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Indonesia News Digest 7 – February 15-22, 2017

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West Papua

Indonesian rights violations in Papua triple

UCA News - February 22, 2017

Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta – Human rights violations in Papua more than tripled last year, undermining Indonesian President Joko Widodo's post election pledge to solve longstanding grievances in the restive region, church and rights activists said.

In a report released on Feb. 20 by rights group Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, there were 107 recorded cases of rights violations in 2016, which included arrests, torture, forced dismissals, killings and intimidation.

This was a sharp increase on the 2015 figure where only 30 cases were recorded, the report said.

More than 2,200 civilians were victims of violations, and included the arrest of more than 500 people on Dec. 19 during rallies calling for self-determination. Dec. 19 is the anniversary of Indonesia's invasion of Papua in 1961.

President Joko Widodo's emphasis on economic and infrastructure development, as well as his military approach in dealing with Papuan issues, caused the sharp increase in rights abuses, according to Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chief of the Setara Institute.

"President Widodo claimed that he would take a different approach from those followed by previous presidents. But what happens is that human rights violations continue to occur," he said.

"This is dangerous because it can jeopardize relations between the central government and the Papuan people," he said. It could eventually result in complete lost of trust in the central government, he said.

Father Neles Tebay, coordinator of the Papuan Peace Network, described the human rights situation in the region as "gloomy." The sharp increase in violations showed that "the Papuan people are still regarded as a state enemy that needs to be destroyed," he said.

"Continued violations have strengthened the spirit of nationalism among Papuans," the priest said. "It makes people proud if they can raise the Morning Star flag in public places even though they would end up being arrested and jailed," he said.

Papuans look upon the flag as their national flag. Father Tebay said Papuan people want central government to respect their rights and dignity. He suggested Jakarta should hold dialogues with Papuan people to seek ways to resolve human rights violations.

Source: http://www.ucanews.com/news/indonesian-rights-violations-in-papua-triple/78454

West Papuan refugees on track for PNG citizenship

Radio New Zealand International - February 20, 2017

More than 1000 West Papuan refugees from Indonesia living in Papua New Guinea's Western Province will be granted citizenship.

The Post Courier reported that the immigration minister, Rimbink Pato, was due to make an official announcement soon.

The refugees were due to be granted their certificates two weeks ago, but this was delayed after the chair of Citizenship Advisory Committee, Bob Dadae, was appointed Governor General.

There are estimated to be about 10,000 West Papuan refugees living in PNG, and the newspaper reports that the government was also working to grant citizenship to others in Port Moresby and other areas.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/324902/west-papuan-refugees-on-track-for-png-citizenship

West Papua: Firdaus wins inaugural Pogau award for journalism courage

Pacific Media Centre - February 19, 2017

Jakarta (Pantau Foundation/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch) – A new award has been created for courage in journalism honouring West Papuan editor Oktovianus Pogau who died last year. The inaugural award has been made to freelance reporter Febriana Firdaus, who has extensively covered human rights abuses in Indonesia, says the Pantau Foundation.

"We want to honour our colleague, Oktovianus Pogau, a smart and courageous journalist, who edited Suara Papua news and highlighted human rights reporting. He passed away at a very young age – just 23 years old. We want to honor his legacy by establishing this Oktovianus Pogau award," said Imam Shofwan, chairman of the Pantau Foundation in a speech at a small gathering at his office.

The Pantau Foundation selected Febriana Firdaus, a Jakarta journalist, to receive the inaugural award. Firdaus covered Indonesia's efforts to deal with the 1965-1966 massacres, disappearances and arbitrary detentions. She also covered discrimination, intimidation, and violence against the LGBT community in Indonesia.

"LGBT is a very sensitive subject in Indonesia where many religious communities, including Muslim organisations, still consider homosexuality a psychological disorder. Febriana Firdaus is courageous to stand up for LGBT, to affirm that LGBT is nature, and to expose their side of the story," said Shofwan.

Firdaus was born in 1983 in Kalisat, a small town in eastern Java, and graduated from Airlangga University in Surabaya in 2007. She has worked for Jawa Pos daily, Tempo magazine and Rappler Online.

Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, a former chairman of Indonesia's Press Council and himself an award-winning journalist, presented the award to Firdaus, welcoming the launch of the award and congratulating Firdaus.

'Proto-fascism era'

Allan Nairn, another award-winning journalist based in New York, gave a speech, talking about courage in journalism in Trump's "proto-fascism era." Nairn spoke about the challenges the press faced in covering a president like Donald Trump, who lies constantly yet was also hugely entertaining.

Nairn noted that the US provides a warning to Indonesia because the same proto-fascists that rose to power in the US were also trying to achieve power in Indonesia, although it was not clear whether they would succeed.

On her blog, Firdaus wrote, "This award is not about me or other future winners. This is a gentle reminder of the name Okto Pogau but it's also more than about his name. His name represents the unsolved human rights abuses in Papua. "Every year this award will always remind us about the human rights abuses never addressed in Indonesia since the 1965 massacre."

Oktovianus Pogau was born in Sugapa in the Central Highlands on 5 August 1992 and died on 31 January 2016 in Jayapura. He won an Indonesian writing competition when he was 14 years old, letting him to travel away from his native West Papua and to take part in a writing course in Yogyakarta, Java Island. He learned WordPress and created his own blog when he was 16 years old. He moved to Jakarta in 2010, studying international relations and becoming a freelance journalist.

Peaceful gathering

In October 2011, he covered a peaceful gathering of thousands of Papuan men and women in Jayapura, discussing their political aspiration to be independent from Indonesia.

Indonesian police used excessive force to disperse them. They fired warning shots, beating and kicking indigenous Papuans. Three men died of gunshot wounds, around 600 were detained and five of their leaders were tried and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Pogau was upset when seeing that most Indonesian media did not proportionally cover the abuses. He decided to set up Suara Papua (Papuan Voice) on 10 December 2011 – on international human rights day – to cover rights abuses in West Papua. He made Suara Papua a platform for young Papuans to report and to write their stories.

Pogau also engaged his audience with his sharp political analysis. He used his knowledge and networks to advocate for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for ethnic Papuans. He was also sympathetic to the National Committee of West Papua, a large Papuan youth organisation, which is campaigning for a referendum in West Papua.

In October 2012, when he was covering one of their rallies in Manokwari, he was beaten on a street corner. Several police officers stopped him from taking photos. He suffered bruises and complained.

The West Papua police later apologised but his union, Indonesia's Alliance of Independent Journalists, refused to help him, arguing that Pogau was also an activist and declaring he had crossed the line between journalism and activism.

Restriction on foreign journalists

Pogau wrote extensively about the restriction on foreign journalists visiting West Papua. He protested against the discrimination against indigenous Papuan journalists and the intensive use of journalists, both Indonesian and Papuan, to be military and police informers.

He indirectly contributed to President Joko Widodo in May 2015 declaring the Indonesian bureaucracy would stop restrictions on foreign journalists covering West Papua. Jokowi's command has not been fulfilled completely.

He travelled to the US in December 2015, writing about African-Americans dealing with violence and about the similarity of the harsh treatment of Papuans.

The jurors of the award included Alexander Mering (Kampong Journalism Movement in Pontianak, Kalimantan), Andreas Harsono (researcher at Human Rights Watch in Jakarta, Java), Coen Husain Pontoh (chief editor at Indo Progress news portal in New York), Made Ali (environmentalist at Jikalahari in Pekanbaru, Sumatra), Yuliana Lantipo (editor at Jubi daily in Jayapura, West Papua).

The mandate of this award is to exclude a financial gift and a generous ceremony, hoping that it will be sustainable and making jurors concentrate only in selecting a winner. The award is to be announced every year on January 31.

When presenting the award, Imam Shofwan talked about his personal experience with Pogau: "Once he called me on my mobile and I heard gunshots in the background. I told him to run but he kept on talking, asking me to tweet. He continuously tried to bring out rights abuses in Papua. He died young but his courage should inspire other journalists."

Source: http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/pacific-media-watch/west-papua-firdaus-wins-inaugural-pogau-award-journalism-courage-9809

Papua residents preserve 'noken' system

Jakarta Post - February 17, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Dogiyai, Papua – While voters across the archipelago went to polling stations to cast their votes in the simultaneous regional elections on Wednesday, it was a different scene in Dogiyai regency, Papua.

Polling stations (TPS) set up in some areas appeared empty. No residents were spotted queuing at TPS, and only a few officials were seen.

Such a situation occurred as residents had already exercised their right to vote under the noken mechanism. In the noken system, residents conduct musyawarah, bringing everybody together to make decisions by consensus. Individual voters do not go to TPS to vote. Instead, tribal leaders visit the TPS to lodge votes to represent every member of their respective communities.

"Every candidate was given a certain portion because each of them is the best representative from their region," said Dinan Anou, head of Dikiyouwa village in Kamu district.

"[On election day] residents worked as usual. There were only some officials at the village center to count the votes," Dinan continued, adding that giving votes to each candidate was important to maintain harmony and peace in the village.

Four tickets ran for this year's Dogiyai regental election, namely Yacubos Dumapa-Oskar Makai, Anton Yowau-Yanuaris Tigi, Fransesco Tebay-Benediktus Kotouki and Markus WayneAngki Goo. In total, there were 129,907 voters across 292 TPS in 79 villages or 10 districts.

In Dikiyouwa, the biggest portion was given to the TebayKotouki ticket with 1,039 votes, followed by Dumupa-Makai with 350 votes, Wayne-Goo with 196 votes and Yowau-Tigi with 100 votes.

"Pak Tebay received the most votes because he's a point of pride for Kamu district. Other candidate pairs are neighbors so we gave them votes too. We did not forget our neighbors," said Dinan Anou.

The Tebay-Makai ticket similarly earned the most votes in Kimipugi village, also in Kamu, garnering 2,800 votes because Tebay was considered a point of pride for the district.

Voting through the noken system was held two to three days before election day set by the government on Feb. 15. As every resident "voted" during musyawarah, they did not have to visit TPS.

At around 6 a.m. officials from the TPS in Dikiyouwa were already at the village center, waiting for village heads to report their decisions. The officials later marked ballot papers based on residents' decisions. Witnesses from each candidate's campaign team also attended the recapitulation.

None of the ink usually used to mark voters' fingers after voting was required. The ballots were later delivered to the Kamu Elections Committee (PPD), accompanied by villagers.

"We have done this for a long time. The [election] officials already knew what they had to do. Residents have already made their decisions," said Dinan.

Dogiyai General Elections Commission (KPU Dogiyai) head Moses Magai said many villagers were in fact reluctant to go to TPS to perforate ballots as they were afraid of making mistakes, while others could not read.

"Many elderly people cannot read or see well so they are afraid of mistakenly perforating the wrong candidates' pictures. This might lead to a problem," said Moses.

On election day, no security issues were reported in Dogiyai during voting hours, despite the area being considered prone to conflict.

Papua Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) coordinator Yacob Paisei said that although it differed from a one-man-one-vote system as it was carried out through musyawarah, the noken mechanism still had democratic value as musyawarah was part of the country's democracy.

"It would take an intensive campaign to encourage residents to do a one-man-one-vote system at polling stations because it would be hard for them to move away from their traditions," Yacob said.

However, the noken system may be put aside if too many candidates run in an election as that could make it hard for villagers to reach a decision, said Dogiyai Customary Institution secretary Alexander Koga.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/17/papua-residents-preserve-noken-system-1487294158.html

West Papua media access still fettered – PFF

Radio New Zealand International - February 16, 2017

The Pacific Freedom Forum says Indonesia is yet to deliver on its promise of full and free access for journalists to West Papua just months out from Jakarta hosting World Press Freedom day.

Indonesia opened access to West Papua for foreign journalists in 2015, more than 50 years after annexing the territory from the Netherlands.

The Forum's co-chair, the Papua New Guinean journalist, Alex Rheeney, said a visit by journalists to West Papua in January encountered violence, sexual harassment and interference from Indonesian minders.

"The findings that have come out recently from Papua by the group of journalists who went in, does not show that the Indonesian government is taking the undertaking that it's given to the international community, to give journalists access to West Papua freely and without any strings attached."

Alex Rheeney said the journalists were most likely obstructed when trying to report on the independence movement of West Papua's indigenous population.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/324673/west-papua-media-access-still-fettered-pff

Press freedom investigation in Papua highlights challenges for local

Engage Media - February 15, 2017

Tara Nissl – Eight journalists from eight Indonesian media outlets traveled to West Papua last week to investigate media freedom and the safety of journalists in the region, after an international delegation called on Indonesia to address press freedom violations in 2015.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) launched the investigation on January 30 in Jayapura, Merauke and Timika, where the Media Freedom Committee-Indonesia followed local journalists from Papuan news organisations for five days.

WAN-IFRA's Asian Regional Manager Eko Maryadi said: "We expect the program to send eight reporters from Jakarta, from non-Papuans to do reporting, that they can understand the issues, difficulties, and problems faced by journalists in Papua."

The Committee reported eight key findings:

More detailed reports were documented on the Committee's blog, featuring daily updates and interviews with journalists from Tabloid Jubi, Papua Salam, Mongabay.co.id and many more.

Journalists from the Papua South Post shared stories about police and government intimidation, including two publication bans in 2007 and 2008, being threatened with criminal law, and a prohibition on reporting on President Joko Widodo's Merauke investment program.

A journalist in Timika recalled a terrifying experience of being held at knifepoint and then stabbed. Another pointed to the difficulties faced by female journalists and the prevalence of sexual harassment.

The investigation marks one month before Indonesia will host the World Press Freedom Day in Jakarta on March 3, an honourable hosting position that the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) criticised Indonesia for holding due to ongoing restrictions and violations in Papua.

In July 2016, PFF Chair Titi Gabi urged Jakarta to "ensure that there is open access to West Papua for foreign media, and an end to abuses against local media."

Whether any changes will be made in the near future is questionable. Just recently, Suara Papua's website was blocked for SARA and publishing "negative" content, despite the government insisting that it does not censor journalistic websites.

Source: https://www.engagemedia.org/blog/press-freedom-investigation-papua-challenges-for-local-journalists

Government invests Rp 7.6t in infrastructure in Papua, W. Papua

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2017

Jakarta – Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono says the government has invested Rp 7.6 trillion (US$371 million) to develop infrastructure and housing in Papua and West Papua, including roads to improve access to isolated areas.

The projects, which are stipulated in Presidential Regulation No. 3/2016 on national strategic projects, include the development of a trans-Papua road, road construction in areas near the border with Papua New Guinea and other projects in Skouw, Jayapura.

"The development of Papua is not only aimed at opening up isolated areas, but also at lowering prices," said Basuki, as reported by tempo.co on Wednesday.

The projects were part of the government's efforts to reduce the socio-economic disparity between western and eastern parts of the country, he added.

Four of the government's designated 35 strategic development regions (WPS) are in the provinces of Papua and West Papua: namely road development on the routes Sorong-Manokwari, Manokwari-Bintuni, Nabire-Enarotali-Wamena and Jayapura-Merauke.

"The development of infrastructure aims to reduce regional and economic disparity. The roads will accelerate movement in the areas; improve security and lower the prices of commodities," he added. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/government-invests-rp-7-6t-in-infrastructure-in-papua-w-papua.html


Bomb threats, intimidation suspected in Aceh elections

Jakarta Post - February 17, 2017

Jakarta – Election watchdog Aceh Elections Observer Coalition (KPPA) says it found 19 alleged violations during the election of regional heads in 16 areas across Aceh from Feb. 14 to Feb. 15.

KPPA spokesperson Aryos Nivada said Bireun and Pidie regencies had the highest number of violations, recording four cases each.

Three violations were found in Aceh Besar while East Aceh recorded two cases. Meanwhile, six other areas, Banda Aceh, Langsa, Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, Pidie Jaya and West Aceh, recorded one case each.

"Monitoring was conducted in 16 regencies and municipalities considered vulnerable to fraud and election violations. They were also among the areas most prone to security threats," said Aryos as quoted by kompas.com on Thursday.

Aryos said not all polling stations could be monitored because of limited personnel and funds. Among violations found were bomb threats ahead of the elections, intimidation of political rivals, local polling administrators (KPPS) attempting to influence voters, vote-buying, double voting and KPPS found to have not distributed C6 forms (invitations to vote).

"Vote-buying attempts were suspected in Deah Ujong Baroh village, Trienggadeng district, Pidie Jaya regency, at 12:57 a.m. local time on Feb.15. At that time, several cars entered villages and visited campaign team members of the Aceh governor and deputy governor candidate pair number 5," said Aryos, referring to candidate pair Muzakir Manaf-TA Khalid.

The KPPA said it would report its findings to the Aceh Voters Supervisory Committee (Panwaslih) and called on the Integrated Law Enforcement Center (Gakkumdu), especially the police, to follow up on the reports. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/17/bomb-threats-intimidation-suspected-in-aceh-elections.html

Military ties

TNI, U.S. military discuss intelligence

Tempo.co - February 22, 2017

Yohanes Paskalis, Jakarta – The Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, accepted the Commanding General of the United States Army Pacific, General Robert Brown, in an official visitation to strengthen the military partnership between Indonesia and the United States.

General Gatot mentioned the importance of sharing intelligence possessed by both countries. "TNI must work together with the U.S. regarding terrorism, especially since ISIS groups have expanded outside of their region which includes the Southeast Asian region," Gatot said on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

According to him, there are currently two crucial trading routes that are prone to terrorist attacks, which are the Malacca Strait and Makassar Strait. These are the regions where the exchange in intelligence would be most essential.

General Gatot also discussed the partnerships in the education sector, which also acts as a military strengthening tool for both countries. "There would be more TNI personnel exchanges to participate in the training, either in the military or with other U.S. institutions," he said.

There are other military exchanges that can be conducted between both countries, such as the Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE).

Chief Staff of the Indonesian Army, General Mulyono, has purchased a U.S' Black Hawk as a tactical transport helicopter due to Indonesia's experience in utilizing a number of U.S. weapons system. He also appreciates U.S. army's support at the other weaponry systems, such as the F-16 Fighting Falcon and Apache AH-64 chopper, that have been given to Indonesia.

Brown assures that the procurement of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters for Indonesia will meet no challenges since it has been approved by the U.S. "I am certain that the support will be a useful partnership for both sides," he stated.

General Brown views that the meeting is useful in strengthening the stability and safety of the Pacific region.

He claims that the U.S views Indonesia as something special and also says that the military partnership with the Indonesian Army, Navy, and Air Force will continue in the future. "[Our] highest praise and appreciation for TNI's support in a number of [activities] and the Garuda Shield joint exercise."

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/02/22/055849118/TNI-US-Military-Discuss-Intelligence

Human rights & justice

Australia sued for allegedly jailing Indonesian juveniles for people

Sydney Morning Herald - February 23, 2017

Jewel Topsfield and Karuni Rompies, Jakarta – The Australian government is being sued for $103 million for allegedly jailing Indonesian juveniles for people smuggling in adult prisons or holding them in immigration detention between 2008 and 2012.

The class action, which began in the Central Jakarta District Court on Thursday, comes as the Commonwealth admitted in Western Australia this week that evidence used to demonstrate an Indonesian was an adult and not a child in a 2010 people smuggling case was unreliable.

Lawyer Lisa Hiariej told Fairfax Media the class action in Jakarta was being launched on behalf of 31 boys under the age of 18 who were jailed in adult prisons and a further 84 who were held in immigration detention.

She said the Australian government had refused to pay compensation even though the boys had been detained for between three months and two years and nine months. At the time the federal government had a policy of not prosecuting Indonesian boat crew who were children and sending them home.

Muhammad Rasid told Fairfax Media he was working as a crew member on a boat in 2010 when he was promised 20 million rupiah ($2000) by the captain to "bring goods" from Muara Karang in West Jakarta to a regency in South Sumatra. He was 16 at the time. "I wasn't suspicious, I needed money," Mr Rasid told Fairfax Media.

Mr Rasid said they were in Central Javan waters when they were approached by three smaller boats carrying nine men of Middle Eastern appearance. "The captain said: 'Hurry, hurry'." They sailed to Christmas Island where their boat was burnt down and they were held in immigration detention.

Mr Rasid said he was initially held in juvenile detention in Darwin but was then transferred to Silverwater jail in Sydney after an X-ray determined he was born in 1988. He said he did not have a birth certificate with him that would have shown he was born on November 3, 1994. The method of using wrist X-rays to determine age has now been completely discredited.

"My mum passed away when I was still in Australia," Mr Rasid said. He said his father passed away three months after he returned to Indonesia in October 2011.

Ms Hiariej said the Australian government considered the case settled because the children had been freed from jail and were now back in Indonesia.

"But for the children the case is not yet over because no compensation has been paid," she said. "While in Australia there are many instances where people who were wrongfully jailed received compensation.

In a letter seen by Fairfax Media dated February 25, 2016, Anthony Coles, an assistant secretary in the Attorney-General's Department, responded to Ms Hiariej's request for compensation for Indonesians she alleged to have been minors.

"The Australian government carefully considers the appropriate management and safety of all individuals detained in connection with people smuggling offences, including those who claim to be minors," he wrote.

"In consideration of the information provided above and the response I provided to you on 19 January 2016 I believe the matter is settled." Mr Coles also wrote that he "respectfully declined" a meeting between Ms Hiariej and Commonwealth officials.

Presiding Judge Ibnu Basuki Widodo said the four defendants in the case were the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Federal Police, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General's Department.

"We have summoned them but nobody showed up," Judge Widodo said. He adjourned the trial until May 30 to give the Australian parties three months to respond.

Meanwhile, at a hearing in the Western Australian Criminal Court of Appeal on February 20, the Commonwealth conceded that evidence which found Indonesian Ali Jasmin was 18 at the time of his trial was "legally unsafe".

Ali Yasmin, also known as Ali Jasmin, spent two years in Western Australia's maximum security prison in Albany after being convicted as an adult on people smuggling charges in 2010.

He was just 14 when he was convicted. The court relied on a wrist X-ray to determine his age even though the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions had a legalised copy of his birth certificate that stated he was still a child.

A 2012 Australian Human Rights Commission Inquiry called An Age of Uncertainty found there were many young Indonesians whose ages were incorrectly assessed and who consequently experienced significant breaches of their rights.

It said there were 15 cases where young Indonesians were convicted but it was later established by Australian authorities that there was doubt about whether they were adults at the time of their apprehension.

The inquiry found the Australian Federal Police were aware of material that called into question reliance on wrist X-ray analysis but continued to use the procedure as a means of age assessment.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/australia-sued-for-allegedly-jailing-indonesian-juveniles-for-people-smuggling-20170223-guk1uc.html

Activists accuse PTUN judges of misconduct in Munir case ruling

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2017

Ina Parlina, Jakarta – Despite their recent defeat at the Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN Jakarta), human rights campaigners will continue to push for justice surrounding the murder of activist Munir Said Thalib.

They turned to the Judicial Commission, an external oversight body that monitors judges, on Tuesday afternoon to file a report against the panel of judges at the administrative court who examined a petition on the murder that occurred 12 years ago.

In its ruling on Feb. 16, the court annulled a Central Information Commission (KIP) ruling delivered last October, which stated that an investigative report into Munir's murder case – submitted by the now-defunct fact-finding team established by then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005 – constituted public information that needed to be disclosed.

The court ruled in favor of the State Secretariat, which challenged the KIP's decision. Last year, a dispute related to the report was filed jointly by the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Munir's widow Suciwati and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.

The PTUN Jakarta concluded that there was no evidence supporting the notion that the findings had been handed over to the State Secretariat to be archived.

"We believe there were irregularities in the PTUN process. For instance, the hearing was conducted behind closed-doors," said Putri Kanesia from Kontras on Tuesday.

The brouhaha over the missing documents has turned into a blame-game between supporters of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Yudhoyono. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/21/activists-accuse-ptun-judges-of-misconduct-in-munir-case-ruling.html

Activists to appeal court ruling blocking access to files on Munir

Jakarta Globe - February 19, 2017

Jakarta – Activists will soon file an appeal with the Supreme Court against a ruling that overturned the state information body's order to declassify the documents on the long-unsolved murder of prominent human rights defender Munir Said Thalib.

The State Secretariat, which is believed to be in possession of the files, has not obeyed the Public Information Commission's command to make them public in October.

The Jakarta State Administrative Court has overturned the commission's order on Thursday (16/02). According to human rights activists, the verdict legalizes state crime.

"The verdict confirms that the state, through its various instruments, keeps on covering Munir's case. We will file an appeal," Munir's wife Suciwati told the press in Jakarta on Saturday (18/02).

"The ruling has been surrounded by irregularities; the panel of judges did not examine the case openly, but only invited related parties to the verdict reading," she added.

Thursday's ruling has raised the ire of human rights activists, who have already been angered by the State Secretariat's claim that it does not know the whereabouts of the files.

The secretariat is tasked with providing administrative assistance to the president. Activists insist that the case files were submitted by a fact-finding team to former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in June 2005.

Munir was poisoned with arsenic during a layover in Singapore in 2004 before boarding a flight to Amsterdam.

Former pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was sentenced to 14 years in prison for premeditated murder, however, the masterminds behind the murder remain unknown. The results of the fact-finding team's investigation have never been made public.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/activists-appeal-court-ruling-blocking-access-files-munir-murder-case/

Government doesn't need to disclose Munir assassination findings: Court

Jakarta Post - February 16, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Efforts to resolve the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib once again hit a stumbling block, as a provincial court annulled on Thursday the Public Information Commission's (KIP) ruling that obliged the state to reveal the case's investigative report by a fact-finding team.

The Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) has ruled in favor of the State Secretariat that challenged the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), which jointly filed a public information request with Munir's widow Suciwati and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) to the KIP in April.

PUTN judge Tri Cahya Indra Permana said the panel of judges concluded that there was no evidence that the investigative findings submitted to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005 had been handed over to the State Secretariat to be archived.

"The government does not yet have to disclose the findings on Munir's death as referred to in Presidential Decree No. 111/2004 on the fact-finding team because [the document] is not in possession of the plaintiff [State Secretary]," presiding judge Wenceslaus said when reading out the ruling, adding that "the KIP's ruling dated Oct. 10, 2016, that is being disputed, therefore is declared annulled."

The KIP stipulated on Oct. 10, 2016, that all the findings on the case submitted to the government in 2005 was public information that should be disclosed. The KIP specifically told the State Secretariat to reveal all requested information as it was in charge of the government's administrative paperwork, including documents sent to the president. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/16/government-doesnt-need-to-disclose-munir-assassination-findings-court.html

Freedom of speech & expression

Police terminate investigation into UI lecturer's alleged blasphemy

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police have issued an investigation termination warrant (SP3) on a case of alleged blasphemy involving Ade Armando, a lecturer of Communication Sciences at the University of Indonesia (UI).

The director of the police's special crime investigation unit, Sr. Comr. Wahyu Hadiningrat, said investigators could not find indications of criminal activity in the case, which prompted them to terminate their investigation.

"The warrant was issued after we investigated several witnesses. Language, criminal law and information and electronic transactions experts concluded there were no criminal elements in the case," said Wahyu as quoted by kompas.com on Monday.

He said it was possible for the police to issue an SP3 after Ade had been named a suspect in the case.

The police summoned Ade for questioning twice, the first of which was in 2015 before he was named a suspect. "If criminal elements cannot be found, it is possible to issue an SP3," said Wahyu.

The case began when Ade wrote a statement that read "Allah is not Arabic" on his Facebook account in May 2015.

"On my Facebook status on May 20, 2015, I stated 'God is not Arabic. God must be very happy if His verses are read in Minang style, Sumatran style etc'," the lecturer said during a questioning at the Jakarta Police headquarters in June last year.

Ade said he made the online post in response to Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin's plan to hold an Indonesian-style Quran recitation competition.

On May 23, 2015, a Twitter user identified as Johan Khan under the account @CepJohan reported Ade to the Jakarta Police. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/20/police-terminate-investigation-into-ui-lecturers-alleged-blasphemy.html

Political parties & elections

With Oesman at helm, DPD members flock to Hanura Party

Jakarta Post - February 22, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Bogor – The Hanura Party has inaugurated 17 members of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) as its new executives.

Among the new cadres are Bali DPD member I Gede Pasek Suardika, North Sumatra's Benny Pasaribu, South Sumatra's Abdul Aziz and East Java DPD member Ahmad Nawardi. They only joined the party a few months ago.

The 17 are only part of more than 50 DPD members joining the party following the election of Oesman Sapta Odang, a DPD member from West Kalimantan, as Hanura chairman in December last year.

Oesman said after the inauguration ceremony in Bogor, West Java, on Wednesday that the participation of DPD members in the party would strengthen the DPD, which is striving to get lawmaking powers that currently rest exclusively with the House of Representatives.

"The participation of DPD members in the party won't disrupt their work as [regional representatives], quite the contrary, it will strengthen the DPD, because now the DPD members have a political faction to represent their voice," Oesman told The Jakarta Post.

Ahmad Nawardi told the Post that the party would increase the bargaining power of the DPD vis-a-vis the House. "Our membership in the party will strengthen the DPD itself. I'm sure it won't create any conflict of interest, because we are willing to follow Oesman, who doesn't show too much ambition for power," Ahmad said. (ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/22/with-oesman-at-helm-dpd-members-flock-to-hanura-party.html

Record high turnout in Jakarta poll

Jakarta Post - February 18, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Voter turnout in the first round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Feb. 15 reached 77.1 percent of 7.2 million registered voters, according to the real vote count conducted by the General Elections Commission (KPU), which was completed on Friday night.

This is the highest voter turnout recorded in Jakarta since the capital first held direct gubernatorial elections in 2007. It is also the highest turnout in any election in the country since 2004.

KPU Jakarta chairman Sumarno said on Friday the high voter turnout was good for democracy. He said a number of factors had generated the high participation, including the massive media coverage of the election and the profiles of the candidates.

"Voters liked the candidates. Only 23 percent did not cast votes, which is still good," Sumarno told reporters in Jakarta.

Voter participation in the capital had shown a declining trend in previous elections. During the 2007 race, voter turnout only reached 66 percent, worrying observers that the quality of democracy was eroding in the city.

Voter turnout decreased to 65 percent in the first round of the 2012 gubernatorial election and then climbed slightly to 68 percent in the runoff election, which saw now-President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo emerge victorious.

KPU Jakarta commissioner Dahlia Umar predicted the second round of this year's gubernatorial race would record an even higher turnout than the first round. She promised the commission would improve services to ensure that those who could not vote in the first round due to technical glitches would be able to vote in the second round.

The election on Wednesday changed many politically apathetic Jakartans, said Adi Prayitno, a political observer at the Islamic State University Syarif Hidayatullah.

Many of the voters used to be people who stayed away from politics. In this election, however, voters shifted and became enthusiastic about the democratic process, he added. "This is because of the magnitude of the candidates," Adi told The Jakarta Post.

According to Adi's observations, several ethnic groups who were apolitical in the past suddenly became aware of politics.

The Post previously reported that some Jakartans staying abroad had intentionally returned to vote and those who had planned to travel canceled their plans in order to vote.

He said more people turning up at polling stations to cast a vote, regardless of motivation, indicated a healthy democracy. "And there was no significant conflict on the day," he said.

Masykurudin Hafidz, the national coordinator of the People's Voter Education Network (JPPR), an NGO that educates voters on the importance of elections, echoed Adi's opinion.

"The majority of voters voted because they are rational. They voted on the programs offered by the candidates. Sectarianism did not really matter," he told the Post.

Masykurudin said sectarianism had, to some extent, contributed to the increase in voter participation this year, but it was not a significant factor.

During the campaign period from late October last year to early this month, the Jakarta election was marred by sectarianism, especially after Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and a Chinese-Indonesian, was accused of blasphemy.

Jakarta's voter turnout was slightly above the 77 percent national voter participation target set by the KPU for all 101 regional elections. The real vote count in many regions is still ongoing, but some regions are showing a lower voter turnout than the KPU target.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/18/record-high-turnout-in-jakarta-poll.html

No sole candidate loses elections

Jakarta Post - February 17, 2017

Jakarta – All sole candidates running for regional head in the 2017 elections have won a majority in their respective areas, the General Elections Commission (KPU) has reported.

Based on a preliminary KPU vote count, all sole candidates in nine regions were chosen over blank boxes on ballots in the Feb. 15 election day, kompas.com has reported.

Data published on the commission's official website on Friday morning shows that although the calculation of recapitulation documents, or C1 forms, was not complete, there were indications that sole candidates emerged the winners.

Most sole candidates won more than 70 percent of the vote in their respective areas.

In West Tulang Bawang, Lampung, incumbent candidate pair Umar Ahmad and Fauzi Hasan won 96.75 percent of the vote. Karolin Margret Natasa and Herculanus Heriadi, the candidate pair from Landak, West Kalimantan, secured 96.62 of the vote.

Buton Regent Samsu Umar Abdul Samiun, who has been detained by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), also won more than a half of the vote. With his running mate, La Bakry, Umar secured 27,512 votes, or 55.08 percent of the vote.

As of Friday noon, four regions had not completed the calculation of their C1 forms. They are Central Maluku (Maluku), Jayapura (Papua), Sorong (West Papua) and Tambrauw (West Papua). (ebf)

Below is a list of regions with completed C1 form calculations:

1. West Tulang Bawang (Lampung) – Umar Ahmad and Fauzi Hasan 167,284 votes (96.75 percent), blank box 5,625 votes (3.25 percent)

2. Tebing Tinggi (North Sumatra) – Umar Zunaidi Hasibuan and Oki Doni Siregar 41,937 votes (71.39 percent), blank box 16,807 votes (28.61 percent)

3. Buton (Southeast Sulawesi) – Samsu Umar Abdul Samiun and La Bakry 27,512 votes (55.08 percent), blank box 22,438 votes (44.92 percent)

4. Landak (West Kalimantan) – Karolin Margret Natasa and Herculanus Heriadi 226,378 votes (96.62 percent), blank box 7,910 votes (3.38 percent)

5. Pati – Haryanto and Saiful Arifin 519,688 votes (74.52 percent), blank box 177,682 votes (25.48 percent).

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/17/no-sole-candidate-loses-elections.html

Jakarta records highest number of violations in 2017 elections: Bawaslu

Jakarta Post - February 17, 2017

Jakarta – The Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) has said Jakarta recorded the highest number of violations during the gubernatorial election on Feb. 15.

Bawaslu staff expert Rikson Nababan said the agency found 97 violations during the Jakarta election. "It is the highest compared to six other provinces holding gubernatorial elections," said Rikson as quoted by kompas.com during a press conference on Thursday.

Bawaslu said 26 of the cases were related to the final voter list (DPT) while 18 involved election materials. Forty cases reported were mistakes in electoral procedure while five involved alleged attempts by election officials to influence voters. Eight cases of vote-buying were reported in Jakarta.

Among provinces holding elections, Banten had the second highest number of violations with 68 cases, Bawaslu said. Bangka Belitung recorded 30 violations while Aceh and West Papua had 25 and 22 cases, respectively. Meanwhile, Gorontalo reported 14 cases while 11 cases occurred in West Sulawesi, making the latter the province with lowest number of election violations.

Bawaslu commissioner Daniel Zuchron said all violations would be followed up and investigated. He ensured that investigation and legal proceedings against the perpetrators would not disrupt vote recapitulation.

"We continue to investigate the cases, especially extreme cases in Jakarta, where many voters were not registered for the Feb. 15 election," said Daniel. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/17/jakarta-records-highest-number-of-violations-in-2017-elections-bawaslu.html

Safety fears, bad weather and apathy blamed for low voter turnout in

Jakarta Globe - February 16, 2017

Jakarta – Polling stations in various parts of Indonesia reported poor voter turnout in the simultaneous regional elections on Wednesday (15/02).

The General Elections Commission (KPU) in Papua said that while the elections ran smoothly in the 11 districts and cities in the province, voter turnout in Jayapura was particularly low.

"This has become a concern; is it because of a lack of publicity, or did they simply choose not to go to the polling stations?" Papua KPU head Adam Arisoy said on Wednesday.

His statement was echoed by the police, who said there were surprisingly few election-related incidents in the province, possibly due to the low voter turnout.

Papua Police chief Brig. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw said only a few incidents were reported, such as the theft of ballot boxes by candidates in Puncak Jaya, and allegations of money politics in Mappi and Jayapura districts.

On the western side of the archipelago meanwhile, heavy downpours during most of Wednesday morning discouraged voters in Pangkalpinang, Bangka Belitung, from going to the polls.

"There are many factors that could cause a low voter turnout, but the heavy rain that fell from the morning until noon is probably the main reason," Haidiyati, head of the election committee at Semabung Lama polling station, told Antara news agency.

Haidayati said only 190 of the 323 registered voters showed up on election day. At the polling station in Opas Indah subdistrict, only 182 of the 426 showed up and in Gedung Nasional subdistrict, only 127 out of 276.

At less than 60 percent, voter turnout in Bekasi district, West Java, was 15 percent lower than expected. "The participation rate target of 77.5 percent set by the organizers was hard to achieve," West Java Deputy Governor Deddy Mizwar said.

Deddy said the fact that Wednesday had been declared a public holiday possibly meant that many potential voters decided to engage in leisure activities instead.

"If it's a holiday, their excuse [for not voting] would be that they wanted to relax; if it was not a holiday, their excuse would be that they were too busy with work," he said.

Political consultancy Jaringan Suara Indonesia (JSI) confirmed this assertion, saying that it recorded a voter turnout of only 57.03 percent in Bekasi district. This was ascribed to residents' general lack of interest in the role of district heads.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/safety-fears-bad-weather-and-apathy-blamed-for-low-voter-turnout-in-regional-elections/

Hundreds of 'money politics' cases reported ahead of regional elections

Jakarta Globe - February 15, 2017

Jakarta – At least 600 "money politics" cases have been reported ahead of the Feb. 15 simultaneous elections in 101 regions across the country, and more and more as the elections near, Indonesia's Election Supervisory Agency, or Bawaslu, announced on Tuesday (14/02).

"Money politics" are cases when politicians give out cash or goods – usually staple foods – to curry favor from voters.

There were a "massive" number of money politics cases observed during the three-day "quiet period" before the elections that started on Sunday, Bawaslu Chairman Muhammad said.

"According to reports we received, there were so many [money politics cases] and they happened in nearly all the regions [taking part in the election]," Muhammad said in Jakarta.

The Bawaslu is investigating whether or not the cash and goods giveaways are linked to candidates in the elections. "If we found evidence linking them with money politics, we will use our authority to disqualify them, even if they had won," Muhammad said.

Millions of Indonesians in seven provinces, 18 cities and 76 cities across the country are set to go to the polls on Wednesday.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/hundreds-money-politics-cases-reported-ahead-regional-elections/

Police officer arrested for alleged smear campaign in Cimahi

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2017

Arya Dipa, Bandung – A police officer and another suspect have been arrested over an alleged smear campaign just hours before voting for a new mayor and deputy mayor began in Cimahi, West Java, on Wednesday.

The head of the Cimahi Elections Supervisory Committee's (Panwaslu) unit for violation prevention and inter-organizational relations, Yus Sutaryadi, said the committee was investigating the two suspects for circulating pamphlets containing defamatory assertions on one of the three candidate pairs contesting the election.

"We received short text messages on the matter from residents, so we launched an investigation. They said the perpetrators had distributed pamphlets with provocative messages about one of the candidate pairs," Yus explained.

He added the pamphlets had been spread in several areas, such as Cibeber, Leuwigajah and Melong. "We brought [the perpetrators] to the police station. We are detaining them at the Panwaslu office, as we look further into the case," said Yus.

Separately, West Java Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Yusri Yunus said one suspect, identified as YG, was a police officer. He was arrested along with RS, a member of a candidate's campaign team. "He [YG] is the bodyguard of one of the candidates. He is being interrogated," said Yusri.

YG and the other suspect allegedly circulated pamphlets detailing corruption cases that implicated incumbent candidate Atty Suharti, who is running with Achmad Zulkarnain in the election.

Supported by the Golkar Party, the Prosperous Justice Party and the NasDem Party, the Atty-Achmad duo is competing with Asep Hadad Didjaya-Irma Indriani, who are backed by the Democratic Party and the Gerindra Party, as well as Ajay M. Priyatna-Ngatiyna, supported by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the National Awakening Party (PKB), the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN). (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/police-officer-arrested-for-alleged-smear-campaign-in-cimahi.html

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

Tjahjo Kumolo remains firm on decision not to suspend Ahok

Jakarta Post - February 22, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo stood firm on his decision to continue to allow Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to keep hold of his post despite criticism saying that the governor should have been suspended due to his status as a defendant.

Speaking before lawmakers from the House of Representatives Commission II overseeing regional administrations on Wednesday, Tjahjo said he would accept all responsibility should his decision turn out to be legally problematic.

The politician from the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) asserted that Ahok's position as governor would depend on the prison term demanded by prosecutors in his ongoing blasphemy trial.

Tjahjo criticized lawmakers who accused him of siding with Ahok, who is running for reelection with the backing of a coalition of parties led by the PDI-P.

Yandri Susanto of the National Mandate Party (PAN), one of four parties that have demanded Ahok's suspension, for example, had actively been criticizing the government for keeping Ahok at his post despite his status as a blasphemy defendant.

"I don't have any business with Ahok. I am defending the President in this case. I am ready to leave my job should my decision prove to be wrong," Tjahjo said. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/22/tjahjo-kumolo-remains-firm-on-decision-not-to-suspend-ahok.html

Public has legal standing to report Ahok for blasphemy: Expert

Jakarta Post - February 22, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – A criminal law expert testified on Tuesday that people who watched the video of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama referencing a Quranic verse in Thousand Islands regency had a legal standing to report Ahok to the police for blasphemy, refuting an earlier defense from Ahok's lawyers that the report should have been submitted by eyewitnesses.

Ahok was reported to the police by 14 people who only knew of Ahok's speech from the viral video. None of the Thousand Islands residents who listened to Ahok's speech in person reported Ahok.

"The people who have faith in this [Quranic verse] have a legal standing to report Ahok. Their report indicates that they felt aggrieved [by Ahok's speech]," Mudzakir, a criminal law expert with the Indonesian Islamic University (UII), told the judges.

The video of Ahok's speech was uploaded to the internet by his staff members who did not edit the sensitive part, Mudzakir said. Therefore, people who later watched the video on the internet and knew about it from news had a right to denounce Ahok, he said. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/22/public-has-legal-standing-to-report-ahok-for-blasphemy-expert.html

Expert claims Ahok's speech expressed criminal intent

Jakarta Post - February 22, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – In the blasphemy trial against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, an expert has said he sees criminal intent in controversial remarks made by the governor in a speech in Thousand Islands regency last September.

Mudzakir, a criminal law expert with Indonesia Islamic University (UII), testified that Ahok had been fully aware of his comment about Surah Al Maidah 51, as he had conveyed a similar statement on at least three occasions: in Thousand Islands, at City Hall and at an event held by a political party. "He intentionally made [blasphemous remarks] about Surah Al Maidah," Mudzakir said during the 11th hearing in the case on Tuesday.

While Ahok repeatedly said his statement referred to people who misuse the verse for certain political goals, Mudzakir said such a defense was unacceptable.

Ahok had not highlighted the false interpretation of the verse in his speech, but only Surah Al Maidah 51, which was deemed holy by Muslims, Mudzakir said.

His intention to commit blasphemy met the criminal element condition stipulated in Articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code, which carry a maximum prison sentence of four and five years, respectively, Mudzakir said.

Mudzakir was one of three witnesses testifying at Tuesday's hearing, alongside Miftachul Ahyar, a religious expert from Nahdlatul Ulama's central executive board, and Yunahar Ilyas from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). (trw)

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/criminal-expert-witness-says-ahok-guilty-desecrating-koran/

Anies denies pandering to hardline Muslim groups

Reuters - February 22, 2017

Jakarta – Anies Baswedan, a former education minister in Muslim-majority Indonesia facing a run-off vote against a Christian to be Jakarta governor, on Tuesday (21/02) denied pandering to hardline Islamists to win support and said he could unite the capital after a divisive election.

Anies is set to take on Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta's Christian and ethnic Chinese governor, in a second-round vote on April 19. Ahok got the most votes in the first round on Feb. 15, but not by enough to avoid a run-off, unofficial counts show.

Campaigning for the poll has been overshadowed by religious tensions, with protests led by hardline group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) against Ahok, and calls for voters to choose a Muslim.

Photographs of Baswedan meeting FPI leader Habib Rizieq were widely published in media, leading his critics to accuse him of tarnishing his reputation as a moderate Muslim.

"I think there's a framing that is not fair here," Anies said in an interview at his Jakarta home. "If I met the Catholic community, am I then considered no longer a Muslim? If I met the Buddhist community, am I then considered no longer a Muslim?"

He said the media was giving a distorted impression of his campaign, which included meetings with a range of religious groups.

"Often times, they only see one meeting, even though I've gone for dozens of other meetings," Anies said, sitting with a portrait of Sukarno, Indonesia's founding father, hanging on a wall near him. "I interact with all residents of Jakarta."

Anies, a respected academic who won a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States, was picked by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to be education minister, but was dropped from the cabinet in a reshuffle last year.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population but is officially secular and home to minority Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and other communities.

'Unite not divide'

The post of Jakarta governor has been a stepping stone to higher office. Jokowi was previously governor and Ahok was his deputy. The city vote is being widely seen as a proxy battle for the next presidential election, in 2019.

Ahok has the support of Jokowi's ruling party while Anies has the backing of an influential former general, Prabowo Subianto, and his Gerindra Party. Prabowo narrowly lost the last presidential election, in 2014, to Jokowi.

Overshadowing the campaign has been Ahok's trial for blasphemy for allegedly insulting the Koran. He denies the accusation that was filed after he said voters were deceived by his opponents who used a verse in the Koran to imply that Muslims should not vote for a leader of a different religion.

The trial, which began in December, seemed to dent his support initially, but it later rebounded, helped by middle-class approval of his efforts to improve the bureaucracy and tackle traffic jams and flooding.

Ahok secured about 43 percent of the vote in the first round, ahead of Ahok [Anies] with about 40 percent. A third candidate, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was last with less than 20 percent.

Analysts say some Muslim voters may now shift their support from Yudhoyono to Anies, who performed well in televised debates.

When asked if Jakarta's governor had to be Muslim, Anies said every citizen had the right to run, but added: "Jakarta needs an effective leader who can execute all the plans, and secondly, who can unite, not divide."

Anies said his policies would be centered on increasing access to education, creating jobs and making housing more affordable. One of his main campaign promises is "zero down payment" for home buyers, which was later opposed by the Indonesian central bank.

"We will continue to focus on topics that are urgent for the residents of Jakarta," Anies said.

[Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor.]

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/anies-denies-pandering-hardline-muslim-groups/

Thousands of '212' protesters rally in front of parliament house

Jakarta Globe - February 21, 2017

Jakarta – Lawmakers from the House of Representatives' Commission III on legal affairs met with representatives of around 5,000 protesters who rallied in front of parliament house in Jakarta on Tuesday (21/02) and promised to deliver their demands to the government.

The protesters called their demonstration the "212" rally, in reference to today's date and to the earlier "Defend Islam" rally on Dec. 2, 2016.

Representatives of the protesters delivered three demands to the lawmakers in a meeting that lasted two hours.

Muhammad Al Khatath, the secretary general of the Indonesian Muslim Forum and one of the coordinators of the protest, said the group wants President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to suspend Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama since he is currently standing trial on blasphemy charges.

He also demanded police put a stop to "criminalization of ulemas" and put Governor Ahok into custody instead. "The House of Representatives leaders will deliver these demands to the government," the commission's chairman Bambang Soesatyo said during the meeting.

"We will also tell the National Police chief when the commission meets him tomorrow that you [the protesters] want the police to stop pressing criminal charges against ulemas and take Ahok into custody instead," he added.

After the meeting, Bambang and several of the lawmakers went outside to see the protesters. Bambang grabbed a microphone and told the crowd he will make sure their demands are heard by the government.

Jalan Gatot Subroto was closed from Semanggi to Slipi during the protest. No violent incidents have been reported from the scene so far. The protesters started to walk away from the parliament house at around 2 p.m.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/thousands-212-protesters-rally-front-parliament-house/

House speaker calls for peaceful rally

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2017

Jakarta – House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto said on Tuesday that he hoped today's rally held in front of the legislative complex would run smoothly without triggering any disruptions.

Today's rally led by various Islamic organizations, including the Muslim People's Forum (FUI) and the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), demanded the suspension and detainment of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Setya said he respected those organizations for voicing their opinions. "Voicing opinions through demonstration is a citizen's right and it is guaranteed under the law. I hope there won't be any disruptions to Jakartan' activities," said the chairman of the Golkar Party, a major ally in the ruling coalition.

When asked about whether he would meet with the organizations' representatives from the rally, he said it depended on the aspirations the groups were delivering.

According to the FUI, 10,000 people would attend the rally. They are set to meet members of House Commission III overseeing legal affairs and human rights. (rdi/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/21/house-speaker-calls-for-peaceful-rally.html

Decision to suspend Ahok depends on trial's outcome: Minister

Jakarta Globe - February 21, 2017

Jakarta – Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said any decision to suspend Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama from his position as Jakarta governor is contingent on developments in the blasphemy case against him.

The minister reported to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo that any decision on Ahok's suspension before a guilty verdict will only be taken if prosecutors decide to seek a term of imprisonment of more than five years for him.

Article 83 of the 2014 Regional Government Law states that regional heads may be suspended if they have been charged with any crime that carries a prison sentence of more than five years. However, the charges Ahok currently faces involve less than five years' imprisonment.

"The understanding is [that the suspension] will be done after the Ministry of Home Affairs has legal certainty; that was what I reported to the president, twice," Tjahjo said in Jakarta on Monday (20/02).

Tjahjo also pointed out that the Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling on Ahok's suspension.

"As there is an ongoing trial, the Supreme Court cannot make a ruling. I, as the minister, understand the Supreme Court's position very well," Tjahjo said. He added that the public should not turn the ruling into another polemic.

Supreme Court chairman Hatta Ali said last week that the Home Affairs Ministry should resolve Ahok's status independently. "There is also a legal division in the Home Affairs Ministry, and they can discuss it. It is better for the ministry to take a stance," Hatta said.

He added that the Supreme Court will not make a ruling while Ahok's blasphemy case is still ongoing in the North Jakarta District Court.

Thousands of protesters were meanwhile expected to take part in yet another rally in Jakarta on Tuesday to demand Ahok's suspension.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/decision-to-suspend-ahok-depends-on-trials-outcome-minister/

Religious expert says Ahok's remarks blasphemous

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – In another hearing in the blasphemy trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Muslim scholar said on Tuesday that the Christian governor had insulted the Quran in his controversial remarks in the Thousand Islands regency.

Miftachul Akhyar, a religious expert from Nahdlatul Ulama's central executive board, said Ahok misled people by saying people had been deceived by a Quranic verse.

The expert said there was nothing wrong with the Quranic verse, Surah Al Maidah 51, which tells Muslims not to appoint a non-Muslim leader.

In Surah Al Maidah 51, "leader" is referred to as aulia, which could be interpreted as a leader who is charge of the livelihoods of residents, Miftachul said. "Aulia is a [...] person who can make and revoke policies," he told the judges.

When delivering a speech in front of residents in Thousand Islands regency late last year, Ahok said residents had been tricked by Surah Al Maidah. Miftachul did not deny there were different interpretations of the word aulia, which he said, could also mean "best friend". (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/21/religious-expert-says-ahoks-remarks-blasphemous.html

Indonesia Islamists urge ouster of Jakarta governor Ahok, plan more

Straits Times - February 20, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesian Islamist groups on Monday (Feb 20) called on the government to suspend the Christian governor of the capital and for the courts to convict him of blasphemy, demands they will make again at a rally outside parliament on Tuesday.

Islamist groups have held two big rallies since November against the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is popularly known as Ahok and is on trial for insulting the Quran, and in the midst of an election in which he hopes to win a second term.

"Our demands to parliament are that they urge the government to suspend Purnama... and urge the Supreme Court and judges to detain him and impose the maximum sentence," said Muhammad al Khaththath of the Islamic People's Forum. The forum is one of the groups organising the Tuesday rally.

Previous rallies drew hundreds of thousands of people and raised concern about the erosion of religious tolerance in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

Basuki, Jakarta's first ethnic Chinese and Christian leader, denies insulting the Koran. He has been allowed to remain in office while the court case is going on but faces up to four years in prison if found guilty of blasphemy. His supporters say the charge against him is politically motivated.

Last Wednesday, he stood against two Muslim candidates in a city governor election but none of them got enough votes to win outright.

A second round is due in mid-April with Basuki competing against a former education minister, Anies Baswedan, who has appealed to the Muslim vote in the city of more than 10 million.

Jakarta police have stepped up security ahead of Tuesday's demonstration which up to 10,000 people are expected to join, said police spokesman Argo Yuwono.

The Jakarta election is widely seen as a proxy battle for the next presidential election in 2019. Basuki is a former deputy of President Joko Widodo, when Widido was Jakarta governor, and he is being backed by the president's party.

Baswedan is backed by a retired general, Prabowo Subianto, who Joko defeated in the last presidential election, in 2014, and who is promising a political comeback.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/indonesia-islamists-urge-ouster-of-jakarta-governor-ahok-plan-more-protests

Jakarta students' union will not participate in Tuesday's rally

Jakarta Globe - February 20, 2017

Jakarta – A major university students' group said it will not participate in the so-called 212 protest rally on Tuesday (21/02) as it seeks to maintain security and stability ahead of the second round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

The rally, organized by the Indonesian Muslim Forum (FUI), will take place in front of the national legislative complex in Senayan, South Jakarta, to demand the suspension of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is currently on trial for blasphemy.

Ayaturrahman, coordinator of the Jakarta Association of University Student Executive Bodies (BEM), said Tuesday's rally will likely involve a certain political agenda and that the union is concerned about possible provocation that could result in conflict.

"We need to take a firm stand in this situation since we want the Jakarta election to proceed in proper and transparent way," Ayaturrahman said on Sunday.

He added that the union was committed to maintaining peace and calm in the capital ahead the second poll, scheduled for April 19. The BEM also supports legal measures against anyone who has violated the law, Ayaturrahman said.

The Jakarta Islamic University (UIJ), Jayabaya University, Borobudur University, Hamka University, Indraprasta University, Jakarta Attahiriyah Islamic University, Mpu Tantular University, Jakarta Banking and Economy Academy, Sint Carolus Health Academy and Al-Aqidah Islamic College are members of the BEM.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jakarta-students-union-will-not-participate-in-tuesdays-rally/

'Take it easy,' says Ahok after boycott threat

Jakarta Globe - February 20, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has played down a boycott threat from several city councilors over his return to the office.

A faction at the Jakarta Legislative Council, comprising of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the United Development Party (PPP), the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), refused to attend meetings with Ahok or his officials, until the governor's legal status is resolved.

They demanded that the governor be suspended from the office as he is currently standing trial on blasphemy charges. "Tell the councilors to just take it easy," Ahok told the reporters at the City Hall on Monday (20/02).

Separately, Jakarta Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat called on the councilors to accept the Home Ministry's decision not to dismiss Ahok. "You may disagree, but don't sacrifice the people's interest," Djarot said.

A number of lawmakers have called on the House of Representatives to initiate a right of inquiry, or hak angket, to challenge the decision by Minister Tjahjo Kumolo.

The minister has responded by saying that regional leaders facing charges involving less than five years' imprisonment will not be suspended until the sentence becomes legally binding, unless law enforcers put them in custody.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/take-easy-says-ahok-boycott-threat/

GNPF-MUI leader claims not to know money-laundering suspect

Jakarta Post - February 17, 2017

Jakarta – After 9 hours of interrogation, the leader of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), Bachtiar Nasir, said he did not know Islahuddin Akbar, a money-laundering suspect who regularly attended his religious teachings.

Bachtiar was questioned for the second time at the National Police's Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) on Thursday about how his organization funded mass protest rallies on Nov. 4 and Dec. 2 last year. He was asked 37 questions on how the organization received donations and what they were spent on.

Earlier in the day, Bachtiar's lawyer Kapitra Ampera said his client did not know Islahuddin and also did not know about the disbursement of funds from a bank account belonging to a foundation called Justice for All.

On Thursday, Bareskrim officials investigated several witnesses related to a money-laundering case that implicates Justice for All founder Adian Husaini, secretary Tri Subhi Abdillah and treasurer Suwono. They also investigated GNPF-MUI treasurer M Luthfie Hakim.

As one of the hard-line groups initiating the rallies late last year and another in February, GNPF-MUI pushed for the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama over alleged blasphemy and called on Muslims not to vote for non-Muslim leaders in regional elections held last Wednesday. (dis/yan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/17/gnpf-mui-leader-claims-not-to-know-money-laundering-suspect.html

Prabowo to support Anies' campaign ahead of runoff

Jakarta Post - February 17, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – After successfully boosting support for gubernatorial candidate Anies Baswedan prior to the first round of the Jakarta election, Gerindra Party patron Prabowo Subianto is set to hit the campaign trail to gather more support for the candidate ahead of the second round.

Anies confirmed Prabowo's readiness in a statement on Friday. The former education and culture minister added that he also expected Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) president Sohibul Iman to join his campaign ahead of the runoff, in which he is likely to face tough competition against incumbent candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

"Of course they [Prabowo and Sohibul] will get involved in the campaign again. They have also been involved in communicating with other party leaders to discuss coalitions," he continued.

Considered Anies' main backer ahead of the poll, Prabowo played a key role in boosting voter support for the candidate before the Feb. 15 election. During his campaign, Prabowo repeatedly said he had made a mistake by deciding to support Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Ahok in the Jakarta election in 2012. He emphasized that Anies was capable of being a better leader.

The ongoing vote recapitulation by the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) suggests that Anies and Ahok are in a tight race as both of them garnered around 40 percent of the vote in the first round. The third gubernatorial candidate, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, failed to qualify for the second round and has conceded defeat. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/17/prabowo-to-support-anies-campaign-ahead-of-runoff.html

Jakarta governor election: Voters set to return to polls for run-off in

Sydney Morning Herald - February 16, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – Jakartans are expected to return to the polls on April 19 to vote in a showdown between the polarising incumbent, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, and former education minister Anies Baswedan after neither candidate won a majority in Wednesday's vote between three gubernatorial candidates.

The official result will not be known until early March but according to quick count results, which have proven accurate in the past, Ahok was narrowly leading Anies with 43 per cent of the vote after a peaceful polling day.

The embattled Ahok, who is fighting blasphemy charges that could see him jailed for up to five years, told his supporters the fight was not over yet.

"Three to four months ago there was a pollster who said that we could not make 20 per cent – one even said we would only get 10 per cent of the vote – but from the temporary count we are leading at number one," Ahok said.

Ahok's campaign team had desperately hoped he would win the February election outright, as the vote that had been split between the two Muslim candidates is expected to flow to Anies in an April run-off election.

"But what we know is that the spirit to support the Ahok-Djarot ticket will never die out," Ahok said. "We are grateful at least that there are still many people who believe in us, many people still see that we are capable of managing Jakarta for all.

The dark horse was Anies, who began to climb in the polls after solid debate performances and strategic courting of the Muslim vote – including a controversial visit to the Islamic Defenders Front HQ – which saw him poll about 39 per cent of the vote.

He also emphasised his opposition to land reclamation in Jakarta Bay and forced evictions, both controversial programs under Ahok's tenure that have alienated the urban poor.

Anies campaign was assisted by popular former military chief Prabowo Subianto, whose Gerindra party endorsed Anies and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, adding fuel to the theory that this fiercely contested election was a proxy war for the 2019 presidential election.

Prabowo, who was President Joko Widodo's rival in the 2014 presidential election, told a rally of hundreds of thousands in central Jakarta: "If you want me to be President in 2019, you must bring victory for Anies-Sandiaga."

On election day Prabowo said: "Today is the day we've been anticipating. Thank God we witness the revival of the movement of the Indonesian people because the Jakarta gubernatorial election has become the symbol of the fight between those who want justice, truth and honesty and those who want to prove that money can colonise all Indonesian people."

The election campaign was mired in sectarian tension. Ugly anti-Chinese and religious sentiment erupted in three mass rallies calling for Ahok to be jailed for blasphemy. He was labelled a pig, a dog and a kafir, the Islamic term for an infidel, with many arguing a non-Muslim should not lead Jakarta.

In a sweet victory for Ahok, he won the polling booth where his arch nemesis Rizieq Shihab – an Islamic hardliner who spearheaded the anti-Ahok rallies – cast his vote.

The third candidate, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, polled a disappointing 17 per cent after his campaign was derailed by poor debate performances and the embarrassing Twitter rants of his father, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was president of Indonesia from 2004 to 2014.

It is unknown what Agus will do next given he quit a promising military career to stand as governor, a move that surprised many because he was a political neophyte.

Australian National University Associate Professor Marcus Mietzner believes there are three main reasons why Anies' electability climbed while Agus' floundered.

"First, Agus performed badly in both the first and the second debate, while Anies appeared competent; second, Prabowo's grassroots campaign for Anies was effective, in contrast to SBY's creation of Twitter controversies and third, the conservative Muslim vote consolidated around Anies."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/jakarta-governor-election-voters-set-to-return-to-polls-for-runoff-in-april-20170216-gudxtb.html

SBY tainted Agus' election chances: Analyst

Jakarta Post - February 16, 2017

Jakarta – The recent statements of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono significantly contributed to the fall in popularity of Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, Yudhoyono's eldest son, said Indikator Politik Indonesia executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi.

Agus briefly topped the polls during the campaign period but ultimately ended up in third place following Wednesday's vote. "I think Yudhoyono's involvement in the Jakarta election backfired," Burhanuddin said on Wednesday as quoted by kompas.com.

Yudhoyono made headlines two weeks ago when he accused the government of illegally wire-tapping his phone conversation with Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin.

A day before voting day, the Democratic Party chairman made another press statement accusing former Corruption Eradication Commission chairman Antasari of intentionally attacking his son's candidacy.

Burhanuddin said Yudhoyono's involvement and controversial Twitter posts had triggered a negative public reaction, and this had affected Agus' popularity. Yudhoyono's moves were seen by some as an affirmation that Agus' political career was too dependent on his father, he added.

Indikator's quick count showed that incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate Jakarta Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat secured 43 percent of the vote. The Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno ticket secured 40 percent of the vote, while Agus and his running mate Sylviana Murni garnered just 17 percent. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/16/sby-tainted-agus-election-chances-analyst.html

Palace calls on SBY to leave Jokowi out of Antasari spat

Jakarta Post - February 16, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Haeril Halim and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The State Palace has responded coolly to allegations made by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's decision to grant clemency to murder convict and former antigraft chief Antasari Azhar was politically motivated and part of an attack on the Democratic Party leader.

State Secretary Pratikno said on Wednesday that Yudhoyono should leave the President out of his personal feud with Antasari, who has accused Yudhoyono of orchestrating the murder case against him.

Pratikno said the former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) leader was acting alone when he publicly accused Yudhoyono of abusing his power to criminalize him.

"Don't believe [the government] had any agenda when granting clemency. We complied with the prevailing regulations in making the decision on the clemency, including having received a recommendation from the Supreme Court," the official said.

Jokowi granted clemency to Antasari on Jan. 25. A day later, Antasari met with the President at the State Palace where the former, Pratikno said, shared his experiences as KPK leader.

Yudhoyono launched a tirade against his successor, Jokowi, on Tuesday accusing the President of using Antasari to attack him and his family. Yudhoyono's remarks were made the night before the Jakarta gubernatorial election in which his son, Agus Harimurti, was a candidate. Agus fared poorly in Wednesday's election, garnering less than 20 percent of the vote and has been forced to quit the race.

Jokowi has yet to issue a statement regarding Yudhoyono's latest salvo. The President has typically avoided confrontation with his predecessor, even though tensions between the two have been brewing for months, particularly since the start of the Jakarta gubernatorial race, which pitted Agus against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a close Jokowi ally.

Tuesday was not the first occasion that Yudhoyono accused Jokowi of being responsible for what he claimed were political attacks against him and his family ahead of the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

On Jan. 31, Ahok's lawyers claimed Yudhoyono had phoned Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin on Oct. 7, 2016, asking the latter to issue a fatwa that was later used by the police to name Ahok a blasphemy suspect on Nov. 17.

Ahok's lawyers said they had evidence of the conversation, a claim that was interpreted by Yudhoyono as indicating that his phone had been tapped by the government.

On Feb. 1, Yudhoyono held a press conference accusing the government of illegally bugging his phone and demanding Jokowi instruct law enforcement to investigate the case.

Pratikno said he was bewildered by the fact that Jokowi and the palace were always associated with anything untoward related to Yudhoyono. "We should treat things proportionally. Don't link everything to the palace and the President," Pratikno said.

Meanwhile, media and business tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo has denied any involvement in Antasari's murder case.

Antasari had claimed that Hary, founder of the MNC media group and business partner of United States President Donald Trump, was sent by Yudhoyono to ask Antasari not to arrest Aulia Pohan for corruption in 2009.

Aulia is the father-in-law of Agus and was at the time a Bank Indonesia deputy governor. Antasari said he was charged with murdering business executive Nasrudin Zulkarnaen a few weeks after rejecting Hary's request.

"All of [Antasari's claim] is slander. I don't want to waste my time responding to it," Hary said, adding that had no intention of following Yudhoyono's lead in reporting Antasari to the police for defamation.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/16/palace-calls-on-sby-to-leave-jokowi-out-of-antasari-spat.html

New ball game awaits Jakarta

Jakarta Post - February 16, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – It is not over yet for Jakarta, as the gubernatorial race enters a second round, with political analysts predicting a different ball game for contenders Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Anies Baswedan.

Quick counts from Kompas show Ahok and running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat leading with 42.87 percent of the vote, Anies and running mate Sandiaga Uno trailing in second with 39.76 percent and Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and running mate Sylviana Murni coming in last with 17.37 percent. Other quick counts from various pollsters show similar results, with Ahok leading and Anies in second place.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) researcher Arya Fernandes said in the event of Anies and Ahok competing head-to-head, Ahok would likely fight a harder battle because some of Agus' supporters would perhaps support Anies, as some of the former's supporters had similar traits with those of Anies' supporters.

"Demographically, some of Agus' supporters, such as those in South and East Jakarta have similarities with Anies' supporters," Arya said, adding that some of Agus' Muslim supporters would also likely move to back Anies.

Arya said where the majority of Agus' supporters went would still depend on the decision of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the chairman of the Democratic Party, the main party backer of Agus. However, he said, it was unlikely the Dems would side with Ahok given their row with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the main party backer of the incumbent.

Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) deputy chairman Sirojudin Abbas commented on the political elites' movements in the second round of the game, which would be hard to predict. Sirojudin said Agus' supporters would not automatically go to Anies because the Dems, under Yudhoyono, would be unlikely to be in the same camp as Prabowo Subianto, the chairman of the Gerindra Party, the main backer of Anies.

Sirojudin said two Islam-based political parties in Agus' camp, namely the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the United Development Party (PPP), which both adopt local Islamic values, would be unlikely to be in the same camp as the Islam-based Prosperous and Justice Party (PKS), which adopts Islamic activism, supporting Anies.

"I do not see the PKB and PPP sitting together with the PKS," Sirojudin told the The Jakarta Post.

The SMRC researcher said at the grassroots level, some of Anies' moderate Muslim supporters would also not feel comfortable receiving support from Agus' conservative Muslims supporters.

Ahok's and Anies' camps, meanwhile, are cautious following their first-round victory, with both saying "the fight is not over."

Ahok delivered a speech before his supporters, saying that the quick-count results showed "the public can appreciate what we have done for social justice. The fight is not over, but I'm sure we'll always be solid."

He said he just wanted to work and would let his political parties and campaign team think about strategies in the next round.

Ahok said the results showed the approval rating of his performance. He also thanked his volunteers and the political parties backing him: the Golkar Party, the NasDem Party and the Hanura Party.

Anies said his camp would wait for the real-count results before celebrating his first-round victory. He said his volunteers would continue to work.

"We will monitor the vote counting. There is still a long way to go [before the official results are announced]. Only after that can we start planning our next move," Anies told reporters at Gerindra headquarters in Ragunan, South Jakarta.

Sandiaga echoed the statement, highlighting that their volunteers and supporters should not celebrate yet and keep praying until the General Elections Commission (KPU) made its final announcement.

Agus conceded defeat on Wednesday evening in a dignified speech. "I magnanimously concede defeat," he said. Agus said he had personally congratulated Ahok and had tried to reach Anies, but to no avail. He thanked his supporters for their hard work on the campaign trail.

PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri delivered a speech to thank the "mature and passionate" voters for their confidence in AhokDjarot, while Gerindra patron Prabowo Subianto made a slight jab at rival camp Ahok-Djarot in South Jakarta.

Agus' major backer, his father Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has made several public appearances concerning his son's bid, has yet to comment on his son's presumed defeat.

[Moses Ompusunggu, Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Indra Budiari, and Margareth S.Aritonang contributed to this report.]

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/16/new-ball-game-awaits-jakarta.html

Black campaigns, hoaxes have little effect on Jakarta voters: Observer

Jakarta Globe - February 16, 2017

Jakarta – Black campaigns, hate speech and hoaxes appear to have little influence on Jakarta residents' voting preferences, because most of them are educated and able to think rationally, according to a political scientist.

"There's nothing to worry about, because Jakarta's residents are relatively well-educated. As I have observed, they are rational voters. In the parts of the city such as Petamburan, where anti-Ahok [incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama] campaigns spurred, Ahok-Djarot [Saiful Hidayat] won the vote," dean of Gadjah Mada University's Faculty of Social and Political Sciences Erwan Purwanto told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday (15/02).

Petamburan houses the headquarters of the Islamic Defenders Font (FPI), which had been actively campaigning against Ahok, whom its members accuse of blasphemy. Such places seemed to promise no victory for the pair, but the opposite had happened.

BeritaSatu reported that Ahok-Djarot won by 278 votes at Petamburan polling station number 017, located just 100 meters from the FPI headquarters. During the quick-count session, people booed each time Ahok-Djarot's name came up, yet the pair still won.

Erwan also said voters in Pramuka Island in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district, where Ahok had allegedly committed blasphemy, were not affected by Ahok's ongoing blasphemy trial. As reported by Antara, Ahok-Djarot came second in Pramuka Island, with 413 votes, not a significant loss to Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno who bagged 446 votes.

"This shows that the recent tensions only revolved around the political elites. Moreover, those who participated in anti-Ahok rallies might not be all from Jakarta," Erwan added.

He said that Indonesian society is getting used to hoaxes and hate speech, which had been filling the internet since the 2014 presidential election.

"I think the society is experiencing a change. It was 'tested' during the last presidential election. The gubernatorial race resembled the polarization that happened back then. This means that hoaxes are nothing new and [voters] are getting used to having them around."

Erwan added that people are getting more capable of evaluating information and distinguish facts from fiction.

"From what I observe, by the next presidential election in 2019, the society will be more open minded and accustomed to debating freely on social media. The more hoaxes appear, the more people learn to filter them," he said.

According to Erwan, one of the reasons Wednesday's election was successful was the absence of suspicious pollsters. Back in 2014, pollsters published contradictory quick count results, raising suspicions that some of them might have endorsed one of the candidates.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/black-campaigns-hoaxes-little-effect-jakarta-voters-observer/

Public unrest will be avoided if justice upheld: Prabowo

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – Gerindra Party patron Prabowo Subianto has taken a slight jab at Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama who is currently a defendant in a blasphemy trial, saying that peace in Jakarta can only be reached if justice is upheld.

In a statement on Wednesday, Prabowo said the Jakarta gubernatorial election had to be appreciated because the democratic process was conducted peacefully, without any serious problems.

"I am sure that only justice can bring peace to the city," Prabowo said during a press conference, which was also attended by gubernatorial candidate Anies Baswedan.

Ahok is currently facing up to five years' imprisonment if he is proven guilty for his alleged blasphemous remark, which he made during a work visit to Thousand Islands regency on Sept. 27 last year, consequently triggering two large-scale rallies organized by conservative Islamic organizations including the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who demanded his prosecution.

Previously, Prabowo, who is backing Anies' candidacy, said he had made a mistake in supporting then gubernatorial candidate pair Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Ahok in the 2012 Jakarta election. "I believe Anies and his running mate Sandiaga Uno are the right leaders for Jakarta. That's why we are supporting them," he continued.

Meanwhile, Anies said despite early poll results, which suggested he would continue on to the election's second round, the fight was not yet over and he needed all of his supporters to work harder if they really had passed the first round. "We still have a long battle ahead and we are going to prepare for it," Anies said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/public-unrest-will-be-avoided-if-justice-upheld-prabowo.html

Agus Yudhoyono protests explosive allegations against his father on eve

Sydney Morning Herald - February 15, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, a contender for the governorship of Jakarta, has lashed out at "extraordinarily cruel" claims that his father, former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, framed someone for murder.

The explosive allegations topped off one of the most incendiary election campaign periods in Indonesia's history, which many consider was a proxy war for the 2019 presidential election.

Antasari Azhar, a former anti-corruption commissioner who was jailed in 2010 for murder but recently granted a presidential pardon, alleged on Tuesday that SBY – as the former president is known – had been the "initiator" of his murder case after he refused his request not to detain Agus' father-in-law.

After casting his vote in South Jakarta, Agus said the claims had intentionally been made one day before the vote.

SBY, who has already vowed to take legal action against Antasari, said it was difficult to believe the "slander" was not related to the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

"I think it's extraordinarily cruel, but we stay strong, we are not too affected," Agus said as he cast his vote. "God willing, Jakartans are smarter, with hearts that can differentiate between lies and facts."

Agus, a handsome former military officer who was plucked from relative obscurity to stand for governor, has seen his electability dive in polls after uninspired performances in debates.

Australian National University lecturer Ross Tapsell said although Agus led on polls for the best-looking candidate, "that's never going to win you the election, even in the era of Instagram and Twitter and so on".

"Agus was was always going to have to perform at the debates and the general consensus was that he hasn't," he added.

His father has also proven something of a liability during the campaign period, with hyperbolic Twitter outbursts that have been ridiculed on social media.

SBY has emotionally railed against rumours that he was behind a November 4 mass rally that called for incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, to be jailed for allegedly insulting Islam.

When students protested against sectarianism outside his house, SBY tweeted: "I ask the president, the police chief, do I not have the right to live in my own country, with the human rights that I am entitled to?"

This resulted in an avalanche of satirical tweets such as "I'm asking Mr President and Police Chief: why am I still single?" and "I'm asking Mr President and Police Chief, why I am always sleepy during work hours?".

However Fadli, an 18-year-old who was casting his vote for the first time at a polling booth in Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta, told Fairfax Media that Agus had won his vote.

"He looks firm, he keeps his words," Fadli said, showing us the purple ink stain on his finger Indonesians use to denote someone has voted. "An army officer usually says A when he means A. I hope he can make Jakarta better."

Agus' promise to develop Jakarta without the controversial evictions to relieve flooding, create new parks and eliminate vice that have characterised Ahok's tenure was the policy that most appealed to Fadli.

However he had also been tempted by the third candidate, Anies Baswedan, who said he wanted to build a sports stadium for football.

More than 41.2 million Indonesians across seven provinces in Indonesia will vote for their leader for the next five years in Wednesday's election.

However all eyes have been on the capital, where 7.1 million Jakartans are eligible to vote in an election seen by many as a test of Indonesia's much vaunted pluralism and religious tolerance.

Ahok, who is Christian and ethnically Chinese, has been fighting an election campaign whilst simultaneously fighting to stay out of jail at his trial for blasphemy.

Religion is writ large in the election. Posters hung on the polling booths with profiles of the candidates list religion alongside their date and place of birth, education and assets in both rupiah and US dollars.

Of the six gubernatorial and vice-gubernatorial candidates in Jakarta, Ahok is the only non-Muslim.

Monganiah, a witness for Anies Baswedan's ticket at the Tanah Abang polling booth we visit, said Agus and Anies were the favourites in the area because Islamic sentiment was strong. "Ahok's good, but because of the religious blasphemy case his electability decreases," she said.

Voting is voluntary in Indonesia. In the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election there was a 63.7 per cent voter turnout in the first round, with commentators expecting participation to increase this year.

Even businesses are doing what they can to encourage participation in the process. Voters who go to Bakerzin, an Indonesian bakery, are given free packets of macaroons if they can show their "pinky blue finger".

Tari Lestari, supervisor at a central Jakarta branch, told Fairfax Media the promotion was to celebrate democracy in their country. "It is a memorable moment for Indonesia," she said. "We are definitely doing this to encourage people to vote."

[with Karuni Rompies and Jessie Chiang.]

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/agus-yudhoyono-protests-explosive-allegations-against-his-father-on-eve-of-election-20170215-gudp57.html

PDI-P slams Yudhoyono for 'attacking' Jokowi

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has slammed former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for directing his frustration over his son's candidacy in Jakarta's election at President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Yudhoyono, the chairman of the Democratic Party, has been continuously under the spotlight over his complaints about almost everything regarding the country's political dynamics, portraying himself as a victim of Jokowi's leadership.

He most recently suspected Jokowi of having a role in a plot to attack him and his son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, who is running in the Jakarta gubernatorial election, by supporting the former chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Antasari Azhar.

Jokowi has commuted a prison sentence of Antasari, thereby granting him freedom. Antasari, who was convicted in a murder case after prosecuting Yudhoyono's in-law Aulia Pohan, accused the former president of engineering the case that had led to his imprisonment in 2010.

"We don't want to become involved in these polemics, but we do wonder why SBY always targets Jokowi," PDI-P secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto said on Wednesday, referring to Yudhoyono by his initials.

"Does SBY have a problem with Jokowi that he always attacks him?" Hasto asked, adding that the ruling party was concerned about the way Yudhoyono responded to issues, which according to Hasto, has triggered tension. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/pdi-p-slams-yudhoyono-for-attacking-jokowi.html

Government allies ready to block Ahok inquiry initiative

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Amid escalating support at the House of Representatives for an inquiry into the disputed return to office of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, allies of the government have prepared moves to block the plan.

Led by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which supported the incumbent in the Jakarta election, the parties that support President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said the move to investigate the Home Ministry for allowing Ahok to keep his job, despite being on trial for blasphemy, was aimed at ousting the president.

According to Article 83 of the 2014 Regional Administration Law, a regional head or deputy regional head who is charged with a crime that carries a minimum sentence of five years, should be suspended.

Ahok is facing a maximum sentence of five years for his charges, which leads some to interpret that he has to be suspended until the trial is over.

Initiated by the Democratic Party, which has nominated Agus Harimurti, the son of party chairman and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in the Jakarta gubernatorial race, the supporters of the inquiry said the government's decision not to suspend Ahok's was an example of government bias toward the governor, who is seeking reelection.

"The House can summon the Home Minister who is in charge of the matter to get the explanation they want in a hearing instead of hastily exercising the inquiry right to initiate an investigation," lawmaker Jhonny Plate from the NasDem Party said on Tuesday.

The deputy secretary of the NasDem faction at the House of Representatives described the proposal for an inquiry as an overreaction that would only distract Jokowi from focusing on running the country.

"Initiating an inquiry amid the tension of the Jakarta election will only divide the nation. It will also open the door to impeaching the President," Jhonny claimed.

Leading members of other parties in the government coalition have expressed similar concerns, lambasting the initiators for inappropriately bringing the discussion into the legislative institution and making it a national issue.

Such concerns have also been expressed by the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the United Development Party (PPP), which unlike other pro-government parties have endorsed Agus in the Jakarta election.

According to the PPP's secretary-general Arsul Sani, questions regarding the return of Ahok should be directly addressed to Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo, who made the decision, in hearings. "Thus, we disagree with exercising our inquiry rights to ask for an investigation of the matter," he said.

In addition to NasDem, the PKB and PPP, opposition to an inquiry also comes from the Golkar and Hanura parties, as well as the PDI-P.

However, coalition partner the National Mandate Party (PAN) believes differently, as the party has seen a growing number of its lawmakers supporting the call for an inquiry. As of Tuesday, 18 PAN lawmakers had signed the inquiry demand along with 82 politicians from the Gerindra Party, the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

PAN lawmaker Yandri Susanto, a member of House Commission II overseeing regional administrations, said he supported the investigation to help correct the government when it made a mistake.

Yandri said he shared the opinion of party colleagues, believing that PAN as a party was also on the same side. PAN chairman Zulkifli Hasan, who is also speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) denied this. Zulkifli referred to the move by PAN lawmakers as a "spontaneous reaction."

"It is their right as lawmakers whether or not to support [the inquiry call]. But I don't share their stance because we haven't discussed it internally," Zulkifli said.

House leaders are set to present the proposal for approval in a plenary meeting slated for next week. There will be a vote before the House announces its final decision.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/government-allies-ready-to-block-ahok-inquiry-initiative.html

No suspension for Ahok until prosecutors issue sentence demand: Minister

Jakarta Globe - February 15, 2017

Jakarta – Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo will wait for the prosecutors to announce the sentence they demand in Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial before deciding whether or not to suspend the governor.

Tjahjo said he will seek a directive from the Supreme Court regarding Ahok's case, but will not push the highest legal body in the land to issue it in a rush.

"The decision to suspend [Ahok], or not suspend him, will be based on what sentence the prosecutors demand. That will be announced after the court has heard all the witness testimonies. Once we know how many years the prosecutors demand, I will make [the decision]," Tjahjo said in Jakarta on Tuesday (14/02).

Only regional leaders facing charges involving more than five years' imprisonment can be suspended once the sentence becomes legally binding. "If the prosecutors demand more than five years, I will suspend Ahok," Tjahjo said.

Previously, lawmakers of several parties have called on the House of Representatives to initiate a right of inquiry, or hak angket, to challenge a decision by Tjahjo not to suspend Ahok, who is currently standing trial on blasphemy charges.

Ahok returned to office on Sunday from mandatory leave during his re-election campaign, which started on Oct. 28 last year. His term ends in October this year. Ahok is accused of blasphemy and cyber-harassment in a trial which entered its tenth session on Monday.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/no-suspension-ahok-prosecutors-issue-sentence-demand-minister/

Ethno-religious sentiment affected Jakarta voters: Analyst

Jakarta Globe - February 15, 2017

Jakarta – Ethno-religious sentiment appears to have been a factor with swing voters in the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Wednesday (15/02), as the most recent exit poll numbers show candidate pair Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno leading over incumbents Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Syaiful Hidayat, a political analyst said.

Ahok, who is a Christian of Chinese descent, is currently standing trial for blasphemy over comments he made related to a Koranic verse during a speech on Pramuka Island in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district last year.

The Jakarta election, which is widely seen as a proxy battle for the 2019 presidential election, was overshadowed by religious tensions, with major protests by hardline Muslim groups against Ahok.

"Ethno-religious sentiment plays a very important role for Indonesian voters; this confirms that ethno-religious factors are still relevant in Indonesia," said Arizka Warganegara, a political analyst at Lampung University and a doctoral researcher at Britain's University of Leeds.

"[The ethno-religious aspect] is also very attractive for elite politicians [to use as a weapon]," he added.

Although the blasphemy case damaged Ahok's popularity, it seems to have mainly affected older voters, as most of those in the 22-26 age group reportedly voted for the incumbent governor.

"Don't be sad, ethno-religious sentiment is also attractive to voters in India, Malaysia and the latest, in America with Trump. The key to overcoming this is for voters to become more rational and mature," Arizka said.

Around 7.1 million voters are registered in Jakarta, where the race for governor has turned into one of the most divisive political battles during the country's democratic era. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will take place between the two candidates with the most votes.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/ethno-religious-sentiment-affected-jakarta-voters-analyst/

PDI-P's Megawati, Gerindra's Prabowo glued to seats watching Jakarta's

Jakarta Globe - February 15, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri has been following the quick count tallying in her home in Kebagusan, South Jakarta, since Wednesday afternoon (15/02).

Megawati hosted a lunch meeting attended by incumbent Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat, the People's Conscience Party (Hanura) chairman Oesman Sapta Odang and PDI-P secretary general Hasto Kristianto.

"We had lunch with Mrs. Mega, Mr. Oesman, the [PDI-P] secretary general and several other friends," Ahok told the press after the meeting.

Ahok jokingly said they did not talk about anything much beyond the lunch menu, though he admitted they were keeping a close watch on quick count results from local news portals and TV stations.

The incumbent governor said he remains optimistic on the final results. "Politicians are always optimistic," Ahok said.

Prabowo optimistic of Anies-Sandiaga's chances

Gerindra, or Great Indonesia Movement Party, chairman Prabowo Subianto said he has also been following the quick count results, telling the press he was pleased to see the Gerindra-backed Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno in the top two by many reckoning.

"Anies-Sandi are a 'pahe' [economy pack] pairing," Prabowo told the press at Gerindra's head office in Jakarta on Wednesday afternoon.

Prabowo did not explain what he meant by the cryptic description, but reports have shown that the pair spent Rp 64.7 billion ($4.85 million) on their four-month campaign, with Sandi donating Rp 62.8 billion.

Aside from Gerindra, only one other party is backing Anies and Sandi, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

Since the quick count results have been showing the pair in their top two, Prabowo claimed that Jakarta voters still believe in truth and justice.

"It is only with justice that we can provide peace and calm in Indonesia. The people only want justice. That's all I can say," Prabowo said.

According to the Jakarta Election Commission, or KPUD, more than 7.1 million voters are registered in 13,032 polling stations across the capital, where the race for the governor's seat is turning into one of the more divisive political battles in the country's democratic era. If none of the three candidates in the Jakarta election gets more than 50 percent of the total votes cast on Wednesday, a run-off election between the two candidates with the most votes will be held in May.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/pdi-ps-megawati-gerindras-prabowo-glued-seats-watching-jakartas-quick-count-results/

Jokowi calls for national unity after Wednesday's elections

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has called for national unity after he and First Lady Iriana Widodo cast their ballots in Jakarta's gubernatorial election on Wednesday.

Wearing a brown, long-sleeved batik top, the president and his wife arrived at a polling station in Gambir, Central Jakarta, at 10 a.m. to join 493 Jakartans to vote at the station.

Jokowi called on supporters of all candidates running in the Jakarta election and 100 other local elections across the country to be united as brothers again after the concurrent elections on Wednesday.

"I hope that all regional elections, not only in Jakarta but in other regions, too, are full of happiness today," the President said. "Let us not allow political differences to destroy our unity; I hope that all can be united again as brothers for the sake of the country's unity after the elections."

The President refused to take questions after the press statement. He and his entourage rushed straight to the State Palace after voting. Jokowi kept his schedule for the election day free to spend time with his family after casting his ballot.

The government has declared Feb. 15 a national holiday to make it easier for people across the country to go to polling stations and cast their ballots.

Originally from Surakarta, Central Java, Jokowi changed his residential address and became a resident of Jakarta after winning the 2012 Jakarta gubernatorial election. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/jokowi-calls-for-national-unity-after-wednesdays-elections.html

Internet & social media

New police division to respond to growth of social media

Jakarta Post - February 22, 2017

Jakarta – The National Police inaugurated on Wednesday their multimedia division, which will be one of their communication channels with the public. The new division was established to respond the growing use of social media.

"We cannot only communicate through conventional channels. We must implement two-way communication with the public through social media," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said on Wednesday.

Leading the new division, Brig. Gen. Yan Fitri Halimansyah said his new position was a new challenge in his career. Among his tasks is organizing the division and preparing the personnel responsible for handling the police's public relations.

Boy said that in countering the spread of fake news, the police had to ensure that preventive measures were made in addition to dealing with those responsible for propagating misinformation. He added that the police's role was to assess reports suspected to be fake news so they would not mislead the public.

"It's important for us as a state body to make clarifications to the public. First, we clarify news and then we investigate it," said Boy.

The police will investigate fake news through their Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) using Law No. 11/2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE), he added.

On whether the police's tougher measures against fake news would violate the privacy of Indonesian citizens, Boy asserted everyone must be educated about their responsibilities according to the law. "So when it comes to law enforcement, any violation can be charged and legally processed." (dis/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/22/new-police-division-to-respond-to-growth-of-social-media.html

Environment & natural disasters

Lawmakers urge govt to take firm action on Timor Sea oil spill

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2017

Djemi Amnifu, Kupang – Lawmakers have demanded the Indonesian government engage in intensive diplomatic talks with its Australian counterpart to resolve an oil spill in the Montara oil field that has destroyed the livelihoods of fishermen in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara.

A number of lawmakers from House of Representatives Commission V overseeing infrastructure, transportation and village development have signed a petition to urge the government to speed up efforts to resolve the case.

"We are committed to supporting the fisherman in the Montara case," said Commission V chairman Fary Francis of the Gerindra Party on Tuesday.

After an explosion in 2009 at an oil field operated by PTTEP Australasia, gas and oil from the rig gushed into the Timor Sea for more than 70 days.

It is estimated that in excess of 300,000 liters of oil per day contaminated the sea, equivalent to pouring 10 Olympic swimming pools of toxic sludge into the ocean over the months the spill continued.

The oil spill has had a devastating effect on the livelihoods of fishermen and coastal communities in East Nusa Tenggara, with fish catches and seaweed harvests continuing to decline in the heavily polluted waters.

A group of 13,000 seaweed farmers are demanding compensation from the company through an Australian court. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/21/lawmakers-urge-govt-to-take-firm-action-on-timor-sea-oil-spill.html

Bandung mayor to ban conventional plastic bags

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2017

Arya Dipa, Bandung – Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil plans to ban conventional plastic bags to tackle the plastic waste problem in the city.

"Use biodegradable plastic bags instead," said Ridwan after attending an event to mark National Waste Awareness Day at Bandung City Hall on Tuesday. Ridwan previously banned the use of styrofoam food containers.

The mayor expressed his optimism about the implementation of the ban, saying that he was still trying to find ways to reduce waste in the city. Environmentally friendly company PT Nirwana Alam Hijau has produced biodegradable plastics from corn, soy and sunflower seeds.

"So it's a mixture of organic components," Nirwana Alam Hijau co-founder Daniel Rosenqvist said during an event to introduce material to replace styrofoam, recently.

Nirwana Alam Hijau created an eco-friendly poncho before producing food containers and straws. For food containers, the company uses sugar cane fiber.

"We don't want to have too much influences from outside Indonesia, we want to use technology and resources here because even though it's an organic product if we have to bring it from outside [Indonesia], there are still carbon footprints [detected in the production process]," Rosenqvist went on.

The central government has said it is time for Indonesians to pay for plastic bags when shopping. Plastic bag waste from retailers in Indonesia is estimated to account for 9.8 billion bags a year, or about 38 per person. (trw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/21/bandung-mayor-to-ban-conventional-plastic-bags.html

Indonesia to declare battle against marine plastic debris

Jakarta Post - February 18, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Banjarmasin – Indonesia will declare its commitment to combat plastic debris in marines on Feb. 23. Studies indicate that the country may be the second-biggest contributor to marine plastic debris worldwide, with an estimated 1.3 million tons originating from the archipelago annually.

Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on Saturday that Indonesia is among 10 countries committed to combating the problem.

"Indonesia has received special attention because we are one of 10 countries, including Brazil, committed to cleaning up waste in the ocean," she said during the commemoration of National Waste Awareness Day in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

Siti added that the government would officially declare the commitment on Feb. 23. Indonesia is also scheduled to present a national action plan during the fourth World's Ocean Summit in Bali from Feb. 22 to 24.

In January 2016, a World Economic Forum report concluded that with the current trajectory, there would be more plastic than fish measured by weight in the world's oceans by 2050. A previous study by APEC estimated that marine pollution cost member economies US$1.3 billion. Moreover, 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the global economy. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/18/indonesia-to-declare-battle-against-marine-plastic-debris.html

Floods in Central Java displace thousands of residents

Jakarta Post - February 18, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang – Flooding has struck several areas in Central Java over recent days, displacing thousands of local residents and cutting off access via main roads.

For the last two days, the overflowing Pemali, Cisaranggung and Babakan rivers have damaged embankments, causing flooding in several areas, including Brebes, Wanasari, Banjarharjo, Losari and Jatibarang.

Flooding struck 10 villages in Brebes regency, forcing 4,930 people to be evacuated from the area. The number of displaced residents has reached 4,930 people, with the potential to increase if weather conditions worsen over the coming days. Among the villages struck by floods were Terlangu, Miri, Lengkong and Wangandalem.

Data from the Brebes Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) showed that floodwater in 16 villages had reached 30 to 150 centimeters deep, affecting approximately 1,500 houses. Flooding also cut off access via the main road connecting Brebes and Tegal regencies through Jatibarang.

Central Java search and rescue team spokesperson Zulhawary Agustianto said the areas worst impacted by the flood were Terlangu and Kemaron villages. "Those two villages are located near the damaged embankment. The flood reached 1 meter [deep] in certain areas," Agustianto said.

The three biggest evacuation shelters currently housing residents are Lengkong with 1,350 people, Brebes Sports Center with 1,075 residents and Pulosari with 850 residents. Wisma Saditan accommodated the smallest number of residents, with only 30 people taking refuge there.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/18/floods-in-central-java-displace-thousands-of-residents.html

Forest cover maps to remain confidential: Court

Jakarta Post - February 16, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – The State Administrative High Court (PTUN) ruled on Thursday in favor of the Environment and Forestry Ministry, allowing the government to not disclose forest cover maps, which are essential in providing greater transparency on forest governance.

In September 2015, Greenpeace Indonesia filed a lawsuit at the Central Information Commission (KIP) against the ministry for refusing to release various cover maps in shapefile format, which the ministry deems to be confidential documents.

Shapefile format for maps enables users to analyze data by overlaying different maps. It functions to provide greater transparency about who controls areas of land and what happens within those areas.

Last October, the KIP ruled in favor of Greenpeace Indonesia. However, the ministry appealed to the PTUN, which in turn decided that the ministry could keep the documents confidential.

"The future of Indonesia's forests is getting darker with this ruling. There are many changes within forest areas unknown to the public because the data and information are being kept deliberately by the ministry," Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Ratri Kusumohartono said.

She said the ruling and the government's stance meant there was no transparency on forest governance under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration.

"This ruling means that there's less opportunity for the public to participate in preventing deforestation and forest fires. Meanwhile, important data that was requested by Greenpeace Indonesia is key information to knowing the conditions of our forests today," Ratri said.

Therefore, Greenpeace Indonesia would file a cassation at the Supreme Court.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/16/forest-cover-maps-to-remain-confidential-court.html

Health & education

Indonesia orders recall of 'vulgar' children's sex-education book

Reuters - February 22, 2017

Indonesia has ordered a publisher to withdraw a sex-education book for children, which addresses the subject of masturbation, for being too vulgar.

The publisher of "I Dare to Sleep Alone and I Learn to Control Myself" apologized for causing any offence but said the book aimed to help parents teach children how to protect themselves from sexual harassment.

The Education Ministry said the book, written by Fita Chakra, contained pornographic content and cited a depiction of a cartoon boy's thoughts as he hugs a bolster pillow when he can't sleep. It also includes a part where the boy finds a new game of putting his hand inside his trousers.

"The content of the book is not appropriate for children. It's too vulgar," the ministry said in a statement, adding the publisher must recall the book or face "strict sanction".

Sex education in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, is uncommon and casual conversations about sex are considered taboo.

Awaluddin Tjalla, head of the ministry's center of curriculum and books, also said the ministry was speaking to an association of publishers to urge it to take action against the publisher. He did not elaborate.

The author was not immediately available for comment, but the publisher, Tiga Serangkai, said it had consulted psychologists as well as pediatricians when compiling the book.

"Our intention in launching the book was so that we can help parents explain to children about the importance of protecting themselves... from people with ill-intention towards them," it said in a statement.

The book also contained educational material on sexually transmitted diseases and "basic knowledge that is important for a child to know from early age", it said.

On its Instagram account, Tiga Serangkai said: "We understand that some in our society are not ready for sex education at an early age", adding that those who had bought the book could return it and get a refund.

The publisher said the book had been withdrawn since December, but that it had found copies still on sale in some online stores.

Some Indonesians turned to social media to complain. An Instagram user with handler @revitatiaman said: "I've seen a few pages of the book and I don't think there's any education in here. Only damaging a child's moral and brain."

"It is better to soothe a kid who is learning to sleep by himself at night through reading or reciting a praying," said @pipijippie. "For Muslims, it can be done by reading the Koran, not by introducing the kid to sexual activity."

[Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo and Cindy Silviana; Editing by Ed Davies and Nick Macfie.]

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-book-idUSKBN1610UJ

Children's sex book causes stir in Indonesia

BBC News - February 21, 2017

Christine Franciska – A children's book is at the centre of a controversy in Indonesia because it teaches children about masturbation.

A photo of the book – I Learn to Control Myself, written by Fita Chakra – has spread across social media since Monday, sparking a discussion online about sexual education and igniting parents' anger.

"Moms, please be careful when you buy a book for your kids. Check and re-check its content," wrote one user on Facebook. Another said: "If this book is about sex education, why is the description about it so detailed?"

'Targeted at parents'

One page of the book, which has been widely shared online, depicts a cartoon boy lying on a bed. He is saying: "I cross my legs around a bolster tightly. For fun, I move my body up and down. Oh... it feels good. My heart is pounding, but I am happy."

In another screenshot the child says: "I found a new play for fun. Sometimes, I put my hand inside my pants. I repeat, again and again."

In a Muslim majority nation like Indonesia, casual conversations about sex among adults are considered taboo, let alone discussions between parents and children. But there is a growing awareness about the importance of sex education for children, in part to prevent them from being sexually abused.

Despite this, the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) has said I Learn to Control Myself is harmful for children and could lead to "sexual deviance".

The publishers, Tiga Serangkai, said the book was meant to educate children about why they feel how they do, but that "this behaviour is inappropriate and has potential health risks".

"The target of this book is parents who feel their children might have this behaviour. But it also good for all parents and kids as a precaution."

But in their statement, they said they withdrew the book from circulation last December, because some communities were "not ready to teach kids sex education from an early age". Some online bookstores are, however, still selling it.

Author Fita Chakra has written several educational books for children on issues about emotions and bodily development. She said on Instagram that she felt sad people were just posting one or two pages of the book in question out of context.

"I intensely discussed with the editor about this book long before it was published," she said. "The writing process took a long time," she said.

"Our true intention is to educate children how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. If you read it through, there is a page about tips to parents, because this book is meant to be read with parents' guidance."

Child and family psychologist Vera Itabiliana told the BBC that while it is important to teach children about sexuality in an early age, the book was targeting the wrong audience. For this particular issue, she said, it would be best if the book was made for parents only, so they can educate their children.

"You should not read this book together with your kids," she said. "Because even though the behaviour is quite common among children between five and six years old, you cannot generalise the trend. Some other children didn't do it. So when you put it into a book, and every children can read it, one who didn't even know will feel curious and try."

This is not the first time a book created controversy in Indonesia. On February 2015, a book titled It is Time for Me to Learn Dating, by Toge Aprilianto, was accused of promoting sexual activity to teenagers.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-39036643

LGBT & same-sex Marriage

Why LGBT hatred suddenly spiked in Indonesia

The Guardian (Australia) - February 22, 2017

Kate Lamb, Jakarta – A few nights ago Sudarsa received a text message from his ex-boyfriend Hendro. "I can't sleep because I'm missing you," it read.

The pair had been together for seven years. But two years ago Hendro, struggling to be open about his sexuality, succumbed to family pressure and married a woman.

"80% of gay men in Indonesia have the same problem. They get married for status, because of family and social pressure," explains Sudarsa, 30, a hairdresser who works in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, and who asked to use his first name only. "That's why they marry a girl from the village," he adds, "A girl who doesn't understand about gay life."

In the predominately Muslim nation of Indonesia, being gay is something seldom admitted outside tight-knit social circles, and in country where marriage and procreation is paramount there is only so long that some can keep family pressure at bay.

In the past, vitriol against LGBT occasionally flared up and died down soon enough, a one-off flash in the pan – an Islamic group up in arms about a transgender paegant, or queer film festival, a gay couple arrested and abused by police. And then all of a sudden in 2016, an unprecedented tide of vitriol and violence was unleashed against sexual and gender minorities across the country. Following a series of discriminatory comments from government ministers and officials, reinforced by medical professionals and Islamic clerics, moral panic and paranoia around LGBT set in.

The sustained backlash started early in the year. In response to a brochure stating that LGBT should be barred from the University of Indonesia campus, the minster, Muhammad Nasir, noted: "There are standards of values and morals to uphold. A university is a moral safeguard."

Things spiralled. At a seminar on maternal health one local mayor suggested mothers should avoid feeding their children instant noodles, a staple in Indonesia, because their time should instead be spent on nutritious cooking and teaching their children how not to be gay.

The country's top Muslim clerical body, the Council of Indonesian Ulema (MUI) issued a fatwa condemning homosexuality, while the broadcasting commission urged television stations to refrain from showing effeminate men.

Then government minister Yuddy Chrisnandi, stated: "Of course it is inappropriate for civil servants to be [homosexual]," he said, "Having more than one wife for a man is still normal...but LGBT is another issue."

Comment after comment kept the national hysteria rolling, like kerosene on a fire.

The National Psychiatric Association announced LGBT a "mental disorder" while the child protection commission observed that LGBT "propaganda" could "brainwash" children into developing "deviant" sexualities.

The minister of defence, Ryamizard Ryacudu, likened the LGBT movement to a proxy war, one more dangerous than the threat of nuclear warfare. "It's dangerous as we can't see who our foes are; out of the blue everyone is brainwashed. Now the [LGBT] community is demanding more freedom, it really is a threat. In a proxy war, another state might occupy the minds of the nation without anyone realising it. In a nuclear war, if a bomb is dropped over Jakarta, Semarang [another town in Java] will not be affected; but in a proxy war, everything we know could disappear in an instant – it's dangerous."

"We thought at the time they were just trying to distract from corruption, but we were wrong. It kept rolling and getting bigger," explains activist Yulita Rustinawati, from the LGBT advocacy organisation, Arus Pelangi.

"The impact was of course, higher incidents of violence," she continues, "Houses were raided, LGBT people were evicted, and it happened with legitimation from ministers, mayors and government officials who were making the comments."

Each inflammatory comment made the news, and was subsequently picked up by hardline religious groups, who started profiling, intimidating and attacking LGBT individuals in their communities, sometimes with the tacit approval of local officials.

"It was crazy," says Rustinawati, "Even activists were profiled. In Yogyakarta one LGBT activist I know slept in a different house every night because they were afraid."

University lecturer Achmad (who prefers not to use his real name) watched it unfold with horror, as his colleagues were asked to obscure queer content taught on campus, as a gay couple he knew was forced out of their home by police, as fear rippled through his social group – and as his conservative family pushed him harder to get married.

"I'm already thirty and not married and then with all the LGBT issues all over the media, they watched it and the pressure was worse," he says, "They were very chill before, but after those issues last year, they kept pushing me."

Achmad has never once in his life bought a girlfriend home, nor ever had one. The way it works in his family, he says, is basically "don't ask, don't tell". Even if they strongly suspect he is gay, it is never acknowledged or discussed.

In the public sphere, that is largely how it functions too. Few public figures are "out" and when the vitriol was unleashed last year it was the voices of religious conservatives, of moral panic, that were heard the loudest.

The momentum of the backlash has since subsided, although incidents of violence, intimidation, evictions, and in some cases collusion between police and hardline Islamists to target LGBT people, has not stopped. At Arus Pelangi, about 10 reports of such cases come in each month.

Reflecting on the events a year on, Kyle Knight, a researcher on the LGBT program at Human Rights Watch, said the crisis that unfolded in Indonesia last year "looked a bit like a natural disaster".

"If you are going to make that allegory, the disaster risk-reduction measures that you would use for villages and roads, anti-flooding or whatever, in this case would be legal provisions and inclusions," he noted.

The absence of say, an LGBT non-discrimination law, for example, meant President Joko Widodo had little to point to in defence. He did eventually speak out, saying that no one should face discrimination, but it was not until more than six months later when the hate had already died down.

While anti-LGBT sentiment is not new in Indonesia – Islamic hardliners have long targeted the community, sometimes with impunity – the backlash took on new colours and allegiances last year.

"The fear was deeper this time around in part because it was driven by high-level government officials, coming down from people in official positions of power," says Knight. "This bedrock of a government that remains somewhat neutral on this issues was gone, was completely ripped out from underneath them."

Regionally, the lack of legal support for sexual and gender minorities in Indonesia runs counter to current trends.

At the same time that Indonesia's psychiatric association was labeling LGBT a mental disorder, other mental health bodies in Asia, including the Philippines, Thailand and China, have been removing homosexuality as a diagnosis, and taking the extra step of issuing LGBT non-discrimination statements.

In 2013, Vietnam lifted its ban on gay marriage and Taiwan is on the verge of legalising it.

"It's is not as though Indonesia was backsliding against some distant, foreign western thing," says Knight of the LGBT backlash. "But it was actually against trends in the region to be more open and more inclusive of this population."

In Jakarta some, including 32-year-old doctor Dewi (not her real name) says she doesn't expect Indonesia will change its attitude toward LGBT anytime soon. One of Dewi's lesbian friends is engaged in a marriage of convenience with a gay man, while another friend is seriously considering the same path. Yet another lesbian friend is about to marry a man to live up to family expectations.

A medical doctor who recently opened her own clinic, Dewi said she didn't have the confidence to come out to her family until she felt she had enough professional achievements under her belt. Before that, she says, they would likely see her as "gay and useless", even though she was already a doctor.

"Some in the Indonesian LGBT population are fighting for their rights," she says, "It's not ideal, but some of us actually say, the more we fight, the more resistance there will be, there more attacks there will be."

From 20-25 February the Guardian Global Development Professionals Network is highlighting the work of the LGBT rights activists throughout the world with our LGBT change series. Nominate LGBT heroes here, join the conversation at #LGBTChange and email globaldevpros@theguardian.com to pitch an idea.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/feb/22/why-LGBT-hatred-suddenly-spiked-in-indonesia

Graft & corruption

Former DPD speaker Irman Gusman sentenced to prison for graft

Jakarta Post - February 20, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – The Jakarta corruption court on Monday sentenced Irman Gusman, the former speaker of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), to four-and-a-half years in prison for accepting a Rp 100 million (US$7,488) bribe from a businessman.

The panel of judges said the evidence confirmed that Irman had received money for his services helping Xaveriandy Sutanto, the director of CV Semesta Berjaya, secure a sugar import quota of 3,000 tons for his company in West Sumatra from the State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

The hearing found Irman had misused his influence as a high-ranking official to lobby Bulog to secure the sugar import quota for CV Semesta Berjaya.

The panel of judges handling the case also stripped Irman of his political rights, banning him from running for office for three years after his release from prison. Irman must also pay a fine of Rp 200 million.

If the former DPD speaker fails to pay the fine, he will have to serve another three months behind bars. "Our examination of the case finds the defendant guilty of corruption," presiding judge Nawawi said while reading out the sentence.

The sentence was lower than the seven-year prison sentence demanded by prosecutors on Feb. 1. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/20/former-dpd-speaker-irman-gusman-sentenced-to-prison-for-graft.html

Rampant corruption in villages caused by incompetence: ICW

Jakarta Post - February 19, 2017

Jakarta – Sixty-one village heads across Indonesia were arrested in 62 different corruption cases in 2016, according to a report by the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) released on Sunday.

ICW researcher Wana Alamsyah said there was a phenomenon it called "local elite capture" in which leaders at the village level misused village funds disbursed from the central government.

According to the report, village funds were among of the top five sectors prone to corruption. In 2016, the government allocated Rp 47 trillion (US$3.5 billion) for the village fund program.

The number of corruption cases at local government levels was also on the rise owing to a lack of participation from villagers and poor monitoring, Wana said. "Villagers should be involved in the process of planning and managing the village funds to prevent corruption," he said.

Another ICW researcher, Febri Hendri, said the incompetence of village officials was also one of the reasons behind the "local elite capture" phenomenon.

"Many village officials are still lacking adequate capability in managing village funds, as they have no clear programs to develop their villages," he said. (rdi/bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/19/rampant-corruption-in-villages-caused-by-incompetence-icw.html

Islam & religion

Hizbut Tahrir rejects rules on Friday sermons

Jakarta Post - February 19, 2017

Jakarta – The Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) rejected on Sunday the government's plan to regulate sermons during Friday prayers, arguing that there was nothing worrying about the content of the sermons. HTI Jakarta head Tisna Assyirbuni said the plan was unnecessary.

"There are already rules and regulations [according to Islamic teachings] on the sermons," Tisna told reporters on Sunday as quoted by tribunnews.com. He said HTI would deliver sermons per usual.

Tisna said the group would not comply with the government's rules should they be implemented and would lobby lawmakers to cancel the plan.

Religious Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said earlier that the government would issue guidelines on the content of Friday sermons after receiving reports that the sermons often contained hate speech and promoted sectarianism.

"There are worries from Muslims about the sermons," he said. Lukman denied the plan was part of an effort to certify clerics. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/19/hizbut-tahrir-rejects-rules-on-friday-sermons.html

Agriculture & food security

Government credit program fails to reach farmers, minister admits

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2017

Jakarta – Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution has admitted that the government-sponsored People's Business Credit (KUR) scheme has not reached farmers, who actually needed such a soft loan facility to boost agricultural productivity.

Banks were still reluctant to disburse funds to farmers, because many farmers only cultivated lands owned by other people. "They (the plots of land) are not bankable," said Darmin, as reported by tempo.co on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, Darmin said, banks were the only financial institutions with the capability to distribute the funds.

"Banks have weaknesses, but they are the only [institutions] we have [to distribute KUR funds]," Darmin said during a hearing with House of Representatives Commission XI, which oversees financial and bank affairs, in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Many parties propose other institutions, like cooperatives or other financial institutions, to distribute KUR funds, but Darmin said banks were still the preferred option, for several reasons. First, banks have large networks across the country and second, banks were good at managing funds accountably and sustainably.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati made similar statements, but she saw another reason behind the failure of the KUR program to reach the people that actually needed such facilities, namely the limited financial resources of the state.

"It is because we do not have enough resources to meet all the demand," she said, adding that the government would continue to evaluate KUR programs for better distribution. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/govt-credit-program-fails-to-reach-farmers-minister-admits.html

Jakarta & urban life

Floods hit Jakarta, Bekasi, forcing hundreds to seek shelter on higher

Jakarta Post - February 20, 2017

Jakarta – Several areas in Greater Jakarta, including Cipinang Melayu in East Jakarta and Bekasi in West Java were inundated on Sunday afternoon, causing hundreds of residents to flee to higher ground.

As many as 138 residents took shelter at the Cipinang Melayu sub-district office after the Sunter reservoir overflowed at around 2 p.m., as reported by kompas.com. One of the evacuees, Kartika, said the water in her house had reached 70 centimeters deep.

Separately, four residential areas in Bekasi, including Pondok Ungu Permai and Pondok Hijau Permai, were flooded on Sunday afternoon with the water reaching up to 1 meter in depth.

Bekasi Disaster Mitigation Agency's (BPBD) secretary Asep Haryanto said the agency had sent tents to Pondok Hijau Permai, where the worst flooding had occurred. "The water level there is up to a depth of 1 meter and many residents have fled their homes," Asep said Sunday.

He also claimed that a bad drainage system had contributed to the flooding. The agency, he added, had deployed eight inflatable boats and hundreds of personnel to evacuate the affected residents. (vny/dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/20/floods-hit-jakarta-bekasi-forcing-hundreds-to-seek-shelter-on-higher-ground.html

City aims to provide 'nicer' flats for low-income residents

Jakarta Post - February 18, 2017

Agnes Anya, Jakarta – The Jakarta administration aims to provide affordable apartments for low-income residents in the capital that are integrated with markets or bus terminals.

"These apartments, however, will be set aside for low- to middle-income people," Jakarta Government Buildings and Settlement Agency head Arifin told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The plan would adopt the concept behind an existing pilot project for integrated low-cost apartments (rusunawa) in Pasar Rumput, South Jakarta, which is currently being carried out by the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry in coordination with the Jakarta administration.

Following the pilot project, the administration last year planned to realize similar projects at 11 other markets, like Pasar Minggu Market in South Jakarta, Sunter Market in North Jakarta and Blok G Market in Central Jakarta.

With a "nicer" apartment concept, Arifin explained, officials wanted to build housing facilities that were spacious and affordable for low-income people whose economic situations had improved, in addition to young people with middle incomes.

The administration must also provide housing facilities for evictees in the capital amid a lack of rusunawa.

"We need to empty the apartments so they can be used by evictees who have yet to own houses," said Arifin, adding that there were still "a lot of evictees who have not been relocated." However, he failed to provide exact figures.

According to Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) data, 113 evictions occurred in Jakarta in 2015 alone. The incidents affected 8,145 families, as well as 6,283 businesses.

Meanwhile, within the first six months of 2016, at least four mass evictions were carried out for various reasons ranging from flood mitigation to public order and tourism, increasing the number of evictees in the capital by hundreds.

However, it has been reported that not all evicted residents were relocated, amid issues including a lack of rusunawa.

The administration recently discussed the idea in relation to Senen Market, Central Jakarta, given that the market will soon undergo renovations following a fire that damaged around 1,000 kiosks last January.

Jakarta secretary Saefullah said the administration planned to rebuild the burned sections of the market and integrate them with new apartment blocks.

The housing facilities, he said, would be prioritized for low-cost apartment residents who wanted to move to nicer buildings. "[However,] other citizens will also have a chance by applying to the administration," he added.

Separately, PT Jaya Konstruksi Manggala Pratama, which is responsible for the Senen Market construction, said the company had yet to decide whether the market would be rebuilt with apartments.

"We have yet to make such a plan as the police are still investigating the cause of the fire," said PT Jaya Konstruksi Manggala Pratama president director Sutopo Kristanto. "Moreover, we are still prioritizing providing relocation sites for the vendors."

Sutopo said the police were expected to finish their investigation by the end of the month.

In March, the company will conduct an internal examination of the building 's structure and technical utilities in cooperation with the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB).

"The examination with ITB may be finished by the end of March. After that, we will discuss the plan regarding Senen Market. We are yet to know whether it will be renovated or rebuilt or redeveloped," Sutopo said, refuting Saefullah's statement.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/18/city-aims-to-provide-nicer-flats-for-low-income-residents.html

Film & television

'Istirahatlah Kata-Kata': young audiences discover a dissident poet

Indonesia at Melbourne - February 21, 2017

Elly Kent – The Indonesian title of the film "Solo, Solitude", released in January in selected Indonesian cinemas, is instead "Istirahatlah Kata-Kata", which can be roughly translated as "Rest Now, Words". Throughout this sparse and quietly composed film, this evocative sense of a poet's weariness pervades. The viewer, too, longs for the poet's rest.

The film begins with veiled hostility, as we watch four figures fill the screen. A young girl remains silent, her mother's hand resting on her shoulder. One policeman questions her while another rifles through shelves in the background.

"Istirahatlah Kata-Kata" describes several months of the fugitive life of poet and activist Widji Thukul, which began in 1996 as then President Soeharto's New Order cracked down on growing resistance to the authoritarian regime. Widji, a member of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), was among many who fled when they were marked for arrest and the uncertain, often fatally violent, fate that followed detention. The film depicts Widji's journey and friendships within the network of activists, intellectuals and unionists that protected and concealed dissidents. Yet this political context is only vaguely – and very empirically – outlined at the beginning of the film, a strategic creative decision that has challenged some viewers, especially those who understand little of this part of recent Indonesian history.

Instead, director Yosep Anggi Noen has built a universe of lush soundscapes and deep colour to frame the quotidian quiet of Widji's exile in Kalimantan, and the loneliness of his wife Siti Dyah Sujirah, or Sipon, in their home town of Solo. There is little drama in the film until its final scenes: Widji's poetry narrates the protagonist's psychological state as he travels through the landscape, his verses of resistance hinting at the political context that the film only sparingly explores. Meanwhile a shrill whistled tune links scenes of home and flight. We watch in the dark as Widji fails to fall asleep, to write, or to think. When eventually we witness Widji's poetry return to him, he rests at last and the mood of the film lifts.

The film's English title suggests a solitude that is not a marked feature of the narrative. Widji is protected and rarely alone. Sipon and their children continue their lives under the close surveillance of gossiping neighbours and police. But the film certainly evokes the accumulating tiredness of a family living without certainty of a future together, and the brief joy and ongoing pain that reunion brings.

Even as the film rises to its conclusion, the pictures Anggi paints for the viewer remain restrained, long shots undisturbed by excessive dialogue or multiple viewpoints. The sometimes gentle, sometimes startling sounds – of plates scraping, engines rattling and bodily movements – set the mood for scenes that roll between fearful encounters with would-be and genuine soldiers and congenial meetings with like-minded friends.

The film has been immensely popular, especially among young Indonesians, many of whom were barely school-age during the period the film depicts. Initially showing on only 19 screens, it quickly expanded to 32 screens, and by early February, had been viewed by more than 50,000 Indonesians.

When I arrived to see "Istirahatlah Kata-Kata" at the cinema at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM), a cultural centre in Jakarta that has dominated Indonesian artistic output in many fields since its inauguration in 1968, I was surprised to see hundreds of people milling in and around the lobby. Large groups of young people, clearly attending as part of study courses or social clubs, filled the cinema – perhaps surprising given there has been little recognition of Widji Thukul's poetry or activism outside of human rights and arts circles.

The line from his poem "Peringatan" ("Warning"), which insists "thus there is only one word: fight!", has become a common catchcry of resistance among young Indonesians, but as one academic observed at a poetry reading also held at TIM, few know where the words come from. The film's popular appeal is also its strength. While the TIM audience, perhaps more familiar with the film's background story, remained serious throughout, a screening I attended at Jakarta's Blok M mall coaxed many laughs from a less solemn audience.

It's unlikely that those who know little of Widji Thukul, or the work of activist movements and their supporters leading up to the ousting of President Soeharto in 1998, will learn much more from this film. But in a socio-cultural and political environment that remains repressive of leftist ideologies and has failed to reverse the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of human rights abuses, the popularity of "Istirahatlah Kata-Kata" speaks volumes for the craft of film and its potential to utter the unutterable. And the film's success at international film festivals points to its broader appeal as an exploration of poetry and exile that has captivated audiences around the world.

[Elly Kent is a writer, artist and translator who specialises in contemporary Indonesian art. She has recently been awarded a doctorate from the Australian National University (ANU).]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/film-review-istirahatlah-kata-kata/

National security & intelligence

Police extend detention of treason suspect Firza

Jakarta Post - February 20, 2017

Jakarta – The police have extended the detention of treason suspect Firza Husein at the headquarters of the Mobile Brigade Command detention center (Mako Brimob) in Kelapa Dua, Depok, for another 20 days.

"The case is about treason and her detention has been prolonged for another 20 days," Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said on Monday as quoted by tribunnews.com.

Firza was arrested at her residence in East Jakarta on Feb. 1 after she attempted to escape investigation regarding her role in alleged treason planned with other 10 activists on Dec. 2 last year, only hours before the rally demanding the arrest of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy.

Besides the treason case, the police are also investigating the screen grabs of an intimate WhatsApp conversation that allegedly took place between Firza and Islam Defenders Front leader Rizieq Shihab, Argo said.

"We're still investigating and searching for evidence related to this case. We're searching where the photos came from," he said. Argo added that the police were as yet unable to trace the parties who had sent the steamy messages.

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

The police have so far questioned 10 witnesses, including a digital forensics expert, during their investigation into the case. (cal)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/20/police-extend-detention-of-treason-suspect-firza.html

Foreign affairs & trade

Benjamin Netanyahu took two-hour flight detour to avoid Indonesian

The Guardian (Australia) - February 22, 2017

Elle Hunt – The Israeli prime minister was forced to take a two-and-a-half-hour detour en route to Australia, apparently to avoid Indonesian airspace.

Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Sydney at about 6.30am AEDT on Wednesday for a four-day visit, the first time an Israeli prime minister has visited Australia.

The average direct flight from Singapore to Sydney takes about eight and a half hours; according to the flight tracking site FlightAware, Netanyahu's total flight time was just over 11 hours as his flight path dodged Indonesia's airspace. A member of Netanyahu's delegation confirmed the route to the Guardian. The flight was operated by El Al, the flag carrier of Israel that is disallowed from venturing into the airspace of many Muslim nations, including Pakistan.

Indonesia is home to the largest population of Muslim people in the world – the vast majority of the total population of about 240 million – and it is staunchly supportive of the Palestinian cause.

It has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, but does sanction some travel and trade. Its visa-free policy was extended to Israel and 83 other countries in December 2015 in a bid to increase tourism.

In March last year Netanyahu called for diplomatic relations to be formally established with Indonesia because of the "many opportunities for bilateral cooperation", especially in technology.

According to the Times of Israel report, he said the reasons for the two countries not to have a relationship were "no longer relevant" and that they were allied against terrorism.

He told the delegation of Indonesian journalists, visiting as guests of the Israeli foreign ministry: "I have quite a few Facebook friends who are Indonesian."

But the Indonesian government said in response that ties with Israel would only be normalised if Palestine gained independence. Cabinet secretary Pramono Anung said: "The most important thing is the spirit to realise Palestinian independence".

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/22/netanyahu-flight-detour-indonesia-israel-australia

Foreign researchers 'steal' Indonesia's genetic resources

Jakarta Post - February 22, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – As one of the most species-rich countries on earth, Indonesia attracts researchers from around the world to study the archipelago's unique ecosystems, which contain a diverse array of flora and fauna.

Indonesia, for instance, possesses 10 percent of the world's flowering species, 12 percent of the world's mammals and 17 percent of the total species of birds, despite occupying only 1.3 percent of the world's land surface.

However, this rich biodiversity makes Indonesia a haven for biopiracy, a practice where natural resources and traditional knowledge are being exploited without consent.

"There are lots of cases we've discovered that have occurred through research and cooperation where we haven't realized that our genetic resources were being stolen," said Rosichon Ubaidillah, the head of zoology at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) biology research department.

He cited various examples, including varieties of Indonesian eggplants, the genetics of which have been mapped by the Netherlands. "There's an Indonesian researcher whose study was funded [by the Netherlands]. He unwittingly collected samples of eggplants, which now have now been genetically mapped by the Netherlands. This is very sad," Rosichon said.

Last November, Rosichon requested that his student not accept any scholarships from the German government because it required the student to collect samples of Indonesian insects in order to find new antibiotics.

"I told my student that she had two options, to risk [our genetic resources being stolen] or to find another school. She finally applied for an Australian scholarship because Australia doesn't require us to bring samples to the country," he said.

Foreign countries, he added, are also allegedly trying to collect genetic samples through other means, such as cooperation with researchers in Eastern Indonesia, where foreign researchers come to teach Eastern Indonesia's researchers.

Rosichon cited an example concerning Khairun University in Ternate, North Maluku. "The university once worked with foreign researchers to teach them how to collect and conserve marine biodiversity, but they don't even have marine biology faculty or equipment," said Rosichon.

These incidents are only the tip of the iceberg as many biopiracy cases go undetected with little to no regulation on how to protect genetic resources in the country.

Foreign researchers, for instance, could disguise themselves as tourists and go to national parks to collect samples of tree bark, logs, dried leaves and even soil that contains living microorganisms. The samples would be brought to their countries, isolated, studied and produced as medicine or other products.

As there is no clear regulation protecting genetic resources, the House of Representatives is currently revising Law No. 5/1990 on natural resources and ecosystem conservation.

"The current law only regulates information about species and ecosystems. In the latest draft of the revision bill, genetic resources have been included," Indonesian Communication Forum on Community Forestry (FKKM) executive secretary Andri Santosa, who has been involved in the deliberation of the bill, said.

The bill, which is included in the 2017 priority list, will lay out the legal framework for protection of genetic resources in the country, such as sanctions for biopiracy perpetrators, he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/22/foreign-researchers-steal-indonesias-genetic-resources.html

Push for Australian university campuses in Indonesia under free trade

Sydney Morning Herald - February 22, 2017

Jewel Topsfield and Henrietta Cook – Australia is pushing for Australian universities to be permitted to open campuses in Indonesia as part of a free trade deal that both countries hope will be finalised this year.

The chief of the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board, Thomas Lembong, revealed negotiations on the deal – known as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement – were "70 per cent completed".

However he said Australia wanted the education sector included in the deal, given Australia was already the number one destination for Indonesian students studying abroad and other countries, such as Malaysia, allowed foreign universities.

"So they are asking if Australian universities can operate in Indonesia. This is a breakthrough they [negotiators] are still working on," Mr Lembong said.

Finalising the free trade agreement will be one of the key topics of discussion when Indonesian President Joko Widodo flies to Australia this weekend to meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Fairfax Media understands RMIT – which already has a successful campus in Vietnam – has made several exploratory trips to Indonesia.

RMIT University's deputy vice-chancellor of global development, professor Andrew Macintyre, said the university had no current plans to open a campus in Indonesia. But he said he strongly supported including education in the trade deal.

"It will lead to a broadening and a deepening of Australia engagement with Indonesia in higher education," he said. He said the two countries had a lot to offer each other.

"Indonesia is a really important country for us," he said. "Our approach is focused on working with our partners there rather than seeking to establish our own campus there."

Swinburne deputy vice-chancellor professor Duncan Bentley said the university considered Indonesia a "key" long-term partner.

The Victorian university already has a campus in Malaysia where students from more than 60 countries study. Professor Bentley said this campus, which is located on the island of Borneo, had enabled the university to strengthen its ties with Indonesia through research and education.

"Swinburne encourages students and staff to engage with our South-east Asian neighbours, including Indonesia, through research partnerships, education partnerships, student exchange and industry study tours," he said.

A number of smaller universities and TAFEs have also expressed interest. However the Australian Department of Education and Training said that unlike in Singapore and Malaysia, "no Australian higher education provider is able to operate a stand-alone campus in Indonesia".

Fairfax Media understands this is for a range of reasons, including concerns about competition for students from local universities and regulations that severely inhibit foreign investment in education and training in Indonesia.

"Despite the length and depth of our bilateral education relationship, the great demand for educating and training in Indonesia and genuine potential for mutual benefit, barriers remain to expanding Australian education exports to Indonesia," the department said in a submission to a current parliamentary inquiry into Australia's trade and investment relationship with Indonesia.

The department supported a trade deal that "could open new market access and reduce behind-the-border barriers for Australian education and training providers so that they can help meet Indonesia's need for a skilled and educated workforce".

TAFE Directors Australia chief executive Martin Reardon said the proposed changes would benefit Australian TAFEs.

He said a recent survey conducted by the organisation and Austrade identified "quite alarming" skills shortages in Indonesia, particularly in the services industry and construction. "We feel quite prepared," he said. "It's a win-win scenario."

In China, Australian TAFEs have forged around 90 partnerships with local institutions. This has led to 45,000 Chinese students undertaking Australian diploma courses every year.

"They have no interest to come to Australia but just want to get a better job in China," he said. "The Indonesian ministry of education has been very keen for us to look at similar programs for Indonesian students to do technical qualifications in English and maybe even special academies."

The International Education Association of Australia says there are only about 19,000 Indonesian students currently studying in Australia. "The irony is Australia is still the most popular study destination for Indonesian students," said executive director Phil Honeywood.

"There's still a massive potential market if we could provide the benefits of an Australian education in Indonesia," he said. "There is an incredible appetite on behalf of all Australian education providers to enhance delivery into Indonesia."

The Australia Indonesia Business Council is also pushing for the trade deal to include provisions to open the university sector in Indonesia to foreign investment.

"Despite the criticality of skills for both nations, and the high potential for both to benefit, cooperation in education and training has been fitful," it said in a submission to the inquiry.

Council president Debnath Guharoy told Fairfax Media that any major economy should have at least 10 per cent of its workforce university or tertiary-educated.

"Indonesia stands at four per cent," he said. "Everybody understands Australia can make a major contribution to economic uplift in Indonesia if the gates are more open."

Mr Lembong, a former trade minister, has previously hinted that Indonesia could allow Australian campuses in special economic zones.

This week he said Indonesia considered negotiations on the trade deal had been "very conducive" and they remained confident it could be wrapped up this year.

"If we wanted to we could finalise it today," he said. However he said this would be a waste as it was hoped the agreement would be as wide as possible. "This is such a rare opportunity. So we want it to be as ambitious as possible in terms of the coverage of the agreement."

Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said there was significant scope in the free trade agreement to build the services relationship between Indonesia and Australia in a number of areas. These included education, financial, professional and mining services.

"Likewise we can secure new opportunities for Australian goods into Indonesia," Mr Ciobo told Fairfax Media.

"The Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is an historic opportunity to redefine the bilateral economic relationship, by increasing the flow of goods and services and raising levels of investment to new levels," he said.

"Australian and Indonesian negotiators are working towards a timely conclusion of a quality free trade agreement with Indonesia and have made good progress in talks this week in Canberra. Both sides are committed to delivering a high-quality deal this year."

Despite the geographical proximity between the two countries and the burgeoning middle class in Indonesia, the adjective most frequently used to describe the trade and investment relationship is "underdone".

Indonesia is Australia's 12th-largest trading partner and there are only about 250 Australian businesses in Indonesia.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/push-for-australian-university-campuses-in-indonesia-under-free-trade-deal-20170222-guiwhp.html

Mining & energy

Minister Sri Mulyani warns Freeport not to stop production

Jakarta Post - February 22, 2017

Jakarta – Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has warned gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia that if it ceased production its share prices would be sharply affected.

"Freeport is a public company. If it stops production, its shares will fall," said Sri Mulyani in Jakarta on Wednesday as reported by kontan.co, adding that there would be no winner in the dispute.

The company has reportedly stopped producing concentrate at its mining site in Papua following a dispute with the government over the requirement that it convert its contract of work (CoW) to a special mining license (IUPK).

Previously, Freeport McMoRan president and CEO Richard C. Adkerson said the 2009 Mineral and Coal Mining Law stipulated that the CoW signed in 1991 was still valid, but the government had requested that Freeport convert the contract.

The company, which insists that the government has to respect the CoW, has reportedly stopped production, claiming that its storage space is full of concentrate after it failed to obtain an export license.

Sri Mulyani expressed the hope that Freeport would cooperate with the government. "We have continuously told Freeport that any regulation [contract] would maintain the stability of its economic activities. But at the same time, we [the government] have to uphold prevailing laws," said Sri Mulyani.

The government has given the company six months to adjust to the new contract, as per the law. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/22/minister-sri-mulyani-warns-freeport-not-to-stop-production.html

Freeport gives government four months to negotiate new settlement

Jakarta Post - February 20, 2017

Jakarta – Richard C. Adkerson, the president and CEO of Freeport-McMoRan, has said his company will give the Indonesian government four months to negotiate a new settlement with the company in relation to a dispute over Freeport's contract to operate the Grasberg mine in Papua.

If the negotiations fail, the company will go to an international arbitration tribunal to seek a resolution to the dispute, he added.

Adkerson said Freeport had told the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry on Jan. 17 that the government had violated its contract of work (CoW) when it effectively terminated the contract, initially signed in 1991, and demanded that Freeport convert to a special mining license (IUPK).

"There are 120 days for the government and Freeport to resolve these differences and if they cannot be resolved, we will go through an arbitration process," said Adkerson as reported by tribunnews.com on Monday.

The dispute started when the government issued a regulation stipulating that mining companies that wanted to continue exporting cooper concentrates must alter their agreements from CoWs into IUPKs.

Adkerson, however, claims that the 2009 Mineral and Coal Mining Law clearly states that Freeport's CoW is still valid. As a consequence of this, Adkerson argues that the government does not have the right to demand that Freeport alter its contract.

"We cannot just give up our rights that have been given to us in the CoW," Adkerson said in a press statement received by The Jakarta Post on Monday. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/20/freeport-gives-government-four-months-to-negotiate-new-settlement.html

Foreign workers sent home following restrictions on copper concentrate

Jakarta Globe - February 19, 2017

Timika. More than 20 foreign workers of Freeport Indonesia's contractors have left the mining site in Timika, Mimika, Papua, following restrictions on copper concentrate exports introduced in January.

Tembagapura Immigration Office head Jesaja Samuel Enock said the foreigners have completed their contracts with the companies and their departure coincided with mass layoffs in the world's second-largest copper mine.

"Some of them finished their contracts at the same time when layoffs started, some others were affected by the current internal problems at Freeport," Jesaja told state news agency Antara.

However, none of Freeport's foreign workers with permanent contracts have been sent home, Jesaja added. Local manpower agency has recorded that 300 foreigners have been officially laid off following the government's export restriction policy.

On Friday, hundreds of workers rallied in front of the Mimika administration office to demand the restriction be revoked.

Currently, more than 200 foreigners work for Freeport and its contractors, most of the them derive from Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada and Philippines. They are specialized in underground mining.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/foreign-workers-sent-home-following-restrictions-copper-concentrate-exports/

Freeport Indonesia chief resigns as dispute over mining policy

Jakarta Post - February 18, 2017

Jakarta – PT Freeport Indonesia announced on Saturday the immediate resignation of Chappy Hakim as its president director, only three months after his appointment as the mining giant's top executive.

In a press release, Freeport Indonesia did not specify when Chappy, a retired air chief marshal, would officially step down. However, it said he would move to an advisory role with the company.

"Serving as Freeport Indonesia president director involves an extraordinary commitment of time. I have decided it is in the best interests of Freeport Indonesia and my family to step down from my duties as president director while continuing to support the company in an advisory role," Chappy said as quoted in the release.

Chappy's resignation occurred as the company, a subsidiary of United States-based Freeport-McMoRan, fights against complying with the government's latest mining policy, which stipulates that miners must convert their current contracts of work (CoWs) into special mining permits (IUPKs) in exchange for permission to continue exporting certain mineral ores and concentrates.

Freeport has repeatedly said it would not agree to the contract conversion unless the government provided assurance of long-term investment stability, consisting of fiscal and legal certainty, in accordance with its CoW signed in 1991.

Freeport-McMoRan CEO and president Richard C. Adkerson thanked Chappy for his contributions to the company. "We understand that this was a difficult decision for Pak Chappy to make. We appreciate his service to our company and his support. We look forward to his continued advice and counsel," he said.

Chappy, also known as an aviation industry expert and prolific writer, was appointed as Freeport Indonesia's top executive in November. The company previously appointed retired military officer Air Vice Marshall (ret.) Maroef Sjamsoeddin as president director. (hwa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/18/freeport-indonesia-chief-resigns-as-dispute-over-mining-policy-intensifies.html

Freeport Indonesia mine grinds to complete halt: Union

Reuters - February 16, 2017

Fergus Jensen, Jakarta – All work has stopped at Freeport-McMoRan Inc's giant copper mine in Indonesia, a worker union said on Thursday, just over a month after the country halted exports of copper concentrate to boost domestic industries.

Freeport had said the suspension would require the Grasberg copper mine to slash output by 60 percent to approximately 70 million pounds of metal per month if it did not get an export permit by mid-February, due to limited storage. But a strike at Freeport's sole domestic offtaker of copper concentrate, PT Smelting, expected to last at least until March, has limited Freeport's output options, and Grasberg's storage sites are now full.

"Everything has stopped completely. It's just maintenance now," Freeport Indonesia worker union chief Virgo Solossa told Reuters, stopping short of saying how many of an estimated 33,000 workers had been sent home.

A spokesman for Freeport Indonesia could not immediately be reached for comment on the matter.

Freeport estimated in January that sales of copper from Grasberg, the world's second-biggest copper mine, would reach 1.3 billion pounds in 2017, up from 1.05 billion pounds in 2016, assuming operations were normal.

Thousands of workers planned to stage a demonstration on Friday in Papua, the province where the mine is located, to demand that the government "make a wise decision" regarding their situation, Solossa said.

"If they aren't careful, this has and will impact (Freeport operations), both for workers as immediate beneficiaries and the broader community as recipients of benefits from Freeport's presence." Solossa added that further action would be considered following the demonstration on Friday.

Indonesia introduced rules earlier this year requiring Freeport and some other miners to shift from their current 'contracts of work' to so-called 'special mining permits', before being allowed to resume exports of semi-processed ores and concentrates.

Phoenix, Arizona-based Freeport has said it would only agree to a new mining permit with the same fiscal and legal protection in its current contract.

Mining ministry officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.

[Reporting by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Joseph Radford.]

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-freeport-output-idUSKBN15V0RO

Government ignores Freeport's threat to lay off workers

Jakarta Post - February 16, 2017

Jakarta – The government has ignored a threat from gold and copper mining company PT Freeport Indonesia, the country's biggest taxpayer and major employer, to lay off its workers if an agreement with the government failed to be reached.

"If it is part of pressure, just ignore it," said Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution, as reported by tribunnews.com on Wednesday.

Darmin said Freeport had demanded legal guarantees from the government that the current policy would not change if there were a change in the government.

Such certainty was demanded with regard to the amount of taxes the company paid and the continuity of its operations in Indonesia, Darmin said.

The taxes the company paid were, in fact, on a declining trend, but the company had doubts about whether such a policy would be maintained if there were a change in government, Darmin said.

Previously, Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said the company needed a stable investment agreement with the Indonesian government on the conversion of its contract of work (CoW) to a special mining license (IUPK).

Riza stressed that such an agreement was important for Freeport, because it was related to its long-term investment plan in Indonesia.

The government has barred the company from exporting its concentrate, saying the export licenses would be issued soon after the company signed an agreement that included a commitment to build a smelter and sell stakes to Indonesian entities. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/16/government-ignores-freeports-threat-to-lay-off-workers.html

Jokowi digs in heels over 100% electrification deadline

Jakarta Post - February 15, 2017

Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo remains adamant on his plan to supply electricity to all parts of the country by the end of his term in 2019.

"The instruction from the President is that we have to achieve an electrification ratio of 100 percent in 2019," Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan said on Wednesday, as reported by tempo.co.

One of the efforts to achieve the target was by installing solar panels in 2,500 villages across the country, said Jonan, adding that it was, however, still a great challenge for state-owned electricity company PLN.

Anther instruction from the President was to keep electricity affordable, said Jonan. "Affordability is important. Therefore, PLN is expected not to increase the prices. It is even expected to gradually reduce them," he added.

Therefore, Jonan said he had advised PLN's board of directors to develop power plants that use the cheapest energy resources in each region.

He cited as an example that electricity plants in North Maluku were recommended to use gas, while in Papua, power plants could use geothermal power, solar energy or mini-hydropower. "In short, in each region, the power plants have to use energy sources of the lowest price," Jonan added.

The minister said that Jokowi had also stressed the importance of adequate electricity supplies to support industrial development. "If electricity prices are not competitive, the products of our industry will also not be able to compete with products from other countries. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/15/jokowi-digs-in-heels-over-100-electrification-deadline.html

Infrastructure & development

Land acquisition issues continue to hinder strategic projects

Jakarta Post - February 17, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – Land acquisition issues still seem to make up the bulk of problems that hinder strategic project development across the nation.

Acting North Sumatra governor Tengku Erry Nuradi confirmed that the province had experienced speed bumps in land acquisition and in procuring forest land.

"There are still some issues with land acquisition, and also with forest land that turned out to be inhabited by people," he said following a closed-door meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Thursday.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo held two closed-door meetings to discuss the progress of strategic projects in North Sumatra and East Nusa Tenggara (NTT).

The government has been revising its list of strategic national projects, adding an additional 44 projects worth Rp 1,098 trillion (US$82.4 billion) in the latest revision of Presidential Regulation No. 3/2016.

The original regulation contained 225 strategic national projects and one electricity procurement project with total investment of Rp 2,826 trillion. Since then, 20 projects have been completed while 18 others were erased from the initial list, leaving the remaining 187 projects needing investment of Rp 2,740 trillion.

Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil acknowledged that land acquisition problems remained an issue. Furthermore, he said that the government was currently preparing a Presidential Instruction to tackle the issue.

"Forests that have been inhabited by people will be released to citizens as part of our agrarian reform," he said, adding that compensation would be paid as it would no longer be considered forest land. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/17/land-acquisition-issues-continue-to-hinder-strategic-projects.html

Economy & investment

Consumer confidence declines slightly in Q4

Jakarta Post - February 22, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesian consumer confidence declined slightly in the fourth quarter of 2016 to 120 points, according to the latest survey report from Nielsen.

The decline is indicated by low consumer optimism in regards to future personal finance. Consumer optimism in this area decreased three points to 81 points. Consumer spending intentions slightly decreased to 59 points from 60 points in the previous quarter.

Nielsen Company Indonesia managing director Agus Nurudin said rising concerns over political instability (25 percent) and emerging concerns over religious intolerance (25 percent) also contributed to the decline in consumer confidence in the fourth quarter.

"Consumers worry that religious intolerance will affect the country's political stability," he told a press conference in Jakarta on Monday.

Economic concerns (26 percent), work-life balance (15 percent) and terrorism (13 percent) also worried consumers. The survey also shows that consumer concerns about a recession grew slightly to 54 points from 47 points in the previous quarter.

Nielsen conducted the survey using online methods. (ecn/bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/22/consumer-confidence-declines-slightly-in-q4.html

Indonesia watchdog says Yamaha, Honda distributors guilty of price

Reuters - February 21, 2017

Jakarta Globe - February 21, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia's anti-monopoly agency said on Monday (20/02) that two companies that make and distribute Yamaha and Honda motorbikes there were guilty of price-fixing.

A tribunal by the Indonesian Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) ruled that PT Yamaha Indonesia Motor Manufacturing and PT Astra Honda Motor had agreed to set prices for automatic scooters with an engine capacity of 110-125 cubic centimeters.

The tribunal fined Yamaha Indonesia Rp 25 billion ($1.9 million) and Astra Honda Rp 22.5 billion.

Astra Honda is jointly owned by Indonesian conglomerate Astra International and Japan's Honda Motor. Yamaha Indonesia is part of Japan's Yamaha Group.

In a statement, Yamaha Indonesia denied it had conducted price-fixing and said it reserved the right to file an appeal. Astra Honda did not immediately provide a comment.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/indonesia-watchdog-says-yamaha-honda-distributors-guilty-price-fixing/

Business permits no longer need renewing as of today

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2017

Stefani Ribka, Jakarta – The Trade Ministry has distributed circulars to inform officials that business permits (SIUP) no longer need to be renewed and that registration certificates (TDP) can be renewed online.

"We've eliminated the SIUP renewal obligation. For TDP, as the law obliges its renewal [every five years], we have shifted the procedure to online for free. The circulars have been issued today," said Minister Enggartiasto "Enggar" Lukita in a press conference before joining a Trade Ministry working meeting on Tuesday.

Previously, business players had to renew the two licenses every five years, a procedure that was lengthy.

Businesses, meanwhile, have lauded the initiative. "This is good because it will free us from unnecessary costs because the permits will be valid forever, except if a business closes down," said Adhi Lukman, chairman of the Food and Beverages Association (GAPMMI).

Document renewal was not costly but time-consuming as it took around two weeks, Adhi said. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/21/business-permits-no-longer-need-renewing-as-of-today.html

Indonesia explores options to ease industrial loans

Jakarta Post - February 16, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – With relatively stagnant growth in the manufacturing sector, the government is considering assigning a special institution to provide long-term financing for industrialists, who used to provide a major boost for economic growth.

Once an outstanding feature in the domestic economy, the manufacturing sector seems to have hit a rough spot, with the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) recording only 4.29 percent expansion last year, lower than the economic growth that stood at 5.02 percent. The sector's contribution to economic growth stood at 20.51 percent.

The absence of a financial institution or bank with a specific focus on industry financing has made it difficult for many business players, particularly those in remote areas, to seek additional sources of capital, says Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto.

"To encourage more equality [between regions], we must push for a special funding institution specifically for the industrial sector," the minister said on Tuesday after a meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the State Palace.

"We previously had Bapindo [Bank Pembangunan Indonesia], but we no longer have a bank for the industries."

To address such an issue, Airlangga has suggested diverting state-owned infrastructure financing companies PT Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (SMI) or the Indonesian Export Financing Agency (LPEI), also known as Indonesia Eximbank, to also provide long-term financing for industrial development. Furthermore, he also emphasized the need to set up a micro-credit scheme for small and medium industries.

"Furthermore, we would like to encourage export-oriented, labor-intensive industries with tax incentives, in addition to the funding," he said, adding that the ministry had yet to propose a list of financing companies suitable for the new scheme.

The government has continued to boost the manufacturing sector and hopes the non-oil and gas industry grows 5.5 percent this year.

Indonesia has become a new entrant in the group of top 10 manufacturers, con-tributing 1.93 percent to global manufacturing value added, according to data from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) referred to by the minister.

However, Southeast Asia's largest economy has seen its manufacturing sector expand at a singledigit rate for more than a decade. In contrast, the period prior to the 1997-1998 financial crisis showed the expansion of the manufacturing industry outperforming the levels of economic growth.

President Jokowi has repeatedly emphasized the importance of developing the downstream sector, especially since commodity prices continue to remain low in the sluggish global economy.

"We have to develop the downstream industries because it directly affects the people and increases job opportunities, and moves the regional economy," he said.

Establishing a financing institution is not the only solution the government hopes to offer. It cut recently the price of gas for stateowned firms in the petrochemical, steel and fertilizer industries to US$6 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) from around $9 per mmbtu. The government is also considering allowing gas imports to cut the prices for other manufacturing sectors.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said she was still mulling over whether it was necessary to establish a specific financing institution, especially for industries, especially since a similar idea had been thought of years ago.

"We are still evaluating the issue in the form of pros and cons, especially compared to a standard financing institution. We need to evaluate what the legal basis would be, especially since it would have a different position in comparison to other financial institutions," she said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/16/indonesia-explores-options-to-ease-industrial-loans.html

Banking & finance

Finance minister admits foreign debt increasing

Jakarta Post - February 21, 2017

Jakarta – Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has said the government's foreign debt has increased over recent years, primarily due to continuous deficits in state budgets.

"The deficits have implications related to [foreign] debt," said Sri Mulyani while opening a seminar at the House of Representatives complex as reported by tribunnews.com on Tuesday.

Sri Mulyani further explained that state spending was higher than state revenues. The smaller amount of revenue collection was caused mainly by sluggish exports and the smaller amount of tax money received by the state, said Sri Mulyani.

Like it or not, the government has to cover deficits with debt. If it doesn't do this, the government could not finance its programs already listed in the state budget, she added.

As of December 2016, government debt had reached Rp 3,466.96 trillion, roughly Rp 301 trillion higher than the debt in 2015. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/21/finance-minister-admits-foreign-debt-increasing.html

Analysis & opinion

Hanging on by a 'sin' and a prayer

New Mandala - February 21, 2017

Chong Wu Ling – In the 2010 Medan mayoral election Chinese contestant Sofyan Tan was the victim of a concerted campaign against him based on religious identity. Here's what that election can tell us about what to expect in the second round of voting for Jakarta's governor, and why Ahok should brace for more racial and religious politics.

Featuring charges of blasphemy, the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election has been a bitterly contested and controversial ballot laden with a heavy dose of religious and racial politics. Not only is the vote now headed to another round, but things could only get more intense.

According to quick count results released by Kompas, the major Indonesian-language newspaper, the incumbent pair Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, aka Ahok and Djarot Saiful Hidayat lead the race with 42.87 per cent of the total votes, followed closely by former education minister Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno with 39.76 per cent. The son of former president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and his running mate Sylviana Murni, managed to grab only 17.37 per cent of votes. A second round of the race will be needed since none of the pairs obtained more than 50 per cent of the votes.

The quick count election results indicate two very important things. First, the lesser votes that Agus and Sylviana received compared to their rivals clearly shows that the influence of SBY has declined significantly since he stepped down. It also shows that Susilo's party, the Democratic Party (PD- Partai Demokrat) is not as influential as it was during Susilo's presidency. Now the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P – Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan), which the current president Jokowi is affiliated with and which supports the Ahok-Djarot pair, and the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Partai Gerindra – Partai Gerakan Indonesia Raya) led by ex-General Prabowo Subianto that supports the Anies-Sandiaga pair, are much more significant.

Second, the results also indicate that it will be very tough for the Ahok-Djarot pair to get elected in the second round of the race since it is highly possible that those who voted for the Agus-Sylviana pair will now support the Anies-Baswedan pair instead. It could be argued that those voters who supported Agus-Sylviana were most likely to be anti-Ahok.

In addition, it would also be difficult for the Ahok-Djarot pair to gain the support of Jakarta's evicted slum dwellers. They used to live along the riverbanks of the city but were forcibly evicted by the incumbent provincial government as part of efforts to overcome frequent flooding. Although most of the residents were later relocated to semi-state low-cost apartments at the outskirts of the city, they had to start paying a monthly rental fee of 300,000 Rupiah (US$23.15) after living there for three months. As the Jakarta Globe reported, at one of the low-cost apartment residential areas, most voters cast a ballot for either Anies-Sandiaga or Agus-Sylviana. It clearly indicates deep resentment among the residents towards Ahok.

So what can we expect next? An election held seven years ago and some 1,400 kilometres away might shed some light.

The second round of Jakarta's governor race will probably see the escalation of communal tension and the continued increased emphasis on religious identity, similar to what happened during the second round of Medan's mayoral election in 2010. At that time, Sofyan Tan aka Tan Kim Yang, the only ethnic Chinese mayoral candidate, gained the second highest votes by defeating eight other candidates in the first round of the race. He and the incumbent who obtained the highest votes then entered the second round.

Tan was a Buddhist, and his non-Muslim background became the target of attack for the incumbent's camp, who undermined Tan's legitimacy as a mayoral candidate by manipulating religious identity. They launched a concerted campaign urging Muslim voters to not support Tan, claiming that it was against the teachings of Islam to vote for a non-Muslim. Many conservative Muslim voters were influenced by such propaganda and decided not to vote for Tan. Moreover, prior to the polling day of the second round, many local Chinese voters were intimidated by rumours and mobile phone text messages that warned if Tan was elected, anti-Chinese riots would break out in the city. Many Chinese were frightened and decided not to vote for Tan on polling day, or not vote at all.

In addition, it was also alleged that there were several violations and irregularities committed by the incumbent's camp, who were mainly bureaucrats in Medan's local government. They instructed all kecamatan (district) and kelurahan (village) heads to ensure victory for the incumbent in their areas. Consequently, many voters in the kecamatan where Tan and his running mate received most votes in the first round were de-listed and could not vote in the second round. Tan and his running mate lost to the incumbent in the second round of the election.

The manipulation of religious identity by Ahok's opponents will be much more rampant in the second round of Jakarta's vote for governor since Ahok has been charged with blasphemy over his comments about the Quran.

Moreover, according to reports on Facebook and YouTube, it was alleged that many voters in some areas with a majority Chinese community in Jakarta could not vote because there was a shortage of voting forms. If these allegations are true, it shows that the violations and irregularities during the polling process were so rampant that Ahok's campaign team was not able to monitor and prevent them – even though Ahok is the incumbent candidate.

What happened to Ahok prior to and during this gubernatorial election also affirms the argument that I have made previously on New Mandala – that it is relatively easier for ethnic Chinese Indonesians to get elected as national legislators than as regional or local government heads who have relatively greater power compared to their national counterparts.

This election can be seen as a test of Indonesia's ethnic and religious tolerance as well as democracy. If Ahok loses the race, it will prompt political Islamists to continue manipulating religious identity for their political interests at the expense of religious tolerance. Furthermore, Indonesian political parties might be less likely to nominate candidates from ethnic and religious minority groups to contest regional or local government elections.

If the Ahok-Djarot pair wants to get elected, they must work very hard to maintain the support of those who voted for them in the first round and also to get the support of the evicted slum dwellers who supported their rivals in the first round. Their campaign team must also put in more efforts in monitoring the polling process to prevent any violations and irregularities.

[Chong Wu Ling is a senior lecturer at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.]

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/hanging-sin-prayer/

Interpreting the Jakarta election

New Mandala - February 16, 2017

Ahok's returns in yesterday's vote for governor show that pluralism and tolerance aren't quite yet sunk in the nation's capital. It also shows that the election is an unusual test case in extreme circumstances, writes Edward Aspinall.

The Jakarta gubernatorial election, the first round of which took place yesterday (15 February), has attracted much attention for the extraordinarily powerful campaign by Islamic groups to condemn the ethnic Chinese and Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama ("Ahok").

Last September, Ahok warned an audience of voters in the Thousand Islands not to be "fooled" by those who were using a particular Quranic verse to enjoin them not to vote for a non-Muslim. Conservative Muslim groups accused Ahok of insulting the Quran, and blasphemy, and organised a series of huge prayer meetings to condemn him. Ahok was eventually charged with blasphemy, and his trial is continuing. Ahok's two rivals, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and Anies Baswedan, a former minister and Muslim intellectual formerly with a reputation as a moderate, have benefited from and supported these campaigns, trying to ride the wave of religious outrage against Ahok.

The effects of this campaign were visible in yesterday's results. Before the controversy, Ahok had recorded over 50 per cent in public opinion polls, suggesting a first-round victory was possible. He was popular for his no-holds-barred approach toward bureaucratic corruption and incompetence, and for improvements in transportation, flood amelioration, healthcare, education and other services that had been introduced by him and his predecessor, Joko Widodo (now Indonesia's president). It had seemed that the Jakarta election would prove that programmatic politics could trump ethnic and religious prejudice.

The blasphemy case was thus a boon to Ahok's opponents, and yesterday Ahok fell well short of a first-round victory, attaining about 43 per cent, ahead of Anies Baswedan (40 per cent) and Agus (17 per cent). Ahok now faces a major challenge to peel away enough of Agus's supporters to get over 50 per cent in the second round. This will be a very difficult task, given that Agus's campaign was heavily implicated in the anti-Ahok mobilisation.

Many observers have depicted the election as a test case for Indonesian pluralism, and as a possible marker of the decline of tolerance and the rise of Islamist politics in the country. There's much to be said for these interpretations, but two points are worth bearing in mind.

First, this sort of mobilisation is not unusual in the Indonesian context, even if its scale has been spectacular this time around. In previous regional head elections where non-Muslim Chinese have stood for election, we have seen very similar attempts to polarise the vote along ethnic and religious lines. Generally, such attempts have succeeded.

For example, in the 2010 mayoral election in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, a prominent member of the local Chinese community, Sofyan Tan, was standing. During the first round of the election, when several candidates were running, most candidates strove to reach across ethnic and religious lines. Once the choice narrowed to one between Tan and a Malay Muslim candidate, there was a fevered campaign to convince Muslim voters that it was forbidden to vote for a kafir, or non-believer. Voting patterns showed a remarkably polarised pattern, with the city's subdistricts delivering votes to the two candidates in proportion to their religious make up.

In Singkawang, a city with a slight ethnic Chinese majority in West Kalimantan, an election in 2012 pitted the Chinese incumbent mayor against another Chinese candidate (who split the Chinese vote) and a Malay Muslim. This election generated a similar atmosphere, complete with demonstrations by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), one of the groups behind the anti-Ahok protests in Jakarta. Preachers and politicians told Muslim voters that voting for a non-Muslim was haram, and the Muslim candidate won a narrow victory. Interviewed a few months later, he cheerfully acknowledged that it had been beneficial to mobilise on religious grounds: "When it's election time, I am a fanatic. But once I win, I go back to normal."

In both of these cases, it is worth noting that the ultimately victorious candidates used anti-Chinese and religious campaigning to overcome what might otherwise have been significant disadvantages. In Singkawang, the winner was a former mayor who had been implicated in a sex scandal; in Medan the victor had various corruption cases hanging over his head from his previous career as a bureaucrat, and he ended up going to jail.

Of course, Jakarta is much more important for national politics than Medan, let alone Singkawang. The anti-Ahok protests have been huge, and it has been shocking for many people to see a former president, a leading pluralist Muslim intellectual, and other national figures fanning the flames of sectarian politics. But the lesson from other elections is not only that such mobilisation can be short lived, but that it was predictable. Moreover, Ahok himself presented a soft target given his readiness to comment freely on Islamic religious matters, and his inability to restrain himself when called for – for example, his courtroom attack on Islamic Ulama Council Chairperson Mar'uf Amin two weeks ago was a blunder that brought the blasphemy case back to the centre of the campaign at a time when his supporters had succeeded in convincing many Muslim voters to focus instead on government performance and programs.

A second point, therefore, is that arguably the most remarkable aspect of the election has been not the success of the campaign against Ahok – which was predictable – but rather the resilience of his support. Ahok's vote did not collapse in the wake of the anti-blasphemy campaign, but fell only by 10 or 15 per cent, compared to the pre-blasphemy-case polls. In a city where about 85 per cent of the population are Muslims (with most of the non-Muslims solidly behind Ahok), this means that around a quarter of the Muslim citizens who cast their votes on Wednesday did so for Ahok. They made this choice in the face of a concerted campaign, backed by massive street mobilisations, religious exhortations, and some of the most powerful politicians in the country, telling them that it would be sinful to support him. Various polls have shown that many Muslim voters place performance well ahead of religious or ethnic considerations, and the results on Wednesday confirmed that.

The lesson of the 2010 Medan election is that we can expect even more extreme religious and racial campaigning in the second round. Even if Ahok loses, which seems quite likely, the long-term lessons and implications of this election are thus far from being as clear cut as some of the commentary would have it. If this was a test case for Indonesian pluralism, it was a test case in unusual and extreme circumstances. Moreover, the first round of the voting shows that there is a significant constituency for pluralism, and for programmatic politics, in Indonesia's capital.

[Edward Aspinall is Acting Head, Department of Political and Social Change, Professor and ARC Fellow at the ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.]

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/interpreting-jakarta-election/

The missing middle

New Mandala - February 15, 2017

A conservative turn in Indonesian Islam helps explain why issues like religion and blasphemy have shaped Jakarta's election and plagued incumbent governor Ahok. Moderates need to regroup and act as effective counterpoints against these developments, otherwise the image of a 'smiling and tolerant Islam' is at risk, writes Alexander R Arifianto.

The strongest organised opposition against the candidacy of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok) as Jakarta's next governor comes from a resurgent Islamist movement. United under the banner of the National Movement to Guard the Indonesian Ulama Council's Edict (GPFMUI), these groups included the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), Islamic Followers Forum (FUI), Justice and Development Party (PKS), and at least two dozen smaller Islamist groups. By unifiying their message to call for Ahok's resignation and arrest, they managed to organise three mass rallies in Jakarta, on 4 November and 2 December 2016, and 11 February 2017 and brought together millions of Muslims to participate in these rallies.

Previous New Mandala articles have focused on the role of these organisations to mobilise anti-Ahok rallies and the inadequate action of the state to counter them. What's been overlooked is why the opposition against the mass rallies from moderate Indonesian Islamic groups has been timid at best and ineffective at worst. This is especially so from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah – two leading moderate Islamic groups with a combined followership of approximately 100 million Indonesian Muslims. While senior leaders of both organisations have repeatedly condemned the Islamists as not representing the voices of Indonesian Muslims and called for their followers not to join the rallies, these pleas have been ignored by tens of thousands of clerics and activists from both groups, who have joined in the anti-Ahok rallies as well as smaller rallies in other cities throughout Indonesia.

There are several reasons that explain the lack of moderate Islamic opposition against the Islamists. First, both NU and Muhammadiyah are sharply divided both theologically and politically. Internal rivalries within both groups have resulted in the diverging political allegiances of different NU and Muhammadiyah figures to different gubernatorial candidates. Second and more troublingly, the lack of strong moderate voices from NU and Muhammadiyah is a sign of growing conservatism in Indonesian Islam that has not only strengthened the power of Islamists, but has also affected the ranks of NU and Muhammadiyah members as well.

NU is fraught with much internal rivalries and divisions, which helps to explain the diverging positions taken by NU activists regarding the Ahok issue. This can be seen in a religious rally (isthighosah) organised on 5 February 2017 in order to solidify support for Ahok by NU-affiliated voters in Jakarta. The rally was organised by Nusron Wahid, a NU activist who is affiliated with the Golkar Party and is a member of Ahok's campaign team (tim sukses). Hence, it was not officially endorsed by NU's Jakarta Branch. A day after the rally, the latter issued a statement disavowing any involvement with the rally and instead, called for NU members "to refrain from supporting Ahok in the gubernatorial election." NU Jakarta Branch is considered to be close to Ma'ruf Amin, a conservative senior NU cleric who is also the general chairman of Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI). Amin was instrumental in the issuance of the MUI fatwa condemning Ahok for blasphemy, is a close associate of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and has endorsed the candidacy of his son Agus Yudhoyono, as Jakarta Governor.

Similar divisions can be seen within Muhammadiyah. While the organisation's current chairman Haedar Nashir has strongly condemned the anti-Ahok rallies and urged Muhammadiyah members not to join them, Amien Rais, a former chairman of the organisation, has been very vocal in condemning the allegedly blasphemous act committed by Ahok and was featured prominently as a speaker in the rallies. Din Syamsuddin, another former Muhammadiyah chairman, has also condemned Ahok's alleged action and has stated he will lead a 'resistance' movement should Ahok not be brought to justice. The three Muhammadiyah leaders came from different factions within the organisation and their long rivalries have resulted in diverging opinions regarding Ahok. This contributes to the diverging actions of Muhammadiyah activists – some have joined the rallies while others have refused to do so.

However, the lack of strong moderate Islamic response against rallies can also be attributed to a phenomena first identified by Martin van Bruinessen as a growing 'conservative turn' within numerous Indonesian Islamic organisations, including in NU and Muhammadiyah. Growing slowly but surely over the past few decades, conservative Islamist theology from the Middle East has gained popular following across the broad spectrum of Indonesia's Islamic organisations.

For instance, campus religious propagation (da'wa) groups sponsored by PKS-affiliated Indonesian Muslim University Students Action Union (KAMMI), HTI, and other Islamist groups, have become the predominant campus organisations in numerous state universities over the past few decades. Islamist groups have also been active in promoting their own prayer groups (pengajian) and study circles (halaqah) that are open to all interested Muslims – including NU and Muhammadiyah followers. These developments have helped to close the theological gaps between conservative and moderate Islamic groups that once divided them in previous decades.

More young NU theology students (santri) are pursuing their advanced study in Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen, in which literalist Islamic curriculum have replaced the more moderate and flexible curriculums that their predecessors were taught less than a generation or two ago. Upon their return to Indonesia, these young clerics have established new organisations such as the 'True Path' NU (NU Garis Lurus) and the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah Movement of Greater Malang (Gamal), in order to promote Islamist theology among the NU ranks. These organisations represent a direct challenge to the moderate and pluralist theology promoted by the late Abdurrahman Wahid and his successors within the NU over the past three decades.

In short, the 'conservative turn' in Indonesian Islam has resulted in an ideological convergence among the Islamists and theologically conservative NU and Muhammadiyah activists, which unite these groups to promote common political causes – whether it is local shari'a law (perda shari'a) at numerous localities throughout Indonesia or to express opposition against perceived 'enemies of Islam' such as Ahok nationally. Groups such as NU Garis Lurus and Gamal from the NU ranks and the Muhammadiyah University Students Association (Ikatan Mahasiswa Muhammadiyah – IMM) participated heavily in the anti-Ahok rallies as an act of theological and political solidarity with their Islamist counterparts.

Internal political divisions within NU and Muhammadiyah and the growing conservatism among some clerics and activists from both organisations, helps explain the lack of stronger opposition from moderate Islamic voices in Indonesia against the highly organised anti-Ahok actions sponsored by Islamists. Moderates within both groups need to regroup and refocus their attention to act as effective counterpoints against these groups and to discipline conservative activists within their own ranks.

Otherwise, the image of a 'smiling and moderate' Islam that still constitutes a 'silent majority' in today's Indonesia can potentially be replaced with an 'angry and intolerant' Islamism over the next decade or so.

[Alexander R Arifianto PhD is a Research Fellow with the Indonesia Program, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His ongoing research includes political Islam and the religious propagation (da'wa) activities of conservative Islamist organisations in state universities throughout Indonesia.]

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/the-missing-middle/

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