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Indonesia News Digest 6 – February 8-14, 2017

West Papua Aceh Military ties Sexual & domestic violence Freedom of speech & expression Political parties & elections Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections Surveys & opinion polls Environment & natural disasters Health & education Marriage & the family Graft & corruption Terrorism & religious extremism Hard-line & vigilante groups Islam & religion Sex, pornography & morality Land & agrarian conflicts Transport & communication Armed forces & defense Criminal justice & legal system Banking & finance Analysis & opinion

West Papua

Pacific Forum team monitors Indonesia elections

Radio New Zealand International - February 14, 2017

A Pacific Islands Forum team is to join monitors of the Indonesian regional elections which start tomorrow. The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor says West Papua is a sensitive issue.

The Forum is to observe voting in Jayapura and Manokwari in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. The Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said the Pacific region and Indonesia share a belief in the principles of good governance and fair and free elections.

She said she was sure there was much the Pacific could learn from the third largest democracy in the world.

In addition the Forum, along with the Commonwealth Secretariat, is this week on a joint mission to Nauru for a 'Post 2016 Election Workshop'. Dame Meg said this invitation from Nauru shows its commitment to be open and transparent about its electoral processes.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/324493/pacific-forum-team-monitors-indonesia-elections

Names released of four West Papuans charged with treason

Radio New Zealand International - February 13, 2017

The names of four political activists charged by Indonesia with treason in West Papua have been released by the human rights advocacy group Amnesty International.

Hiskia Meage, Emanuel Ukago, Panus Hesegem and William Wim are members of the pro-Papuan independence organization, the West Papuan National Committee and were among 70 people who were arrested while demonstrating in North Sulawesi Province in December.

The rally was part of 14 simultaneous demonstrations across Indonesia in support of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua becoming a full member of Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Amnesty said 528 people were arrested nation-wide on 19 December but most were released without charge the following day. Committee members Hosea Yemo and Ismael Alua were also charged with treason for organising the rallies.

Amnesty said the men remained in detention for exercising their right to peaceful assembly and should be considered prisoners of conscience.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/324353/names-released-of-four-west-papuans-charged-with-treason

Komnas HAM establishes representative offices in West Papua

Tempo.co - February 9, 2017

Friski Riana, Jakarta – The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has unveiled a representative office in Manokwari, West Papua. Komnas HAM commissioner Natalius Piagi said that the commission agreed to representative office establishment in a plenary meeting on February 8.

According to Natalius, the Komnas HAM had earlier been exploring possibilities of establishing a representative office in West Papua since December 7 last year. Natalius and other commissioner had since conducted feasibility studies. They had also made contacts with the Papua People's Council, the Regional Legislative Council, and West Papua Provincial Government.

"It's not easy to establish an independent oversight agency like Komnas HAM in Papuan soil amid request from other provinces," Natalius said.

According to him, the representative office has been established to meet the need of West Papua people. Moreover, he viewed that West Papua people had faced difficulty voicing their rights to the government. The representative office will actively accommodate Papuan people's voice living in remote areas, such as the waters, islands, coastal areas, inland areas and mountainous regions.

Komnas HAM previously had six representative offices in Aceh, West Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua. West Papua representative office establishment reflects the commission's commitment to uphold the human rights of eastern Indonesia people. "Two out of seven representative offices are located in Papua," Natalius said.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/02/09/055844721/Komnas-HAM-Establishes-Representative-Offices-in-West-Papua

Authorities warn of threat of armed groups in Papua

Jakarta Post - February 9, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – Security authorities in Papua are on alert in four out of 11 regencies and municipalities set to hold elections on Feb. 15. They comprise Lanny Jaya, Nduga, Puncak Jaya and Tolikara.

With the presence of armed groups, security forces are working to ensure the elections in the four regencies run peacefully.

"Close attention is being paid to these four areas because the security vulnerability level there is very high. Armed civilian groups, which possess around 200 firearms, are present in those areas. Their existence could be used by candidates for election-related purposes," said Military Command (Kodam) XVII/Cendrawasih chief Maj. Gen. Hinsa Siburian.

He was speaking at a meeting with members of House of Representatives Commission II on regional affairs during their recent visit to Papua to monitor election preparations.

Siburian further explained that Lanny Jaya and Tolikara had dark experiences five years ago when a dispute during a regional election erupted into a tribal war that led to deaths.

"In Lanny Jaya and Tolikara, candidates who suffered losses in the regional elections five years ago are running again and competing against incumbent candidates who won the election back then. There are worries that the tense situation five years ago will be repeated and so security precautions must be heightened," he said.

As many as 2,500 Kodam XVII/Cendrawasih personnel will be on standby during the elections. "They are ready to be deployed to back up the police in securing the regional elections," said Siburian.

Meanwhile, Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw said the police had identified areas prone to conflict and prepared 2,774 police personnel, including National Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) members from Jakarta, to be deployed to the areas.

"In principle, the Papua Police are ready to secure regional elections in this province and will support decisions by the General Elections Commission as the organizer of the elections," he said.

Brimob personnel also will be deployed to secure elections in Central Sulawesi and Jakarta. Hundreds of Brimob personnel from the Central Java Police will be dispatched to help secure the Jakarta gubernatorial election. They will be joined by personnel from other provincial police commands, who will be deployed to the capital, one of three areas considered most prone to security threats during the elections.

"They comprise 400 personnel or four company-level units [SSK]. They will be at the service of the Jakarta Police," Central Java Police Insp. Gen. Condro Kirono said in Semarang on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, two Brimob companies have been deployed to secure the regental election in Buol, Central Sulawesi.

"One Brimob company from the Central Java Police has arrived in Buol while one company from Brimob headquarters in Kelapa Dua will arrive on Feb. 11," said Buol Police chief Adj.Sr.Comr. Mujianto on Wednesday.

He said the deployment of hundreds of Brimob personnel would guarantee the security of Buol residents so they could exercise their right to vote safely and peacefully.

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe reminded all relevant parties to act independently and avoid bias toward any candidate. "I hope regional elections in Papua can run normally according to prevailing rules. I remind the KPU as the election organizer and police personnel to remain neutral. Their siding with any candidates could ruin the elections in Papua," said Lukas.

Four regencies in Papua considered most prone to conflict 2,500 military personnel prepared to safeguard elections.

[Ruslan Sangadji and Suherdjoko contributed to this story from Buol and Semarang.]

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/09/authorities-warn-of-threat-of-armed-groups-in-papua-1486608871.html


Indonesia's Aceh authorities lash hundreds under sharia statutes

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - February 8, 2017

Phelim Kine – Authorities in Indonesia's Aceh province imposed the Sharia, or Islamic law, punishment of multiple lashes of a cane against 339 people in 2016, the first full-year of implementation of Aceh's Sharia's Criminal Code since it went into effect in September 2015.

The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, an Indonesian nongovernmental organization that compiled the statistics, warned the abusive practice will "continue to rise" in 2017.

Those punished with caning last year included 37 women for violations of Sharia including gambling.

Aceh is the only one of Indonesia's 34 provinces that can legally adopt bylaws derived from Sharia. Since those bylaws began to go into effect in 2001, Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses linked to enforcement of Sharia bylaws prohibiting adultery and imposing public dress requirements on Muslims.

The khalwat ("close proximity") law makes association by unmarried individuals of the opposite sex a criminal offense in some circumstances. While the dress requirement is gender-neutral on its face, in practice it imposes far more onerous restrictions on women with the mandatory hijab, or veil, and long skirts. These "offenses" are not banned elsewhere in Indonesia.

Aceh's so-called Sharia police have interpreted the broadly worded Sharia-inspired adultery law to prohibit merely sitting and talking in a "quiet" space with a member of the opposite sex to whom one is not married or related – even without any evidence of intimacy. Human Rights Watch has documented such abuses as aggressive interrogation, conditioning the release of suspects upon their agreement to marry, and, in one case, the Sharia police's rape of a woman during her detention.

Aceh's Sharia bylaws have proliferated. On September 27, 2014, Aceh's provincial parliament approved bylaws that extend Sharia to non-Muslims, criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual acts as well as all zina (sexual relations outside of marriage). The criminal code permits up to 100 lashes and up to 100 months in prison for consensual same-sex sexual acts, while zina violations carry a penalty of 100 lashes. Those bylaws were implemented as part of Sharia Criminal Code in September 2015.

Discriminatory enforcement of Sharia has also had a chilling effect on the basic rights to security and freedom of expression for Aceh's deeply marginalized LGBT community. In April 2016, four United Nations special rapporteurs wrote to the Indonesian government expressing concerns about the abusive enforcement of Sharia against LGBT people, and requesting information on the government's response.

Under Indonesian law, the national home affairs minister can review and repeal local bylaws, including those adopted in Aceh. In June 2016, Minister of Home Affairs Tjahjo Kumolo backtracked on an announced commitment to abolish abusive Sharia regulations in the country. It's up to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to prod Kumolo to deliver on his promise, or to personally take action against Aceh's Sharia bylaws and any other local regulations that are discriminatory or otherwise unlawful.

[Phelim Kine is the Deputy Director, Asia Division.]

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/08/indonesias-aceh-authorities-lash-hundreds-under-sharia-statutes

Military ties

Indonesia accepts Australian apology and promise of punishment over

Sydney Morning Herald - February 9, 2017

Jewel Topsfield – Indonesia's military chief says Australia has apologised over "very sensitive and painful" material found at an army base in Perth that insulted Indonesia's state ideology and promised "strict punishment" for all personnel involved.

General Gatot Nurmantyo said he accepted the apology but a decision was yet to be made about the continuation of military cooperation between the two countries.

The defence fracas broke out in early January after it emerged an Indonesian language instructor had come across curriculum at Campbell Barracks that included an assignment on West Papuan independence and a spoof of the state ideology Pancasila.

This send-up of Pancasila – "Pancagila", a play on words meaning "five crazy principles" – is sometimes circulated on social media in Indonesia by those who wish to mock the state ideology.

It initially appeared as if all defence ties between the two nations had been suspended as a result, although Chief Security Minister Wiranto later clarified the postponement of cooperation related to the Special Forces Australia language training program only.

In a statement released on Wednesday night, the Indonesian military said Australian Army chief Angus Campbell had conveyed "deep regret and apology" over the incident that occurred at the language training institution of the Special Forces Command of the Australian Army.

It said the Australian military would stop Indonesian language learning activities and conduct an internal restructure as well as revise the learning materials.

"The Australian Defence Force will also apply strict punishment to all personnel involved and responsible for the incident, which affects their career," General Gatot said in the statement.

He told reporters in Ambon that Lieutenant General Campbell had stressed the material found did not reflect the views of the Australian Army when he met with him in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"Therefore steps have been taken to close down the school and carry out an evaluation over the curriculum because the curriculum was not right," he said on Wednesday night.

"And the most important thing is to carry out the process of punishing either the school's principal or related personnel in a way that will affect their careers."

General Gatot said in the statement that Indonesians were willing to die defending the state ideology of Pancasila, which lays out the nation's broad principles of religion, civilised humanity, social justice, democracy and unity.

"Moreover for TNI [Indonesian military] soldiers... that is very sensitive and painful."

General Gatot said he was grateful for the "quick and decisive action" from Chief of the Australian Defence Force Mark Binskin and Lieutenant General Campbell.

He said he had accepted the apology and "realised that in this competitive global era, unity and friendship were needed by neighbouring countries".

However at the end of the meeting, the Indonesian military chief had not made any decision about the continuation of military cooperation between the two countries. It would be discussed with the Indonesian Defence Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister and the result reported to President Joko Widodo.

In April last year it was widely reported that Islam Defenders Front leader Rizieq Shihab – the firebrand cleric who spearheaded massive rallies in Jakarta last year calling for Jakarta's governor to be jailed for allegedly insulting Islam – changed Pancasila to Pancagila in one of his speeches.

Bradley Wood, a Masters student from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at Australian National University, recently argued that the use of sensitive political material, such as 'Pancagila', by the Australian Defence Force's language students was important to Australia's official language and cultural training.

"Politically sensitive material like this provides a valuable insight into Indonesia's internal political dynamics from an indigenous perspective, and it's these insights that contribute to a better understanding of Indonesia's human terrain," he wrote in New Mandala.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/indonesia-accepts-australian-apology-and-promise-of-punishment-over-offensive-material-20170209-gu8pbw.html

Sexual & domestic violence

Violence against women rising: Komnas Perempuan

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – The number of cases of violence against women increased in 2016, according to the annual report of the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan).

Throughout 2016 the commission received 1,354 reports, an increase of 8.5 percent from 2015, the report said. "The number of reports received by Komnas Perempuan increases every year," the commission's chairwoman Azriana said during the launch of the report in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Despite being alarming, she said the rising trend also signaled an increasing awareness of the importance of reporting cases. Azriana said that there were still many challenges facing women in the country.

"Violence against women is still seen as a crime against morality. Furthermore, our development program hasn't made enough effort in the eradication of violence against women, as it is often times limited to domestic abuse," she said. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/violence-against-women-rising-komnas-perempuan.html

Freedom of speech & expression

Five months sought for Facebooker

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Andi Hajramurni, Makassar, South Sulawesi – Prosecutors at the Makassar District Court in South Sulawesi demanded that a 27-year-old housewife named Yusniar be sentenced to five months in jail for alleged defamation.

Prosecutor Neng Marlinawati argued that Yusniar was guilty of violating the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law by writing a defamatory comment on her Facebook page and should be remanded in custody.

Yusniar was initially detained on Oct. 2 but the Makassar District Court ordered that she be put under city arrest on Nov. 24.

Her case began when Sudirman Sijaya, a Jeneponto Legislative Council member, who is also apparently a lawyer, filed a police report against Yusniar for a remark she made on her Facebook page. The post, which did not mention any names, came a day after her parents' house was attacked by 100 people, allegedly including Sudirman.

Yusniar has been charged under the 2008 ITE Law and the Criminal Code (KUHP) for alleged defamation, which carry a maximum penalty of six years in prison.

Yusniar has denied the charges, saying she and her family were victims as strangers had attempted to damage and seize their house. She testified that she did not intend to insult anyone but had commented on her Facebook page to vent her frustration.

"I did not mention any names in my status. I shouldn't be punished, I'm the victim here," she said. The trial was adjourned for two weeks, when the court will hear Yusniar's defense plea.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/five-months-sought-for-facebooker.html

Political parties & elections

Apathetic millennials encouraged to vote on Wednesday

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – With regional elections just around the corner, apathy still lingers in younger voters.

Rock the Vote Indonesia, a movement promoted by the University of Indonesia's politics lab, has found that the high number of politicians charged with corruption has played a role in tarnishing the image of politics among the young generation, sometimes referred to as millennials.

Irmana, research manager for Rock the Vote Indonesia, said his institution, since 2013, had been actively working to raise political awareness among people aged between 18 and 29 years. He said his group often tried to explain to millennials that politics could serve as a medium to deliver welfare to society.

"They regard politics as a nefarious activity, where cheaters and bad people proliferate. We need to change that view," Irmana told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

In December 2016, as a part of its campaign, Rock the Vote Indonesia visited four cities – Jakarta, Aceh, Kulon Progo in Yogyakarta and Gorontalo – to encourage young people to vote. "We're seeing positive trends. After a number of discussions, we see that many young people now have a softer view of politics," Irmana said.

Of the 7 million registered voters in Jakarta, around 28.9 percent of them are aged between 16 and 30. (trw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/14/apathetic-millennials-encouraged-to-vote-on-wednesday.html

'Blank box' supporters in Pati angry over removal of banners

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang, Central Java – People in support of voting against the sole candidate pair of Haryanto-Saiful Arifin in the regental election in Pati, Central Java, have expressed frustration at the repeated removal of their street banners and billboards advising people how to do so.

Sutiyo, head of the Alliance to Safeguard Democracy in the Pati Election, said Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) officers kept removing banners and billboards that promoted the blank box, which will appear next to the picture of the sole ticket on ballots.

"We're get pressure from both the bureaucracy and election organizers in Pati each time we promote the idea," said Sutiyo on Wednesday. He presented pictures showing Satpol PP officers taking down banners promoting the blank box across Juwana.

The banners were emblazoned with messages encouraging the people of Pati to choose the blank box. "Blank Box Fighters: Let's make the Pati election successful. Avoid Golput. Choose the blank box," they read.

Several billboards carried the message "Avoid Golput. Choose the blank box." Golput refers to people who consciously choose not to participate in an election.

The "blank box movement" emerged in protest against the Pati election, which only offers Haryanto-Saiful as the sole candidate pair. The pair is backed by a coalition of eight political parties, namely the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), the Gerindra Party, the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Democratic Party, the Golkar Party, the Hanura Party, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/blank-box-supporters-in-pati-angry-over-removal-of-banners.html

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

Jakarta governor election a 'litmus test' of Indonesian Islam

The Guardian (Australia) - February 14, 2017

Kate Lamb, Jakarta – Millions of Jakarta residents will go to the polls on Wednesday in a vote that is being seen as a "litmus test" of Indonesian Islam.

In the capital of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, the incumbent Jakarta governor Basuki Purnama Tjahaja, better known as Ahok, is battling to retain his seat.

Ahok, a Christian from the country's ethnic Chinese minority, is clinging to a slight lead in the polls against Anies Baswedan, the former education minister, and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of a former president.

Ahok was favourite to win the vote until he became embroiled in a blasphemy scandal. Accused of insulting Islam, he has been forced to defend what many believe are politically motivated charges.

Mass protests by religious hardliners and the legal proceedings that followed have led some observers to view Wednesday's election as a test of Indonesia's much-touted commitment to pluralism.

"I think this is going to be a litmus test of Indonesian Islam," said Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Are we tolerant or intolerant?"

The blasphemy case against Ahok came about following immense public pressure from demonstrations organised at the behest of hardline Islamists.

Rumours abound that powerful political interests helped fund and mobilise the protests to chip away at Ahok's strong popularity.

"You cannot underestimate the effect, the significance of this primordialism and the politicisation of religion in order to achieve political ends [by] those who use religion to win the election," Aleksius Jemadu, dean of political science at Jakarta's Pelita Harapan University, told the Guardian.

The effect has been decidedly damaging for Ahok, a straight-talking sometimes brash leader credited with delivering positive changes in the city including mitigating floods, cutting red tape and driving infrastructure projects.

Ahok's lead has been steadily eroded and at times eclipsed by his contenders. His poll standing has rebounded in recent weeks but remains tenuous.

A poll in December 2016 showed how effectively a conservative religious base had been galvanised against him. Saiful Manjani Research and Consulting (SMRC) found that 45% of Indonesians believed the remarks at the centre of Ahok's troubles were blasphemous but 88% admitted they weren't exactly sure what he had said.

Ahok's electoral rivals have aggressively courted the Islamic vote – visiting mosques and religious leaders, donning Muslim garb and, in the case of Anies Baswedan, a former education minister, even controversially meeting the head of a hardline Islamic group.

"I think the most critical issue is the unstoppable politicisation – How strong the motivation and aim of Ahok's enemies is to prevent him from winning by capitalising on this issue of insulting religion," noted Jemadu of the dynamics at play.

At a time when the country is grappling with the relationship between religion and state, the blowback has also churned up underlying resentment against Indonesia's often wealthier Chinese ethnic minority.

Racist, anti-Chinese memes have been circulated online – some even branding Ahok a communist, a damning insult in Indonesia.

One reason the Jakarta governorship is so hotly contested is the potential bearing it is perceived to have on the presidency.

The current president, Joko Widodo, was held the post before being elected head of state in 2014 which catapulted his then deputy, Ahok, into the governorship.

At time of writing Ahok stands at around 39% in the polls. Without receiving the more than 50% needed to win on Wednesday, he would have to fight out a second round where his chances could be significantly worse. "If it goes to a second round," Basuki says, "it will be very ugly."

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/14/jakarta-governor-election-a-litmus-test-of-indonesian-islam

Jakarta candidate Anies Baswedan surging in polls, but some claim

Sydney Morning Herald - February 14, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – In 2010 the Japanese magazine Foresight named Indonesian university rector Anies Baswedan among 20 global figures – including Vladimir Putin and David Miliband – to watch over the next 20 years.

The cover story predicted that Mr Baswedan – a former student activist opposed to authoritarian leader Suharto, a prominent political analyst and one of Indonesia's youngest university presidents – would be a future leader.

It seems Foresight showed considerable, well, foresight. Seven years later, Mr Baswedan is contesting gubernatorial elections in Jakarta, considered by many a dress rehearsal – or at least a proxy war within the political elite – for Indonesia's 2019 presidential race.

Mr Baswedan's ticket is supported by the Greater Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), the party chaired by Prabowo Subianto, President Joko Widodo's rival in the 2014 elections.

"Anies... is widely seen as using this election to get his political career back on track, while at the same time testing the water for Prabowo Subianto's next attempt for the presidency in 2019," writes political analyst Yohanes Sulaiman in New Mandala.

And the latest survey from Indikator Politik Indonesia – one of the most trusted polling firms in the country – shows Anies is neck-and-neck with the polarising incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok.

As support wanes for the third candidate, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, after several lacklustre debate performances and embarrassing Twitter outbursts by his father, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Baswedan's popularity is in the ascendant.

Neither Mr Purnama nor Mr Baswedan are expected to win the majority required for victory in the February 15 election, which would mean they would have to face off in a second election in April.

Indikator executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi believes Mr Yudhoyono's votes would flow to Mr Baswedan in a runoff, as supporters of the two Muslim candidates come from similar backgrounds: "We still have two months to go and everything can happen, but based on the current situation the momentum is with Anies."

But at what cost? The Foresight profile said Mr Baswedan's neutral, fair and consistently balanced views had earned him the trust of all communities, including many political elites. "He is a moderate Muslim who consistently stands in the middle, not affiliated with any political party or group," it said.

But Mr Baswedan's moderate reputation has been eroded during the election campaign by his aggressive courting of the Islamist vote.

In January he sparked controversy by giving a speech to the hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI), which has spearheaded mass rallies in the capital, with protesters calling for Ahok to be jailed and in some instances even killed for allegedly insulting Islam.

At the time one of Mr Baswedan's campaign spokesmen, Anggawira, told Fairfax Media that Mr Baswedan attended meetings with different groups every few days.

"People know where he stands on Islam, it's not something created in one day or visit. His position is well known by everybody, it's clear in the media, he was an activist as a student... he's an educator."

When pressed by Metro TV anchor Najwa Shihab on whether he shared the FPI's belief that Jakarta's governor must be a Muslim, Mr Baswedan replied: "When we talk about verse from the Koran, it's clear, it is stated there. As a Muslim, I abide by al-Ma'ida 51."

It is verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran that has landed Mr Purnama in so much hot water. It is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of non-Muslims.

Others say the scripture should be understood in its context – a time of war – and not interpreted literally. Islamist hardliners have consistently used the verse to urge Jakartans not to vote for Ahok, who is Christian.

Mr Baswedan and Mr Yudhoyono both attended a "mass prayer" at Istiqlal Mosque, an event some dubbed the "112 [February 11] march", which police eventually allowed on the condition people stay within the mosque and that it not feature any political speech.

This was ignored: religious leaders told the crowd of about 100,000 people to vote for Muslim leaders and participants brandished placards that said things like "It is forbidden to pick an infidel leader".

Mr Baswedan told the BBC he had simply conducted morning prayers and stressed that he had not exploited religious sentiment during the election campaign.

"I never talked about religion, never talked about any sura, not even once. Other people used it and made all of this happen," Mr Baswedan said.

But Indikator pollster Mr Burhanuddin is among those who believe Mr Baswedan has damaged his moderate reputation.

"The only way of beating Ahok is to use religious sentiment because 75 per cent of Jakartans perceive Ahok has done a good job," Mr Burhanuddin said, adding that the strategy had worked for Mr Baswedan up until now.

"For Anies this is really a big game. If he fails to win the election, it is all just finished for him – his reputation as a pluralistic, inclusive Muslim figure is just finished. He is just like other politicians – using everything to win the election even at the cost of his reputation."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/jakarta-candidate-anies-baswedan-surging-in-polls-but-some-claim-theres-a-cost-20170214-guck42.html

Ahok declines to comment on City Council's boycott

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2017

Agnes Anya, Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama on Tuesday declined to comment on a recent boycott movement from the City Council against his position as governor as he is currently standing trial for alleged blasphemy.

"That is for the authority of the Home Ministry," Ahok said on Tuesday at City Hall.

On Monday, four City Council factions – the National Awakening Party (PKB), the United Development Party (PPP), the Gerindra Party, and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) – stated that they would refuse to hold any meetings with the governor unless there was certainty regarding his status.

"We agreed that as long as his status was uncertain, we do not want to discuss anything executive related," said Muhammad Taufik from the Gerindra Party.

Triwisaksana from the PKS cited Law No. 23/2014 on regional administrations, which stipulates that regional leaders will be suspended from their positions if they are a defendant on trial for offenses punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Ahok's position as governor will be decided by the prison term demanded by prosecutors. The police have charged Ahok with Article 156 (a) of the KUHP on blasphemy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. He was also charged with Article 156 on hate speech, which carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison.

The four parties planned to send a letter to the Home Minister and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo regarding Ahok's status on Tuesday.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/14/ahok-declines-to-comment-on-city-councils-boycott.html

SBY rants on Twitter condemning efforts smearing son's candidacy

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2017

Jakarta – Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) was back ranting on Twitter to lash out at the alleged efforts orchestrated by the government to kill his eldest son's chances in the Jakarta gubernatorial race.

Just hours after former anti-graft czar and convicted murderer Antasari Azhar told a press conference that SBY might be behind the legal case that put him in prison, he took to Twitter to defend himself.

He tweeted on Tuesday that he believed the clemency granted by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to Antasari last month was politically driven to attack him.

He claimed that Antasari's statement made a day before Jakarta's voting day was aimed to defame him and spoil the chances of his son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, being elected Jakarta governor.

"Aren't you satisfied enough in destroying my good name since November 2016 to crush Agus' electability and make him lose?" SBY tweeted, followed by "is Agus not allowed to run in the election? Has he lost this right guaranteed by the Constitution? Don't lie, we all know," he tweeted, without mentioning any names.

He denied he initiated the murder of businessman Nazarudin – who Antasari had been convicted of murdering – and would take the allegations to court. "I will take legal steps against Antasari," he said adding that he would make a statement to the press on the matter.

Previously, amid rumors that SBY was behind the two large-scale rallies last year participated by thousands of people to demand the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy, the former president also went to Twitter to quash the rumors.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/14/sby-rants-on-twitter-condemning-efforts-smearing-sons-candidacy.html

Ahok's lawyers object to expert witness from MUI

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Jakarta – Lawyers of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama filed a motion to reject Muhammad Amin Suma as an expert witness for the prosecution in the 10th hearing of Ahok's blasphemy trial conducted by the North Jakarta District Court at the makeshift courtroom in the Agriculture Ministry's auditorium, South Jakarta.

Amin was a witness proposed by the prosecutors and was scheduled to testify as an expert on Islam.

Ahok's lawyers rejected Suma as an expert witness because they questioned his neutrality. Suma was the deputy head on fatwas at the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). Lawyers argued his background created a conflict of interest if he were to testify.

The prosecution argued that Suma's testimony would be still legitimate because Suma was summoned by the police during the investigation of the case.

Judges later rejected the motion and still gave Suma the opportunity to testify. "We will decide later whether to use his testimony or not," said Dwiarso Budi, the head of the panel of judges.

The 10th hearing was to hear the testimonies from four expert witnesses from the prosecution. Other scheduled witnesses besides Suma were law experts Mudzakkir and Abdul Chair Ramadhan, as well as Mahyuni, a language expert. (kkk/evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/ahoks-lawyers-object-to-expert-witness-from-mui.html

Jakarta election battle goes on as netizens ignore cooling-off period

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The first day of the regional election cooling-off period on Sunday saw the battle for Jakarta's top post continue to rage, with netizens ignoring the General Elections Commission (KPU) request to keep the three days before the election free of disputation.

On Twitter, many accounts and buzzers are still tweeting campaign-related posts, either endorsing or mocking the respective candidates. As of Sunday evening, the social media giant had several hashtags related to the candidates.

Many netizens supporting incumbent pair Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama – Djarot Saiful Hidayat tagged #BadjaKembaliKerja to mark the first day of the pair returning to office as active governor and deputy governor. The occasion was turned into campaign material by the pair's supporters.

Other netizens used the hashtag to mock Ahok, writing that he was should have been suspended as governor because of his ongoing trial for blasphemy. Buzzers endorsing Ahok were also still active encouraging netizens to vote for him.

Meanwhile hashtag #GuePilihAgus was also going viral, with posters endorsing the Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni ticket, mostly posting photos of the pair. The hashtag recorded around 7,200 tweets as of Sunday evening.

There is also the hashtag #SaatnyaJakartaBerSATU. Many netizens refer to Agus-Sylvi as candidate No. 1 and satu means one. Some have used it to satirize the pair by undermining its programs.

Supporters of Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno have also enthusiastically joined the fray, with some promoting the pair's OKOCE entrepreneur center.

The KPU has prohibited all campaign-related activities from Feb. 12 to 14. Under Article 187 on the 2016 Regional Elections Law, anyone who campaigns beyond the period determined by the KPU could face a maximum three years' imprisonment or fines of up to Rp 1 million (US$75.07).

In addition, a 2016 KPU regulation stipulates that during the cooling-off period, no mass media or broadcasting institution may broadcast ads, candidate track records or political party statements, either negative or endorsing, about any of the candidates.

However, it appears voters' social media accounts fall outside this prohibition.

KPU commissioner Hadar Nafis Gumay acknowledged the commission had no authority to stop campaigning on social media and could do nothing other than call on people not to campaign during the cooling-off period.

"We admit that current regulations aren't enough to cover this matter. We'll find a way in the future," Hadar said.

Political communications expert Hendri Satrio of Paramadina University said no one could stop netizens because social media use was personal and free expression was guaranteed under the Constitution.

"The prohibition only applies to the candidates and official supporters and volunteers, but for individuals, it's difficult. And this can influence voters, because they still have Monday and Tuesday to think before deciding whether they will stick with or change their choice," Hendri said.

Hendri added that social media would not be the only influence on voters, but also personal messengers, such as messenger groups on WhatsApp, Line and Blackberry Messenger. "They're also powerful," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/jakarta-election-battle-goes-on-as-netizens-ignore-cooling-off-period.html

Anti-Ahok crowd directs anger toward media, journalists

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – After initially proceeding peacefully, the massive street protest on Saturday organized by Muslim groups demanding the imprisonment of incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama ended in violence directed against members of the media.

The protesters, many of whom were from cities outside of Jakarta, started to gather on Friday night at the grounds of Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta.

These protesters formed the core part of the rally and braved the rainfall and inundation in some areas around the mosque to stage the protest.

The size of the crowd swelled after candidates running in the Jakarta gubernatorial election, including Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, nominated by the Gerindra Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, nominated by the Democratic Party, joined the protesters for the Fajr early morning prayer.

The candidates left the mosque at around 8 a.m. to spend their last day on the campaign trail.

Following the departure of the candidates, the protesters began to move away from Istiqlal and occupy the streets around the mosque. Leaders of Muslim organizations, including the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), Rizieq Shihab, started to deliver their speeches.

Despite warnings from the Jakarta Police and the General Elections Commission that members of the public should refrain from participating in rallies that carried election-related messages, many speakers urged the protesters in the rally and Muslims in general to deliver a defeat to incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja "Ahok" Purnama.

Some of the leaders from the FPI, the Muslim People's Forum and the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), called on the protesters not to vote for Ahok on election day because Ahok was not a Muslim.

One of the speakers also called on the rally's participants to wage a "war" on social media, while another cleric demanded that protesters swear by the name of God that they would not vote for Ahok.

Despite the harsh rhetoric, some of the participants in the rally showed civility, especially when a Christian couple, intending to take their wedding vows at Jakarta Cathedral, which is located directly across from Istiqlal Mosque, had some difficulty making their way into the cathedral.

Many in the crowd voluntarily stepped aside and gave way for the couple's entourage. According to a number of media outlets, some of the protesters even gave their umbrellas to the couple when the rain started.

The protesters directed their anger toward the media, which they argued had given positive coverage to Ahok. Journalists and technical crews from the private news channels Metro TV and Global TV reported that they were harassed by some protesters.

Senior Metro TV journalist Desi Fitriani filed a police report on Saturday after she was hit in the head by unidentified protesters with a bamboo pole. She suffered an injury to the head. Fellow Metro TV journalist Ucha Fernandes also filed a report after being struck in the abdomen, neck and legs.

Antara news agency reported that the alleged assault happened when Desi and Ucha were trying to get inside Istiqlal Mosque to get footage for their live broadcast. They were allegedly chased out by a mob who tried to escort them out of the grounds of the mosque.

Responding to the incident, the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI) issued a statement condemning the alleged assault. "The IJTI and the Press Council's anti-violence task force will look into this case," the group said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/anti-ahok-crowd-directs-anger-toward-media-journalists.html

No selfies in polling booths: KPU Jakarta

Jakarta Post - February 12, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – To safeguard the secrecy principle in Wednesday's election, the Jakarta chapter of the General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) has banned voters from bringing mobile phones into polling booths and taking selfies.

Voters were required to leave their phones in special boxes at polling stations before entering the voting booth, KPU Jakarta head Sumarno said.

"Voters can bring cameras or phones inside polling station areas. However, when they enter the booth, they must leave their phones behind," he explained.

Besides protecting the secrecy of one's vote, Sumarno said this policy was needed to prevent vote-buying practices, in which voters could take their picture while voting for a specific party's candidate in the hope of getting a reward. "Let's not take selfies in pooling booths," he said.

Sumarno added that voters should not damage the ballot by tearing it apart or voting by using tools other than those provided.

"Don't vote by using other tools, for example by burning the candidate's picture with cigarettes. This will make the ballots illegitimate. Just use the provided nail to punch a hole in the candidate picture," he said. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/12/no-selfies-in-polling-booths-kpu-jakarta.html

Will race and religion decide Jakarta's vote on ethnic Chinese governor?

South China Morning Post - February 12, 2017

John McBeth – Jakarta this week will vote for its next governor in an election that will be a crucial test of Indonesia's secular credentials as hardline Islamist groups continue their rolling protests against alleged blasphemy by the ethnic-Chinese Christian incumbent.

Wednesday's election is unlikely to throw up a clear winner. More likely, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the 50-year-old governor, will fall short of the required 50 per cent majority and have to wait until April for a run-off against either former education minister Anies Basweden, 47, or retired military officer Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, 38.

What happens then, in a sprawling metropolis going through the biggest infrastructure boom in its history, will demonstrate how most of Jakarta's majority Muslim population feels about having a leader with a Hakka Chinese background for the next five years.

The latest polls have Purnama and running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat with 34 per cent to 38 per cent of the vote, comfortably ahead of Baswaden, who is pulling away from third-placed Yudhoyono, the eldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

After taking an early hit in popularity, Purnama has come back strongly despite being on trial for blasphemy, which he is alleged to have committed during a campaign speech in Jakarta's Thousand Islands constituency last October. The prosecution says Purnama insulted Islam by misusing a Koranic verse that suggests Muslims should not be ruled by non-Muslims. He says his comments were aimed at politicians incorrectly using the verse against him, not the verse itself.

Indonesia court refuses to drop blasphemy trial of Jakarta's governor

Purnama's recovery may have a lot to do with his tearful apology on the first day of his trial in December, but he has also noticeably toned down his abrasive behaviour and cutting remarks, something that grated with manner-conscious Javanese who make up the city's largest ethnic group.

While he is likely to carry his lead into the February 15 election, analysts doubt Purnama can retain that advantage in a second-round decider when those supporting the two other candidates consolidate their vote behind what is expected to be Baswedan.

"The black campaign will get very ugly," predicts Tobias Basuki, an ethnic-Chinese analyst at the Centre for International and Strategic Studies (CISS), referring to the two-month period when he believes tensions over race and religion will be that much higher.

National police chief Tito Karnavian has said he won't allow planned rallies calling for Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim leader, but these are nervous times for the ethnic-Chinese population, still mindful of the rapes and bloodshed that followed president Suharto's downfall in 1998.

Many families fled overseas to escape the violence, particularly to Singapore where the businessmen among them still fly to Jakarta on the first Monday morning flight and return to their homes in the island republic at the end of the working week.

Basuki says the blasphemy case against Purnama is both an attack on what he calls "new politicians" – those with Chinese backgrounds – and an opportunity for Indonesian leaders to have a conversation they have never had on religion and state relations.

In the meantime, Purnama may be encouraged by the fact that he and President Joko Widodo, the previous governor, easily won the second round of the 2012 gubernatorial election with 53.8 per cent of the vote. They beat incumbent Fauzi Bowo by more than seven percentage points, though what helped Widodo then was his Muslim credentials which gave him the legitimacy Purnama lacks in an electorate where only 7 per cent to 8 per cent of voters are undecided.

Why Jakarta needs to read up on 15th-century England

Bowo had tried the same primordial tactics as the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and rival political parties are using now in pushing a blasphemy case that seems flimsy at best, but might yet deny even a victorious Purnama a second term if he is convicted and jailed.

The case triggered huge anti-Purnama demonstrations in central Jakarta in November and December, which Widodo saw as an effort to weaken him politically ahead of the 2019 presidential elections when he is expected to run for a second term.

Tensions have subsided since then, in large part because of an effective public campaign mounted against FPI leader Rizieq Shihab, who now faces a string of charges himself, ranging from defamation and hate speech to distributing pornography and insulting Pancasila, the state ideology.

Ex-president Yudhoyono is also feeling the heat, having to fend off claims that he not only helped fund the protests, but urged the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), with which he had close ties during his presidency, to support the case against Purnama.

Shihab asserts he is the target of an orchestrated movement. It would be hard to argue otherwise, especially with the national police now under a hand-picked commander. The worm, it seems, has turned, with the wily Widodo remaining silent on Yudhoyono's request for a meeting.

More than 85 per cent of Jakarta's 7.1 million registered voters are Muslim, just below the national average. But most analysts would agree that trying to determine the outcome of the vote merely from a religious, ethnic or class perspective is a fruitless exercise.

Ethnically, 36 per cent of the population are Javanese – from the eastern and central parts of the country's third largest but most populous island – 28 per cent are distinctly Betawi, or native Jakartans, and 15 per cent are Sundanese, from western Java. Jakarta's Christian governor chokes back tears at his blasphemy trial Where Jakarta stands out is its ethnic-Chinese population, which at 7 per cent is far above the 1 per cent national average and much greater than any other minority group, including the Melayu, Batak and Minangkabau of Sumatra, and Sulawesi's Bugis, traditional traders who are more spread out than anyone.

The largest group of Indonesian-Chinese have always lived in north Jakarta, the old part of the capital once known as Batavia. But in more recent years, as part of the growing middle class, younger families have accumulated in the western suburbs.

Voting patterns cut across all social lines, from the well-educated who favour Purnama because of his effective track record, to lower class citizens bitter over being removed from the city waterways and other squatter settlements to reduce flooding.

Currently going out of his way to groom the conservative Muslim lobby, Baswedan's main backer is former presidential candidate and Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) leader Prabowo Subianto, who must be experiencing a profound feeling of deja vu.

He and his tycoon brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, were responsible for bringing together the Widodo-Purnama ticket in 2012, little realising that Widodo, a popular town mayor, would kill off Prabowo's long-held presidential ambitions two years later.

Thousands of hardline Muslims protest over Jakarta's ethnic Chinese governor

Now he is confronted with Purnama, whose candidacy helped him repair bridges with Jakarta's ethnic-Chinese population, which had been destroyed over Prabowo's alleged role in the 1998 riots that left as many as 1,000 dead.

Political sources say this time Prabowo persuaded Baswedan to sign a pledge that if he does win the governorship, he will not follow in Widodo's footsteps and contest the presidency in 2019, when the retired general is expected to make another bid.

Although there are now three ethnic Chinese ministers in Widodo's Cabinet, more than at any other time, hardline Islamists see the election of a so-called infidel to such an important political post as a major setback in their struggle to eventually turn Indonesia into a sharia state.

In that sense, the election is shaping up as a watershed event. Short of it attracting national media coverage, with all of its other implications, it is unwise to view the outcome as a political barometer for what happens in 2019. It won't be, but it is clearly putting political parties on notice that the national election season is just around the corner.

With more Chinese-Indonesians entering public life and openly celebrating Chinese holidays and cultural events, it will be more a barometer of where they stand in a society they embrace. Many, in fact, are more Indonesian in outlook than other Indonesians – such as ethnic Yemenis who form the backbone of the radical Islamic movement.

The younger, more confident ethnic-Chinese have less fear of a backlash. But their parents and the older generation still live in trepidation that they will become scapegoats again at a time when there has been a worrying willingness on the part of some politicians to play what has always been a dangerous religious card.

One expert on Chinese relations has no doubt they can be the target of future social upheaval: "I'd like to say that I can be 90 per cent sure there won't be any trouble," she says. "but I can't be 100 per cent sure."

Source: http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2069931/will-race-and-religion-decide-jakartas-vote-ethnic-chinese

Rivals join protest prayer against governor Ahok

Straits Times - February 12, 2017

Francis Chan Indonesia Bureau Chief and Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta – Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama spent the last morning of his re-election campaign at a meet-the-people session yesterday, while his rivals joined thousands of Muslims for a mass prayer at Masjid Istiqlal.

Pre-dawn prayers are held every day at the central mosque in Jakarta, but yesterday's gathering was organised by Muslim conservatives in what was really a veiled protest against Basuki, who is Chinese and Christian.

Basuki, better known as Ahok, has been on trial for insulting Islam since December last year. He and his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat are up against two pairs of Muslim candidates in what has been a highly divisive election.

The Forum of Muslims (FUI), a coalition of local Islamic groups, had rallied Muslims to join yesterday's first call to prayer, as a protest against Jakarta electing a non-Muslim governor. Despite a heavy downpour, the crowd, estimated to number 100,000, made their way to the Istiqlal mosque.

Many, such as 41-year-old Umah Hilmawan, were heard chanting "God willing, Jakarta will get a leader who is soleh". "Soleh" refers to a Muslim who is deeply pious.

"We believe in Sylvi, the running mate of Agus, she will protect Muslims' interest," said Mr Umah, referring to Ms Sylviana Murni and Mr Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono – the son of former president, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The two, backed by Dr Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, are running against Basuki and his deputy.

The other pair of Muslim candidates are former education minister Anies Baswedan and businessman Sandiaga Uno, who are supported by 2014 presidential candidate and Gerindra Party patron Prabowo Subianto.

Yesterday's rally held by the FUI follows three anti-Ahok protests organised by the hardline Front Pembela Islam (FPI) last year, including one on Dec 4 where some 200,000 people took part in a mass prayer at the National Monument in Jakarta.

FPI leader Rizieq Shibab, who has been the fiercest critic of Basuki, was at the mosque yesterday to deliver a sermon. He is also the subject of multiple police investigations for defamation and spreading pornography, among other offences, and had failed to report for police questioning twice last week. The police have now threatened to arrest him if he continues to ignore their summons.

About seven million Indonesians will vote for the next Jakarta governor in an election that experts say may have a bearing on the 2019 presidential race.

The appearance of Basuki's election rivals at the mosque was seen as a last-ditch effort to court the Muslim vote, after recent polls suggested the governor had clawed back the lead he enjoyed before he was accused of blasphemy last year.

The Gerindra and Democrat pairings did not address the crowd at the mosque and left after the first prayer session. Their attendance was criticised by some who said it politicises the sacred Muslim call to prayer.

However, some political experts, such as Dr Ali Nurdin, say the role of religion has been inherent in Indonesian politics for decades.

"Religious sentiment cannot be separated from any election in Indonesia, where it has been widely used as a campaign tool," said the vice-rector from Mathla'ul Anwar University in Banten province. "So it's normal that candidates take advantage of religious sentiment to garner votes."

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/rivals-join-protest-prayer-against-governor-ahok

TV journalists file report of alleged assault during Saturday rally

Jakarta Post - February 12, 2017

Jakarta – Two journalists of private TV station Metro TV, Desi Fitriani and cameraman Ucha Fernandez, have filed a report to the Central Jakarta Police on the alleged abuse they received while reporting during the rally on Saturday.

Desi told antaranews.com that she made the report on Saturday afternoon along with a security officer named Yaudi. Ucha said the incident started when he and Desi were reporting the rally at the Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta.

As Ucha and Yaudi attempted to enter the mosque to take some footage inside of it, rally-goers allegedly began to shout at them before escorting the three away from the mosque's yard.

As they were being walked out, Ucha said that he was assaulted on his stomach, neck and feet. Desi said several people hit her with a bamboo stick.

They were guarded by military officials who walked them to the Jakarta Cathedral next door. Jakarta Police Spokesman Sr. Comr. Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono confirmed a report was made.

Thousands of people on Saturday morning joined the rally centered at the Istiqlal Mosque where they prayed together. The rally was a continuation of the two larger rallies staged last year against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Meanhwile, the Indonesian Television Journalists Association (IJTI) condemned the alleged assault on the journalists in the rally. In a press release sent out to the media, the IJTI stated that in addition to the Metro TV journalists, a journalist from another TV station, Global TV, was also allegedly assaulted.

"The IJTI and the Press Council's Anti-Violence task force will look into this case, which was very uncivilized," the statement read. (mrc)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/12/tv-journalists-file-report-of-alleged-assault-during-saturday-rally.html

Protesters intimidate, assault TV news crews covering '112 rally'

Jakarta Globe - February 12, 2017

Jakarta – Journalists from two local media outlets were allegedly intimidated and assaulted by protesters while covering the mass prayer gathering at the Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta on Saturday (11/02).

Desi Fitriani, a senior reporter at Jakarta-based Metro TV, said she was assaulted outside the mosque.

"It is correct [that I was assaulted]. I am now at the Central Jakarta Police [to report the matter]. I will also undergo a forensic medical examination," Desi told Beritasatu.com. She said someone struck her over the head with a bamboo stick, which caused some bruising.

There were also reports of assaults on other members of the media. "[I was hit] in the stomach and on the shoulders. They hit me with their hands, while some kicked my legs," said Ucha, a Metro TV cameraman.

Dino, a cameraman working for Global TV, said he was intimidated by protestors while filming the mass prayer inside the mosque. He said he was accosted by a group of people who accused him of being impolite by calling Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab by name.

"I was questioned; surrounded. They told me all TV [reporters] should say 'Habib Rizieq,' not only Rizieq. They said it loudly," Dino said. The situation was brought under control when members of the military stepped in to protect the media crews.

Thousands of Muslims participated in the so-called 112 rally, led by the Indonesian Muslim Forum (FUI), to demand that a Muslim leads Jakarta instead of incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/protesters-intimidate-assault-tv-news-crews-covering-112-rally/

Jakarta to vote for next governor with eye on 2019 presidential race

Straits Times - February 11, 2017

Jakarta (Reuters) – Tens of millions of Indonesians head to the polls on Wednesday (Feb 15) in local elections across the Muslim-majority country, with bitter feuding over the powerful post of Jakarta governor stoking political and religious tensions.

Incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta's first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader, has angered some Muslim voters for allegedly insulting the Quran. He has denied wrongdoing, but is on trial for blasphemy in a case that rights groups and his supporters view as politically motivated.

Purnama is backed by President Joko Widodo's party and is running against Agus Yudhoyono, the son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and ex-education minister Anies Baswedan.

The two Muslim candidates appear to have won over much of the conservative Islamic vote and some Purnama supporters. "In terms of performance, I support Ahok," said Ferdi Ramadhan, 20, referring to Purnama's nickname.

"However, there's the consideration of religion. I'm a Muslim... so I think I will vote for Anies Baswedan," he said, after participating in a skate-boarding contest park at a park in the capital. It was built under Purnama's administration on the site of a former red-light district.

Purnama has been popular among the middle classes for cutting red tape in the traffic-clogged city and pushing through infrastructure projects, such as constructing defences against sea water intrusion.

But the forced evictions of slum dwellers from their riverbank homes to ease chronic flooding in the city have also angered many mainly Muslim residents. Muslims make up around 85 per cent of the city's population, which also has sizeable Christian and other minorities.

The divisions have played out among communities, families and friends – much of it on social media and exacerbated by "fake news" stories – echoing the rifts seen in Britain over Brexit and the United States over the election of President Donald Trump.

"I personally am sick of arguing about these candidates and would like to just move on. It puts a lot of strain on friendships," said Sari Ekaputri, a 38-year old marketing executive who lives in Jakarta.

Close race

Jakarta police will deploy 16,000 officers ahead of voting day as concerns remain about hardline Muslim groups trying to hold similar rallies to the mass protests seen late last year calling for the jailing of Purnama. Police banned a rally that was being planned by Islamist groups on Feb 11, citing security concerns.

Despite the blasphemy allegations, Purnama has rebounded in opinion polls to remain a frontrunner. Even if he is convicted, he is legally allowed to run the city as long as appeals are under way, according to analysts.

Jakarta's poll is one of scores of regional elections due to be held in other provinces, cities, and districts throughout Indonesia.

But nowhere are the stakes quite as high as in Jakarta. Winning Jakarta can be a stepping stone to the presidency and Wednesday's vote is widely being seen as a proxy ahead of the 2019 presidential, explaining how intense the campaigning has been.

"This election can determine the trajectory of future Indonesian politics... whether we will see an ugly future, where religion and ethnicity is further politicized for gains," said Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at a Jakarta-based think tank.

Candidates in Jakarta election

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as "Ahok"

The incumbent governor took over running Jakarta in 2014 when his then boss, Joko Widodo, won the presidency.

Purnama, 50, is the city's first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader, and has angered some Muslim voters for allegedly insulting the Quran. He has denied wrongdoing, but is on trial for blasphemy in a case that some view as politically motivated.

He is backed by the country's ruling party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Purnama's popular policies include a commitment to tackling chronic flooding and traffic in the city and improving the bureaucracy.

Agus Yudhoyono

He is the oldest son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and retired from the military at 38 to run for the governorship. He is backed by the Democrat Party and some Islamic parties.

Yuhoyono's campaign has focused on improving the lives of Jakarta's poor and he has promised cash handouts to low-income families.

Anies Baswedan

Baswedan, 47, was the former education minister in President Widodo's government. He is supported by Gerindra, a party headed by failed presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto. Baswedan's campaign has focused on improving public education and combating the rising costs of food and living.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/jakarta-to-vote-for-next-governor-with-eye-on-2019-presidential-race

'Jakarta will be a religious city', Indonesians told at prayer rally

Asian Correspondent - February 11, 2017

Religious leaders in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Saturday urged the thousands of people gathered at the highly-anticipated mass prayer session to back a Muslim candidate during next week's contentious gubernatorial polls.

One speaker, Maulana Kamal Yusof, told the crowd of men and women in white robes at the vast Istiqlal mosque that Jakarta "will be" led by a Muslim leader who submits to the will of Allah.

"On Feb 15, we are happy to vote for a Muslim leader. Jakarta will be a religious city," he said.

The call to action comes amid teeming tensions in Indonesia, as Jakarta's incumbent governor, the Christian and ethnic Chinese Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaha Purnama, continues to stand his ground on seeking re-election, despite his blasphemy charges.

Ahok faces two Muslim contenders for the poll next Wednesday – Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and former education minister Anies Baswedan.

Speakers at the mass prayer gathering urged voters to choose between one or the other, both of whom are Muslims.

Maulana also asked his audience to support Habib Rizieq, the head of hardline Muslim group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who has been reported to the police for allegedly insulting the state ideology, Pancasila, and state symbols.

The allegations against Rizieq "go against justice," a senior official of the group has previously said.

According an Al Jazeera report, police estimate that the mass prayer was attended by over 70,000 people, with crowds overflowing from the mosque at the heart of the capital into the surrounding streets.

The international broadcaster's journalist Step Vaessen in a report from Jakarta said Ahok's two contenders were also in attendance, and that participants seemed to be ignoring a previous warning by police not to turn the gathering into something political.

"But people are carrying a lot political slogans here at the rally," she reportedly said. "This election is not about Jakarta; it has become a national topic. It's about religion and it says a lot [about] Indonesia's... future."

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population but recognises six religions and is home to hundreds of ethnic groups and adherents of traditional beliefs.

Saturday is the last day before a 'quiet period' in which candidates and their supporters are barred from canvassing for votes.

Ahok, the region's first Chinese-Christian governor in 50 years, came under fire in September last year after comments he made to supporters were edited out of context and went viral.

Specifically, Ahok had said that he was aware that some Muslims would not vote for him because they thought doing so would be against the Quran. His statement and mention of a Quranic verse was edited and uploaded without context, making it appear as though he was deliberately directing an insult at Muslims.

In a nation where underlying religious and ethnic tensions have been brewing for decades, the video unsurprisingly sparked large scale protests backed by hardline Islamist conservatives.

On Nov 4, over 150,000 took to the streets of Jakarta in a rally that put to test Indonesia's secular foundations. Despite Ahok's apology, emotions continued to run high, and the gathering led to rioters burning cars and looting shops. Another follow-up protest proved to be more peaceful, with participants engaging in prayer to call for tolerance and unity, despite teeming tensions.

Since then, Ahok has found himself in the extraordinary situation of campaigning for election while he is on trial for blasphemy, making weekly court appearances to defend himself against the charges.

[Additional reporting by Reuters.]

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/02/jakarta-will-religious-city-indonesians-told-prayer-rally/

Dangdut 'king' calls on Jakartans to vote for benign leaders Anies-Sandi

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2017

Jakarta – The latest campaign rally of Jakarta gubernatorial ticket Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno held at Belalang field in Rawajati, South Jakarta, on Saturday featured the self-styled "king of dangdut", Rhoma Irama.

Rhoma, who has just established his own political party, the Peaceful and Benign Islam (Idaman) Party, called on the audience to vote for the pair. "Choose number three [Anies-Sandiaga's ballot number], the benign leaders," Rhoma said as quoted by kompas.com.

During the event, Rhoma performed his dangdut (popular Indonesian folk music) songs that were popular in the 1980s and 1990s. The Idaman Party declared its support for Anies-Sandiaga on Jan. 29.

Anies, meanwhile, called on his supporters to be watchful on polling day. "Keep a close eye on every polling station because there is information about potential fraudulent activities. So please pay attention until the vote count at each station is complete," the former minister said.

Campaigning is set to end as the cooling-off period begins Feb. 12 to 14, with voting day on Feb. 15. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/11/dangdut-king-calls-on-jakartans-to-vote-for-benign-leaders-anies-sandi.html

Rivals gnash teeth in final clash

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – All three Jakarta gubernatorial candidates fell short of producing a wow factor, but went on the offensive on Friday evening, making the final showdown a fierce show of heated rivalries five days before election day.

Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and running mate Sylviana Murni launched attacks against incumbent pair Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat, targeting Ahok's character, which Agus referred to as "difficult to change."

Sylviana also attacked Ahok in connection to a viral video in which Ahok was seen calling a woman a thief for asking why the Jakarta Smart Card (KJP) could not be cashed in. Sylviana asked a rhetorical question about how would Ahok empower women when he was rude to a woman in public.

Ahok fought back by saying Agus-Sylviana "do not have programs so they can only make slanderous statements."

Ahok and Djarot repeatedly attacked Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, saying the pair had a knack for making "unrealistic promises." They called out Agus-Sylviana for the same thing: creating unrealistic programs and "confidently promising them to the people."

Agus-Sylviana also attacked Anies on his "inconsistencies", referring to Anies' turnaround toward Gerindra Party chief patron Prabowo Subianto. Anies was with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's camp and criticized Prabowo in 2014, but is now on a ticket endorsed by Gerindra.

The Anies-Sandiaga ticket was the least offensive among the three, but the camp painted a bleak picture of the current situation in Jakarta, saying in their closing that "most Jakartans want a new governor, they want change."

The third debate dealt with population and life improvement issues. The candidates also addressed drug abuse issues, child protection, women's empowerment, greater access for the disabled and housing.

All candidates discussed their pet projects mentioned in earlier debates, Agus with his Rp 1 billion per community unit (RW) program, Ahok with his child-friendly integrated public spaces (RPTRAs) and Anies with the OK OCE entrepreneur center.

When the moderator, Alfito Deannova of CNN Indonesia asked about the candidates' programs to curb drug abuse, each camp referred to their pet projects.

Agus started the first session by saying the city was not friendly to children, women and people with disabilities, especially in relation to public transportation.

To support his claim, Agus cited a figure showing the capital ranked fifth, just below West Papua province, among cities with the worst malnutrition. He also claimed drug abuse in Jakarta was the highest in the country.

Agus then offered his solution, saying he would provide counseling for women and children in the many community health centers (Puskesmas) in the city.

Ahok, meanwhile, said women and children were an integral part of family life. He said to solve social problems, including those related to women and children, there needed to be more gatherings in public places. He promoted RPTRAs as places for families to gather. Anies also touched on Jakarta's bleak situation concerning women and children.

On the disability issue, all candidates promised better transportation facilities for the disabled, while Ahok promoted his TransCare program, in which people with disabilities could ask to be picked up at the nearest bus stop.

Anies criticized the newest Transjakarta route, Corridor 13, which he said included 10 bus stops but only one with a ramp. On drug abuse, Ahok and Djarot promised to close entertainment spots involved in drug abuse cases after two warnings. Agus, meanwhile, highlighted his military background in curbing drug abuse, while Sylviana said religious education was necessary.

Anies promised to make a bylaw to hand down harsh punishments to anyone convicted of drug trafficking. "We have addressed this in the previous debates, issuing bylaws that will severely punish drug traffickers," Anies said.

Ahok and Djarot quickly criticized Anies' plan, saying that criminal charges were the territory of the police and that city administration should only work on prevention. Anies and Agus again attacked Ahok on forced evictions, as seen in the first and second debate. In response, Ahok and Djarot showed pictures of the Ciliwung River after undergoing normalization and Kalijodo after the forced evictions.

Analysts said the first and second debates had some influence on swing and undecided voters, with Ahok and Anies benefitting the most, while Agus has until now seen his popularity decline after each debate.

Saturday is the last day of the campaign period. The candidates will enter the cooling-off period from Sunday to Tuesday.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/11/rivals-gnash-teeth-in-final-clash.html

Tight race in Jakarta may trigger vote-buying: ICW

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – A tight gubernatorial race in Jakarta may lead to vote-buying in the capital as the three candidate pairs will strive to pass through to the second round of the election, an Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) researcher says.

Citing the latest survey by Kompas, ICW researcher Donal Fariz said the popularity ratings of Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni stood close at 28.5 percent and 28.2 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, incumbent governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat outstripped their rivals with a 36.2 percent rating.

"Such a tight electability margin will prompt the campaign teams of the three candidate pairs to strive to boost their votes. It is possible they will use any means, including vote-buying, to pass the first round of the election," Donal said during a discussion at the ICW office in Kalibata, South Jakarta, on Friday.

Several pollsters have predicted the Jakarta election will be a two-round race as none of the candidates seems strong enough to garner more than 50 percent of the vote to win the election, as required by a 2007 law on the Jakarta administration.

To prevent vote-buying, Donal said, Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) officers should pay special attention to slum and poor areas both before and on election day on Feb. 11.

"Vote-buying perpetrators usually target poor residents. Election supervisors should pay more attention to those areas to prevent such violations," he said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/11/tight-race-in-jakarta-may-trigger-vote-buying-icw.html

Battle for Jakarta: Ahok under siege despite high approval rating in

Sydney Morning Herald - February 10, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – It's 2pm on a Tuesday in the Jakarta suburb of Menteng and blue and red plaid shirts on a curbside rack are selling like hot cakes.

They might be unsuited to Indonesia's sticky climate – many are long-sleeved and flannel – but that is not dampening enthusiasm or sales.

This is coveted Ahok merchandise. Shirts like these are worn by the polarising governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, universally known by his nickname Ahok, and his army of loyal supporters.

The iconic plaid shirts were first worn during the 2012 gubernatorial election campaign by Ahok and his then running mate Joko Widodo, who is now the president of Indonesia. They symbolise everything Ahok stands for: hard work and no bullshit.

Ahok, the city's first openly ethnically Chinese and Christian governor, is standing for re-election on February 15. This time he is seeking a mandate of his own after he assumed the governor's chair when Jokowi became president in 2014.

But the campaign has been complicated by the fact that Ahok is fighting not just to save his political skin but also to stay out of jail, after he was named as a suspect for allegedly insulting Islam.

Many see the outcome of the election and blasphemy trial as a test of religious and racial tolerance in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country with a population of more than 250 million that officially recognises six religions.

"I think this is going to be a litmus test of Indonesian Islam," says Tobias Basuki from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. "Are we tolerant? I think this will be one of the most important elections, even more so in some ways than the last presidential election."

A shiny black car glides to the curb and Mariana Rahayu, an immaculately-groomed director of sales at a five-star hotel, jumps out to buy a plaid shirt.

"I'm a true Ahoker – I see Ahok not from a religious or racial perspective but from the perspective of what he has done," she tells us.

Mariana believes Ahok has succeeded where three former governors failed in addressing the city's chronic flooding problems caused by housing settlements on the river banks. "The evidence is quite complete – he is doing a good job."

Ahok has won plaudits for combating corruption, streamlining services, fast-tracking a Mass Rapid Transit rail system and reforming the creaky bureaucracy.

He insisted City Hall was there to serve the people. A smartphone app, Qlue, was launched, allowing Jakartans to report the problems that beset the heaving megalopolis: broken street lights, clogged drains, traffic jams, floods.

He evicted slum dwellers and relocated them to low-cost apartments in order to tackle flooding, create new parks and eliminate vice. This alienated many of the urban poor but it won praise from the middle class. His manner was abrasive, truculent – even arrogant – but he cleaned up the city.

"What distinguishes him from others are the large scope of his success stories, and the speed with which he achieves them," says Professor Ariel Heryanto from Monash University. "He demonstrated transparency and accountability in his work like no other public officers of his level."

Heryanto also points to the crass, impatient, abusive way in which Ahok deals with what he considers bad elements within the bureaucracy. "All this is so rare or idiosyncratic in Indonesia. Lee Kuan Yew's style of managing Singapore in the 1970s may be comparable to Ahok today."

But there is a yawning gap between the high level of public approval for Ahok's performance in office and the likelihood of his re-election.

A survey by polling group Indikator of more than 800 people in mid-January showed 75 per cent were satisfied with Ahok but his ticket's electability was just 38.2 per cent.

Ahok is pitted against two Muslim candidates: Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Anies Baswedan, a former university rector and education minister.

At first Ahok appeared a shoo-in. Agus, an infantry major in the army whose nomination took everyone by surprise, was young and inexperienced. Anies, who had recently been sacked from Jokowi's cabinet, also seemed an unlikely winner.

But Islamic hardliners had long maintained that a non-Muslim should not hold office. They seized their opportunity last September after Ahok provocatively told fishermen in the Thousand Islands that his opponents were using the Koran to deceive them into not voting for him.

Ahok's nemesis, a firebrand cleric named Rizieq Shihab, was the public face of colossal rallies calling for Ahok to be jailed. Eventually police caved in, after the sheer size of the rallies threatened to destabilise Indonesia, and named Ahok as a suspect.

To complicate matters further, Rizieq has also been named as a suspect for allegedly insulting Pancasila, the state ideology, and is being investigated by police over pornography.

Ahok has juggled court appearances every Tuesday with campaigning on his track record. His opponents, Anies and Agus, have homed in on the plight of those alienated by Ahok. Both have vowed to end evictions. Agus has promised direct cash payments to the poor.

But Australian National University academic Ross Tapsell wonders if the election will be decided on emotions rather than policies. His research examines the impact of a "post-truth" world, where voters have lost faith in the mainstream media and all news is considered equally fake.

An anti-Ahok cyber army is also hard at work. A popular meme calls Ahok a kafir [the Islamic term for an infidel]. Others link the ethnically Chinese governor to communism, which is banned in Indonesia.

"Online, this anti-Chinese sentiment has been really strong, which also helps to explain Ahok's decline in the polls," Tapsell says. "In addition we are also seeing a rise of pro-Islamic news sites, that in some cases try to replicate a credible news site... so a lot of anti-Ahok material is spread."

Monash University's Heryanto says it is unfortunate that many of the attacks against Ahok use racist rhetoric or exclusionary religious overtones.

"Ahok needs to be strongly criticised for his allegedly illegal practices in evicting some poor neighbourhoods when a lawsuit was still unresolved in court," he says. "But his strongest enemies have preferred to attack him on religious grounds and ignore the fate of the evicted families."

Polls are notoriously unreliable in Indonesia but it appears the three-legged race is close. Ahok and Anies are leading in most surveys but neither are likely to gain the majority needed to win the election outright on February 15.

This would mean the two top candidates would face off again in April. Ahok's opponent is expected to pick up the anti-Ahok vote, making it improbable that the incumbent governor would win.

"If it goes to the second round it will be very ugly with race and religion," warns Basuki. "This first round is not that brutal yet, because there are three candidates and Agus and Anies are fighting each other to make sure they're second. But if it goes to the second round, then it's going to get very, very, very ugly."

The other unknown is the outcome of Ahok's blasphemy trial. The Home Affairs Minister has said Ahok will only be suspended from office if prosecutors seek a jail sentence of more than five years. Otherwise, Ahok could potentially still be governor even if convicted of blasphemy.

"He will appeal, and while he's on appeal, he's not in prison," Basuki says. "And while it is a process of appeal he's still governor from my understanding."

Mariana will be overseas on February 15 but intends to post a photo of herself on social media. She will be wearing her new plaid shirt in solidarity.

She poses, grinning broadly, and gives Ahok's trademark two-finger salute (his ticket will be listed second on the ballot paper). "I cannot (be here for the) election, but my heart will vote for him."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/battle-for-jakarta-ahok-under-siege-despite-high-approval-rating-in-office-20170210-gu9y9i.html

House deputy speaker to allow 112 rally as it has 'no political

Jakarta Globe - February 10, 2017

Jakarta – House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon said the protest rally set to take place at the Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta on Saturday (11/02) will be allowed to proceed as it has no political objective.

"If the rally is related to the regional elections, it will not be allowed, but if it has not related to politics, I don't think it would be a problem," Fadli said at the legislative complex in Senayan, South Jakarta, on Thursday.

Police earlier banned the so-called 112 rally over security concerns ahead of the mandatory pre-election quiet period, which will start on Sunday.

However, Fadli said rally organizers no longer need to apply for a permit and that they only have to notify the authorities. "I think no more permits are needed for the public to hold protest rallies. They only have to notify the police," he said.

The lawmaker added that based on the law, the organizers only need to follow regulations related to protest rallies, such as starting and ending times, the maintenance of public order and preventing damage to property.

Fadli and fellow House Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah were reported to the national legislature's board of ethics on Nov. 11 last year for incitement after the Nov. 4 rally descended into in chaos.

The Pro Justicia Enforcement Committee (KPPJ) accused them of having incited a riot in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta. However, Fadli dismissed the report as an attempt to seek sensation.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/house-deputy-speaker-to-allow-112-rally-as-it-has-no-political-objective/

Deputy speaker Fadli Zon says report against him an attempt to seek

Jakarta Globe - February 10, 2017

Jakarta – House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon has brushed off a report against him and colleague Fahri Hamzah to the ethics council over their participation in last week's rally in Jakarta as an attempt to seek sensation.

The report was submitted by the national secretariat of the Pro Justicia Enforcement Committee (KPPJ). Fadli said the presence of people's representatives in any protest is normal because it is part of lawmakers' supervisory function.

"Lawmakers can join a protest, not only here [in Indonesia], but everywhere in the world. It is their constitutional right. [There are] no violations against the Constitution or the code of ethics. What I have done is part of my supervisory function," he said in Jakarta on Friday (11/11).

Fadli was invited by ulemas and religious figures to participate in the protest rally against incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama over blasphemy allegations.

"We honored their invitation, as I do not think it was wrong. I think it would be unethical to decline the invitation," the lawmaker said.

He said the report was only an attempt to seek sensation by people who are anxious to get rid of the blasphemy case against Ahok. Fadli also said there was no foundation to an allegation that he provoked protestors to commit treason.

"I memorized a summary, although only a little. During my speech, I quoted Article 27 of the 1945 Constitution, stating that we are all equal in front of the law, so that there should be no protection against Ahok if he violated the law," Fadli said. "I also advised the president to meet with a delegation of the protesters; so there should be no problem."

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/deputy-speaker-fadli-zon-says-report-attempt-seek-sensation/

Representatives of 15 countries to observe Jakarta gubernatorial

Jakarta Globe - February 10, 2017

Jakarta – Next week's Jakarta gubernatorial election will be observed by the representatives of 15 countries.

Betty Epsilon Idroos, a commissioner at the Jakarta Elections Commission, said the countries include Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States, Australia and the European Union.

"This is part of an international agreement, and these countries' representatives will act as observers at various polling stations," Betty said during a press conference in Central Jakarta on Thursday (09/02).

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has verified and accredited the foreign observers, who have been assigned to various polling stations based on several categories.

"They will spread out. However, they will first gather in groups so that we can give them guidance. The funding for this will be provided by them," she said.

The Jakarta Police meanwhile announced that they will deploy 16,222 officers to safeguard voters and polling stations.

There are 13,023 polling stations in Jakarta, 3,958 in Bekasi, 3,311 in Tangerang and 3,032 in South Tangerang. More than 300,000 security personnel will also be deployed in 101 regions nationwide for the simultaneous regional elections.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/representatives-of-15-countries-to-observe-jakarta-gubernatorial-election/

Muslim followers from Semarang ready to join Feb. 11 rally

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang, Central Java – About 200 members of Islamic organizations under the auspices of the Semarang Muslim Forum (FUIS) are set to depart for Jakarta to participate in a rally on Saturday.

FUIS spokesperson Susmanto said their departure was in response to the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Edict's [GNPF MUI] call for a rally to follow up the previous one held to "defend Islam" on Dec.2.

"We will join the Feb. 11 rally, which will be held at Istiqlal Grand Mosque," FUIS spokesperson Susmanto said on Friday. Dubbed "Aksi 112", the rally will be themed "Zikr and National Islamic Lecture on the Implementation of Al-Maidah 51."

"Our participation is part of our responsibility to the interests of Islam and Muslim people in Indonesia, who are facing a lot of pressure and accusations," said Susmanto.

The first group, which comprises 150 people, will depart for Jakarta by bus from the FUIS headquarters on Jl. Kakap Raya, Dadapsari subdistrict, North Semarang. The second group, which comprises 50 people, will go by train from Poncol Station, Semarang, on 6 p.m.

"No party will keep us from attending the rally. Even the police have promised to guard our trip to Jakarta," said Susmanto.

He said during the rally, the FUIS would call for an end to all kinds of discrimination against Muslim clerics because they were assets, not enemies of the state. It would also call for the temporary dismissal of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama as Jakarta governor and his arrest for blasphemy. (ebf) Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/muslim-followers-from-semarang-ready-to-join-feb-11-rally.html

Anies-Sandi attend mass prayer, Quran recitation before debate

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pair Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno participated in a mass prayer and Quran recitation attended by thousands of Muslims at Sunda Kelapa Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta on Thursday evening, one day before they participate in the final candidate debate.

At the event, also attended by Muslim leaders including Ustadz Bachtiar Nasir and Habib Ali Assegaf, Anies delivered a speech saying that Moslem communities in Indonesia had set a good example as the most organized and peaceful Muslims in the world.

Mentioning two large rallies on Nov. 4 and Dec. 2 held to protest Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's alleged blasphemy, Anies deplored the fact that the National Monument compound in Central Jakarta was no longer available for religious activities.

He also asked Muslims to pray for him and his running mate, Sandiaga, so they could stay calm and deliver good answers during the candidate debate scheduled for Friday evening. "Please pray for me so I can have a clear mind and answer [all debate questions] easily," he said.

The third debate will be the last showdown for the Jakarta gubernatorial candidates to win the support of swing voters in the tight race, for which pollsters are still finding difficulties predicting the winner. Held two days before the official campaign period ends, the debate will address population and quality-of-life issues. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/anies-sandi-attend-mass-prayer-quran-recitation-before-debate.html

Agus optimistic he will gain support from Muslim voters

Jakarta Post - February 9, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono has expressed optimism over his chance to win the upcoming election by securing support from Muslim voters.

Agus said gaining support from Muslim voters was essential in securing the City Hall's top post. He pledged to forge a close relationship with Muslim communities by accelerating development works in the province should he be elected governor on Feb. 15.

"Around 85 percent of Jakarta residents are Muslim. It's logical to think Jakarta will not prosper if its Muslim people live without prosperity," the candidate said.

He was speaking in front of thousands of clerics and members of several Jakarta-based Islamic organizations during a campaign event at Blok S Square in South Jakarta on Thursday.

A poll released by the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) in late January shows that the Agus-Sylviana ticket is backed by 39.6 percent of Muslim respondents, while the favorability level of its competitors, candidate pairs Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat and Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno, stands at 28 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively.

"Should Allah bless me to lead Jakarta, I will pay my fullest attention to Muslim-related activities, such as by allowing a mass prayer to be held at the Monas [National Monument] compound," said Agus, who was accompanied by his running mate, Sylviana Murni.

On Tuesday, Agus visited the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Islam Propagation Institution (LDII), which has a strong basis in subdistricts across the capital. The following day he attended a gathering of thousands of Muslim supporters in Duren Sawit, East Jakarta. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/09/agus-optimistic-he-will-gain-support-from-muslim-voters.html

FPI to hold a rally on Saturday, despite police ban

Jakarta Globe - February 9, 2017

Jakarta – The Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, said that despite the police ban, it will hold a long march-cum-rally on Saturday (11/02), on Jakarta's Jalan Jenderal Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin.

"We will still have the rally," said Ahmad Shobri Lubis of the FPI on Wednesday. He added that the Islamic Forum, or FUI, coordinates the so-called "112 rally" and members of the FPI will come as participants.

He also denied the statement of FPI Jakarta branch chairman Abuya Abdul Majid, who said that FPI will not participate in the march.

Abuya has contradicted the branch's secretary general, Novel Bamukmin, who claimed that FPI Jakarta will participate in the protest. Majid said that Novel did not represent the FPI leadership, which only wants to stage a mass prayer.

No Permit

The police have said they will not allow the rally, citing security concerns ahead of the Feb. 15 simultaneous regional elections. On Feb. 2, the FUI sent a permit request to the Jakarta Police, but it was rejected.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/fpi-hold-rally-saturday-despite-police-ban/

Ma'ruf Amin calls on NU members not to join Saturday's rally

Jakarta Globe - February 9, 2017

Jakarta – The advisory council of the Nahdlatul Ulama central leadership board has called on the organization's members to refrain from participating in a rally planned for Saturday (11/02).

Ma'ruf Amin, who leads the advisory council, said he supports Banten Police chief Brig. Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo in his call to Banten residents not to join the protest dubbed as the "112 rally."

"On behalf of the advisory council, I urge all NU members to refrain from joining the 112 rally," he said during a meeting between the NU and National Police leaders in Serang, Banten, on Wednesday.

Ma'ruf, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, has called on all clerics to safeguard their congregations from deviated teachings that create radical movements.

"[Members of the] Nahdlatul Ulama should love, care and have compassion for all," he said. He also advised all to avoid divisional disputes and cooperate with the government for the sake of the unity of Indonesia.

Ma'ruf also praised National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian for engaging with the ulema to handle the current tensions in the country.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/maruf-amin-calls-nu-members-not-join-saturdays-rally/

Jakarta election: Agus Yudhoyono campaigns as champion of the poor, with

ABC Radio Australia - February 9, 2017

Adam Harvey, Indonesia – The bitterly-fought election to be Jakarta's next governor could see the establishment of a political dynasty if the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono does as well as expected.

SBY is seen as the brains behind the campaign of his son Agus, who has benefited from the blasphemy trial of his main rival, as well as his promise of cash handouts to the poor.

The tall, handsome son of the former president is favourite to be elected the next governor of Jakarta. And if he wins this vote, there will be a push to have him run as a presidential candidate in 2019.

He is popular across the city, but for the residents of poor, flood-prone areas, where he has been campaigning, he is the only candidate worth voting for. "He is handsome, he is kind, and he won't relocate us," one north Jakarta resident told the ABC.

Slum dwellers promised cash handouts

One of the key policies of Jakarta's incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, has been the demolition of illegally-built homes on the banks of the city's rivers.

The residents of the waterside districts see Agus as their saviour. He also promised to give each poor family around 5 million rupiah – or $500 – each year.

Political analyst Tobias Basuki has described Agus's promises as unaffordable.

"That's what Agus has been promising, money for the districts, [which] in my honest opinion will be a source of corruption," he said. "Any high school student can make a calculation [that] its not affordable, will bankrupt Jakarta's budget."

Jakarta is a complex city that needs a competent leader. But Agus, a 38-year-old former army major, told the ABC his lack of management experience was not important.

"I have very interesting military experience, and I think that is valuable for me to lead Jakarta and its people," he said.

"There are a lot of great military principles, especially in leadership, in winning the hearts and minds of the people, in taking the risks."

Christian Governor's blasphemy trial shapes election

The city's incumbent Governor, Ahok, has been an effective – if controversial – leader of Jakarta.

The Christian of Chinese descent had been expected to win the election, until he was targeted by Muslim protesters for allegedly insulting the Koran.

The protests were encouraged by the hardline Islamist Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI. Their anti-Ahok campaign and the ongoing blasphemy trial have been a source of destabilisation for Indonesia, and a huge boost to Agus.

One voter the ABC spoke to said she liked Ahok's programs but would not be voting for him. "No, because people said that it is not good to vote for someone who has a different religion."

FPI leader Habib Rizieq regularly attacks Ahok and Indonesia's Chinese community, referring to Ahok as a "pig's wart" and urging his supporters to vote for a Muslim candidate like Agus.

Analyst Tobias Basuki thinks Agus should have done more to distance himself from groups like the FPI, to prove that he "thinks about the nation in the bigger picture".

Ahok supporters have accused SBY – the former president – of encouraging the blasphemy campaign and protests against Ahok.

SBY and his son say this isn't true. Agus dismissed suggestions the blasphemy charges had helped his campaign.

"That's not relevant, that's not relevant to me, I think I'm still focusing my strategy, I never put that in my context," he said.

"I think that case, that special blasphemy issue done by my competitor has nothing to do with me. It doesn't help anything to do with my campaign."

Jakarta residents vote for their governor on February 15. It's a three-way race, and it's unlikely either Agus or Ahok will win a 50 per cent majority. That means the third candidate will be knocked out and the most likely outcome is an Ahok versus Agus run-off vote in April.

Source: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2017-02-09/jakarta-election-agus-yudhoyono-campaigns-as-champion-of-the-poor-with-dynasty-in-mind/1650344

End mobilization of masses: Yudhoyono

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – With thousands of Muslim protesters planning to join another rally in Jakarta on Saturday, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has warned the government to be on guard against the possibility of radical and extremist groups meddling in what he called "rising political tension" in the capital.

"Don't let a third party take advantage of any situation [...] And don't let radical and extremist groups show up so that they feel they can take advantage of the situation," Yudhoyono, the Democratic Party chairman, told a gathering of party executives at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) in South Jakarta on Tuesday evening.

"Mobilization of the masses must be ended because it could trigger physical violence and conflict in the future," Yudhoyono said.

The National Police have confirmed that thousands of protesters from the Muslim People's Forum (FUI) will hit the streets of Jakarta on Saturday and march from the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta.

On the same day, Yudhoyono's son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, will hold a rally as part of his campaign in the Jakarta gubernatorial race.

In his speech, Yudhoyono also deplored those who alleged that the Democratic Party had masterminded the massive rally on Nov. 4 last year, saying it undermined him and his party. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/end-mobilization-of-masses-yudhoyono.html

Jakarta police give reasons for barring '112' protest rally

Jakarta Globe - February 8, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Mochamad Iriawan cited security concerns and the requirement for a so-called quiet period before next week's gubernatorial election as reasons for not allowing a planned street rally by Muslim groups in the city on Saturday (11/02).

"If the '112' protest has a political agenda, it cannot be allowed [to proceed]. We will act firmly. So please comply with the regulations issued by the KPU [General Elections Commission] related to the elections," Iriawan said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

He said the planned locations for the rally, such as the National Monument (Monas), Jalan M.H. Thamrin and the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, will be off bounds because the rights of other citizens will be affected.

"Since the rally is planned to take place on the main streets of Jakarta, it will shut down access and automatically disturb the public order," Iriawan said. "We will ban such activity."

The police previously said there was a political agenda behind the planned mass action and that the public was aware of the true purpose of the rally, despite the organizers presenting it as a religious activity.

Meanwhile, Jakarta Military Command chief Maj. Gen. Teddy Lhaksmana said he will support any security measures that need to be implemented ahead of the gubernatorial election on Feb. 15.

"In observing the development of the current situation, as conveyed by the Jakarta Police chief, the Jakarta branch of the military will be the first to support the police in securing the regional elections, which should be safe, peaceful and successful," Teddy told the media.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jakarta-police-give-reasons-for-barring-112-protest-rally/

Government urged to act neutral in Ahok's blasphemy case

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Panca Nugraha, Mataram – The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) West Nusa Tenggara has called on the government to avoid biases in handling a blasphemy case currently implicating non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

"We asked the government not to take sides in settling the blasphemy allegedly committed by Pak Ahok," MUI West Nusa Tenggara chairman Saiful Muslim said after the council's coordination meeting with Islamic mass organizations from across the province in Mataram on Monday.

Officials from the West Nusa Tenggara chapter of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and its women's wing, Muslimat NU, as well as representatives of the province's Muhammadiyah central executive board and its youth wing, Pemuda Muhammadiyah, attended the meeting. Officials of Nahdlatul Wathan, the biggest Islamic mass organization in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, were also present.

In the meeting, they criticized Ahok whom they considered had insulted ulemas in his eighth blasphemy hearing on Jan. 31, in which MUI chairman Ma'ruf Amin was present as a witness.

They asked authorities to arrest Ahok and dismiss him from his position as Jakarta governor. They also called on authorities to take measures to stop all forms of criminalization against ulemas in Indonesia. "We will send these recommendations to the MUI in Jakarta as soon as possible," said Saiful.

He said the coordination meeting between MUI and Islamic mass organizations in West Nusa Tenggara was conducted to prevent people, especially Muslims, in the province from engaging in reckless deeds in response to the developments of Ahok's legal process.

The MUI also called on all people in the province to not be easily agitated by hoax news reports in social media and not to carry out any acts that could worsen the image of Islam. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/goverment-urged-to-act-neutral-in-ahoks-blasphemy-case.html

NU pledges to stay clear of politics

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – The Jakarta chapter of the country's largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) has pledged to refrain from getting involved in politics amid rising political tension ahead of the Feb. 15 simultaneous regional elections.

"[NU adviser] Ma'ruf Amin has mandated NU to wake up and move forward. We hope to seek God's blessings by uniting NU and Muhammadyah and also other Islamic organizations," the head of NU Jakarta's religious council, Mahfudz Asirun, said after a meeting at the chapter's office in Utan Kayu, West Jakarta, on Tuesday evening.

When asked if NU was still neutral in the Jakarta gubernatorial election, he said that NU would not get involved in politics as mandated by the 1926 Khittah (NU's national consensus to stay away from politics).

Ma'ruf, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), and incumbent candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama were recently in the spotlight after the latter's remarks at a trial hearing had been considered offensive to Ma'ruf.

Many Muslims felt offended because Ma'ruf, who was an adviser to former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is a respected senior member of NU. Ahok publicly apologized to Ma'ruf.

When asked if he had forgiven Ahok, the cleric, who was also in the meeting, only said, "I only received [Ahok's] apology." (lly/bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/nu-pledges-to-stay-clear-of-politics.html

SBY disappointed over 'unresponsiveness' to his wiretapping complaint

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has expressed disappointment over what he says is a lack of response to a complaint he made over the alleged wiretapping of a phone conversation he recently had with Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) leader Ma'ruf Amin.

"Law enforcers have not responded properly to the allegedly politically motivated wiretapping," Yudhoyono, the Democratic Party chairman, told a gathering of party executives at the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) in South Jakarta on Tuesday evening.

The legal team of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama claimed during a hearing of his blasphemy trial that they had evidence that Yudhoyono and Ma'ruf were involved in a telephone conversation in which the former reportedly urged the cleric to issue an edict declaring that Ahok had committed blasphemy.

Ahok will compete against Yudhoyono's eldest son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono in the Feb. 15 Jakarta gubernatorial election. National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has denied that the force had wiretapped Yudhoyono's phone.

Agus also previously echoed his father's complaint, saying illegal wiretapping could undermine democracy. "We are seeking justice. All Indonesians could experience such a thing, couldn't they?" he said during a campaign event on Friday.

One of Ahok's defense lawyers, Humphrey Djemat, however, said that evidence of two people having a telephone conversation was not necessarily in the form of a wiretapped recording. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/sby-dissapointed-over-unresponsiveness-to-his-wiretapping-complaint.html

Surveys & opinion polls

Ahok leads with 39 percent support: Charta Politika

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2017

Jakarta – Another survey shows that gubernatorial candidate and incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate Jakarta Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat have bounced back to regain the lead in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Jakarta-based pollster Charta Politika, which conducted the survey from Feb. 3 to Feb. 8, shows that 39 percent of respondents said they would vote for Ahok-Djarot, while 31.9 percent favored Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno. The third ticket, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni, came in last with 21.3 percent support.

"As many as 7.8 percent of respondents said they still didn't know [who to vote for]," Charta Politika executive director Yunarto Wijaya said in a press conference at his office in South Jakarta on Saturday as quoted by kompas.com.

The survey involved 764 respondents spread across Jakarta's five municipalities. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/11/ahok-leads-with-39-percent-support-charta-politika.html

Blasphemy, debates 'most influential' in Jakarta election: Researcher

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – The trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy and the candidate debates appear to be the two main factors that have had the largest impact on the gubernatorial election.

Pollster Indikator Politik Indonesia researcher Burhanuddin Muhtadi said the blasphemy controversy that burst into public view last year had significantly damaged Ahok's electability.

The latest survey commissioned by his pollster found that 57 percent of respondents agreed the non-active governor had committed blasphemy. Only 27 percent of respondents disagreed with the accusation while the remaining 15-16 percent respondents said they did not know the answer. "This has cost Ahok in terms of electability," Burhanuddin said on Friday.

The survey also showed most of the respondents who agreed that Ahok had committed blasphemy would vote for another candidate, Anies Baswedan.

However, the pollster considered Ahok was still the frontrunner in the upcoming election because many voters were likely to vote for him on the basis of his record as governor.

Burhanuddin further said the two candidate debates held up to that point by the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU) had harmed the electability of Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono because he and his running mate Sylviana Murni failed to put in satisfying performances.

Held between Feb. 2 and Feb. 8, the survey found 44 percent of respondents were of an opinion that the debates were "very important" for them in determining how they would vote. Meanwhile, 43 percent believed the debates were "quite important".

"These two events might be the reason why Anies has enjoyed increased electability," he said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/blasphemy-debates-most-influential-in-jakarta-election-researcher.html

More surveys on Jakarta race released with inconsistent results

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – Two pollsters released on Wednesday their surveys on the electability of the three Jakarta gubernatorial tickets with contrasting results, leaving the public in doubt regarding the reliability of such polls.

A survey conducted by Manilka Research and Consulting between Jan. 31 and Feb.4 found that the Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono-Sylviana Murni ticket was favored by 38.61 percent of 1,212 respondents while their competitors Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno and Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat tickets are in second and third place with 25.25 percent and 21.7 percent, respectively.

Dani Akhyar, a researcher from Manilka, said the survey had found that most respondents were unlikely to switch candidates ahead of voting day on Feb. 15. "Most of them are die-hard supporters," Dani said as quoted by tribunnews.com.

Separately, Survey and Polling Indonesia (SPIN) found Anies-Sandiaga on top with strong electability of 41.74 percent, followed by Ahok-Djarot with 30.04 percent and Agus-Sylviana 24.95 percent.

Igor Dirgantara from SPIN said Anies-Sandiaga's high electability was primarily caused by the decision of Gerindra Party patron Prabowo Subianto to attend the ticket's campaign events in the past few weeks. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/more-surveys-on-jakarta-race-released-with-inconsistent-results.html

Environment & natural disasters

Government wins in forest fire case

Jakarta Post - February 9, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – Ministry wins another case in court against firm responsible for forest burning Court orders fine of US$35 million for Waringin Agro Jaya

In the fight against deforestation and forest fires, the Environment and Forestry Ministry is on a winning streak, with the courts ruling in favor of the government in cases against companies. Still, the enforcing of penalties remains weak.

In its latest victory, the South Jakarta District Court found palm oil company PT Waringin Agro Jaya (WAJ) guilty on Tuesday of illegally starting a forest fire to clear land in Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra.

The court ordered the company to pay Rp 466.5 billion (US$35 million), Rp 173.5 billion of which will serve as compensation for the burning of 1,626 hectares of land in its land concession and another Rp 293 billion to cover the rehabilitation cost for the burned land. The fine was lower than the ministry's demand of Rp 754 billion.

The ministry welcomed the decision by the judges, who "showed support for the environment," said Bambang Hero Saharjo, forest fire expert from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) who also served as an expert witness for the government in the case.

He also commended the court for holding the company liable. WAJ attorney M. Sidik Latuconsina said the company's legal team would file an appeal.

The ruling adds to the list of government victories in cases pertaining to forest fires. The Supreme Court ruled in November PT Merbau Pelalawan Lestari (MPL) guilty of illegally clearing forests in Pelalawan regency, Riau, from 2004 to 2006.

It was a landmark court ruling as the pulp and paper company was ordered to pay Rp 16 trillion in fines, the highest in any case of environmental destruction in the nation's history.

PT National Sago Prima (NSP) was found guilty in August 2016 of illegally starting forest fires in its concession area in Meranti Islands regency, Riau, and ordered to pay Rp 1.07 trillion in fines. In the same month, the Palembang High Court in South Sumatra found pulpwood firm PT Bumi Mekar Hijau (BMH) guilty of illegally starting fires in its concession in 2014.

The high court had ordered the firm to pay Rp 78.5 billion in damages, a fraction of the Rp 7.8 trillion fine sought by the ministry when it first filed the civil suit against BMH in 2015.

However, none of the companies have paid the fines or compensation. The ministry's law enforcement director general, Rasio Ridho Sani, acknowledged that it was a challenge for the ministry to enforce verdicts.

It takes time for verdicts to be enforced because the ministry has to wait for the official record of the verdict to be available, which can take months to more than a year. Moreover, there is no standard operating procedure for the enforcement of forest-related rulings. The ministry is pushing for the Supreme Court to issue a regulation on its judges to help with the enforcement of penalties.

"We're still fighting [to get the companies to pay the fines]," he said, adding that the ministry was also aiming to enforce a verdict against palm oil company PT Kallista Alam, which was implicated in a case that reached a final and binding verdict in September 2015 at the Supreme Court. Kallista Alam had been ordered to pay a Rp 366 billion fine for illegally burning large swathes of Tripa forest in Aceh.

After more than one year since the Supreme Court ruling, the company has yet to pay the fine. It has also been nearly three years since mining company PT Selat Nasik Indokwarsa was found guilty of environment damage on Belitung Island. The company was ordered to pay Rp 31.5 billion in fines, but also has yet to pay the government.

"The company asked to make payments over 15 years. But we can't allow that," the ministry's environmental dispute settlement director, Jasmin Ragil Utomo said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/09/government-wins-in-forest-fire-case.html

Health & education

Business watchdog sees unhealthy competition in pharmacy industry

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Jakarta – Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) chairman Syarkawi Rauf has seen a trend of unhealthy competition in the pharmacy industry.

He said that 70 percent of the medicine market, worth around Rp 56 trillion (US$4.2 billion), was controlled by only a few companies.

Unhealthy competition among the pharmacy companies has sparked illegal practices in which the industry directly asks doctors to recommend that their patients use their products, thus forcing patients to buy certain brands of medicine.

"Some 59 percent of the medicine was purchased using a doctor's prescription, while generic medicine only gets portion of 41 percent," said Syarkawi as reported by tempo.co on Monday.

In trying to prevent unhealthy competition within pharmacy industry, the KPPU and Health Ministry had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the prevention of monopoly and cartel practices within the health industry.

Health Minister Nila Moeloek said patients had the right to access alternative medicine as stipulated in Health Ministerial Regulation No. 98/2015, but the regulation had not effectively prevented the medicine monopoly because her ministry had limited authority in supervising the business aspect.

"I hope that the cooperation with the KPPU will reduce the monopoly practices," she added.

Meanwhile, speaking about high prices of medicine in the market, Syarkawi said nearly all pharmacy companies imported some 90 percent of the medicine materials. "If the imported content could be declined to around 60 percent, the medicine prices would significantly decrease," he said. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/business-watchdog-sees-unhealthy-competition-in-pharmacy-industry.html

Indonesia to tackle unhealthy practices in health sector

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – In a bid to eradicate unfair business practices in the health sector, which drives up health costs, and to provide affordable quality healthcare services, the Health Ministry has joined hands with the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU).

One of the challenges faced by the country's health sector concerns the pharmaceutical industry, the ministry's director general for pharmaceutical and health equipment, Maura Linda Sitanggang, said.

A report submitted by Indonesia to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2014 stated that the basic problem in the country's pharmaceutical sector is the relationship between doctors and companies, as doctors for commission frequently acted as agents for companies.

The report said these doctors would allegedly receive bonuses from prescribing specific drugs from certain companies. Many believe the practices have prevented patients from receiving options in the medicines they should be prescribed.

The KPPU found in its internal study that doctors who allegedly acted as agents for pharmaceutical companies would allegedly receive as much as 30 percent of the marketing fee.

This, coupled with the fact that the country still imports 90 percent of its raw materials for the industry, have made some drug prices exorbitantly high, especially when it comes to high-quality medicines.

On Friday, the ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) where the KPPU aimed to monitor the health industry more closely, especially on health services and drugs. The MoU will specifically monitor for the adherence of a 2015 ministry regulation that stipulates patients must receive information on the options they have on medicines with the same content, but may vary in price.

"We will actively monitor [the implementation of the regulation] with pharmacist associations," KPPU chairman Muhammad Syarkawi Rauf said.

In Indonesia, prescribed drugs can be divided into three groups, namely patent, off-patent (branded generic), and generic. Off-patent drugs are patented drugs repackaged with a new brand. The price is lower compared to patented ones but are still much more expensive than generic substitutes.

"The problematic one are the prices of off-patent drugs, which are very expensive. If they're offpatent, it means that there are generic drugs [that can be substituted]," Linda said.

The report also showed an example on how patients could pay much higher prices for drugs prescribed by their doctors. For typical illnesses like the common cold, doctors were found to have prescribed off-patent drugs and vitamins, with a combined cost that could stand at Rp 265,400 (US$20).

But there are currently two alternative medications for the cold, both of which are much cheaper. The first alternative would cost only Rp 131,800, while the cheapest alternative costs Rp 19,350. Both drugs have the same basic content, thus are equivalent with the off-patent variant.

Linda said since the ministry's regulation came into effect in 2016 less complaints had been received by the ministry, however, it would strengthen monitoring to ensure patients had more options.

Furthermore, with help from the KPPU, Linda said the ministry expected the implementation of the regulation to become more effective in the future.

In the long run, the ministry is hoping the country's pharmaceutical industry will take off so that it can produce cheaper alterna- tives to off-patent drugs.

However, it might take at least a decade before the sector can produce as now the country still lags behind in supporting research and innovation, which makes up the industry's core.

"We have a 15-year roadmap, which in the end aims to transform our pharmaceutical industry into an innovative industry. The first five years will focus on cooperation and transfer of technology. The second five years will focus on acquiring the technology. And the last five years is when we start creating [our own] new products," she added.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/indonesia-to-tackle-unhealthy-practices-in-health-sector.html

Did a child get sick farming the tobacco in your cigarette?

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - February 9, 2017

Margaret Wurth – Buy a pack of cigarettes today and chances are you'll see a prominent warning that the product may be harmful to human health. But many cigarettes should include a second warning too: "This product may be made with child labour."

Most smokers probably don't realize that the tobacco in their cigarettes may be tainted by child labor. But as recent Human Rights Watch research shows, this is a particular problem in Indonesia, where kids as young as 8 work in hazardous conditions on small-scale tobacco farms to help support their families. They are exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides, and many suffer nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, which can happen when people absorb nicotine through their skin. The tobacco farmed by children is bought up by multinationals like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco, as well as big Indonesian firms, who buy either directly from the farmers or through intermediary traders or suppliers. The tobacco then ends up in cigarettes smoked in Indonesia and all over the world.

While most multinationals bar their suppliers from using children to perform the most dangerous tasks on tobacco farms, none of them ban youngsters from all work involving direct contact with tobacco – the only policy that we believe would properly protect children from nicotine exposure. Moreover, when multinationals buy their tobacco from traders on the open market in Indonesia, they do no due diligence to trace the leaf back to the farms where it was grown, so they have no way of knowing whether child labor was involved. This goes against the the United Nation's Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which state that companies should adopt effective measures to identify any abuses present in their supply chains and address them.

But children don't need to keep getting sick, and change is possible. Investors can push companies in the right direction.

This week, the nonprofit group Facing Finance published its fifth annual Dirty Profits report, which informs investors about human rights abuses in the supply chains of major multinational firms. Investors can use tools like these to raise their concerns with other investors or the company itself, or introduce shareholder resolutions demanding that companies stamp out abuse in their supply chains.

In the next few months, just as tobacco growing gets underway again in Indonesia, multinational tobacco companies will hold their annual shareholder meetings. It's the perfect time for investors to speak out, and urge companies to do more to end child labor.

[Margaret Wurth is a researcher, Children's Rights Division.]

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/09/did-child-get-sick-farming-tobacco-your-cigarette

Marriage & the family

Government to enlist clerics in fight against child marriage

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – The government has decided to seek unlikely allies in its struggle to end child marriage: religious leaders, the group of people who have long been accused of stymieing such efforts.

For years, religious leaders have perpetuated the practice of child marriage as they tend to have a narrow view of sexuality and marriage, according to the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry. The ministry said it was now time to turn them into allies.

Some Muslim clerics in Central Java and West Nusa Tenggara have already agreed to promote the campaign against child marriage, the ministry's assistant deputy on children's rights, Rohika Kurniadi Sari, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

"They said why don't we deliver the message through Friday prayer sermons? Because men are also agents of change who could reduce the number of child marriages," she said.

Rohika said her ministry would coordinate with the Religious Affairs Ministry, which reportedly has plans to issue guidelines on standardized Friday sermons, to discuss the possibility of delivering the anti-child marriage message through the sermons.

"We are pushing the Religious Affairs Ministry to review the standardization and if there is already one, we will request the addition of this message because it's important," she said.

The ministry's assistant deputy on child protection from violence and exploitation, Rini Handayani, claimed that United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had actually produced a guidebook on how to campaign for child protection in Friday sermons.

"Right now we are working on [making a Christian version of the book]. About how sermons at churches could talk about child protection," she said.

Rohika said the problem with some Muslim preachers was that they tended to measure preparedness to get married, or adulthood, merely based on the onset of puberty. This narrow view, she said, presented a considerable barrier to ending child marriage in the country as the practice is accepted by communities as part of their social fabric, making it seem to be a non-issue.

This has resulted in child marriage rates flat-lining in the country. According to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the number of child marriages (below 18 years old) stood at 22.8 percent in 2015, down only slightly from 24.5 percent in 2010.

Child marriages are closely linked to a severe drop in life quality for girls. According to UNICEF, girls who are married as children tend to drop out of school, thus limiting their employment opportunities.

"Child marriage severely affects girls' education as those who get married before the age of 18 are six times more likely to drop out of school," UNICEF Indonesia child protection officer Fadilla Putri said.

They are also prone to complications during pregnancy and labor, which hampers the country's efforts to produce quality human resources. Rohika said that the ministry would try to deliver the campaign within a more universal message on how to raise a child properly.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/government-to-enlist-clerics-in-fight-against-child-marriage.html

Graft & corruption

Money laundering and GNPF-MUI rallies, police to question Bachtiar Nasir

Jakarta Globe - February 9, 2017

Jakarta – The National Police have said Bachtiar Nasir, the leader of the Guardians of the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwas, or GNPF-MUI, which initiated the Nov. 4 and Dec. 2 mass rallies in Jakarta, will be questioned as a witness in a money laundering investigation.

Bachtiar failed to answer a police summons on Wednesday (08/02). Police currently investigate the Justice For All Foundation, one of many institutions that collected donations for the mass rallies in the capital city against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

The foundation has allegedly shelled out the collected donations to its founders, administrators and supervisors. Investigators suspect that Bachtiar was well aware of the foundation's affairs, as its bank account number was publicly announced by him ahead of the rallies.

"The account was opened by B.N., then there was a [social media] post by Novel [Novel Chaidir Hasan, secretary general of the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI] that said it was fake, so the donations stopped, but the money received was taken by the foundation. This is what we want to examine," National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/money-laundering-gnpf-mui-rallies-police-question-bachtiar-nasir/

Terrorism & religious extremism

Jokowi wants House to swiftly pass Terrorism Law amendments

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has instructed Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly to meet with House of Representatives leaders to speed up deliberation of amendments to the Terrorism Law.

Jokowi summoned Yasonna to the State Palace on Monday to brief him on the deliberation, which has been stalled on the roles of law enforcement bodies in counterterrorism.

"The process has been dragging [at the House]. We need to reach a common understanding on the issue in order to speed up the discussion of the law. It's been around one year now but it's nowhere near completed," Yasonna told reporters at the State Palace on Monday.

He said the recent growing protests against US President Donald Trump's controversial immigration policy could inspire domestic radical groups to carry out attacks in Indonesia.

"Don't let something happen first before we move to speed up the discussion of the law at the House," Yasonna said.

Yasonna said the House and the government were still discussing whether to expand the definition of terrorism in the revision of the law and whether to strengthen de-radicalization programs in the future. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/jokowi-wants-house-to-swiftly-pass-terrorism-law-amendments.html

Hard-line & vigilante groups

FPI spokesman questioned as suspect

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Ni Komang Erviani, Denpasar, Bali – After failing to answer the police's summons on Friday, the spokesman for the hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI) Munarman finally reported to Bali Police on Monday for his first questioning as a suspect for allegedly insulting pecalang (traditional Balinese security guards).

Munarman arrived at the Bali Police's special crimes directorate office in Denpasar on Monday afternoon by himself and without a lawyer.

He was questioned in relation to his alleged remarks on the pecalang in June last year, Bali Police's special crimes director Sr. Comr. Kenedy said, adding that Monday's questioning followed the second summons police had issued for him.

In a discussion with Kompas media, Munarman had protested at how the media giant did not provide fair coverage of his group. He allegedly said that there were no news reports on pecalang who, he claimed, sometimes threw stones at Muslims' houses and banned Muslims from performing prayers. Munarman refused to comment to journalists on his arrival at the police office.

Police started the investigation following a report filed against him by an interfaith group in Bali in January. The Bali Police have accused Munarman of violating the Electronic Information and Transactions law (UU ITE) on spreading information to incite hatred, which carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

Munarman and his lawyer lodged a pretrial motion last week challenging the police's move to charge him. Denpasar District Court has scheduled the first hearing of the pretrial challenge for Monday next week.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/fpi-spokesman-questioned-as-suspect.html

University students in Manado take to streets to demand FPI disbandment

Jakarta Globe - February 12, 2017

Jakarta – University students from all over North Sulawesi protested in front of the Democratic Party headquarters in the provincial capital Manado on Saturday (11/02) to demand the disbandment of hardline Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI.

The students performed street theater to protest increasing radicalism in the country, rally coordinator Clay said. "We want the government to disband FPI and other radical organizations," he added.

"We also call on SBY to stop intolerant and racist acts," Clay said, referring to the Democratic Party chairman and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by his nickname.

The rally also called on Indonesians to embrace the original values of the official state ideology Pancasila.

"Pancasila values have been washed out. They can help us filter information and ideologies that may lead us astray," the STISIP Manado student said.

"There is no place for radical organizations in Indonesia. Indonesia is a peaceful country and we've always upheld the values of pluralism," he added.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/university-students-manado-take-streets-demand-fpi-disbandment/

Police question woman to delve into graphic WhatsApp chat

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police brought in E, a friend of Firza Husein, a treason suspect who has been linked to Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, for questioning for a second time Thursday.

Police cybercrime investigators division questioned E at the Depok Police station, close to her residence. E became a witness after she was mentioned by Firza, whose alleged WhatsApp conversation with Rizieq went viral in late January.

Her name was heard repeatedly in a voice note that was leaked along with several screen captures, also containing her name, in the conversations, allegedly between Firza and Rizieq. The interlocutors of the chat were setting up a meeting and E's name was mentioned because one of them was afraid E would see them meeting.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said as quoted by Antara news agency the questioning was part of an investigation into the alleged violation of the Pornography Law.

The police will also soon publish a notification letter to begin an investigation to name any suspects in the case.

Firza had been declared a suspect for her alleged role in planned treason during the Dec. 2 rally in 2016, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims demanded the prosecution of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy. (dea/evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/police-question-woman-to-delve-into-graphic-whatsapp-chat.html

Rizieq is my old friend: Wiranto

Jakarta Post - February 9, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Two days before conservative Muslim groups are set to stage a mass prayer within the confines of Istiqlal Mosque on Feb. 11, a senior minister has held a friendly meeting with the event's initiators, including firebrand Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) patron Rizieq Shihab.

Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto welcomed Rizieq and the members of National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) – the group behind two large-scale rallies against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama last year – at his official residence in South Jakarta.

"These are my old friends, especially Rizieq whom I have known since well before 2000. We had fought together as we shared the same concerns with our country's condition before the reform era," Wiranto explained during a press conference on Thursday.

The minister, who served as both defense minister and military commander during Indonesia's transition in 1998 to 1999, told the journalists that the GNPF-MUI and FPI shared the same commitment of preserving the country's unity.

The GNPF-MUI and FPI have been in the spotlight for being the loudest advocates pushing for blasphemy charges against Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent who currently is seeking re-election in the Feb. 15 Jakarta gubernatorial election.

The General Elections Commission has declared Feb. 12 to 14 a cooling-off period before voting day, but some conservative Muslim groups intend to rally to remind Muslims of Verse 51 of the Surah Al-Maidah in the Quran, which prohibits Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/09/rizieq-is-my-old-friend-wiranto.html

Bali police name FPI spokesman Munarman a suspect

Jakarta Globe - February 8, 2017

Jakarta – Bali Police investigators on Tuesday (08/02) named Munarman, spokesman of the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, a suspect, as he had reportedly insulted the Hindu-majority island's tradition.

The move followed a preliminary investigation involving 26 witnesses, National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said.

"A summons letter and an investigation order have been sent today to Munarman, to the FPI headquarters in Petamburan, Jakarta," he said, adding Munarman is scheduled for questioning by the Bali Police on Friday.

In mid-January, dozens of groups in Bali filed police reports against Munarman, who told Kompas TV that the local guardian spirits, known as pecalang, have been used to attack Muslims to prevent them from performing Friday prayers.

The FPI, notorious for vigilantism since its formation in the late 1990s, has failed to establish a stronghold in Bali; the Balinese have been complaining about the group's intolerance and called for its disbandment.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/bali-police-name-fpis-spokesman-munarman-suspect/

Islam & religion

Indonesian haj victims feel abandoned by Saudi

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Haeril Halim, Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Andi Hajramurni, Jakarta – Almost a year and a half after two of the worst disasters in haj history, Saudi Arabia has yet to fulfill its commitment to victims of the tragedies, including Indonesians killed and injured in the collapse of a crane at the AlHaram Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Twelve citizens of Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, were killed and 49 injured when the crane collapsed on Sept. 11, 2015, days before the haj officially started.

The kingdom had pledged to the Indonesian government that it would provide 1 million riyals (US$266,607) in compensation for every dead or permanently disabled victim and 500,000 riyals for the less badly injured, but nothing has been received by the victims as of today.

Zulfitri Zaini, 58, a pilgrim from Solok, West Sumatra, lost her right leg and had her left hand paralyzed in the crane accident. She also suffered hearing impairment that has prevented her working as a teacher in a junior high school and is now struggling to cover her medical expenses.

Since arriving home on Oct. 2, 2015, she has had to pay all her medical expenses, including using her own savings to pay Rp 28.5 million ($2,146) for a prosthetic limb and Rp 19 million in other expenses that her limited health insurance could not cover.

"I spend most my time in bed now. Sometimes, like once a month, I ask my relatives to take me to school, which is two hours' away from my house, just to make me feel like I am able to work again," Zulfitri, who used to teach math told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

"I was praying at the Grand Mosque when the crane smashed into my left hand and right leg. Then I passed out," Zulfitri said, recalling the painful experience. She had to undergo two additional operations on her left hand and right leg. "The wound is still fresh even today," she said.

Tired of waiting, she asked for help from the Padang Legal Aid Institute (LBH), which filed a complaint to the Saudi embassy in Jakarta and the Religious Affairs Ministry on Jan. 13. However, the reports have gone unanswered.

"We called on the Indonesian government to be more proactive urging the Saudi government to pay the promised compensation," LBH Padang director Era Purnama Sari said.

Saudi began renovations to expand Al-Haram in 2013 and cut back the number of pilgrims who could perform the haj every year because of the construction around the mosque.

The year 2015 saw two haj tragedies. After the crane collapse, which claimed the lives of 111 pilgrims from various nations, more than 700 died later in a stampede during the stoning ritual at Mina, located near Mecca.

Along with the compensation, Saudi Arabia also promised that the heirs of dead pilgrims and the 49 injured victims could perform the haj last year. But none of these commitments were realized.

Subandi bin Ahmad Sarbini, a pilgrim from Maros, South Sulawesi, said the falling crane hit his head and left arm. The officer with the Maros Police said his left hand had been left paralyzed and he was forced to use only one hand. The injuries also affected his nervous system leaving half his face paralyzed.

Although the accident badly affected him physically, he tries to continue working as usual as a police officer in order to support his family.

"Thank God, I was transferred to the office [away from beat duty] at the human resources division. So, my activities now are not as hard as in the past," said the 51-year-old.

He added that if he eventually received the compensation money, he would use it to go to Mecca again with his wife. "My wife and I want to go to Mecca again," he said.

Religious Affairs Ministry spokesman Rosidin said the ministry had tried its best to push the Saudi government to pay the compensation but to no avail, adding that the ministry had submitted the data on the victims to the kingdom in 2015.

"The latest response we got from Saudi was that they were still collecting the data on the victims worldwide before it moves to pay compensation simultaneously to all affected countries including Indonesia. The Indonesian government will always encourage the Kingdom to make good on its promise," Rosidin said.

Saudi Arabia cut the haj quota for Indonesia from 211,000 to 168,800 for safety reasons when it started the expansion of the mosque in 2013.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/indonesian-haj-victims-feel-abandoned-by-saudi.html

Indonesia aims to root out bigotry in schools, mosques

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang and Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Islamic education teachers in private and public schools will soon be required to have a bachelor's degree in Islamic studies.

Preachers will soon also have to follow guidelines set by mainstream clerics on what they should not preach in Friday sermons.

The Religious Affairs Ministry, tasked with maintaining religious harmony in the country, is working to tackle the problem of intolerance by ensuring that bigotry is neither taught at schools nor preached in mosques.

The ministry would distribute circulars to regional administrations and schools asking them to no longer employ people with insufficient qualifications in Islamic studies to teach the religion, the ministry's Islamic education director general Komaruddin Amin told The Jakarta Post.

"All teachers with insufficient educational backgrounds must be replaced. To avoid [students] being misled, we must not entrust those who are lacking competence to teach religious education," he said.

The official said the policy had been decided upon after a number of studies had shown that many Islamic education teachers were themselves intolerant.

A 2016 study by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) revealed that 78 percent of Islamic education teachers supported organizations that demanded the implementation of sharia in the country.

The study, which was conducted at schools in Banda Aceh, Central Java, West Java, West Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi, also found that 87 percent of Islamic education teachers opposed to the appointment of non-Muslims as school principals, and nearly 90 percent of them refused to vote for non-Muslims as mayors or regents.

According to ministry data, there are currently 186,000 Islamic education teachers in the country while there are more than 230,000 schools that are in need of Islamic studies teachers.

The Indonesian Islamic Education Teachers Association (AGPAII) has said that several of its members did not have formal education in Islamic studies and that may be the reason why they have failed to understand the need of promoting tolerance.

Other than reforming Islamic education, the ministry also aims to nix bigotry from religious sermons being delivered in mosques.

The ministry has said it will work with Muslim clerics to create guidelines on what preachers should convey in Friday sermons, following complaints from some Muslims that Friday sermons in several mosques have been inaccurate and inflammatory.

"The government will not intervene, let alone regulate the content of sermons like in the past. Today is a whole different era. And it's impossible for us to do such things because we know that it's not part of our domain," Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said.

However, the minister asserted "what we need is guidance that can serve as a reference point for the preachers to know what they can and cannot say during sermons."

Some Muslim scholars have criticized the plan, saying the government should not regulate what preachers should say. But others support the policy, saying that the government is trying to ensure that religious preachers are competent.

"Nowadays, clerics have a bigger role to play in influencing people's thoughts, more than that of teachers in formal education institutions. [...] If standardization doesn't lead to censorship, then why not [have such a policy]?," Haidar Bagir, a graduate of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/indonesia-aims-to-root-out-bigotry-in-schools-mosques.html

Sex, pornography & morality

Sexy 'dangdut' outfits banned in Tangerang

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Agnes Anya, Tangerang – Dangdut groups in Tangerang, Banten, have chosen to comply with a recent ban on the use of revealing outfits by female singers during their performances. The decision was taken in a bid to acquire performance permits from the Tangerang Police.

"Basically, we will just agree [to the ban]. We prefer to comply with the rule instead of losing some income," said Toing, the boss of Tangerang-based dangdut group RGJ, which usually holds its performances in villages throughout Tangerang regency.

Toing said that in the performances, the group's singers usually wore tight or low-cut clothing in order to draw an audience. Audiences in villages such as Dadap or Cisoka, both in Tangerang, preferred to have dangdut groups featuring such singers, he added.

"We always follow the needs of our hosts. I will usually ask them how our singers should dress or whether we should use a particular concept," he said, adding that most hosts requested that the singers wear clothes that exposed parts of their body, such as the thighs and chest.

Conversely, he further explained, some hosts preferred their singers to dress modestly, such as with long pants and long-sleeve blouses.

As stated by Toing, dangdut performances in small regions have long involved female singers with revealing outfits – from mini-skirts and low-cut tops to undergarments.

These singers are also typically instructed to interact closely with the audience, sometimes even providing erotic dances, to get the spectators to throw more saweran, or money, at them. In some cases, some spectators act excessively by touching or squeezing the singers' body parts while throwing the money.

Given this fact, the Tangerang Police have recently instructed subprecinct police offices in the region not to issue a crowd permit for dangdut groups whose singers perform with sexually revealing outfits that expose their body parts.

The permit is a solid requirement for dangdut groups holding performances in public areas as such shows are usually flocked to by large crowds. The police claimed that the ban was needed as singers with "clothes exposing skin" could trigger crimes, like "riots or other immoral acts."

Responding to the issue, the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) regretted the police's reasoning in implementing the ban. "Before anything, the police should have further examined and acquired data on why the criminal cases [were taking place at dangdut performances]. Don't point the blame so easily on the female singers," said the commission's chairwoman Azriana. "On the other hand, the existence of sexy dresses is a complex matter. There is exploitation taking place."

Azriana echoed Toing's sentiments, saying that most female dangdut singers were required to wear provocative outfits at the request of their hosts, as well as the dangdut group bosses.

"In many performances featuring women, there is usually a lot of content exploiting women. This is not in the interest of the singers but the industry's owners as they read and, hence, want to satisfy the market," Azriana added.

Separately, another dangdut group boss in Tangerang, Asep, also said that he agreed with the police's decision to enforce a dress code.

"Not all dangdut fans want sexy singers, although dangdut is usually synonymous with erotic performances," Asep said, adding that his group required the singers to dress modestly. "[Polite dress] has become my strategy to compete with other groups."

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/sexy-dangdut-outfits-banned-in-tangerang.html

West Java students not allowed to celebrate Valentine's Day

Jakarta Post - February 12, 2017

Arya Dipa, Bandung – The West Java administration has issued a circular banning students in the conservative province from celebrating Valentine's Day, saying the Western tradition was against prevailing "religious, social and cultural norms."

West Java Education Agency head Ahmad Hadadi signed the letter on the ban on Friday. "[The administration] bans students from commemorating Valentine's Day on February 14, 2017 at school or outside school," he said.

The official argued that the ban was part of the government's efforts to build good moral character in students and prevent them from engaging in activities that contravened religious, social and cultural norms. The circular, he said, had been sent to 27 education agencies in the province.

Local education activist Eko Purwono said the ban was useless, as it simply could not be enforced. "If [students] buy cannabis or crystal meth, police would take action against them," he said, pointing to the fact that there is no legal ground to criminalize those celebrating Valentine's Day.

He said he wondered if the administration would actually ban students from buying chocolates on Valentine's Day.

Debates over Valentine's Day happen every year in Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim population. The celebration has a strong cultural and commercial presence in the country, despite objection from conservative groups. (ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/12/west-java-students-not-allowed-to-celebrate-valentines-day.html

Land & agrarian conflicts

Central Java governor reported to Ombudsman for factory permit

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – The Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) has reported Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo to the Indonesian Ombudsman for alleged maladministration because of his non-compliance with a Supreme Court ruling on the revocation of a permit to construct a new factory obtained by state-run cement producer PT Semen Indonesia.

Ganjar initially revoked the permit following a Supreme Court ruling in October 2012. He apparently issued a new one the next month claiming that it was an addendum, but it enabled the cement factory to continue the construction of the factory, much to the dismay of local farmers and activists.

"The governor should have fully complied with the ruling instead of [...] issuing a new decree in the guise of an addendum. Such non-compliance has disgraced the Supreme Court," YLBHI lawyer Muhammad Isnur said on Tuesday.

On Jan. 16, Ganjar issued a decree to revoke the permit and ordered the suspension of the factory's construction until the company completed all necessary environmental documents, including the environmental impact analysis (Amdal), environment management plan (RKL) and environment monitoring plan (RPL).

However, the YLBHI claimed that it had been found alleged malpractice in the issuance of the gubernatorial decree last month that lacked of farmer participation.

Hundreds of farmers have demonstrated by blocking the access road to the factory. Demonstrations have been held for almost three years on the back of fears that the factory would damage the environment and dry up local springs and affect their livelihoods.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/14/central-java-governor-reported-to-ombudsman-for-factory-permit.html

Kendeng farmers' 'Struggle Tent' set on fire following cement factory

Jakarta Post - February 13, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang – Dozens of people allegedly destroyed and burned the "Struggle Tent," which was erected by Mount Kendeng farmers in protest of the construction of cement factories in the Pati and Rembang regencies on Friday evening following a blockade carried out by the anti-cement camp earlier in the day.

Ngatiban, one of the farmers who reported the case to the Central Java Police in Semarang, said he knew some of the perpetrators. "I knew six of them," he said, adding that he knew them as people who supported the construction of the cement factory in Rembang regency operated by PT Semen Indonesia.

So far, it has been the first violent conflict to occur between residents who supported and residents who opposed the construction of the cement factory.

The farmers said the alleged vandalism happened at 8 p.m. on Friday, when there were eight people in the tent, six of them women. The anti-cement farmers had the tent erected since 2013, when they began their movement.

Accompanied by Ivan Wagner from the Semarang Legal Aid Institute (LBH Semarang), 11 farmers reported the case to the police. Seven of them were eyewitnesses of the destruction and four were farmer activists from the Mount Kendeng Community Network.

Ngatiban said he saw one of the perpetrators recording the action and that eight people inside the tent did not fight back as they felt afraid.

The factory in Gunem district, Rembang regency, began construction in June 2014 and cost Semen Indonesia Rp 4.9 trillion (US$367 billion).

Semen Indonesia corporate secretary Agung Wiharto told The Jakarta Post on Friday that although the construction had almost finished, the company halted the project after Governor Ganjar Pranowo issued a decree on Jan. 16 to revoke their environmental permit. "We obeyed the law. We have laid off 3,000 workers but we kept 400 people to maintain the assets," he said. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/13/kendeng-farmers-struggle-tent-set-on-fire-following-cement-factory-blockade.html

Kendeng farmers blockade cement factory

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang, Central Java – About 250 farmers who are against the construction of a cement factory operated by PT Semen Indonesia in Gunem district in Kendeng, Central Java, blockaded the access road to the factory on Friday. As a consequence, workers could not enter the compound.

Joko Prianto, coordinator of the blockade, said they resorted to such action to push Semen Indonesia to stop construction as ordered through a Supreme Court decision and a Central Java governor decree issued on Jan. 16 by Ganjar Pranowo, which revoked the plant's environmental permit.

"When the permit was revoked by Supreme Court, activities at the factory should have stopped," Joko said. He said the farmers had reported the activities to the Central Java Police, saying they were illegal.

Kendeng farmers have fought against the construction of the factory for years, saying that it would compromise the quality of water source in the Kendeng karst mountain.

They argued that they only wanted to farm in peace and that they made a decent living growing crops. Semen Indonesia has argued that the factory would create jobs and an improved local economy, which was much needed by Kendeng residents. The argument has been supported by several other residents.

Semen Indonesia corporate secretary Agung Wiharto said his company had stopped construction following the governor's instruction.

"We have laid off our project head and 3,000 workers since Jan. 18. But we keep 400 workers to maintain and guard our asset," Agung said. He said construction had reached 98.75 percent. "We have to bear losses too because we have to keep paying the outsourced construction company," he said. "We have obeyed the law," he said.

Sujono, an anti-factory farmer, said that when they blockaded the road, residents who supported the factory also held a rally against their move.

The farmers' legal counselor from the Semarang Legal Aid Institute (LBH Semarang), Eti Oktaviani, said all activities should be halted, otherwise Semen Indonesia would be in violation of a 2009 law on environmental protection.

The Supreme Court on Oct. 5 last year issued a ruling in a case review against a gubernatorial decree on the environmental permit for PT Semen Gresik, the former name of Semen Indonesia. The ruling ordered the Central Java governor to revoke the environmental permit.

Consequently, Eti said, all permits issued on the basis of the environmental permit should be null and void too, including the construction and operational permits. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/11/kendeng-farmers-blockade-cement-factory.html

Transport & communication

Chaos at Indonesian ports disrupts coal shipping

Reuters - February 8, 2017

Fergus Jensen and Henning Gloystein, Jakarta/Singapore – Road blockages and bad weather in Kalimantan on the Indonesian side of Borneo island are being blamed for a disruption of coal supplies from one of the world's most important export regions.

Coal traders and ship operators cited several reasons for the loading delays. According to domestic online media suarakalimantan.com, citing statements from local authorities, coal hauling roads were closed by the South Kalimantan government in three locations, leaving "thousands" unable to work.

"They don't have access to roads," Pandu Sjahrir, chairman of the Indonesian Coal Mining Association told Reuters on Wednesday, referring to stoppages by local authorities.

Local authorities and port operators were not available for comment. A spokesman for Indonesia's transportation ministry, which oversees ports was unable to comment.

Reuters reported the delays have affected coal ports near Samarinda in the province of East Kalimantan and Taboneo, near the capital of South Kalimantan, Banjarmasin.

"The area most affected is getting coal down the Barito River to coastal ports like Taboneo," said one coal barge shipper from Kalimantan, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon and port loading schedules seen by Reuters show over 130 ships are currently offshore Kalimantan waiting to take on coal, some since late December.

The previous week, that figure stood at 108, the data showed. Indonesia's Kalimantan provinces make up one of the world's biggest thermal coal mining regions.

"Local authorities are delaying shipping and export licenses, and that is what is causing delays," said a marine logistics executive in Jakarta, also on the condition of anonymity.


The executive, with operations in South Kalimantan, said the long delays in the region "could start to see vessel cancellations or movement of ships to other areas in Indonesia to clear some of the many vessels waiting for cargo."

Shipping data in Eikon shows that around 30 large ships are currently waiting to load coal at Taboneo, with several waiting for about six weeks.

In East Kalimantan, there have been delays caused by bad weather, preventing barges from transferring coal on to larger ships for export.

"The delays across Kalimantan are widespread, for many reasons. But they're big. Some of the ships have been waiting for almost two months to take on coal," said one coal shipper who frequently orders cargoes from Kalimantan.

A large number of miners export coal from Kalimantan, including small local firms and large international corporations.

It was unclear which firms have been affected by the disruptions, although Indonesian coal majors Bumi Resources, Adaro Energy, and Bayan Resources said they had so far not been impacted.

Overall, traders said the disruptions would likely impact seaborne thermal coal prices, especially from Australia, at a time when Chinese imports are increasing.

Indonesia is targeting the production of 470 million tonnes of coal in 2017, the bulk of which will be exported to Asia.

"If there's disruptions in Indonesia, coal buyers will have to turn to alternative sources to meet their demand, and that's Australian coal," said one coal trader.

Australian prompt cargo prices for coal from its Newcastle terminal, the Asian benchmark price, last settled at $79.90 per tonne.

[Reporting by Fergus Jensen in JAKARTA and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Additional reporting by Keith Wallis and Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore; Writing by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Christian Schmollinger.]

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-coal-indonesia-exports-idUSKBN15N0R3?rpc=401&

Armed forces & defense

Defense Ministry shows off locally made weapons

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The Defense Ministry showcased 15 newly launched items of defense equipment produced by local manufacturers on Tuesday, which will be used to support primary weapons defense systems for the Indonesian Military (TNI).

The locally engineered products consist of seven items for the Navy, four for the Army and four for the Air Force; all of which were the result of the government's Rp 86 billion (US$6.45 million) defense industry development program throughout last year.

The equipment varied from mortar support for the Army to a swamp boat for the Navy. The products were from state-owned weapons manufacturer PT Pindad and several local private companies.

The development program is part of government's efforts at weapons modernization and to allow Indonesia to become gradually independent of foreign producers, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said.

"All of them were made by the sons and daughters of this country. We must support and continuously develop them to build our national defense capability," he said in his office on Tuesday. "In the coming years, we will be able to make our own fighter jets and submarines," he added.

Ryamizard further lauded the locally engineered defense equipment saying that such products would not only positively impact on local producers but were also in line with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's policy of nourishing the domestic defense industry.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/14/defense-ministry-shows-off-locally-made-weapons.html

Residents attack air force post in West Java after scuffle with officer

Jakarta Globe - February 13, 2017

Jakarta – Around 400 residents attacked and vandalized an Air Force post in Ujung Genteng, a village in Ciracap, part of the Sukabumi district in West Java, after a fight broke out between a local resident and an Air Force officer on Sunday evening (12/02).

The attack was triggered by a scuffle between a man from Ujung Genteng and an on-duty Air Force officer, identified as First Corporal Oka Prasetyo.

The Air Force officer reportedly beat up the local man, who in turn reported the incident to his family, prompting anger among villagers.

Soon after that, around 400 Ujung Genteng residents attacked the Air Force post and vandalized two buildings in the area at around 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Air Force spokesman Air Commodore Jemi Trisonjaya said 1st Corp. Oka Prasetyo had already apologized to the victim's parents just before the attack happened, as reported by state news agency Antara.

Oka was injured during the attack and was rushed to the nearby Gunung Batu Public Health Center for treatments, Jemi added. Officers from the Ciracap police station managed to control the situation and persuaded the residents to return home at around 9.15 p.m.

Officer's arrogant attitude to blame

Separately, Air Force Chief of Staff Air Chief Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto deplored the assault committed by his officer and his arrogant attitude.

"We should be a role model in society. We should never resort to violence to resolve petty disputes, that will only hurt people's heart," Hadi said.

Hadi has instructed Air Force officers to visit the victim's family to apologize and restore good relationship with Ujung Genteng residents.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/residents-attack-air-force-post-west-java-scuffle-officer/

Defense minister not backing down in budget row with TNI

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has said he will not revise a 2015 ministerial regulation that the Indonesian Military (TNI) chief says has curtailed his authority to oversee the weapons procurement budget of his forces.

"The regulation does not contravene any law," Ryamizard told reporters at the office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Ministry on Friday.

The minister was scheduled to meet with Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto to discuss the issue on Friday, but the meeting was canceled.

TNI commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo previously requested that the regulation, issued by Ryamizard, be annulled following the purchase of a British-Italian made Augusta Westland (AW) 101 helicopter by the Air Force.

The TNI and the ministry have both claimed they were not responsible for the decision to procure the chopper, which became controversial after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo rejected it in 2015 as too expensive.

Gatot said he did not know anything about the purchase because he could no longer oversee the budget proposals of the three TNI branches: the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The regulation stipulates that the three forces should directly submit budget proposals to the Defense Ministry. (ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/defense-minister-not-backing-down-in-budget-row-with-tni.html

Air force chief to investigate 'mysterious' procurement of $55m chopper

Jakarta Globe - February 8, 2017

Jakarta – The recent arrival of a new presidential chopper at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta has raised questions over who had authorized the purchase of the $55 million medium-lift helicopter after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo earlier rejected such a plan.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu announced that Air Force chief of staff Air Chief Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto will lead an investigation into the "mysterious" procurement of the AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopter.

"I have delegated [the investigation] to the Air Force chief of staff. Wait for him to make a move," Ryamizard said at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday (07/02).

"The helicopter was once ordered for the president, but he canceled the order, saying that it was too expensive. We canceled [the order]. PTDI can make a helicopter like this, so why not have them do it? That was what the president wanted," Ryamizard said, referring to state-owned aircraft manufacturer Dirgantara Indonesia.

Calling on journalists and the public not to blow the issue out of proportion, the minister said he already discussed the defense budget with the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Defense and the Indonesian Military (TNI), and that it appears to be in order. "There is no problem there," he said.

The Indonesian Air Force ordered three AW-101 helicopters in November 2015 for use by the president, vice president and senior ministers, but Jokowi axed the deal the following month because he believed it was too expensive.

However, the Air Force recently insisted on buying the same type of helicopter, saying that it was for military use and search and rescue missions.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/air-force-chief-to-investigate-mysterious-procurement-of-55m-chopper/

Criminal justice & legal system

Antasari's moves backed by government: SBY

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2017

Jakarta – Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono believes the government is behind the onslaught launched by former chairman of Corruption Eradication Commission Antasari Azhar against his family's image.

Yudhoyono says he felt defamed by Antasari who claimed on Tuesday that his murder case was the result of a plot by the then president because Antasari did not comply with Yudhoyono's instructions. Antasari has alleged Yudhoyono was behind the murder case that saw the former KPK chief end up behind bars.

"I believe it is impossible that what Antasari is doing is being done without the blessing of those in power," he said as reported by kompas.com on Tuesday.

Yudhoyono claimed the clemency for Antasari granted by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo last month was politically driven.

He added that for the past two months he had heard information that Antasari would be used to attack him and his family. The attack was obviously related to Jakarta's gubernatorial election, especially as Antasari's claims came a day before polling day on Wednesday.

It was also part of efforts to harm the electability of his eldest son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono who is running in the Jakarta gubernatorial election against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Jokowi's close ally, the former president alleged.

"Dear ruler, be careful in using your power. Don't play with fire or you will get burned. Remember the people and be afraid of God. If a ruler is unfair, then God's justice will prevail," Yudhoyono said.

Separately, Yudhoyono's Democratic Party also filed a report with the National Police's Criminal Investigation Department against Antasari following the latter's claim of political interference in his case.

"We reported him for libel and defamation," said Democratic Party secretary general Didi Irawadi Syamsyuddin as reported by kompas.com.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/14/antasaris-moves-backed-by-goverment-sby.html

Palace plays down Yudhoyono's allegations

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – The Presidential Palace has denied that the granting of clemency by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to former anti-Corruption Eradication Commission chief and murder convict Antasari Azhar was politically driven as claimed by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"The clemency was granted in accordance with the law," presidential spokesman Johan Budi said at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday.

He added that the President's decision to grant clemency to Antasari was based on input from the Supreme Court. Jokowi granted clemency to Antasari last month after the latter was paroled six years early after being sentenced to 18 years for murdering businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen.

"There is no relation between the clemency and with what Antasari did personally," he said. He refused to comment on Jokowi's response to allegations made by Yudhoyono.

In his latest Twitter rant, Yudhoyono claimed that Antasari's move to report him for allegedly being the initiator of the murder case was false and politically motivated. He claimed that his eldest son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono's candidacy in the Jakarta gubernatorial election made him and his family a target of libel in order to crush Agus' chances in the election.

Antasari said at a press conference at the National Police's Criminal Investigation Department on Tuesday that he demanded Yudhoyono to speak up about the murder case. Antasari also claimed that MNC group chief executive officer Hary Tanoesoedibjo had visited him upon Yudhoyono's instructions to advise him to drop the corruption case against Agus' father-in-law, Aulia Pohan.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/14/palace-plays-down-yudhoyonos-allegations.html

Indonesia approves Freeport, Amman contract conversion

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2017

Viriya P. Singgih and Grace D. Amianti, Jakarta – The Indonesian government has approved the conversion of the contracts of gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia and copper producer PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara, allowing them to continue exports of their partly processed minerals.

As required by a revised government regulation that has partly lifted the ban on the export of raw and partly processed minerals, the two companies have converted their contracts of work (CoW) into special mining licenses (IUPK).

The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry stated that Amman Mineral and Freeport Indonesia had submitted proposals to convert their CoW into IUPK on Jan. 25 and 26, respectively.

Amman Mineral has recently been taken over by local energy firm PT Medco Energi Internasional, owned by politically wired tycoon Arifin Panigoro, from the United States-based miner Newmont Mining Corp., while Freeport Indonesia is a subsidiary of another American giant mining company Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

"Today, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry has approved the conversion of Freeport and Amman's CoW into IUPK," the ministry's mineral and coal director general, Bambang Gatot Ariyono, said on Friday.

"Furthermore, we expect those companies to immediately submit proposals for export permit extensions so that we can process them right away."

Bambang also said the proposals needed to be submitted along with written integrity pacts consisting of commitments and detailed plans to build a smelter, the progress of which will be monitored every six months.

Last month, the government relaxed the ban on mineral exports in returns for miners' commitment to convert their CoW into IUPK, divest 51 percent of their shares and build a domestic smelter.

"The two companies must also comply with the requirement to sell their shares," said Bambang, declining to elaborate on the subject of divestment.

The requirements are stipulated in two ministerial decrees as derivatives of the fourth revision of Government Regulation No. 23/2010 on the management of mineral and coal businesses, which allows miners to continue exporting copper concentrates, certain amounts of low-grade nickel and washed bauxite.

Politicians and analysts have argued that the issuance of the regulation and the decrees contravene the 2009 Mining Law, which originally imposed a total ban on mineral ore exports in 2014 and mandated all miners to build smelters domestically to strengthen the processing industry.

However, up to now, Freeport Indonesia and Amman Mineral have shown no significant progress in their smelter developments.

Now that the companies have obtained their IUPK both of their CoW have automatically been annulled and they are obliged to comply with fiscal policies stipulated in the prevailing law in return for their export permit extensions.

The Finance Ministry's fiscal policy head, Suahasil Nazara, said the government had finalized the revision of a 2014 finance ministerial decree on raw mineral export duties, with the new rates to be based on the smelter-construction progress.

Under the revision, if smelter progress is between 0 and 30 percent, the export duty will be 7.5 percent, while if the progress is between 30 and 50 percent the duty will be 5 percent and for 50 to 75 percent progress, the duty will be 2.5 percent. The export duty will be 0 percent only when progress passes 75 percent.

The export duties for both lowgrade nickel and washed bauxite will be 10 percent. However, Suahasil did not detail whether the rate was linked to the progress in smelter construction.

"A miner needs to submit a proposal to get the recommendation from the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry for its export permit. Within such a recommendation, the ministry will state the progress of the smelter development, which will be our basis for setting the export duty for the miner," Suahasil said, while adding that the duty would last in accordance to the export permit period.

Data from the Finance Ministry show that Freeport Indonesia and Amman Mineral paid Rp 1.23 trillion (US$92.1 million) and Rp 1.25 trillion, respectively, in export duty alone to the government throughout 2016.

Freeport Indonesia said recently it had begun preparing to reduce production, which could be followed by job cuts, in a move that indirectly pushed the government to grant the company the export permit.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/11/indonesia-approves-freeport-amman-contract-conversion.html

Freeport boss denies assaulting lawmaker

Jakarta Globe - February 10, 2017

Eko Prasetyo, Jakarta – Freeport Indonesia director Chappy Hakim has denied assaulting a lawmaker after a hearing with the House of Representatives' Commission VII.

According to reports, the former Air Force chief of staff had assaulted Commission VII member Mukhtar Tompo after a hearing with several representatives of mining companies, including Freeport, to discuss the government's mining policies.

"There was no beating, unlike what has been reported in the media. Mukhtar also said I never assaulted him," Chappy said in a written statement released on Thursday evening (09/02).

Chappy claimed after the hearing Mukhtar had approached him to ask why Freeport has recently been inconsistent in its policies. Chappy then demanded that Mukhtar prove his accusation.

The Freeport director has already apologized to the Commission VII for the kerfuffle between him and Mukhtar.

Mukhtar's tweets triggered Chappy's anger

Mukhtar meanwhile claimed that Chappy had yelled at him and poked him on the chest with his finger during an altercation after the hearing. Chappy's anger was reportedly triggered by a tweet from Mukhtar criticizing the lack of progress on Freeport's smelter construction.

"Freeport has violated Law No. 4/2009 articles 103 and 170. Their promise to build a smelter was only a play. This whole thing is a soap opera," Mukhtar tweeted on Dec. 7 last year.

In another tweet on the same day, he said "Freeport Indonesia director's statement to Commission VII today confirms they will not build a smelter if their contract is not extended. Funny."

Freeport is supposed to build a smelter in Gresik, East Java. According to the deal they made with the government, they will not be allowed to export anymore concentrates after Jan. 12 if they do not go ahead with the smelter construction.

Source: http://www.jakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/law-and-order/freeport-boss-apologizes-for-misconduct-at-houses-hearing-denies-assault/

Renewable energy development ruling is setback: Expert

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

Jakarta – An energy expert has criticized the government for discouraging the development of renewable energy with the issuance of the latest regulation by Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan.

Yunus Daud of the University of Indonesia said Energy and Mineral Resources Ministerial Regulation (Permen) No 12/2017 on the utilization of renewable energy for electricity had discouraged investors from putting their money in the sector.

He referred to an article in the Permen that stresses that the maximal prices of electricity from renewable energy is 85 percent of the production basic cost. "How would [they] want to invest if there is such a limitation?," Yunus said as reported by tribunnews.com on Friday.

"The state will suffer from losses. It means that progress in renewable energy will be sluggish. It is ironic because initially the wish [of the investors] to develop renewable energy, including geothermal, was quite high," he added.

He expressed doubt over whether the target of 23 percent in contribution from renewable energy to the total national energy demand by 2025 could be achieved if the government went ahead with its current policy. Currently, renewable energy contributes to only about 8 percent of the total energy demand. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/10/renewable-energy-development-ruling-is-setback-expert.html

Freeport to reduce Indonesian mining activities: Smelter official

Reuters - February 8, 2017

Wilda Asmarini, Jakarta – Freeport-McMoRan has warned it will scale back activities at its Indonesian copper mine, an official at Indonesia's main copper smelter, PT Smelting, said on Wednesday (08/02), amid a worker strike and other issues.

Freeport's Grasberg mine in Papua, Indonesia, is the world's second-largest copper mine, and recent disruptions there have helped support a jump in copper prices.

Grasberg had aimed to produce around one-third of the Freeport's total copper output this year, up from less than a quarter in 2016, as it digs into higher-grade ores.

"Freeport has just issued a notice this morning that they will reduce [mining] activities in stages," Smelting director Prihadi Santoso told reporters.

"We are trying to meet our commitments to our clients," he said, declining to comment on what had sparked the strike at the mine or how many people were involved.

PT Smelting is 60.5 percent owned by Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, while Freeport Indonesia holds 25 percent.

Lower output from Grasberg would affect Smelting, which processes around 40 percent of the mine's copper concentrate production, Prihadi said, noting he did not know how much the volumes would be cut.

A spokesman for Freeport Indonesia confirmed by text message that it had sent out a notice on output cuts at Grasberg.

Last week, Phoenix-based Freeport warned it could be forced to cut staff, spending and production in Indonesia if it did not get a new export permit by mid-February.

Freeport CEO Richard Adkerson said in late January that labour issues were hampering production as Grasberg targets to wind up its open pit mining in late 2018.

"As we've approached the completion of the pit, workers have been raising complaints, grievances, and have simply not been meeting productivity standards," he said. A spokesman for Freeport workers union did not respond to requests for comment.

Indonesia's Coal and Minerals Director General Bambang Gatot said on Wednesday that Freeport had not been issued with a new permit yet and there had been no reports of layoffs.

Freeport said on Friday last week it was still working with the Indonesian government to resolve issues after exports of its copper concentrate were halted Jan. 12. The Southeast Asian country banned export shipments of semi-processed ore to boost its local smelter industry.

Copper prices on the London Metal Exchange have climbed 6 percent on supply concerns since Indonesia stopped Freeport's concentrate shipments and as a strike looms at top copper mine Escondida.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/freeport-reduce-indonesian-mining-activities-smelter-official/

Risk of gas shortage haunts Indonesia

Jakarta Post - February 8, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – The risk of a gas shortage is haunting Indonesia as demand continues to soar on the back of lower supply and poor infrastructure, with 2019 predicted to be the starting point of potential shortages.

State-owned oil and gas giant Pertamina estimates that demand for gas in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will increase by 4 percent to 5 percent every year, mostly boosted by the power and industrial sectors.

Pertamina senior vice president for gas and power Djohardi Angga Kusumah said that in line with the drastic increase in demand, domestic supply would continue to drop due to aging fields and a lack of new discoveries.

As a result, the country could begin seeing a gas shortage of 500 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd) in 2019. The demand will continue to climb until 2030, when it is likely to reach around 10,000 mmscfd.

"Our supply is very limited and it is expected to continue dropping to around 6,000 mmscfd in 2030. This means that there will be a shortage of 4,000 mmscfd, or 32 tons of LNG," he said on Tuesday.

By 2030, most of the shortage will be centered in West Java, with more than 60 percent.

A gas shortage poses a problem since the government has continued to emphasize the need to develop downstream sectors, including the local manufacturing industry and the power sector, to boost productivity and create added value to exports.

However, at around US$9 per million British thermal units (mmbtu), Indonesia's gas price is considered much higher than of its regional peers. Gas in Malaysia and Singapore hovers at around $4 per mmbtu.

Pertamina estimates that around $70 billion to $80 billion in funds is needed to develop gas infrastructure until 2030.

Djohardi said it had come to the conclusion that with poor infrastructure suspending gas prices at such a high rate, importing LNG was the answer.

Pertamina acting president director Yenni Andayani said Indonesia needed to secure long-term LNG contracts before it was too late as global LNG demand was expected to increase significantly over the next decade. "It may be too late for us if we wait until 2020 to start talking to suppliers," she said.

Competition to secure contracts will be fierce among neighboring countries as Southeast Asia's import demand is forecast to reach around 60 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas in 2030 from zero in 2013.

The government has begun importing LNG for the electricity sector and is considering doing the same for other industrial sectors.

A recent ministerial decree issued by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry allows power producers to import LNG if the price of gas distributed by local pipes is over 11.5 percent of the Indonesian Crude Price (ICP).

Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry deputy minister Arcandra Tahar said that it was unlikely that it would allow LNG imports this year for the industrial sectors due to a lack of supporting infrastructure and its priority toward domestic supply.

Data from the Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Special Task Force (SKKMigas) shows that only 39 of 64 LNG cargoes allocated for the domestic market were absorbed in 2015.

Furthermore, official data shows that there are 63 uncommitted LNG cargoes this year and 60 next year, meaning that they don't have certain buyers yet.

"We are prioritizing domestic [supply] first. If it does not fulfill demand, we will consider allowing imports. We need to construct the infrastructure first and this may take years," he said.

At present, there are only two floating storage facilities in West Java and Lampung and only one land-based re-gasification terminal, which is the converted Arun LNG plant in Aceh.

The ministry is planning to construct 11 floating storage facilities and 66 land-based facilities by 2025.

Oil and gas consultancy group FGE president Jeff Brown said Pertamina's reputation as a seasoned player in the LNG sector should help the country secure contracts.

"Indonesia has a very strong brand identity. I emphasize this because there are new buyers coming in and they will say some crazy things. Sellers like the fact that Pertamina is already in the market and is an established player," he said. Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/08/risk-of-gas-shortage-haunts-indonesia.html

Banking & finance

Tax amnesty's progress slow in third round

Jakarta Post - February 14, 2017

Jakarta – The tax amnesty's progress has been slow in the third round, or final round, as the redemption payment that has been collected since it started in early January only reached Rp 710 billion (US$53.25 million), far from the figures of the previous two rounds. The third round will end in March.

The redemption payment of the first round from July to September reached Rp 97.2 trillion, while the redemption of the second round from October to December reached Rp 6 trillion.

"Many businessmen have not taken part in the tax amnesty. So we will not only target small and medium enterprises (SMEs)," said Finance Ministry's director general of taxation Ken Dwijugiasteadi as reported by tempo.co on Tuesday.

From the third round figure thus far, Rp 460 billion came from individuals of SMEs owners, Rp 160 billion from individuals of non-SMEs owners, Rp 60 billion from non-SMEs institutions and Rp 30 billion from SMEs businesses.

Ken said he would continue to invite people to take part in the tax amnesty. "For those who are considering [taking part], it is better to join the program immediately," he said, adding that the law would be enforced soon after the tax amnesty ends.

Based on Article 18 of the Tax Pardon Law, for those who took part in the tax amnesty but still had part of their wealth unrecorded, the wealth would be treated as new income and the fine would stand at 200 percent, while the wealth for those not taking part in the tax amnesty would also be treated as income. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/14/tax-amnestys-progress-slow-in-third-round.html

Analysis & opinion

Religious warfare and the Jakarta election

New Mandala - February 13, 2017

Indonesian democracy remains susceptible to illiberal tendencies, particularly when politicians use ethno-religious issues as a cudgel in campaigning, instead of their track records and policies, writes Yohanes Sulaiman.

This Wednesday, seven provinces, 76 districts, and 18 cities in Indonesia will hold simultaneous regional elections. Many outsiders, including many Indonesians themselves, could perhaps be forgiven for being under the impression that only Jakarta will hold a ballot.

That is because the current Game of Thrones-worthy drama involving incumbent governor, Basuki Tjahja Purnama, also known as Ahok, his political rivals, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, and Anies Baswedan, and their supporters, is sucking the air from everything else.

There are several reasons why the Jakarta gubernatorial election is gripping the nation.

First is the simple fact that Jakarta is one of the richest provinces in Indonesia, with an annual budget of more than 60 trillion rupiah. Based on estimates from the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (KADIN), more than 70 per cent of the money circulated in Indonesia is in Jakarta. Combined with a lack of supervision and accountability, this could allow significant budget irregularities to take place.

Second, is the fact that Jakarta is the headquarters of many of Indonesia's mass media outlets, including television stations, and online and print media. This provides huge exposure to anything that happens within the city and province's borders.

Surprisingly though, Jakarta's election was not originally seen as that important to anyone with higher political aspirations. The first and second Jakarta gubernatorial elections in 2007 and 2012 were relatively low key affairs, with observers initially believing that that Fauzi "Foke" Wibowo, then the deputy and later the incumbent governor, would coast to reelection.

It is only with the election of Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in 2012 as the governor of Jakarta, and his effective use of media to showcase his impromptu visits to Jakarta slums (blusukan), followed by his winning the Indonesian Presidency in 2014, that the position of Jakarta Governor has suddenly gained greater importance. In fact, the question about whether the role could launch a bid for the presidency was the final question in the first formal Jakarta gubernatorial debate.

As a result, this election has attracted many high-profile candidates who are aiming for higher office, including the incumbent governor himself. Back in 2015, the Jakarta Post speculated whether Ahok could be the potential vice-presidential candidate for Jokowi in 2019. Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, resigned from his promising military career to run for the office with the aim of securing candidacy for the 2019 presidential election. Anies Baswedan, the former Minister of Education, is widely seen as using this election to get his political career back on track, while at the same time, testing the water for Prabowo Subianto's next attempt for the presidency in 2019.

With the stakes so high, it is unsurprising that the campaign has taken an ugly turn, especially on sectarian issues, which always simmer in background. Ahok's loose lips, combined with a crucial deletion in an edited, circulated transcript from a public speech, and which gave the impression that he had insulted the Qur'an, poured oil on a flaming issue, as well as giving ammunition to his political opponents to try and bring down his election campaign. By framing the entire election as Muslim versus non-Muslim candidates, Ahok's political opponents boxed him in, ensuring that the governor could not simply run on his track record. His verbal gaffe has dogged him the entire race. His weekly trials in the Jakarta court have also reminded voters of the issue.

This, in turn, has made the election less of a referendum on Ahok's controversial – and often illiberal – policies, including eviction and forced displacement of the city's poor living illegally on riverbanks. Instead, the vote has come to be seen as a struggle between hard-line religious fanatics versus moderate, pluralistic Indonesia. For Ahok's political opponents, the election has been framed as Muslim versus non-Muslim voters, even though the majority of Jakarta's Muslim population most likely do not think that way.

This led to an interesting paradox in mid-January when a survey by polling group Indikator showed that 75 per cent of respondents were satisfied with Ahok's performance, but his electability was just at 38.2 per cent. It is possible that people will vote differently on Wednesday, with many in the end still choosing Ahok. Anecdotal evidence (based on my casual observations of social media and conversations with taxi drivers, for example) shows that many voters are simply unwilling or afraid to openly show their support for Ahok. A research note by Nathanael Gratias also provides an interesting argument that religious issues don't really matter. Instead it is racism that has a significant impact in lowering Ahok's electability.

Still, while racism could play a role in making people not vote for Ahok, the issue should also be seen in the context of religious warfare. For example, there have been many 'black campaigns' that suggest Ahok's Chinese ethnicity is proof of him being a communist with China providing illegal voters and identity cards to help Ahok win the election. By raising the spectre of Communism, Ahok's opponents paint him as the true enemy of Islam, resurrecting the bogeyman, as well as the memory of a long and bitter fight between the Indonesian Communist Party and Muslim parties like Nadlatul Ulama and Masjumi in the 1950s and 60s.

What is clear is that turning the election into a religious issue has had an impact, as many people fear to be publicly caught on the wrong side of theology. In this case, it is obvious that identity politics works – at least in squelching dissent, and controlling discourse. Moreover, identity politics emboldens religious-based vigilante groups to attack religious minorities, as seen in Bandung, Yogyakarta, and Surabaya in December 2016 until the police decided to crack down on them.

So what are the implications?

First, at least in the short term, political Islam has made a major comeback as a dominant discourse in Indonesia politics. While it has never disappeared, the election of Jokowi as the president had curbed political Islam to some degree, with vigilante groups like the Islamic Defenders' Front laying low – until now. The gubernatorial election has provided an opportunity for these vigilante groups to come out of the woodwork again – with implicit blessings from Ahok's political opponents.

Second, with the Jakarta gubernatorial election seen as a proxy campaign for the 2019 Presidential Election, President Jokowi has been unwittingly dragged in to this Wednesday's vote. Ahok is seen as his proxy and that in turn makes it very difficult for the President and the police to do anything to deal with radicals without someone questioning his motive. Like it or not, opposition against Jokowi will only intensify irrespective of whether Ahok wins or loses. If Ahok wins, Jokowi would be seen as helping Ahok from behind the scenes. If Ahok loses, the radicals will smell blood and would hope to add another scalp in their collection.

Third, Indonesian democracy remains susceptible to illiberal tendencies, where politicians are using ethno-religious issues as a cudgel in campaigning, instead of campaigning on their track records and policies. With the Jakarta gubernatorial election being framed – unfairly or not – as a struggle between Muslim and non-Muslium candidates, should Ahok lose, political Islam will have a much bigger role in the 2019 Presidential election.

[Yohanes Sulaiman is a lecturer at Universitas Jendral Achmad Yani, Cimahi, Bandung. He can be reached at ysulaiman@gmail.com. His Twitter handle is @yohanessulaiman. The author would like to thank Alex Arifianto, Asrudin Azwar, Djayadi Hanan, and Musa Maliki for their helpful comments.]

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/religious-warfare-jakarta-election/

Will religion influence voters' choices in the Jakarta election?

Indonesia at Melbourne - February 13, 2017

Nathanael Gratias Sumaktoyo – How much will religion influence the choice of voters in the Jakarta gubernatorial election scheduled for 15 February?

Following the massive rallies against incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama over his alleged blasphemous remarks, one might assume that religion was the most important factor for electors. On the weekend, for example, an estimated 100,000 Indonesian Muslims gathered for a "mass prayer" at Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta, where they were urged to vote for a Muslim governor. But the data tells another story.

I recently conducted a survey to determine the extent that so-called SARA issues (ethnicity, religion, race, and other social divisions) influence voter support for Ahok. Previous surveys have been unable to answer this question satisfactorily because they ask the wrong questions. They ask respondents: "What are some of the factors that influence your voting preference?" or "Does a candidate's ethnicity or religion influence your support for him?"

This is a nave way to probe such a sensitive issue. Many respondents are unlikely to want to admit that they are swayed by ethnic or religious sentiments. Even if they are not embarrassed, they may not recognise the degree to which unconscious ethnic or religious biases influence their decisions.

To avoid these difficulties, I conducted a survey experiment to estimate the effect of Ahok's ethnicity and religion on voting intention by holding other factors constant through randomisation. The survey was conducted between the middle of November and early December (the peak of anti-Ahok sentiment). A stratified random sampling method was used to obtain a sample of Jakarta residents aged 18 or older. A total of 1,163 Jakarta residents were reached when first contacted by interviewers. I excluded non-Muslim respondents and analysed the results of the 1,016 Muslim respondents who took part. It should be noted that the primary purpose of the survey was not to predict votes for particular candidates, as most surveys do. My primary concern was with the internal validity or causal relationship, and not with the external validity or generalisability of the results. Nonetheless, as the figure below demonstrates, the characteristics of the sample group were largely consistent with the characteristics of the population in Jakarta, which improves confidence in the generalisability of the study.

To conduct the survey, I randomly assigned respondents into five groups, with each respondent belonging only to one group. Each group was presented with a differently worded question. A control group served as a baseline. The control group aimed to assess support for Ahok where they were not explicitly reminded of his religion or ethnicity. Respondents in the 'ethnicity' group were reminded that Ahok is of Chinese descent. The 'religion' group were reminded that Ahok is Christian. The 'ethnicity and religion' group were reminded that Ahok is of Chinese descent and Christian. Finally, the 'religion and ulema' group were reminded that Ahok is Christian and some religious leaders forbid Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim.

Thanks to randomisation, analysis of the results was straightforward. To estimate the effects of reminding respondents of Ahok's ethnicity, religion, and the advice from some religious leaders, we only need to compare levels of support in the four treatment groups against the level of support in the control group. The predicted probabilities of support for Ahok in each group are presented below, shown along with their 95 per cent confidence interval (meaning that if the same population were sampled on multiple occasions, 95 per cent of the time such an interval would cover the true level of support for Ahok – which we do not know unless we ask the whole population). Put simply, if the predicted level of support for Ahok in a group (represented by the dot in the middle of the interval) overlaps with another group's confidence interval, that means that levels of support in the two groups are not statistically different and any apparent difference is likely caused by sampling error.

Baseline support for Ahok was about 30 per cent, as indicated by the level of support in the control group. There is no statistically significant difference between the level of support in the control group and the levels of support of in the last three groups. In other words, reminding respondents that Ahok is a Christian did not significantly decrease or increase support for Ahok. Even respondents who were reminded that some religious leaders forbid Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim leader did not display lower levels of support for Ahok. But there is a 10 per cent decrease in levels of support for Ahok among respondents who were reminded that Ahok is of Chinese descent.

So SARA concerns clearly matter in the Jakarta election. But it is not religion that matters the most – it is ethnicity. More respondents reject Ahok because he is of Chinese descent than because he is Christian.

There has recently been a surge in anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia, particularly online. In December, for example, President Joko Widodo was forced to counter widespread rumours that he had plans to bring in more than 10 million Chinese workers to the country. This anti-Chinese sentiment is partly a legacy of the policies of former President Soeharto, which saw Chinese Indonesians treated like second-class citizens for more than three decades. It has picked up with the rise of Ahok and the growing influence of China in the region.

Religion might matter less in the Jakarta election than one might assume and, for many, that will be reassuring. But that does not mean that Indonesia is doing well. As this short survey experiment demonstrates, anti-Chinese sentiment is potent, and could have serious consequences beyond the election.

Notes about the Survey

The experiment was conducted as part of a larger survey related to the author's dissertation project. The author, in cooperation with a student coordinator, trained and recruited students from a large public university in Depok to conduct the interviews. A standard quality control procedure of visiting 10 per cent and calling 20 per cent of the sample was conducted to check the validity of the interviews.

[Nathanael Gratias Sumaktoyo is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Notre Dame, USA. He previously studied computer science, social psychology, and statistics, and is interested in voting behavior, political psychology, religion and politics, experimental methods, and causal inference.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/will-religion-influence-voters-choices-in-the-jakarta-election-on-15-february/

The head vs the heart in the case against Ahok

New Mandala - February 13, 2017

The ongoing trial against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy is not just a matter of religion and politics – Indonesians' sense of honour and relationships are at stake, writes Esther Kuntjara.

The case against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy has been dragging out in the Indonesian courts since December last year. So far the trial has seen eight different hearings, which have been partially broadcast on several TV channels.

Both those who are pro and contra Ahok have also enthusiastically watched the eight trials and witness testimonies from inside and outside the court, and through social media.

Any legal trial involves norms, legal procedures, and rigid regulations, which are meant to treat everyone equally before the law. Every statement made by the judge, the lawyers, the prosecutor, witnesses and the defendant should follow the norms and regulations of the court. But sometimes even this is not enough to convey the sense of a 'fair trial' – as Ahok and his legal team recently found out.

The eighth trial – a hearing between Ahok's legal team and Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin – has provoked major public anger and backlash against Ahok. The hearing was considered legal and procedural by Ahok's team, but improper by the followers of Ma'ruf Amin. Critics saw it as humiliating and unethical towards an honorable figure, who in Javanese tradition should be respected and not confronted or questioned.

Ma'ruf Amin, after being informed about Ahok's speech concerning the Quranic verse al-Maidah 51, had issued a fatwa condemning the then Jakarta governor of religious defamation. Ma'ruf Amin's role as an important figure among the Islamic community has left many wanting to know how he would defend his fatwa, and thus why the court might have the right to punish Ahok for his deed.

Born in 1943, Ma'ruf Amin came to the court looking quite frail, and sat at the witness stand for over seven hours answering questions. The testimony was not broadcast live. However, it has been reported that in the hearing, Ahok's legal team cornered Ma'ruf Amin in to admitting that the MUI chairman was under political pressure to issue the fatwa, which labeled Ahok's remarks as blasphemous. The hearing also seemed to confirm that Ma'ruf Amin had been influenced by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

While the manner in which Ahok's legal team questioned Ma'ruf Amin is nothing out of the ordinary in day-to-day courtroom practices, Indonesian lay people may not see this logic. Their head may admit that what had been done is right and proper. Their heart, however, may feel that the way in which their respected leader was interrogated, disrespected and humiliated was unjustified – never mind that Ahok's legal team has a responsibility to dig out the truth in order to defend their client. This runs counter to the sensitivity of Javanese people who try to avoid confrontation at all cost. The shaming of an honorable person like Ma'ruf Amin is seen as unpardonable.

Ahok appeared to understand such sensitivity as he immediately issued an apology to Ma'ruf Amin, broadcast to the public the next day.

"I apologise to KH Ma'ruf Amin if I seemed to discredit him as a witness in his capacity as MUI chairman," Ahok said. "I acknowledge that he is a Nahdlatul Ulama elder. And I respect him just like I respect other NU figures like Gus Dur and Gus Mus, whom I honor and admire as models."

Ahok also ensured that he would not report Ma'ruf Amin to the police for his denial about receiving a call from SBY prior to the FPI demonstration against him. SBY later admitted to having called Ma'ruf Amin.

The tension between Ahok and his team, and Ma'ruf Amin seems to have cooled down thanks to the apology and Ma'ruf Amin's forgiveness. The head has been used to reveal what needs to be revealed. The heart has been used to maintain relationships and honour. Both are important for Indonesians.

Meanwhile, Jakarta, the rest of Indonesia and many across the world are still waiting with bated breath to see if it is justice and law that ultimately prevails.

[Esther Kuntjara is Professor in Linguistics and Culture at the Faculty of Letters, Petra Christian University, Surabaya, Indonesia.]

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/the-head-vs-the-heart-in-the-case-against-ahok/

SBY chooses to burn out rather than fade away

Jakarta Post - February 10, 2017

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – The true test of statesmanship oftentimes does not occur when a president is in office, when he or she holds massive power that can be abused or turned as a means to do good. The real test frequently comes when he or she is already out of office.

Being a holdover from the authoritarian New Order era, BJ Habibie was a much-loathed figure during his short stint as president. Students and pro-democracy activists saw him as an accidental president who would steamroll any opposition to prolong the New Order regime. But after his bid for reelection and his attempt to control Golkar failed in 1999, Habibie was quick to realize that his time was gone and decided to step away from the limelight. Today, he is a much-respected figure in the country, playing the role of an elder statesman, often solicited for political wisdom. While in office, Megawati Soekarnoputri was widely seen as an impulsive politician, someone who could put so much emotion into the job of running the country that her memoir was titled "Menangis dan Tertawa Bersama Rakyat" (Crying and Laughing with the People). Early in her retirement, Megawati began to display another trait, a vindictive streak that led her to continue to gripe over her defeat in the 2004 presidential election. But over time she started to wise up. She buried her political ambitions for good and the 2014 presidential election was the moment when she decided to choose what was best for the country, if not the party.

Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid was already a statesman before he became president. He was a cultural leader who engaged in a fight against the New Order, a struggle that had taken its toll on the well-being of his family. His ouster in 2001 only helped to cement his status as a heroic figure in the country's political history. Now, there is a growing call from the public to make him a national hero.

Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, however, is in a league of his own. His life after relinquishing the country's highest office has been hectic, busy and incredibly loud. Soon after stepping down, he decided to take over the Democratic Party leadership after the erstwhile chairman Anas Urbaningrum was arrested for corruption. In early 2016, Yudhoyono and his wife set off on a journey around Java in a trip called "Tour de Java", which was billed officially as a meet-and-greet with his party rank and file. Many, however, saw the outing as a means of testing the water for a possible presidential run for his wife, former first lady Ani Yudhoyono.

In the past two years, Yudhoyono appears to have made no effort to avoid the spotlight and has relished any opportunity to return to the news cycle. In the past few weeks, Yudhoyono has been back in the headlines for his back-and-forth spat with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, especially in his effort to clear his name of the allegations that he was behind the massive rallies against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama over charges of blasphemy late last year.

Last week, Yudhoyono decided to up the ante by accusing the Jokowi government of eavesdropping on his private conversations. In manic Trump-like mode, Yudhoyono threw a fit on Twitter last week, a telltale sign for all of us that despite leaving office two years ago, the former president will not go gently into that good night.

Why has Yudhoyono continued to rage against the dying of the light? While other former presidents have rested on their laurels, why does he continue doing things that make him look petty?

Anyone who followed his presidency knows that Yudhoyono has the ambition to become a world-class statesman. Throughout his presidency, he made moves that he hoped could elevate himself on the global stage. He flew to New York in 2013, to receive an award for religious tolerance from the Appeal for Conscience Foundation, an accolade many at home and overseas felt he did not deserve.

With his diplomatic skill and proficiency in English, Yudhoyono also engaged actively on the United Nations Secretary General's High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 Development Agenda, chairing the panel with then United Kingdom prime minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He was also disappointed by his failure to win the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize despite his role in ending the decades-long conflict in Aceh.

Yudhoyono has a cognitive dissonance problem. He believes he is a world-class statesman, but his actions betray him. He has long spoken about democracy and meritocracy, but he gave the ticket to contest the Jakarta gubernatorial election to his eldest son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono. He talks about decency in politics and aspires to become a leading voice, but has been too active on Twitter and other social media platforms, commenting on issues better left to the government to handle.

Armchair psychoanalysts have long theorized that Yudhoyono is a self-absorbed politician who is too preoccupied with burnishing his own image. This would appear to lie behind his acute obsession with wanting to build harmony and avoiding disharmony at all costs. When serving as president, he was too preoccupied with finding a consensus so that his policies would please everyone.

He liked to be seen as a consensus builder and a solidarity maker, traits he thought were required for him to be regarded as a world statesman. It is perhaps no wonder that he got so little done.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/02/10/commentary-sby-chooses-to-burn-out-rather-than-fade-away.html

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