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Indonesia News Digest 5 – February 1-7, 2017

West Papua Human rights & justice 1965 anti-communist purge Women's rights & gender Political parties & elections Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections Environment & natural disasters Health & education LGBT & same-sex Marriage Graft & corruption Terrorism & religious extremism Hard-line & vigilante groups Freedom of religion & worship Islam & religion Poverty & social inequity Transport & communication Literature & the arts Criminal justice & legal system Police & law enforcement National security & intelligence Foreign affairs & trade Mining & energy Economy & investment Analysis & opinion

West Papua

Shirking Matilda: The realpolitik case for Australian recognition of

Brown Political Review - February 7, 2017

Sandy Greenberg – The Indonesian occupation of West Papua has been described as a "neglected genocide", a crime against humanity being committed on a multi-generational scale, but overlooked by international observers as a matter of course. Following the departure of Dutch colonial presence in 1962, the Indonesian government had agreed to grant the people of West Papua a free and fair plebiscite between independence and integration with Indonesia, to be overseen by the United Nations. Instead, Indonesian General Sarwo Edhi Wibowo handpicked a mere 1,025 people (a fraction of 1% of the Papuan population) and forced them to vote by a public show of hands in the presence of armed Indonesian soldiers, before announcing that the vote had been unanimously in favor of Indonesian control. Jakarta justifies its control of West Papua by asserting that Indonesia is the legitimate post-colonial successor state to the entirety of the former Dutch colonies in the region; in reality, its interests lie mostly in the immense commodities wealth, principally in gold and copper, that can be extracted from its Melanesian holding. Since the occupation began in May of 1963, international media have ignored the Indonesian military as it has denied basic political rights and freedoms to Papua's indigenous population, prevented journalists and NGOs from operating in West Papua, killed as many as 500,000 Papuans in wildly disproportionate "responses" to Papuan resistance, actively attempted to supplant or destroy Papua's Melanesian cultural traditions (including by forcible trafficking in Papuan children), tortured Papuan political prisoners, and facilitated far-ranging ecological devastation.

Indifference to Papuans' lives goes well beyond the media; indeed, some of the worst culprits are national governments. For many years the United States actively chose to support Indonesian claims on West Papua to prevent a shift in the Cold War balance of power (Indonesia during the Suharto dictatorship being a valued anti-communist force in the region), while today private Anglo-American mining interests unashamedly bankroll oppression. Similarly, the threat of lost economic activity in the form of Indonesian trade has compelled states, including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and most importantly Australia, to support the occupation with money, votes, or rhetoric. Australia has been and remains a major source of weapons, materiel, and training for the Indonesian military, even supplying the type of attack helicopters with which Papuan villages were firebombed and repeatedly engaging in joint maneuvers with the Indonesian military. Perhaps more importantly, Australia has provided sustained diplomatic cover for the genocide (including by means of treaties signed as late as 2006) and created a hostile environment for Papuan activists, from former Liberal Party Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying in 2013, "...people seeking to grandstand against Indonesia, please don't look to do in Australia. You are not welcome" to former Labor Party Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr calling engaging in pro-West Papua advocacy, "an appalling thing to do".

The Australian position is key because of its geographic proximity to Papua, its diplomatic capital and close links with NATO and Commonwealth powers, its military and political facilitation of the occupation, and its status as a major economic driver in the region (alongside Indonesia and ASEAN). Moreover, given that the only hope of West Papua attracting international backing is effective organizing targeted at international audiences (as has been the strategy of such groups for decades), Australia's hostility towards and disempowerment of such advocacy precludes activists from the most effective regional platform via which they might reach these audiences. Recognizing Australia's importance, the Widodo government has recently pushed Australia to intervene more strongly in favor of Indonesian control. In recent years, Melanesian states have sought to construct a greater degree of political, cultural, and economic solidarity between themselves, and greater visibility on the world stage, by forming the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a body consisting of the governments of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea, along with Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste, a pro-independence political movement in French-held New Caledonia. The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has sought to join this coalition, seeing as an effective means through which to gain visibility and supporters through cross-Melanesian solidarity. Though Fiji and Papua New Guinea, over which Indonesia has much economic influence, have opposed ULMWP's application, the other three members, particularly Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, have supported the West Papuan cause with increasingly forceful rhetoric, and continually pressed for ULMWP representation in the group. Concerned about the increased attention that ULMWP membership might cause, Jakarta has asked Australia to dissuade South Pacific nations, notably Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands but also others, from these efforts – for obvious reasons, Australia has more diplomatic capital and goodwill with these countries than Indonesia does.

While Indonesia pressures Australia to direct its crucial influence to maintaining the occupation, Canberra could also choose to use its influence to end the slaughter. Public Australian recognition of West Papuan cause would attract much higher media attention. Australia is well-placed to call upon diplomatic partners and work towards shaping a powerful multi-national bloc for self-determination, possibly supported by the post-Cold War UN. Moreover, by giving asylum and aggressive support to Papuan activists Australia could amplify their activism and keep them safe from Indonesian reprisal (Australia has, in the past, provided a limited number of Papuan activists with asylum, but this is neither a consistent policy nor applied to anything other than trivial numbers of people). Some Australian political factions have called for such a course of action, notably the Australian Greens. However, there exists a broad consensus between the leaders of both major Australian political camps (Labor and the Liberal-National coalition) against providing any meaningful support for West Papua. That consensus is misguided. Even putting aside questions of moral obligation or the inherent value of human life, even constraining ourselves entirely to an unalloyed realpolitik, it would be in Australia's best interest to end its complicity.

Australian politicians who fear a loss of economic activity from alienating Indonesia are correct in noting the deep economic links between Australia and Indonesia. Each country represents about 3 percent of the other's export market, with bilateral trade growing in recent years at an average annual rate just over 7 percent. In 2012, the two nations signed the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), and each applies most favored nation status (or its equivalent) to the other's imports. However, estimations of the actual fallout from alienating Indonesia tend to be greatly overstated.

For one thing, a significant percentage of Australia's exports to Indonesia are beef and cattle. Because of proximity, Australia can supply beef to Indonesia dramatically less expensively than any other major beef-producer in the world, particularly given that Indonesian law recognizes the health and safety protections on Australian beef to be superior to those of other nearby countries that could conceivably supply beef. Because Indonesians' beef demand is relatively inelastic, and because any other country that could supply beef in sufficient quantities would necessarily price beef exports to Indonesia far above the Australian price-point, Indonesia would have active economic incentives to continue trade with Australia, at least in the area of livestock.

Second, Indonesia is by far the largest recipient of Australian foreign aid, totaling USD 2 billion between 2005 and 2010 and USD 646.8 million in 2013-2014 alone. This gives Australia certain bargaining power over Indonesia – more than, of course, the likes of Vanuatu. Though Indonesia would almost certainly impose sanctions upon Australia in the wake of an Australian position-reversal, this consideration alone would disincentivize Indonesia from seeking to cut all trade relations with Australia. Incidentally, if Australian revenue did end up dropping significantly, cuts to this aid would present to some extent a compensatory windfall

Finally, Australia and Indonesia are both part of the Australia-New Zealand-ASEAN Free Trade Area, which predates CEPA. Though Indonesia would certainly withdraw from CEPA should Australia support West Papuan sovereignty in any way, it's unclear that Indonesia, and ASEAN member, would be able to force the other ASEAN nations to kick Australia out of this agreement; ASEAN operates on a consensus-voting system, so even one member state's opposition to forfeiting significant Australian trade (and many member states do engage in significant Australian trade) would keep ASEAN, and therefore Indonesia, in the agreement. Theoretically, Indonesia could withdraw from ASEAN itself, but the intra-ASEAN free trade and political power it would lose in doing so make this unlikely. Thus, though the potential economic fallout for Australia is real, the degree of the fallout is constrained by structural and legal factors.

Further, any economic fallout would be outweighed in the long run by the geopolitical benefits Australia stands to gain by supporting West Papua. In particular, Australia needs favorable relations with small island states in the South Pacific. Currently, Australia's policy on asylum seekers relies on "processing" facilities established in South Pacific states like Nauru. Though this policy is considered barbaric by respected international NGOs like Amnesty International, even after Australian immigration policy changes Australia will, for the foreseeable future, rely on cooperation from these island states on issues like people-smuggling. It therefore has an incentive to maintain friendly relations with Pacific island nations. In recent years, many of these very nations have become increasingly vocal supporters of West Papua; not only Vanuatu and the Solomon islands, but also Tuvalu, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, and Nauru have recently voiced their support at the UN. This being the case, support for West Papua would be one way for Australia to gain these nations' goodwill.

When polled, Australians support self-determination for West Papua. It's time for their government to do the same. Australia's continued complicity in the West Papuan occupation is not only immoral. From a purely practical perspective, it's irrational as well.

Source: http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/2017/02/shirking-matilda-realpolitik-case-australian-recognition-west-papua/

In Papua, sexual harassment often occurs in women journalists

Tabloid JUBI - February 5, 2017

Jayapura, Jubi – In addition to the issue of freedom of the press is still cause for concern in Papua, Papuan women journalists face other problems that are not less alarming. Sexual harassment often override these women journalists after reporting.

This fact was discovered by eight journalists from eight media based in Jakarta, Makassar and Solo that since 29 January to 3 February 2017 visit to Papua to get the facts on the ground related to press freedom in Papua. Eight journalists have joined the Media Freedom Committee Indonesia (MFCI).

"It usually happens after my coverage. Sources covered starting to wonder through short messages (SMS). The initial question is usually about things that are reasonable. But the next question began to lead on matters of a personal nature and finally smelled of sexual abuse," Adi said Marsela, one of eight journalists who visited Papua in konsferensi Press held at aone, Jakarta, Saturday (02/04/2017).

He continued, cases of sexual harassment such as this are often taken for granted by women journalists. "The journalist chose not to report a sexual abuse to the authorities," he said.

Another problem found by eight journalists are journalists regeneration. Media companies is difficult to recruit new journalists.

"Radar Timika never recruit journalists recently, in the first day there are thirty who joined the training, on the second day was reduced to 12 people, and on the third day is no more coming," said Palupi Auliani, journalists involved in the project MFCI in Timika,

The business model is unhealthy effect on the independence of the media. "For example in Timika, the media revenues sourced from Freeport and its subsidiaries and local governments," added Palupi.

For additional information, Press Freedom Index compiled Press Council in 2015 mentions Papua province in a state of somewhat free with a score of 63.88. The province of West Papua province recorded as less free with chord 52.56. (*)

Source: http://tabloidjubi.com/artikel-3458–di-papua-pelecehan-sexual-sering-terjadi-pada-jurnalis-perempuan-.html

Australia arrests Indonesian mission trespasser

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Jakarta – Australian authorities finally captured on Monday a man for trespassing on protected Indonesian property after almost a month of pursuit and multiple warnings from Indonesia.

The 42-year-old unidentified man was arrested in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown for trespassing on the Indonesian Consulate General (KJRI) in Melbourne earlier this month, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta revealed Tuesday.

The arrest was made just a few days after Indonesian government officials and legislators criticized Australia for failing to arrest a man who climbed onto the roof of the KJRI and hoisted the Morning Star flag of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).

"The Australian Federal Police [AFP] can confirm it arrested a 42-year-old man in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown on Monday," the Australian Embassy said in a statement to The Jakarta Post.

The individual was charged with Trespassing on a Protected Premises, contrary to Section 20 of the Protection of Persons and Property Act, the statement added.

"He has been bailed to appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, Feb. 23." The Embassy did not provide further comment on the case, saying it would be inappropriate because it "is now before the court."

Section 20 of the 1971 Act carries a fine ranging between 10 and 20 penalty units, whereby 1 penalty unit is equal to A$180 (US$135.93) for federal offenses.

The flag-hoisting incident was filmed by an accomplice from outside the Indonesian premises, which was then posted on social media for wide distribution.

Indonesian Consul General in Melbourne Dewi Wahab told the Post on Tuesday that there was only one suspect in the case, as the person recording the video did not engage in a criminal act.

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir rejoiced following news of the arrest, conveying Indonesia's hope that the perpetrator would be duly processed in accordance with the law.

"We received information from the Consul General that the AFP detained [...] the criminal responsible for the Melbourne KJRI incident," he said. "We appreciate that the AFP was finally able to capture the perpetrator."

Last week, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said that lawmakers from the foreign affairs commission of the House of Representatives demanded that the Australian government take swift measures to legally process the demonstrator, who had remained at large since the Jan. 6 incident.

The incident further exacerbated tensions with Canberra following Indonesia's temporary suspension of military cooperation on language exchange programs with Australia, pending an investigation into another troubling affair that is scheduled to conclude by the end of this month.

Australian authorities were accused of showing little interest in resolving the incident, until last week's protests by the Indonesian government and lawmakers.

The arrest also comes ahead of the expected arrival of an Australian delegation in Jakarta to attend the Ministerial Council on Law and Security.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2017/02/01/australia-arrests-indonesian-mission-trespasser.html

Human rights & justice

Mechanisms to resolve past human rights abuses remain in place: State

Jakarta Globe - February 3, 2017

Jakarta – Both judicial and non-judicial mechanisms remain in place to resolve past cases of gross human rights abuses, state commissioners said on Thursday (02/02) in defense of their investigation into such incidents, amid government plans for national reconciliation.

Concerns over efforts to settle the decades-old cases have reemerged since Monday, when Chief Security Minister Wiranto reiterated that the incidents will be resolved "by not causing new problems for the nation."

His remarks came shortly after a meeting with National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) representatives, who said there had been no agreement during a meeting on Monday to settle the cases "purely" through national reconciliation.

"It's true that we've been encouraging reconciliation, but it's not true that we'll halt the judicial process," Komnas HAM chairman M. Imdadun Rahmat told the press in Jakarta.

Years of Komnas HAM investigations have resulted in reports on past cases of what it declared gross human rights abuses across Indonesia.

The reported incidents include the 1989 Talangsari massacre, the disappearance of anti-Suharto activists in 1997-98, the Trisakti University shootings, the Semanggi I and Semanggi II shootings in 1998 and 1999, the mysterious killings of alleged criminals in the 1980s, the anticommunist purges of 1965-66 and abuses in Wasior in 2001 and Wamena in 2003.

Komnas HAM previously handed the reports over to the Attorney General's Office for further investigation, but to no avail, due to lasting debate over technical issues.

"Coordination between us and state prosecutors remains on course. Meanwhile, the reconciliation process is also on track," Komnas HAM commissioner Roichatul Aswidah said. "The judicial process can't be interfered with or substituted by the non-judicial process," he added.

The government repeatedly stated last year that the cases would be resolved through national reconciliation, but human rights activists rejected this by saying that it would fail to bring perpetrators to justice and provide legal certainty for victims.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/mechanisms-to-resolve-past-human-rights-abuses-remain-in-place-state-commissioners/

1965 anti-communist purge

Artwork on 1965 wins journalistic award

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta – A somber drawing of the 1965 genocide won the hearts of the judges of the 2017 Adinegoro Journalistic Award. The drawing, titled 1965 victims, depicts two graves lying silently side by side. The grave on the left is identified with a military boot on top of it, while the one on the right has a nameless wooden tombstone with the year "1965" engraved on it.

The boot whispers "I'm so sorry" and the nameless wooden tombstone replies "I forgive you." The cartoon seems to offer an imaginary solution to the unresolved cases of the 1965 tragedy, which led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people due to their alleged connection to the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). The drawing was published by The Jakarta Post in its April 24, 2016, edition and the cartoonist behind it, Tommy "Thom Dean" T., said that the idea for his work came from the situation surrounding the 1965 issues.

"The editorial team wanted me to create a drawing based on the 1965 tragedy. At that time [April 2016], there were a lot of families of the 1965 purge who demanded that the government issue an official apology for what had happened," Thom told the Post.

"What I thought at that time was that every nation has a bloody past. In Indonesia's case, it is the 1965 communist purge. It will always be an issue among Indonesians for generations to come."

"So, when the living might find it difficult to find closure, I believe that the dead – either the alleged communists who were killed or the soldiers who murdered them in 1965 – are able to forgive one another in their graves."

The year 1965 was a dark period for Indonesia and many still consider it as a taboo topic. During that year, the members of the PKI allegedly tried to topple then president Sukarno's administration through a coup, but they failed. What followed was the genocide of millions of people who were accused of being communists by the successive government.

One of the judges for the drawing category, Dolorosa Sinaga, said that the reason Thom's drawing won was because its depiction of the 1965 issue was absolutely accurate.

"We believe the drawing speaks very loudly regarding the condition of the families and descendants of the 1965 victims. It shows how sad the situation is that they can only reach closure with one another in the afterlife," she said.

Thom is one of six winners in six different categories for this year's Adinegoro Award. The other five winners are Lewat Samping Memburu Ringgit (Shortcut for Ringit) from the Tempo magazine news team for the indepth reporting category, Di Bawah Ancaman Senjata (Under Siege) from Ella D. Effendi and Raedi Fadli of NET TV for the television feature news category, Tumpang Pitu Digerus (Tumpang Pitu Exploited) from Hermawan of the KBR Banyuwangi.

Radio for the radio feature news category, Serangan Teroris di Jakarta (Terrorist Attack in Jakarta) from Very Sanovri of the Xinhua News Agency for the photo news category and Di Balik Aksi Brutal Jakmania (Behind Jakmania's Brutal Action) from Larissa Huda of tempo.co news portal for the special online journalism innovation award.

The official awards ceremony for the winners will take place during the 2017 National Press Day commemoration in Ambon, Maluku, on Feb. 9.

"The quality of the journalistic works, including the implementation of the journalistic code of ethics in the process and in creating the works, is the main factor in determining the winners," award coordinator Uni Z. Lubis said in a written statement.


Women's rights & gender

Many women in academia, but scant research on gender issues

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – Gender equity in Indonesia's academia is not all doom and gloom as the percentage of women researchers in the country is higher than the global average.

However, research on gender and women is severely lacking, with women mostly identified as mere objects in studies, a study shows.

The study, conducted by the Bogor-based Sajogyo Institute using data from the Research, Technology and Higher Education Ministry between 2013 and 2015, shows that women account for least 30 percent of grant recipients from the ministry every year.

More than 30 percent of researchers who lead research funded by the ministry are also women. "The number of female researchers is almost the same as male researchers in the country," Sajogyo Institute researcher Budiyono Zaini said.

The figure is higher than the global average of 28.4 percent of women researchers. It is also higher than the average percentage of women researchers in East Asia and the Pacific, which is 22.6 percent, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"In terms of number, the gap between female researchers and male researchers is not too big compared to other countries. So there is enough opportunities for women to be active in research," the ministry's research director, Ocky Karna Radjasa, told The Jakarta Post.

However, women researchers are largely concentrated in top universities, he said. There are four categories of universities in the country, rated by quality. From the 3,246 universities in the country, only 25 are in the highest-quality category. The second category comprises only 76 universities.

"These top 25 universities are dominated by the best universities, such as the University of Indonesia and the Bandung Institute of Technology, and they have no problem in terms of gender equity. But how about the remaining universities?" Ocky said.

The rest consist of low-quality, higher-education institutions. "The recruitment of women academics will be very limited [in poor-quality universities], with male-dominated recruitment," said Ocky.

Besides an uneven distribution of women researchers and lecturers, Ocky pointed out that there was an alarmingly low amount of research done on gender and women in the country.

According to the study, only 3 percent of research funded by the ministry was related to gender and women in 2013. This percentage dipped to 2 percent out of more than 12,000 research projects in 2014 and 2015.

"While the number of research projects increased substantially from 2013 to 2014, the issue has been static. There hasn't been an attempt to enrich our perspectives on gender issues," Budiyono said.

Besides the low quantity of research on gender, the quality of gender research in Indonesia is also lacking, he added. "Gender issues are vast. However, gender research here is limited to seeing sex as a research topic," Budiyono said.

The lack of research to broaden gender perspectives has led to a lack of policies that are gender-sensitive in Indonesia, Budiyono said.

"Gender is a national issue that spans many sectors, and universities have to support it because social transformation comes from the scientific world. It reconstructs our society through policy intervention. That's the role of science, isn't it?" he said.

Ocky said the ministry planned to allocate a research budget specifically for gender issues from 2018 in order to increase the number of gender research projects in the country.

"Last year, I launched a new research scheme on social and humanistic studies. But that's still too general. So this year I will introduce a new scheme on gender equity and children in the 11th revision of the ministry's research guidance book," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/03/many-women-in-academia-but-scant-research-on-gender-issues.html

Political parties & elections

People still permissive of vote buying: Bawaslu

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Vote buying may mar the upcoming simultaneous regional election on Feb. 15 as some residents are still permissive of the practice, the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) says.

Bawaslu monitoring division coordinator Daniel Zuchron said many residents, most of whom live in underdeveloped regions, were willing to receive payment in exchange for their votes. Vote buying, he went on, may occur in provinces, regencies or cities with a high Election Vulnerability Index.

Bawaslu reported in January that West Papua was the area most prone to conflict, followed by Aceh, Banten, West Sulawesi, Jakarta, Bangka Belitung, Gorontalo, Central Java, Papua and South East Sulawesi.

"We have instructed field officers to keep a watchful eye on this issue because vote buying may no longer occur only at dawn, but also in the morning," Daniel said, referring to the practice of bribing voters in the early morning, a few hours before voting kicks off, locally known as serangan fajar, or dawn attack.

To combat the vote buying practice, Bawaslu has instructed supervisors of each vulnerable area to directly monitor the election preparation and implementation, Daniel added.

Separately, national coordinator of the People's Voter Education Network (JPPR) Masykurudin Hafid echoed the same sentiment, saying that money politics was a concern during the cooling-off period from Feb. 12 to 14. (hol) (trw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/07/people-still-permissive-of-vote-buying-bawaslu.html

'Leave politics, be a statesman,' pundit tells Yudhoyono

Jakarta Globe - February 6, 2017

Jakarta – Arif Susanto, a researcher from the State Affairs and Islamic Studies Center, or PSIK, called on former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to leave politics and play the role of an elder statesman instead – as the two-time president continued to rail publicly against the alleged illegal wiretapping of an incriminating conversation between him and Indonesian Ulema Council Chairman Ma'ruf Amin.

In a discussion in Jakarta on Monday (06/02), Arief pointed out Yudhoyono – who was president from 2004 to 2014 – has been involved in five political tiffs with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in the past three years.

The president and his predecessor had been at loggerheads over the Hambalang sport complex graft case, the missing investigation files on the murder of human rights activist Munir, over Yudhoyono allegedly funding an anti-government plot during the Nov. 11 and Dec. 2 protest, over Yudhoyono's protest against fake news in social media and now on the alleged wiretapping of Yudhoyono and Ma'ruf.

"These public fights are not very dignified. People are tired of seeing their former president complaining about the current one," Arif said.

He said the former president should leave politics altogether and restrict himself to giving advises to the current government, in short, play the role of an "elder statesman."

"SBY [Yudhoyono's nickname] should leave politics and offer his expertise to help the Jokowi administration," Arif said.

Tension between President Jokowi and Yudhoyono had come to a head last week after the former president, whose elder son Agus is running for governor in the Jakarta election on Feb. 15, held a press conference to declare he will "seek justice" over allegations that he had put pressure on MUI Chairman Ma'ruf to issue a fatwa against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama that he had insulted Islam.

Yudhoyono also called for a meeting with President Jokowi to straighten out recent rumors about his behind-the-scene political wheeling and dealing, including allegedly funding the Nov. 11 and Dec. 2 massive anti-Ahok protests in Jakarta. Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/leave-politics-statesman-pundit-tells-yudhoyono/

Crime suspects running in elections

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Nethy Dharma Somba and Syamsul Huda M. Suhari, Jakarta, Jayapura, Gorontalo – The residents of Buton, Southeast Sulawesi, are befuddled. Last week, Samsu Umar Abdul Samiun, the leader of the island regency, made headlines in national media. Not for good reasons, though.

Samsu, who is running for reelection, was arrested by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators last week after being named a suspect for alleged bribery in 2011.

What has also put the Buton people in limbo is the fact that the Samsu-La Bakry pairing is the only ticket running in the Feb. 15 election.

Will they let a graft suspect determine the future of the regency? On the other hand, if most of the voters tick the blank box on the ballot paper because they don't want a graft suspect leading them, then the whole election process will be repeated, which could risk leaving the regency with no definite leader for months.

Indonesia is set to go through simultaneous regional elections on Feb. 15 in 101 provinces, cities and regencies. At least seven candidates, however, are suspects for various offenses, mostly corruption.

General Elections Commission (KPU) chairman Juri Ardiantoro said a suspect status could not prevent anyone from running in an election. The 2016 Region Elections Law states that a candidate loses his or her candidacy only if he or she is convicted in a legally-binding court ruling.

"Even if the candidates are detained, their names will still be listed on the ballots," Juri said on Tuesday.

Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) commissioner Nelson Simanjuntak echoed Juri's statement, saying that the country upholds the presumption of innocence principle.

A problematic candidate is also running in Cimahi, West Java. In December last year, incumbent mayor Atty Suharti was arrested by the KPK.

Graft allegations have also been leveled against the incumbent Takalar regent in South Sulawesi, Burhanuddin, and the incumbent Jepara regent in Central Java, Ahmad Marzuki, among others.

In Sarmi regency, Papua, local KPU members annulled the candidacy of incumbent regent Mesak Manibor in late December after the Supreme Court declared him guilty of corruption in a final and binding decision. Mesak was replaced by Berthus Kyew Kyew.

Other candidates who are implicated in other crimes include incumbent Jakarta governor and blasphemy defendant Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama as well as incumbent Gorontalo governor and defamation defendant Rusli Habibie.

Well-known musician Ahmad Dhani, who is running for Bekasi deputy regent, was also named a treason suspect in December.

KPU commissioner Sigit Pamungkas said the 2016 law was "too lenient" as it "provided room even for defendants to run in elections."

He said it was the responsibility of political parties to provide qualified and competent candidates. He added that the KPU did not have the authority to reject a candidate based on their track record.

But Sigit said the KPU published information on candidates' wealth and campaign funding.

Similarly, Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) head Titi Anggraeni said the upcoming elections would mark a milestone in Indonesia's fledgling democracy, but it was a milestone marred by a series of problematic candidates.

"Political parties have failed to produce qualified candidates for the citizens of this country. The party mechanism does not work," she said, adding that Perludem had also criticized the law that allowed former convicted criminals to compete in elections such as Abdullah Puteh, an Aceh gubernatorial candidate who is also a former graft convict.

"Civil societies and the media have a responsibility to help educate voters," she said.

Of the seven candidates who are criminal suspects, five are backed by the country's second biggest party, Golkar.

Golkar executive Yorrys Raweyai said the party nominated the candidates because they had a good chance of winning their races. "We based our decisions on survey results alongside subjective and objective assessments," he told The Jakarta Post.

[Jon Afrizal and Andi Hajramurni contributed to the story from Jambi and Makassar.]

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/02/crime-suspects-running-in-elections.html

'Blank box' to compete with sole candidates

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Suherdjoko, Severianus Endi, and Nethy Dharma Somba, Jakarta, Semarang, Pontianak, and Jayapura – What would you do if you only had one candidate to vote for in an election? Some Indonesians, faced with that scenario, have resorted to campaigning for a kotak kosong (blank box), in a bid to prevent the sole candidate from winning the election.

This year, 11 regions are set to see candidates run uncontested in the 2017 regional elections, which will be held simultaneously on Feb. 15 in 101 cities, regencies and provinces across the country. The term "blank box" is derived from the balloting system introduced in 2016 by the General Elections Commissions (KPU), which allowed voters who rejected the sole candidate to instead vote for a blank box on the ballot.

In Central Java, blank box communities are grouped under the Pati Election Democracy Monitoring Alliance led by Sutiyo. The group was formed as a response to the Pati regency election ballot having only one option, namely incumbent Haryanto and his running mate Saiful Arifin, a ticket backed by eight political parties.

"This sole candidate situation has proved that regeneration within political parties does not work," Sutiyo told The Jakarta Post. "Despite this, many people in Pati don't know that they can choose to vote for the blank box if they don't want to vote for the sole candidate. That's what we've been trying to do."

However, it was not easy for Sutiyo and members of his group to campaign for blank box as they had to go door-to-door and use social media to spread the message to communities.

"We previously planned to organize ketoprak [traditional Javanese theater] to promote this movement. However, the police didn't issue the permit," Sutiyo said, adding that his group had also tried to recruit university students.

"We don't encourage people to be golput [abstainers]. We are just showing that people have the right to choose the blank box," Sutiyo said, adding that the members collected money to fund the group's activities.

Should the blank box win, KPU commissioner Juri Ardianto said that the KPU would hold another election. "We still don't know the procedure for moving forward with the election should the blank box win. This has not been specifically regulated in our laws. The lawmakers should further discuss this," Juri said, adding that to avoid an administrative vacuum, the government could appoint acting leaders in the respective regions.

A blank box group also exists in Landak regency, West Kalimantan, as Karolin Margret Natasa and incumbent deputy regent Heriyadi are the sole candidate pair.

The movement, called Pilih Kotak Kosong (Choose the Blank Box), has run its activities underground through word-of-mouth, such as through conversations in coffee shops, said Maskendari, who represents the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) at the West Kalimantan Legislative Council. "They haven't carried out an open campaign. Rather, the movement is promoted through word-ofmouth in daily conversations," Maskendari said, adding that he had no idea who was behind it.

In Papua, an expert at Cendrawasih University, Marinus Yang, criticized political parties for not listening to the people since there was only one option on the ballot for the Jayapura mayoral election, namely Benhur Tomi Mano and Haji Rustan Saru.

A blank box campaign also exists in Central Maluku, where an organization called the Central Maluku People's Democracy Coalition has encouraged residents to vote for the blank box, instead of for incumbent regent Abua Tuasikal and deputy regent Marlatu Leleuri.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/blank-box-to-compete-with-sole-candidates.html

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

Agus laments protest held outside his father's house

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono has lamented what he called an "illegal" protest held outside the residence of his father, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Monday.

While refusing to label the protest an attempt to disrupt his bid in the upcoming Jakarta election on Feb. 15, Agus referred to the activity an effort to intimidate his family.

"All citizens have to obey the regulations and prevent themselves from conducting illegal activities. Hundreds of people flocked to a private residential area, shouting outside pak SBY's residence," Agus told reporters after launching his new book, titled Telah Kupilih Jalan Hidupku Yang Baru Untuk Jakarta (I Have Chosen to Lead a New Life for Jakarta), in South Jakarta on Monday.

"I don't want my family to be intimidated by any parties because I am running in the Jakarta election. The more people [engaging in activities like Monday's protest] the more determined I am to prove that Jakarta needs a change," Agus added.

Yudhoyono took to Twitter yesterday to complain that his rights had been violated by the presence of hundreds of students protesting in front of his private residence.

South Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Iwan Kurniawan said as quoted by kompas.com that approximately 300 protesters had taken part in the rally. (trw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/07/agus-laments-protest-held-outside-his-fathers-house.html

KPU Jakarta calls on voters to treat social media with caution

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta General Elections Commissions (KPU Jakarta) has warned the public not to take every post on social media accounts at face value following the spread of pictures of so-called fake electronic identity cards (e-KTPs).

The fake e-KTPs bear the pictures of one person, but they have different ID numbers and names.

"We call on the public not to easily believe everything circulating on social media networks. Please do check and re-check," KPU Jakarta head Sumarno said in a press conference at the KPU Jakarta office in Salemba, Central Jakarta, on Tuesday as quoted by Kompas.com.

"This [hoax] has something to do with security during the election. The posting about the e-KTP is a hoax. It's not true," he went on. Sumarno hoped the public could help maintain peace and security so the upcoming regional election on Feb. 15 runs smoothly.

As well as the posts on the fake e-KTP, there has also been a rumor saying that KPU Jakarta has prepared strategies to ensure victory for Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pair Basuki Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

KPU Jakarta said that it had reported the social media account that spread the fake news to the Jakarta Police for further investigation. (trw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/07/kpu-jakarta-calls-on-voters-to-treat-social-media-with-caution.html

Ahok's lawyers report fourth blasphemy trial witness to police for

Jakarta Globe - February 7, 2017

Jakarta – Lawyers representing Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama have reported another opposing witness to police for allegedly giving false testimony during his ongoing blasphemy trial.

I Wayan Sudirta, one of Ahok's lawyers, said they reported Muhammad Asroi Saputra to the Jakarta Police on Monday (06/02), which brings the number of witnesses reported on similar allegations to four.

"There are two crucial requirements [for filing such reports to the police]. First, that the person gave false testimony under oath, and second, that the person is a claimant [or a witness for the claimant]. We have yet to decide whether to report those who are not claimants," Wayan said on Monday evening.

"This time we reported Muhammad Asroi Saputra, who lives in Padang Sidempuan [in North Sumatra]. Previously, in [the police] report, he described himself as a businessman. But in the police investigation report, he is listed as a civil servant," Wayan added.

Asroi allegedly gave false testimony during the trial by claiming to represent the voice of the global Muslim community.

"What matters most was his statement in the police investigation report, or in the recording transcript, where he claims to represent all Muslims in the world," Wayan said.

Ahok's lawyers questioned whether Asroi really represents all Muslims and sent letters to various country representatives and embassies, especially those with Muslim majorities, to confirm the witness's statement.

Suriname, one of the countries that received such a letter, responded by denying that it has any relations with Asroi, or that he speaks for Muslims in the South American country. "It was proven that the testimony was denied by the embassy of a Muslim majority country," Wayan said.

The three other witnesses reported to police are Novel Chaidir Hasan Bamukmin, secretary general of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI); Muchsin Alatas, leader of the FPI's Jakarta branch; and Willyuddin Abdul Rasyid Dhani. The four are facing charges under Article 242 of the Criminal Law.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/ahoks-lawyers-report-fourth-blasphemy-trial-witness-to-police-for-perjury/

No protest or objection after Ahok's speech: Witness

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – A speech delivered by Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in Jakarta's Thousand Islands regency, which some people have called blasphemous, did not trigger even a spark of protest from fishermen and local residents listening to it, a witness told the court on Tuesday.

Zaenuddin, who witnessed the speech with other fishermen in September last year, said that "everything was normal" when Ahok said Thousand Islands residents should not be deceived by people using Surah al-Maidah Verse 51 of the Quran to deter them from choosing a non-Muslim leader.

Presented as a witness by the prosecution team, he did say, however, that after watching video footage of the speech presented by police, he thought Ahok needed to apologize to Muslims for "disturbing their feelings".

"No one objected or protested during or after the speech, but still I think he needs to apologize," Zaenuddin said.

Ahok in October last year apologized "to Muslims or other people who felt offended" by his statement.

Zaenuddin told the panel of judges that he was a Muslim and did not know that al-Maidah Verse 51 was part of the Quran until he saw it on the news. "I haven't reached khatam [the final part] in reading the Quran, but I feel offended after hearing that he quoted it," he continued.

Two fishermen who had witnessed the speech were summoned to the court on Tuesday to testify in the blasphemy trial against the governor as witnesses for the prosecution team. Ahok faces up to five years of imprisonment if he is proven guilty as charged.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/07/no-protest-or-objection-after-ahoks-speech-witness.html

Agus retains 'field guerilla' style despite drop in support

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2017

Moses Omposunggu and Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Another survey has suggested a decline in support for the Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pair of Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni, though their campaign team remains optimistic that Agus' "field guerilla" style will help win votes on election day on Feb. 15.

Agus-Sylviana's popularity dropped from 25 percent before the second official debate on Jan. 27 to 21.8 percent after the event, according to a Populi Center poll released on Monday.

"We will still emphasize field guerilla campaigning. Greeting residents one by one through eye contact and handshakes is an important method to gain support," the AgusSylviana campaign team's spokesperson Roy Suryo told reporters in response to the poll results.

Agus, a former Army major and the eldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has coined the field guerilla term for his campaign style, emphasizing what he calls "the power of handshakes and eye contact" during many of his visits to residential areas across Jakarta. Agus believes that "talking too much about programs" does not necessarily lure voters.

The survey, which had a 4 percent error margin, found that the drop was partly caused by Agus and Sylviana's "unconvincing" performances during the second debate, which focused on bureaucratic reform, public services and spatial planning.

Conducted from Jan. 28 to Feb. 2, the poll found that only 13.5 percent of the total 800 respondents were convinced by Agus-Sylviana's programs in relation to the main topics of the debate. When asked if they were convinced about the pair's comprehension of the issues, the figure dropped further to 12.3 percent.

The other contenders in the race, meanwhile, saw signs of improvement in popularity following the debate, according to Populi. Some 40 percent of respondents said the incumbent Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat pair would win the election slated for Feb. 15, compared to 36.7 percent before the second debate.

Meanwhile, support for the Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno ticket rose slightly from 28.5 percent before the second debate to 30.3 percent after the debate, which was held at the Bidakara Hotel in South Jakarta.

The changes to the pairs' popularity, as purportedly triggered by the debate, albeit small, are considered crucial given the tight race. "A good performance in public debates is crucial for candidates to lure voters," said Populi Center researcher Nona Evita.

Some 74.3 percent of respondents said they watched the second debate, 54.7 percent of whom claimed they used the event to delve more into the candidates' missions, visions and programs.

A survey by PolTracking Indonesia, which was conducted one day after the second debate, offered different results. Of 800 respondents involved in the survey, only 34.25 percent said they had watched the second debate. Of those who watched it, around 80 percent said the debate was very important while 13 percent said it was not important.

The Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) has announced that the third debate slated for Feb. 10 will discuss key social issues, such as demographic issues and the improvement of Jakartans' livelihoods.

"We received suggestions after the first two debates. We will use them to improve the Agus-Sylvi ticket's performance in the third debate. There is no reason for us to give up [on the election]," Roy said. Responding to The Jakarta

Post's question about whether Agus' father Yudhoyono, who is also the Democratic Party's chairman, would be further involved in his son's campaign ahead of the election, Roy merely said "just wait and see".

On Saturday, Yudhoyono showed up at a gathering of volunteers supporting the Agus-Sylviana ticket, saying he had decided to "come out of retirement" to help the pair secure the top posts at City Hall.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/07/agus-retains-field-guerilla-style-despite-drop-in-support.html

Thousands to join upcoming rally

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2017

Jakarta – Thousands of members of Islamic organizations plan to join a rally in the capital on Feb. 11, ahead of the cooling off period before the regional elections, police officials confirmed on Tuesday.

The police have received a letter from the hard-line group Muslim Peoples Forum (FUI) informing them that around 10,000 people would be hitting Jakarta's streets on Saturday, National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said on Tuesday.

The protest will begin in the morning, with protesters marching from the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta.

Several hard-line Muslim groups, such as the Islam Defenders Front and FUI under the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) had previously announced that they would conduct rallies on Feb. 11, 12 and 15. The protestors also plan to hold a joint prayer before the rally.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has declared Feb. 12 to 14 the cooling-off period before voting day on Feb. 15.

Meanwhile, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said the police had urged protestors not to raise political issues as the planned rallies would be held close to the regional elections.

"We will not prohibit any religious activities, but in terms of any political agenda, please follow the regulations issued by the KPU. Don't conduct the rally if it violates election regulations," he told journalists at the National Police headquarters. (dis/rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/07/thousands-to-join-upcoming-rally.html

Yudhoyono takes to Twitter as protesters storm his Jakarta house

Jakarta Globe - February 6, 2017

Jakarta – Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono took to Twitter on Monday (06/02) as a group of protesters descended on his house in Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta.

On his Twitter account @SBYudhoyono, Indonesia's sixth president claimed hundreds of people had rallied and yelled in front of his home.

"Unless it has been revised, the law doesn't allow people to protest at private residences. Police never told me they were coming," Yudhoyono wrote in a tweet.

"I heard that at Cibubur camping ground yesterday students were yelling 'arrest SBY [Yudhoyono's nickname],'" he continued in another tweet.

"I'm asking the president and the police chief – don't I have the rights to live in peace in my own country? I only want justice. I leave the question of my personal safety to God," Yudhoyono said.

The head of the South Jakarta Police, Chief Comr. Iwan Kurniawan, said the protest at Yudhoyono's home, which involved around 500 students, was dispersed by the police at 2.45 p.m.

During the protest, the students handed out paper leaflets to passersby containing messages of support to Indonesia's state ideology Pancasila, encouragement for law enforcers to continue their probe into high-profile graft cases and protest against discrimination and radical groups.

"The protesters have been turned away. Six buses of them headed to the Semanggi area and seven to Central Jakarta," Iwan said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/yudhoyono-takes-twitter-protesters-storm-jakarta-house/

Muslim groups plan another massive rally in capital Jakarta

Jakarta Globe - February 5, 2017

Jakarta – Muslim groups are planning another massive street rally in the heart of Jakarta on Feb. 11 – just four days before the capital's residents go to the poll to elect a new governor – to demand a Muslim leader for the city.

This will be the fourth major demonstration by Muslims on the streets of Jakarta in the last five months.

Demonstrators are expected to pour into the National Monument complex – also where crowds gathered in the most recent demonstration on Dec. 2 – in early Saturday morning before they march along Jalan Thamrin to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle.

Muhammad Al Khaththath, the secretary general of Muslims Forum (FUI), which will organize the Feb. 11 rally, said, "There will be speeches, sermons, Koran recitals and prayers. It will finish off with the afternoon prayer," he said in Jakarta on Friday.

Muhammad did not give an estimation of the number of crowds expected at the rally, saying simply that "the 212 groups will be there," the number referring to the Dec. 2 "Defend Islam" rally that saw hundreds of thousands of Muslims blanketing the heart of the capital. Two previous rallies were also held on Oct. 14 and Nov. 4, the latter of which turned violent.

Many Muslim groups, led by the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), have been demanding that Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama step down as a candidate in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

An official statement issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in October accuses the Christian of Chinese descent of blasphemy for his comments about a Koranic verse.

Basuki, who has been going to court to attend his blasphemy trial while campaigning, is seeking a second term as Jakarta governor in the Feb. 15 election.

The Feb. 11 demonstration will remind Muslims not to elect a non-Muslim leader, Al Khaththath said. Quoting Al Maidah: 51, the Koranic verse that Basuki commented about, and another MUI edict on electing Muslim leaders from 2009, he said, "We are fighting for what is taught in the Koran."

The Muslim groups picked Feb. 11 as an auspicious date for the rally as it coincides with the commemoration of the Iranian Revolution, when Iranians led by Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the last US-backed Shah of Iran.

Egypt's Tahrir Square rally in 2011, which eventually toppled the country's long-time president Hosni Mubarak, also reached its peak on Feb. 11.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/muslim-groups-plan-another-massive-rally-capital-jakarta/

Megawati calls for unity amid divisive 'slander' during Ahok concert

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri made a speech at a large campaign event for incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat on Saturday in Senayan in Central Jakarta.

During her speech, the former president and daughter of first president Sukarno thanked all attendees and fellow political parties in the coalition for their support and, as usual, pointed out the Pancasila as the country's ideology.

"The Pancasila teaches us how to live peacefully. That all people in the country, no matter the religion or ethnicity, live together under Unity in Diversity," Megawati said, wearing a red shirt combined with blue-red plaid. She referred to the national slogan Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, or Unity in Diversity.

"We shouldn't be shortsighted, because that will divide us with meaningless slander and criticism. [...] Seeing such enthusiasm, I am sure that we [Ahok-Djarot] will win [the election]," she added, referring to a series of blasphemy accusations lodged against Ahok.

She called on all participants and supporters to vote for the pair without fear.

The Jakarta gubernatorial election has seen party elites taking part directly in the campaigns. Prabowo Subianto, the Gerindra Party patron who formed a coalition with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) to back candidate pair Anies Baswedan – Sandiaga Uno, made appearances on the campaign trail.

Democratic Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leads the coalition backing Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni, was also seen on the campaign trail meeting with residents. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/04/megawati-calls-for-unity-amid-divisive-slander-during-ahok-concert.html

Celebrities endorse gubernatorial tickets, but do they make a

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – Celebrities have always been part of the show when it comes to elections. It's not uncommon to see candidates for regional posts hiring dangdut singers to entertain voters at local campaign rallies.

In Jakarta, nationally known musicians are among those who, often voluntarily, endorse gubernatorial tickets. The upside of this is that celebrities offer a fresh and calming touch, especially when the political rivalry heats up in the approach to polling day.

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate in the upcoming election Djarot Saiful Hidayat have the endorsement of an army of celebrities.

Slank, a legendary rock band renowned for the social and political messages in its songs, has declared support for Ahok-Djarot.

Along with dozens of other famous musicians, Slank is scheduled to perform during a large rally for Ahok-Djarot at the former driving range in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on Saturday. "It's our conscience that persuaded us, not money," Slank drummer Bimbim said on Friday.

A group of musicians supporting Ahok-Djarot have also released a song titled "Gara-gara Ahok" (It's All Because of Ahok), which contains lyrics about problems, particularly corruption, that have plagued the city and that can, they claim, be solved by the incumbent ticket.

Singer Teuku Adifitrian, popularly known as Tompi, pop band Nidji's vocalist Giring Ganesha, singer-songwriters Lala Karmela and Glenn Fredly as well as musician Etta Herawati, known as Bertha, are among the artists behind the song, which was recorded with a dangdut arrangement to appeal to grassroots voters.

Giring said he and other musicians were inspired to create the song for Ahok given the current tension. "Ahok is outspoken, but all he does is for the sake of Jakartans," he said.

Ansy said the partnership with the musicians was also aimed at demonstrating participative, creative and innovative campaigning, which is still too rare in the country.

"They have not been hired because we wouldn't be able to afford [them]. With their endorsement, we want to attract undecided and swing voters," Ansy said.

The Anies Baswedan – Sandiaga Uno ticket has embraced famous celebrity couple Raffi Ahmad and Nagita Slavina and launched a mini talk show program Santai Sore Anies-Sandi (Relaxed Afternoon with Anies-Sandi), which will be hosted by Raffi, Nagita and another celebrity, Kartika Putri.

The program, comprising five episodes, explores the candidates' activities throughout their daily lives and includes testimonials from the pair's relatives. "Raffi and Nagita will have a significant electoral effect. We want to attract as many young voters as possible," Anies said.

Raffi said he was helping the ticket voluntarily. "I believe Anies is offering good programs for young Jakartans. But I'd never force my fans to follow [my political preferences]," Raffi said. Noted actor and comedian Pandji Pragiwaksono has also endorsed Anies-Sandiaga.

Meanwhile, the Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono – Sylviana Murni ticket has mainly relied on the support of celebrity politicians. Among them are presenter and comedian Eko Patrio from the National Mandate Party (PAN), actress Venna Melinda from the Democratic Party and model Arzeti Bilbina from the National Awakening Party (PKB).

"We have a very limited budget. Voluntary support from celebrities is only from those who are members of political parties," the ticket's campaign team spokesman Rachlan Nashidik said.

Political communication expert Zaenal Budiyono of Al-Azhar University in Jakarta said celebrity endorsements had little impact on candidate electability. "No matter how many famous people back their campaigns, they won't win votes if they can't offer good and realistic programs," Zaenal said.

The use of celebrities in campaigns might only affect lower-income voters with limited educations, he said. "Middle-income voters are unlikely to be won over by such a strategy," he added.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/04/celebrities-endorse-gubernatorial-tickets-but-do-they-make-a-difference.html

'No one can order a fatwa': Ulema Council

Jakarta Globe - February 4, 2017

Jakarta – Members of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, have railed against the accusation that political parties sometimes use their influence to force the council to issue a fatwa, or edict, that benefit them.

The allegation came up after another session in Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purmama's blasphemy trial on Tuesday (31/01), when MUI chairman Ma'ruf Amin testified against the governor.

One of Ahok's defense lawyers had claimed that former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was trying to exert undue influence on the MUI chairman to issue a fatwa against Ahok.

Yudhoyono had slammed the accusation and compared the alleged wiretapping of his conversation with the MUI chairman to the wiretapping of US President Richard Nixon in Watergate.

MUI Secretary General Anwar Abbas said the council issues an edict only at the request of the public. "No political party can or has ever exerted pressure on, or tried to dictate MUI into issuing an edict," Anwar said in Jakarta on Friday.

MUI has a set of well-established procedures to issue an edict, cleric Bachtiar Nasir said, adding that, "MUI never makes its decisions recklessly."

Yudhoyono's son Agus Harimurti is competing with Ahok in the upcoming Jakarta gubernatorial election on Feb. 15.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/no-one-can-order-fatwa-ulema-council/

Bachtiar Nasir heating up latest fray against Ahok

Jakarta Globe - February 4, 2017

Jakarta – Members of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, blamed Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for "uncivilized" behavior toward the council's chairman, Ma'ruf Amin, on Friday (03/02).

On Tuesday, a trial session against Ahok, who has been accused of blasphemy by several Muslim groups, including the MUI, saw him and his lawyers objecting to Ma'ruf's testimony.

Dozens of Muslim leaders gathered at the MUI headquarters in Central Jakarta on Friday, to condemn "arrogant" Ahok and praise "patient" Ma'ruf.

"We are angry as his patience was met with an insult," said Bachtiar Nasir, chairman of the Guardians of the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwas (GNPF-MUI).

In a joint statement released during the gathering, Muslim leaders accused Ahok of trying to undermine the credibility of the spiritual leader of the largest Indonesian Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

"He showed a highly uncivilized demeanor and carelessness which went beyond the limits," said Anwar Abbas, secretary general of the MUI, which in October issued an edict against the governor with regard to the blasphemy case.

During Tuesday's trial session, Ahok and his lawyers objected to Ma'ruf's testimony, which they found contradicting the information they had in their possession.

Ma'ruf reportedly has close links with former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono is Ahok's competitor in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/bachtiar-nasir-heating-latest-fray-ahok/

Strong political involvement in Ahok blasphemy case, Yudhoyono a burden

Jakarta Globe - February 4, 2017

Jakarta – Yunarto Wijaya of Charta Politika watchdog has warned of a strong political influence in Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial.

According to Yunarto, the political involvement in the case was particularly visible on Wednesday (01/02), when former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held a press conference, during which he said he will "seek justice" over allegations that he had been colluding with Ma'ruf Amin, chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, and a witness for the prosecution in the blasphemy case against Ahok.

Yudhoyono said a recording of a telephone conversation between himself and Ma'ruf, which Ahok's lawyers allegedly received, constituted wiretapping and political espionage.

Various state and law enforcement agencies, including the National Police, National Intelligence Agency and Indonesian Military, have since denied the accusation.

"SBY's [Yudhoyono's] stance has given additional political burden to his son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, who is also running for Jakarta governor's seat," Yunarto said on Thursday (02/02).

"SBY's statement will give electoral burden to Agus, as the public is becoming increasingly suspicious that SBY is actually playing a role in Ahok's case. If he had remained silent, he would have gained sympathy."

With regard to Ahok's objections to Ma'ruf's testimony during the eighth session of the blasphemy trial, Yunarto said that arguments between witnesses and defendants are common; the latter have to defend themselves, while the former want to see them punished.

However, he added, with Ma'ruf's position as the MUI chairman, certain manners need to be followed. "The issue of manners might have been neglected when [the defendant] was seeking the substantial facts," Yunarto said.

He added that Ahok's immediate public apology to Ma'ruf was the right move. "The apology was good. Now he has to meet with Ma'ruf and apologize to him in person. This should be done to prevent the emergence of unnecessary issues in the time remaining [to the gubernatorial election on Feb. 15]."

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/strong-political-involvement-ahok-blasphemy-case-yudhoyono-burden-agus-watchdog/

Religious minorities feel neglected in Jakarta election

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Despite the three candidate pairs in the Jakarta gubernatorial election offering promises to various social and demographic groups across the capital, religious minority groups still feel left out as candidates seem to prefer wooing members of the majority community.

In the three months since the election campaign kicked off in late October, none of the three candidates, namely Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni, incumbent Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat and Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno, have specifically spoken about protecting religious minorities from intolerant groups, even in the face of a rising number of sectarian incidents in the city.

Human rights organization Setara Institute reported that 31 sectarian incidents occurred in Jakarta in 2016, putting it in second place as the most intolerant province after West Java with 41 cases. Jakarta had not been in the top 10 of the most intolerant provinces list since 2008, according to Setara Institute deputy director Bonar Tigor Naipospos.

The Ahmadiyah and Shia are just two of the religious minority groups that have often faced discrimination in the past.

The leader of East Jakarta's Ahmadiyah community, Aryudi Prastowo, said the candidates should have spoken more about the issue of religious-minority rights because Jakarta was home to people from different religions and ethnic backgrounds.

"What makes Jakarta Jakarta is the minorities. If you wipe out all the minorities, Jakarta would no longer be Jakarta," he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Aryudi said the Ahmadiyah community left its members to vote for whichever candidate they wished. Voters, however, were urged not to vote for candidates that were backed by intolerant groups, he added.

Similar to Aryudi, a prominent Shia figure in Jakarta, who preferred to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue, agreed that the issue of minority rights had only been minimally touched on during the campaign. He urged the administration to immediately take action to handle the increase in intolerance in the city.

According to Bonar Tigor Naipospos, the issue of minority rights had become very sensitive for the candidates as a result of the blasphemy charges against Ahok. Candidates were reluctant, Bonar said, to address this issue openly for fear of alienating voters.

However, Bonar warned that leaving the issue untouched would have worse consequences as it would provide more space for intolerant groups to pursue their own agenda and force that agenda later when a particular candidate was elected.

"It is unpopular to address it, but there is no way to avoid discussing it," Bonar told the Post over the phone. "The candidates should have the courage to show that they are not going to tolerate any intolerant acts."

Agus spoke about the importance of maintaining a harmonious and tolerant city in the first official debate on Jan. 13, without however, elaborating on how he would implement the concept and whether he would reject certain intolerant groups.

Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, previously said that every minority citizen like himself had the constitutional right to run for office. However, he has not taken a public stance about intolerance toward minority groups like the Shia or Ahmadiyah.

Anies once said that he would protect pluralism and "ensure every single law enforcement agency enforces the law" against groups carrying out intolerant acts.

However, his visit to the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) headquarters was regarded by many as proof that he has a special relationship with the FPI, which in the past has raided places of worship belonging to minority groups.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/04/religious-minorities-feel-neglected-in-jakarta-election.html

Mass campaign rallies have little impact on boosting support: Researcher

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – All three tickets in the Jakarta gubernatorial election are preparing for their final campaign rallies before the campaign period ends on Feb. 11, but such events are likely to have an impact only on swing and undecided voters, said Sirojuddin Abbas, a researcher at Saiful Munjani Research and Consulting (SMRC).

He said most voters would have already decided on their choice by the time the final campaign rallies took place and the rallies would be unlikely to sway them.

"Mass rallies may only attract swing and undecided voters, but these people tend to skip such events," he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

They could be eventually attracted when they learn about the events through the media, Sirojuddin added. "Mass campaign rallies are normally held to consolidate supporters to ensure they won't be swayed," he said.

The Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni pairing is scheduled to end their campaigning with a rally on Feb. 11 at Soemantri Brodjonegoro Sports Stadium in Kuningan, South Jakarta.

Incumbents Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat are set to hold their biggest rally, titled "Konser Gue 2" (I AM 2 Concert), at the former driving range in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on Saturday.

Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno will stage a mass rally at Lapangan Banteng, Central Jakarta on Feb. 5.

Swing and undecided voters stand at around 14 percent of around 7 million registered voters, according to an SMRC study. With many surveys indicating a close race among the three pairs, winning the hearts of such voters is crucial. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/03/mass-campaign-rallies-have-little-impact-on-boosting-support-researcher.html

Agus Yudhoyono backs father's claims of wiretapping

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – Apparently echoing his father's grievances about being wiretapped by a political rival, Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono has said illegal wiretapping could undermine the practice of "democracy in Indonesia".

"We are seeking justice here. It's possible that all Indonesian citizens could experience the same thing [being wiretapped], isn't it?" Agus asked reporters after visiting residents in Cidodol, South Jakarta, on Friday.

Agus' father, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, previously refuted claims by a lawyer for blasphemy defendant and Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama that he had influenced Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Mar'uf Amin's decision to issue a fatwa to support Ahok's prosecution. Yudhoyono told reporters he might have been wiretapped by the government in relation to the claim.

"I am hoping that it [wiretapping] will not be a new norm in the country, which is ruled by law. [Illegal wiretapping] could mar civil rights and liberty," said Agus.

Neither Ahok's camp nor Yudhoyono have presented evidence suggesting wiretapping occurred when the latter made what he called "a courtesy call" to Ma'ruf on Oct. 6, five days before the MUI issued its religious opinion and stance on Ahok's allegedly blasphemous comments that triggered two large rallies in the capital last year. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/03/agus-yudhoyono-backs-fathers-claims-of-wiretapping.html

Many unregistered voters live in apartments or are former evictees

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta acting governor Sumarsono has said many voters in Jakarta are not on the final voter list ahead of the upcoming election because many live in apartments or were victims of forced evictions.

He said the system to register addresses in apartment blocks was not as clear as for people living in landed housing.

"Most of the unregistered ones turn out to be living in apartments. There are also victims of evictions and we cannot find them," Sumarsono said as quoted by kompas.com on Thursday.

He said the administration had ordered the population and civil registry agency to visit apartments in Jakarta to seek data.

"So we're reaching out to them," he said. "If they haven't begun the electronic ID processing we will help them get a letter from the agency to vouch for them. That's to make sure everyone's voting rights are met," he said.

However, he said there were difficulties in tracking down victims of forced evictions. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/03/many-unregistered-voters-live-in-apartments-or-are-former-evictees.html

The real reason many poor Jakartans are opposing Ahok in the

Sydney Morning Herald - February 3, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – We are being taken on what Dharma Diani grimly calls "rubble tourism".

This is her home, but the landscape she shows us looks more like a war zone than a peaceful kampung (neighbourhood) of poor fishermen in North Jakarta. Somehow people are still living amid the piles of debris; there are tents and patchwork shanties cobbled together with plywood and advertising tarpaulins.

This is Kampung Akuarium, ground zero in Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's aggressive campaign of forced evictions to tackle endemic problems in the city such as flooding, traffic congestion and lack of green space.

The people of Kampung Akuarium were given an eviction notice 11 days before their homes were bulldozed in April last year.

"We were never told why but Ahok was quoted in the media saying he wanted to turn the area into a religious tourism destination because an old mosque is nearby," Dharma says.

"He wanted a big square where people can meet in restaurants. Ahok keeps saying he wants to revitalise the old city but nothing has happened since the eviction."

Dharma, who makes a living selling gas canisters, is among 70 families who have refused to budge. Her house was flattened but she managed to save some of her belongings and erect a makeshift shack. "It leaks of course and if the wind is too strong, the roof is gone. The roof in our temporary mosque has gone too."

But Dharma says it is not an option to relocate to low-cost rental apartments provided by the government 25 kilometres away. "Some of us are fishermen or work at the fish market. If you move us somewhere four hours away in heavy traffic, how can we work? How can we pay?"

Dharma's eyes well with tears as she talks to us in a crude shelter – the community's "crisis centre" – which has a banner proclaiming "my kampung is my life". "Ahok labelled us as illegal squatters and says we just occupied empty land and spread tuberculosis. We tried to meet him but he didn't want to receive us. He is too much. He is cruel. For us a leader is not like that."

The irony is that almost all of the residents of Kampung Akuarium, including Dharma, supported Ahok when he successfully ran in the gubernatorial elections in 2012 as Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's deputy.

Jokowi, now the president, visited Kampung Akuarium three times during the campaign. Dharma says he made a political contract to end evictions and give land certificates to those who had lived in the kampung for more than 20 years.

The sense of betrayal is deep. "Ninety-five per cent of the people from the kampung voted for them. It didn't matter to us Ahok was Christian and Chinese, we never cared about race and religion. Now we have this problem because of Ahok himself. He is a troublemaker."

Asks if there is a anyone left in the kampung who would vote for Ahok in the February 15 gubernatorial election, Dharma shakes her head bitterly. "Null per cent. It's common sense. He makes the poor become poorer. This has made a lot of people more political, including me."

The former red-light district of Kalijodo which was virtually razed overnight last February after Ahok decided he wanted to clean up the so-called den of vice and turn it into a park.

In September hundreds of families were evicted from Bukit Duri, as part of a plan to mitigate flooding by widening the Ciliwung river, despite legal proceedings being before court. Several months later the State Administrative Court ruled their eviction had violated the law.

Murdoch University Research fellow Ian Wilson gets frustrated when so much of the commentary around the sometimes vitriolic campaign against Ahok, who is on trial for allegedly insulting Islam, centres on concerns over growing religious and racial intolerance and radicalism in Indonesia.

"This ignores the fact there are solid material grievances," he tells Fairfax Media.

Wilson visited Kampung Akuarium soon after the homes were bulldozed. He says the people were shell-shocked. One fisherman, who had been out of mobile range because he was fishing around Kalimantan in Borneo, came back to discover his home had gone.

"When I first went out there, people had signs of post-traumatic shock disorder and real psychological damage because of what had been done to them. This neighbourhood was fully supportive of Jokowi and Ahok. You can't explain [the opposition to Ahok] by saying they are sectarian or racist against the Chinese – it is simply not the case. It happened as a direct outcome of the impact of policies."

The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute estimates that more than 16,000 families have been displaced in the last two years alone. Hafid Abbas from the National Commission for Human Rights says forced evictions violate human rights: "The poor has likely no space to live safely in Jakarta."

Hafid warns that in order to prevent social unrest in Jakarta the Jokowi administration should stop forced evictions for unjust reasons such as development of land by companies.

Visit Kampung Akuarium and you will be left in no doubt for whom its remaining residents will vote. Everywhere you look are banners for Ahok's rival Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno. The ticket, which is endorsed by government opposition party Gerindra and the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party, has vowed it will not carry out evictions.

A Gerindra flag flutters from the ruins. Dharma says Gerindra distributed tents, food and medication to the displaced people.

"A lot suffered flu because their homes are now open to the elements and skin problems because it is dusty," she says. "Of course we are sympathetic to Gerindra because they give us things. It's not because they want our votes, it's not because of politics because there are not many of us left here."

Wilson, who is researching how evicted neighbourhoods are engaging with the upcoming election, says political opportunists – including the hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI) – have capitalised on this disenchantment.

"The FPI, for all its faults, will often be there to provide logistical support during evictions or natural disasters," Wilson says. "People have a genuine affection for the group because of that. Most of the FPI members come from kampungs originally, so [people] relate to them more than middle-class intellectuals. Many kampung members have become bona fide FPI supporters over the past few months, taking part in the [anti-Ahok] demonstrations."

Dharma says the FPI were at Kampung Akuarium on eviction day handing out food and mattresses. The eviction occurred months before Ahok became embroiled in controversy for allegedly insulting Islam. "They always help people in a situation like this," Dharma says.

She agrees Ahok's policies may have driven people into the arms of other political organisations. "Maybe it's just like food," she says. "We know certain food doesn't taste good and another food looks attractive."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/the-real-reason-many-poor-jakartans-are-opposing-ahok-in-the-gubernatorial-election-20170203-gu52aj.html

Ahok's defense team accused of using black magic to influence blasphemy

Harian Terbit - February 3, 2017

Jakarta, HanTer – The defence team of blasphemy defendant Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok has been accused of using black magic to influence proceedings during their client's court hearings.

The indications of black magic can be seen from the several prosecution witnesses who have appeared unable to answer questions or who seemed to have gone blank when cross examined by Ahok's lawyers.

"There are indications of the use of magic. Because I saw a colleague who was a prosecution witness who went blank (couldn't think). Like Gus Joy who didn't even know where he went to school", said Syamsu Hilal, one of the people who reported Ahok for blasphemy, who was speaking at a public discussion with the theme "Should Ahok be Jailed" at the Muhammadiyah Central Board Proselytizing Building in Jakarta on Thursday February 2.

According to Hilal, this black magic has not just influenced witnesses who have been accused by Ahok's legal team of perjury, but have also influenced the judges and prosecutors. It is not surprising then that there were some judges and prosecutors who became sleepy during the blasphemy hearings. "Among the rows of Ahok supporters there were indeed some who were mumbling. Because it was suspected that [black] magic was being used a friend called in an ahli rukyah [Islamic spiritual healer]", said Halal.

Three paranormals

Hilal related how an ahli rukyah (Islamic spiritual healer) named Ustadz Sahal (Islamic preacher) was brought in for the eighth hearing on Tuesday January 31. Based on the observations by rukyah Ustadz Sahal there were three paranormals being used by Ahok's legal team at the trial. Ustadz Sahal was even able to identify the positions of the three paranormals. "Only God knows this, yes. But there were paranormals and they had an influence", asserted Hilal.

The magical influence, added Hilal, was also acknowledge by the public prosecutor (JPU). At the time one of the prosecutors alleged that three of his colleagues suffered headaches. Hilal believes that although a lay person cannot directly see the influence of black magic it can be felt. "Magic can be utilised to influence a person psychologically or mentally", explained Hilal.

In order that they not be influenced by the manipulation of paranormals, explained Hilal, Ustadz Sahal will be present at the next hearing in order to safeguard the trial from black magic attacks.


Qurrota A'yun Psychology Consultant chairperson Dimas Cokro Pamungkas said that issue of magical practices certainly exists in all fields in Indonesia and the world of politics and the courts are no exception. Moreover many communities still very much believe in such things. However paranormals should not be used at Ahok's trial.

"I think that using a practitioner of magic in a trial is misplaced. Because that is a place where people gather evidence, present logic and competing arguments. It's better to prepare lawyers and other things that can support [a case] factually rather than engage ideas from the world of magic, the courts are the world of intelligent people in the sense of what is real", said Pamungkas.


The secretary of the Ahok-Djarot Saiful Hidayat election campaign team, Ace Hasan Sadjili has refuted the allegations that black magic was being used to influence the court hearings. Moreover he did not take the allegations seriously at all.

"Wow, what other accusations will they come up with. Such allegations are clearly something that has been fabricated", he said laughingly when contacted in Jakarta on Thursday February 2.

He said that they have never used methods such as that because, according Sadjili, such things are forbidden by religion. "We don't use methods such as that. We are presenting facts and legal evidence", he said. (Sammy/Safari)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Pengaruhi Saksi, Jaksa dan Hakim: Tim Ahok Diduga Gunakan Ilmu Hitam".]

Source: http://nasional.harianterbit.com/nasional/2017/02/03/76515/25/25/Pengaruhi-Saksi-Jaksa-dan-Hakim-Tim-Ahok-Diduga-Gunakan-Ilmu-Hitam

Government denies involvement in Yudhoyono's 'Watergate' allegations

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – The government has denied involvement in alleged illegal phone tapping of the private conversations of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which the former president has dubbed the "Watergate" scandal.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration had not and would not conduct phone tapping, Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said, adding that it was impossible to do so unless it was a law enforcement measure.

"We can't do [phone] tapping except if it is planned by the Corruption Eradication Commission, the National Police and the attorney general, which are related to law enforcement," Yasonna told journalists on Thursday.

His response followed Yudhoyono's call to Jokowi on Wednesday to step in if it was proven that the alleged tapping of his conversation with Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin was executed by or with the help of law enforcement officials.

The Democratic Party chairman lambasted the government after his name was mentioned during a hearing on Tuesday for Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's religious blasphemy case.

Ahok's legal team claimed that Ma'ruf, who appeared as a witness at the hearing, received a phone call from Yudhoyono related to support for his eldest son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, who is running against Ahok in the upcoming Jakarta gubernatorial election.

In the hearing, lawyer Humphrey Djemat also claimed that Ma'ruf had been influenced by Yudhoyono regarding the issuance of an MUI recommendation alleging that Ahok had committed blasphemy.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/02/govt-denies-involvement-in-yudhoyonos-watergate-allegations.html

BIN denies giving intelligence data to Ahok

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Jakarta – The State Intelligence Agency (BIN) asserted on Thursday that it did not provide information on a phone conversation between former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin to the legal team of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Previously, the Jakarta governor claimed in court that he had evidence that proved Yudhoyono had called Ma'ruf and asked him to issue a fatwa stating that Ahok had committed blasphemy.

The fatwa was instrumental in pushing the police to charge Ahok with blasphemy for his statement about a Quranic verse.

"The information is the sole responsibility of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and his lawyers," BIN official Sundawan said in a statement. Ahok, he added, had claimed he had obtained the information from an online article.

Yudhoyono, who admitted that he did phone Ma'ruf but denied having a conversation about the fatwa, accused the government of illegal wiretapping.

The spy body stressed that it only conduct wiretapping in the interest of national security and that it was always carried out according to prevailing laws and human rights principles.

It added that the results of wiretapping would not be disclosed, let alone be given to outside parties. "Through this official clarification [...] BIN asserts that the information did not come from BIN," Sundawan said. (ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/02/bin-denies-giving-intelligence-data-to-ahok-1486040760-1486041198.html

MUI chairman forgives Ahok, calls on NU members to do the same

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin said he forgave Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama over the latter's remark accusing Ma'ruf of bias in issuing an edict on the allegations against Ahok.

Ahok apologized in a written statement on Wednesday afternoon and Ma'ruf said that although he had yet to hear the apology, he would forgive someone who had asked forgiveness.

"When someone has apologized, of course I would forgive him," he said as quoted by kompas.com on Wednesday evening.

Ma'ruf, who is also a top figure in Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), called on all NU members to also forgive Ahok. He said NU members should keep calm and restrain themselves. "We don't want to have adversaries," Ma'ruf said.

In his apology Ahok said he did not mean to discredit Ma'ruf. "I apologize to KH Ma'ruf Amin if I seemed to discredit him [when he testified at the trial] as a witness in his capacity as MUI chairman. I acknowledge that he is a Nahdlatul Ulama [NU] elder. And I respect him just like I respect other NU figures like Gus Dur [Abdurrahman Wahid] and Gus Mus [Ahmad Mustofa Bisri] – figures whom I honor and see as models," Ahok said in a statement on Wednesday.

Ahok also said he would not report Ma'ruf to the police as threatened earlier in a hearing session of his alleged blasphemy case on Tuesday. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/02/mui-chairman-forgives-ahok-calls-on-nu-members-to-do-the-same.html

MUI urges Muslims to restrain from rallying against Ahok's latest

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – Amid growing tension over statements from Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama against a renowned Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) ulema, the council has urged the public to remain calm and refrain from staging protests.

The governor made the allegedly belittling comments during his blasphemy trial.

"The MUI is obliged to convey to all Indonesian Muslims to remain calm and not be caught up in provocation. It is our shared duty to maintain peace and harmony," MUI deputy chairman Zainut Tauhid Saadi said on the sidelines of a press briefing at his office on Thursday.

Zainut also urged people to trust law enforcement institutions to scrutinize any possible wrongdoings. Ma'ruf did not attend the press briefing on Thursday.

Ahok, who is seeking reelection in the Jakarta gubernatorial race, has been in the spotlight following his remarks accusing MUI chairman Ma'ruf Amin of bias in issuing an edict on the allegations against him.

Ma'ruf is also an elder from the country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). Ahok apologized in a written statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying he did not mean to discredit the cleric.

Last year, two large-scale rallies were staged to demand the prosecution of Ahok for blasphemy.

A number of state officials, including Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, visited Ma'ruf's residence on Wednesday evening in what many believe was an attempt to reduce tensions.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/02/mui-urges-muslims-to-restrain-from-rallying-against-ahoks-latest-statements.html

'We don't have Yudhoyono-Ma'ruf phone call transcript,' says Ahok's

Jakarta Globe - February 2, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's lawyer, Sirra Prayuna, said on Thursday (02/02) that his team did not have the transcript of a phone call between former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, Ma'ruf Amin.

Sirra's statement came in response to Yudhoyono's complaint over an alleged wiretapping of his and Ma'ruf's conversation. Yudhoyono called on the law enforcement institutions to investigate the case.

Sirra has denied being in possession of the call's transcript. "It is impossible that we, lawyers, could resort to wiretapping. We are not a law enforcement agency that has authority to do so. We do not have the transcript of the conversation," he said.

He added that Ahok's lawyers did not refer to any particular document when they asked Ma'ruf about his conversation with Yudhoyono and only tried to confirm information.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Yudhoyono, who is also the chairman of the Democratic Party, said there was nothing sinister about the meeting between his son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, who is Ahok's competitor in the upcoming gubernatorial election, and Ma'ruf on Oct. 7.

He also claimed that there were no face-to-face meetings or direct phone calls between himself and Ma'ruf, with regard to the MUI's edict against Ahok.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/dont-yudhoyono-maruf-phone-call-transcript-says-ahoks-lawyer/

Yudhoyono barking up wrong tree, Jokowi says

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has played down former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's accusation that the current government had illegally tapped his phone.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Yudhoyono questioned claims made by Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in court that he had complete evidence of a phone conversation proving that Yudhoyono had influenced Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amien's decision to issue a fatwa declaring that Ahok had committed blasphemy.

Ahok, a close ally of Jokowi and the main rival of Yudhoyono's son, Agus Harimurti, in the Jakarta election, is standing trial for blasphemy.

Yudhoyono has demanded that law enforcers launch an investigation into the tapping allegations. He has also asked Jokowi to take action if state institutions turn out to be the parties that did the eavesdropping.

Jokowi said his predecessor had addressed the question to the wrong person. "The claims were made during a trial by Ahok and his team of lawyers. Why am I being dragged into the case? It is a court matter, and I have nothing to do with it," Jokowi told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday.

Jokowi said that it was better for Yudhoyono to seek clarification from Ahok and his team of lawyers with regard to the tapping allegations. "Please ask the person who made the claims," Jokowi said. (ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/02/yudhoyono-barking-up-wrong-tree-jokowi-says.html

SBY calls for investigation into alleged 'Watergate' scandal involving

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called the police to start a criminal investigation into an alleged illegal tapping incident involving his phone that he said was "nasty as the Watergate scandal".

During the press statement held in the headquarters of Yudhoyono's Democratic Party in Central Jakarta, he refused to take any questions from reporters, but he implied that he would not let the accusation made by Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's legal counsel against him slip away. Quoting the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, Yudhoyono said there was a criminal charge for such a violation.

"If they really have my phone call record, it was an illegal tapping, and it's called political spying if it was coordinated with a political motive. Just like Watergate," he told reporters. He was referring to the Watergate scandal in the United States.

In a hearing at the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday, Ahok's legal team accused Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin of bias for issuing a recommendation alleging that the Jakarta governor had committed blasphemy.

The team said Ma'ruf had been influenced by Yudhoyono, and they had a phone call record between the two to support their claim. Ma'ruf had denied the accusation while Yudhoyono admitted to having had a phone call with Ma'ruf but said it was just a courtesy call and not a political conversation.

On Wednesday Yudhoyono also demanded President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to step in if it was proven that the phone tapping was executed by or with the help of law enforcement. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/sby-calls-for-investigation-into-alleged-watergate-scandal-involving-ahok.html

Prabowo targets key battleground area to back Anies

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – Hundreds of people who crowded a house on Jl. Tipar Cakung, East Jakarta, had started to look a little worried after waiting for 30 minutes there. A stage and dozens of chairs were erected the night before and several banners were seen along the street heading to the house.

Smiles bursted on the people's faces when Gerindra chief patron Prabowo Subianto arrived at the venue.

"This is my president, give some space to my president," one lady shouted as she tried to get through Prabowo's entourage in order to take a selfie with the retired military general.

Prabowo, who was President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's rival in the 2014 presidential election, went to the stage and held a microphone. Suddenly, once he started to speak, the noisy crowd turned silent.

"We have a great task ahead: voting for a governor and vice governor. Vote for the right candidates. If you vote for the wrong man then you should not be angry, cry or whine," Prabowo said. His words were responded to with head nods throughout the audience.

On Tuesday, Prabowo started his three-day campaign drive for Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pair Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, who are supported by the Gerindra Party and the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

Anies-Sandiaga are running against two other candidate pairs in Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni for the election on Feb. 15.

Prabowo was accompanied by former military chief Gen. (ret.) Djoko Santoso during his visit to Pinang Ranti, East Jakarta, earlier that day.

On the first day of his campaign for Anies, Prabowo visited two neighborhoods in Cakung, a subdistrict considered to be a "key battleground area" with the second largest number of voters in the capital.

In the 2014 presidential election, the majority of residents there voted for Prabowo over President Jokowi, giving hope to Prabowo and his team that residents in the area will once again stand by his side.

"We need Jakarta to be led by Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno. We need leaders who defend marginalized citizens and don't like to evict people," Prabowo said.

The collaboration between the two has surprised many since Anies was a spokesperson for Jokowi's presidential campaign team, but both parties suggested that it was now water under the bridge.

Recent polls show the Anies-Sandiaga pair in second place, behind Ahok and ahead of Agus – a positive trend after months of being ranked at the bottom by various surveys. Experts have said that despite having lost the presidential election, Prabowo remains a popular figure and his campaign support could boost Anies' electability.

It is believed that Prabowo would run again in the 2019 presidential election and Gerinda has indicated this to be a strong possibility. "Pak Jokowi wants to run again in the 2019 election and we, the members of Gerindra, want to support Pak Prabowo again in 2019," the head of Gerindra's executive board (DPP) Ahmad Riza Patria said as quoted by tribunnews.com.

Meanwhile, two weeks ahead of the election, Anies said that his campaign team was working in "full speed" as most high-profile figures like PKS chairman Sohibul Iman and deputy advisory chairman Hidayat Nurwahid had joined on his campaign trail.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/prabowo-targets-key-battleground-area-to-back-anies.html

MUI chief accused of bias for issuing recommendation on Ahok

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – The legal defense team of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama on Tuesday accused Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin of bias for issuing a recommendation alleging that the Jakarta governor had committed blasphemy.

According to the team, Ma'ruf had been influenced by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over the issuance the recommendation, in which the council categorized one of Ahok's speeches that cited a Quranic verse as "blasphemous".

During the eighth hearing of Ahok's blasphemy trial on Tuesday, legal team member Humphrey Djemat claimed Ma'ruf, who testified as a witness, received a phone call from Yudhoyono on Oct. 6.

That was one day before a meeting between executives of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pair Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni took place at the NU headquarters on Jl. Kramat Raya, Central Jakarta. Ma'ruf was present at the meeting.

In the hearing, Humphrey frequently asked Ma'ruf whether the he was "demanded by Yudhoyono" to "issue an edict" in response to a speech Ahok made during a working visit to the Thousand Islands regency on Sept. 27, 2016. The lawyer also asked the MUI chairman whether Yudhoyono had asked the NU to "accept Agus and Sylviana at its headquarters".

Maruf denied all of the accusations during the hearing. He remained tight-lipped when journalists attempted to interview him about the matter after the hearing ended at about 3 p.m. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/mui-chief-accused-of-bias-for-issuing-recommendation-on-ahok.html

Dems slams Ahok team over accusation linking party patron with MUI

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – The Democratic Party has claimed that party patron Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had nothing to do with the issuance of an Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) recommendation to declare Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama committed blasphemy.

"Yudhoyono had never asked MUI to issue any recommendation addressed to Ahok about his alleged blasphemy. It's defamation intentionally made by Ahok's team to distract the public's attention from his blasphemy case," Democratic Party deputy secretary-general Didi Irawadi Syamsuddin said Wednesday.

Didi called into question Ahok's team's move to link the MUI recommendation with Yudhoyono, whose eldest son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono is competing with the incumbent candidate in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Didi said Ahok's team should provide facts and concrete evidence. "If it's only a baseless accusation, there should be a legal consequence."

During Ahok's trial hearing on Tuesday, his legal defense team accused MUI chairman Ma'ruf Amin of having been influenced by Yudhoyono in the issuance of its recommendation, in which the council categorized one of Ahok's speeches that cited a Quranic verse as "blasphemous".

In the hearing, Ahok legal team member Humphrey Djemat claimed Ma'ruf received a phone call from Yudhoyono on Oct. 6, who he said demanded the MUI chairman "issue an edict" declaring Ahok's speech to be blasphemous. Maruf denied all of the accusations during the hearing.

Ahok said that there were too many lies in the hearing and threatened to legally report Ma'ruf to show that there was evidence of Yudhoyono's phone call to the MUI leader.

In his statement, Didi also lambasted Ahok, who he said was rude to Ma'ruf, a noted religious figure. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/dems-slams-ahok-team-over-accusation-linking-party-patron-with-mui-chairman.html

Environment & natural disasters

17 associations reject plan to impose plastic taxes

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2017

Jakarta – Seventeen associations have expressed their rejection of the government's plan to impose taxes on plastic, arguing that such a policy would reduce the competitiveness of Indonesian products.

"Furthermore, such a policy would hamper the President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo administration's efforts to boost economic growth through investment," the chairman of a forum of 17 associations of plastic producers and consumers, dubbed FLAIPPP, Rachmat Hidayat, said in Jakarta as reported by kontan.com on Monday.

If plastic taxes were imposed, Indonesia would be the only member of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to have such a policy, said Rachmat.

In addition to the negative impacts on Indonesia's position in international trade, the enforcement of such a policy would also affect the plastic recycling industry, which involves a large number of people. "The collection of plastic taxes will speed up the paralysis of the plastic recycling industry," he said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Food and Beverage Producers Association (GAPMMI) head Adhi S. Lukman said such a policy would also seriously affect food and beverage companies that used plastic packaging.

The food and beverage industry was a potential investment target and employed a large number of workers, in line with government programs, said Adhi.

The industry involves 6,000 big players and one million small and medium players, involving four million workers, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS). "The collection of plastic taxes would certainly push up the prices [of foods and beverages]," Adhi added. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/06/17-associations-reject-plan-to-impose-plastic-taxes.html

Mangrove coastal shield rapidly being destroyed

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – Mangrove conservation is largely still being neglected by the government, even though the country's swamps, a crucial guardian of the coasts amid a rising sea level, are facing the highest rate of destruction in recent decades.

The country's mangroves are increasingly being threatened by oil palm plantation expansion as well as various reclamation projects.

Mangroves, which are unique among the world's plants as they can survive in saltwater and can filter seawater, have the capacity to keep pace with sea level rises.

According to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), some mangrove forests in the country can survive from sea level rises as they accumulate 4 millimeters of sediment every year, more than the average sealevel rise rate, which is 1.8 mm per year.

"This is way above the mean increment rises of sea levels," CIFOR senior scientist Daniel Murdiyarso said. "Mangroves can cope with that because they manage to accumulate sediment of up to 4 mm a year without any intervention."

Besides keeping pace with sea level rises, mangrove can also prevent erosion.

Research by the University of Southampton found that areas without mangroves were more susceptible to erosion and encroaching water, whereas mangrove regions could prevent these impacts – which is likely due to soil building up around their root mesh – as their roots acted as dissipaters of waves and tidal currents.

The archipelago is rich in mangroves, with about 3 million hectares of mangrove forests growing along the country's 95,000-kilometer coastline, or 23 percent of the entire world's mangrove ecosystem.

However, these mangroves are disappearing at an alarming rate. In fact, the nation has the fastest rate of mangrove destruction in the world as it has lost 40 percent of its mangroves over the past three decades.

"The rate of conversion in Indonesia is very high at 2 percent. Every year we're losing 52,000 ha of mangroves. That is the same as losing three football fields of mangrove a week," Daniel said.

"From recent findings in 2015, the loss of mangroves are not only caused by fish, shrimp, aquaculture development, but also caused by oil palm plantation development."

There is a lack of national guidelines on how to conserve and restore mangroves. While there was Presidential Regulation No. 73/2012 on the national mangrove ecosystem management strategy, it still was not sufficient, said Daniel.

"It's the only regulation but it is merely coordinative. Within the regulation, it specifies who should do what but it doesn't say anything about how," he said.

Second, mangrove conservation is not included in the National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation (RAN-API).

Instead of utilizing mangroves as a natural protector against sea level rises, the government opts to use artificial means, such as a giant seawall to protect cities from rising seas.

For example, a seawall is being constructed to enclose Jakarta Bay, which is be part of the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) program. The project also includes land reclamation and the construction of 17 artificial islets.

Daniel said the reclamation project would have a devastating impact to the mangrove ecosystem in North Jakarta, which was already dying. The giant seawall's existence and the islets will disrupt the stability of the ocean tides, something which highly affects mangrove growth.

However, the Jakarta administration has signaled that it would proceed with the controversial project after having completed its strategic environmental assessment (KLHS).

Wetlands International-Indonesia director Nyoman N. Suryadiputra said if the reclamation had to proceed, then at least the developers of the project should design the shoreline of the manmade islets so that mangroves could grow naturally.

"I visited islets C and D recently and apparently there were already mangroves growing along the shoreline. But I am worried about a levee being built between the islets and the Muara Angke ecotourism park, which would definitely destroy the local mangrove forest," he told The Jakarta Post.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/06/mangrove-coastal-shield-rapidly-being-destroyed.html

100,000 may have died but there is still no justice over Indonesian air

The Guardian (Australia) - February 4, 2017

Elodie Aba and Bobbie Sta. Maria – It started with a mild cough. Muhanum Anggriawati was just 12 years old when the cough began, transforming within weeks into a violent hacking that brought up a yellowish-black liquid.

At the end of last year, her father told an Indonesian court how she had been taken into hospital, and treated with oxygen therapy, then with a defibrillator. Nothing, however, had worked. After a week on a breathing machine, she died in the hospital, her lungs still full of the foul mucus.

Anggriawati is believed to have been one of many victims of the haze, or air pollution, that regularly spreads across Indonesia because of the huge deforestation fires linked to palm oil and other agribusiness.

The Global Fire Emissions Database reports that in 2015, fires in Indonesia generated about 600m tonnes of greenhouse gases, which is roughly equivalent to Germany's entire annual output.

The smoke contains dangerous chemicals such as carbon monoxide, ammonia and cyanide. A study by Harvard and Columbia universities revealed that the haze may have caused the premature deaths of more than 100,000 people in south-east Asia in 2015. The authors estimated that there were 91,000 deaths in Indonesia; 6,500 in Malaysia and 2,200 in Singapore.

Anggriawati's father is one of a number of grieving parents in Riau who have taken the brave step of bringing a lawsuit against the police for terminating investigations against 15 companies linked to haze-causing burning activities in 2015. His suit is just one of many uphill legal struggles to seek accountability. But relief is limited. The governments of these countries have rejected the results of the study, citing inaccurate data. Indonesia reports just 24 deaths.

We visited Indonesia late last year. Lawyers and advocates bringing cases on behalf of the families and communities told us about the difficulty they face in meeting strict evidentiary requirements to establish where the burning is occurring, who is responsible, and the causal link between the burning and health problems in affected communities.

In one case, satellite images were not accepted as evidence. Judges and even witnesses may hesitate to impute causality or link the health impacts to the haze, even when there is scientific basis to support it. Lawyers and advocates also intimated that the lack of access to evidence, especially company information including maps that show plantation boundaries, makes it difficult to build a case even when the evidence of burning is present.

Even more worrying are the threats to people, including government agents, who are trying to investigate and document the fires. In September 2016, Indonesia's environment ministry reported that a team of environmental investigators were taken hostage by up to 100 men, believed to have been hired by a palm oil firm.

These violent threats greatly diminish victims' interest in documentation and litigation, as well as their hope for effective and peaceful legal redress. Placed against a backdrop of corruption in judicial and law enforcement systems, all these factors make potential litigation unappealing and burdensome for victims.

Legal accountability and access to justice are vital to this fight. While strong executive acts and voluntary company measures such as certification and zero-burning policies are helpful, it is even more important that those responsible are held to account.

To be fair, the governments concerned have taken some measures to increase legal accountability. The Transboundary Haze Pollution Act 2014 in Singapore creates both civil and criminal offences "for any entity to engage in conduct, or to condone conduct, causing or contributing to haze pollution in Singapore".

Last year, Singapore's National Environment Agency issued preventive measures notices to six Indonesian companies suspected of starting fires. And in June 2016, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry said that it was planning to sue five companies over alleged forest fires the year before.

Communities and NGOs are also engaged in various efforts to promote increased accountability. Greenpeace has set up an interactive map showing company concessions and active fires to create more transparency on land tenure. Forest & Finance provides public data showing the role of finance in deforestation and aims to encourage the financial sector to adopt policies to prevent funding of this practice. NGOs are helping empower communities to document their experiences related to haze, including through the use of technology.

Groups are advocating for better laws in their respective jurisdictions. Communities and government officials are also working together to bring more lawsuits, and have been successful in a number of the cases that have already been brought. For example, the Indonesian supreme court in 2015 ordered palm oil company PT Kallista Alam to pay a record amount of $26m (£21m) in fines and reparations for its cut-and-burn practices in the Tripa peat swamp region.

But these efforts must be accompanied by heightened measures to remove barriers to legal accountability and ensure that in cases of abuse, communities are able turn to courts as powerful and effective instruments for remedy and justice. In all the countries concerned, there should be collective action to: increase the capacity of courts to handle environmental cases; address corruption in law enforcement and judicial systems; require greater transparency among companies; promote access to information; and ensure the personal security of investigators and seekers of justice.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/feb/04/indonesian-air-pollution-death-justice

Jakarta, Semarang on the brink of ecological disasters

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – The people and the environment in Jakarta and Semarang are not resilient enough to withstand ecological disasters due to the impact of a series of reclamation projects in the cities, according to a recent study.

Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) researcher Henny Warsilah recently measured the resilience of three major coastal cities in Java: Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya.

The Paris I-Sorbonne University graduate concluded that out of the three cities, only Surabaya had built enough resilience, both environmentally and socially. Jakarta and Semarang, she said, were not doing very well.

Semarang, the fourth largest city on Java after Jakarta, Surabaya and Bandung, has ongoing reclamation projects in the northern part of the city, which threaten to submerge entire neighborhoods in the next 20 years.

"Semarang is undergoing rapid expansion with reclamation, while it is predicted that the city will sink in the next 20 years.

The more it is expanded, the more land will subside because the region is a former volcanic eruption zone, and it is a swamp area. With the progression of the reclamation projects, the land is not strong enough to withstand the pressure," said Henny.

As a coastal city, Semarang's most pressing concerns are about water. In recent years, the impact of floods has multiplied due to the rising sea level, coastal erosion and land subsidence.

In 1995, tidal floods reached the city up to about 500 meters inland. Currently, high tide reaches points as far as 5 kilometers from the coast, even flooding the city's historic colonial-era Kota Tua (old town).

Besides flooding, social problems have also started to escalate in the city due to increasing ecological pressure.

"Besides ecological destruction, social problems have started to arise. People with low-incomes have to dredge their land with plastic waste because they have no money. Therefore, plastic waste is all over the place because there are no landfills," Henny said.

Jakarta, where large sections of the city are already below sea level, will also suffer from reclamation projects.

The controversial Jakarta Bay reclamation project is predicted to cause severe floods as it could hamper water flow from 13 rivers to the Jakarta Bay.

The reclamation project, which will develop 17 man-made islands, is also predicted to increase Jakarta's ecological burden as it would attract an additional 600,000 people living on the islets. "Right now, North Jakarta's land is already subsiding 10 centimeters per month. This will surely continue, and we will sink underwater in the future," said Henny.

Despite opposition from environmental activists and fishing communities, Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has persisted with the project, saying that it will solve land problems in the city and will profit the administration.

"North Jakarta is more severe as there are 17,000 fisherfolk who are threatened with being evicted and marginalized. It's because the infrastructure development does not coincide with the development of people's welfare," said Henny.

She said that when reclamation was planned, the fisherfolk affected by the project should have been involved in the discussion. "But that was not the case. In the end, people felt marginalized. They can no longer fish because of the construction of the islets," Henny said.

Meanwhile, the Surabaya administration has been doing the opposite, she said. "Surabaya should be the example [of how to build a resilient city] because its reclamation project doesn't evict people. The people were only relocated 200 to 300 meters from the shore line," Henny said, citing the reclamation project in Kenjeran, North Surabaya.

She said the reclamation project made sure that people living in the fishing village of Kenjeran became the center of the development. "Their houses were painted. The people there were not marginalized. Instead, they were incorporated in the development process," Henny said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/02/jakarta-semarang-on-the-brink-of-ecological-disasters.html

Poor ethics and governance result in unsustainable forest practices:

Jakarta Globe - February 2, 2017

Ratri M. Siniwi, Jakarta – Being home to the third largest rainforest in the world, Indonesia has always been watched closely by environmental groups concerned over deforestation.

Massive forest clearing in various parts of the country has been responsible for critical watershed conditions, major declines in endemic wildlife populations and habitat degradation.

According to United States-based environmental group Mighty Earth, Papua is the latest victim of unsustainable forest management practices after rampant deforestation left very few remaining trees in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Forest burning in Papua came into the spotlight last year when South Korean company Korindo cleared thousands of hectares of forest for palm oil concessions.

"First, the forest concessions in Sumatra were exploited. Then it moved to Kalimantan – all gone. Then a number of forest concessions moved to the eastern side of Indonesia, particularly Papua, with some measuring up to a million hectares," Bustar Maitar, the activist group's director for Southeast Asia, said on Wednesday (01/02).

His statement came up during a discussion on timber certification and its importance by the Dr. Sjahrir Foundation, which supports education, social welfare and the environment.

Bustar said the lack of urgency with the national mandatory timber legality assurance system, known as SVLK, is mainly due to a lack of ethics by industry players and poor governance by the authorities.

"It's a question of ethics when it comes to implementing policies [such as the SVLK] introduced by the government, as well as the environmental prerequisites [set by the certification]," he explained.

The activist added that Indonesian industry players should avoid the mindset that commodity certifications were being pushed by international demand to make the country uncompetitive in the global market.

"This might be true, but if we want to compete [in the global market], we must improve our standards. It would not just be for the global market, but it is to improve the value of our timber and to add to international recognition," Bustar said.

According to the Association of Indonesia Forest Concession Holders, the export volume of legal timber has been increasing every year, with 17.46 million tons recorded in 2016 from 15.73 million in the previous year.

However, the domestic market shows is more likely to source illegal timber due to a lack of education and the mindset Bustar mentioned. "If it's not certified, it should be illegal," he said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/poor-ethics-and-governance-result-in-unsustainable-forest-practices-activist/

Health & education

Cigarette ad spending hits Rp 6.3 trillion in 2016

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2017

Stefani Ribka, Jakarta – Cigarette ad spending for television and print media surged 45 percent to Rp 6.3 trillion (US$470.8 million) in 2016 despite a ban on cigarette ads on billboards in Jakarta and sporting events nationwide.

"This is understandable because cigarette firms shifted to television after ads were banned on billboards and sporting events," said Asjaya Indosurya Securities analyst William Surya Wijaya on Friday.

The Jakarta administration banned cigarette ads on billboards on Jan. 13, 2015, while the central government banned them at sporting events on Dec. 24, 2012.

William added that the surge also occurred amid restrictions on TV and print media. Cigarette commercials can only be aired on TV from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m., while on print media such ads are only allowed in publications that do not target women, children or teenagers. The rule is stipulated under Government Regulation No. 109/2012 on tobacco control.

Cigarette companies were the second top ad spenders in 2016 after ranking third in 2015, Nielsen data shows.

Dunhill cigarettes was the top spender last year. The producer, publicly listed PT Bentoel Internasional Investama (RMBA), a member of the British American Tobacco Group, multiplied its ad spending for the brand to Rp 955.7 billion last year. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/03/cigarette-ad-spending-hits-rp-6-3-trillion-in-2016.html

Indonesian groups among world's influential think tanks: Report

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2017

Bagus Saragih, Jakarta – Prominent Indonesian organizations have been listed among the world's most influential think tanks in 2016 according to a study by the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania.

Anticorruption watchdog Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), for example, ranked 20th among the most influential transparency and good governance think tanks in the world and second in Asia, according to the report, which was released last week.

In 2015, ICW was world number 22 in the category. Indonesia's Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), meanwhile, was number 65 on the list of top non-US think tanks.

In the Southeast Asia and Pacific region, CSIS ranked fifth. Other Indonesian organizations were also on the list, such as the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) at number 17, the Institute of National Capacity Studies (INCS) at number 36, Center for Indonesian Policy Studies in 71st place, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in 87th place and the Habibie Center at 98.

Indonesia's CSIS also ranked 60th in defense and national security and 44th in foreign policy and international affairs, globally.

ERIA was also number 32 on the list of top international economics think tanks. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) was the world's 25th most influential think tank on environment policy.

The report named Chatham House of the UK as the world's top think tank of the year for 2016. The ICW and ERIA placed among the 105 "think tanks to watch in 2017".

The annual Global Go To Think Tank Index ranks the world's think tanks in various categories with the help of a panel of over 1,900 peer institutions and experts from around the world.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/03/indonesian-groups-among-worlds-influential-think-tanks-report.html

LGBT & same-sex Marriage

Indonesia's police uncover illegal marriage between two women

Jakarta Post - February 5, 2017

Apriadi Gunawan, Tanjungbalai – Police are investigating the case of two female Indonesian migrant workers who managed to officially marry each other after returning from Malaysia.

The illegal marriage between the two women was revealed after the one posing as the husband, known as Farel, gave birth in the home village of her spouse in Tanjungbalai, North Sumatra.

Indonesia, which recognizes marriage as union between a man and a woman, outlaws same-sex marriage.

Farel's identity was revealed after locals found a newborn baby dumped on Jl. Sei Kenagan, some 50 meters from her wife's house, on Thursday. Residents confronted the couple after becoming suspicious that it was Farel who had abandoned the baby.

Daman Wuri, a resident who lives nearby, said locals were shocked by the incident. "Farel told us she was a widower with a child, so we were not suspicious when she married Salmah," he said.

Tanjungbalai police spokesperson Adj. Comr. Y Sinulingga said Farel had admitted that the baby was hers and she dumped the baby to cover her disguise.

Farel married Salmah in Tanjungbalai on Nov. 30. Both worked as migrant workers in Malaysia before the marriage. Two days after the wedding, Farel went back to Malaysia while Salmah stayed in her hometown. Farel returned about a week before the birth.

Salmah told the police that she did not know Farel was a woman. She said she had not been intimate with her "husband" after the wedding. She also denied deliberately having a same-sex marriage, saying that she wouldn't have married Farel if she had known that she was a woman. "I am still normal," she said. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/05/indonesias-police-uncover-illegal-marriage-between-two-women.html

Graft & corruption

KPK detains Choel Mallarangeng

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2017

Jakarta – The antigraft commission detained Andi "Choel" Zoelkarnaen Mallarangeng, the younger brother of Democratic Party politician and graft convict Andi Alifian Mallarangeng, after a questioning session on Monday for alleged graft.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named Choel a suspect in December 2015 for his alleged involvement in a graft case centering on the construction of a sports center in Hambalang, Bogor, West Java, which has put his brother Andi in prison.

The KPK accused Choel of misusing his authority, enriching himself and others, as well as corporate enrichment in the project worth Rp 2.5 trillion (US$187.7 million).

Andi, who served as spokesman for the Youth and Sports Ministry under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was sentenced in 2014 to four years in prison for graft in the project. (rin) Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/06/KPK-detains-choel-mallarangeng.html

Terrorism & religious extremism

Indonesian women being radicalised into would-be suicide bombers –

The Guardian (Australia) - February 4, 2017

Kate Lamb, Jakarta – Indonesia is being urged to tackle an increasing threat of would-be female terrorists who are being spurred on via social media to engage in extremist Islamist networks.

The growth of social media and a change of attitude by Islamic State leaders has led to women becoming more active in jihadist networks, according to a report by the south-east Asia-focused Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC).

The report traces how women's roles have the moved beyond marriage, motherhood, and network building – the traditional domains of the wives of Indonesian extremists – to encompass an active military role.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, was urged to IPAC immediately investigate women involved in extremist networks, especially women deportees and migrant worker communities. "The need to know more about Indonesian extremist women suddenly has become urgent," note the authors.

Up until 2009 Indonesian women who wanted to "cyber jihadists" had to pretend to be men by using male names online.

But in a country known for its prolific social media usage, the internet has enabled Indonesian women to become more actively engaged in radical chat forums, reading Isis propaganda, international jihadi matchmaking as well as organising fundraising and logistical support.

"The absence of any hierarchical structure on the internet meant that no one could tell women to stop propagating jihad, especially when they used their own accounts," outlines the report, "If anything, men eventually realised that women played an indispensible role in the development of the jihadi virtual community."

These platforms have also seen Indonesian women express their desires to take up more active combat roles, such as by becoming suicide bombers.

In the wake of the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, when some reports falsely claimed the atrocities had involved Europe's "first female suicide bomber", Indonesian women admiration on pro-Isis forums.

Despite the incorrect reports, the idea of a female suicide bomber was enough to inspire some Indonesian women to admit that they wanted to commit to jihad.

Last December, Indonesian authorities arrested two women, Dian Yulia Novi and Ika Puspitasari, for volunteering for suicide missions.

Novi, 27, who was radicalised online while working in Taiwan, is suspected of planning an attack on the presidential palace. Puspitasari, who was part of the same network, was arrested for allegedly planning to carry out an attack on the tourist island of Bali.

Bahrum Naim, Indonesia's leading proponent of Isis, provided both women with financial support and suggested that female suicide bombers carried an element of surprise. The Syrian-based Naim is believed to have helped engineer a terrorist attack in Jakarta last January that killed eight people.

The would-be women bombers were both domestic workers overseas, one of several subgroups of women the IPAC report identifies as those drawn to, or susceptible to, extremist ideologies.

Anis Hidayah, the executive director of Migrant Care, said migrant workers were targeted by drug traffickers and hardliners alike because they were vulnerable, potential "victims of fundamentalism".

"It's very open for Isis to approach these circles of migrant workers. Some in Hong Kong and Taiwan have already been exposed and we have indications that there are more than have been reported," she says.

The ability of these women to earn foreign currency has also led to male leadership to see them as sources of cash and donations.

More than 100 Indonesian women and children have crossed the Turkey/Syria border to join Isis since 2013 and many more have been deported.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/04/indonesian-women-being-radicalised-into-would-be-suicide-bombers-report

Australia, Indonesia join hands to stem terror funds

Straits Times - February 3, 2017

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Jakarta – Indonesia and Australia have pledged to work together to "choke off" funding for terrorist activities, after senior security officials from both countries met in Jakarta yesterday.

"We had discussed at today's meeting how we can further our efforts to curb such flows of funds," said Indonesian Chief Security Minister Wiranto at a press conference after the 3rd Indonesia-Australia Ministerial Council Meeting on Law and Security.

Mr Wiranto, who goes by one name, said security officials from both countries agreed that terrorism cannot thrive without financial support.

"Our two countries will continue to develop a common understanding on how to locate sources of these terrorist funding," he added.

"We have reached agreements on this front, and with current technology, both countries have also successfully managed to block numerous terrorist funding (sources)."

Australia's Attorney-General George Brandis agreed, saying that the issue was the subject of close collaboration between the two countries.

"We know one of the most effective ways to combat the scourge of terrorism is to attack the funding," said Mr Brandis.

"One of the most important items on the agenda of this council today is the ongoing work between agencies and officials in working together to choke off the flow of funding of terrorist organisations."

Mr Wiranto and Mr Brandis were part of the high-powered meeting in Jakarta, where security officials met to discuss issues including counter-terrorism, cybercrime, illegal immigration and maritime security.

Fund transfers have been instrumental in financing the trips of Indonesians going to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, and many such transfers have not been detected, local authorities reported recently.

Some overseas funds were detected only after they were invested in businesses in Indonesia, according to PPATK, Indonesia's anti-money laundering agency.

The militant network approached local entrepreneurs, helped to grow their businesses and used the profits to finance terrorism.

In 2014 and 2015, overseas fund transfers into Indonesia, which were allegedly linked to terrorism, amounted to more than 10 billion rupiah (S$1 million).

About six billion rupiah came from Australia through terror supporters operating under the guise of charities, according to PPATK.

Asked how a terrorist money trail between Australia and Indonesia was detected recently, Mr Wiranto said: "The terrorism funding may flow from anywhere, so we don't want to be trapped in a blame game, making accusations about where the funds came from."

He added that both countries must have a common understanding about the importance of working together to combat these flows of funds.

On Wednesday, PPATK and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centreinked a pact to work together on the prevention of money laundering and terrorism funding. The agreement will cover the exchange of intelligence between the two nations.

Yesterday's meeting also aimed to strengthen cooperation in the law sector, where both countries agree to look into cooperation among law enforcement personnel.

[A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Australia, Indonesia join hands to stem terror funds'.]

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/australia-indonesia-join-hands-to-stem-terror-funds

Hard-line & vigilante groups

Jakarta Police intensify investigation into FPI leader WhatsApp case

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – In their investigation into alleged screen grabs of WhatsApp sex chats that supposedly took place between Firza Husein and Islam Defenders Front leader Rizieq Shihab, the Jakarta Police summonsed witnesses just days after the case was reported to the force.

"We have questioned six witnesses who know or understand information related to the case," Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono told The Jakarta Post on Friday. He refused to reveal names, but said that a digital forensics expert was among the witnesses questioned.

The police changed the status of the case from a reported case to an investigation on Tuesday, one day after a group calling itself the Student Alliance for Anti-Pornography filed a police report and claimed that the screen grabs had disrupted public order.

On Wednesday, the police raided Firza house in East Jakarta and confiscated bed sheets, pillows and a television.

The police have yet to name any suspects in the case and will question more witnesses, Argo said. "We do not plan to summon Rizieq's wife yet, but if the investigators need a statement from her, we will question her," Argo said.

Argo said that Firza, who has been named a treason suspect, and Rizieq, who is under investigation for allegedly insulting state ideology Pancasila, could both be charged under the 2008 Pornography Law and the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law if found guilty of producing or spreading pornographic material.

Rizieq has denied the allegations, saying that it was an attempt to discredit him. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/03/jakarta-police-intensify-investigation-into-fpi-leader-whatsapp-case.html

Police raid house of woman allegedly linked to Rizieq in pornography

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – The Jakarta Police on Wednesday raided a house belonging to Firza Husein, a treason suspect who allegedly had intimate conversations over WhatsApp with Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, to seek evidence for two cases.

The police raided the house in Lubang Buaya, East Jakarta, on Tuesday, hours after Firza's arrest over treason allegations.

"This is a follow-up to a report of pornography," Jakarta Police special crimes director Sr. Comr. Wahyu Hadiningrat told reporters at the Jakarta Police headquarters on Wednesday. He was referring to a webpage featuring explicit photos of a woman resembling Firza that went viral on social media.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said that apart from the pornography case, the raid was also carried out to seek evidence for the treason case. "We are killing two birds with one stone," he said.

Firza was previously arrested for alleged treason along with 10 activists on Dec. 2, several hours before the start of a large-scale rally to demand the arrest of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in a blasphemy case. She was later released.

Argo said both Rizieq and Firza could be charged under the 2008 Pornography Law if found guilty of producing or spreading pornographic content. Rizieq claimed the chat on the instant messaging service was fake and constituted attempted defamation.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/police-raid-house-of-woman-allegedly-linked-to-rizieq-in-pornography-case.html

Freedom of religion & worship

Indonesian teachers struggle to promote tolerance

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Ahmad Budiman, a spokesman for the Indonesian Islamic Education Teachers Association (AGPAII), said he acknowledged the huge responsibility his organization had to bear.

With intolerance rising, many have pointed their fingers at the failure of religion teachers to instill the values of tolerance and inclusive in Indonesian youth.

A 2016 study by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM), for instance, found 80 percent of Islamic education teachers refused to give shelter to the followers of Ahmadiyyah and Shia Islam, the two Islamic sects that are considered heretical by majority Sunni Muslims.

Moreover, the study, which was conducted in West Java, Banda Aceh, West Nusa Tenggara, South Sulawesi and Central Java, found 81 percent of Islamic education teachers rejected the establishment of places of worship for religions other than Islam and 78 percent of them believed non-Muslims should not be allowed to teach in Islamic schools.

While the PPIM study does not necessarily represent all Islamic education teachers in the country, with the survey conducted in cities widely known as conservative bastions, it has been seen as a wakeup call for reform in Islamic education and better training for the people who teach it so that they can help stem the tide of religious bigotry.

The AGPAII, which has around 200,000 members nationwide, has held a number of programs to promote tolerance among its members, Ahmad said. Last year, for instance, the association sent 30 teachers to spend a few days living with the beleaguered Ahmadis in Kuningan, West Java, to learn about each other's religious views.

Ahmad, who took part in the program, said he acknowledged that he and the Ahmadis had different views on Islam, but stressed that he now could accept their differences, and more importantly, could empathize with their suffering.

"I can feel the pain of being discriminated against. I can feel their struggle in obtaining IDs. Humanity has connected us as human beings," he said during a recent visit to The Jakarta Post.

Ahmad, who teaches at a vocational school, however, lamented the fact that not all Islamic education teachers could have such an experience, admitting that some of his fellow teachers have shown hostility toward the beliefs of others, particularly followers of different sects within Islam.

AGPAII secretary-general Mahnan Marbawi, for instance, highlighted the fact that not all Islamic education teachers had strong religious education backgrounds, citing that as the reason why some of them had failed to understand the importance of incorporating the values of tolerance in classrooms.

"Teachers' educational backgrounds shape the way they teach in class. Consequently, some of them do not stick to the national curriculum that actually promotes tolerance," he said, admitting that some teachers may have learned about Islam from the internet.

The other problem is that some Islamic education teachers are underpaid. Some of them earn less than Rp 500,000 a month, Budiman claimed. Islamic education teachers are mostly hired by the Religious Affairs Ministry or the local administrations.

The teachers, Budiman said, were entitled to monthly "certification" allowance of between Rp 1.5 million (US$112) and Rp 3.5 million, but many of them had yet to get paid.

The government owes around Rp 1.4 trillion to at least half of AGPAII's members, Budiman claimed. Islamic education teachers are expected to help instill tolerance in Indonesian youth, but many of them are struggling financially, he added.

Nevertheless, the AGPAII said it would continue its mission to educate its members on the importance of spreading the values of tolerance in the country.

"We need to provide training on religious tolerance for all teachers because they have the control over their classes. They have influence over their students because they have the autonomy over what kind of religious perspectives to deliver to students," AGPAII adviser Imam Tholkhah said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/06/teachers-struggle-to-promote-tolerance.html

Indonesia's religious minorities under threat

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - February 2, 2017

Andreas Harsono – Acts of religious intolerance and violations of religious freedom increased in Indonesia in 2016, with the country's religious minorities bearing the brunt of the rise.

The Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based organization that monitors religious freedom, reported an increase in acts of religious intolerance from 236 in 2015 to 270 in 2016, while religious freedom violations rose from 197 to 208.

More than half the incidents of religious intolerance – 140 – implicate government entities, including local government administrations and police. The most notorious example of religious intolerance was the complicity of Indonesian officials and police in the violent forced eviction of more than 7,000 members of the Gafatar religious community from their farms on Kalimantan island beginning in January 2016.

Non-state actors including the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), a semi-official umbrella organization of Islamic groups, and the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), a thuggish militant Islamist group that campaigns for imposition of Sharia (Islamic law), were linked to 130 religious intolerance incidents. They included the MUI's issuance in February 2016 of a fatwa, or decree, that declared Gafatar "heretical." Setara implicated the FPI in 17 incidents of violence against religious minorities in 2016, including Ahmadiyah and Christian congregations.

The escalation in religious intolerance and related violence can be traced back to 2005, when then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono effectively legitimized religious intolerance by vowing strict measures against "deviant beliefs." During his decade in office, Yudhoyono turned a blind eye to worsening acts of religious intolerance and violence by militant Islamists against religious minorities.

Indonesia's legal system perpetuates discrimination against religious minorities. Laws include the house of worship regulation, which requires minorities to get official approval to construct or renovate houses of worship, and the blasphemy law, which punishes deviations from the six officially protected religions with up to five years in prison. The blasphemy law has been used to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities and of traditional religions. The most recent high-profile targets of the blasphemy law include Jakarta Governor Basuki Purnama, FPI leader Rizieq Shihab and three former Gafatar leaders now on trial in Jakarta.

Until the Indonesian government eliminates these discriminatory regulations and makes clear that police and government officials will face consequences for any complicity in religious bigotry, religious freedom in Indonesia will remain in peril.

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/02/indonesias-religious-minorities-under-threat

Government inaction creates space for rising intolerance in Indonesia

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Religious intolerance in the country has risen following President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's ascension to power in 2014 as the government has turned a blind-eye to increasing acts of intolerance against religious and ethnic minorities, a report has said.

The report from human rights watchdog Setara Institute revealed that violations of religious freedom increased to 208 incidents in 2016 from 197 in 2015 and 134 in 2014, while acts of religious intolerance increased to 270 last year from 236 in 2015 and 177 in 2014.

From 270 acts of intolerance, 140 acts reportedly involved state actors, including police officers and local administrations. Most of this intolerance occurred in the form of discriminative laws and indifference to intolerant behavior directed against minorities.

Meanwhile, 130 acts of religious intolerance were committed by non-state actors, including local citizens, Islamic-based groups, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) as well as the firebrand Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

"The number of cases involving state actors is rising," said Halili, a Setara Institute researcher on religious freedom.

According to Halili, law enforcement officials, particularly the police, still face the same-old dilemma when it comes to their responsibility to suppress intolerant groups committing violence against religious minorities. There were 16 cases where the police turned a blind-eye to acts of religious intolerance in 2016.

The police tend to be soft on intolerant groups who in most cases carry the mantle of "Muslim-majority". This suggests that the police want to preserve and secure stability before freedom and human rights as they are worried that siding with the minority might escalate conflict in the country, he said.

Such attitudes seem to make it difficult for law enforcement bodies to act decisively against intolerant groups. In fact, according to Halili, the government and its law enforcement bodies should always refer to the 1945 Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion and belief for all Indonesians.

"If the government does not refer to the Constitution, the violations will continue. Jokowi will just continue the legacy of the former president [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono], where the effort [to uphold religious freedom] was stagnant and violations kept repeating," he added.

Last year saw incidents of violence against minority religious groups such as the Gafatar, Ahmadiyah, Shia and Christian communities as well as believers of indigenous and native faiths. The highest number of cases occurred in West Java with 41 cases followed by Jakarta with 31 cases and East Java with 22 cases.

Ex-members of Gafatar, which has been banned by the government, have been the victims of intolerant acts, including suffering the humiliation of being evicted from their homes in Kalimantan in January 2016.

In a recent case in Bandung, West Java, the Reformed Injili Indonesia Church was forced to cancel a Christmas service following a protest by dozens of members of an Islamic group. The police were criticized for caving in to the mob.

Setara Institute deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos said the first two years of Jokowi's administration had failed to improve on the Yudhoyono administration in terms of supporting religious freedom in Indonesia.

"The President has to always be careful in policy-making so that he will not lose the popular vote. Any political actor in Indonesia always tries to look like he's supportive of Islam," Bonar told The Jakarta Post.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/government-inaction-creates-space-for-rising-intolerance-in-indonesia-.html

Islam & religion

Islamic preacher certification is a hoax: Religious affairs ministry

Jakarta Globe - February 7, 2017

Jakarta – A spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs has denied reports on social media claiming that it will require khatib, or Islamic preachers, to obtain certification before they are allowed to address Friday sermons.

The story also contains information on the supposed benefits government-certified preachers would be entitled to receive.

"I can confirm that the information on the khatib certification that went viral on social media is a hoax," Religious Affairs Ministry spokesman Mastuki said in a press release on Monday (06/02).

He said the ministry will not implement any requirement for certification, or interfere with sermon materials.

The idea of certifying preachers came from the public, as the ministry is currently studying the possibility, Mastuki said, as quoted in a report by state-run news agency Antara.

The spokesman said such standards would require a preacher to have a qualification or minimum competency to conduct sermons but that only ulemas can establish such requirements.

"Only the ulemas have the authority or jurisdiction to standardize the competencies a preacher should possess to address a congregation during Friday prayers. The ministry is only a facilitator," Mastuki said.

The ministry previously invited top figures from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah and other Islamic organizations to discuss the matter. However, it is still discussing their inputs.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/islamic-preacher-certification-hoax-religious-affairs-ministry/

'Don't turn mosque into political stage': Muslim scholar

Jakarta Globe - February 5, 2017

Bogor – Muslim scholar Komaruddin Hidayat said on Saturday (04/02) mosques in Indonesia should provide a guideline on content of sermons to avoid the prayer house being used as a platform to deliver political speeches.

Komaruddin's statement came after Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saiffudin said he plans to require all Muslim preachers to be certified since many of them now use their time on the pulpit to vilify other groups. If the minister goes ahead with his plan, only certified preachers will be able to deliver sermons at a mosque.

"We don't need certification, what we need is to regulate the content of the sermons and change the culture at the mosques. We can't let mosques be turned into a political stage," Komaruddin said on the sidelines of the Madania Festival in Bogor, West Java, state news agency Antara reported.

Mosques should curate preachers to deliver their sermons and quiz regular visitors on what topics they are interested in, Komaruddin said. He also called on Muslim organizations such as Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama to help monitor the content of sermons delivered in mosques all over the country.

Komaruddin, a rector at the Syarief Hidayatullah State Islamic University, urged the Religious Affairs Ministry to review the preacher's certification plan.

"Hopefully the government can help mosques to change their culture. They need guidance, not control. There are mosques where the sermons have become very aggressive, we need to change that," he said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/dont-turn-mosque-political-stage-muslim-scholar/

Practicing Muslims wary of hate-filled Friday sermons

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Heickel Alkatiri, an assistant manager at a tobacco firm, said he was now reluctant to attend Friday prayers at the mosque near his house in Duren Tiga, South Jakarta.

He said he looked for soothing sermons about Islamic values, but what he got was nothing more than hate speech.

"I've heard preachers spread inaccurate teachings about jihad, saying that non-believers of Islam can be killed because they are all infidels," Heickel said on Friday.

Muhammad Hafiizh Riyadi has a similar problem. When he attended a mosque in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta, recently, a preacher said that voting for non-Muslim leaders would be a sin and those who did so could be regarded as infidels.

"Such sermons can be misleading, especially for some people who just accept them without filtering what they hear. In my view, sermons should spread greater love, instead of telling us what's right or wrong about other religions," the freelance photographer said.

Heickel and Muhammad are two of many practicing Muslims who have complained about the content of Friday sermons and are now looking for mosques with preachers who refrain from talking politics and spreading hate. The government is aware of the problem and is now looking for ways to resolve it.

"Many people have told us that occasionally in several mosques, the preachers forget to provide religious advice, and instead disparage other groups, which is the opposite of providing advice," Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said recently.

The minister said he wanted to ensure that preachers giving Friday sermons were competent and stuck to their roles as clerics. The ministry, he said, was planning to cooperate with Islamic organizations to "standardize" preachers to ensure they have full understanding about spreading positive messages during Friday prayers.

The plan, however, immediately sparked controversy, forcing Lukman to clarify his intentions.

"This is not government intervention," Lukman said, adding that it was up to Islamic organizations to decide whether standardization, including certification and more comprehensive training, development, coaching and supervision for preachers, needed to be implemented.

"It's the domain of the ulemas to determine the standards of competency for preachers as it is not within the government's remit. We are not going to take it over from them," he said.

Lukman said he would talk with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah, and other Islamic organizations about the plan. "The government only facilitates public aspirations [...] This is not solely our idea as we only respond to those who want more regulation and improvements in the matter," he added.

The proposal has received a mixed response from Islamic organizations. Muhammadiyah, the second-largest Islamic organization, is skeptical about it. The organization's central board secretary, Abdul Mu'ti, said the government should not single out Islam as radical teachings also existed in other religions.

He also questioned whether it was even possible to determine the criteria for standardization as Muslims had different views, much less supervise its implementation.

NU, the country's largest Islamic organization, welcomed the proposal, highlighting the importance of preachers spreading peaceful Islamic values and encouraging Muslims to be kind and tolerant in a pluralist country.

"However, it should be kept in mind that standardization would not limit the spread of Islamic preaching or bring back uniformity like in the New Order era, but would instead be an effort to educate preachers," NU deputy secretary-general Imam Pituduh said.

Indonesian Mosque Council (DMI) executive Natsir Zubaidi said while standardization would be for ulemas to decide, the council would encourage mosque managers to actively engage with congregations in the selection of preachers so they could promote Islamic values that fit properly with the situation of the local community.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/04/practicing-muslims-wary-of-hate-filled-friday-sermons.html

Modest-wear a highlight at Indonesia Fashion Week as hijab grows in

Sydney Morning Herald - February 4, 2017

Jessie Chiang, Jakarta – Exquisite head coverings were a highlight of this week's Indonesia Fashion Week in Jakarta amid the hijab's growing popularity in the country.

Last year Indonesian Anniesa Hasibuan made history as the first ever designer to feature hijabs in every outfit on a New York Fashion Week catwalk. "Even some people who are not Muslim, are interested in wearing Muslim fashion," she told Fairfax Media.

Just 30 years ago it was relatively rare to see an Indonesian woman wearing a hijab or veil, says Dr Ariane Utomo, a social demographer at the Australian National University, in the 2015 paper Who wears a hijab?

Dr Utomo said the hijab wasn't very popular when she was growing up. However today it has become relatively common, particularly among middle-class Muslim women living in urban areas.

"I was in a public junior high school from 1990-1992 and in that time, there was only one girl in my entire year, probably out of 500 students, who wore a hijab," she said.

Dr Utomo believes the hijab's rise in popularity is part of Islam's growing influence. "I think it's got a lot to do with the revival of Islam in Indonesia," she said. "I think there is an increase in the consumption of religion in society."

Muslim consumers spent around $US266 billion ($347 billion) on clothing worldwide in 2013, a figure that is estimated to almost double by 2019, according to a report by Thomson Reuters and Muslim research firm DinarStandard.

This growth overlaps with the boom in the Muslim population which is estimated to increase from 1.6 billion in 2010 to nearly 3 billion by 2050, based on statistics by Pew Research Centre.

Fashion household names, such as Dolce and Gabbana, have already taken advantage of the modest clothing market, releasing a line of hijabs and abayas last year.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice chairman of the Setara Institute, which advocates for political freedom and human rights, said there is social pressure for women to "look Muslim" in Indonesia.

"Some women are pressured to put on [the] hijab otherwise they will be bullied by their families, friends and social environment," he said. "So they wear [the] hijab in order to be 'in the group' rather than 'outside the group'."

For 44-year-old Indonesian Lenita Sulthani, her choice not to cover her head, even after a pilgrimage to Mecca, has exposed her to questioning from family and strangers. In her workplace all the women wear hijabs and Ms Sulthani said she constantly gets asked why she doesn't wear one.

"My mother keeps asking me why, she is old and I don't want to hurt her," she said. "[But] this is about my choice, I don't want to cover my head just because I was forced to do so."

However Shelvy Afrin, vice president of Muslim fashion brand Shafira, a sponsor of Indonesia Fashion Week, said there is no pressure for women in Indonesia to wear the hijab and more women are doing so because designs are now more fashionable.

"It was not a really common thing to wear a hijab [in the past], now more and more people are wearing a hijab and it has become a trend," she said. "They can be fashionable but at the same time they can fulfil the requirements of their religion."

Ms Afrin said the rise in popularity for modest wear is part of the brand's success and there is great potential for it in the global market.

Australian designer Jaimie Sortino, whose whimsical gowns inspired by the sky blue hydrangeas close to his Adelaide home featured in the opening ceremony of Indonesia Fashion Week, said he had noticed a global revival of modest clothing. "I have noticed that there is that kind of revival in modest clothing," he said.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/modestwear-a-highlight-at-indonesia-fashion-week-as-hijab-grows-in-popularity-20170204-gu4mtt.html

Poverty & social inequity

Gini ratio slightly down in September: Central Statistics Agency

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia's Gini ratio decreased slightly from 0.397 points in March 2016 to 0.394 points in September, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) has said.

"The drop was because of considerable spending and better distribution of development," said BPS head Suhariyanto as reported by tribunnews.com on Friday, adding that the decline of the Gini ratio occurred both in urban areas and in villages.

The Gini ratio is a measure of inequality in which zero represents complete equality and one represents complete inequality.

He said the Gini ratio in urban area dropped to 0.409 in September from 0.410 in March, while the Ginti ratio in villages dropped to 0.316 points from 0.327, indicating that the wealth distribution in villages was much better than in urban areas.

It was a further drop of the country's Gini ratio as the BPS previously recorded that in September 2015 it was at 0.402 points.

Previously, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo stressed the importance of addressing inequality within society. He ordered his ministers to create policies to address socioeconomic disparities in the country.

Although Jokowi acknowledged that although the country's Gini had decreased significantly since 2015, the government still had a lot of work to do. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/03/gini-ratio-slightly-down-in-september-central-statistics-agency.html

Transport & communication

Jakarta's airport express train unfeasible, gov't back to drawing board

Jakarta Globe - February 3, 2017

Jakarta – The government is going back to the drawing board with an express train that would connect two major airports of Jakarta, after a study indicated the track would not generate enough return to attract private investors.

This is another setback for the capital in its struggle to cope with growing urbanization and traffic.

The 34-kilometer express railway linking Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, and Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta is one of the capital's strategic projects, with a high priority for government funding, which is going to be build under a public-private partnership scheme.

However, a feasibility study conducted by the government's infrastructure financing arm Sarana Multi Infrastruktur concluded that the government will have to foot Rp 17.5 trillion ($1.3 billion), or 70 percent of the Rp 25 trillion bill for the rail track, because the revenue might be insufficient to cover the private sector's investment.

According to regulations on public-private partnerships, the government's participation in any PPP project, known as viability gap funding, is set at 50 percent of a project's cost.

"This means we have to review the plan. We can add something to the track, change the route, take a detour or skip certain locations," director general of trains at the Ministry of Transportation Prasetyo Boeditjahjono said in a recent interview.

In the original plan, the express train would start in Halim Perdanakusuma and would stop at Tebet, Manggarai and Tanah Abang stations in downtown Jakarta, before reaching Soekarno Hatta.

Prasetyo said the ministry is also drafting a presidential regulation to grant it more power to accelerate the project. The draft will also specify the project's contractor – state-construction company Pembangunan Perumahan.

The train's track will be integrated with existing network, which has been expanded by state railway operator Kereta Api Indonesia to reach the Soekarno-Hatta airport.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/jakartas-airport-express-train-unfeasible-govt-back-drawing-board/

Literature & the arts

Pramoedya Ananta Toer: Why you should know him

Al Jazeera - February 6, 2017

At a young age, he joined the anti-colonial struggle against Japan during World War II and later enlisted in an army to fight Dutch colonialists.

He was captured and jailed by the Dutch in 1947. His foray into writing began in prison, at age 24. The Fugitive, his first novel, came out during his two years of incarceration.

Pramoedya or "Pram" – a hero of Indonesia's anti-colonial movement and a champion of human rights and freedom of speech – was born on February 6, 1925, in the poor Javanese town of Blora. He died in the capital, Jakarta, on April 30, 2006 at age 81.

Pramoedya "dedicated his whole life to this country through his work", his daughter Tatiana Ananta told The Associated Press at his funeral.

Google Doodle marked the 92nd birth anniversary of the Indonesian writer and activist who spent most of his adult life in jail, imprisoned first by colonial powers and later by Indonesian governments.

"Each injustice has to be fought against, even if it's only in one's heart – and I did fight," Pramoedya was quoted as saying in the book Exile: In Conversation with Andre Vltchek and Rossie Indira.

Pramoedya's father was a schoolteacher and nationalist who inspired him to join Indonesia's struggle against colonialism. His mother came from a pious Muslim family. Despite only having a primary school education, he went on to write more than 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

The novelist is best known for the Buru quartet, which traces the birth of nationalism in Indonesia. A Javanese boy named Minke, who rejected the country's hierarchical society, is the protagonist in the series.

"In fact the books were smuggled out of Indonesia by Pram's friend, a German priest, to avoid being taken or destroyed, and have now been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide," Google Doodle wrote.

He learned typing and stenography which enabled him to get a clerk's job for the Japanese imperial news agency, Domei, based in Jakarta. It was at that time that he came into contact with nationalists and anti-colonial activists.

After he was released from jail in 1949, Pramoedya began writing books prolifically and emerged as a respected novelist. Disappointed by post-revolutionary Indonesia, he started gravitating towards leftist politics. He joined Lekra, a body of artists and writers that was loosely affiliated with Indonesia's communist party, PKI.

He was jailed in 1960 for highlighting the discrimination and oppression of the Chinese minority in the country.

When General Suharto came to power in a coup in 1967, he ordered the mass arrest of hundreds of thousands of opponents, often without trial. Pramoedya was arrested in 1965 during the military coup that led to Suharto's rise. Pramoedya was later sent to the remote island of Buru in 1969 because of suspected links to communists.

Initially, he was not provided with pens or paper, so he narrated his stories to fellow prisoners. The books were published after Pramoedya 's release in 1978. His essays and letters written during the period were published as a memoir, The Mute's Soliloquy.

"A haunting record of a great writer's attempt to keep his imagination and his humanity alive," wrote The New York Times Book Review about the memoir.

Pramoedya was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature several times and was bestowed with the PEN Freedom to Write Award in 1988. At age 74, Pramoedya received the Fukuoka Prize for outstanding contributions by Asians in 2000.

"Pram was also unique in his literary attachment to women. His work contains many complex portraits of different kinds of women in a manner unmatched by his literary contemporaries, who made men their major fictional figures, with women marginalised as stereotypical mothers, sweethearts, and prostitutes," said professor Benedict Anderson, author of Imagined Communities, who worked in Indonesia.

Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/02/pramoedya-ananta-toer-170206053453639.html

Criminal justice & legal system

Sukamiskin prison security worsens, inmates go shopping

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2017

Jakarta – House of Representatives' Commission III on law and human rights wants prison security strengthened in the wake of reports that some prisoners at Sukamiskin Penitentiary in Bandung, West Java, were allowed special privileges, including passes for outside medical checkups.

Mulfachri Harahap of Commission III overseeing legal affairs said on Monday that weaknesses in prison security protocol triggers problems in the prison system. He referred to the recent media reports that inmates from Sukamiskin prison had been seen in public.

"If the medical facilities in the prison are not good enough to treat certain illnesses, the prison staff should issue permits for outside medical treatment. The problem is that those permits are being misused," he said. Prisoners are allowed to visit their doctors on their own recognizance.

On Monday, Tempo published a report on the misuse of medical appointment permits issued by Sukamiskin Penitentiary. Among the inmates issued such permits, Romi Herton, Anggoro Widjojo and Rachmat Yasin, all of whom were convicted of corruption, exploited them to not only meet their relatives but to go shopping as well.

Chairman of Commission III, Bambang Soesatyo of the Golkar Party, said that violation of regulations in Indonesia's prison system had become a common practice. He added that the solution to this problem would be better enforcement of the security protocol by prison staff, in particular the guards.

"There should be stricter actions taken to fix the existing rules in that prison, and the General Director of the prison should pay more attention to this problem," Bambang said.

Mulfachri cited the low salaries of prison guards, which makes them vulnerable to bribery by inmates, as the main reason for the irregularities.

The Indonesian media has widely reported irregularities in prison protocol, including violations of medical permits, cell privileges and the smuggling of narcotics. The highest profile case thus far has been that of Gayus Tambunan, a tax official imprisoned for embezzlement, who was spotted watching a tennis tournament on Bali in November 2010. (rdi/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/06/sukamiskin-prison-security-worsens-inmates-go-shopping.html

Indonesia reaffirms use of death penalty despite criticism

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Attorney General M. Prasetyo said on Wednesday that Indonesia would continue to impose the death penalty on those guilty of extraordinary crimes, including drug trafficking.

"We never claimed to have stopped executions," Prasetyo told lawmakers from the House of Representatives' legal affairs and human rights commission during a hearing on Wednesday.

Prasetyo explained that executions had been put on hold while Indonesia lobbied for international support to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

"We are still implementing the death penalty, but are focusing on the greater interest for the time being. The government is trying to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council," he emphasized. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/indonesia-reaffirms-use-of-death-penalty-despite-criticism.html

Police & law enforcement

Police launch Smile Police app package, including Panic Button

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2017

Jakarta – National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian launched Saturday six phone apps in a package called Smile Police, made by the Central Java Police.

Speaking in Semarang, Central Java, Tito announced the Android-based apps: Panic Button, E-Babinkamtibmas (community policing), E-Public Service, E-Complain, E-Office, and E-Learning.

Tito said the digitization of public services was in line with an order from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. "The IT-based service will improve our services," he said as quoted by Antara news agency.

He said the package would be available for Central Java residents but hoped availability could be expanded nationwide. "This is input for the National Police. If we cannot make a new one, just adopt this app package," Tito said.

Central Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Condro Kirono said the apps were available for download. He said the Panic Button app has been downloaded 5,000 times in the province. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/04/police-launch-smile-police-app-package-including-panic-button.html

National security & intelligence

Anti-Ahok rally organizers deny any knowledge of treason

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – Witnesses summoned on Wednesday to testify about treason allegations implicating some political activists, including Sri Bintang Pamungkas and Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia's first president, denied accusations that they planned to commit treason.

Investigators with the Jakarta Police questioned Islam Defender Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab and secretary-general Munarman, as well as the chairman of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), Bahtiar Nasir, on Wednesday in relation to a meeting attended by treason suspect Sri Bintang Pamungkas and several others.

"Regarding the meetings, I visited Bu Rachmawati's house and she also has come to my house, but never have we talked about treason or planned to commit treason. Our meetings were mainly about the 411 and 212 rallies," Rizieq said upon arriving at the Jakarta Police headquarters.

He was referring to two large rallies on Nov. 11 and Dec. 2 last year that were held to demand the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Thajaja Purnama on blasphemy charges.

On Dec. 2, the National Police arrested Rachmawati and 10 other people for treason-related charges and for insulting the government. They were accused of attempting to use the Dec. 2 demonstration at the National Monument (Monas) to topple the current government.

Bahtiar, who arrived at police headquarters earlier than Rizieq, issued a similar denial, saying that his visit to Bung Karno University in Central Jakarta, where the meeting to discuss the alleged treason plan supposedly took place, was to deliver a sermon, in line with his capacity as a cleric.

Meanwhile, outside the police headquarters, hundreds of FPI loyalists staged a rally to support their leader.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/01/anti-ahok-rally-organizers-deny-any-knowledge-of-treason.html

Foreign affairs & trade

Respect the key to better Jakarta relations

The Australian - February 6, 2017

Amanda Hodge, Jakarta – Days before Australian Chief of Army Angus Campbell is due in Indonesia to try to mend ties strained over allegedly insulting training material, one of the country's most senior ministers offered blunt advice on how to keep cordial­relations between Jakarta and Canberra.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, a strong advocate for Australian-Indonesian relations and one of President Joko Widodo's most trusted advisers, told The Australian the relationship was "very, very important" for Indonesia, particularly given the neighbours' shared interest in maintaining peace and stability in the tempestuous South China Sea.

Asked how Australia might avoid the intermittent bilateral upsets that have come to characterise one of our most important relationships, he said: "We have to respect each other. That is number one. If I may also advise, you don't want me to touch your domestic problems so please don't touch too much our domestic problems.

"You want to advise, give some support? No problem. But don't interfere in domestic issues.

"We have issues like Papua and some others, I strongly advise leave it to us. We know how to take care of our problems. We never comment on Aborigines because it's also a sensitive issue in Australia. So if we can maintain like this... then I believe Indonesia and Australia will stay good neighbours."

Relations between Australia and Indonesia hit a fresh roadblock last month after Indonesian military chief Gatot Nurmantyo suspended some ties over the use of allegedly offensive teaching materials in an officer exchange program at Perth's Campbell Barracks. The material is said to have included references to the West Papuan liberation movement, a highly sensitive subject for the Indonesian­ military, which still smarts over Australia's role in East Timor's independence.

Lieutenant-General Campbell is due in Jakarta on Wednesday to relay the results of an investigation into the issue. A decision will then be made on whether to lift the suspension.

Mr Luhut, a former military general and security minister, played down the dispute and said the two countries should be allowed to resolve the issue out of the spotlight.

He also dismissed concerns that rising tensions in the South China Sea, fanned by Chinese territorial aggression and muscular statements by the new Trump administration, could lead to war.

But he flagged a greater regional peacekeeping role this year for Mr Widodo, who has previously been criticised for failing to show leadership within the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations group.

Indonesia "did not want to see any power projection" from America or China in the region, and was ready to play a greater role to maintain peace in the South China Sea, one of the world's most valuable shipping routes. "We are the largest ASEAN member by population and GDP, so we can play a positive role," Mr Luhut said.

"Maybe by the middle of this year our role will become more and more. The last two-and-a-half years we have concentrated domestically on stabilising our economy. Right now it's time for the President to give some more time to consolid­ate ASEAN countries, because other members look to Indonesia."

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/respect-the-key-to-better-jakarta-relations/news-story/166e3244a434a9a73f587a6c737a9917?nk=6faff6f2129aaf41db38858e680ef6ea-1486513675

Indonesians, Filipinos protest Trump's immigration policy

Associated Press - February 4, 2017

Niniek Karmini, Jakarta, Indonesia – Indonesian and Filipino students on Saturday protested President Donald Trump's immigration policy outside the U.S. embassies in their capitals.

In Jakarta, dozens of students and activists from several rights groups called on the Indonesian government and the international community to help stop Trump's order that temporarily banned travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. They do not include Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, and the Philippines, a key U.S. ally.

However, Indonesia is home to nearly 14,000 refugees seeking resettlement in third countries, and Trump's ban will significantly impact their chances of going to the U.S., said rights activist Veronica Koman, who organized the protest.

A U.S. judge on Friday imposed a nationwide hold on Trump's ban on travelers and immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, siding with two states that had challenged the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country.

"We are here to protest Trump's xenophobic and Islamophobia policies," Koman said. Protesters waved banners such as "I'm angry with Trump" and "No ban, no wall."

"Actually this is not only for Muslims but this is war against humanity because the immigrants or refugees around the world, not only from Muslim countries, don't have to be treated like this," said activist Filza Inanuma. "Everybody should have rights to go everywhere they want for their protection, for their life."

A similar rally was held outside the seaside U.S. Embassy in the Philippine capital, Manila, where protesters burned a portrait of Trump. No violence was reported.

Source: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_ASIA_TRUMP_PROTESTS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2017-02-04-01-17-43

Trump's Indonesia business partner says can help with US ties 'If

Jakarta Globe - February 3, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesian billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who is building luxury resorts to be managed by the Trump group, said on Friday his relationship with the US president has been focused on business but he could help ties between the nations "if needed".

Hary, 51, is chairman and chief executive of MNC Group, which is building two luxury resorts in Indonesia that will be managed by the Trump Hotel Collection, a subsidiary of the Trump Organization founded by US President Donald Trump.

There had been speculation in Indonesia that Hary, who attended Trump's inauguration in Washington last month, could act as a bridge between Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, and the United States.

"With the Trump Organization, the capacity is a business relationship. It's still the same before and after Trump became president," Hary said. "But if needed, I can try to help," he said.

Several leaders in Indonesia have expressed concerns over President Trump's tough immigration stance.

Trump signed an executive order a week ago that temporarily suspended the US refugee program and stopped visits to the United States for 90 days by citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Indonesia was not among the countries facing restrictions but Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said the policies could raise "suspicion" toward Muslims. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi expressed deep regrets over plans for "extreme vetting" of people from some Muslim countries entering the United States.

Most of Indonesia's 220 million Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam, although the Southeast Asian nation has some vocal Islamist groups and has suffered deadly militant attacks in the past.

Indonesia has traditionally close relations with the United States and many Indonesians think highly of former President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Jakarta.

In an interview with Reuters ahead of Trump's inauguration, Hary dismissed concerns by ethics officials that Trump's overseas business deals might be vulnerable to conflicts of interest.

Trump has said the company would not make any new deals abroad while he is president and that his two older sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, would take over his business roles.

Hary has his own political ambitions and has said he would decide before the end of next year whether to run in Indonesia's 2019 presidential election.

He told reporters on Friday that his MNC Group conglomerate, which has businesses including property and media, is planning total investments worth Rp 30 trillion ($2.25 billion) over the next five years.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/trumps-indonesia-business-partner-says-can-help-us-ties-needed/

Indonesia hopes Trump's policies will not disrupt international

Antara News - February 2, 2017

Jakarta – The Indonesian government hopes that US President Donald Trumps policies of protectionism and Muslim ban will not disrupt international stability, Coordinating Minister for Political, Law, and Security Wiranto noted.

"We hope the new US administration under Trump will be able to maintain international stability and ensure that the interstate relations will not undergo drastic changes," Wiranto said, during a press conference of the 3rd Indonesia-Australia Ministerial Council Meeting on Law and Security, on Thursday.

Although Indonesia has explicitly stated its stance of non-interference in US domestic policies, Wiranto expressed his hope that the US would remain an open and tolerant country in the context of coexistence between nations.

In line with Wiranto's statement, Australian Attorney General George Brandis, who along with him discussed several issues regarding the security and stability in the region, also conveyed his respect for the democratic process in the US to determine its new administration.

However, Australia expected no disturbance in international relations caused by US policies, since the commonwealth country also has the same interest, as Indonesia, to maintain regional stability.

Earlier, US Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph R Donovan said that Trump's policy, which bans citizens of seven countries from entering the US, focuses on promoting security in the US border areas.

"I think the concern is that Trump wants to review our procedures to ensure that we are providing the appropriate safety and security in our borders," Donovan stated.

Trump had previously signed 10 executive orders over the weekend, one of which was on imposing a ban of entry visa grants to citizens of Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia.

Referring to a statement released by the White House, the ambassador affirmed that the executive order was not about Islam and had nothing to do with religion.

"The executive order is about protecting America's security and borders, and it is a temporary step for approximately 90 days to review our procedures," he remarked.

He further explained that the US government continuously communicates with the Indonesian Foreign Ministry with regard to the policy.

"We are sharing statements from the White House about the executive order and communicating with the Foreign Ministry. We want all of you to understand that this is not about Islam and not about religion," he reiterated.(*)

Source: http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/109226/indonesia-hopes-trumps-policies-will-not-disrupt-international-stability-wiranto

Australia, Indonesia stress co-operation

Australian Associated Press - February 1, 2017

Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan has again highlighted the importance of co-operating with Indonesia on counter-terrorism on the heels of a complaint over military training material in Perth.

Mr Keenan and Indonesia's security minister Wiranto, along with the countries' financial intelligence agencies, met in Jakarta on Wednesday morning, to re-affirm their commitment to target terrorism funding and money laundering.

The visit comes almost a month after the shock announcement by Indonesia's Chief of military General Gatot Nurmantyo that military co-operation between the two countries was suspended following the discovery of "offensive" material at a language training course at a Perth base late last year.

Initially, it was reported the suspension would apply to all military ties, however, the government later said it was only in relation to language training. Wiranto and Mr Keenan were both keen to emphasise that the countries were committed to continued co-operation.

"It's better when the two countries started taking steps to show other countries that co-operation between countries, especially neighbouring countries, is very important," Wiranto told reporters.

Mr Keenan said evolving technology meant "we will see more change in the next decade than we have in the past 40 years when it comes to combating terrorism financing".

A report released in August last year by the two countries financial intelligence agencies – AUSTRAC and PPTAK, estimated that foreign sources funnelled more than IDR10 billion (A$1 million) into funding terrorism locally between 2014 and 2015.

Self-funded terrorism, it found, poses the highest risk for raising militant funds in Southeast Asia as they are notoriously difficult to track. Australian banks in particular, were frequently used to send funds to individuals engaged in foreign conflicts.

Source: http://www.9news.com.au/world/2017/02/01/15/00/australia-indonesia-stress-co-operation

Mining & energy

Government stands firm as Freeport threatens to cut production

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – The government seems set to ignore threats by United States mining giant Freeport-McMoran Inc to cut production at its Papuan mine and slash its local workforce if it does not receive a permit to continue exporting copper concentrates by the middle of the month.

Last month, the government relaxed a ban on mineral exports so long as miners still in possession of a contract of work (CoW) converted it to a special mining permit (IUPK).

Freeport Indonesia, the mining giant's local unit, has not complied, according to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry. The ministry's mineral and coal director general, Bambang Gatot Ariyono, said on Monday that not one mining firm had submitted an official application to convert to a IUPK.

"We have not given [Freeport Indonesia] an export permit because, as stipulated by ministerial decree No. 5/2017 and No. 6/2017, if the company has not submitted a proposal and has not fulfilled the requirements, then we cannot issue the permit. They must still submit a proposal," he said.

The conversion is stipulated in the two ministerial decrees as derivatives of the fourth revision of Government Regulation No. 23/2010 on the management of mineral and coal businesses that allows miners to continue exporting copper concentrates, certain amounts of low-grade nickel and washed bauxite.

The issuance of the ministerial regulation contravenes the 2009 Mining Law, which imposed a total ban on mineral ore exports in 2014, and stipulated that mining companies must build domestic smelters in a bid to strengthen the processing industry.

According to the Processing and Smelting Companies Association (AP3I), 32 new smelters – 24 of which are nickel smelters – have been built in the country since 2012, with a total investment of around US$20 billion.

Nevertheless, Freeport Indonesia has not shown significant progress in developing smelters, and with its status as a CoW holder, it was forced to stop exporting copper concentrates on Jan. 12.

This does not seem to bode well for either Freeport Indonesia or Freeport-McMoran, which issued a press statement last Friday demanding that the government grant it a continuation of exports or else the firm would have to reduce its production to match available domestic capacity at PT Smelting, which processes approximately 40 percent of Freeport Indonesia's concentrate production.

Freeport Indonesia said it would also be required to significantly adjust its cost structure, reduce its workforce and suspend investment in its underground development projects and new smelter.

"For each month of the delay in obtaining approval to export, PT FI's [Freeport Indonesia] share of production is projected to be reduced by approximately 70 million pounds of copper and 70,000 ounces of gold," it said.

Freeport-McMoran claims that by immediately converting to an IUPK, it would have to forgo its rights to fiscal and legal certainty and that it had "advised the government that it cannot accept these conditions unless a mutually satisfactory replacement agreement is completed". Meanwhile Bambang said converting to an IUPK would nullify Freeport Indonesia's CoW before its expiration in 2021.

Center for Energy and Mining Law (Pushep) executive director Bisman Bhaktiar said that although Freeport's production cut might hurt state revenues in the short term, the long-term benefits of forcing all CoW holders to convert to an IUPK would be fruitful for the downstream sector.

"If [Freeport] cannot export it will definitely have a negative impact in both the social and economic sense. However, that will only be for the short term and the government's task is to anticipate this and handle it quickly," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/07/government-stands-firm-as-freeport-threatens-to-cut-production.html

Renewable energy regulation repeats old mistakes: Association

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2017

Jakarta – The Indonesian Renewable Energy Society (METI) says Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jogan with a recent decree on new and renewable energy has repeated mistakes of the past that are proven to discourage investors.

The maximum tariff of 85 percent from the basic cost of production (BPP) stipulated in Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Regulation (Permen) No. 12/2017 repeated a failure of the previous policy, said METI chairman Surya Darma, as reported by tribunnews.com on Monday.

He said such a tariff had already been stipulated in Permen No. 14/2008, which applies only to electricity from geothermal energy.

"That regulation has failed and [therefore] has been replaced. It is not understandable that the current minister repeated the failure," Surya said on Sunday.

Permen No. 12/2017 on New and Renewable Energy regulates tariffs for electricity generated from solar energy, wind, hydropower, biomass, biogas, waste and geothermal energy.

"We have expressed the concerns of the association in a meeting at the office of Vice President [Jusuf Kalla]. The regulation needs to be revised," he added.

Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) executive director Fabby Tumiwa made similar comments, saying the new rules would hamper to investment in renewable energy. The government needed to prepare incentives for investors in this sector, he added. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/06/renewable-energy-regulation-repeats-old-mistakes-association.html

Economy & investment

Indonesia pins hopes for growth on direct investment

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2017

Anton Hermansyah, Jakarta – To achieve its 2017 target of economic growth above 5 percent, the government aims for investment to increase at a rate of 5.4 percent to 5.6 percent this year.

National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) head Bambang Brodjonegoro said that while growth of household consumption could be maintained at around 5 percent, the rate would not rise further. The same went for exports, which are expected to increase by no more than 1.7 percent.

"If we can maintain the growth of household consumption at 5 percent, our economic growth would not fall below 5 percent. However, to grow faster than that, investment must be boosted," Bambang said on Thursday during the presentation of the 2017 economic outlook by the European Business Chambers of Commerce in Indonesia (EuroCham) at the Investment Coordinating Board's (BKPM) headquarters in Jakarta.

According to Bappenas data, investment grew at a rate of 4.7 percent last year, while household consumption increased by 5 percent and exports fell by 1 percent.

BKPM head Thomas Lembong, meanwhile, said Indonesia could achieve its investment growth target this year, as developed countries, including the United States and those in the eurozone, had shown robust economic growth last year.

He also expressed optimism that capital outflows from Indonesia's stock market in anticipation of new economic policies by US President Donald Trump would soon be compensated for in the form of foreign direct investment coming to Indonesia.

"We had dollar appreciation recently, after Donald Trump was elected. With stronger dollar, Americans will consume more, import more and trigger foreign direct investment from the US," he said. (hwa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/02/indonesia-pins-hopes-for-growth-on-direct-investment.html

Analysis & opinion

Why the ban on sending migrant workers to the Middle East isn't working

Indonesia at Melbourne - February 7, 2017

Wahyu Susilo – In May 2015, the Indonesian government announced a permanent ban on sending domestic workers to 21 mainly Middle East countries. The decision was made following the execution of two Indonesian domestic workers and several high profile cases of abuse. The government also claimed that the ban was necessary because several of the countries, such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, were sites of significant unrest, which could endanger migrant lives.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more than 630,000 Indonesians work in the Middle East. Although experts suggest that the total number is much higher once undocumented and trafficked workers are taken into account.

The ban was formalised with the passage of Ministry of Manpower Regulation No. 260 of 2015, and has been in place for almost two years. But the flow of migrants has not stopped. Migration to the Middle East is not as large as before the ban, but migrants continue to leave seeking fortune in the Gulf countries. In certain peak periods, such as during Ramadan, the number of migrants departing is even higher.

Since March 2015, Indonesian civil society organisation Migrant Care has been documenting the movement of migrant workers through Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Migrant Care began monitoring the flow of domestic workers to the Middle East to gain a greater understanding of their access to communications technology – many domestic workers in the Middle East experience significant social isolation, as employers often restrict access to communications. Following the ban, however, Migrant Care focused its monitoring efforts on assessing the impact of the policy. This involved looking at the level of compliance with the regulation, the directions of migrant flows, and the strategies used by migrants to circumvent the new regulation.

In the year to May 2016, Migrant Care interviewed 2,644 domestic workers heading abroad. Some 1,020 domestic workers were departing for the first time, while the remaining 1,624 were returning to work following a break. Most were heading to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait, with a small number travelling to Malaysia. This survey obviously represents a small fraction of the total number departing. Similar monitoring conducted by the National Agency for the Protection and Placement of Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI), found that 8,714 migrant workers departed for the Middle East from January-May 2016, and most were domestic workers.

Despite the Ministry of Manpower's attempts to ban domestic workers from working in the Middle East, the desire to work there remains high. This is strengthened by data on remittances from Bank Indonesia. In 2015, despite the fact that the ban had been in place for half of the year, remittances from the Middle East were US$3.52 billion, a significant increase from the US$2.87 billion recorded in 2014. The figure was also higher than remittances from Southeast Asia, which totalled only US$2.6 billion. Even in the first quarter of 2016, remittances from the Middle East reached US$878 million, while $680 million was recorded from Southeast Asia.

Migrant Care's survey revealed that domestic workers deployed a range of strategies to get to the Middle East. One of the most common methods was to enter on the hajj or umrah pilgrimage. Others would stay on after visiting relatives, or using a transit visa then concealing their identities. Although the new rules also forbid private migration agents (PPTKIS) from placing migrant workers in the Middle East, the survey found that most who departed used agents or middlemen connected to private firms.

The survey results are so concerning because the large numbers of domestic workers who have chosen to defy the ban are departing with little to no legal protection. These domestic workers are highly vulnerable to human trafficking or conditions of forced labour. Domestic workers who flout the ban will find it even harder to access consular assistance. Since the ban was first implemented in June 2016, Indonesian representatives in the 21 affected countries have said that they will not process any matters related to the placement of migrants.

The government recognises it has a problem. From 2005-2016 it has remained stagnant at Tier 2 in the US Department of State's Trafficking in Persons Report. Similarly, Indonesia is ranked 10 in the Global Slavery Index, because of the number of its citizens who are trapped in some form of modern slavery. But banning migrant workers from heading to the Middle East is not the solution.

Not only does the ban violate the rights to work and mobility, the policy could also result in greater numbers of migrants becoming victims of human trafficking or forced labour. Policies to protect migrant workers should be dedicated to guaranteeing the right to work and the right to mobility. There should also be concurrent efforts to strengthen the quality of protection, improve preparation and training of domestic workers (which must include efforts to promote rights awareness) and provide maximum supervision to prevent exploitation by employers.

[Wahyu Susilo is the executive director of Migrant Care, a nongovernmental organisation that advocates for migrant workers' rights.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/why-the-ban-on-sending-migrant-workers-to-the-middle-east-isnt-working/

Indonesia is slowly, slowly losing Melanesia

Asia Pacific Report - February 1, 2017

Dan McGarry, Port Vila – Last month, New Zealand-based analyst Jose Sousa-Santos commented on Twitter that "Indonesia's attempt at buying support from the Pacific region seems to have little to no impact on Melanesia's stance on [West] Papua."

That's one of those pesky observations that's neither entirely right nor entirely wrong. The truth is: Indonesia is winning almost every battle... and still losing the fight.

Conventional wisdom used to be that Indonesia had built an impregnable firewall against Melanesian action in support of West Papuan independence.

Its commercial and strategic relationship with Papua New Guinea is such that PNG's foreign affairs establishment will frankly admit that their support for Indonesia's territorial claims is axiomatic. Call it realpolitik or call it timidity, but they feel that the West Papuan independence doesn't even bear contemplating.

Widespread grassroots support and its popularity among progressive up-and-comers such as Gary Juffa don't seem to matter. As long as Jakarta holds the key to economic and military tranquillity, Port Moresby's elites are content to toe the Indonesian line.

The situation in Suva is similar. FijiFirst is naturally inclined is toward a more authoritarian approach to governance. And it seems that the military's dominance of Fiji's political landscape dovetails nicely with Indonesia's power dynamic.

Many argue that Fiji's relationship is largely mercenary. It wouldn't flourish, they say, if the path to entente weren't strewn with cash and development assistance. That's probably true, but we can't ignore the sincere cordiality between Fiji's leadership and their Indonesian counterparts.

Same seeds

The same seeds have been planted in Port Vila, but they haven't take root.

Until recently, Indonesia's ability to derail consensus in the Melanesian Spearhead Group has ensured that West Papuan independence leaders lacked even a toehold on the international stage. In the absence of international recognition and legitimacy, the Indonesian government was able to impose draconian restrictions on activists both domestically and internationally.

Perhaps the most notorious example was their alleged campaign to silence independence leader Benny Wenda, who fled Indonesia after facing what he claims were politically motivated charges designed to silence him. He was granted political asylum in the United Kingdom, but a subsequent red notice – usually reserved for terrorists and international criminals –made travel impossible.

In mid-2012, following an appeal by human rights organisation Fair Trials, Interpol admitted that Indonesia's red notice against Wenda was "predominantly political in nature", and removed it.

Since then, however, activists have accused Indonesia of abusing anti-terrorism mechanisms to curtail Wenda's travels. A trip to the United States was cancelled at the last moment because American authorities refused to let him board his flight. It was alleged that an Indonesian complaint was the source of this refusal.

Independence supporters claim that Indonesian truculence has also led to Mr Wenda being barred from addressing the New Zealand parliament. His appearance at the Sydney opera house with human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson received a standing ovation from the 2500 audience members... and an irate protest from Indonesian officials.

Not all of Indonesia's efforts are overt. Numerous commentators made note of the fact that Vanuatu's then-foreign minister Sato Kilman visited Jakarta immediately before his 2015 ouster of Prime Minister Joe Natuman.

Lifelong supporter

Natuman, a lifelong supporter of West Papuan independence, was a stalwart backer of membership in the MSG for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, or ULMWP. He was unseated barely weeks before the Honiara meeting that was to consider the question.

Kilman, along with Indonesian officials, vehemently deny any behind-the-scenes collusion on West Papua.

But even with Vanuatu wavering, something happened at the June 2015 Honiara meeting that surprised everyone. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare stage-managed a diplomatic coup, a master class in Melanesian mediation.

In June 2015, I wrote that the "Solomonic decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group to cut the baby in half and boost the membership status of both the ULMWP and Indonesia is an example of the Melanesian political mind at work. Valuing collective peace over individual justice, group prosperity over individual advancement, and allowing unabashed self-interest to leaven the sincerity of the entire process, our leaders have placed their stamp on what just might be an indelible historical moment."

Since then, the sub-regional dynamic has undergone a transformation. Kilman's administration suffered a collapse of unprecedented proportions following corruption charges against more than half of his government.

The resulting public furore seems – for the moment at least -­ to have catalysed a backlash against venality and personal interest.

If the rumours are true, and Indonesia did have a hand in Kilman's palace coup, the tactic hasn't worked since. A pair of no confidence motions -­ not very coincidentally on the eve of yet another MSG leaders' summit – failed even to reach the debate stage.

Kanaky support never wavered

Kanaky's support for West Papuan independence has never wavered, but given their semi-governmental status, and their staunch socialist platform, Jakarta would be hard pressed to find a lever it could usefully pull.

For his part, Sogavare has survived more than one attempt to topple him. His own party leaders explicitly referenced his leadership on the West Papuan question when they tried to oust him by withdrawing their support.

In a masterful -­ and probably unlawful – manoeuvre, Sogavare retained his hold on power by getting the other coalition members to endorse him as their leader. His deft handling of the onslaught has raised him in the estimation of many observers of Melanesian politics.

Some claim that his dodging and weaving has placed him in the first rank of Melanesia's political pantheon. In Vanuatu as well, once bitten is twice shy. Prime Minister Charlot Salwai raised eyebrows when he not only met with the ULMWP leadership, but accepted the salute of a contingent of freedom fighters in full military regalia.

The meeting took place at the same moment as MSG foreign ministers met to consider rule changes that, if enacted, will almost inevitably result in full membership for the ULMWP.

The MSG has traditionally operated on consensus. If these rule changes pass muster, this will no longer be the case. It is a near certainty that Indonesia will do its utmost to avert this.

Sogavare's inspired approach

Sogavare has demonstrated an inspired approach to the situation: If the MSG won't stand for decolonisation in the Pacific, he asks, what is it good for? This rhetoric has become a chorus, with senior politicians in Vanuatu and Kanaky joining in.

Sogavare is, in short, embarked on his own march to Selma. And he is willing to allow the MSG to suffer the slings and arrows of Indonesian opprobrium. He is, in short, willing to allow the MSG to die for their sins.

Whether we agree or not with the independence campaign, there is no denying the genius of Sogavare's ploy. His willingness to sacrifice the MSG for the cause takes away the one lever that Indonesia had in Melanesia.

His key role in orchestrating an end run around the Pacific Islands Forum's wilful silence is another trademark move. When human rights concerns were simply glossed over in the communique, he and others orchestrated a chorus of calls for attention to the issue in the UN General Assembly.

Manasseh Sogavare and his Pacific allies have found a strategy that is making the advancement of the West Papuan independence movement inexorable. As Ghandi demonstrated in India, as with Dr King's campaign for civil rights showed again and again, anything less than defeat is a victory.

Without losing a single major battle, Indonesia is – slowly, so slowly – being forced from the board.

[Dan McGarry is media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post.]

Source: http://asiapacificreport.nz/2017/02/01/dan-mcgarry-indonesia-is-slowly-slowly-losing-melanesia/

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