vote."
The survey, which contacted 1,230 respondents in 33 provinces between June 20 and June 30, also said that most of the potential candidates remained popular with respondents, with the most prominent politicians liked by more than half of respondents.
Megawati, for instance, the most popular politician mentioned in the survey, received a positive rating from 68.2 percent of the 93.7 percent respondents who said they were familiar with her, or an overall positive rating from 63.9 percent of respondents.
Prabowo Subianto was the best known potential candidate, recognized by 78.8 percent of the respondents, 79.7 percent of who favored him, for an overall positive rating from 62.7 percent of respondents.
Meanwhile, Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum received a positive rating from 30.4 percent of the 55 percent of respondents who were familiar with him, for a dismal overall positive rating from 16 percent of respondents.
Despite an early declaration of his candidacy, Aburizal was the least popular among the most prominent potential candidates. Of the 70.1 percent of respondents who said they knew Ical, 61.4 percent said they would vote for him, making for an overall positive rating from 40.3 percent of respondents.
"The main reason they disliked Ical was the Lapindo mudflow," Grace said, referring to the disaster in Sidoarjo, East Java, attributed to PT Lapindo Brantas, a subsidiary of the Bakrie family. The ongoing mud flow has displaced tens of thousands of residents and destroyed thousands of hectares.
Allegations of previous human rights abuses, however, apparently did not dampen support for Prabowo in the survey. Almost three-fourths of respondents said that they knew Prabowo was dismissed from the Army in connection with kidnapping and the disappearances of pro-democracy activists before the 1997 election during the New Order regime.
Grace said that those who disliked Ical would support Prabowo. "What's interesting is that 51 percent of respondents who said that they did not trust Ical stated that they would vote for Prabowo."
Golkar Party central board members Yories Raweyai, accepted the survey's results, adding that Golkar has two years to improve Ical's image and approval rating with voters. "Even though we have declared Ical as our sole presidential candidate, he's not yet our presidential candidate until the day we register." "We will watch the political dynamics and be realistic," he added.
PDI-P lawmaker Budiman Sudjatmiko said that Megawati, Ical and Prabowo had similar ideological leanings and would fight for the same groups of voters. "They are nationalist and populist and focus on social economic issues. The 60 percent of undecided respondents will be swayed by their rhetoric," Budiman said.
The other potential candidates touted by the survey were former vice president Jusuf Kalla, The People's Conscience Party (Hanura) chairman Wiranto, Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X and National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Hatta Rajasa, all of whom were backed by less than 5 percent of respondents.
Farouk Arnaz & Markus Junianto Sihaloho A pro-democracy think tank has expressed concerns over the increasing number of polling agencies releasing survey data on support for political parties and presidential candidates as national elections draw nearer, saying that they do more harm than good.
Usman Hamid, the founder of the Public Virtue Institute, said the surveys demonstrate a poor understanding of democracy because they focus on competition among elites.
"The surveys on the 2014 presidential election are too premature and irrelevant to the current state of democracy, which is stalling. We regret that most political surveys offer a shallow interpretation of democracy," said Usman, a former coordinator of the National Commission on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).
Usman declined to challenge the credibility of surveyors but said he had concerns about polling agencies that adjust their survey methodology based on the presidential candidates they prefer. "It's just a matter of justifying the methodology," he said.
Syaiful Mujani Research and Consulting announced on Sunday that its poll found Megawati Sukarnoputri to be the most popular of eight national leaders.
Usman said the public should not be too focused on the popularity of the candidates. "The release could have been an effort to distract the public," Usman said of the latest data.
Andar Nubowo, the communications director of the Public Virtue Institute, said that political surveys could serve as a double-edged sword that could both create negative perceptions and boost the popularity of candidates. Andar criticized the polling done by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting because it was hurting public perceptions of Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie, and the founder of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), Prabowo Subianto.
Yunarto Wijaya, a political analyst from Charta Politika, said that surveys are usually funded by supporters of a candidate.
He said he saw nothing wrong with a political party paying for a survey as long as there was transparency over the fee paid for the survey and the methodology used. Yunarto admitted that the Golkar Party had hired his company in the past to conduct several surveys.
Nico Harjanto, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that survey companies were entitled to publicize the results of their work. "I think it's just a matter of a lack of code of conduct to regulate specifically the norms for survey companies," Nico said.
National Lawmakers want to require all NGOs receiving money from overseas to submit a financial report to the Home Ministry for auditing.
Auditing and monitoring would be done by the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK), lawmaker Abdul Malik Haramain, who chairs the House committee deliberating revisions to the Law on Mass Organizations, said.
"The government will carry out the monitoring, evaluation and audit regularly," Abdul Malik said as quoted by Antara on Thursday.
Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi previously said that the government wanted the bill revising the law to require all mass organizations to register with the ministry.
Any organization that did not register with the government would be classified as noncompliant and ineligible to receive government services, such as public assembly permits, Gamawan said. "We will tell the National Police not to issue permits to these kind of organization," Gamawan added.
Lawmakers have also been discussing whether to classify Greenpeace Indonesia as a foreign organization. Abdul Malik said that the environmental group was a local organization that must abide by regulations to submit a financial report to the Home Ministry.
Ismira Lutfia & Markus Junianto Sihaloho Labor activists have demanded that the labor minister apologize over a statement he made on Thursday apparently belittling work that does not "require the use of the brain."
Defending the practice of "outsourcing," which activists contend leaves workers without benefits or protection, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said it was only meant to be used in low-wage "auxiliary" jobs.
"Jobs that can be outsourced are not core jobs, only auxiliary jobs," he said. "Auxiliary jobs are those that will not and do not require the use of the brain. They include cleaning services, security, goods delivery and various other jobs. But reporters, bank tellers and others who use their brains must be permanent employees."
Jaya Santosa, president of the Association of Workers Unions (Aspek), said on Friday that the minister's statement, quoted widely in print and broadcast media in response to a massive workers' demonstration in Jakarta on Thursday to protest the practice of outsourcing, was offensive and demeaning.
"We demand that Muhaimin issue an official apology to all workers and their families in the fields of security, cleaning services and goods delivery," Jaya said at a press conference, referring to professions the minister had criticized.
Jaya said the minister's statement highlighted a common disregard of workers' rights. He called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to replace Muhaimin with someone with a better understanding of issues related to workers.
"As a public official responsible for the protection and welfare of workers, Muhaimin should not have criticized these jobs like this with no respect for workers' rights to fair treatment, regardless of their jobs," he said.
Sabda Pranawa Djati, the Aspek secretary general, said the statement came against a backdrop of "weak protection for outsourced workers and low pay for all workers."
The two issues prompted thousands of workers to take to the streets of Jakarta on Thursday to demand higher minimum wages and an end to outsourcing.
Legislators have also joined the cause, with Rieke Diah Pitaloka of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) calling for a revision of a 2005 decree that determines how an index measuring living costs, which is used to calculate minimum wages, is measured.
She also called for greater protection for employers, which in turn would protect jobs. She said this included corporate tax breaks, lower interest rates on business loans and eradicating illegal fees levied by officials.
Iman Mahditama and Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta More than 30,000 workers from the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Union (KSPI) marched on the Presidential Palace on Thursday, demanding that the government crack down on outsourcing.
"We will give time to the government to prohibit low-wage policies and employee outsourcing until October, KSPI president Said Iqbal said on Thursday.
Said had a warning for the government if it failed to meet its demands: "We will take to the street again, with more workers to close factories and toll roads in Greater Jakarta." "The rally today is just a warm-up. We can bring other unions from many parts of the country to join us," Said added.
The confederation comprises the Indonesian Teachers Association (PGRI), the Indonesian Metal Workers Federation (FSPMI), the Indonesian Cement Industry Workers Federation (FSPISI) and the Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Union (SP PPMI).
The demonstration worsened traffic on several major thoroughfares as the workers marched on the Palace.
The Jakarta Police said on Thursday that they deployed 8,295 officers to oversee the protests and to protect the Palace, the House of Representatives, the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, and the offices of the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry and the Coordinating Economic Ministry.
Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar said that the ministry would crack down on outsourcing. "We will not allow outsourcing to be out of the reach of the existing regulations. We need to work together with the central and local government as well as the union to tackle the problem," Muhaimin told reporters on Thursday.
Muhaimin said that the government intended to amend the Labor Law, which recognized outsourcing, over the long run.
Arientha Primanita & Lenny Tristia Tambun President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has instructed government officials to reach a deal with laborers who took to the streets of Jakarta on Thursday to demand a higher minimum wage and an end to the outsourcing of workers.
"The president wanted to see the workers and the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration to strike a deal," presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said on Thursday. "The president has instructed the government officials involved to reach an understanding with the laborers."
Julian said the government had responded to a similar rally by workers earlier this year with a decree and a Constitutional Court ruling.
Said Iqbal, the president of the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) told the rally: "What's most important is for the government to man up and say stop to outsourcing. The manpower minister must have the will. We want a moratorium on outsourcing, and for all outsourcing firms to have their licenses revoked."
The massive labor protests, which involved tens of thousands of workers on Thursday, paralyzed parts of Jakarta.
Thousands of protestors gathered at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout before marching to the State Palace, halting traffic on Jalan Sudirman and Thamrin, Jalan Abdul Muis, Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat and Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara.
Other workers protested in front of the legislative complex and the offices of the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, the Attorney General's Office and the Health Ministry. The protests forced the city transportation office and the Jakarta Police's traffic department to divert traffic at several locations to prevent massive jams from forming.
Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said that although workers had the right to stage a demonstration, they should do so in an orderly manner.
"It shouldn't disrupt other people from doing their activities or from working. The head of every group is responsible for controlling their respective group," he said.
The president earlier said that a tripartite agreement between workers, employers and the government was key to overcoming labor problems. He said the absence of negotiations and agreement would disrupt the economy and the business sector.
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta In a move to boost the welfare of labor, the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry has revised a guideline normally used to determine the minimum wage for low-income workers.
The decision, however, met opposition from labor unions, which considered the revision to be not sufficient enough to strengthen their economic position. At the same time, employers also protested the revision, saying they had not yet given their approval.
The revised Ministerial Decree No. 17/2005 on wages was signed on July 9 by Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar and laborers were expected to have enjoyed the wage increase by January 2013.
"I have signed the revised decree and it has been handed over to the Law and Human Rights Ministry for codification," the minister said after a recent hearing with lawmakers.
Through the revision, the ministry added 14 to the existing 46 components normally used to determine the level of laborers wages. Muhaimin said the revision was made after input from numerous groups including labor unions, employers, the National Tripartite Institution and the National Wage Council.
The 60 components will be a reference for local administrations in all 33 provinces to determine the index prices before setting the provincial minimum wages by the end of the year. Among the additional components are socks (four pairs in 12 months) and combs (two in 12 months).
Muhaimin reminded employers, labor unions and provincial administrations of the importance of the revision. He added the revised decree served as a measuring tool to determine decent pay for workers in the formal sector.
"The provincial minimum wage is only a social safety net and employers should pay their workers higher than that. No employers are allowed to pay workers lower than this level for the sake of justice, humanity and productivity," he said.
According to Muhaimin, the provincial minimum wage is effective only for single workers with less than a year's employment. The real wage for married workers with many years of employment has to be set through bipartite bargaining and documented in labor agreements (PKB).
Labor unions opposed the revision, saying they would not give a significant increase in the provincial minimum wage.
The Confederation of Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPI) president Said Iqbal said that the inclusion of the 14 new minor wage components would not increase workers' monthly income drastically and would also not improve their purchasing power because main components, such as calories, meat, fresh fish, house rent rates and clothes had not been reviewed.
Separately, the Indonesian Employers' Association (Apindo) deputy chairman Djimanto said Apindo was disappointed with the minister, who had signed the decree while the review was still in process.
Fidelis E. Satriastanti The Environment Ministry has found indications of arson in recent fires at the protected Tripa peat forest in Aceh, a senior ministry official said on Sunday.
"It baffles me. We are still investigating, but these fires keep occurring," said Sudariyono, the ministry's deputy for legal compliance.
"We have a strong suspicion that the fires are not accidental, judging by how they are shaped. When viewed from above it is very irregular. Also, there doesn't seem to be a mitigation system, in the sense that no one's trying to put them out."
The Tripa swamp is a key habitat of the Sumatran orangutan, a critically endangered species, with 200 individuals believed to be living in the area. Sudariyono said the ministry's investigators had not found any indications that orangutans were killed in the fires.
A moratorium map published by the ministry identified Tripa as protected area. There is also a law in place that is meant to prohibit the issuance of new concessions on land with peat layers more than three meters deep.
Despite this, two companies, Kallista Alam and Surya Panen Subur 2, received concessions in Tripa. Kallista's permit, issued by former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, is currently the subject of a legal challenge by activists.
Sudariyono said Surya Panen "was suspected of burning some 1,183 hectares" of land inside the Tripa peat swamp from March 19 to 24 this year. Kallista, he said, was believed to have burned some 30 hectares of its 1,605-hectare concession in the peat swamp.
The ministry has not concluded its investigation but Sudariyono said his office was already mulling legal action against Kallista and Surya Panen. The companies "could be charged in criminal court over the fires and they could face lawsuits for damaging the forest," he said.
The Environment Ministry has questioned witnesses from the two companies, nongovernmental organizations, residents and local government offices.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta University lecturers, students and nongovernmental organizations have identified problematic articles in the newly endorsed higher education bill and plan to file for a judicial review at the Constitutional Court.
Calling themselves the National Education Committee, they said some articles in the bill could weaken local universities, while other articles could deter poor students from pursuing a higher education.
"We still need to meet and further discuss several problematic points that we will submit to the Constitutional Court [for judicial review]. There are at least two crucial points: the articles that allow foreign universities to open branches here and the privatization of state universities," Alghiffari Aqsa of Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) told The Jakarta Post here on Saturday.
The committee claims that allowing foreign universities to open branches in Indonesia would eventually weaken local universities because the latter would have no competitive advantage. Meanwhile, the articles allowing state universities to fully determine their budget and financial sources would eventually lead to poor students being unable to afford the admission fees.
After being endorsed by the House of Representatives, a bill automatically becomes law within 30 days or after being signed by the President.
Article 50 of the higher education bill stipulates that foreign universities are allowed to set up branches, centers on Indonesian studies and independent research centers in the country.
Article 90 further authorizes the Indonesian government to determine areas at which foreign universities can operate, and the types and disciplines they may offer. It also requires foreign universities to hire Indonesian lecturers and staffers.
The government and House Commission X overseeing education claim the articles will motivate Indonesian universities to advance their services.
"I think the idea of allowing foreign universities to operate here is based on the General Agreement on Trade and Services [GATS]. Like other sectors under the agreement, our universities are not prepared for global competition, as well as equal opportunities for all students. And it's the job of the government to protect the universities," LBH's Alghiffari said.
Gadjah Mada University (UGM) rector Prof. Pratikno said that the bill also gave the government the authority to interfere in the management of lecturers within a university.
Article 70 says that the education and culture minister can assign any lecturers appointed by the government in order to improve the quality of higher education.
"Not only that, the article regulating this is unnecessary, it will be manipulated to intimidate lecturers for personal interests. I know the intentions of the bill are good, but we must be careful when it goes into effect," Pratikno told the Post.
Dessy Sagita & Ismira Lutfia Activists have raised alarm over Indonesia's anti-abortion laws, saying that criminalized abortion encourages women to turn to illegal practices that can be fatal.
Inna Hudaya, the founder of SAMSARA, an NGO that provides assistance to women with unplanned pregnancies, said that criminalized abortion is a threat to public health in general, and to women in particular.
"The criminalization of abortion is a form of violence against women. State and society have failed to see women as subjects; women are increasingly seen as objects and are subordinated under the law," she said.
Inna is just one of many pushing for legalization of abortion in Indonesia, where about 2.5 million abortions are performed every year. In fact, the figure might be higher than that, as many women turn to illegal clinics and traditional healers to have their pregnancies terminated discreetly.
Inna claims that abortion rates are often higher in countries where the practice is illegal, as anti-abortion laws are often accompanied by lack of public education about sexual and reproductive health.
"Even though abortion is criminalized, there has been no significant change in the abortion rate. As long as there are no efforts to reduce the incidence of unplanned pregnancies, the demand for abortion services will remain high," Inna said.
Inna said that illegal abortion services take advantage of the situation of women. "Because there are no clear regulations, it means that women often become victims, psychologically, physically and ecnomically," she said.
Such practices can also increase the risk of complications and maternal death, which occurs at a rate of 228 deaths per 100,000 births. "Complications and death resulting from unsafe abortions can cause economic damage for the state, including by smearing Indonesia's good name over its inability to raise the status of women's health," Inna said.
Inna understands the problems faced by women with unplanned pregnancies, having had an abortion once herself. She established SAMSARA to provide support to other women, including by offering counseling, education and by opening a hotline for advice.
"Having an abortion to solve today's problem is not a decision that should be rushed into, when it may cause bigger problems, like death and health complications," she said.
Kalyanamitra, another organization that campaigns for women's rights, claims that more women should be made aware of their right to legally choose an abortion under certain conditions.
In 2009, exceptions to the anti-abortion laws were introduced that allow legal abortion for medical reasons with the consent of a woman's husband.
"The law also allows abortion for pregnancies resulting from rape that could cause psychological trauma for the victim," said Rena Herdiyani, Kalyanamitra's executive director.
Rena added that while these exceptions were a good start for public acceptance of abortion, the new laws still do not cover other situations under which women choose to have abortions, such as failed contraceptive use, unexpected pregnancies, short spacing between births and concerns about child support.
"In the end, women who do not wish to be pregnant, for reasons other than medical emergencies or rape, end up having unsafe abortions, for example by drinking jamu-jamuan [traditional tonics] or with the help of an untrained practitioner," she said.
M. Nurhadi Rahman, a medical doctor and founder of the Selamatkan Ibu, or Saving Mothers movement, said that when abortions were performed correctly by trained specialists, the risk to health is minimal.
"What is dangerous is when the practice is performed illegally, outside of a health clinic or hospital, by someone who is not a medical professional," he said.
"And don't think that it is just pregnant teenagers and unmarried couples who seek out illegal abortions," he added. "The majority are in fact housewives who have experienced contraceptive failure."
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta The House of Representatives (DPR) on Friday endorsed the much-debated Higher Education Bill which gives universities from around the world the chance to open branches in the country.
Critics claimed the bill would give foreign institutions the opportunity to indoctrinate values into the student body and absorb qualified human resources from Indonesian institutions. They also feared the bill would encourage local universities to become profit-oriented as the bill gives them authority to raise money from students.
Despite criticism over several contentious articles, the government and House endorsed the bill during a House plenary meeting on Friday, claiming that not only is the bill pro-poor, but would improve the quality of higher education in the country.
"The bill will undoubtedly help students, especially those with limited financial support, because it obliges higher education institutions to allocate 20 percent of seats in all faculties to poor students in the hope that Indonesians, rich or poor, have equal access to quality tertiary education," Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh said at the House's meeting on Friday.
He made it clear that foreign universities operating in Indonesia would operate under government control. "These institutions will not operate as freely as some people suspected. We will only allow foreign universities to operate if they are non-profit-making and up-hold the Constitution, Pancasila and our religious values," Nuh said.
Chairman of House Commission X overseeing education, Agus Hermanto, said that allowing foreign universities to operate in Indonesia would raise standards among institutions as Indonesian universities would be motivated to boost their performance.
"It will also encourage our most brilliant students who prefer to study overseas to stay here. Such students will no longer go abroad to pursue a university education because quality education with international standards will be available at home," the Democratic Party lawmaker said.
Article 50 of the Higher Education bill stipulates that foreign universities are allowed to set up branches, centers on the study of Indonesia and independent research centers in the country.
Article 90, however, authorizes the Indonesian government to determine areas at which foreign universities can operate, and the types and disciplines they may offer. It also requires foreign universities to hire Indonesian lecturers and staffers.
Even though Article 74 of the bill mandates state-owned universities to allocate 20 percent of seats from all disciplines to poor students, several other articles of the bill, such Article 62 and 64, allow such universities to manage their own operations including in terms of the budgeting.
Thus, state-owned universities are allowed to continue implementing their special entrance tests, in addition to the national university entrance test annually held nationwide.
"Nothing will change in the quality of education at public universities because they will still favour students from rich families. How can public universities give only 20 percent of seats to the poor? We call them public universities because they are supposed to serve the Indonesian public, who mostly have limited access to quality higher education," Educationalist Darmaningtyas told The Jakarta Post.
Anita Rachman, Fitri & SP/Natasia Christy Wahyuni The government and the House of Representatives heralded a new era of greater access to university education with the passage on Friday of the bill on higher education, but students across the country greeted the new legislation with protests.
The bill, passed at a plenary session of the House, is intended to give state universities greater autonomy in terms of governance and seeking non-state funding, while still allowing the government to closely regulate them.
Education Minister Mohammad Nuh said the ultimate aim of the new law was to ensure wider access to higher education for all Indonesians.
"The main objective of this law is to widen education access, especially for low-income students," he said. "In 2011, only 26 percent of our high- school graduates went to university. We want to raise that figure through this law."
He said he understood concerns by student activists about the provisions on school autonomy, but insisted that these new freedoms did not give universities carte blanche to hike fees.
"Universities cannot charge their students whatever they please, because we will set standards for tuition fees," he said, adding that the government would have standards for each region.
Nuh also called on those opposing the new legislation to share their concerns with his ministry. "We can accommodate them through a ministerial regulation or government regulation on the law," he said. "But please don't play a zero-sum game or a negative game. Please don't lose your objectivity."
The bill's passage was met with protests in several parts of the country. In Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, dozens of demonstrators from the municipal chapter of the National Students Front (FMN) staged a rally outside the provincial legislature.
They called the new law a betrayal of the people's right to affordable education, claiming that the provisions on autonomy would pave the way for the commercialization of higher education and result in increased fees. They also called on the provincial legislature to issue a statement rejecting the law.
Student demonstrators also rallied in Bandar Lampung, the capital of Lampung, where they aired similar concerns about the "privatization and liberalization of universities, which will turn higher education into a business commodity."
Syamsul Bachri, the head of the House working committee that deliberated the higher education bill, said the legislation was nothing like what the critics made it out to be.
"There will no doubt be accusations that it's too liberal, doesn't benefit the poor and is discriminatory," he said. However, he said it was really a "constructive effort toward managing and regulating the higher education sector to be more modern and globally competitive."
Markus Junianto Sihaloho A cabinet minister said on Monday that the government had factored in the views of all stakeholders, especially tobacco farmers, in its proposed tobacco impact control bill.
Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said the bill, known as the RPP, was drafted in consultation with the Coordinating Ministry for People's Welfare and was awaiting approval by the president before being presented to the legislature.
"We always listen to input from the people," Nafsiah said in Jakarta. She added that farmers misunderstood the RPP if they thought it banned them from growing tobacco.
She said the bill was intended to protect pregnant women and stop children from smoking. "The younger a person starts smoking," the minister said, "the stronger the addiction is and the more difficult it is for them to stop."
Nafsiah said the bill also intended to protect tobacco farmers from intermediaries because it encouraged farmers to replace their tobacco plants with other, more profitable, crops. "Indonesia has to be smart and not let foreign cigarette producers reap big profits from our people by hurting them," she said.
Small and medium cigarette producers and tobacco farmers have accused the government of trying to cut into their incomes, claiming the RPP was based on the foreign-sponsored Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which Indonesia is not a signatory.
Rangga D. Fadillah, Jakarta Critics have said that despite much-touted tax reform, in reality little has changed in the sector given the recent arrest of a middle-ranking tax official in Bogor, West Java.
Firdaus Ilyas of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) said the arrest of the head of Bogor tax office, Anggrah Suryo, who was caught accepting a bribe from a private company base on an insider tip-off, was not necessarily proof that an internal whistle blowing system was working.
"Despite the remuneration policy [applied in 2007] and the implementation of the internal monitoring system, tax mafia operations are still rampant in tax offices. It's an indication that tax reform has not progressed as expected," Firdaus told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
He said that the internal oversight system could do little against top echelon officials.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has named Anggrah a suspect in a bribery case after catching him accepting Rp 300 million (US$31,800) from a private company staffer Endang Dyah Lestari late last week.
The bribe was allegedly paid to help Endang's firm PT Gunung Emas Abadi (PT GEA), a mining company based in Bogor, pay lower taxes than its required amount, which was around Rp 22 billion.
Anggrah reportedly demanded that Endang pay Rp 1.5 billion in tax. The case has been handed over by the KPK to the West Java Prosecutor's Office.
Contacted separately, Harry Azhar Aziz, a member of the House of Representatives Commission XI overseeing financial affairs, said that tax reform had failed.
"What are the indicators of its success? We never have indicators by which the success of the reform can be judged. I have repeatedly asked the tax office to come up with some indicators based on morality and productivity, but they've never submitted a proposal," he told the Post.
Harry also doubted that the arrest of Anggrah was the "fruit" of the whistle blowing system, and that the system could still be effective in the future.
He challenged the tax office to promote whistle blowers who had contributed to the arrest of the Bogor tax official to higher positions to prove that the reward-and-punishment system worked within the agency. "A week from now, these whistle blowers must have higher positions," he said.
In the past few years, the tax office has not only been dogged by bribery scandals, but also illegal practices in tax disputes as well as unresolved tax cases that could potentially cause severe financial losses to the state.
The irregularities include tax evasion charges against PT Bumi Resources, PT Arutmin Indonesia and PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC), all of which have ties with Golkar Party chairman Aburizal Bakrie. The combined value of the potentially unpaid taxes is estimated to be worth Rp 2.1 trillion (US$222.1 million).
"To fix problems in the taxation sector, we not only need to reform the tax office, but also the police, the prosecutor offices and tax courts," Firdaus said.
Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo had earlier claimed that tax reform had been successful when looking at the results of several surveys. A survey on taxpayers' satisfaction, conducted by the Bogor Agriculture Institute (IPB) in 2011, showed that the tax office had scored 3.79 from the maximum score of 4.
Meanwhile, in a survey on the integrity of the public sector, conducted by the KPK last year, the tax office scored 7.65 out of 10, which was above the standard score of 6. The tax office also received a positive review in the KPK's survey on anticorruption initiatives, conducted in 2010.
Jakarta An anti-graft outfit has said that the Attorney General's Office (AGO) is the most corrupt state institution as indicated by the total amount of state loss potentially incurred by the agency.
The National Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA) said that based on data from the Supreme Audit Body (BPK), between 2008 and 2010, the AGO potentially lost Rp 5.43 trillion (US$575.58 million), more than 25 percent of the Rp 16.4 trillion of potential losses from 83 government institutions.
Head of FITRA's research division Maulana said that the BPK found 473 cases of irregularities within the agency. "The potential for losses reaches Rp 5.4 trillion and the agency has not launched any investigations," Maulana said as quoted by kompas.com.
The AGO, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the National Police have established a small team to coordinate further on anti-graft measures. The three institutions have also ratified a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) on corruption eradication, renewing the 2005 MoU was deemed to be too old.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta The public may have their own opinion on the House of Representatives's rejection of a proposal to build a new office for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
But, several lawmakers said on Thursday that their rejection to the plan was because of their dissatisfaction with the poor performance of the antigraft body.
Eva Kusuma Sundari from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said lawmakers normally examine the performance of executive and judicial bodies before taking any decisions.
"Based on our examination, we will decide later whether certain institutions deserve a reward or not," said Eva, a member of House Commission III overseeing legal and human rights affairs. According to her, she and fellow lawmakers did not see much achievement by the KPK.
"We don't see any progress by the KPK in handling big corruption cases, while its chief Abraham Samad has repeatedly promised to solve them soon. We are asking them to keep to their word before demanding things," Eva said, referring to KPK's demand for additional budget to build a new office building.
Responding to the demand, lawmakers on House Commission III did not give approval. Instead, the KPK was told to consult with the government and seek vacant buildings for rent.
The House's disapproval has driven the public to collect cash for the antigraft body to build a new office. The public movement highlights civil society's support for the country's corruption eradication efforts. It is no coincidence that this is seen as a severe blow on the House, many of whose members are implicated in scandals and under investigation by the KPK.
The House and the KPK stalemate has forced President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to appeal lawmakers not to delay the disbursement of funds allocated in the State Budget.
Lawmakers, however, insisted on delaying discussion on the KPK's proposal until the next session in next few months. It means the antigraft body is unlikely to get a new headquarters any time soon as the proposal will only be discussed when lawmakers convene for the 2013 budget deliberations in late August after a month's recess, starting on July 16.
Separately, House Commission III deputy chairman Nasir Djamil from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) said the KPK failed to focus on big corruption cases, but wasted its time investigating minor ones. This has led the commission's rejection of the KPK's proposal for a new office.
"It's true that KPK's performance matters here. However, it has nothing to do with vengeance. Our insistence on the Finance Minister finding a vacant building for rental simply aims to optimize the resources the government has to support agencies such as the KPK," Nasir told The Jakarta Post.
The KPK first proposed a budget of Rp 225.712 billion (US$24.15 million) for new headquarters in 2008 because its current building on Jl. Rasuna Said in Kuningan, South Jakarta, was over capacity. The agency now has over 725 employees in a building designed for only 350 people.
The ongoing dispute between Commission III and the KPK started on June, 20 when KPK deputy chief Bambang Widjojanto questioned a promise to approve the budget as support for the KPK. "We want to know when you will keep your promise and remove the asterisk on our proposal," Bambang said during a hearing.
Earlier on the day, Commission III lawmakers had flexed their muscles over the antigraft body when they refused to have talks with because of the absence of the commission deputies, even though all KPK commissioners were present.
Twenty seven members who attended the hearing spent an hour bickering over the urgency of presenting KPK deputies to the meeting without giving any opportunities for KPK leaders, including Abraham Samad, Busyro Muqqodas, Bambang Widjojanto and Zulkarnaen, to explain.
SP/Novianti Setuningsih A key witness has come forward with evidence that he says establishes Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum as the owner of a holding company implicated in a litany of high-profile graft cases.
Aan Ikhyaudin, the former driver of graft convict Muhammad Nazaruddin, submitted the evidence late on Tuesday to investigators from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which is probing bid-rigging allegations in the Rp 2.5 trillion ($265 million) Hambalang sports center project in Bogor, West Java.
Aan said the evidence comprised of documents detailing the sale of Nazaruddin's shares in the company, Anugerah Nusantara, to Anas in 2007. Anugerah was later renamed Permai Group. "There are three pages in the documents that have Anas's signature as the buyer of the company from Nazaruddin," he told reporters after submitting the document.
He insisted that the document was authentic, saying he was present when it was signed and had been asked to photocopy Anas's ID card as part of the documentation required for the change in ownership.
Nazaruddin, the former Democratic treasurer, was convicted earlier this year of bid-rigging in the construction of the athletes' village in Palembang, South Sumatra, for last year's Southeast Asian Games.
He was found to have helped farm out the contracts for the project through shell companies under the Permai Group, but insisted that it was Anas and not he who owned the holding company.
While Anas has repeatedly denied owning the company, several witnesses at Nazaruddin's trial corroborated the suspect's claim, saying not only that Anas was indeed the "big boss," but that billions of rupiah were channeled through the company to pay for Anas's bid to win the Democrat chairmanship.
Nazaruddin claims Anas's successful bid was bankrolled with a Rp 100 billion kickback from Adhi Karya, the contractor who won the Hambalang project. The KPK is also looking into new allegations by Nazaruddin that Anas received a Toyota Harrier SUV as part of the payoff from the contractor. Nazaruddin claimed that the money for the car was handed over by an Adhi Karya official during a meeting with Anas at Ritz-Carlton Pacific Place in South Jakarta.
Anas has been questioned twice in the Hambalang case by the KPK but has not been named a suspect.
Earlier on Tuesday, KPK chairman Abraham Samad said his office was not ruling out the possibility of imposing a travel ban on Anas. He said the reason a ban had not yet been requested was because the Hambalang investigation is still in the preliminary phase. "Once we elevate the investigation to a full probe, then we can seek a travel ban," he said.
Under a recent Constitutional Court amendment to the 2011 Immigration Law, a travel ban may not be imposed in connection with a preliminary investigation.
The KPK is also looking into what it calls "numerous aberrations" in the administration of the Hambalang project. "This project originated from the revised state budget, but this is very unusual for a project of this scale," Zulkarnaen, a KPK deputy chairman, said on Tuesday.
He also pointed out that construction of the sports facility in the Bogor highlands had begun before a building permit was even issued, and amid concerns about the tectonic stability of the hill on which the main stadium was to be located. The project partly collapsed earlier this year, confirming the site's vulnerability.
Another finding, unearthed by a legislative inquiry committee, is that the land for the project was paid for twice. The government allocated Rp 6.87 billion for the 312,000-square-meter area. However, the Sports Ministry, under minister and senior Democrat Andi Mallarangeng, later paid Rp 125 billion for the same purchase more than 18 times what the government had initially paid.
Tunggadewa Mattangkilang & Rizky Amelia, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan The Corruption Eradication Commission said on Tuesday that it would officially charge at least two suspects for their roles in a bribery scandal related to the construction of the Hambalang sports center in Bogor.
"We will raise the level of our investigation next week," Abraham Samad, the chairman of the antigraft commission, known a the KPK, said on the sidelines of a meeting with East Kalimantan Police. "The case revolves around a project procurement process, gratuities and bribery. Quite possibly there are more than two suspects."
The case has gained national attention after graft convict Muhammad Nazaruddin accused the chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, Anas Urbaningrum, of receiving bribe money in exchange for rigging the tender process for the Hambalang project.
According to Nazaruddin, Anas used the Rp 100 billion ($10.6 million) of the bribes he received to fund his campaign to become the Democratic chairman.
The antigraft commission has questioned Anas twice about the allegation and the politician denied any wrongdoing in the Hambalang case.
Abraham said the commission was aware of the intense national interest in the case but said they would rush their investigation or bring charges in response to public pressure.
"In fighting corruption, we don't care where someone is from or what party they belong to," he said. "But if someone is not yet charged that doesn't mean he will never be charged."
A rumor circulated on Monday that the KPK had charged two officials from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs planning bureau chief Deddy Kusdinar and evaluation and information division head Wisler Manalu. But speaking in Jakarta, KPK deputy chairman Busyro Muqoddas denied the information.
"No one has been named a suspect in the Hambalang case," he said. "We are taking our time to check and validate all the evidence that we gather, to make sure that everything is accurate and correct. The investigation is time consuming as a result but we won't compromise our professionalism."
According to Nazaruddin, Anas rigged the tender process and awarded the Hambalang project to construction company Adhi Karya.
The House of Representatives has launched a separate investigation into the case after it emerged that lawmakers had originally approved a Rp 125 billion budget for Hambalang before the figure ballooned to Rp 2.5 trillion. A legislative working committee last week found glaring discrepancies in the acquisition of the land for the facility.
Zulfadli, the committee chairman, said that the government had already allocated the money for the acquisition of a 312,448-square-meter site in Bogor, between 2004 and 2008, but the Sports Ministry issued fresh funding for that very purpose in 2009, which essentially meant the land was paid for twice.
Agus Hermanto, a member of House Commission X, which oversees sports affairs, said legislators were also waiting for the results of an investigation by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) to track down the spending of the Hambalang funds.
He said that it was strange that any money had been released in the first place, given that funding for the project had never been given the go-ahead from the Finance Ministry.
Analysts have pointed to the cases embroiling Anas and Nazaruddin as the main factor for the Democratic Party's startling decline in popularity. When the Democrats won a majority in the House in 2009, anticorruption was their main platform.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recently said publicly that corrupt party members should step down from their posts, and senior Democrat Ruhut Sitompul said the president's statement was directed at Anas.
Rangga D. Fadillah, Jakarta Corruption watchdogs have warned the government that unless the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is given enough resources to prosecute graft cases, the country risked losing its battle against corruption.
Emerson Yuntho of Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) felt the KPK was being "too careful" when dealing with corruption cases involving top officials from political parties, simply because it lacked sufficient human resources to build strong cases.
"Now, one investigator handles too many cases, so it's quite understandable that the progress of the investigations is relatively slow," Emerson told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
He also said that problems also lie in the fact that most of its investigators came from the National Police and the Attorney General's Office, thought of as some of the most corrupt institutions in the country.
"The commission has to run faster and they have to start recruiting independent investigators, not from the police or the prosecutors' offices. There's no legal barrier for the KPK to recruit independent investigators. The ball is now in the hands of the KPK and it's up to them whether they take the option."
The KPK has fully depended on the police and the AGO as members of its investigative and prosecution sections. Since its creation, the antigraft body has enjoyed massive levels of public support in its prosecution of corrupters.
The same outpouring of support has also been seen in its current spat with the House of Representatives' Commission III overseeing legal and domestic affairs, which has blocked the former's plan to build a new headquarters.
Critics, however, said that the KPK had recently squandered its limited resources to fight a public relations battle with politicians while only posting lackluster performance in prosecuting graft cases.
The KPK has long been seen as picking and choosing graft cases for investigation, an accusation which appeared to be confirmed with the sudden arrest of Buol Regent Amran Batalipu, who was alleged to have accepted a bribe to issue a permit for a plantation company owned by Democratic Party politician Sri Hartati Murdaya.
The KPK has also pursued investigations against a number of senior politicians within the Democratic Party, including its chairman Anas Urbaningrum, senior politician Andi Mallarangeng and lawmaker Angelina Sondakh.
The commission recently detained Miranda S. Goeltom, former senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia, in a bribery case that led to her selection for the post. The case has also seen 33 lawmakers from different political factions within the House sentenced to jail.
The former commissioner of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Bertrand de Speville, said that there was a risk in the KPK being seen as selective in picking its targets for investigation. He said that the public might consider the KPK to be politically-motivated when prosecuting corruption cases.
De Speville said that the KPK could comprehensively prosecute graft cases only if it had enough manpower. "With more than 5 million civil servants, 500,000 police officers and more than 200 million citizens, it's not enough to eradicate corruption in Indonesia with just 750 people working for the KPK," he said late last week.
In order to make significant progress, the KPK needed to make adjustments, he said, including to investigate every corruption case reported by the public and to open representative offices in the country's 33 provinces.
"The government must be ready to invest more in the fight against corruption. A decent budget allocation for an anticorruption body is 0.5 percent of a country's overall budget," de Speville said. He also called on the Indonesian public to persevere in its fight against corruption as it would take a long time to succeed.
KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said in addition to requiring more investigative staff and budget resources, the antigraft commission also needed to have its own training center. Bambang also said that it would take some time before the KPK could handle all the graft cases reported by the public.
"For the suggestion that we have to handle all cases reported by the public, we'll consider that for our new anticorruption grand strategy. We are currently discussing it," he said.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta Lawmakers and officials of the Religious Affairs Ministry laid blame on each other Monday for the graft-ridden Koran distribution that made headlines recently.
Religious Affairs Ministry secretary-general Bahrul Hayat has rebutted lawmakers' claim that their participation in distributing the Korans was part of a special program of the ministry as well as a regular ministry program.
"There is no such program. We don't specifically require help from lawmakers to distribute Korans because anyone can participate if they want," Bahrul said on the sidelines of a meeting with House of Representatives Commission VIII overseeing religious affairs on Monday.
Commission VIII members previously claimed innocence in their alleged role in distributing Korans to their constituents for free, saying that it was a regular ministry program.
By accepting the Korans, the lawmakers could be implicated in the graft- ridden Koran procurement case currently being investigated by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
The KPK has named Zulkarnaen Djabar, a member of Commission VIII from the Golkar Party, a suspect for allegedly rigging the procurement by instructing the ministry's Directorate General for Islamic Community Affairs to award certain companies as winners the procurement tender.
Zulkarnaen's constituent is West Java VI consisting of Bekasi and Depok municipalities. Additionally, the KPK has also named as suspect Zulkarnaen's son, Dendy Prasetya, whose PT KSAI was awarded in the tender. (nvn)
Jakarta The hard line group Islam Defenders Front (FPI) promised not to conduct any raids during the Ramadan fasting month and let police carry out the task, secretary general Sobri Lubis said on Monday.
FPI's commitment was made after National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo banned mass organizations from conducting any raids during the Islamic fasting month, set to begin Friday.
Police would give sanction to any group who breach the order, Pradopo said on Sunday, as quoted by tribunnews.com. Lubis lauded the ban. "We have no problem with that. It is police job to uphold the law. I supported that," he told The Jakarta Post.
Muslims are withstanding from drinking, eating and having sexual relations from before sunrise until sunset.
Prior to the ban, several FPI chapters had performed raids over the weekend. On Saturday, hundreds of FPI members raided entertainment establishments, spas and salons in Medan, North Sumatra, which were indicated as places for people to engage in vice activities.
The next day, the FPI ransacked an alcoholic drink factory in Makassar, South Sulawesi. While in Depok, West Java, they confiscated liquor from several stores and kiosks during its Ramadan rally, and threatened to close down the stores if they still operate during Ramadan.
"Our chapters independently decide their actions. The [previous] raids were aimed to remind local governments to close night spots [such as club, bar and karaoke] on the month, as stipulated by local regulations," Lubis said.
"We hope that Muslims will not be disturbed by any maksiat [immorally oriented] matters during Ramadan." (yps)
Tunggadewa Mattangkilang, Samarinda, East Kalimantan As the month of Ramadan approaches, hard-line Islamist groups are demanding that authorities close night spots and brothels.
The extremist Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) continues to threaten to close business by force if they remain open during the holy month.
In Makassar, FPI members paraded around the city on Friday and Saturday to make sure that owners of night clubs, brothels and restaurants get the message.
The group, the self-appointed guardian of Indonesia's morals that is not above using violence to get its way, has tried to ban food hawkers and restaurants from working during daylight hours.
"Everything must close without exception," Abdurrahman, the chairman of the FPI's South Sulawesi branch, on Sunday. "Closing the front doors while still letting people in is unacceptable,"
Abdurrahman warned all nightlife spots to comply with a bylaw which instructs all such locations to halt their business activities from the three days prior to Ramadan until three days after the end of the holy month.
The FPI also warned women to wear modest clothing to prevent people from "having perverse thoughts." "This edict is conveyed to respect the holy month of Ramadan and the people who are fasting," Abdurrahman said.
Idrus Algadri, the chairman of the FPI's Depok branch, also threatened to raid nightlife spots if they remain opened during the month. "Hopefully there's security, peace and order during the holy month so that Muslims can focus on their fasting," Idrus said, according to state news agency Antara.
Meanwhile, around 35 neighborhood watch groups in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, urged the local administration to close the Suka Damai and Lo Hui red-light districts before Ramadan and keep them closed permanently.
Zaini Naim, the chairman of Indonesian Council of Ulema's (MUI) Samarinda chapter, claimed that all local residents, public figures and youth representatives had signed a petition for the closing of the red-light districts and had sent the petition to the East Kalimantan Police, provincial administration and to the Samarinda municipal administration.
The petition calls for the closure of the brothels that have been around since 1991, claiming that the local population has spread into the part of the community where the red-light district is located.
Zaini said that there were Islamic schools, a polytechnic institute and a cemetery in the area. The brothels are giving a negative image for the people living in the areas, he claimed.
"What's more concerning is the high HIV/AIDS rate in Samarinda," Zaini said. "One of the [contributing factors] is the prostitution areas. The residents have threatened to block access to the brothels if the government or law enforcers failed to respond to their demand."
Residents asked the government to close the areas two years ago, but the government said a study needed to be done.
Surabaya The National and Jakarta Police have made contradicting statements regarding hard-line Islamist groups making punitive "sweeps" of business open during Ramadan.
National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said on Monday that the police would "involve the public" in solving problems during to the Islamic holy month, such as business serving food before sunset. Conversely, Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Untung S. Rajab said his force would not tolerate sweeps during Ramadan by radical groups.
The contradictions highlight concern the power hard-line groups wield, and the police's reluctance to intervene.
Human rights activist have recently questioned the National Police's ability and willingness to stop hard-line groups from their routine of raiding nightclubs and restaurants during Ramadan.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, the deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy, said that under the previous National Police Chief, Bambang Hendarso Danuri, police often stopped raids by radical groups during Ramadan. But police have been much more permissive under Bambang's successor, Timur, according to the Setara Institute.
Regarding restaurants and nightclubs that are open during Ramadan, Timur said his force prefers "the public help to solve the problem."
"The main point is, it isn't necessarily the police who [act]. We will prioritize public [participation]. If it is Ramadan, Ulema should act," Timur said on Monday, referring to Islamic scholars.
"The National Police will only take an action if there is a legal violation," he added, saying that he would sanction any policemen who supported nightclubs or restaurants that remained open during Ramadan.
But there is an apparent conflict within the ranks of the National Police. Contrasting Timur's statement, National Police Spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said that people should not take matters into their own hands, but should report violations of the law to the police.
"Sweeping is not right according to the law," Boy said. "If [radical groups] still do it, there will be strict action. We don't mind public participation, but they should coordinate with us."
And showing further division still, Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Untung S. Rajab said he would not tolerate any sweeps in Jakarta during Ramadan, including from radical Islamic groups. "There are police here, so do they have to conduct sweeps? I guarantee that there will be no sweeping," he said recently.
The National Police's authority supersedes the Jakarta Police, though no intention to do so has been announced.
Hundreds of Islamic hard-liners protested outside the Myanmar embassy in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Friday to "stop the genocide" of Rohingya Muslims in the wake of deadly communal unrest.
Around 300 hard-liners from organizations, including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), threatened to storm the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta as some 50 police officers guarded the building.
"If embassy officials refuse to talk with us, I demand all of you break into the building and turn it upside down," a leader on a loudspeaker told protesters, who shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest).
"Every drop of blood that is shed from a Muslim must be paid back. Nothing is free in this world," the man shouted, as protesters carried banners that read "FPI is ready to wage jihad". "Go to Myanmar and carry out jihad for your Muslim brothers," the man said.
The hard-liners left without entering the embassy and proceeded to a UN building to protest.
Communal violence between ethnic Buddhist Rakhine and local Muslims, including the Rohingya, swept Myanmar's Rakhine state in June, leaving dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless. Around 800,000 Rohingyas live in Myanmar and are considered to be some of the world's most persecuted minorities.
Myanmar President Thein Sein told the UN on Thursday it was "impossible to accept the illegally entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity," saying they should be sent to refugee camps or be deported.
Decades of discrimination have left the Rohingya stateless, with Myanmar implementing restrictions on their movement and withholding land rights, education and public services, the UN says.
Vento Saudale, Bogor Hundreds of members of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front rallied in front of the Bogor District Court on Monday to protest what they said was a lenient prison sentence sought for a teenager accused of killing one of the group's members.
"The sentence sought was right because it takes into consideration that the defendant is still under age so he can only serve three and a half years of the maximum seven years in prison," lead prosecutor Pungki Hapsari said after the court session.
The 17-year-old defendant is accused of murdering Mustofa, a member of the hard-line group, known as the FPI, with a machete in South Bogor on May 7.
He maintains that he acted in self-defense after Mustofa and other FPI members attacked him and his friends. The court had earlier planned to hold the trial behind closed doors because the suspect is a minor, but the FPI stormed the building and demanded an open court.
On Monday, the FPI again tried to intervene in the trial, shouting and disrupting proceedings as the prosecutors made their sentence request.
"Why did the prosecutors only charge the defendant under one article? They could also charge him with premeditated murder and under the Emergency Law on carrying sharp weapons," FPI lawyer Ichwan Tuankotta said.
After the trial was adjourned, the FPI staged a rally in front of the prosecutors' office demanding an official explanation from district prosecutor Ghazali Hadari.
Bogor Police's chief of detectives, Adj. Comr. Iman Imanudin, said the police could only charge the suspect under Article 351 of the Criminal Code on non-premeditated murder, because the suspect and Mustofa had not known each other.
"That would make premeditated murder charges very weak," he said. "And the Emergency Law can only apply if a perpetrator is caught red-handed with a knife."
The accused allegedly disposed of the murder weapon after stabbing Mustofa, the police said. But the police's explanations did little to appease the hard-liners. "We no longer trust Bogor's judiciary," Ichwan said.
Anita Rachman & Vento Saudale A human rights activist questioned on Sunday the police's ability or willingness to stop hard-line groups from raiding nightclubs and restaurants during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, saying that history was not on the side of the police.
"So the question is, do the police have consistency in this matter?" said Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace. "The police should act quickly if there are still raids happening."
Bonar said that under the leadership of the previous National Police chief, Bambang Hendarso Danuri, the police were able to stop raids by radical groups during the fasting month. But, he said, the force has been much more permissive under Bambang's successor, Timur Pradopo.
Before he was appointed head of the National Police in 2010, Timur told a legislative vetting committee that he had close ties with the hard-line group the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).
The FPI is notorious for its vigilante raids and acts of violence against groups and places it considers "un-Islamic," including nightclubs, stores selling alcohol and musical and dance performances, particularly during Ramadan.
"It depends on the chief," Bonar said. "And we have noticed that [Timur] lets radical groups [hold raids]." He said everyone should understand that closing all restaurants, for instance, during the fasting month was not needed or wanted, pointing out that not everyone fasts. "Why should they all be closed? This is not an Islamic country," he said.
He mentioned an example in Makassar, South Sulawesi, last year where a food stall was ransacked by local FPI members. The stall, Bonar said, had already covered its windows out of respect for those fasting, but that was not enough for the FPI, and people were hurt in the raid. "We should never let these kinds of things happen," he said.
Bonar's remarks came after about 1,000 people in Bogor demanded a hotel, accused of being used as a brothel, be closed during Ramadan.
"If the government is unable [to close down the hotel] we will close it ourselves," said a local community leader, Ayip Rasidi. "Shortly, Muslims will begin the holy month of Ramadan. I am asking that this prostitution den be closed before Ramadan is here."
Farouk Arnaz No one will be charged in Friday's mob attack on members of Bogor's Ahmadiyah community, the National Police said on Monday. "There are no suspects," Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto, spokesman of National Police, said.
An angry mob attacked the homes of six members of the Ahmadiyah community in Cisalada, Bogor, on Friday as a group of foreign journalists attempted to shoot a documentary about the beleaguered religious minority, police said on Friday.
Three members of the Ahmadiyah community were injured as local residents hurled stones at their homes. An Indonesian woman, who was not a member of the Islamic sect, suffered a broken leg in the attack.
But on Monday, the National Police said there was no evidence of abuse in the incident. Both sides, Agus claimed, were stoning each other in self- defense. He blamed the clash on the presence of foreign journalists.
"[The] Ahmadiyah have apologized [for the incident] because no one told the [villagers] about the visit from the foreign journalists that triggered the conflict," Agus said.
"They don't want to be blamed because the journalists three Dutch journalists and one from Britain came on their own will. They were not [invited] by the Ahmadiyah people."
The police account of the incident has been called into question by members of the Ahmadiyah community. Mubarik Ahmad previously told the Jakarta Globe that police pressured him to write the apology, telling the Ahmadi man what it should say.
"I have no experience in writing such things. The district police chief and military commander told me what I had to write, that it was my fault for not reporting the foreign journalists to the subdistrict head," Mubarik said on Sunday.
Officers allegedly told Mubarik that they were "short on time" and that he needed to sign the document. "Based on their instructions I also wrote that we will never allow reporters to enter the village without permission from the subdistrict head," Mubarik added.
The journalists have also disputed the official line. Michiel Maas, a long-time Indonesia correspondent for Dutch TV Station NOS and De Volkskrant, said that the two other people with him were Dutch tourists, not reporters.
He also denied interviewing anyone outside Cisalada village. "We have not interviewed anyone outside the village," Maas told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
Bogor Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Hery Santoso on Friday that Maas incited the violence by interviewing people in neighboring Kebon Kopi village. Maas, who has covered the archipelago for 11 years and speaks fluent Indonesian, was too far from the mob to hear what they were shouting.
"We saw people running, and then the police officer who was with us ordered to get into the car and said that we had to go," Maas said.
Vento Saudale An angry mob attacked members of Bogor's Ahmadiyah community on Friday as a team of Dutch journalists tried to shoot a documentary on the beleaguered community.
Four journalists from the Dutch daily newspaper de Volkskrant arrived in Bogor's Cisalada village late Friday morning to interview members of the local Ahmadiyah community. But once local residents learned of the journalists' presence, the situation turned violent, police said.
"When one of them went to the neighboring Kebon Kopi village to interview people, the residents refused and attacked the homes of the Ahmadiyah," said Bogor Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Hery Santoso.
Dozens of people surrounded Cisalada village and hurled stones at the homes of Ahmadis. The stoning turned into a brawl once the Ahmadis started to fight back, Hery said.
Three members of the Ahmadiyah community Budi, Aji and Zaenudin were all injured in the attack. Endang, who isn't a member of the community, suffered a broken leg. Six homes were damaged. The mob dispersed after the attack, Hery said. But they later returned with knives and machetes.
Police and the Indonesian military (TNI) held the angry mob at bay, Hery said. They also questioned the journalists to see if they had the proper permits to report in the area, Hery said.
The Ahmadiyah community have long been victims of violence in Indonesia where mainstream Muslims view the sect as a "deviant" form of Islam. Indonesia recognizes five religions. The Ahmadis version of Islam is not one of them.
On Oct. 1, 2010, the 600 member community was attacked by a mob that looted and torched their homes, schools and mosque. Several of the attackers were appeared before a judge and given suspended sentences. But an Ahmadi man who stabbed one of the attackers in self defense as sentenced to nine months in prison.
Human rights groups called on the government to protect the nation's Ahmadis from persecution.
Rumadi, program coordinator at the Wahid Institute, said that the attack, which came a week before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, was "cause of both concern and deep shame." "This attack, no matter the reason, is against the law," he said in a statement. "This must never be allowed."
The activist called on police to protect the Ahmadiyah from continued violence, adding that attacks like this only lend credence to criticisms levied against Indonesia at a recent United Nations human rights forum. Critics say Indonesia's government has failed to protect religious minorities.
At the UN's the British delegation noted "an increase in hostility and attacks against religious minority communities" in the UN's Universal Periodic Review in May.
Katrina Swett, chairwoman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, urged Washington to talk about the issue with Jakarta. "The United States should specifically confront governments which target the Ahmadiyah," she said.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta The government and the House of Representatives have agreed to raise the cost of the haj service from last year's US$3.533 to $3.617 for 2012, an increase that, it was claimed, would be used to improve services for pilgrims.
The Religious Affairs Ministry said that the higher fees would be used to pay for better housing services in Mecca and Medina, air fares and other amenities at the pilgrimage sites.
Lawmakers claimed they had no choice but to approve the increase although there was no assurance that pilgrims would get improved services.
The House of Representatives Commission VIII overseeing religious affairs said that it had been reluctant to increase the fees but had no alternative. The new fees will likely be the last such proposal that the Religious Affairs Ministry makes as the House is now deliberating an amendment to the haj management law that would transfer the handling of the haj to an independent body.
"The ministry will still be responsible for the management because we haven't completed an amendment to the law, which aims to separate the management from the ministry and set up an independent body to handle the haj," said member of Commission VIII Muhammad Oheo Sinapoy.
Oheo said that the House pressed ahead with its deliberation in spite of an objection from the ministry.
"We believe that the haj management is mostly about service provision, and it's important to involve private operators who have expertise in services such as tours, travel, hotels and catering in order to better serve pilgrims," he said.
Lawmakers are now mulling two options; whether to privatize the haj services or set up an independent body to handle it. Other proposals in the amendment include giving opportunities to private airlines to transport haj pilgrims.
The current haj management law No. 17/1999 gives the authority to the Religious Affairs Ministry to directly appoint airlines that fly pilgrims to Mecca. So far, the ministry has only given the project to state carrier Garuda Indonesia and Saudi Airlines. Critics have said that the monopoly of the haj management by the ministry had opened the door for graft.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) previously said that it found irregularities in the use of interest proceeds worth Rp 1.7 trillion ($180 million) from the management of the haj fund.
The anti graft body has suggested the government impose a moratorium on the haj program until the ministry can settle the allegations of misuse of the fund which is accumulated from more than 1.4 million would-be pilgrims who had registered with the ministry.
Contacted separately, Commission VIII chairman Ida Fauziah said that the House expected to finish the amendment to the current haj law by the end of this year.
"We have it on the list of bills that has to be completed in 2012 and we expect to complete the deliberation soon. And for the time being we can only hope that the haj management will be better this year," she said.
Ida said that she expected the ministry would provide better services commensurate with the extra money that pilgrims had paid.
Religious Affairs Ministry Suryadharma Ali said that his ministry assured that this year's service would improve.
"We will do our best to serve the pilgrims. We will improve coordination within the ministry and with the government of Saudi Arabia," Suryadharma told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with Commission VIII on Tuesday.
Jakarta It could be the moment of truth, not only for the Jakarta gubernatorial candidates, but for pollsters as well.
In addition to mistakenly forecasting the victory of the incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo, most survey organizations also failed to predict the correct percentage of voter turnout this year, which surprisingly stayed at roughly the same level compared to the last gubernatorial election in 2007.
Prior to polling on Wednesday, various surveys predicted that Jakarta would see more citizens showing up in polling stations to cast their votes for this year's election.
In their respective surveys, pollsters argued that Jakartans would be more enthusiastic in voting in this year's election as they were now being offered more candidates to choose from. Six candidate pairs competed for this year's election, while only two pairs, Adang Daradjatun-Dani Anwar and Fauzi Bowo-Prijanto, competed in 2007.
The Indonesian Survey Circle said on Wednesday that only 63 percent of the capital's 6.9 million eligible voters exercised their rights to vote in this year's election, while the Indonesian Survey Institute estimated citizen participation at 64.45 percent. The voter turnout in 2007 was 65.26 percent.
Indo Barometer executive director Muhammad Qodari, whose survey organization released a survey in May predicting that more than 85 percent of Jakarta's eligible voters would vote in the July 11 election, said that this year's lower turnout reflected voter apathy.
"Despite being offered six different candidates to choose from, voters felt that their votes would not make any difference to Jakarta," he said on Wednesday.
Qodari also attributed the low voter turnout to administrative problems surrounding the voting, such as the problematic electoral roll prepared by the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta). "For example, many Jakartans intending to vote unfortunately found their names were not listed in the KPU Jakarta voter list," he added.
Qodari's arguments were echoed by the Indonesian Institute political observer Hanta Yuda, who said that the six candidates competing in this year's election were still not "appealing enough" to Jakarta's voters.
He also believed that the low turnout was partly caused by the fact that many state and private institutions throughout the capital, such as administration offices, education facilities and banks, still operated normally despite the Jakarta administration's regulation mandating the election day as a public holiday.
"These people actually wanted to vote, but they just could not do it because of their work," Hanta told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Wati, a 30-year-old bank employee who resides in Slipi, West Jakarta, decided not to vote as going to the polling station was in her opinion"way too troublesome".
"I only rent a room in West Jakarta for work. If I wanted to cast my vote, I had to go to East Jakarta [where my ID address is located]. Hence, I preferred to have a morning's rest rather than casting a vote since I had to go to my work in the afternoon," she said on Wednesday. (sat/cor)
Andreas D. Arditya, Jakarta Out-of-towner Joko "Jokowi" Widodo finished first in Wednesday's Jakarta gubernatorial election and will face incumbent Governor Fauzi Bowo in a runoff on Sept. 20, according to a number of quick counts by several pollsters.
A quick count by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) showed that Jokowi who is the incumbent mayor of Surakarta, Central Java garnered 42.74 percent of the votes, followed by Fauzi with 33.57 percent.
Kompas daily's quick count results said that Jokowi gathered 42.59 percent of votes, while Fauzi racked up 34.32 percent. Another quick count, released by Indo Barometer, said Jokowi won 42.24 percent and Fauzi 33.77 percent.
Unlike other regions, the capital city requires candidates to secure more than 50 percent of votes to win the election. The Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) will announce the official election result either on July 19 or 20.
Previous surveys predicted that Jokowi and Fauzi would be the candidates to square off in a second round of voting, but with the latter securing first place with a result far above the other five contenders.
LSI executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi said that the surprise outcome, in which the out-of-towner surpassed the incumbent, was the result of a combination of factors. "Clearly Jokowi was able to attract voters from outside his party's constituents. This shows that elite politicians do not wield strong influence," Burhanuddin said.
Jokowi and running mate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama are supported by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the third largest faction at the City Council with 11 seats out of the 94 seats, and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) with six seats.
Fauzi and running mate Nachrowi Ramli are supported by the Democratic Party, the largest faction at the Council with 32 seats and a number of smaller parties.
A senior LSI researcher, Saiful Mujani, argued that the media had allowed Jokowi an advantage by framing him as a mayor with good achievements and leadership skills. "Surprisingly, Jokowi also managed to attract Muslim voters. Non-Muslims are already attracted to Jokowi because his running mate, Basuki, is a Christian."
Fauzi, unlike Jokowi, had been one of the candidates with the least public appearances. He had been largely absent in public debates against other candidates. Fauzi had also decided to not use his time to meet supporters during the official period, relegating the task to running mate Nachrowi.
Late on Wednesday, Jokowi said he planned to seek more support for the runoff. The candidates said that they had made an informal agreement to forge a coalition against the incumbent should the election go into a second round. But not a single candidate talked about such a deal on Wednesday.
Hidayat Nur Wahid, who is backed by the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said that he would let his party decide if it would endorse Jokowi in the run-off. Separately, Fauzi had refused to comment on his strategy to win the runoff. "The runoff is not yet official. We will discuss this matter internally and we will take all necessary steps to win the election," Fauzi said.
South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin admitted he was on the losing side in the election, pointing to the fact that results released by various quick counts would not deviate much from the election's actual outcome.
Vento Saudale A severe beating of a 15-year-old child in Bogor allegedly by a military officer was ignored by police, the boy's father said after trying to file a police report.
Police, however, denied rejecting the report because the crime may have involved a military officer.
Soher Hidayat was left with a broken lower jaw, all the teeth in his upper jaw smashed out, 30 stitches and bruises covering his body, said the boy's father, Syarief.
Soher had been on his way to watch a screening of the football European Championship final on June 27 in Ciomas, Bogor, when his vehicle collided with a group of men who chased him before committing the brutal assault.
Syarief was unhappy with the police's response when he reported the crime on July 1. "That's why today, accompanied by GR2B [the United Bogor People's Movement], we're reporting the case again. We also have a medical report from the PMI Bogor hospital," Harry Ara, chairman of GR2B, said on Saturday.
Ciomas Police Chief Wiajayanti said the police had not rejected the report. "We didn't reject it. We suggested it be reported to the military's professionalism and security affairs [department]," he said.
Wiajayanti added that an investigation was underway and that the attacker could face multiple charges for violent conduct. Syarief was forced to sell his motorcycle to cover his son's medical expenses.
Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on the government to be more serious about its commitment to developing infrastructure.
IMF Asia and Pacific Department chief Sanjaya Panth said in Jakarta on Friday that one of the main factors hindering Indonesia from accelerating its infrastructure deveopment was the lack of capacity among public officials.
"On the public side, there are capacity constraints... implementation has always been very low. Therefore, further efforts should be undertaken," Sanjaya told reporters.
For example, Sanjaya said the private sector had been waiting far too long for the implementation of the Land Acquisition Law. The law cannot be practically implemented because the government has yet to issue a presidential regulation on it.
The law basically provides more certainty for land acquisitions to support government-backed infrastructure projects. Land acquisition is the most vital element in developing infrastructure. Businesses have said that acquiring land is equal to between 75 and 85 percent of an infrastructure project's completion.
Based on the law, disputes over land acquisitions must be resolved within a 436-day timeframe at the most. This is considered one of the more progressive elements in the law because previously, disputes over land acquisitions sometimes took several years to resolve.
The government itself has pledged to accelerate infrastructure development and has launched the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of the Indonesian Economy (MP3EI).
On May 29, the then National Land Agency (BPN) head, Joyo Winoto, promised that the regulation would be issued before the end of June; however, so far, no regulation has materialized.
Sanjaya said the government really needed to be aware that they had to do more about infrastructure development because it would serve as a crucial long-term factor for Indonesia to maintain its economic growth amid the deepening global crisis.
Partly due to the slow realization of infrastructure projects, as well as the slowdown in the global economy, the IMF has revised the country's economic growth to 6.1 percent this year, lower than the government's target of 6.5 percent.
IMF's senior resident representative in Indonesia, Milan Zavadjil, said the Indonesian government also had to be more willing to provide larger portions from the state budget for infrastructure spending.
"While the overall 2012 budget stance is consistent with the government's firm commitment to fiscal sustainability and strong public finances, increasing fuel subsidies is distorting the structure of the budget," Milan said.
"Therefore, fiscal policy needs to be reoriented away from poorly targeted subsidies, which could be replaced with cash transfers to the vulnerable. This would also free up resources to increase necessary infrastructure and social spending," he added.
The Finance Ministry estimates this year's energy subsidy will swell to Rp 305.9 trillion (US$32.43 billion), or 51 percent above the initial allocation of Rp 202.4 trillion in the revised 2012 state budget, due to the increase in the Indonesian Crude Price (ICP) from US$105 per barrel to $110 per barrel, plus the depreciation of the rupiah against the US dollar to Rp 9,250 from the projected Rp 9,000 per dollar.
Of the total energy subsidy, the fuel subsidy will reach Rp 216.8 trillion, 57.8 percent higher than the initial allocation of Rp 137.4 trillion. Meanwhile, the subsidy for electricity is expected to reach Rp 89 trillion, 37 percent higher than the initial allocation of Rp 65 trillion.
The government proposed to the House of Representatives in March to raise the price of subsidized fuel to help reduce subsidy spending, but it was rejected.
The House only allowed an increase in subsidized fuel price if the ICP rose by 15 percent on a six-monthly average basis from its assumed $105 per barrel rate.
Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo admits that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure efficient budget spending, which has been considered a crucial factor in mitigating the impact of the global crisis by the World Bank.
"In the last six to 12 months, we have been hearing far too many stories regarding ineffective practices within the budget spending process," Agus told reporters on Friday.
"What has been happening regarding budget spending has taught us a lesson to improve our system. Human resources quality must also be improved to prevent future ineffective spending," he added.
World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati said she believed Indonesia's near-term financial position looked relatively well placed to weather future market tightness. She went on to say, however, that further work in preparing a fiscal stimulus plan was required, in case domestic conditions deteriorated sharply.
Sri Mulyani said that budget execution challenges remained, particularly for capital expenditure, limiting its ability to be used to support near- term demand. According to her, Indonesia should direct its spending to more effective and productive measures, such as developing infrastructure and improving the social welfare system.
During a meeting at the Finance Ministry on Friday, the former Indonesian finance minister said that she and her successor Agus agreed that the Indonesian government had to make infrastructure development the main priority to mitigate the impact of the current global crisis.
"The government [of Indonesia] has confirmed its commitment to improve connectivity throughout the archipelago. This means that there will be a growing need on a massive scale for infrastructure development projects, such as ports, highways and other means of transportation," Sri Mulyani said.
Sri Mulyani said that the World Bank was prepared to assist the Indonesian government to develop its infrastructure needs.
"What is most important for the World Bank now is to support the government's infrastructure projects by providing sufficient assistance in the preparation phase so that the projects can be properly executed. We also need to establish a better mechanism to attract private funds so that the government can optimize its budget for other purposes," she said.
The latest quarterly report from the World Bank shows that Indonesia has been showing resilience in weathering the current global crisis, but at the same time, the country still needs to remain aware of its volatile portfolio.
Indonesia's capital outflows and equity markets portfolio show that its economy is not yet totally immune from the economic uncertainty of the eurozone. "While Indonesia still enjoys robust growth compared to other emerging economies, thanks to the strength of domestic consumption and investment, it will not be spared from the impacts of a global downturn, especially if global commodity prices and demand from economies such as China were to take a hit," World Bank Indonesia country director Stefan Koeberle said in the report.
The price rates of key Indonesian commodities have dipped by almost 20 percent, weakening exports. The rupiah has also continued to depreciate by around 10 percent against the US dollar since August 2011.
Gary LaMoshi, Denpasar, Bali A new corruption scandal has shown that Indonesia's crooked politicians and government officials have no sacred cows or books.
A member of the House of Representatives and his son stand accused of corruption in connection with the government's 55 billion rupiah (US$5.9 million) program to print copies of the Koran, Islam's holy book. But for the nation with the world's largest Muslim population, the scandal could prove a blessing in disguise.
The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has accused House of Representatives budget committee member Zulkarnaen Djabar of receiving 4 billion rupiah in bribes on Religious Affairs Ministry projects, including Koran printing and supplying computer equipment for Islamic schools. Media reports say each copy of the Koran wound up costing the government 1 million rupiah, or more than US$100.
Djabar, a member of the powerful Golkar Party, allegedly steered contracts toward his son's company. Other contract winners reportedly had links to powerful politicians and groups, including the deposed treasurer of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party Muhammad Nazaruddin who is already facing a raft of corruption allegations.
Clean government groups, meanwhile, caution that embezzled funds from the government's Koran program may have ended up in political party coffers.
Other members of the committee overseeing the Religious Affairs Ministry budget each received more than 500 copies of the government produced Koran. The lawmakers denied that accepting the Korans constituted bribery. Instead they said they took the holy books for distribution to constituents as part of their public service.
Despite the KPK's investigation, alleged misappropriation of funds and scant details on the program's true costs, the budget committee dutifully doubled the Religious Affairs Ministry's Koran procurement budget to 110 billion rupiah.
Democratic Party budget committee member Muhammad Bogowi told the Jakarta Post newspaper, "We... agreed to the proposal because we felt that morality in society had deteriorated rapidly."
A two-fold budget increase to improve morality via an apparently corrupt program could make sense only to Indonesia's venal public servants. The budget for Koran printing and distribution in 2010, before the alleged fraud began, was 4 billion rupiah.
Amid public outrage, Djabar has denied the charges. He said the accusations were a warning from God that he is too involved with earthly matters and needs to become more spiritual. That goes double for the Ministry of Religious Affairs, long cited as a nexus of official graft.
Last year KPK named Religious Affairs as Indonesia's most corrupt government agency. That's no mean feat given the tax department's lengthy roster of officials convicted of wrongdoing. Former Religious Affairs Minister Said Agril al-Munawar had already been imprisoned on embezzlement charges.
The Religious Affairs Ministry's corruption problem is linked to one of the pillars of Islam, the hajj, the ritual pilgrimage to Mecca. The hajj is a commandment for each of Indonesia's nearly 200 million Muslims who have sufficient health and means for the trip.
The ministry administers the pilgrimage, this year collecting 35 million rupiah from each aspiring hajji. At present, the ministry holds more than 40 trillion rupiah from 1.4 million Indonesians. Saudi Arabia grants Indonesia an annual quota of 211,000 pilgrims, so the current waiting time for Indonesians to visit Mecca is six years.
Meanwhile the ministry, not the depositors, collects interest on the hajj funds, amounting to an estimated 1.7 trillion rupiah a year, or more than $180 million at the current exchange rate. Investigators say the ministry routinely uses funds to pay for government officials to make the hajj, with plenty left for other abuses.
But misusing other people's money isn't the worst of the Religious Affairs Ministry's sins, say critics. Rather than protecting the freedom of worship and belief inscribed in Indonesia's constitution, the ministry has often become an advocate and enabler of intolerance.
In 2008, the ministry designated Muslim splinter group Ahmadiya as a heretic sect. That decree, issued at behest of Islamist hardliners, has given political cover to extremist violence against Ahmadiyah followers.
The worst attack, in January last year in Cikeusik, West Java, saw a mob of 1,000 fanatics bludgeon three Ahmadis to death. Courts convicted several assailants of minor offenses as well as sentencing one of the 20 Ahmadis attacked to six months in jail for his unarmed defense against the attackers.
Days after the Ahmadi killings, a mob burned two churches and attacked a third in Temanngung, Central Java. A court had just convicted a Christian man to five years in prison for distributing pamphlets that prosecutors claimed insulted Islam. However, the crowd thought the sentence a year longer than Tommy Suharto served for masterminding the murder of the judge who sentenced him to jail was too lenient.
For years, Christian congregations in Bekasi and Bogor in West Java have been subjected to a combination of hard-line Muslim protests and government discrimination. Both groups have been barred by local authorities from building churches despite court orders to permit construction.
Muslim extremists have hounded worshippers when they've tried to hold services on the putative church sites or alternative locations. Congregants have even taken Sunday prayers to Istana Merdeka, the Presidential Palace, to bring attention to their plight.
So where's the Religious Affairs minister in all this sectarian strife? Habitually on the side of the extremists and against the constitution.
After a Shi'ite village on Madura Island off East Java came under attack from a majority Sunni mob in December, mainstream religious leaders scrupulously avoided inflammatory language. But Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali labeled Shi'ites as heretics amid the volatile violence.
When vigilantes firebombed an Ahmadiyah mosque in West Java in April, Suryadharma failed to condemn the attack. Instead, he warned Ahmadis "must abandon their deviant beliefs" and obey the law.
Suryadharma, also chairman of the Muslim-based United Development Party, one of the Suharto-era's three sanctioned political parties, has also suggested banning skirts above the knee, an idea that fits with sharia law style local regulations on dress sprouting around the country. Last month he applauded the cancellation of Lady Gaga's sold out concert in Jakarta after hard-line Muslim groups threatened violence against the singer and the audience.
The Religious Affairs Ministry's Koran scandal will ideally end its run as the Islamist Protection Agency, and get it back to its real mission of protecting freedom of worship. Or it may lead the outraged public to ask why the world's third-largest democracy needs to have the government actively involved in religion at all.
Eben Kirksey West Papua is one of the most difficult places to access on the planet. Still a steady trickle of adventurous travelers is being drawn there by images of highlanders wearing penis sheaths and birds of paradise.
In the words of Lonely Planet this place has a mystique that "piques the imagination of the explorer... The diversity in lifestyle and culture of the indigenous people, who speak more than 250 languages, is matched only by [the area's] biodiversity and geography."
Part of this mystique has been created by the Indonesian government. According to the website of their embassy in Washington D.C., West Papua is one of the "regions in Indonesia that the foreign national is not allowed to visit without special written permission and approval... Visitors who enter these restricted regions without permission are subject to arrest, detention, and will be prosecuted according to Indonesian law."
It took me years of writing letters and making repeat visits to the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, before my application to be an undergraduate exchange student was approved in 1998. Weeks after receiving a much-coveted visa stamp, I found myself in the middle of a peaceful demonstration on the streets of West Papua. I stumbled upon an event that government officials tried to hide. Fourteen years ago today on July 6th, 1998 I was a bystander at a massacre.
The protest was led by Filep Karma, a Papuan leader who wants independence from Indonesia. As the attack started, Karma roused his followers, all unarmed civilians, with a hymn. They held hands, sitting in a circle, under a water tower where their outlawed banner, the Morning Star flag, flew. During the initial assault by Indonesian police, military, and navy forces, Karma was shot twice once in each leg but he survived the incident. Many of his followers were not so fortunate and were killed instantly. A truck came to cart away the bodies of the dead and dying. "I counted fifteen people in the first load," one eyewitness told me. "The truck came a second time and I counted seventeen people inside. When they opened up the truck bed I could see lots of blood, in that small truck there was lots of blood," [Quoted from Kirksey, Freedom in Entangled Worlds, 49-50]. Human rights investigators could not determine what happened to the dead and wounded people who were transported in this truck. Filep Karma, who is now an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, told me about how to find one mass grave. But, forensic archaeologists have not yet visited this site.
At the time I was hiding in Hotel Irian, a colonial era building, and I heard gun shots as security forces killed people. From my hotel window I saw Navy ships docked out in the harbor. Survivors of the initial assault were loaded onto these ships, taken out to open ocean, and dumped overboard to drown. One group investigating the incident concluded that "one hundred thirty-nine people were loaded on two frigates that headed in two directions to the east and to the west and these people were dropped into the sea," [Quoted in Kirksey, Freedom in Entangled Worlds, 48]. At least 32 decaying bodies later washed ashore. Elsham, an indigenous human rights organization, produced a 69-page report in Indonesian about the massacre titled "Names Without Graves, Graves Without Names." The report called for an international investigation, but no one has since followed up.
Indonesian officials routinely stymie human rights research in West Papua. Amnesty International researchers were expelled from West Papua in 2002 while investigating a separate massacre. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions formally asked to visit West Papua in 1994. This request was denied. In 2004 the government also rejected the Rapporteur's follow-up request to visit Indonesia. Even the International Committee for the Red Cross, a moderate organization that is renowned for negotiating access to wartorn regions, has been banned.
Rather than wait in vain for help from the outside, help which might never arrive, many Papuans are doing the work of human rights themselves. Indigenous activists used the Internet to circulate a video in 2010 that showed the brutal torture and murder of a highland villager. Last November, when thousands of West Papuans came together to declare independence in a peaceful Congress, local human rights researchers used their cell phones to give real-time updates and send video footage abroad. Brave action on the ground by these activists helped prevent a massacre on the scale that I witnessed in 1998. Last November, Indonesian authorities knew that influential international leaders were watching from afar.
Killings in West Papua have lately become more frequent, mysterious, and arbitrary. In a string of shootings that has seemed to baffle regional government officials and investigators, at least 19 people have been killed in recent weeks. [Read accounts from the Jakarta Post on 7/2/12, 7/3/12 and 7/5/12.] Many more, including a German tourist, have sustained bullet wounds. One Papuan leader, Mako Tabuni, held a press conference on June 13th where he publicly asked the police to get to the bottom of the shootings. "Only one local media outlet, papuapos.com, dared to report on this press conference," according to a Facebook update by Octovianus Mote, a Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School who hails from West Papua's highlands. "Probably Mako didn't get a chance to read the news story," the Facebook post continues, "because it was published the same morning that uniformed police officers came to his house and killed him."
"The killing of Mr. Tabuni is a clear violation of international human rights law principles," wrote Franciscans International in a formal allegation to the United Nations last month. "This is a clear example of a targeted killing." As international organizations call attention to ongoing abuses, access to the region has become even more difficult. The Indonesian government recently requested that Scott Marciel, the Ambassador of the United States, reschedule a planned trip to West Papua. In response to my query about this aborted trip a US State Department Spokesperson said:
"Ambassador Marciel was not able to immediately reschedule his visit... [and] is committed to rescheduling his travel to Papua as soon as feasible. Limitations on access to Papua by foreign government officials, NGO personnel and journalists feed suspicions in the international community about government actions in those areas. We encourage the Indonesian government to take this into consideration when reviewing travel requests. The US government condemns the recent violence in Papua and urges the Indonesian government to conduct full and transparent investigations into the incidents and allegations of excessive force on the part of the security forces."
Spectacular violence by Indonesia's security forces has long been hidden in West Papua. But, the old tactics of terror are no longer working. Smartphones and social media are allowing savvy indigenous leaders to reach out to allies abroad and to spread audacious hopes amongst their countrymen at home.
While travel guides intent on piquing the imagination of explorers are still painting pictures of Papuans with an exotic brush, indigenous activists are quietly formulating their own imaginative dreams. Papuans are picturing sweeping changes on future horizons. They are imagining an end to the current military occupation, a new era of justice and freedom. Watching recent developments from afar, I have started to expect the unexpected. Intrepid travelers who are willing to put up with months of bureaucratic tedium, or who dare to defy unjust visa policies, certainly stand a chance of learning about surprising indigenous visions.
Jacob Zenn Indonesia's Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) pressure group has this year in turns assaulted Ahmadiya and Christian places of worship, attacked journalists who reported critically on its activities, forced through intimidation the cancellation of Lady Gaga's scheduled concert, and ambushed various government police stations and courts.
While the radical fundamentalist group purports to be growing in numbers, up to 30,000 members according to the FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihab, it is simultaneously undermining many of the secular foundations on which Indonesia was founded and has since thrived in the ongoing transition from autocracy to democracy.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's inability or unwillingness to curb the FPI's intimidation tactics, meanwhile, has dented his administration's self-touted reform credentials at a crucial time for the country's international standing as a moderate Muslim democracy. How he deals with the group in the months ahead will largely determine his legacy as a twice elected democratic reformer.
The FPI was founded in 1998 as opportunities opened up for Islamists to engage in political activities banned during former dictator Suharto's 32 years of iron fist rule. The group's first priority was to amend the first principle of Pancasila (Sanskrit for "five principles"), which forms the official ideological foundation of the Indonesian state.
The principle of godliness, including the implementation of sharia law for Muslims, was included in the original Pancasila, but independence hero and former President Sukarno replaced it with the wording that stands today, "the belief in one God" (Ketuhanan yang masa eha).
Without specific recognition of sharia law for Muslims, the FPI believes that Indonesia's economic and political system cannot be just for Muslims and that the secular state's authority is illegitimate. According to FPI leader Rizieq, the establishment of his group was an attempt by devout Muslims to eliminate non-Islamic acts in society where government authorities failed to act.
The FPI's original platform, including raids against perceived dens of immoral behaviors such as gambling, prostitution and drinking alcohol, was popular among conservative Muslims. Rizieq's growth strategy for the FPI has been to attract more conservative Muslims to the group and through various street actions gradually erode secular society. Since its founding, however, the FPI has demonstrated a propensity for violence.
In 1998, the FPI participated in the riots against ethnic Chinese Indonesians and issued a "call for jihad" against "ninja forces," which the FPI believed were government agents who targeted Islamic scholars throughout the archipelago's main island of Java. In 1999, it ordered the capture of university students who took down an FPI sign that said, "Watch out! Zionism and Communism are penetrating all aspects of our lives." In 2001, the FPI held protests against America's invasion of Afghanistan at the US embassy in Jakarta and tore down the embassy's barbed wire fence before being thwarted.
Rizieq promised in 2003 to de-emphasize mass action and focus on economic development and education to stamp out "immoral acts," but the FPI-led violent intolerance persisted. That same year FPI members invaded a church that had been meeting in a school's sports hall for 10 years on the grounds that the church was attempting to spread Christianity in a public place. In 2005, the FPI attacked the transgender "Miss Waria" contest in Jakarta. In 2007, dozens of FPI members raided a Yogyakarta discotheque because it hosted striptease shows. In 2008, the FPI destroyed cafes and vendors in the Pasar Wetan area, Tasikmalaya because they were selling food during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. In 2010, the FPI tried to forcefully tear down the Tiga Mojang statue in Bekasi, which depicts three women in traditional Sundanese attire, and a dragon statue in Singkawang city during a Buddhist celebration.
In 2011 the FPI threatened to overthrow Yudhoyono's government if he attempted to disband the group. This statement was released shortly after the FPI violently attacked the Ahmadiya community, which the FPI and some hard-line Muslims consider an heretical Islamic sect, based in Cikeusik, Banten. The group has since continued its violent ways and means.
To be sure, FPI-sponsored violence has not approached the levels orchestrated by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a home-grown terror group held responsible for various bombing attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202, mostly Western tourists. But the two organizations' objectives run in parallel: to convert Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population, into an Islamic state.
While there is scant evidence that JI and FPI have coordinated operations, the FPI has benefited from being seen as the lesser of two evils when compared to JI. Jakarta Police Chief Nugroho Djayusman reportedly said that the FPI is a "small, relatively insignificant group" that is "not ideological, except insofar as it opposed gambling, prostitution and pornography... By contrast, [JI leader Abu Bakar] Bashir's foot soldiers were a much more serious ideological group".
Indonesia's security forces have decimated JI's leadership and the group has failed to carry out any major attacks since 2009. In contrast, the FPI has been able to operate with relative impunity and little interference from Indonesian security forces. (Rizieq was sentenced to 18 months in prison in October 2008 for inciting violence at an interfaith rally where dozens of people were injured by FPI supporters earlier that year.)
JI's leadership emerged mostly from the ranks of jihadis who fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s and returned to Indonesia with the al-Qaeda influenced mindset that big explosions and high-spectacle attacks would win the support of the wider Muslim world. While major bomb attacks, including against Western hotels situated in the capital Jakarta, made global headlines, the violence failed to give the group a mass following.
The FPI's methods, on the other hand, have steered clear of terrorist violence and have pursued their fundamentalist aims through mass protests, intimidation and acts of thuggery. Having avoided the terrorist label, the FPI has been able to promote itself more effectively as a morality police force. At times it has linked up with other conservative Islamic institutions, such as the Islamic Defenders Legion (LPI), the Indonesian Mujahideen Council (MMI), and Kokam, the youth wing of the Muhammadiyah mass Muslim group.
FPI claims to receive funding only from member donations. However, it has also reportedly received from funds from wealthy Indonesians and even the state intelligence agency to carry out ideologically-motivated attacks, including the attempted attack on the US embassy during the protests against the publication of cartoons viewed as insulting to the Prophet Mohammed in 2006.
According to Indonesian police records, the FPI engaged in violence and destructive behavior in 34 cases in 2010 and 2011 in West and Central Java and North and South Sumatra, statistics that do not include Aceh, Sulawesi, and Kalimantan where the FPI has clashed respectively with Christian, Ahmadiya and indigenous Dayak communities. In February this year, the Dayak community organized thousands of its members to protest at the airport when four FPI members were scheduled to arrive to build a regional office in Palangkaraya, Kalimantan. Outnumbered, the FPI members never disembarked the plane.
This year the FPI's targets have fallen into three main categories: Ahmadiya, Shia, Buddhist, Christian and other non-Sunni Muslim places of worship; public places deemed as non-Islamic, such as alcohol shops and stalls that serve food during the Ramadan fasting period; and displays of Indonesia's pre-Islamic heritage, such as dangdut music and waying puppetry.
FPI violence and intimidation has now successfully shuttered dozens of churches across the country. After hundreds of FPI members protested in front of a Ahmadiya worship sites in Aceh on April 30 this year, local authorities sealed off the buildings to Ahmadi worshippers. Three days later, 16 other undung-undungs, or small unofficial houses of worship, in the area were also sealed off by district officials on the pretext that they had been built without proper permits and that locals had "complained" about them.
This action had wider implications for the estimated 120,000 Christians in Aceh who have been unable to obtain government permission to build new churches and are now barred from worshipping in "unofficial" churches.
In yet another example of the FPI's rising religious intolerance, dozens of FPI members armed with sticks and stones attacked an Ahmadiya mosque in Singaparna, West Java during preparations for prayers in April. The FPI justified its actions on the grounds that the Ahmadiyas had refused to stop praying from the Koran after being warned doing so was heretical. One witness said the police and other state officials had been notified about the FPI's plan to attack but because of the fear of confronting the FPI did nothing to stop them.
The FPI's rising intolerance and challenge to secular society comes at a time when many Western leaders had hoped to hold Indonesia out as a glowing example for the Arab Spring-inspired democratic transitions underway in the Middle East and North Africa.
In July 2011, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got the ball rolling on the Indonesia-Arab Spring connection when she stated that, "In the year of the Arab Spring, there has never been a better moment for Indonesians to share what they learned from their own transition to democracy with the people of Egypt, Tunisia, and other nations that are now on that same difficult journey."
More recently, in April 2012, British Prime Minister David Cameron said at Al Azhar Islamic University in Jakarta that, "If Indonesia can succeed, it can lead the world in showing how democracy can offer an alternative to the dead-end choice of dictatorship or extremism."
Indeed, the uprisings seen recently in the Arab World resemble the mass pro-democracy street demonstrations in 1998 that led to the overthrow of Indonesia's military-backed, authoritarian Suharto regime. Indonesia's democratic progress since has often been held up as a shining example not only for transitional Arab states, but for the entire Muslim world.
Freedom House, a non-governmental organization which conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights, rates only Indonesia and Senegal as having "fully free" political systems among 47 Muslim-majority countries worldwide. FPI's attacks on religious minorities, which constitute more than 12% of Indonesia's estimated 242 million population, and assaults on traditional Indonesian culture, however, is more reminiscent of the Salafist-Jihadist strands of intolerant Islam seen in many Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
If Indonesia is to truly serve as a democratic model for these countries, Yudhoyono's government needs to enforce the law and bring a halt to the FPI's rising intimidation and violence. Yudhoyono promised on July 1, without naming the FPI, to "take firm action against groups that force their own will and violate the constitutional rights of others."
Two factors may motivate Yudhoyono to finally make good on that promise. As a lame duck president, Yudhoyono may have begun to think about his legacy and whether he will be remembered as the president who failed to rein in the FPI. He may also be reassured by groups in Indonesia, such as the Indonesia Without FPI Movement, which are threatening legal action against FPI if the government does not take action. Between the violence-prone FPI and newly established pressure groups pushing for rule by law and secularism, his choice as a self-professed democratic reformer should be clear.