Jakarta Police shot dead the suspected leader of a separatist group in Papua during a raid that quickly turned into a gunfight on Tuesday (28/03), a police spokesman said.
The incident on Monday appeared to be the latest in a string of violent clashes in Papua, where decades-old insurgencies showed no signs of abating.
Police identified the killed Papuan man as Maikel Merani, who they said has long been on their most-wanted list. Maikel reportedly hid in his family's home in Yapen and resisted arrest before being shot dead, Papua Police spokesman Chief Comr. Ahmad Kamal said.
"Our officers were involved in a shootout in Konti Unai village which resulted in the death of group leader Maikel Merani," Ahmad told state news agency Antara on Monday.
The police seized an assault rifle, nine ammunition magazines, 13 rounds of revolver bullets, 230 rounds of 5.56-caliber ammunition, a bayonet, a vest and cash during the raid. Police also confiscated the banned Morning Star flag, the symbol of the Papuan independence movement.
Police said Maikel's body has been taken to Serui hospital in Yapen, but did not give details on the fate of other group members.
Maikel was with two other Papuans when police raided his home, United Liberation Movement for West Papua spokesman Benny Wenda said in a statement on Monday.
Officers reportedly told the men one of them believed to be Maikel's father to put their hands over their heads and crouch down. According to a ULMWP witness, police then shot Maikel several times and tortured the other two men.
Officers also harassed other family members at the house, according to the witness. Police then reportedly took the man believed to be Maikel's father to their office for interrogation.
Calling the incident "same old story," Benny said, "Police stigmatize every Papuan as criminal or separatist as justification for killing them and for their illegal occupation of our country."
Papuan nationalists have long protested against a UN-backed referendum in 1969 that saw the province become part of Indonesia, arguing it was rigged.
They have been mounting an insurgency since then, complaining that the Indonesian government has been giving resource-rich Papua an unfair share of the state's wealth.
This has led to allegedly rampant human rights abuses, and Papuan activists have been pleading for support for independence from the Melanesian community in the Pacific.
"We desperately need the international community to look at the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua," Benny said. "Everyday, West Papua is becoming a killing field."
Maya Ayu Puspitasari, Jakarta A freelance journalist who works for a number of well-known international news outlets, Jack Hewson, has recently been blacklisted by Indonesian immigration office.
Hewson, who used to be based in Jakarta, was informed about the news as he was leaving for the Philippines. "I have been blacklisted from Indonesia for reasons that are yet to be established," said Hewson through his twitter account on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.
An activist of Human Rights Watch, Andreas Harsono, explained that Hewson informed him regarding his blacklist before he departed for the Philippines on Monday evening, March 27, 2017. According to Andreas, immigration officers at Terminal II Cengkareng talked to Hewson for roughly 30 minutes and asked Hewson what he had done that infuriated the Indonesian government.
"I told them that I don't know and the only thing I had in mind was sending a letter to the Presidential Staff headquarters (Chief Presidential Staff Teten Masduki and Presidential Spokesperson Johan Budi) to clarify of my trip to Papua," Hewson said to Andreas on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.
Hewson had already consulted with Andreas regarding his plan to covering news on Freeport in Timika, Papua. "I suggested him to follow what President Jokowi repeatedly said: Just go!" Andreas said.
Unfortunately, after leaving Indonesia last night, Hewson was not allowed to return to Indonesia. Andreas assured that the Human Rights Watch will firmly protest the incident, which seems to be a form of harassment against a foreign journalist living in Indonesia.
Head of Public Relations and General Directorate of Immigration, Agung Sampurno, said that the blacklist against Hewson was based on a request from the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI). TNI sent the request to immigration office on February 9, 2017. The blacklist will take effect for the next six months.
Agung explained that Hewson has allegedly violated Article 75 (1) of Immigration Law. This Article states that immigration officials have the right to conduct administrative actions against a foreigner living in Indonesia who conducts a dangerous activity for the security and public order or fails to respect or disobeys the laws.
"The person involved was provided an explanation by immigration officers before his departure [from Indonesia], that he will be rejected once he comes back to Indonesia," Agung explained.
Agung denied the notion that it is a form of deportation since Hewson's acted on his own will to leave Indonesia.
Ndre Barahamin Why have Jokowi's promises to open up Indonesia's "forbidden island" to journalists and rights monitors flunked?
On 20 December 2016, the Legal Aid Foundation for Indonesia Press (LBH Pers) staged a press conference. It highlighted censorship by The Indonesia Ministry of Information and Communication (Kominfo) towards Suara Papua, a local news outlet based in Abepura, Papua. With no prior notification, Suara Papua was silently listed alongside 11 websites blocked by the government. Those websites allegedly violated principles of journalism by promoting hoaxes and hate.
Later that evening, Rudiantara, the Minister of Information and Communication called Asep Komarudin from LBH Pers, promising that the ban would be lifted the next day.
On 21 December, Suara Papua could be accessed again, but not for those using Telkomsel the largest telecommunications service provider in Indonesia. In Papua, Telkomsel is the main player and controls more than 65 per cent of the market for mobile phone services users. When I recently published an article with Suara Papua, dozens of people told me that they could not read it due to the Kominfo block.
Arnold Belau, Suara Papua's Editor-in-Chief says that there were no reasons given for the censorship. There was no early warning or official letter of notification. He discovered the website had been consistently censorsed since 14 November 2016, based on screenshots sent by readers from different regions of Papua. Belau strongly believes that blocking the website and censorship represses freedom of press, and violates public rights to access information, particularly for Papuans.
Franky Samperante, the Executive Director of PUSAKA Foundation says that the censorship of Suara Papua shows how Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is once again following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He believes the censorship of Suara Papua is an act of repression against alternative media that raises awareness regarding issues such as ongoing human rights violations, land grabs against indigenous people, massive environmental destruction, education and health problems, and poverty - issues that are rarely mentioned by the mainstream Indonesian press.
This mirrors concerns raised in a 2015 report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), "Something to Hide? Indonesia's Restrictions on Media Freedom and Rights Monitoring in Papua." The 75-page account outlines the government's roles in obstructing access to the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Phelim Kine, the Asia Director of HRW said that government access restrictions have for far too long made Papua Indonesia's "forbidden island" for foreign media and rights monitors. Foreign journalists describe an opaque and unpredictable permit application process in which they often never receive a final response. Many have waited fruitlessly for months and in some cases years for approval.
Journalists who enter Papua under a tourist visa face the threat of arrest by security forces, as experienced by Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat in 2014. The pair - who were working for Franco-German TV channel Arte - was arrested by Indonesian security forces on 7 August while interviewing Areki Wanimbo, a local indigenous leader. Dandois and Valentine were sentenced to 2.5 months prison and fined $US200. They were released on 28 October 2014. But Wanimbo who was charged with conspiracy to commit treason had to wait eight months before release.
Suara Papua was one among few publications regularly providing updates on Wanimbo when all eyes were focused on Dandois and Bourrat.
When Jokowi announced the opening of Papua to foreign journalists and monitors in 2015, it was met with strong resistance from senior government and security forces officials. The promise was never realised because Jokowi [failed to JB] provide any specific written directives after the announcement. This opened space for non-compliance by state agencies and security forces opposed to loosening restrictions on foreign observers' access to Papua.
Various senior officials have since publicly contradicted the president's statement. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, has announced that the government will take serious action towards those who are trying to limit journalist access and work in Papua. However in contrast to this statement, HRW has discovered no changes on the ground. Andreas Harsono, the Indonesian researcher of HRW, has confirmed that foreign journalists seeking to travel to Papua are still required to provide details of their likely sources and dates of travel in advance. Those details are believed to be used by the security forces to keep an eye on the journalists' work and to prevent negative press circulating out from Papua.
As of 10 March, Suara Papua is online once again. But, despite the grand proclamations from government ministries and Presidential pledges for press freedom, it is no surprise that an increasingly intolerant Indonesia continues to block West Papua from the truth.
Jakarta Over 150 members of the separatist group Free Papua Movement (OPM) have agreed to end their resistance and conveyed their pledge of allegiance to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, said a statement released by the Indonesian Army (TNI AD) on Friday.
TNI AD spokesperson Col. Alfret Denny Tuejeh attributed the surrender of the separatist group members to the successful approach of Sinak district military commander (Danramil) First Lt. Yusuf Rumi, who promised their safe return, among other things.
"It took a long process before all of the members decided to leave the OPM. They agreed to leave their group after he [Yusuf] guaranteed their safety," Denny told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
Utaringen Telenggen, one of the 154 OPM members who laid down their arms, said as cited in the release that they agreed to return as they had become aware that they got no benefit from being a member of an armed separatist group.
The ex-OPM members also requested Puncak Jaya regent Willem Wandik to give them each a Honai, or traditional Papuan house, for their place of living. Both TNI and local administration officials agreed to fulfill their demand.
Utaringgen and his compatriots conveyed their pledge of allegiance to the NKRI in a ceremony on Monday, during which they were handed over Indonesia's Red-and-White flag in front the Jayapura regent, police and military officials and local residents.
The 154 OPM members came from Kampung Weni and Kampung Rumagi in Mageabume, Puncak Jaya. (dis/mrc/ebf)
Jakarta Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has said Papua will get 5 percent from the divestment of cooper and gold miner PT Freeport Indonesia, which is required by law to release 51 percent of their shares to the Indonesian entities.
Freeport divestment is part of what is being discussed by representatives of the government and Freeport Indonesia, a subsidiary of United States-based Freeport McMoRan, in connection with the conversion of the contract of work (CoW) into a special mining license (IUPK).
"With the divestment, we will have 51 percent of shares, while Freeport will have 49 percent, with 5 percent of shares for local administrations and for local tribes. With [the dividend from] the shares, Papua will improve its education, agriculture and livestock businesses," Luhut said as reported by tempo.co on Friday.
He said the shares for Papuan people would never be tampered with and Freeport would pay the dividends to Papua. "It is part of the protection of our people in Papua," he added.
When meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Wednesday, Papua Governor Lukas Enembe demanded 10 percent shares of Freeport.
Freeport Indonesia has refused to accept a government demand, and it converted its CoW into a special mining license (IUPK). The company argues that IUPK would effectively annul its CoW, signed in 1991. It has threatened to take the case to international arbitration if a mutual agreement is not met in the next few months. (bbn)
Anton Hermansyah, Jakarta Indonesia will not solely use cash to pay for its purchase of French-made weaponry but also use commodities such as rubber.
Under a defense agreement signed between the French defense ministry and Indonesian Defense Ministry on Wednesday, the two countries will work on maritime security, antiterrorism efforts and military equipment.
Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said under the terms of the military equipment purchase, Indonesia must pay with either technology transfer or commodities.
"If we purchase their weapons, we must pay 35 percent of the price with technology or commodities, like rubber or whatever else," he said at the State Palace in Jakarta on Thursday. "For the commodities, I will talk to the trade minister first," he said.
The MoU was signed during French President Francois Hollande's one-day visit to Jakarta on Wednesday. Aside from the defense agreement, four other government-to-government (G2G) agreements, namely in tourism, fisheries, research and city development were signed. (tas)
Jakarta The Ombudsman has summoned chief security minister Wiranto on allegations of maladministration regarding the government's plan to establish the Council for National Harmony (DKN).
On Feb. 2, the Solidarity Network of Victims for Justice (JSKK) and Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) reported Wiranto to the Ombudsman, accusing him of violating official procedure in resolving past human rights cases by forming the council.
Ombudsman commissioner Ninik Rahayu said Wednesday that based on the report, there had been alleged maladministration in the establishment process of the DKN. The government has yet to officiate the body pending approval from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
"Victims have said that they were not involved in the establishment process of the council, even though the council's task was very relevant to them. We will ask Wiranto as the initiator of the council," she said as quoted by kompas.com.
Ninik explained that based on Law No. 12/2011 on the guidance of drafting laws and regulations, government policymaking should involve concerned parties.
She added that the alleged maladministration could be proven if the government continued to create the body without consulting victims and their families. Therefore, the Ombudsman will ask for Wiranto's explanation regarding the allegations.
Wiranto was summoned to make a statement on Wednesday, but he did not attend. He was instead represented by officials from the Law and Human Rights Ministry and the Attorney General's Office. (rdi/wit)
Jakarta International Committee of the Red Cross president Peter Maurer met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Jakarta on Wednesday (22/03) to strengthen humanitarian action and countermeasures against violent extremism within the Asia-Pacific region.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the ICRC sees Indonesia as an important partner and that it hopes the Muslim-majority country will increase its role to become more active in assisting in humanitarian issues around the world, considering that about two thirds of the Red Cross's operations are in predominantly Muslim nations.
According to a study by Washington-based Pew Research Center, about 62 percent of the world's estimated 1,5 billion Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Foreign Ministry cited Maurer as saying that the Geneva-based institution is upbeat that Indonesia's capacity, expertise and moderate form of Islam are strong points that will enable the archipelago nation to play a more active role in humanitarian crises, both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.
Minister Retno said Indonesia is ready to strengthen partnership with the ICRC and play a bigger role in humanitarian actions on a regional and global stage.
"Cooperation between Indonesia and the ICRC needs to promote a correlation between global humanitarian principles and the true value and teachings of Islam," Retno said in the statement.
Maurer arrived in Indonesia on Monday to meet with various officials, including Vice President Jusuf Kalla, National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and Le Luong Minh, secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The Geneva-based ICRC is a independent humanitarian organization, established in 1863.
Its mission is to support and protect victims of violent conflict across the globe. It established a humanitarian mission in Indonesia in 1942, and beside various humanitarian actions, it also undertakes various social missions, including the provision of health-care services, such as cataract surgery in rural areas.
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta A nationwide survey has revealed that at least one third of women in the country have experienced violence in their lives, inflicted mostly by their spouses and those who are closest to them.
The survey, commissioned by the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry and conducted by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), interviewed 9,000 women between the ages of 15 and 64 from various economic and educational backgrounds and found that 33.4 percent of the respondents had experienced violence in their lifetimes.
BPS also found that of the 33.4 percent of respondents, 15.3 percent had fallen victim to sexual violence, while 9.1 percent had been subjected to physical abuse.
Women interviewed for the survey revealed that the sexual violence ranged from people groping women and making unwanted sexual advances toward them to husbands forcing their spouses to have intercourse.
"In the results for married women, at least 7.8 percent of them agreed to have intercourse because they were scared," BPS head Suhariyanto said in a press briefing on Thursday.
As for single or unmarried women, sexual abuse took the form of groping, getting obscene messages, receiving pornographic pictures or videos and being forced to have intercourse. "Ten percent of the respondents said that they got lewd messages, while 7.1 percent said they were subjected to touching and groping," Suhariyanto said.
The survey also found that sexual abuse happened more often in urban areas, with 36 percent of reported abuse taking place in cities, while only 19.8 percent happened in villages.
Respondents in the survey also identified the perpetrators of abuse as neighbors, friends, teachers, law enforcement officers, partners outside of marriage, sexual partners, parents, in-laws and other family members including grandfathers, uncles and cousins.
"We have to do more to make violence against women an extraordinary crime," said the BPS head.
The survey also revealed the difficulty of getting information from the female respondents, who had to answer questions from interviewers with spouses or partners closely watching.
The BPS survey appears to support findings from the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), which reported an increase of 8.5 percent of reports of violence against women last year. Komnas Perempuan registered 1,354 cases throughout 2016.
Responding to the growing trend of violence against women, a number of female lawmakers from across the political factions have taken the initiative to propose a bill that would make sexual violence against women a serious criminal offense.
The bill also includes stipulations that will encourage women to speak up about their experiences by setting up a sanctuary for victims of abuse where they could speak about the crimes without risking their safety.
Legal counsel assigned to the sanctuary would be responsible for making reports and making sure that legal processes would start against the people accused of the crime.
In order to encourage more women to report their cases, the bill will also mandate the government to pay for the medical costs needed as part of any investigation.
Lawmaker Ammy Amalia Fatma Surya, one of the initiators of the bill, said it would also require the police to assign trained and certified investigators to handle sex crimes. She said such investigators are currently in short supply.
"We want to prevent victims from becoming subject to more abuse during investigations," Ammy told The Jakarta Post.
The National Mandate Party (PAN) politician, however, acknowledged that there was only minor interest in the bill. There has been no progress in the deliberation of the bill since the House of Representatives agreed to include it in the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) in early February.
"I thought it would take two sitting sessions to complete the deliberations. Unexpectedly, it is harder than I thought to make it a priority of the House," Ammy told the Post.
Indonesia is struggling to curb its increasing culture of sexual abuse as gang rape cases almost double in a year and child abuse is on the rise, a report says.
According to the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK), 44 gang rape cases were reported in 2015. This number almost doubled to 82 reported cases last year.
The Jakarta Globe reports that in just the first three months of 2017, 26 gang rapes occurred, three of which resulted in the deaths of the victims.
The issue of sexual violence against women was brought to the fore in May last year after the brutal rape of a 14-year-old school girl by 14 men and boys.
Yuyun was walking home from school when she was dragged into nearby forests and raped repeatedly by the gang who were said to have been drinking prior to the incident. Her bruised and beaten body was found three days later in undergrowth, hands and feet bound.
The attack was largely ignored by national media until activists spoke out and Yuyun's case became a cause behind which Indonesian women united, staging protests against sexual violence outside parliament.
According to the National Commission on Child Protection (Komnas PA), Yuyun's case is far from unique. "The rape of Yy (Yuyun) in Bengkulu involved 14 rapists, the one in Samarinda involved 13, the one in Semarang 14," Komnas PA chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait said at a seminar on Wednesday.
The perpetrators of the attacks, as was the case with Yuyun's attackers, are often minors themselves. Sixteen percent of attackers were children aged 14 or less, Arist said.
The report also highlights the spread of paedophilia in the country, with Indonesia being seen as one of the "paedophile paradises" in Asia, especially the capital Jakarta and the islands of Bali and Lombok.
Arist criticised the laws of Indonesia calling it "permissive" of child abuse as "sexual violence is only regarded as such when penetration occurs."
The violent nature of Yuyun's case, and the resulting media attention, pushed President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to introduce tough new punishments for child sex offenders including a maximum penalty of death and chemical castration.
"Our Constitution respects human rights, but when it comes to sexual crimes, there is no compromise," Jokowi said at the time. "In my opinion... chemical castration, if we enforce it consistently, will reduce sex crimes and wipe them out over time."
By introducing chemical castration, Indonesia joined a small group who use the punishment worldwide, including Poland and some states in the US. In 2011, South Korea became the first Asian country to legalise the punishment. Offenders may also be forced to wear electronic monitoring devices following their release from jail.
The ring leader of Yuyun's attack, 23-year-old Zainal, was sentenced to death in September. All other assailants in the case were minors and therefore not eligible for the death penalty. The majority of them received the maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
Panca Nugraha, Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara The government is investigating reports that around 300 Indonesian citizens seeking to work in Saudi Arabia have been locked up in Riyadh, the largest city in the country.
The Foreign Ministry is still working with the Saudi Arabian Police to process the reports, an official has said.
"We received reports two weeks ago that around 300 Indonesian citizens seeking to work in Saudi Arabia had been locked up. Our Indonesian Embassy has coordinated with police authorities there to investigate the matter," said the ministry's director for the protection of Indonesian nationals and entities abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal.
He was speaking after the close of a coordination meeting for the protection of Indonesian citizens in Mataram on Friday. Iqbal said that most of the 300 Indonesians detained were from West Nusa Tenggara.
Based on information received by the Foreign Ministry, Iqbal said, the 300 people were sent to Saudi Arabia by a recruitment company. They had been locked up in a temporary shelter provided by the company for Indonesian migrant workers.
Reports also revealed that in the shelter, the Indonesian citizens had suffered abuse, Iqbal said. "There are several issues that have developed concerning their condition, including information that some of them had been killed and their bodies thrown away. I cannot yet give you the details because the investigation is still in process," said Iqbal.
It was suspected that they were victims of a transnational human trafficking network, he added. (ebf)
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta The House of Representatives Commission II overseeing home affairs has said the selection team for new commissioners at the General Elections Commission (KPU) and Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) has been partial and not objective.
During a hearing on Thursday, commission II members called the capability of the team into question, saying that the 14 KPU commissioner candidates and 10 Bawaslu candidates the team had selected were incompetent.
All factions in the commission questioned why five incumbent KPU candidates were able to pass the first selection stage but Bawaslu incumbents were unable to do the same.
"Three Bawaslu commissioners, who have worked well with us, failed to pass the selection, but five KPU commissioners who have often gone against the House's wishes passed the process. That's weird," said Commission II member Zulkifli Anwar of the Democratic Party.
Five KPU commissioners, namely Ferry Kurnia Rizkiyansyah, Sigit Pamungkas, Arief Budiman, Hasyaim Asy'ari and Idha Budhiati, made it into the top 14. Three Bawaslu commissioners only reached the preliminary stage. The agency's chairman, Muhammad, only reached the top 36 while Nelson Simanjuntak and Daniel Zuchron, who both are active commissioners, only passed the administrative stage.
Twenty-four candidates for commissioner positions at the KPU and Bawaslu are scheduled to undergo confirmation hearings from April 3 to 5.
While Bawaslu commissioners are widely praised as "cooperative" with the House, current KPU commissioners have tended to reject House intervention. They filed a judicial review against Article 9 of the 2016 Regional Elections Law at the Constitutional Court. The article obliges them to consult with the House before passing any KPU regulations and to respect the House's decision. (ebf)
Jakarta A recent proposal from lawmakers to hand the chairmanship of the General Elections Commission (KPU) to a political party member attracted criticism on Monday.
"This is a setback for Indonesian democracy," said Raja Juli Antoni, the secretary-general of the newly-established Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), as quoted by kompas.com.
Antoni argued that the discourse is against the Constitution, which mandates the KPU's independence from political parties.
"As an arbitrator, [a KPU member] has to maintain integrity and impartiality, that's why the requirement is that the commissioner should not be from political parties contesting elections," Antoni said.
The idea to recruit the KPU head commissioner from political parties was initiated by House of Representatives' special committee for election bill deliberation. The committee members came up with the proposal after learning about election commissions in Germany and Mexico from March 11 to 16.
The committee hopes that a similar arrangement to those in the aforementioned two countries can be implemented in Indonesia, despite the failure of such a system ahead of the 1999 elections.
At that time, Indonesia still allowed political party members to be part of the KPU, leading to many deadlocks ahead of the elections as each member tried to fight for his own party.
Antoni regretted the proposal and expressed hope that the House would focus on discussing more important articles in the election bill as its deliberation should be completed by April to avoid disrupting concurrent regional elections in 2018 and general elections in 2019. (hol/wit)
Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto received nine representatives of the rally held to demand Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama be dismissed on Friday.
Rally coordinator Usamah Hisyam, who is also the chairman of the United Development Party (PPP)-affiliated Indonesian Muslims Association (Parmusi), and National Mandate Party (PAN) patron Amien Rais were among the nine who came to the minister's office at 2 p.m.
Speaking after a one-hour closed-door meeting with the representatives, Wiranto said he had been instructed by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to receive them so that the government could listen to their demands.
Responding to the demand made by the protesters to have Ahok dismissed due to the governor's status as a defendant in a blasphemy case, Wiranto reiterated that the government could not interfere with the ongoing legal process.
"Don't suspect that the government is taking sides with the person currently standing trial [...] We are not defending the governor, but we want the legal basis to be clear," Wiranto told journalists on Friday.
Even though Jokowi could not fulfill the protesters' demand to meet the President himself, Wiranto assured the representatives that he would deliver the result of the meeting to Jokowi directly. Now that the protesters had met with a government official, Wiranto said he expected the rally to finish at 6 p.m. in accordance with the law.
The Friday rally, dubbed "Aksi 313" in reference to the date, is a follow up of previous protests held to demand the removal of Ahok, such as "Aksi 411" on Nov. 4 and "Aksi 212" on Dec. 2 last year.
Jakarta Protesters at a rally against Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama demanded the authorities release Muslim People's Forum (FUI) secretary-general Muhammad Al Khaththath before 6 p.m. on Friday.
Rally coordinator Usamah Hisyam said the protesters would refuse to halt the rally called "Aksi 313" in reference to the day's date at 6 p.m. if Al Khaththath and four other activists were not released by the police.
Al Khaththath was arrested by the Jakarta Police on Thursday evening, one day before the rally, for conspiracy to commit treason. He and the other four detainees are being held at the Mobile Brigade Command detention center (Mako Brimob) in Kelapa Dua, Depok.
"It is impossible. In every meeting Al Khaththath never conspired to commit treason because our sole agenda is to demand Ahok be dismissed from his position," Usamah, who is also the chairman of the United Development Party (PPP)-affiliated Indonesian Muslims Association (Parmusi), said on Friday. "We are sad because our democracy is experiencing a setback," he added.
He delivered the statement following a closed-door meeting with Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto on Friday.
Wiranto was firm that the protest be halted at 6 p.m. in accordance with a law that was passed to protect national security and order. He went on to say that the authorities might take firm action should the protesters violate the law.
However, the minister assured the public that he would immediately coordinate with National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian to discuss whether the evidence was sufficient to indicate that the activists had conspired to commit treason.
Jakarta Some school-age boys were seen among a demonstration demanding non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's arrest for alleged blasphemy.
They were spotted participating in Friday's "Aksi 313" protest against the governor, who is on trial for allegedly blaspheming Islam by misquoting a Quranic verse.
The young boys claimed that they came of their own will. Rizky Ramadhan, 16, came from Cibubur, East Jakarta on his own initiative with a schoolmate to "defend religion and the Al Maidah verse."
Rizky said on Friday that he had participated in similar rallies previously, such as "Aksi 411" on Nov. 4 and "Aksi 212" on Dec. 2 last year.
Although they came without any adult accompanying them, he like other young participants said that his parents had given him permission to travel to Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta, the center of the rally, to join other protesters.
"My school finished earlier than usual, so I was able to come to Istiqlal [mosque] to join the rally," Rizky told The Jakarta Post.
Other kids were also willing to go to Istiqlal mosque because their teachers told students to go home earlier due to the protest in Central Jakarta, according to Rizky. Like him, Asep Saputra, 12, and his three schoolmates attended the rally without any adult chaperone.
"We also heard the information from our religion teacher at school," Asep said.
The "Aksi 313" rally, referring to March 31, was expected to draw more than 20,000 people. It was a follow-up of two protests last year. (kkk/dan)
Jakarta (Reuters) Indonesian police arrested five people, including a leader of a hardline Islamist group, for suspected treason on Friday (March 31), before a protest by thousands of Muslims demanding the sacking of Jakarta's Christian governor, a police spokesman said.
Religious and political tensions have been running high ahead of the second and final round of the Jakarta election on April 19. Incumbent Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is on trial for blasphemy, is competing against a Muslim candidate.
Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told Indonesia media that five people had been arrested early on Friday, including Muhammad Al Khaththath, a leader of the Islamic People's Forum (FUI), a hardline group that organised Friday's rally.
"We are charging them with conspiring to commit treason," Yuwono told broadcaster TVOne. "There were several findings, including a plan to occupy the Indonesian parliament," he said.
Thousands of protesters gathered at Jakarta's grand mosque on Friday as police and military personnel blocked off roads leading to the presidential palace in the city centre.
Muslim protests have targeted Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, on trial for allegedly insulting the Koran in connection with remarks he made about how people should vote. He denies the charge.
Purnama is backed by President Joko Widodo's ruling party and the sudden rise of fringe, hardline Muslim groups during the election campaign has raised questions about whether they are being used as political pawns and destabilising Indonesia, a secular nation with the world's largest Muslim population.
Friday's rally is the latest in a series that have tested religious and ethnic tolerance in Indonesia. An estimated 20,000 people from various groups were expected to attend, police said this week.
Purnama remains popular for his efforts to cut red tape and ease Jakarta's chronic traffic congestion and flooding. However, he faces a tight race with rival Anies Baswedan, a former education minister.
Niniek Karmini, Jakarta, Indonesia Undeterred by the arrest of hard-line protest leaders, thousands of Muslims marched in Indonesia's capital on Friday, calling for the jailing of the city's minority Christian governor.
Following Friday prayers, the protesters marched from Istiqlal Mosque in central Jakarta to the nearby presidential palace, which was under heavy police guard.
Protests against Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama have snowballed since September when he was accused of blaspheming the Quran and subsequently charged. His trial is still underway.
The turnout for Friday's protest was small compared with the hundreds of thousands who answered the call of hard-line Islamic groups to flood central Jakarta for demonstrations in November, December and February. Jakarta police's director of traffic Ermayudi Sumarsono estimated the crowd at 13,000 to 15,000. Police estimates are often conservative.
Earlier Friday, police said they had arrested Muhammad Al Khaththath, the leader of the Muslim Peoples Forum umbrella group, and several other activists for suspected treason.
"We are not cowed by the arrest of our leaders," said a protester who identified himself as Wahyudi. "We'll keep fighting for the dignity of Islam. There's no room for kafir to lead in this nation."
The blasphemy case, slurs against Ahok's Chinese ethnicity and the ease with which hard-liners attracted huge numbers of people to protest have undermined Indonesia's reputation for practicing a moderate form of Islam and shaken the secular government as well as mainstream Muslim groups.
Blasphemy is a criminal offense in Indonesia, punishable by up to five years in prison. Ahok will compete in a runoff election for governor next week against a former cabinet minister backed by conservative Muslim clerics.
He was popular with Jakarta's middle class because of his drive to eliminate corruption and his efforts to make the overflowing polluted city more livable. But demolitions of some of the slum neighborhoods that are home to millions and ill-considered outspokenness proved to be his Achilles' heel.
Opponents seized their moment last year when a video surfaced of Ahok telling voters they were being deceived if they believed a specific verse in the Quran prohibited Muslims from electing a non-Muslim as leader.
Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said Al Khaththath and the other activists were arrested early Friday. Local media said one of those men was the deputy coordinator for Friday's protest.
It was the second round of arrests for suspected treason related to anti-Ahok protests. Police rounded up 10 people including high-profile citizens after a Dec. 2 protest turned violent, with dozens injured and one person killed by tear gas side-effects. They were all subsequently released.
Wiranto, the top security minister, met with representatives of the protesters and said he reiterated that the government won't interfere in Ahok's trial. He defended the police's decision to arrest protest leaders.
Effendi Lubis, who traveled from Bogor in West Java for the demonstration, said Muslims would continue protesting until Ahok is in prison. He said he was also protesting to "defend our Islamic leaders who were arrested and treated unfairly."
Indra Budiari, Jakarta Despite previously claiming that 100,000 people would take part in Friday's protest against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, fewer than 10,000 have showed up at Istiqlal Grand Mosque, Central Jakarta.
In a rally scheduled to start at 1 p.m., protesters in white attire started to gather at the mosque in the morning. However, participants number far below those in previous anti-Ahok rallies.
Helmy, 50, who came from Depok, West Java, said he thought there would be as many protesters as in previous rallies in Nov. 4 and Dec. 2, which were claimed to be two of the largest protests the country had ever seen.
"It is discouraging too see this, but the message is still clear, we want Ahok arrested as soon as possible," he told The Jakarta Post.
He was also upset that the police had arrested rally initiators from the Muslim People's Forum (FUI), including secretary-general Muhammad Al Khaththath, the day before the rally, saying he was worried there would be no coordination during the rally.
The FUI previously claimed that at least 100,000 people would take part in Friday's protest to demand the government remove Ahok from his post. The police, however, expect the number to be far lower.
The police arrested Khaththath and four other people on Thursday night on treason and conspiracy charges.
Jakarta Nahdlatul Ulama executive board chairman Marsudi Syuhud has called on members of the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia to refrain from participating in Friday's mass rally organized by Islamic group the Muslim People's Forum (FUI).
"In a democratic country, holding a rally is permitted but it must comply with the law," he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Marsudi said protesters must voice their concerns on a particular issue in a civilized way. "I personally want NU members to not participate in the rally," he said.
Thousands of supporters of Islamic organizations are set to participate in a mass demonstration, called the 313 rally, on Friday. The rally is a follow up to similar protests held last year on Nov. 4 and Dec. 2 against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.
Abdul Mu'ti, the secretary-general of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second largest Islamic organization, said the 313 rally must be conducted in a responsible manner.
"Conveying aspirations and opinions openly to the public via mass media, social media or other forms of media must be carried out in a responsible way through existing rules and laws," he said as quoted by Antara on Thursday.
Mu'ti said legally, there was no problem with the 313 rally because it was in accordance with the 1945 Constitution, under which all Indonesians had the right to convey their grievances, verbally or in writing.
He said the rally had political content because the protesters were demanding that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo dismiss Ahok from his position. "Obviously it's a political action, especially if it is connected to Ahok's position as a Jakarta gubernatorial candidate." (mrc/ebf)
Indra Budiari, Jakarta Another large rally is expected to hit the streets of Jakarta on Friday, as thousands of people will hold a protest to demand that Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama be dismissed from his post.
Initiated by the Muslim People Forum (FUI), rally coordinator Muhammad Al Khottot said Thursday that similar to previous rallies against the governor, the participants would come from all over the country, hinting that hundreds of thousands might take part.
"I am not sure how many will come but I hope it will be similar to 411," he told reporters, referring to the Nov. 4 rally, which many consider to be one of the largest protests the country has ever seen.
The mass will gather at Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta before marching to the US Embassy, City Hall and then ending at the State Palace.
Khottot said despite various rumors circulating on social media that the rally might turn violent, he was certain that the participants had no intention of provoking any riots.
"We hope the palace will open its gate for us so we can have dialogue and deliver our requests," he continued.
Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta Incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama did not aim to attract Muslim voters in Thousand Islands by commenting on the Al Maidah 51 Quranic verse last year, a language expert testified during a blasphemy hearing in North Jakarta District Court on Wednesday, debunking the indictment against Ahok.
Atma Jaya University language expert Bambang Kaswanti Purwo said he had watched the full recording of Ahok's speech, which lasted one hour and 38 minutes.
During the speech, instead of campaigning, as accused by the prosecutors, Ahok said the residents did not have to vote for him.
Ahok said that no matter who the governor was, the city administration's fish cultivation program would continue and he encouraged locals to participate in it.
"He said a couple of times that the program would continue even if he wasn't elected [...] There was no campaign element in his speech," Bambang told the judges. He added that Ahok's comment on Al Maidah 51 was not the core of his speech as he mainly promoted his programs.
Ahok only commented on Al Maidah 51 because he realized that he might not be elected, reflecting on his experience in 2007, when people used the verse in an attempt to foil him in the Bangka Belitung gubernatorial election, Bambang said.
He added that to comprehend the context of Ahok's speech, the full version of the speech should be watched, not just parts of it or only read the transcript.
Jakarta Relawan Bina Jakarta, a volunteer organization based in East Jakarta which used to support Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni during the first-round Jakarta gubernatorial election, has declared it will now back current Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his deputy Djarot Syaiful Hidayat.
The volunteers a group run by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party held a meeting on Tuesday (28/03) to declare support for Ahok and Djarot, announcing they will vote for the pair in the run-off election on April 19.
"We think Ahok's pro-people programs in Jakarta deserve to be continued," the Democratic Party's East Jakarta branch coordinator Rachmat Arianto said.
He said the volunteers will assist with promoting Ahok and Djarot's programs in East Jakarta. East Jakarta is known as one of the Democratic Party bases in the capital.
"Ahok and Djarot are the best leaders we have to lead the fight against corruption, reform the bureaucracy and stop discrimination," Rachmat said.
Jakarta The Center for Urban Development Studies, or Cudes, has criticized a low-cost housing program proposed by Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Anies Baswedan, saying it has "misled the public."
Cudes property analyst Ferdinand Lamak said Anies's statement that there are still many houses available for under Rp 500 million ($38,000) in Jakarta is simply false information.
Ferdinand said Anies was simply referring to house listing on property websites. Even if there were houses available at that price, the number would never be enough to fill the housing backlog in Jakarta, which stands at 1.5 million units, based on the number of low-income families in the capital, he added.
In the bigger picture, the housing backlog in Indonesia has already reached around 13.5 million houses but the government is only capable of building 400,000 new units per year, a Ministry of Finance report said in 2015.
"There are also around 500,000 potential first home buyers most of them the so-called millennials. So in Jakarta, the housing backlog has reached at least 2 million," Ferdinand said.
Cudes predicted an Anies governorship will soon get into hot water if he cannot fulfill his promise to find housing for poor Jakartans. "The problem in Jakarta is simple, there are not enough houses. You can't rely on just goodwill to solve it," Ferdinand said.
Ferdinand called on both gubernatorial candidates, Anies and incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, to provide a more comprehensive map of the housing problem in Jakarta.
Jakarta residents have also slammed Anies's housing program for being unrealistic and for making use of unreliable data, with many of them taking to social media to voice their complaints.
Jakarta The United Development Party, or PPP, support for Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat in the second round of Jakarta's gubernatorial election would make them only one step away from gaining majority support, an expert says.
The PPP has recently announced its plan to support the incumbents, who compete with former education minister Anies Baswedan and businessman Sandiaga Uno.
"Ahok and Djarot are one step away from gaining majority support in Jakarta. Communication to have a political consolidation with the undecided parties is now crucial [for them]," Wempi Hadir of Indopolling Network said in Jakarta on Monday (27/03).
"The political consolidation ahead of April 19 [the election day] is interesting. We can witness the maneuvers of political parties before they decide to support the candidate pair number two or three," he said.
"The PPP's planned support for Ahok-Djarot will change the political constellation of Jakarta ahead of the second round."
More than 7.1 million voters are expected to cast their ballots in the runoff, after the Jakarta Election Commission (KPUD) relaxed the regulations and allowed them to present only a proof of identity, without the need to bring their family identity cards.
"Do not confuse politics and religion," Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Friday as he sought to drive home a crucial message on the merits of diversity to a nation still struggling between secular and religious politics.
"They should be separate so people know what is religious and what is political," he said.
Jokowi was urging tolerance in the face of rising religious tension while speaking at the opening of the Tugu Titik Nol Pusat Peradaban Islam Nusantara, a monument representing the symbolic home of Indonesian Islam in Baru, North Sumatra.
"Let us always maintain harmony. It should not reach the point where there are disputes between cultures and religions," he said.
According to Jakarta Post, Baru "is a place where Islam harmoniously blends with not only local cultures but also influences from other great civilisations."
Islam Nusantara or "Islam of the Archipelago', as opposed to Middle Eastern conceptions of the religion, and has long been promoted by the country's largest Islamic organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
Police in Jakarta have spent weeks removing similarly provocative and religiously-charged banners from across the city primarily aimed at Muslim voters who put the incumbent governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama first on the ballot sheet in February.
Hardline Muslim groups have long campaigned against Jakarta's first Chinese-Christian governor and are now rallying around Ahok's opponents, Anies Baswedan and running mate Sandiaga Uno.
"Muslims who vote for an infidel or a blasphemer do not deserve a funeral prayer," read one banner hung outside numerous mosques in Jakarta.
Deputy Governor and Ahok's running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat said "these things have got to stop. You can't exploit religion to get into power."
But in Muslim-majority Indonesia one of the most ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse countries on the planet candidates certainly can and will exploit religious sentiment for political gain.
A spokesman for the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), which issued a fatwa in light of Ahok's alleged blasphemy and has spearheaded protests against the governor, criticised Jokowi's comments last Friday as "promoting secularism."
But NU deputy chairman Maksum Machfoedz backed Jokowi's calls for separating religion and political matters, accusing conservative groups of "transactional politics."
Meanwhile, the Ahok camp has changed tactics in the lead-up to the April run-off election.
Famously outspoken and hot-headed when confronted in public, the incumbent's team Teman Ahok will focus on online campaigning, while Ahok is taking a back seat to his running mate Djarot.
The campaign is now explicitly positioning itself as one of tolerance and aiming for a Jakarta that benefits all, regardless of ethnic or religious background.
A new campaign video, released via the governor's Instagram account, depicts diverse residents of Jakarta and the candidate engaging with his constituents, including a man clearly dressed as an ustaz or Islamic scholar.
"Jakarta belongs to us all. It doesn't matter your culture or religion, whether you're young or old, everyone has the same rights," says the song's hook.
Ahmad "Buya" Syafii Maarif, the respected former leader of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organisation Muhammadiyah, last week slammed hardline groups' banners around the capital as inhumane and un-Islamic.
"They have sold these religious verses at a 'cheap price.' It is unfortunate people as savage as these can exist in our nation."
Jakarta police have asked people not to participate in a so-called Al-Maidah Tour, where Islamic groups urge Muslims to attend polling booths during the run-off election and convince voters not to vote for Ahok because he is not a Muslim. "Our law enforcement should not take the side of radical groups," Buya said.
Despite the religiously-charged campaign against him, Ahok won the most votes in the first-round election in the capital, which comprises 85 percent Muslim. People of Jakarta will vote in the run-off election on April 19.
Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta The growing animosity between the supporters of Jakarta gubernatorial election rivals Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Anies Baswedan has mostly been channeled digitally, with the two camps insulting each other on social media.
But the animosity could turn ugly in the real world as the two camps gear up to do battle at polling stations across the capital during the April 19 election runoff.
The campaign team of Anies and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, for instance, has recruited members of notorious mass organizations, such as the Betawi People's Communication Forum (Forkabi), the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) and the Communication Forum of Indonesian Veterans' Children (FKPPI), all of which have been allegedly involved in gang violence.
"Some civil organizations came to us and said they wanted to be involved on the day. The organizations are, among others, the FKPPI, the FBR and Forkabi. But the members came to us as individuals without using the organizations' banners," said Syarif, the spokesman for the campaign team of Anies and Sandiaga, on Friday.
The groups have officially endorsed the Anies-Sandiaga ticket. On Monday, FBR members met Anies at his house in Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta. Anies said they discussed problems encountered during the first round of the election, especially polling station monitoring.
The new recruits will be stationed at polling stations as witnesses, replacing witnesses who arrived late during the first round of the election. Only two witnesses will be placed at each polling station, Syarif said.
Five days before voting day, the campaign team will hold a simultaneous technical guidance course at sports halls in each of five municipalities to improve the witnesses' understanding about election procedures.
"Our witnesses should be able to give reasonable arguments regarding any irregularities at polling stations and differentiate between legal votes and illegal ones," said Syarif.
The recruits, notorious for their intolerant acts, will be joined by an online anti-Ahok movement called Tamasya Al-Maidah (Al-Maidah Tour) on election day.
Tamasya Al-Maidah is an application available on Playstore that invites Muslims from across the country to flood into polling stations to guard them on election day.
The application is named after a verse in the Quran that is often used by conservative Muslim groups to urge Muslims only to vote for candidates of the same faith as themselves.
The program calls on registered volunteers to select the polling station they wish to guard on election day. In the memes circulating on social media, male volunteers are required to wear a white shirt and black songkok [traditional hat], while their female counterparts are required to wear gamis [traditional dress] and dark veils to stand out from the crowd of voters.
Human rights activists have criticized the movement as it could be regarded as intimidation of voters who want to vote for Ahok in the election.
Syarif claimed that his campaign team was not aware of the Al-Maidah Tour movement, adding that the team would hand over all security matters to the police.
The Ahok camp is planning to counter the movement by grooming its own witnesses to safeguard voting at all 13,032 polling stations scattered throughout the capital.
Ahok campaign team spokesman I Putu Artha told The Jakarta Post on Friday that the team would recruit only the best people to ensure that no fraud occurred on voting day.
"The core of our defense is witnesses. We want a strong defense in the runoff," he said. Putu said the team had about 70,000 witness candidates, comprising members of political parties that backed Ahok as well as volunteers.
On Saturday, the team will train and recruit the candidates at JiExpo Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, where Ahok himself will motivate them to become qualified witnesses.
The trainers will explain voting rules to the participants as well as how to deal with some issues, including the Al-Maidah Tour movement.
Jakarta Jazuli Juwaini, the chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party, or PKS, said on Thursday (23/03) that every member of the PKS faction at the House of Representatives has been tasked to ensure victory for Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno in the run-off election on April 19.
PKS is one of Anies and Sandiaga's backers along with the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party. "There is no other option for us but winning," Jazuli said after a meeting with PKS members on Thursday.
The House of Representatives' Commission I member said the faction's chairman had declared that every member should collect a minimum of Rp 5 million ($375) in donation to be spent on Anies and Sandiaga's campaign.
"We have 40 members in the House faction and we've divided them up to work in the five election areas in Jakarta," Jazuli said. "We will be all out working until April 19," Jazuli said.
Andi Hajramurni, Makassar The incident of a large python eating a man in a West Sulawesi village has triggered new concern over "uncontrolled" deforestation across the country, which many believe to be responsible for the numerous incidents of animals attacking humans.
The body of Akbar, a 25-year-old palm oil farmer in Salubiro village, Karossa district, Central Mamuju regency, was found inside the belly of a 7-meter-long python near his palm oil plantation on Monday night.
Rahmansyah, an agriculture lecturer from Hasanuddin University in Makassar, said the killer snake might have had its habitat disturbed by the growing human activities in the area, such as palm oil plantations that have continued to expand.
"Because the habitat is destroyed, the snake's natural food sources are also affected. Thus, the snake went out to the palm oil plantation to seek prey," he said on Wednesday.
According to Rahmansyah, the forest was the python's natural habitat but had continued to expand into a palm oil plantation. "It's becoming more difficult for the animals to find their natural food," he said.
Junaedi, the secretary of Salubiro village in West Sulawesi, said the last time such a large python was found in the area was in the 1990s, when the forests started to transform into palm oil plantations.
Shocked by the incident, farmers in the village had stayed at home over the past few days when it was actually time to harvest palm oil. (bbs)
Stephen Wright, Gunung Gede Pangrango, Indonesia Shrouded in mist and cloud, the twin volcanoes of the lushly forested Gunung Gede Pangrango national park are the brooding guardians of nature's last stand on teeming Java island. Indonesia's overflowing, polluted capital is a couple of hours north, and with Trump-branded properties being built next to this protected area, Jakarta may soon feel even closer.
Over the next four years, a sprawling "Trump Community" will be built in this pocket of Indonesia's most densely populated island, with a new road leading to it. It's part of broader plans, including a massive theme park, that have alarmed conservationists who fear development will overwhelm a refuge for some of the archipelago's most threatened species.
The 3,000-hectare (11.6-square-mile) project is the brainchild of President Donald Trump's Indonesian partner, billionaire and presidential hopeful Hary Tanoe.
Gunung Gede Pangrango is one of the last virgin tropical forests in Java, where only 2 percent of original forest remains. It nurtures a dazzling variety of flora and fauna: more than 2,000 species of ferns, mosses and flowering plants and 250 species of birds. Endangered species include the Javan slow loris (the world's only venomous primate), the Javan leaf monkey, the Javan leopard (whose total population numbers less than 250), and the Javan hawk-eagle and Javan silvery gibbon.
The park has a rehabilitation center for silvery gibbons that have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. The gibbons, known for practicing lifelong monogamy and their distinctively small, intense faces, number fewer than 4,000 in the wild.
Tanoe's MNC Group will build a six-star Trump hotel along with a golf course, country club, luxury condominiums, mansions and villas. Together with a theme park, hotels, shops, homes and a dining and entertainment district that MNC is developing on its own, this first stage of "Lido City" will occupy between 800 and 1,000 hectares.
A visualization on the company's website shows a valley filled with a man-made lake and a fantastical theme park. Tanoe plans to fill out the remaining 2,000 hectares and has told The Associated Press he wants to expand further.
MNC is also building a toll road that improve access to nearby cities and Jakarta. The Lido City project does not require an environmental impact assessment, though some parts such as the theme park will, according to Tanoe.
Park officials worry construction will cause wildlife to flee and that the mini-city MNC touts as "fulfilling the dream of the people of Indonesia for world-class entertainment" will bring an uncontrollable influx of people and rubbish. They question how the development will meet its substantial water needs in an area that's a crucial catchment for the 30 million people of greater Jakarta.
But nor can they afford to antagonize MNC or the Trump Organization, which will manage the Trump-branded properties. The project is going ahead whether they like it or not and the main access road to the park, which has a controlled 50,000 visitors a year, cuts through MNC's land. The park, which is part of the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, has signed a memorandum of understanding with MNC concerning the development of eco-tourism; neither it nor the company would provide a copy.
"We are still discussing with them about how to avoid a massive exodus of wildlife while they are working on construction," said the park chief, Adison, who goes by one name. "Before they start construction we want them to adapt to how the wildlife exists in this national park. You can open your business here but you have to respect your neighbors."
Adison said park officials believe company executives are beginning take conservation more seriously, possibly because the Trump Organization's involvement has given the project a higher profile.
MNC's corporate secretary said its executives were too busy to be interviewed and did not respond to emailed questions about how the company planned to mitigate environmental damage. The Trump Organization redirected questions to a public relations company that did not provide any response.
In a January interview, Tanoe said developing the whole 3,000 hectares will take more than a decade and cost $2 billion to $3 billion. The Trump properties will cost more than $300 million. Getting the construction permits for the first phase was "easy," Tanoe said. The golf course, designed by former world No. 1 golfer Ernie Els, is already under construction.
Tanoe teamed up with the Trump Organization about three years ago; they also plan to redevelop an existing Tanoe hotel and golf course overlooking a sacred temple on the tourist island of Bali into a luxury Trump property.
Elan Juanda, an environmental activist involved with education in the park, said he is "very pessimistic about forest conservation in this region when the project is built." "It's impossible that their project will not cause damage to the environment as well as changes in the behavior of animals," he said.
More than a decade of camera-trap images show how sensitive wild animals are to human activity, he said. They show wildlife including the Javan leopard in remote parts of the park, but almost never in areas frequented by hikers. Experts also say that construction noise will be stressful for the gibbons at the rehabilitation center.
Though a private development, Lido City suits the Indonesian government's ambitions to create more tourist destinations it hopes will be as popular as Bali. With more than 250 million predominantly young and poor people, Indonesia has a pressing need for jobs.
Anton Ario, a program manager for Conservation International, said the park cannot withstand an influx of people and needs a substantial buffer zone between it and the development, especially the theme park.
Wild gibbons are particularly vulnerable because they are homebodies and rather than move to a new range will stay put and suffer potentially lethal stress, he said.
To be effective, the memorandum of understanding needs to be upgraded to a binding technical agreement, he said. Even then, water use will be a major concern because it will inevitably come at least in part from Gunung Gede Pangrango.
In a broader sense, ongoing development has immense implications because the national park is a crucial water catchment. Jakarta already experiences annual flooding, and degrading the national park could make it much worse, said Ario.
"Honestly I hope they can build a sustainable development," he said. "I really, really hope for that. Because the area is very close and there can be an impact for the environment. Honestly I'm worried about it."
Apriadi Gunawan, Syofiardi Bachyul Jb and Panca Nugraha, North Sumatra Rampant illegal logging and the conversion of protected forests around the upstream area of the Batang Ayumi River are being blamed for flash floods that left five people dead in Padang Sidempuan regency, North Sumatra.
The director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) in North Sumatra, Dana Prima Tarigan, said protected forests in Marancar, South Tapanuli regency, were in a critical condition because of illegal logging and land-conversion activities.
As a result the barren land can no longer accommodate a high water debit during heavy downpours, quite apart from the poor condition of the Batang Ayumi River caused by sedimentation.
"That's why the flash floods hit people's houses along with mud and logs," Dana told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Dana said flash flooding triggered by forest damage was very dangerous because it was usually accompanied by mud and logs capable of devastating a village and dragging victims to their death.
Five people were reported to have died in the flash floods on Sunday while four others were injured. The floods hit five subdistricts in Padang Sidempuan, with Batunadua Julu the worst hit. The financial cost of the floods was estimated at Rp 4.5 billion (US$338,300).
Dana blamed local administrations for not providing people with warnings during heavy rains, especially considering the critical condition of the forests in the upstream area.
Syamsir, 32, of Lubuk Raya subdistrict said the flash floods hit his region at 7 p.m. on Sunday, following heavy rain since 5 p.m. the same day. "We promptly fled our home. None of our belongings could be saved. Everything was carried away by the flood," he said.
North Sumatra Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Rina Sari Ginting said her office would set up a special team to investigate the cause of the flash floods in Padang Sidempuan, including the forest damage in the river's upstream area.
In West Sumatra, hundreds of houses and a number of public facilities in three regions of Sijunjung regency, Solok regency and Solok city were inundated in floodwater up to 1 meter deep on Tuesday following heavy rain since 11 p.m. on Monday.
West Sumatra Disaster Mitigation Agency's (BPBD West Sumatra) emergency and logistic division head R. Pagar Negara said the flood hit five districts in Sijunjung and two each in Solok regency and city.
"No fatalities have been reported so far. The situation is secured and officers from the BPBD, Social Affairs Agency and the Indonesian Red Cross have been deployed to the affected areas," Pagar said.
Flash floods were also reported to have hit Bima city in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) on Sunday afternoon following heavy downpours over the region.
BPBD West Nusa Tenggara recorded that the flooding affected at least 22 subdistricts in five districts in the city, forcing over 2,500 people to flee their homes.
BPBD West Nusa Tenggara head Muhammad Rum said heavy rain started to fall over the city at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and stopped only at 11:30 p.m. that night. The high rainfall caused the city's main rivers of Padolo and Salo to overflow and flooded nearby housing complexes and agricultural land.
"Residents were taken to safer places such as mosques, school buildings and the city hall," said Rum.
Jakarta Indonesia's government has proposed issuing a decree to govern the domestic tobacco industry, a move that could sharply raise cigarette output in the world's fourth-most populous nation, after a bill outlining the changes was opposed by the health ministry and anti-smoking groups.
The latest proposal was mooted at a meeting 10 days ago between the trade minister, the law minister and senior parliamentarians, two people who attended told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The government has not given details of the meeting.
Government officials have proposed a ministerial decree as an alternative to the draft law, Oke Nurwan, director-general of foreign trade at the trade ministry, told Reuters, although he did not specify when the proposal was made.
Teten Masduki, the chief of staff for President Joko Widodo, declined to comment on the meeting and the proposal for a tobacco decree.
Indonesia is one of the world's top producers of tobacco and has one of the heaviest rates of smoking in the world. Late last year, the country's powerful parliament proposed a draft law covering production, distribution and excise taxes of tobacco, which it claimed would safeguard millions of jobs in the industry.
Among other provisions, the bill stipulated that manufacturers of tobacco products had to use locally sourced tobacco for at least 80 percent of production, while imports of ready-to-use cigarettes may be subject to an excise tax of 200 percent.
The country's tobacco industry contributes almost 10 percent to government revenues through taxes.
The plan sparked an outcry from health groups and infighting between ministries. Critics say the proposal would sharply increase production of tobacco and most would be absorbed by local cigarette manufacturers, who would step up production.
The decree, proposed as a compromise, covers the absorption of local production, the setting of prices for farmers and some import restrictions, officials said. Compared to a law, it will give the government some discretion on implementation.
But it made no mention of the 200 percent excise tax on imported ready-to-use cigarettes laid out in the bill.
Parliament and the government have not yet reached an agreement on the decree, said Firman Subagyo, the parliament member who initiated the bill and who comes from Indonesia's second-biggest party, Golkar.
Health Minister Nila Moeloek, who strongly opposed the tobacco bill, was a notable absentee from the March 20 meeting.
Asked why the health minister did not attend the meeting, Law Minister Yasonna Laoly said: "All the perspectives from all the ministries have been represented."
A health ministry spokesman reiterated the minister's opposition to the bill on Wednesday (29/03), but declined further comment on the meeting and the proposed ministerial decree.
Indonesia is the world's fourth-biggest cigarette producer and is also a fast-growing market for major companies including Phillip Morris-controlled Hanjaya Mandala Sampoerna, Djarum Group and Gudang Garam.
Nearly two-thirds of men are smokers in Indonesia, a country of 250 million people where an average packet of cigarettes costs less than $2.
The country produced 269.2 billion cigarette sticks in 2015, a jump of 43.5 percent from 2010, according to data from research firm Euromonitor International. The market was last valued at Rp 231.3 trillion ($17.3 billion).
Anti-tobacco activist Julius Ibrani criticised the government's latest proposal to issue the ministerial decree, saying that health concerns have not been adequately represented in the discussions.
"Whether it's a ministerial decree or a law, at the end of the day it will apply to society," Ibrani said. "The problem is with the substance."
Jakarta A recent study commissioned by the Network for Education Watch Indonesia (JPPI) reveals the index of education services in Indonesia in 2016 ranks lower than the Philippines and Ethiopia.
The Right to Education Index (RTEI) research shows that from indicators measured in the survey, which comprise education governance, availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability, Indonesia scores 77 percent.
This indicates that the quality of education in Indonesia is at the same level with Honduras and Nigeria but lower than the Philippines (81 percent) and Ethiopia (79 percent).
The JPPI says three strategic issues need closer attention. These issues include teachers' quality, child-unfriendly schools and discrimination against marginalized groups.
It further says Indonesia's low score in terms of the quality of teachers is a result of the unbalanced ratio on the availability of teachers especially in outermost and secluded areas across the country. Results of a test held in 2016 show that the competency of teachers in Indonesia is still below standard.
Many schools in Indonesia are considered to still have a child-unfriendly environment due to the rise in reports on violence, both physical and non-physical, at school. Cases of bullying, physical violence and sexual violence against school children have emerged so often in mass media.
The JPPI says poor access to education experienced by people from marginalized groups needs an immediate solution. The groups include women, children in prison, disabled people, children from poor families and refugees.
Carried out in 14 countries in collaboration with RESULTS International, the RTEI research aims to measure the fulfillment of people's rights to education. (dis/ebf)
Shannon Power Discrimination against LGBTI people has cost Indonesia billions of dollars.
The William Institute at the UCLA School of Law Discrimination completed a study on the experiences of LGBTI Indonesians. It found discrimination against LGBTI people at work, school and socially limits their ability to fully contribute to the Indonesian economy.
"To reach their full economic potential, LGBT people need to develop their human capital, or their abilities, skills, and knowledge," said one of the study's author and economist M.V. Lee Badgett.
"This report shows that LGBT Indonesians are often held back from reaching that point, which prevents them from contributing fully to the economy."
One key finding of the study was most LGBTI Indonesians have experienced violence which results in economic hardship.
LGBTI people or those perceived to be LGBTI report high levels of harrassment at school which reduces their educational career economic productivity later in life. Stress associated with prejudice produces higher rates of depression and suicide, which also impedes economic productivity.
Indonesia's Waria (transgender women) face many barriers because they violate cultural rules about gender. Waria struggle to get work, stay in school, or open a bank account because the gender listed on their identification cards does not match their gender presentation.
In some regions, LGBTI people rely heavily on work in the informal employment sector, particularly sex work and jobs in salons. France must do more
Earlier in the week, Human Rights Watch urged French president Francois Hollande to press Indonesia on its LGBTI record. Hollande will become the first French president to visit Indonesia in 30 years.
"We encourage you to both publicly and privately press President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and Indonesian officials on issues including freedom of religion, accountability for past human rights abuses, the death penalty, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights," HRW said in an open letter to Hollande.
"Specifically, we ask that you press President Jokowi to... publicly condemn all major incidents of anti-LGBT violence and harassment.
"Direct the Indonesian police internal affairs division to investigate incidents of police collusion with militant Islamist groups in attacks on LGBT people and activists, and hold those responsible accountable.
"Order all ministries to rescind anti-LGBT edicts, and ask the Ministry of Health to publicly reject the assertion by the Indonesian Psychiatric Association that homosexuality is a diagnosable mental health condition."
In 2016 President Jokowi publicly said LGBTI should be protected but has been criticised for not following up his words with tangible action.
Joseph Patrick McCormick The French President has been urged to push Indonesia on LGBT+ rights, as he is set to arrive there this week.
Francois Hollande has been urged by the Human Rights Watch to emphasise that respecting human rights is part of having a strong relationship with France.
"France should ensure that its pursuit of deeper economic ties with Indonesia does not come at the price of silence on human rights," said Benedicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch.
"Hollande should affirm that promoting and protecting people's rights is critically important for any country strengthening its engagement with France."
The HRW says Indonesian President Joko Widodo has failed to deliver on support for human rights.
Widodo in October broke his silence on the country's rising political culture of homophobia, finally insisting that LGBT people must be protected.
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo made his first comments on Indonesia's escalating anti-LGBT violence, calling on the police to protect endangered citizens.
He clarified that "in terms of our beliefs, [the LGBT lifestyle] isn't allowed, Islam does not allow it."
Violence against the country's LGBT population has been rising over the last few years, while the police have cracked down as well. Back in 2016, a gay couple were arrested for a Facebook photo of them kissing.
The anti-LGBT culture has been led in part by a number of the country's politicians, who have even blocked Grindr and 80 other gay websites and apps in a crackdown on "deviant propaganda."
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta Members of the House of Representatives have denied allegations that they threatened Hanura Party politician Miryam S. Haryanti to influence her March 22 testimony during the trial of a graft case involving e-ID cards.
"I was surprised that Miryam said such a thing [on March 23 when she recanted her testimony and told the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) that she had been threatened into denying she knew anything about the case]. I have never been on even one commission with her. If she cannot prove what she has said, she has committed a crime," Golkar Party politician Aziz Syamsuddin said on Thursday.
Aziz is one of five House members reported to have pushed Miryam into making statements in favor of them. Other lawmakers are Bambang Soesatyo of the Golkar Party, Masinton Pasaribu of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Saifuddin Sudding of the Hanura Party and Desmond J. Mahesa of the Gerindra Party.
Masinton also denied the allegation. "I am in a different commission with her. I only met her during plenary sessions. I don't really know her. Each time I met her I just said 'Hello'. That's all."
Sudding claimed he did not understand why Miryam mentioned his name. He denied he had discussed the project with her. "I really have no idea why she mentioned my name. I never talked about the e-ID project. This project was supposed to be in the hands of Commission II, not Commission III."
In a hearing of the e-ID case trial on Thursday, KPK investigator Novel Baswedan said Miryam had told him that those five politicians had threatened her so she would not report to the KPK that she and several other politicians had improperly received money from the Rp 5.9 trillion (US$440 million) project. (ebf)
Haeril Halim, Jakarta The e-ID graft hearing on Thursday revealed that former House of Representatives member Miryam S. Haryani had met with lawyers representing House Speaker Setya Novanto and former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin before she testified as a witness in a previous hearing on March 22.
Miryam made the admission after being grilled by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) prosecutors during the hearing about the reasons behind her decision to renounce all of her statements about the flows of dirty money from the e-ID project to several House lawmakers, which had been recorded in the case's investigation report.
"Before you testified in the court, around one or two weeks ago, did you meet with someone? Where was it?" KPK prosecutor Basir asked Miryam before the panel of judges at the Jakarta Corruption Court on Thursday.
Initially, Miryam did not want to answer the question but she had no choice but to give an answer after KPK prosecutors grilled her with the same question over and over again during the hearing.
"[...] I met with the person on Jl. Radio Dalam [in South Jakarta]. I went to his house but he did not show up, so I went home," Miryam said.
Basir then asked her the name of the person. Miryam said his name was Rudy Alfonso, a lawyer who accompanied Setya when the Golkar Party chairman underwent questioning as part of the e-ID case in December 2016.
Basir later asked Miryam whether she had also met with Elsa Syarief, a lawyer who has represented Nazaruddin in a number of graft cases.
"Yes, I met with Elsa Syarief at her office. She borrowed my money at that time. She called me and said that she needed Rp 100 million [US$7,506.39]. I went there twice," Miryam said.
Setya and Nazaruddin are among dozens of House lawmakers who have been accused of playing roles in the alleged illicit funneling of part of the Rp 5.9 trillion allocated for the project. Miryam renounced her statements in the case's investigation document on March 23.
Basir said he did not take Miryam at her word as KPK prosecutors believed that during her meeting with Elsa, someone else, whose name he did not give, had asked the lawmaker to renounce all the statements she had made during the investigation. "No other person was there other than Elsa," Miryam insisted. (ebf)
Jakarta Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) spokesperson Febri Diansyah confirmed on Thursday that one of the antigraft body's investigators, Novel Baswedan, had been issued a second warning letter (SP2).
Febri refused to give details behind the issuance of the letter, which was signed by the five leaders of the KPK.
"According to the information that I have, the process [for the SP2 letter] is still ongoing," he said as quoted by kompas.com, adding that all decisions made by KPK leaders were based on the collective and collegial principle.
Febri added that there were two things taken into consideration in the issuance of the letter: the interests of the antigraft body as an institution and the investigator's main work.
"Novel is one of the kasatgas [head of the task force] in the e-ID case. We do not want to disrupt the ongoing case," he said.
Kompas.com reported Novel received the SP2 letter on March 21. Novel, who is also chairman in the KPK's workers' union, voiced his concerns about KPK director of investigation Aris Budiman's policy regarding investigator recruitment.
The warning letter stated Novel was considered to have conducted a medium offense in obstructing the execution of duties. (mrc)
Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta Golkar Party politician Bambang Soesatyo has lambasted Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan for accusing him of having intimidated Miryam S. Haryani, a House of Representatives member implicated in the KPK's ongoing e-ID graft case.
Bambang said Novel did not check Miryam's statement before speaking, adding that his accusation had tainted his good name.
"I will ask for the recording of conversations between Miryam and KPK investigators as evidence for us to report his [Novel] accusation to the National Police for alleged defamation."
During the third e-ID case hearing on Thursday, Novel said Miryam, a Hanura Party politician, had received threats from five House members, one of whom was Bambang.
Others are Aziz Syamsuddin of the Golkar Party, Desmond J. Mahesa of the Gerindra Party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Masinton Pasaribu and Sarifuddin Sudding of the Hanura Party. They are all members of House Commission III overseeing human rights, security and legal affairs.
Novel claimed that Miryam had admitted receiving dirty money from the e-ID project and revealed the names of several other lawmakers who had also received money. The five lawmakers told her not to admit her guilt to the KPK, Novel said.
"Miryam should not mention our names arbitrarily. How could I threaten her? When did I meet her? Why did she bring up Commission III members? Miryam is accusing us," Bambang said.
The KPK questioned Miryam four times before it sent two suspects, Home Ministry director for civil registry Irman and ministry official Sugiharto, to trial as part of the case revolving around the project with a tender value of Rp 5.9 trillion (US$440 million). (ebf)
Haeril Halim, Jakarta The third hearing in the e-ID graft case trial on Thursday revealed parties that allegedly attempted to influence the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) investigation into the case implicating high-profile figures.
Testifying as a witness in the hearing, KPK investigator Novel Baswedan said former House of Representatives member Miryam S. Haryani, who had been questioned as a witness in the case several times, had received threats from at least five House members.
They were allegedly Golkar Party politicians Bambang Soesatyo and Aziz Syamsuddin; Desmond Junaidi Mahesa of the Gerindra Party; Masinton Masaribu of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P); and Hanura Party politician Sarifuddin Sudding.
Novel told the court Miryam admitted she had received dirty money from the project and revealed the names of other House lawmakers who had allegedly received money from the project.
Novel said during her questioning, Miryam told him she had received threats from the five politicians. "She was asked not to admit [to KPK investigators] that she had received money [from the project]."
The KPK questioned Miryam in connection to the e-ID case four times. She was last questioned in December before the two suspects in the case, namely the Home Ministry's director for civil registry, Irman, and Sugiharto, the ministry's official in charge of the e-ID project tender worth Rp5.9 trillion ($440 million), stood trial.
The KPK has also named businessman Andi Agustinus aka Andi Narogong a suspect in the case. Andi is believed to be a close friend of House Speaker and Golkar Party chairman Setya Novanto. (ebf)
Jakarta French President Francois Hollande praised the Indonesian government during his first visit to the country on Wednesday (29/03) for its ability to maintain a policy of tolerance amid great religious and ethnic diversities.
The visit by Hollande, who was touring Southeast Asia this week, was the first by a French president to the world's largest Muslim-majority democracy in three decades.
"Indonesia has become an example of tolerant diversity, an inspiration to us," Hollande said during a press conference at the State Palace in Jakarta. Hollande said France has a different but similar model that embraces the principles of freedom and tolerance.
The concept of Islam that flourishes in Indonesia embraces a way of living together, Hollande said, something that France could do well to emulate. France and Indonesia must not discriminate against any religion, while at the same time keep combating terrorism, he added.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said Indonesia and France are working closely to find solutions for a wide range of international issues, including peacekeeping, combating extremism and terrorism, as well as Palestinian independence.
"We have agreed to continue efforts to create peace for the Palestinians and the Israelis through a two-state solution," Jokowi said.
He added that Indonesia and France have also formed partnerships in several important sectors, including maritime, creative economy, defense, tourism and sustainable urban development.
The French delegation brought $2.6 billion to Indonesia to invest in the energy, infrastructure and retail sectors.
Jakarta was Hollande's last stop in his Southeast Asian tour, after visiting Malaysia and Singapore earlier this week. The last visit by a French head of state to Indonesia was made by President Francois Mitterrand in 1986.
Haeril Halim, Jakarta Was President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo promoting secularism when he called on the people not to mix religion and politics?
The President's statement, made during his visit to Barus in Central Tapanuli to officiate the Islam Nusantara Monument last week, left political leaders, Muslim clerics and academics wondering what exactly the President was trying to say and what motivated him to say it.
The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), of which the President is a member, said Jokowi was not trying to turn Indonesia into a secular state, nor was he promoting the types of secularism implemented in Western countries.
The President's statements, he said, were in line with the PDI-P's political platform, which is to separate what is religious and what is political. "In politics, anything can be done to achieve goals, while religion is divine and that is why the PDI-P tries to not mix political values with religious values," Hendrawan told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Hendrawan said the PDI-P campaigns for clean politics by encouraging its members not to use religion to achieve their goals. "Indonesia is not a religious country, but it respects faith in God. Regarding religious matters, you have to pick leaders who have the same faith as you, but that is not the case when choosing political leaders," Hendrawan said.
Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Syaifuddin previously said Jokowi was only trying to remind people not to mix "bad from politics and good from religion."
The minister added that the President was well aware of the importance of religion for Indonesian people in everyday life, adding that Jokowi believed that religious diversity could be used to unite people in the country.
When asked to clarify Jokowi's statements, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said: "Just ask the President directly."
Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Zulkifli Hasan said Jokowi's argument should not be taken out of context, suggesting that the President might have been referring to the political tensions ahead of the second round of Jakarta elections.
"Religions teach noble values. However, when people slander each other in the name of religion, that is the politicization of religion. That is not allowed," Zulkifli, who chairs the Muslim-based National Mandate Party (PAN), said.
University of Melbourne sociologist Vedi R. Hadiz said politics and religion could not be completely separated in Indonesia, arguing that Jokowi apparently made the statement out of concern about the rising sectarianism in the Jakarta election.
"The statement reflects his concern about the strategy used by Anies Baswedan that seems to be trying to use religious sentiment to win the regional election," he said.
He added that politicians were trying to exploit growing Islamic populism to achieve political goals by appearing more "Muslim" than others.
Dicky Sofjan from the Yogyakarta-based Indonesia Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) at Gadjah Mada University (UGM) concurred with Vedi, saying that the President was not calling for secularism.
"I think Jokowi just wanted to avoid explicitly saying, 'politicization of religion' because that could offend many parties," Dicky said.
Jakarta The Alliance of Civil Society for the Constitution (Amsik) alerted the public on Tuesday about an increasing number of intolerant practices involving children in Indonesia.
Irwanto, a professor from the Center on Child Protection and Wellbeing at the University of Indonesia, Henny Supolo, the chairwoman of the Teachers' Light Foundation, and Muhammad Hafiz, executive director of the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), were among the members of the group who held a press briefing that highlighted several cases in which children were used to convey sectarian messages.
In a recent video, a group of elementary school children were directed to explain that several Islamic symbols should not be associated with terrorist groups.
"We are not criticizing the religious symbol used in one of the videos," said Muhammad, saying that the release of the video exposed the public to a limited view of Islam.
In another video, a boy sang improvised lyrics to one of musician-turned-politician Rhoma Irama's song, "Penasaran" (Curious). Through the song, the boy questioned President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo about why current Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was supposedly being given "special treatment".
Henny, meanwhile, stressed the importance for children to have freedom of thought. "It is important that children are assisted to develop their freedom of thought. With freedom of thought, children can see the things that are good for them and their environment," she said. (mrc/wit)
Chandni Vatvani, Jakarta Hate speech was the most reported form of online crime in Indonesia in 2016, according to Indonesian police.
The national police cybercrime chief Himawan Bayu Aji told local media on Sunday (Mar 27) that hate speech, especially concerning race and religion, featured most prominently in reports from netizens. Other cases included defamation, harassment, slander, provocation and threats against individuals or groups.
In 2015, there were as many as 671 reported cases related to hate speech. Without specifying figures, Himawan said that in 2016, the number was just as high. Out of the cases reported last year, police have handled 199 of them, he told the Jakarta Post.
Online fraud reportedly ranked second, with as many as 639 reports. Of that number, only 185 cases have been resolved.
Social media tools such as Facebook and WhatsApp have only exacerbated the spread of hate speech as well as fake news, said Himawan. He added, however, that differences in regulations between Indonesia and the United States have hindered the investigation process for a number of hate speech cases on these social media platforms.
"They won't give us data because in the US, hate speech is (a common crime)," local news agency Antara quoted Himawan as saying.
Currently, a number of hate speech cases on Facebook have been resolved by what police call a "justice restore" system, where perpetrators are encouraged to become agents of change who can educate the community.
"If (the perpetrator) has shared his post, but it hasn't gone viral yet, we perform a 'justice restore,' we ask them to apologise for their post, delete its content and engage in familiarising the community (with the incident and action taken)," Himawan told local media.
"Law enforcement alone is not 100 per cent effective. We catch one suspect, three more appear. We catch three, 10 appear," he added.
Indonesia is one of the top five social media markets in the world, with more than 100 million social media users currently, according to a recent report by social media consultancy We Are Social and social media management platform Hootsuite.
Police have predicted that in five years' time, social media will be used by two-thirds of the population.
To tackle the rise in online crime, especially on social media, police formed several new units last month.
One of them is the directorate of cybercrime, a sub-division of the economic and special crimes division. The cybercrime unit reportedly has 47 personnel and one sub-division. Police have plans to increase this to three units, and 120 personnel.
Officers in the cybercrime unit are trained in technology by cyber-communities in Indonesia and overseas.
Police have also formed a multimedia bureau tasked with educating the community and raising awareness about social media through the same medium. CNA/nc
Safrin La Batu, Jakarta President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's call for religious leaders and politicians not to mix religion and party politics has received a skeptical response from some quarters, with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) dismissing the statement as the promotion of "secularism" in an otherwise religious country.
Faced with worsening sectarian tension in the lead-up to the runoff round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, President Jokowi warned over the weekend that mixing religion and politics was dangerous as it could lead to divisions within society.
"[The two] should be separate so people can know what is religion and what is politics," Jokowi said during the unveiling of a monument to the birthplace of Islam Nusantara (Islam in the Archipelago) in South Tapanuli, North Sumatra, on Friday.
Responding to the statement, MUI deputy secretary general Tengku Zulkarnain said that in making the statement, Jokowi was promoting liberal values of a type that should prevail only in western countries and that the organization would oppose any efforts to promote them.
"That's secularism. We haven't yet convened a meeting to respond to it but I am sure [all MUI members] will oppose and criticize it," Tengku told The Jakarta Post.
In 2005, the MUI issued an edict outlawing secularism, pluralism and liberalism, considering them to be western values that were not compatible with Indonesian society.
Last year, the organization also issued an edict stating that Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja "Ahok" Purnama blasphemed against the Quran after suggesting that Muslim leaders had duped voters by using a verse in the Quran that instructs the faithful only to vote for Muslim candidates. Ahok is currently standing trial for the alleged blasphemy.
In recent months sectarian tension has risen, especially in Jakarta, where the stakes in the gubernatorial election are so high. Many observers regard the Jakarta election as the harbinger of things to come in the 2019 presidential election.
In an unprecedented move against Ahok and his supporters, a number of Muslim clerics have launched a campaign to deny proper burial rites to deceased Muslims who had voted for Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, in the election.
Contacted separately, Sohibul Iman, the chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which backs Ahok's rival, Anies Baswedan, in the Jakarta election, said Jokowi's statement ignored the Islamic character of the country and its history.
Sohibul claimed that the country's struggle for independence from colonial rule had been motivated by religion and it was religious values that lay at the nation's foundation.
"I suspect the statement reflects his incomprehension and his inability to manage diversity in this country. The fact is that tension has risen during his time in office," Sohibul told the Post.
The PKS chairman said Jokowi's call for a separation of faith and politics could in fact increase tension. "I wish the President would think wisely before making such a sensitive statement [...] this could create more tension," Sohibul said.
Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of the country's largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Maksum Machfoedz, said he backed Jokowi's call, insisting that it was dangerous to drag religion into what he called "transactional politics."
He said religious leaders should take the high road and remain aloof from electoral politics, maintaining that religion should only be used to inspire political leaders and the public in general to do good. "NU has opted to stay away from promoting political interests," Maksum said.
NU and Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Islamic organization, have been the champions of a moderate version of Islam in the country while allowing political parties that have their roots in their organizations, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), respectively, to engage in politics.
Devina Heriyanto, Cikarang, Bekasi Dozens of protesters gathered in front of HKBP Karang Bahagia Church since Sunday morning did not dampen the spirit of worshipers attending their weekly service.
The protesters oppose the presence of the church in that location, arguing that it has no legal grounds. "We are not seeking to limit religious freedom. We only oppose the presence of illegal places of worship," said rally leader Idam Kholid.
The protesters were being monitored by several officers from Sukaraya village and policemen.
HKBP Karang Bahagia Church opened on Oct. 16, 2016, after collecting 149 signatures from its neighbors to obtain a permit to hold services in a house the church bought from a local resident. There have been meetings between the protesters and members of the church.
HKBP Karang Bahagia Church spokesman Jonri Sitio told The Jakarta Post that representatives of the church had previously agreed to temporarily stop holding services following a meeting between the church representatives and protesters. However, since the agreement took place "under duress," the congregation has decided to perform the service anyway. HKBP Karang Bahagia church leader Edward Pandjaitan said worship at the church would continue. "Freedom of religion is not limited in this country. We surrender to God, but worship will continue," he said.
Aside from HKBP Karang Bahagia church, Jl. Ki Hadjar Dewantara is also home to two other churches and one Buddhist temple. (dmr)
Damar Harsanto, Jakarta Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Mochammad Iriawan visited the construction site of Santa Clara Church in North Bekasi, West Java, on Saturday following a protest that turned violent a day earlier.
Iriawan said his visit to the location was to speak with the church management regarding the church's permit, construction project as well as security hurdles.
Santa Clara parish pastors Rev. Raymundus Sianipar and Rev. Nestor Togu Sianipar along with parish congregation leaders met with the police chief.
Rasnius Pasaribu of Santa Clara said the parish had 9,422 congregation members and until now the parish did not have a church building. Rasnius said the parish obtained the permit to build the church after nearly two decades.
The church is scheduled to be completed by November so that the congregation can use it for Christmas services.
Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta Salil Shetty, the secretary general of UK-based human rights organization Amnesty International, has asked Yogyakarta's Sultan Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X to continue promoting diversity and pluralism following a recent series of intolerant incidents in the province.
Salil said he had directly appealed to the de facto governor of Yogyakarta during their meeting to use his power as regional leader to ensure that the rule of law was upheld in handling such incidents.
"Indonesia's Constitution is based on human rights. Every group should be treated equally," Salil said after the two-hour meeting at the Kepatihan compound in Yogyakarta on Friday.
A study by rights group the Setara Institute recently revealed that the state of freedom of religion in Yogyakarta was in continuous decline, with at least 53 cases of religious rights violations recorded in the province between 2007 and 2016.
In December, last year, the Muslim People's Forum (FUI) of Yogyakarta forced Duta Wacana Christian University (UKDW) to take down billboards depicting three female students, one of whom was wearing a hijab, studying in a library. The hard-line group claimed the billboards "insulted Islam."
Usman Hamid, Amnesty's Indonesia representative who also attended the meeting, said that during the meeting Sri Sultan had also raised concerns about the rising number of such hard-line groups. "These groups use pressure to gain economic benefit," Usman said.
Yogyakarta Unity and Community Protection Agency head Agung Supriyono brushed off allegations that the administration had succumbed to intolerant groups. (bbs)
Bekasi Police have fired tear gas to disperse hard-line Muslims protesting against the construction of a Catholic church in Bekasi, West Java.
Several hundred protesters from a group called the Forum for Bekasi Muslim Friendship demonstrated in front of the Santa Clara Church in Kaliabang, Bekasi, after Friday prayers.
Witnesses said police fired tear gas as the protesters tried to force their way into the church, which has been under construction since November. Some also threw rocks and bottles into the 6,500-square-meter site.
Ismail Ibrahim, a cleric and organizer of the protest, said they would not disperse until authorities met their demand to cancel the church's construction permit.
Stefani Ribka, Jakarta The persistent decline in the contribution of the agriculture sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) has been a key concern for policymakers, an official has said.
The share of the agriculture sector to the GDP fell to only 13.45 percent last year from 22.09 percent in 1990 as massive conversion of land traditionally used for farming to other purposes and poor advancement in farming methods have prevented much of the country's population from becoming farmers, Bank Indonesia (BI) said in reference to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).
BI executive director for monetary and economic policy Dody Budi Waluyo said Thursday that the declining contribution of the agricultural sector was a major concern because it was caused by low production growth. As production slowed amid fast-surging demand, it would push up food prices and therefore, trigger inflation, he added.
Dody spoke ahead of a coordination meeting on agricultural reform to be held by BI on Friday with the goal of generating concrete policies to address the main problems in the sector. Indonesia has struggled to feed its population of more than 250 million from locally produced food.
Other data revealed by BI also shows that the number of local people working in the agriculture sector dropped steeply to 31.9 percent in 2016 from 55.1 percent in 1990. "In Indonesia, farming is still carried out at a small scale, resulting in little profit, and therefore, almost nobody wants to be a farmer anymore," Dody said. (lnd)
Stefani Ribka, Jakarta Bank Indonesia (BI) projects the country will achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2020 if paddy conversion stops and the government is consistent in its efforts to increase the size of paddy and develop irrigation infrastructure.
"Agriculture infrastructure projects are ongoing. It will take three to five years for us to reap the results. Indonesia can be a rice self-sufficient country by 2020," Dody Budi Waluyo, assistant to the BI governor for monetary and economic policy, told a media briefing on Thursday.
The central bank predicts rice production will reach more than 50 million tons in 2020, while consumption will reach fewer than 43 million tons.
One Indonesian is assumed to consume 144-kilograms of rice per year, while the population is expected to reach 300 million people in 2020. Rice is used for direct consumption, animal feed and industrial use.
In 2015, rice production reached 43.9 million tons coming from 75.4 million tons of paddy. The government aims to produce 80 million tons of paddy this year.
The Agriculture Ministry aims to open another 80,000 hectares of new paddy and 500 water deposits after opening 128,441 ha and 1,714 water deposits last year.
Dody emphasizes that land conversion should also stop to realize the projection. Each year, up to 110,000 ha of agricultural land is converted for other use, mainly residential areas. (bbn)
Andi Hajramurni, Makassar, South Sulawesi To show their solidarity with Kendeng farmers from Pati, Central Java, who are fighting against the construction of a cement factory in their area, dozens of students under the banner of the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement (PMII) Makassar staged a rally on Thursday, during which they cemented their feet into blocks.
"This is a form of our solidarity with our sisters and brothers from Kendeng," said rally coordinator Anzal. He was one of 10 students who cemented their feet into blocks during the rally held under a flyover in Makassar, South Sulawesi.
They criticized Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo's decision to give permission to state-owned cement maker Semen Indonesia to build a cement factory in Rembang despite a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the lawsuit filed by the Kendeng farmers against the project.
"The Central Java governor's policy, which allows the construction of the cement factory in Kendeng is a human rights violation. It will also damage the environment," said Anzal.
PMII Makassar called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to cancel the construction permit of the Rembang cement factory. They also rejected the eviction of local residents by using development and urban planning as a pretext.
In the rally, protesters also chanted shalawat (Islamic songs in praise of Prophet Muhammad) and read out Surah Al Fatihah to commemorate Patmi, 48, a female farmer from Kendeng who died of a heart attack after staging a rally in front of the State Palace on March 21. (ebf)
Rizal Harahap, Pekanbaru Five environmentalists staged a demonstration by cementing their feet in front of the PON monument in Pekanbaru during the visit of First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo to the Riau provincial capital on Wednesday.
Mufidah Jusuf Kalla, the wife of Vice President Jusuf Kalla, as well as the wives of several Cabinet member also took part in the visit.
The activists reject the construction of a cement factory in Kendeng, Rembang regency, Central Java, which they believe will harm the ecosystem especially groundwater in the area and hence threaten the livelihoods of locals, who are mostly farmers.
The rally was also an expression of solidarity with and remembrance of Patmi, 48, a Kendeng farmer, who passed away while in Jakarta to participate in a demonstration to protest the factory in front of the State Palace, where the protesters also cemented their feet into blocks.
"The government is not pro-people," one of the activists, Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Riau deputy director Boy Jerry Even Sembiring, said.
The protesters, mostly members of Walhi Riau and the Pekanbaru Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Pekanbaru), wore farmer hats and carried protest signs with pictures of Patmi.
"We appreciate Patmi's struggle. For us, she is an environmental hero," Even said, adding that the police had asked them to change the location of the rally due to the First Lady's visit.
Iriana and her entourage were scheduled to meet 1,800 early-age education (PAUD) teachers, observe a cervical cancer screening, and discuss the dangers of narcotics with 1,600 senior high school students.
Patmi's demise has sparked similar protests across the country. (bbs)
Indra Budiari, Jakarta Dozens of Manggarai residents in South Jakarta filed a report with the National Commission on Human Rights on Friday, protesting the planned demolition of their houses to make way for the construction of a railway line to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
One local, Nasrul Dongoran, said the residents had been living in the area since the 1950s but did not have house deeds to support their claims. "But we can show our house purchase agreements signed by RT [neighborhood unit] head."
The residents also objected to the amount of compensation offered by train operator PT KAI for their land. They expressed hope that Komnas HAM could mediate in talks between them and the project operator.
PT KAI spokesperson Suprapto, however, claimed the company was the rightful owner of the land.
The company has said it would pay Rp 250,000 (US$18.75) per house, "as compensation for the house's demolition costs," Suprapto told The Jakarta Post.
He added that as the airport train was planned to be operational this year, Manggarai Station would be renovated and no delays were expected in the construction despite people's objections.
Previously, state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II said the construction of a train station at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, would be completed by the end of March and the airport railway line would start operating in July.
The train will transport people from the airport to Manggarai Station in 45 minutes.
Jakarta A Supreme Court ruling on the construction of a cement factory in the Kendeng Mountain area in Rembang, Central Java, must be respected by all relevant parties as it is valid and legally binding, says a People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) deputy speaker.
"I think in resolving the ongoing polemics we must look at all regulations. The court has granted a lawsuit filed by Kendeng farmers, ordering a halt to the cement factory's construction. A review should be carried out to assess whether the Central Java governor's permit, which revives the construction project, contradicts the court ruling," MPR deputy speaker Mahyudin said as quoted by Antara on Thursday.
He was referring to a permit issued recently by Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo that allowed state cement maker Semen Indonesia to continue the development of its cement factory in Rembang.
Mahyudin said the problem was that the Central Java governor had re-issued the Rembang cement factory construction permit despite a court decision that ruled in favor of the Kendeng farmers.
"I don't want to take sides with any party but I want investment in Indonesia to run well and for people to not suffer losses." Akmal Pasluddin, a member of House of Representatives Commission IV, which oversees agriculture, food, forestry, plantations and fisheries and maritime affairs, said separately that commission leaders would summon Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman to explain and take responsibility for the death of Patmi, 48, a Kendeng farmer who staged a rally in front of the State Palace.
"Ibu Patmi is our hero. She has persistently struggled to conserve the environment in her area," said Akmal. (rdi/ebf)
Jakarta Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Monday that only 40 percent of Indonesian families could afford to buy houses due to increasing property prices, while another 40 percent of people could only buy houses with government subsidies.
"The remaining 20 percent could not afford to buy houses without significant assistance from the government. These are the facts of housing affordability for Indonesian people," said Sri Mulyani as reported by tempo.co when making a keynote speech at an investor gathering in Jakarta on Monday.
Indonesia needs between 800,000 and 1 million houses per year, said Sri Mulyani, adding that private developers contributed 40 percent to meeting that demand and the government around 20 percent. "Meanwhile, the remaining 40 percent were constructed individually by people," she added.
Sri Mulyani said she had not given serious attention to the housing issue, during her nearly eight months in office, saying that she had to pay more serious attention to making the 2016 state budget sustainable.
"My attention is still focused on the state budget after nearly eight months in office so that it will become an effective instrument," said Sri, who was appointed as a finance minister by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo when she was still executive director of the World Bank.
"With the state budget as an effective fiscal instrument, we hope we can support housing development," she added. (bbn)
Prima Wirayani, Jakarta State-owned lender Bank Tabungan Negara (BTN) and the Workers Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) sealed an agreement on Thursday on mortgage financing provision for the latter's members.
"As part of our synergy, we will provide facilities for down-payments, housing and renovation financing for BPJS Ketenagakerjaan members," BTN president director Maryono said during the signing ceremony in Jakarta, according to the lender's statement.
The publicly listed bank agreed to disburse mortgages for the agency's members for a maximum amount of Rp 500 million (US$37,529) each and a maximum tenure of 20 years for houses and 15 years for apartment units.
The offered interest rate is also competitive at around 7.75 percent, compared to 9 percent charged for commercial mortgages, Maryono said. He expressed optimism that the partnership would help BTN achieve its mortgage target this year.
BTN, which specializes in mortgage lending, expects to disburse subsidized mortgages for between 180,000 and 200,000 housing units and non-subsidized mortgages for 80,000 units. The lender provided 159,000 and 49,965 subsidized and non-subsidized mortgages, respectively, last year.
"We are optimistic that our target of 21 percent loan growth this year will be achieved with our various mortgage products," Maryono said. (bbn)
Jakarta Indonesia has decided to keep capital punishment in the country's judicial system despite a call from the United Nations for a worldwide moratorium on executions.
Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said on Wednesday that the government would maintain the death penalty in its Criminal Code (KUHP), which is currently being amended at the House of Representatives.
"We are just waiting for the right time [to execute criminals]. There are a lot of important things concerning us right now, but in the future we will still [implement the death penalty]," Prasetyo said.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has defended the Attorney General Office's decision to impose the ultimate punishment for serious drug offenses. Since his inauguration in 2014, there have been three rounds of executions, despite international outcries.
When asked about the National Narcotics Agency's advice that the AGO immediately execute 148 drug convicts, Prasetyo said prosecutors would examine each of those cases to ensure they punish the right prisoners.
"We all have the same goal. We have declared war on drugs, especially when it comes to targeting dealers and traffickers," Prasetyo said. (hol)
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo says he is open to a review of the death penalty, if most people in his Muslim-majority nation support it.
During an interview with AFP on Monday, Jokowi was asked again about the possibility of re-instating a moratorium on capital punishment. He said, "Why not? But I must ask my people. If my people say OK, they say yes, I will start to prepare."
Importantly, however, the president also cited a private opinion poll from 2015, which showed 85 percent of Indonesians support the death penalty for drug traffickers.
The comments came as US citizen and convicted drug trafficker Frank Amado was moved to Indonesia's notorious Nusa Kambangan prison earlier this month, where recent executions have taken place, sparking speculation of more imminent executions. Six other foreign nationals may be with him, reports Indonesian media.
In Indonesia, death-sentenced inmates are executed by firing squad and only learns of their impending execution 72 hours in advance.
This week, a coalition of Indonesian human rights groups announced their planned push for support from the United Nations Human Rights Council to abolish the death penalty. They will do so at Indonesia's forthcoming hearing at the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva in May.
The Jakarta Post reports that the NGOs' submission highlights the problem of "government's persistence in implementing capital punishment when the country's judicial system is still marred with rampant corruption."
Under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia had a four-year unofficial moratorium which ended in March 2013. Another former President, BJ Habibie, last year denounced Indonesia's continued use of the death penalty.
Ahead of a visit to Australia in November 2016, Jokowi said Indonesians may change their mind on executions just like Europeans had done. "We are very open to options... I don't know when but we want to move towards that direction," said the president.
But enthusiastic use of capital punishment has been a hallmark of Jokowi's presidency despite widespread international criticism.
Eighteen people have been killed for drug trafficking since his election in mid-2014, 15 of whom were foreign citizens. Jokowi has previously justified capital punishment on the basis that drug traffickers had "destroyed the future of the nation."
In May 2016, Jokowi introduced new laws that punish paedophilia with the death penalty and chemical castration, in response to public outcry after a schoolgirl was brutally gang-raped.
It is unclear whether a majority of Indonesian citizens support the death penalty, but capital punishment has many high-profile advocates.
Jokowi's current vice president Jusuf Kalla, who was also vice president under Susilo between 2004 and 2009, said drug traffickers "loved" the former president for his leniency. Last year, former Chief Justice Jimly Asshiddiqie said public officials convicted of graft should be sentenced to death.
Just this week, Jakarta Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat told reporters that tougher policing on drug trafficking was required and that authorities need to execute drug criminals to "create a deterrent effect."
Djarot is the running mate of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who was formally deputy when Jokowi was governor of the capital.
Jokowi has previously declared drug trafficking a "national emergency" for Indonesia. In fact, public health experts estimate that only 0.5 percent of the country's 250 million people "experiment" with drugs.
Neighbouring Philippines recently re-instated the death penalty, despite being one of the first countries to abolish capital punishment in the region back in 2014.
Ironically, the sentencing of Filipina drug mule Mary Jane Veloso to the death penalty after being arrested with 4.5 kilograms of heroin in 2010 has been a point of diplomatic tension between the two nations. She remains in prison in Indonesia.
Jokowi's administration has remained obstinate in its refusal to grant clemency to foreigners on drug convictions.
Yet hundreds of Indonesian citizens remain on death row overseas and Jakarta works hard to have them granted clemency. Between 2011 and 2015, 68 Indonesian citizens were freed from death row in Saudi Arabia alone.
Herlambang P Wiratraman of SEPAHAM Indonesia (Indonesian Lecturer Association for Human Rights) wrote in 2015 that "Indonesia's penchant for executions will weaken the nation's standing in seeking reprieve for 334 Indonesians on death row in other countries."
Jakarta A discussion on the dilemma of the death penalty at the Islamic College Sadra on Monday saw another heated debate surrounding the inclusion of capital punishment in Indonesia's legal system with a number of academics and experts offering different opinions.
Franz Magnis Suseno from the philosophy college of STF Driyakarya said that the death penalty had failed to reduce the crime rate in the country. "The death penalty does not have a deterrent effect, since we can see that the number of crimes such as drug trafficking is still very high," he said.
Franz added that human beings "do not have the right" to end someone's life, adding that punishment should not be understood as an act of revenge.
Ammar Fauzi from the Islamic College Sadra, however, argued that the death penalty was about "upholding justice." However, according to him, the most important thing for the government was to create a fair justice system.
Hertasning Ichlas from Universalia Legal Aid (YLBHU) also questioned the implementation of the death penalty, saying it was still "discriminatory." He said that most of the convicts on death row were not "the big fish" or key actors in their criminal networks.
He suggested that it was better for all stakeholders to focus on fixing problems and reforming the country's justice system than to prolong debates over the death penalty. (rdi/bbs)
Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta Indonesia's human rights groups are bringing the country's controversial capital punishment into the global spotlight after demands to abolish it back home had fallen on deaf ears.
Several civil society organizations are set to present the problems revolving around the practice of the death penalty in the country when Indonesia's human rights records are reviewed during the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in May.
UPR is the UN's quadrennial assembly, which aims to examine the performance of all members in protecting and upholding human rights in their respective countries. The UNHRC will gather governments and rights groups of all member countries in order to collect comprehensive information for review. The upcoming meeting is the third cycle of meetings, which will result in recommendations to each country.
Civil society groups, such as the Institute for Criminal Justice (ICJR), the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Imparsial, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), the Association for International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST) and the IndonesianLegalResourcesCenter (ILRC) have prepared a joint report that was submitted recently to the UNHRC.
The report by the rights groups lambasted the government, as well as the House of Representatives for maintaining the death penalty in the Criminal Code (KUHP) that is currently under ongoing processes of amendments at the House.
The revision bill actually softens the government's stance on the death penalty, stipulating that it serves as a special and alternative punishment. Articles 89 through 91 of the draft regulate the conditions and procedures for death row convicts to have punishments reduced to life imprisonment.
Article 89, for example, states that the "death penalty should be the last option taken to protect the public." Article 91 further elaborates that convicts may have their sentence reduced if they behave well during their imprisonment. The bill however has yet to define the guidelines of assessment and the determining authority.
The joint report highlights one core problem: on government's persistence in implementing capital punishment when the country's judicial system is still marred with rampant corruption.
The groups also cite lack of access to legal aid, interpreters and consular representatives on top of unfair and improper legal procedures faced by inmates.
One of the groups, the legal think tank ICJR mentioned that it found at least 11 out of 47 death row convicts who were not accompanied during preliminary examinations. This includes, among others, Indonesian Merri Utami and Pakistani Zulfikar Ali, who are on death row for drug trafficking allegations.
Ricky Gunawan, the director of LBH Masyarakat, said the aforementioned concerns included foreign nationals Zulfikar and the Philippine's Mary Jane Veloso.
Veloso was sentenced to death in 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin in a suitcase to Indonesia. She was spared from execution in 2015 in the 11th hour after a woman came forward in her home country to admit that she had duped Veloso into smuggling drugs into Indonesia. Meanwhile, Zulfikar escaped last year's execution. He was sentenced to death in 2005 for possessing 350 grams of heroin.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration had so far executed 18 death row drug convicts.
The inclusion of the death penalty in the KUHP is not yet final as lawmakers and the government are still discussing the matter. The deliberation has taken place for 572 days.
So far, the majority of political factions at the House have agreed to maintain capital punishment, excluding the Democratic Party.
"Making it an alternative punishment is a compromise to accommodate different opinions and values regarding the death penalty," lawmaker Arsul Sani, a member of a working committee assigned to deliberate the bill, said.
The Human Rights and Humanity director at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Dicky Komar. said the government had engaged all relevant parties including civil society in preparing the report set to be presented in the UPR's session.
David Roman, Jakarta Indonesia's economy is losing out on commodity gains after lawmakers wrapped protectionist policies around the nation's resources. Their next problem: finding a lucrative replacement.
Commodities now account for about 40 percent of all exports, down from almost 60 percent five years ago, according to Morgan Stanley. They make up just 6 percent of gross domestic product, half as much as in 2012, as trade restrictions worsened the impact of a price rout over much of that period. Crude oil and gas output has declined to levels last seen in the early 1970s.
While Indonesia's coal output will be higher next year than in 2013, production of key mineral exports including bauxite, tin and nickel will still be well behind the commodity cycle's peak, BMI Research estimates. The drag on activity may complicate President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's plans to accelerate economic growth to 7 percent, with an investment push in manufacturing to offset lost commodity income yet to yield results.
"Indonesia is growing 5 percent that's pretty good but it used to grow 6 percent because of commodities. To go back to 6 percent you need to have another sector that would replace it," said Gundy Cahyadi, an economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore. "The problem is that there is no support from manufacturing."
While global commodities slumped for five years following their 2011 peak, last year saw a rebound in prices. But investment in Indonesia's sector has been sapped by tighter environmental rules and nationalist policies, including import tariffs and tighter visa requirements for foreign workers. The crackdown has led to mine closures and the exit of big foreign resource companies including Newmont Mining Corp. and BHP Billiton Plc last year.
The timing isn't great. In a country where 40 percent of incomes hover above the poverty line, the government has sought to stimulate domestic demand amid forecasts that the middle class population may double to 141 million by 2020. Cahyadi says if that happens without a rapid expansion of manufacturing, there won't be enough jobs to go around.
Indonesia halted the export of metal ores in 2014 to encourage local smelter construction; despite relaxing the ban in January, shipments of nickel have yet to restart. The government last week said it would take a majority stake in the local unit of the owner of the world's second-biggest copper mine, deepening a dispute that's curtailed output and prompted thousands of job losses.
While the government in January raised taxes sixfold on exports of palm oil, Indonesia's biggest earner, that was expected to have limited impact on shipments because of possible supply disruptions in Malaysia. The commodity accounts for about 10 percent of the nation's overall exports.
There may be a silver lining to relying less on commodities, says Wellian Wiranto, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore.
Less dependence should be a mid-term positive for the economy as it forces government and business to find other growth drivers, says Wiranto. Now is the perfect time for Indonesia to build new infrastructure, which it's been doing at a slower pace than its neighbors, he says. Historically, its ports and roads have been optimized to service mining pits and not residents and businesses.
"Relying on commodities, you've had a very exposed economy for decades," Wiranto said. "You don't want to put all your eggs in one basket." (bbn)
Stefani Ribka, Jakarta The Indonesia Textile Association (API) projects that garment exports will stagnate this year after declining by 3.2 percent to US$11.9 billion last year.
"It's good if it's stagnant. Last year it declined because there are several problems that still persist in the country, though there have been some improvements in facilities from the government to boost the sector," API chairman Ade Sudrajat told The Jakarta Post recently.
Problems include contradictory policies between central and local administrations, complicated tax procedures, inadequate infrastructure that leads to high logistics costs and electricity and gas prices that are higher than neighboring countries.
Besides internal challenges, Ade said the Indonesian textile business also faced tough competition in trying to expand its share of the international market. He called on the government to expand trade agreements with big buyers.
"Indonesia can lobby the United States to expand its GSP [Generalized System of Preferences] for more Indonesian garment items so more of our product can enter the country with lower tariffs," he added. The US is Indonesia's biggest garment importer.
Despite the challenges, the association acknowledged some improvements in logistics, such as the establishment of dozens of bonded warehouses. The association also acknowledged that the activation of more cargo lines from Gedebage Station in West Java known as a center for garment production to Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta had boosted exports. (bbn)
Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta In a move that is likely to reduce tensions over its future operations, major mining company PT Freeport Indonesia has agreed to convert its contract, paving the way to a resolution in its prolonged dispute with the government.
Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ignasius Jonan claims that in a change to months of resistance, Freeport Indonesia, a subsidiary of United States-based gold and copper mining giant Freeport-McMoRan (FCX), has agreed to allow its contract of work (CoW) to be converted into a special mining permit (IUPK).
"In principle, they have already agreed to convert to an IUPK. Hopefully, they do not change their mind," Jonan said during a hearing with House of Representatives Commission VII on Thursday.
The conflict between the two parties built up after the mineral export ban took effect in mid-January in compliance with Government Regulation (PP) No. 1/2017.
Freeport Indonesia, the operator of the world's largest gold and second-largest copper mine in Grasberg, Papua, is required to divest 51 percent of its shares, build a smelter within five years and convert its contract in exchange for a permit to export copper concentrate.
Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama separately confirmed that the firm had agreed to convert its CoW into an IUPK, though it was still negotiating the terms with the government.
"Freeport Indonesia is willing to convert its CoW to an IUPK so long as it is granted investment stability, entailing legal and fiscal certainty, equal to the certainties outlined in our [current] CoW," he told The Jakarta Post.
Although Riza declined to disclose its proposed terms, Jonan revealed that the firm had asked to pay the fixed tax as stipulated in its CoW although it is higher than the prevailing tax. Furthermore, it also wants to continue talks on levies imposed in Papua, he added.
The firm's acquiescence marks a milestone after weeks of tough negotiations to settle the dispute out of court after both Freeport and the government have pledged to bring the dispute to the United Nation's arbitration tribunal.
The progress in the negotiations comes just before US Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Indonesia next month. Indonesian officials have said the Freeport dispute is likely to be high on the vice president's agenda
FCX is known to be politically connected as US billionaire Carl Icahn, special adviser on regulatory reform to US President Donald Trump, is the third major FCX shareholder.
Previously, with strong support from its parent company, Freeport Indonesia had consistently rejected the government's requirements, which the company argued had violated the investment certainty provided by the present CoW dating back to 1991.
As a result of the standstill, the miner had been unable to sell its copper concentrates overseas, leading to a large pile up that put a brake on its mining operations.
Earlier this month, Freeport Indonesia, Indonesia's biggest oldest foreign investor, resumed production at 40 percent of its normal rate after securing an export permit for anode slime, a byproduct of copper processing.
During the hearing, Jonan also told legislators that the government might allow the miner to ship its copper concentrate while negotiations on the other terms continued so long as the latter officially agreed to the contract conversion.
"As they have technically agreed to an IUPK, they will be able to export so long as they submit a proposal to build a smelter within the next five years following government regulation [PP] No. 1/2017. The government must be firm [in this case]. The company must own an IUPK," Jonan said.
House Commission VII, meanwhile, called on the central government to seek input from the Papuan people before making any future policy about the miner.
"We ask the energy and mineral resources minister to involve Papuan locals in any decision-making process pertaining to Freeport Indonesia in order to comply with the Regional Autonomy Law," chairman Gus Irawan Pasaribu said.
Separately, a coalition of civil societies officially submitted a proposal to the Supreme Court to review PP No. 1/2017 and its subsequent regulations, claiming that they violated the 2009 Mining Law and offered excessive leeway for miners to continue selling raw and semi-processed minerals abroad.
Jakarta The government is facing a rampant number of lawsuits from miners, whose mining permits were revoked by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry for, among other reasons, failing to pay taxes based on a study made by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
"They have filed lawsuits against us. It is their right. We will face them," said the ministry's coal and mineral mining directorate general Bambang Gatot Ariyono as reported by kontan.co.id on Monday
According to a KPK study conducted in 2011, many mining companies have failed to pay taxes. Based on the study and Law No 23/20014 on regional administrations, regional administrations were asked to collect data about the ninety companies that had not fulfilled their obligations. The government marked those miners with non-clean and clear permit status.
According to the ministry, there are 3,203 out of 9,433 mining permits with the status of non-clean and clear up to January. The government has revoked 200 permits so far.
Because of the lawsuits, the government delayed announcing the mining permits that had received clean and clear status, said Bambang.
Indonesian Coal Companies Association (APBI) Deputy Executive Director Hendra Sinadia said the companies had filed lawsuits against the government because they believed that they were in the right as the permits were issued by the government.
Meanwhile, Centre for Indonesian Resources Strategic Studies (Cirrus) director Budi Santoso said the government was in a weak position by revoking the mining permits. He also said that clean and clear status permits were not a guarantee that the companies had already fulfilled their obligations. (bbn)
Jakarta The government hopes private companies develop 27 percent of new roads nationwide, Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimoeljono has said.
Under the Indonesia Road Development Plan 2015 to 2019, the government plans to develop 2,650 kilometers of toll roads. Some 1,000 km of the roads have been developed. In addition to that, the government also plans to expand the capacity of 3,073 km of existing roads.
The total cost of the projects is Rp 733 trillion (US$34.99 billion). The central government can only develop 37 percent of the roads, while 27 percent is expected to be developed by local governments, and another 27 percent by private companies, with the remaining projects developed by state-owned enterprises.
"We have issued regulations to improve the investment climate, including regulations on government support, government guarantees, tax reduction and land acquisition," Basuki said as reported by tempo.co after opening the Road Engineering Association of Asia and Australasia (REAAA) in Jakarta from March 22 to 24.
He said apart from discussing the latest technology in road development, the conference, attended by some 1,000 participants, including those from Japan, the Philippines and Australia, was expected to attract more private companies to the development of the country's infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Road Developers Association (HPJI) chairman Hadiyanto W. said the government needed support from private companies to develop infrastructure, including roads. "The 15th REAAA is attended by many potential investors," he added. (bbn)
Jon Emontmarch, Jakarta, Indonesia Crowned with spiky feathered headdresses and daubed with face paint, scores of protesters gathered outside the Jakarta offices of an American mining giant last week, chanting, waving signs and throwing uncertainty into global commodities markets.
The traditional garb was meant to make it clear whom they represented: the people of West Papua, site of Freeport-McMoRan's Grasberg mine one of the world's largest sources of gold and copper. Their shouted slogans made it equally clear what they wanted. "Freeport must be shut down!" the crowd chanted.
It was a refrain that, in recent months, has resonated throughout Indonesia. Less than a week earlier, dozens of students from a different organization dressed in red and white, Indonesia's national colors gathered outside the same office, calling for the government to take a firm hand with the company.
"Freeport hasn't brought prosperity. It's just destroyed the natural environment," said Surya Anta, national coordinator for the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua. His organization helped organize anti-Freeport protests in 17 cities around the country.
Billions of dollars' worth of metal is produced at the mighty Grasberg mine, which provides jobs in a province with few other prospects. The problem? The mine is to the frustration of Indonesians watching their country's economic growth begin to sputter as commodity prices sag American owned and operated.
To address that, the government has in recent years passed regulations intended to exert greater control over mine operators. Freeport says those requirements violate the company's 1991 contract, which lasts until 2021 and which it wants to renew.
The dispute has put the brakes on production at the mine and slammed Freeport directly into Indonesian politics. The company, which counts as a major investor the billionaire Carl Icahn, a major backer of President Trump, has brought it to the attention of the United States government.
"It is disingenuous and insulting that Indonesia would violate a contract by hiding behind politically motivated laws that were enacted after the contract was signed," Mr. Icahn said.
Jakarta is already in the midst of a tough race for governor that has engulfed the capital in demonstrations against Gov. Basuki Purnama, an ally of President Joko Widodo. Considered business-friendly, Mr. Joko faces pressure to push back against an unpopular company at a time of declining exports, relatively slow economic growth and high political tension.
The contract fight exemplifies Indonesia's often fraught transition from a country exploited by colonial powers to one with the political clout to control its own resources, which are worth billions of dollars. For many Indonesians, Freeport, the biggest mining operation here, puts a face on that struggle.
"We are hoping that if Freeport is nationalized, the revenue from Freeport will be distributed to ordinary people, to subsidize basic needs and education," said Ahmad Hedar, a student activist.
Freeport has operated Grasberg since the early 1970s, the crown jewel in what a former chief executive called its global "trove of treasures." Indonesia, however, sees the mine as a national resource whose riches are being spirited away to foreign owners.
"Freeport pays only 8 trillion rupiah in taxes," but complains about unfair treatment, Ignasius Jonan, the minister of energy and natural resources, told the youth wing of a prominent Muslim organization in February.
That figure, about $600 million, compares with about $3.1 billion worth of gold and copper mined in 2015. But the company says that from 1992 to 2015, about 60 percent of its profit was returned to Indonesia in taxes, royalties, fees and stock dividends.
Both sides have threatened to take the contract disagreement to international arbitration. Until the dispute is resolved, the Grasberg mine will run at about 40 percent capacity; without a licensing deal, the Indonesian government will not allow Freeport to export unprocessed minerals.
The price of copper has been stable since a sharp rise in November, but the company's shares have dropped nearly 20 percent in the last two months.
"It is in the best interests of all stakeholders to receive a resolution in these matters," Richard Adkerson, the chief executive of Freeport, said in a written statement to The New York Times.
The Indonesian government faces extraordinary pressure from its citizens and national media to be firm with Freeport. This is driven by a perception that the company has consistently taken advantage of the Indonesian government since it entered the country in 1967 as one of its first big foreign investors.
That year, Indonesia's strongman leader, Suharto, granted Freeport a decade-long tax holiday, as well as a reprieve from paying royalties, though Indonesia's terms improved over the decades as the country's economy developed. Some Indonesian media reports have called Freeport a "monument" to the Suharto era.
"Indonesians have always been educated that they have world-class resources that are the envy of the entire world, but that over the years Western colonial powers have hatched schemes to take over Indonesia to exploit those resources," said Matthew Busch, a research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.
Indonesia's largest Muslim civic organizations have aggressively opposed foreign control over the country's resources, including calling for a "constitutional jihad" to challenge Indonesian laws that allow foreign companies to control domestic resources.
The resulting friction has made Indonesia one of the world's least attractive mining investment environments, according to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian research organization, which ranked it the 99th most difficult out of 104 nations, states and regions in 2016.
Eve Warburton, a researcher at Australian National University who studies Indonesian resource nationalism, said that over the last decade Indonesian politicians had consistently been more assertive toward foreign mining companies.
"Now it seems many people in government believe that Indonesia can afford to stay the nationalist path in the resources sectors," she said.
The conditions may be scaring off business. Last year Newmont, an American miner, sold its stake in Indonesia's Batu Hijau copper mine after struggling to adjust to Indonesian regulations. Rio Tinto, the British-Australian company, has a deal to develop Grasberg with Freeport, but its chief executive suggested in February that the company might back out over the new rules.
International analysts say Freeport's contract might not be as one-sided as many Indonesian government officials make it out to be. And despite the uncompromising statements from both sides, they say, a deal remains in reach.
"I see this as smoke and mirrors," said Bill Sullivan, a lawyer and mining analyst in Jakarta. "The government has no incentive whatsoever to make things so difficult for metal mineral producers that they won't reach an agreement. Because of the government's need for deep political cover, however, it has to relax the export ban in a way that does not make it look as though the government is caving in to metal mineral producers."
Papua Province, where the Grasberg mine is, is Indonesia's most restive and least developed, with a small independence movement that clashes with the military. Freeport pays about $20 million annually to the Indonesian government for security, including payments to Indonesia's military, which has been linked to human rights abuses in the province. The payments have periodically drawn the scrutiny of human rights organizations as well as pension funds that invest in the company.
But with Vice President Mike Pence scheduled to visit Indonesia in April, politicians here are unconcerned about effects on international relations.
"I'm someone who is very happy with Donald Trump's brilliant ideas and was glad to see him elected president," said Mukhtar Tompo, an Indonesian legislator who has called for Freeport to be expelled from Indonesia. "As long as Donald Trump looks at things from every perspective, he will agree with our side."
Jokowi should show political will, not just rhetorical support
Phelim Kine Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo dropped fresh hints this week that he supports reinstatement of the official moratorium on the death penalty, but only if the Indonesian public supports the move.
"Why not? But I must ask my people. If my people say OK, they say yes, I will start to prepare [to reinstate a moratorium]."
We've been here before. In November 2016, Jokowi suggested the Indonesian government might emulate European governments by moving toward abolishing the death penalty. At that time, Jokowi said his government was "very open to options" on death penalty alternatives, without elaborating. But since then, neither he nor his government have taken any serious steps to change Indonesia's policy. On the contrary, in recent weeks Indonesia seems poised to execute up to six convicted drug traffickers from foreign countries on the prison island of Nusa Kambangan.
The gap between Jokowi's rights-respecting rhetoric and the absence of policy measures to back it up is unsurprising. Jokowi has a well-earned reputation for talking the talk on human rights policies, but consistently failing to deliver. He's stalled on accountability plans for past gross human rights violations, such as the massacres of 1965-66; failed to abolish discriminatory laws fostering religious intolerance; and lacked follow-through on promises of accountability for abuses in Papua.
Indonesia ended a four-year unofficial moratorium on the death penalty in March 2013, and Jokowi has made the execution of convicted drug traffickers a signature issue of his presidency. Jokowi has justified using the death penalty by saying drug traffickers on death row have "destroyed the future of the nation."
In December 2014, he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an "important shock therapy" for anyone who violates Indonesia's drug laws. Since taking office in 2014, his government has executed 18 convicted drug traffickers, though no executions have taken place this year. The majority of those executed have been citizens of other countries, and Jokowi rejected their government's calls for clemency, citing national sovereignty.
Jokowi should not hinge his action on so fundamental an issue as capital punishment on the vagaries of popular support. Instead, he should take this opportunity to demonstrate leadership and bolster his rhetorical support for a death penalty moratorium with real action. Indecision is no reason to impose an inherently cruel punishment.
Dionne Christian When young writer Bonnie Etherington showed one of her Massey University classmates a short story she'd written, the last thing she expected was to be told she was seriously disturbed and in need of help.
Etherington, now 27 but back then just 18, had written about a plane crash and described, matter-of-factly, what happens when a body decomposes in the jungle. Having spent her formative years in West Papua, Indonesia, she was simply telling it like it was. Or is.
She says death is all around in a developing nation where there's extremely limited access to clean water and basic sanitation, reliable food supplies, medicines and health services, structurally sound housing and, indeed, all the other municipal services we take for granted.
Etherington talks straightforwardly about having nothing but green beans to eat for days or watching as her mother, Pip, a nurse, cut gangrene away from the leg of a woman who'd rolled into a fire while sleeping one night.
"Burns are quite common and often go untreated so gangrene becomes a massive problem. Mum was cutting it away from this woman's leg and putting it into a bowl. Later, Dad washed the bowl out and put peanuts in it. We were traumatised to learn we'd been eating peanuts out of the gangrene bowl. "
Given the abundance of material, it's no surprise that Etherington, already an accomplished short story and award-winning travel writer, draws on childhood experiences in West Papua for her first novel.
"The Earth Cries Out" is about a Nelson family struggling with grief and guilt following a tragedy. To heal and atone, 8-year-old Ruth's father moves his family to Irian Jaya (the Indonesian province now known as West Papua) to build a hospital in a remote mountain village. Her dad's distracted and her mum doesn't want to be there so Ruth does what all children do and tries to adapt and make friends.
Etherington says the family is nothing like her own. Born in New Zealand, she moved with her mum, dad Paul, and sisters to Bandung, Java when she was 2 then on to West Papua. Every three or so years, her family would return to New Zealand for an extended stay of up to six months to rest and recuperate. They once lived in Darwin for three years when Pip got so sick that they needed a longer break.
Culture shock was as much a feature of Etherington's childhood as bouts of malaria or dengue fever. Her primary schooling was patchy; intermediate constant and secondary schooling at an international school of Papua's coast, where she met her husband, Josh Eastwood.
Although the family is different from Etherington's own the poverty, unrest and death shot through the book are real. But it's not a grisly story if anything, it's more visceral because of her understated but graceful style. Ruth's story is told sensitively and alternates with vignettes about Papua's flora and fauna.
Each is organised around a specific plant, such as an orchid or a breadfruit tree, accompanied by a short story. It's a skilful way of including information about the region's politics, history and peoples without putting far too grown-up words and thoughts into Ruth's mouth and brain.
The book's title comes from Romans 8:22: "We know that everything on the earth cries out with pain the same as a woman giving birth to a child." Acutely interested in environmental issues, Etherington says the novel is partly about relationships between women, especially mothers and their daughters, and the shades of loss and pain as well as love that can colour those relationships.
"I wanted to combine these themes and show that even through pain, there is hope. The novel also suggests that the earth itself, our environment, can feel and express pain."
West Papua has been occupied by Indonesia since the 1960s.
"It's our neighbour and we really should be more aware of it and it's not enough to know about where it is but we should be aware of what life is like there. The vignettes were my way of trying to get more stories of West Papua's people in, to show the multiplicities and go beyond the usual narratives of primitivism and cannibalism we usually read, because it's not like that at all."
Short-listed for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2016, Etherington studied for a Master of Creative Writing at Massey University in Palmerston North. She credits senior lecturer and fellow author Dr Thom Conroy for encouraging her to include the vignettes about West Papua in the story.
Like most of her stories, "The Earth Cries Out" started when a character in this case, Ruth came to mind and wouldn't leave, but originally Etherington didn't plan to include as much about West Papua.
"I wanted to be a New Zealand writer so I thought I would have to have the story set mainly in New Zealand which, I suppose, was a bit ignorant of me. Thom Conroy encouraged me to keep those chapters. He said the story really came alive in West Papua."
Etherington is now Chicago-based, working towards a PhD at Northwestern University, focusing on tropical ecologies in Southeast Asian and Oceania literatures. She regards both New Zealand and West Papua as home but is reluctant to go into too much detail about the latter's political situation.
"I support dignity and justice for the people of West Papua and their lands. How that should best come about is not my place to say. It is the place of Papuans to say, whether that takes the shape of full political autonomy from Indonesia or some other configuration of reconciliation and reparations. I hope that their voices will be heard and respected."
The Earth Cries Out by Bonnie Etherington (Vintage, $38)