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Indonesia News Digest 9 – March 1-8, 2017

Actions, demos, protests... West Papua IWD 2017 Sexual & domestic violence Labour & migrant workers Freedom of speech & expression Freedom of information & the press Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections Environment & natural disasters Health & education Graft & corruption Terrorism & religious extremism Freedom of religion & worship Islam & religion Agriculture & food security Transport & communication Armed forces & defense Criminal justice & legal system Foreign affairs & trade Mining & energy Economy & investment Banking & finance Analysis & opinion

Actions, demos, protests...

Thousands of midwives to stage protest

Jakarta Post - March 4, 2017

Agus Maryono, Purwokerto – At least 4,200 contract midwives from the National Village Midwife Forum (Forbides) from across the country plan to stage a protest against President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Health Minister Nila Moeloek over uncertainty of their employment status.

The rally was planned after the midwives were informed that they had not passed the civil servant selection test. They claimed the decision went against a memorandum of understanding (MoU) promised by the government on the promotion of 38,000 village midwives to civil servants.

"We have coordinated with the members of Forbides all across Indonesia and we will demand the government to realize their promise. There were midwives that did not pass the selection [test] even though they had been working for more than 10 years. This is not fair," Banyumas Forbides chairperson Tevia Ari Mustikarini said on Friday.

She said one of the commitments of the MoU was to promote the 38,000 midwives as contract civil servants and then as regional employees, with no enforcement of an age restriction. As many as 4,200 midwives over 35 years old were declared to have failed the test because of their age.

The midwives claimed the process was unfair as they had gone through the entire selection procedure.

Meanwhile, Banyumas Employment Office head Achmad Supartono said the 2012 regulation on contract civil servants stipulated that the age limit for servants was 35 years old. Those that did not pass the selection test would be hired as contract workers. (rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/04/thousands-of-midwives-to-stage-protest.html

West Papua

Papua committed to halt gender violence

Antara News - March 8, 2017

Hendrina Dian Kandipi, Jayapura – The government of Papua Province is committed to halt violence based on gender discrimination by issuing a Special Regional Regulation No. 1/2011 and Province Regulation No. 8/2013, Governor Lukas Enembe said here on Tuesday.

"Both rulings assure rights of the survivors as well as protect the victims of domestic violence," Enembe stated while adding that the Governor Regulation No.48/2015 had been issued to guide the activities of women empowerment and child protection bureau of the province. According to Enembe, all parties should ensure the regulation is obeyed by people to avoid crimes. "Everyone, including the government as well as civil society, needs to oversee the implementation of the laws in order to stop crimes," Enembe pointed out.

A strong awareness and commitment are important to prevent sexual assault against women and children, the governor remarked. "As the number of the crimes tends to grow, it becomes a major threat to the citizens," Enembe added.

The governor stated that the authority needs to proactively crack down on perpetrators and maximize protection for the victims.

According to an annual report from The National Commission on Violence against Women, at least 16,217 cases of gender assault across the country were recorded in 2015.

In last year alone, around 2 thousand children in Papua and West Papua provinces suffered from the violence, an official from Papua's Prosecutor Office Harli Siregar said in Jan. Siregar added that the cases have been investigated and submitted to the court by provinces prosecutor.

Source: http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/109790/papua-committed-to-halt-gender-violence

Papua's economy slowing down due to Freeport saga: Bank Indonesia

Jakarta Post - March 8, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – The prolonged contractual dispute between the government and PT Freeport Indonesia, which has prompted the giant miner to temporarily suspend production, has resulted in weakening economic growth in Papua, especially in the mining sector.

"Bank Indonesia's assessment has projected that Papua will see economic contraction in the second trimester. This is a result of the declining performance in the mining sector due to the dispute. Whatever the outcome of the negotiation, Papua's economy will be affected," Joko Supratikto, the head of Bank Indonesia's Papua representative office, said on Wednesday.

"Overall, economic growth in Papua in 2017 is predicted to stand between 3 and 3.5 percent year on year," he said in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

Last year, Papua saw 9.21 percent economic growth, higher than the national figure of 4.95 percent. Mining contributed to 42 percent of the growth, he added.

Several Papuans dance during a demonstration of Freeport workers in front of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry in Jakarta on Tuesday. They demand the government and Freeport find settlement as soon as possible so the mining company can resume operations.(JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Bank Indonesia has suggested that the Papua administration boost other industries such as fisheries, agriculture, forestry, husbandry, and tourism, to compensate for the shortfall.

The subsidiary of the US-based Freeport McMoRan has been in a dispute with the government following the issuance of new regulations that oblige the company to convert its contract of work into a special mining license, divest 51 percent of its shares within a decade of production and build a new smelter. The miner has reportedly laid-off off 1,525 workers since Jan. 12. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/08/papuas-economy-slowing-down-due-to-freeport-saga-bank-indonesia.html

Alleged rights violations weigh on Freeport's shoulders

Jakarta Post - March 8, 2017

Viriya P. Singgih, Jakarta – The cases against gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia (FI) are piling as the national rights body has stated that the firm has violated the rights of indigenous people during its 50-year operation in Papua.

According to an investigation carried out by the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) from 2015 to 2017, FI has never paid compensation for the land it has been using as its working areas in Mimika, Papua, to its original owners – the indigenous Amungme people.

The commission claimed to have gone deep into various ministries, including the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry and the Environment and Forestry Ministry, during the investigation and called the Mimika administration and FI for questioning.

"We asked all of them whether or not there was proof of land transactions by Freeport Indonesia in the past. They weren't able to present such evidence. Even the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry said it knew nothing about it," Komnas HAM commissioner Natalius Pigai said on Tuesday evening after handing over the investigation report to Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan.

The commission concludes that there have been violations on the rights of indigenous people, whose lands have been unilaterally seized by the Indonesian government and FI. It argued that there should be compensation for the people, whether in the form of money or shares of the company.

The Mimika administration in Papua has demanded 10 to 20 of percent shares in FI to compensate for the use of the land for the past 50 years.

FI, a subsidiary of United States-based mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc., was granted its first contract of work (CoW) in 1967 to operate the Ertsberg mine in Papua by the regime of former president Soeharto as the country tried to attract investments.

At that time, the Ertsberg mine was known as the richest copper deposit ever found on the ground with an estimated 13 million tons of ore reserves above the ground and 14 million tons of underground ore within a depth of 100 meters.

In 1991, FI's contract was extended for 30 years following the company's plan to further develop the Grasberg mine, located only two kilometers away from Ertsberg and eventually known as the world's biggest gold mine and second-largest copper mine.

Mimika regent Eltinus Omaleng claims in his book, entitled "Papua Asks for Shares", that at least 212,000 hectares of land have been seized from the Amungme people for the company's operations.

He pointed to article 136 of the 2009 Mining Law, which requires mining license holders to settle all land disputes before starting their operations in related areas.

"The have been no compensation for 50 years. We don't know whom it met, whether or not it has land certificate," Eltinus said at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry on Tuesday.

Eltinus said the Mimika or Papua administration was ready to make a certain agreement with FI to allow the latter to pay for the shares in installments over a period of five years. The administration, he added, was also ready to waive its dividend rights during the installment period.

Responding to this matter, Energy and Mineral Resources deputy minister Arcandra Tahar said the government would try to resolve the entire case of FI by involving the indigenous people.

FI's latest CoW requires the firm to have sold 51 percent of its stake to Indonesian entities by 2011 or 45 percent if it has sold a minimum of 20 percent in the local stock market.

However, a string of regulations were issued along the way that eventually allowed FI to dodge the requirement until Ignasius reversed the course recently.

"We will talk about the details of the divestment process later. However, it should still be based on the existing regulations stipulating that the company's shares would first be offered to the central government," Arcandra said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/08/alleged-rights-violations-weigh-on-freeports-shoulders.html

Bishop visit to West Papua welcomed cautiously

Radio New Zealand International - March 8, 2017

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has cautiously welcomed news that Australia's Foreign Minister is to visit Indonesian-ruled Papua region this year.

Julie Bishop gave an undertaking to visit later this year, during talks in Jakarta this week with Indonesia's government which has been touting a policy of openness about Papua.

This comes amid ongoing calls by Pacific Island governments for the United Nations to probe reports of widespread human rights abuses against West Papuans.

The matter is highly sensitive to Jakarta which opposes any outside interference in what it considers domestic affairs.

Last month, Australia's prime minister Malcom Turnbull reassured Indonesia's President Joko Widodo of Canberra's support for Indonesian sovereignty over Papua.

While Ms Bishop's visit is not being described as a human rights fact-finding mission, the Liberation Movement says it is important that other governments find out more about the situation in Papua.

The Movement, which has observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, urges Indonesia's government to allow Julie Bishop unfettered access to West Papuan community groups.

According to a spokesman for the Movement, a short and restricted visit to Papua by MSG Foreign Ministers in 2014 was evidence that Jakarta had so far failed to allow foreign governments open access to the region.

Indonesia is accused by the Movement of waging slow-motion genocide in Papua. The West Papuan representative group cites evidence of simmering armed conflict, unrest, extra-judicial killings and jailings of Papuans, and marginalisation of their culture.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/326156/bishop-visit-to-west-papua-welcomed-cautiously

Indonesia UNHRC reaction diverts from serious HR violations in Papua: PIANGO

Pasifik News - March 6, 2017

Indonesia's scathing attack on Vanuatu at the 34th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session is an attempt to divert the international community's attention away from the ongoing human rights violations taking place in West Papua.

These sentiments were echoed by the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO) executive director, Emele Duituturaga after Indonesia criticised Vanuatu of 'politicising the issue of West Papua for its domestic political purposes' at the UNHRC in Geneva.

"Indonesia's reaction was quite telling of its unwillingness to respect and uphold the values of what it means to belong to the international community of nations – the UN," she said.

"Their response was to resort to divide and conquer by picking on Vanuatu and then again offering to help Vanuatu with its alleged human rights issues in response to the Pacific coalition's request to treat a member of the Pacific family – West Papua – with respect and dignity."

Ms Duituturaga said the Pacific Islands Coalition on West Papua (PICWP), of which PIANGO is a member, would not be requesting the UN to send special rapporteurs into West Papua if they didn't have enough evidence to prove that West Papuans were suffering.

"Indonesia plays an important role in Pacific stability and peace, their contribution to the region is widely known and appreciated. Pacific governments and civil society would not just as easily undermine such an important relationship.

"However, when there is overwhelming evidence that thousands of West Papuans who are Pacific Islanders have lost their lives as they tried to raise alternative views in the governance of their resources with state authorities, and even to motivate seven Pacific countries to form a coalition on West Papua, Indonesia must realise it can no longer afford to feign innocence at the UN."

She said according to several human rights reports, the number of victims and cases of extra-judicial killings and torture in West Papua has not significantly reduced between 2012 and 2016.

"The number of political arrests has exponentially increased over the last three years and all victims of torture and killings that our partners were able to find were indigenous Papuans," said Ms Duituturaga.

"While indigenous Papuans make up only some 40 per cent of the population, they make up 100 per cent of the victims. There is a clear element of racial violence in the practice of security forces."

Ms Duituturaga said the systematic disempowerment of West Papuans is such that literacy rates in remote regions have dramatically decreased, with some villages registering literacy rates as low as 20 per cent.

"Since 2007, Indonesia has not allowed any special procedures to visit West Papua. The region is largely closed for international human rights observers. Foreign journalists get either no access or are accompanied by intelligence, making independent fact finding impossible.

"That's just the tip of the iceberg and that's what PIANGO representative, Laitia Tamata is helping to support the PICWP delegation raise awareness on in Geneva."

Ms Tamata was one of the six panellists at the UNHRC side event jointly organised by the Permanent Mission of the Solomon Islands, state members and the Office of the Chair of PICWP called, 'Shining the Light on the Human Rights Situation on West Papua' on March 3.

Other panellists included the Solomon Islands Special Envoy for West Papua, Rex Horoi, Parliamentary Secretary to the Vanuatu Prime Minister and Head of Desk for Decolonization Johnny George Koanapa, Jakarta-based Indonesian Human Rights Lawyer Veronica Koman, Executive Officer of Justice and Peace of Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia, Peter Arndt and Peaceful Conflict Resolution Facilitator, West Papua, Octovianus Mote. The discussions were moderated by Vanuatu Ambassador to EU, Roy Micky Joy.

Source: https://pasifik.news/indonesia-unhrc-reaction-diverts-serious-hr-violations-papua-piango/

Call for more access to West Papua

Radio New Zealand International - March 3, 2017

A church-backed coalition has called on Indonesia to open greater access to West Papua for international journalists, independent observers, human rights organizations and the International Red Cross.

The call came at an international consultation hosted by the World Council of Churches with the International Coalition on Papua in Geneva.

The WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, who visited Papua in 2012 said the organisation supports the struggle for West Papuan human rights, and urges an end to ongoing violence and impunity.

He said the WCC backed the call for social and economic justice through serious dialogue and a concrete political process that seeks to address root causes of the present problems.

The round-table gathering included civil society proponents, human rights experts and diplomats who examined current patterns of human rights abuses in West Papua.

The gathering coincides with the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, where seven Pacific nations this week raised concern about a lack of justice over serious and prolonged rights abuses in West Papua.

Indonesia denied allegation that it failed to address rights abuses in Papua, saying it always endeavoured to address violations, takes preventative measures and delivers justice.

However, the WCC website reported that this week's consultation in Geneva had shown growing level of international concern about Papua.

Victor Mambor of the Papua Coalition for Law Enforcement and Human Rights said that the civil society group made a number of recommendation to the government of Indonesia.

As well as demanding open access to Papua for international journalists and human rights groups they called for ensuring "that perpetrators of the police and military responsible for past and present human rights violations in West Papua are prosecuted in public and fair trials, resulting in the appropriate sentences for perpetrators and the restitution, compensation and rehabilitation of victims".

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches based in Fiji, Rev. Francois Pihaate, said churches in the region were very concerned about violence in Papua.

"How can we as churches be ignorant of what is going on outside our own world? That is why we as churches are concerned," he said.

A member of the Indonesian mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Denny Abdi, disputed the veracity of claims that nearly 5000 Papuans were arrested last year for peacefully demonstrating their independence aspirations.

However, the WCC's West Papuans representatives have said there is no trust between the people of West Papua and the government in Jakarta, rendering it "not possible to talk heart to heart about what is going on".

"We have to talk, " said one member of the WCC's Papua chapter. "As a church the prophetic voice needs to go beyond boundaries."

Veronica Koman of the Papua Itu Kita based in Jakarta said the government of Indonesia has failed to address the root problem, which stems from Papua's controversial incorporation into Indonesia in the 1960s.

"The West Papuan people will not stop screaming for independence until the root cause is addressed," she said.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/325776/call-for-more-access-to-west-papua

Papuan students in Malang call on government to close Freeport

Merdeka.com - March 3, 2017

Protesters from the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and religious pupils from an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) faced off against each other at the Malan city hall in East Java. Both groups held the protests under tight police security.

The scores of demonstrators from the AMP and the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-West Papua) unfurled banners and conveyed a number of demands, including the closure of the PT Freeport gold and copper mine in Papua.

They also brought banners with demands such as, "A Joint Action to Support the Papua Problem at the United Nations Human Rights Council" and "Close and Expel Freeport". Protesters took turns in giving speeches.

The spokesperson for the AMP and FRI-West Papua, Wilson, said that the action represented Papuan society's anxiety saying there are so many violations at PT Freeport that it is creating ever more misery in the land of Papua.

"The natural resources belong to the Papuan people, but up until now they have not been enjoyed by the Papuan people", said Wilson at the protest on Friday March 3.

The action also demanded the right for and self-determination for the nation of West Papua. The groups also demanded a resolution to human rights violations in Papua and the withdrawal of the Indonesian military from the land of Papua.

Meanwhile around six people calling themselves the Malang City Darul Hikmah Kebonsari Foundation Islamic Boarding School Religious Pupils said they were there to counter the action which they believe threatens to disintegrate of the nation.

"Our action is intended to counter them", said Widoku Rahman, one of the religious pupils taking part in the rally.

The religious pupils claimed that would continue to monitor actions by the AMP who they believe is promoting separatism because of their demands for independence. The group supervised the action from the beginning until the end.

"Please if you want more information contact the head of our boarding school", said Hadi Widiyanto, one of the other religious pupils.

During the action the five [sic] religious pupils unfurled a red-and-white and held long-flags on their chests. They wore long white shirts, white sarongs, white skull caps and sandals.

Although one of the participants brought a megaphone although up until the rally ended, it was not used for a speech. (gil)


Similar rallies were also held by the FRI West Papua in Ternate (North Maluku) and by the FRI West Papua and the AMP in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua desak pemerintah tutup PT Freeport".]

Source: https://www.merdeka.com/peristiwa/aliansi-mahasiswa-papua-desak-pemerintah-tutup-pt-freeport.html

Papua students in Jakarta call for closure of Freeport, self-determination

KBR - March 3, 2017

Ade Irmansyah, Jakarta – The Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI West Papua) are supporting efforts by seven Pacific countries to take the Papuan problem before the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Action coordinator Samsi Mahmud said that this was the only way to resolve the numerous problems in Papua, particularly human rights violations. Samsi also urged the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to give the Papuan people the right to self-determination.

"We also want to convey to the people of Indonesia, to the Indonesian government, the wishes of the Papuan people, namely that self-determination is the democratic solution for the future of our people and our nation. And for us, in relation to the problems that exist in Papua, the solution is self-determination for the Papuan people", he said in a speech in front of the United Nations representative office for Indonesia in Jakarta on Friday March 3.

Samsi also called on the government to withdraw all military forces, including the police from the entire Papuan territory saying that the presence of military forces is in fact causing Papua to be more susceptible to human rights violations.

"We are asking at all cases of human rights violations in the land of Papua be followed up on and fully resolved. All of them without exception including the latest conflict over a regional election dispute in Intan Jaya", he said.

Samsi added that the closure of the PT Freeport mine is also non-negotiable. Basically, he said, Freeport's presence in Papua has not brought any [positive] impact to the Papuan people in the vicinity of the mine. Poverty and discrimination, he said, has not declined there yet the region is extremely rich in natural resources.

"When the Indonesian government issued a permit for exploration and exploitation by the Freeport mine through the Work Contract I which was issued on April 7, 1967, the people and nation of West Papua were not involved. Yet the status of West Papua had yet to be formally recognised internationally as part of Indonesia's territory", he added.


Similar rallies were also held by the FRI West Papua in Ternate (North Maluku) and by the FRI West Papua and the AMP in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Demo Kantor PBB, Mahasiswa Papua Tuntut Tambang Freeport Ditutup dan Referendum".]

Source: http://kbr.id/berita/03-2017/demo_kantor_pbb__mahasiswa_papua_tuntut_tambang_freeport_ditutup_dan_referendum/88993.html

Pacific concern relayed at UN over West Papua abuses

Radio New Zealand International - March 2, 2017

Vanuatu has addressed a high level United Nations meeting over Pacific regional concerns about human rights abuses in Indonesia's Papua region, or West Papua.

The 34th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, was told that Indonesia has not curtailed or halted various widespread violations.

Vanuatu's Justice Minister Ronald Warsal was speaking on behalf of his country and six other Pacific nations: Tonga, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and Solomon Islands

"We note that in the past 15 years, the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights has collected evidence of gross human rights violations by Indonesian security forces in three principle areas of West Papua: Wasior, Wamena and Paniai."

Mr Warsal said the Commission described the sets of cases in the first two places as crimes against humanity, which are punishable under Indonesian and international laws.

He referenced reports of extrajudicial executions of activists and the arrests, beatings and fatal shootings of peaceful demonstrators, including high school students; as well as persistent violence against Papuan women.

The Vanuatu minister said Indonesia's government had not been able to deliver justice for the victims. "Nor has there been any noticeable action to address these violations by the Indonesian government, which has, of course, immediate responsibility and primary accountability," he said.

He also mentioned the marginalisation of West Papuans in the face of steady migration to the region by people from other parts of Indonesia.

"We want further to highlight another broad aspect of human rights violations – the Indonesian government policy over many decades and continuing until today of the migration of non-indigenous Papuans to West Papua, leading to a dramatic decline in the percentage of the indigenous Papuan population."

Denial by Indonesia

Indonesia's delegation to the UN mission in Geneva has issued a reply, saying it categorically rejects the allegations voiced by Vanuatu's Justice Minister.

It said Mr Warsal's address does not reflect the real situation on the ground, accusing Vanuatu of "using human rights issues to justify its dubious support for the separatist movement in Papua".

In a statement, Indonesia said its record on the promotion and protection of human rights spoke for itself.

"This includes our co-operation with various UN Special Procedures and Mandate Holders, as well as various collaborative endeavours at bilateral, regional and multilateral level including within the Human Rights Council in strengthening human rights mechanisms as well as in the promotion and protection of various basic human rights."

"As a matter of fact, this year Indonesia will welcome the visits of two Special Rapporteurs, and present our third UPR report this coming May."

Earlier, Mr Warsal referred to a series of recent pronouncements by mandate holders of the UN Council about serious Indonesian violations of the human rights of indigenous Papuans.

These included representations by UN Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; the rights of indigenous peoples; the Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and the Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Indonesia's government, however, said it had always endeavoured to address any allegation of human rights violation as well as taking preventative measure and delivering justice.

'Domestic' issues

The Indonesian government again sent a message to Vanuatu that it should stay out of what it regards as its own domestic matters.

Jakarta said that Vanuatu's government should not divert its focus from addressing its various domestic human rights problem by politicising the issue of Papua for its domestic political purposes.

"In this regard, the Indonesian Government is prepared to work and co-operate with the Government of Vanuatu in their efforts to address various human rights violation and abuses against the people of Vanuatu" said the statement.

These abuses, according to Indonesia, included "violence against women, corporal punishment against minors, appalling prison condition, including torture of prisoners, and other challenges".

However, the seven Pacific nations have called on the UN Human Rights Council to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a consolidated report on "the actual situation in West Papua".

Among other provisions, Mr Warsal said the report should also detail the various rights under the International Bill of Human Rights and the related conventions, including the right to self-determination.

"We believe that challenges of West Papua must be brought back to the agenda of the United Nations," said the Vanuatu minister on behalf of the Pacific countries.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/325717/pacific-concern-relayed-at-un-over-west-papua-abuses

Activists, church groups condemn oppression against West Papua

Telesurty - March 1, 2017

A coalition of activists and church groups have called on Indonesia to end the widespread, yet little known violence and oppression in West Papua and to allow international journalists, observers, human rights groups and aid organizations in the country.

"We support the struggle for human rights of the people of Papua. We urge an end to the ongoing violence and impunity. We support the call for social and economic justice through serious dialogue and a concrete political process that seeks to address root causes of the present problems," said Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of World Council of Churches, WCC.

The WCC met in consultation with members from the International Coalition on Papua in Geneva, Switzerland last week. Others including civil society organizations and diplomats also met to discuss the widespread human rights abuses in West Papua.

West Papuans won their independence from Dutch colonialism in 1963. As part of a controversial referendum in 1969, it was annexed by Indonesia, which has since ruled with an iron fist over the mostly Melanesian Indigenous population.

Around half a million Melanesians are thought to have been killed by Indonesian authorities. They face restrictions of movement and assembly, with many protesters being held as political prisoners.

Melanesians have been leading a continued struggle for independence, but many of their leaders have been forced into exile. Their struggle has gone largely unknown because of media bans by the Indonesian government.

Victor Yeimo of the West Papua National Committee said that he had asked Indonesian President Joko Widodo to allow international journalists into West Papua, but added that this continued to be rejected, saying that "there is no trust between the people of West Papua and the government in Jakarta."

"The government of Indonesia fails to address the root problem, which is the historical problem. The West Papuan people will not stop screaming for independence until the root cause is addressed," said Veronica Koman of the Indigenous group Papua Itu Kita based out of Jakarta.

Source: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Activists-Church-Groups-Condemn-Oppression-Against-West-Papua-20170301-0021.html

IWD 2017

Bali activist commemorate IWD with demand for equal rights, decent wages

KBR - March 8, 2017

Yulius Martony, Bali – Papuan students, Ahmadiyah housewives and National Student Front (FMN) activists under the banner of the Bali Women's Alliance (APB) commemorated International Women's Day (IWD) with a rally in front of the Bali governor's office on Wednesday March 8.

In a speech Retno Dewi from the Bali regional Indonesian Women's Union (SPI) said that despite Bali being a tourist destination, many workers do not enjoy prosperity because they are employed as contract workers. Never mind the wage discrepancy between female and male workers.

"Government regulation Number 78/2015 (PP 78/2015) on determining minimum wage increases stipulates that wage increases are regulated nationally and must be applied by regional governments and governors. In 2016 the increase was 11.5 percent, and as comrades know, it was applied in Bali [where] we receive extremely low wages", said Retno during the action in front of the governor's office.

Retno said that the wage increase failed to cover the needs of workers, especially female workers. She gave as an example the different wages received by men and women workers, where male agricultural labourers were paid 80,000 rupiah a day [around US$8] while women workers are paid 70,000 a day.

In a statement the APB called on the government to revoke PP 78/2015, end the politics of low wages, put an end to modern-day slavery and stop contract labour systems and outsourcing. The action proceeded peacefully under the guard of scores of police.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Peringati Hari Perempuan Internasional, Aktivis Bali Demo Tuntut Persamaan Hak".]

Source: http://kbr.id/berita/nasional/03-2017/peringati_hari_perempuan_internasional___aktivis_bali_demo_tuntut_persamaan_hak/89076.html

Women activists in Bandung say IWD must become fight for equality, against

Pojok Bandung - March 8, 2017

Bandung – Activists from the Women's Liberation Committee of Struggle (KPPP) held a rally to commemorate International Women's Day (IWD) in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung on Wednesday March 8.

The action, which started at 2pm, was held in front of the Sate Building (Governor's offices) on Jl. Diponegoro. The group brought banners reading "The Women's Liberation Committee of Struggle: Women Unite, Fight for Democracy, Equality and Prosperity".

They also brought posters of women figures who have fought for the birth of IWD which is commemorated on March 8 each year.

Visible were posters of Indonesian and international women figures, including among others, Marsinah, SK Trikurti, Kartini, Inggit Garnasih, Leila Khaled (Palestine), Clara Zetkin (Germany) and Camila Valejo (Chile).

The action was also enlivened with speeches, theatrical performances and the distribution of leaflets to drivers passing by the Sate Building.

"For me, International Women's Day is a milestone of the women's struggle, not just to be commemorated in a ceremonial way, such as by handing out flowers", said action coordinator Gesia Nurlita.

Gesia said that to this day women are still in the grip of the capitalist system and a culture of patriarchy (men). "Commemorating this [IWD] must become a milestone in the struggle to fight the capitalist system and for women's prosperity and equality", she said.

The groups voiced 37 demands, including among others, wages for labour in the home, equal rights and treatment for women and men in the workplace, a 50 percent increase in the [minimum] wage and free, scientific and democratic education. (imn/pojokbandung)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Perempuan Bandung Tuntut Upah untuk Ibu Rumah Tangga".]

Source: http://bandung.pojoksatu.id/read/2017/03/08/perempuan-bandung-tuntut-upah-untuk-ibu-rumah-tangga/

Activists in Makassar mark IWD with calls to end violence against women and

Tribune Timur - March 8, 2017

Alfian, Makassar – The Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women's Association for Justice (LBH-APIK) recorded that there were 1984 cases of violence against women in 2016.

As of early 2017, the LBH-APIK along with other paralegals had handled 166 reports of violence in South Sulawesi. This number was dominated by cases of domestic violence (KDRT) followed by cases of sexual violence.

"This indicates that the Makassar government is not providing the maximum protection for either women or children", said LBH-APIK director Rosmiati Sain.

LBH-APIK is continuing to campaign against the threat of violence and discrimination, particularly during the momentum of International Women's Day (IWD) 2017.

LBH-APIK together with a number of other organisations from the South Sulawesi Women's Coalition, the non-government organisation (NGO) Women and Children's Concern, along with youth and students, held a peaceful action to commemorate IWD under the Jl. Urip Sumoharjo flyover on Wednesday March 8.

The protesters brought a number of banners and posters related to their demands which included, among others, calling on the Makassar municipal government to protect, provide for the needs of, and respect the rights of women.

In the legal sphere, they called on law enforcement officials to fairly and correctly uphold the law in handling cases of violence against women and children.

Finally, they called upon and invited all parties to cooperate to end all forms of discrimination and injustice against women and other venerable groups. (*)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "LBH APIK Tolak Diskiriminasi Terhadap Perempuan".]

Source: http://makassar.tribunnews.com/2017/03/08/lbh-apik-tolak-diskiriminasi-terhadap-perempuan

Journalists in Pontianak mark IWD with calls to protect women from sexual,

Detik News - March 8, 2017

Ngadri, Pontianak – The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has called on all parties to protect the rights of women, rights that they have yet to gain.

The AJI made the call during an action commemorating International Women's Day (IWD), which falls on March 8, at the Digulis Untan traffic circle in the West Kalimantan (Kalbar) city of Pontianak.

AJI Pontianak chairperson Dian Lestari said that according to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), in 2016 there were 259,150 cases of violence against women.

"In West Kalimantan alone, based on data from the Women's Empowerment Agency and the Kalbar Family Planning Agency, the figures on violence, sexual, physical and verbal along with cases of abandonment, have risen dramatically between 2010 and 2016. In 2015 there were 21 cases and by the end of 2016 there were 30 cases that were being handled by shelters", she said.

Dian said that the AJI Pontianak is calling for concrete actions to address these problems and that the government is obliged to provide protection and rehabilitation for victims of sexual and domestic violence. Furthermore, the government needs to increase public participation in handling these cases.

Meanwhile action coordinator Caroline Voermans said that the IWD commemoration had involved a number of women's and student communities in Pontianak.

"During the action that began at 8am, in addition to speeches, a number of theatrical activities were also held by the arts community in Pontianak", she said. (Ant)

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski for the Indoleft news service. The original title of the report was "AJI Kalbar Serukan Hak Perempuan".]

Source: https://kalbar.deliknews.com/2017/03/08/aji-kalbar-serukan-hak-perempuan/

Commemorating IWD, Pekanbaru students take up human trafficking, violence

Tribune Pekanbaru - March 8, 2017

Budi Rahmat, Pekanbaru – Crimes against women and children along with human trafficking were the central issues taken up by scores of demonstrators from the All Indonesia Student Executive Committee Women's Forum (FP BEM SI) during a commemoration of International Women's Day (IWD) in front of the Riau regional House of Representatives (DPRD) on Wednesday March 8.

Carrying banners and leaflets on these central issues the protesters took turns in giving speeches and called on the public to play a role in and be concerned about such crimes.

"The number of cases of sexual crimes against women and children continues to rise. This situation is of great concern", shouted one of the demonstrators through a megaphone.

The student's action was watched over by police with scores of women police officers on guard in front of the main gate into the Riau DPRD which had been intentionally closed. (*).

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Peringati Hari Perempuan Internasional, Massa FP BEM SI Bawa Isu Human Traficking".]

Source: http://pekanbaru.tribunnews.com/2017/03/08/peringati-hari-perempuan-internasional-massa-fp-bem-si-bawa-isu-human-traficking

IWD rally in Yogyakarta calls for 100% wage rise, free healthcare

Tribune Jogja - March 8, 2017

Tris Jumali, Yogya – Hundreds of students from the National Student Front (FMN) and the People's Struggle Front (FPR) held a long-march from the Abu Bakar Ali parking area to the Yogyakarta Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) building in the centre of the Central Java city on Wednesday March 8.

The action, which was to commemorate International Women's Day (IWD) 2017, did not just involve women but men also took part in the protest.

With spirit the women who led the speeches shouted their demands to the Yogyakarta regional government. The protesters made 10 demands, including among others rejecting low wages, safety and healthcare guarantees for women workers and calling on the government to provide free healthcare to women.

Not long after the FMN and FPR gave speeches on the grounds of the Yogyakarta DPRD, the Yogyakarta Women's Struggle Committee (KPP) arrived and added to the mass of demonstrators in front of the DPRD. The groups made joint speeches at two locations.

Women taking part in the action could be seen carrying cardboard posters with demands such as "A 100% wage rise" and "Feminists against Fascism".

After the FMN and FPR had finished giving speeches, they continued the action at the zero kilometre point in front of the central post office. Demonstrators from the KPP meanwhile began entering the grounds of the DPRD building. (*)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Memperingati Hari Perempuan International Dua Kubu Massa Bersamaan Datang ke Gedung DPRD DIY".]

Source: http://jogja.tribunnews.com/2017/03/08/memperingati-hari-perempuan-international-dua-kubu-massa-bersamaan-datang-ke-gedung-dprd-diy

Trade unions commemorate IWD in Jakarta with calls to end discrimination, sexual

Kompas.com - March 8, 2017

Jakarta – Several trade unions gathered in front of the House of Representatives (DPR) building on Jl. Subroto in Jakarta on Wednesday to demand their rights in the context of commemorating International Women's Day (IWD) which falls on March 8.

The trade unions included, among others, the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI), the Confederation of Prosperity Trade Unions (KSBSI), the Confederation of All Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPSI) and the Confederation of United Indonesian Workers (KPBI).

KSPI leader Tiasri Wiandani (Tia) said that women's workers were using the momentum of IWD to demand their rights. In addition to the DPR, the women workers' aspirations will also be conveyed at a later rally in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

"We are not just demanding women's rights during the momentum [of IWD]. But also every year at May Day", said Tia. According to Tia, it is not just women workers who have yet to be granted their rights.

The same problem is occurring for women working in other sectors such as domestic workers, mining workers and women farmers. "Discrimination and violence against women still continues", she said.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Hari Perempuan Internasional, Serikat Buruh Suarakan Aspirasi di Depan DPR".]

Source: http://nasional.kompas.com/read/2017/03/08/12270591/hari.perempuan.internasional.serikat.buruh.suarakan.aspirasi.di.depan.dpr

Workers commemorating IWD in Jakarta demand end to sexual harassment and

BBC Indonesia - March 8, 2017

Almost 1 thousand women workers from the IndustriALL Indonesia Council Women's Committee commemorated International Women's Day (IWD) along the length of the road in front of the House of Representatives (DPR) building in Jakarta on Wednesday March 8.

One of the demonstrators, Indah Saptorini, said the action was aimed at calling on the government to immediately ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention Number 183 on Maternal Protection.

As reported by BBC Indonesia correspondent Hilman Handoni, the peaceful action was joined by several labour and non-government organisations (LSM) from various parts of Jakarta.

Jumisih from Women Workers Corner said that her group supported these demands. "Companies intimidate women [who try to] obtain their right to maternal leave, to give birth", she said during a break in the demonstration.

The group also called for an end to sexual harassment and violence against women. "We carried out a small study in the Nusantara Bonded Zone in Cakung in October last (year). The result was that we found 25 cases of harassment at 15 companies", she said.

Jumisih said that she is sure that this is less than the actual number of cases. The forms of this harassment vary from wolf-whistles, peeping toms to groping.

Under the ILO convention, the government would be obliged to provide 14 weeks maternity leave. "Up until now in Indonesia, we only get 12 weeks leave", said Indah Saptorini.

The reality, according to Indah, is that many women workers who are pregnant or give birth are sacked. "Their bargaining position is also weak because of their status as outsourced workers", she added.

According to Law Number 13/2003 on Labour, women workers should be entitled to the same wages as men, the right to breastfeed, two days menstrual leave, three months maternal leave and protection against sexual harassment.

A women worker named Ika said who works at a motorcycle factory in Tangerang, Banten province, said that she had just recently returned from maternal leave. "[I] got three months", she said adding that her wage was paid in full. Like many other women workers however, she had to take her leave long before actually giving birth.

"Leave has to be taken exactly seven months after becoming pregnant", she said. So mothers only have three months or less with the new baby, which is why she joined the action.

According to labour regulations, women workers are entitled to monthly menstrual leave but in practice some factories make this difficult. "We have great difficulties going to the toilet. You have to queue", said one of the women workers taking part in the action. A number of demonstrators also said that women's toilet facilities are usually limited.

"In Batam, there are factories that order security personnel to examine the menstrual blood of their women workers. Although they're women (the security personnel) it's still uncomfortable", added Indah. "There are also factories that implement a policy of [blood] test before menstruation or [require] a doctor's certificate".

Also mentioned was that women workers still face problems such as prohibitions on trade unions and time restrictions to organise.

As afternoon approached, the protest action in front of the DPR ended and a number of protesters moved off to convey their demands at a demonstration in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski for the Indoleft news service. The original title of the report was "Hari Perempuan Internasional, seribu perempuan buruh tuntut '14 minggu cuti melahirkan'".]

Source: http://www.bbc.com/indonesia/indonesia-39202145

IWD rally in Yogyakarta highlights child marriage, sexual violence

Detik News - March 8, 2017

Edzan Raharjo, Yogyakarta – International Women's Day in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta was commemorated by several different organisations with a long-march through the Jl. Malioboro shopping district.

Based on observations at the location on Wednesday March 8, the groups taking part in the action included, among others, the People's Struggle Front (FPR) and the Yogyakarta Women's Struggle Committee (KPP).

The hundreds of protesters began the action at the Abubakar Ali parking area north of Malioboro. They then marched to the Yogyakarta Regional House of Representatives (DPRD), where both groups gave speeches, then rallied at the zero kilometre point in front of the central post office.

A number of banners and posters were brought by the demonstrators with messages such as "Reject [child] marriage", "Raise the legal age for women to marry: 16 years", "Equal work" and "Stop human trafficking".

"In reality, women's rights as women are not enough, because women also have to be in politics, the economy and the current situation. And violence against women has risen significantly. The problem of forced marriages, early marriages are still quite high", said women's activist Tya Setiyani during the action in front of the Yogyakarta DPRD on Jl. Malioboro.

During the action the activists shouted demands such as guaranteeing the rights of and prosperity of women and children, access to free healthcare and an end to discrimination including reproductive and sexual rights, twelve months maternity leave and unconditional menstruation leave with full pay.

Other demands were also articulated such as protection for children and women in conflict areas, rejecting low wages and safety and healthcare guarantees for women workers, providing protection to migrant workers and the repeal of Law Number 39/2004 on the Placement and Protection of Overseas Migrant Workers (PPTKILN).

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Hari Perempuan Internasional, Aktivis di Yogya Suarakan Tuntutan".]

Source: https://news.detik.com/berita/d-3441424/hari-perempuan-internasional-aktivis-di-yogya-suarakan-tuntutan

Sexual & domestic violence

Envoy calls for elimination of gender-based violence

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – All people must be free from violence because any violence, including gender-based violence, can weaken security, undermine dignity, slow down economic development and hamper people's participation in societal life, an envoy has said.

"To achieve their full potential, all people must be free from violence. That's why through the USAID Bersama program, we partner with the Indonesian government and local NGOs to support strategies developed to reduce gender-based violence," said US Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph R Donovan during the celebration of the International Women's Day in Jayapura, Papua, on Tuesday.

The US envoy said gender-based violence was a serious problem in Papua and West Papua, in which its incident rate in both areas was far higher than the global average, reaching 33 percent.

"Almost 90 percent of female respondents from Papua and West Papua in the 2016 UNDP Gender Based Violence survey said they suffered physical violence by non-partners. When male respondents in the same survey were asked on their motives to commit violence, 70 percent of them said sexual rights was the main factor," said Donovan.

He further said the survey also revealed 52 percent of female teenagers had suffered at least one form of physical or sexual violence before their 20th birthday. One-third of women and girls with injuries did not get the medical treatment they needed, it further said.

Donovan said the US had allocated US$7.3 million through the USAID Bersama program to prevent and tackle gender-based violence.

LBH APIK Papua director Nur Aida Duwila said the women's rights advocacy group had built justice rapporteur schools in Papua to increase awareness to eliminate gender-based violence. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/envoy-calls-for-elimination-of-gender-based-violence.html

Each year thousands of Indonesian women are subject to sexual violence: Komnas

Jakarta Globe - March 5, 2017

Jakarta – As concerns over persisting violence against women are reemerging, hundreds marched through the streets of Jakarta on Saturday (04/03) to demand an end to gender-based violence and the abolishment of gender-biased regulations.

According to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), each year thousands of women in Indonesia are subject to sexual violence. Of the 6,500 cases reported to the commission in 2015, 70 percent involved rape.

"These cases were reported. We don't know how many were not out of shame, fear and worry that complaints will be disregarded," Komnas Perempuan educational division chief Masruchah said during the march.

Every two hours, three women are sexually assaulted in Indonesia. The incidents can take place anywhere, including home and workplace.

Masruchah said that often teenage girls fell pray to sexual abuse. "Lots of these girls are culturally conditioned to see their bodies as gifts to their boyfriends, regardless of possible pregnancy, which could get them expelled from schools," she said.

In Papua, many schoolgirls are coerced into becoming child brides and are sacrificed for economic benefit, said Helena Kogobau of the Women's Liberation Committee of Papua. "Women and girls in Papua are exchanged like a commodity, they are forcibly married off to wealthier men," she said.

Helena added that sexual violence affects thousands of women in Papua, and discrimination is still prevalent under the society's strong sense of patriarchy.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/year-thousands-indonesian-women-subject-sexual-violence-komnas-perempuan/

Labour & migrant workers

Palm oil giant denies covering up labor abuses in Indonesia

Reuters - March 8, 2017

Jakarta – Palm oil giant Wilmar on Tuesday (07/03) denied accusations by a rights group that it had intimidated workers in an attempt to cover up a string of labor abuses from child labor to low wages on its Indonesian plantations.

Amnesty International in an investigation last November had found children as young as eight worked in "hazardous" conditions at palm plantations run by the Singapore-based firm and its suppliers in Indonesia.

Based on interviews with 120 workers, the rights group also claimed many of the workers worked long hours for low pay and without adequate safety equipment.

Amnesty said in a statement on Tuesday that Wilmar – the world's largest palm oil processor – had asked its workers to sign a document to deny the investigation findings during a recent meeting with trade union representatives.

Wilmar rejected the claim and said the union representatives had "voluntarily" signed the letters as "a show of support" to the company.

"Wilmar rejects the allegations of the company attempting to cover up abuse claims and intimidating staff," Perpetua George, the company's general manager of group sustainability said in an emailed statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Amnesty's investigation has found global consumer firms including Unilever, Nestle, Kellogg and Procter & Gamble, have sourced palm oil from Wilmar's plantations which are linked to the reported labor abuses.

The consumer firms have pledged to work with Wilmar to remedy any rights violations in their supply chain. Amnesty urged Indonesia to investigate the matter.

"Workers on plantations live in fear of reprisals for speaking out about their poor working conditions," said Seema Joshi, Amnesty's head of business and human rights. "Such reprisals could include being moved away from their families to a different plantation, or even losing their job entirely."

Indonesia's Manpower Ministry has said it has been trying to reduce child labour and it would improve labour protection at palm plantations. The ministry officials did not immediately reply to requests for fresh comment on Tuesday.

Indonesia is the world's biggest producer of palm oil, used in everything from snacks and soaps to cosmetics and biofuels.

[Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.]

The Great Palm Oil Scandal: Labour Abuses Behind Big Brand Names – Amnesty International. November 30, 2016 (PDF format)

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/palm-oil-giant-denies-covering-labor-abuses-indonesia/

Trafficked and abused: Indonesia's Middle East maid ban backfires

Reuters - March 7, 2017

Jakarta – Dian Permata Sari was determined to escape when she was brought to the maid recruitment office in Saudi Arabia for the sixth time and paraded in front of potential employers alongside 14 other women.

"We were made to stand in a line while the employers pick the maid they like, it was like shopping for goods," said the 19-year-old Indonesian woman.

Lured by an agent's promise of earning 1,500 riyal ($400) a month working as an office cleaner, Sari agreed in November to leave behind her husband and two-year-old son to travel to Saudi Arabia.

It was only when she arrived that Sari found out she had been brought there to become a domestic helper. She was forced to stay in a crowded dorm with hundreds of others, with no job or salary, until she was finally rescued last month.

Sari's case highlights what activists say is a rise in human trafficking cases since Indonesia in 2015 banned women from going to 21 Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, to become domestic helpers.

The ban was imposed following a string of abuse cases, but high demand in the oil-rich kingdom has encouraged traffickers to find ways around the curbs.

Traffickers are increasingly using different tactics, such as sending women on the pretext of becoming office cleaners, changing flight routes to avoid suspicion from authorities or paying off their family, rights groups say.

The Indonesian government says the ban was introduced to protect its citizens, but campaigners say the law leaves migrant workers at greater risk of trafficking.

Beaten up with water pipe

Maids make up more than a third of the 6 million Indonesians working abroad. Cases of abuse and near slave-like living conditions are common.

With no previous work experience, Sari jumped at the chance to become an office cleaner in Riyadh after she met an agent.

The agent flew Sari first from her hometown on the holiday island of Lombok to the Indonesian city of Surabaya. From there she caught a flight to Singapore before going to Riyadh.

As soon as she arrived, she was sent to the dorm with 400 other women, and her mobile phone was confiscated. Often the women were only given a pack of instant noodles to eat for a whole day, and a small bottle of water shared among 15 people.

"I protested with other women but we were beaten up with a water pipe," Sari told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a government-run shelter in Jakarta, where she is undergoing counselling before returning home.

After two months, Sari managed to contact her husband using a mobile phone that she had kept hidden. He got in touch with local migrant groups and Sari was eventually rescued by diplomats from the Indonesian embassy in Riyadh.

Other Indonesian women tell similar stories. Hatmiati, 25, who was rescued together with Sari, said an agent had promised she would be sent to Singapore to be a cleaner.

"I packed my belongings and flew from Lombok to Jakarta – it was only after I arrived at the agent's office that they said there was no job for me in Singapore," said the woman, who goes by one name.

Cash payment to family

Both women said they were unaware of the government's ban on sending maids to the Middle East and that their agents had not warned them of the consequences of breaking the laws.

Sari and Hatmiati said their families were offered 2 million rupiah ($150) and 2.5 million rupiah respectively by the agents in return for the women agreeing to go to the Middle East.

Mulyadi from rights group Migrant Care, which has assisted Sari and Hatmiati's families, urged Indonesia to review the ban.

"The government should re-evaluate the ban as it violates a person's fundamental rights to seek employment overseas," said Mulyadi, a co-founder of the group.

He warned that a government plan to stop sending women overseas to work as domestic helpers in any country from this year would make the situation worse.

Indonesian's Manpower Ministry senior official Soes Hindharno told the Thomson Reuters Foundation his ministry was working with other agencies to crack down on trafficking. Calls to the Saudi embassy in Jakarta went unanswered.

Now that her ordeal is over, Sari is looking forward to being reunited with her family. "My husband is a farmer, I just wanted to find a job to help him get some extra income, help our family," she said. "I did not expect this to happen."

[Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.]

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/trafficked-abused-indonesias-middle-east-maid-ban-backfires/

Freedom of speech & expression

Police investigate hate speech allegations against Facebook user

Jakarta Globe - March 4, 2017

Jakarta – Police are investigating hate speech allegations against a suspect who was arrested for allegedly creating derogatory memes involving President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, which he posted on social media.

The 37-year-old suspect, identified as Ropi Yatsman, a resident of Kota Tinggi in West Sumatra, was arrested last month.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto said on Friday (03/03) that the suspect had intentionally spread hate and hostility related to race, religion, ethnicity and group affiliation.

He allegedly uploaded four edited photos on his Facebook account, registered under the name of Agus Hermawan.

"The suspect posted edited photos and [later] tried to delete them. He also has [another] Facebook account under the name 'Yasmen Ropi,'" Rikwanto said.

The police confiscated several pieces of evidence, including Blackberry and Asus smartphones and a personal computer. Ropi is facing six years in prison and a maximum fine of Rp 1 billion ($75,000) if found guilty.

Indonesia has had various incidents of hate speech over the past year, mainly involving Ahok, who is currently on trial for blasphemy over references he made to a Koranic verse last year.

Jokowi posted a tweet in December last year, saying that libel, hate speech and hoaxes on social media have become increasingly troubling in Indonesian society.

The president said law enforcers had to crack down on anyone engaging in this type of behavior. Jokowi was falsely accused during his presidential campaign of having had ties with the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/police-investigate-hate-speech-allegations-against-facebook-user/

Freedom of information & the press

Students in Bandung suspended over sale of leftist books

Campus News - March 1, 2017

Ahmad Fauzan, Bandung (Kabar Kampus) – Opening a free library without prior authorisation in the vicinity of the Telkom University (Tel-U) parking area in Bandung, West Java, has it appears become a serious problem for the Tel-U rectorate. Never mind that leftist books deemed to endanger the Tel-U campus were discovered at the book stall.

As a consequence, the rectorate suspended two Tel-U students. They are Fidocia Wima Adityawarman and Sinatrian Lintang Raharjo from the communication and business faculty. Both students are Library Appreciation activists who regularly distribute free books on the Tel-U campus.

The Tel-U suspension signed on February 20 deemed that on November 9, 2016 the students opened a public book stall on Tel-U campus grounds without authorisation and that the said activities spread communist ideas on the Tel-U campus.

In addition to this, the other two grounds cited for the suspension were that they were deemed to have distorted [historical] facts and spread false accusations about the Tel-U leadership that damaged Tel-U's good name and committed hate speech against the Tel-U leadership.

In addition to the one semester suspension, the two students were prohibited from conducting academic or university activities in the vicinity of the Tel-U campus.

Fidocia, who also known as Edo, said that the Library Appreciation free book stall had been operating regularly since 2014 but that only now has the campus administration made an issue over a permit.

"Yet the positive activities by Library Appreciation have already been conveyed to the rectorate", Edo told Kabar Kampus (Campus News) on Wednesday March 1.

With regard to the leftist books deemed to be dangerous meanwhile, Edo said that they only meant to provide the broadest possible access to literature for Tel-U students, including books about leftist history in Indonesia.

"Because of this therefore, [we] consider the prohibition on Library Appreciation activities, namely holding books stalls, reading books, discussions and joint activities with the Student Alliance of Literacy Concern, to be a failure to see it as culturally progressive", said Edo.

The Library Appreciation activities sited as a problem by campus authorities was held on November 9, 2016. Aside from selling general subject books, they also had three books deemed a problem by campus authorities, namely the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and two books from a four-book series by Tempo Magazine, namely Indonesian Leftists Nyoto and Indonesian Leftists Musso.

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski for the Indoleft news service. The original title of the report was "Mahasiswa Tel-U Diskorsing Gara-Gara Buku Kiri".]

Source: http://kabarkampus.com/2017/03/mahasiswa-tel-u-diskorsing-gara-gara-buku-kiri/

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

'No more tearful evictions,' Sandiaga promises

Jakarta Globe - March 8, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta deputy governor nominee Sandiaga Uno has promised there will be no more "tearful evictions" of slums in the capital if he and governor nominee Anies Baswedan are elected in the upcoming run-off election.

The businessman's promise runs contrary to that of incumbent governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who has been maintaining a tough eviction policy since taking office in late 2014.

Sandiaga visited a kampung in the West Jakarta sub-district of Kalideres on Tuesday (07/03), the first day of a one-and-a-half-month campaign period for the second-round election on April 19.

"Anies and I will not evict residents forcefully from their homes. We'll sit together to hear what solutions they want the most. No more tears," he said.

Sandiaga, backed by the opposition Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party, said residents living in makeshift building along riverbanks have the rights to decent housing in the capital.

Forced evictions have been rampant during the administration of Ahok, who has staunchly defended his moves amid ongoing river normalization projects.

More than 100 evictions took place in the capital in 2015 with nearly 30,000 residents affected, according to data from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

Ahok's administration has provided evicted residents with low-cost apartments. But Sandiaga said vertical villages, known as kampung susun, could be an excellent alternative solution to the problem.

"We want to establish vertical residences which can be paid in installments by residents. It is better than paying rented homes and lands, where they can still have their contracts broken off unilaterally," he said during his visit to Kalideres.

Rp 3 billion in cash assistance

Anies and Sandiaga also plans to adopt a Rp 1 billion ($75,000) cash assistance program for each community in the capital, which was previously promoted by eliminated gubernatorial candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono. The cash assistance will be allocated for productive and empowering activities involving residents.

"The amount of assistance fund could be larger, up to Rp 3 billion, it will depend on the needs and conditions in each community," Anies said during a visit to Utan Kayu area in East Jakarta.

Anies gained 39.9 percent in the first-round election on Feb. 15, and Ahok, who is backed by the pro-government Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), gained 42.9 percent. The election proceeded to a run-off after no candidates won an outright majority.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/no-tearful-evictions-sandiaga-promises/

Judges refuse to hear testimony of Ahok's Muslim godbrother

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Judges presiding over the blasphemy trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama refused to hear testimony on Tuesday from his Muslim godbrother, Analta Amir, as the latter had attended a previous hearing.

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto made the decision after complaints from prosecutors, who said Analta had attended one of Ahok's previous hearings though it was prohibited for a witness to do so.

Analta admitted that he had once attended an earlier hearing, during which the court heard testimony from witnesses presented by prosecutors.

"As the witness has heard testimonies of other witnesses, the judges believe this witness cannot be questioned," Dwiarso said during a hearing held by the North Jakarta District Court at the Agriculture Ministry in Ragunan, South Jakarta.

He added that the court's judges had reminded anyone expected to be presented as a witness in the trial to leave the courtroom before each hearing started. Dwiarso said Ahok's lawyers should have reminded Analta to leave the courtroom.

He said witnesses could attend some court hearings but not those that featured witness testimony. He added that Ahok's lawyers were allowed to present another witness to replace Analta.

While accepting the judges' decision, Ahok's legal team said the court should have heard Analta's testimony. One member of the team said prevailing rules only prohibited witnesses from talking to other witnesses, not their presence at hearings. "Analta never communicated with other witnesses," the lawyer said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/judges-refuse-to-hear-testimony-of-ahoks-muslim-godbrother.html

Ex-running mate defends Ahok in hearing

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's former running mate in the 2007 Bangka Belitung gubernatorial election, Eko Cahyono, defended the incumbent in a hearing of his blasphemy trial on Tuesday.

In the thirteenth hearing of the governor's trial at the North Jakarta District Court, Eko said certain parties had used the Quranic verse to hurt Ahok's chances of winning the Jakarta election.

Eko, who now serves as vice rector at Darma Persada University Jakarta, said that when Ahok ran for governor in the Bangka Belitung election, many people used religious issues to attack him.

He said religious issues were the reason he and Ahok lost the election, although, he added, several technical glitches that occurred on voting day also contributed to their failure, Eko said.

"In sermons during Friday prayers in Bangka Belitung, religious leaders prohibited people from voting for a non-Muslim leader. Pamphlets, which encourage people not to choose a non-Muslim as their leader, were distributed; but, I didn't know which parties were responsible for spreading them," Eko told the panel of judges at the hearing, which took place at the Agriculture Ministry in Ragunan, South Jakarta.

In addition to Eko, Jakarta-chapter Golkar Party politician Bambang Waluyo Djojohadikoesoemo and Analta Amier, who is Ahok's half-brother, were also presented by the defendant as witnesses in Tuesday's hearing.

Eko said that in 2007, Indonesia's fourth president Abdurrahman Wahid, who is popularly known as "Gus Dur", campaigned for the pair and said that religious matters should not be brought into gubernatorial elections.

According to Eko, Gus Dur said that people should prioritize competence, not religious background, as a gubernatorial post should be considered as a public service. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/ex-running-mate-defends-ahok-in-hearing.html

Parties collaborate to map out strategy to secure Ahok win

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Four political parties held a meeting on Tuesday to map out a winning strategy for incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat ahead of the second round of the gubernatorial election.

The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Golkar Party, Hanura Party and NasDem Party will make use of their political machines to reach out to grassroots followers about voting for Ahok, a PDI-P official said.

"Golkar Party secretary-general Idrus Marham initiated the meeting in an effort to heighten our collaboration, aimed at an Ahok-Djarot win," PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

Hasto said beside Idrus, the meeting involved NasDem secretary-general Nining Indra Saleh and Hanura secretary-general Syarifuddin Suding.

The Ahok-Djarot pair will contest the second round against Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno in April. The Anies-Sandiaga pair has been officially endorsed by the Gerindra Party and the Prosperous Justice Party. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/parties-collaborate-to-map-out-strategy-to-secure-ahokwin.html

KPU urged to fix voter list issues

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – As the runoff of the Jakarta gubernatorial election draws closer, the Election Organization Ethics Council (DKPP) has warned the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU) to immediately fix the final voter list (DPT) to ensure all Jakartans can exercise their voting rights.

The council made the call in light of the many problems that plagued the first round of the Jakarta election on Feb. 15. Hundreds of thousands of Jakartans reportedly failed to vote, either because their names were not registered on the DPT, or because they did not have recommendation letters from the Civil Registry and Demography Agency (Disdukcapil) that can be used by unregistered voters to vote.

Most of the people blamed the KPU Jakarta for the failures, saying the commission was unprofessional.

"The KPU must fix all administrative problems, particularly the DPT, to avoid technical problems, given that the election has led to rising tension among Jakarta residents," DKPP chairman Jimly Asshiddiqie said after a discussion at the House of Representatives on Monday.

Citing an example, Jimly said that on voting day, he went to the Salemba Penitentiary in Central Jakarta, a facility that houses around 3,800 inmates, 90 percent of whom hold Jakarta identification cards (KTP). However, only 379 inmates were able to cast their vote as the remainder were stymied by administrative troubles.

Jimly believes that fixing the DPT would increase voting participation, which he said was still low in the first round.

"The voter turnout target in this year's simultaneous regional elections was 77.5 percent, but we reached only 74 percent. We hope Jakarta can be a pilot project to boost voter participation," Jimly said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/kpu-urged-to-fix-voter-list-issues.html

Police set to remove controversial banners

Jakarta Post - March 6, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police are set to remove banners addressing ethnic, religious, racial and social group (SARA) sentiments ahead of the second round of the city's gubernatorial election in April.

The banners, which have been put up at several mosques across Jakarta, call on Muslims to refuse to perform funeral prayers for a deceased Muslim found to have been a supporter of Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama. Funeral prayers are a collective obligation for Muslims in the event of someone's death.

"We will coordinate with every institution in the community to avoid any kind of violation [of the Election Law]," Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Prabowo Argo Yuwono said as quoted by wartakota.tribunnews.com in Jakarta on Sunday.

Prabowo added that the police were waiting for reports on electoral procedure violations from the Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu). "Citizens can also help by reporting such violations to the supervisory committee," Prabowo said. (kkk/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/06/police-set-to-remove-controversial-banners.html

KPU Jakarta officially announces Ahok, Anies to compete in the runoff

Jakarta Post - March 5, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) officially declared on Saturday that the incumbent candidate pair Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat would face Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno in the head-to-head runoff scheduled for April 19.

In the first round, Ahok-Djarot came in first while Anies-Sandiaga came in second, pushing Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni out of the race.

Ahok-Djarot and Anies-Sandi had garnered votes with a three percent margin, as the former collected 2,364,577 votes followed by the latter with 2,197,333, KPU Jakarta chairman Sumarno said.

He said the campaign period for the runoff would start on March 7 and run through April 15, during which, the incumbent candidates would be required to take leave from City Hall again.

Saturday evening was marred by the walk-out incident by the Ahok-Djarot team as the event started late. The event, held in Borobodur Hotel was scheduled to begin at 7.30 p.m., but by 8 p.m. the organizers had yet to commence the event. The team claimed that they had been at the hotel since 7 p.m.

"We saw the organizer was unprofessional. We really appreciated KPU Jakarta's invitation so we came on time and left several events, which we could have attended this evening," Djarot said in a press conference in the other room at the hotel.

Sumarno said that he had apologized to Ahok and Djarot for the late event and did not mean to make the pair wait. (rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/05/kpu-jakarta-officially-announces-ahok-anies-to-compete-in-the-runoff.html

I will definitely meet SBY: Prabowo

Jakarta Post - March 3, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto has affirmed his seriousness about meeting Democratic Party patron Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss a possible collaboration between their parties to help Anies Baswedan defeat Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in the second round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election slated for April 19.

"We have good communications. The meeting between the leaders of the two parties will surely take place," Prabowo said on the sidelines of a gathering to welcome King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the House of Representatives on Thursday.

He refused to give further details about the plan, such as the exact time and venue of the meeting, except saying the discussions on the matters were still ongoing.

The meeting plan was initiated by the Gerindra Party in an effort to gain more support for its gubernatorial candidate, Anies, who is running with businessman Sandiaga Uno in the election.

During Thursday's gathering, Prabowo was seen engaging in a light conversation with Yudhoyono, who also attended King Salman's speech at the House.

Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon, who is also a House deputy speaker, told The Jakarta Post that his party had intended to embrace Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party because of the significant support that might bring victory to the Anies-Sandi ticket.

Fadli referred to himself as one of the initiators of the Prabowo-Yudhoyono meeting, saying that he was continuously talking with the team from the Democratic-led coalition, which backed Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni. Agus and Sylviana lost in the first round of the election. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/03/i-will-definitely-meet-sby-prabowo.html

Jakarta election commission on second campaign period

Jakarta Post - March 2, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The planned campaign period ahead of the second round of Jakarta gubernatorial elections slated for April 19 is necessary to sharpen the candidates' visions, missions, and programs, the city's General Election Commission (KPU Jakarta) said.

KPU Jakarta said it would proceed with the second campaign period despite the escalating criticism, saying that the remaining two candidate pairs, especially the incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat, have had enough of the three-month-long campaign earlier from Oct. 28 last year to Feb. 11.

KPU Jakarta head Sumarno said that the commission would, again, let the candidates convey their programs to Jakartans through various campaign activities, including in an official debate, during the planned campaign period from March 7 to April 15.

"For the runoff, we will hold one debate for the candidate pairs," Sumarno said at his office on Wednesday, saying one debate would be sufficient for the public to understand the candidates' programs.

The candidates would undergo a similar process as the campaign period in the first round, which will also include reporting campaign funds. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/02/jakarta-election-commission-on-second-campaign-period.html

Environment & natural disasters

Women, children most vulnerable to environmental destruction: Greenpeace

Jakarta Globe - March 6, 2017

Jakarta – As hundreds of people filled Jalan Thamrin in Central Jakarta during "Women's March" on Saturday (04/03), Greenpeace said women and children are still the most vulnerable groups threatened by environmental destruction.

"What's happening in Kalimantan is that expansions for logging areas are still taking place, communities are still being displaced and the losers are not just men, but also women," Greenpeace campaigner for energy and climate Hindun Mulaika said.

According to her, female farmers suffer the most when their lands are taken away, as they are left with no income and no money to feed their family. Their children may also have to leave school with no money to cover their tuition fees.

One of the worst cases of this sort in Indonesia is happening in Central Java's Rembang district where development for new cement factories has not only evicted women from their homes, but also restricted their access to clean water.

"We need to voice out these women's environmental rights. All communities have the right to live in clean environments," Hindun said.

She also called out coal-powered power plants with their astronomically high carbon emissions for causing untold environmental damage.

"Pollution is especially dangerous for pregnant women and children," she added. "In big cities, most of the pollution is caused by power plants and cars."

In Jakarta, pollution level is 4.5 times higher than the threshold set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/women-children-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change-greenpeace/

Indonesia pledges $1bn a year to curb ocean waste

The Guardian (Australia) - March 2, 2017

Johnny Langenheim – Indonesia has pledged up to $1bn a year to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic and other waste products polluting its waters. The announcement was made by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia's coordinating minister for maritime affairs at last week's 2017 World Oceans Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali.

Pandjaitan told delegates at the conference that Indonesia would achieve a 70% reduction in marine waste within eight years. He proposed developing new industries that use biodegradable materials such as cassava and seaweed to produce plastic alternatives. Other measures could include a nationwide tax on plastic bags as well as a sustained public education campaign.

The World Bank estimates that each of Indonesia's 250 million inhabitants is responsible for between 0.8 and 1kg of plastic waste per annum. Only China dumps more waste in the ocean, according to a 2015 report in the journal Science.

The world's second biggest plastic polluter also boasts the world's highest levels of marine biodiversity. Indonesia lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle; its incredibly rich coral reef ecosystems support crucial fisheries, provide food security for millions and are a growing draw for tourists.

Plastic pollution is just one of the threats to these ecosystems services, but it's a serious one. A recent study suggests that by 2050, there could be more plastic than biomass in the world's oceans. Plastics have entered the marine food chain and are already reaching our dinner plates.

Indonesia's commitment is part of the UN's new Clean Seas campaign, which aims to tackle consumer plastics through a range of actions – from cutting down on single use plastics such as shopping bags and coffee cups to pressuring firms to cut down on plastic packaging. Nine countries have already joined Indonesia in signing up to the campaign, including Uruguay, which will impose a tax on single use plastic bags and Costa Rica, which is promising better waste management and education.

But Indonesia's target of a 70% reduction by 2025 is ambitious. Across the country's 17,000 islands there is poor public understanding of the problems created by plastic waste.

Companies produce small scale products such as single use shampoo packets and confectionery that are popular in communities where cash flow pressures and habit prevent more sustainable consumption. Add poor waste management infrastructure and the scale of the challenge comes into sharp focus.

During rainy season, thousands of tonnes of rubbish discarded in rivers and waterways washes up on Indonesia's shores. Heavy machinery is often brought in to clear the tourist beaches of Bali and local communities and non-profits are constantly organising large scale beach clean ups.

Last year, a tax on single use plastic bags was trialed in 23 cities across Indonesia. While the government reported a big reduction in plastic bag use, there was significant resistance both from consumers and industry, according to Siti Nurbaya, Indonesia's minister for the environment. This is delaying a bill to impose a nationwide tax of not less than Rp. 200 (1p) per plastic bag.

Environmentalists will be hoping that the promised funding effectively channels resources and expertise into public awareness and education programmes, improvements in waste management, pressure on industry and initiatives that encourage alternatives to plastic packaging.

The UN campaign reminds us all, however, that plastic pollution is a problem we can all address with some very simple changes in behaviour.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/the-coral-triangle/2017/mar/02/indonesia-pledges-us1-billion-a-year-to-curb-ocean-waste

Will changes to Indonesia's mining law hurt or help the environment?

Mongabay - March 1, 2017

Rachel Diaz-Bastin – Indonesia's new mining regulations have resulted in a high-stakes dispute with foreign investors, but what effects will these legal changes have on the environment? The jury is still out.

In January, Indonesia relaxed regulations on the export of unprocessed ores, but also required some mining companies to change their operating licenses – most notably U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan.

The 2017 regulation amends a 2014 ban on unprocessed mineral exports. That ban aimed to build a domestic smelting industry but effectively shut down many small mining operations, an unintentional boon for the environment.

Indonesia's long-term mining and mineral processing ambitions could cause serious environmental damage. Better enforcement of environmental law would have a bigger impact than export restrictions, experts say.

The Indonesian archipelago is home to a myriad of plants and animals, including Sumatran tigers, birds of paradise, orangutans and leatherback turtles. It is also home to extensive mineral resources such as copper, nickel, tin and bauxite.

As one of the world's leading exporters of these minerals, any changes in mining policies have direct consequences on both the local environment and the global economy.

Most recently, a change to Indonesia's mineral export regulations has seen it locked into a high-stakes public confrontation with Freeport-McMoRan Inc., the U.S. company that operates one of the world's biggest gold and copper mines in the province of Papua.

Debate abounds about whether these policies are good for business. But are they good for the environment?

To smelt or not to smelt?

The roots of the current controversy over mineral exports go back to January 2014, when regulations limiting the shipment of unprocessed minerals came into effect. The law aimed to boost export revenue by adding value to Indonesia's raw ores before shipping, and to encourage the growth of domestic refining and smelting capabilities.

Mineral exports from Indonesia dropped abruptly in response to the regulations.

"It was effectively a moratorium on mining these minerals, given that few smelters had actually been built," said Eve Warburton, a Ph.D. candidate at Australian National University, whose research interests include the politics of natural resource policy in Indonesia.

"With these policies, automatically, there was a decline in operations. Planned mines were postponed, which also meant a reduction in [environmental] damage as a result of limitations on exploration and production," said Hendrik Siregar of the Auriga Foundation.

However, Warburton and Siregar both noted that while export regulations may have temporarily halted some mining operations, the law was not designed with environmental protection in mind.

"The long-term goal to establish a domestic smelting industry is not an environmentally friendly one at all," Warburton said.

Smelting adds airborne sulfur dioxide and ash to the air, toxins that Indonesia has had little experience dealing with. "Smelting can be a very polluting process, especially in places like Indonesia where environmental standards are often not enforced or adhered to in the mining sector," said Warburton.

What is happening now?

A full-scale export ban on concentrates was set to take effect in 2017, but now, with companies lagging behind expectations on smelter development, the restrictions on exports of nickel ore and bauxite have instead been relaxed.

The government will continue to allow ore exports by companies who can demonstrate they are in the process of developing smelters. It has also proposed allowing the export of concentrates of copper, zinc, lead, manganese and iron to continue until 2022, provided mining companies are building smelters.

However, before concentrate exports can resume, companies must now comply with a range of new rules. In addition to presenting plans to build smelters within five years, they must also convert their Contracts of Work (the legal agreements governing foreign mining operations established before 2009) to special mining business licenses or IUPKs.

Freeport-McMoRan, the operator of the Grasberg gold and copper mine, has been fighting the government's demands to convert to an IUPK, divest 51 percent of its shares and construct a smelter. Freeport's CEO recently described these demands as "in effect a form of expropriation of our assets," Reuters reported.

On Feb. 10, Freeport abruptly stopped production at Grasberg and began laying off workers, and it has since threatened to take the case to international arbitration. Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has vowed to stand firm.

Beyond Freeport

A large domestic smelting industry in Indonesia may lead to increased airborne pollution, but Warburton's worries extend beyond this. Regardless of the fate of the mineral ban, she and other environmentalists want to see better enforcement of existing environmental regulations so that mining companies adhere to international best practices, state officials do not issue mining licenses in protected forest lands, and mining companies adhere to proper waste-reclamation procedures.

In 2009, when the Indonesian government first threatened to ban raw ore exports, mineral companies both large and small were enjoying an export boom in which regulations and monitoring were poor. Companies were extracting and exporting as much cheap ore as they could, particularly to China. In Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia's most abundant source of nickel, the effects of this rampant mining can be seen in offshore siltation, where mud from decades of mining has leaked into the sea, killing seagrass and fish.

Decades of tin production on two of Indonesia's islands, Bangka and Belitung, have also wreaked environmental havoc. The intensity of tin mining and the uncontrolled, irresponsible way it has been carried out have polluted agriculture and fishing areas and led to rampant forest clearing and siltation of marine ecosystems.

"This nature of mining like this is extractive, exploitative... Especially in coastal areas where it pollutes the ocean," said Parid Ridwanuddin, deputy head of legal and policy advocacy at the People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice (KIARA).

"There was an explosion of mining licenses during the boom, which coincided with decentralization," said Warburton. "Many of these licenses went to small and inexperienced companies. Monitoring was extremely poor, and the impact on the environment in coal and nickel mining areas has been devastating."

When the 2014 ban was put into effect, it had an outsized impact on smaller companies because they didn't have the capital to invest in smelting facilities. "In some ways, by reducing the number of companies active in the nickel sector, the ban unintentionally did the environment a favor," said Warburton.

Bigger companies such as Vale, that had the capital to survive and already owned a smelter, generally opposed relaxing the ban. However, the large state-owned mining company, PT Antam, suffered significant losses. Other companies that responded to the ban by ramping up smelting production now find their market undercut as restrictions are relaxed.

Companies in Sulawesi, a province with big nickel and bauxite sectors, that shut down after the ban will likely find it hard to start up again, if they do indeed have to demonstrate investments in smelting facilities. "The expectation would be, however, that mining companies that survived the ban will start up their operations again, and this will bring flow-on effects for local industry and for local government coffers," said Warburton.

Meanwhile, according to Ridwanuddin, although the international trade in metal ores may be affected by a mineral ban, domestic demand for construction materials is ensuring that mining continues apace. Coastal areas in places like East Kalimantan and East Nusa Tenggara have been targeted by the cement industry, he said: "The current administration is very focused on infrastructure, which leads to demand for cement."

Systemic problems

The environmental effects of the relaxation of the export ban, and the spat with Freeport, remain uncertain. Greater government control over foreign miners appeals to nationalist sentiment, but it doesn't necessarily result in better environmental practices.

In general, Warburton said, publicly listed multinational and Indonesian companies (though not all of them), tend to engage in best practices because they are answerable to shareholders, international media, and the laws of their home country. But big private Indonesian companies, and private companies from other countries operating in Indonesia, are not always well monitored.

Some of Indonesia's biggest mining companies also have direct and personal connections to powerful political figures, which gives them a degree of immunity.

"Ultimately, the problems that most concern Indonesia's environmentalists are the fact that regulations are implemented only loosely and with high levels of discretion, court cases can be bought and sold, and the bureaucrats tasked with monitoring Indonesia's mines are grossly under-resourced," said Warburton. "In my mind, these remain the most pressing environmental problems, regardless of whether the government enforces or relaxes an export ban."

Source: https://news.mongabay.com/2017/03/will-changes-to-indonesias-mining-law-hurt-or-help-the-environment/

Health & education

Cigarette ads aired during family viewing hours: Activists

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Jakarta – Anti-tobacco activists have accused three private broadcasters of airing cigarette ads during family viewing hours in another example of just how aggressive tobacco companies can be in advertizing their products.

The Lentera Anak Foundation and the Pembaharu Muda Community filed a report alleging cigarette ad violations to the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) on Monday.

They reported 22 violations in which cigarette ads were allegedly aired outside the mandated time window of 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. as stipulated in the broadcasting program standards (SPS).

The report was based on a survey conducted from March 1 to March 3. Many of the ads were packaged in film and music festival promotions, the activists said. Three TV stations were mentioned in the report: NetTV, TRANSTV and SCTV.

Most of the alleged violations were committed by NetTV, with 18 violations during the three-day study. TRANSTV and SCTV both committed two violations during the same period.

Net Mediatama Televisi (Net TV) spokesman Aditya Wardani was not available for comment on Monday. A representative of Pembaharu Muda, Citra Demi, said the ads did not warn viewers of the dangers of smoking.

Based on Government Regulation No. 109/2012, cigarette ads have to put warnings into every ad broadcast on television.

KPI commissioner Dewi Setyorini said her team had collected data on the ads reported and would investigate whether there were any violations.

"The cigarette elements in the ads are shrouded in promotions. We have handled similar cases in which cigarette ads are hidden inside promotions for cultural programs. We will first investigate before deciding our next move," Dewi said.

Data from the AdsTensity research center shows that cigarette companies spent Rp 6.3 trillion (US$470.8 million) on ads in 2016, an increase of 45 percent from the previous year.

Companies now spend more on television ads because the government has banned cigarette ads on billboards in Jakarta and at sporting events across Indonesia.

Currently, House of Representatives Commission I plans to ban all cigarette ads on television in an ongoing revision to the Broadcasting Law.

The report on cigarette ad violations comes as the government mulls whether or not it will continue discussions on the controversial tobacco bill. The government is expected to announce its decision next week.

During a separate discussion regarding the government's decision on the tobacco bill, Hasbullah Thabrany, professor of public health at the University of Indonesia, said health problems caused by smoking would inflict economic losses.

"The Health Ministry has calculated that, over the past 10 years, the losses inflicted by tobacco and cigarette production have exceeded the state income from cigarette taxes," Hasbullah said.

Economist Faisal Basri added that the Healthcare and Social Security Agency (BPJS) had experienced deficits of 30 percent and these were largely generated by treatments for diseases caused by smoking.

"The cigarette industry has been categorized as a 'sunset industry' in which its production keeps decreasing. What the government should do now is prepare workers in the cigarette industry and tobacco farmers for work in other sectors," Faisal said.

Experts generally agree that the tobacco bill only benefits the tobacco industry and is not going to improve welfare of the tobacco farmers because 60 percent of the tobacco used in the Indonesian cigarette industry is imported. (rdi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/cigarette-ads-aired-during-family-viewing-hours-activists.html

HIV/AIDS positive children left out in cold

Jakarta Post - March 2, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Life has never been easy for children living with HIV/AIDS, a cruel disease that requires costly daily treatments.

But what makes their lives even more difficult is the fact that neither the government nor the public seem to be willing to help them. In many cases, society only makes their lives harder.

Rumah Singgah Lentera, a local NGO that provides protection for 11 HIV/AIDS children in Surakarta, Central Java, said it had been struggling to provide support for the children due to resistance from local residents.

Since its establishment in 2012, the organization and children have been forced to move from one location to another after being rejected by local residents. They currently live in a house provided by a local cleric in the Laweyan area.

The children, who are aged between 2 to 14 years old and come from Surakarta and several other cities like Salatiga and Boyolali in Central Java and Ngawi in East Java, have been forced to move from one school to another as some parents objected to their presence in fear they would transmit their disease to other students.

The Surakarta city administration has offered them housing in the Punggawan area, but the plan has been suspended, again, due to rejection from locals.

Meanwhile, Rumah Singgah Lentera has had to work hard to get enough money to support the 11 children. The NGO spends around Rp 10 million (US$750) for children every month.

Routine health checks and drugs were covered by the Surakarta administration. Eight children have been registered with the city's Citizens Health Assistance (BKMKS) program. The remaining three were supported by the Child Social Welfare Program (PKSA), which only gave Rp 1.1 million per child for a year.

However, apart from the health services, Lentera has to bear all other costs to look after the children, including food, clothes and education.

"Apart from the treatment, we need to fulfill all of the children's needs on our own with money that we gather among ourselves [the managers] or funds from donor contributions and aid from social agencies," Lentera manager Puger Mulyono said.

Puger, whom the children referred to as ayah (father), said Lentera also needed to bear all the costs when they traveled out of town to pick up HIV/AIDS-positive children who had been cast out from families that were no longer willing to look after them for various reasons.

One time, Puger said, Lentera went to pick up an AIDS-positive boy who had been brought by his family to Blitar Social Services in East Java. The latter contacted Lentera because it did not have a service or program to take care of the child, who needed intensive treatment for his illness.

"Indonesia has not yet established an agency to take care of children living with HIV/AIDS. Maybe Lentera was the first one to initiate it," Puger, who co-founded Lentera with his friend Yunus Prasetyo, said.

UNICEF child specialist Naning Julianingsih asserted the importance for the government to create an integrated system and services to support children living with HIV/AIDS, since social assistance alone was far from enough, especially when their parents or guardians passed away.

"These children cannot go alone to hospitals to access ARV therapy. A system should be established, such as an accessible program that provides intensive treatment to prevent HIV-positive children from becoming AIDS-positive," she said.

She added the government should find solutions for children living with HIV/AIDS to have their rights to health care and education fulfilled, such as providing home-schooling and intensive treatment inside their houses for those unable to go out.

Surakarta Mayor FX Hadi "Rudy" Rudyatmo has expressed his unwavering support for the organization and would work to raise public awareness about HIV/AIDS. "These children need to be taken care of."

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/02/hivaids-positive-children-left-out-in-cold.html

Graft & corruption

House seen as most corrupt institution: TII

Jakarta Post - March 8, 2017

Jakarta – Just two days before the Jakarta Corruption Court begins the trial of the high-profile e-KTP graft case that reportedly implicates a number of legislators, the latest global corruption report by Transparency International Indonesia (TII) has again listed the House of Representatives as the institution judged by Indonesians to be the most corrupt.

According to TII's 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, released on Tuesday, the House has improved its image, with the percentage of respondents saying it was a dirty institution down from 89 percent in 2013 to 54 percent last year. However, it has not done enough to escape from the dubious distinction of "most corrupt institution," as other public service providers surveyed by TII still fared better than the House. Government officials came in second with 50 percent, followed by the regional councils with 47 percent.

TII conducted the survey between July 2015 to January 2017. The organization surveyed 1,000 respondents ranging between the ages of 18 and 55 in 31 provinces via a direct or phone call interview.

The year 2013 was the last time the TII conducted a public perception survey on public service providers. The corruption perception index (CPI) released annually by the TII interviews experts and businesspeople.

In accordance with the findings, the TII called on political parties to conduct reform and improve their performance at the House and in the regional councils.

"Even though the legislators have developed initiatives to prevent corruption, these are overlooked by the public," said Wawan Suyatmiko, head of research management at TII.

He said reports of alleged corruption by legislators still made headlines in national media and these headlines had dealt a blow to the House's image.

In 2013, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) opened an investigation into irregularities in the procurement of electronic identity cards (E-KTPs).

The antigraft body has already named two suspects in the case, namely Irman, a former Home Ministry director general for population and civil registration, and Sugiharto, a former population administration information management director for the directorate general.

The KPK has questioned around 200 witnesses, including House Speaker Setya Novanto and other legislators, regarding the Rp 5.9 trillion (US$443 million) project, which caused Rp 2.3 trillion in state losses.

Febri Diansyah, a KPK spokesperson, said that 14 House members had returned money allegedly used to bribe them during the deliberation of the project.

In the first hearing on Thursday, the prosecutors will read out the indictments against Irman and Sugiharto. They are expected to name the legislators who allegedly took the bribes.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislator Masinton Pasaribu said he took the TII's report as a challenge for the House. "It is a challenge that the public perceives the House as corrupt," he said.

He added, however, that government officials were actually more prone to corruption as they were the ones who spent the budgets approved by the House. (mrc)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/08/house-seen-as-most-corrupt-institution-tii.html

Most corruption involves civil servants: ICW

Jakarta Post - March 5, 2017

Jakarta – Civil servants dominate corruption cases in Indonesia, research conducted by an anti-graft NGO revealed on Saturday.

In the research by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) into corruption cases from 2013 to 2016, civil servants ranked first in involvement in graft cases followed by private-sector parties.

The ranking indicated serious issues in the country's administration, ICW researcher Aradila Caesar said on Saturday.

"There is a high possibility that the procurement of goods and services remains the favorite sector to garner profits," he said as reported by tribunnews.com. Moreover, he said, the 2014 Law on regional administration had not diminished corruption in the regions.

"Most civil servants involved in corruption are from provincial, regency and municipal administrations. Regional bureaucrats are still the biggest actors in corruption," he said adding that local officials' strategic position in holding key roles in local development had opened room for graft. (hol/rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/05/most-corruption-involves-civil-servants-icw.html

KPK raises possibility of 'collusion' in Papua road project

Jakarta Post - March 4, 2017

Jakarta – The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is looking into the possibility of naming another suspect in a graft case related to the Jayapura road construction project that implicates Michael Kambuaya, the head of the Papua Public Works Agency.

The anti-graft body said it had uncovered alleged collusion among the parties involved in the project. "During the [ongoing] investigation, investigators uncovered alleged collusion committed by parties involved in the project," KPK spokesperson Febri Diansyah told journalists on Friday.

He further said the investigation revealed an alleged mark-up in the Rp 89 billion (US$6.68 million) construction project, for which the state suffered Rp 42 billion in losses, or almost a half of the value of the project.

"There are indications that the project is 40 percent overvalued. Around 10 to 15 percent from the total mark-up [the deduction from the real and perceived value of the project] was distributed to local officials," Febri said.

He further said the corruption case violated the rights of Papuans to enjoy the full benefits of infrastructure development. Financed by the 2015 revised regional budget, the project involves a 24-kilometer road connecting Kemiri and Depapre in Jayapura. (mrc/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/04/KPK-raises-possiblity-of-collusion-in-papua-road-project.html

Terrorism & religious extremism

House calls for stronger Terrorism Law

Jakarta Post - March 6, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – The agreement between the National Police and Saudi Arabian Police on combating terrorism has led to the House of Representatives pushing for a stronger Terrorism Law.

Bambang Soesatyo, the chairman of House Commission III overseeing human rights, security and legal affairs, said that the amendment, currently in deliberation in the House, should strengthen the roles of antiterror units, such as the police's Densus 88.

"The MoU [memorandum of understanding] is important for both countries. [It means] Saudi Arabia has acknowledged the dangers of terrorism. That's enough of a reason to strengthen and widen the authority and access, under the amendment, for the country to take action against anyone implicated in terrorist activities," Bambang said.

The government, he said, needed more power to combat terrorism because threats were unpredictable.

Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and Saudi Arabia Police chief Usman al Mughrij signed the MoU last week, in front of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Saudi Arabia's King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud at the Bogor Presidential Palace. It was among 11 MoUs signed by the two countries during the king's state visit.

Also in his speech at the House last week, the King encouraged Indonesia to cooperate with Saudi Arabia to face the threat of terrorism for the sake of world peace.

Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Indonesia Osama Mohammad Abdullah Alshuaibi said that the most important agenda item for both countries was to fight the Islamic State (IS) group. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/06/house-calls-for-stronger-terrorism-law.html

Counter-terrorism declaration adopted at Jakarta talks

SBS News - March 6, 2017

Terrorism and maritime stability have topped the agenda in meetings between Indian Ocean nations in Jakarta, with Australia hailing a landmark declaration on preventing violent extremism.

With two thirds of the world's oil shipments and half of the world's container ships passing through the Indian Ocean, Indonesian President Joko Widodo spruiked the waters as "the future" at the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) business summit on Monday

"(Around) 2.7 billion people are inhabiting the IORA regions. That's why, Indian Ocean is the ocean of the future and the future of world's economy lies in this region," he said.

Both Indonesia and Australia are looking to the region for new opportunities both in trade and tourism and are also hoping to create fresh avenues of co-operation with countries they may otherwise not meet diplomatically. Maintaining stability, security and peace in the region is paramount to achieving this.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the association had adopted the "first ever declaration" on counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism – with the countries committing to share information, best practice and to co-operate.

"A number of Indian Ocean Rim countries are at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and violent extremism," she told reporters. Among the 21 members of IORA are Iran, Somalia, Kenya and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Meanwhile, Indonesia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Indonesia was looking to include UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) when it came to formulating a plan around governance in the Indian Ocean.

Last week Director General for Asia Pacific, Indonesian Foreign Ministry, Desra Percaya said they wanted to prevent another South China Sea by ensuring an agreed framework of behaviour or code of conduct within the waters was adopted.

"For our strategic interest, we don't want the Indian Ocean to become a region where there is major fighting for influence or power," he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet with President Joko Widodo for the second time in less than two weeks when he attends IORA on Tuesday. (AAP)

Source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/03/06/counter-terrorism-declaration-adopted-jakarta-talks

Deradicalization efforts failing: Police

Jakarta Post - March 1, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – In another sign of the country's failing deradicalization program, the National Police confirmed on Tuesday that the suspected perpetrator of a terrorist attack at a subdistrict office in Bandung, West Java, on Monday was a former terrorist convict.

Yayat Cahdiyat, also known as Abu Salam, was sentenced to three years in prison for robbing a gas station in Cikampek, West Java, to fund a paramilitary training camp in Aceh in 2010, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar told reporters.

Yayat was arrested and convicted in 2012. He was freed two years later after being granted a number of sentence remissions.

Shortly after his release, Yayat joined the Islamic State-linked Jemaah Ansarud Daulah (JAD) terrorist group, which is believed to be responsible for a number of terrorist attacks and plots in the country in recent years.

Boy acknowledged that Yayat's case reflected the nation's failure to fully rehabilitate terror convicts.

The police needed to improve coordination with the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), the Law and Human Rights Ministry and the Social Affairs Ministry to ensure that former terrorist convicts would not repeat their offenses.

"This needs to be discussed by all relevant ministries and agencies so that we can come up with a more comprehensive program," Boy said, adding that the government should help former terrorist convicts return to society.

"We have to admit that terrorism convicts are stigmatized after they are released from prison," he said.

According to police data, out of 1,200 convicts linked to various terror attacks in the country since the 2002 Bali bombings, 300 are about to be released and will join a deradicalization program.

While several former terrorist convicts such as Ali Imron, one of the Bali bombers, have successfully abandoned their radical ideologies, others, like Yayat, are reluctant to follow suit.

Agus Marshal, a former terrorist convict who was indicted together with Yayat, said the government's deradicalization program was too formal.

"The point is [the government] must really accept each former terrorism convict so that they feel like they have a country and a government," he said. The 2003 Terrorism Law was more about law enforcement than efforts to prevent and preempt terror attacks, Boy said.

The House of Representatives and the government are therefore now amending the law to strengthen the BNPT and incorporate clauses on deradicalization.

Chairman of the House's special committee on the law's revision, Muhammad Syafi'i, said all related stakeholders, such as the Religious Affairs, Social Affairs and Culture and Education ministries would work under the coordination of the BNPT regarding deradicalization and rehabilitation.

Each terrorism convict will take part in different deradicalization programs in the prisons, depending on what led them into terrorism.

"If they became terrorists because of economic problems, like unemployment, it's the Social Affairs Ministry that will be in charge of the program, by giving them a form of skills-training so that they can find work after their sentence. If it's because of their radical ideology, it's the Religious Affairs Ministry that will handle it," Syafi'i said.

Current prison deradicalization programs, he said, were far from good. "Prisons, nowadays, are more like schools for criminals," said the Gerindra Party lawmaker.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/01/deradicalization-efforts-failing-police.html

Freedom of religion & worship

HRWG deplores Indonesian justice system over Gafatar blasphemy case

Jakarta Post - March 8, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) has deplored the court's verdict that sentenced three leaders of the Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) to years in prison for blasphemy, saying that the case has once again reflected the flaws in Indonesia's justice system.

HRWG executive director Muhammad Hafiz said the ruling was unjust as the panel of judges did not take the testimonies delivered by the suspects' lawyers, witnesses and experts into account before delivering the verdict.

"This trend keeps repeating in many cases that implicate religious freedom and minority rights [...] blasphemy itself is a vague term that does not fulfill legal principles in the criminal justice system," Hafiz said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We urge the Judicial Commission and the Supreme Court's supervisory body to address this issue to end injustice by evaluating and imposing sanctions for the panel of judges who were unfair in the rulings," he added.

Hafiz asserted that bringing the case of the Gafatar leaders through the criminal justice system contradicted the government's earlier decision to issue a joint decree to prevent ex-Gafatar members from spreading the movement's doctrine.

Hafiz said the government should have been consistent with its approach, adding that they should not intervene with people's freedom of thought and belief since the 1945 Constitution protects those freedoms.

The East Jakarta District Court has previously sentenced former Gafatar chief Mahful Muis Tumanurung and spiritual leader Ahmad Musadeq aka Abdussalam to five years in prison and spokesperson Andry Cahya to three years in prison under the controversial blasphemy law. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/08/hrwg-deplores-indonesian-justice-system-over-gafatar-blasphemy-case.html

Gafatar leaders sentenced to years in prison for blasphemy

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Jakarta – The East Jakarta District Court has declared three leaders of the Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) guilty of blasphemy and sentenced them to years behind bars.

The three judges on the panel, meanwhile, rejected prosecutors' charges of treason as they delivered the court's verdict on Tuesday.

Former Gafatar chief Mahful Muis Tumanurung and spiritual leader Ahmad Musadeq a.k.a. Abdussalam were sentenced 5 years in prison, while spokesperson Andry Cahya was sentenced to 3 years in prison under the controversial blasphemy law.

The court found only Islamic values insulted by the movement. The movement "contradicted and offended Islamic values held by most Indonesian citizens," said presiding judge Muhammad Sirad while reading out the verdict.

Among other considerations, the court noted that prayers were not obligatory in the belief of the Gafatar movement, while the religion's holy book said prayers were obligatory.

The judges also pointed to local rejection of the Gafatar movement's activities in a settlement they had established in Mempawah, Central Kalimantan, as evidence that their belief was disturbing to other people. (hol/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/gafatar-leaders-sentenced-to-years-in-prison-for-blasphemy.html

Indonesia's anti-Gafatar campaign ends in blasphemy convictions

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - March 7, 2017

Phelim Kine – The Indonesian government's persecution of the Gafatar religious community resulted in blasphemy convictions today of three of the group's leaders.

A Jakarta court handed down five-year prison terms to both Gafatar's founder, Ahmad Moshaddeq, and president, Mahful Muis Tumanurung, while the group's vice-president received a three-year sentence. The judge ruled the three men had "tarnished one of the religions in Indonesia deliberately in public."

The convictions follow the government's anti-Gafatar campaign that began in January 2016, when security forces in West and East Kalimantan provinces stood by while ethnic Malay and Dayak mobs looted and destroyed Gafatar property. Government officials then transferred Gafatar members to unofficial detention centers and from there to their hometowns, not as a short-term safety measure, but evidently to end their presence on the island and dissolve the religious group.

Those forced evictions and detentions followed a wave of public animosity against the group fueled by media reports of allegations by relatives of Gafatar members that the community engaged in abductions and forced recruitment. The Gafatar have long generated public suspicion due to their belief system, which combines Islam with Christian and Jewish beliefs, leading to accusations of "deviant teachings."

The anti-Gafatar campaign is a chilling reminder of the willingness of government officials to deny basic rights to security and religious freedom to religious minorities. Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of examples of similar abuses over the past decade targeting Shia Muslims, the Ahmadiyah, and some Christian congregations.

Today's court convictions underscore the urgent need for the government to abolish Indonesia's blasphemy law, which punishes deviations from the central tenets of Indonesia's six officially recognized religions with up to five years in prison. The government has wielded the law to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities and of traditional religions and used it as the legal basis for a number of government regulations that facilitate official discrimination on the basis of religion.

Until President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo delivers on his pledge to promote religious pluralism in Indonesia and abolishes the blasphemy law, Gafatar's leaders won't be the last people jailed for "deviant" beliefs.

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

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/07/indonesias-anti-gafatar-campaign-ends-blasphemy-convictions

Islam & religion

Standardization of 'pesantren' aimed at mainstreaming moderate Islam: Ministry

Jakarta Post - March 3, 2017

Jakarta – The standardization of pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) is not part of the government's efforts to deradicalize Islamic extremists, but instead aims to further spread moderate Islam, an official has said.

"It's not a deradicalization program. It's going to take moderate Islam mainstream," the Religious Affairs Ministry's Islamic education director general Kamaruddin Amin said as quoted by Antara in Jakarta on Friday.

Perceiving the pesantren standardization to be a deradicalization attempt could lead to a false understanding that Islamic boarding schools are a base of radicals, or, in a more extreme terminology, "terrorists", he said.

By mainstreaming moderate Islam, Kamaruddin said, Islamic boarding schools were directed to mainstream an Islam that was peaceful, moderate and served as "rahmatan lil 'alamin", or a blessing for the whole world and its contents.

He said pesantren were not radical and it had been proven since Indonesia's pre-independence era that the non-formal religious education institution had never grown radicalism. Pesantren had continued to develop without creating radicalism problems, but instead by promoting love for the nation.

Kamaruddin did not deny that the potential for radicalism could grow in pesantren if people with extreme views were allowed to enter them. Therefore, the government must be present in pesantren with various programs, including through its pesantren standardization program. "It is hoped the program can start in 2017," said Kamaruddin.

Kamaruddin said in several countries, such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, Islamic schools were protected from any government intervention, making them fertile ground for radicalism.

Unlike in those countries, he said, pesantren in Indonesia were strategic partners of the government and important elements in education and social affairs in the country. (rdi/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/03/standardization-of-pesantren-aimed-at-mainstreaming-moderate-islam-ministry.html

Agriculture & food security

Nine wholesalers 'control chili distribution' in Java, says official

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Jakarta – Nine wholesalers have been accused of involvement in a red chili cartel, particularly for red bird's eye chilies, which has been blamed for uncontrollable prices of the commodity in a number of regions in Java.

In some markets, chili prices can reach Rp 150,000 (US$11.10), although the price at the farmer level is less than Rp 50,000.

"There is no problem with the prices from farmers. The problems start from what I call large wholesalers who operate in East, Central and West Java," the Agriculture Ministry's horticulture director general Spudnik Sujono said as reported by tribunnews.com on Tuesday.

His statement was based on the results of a joint investigation by the National Police's criminal investigations department, the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) and the ministry.

He said the nine wholesalers deployed staff in regions to collect the commodity from farmers. Previously, KPPU chair Syarkawi Rauff said the wholesalers had withheld the product, causing a scarcity of the commodity.

"The nine wholesalers deploy their men. If I was a wholesaler in East Java [for example], I would deploy my men in Kediri, Blitar and other towns [to buy chilies from farmers]," Spudnik added. He blamed them for increases in red chili prices since December. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/nine-wholesalers-control-chili-distribution-in-java-says-official.html

Business watchdog smells cartel in chili distribution

Jakarta Post - March 6, 2017

Jakarta – The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) is investigating suspected cartel practices in chili distribution, blamed for uncontrollable prices of the commodity, KPPU chair Syarkawi Rauff has said.

"We find that in many wholesale markets in Jakarta and its neighboring cities that chili sales are only controlled by three traders, [who dominate large amounts of chili]," he said, as reported by kompas.com on Monday.

The price of red chili – particularly bird's-eye chili – had increased to Rp 150,000 (US$11.1) in a number of markets although the prices at the farmer level were under Rp 50,000, said Syarkawi.

"This means that the traders' margin is too high," he said, adding that the KPPU team had investigated the chili trading mechanism in a number of wholesale markets in Jakarta, Bogor and Bekasi.

The business watchdog has also found that the large traders had prevented chili from immediately entering the market to try to increase the price.

He said the large traders were those who had bought chili from collectors, who themselves bought from farmers, and then sold the commodity to market agents and traders.

"We have found enough initial evidence on the suspected cartel to continue with further investigations," he added. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/06/business-watchdog-smells-cartel-in-chili-distribution.html

Transport & communication

Transjakarta officer attacked while clearing lane

Jakarta Post - March 5, 2017

Jakarta – Transjakarta patrol officer, Susilo Purwanto, was attacked by several people in corridor 4, serving Jl. Tambak, Central Jakarta, to Matraman, East Jakarta, on Friday evening after banning a motorist from entering the bus lane.

Transjakarta spokesman, Wibowo, said that at 8 p.m., Susilo reproved a motorist who tried to pass the bus lane. "The motorist beat up Susilo and threatened him. He reported the incident to the patrol coordinator," Wibowo said in a statement on Saturday.

Less than 30 minutes after the attack, six to seven people, who were riding motorcycles, attacked Susilo. The attackers were trying to hurt him by using a bayonet, but other officers were able to prevent that violent attempt. The attackers also broke the cell phones of people who were trying to record the attack.

Susilo is currently hospitalized at Cipto Mangunkusumo hospital, Central Jakarta, as his head and eyelids were injured and he suffered from shortness of breath after the attack, Wibowo said.

He added that Transjakarta reported the incident to the Central Jakarta police office. (cal/dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/05/transjakarta-officer-attacked-while-clearing-lane.html

Bandung premium angkots boast flat-screen TVs, wifi

Jakarta Post - March 2, 2017

Arya Dipa, Bandung – The Bandung city administration in West Java has launched a premium angkot (public minivan) service, which will lure passengers with its modern facilities, such as flat-screen TVs, wi-fi, books and electric outlets.

Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil said the passengers would have to pay higher fares for the service. "These angkots will serve the same popular angkot routes in Bandung. The fares are more expensive, but passengers will enjoy better service and comfort," he said in Bandung, on Wednesday.

The angkot is called Angklung, which is a traditional Sundanese bamboo music instrument, but it also stands for Angkutan Umum Keliling Bandung (Public Transport Around Bandung).

During the initial phase, only two premium angkot cars are available serving the Ciwastra-Cijerah route.

Bandung Transportation Agency head Didi Ruswandi said the administration plans to increase the number of premium angkots and serve more routes. Ridwan also said he hoped the premium angkot service would help persuade motorists to shift from private vehicles to public transportation. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/02/bandung-premium-angkots-boast-flat-screen-tvs-wifi.html

Armed forces & defense

Military police hunt soldier involved in Aceh drug syndicate

Jakarta Post - March 5, 2017

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – The Indonesian Military (TNI) has issued a "dead or alive" arrest warrant for one of its members, who is allegedly involved in a drug syndicate that was recently uncovered by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) in Medan.

The Bukit Barisan Military Regional Command (Kodam) and the Medan Military Police Detachment (Denpom) have ordered their members to arrest First Sgt. Habibie, who fled after BNN officers raided his house.

"As of today, we are still hunting him down, [we will catch him] dead or alive. The TNI never compromises with members involved with drugs," Bukit Barisan Military Command Col. Edy Hartono told The Jakarta Post recently.

Habibie has been pursued by the military police following a raid by the BNN on Wednesday. During the raid, BNN personnel were involved in a cross fire with drug dealers from Aceh on Jl. Medan-Binjai Km 10.5, Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra.

A drug dealer identified as Rizwan, 37, of Aceh, was killed in the firefight when BNN officers strafed his car.

The officers also arrested six other persons suspected of being drug dealers from another car they strafed. The six were identified as Hendra Saputra, Zakaria, Maulana, Safrizal, Andri and Saiful, all from Aceh.

After their arrest, members of the group told authorities that Habibie was involved in the drug syndicate. The BNN then raided Habibie's house on Jl. TB Simatupang, Medan, but he had already fled.

From the syndicate the BNN seized 46.9 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine or sabu as it is locally known, 3,620 ecstasy pills and 445 happy five pills. Edy said that he hoped to capture Habibie alive to find out if other military members were also involved in drug dealing.

"That's why we want to have Habibie captured alive so he will be able to tell the whole story," said Edy, adding that Habibie was currently assigned at the Denpom of the Kodam Bukit Barisan Medan.

He asserted that Habibie would be dismissed from the military without honor and sent to prison once arrested, adding that many military personnel had been dishonorably discharged for illegal drug trafficking.

In the last two months, according to Edy, 68 other military personnel assigned to Kodam Bukit Barisan had been dishonorably discharged, mostly because of drug cases. He added that in the near future 140 others would be dismissed for the same reason.

He said various initiatives had been carried out to detect personnel involved with drugs, including routine urine tests. "We want the military to be free of drugs," he said.

Kodam I Bukit Barisan's Denpom commander Col. Cpm Yusri Nuryanto said he was angry to find out that one of his men was involved with drugs, saying that it tarnished the TNI's good image. "For this we will hunt him down [and capture him], dead or alive," Yusri said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/05/military-police-hunt-soldier-involved-in-aceh-drug-syndicate.html

Criminal justice & legal system

Rehabilitation should be first priority in handling drug users, says minister

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Jakarta – Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly says there must be a paradigm shift in handling people arrested for drug offenses to solve prison overcapacity problems.

"The main problem we are facing now is that the number of inmates in our prisons has grown very rapidly. Within only two months, it has increased by 4,000 people, mostly from drug cases," Yasonna said as quoted by kompas.com during the 6th Asian Conference Correctional Facilities Architect and Planners (ACCFA) 2017 in Jakarta, on Monday.

He said drug users arrested by the authorities should ideally be sent to rehabilitation programs instead of imprisoned. While it was expected to provide a deterrent effect, imprisoning drug users would have negative impacts on people in prisons and surrounding areas, the minister said.

Yasonna said a prisoner who was addicted to drugs would use any means to access substances from the outside, including asking friends or relatives to smuggle drugs into the prison or bribing security guards to do so.

"This has become a big problem for all of us. Without rehabilitation programs, the number of inmates, especially those jailed for drug cases, will never decline. If we really want to fight against drugs, drug users must be rehabilitated," said Yasonna.

With additional funding, he said, the Law and Human Rights Ministry aimed to develop prisons, which would hopefully facilitate 15,000 people across Indonesia.

Yasonna added that the ministry would continue its redistribution program, in which it transfers inmates from overcapacity prisons to less crowded facilities. (dis/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/rehabilitation-should-be-first-priority-in-handling-drug-users-says-minister.html

Foreign affairs & trade

We don't need Australia's charity, East Nusa Tenggara fishermen say

Jakarta Post - March 8, 2017

Djemi Amnifu, Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara – An advocacy group claiming to represent 13,000 fishermen and seaweed farmers from East Nusa Tenggara has lambasted an Australia proposal to provide financial assistance in connection with an oil spill that devastated the livelihoods of fishermen and farmers in 2009.

"We don't need charity. What we need is cooperation involving local fishermen to identify the overall losses sustained by local people and the victims, especially fishermen and farmers, who suffered from the environment degradation in the seas of Timor and Sawu," Montara Victim Advocacy Team head Ferdi Tanoni said in East Nusa Tenggara's provincial capital of Kupang on Tuesday.

Ferdi was referring to comments from Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop after a meeting in Jakarta on Monday. Bishop was in Jakarta also to attend the 2017 Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Summit.

"I hope that, as a good partner, Australia can help the victims," Luhut said, as quoted in a statement from the ministry. Bishop responded by reiterating Australia's commitment to provide assistance in relation to the case.

The pressure group is also representing fishermen and farmers from the regencies of Rote Ndao and Kupang in a class action lawsuit in Sydney against PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of Thai state-owned oil company PTTEP.

"Almost 90 percent of Indonesian waters in the Timor Sea are polluted. All the productive area has been contaminated," Ferdi said. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/2017/03/07/we-dont-need-australias-charity-east-nusa-tenggara-fishermen-say.html

Papua and Montara oil spill raised with Julie Bishop in Jakarta talks

Sydney Morning Herald - March 6, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – The sensitive topics of Papua and the impact of the worst oil spill in the history of Australia's offshore petroleum fields have been raised in talks with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said the "openness of Papua" had been discussed and revealed Ms Bishop had agreed to visit the province later this year. "We love to see other countries visit Papua to have a look at what is really going on," Mr Pandjaitan said.

The proposed visit comes as seven Pacific nations last week called on the United Nations to investigate allegations of widespread human rights violations in Indonesia's restive Papuan province.

Vanuatu's Justice Minister Ronald Warsal said various UN bodies had raised concerns about extrajudicial executions and beatings of West Papuan activists committed by Indonesian security forces.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry replied last week that Vanuatu's statement did not reflect the current situation in Papua, which had seen big changes under the leadership of President Joko Widodo, with infrastructure development boosted to improve the quality of life of the Papuan people.

Ms Bishop said she planned to return to Indonesia later this year for a range of reasons including the opening of the new Consulate General in Surabaya. "There hopefully will be an opportunity for me to visit Papua at that time," she said.

There has been a deep-seated mistrust of Australia's position on Papuan independence among some elements of Indonesian society ever since Australia's intervention in East Timor in 1999.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull emphasised that he had assured President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, of Australia's commitment to Indonesia's sovereignty and territorial integrity during his visit to Sydney last month.

He said the 2006 Lombok Treaty, which recognises Indonesian sovereignty over Papua, was "the bedrock of our strategic and security relationship".

Meanwhile Mr Pandjaitan said he and Ms Bishop had also discussed the 2009 Montara oil spill, which fishermen and seaweed farmers from East Nusa Tenggara say devastated their livelihoods.

More than 13,000 seaweed farmers have launched a $200 million class action in the Federal Court in Sydney against PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of Thai state-owned oil company PTTEP.

The Indonesian Government is also planning to file a lawsuit against PTTEP Australasia in the Central Jakarta District Court.

"Australia as a very good partner can do something also to help the people of the area in eastern part of Indonesia especially in that Montara area," Mr Pandjaitan said.

Ms Bishop said the Australian Embassy was continuing to work with Indonesian authorities in relation to the oil spill.

"It will be a matter before the courts so there is a limit to what I can add to it," she said. "But we most certainly had a very open and frank discussion about the matter and we will continue to work closely with Indonesian authorities to the extent we can."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/papua-and-montara-oil-spill-raised-with-julie-bishop-in-jakarta-talks-20170306-gus0qr.html

Singapore-Indonesia relations should prioritise fighting rising radicalism and

Straits Times - March 6, 2017

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Jakarta – Indonesia's coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Wiranto said that rising radicalism and terrorism are problems that Indonesia and Singapore should prioritise and work together to fight.

Former armed forces general Mr Wiranto made the statement after meeting Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Jakarta, ahead of the opening of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Business Summit in Jakarta on Monday (March 6), where leaders and senior officials from the 21 member countries are meeting.

Mr Wiranto praised the good relations enjoyed by Singapore and Indonesia that are focused on mutual benefits.

"Our relations must be marked with how we jointly fight terrorism and radicalism that are growing," Mr Wiranto said in a statement, pointing out that Indonesia and Singapore have common enemies and common conditions.

The statement said that Mr Wiranto and Mr Teo also discussed efforts to counter cyber crime. Mr Wiranto mentioned that Indonesia recently established a national cyber body that will soon be operational.

Singapore already has a national cyber body and therefore both countries should cooperate and share experience, Mr Wiranto said.

Indonesia has cyber crime departments within its police force, state intelligence unit and defence ministry, but they operate separately. The newly established cyber body will be the coordinating agency for all the cyber crime fighting functions.

Mr Wiranto and Mr Teo also discussed the role of Indonesia and Singapore to help resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Both leaders agreed to encourage a peaceful resolution.

Mr Teo was later hosted to lunch by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, as well as met with Minister for Defence Ryamizard Ryacudu.

He and Mr Ryamizard reaffirmed the close defence and military ties between Singapore and Indonesia, and expressed the desire to continue strengthening cooperation in counter-terrorism.

Besides the three former Indonesian Army generals, Mr Teo also met House Speaker Setya Novanto, and other lawmakers to exchange views on regional and international developments, and welcomed closer parliamentary interactions between both countries.

Separately, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman attended the IORA Council of Ministers' Meeting on Monday, where he also called on Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi.

Both Mr Teo and Mr Maliki also attended the IORA Leaders' Welcome Dinner hosted by President Joko Widodo on Monday night.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/singapore-indonesia-relations-should-prioritise-fighting-rising-radicalism-and

Julie Bishop denies Indonesian president suggested joint patrols in South China

Sydney Morning Herald - March 6, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has claimed Indonesian President Joko Widodo never suggested joint patrols in the South China Sea and she had been told he was instead referring to cooperation to ensure freedom of overflight and navigation.

The Australian newspaper reported ahead of the president's visit to Australia last month that he planned to discuss Indonesia-Australia patrols of the contested waters with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

It reported that President Jokowi, as he is commonly known, saw joint patrols – potentially around the Natuna Islands – as "very important" as long as there was no tension. "I will discuss with PM Turnbull," he reportedly said.

Asked on the sidelines of the Indian Ocean Rim Association summit in Jakarta if the joint patrols had been discussed and if they would proceed, Ms Bishop said President Jokowi was not talking about joint exercises.

"He was talking about cooperation in maintaining freedom of overflight and freedom of navigation throughout the South China Sea because both Indonesia and Australia have a deep interest in unimpeded trade through these waters and through the skies of the South China Sea area," Ms Bishop said.

Asked if this meant joint patrols would never happen in the South China Sea, Ms Bishop reiterated: "I don't believe that [joint patrols] is what he was suggesting.

"I have been told that he was talking about cooperating to ensure there was freedom of overflight and navigation," she said.

Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan later said: "I don't know it is necessary for us to do joint patrol over there".

However he said the two countries could work together in the region on economic activities, such as tourism on the Natuna islands and mining exploration.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which about $US5 trillion worth of maritime trade passes each year, but five other countries have conflicting claims. Both Indonesia and Australia are non-claimants in the conflicts, although Beijing and Jakarta have clashed over Chinese poachers fishing in waters surrounding Indonesia's Natuna islands, which China claims are part of its traditional fishing grounds.

The reported suggestion of joint patrols in the South China Sea raised eyebrows in Jakarta amid fears they could antagonise China and not be in line with Indonesia's national interests.

"It is indeed possible that the president's idea for joint patrols with Australia could be interpreted as raising the tension with China. Australia also may not agree because it doesn't have a direct interest in such an escalation," Hanafi Rais, the deputy chairman of the House of Representatives Commission I, which oversees defence and foreign affairs, said in a front page story in The Jakarta Post.

At the time the Institute for Defence, Security and Peace Studies called on the Indonesian government to issue an official statement related to what exactly the president meant.

"[This is] in order not to cause confusion and create anxiety at the level of countries in the region or even of many parties who, looking at Indonesia's position, would be surprised if it really intended to carry this out," the institute's executive director, Mufti Makarim, was quoted saying in the Post.

Neither Mr Turnbull nor President Jokowi publicly mentioned joint patrols when the Indonesian leader was in Australia.

However Mr Turnbull alluded to the tensions in the region when he said: "We have a vested interest in peace and stability in our region's seas and oceans. So we both strongly encourage countries in our region to resolve disputes in accordance with international law which is the foundation for stability and prosperity."

Talk of joint patrols between the two countries in the South China Sea is nothing new. In October last year Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said he had proposed a "peace patrol" with Australia in the South China Sea to "bring peace" and combat illegal fishing when the two countries' defence ministers met in Bali.

"It's a joint patrol or coordinated patrol, it's the same thing," Mr Ryamizard told reporters at the time. "There are no intentions to disrupt the relationship [with China]. It is called a peace patrol, it brings peace. It is about protecting fish in each other's areas."

At the time Ms Bishop appeared to confirm Australia was considering joint patrols. "The Defence Minister Ryacudu talked about increasing our maritime exercises and both Senator Payne and I said we would look into that," she told the ABC.

"We have agreed to explore options to increase maritime cooperation and of course that would include coordinated activities in the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. This is all consistent with our policy of exercising our right of freedom of navigation."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/julie-bishop-denies-indonesian-president-suggested-joint-patrols-in-south-china-sea-20170306-gurxlb.html

Ciobo defends visa rules as Indonesia and Australia seek to cement trade deal

The Guardian (Australia) - March 5, 2017

Gabrielle Chan – Australia's trade minister, Steve Ciobo, has defended tough visa entry requirements for Indonesian students ahead of a high level visit to the country to complete an Australia-Indonesia trade deal.

Australia's prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, will join Ciobo and a delegation of 120 Australian business people for the Indonesia-Australia Business Week (IAWB).

Indonesia is Australia's 13th largest trading partner and Australia is hoping to get more access for vocational education and tertiary institutions to operate in Indonesia, while Indonesia wants to get access to training and education in Australia.

Ciobo said both countries were looking to finalise the deal after a decade of negotiations. He has met his counterpart, the Indonesian trade minister Enggartiasto Lukita, 14 times since the latter came to the post in July last year.

In February, during a visit by the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, to Australia, Indonesia agreed to lower tariffs on Australian sugar from 8% to 5%, while Australia agreed to remove tariffs on pesticides and herbicides coming from Indonesian suppliers.

Ciobo said on Monday the visa requirements imposed on Indonesians looking to study in Australia were part of an overall immigration system.

Indonesians aged 18-30 who apply for visas need to show they have access to $5,000 in their bank account, provide a letter of support from the Indonesian government, show they have completed two years of undergraduate study, have good English and provide a chest X-ray.

"Anything we do, we do in the context of existing visa requirements," Ciobo said. "That's part and parcel of the requirements we have in terms of securing visas for people from outside of Australia. We have requirements in terms of health for things like tuberculosis but we will look at it in the context of the overall deal."

The Australian delegation is looking for opportunities in vocational education and training, tourism, financial services and technology, water and sustainable urban design and agribusiness supply chains. Ciobo said Australia would like to have better access for the Australian labour force.

"Tens of millions of new Indonesian households are forecast to join the middle class over the next five years, presenting significant opportunities for Australian exporters to supply the growing needs of Indonesian consumers with Australian goods and services."

The prime minister will travel to Indonesia on Monday night.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/06/steve-ciobo-defends-visa-rules-indonesia-australia-seek-trade-deal

A fairytale trip and the truth about Indonesia's importance to Saudi Arabia

South China Morning Post - March 5, 2017

Jeffrey Hutton – When Saudi King Salman emerged earlier this week from a Boeing 747 that is bigger than Air Force One onto a specially made escalator and descended onto the tarmac of the government VIP terminal in Jakarta, the irritations that have dogged relations between the kingdom and the world's largest Muslim majority all but evaporated.

Gone – at least for now – were the steady feed of stories of mistreated domestic workers or of injured hajj pilgrims yet to receive compensation. Instead, when the custodian of Islam's holiest mosques in Mecca and Medina slipped into one of the two Mercedes limousines he had flown by Hercules transport aircraft ahead of his arrival on Wednesday, what fed 250 million or so Indonesians was spectacle.

This is the guy who can, at any time he wants, travel to Mecca and step inside the Kaabah," said Asia Foundation's Indonesia representative Sandra Hamid, referring to the black tiled building at the centre of the Al-Masjid al-Haram to which Muslim faithful anywhere in the world turn towards to pray. "People are amazed. It's like a fairytale."

Just as well. The Saudi king's visit, the first since a brief stop here by his predecessor, King Faisal in 1970, comes as plummeting oil prices and the re-emergence of arch rival, Iran, challenge his kingdom's sway. King Salman is betting he can shore up his clout amid shifting geopolitical allegiances.

"The whole visit is a signal that Middle East countries are waking up to the strategic importance of Indonesia," said Yenny Wahid, director of the Wahid Institute in Jakarta, a political think tank. "Indonesia is usually associated with domestic workers who are considered almost lower caste."

While oil prices have been soft for some time now, what's focused Saudi minds is that the prices are ebbing as Iran's fortunes begin to flow.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, known by all here as Jokowi, made an official visit to Iran in mid-December to court investment in the country's ailing oil and gas sector. In August, the country's state-owned oil and gas company, Pertamina, said it would import 1 million barrels of Iranian crude to test in domestic refineries.

Among the 11 agreements signed in Jakarta during the king's three-day visit to the capital, before he decamped to Bali for an extended holiday, is thought to be a deal for more funds from the Saudi oil giant Aramco to expand its US$6 billion upgrade of Pertamina's refineries.

"The Saudis tended to look down on the Indonesians and now they are coming to visit," said Keith Lovard, an analyst with Jakarta-based business risk firm Concord Consulting. "The irony is that this is happening when Indonesia is deftly balancing the two enemies: Saudi and Iran – playing one off the other – to its benefit."

Before the high-profile visit of the king and his entourage of 1,500, the relationship had showed signs of souring. Dozens of Indonesian Hajj pilgrims and the families of victims who were killed or injured when a crane collapsed in September 2015 have yet to receive insurance payments promised at the time of the accident.

Saudi Arabia's reputation in the Muslim world took another beating when 700 died during a stampede at a mosque in Mina, outside Mecca, a few months later. Earlier that same year, Saudi officials beheaded an Indonesian domestic worker convicted of stabbing her Saudi employer to death.

Even so, social media here has lit up with riveting details of the excess, the humorous and the downright bizarre details of the trip. The Saudi delegation arrived with 459 tonnes of luggage (not including the two limos).

Photos of an alarmed Saudi king caught in one of the frequent downpours during rainy season delighted Twitter. Nude statues that dot the botanic gardens at the Presidential Palace in Bogor, about 40km in the cool highlands outside of Jakarta, were covered with potted plants to avoid offending the Saudis.

Indonesian worries may have been overdone. During a meeting with religious leaders for 30 minutes at the main presidential palace King Salman encouraged tolerance and cautioned against religious extremism. He urged a united stand against organised terror in a 10-minute speech to the Indonesian parliament.

The aura of moderation may rub off on Widodo, who was seated beside the king when he made the statements. Widodo has come under fire by religious conservatives for protecting his protege, Jakarta's reformist governor Basuki Purnama. Purnama, who is better known as Ahok, is fighting blasphemy charges for allegedly insulting the Koran. He faces a tough re-election fight when Jakartans go to the polls in the second round of voting next month.

Wahid said that while the king's utterances are political gold for Widodo, who is widely seen as a moderate, they may have come too late for Purnama. Half a million people took to the streets to call for his imprisonment in successive protests late last year.

"People's minds are made up on this one," said Wahid. "Not even the king can change things."

Source: http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2075926/fairytale-trip-and-truth-about-indonesias-importance-saudi

Indonesia pushes for Australia to import more palm oil and paper

Sydney Morning Herald - March 5, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – One of Indonesia's top trade officials has questioned whether "artificial" trade barriers are preventing Australia importing more palm oil, pulp and paper and wood products as the two countries negotiate a free trade deal to be concluded this year.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media ahead of this week's Australian trade mission to Indonesia, Thomas Lembong said President Joko Widodo had been "revolutionary" in changing Indonesia's historical mindset of "insecurity and fear of globalisation".

However, Mr Lembong, the chairman of Indonesia's Investment Coordinating board, said Indonesia had to acknowledge that its regulations – which "change very frequently and often with no prior notice" – were a big obstacle to investment and a big source of complaints for foreign and domestic investors.

During his visit to Australia last month, President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, said he had conveyed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull some of the key issues in the free trade deal. The first was the removal of trade barriers – both tariffs and non-tariffs – for Indonesian products such as paper and palm oil.

"As you can imagine, as a country that is posting large and persistent trade deficits with Australia, we are especially motivated to look at opportunities to balance the trade," Mr Lembong told Fairfax Media.

"Certainly the products where we are extremely strong and extremely competitive would be, palm oil, pulp and paper products and wood products."

Mr Lembong said Indonesia wanted to make sure there were not artificial barriers or constraints to the export of these commodities. "In a way it's a bit of a test right? Why isn't that trade happening? We can talk goodwill all we want but ultimately we have to see concrete proof of unfettered and natural trade. If even the commodities in which we have the lowest cost, the strongest comparative advantage are not entering the Australian market, it feels like something might be wrong."

Palm oil is controversial in Australia because of its links to deforestation and the loss of orangutan habitat, with Independent Senator Nick Xenophon introducing a bill that would mandate the labelling of palm oil in all Australian foods.

The chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Board, Derom Bangun, said Australia imported more palm oil from Malaysia than Indonesia because Malaysia had started its industry earlier and its marketing was more aggressive.

He had read on the Internet there was resistance in Australia to importing palm oil from Indonesia in 2014-15 because Australia's production of other oils, such as soybean oil and cottonseed oil, exceeded its domestic needs.

Meanwhile, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has campaigned against "dumping" of paper products by Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand and China and called on the federal government to impose tariffs on imports.

An Austrade briefing for Australian exporters says Indonesia's "long-standing goal to reach self-sufficiency remains a top priority", with the country aiming to boost its farming capability production and value-added activities, while lessening commodity imports.

However, Mr Lembong said President Jokowi had pointed out on numerous occasions that globalisation was a reality. "I think the most revolutionary part of President Jokowi's impact has been... changing the mindset rather than this historic insecurity and fear of globalisation."

He said there were numerous examples of Indonesian companies thriving when exposed to competition, citing the example of the national airline. Garuda initially struggled when the opening up of the sector saw the number of airlines jump from three to 70, but in 2014 became one of just seven airlines to earn the prestigious 5-star rating from Skytrax.

Mr Lembong said he saw "tremendous opportunity" for Indonesia and Australia to work together in areas such as marine tourism, with Indonesia an untapped market for yachting and recreational boating despite its beauty and ideal climate. "Even if the amount of investment is small but if they create new industries like marine tourism and create thousands and eventually tens of thousands of high-quality service sector jobs then we should focus on those."

He had given Mr Turnbull examples of Indonesian tech companies that had received millions of dollars from the likes of Alibaba and said it would make sense for Australia to participate in Indonesia's digital boom. He also suggested Australia – which had a "strong advantage in management, design and systems" – could form consortiums with countries such as Japan, Korea and China and invest in Indonesian projects.

Mr Lembong said it "makes sense" for Australian universities to have a presence in Indonesia and he was "furiously analysing" what regulatory changes would be required to enable that to happen. "We think it would enrich the local university landscape and frankly conserve some hard currency in the process. So if for example someone could go to RMIT campus Jakarta rather than having to go to RMIT campus in Australia than those students would pay their tuition in rupiah and spend their living expenses in Indonesia."

Mr Lembong also championed using the free trade agreement to find ways for the countries to work together to raise Indonesia's standards in areas such as food safety and animal and plant health measures (sanitary and phytosanitary measures). Indonesian tropical fruit growers, for example, have often complained that Australia's import conditions make it extremely difficult to enter the market.

Mr Lembong said that in advanced countries regulations were stable for a long time and when they did change it was after lengthy periods of public consultation, which usually resulted in high quality regulations.

"Here, frankly, regulations change very frequently and often with no prior notice," he said. "So, it often leads to poor quality regulations, that come as a surprise and that makes business planning and long-term investment so much more difficult."

The Australian live cattle industry has often been buffeted by abrupt changes to import quotas to Indonesia and new rules such as a fixed ratio of breeder cattle.

Last month Indonesia announced import permits for live cattle would be extended from four months to one year and an increase in the weight and age limit of live feeder cattle. Mr Lembong said this and an agreement Indonesia would lower its tariff on Australian sugar to 5 per cent represented meaningful progress for both sides.

"But again I think we still have a long way to go," he said. "Indonesia has improved from ranking 106 to ranking 91 in the World Bank's ease of doing business [index]. But it is still a lousy 91 out of 180 countries. And we are a G20 economy which shows you how much further we still have to go to improve our business climate. I think deregulation, rationalising and modernising regulation is almost a cost free way to grow the economy. That's why I actually think it is very smart of President Jokowi... to start on reform right away." (With Karuni Rompies)

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/indonesia-pushes-for-australia-to-import-more-palm-oil-and-paper-20170305-guqxxu.html

King lauds Indonesia's tolerance

Jakarta Post - March 4, 2017

Haeril Halim and Tama Salim, Jakarta – In a display of religious tolerance, 28 leaders of Indonesia's major religions – Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Protestantism and Catholicism – took part in a dialogue with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Friday.

In the closed-door meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes, the monarch praised Indonesia's religious life and called on the leaders to embrace one another to ensure that the rights of every believer were upheld.

"Stability in Indonesia is the fruit of the spirit of tolerance and coexistence among its people of all stripes. We should always offer hands among religious believers in order to strengthen the values of tolerance," the king said as quoted by a press release issued by the State Palace.

King Salman, who leads one of the most conservative nations in the world, highlighted the need for all religions to stand up for and protect the rights of their followers. "Such a move is important to curb the influence of radicalism and extremism," he said.

The king's statements could not be timelier for Indonesia, which has seen a spike in cases of intolerance in recent years and what many consider an alarming rise in sectarian sentiment.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration seems to be using the visit of King Salman, known as "the guardian of Islam's holy shrines", to amplify the message of tolerance in the country.

The President himself acted as the host at Friday's interfaith forum, which began with the address of the king.

"Your Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the religious leaders present here are the prestigious assets of Indonesia in contributing to peace in Indonesia and in the world," Jokowi said.

Islam was represented by nine scholars during the event, while there were four Protestant figures, four Buddhist representatives, four Hindu leaders, four Catholic scholars and three representatives of Confucianism.

The octogenarian monarch was in Jakarta for a three-day state visit that began on Wednesday. Friday was his last day in the capital and he is scheduled to fly to Bali on Saturday for a holiday until March 9.

On Thursday, he spoke before hundreds of lawmakers and high-profile figures at the House of Representatives to call for a united front to deal with what he termed "a clash of civilizations" and terrorism in order to maintain peace in the world.

Later that day, he spoke to 38 Islamic clerics at the State Palace where he called on Islamic leaders in Indonesia to promote moderate Islam as a solution to fight terrorism and radicalism.

Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) chairperson Rev. Henriette Lebang said the interfaith forum could reduce currently high sectarian tensions that emerged after a string of large scale rallies demanding the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for allegedly insulting the Quran.

"This is the right moment to reinforce tolerance and peace and we appreciate the President's initiative to invite religious leaders to attend the forum," Henriette, who had the chance to speak with the king, said.

"The king's love of tolerance [shown] by being willing to meet and talk with leaders of various religions should serve as a lesson for Indonesians to always uphold unity regardless of their religion," she said.

Noted Islamic scholar Azyumardi Azra told the king during the forum that Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, as countries with Muslim-majority populations, had to be active in campaigning for peace in the world.

He took the chance to encourage the king to work with Indonesia on introducing the latter's concept of Islam Nusantara (Islam of the archipelago) to the Interfaith Dialogue Center that Saudi Arabia initiated in Vienna.

"I also recommended that Saudi Arabia and Indonesia push for the establishment of a conducive situation as the actualization of Islam as rahmatan lil alamin [a blessing for the universe]," said Azyumardi.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said the religious leaders at the event represented Indonesia's diversity. "Diversity is the asset of our diplomacy," Retno said.

Photos and video clips of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo holding the hand of the Saudi king to help the octogenarian leader walk at the Bogor Presidential Palace and again on the stairs of the State Palace in Jakarta went viral on social media this week.

It may have been an unintended outcome, but King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, whose visit to Indonesia dominated the news this past week, has lent a big hand in propping up Jokowi's domestic public standing, particularly among Indonesian Muslims.

This will have many repercussions in the national political landscape, where Islam has become an important if not decisive factor. After all, Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world and it is often billed as the third-largest democracy in the world after India and the United States. (A side note: A little bird has told me that Indonesia will soon graduate to number two.)

The massive media publicity surrounding King Salman's visit has helped replenish Jokowi's Islamic credentials, often questioned by some conservative Muslim groups and his political opponents.

Prior to the visit, the government and media had hyped the potential economic benefits Indonesia would receive by hosting the leader of the oil-rich kingdom, forgetting the fact that the Saudi economy has been hit by the consistently low world oil prices in recent years.

Sure enough, those expectations were deflated when only US$1 billion was pledged from the 11 agreements signed by the two governments on Wednesday. In contrast, the Saudi king pledged $7 billion during his previous stop in neighboring Malaysia.

The massive publicity garnered by the king's Indonesian visit was due to the fact that he arrived with a delegation of 1,500 people, including 10 ministers and 25 princes, and their grandiloquent mode of travel: seven specifically designated planes. On Saturday, the group will travel to the Hindu island of Bali, Indonesia's famous holiday destination, for a five-day vacation.

President Jokowi broke state protocols for welcoming heads of state, greeting King Salman personally at the airport, rather than at the State Palace, and then taking him to Bogor rather than Jakarta.

Clearly the king was no ordinary guest and he received as close to a royal treatment as the Indonesian President could have lavished upon him.

Jokowi accompanied the king on a tour of the massive Bogor Palace gardens. When it poured with rain, he held the umbrella to keep his royal guest dry, which left him soaking wet. In Jakarta, Jokowi personally drove the golf cart to shuttle the king between the presidential and state palaces.

Jokowi also made the visit somewhat personal. During lunch in Bogor, he turned on his smartphone to record his own statement and then got the king to make some remarks. The video clip was posted on Jokowi's vlog and it immediately went viral.

King Salman is the first Saudi king to visit Indonesia in 47 years. The last visit was made by king Faisal in 1969 during president Soeharto's rein. Neither Soeharto, for the remainder of his reign until 1998, nor the four succeeding presidents – BJ Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – were able to convince the Saudi monarch to make the trip to Indonesia again, in spite of it being the country with the largest Muslim population. President Jokowi may not have clinched any massive economic deals, but this did not stop him from boasting that he had secured from the Saudi king the restoration of Indonesia's annual haj quota to 211,000 beginning from this year. The quota was slashed by 20 percent in 2014 because of ongoing renovation work at the Al Haram Mosque in Mecca.

President Jokowi has come under a lot of pressure from some conservative Muslim groups and political opponents, who have repeatedly attacked and cast doubts about his Islamic credentials.

This has been a recurring issue since his presidential bid in 2014, when during the election campaign his opponents accused him, falsely, of being a Christian, ethnically Chinese and a communist.

Accusations of him being unIslamic resurfaced in October last year when he stood up for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who succeeded him as governor of Jakarta when he became president in 2014.

The governor, a Christian of Chinese descent, is currently on trial on charges of blaspheming Islam. Ahok, as he is popularly called, is also running for reelection next month. In an apparent snub to his critics, Ahok greeted King Salman at the airport, in his capacity as Jakarta governor.

Time will tell whether the Saudi king's visit will have a real and long-standing impact on relations between the two countries, but as the popular saying goes, in politics, perception is everything.

This is true in Asia, where face-to-face encounters are regarded as important in building relations, and Islamic tradition, where silaturrahmi, or a personal encounter, is highly encouraged and praised.

The visit by the Saudi king after 47 years could herald a new start in relations between the two countries, one as the host and custodian of Islamic holy sites, and the other as the country with the largest Muslim population.

In building ties with Saudi Arabia, Jokowi may have done something that no other Indonesian leader before him has. In the process, he may have also helped build his own credentials as the leader of the largest democracy among Muslim-majority countries in the world.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/04/king-lauds-indonesias-tolerance.html

Saudi king calls for moderate Islam

Jakarta Post - March 3, 2017

Haeril Halim, Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – For decades Wahhabism, the strict strain of Islam that promotes a literal interpretation of the Quran, has been Saudi Arabia's predominant faith, and since the 1970s the oil-rich kingdom has been generous in sending funds to other Muslim countries to promote this conservative version of Islam.

Now that Wahhabism has been linked with radicalism and even terrorism, the Saudi government has stepped up its campaign to counter that perception and the state visit of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to Indonesia, where religious conservatism has gained ground alongside frequent terrorist attacks, was part of the public relations campaign.

After dealing with business on the first day of his visit, King Salman on Thursday kicked off his charm offensive in a speech during a 30-minute special session at the House of Representatives, calling for a united front to deal with what he termed "a clash of civilizations" and terrorism.

"The challenges that the Muslim community and the world in general faces, like terrorism and the clash of civilizations and the lack of respect for a country's sovereignty, require us to unite in dealing with these challenges," the monarch said in his two-minute speech, which was interrupted by rounds of applause from members of the House and guests, including former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former vice president Try Sutrisno.

Later in his meetings with leaders of the country's major Islamic organizations, the octogenarian king promoted a tolerant version of Islam as the key in the fight against terrorism and radicalism.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifudin, who had organized the meeting, said Indonesia and Saudi Arabia agreed to promote a moderate version of Islam.

"The two countries have come to an understanding that we would prioritize the promotion of Islam as rahmatan lil alamin [blessing for the universe]. What is needed to maintain the stability of global civilization is the moderation of Islam," said Lukman, who joined the 30-minute session at the State Palace on Wednesday. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attended.

During the session, three Muslim scholars were given the chance to speak directly to the monarch, including Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Maruf Amin, who issued an edict last year calling for the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahja Purnama for allegedly insulting the Quran.

Earlier on Wednesday, King Salman and President Jokowi witnessed the signing of 11 agreements, including one addressing the issue of transnational crimes and global extremism, radicalism and terrorism.

To further bolster its counterterrorism campaign, the Saudi government offered free haj trips for family members of personnel of the National Police's counterterrorism squad Densus 88 who were killed while on duty.

To further burnish his credentials as a promoter of moderate Islam, King Salman is expected to hold an interfaith forum on Friday, shortly before departing for Brunei Darussalam.

Despite the visiting monarch's pledge to join efforts to counter radicalism, the Saudi government continues to promote its conservative brand of Islam.

Saudi Arabia is likely to step up its campaign to spread its version of Islam as it plans to open new campuses of the Saudi-funded Islamic and Arabic College of Indonesia (LIPIA) in Makassar, Surabaya and Medan.

Currently, LIPIA only has a campus in Jakarta. Students studying at LIPIA will pay no tuition fees, as they receive Saudi-funded scholarships. Students will also receive a monthly stipend while studying at the institute.

The college is known for graduating students ingrained with the conservative strain of Islam, including convicted terrorist Aman Abdurrahman, who has been known for his efforts to spread Islamic State (IS) movement propaganda.

Alongside the Indonesian Society for the Propagation of Islam (DDII), LIPIA has been the primary beneficiary of Saudi funding in the country.

Human rights groups have expressed concerns that conservative clerics in the country are promoting an agenda that conforms with the ideals of Wahabbism, including the call for the persecution of minority Muslim groups like Shiites and Ahmadiyah members.

In Malaysia, where the visiting Saudi monarch agreed to invest US$7 billion in an oil refinery, the daughter of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Marina Mohamad, lashed out against what she called Arab colonialism.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/03/saudi-king-calls-for-moderate-islam.html

Police disperse women's solidarity rally

Jakarta Post - March 2, 2017

Jakarta – A rally planned to be held in front of the Saudi Embassy on Jl. HR Rasuna Said in South Jakarta on Thursday was broken up after the police cornered the protesters on nearby Jl. Karet Raya beside the embassy, saying they had violated procedures.

In the rally organized by the local chapter of the International Women's Day committee to coincide with the visit of King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud to Indonesia, the activists demanded the Indonesian government and its Saudi counterparts to pay more attention to the protection of Indonesian migrant workers.

"Our rally is a silent action, which aims to remind the Indonesian authorities that they should not only care about Saudi investments in Indonesia and the country's haj quota, but also pay attention to the Indonesian migrant workers in that country," said Marjenab, an Indonesian Migrant Worker Family activist who participated in the rally.

The police pushed the protesters and yelled at them in a bid to drive them away from the embassy, right when the protest was about to start.

The police detained 13 protesters, including rally coordinator Hariyanto, chairperson of the Indonesian Migrant Worker Association (SBMI), in an armored vehicle. The police finally released them after they agreed to disperse.

A protester called on all Indonesian people to show their solidarity with migrant workers.

"Many female migrant workers are still facing abuses [from their employers]. I call on all people to show their support for them. We are Indonesian citizens. This is about our mothers, our children, our brothers and sisters who deserve protection as Indonesian nationals," said Nisa Yura, a Solidarity for Women activist. (mrc/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/02/police-disperse-womens-solidarity-rally.html

Jokowi, King Salman pray at Istiqlal Mosque

Jakarta Post - March 2, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia for a second time on Thursday. The two leaders arrived at Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta at 2:20 p.m.

They performed a tahiyatul masjid prayer as soon as they arrived at the Southeast Asia's biggest mosque. A tahiyatul masjid prayer is a symbolic gesture of respect toward a mosque. The 81-year-old monarch performed the prayer sitting in a chair. Jokowi prayed standing up.

Jokowi then took the king for a tour of the mosque, explaining the history of it. The two leaders spent around 30 minutes at the mosque before heading to the State Palace in Jakarta.

Earlier on Thursday, King Salman delivered a short speech at the House of Representatives before traveling to Istiqlal Mosque. At approximately 4 p.m., Jokowi and King Salman met with dozens of Islamic leaders at the State Palace. (ary)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/02/jokowi-king-salman-pray-at-istiqlal-mosque.html

Crowds greet Saudi king on rare visit to Indonesia

Associated Press - March 1, 2017

Niniek Karmini, Bogor, Indonesia – The first Saudi monarch to visit Indonesia in nearly half a century arrived Wednesday to an elaborate official welcome and crowds of thousands.

King Salman exited his plane at Halim airport in Jakarta using a gold-colored escalator sent from Saudi Arabia for the visit, with a portable lift carrying him the final meter or so to the ground.

He was met by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and the minority Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is fighting a tough election battle after being charged with blaspheming the Quran.

The king was whisked off in a heavily secured convoy to a presidential palace in Bogor, outside of Jakarta, where tens of thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren, lined the route despite torrential rain.

Local media reported that statues of naked men and women at the palace would be covered out of courtesy to the Saudi visitors. The same step was taken when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Indonesia in January.

Salman is on a tour of Asian countries to drum up business and improve ties. On his first stop in Malaysia, oil giant Saudi Aramco signed a $7 billion deal to take a 50 percent stake in a Malaysian oil refinery. Salman will also visit Brunei, Japan, China and the Maldives, the official Saudi Press Agency has reported.

The government of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has said Salman's entourage and related delegations number about 1,500 people. They have booked out four hotels in a posh Jakarta neighborhood for the week.

Salman will spend six of his nine days in Indonesia vacationing on the resort island of Bali, a predominantly Hindu part of the Indonesian archipelago.

Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are expected to sign 10 agreements during Salman's visit in areas from religion to education and science. Indonesia has said it hopes the visit will result in $25 billion of new investment.

Indonesia practices a moderate form of Islam and has a democratic secular government, but Saudi-funded institutes in the country are known to spread a highly doctrinaire interpretation of the Quran. They are tolerated in part because Indonesia wants to at least maintain its annual quota of citizens who can enter Saudi Arabia to participate in the hajj to Islam's holiest city.

Aside from a common faith, Saudi Arabia employs hundreds of thousands of Indonesians despite a government ban on sending domestic workers there following the execution of an Indonesian maid in 2011.

Source: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/a/as_asia_saudi_arabia?site=ap§ion=home&template=default&ctime=2017-03-01-01-19-22

Istiqlal mosque preps VIP toilet for Saudi's King

Jakarta Post - March 1, 2017

Jakarta – Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta has prepared a special toilet for Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The toilet is located inside the mosque's VIP room, which was built during former president Soeharto's administration for the country's special guests, said Istiqlal's spokesman Syaiful Haq.

He further said that inside the bathroom, the official had set a closet, which is 12 centimeters higher than any usual closets.

On the sides of the closet, there are handgrips that will help King Salman to sit and stand. Aside from that, the bathroom is also equipped with a thick rug to avoid getting slippery. The rug is placed near the door, called Al Malik.

"Al Malik alone means kingdom. Hence, [the toilet] is meant for a king or the country's special guests," Syaiful said as quoted by Kompas.com on Wednesday.

King Salman is scheduled to perform sunah prayer called Tahiyyatul in the mosque. However, it is unclear when the King will visit the mosque. He and Saudi's contingent will be in Jakarta from Mar. 1 to 4 before flying to Bali for vacation. (agn/dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/01/istiqlal-mosque-prepsvip-toilet-for-saudis-king.html

Mining & energy

Government to revoke permits of delinquent miners

Jakarta Post - March 8, 2017

Grace D. Amianti, Jakarta – The government warns that it will revoke operating permits of mining and coal companies with arrears in non-tax revenue (PNBP) payment as the amount remains large.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry is ready to report the disobedient firms to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which coordinates with the ministry to supervise companies with mining licenses that have problems of arrears to the state.

The companies with such problems can be regarded as default, which will lead to revocation of permit, as reported by kontan.co.id on Wednesday.

"Financial problems become one of the government's focuses in mining permit management. Every year, there are lots of companies with non-tax arrears," said the ministry's mineral and coal director general Bambang Gatot Ariyono.

Companies operating in the subsector mineral and coal mining remain to have non-tax revenue arrears worth a total Rp 5.07 trillion (US$380.2 million) as of February, a decrease from Rp 6.65 trillion seen in Dec. 31 last year, according to the government's data.

The total amount is a combination of new and old arrears. The government expects that it can resolve the old arrears this month that spanned until Dec. 31, 2015.

Of the total amount as of February, companies with mining licenses (IUP) have the most non-tax arrears with Rp 3.95 trillion, while firms holding coal contracts-of-work (PKP2B) and mineral contracts-of-work (KK) have Rp 1.1 trillion and Rp 20.64 billion in their non-tax arrears, respectively, the data shows. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/08/government-to-revoke-permits-of-delinquent-miners.html

Locals need Freeport saga to end soon

Jakarta Post - March 7, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Because it is all about the world's largest gold mine sitting on their land for 44 years, Papuans refuse to be left out from the ongoing saga involving the government and United States-based mining company Freeport McMoRan.

A group of Papuan tribesmen has travelled all the way to Jakarta, shuttling from one organization to another to convey the grievances of Papuan people in connection with the prolonged contract dispute.

They want to be involved in the negotiations because the future of thousands of Papuans is also at stake.

"We are not seeking shares [in the company]. We simply want the government and Freeport to think about the fate of Papuans, whose land has been damaged [by the mining operation]," Odizeus Beanal, the director of Amungme tribal council LEMASA, said on Sunday.

The tribal leaders went to the offices of human rights group Imparsial to promote their cause. Previously, they had visited the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

John Gobai, chairman of the Meegabo Traditional Papua Council, echoed the same concerns, saying that if the company ceased operations, it would have a great impact on locals, who had become dependent on the company's operations.

"Please let Freeport operate while the government, Freeport and the Papuan customary councils meet to negotiate the company's contract. We do not care who will own the company's shares later," John said.

He added that allowing Freeport to operate would also assure the restoration of areas damaged by mining activities in the country's easternmost province. "Is the government ready to restore this environmental damage?" John questioned while showing pictures allegedly depicting environmental damage at the Grasberg gold mine.

The company has reportedly slashed production and temporarily suspended 1,087 of the more than 32,000 workers it has as of Feb. 22, according to the Mimika Manpower, Transmigration and Public Housing Agency, following the row with the government.

According to data from PT Freeport Indonesia, 12,085 of the total workforce are permanent employees, comprising 4,321 Papuans, 7,612 other Indonesians and 152 foreigners.

The local subsidiary of the gold and copper miner has been in a deadlock over its operations as the government demands a conversion of its Contract of Work (CoW) agreement signed in 1991 into a so-called special mining license (IUPK) before extending its export permit.

John is also worried that the thousands of Papuans studying in many regions of the country on Freeport scholarships would be affected by the dispute.

Bisman Bakhtiar, executive director of the Center of Energy and Mining Law, said the government should not belittle the cause of the Papuans.

"The 2009 law on mineral and coal mining requires that Freeport build a smelter to get permission to export concentrate again, but President [Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo] could issue a regulation in lieu of law [Perpu] as a solution," he said.

The Perpu should provide a legal basis to allow Freeport to resume operations during the negotiations, while forcing the firm to build a smelter.

Komnas HAM commissioner Natalius Pigai said the commission had received reports on the issue from Papuans, including local leaders.

"It is not fair to just think about nationalism while letting many people suffer," Natalius told The Jakarta Post on Monday. "The government should protect the rights of Papuans, including their job rights."

Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/07/locals-need-freeport-saga-to-end-soon.html

Indonesia warns US mining giant in fresh dispute

Asia Sentinel - March 5, 2017

There is rising concern among business sources in Jakarta that tension between the Indonesian government and the US-based mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, Indonesia's oldest foreign investor, which has been in a months-long deadlock over future mining, could affect relations between Washington and Jakarta.

In addition to taking off a huge share of Freeport's profits, business sources in Indonesia say the change in the contract could have unpredictable consequences for bilateral ties between the US ad Indonesia. That is because Carl Icahn, a major American investor, acquired 9 percent of Freeport recently. He is now a key investor who also acts as a close adviser to President Donald Trump, who with less than two months in office has already proven to be volatile when it comes to international relations.

Reuters reported last week that shareholders – perhaps meaning the 81-year-old Icahn – are pressuring Freeport to stand up to Indonesia over the changes. Freeport's chief executive officer Richard Adkerson told a mining conference in Florida that the new regulations are "in effect a form of expropriation of our assets and we are resisting it aggressively."

"Many of our shareholders feel that we have been too nice," Adkerson said. "Now we are in the position of standing up for our rights under the contract." Room exists for common ground – but a resolution could take months during which, according to Jakarta sources, tensions are feared to rise between the US and Indonesian governments.

The government is requiring the company's local subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia to convert its 1991 contract of work – its compact with the government to operate – into a special mining license in return for an export permit extension. The new agreement would require the company to divest 51 percent of its shares to Indonesian interests. The contract of work isn't due to expire until 2021 but Freeport wants guarantees that it will be extended on the company's terms before it invests a promised US$18 billion in the mining operation.

Freeport Indonesia operates the huge Grasberg mine in Papua, the world's biggest copper mine and the second-biggest gold mine. Its 2016 copper sales from Indonesia were worth about US$2.4 billion, up 130 percent annually since 1996. This year, the Grasberg mine is due to contribute around a third of Freeport's global 2017 copper sales of 4.1 billion.

The matter spurred President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to comment on the issue, last week, saying he would take firm action if necessary.

"We want to reach a win-win solution, because this is a business matter. Now, I will leave this matter to the ministers. However, if it's really difficult to deal with, I will take action." Jokowi said.

Since starting its operations more than 50 years ago, Freeport's existence has often been greeted with abhorrence by the Indonesian public. All affairs related to the company have always been political, with many Indonesian politicians and activists referring to it as a symbol of US economic imperialism.

Indonesian commercial and political interests have been attempting to modify the contract of work to get a bigger share of the operations for at least two years. In November 2015, Setya Novanto, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was caught on tape allegedly seeking to extort shares from the mining concern.

Although Setya lost his job as house speaker, eventually the scandal cost the job as well of Sudirman Said, the Energy and Resources Minister, who had launched the charges against Setya in the House Ethics Council. Other powerful names were dragged into the allegations against Setya at the same time. The affair pretty much ended inconclusively, however.

Freeport Indonesia insists that the 1991 Contract of Work is still valid and should be respected. Freeport owns 90.64 percent of Freeport Indonesia, while 9.36 percent is owned by the Indonesian government.

On February 17, Freeport Indonesia sent a notification letter to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry describing areas of dispute between the two parties. The company also said it would seek the possibility of taking the case to the international arbitration if no settlement was reached within 120 days after sending the letter.

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

Last week, Adkerson said the company expected to find a win-win solution during the dispute settlement period as the Grasberg mine was too important for either party to neglect.

In response to the case, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the government was undertaking "transitional negotiations" to tweak the management of the mining industry for the sake of investment and national interests, such as job creation, exports and state revenues.

"There will not be private, murky negotiations any longer. We just want to abide by the law and try to be better in explaining this situation to the investors." She told local media.

PT Freeport Indonesia employs some 32,000 people and has reportedly laid off 25 senior employees as the company negotiates with the government.

Jokowi on Jan. 22 signed the government regulation revising previous conditions on the implementation of the mineral and coal mining business. Under the regulation, mining companies are required to construct domestic smelters as a precondition for them to export the concentrates. That regulation has caused chaos in the mining industry because smelters require huge amounts of power and the government can't produce enough near distant mining sites to operate them.

What will happen next?

The "win-win solution" seems unlikely, considering Jokowi has the burden to show the Indonesians that "he can stand up against Freeport bullies for more than 50 years"

If both parties fail to come to terms, conciliation or arbitration proceedings would be held in Jakarta, or another location if agreed by both sides.

Source: http://www.asiasentinel.com/econ-business/indonesia-warns-us-mining-giant-in-fresh-dispute/

Second rate hike for 900-VA non-subsidy customers begins

Jakarta Post - March 2, 2017

Jakarta – Starting Wednesday, electricity rates for 900 volt-ampere (VA) capacity households not categorized as low-income, will increase by 30 percent, the second increase after the withdrawal of the subsidy in January. About 18.7 million are affected by the policy change.

"It is the second withdrawal of the subsidy. The rate increase is 30 percent," said Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry electricity director general Jarman as reported by tribunnews.com.

He explained that in January, rates increased by 30 percent and in June, rates would increase by another 30 percent. The around 4.1 million 900 VA households categorized as low-income will still receive the subsidy.

As an example, a customer who received a Rp 74,740 (US$5.53) electricity bill in December, had a Rp 98,000 bill in January and February. Meanwhile, in March and April he has to pay Rp 130,000 and starting in May, Rp 185,794. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/02/second-rate-hike-for-900-va-non-subsidy-customers-begins.html

'Government prepares funding scheme to buy Freeport's shares'

Jakarta Post - March 2, 2017

Jakarta – An official has said the Indonesian government has enough funding to buy shares in copper and gold miner PT Freeport Indonesia as it has started to prepare a holding company to manage the mining site in Papua.

"The holding company will buy shares in Freeport," said Fajar Harry Sampurno, the deputy for mining, strategic industry and media affairs at the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, on Thursday.

Currently, the Indonesian government and Freeport are negotiating changes to Freeport's prevailing contract agreement following the issuance of new mining regulations.

Freeport insists that the Contract of Work (CoW) signed in 1991 is still valid and should be respected. The government wants the company to convert its CoW into a special mining license and divest 51 percent of its shares.

Fajar said his ministry planned to send letters to the Finance Ministry and the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to discuss the funding scheme to take over the mine in Mimika regency, Papua.

If the government assigns the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry to handle the process, the ministry will appoint an independent appraisal company to assess the value of Freeport's shares, said Fajar. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/02/government-prepares-funding-scheme-to-buy-freeports-shares.html

Twists and turns in tortuous Indonesian mining dispute

Asia Times - March 1, 2017

John McBeth, Jakarta – American mining giant Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc has shut down production, retrenched 1,400 workers at its high-altitude Grasberg mine and put thousands on furlough as it faces the prospect of an uncertain future in a climatic stand-off with the Indonesian government.

The company issued a 120-day ultimatum on February 17, warning it will go to international arbitration over Jakarta's efforts to force it to convert its Contract of Work (CoW) to a Special Business License (IUPK) four years ahead of its expiry date in 2021.

The written notice was delivered five days after Freeport McMoRan's normally placid chief executive, Richard Adkerson, finally lost patience in what was described as a stormy encounter with Mines and Energy Minister Ignasius Johan after months of fruitless negotiations.

At a later meeting with shareholders, he said the regulations were "in effect, an expropriation of assets and we are resisting aggressively," adding that "the polite approach that we have had in the past, if we go to arbitration, is going to be replaced with tough lawyers."

Leaving no provision for arbitration, the conversion requires Freeport Indonesia to build a US$2.7 billion smelter and divest 51% of its shares within 10 years as the government seeks to bring it into line with the 2009 Mining Law.

Freeport began to run down the Grasberg operation after January 10 when the government re-imposed a ban on exports of copper concentrate and other mineral ore until the company and other CoW holders agreed in principle to making the change.

In the end, it was forced to stop work completely and take all three of its massive crusher units off-line because of a strike at the Mitsubishi-run Gresik, East Java, smelter – the country's only copper processing facility – which normally handles 35-40% of Grasberg's output.

The government has moved swiftly to get Parliament and a receptive public on its side, but it is not clear how Freeport's 32,000-strong work force will react in an often rebellious region that has never had great love for Jakarta.

The workers are only part of the problem. Also effected are 10,000 indigenous miners engaged in the US$100 million-a-year business of extracting residual gold from the rock waste that washes down a river to a lowland deposit area.

Despite warning Freeport about the consequences if it fails to bend, President Joko Widodo has shown he is still hopeful of a settlement by appointing Jonan and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati as the only officials authorized to negotiate with the company.

That appears to exclude Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan, Widodo's closest political advisor whose portfolio includes natural resources and who has been an ardent critic of Freeport.

The government unilaterally granted Freeport a temporary export license and a six-month grace period to convert to an IUPK. But it continues to disregard the sanctity of Freeport's contract, which it signed with the authoritarian Suharto regime in 1991.

Approved by Parliament and containing wording that implies the company is entitled to two 10-year extensions, the contract has the force of Indonesian law and trumps both government and ministerial regulations.

Ignoring the huge amount of investment needed to develop a mine 3,500-meters up in Papua's Central Highlands, most Indonesians believe Freeport has made vast profits at their expense over the past half century and that it is time to take it back.

They take seriously an article in their Constitution under which the country's natural resources belong to the people. Little public thought is given to the fact that harnessing those resources requires capital that the state and private firms don't have.

Freeport and partner Rio Tinto's US$17.2 billion project to convert Grasberg's open pit into the world's biggest underground mine will be in jeopardy if a solution isn't found to the current impasse – along with US$15 million a day in lost revenues, roughly split between Freeport and the state.

Finding another major foreign company to take Freeport's place would be problematic because it would have to hand over a controlling interest long before it could realistically recover its investment, let alone make a profit.

Not all ministers appear to be on board with the government's confrontational stance. Some are clearly worried about the impact on export earnings and the foreign investment needed to push the economy beyond its current 5% gross domestic product growth rate.

But politics has become a big part of the equation, particularly with Widodo seeking a second term in 2019, just two years before Freeport's contract expires. He would not want to appear to be yielding to a foreign mining company already regarded as Public Enemy No 1.

Passed in the middle of a commodity boom, the 2009 Mining Law and subsequent regulations have ushered in a new wave of economic nationalism that has brought exploration to a standstill and has failed to spur a significant surge in mineral processing, which it was designed to do.

In a February 8 letter to Widodo, American Indonesian Chamber of Commerce president Wayne Forest called on the government to repeal or amend the controversial mining law – or otherwise do something to exempt Freeport from its provisions.

Some officials have suggested making a direct approach to billionaire investor Carl Icahn, Freeport's biggest single shareholder, to find a way out of the impasse. But as President Donald Trump's advisor on regulatory issues he is unlikely to lend a sympathetic ear.

Indeed, Adkerson is known to have the full support of Icahn and the rest of the shareholders. It is also understood that Freeport's predicament has come to the attention of senior officials in the new Trump administration.

Tempers were already fraying before Adkerson flew in from the firm's Phoenix headquarters, with newly appointed Freeport Indonesia chief executive Chappy Hakim resigning after poking an angry finger at a legislator during a parliamentary hearing.

Insiders say the retired air force chief's decision to step down was prompted more by him not wishing to be on the opposite side of the nationalist lobby, which suggests finding an Indonesian replacement might be difficult.

With the government now holding 9.4% of Freeport Indonesia's shares, divestment means first offering the remaining 42.6% to cash-strapped regional governments and then to Indonesia's state and private enterprises.

If none of those are able to raise the capital, then the shares could become part of an initial public offering on the Jakarta Stock Exchange that would presumably allow Freeport proxies to ensure the parent company retains a controlling interest – if it gets a contract extension.

That's not something Freeport feels obliged to do when its CoW remains supposedly inviolate. But even then the US$1.17 billion it attaches to the first 10.6% stake is three times higher than the government's assessment.

Officials insist Grasberg's reserves can't be included in any valuation because they don't own them. Lawyers say they can get around that by basing the valuation on projected earnings instead. The way things are going, however, it may not matter.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/twists-turns-tortuous-indonesian-mining-dispute/

Mimika regent wants Freeport to construct smelter in regency

Jakarta Post - March 1, 2017

Jakarta – Mimika Regent Eltinus Omaleng has urged PT Freeport Indonesia to develop a smelter in the Papuan regency rather than constructing the facility outside of Papua.

"The President and Pak Luhut had given their support to our wish for the smelter to be in Timika," said Eltinus, referring to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan as reported by tempo.co on Tuesday.

Previously, there was plans to develop the smelter outside of Papua because of power shortages in the province.

Speaking to the press after meeting with Luhut in the latter's office, Eltinus said his administration had prepared 300 hectare plots of land in Timika, the capital of Mimika regency, to show to Freeport the area was suitable for the smelter's location.

Eltinus said the construction of the smelter would create employment for Papuan people, many of whom had finished their university studies and needed jobs. "We have to create jobs in various ways," said Eltinus, adding that Freeport needed to do more to help the Papuan people.

On Jan. 11, Jokowi signed Government Regulation No. 1/2017, the fourth amendment to a previous 2010 regulation on the implementation of mineral and coal mining businesses.

Under the regulation, mining companies have to construct smelters as a precondition for them to be allowed to export mineral concentrates out of the country. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/01/mimika-regent-wants-freeport-to-construct-smelter-in-regency.html

Economy & investment

Indonesia's manufacturing industry contracts in February: PMI survey

Jakarta Globe - March 2, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia's manufacturing industry contracted in February amid a decline in new orders from abroad which led businesses to lower output, scale down production and cut back on employment, the Nikkei Indonesia Manufacturing purchasing managers' index survey revealed.

The PMI – a composite of manufacturing output, new orders, exports and employment measures to give a snapshot of manufacturing business conditions – decreased to 49.3 in February, down from 50.4 in January.

A reading above 50 indicates an increase in overall manufacturing activity and, inversely, a figure below 50 reflects decline.

"Despite the economic rebound seen at the start of 2017, the Indonesian manufacturing industry is back in the red," Pollyanna De Lima, an economist at IHS Markit, said in a note on Wednesday (01/03).

"The lack of domestic demand coupled with weakened global markets means that opportunities to capture new work were scarce," De Lima said. New export orders decreased for the fifth consecutive month in February.

The survey participants – which include over 300 industrial companies – said that they likely received less new export orders as a result of weakened purchasing power due to challenging global economic conditions.

Weak external demand also forced businesses to scale down production and lay off workers. Factory output, consequently, also fell in February.

The survey pointed out that input costs rose as a result of the rising cost of commodities due to the stronger United States dollar. Factory gate charges – the cost of manufacturing goods, including labor cost, raw material, energy and other indirect costs such as loan interest, maintenance cost and rent before any markup to give profit – rose for the sixth successive survey period.

Despite this, input buying levels remained unchanged in February. "Hopes of increased demand and expansion plans undermined manufacturers' confidence for the year ahead," the report showed.

IHS Market expects that economic growth will reach 5.1 percent this year, up from 5 percent last year, hoping that fiscal policies will stimulate the economy, support domestic demand and attract foreign investment.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/indonesias-manufacturing-industry-contracts-in-february-pmi-survey/

Footwear exports projected to grow up to 10 percent

Jakarta Post - March 1, 2017

Stefani Ribka, Jakarta – Indonesian Footwear Producers Association (Aprisindo) has projected footwear exports to grow 5-10 percent from US$4.8 billion last year, on the back of the United States' withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Jan. 23.

With the withdrawal, Vietnam, Indonesia's rival for footwear and a TPP member, will be subject to tariffs from the US, Aprisindo chairman Eddy Widjanarko said.

"It means Vietnam will be subject to import taxes of 7-9 percent from the US, just like the taxes for our products," he said over the phone on Wednesday.

The US is the number one importer of Indonesian footwear, followed by Belgium, Germany, China and Japan.

Eddy added that footwear exports from Indonesia had been on a positive trend in the past few years as most factories in Indonesia produced popular international brands and had benefited from the recent closures of shoe factories in China, which is focusing more on other products such as textiles and electronics.

Exports grew 6 percent to nearly US$4.8 billion, Aprisindo preliminary data shows. However, Eddy warns, shoe sales in the domestic market worth Rp 25 trillion (US$1.8 billion) could potentially see no growth amid an influx of shoes from China. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/01/footwear-exports-projected-to-grow-up-to-10-percent.html

Government launches free industrial skills training program nationwide

Jakarta Post - March 1, 2017

Stefani Ribka, Mojokerto, East Java – In a bid to improve manpower quality and help industries with skilled manpower, the Industry Ministry has added a new system to its training program, Balai Diklat Indonesia, in major cities across the archipelago, inviting people to develop and improve on their skills for free.

The new system, dubbed "3-in-1," includes training, certification and work placement in a three-month module. It targets to train 162,000 people and send them to various industries ranging from shoes, clothing, electronics, ships to heavy machinery for the period from 2017 to 2019.

The ministry targets to net 22,000 participants this year and the remaining 140,000 in the next two years. As of now, 300 people have applied to join in programs part of the system and some firms have stated their commitment to absorb the graduates.

The firms include publicly listed textile manufacturer PT Sri Isman Rejeki, electronics maker PT Yamaha Electronics Manufacturing, shoemaker PT Dwi Prima Sentosa and state shipyard PT PAL Indonesia.

The system is part of government efforts to achieve the goal of channeling 1 million workers to industries by 2019. Another project to reach that goal includes the "Link and Match" vocational program, which allows the government to supply graduates from vocational schools (SMK) to industries across the archipelago.

"Citizens, regardless of their age and hometown, can apply for this program for free," said Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto after the launch of vocational program "Link and Match" on Tuesday. (ags)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/01/govt-launches-free-industrial-skills-training-program-nationwide.html

February inflation tamed at 0.23% despite price hikes in volatile foods

Jakarta Post - March 1, 2017

Grace D. Amianti, Jakarta – Monthly inflation in February stood at 0.23 percent month-on-month, bringing annual inflation to 3.41 percent, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) reported on Wednesday. It was lower than the 0.97 percent seen a month earlier.

February inflation was mainly caused by administered prices, such as the 900 volt-ampere (VA) electricity rates, as well as volatile foods including green chilies, shallots and cooking oil. Meanwhile, deflation occurred in several food commodities such as red chilies, chicken meat, eggs and air transportation costs.

"The inflation in food was very manageable because rice prices declined, except in some food commodities that easily decay because of weather [high rainfall], such as green chilies and shallots," BPS head Suhariyanto said in a press conference on Wednesday.

The electricity price hike was triggered by the government's subsidy cut for 900 volt-ampere (VA) customers as part of fiscal adjustment. However, the effect on overall inflation was limited as the hike only hit electricity customers who use the post-paid system.

The BPS has predicted that there would be further inflationary pressures in March and May, when the government increases the electricity prices for the second and third phases.

"Based on our experience in January and February, there will certainly be effects in March and May [when electricity prices will be increased again]. However, I think the government has prepared for this," Suhariyanto said. (ags)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/01/february-inflation-tamed-at-0-23-despite-price-hikes-in-volatile-foods.html

Banking & finance

Indonesia scrambles in tax amnesty final countdown

Jakarta Post - March 6, 2017

Grace D. Amianti, Jakarta – With less than a month remaining before the end of the tax amnesty, the government may need to accept the reality that it will miss its target for the flagship program amid slowing public participation.

The tax amnesty, which will end on March 31, has entered its third and final stage with an ambitious goal of reaching the targeted Rp 165 trillion (US$12.38 billion) in penalty payments.

As of Sunday, the figure in penalty payments based on tax payment letters (SSP), however, stood at Rp 113 trillion, according to the Directorate General of Taxation's data, meaning that the authority must seek another Rp 52 trillion in the next 25 days before the program concludes.

Many have been skeptical about the government's ability to achieve the target in the absence of major efforts to lure more big taxpayers after most of them took part in the first phase of the program during the July-September period.

Faced with this hard task, the Finance Ministry's director general of taxation, Ken Dwijugiasteadi, said that entering March, all regional tax offices had carried out daily public campaigns to attract more public participation in the amnesty.

"Public campaigns are still running. We conduct the events based on [taxpayer] segments," he said last week, but declined to provide further details on whether the tax authority had set weekly targets for new participants.

Taxation Directorate General spokesperson Hestu Yoga Saksama, meanwhile, said 691,022 tax amnesty participants were recorded as of March 2. Yoga said that the authority had observed an "upward trend," claiming that it had seen more than 4,000 new taxpayers signing up for the program every day.

The tax authority insisted the figure would continue to increase until the end of program as there was a problem of a culture of procrastination among Indonesians. "In our culture, people tend to wait until the very last moment," Yoga said.

Through the introduction of the nine-month tax amnesty program, the government hoped to repatriate billions of dollars citizens have parked overseas. The penalty payments are also expected to help close the gap in state revenue amid declining energy prices and a sluggish global economy.

Speaking to thousands of business players in a "farewell to the tax amnesty" event last week, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo reiterated his call for businesspeople to take part in the program as this month would be their last chance to declare their assets and enjoy lower penalty rates of 5 percent.

Jokowi warned taxpayers who decided not to join the tax amnesty that the government was preparing law-enforcement measures to punish those owning undeclared assets, as mandated by the 2016 Tax Amnesty Law.

Article 18 of the Tax Amnesty Law stipulates that any undeclared asset owned between Jan. 1, 1985 and Dec. 31, 2015 will be considered as additional income and subject to a costly penalty, even three years after the program has concluded.

As the tax amnesty was not mandatory, the tax office's Yoga said, there was a large number of taxpayers who chose to revise their annual tax forms (SPT) rather than join the program.

However, he reminded them that there would be certain consequences if tax officials found contradictory data between their reported incomes and lists of assets during the law-enforcement period post-tax amnesty.

Separately, Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani urged the tax authorities to improve services as there remained some technical issues on the ground that could discourage taxpayers from joining the program.

Experts also pointed out that Indonesia's tax amnesty was deemed successful compared to similar programs in other countries, but it had failed to persuade taxpayers to repatriate substantial funds, one of the major goals stipulated in the Tax Amnesty Law.

Repatriated funds only amounted to Rp 145 trillion as of Sunday, far short of the targeted Rp 1 quadrillion. Meanwhile, declared assets reached Rp 4.43 quadrillion.

"Based on our study, there are taxpayers with declared assets worth at least Rp 700 trillion but who have declined to repatriate their assets," Center for Taxation Analysis (CITA) executive director Yustinus Prastowo said, attributing their reluctance to a number of major rallies late last year in Jakarta.

In mass rallies in November and December last year, hundreds of thousands of Muslim demonstrators thronged the streets of the capital calling for the prosecution of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy. Subsequently the political tension rose and is believed to have deterred investors. "The major rallies slowed the momentum [for asset repatriation]," Yustinus said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/06/indonesia-scrambles-in-tax-amnesty-final-countdown.html

Analysis & opinion

Indonesia's abuses in Papua prompt call for UN probe

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - March 8, 2017

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia Researcher – A coalition of Pacific island states is urging the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate human rights abuses in Indonesia's easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua (generally referred to as "Papua").

The request by Vanuatu's Justice Minister Ronald Warsal on behalf of Vanuatu, Tonga, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and Solomon Islands expresses concern about "widespread violations" of human rights in Papua including extrajudicial killings of Papuan activists. The Indonesian government has rejected these allegations and stated that it "always endeavoured to address any allegation of human rights violation" in Papua.

Pacific island states have good reason to be concerned about human rights abuses in Papua. Although the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has repeatedly promised a new approach to Papua, home to a low-level insurgency and a peaceful pro-independence movement, the reality has not matched the rhetoric.

In April 2016, the Indonesian government announced it would seek accountability for 11 high-priority human rights cases in Papua from past years. However, the government has not provided any details as to when, where, and how the cases would be addressed. Indonesian authorities continue to restrict access by foreign journalists and rights monitors to the region.

Throughout 2016, Indonesian police arrested more than 3,900 peaceful protesters in Papua during protests for causes including support for Papuan independence. Police released the detainees after several hours without charge, but their arrests underline the official lack of tolerance for peaceful expression of political aspirations in Papua.

As of September 2016, 37 Papuan activists were still imprisoned after being convicted of treason, many for nonviolent "crimes" such as public display of the pro-independence Morning Star flag.

If the Indonesian government really wants to improve human rights in Papua, it needs to stop reflexively denying the abuses that occur there and open up Papua to UN investigators. Until it does, those abuses – and international pressure on Indonesia to stop them – will only continue.

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/08/indonesias-abuses-papua-prompt-call-un-probe

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