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Indonesia News Digest 2 – January 8-15, 2017

Actions, demos, protests... West Papua Aceh Military ties Human rights & justice Political parties & elections Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections Internet & social media Environment & natural disasters Health & education Gender & lgbt rights Hard-line & vigilante groups Freedom of religion & worship Religion & morality Agriculture & food security Land & agrarian conflicts Indigenous culture & rights Armed forces & defense Criminal justice & legal system National security & intelligence Foreign affairs & trade Mining & energy Economy & investment Analysis & opinion

Actions, demos, protests...

Dayak youth protest prompts MUI secretary general to abandon Sintang visit

Jakarta Globe - January 13, 2017

Jakarta – The arrival of a leader of Indonesia's highest Islamic clerical council in Sintang, West Kalimantan, on Thursday (12/01) drew strong rejection from a group of Dayak youths, who accused him of having insulted the tribe.

The protest prompted the deputy secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Tengku Zulkarnain, and his entourage to refuse to exit their plane that had landed at Sintang Airport, and they subsequently depart for Pontianak.

"The situation was under control during the rejection," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto said in Jakarta.

Thursday's incident began when the inauguration of the committee of the Sintang Customary Council was being held and set to be attended by West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis, who is also the chairman of the council.

Around 30 youth members of the council went to Sintang Airport to pick him up. While waiting for the arrival of Cornelis, the group was informed about the imminent arrival of Tengku Zulkarnain, and directly staged a protest rejecting it.

The youth group accused him of calling the Dayak tribespeople as infidels, in a statement he had recently made and circulated on social media.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/dayak-youth-protest-prompts-mui-secretary-general-abandon-sintang-visit/

West Papua

West Papua independence bid continues decades after 1969 UN backing

Courier Mail - January 14, 2017

Matt Connors – They gathered on Biak, a small island nestled in the crystalline waters of Cenderawasih Bay.

In July 1969, hundreds of stoic Papuans stood and listened, sweating in the jungle heat. Standing witness were Reuters journalist Hugh Lunn and a Dutch newspaper colleague, Otto Kuyk.

Those gathered were there to hear about the Act of Free Choice, a long-promised, UN-backed vote to allow all the Papuan people a say in their independence.

What they instead heard were the first murmurings of a broken promise that, to this day, plays an enduring role in the bond between Australia and its nearest neighbour, Indonesia.

Just how pivotal played out in curious fashion last week when the TNI, the Indonesian armed forces, announced it had suspended all military ties with Australia.

Indonesia's program of transmigration has seen the Melanesian population in West Papua fall to 50 per cent, meaning support for separation is no longer in the majority. A member of Indonesia's special forces, Kopassus, training at Perth's SAS barracks months earlier, took offence at course material for suggesting West Papua was part of Melanesia.

The suspension seemingly caught Canberra and our military brass off guard, even though they had spent months secretly trying to cool tensions.

Lunn, one of Queensland's most-loved authors and a former Courier-Mail journalist, was not the least bit shocked by Indonesia's reaction. Neither were a host of Australia's top Indonesia watchers and members of the Free West Papua campaign.

A minor spot fire, the suspension was reversed within 24 hours. While it reflects the internal power struggle between the military and President Joko Widodo, at its heart was the touchy subject of West Papuan independence and the "long shadow" of East Timor.

"I'm always upset about it," Lunn says of West Papua, a position he's held for 48 years.

Following stints in London, Singapore and Vietnam, where he witnessed the 1968 Tet Offensive, Lunn was Reuters' correspondent in Indonesia in 1969. He and Dutchman Kuyk were the only Western reporters of the ground for the month-long, independence vote.

"When I heard they were conducting an Act of Free Choice, I thought it would be done in a democratic way and that everyone would get a vote," he recalls.

Instead, out of a population of 800,000, Indonesia selected 1025 Melanesians for the vote under the Indonesian consensus system of "musyawarah". The UN oversaw the sham poll but ignored blatant voter intimidation.

Lunn saw Indonesian soldiers bash Papuans and throw them in the back of army trucks. "People like me said 'hold on, that's not democracy'," he recalls.

Lunn complained about the violence and intimidation to a UN official, but was told Papua was "like a cancerous growth on the side of the UN that needed to be removed".

"I had a Papuan crying on my shoulder one night. He said 'Is the UN going to save us?' and I said 'forget about it, you're going to be part of Indonesia' and he burst into tears."

The tears have rolled ever since – human rights violations, documented atrocities, thousands dead, disappearances and the 2001 murder of revered Papuan leader Theys Eluay have peppered the Papuan independence struggle.

The armed resistance of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), uprisings and rebellions have given way in recent years to peaceful resistance. The often-fractured resistance movement has largely coalesced around the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which formed in 2014 and includes exiled Papuan leaders such as Benny Wenda. It has started a regional and international diplomatic push with some success.

Professor Jason McLeod, from the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, says the movement is becoming more organised and strategic.

"The West Papuans are absolutely determined they will get their freedom and a chance to fairly and freely determine whether they want to be part of Indonesia or not," McLeod says.

But that determination is unlikely to count for zip with a cautious Australian Government, largely thanks to our critical role in East Timor regaining its independence from Indonesia in 1999.

Bilateral relations remained poor until 2006, when the Howard government signed the Lombok Treaty, under which both countries pledge to respect each other's sovereignty.

And Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says: "Australia remains committed to the territorial integrity of Indonesia, including the Papuan provinces, as expressed by the Lombok Treaty between Australia and Indonesia."

Victoria University Indonesian expert Dr Richard Chauvel says no matter how often Australia expresses respect for Indonesian sovereignty, it will always be met with distrust. "In Indonesian eyes, the unstated response is 'that's exactly what you said about East Timor'," he says.

Chauvel notes the suspension of military training by TNI commander Gatot Nurmantyo last week "reminds us, yet again, of the long shadow of East Timor".

"We as Australians tend to forget the sensitivities around East Timor. No country likes to lose provinces. The suspicion of any Australian interest in West Papua goes back to that."

West Papuan dreams of independence may remain just that, according to another keen Indonesian watcher.

Deakin University Professor of International Politics Damien Kingsbury cites a key difference to East Timor: It was forcibly annexed in 1975 and never internationally recognised as part of Indonesia, unlike West Papua.

"Under international law, West Papua is part of Indonesia," Kingsbury says. "The circumstances in which that happened are hugely problematic, but it was recognised by the UN."

Indonesia's program of transmigration has seen the Melanesian population in West Papua fall to 50 per cent, meaning support for separation is no longer in the majority.

About a quarter of Indonesia's Budget stems from West Papua's lucrative natural resources, including gold and copper. The TNI remains committed to retaining West Papua as a province, by force if necessary.

Kingsbury says while Melanesians are definitely second-class citizens in their own land, the obstacles to independence can't be easily traversed.

"What they need to do is to aim for something that is achievable – a 'land of peace'. Independence is not a likely outcome. The negotiations need to be around improving the social, economic and political circumstances of Melanesian West Papuans that makes a difference to their lives on the ground. Fifty per cent of something is better than 100 per cent of nothing.

"The Act of Free Choice... should not have been recognised but it was and has now been recognised for four decades. It's going to be extraordinarily difficult to change that."

Source: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/west-papua-independence-bid-continues-decades-after-1969-un-backing/news-story/3034661a776e37c97fb6011018c1624c

Sogavare starts MSG tour amid West Papua impasse

Radio New Zealand International - January 13, 2017

The chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare, today starts a tour of the member states' capitals.

This comes after last year's repeated failures to hold a summit with the other leaders of the MSG which has been split over how to position itself on the West Papua issue.

Last month, some MSG foreign ministers met in Port Vila to consider membership criteria but Fiji's Frank Bainimarama was absent.

Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have been open to accommodating West Papua as a full member while Fiji and Papua New Guinea are opposed to it.

West Papua is a Melanesian part of Indonesia which, as an associate MSG member, wants to prevent the United Liberation Movement for West Papua from ever becoming a full member.

Mr Sogavare is due in Port Vila today to meet his Vanuatu counterpart Charlot Salwai as well as the spokesperson for New Caledonia's FLNKS movement Victor Tutugoro. His tour will also take him to Suva and Port Moresby.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/322291/sogavare-starts-msg-tour-amid-west-papua-impasse

Papua sees better economy, but stagnant politics, security: Expert

Jakarta Globe - January 12, 2017

Jakarta – Vidhyandhika D. Perkasa, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, or CSIS, has said President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration has made some economic improvements in Papua, but it is still lacking progress in political and security-related matters.

The political and international relations expert said Jokowi had launched a one fuel price police and instituted massive infrastructure projects, including electricity projects in Papua to boost the local economy and improve connectivity, but such efforts must be followed up with improvements in politics, security and international relations.

"It is nonsense to focus on one dimension while overlooking other aspects," Vidhyandhika told the the Jakarta Globe in Jakarta on Wednesday (11/01).

Vidhyandhika underlined how separatist movements have shifted from physical guerrilla resistance to diplomacy with the Melanesian Spearhead Group, or MSG, to secure international acknowledgement.

New diplomacy efforts have been initiated by Papuan students who have studied in other parts of the country or overseas and use savvy internet campaign techniques.

In July, the MSG rejected an application for full membership status by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, a group deemed separatist by the Indonesian government.

"We need more intensive diplomacy to address this situation. The Foreign Affairs Ministry must map where the Papuan freedom issues are being discussed and if needed send diplomats to attend those discussions," Vidhyandhika said.

"The ministry should also invite foreign NGOs, officials and diplomats to Papua for the sake of building trust, like Minister Luhut has done. He invited [former East Timor president] Ramos Horta and American Ambassador [Robert Blake] to Papua," he added.

Vidhyandhika claimed Jokowi also needs to push investigation of major human rights abuses in Wasior, Wamena and Paniai to gain the trust of the Papuan people.

"It is a good thing to see the president addressing human rights issues, but results remain unclear and doubts have also appeared as the team was managed by the Chief Security Minister. It is difficult to see transparency and independence there," Vidhyandhika said.

Papua has allegedly suffered more human rights abuses than those that are currently being investigated by the government.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/papua-sees-better-economy-stagnant-politics-security-expert/

More unit of police Mobile Brigade corps sent to Papua

Antara News - January 12, 2017

Pontianak, W Kalimantan – Police have sent more unit of its mobile brigade to Papua to maintain security in the country's easternmost province of Papua.

"On Wednesday night I just saw off 101 members of the Mobile Brigade Corps to Papua where they would be on duty under the Papua regional police," Head of the West Kalimantan Police Insp.Gen. Musyafak said here.

The new unit under Adj. Sr. Com. Raymond M Masengi will be on duty in Papua for four months to replace a unit sent there previously.

The ceremony took place at the parking area of the Supadio airport of Pontianak from there they flew directly to Papua on board a Lion Air aircraft.

Musyafak told the members of the police special force to cooperate with local police members and the military in carrying out their duty in Papua.

Earlier this month, another unit of 120 members of the police mobile brigade corps already arrived in Papua from West Java.

The members of the special police force from the West Java police were to be stationed at the posts of Sinak, Ilu and Ilaga in mountainous district of Puncak Jaya.

Upon arrival here from Java, Papua police chief Insp. Gen. Paulus told them to seek communications with local people as well as other police members and other members of security force.

He warned them not to leave their post alone when they were on patrol, saying the areas around their posts are known to be often infiltrated by separatists.

After being briefed by the police general, the members of the unit were flown to Wamena and from there they were split into smaller units to be stationed at different posts.

Papua has remained a hot spot in the country with separatist rebels hiding in the mountain jungles launching sporadic attacks on the government police or military posts.(*)

Source: http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/108893/more-unit-of-police-mobile-brigade-corps-sent-to-papua

Detainment of four Papuan students for alleged treason extended

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Lita Aruperes, Manado – The detention of four students from Papua who have been accused of treason by Manado Police, has been extended to Feb. 17 or 40 days since their arrest.

Manado Police crime unit head Comr. Edwin Humokor said Tuesday the case dossiers had been submitted to the prosecutor's office. "Their detention has been extended to simplify the investigation process," Edwin said.

He said the suspects violated article 106 of the Criminal Code on treason, which carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and 20 years as a minimum.

The four are: William Wim, Emanuel Ukago, Panus Hesegem and Indonesian Consulate of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) head Hizkia Meage.

Lawyer Hendra Baramuli said he would file a pretrial motion to free the four. He said the four had only expressed their opinions and should not have been charged with treason.

The four were arrested along with 81 other students in two locations in December last year. The others were released.

The KNPB has been campaigning for self-determination in Papua and West Papua provinces, where collectively the two internationally have been referred to as West Papua to distinguish the region from Papua New Guinea. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/detainment-of-four-papuan-students-for-alleged-treason-extended.html


Political tension rising in Aceh ahead of February local poll

Jakarta Globe - January 11, 2017

Jakarta – Arya Fernandes, a political observer from the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, gave a warning to the government to keep a close eye on next month's local election in Aceh, as the province has a long history of political conflicts.

The Aceh election will see a race between six pairs of candidates, including three running as independents.

Irwandi Yusuf and running mate Nova Iriansyah are endorsed by the Democratic Party, the Aceh National Party (PNA), the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the National Awakening Party (PKB).

Incumbent deputy governor Muzakir Manaf and running mate T.A. Khalid are backed by the Aceh Party, the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), the Prosperous Justice Party and a Djan Faridz-led faction of the United Development Party (PPP).

Former governor Tarmizi A. Karim and T. Machsalmina Ali are supported by the Golkar Party, the National Democratic Party (NasDem), the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI) and the Romahurmuziy-led PPP.

The independent candidates are incumbent governor Zaini Abdullah and his running mate Nasaruddin; Zakaria Saman and Teuku Alaidinsyah and former governor Abdullah Puteh and Sayed Mustafa.

"The Aceh election will have the incumbent governor, the current deputy governor and former governors competing against each other. The government must watch out since Aceh has a long history of political conflicts," Arya said in Jakarta on Wednesday (11/01).

Election watchdog Asian Network for Free Elections, or Anfrel, said there were threats and intimidation against the candidates, their campaign teams and their supporters in the last Aceh election in 2012. It included reports of voters being threatened by unknown groups for supporting certain candidates.

Juri Ardiantoro, the chairman of the General Elections Commission, or KPU, said Aceh and Papua are two regions that are expected to be conflict-prone during the 2017 simultaneous local polls.

"Things can get quite tense in the two provinces since they will hold the most number of local polls in February," Juri said.

Aceh will stage 20 polls to elect new governors, mayors and district heads, while Papua will stage 11 elections at the district and city levels.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/political-tension-rising-aceh-ahead-february-local-poll/

Military ties

Indonesian defense minister tells Australia: Let bygones be bygones

Jakarta Post - January 13, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said Thursday that the spat between Indonesia and Australia over an alleged insult of the former's military and state ideology of Pancasila should not be prolonged.

Ryamizard said he had communicated with Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne and told her that the two countries should move on from the spat, taking it only as a lesson that the two neighbors should respect each other more in the future.

"I called her to say 'let bygones be bygones'," Ryamizard told reporters after attending an executive meeting to discuss the Indonesian defense strategy this year. "I also told her 'let's enlighten our subordinates so a problem like this will not repeat'," he added.

Early this month, Indonesian Military Commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo declared a temporary suspension of Indonesian-Australian military cooperation after a special force trainer found materials at an Australian teaching facility that could be perceived as having insulted both the Indonesian Military (TNI) and Pancasila.

Australia has apologized over the alleged insult and promised to dispose of the materials deemed offensive by the TNI.

Ryamizard previously said the Australian government was serious in probing the alleged insult and emphasized that the halt in military cooperation would not affect relations elsewhere. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/13/indonesian-defense-minister-tells-australia-let-bygones-be-bygones.html

Indonesian consul to Darwin says repercussions possible after military strain

ABC News - January 10, 2017

Lucy Marks – Repercussions for the Top End from the recent strain on national military ties between Australia and Indonesia are yet to be determined, the Indonesian consul to the Northern Territory has said.

Indonesia recently suspended all military co-operation with Australia over 'culturally inappropriate training material', and the snap decision was watered down soon after.

Darwin has been the training ground for Indonesian troops for a number of years, confirming the Top End's long history with Indonesia as friend and ally. Indonesian consul Andre Siregar said that friendship had been tested.

"If a person feels they've lost their sense of belief in a particular friend, that friend really needs to convince them that they're wrong," Mr Siregar said.

"We will have to see what the repercussions will be if they have the desire to continue with such cooperation."

It was the discovery of Special Forces training material making reference to West Papuan independence that put future Top End military exercises at risk. The suspension of cooperation now only relates to some Special Forces language training material.

"For us in the NT, we are the ones who will observe whether this year will have more military cooperation or not, depending on the outcome of the investigation," Mr Siregar said.

"With every relationship, it is in a way a reflection of each other's actions, and of course, the way Australia sees Indonesia and Indonesia sees Australia, our past will determine how we move forward."

Precedent of diplomatic strains

The diplomatic stoush has been compared to a breakdown in relations in 2013, when it was revealed the phone of then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had been tapped by Australian intelligence in 2009.

"That really affected some officials in Jakarta and they too had to see how they could move forward," Mr Siregar said.

"In a way, those who have a lack of trust towards Australia will use it to justify how our relations are, whereas here at the consulate we want to focus on the good and the positive."

Meanwhile, reports that the same general whose decision it was to cut ties with the ADF, General Gatot Nurmanyto, had boasted about spying on US Marine bases in Darwin last year, have been played down.

"I do regret that sometimes there are media in Indonesia that may have misquoted him, and now this idea of fake news coming around," Mr Siregar said.

However, the story about General Gatot has raised eyebrows in Jakarta and Darwin. "They were quite shocked with the front page of the NT News with their supreme commander as James Bond... what happens in the NT is seen in Jakarta also."

The Darwin-based consulate said it was working to bolster and repair the friendship with our closest neighbour.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-10/indonesian-consul-responds-to-military-strain-with-australia/8173492

Human rights & justice

Silence equals complicity: Indonesia's Jokowi blamed for human rights failures

Asia Correspondent - January 13, 2017

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's second year in office was marred by his alleged failure to address serious abuses in the republic, from attacks on religious freedom to sexual and gender discrimination and violations against child and minority rights, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its World Report 2017 released Friday.

In the Indonesia chapter, the 687-page report studying abuses in 90 countries questioned Jokowi's commitment to defending human rights, saying the leader failed last year to translate previous pledges it described as rhetorical into meaningful policy initiatives.

"Although Jokowi's government announced long-overdue initiatives to promote accountability for the worst human rights abuses of the past, there was no official follow-through, and current abuses persisted," HRW's deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said in a statement.

HRW in the report noted that throughout last year, Jokowi remained mostly silent when senior government and military officials issued discriminatory remarks and policies that it said only fueled violations of the rights of minorities.

Even worse, the report said, Jokowi also continued to be outspoken in his backing of capital punishment. One key example cited is the execution of four convicted drug traffickers in July last year, despite widespread international opposition to previous death row cases in the Southeast Asian nation.

At the time, Indonesia's deputy attorney-general Noor Rachmand told detractors that while the executions were "not a pleasant thing", they had to be done in accordance with the law. "The executions are only aimed at halting drug crimes," he said.

Noor appeared to be speaking through Jokowi, who had only months earlier called the death penalty a necessity for drug offences as drug trafficking was a "national emergency".

Months later when the world's attention shifted to the Philippines' violent war on drugs, Indonesian officials were quoted saying they would adopt their neighbour's drug enforcement methods with more weapons, investigators, technology and sniffer dogs. The announcement riled Indonesia's foreign allies and international rights advocates.

According to HRW, the president's support for putting drug traffickers on death row put a strain on ties over the past year with close bilateral allies like Australia. "The likelihood of more executions in 2017 will continue to make that issue a sore point in Indonesia's foreign relations," it said.

The group said 2016 was also a year when Indonesian government officials were allowed to issue anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) comments with impunity.

In February, for example, the mayor of Tangerang warned that Indonesian children might become gay by consuming milk formula and instant noodles. Later, the republic's higher education minister urged for a ban on gay students in universities. Then, the president's spokesman declared that there was "no room in Indonesia for the proliferation of the LGBT movement".

The anti-LGBT assertions, HRW noted, resulted in proposals of laws which pose a serious threat to the rights and safety of LGBT Indonesians. They also fueled increased threats and at times, violent attacks on LGBT activists and individuals, primarily by Islamist militants.

"In some cases, the threats and violence occurred in the presence, and with the tacit support, of government officials or security forces," the report said.

On religious freedom, HRW accused Indonesian officials and security forces of complicity in last year's violent forced eviction of more than 7,000 members of the Gerakan Fajar Nusantara religious community, or the Gafatar, from their homes in East and West Kalimantan.

The group said its researchers found that security forces failed to protect Gafatar members, and merely stood by while mobs from the ethnic Malay and Dayak communities looted and destroyed properties owned by group members, many of whom originally came from Java.

"Government officials transferred Gafatar members to unofficial detention centers and then to their home towns, not as a short-term safety measure, but apparently to end their presence on the island and dissolve the religious group," the report said.

The Jokowi government in March last year also issued a decree banning Gafatar activities and introduced a five-year prison term as punishment for violations.

The report also listed other instances of alleged government failure to prevent abuses on religious freedom, one of which is the July attack on three Buddhist temples in the city of Tanjung Balai in northern Sumatra. It noted that police denied the attack was sectarian and arrested seven suspects. Indonesia is said to be the most populous Muslim nation in the world but is also home to a sizeable ethnic Chinese minority, most of whom are Buddhists.

Impunity for security forces in the provinces of Papua and West Papua also remained a serious problem in 2016, with dozens of Papuans still imprisoned for nonviolent expression of their political views, HRW said.

It noted that in April, the government announced that it would seek accountability for 11 high-priority past human rights cases in Papua. "However, the government has not provided any details as to when, where, and how the cases would be addressed," the report said.

On children's rights, HRW highlighted cases of child labour exploitation, noting that thousands of children in Indonesia, some just eight years of age, are working in hazardous conditions in tobacco farms.

These child workers, it claimed, are exposed to nicotine, handle toxic chemicals, use sharp tools, lift heavy loads, and work in extreme heat. Such work can have lasting consequences for their health and development.

HRW urged the Jokowi government to prohibit children from work that involves direct contact with tobacco; inspect farms to ensure children are not in danger; and carry out an extensive public education and training program to raise awareness of the health risks to children of work in tobacco farming.

The report also noted that gender discrimination continued unabated in Indonesia last year, with the Commission on Violence against Women reporting that as of August, the number of discriminatory national and local regulations targeting women had risen to 422, from 389 at the end of 2015.

They include local laws compelling women and girls to don the hijab, or headscarf, in schools, government offices, and public spaces.

"The Jokowi government is proving to be all talk and no positive action in terms of meaningfully addressing Indonesia's serious human rights problems," Kine said.

"Indonesians need to insist that Jokowi deliver on past human rights commitments and seek to advance justice and curtail abuses in 2017."

Read full Indonesia chapter report here: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/Indonesia

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/01/silence-equals-complicity-indonesias-jokowi-blamed-human-rights-failures/

Political parties & elections

Democratic Party conspicuously absent at PDI-P birthday bash

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) celebrated its 44th anniversary in Jakarta on Tuesday at an event attended by the leaders of major political parties except for Democratic Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).

Chairpersons of political parties in the government coalition were seen among the invitees, including the National Awakening Party's (PKB) Muhaimin Iskandar, the United Development Party's (PPP) Muhammad "Romy" Romahurmuziy, the National Mandate Party's (PAN) Zulkifli Hasan, the NasDem Party's Surya Paloh, the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party's (PKPI) AM Hendropriyono and the Hanura Party's newly installed Oesman Sapta Odang.

PDIP chairwoman Megawati was seen welcoming President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who was accompanied by several Cabinet ministers.

Golkar Party chairman Setya Novanto was not present, but executive members of the party, such as secretary-general Idrus Marham and deputy chairman Yorrys Raweyai, were seen sitting among the guests. Representatives of the Gerindra Party were also present, wearing Gerindra's distinctive white and brown attire.

Like at PDI-P's national gatherings in the past, the ceremony on Tuesday excluded former president Yudhoyono and his party, as none of the representatives were seen attending.

"It is up to the steering committee who is invited and who is not," executive PDI-P member Ahmad Basarah shortly replied when asked whether PDI-P had invited Yudhoyono to the celebration.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/democratic-party-conspicuously-absent-at-pdi-p-birthday-bash.html

Prabowo denies reports ministerial posts given to Gerindra

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Jakarta – Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto has denied a statement earlier made by party deputy chairman Arif Poyuono, which claimed the party had been offered four ministerial positions by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

"We are ready to assist the government. Should everyone join the administration, then, who will be the critics? Who will monitor [the government's performance]?" Prabowo asked rhetorically as quoted by tribunnews.com at the Jakarta International Expo center in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, on Sunday.

According to Prabowo, there should be a division of roles between those who run the country and those who ensure checks and balances on the former are in place.

When asked to comment about his deputy's claim about the four ministerial seats, he quipped. "I don't know where he got that information. Probably, he wants to become a minister himself," he joked.

Arief said earlier that he received a tipoff from an unnamed presidential aide that the Jokowi administration was planning a Cabinet reshuffle in which Gerindra would be offered four ministerial seats: coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, agriculture minister, manpower minister and presidential office chief of staff.

The State Palace has denied a Cabinet shake-up is imminent, but several political parties say they have received credible information that the President is looking to dismiss several lacklustre-performing ministers and also to consolidate power following two mass demonstrations in Jakarta late last year. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/prabowo-denies-reports-ministerial-posts-given-to-gerindra.html

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

Gubernatorial contenders yet to come up with breakthroughs to challenge

Jakarta Globe - January 15, 2017

Jakarta – All three Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pairs have managed to effectively convey details of their programs and policies during the first public debate, but the two contenders have yet to come up with breakthroughs to challenge the incumbent pair, an analyst said.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni and Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno largely used rhetoric during Friday's televised debate to draw public support, Maksimus Ramses Lalongkoe, a political communication observer, said on Saturday (14/01).

"Instead of concrete proposals, they played on the public psychology with an emotional, empathetic approach," said Ramses, who works for the Indonesian Institute of Political Analysis.

Agus-Sylviana and Anies-Sandiaga should have been able to challenge the already established work programs of incumbent pair Basuki Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat by putting forward much-awaited breakthrough programs, he said.

"But the public found nothing extraordinary or monumental in the proposals put forward Agus-Sylviana and Anies-Sandiaga to challenge the comprehensive programs by Ahok-Djarot," he added.

There will be two more official debates, scheduled for Jan. 27 and Feb. 10, before the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Feb. 15.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/gubernatorial-contenders-yet-to-come-up-with-breakthroughs-to-challenge-incumbents-observer/

How will Jakarta's next governor tackle inequality, flooding without relocating

Jakarta Globe - January 14, 2017

Jakarta – The capital's incumbent governor highlighted his administration's program and said he has already improved Jakarta's economy, while his two contenders vowed to bolster economic growth and tackle inequality, during the long-awaited gubernatorial debate at the Bidakara Hotel in South Jakarta on Friday evening (13/01).

How to create job opportunities to eradicate poverty and narrow the economic gap was the core question raised during the second session of Friday's debate, in which three candidate pairs presented their visions and missions.

Jakarta, with more than 10 million residents, is one of the provinces with the biggest income disparity, said the debate moderator, former news anchor Ira Koesno.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, backed by a coalition led by the Democratic Party, promised to boost "economic growth with equity," which he said would reduce Jakarta's unemployment rate in the next five years.

"Better economic growth will create job opportunities and decrease unemployment," said Agus, a son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "We plan to revolve aid funds and interest-free venture capital. This is expected to help reduce the unemployment rate."

Agus and his running mate senior bureaucrat Sylviana Murni plan to distribute Rp 1 billion ($75,075) to each ward head, or rukun warga (RW), and Rp 50 million to small and medium enterprises in the capital city. According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data, there are 930,620 small and medium enterprises and 2,709 RWs in Jakarta.

Agus also promised to support 120,000 poor families with Rp 5 million to reduce the economic gap. After a quick calculation, Agus-Sylviana's program will cost Jakarta's Rp 67.160 trillion budget at least Rp 49.840 trillion, not yet including health care, education, infrastructure development and salaries of the city's officials.

Incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama claimed that Jakarta's economic gap and unemployment rate have improved since he assumed the office in November 2014. The economic gap has been narrowed to 0.41 from 0.43, while the unemployment rate has declined to 6 percent from 8.3 percent.

"This is because we have run six programs [to provide] health insurance, education, housing, transportation, food, stable price of rice and venture capital," Ahok said.

Anies Baswedan, endorsed by the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and his running mate businessman Sandiaga Uno said they "would bolster economic growth by mobilizing the private sector."

Tackling floods and eviction frays

Questions about forced evictions were at the center of the third session of the televised debate. The candidates were also asked how they would handle urban planning to prevent flooding – a recurring problem faced by Jakarta.

Forced evictions have been rampant under Ahok's administration. The governor has staunchly defended his policy despite widespread public protests. This was strongly criticized by his two contenders, who have vowed during their campaign that they will not follow suit.

Anies, former education minister, said during he would focus on "urban renewal" rather than evictions, which he deemed "unfair."

"We will not eradicate the poor but poverty. We will not conduct evictions. We will negotiate," he said. "There are many other ways," Agus, Indonesian Military (TNI) major, said adding that evictions only increase poverty and unemployment.

Ahok's camp, supported by a coalition led by the pro-government Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), insisted that evictions are necessary.

"Jakarta is the capital, its residents should not live on riverbanks or under bridges. We have provided low-cost apartments," Ahok's running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat said.

Ahok added, it is inhumane to have people live on riverbanks and become flood victims who lose everything each year during rainy season.

"Even though they have been living there for years, it is wrong. We don't seek to punish them, but relocate them to safer areas," Ahok said. "I think it is cruel to justify and defend [anti-relocation policies] to win the gubernatorial race," he added.

In 2015, as the current administration has been pushing its river normalization projects, the city saw more than 100 evictions, which affected nearly 30,000 residents, according to data from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/will-jakartas-next-governor-tackle-inequality-flooding-without-relocating-residents-riverbanks/

Agus, Anies condemn Ahok for his eviction policy

Jakarta Post - January 13, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Jakarta gubernatorial candidates Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Anies Baswedan condemned incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for his eviction policy during the official debate on Friday.

Agus said that Ahok's eviction policy had created new poor people in the city. He said that such a policy would no longer exist if he was elected.

"I say that we will manage the city without conducting evictions. Evictions have increased urban poverty. The evictees lost everything, including their homes and jobs," Agus said.

Anies added that Ahok had broken his promise, made in 2012 when he ran as a Jakarta deputy gubernatorial candidate, to construct kampung deret (elevated villages) in the city, instead of evicting them.

Anies said that he would focus on achieving urban renewal instead of arbitrarily evicting the residents, if he was elected.

Ahok defended his eviction policy by saying that the eviction was crucial to normalize the river in the city. It was not right to let residents live on river banks, he said.

"We shouldn't punish them [the residents who live on river banks] but rather move them to a proper place. How can we normalize the rivers if we don't relocate the residents?" he said.

The governor added that he had tried to improve the quality of life of the relocated people by giving them meal subsidies and preparing education assistance for their children. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/13/agus-anies-condemn-ahok-for-his-eviction-policy.html

Prosecution witnesses' testimonies unreliable: Ahok's lawyers

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The defense team of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama have criticized the credibility of eight witnesses presented by prosecutors on Jan. 3 and Jan. 10, saying that none of them witnessed Ahok's alleged blasphemous comment firsthand during a work visit to Thousand Islands regency on Sept. 27, 2016.

Ahok's lawyer Edi Danggur said, according to the law, a qualified witness was someone who directly saw, experienced and heard the incident.

"All witnesses presented on Jan. 3 and Jan. 10 didn't meet that qualification," Edi said in a press conference at Ahok's campaign headquarters on Thursday.

He went on to say that all the witnesses that testified had been made aware of Ahok's alleged blasphemous comment from other people through SMS text messages or Whatsapp conversations.

Therefore, they should be deemed as "testimonium de auditu" (a witness who hears a testimony from others) and there testimonies should be set aside because they were not credible, Edi said.

Edi added that his team also doubted the witnesses' backgrounds. Based on their research, the lawyers found that the witness Irena Handono, a former Catholic-nun-turned-Muslim-preacher, had lied about her educational background, Edi said.

Previously, it was revealed in court that another witness named Gus Joy had pretended to be a lawyer.

"In accordance with Article 185(6) of the Criminal Law Procedures Code, judges cannot take into account testimonies from unreliable witnesses," Edi explained. (jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/prosecution-witnesses-testimonies-unreliable-ahoks-lawyers.html

Former Democratic Party lawyer testifies against Ahok

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Jakarta – Another prosecution witness who had reported Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to the police for alleged blasphemy, admitted at a hearing at the Agriculture Ministry's auditorium in South Jakarta on Tuesday evening that he had previously worked for the Democratic Party as a lawyer.

"I was a lawyer for the Democratic Party. But it was a long time ago. I no longer hold such a position [with the party]," witness Muhammad Burhanuddin told the court as reported by tribunnews.com. He revealed that he was formerly a lawyer for the party's executive, Andi Nurpati, for a case in 2013.

In the upcoming Jakarta gubernatorial election slated for Feb. 15, the Dems, chaired by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono nominated his son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono to challenge the incumbent Ahok.

However, Burhanuddin claimed that he had reported Ahok to the police for the blasphemy allegation based on his own initiative, not because of his party links. In a previous hearing, prosecution witness Gus Joy Setiawan, who had also reported Ahok, was a Dems board member.

Meanwhile, the other prosecution witnesses also include members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), a hard-line group that led several huge rallies demanding Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, be prosecuted for an alleged blasphemous comment he made in relation to a Quranic verse during a work visit to Thousands Islands regency in September, last year. (jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/former-democratic-party-lawyer-testifies-against-ahok.html

Witnesses reject seeking clarification from Ahok for alleged blasphemy

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Witnesses for the prosecution who appeared at Tuesday's hearing of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial said a tabayyun (clarification) process regarding Ahok's alleged blasphemous statement in relation to Al Maidah 51 made in late September last year, was unnecessary.

Ahok's lawyers said earlier that they believed the witnesses should have held tabayyun before reporting Ahok to police, according to Islamic teachings.

The first prosecution witness from Muhammadiyah's youth wing, Pedri Kasman, said he refused to let Ahok clarify himself because it was not important. "It's unnecessary because I felt offended [by Ahok's statement]," he said during the trial.

Pedri said he was also reluctant to let Ahok clarify himself because he did not have access to meeting the governor, which was later rejected by Ahok who said anyone could meet him at City Hall.

Another witness Irena Handono said the country was based on the law, undergoing tabayyun was not needed before reporting Ahok to police.

"Please be informed that tabayyun refers to Islamic law. Where do you find it? In the Quran. The Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia [NKRI] was established upon Pancasila [state ideology] and the 1945 Constitution. If Indonesia uses Islamic law, we would've expelled the suspect," she said.

Wilyudin Abdul Rasyad, another witness, said tabayyun was unnecessary for a non-Muslim. "If you hear that a verse of Allah has been insulted by infidels, you can't even sit with them," he said. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/witnesses-reject-seeking-clarification-from-ahok-for-alleged-blasphemy.html

Ahok slams witness for defaming him in hearing

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama said he felt offended by testimony conveyed by Irena Handono, a former nun who became an Islamic teacher, in the hearing on Tuesday, as most of her statements were slanderous.

During the hearing, Irena criticized Ahok's policies, which she claimed have deprived Muslims in the city. As an example, Irena said that Ahok had banned Muslims from using National Monument (Monas) park in Central Jakarta for a mass prayer event but let Christians use the venue for Easter celebrations.

Ahok stated that the accusation was baseless. "I never let people use Monas for Easter celebrations. I just comply with the presidential regulations, which state that Monas should be a 'clear zone'. Religious celebrations can be conducted at Istiqlal (mosque) or Cathedral (church)," Ahok said during a hearing. "I never did what you accused me of. Don't slander me."

Ahok rebutted Irena's statement, which accused Ahok of destroying a mosque. "How could I destroy a mosque when I wanted to rebuild mosques? If I haven't rebuilt a mosque yet it is because of limiting circumstances. Don't raise unsubstantiated opinions like that," he said.

The incumbent also denied Irena's accusations that claimed he had forced students to wear Muslim uniforms. Ahok explained he had set aside some of the city's budget to assist students with buying their uniforms. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/ahok-slams-witness-for-defaming-him-in-hearing.html

Blasphemy trial a blessing in disguise for Ahok: Pollster

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The director of Jakarta-based polling company Populi Center, Usep S. Ahyar, says he believes the ongoing blasphemy trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama may boost the incumbent's electability.

"As the trial continues, people can get more of an understanding about this case, which can benefit the incumbent. As an example, people can see that witnesses against Ahok are less competent," Usep told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Usep added that, according to a recent survey initiated by the Populi Center, Ahok had his loyal voters who are rational enough to see behind this blasphemy case. They would keep voting for Ahok, despite the blasphemy accusation, because they were satisfied with his performance as governor.

Usep released its latest survey, conducted in mid-December, which said that 34.2 percent of 600 respondents would vote for Ahok and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat in the election. Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni followed the incumbent with 32.3 percent support and Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno with 25 percent, he said.

Usep also noted that Ahok and his team had wisely used the trial to increase his electability. "The court can be seen as a 'free political stage' and Ahok has creatively used it. As an example, Ahok held a press conference while the trial was closed to media so he could deny all the rumors that discredited him," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/blasphemy-trial-a-blessing-in-disguise-for-ahok-pollster.html

Former president Megawati to join Ahok-Djarot campaign

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Former president Megawati Soekarnoputri will join the campaign trail of incumbent gubernatorial candidate pair Basoki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat to strengthen their re-election bid for next month's election, a party official has said.

Megawati, the chairwoman of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), would go all out to support the Ahok-Djarot pair even though Ahok was on trial for alleged blasphemy, PDI-P politician Arif Wibowo told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

"Bu Mega will join election campaigns in several crucial regions, including Jakarta," Arif asserted.

Arif, who is also the secretary of the party's faction at the House of Representatives, further said that all PDI-P-backed candidate pairs taking part in the upcoming simultaneous regional elections across the nation would be supported by the eldest daughter of Indonesia's first president Sukarno.

Ahead of the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Feb. 15, contesting candidate pairs will have the opportunity to hold a grand closing campaign event before the campaign period ends on Feb. 14, according to Arif.

The three candidate pairs are also scheduled to argue their policy platforms and programs during official debate sessions arranged by the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) starting Jan. 13. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/former-president-megawati-to-join-ahok-djarot-campaign.html

Prosecutors to present 5 witnesses against Ahok at Tuesday's hearing

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Prosecutors are set to present five witnesses to testify against non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in the fifth hearing of his blasphemy trial, which will take place at the Agriculture Ministry's auditorium, South Jakarta, on Tuesday.

Ahok's lawyer Fifi Lety Indra said the witnesses were Darussalam Kota Wisata Mosque organizer H. Ibnu Baskoro, secretary-general of Muhammadiyah's youth wing Pedri Kasman, Bogor Islam Forum secretary H. Willyudin Abdul Rasyid, ustadzah (female Islamic teacher) Irena Handono and lawyer Muh Burhanuddin.

"The witnesses are individuals who have denounced Ahok to the police for blasphemy," Fifi told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

On Jan. 3, in the previous hearing, prosecutors presented four witnesses, namely Islam Defenders Front (FPI) member Novel Bamukmin, Sharia Advocate chairman Gus Joy Setiawan, FPI Jakarta head Muchsin and Anti-blasphemy Forum head Syamsu Hilal to testify against Ahok.

The four, likewise, all had reported Ahok to the police after watching footage of the governor commenting on a Quranic verse during a work visit to Thousand Islands regency in late September last year.

Ahok said those witnesses had urged the judges to detain him for blasphemy during the hearing. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/prosecutors-to-present-5-witnesses-against-ahok-at-tuesdays-hearing.html

Police detain Ahok supporter's attacker, still hunting for accomplices

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Jakarta – Police have detained Irfan, a member of an Islamic organization, for allegedly assaulting a supporter of incumbent Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, identified as Widodo, and are continuing their hunt for the attacker's accomplices.

"Yes, we have detained him [Irfan]," Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono told kompas.com on Tuesday.

Argo said Irfan, accompanied by his parents, surrendered to the police on Sunday, two days after he and his friends purportedly had beaten up Widodo, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in the Jelambar area, West Jakarta.

The PDI-P along with the NasDem, Golkar, Hanura parties, have backed Ahok in the upcoming election slated for Feb. 15.

Besides Irfan, Argo said the police had also named a person identified as Fahmi, who was still at large, as a suspect in the case.

"So far, two people have been named suspects. We are still hunting for Fahmi," he said, adding that the police have questioned nine witnesses, including the victim who was currently being treated at Royal Taruma Hospital, West Jakarta.

Widodo said earlier that while he was accompanying Ahok's running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat during a campaign visit in the area a group of people had blocked them off. In the evening, allegedly the same group approached and had beaten him until black and blue. (jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/police-detain-ahok-supporters-attacker-still-hunting-for-accomplices.html

We are devoted Muslims, not offended by Ahok's statement: Thousand Islands

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Jakarta – Residents of the Thousands Islands say they did not feel offended by a statement Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama made about a verse from the Quran, rejecting an accusation by a leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) who claimed that they were "less Muslim".

"Novel? He said Islam in Thousand Islands is not Islam. Only two non-Muslims are on the islands," one of the residents, Saadah, told kompas.com on Sunday, referring to Novel Bamukmin, the secretary-general of the FPI's Jakarta chapter.

Saadah said that the residents of Pramuka Island, one of the many islands in the regency, were devoted Muslims.

Al Makmuriah Great Mosque board chairman Faturrahman, 70, said many non-Muslim residents lived in peace and harmony on the islands and that some of them converted to Islam without any coercion.

"My friend converted to Islam. He used to be a principal of a junior high school," said Faturrahman, who was former teacher and has been living on Pramuka Island since 1970.

Both Faturrahman and Saadah, who attended the event on the island in September when Ahok made his subsequently controversial statement, claimed that what Ahok said was not insulting and did not defame Islam.

In a hearing at the North Jakarta District Court last week, Novel called the residents who laughed upon hearing Ahok's statement "commoners". (jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/we-are-devoted-muslims-not-offended-by-ahoks-statement-thousand-islands-residents.html

Anies says he visited FPI to quash rumors about his religious identity

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Anies Baswedan said his recent visit to Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leaders aimed to straighten out rumors surrounding his religious identity, which might disadvantage him in the election.

The former culture and education minister said certain people had raised issues regarding his religious background, including labeling him a Shiite Muslim, Wahhabist and liberal Muslim, which might prejudice Jakartans against him.

"I didn't come to give a lecture but to answer questions. The question is whether Anies is a Shia, and I said 'no.' I am a Sunni Muslim," Anies said during a visit to The Jakarta Post on Monday, adding that he was neither a member of the Liberal Islam Network (JIL) nor a follower of Wahhabism.

"I've never disputed how people call me because it is their business. However, when some people decide not to vote for me because they doubt that I am a part of Sunni Islam, I have to clarify," he said, adding that candidates' religious backgrounds still mattered to voters.

Anies added that he would keep forming good relationships with all groups in the capital by holding various discussions. "I'm not worried about attending discussions where the people have a different point of view from me," he said. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/anies-says-he-visited-fpi-to-quash-rumors-about-his-religious-identity.html

Exploiting sectarian issues in debate will backfire: Expert

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Safrin La batu, Jakarta – Using sectarian issues to attack other candidates during the first debate on Friday will not gain a candidate votes, an expert in political communication has warned.

"Bringing up a sectarian issue on a big stage with a big audience watching will surely not work," Gun Gun Heryanto, executive director of the Political Literacy Institute, told The Jakarta Post on Monday. "It will backfire against the candidate who tries to exploit sectarianism," Gun Gun added.

Gun Gun said the number of rational voters in Jakarta was high and most of them would watch the debate to learn about the candidates and their vision for the city.

Sectarian tensions in Jakarta have increased recently following accusations that Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama committed blasphemy.

Many civil society organizations in the city expect that the political discourse will soon shift from sectarianism to more important issues such as unemployment and the environment.

Gun Gun said Ahok's challengers, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Anies Baswedan, would need to show voters that they had better ideas to solve the city's problems than the ideas offered by Ahok. (jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/exploiting-sectarian-issues-in-debate-will-backfire-expert.html

Internet & social media

Police to stamp 'Hoax' on unreliable news online

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – In fighting against rampant fake news circulating online, the National Police have issued a special sign to declare certain information unreliable.

National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Rikwanto said that the police would stamp "Hoax" on any unverified news circulating on the internet.

"We are looking at news and information circulating on social media in particular. After studying the [news or information] we will put the stamp on any content deemed unreliable," Rikwanto told a discussion in Jakarta on Thursday.

Rikwanto said such a policy was risky as it would undoubtedly raise protest. He, however, ensured that the police would be professional and fair.

"This move will hopefully help the public identify what information or news is trustworthy and what is not because there is a lot of unreliable and misleading information circulating online," he emphasized.

Rikwanto said the police have recorded 2,600 cases of cybercrime, 400 of which were cases related to the production and distribution of fake news by individuals.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/police-to-stamp-hoax-on-unreliable-news-online.html

Indonesian ulemas rue govt's shutdown of radical sites

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Jakarta – The Indonesian Ulema Council has lamented the Communication and Information Ministry's move to block 11 Islamic sites deemed to have ignited ethnic, religious, racial and societal group (SARA) sentiments.

"Such a block on Islamic sites, of course, stirs reaction from Muslims since the issue is very sensitive. This move will likely trigger just as many negatives as positives, even though the policy is said to be aimed at eradicating radicalism and terrorism," said MUI deputy chair Zainut Tauhid Saadi as quoted by Antara in Jakarta on Monday.

According to Zainut, the ministry has yet to explain the definition of radicalism it uses to the public, adding that it should discuss with the public before taking such stern actions.

Ministry spokesperson Noor Iza said earlier that the decision to block those sites was made based on input from several institutions, including the National Police and the Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), as well as from the general public. Among the websites blocked included Lemahirengmedia.com, portalpiyungan.com, suara-islam.com and smstauhiid.com.

Zainut criticized the ministry's discriminative treatment on radical Islamic websites. "Why did [the ministry] turn a blind eye and not block sites belonging to other religions that similarly spread radicalism, provocative messages and anti-pluralist sentiments?" Zainut said.

Indonesian Journalist Association (AJI) has also questioned the government's assessment methods in shutting down websites. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/indonesian-ulemas-rue-govts-shutdown-of-radical-sites.html

Environment & natural disasters

Forest, land fires reappear in Riau

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Rizal Harahap, Riau – Forest and land fires have begun to threaten Riau again this week following the increasing number of hot spots detected across the province.

Pekanbaru Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) head Sugarin said the hot spots were first detected by Terra and Aqua satellites on Sunday afternoon.

"At that time, six hot spots were detected. The following day the number increased to seven, with hot spots in Siak, Pelalawan and Kuantan Singingi," Sugarin told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

He said more hot spots were detected in Rokan Hulu (three), Rokan Hilir (three), Siak (two) and another on Meranti Island.

"Four of the hot spots were indicated as fire-linked hot spots with a reliability level of over 70 percent," Sugarin said, adding that hot spots were also detected in other provinces in Sumatra, including Jambi, West Sumatra and North Sumatra.

The reappearance of the hot spots, Sugarin said, might be caused by high temperatures, which hit 34.5 degrees Celsius, and the rampant slash-and-burn practices.

He added that Riau would enter the dry season in February, which was expected to last until March. "The condition makes the forests and land prone to fires," he said.

According to Sugarin, of the 12 regencies/cities in Riau, the most fire-prone regions were Rokan Hilir, Siak, Bengkalis, Dumai and Meranti Island in the eastern coastal area.

This does not mean that other regions are safe from forest and land fires. As for the heat in Riau, Sugarin it was caused by the minimal forming of clouds over the province in the past week.

He said an inter-agency meeting would be held on Friday to follow up on the forest and land fire developments, as well as the current atmosphere phenomena.

Riau Environment and Forestry Agency head Yulwiriati Moesa confirmed the reappearance of forest and land fires in Riau, saying that since Sunday, over 100 hectares of land inside the Bukit Betabuh protected forest area in Pucuk Rantau district, Kuantan Singingi regency was on fire and had not been fully extinguished.

"The forest is located on a hill and it's difficult for firefighters to move around [to put out the fires]. Water resources are also very limited," Yulwiriati said, adding that some parts of the affected areas could not easily be accessed by land.

She said the situation had been reported to Riau governor with the hope that the report would be forwarded to the Environment and Forestry Ministry for further action. She said water bombing seemed to be needed to put out the fires.

"Hopefully, the central government will send helicopters soon to Riau. Otherwise, the fires might spread [to other areas]," she said.

Separately, commander of the Roesmin Nurjadin Air Base Pekanbaru, First Marshal Henri Alfiandi, said his team would look into the issue and coordinate with the Riau Police on further action to tackle the problem.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/forest-land-fires-reappear-in-riau.html

Government continues to fight 11 forest fires in Sumatra, Kalimantan

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Anton Hermansyah, Jakarta – The government is still trying to extinguish 11 forest fires ravaging parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan, a minister says.

Out of the total 11 fires, seven were located in West Sumatra, North Sumatra, Jambi and South Sumatra, while the rest were situated in areas between West Kalimantan and East Kalimantan, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said. Some of the fires swept deep forests, she added.

"In Dharmasraya, West Sumatra, the fire was located in a remote area. We will use a [fire fighting] helicopter to handle it," Siti said at the State Palace on Wednesday.

The Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has predicted that 2017 will be drier than 2016. Some forest fires have even already started to occur this month.

Indonesia, home to the world's third-largest tropical rainforest after the Amazon and Congo Basin, has struggled to address recurrent forest fires happening during the dry season, partly caused by burning to expand plantations.

Siti further said that apart from fighting the ongoing forest fires, the government would monitor 116 hot spots in Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra, which have two dry seasons each year, namely from January to March and July to October.

She also expressed her appreciation on the quicker response of local communities compared to last year as well as better interprovincial coordination in managing fires located in border zones. (lnd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/govt-continues-to-fight-11-forest-fires-in-sumatra-kalimantan.html

Health & education

Cigarette ad ban aims to protect children, lawmaker says

Jakarta Post - January 13, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The House of Representatives' plan to ban tobacco companies from advertising their products on television and radio aims to protect young audiences, says a lawmaker.

Lawmaker Elnino M. Husein Mohi argued that cigarette advertisements could be easily viewed by children.

"Broadcasting companies run the industry using state-owned frequency, which is supposedly used to help build good character," Elnino told The Jakarta Post on Friday, adding that smoking did not help build positive character. "The plan to ban cigarette advertisements is basically meant to protect youngsters from the campaign".

The politician from the Gerindra Party explained the House had included stipulations to ban such advertisements in a draft bill on broadcasting to amend a prevailing law passed in 2002. The current draft was initiated by the House.

Elnino, a member of House Commission I overseeing defense, foreign affairs and information, however, ensured that Commission I would open the deliberation process to the public to include relevant stakeholders in the discussion.

"We are aware of the complexity of the issue. Therefore, deliberations will later invite insights from various stakeholders, including the broadcasting industry, so that we can obtain a comprehensive understanding before passing the bill into law," he emphasized. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/13/cigarette-ad-banaims-to-protect-children-lawmaker-says.html

Why Indonesia is unlikely to ban booze

The Economist - January 13, 2017

Jakarta – For a country with the world's largest population of Muslims, Indonesia is remarkably permissive. Night spots in Jakarta, the capital, and on the resort island of Bali can be raunchy places. It reflects Indonesia's traditionally tolerant teaching of Islam, which rejects fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran for more flexible ones, as well as the presence of large Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities. Yet lately some Muslim groups have become more assertive in pushing an Islamist agenda. One of the ways they are doing so is by seeking to impose a national ban on alcohol.

Two Muslim parties in parliament, the National Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), are proposing legislation that would criminalise the production, distribution and consumption of alcoholic drinks. Anyone caught drinking alcohol could face two years in prison, while those making it or selling it would be put away for ten years. Debates over the proposed law follow a separate government regulation, which took effect in April 2015, banning the sale of beer at the small shops where most Indonesians buy their groceries. The government minister responsible has been sacked, but his ban remains in place. It led to a 13% slide in sales in 2015, according to Euromonitor, a research firm. Most of Indonesia's Muslims are moderate and are not clamouring for prohibition. Alcohol has been produced and consumed in the archipelago for at least 700 years.

Indonesia's Islamists have traditionally pressed for restrictions on alcohol, as well as other activities of which they disapprove, as part of sharia-inspired campaigns against immorality. In the case of the booze ban, however, they are also citing health reasons. Alcohol, they say, causes hundreds of deaths as well as mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. But Indonesians are actually very abstemious: they consume less than one litre of alcohol per head annually. Unlicensed home-brews, known as oplosan, are responsible for nearly all alcohol-related deaths in Indonesia. Produced on a mass scale, sometimes using non-food ingredients such as methanol, these account for more than 80% of the alcohol consumed in Indonesia. Unlike licensed products, which are unaffordable for many people, not least because of a stiff sales tax, opsolan are sold cheaply – often in corners of the country where local authorities have restricted the alcohol trade under powers devolved to them since decentralisation in 2001.

Aside from the risks of boosting the blackmarket trade in unlicensed booze, turning Indonesia dry would be seen by many as an affront to the cultural diversity of the archipelago. Fortunately for Indonesia's tipplers – and this includes many of its Muslims – a national ban looks unlikely. Muslim parties control less than one-third of the seats in parliament. The government, for its part, is proposing far more limited legislation intended, among other things, to curb consumption of toxic oplosan. That is something many Indonesians would support.

Source: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/01/economist-explains-5

Six Persebaya supporters die after drinking bootleg liquor

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Arya Dipa, Bandung – Six supporters of Surabaya soccer club Persebaya have died after consuming bootleg liquor in Subang, West Java, while on their way to Bandung to support their club during the Soccer Association of Indonesia's (PSSI) annual congress.

The congress was set to decide whether Persebaya could once again join the competition.

The West Java Police suspected the liquor was a mix of soda, coconut water and 70 percent alcohol. Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Yusri Yunus said almost 20 people left Surabaya in a car on Jan. 4 before arriving in Subang on Jan. 6, where a supporter of Bandung football club Persib, named Singgih, picked them up. Supporters of Persib and Persebaya are known to have friendly ties.

The group stayed the night at Singgih's house in Subang regency, where they consumed the liquor. In the morning they rode a pick-up truck to Bandung. Three of them died on the way while four became sick. Three more died while receiving medical treatment at Ciereng Hospital.

The victims have been identified as Brian Adam Firdaus, 17; Rudi, 23; Hasrul, aka Foka, 22; Nasif, 18; Cahya Kurniawan, 22; and Sahrul, 18. Yusri said two supporters were still undergoing medical treatment as of Monday. He said the police had questioned Singgih but had yet to name any suspects.

On Sunday, the congress decided to allow Persebaya to rejoin the major competition. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/six-persebaya-supporters-die-after-drinking-bootleg-liquor.html

Gender & lgbt rights

Media in Indonesia biased against LGBT community

Jakarta Post - January 13, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – The media has failed to meet its obligation to educate the public on homosexuality by not being objective and independent in reporting about the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community, a joint study by various NGOs shows.

According to a study by the Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan), Arus Pelangi and OutRight Action International, news and editorial pieces deemed hostile toward the LGBT community were prevalent in 2016, a year in which the rights of Indonesian sexual and gender minorities came under unprecedented attack.

The national media outlets studied were Republika, Antara, Jawapos, Kompas, Seputar Indonesia, Media Indonesia and Suara Pembaruan.

Two hundred news and editorial pieces were deemed biased against the LGBT community in January and February 2016, while only around 60 news items tried to educate the public on various sexual orientations and protect the rights of sexual and gender minorities.

"There's not much awareness among journalists to portray the LGBT community in a more educative way to change the mindset of the public, which in general still lacks understanding," said Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, Soetomo Press Institute (LPDS) lecturer, formally the chairman of the Indonesian Press Council.

The report singled out Kompas as being the only media outlet studied that had a higher number of news pieces that shed a positive light on the LGBT community, while Republika was singled out for the opposite.

"Opinion steering especially happened in Republika because there were so many opinion pieces [that attacked the LGBT community]," said one of the report's researchers, Hendry Thomas Simarmata. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/13/media-in-indonesia-biased-against-lgbt-community.html

Hard-line & vigilante groups

Hundreds of FPI members protest detention of suspects in Bogor attack

Jakarta Globe - January 15, 2017

Jakarta – Hundreds of members of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, gathered in front of the Bogor Police headquarters on Saturday (14/01) to demand the immediate release of 12 sympathizers who were arrested for their alleged involvement in an attack on the offices of the Indonesian Underground Society Movement, or GMBI, in Ciampea near Bogor, West Java, early on Friday morning.

"Our presence here is lawful as the FPI's legal team requests the release of the 12 suspects, who have been accused of committing arson," said Ichwan Tuankota, a member of the FPI's legal team.

He denied that the suspects had been involved in the attack. "We don't believe that they should be suspects, but we respect the law. We demand their release, as five of them are minors," he said.

Ichwan added that the suspects were not members of the FPI, but only sympathizers who acted spontaneously in response to a reported assault on an FPI member in Bandung, West Java.

"Our goal here is to provide legal assistance from the FPI to the sympathizers who have been arrested, because we care and we are willing to help them," he said. Members of the group disbanded after meeting with police representatives.

Bogor Police earlier hosted a mediation session between the FPI and the GMBI, which resulted in several agreements, including a joint statement deploring the incident, and an undertaking to avoid any future disputes.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/hundreds-of-fpi-members-protest-detention-of-suspects-in-bogor-attack/

Police detain 20 FPI members after Bogor attack

Jakarta Globe - January 13, 2017

Jakarta – Bogor Police have detained 20 members of the hardline group Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) after they attacked the office of an organization called GMBI, or the Indonesian Underground Society Movement, in Ciampea near Bogor, West Java.

The detained men will face multiple charges for destroying properties and resisting arrest.

Bogor Police Chief Supt. A.M. Dicky in a statement said the 20 detained men are still undergoing questioning. "Police and military officers tried to prevent [them from burning the office], but the men resisted," Dicky said on Friday (13/01).

Police have also deployed officers to guard the GMBI and FPI offices in Bogor to cool tension between the two organizations.

"We plan to invite both parties to our headquarters to work out a truce, we don't want this fight to continue," Dicky said, adding that neither party should take the law into their own hands.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/police-detain-20-fpi-members-bogor-attack/

Police urge mass organization to cool tension after Bogor attack

Jakarta Globe - January 13, 2017

Jakarta – The police have ordered two mass organizations, the hardline Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) and the Indonesian Underground Society Movement (GMBI), to tone down tension after a series of clashes within the past two days.

FPI and GMBI had clashed in Bandung, West Java, after firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab was questioned by police on Thursday (12/01). On early Friday morning, 150 FPI members in Ciampea, near Bogor, West Java, allegedly retaliated by burning a GMBI office.

"We call on the GMBI and the FPI not to take the law into their own hands, and not to be provoked by unconfirmed reports on social media," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto said on Friday.

Reports said 150 FPI members from the Islamic boarding school Pondok Pesantren At-Taqwa in Cikampak, Bogor, had set fire to the GMBI office and a house in nearby Ciampea. "We have detained 20 [FPI members]. They said they were provoked by misleading information on social media," Rikwanto said.

Reports had spread on social media that an FPI member had been stabbed in Bandung and that several other members had been abducted, information which apparently precipitated the attack in Bogor.

"Unconfirmed reports on social media should be taken with a grain of salt, including the one that went viral on Friday morning. We hope people can help prevent future clashes by reporting criminal violations to the police so a legal action can be taken," Rikwanto added.

West Java Police have confirmed that the stabbing and abduction did not occur, though several fights were reported after the FPI-GMBI clash in Bandung. "There were no casualties in the Bogor attack, only damages to the GMBI office," Rikwanto said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/police-urge-mass-organization-cool-tension-bogor-attack/

FPI, activists clash during Rizieq Shihab Bandung police questioning

Jakarta Globe - January 13, 2017

Jakarta – Members of the hardline Islamic Defender's Front, or FPI, clashed with the Indonesian Lower Class Movement, known as GMBI, while firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab was questioned by police in Bandung, West Java, on Thursday (12/01).

Rizieq, leader of the FPI, and his supporters were mobbed by members of GMBI as they left police headquarters. GMBI members allegedly damaged a motorcycle and a black minivan carrying members of the hardline Islamic group.

The two organizations had both been protesting at the headquarters in Jalan Soekarno-Hatta, Bandung. FPI members had tried to breach the heavily guarded western gate of the complex, while the other group gathered at the eastern gate.

Police secured the premise by installing a barbwire barricade between the two organizations with the clash occurring while the groups were being dispersed.

Previously, several local West Java organizations accused Rizieq of insulting Sundanese culture by making a pun on "sampurasun," the Sundanese word for "hello," and "campur racun" ("mixed with poison").

Rizieq is facing a string of police reports, ranging from blasphemy and hate speech to defamation. He was recently reported again to the Jakarta Police for a speech that went viral across social media in which he allegedly claimed the new rupiah banknotes feature the communist hammer and sickle symbol.

Rizieq said he is not worried by the many legal proceedings he faces, arguing he had only expressed "general worries." Several watchdog organizations and experts have called on the National Police to fast track investigations against the FPI leader.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/fpi-activists-clash-rizieq-shihab-bandung-police-questioning/

Lawmakers promise to follow up on reports filed against FPI's Rizieq Shihab

Jakarta Globe - January 12, 2017

Jakarta – Islamic Defenders' Front, or FPI, leader Rizieq Shihab complained on Wednesday (11/01) to the House of Representatives deputy speakers about reports filed against him.

The speakers, Fahri Hamzah and Fadli Zon, promised to follow up on the reports through the National Police or a legal affairs commission of the House.

"House Commission III [which oversees legal affairs] has a supervisory committee," Fadli said, adding that to follow up on the case is the committee's right that derives from the supervisory function of the House.

The FPI leader is facing accusations of plotting, defamation, blasphemy and hate speech.

Recently, he was reported to the Jakarta Police again for a speech that went viral on social media, in which he allegedly said the new rupiah banknotes featured the hammer-and-sickle symbol that resembles the logo of the long-disbanded and prohibited Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Rizieq said he is not afraid of any legal process against him, as he had only expressed "general worries." He added that he hopes the House will follow up on his complaints "in the name of law enforcement."

Several watchdog organizations and experts have called on the National Police to fast-track their investigations against the FPI leader.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/lawmakers-promise-to-follow-up-on-reports-filed-against-rizieq/

Another police report filed against FPI's Rizieq, adding to long list of

Jakarta Globe - January 9, 2017

Jakarta – Rizieq Shihab, leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, was reported to the Jakarta Police again on Sunday (08/01) for alleged incitement related to comments he made about Indonesia's new rupiah banknotes.

The Anti-Slander Young Intellectual Network (Jimaf) accused Rizieq of having spread a hoax and hate speech based on race, religion, ethnicity and group affiliation.

In a speech that went viral on social media, Rizieq allegedly said the new rupiah banknotes feature the hammer-and-sickle symbol that resembles the logo of the long-disbanded and prohibited Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

"In his speech, Rizieq made up a story, which went viral, about the PKI logo being featured on the new banknotes, and he accused the government of having made a mistake. Meanwhile the government has always been firm against the PKI, which is a banned party," Jimaf coordinator M. Herdiyan Saksono Zoulba said in Jakarta on Sunday.

Herdiyan said Rizieq has triggered worries among the public and that the FPI leader's statement was unfounded.

Rizieq is charged with violating the 2016 Information and Electronics Transactions (ITE) Law, adding to an already long list of reports against him.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Mochamad Iriawan said Rizieq's statement constituted a form of incitement, as his organization had already received a proper explanation from Bank Indonesia, which denied the accusation related to the PKI logo on the new banknotes. The police's criminal investigation unit is currently processing a report filed by the Indonesian Catholic Students Association (PMKRI) against Rizieq after he reportedly made comments during a speech that were critical of Christmas celebrations.

Interreligious youth organization Rumah Pelita earlier also reported Rizieq for alleged hate speech. Several watchdog organizations and experts have called on the National Police to fast-track their investigations against the FPI leader.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/another-police-report-filed-against-fpis-rizieq-adding-to-long-list-of-complaints/

Freedom of religion & worship

Violations of religious freedom increase in 2016: Komnas HAM

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – The National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has recorded a steady increase of violations of religious freedom in the last three years.

Komnas HAM's faith freedom desk coordinator Jayadi Damanik revealed that throughout 2016, his commission had received 97 reports related to violations of religious freedom. The figure is higher than in 2014 and 2015, in which the desk received 74 and 87 reports, respectively.

"The number, of course, doesn't necessarily reflect the actual circumstance because there were cases that went unreported," Jayadi said at his office in Jakarta on Tuesday during Komnas HAM's year-end report on religious freedom.

According to the report, the two provinces with the highest number of cases were West Java with 21 and Jakarta with 19, which also topped the list last year. North Sulawesi comes as a surprise for assuming third rank with 11 reports. In 2015, Komnas HAM only received one complaint from that province.

Of the total numbers, prohibition and vandalism against houses of worship topped the list with 44 reports, followed by prohibiting religious followers to practice their religions with 19 reports.

"Threatening and intimidating religious groups was the third most frequent report in 2016 with 12 cases. This indicates that threats and intimidation have increased. In 2015, we only received seven reports," Jayadi said. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/violations-of-religious-freedom-increase-in-2016-komnas-ham.html

Rights body to monitor, guide administrations on religious freedom

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has vowed to intensify communications with regional administrations in an attempt to proliferate rights principles and curb the escalating number of religious freedom violations.

Komnas HAM chairman Imdadun Rahmat said many problems related to religious freedom were caused by ignorance and negligence from regional administration officials in properly handling the issue, hence his commission would increase direct involvement with cities and regencies thought to have difficulties dealing with the matter.

"In the future, we will strengthen the roles of regional leaders in protecting religious freedom. We will not only conduct monitoring, but also mentoring," Imdadun said at his office on Tuesday during the release of a year-end report on religious freedom.

He said that based on his experience, many regional leaders were reluctant to discuss problems of religious freedom in their respective areas and considered the topic taboo. Therefore, many religious freedom violations went unsolved and undetected.

"We, nonetheless, praise regional administrations that have made efforts to promote tolerance. We will continue to show appreciation to administrations that establish interfaith forums or conduct interfaith discussions and trainings," he said.

Komnas HAM has recorded a steady increase of violations of religious freedom in the last three years. Throughout 2016, the commission received 97 reports related to violations of religious freedom. The figure was higher than in 2014 and 2015, when the rights body received 74 and 87 reports, respectively. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/rights-body-to-monitor-guide-administrations-on-religious-freedom.html

West Java fails to improve tolerance

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) revealed Tuesday that West Java remained the most intolerant province, blaming some regional heads for neglecting the need to uphold human rights in their respective areas.

Komnas HAM wrote in its annual report that most of the cases related to violation of freedom of religion in 2016 were reported in West Java, in which a string of massive demonstrations by Muslim groups took place to demand the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy.

Some 21 cases related to religious freedom violations were reported in West Java last year, Komnas HAM revealed in its findings, which found some regional administrations had "little comprehension toward and lack of commitment to upholding human rights".

West Java, which is also the province with the largest population of 43 million, came out on top for being the most intolerant province in Indonesia in 2014 and 2015, during which reported religious freedom violation cases amounted to 34 and 20 cases, respectively.

Komnas HAM chairman Imdadun Rahmat said that the commission had tried to approach regional heads in West Java in response to the rights violation reports but said that "some of them are resisting to respond with firm action".

"The process [to approach leaders in West Java] is still ongoing. Some of our efforts have been fruitful and some of the leaders have been cooperative. However, there are also leaders who think that human rights are not important and that our efforts are hampering development [in their respective regions]," Imdadun told a press briefing at Komnas HAM headquarters in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Cases reported in West Java last year include: vigilantism carried out by the Ahlussunnah Defenders (PAS), a hard-line Muslim group that shut down a Christmas service at Sasana Budaya Ganesha (Sabuga) in Bandung in December; Muslim minority faith followers, Ahmadiyah, being prohibited from conducting religious activities in Subang in March; and extortion of churches for permits in Bandung in June.

Imdadun, who serves as the commission's special rapporteur on freedom of religion, said that Komnas HAM was focusing on approaching regencies and municipal administrations, as it believed that through the regional autonomy system, they could "uphold human rights" through rights-friendly policies.

Imdadun cited the immediate response by Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil, one of numerous social media savvy regional leaders in Indonesia, in the wake of PAS' intolerant act in December. Ridwan announced his commitment to ensure the rights of Bandung citizens to freely exercise their religious beliefs.

Komnas HAM's religion and faith freedom division coordinator Jayadi Damanik, who was also present at the briefing, revealed that the commission had found indication of police officers allegedly supporting PAS in the Bandung incident.

"We have presented these findings to the National Police," Jayadi said. National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian decided to appoint new West Java and Bandung Police chiefs in December, following the incident in Bandung.

New West Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Anton Charliyan said he would prioritize efforts to prevent intolerant acts from taking place in the province, stressing the need to cooperate with other parties, namely the country's two biggest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/w-java-fails-to-improve-tolerance.html

Regional administrations to blame for violations against religious freedom:

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – Regional administrations are the most frequent abusers when it comes to violations against religious freedom, a report released by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has revealed.

According to the report, of the 97 complaints submitted to the rights body, regional governments have been reported 52 times, more than those filed against mass organizations (13) and groups not affiliated with any organization (12). The report also revealed a significant increase compared to last year, when regional administrations were reported to have violated religious freedom 36 times.

"This finding is very concerning because administrations are supposed to protect their citizens. This fact poses a serious threat to freedoms and rights, particularly on the regional levels," Komnas HAM's faith freedom desk coordinator Jayadi Damanik said at the organization's office in Jakarta on Tuesday.

He added that some officials in the governments were still ignorant about the importance of protecting religious freedom and were often influenced by intolerant majorities in their respective areas.

"According to our study, in six areas in West Java the three main factors fueling the violations are the low level of understanding of government officials about human rights principles, the inability of regional leaders to deal with intolerant groups and the implementation of regional laws that often contradict higher laws," Jayadi said, without revealing the names of the cities.

The report showed that West Java was the most intolerant province in the country, with 21 violations occurring throughout 2016. (dmr) Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/regional-administrations-to-blame-for-violations-against-religious-freedom-komnas-ham.html

National reconciliation board to promote diversity: Cabinet secretary

Jakarta Globe - January 10, 2017

Jakarta – The government has tipped the establishment of a National Reconciliation Board, to be filled with leading public figures, to promote diversity and multiculturalism, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said.

"The people sitting in the reconciliation board will be those who have qualified track records. These are the people who do not make controversies," Pramono said on Monday (09/01).

Several ministers have been asked to prepare a presidential regulation on the establishment of the board with hopes of minimizing political tensions. The Education Ministry will introduce a study subject focusing on multiculturalism and diversity, Pramono said.

Previously, Chief Security Minister Wiranto said that peaceful deliberation is the characteristic of Indonesia's problem solving methods. He explained that all leaders have their own ways to settle conflicts peacefully.

The National Reconciliation Board, according to Wiranto, will facilitate and resolve an issue with deliberations.

"As we adopt the laws from Europe, every case will be brought to justice, be it conflict process or pro justicia. [At the board], we would like a case to be resolved with non justicia, not by settling conflicts in court rooms," Wiranto said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/national-reconciliation-board-promote-diversity-cabinet-secretary/

Megawati calls on 'silent majority' to counter intolerant groups

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Margareth A. Aritonang, Jakarta – Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri expressed her concerns over rising intolerance against minority groups in the country, calling on the "silent majority" to unite to tackle the problem.

Speaking during a ceremony to celebrate the party's 44th anniversary in Jakarta on Tuesday, Megawati said the recent rampant violence against minority groups was due to "closed ideology" imposed by intolerant groups that referred themselves as "self-fulfilling prophecy" messengers.

"[...] It's time for the silent majority to speak up and team up," she said without referring to specific groups. "I am convinced that the majority of the people of the Republic of Indonesia love the unity that lives in this country," she added.

She repeatedly assured that such groups were against the state's ideology of Pancasila, which promotes diversity.

Megawati further called on all party members working for the government and for the House of Representatives to use their power to work for unity.

Several conservative Islamic groups halted a Christmas service in Bandung, while another group visited shopping malls in Surabaya in December to check whether workers were being forced to wear Christmas attire.(jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/megawati-calls-on-silent-majority-to-counter-intolerant-groups.html

Bantul to replace Catholic official after protests from Muslims

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – The Bantul regency administration in Yogyakarta decided on Monday to replace the Catholic district head of Pajangan, Yulius Suharta, after protests from Pajangan district residents. The residents of Pajangan district are mostly Muslims.

Bantul Regent Suharsono said the decision was made after a meeting with figures from Pajangan district and the Bantul Council on Monday. In the meeting, most party factions on the Bantul Council agreed to replace Yulius with a Muslim.

"We're moving him to Bambanglipuro district, where the number of non-Muslims is higher," Suharsono said after the meeting.

He said the protests from the residents were related to an incident where a Muslim group, Indonesian Jihad Forum (FJI), protested the unveiling of a new, large statue of Jesus, called Patung Wajah Kerahiman, at Yakobus Alfeus Church in Pajangan in October last year.

The regent said the residents were still emotional because the ceremony for the statue involved Muslim women. In October, a picture of the women, all wearing hijabs and posing with the statue, went viral.

"Humans can err, or make mistakes," the regent said, referring to his decision to appoint Yulius for the Pajangan post. He said Yulius would be replaced next month.

A Pajangan community figure, Temu Panggih Raharjo, said Yulius' appointment was not suitable with the psychological condition of the residents after the case of the Jesus statue in the Yakobus Alfeus Church.

Yulius said he was ready to take up the new post. He was installed in Pajangan on Dec. 30.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/bantul-to-replace-catholic-official-after-protests-from-muslims-1483968029.html

Religion & morality

Casual sex does not constitute crime: Govt

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Ina Parlina, Jakarta – Thursday's hearing at the Constitutional Court (MK) again saw a fierce debate about criminalizing consensual sex outside marriage between unmarried couples, with representatives from the government insisting that casual sex does not constitute a crime.

Hotman Sitorus of the Law and Human Rights Ministry, who represented the government in the controversial case, insisted that consensual sex outside marriage fell into moral jurisdiction and therefore could not be considered a crime.

"The government, without a doubt, is of the same opinion that adultery is against our morality. But there is a legal principle of 'no victim, no crime'. [While] experts say there are many victims in society, criminal law perceives victims as concrete entities," said Hotman.

The government has demanded the bench to reject the petition, which was filed by a number of individuals from various backgrounds, including lecturers, housewives and private employees grouped under the Family Love Alliance (AILA), to alter some provisions in the Criminal Code for their cause.

The government based its argument on the grounds that the deliberation to revise the Criminal Code was currently underway at the House of Representatives, saying that it was better to wait for the lawmakers to come to a decision.

The Criminal Code covers neither sex outside marriage between unmarried couples nor same-sex relationships; and the articles in question currently criminalize only extramarital sex between married couples and child sexual abuse. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/casual-sex-does-not-constitute-crime-govt.html

More experts speak at court to have casual, LGBT sex criminalized

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Ina Parlina, Jakarta – Experts taking the witness stand at the Constitutional Court argued that allowing extramarital sex between unmarried couples and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) sexual activities might turn Indonesia into an uncivilized nation, in a controversial judicial review that seeks to criminalize both consensual extramarital sex and homosexual sex acts.

Three experts took the witness stand on Thursday in support of the Association of Muslim Housewives (Persistri), which supports the petition filed by a number of individuals from various backgrounds, including lecturers, housewives and private employees grouped under the Family Love Alliance (AILA) to alter provisions in the Criminal Code (KUHP) for their cause.

Elly Risman, an expert on psychology and parenting, said the existing provisions were outdated in the era of technology and the internet, where information could negatively affect children. "Extramarital sex has turned into a lifestyle," she told the hearing. "How we can save the nation if we don't have the tools [the laws]?"

Another witness, education expert and scholar Syamsu Yusuf, said many educators considered the number of people leading such lifestyles as having reached an alarming level, deeming it a "moral disaster".

The KUHP does not cover extramarital sex between unmarried couples or same-sex relationships, and the articles in question criminalize only extramarital sex between married couples and child sexual abuse.

The government has opposed the case, demanding the bench to reject the petition.

Presiding justice Anwar Usman adjourned the hearing, which was initially the last session before the bench held closed-door deliberations, until next Thursday to give opposing sides more time to let their witnesses speak. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/more-experts-speak-at-court-to-have-casual-lgbt-sex-criminalized.html

Agriculture & food security

Household sugar imports reach 1.1 million tons in 2016: Farmers

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Stefani Ribka, Jakarta – Indonesian Sugarcane Farmers Association (APTRI) chairman Soemitro Samadikun claims 1.1 million tons of imported household sugar hampered the local sugar market last year.

"This import was really negative for farmers. The government needs to pay attention to the issue. Because of that, sugarcane farmers lost their appetite to stay in this business. The country could be a big net importer," he said on the sidelines of an event in Jakarta on Monday.

He said household sugar produced by farmers reached 2.2 million tons last year, just short the 500,000 tons needed to fulfill national demand of 2.7 million tons.

He added that of the 1.1 million tons of household sugar, 381,000 tons had been ordered by state plantation firm PTPN X, 100,000 tons by state logistics agency Bulog and 200,000 tons by state trader Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia (PPI), among others.

Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukito, however, said household sugar had not been imported in 2016, adding that only some 300,000 tons of industry sugar imports had been leaked to the market.

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) arrested last year then Regional Representatives Council (DPD) speaker Irman Gusman for allegedly accepting bribes to increase the sugar import quota for an importer in West Sumatra. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/household-sugar-imports-reach-1-1-million-tons-in-2016-farmers.html

Land & agrarian conflicts

More than 100,000 people evicted for land reclamation: Report

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – More than 100,000 fishermen and people living in Indonesia's coastal areas lost their homes in connection with land reclamation projects in 2016, according to a report by activists.

Fishermen had to relocate far from their livelihoods, as the government and developers proceeded with ambitious reclamation projects all over the country.

At least 16 coastal areas were affected by reclamation projects, according to the report by the People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA), released on Tuesday.

"As a result, more than 107,361 fishermen [not counting their family members] were evicted from their livelihoods," the report says. That figure does not take into account the 2.2 million lives that might be affected by the controversial Benoa Bay reclamation project in Bali.

Even if the fishermen did not lose their livelihoods and continued to work as fishermen, their welfare was severely affected by the reclamation projects, the report said, referring to the massive reclamation project in the Jakarta Bay as an example.

"Our data and information center found that almost all costs for fishing had doubled. At the same time, catches and income had decreased drastically," the report says. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/more-than-100000-people-evicted-for-land-reclamation-report.html

Indigenous culture & rights

Widodo lauded for recognizing indigenous people's rights

UCA News - January 10, 2017

Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Indigenous communities in Indonesia have lauded a decision by President Joko Widodo granting nine indigenous groups thousands of hectares of customary land.

Indigenous groups have been campaigning for years for entitlement to land which they say is rightfully theirs and which is being eaten up or is under threat from plantation companies.

"This is an important gift for indigenous people after more than seventy years of independence," Abdon Nababan, secretary-general of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago said Jan. 8.

Widodo issued a decree providing more than 13,000 hectares of customary land to nine indigenous communities across the country in a move he said demonstrates the government's recognition of the importance of indigenous communities. "Such recognition provides security for indigenous peoples," he said.

However, the fight is not over yet, according to Nababan because there are still many people who need entitlement to about 40 million hectares of customary land.

Luluk Uliyah, executive director of Epistema Institute, an NGO focusing on environmental management studies, said Widodo's decision demonstrated "the government's commitment to maintain the ecological balance and social justice for indigenous peoples."

Bernardine Steni, a Catholic environmental researcher at the Earth Innovative Institute, said the land allocation was important because it included forests under serious threat by plantation companies.

Communities benefiting from Widodo's decree include the Tano Batak indigenous group of Pandumaan – Sipituhuta in North Sumatra. According to reports, PT Toba Pulp Lestari, a plantation firm, previously controlled more than 5,000 hectares of their customary land.

The decree restores their right to the land since President Widodo has instructed the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to remove the company's entitlement to it.

"This is a source of great joy for the community," said Brihannala Morgan, senior forest campaigner for the Rainforest Action Network, an environmental group that has helped the community in fighting for their rights. "We congratulate them and celebrate this success," he said.

Meanwhile, Sardi Razak from the Ammatoa Kajang indigenous communities in Bulukumban regency, South Sulawesi, said recognizing people's rights over more than 300 hectares of customary land there shows government respect for the community's traditions.

"For a long time, the community has used the land for traditional activities. By recognizing it, the community can maintain their traditions," he said.

However, Father Anselmus Amo, head of Merauke Diocese's Justice and Peace Commission, said indigenous Papuan people continue to experience marginalization, as a result of the government granting licenses to plantation companies.

One mega project, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate, which converted almost five million hectares of forest into palm oil plantations and rice fields, has marginalized about 70,000 people of the Malind tribe, he said.

"We hope that in future, there is recognition for the rights of these indigenous people, so the systematic practice of marginalization does not continue," he said.

Source: http://www.ucanews.com/news/widodo-lauded-for-recognizing-indigenous-peoples-rights/78046

Armed forces & defense

Ministers hold meeting on Bela Negara, to incorporate it in schools

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu held on Thursday an annual meeting with other ministers, including Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, to discuss the country's defense strategy this year, including the controversial Bela Negara program.

The meeting, which was closed to journalists, discussed, among other things, Indonesia's cooperation with neighboring countries, the country's roles in peacekeeping operations and Bela Negara for all Indonesian citizens, the ministry said in a statement.

The Bela Negara program has received harsh criticism from democracy activists, with protests intensifying recently following an event in which Lebak Military Command trained members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

Minister Tjahjo told reporters after the meeting that the government was finalizing regulations on the Bela Negara program, which he said would later be incorporated into school and university curriculum to familiarize citizens with the basic ideas of the state's ideology, Pancasila, and the Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) principle.

"If we do not implement the Bela Negara program, 100 years from now, [our generations] will have no idea when asked about Pancasila," Tjahjo said. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/ministers-hold-meeting-on-bela-negara-to-incorporate-it-in-schools.html

TNI chief denies spat with Jokowi

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo has denied reports claiming that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo reprimanded the top military official for unilaterally suspending military cooperation with Australia.

Speaking after a Christmas celebration event at the headquarters of the TNI complex on Wednesday, Gatot said the rumor of a spat between him and Jokowi over relations between the TNI and its counterpart the Australian Defense Force (ADF) was a hoax.

"As I've said before, everything I've done [is acknowledged] by the President as he is my commander. Such warnings are not true," Gatot told reporters.

Citing two government sources, Reuters recently reported that Jokowi "reproached" Gatot during a plenary Cabinet meeting at Bogor Palace last week, amid concerns the military chief was "out of control after he unilaterally suspended defense cooperation" with Australia.

Last month, the TNI moved to halt a language exchange program with the ADF following the discovery of teaching material deemed offensive by an Indonesian officer at an Australian military academy in November.

The material allegedly mocked Indonesia's state ideology, Pancasila. Some teaching materials used in the academy allegedly discredited the TNI and tweaked Pancasila, which means five principles, to become "Pancagila", or "five crazy principles". (jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/tni-chief-denies-spat-with-jokowi.html

FPI may join military training: TNI commander

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo said on Wednesday that all citizens, including members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) had equal opportunity to join the Bela Negara (State Defense) program to obtain skills useful for defending the state.

"All citizens have the right to defend the state. However, it must be done according to the proper procedures," Gatot told the press on the sidelines of a gathering at TNI headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta.

Gatot explained that a recent training session for FPI members in Lebak, Banten, was questionable, unlike previous sessions that occurred in other parts of the country, because it violated protocol as Lebak military commander Lt. Col. Czi Ubaidillah did not inform his superiors about the training.

"All regional commanders must inform their superiors [to host such training]. The procedure requires commanders of the Koramil [Subdistrict Military Command] to report to the Dandim [Regional Military Command], and then Dandim reports to Danrem [Military Resort Command]," he explained.

Gatot was citing the training of FPI members in Madura, East Java, conducted in 2014, which attracted public attention only recently after the FPI uploaded photos of the session on its Instagram account @dpp_fpi days after the Lebak incident. According to Gatot, the training in Madura was approved because it fulfilled the proper procedures.

Gatot's clarification reinforces the policy line of the Defense Ministry's policy, the initiator of the program. Like Gatot, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu also upheld the training of FPI members.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/fpi-may-join-military-training-tni-commander.html

Defense Ministry upholds training for Islam Defenders Front

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Contrary to the Indonesian Military (TNI), the Defense Ministry has defended Bela Negara (State Defense) training for members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Tuesday that the military style training was for all citizens regardless of their backgrounds, including FPI members, but should be done properly.

"As long as we teach [the participants] good things, why not? All people of the country must defend the state. And so must the FPI," Ryamizard said.

TNI spokesperson Maj. Gen. Wuryanto previously said the military institution had banned FPI members from undertaking the training after photos of a session in Lebak, Banten, were uploaded to the FPI's Instagram account @dpp_fpi.

The TNI later removed Lebak military commander Lt. Col. Czi Ubaidillah from his post for holding the training. Wuryanto gave his assurances that regional commanders throughout the country were prohibited from providing training to the FPI although the military has yet to issue an official letter to confirm such instructions. The FPI has posted more photos of similar trainings held by the military for its members in Madura, East Java.

Ryamizard said his office would conduct its own investigation into the incident in Lebak over a violation of proper procedures that led the public to question the Bela Negara program. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/defense-ministry-upholds-training-for-islam-defenders-front.html

Democracy activists call for review of controversial state defense training

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The controversial State Defense program gained criticism following the recent involvement of members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) in the military-like training, which pro-democracy activists referred as a "stain on democracy", one activist has said.

The head of the department of politics of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Irene Gayatri, said that the State Defense program itself was problematic in nature because of the possibility it created to mobilize civilians for war duties.

"Will we give space for a vigilante mass organization like the FPI, which has repeatedly committed violence, to ruin democracy in the name of defending the state?" she asked.

Irene said that the Indonesian Military (TNI) would also ruin the image of the institution by providing military-style training to a controversial organization like the FPI.

The State Defense program has raised criticism from the start when the Defense Ministry introduced the training to the public last year. The controversial program attracted attention again recently following the posting of photographs on Instagram by an account belonging to the FPI, @dpp_fpi, showing pictures of its members in Lebak, Banten, being trained by TNI officers.

The Siliwangi Military Command has fired Lebak military commander Lt. Col. Czi Ubaidillah for having held the training session in Banten, which human rights activist Hendardi called "a correct decision", although he encouraged TNI to take more actions to discipline its members for misconduct.

"Firing the Lebak military commander is not enough to make sure the TNI distances itself from intolerant and destructive groups that pose a threat to diversity, as well as to the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia]," said the director of the Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based human rights watchdog. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/democracy-activists-call-for-review-of-controversial-state-defense-training.html

State defense training for FPI not allowed: TNI

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The Indonesian Military (TNI) has banned Bela Negara (State Defense) training for any member of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) in the country, an official says.

TNI spokesperson Maj. Gen. Wuryanto assured that regional commanders throughout the country were prohibited from giving training to the FPI.

"It is not allowed," he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, emphasizing that the recent training session in Lebak, Banten, was a blunder and not a policy of the military institution.

The TNI has been in the spotlight after photos of military-style training for FPI members in Lebak, uploaded by FPI's Instagram account @dpp_fpi went viral. The account also posted photos of similar training taking place in Madura, East Java.

The Siliwangi Military Command later stripped Lebak military commander Lt. Col. Czi Ubaidillah of his post for having held the training session, which according to Siliwangi Military Command spokesperson Col. M Desi Arianto violated proper procedures implemented by the military institution.

The incident has also revived criticism over the Bela Negara program for providing training to non-military personnel. Although, the Defense Ministry had previously promised that military training would only be given to ordinary citizens in special circumstances, such as for residents living in conflict-prone areas. (jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/state-defense-training-for-fpi-not-allowed-tni.html

Cabinet secretary Pramono speaks on 'Defend the Nation' controversy

Jakarta Globe - January 10, 2017

Jakarta – Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung has said the military-run Bela Negara, or Defend the Nation, program will be monitored closely after an official was disciplined for hosting members of the hardline Islamic Defender's Front, or FPI, at an event last week.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) dropped Lt. Col. Ubaidillah from his position as District Military Commander in Lebak, Banten, following the exercise.

"It is a valuable experience for anyone who wishes to create such an event," Pramono said at the Presidential Palace Complex in Jakarta on Monday (09/01).

Pramono said he had spoken to Siliwangi Regional Military Commander Maj. Gen. Muhammad Herindra about the discharge. The commander said the exercise had not been run according to procedure.

Initial investigations found Ubaidillah had railed to report the Bela Negara event to his superiors: Banten Military Commander Col. Wirana Prasetya Budi and Siliwangi Regional Military Commander Maj. Gen. Muhammad Herindra.

"The exercise was done on the sub-district level. The sub-district commander reported to the district military commander. The commander has now been discharged [for failing to report]," Pramono said.

The Bela Negara program will now be run by the National Resilience Board, in line with a decision made by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. "We only have to wait for the presidential regulation," Pramono said.

Meanwhile, human rights groups have warned against events which involve intolerant groups, calling on Jokowi to reevaluate the Bela Negara program which has been the source of controversy since it was introduced by the Defense Ministry in 2015.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/cabinet-secretary-pramono-speaks-defend-nation-controversy/

Jokowi urged to evaluate Bela Negara following FPI training

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Jakarta – The Setara Institute urged President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to evaluate the Bela Negara program following criticisms against Indonesian Military (TNI) in Lebak that gave Bela Negara (State Defense) training to members of the hard-line Islam Defender Front (FPI).

Setara Institute chairman Hendardi said as quoted by Antara news agency on Monday that the program had been running for two years using taxpayer money, but the results had been questionable.

"The immediate step for President Jokowi to take is to evaluate and ask for comprehensive accountability reports from Defense Ministry and the TNI, which run the program," said Hendardi.

He said the TNI's decision to dismiss Lebak military commander Lt. Col. Czi Ubaidillah from his post by Siliwangi military commander Maj. Gen. Herindra was the right decision to remind other units in the TNI to not get involved in politics amid threats against Indonesia's diversity and controversy against the FPI.

"Although this is a positive step, I still cannot understand how a TNI unit's program could be carried out without the knowledge of the superiors, considering TNI's command line, which is the most solid in this republic," he said.

He said Czi's dismissal did not guarantee that TNI would be able to detach itself from intolerant groups in the future. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/jokowi-urged-to-evaluate-bela-negara-following-fpi-training.html

PDI-P questions military training for FPI members

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Members of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle have taken a different stance to fellow lawmakers by supporting the Indonesian Military's (TNI) decision to strip an officer off his position for giving Bela Negara (state defense) training to members of the Islam Defender Front (FPI).

PDI-P praised the TNI for a "quick response" by dismissing Lebak military commander Lt. Col. Czi Ubaidillah. Other lawmakers, such as Fadli Zon, had criticized the decision, saying training for FPI members was fine.

"[The firing] shows that the TNI, as an institution, has admitted that there was a flawed procedure in arranging the training [in Lebak]," PDI-P executive member Andreas Hugo Pareira said Monday.

Andreas, who is also a member of House of Representatives Commission I that oversees defense affairs, called on the military as well as the Defense Ministry to thoroughly review the defense training policy.

According to Andreas, the TNI has yet to provide a clear definition of threats, particularly from the outside, that Indonesia must deal with in training ordinary citizens to defend the state.

The state defense program has raised criticism from the public ever since it was initiated by the Defense Ministry last year, with people questioning the need to equip citizens with military skills. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/pdi-p-questions-military-training-for-fpi-members.html

Joko moves to rein in Indon military chief

News.com - January 9, 2017

Tom Allard and Kanupriya Kapoor (Reuters) – Indonesia's President Joko Widodo reproached his military chief in a meeting last week amid concerns the commander was "out of control" after he unilaterally suspended defence co-operation with Australia, two sources briefed on the meeting say.

Widodo's intervention highlights alarm about General Gatot Nurmantyo, who promotes the notion that Indonesia is besieged by "proxy wars", in which foreign states seek to undermine the nation by manipulating non-state actors.

Analysts and some of Widodo's aides are also concerned that Nurmantyo is laying the groundwork for an expansion of the military's role in civilian affairs in the world's third-largest democracy and may have political ambitions himself.

Widodo, the first president from outside the military and political establishment, needed to move quickly to demonstrate his authority as the country's commander-in-chief, one senior government official said. "With Gatot, the feeling is like he's a little out of control," he said.

Nurmantyo declared a rupture in military ties after an Indonesian officer found "offensive" teaching material while on a language training course in Australia late last year.

The material suggested that Indonesia's Papua province should be independent and mocked the nation's state ideology, Pancasila, according to Nurmantyo.

One of the officials told Reuters Widodo and others in the government were caught off guard when local media reported Nurmantyo's announcement of the suspension in military ties with Australia.

While the general was not formally reprimanded, the official said, Widodo served him a warning during a meeting at a presidential palace in Bogor, outside Jakarta.

The meeting was confirmed by another senior government aide, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Nurmantyo declined requests to be interviewed and a military spokesman declined to comment on the meeting.

The senior government official said: "We suspect that Gatot is exploiting this incident for his own political agenda, his own political ambition."

"He has been making many public appearances and speeches lately," he said. "Frankly, we think many of them about proxy wars and the threat to Indonesia are absolutely ridiculous."

In one speech, Nurmantyo predicted that a food shortage in China could trigger a flood of boat-borne refugees. He told listeners he would slaughter 10 cows and dump them into the sea to attract sharks that would devour the Chinese.

One of the officials who disclosed Widodo's meeting with Nurmantyo said the military chief's job was safe, downplaying speculation that the general would be relieved of his duties. "For now, we are confident that he will not betray the president or the civilian government," he said.

The ABC reported last week that Nurmantyo told an audience in Indonesia recently he believed the Australian military was attempting to recruit Indonesian soldiers sent to the country for training. Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne rejected the allegation.

Source: http://www.news.com.au/world/breaking-news/joko-moves-to-rein-in-indon-military-chief/news-story/47adf1ab874872ac7e56cf61989c44b9

Protests against military training for FPI exaggerated: Fadli Zon

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Defending military training given to members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) through the Bela Negara (State Defense) program, House Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon slammed critics who were questioning the program and FPI's participation in it.

The politician from the Gerindra Party also criticized the military's decision to strip Lebak military commander Lt. Col. Czi Ubaidillah of his post for recruiting the FPI in Banten to take the training recently, calling the decision "regrettable".

"I think [the decision] needs not to be that dramatic," Fadli told the press on Monday. "All citizens of this country are equal. Everyone has the right to take part in Bela Negara [training] and so does every mass organization."

"The more people participate in the training to defend the state regardless of their backgrounds the better, as long as they are committed to the NKRI [the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia]. I think it will give a positive vibe to the country. Thus we must continue developing [the Bela Negara training]," Fadli added.

The Indonesian Military made the decision to strip Czi of his command in response to a public outcry after news of the training went viral following an Instagram post by @dpp_fpi of several photographs of the session. The Instagram account @dpp_fpi has also posted photographs of similar training in Madura, East Java.

The TNI has yet to issue an official statement on the matter. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/protests-against-military-training-for-fpi-exaggerated-fadli-zon.html

Lebak Military commander replaced for training FPI

Jakarta Post - January 9, 2017

Jakarta – The Siliwangi Military Command has stripped Lebak military commander Lt. Col. Czi Ubaidillah of his post for reportedly having held a Bela Negara (State Defense) training session for mass organization Islam Defenders Front (FPI) in Banten recently.

"Based on our questioning of the Lebak military commander, [we found] a procedural error where he had failed to report either to the Banten military commander or Siliwangi military commander prior to holding the Bela Negara training session," Siliwangi Military Command spokesperson Col. M Desi Arianto was quoted as saying by Antara in a statement on Sunday.

Desi further said the Siliwangi military commander had a replacement in line for the now vacant Lebak military commander post. "There will be a new officer to replace him [Czi]," he added.

The training went viral following an Instagram post by @dpp_fpi that posted several photographs of the session.

"The Indonesian Military and FPI organized a Bela Negara introductory training session and an activity to plant 10,000 trees in Lebak Banten," the caption of the post explains.

Hendardi of the Setara Institute questioned the motive behind the training of the FPI members given the group's notoriety for vigilantism and being intolerant towards minority groups. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/09/lebak-military-commander-replaced-for-training-fpi.html

Criminal justice & legal system

Constitutional Court upholds AGO's authority to drop cases

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – The Constitutional Court on Wednesday made a verdict upholding the prerogative authority of the Attorney General's Office to drop a case when it is in the public interest, known as deponering, after some parties filed for a judicial review to challenge the power, saying it was against the principle of equality before the law.

The judges said in their verdict that the AGO's authority to drop a case did not violate the principle of equality before the law because it was only executed for the public interest after getting input from relevant state institutions.

"The attorney general is required to pay attention to input and suggestions from state institutions that are related in any given case," presiding judge Arief Hidayat read from the verdict.

The AGO's deponering right is stipulated in Article 35 of Law No.16/2004 on the attorney general.

The request for a judicial review had been filed by some parties to challenge the AGO's deponering right as stipulated in Article 35 of the law. Among those who filed for the judicial review were two men who claimed to have been shot by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan for allegedly stealing a bird's nest when the latter was still an active police officer in Bengkulu in 2004.

Novel's case had been processed at the Bengkulu District Court after the National Police suddenly decided to continue it as part of a spat between the KPK and the police.

The AGO previously dropped another case involving two KPK commissioners, saying it was done in the public interest.(jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/constitutional-court-upholds-agos-authority-to-drop-cases.html

National security & intelligence

Police ignore House, proceed with treason case

Jakarta Post - January 13, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The National Police ignore calls by the House of Representatives and proceed with the investigation of alleged treason attempt against President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

House Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon has urged the police to terminate the investigation by saying the ongoing legal process of the suspects had a lack of evidence.

Fadli made the announcement after meeting with one of the suspects, Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, who complained about the police imposing power on her through the investigation she referred to as questionable.

However, National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Rikwanto defended the police's investigation, ensuring that his institution had gathered evidence and would continue to search for more to punish the suspects. He cited a tracked transfer of money from Rachmawati to several individuals allegedly planning a rally to question Jokowi's leadership in December last year.

"We have identified where the money came from, and we are investigating for further evidence," Rikwanto told the press on Thursday. "Everyone can comment on the matter. The House is discussing the political aspects [of the case], but we are dealing with the legal matter so the legal process can continue".

Rachmawati came to the House last Wednesday to file a complaint over the police's investigation of her case, convincing lawmakers that the police have conducted improper procedures by questioning her. Following the meeting, the House plans to set up a special committee for the treason charges in order to scrutinize the matter. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/13/police-ignore-house-proceed-with-treason-case.html

PDI-P on guard to protect Jokowi: Megawati

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Megawati Soekarnoputri, the chairwoman of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), has sent a warning to groups that threaten President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration. She has declared that party cadres are fully prepared to protect Jokowi and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

Speaking during a ceremony to celebrate the PDI-P's 44th anniversary on Tuesday, Megawati said those who dared to threaten the government would face the wrath of the PDI-P.

"My subordinates are available and ready to face those who dare to disturb Pak President and Pak Vice President," Megawati told Jokowi and Kalla, who were sitting among the guests. Megawati did not specify the groups to whom she delivered the message.

PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto, however, said the reminder applied to intolerant groups that use religion to challenge Jokowi's administration, as well as those who attempt to commit treason.

"We know there are groups that threaten our unity due to their attempts to disturb the government. Bu Mega's remarks are meant for them," Hasto said on the sidelines of the ceremony.

"It's the job of the PDI-P to protect Pak Jokowi and Pak Jusuf Kalla as the constitutionally elected leaders of the country," he declared.

The police earlier named several activists, including Megawati's sister Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, suspects for treason. They were arrested on Dec. 2 and released shortly thereafter.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/pdi-p-on-guard-to-protect-jokowi-megawati.html

Foreign affairs & trade

Trump's Indonesian business partner to attend inauguration

Associated Press - January 13, 2017

Jakarta, Indonesia – The Indonesian business partner of President-elect Donald Trump will be attending next week's inauguration and also plans business meetings with Trump family members, his spokesman said Friday.

Trump's ties to Hary Tanoesoedibjo are among the many conflicts of interest he could face as the 45th U.S. president. The property billionaire's presidency is shaping up to have unprecedented potential to muddy U.S. national interests with his personal business interests.

Tanoesoedibjo, usually known as Tanoe, is the founder of media and real estate conglomerate MNC Group and also has political aspirations in Indonesia.

The ethnic Chinese and Christian businessman has founded a political party and has said he wants to be president, though that is unlikely in Muslim-majority Indonesia because of historical antipathy to its tiny Chinese minority and the country's current climate of rising religious intolerance.

MNC's corporate secretary Arya Sinulingga said that Tanoe and his wife were invited to the Jan. 20 inauguration and before that will have business meetings including with Trump's two oldest sons. "He will meet his business partners ahead of the inauguration to bolster some business deals," Sinulingga said.

Tanoe's company plans to start building two resorts in Indonesia this year that Trump's business is associated with through management and licensing deals.

A planned "six star" luxury resort on the tourist island of Bali would be the first hotel in Asia under the Trump Hotel brand. The second planned resort is in West Java's Sukabumi, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of the capital Jakarta.

Source: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/878843a93bf44d95a4cc954d2ce4f178

House speaker expects stronger Indonesia-US ties

Jakarta Globe - January 12, 2017

Jakarta – House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto has expressed his hope for reinforcement of Indonesia-United States ties after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20.

"Hopefully, with Donald Trump, there will be a new strength in Indonesia-United States [relations]. Trump has a very strong vision for [this] partnership," Setya said on Thursday (12/01).

According to him, the US will have a special attitude toward Indonesia and the relationship between the president-elect and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's has also improved.

Setya, who is a friend of Trump, claimed that the latter respects Indonesia as the world's largest Muslim-majority country. "Apart from this, Donald Trump has invested his own assets in Indonesia," he added.

Setya said Trump's investments in the country, which are related to the defense and tourism sectors, will increase in the future and "will be beneficial to Indonesia."

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/house-speaker-expects-stronger-indonesia-us-ties/

Exports predicted to be lower than target: Expert

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Grace D. Amianti, Jakarta – Indonesia may see its non-oil and gas exports grow less than this year's target because of weak demand from several destination countries.

The country's non-oil and gas exports are predicted to grow by only 3.2 percent this year, lower than the government's target of 5.6 percent, which would have brought their value up to $136.2 billion, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The government's target was actually downward revision from a previous estimate of 11.9 percent.

"Indonesia can increase its exports by 3.2 percent this year, although the country is actually able to get to between 4 and 5 percent if there are no protectionist measures from the United States and the United Kingdom post-Brexit," said Yose Rizal Damuri, head of the economics department at CSIS, during a press conference on Wednesday.

The protectionist measures he refers to are the policies US president-elect Donald Trump campaigned on last year, as well as the UK's decision to leave the European Union last year.

Rizal said the US, along with China and the EU, remained the major trade partners that would offer Indonesia a potential recovery this year. Apart from finding alternative markets, it is important for Indonesia to maintain its market share of exports in those countries.

From January to November last year, earnings from exports amounted to $130.65 billion, down 5.63 percent from 2015, although the overall trade balance was in a surplus of $7.79 billion, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/exports-predicted-to-be-lower-than-target-expert.html

Indonesia's Joko Widodo 'hopes' to visit Australia soon despite military rift

Sydney Morning Herald - January 9, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – Indonesia's foreign ministry says President Joko Widodo hopes to visit Australia in the first three months of this year in an indication the furore over offensive material at an Australian army base has not damaged the wider bilateral relationship.

"We are still trying to find a date suitable for both leaders... there is a strong commitment from both sides to meet in the first quarter of this year," Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told Fairfax Media.

President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, postponed his state visit to Australia last year after a rally in November calling for Jakarta's Christian governor to be jailed for alleged blasphemy ended in violence.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia would always warmly welcome a visit. "President Widodo has indicated his desire to visit and officials are actively working to find mutually convenient dates to reschedule the visit postponed in late 2016," he said.

The Australian Defence Department has also confirmed that Exercise Cassowary, an annual training exercise involving Indonesian and Australian naval patrols, would proceed as planned.

"The Royal Australian Navy has a series of bilateral exercises and activities with Indonesia in the coming months," a spokesman said. "There have been no recent changes to scheduled exercises or planned activities."

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has stressed the Australian government takes seriously its obligations regarding the safety and security of foreign diplomats and diplomatic premises after a trespasser waved a West Papuan separatist flag on the roof of the Indonesian consulate-general in Melbourne on Friday.

The incident, which The Jakarta Post described as a "fresh snag" in Indonesia and Australia relations, occurred just days after Indonesia's military chief revealed suggestions that West Papua should have independence was among curriculum he described as "too painful to explain" that was being taught at a Perth army base.

The offensive material caused a suspension in defence ties between the two countries, although chief security minister Wiranto clarified late on Thursday that this only related to a language training program and military cooperation had not been completely severed.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the break-in at the Indonesian Consulate General building on Friday was a "criminal act that is completely intolerable".

She said in a statement she had communicated with Ms Bishop on Saturday to ensure the Australian government would conduct an investigation and legal process against the perpetrator of the crime.

"The 1961 Vienna convention... states that "the receiving state is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity."

Flying the separatist West Papuan "Morning Star" flag is banned in Indonesia, which is sensitive about the pro-independence movement and allegations of human rights violations in the restive province.

Mr Nasir told Fairfax Media the main concern was that the trespass was able to occur in a known diplomatic area, with the offender clambering over a wall from a neighbouring private property.

"If they are doing this within the context of the law it's fine, but the concern here is they are breaking the law and the security of the consular mission," he said. He pointed out the trespasser was Caucasian and not related to Indonesia.

Mr Nasir said Ms Bishop had given a strong commitment that Australia would act urgently to apprehend the trespasser. An Australian Federal Police spokesman said investigations remain ongoing. It is understood charges are yet to be laid.

Bob Lowry, the author of The Armed Forces of Indonesia, said there was still a lingering suspicion that Australia would change its mind and support an independent West Papua after its intervention in East Timor.

"Despite the Lombok treaty, a lot of people are very concerned about that," he said. "They don't want a situation to open up in which large scale movements in support of that aspiration (independence) develop in places like Indonesia and Australia."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/indonesias-joko-widodo-hopes-to-visit-australia-soon-despite-military-rift-20170109-gtodih.html

Mining & energy

Government issues eagerly awaited rules on mineral export ban relaxation

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – The government issued a fourth revision of Government Regulation No. 23/2010 on the management of mineral and coal businesses on Wednesday, allowing miners to continue exporting copper concentrates, certain amounts of low-grade nickel ore and washed bauxite.

The newest revision, Government Regulation No. 1/2017, provides an export exception to those semiprocessed minerals as long as companies have converted their permit status from a contract of work (CoW) to a special mining license (IUPK).

"There is no obligation [to convert] as long as they do not ask for a recommendation to export mineral ores or concentrates," Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan said during a press conference on the revised regulation on Thursday.

Furthermore, mining companies holding IUPK must officially sign a commitment to build a smelter within five years. Foreign-owned mining companies must also commit to divesting 51 percent of shares to the government a decade after production in order to continue exports.

"If they want the export recommendation for any of the minerals, then first they must convert to an IUPK with all the consequences, they must build a smelter within five years and they must also divest up to 51 percent," Jonan explained. (ags)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/govt-issues-eagerly-awaited-rules-on-mineral-export-ban-relaxation.html

Mineral exports hang in balance with planned revision

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – A revision to a government regulation that may relax a ban on the export of semi-processed minerals remains up in the air, as the government has yet to sign the revision a mere 24 hours before the prescribed deadline.

The government has been working hard on a fourth revision to Government Regulation No. 23/2010 on the management of mineral and coal businesses, which is expected to postpone a ban on semi-processed mineral exports and provide different options for divestments of shares in foreign-owned mining companies.

However, the government had yet to issue the revision by Wednesday evening despite the fact that the ban's implementation was set to begin the next day.

Even so, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan claimed that if the revision was not issued by Thursday, then companies would have to temporarily halt any concentrate exports.

"If there aren't any new regulations then they must stop [exports] tomorrow. This is clear," he said, declining to disclose whether the export ban would be immediately lifted once the revision was issued.

The 2009 Mining Law prohibits the export of raw mineral products and requires mineral ore miners to complete their smelter developments by 2014, the time when the export ban should have been fully enforced.

The measure was issued to develop the downstream sector and to avoid the further importation of Indonesian-produced natural resources processed overseas.

However, because none of the proposed smelters were completed by the original deadline, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration issued Government Regulation No. 1/2014 as an amendment to a 2010 government regulation in order to extend the deadline to Jan. 11, 2017.

Although no official details have been revealed about the planned revision, Jonan disclosed that it would cover an extension on mineral concentrate exports in exchange for a commitment to build processing smelters as well as the obligation to convert contracts of work into special mining licenses (IUPKs).

Furthermore, it will also maximize the government's efforts to push foreign miners to divest 51 percent of their shares to the Indonesian State.

The latest revision draft Government Regulation No. 23/2010 obtained by The Jakarta Post shows only the export of copper concentrates will be allowed, despite the 2009 Mining Law prohibiting such exports.

Companies operating under contracts of work must also convert into IUPKs before they are allowed to export. Furthermore, the latest draft also stipulates that a new list of exports will be determined through a ministerial regulation, which is also similar to the prevailing regulation.

Any postponement in issuing the revision could affect the country's efforts to boost state revenues. In 2015, out of nine raw minerals that should have been totally banned from export, Indonesia only banned four of them, namely manganese, chromium, nickel and aluminum.

While the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry's latest data shows that non-tax revenues from the mineral and coal sector reached Rp 24.29 trillion (US$1.82 billion) by mid-December from the 2016 target of Rp 30.1 trillion, the government is hoping to increase the figure to Rp 45.2 trillion this year.

Even so, the potential relaxation of a total ban on mineral exports has received mixed views from industry players.

The Bauxite and Iron Ore Companies Association (APB3I) approves of the government's potential move to allow a limited number of companies to continue exporting semiprocessed minerals so long as there are real commitments from the companies to develop smelters.

"The government should at least give a chance to players in the mineral commodities sector to build smelters by allowing exports for a limited amount of time," APB3I chairman Erry Sofyan said in a press release made available to the Post.

Erry explained that the export ban had been disadvantageous to the country's gross regional domestic product (GRDP) in areas that are rich in bauxite. He cited West Kalimantan, whose GRDP decreased to 5.02 percent in 2014 from 6.04 percent the previous year, as an example.

Meanwhile, the Processing and Smelting Companies Association (AP3I) has vehemently put its foot down against a possible relaxation of the export ban.

Chairman Jonatan Handojo said extending the relaxation would create uncertainty among business players, who would then be reluctant to take part in the government's mission to develop the downstream sector.

However, he agreed that the government regulation needed to be revised in order to "ensure legal certainty for the processing and purification of minerals".

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/mineral-exports-hang-in-balance-with-planned-revision.html

Rapid mine expansion in East Java may risk environment

Jakarta Post - January 11, 2017

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, Surabaya – Rampant mining in East Java has increased environmental risks in the region with companies being negligent about the operational standards they are supposed to follow when exploiting the area.

Mining areas have expanded sixfold from 86,904 hectares in 2012 to 551,649 ha last year as companies race to tap gold, iron and manganese deposits.

According to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry in 2012, gold deposits in East Java amounted to 2.8 million tons while manganese and mineral sands were 143.5 million tons and 735.6 million tons respectively.

In Trenggalek and Banyuwangi, the two regencies with the largest gold deposits, the expansion has been rapid. In Trenggalek, the local administration has issued exploitation permits for about 30,044 ha of land, or a quarter of the regency's area.

The East Java office of the Indonesia Environment Forum (Walhi East Java) said loose oversight by local administrations has led to the massive expansion.

It recorded that there are at least 69 regulations that have allowed the expansion and posed threats to the environment. Thirty-five decrees were issued by the central government and three by the East Java provincial administration, while the remaining 31 were by regency and municipality administrations.

Walhi East Java director Rere Christanto said if the central government and local administrations don't withdraw the problematic regulations, there may be increasing conflicts and environmental disasters in the future.

"Most of the mining areas are located along the southern coast of East Java. All is gone for mining activities," he said.

Along with the rapid development in the country, there have been concerns about environmental hazards that are detrimental to citizens.

Rapid expansion of plantations through the burning of land and forests has resulted in an annual smoky haze that has made people in Sumatra and Kalimantan suffer respiratory problems and has disrupted daily activities.

Sand and rock mining that takes place on the shores of Palu and Donggala, Central Sulawesi, has also troubled local citizens. The extensive rock and sand mining has taken its toll on the environment and the people in the area.

On the shores of Palu and Donggala, excavators and crushers were seen in full operation, smashing stones into gravel, sand and dust. Large trucks then took the small rocks to barges and tugboats for delivery to East Kalimantan.

The health center has recorded about 20 cases of people vomiting blood and hundreds of others affected by respiratory disease caused by the mining dust over the last few months.

In addition to health problems, 23 traffic accidents have taken place at mining locations. There has also been erosion and landslides, creating slippery roads within only a year.

Trenggalek Regent Emil Elestianto Dardak denounced the rapid mine expansion, but said that he could not do anything about it since the permits were issued before he took office last year.

"This is a big mistake. The permits were issued by the East Java administration and my predecessor. I, in fact, have initiated an open forum to know what people actually want," said Emil.

He said he respected the mining that was already in progress, but he said that not all of the 30,044 ha should be allocated for exploitation.

Banyuwangi Environmental Agency head Husnul Chotimah dismissed concerns about the environmental risk of mining gold in the regency.

She said that as long as environmental standards are met, there should be no problems. "I hold to the environmental impact analysis [Amdal]. If the miners have met all the necessary requirements, there won't be significant risks," she said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/11/rapid-mine-expansion-in-east-java-may-risk-environment.html

Economy & investment

Private investment key to stoke domestic growth

Jakarta Post - January 12, 2017

Grace D. Amianti, Jakarta – Private investment is expected to play a role in triggering the country's economic growth, as global uncertainty still poses weak demand for trade and government spending remains limited.

Experts say private sector and foreign direct investment should play a bigger role to help achieve this year's economic growth target, which the government has set at 5.1 percent.

"The government has become more realistic with its target and I think economic growth of around 5.1 to 5.3 percent can be achieved. However, I think the role of the private sector should be bigger," Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) economics department head Yose Rizal Damuri said in a press conference on Wednesday.

Up until now, household consumption remains the largest growth driver and contributes to more than half of the country's economy.

Private investment could be the second-largest engine of growth this year, but the government should work hard to maintain a favorable climate for investors and businesses, including by managing political tensions, according to the CSIS.

A rising political climate is among concerns businesspeople have expressed over the past few months, with business groups calling on the government to ensure stability.

"Social and political aspects are very critical and should be managed well, or else there is risk of disaster. The government should act firmly," Rizal said.

The government is also expected to continue fighting issues related to corruption and illegal levies that have discouraged high-quality investors from investing.

With global uncertainty and weak demand from several destination countries, the CSIS predicts non-oil and gas exports to grow 3.2 percent this year, lower than the government's target of 5.6 percent, which would have brought export value up to US$136.2 billion. The government's own target is a downward revision from a previous estimate of 11.9 percent.

The country could increase its exports by 3.2 percent this year, although the country would actually be able to get to between 4 and 5 percent if there were no protectionist measures from the United States and the United Kingdom post-Brexit, the CSIS estimates.

Meanwhile, in its latest report titled Global Economic Prospect published on Tuesday, the World Bank also highlights the importance of private investment.

"In Indonesia, growth is expected to accelerate from 5.1 percent in 2016 to 5.4 percent on average in 2017 and 2019, helped by a pickup in private investment," it wrote.

It maintains its projection for Indonesia's gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 5.3 percent this year and 5.5 percent in both 2018 and 2019.

According to the report, since 2015, investment growth has begun to recover in the East Asia and Pacific region (EAP), with the exception of China.

"This has reflected a number of developments: stabilizing commodity prices; more accommodative policies amid low inflation and benign global financial conditions; and buoyant foreign direct investment inflows."

The World Bank lauds Indonesia – the largest commodity exporting country in the EAP region – for its ability to adjust rapidly to lower commodity prices, which have plagued global trade.

With accommodative monetary policy, the country is considered to be successful enough in lifting domestic demand, which contributed to an expected modest rise in GDP growth to 5.1 percent in 2016.

However, barriers in services trade remain in many countries in East Asia and the Pacific, including Indonesia.

Several restrictions on foreign control and ownership, discretionary licensing and limits on the operation of foreign companies are seen as having significant negative impacts on the delivery of services across borders.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/12/private-investment-key-to-stoke-domestic-growth.html

Trump's man in Indonesia to boost ties with theme park, track

Bloomberg - January 10, 2017

Fathiya Dahrul and Yudith Ho, Jakarta – Indonesian tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo says he's fending off potential rivals to his pact with the Trump Organization by building new projects such as a motorbike-racing track and Disneyland-like theme park to cement the alliance.

Tanoesoedibjo's MNC Group, which is redeveloping two Indonesian resorts to be managed by the company owned by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, is open to more joint ventures given his existing relationship and access. To enhance its 3,000-hectare resort in Lido, West Java, MNC is planning a MotoGP course that will be subsequently pitched to Formula One, Tanoesoedibjo said in an interview at his sprawling South Jakarta residence.

"We're partners – we can come to meet them anytime to discuss the business," said Tanoesoedibjo, 51, who's working closely with the president-elect's older sons, Don Jr. and Eric. "But for a newcomer, logically speaking, it would be difficult because I don't think Trump may entertain any new project from any new third party except for the existing partner."

The real estate developments are helping Tanoesoedibjo, who built his wealth from free-to-air television and advertising, diversify from his media business that now make up two-thirds of sales. The Indonesian group will spend as much as $1 billion on the two resorts that will bear the Trump brand, said Tanoesoedibjo, who's aiming to reduce his reliance on the media business to 40 percent of revenue in the next five years as he expands other sectors.

Ernie Els

Trump Hotel Collection will manage about 700 hectares of the Lido site to operate a resort, a golf course by golfer Ernie Els, as well as a country club. The golf course has been built, with the country club to follow before the villas and hotel begin construction next year, Tanoesoedibjo said. In addition to the racetrack, his PT MNC Land will also build a residential complex, a factory outlet and a theme park in the scale of Disneyland around the area, he said.

Trump Hotel will also manage Tanoesoedibjo's 100-hectare resort in Bali set across the water from Tanah Lot Temple, including its existing hotel and country club, and talks are being held with golfing champion Phil Mickelson to redesign the course, he said. Villas in the property will be renamed Trump Residences.

Trump has said he plans to put his two eldest sons in charge of the Trump Organization and vowed to do no deals while he's president. He's expected to outline a plan for leaving his business at a news conference on Wednesday.

While some shares of MNC group's listed companies advanced after Trump's surprise win, they have since pared gains. Shares of PT MNC Land, which rallied as much as 8.7 percent following the election, has lost more than half of the increase. PT Media Nusantara Citra has retreated 10 percent since the election and PT Global Mediacom slumped 18 percent, outpacing the 3.1 percent decline in the Indonesian benchmark stock index.

Media stakes

For his media business, Tanoesoedibjo plans to merge his satellite and broadband television units, PT MNC Sky Vision and PT MNC Kabel Mediacom, into an entity called Sky Vision Networks that will be offered in an initial stock offering in the next three to four years. Tanoesoedibjo is buying the remaining shares of MNC Sky from the market "almost everyday" to fully own the company before the restructuring, he said.

Tanoesoedibjo has been in talks with a strategic investor keen on buying a stake in the holding company before the share sale, he said, declining to name the suitor.

"I will push all four units of my business to grow with none being too dominant," Tanoesoedibjo said, referring to his media, real estate, banking and investment companies. "It's very important. If you are too dependent on one industry, it's dangerous."

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/01/10/trumps-man-in-indonesia-to-boost-ties-with-theme-park-track.html

Analysis & opinion

Commentary: Jokowi should not cave, must tell Freeport to sell 51% stake, or

Jakarta Post - January 10, 2017

Rendi A. Witular, Jakarta – Hardly any other element exerts the same level of attraction for mankind than gold. Economist John Maynard Keynes coined the commodity as a "barbarous relic", yet people in modern times will still kill for it.

It is perhaps the interminable allure of gold that has once again placed gold and copper producer PT Freeport Indonesia, a unit of politically wired United States miner Freeport McMoRan Inc. (FCX), in a far more superior curve when dealing with Indonesia.

Freeport, Indonesia's oldest foreign investor and biggest taxpayer, operates the world's biggest integrated gold and copper mine in Indonesia's most remote and poorest province, Papua, generating 98 percent of FCX's consolidated gold sales and 19 percent of the company's copper supply worth more than US$2.7 billion in 2015.

Since commencing operations more than five decades ago, Freeport is synonymous domestically with gold, not copper, and is usually perceived with suspicions. All affairs related to the company have always been political, with many Indonesian politicians and activists referring to it as a symbol of US economic imperialism in Indonesia.

Given the enormity, coupled with the geopolitical dynamic where several US policymakers have affiliation with the company, it is hard not to suspect the "Freeport factor" to be at play nowadays in the government's upcoming plan to bend the 2009 Mining Law just to allow the company, and a few others, to continue to elude a ban on raw and partly processed mineral exports.

Indonesia has been under global investor scrutiny in the past couple of weeks as they await to see whether the country is committed to indiscriminately enforcing the rule of law as it rushes to decide whether to maintain the current relaxation or to fully enforce the ban, as mandated by the law before the Jan. 11, 2017 deadline.

The law stipulates that mineral ore miners must complete their smelters by 2014, when the export ban should have been fully put in place. The smelters are expected to bring in added value to the end products, as opposed to exporting ore in its raw or partly processed form.

However, because none of the proposed smelters had been completed, including one by Freeport, the deadline was extended to 2017 by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono through a government regulation, allowing Freeport and its fellow US miner Newmont to continue the exports despite no progress in their smelter constructions.

If President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo maintains the relaxation, he will draw criticism similar to that raised in 2014 when Yudhoyono was accused of violating the law because a government regulation cannot overrule a law.

However, a circulating draft government regulation has indicated the President may continue with the relaxation as well as provide many clauses that appear to benefit Freeport more than others.

For example, according to the draft regulation, Freeport will not only be able to resume its exports but the company will be allowed to sell its shares based on a new calculation that will see the price soaring to a level where domestic buyers cannot afford them.

Perhaps it is a mere coincidence that the draft was churned out after a letter from US Senator John McCain to Jokowi on Dec. 23, demanding Indonesia to facilitate Freeport, and the appointment of US billionaire Carl Icahn in late December as special adviser on regulatory reform to US president-elect Donald Trump. Icahn is a major FCX shareholder.

Regulatory privileges for Freeport are not without precedent. Based on its contract of work (CoW), the company was required to sell 51 percent of its shares to local shareholders by 2011.

However, a string of regulations were issued along the way that eventually allowed Freeport to dodge the requirement to this date, and almost no officials have made a big deal out of it. FCX owns 90.64 percent of the company, while merely 9.36 percent is owned by the Indonesian government.

No one expects Freeport to cease operations or to pull out from the country, as it is in the best interest of all to see the company remain profitable and employ many Papuans. However, the fairness surrounding deals with Freeport have always been put into question.

Jokowi can continue with the ease in the export ban to facilitate Freeport, but he should not throw in the towel by not demanding more, particularly to force it to immediately sell 51 percent of its shares to local shareholders as stated in the CoW.

After all, Freeport has always demanded that the government abide by the CoW, and it is fair to request Freeport to similarly do so.

The main stake at play is no longer smelter construction and export permits, but divestment. This is where Freeport tends to hide from its obligations and uses other issues to distract the public from the real one.

Perhaps the President needs to be reminded that such divestment is obligatory under the 1945 Constitution, Article 33 point 3: The land, the waters and the natural resources within shall be under the powers of the state and shall be used to the greatest benefit of the people.

With many of his signature policies running aground, the last thing Jokowi wants is to be on the list of Indonesian leaders that have caved to US business interests.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/01/10/commentary-jokowi-should-not-cave-must-tell-freeport-to-sell-51-stake-or-else.html

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