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Indonesia News Digest 11 – March 16-23, 2017

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West Papua

Man fined $500 for West Papua protest at Indonesian consulate

Melbourne Age - March 23, 2017

Jane Lee – A man is refusing to pay a $500 fine for trespassing at an Indonesian consulate to protest against its presence in West Papua, saying Australia has sold him out.

Tyrone Gibb, 42, climbed the fence at the Indonesian consulate in Melbourne, and up to the building's first-floor balcony on January 6. He waved a separatist "Morning Star" flag for the Indonesian province of West Papua, which is banned in Indonesia.

Gibb pleaded guilty to trespassing on a protected property at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday.

He was arrested and charged after the Indonesian government criticised Australian authorities for not doing so, almost a month after the protest was filmed and distributed on Facebook.

Representing himself in court, he said that Indonesia was illegally occupying the province of West Papua. Gibb said if he held up the same flag in Indonesia, he would be sentenced to 15 years in prison, and insisted it was a silent protest. "Australia sold me out," he said.

Indonesia-Australian relations were tense at the time of the protest, with Indonesia that week temporarily suspending military ties with Australia over teaching materials at a Perth army base that related to West Papua's bid for independence.

Gibb cried as he said he had photos and medical documents that showed people had been tortured and killed. He suggested he had friends in West Papua who were at risk of serious violence.

"The Australian government will refuse to acknowledge this...I don't know how else (to express myself about it but) to protest this."

Magistrate Tony Burns convicted and fined him $500 for the crime. He threatened to hold him in contempt of court for swearing throughout the hearing.

Gibb apologised to the court but maintained he would not pay the fine, saying: "I don't need to pay shit, I'm not going to pay a f–-ing cent". Earlier, when he was told the maximum fine for the crime was $1800, Gibb offered in vain to pay $50 instead.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/man-fined-500-for-west-papua-protest-at-indonesian-consulate-20170323-gv4oca.html

Petition seeks NZ govt stand on abuses in West Papua

Radio New Zealand International - March 23, 2017

New Zealand's parliament has been presented with a public petition urging government action on the human rights situation in West Papua.

This petition focuses on continued abuses of the right to freedom of expression and assembly in Indonesian-ruled Papua, citing thousands of arrests of people taking part in peaceful demonstrations last year.

Earlier this month in Geneva, seven Pacific nations called on the UN Human Rights Council to request that the High Commissioner for Human Rights produce a consolidated report on "the actual situation in West Papua".

Ms Leadbeater said their petition simply asked government to recognise the abuses and to take a strong stand on them.

"And we've suggested specific things, like calling for the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression to go to West Papua, and we've suggested that they take this up at the Pacific Islands Forum, and get them to support this, and also at the United Nations."

"We obviously put this petition forward in the context of serious concerns about grave and ongoing rights abuses," Ms Leadbetter explained.

"But we have to go step by step. An important first step would be to make it possible for there to be much freer access to West Papua, and for the Indonesians to have to take note of the fact that the rest of the world won't accept that they just go on arresting people who do nothing more than peacefully protest."

The committee thanked Ms Leadbetter for her presentation, with several MPs expressing appreciation at gaining a slightly better understanding of the situation in Papua, which remained a blindspot for many New Zealanders.

Indonesia's Joko Widodo-led government has made tentative moves towards opening up West Papua to outside access by foreign journalists.

But extensive restrictions remain for media in Papua, as well as international humanitiarian groups and NGOs, which are almost totally barred. Jakarta is sensitive to what it sees as interference in its own domestic affairs.

Indonesia's Defence Minister recently urged Australia to tell Pacific Island governments not to talk about West Papua. However Ms Leadbetter said Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua should not override legitimate concerns about protecting an indigenous people systematically under threat.

She cited the research of Jim Elmslie, an Australian scholar who has studied the marginalisation of West Papuan people, amid demographic patterns in Indonesia's eastern region.

Dr Elmslie's research into the situation in Papua uncovered a marginalisation so serious that it meets the stringent criteria under the Genocide Convention. "That's a strong thing to say but his academic research backs that up carefully," Ms Leadbetter explained.

"So he says this is genocide and as far as he is concerned nothing trumps genocide, not even territorial integrity. And I think we have to make that loud and clear. It's all very well saying sovereignty and territorial integrity, but not in the face of genocide – that's absurd."

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/327281/petition-seeks-nz-govt-stand-on-abuses-in-west-papua

Papuan student faces trial in Yogyakarta over political activities

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2017

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – The Yogyakarta District Court on Tuesday began the trial of Obby Kogoya, 22, a Papuan student suspected of committing violence against police personnel before a rally on Jl. Kusumanegara in July last year.

Obby is the first ever Papuan student in Yogyakarta to face trial because of political activities.

Prosecutor Iswahyudi said in his indictment that Obby had fought against on-duty state officials, using violence or violent threats. The defendant had violated Article 213 (1), Article 212 and Article 351 (1) of the Criminal Code (KUHP), which carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison, he added.

"When the defendant was to be taken into custody, he brutally hit police officer Ronny Prasadana using his left hand, affecting his face, temples and eyes," Iswahyudi said during a hearing at the court on Tuesday. Another officer, Priambodo Rochman, also allegedly suffered injuries in the attack.

The incident occurred as Obby prepared to join Papuan students in a rally on July 15 to support the United Liberation Movement for West Papua becoming a permanent representative of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, which was meeting in Vanuatu.

The students had planned to march from the Kamasan I boarding house to Titik Nol in the center of Yogyakarta.

Obby raised his objections over the indictment. Presiding judge Wiwik Dwi Wisnuningdyah said the trial would continue next week, when the court is scheduled to hear from the defendant. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/21/papuan-student-faces-trial-in-yogyakarta-over-political-activities.html

Papuan students calls for closure of Freeport

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – Hundreds of people grouped under the United Students Front for Freeport Closure staged a rally in front of the Papua Legislative Council and called for the closure of United States-based giant gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia, which has operated in Papua for 50 years.

They said the mining company was the main cause of rampant human rights abuses in the region.

"The presence of Freeport in Papua does not bring prosperity but instead has caused sufferings, poverty and massive human rights violations on this land," said activist Pilipus Rubaha on Monday.

Protesters also distributed pamphlets detailing their demands, including the withdrawal of Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police personnel from Papua given rampant shooting incidents allegedly committed by security forces against civilians.

Among the incidents include the shooting of five students in Enarotali, Paniai, on April 8, 2014, and security operations conducted by police and military personnel in Kampung Utikini.

Papua Police Insp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw said the call for the closure was unilateral, with workers of the mining company expecting operations to continue.

He said the protesters' demand for the government to pull out police and military personnel from Papua was also baseless.

Military District Command (Kodam) XVII/Cendrawasih commander Maj. Gen. Hinsa Siburian said demanding the withdrawal of TNI and police was illogical.

"Why did they [protesters] demand the withdrawal of TNI/police from Papua? The presence of TNI and police in any part of Indonesia is based on the mandate of the Constitution." (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/21/papuan-students-calls-for-closure-of-freeport.html

Papua allowed to speak out

Asian Economist - March 21, 2017

Taylor McDonald – The unstable Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua are experiencing interesting times.

While human rights, media coverage and protests are muzzled as the provinces demand independence and closer ties with their Melanesian brothers throughout the South Pacific, Jakarta's dispute with mining giant Freeport has created a common enemy.

As the Jakarta government moves to extract a greater slice of Freeport's copper and gold profits from Papua, it has taken common cause with the indigenous community, which points to the environmental impact of the world's second-largest mine and its uneven distribution of wealth.

As is often the case where human rights are curtailed, protests are far more likely to be tolerated if they target foreigners rather than the central government.

But French journalists Jean Frank Pierre and Basille Marie Longhamp were jailed last week as the Indonesian authorities again demonstrated their contempt for media freedom in the Papuan provinces.

The police detained and deported the two reporters, who were filming a documentary for Indonesia's Garuda Airlines. They allegedly lacked the "necessary documents from related institutions".

The immigration department said the journalists had ordinary visas without the necessary documents. They were barred from returning to Indonesia for at least six months to deter others from following them.

Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo speaks about opening up Papua to the foreign media but NGOs and journalists have very little access to the troubled eastern provinces. In May 2015, the president said he would lift the 25-year unofficial ban on foreign media access to Papua, where permits were refused and journalists were left in limbo, always vulnerable to deportation.

Two international television reporters were detained in 2014 for tourist-visa violations and were sentenced to two and a half months in jail for reporting in Papua. In 2010, two journalists were deported after filming a students' human rights rally.

Human Rights Watch argues: "[Abuse] of media freedom for foreign journalists in Papua, along with visa denial and blacklisting of reporters who challenge the official chokehold on Papua access, has continued unabated. That's mainly because Jokowi has singularly failed to issue a formal written directive instructing Indonesia's bureaucracy and security forces to lift these restrictions. But it's also due to the deeply rooted perception among many government and security agency officials that foreign media access to Papua is a recipe for instability in a region already troubled by widespread public dissatisfaction with Jakarta, and a small but persistent armed independence movement."

International development agencies, UN representatives and foreign academics were also denied access, HRW reported.

"The government needs to understand that blocking media access on over-broad security grounds doesn't just deter foreign news reporting about Papua, it raises troubling questions about what the government might be hiding there," the rights NGO argued.

By contrast, in the Freeport dispute protesters have been allowed to gather to express their unhappiness with the vast mining operation in the province. Papuans across Indonesia held demonstrations on Monday over the contract dispute with the government which halted digging.

Protest coordinator Samsi Mahmud said hundreds of members of the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua and the Alliance of Papuan Students held protests in 16 cities, including at the Freeport offices in Jakarta and the US Consulate in Bali. "Our demand is only one, Freeport should be closed down and leave Papua," Mahmud said.

He described the signing of the first contract between Jakarta and Freeport in 1967 as an "illegal act" as regional conflict between Indonesia and the former Dutch colonial masters persisted. Mahmud said Freeport continued to illegally exploit mines and seize Papuan land.

Papuans consider Freeport-McMoRan to be closely linked to the military occupation of the mineral-rich region since 1967. "It has caused violence that resulted in misery and suffering to the people of Papua," Mahmud said.

The firm's subsidiary in the archipelago, PT Freeport Indonesia, halted operations at its Grasberg mine last month due to the contract dispute with Jakarta, which is seeking to convert the existing contract so Freeport hands over a 51-per-cent stake within a decade and gives the central government control of the base selling price for minerals.

Freeport Indonesia has rejected any contract changes and is talking about taking the case to international arbitration. And for now the authorities let Papuans protest, presumably as it sees demonstrations as a means to increase pressure on Freeport.

An estimated 400 student protesters in the Papuan capital Jayapura demanded Jakarta close Grasberg. The students carried banners reading "Close Freeport" and said Papuans had not benefited from 50 years of digging by the US-based firm.

"Close Freeport. Freeport has caused extensive damage to the environment in Papua," a student said. Residents said there had been a series of preceding protests.

Vinsen Oniyoma, a spokesman for the protesting Independent Traditional Community, said Papuans had never been involved with the mines and their interests were not considered by Freeport. The rights of the major tribal communities, Amungme and Kamoro, over land used by Freeport, had never been respected, he said.

Last week around 300 protesters joined a similar rally organised by the Association of Indonesian Miners and the Indonesian Islam Student Movement.

If Freeport wanted to continue to operate in the giant province, which accounts for about 25 per cent of Indonesia's landmass, it should build a smelter in Papua, pay more tax and comply with Jakarta's new share divestment regulation, spokesman Oktovianus Wally said.

After 50 years of brutal exploration by Jakarta, the Papuans are now being used as a bargaining chip in the dispute with Freeport. If it sheds some light on this intriguing corner of the archipelago, it might have been worthwhile.

Source: http://aseaneconomist.com/papua-allowed-speak/

Indonesia steamrolls media freedom in Papua, again

Human Rights Watch - March 20, 2017

Phelim Kine – French journalists Jean Frank Pierre and Basille Marie Longhamp learned firsthand last week the Indonesian authorities' contempt for media freedom in its "Forbidden Island" provinces of Papua and West Papua (commonly referred to as "Papua").

Indonesian police detained and then deported the two reporters, who were filming a documentary for Indonesia's Garuda Airlines, for lacking "necessary documents from related institutions," without elaborating. The authorities have barred the two journalists from returning to Indonesia for at least six months to ensure they get the message.

The message is that there's a glaring gap between the rhetoric of Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's announced opening of Papua to foreign media, and the grim reality that journalists are still blocked from reporting there. In May 2015, President Jokowi said he would be lifting of the 25-year de facto ban on foreign media access to Papua. That policy change was supposed to end the farce of placing foreign journalists in legal limbo by denying or failing to approve their reporting applications for Papua.

But abuses of media freedom for foreign journalists in Papua, along with visa denial and blacklisting of reporters who challenge the official chokehold on Papua access, has continued unabated. That's mainly because Jokowi has singularly failed to issue a formal written directive instructing Indonesia's bureaucracy and security forces to lift these restrictions. But it's also due to the deeply rooted perception among many government and security agency officials that foreign media access to Papua is a recipe for instability in a region already troubled by widespread public dissatisfaction with Jakarta, and a small but persistent armed independence movement.

That reflexive official paranoia extends beyond journalists and also impedes access to Papua for international development agencies, United Nations officials and foreign academics that Indonesian authorities perceive as hostile.

The government needs to understand that blocking media access on overbroad security grounds doesn't just deter foreign news reporting about Papua, it raises troubling questions about what the government might be hiding there. It's time for Jokowi to issue his long-delayed written directive lifting restrictions on foreign media access to Papua, and appropriately punish government officials who refuse to comply.

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

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/20/indonesia-steamrolls-media-freedom-papua-again

Papuan students in Bali protest against Freeport

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Jakarta – Dozens of students grouped under the Papuan Students Alliance (AMP) in Bali protested on Monday in front of the United States Consulate General on Jl. Hayam Wuruk, Denpasar.

They expressed their rejection of the presence of gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia in Papua. Before the protests, they marched from the east parking area of Renon.

The students carried handouts that read "Freeport has to rehabilitate environmental damage", "Freeport came, human nature in Papua lost", "let us make our own choices".

The leader of the protest, Gidion Logo, said in 51 years, Freeport had not given any real benefit to the community in Papua.

AMP coordinator Nipson Murib said the protest only aimed to fight for the fate of the people and the land of Papua.

"When Freeport came, they destroyed our natural resources. We lived off the land through farming, not gold mining," Murib said as quoted by kompas.com

He said local communities faced intimidation in Papua. The rally ran peacefully under police escort. (dis/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/papuan-students-in-bali-protest-against-freeport.html

UN Special Rapporteur on health to visit Papua

Radio New Zealand International - March 20, 2017

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health will visit Papua as part of a two-week trip to Indonesia.

Dainius Puras is to visit Papua's provincial capital Jayapura from March the 31st to April the 1st.

The UN Special Rapporteur will be assessing how Indonesia implements the right to health, including the availability and quality of health services.

He will also address specific issues such as HIV/AIDS and maternal and children's health, and look at key population groups such as indigenous peoples.

The visit will assess factors affecting the right to health including poverty, discrimination and social exclusion.

Health outcomes in Papua are typically Indonesia's worst, with its HIV/AIDs rate 20 times the national average.

The UN Special Rapporteur will present his preliminary findings on April the 3rd and a full report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/327047/un-special-rapporteur-on-health-to-visit-papua

First Papuan appointed police chief outside region

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – Papuans have praised National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian for appointing a native to the country's eastern-most region as a police chief in Java.

Tito has appointed Adj. Sr. Comr. Semmy Ronny Thabaa, former Nabire Police chief in Papua, as the new chief of Tegal Police in Central Java.

"This is the first such appointment. We give our highest appreciation to General Tito," chairman of Meepago customs council John NR Gobay, who is also a secretary of the Papuan Customary Council, told The Jakarta Post.

The assignment given to Semmy by Gen. Tito – who was once a Papua Police chief, as he saw it, shows a changing perspective on the way Javanese people see Papuans, who are often considered behind in education and development.

He said now people from other parts of Indonesia could learn that Papuans were well-educated, had good achievements and could perform well in the tasks entrusted to them.

Semmy is a 1995 graduate of the Police Academy. Before he was assigned in Tegal, he was a police chief in Paniai, Jayawijaya and Nabire, all in Papua.

John said Semmy was assertive but a populist, proactive in handling cases and had good communication skills with all walks of life, including those holding different opinions.

Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw also appreciated the police chief's move, saying that he hoped Semmy could become a role model for young Papuan police officers. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/first-papuan-appointed-police-chief-outside-region.html

Papuans urge Indonesia to shut down Freeport mine

Anadolu Agency - March 20, 2017

Ainur Rohmah, Tuban, Indonesia – Papuans across Indonesia held demonstrations Monday against an American mining giant involved in a contract dispute with the government that has halted operations at the world's second biggest copper mine.

Protest coordinator Samsi Mahmud said hundreds of members of the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua and the Alliance of Papuan Students held protests in 16 cities, including in front of the Freeport office in Jakarta and the United States consulate in Bali.

"Our demand is only one, Freeport should be closed down and leave Papua," Mahmud said in a statement.

He described the signing of the first contract between the government and Freeport in 1967 as an "illegal act" as the eastern Papua region had been an area of conflict between Indonesia and the Netherlands.

Mahmud, a Front member, accused Freeport of continuing to illegally exploit mines and seizing people's lands.

Locals consider Freeport-McMoRan to be closely linked to the military presence and its operations in the mineral-rich territory since 1967. "It has caused violence that resulted in misery and suffering to the people of Papua," Mahmud said Monday.

The company's local subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia halted operations at its Grasberg mine last month due to a contract dispute in which the government is seeking to convert the contract of work with Freeport into an export permit extension.

The new offer also involves Freeport divesting a 51-percent stake within a decade of production and the government's role in determining base selling prices for minerals.

Freeport Indonesia has rejected the idea of contract conversion and said it may take the case to international arbitration.

Papua's Energy and Mineral Resources Office recorded that Freeport has laid off more than 2,000 employees – consisting of foreigners and locals – who work for its contractor since February.

"Thousands of contract workers have been laid off, they no longer have an income. This could possibly lead to social problems," the office's chief, Bangun Manurung, was quoted as saying by metrotvnews.com.

Source: http://aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/papuans-urge-indonesia-to-shut-down-freeport-mine/775743

Two French journalists deported from Papua over alleged immigration violations

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – The Tembagapura Immigration Office has banned two French journalists, Jean Frank Pierre, 45, and Basille Marie Longhamp, 42, from entering Indonesia for the next six months for allegedly violating the 2011 Immigration Law.

"The activities of these two journalists were basically good. However, there was a lack of coordination with related institutions," said Tembagapura Immigration Office head Samuel Enock in Timika, Papua, on Friday.

He further explained that the two French journalists were sponsored by Garuda to carry out journalistic investigation in Indonesia.

"However, they started their work before obtaining the necessary documents, which were still being processed. As a consequence, they are banned from entering Indonesia for the next six months," Samuel said.

Pierre and Longhamp were deported from Timika to France via Jakarta on a Garuda flight on Friday. Samuel said the two journalists had not yet obtained journalist visas from the Indonesian Embassy in Paris before they started working.

"They took pictures while on a tourist visa. They also had not yet obtained a reporting permit, although both of them already had a permit from the Tourism Ministry and their activities were sponsored by Garuda," said Samuel. They were charged with violating Article 75 (1) of the 2011 Immigration Law.

The French journalists were taken into custody when they were about to take pictures of Cartenz areas using a helicopter rented from Happi Live Aviation. They also planned to take pictures in Asmat, Wamena, and Raja Ampat and Sorong in West Papua.

In 2014, Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29, were deported for carrying out journalistic activities during a tourist visit. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/19/two-french-journalists-deported-from-papua-over-alleged-immigration-violations.html

Indonesia deports 2 French journalists from Papua province

The Globe & Mail - March 19, 2017

Jakarta, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesia has deported two French journalists for committing visa violations while shooting a documentary film in Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua, an official said Sunday.

The journalists, Jean Frank Pierre and Basille Marie Longhamp, were sent home Friday through Mozes Kilangin airport in Timika, said immigration office spokesman Agung Sampurno.

The pair were working on "The Explorers," a project about nature, culture and other attractions at several locations in the Indonesian province on the western part of New Guinea.

Papua province, a former Dutch colony, is known for biodiversity and large mining reserves as well as a simmering separatist movement among its indigenous people, and foreign journalists face restrictions while working there.

Sampurno said the two French journalists had ordinary visas without necessary documents from related institutions.

He quoted local immigration chief Jesaya Samuel Enock as saying the journalists' activities were appropriate, as they were sponsored by the national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, but they had started working last week while their necessary documents were still being processed. Enock said they are being banned from entering Indonesia for next six months.

Local media reported Pierre and Longhamp were taken into custody when they were about to take pictures of Cartenz using a rented helicopter. They also planned to take pictures at locations in the neighbouring province of West Papua.

Fabio Maria Lopes Costa of the Alliance of Independence Journalists denounced their deportations as contradicting the policy of President Joko Widodo to allow foreign journalists to cover the province.

Pierre and Longhamp are the third group of French journalists to be deported or punished for illegal coverage in Papua since 2010.

Two television journalists were detained in 2014 for tourist visa violations and were sentenced to two and a half months in jail for illegal reporting in the Papua. In 2010, two journalists were detained and then deported after filming a human rights rally by some 100 students.

Foreign journalists were then barred from reporting in Papua unless they receive a government permit.

[This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.]

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/feeds/canadian-press/world/indonesia-deports-2-french-journalists-from-papua-province/article34342714/

Military ties

Indonesia, Australia harbor interests in security, stability in Indo-Pacific

Antara News - March 19, 2017

Jakarta – Australian Minister for Defense Marise Payne met his Indonesian counterpart Ryamizard Ryacudu in Sydney on Friday for the annual Indonesia-Australia Defense Ministers meeting.

Minister Payne affirmed that Australia and Indonesia have enjoyed a long-standing and productive bilateral defense relationship that supports mutual interests in ensuring security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, according to a statement of the Australian Department of Defense published on its website, Saturday.

The ministers discussed the regional security dynamics and the importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) security frameworks to build regional trust, transparency, and cooperation. The ministers also reinforced their support for the recently signed Joint Declaration on Maritime Cooperation.

Minister Payne noted that Australia and Indonesia were co-chairs of the next cycle of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus Experts Working Group on peacekeeping operations.

"This represents a great opportunity to strengthen regional peacekeeping efforts and build upon the existing bilateral peacekeeping cooperation," he said.

During the bilateral meeting, the ministers discussed strengthening cooperation in the fields of defense, science, and technology.

"Cooperation in science and technology has great potential to build the depth and resilience of our bilateral relationship, and we agreed to greater cooperation and engagement," Minister Payne remarked.

The Australian Department of Defense is looking forward to welcoming Indonesias Head of Defense Ministry Research and Development Agency Dr Anne Kusmayati in Australia in 2017.

Minister Payne invited Minister Ryacudu to Darwin in the near future to view the US Force Posture Initiatives. "The Force Posture Initiatives provide new opportunities for regional defense engagement, including with Indonesia, in order to build mutual trust and contribute to regional peace and security," she added.(*)

Source: http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/110002/indonesia-australia-harbor-interests-in-security-stability-in-indo-pacific-region

TNI intensifies preparation ahead of joint exercise with India

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2017

Bagus Saragih, Jakarta – As many as 45 Indonesian Army personnel are set to participate in a joint military exercise with the Indian Army in Nhan Camp, India, from March 20 to April 2.

The Indonesian delegation will consist of 29 personnel from the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad), 13 from the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) and three from the Army's Aviation Center (Penerbad).

Kostrad's Para Raider 501 Infantry Battalion personnel lie on the ground during a field training in Cilodong, West Java, on Friday.(Courtesy of Kostrad/File)

"The joint exercise is part of the good bilateral relations between Indonesia and India in the military sector. We also aim to improve cooperation between the Indonesian Army and the Indian Army," Kostrad spokesman Lt. Col. Agus Bhakti said on Friday, as quoted in a statement.

Personnel from Kostrad's Para Raider 501 Infantry Battalion, who will represent the force, had been intensifying training in Cilodong, West Java, ahead of their departure to India, he added.

The training comprised exercises like short-range battle, demolition, shooting, survival as well as fast roping and rappelling. The so-called Garuda-Shakti exercise is held annually. Last year, it was conducted in Magelang, Central Java.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/17/tni-intensifies-preparation-ahead-of-joint-exercise-with-india.html

Australia, RI strengthen renewed defense ties

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2017

Liza Yosephine, Jakarta – Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryucudu met with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne in Sydney on Thursday, taking further steps forward since mending ties over a military spat that prompted the suspension of military cooperation.

The two met during the annual Defense Ministers' Meeting. Ryamizard conveyed his appreciation for Australia's efforts to resolve an incident that involved one of its military language facilities in November that led to postponed cooperation between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the Australian Defense Force for two months.

He expressed "happiness over the resumption of military cooperation between the two countries," according to a Defense Ministry statement.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo agreed with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to fully restore defense cooperation, training exchange and activities during a state visit to Australia in February.

Putting behind past troubles, Ryamizard and Payne discussed, among other things, strengthening defense cooperation in the field of science and technology. Ryamizard particularly emphasized Indonesia's efforts to develop its defense cybersecurity.

"Science and technology cooperation has great potential to build the depth and resilience of our bilateral relationship and we agreed to greater cooperation and engagement," Payne said in a statement.

The two countries also are set to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation in the areas of maritime and defense industries.

In the regional context, Ryamizard conveyed strengthening relations between Indonesia and Fiji, while also expressing hope that Australia could push countries in the South Pacific to support Indonesia's sovereignty.

Payne gave a nod to the "longstanding and productive bilateral defense relationship" between the two countries that are carried out in support of mutual interests in security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

The neighboring countries are set to co-chair the next cycle of the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM+) Experts' Working Group on peacekeeping operations later this year.

"This represents a great opportunity to strengthen regional peacekeeping efforts and build upon existing bilateral peacekeeping cooperation," Payne said.

The ministers noted the importance of ASEAN security frameworks to build regional trust, transparency and cooperation while discussing regional security dynamics.

Payne also invited Ryamizard to Darwin in the near future to view the United States Force Posture Initiatives, a cooperation between the US and Australia that came into force in 2015.

"The Force Posture Initiatives provide new opportunities for regional defense engagement, including with Indonesia, to build mutual trust and contribute to regional peace and security," she said.

The initiatives were part of US president Barack Obama's "pivot to Asia" policy to counter China, a policy likely to be abandoned by his successor President Donald Trump.

Separately, Institute for Defense and Security Studies (IDSS) executive director Mufti Makarim said new plans discussed between Indonesia and Australia on both bilateral and regional levels would only complement the already established ties between the two countries, where cooperation such as information-sharing has long been intensive since the 2002 Bali bombings.

It would be additional in nature, Mufti said, to add new plans associated with advanced developments on the field.

"In the context of the defense industry, of course it would advance toward information exchange on weaponry technology development, since as we know, Australia is not a country that is a major producer of weapons, so it would be further opportunity for Indonesia to introduce locally made products," Mufti told The Jakarta Post over the phone.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/17/australia-ri-strengthen-renewed-defense-ties.html

1965 anti-communist purge

Komnas HAM, Army retirees discuss 1965 reconciliation

Jakarta Post - March 18, 2017

Jakarta – National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioners visited the Association of Army Retirees (PPAD) office on Friday to ask for the opinions of the association's members on the best solutions for reconciliation with 1965 tragedy victims.

Komnas HAM commissioner, Nur Kholis, said the meeting, which was initiated by the commission, was conducted as part of efforts to solve past abuses. He said the PPAD was chosen as a dialogue partner because many of its members had witnessed the 1965 tragedy.

"Our discussion was focused on how to solve gross human rights violations, especially the 1965 tragedy," Nur Kholis said. He added that Komnas HAM would also ask for opinions on the same issue from several other organizations, including the Veterans Association (Pepabri).

The commissioner said the PPAD had suggested that reconciliation be reached through a non-judicial process.

"It can be achieved through a non-judicial process but it will take a long time. To make that happen, there should be a national consensus agreed on by both 1965 victims and the Indonesian Military," he said.

PPAD spokesperson, retired Army general Kiki Syahnakri, said the best solution for the reconciliation was through natural reconciliation process. He pointed to the removal of ex political detainee marks on identity cards (KTP) as an example of what he called natural reconciliation.

"[...] If we take a judicial approach in handling the case, it will open up an old wound that could lead to bloodshed," he said. (rdi/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/18/komnas-ham-army-retirees-discuss-1965-reconciliation.html

Women's rights & gender

Indonesia needs more women in politics, UNDP survey suggests

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Greater participation of women in Indonesian politics, in terms of their presence on legislative bodies, is key to the country's efforts to close the gender inequality gap, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has said in its latest Human Development Index (HDI) report.

According to the 2016 report, which uses data from 2015, the participation of Indonesian women in legislative bodies remains low at 17.1 percent, slightly more than half of the 30 percent quota for women in legislative seats. In the Philippines, the percentage of women participating in the country's parliament stands at 27.1 percent.

"We need to discuss more on how to take affirmative action in this matter [...] If we can overcome gender inequality, our HDI position will go higher," UNDP Indonesia Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adviser Ansye Sopacua said on Wednesday.

The 2016 report shows that the HDI for Indonesian women stood at 0.660 while the index for men stood at 0.712. In terms of the gender development index (GDI), Indonesia stood at 0.926, lagging behind the Philippines at 1.001.

Ansye highlighted that the implementation of existing public policies advocating gender inequality should be improved to realize Indonesia's commitment to SDG 5 on gender equality and women's empowerment.

The government should also create more public policies that could improve women's chances to participate in business and empower marginal people, as well as social assistance to provide employment in order to build resilience in human development, she added. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/indonesia-needs-more-women-in-politics-undp-survey-suggests.html

Indonesia still struggles to close gender equality gap: UNDP

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – The latest Human Development Index (HDI) report released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) says Indonesia is still struggling to close its gender equality gap.

The 2016 report, which uses data from 2015, shows the HDI of Indonesia women is 0.660, lower than the index for Indonesian men, which is 0.712. In terms of the gender development index (GDI), Indonesia is at 0.926, coming behind the Philippines, which is at 1.001.

UNDP Indonesia country director Christophe Bahuet said multiple reasons had led to gender inequality in many countries. Basically, the inequality was linked to social norms, differences of education levels, lack of access to general services and to financial services and cultural factors.

"I think the economic structure and political structure [in Indonesia] are still dominated by men. To change them has to do with changing the perception. If gender equity is achieved, the HDI of the whole nation will go up," Bahuen said after the report was released on Wednesday.

The UNDP data shows a wide gap between Indonesian women and men in terms of gross national income per capita, which is 6.668 and 13.391 respectively. Only 50.9 percent of women participate in the labor force, compared to 83.9 percent of men.

Still, Bahuet noted that Indonesia's progress in terms of policies to push for women's empowerment had been good, including those that facilitated better access for women to credit, which could encourage women to run businesses, generate income and empower themselves in society. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/indonesia-still-struggles-to-close-gender-equality-gap-undp.html

Labour & migrant workers

New passport rule stigmatizes, burdens migrant workers: NGO

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Jakarta – Migrant Care executive director Wahyu Susilo said a new regulation that requires aspiring Indonesian migrant workers to have Rp 25 million on a bank account when applying for a passport was a policy based on prejudice and suspicion.

On Friday, Directorate General of Immigration spokesperson Agung Sampurno said the Immigration Office had issued a circular on March 6 that stipulated a bank balance requirement for passport applicants. However, the new regulation would be imposed only on non-registered migrant workers who did not meet other requirements.

Agung further explained that the policy was aimed at curbing the growing number of non-procedural workers going to Malaysia and Middle Eastern countries.

"It will potentially increase human rights violations and abuse of authority and power as well as bribery and corruption in the management of passports," Wahyu said in a release issued Sunday.

He said that if the circular were intended to prevent human trafficking, it would be ineffective, because it would raise the risk of debt bondage against the workers, which would result in more human trafficking.

He added that while the circular did not specifically mention an obligatory bank balance of Rp 25 million, officials had confirmed that figure.

Wahyu called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to call the Director General of Immigration to account for discriminatory effects of the new regulation, which was interpreted by officials as a legitimate tool to demand proof of Rp 25 million in savings. (dis/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/new-passport-rule-stigmatizes-burdens-migrant-workers-ngo.html

Government cancels minimum balance for passport requirement

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Jakarta – The Directorate General of Immigration at the Law and the Human Rights Ministry on Monday cancelled a requirement for aspiring Indonesian migrant workers to have Rp 25 million (US$1,877) in a bank account when applying for a passport.

Directorate General of Immigration spokesperson Agung Sampurno said that his office received a lot of objections about the regulation.

"The reason for eliminating the requirement was due to the analysis of our monitoring through media and our analysis was that this policy was not accepted very well," Agung as quoted by kompas.com.

"We think that we need to listen to the aspirations of the people. If this burdens the people, then the policy should be adjusted," Agung said.

However, Agung said that the process for issuing passports will still be tightened to prevent illegal migrant workers.

The applicants are still required to attach general requirements, such as ID cards, family cards and birth certificates, and those who get passports for work are also required to attach recommendation letters issued by regional offices of the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry.

Another requirement is a medical check-up in a health facility chosen by the Health Ministry. The government would also be more critical during interviews of the applicants.

Agung said that the applicants usually claimed that they are going to go abroad for a tour, a family visit, a minor haj, a non-quota haj, or an internship, while they were actually planning to work. (dis/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/government-cancels-minimum-balance-for-passport-requirement.html

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

PAN endorses Anies' gubernatorial bid

Jakarta Post - March 23, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – After having its candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono eliminated in the first round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, The National Mandate Party (PAN) has officially shifted its support to Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno.

PAN chairman Zulkifli Hasan said Wednesday that he considered both Anies and Sandiaga to the capacity to lead the city as "proven by their satisfying track records". He added that PAN members were ready to join the campaign trail to boost Anies' electability.

"We will also deploy two people to each polling station on election day for security reasons," Zulkifli said during a declaration of support for the pair.

He further said there were no political transactions behind the support, emphasizing that PAN did not ask for any money from Anies or Sandiaga. "This support is for Jakarta residents, we hope Anies and Sandiaga can unite us all," he continued.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/23/pan-endorses-anies-gubernatorial-bid.html

Ahok, Anies out to charm female voters

Jakarta Post - March 23, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – Three weeks away from election day, Jakarta gubernatorial candidates Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Anies Baswedan are pulling out all the stops to win the hearts of the province's female voters, who make up almost half of the voter list.

On Wednesday, the two organized discussions and events in separate locations in Menteng and at the House of Representatives building, both in Central Jakarta, to address issues relevant to women.

During the first round, the General Elections Commission recorded that the percentage of female voters in Jakarta was slightly higher than that of men. In total, 78.5 percent of women on the voter list cast their vote, meanwhile only 74.2 percent men on the list cast their vote.

According to the KPU, Jakarta had 7,108,589 registered voters on polling day on Feb. 15. A recently released second-round voter list found that 3,634,585 voters are male and 3,630,164 are female.

As Ahok began to hide from the media spotlight, six days ago the governor's wife Veronica Tan introduced herself on social media by creating an Instagram account.

"I imagine that women in Jakarta could have particular skills and be able to live independently," Veronica said in the first video she posted on Instagram on March 17.

In addition to making her presence in social media felt, Veronica has also made numerous blusukan (impromptu visits) to various neighborhoods, to meet local residents.

Over the years, Veronica has been associated with art and community development in Jakarta through her leadership of the Council for National Handicrafts Indonesia (Dekransda) and unlike her husband, she has been seen as a media-shy public figure.

Iwet Ramadhan, a close aide of Veronica and a member of Ahok's campaign team, however, said that Veronica's recent blusukan were aimed to supervise the progress of her programs when she was Dekrasnada head, a position long associated with governors' wives, adding that her social media account was set up to raise public awareness on various programs she had implemented.

"Bu Veronica is a straightforward and strict person who does not promise anything before knowing that she can deliver it," Iwet said. "If her blusukan and social media presence attract votes, it's only a bonus."

Both Ahok and Anies also expressed their gratitude to women through their Instagram accounts during Women's day on March 8. While Anies expressed his deep respect for women in general as mother figures, Ahok dedicated his post to Veronica who he said had worked very hard not only for his family, but all women in Jakarta.

Unlike Veronica who has largely opted for social media interaction, Anies' wife Fery Farhati Ganis has attended various Quran recital events at which middleaged women make up the majority of participants. During her speeches, Fery has tried to relate to voters by asking about current commodity prices and explaining how her husband could turn things around if he is elected.

During his campaign, Anies has promised several programs to support women in Jakarta, including a "labor emergency unit" at each community health center (Puskesmas), saying that maternal deaths remain a problem due to a lack of access to quality health care in the capital.

The former culture and education minister and his running mate Sandiaga Uno are also famous for their pledge of a entrepreneurship center in every district, popularly known as the OK OCE program, which they claim will improve people's welfare through providing loans to housewives.

"OK OCE could really help housewives to start businesses in their own houses and support their families," Sandiaga said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/23/ahok-anies-out-to-charm-female-voters.html

Expert witness deplores Indonesian Ulema Council edict against Ahok

Jakarta Globe - March 22, 2017

Jakarta – Ahmad Ishomuddin, a renowned cleric from Nadhlatul Ulama – Indonesia's largest Islamic organization – has criticized in court an edict issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council in October last year that accused Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama of insulting the Koran and ulemas during a speech on Pramuka Island in the capital's Thousand Islands district.

Speaking as an expert witness at Ahok's blasphemy trial on Tuesday (21/03), Ahmad criticized MUI's stance on the blasphemy allegations against the Jakarta governor.

"I agree with the need to maintain [religious] harmony. However, I disagree with [MUI's] decision [to issue an edict]," Ahmad said during the trial at a makeshift courtroom in the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters in Ragunan, South Jakarta.

"I was informed that MUI did no investigation [before issuing the edict]. MUI did not interview residents on Pramuka Island and never asked for any statement from Ahok," he said.

"Awliya": leader or loyal friend?

Ahmad also offered his interpretation of the word "awliya" in verse 51 of the Koran's Al Maida chapter, which Ahok referred to in his Pramuka Island speech.

Ahok had criticized his political opponents who he said had been quoting the Koranic verse to persuade people not to vote for him. The verse is often interpreted as saying that Muslims should not choose a Jew or a Christian as their leader ("awliya").

But, according to Ahmad, "'Awliya' actually means a loyal friend. Some may [interpret it to mean 'leader'], but according to my study of over 30 commentaries on the Koran, no one had ever interpreted the word to mean 'leader.'"

People should also consider the extra-textual context of Al Maida 51, according to Ahmad, who said the verse spoke about treason during time of war. But during the Jakarta election, it has often been referred to out of that context.

Ahmad added that before accusing Ahok of blasphemy, his accusers should have clarified his intention in referring to the Koranic verse. "Islam does not allow us to judge before making clarification. This also applies to non-Muslims," he said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/expert-witness-deplores-indonesian-ulema-council-edict-ahok/

Ahok has two hearings left to prove innocence

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has two court hearings left to prove he is not guilty of blasphemy as the judges have said they will speed up the trial in the hope of making a ruling no later than May.

In Tuesday's hearing, presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said according to a Supreme Court circular, the trial should last no more than five months. Ahok's trial has lasted for three months so far.

The judge offered lawyers in the case two options: either to present expert witnesses in two hearings that would last until midnight or twice a week in four hearings. One of Ahok's lawyers, I Wayan Sidarta, said the first option would be preferable. "We don't mind if hearings last until 12 a.m. We can't have the trial twice a week because it is not easy for us to find experts who are available," Wayan said.

He added that the lawyers would present at least six experts, involving three experts who were questioned during the police investigation and additional experts in the next hearing on March 29.

Meanwhile, the court has scheduled Ahok to present his defend plea on April 4. On April 11, the prosecutors will present their legal demand for Ahok.

On April 17, or two days before the Jakarta gubernatorial election, lawyers will present their defense against the prosecutors' demand while on April 25 prosecutors will respond to that defense.

On May 2, Ahok's lawyers will make their final defense plea. The judges are expected to hand down a ruling on May 9. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/ahok-has-two-hearings-left-to-prove-innocence.html

Police warn citizens not to participate in 'Al-Maidah Tour'

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police have warned people not to take part in the so-called Al-Maidah Tour, which is being facilitated through an Android application that encourages Indonesians to come to Jakarta to guard polling stations during the April 19 Jakarta gubernatorial election runoff.

The Tamasya Almaidah app is named after a verse in the Quran that is often used by certain Muslim conservative political groups to urge Muslims to only vote for political candidates of the same faith as themselves.

Jakarta Police deputy police Brig. Gen. Suntana said on Tuesday that guarding voting stations was part of the police's job. "We have been given the authority of preventing foul play during the runoff as well as guarding polling stations from potential threats."

However, the police say they will allow citizens to participate in safeguarding the election as long as they have no intention of intimidating voters from choosing a certain candidate.

"But if they want to provoke voters in any way, we will restrict them," Suntana said. He also said that the police would investigate the origin of the movement.

At the time of writing, the app was still available for download despite having been protested and reported by Android users. The app has received mostly five-star ratings.

Whether the app stays online or not, Jakartans set to witness a divisive political contest between incumbent candidate Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity, and his rival Anies Baswedan, who is supported by some conservative and radical Muslim groups, in the lead up to the runoff. (dea)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/21/police-warn-citizens-not-to-participate-in-al-maidah-tour.html

Photos of mosques with peaceful message go viral

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2017

Jakarta – Pictures of a banner conveying a peaceful message at the Al-Iman mosque in Ciracas, East Jakarta, have gone viral in social media amid ongoing controversy over provocative banners displayed at other mosques across the city.

The banner that reads, "We are ready to take care of the body of every deceased Muslim without exception," continues to gain support from netizens.

Photos of the banner were uploaded to a Facebook account under the name of Meme Comic Indonesia. As of Monday, the photos have received support from more than 30,000 netizens, who clicked the "like" button under the photos, wartakota.tribunnews.com reported on Monday.

Separately, a Twitter user with the handle @haiprada uploaded a photo of a whiteboard with a similar message at the Darul Husna mosque in Cijantung, East Jakarta. It states, "The congregation of this mosque is ready to perform the last rite for every deceased Muslim."

Many netizens responded positively to the post. User @ApManan, for example, said, "It is so peaceful to read the message. I hope many more mosques in the city spread such peaceful messages." (vny/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/21/photos-of-mosques-with-peaceful-message-go-viral.html

Ahok's speech not blasphemous: Expert

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – A language expert has said that Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's speech during his working visit in Thousand Islands regency last September, in which he referred to a Quranic verse, was not blasphemous.

Rahayu Surtiarti, a language expert from the University of Indonesia (UI), said she had watched the complete version of Ahok's Sep. 27 speech, which lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes.

She said no part of the speech indicated that Ahok was campaigning or reflected an intention to insult Islam, as claimed by the prosecutors.

"There was no sense that he was campaigning in his speech. He 'campaigned' about the fish cultivation program. He even convinced the residents that the program would continue even if they had a different governor," Rahayu told the judges.

She went on to explain that Ahok had not stated that the Quranic verse he had referred to was a lie, but instead he had said that people had used that verse to lie to people.

In part of his speech Ahok said, "In your inner hearts, ladies and gentlemen, you may feel you cannot vote for me, because [you have been] lied to by the use of Surah al-Maidah, Verse 51. [...] So, if you cannot vote for me because you are afraid of being condemned to hell, you do not need to feel uneasy, because you are being fooled. It is alright."

By stating the word "use", Rahayu said, Ahok meant the verse had been used by some people to lie. "The Quran can't lie, but people can use anything to lie," she said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/21/ahoks-speech-not-blasphemous-expert.html

Judges want to speed up Ahok's trial

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The North Jakarta District Court said on Tuesday that it expected to speed up Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial in hopes of handing down a ruling no later than May.

"Based on a Supreme Court circular, the trial should last no more than five months. We hope to make a decision before Ramadhan," presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said, referring to the Muslim fasting month, which will fall in late May.

Ahok's blasphemy trial started on Dec. 13. Tuesday marked the 15th hearing of the trial, during which the court was scheduled to listen testimony from experts presented by the governor.

Dwiarso said the trial, which is being held in the auditorium of the Agriculture Ministry in Ragunan, South Jakarta, had disrupted not only the activities of ministry employees who worked at the building but also road users who faced severe traffic jams while a hearing was conducted.

Considering those reasons, the judges requested that the lawyers only summons experts whose testimony would be significant to defend Ahok.

One of Ahok's lawyers told the judges that they would summons three experts who had been questioned during police investigation and 15 additional experts. Therefore, four hearings were needed to present the experts, the lawyer said.

"We don't want to eliminate your right [to defend Ahok]. I believe you [lawyers] and the prosecutors understand that the judges would not consider the number of experts, but the quality and content of their testimonies," Dwiarso said, responding to the lawyer. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/21/judges-want-to-speed-up-ahoks-trial.html

Soeharto family's support could backfire in Jakarta poll

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya and Winda A. Charmila, Jakarta – Support from the family of former president Soeharto, the longest ruler of the country, for the Jakarta gubernatorial ticket of Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno to win the upcoming election could be harmful for the pair, analysts have said.

In late February, Soeharto's daughter, Titiek Soeharto, declared her support for Anies and Sandiaga, contradicting the official stance of her Golkar Party, which backed incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) political analyst Siti Zuhro said that the Cendana family still had a significant number of supporters.

"Titiek Soehato is a lawmaker from Golkar while Tommy has a new political party. They won't be approached if they don't have a base of supporters," she recently said, citing the names of Soeharto's children who had voiced their support.

Siti said the large numbers who attended the commemoration of the March 11 Indonesian Presidential Executive Order (Supersemar), which Soeharto had used to wrest control from his predecessor, first president Sukarno, showed that the family still had a large following.

During the commemoration, Soeharto's children, also known as the Cendana family, invited the chief patron of the Gerindra Party, Prabowo Subianto, and the Anies-Sandiaga pair to be honored guests at a mass prayer in the At-Tin Mosque in East Jakarta.

In the event, which was attended by four of Soeharto's six children – Titiek, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, Siti Hutami Endang and Hutomo Mandala Putra – the patron of the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI), Rizieq Shihab, who had helped orchestrate large protests against Ahok, was given the stage to deliver a tausiyah (sermon) to the participants.

Political observer Ray Rangkuti of the Lingkar Madani Foundation said the support might result in more votes for Anies and Sandiaga, but voters from the middle and upper classes could be turned off by the apparent closeness between Anies and Sandiaga and the Cendana family.

The middle and upper classes, likely to be more educated, might be more sensitive to the stigma attached to the New Order, including the rampant corruption, collusion and nepotism within the family, as well as the human rights violations during Soeharto's reign, he said.

Army general Soeharto was allegedly involved in several human rights abuses, such as the Tanjung Priok Massacre in early 1984, the 1989 Talangsari incident in Lampung, as well as the May 1998 riots between citizens and the military that resulted in many deaths and injuries. Soeharto ordered a serious of mysterious shootings between 1982 and 1985, known as Petrus, which reportedly killed about 2,000 people across the country, with the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police deemed to have actually carried them out, according to reports by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 2012.

Even first-time voters who were born after the fall of the New Order in 1998 might be aware of the various human rights violations and examples of corruption done by Soeharto and thus would not be swayed to vote for Anies and Sandiaga, according to State Islamic University (UIN) political analyst Adi Prayitno.

First-time voters made up nearly 200,000 of the 6.8 million registered voters in the first round of the election in February, according to data from the General Elections Commission (KPU). There would be 21,000 more firsttime voters registered in the second round of the election.

"Even though they [first-time voters] don't know how it was like to live in the Soeharto era, schools must have taught them. Even people in villages know. Jakarta residents are educated," Adi told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. "If I could suggest, gubernatorial candidate pairs do not need to have 'romantic' affiliations with that family. Just work hard on wooing swing voters to get more votes."

Besides, the support from the Cendana family would not make a huge difference because the political power of the family had waned, he added.

"Symbolically, support from the family is considered influential, but they do not have big political power," Adi said. Ray echoed Adi's sentiment. While Titiek was a legislator, her constituency was in Yogyakarta, Ray said. Hutomo, popularly known as Tommy, meanwhile, did not have a strong organization or political party that could contribute votes to the pair, he said.

The family could also no longer rely on the Golkar Party, Soeharto's political vehicle for decades, since the party officially endorses Ahok and Gatot, Ray said.

Instead of helping Anies and Sandiaga to gain more votes, it is the Cendana family that stands to benefit more from the move, he said.

For instance, the family could use this "partnership" to rejuvenate its popularity and influence among the people by spreading claims about the accomplishments of their father during the New Order.

"If the gubernatorial election tickets are not careful, it is feared that the election could provide momentum to the family to spread their political [power]," Adi said.

Middle class could stay away from Anies if he remains close to Cendana family Even for young voters association with Soeharto brand could negatively impact candidate's prospects.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/soeharto-familys-support-could-backfire-in-jakarta-poll.html

PAN to support Anies-Sandiaga in second round of Jakarta poll

Jakarta Globe - March 19, 2017

Jakarta – The National Mandate Party, or PAN, on Saturday (18/03) officially announced its support for Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno in the second round of Jakarta's gubernatorial election on April 19.

PAN, the smallest party in the capital's City Council, previously endorsed Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni, who in the first round on Feb. 15 won only 17 percent of the vote.

"Today, PAN in Jakarta announces its support for Anies and Sandiaga. Let's make this pair victorious in the runoff election," said Eko Hendro Purnomo, the head of PAN's Jakarta leadership board.

"Political situation is very fluid. Anything can happen. Nearing the election day, it is possible that we'll see other political parties joining us in support for Anies and Sandiaga," he added.

Sandiaga thanked PAN and promised to prioritize changes and social justice in the capital city. "PAN members have been known as young politicians who want changes. Let's work together to make Jakarta a developed city with happy residents," he said.

Anies and Sandiaga will race against incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, who were 3 percent ahead of them in the first round.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/pan-support-anies-sandiaga-second-round-jakarta-poll/

Ahok, Djarot to recruit 'Red Troops' to renovate houses, mosques

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his deputy, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, are set to recruit and deploy city workers called "Red Troops" to renovate houses of poor residents and mosques once their campaign period is finished.

"We will recruit workers who will get training from roof and steel companies because we want to renovate the places for wudhu [ablutions] at mosques and mushola [prayer rooms]," Ahok said at an event on Jl. Talang, Central Jakarta, on Friday.

The governor further said the workers would also renovate toilets in several mosques, which did not yet have ceramic tiles.

Separately, Djarot said the number of residents the Jakarta administration would recruit as "Red Troops" would reach 20 in each sub-district. All of the workers would get payments based on the provincial regional minimum wage (UMR) and health insurance. Their children would also receive education assistance from the administration, he further said.

Djarot said the Red Troops would be divided into two groups, in which the first group would be assigned to renovate the mosques while the other group would replace broken roof tiles of houses of poor residents.

Currently, the Jakarta administration has three troop groups, which support its public service delivery. There are orange troops, who are assigned to collect garbage in neighborhoods, blue troops, who are responsible for cleaning rivers across Jakarta, and purple troops, who are social workers who take care of neglected people in the city. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/17/ahok-djarot-to-recruit-red-troops-to-renovate-houses-mosques.html

Defeated SBY's son tells supporters to freely vote for Ahok or Anies

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2017

Jakarta – Defeated Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono told his followers to use their rights freely to vote for Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama or Anies Baswedan in the second round of the election to take place on April 19.

"The Constitution gives them rights to select which candidate is the best," Agus said in a statement on Friday.

Agus, who was paired with Sylviana Murni, called on his campaign volunteers and constituents to implement high-quality democracy and politics, which upholds ethics and values of truth and justice.

"I hope the second round of the Jakarta election will run safely, successfully and democratically, presenting the best leader for the people of Jakarta," he asserted.

The final vote count by the Jakarta election commission concluded on Feb. 27 that incumbent Jakarta Governor Ahok and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat won by a whisker over rival candidate pair Anies and Sandiaga Uno. Trailing in a distant third was Agus and his running mate Sylviana. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/17/defeated-sbys-son-tells-supporters-to-freely-vote-for-ahok-or-anies.html

Ban on funeral prayers for Ahok supporters savage and 'cheap': Buya Syafii

Jakarta Globe - March 17, 2017

Jakarta – A highly regarded Islamic figure condemned the recent actions of hardline Islamic groups that sought to deny funeral prayers for those who opt to support incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in the second round of Jakarta's gubernatorial election, slated for April 19.

Ahmad "Buya" Syafii Maarif said that such threats were savage, inhumane and wholly unIslamic.

"It is an extremely savage thing to do. No religious teachings ever mention [the revocation of funeral prayers]," Buya said in Central Jakarta on Thursday (16/03), adding that such actions are not a reflection of Islam.

Buya, a former chairman of Muhammadiyah, believes those groups were only "selling" religious verses to gain political power.

"They have sold these religious verses at a 'cheap price.' It is unfortunate that people as savage as these can exist in our nation," Buya said.

He urged the government not to be afraid to face radical organizations head-on. "Our law enforcement should not take the side of radical groups. The police should not be beaten by 'private police' [affiliated with these groups]," Buya said.

The National Police have already begun preliminary investigations into several mosques in Jakarta after discriminatory banners were placed in strategic locations around the city, including one that read, "Muslims who vote for an infidel leader or blasphemer do not deserve a funeral prayer at mosque."

The police are also trying to determine the identities of those who spread the discriminatory images on social media.

Tensions have reached a fever pitch in the capital over religious and ethnic sentiments surrounding the Jakarta election, with Muslim hardliners demanding the arrest of Ahok and threatening Muslim residents who decide to vote for him.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/ban-funeral-prayers-ahok-supporters-savage-cheap-buya-syafii/

Soeharto's half brother supports Ahok: Campaign team

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta governor candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's campaign team spokesman Ruhut Sitompul has said Probosutedjo, a businessman who is the half brother of the late president Soeharto, has thrown his support behind the incumbent in the April 19 election runoff.

Ruhut claimed that Probosutedjo invited Ahok to his house on Jl. Diponegoro, Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday.

"The two of us went [to Probosutedjo's house]. Probosutedjo's wife really supports Pak Ahok. She a Ahoker (Ahok supporter)," Ruhut said as quoted by Kompas.com on Friday.

He further said that in the meeting, Probosutedjo introduced his staff to Ahok. They welcomed the governor and took pictures with him, he added.

Ruhut said Probosutedjo had supported Ahok and his running mate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, in the first round of the election on Feb. 15.

Meanwhile, one of Soeharto's daughter, Golkar Party member Titiek Soeharto, reportedly supports Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno. Her support contradicts the party's decision to endorse Ahok and Djarot in the election. (cal/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/17/soehartos-half-brother-supports-ahok-campaign-team.html

Order to remove hate banners falls on deaf ears

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2017

Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – The Jakarta administration's order to remove provocative banners has fallen on deaf ears at a Setiabudi mosque in South Jakarta.

Two hate banners were still seen hanging at the entrance of Al-Jihad Mosque on Thursday morning. The banners said, "[the congregation at] this mosque does not perform last rites for those supporting and defending a blasphemer," referring to non-Muslim incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

The mosque is located in the same district in which the late Hindun resided, a woman whose children alleged that the authorities of a nearby mosque denied their mother's last rites because she voted for Ahok during the Feb.15 election.

Prayers for Hindun were alternatively conducted in her tiny house on March 7. Media reported that the following day, her daughter received text messages saying clerics throughout Jakarta would deny performing the last rites for deceased Muslims found to have voted for Ahok.

The mosque's authorities have denied the allegations, saying the prayers were held at the deceased's home on account of a lack of congregation members at the mosque at the time.

The city administration claims it has intensified efforts to remove hate banners from public facilities. Some 360 of such banners across the capital have been removed, according to the administration.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/16/order-to-remove-hate-banners-falls-on-deaf-ears.html

Treason, sedition & state ideology

Anti-Jokowi activist Sri Bintang Pamungkas temporarily released on health

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta Police have temporarily released political activist Sri Bintang Pamungkas from police detention on account of his health condition.

"We considered postponing his detention because of his health," Police spokesman Sr. Com. Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono said as quoted by tribunnews.com on Thursday.

Sri Bintang's wife Ernalia, who ensured that her husband would not flee or destroy evidence, has proposed postponing his detainment as the investigation continues.

Sri Bintang, a former opposition figure of president Suharto, has been named a treason suspect after sending a letter to the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) requesting that it set up a special session aimed at demanding President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to step down. (dis/dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/16/anti-jokowi-activist-sri-bintang-pamungkas-temporarily-released-on-health-concerns.html

Internet & social media

Indonesian man broadcast his suicide on Facebook shocking netizens

Jakarta Post - March 18, 2017

Dandy Koswaraputra, Jakarta – An Indonesian man broadcast his suicide on Facebook, which shocked netizens before the government called for the social media platform to take down the content.

"After receiving reports from the public, we strongly urged Facebook to take down the content immediately," Samuel Abrijani Pangerapan, the director general of information application at the Communications and Information Ministry, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

The suicide was broadcast live on Facebook at 9 a.m. on Friday, as the 35-year-old man started a live-stream where he fashioned a noose out of a scarf and hung himself.

Facebook took down the live broadcast of the man committing suicide at 8.30 p.m. on the same day after it had been aired on the social media.

On his Facebook account, he wrote, "I bloody love her, but she left my children and me behind. I don't know where she has gone. It's hard to say what has happened. I don't know what to do. I am in a really terrible situation."

The one-hour-45-minute video had gone viral and was easily accessed by netizens. The content was clicked on over 100,000 times after twelve hours on social media.

Samuel said that the government reminded netizens that they could be charged under the Electronic Information and Transactions Law for disseminating such material. "We should be more attentive about spreading such violent material," Samuel asserted.

According to Samuel, the ministry had called the US-based social media platform in Jakarta to take down the video in the afternoon, but the content remained online until later that night. "We put a priority on monitoring social media in society because the impact on people is quite significant," he said.

Facebook stated that the social media platform immediately removed unethical material and reported it to relevant law enforcement agencies when it was detected. "We have zero tolerance for violent content," Facebook said in a statement. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/18/indonesian-man-broadcast-his-suicide-on-facebook-shocking-netizens.html

Environment & natural disasters

Indonesia survey shows massive coral death from cruise ship

Associated Press - March 23, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia says nearly 19,000 square meters (204,000 square feet) of coral reef was damaged by a foreign cruise ship that ran aground in the pristine waters of Raja Ampat in West Papua province earlier this month.

The extent of the damage, announced by the deputy maritime affairs minister this week following a survey of the affected strait, was far worse than initially thought. Indonesia's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the government will be "very firm" in demanding compensation.

Arif Havas Oegroseno, the deputy minister at the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, said the joint assessment by a national survey team and the tour company's insurers found nearly 13,300 square meters (143,160 square feet) suffered damage that was fatal to the coral.

He said another 5,600 square meters (60,280 square feet) sustained lesser damage from shock waves of sand and broken coral sent out by the ship's maneuvers but has a 50 percent chance of dying.

The 4,200-ton cruise ship M.V. Caledonian Sky, which was chartered by British tour company Noble Caledonia, ran aground in the Dampier strait on March 4.

Indonesia's senior minister for maritime affairs, Luhut Pandjaitan, last week summoned British Ambassador Moazzam Malik to discuss the damage. The ministry has described the reefs as being irreparably damaged.

Officials are incensed the ship's captain quickly sailed on to Bitung in North Sulawesi province and then the Philippines without waiting for an assessment of the damage.

"The people of Indonesia and the people of Papua have yet to hear Captain Keith Michael Taylor state an apology or remorse for the damage done by his act," said Havas. "The guardians of Raja Ampat, the people of Papua, are anxious to hear what British Captain Taylor has to say."

(Read also: Caledonian Sky destroyed more than 18,000 m2 of pristine Raja Ampat reefs, survey concludes)

London-based Noble Caledonia has acknowledged responsibility for the damage and said it is working toward "a fair and realistic settlement."

Officials from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry are working on an estimate of economic losses that will be used in the settlement negotiations.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/23/indonesia-survey-shows-massive-coral-death-from-cruise-ship.html

Health & education

UN Special Rapporteur to visit Indonesia for first time

Asia Correspondent - March 23, 2017

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Health Dainius Puras is visiting Indonesia for the first time between March 22 and April 3 to assess the realisation of the right to health in the country.

Human Rights Working Group, a coalition of Indonesian NGOs, welcomed the visit. It stated "it is definitely a great chance for Indonesia to have further constructive engagement with the UN SR (Special Rapporteur) on health, as well as to fulfil the state obligation to respect and to protect the right to health of its citizens."

Puras seeks to examine the accessibility and quality of health services, as well as the underlying determinants of health in the country such as poverty and social exclusion. The Special Rapporteur will particularly examine the situation of vulnerable groups including women, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children.

Indonesia's average life expectancy is 71 years, significantly lower than its neighbours, Malaysia (77), Australia (84) and Singapore (85). Smoking takes a major toll on the nation's health, with rates of children's smoking said to be "out of control."

"I will be particularly interested in addressing specific issues during this visit, especially within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," the expert said.

"Among these issues are: universal health coverage, maternal and children's health, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, HIV/AIDS and drug or substance dependency."

Human Rights Watch released a report into the state of mental health treatment in Indonesia entitled "Living in Hell" last year, which documented the horrific abuse of people with psychosocial disabilities placed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Strong stigma against mental illness means there is a profound lack of community-based support services.

Puras will visit the impoverished province of Papua, where the rate of AIDS is 20 times higher than the country average, but an anonymous source told Asian Correspondent "unfortunately our government only gave him permission to go there for 24 hours."

The Special Rapporteur will also have two days dedicated to meetings with Indonesian civil society organisations. Preliminary findings from the visit will be released on April 3 before a full report is presented to the UN Human Rights Council in mid-2018.

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/03/un-special-rapporteur-visit-indonesia-first-time/

Tobacco bill contradicts 14 laws: Expert

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Jakarta – An expert has warned that the deliberation of the tobacco bill is not worth being continued because it contradicts several prevailing laws.

"Legally, the bill contradicts 14 existing laws," National Commission on Tobacco Control chairman Prijo Sidipratomo said as quoted by kompas.com on Wednesday.

Among the laws he said the bill contravened were Law No.36/2009 on Health and Law No. 19/2013 on the Protection and Empowerment of Farmers.

Prijo further said doctors and health practitioners had rejected the tobacco bill. They had made a petition they had submitted to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

Prijo said that if the tobacco bill was passed into law, there was likely to be an increase in the number of smokers in Indonesia. "It is stated in the bill that cigarette packs will only carry written health warnings like before." he added

Prijo said pictorial health warnings had in fact been regulated in the 2009 Health Law and Government Regulation No. 109/2012 on the Security of Materials with Addictive Substances.

After expressing his rejection of the bill, President Jokowi finally agreed to discuss the tobacco bill with the House, for which he issued a presidential letter on the bill.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said the change in the government's stance toward the Tobacco Bill, as reflected in the presidential letter, occurred following a talk between representatives of the government and the House on Monday. However, the minister said, the government had not yet decided whether they agreed with the substance of the tobacco bill. (mrc/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/tobacco-bill-contradicts-14-laws-expert.html

Indonesia gives tobacco bill a shot

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Haeril Halim and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The tobacco bill is not dead yet, despite the government's earlier claim that it would kill the bill.

In a last minute decision that caught antitobacco activists by surprise, the Joko "Jokowi" Widodo administration decided to give the bill a lease on life by sending a presidential letter (Surpres), to the House of Representative, saying it would agree to discuss the House's initiative.

The letter was sent on March 18, the deadline for the government to respond to the House, just three days after Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung announced that a Cabinet meeting held on March 14 had concluded that the bill, which seeks to triple production to 524 billion cigarettes by 2020, was unnecessary.

"There is no Surpres [to be issued by the President]," Pramono said at the time.

It is unclear what changed the government's stance at the eleventh hour, but the controversial decision came about amid threats from the House's Legistation Body (Baleg) that it would reject government-proposed bills in retaliation for the government's refusal to agree to a deliberation on the tobacco bill.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, who earlier claimed that the government would not discuss the bill with the House, said on Tuesday the government had no choice but to send the letter because the House had declined to withdraw its request before the deadline.

Yasonna repeated President Jokowi's statement that the government was aware there were a number of stipulations in the bill that would harm public health, but at the same time, the government wanted to improve the welfare of tobacco farmers.

The government, he said, would find a solution that would work for both the government and the House during the discussion process at the House. If no agreement was reached between the two sides during the bill's deliberation, the government could still ask the House to drop the bill, he added.

In the letter, President Jokowi assigned Trade Minister Enggartiasto "Enggar" Lukita, Health Minister Nila Moeloek, Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to discuss the bill with the House.

Enggar, who reportedly supports the bill, dismissed allegations that the government had changed its position due to threats from Baleg, adding that both the House and the government would find solutions on the bill during the discussion period.

"What agreement will be achieved will depend on the progress of discussions in the future made by the government and the House," Enggar said, adding that the government was mandated by law to issue a surpres to answer the House's proposal.

Meanwhile, Pramono declined to comment on the issuance of the Surpres, but emphasized that any agreement made during the discussion period had to be in line with the result of the March 14 Cabinet meeting, which concluded that a law on tobacco was not needed.

"Principally, the government thinks the tobacco bill is not necessary because prevailing regulations and other related laws are more than enough. The government will not change its stance and this is the decision of the President. I was there when it was made," Pramono said.

Health Minister Nila said she had yet to receive any brief from the President regarding her role in the discussions. Nila said her office would remain firm in its view that the bill ought to be rejected because it put at risk the health of the Indonesian people. "I emphasize that the ministry will stand on the side of health," Nila said.

Prijo Sidipratomo, chairman of the National Commission on Tobacco Control, said Jokowi had fallen for a trap set by the House because by agreeing to discuss the bill, there was now little way for the government to reject it during the discussion period.

"If we consider the backgrounds of the ministers sent to the House to discuss the bill, only Minister Nila opposes the bill. Enggar and Airlangga are from NasDem and the Golkar Party and those parties initiated the bill. The Surpres decision has hurt the feelings of Indonesians who want the President to take the side of health," Prijo said.

Firman Subagyo, the chairman of Baleg, said the government's eventual decision to issue a presidential letter responding to the House's proposal to discuss the bill was in line with his expectations.

"We expect the government to share its concerns regarding our proposal. The final decision on the fate of the bill will be jointly determined later after we have heard the government's side of the argument."

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/indonesia-gives-tobacco-bill-a-shot.html

Indonesia's tobacco bill stubbed out but concerns remain

Asia correspondent - March 19, 2017

Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo this week rejected a draft law that if approved could have led to a sharp increase in tobacco output, putting himself on a collision course with major players in one of the country's oldest industries.

The bold move by the president has been lauded by tobacco control lobbyists and regarded as a step in the right direction for Indonesia, a country of over 70 million smokers, many of them children.

But according to Jakarta Post, Jokowi's decision to send ministers to inform the House of his decision instead of inking a presidential letter has sparked concern that lawmakers would use the opportunity to lobby for Bill deliberations.

The English daily said the practice was unusual as Jokowi should have simply issued a letter to communicate his decision to the House, instead of sending messengers.

"Why wouldn't [the president] issue a letter after making a decision...?" National Commission on Tobacco Control (KNPT) member Widyastuti Soerojo was quoted asking. "This will open channels for lobbying that could change the government's standpoint."

Another lobbyist, Tulus Abadi from the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI), urged Jokowi to stand by his decision, saying it complies with public demands. "Jokowi must firmly announce that the deliberation will not take place as long as he is in office," he said.

Under the draft law that seeks to protect domestic farmers, Reuters reported this week, manufacturers of tobacco products have to use locally sourced tobacco for at least 80 percent of their production, while imports of ready-to-use cigarettes may be subject to an excise tax of 200 percent.

Smoking is entrenched as a way of life in Indonesian culture. According to reports last year, the country ranked fourth on the list of nations with the most smokers, behind China, Russia and the US.

A Quartz report in February quoted pro-smoking group Komunitas Kretek as saying smoking is a "human right" and that those pushing for Indonesians to kick the habit were being fueled by fundamentalists from the West.

"It is a human right to smoke. Smokers feel like they don't have their rights anymore. We need to stand up for our rights!" the group's head Aditia Purnomo said. The 25-year-old, now a chain smoker, reportedly lit his first cigarette at the age of 12.

A 2015 report by the KNPT says 240,000 people died in Indonesia in 2013 because of tobacco. Health Ministry data from 2010 says 3.9 million children aged between 10 and 14 years become smokers every year in the country, while more than 40.3 million aged between zero and 14 become passive smokers due to the high prevalence of adult smokers.

Acknowledging these alarming numbers, Jokowi said this week that he understood the concerns of health advocates. However, the president also pointed out that the welfare of the country's millions of tobacco industry workers needed to be taken into consideration.

"I want to remind you all about what I said in the Cabinet meeting in June 2016, that the tobacco issue must be seen from two standpoints," Jokowi was quoted in Jakarta Post as saying when discussing the tobacco Bill.

According to Southeast Asia Globe last year, tobacco farming is seen as a valuable source of jobs for Indonesians, with as many as 500,000 farmers working on growing crops and a further 600,000 working in the manufacturing cigarettes.

The industry is also an important source of tax revenue for the government, contributing as much as US$12.91 billion into state coffers in 2015, the third-largest contributor of any industry.

But in an editorial on Saturday, Jakarta Post urged the administration to stand firm on its decision not to allow debates on the Bill. "The president must not have second thoughts, although we stand to lose state income from tobacco," the media outlet wrote.

The leading English-language daily also said Jokowi's decision to reject the Bill was not enough. The paper said the next step was to establish a roadmap for Indonesia that would help wean the country's economy off its dependency on tobacco money.

"With a boost in public support for his decision, Jokowi's government should issue a new roadmap to phase out tobacco production by shifting the dependency of farmers and cigarette factory workers to income sources other than tobacco.

"It will not be easy, but the blueprint would be a concrete sign of government support for citizens' wellbeing," it said.

The paper acknowledged the potential loss of income but urged Jokowi to be reminded of the toll that aggressive cigarette marketing and poor law enforcement have had on public health.

"Lawmakers also claim they are defending part of the 'national heritage' – our world-famous, sweet-smelling kretek (clove cigarettes). Tell that to the coughing people forced to sit beside puffing passengers on angkot (public minivans)."

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/03/indonesias-tobacco-bill-stubbed-concerns-remain/

Jokowi opts to kill tobacco bill

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2017

Haeril Halim and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – In an about face move that demonstrated stronger support for the country's public health, the government said on Wednesday that it refused to deliberate the controversial tobacco bill, which seeks to boost cigarette production while dismissing the dangers of smoking.

This is the second time the government has rejected such a proposal from the House of Representatives after the bill was also voided last year following opposition from the Health Ministry to jointly deliberating the bill.

Ending his ambivalence on tobacco, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, whose administration had earlier issued a road map for the industry that sought to triple cigarette production to 524 billion by 2020, made a bold move that puts him against one of the country's oldest industries and which employs millions of workers.

Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said Jokowi would not issue a presidential letter (Surpres) to approve the House proposal to start discussion of the bill.

Without the letter, the House cannot begin deliberations because all bills must be both discussed by representatives of the government and the House. If the House does not receive a letter from the government by the given deadline of March 19, the bill will be voided.

"There is no Surpres [to be issued by the President in this case]," Pramono told reporters at the State Palace, adding that the President had instructed Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita and State Secretary Pratikno to pay a visit to the House to deliver the government's stance.

During a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Health Minister Nila Moeloek, Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri and Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto told Jokowi that if the bill was passed into law then it would contravene a number of prevailing laws handled by the three ministries.

The Health Ministry has long campaigned for stronger tobacco control, which is crucial to saving around 200,000 Indonesians who die every year from tobacco-related illnesses and to save Rp 378 trillion (US$28.35 billion) in economic losses caused by smoking.

In his opening remarks during Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, Jokowi, however, expressed doubts on the matter, saying that he could understand the concerns raised by the Health Ministry because the government had to take care of the health of its people, but the welfare of those who worked in tobacco industry should also be taken into consideration.

The bill was initially dropped from the 2016 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) by the Health Ministry, which was appointed by Jokowi to lead the discussion at the House.

However, the comeback of Golkar Party politician Setya Novanto as House speaker paved the way for the inclusion of the bill in the 2017 Prolegnas.

Separately, the House Legislation Body (Baleg), which is assigned to deliberate the bill, has reminded the government to be cooperative, arguing that the bill will protect the domestic tobacco industry, while at the same time benefiting local tobacco farmers.

"If the government refuses to discuss the bill, which is the initiative of the House, we will also refuse to deliberate any bills initiated by the government in the future," Baleg deputy speaker Firman Subagyo of Golkar said on Wednesday.

The politician suspected foreign intervention in pushing the government to kill the bill, as the draft restricted foreign tobacco companies operating in the country. Firman said the majority of political factions at the House shared the same opinion and thus agreed to continue the deliberation.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/16/jokowi-opts-to-kill-tobacco-bill.html

Marriage & the family

'Invisible' Indonesians nudged to get birth certificates

Asia Nikkei - March 19, 2017

Marcel Thee, Jakarta – By official accounts, Noni Damanik does not exist. She is one of about 75 million Indonesians who do not hold birth certificates, but has managed for 27 years by paying small bribes whenever official documentation has been needed, including when she got married.

Damanik and her husband Ivan Zulfan say they have not been held back by their lack of birth certificates. "Living in a remote area, we've survived without it so far," Zulfan said. He added, however, that authorities in his village of Tebing Tinggi require an "understandable" fee to help them and other villagers handle official matters.

About 30% of Indonesia's 250 million people are without birth certificates, according to Tjahjo Kumolo, Minister of the Interior. That is more than three times the population of neighboring Australia. However, campaigners are working to tackle this entrenched source of corruption by helping the poor to register births.

Many Indonesians do not register their children because a lack of knowledge about the cumbersome application process, or because they do not realize that registration within the first 60 days of a birth is free. After that, local authorities can set their own fees.

Not having a birth certificate is a serious impediment for Indonesians. From school enrolment to healthcare provision to getting married, officials and others demand bribes to approve applications from people without birth certificates.

When children come of age, at 17, those not on the official registry are not eligible for Indonesian passports and have no chance of getting jobs in the formal economy. In divorce proceedings, children cannot be protected by the legal framework.

There have been some attempts to reform the system, including a reduction from seven to four in the number of official documents required to support an application. The government has also begun to allow unmarried couples to apply for birth certificates for their children. In the past, this was not allowed because the state did not want to be seen to be endorsing premarital sex.

Multiple ministries have also been involved in drafting and finalizing a national framework to improve the country's Civil Registration and Vital Statistics system, in part to accelerate the legal process for providing identification documents, which currently takes between two and 30 days.

Zack Petersen, the founder of Count Me In, a platform connecting volunteers and local nongovernment organizations, has been involved in a variety of birth certificate registration programs. He said the system has improved, but ignorance of official procedures and a willingness to continue paying for certificates had sustained and normalized official corruption.

"The policy is getting better, but as long as the middle class keeps paying for birth certificates, poor people will always have the short end of the stick," Petersen said.

Small payments

Wealthier Indonesians avoid the paperwork involved in getting birth certificates by making small payments soon after childbirth for intermediaries to deal with the documentation – although some do not realize that they are paying a fee.

"The cost for the certificate came totaled with the hospital bill. I didn't even know it was free," said Banu Satrio, whose daughter was born recently at a private hospital in Jakarta.

"When you've just had your baby and the (hospital) person comes to ask whether you want them to take care of the birth certificate, of course you say 'yes.'"

From the central government's point of view, the large number of unregistered Indonesians makes it difficult to compile accurate population data, impeding the implementation of effective social and development programs. The effect is to create a large underemployed and mainly "invisible" population, potentially reducing economic growth and threatening social stability.

Nani Zulminami, an official of PEKKA, an offshoot of the Women's National Commission, which works to assist and empower women as heads of households, said local governments were unlikely to welcome change because they see fees for certificate management as sources of funding.

Zulminami said the organization tries to engage communities, often accompanying applicants to get their certificates, as well as collecting data from communities to speed up the process.

Santi Kusumaningrum, co-director of the Center for Child Protection at the University of Indonesia, which is known by its Indonesian initials as PUSKAPA, said almost all officials and service providers wrongly blame the lack of awareness about identity documents on parents.

"The evidence clearly shows that the complicated process of applying for birth registration and associated costs are the main barriers," Kusumaningrum said. PUSKAPA said that demand for certificates would increase if services were more easily available, affordable, dependable and equitable.

The government has sought to encourage parents to register their children by establishing penalties for late registrations, but has only alienated communities, Kusumaningrum said, blaming the problem on a misperception among officials that registration is a citizen's obligation. Coupled with barriers in access and information, the process has created "a reluctant and unaware public, and a passive civil registration system," she said.

The problem is exacerbated by inconsistencies in the value attached to owning birth certificates across Indonesia, which further reduces incentives for some people to access the service. For instance, some areas require birth certificates for school enrolments, but others do not.

However, there are hopes among campaigners that the problem may be eased by efforts to delegate registration to lower levels of government, enabling villages and districts, as well as frontline service workers such as midwives, teachers and social workers to facilitate birth registrations through links to district offices.

There are also clear signs that the message about the importance of documentation is beginning to get through. Unaya, a housemaid, said she had stumped up a bribe of 600,000 rupiah ($44.96) in January to get birth certificates for her three children, aged 12, 15 and 17.

Although the sum was hefty compared with her monthly wages of 1 million rupiah, Unaya said the realization that her eldest child could not graduate from high school without a birth certificate had convinced her of the need to take action.

Source: http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Invisible-Indonesians-nudged-to-get-birth-certificates

Refugees & asylum seekers

Notorious people-smuggler Captain Bram jailed for six years in Indonesia

Sydney Morning Herald - March 17, 2017

Jewel Topsfield and Amilia Rosa – Notorious people smuggler "Captain Bram", who organised the asylum seekers' boat at the centre of the notorious 'cash for boat-turn-back' scandal in 2015, has been sentenced to six years' jail in an Indonesian prison.

Abraham Louhenapessy, aka Captain Bram, was also ordered to pay 500 million rupiah (about $50,000) or serve another six months behind bars after a panel of judges in the Rote Ndao Court found him guilty of immigration offences.

Prosecutors had requested nine years' jail in addition to the fine, arguing he was a repeat offender. Judge Hiras Sitanggang said Louhenapessy had caused people smuggling to flourish and had been convicted of the same crime before.

The judges on Rote Island heard Louhenapessy purchased a fishing boat for 65 asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka to travel to New Zealand in mid-2015.

Fairfax Media revealed that an Indonesian police investigation had discovered that Australian authorities had intercepted the boat and paid its crew $US32,000 to return the asylum seekers to Indonesia.

The "cash for boat-turn-back" case caused a diplomatic incident between Australia and Indonesia, led to a Senate inquiry and prompted Amnesty International to call for a Royal Commission.

The payments were not denied by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who said the Australian government intended to "stop the boats" by "hook or by crook".

According to the court indictment, Louhenapessy was given 1.5 billion rupiah ($150,000) by Sri Lankan people smuggler Vishvanathan Thineshkumar in February 2015 to organise a boat to take "illegal immigrants" to New Zealand. He also hired another man to recruit crew and a captain.

During the trial, Louhenapessy confirmed the testimony of a crew member, who said he had been promised 100 million rupiah ($10,000) if the boat reached New Zealand successfully.

Defence lawyer Yesaya Dae Panie told the court Louhenapessy was sorry for his involvement in people-smuggling operations. "But he didn't just do it for the money. He also felt for the immigrants," Mr Yesaya said.

Louhenapessy refused to comment outside the court. Both the defence and prosecution have seven days to decide whether to appeal. "My client will consider the sentence," Mr Yesaya said.

However, Mr Yesaya said he believed the sentence was fair and on par with the penalty received by Captain Yohanis Humiang, who was sentenced to five years and eight months' jail in January 2016.

Captain Yohanis testified during his trial that Australian officials paid him $US32,000 to return 65 asylum seekers to Indonesia.

Louhenapessy escaped a jail term in 2010 for organising another attempt to bring more than 250 Sri Lankans on an overcrowded boat to Christmas Island the year before.

The ship was intercepted by the Indonesian navy after the personal intervention of former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who contacted former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Many of the Tamils on board refused for months to disembark when the boat docked in Western Java.

At the time, Indonesia did not have anti people-smuggling laws, and Louhenapessy got away with a fine for breaching sailing laws.

Indonesia passed laws criminalising people-smuggling in 2011, with penalties of between five and 15 years in prison for those people convicted.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/notorious-peoplesmuggler-captain-bram-jailed-for-six-years-in-indonesia-20170316-guzywl.html

Graft & corruption

Anti-graft agency is a tyrant: House deputy speaker Fahri Hamzah

Jakarta Globe - March 23, 2017

Jakarta – House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fahri Hamzah has likened the national antigraft agency to a tyrant after one of its prosecutors mentioned his name and the name of fellow Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon in relation to a tax evasion case currently before the court.

Their names were mentioned in court on Tuesday (21/03) during the trial for export company E.K. Prima's country director Ramapanicker Rajamohanan Nair, who was charged with bribing Handang Soekarno – a former senior official at the Finance Ministry's Directorate General of Taxation – in an attempt to dodge paying back taxes.

Fahri refused to comment about the case and insisted he was a good taxpayer. "I'm clean, there's no problem with my taxes," he said on Wednesday.

He did say that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) might have been retaliating against his criticism of the way they have been handling the electronic ID card, or e-KTP, graft case.

"I've been criticizing the KPK in the past couple of days over the e-KTP issue. The KPK is using this [tax evasion] trial to attack [me]," Fahri said.

KPK made the connection between Fahri and the tax evasion case in November last year, but his name had been kept secret before Tuesday's trial.

"They [the KPK] think they cannot be criticized since they carry a noble mission. They are like tyrants back in the middle ages who believed they were noble," Fahri said.

The deputy speaker recalled how the KPK targeted him and his Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in the beef import fiasco in 2013. Fahri was the party's spokesman at the time and saw first-hand when the agency raided the party's office and rounded up 75 of its members.

He pointed out that the KPK's suspicion of a "beef import mafia" was completely unfounded, since the court only convicted three people in the case: two businessmen and former PKS chairman Luthfie Hasan Ishaaq.

"Where was the mafia? There wasn't one. But the KPK's accusation nearly destroyed the party," he said.

Fahri said the KPK should be rightly criticized for its prolonged investigation of the e-KTP graft case, which had dragged on for three years.

Meanwhile, Fahri's colleague Fadli Zon suspected that their names were implicated in the tax evasion case because they were involved in the massive – and at times violent – street protest rally against incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama on Nov. 4 last year.

The tax evasion case has also implicated President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's brother-in-law, Arif Budi Sulistyo, the operational director of Rakabu Sejahtera, a furniture company.

His name has been mentioned several times in the case as a liaison and business partner of the main suspect in the case, Ramapaniker.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/anti-graft-agency-KPK-tyrant-says-deputy-house-speaker-fahri-hamzah/

KPK to continue probe on deputy House speakers Fadli Zon, Fahri Hamzah In tax

Jakarta Globe - March 22, 2017

Jakarta – National anti-graft agency KPK said on Tuesday (21/03) it will further investigate a tax evasion case to which the names of two deputy speakers of the House of Representatives, Fahri Hamzah and Fadli Zon, have been linked.

The Corruption Eradication Commission said the names of celebrity singer Fatimah Syahrini Jaelani, better known as Syahrini, and lawyer Eggi Sudjana, were also mentioned during a trial in the case.

These individuals' names were mentioned in court on Tuesday during a trial for export company E.K. Prima's country director Ramapanicker Rajamohanan Nair, who was charged with bribing Handang Soekarno, a former senior official at the Finance Ministry's Tax Directorate General, in an attempt to dodge paying back taxes.

"We already have two suspects in the case, R.N.N. [Ramapaniker Rajamohanan Nair] who's currently on trial, and H.S. [Handang Soekarno] who's still under investigation," KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah said.

During the trial at the Corruption Court in Jakarta, the names of the two House deputy speakers as well as Syahrini and Eggi were mentioned in a document seized during a raid at Handang's residence and on wiretap records of his messaging app, WhatsApp.

"We have on record a [series of] WA [WhatsApp] chats between Handang and Andreas Setiawan [tax director general Ken Dwijugiasteadi's aide] on Nov. 7, 2016, mentioning the names of Eggi Sudjana, Fadli Zon, Fahri Hamzah and Syahrini. How are they connected to this case?" KPK prosecutor Moh. Takdir Suhan asked in the courtroom.

Handang replied from the witness stand that he did not remember having mentioned their names. However, he then changed his statement, saying "Syahrini does have [tax problems]. They're still being investigated."

Handang said that Fahri, Fadli and Syahrini were signed up to the government's tax amnesty program to set an example for other politicians and artists.

Fadli has denied that he had avoided paying taxes and claimed he did not know the suspects or witnesses in the case.

Fadli suspected he and Fahri were implicated in the case for their involvement in the massive – and at times violent – street rally on Nov. 4, 2016, against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

The case has also implicated President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's brother-in-law, Arif Budi Sulistyo, who works as an operational director for Rakabu Sejahtera, a furniture company.

His name has been mentioned several times in the case as a liaison and business partner of the suspect, Ramapaniker.

KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah told local news outlet Kompas.com that Arif allegedly knows the chairman of the Jakarta tax office Muhammad Haniv. He has also reportedly held a meeting with tax director general Ken Dwijugiasteadi to discuss E.K. Prima's tax problems.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/KPK-continue-probe-deputy-house-speakers-fadli-zon-fahri-hamzah-tax-evasion-case/

Jokowi's in-law in graft trial

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Arif Budi Sulistyo, the brother-in-law of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, appeared in court on Monday to testify in the bribery trial of Ramapanicker Rajamohanan Nair, a businessman accused of paying a bribe to a middle-ranking tax official, Handang Soekarno.

Arif, who is married to Jokowi's youngest sister Titik Relawati and is the operational director of the President's extended family's flagship company PT Rakabu Sejahtera, allegedly acted as a middleman in helping Nair resolve his company's tax problems.

Nair is the country director of PT EK Prima Ekspor Indonesia – a local unit of the Abu-Dhabibased retail giant LuLu Group International.

In their indictment, the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) prosecutors alleged that Arif played a role as a broker in a deal to clear PT EK's tax dues. Arif is one of Nair's business partners, with furniture produced by Rakabu accessing overseas markets through PT EK.

During Monday's hearing, Arif acknowledged he was a business partner to Nair and that he was aware that at the time the alleged crime occurred PT EK was seeking help to register for the tax amnesty, the government's recent initiative to boost tax revenue by offering a lenient rate of redemption for unpaid taxes.

Arif further acknowledged that he had provided assistance to Nair but said it went no further than helping him figure out ways for his company to settle the problems that came with tax amnesty registration.

"I asked Pak Mohan to send all documents related to his companies to me and, when I received them, I forwarded them directly to Pak Handang without reading them," said Arif in his testimony, referring to Nair's nickname.

Arif claimed that the reason he had forwarded PT EK's documents to Handang was because the tax official had earlier helped him register his company for the tax amnesty. Arif maintained that he considered Handang to be the right person to settle Nair's tax problems.

Arif also claimed that he got to know Handang, who has already been named a suspect in the bribery case, during a meeting that was also attended by Taxation Director General Ken Dwijugiasteadi at his office to inquire about the tax amnesty.

Although he acknowledged providing assistance to Nair, Arif claimed he had no idea why PT EK had failed to register for the tax amnesty.

Nair was caught red-handed by KPK investigators on Nov. 21 last year with a large sum of money, which was allegedly a bribe for Handang. In its indictment, the KPK indicated that Arif had played a broader role in the scandal, more than what he was willing to admit in the Monday session.

In the indictment, which was made available to The Jakarta Post earlier this year, it is alleged that Nair sought help from Arif in September last year.

Responding to the request, Arief asked Jakarta Special Tax Office head Muhammad Haniv to facilitate a meeting with tax chief Ken through Handang, who is also known to be one of Ken's confidants.

The case started when Nair challenged a request in June last year by the foreign investment tax office to settle unpaid taxes worth Rp 59 billion (US$4.4 million) for the proceeds the company received from the export of cashews in 2014 and 2015.

Nair filed a tax amnesty application for PT EK in September to have tax dues cleared, but it was rejected after the tax office found the company had other unpaid taxes of Rp 51 billion in 2014 and Rp 26 billion in 2015.

The bribery case is the first to implicate a family member of Jokowi, who burnished his image as a clean politician in the leadup to the 2014 presidential election. Arif served as Jokowi's family spokesman during the election campaign.

However, various members of Jokowi's family have been in the spotlight in the past few years. For example, Jokowi's younger cousin was dragged into the Arcandra Tahar dual citizenship controversy after the latter was appointed to lead the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

Criticism was also rife in 2015 when Jokowi's other younger cousin, Sigit Widyawan, was appointed as a member of the board of commissioners of state toll operator PT Jasa Marga despite his lack of relevant experience.

President Jokowi emphasized last month that he would not intervene in the investigation of his in-law's case, saying: "Whenever someone does something wrong they should be legally processed."

Transparency International Indonesia researcher Wawan Heru Suyatmiko said it was unlikely that Jokowi was involved in the alleged bribery.

He said Arif did not have a bureaucratic role in Jokowi's administration. "It is not impossible that Jokowi's name was just used [by Arif to inflate his purported clout]," he said. (mrc)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/21/jokowis-in-law-in-graft-trial.html

Setya Novanto reported to House's ethics council for e-ID remarks

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – The House of Representatives' ethics council (MKD) acknowledged on Friday that it had received several reports over alleged ethical violations by House Speaker Setya Novanto but had yet to process them.

The alleged violations are related to Setya's reported role in the corruption case surrounding the Rp 5.9 billion (US$442 million) electronic identity card (e-ID) project.

"The MKD has yet to follow up on the reports because the case is currently in the legal process," council deputy chairman Sarifuddin Sudding said.

One of the reports was filed by Indonesian Antigraft Society (MAKI) chairman Boyamin Saiman. He accused the seasoned Golkar Party politician of violating the House's ethical code by lying to the public when he denied knowing specific individuals implicated in the case.

Setya, for example, claimed he did not know businessman Andi Agustinus, a supplier in the project, as well as the two defendants in the case, former Home Ministry officials Irman and Sugiharto. But witnesses testified during a trial hearing on Thursday that Setya knew all three.

MKD chairman Sufmi Dasco Ahmad said the council would need to verify the reports before deciding on whether to process them. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/17/setya-novanto-reported-to-houses-ethics-council-for-e-id-remarks.html

Terrorism & religious extremism

Terrorism Law 'should respect human rights': Lawmakers

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – The House of Representatives aims to make a comprehensive Terrorism Law that respects human rights principals amid concerns about law enforcers' alleged rights violations when handling terrorism cases.

A member of the House's special committee on the amendment of the law, Arsul Sani, said the House had recommended the establishment of a supervisory body to monitor the performance of the police's Densus 88 antiterror squad and other institutions relevant to counterterrorism.

"The police don't agree with the plan because they claim establishing a new body would be costly to the state budget." he said on Wednesday.

Instead, the force insisted on extending the detention period of terrorism suspects to 30 days from previously seven. "The police claimed seven days was not enough to make the suspects open their mouths," he said.

Almost all factions at the House rejected the idea considering the potential abuse of power by the police officers against the suspects during the 30-day period, Arsul said.

In addition, the police had also insisted that the new law should give them the power to arrest people suspected of planning or preparing a terrorist attack.

"The deliberation of this amendment is a heavy task because we have to find the best and most balanced formula," he added. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/16/terrorism-law-should-respect-human-rights-lawmakers.html

House pledges transparency in Terrorism Law deliberations

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – House of Representatives special committee for the amendment of the Terrorism Law has promised to open deliberations to the public. The committee previously held closed-door deliberations despite many articles in the bill being deemed to threaten human rights.

"Deliberations, indeed, have always been closed. But for the next [stage] we will make them open, unless the government insist on them remaining closed to the public. The government usually considers it a very sensitive issue," committee member Arsul Sani told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Amendment to the Terrorism Law was initiated and drafted by the government. Many human rights groups have complained that the bill has many repressive articles. The draft gives the National Police the right to arrest people suspected of planning a terrorist attack without proof that they plan to do so. It also stipulates longer detentions for suspected terrorists, from seven days to 30 days, which could enable abuse of power.

Arsul said deliberations had been heavy going, even in finding the best definition of terrorist acts.

"We haven't even finished defining acts of terror and what can constitutes terrorism. If we can [define that], it will be easier to deliberate the remaining articles," said the United Development Party (PPP) lawmaker.(jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/16/house-pledges-transparency-in-terrorism-law-deliberations.html

Freedom of religion & worship

Man sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for blasphemy

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Jakarta – The Semarang District Court in Central Java sentenced a man named Andrew Handoko to one-and-a-half years in prison for blasphemy on Monday.

Presiding judge Puji Widodo said Andrew's action of tearing up the Quran was found to have violated Article 156 of the Criminal Code.

According to the law, anyone who publicly expresses feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt toward one or more of the people of Indonesia can face a maximum four years' imprisonment or a maximum fine of Rp 4,500 (36 US cents).

Puji said the defendant had been proven guilty of doing so, through his intent and actions in tearing up the Quran and its translation, as it is the Muslim holy book and the scripture of all faiths should be respected.

He added that as the defendant was educated, there was no reason for him to not be aware of his actions. "The act of the defendant offended Muslims and met the elements of defamation of religion," Puji said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Andrew was indicted for allegedly tearing up a Quran at his ex-girlfriend's boarding house in Surakarta in October 2016. The woman reported him to the Surakarta Police, but the trial was moved to Semarang for security reasons. (dis)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/man-sentenced-to-1-5-years-in-prison-for-blasphemy.html

Ethnic Chinese still grapple with discrimination despite generations in

Washington Post - March 18, 2017

Vincent Bevins, Prambanan, Indonesia – When Willie Sebastian bought a tiny piece of land to build a storage space, government officials in the heart of Java island delivered him an unpleasant surprise. He could not register the purchase, since he was of Chinese descent, and therefore the land would belong to the local sultan.

The men at the land office knew he was Chinese, he said, even though his family changed their last name from "Lee" in the 1970s, during his country's right-wing dictatorship, to avoid discrimination.

"They just looked at this face and knew," Sebastian said recently, pointing to his light skin and eyes, while working in his humble general store outside the historic city of Yogyakarta.

"But my family has been here for generations. They say the land can be owned by 'natives,' but I am native. Chinese Indonesians are Indonesians."

Indonesia, the world's fourth-most-populous country, is a plural democracy that no longer recognizes racial divisions. But 20 years after the end of the violently anti-communist Suharto dictatorship, which banned Chinese-language materials and suspended relations with Beijing for decades, Sebastian and others in this region still face official discrimination, despite the intervention of the government's human rights commission.

Questions about the role of Chinese Indonesians have loomed large in the world's largest Muslim-majority country over the past few months as Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known simply as "Ahok," the most prominent politician of Chinese descent in decades, wages a reelection campaign while facing trial for allegedly insulting Islam.

At the same time, President Trump's arrival has made foreign policy experts question whether Indonesia will have to rethink its relationship to China now that it's hard to predict the behavior of the United States, the long-standing ally that backed Suharto.

And here in Yogyakarta, a special region governed partially by a sultan with a lifelong position, Sebastian and others are pushing back against a 1975 decree that they think is being used against them unfairly.

"My wife bought some land to open a convenience store near the airport, but it's still not ours. They want us to rent our own land from the sultan, which we don't accept," says Siput Lokasari, a civil engineer who tried to take his case directly to the government with Sebastian. They received no response, despite recommendations from the National Commission on Human Rights that the policy be changed.

"We are a minority. There's been discrimination before this, and even though we have the law on our side now, a lot of other people are still afraid to speak up."

Other local Chinese Indonesians, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they had similar problems but chose not go to public for fear of hurting their cases.

Local officials said they could not comment on government issues and directed questions to the special governor. Representatives for Sultan Hamengkubuwono X did not respond to questions or interview requests.

"There's much less discrimination now against Chinese-descendant citizens than there was in the Suharto era, and this is one of few remaining official policies, but it's still very much in practice around here, and it's very much felt," said Budi Setyagraha, head of the Yogyakarta chapter of Indonesia's Chinese Muslim association. "And it's not just an economic issue, but also a symbolic one. We all built this nation, and we all deserve to be treated the same now."

For centuries, people from China have been active in the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, often as traders working alongside indigenous farmers and kings. The Dutch colonial government imposed a system of racial divisions here – as they did in South Africa – before Indonesian independence in 1949, but much of the modern laws concerning the Chinese population were passed during the Cold War.

In 1965, six Indonesian army generals were killed by other high-ranking officers, and conservative generals backed by the United States responded by accusing Communist Party leaders of attempting to orchestrate a coup.

Over the months that followed, military and civilian groups killed an estimated 500,000 to 1 million people, exterminating the world's third-largest Communist Party (behind China and the Soviet Union) while torturing and killing untold numbers of individuals accused of association with communists. The government the military formed afterward, led by Suharto, ruled Indonesia until 1998.

"Suharto used domestic elements that already existed, such as some anti-Chinese sentiment, as well as the geopolitical situation and the perceived eternal threat of communism, to craft his policy on the local Chinese population," said Baskara T. Wardaya, a professor at Sanata Dharma University at Yogyakarta, who studies the role of the Cold War in Indonesian history.

"But it was discrimination with uneven results. Chinese Indonesians were effectively banned from public life, from participating in politics and the military, while their children found it hard to enter public schools or universities. At the same time, Suharto relied on powerful Chinese businessman to build the economy, and many became very wealthy while common Chinese citizens were left behind."

In 1998, anti-Chinese riots erupted across the country, as businessmen in the minority group were blamed for the country's economic crisis.

It's estimated that there are at least 3 million Chinese-descendant citizens in Indonesia, out of a population of approximately 260 million. A few prominently wealthy members contribute to the myth that the community is all rich.

Across the country, Chinese Indonesians of more modest means, such as Sebastian and Lokasari, are closely watching Ahok's trial and election, hoping it turns on the law, rather than on race. Closer to home, they're pressing for the same principle to be upheld as they pursue their case with the government.

"I don't feel that regular people treat me differently because I'm Chinese. We get along great," says Sebastian, as customers make their way around a set of pink children's bicycles, his radio blasts the song "Every Morning," by the 1990s rock band Sugar Ray, and two women wearing light-colored headscarves work alongside him. "Right now my problem is the way the government is treating me."

[Additional reporting by Bambang Muryanto.]

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/ethnic-chinese-still-grapple-with-discrimination-despite-generations-in-indonesia/2017/03/17/4abba780-0444-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html

Academics from Central Java declare fight against radicalism, intolerance

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang, Central Java – Professors and academicians from various universities in Central Java announced on Wednesday their fight against radicalism and intolerance.

They made a petition entitled "Although we are different, we are still sisters and brothers".

Imam Taufiq, an academician from the Walisongo Islamic State University (UIN) Semarang, Central Java, read out the petition in a gathering at the Wisma Perdamaian (Mansion of Peace). The petition was made amid rising intolerance in the country.

The spirit of living a shared life based on diversity and nationalism – a key principle of the nation's founding fathers – is now facing serious challenges, it states.

The rise of identity politics that prioritizes the interests of certain groups and a shortage of dialogue among different groups has made Indonesia segregated. This will eventually break bonds of friendship and solidarity among the children of the nation, it says.

The petition asserts the Pancasila as the state ideology, hence all elements of society shared the responsibility of guarding it. A commitment to nationalism should be put forward by academicians through universities, says the petition.

Academicians from universities such as Diponegoro University (Undip) Semarang, Jenderal Soedirman University (Unsoed) Purwokerto and the Satya Wacana Christian University (UKSW) Salatiga attended the event. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/16/academics-from-central-java-declare-fight-against-radicalism-intolerance.html

Land & agrarian conflicts

Central Java activists hold joint prayer for late Kendeng protester

Jakarta Post - March 23, 2017

Jakarta – Peace activists from Semarang, Central Java, held on Thursday a joint prayer and a candlelight vigil to remember Patmi, 48, a farmer from Kendeng, Rembang, who passed away on Tuesday.

Patmi died of a heart attack after participating in a rally in front of the State Palace, Jakarta, to protest the construction of state cement maker Semen Indonesia's factory in the regency.

The joint prayer was conducted in front of the Central Java governor's office on Jl. Pahlawan, Semarang.

Activist Setyawan Budi, who coordinated the event, said the joint prayer was held as a reflection of the struggle by Patmi. Interfaith leaders also participated in the event.

"We planned around 100 people to participate in the event. But we have prepared 150 candles for this joint prayer," Setiawan said as quoted by kompas.com prior to the event.

"The joint prayer will be held across religions. It is hoped God will give Ibu Patmi a good place beside Him," he added.

The prayer event was initially to be held in the Tugu Muda area, but because a permit would have been required, the organizer moved the event to outside the governor's office.

"Ibu Patmi was a hero. She is the Kartini of this era," said Setyawan, referring to a female national hero.

Patmi, a resident of Larangan village in Tambakromo district, Pati regency, was a female farmer who dared to speak out against any development activities that would be harmful to the environment and its ecosystem. She said nature must be protected against damage for future generations. (rdi/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/23/central-java-activists-hold-joint-prayer-for-late-kendeng-protester.html

Jokowi's short meeting with Kendeng farmers ends in tears

Jakarta Post - March 23, 2017

Jakarta – Gunarti, a farmer from Kendeng in Rembang, Central Java, who had participated in a rally since March 13 to protest the construction of a cement factory in the mountainous area, could not hide her disappointment upon hearing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's response to aspirations they conveyed during their meeting at the State Palace on Wednesday.

"The President told me that it was not him who had the authority to issue a license [for the construction of the cement factory] but the governor," Gunarti told The Jakarta Post, referring to Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo.

"He also told me not to report everything to him and instead asked me whether or not I had met with the governor," she added.

Gunarti and her brother, Gunarso, had a chance to meet Jokowi as she and several other people with the Indigenous People's Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) were invited to meet the President at the palace on Wednesday.

Gunarti said she had expected to use the rare opportunity to greet Jokowi and tell him of her disappointment with Ganjar's decision to reissue a license his administration had previously issued for state cement-maker Semen Indonesia to build a factory in Rembang.

Jokowi's response to her complaint was a shock, she said. "We have met our governor many times, but nothing has changed. That's why we have been holding a rally in Jakarta for days. We hoped that the President, who holds the highest authority in this country, could make a positive difference," Gunarti said, crying. (hol/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/23/jokowis-short-meeting-with-kendeng-farmers-ends-in-tears.html

Anti-cement plant rally goes on after farmer's death

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Jakarta – Following Tuesday's death of a farmer demonstrator, about 100 NGO activists joined the Central Java farmers' protest across from the State Palace on Wednesday, protesting a cement factory that they deem as endangering the villagers' livelihood.

The activists replaced hundreds of farmers who had held a daily rally since March 13. The farmers went back to their home villages to bury their community member, Patmi, who died of heart attack early Tuesday.

Representing various civic organizations, such as Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA), Legal Aid Institute (LBH), Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) and Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), eight of the activists buried their feet in concrete blocks the way the protesting farmers had done to dramatize their demand.

"Now we all are Kendeng," said Dewi Kartika, the KPA's secretary general, in reference to the mountainous area in Rembang regency where the factory is being built. "We swear we won't stop until our demand is met."

The protesters took turns addressing the crowd, announcing their demands and praising the late Patmi's courage.

"Patmi was right here Monday and buried her feet in concrete blocks, just like what we're doing now. She fought with us because she had faith that the Kendeng people would eventually retain their land. We should share her faith," Adi Wibowo of KPA said.

The activists said they were unhappy with the government's stand on the issue. Presidential Chief of Staff office head Teten Masduki told the protesters on Monday the government was reviewing the disputed project, but he was short of saying the government would cancel it as they have demanded. (hol)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/anti-cement-plant-rally-goes-on-after-farmers-death.html

Kendeng protester's death triggers calls for activists, NGOs to step up

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – The death of Patmi, 48, a Kendeng farmer who fought against the construction of a cement factory belonging to state cement maker Semen Indonesia in Rembang, Central Java, has pushed activists and NGOs to increase their resistance against the project.

They have vowed to continue their protest until President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo instructed Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo to revoke the government's environmental permit for Semen Indonesia.

Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA) secretary general Dewi Kartika said on Tuesday activists would continue to demand Jokowi take strict action against Ganjar.

The governor violated the President's instruction last August, which ordered Semen Indonesia to cease its activities until an environmental assessment (KLHS) for mining activities in Kendeng Mountain areas was completed.

The meeting between Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki and four representatives of Kendeng farmers on Monday produced no result. He said the issuance of the permit was the authority of the Central Java administration. The farmers were also disappointed they could not meet Jokowi although the President was at the palace.

"[...] President Jokowi's measures have contradicted his own policies. The President has promised to certify 9 million hectares of land for farmers, but he is unable to even respond to the demand of the Kendeng farmers," Dewi said.

Patmi, one of the Kendeng farmers staging an eight-day protest in front of the State Palace, died of a heart attack on Tuesday. "The death of Bu Patmi is the moment for all of us to step up the struggle to preserve the environment in Central Java," said Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) director Alghiffari Aqsa. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/kendeng-protesters-death-triggers-calls-for-activists-NGOs-to-step-up-resistance.html

Farmer protester who buried feet in concrete block dies of heart attack

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2017

Jakarta – One of the about 100 farmers who have staged a daily rally over the last week in front of the State Palace to demand the cancellation of a cement factory project in their home village in Kendeng, Central Java, died of heart attack on her way to the hospital in Jakarta early on Tuesday.

Patmi, 48, died on her way from the Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) office where the protesters were being accommodated to the nearby Saint Carolus Hospital at 2:45 a.m. on March 22, the foundation said.

She and around 50 of her fellow farmers have been burying their feet in concrete blocks in front of the palace since Monday, hoping that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo would eventually take notice of their plight involving the establishment of a plant.

Their demand is that Jokowi revoke the license already issued for the state-owned cement maker PT Semen Indonesia to build a factory in a hilly regency of Rembang, Central Java. Backed by environmental and human rights groups called the Coalition for Kendeng, they deem the plant to be an ecological threat.

In its statement, the coalition said Padmi was healthy when she and other farmers returned to the YLBHI office. This was confirmed by a team of doctors who closely monitor the protestors' conditions during and after each rally.

"In the evening [of Monday] after their concrete blocks were opened, doctors team checked everyone's condition. Patmi was in a healthy condition," said Muhammad Isnur of Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation.

However, at around 2:30, Patmi had a seizure and vomited. Doctors who were on shift at YLBHI rushed her to the nearby St. Carolus Salemba Hospital, but she died on her way there. Doctors said she died of a heart attack. (hol)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/21/farmer-protester-who-buried-feet-in-concrete-block-dies-of-heart-attack.html

Semen Indonesia postpones Rembang factory opening due to protests

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Ahmad F. Bayuny, Jakarta – Publicly listed cement manufacturer PT Semen Indonesia (SI) has decided to postpone the initial launch of its new production facility in Rembang, Central Java, for several months due to a prolonged dispute with the local community.

"[The facility] will start commercial operation in either May or June. We are not in a hurry," SI corporate secretary Agung Wiharto said as quoted by kontan.co.id on Monday.

The production facility was initially scheduled to start operating in April.

Since last week, dozens of farmers from the Central Java cities of Rembang, Pati, Blora and Grobogan, have cemented their feet inside concrete blocks in front of the State Palace in Jakarta to protest the establishment of the facility.

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

SI, meanwhile, has argued that the factory would create jobs and improve the local economy, which it says are much needed by Kendeng residents.

Responding to the farmers' protest in Jakarta, Agung said that the company had offered a number of solutions, including employing a so-called block mining system to prevent water from dripping out from the mountain. (hwa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/semen-indonesia-postpones-rembang-factory-opening-due-to-protests.html

Disputed cement plant in Central Java stays on track

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Even with their feet buried in concrete blocks for five days in front of the State Palace, the protests by a group of farmers from the Kendeng mountain area against a cement factory in Rembang, Central Java, have apparently been ignored.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is expected to inaugurate the state-run cement maker Semen Indonesia's factory next month, according to State-Owned Enterprises (SEO) Minister Rini Soemarno following her visit to the factory on Friday.

"The factory's development has been completed, and it will operate smoothly [...] but, the inauguration will wait for the results from the KLHS [strategic environmental assessment], which hopefully, will be completed in April," Rini said.

Repeated calls by the farmers for Jokowi to shut down the cement factory are not a problem for Rini, who claimed that the farmers only represented 5 percent of locals who opposed the construction and that the majority of villagers supported the cement factory.

The Mount Kendeng Community Network (JMPPK) has staged protests against the issuance of the new environmental permit for Semen Indonesia in Jakarta since Monday.

"Whatever the [government's] plan is, we will continue to oppose the cement factory in Rembang. The environmental damage is too high and the karst ecosystem in the area should be protected," Joko Priyanto, an activist with the JMPPK, told The Jakarta Post.

In October last year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of farmers and ordered Semen Indonesia to cease its activities. Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo revoked the permit on Jan. 16, but he issued a new environmental permit on Feb. 23.

From 10 farmers seen protesting under the sun on Monday, the fifth day of the protest on Friday saw 50 farmers who were committed to cementing their feet until Jokowi responded to their calls.

Gun Retno, a farmer from Pati, said water supply during draught season in areas around Kendeng mountain had been decreasing due to mining sites and deforestation. "With high population density, Java needs to preserve the environment and ensure water supply. Without water it's impossible for [farmers] to plant. How can we produce food for people to eat?" Gun told the Post.

Two state rights bodies have stepped up to support the farmers in a quest to preserve karst ecology, which according to the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), is on the brink of crisis with only 5,500 square kilometers, 4 percent, of total land area on Java.

National Commission of Human Rights (Komnas HAM) commissioner Muhammad Nurkhoiron urged the government to immediately issue a government regulation on karst ecology to ensure preservation and utilization of karst regions for common interests without violating human rights.

"What these farmers are fighting for is not only for us but for future generations as well," Nurkhoiron said.

Last year, Jokowi ordered Rembang's cement factory to cease operations until the KLHS report was complete. Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki said the KLHS would take about a year.

Yanuar Nugroho, a deputy in the Presidential Office, said they could not confirm whether or not President Jokowi would inaugurate the cement factory next month. "We are monitoring the progress of the KLHS report, which is currently in the hands of the Environment and Forestry Ministry," Yanuar told the Post.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/disputed-cement-plant-in-central-java-stays-on-track.html

Snowballing support for Kendeng residents

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Jakarta – Having buried their feet in concrete blocks in front of Jakarta's State Palace for eight days, Kendeng residents are receiving growing support from other groups in demanding President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo revoke a license for a cement factory for PT Semen Indonesia in Rembang, Central Java, which they fear endangers their hometown.

On Monday, 50 Kendeng residents will see 10 activists from Jakarta join them in pouring concrete on their feet in front of the palace as an expression of solidarity.

The support comes from farmers from Teluk Jambe in Karawang, West Java, and from Batang, Central Java. Organized in the group United Farmers, they have come to the palace to perform a ritual to bring luck.

Bandung residents, meanwhile, expressed solidarity with the protestors during the city's Car Free Day event on Sunday. The Association of Independent Trade Unions of Bandung and the Working People's Party (PRP) also voiced their support for the Kendeng protest.

Volunteers from the Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) helped with soup kitchens, providing food and other needs for the protesters. They also raised donations by selling T-shirts to support the cost of the action.

In addition to the action by Kendeng residents in front of the palace, opposition to the cement factory echoed in the villages around the plant in Rembang. On Sunday night, Timbrangan villagers sent their prayers for safety and victory. (dis/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/snowballing-support-for-kendeng-residents.html

Continued construction of Rembang cement factory unjust: Activist

Jakarta Post - March 18, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang, Central Java – Joko Prianto, an activist from the Network of Mount Kendeng Care Society, said the continued construction of a cement factory owned by state cement maker Semen Indonesia in Rembang, Central Java, was a form of injustice.

"This is a country with the supremacy of law. So, to whom does the law belong? We will continue to reject the factory. We will never stop. We are still in Jakarta [to rally]. There has been injustice in Kendeng. Justice has been violated in Central Java," Joko said on Friday.

He was referring to the Supreme Court's decision to rule in favour of the Kendeng farmers in October, ordering Semen Indonesia to halt the factory construction process.

In a visit to the factory compound on Friday, State Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno said President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo would inaugurate the factory in April.

Meanwhile, Semen Rembang factory project head Heru Indra said the cement factory was ready to start producing at its full capacity. "Equipment testing is being continuously conducted. In April, the factory will be fully operational," he said.

Heru said materials used in the trial of the factory's production process were all bought from traditional miners and that mining would begin only after it officially starts operating.

The Rembang cement factory is designed to produce 3 million tons of cement per year. The most productive factory owned by Semen Indonesia comprises four lines, which can produce 2,400 bags of cement per line per hour.

In 2017, it is expected that the factory can produce 1.9 million tons of cement, or around 60 percent of its target of 3 million tons. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/18/continued-construction-of-rembang-cement-factory-unjust-activist.html

Kendeng farmers refuse to halt protests against cement factory

Jakarta Post - March 18, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Despite the government's plan to begin operations at state cement maker Semen Indonesia's factory in Rembang, Central Java, in April, farmers from the Mount Kendeng area have refused to end their Jakarta rallies against the plant until President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo shuts it down.

Joko Priyanto, an activist with the Mount Kendeng Community Network (JMPPK), said the farmers would continue to sit in front of the State Palace with their feet buried inside concrete blocks every day to demand justice. This was especially so because last October, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of farmers and ordered Semen Indonesia to cease its operation.

"Whatever the [government's] plan is, we will continue to oppose the cement factory in Rembang. The environmental damage is too high, when in fact the karst ecosystem in the area should be protected," Joko told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

During her visit to the factory complex on Friday, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno claimed the majority of villagers supported the construction of the cement factory, citing economic reasons. She also claimed only 5 percent of locals opposed the construction, adding that the government would seek solutions.

"The minister should understand that this case is not about a majority against a minority, this is about how the government complies with the law," Joko said.

Friday's rally marked the fifth day of a protests launched by Kendeng farmers in front of the palace. Fifty farmers from Rembang, Pati, Blora and Grobogan, have buried their feet in concrete blocks. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/18/kendeng-farmers-refuse-to-halt-protests-against-cement-factory.html

Homelands under threat, Indonesian tribes rally for land rights

Thomson Reuters Foundation - March 17, 2017

Beh Lih Yi, Jakarta – Thousands of Indonesian indigenous people gathered on Sumatra island on Friday to call on the government to protect their land rights as fears grow some tribes could become extinct.

A sprawling archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is home to an estimated 50 to 70 million indigenous people, but many do not have formal title to the land their families have lived on for generations.

For decades they have been locked in bitter battles with logging, palm oil and mining companies that have been expanding into their homelands in the resource-rich Southeast Asian nation.

President Joko Widodo has pledged to improve their lives, but activists say his ambitious plans to boost infrastructure and energy production – including by building dams – mean more tribes are at risk of being displaced.

"Even though the government has nice policies on paper, we continue to face land grabs... and forced evictions throughout Indonesia," said Rukka Sombolinggi, deputy head of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago.

"We are willing to share, but development has to be done with our consent," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

More than 5,000 people from 2,000 indigenous communities convened in Tanjung Gusta village outside North Sumatra's provincial capital Medan. The gathering is organized by the alliance and held every five years.

Indonesia's Constitutional Court ruled in 2013 indigenous people have the right to manage forests where they live, in a verdict hailed as a victory for indigenous land rights.

The government last December announced it would return 13,000 hectares of customary lands to nine indigenous communities, and committed to giving back a total of 12.7 million hectares – roughly the size of Greece – to local and indigenous groups.

Indonesia's environment and forestry minister reiterated on Friday the government's commitment to indigenous rights.

"It was only a start and not the end of this struggle," Siti Nurbaya Bakar told the gathering, referring to the December announcement to return customary lands.

Campaigner Sombolinggi, of the Sulawesi island's Toraja tribe, lauded these developments but said legal reforms have been slow.

More than 230 indigenous leaders and activists are currently on trial for battling to save their homelands, she said, while at least six tribes face the threat of extinction as a result of land conflicts.

"Our livelihood and our existence are being affected. When we are evicted from our land, what else do we have?" she asked.

[Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, editing by Alisa Tang.]

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-landrights-indigenous-idUSKBN16O11O

Indigenous culture & rights

Indonesia's indigenous voices turn on Widodo

Nikkei Asia Review - March 20, 2017

Peter Guest, Tangung Gusta, Indonesia – The image of Indonesian President Joko Widodo still gazes out from billboards along the dirt road that leads from the North Sumatran capital of Medan to Tanjung Gusta.

On a recent weekend the town – a scrappy suburb to the west of the city – took on the air of an unusual rock festival, with thudding music, craft stalls and food carts, as thousands of representatives gathered for the quinquennial congress of the Indigenous People's Alliance of the Archipelago, which is known by its Bahasa Indonesian acronym, Aman.

The president was supposed to be the guest of honor at the gathering, but he cancelled at the last minute, choosing instead to travel to West Kalimantan to open a new border post. He sent his environment minister and chief of staff but his absence was taken as a snub by many delegates, who were mulling over whether to endorse "Jokowi," as he is known, for a second presidential term.

"If I was a president who had promised so much, and delivered so little, I wouldn't come," said Abdon Nababan, who just retired as Aman's secretary general after leading the organization for 18 years.

Many indigenous activists campaigned for Widodo in the last election, hoping he would, as he promised, pass a law recognizing their customary land rights. After coming to power in 2014, his government committed to transfer nearly 13 million hectares of state-owned land to indigenous communities. Two years on, only a fraction of that has been handed over.

Indigenous groups, who have often come into conflict with the agribusiness and mining industries in Indonesia, see the recognition of customary land rights as the first and most important step in overcoming their economic, social and political marginalization for more than 70 years since Indonesian independence.

"It was the first time [the return of customary land rights] became a national political issue," Nabadan said. "And we were positive about [Widodo's] profile."

As a relative outsider, with few links to big business, the election of Widodo was seen by many as an opportunity to curb Indonesia's entrenched corruption and rent-seeking, which has fueled land grabbing and rights abuses. The promises made on the campaign trail were "revolutionary," Nabadan said. But as president, Widodo has been a disappointment to many indigenous voters.

"He made small, small changes here and there, but that progress is too small, compared to his commitment," Nabadan said. "But the problems of indigenous peoples are not small problems. They are the accumulated problems of more than 70 years."

Those problems are shared by indigenous communities across the archipelago. While Gunarti, a leader from the Sedulur Sikes community in central Java, was attending the congress in Tanjung Gusta, her colleagues were protesting in Jakarta with their feet fixed in boxes of cement to campaign against the construction of a cement plant and mine on their land. It is the latest skirmish in a decade-long battle against a development that threatens their home near Mount Kandung.

Gunarti believes that quarrying on the mountain would compromise hundreds of streams that feed the farms below. "Without the mountain, there is no source of livelihood," she said.

They have resisted the development through a combination of non-violent protests, education and legal challenges. To counter claims by the company that the factory would provide jobs and social infrastructure, Gunarti and her colleagues went to another town, Tuban, to make a documentary film that showed the reality of living next to a cement factory. When the company's environmental impact study showed only six active water springs on Kandung, the community conducted its own research and found 49.

Fighting fire with fire

In land rights cases, maps and environmental studies are heavily politicized and indigenous groups have had to learn to gather evidence to challenge the legality of concessions and dispute the results of contentious surveys. Many indigenous activists now employ camera drones and compile satellite imagery. They are assisted by international foundations and non-governmental organizations, which see their cause as not only upholding human rights, but as an effective bulwark against deforestation that contributes to global warming.

A November 2016 analysis by research groups the World Resources Institute, the Woods Hole Research Center and the Rights and Resources Initiative estimated that more than a quarter of all carbon sequestered in tropical forests is on indigenous and community forestlands.

The fight for land rights is not just about culture and heritage. Customary land use, such as hunting and forest agriculture, provide livelihoods that are difficult to replace with employment on plantations or mines. "We are laborers on the land we used to own" is a common refrain among indigenous activists.

Gunarti said the mountain is her "heritage" and explained how the community's religion, Samin, dictates that they must make a living from the land. But she also offered a practical argument: "They talk about providing employment. We do two seasons of planting per year. One hectare of rice field can employ 240 people per season," she said. "They're going to take away 2,000 hectares. If it's lost, how many people will lose their jobs?"

Such conflicts raise important questions about how compatible Indonesia's development model is with conservation and the rights of indigenous communities; and how to balance the demands of an economy driven by the commodity and agribusiness sectors with the needs of a significant part of the country's population who view the world very differently.

"The impact of modernity is to alienate us from the land," said Fredy Wowor, a Minahasa leader from North Sulawesi, who divides his time between his community and his job as a lecturer in non-Asian literature at Sam Ratulangi University in the regional capital, Manado. He said that the government and society at large should see indigenous communities as exemplars of sustainable livelihoods, and integrate their cultures and respect for the land into the national education system.

Conspicuous absence

Widodo's stand-ins at the Aman conference – his chief of staff, Teten Masduki, and Nurbaya Bakar, the minister of environment and forestry – received a cool reception from the delegates. Bakar's promise that "you can trust us to fight your struggle" was met with only a smattering of half-hearted applause.

Among conference participants was Kinarang Boy, from the Dayak Balangan Halong community in South Kalimantan, whose full ceremonial outfit meant he was in constant demand for selfies from other delegates. He told the Nikkei Asian Review that neighboring communities have been squeezed by palm oil plantations, and people had been "criminalized" for trying to make use of their hereditary land. "We don't trust the government 100%, but we expect they'll listen to us," he said.

Hat Dea Heline, from the Dayak Wehea ti Futuai Timur community in East Kalimantan, said the government needed to move faster to prevent plantations further encroaching on his community. Lauronsius Madus from Mopi Tana on Flores Island expressed doubt that the national government's promises would make any difference to the way that local governments operate. "In the local level, the political willingness of the government and parliament is very weak. They don't take our side," he said.

The delegations from West Papua were the most critical. The region, which has long campaigned for independence, is culturally distinct from the rest of the archipelago. Papua is increasingly under pressure from domestic and international companies that are able to grab land with relative impunity because of weak government oversight.

Daniel Toto, who represents nine indigenous communities from the Jayapura district of Papua, said that many of the government's efforts were token gestures. On March 9, officials from West Papua handed back more than 3,500 hectares of rainforest reserve in the Knasaimos indigenous territory, the first time that the regional government has given legal title to the local communities.

That move, noted Toto, demonstrated the government was only willing to give up land that is already protected by conservation laws, while keeping control of land that had economic value. He repeated a motto that Yosafat Merabano, a veteran community leader from the same region, wants Aman to adopt as its slogan: "If the state will not recognize indigenous people, we will not recognize the state."

Political endorsement

Speaking at an impromptu press conference under a tree in Tanjung Gusta, presidential chief of staff Masduki said that the schedule for handing over large areas of land and creating legislation recognizing indigenous rights had been "too ambitious," since it was proving challenging to work with local governments and within the constraints of the national parliament.

But the indigenous groups are running out of patience. They are now faced with a difficult choice – either to support a government that has failed to deliver on its promises or to withdraw their support and risk a worse one coming to power.

Aleta Baun, a leading indigenous rights activist who successfully defended her traditional lands in Timor from mining operations, warned that the progress the movement has made is still very fragile. "We hope Jokowi will win," she said, "or else we will go back to the old times." Widodo may need their support and could come to regret his decision to avoid the congress. Indonesia's politics is becoming increasingly nationalist in tone – as exemplified by the current election for mayor of Jakarta, which has descended into ethnic and religious factionalism.

Aman has an enviable grassroots network across Indonesia and its constituent indigenous associations represent 20 million people. Unlike the state, it is visible in the villages. "We are well organized, we have resources, we could do advocacy. We could be [Widodo's] friend," Nabadan said. "We know the whole structure of the government is the old one. We know that government has been corrupted for more than 50 years. But we wanted to hear it directly from the president."

Source: http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/Indonesia-s-indigenous-voices-turn-on-Widodo

Jokowi criticized for not taking side of indigenous people

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2017

Apriadi Gunawan, Tanjung Gusta, North Sumatra – Participants of the fifth congress of the Indigenous People's Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) on Saturday evaluated President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's nine-point priority agenda, known as Nawacita, coming to the conclusion that it had not yet served the interests of indigenous people in Indonesia.

AMAN Congress organizing committee head Arifin Monang Saleh said the evaluation of the President's Nawacita was one of important agenda items up for discussion during the congress.

The congress' participants evaluated six points of the Nawacita program, he said, including the implementation of Constitutional Court (MK) ruling No. 35 on customary forests, the deliberation of the indigenous people bill, the establishment of a national commission for indigenous people, the settlement of conflicts in customary communities and the implementation of a law on customary villages.

"The six Nawacita points related to indigenous people in the country have not yet been realized. We very much regret this," Arifin told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the congress in Tanjung Gusta, Deli Serdang regency, on Saturday.

The results of the Nawacita evaluation by congress participants will be further discussed in the commission for recommendation, resolution and declaration.

"We will announce what they [indigenous people] have recommended to realize the Nawacita program at the end of the congress," said Arifin.

The last agenda item of the congress, which will end on Sunday, is the selection and inauguration of the National AMAN Council and AMAN secretary general for the 2017-2022 period. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/19/jokowi-criticized-for-not-taking-side-of-indigenous-people.html

Parliament & legislation

Visiting Indonesian lawmakers find Germany no longer implementing e-voting

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Jakarta – During its working visit to Germany, the special committee tasked with deliberating the election bill found that the country was no longer implementing e-voting because it was prone to hacking.

The committee was on a controversial working visit to Germany and Mexico, from March 11 to 16.

"We confirmed in Germany that e-voting is just as problematic. There is no supporting data and its prone to hacking," committee member Johnny G. Plate said at the legislative complex in Senayan, as quoted by kompas.com on Monday.

Johnny said at the beginning of the election bill discussion, the committee determined that the one major problem surrounding elections in Indonesia was the high number of election disputes.

Geographical challenges also served as obstacles in monitoring traditional ballot counting across the archipelagic nation. The committee then came up with the idea of implementing e-voting, e-counting and e-witnessing.

The NasDem Party politician said his faction believed e-voting was not necessary. (dis/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/visiting-indonesian-lawmakers-find-germany-no-longer-implementing-e-voting.html

Jakarta & urban life

Court revokes reclamation permits

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – The Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) approved a petition filed by fishermen and a rights group in relation to permits issued for the construction of three artificial islets on Jakarta's northern coast on Thursday.

A panel of three judges found that the permits issued for islets F, I and K had violated several regulations.

Presiding judge Adi Budi Sulistyo said the permits were issued without listening to the concerns of fishermen, while the law obligated the city to do so.

Adi added that the project could potentially cause damage to the coastal area. "We ordered the defendant to revoke his decision letter that is being disputed in this hearing," he said.

The city administration issued construction permits on Oct. 22, 2015 to city-owned PT Jakarta Propertindo for islet F and to PT Jaladri Eka Paksi for islet I, while it issued a permit on Nov. 17 to PT Pembangunan Jaya Ancol for islet K.

Protests have been staged by fishermen, rights activists and environmentalists who claimed the Jakarta governor violated various regulations in issuing the permits and demanded that the court revoke them immediately.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/16/court-revokes-reclamation-permits.html

Armed forces & defense

More F-16 aircraft from US arrive in Indonesia

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2017

Jakarta – Five F-16 jet fighters granted from the United States government will arrive at the Iswahjudi Air Force Base in Magetan, East Java, on Monday.

"Five F-16 fighter aircraft type F-16C/D from the US government will arrive today at Iswahjudi Air Force Base, Magetan," Head of public information at the Iswahjudi Air Force Base, Magetan, Mayor Tamsir, said on Monday as quoted on kompas.com.

The five jet fighters are a portion of the 24 aircraft the US government granted to Indonesia. Indonesia has received 14 aircraft until now. "So there are still five more to come. According to schedule, they will arrive by the end of the year," said Tamsir.

Tamsir said one pilot from Iswahjudi would be one of the five pilots who flew the aircraft from the US to Indonesia. Tamsir added that the five aircraft would received directly by Danlanud Iswahjudi, Marsma TNI Andyawan MP at the main base.

It was earlier reported that five F-16s from the US Air Force had arrived at Iswahjudi on Wednesday. The aircraft have been upgraded so that their ability is equivalent to a new plane. The five aircraft are expected to strengthen Indonesia's main weaponry system. (dis/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/20/more-f-16-aircraft-from-us-arrive-in-indonesia.html

Indonesian army destroys much-mocked tiger statue

BBC News - March 16, 2017

Christine Franciska – The Indonesian army has demolished a tiger statue in front of a base in West Java after it became a laughing stock online.

The grinning tiger in a small village in Garut was supposed to be a mascot for the Siliwangi Military Command. But internet users found it hilarious because it was so different from the fierce tiger on official logos.

"I don't know why, but every time I see its face, I laugh... buahaha," said one Facebook user.

The tiger had been in place for several years, but only recently found internet fame.

Vincent Candra told the BBC he had laughed a lot when he saw the picture of the tiger and decided to share it on Twitter. It has since travelled across social media and made its way into the national media.

Many have poked fun at the tiger's cartoonish appearance, while others edited it into film posters and surreal scenarios. Other people uploaded more weird looking tiger statues they had seen in front of army bases.

"I didn't expect it will go viral," said Vincent. "I felt sad when I found out that the statue was destroyed."

On Monday, the army moved in to put the tiger out of its misery, demolishing it with chisels.

Siliwangi military commander Maj Gen Herindra told the BBC the statue had been "made long time ago in Cisewu district"."Every unit has their own decision on how the statue was made, but sometimes the artist was not that good."

People who had been enjoying the humour online instead expressed grief. "RIP Cisewu tiger, thank you for entertaining us," said one Twitter user.

One had an alternative suggestion, saying it would have been better to "move it into the zoo, so children can take selfies with it".

A parody Facebook page, Indonesia's Humour Ministry [or Kementerian Humor Indonesia] said a lot of people were "broken hearted".

As one of first sites to share the photo last week, they said they felt "a bit guilty" that it had now gone. So they made a special "goodbye cartoon" to remind everyone of its unique grinning face.

Gen Herindra said the army would be looking at other statues in the region to see if they are "consistent with the original [military] emblem"."If some of them are not good, we will change them," he said.

But he also promised a new tiger statue would be installed at the Siliwangi base, which was "more similar" to the command's logo.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-39276106

Tourism & hospitality

Indonesian officials told to stop shaking down Chinese tourists

South China Morning Post - March 17, 2017

The Chinese embassy in Indonesia has accused local customs officials of targeting Chinese tourists and demanding they give them illicit "tips" at border controls.

The embassy published a post on its website advising Chinese tourists not to succumb to pressure to pay illegal tips to customs or other officials.

Indonesia has become a popular destination for Chinese tourists, with over 1.4 million visitors from the mainland travelling to the Southeast Asian nation last year, the embassy statement said.

Some Chinese tourists said Indonesian border officials made them pay tips ranging from 100 yuan (US$14.50) to 300 yuan, according to the Chongqing Times.

Chinese tourist 'attacked after refusing to tip Vietnamese officials'

The officials work for a number of departments including customs, immigration at airports and the inspection and quarantine bureau, the report said.

The allegations were widely publicised in China last week after a video was posted online showing a mainland tourist who was forced to pay up 500 yuan at an Indonesian airport.

The man who posted the video said customs officials spotted him filming and interrogated him. "They repeatedly interrogated me and sent me to the waiting room. They pushed me around and claimed that they would deny me entry," he said.

The Chinese embassy in Indonesia said one of its staff had briefed officials at Indonesia's national immigration office and Soekarno-Hatta International airport in Jakarta about the allegations.

The embassy has urged the Indonesian government to take immediate steps to stop the threats against Chinese tourists. The Indonesian government said it would take the reports seriously, but added these were isolated cases, the embassy notice said.

This is not the first time Chinese tourists have been forced to hand over cash to border officials while travelling. Chinese government officials have also discussed the issue with Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Chinese embassy in Vietnam said in February it was highly concerned after a Chinese tourist was beaten by customs officials for refusing to pay tips.

The embassy said in a notice it had demanded the Vietnamese authorities investigate the incident and apologise to the tourist.

Source: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2079834/indonesian-officials-told-stop-shaking-down-chinese-tourists

Mining & energy

Indonesia urged to settle dispute amid Freeport workers' outcry

Jakarta Post - March 23, 2017

Viriya P. Singgih, Jakarta – Gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) employees have urged the government once again to immediately settle its dispute with the company as the number of laid-off workers has kept increasing from one day to another.

As of March 14, the company had laid off 2,102 contract workers, while giving long leave and offering voluntary resignation to 291 permanent staffers, according to the All Indonesia Labor Union's (SPSI) local unit for PTFI, which represents around 12,000 PTFI workers.

The union also claims PTFI aims to dismiss 782 permanent staffers in the first phase of its efficiency measures.

"The company should discuss its efficiency measures together with the union so that both parties can reach a win-win solution," Tri Puspital, an advocacy division member at the SPSI for PTFI, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Hence, he called on PTFI to stop such measures, while urging the government to immediately settle the dispute with the company.

PTFI was banned from exporting its copper concentrates on Jan. 12, when the government fully imposed the mineral export ban, as initially mandated in the 2009 Mining Law.

Under the new policy, PTFI can only process its export permit if it shows a commitment to converting its contract of work (CoW) into a special mining license (IUPK), divests 51 percent of its shares to local entities and build a new smelter alone or together with other companies. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/23/indonesia-urged-to-settle-dispute-amid-freeport-workers-outcry.html

Papua asks for 10 percent in Freeport divestment

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – The Papua administration has requested a 10 percent share of divested shares of copper and gold miner PT Freeport Indonesia if the company abides by a requirement to sell 51 percent of its shares to national entities.

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe met President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Wednesday to discuss the standoff between Freeport Indonesia and the government and how it would affect the province. A similar request has also been made by Mimika Regent Eltinus Omaleng.

"This is our country and we must maintain our sovereignty. This is why 51 percent of its shares must be divested to us and we [in Papua] want 10 percent of them," Lukas said.

"The President completely agreed with our stance on Freeport. Papua and Jakarta are fighting for the same thing."

Freeport Indonesia, a subsidiary of US-based Freeport McMoRan, has refused to accept a government demand that it convert its contract of work (CoW) into a special mining license (IUPK). The company argues that an IUPK would effectively annul its CoW, signed in 1991.

Freeport says it does not want to give up the rights listed in its present CoW, including protection of its long-term investment. It has threatened to take the case to international arbitration if a mutual agreement is not met in the next few months.

Freeport is required to divest 51 percent of its shares to national entities and, as stipulated in a new regulation, develop smelters alone or with other companies. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/papua-asks-for-10-percent-in-freeport-divestment.html

Freeport threatens action over copper mine dispute

The Australian - March 20, 2017

Sara Schonhardt – Freeport-McMoRan's standoff with Indonesia over the giant Grasberg copper and gold mine is entering a new phase, as the company scales back operations while trying to force a resolution to the dispute.

Last month, the US miner threatened to take Indonesia to arbitration, saying new rules the country imposed on miners in January violated the terms of an operating agreement struck in 1991 that runs to 2021.

The rules are part of a broad effort to gather more revenue from the mining sector. Under the rules, Freeport is banned from exporting a form of unrefined copper until it agrees to new operating rights that would eventually force it to cede control of Grasberg, the second-largest copper mine in the world, to Indonesian entities.

With the two sides at loggerheads, the miner lowered its output target for Grasberg, shelved investment plans and began laying off workers.

The showdown has reached a critical juncture. A prolonged standoff would be a financial blow to Freeport, which derives about one-third of its copper output from Indonesia. The mine is re­adjusting its operations to 40 per cent of its normal capacity.

Indonesia stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in annual payments, and its demands for greater control could further imperil already dwindling investment in its resources sector, experts warned.

The dispute also could undercut Indonesian President Joko Widodo's campaign to attract foreign investment for infrastructure in a nation stretched across 18,000 islands. The wrangling over Grasberg has already contributed to a rise in global copper prices, which could experience even more upward pressure if the conflict drags on.

"In this current controversy... we're either going to all win, or we're all going to lose," said Freeport chief executive Richard Adkerson. "And unfortunately we're on a path right now of where we're all potentially going to lose."

As part of its push to earn more from the mining sector, Indonesia banned ore exports and placed restrictions on exports of mineral concentrates in 2014 to push companies to invest in domestic smelting.

Now, Indonesian officials say the operating agreement for Grasberg needs to be updated to reflect changes in the country's legal landscape. Indonesia has asserted more control over foreign investment with the aim of redistributing economic benefits in a more equitable manner, an effort that began after the fall of dictator Suharto.

Freeport has set a deadline of mid-June to start arbitration proceedings and seek damages if it can't come to a deal with Jakarta. Indonesian is standing firm.

"Nobody wants to play hardball," said Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, which oversees the min­istry of energy and mineral resources. "But of course we also feel that after 50 years we also have to consider the people of Indonesia."

Freeport has operated in Indonesia since the 1960s.

In a statement on March 7, the ministry said it supported foreign and domestic investment and respected existing agreements. It said the divestment obligation was meant to "facilitate" mining companies to join with the government and "bring justice" for the people of Indonesia as the "absolute" owners of the country's resource wealth.

Sitting atop a mountain in western New Guinea island, Grasberg has been a windfall for Indonesia and Freeport. The company's success at Grasberg allowed Freeport to grow to become the world's largest publicly listed copper miner – and Indonesia's largest taxpayer.

Indonesia is requiring that Freeport agree to divest enough shares so that the company has only a minority stake in its Indonesian unit as part of new rules that will allow Freeport to resume the export of copper concentrates.

Freeport currently has a 90.64 per cent stake and has agreed to divest up to 30 per cent. The new rules would also require Freeport to build a new smelter by 2022 and pay higher taxes.

Indonesian officials have signalled some willingness to be flexible about the terms and timing of the divestment. It can be done in stages over several years, Mr Pandjaitan said.

Freeport said the rules violated its operating contract and it would not give up its rights to a mine in which it has invested $US12 billion.

Freeport is holding on while other miners have left Indonesia. Last year, Newmont Mining and BHP Billiton sold off interests in their Indonesian units to local firms and exited the country, citing heavier regulation as a factor.

Mining revenue as a share of economic growth in Indonesia has dropped since exports were restricted. Companies now are more wary of investing in countries where the risks are perceived to be high amid economic uncertainty. That has raised concerns about the prospects for Indonesia's mining industry.

"The more these sort of stories come about and the more political risk is created from arguments with Freeport, the less new investment will come in," said David Manley, a senior analyst at the National Resource Governance Institute, a not-for-profit that monitors global energy sectors.

Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/wall-street-journal/freeport-threatens-action-over-copper-mine-dispute/news-story/f10a99d3a7c059713ac8855f93a5e503

Freeport Indonesia stops sponsorship for Persipura

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – The unresolved friction between the Indonesian government and gold and copper miner PT Freeport Indonesia has had a negative impact on the Persipura Jayapura soccer club, the pride of many Papuan soccer fans.

"PT Freeport has stopped its sponsorship of the Persipura team. It has sent an official email to the group's management, highlighting problems related to its operational permit from the Indonesian government as the main cause of the decision," Persipura chairman Benhur Tommy Mano told The Jakarta Post in Jayapura on Friday.

He said Persipura Jayapura was now facing difficulties covering its activities as there was no more funding from Freeport, which had long been its sponsor.

Persipura is now striving to attract new sponsors so the team can continue to participate in competitions. "If we get sponsors, we will continue to operate as per usual. In a worst-case scenario, we will have to stop taking part in competitions," said Benhur.

He further said Persipura was approaching state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina, MNC Group owner Hary Tanoesoedibjo and the Tangguh liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in West Papua to ask them to become sponsors. "Pak Hary Tanoe seems interested in becoming our sponsor," said Benhur.

Pertamina MOR VIII spokesperson Taufiqurahman admitted Persipura had sent a sponsorship proposal to his company. "But there is no decision yet," he told the Post.

Freeport has been Persipura's main sponsor since 2015. The company disbursed Rp 11 billion (US$824,650.20) in funds for the soccer team in 2016, up from Rp 9 billion in the previous year. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/17/freeport-indonesia-stops-sponsorship-for-persipura.html

Infrastructure & development

Government keeps revising rules to lure infrastructure investment

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2017

Jakarta – As the government has a limited budget to fund infrastructure development, it continues to work on necessary regulations to lure investment from the private sector.

In its report titled Meeting Asia's Infrastructure Needs, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) points out that Indonesia requires US$1.15 trillion worth of investment between 2016 and 2030 to expand its gross domestic product (GDP) by 4.5 percent.

There is a gap amounting to $47 billion to meet the investment demand of $70 billion each year, the report says.

"It is impossible to close the gap by depending only on government funds," said National Development Planning Ministry assistant for infrastructure Wismana Adi Suryabrata.

"That is why we're improving regulations pertaining to investment and enhancing the execution of projects to encourage the private sector to invest in infrastructure," he added.

Among the government's attempts to attract greater participation from private entities is through the revision of two regulations on public-private partnerships (PPP) and non-state budget infrastructure funding, locally known as PINA.

The government has pledged to build a variety of facilities worth Rp 4.7 quadrillion ($352.9 billion) until 2019, of which 40 percent is to be funded by the state budget. The majority of the rest will rely on investment from state-owned enterprises and private firms. (byn/lnd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/22/government-keeps-revising-rules-to-lure-infrastructure-investment.html

Banking & finance

Indonesia tax amnesty nets $330b, now for reform

Reuters - March 21, 2017

Jakarta – Southeast Asia's biggest economy this month is winding up one of world's most successful tax amnesties, with at least 745,000 taxpayers declaring more than $330 billion of assets so far.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has cited higher tax revenue as the key to boosting infrastructure spending and growth. But if the amnesty is to avoid being just a one-off windfall, Indonesia needs to improve a tax collection ratio well below many of its peers, international agencies and local officials have said.

To that end, Indonesia's finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has set up a special tax reform team to boost collection. It faces an immense task in a country where tens of millions of people – both the wealthy and the poor – remain outside the tax system.

Parliament is considering draft legislation that would overhaul an institution the public views as one of Indonesia's most corrupt, according to global corruption watchdog Transparency International.

"People don't pay taxes because they believe they won't get caught," said Darussalam – like many Indonesians, he goes by one name – a partner at consultancy Danny Darussalam Tax Centre.

The amnesty has provided the government with more revenue than similar plans in countries such as India, Chile, Italy or South Africa, Indrawati said.

The amnesty has been criticized for benefiting mostly the rich. The World Bank blames poor tax compliance among high income earners in Indonesia for hampering poverty reduction and maintaining inequality. The richest one percent of Indonesia's 250 million people control nearly half the wealth, charity organization Oxfam said.

Tax reform team

The tax bureau as of 2016 employed about 38,000 people to collect taxes from a workforce of 118.41 million. Less than a third of the workforce is registered at the tax office and even fewer file annual tax reports.

A visit to the tax office in Jakarta provides a window into the challenges the government faces.

Tax inspector Jeffry Martino sometimes works a 12-hour day just to keep tabs on a small portion of the hundreds of companies under his watch.

He has 661 taxpayers under his watch, but focuses on the biggest 100 companies that contribute the most to his target of collecting Rp 495 billion ($37.02 million) this year.

"We are the spearhead of state revenue collection," said Jeffry, at his temporary office with a misfiring air conditioner.

His job would be easier if tax auditors had far fewer clients and more access to third-party data, such as banking information, he said. He might get that wish under proposed legislation to reform the tax system.

The draft in Indonesia's parliament calls for giving tax collectors wider access to bank data in line with Indonesia's pledge to join a global effort to share tax-related financial data.

'Hunting in the zoo'

Andreas Eddy Susetyo, a member of the commission overseeing the bill, said it may take up to a year to finish discussions and even then progress may be interrupted because politicians would be distracted by campaigning ahead of 2019 elections.

Jokowi has vowed to bypass parliament if necessary by issuing an emergency regulation before mid-year giving the tax office access to bank data.

In the meantime, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani's tax reform team aims to increase the tax ratio to 15 percent of GDP in 2020 from about 11 percent now. That compares with a global average of 14.8 percent in 2014, according to the World Bank.

The team, consisting of finance ministry officials and advisers from the World Bank and other agencies, intends to act as a brainstorming think-tank to push through reforms of everything from the tax office's business model to tariffs.

Hestu Yoga Saksama, a tax office spokesman, said the team would redeploy thousands of tax officers to auditing once the amnesty period ends this month.

"We are preparing to take legal action against people we found non-compliant but have not taken part in the amnesty," said Hestu, describing it as a potential quick win.

But the World Bank still estimates Indonesia will miss its 2017 total revenue target by Rp 70 trillion ($5.23 billion), while the tax ratio will likely stay below 11 percent of GDP.

Rosan Roslani, chairman of Indonesia's chamber of commerce and industry, said that the tax office should not just monitor those already in the system, but go after tax evaders.

"When our tax base is low, there will be some 'hunting in the zoo' because you only have so many people in the system," said Rosan, who is also advising the reform team. He advocates creating an Indonesian social security number system, similar to that of the United States, to help boost the number of taxpayers.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/indonesia-tax-amnesty-nets-330b-now-reform/

People & places

Prominent Indonesian journalist Ahmad Taufik dies

Jakarta Post - March 23, 2017

Jakarta – Prominent journalist Ahmad Taufik died of lung cancer on Thursday at 7:15 pm after being hospitalized in Jakarta. His body was taken to the family home in Kebon Pala, Central Jakarta. He was 51.

Taufik, known as an opposition journalist during president Soeharto's dictatorship, joined other journalists in founding the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) on Aug. 7, 1994. He was appointed the first presidium chairman of the organization.

Following a series of articles in AJI's news magazine Independent on presidential succession and Soeharto's great personal wealth, in early 1995, Taufik was arrested and charged under Article 19 of the Press Law, which banned unlicensed publications, and Article 154 of the Criminal Code, which forbade the publication of "feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt for the government."

He was convicted on both charges and sentenced to three years in prison in September 1995. The Committee to Protect Journalists protested his arrest and that of other journalists and named Soeharto "one of 10 worst enemies of the press" on its annual list. Taufik was paroled on July 19, 1997, having served two-thirds of his sentence.

Taufik spent his sentence in five different detention centers: the Jakarta Police station, Salemba Penitentiary, Cipinang Penitentiary, Cirebon prison and Kuningan prison. While in Cipinang Penitentiary, Taufik became close to Xanana Gusmao, the future president of Timor Leste. He was also visited by Jens Linde of the International Federation of Journalists.

Taufik was presented the AJI Suardi Tasrif award on July 22, 1995. The same year, he won the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists. Due to his imprisonment, he was unable to accept the award in person until November 1997, following his release from prison. The following year he received the Digul Award. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/23/prominent-indonesian-journalist-ahmad-taufik-dies.html

NU losses best son as moderate cleric Hasyim passes away: scholars

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2017

Ahmad Junaidi, Jakarta – Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim organization, lost one of its best sons as its former chairman Hasyim Muzadi, passed away on Thursday in his home town of Malang, East Java.

Speaking separately with The Jakarta Post, young NU scholars remembered Hasyim, as a moderate cleric who maintained traditional Islamic values and at the same time accepted new values as well as promoting a nationalistic outlook.

"NU lost its best son. Kyai (cleric) Hasyim was a committed member of NU from the lowest branch until rising to its top position. He toured remote areas in the country to meet people, speaking with simple language," Abdul Moqsith Ghazali, a member of the NU central board (PBNU) said.

Moqsith said Hasyim often introduced jokes and terms which reflected current political conditions in the country, such as "mungkin bukan soal beda pendapat, tapi beda pendapatan" (it's probably not a difference of opinion, but a difference in income).

Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, the cofounder of Islami Liberal Network (JIL) viewed Hasyim, who was also a member Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres), as having a deep awareness of Islamic and Indonesian values.

"(He was) a cleric who had a ghirah or commitment for the Islamic sunni tradition, but was open to new developments," Ulil said.

Meanwhile, the Moderate Muslim Society chairman Zuhairi Misrawi said Hasyim had a strong vision of both Islam and Indonesia. "His life was fully dedicated to Islamic moderation a la NU and upholding the Unitary State of Indonesia," Zuhairi said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/03/16/nu-losses-best-son-as-moderate-nationalist-muslim-cleric-hasyim-passes-away-scholars.html

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