Home > South-East Asia >> Indonesia

Indonesia News Digest 8 – February 23-28, 2017

West Papua Military ties Human rights & justice Sexual & domestic violence Labour & migrant workers Democracy & civil rights Political parties & elections Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections Mass organisations & NGOs Environment & natural disasters Health & education LBGT & same-sex marriage Marriage & the family Graft & corruption Terrorism & religious extremism Freedom of religion & worship Poverty & social inequity Agriculture & food security Armed forces & defense Criminal justice & legal system Foreign affairs & trade Mining & energy Infrastructure & development Economy & investment Banking & finance

West Papua

PNG group unfairly held by Indonesia last year

Radio New Zealand International - February 28, 2017

A Papua New Guinea man says he and several countrymen were subject to unfair incarceration in West Papua by Indonesian authorities.

The incident occurred early last year when a small group from PNG's Western Province travelled by boat to the Indonesian port of Merauke to sell traditional items to a local buyer.

He said as was usual procedure, they first checked in with Indonesian soldiers manning the border post at Torassi, before sailing on to Merauke.

Here they were arrested by intelligence officers, questioned and then kept under house arrest for two months, while their boat and products remained confiscated.

One of the group, going by the name David John, said that among other spurious claims, they were charged with failing to get border clearance.

"But we told them, no this is all lies. Big fat lies. We've never done that. We've proved it. I've all the photos here. I took shots at the Torassi border post, of the soldiers checking our outboard motor and dinghy, clearing us to leave for Merauke."

While he and most of the group who had been held up by Indonesian authorities in Merauke were eventually able to return to PNG, without charge, they never retrieved their boat and goods.

The leader of their group however remained incarcerated in Indonesia until this month – they are hoping he can return home soon.

David John said they hadn't been compensated for their losses, adding that their families back home were very worried, not knowing what had happened to them.

He said while PNG citizens crossing the border are routinely expected to provide permits, border authorities appear to turn a blind eye to the many Indonesian traders hawking their wares in PNG coastal villages.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/325505/png-group-unfairly-held-by-indonesia-last-year

West Papuan claims Australia deported him to PNG

Radio New Zealand International - February 23, 2017

A West Papuan English teacher, who escaped persecution to an Australian island in the Torres Strait, claims he was deported to Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby.

The man, who wants to keep his identity a secret, said he fled the West Papuan regency of Merauke, where he was trying to help a group of Papua New Guineans detained by Indonesian police.

In 2006, Indonesia withdrew its ambassador from Australia after it refused to extradite a group of West Papuan asylum seekers. The man said Australian authorities agreed to deport him to PNG.

"I said to them I don't want to go back. Not only is my life in danger, but my friends, my family. Everyone close to me is in danger. If they found out me everyone will be in danger," he said.

The man said he was currently in a refugee camp in Port Moresby where he was waiting for PNG authorities to determine his refugee status.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/325136/west-papuan-claims-australia-deported-him-to-png

Military ties

Indonesian defence ties fully restored

The Australian - February 26, 2017

Primrose Riordan – Indonesia and Australia have patched up their defence relationship after a dramatic public spat on Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo long awaited visit to Sydney as the countries mull how to lower tension in the South China Sea.

The Indonesian side also agreed to lower sugar tariffs for Australian exporters, while Australia will cut tariffs for pesticides and herbicides coming into the country from Indonesian suppliers.

After Mr Widodo told The Australian last week he would raise joint Australian-Indonesian patrols in the South China Sea on the visit, foreign policy experts and Indonesian officials dampened expectations such a move would occur.

"I think it's very unlikely that Indonesia will agree to do coordinated patrols in the South China Sea. Indonesia is very wary of being seen to be aligned with a US ally on this particular issue," Lowy Institute research fellow Aaron Connelly said.

An Indonesian government source said it is possible instead there could be coordinated patrols in the Sulu Sea, off the Philippines. Mr Connelly said this was a possibility.

"The Sulu is an area where Indonesia already cooperates with Malaysia and the Philippines on these issues. So to add additional cooperation with Australia [it] would be much easier [as] the framework for that cooperation is already in place, and it's far less contentious," he said, adding it would not been seen as being as provocative to Beijing.

In January, the Indonesian military announced it would suspend defence ties after offensive material was found at a Perth base where both country's special forces conduct joint training.

The head of Indonesia's armed forces, General Gatot Nurmantyo said the reason he made the decision to suspend military co-operation was there were "hurtful" teaching materials saying that West Papua, which Australia recognises as part of Indonesia, should be independent and other materials mocking Indonesia's founding principles, the Pancasila.

The suspension was then essentially downgraded so it only applied to language courses partaken in my Indonesian special forces. Mr Turnbull said these classes would now resume and full cooperation was restored.

The leaders issued a joint statement issued and were careful to avoid any direct criticism of China. But the statement called on all countries to abide by the international court ruling against Chinese constructed islands in the contested waters. The leaders also signed a Maritime Cooperation agreement which focused on "maritime border protection" and the increasing issue of illegal fishing.

"Australia and Indonesia further recognised that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a complex and growing problem," the joint statement read.

In a sign of the sensitivity of the matter, Mr Widodo started his statement by saying the Australian government had agreed not to interfere in Indonesia's domestic affairs and Mr Turnbull reiterated Australia's commitment to the Lombok treaty where Australia agreed to respect Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua.

"The bedrock of [the Australia-Indonesian relationship] is the Lombok Treaty and our absolute respect for, support for, solidarity with Indonesia, its territorial integrity," Mr Turnbull said.

Both leaders said they expect to complete negotiations for the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by the end of the year. Mr Widodo said Indonesia would push for lower tariffs and restrictions on paper and palm oil. The comments come after the head of Indonesian investment policy, Thomas Lembong said Australia imports too much palm oil from Malaysia.

"There's an observation that for example where Australia does import palm oil it tends to import it more from Malaysia, fairly or unfairly so," Mr Lembong said on Saturday.

One of the more important moves of the visit was the announcement on Saturday that Indonesia will now give Australian live exporters more certainty by introducing longer one-year permits and increasing export weight limits. Along with an increase in the age limit, the weight limit will increase from 350kg to 450kg for live feeder cattle.

There were also a number of other announcements signaling a strengthening of the bilateral relationship. Australia will open new consulate in Surabaya and Indonesia are set to open three more Bahasa language institutes in Darwin, Brisbane and Sydney.

Mr Widodo will leave Australia on Sunday night.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/indonesian-defence-ties-fully-restored/news-story/b1663b89c6eec09b85a4a3898416698b

Human rights & justice

Kontras installs new chief

Jakarta Post - February 27, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has elected Yati Andriyani as its new coordinator, replacing Haris Azhar, whose term of office ended last week.

Yati, the commission's former advocacy leader, will lead the human rights watchdog until 2020. Kontras is well known as the frontline campaigner for the rights of victims of violence. As the leader of Kontras' advocacy team, Yati was involved in several investigations, including one that uncovered slavery practices that affected 34 workers of a kitchenware factory in Tangerang, Banten, in 2013. The case drew public attention nationwide.

Under her leadership, Yati said, Kontras will focus its attention on campaigning for the rights of marginalized groups, particularly those who live outside of the capital city, and pushing the state to fulfill its obligations to respect, protect and uphold the rights of all people in the country.

"Many violations in regional areas are out of the reach of the media's monitoring. At the same time, the state tends to ignore human rights concerns for the sake of development and investment," Yati said.

She further said Kontras would also continue to guard ongoing discussions to seek solutions for prolonged gross past rights abuses.

"The commitment of the state to end human rights violations in the past has not yet been seen. The government must comply with legal procedures in working on the solutions, in line with the President's directives." (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/27/kontras-installs-new-chief.html

Sexual & domestic violence

UN encourages Surakarta to increase budget for child protection

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – The UN has encouraged the Surakarta administration to strengthen its commitment to protecting children by allocating more funds for children's programs. Surakarta is one of five major cities included in the UN child-friendly city program.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, made the call during her visit to City Hall to meet with Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi "Rudy" Rudyatmo on Tuesday. A UNICEF delegation also took part in the visit.

Pais congratulated the Surakarta mayor for his efforts in putting violence prevention and child protection at the heart of the city's agenda. She also applauded the improved coverage of birth registration in the city, which stood at 95.8 percent in 2016, up from 52.77 percent in 2014.

"I want to encourage [the Surakarta administration] to invest more to ensure birth registration for all children, pursuing a 100 percent coverage," Pais.

"I hope Surakarta will also be able to double its budgetary allocations for children protection, reaching more to disadvantaged and marginalized children."

Pais hopes that Surakarta, one of areas partnering with UNICEF to improve child protection, will also create safe homes for children who have suffered abuse and violence, where they can be receive care without being stigmatized.

Rudy promised that his administration would continue its efforts to ensure prevention of violence against children, to establish more child-friendly public services, and ensure that all children, including the disabled and marginalized, received a proper education.

"I will make sure that the city secretary and the Surakarta Planning and Development Agency [Bappeda] take note that the budget [for child protection] should increase," Rudy said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/un-encourages-surakarta-to-increase-budget-for-child-protection.html

Labour & migrant workers

Indonesian woman shocked to find kidney had been removed after working

Jakarta Post - February 27, 2017

Panca Nugraha, Mataram – A migrant worker from North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, is suspected of having fallen victim to organ trafficking while working in Doha, Qatar.

Sri Rabitah, 25, who started working as a housemaid in Doha in 2014, also claims to have been abused by her first employer.

She said she had been taken to the hospital on her third day of employment and was unknowingly operated on. She woke up the next day in pain and discovered stiches on her stomach.

Her employer said nothing about the matter and later returned her to the agency that had assigned her to the job. She was assigned to other employers but was sent back home the same year because as she had fallen ill frequently.

The resident of Sesait village found out earlier this year that one of her kidneys had been removed after a checkup at a hospital. She visited the office of the North Lombok regent on Monday to seek help.

"I want the government to sue the perpetrator. My kidney was stolen," said Sri. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/27/indonesian-woman-shocked-to-find-kidney-had-been-removed-after-working-in-qatar.html

Democracy & civil rights

Jokowi not anti-democracy: PDI-P politician

Jakarta Globe - February 25, 2017

Jakarta – Arteria Dahlan, a politician from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, said President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's recent comment that democracy in Indonesia "has gone over the top" is entirely justified. Arteria said Jokowi's statement was based on facts, not just opinions.

"The fact is some people have been undermining other people's rights in the name of democracy, and the president wants that stamped out," Arteria said in Jakarta on Friday (24/02).

Arteria pointed out this was one of the reasons why recently the news and social media have been dominated by fake news and hoaxes. "Jokowi is not anti-democracy," he added.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/pdi-p-politician-justifies-jokowis-statement-saying-that-indonesias-democracy-has-gotten-out-of-line/

HRW slams Jokowi's 'democracy has gone too far' comments ahead of

SBS News - February 24, 2017

Kieran Gair – Human Rights Watch (HRW) have said Indonesian President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's comments this week on religious fundamentalism is evidence the leader has a "democracy problem".

The international human rights watchdog posted on their website a sharp critique of Jokowi's Wednesday speech, saying it was a thinly-veiled attempt at portraying democracy as the root cause for the country's rise in religious intolerance.

Speaking to a collective of political parties at an event in West Java, Jokowi said political freedom had "paved the way for extreme political practices"."Many people have asked me if our democracy has gone too far. My answer is yes, it has," Jokowi told the crowd.

In his speech, Jokowi railed against "liberalism, radicalism, sectarianism and fundamentalism," labelling them "against Pancasila," the official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state.

Deputy Director of HRW's Asia Division Phelim Kine blasted the speech, writing that "scapegoating can't hide intolerance-fueling policy failures".

"Jokowi needs to stop blaming democracy for rising religious intolerance," Mr Kine said. "It's also a failure to recognise how government policies have empowered militant groups."

Jokowi's comments come as Jakarta's first ethnic Chinese and Christian Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama faces the possibility of a five-year jail term over charges of blasphemy. Ahok is the most recent high-profile target of Indonesia's controversial blasphemy law.

Source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/02/24/hrw-slams-jokowis-democracy-has-gone-too-far-comments-ahead-australia-visit

Democracy will never go too far, lawmaker suggests

Jakarta Post - February 23, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah has slammed President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo over the latter's recent statement that Indonesia's democracy had gone too far. He said terminologically, the President's statement was imprecise.

"It's not the democracy that has gone too far. It's the country's freedom or the law [that has gone too far]," Fahri said on Thursday. The lawmaker was referring to Jokowi's strong statement during a speech at a Hanura Party event in Bogor, West Java, on Wednesday.

Jokowi said Indonesian democracy had gone too far and had opened the door to extreme political practices, such as liberalism, sectarianism, fundamentalism, radicalism and terrorism. He said the situation was real and was proven by a series of events related to religious and ethnic issues and the spread of hate speech and fake news.

Theoretically, Fahri said, there were two sides of the coin in terms of democracy, namely freedom and the law. If it was Indonesia's law that had gone too far, it could be concluded that the country was overregulated. "It is a situation where the country locks up the freedom and creativity of its people, taking it back to the authoritarian era," the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician said.

He said having freedom that had gone too far was better than having such a situation in the country's law. "If freedom has gone too far, it may lead to anarchy; but it's still better than having a country in an authoritarian situation," Fahri said.

"Freedom can always correct itself although it has gone too far and that's what makes a country more mature. But an authoritarian situation is clearly way more dangerous." (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/23/democracy-will-never-go-too-far-lawmaker-suggests.html

Democracy 'gone too far': Jokowi

Jakarta Post - February 23, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Haeril Halim, Jakarta – During the New Order regime, Indonesia enjoyed robust economic growth, which many believe came largely at the expense of civil liberties. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo now finds himself under pressure to prove that he is not inspired by that type of order.

Jokowi made it clear on Wednesday that he was irked by a series of large sectarian rallies over the past few months, which he insinuated was the reason behind the country's slowing economy.

"These four to five months, our energy was wasted [due to the rallies], and we forgot about matters related to economic growth. It is important for me to convey this point. Let's not jeopardize growth by failing to concentrate [on economic development]," Jokowi said during the inauguration of new members of the Hanura Party's leadership board in Bogor, West Java.

Some economic indicators have indeed missed their targets. Tax revenue reached Rp 1.1 quadrillion in 2016, only 81.5 percent of the targeted Rp 1.35 quadrillion. As a result, the economy grew by 5.02 percent in 2016, slower than the 5.2 percent initially expected. Investors have also expressed concern about political stability following the series of demonstrations.

"Many people asked me whether our democracy had gone too far. I answered 'yes, it has gone too far'," said Jokowi. "Political freedom has opened the door for extreme politics, such as liberalism, fundamentalism, sectarianism, radicalism, terrorism and other ideologies that contradict Pancasila," he added.

Jokowi also said rampant hate speech and the spread of hoaxes were the result of "deviant practices of democracy," which should be "immediately stopped," because they could "divide our nation."

Human rights activists, meanwhile, expressed concern that Jokowi's statements were open to interpretation and could be used to put pressure on freedom of expression.

On Dec. 2, the day a large demonstration by conservative Muslim groups hit Jakarta's streets to demand the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Chinese-Indonesian of Christian faith, for alleged blasphemy, police arrested several antigovernment activists for alleged treason and violations of the draconian 2016 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law. Some were later released due to a lack of evidence.

Hendardi of human rights watchdog Setara Institute echoed Jokowi's statement with regard to improving law enforcement. "Jokowi actually has an easy way to handle this situation: Enforce the law against those conducting acts of intolerance or terrorism, but not by restricting the freedom of expression," he said.

According to him, it is the poor performance of law enforcement authorities that worries Jokowi, not democratic practices per se.

Human rights campaigner Al Araf from Imparsial said democracy should not be blamed for political actors exploiting ethnic or religious sentiment to reach certain political goals.

But Al Araf agreed that anyone spreading sectarian or racial hate should be held accountable. Intolerant actions, if unchecked, could give rise to radicalism and terrorism, he said.

However, he reminded the government to be careful in enforcing the law, because it could instead suppress freedom of speech. "Many cases of hate speech are instead left uninvestigated," Al Araf said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/23/democracy-gone-too-far-jokowi.html

Political parties & elections

Election lawsuits start to pile up at the Constitutional Court

Jakarta Globe - February 26, 2017

Jakarta – The Constitutional Court has so far received 11 lawsuits regarding the results of the simultaneous local elections on Feb. 15, a spokesman said on Saturday (26/02). The registration of dispute lawsuits was opened on Feb. 22.

As of Friday evening, 11 lawsuits have been filed to challenge the results of the local elections in Takalar (South Sulawesi), Central Bengkulu (Bengkulu), Gayo Lues and Nagan Raya (Aceh), Dogiayi (Papua), Kendari (Southeast Sulawesi), Salatiga and Jepara (Central Java), Bombana (Southeast Sulawesi), Morotai (North Maluku) and Tebo (Jambi).

"All lawsuits filed were accepted by the court clerks. A panel of judges will determine whether they fulfill the requirements of election disputes or not," Constitutional Court spokesman Fajar Laksono said.

In accordance with the regulations, the court will only process election disputes in which the official vote difference between the contestants was less than 2 percent.

The registration of election lawsuits will be closed on Tuesday for mayoral and district elections, and on Wednesday for provincial polls. The court's verdicts will be announced in the third week of March.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/election-lawsuits-start-pile-constitutional-court/

People with disabilities want quota of legislative candidates

Jakarta Post - February 25, 2017

Jakarta – Gufron Sakaril, chairman of the Indonesian People with Disabilities Association (PPDI), has said he hopes revisions to the nation's electoral laws will include the right of representation for people with disabilities.

He hoped that the amendments would regulate the representation of people with disabilities in the House of Representatives and Regional House of Representatives (DPRD).

Gufron suggested a 15 percent quota of legislative candidates from every political party to be allocated for people with disabilities in the 2019 general election.

"[We want] a legislative candidates' quota of 15 percent. The number is lower than the quota for women's representation [in the House] of 30 percent, because more than 50 percent of the population is women," said Gufron on Friday, as quoted by kompas.com.

He also asked for the same commitment to be shown in the executive branch of the government. He said the capabilities of people with disabilities were equal to any other candidates.

"Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln could become president, the same as Gus Dur. So there is no problem with the capabilities [of disabled people]. It is a matter of opportunity," he added. (mrc/ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/25/people-with-disabilities-want-quota-of-legislative-candidates.html

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

Ahok's lawyers decline to question witnesses in Tuesday's hearing

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's team of lawyers declined to question witnesses for the prosecution on Tuesday, saying they lacked credibility and objectivity.

Earlier in the morning, the lawyers passed on questioning Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, saying he was a former convict and had been involved anti-Ahok protests.

The lawyers also declined to question the second witness, Abdul Chair Ramadhan, a criminal expert with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), who previously wrote an open letter of protest against Ahok.

"This expert has a conflict of interest. He has written an open letter that shows his hatred of the suspect," one of Ahok's lawyers said.

The lawyer then read out the letter, which urged Ahok's Muslim lawyers to repent by no longer defending their client. He added that Abdul had urged the Muslim lawyers leave the case to non-Muslim lawyers.

When presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto asked Abdul whether he had written the letter, the latter confirmed that he had, explaining that it was his personal opinion.

"It was my point of view, which doesn't impact my statement as an expert. It was my right to convey the truth in accordance with my faith," he said.

Dwiarso then adjourned the trial until March 7, when Ahok's lawyers will present several defense witnesses.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/ahoks-lawyers-decline-to-question-witnesses-in-tuesdays-hearing.html

FPI head urges judges to detain Ahok

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – In the 12th hearing of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial on Tuesday, Islam Defenders Front (FPI) founder Rizieq Shihab urged the panel of judges to detain the defendant.

Rizieq, who was presented as a witness in the case, warned that the governor could repeat his blasphemous speech or flee legal proceedings if the judges failed to detain him.

"I suggest the judges detain the suspect so he won't repeat his conduct and insult clerics. [I] am also concerned that he might escape," Rizieq told the judges.

In his role as a witness, Rizieq presented notes he had written explaining several Quranic verses suggesting Muslims not elect non-Muslims as leaders and two CDs purported to contain evidence of Ahok commenting on the Surah Al Maidah verse several times.

"The first CD shows an interview of the suspect with Al-Jazeera TV, in which he said he did not feel guilty about making the [blasphemous] speech and that he would do it again, just like in Thousand Islands. The second is a recording of the suspect joking about Surah Al Maidah 51 at an administration meeting," Rizieq told the judges.

Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, the presiding judge, rejected the items as evidence. "The recordings can be accessed on YouTube and are therefore general information," the judge said.

During the hearing, Rizieq also testified that he played no part in the issuance of an Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) fatwa in October claiming that Ahok had committed blasphemy by commenting on Surah Al Maidah 51 during a working visit to Thousand Islands regency on Sept. 27 last year. That fatwa was used by the prosecutors to indict Ahok.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/fpi-head-urges-judges-to-detain-ahok.html

Golkar may reprimand Soeharto's daughter for supporting Anies

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – The Golkar Party may reprimand Siti Hediati Heriyadi, also known as Titiek Soeharto, for breaking the party's line for allegedly supporting a rival candidate in the Jakarta gubernatorial race.

Titiek, one of the daughters of former party patron Soeharto, a central figure in the party when he ruled the country for more than three decades, has reportedly expressed her support for Anies Baswedan and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, in the Jakarta election.

Golkar, meanwhile, has officially endorsed Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate, Djarot Saeful Hidayat. Ahok and Anies will face off in a runoff on April 19.

Golkar said it would first seek clarification from Titiek, who is also the former wife of Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto, who nominated Anies and Sandiaga.

"Any kind of insubordination by party cadres deserves punishment," Agung Laksono, chairman of Golkar's board of experts, said when asked about Titiek's political stance in Jakarta. "We not only need to politically educate the public, but also our party members," he added.

Anies previously confirmed that Titiek had supported his gubernatorial bid and uploaded a photo of them together raising their three fingers to represent Anies' ballot number. Golkar chairman Setya Novanto would soon decide her fate, Agung said. (ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/golkar-may-reprimand-soehartos-daughter-for-supporting-anies.html

Rizieq claims Ahok's speech intentionally blasphemous

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab accused Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for intentionally crafting a blasphemous speech in the Thousand Islands regency in September last year in a ploy to win the election.

"He [Ahok] wants to influence Muslims not to be doubtful in casting their votes for him as a leader," Rizieq told the judges.

Rizieq, who is now involved in some legal cases, including a blasphemy case against Christian Ahok, added that Ahok had mentioned the Quranic verse Surah Al Maidah 51, which tells Muslims not to appoint a non-Muslim leader, and that he has shown no remorse for his actions.

Ahok had previously commented on the Quranic verse in his book written in 2008. He also spoke of the verse at an event conducted by a political party and in some interviews with television stations, Kompas TV and Al Jazeera, Rizieq added.

"In Al Jazeera, he said he didn't feel guilty about his [blasphemous] statement," Rizieq said, adding Ahok's statements showed that he had planned the blasphemous speech.

He went on to say that Ahok had made a joke about the verse, which could be seen in the viral video of Ahok during a meeting at City Hall. Ahok said that he wanted to name the Wi-fi in City Hall "Surah Al Maidah 51" with the password "Infidel", Rizieq claimed. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/rizieq-claims-ahoks-speech-intentionally-blasphemous.html

Lawyer questions Rizieq's credibility, rejects him as expert

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – A lawyer for Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has said Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab is unsuitable to provide expert testimony on religious matters at a hearing of Ahok's blasphemy trial on Tuesday, due to his track record and credibility.

The lawyer, Humprey Djemat, noted that Rizieq had a criminal record. "Habib Rizieq has twice been found guilty of committing crimes. He is an ex-convict," Humprey told the judges.

Back in 2003, Rizieq was imprisoned for seven months for spreading provocation that led to a disturbance of public order. Rizieq was again imprisoned, this time for one year and six months, in 2008 for provoking members of his organization to cause a public disturbance.

Rizieq, Humprey said, was currently a suspect in the case related to the insult of the state ideology, Pancasila. He has also been accused of having engaged in an affair with activist Firza Husein, who is a treason suspect.

He added that Rizieq was also a member of the supervisory board of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI), which initiated large protests against Ahok on Oct. 14, Nov. 4 and Dec. 2 last year.

The prosecutor Ali Mukartono refused to uphold the lawyer's objection, saying that this hearing was not about Rizieq. "Every citizen has the right to be summoned as an expert, even if they were once a defendant. We hope that judges reject the lawyers' objection," he said.

The judge panel led by Dwiarso Budi Santiarto rejected the lawyer's objection and decided to proceed with the hearing. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/lawyer-questions-rizieqs-credibility-rejects-him-as-expert.html

Police, election supervisor partner to investigate hate banners

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police are set to work with the Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) to investigate the installing of banners addressing ethnic, religious, racial and societal group (SARA) sentiments.

The banners installed on several mosques across Jakarta are emblazoned with messages, which call on all Muslims not to perform a funeral prayer for a deceased Muslim found to have supported Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama. Funeral prayer is a collective obligation for Muslims.

"We will coordinate with Panwaslu to see whether or not the banners are related with the Jakarta gubernatorial election. The police are investigating this," Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Prabowo Argo Yuwono said as quoted by wartakota-tribunnews.com in Jakarta on Monday.

He believed Jakarta residents were smart enough and not easily influenced by SARA sentiments, including the ones written on the banners. When he was asked whether it could be categorized as libel, Prabowo said investigators were still looking into the case.

Prabowo said the installing of the banners, which could ignite SARA sentiments about a certain candidate pair, violated the 2016 Regional Elections (Pilkada) Law. "We need to investigate this thoroughly. If it proves to violate the Pilkada Law, there are mechanisms and rules we can use to process the case," he said.

As reported earlier, a Jakarta deputy gubernatorial candidate recently performed a Friday prayer at Al Waqfiyah, a mosque on Jl. Salemba Bluntas, Central Jakarta. The mosque had allegedly said its congregation would not perform funeral prayers for Ahok-Djarot supporters. The mosque has denied the allegation. (kkk/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/police-election-supervisor-partner-to-investigate-hate-banners.html

Jakarta election commission releases official results in governor race

Jakarta Globe - February 27, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Election Commission, or KPUD, announced the official results of the Feb. 15 gubernatorial election on Sunday (26/02).

According to its calculation, incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat came in first place with 42.99 percent of the total votes, not enough to give them an outright victory.

According to the Election Law, a governor candidate has to win more than 50 percent of the popular votes to be elected to office.

Ahok and Djarot won 2,364,577 popular votes in the election, which saw 5,564,313 out of a total of 7,356,426 registered voters in Jakarta turning up enthusiastically at polling stations.

Jakarta KPUD chairman Sumarno pointed out 7,740 Jakarta residents with disability participated in the poll.

Ahok and Djarot's nearest rivals were former education minister Anies Baswedan and his running mate, businessman Sandiaga Uno, who collected 2,197,333 popular votes, or 39.95 percent of the total votes.

Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's son Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and his running mate Sylviana Murni came in a distant last with 937,955 popular votes, or 17.05 percent of the total votes.

Ahok and Djarot will face off with Anies and Sandiaga in a run-off election on April 19.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jakarta-election-commission-releases-official-results-governor-race/

Jakarta's puzzling voters' list under spotlight as run-off election

Jakarta Globe - February 24, 2017

Jakarta – Preparation for a run-off gubernatorial election in Jakarta has focused mainly on improving the voters' list, poll officials said, after the Feb. 15 first-round election saw hundreds of residents reportedly deprived of their rights to vote.

Voter turnout on Feb. 15 surpassed poll commissioners's target of 75 percent, with 5.5 million of the 7.1 million eligible voters casting their ballot at around 13,000 polling stations.

But election supervisors estimated hundreds of Jakarta residents were accidentally prevented from casting their vote on the day, as election organizers mismanaged the already puzzling electoral roll.

Poll officials, shortly after holding a meeting on Thursday (23/02) to evaluate the first-round election, said they will pay special attention to the electoral roll ahead of the April 19 run-off election.

"There shouldn't be anything preventing residents from voting," Juri Ardiantoro, chairman of the General Election Commission (KPU), told the press in Jakarta.

Commission officials will have around two weeks starting March 5 to update the voters' list. "We'll make sure the voters' list will be much better," Muhammad, chairman of the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), said.

Aside from a permanent list of voters, the Feb. 15 election also involved an additional list of voters – residents who did not show up during the earlier data verification.

They should still have been allowed to vote as long as they bring an identity card or a recommendation letter issued by the Population and Civil Registry Agency. According to the agency's data, around 85,000 residents were sent the letters before Feb. 15.

But these additional voters unexpectedly turned out in droves, apparently overwhelming many election officials at polling stations.

According to Bawaslu data, at least 11 polling stations ran out of the forms these additional voters had to fill in to cast their ballot, with only 20 forms made available at each polling station.

A requirement for these additional voters to cast their ballot only during the last hour when the polling station was open apparently made situation much worse.

Long queues of voters – from 20 to 150 people at each polling station – were seen during that last hour. For many of them, time ran out before they could take their turn to vote.

These additional voters will be included in the permanent electoral roll during the run-off election, KPU commissioners said. "All Jakartans have the right to vote. We have to do the right thing by them, and also for the governor candidates," Juri said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jakartas-puzzling-voters-list-spotlight-run-off-election-nears/

Australian imam volunteering to defend Jakarta's Ahok at blasphemy trial

SBS News - February 23, 2017

Andrea Booth – Islamic Association of South Australia president Imam Shaikh Tawhidi has initiated contact with President Joko Widodo's office to ask if he could defend incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama during his blasphemy trial.

"I want all my followers in Indonesia to ask Jokowi to allow me to stand in court and defend Ahok," Imam Tawhidi told SBS.

While Imam Tawhidi is based in Adelaide, he also holds a senior position with the Office of Shia scholar Grand Jurist Ayatollah al-Shirazi in Iran. "I'll go [to Jakarta] as soon as the trial begins," he said.

"Even if they don't let me, I will take my followers and protest until I'm allowed in to defend Ahok, because it's not fair [that there are] Muslim judges, Muslim radical scholars, who corner a poor Christian man because of his understanding of the Quran."

Ahok, as he is commonly known, was elected as Jakarta governor in 2014, the first Christian of Chinese descent to take such position, at the same as the former governor Joko Widodo was elected as president of Indonesia.

Since last year, Ahok has been on trial for blasphemy in the biggest Muslim-majority country and the third-largest democracy in the world. Most of Indonesia's Muslim population are Sunni.

In early November, more than 100,000 people protested on Jakarta's streets to demand Ahok be prosecuted for blasphemy over comments he made about the Quran.

On September 27, in a speech to residents of Jakarta's Thousand Islands regency, Ahok criticised an interpretation of a Quranic verse - Surah Al Maidah 51 - that he said might have discouraged people from voting for non-Muslim leaders.

"Maybe in your heart you think you couldn't vote for me, but you're being lied to by using Al Maidah 51," he had said. According to the Sahih International English Quran translation, the verse reads:

"O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people."

A video of Ahok making these comments was posted online and went viral. In mid-November, he was named by the national police as a blasphemy suspect and by December he was indicted for blasphemy in the Central Jakarta District Court.

A spokesperson for Nahdlatul Ulama, the biggest Islamic organisation in the country, told national publication The Jakarta Post on Tuesday: "There's an indication to mislead people in which [Ahok] asked believers to not believe in the [Quranic] verse."

Another local publication, Kompas, reported Ahok as saying last year: "I did not say [things] that insulted the Quran. "What I said to the local people of Thousand Islands is that if you are fooled by racists and cowards using that verse in the Quran not to vote for me, then don't vote for me."

His trial continues, with his next court appearance scheduled for after the results of the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election where he is running against Agus Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyo and Anies Baswedan, a former education and cultural minister.

Imam Tawhidi said he believed Ahok had not committed blasphemy and the case against him could be to dampen his chance of being re-elected as governor this year. Imam Tawhidi said he believed those alleging Ahok had committed blasphemy were undermining Indonesia's democracy.

"[Those saying Ahok is blasphemous] are tied to their religious teachings that don't correspond with democratic principles, they clash," he said. He added disrespecting Ahok, a Christian, in turn "disrespected Jesus Christ, the entire Christian religion".

Imam Tawhidi visited Indonesia last year to meet his followers. He said he respected Ahok for protecting him when he was met with death threats from Indonesia's Islamic hardline groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front.

"They threatened to kill me and I was welcomed and received by the governor of Jakarta [Ahok] and he assured me safety," Imam Tawhidi said. His claims are consistent with Human Rights Watch Indonesia which said an anti-Shia sentiment was on the rise in the country.

Defending Ahok in court

Imam Tawhidi said he wanted to argue in court that Islamic groups had incorrectly interpreted Surah Al Maidah 51 that they alleged Ahok had referenced in a blasphemous manner. "They are claiming that we cannot have Christians as friend and allies," he said.

"I believe the Christians are our brothers and more than allies, because when the Prophet Muhammad came to Mecca [during the emergence of Islam], there were plots of assassinations [by the leaders of Arabia] against his followers."

Muhammad sent his Muslim followers to Ethiopia because the Christian King Armah of the Kingdom of Aksum said he would protect them, Imam Tawhidi said. "The Muslims sought refuge within the Christian government and lived peacefully."

Indonesia's blasphemy law

Some rights organisations believe that Indonesia's blasphemy article as stated in Article 156 Section (a) of the Criminal Code is outdated.

Human Rights Watch Indonesia Andreas Harsono told SBS: "Human Rights Watch repeatedly calls on the Indonesian government to revoke the blasphemy law."

A Pew Research Center analysis found that as of 2014 only one quarter of the world's countries had current blasphemy laws or policies.

Indonesia, which became a democracy after the 1998 revolution against the authoritarian regime led by President Soeharto, operates on the national ideology of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika or "unity in diversity".

"In Indonesia, the maximum penalty is five years jail term," Andreas said. "[The blasphemy law] is almost always used for political objectives, including in the Ahok case."

SBS has contacted Jakarta Governor Ahok's office for comment.

Source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/02/23/australian-imam-volunteering-defend-jakartas-ahok-blasphemy-trial

Mass organisations & NGOs

Jokowi goes extra mile in wooing Muhammadiyah

Jakarta Post - February 25, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – For President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, attending and opening a national meeting of Muhammadiyah is not usually included in his presidential commitments.

While Muhammadiyah is a politically influential religious organization in the country, there is no need for a president to attend one of its national meetings.

However, he did it anyway. On Friday, Jokowi flew all the way from Jakarta to Ambon to attend Muhammadiyah's tanwir (enlightenment) meeting. He was en route to Australia for a two-day state visit on Feb. 25-26.

Although the invitation to attend the meeting was only submitted to the State Palace on Feb. 13, Jokowi immediately accepted and inked it into his presidential agenda. The President agreed to go to Maluku for Muhammadiyah despite the fact that the President had visited the city for a working visit just weeks ago.

In his opening speech, Jokowi admitted that some people questioned his decision to fly to Ambon from Jakarta just to attend the tanwir meeting as he had already visited Muhammadiyah's congress in Makassar in August 2015.

"So, I am here again in Ambon after being here two weeks ago. The first reason is because I love Maluku. And the second reason is because I love Muhammadiyah," Jokowi said, which was met with applause.

"Some whispered to me 'you have attended Muktamar [congress], so why are you attending tanwir, too?' I replied that I wanted to come. I wanted to come. I attended Muktamar, and I am also attending tanwir," Jokowi added.

The conciliatory gestures that the President showed on Friday came after what appeared to be a rocky relationship between Jokowi and the organization, which sometimes behaves as a thorn in the President's side.

In July 2016, Jokowi appointed a Muhammadiyah executive Muhadjir Effendy as Education and Culture Minister in an apparent attempt to embrace members of the organization in order to garner support for his presidency. The move proved to be futile.

Only a few weeks after the appointment of Muhadjir, Muhammadiyah threatened to challenge Jokowi's tax amnesty at the Constitutional Court in August. It later canceled its plan after Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati went to its headquarters to further explain Jokowi's signature program.

A few months later, relations between Jokowi and the group seemed to have soured again after Jokowi's ally, Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, was accused of blasphemy when he cited a Quranic verse. The youth wing of Muhammadiyah was one of the first groups to report Ahok to the police for alleged blasphemy.

A member of Muhammadiyah's majlis tarjih (legislative division), Bachtiar Nasir, has been a leading figure in a series of anti-Ahok rallies, including the Nov. 4 rally which was exploited by Jokowi's political enemies in an effort to undermine his administration.

The rally forced Jokowi to visit the headquarters of Islamic organizations, including Muhammadiyah, and the armed forces to maintain political stability.

As Jokowi faced an inquiry initiated by the opposition parties for his decision not to suspend Ahok after being indicted for blasphemy, Muhammadiyah failed to give him public support by asking him to do exactly what the opposition parties wanted.

In the short term, what Jokowi did in Ambon was meant to ease the rising sectarian tension in the country following Ahok's blasphemy case, political observer Arya Fernandez of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said.

In the long run, Arya said, it is important for the President to stay close to Muslim voters ahead of the 2019 presidential election. "The message that the President wants to deliver is that he wants to maintain relationships with Muslim organizations," Arya said.

As the second largest Muslim organization after Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah, with more than 40 million followers, is a culturally and politically significant organization. The group has long been considered as the voice of religious moderation in the country.

However, as Jokowi tried to win the hearts of the Muhammadiyah elite, many of whom are progressive Muslims, questions linger over whether the elites within the group could help Jokowi win the support of the grassroots.

Bachtiar, who secretary-general Abdul Mu'ti said was no longer active in majlis tarjih, may represent a more conservative faction within Muhammadiyah, which the organization's central board no longer controls.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/25/jokowi-goes-extra-mile-in-wooing-muhammadiyah.html

Environment & natural disasters

Central Java residents in Karanganyar reject geothermal exploration

Jakarta Post - February 27, 2017

Ganug Nugroho Adi, Karanganyar, Central Java – Thousands of residents in Karanganyar regency, Central Java, rejected the government's plan to begin geothermal exploration at Mt. Lawu, citing environmental reasons.

"Residents and stakeholders of Mt. Lawu firmly rejected the geothermal exploration. We have many reasons but mainly we have environmental concerns," Aan Shophuanudin, the head of the National Committee of Indonesian Youth (KNPI), said over the weekend.

He said four regencies – Karanganyar, Sragen, Wonogiri in Central Java and Magetan in East Java – relied on Mt. Lawu for their clean water supply. "Who can guarantee that the geothermal project would not damage the environment?" he said.

Maryono, a village figure in Karanganyar, said he was concerned about the project's potential effects on the water supply. He was also worried that various aspects of cultural heritage would be compromised at the mountain, where ancient Hindu temples are located.

Residents have put up a banner since the weekend rejecting the exploration. Karanganyar councilor from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Darwanto, said the PKS faction of the council also opposed the project.

Earlier, Karanganyar regent Juliyatmono expressed his objection against the plan and said he had sent a letter to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

Last year, PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE) won the contract to conduct geothermal exploration for a power plant that was expected to generate 165 megawatts of electricity. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/27/central-java-residents-in-karanganyar-reject-geothermal-exploration.html

Government orders another study into Benoa Bay reclamation project

Jakarta Post - February 23, 2017

I Wayan Juniarta, Nusa Dua, Bali – Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said on Thursday that the government had put together a joint team of scholars to carry out another study on the planned reclamation of Benoa Bay in Bali.

"We are asking a joint team from the World Bank and Udayana University to carry out a comprehensive study on Benoa Bay," he said on the sidelines of the World Ocean Summit, adding that the team consisted of independent experts.

The planned reclamation is expected to yield 800 hectares of land upon which investors could develop large-scale tourist resorts. The plan has triggered opposition from large numbers of Balinese people. Spearheaded by ForBALI (Bali People's Forum Against Reclamation), the opposition movement has continued to grow since its inception four years ago.

ForBALI organized another huge rally on Thursday afternoon in Denpasar, calling on the government to reject the planned reclamation project.

"The team from the World Bank has arrived. It will draft the terms of reference for the study and collect the available data. I expect that by next month the team will submit a preliminary report," Luhut said.

The team will also study the feasibility of constructing a ring road along the island's coast-line as well as a cruise port in Benoa. It is hoped that a ring road could ease Bali's chronic traffic problems. (yan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/23/government-orders-another-study-into-benoa-bay-reclamation-project.html

Health & education

Students rally against tobacco ads around schools

Jakarta Post - February 25, 2017

Jakarta – High school students from 30 schools in Bekasi, South Tangerang and Bogor, held a rally on Jl. Merdeka Barat, Central Jakarta, on Saturday to protest against tobacco advertisements around their schools.

The rally was part of the #TolakJadiTarget (#resistbecomingatarget) campaign by the Lentera Anak Foundation (YLA), which was launched simultaneously in 90 schools from Padang, Mataram, Bekasi, Bogor and South Tangerang in September last year.

"The campaign aims to reject tobacco companies who deliberately put their products' advertisements near schools," said Lisda Sundari, the chairwoman of the YLA. Lisda also claimed that over the course of the campaign, which is still ongoing, at least 61 cigarette brands placed their advertisements near participating schools.

Iyan Tardiana, a teacher in SMK 1 vocational high school in Cibinong, expressed his concerns about the tobaccos ads apparently targeting students. "The tobacco companies bombarded our school with many forms of advertisements, aiming to target potential customers. [...] The government should make a regulation to ban this," he told The Jakarta Post.

The students also held a theatrical act with the theme of "Upacara Inisiasi Pengikut Serigala Berbulu Domba" (Initiation ceremony of the followers of a wolf in sheep's clothing), portraying the tobacco companies as a wolf in sheep's clothing armed with various tactics to persuade young people to buy their products. (mrc/ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/25/students-rally-against-tobacco-ads-around-schools.html

Cigarette companies deliberately target schoolchildren: NGO

Jakarta Globe - February 24, 2017

Jakarta – Cigarette companies in Indonesia are targeting schoolchildren by spending massively on advertising in and around school areas, non-profit child advocacy organization Lentera Anak Indonesia said on Thursday (23/02).

After monitoring 90 schools in Padang (West Sumatra), Mataram (West Nusa Tenggara), Tangerang Selatan (Banten), Bogor and Bekasi (West Java), the group said conspicuous cigarette advertising is nearly "everywhere" around the schools.

Lentera Anak chairwoman Lisda Sundari said the Education Ministry had issued a regulation in 2015 banning smoking cigarettes inside school grounds, but the regulation is powerless when it comes to protecting students from exposure to massive cigarette advertising.

Food stalls and small kiosks around schools are "best agents" for cigarette companies targeting these students, Lisda said. The owners are paid between $45 and $300 a year to install a 2 meter-square banner at their stalls and kiosks.

"The cigarette companies want to 'normalize' these massive advertising. They want schoolchildren to think there's nothing wrong with smoking cigarettes and forget the health problems it could create," Lisda said.

At least 61 cigarette brands put advertising next to schools during the group's research between September 2016 and February 2017. In another research conducted in 2015, Lentera Anak found out 85 percent of schools were surrounded by cigarette advertising.

Students fight back

Around 2,700 students in the 90 schools that Lentera Anak studied were briefed about the threat of cigarette ads during its four-month monitoring and guidance program.

The schoolchildren banded together online to create an anti-cigarette ads campaign using the hashtag #TolakJadiTarget ("Refuse to be a target"), with a goal of pulling down all cigarette advertising in school areas.

In Mataram, students collected money to compensate kiosk owners who were willing to pull down their cigarette ad banner and replaced them with a banner from the #TolakJadiTarget campaign.

In Bekasi, schools worked with the district's public order agency to raid kiosk owners who still install cigarette ads.

"We're trying to persuade the district administration to issue a regional regulation banning cigarette ads around school," Uchi, a teacher in a state junior high school in Bekasi, said.

Only four regions in Indonesia have issued outright ban on cigarette ads around schools.

Padang Panjang and Payakumbuh districts in West Sumatra have ruled out cigarette ads around school as part of an anti-smoking regulation in school areas. Jakarta and Bogor have issued outright bans on cigarette promotion near school areas.

Around 300 schoolchildren are scheduled to perform a play satirizing cigarette ads in front of Merdeka Palace in Central Jakarta on Saturday to call on President Joko Widodo to support their anti-cigarette advertising campaign.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/cigarette-companies-deliberately-target-schoolchildren-ngo/

LBGT & same-sex marriage

Over the rainbow

New Mandala - February 23, 2017

In its struggle to confront LGBT identities, the Indonesian state is now making its citizens more open to them. But this also has consequences for other long-standing non-normative sexual identities like 'waria' and 'bissu', writes Hendri Yulius.

2016 was a pivotal year for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues in Indonesia.

While in previous decades people of non-normative genders and sexualities were constantly under threat by religious vigilante groups, in 2016 a number of government representatives and politicians explicitly issued public statements condemning what they call as "LGBT persons and behaviours." These negative sentiments were then followed by legal steps by an Islamic pro-family group, Family Love Alliance [Aliansi Cinta Keluarga/AILA] to outlaw homosexual practices, identity, and adultery. Meanwhile, public attitudes became increasingly hostile toward people with non-normative gender expressions.

Even though the public's rage has now shifted to Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahja Purnama and ethnic Indonesian-Chinese due to his alleged blasphemy, the war against homosexuality has not ended. In the latest attempt by politicians to protect the moral fibre of young Indonesians, lawmakers are planning to amend the 2002 Broadcasting Law to ban ads and programs on TV and radio displaying LGBT talent and expressions that, in addition to same-sex attraction, refer to non-normative gender expressions.

In a similar vein, on 19 January, the South Sulawesi police force disbanded the sports and arts week event [Pekan Olahraga dan Seni/Porseni] of waria and bissu [male-to female transgender] to be held in the district of Soppeng. The festival preserves and respects the indigenous bissu culture that is known for its diverse gender identities and expressions beyond the binary model of male-female.

It is interesting to see how waria and bissu – two local elements of gender and sexual identities – have also increasingly been conflated with Western LGBT identity in Indonesia.

The term waria [wanita-pria/female-male] often frivolously translated as male-to-female transgender, was introduced by the Indonesian government in 1978 to replace the term wadam [Wanita Adam/female-Adam] because of protests from Muslim clerics complaining of the inappropriateness in using a prophet's name – Adam.

Different from waria, the term bissu held a special status in Bugis society that instilled androgyny with a sacred meaning – a God can descend only to a gender-free body. Hence, bissu embraces both male and female elements. They were respected as priests and healers, although their social and spiritual status has nowadays been degraded to that of social pariahs.

These local identities and indigenous practices definitely provide strong justification to the contemporary Indonesian LGBT movements to demonstrate that non-normative gender and sexual expressions and identities do not originate from the West as Indonesian conservatives believe and often claim.

More significantly, the emergence of the term LGBT in Indonesia last year has inadvertently changed the way people see non-normative gender expressions and identities. Besides entering everyday language, the Indonesian public now increasingly associates men with feminine mannerism with being LGBT.

When a motorbike taxi [ojek] driver recently learnt that I am studying gender issues, he suddenly replied, "Oh, so you are studying transgender!" I asked him to explain why he thought that, he said he knew the term transgender and LGBT from last year's debate about LGBT issues on television. He told me that transgender is waria and other men with feminine mannerism as commonly portrayed in comedy and other shows on television.

A similar story came s from a friend of mine who is working in gender activism. Her close friend is a lesbian with short hair and a masculine appearance. When she was queuing by the cashier of a convenient store, a lady with a headscarf whispered to her husband, "Look, she must be LGBT!"

In Indonesia, gender expressions and physical appearance have now become primary markers of sexuality, ignoring the fact that gender expressions and sexual orientations are two different things. A feminine man does not mean that he is gay, while a woman with masculine appearance does not always signify a lesbian.

Another interesting development is that the term LGBT is now being used as a single category to address a person with non-normative gender and sexuality, instead of an acronym describing a variety of gender and/or sexual identities. For example, people now address me as LGBT, instead of gay or homosexual. LGBT has become a new 'species' that now needs to be captured and policed.

While in the late 1970s onwards the term gay and lesbi [Indonesian derogatory term for lesbian] was popular to denote male and female homosexual identity, the LGBT term began to circulate among activists and gay and lesbian communities due to transnational connections with activists and organisations overseas, as well as an influx of foreign funding for LGBT rights movements. Since 2016, the term has been picked up by the Indonesian State.

For example, the 2016 Ministry of Youth and Sports' Creative Youth Ambassador Selection even required participants to submit a medical certificate, stating that they are not involved in LGBT. It is not difficult to see how the circulation of the term is not accompanied by adequate knowledge on gender and sexuality and hence, unsurprisingly, causes confusion and misjudgment among the general public.

On the other hand, we are now witnessing moves to label same-sex practices and other gender diverse indigenous culture as 'LGBT', while they actually carry different socio-cultural contexts and subjectivities from contemporary and Western sexual identities. Despite the positive intentions to justify the normality of LGBT people and eradicate the Western stigma attached to these identities, it runs the risk of erasing local and indigenous practices and reducing them to LGBT identity.

When LGBT has been associated with negative attributes, waria and bissu identity has also increasingly been treated similarly. Since waria and other people with non-normative gender expressions are obviously challenging traditional gender norms, they are easily accused of being LGBT and hence, become the main target of stigma, violence, and discrimination.

[Hendri Yulius is the author of Coming Out (2015) and obtained Masters of Public Policy from the National University of Singapore. He is currently pursuing his second Master's in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney.]

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/over-the-rainbow/

Marriage & the family

UN discusses child marriage with Jokowi at palace

Jakarta Post - February 27, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo received United Nations' Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children Marta Santos Pais and delegations of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund to discuss various issues pertaining to children at the State Palace on Monday.

One of the topic's discussed during the meeting was the child marriage rate, which Pais claimed was still high in Indonesia, adding that 25 percent of girls in the country got married before the age of 18. She said getting married at a young age would result in increasing mortality rates in Indonesia when young girls gave birth. "The health of [young] mothers is affected and they may even die. The babies will also be at risk," Pais said.

Pais said girls who married would unlikely be given the chance to go back to school. "The girls' potential is undermined and the potential of the nation is also compromised," she added.

Despite the high child marriage rate, Pais said Indonesian in general had expressed its commitment to place children at the heart of its global sustainable development agenda to create a world free from violence against children.

"We were very encouraged by the important reaffirmation of commitment by [President Jokowi] to these goals and we are very encouraged by the opportunity that Indonesia can act as a good example and model toward the countries within Asia and globally," she said. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/27/un-discusses-child-marriage-with-jokowi-at-palace.html

Graft & corruption

Corruption remains threat to multinational companies in Indonesia: Hogan

Jakarta Globe - February 24, 2017

Jakarta – Corruption remains a threat to multinational companies seeking to tap into Indonesia's lucrative market in spite of improving ease of doing business in the country, a recent report by international law firm Hogan Lovells suggests.

The report, published on Jan. 18, is meant as a guide for businesses on anti-bribery and anti-corruption regulations and their enforcement in a number of countries. In Indonesia's case, corruption remains a challenge as current or ex-government officials tend to get involved in big businesses deals.

"Most public sector corruption involves employees of a government body or a state-owned enterprise, and that has been President Joko Widodo's focus to stamp out," the report said.

Corruption involving the judiciary also remains problematic as it leads to inconsistencies when it comes to prosecuting corruption cases, the report said.

There have been many notable bribery and corruption cases involving public officers in Indonesia, including one during the construction of the Hambalang sports complex in Bogor, West Java, which brought down former sports minister Andi Alfian Mallarangeng.

Multinationals are "lulled" into a false sense of security due to lucrative commercial opportunities despite overlapping regulations and inconsistencies in their implementation, the report said.

"Indonesia's economy has grown quickly over the last decade, and this has at times overwhelmed its ambitious but relatively immature regulatory framework," it said.

Indonesia's economy grew 5 percent last year compared to 4.8 percent a year earlier. The country's average growth in the last decade since 2006 reached 5.6 percent, higher compared to the world's average growth of 2.65 percent.

According to the non-governmental organization Transparency International, Indonesia now ranks 90th out of 176 countries in the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). That compared to 130th out of 163 countries in 2006. The country's score has shown steady improvement since the first CPI report in 1995 in which Indonesia was ranked last out of 41 countries.

In ease of doing business, Indonesia is currently ranked 91st out of 190 countries assessed in the World Bank's 2017 report, up 15 places from the previous year on the back of the government's effort to simplify the once labyrinthine process to invest in the country.

The report suggested businesses should be proactive in strictly implementing policies with local government officials as the cost of corruption "outweighs" the cost of compliance in the long term.

"It makes sense, then, to do everything you can to minimize the risk of bribery and corruption, even if it calls for reducing short-term profits by investing in compliance or in extreme cases walking away from a profitable business," the report said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/corruption-remains-threat-multinational-companies-indonesia-hogan-lovells/

Terrorism & religious extremism

No casualties reported in Bandung terrorist attack: Police

Jakarta Globe - February 27, 2017

Jakarta – Police said no casualties had been reported from a suspected terrorist attack near Pandawa Park in Cicendo, Bandung, West Java, on Monday morning (27/02).

A man set off a bomb at a field near Pandawa Park, a local water park, and fled to an urban community office building. He then set fire to a room on the second floor of that building and was eventually shot by police forces after a brief firefight.

"The bomb exploded at 9 a.m. There were no victims. The suspect fled to an urban community office, but police took him down in less than two hours," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said in Jakarta.

"The police are identifying who placed the bomb at the scene, who made it and what the bomber's motive could have been. We'll begin by confirming the suspect's identity," he added.

Boy said the suspected terrorist – who was shot in his left chest – was allegedly a member of the terrorist group Jamaah Anshar Daulah (JAD), sometimes referred to as Jamaah Anshar Daulah Khilafah Nusantara (JAKDN).

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/no-casualties-reported-bandung-terrorist-attack-police/

Freedom of religion & worship

Yogyakarta becoming more intolerant: Study

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – A study commissioned by rights group the Setara Institute revealed that during the past decade, the state of freedom of religion or belief being protected in Yogyakarta was in continuous decline.

Setara Institute researcher Halili said during 2007 to 2016, 53 cases, which comprised 35 types of religious rights violations, occurred in areas across Yogyakarta. Of the total cases, 16 incidents happened in Yogyakarta city while 14 cases took place in Sleman regency. Kulon Progo was the only regency where violations were not recorded.

"During the last 10 years, we have been conducting research across Indonesia. On average, 200 cases of religious rights violations occur every year and Yogyakarta is one of the 'red areas', which means it has a high number of intolerance cases," Halili said in a press conference in Yogyakarta on Monday.

He further said of Yogyakarta's total 53 violations, 17 cases were committed by the state, seven were crimes by omission, while the remaining were directed attacks, including by non-state actors.

On the violations committed by non-state actors, eight cases were perpetrated by the Islamic Jihad Front (FJI), followed by the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) with five cases and three committed by the Muslim People's Forum (FUI). Meanwhile, three groups, namely the Anti-Immoral Acts Movement (GAM), Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and United Development Party (PPP) youth wing Gerakan Pemuda Kabah (GPK) committed two violations each.

Halili said it was hoped Yogyakarta Sultan Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, who acts as the province's de facto governor, could greater support minority groups as they were often the targets of violence. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/yogyakarta-becoming-more-intolerant-study.html

Religious-based discrimination lives on, but more positive initiatives

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Religious freedom watchdog Wahid Foundation has said there have been growing efforts conducted by state and non-state actors to promote freedom of religion in Indonesia although it also records rampant discrimination in the country.

The group says 254 positive incidents that fostered religious harmony occurred throughout last year, 94 of which were initiated by civilians while the remaining were conducted by state actors, including the police and regional administrators.

An example of good practices recorded by the Wahid Foundation was when Muslims and Christians in Tual, Maluku, worked together to renovate Al-Huriyah, a local mosque.

Other positive events include an incident in Semarang, Central Java, where the local police guarded members of a Shia community, which had been frequently labelled as heresy, and guaranteed their safety when the community members held a prayer meeting to celebrate the Islamic New Year despite protests from local communities, who were mostly Sunni followers.

Wahid Foundation director Yenny Zannuba Wahid cited the culture of silaturahmi (communal togetherness) as a factor that could further promote religious harmony in the country.

"We need to further foster silaturahmi because it melts barriers among different groups," she said during a luncheon of the organization's annual report on freedom of religion.

Although more positive actions were seen throughout the archipelago, the Wahid Foundation also found discrimination against minority faith groups was also on the rise throughout 2016. It recorded 313 violations, most of which were legal abuse. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/religious-based-discrimination-lives-on-but-more-positive-initiatives-grow-wahid-foundation.html

Indonesian hard-liners again turn up heat on Ahmadis

Jakarta Post - February 25, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq – The constantly under fire followers of the Ahmadiyah religious sect are facing yet another round of persecution.

This time the administration of Depok, West Java, has shut down their last remaining mosque following intense pressure from a mob demanding the disbandment of the congregation.

A sign has been erected in front of the Al-Hidayah Mosque, declaring illegal all the sect's activities in the precinct. Seven Ahmadis were forced to perform their obligatory Friday prayers in the mosque's yard.

The mosque has been shuttered six times since 2011, when an influential Islamic group in Depok, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), declared the sect heretical.

Ahmadi beliefs are regarded as deviant by most Indonesian Muslims, who are mainly Sunnis, because Ahmadis do not regard Muhammad as the last prophet.

Hundreds of Islamic hard-liners, including members of the notorious Islam Defenders Front (FPI), staged a rally on Friday in front of the mosque and threatened to take harsh measures should the authorities fail to expel the Ahmadis from the city as well as to demolish the sealed mosque.

"We reject the presence of Ahmadis in Depok. They have been declared heretical yet they still practice their beliefs here. Don't blame us if we take tough action," cleric Ahmad Daman Huri said in his speech.

The rally participants claimed they were ready to die to defend what they described as "an attempt to protect Islamic values."

As many as 400 personnel from the police, the Army and the local Public Order Agency stood guard in front of the mosque, aiming to prevent the crowd from either entering or damaging the house of worship, which was built in 1999.

The mosque, which obtained a permit as a house of worship in 2007, is a sacred place for nearly 400 Ahmadis who had practised their faith uninterrupted until 2011 when persecution of the Ahmadis commenced nationwide.

Farid Mahmud Ahmad, an Ahmadiyah cleric, questioned the closure, saying the move lacked transparency and legal backing. "We never received any notification before the closure. They say that our activities are illegal, but what activities? The term is not clear and is open to multiple interpretations," he said.

He added that members of the sect had been there since the late 1980s and lived in harmony with the rest of the community. However, things turned sour when the sect was declared heretical. "We used to socialize well and were accepted by society. We even organized an annual sporting event," said Farid.

"We started to face some trouble early in 2011, when a seminar was held by the MUI in Depok declaring us heretical," he said, adding that the growing negative perception had forced the sect to refrain from public activity in 2014.

The administration did not seek a court decision before deciding to shutter the Al-Hidayah Mosque. The step was taken on the basis of a 2008 joint ministerial decree and a 2011 Depok city bylaw concerning the Ahmadiyah. The regulations prohibited Ahmadiyah followers from spreading their faith, said Depok Public Order Agency head Dudi Mi'raz.

National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) chairman Imdadun Rahmat slammed the closure, saying the city administration should instead protect its citizens in carrying out their activities regardless of their beliefs.

"The closure is baseless. The joint ministerial decree never touched on banning their activities," he said, adding that the commission would send a letter to the administration, urging them and the police to ensure the safety of the Ahmadis.

"The administration should instead educate the citizens about tolerance and take firm action against intolerant groups," he added.

Depok Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Herry Heryawan insisted the police would continue to protect any lawful activity carried out by residents in the city, including the Ahmadis.

Indonesia has seen an increase in violations against religious freedom. The Wahid Institute recorded 190 violations against religious freedom in 2015, a 23 percent increase from the 154 in 2014.

The violations were mostly in the form of sealing places of worship and the prohibition of their construction, as well as obstructing celebrations or rituals of certain faiths.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/25/indonesian-hard-liners-again-turn-up-heat-on-ahmadis.html

Poverty & social inequity

Indonesia's four richest men worth as much as poorest 100 million

The Guardian (Australia) - February 23, 2017

Rupert Neate – The four richest men in Indonesia own as much wealth as the country's poorest 100 million citizens, despite the nation's president repeatedly pledging to fighting "dangerous" levels of inequality.

Oxfam on Thursday highlighted Indonesia as one of the most unequal countries in the world, where the number of dollar billionaires has increased from one in 2002 to 20 in 2016.

The development charity worked out that the four richest Indonesians – led by brothers Budi and Michael Hartono – control $25bn of assets, which is roughly equal to the wealth of the poorest 40% of Indonesia's 250 million population. The charity said the Hartonos – who own a clove cigarette company – could earn enough interest on their fortune in a year to eradicate extreme poverty in Indonesia.

"Since 2000, economic growth has taken off in Indonesia," Oxfam said in its report. "However, the benefits of growth have not been shared equally, and millions have been left behind especially women."

Oxfam said that despite rapid growth in gross domestic product (GDP) – which averaged at 5% between 2000-2016 and caused the country to be included in economics Civets list of fast growing emerging nations – "poverty reduction slowed to a near standstill". Based on the World Bank's "moderate" poverty line of $3.10-a-day, some 93 million Indonesians are living poverty.

"The growing numbers of millionaires and billionaires, when set against a backdrop of staggering poverty, confirms that it is the rich who are capturing the lion's share of the benefits of the country's much-vaunted economic performance, while millions of people at the bottom are being left behind," Oxfam said.

When he was elected in 2014 President Joko Widodo pledged to prioritise closing the wealth gap ahead of blindly pursuing growth. "Economic growth is very important for my administration, for my people but it's more important to narrow the gap," Widodo said in an interview with Bloomberg shortly after his election. "When we invite investors they must give benefit to my people. Also to my country."

Widodo said the country's Gini coefficient (the global inequality measure) was about 0.43, and "for me it's dangerous". Last month Widodo conceded that the country had made little progress in rebalancing the society, and vowed to make narrowing the gap his top priority of 2017. "Despite a slight improvement in our Gini ratio, it is still relatively high," Widodo said, according to the Jakarta Globe.

The country's bureau of statistics said the Gini coefficient had reduced to 0.387 in March 2016 compared with 0.402 in September 2015.

Dini Widiastuti, spokesperson for Oxfam in Indonesia, said: "It is simply not right that the richest person in Indonesia earns more from the interest on his wealth in just one day than our poorest citizens spend on their basic needs in an entire year. Inequality in Indonesia is reaching crisis levels. If left unchecked, the huge gap between rich and poor could undermine the fight against poverty, exacerbate social instability, and put a brake on economic growth."

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/23/indonesias-four-richest-men-own-same-as-countrys-poorest-100-million

Towards a more equal Indonesia – Oxfam. February 23, 2017: https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp-towards-more-equal-indonesia-230217-en.pdf

Wealth of four richest Indonesians equal to wealth of 100m poorest

Jakarta Post - February 23, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia is the sixth worst country in the world in terms of economic inequality, says a report from Oxfam Indonesia and the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (lNFlD).

In their report "Towards a more equal Indonesia," the NGOs record that the wealth of the four richest in Indonesia is equal to the wealth of the country's poorest 100 million citizens, indicating that Indonesia's stable economic growth has not been followed by a fair distribution of income.

The report says economic disparity between the haves and have-nots has been deepening faster than it has in other Southeast Asian countries.

"Inequality will not only hamper poverty eradication efforts, but also slow down economic growth and pose a threat to a social cohesion," said INFID director Sugeng Bahagijo on Wednesday as reported by kontan.co.id.

According to Oxfam and INFID, the market fundamentalism introduced into Indonesia in 1997 has facilitated the rich gaining the largest benefit from economic growth because with their political links, they have access to influence decision makers to change regulations in their favor.

Meanwhile, wages in lower-paid jobs have not increased significantly enough to help the nation's poor rise above the poverty line. Another reason behind the deepening inequality is that economic growth has been centered in urban areas and the taxation system has failed to distribute state wealth fairly.

"Indonesia faces multi-dimensional inequality. But President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has an opportunity to prove that Indonesia could lead the fight against global inequality," said advocacy director of Oxfam International Steve Price Thomas. (bbn)

Towards a more equal Indonesia – Oxfam. February 23, 2017: https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bp-towards-more-equal-indonesia-230217-en.pdf

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/23/wealth-of-four-richest-indonesians-equal-to-wealth-of-100m-poorest.html

Government kicks off non-cash food subsidy distribution program

Jakarta Post - February 23, 2017

Anton Hermansyah, Jakarta – The government kicked off the distribution of non-cash food subsidies in the form of cards on Thursday in Cibubur, East Jakarta.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo symbolically handed over cards to 1,879 housewives from Jakarta, Depok and Bogor, warning them not to use the cards to buy less urgent things.

"Do not use the card to up your phone balance or give it to your husband to buy cigarettes. If we hear of that, we will revoke the card," he said.

The so-called Prosperous Family Card (KKS) functions as a form of e-money. The cards are supplied by Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), Bank Tabungan Negara (BTN) and Bank Mandiri.

Selected households receive a Rp 110,000 food subsidy per month through the card. They can use the card to buy rice and sugar from agents or from the Social Affairs Ministry's appointed stores called e-warungs. In total, there are 15,878 agents ready to distribute the subsidy.

Meanwhile, the households that are included in the Social Affairs Ministry's Family Hope Program (PKH) will receive Rp 1,890,000 each year. This money can be withdrawn four times a year and the welfare program has also been integrated into the KKS.

This year, the government aims to distribute the cards to 1.29 million families across 44 cities. The total value of the subsidy will reach an estimated Rp 1.7 trillion. For 2018, the government plans to expand to subsidy to 10 million families. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/23/government-kicks-off-non-cash-food-subsidy-distribution-program.html

Agriculture & food security

Agriculture minister to sack officials involved in meat import cartels

Jakarta Globe - February 25, 2017

Jakarta – Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman said on Friday (24/02) he would sack ministry officials who get themselves involved with meat import cartels.

"I will fire anyone in my ministry involved [with meat import cartels]," Amran said after meeting with commissioners from the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, in Jakarta.

The anti-graft agency is currently investigating a bribery case related to a judicial review of Law No. 41/2014 on Animal Farming and Health which involved former Constitutional Court judge Patrialis Akbar.

Basuki Hariman, director of a company called Sumber Laut Perkasa, and Patrialis have been named suspects in the case along with suspected middleman K.M. Kamaludin.

Investigators found dozens of stamps from institutions and agencies involved with meat import in Basuki's office. One of them is the official stamp of the directorate general of animal farming and health at the ministry.

Amran said the KPK is digging further into the case. "We'll let the law enforcers do their job," Amran said.

KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah said they summoned Amran to discuss the antigraft agency's study on state subsidy for farming.

The bribery scandal was revealed by the KPK after a sting operation in January. Patrialis reportedly received $20,000 and SGD$200,000 ($140,000) in bribes from Basuki, according to the agency.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/agricultural-minister-to-sack-officials-involved-in-meat-import-cartel/

Armed forces & defense

State defense program goes to schools, campuses

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Bogor, West Java – The government plans to incorporate the state defense program into freshmen orientation programs in schools and universities nationwide with an aim of providing added value for new students.

"Instead of doing weird things, like collecting mice and cockroaches during orientation, it would be better for schools and universities to run the state defense program instead as it would be more valuable for the students," the Defense Ministry's head of education and training center, Maj. Gen. Hartind Asrin, said on Tuesday.

The Defense Ministry cooperated with the Education Ministry and the Directorate General of Higher Education in the drafting of the state defense curriculum. "To run this program, we will coordinate with 873 education and training centers across Indonesia," he said.

He added that facilitators from each training center would be invited to Bogor, West Java, for further training on the program. "Once they complete the program, they will return to their respective regions and be obliged to share their knowledge with other facilitators."

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu dismissed the allegation that the program aimed to prepare the younger generation for war.

"Participants will learn more about their country, democracy, laws, reform and nationhood. This is like the manifestation of a de-radicalization program for the young generation," Ryamizard said after officially inaugurating the state defense education and training center in Rumpin, Bogor. (hol)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/state-defense-program-goes-to-schools-campuses.html

Criminal justice & legal system

Plan to execute death row inmates still on: AGO

Jakarta Post - February 25, 2017

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – The government will carry out another round of executions but it has not yet decided on the timing, Attorney General Muhaammad Prasetyo has said.

"There are lots of things that we are considering, including the fact that the country is concentrating on economic improvement. We are building a better political life," he said on Friday as quoted by kompas.com.

Previously, Prasetyo said the fourth round of executions under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration had not been scheduled this year because the government was seeking international support for its bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

But Prasetyo made clear on Friday that the death row inmates would still be executed. "[The execution] is still on. It's just the timing that hasn't been decided yet," he said.

The Jokowi government has carried out three batches of execution since the President took office in late 2014. In January 2015, six convicts were executed, while another eight were executed in April 2015. The latest round of executions was in July 2016, when four convicts were executed. (ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/25/plan-to-execute-death-row-inmates-still-on-ago.html

Foreign affairs & trade

Government to facilitate Islamic groups to meet King Salman

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Jakarta – The government is ready to facilitate the meetings of Islamic organizations with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, scheduled to arrive for a state visit in Indonesia on Wednesday, a minister has said.

"The Saudi Arabian king will meet the religious leaders in his visit. This [meeting] is also important," said Religious Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.

The minister said which Islamic groups that would have an opportunity to meet King Salman were still being discussed. "We are still preparing and discussing the matter. We hope the meetings can take place," he said.

Lukman further said the government would also facilitate the meeting between King Salman and his delegation members and leaders of other religions.

King Salman is scheduled to meet President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo during his state visit from March 1 to 3 before he departs for Bali for a vacation from March 4 to March.9. The king will bring a delegation of 1,500 people, including 25 princes and 10 ministers.

Among issues to be discussed by Saudi Arabian and Indonesian governments include the possible increase in haj quota for Indonesia, improvement of tourist visits from Saudi Arabia and the protection of Indonesian migrant workers. (mrc/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/govt-to-facilitate-islamic-groups-to-meet-king-salman.html

Malcolm Turnbull to make surprise visit to Jakarta next week

Sydney Morning Herald - February 27, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will visit Indonesia next week, in a surprise move that underscores the success of Indonesian President Joko Widodo's weekend trip to Australia and the close personal relationship between the two leaders.

President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, announced in a press statement that Mr Turnbull would attend the Indian Ocean Rim Association leadership summit, which is being held in Jakarta from March 5 to 7.

The announcement came at the end of a two-day visit, in which President Jokowi and his wife Iriana attended a private dinner at Mr Turnbull's Point Piper mansion and strolled with him through the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney on Sunday morning.

"We have actually covered all of our bilateral issues on our dinner and morning walk," President Jokowi said at a joint press conference on the lawns of Kirribilli House.

The leaders announced the full restoration of military co-operation between the two countries after a languages training program was suspended early this year following the discovery of curriculum materials at a Perth army base that Indonesia found offensive.

They also agreed that negotiations on a free trade deal would be concluded this year. Indonesia would lower its tariff on Australian sugar to 5 per cent and in return Australia would eliminate tariffs on pesticides and herbicides coming from Indonesia.

President Jokowi also said more Indonesian language centres would be opened in Australia in addition to the existing centres in Perth, Melbourne and Canberra.

The stroll was described as "morning walk diplomacy" by President Jokowi's office, with the two leaders stopping to interact with locals who were exercising, including a father carrying his eight-week-old baby.

It echoed Mr Turnbull and President Jokowi's famous "blusukan" or impromptu visit to Tanah Abang market, when the two leaders were given a rock star welcome during the Prime Minister's visit to Jakarta in November 2015.

"Morning walk diplomacy may become one of the powerful ways to improve bilateral relations for the better in the future," the president's press office said.

Associate Professor Greg Fealy from the Australian National University said he believed a major reason behind President Jokowi's visit to Australia was the close personal relationship between the two leaders.

"It looks very much as if Malcolm Turnbull wants to build on that and keep momentum going and I think that's a good thing. Before Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister, Jokowi didn't really demonstrate much interest at all in Australia."

Professor Fealy said the way Mr Turnbull had managed President Jokowi's visit was very skilful, including spontaneously introducing him to local Sydneysiders as they ran along past the harbour.

"Jokowi always sees himself as a man of the people. It wasn't just a stuffy leader's visit, it was made much bigger than that. All these things are good for the bilateral relationship."

Sade Bimantara, a spokesperson for the Indonesian embassy in Canberra, said Mr Turnbull's trip to Indonesia next week reflected the success of the president's visit to Australia and the importance of the Australia-Indonesia relationship.

"They discussed a number of issues from military cooperation to trade and investment and also signed a number of agreements including one on joint maritime cooperation and one on the creative economy. "That showed both leaders place this relationship as one of the top priorities."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/malcolm-turnbull-to-make-surprise-visit-to-jakarta-next-week-20170227-gumejs.html

Jokowi meets Australian CEOs, shares confidence about Indonesia's

Jakarta Post - February 25, 2017

Ina Parlina, Sydney – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo kicked off his two-day trip to Sydney on Saturday noon by meeting with CEOs of Australian multinational companies, during which he assured them about Indonesia's supportive investment climate despite global and domestic challenges.

At the beginning of the meeting, Jokowi cracked a joke to break the ice, saying "I don't know how it is in Australia. But, in Indonesia, we sometimes work at weekends".

Citing upgraded outlooks recently released by various international rating agencies such as Moody's Investor Services, Jokowi assured the top executives, such as those from mining private equity firm EMR Capital, Marina Industrial Development and livestock exporter Austrex, that Indonesia is currently "enjoying very good investor sentiment".

Earlier this month, Moody's revised the outlook on its ratings of Indonesian government debt from "stable" to "positive". Indonesia has also climbed 15 places to 91 in the World Bank's 2017 Ease of Doing Business index, from the previous rank of 106.

But, Jokowi also told the participants that the conditions related to the recent regional elections posed a challenge to the economy, particularly when a religion-driven massive rally occurred late last year against the backdrop of the Jakarta gubernatorial poll. The rally turned violent, forcing Jokowi to postpone his visit to Australia initially scheduled for November.

In the meeting, which later continued behind closed doors, the Australian businesspeople expressed confidence in "continuing their expansion in Indonesia", said Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

Australia's investment in Indonesia reached US$168 million in 2015, with most going to mining and tourism sectors.

Retno also played down any concerns about domestic politics, saying that having regional elections run peacefully in 101 regions was an achievement for Indonesian democracy. "So, there is nothing to worry [about]," she added.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to welcome Jokowi and First Lady Iriana in a private dinner at his residence on Saturday evening. (hwa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/25/jokowi-meets-australian-ceos-shares-confidence-about-indonesias-economy.html

Indonesian president Joko Widodo arrives in Australia for two-day visit

The Guardian (Australia) - February 25, 2017

The Indonesian president Joko Widodo has arrived in Sydney on his first visit to Australia as his nation's leader.

The president and first lady Iriana Widodo landed in rainy conditions and clutched umbrellas as they greeted Australian officials on the Sydney airport tarmac.

Improving trade and investment will be a key focus of Widodo's two-day state visit with plans to finalise a bilateral free trade agreement this year.

The Indonesian president will meet with business leaders on Saturday afternoon before a private dinner at prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's harbourside mansion.

"Our relationship with Indonesia is growing deeper by the day but it has not yet reached its full potential," Turnbull wrote in an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, adding that Australia trades more with Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand than with Indonesia.

Indonesia has a population of 250 million and is Australia's nearest neighbour after Papua New Guinea. Australia has 24 million people.

Meanwhile, Australia's live cattle trade to Indonesia has received a boost with Jakarta moving from four-month to one-year import permits. The announcement coincided with Widodo's arrival in Sydney.

Agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce hailed the changes saying it would allow better business planning for Australian exporters, increase the range of cattle eligible for export and ultimately improve returns at the farm gate.

Weight limits will be increased from a 350-kilogram average weight to maximum 450kg for live feeder cattle. The age limits will also rise.

"Australian farmers will have the ability to produce a greater range of cattle for the Indonesian market at competitive prices," Joyce said in a statement.

Australia's live cattle exports to Indonesia were worth $578m in the 2015-16 financial year. The industry suffered a big blow under the previous Labor government, which introduced a sudden ban on live cattle exports in 2011 following the airing of animal cruelty footage at Indonesian abattoirs. (Reuters, AAP)

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/25/indonesian-president-joko-widodo-arrives-in-australia-for-two-day-visit

Joko Widodo plumps Indonesia's investment suitability during Sydney

WA Today - February 25, 2017

James Robertson – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has used his first state visit to Australia to plump for greater connections between businesses in Australia and its northern neighbour.

"[International ratings agencies] are raising Indonesia's outlook from stable to positive," he told a forum of business leaders at Sydney's Shangri-la hotel on Saturday afternoon. "Trust in the Indonesian [government] has jumped".

Mr Joko displayed some facility in English (opponents had questioned the proficiency, and so worldliness, of the former furniture salesman from the central Javanese city of Solo during his 2014 election campaign). But reporters were given only a moment's glimpse of discussions before they were ushered out of the room.

The President thanked assembled business leaders including those from Blackmores, Macquarie and Bluescope Steel for working on the weekend. Later on Saturday Mr Joko met with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at the same venue. On Saturday night he was scheduled for a private dinner with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at his Point Piper home.

"I look forward to my talks with President Widodo," Mr Turnbull said in a statement. "During this visit, President Widodo and I will hold our Annual Leaders' Meeting as we continue to further strengthen the Australia-Indonesia relationship."

Two-way trade with Indonesia tops $15 billion but the country remains just outside Australia's top-10 trading partners.

The pair will discuss progress on an Indonesian-Australian free trade deal set to be finalised by the end of the year, perhaps as early as August. Indonesian trade officials were in Canberra last week for the fourth round of free trade negotiations since March last year. Mr Joko is also expected to use the visit to promote a plan to diversify Indonesian tourism exports. About 900,000 Australians visit Indonesia, mostly Bali, each year. Mr Joko has said his government plans to develop and promote another 10 Balis.

Sydney is the only stop on the President's two-day visit, the first since his 2014 ascension to the presidency of the world's largest Muslim country. "This visit is very important for us, this is a visit to a close neighbour," a spokesman for the foreign ministry, Arrmanatha Nasir, said.

Mr Joko and First Lady Iriana Widodo were greeted by Australian officials in blustery and rainy weather.

The Indonesian President will round out his visit on Sunday with meetings with the Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, a trip to the koala enclosure at Taronga Zoo, and an official state lunch and ceremonial welcome with 21-gun salute.

Mr Joko was due to visit Australia last year but the trip was postponed after mass protests erupted in Jakarta over a religious controversy involving its governor and his former deputy.

Source: http://www.watoday.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/joko-widodo-plumps-indonesias-investment-suitability-during-sydney-visit-20170225-gula57.html

Jokowi to raise joint patrols in South China Sea

The Australian - February 24, 2017

Amanda Hodge, Jakarta – Indonesian President Joko Widodo has opened the door to joint Indonesian-Australian patrols of the South China Sea, telling The Australian in an exclusive interview ahead of his first state visit tomorrow that he will discuss the issue with Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Joko also hinted that a part suspension of military ties, impose­d last month by his defence­chief, would be lifted following the annual leaders' talks.

And he moved to reassure Australians that Indonesia's tolerant, pluralist traditions were etched "in our DNA", notwithstanding a polarising Jakarta election fought along race and religious lines and the concurrent trial of the city's ethnic Chinese, Christian governor on what many see as political-motivated blasphemy charges.

The Indonesian leader known popularly as Jokowi said he saw joint Australian-Indonesian patrols in the South China Sea, potentially around Indonesia's own Natuna Islands at the southern edge of the waters, as "very important" – as long as they did not raise tensions in the region.

"It depends. If there is tension like last year it's difficult to decide this program," he said. "But if there is no tension I think it's very important to have the patrols together. We will discuss this with PM Turnbull."

Indonesian naval vessels clashed at least three times with Chinese poachers fishing in the resource-rich waters around its Natuna Islands last year. While Beijing makes no claims over the Natuna Islands it does insist the waters surrounding them are part of historical Chinese fishing grounds, as marked in its "nine-dash line" map, which claims about 90 per cent of the South China Sea.

An agreement between Australia and Indonesia to conduct joint patrols through the disputed waters of one of the world's busiest and most valuable shipping lanes – one critical to Australian trade – would be a huge coup for the federal government, which has been lobbying Jakarta over the issue as it seeks closer defence co-operation with Indonesia.

It would also be emphatic evidence that defence relations between the two neighbours sustained no permanent damage from last month's defence stoush.

Indonesia's ultra-nationalist military chief Gatot Nurmantyo suspended a language training course over concerns at teaching materials, said to have included an essay question asking students to discuss whether West Papua should be an independent state.

The incident tapped deep-seated resentment within some quarters of the Indonesian military at Australia's support for East Timor's independence, and lingering fears it might one day also support a long-running liberation movement in West Papua.

General Gatot accepted a personal apology this month from Australian Army chief Angus Campbell but has not yet lifted the suspension. Mr Jokowi said the issue underlined Australia and Indonesia's ability to work through their differences. Asked if the suspension would be lifted before his visit tomorrow he replied; "I think after I discuss (it) with PM Turnbull.... I believe that we can build mutual trust and understanding."

He repeatedly emphasised his warm friendship with Mr Turnbull, whose November 2015 visit to Jakarta is seen to have reset a relationship battered by successive knocks over the executions earlier that year of Bali Nine leaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran, Tony Abbott's 2014 boat turn-back policy, and the 2013 WikiLeaks revelations that Australia spied on former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and senior ministers.

"You know, we understand each other. We come from the same background, business," Mr Jokowi said of Mr Turnbull.

"We want to achieve concrete things with PM Turnbull; not only trade, but trade, investment and tourism. We must work harder to strengthen (the economic relationship) because investment from Australia is still very low if we compare with the other countries."

Indonesia currently lags as Australia's 13th-largest trading partner, with Australian direct investm­ent in Indonesia of just $5.5 billion in 2015-16.

Improving trade and investment would help the relationship, Mr Jokowi said. He added that he was confident the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement could be concluded by December. But he was lukewarm on Australian attempts to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership multi-lateral trade deal after US President Donald Trump scrapped it.

This weekend's trip will be a truncated version of the previous schedule. He will meet with Mr Turnbull and senior ministers, business leaders and Indonesian students, and have lunch with the Governor-General on Sunday before flying home.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said yesterday it would be a "special" visit, marked with a private dinner at Mr Turnbull's Point Piper mansion.

"The visit will be special. Unlike other state visits, the President has been invited by Prime Minister Turnbull for a private dinner at his residence. So there will only be the President, the first lady, the Prime Minister and his spouse. This shows how close the two leaders are," Mr Nasir said.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/foreign-affairs/jokowi-to-raise-joint-patrols-in-south-china-sea/news-story/9e7eb2c67704260bed03d582aa2d2deb

Trade and investment focus of President Joko Widodo's trip to Australia

Sydney Morning Herald - February 24, 2017

Jewel Topsfield and David Wroe – Indonesian President Joko Widodo's ambitious program to develop "10 new Balis" across the archipelago will be among the issues discussed with Malcolm Turnbull this weekend as most Australian tourists continue to only visit the resort island when they visit the country.

Mining will also be on the agenda for talks with an Indonesian senior official pointing to the partnership between Newcrest and Indonesian mining company Aneka Tambang for copper and gold exploration in Indonesia as a "concrete example of economic cooperation".

The primary focus of the visit will be economic with Minister of Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung revealing talks will centre around tourism, mining, cyber-security, terrorism and the finalisation of the free trade deal.

Mr Turnbull has also signalled a strong economic focus to the visit, writing in Fairfax Media newspapers on Saturday that "Indonesia's potential represents a golden opportunity for Australia".

He writes that it is growing stronger but still falls short of its potential, given Australia trades more with Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, each of which has a much smaller economy than Indonesia.

In an interview with Fairfax Media late last year, President Jokowi emphasised he wanted the trade deal – known as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement – concluded this year, an aspiration that Mr Turnbull shares.

Fairfax Media revealed this week the deal is 70 per cent complete but Australia is pushing for Australian university campuses to be allowed to operate in Indonesia.

The first state visit to Australia by President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, may be a whirlwind – he flies in Saturday afternoon and flies back to Jakarta after lunch on Sunday – but insiders say it reflects the high personal regard with which he holds the Australian Prime Minister.

He is understood to have been keen to make the trip immediately after the gubernatorial elections in mid-February, which were conducted peacefully despite a campaign marred by simmering ethnic and religious tensions.

President Jokowi was forced to cancel an earlier state trip to Australia, planned for last November, after a rally calling for the governor of Jakarta, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, to be jailed for allegedly insulting Islam turned violent.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Australia was one of Indonesia's most important partners in Asia from the point of view of trade, investment and also tourism.

"The number of tourists coming to Indonesia has exceed 1 million [a year] however they are still concentrated in Bali," Ms Retno said. "Since we are now developing 10 other tourist destinations, we of course want Australian tourists to go to other tourist destinations in Indonesia."

The 10 new tourist destinations identified for development is part of a push to lure 20 million foreign tourists a year to Indonesia by 2019. They include the 9th century Buddhist temple at Borobudur in Central Java, Lake Toba in North Sumatra, a volcanic lake which the Indonesian government wants to turn into the "Monaco of Asia", Lombok, Thousand Islands in North Jakarta and Labuan Bajo in Flores.

"To achieve those plans, however, the government needs to attract investment to areas other than Bali and Jakarta, which have traditionally been the main drivers of the tourism industry," says Jarryd de Haan from Future Directions International Research Institute.

Mr Turnbull said there were "immense" opportunities for Australia businesses with Indonesia set to become one of the world's largest seven economies by 2030 and its consumer class expected to grow to as many as 135 million people by then.

He said the pair would also discuss working together on infrastructure development, agriculture and food security.

Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board chief Thomas Lembong, who is travelling to Australia with the President, said that mining and investment would also be on the economic agenda.

"Newcrest and Aneka Tambang signed a MOU in November 2016 to allocate $US1billion [$1.2billion] for gold exploration over the next five to seven years," he said. "This is a concrete example of economic co-operation."

Indonesia last month introduced new mining rules that relaxed a ban on unprocessed ore exports and allowed exports of nickel ore and bauxite and concentrates of other minerals under certain conditions.

President Jokowi's visit to Indonesia comes a month after the discovery of material at an army base in Perth that Indonesia considered offensive, including included an assignment on West Papuan independence and a spoof of the state ideology Pancasila.

The discovery prompted the partial suspension of military ties and a language training course is yet to resume despite Australian Army chief Angus Campbell travelling to Jakarta this month to apologise.

Asked about the continuation of military co-operation with Australia, chief security minister Wiranto said: "There is no drastic change. We solved the small incident. In general there is no problem."

The Australia-Indonesia bilateral relationship has been buffeted in recent years by diplomatic fallouts over the executions of the Bali Nine heroin smugglers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in 2015, the revelation that Australia had tapped the phones of former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife and Australia's controversial boat turn-back policy.

Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute, said the bilateral relationship had seen a "remarkable return to good health" since the executions in April 2015, despite last month's "storm in a teacup" over the material found at the Perth army base.

"In our last year's Lowy Institute poll, Australian feelings towards Indonesia registered 54, equalling their highest mark in our 11 years of polling," he said. "Over nine out of 10 Australian respondents said they believed the relationship to be important or very important."

President Jokowi will have a private state dinner with Mr Turnbull on Saturday night followed by a business meeting and bilateral talks on Sunday. He with have lunch with the Governor-General on Sunday and meet with the Indonesian diaspora at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/trade-and-investment-focus-of-president-joko-widodos-trip-to-australia-20170224-gukrju.html

Indonesia says rise of One Nation party in Australia a 'concern'

Australian Associated Press - February 23, 2017

The rise of political parties with challenging views on Islam such as Australia's One Nation are a "concern", the Indonesian foreign ministry says.

The minor party's leader, Pauline Hanson, has called for a halt to Muslim immigration, surveillance cameras in mosques and schools and a royal commission into whether Islam is a policy or an ideology.

"It's a concern for any country; for Indonesia when it happens in Indonesia and also I'm sure it's a concern for Australia," Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman, Arrmanatha Nasir, told reporters.

Indonesia is home to world's biggest Muslim population. It was "important" for Indonesia and Australia to forge close links between their communities "so that we can have better understanding of what is Islam is all about", Nasir said.

"As you can see in Indonesia, Islam can go perfectly hand in hand... with democracy, with other religions. So this is the value, the culture that we would like also to share with our Australian colleagues."

The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, is visiting Australia for two days from Saturday to hold talks with prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull. He plans to raise the idea of joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea, according to a report in the Australian on Friday.

"If there is no tension I think it's very important to have patrols together," he said in an interview.

In London Thursday, Australia's foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, said if Widodo raised the issue "we will certainly take it onboard". "But it's not a matter that he's directly raised with us," she told reporters.

Nasir said on Thursday talks on maritime cooperation, security and industry were expected to lead to the signing of memorandums of understanding in Sydney.

The leaders will also discuss economic cooperation, education, cyber security and tourism. "This visit is very important because it's showing, especially for us, that we are close neighbour," Nasir said.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/24/indonesia-says-rise-of-one-nation-party-in-australia-a-concern

Mining & energy

Local administrations in Papua to get Freeport shares

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2017

Jakarta – Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan has said local administrations in Papua will get shares from PT Freeport Indonesia when the company divests its 51 percent shares, as required by a new regulation.

"Yes, they [the administration] will get [the shares]. The percentage of shares will be discussed later," Luhut said after meeting with Mimika Regent Eltinus Omaleng in Jakarta on Tuesday as reported by tempo.co.

Luhut said the central government would also discuss with relevant parties the mechanism for which the shares would be transferred to local administrations.

Meanwhile, after the meeting, Eltinus said Luhut mentioned the figure would be between 10 percent and 20 percent, which Luhut said had been demanded by the regent.

Eltinus said the shares for Papuans would be distributed to the Papua administration, Timika administration and the people holding rights to customary communal land near the copper and gold mining site.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo signed on Jan. 11 Government Regulation (PP) No. 1/2017, a revision to PP No. 23/2010 on the implementation of the mineral and coal mining business.

Under the regulation, mining companies are required to construct a smelter as a precondition for them to export the concentrates.

The companies, including Freeport, are also required to change contracts of work (CoW) to a special mining license (IUPK). With the IUPK, foreign companies are also required to divest 51 percent of their shares. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/28/local-administrations-in-papua-to-get-freeport-shares.html

Showdown in Indonesia brings world's biggest gold mine to standstill

Voice of America - February 27, 2017

Krithika Varagur, Jakarta – The American mining company Freeport-McMoRan has brought the world's biggest gold mine, in the Indonesian province of West Papua, to a standstill.

The corporation is butting heads with the Indonesian government over protectionist mining regulations. And now that Freeport has started to dismiss tens of thousands of workers, the local economy is poised to take a huge hit. In Mimika Regency, the West Papua province containing the Grasberg gold mine, 91 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is attributed to Freeport.

Freeport Indonesia abruptly stopped production on February 10 and laid off 10 percent of its foreign workers. It employs 32,000 people in Indonesia, about 12,000 of whom are full-time employees. The freeze was a reaction to a shakeup in Freeport's 30-year contract with the Indonesian government, signed in 1991. Indonesia has tried to levy additional obligations from Freeport in an attempt to increase domestic revenue from its natural resources. Freeport retaliated last week by threatening to pursue arbitration and sue the government for damages.

The Indonesian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources could not be reached for comment on the issue.

Observers on the ground in Papua and from afar in Jakarta worry the shakeup will decimate the local economy and lead to violence in the historically unstable region. West Papua has long been a troubled territory in Indonesia and its independence movement has long been met with brutal military action.

Activist concerns

"I don't think the government comprehended the social impact of the Freeport freeze in Mimika," said Octovianus Danunan, editor of the Radar Timika, a local newspaper. "Freeport runs two hospitals here, gives hundreds of scholarships to local students, and of course, provides jobs to thousands of Papuans. With these layoffs, people are extremely worried; their lines of credit are vanishing as we speak."

"These layoffs have eliminated the livelihoods of a lot of people," said John Gobai, a member of the Papua parliament. "We have heard from indigenous people here in Timika [the site of Freeport facilities] that people are becoming sick from stress. They are falling into an abyss of stress."

According to an internal Freeport report from 2015, about 36 percent of its full-time employees are native Papuans.

"I suspect that, because they may lose their jobs, many employees will want to stage demonstrations... but then, ironically, they will be laid off because that's the state policy. I think this whole situation is a human rights violation," said Gobai.

"Violence is a very big possibility," said Andreas Harsono, a Human Rights Watch researcher. "Timika is the wild, wild east of West Papua. It's the location of more than 3,500 security officers stationed along the 90-mile mining road, not to say Papuan guerrillas and hundreds of military deserters, all looking for a slice of the gold and copper mine. Shooting along the road is a regularity rather than an irregularity. I cannot imagine the situation if Freeport goes ahead with dismissing all 30,000 mining workers there."

Gobai said there have already been some protests on Freeport headquarters and he expects there will be more going forward.

Freeport's CEO Richard Adkerson told Reuters that the company was committed to staying in Indonesia, not least because about one-third of West Papua's economy comes from the Grasberg mine.

Freeport's history in Indonesia

On February 12, Adkerson issued a hard 120-day ultimatum to the Indonesian government to back down on its new demands or else face arbitration from the mining giant.

Freeport's involvement in Indonesia dates back to the Suharto military dictatorship, which signed over 250,000 acres of West Papuan territory in 1967.

Freeport was the first foreign company to sign a contract with the new Indonesian government and, due in part to this history, it is now the single largest employer in all of Indonesia.

The company enjoyed a complicated special relationship as a "quasi-state organization for Jakarta," as Inside Indonesia details, throughout the Suharto era, but the relationship has cooled under subsequent, democratically elected presidents.

The friction that led to this month's impasse is a 2009 mining law that would require Freeport to build a $2.9 billion smelter (in order to move resource exports higher up in the value chain from just raw materials) and divest the majority of its shares to Indonesian ownership within 10 years.

Freeport maintains that, since its current contract runs through 2021, it doesn't need to act on the regulations yet. But Indonesian officials, led by Mines and Energy Minister Ignasius Jonan, have ramped up pressure for Freeport to convert its contract per the 2009 law to a "Special Business License," which precipitated today's standoff.

Situation in flux

Both Indonesia and Freeport are likely to see monetary losses from the clash, but Indonesia seems committed to asserting its terms for collaboration. The global commodities market for ore and other natural resources has also dipped in the last year, with a particular slowdown from China.

The ground situation is likely to be in constant flux over the coming months as the Indonesian government gears up for a fight. On Monday, the government announced it is grooming a state-owned aluminum enterprise to take over the Grasberg mine if it wins arbitration with Freeport. "What the government really needs to think about is what compensation they can give to layoff victims in the present," said Gobai. "These people are employees, but they are also citizens."

Source: http://www.voanews.com/a/showdown-in-indonesia-brings-gold-mine-to-standstill/3741401.html

Indonesia prepares company to manage Freeport

Jakarta Post - February 27, 2017

Jakarta – The Indonesian government is now preparing state-owned aluminum producer PT Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Inalum) to manage a gold and copper mining site in Papua if the government can finally take over the mining site from PT Freeport Indonesia.

"We can manage [Freeport]. We have Inalum. It is up to the state-owned enterprises ministry, but we are ready," said Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan in Jakarta on Monday as reported by tempo.co.

The government will take over of the mining site if it wins in the international arbitration tribunal.

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 into a special mining license (IUPK).

The company gave the government three months for negotiation and threatened to take the case to the international arbitration if the negotiation fails.

Inalum, a company in Asahan, North Sumatra, is now prepared to lead mining companies in an effort to set up state-owned mining company holding, Luhut said. The minister stressed that the company has the capability to manage Freeport, the world largest copper and gold mining company.

The government's plans to appoint Inalum to manage Freeport were supported by a member of the House of Representatives' energy commission, Gus Irawan Pasaribu, who said the company had good performance in managing the aluminum producer, which was established in cooperation with the Indonesian government and Nippon Asahan Aluminium Co in 1976. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/27/indonesia-prepares-company-to-manage-freeport.html

Police alerted over possible unrest linked to Freeport workers' layoff

Antara News - February 24, 2017

Timika, Papua – The Mimika Resort Police and other security officers are taking necessary steps to anticipate possible unrest as a result of massive layoffs of workers at PT Freeport and its affiliated privatization and contractor companies.

Mimika Resort Police Chief Adj. Sr Comr victor Dean Mackbon said here on Thursday that the sending home and layoffs of workers by PT Freeport and its privatization and contractor companies have impact on the security and order in Mimika in general.

"This needs serious attention as the impact of the crisis at PT Freeport has led to many employees to be sent home and to be laid off," Mackbon said.

He said that the halt of PT Freeport's concentrate exports since January 12 and stoppage of mining production activities since February 10, 2017 created social and economic impacts for workers and their families.

Even, the conditions in Freeport could have wide impact on the political situation in the region.

"We will continue to provide calls and open communication center which we have agreed together with the regional governments and other stakeholders to provide solutions to the problem that is being faced now," Mackbon said.

On Wednesday morning, the Mimika Resort Police held a special roll-call to check the readiness of personnel in anticipating the emergence of security and order disturbance after the layoff of workers at PT Freeport Indonesia.

Based on the latest data, PT Freeport Indoinesia and its privatization and contractor companies have sent home and laid off over 1,000 workers in the last one week.

It was earlier reported that PT Freeport Indonesia had stopped its production activities with effect from Feb 10, this year, following the governments objective to have greater control on raw mineral resources.

The government has proposed that the Special Mining Operations Permit (IUPK) should be used in place of the existing Contract of Work (CoW).

PT Freeport is reluctant to agree to the Indonesian governments proposal, especially since IUPK holders are obliged to divest up to 51 percent of the shares, which means they will no longer be in full control of the company.

Source: http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/109628/police-alerted-over-possible-unrest-linked-to-freeport-workers-layoff

Freeport's threat of arbitration simply a ploy to block mining reform

Jakarta Post - February 23, 2017

Vincent Lingga Vincent Lingga, Jakarta – "PT Freeport Indonesia [FI] reserves of all its rights [...] including the right to commence arbitration to enforce all provisions of the contract," Freeport-McMoRan's CEO Richard C. Adkerson asserted on Monday, referring to a protracted dispute with the Indonesian government.

That threat is quite similar to those made by many other multinational companies (MNCs), which fear decreases in their huge profits following reforms by their host governments.

Until around eight years ago international arbitration within the investor-state-dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism had become a powerful weapon exploited by MNCs to circumvent national regulations and bully governments, notably in developing countries, to postpone or annul any reform or to silence environmental NGOs.

At the time of its launch several decades ago, ISDS was indeed vital to encourage foreign investment into developing countries where legal systems were still weak and where many governments were corrupt. It was a forum designed to resolve conflicts between investors and host governments.

ISDS has therefore been written into bilateral investment and trade agreements or treaties. One of the most popular arbitration tribunals is the Washington based International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a unit of the World Bank.

The ISDS mechanism allows foreign investors to bypass local courts and seek compensation in international tribunals such as the ICSID, for what they claim to be damages caused by expropriation or policy or contractual changes by host governments.

The problem is that within the ISDS scheme only investors or companies can bring lawsuits. A government may defend itself but it cannot sue a company. The mere threat of an ISDS claim by big MNCs can alarm host governments, especially those with bad international reputations, to act in favor of the investor.

An 18-month study in 2014 and 2015 by the BuzzFeed News online platform on arbitration cases within the ISDS system in Indonesia, India, Africa, Central America and the United States, involving the inspection of tens of thousands of pages of legal documents, revealed how big corporations have turned the threat of ISDS legal action into a fearsome weapon to enable them to have their demands met by host governments in developing countries.

Under the ISDS scheme there seemed no longer a balance between protection of investors and the right of governments to regulate.

It was as striking for its power as for its secrecy, with its proceedings. Of all the ways in which ISDS is used, the most deeply hidden are the threats, uttered in private meetings or ominous letters that invoke those courts, the BuzzFeed study concluded.

The threats are so powerful they often eliminate the need to actually bring a lawsuit. Just the knowledge that it could happen is enough.

Arbitrators who decide the cases are often drawn from the ranks of the same highly paid corporate lawyers who argue ISDS cases. These arbitrators have broad authority to interpret the rules however they want. And there is no meaningful appeal.

Especially for Indonesia, which still grapples with many mining contracts awarded under the authoritarian Soeharto administration (1967-1998), the mere threat of an ISDS claim could trigger alarm.

Indonesia suffered the pang of an international arbitration in 2000 when the government, groaning under the economic crisis, canceled a geothermal power plant contract with Karaha Bodas, a local subsidiary of two US companies, in West Java.

But Karaha went to an international arbitration tribunal, which in December 2000, awarded it US$261 million, even though the company had not yet ploughed even half that amount into the project. In other words, Indonesia owed a quarter-billion dollars to a private company for electricity it would never receive, from a power plant that had not been built.

Formerly, the dominant view in ISDS circles was simply "the sanctity of a contract must be honored" as long as it was concluded with a legitimate government, however immoral, incompetent or corrupt the leader who signed the contract.

However the perception within international arbitration tribunals now no longer sees a corporate contract as being absolute but a balance between corporate rights and fairness, and, especially, overall economic benefits. When circumstances change after a contract was signed that make it impractical, or uneconomic or inefficient, to comply with contractual obligations, courts may relieve a party of its commitments.

The prevailing opinion now even tends to excuse parties, especially governments in developing countries, from fulfilling contracts if they were entered under compulsion (duress) or corruption or if one party is not competent and the terms of investment arrangements seem imbalanced.

Even the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has criticized the ISDS regime as already going far beyond its original intention, as the system now suffers from a lack of coherence, consistency and predictability.

No wonder many governments in Asia, including Indonesia, Australia, Africa, Europe and Latin America, have decided to remove ISDS provisions from their investment or trade agreements because of the tendency of its mechanism to favor large foreign investors over national governments. Even within the ICSID there has been an increasing trend not to see corporate contracts as being absolute.

Last December an ICSID tribunal decided in favor of the Indonesian government in its dispute with mining firm Churchill, rejecting the British company's claim over $1 billion in damages, after what the latter alleged to be the expropriation of its rights over huge coal reserves in East Kalimantan.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/02/23/commentary-freeports-threat-of-arbitration-simply-a-ploy-to-block-mining-reform.html

Airlangga University supports Freeport's nationalization

Tempo.co - February 23, 2017

Artika Rachmi Farmita, Surabaya – Hundreds of students of graduate and doctorate programs at the Airlangga University in Surabaya declared their supports for the government in addressing the issue with PT Freeport Indonesia.

The declaration of supports was set forth on a banner signed by Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan on the sidelines of a public lecture held at the university on Thursday, February 23, 2017.

The white banner contains a red colored writing that says, "Freeport, land and water in Indonesia shall be used for the greatest benefit of the Indonesian people, not for foreign countries!"

"There's nothing wrong with the declaration. It's set forth in Article 33 of the 1945 Constitution," Jonan said in response to a question related to the declaration.

Jonan added that there is no law that is not based on the 1945 Constitution. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, Jonan added, welcomes investment from foreign and domestic investors.

Jonan revealed that the central government expects the economy to grow, because it would be impossible to depend on the State Budget without private sector's participation.

Airlangga University rector Mohammad Nasih said that the university supports the government and Jonan in addressing the dispute with Freeport.

"In accordance with Article 33 paragraph 3 of the 1945 Constitution, natural resources, including mineral and coal shall be under the powers of the state and shall be used to the greatest benefit of the people," Nasih reiterated.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/02/23/055849707/Airlangga-University-Supports-Freeports-Nationalization

Infrastructure & development

Private sector urged to invest in infrastructure

Jakarta Post - February 24, 2017

Jakarta – Private companies taking part in infrastructure development is highly important because of the state's limited funds for infrastructure projects, a government official has stressed.

Public Works and Housing Ministry secretary general Anita Firmanti said on Thursday that the government needed about Rp 800 trillion (US$60 billion) over the next five years, but the ministry's allocation was only Rp 300 trillion.

She said the government had deregulated various licensing processes to facilitate the involvement of foreign investors in the infrastructure projects"We have carried out deregulation to help investors easily obtain licenses," Anita said as reported by tempo.co.

She said that in the last three years, infrastructure development had significantly increased, proven by the Indonesian infrastructure competitive index strengthening to 60th position in 2016 from 62nd in the previous year.

But she stressed that the role of private companies in infrastructure development was very important to ensure that the government achieved its infrastructure development target.

The involvement of state-owned enterprises in infrastructure projects had focused more on toll road construction, said Anita, adding that their roles had been expanded into other sectors such as clean water and waste treatment facilities (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/24/private-sector-urged-to-invest-in-infrastructure.html

Economy & investment

Collusion verdict to have little impact on motorcycle makers

Jakarta Post - February 23, 2017

Tassia Sipahutar, Jakarta – The recent verdict by the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) that the two largest motorcycle manufacturers colluded to fix prices will have a limited impact on competition and growth in the industry, Fitch Ratings said in a statement issued on Thursday.

The KPPU announced on Monday that PT Yamaha Indonesia Motor Manufacturing (YIMM) and PT Astra Honda Motor (AHM) had engaged in cartel practices in the sales of 110 cc and 125 cc automatic scooters by marking up the vehicles' prices.

"We expect the verdict to have a minimal impact on the market shares of AHM and YIMM, which dominate the Indonesian motorcycle market," Fitch says.

Data from the Indonesian Motorcycle Industry Association shows that AHM's Honda brand was the best-selling motorcycle brand in Indonesia in 2016 with more than 4.3 million units sold, making up 74 percent of the market. YIMM's Yamaha came in the second place with nearly 1.4 million units sold in 2016 or 24 percent of the market.

"A sudden large shift in demand to other brands is unlikely, although the verdict carries an element of reputational risk. The other competitors in Indonesia have limited product offerings or concentrate on different segments."

According to Fitch, the decision is also unlikely to affect short-term growth of the motorcycle industry. It projects that the outlook for the Indonesian auto industry in 2017 is stable, with modest growth in auto sales, supported by the introduction of new products, a low interest-rate environment and underdeveloped public transportation. (tas)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/23/collusion-verdict-to-have-little-impact-on-motorcycle-makers.html

Consumers remain optimistic, but confidence wanes with religious

Jakarta Globe - February 23, 2017

Jakarta – Rising concerns over religious intolerance have decreased the consumers' confidence in the fourth quarter last year, Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions reveals.

According to Nielsen, Indonesia's consumer confidence index in the last quarter of 2016 stood at 120 points, two points less than in the previous quarter.

A reading above 100, however, still indicates a degree of optimism. The survey results also show that Indonesia is among the most optimistic countries after India (136), the Philippines (132) and the United States (123).

"Before the simultaneous regional elections, the blasphemy allegations against Jakarta Governor Ahok [Basuki Tjahaja Purnama], which were followed by 411 [Nov. 4 protest against the governor], significantly affected Indonesian consumers' confidence at the end of the last quarter," Nielsen Indonesia managing director Agus Nurudin said in a statement on Thursday (21/02).

Agus said that both the blasphemy case and the November rally raised concerns over religious tolerance in the country.

According to the survey, 25 percent of the respondents expressed theses concerns – they were not present among the top five consumers' worries in the previous quarter. The consumers were also uneasy about Indonesia's political stability – 25 percent of them were worried, in the previous quarter 13 percent.

Optimism about the future of personal finances decreased to 81 points from 84, the consumers' intention to spend dropped to 59 points from 60 in the previous period.

Indonesian consumers' optimism about job prospects remained stable at 68 points, although more than half of them, up from 47 percent in the previous quarter, believed that the country's economy is in a recession.

From Oct. 31 to Nov. 18, Nielsen collected more than 30,000 online responses of consumers in 63 countries, 500 of the respondents were from Indonesia.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/consumers-remain-optimistic-confidence-wanes-religious-intolerance-reduces-confidence-nielsen/

Banking & finance

Government to reform tax to fight widening inequality

Jakarta Post - February 24, 2017

Winny Tang, Jakarta – As inequality widens, the government is pushing for tax reforms to reduce the gap through coordination with other countries.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Thursday that one of the solutions to fight inequality was improving the government's ability to maximize tax collection from taxpayers.

The country's tax-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio now stands at below 11 percent, the lowest among its regional peers, despite it being the largest economy in Southeast Asia.

The government has previously attributed the low ratio to the fact that many taxpayers opt to hide their assets overseas in tax haven countries, such as Panama or the Cayman Islands.

Sri Mulyani said many other countries also fell victim to tax evasion practices and that they had decided to work together to prevent tax evasion.

"The solution is the Automatic Exchange of Information [AEoI]. If there are Indonesian taxpayers who want to open a financial account in other countries, we will have the ability to access information regarding this," she said during the launch of a joint report on inequality by non-governmental organizations INFID and Oxfam.

The AEoI is endorsed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the G-20. It allows participating countries to exchange taxpayer information with each other. The global policy has been agreed by 101 countries and will go into effect next year.

The government plans to maximize the data exchange to push for higher tax revenues, which it will use to fund various healthcare, education and other social security services, to reduce inequality as its end goal. "We must ensure that there will be no more places for tax evaders to hide their assets," the minister added.

Sri Mulyani, who served as World Bank managing director, also urged the public to closely scrutinize the government in an attempt to create a credible and transparent institution, which will eventually help close the gap between the richest and the poorest, with uncorrupt policies.

During the event, INFID and Oxfam reported that Indonesia was facing a serious threat to its future prosperity with the country's widening gap between the rich and poor.

The report, titled "Towards a More Equal Indonesia," finds that Indonesia has the sixth worst inequality of wealth in the world, with the wealthiest 1 percent of the population owning nearly half, or 49 percent, of total wealth in 2016.

The number of billionaires increased to 20 in 2016 from only one in 2002. Last year, the collective wealth of the richest four billionaires was US$25 billion, more than the total wealth of the bottom 40 percent or roughly 100 million people.

The report notes that both the Gini coefficient and the Palma index for consumption, though underestimating the true scale of inequality, show a marked upward trend over the past 20 years, with inequality in urban areas consistently higher than in rural areas.

"Indonesia is facing inequality challenges that are multidimensional. Nevertheless, President Joko Widodo has opportunities to prove that Indonesia can be a leading country in the global fight against inequality," Steve Price Thomas, the advocacy and campaign director of Oxfam International, said.

INFID and Oxfam recommend that the government impose a 45 percent income tax rate for people with incomes above Rp 10 billion ($748,502) a year.

"The top tax band is set far too low, with anyone earning over Rp 500 million annually paying a tax rate of 30 percent, which means that those earning Rp 1 billion or Rp 100 billion pay the same rate," the report says.

Developed countries tax their wealthy citizens higher, namely 50 percent in Belgium and 51.5 percent in Denmark. By increasing the tax revenue potential, Indonesia could gather funds worth Rp 836 trillion that could be invested to public services to reduce the inequality, the report states.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/02/24/government-to-reform-tax-to-fight-widening-inequality.html

Charges and counter-charges threaten Indonesian democracy

Indonesia at Melbourne - February 28, 2017

Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir, Rafiqa Qurrata A'yun – In Indonesia, certain crimes need to be reported to the police for investigations to begin. The fiercely contested Jakarta gubernatorial election has given rise to a cycle of reporting and counter-reporting of such crimes to police, primarily accusations of blasphemy and defamation. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and its opponents are now firing charges back and forth at each other.

The pattern began when incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was reported to police for allegedly insulting Islam in a campaign speech he made at the Thousand Islands in September 2016. Police were reportedly conflicted over whether his comments constituted blasphemy. Mass rallies by hard-line and conservative Muslim groups put enormous pressure on them, however, and they eventually named him a suspect (equivalent to charging in common law systems). He is now on trial.

FPI has long objected to Ahok leading the capital city of majority-Muslim Indonesia because he is a Christian but he is not the only one FPI has targeted. Recent protests have also been directed at President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for his support of Ahok, and his alleged connection to communist interests. And in January, a member of the Anti-Religious Blasphemy Alliance (and former North Jakarta FPI leader) reported former President Megawati Soekarnoputri for a speech she delivered at the 44th anniversary celebrations of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

The FPI's campaign against Ahok has also angered supporters of the governor, and they have not been above using the same tactics as conservative groups. In October 2016, for example, Sukmawati Soekarnoputri (Megawati's sister, and daughter of Indonesia's first president) reported FPI leader Rizieq Shihab to the National Police for allegedly making insulting comments about the national ideology, Pancasila. Later in the year, a group of Catholic students reported Rizieq to police for remarks they believed insulted Christianity. In January 2017, police began investigating Rizieq over comments he made suggesting that Bank Indonesia produced banknotes containing communist symbols. Most recently, Rizieq was reported for pornography after a graphic WhatsApp chat emerged apparently depicting Rizieq with treason suspect Firza Husein.

Jokowi has distanced himself from the hard-line and vigilante groups and this seems to have provided police with the confidence to act against the FPI. During the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the government established relations with conservative groups, including to a certain degree with the FPI, and police did not act proactively. Recently, however, the West Java Police named Rizieq a suspect for insulting the Pancasila, and are investigating the claims he defamed Bank Indonesia. Bali Provincial Police have also named senior FPI figure Munarman a suspect after he was reported for spreading hatred against local Balinese people.

Most of these cases – both those proposed by the FPI and its opponents – have relied on Articles 156 and 156a of Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy and the 2008 Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law. These pieces of legislation contain wide room for interpretation and over the past decade have often been used as legal instruments to attack political rivals. Despite recent revisions, the ITE Law remains a threat to freedom of speech. And although the Blasphemy Law (on which article 156a is based) was passed in 1965, it has been used with increasing frequency by conservative groups in the democratic era. The state appears willing to allow this to occur, apparently afraid of losing the support of conservatives.

Rather than indicating any increase in legal awareness among the public, this near-absurd cycle of reporting and counter-reporting is shrinking the space available for critical discourse, weakening the rule of law. When uncontroversial statements can be easily used as the basis for charges against opponents, there is a risk of self-censorship and lively debate being shut down over fears of defamation or blasphemy charges.

Another way in which the Ahok case has influenced public discourse is that it has distracted public attention from issues far more relevant to the public interest. Since the Ahok blasphemy case first appeared, public discourse has been dominated by religion.

Consequently, valid criticism of Ahok's development policies has been marginalised. The space available for the victims of Ahok's eviction policies to articulate their concerns publicly has been limited. Ironically, Ahok may have actually benefited from lack of attention to allegations of corruption related to the Jakarta Bay reclamation project and Sumber Waras Hospital or the illegal eviction of Bukit Duri residents. The extreme focus on Ahok's Christian and Chinese identity has also meant other candidates in the Jakarta election have emphasised aspects of their own (non-Christian, non-Chinese) identities, and discussion of their proposed economic and development programs has therefore been limited.

The serial police reports filed over the past few months have not been motivated by the harm caused by the supposed offense, but by a desire to advance particular political positions. In other words, criminal law is being used simply as another strategy in political competition. It is, for example, difficult to argue that the motivation for the blasphemy charges against Ahok was anything but political. Likewise, although the FPI has long been shunned by the majority of Indonesians, it is clear that the recent spate of reports against it are responses to its agitation around the Jakarta election. In Munarman's case, for example, although the location of the alleged offenses was in Jakarta, Bali Police worked quickly to process the report and call Munarman in for questioning. Criminal charges are being used as the first option to solve problems, including political disputes, instead of being the last resort.

This over-reliance on criminal law is weakening the rule of law by politicising criminal justice. The public appear more concerned with these "slip of the tongue" type issues than with real criminal acts – such as allegations of corruption, potentially involving Ahok, or the public incitements to kill Ahok or Chinese Indonesians, many of which have been clearly recorded and broadcast by the mass media. Moreover, this cycle of mutual reporting may cement an already developing pattern in Indonesia, where political opponents are reported or targeted as potential perpetrators of crime.

The obvious problem here is that instead of political disputes being resolved by electors at the ballot box, or even by elected representatives in legislatures, they are being decided by police and judges on grounds that have nothing to do with policies or performance. If this does not stop, democracy will be the casualty.

[Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir is a PhD candidate at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Rafiqa is a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Indonesia.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/charges-and-counter-charges-threaten-indonesian-democracy/

The question for Jokowi: Indonesia first, but can Australia be second?

The Interpreter - February 24, 2017

Catriona Croft-Cusworth – President Jokowi is finally making an official visit to Australia this weekend. But while he spends the weekend shaking hands in Sydney, the Indonesian leader may be concentrating more on how his Australia visit plays back home.

The visit comes more than two years into Jokowi's presidency, and more than a year after Malcolm Turnbull made Indonesia his first international stop as prime minister, like all Australian leaders before him since Keating.

The delayed timing of Jokowi's visit reflects his primarily domestic focus as President, showing a tendency to put Indonesia first. The former town mayor and furniture-maker is not known for his prowess in matters of foreign policy. He seemed almost surprised when his orders for the execution of foreign drug smugglers – which played well to a nationalist domestic audience – caused ripples internationally and briefly disrupted diplomatic relations with Australia.

The schedule of the President's visit also reflects an introspective approach. Yes, he will be meeting with Australia's Prime Minister, Governor-General and business leaders. But he will also be taking the opportunity to perform his trademark 'blusukan', or informal meet-and-greet, with the Indonesian diaspora. This stands in contrast to Turnbull's experience of Jakarta, when he was thrust by Jokowi into the sweaty and bustling Tanah Abang market to meet with the locals. It seems that even while abroad, Jokowi will be mainly playing to the folks back home.

The flagged topics to be covered in bilateral talks further reflect a domestic-first agenda. The President will raise bilateral efforts on counter-terrorism and deradicalisation, mostly focused on issues within Indonesia's borders. Cooperation on food security and education will be discussed, and opportunities raised for economic partnerships – safe ground for leaders who are both former businessmen. Maritime security and trade, as one of the more familiar foreign policy topics for Jokowi, will likely feature.

Aware of the million-plus Australian tourists pouring into Indonesia, and mostly Bali, each year, Jokowi will also take on the role of tourism ambassador, promoting alternative holiday spots to Australians. He is currently working on a program to accelerate the development of ten tourist destinations across Indonesia, from the Borobudur temple in Yogyakarta to Sumatra's Lake Toba and dive spots in Wakatobi, Sulawesi.

More sensitive provinces like West Papua are likely to be avoided in conversation. While Jokowi has made efforts to develop and open up the province, separation from Indonesia is not on the cards under his presidency, and reports of human rights violations continue to surface. Public protests are planned in Australia during the president's visit, but it's unclear whether Turnbull will broach the issue.

The Indonesian President is also under pressure to raise the matter of the 2009 Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea. Leaders from Eastern Indonesia, where the oil spill continues to damage livelihoods and the environment, urged Jokowi to cancel his planned visit to Australia back in November in protest against inaction on Australia's part. Their call was taken up by a senior minister in December, and Australian Ambassador Paul Grigson has since entered discussions over the issue.

The so-called 'storm in a teacup' over teaching materials at military training facility in Perth shows that cross-cultural misunderstandings are still a problem for the bilateral relationship. The national ideology of Pancasila still carries significant cultural weight in Indonesia, and is an important part of Jokowi's nationalist understanding.

The Pancasila was created to deal with the issue that Jokowi is now facing – an encroachment of religion into politics. It places belief in God as a founding principle of the state without putting any one religion over another. This is an important distinction in the current political climate, where the legitimacy of the capital's governor is under attack partly on the basis of his minority ethnicity and religion.

It was this issue that prompted Jokowi to postpone his planned visit to Australia back in November. The same wave of protests continued in Jakarta this week, though dampened by heavy rains and a cooling political climate. In response, Jokowi publicly urged a return to Pancasila, saying that perhaps the demonstrations were a sign that democratic freedoms had 'gone too far'.

Can we expect anything like former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's widely praised 2012 address to the Australian parliament? Probably not. While Australia-Indonesia relations are currently stable, it's unlikely that Jokowi will make any concerted efforts to really advance the relationship during his visit. More than anything, his trip appears as a delayed courtesy call.

Understanding that Jokowi puts 'Indonesia first', Australia's usual push to highlight the strength of our relationship with Indonesia during the president's visit may come across as if we're asking: 'But can Australia be second?'.

Source: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/question-jokowi-indonesia-first-can-australia-be-second

Is hardline Islam really rising in Indonesia?

New Mandala - February 24, 2017

The lead-up to the first round of the Jakarta election saw mass rallies organised by hardline Islamist groups and an atmosphere highly charged with racial and religious sentiment. But while some fear that Indonesia is about to be engulfed by fanaticism it is not because hardliners are more powerful than ever. As Bastiaan Scherpen argues, it is rather the opposite: the access to power they enjoyed during the rule of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been cut off.

Unlike the general public, in the lead-up to voting practically the entire foreign media in Indonesia framed the Jakarta gubernatorial election on 15 February as a test of tolerance in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation. Some even went as far as speaking of a nation teetering on the brink of disaster.

Yet no major security disruptions were reported, turnout was over 77 per cent (a record high), an ethnic Chinese Christian incumbent won most votes in the first round despite fierce campaigns against him, while the scion of a still-powerful political dynasty-in-the-making set an important precedent with a widely praised admission of defeat.

When looking at the use of Islamic sentiment in the Jakarta election, a glass half-full or glass half-empty situation emerges: some say the effect was limited while others focus instead on the fact that it did play a role.

Edward Aspinall argued that while the anti-Ahok campaigns certainly had an impact, this was not surprising and he stressed that their influence was limited. At the same time it is true that Islamic sentiment is increasingly being used for political gain and some in Indonesia feel the atmosphere is so tense that they have raised the specter of 1998 in fear of renewed racial discrimination or even violence.

Alexander R Arifianto has pointed out that Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah face deep internal divisions as well, but it is important to note that this rupture within mainstream Muslim organisations is only part of the story that explains why Islam has been such a powerful mobilising force in recent months.

There is ongoing encroachment of conservative Islamic values on Indonesian culture – which makes the faith attractive for political use – but the current upheaval should also be seen in light of the larger struggle for power by the three kingmakers of Indonesian politics: Megawati Sukarnoputri, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prabowo Subianto.

Jakarta is a stepping stone on the way to the 2019 presidential elections and current campaigns provide a preview of the political struggle in the years ahead. The Muslim vote is even more important on the national stage than it is in Jakarta, so Islam could become an even more powerful political weapon, but that does not in itself prove that conservative or hardline Islamist forces are gaining ground.

What is happening in conjunction with the rise of increasingly confident Islamic activism is also simply a reaction by players who have lost their access to formal power and have no other recourse than the Internet and the street.

Certainly the mass rallies in Jakarta that attracted hundreds of thousands of people last year and a relatively large pre-election gathering more recently at Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta gave many people the impression that political Islam is bigger than ever.

In reality, however, the administration of Jokowi has been quite effective at shutting out the voices of conservative Islam and encouraging the faith's main representative organisations – NU and Muhammadiyah – to support the government line, while also cracking down hard on violent extremists, as evidenced by the string of terrorism arrests and raids since last year.

Islamist organisations such as the FPI, the Islamic People's Forum (FUI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) have become more vocal and more effective at channeling their aspirations into street rallies, but they are not wielding more power than during the decade of Yudhoyono's rule – rather the opposite.

Yudhoyono gave the representatives of conservative Islam practically free rein from 2005, with his support for a greater role for the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), which increasingly came under the control of illiberal figures. Ma'ruf Amin – who currently heads the MUI and is one of the most conservative voices among the NU leadership – long served on the elder Yudhoyono's Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres) to help shape policies on religious affairs.

Although his own Islamic credentials are questionable, United Development Party (PPP) politician Suryadharma Ali – currently serving a 10-year jail sentence for various graft charges – served as a facilitator for hardline elements during his time as religious affairs minister. As such, he was one of the key figures in the anti-Ahmadiyah campaign that turned deadly in 2011 when a mob attacked followers of the sect in Banten's Pandeglang regency. He also called for Shiites to "convert" to Sunni Islam, repeating demands emanating from hardline groups.

Even though hardline groups continued their agitation against minorities during the Yudhoyono years, they did not specifically direct their campaigns against the government – because it was on their side. But the lines between hardline Islamists and the highest levels of government were cut with the election of Jokowi in 2014.

Suryadharma's replacement as minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, is currently leading an effort to certify religious leaders and control who is allowed to preach at Friday prayers at mosques – a move some see as direct and unacceptable government interference in religious affairs.

Hardline Muslims and conservative members of NU and Muhammadiyah also see the leadership of the bulwarks of mainstream Indonesian Islam as having been co-opted by the administration of Jokowi, who paid several visits to their respective headquarters during the time of the mass rallies against Ahok.

Neither organisation joined the rallies and both NU and Muhammadiyah are represented in the government through relatively progressive figures such as Lukman and Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa, and Muhammadiyah University Malang (UMM) rector and long-time Muhammadiyah functionary Muhadjir Effendy, who replaced Anies Baswedan as education and culture minister in July last year.

It is clear there is a degree of support among the population for greater representation of Islam at the nation's top levels of government and the perception that the administration is failing to meet those expectations could increase the risk of social instability, as hardline groups have proven they are more than willing to make themselves heard. But for now, the government remains firmly in control and the line is being drawn at respect for Pancasila, as is evident in the series of legal cases against FPI leader Rizieq Shihab.

This may not bode well for freedom of expression in Indonesia, but such efforts will make it clear to hardline Islamist groups exactly how far they can go. That move is long overdue.

Bastiaan Scherpen studied History, Asian Studies and Islamic Studies in the Netherlands and currently works as an analyst at Concord Consulting in Jakarta. He tweets via @bscherpen and has a website: https://bastiaanscherpen.wordpress.com/

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/hard-line-islam-really-rising/

Indonesian president Jokowi's 'democracy problem'

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - February 23, 2017

Phelim Kine – Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has an unlikely scapegoat for the country's rise in religious intolerance and sectarianism: democracy.

Jokowi declared on Wednesday that democracy in Indonesia "has gone too far." He blamed growing Islamic fundamentalism and sectarianism on "political freedom [that has] has paved the way for extreme political practices."

Indonesia unquestionably has a problem with worsening religious intolerance and growing political clout of militant Islamists. Since President Suharto was forced to step down in 1998, viewpoints long repressed – including a strong thread of religious militancy – have emerged. Its fueled by often violent militant Islamist groups who label non-Muslim religions, excluding Christians and Jews, as "infidels," and declare Muslims who do not adhere to their definition of Sunni orthodoxy as "blasphemers."

Those same militants have extended that intolerance to harass and intimidate Indonesia's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population.

Jokowi's scapegoating of democracy for these ills is disingenuous. It's also a failure to recognize how government policies have empowered militant groups. The escalation in religious intolerance and related violence can be traced back to 2005, when then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono effectively legitimized religious intolerance by vowing strict measures against "deviant beliefs." During his decade in office, Yudhoyono turned a blind eye to worsening acts of discrimination, harassment, and violence by militant Islamists against religious minorities. The complicity of police and government officials in this intolerance has continued unchecked under Jokowi.

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

Jokowi needs to stop blaming democracy for rising religious intolerance. Instead, he should use the power of his presidency to eliminate these discriminatory regulations and make clear that militant Islamists as well as police and government officials will face consequences for complicity in discrimination and violence on religious grounds. Until he does, religious freedom in Indonesia will remain in peril.

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

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/23/indonesian-president-jokowis-democracy-problem


Home | Site Map | Calendar & Events | News Services | Resources & Links | Contact Us