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Indonesia News Digest 13 – April 1-7, 2017

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West Papua

Uganda parliament pledges support for West Papua independence

New Vision - April 7, 2017

John Masaba – Parliament of Uganda has pledged to support West Papua, a province of Indonesia fighting for independence to realise its dream.

This is after its leader petitioned parliament and presented heartrending accounts of sufferings under the rule of the island nation.

In a petition presented to the Parliament deputy speaker Jacob Oulanya on Friday, Jacob Rumbiak, the leader of United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) said they want Uganda to influence other countries in the region to support their bid for independence at the United Nations.

He told Saturday Vision that he believes Uganda's strength at African Union (AU) can galvanize the African vote in New York and help them clinch independence by 2019. Saturday Vision has learnt that besides Parliament, the group also wants to meet President Yoweri Museveni over their bid.

Formerly under Dutch rule, West Papua is fighting to shake off the firm rule of Indonesia, under which it was placed courtesy of a UN – backed treaty in 1969. The island maintains that Indonesia's rule over it is illegal because the UN-sanctioned ballot – 'the Act of Free Choice', which legitimized West Papua as a province of Indonesia in 1969, was fraudulent. Under the act, 1000 people, who were chosen to vote on behalf of the island, were coerced by Indonesian military to vote against the independence bid.

With a land size of 162, 371 square miles, West Papua is nearly twice the size of Uganda. However, Uganda boasts of a population eight times bigger and has better human development indicators than the island's four million people according to online sources.

Rumbiak blames the above on an orchestrated genocide and the brutal rule they have suffered under Indonesia since 1969. He claimed there is a systemic agenda by Indonesia – a Muslim dominated country – to destroy their way of life, and exterminate the Papuans, a black people of African descent. – See more at:

Source: http://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1450567/uganda-parliament-pledges-support-west-papua-independence

Protesters in Jakarta say Freeport has brought no benefits to the Papuan

CNN Indonesia - April 7, 2017

Tiara Sutari, Jakarta – The Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) held a joint action [with the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-West Papua] in front of the offices of PT Freeport Indonesia in Jakarta on Friday April 7 demanding that Freeport halt its mining activities in Papua because it harms the Papuan people.

Frans Nawipa from the AMP said that over the last 50 years in which Freeport has conducted mining activities on Papuan land there has not been the slightest benefit obtained by the Papuan people.

"What there has been has only been environmental destruction, what share of profits? All the profits have been taken by Jakarta, West Papua which is poor has instead become poorer", said Frans in a speech in front of the PT Freeport Indonesia building in the Kuningan area of South Jakarta.

Furthermore, said Frans, over the last 50 years the Papuan people have never been invited to be involved in decision making. Moreover since the signing of the first work contract, the Papuan people have known nothing about the agreement.

"From the start when Freeport came to our land, it was illegal, the first work contract was illegal because West Papua had yet to officially become part of Indonesia".

The gold and copper company obtained its first mining permit in April 1967. At the time the company was in the midst of a conflict with the Indonesian government over changes to the obligations and sale of company shares. (asa)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was " Merugikan Masyarakat, Mahasiswa Papua Demo Kantor Freeport".]

Source: http://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20170407163842-20-205806/merugikan-masyarakat-mahasiswa-papua-demo-kantor-freeport/

Papuan students in Makassar call on government to close Freeport

Makassar Today - April 7, 2017

Makassar – Scores of student from the Student Solidarity Concern Forum for the Papuan People (FSMPRP) held a rally this morning under the Jl. Urip Sumoharjo flyover in the South Sulawesi city of Makassar on Friday April 7.

The students were voicing their aspirations regarding the control of a gold mine in the land of their birth by PT Freeport Indonesia.

In a speech by one of the demonstrators, Lawon Enumbay from the University of Eastern Indonesia (UIT) Faculty of Law made three demands, namely rejecting the Foreign Investment Business Permit and the Special Mining Licence (IUPK) along with calling on the government to close PT Freeport Indonesia.

"We are conveying our three point demand in the hope that the president of Indonesia, Bapak Joko Widodo can take a position or policy of refusing to cooperate with PT Freeport".

Their demands were based on the view that the activities of the Freeport mining company have not brought any positive impact to the Papuan people.

After taking turns in giving speeches, the Papuan students disbanded in an orderly fashion. (syamsul)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Mahasiswa Papua di Makassar Desak Pemerintah Tutup PT Freeport".]

Source: http://makassartoday.com/2017/04/07/mahasiswa-papua-di-makassar-desak-pemerintah-tutup-pt-freeport/

Protest calling for Freeport closure in Yogya broken up by police

Tribune Jogja - April 7, 2017

Pradito Rida Pertana, Yogya – A rally by students demanding the closure of the Freeport Indonesia gold mine in West Papua and self-determination for the West Papuan nation at the University of Gajah Mada (UGM) traffic circle in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta was broken up by police on Friday April 7.

The head of the Sleman municipal police operational division, police commander Khundori said that the demonstration was broken up because the protesters, calling themselves the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-West Papua) and the Papua Student Alliance (AMP), had not notified police beforehand.

"We immediately broke up [the rally] because there was no prior notification, [according to] regulations [there should be] a notification three days before a protest action", he said.

Khundori added that police were already on alert at the UGM traffic circle before the rally was held which started at around 10am.

"Before [they moved off to the] UGM traffic circle we broke up [the rally] at the point where they were gathering near the UGM entrance gate", he said in conclusion.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Polisi Bubarkan Aksi Demo Mahasiswa di Bundaran UGM karena Tak Berizin".]

Source: http://jogja.tribunnews.com/2017/04/07/polisi-bubarkan-aksi-demo-mahasiswa-di-bundaran-ugm-karena-tak-berizin

Students in Malang call for closure, expulsion of Freeport from Papua

Surya Malang - April 7, 2017

Klojen – The Malang and Surabaya city Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) held a rally in front of the Malang city hall in the East Java city on Friday April 7.

This was the latest of several actions held by the AMP. The scores of demonstrators again made a number of demands including, among others, related to the Freeport Indonesia mine and the expulsion of the gold mining company from the land of Papua.

According to action coordinator Jhons Raffael Giyai the Indonesian government has never involved the West Papuan people in the agreement to divest of 51 percent of shares in the company.

"Traditional West Papuan communities have never been involved in the agreement. Yet what the Papuan people want is the closure of Freeport", asserted Jhons.

The grounds for this demand are because the mining company expropriated the traditional lands of the West Papuan people.

The other demands articulated by the protesters was an audit of Freeport's wealth, the return of the area to the Papuan people and severance pay for [recently sacked Freeport] workers. They also called for freedom for West Papua.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Kota Malang: Tutup dan Usir Freeport dari Bumi Papua".]

Source: http://suryamalang.tribunnews.com/2017/04/07/aliansi-mahasiswa-papua-demo-di-kota-malang-tutup-dan-usir-freeport-dari-bumi-papua

TNI to build missile detachment in Bintuni Bay, West Papua

Tempo.co - April 6, 2017

Hans Arnold, Bintuni – Commander of Military District (Kodam) XVIII Kasuari of the National Armed Forces (TNI), Major General Joppie Onesimus Wayangkau mentioned about the missile detachment that is set to be established in Bintuni Bay, West Papua.

The detachment, which will be equipped with radar monitors, is included in Kodam's new strategic territorial plan to secure vital state assets in West Papua. One of them is the oil and gas refinery operated by SKK Migas and BP Tangguh.

"We'll establish one missile detachment under Kodam XVIII Kasuari to secure vital state assets such as the oil and gas mine that are located here," Wayangkau said on Wednesday, April 5, 2017.

Wayangkau also said that they are responding to reports coming in from the local residents regarding drone activities in the area. According to the reports, drone activities have been spying and troubling the people living in the vicinity of Bintuni Bay and the people working at the mining companies.

"We have received information about the mysterious spy drone, but we're having difficulty in detecting it since Papua only has two tracking radars that are located in Biak and Sorong," Wayangkau said.

Bintuni Bay Regent, Petrus Kasihiu, fully supports the plan of establishing a missile detachment in his region. His administration will provide the land needed for the construction.

"We will definitely prepare the land, Bintuni Bay regional government welcomes Kodam XVIII Kasuari for the unity of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI)," Kasihiu said.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/04/06/055863371/tni-to-build-missile-detachment-in-bintuni-bay-west-papua

UN Special Rapporteur on Health: Indigenous Papuans are still

Tabloid JUBI - April 5, 2017

Benny Mawel and Victor Mambor, Jayapura, Jubi – United Nations Special Rapporteur on health, Dainius Puras said distrust has make health problem in Papua become even more complicated.

In a press conference, Monday (03/04/2017) in Jakarta, Puras explained that health problems in Papua as a serious complexity. He cited the Family Planning (KB) clearly showing there is distrust between Papuan native (OAP) and the Indonesian government.

"Even if the family planning program is run ethically and well, the Papuan people still think that KB aims to reduce the number of indigenous people," said Puras, as quoted in satuharapan.com.

Puras understood the difficulty, but he can ensure the family planning program is actually a good program. However, if executed by force, it violates human rights.

"But if implemented in a good way, through responsible information, for not having a child every year, it's good. However, in environments that have no trust to each other, it becomes a complication. So there must be a solution, "said Puras.

Puras also recognize there is still stigma and discrimination on health services perceived by Papuan indigenous.

"There are serious concerns on the health of Papuan indigenous. Not only the high prevalence of HIV-AIDS, but also the level of infant and maternal mortality, and children malnutrition," said Puras.

In a meeting with civil society in Jayapura, Friday (31/3/2017) a hospital attendant in Abepura hospital told him that the hospital limiting births of Papuans by way of terrorizing families of mother with a 'death threat'.

"Actually, she could have a normal birth, but sometimes the doctor demand an operation or else it would cost live of the mother or child. The family then forced to sign an operation," said her.

While a midwife from Yakuhimo said restrictions on reproductive rights is also an entrance for violence against women. In Yakuhimo the practice of family planning programs that are not informative has caused many women experienced domestic violence.(*)

Source: http://tabloidjubi.com/eng/un-special-rapporteur-health-indigenous-papuans-still-discriminated/

RSF calls on Jokowi to honour pledge to let journalists work in West

Asia Pacific Report - April 5, 2017

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to keep his election promise to allow local and international journalists to operate in West Papua without obstruction or surveillance.

The Paris-based global media freedom watchdog RSF's appeal follows the expulsion of French journalists Franck Escudie and Basile Longchamp on visa violation grounds last month.

Accompanied by a film crew, Escudie and Longchamp arrived in Indonesia in February with the government's permission to make a documentary that would involve filming in West Papua.

However, shortly after arriving, the authorites accused them of displaying a "lack of coordination with related institutions" – with the result that they were deported on March 17 and, for the time being, are banned from returning to Indonesia. "We remind the Indonesian president of his undertaking to scrap the restrictions that obstruct the work of foreign journalists in West Papua," said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk.

"Indonesia is due to host the World Press Freedom Day celebrations on May 3 but, given its repeated refusals to issue press visas and the growing number of journalists on its blacklist, it falls far short of qualifying as a country that supports freedom of expression and media freedom."

During his campaign for election as president in July 2014, Widodo said he would allow journalists to visit West Papua freely, thereby raising hopes that media freedom would revive in the region.

But the visa regulations are as draconian as ever and West Papua's immigration officials and military continue to abuse their authority in order to prevent independent reporting, with the government in Jakarta's tacit consent.

In January 2016, RSF condemned the Indonesian government's refusal to let French journalist Cyril Payen visit Indonesia after France 24 broadcast the documentary he had just made about West Papua, entitled Forgotten war of the Papuas.

A Bangkok-based reporter specialising in Southeast Asia, Payen had nonetheless obtained all the necessary authorisations before visiting West Papua in mid-2015.

The broadcasting of the documentary also resulted in the French ambassador being summoned to the Indonesian foreign ministry.

It was under Indonesia's immigration laws, which RSF has repeatedly condemned, that two British journalists, Rebecca Prosser and Neil Bonner, were sentenced to two and a half months in prison on 3 November 2015 for violating the terms of their visas.

They had already spent more than 150 days in police custody when they were finally sentenced.

Two French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, were arrested while preparing a report in West Papua in August 2014.

After being held for more than two months, they were sentenced on 24 October 2014 to two and a half months in prison for violating the immigration laws.

Indonesia is ranked 130th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Source: http://asiapacificreport.nz/2017/04/05/rsf-calls-on-jokowi-to-honour-pledge-to-let-journalists-work-in-west-papua/

Solomon Islands seeks balance in relations with Indonesia and West Papua

The Diplomat - April 5, 2017

Grant Wyeth – Preparations are being made in the Solomon Islands for the mid-year transfer of power from the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) intervention force, which has policed the islands since 2003 after the country's civil unrest, to the Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF).

Part of this restoration of full sovereignty in the Solomon Islands involves reestablishing international security cooperation to combat criminal activity, and the country is presently in the process of organizing an agreement with Indonesia. A draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Royal Solomon Island Police Force (RSIPF) and the Indonesian National Police was discussed at recent meetings within the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) structure, and it is expected to be signed soon.

The MoU involves cooperation in preventing, detecting, and combating trafficking of illicit drugs, smuggling, trafficking in persons, money laundering, arms smuggling, cyber crime, international and economic crime, and corruption. There are also plans for Indonesian police to be involved in the continued training of the RSIPF.

However, this cooperation between the Solomon Islands and Indonesia has not come without some controversy. The Solomon Islands is a staunch supporter of the West Papuan movement for self-determination and a consistent critic of human rights abuses by Indonesian police and military in the region, and cooperation with the Indonesian National Police, particularly in regards to training, may be seen to be in conflict with these positions.

Presently the tensions between the Melanesian states and Indonesia over West Papua are playing out within the Melanesian Spearhead Group. The MSG was established in 1988 as a forum to cooperate on issues of regional importance to the Melanesian states and peoples. The membership of the MSG consists of the four Melanesian sovereign states – Fiji, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu – as well as the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), a political party in New Caledonia that seeks independence from France. Alongside these full members Indonesia has associate membership status, and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has observer status.

Indonesia's participation in the group rests not only on West Papua's status as a Melanesian region, but several other Indonesian islands in the area that Jakarta claims have inhabitants of Melanesian ethnicity. There is some debate among anthropologists and linguists over this assessment.

In 2013 ULMWP applied to the MSG for full membership status, seeing their situation as similar to that of FLNKS. However, Indonesia has opposed this recognition of the organization, not wishing to give the group greater international credibility. The issue has caused divisions within the forum, with PNG and Fiji siding with Indonesia, and Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and FLNKS supporting ULMWP's bid. The presence of Indonesia and ULMWP within the MSG seems to have had a disruptive effect on its mission of developing common positions on areas of regional interest.

Although Indonesia seeks to prevent greater recognition of ULMWP, the participation of both parties within the MSG makes it the only forum where Indonesia and the West Papuan independence movement are able to engage in any kind of dialogue, providing an opportunity for the two parties to engage in contact that would not be possible within Indonesia's domestic structures.

Despite concerns that enhanced cooperation between Indonesian and the Solomon Island police would compromise their position on West Papua independence, Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Milner Tozaka has stated that the forthcoming MoU would fall under the existing bilateral relations with Indonesia and not undermine its stance. Tozaka has been keen to stress that the Solomon Islands maintains a good relationship with Indonesia, despite its position on West Papua.

"We are at liberty to maintain our good relationship with any country," he said. "Therefore in terms of policing, if the ministry of police and corrections see that this is in line with our policy and it is best for our Royal Solomon Islands Police Force that should be quite acceptable."

The transition of the security forces back to the Solomon Islands' government after 14 years will complete the normalization of the country. While RAMSI's scheduled mid-year withdrawal indicates a confidence that the government will be able to maintain its internal security, some suspicion still remains within the country as to whether the government has the capacity to do so. However, alongside internal security, the Solomon Islands will also need to build its capacity to be able to cooperate on issues of security with its neighbors. This will mean that its relations with large regional states like Indonesia will need to be solid, and a balance will need to be struck between this reality and the Solomon Islands' solidarity with West Papua.

Source: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/solomon-islands-seeks-balance-in-relations-with-indonesia-and-west-papua/

Solomons govt defends police initiative with Indonesia

Radio New Zealand International - April 4, 2017

The Solomon Islands government says its strong stance on issues relating to West Papua is separate from proposed policing co-operation with Indonesia.

Along with Vanuatu, Solomon Islands has been a strong proponent for indigenous West Papuans' rights to self-determination and an end to human rights abuses in Indonesia's Papuan provinces.

Indonesia has associate member status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group and is opposing a bid for full membership in the group by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which has observer status.

The membership issue has caused divisions within the group with the governments of Papua New Guinea and Fiji siding with Indonesia, while Solomon Islands and Vanuatu support the ULMWP.

Support for West Papuan representation in the MSG is based on strong regional concern about ongoing reports of human rights abuses in Indonesia's Papua region by police and military forces.

However a recent announcement by the Solomon Islands police minister that local police were seeking to strengthen co-operation with the Indonesian police has raised questions about the country's position on West Papua.

Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Milner Tozaka however said any co-operation arrangement with Indonesia comes under existing bilateral relations and does not compromise the country's stance on West Papua.

"We are at liberty to maintain our good relationship with any country. Therefore in terms of policing if the ministry of police and corrections see that this is in line with our policy and it is best for our Royal Solomon Islands Police Force that should be quite acceptable," he said.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/328113/solomons-govt-defends-police-initiative-with-indonesia


Men suspected of being gay arrested in Aceh as Indonesians slam Sharia

Gay Star News - April 7, 2017

Shannon Power – Two men were arrested in the Indonesian province of Aceh under the accusation they were gay and in a relationship. Neighbours reported the two students who said they had been acting "lovey-dovey" for about three months.

Police raided a rental home last week and alleged they caught the men while they were having sex. The police also said they found condoms in the home which proved the men's homosexuality.

If convicted the men could face a punishment of up to 100 lashes, pay a maximum fine of 1000 ounces of pure gold or 100 months in jail.

Aceh's sharia law

It is the first time someone was arrested for violating Article 63 (1) of the 2014 Qanun Jinayat.

Introduced in 2014, Qanun Jinayat is a strict Islamic Sharia Law code unique to the Aceh province. Aceh is the only Indonesian province that can legally adopt by-laws derived from Sharia due to a "Special Status" agreement brokered in 1999.

Article 63 (1) outlaws same-sex relations between people. Indonesia's Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) has slammed the Qanun Jinayat arguing it could provoke discrimination and over-criminalization of LGBTI communities and other vulnerable groups.

"The state has gone too far by interfering on the private affairs of its citizens and making their personal matters a public affair," the ICJR said in a statement. "This will eventually lead to discrimination and injustice against vulnerable groups, including LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] communities."

The ICJR said the introduction of Qanun Jinayat in Aceh was regretful. The laws could increase the stigmatization of LGBTI people in the province, "It has intervened the rights and privacy of citizens. The LGBT community in Aceh will continue to be the target of arrests taking place in their private space."

Source: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/men-arrested-indonesia-gay/

Aceh prepares halal destinations to lure more tourists

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Jakarta – Amid the increasing popularity of halal tourism, Aceh has become one of Indonesia's emerging tourist destinations.

In the 2016 World Halal Tourism Award, the province received two prominent awards, namely World's Best Halal Cultural Destination and World's Best Airport for Halal Travelers, which was given to Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport.

During a recent workshop in Aceh, Tourism Ministry deputy assistant for government and business market development Tazbir said that coordination and synchronization were key in planning the development of Aceh's halal tourism.

"This includes preparing halal-friendly hotels, restaurants, spas and shopping centers, as well as recommended halal tourism packages."

Aceh Tourism Agency head Reza Pahlevi said that the administration planned to develop several areas in Aceh as emerging halal destinations, including Banda Aceh, Aceh Besar, Sabang and Lake Laut Tawar.

"This plan needs to be supported by qualified human resources; therefore we will also have tour guide and tour planner certification programs," said Reza, adding that the agency would also provide tourism business certification and tourism courses at higher education institutions. (vod/kes)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/travel/2017/04/05/aceh-prepares-halal-destinations-to-lure-more-tourists.html

Human rights & justice

Indonesia fails to address major human rights issues: Coalition

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Indonesia has not yet improved its policies on the promotion and protection of human rights, despite the evaluations in 2008 and 2012 of the United Nations-sponsored Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a coalition of civil society groups has said.

The Civil Society Coalition for the Third UPR said Indonesia agreed to receive 150 of the 180 recommendations issued by the UPR in 2012 that highlighted major human rights violations in the country and provide ways to address the problems.

"The government has not held a formal, open and participatory mechanism to follow up on the recommendations. We see the government has not executed most of the recommendations," the coalition said in a statement sent from Geneva, Switzerland.

Among the issues highlighted in the 2012 recommendations were 20 regarding freedom of religion. The UPR said mob violence involving hard-line Islamic groups was still rampant in the country.

"A number of recommendations in the 2012 UPR have not been clearly, firmly and constitutionally implemented," said Elga Sarapung, who represents the Indonesian Interreligious Network (JAII), which is part of the coalition.

"The right to have a house of worship and the right to exercise beliefs, as well as to be free from intimidation and violence made in the name of religion, are not fully protected by the government," he added.

Besides freedom of religion, the coalition also highlighted a number of other human rights issues, such as foreign journalists being barred from entering Papua and Indonesia's death penalty for convicted drug traffickers.

The UPR third review on Indonesia will commence in Geneva next month. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/indonesia-fails-to-address-major-human-rights-issues-coalition.html

Women's rights & gender

Indonesia: Child marriage, genital cutting 'unacceptable' – UN

Asian Correspondent - April 5, 2017

Max Walden – United Nations special rapporteur on the right to health Dainius Puras has released the preliminary observations from his first trip to Indonesia, stating that gendered inequality leading to "early marriage and female genital mutilation" is "not acceptable".

Addressing the media on Monday, the special rapporteur emphasised the need to improve access to health for women and girls, particularly reproductive health education, in addition to the need to address high rates of HIV/AIDs in Papua and improve mental health services.

Puras said a range of important legal and practical barriers remain to the realisation of the right to health, and that certain groups including women are still subject to violence and discrimination.

"I was discouraged to hear that planning and delivery of [women's health] services and sexuality education is being influenced by certain groups who continue to oppose policies, instruments and mechanisms for the promotion and protection of sexual and reproductive health rights," he said.

It is estimated that around 60 million Indonesian women, or half the female population, has undergone female circumcision. Pre-marital sex is heavily stigmatised, so access to female contraception and sexual health tests is minimal.

During his time in Indonesia, Puras met with a number of civil society organisations, including the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), the Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and the Indonesia Child Protection Commission.

The special rapporteur visited a range of locations across the archipelago, including the capital Jakarta, Padang in Sumatra, Flores in impoverished eastern Indonesia, as well as Jayapura in the restricted province of Papua.

"I am concerned about the health status of ethnic Papuans, who are two times more likely to have HIV/AIDS than the rest of the population, and new infections are on the rise," said Puras who urged stakeholders to build trust and enhance access to culturally-sensitive health services.

The special rapporteur also raised concern with Indonesia's hardline drug policies – a hallmark of Joko Widodo's presidency.

"Criminalisation of drug use only fuels discrimination, violence and exclusion driving people away from the health services they need and seriously undermining public health efforts," he said.

Puras also explained that mental health awareness was emerging, however that "it needs additional commitment and resources to develop a system that promotes the mental health of everyone."

Strong stigma against mental illness in Indonesia means there is a profound lack of community-based support services.

The country needs to implement a system that "effectively treats and prevents common mental health conditions at the community level and respects the rights of persons with psycho-social and intellectual disabilities," he said.

Human Rights Watch released a report into the state of mental health treatment in Indonesia entitled Living in Hell in 2016, which documented the horrific abuse of people with psychosocial disabilities placed in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

The Special Rapporteur will present a comprehensive report on his visit to Indonesia to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018.

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/04/indonesia-child-marriage-genital-cutting-unacceptable-un/

Feminism growing despite catcalls of 'feminazi'

The Star Online - April 2, 2017

Thousands in Jakarta took part in the global Women's March early this month, as they wait for the hotly contested Jakarta gubernatorial election to pass.

The backlash did not take long to begin online, focusing on a university student. Like in many other cases, it began not as an insult against her politics but as harassment.

Apparently, a Facebook group focusing on online memes made vulgar comments about how she looked like an adolescent and when she responded, the commentators dug in.

Some maintained their cheeky attitudes, while some others became defensive and attempted to debate her in logic and semantics. Eventually, while some women argued that the true bad guys out there were radical Muslims, not guys engaging in friendly banter, group members grumbled about how "feminazis" spoil everything.

This was just one instance of the troubles feminists in Indonesia had to deal with after the Women's March.

Feminism is growing in Indonesia, like in so many other countries worldwide. It is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that seek to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

The first wave of feminism hit the world in the early 20th century, often in a package with other Industrial Age ideologies such as nationalism, liberalism and socialism.

While the second wave of feminism arrived in the West in the late 1960s, in Asia it was repressed by both communist and anti-communist governments, which believed that civil movements harmed the nation's mission to industrialise and to build a morally strong society.

But when the third wave of feminism began in the 1990s and grew in the 21st century, it included the perspectives of women of colour and sexual minorities.

Indonesian feminists had many distinctive perspectives. They believe wearing a hijab is a matter of personal choice.

Indonesian feminists learn the concept of intersectionality, that injustice against women is strongly related to injustice against minorities and the poor. Indonesian feminists believe empowerment is political, not merely a corporate slogan.

The most obvious opponent to feminism in Indonesia and other countries is conservatism, which believes traditional values work best. Conservatives believe the best role for a woman is to be a mother who bears children, looks after them, and educates them with traditional values. Many feminists are parents who nurture their children, but don't necessarily teach them so-called traditional values.

But there are many other opponents of feminism from different political spectra. Even many people who consider themselves apolitical dislike feminism, arguing that gender equality has been achieved since Indonesia had a female president, many female ministers and several female executives.

Many people think feminists are angry, sex-obsessed women who hate all men and are ungrateful for the benefits of life they have enjoyed.

Most feminists subscribe to left-wing politics and are sceptical about capitalism, meritocracy and organised religion. But there are many disagreements between feminists and other left-wing believers.

I have heard Indonesians saying or writing that feminism is needed in Indonesia, but no longer in the West. In fact, it is needed worldwide.

In Indonesia, it is needed not only to foil religious intolerance but also to fight sexism on the street and in the boardroom. It is needed to fight racism and homophobia.

Despite critics from all sides, feminism is a valid and necessary political view. It has made visible impacts worldwide, hence the current backlash against it. The cause is clear affluent men worldwide are afraid of losing their privilege.

Source: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2017/04/02/feminism-growing-despite-catcalls-of-feminazi/

Labour & migrant workers

Trafficked and abused in Saudi Arabia, Indonesian workers scramble to go

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2017

Jakarta – The Indonesian Embassy and the Saudi authorities are investigating a report that claims hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers are being locked up by a recruitment company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The information was reported to the Foreign Ministry after 10 Indonesian workers ran away from their company's temporary shelter in Riyadh.

The workers, who have already returned to their homes in Indonesia, reported that 300 workers, who mostly came from West Nusa Tenggara, have been abused and are still being held against their will in the Riyadh shelter.

Indonesia has implemented a ban on sending domestic workers to 21 Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, which has prompted illegal practices through which workers are abused by recruitment agencies and employers.

"This report and the number, 300, still need to be verified," the ministry's director for the protection of Indonesian nationals and entities abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

"With the help of the local authorities we were finally able to visit the recruitment company, but the report [about the confinement] is not proven yet."

On Wednesday, the Saudi kingdom enacted a 90-day amnesty to allow illegal workers to report themselves and leave the country without suffering any legal penalties.

There has been no information on whether any from Indonesia have reported themselves. (hol/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/03/trafficked-and-abused-in-saudi-arabia-indonesian-workers-scramble-to-go-home.html

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

Jakarta officials remove provocative banners to reduce tension

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2017

Agnes Anya, Jakarta – The Jakarta administration had taken down more than 1,000 provocative banners by Friday in an effort to reduce potential conflict among residents approaching the gubernatorial runoff election on April 19.

"In total, we have taken down 1,153 banners in Jakarta. They are piled up [in our office]," said acting Jakarta governor Sumarsono on Friday at City Hall, adding that the banners lacked permits from Jakarta officials.

Police found that most of the banners were in East and West Jakarta, according to Sumarsono. They will investigate the suspects behind erecting them for possible criminal procedures, he said.

Previously, several mosques have installed banners emblazoned with messages calling on Muslims to not perform funeral prayers for deceased Muslims found to have voted for Ahok, who is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity.

This messaging has affected a family who claimed that authorities of a local mosque in Setiabudi, South Jakarta, denied their request to hold prayers for their deceased mother because the mother was found to have voted for Ahok in the Feb.15 election (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/jakarta-officials-remove-provocative-banners-to-reduce-tension.html

Anies denies campaign jingle copying Jewish song

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2017

Damar Harsanto, Jakarta – Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pair Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno have rejected allegations that their campaign jingle "Ayo Kobarkan Semangat Jakarta" sounds highly similar to the song "Hashem Meleh" by Jewish singer Gad Elbaz.

Anies' campaign team said on its webpage jakartamajubersama.com that the song was adapted from the Prosperous Justice Party's jingle "Kobarkan Semangat Indonesia" sung by late PKS secretary general Taufiq Ridho during his presidential election campaign in 2014.

"Therefore, it is impossible that the song "Kobarkan Semangat Indonesia" was plagiarized from the Israeli band's song as our song came first, in April 2014, while the Israeli band released its song later, in January 2016," the statement read.

The statement, however, is in contradiction with the fact that the song "Hashem Meleh" was uploaded on Jan 27, 2013, as can be seen on the official Youtube account of Gad Elbaz.

Meanwhile, Anies' team insisted that their jingle also sounded similar to another song, "C'est La Vie" by singer Cheb Khaled of Algeria.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/anies-denies-campaign-jingle-copying-jewish-song.html

Ahok not guilty of blasphemy: Expert witness

Jakarta Globe - April 7, 2017

Jakarta – Ahmad Ishomuddin, the deputy chairman of the edict commission at the Indonesian Ulema Council, or MUI, said during his testimony in court on Tuesday (04/04) that Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was not guilty of blasphemy.

According to the cleric, Ahok never intended to insult the Koran or Islam when he referred to a verse in the Muslim holy book during a speech on Pramuka Island last year.

Ishomuddin pointed out that the governor made the comment as an aside while he was explaining a fish breeding program in the area. "Ahok has no intention to insult Islam, the ulemas or their followers. He's a smart person and respects pluralism," he added.

MUI rushed into conclusion

Though Ishomuddin is a senior figure at MUI, he admitted that the institution might have rushed into conclusion when it issued an edict that accuses the governor of insulting Islam.

"[The edict] was issued in a rush. We did not watch the entire 1 hour and 48 minutes of video footage. We made our judgment after seeing the edited version," he said. "In the full video, Ahok never mentioned the word 'ulema.' He said 'people' [who misuse the Koranic verse]," the cleric added.

Following his testimony at Ahok's trial, rumors swirled that MUI may expel Ishomuddin from the ulema council. MUI Chairman Ma'ruf Amin said Ishomuddin is only going to be demoted to a regular member.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/ahok-not-guilty-blasphemy-expert-witness/

Police advise court to delay Ahok hearings

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The Jakarta Police believe legal proceedings against embattled governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama are adding to already heightened public tension in the lead-up to the gubernatorial runoff election on April 19.

As part of efforts to ensure a safe and peaceful election, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. M. Iriawan has sent a letter to the North Jakarta District Court, requesting that it postpone further hearings of Ahok's trial, given the vulnerable security conditions in the capital.

The postponement was necessary because police and military personnel would have to start shifting their focus to safeguarding the election, he said.

"We suggest that the prosecution's sentence demands in Ahok's blasphemy trial be postponed until after the runoff," Iriawan said in the letter made available to The Jakarta Post on Thursday. The letter was also sent to the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the National Police chief, the police's general supervision inspector, the Jakarta High Court head and the attorney general.

Late last year, police requested that the trial be moved from the North Jakarta District Court to the Agriculture Ministry's main hall in South Jakarta due to security concerns.

Based on an initial schedule, prosecutors are expected to make their sentence demands on March 11, while the defendant is scheduled to read out his defense statement on April 17, just two days before the runoff.

The campaign period, which runs from March 7 until April 15, has been dominated by religious sentiment and racial bigotry resulting from the blasphemy allegations against the governor, who is a Christian of Chinese descent.

In early March, some local mosques displayed banners saying that those who voted for "blasphemers" would not be entitled to Islamic funeral rites and prayers when they died.

Less than three weeks before the election, thousands of people staged a rally called "313" in reference to the date to demand the incarceration of Ahok.

Further, there is the anti-Ahok Tamasya Al-Maidah movement, facilitated through an application available on Playstore, which encourages Muslims from across the country to flock to polling stations to supervise the election.

Separately, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said the police's letter was issued to ensure voting day would pass safely, especially given the fact that Ahok's scheduled hearing on April 17 would take place in the cooling-off period between April 16 and April 18.

Separately, North Jakarta District Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi said the court had received the letter, but in accordance with a decision made by judges in an April 4 hearing, the trial would continue on April 11. The decision to postpone hearings could only be made in the courtroom, he added.

Ahok's lawyer Fifi Lety Indra said the governor's legal team would comply with the court's decision regarding the next hearing.

Besides requesting the court to postpone Ahok's hearing, Gen. M. Iriawan also informed the court that the police would postpone their interrogation of Ahok's rival candidate pair, Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, who have also been reported to the police for several alleged violations.

Ahok's legal team reported Anies for alleged defamation on Wednesday after the candidate publicly claimed that Ahok would evict the residents of 300 areas across the city if he was reelected as Jakarta governor.

Sandiaga was reported by a person named Edward S Soeryadjaya to the Jakarta Police for alleged embezzlement and receipt forgery. A campaign team member of Anies and Sandiaga, Yupen Hadi, said the team appreciated the police's order.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/police-advise-court-to-delay-ahok-hearings.html

Jakartans want peace: Acting governor

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2017

Agnes Anya, Jakarta – Acting Jakarta governor Sumarsono responded on Wednesday to a number of banners that were put up recently saying that Jakartans were fed up with the raising of ethnic, religious and racial (SARA) issues around the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

He said the banners, which were directed at incumbent candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is a non-Muslim of Chinese descent, were a form of protest from Jakarta residents who have been facing SARA issues.

"They [Jakartans] want peace. We understand that they are upset because SARA issues have appeared again while previously they had been long buried," he said.

He then called on Jakartans to consider all other Indonesians as their equals despite their different races, ethnicities and religions. "We are all brothers and sisters in one nation."

Following a number of hateful banners, the city is now seeing banners countering the raising of SARA issues, some of which read "Jakartans have had enough of ethnic, religious and racial issues" popping up in several strategic areas in the capital.

Some of the banners were installed on pedestrian bridges near Bank Indonesia and the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, both in Central Jakarta, and in Slipi Jaya, West Jakarta.

However, by Wednesday afternoon, the city's Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in cooperation with the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) had taken down the banners as they were installed without official permission.

Moreover, the authorities considered the banners to be related to election. The hanging of banners related to the upcoming election is currently illegal.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/06/jakartans-want-peace-acting-governor.html

Police asks court to postpone sentencing demand against Ahok

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2017

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Iriawan has asked the North Jakarta District Court to postpone sentencing demands against incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama until after the election runoff.

In an official letter obtained by The Jakarta Post on Thursday, Iriawan argued that based on intelligence reports and observations, proceeding with the trial might further stoke tension in the capital ahead of voting day, which is slated for April 19.

Based on an initial schedule, prosecutors are expected to make their sentence demand against Ahok next Tuesday, while the defendant is scheduled to read out his defense statement on April 17, just two days before voting in the runoff to Jakarta's gubernatorial election.

Iriawan added that police and military personnel would have started to shift their focus on guarding the running of the election.

"Based on those considerations, we suggest that the sentencing demand against Ahok in his blasphemy case be postponed until after the election runoff," he said in the statement.

He added that the police would postpone their interrogation of Ahok's gubernatorial rivals, Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, who had also been reported for several alleged violations.

Ahok's legal team reported Anies for alleged defamation on Wednesday after the candidate publicly claimed Ahok would evict the residents of 300 areas across the city if he was re-elected as Jakarta governor.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/06/police-asks-court-to-postpone-sentencing-demand-against-ahok.html

Elections commission head clarifies meeting with anti-Ahok rally

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) head Sumarno has finally addressed his controversial meeting with firebrand cleric Muhammad Al-Khaththath, an initiator of the March 31 rally against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, following intense backlash on social media.

"The KPU's door is open to anyone, including institutions, civil groups, the police, the police chief, military commanders, governors, students and campaign teams as long as they come here to convey their aspirations," Sumarno explained.

Muslim People's Forum (FUI) secretary-general Al-Khaththath was arrested for alleged treason hours before last Friday's rally, which called on the government to dismiss Ahok from his post as governor.

Ulin Yusron, who is an Ahok supporter, uploaded a photo of Sumarno speaking with Al-Khaththath on March 28 to his Twitter account.

Ulin questioned the reason behind their meeting as it had taken place on a public holiday and Sumarno was not seen accompanied by other KPU Jakarta commissioners. Ulin then suggested that Sumarno was biased against Ahok in his ongoing blasphemy trial, and showed favor for gubernatorial candidates Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno.

In defense of his actions, Sumarno explained that during the election runoff, the KPU operated every day and only he had been available to meet with the cleric on the day in question, kompas.com reported.

He added that Al-Khaththath had not spoken about FUI's support of Anies and Sandiaga, but had asked about the KPU's rules involving unregistered voters and voting requirements.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/06/elections-commission-head-clarifies-meeting-with-anti-ahok-rally-initiator.html

Ahok's legal team reports Anies for alleged defamation

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Jakarta – The legal team of gubernatorial candidate Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama reported his rival in the upcoming election runoff, Anies Baswedan, to the Jakarta Police for alleged defamation on Wednesday.

Anies was reported for a remark he reportedly made during a campaign event that Ahok, if re-elected as the Jakarta governor, would evict the inhabitants of 300 different locations in the city.

"We have looked through [everything Ahok has said] and found no such statement," said legal team head Pantas Nainggolan on Wednesday, adding that Anies made the remark about two months ago, prior to the first round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

What Ahok actually said, according to Pantas, was that buildings that stood along waterways would be better regulated, as would street vendors and people with social and community problems (PMKS). "He [Anies] should not interpret Ahok's statements to mean eviction for certain purposes," he said.

The report was filed with the police on Wednesday. Should a police investigation uncover any incriminating evidence, Anies could be charged under articles 310 and 311 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on defamation. (dea)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/ahoks-legal-team-reports-anies-for-alleged-defamation.html

Jokowi gets clerics in line amid tension

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has convened Muslim clerics from regions across the country at the State Palace amid allegations that hard-line Islamic groups are planning large rallies in five cities as part of a plot to overthrow him.

The meeting on Tuesday took place just days after the Jakarta Police arrested five alleged instigators of the latest sectarian rally against Jakarta's Christian governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, on March 31 on treason charges. The authorities have accused them of trying to oust Jokowi by occupying the House of Representatives.

The five suspects, including Muslim People's Forum (FUI) leader Muhammad Al-Khaththath, planned to hold big rallies in five major cities – Makassar, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Bandung and Jakarta – sometime between April 20 – a day after the Jakarta election runoff – and the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadhan on May 26, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prabowo Argo Yuwono said on Tuesday.

It was the second time police linked a sectarian rally in Jakarta to a plot to oust Jokowi. In December last year, police arrested a number of people accused of trying to use the rally as a means to depose the President.

Tuesday's meeting is seen by analysts as an attempt by Jokowi to gain support from Muslim clerics to prevent simmering sectarianism that has gripped the capital in recent months from spreading to other regions.

In his opening remarks at Tuesday's meeting, Jokowi thanked Muslim clerics for doing their job in maintaining harmony in their respective regions and urged them to keep up the good work in order to safeguard the unity of Muslims across the country.

"We rely on ulemas to maintain calmness and to cool down the situation in cities and regencies of the country so that we always maintain a peaceful state of affairs," said Jokowi.

The 20 clerics invited to the Palace included Irfan Wahid, who heads the Tebuireng Pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Jombang, East Java, cleric Sanusi Baco, who is an adviser to the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in South Sulawesi, Syukron Makmun, the head of Pesantren Darurohman in Jakarta as well as cleric Aris Ni'matullah, the head of Pesantren Buntet in Cirebon, West Java.

Speaking as the spokesman of the group after the meeting, Syukron said the clerics agreed with Jokowi's calls for the religious leaders to maintain the harmony of Muslims in their respective regions by stepping up campaigns to promote religious tolerance.

Syukron said the clerics also called on Jokowi to solve any legal cases in the country through legal process without political interference, as that could become a problem. "As we live in a pluralistic country, we want real peace, not fake peace," he said.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who joined the meeting, said the clerics had not specifically discussed sectarian issues plaguing the Jakarta election, as they were focusing on maintaining harmony across the country.

"They told the President that religious harmony should not only be established through the implementation of law and human rights principles, but what is the most important thing is that we use empathy to build religious harmony," he said.

Jakarta State Islamic University (UIN) analyst Adi Prayitno said Jokowi had made the right move in embracing regional clerics, because people across the country had been polarized along sectarian lines due to the Jakarta election.

By inviting clerics to the State Palace, Adi said, Jokowi wanted to tell Muslims that the government was not "criminalizing" clerics and that the arrests of several figures believed to have orchestrated the anti-Ahok rallies were not politically motivated.

"The meeting with the clerics is part of Jokowi's attempt to prevent sectarianism [in Jakarta] from spreading to the regions," he said. "It is meant to calm down the situation ahead of the second round of Jakarta's election."

He added that the move also sent a message to the public that the anti-Ahok protesters did not represent the majority of Muslims in the country.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/jokowi-gets-clerics-in-line-amid-tension.html

Remainder of Ahok's trial to be covered live

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – The North Jakarta District Court will allow live coverage of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trail as of the next hearing.

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said Tuesday night that as both the prosecution and the defense legal team had presented all of their evidence, the court would not continue to ban live coverage.

"By April 11, the trial will be past the evidence presentation stage and so cameras will be allowed in the courtroom to air live coverage," Dwiarso said.

Prosecutors are expected to make their sentence demand next Tuesday, while Ahok is scheduled to read out his defense statement on April 17, just two days before voting in the runoff to the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

As stated by presiding judge Dwiarso in the judges' interlocutory decision in December, during hearings in which evidence was to be presented, TV stations could not cover the trial live to avoid public controversy.

Ahok previously said he hoped there would be live coverage of his trial so the legal proceedings would be fair and transparent.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/remainder-of-ahoks-trial-to-be-covered-live.html

Orchestrated blasphemy case costing nation: Ahok

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has offered an apology for the blasphemy case he said was orchestrated against him and which has caused public uproar and cost a lot of money.

"As some people orchestrated this case, it caused an uproar. People are scared, investors are running away and my neighbors are seeking 'refuge' in Singapore. I should apologize for this uproar," Ahok said during his hearing at the North Jakarta District Court on Tuesday.

The outcry against Ahok's allegedly blasphemous speech, in which mentioned the Surah Al Maidah 51 Quranic verse during a visit to the Thousand Islands on Sept 27, drew thousands of people, including Muslim hardliners, into the street in mass rallies that called for his prosecution and even his death on Nov. 4 and Dec. 12 last year, and again on March 31.

Ahok also apologized to the police for this uproar. "The police spent a lot of money to guard me and this trial from morning until night," Ahok said as quoted by kompas.com.

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto adjourned the hearing until April 11, when the court will hear the sentence the prosecutors want given to Ahok, should he be found guilty. (cal)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/orchestrated-blasphemy-case-costing-nation-ahok.html

Prosecution team plays multiple videos to support charges

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – The prosecution team in the blasphemy trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama played several videos featuring the governor during Tuesday's hearing to support their charges.

The panel of the judges watched videos containing several speeches delivered by Ahok in which he quoted Al Maidah 51, a Quranic verse widely used by anti-Ahok politicians to unseat the non-Muslim governor.

Besides Ahok's controversial speech in Thousand Islands on Sept. 27 that brought him to the court, the prosecutors also played videos containing an interview with Ahok at City Hall on Oct. 7 and a speech he made at the NasDem Party headquarters on Sept. 26.

The three videos, in which Ahok complained that the Al Maidah 51 verse was used against him every time he ran in an election, were shown to the court to suggest that the governor had intentionally quoted the verse multiple times even though he was not a Muslim.

"Defendant, is it correct that it is you that is in those videos," presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto asked Ahok after he watched the video, to which the defendant replied in the affirmative.

Ahok's lawyer Ryan Ernest said he was aware that the prosecutors were trying to build a narrative that implied his client had tried to interpret the Quranic verse despite not being a Muslim.

"But, the judge must know the context of those videos. My client was only trying to share his experience when running in an election, he did not try to interpret the Quran," Ryan said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/04/prosecution-team-plays-multiple-videos-to-support-charges.html

Judges set aside edited video in Ahok's trial

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2017

Jakarta – The controversial, edited video that started the controversial blasphemy case against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama is not legally admissible in the trial of the case it initiated, judges have decided.

As a result, judges decided that the video, which was uploaded to Facebook by a man named Buni Yani, could not be played in any hearing of the trial on Tuesday.

Presiding Judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said the video could not be categorized as evidence in the case because it had not been confiscated by police during the investigation process and had been submitted to the West Java Prosecutor's Office as part of a criminal case against the uploader himself.

"We have decided not to use it," Dwiarso said on Tuesday. However, Ahok's defense team said that it was important for the court to watch the video because it was what had started the controversy.

Ahok's lawyer Humprey Djemat said that by watching Buni's video, the court could see that the case had been started by an edited video that was posted on his Facebook page on Oct. 6 with the intention of sparking controversy.

Humprey referred to the way that Buni had framed the content in the video, with an accompanying text that was similar to Ahok's remarks but lacked the word "pakai" or "use".

In the original video, Ahok said "ladies and gentlemen [...] you have been deceived by the use of Al Maidah 51 [of the Quran]," meanwhile, in the accompanying texts of Buni's video, it was written "ladies and gentlemen [Muslim voters] have been deceived by Al Maidah 51."

The legal team subsequently decided not to continue their objection.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/04/judges-set-aside-edited-video-in-ahoks-trial.html

Gus Dur video played in court to defend Ahok

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – The legal counsel of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama played a video of a speech delivered by late president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid during Tuesday's hearing to defend their client against blasphemy charges.

In the video, the revered pluralism and Islamic figure is seen with Ahok at a campaign event during the latter's run for Bangka Belitung governor in 2007. At the time, Gus Dur told hundreds of people that Muslims were not allowed to have a non-Muslim figure as their leader, as stated in Al-Maidah, verse 51 of the Quran.

However, he said it could not be applied to an election and that people should vote for the best candidate, no matter their religion.

"Of course we don't want a Christian to lead our prayers, but we can have a Christian governor," Gus Dur said, adding that elections should not be influenced by religious matters.

Presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said the video was accepted as evidence and would be used in the judges' consideration.

Ahok is standing trial over allegations he insulted Islam while making a speech. The governor told the judges he did not intend to insult the Quran in his remarks during his working visit to Thousand Islands regency on Sept. 27.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/04/gus-dur-video-played-in-court-to-defend-ahok.html

Ahok trial: Muslims protesting against Governor misled by conservatives,

ABC Radio Australia - April 4, 2017

Adam Harvey, Indonesia – Indonesia's biggest Islamic organisation says Muslims protesting against Jakarta's Christian Governor "Ahok" Basuki are being misled by religious conservatives.

The comments from one of the senior figures in Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) come as Governor "Ahok" Basuki is due to give evidence for the first time today in his blasphemy trial.

The trial has split Indonesian Muslims and seen huge crowds protesting against the Governor on the streets of Jakarta.

NU supreme council secretary-general Yahya Cholil Staquf said a crucial verse in the Koran – which states that Muslims and non-Muslims should not be allies – is being deliberately misinterpreted by Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) hard-line leader Rizieq Shihab and others.

"I don't want to see him convicted because it's just not right," Mr Yahya told the ABC.

"It's all manipulation. To my belief there is no blasphemy done by Ahok at all. What I believe is that Ahok is not guilty, and the case that he is charged with, it has all been a manipulative thing going on for the purpose of the election."

NU is the biggest Muslim organisation in Indonesia, with about 50 million supporters. Mr Yahya said "orthodox Islam" teaching focused on out-of-date interpretations of the Koran.

"There are some very important elements in the teaching that really need to be contextualised to fit with modern times," he said.

Election and blasphemy trial running parallel

The final round of the election for Jakarta's governor is in three weeks' time. Ahok is in a close race with Anies Baswedan, who is supported by conservative Muslim groups, including the FPI.

The election campaign is running parallel to the Governor's blasphemy trial. Ahok is the final witness in the case and is due to give evidence today.

Mr Yahya said those leading the charge against Ahok were part of a growing conservative movement in Indonesia. He said the conservatives were unhappy that the Indonesian constitution gave all citizens equal rights regardless of their religion.

"This is not a new challenge to us, we've been dealing with this kind of challenge over and over in our history," he said.

"We've been winning, I would say, but this challenge against our religious view is getting more and more stronger. The challenge from the conservative view of Islam against our position here is getting stronger."

He said the conservative version of Islam was being pushed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Indonesian police have also released more details about the five people connected with the protest movement who are being investigated for alleged treason. Police said they were plotting to occupy the Indonesian Parliament and were planning an illegal rally on election day.

Police spokesman Argo Yuwono said the organisers wanted to crash a truck into the back gates of Parliament and enter the complex through a manhole.

They said they also want to question the son of former Indonesian president Suharto, Tommy Suharto, about his links to the anti-Ahok protests.

Source: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2017-04-04/ahok-trial-muslims-protesting-against-governor-misled-by-conservatives-key-islamic-organisation-says/1662588

Voters fear intimidation from anti-Ahok movement

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2017

Indra Budiari, Jakarta – In less than three weeks, 7 million people in the capital will have the chance to exercise their voting rights in the runoff of one of the fiercest gubernatorial elections in the city's history.

While recent elections in the capital have been largely free of conflicts, this time a large mass movement called Tamasya AlMaidah (Al-Maidah Tour) has cast lingering fear among voters, especially with hard-line group Islam Defenders Front (FPI) expected to join the movement.

Named after a verse in the Quran that is often used by conservative Muslim political groups to urge Muslims to vote for political candidates of the same faith as themselves, the movement aims to deploy at least 100 volunteers to supervise 1,000 polling stations that they consider prone to foul play on election day on April 19.

Al-Maidah Tour initiator Farid Poniman claimed that more than 100,000 people had joined the movement and others would follow suit. When The Jakarta Post checked the apps on Sunday evening, more than 5,000 people had downloaded Al-Maidah Tour from Google Play Store.

Farid said such a large number of supervisors was needed because he was certain that the potential for fraud on election day was great. Furthermore, the movement aimed to attract at least 1 million people who could monitor all 13,032 polling stations in the capital.

"Besides trained volunteers, we will also deploy our top members at each polling station," Farid said.

Al-Maidah Tour also asked its volunteers to wear white attire for men and full black attire for women and recite Quranic verses and Takbir (praise to Allah) at their assigned polling stations.

Due to the name and nature of the movement, people are afraid that the Al-Maidah Tour could intimidate Muslims into not voting for incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity, and vote for Anies Baswedan, who is supported by a number of conservative and radical Muslim groups, instead.

Farid said that while the movement had not set out to support Ahok's rival Anies Baswedan in the election, his team often communicated with Anies about the movement so they would not overlap with each other in the field. However, Anies' team has claimed to be unaware of the AlMaidah Tour movement.

At the same time, Ahok is grooming his own election witnesses to be stationed at polling stations, fueling concern over potential clashes between the Ahok camp and the movement.

"But believe me, whatever the final result of the election, we are ready to accept it," Farid said. "Make no mistake, we will not create any trouble or chaos."

However, many doubt that the Al-Maidah Tour will not raise a ruckus as the movement has strong ties to the FPI. FPI spokesperson Slamet Maarif confirmed that his organization would take part in the AlMaidah Tour movement by deploying around 16,000 people on voting day.

However, Slamet said the FPI had no intention of intimidating voters, adding that its members' presence at the polling stations was simply to ensure the election went ahead without a hitch. "On the contrary, we want to make sure that no intimidation happens during the election," he said on Saturday.

Farid, meanwhile, said a large number of people from outside of Jakarta participating in the movement would be accommodated by local FPI members. Farid himself is an official of an FPI-associated group, the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI).

Devie Nova, a resident of Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta, said the presence of many strangers claiming to be a monitoring team at her polling station would cause nothing but anxiety and worry among her and her neighbors.

She believed that official supervisory teams deployed by the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) and the two candidates would be enough to monitor voting booths.

"One hundred people [in each polling station] are just way too many. That many people would only make us feel anxious when we are casting our votes," she said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/03/voters-fear-intimidation-from-anti-ahok-movement.html

Anti-Ahok protest sees waning enthusiasm

Jakarta Post - April 1, 2017

Indra Budiari and Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Friday's rally in the capital, which was held to demand Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama be removed from his post, failed to repeat the scale of last year's rallies against Ahok, considered among the largest protests the country had ever seen.

The considerably smaller crowd signalled waning enthusiasm from Muslim conservatives in their attempt to unseat Ahok, with two of the country's largest Islamic organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, plus the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), denouncing the rally prior to it taking place.

One of the protesters, 50-yearold Helmy from Depok, West Java, said that he was disappointed by the lower attendance, adding that he thought there would be as many protesters on Friday as in previous rallies.

"It's discouraging to see this, but the message is still clear. We want Ahok arrested as soon as possible," he said.

Even those who joined the rally, initiated by the Muslim People's Forum (FUI), appeared to be less enthusiastic, with some of them returning home before the rally started after Friday prayers at the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Central Jakarta.

Ahmadio Putra, a 16-year-old high school student, for instance, said he decided to go home early, right after Friday prayers, because the rally activities were too tiring. "I'm exhausted," he said.

The members of the crowd also shifted their demand from being the immediate arrest and dismissal of Ahok to being the release of rally coordinator Muhammad Al Khaththath from custody after the Jakarta Police arrested him and four other people on Thursday night for alleged treason and conspiracy.

Usamah Hisyam from the Indonesian Muslim Brotherhood (Permusi) told the crowd that Al Khaththath got arrested on Thursday when they were preparing materials for Friday's protest.

"Now I announced that our demand has just been improved. We want the police to immediately release Ustad [Muslim scholar] Al Khaththath from prison," he said.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono said that Al Khaththath and the four others were arrested because they held some meetings to discuss overthrowing the government, which had nothing to do with the protest.

He said they were interrogated at the Mobile Brigade Command detention center (Mako Brimob) in Kelapa Dua, Depok. The five people would be charged under Article 107 and Article 110 of the Criminal Code, said Argo.

Meanwhile, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said the police had not found a connection between this possible treason plan with a previously alleged treason plot.

Unlike last year's anti-Ahok rally on Nov. 4, which turned violent after the protesters refused to disperse after the time for the rally ended, the crowd in Friday's rally started to disperse peacefully from the Arjuna Wiwaha Monument in Central Jakarta at 3 p.m. The police had given a permit to stage the protest until 6 p.m.

The protesters also failed to meet Jokowi at the State Palace as they had demanded. Instead, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto received nine representatives of the rally in his office.

Speaking after a one-hour closed-door meeting with the representatives, Wiranto said he had been instructed by the President to receive them so that the government could listen to their demands.

In February, Wiranto had a friendly meeting with the initiators of last year's anti-Ahok rallies, including firebrand Islam Defenders Front (FPI) patron Rizieq Shihab, saying that they were his old friends, especially Rizieq whom he had known since well before 2000.

[Marguerite Afra Sapiie contributed to the story.]

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/01/anti-ahok-protest-sees-waning-enthusiasm.html

Treason, sedition & state ideology

Anti-Ahok rally initiator reports arrests of treason suspects to Komnas

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2017

Jakarta – The initiator of massive rallies against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama reported the arrest of a firebrand cleric for alleged treason to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on Tuesday.

The National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) paid a visit to Komnas HAM headquarters in Jakarta to report the arrest of M. Al-Khaththath and other suspects for alleged treason, several hours before the March 31 rally demanding Ahok's dismissal from his post.

The head of GNPF-MUI's legal team, Achmad Michdan, elaborated on the chronology of the arrest of Muslim People Forum (FUI) leader Al-Khaththath, saying "The police failed to show a warrant when they arrested Al-Khaththath at 1 a.m. on Saturday at the Kempinski hotel, Central Jakarta."

"Afterward, when I tried to see him at [the police's] Mobile Brigade Command detention center [Mako Brimob] in Depok, West Java, the officers there denied they were detaining anyone," Michdan said. "Al-Khaththath was asked 34 questions during the investigation, but none of them had anything to do with what he was charged with."

The GNPF-MUI was the initiator of large protests against Ahok on Oct. 14, Nov. 4 and Dec. 2 last year. Komnas HAM commissioner Meneger Nasution said the commission had accepted the report, saying the case would be looked into.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono, meanwhile, said "the most important thing is we carried out the arrests according to standard operating procedures," Argo said on Tuesday. (dea)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/04/anti-ahok-rally-initiator-reports-arrests-of-treason-suspects-to-komnas-ham.html

Police unveil treason plot behind anti-Ahok rally

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police revealed on Monday their preliminary findings following Thursday night's arrest of five treason suspects, including the leader of hard-line organization the Muslim People's Forum (FUI) Muhammad Al-Khaththath, prior to a rally in the capital.

Al-Khaththath, who was the rally coordinator, was arrested at the Kempinski Hotel in Central Jakarta, hours before the rally, which demanded the incarceration of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy, was staged.

Besides Al Khaththath, the other four suspects have been named as Diko Nugraha, Andre, Irwansyah and Zainuddin Arsyad, all senior members of various Muslim organizations.

Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono alleged the suspects had held secret discussions plotting the overthrow of the government.

Two of the suspects, Al-Khaththath and Irwansyah, began drawing up their plot to topple the government during their first two meetings in Kalibata, South Jakarta, and Menteng, Central Jakarta, said Argo, who did not reveal the exact dates of the meetings.

"There were detailed plans to occupy the House of Representatives, including plans on logistics and routes. They even planned to ram trucks into the back gate of the House [in order to break into the complex]," said Argo.

The suspects mapped seven entrances and a network of underground sewers that could be used by a mob to enter the House and subdue it, he said. Afterward, the suspects started discussing how to fund their action, including funds that were channeled to finance the rally, he said.

"Based on the investigation, we found that they needed Rp 3 billion [US$225,000] in funding to execute their treason plot. However, we are still looking into that to discover the details," said Argo. All the detainees have been charged under articles 107 and 110 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on treason, which carry maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

The suspects denied the allegations, Argo said, adding that AlKhaththath had refused to sign the police's dossiers.

The police confiscated several smart-phones and laptops, a banner that read "Muslim governor for Jakarta," several posters and two books that allegedly recorded the suspects' spending for the foiled treason attempt.

Argo also reaffirmed that the suspects detained last Friday were not related to the suspects who were arrested before the Dec. 2 rally last year on similar charges.

Meanwhile, the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) held a press conference on Monday to voice its support for Al-Khaththath and urge the police to release him and the other suspects.

A lawyer from GNPF-MUI's advocacy team, Nasrullah Nasution, expressed his puzzlement about the arrests and said that his organization would do its best to get Khaththath released. The GNPF-MUI, he said, would prioritize Khaththath's release before the release of the others. (dea)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/04/police-unveil-treason-plot-behind-anti-ahok-rally.html

Muslim leader accused of anti-gov't plot to remain in police custody for

Jakarta Globe - April 2, 2017

Jakarta – A hardline Muslim leader arrested ahead of Friday's anti-Ahok rally in Jakarta will be kept in custody for at least 20 days to be interrogated over an alleged plot against the government, police said on Saturday (01/04).

Muhammad Al Khaththath and four other men were arrested just hours before Muslims took to the streets of Jakarta on Friday morning in yet another rally against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is a Christian of Chinese descent.

Police subsequently took Al Kaththtath, the secretary general of the Indonesian Muslim Forum (FUI), to their Mobile Brigade headquarters in Depok, West Java, for questioning. Police said they decided on Saturday morning to detain Al Khaththath, who will remain in custody for at least 20 days to prevent him from fleeing or destroying evidence.

"We detained the suspect on objective grounds," Jakarta Police spokesman Chief Comr. Argo Yuwono told the Jakarta Globe.

Thousands of white-clad protesters flocked to Jakarta's Istiqlal grand mosque on Friday morning before marching to the Presidential Palace later in the afternoon.

Muslims have been demanding that Jokowi dismiss Ahok, currently on trial on blasphemy charges after he made a comment on a Koranic verse during a speech in September last year.

Friday's anti-Ahok rally was the fifth in the last six months. The protests have stoked anti-Christian and anti-Chinese sentiments which observers say could scupper Ahok's bid for re-election on April 19.

The previous rallies were mostly led by the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Several of its leaders are currently also under police investigation, having been named suspects over a range of allegations.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/muslim-leader-accused-anti-govt-plot-remain-police-custody-20-days/

Environment & natural disasters

Indonesia praised for curbing haze, but more challenges ahead

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2017

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Singaporean Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli bin Masagos Mohamad has congratulated Indonesia on its success in reducing land and forest fires last year.

The accomplishment is a direct result of positive measures the country has taken to recover from devastating haze in 2015, he said.

"In 2016, there were just over 100 hot spots as compared to many thousands in 2015," he said during the fourth Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on Thursday.

He added that longer-term measures, such as a moratorium plan on new licenses to establish oil palm concessions, should still be put into action despite the success.

Widespread fires in 2015 lead to Indonesia's worst-ever haze crisis, which angered neighboring countries Singapore and Malaysia, and caused Rp 221 trillion (US$16.58 billion) in economic losses to the archipelago.

The fires, which damaged 2.6 million hectares of land and forests, claimed the lives of 24 people and brought on respiratory problems to hundreds of thousands of residents across Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Singapore Institute of International Affairs chairman Simon Tay warned, however, that another challenge would test Indonesia this year, with the weather phenomenon El Nino expected to trigger a longer dry season starting in July.

"There is a need for all parties across the agroforestry sector – companies, buyers and sellers – to work together to address the problem," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/06/indonesia-praised-for-curbing-haze-but-more-challenges-ahead.html

Forty million people in Indonesia live in landslide-prone areas

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Jakarta – The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) warned on Tuesday that people should remain alert for more landslides in the country as about 40 million citizens, 17 percent of the population, live in landslide-prone areas.

BNPB spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said several areas have limestone under the surface, making it easier for the ground to erode during a downpour.

As of April 2, the agency recorded 251 landslides across Indonesia, making it the most frequent natural disaster in the first months of 2017.

"They live there because they don't have any choice," Sutopo said. Poverty was one of the reasons why is it so hard to relocate the people, he added.

Although local governments might find safer areas for the people to live, most of the people living in the areas refused to move since they made their living in the vicinity, mostly as farmers.

To make things worse, the BNPB could only install about 200 early warning systems across Indonesia.

"Ideally we should have more than 100,000 early warning systems so people can be removed before the landslides happen," Sutopo said. "When it comes to a natural disaster, it becomes everyone's problem," Sutopo said.

A landslide struck Ponorogo, East Java, on April 1, killing at least three and displacing 200 people. Until today, 25 remain missing as they are buried under 50 meters of mud. (hol/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/forty-million-people-in-indonesia-live-in-landslide-prone-areas.html

27 missing, feared dead, in East Java landslide

Jakarta Post - April 2, 2017

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, Ponorogo, East Java – At least 27 people are feared to be buried after a 100-meter-high hill collapsed on Saturday morning during heavy rains in a hamlet in Ponorogo regency, East Java.

The Ponorogo Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) reported that the landslide, which took place at 8 a.m., buried 23 houses in the area and injured dozens of people.

The 27 missing people also include workers who were harvesting ginger on the slopes of the hill during the incident. The landslide buried the affected area up to five meters in depth.

"We had four excavators standing by in the area to support the evacuation," BPBD official Setyo Budiono said on Saturday.

Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa, meanwhile, asked the Ponorogo regional administration to immediately relocate locals in the affected area, saying that the location was a disaster-prone area that could not be used as residential site.

Khofifah said the landslide was caused by a lack of area for land cover and environmental degradation. She added that other causes of the landslide included the decrease in the number of water infiltration areas and the farming system, which did not operate in line with environmental conservation efforts.

"We need to raise citizens' awareness about natural disasters," she said as quoted by kompas.com. (rdi/hwa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/02/28-missing-feared-dead-in-east-java-landslide.html

Health & education

Poor awareness hampers AIDS control in West Java

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2017

Arya Dipa, Bandung – While facing more frequent exposure to HIV infection, few key populations in West Java get tested for HIV, hampering efforts to tackle the spread of the chronic illness in the province.

Certain groups, such as men who have sex with men, that engage in risky sexual behavior that increases exposure to HIV, make a significant contribution to new cases of the infection in West Java, an official has said.

"Only around 13 percent of men who have sex with men have been tested for HIV. The problem is, around 60 percent of them are married so that their wives and children face the potential consequences of becoming infected with the virus," said West Java chapter National AIDS Commission (KPA) secretary Iman Tejarahmana after a meeting with West Java Deputy Governor Deddy Mizwar in Bandung on Tuesday.

With such a phenomenon, Iman said, public awareness to carry out HIV testing had become important.

The result of the tests could give the overall picture that all stakeholders, including the government, needed to implement precise HIV/AIDS prevention and control programs, he went on.

It is estimated that the number of people at risk of HIV in West Java reaches 1.3 million. Men who have sex with men are among the key populations, which include female commercial sex workers, clients of female sex workers, transgender people, transgender sex worker clients and injecting drug users.

The Health Ministry says risky sexual behavior, which also occurs in heterosexual relationships, was the highest factor in the transmission of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia at the end of 2016, potentially accounting for 66 percent of cases.

From the time it was first detected in 1987 to the second quarter of 2016, there have been 208,920 cases of HIV and 82,556 cases of AIDS in Indonesia, spread over 407 regencies and municipalities across the country. Based on KPA West Java data, the number of HIV cases recorded in the province from 1989 to December 2016 reached 26,422, while AIDS cases amounted to 8,043.

According to the data, as of December 2016, West Java ranks fourth out of provinces with the highest number of HIV positive cases after Jakarta, East Java and Papua. Meanwhile of AIDS cases, West Java ranked sixth after East Java, Papua, Jakarta, Bali and Central Java.

To increase people's awareness about HIV testing, the West Java administration is working with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an international organization, which supports HIV/AIDS prevention and control programs in Indonesia.

AHF senior vice president Peter Reis said his organization was committed to helping the program via a three-year partnership with the Health Ministry.

AHF has allocated Rp 31 billion (US$2.33 million) for HIV/AIDS programs in four areas, which comprise Jakarta and three regencies in West Java, namely Indramayu, Pangandaran and Purwakarta. Most of the funds are allocated for HIV testing and treatment.

Reis hopes the partnership will increase people's access to HIV/AIDS-related health care services, boost awareness on the importance of early HIV testing and provide quality but affordable HIV medical treatment for all people.

"We will link with them programmatically on service delivery for health care," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/06/poor-awareness-hampers-aids-control-in-west-java.html

Systemic challenges impede Indonesia's universal health care ambitions

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Liza Yosephine, Jakarta – Indonesia must step up efforts to address structural and systemic issues, both in law and practice, to achieve its "ambitious" goal of establishing universal health care by 2019, the United Nations' special rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Puras, has said.

"Ambitious goals can be reached only if challenges are addressed," Puras said at the end of a visit to Indonesia recently.

Puras was in the archipelago from March 22 until April 3 and was the first visiting UN special rapporteur on the right to health to visit the country.

He will convey a comprehensive report, along with a set recommendations, to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, in June 2018. After having previously been a member during the establishment of the council, Indonesia currently holds membership from 2014 to 2017.

Puras pointed to the necessity to increase investment in the healthcare sector, adding that it would only make sense if the system is "efficient, transparent, accountable and responsive to those who use it."

Substantial investments are also needed to improve quality and quantity of the healthcare workforce, he continued, saying that skills training and geographical deployment, with innovative incentives, of doctors and other healthcare workers remains a challenge.

The UN expert commended the government's efforts to develop a health insurance system managed by the Healthcare and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan), which aims to provide universal health care by 2019, as a progressive move within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Indonesia, however, has been stumbling in its implementation of the government-funded health insurance, with the National Health Insurance (JKN) program facing financial difficulties and predictions pointing to losses despite a premium hike last year. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/systemic-challenges-impede-indonesias-universal-health-care-ambitions.html

Blackouts, slow network mar computer-based exams

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2017

Jakarta – School administrators in Jakarta have every reason to worry that the implementation of the computer-based national examinations could face difficulties given spotty internet connections and the trouble-prone electricity grid.

In Menteng, Central Jakarta, administrators of state vocational school SMK 10 called an internet service provider and state electricity company PLN to send technicians to ensure that there would be no disruption in the internet connection or electricity supply.

SMK 10 was not alone. Many schools had earlier written to internet provider PT Telkom and to PLN to get guarantees that the two basic services would operate without disruption over the next four days when thousands of vocational school students take the exam.

Despite the precautions, problems have persisted. In North Jakarta, a brief power outage after the exam started at 7:30 a.m. forced 17 students from SMK Benteng Gading to take part of their test in nearby SMK 9, before returning to their classroom.

All of Jakarta's 2,940 schools, are taking part the computer-based exams this year, a significant increase compared to last year, when only 47 percent of schools were involved.

More than 7.7 millions students from 98,000 junior and senior high schools across the country are expected to take their national exams in the coming weeks, with 48.93 percent sitting computer-based exams.

Students at vocational schools will take the test this week, while senior and junior high schools exams are scheduled to take it in the following weeks.

The country has 1,327,246 vocational school students in 9.829 schools and 88.6 percent of them are taking the computer-based exam.

This year, only six provinces are running the computer-based exam, Bangka Belitung, Jakarta, East Java, South Kalimantan and South Sulawesi and Yogyakarta.

The Culture and Education Ministry has said that the primary problem that prevents schools from conducting computer-based exams is a shortage of internet-connected computers.

The ministry's coordinator for computer-based national exams, Ari Santoso, said at least 48,000 schools in the country lacked enough computers for all their students. The ministry, however, was not responsible for providing computers or internet connections, Ari said.

"Honestly this is not the Culture and Education Ministry's problem," Ari said, adding that individual schools should provide their own electricity and internet connections, and that the ministry could not provide for them.

Separately, the ministry's head of education assessment, Nizam, said steps had been taken to make sure that the IT networks used in the national exam would not be compromised by hackers.

Last week, Culture and Education Minister Muhadjir Effendy warned hackers to stay away from the ministry's computer network during the implementation of the national exams.

"In fact, we asked all IT and hackers communities to secure the process of the national exams as part of their contribution to the [education] of Indonesia's students," Nizam said. He said the ministry had collaborated with the National Encryption body to secure the national exams.

Meanwhile, school administrators in the regions continue to struggle with basic infrastructure.

"With our school's 1 Mbps internet connection we have to download and send data from four of our local servers to the central server, it could take hours or maybe a couple of days for us to finish the sync process," Ignasius Endar, a teacher from SMK 1 Nabire, Papua, said on Monday. (dis/hol)

[Rizal Harahap, Ruslan Sangadji, Djemi Amnifu, Markus Makur, Nethy Dharma Somba, Suherdjoko, and Agnes Anya contributed to this story.]

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/04/blackouts-slow-network-mar-computer-based-exams.html

LBGT & same-sex marriage

Qanun Jinayat provokes over-criminalization of LGBT people, venerable

Jakarta Post - April 1, 2017

Jakarta – The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) has lambasted the Aceh administration's Islamic criminal code bylaw, or Qanun Jinayat, saying it could potentially provoke discrimination and over-criminalization of LGBT communities and other vulnerable groups.

Qanun Jinayat imposes criminal sanctions on both Muslims and non-Muslims found to have consumed liquor, dated in public or carried out same-sex relations, among other things.

"The state has gone too far by interfering on the private affairs of its citizens and making their personal matters a public affair. This will eventually lead to discrimination and injustice against vulnerable groups, including LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] communities," ICJR said on Friday.

Aceh Public Order Agency (Satpol PP), or Wilatul Hisbah, personnel arrested on Tuesday two male students identified as MT, 23, and MH, 21. The students, who lived in a boarding house in Banda Aceh, were suspected of being involved in a same-sex relationship.

The two students were taken to the Wilatul Hisbah office for questioning. They were accused of violating Article 63 (1) of the 2014 Qanun Jinayat, which states those found to be carrying out same-sex relations will face a maximum sentence of 100 lashes or pay a maximum fine of 1,000 grams of pure gold or face 100-month imprisonment.

The ICJR says it regrets the impact of the implementation of Qanun Jinayat in Aceh. This case will increase the stigma against LGBT people in the province, it further says.

"It has intervened the rights and privacy of citizens. The LGBT community in Aceh will continue to be the target of arrests taking place in their private space." (dis/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/01/qanun-jinayat-provokes-over-criminalization-of-lgbt-people-vunerable-groups-icjr.html

Graft & corruption

Indonesia taking 'tough' stance on corruption with huge graft probe

Asia Correspondent - April 7, 2017

A corruption investigation into dozens of politicians is a cause for concern in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, but no other country has taken such a tough stance against graft over the past decade, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said.

The anti-graft agency, known by its Indonesian initials KPK, has put on trial two suspects and is looking into claims that at least 37 people benefited from the theft of US$170 million linked to a national electronic identity card.

The accusations in a KPK indictment letter say sums ranging from US$5,000 to US$5.5 million were openly divided up in a room in parliament. Those implicated include members of President Joko Widodo's ruling party, a minister, the speaker of parliament and opposition party members.

The scale of the alleged theft has created sensational headlines, even in a country long used to epic corruption scandals. The fact that it involves parliament will be less of a surprise. In a survey by global watchdog Transparency International, Indonesians perceived the parliament as the country's most corrupt institution.

"If you see... so many corruption cases and (think) that means there is so much corruption, fine. But on the other hand, you can see too how Indonesia is being very tough in combating corruption," Kalla said in an interview when asked what the e-KPT (electronic Resident Identity Card) case.

Despite repeated efforts by politicians and police to undermine it, the KPK has remained one of Southeast Asia's most effective and independent agencies. It investigated 91 people last year, a record in its 15-year history, data provided by the agency showed.

"No other country has within 10 years jailed nine ministers and 19 (provincial) governors, and other high-ranking officials and members of parliament," Kalla told Reuters.

The World Economic Forum's 2015-16 Global Competitiveness Report said its data suggested efforts to tackle corruption were paying off, with Indonesia "improving on almost all measures related to bribery and ethics".

Even so, Indonesia ranked 90 out of 176 countries in Transparency's annual Corruption Perceptions index last year, on par with countries such as Liberia and Colombia.

Perfect conviction record

The KPK, which claims a 100 percent conviction record, has 1,200 staff and can wiretap without a warrant. Once it begins an investigation, there is no legal mechanism to halt it.

But taking on vested interests can come with a cost. Four years ago, the KPK had to call in public support to barricade its headquarters after a squadron of police demanded the handover of an investigator who was probing graft among top police officers.

Then there was the jailing of former KPK chief, Antasari Azhar, who claims he was framed for murder to derail an investigation into voting fraud during the 2009 presidential election. He was granted clemency this year.

Indonesian media have splashed the graft scandal on front pages, though President Widodo has urged the public to presume innocence until proven guilty.

The probe also comes as religious and political tensions are running high, with a bitterly fought Jakarta election emerging as a proxy fight ahead of 2019 presidential vote.

However, the fact that those identified in the KPK indictment come from most of the main parties and that any probe is likely to be lengthy should limit political fallout.

"From the start, we understood that this will not be a short process. We say it is like running a marathon," KPK Chairman Agus Rahardjo told a briefing, where he said the agency would eventually go after the big fish implicated.

Tensions with parliament

The case dates from 2009 and centres on the alleged mark-up of the procurement budget for the government's programme for electronic ID cards.

The suspects on trial, two home ministry officials, named parliament speaker Setya Novanto and members of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), including Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, according to the indictment.

Laoly and Novanto have not been indicted and deny any wrongdoing. A PDIP official said the party was questioning members and would respect any legal process.

Tensions between the KPK and parliament have festered for years and some members suggested political motives behind the probe. Lawmakers have previously proposed reining in the KPK's surveillance powers and allowing a parliamentary body to end graft investigations when it chooses.

An expert parliamentary body is seeking public input on revisions that would require the KPK to get permission from a supervisory council for wiretapping and allow the agency to drop a case in limited circumstances. – Reuters

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/04/indonesia-taking-tough-stance-corruption-huge-graft-probe/

Heat is on Setya in e-ID graft case

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2017

Haeril Halim and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – As the bribery trial centering on procurement for the electronic identity card (e-ID) project proceeds, it is becoming more difficult for House of Representatives Speaker and Golkar Party chairman Setya Novanto to disentangle himself from the scandal.

Ever more evidence has been presented that points toward his close ties with a businessman who allegedly devised the scheme to plunder Rp 2.3 trillion ($172 million) from the project in 2011.

A hearing of the trial of two defendants in the case, former senior officials at the Home Ministry Irman and Sugiharto, heard on Thursday that Setya was only willing to help businessman Andi "Narogong" Agustinus secure Rp 5.9 trillion in funding for the project because the senior Golkar politician allegedly had joint-venture companies with Andi.

After securing a commitment that the House would approve the Rp 5.9 trillion budget for the project, Andi allegedly bribed Home Ministry officials to rig the tender for the project so that companies he favored could win.

During Thursday's hearing, KPK prosecutor Irene Putri suggested that Setya's son Reza Herwindo allegedly worked for a company controlled by Andi.

"Do you know Reza Herwindo? Does he work for a company belonging to Andi Agustinus?" Irene asked Setya. The Golkar chairman confirmed that Reza was his son but denied he worked for Andi's company.

Setya also denied having a close relationship with Andi as he claimed he only met him twice when the businessman offered to supply campaign paraphernalia for Golkar Party political rallies.

Unconvinced by the response, Irene pressed Setya further to give details about his business ties with Andi. "Do you have shares [in companies owned by Andi]?," Irene asked, to which Setya responded with: "That is false information."

The Jakarta Post has learned that KPK investigators are currently working to establish a connection between Andi's companies and Setya. Several KPK investigators are convinced that although some of the companies are registered to Andi, they in fact belong to Setya.

The anti-graft body detained Andi after naming him a suspect in the case on March 25. KPK investigators also claim that they have garnered crucial information from Andi regarding the roles of key figures in the e-ID scandal.

During a trial hearing earlier this week, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, who served as deputy chairman of House of Representatives Commission II overseeing the project, said in his testimony that he was confronted by Setya at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, asking him about his tough stance on the project.

During the meeting Setya apparently asked Ganjar not to show any antagonism toward the project, then being deliberated by the commission.

The e-ID project was initiated by the Democratic Party, the ruling party at the time, and Golkar, a pro-government party. Ganjar is a politician from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which was then in opposition.

In Thursday's hearing, Setya, however, denied they had discussed the project. "So, Ganjar, in this case, lied about what was discussed during the meeting?" Irene confronted Setya, who responded by saying: "I was also surprised to learn [about Ganjar's testimony], but that's OK."

The panel of judges at the Jakarta Corruption Court then warned Setya about giving false testimony, reminding him that he could be charged with perjury.

Former treasurer of the Democratic Party Muhammad Nazaruddin testified on Monday that Ganjar publicly opposed the e-ID project simply because he was promised US$150,000 and not $500,000, the amount given to the Commission II chairman.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/heat-is-on-setya-in-e-id-graft-case.html

Terrorism & religious extremism

Indonesian police arrest 3 suspected militants, foil plot

Associated Press - April 7, 2017

Lamongan – Indonesian police say they have arrested three suspected Islamic militants who were planning to attack a police station in East Java.

National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said one of the men captured Friday, Zainal Anshori, was the leader in East Java of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, a network of Indonesian extremists that claims allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Amar said the network was planning to attack a police station in East Java's Lamongan district next week. The network formed in 2015 and is led from prison by radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman.

Muslim-majority Indonesia has carried out a sustained crackdown on militants since the 2002 Bali bombings by al-Qaida-affiliated radicals that killed 202 people. A new threat has emerged in the past several years from IS sympathizers.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/indonesian-police-arrest-3-suspected-militants-foil-plot.html

Alliance seeks stronger state protection for terrorism victims

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2017

Jakarta – A civil society organization is calling on the government to strengthen the rights of terror attack victims in the amendment of the 2003 Terrorism Law, which is being discussed at the House of Representatives.

The Alliance for a Peaceful Indonesia (AIDA) said many victims of terror attacks found it was still quite difficult for their lives to return to normal given the prolonged trauma they suffered. Their rights to compensation as stipulated by the 2003 Terrorism Law had never been fully implemented.

AIDA director Hasibullah Satrawi said on Thursday the current mechanism in the law that required a court verdict for the payment of compensation for terror attack victims had hampered the fulfillment of the victims' rights.

With a long and complicated procedure to get a court verdict, what they often received was just a small sum of financial aid instead of compensation as mandated.

Hasibullah said it was hoped that during the revision, the mechanism for the disbursement of the compensation could be changed. "We suggest that the compensation be determined through assessments conducted by a government agency, which receives its mandate in the new law."

Hasibullah further said the draft revision should also explicitly cite the rights of terror attack victims to receive medical assistance as soon as a terror attack occurred.

Daisy, who survived the 2004 bomb attack outside the Australian Embassy, Jakarta, said the government should restore the livelihood of terrorism victims. "It's quite difficult for them to return to their jobs because of their trauma." (mrc/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/alliance-seeks-stronger-state-protection-for-terrorism-victims.html

Operation Tinombala gets three-month extension

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2017

Ruslan Sangadji, Palu, Central Sulawesi – Operation Tinombala in Poso, Central Sulawesi, was extended to July 3 to meet a request from local police, an official has said.

Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahariadi said on Monday that local police had asked that the operation aimed to tackle terrorism in Poso continue.

"There are still some nine members of the East Indonesia Mujahidin [MIT] terrorist group in the forests. That's why we've asked for the extension," Rudy told The Jakarta Post.

For the extension, the number of joint police and military personnel would be kept at 1,500.

Some 153 Tinombala personnel received promotions on Sunday morning. Tadulako 132 Military Resort Command chief Col. Muhammad Saleh Mustafa said the promotions had been granted for the troops' dedication to the state.

Meanwhile, a Tinombala police personnel was found dead after reportedly committing suicide at the State Police School (SPN) in Labuan Panimba village, Donggala district, on Monday afternoon.

The member of the Central Sulawesi Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob), identified as Second Insp. Sasmidias, reportedly shot himself hours before returning to Jakarta after completing his mission in Poso.

No statement was available in relation to the incident from the regional police as of Monday night.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/03/operation-tinombala-gets-three-month-extension.html

Hard-line & vigilante groups

Radical groups hold Indonesian democracy hostage – Islamic scholar

Asian Correspondent - April 7, 2017

Max Walden – An Islamic legal scholar has argued hardline Muslim groups are holding Indonesia's democracy hostage, the very political system that allows them to operate freely.

In an opinion piece published by Indonesian media outlet Geotimes this week, Dr Nadirsyah Hosen says radical elements that have rallied against Jakarta's Chinese, Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama are "no more than a noisy crowd."

Hosen, who is a legal academic from Indonesia based at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, specialises in Syariah and Indonesian law. He is also the head of the Australia and New Zealand branch of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Islamic organisation on the planet.

Rise of Indonesia's 'un-civil society'

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority nation on earth and the strongest democracy in Southeast Asia, which has historically practised a moderate form of Islam.

Since 1998, the country has undergone rapid transition from a military-dominated dictatorship under Suharto's New Order to one of the most decentralised democracies on the planet.

Indonesia's pluralism is encompassed by its state mantra of "unity in diversity", boasting more than 300 languages and a variety of faiths.

Ironically, the democratisation era has also allowed for the re-emergence of a raft of hardline, anti-democratic elements that political scientist Dr Verena Beittinger-Lee has termed "un-civil society" for their use of intimidation and violence, particularly against minorities.

A wave of mass protests by hardline Muslim groups against Ahok in Jakarta in the past year, however, has led to fears of rising religious conservatism and intolerance.

They allege Ahok insulted the Quran in comments he made last year regarding Islam's position on whether Muslims can be governed by a leader of a different faith.

In his opinion piece, Hosen notes groups like the notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) were previously marginal, but that their perpetual demonstrations and violent acts have drawn significant media attention.

The FPI had previously focused on combating "social evils" like alcohol, gambling and prostitution in Jakarta and running protection rackets, often violently.

The campaign against Ahok, however, has allowed organisations like the FPI to galvanise large numbers of Muslims offended by the governor's comments, catapulting fringe groups into the mainstream political arena.

Islam of the archipelago

Mainstream Indonesian Muslim groups like the NU and Muhammadiyah have stood in opposition to the movement, including encouraging their members not to participate in street rallies.

Reflecting the agenda of the NU, Hosen argues Islam Nusantara or "Islam of the archipelago" should be re-established – that is, the traditional form of tolerant Islam practised in Indonesia for centuries.

"Moderate Islam is Islam itself," he said. "Whether in times of peace or war, being the majority or minority, powerful or not, Islam remains moderate."

NU has particularly emphasised Islam Nusantara in recent years, in direct contrast to the extremist ideologies of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Without legal and democratic mechanisms to encourage political consensus, wrote Hosen, "we will continue to be held hostage by Islamic organisations with a small but loud voice."

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/04/radical-groups-hold-indonesian-democracy-hostage-islamic-scholar/

Islam & religion

Nahdlatul Ulama's youth wing calls for rethinking of Islam

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2017

Jakarta – With local hard-line Islamic groups fanning sectarian sentiments in Indonesia's public sphere and several Muslim majority countries ravaged by bloody conflicts, the youth wing of the nation's largest Islamic organization is calling on Muslims to reexamine their understanding of their own faith.

GP Ansor, the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), has launched what it calls the Humanitarian Islam movement to counter an understanding of Islam that has birthed conflicts, including acts of terrorism.

Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, the organization's chairman, said the movement aimed to contextualize the basic teachings of Islam to produce an alternative understanding. "Muslims have been hesitant to examine the elements within Islam that can be a source of conflict," he said recently.

NU supreme council secretary general Yahya Cholil Staquf, who is one of GP Ansor's emissaries to promote the Humanitarian Islam movement, said the contextualization of Islam within current conditions was important.

"In the orthodox understanding, it is stated that non-Muslims are enemies, or at least Muslims should distrust them. We cannot live with that kind of understanding because we now live within a diverse society," Yahya said. He added that growing Islamic conservatism in several Islamic countries was caused by the absence of an alternative comprehension of Islam.

"We can see that the number of incidents of violence motivated by religion in countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan is growing, which can disrupt the future of those countries. It has been caused by a lack of consolidative efforts to build an alternative comprehension of Islam," Yahya said.

Yaqut further commented that GP Ansor encouraged all concerned parties to stop using religion for purposes other than religious edification. He added that this led people taking Koranic scripture literally, without understanding the initial context, which hampered the efforts to contextualize Islam.

"There is a gap between contemporary reality and certain elements in Islamic orthodoxy," he said, adding that the most problematic element was the teaching that regulated the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Another emissary of Humanitarian Islam, Charles Holland Taylor, said the term Humanitarian Islam had been adopted by GP Ansor to express the spirit of Islam Nusantara, a principal introduced by NU, which embodies the values of kindness, compassion and humility.

Taylor, who cofounded and chairs the LibForAll Foundation, added that since the 9/11 tragedy in the United States, two narratives about Islam had emerged in societies in the West; people who embraced Islamophobia and those who cared about Muslim minorities.

"We have tended to deny the very real facts underlying the growth of extremism and terrorism, and this is what Humanitarian Islam is designed to address," he said.

A daughter of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, Alissa Wahid, said that up until recently Indonesia had shown that Muslims could live in harmony within a diverse society.

She added that GP Ansor was working with minority groups, civil society organizations, and the government to solve the current problems that Indonesia was facing. (rdi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/03/nus-youth-wing-calls-for-rethinking-of-islam.html

Land & agrarian conflicts

Government lacks funds to certify 5 million plots of land

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2017

Jakarta – Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution has said the government did not have enough funds to meet the target of certifying 5 million plots of land this year.

"The agrarian and spatial planning minister has reported that there is a problem with the budget," said Darmin as reported by kompas.com in Jakarta on Friday, adding that the Rp 1.4 trillion (US$105 million) allocated in the 2017 state budget was only enough to certify 2 million plots of land.

The land certification program is part of the nation's agrarian reform agenda, which is being carried out to provide legal certainly for landowners.

Previously, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said the government was targeting to distribute 5 million hectares of land this year and 7 million ha next year. Usually, it usually only issues certification for 500,000 to 700,000 ha per year.

Darmin said the Finance Ministry would try to find a way of securing funds to finance the certification of the remaining 3 million plots of land.

As part of the land certification program, the government has developed a measuring system, said Darmin, adding that training and vocational programs were expected to produce land measuring professionals.

"We have to create a system for doing the job. The Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry will announce which villages will start receiving land certification," Darmin added. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/government-lacks-funds-to-certify-5-million-plots-of-land.html

Semen Indonesia dispute scares away foreign investors

Jakarta Globe - April 7, 2017

Jakarta – Up to a quarter of foreign investors who have set their eyes on a range of projects in Indonesia have delayed their investment as a series of legal setbacks that cloud the construction of a Semen Indonesia plant in Central Java casts doubt on legal certainty in the country, Indonesian Employers Association, or Apindo, said.

Last year the Supreme Court revoked an environmental permit for the state-owned company's $374 million cement plant project in Rembang, Central Java. Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo later issued a new permit for the company, triggering a wave of protests by farmers from the area.

The snafu has raised questions on the government's competence in handling legal disputes involving large companies and local residents.

Foreign investors are asking why such permits were issued in the first place as well as questioning the government's commitment to safeguard any investment in the country.

"Having seen what has happened in Rembang, investors are concerned their investment will come to nothing because of legal issues," Danang Girindrawardana, Apindo's deputy chairman for pubic policy affairs, said on Thursday (06/04).

Indonesia stands to lose foreign direct investment in cement, steel and telecommunication sectors as well as in special economic zones (SEZ), all crucial in supporting the country's infrastructure expansion, because of the long running dispute, which has shown no signs of abating.

"A lot of investment depends on the government's ability to clear land for projects. We have a presidential regulation governing that... but after Rembang, investors are scared off," Danang said.

Bambang Haryo Soekartono, a member of the House of Representatives' Commission VI, which oversees natural resources, said cement is a strategic commodity for Indonesia, so the government should carefully consider the impact of closing down Semen Indonesia's Rembang plant.

Rembang farmers have been cementing their feet in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta in protest against the government's decision to allow Semen Indonesia to continue construction on its cement plant.

Idham Arsyad, the national council chairman of an advocacy group called The Rising of Central Java Farmers (Gerbang Tani), said the government should comply with the Supreme Court ruling and close down the cement plant.

Idham pointed out that preliminary results of an environmental assessment by a team from the Ministry of Environment had shown the plant sits over a groundwater basin region (CAT) that should never be exploited.

Ahyanizzaman, the director of marketing and supply chain at Semen Indonesia, argued the ruling as it stands now does not forbid the cement company from mining limestone from the region. He also claimed that Semen Indonesia has reduced the size of its Rembang operation to mitigate risks to the environment.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/semen-indonesia-dispute-scares-away-foreign-investors/

Former intelligence chief appointed top Semen Indonesia commissioner

Jakarta Post - April 2, 2017

Jakarta – State-owned cement manufacturer PT Semen Indonesia has appointed former Jakarta governor and State Intelligence Agency (BIN) director Sutiyoso its president commissioner amid heightened public protest against the establishment of the company's new factory in Rembang, Central Java.

The retired three-star Army general served as BIN chief under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration for a little over a year before he was replaced by Budi Gunawan, a four-star police general, in September last year.

Sutiyoso's appointment was approved during the company's shareholders meeting on Friday, Kompas.com reported.

Sutiyoso previously led the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI), the smallest party in a political coalition that supported Jokowi's presidential bid in 2014.

The publicly listed company has been in the spotlight following prolonged opposition by activists and locals against the establishment of its factory in Rembang, which they claim would damage the local environment. (hwa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/02/former-intelligence-chief-appointed-top-semen-indonesia-commissioner-.html

Housing & property

Jakarta property market continues to stagnate

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Anton Hermansyah, Jakarta – The Jakarta property market, especially the market for office and residential properties, has continued to slow down due to weak demand since 2015.

In the first quarter of 2017 the rent for Grade A offices in the central business district area fell by 4.7 percent quarter on quarter (q-o-q) with an only 73 percent occupancy rate, according to data from property consultant Jones Lang LaSalle.

Meanwhile, rent of non-CBD offices in TB Simatupang also posted a 1.4 percent q-o-q decrease with a 76 percent occupancy rate.

"Rents will keep falling in 2017 and 2018. This will continue up to 2020 before picking up again in 2021," Jones Lang LaSalle Indonesia head of research James Taylor said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the residential market has also not been improving and is expected to continue weakening this year. The 20 percent luxury tax for properties above Rp 10 billion (US$750,000) has continued to reduce the demand for condominiums.

"The average sales rate is 67 percent, compared to 80 percent in the middle of 2015. But it is still better than other countries in Asia," Taylor said. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/jakarta-property-market-continues-to-stagnate.html

Social security agency eyes greater role in home financing

Jakarta Globe - April 4, 2017

Jakarta – BPJS Ketenagakerjaan, Indonesia's social security agency for workers, plans to invest less than a third of pensions under its management in the housing finance sector, in a move it hopes will help the country close the home-ownership gap.

The agency has so far managed Rp 214 trillion ($16 billion) in pension funds pooled from Indonesian workers, BPJS president director Agus Susanto said on Monday (03/04).

"We will direct about 30 percent, or Rp 64.2 trillion, of the pension funds into home financing. This will become one of our key investment tools," Agus said.

A 2015 government regulation on social security previously set a 30 percent threshold for pension fund investment in home financing.

Agus said the BPJS Ketenagakerjaan house financing program will allow its members to apply for cheaper loans compared to those offered by commercial banks.

Indonesian lenders had an outstanding mortgage balance of Rp 354 trillion by the end of January, according to data from the Financial Services Authority (OJK). The country's banks currently offer a 10.7 percent interest rate for home mortgages, down from 11.3 percent a year ago.

High mortgage rates deter many Indonesian families from purchasing their own homes, with the majority opting to rent instead. The Ministry of Public Works and Housing estimates that more than 12 million Indonesian families are currently unable to purchase a home.

Agus did not elaborate on how the BPJS Ketenagakerjaan home financing program will work. In December last year, the agency struck a deal with Indonesia's largest mortgage lender, Bank Tabungan Negara, and state housing company Perumnas to allow the BPJS to act as a broker for families looking to attain cheaper mortgage rates.

According to its data from the end of February, BPJS Ketenagakerjaan manages Rp 262 trillion in assets, consisting of pension and insurance funds belonging to workers registered with the agency.

The agency has invested 62 percent of its total funds in government and corporate bonds, and 18 percent in shares on the Indonesian Stock Exchange (IDX). Time deposits account for 12 percent, while mutual funds represent 7 percent.

BPJS Ketenagakerjaan invested 1 percent of its funds directly in various enterprises, including construction and infrastructure projects currently underway across the archipelago.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/social-security-agency-eyes-greater-role-home-financing/

Regional autonomy & separatism

Red tape 'wardens' legally win

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2017

Prima Wirayani, Grace D. Amianti and Haeril Halim, Jakarta – A recent decision by the Constitutional Court reveals a sour fact for businesspeople: The roots of their bureaucracy issues seem to go deeper than just business-stifling regulations and into the nation's entire legal system.

In a decision regarding a request for a judicial review of the 2014 Regional Government Law submitted by the Indonesian Regency Administrations Association (Apkasi), together with 45 regencies nationwide and one individual, the Constitutional Court recently annulled four provisions in Article 251, Paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 8 of the law that principally allow the central government to scrap problematic bylaws.

As a consequence, a bylaw revocation can now only be filed to the Supreme Court, which is responsible for examining judicial reviews of regulations of a lower level than national law, such as bylaws, as outlined in the Constitution.

Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani expressed concern at the decision, saying that some administrations often issued bizarre regulations that hampered investment through bureaucratic red tape and high regional taxes.

"The court's decision will trigger more problems, as local [administrations] can revive the revoked bylaws if they think [the revocations are] invalid," he said on Thursday, adding that the situation would hamper investment in the regions.

Even high-ranking government officials have said the decision would push the central government's deregulation efforts started in 2015 back to square one, as the Home Ministry would no longer be able to revoke bylaws that contradicted central government policy, including those related to ease of doing business.

"The comprehensive deregulation program between the government and local administrations surely will be hampered, because many bylaws that contradict higher regulations remain," Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said on Thursday.

The Home Ministry scrapped 3,143 business-stifling bylaws last year without going through a judicial review procedure at the Supreme Court. The revocation is a part of its deregulation efforts under a series of economic policy packages launched since September 2015 to improve the country's business climate.

He also expressed doubt that the Supreme Court would be able to annul all conflicting bylaws. A Supreme Court report shows that its 39 justices resolved 14,501 cases in 2014, leaving 4,425 unresolved.

Economists voiced a similar view, saying that the ruling could negatively affect the economy, particularly the government's commitment to deregulation and cutting red tape, two topics that have dominated the 14 previous economic policy packages.

The ruling created another contradiction and inconsistency between governance at the central and regional levels that is expected to trigger uncertainty for the business world and investment climate, Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) Indonesia executive director Mohammad Faisal said.

"[The problem] comes from the concept of regional autonomy that was previously not thoroughly prepared," he said.

Four of nine judges gave dissenting opinions on the ruling, along with businesspeople who voiced their concern over the result. In their official legal opinion, the dissenting judges said the regional autonomy concept was different from the federal system – in which the central government cannot intervene in regional regulations.

Under the regional autonomy system, local administrations are responsible to the president and receive a chunk of the state budget through a regional transfer scheme. Thus, the central government can measure which regional administrations have bylaws that are most friendly to investment and implement a clear system of "rewards and punishments" through managing allocations of regional transfer funds.

The central government can reduce fund transfers to a region with bylaws that are unfriendly to investment while gradually improving their awareness on the importance of business-friendly bylaws, said Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF) economist Eko Listiyanto.

"[The ruling] will only prompt some regional administrations to maintain a number of bylaws that have been generating revenue for their budgets all this time," said Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF) economist Eko Listiyanto.

Responding to the ruling, Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution said the government had to seek ways to ensure deregulation continued. "But if the Home Ministry cannot [revoke bylaws anymore], there's still the president," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/07/red-tape-wardens-legally-win.html

Home affairs minister asserts power to revoke local regulations

Jakarta Globe - April 7, 2017

Jakarta – Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said on Thursday (06/04) his ministry will still have the power to revoke local regulations despite a recent Constitutional Court ruling which declared doing so unilaterally violated Indonesia's 1945 Constitution.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday partly approved a judicial review on the Regional Government Law filed by the Association of Regional Governments (Apkasi) which demanded a full annulment of the ministry's authority to revoke local laws.

The court ruled canceling local regulations can only be done through a judicial review at the Supreme Court. However, Tjahjo claimed the Constitutional Court ruling would only apply to important local regulations.

"This means governors are not allowed to cancel important local regulations. But the Home Affairs Ministry still has the power to revoke other local regulations," Tjahjo said.

"There should be a synergy of policies from central to regional [administrations]. That's what I'm working on," Tjahjo said.

The minister said all drafts of local regulation at district or city level should be consulted with the provincial administration to avoid overlaps. He added that regional administrations should not create unnecessary regulations.

"Our priority is to cut regulations. We want to have an efficient administration that can provide better services for the public," Tjahjo said.

The Home Affairs ministry wants to retain control over local regulations to cut off red tape, especially when it comes to processing investment permits.

The other side of the coin

Apkasi's legal representative Andi Syafrani questioned the validity of Tjahjo's interpretation on the Constitutional Court ruling. According to Andi, the ruling explicitly stated that the ministry cannot cancel any local regulation.

"Their power to do so has been taken away by the Constitutional Court, which said such an action is unconstitutional," Andi said on Thursday. The lawyer said the Constitutional Court ruled that local regulations are parts of legislation.

"Since they are parts of legislation, they can only be removed by a judicial review – not an executive review. That's what the court is saying," Andi said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/home-affairs-minister-asserts-power-revoke-local-regulations/

Constitutional Court takes away home affairs ministry's power to revoke

Jakarta Globe - April 6, 2017

Jakarta – The Constitutional Court on Wednesday (05/04) ruled that the Home Affairs Ministry can no longer revoke local regulations issued by provincial, city or district administration unilaterally.

The court partly approved a judicial review on Article 25 of the Regional Government Law filed by the Association of Regional Governments, or Apkasi, who demanded the full annulment of the ministry's authority to revoke local laws.

The lawsuit was filed after the government canceled more than 3,000 problematic regional regulations in June last year in an effort to simplify and integrate them with national laws.

The government argued local laws had actually stalled regional growth by complicating bureaucracy, slowing down licensing process – and hence investment, damaging ease of doing business and contradicting national laws.

The Constitutional Court said the Home Affairs Ministry's decision to cancel local laws had violated the 1945 Constitution. Canceling local regulations can only be done through a judicial review at the Supreme Court, the verdict said.

Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo has made his displeasure with the Constitutional Court ruling clearly known.

"Honestly, I don't get why the court had taken away the ministry's power to revoke problematic local regulations," Tjahjo said in Jakarta on Thursday.

"We have a lot of local laws that contradict national laws and create a bottleneck in the bureaucracy. They're also slowing us down in processing investment permits for both local and international companies," he added.

He also expressed doubts that the Supreme Court will be able to handle judicial reviews on local laws as it only managed to cancel two in 2012.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/constitutional-court-takes-away-home-affairs-ministrys-power-revoke-local-regulations/

Parliament & legislation

Indonesia's DPD plenary session turns ugly

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – Monday's plenary session of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) erupted in chaos when councillors began protesting the eligibility of speakers tasked with leading the meeting. The commotion is believed to be result of a protracted power struggle brewing within the DPD.

The plenary session was initially scheduled to begin with a read-out of a Supreme Court verdict on the annulment of DPD regulations related to the tenure of its leadership. With the annulment, some councillors believed the current speakership should have been retained.

Those who disagreed argued that the verdict had lost its legal basis "due to several typos," and regulations that they believed should allow them to elect new speakers, were therefore still active.

Councillor Basri Salama, for example, interrupted by claiming that deputy speakers Farouk Muhammad and Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Hemas were legally not allowed to open the session as they should have ended their tenure at the end of March.

"An acting speaker should host the meeting. Otherwise, this session and all of the following proceedings are deemed illegal," he shouted.

Farouk slammed both arguments and banged his gavel, fueling councillor Ahmad Nawardi to storm the podium and forcefully grab a microphone. He was about to speak when another councillor rushed forward and stopped him. From there, the meeting quickly turned chaotic as members from both camps joined the clash, with some seen getting involved in a physical altercation.

As of 6 p.m., the session failed to conclude on any issues. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/03/dpd-plenary-session-turns-ugly.html

Transport & communication

Transportation ministry hands Lion Air ultimatum to improve service

Jakarta Globe - April 4, 2017

Jakarta – The Transportation Ministry has handed an ultimatum to Lion Mentari Airlines, the parent company of budget airline Lion Air, to improve services by the end of May or face crippling sanctions.

The ministry demands Lion Air increase the number of personnel manning each aircraft and the number of standby airplanes available at any given time, while also imposing stricter limits on how long individual flight crews can work on each shift. Lion Air has also been asked to improve the quality of its customer service.

The warning came after another string of delays plagued the airline in recent days, revealing the company's persistent inability to manage its timetables.

"Lion Air's management has made a commitment to meet our requirements within two months," Agus Santoso, the director general of air transportation at the ministry, said on Monday (03/04).

A total of 11 Lion Air flights were delayed at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport last Sunday, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded overnight. On the same day, a Lion Air Boeing 737 set to take off from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya leaked fuel while boarding passengers.

The airline's management team was summoned to the Transportation Ministry in August last year following similar incidents. The Lion Air pilots' union has also registered a series of complaints over dismal treatment employees receive from the airline.

Daniel Putut, director of operations at Lion Air, said on Monday that the airline is embarrassed by Sunday's delays and apologized to passengers for any inconvenience they encountered.

According to Putut, Lion Air is committed to implementing the Transportation Ministry's demands, noting that the company currently employs an average of three and a half crew members for each airplane that it operates, in line with the government's minimum requirement.

"But, it appears this ratio is not sufficient considering our flight frequency, so we are thinking of increasing the number to five crew members for each plane," Daniel said.

Lion Air will also have more airplanes on standby in most airports it operates out of and set up customer response units to reduce delays, Daniel added.

Regarding the fuel leakage incident in Surabaya, Daniel said the airline will consult with Airbus and Boeing – two of the world's largest aircraft manufacturers – to prevent future incidents.

A Lion Air investigation into the Surabaya incident concluded that a faulty overfill sensor caused the Boeing jet to leak fuel as the aircraft was being prepared for flight. The airline has ordered its engineers to check all aircraft for similar problems.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/transportation-ministry-hands-lion-air-ultimatum-improve-service/

Criminal justice & legal system

Narcotics agency chief says calls to legalisation marijuana a 'betrayal

Kumparan - April 6, 2017

National Narcotics Agency (BNN) chief Commissioner General Budi Waseso or Buwas is furious with movements that want marijuana legalised saying that such a call is the same as betraying the nation.

"We must resolutely confront people such as this, this isn't a game. How is it possible that [there are] citizens that want to destroy their own country, this is a betrayal of the country", said Waseso in a special interview with Kumparan (kumparan.com) on Thursday April 6.

A clearly furious Waseso said that those who want to legalise marijuana should get out of Indonesia. "To people such as this, I say just leave Indonesia, get out! Or just join a narcotics network so I'm free to take action", he said candidly.

According to Waseso, the emergence of a wave of opinion wanting to legalise marijuana is one of the ways the drug networks work.

"This is the way the networks work, paralyzing the security forces, weakening the security forces. [And] in the end destroying a whole generation. This is an extraordinary evil plan to destroy a whole generation", said Waseso.

He also said there would be no opportunities given to any party to justify the misuse of narcotics.

"I well know the problem of narcotics in this country. These people only think about personal or group interests, they don't side with the country", added Waseso.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Komjen Buwas: Mereka yang Minta Ganja Dilegalkan Mengkhianati Negara".]

Source: https://m.kumparan.com/indra-subagja/komjen-buwas-mereka-yang-minta-ganja-dilegalkan-mengkhianati-negara

Police & law enforcement

Officers posing with bodies of alleged thieves enrage police chief

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2017

Jakarta – National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian reprimanded on Thursday officers who posed with the bodies of five alleged thieves killed during a shoot-out early Saturday morning in Lampung.

Tito plans to fly to Lampung on Friday to personally lead an evaluation of the incident, which has sparked public outrage.

A picture that has gone viral on social media shows 13 officers striking a pose with fists raised over five bodies sprawled on a grass lawn.

"I appreciate the officers' success in stopping these criminals, who had stirred fear among local residents, but their actions were unethical, inhumane and unprofessional," he told reporters.

In the center of the controversy are Lampung Police officers who are members of the Lampung Anti-Bandit Squad (Tekab) 308. They reportedly caught the alleged motorcycles thieves in the act and surrounded them before engaging in a shoot-out.

National Police spokesman Brig. Gen Rikwanto released a statement on Wednesday, saying the police will conduct an investigation into who had uploaded the picture, which was reportedly taken outside of a morgue at 2 a.m., mere hours after the shoot-out.

Rikwanto also apologized to the public for the gruesome picture. (hol)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/06/officers-posing-with-bodies-of-alleged-thieves-enrage-police-chief.html

Foreign affairs & trade

Indonesia unfazed by Trump executive order

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – The government seems largely unfazed by United States President Donald Trump's executive order to investigate the "trade imbalance" between the US and 16 countries, including Indonesia.

Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution said Indonesia had nothing to worry about regarding the order because it exported commodities and manufactured goods to the US that did not compete with those produced in that country.

"What we produce are not goods that compete with theirs, not like those from China. [The US] might think that the things they import are goods that beat out their own products, but the products from Indonesia are not the same as they make," he told reporters at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday.

"It is not a matter of whether we should be concerned or not. Even if [the US] makes such a policy, are we expected to reduce our exports? That's just bizarre."

Indonesia was in 15th position on the list, with a US$13 billion trade surplus with the US, followed by Canada with an $11 billion surplus.

China was in first place with a $347 billion surplus, followed by Japan, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, Vietnam, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia, India, Thailand, France, Switzerland and Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the US had already notified Indonesia about the executive order. Although the Indonesian government was not worried, Sri Muyani said the government "still needs to be on the lookout". (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/03/indonesia-unfazed-by-trump-executive-order.html

Trump puts Indonesia on trade hit list

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2017

Anton Hermansyah, Stefani Ribka, and Tama Salim, Jakarta – A week after seeing a petition against Indonesia's biodiesel, the country has seen another blow in its trade with the United States after President Donald Trump called for an investigation into the "trade imbalance" between the US and 16 countries, including Indonesia.

Trump had promised to crack down on "cheating foreign importers" by signing two executive orders on Friday. He gave 90 days for his administration to develop and implement a strategy for combating "violations of US trade and customs laws."

"The Secretary of Homeland Security shall, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Commerce and the US Trade Representative, develop a plan that would require covered importers that, based on a risk assessment conducted by the CBP [Customs and Border Protection], pose a risk to the revenue of the US, to provide security for antidumping and countervailing duty liability through bonds and other legal measures," Trump wrote in his executive order.

Indonesia was in the 15th position on the list, with US$13 billion in trade surplus over the US, followed by Canada with $11 billion surplus. China was in first with a $347 billion surplus followed by Japan, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, Vietnam, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia, India, Thailand, France, Switzerland and Taiwan.

Responding to the development, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said the government would closely monitor the situation and soon collect data regarding Indonesian products with the potential to be hit by the US probe.

"For now, we will evaluate our export commodities that could potentially be questioned by the US. We will also ask for our representative in Washington, DC, to watch and monitor [the situation]," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The US market received $15.68 billion in non-oil and gas exports from Indonesia last year. The main commodities shipped to the US were mostly footwear, textiles, fisheries products and natural resources while the US exported aircraft, soybeans and machinery.

In his executive order, Trump called for the collection of antidumping duties that must be paid to the US. According to the US Accountability Office, there were more than $2.3 billion uncollected anti-dumping and countervailing duties to the country since 2001.

On March 23, US-based commercial trade association National Biodiesel Board (NBB) filed a petition with the US Department of Commerce and the US International Trade Commission to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports of biodiesel from Indonesia.

Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (INDEF) economist Bhima Yudhistira Adhinegara said the anti-dumping measures would not affect much of Indonesia's accumulative trade.

"Like textiles and footwear, we booked the surplus not because of dumping but because US workers did not want to make those goods due to high labor cost. That is why US brands such as Nike shifted their jobs to Indonesia," he told the Post.

He chose to believe that the main target of the measure was actually China, as Chinese President Xi Jinping was scheduled to visit the US and hold a bilateral meeting with Trump in Florida next week.

Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) fisheries division chairman Thomas Darmawan said Indonesia's export goods to the US were totally different from those of China. Indonesia mostly exported natural resource products such as rubber, coffee and seafood while most of China's exports were end-products.

"If they put a barrier [on Indonesian goods], they will put themselves in a difficult position," he said.

Center of Reform on Economics (CORE) executive director Mohammad Faisal said Indonesia should join forces with other countries to appeal to the World Trade Organization against Trump's accusation.

However, the Foreign Ministry's director general for American and European affairs, Muhammad Anshor, remained hopeful that the issue would not be raised in the upcoming visit of US Vice President Mike Pence to Indonesia.

Trump's deputy is scheduled to visit Indonesia later this month as part of his tour around the region, which includes stopovers in Japan, South Korea and Australia.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/03/trump-puts-ri-on-trade-hit-list.html

Mining & energy

Three points not open to negotiation with Freeport, official says

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia will never give in to copper and gold miner PT Freeport Indonesia over three specific points during negotiations with the firm, namely conversion of the contract of work (CoW) to a special mining license (IUPK), smelter construction and 51 percent divestment, an official has said.

"What can be negotiated is how to implement them," said Hadi M. Djuraid, a special staff member of the energy and mineral resources minister, in a statement on Thursday.

He responded to criticism about the government agreement to provide Freeport with an eight-month concentrate export license, although the negotiations were still taking place.

He said during a press conference on Feb. 10 that Freeport CEO McMoran Richard Adkerson had rejected the conversion of the CoW into an IUPK, paying export tariffs on concentrate and divesting 51 percent of its shares to Indonesian entities, but Adkerson agreed to negotiate it in 120 days.

Hadi stressed that the negotiations began with the conversion of the CoW into an IUPK because it made social and economic impacts on the people in Papua, following the end of the mining operation in the province. "During the negotiations, Freeport agreed to accept an IUPK, but demanded the extension of the negotiations from six to eight months [since February]," said Hadi.

The remaining six months would be used to negotiate over investment stability as demanded by Freeport, Freeport operational continuity and the divestment, he said, adding that the smelter construction will be evaluated within six months and if the progress was insignificant the export recommendation would be revoked. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/06/three-points-not-open-to-negotiation-with-freeport-official-says.html

PLN's net profit surges in 2016

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – State-owned electricity firm PLN recorded an increase in both its bottom line and electricity sales in 2016, according to its latest financial report.

The report shows that the company's net profit surged by almost 75 percent on an annual basis to Rp 10.51 trillion (US$788.51 million) in 2016.

The company attributed the positive result to improvements in its overall performance, including electricity sales value and volume.

Sales value grew 2 percent year-on-year (yoy) to Rp 214.14 trillion, while sales volume increased 6.5 percent yoy to 216.0 terrawatt hours (TWh) in 2016.

"Sales revenue increased due to PLN's success in increasing power plant capacity to 3,714 megawatts [MW] in 2016, 1,932 MW of which was from PLN and 1,782 MW from independent power producers," PLN corporate planning director Nicke Widyawati said in a press conference on Wednesday.

The number of consumers also increased to 64.3 million at the end of 2016 from 61.2 million in the previous year.

As a result, the country's electrification ratio increased to 91.2 percent in December from 88.3 percent, meaning PLN exceeded its 2016 target of a ratio of 90.1 percent, which is contained in its 2015 to 2019 strategic plan (Renstra). (tas)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/plns-net-profit-surges-in-2016.html

Freeport gets red-carpet treatment, again

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – Copper and gold miner PT Freeport Indonesia is getting the red-carpet treatment once again, as the government is allowing the company to resume exports despite the company's mounting responsibilities.

The export activities are made possible with the issuance of a temporary special mining permit (IUPK) by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry that is backdated to Feb. 10 and valid for eight months.

With the temporary IUPK in place, Freeport will be able to use the ministry's recommendation it obtained in February to export 1.11 million wet metric tons (wmt) of copper concentrate for a year.

The company, the operator of the world's largest gold mine and second-largest copper mine, is now waiting for an export permit to be issued by the Trade Ministry.

Despite the short export period, Freeport is seen as having dodged the bullet again, because it was previously required to convert its contract of work (CoW) to a permanent IUPK, divest 51 percent of its shares and build a smelter within five years before being able to export, as stipulated by Government Regulation (PP) No. 1/2017.

Freeport – backed by its parent company, United States-based mining giant Freeport-McMoran Inc. – had consistently rejected the requirements and argued that they violated the investment certainty provided by the present CoW, dating back to 1991.

The disagreement had led to a standstill and Freeport warned that it could take the Indonesian government to international arbitration.

The miner had been unable to sell its copper concentrate overseas, creating a large pileup at its compound in Papua. However, earlier this month, Freeport resumed production at 40 percent of its normal rate after securing an export permit for anode slime, a byproduct of copper processing.

The temporary IUPK decision came just before US Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Indonesia this month. Freeport-McMoran is known to be politically connected, as US billionaire Carl Icahn, special adviser on regulatory reform to US President Donald Trump, is a major shareholder in the company.

The government has defended its decision, even though there is no legal basis that backs the temporary IUPK issuance and no concrete agreement has been made regarding the divestment and smelter issues.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry's secretary-general, Teguh Pamudji, said in a press conference on Tuesday that it was working to ensure a smooth transition from the CoW to the IUPK.

"In any public policy, including in regulations surrounding the energy and mineral resources sector, there will always be an opportunity for the government to guide [businesses]," he said, insisting that such guidance applied to all firms wanting to convert their CoWs to IUPKs.

The government claims that during the next six months, it will continue negotiating with the company over the terms for a full conversion of the miner's CoW, including the issues of investment stability, divestment and smelter construction.

It will also conduct a semiyearly evaluation on Freeport's smelter commitment. The firm previously promised to construct a smelter in Gresik, East Java.

Teguh said if the government and Freeport Indonesia failed to see eye-to-eye in the next six months, the miner would be allowed to return to its CoW, but would be barred from exporting its copper concentrates again.

The 2009 Mining Law stipulates that the holder of a CoW cannot export its production without processing it domestically first.

Freeport spokesman Riza Pratama said the firm would be willing to fully convert its CoW to an IUPK as long as the latter granted investment stability, which entails legal and fiscal certainties that are equal to the ones outlined in the current CoW.

"We are in the process of obtaining an export permit," he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

BMI Research, a unit of Fitch Group, predicts in a recent report that Freeport will likely continue to negotiate with the government to maintain its operations in the country, as copper and gold prices are expected to rise to US$5,800 per ton and $1,525 per ounce, respectively, by 2021.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/freeport-gets-red-carpet-treatment-again.html

Fishing & maritime affairs

81 more vessels sunk over illegal fishing

Jakarta Post - April 1, 2017

Jakarta – The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry on Saturday sank 81 more vessels for fishing illegally in Indonesian waters. The vessels were arrested by Satgas 115, the ministry's illegal fishing prevention task force, and other authorities in fishing territories across Indonesia.

"We were helped by the Indonesian Military and National Police in sinking the vessels in 12 locations. They are Aceh; Ambon and Ternate in Maluku; Bali; Belawan in Medan, North Sumatra; Bitung, North Sulawesi; Merauke, Papua; Natuna and Tarempa in Riau Islands; Pontianak, West Kalimantan; Sorong, West Papua; and Tarakan in North Kalimantan," Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said as quoted by kompas.com.

Susi directly led the procession to sink the 81 vessels from Morela Beach in Ambon. The minister was in contact with 11 other areas where dozens of vessels were sunk via a video conference call and live streaming. The vessels were sunk starting at 10 a.m. Jakarta time using explosives with a measured explosion capacity.

"We have made calculations so that this will not affect the environment, sea conservation areas and the safety of our sea navigation," said Susi.

Of the total, 46 vessels were Vietnamese flagged, 18 were from the Philippines, 11 from Malaysia and six were Indonesian vessels.

Meanwhile, SINO 36, an Indonesian-flagged vessel with a capacity of 268 gross tonnage, was confiscated by the state through a court ruling. The government would use the vessels as a monument to depict Indonesia's efforts in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Indonesia has sunk 317 ships since October 2014. (dis/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/01/81-more-vessels-sunk-over-illegal-fishing.html

Economy & investment

Jokowi criticizes ministers for issuing regulations unfriendly to

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2017

Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has criticized his ministers for introducing new regulations that discourage investments and are not in line with his push for economic growth. Jokowi claimed 23 new regulations prevented easy investment.

"It is a disease. I have said: Don't issue any regulations that could discourage investment, but they still issue [such regulations]. I don't know whether they come from ministers or directors general," said the President during a Cabinet meeting at the Presidential Office in Jakarta on Tuesday as reported by tribunnews.com.

Jokowi, however, did not specify the ministries or offices that had issued such regulations. But presidential chief of staff Teten Masduki explained that the 23 regulations were closely related to supporting regulations on exports and imports.

He said that the regulations were not included in the economic packages that had been issued by the government.

Jokowi called on his ministers and other relevant officials to revise their "problematic" regulations to help the government attract more foreign investment. He said that such regulations may disrupt the 5.6 percent economic growth target for 2018. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/05/jokowi-criticizes-ministers-for-issuing-regulations-unfriendly-to-investors.html

Manufacturing industry produces more in March, optimistic about year

Jakarta Globe - April 4, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia's manufacturing industry showed a marked improvement in March from a month earlier as companies scaled up production to meet new orders, the Nikkei Indonesia Manufacturing purchasing managers' index survey revealed.

"Rates of expansion were only marginal, however, as growth is still being hampered by strong cost increases," Pollyanna De Lima, an economist with London-based financial services company IHS Markit, said on Monday (03/04).

The PMI – a composite of manufacturing output, new orders, exports and employment measures to give a snapshot of manufacturing business conditions – increased to 50.5 in March, up from 49.3 in February. Any PMI reading above 50 indicates an overall increase in manufacturing output.

According to De Lima, the first quarter in 2017 was "bumpy for businesses" despite an average reading of 50, a figure slightly higher than last year's final quarter reading of 49.1

Despite higher business inflows, new export orders decreased in the first quarter while backlog depletion slowed to its weakest rate since June last year.

Employment continued to decrease in March since October last year, while ancillary evidence of lower workforce numbers reflected "weak gains in new business and relatively subdued demand."

Buying levels increased marginally this month for the first time since November last year, due to greater output needs and inventories, while finished items and pre-production holdings decreased.

"Higher global commodity prices and a weaker rupiah against the US dollar served to discourage suppliers from building up their stocks and subsequently resulted in shortages of some raw materials," De Lima said.

Still, manufacturers remain optimistic about the year's economic outlook, De Lima said. Panelists highlighted new products launching, greater advertising and improved productivity as factors to support higher output rates.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/manufacturing-industry-produces-march-optimistic-year-ahead/

Indonesia experiences 0.02 percent deflation in March

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2017

Grace D. Amianti, Jakarta – Indonesia experienced deflation of 0.02 percent in March because of a harvest season that helped push down prices of several major food commodities, bringing annual inflation to 3.63 percent, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) reported on Monday.

It was the first deflation this year after the inflation rate of Southeast Asia's largest economy rose 0.97 percent in January and 0.23 percent in February.

BPS head Suhariyanto said the deflation in March was a little outside of expectations as Bank Indonesia (BI) previously predicted inflation at 0.05 percent and several analysts also forecast a low inflation rate.

"Deflation occurred sharply by 0.66 percent in food commodities, coupled with declining prices by 0.13 percent in transportation, communications and financial services," he said in a press conference at the BPS headquarters on Monday.

Meanwhile, inflation in March occurred in processed foods, cigarettes, housing, clothing, health, education, sports and other components.

"The relatively sharp decline in food prices helped lower the effects of a previous electricity price adjustment and an increase in prices of certain types of fuel," Suhariyanto added.

The electricity price hike that spiked inflation in January was caused by a cut in government subsidies for 900 volt-ampere (VA) customers. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/03/indonesia-experiences-0-02-percent-deflation-in-march.html

Banking & finance

Tax laws hit working wives

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2017

Anton Hermansyah, Grace D. Amianti and Farida Susanty, Jakarta – The government's enforcement of tax return form (SPT) scrutiny has led to mounting complaints, particularly from working married women, as many have fallen victim to contradictory legal interpretations in regard to their tax filings.

The tax office received about 9.01 million SPTs as of Saturday, a 9 percent increase from 8.6 million in 2016, according to Directorate General of Taxation data.

However, the increased enforcement as part of the ongoing tax reform – after the nine-month tax amnesty, has led to severe penalties for working women who make innocent errors in their SPT filing.

Having failed to input her SPT through the online platform, Lisa, 44, a marketing officer, was initially requested to do the filing manually at the tax office. But later tax officials ordered her to pay Rp 26 million (US$1,950) due to a "tax underpayment" they had uncovered.

"They said that I should have made a joint [SPT] filing with my husband, as specified in the 2008 Income Tax [PPh] Law. I protested because my previous tax filings were always fine and I have never been informed about that rule," Lisa told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The problem lies in the contradictory interpretation of Article 8 of the PPh Law and Article 2 of the General Taxation System (KUP) Law. Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the PPh Law stipulates that the income of a married woman is considered part of her husband's earnings if she works for a separate employer.

The single-income consideration is not applicable if they decide to split their assets and incomes under a prenuptial agreement, or if the wife wishes to exercise her own tax rights and obligations, as stipulated in paragraphs 2 and 3 of the article.

Meanwhile, Paragraph 1 of Article 2 of the KUP Law stipulates that all taxpayers who meet requirements set by the laws should register for a tax number (NPWP). This also applies to married women even if they have arrangements with their husbands to split assets and incomes.

"The tax officials argued that the errors in my tax filings in the past were probably passed over. But with more tax officials employed [as part of tax reform efforts], he was sure such omissions were less likely to occur in the future," Lisa said.

Aulia, 30, a private auditor, said she still held a separate NPWP from her husband and had yet to receive any warning from the tax office. Because of the material consequences, she preferred to keep her problem below the radar.

"I could go to the tax office with my husband and talk about an income-separation plan. But, we'd have to pay more than Rp 8 million in tax underpayments. Thus, I've chosen to declare myself as a 'single' tax payer," Aulia told the Post.

The regulations director at the taxation office, Yunirwansyah, said women working for an employer, in accordance to the PPh Law, could keep their own NPWPs and separately file SPTs without incurring any material consequences if they could provide a prenuptial agreement on asset and income separation.

"Without it, the working wife still can have her own NPWP and pay her own taxes, but the tax office needs to merge her income with her husband's first to calculate the income tax, because a family is regarded as a unified economic unit in the law," he told the Post.

As a consequence, he said, progressive taxation would be levied on the combined net incomes of the two NPWP holders and each was required to pay tax at proportional rates, leading to underpayments from the income tax that employers had deducted from the wife's monthly salary.

Tax expert from the Center for Taxation Analysis Yustinus Prastowo called for the tax office to revise the contradictory laws on career women's NPWPs as part of the tax-reform agenda. "In international practice, both joint and separate filings pay the same level of tax," he said.

The Directorate General of Taxation's revenue and compliance director, Yon Arsal, said the tax office had not yet retrieved details on the number of SPTs filed by working women, as it would take further research.

Government urged to revise contradictory laws on working women's NPWPs Tax penalties await women with separate NPWPs but united assets

Since the government's flagship tax amnesty concluded last Friday, Indonesia now faces a mountain of challenges in reforming the country's directorates general responsible for generating state revenue amid weak public compliance.

The government launched in December last year tax reform teams for the Taxation Directorate General as well as Customs and Excise Directorate General as part of its efforts to improve state revenue collection in the long run. The move was important because the tax amnesty program only had a short life span of nine months.

The two teams – chaired by Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati – consist of directors, advisors, observers, journalists and other members with various mandates to reform the two government bodies that are responsible for Rp 1.75 quadrillion (US$131.34 billion) of state revenue in 2017.

The teams held on Monday their second plenary meeting at the Finance Ministry's headquarters to report to the minister on their work progress and upcoming short-term plans after the tax amnesty, particularly to secure this year's revenues by improving services and boosting law enforcement.

The government claimed that the reform teams had completed 11 improvements, or "quick wins," at both directorates general during the first quarter of the year, including on employee integrity and synergy between the two institutions.

On IT systems, the officials have now implemented online-based mechanisms for almost all of their services and business processes.

Both directorates general have also merged their customs identity number (NIK) and tax identification number (NPWP) systems into a "single identity and business profile," which enables exporters and importers to access customs services using only their NPWPs.

Sri Mulyani said all of the measures taken by the reform teams aimed at creating win-win solutions for the government, taxpayers, exporters and importers.

"We want to create a culture of compliance by improving the precision of our work without creating uncertainty for the business world. On the other hand, good business players have the right to be served well," she said in a press conference.

The tax reform team, however, still has a great deal of homework to improve the tax database and the tax office's internal procedures by managing business processes and dealing with recalcitrant taxpayers. One major task is to ensure that a regulation prohibiting tax officials from meeting taxpayers outside of the tax office is fully implemented. The government issued such a measure after recent bribery cases allegedly involving officials at both directorates general.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Employers Association's (Apindo) advisory board member Sofjan Wanandi pointed out the need for government institutions to reduce policy inconsistencies and strengthen coordination with each other.

"We have discussed with the finance minister eliminating things that often confuse people and affect confidence [in the government]," he said, citing a recent policy flip-flop on the requirement for banks to submit credit card transaction data to the tax office. The requirement was later annulled.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that Indonesia may be a step closer to winning a much-coveted investment grade from S&P Global Ratings after the tax amnesty ended.

"It's imminent that Indonesia will gets back its investmentgrade rating," said Gundy Cahyadi, an economist at DBS in Singapore.

"There has been significant improvement made on all fronts. The broadening of the tax base is going to be a plus in terms of how we look at the overall fiscal standing," he added.

Richard Noonan, a spokesman for S&P, however, declined to comment on the tax amnesty. The company in January said it might upgrade Indonesia to investment grade in 2017 or 2018 if the country delivered better spending, ensured that deficits were on a declining trend, and moderated government debt.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/04/tax-laws-hit-working-wives.html

Indonesia's tax amnesty fails to bring money home

Nikkei Asian Review - April 1, 2017

Erwida Maulia and Wataru Suzuki, Jakarta – Indonesia's tax amnesty, which came to an end Friday, has exposed the massive scale of uncollected tax from its citizens, who declared at least 4,866 trillion rupiah ($365 billion) in hidden assets during the nine-month program. But the total of overseas assets brought home was far below the government's target, dealing a setback to its infrastructure development plans.

People crowded tax offices in major cities across Indonesia from Friday morning as the deadline loomed. At the headquarters of the tax directorate general in Jakarta, at least 1,000 people waited to submit documents to the staff, many of whom would work through the night to accommodate last-minute applicants.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati paid the place a visit late in the evening, saying she was "satisfied" with the hard work of the entire tax office ranks despite lower-than-expected participation.

"After today, hopefully the tax sector will move from darkness into light," she said. "I hope this moment can serve as a milestone toward a new era of good governance and improved business process and work performance."

Of Indonesia's 250 million people, only 32 million are registered taxpayers and only 8.9 million submitted tax returns last year. The amnesty, which gives citizens who declare hidden assets and pay a small penalty [and] immunity from criminal prosecution, was aimed to give a quick boost to the government's revenues while widening its database of taxpayers and taxable assets.

Around 965,000 people reported 4,866 trillion rupiah of previously undeclared assets – equal to nearly 40% of Indonesia's GDP. The government collected 135 trillion rupiah in penalties, which is expected to help it ramp up infrastructure spending while maintaining the budget deficit under the legal limit of 3% of GDP. David Sumual, chief economist at local lender Bank Central Asia, called the results "quite remarkable achievements."

But the funds committed for repatriation only reached 147 trillion rupiah, or less than a fifth of the 1,000 trillion rupiah target. Officials said the majority of returned money is still parked in banks. This dents the government's hopes for funds to be channeled to finance infrastructure projects before President Joko Widodo's term comes to an end in 2019.

Fewer than half of the government's target of 2 million people took part in the amnesty.

Technical and regulatory issues were cited as big obstacles to repatriation. Officials have mentioned difficulties in liquidating illiquid assets like real estate. Indrawati added that some foreign jurisdictions gave Indonesian nationals intending to repatriate their money a hard time.

"They had to undergo some kind of an anti-money-laundering test to clarify the legality of their money," the minister said. "So the Indonesian government talked to the foreign authorities and said participation in tax amnesty means the participants have been pardoned."

But some observers noted a lack of attractive investment instruments in the country compared to the neighboring city state of Singapore, where most offshore assets of Indonesian nationals are parked.

The second half of the program was also clouded by rising political uncertainties, both at home and abroad. Large demonstrations by Muslim groups surrounding the Jakarta governor election late last year raised concerns over political turmoil. That, coupled, with external factors such as Donald Trump's U.S. presidency and the geopolitical situation in Europe, have reduced investment appetite for Indonesia. "In addition to the [domestic] political risk, they also saw external risks," Sumual said.

Indrawati's efforts will now shift to cracking down on suspected tax evaders who did not participate. Figures show that only 1,000 trillion rupiah of offshore assets have been declared, far lower than previous official estimates of 3,000 trillion to 13,000 trillion rupiah. The tax amnesty, Indonesia's first in decades, offered rates as low as 2-10% of total values of assets. Officials have threatened fines as high as 200% of the amount of tax that people have to pay if they are found to have undeclared assets after the amnesty program.

Banks have been told to resume submitting reports of their customers' credit card use, and the government is working to remove a secrecy clause in Indonesia's banking law to help the tax office pursue potential evaders. These are in part to support Indonesia's adoption of the framework for the automatic exchange of information among countries, introduced by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and set to take effect next year. Indonesian officials are optimistic the framework will put more pressure on tax evaders stacking their money overseas. "We'll work on complying common reporting standards from the OECD in order to implement [AEOI's] reciprocal principle," Indrawati said.

Tax office spokesman Hestu Yoga Saksama said most on the list of Indonesia's richest people have participated in the tax amnesty. "But the question is, have those who participated reported all of their offshore assets?" he told a TV interviewer.

Source: http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Economy/Indonesia-s-tax-amnesty-fails-to-bring-money-home


A former first lady presses on for a tolerant, feminist Islam

New York Times - April 7, 2017

Jon Emont, Jakarta, Indonesia – The transgender Muslim women gazed around the reception room with wonder. It was loaded with lavish tributes from foreign rulers: gold filigreed swords from Kuwait, elaborately painted Chinese urns and elegantly framed Quranic verses. Finally the host, Sinta Nuriyah, 69, breezed into the room in her wheelchair, passing by a giant bust of her husband, Abdurrahman Wahid, a former president and a powerful voice for moderate Islam.

The women, wearing head scarves and traditional gowns, had come to Ms. Sinta for advice. Their Islamic school for women had been shut down by a local hard-line organization amid a nationwide crackdown on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations, and they were at a loss as to how to reopen it.

Ms. Sinta, wearing a batik shawl and a veil that partly covered her hair, was in typical good cheer, listening intently and finding pauses in conversation to offer counsel. "Reach out to the regional district head," she said. "All people have the right to worship God, not just some people. That's the truth in Islam."

She offered a beaming smile to the assembled women, clasping their hands and embracing them as they crowded around her wheelchair for selfies. Continue reading the main story

"There's nobody else in Indonesia like her, who cares this much about marginalized groups," Shinta Ratri, the leader of the school, gushed.

Since her husband's death in 2009, Ms. Sinta, a women's studies major who was paralyzed from the waist down after a horrific car accident in the '90s, has carried forth the family's campaign for a feminist and tolerant Islam. "We live among different religions, ethnicities and cultures," she said in an interview. "It's necessary that we stand up to extremists."

Tears have been appearing in Indonesia's pluralist fabric in recent years, as hard-line Islamic groups that were once at the margin of national politics exert ever greater influence. Jakarta's first Christian governor in generations, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, is facing prosecution for "insulting the Quran," after a vigorous campaign by Muslim hard-liners to have him unseated.

Ms. Sinta was one of the few leading Muslim figures who stood up for Mr. Basuki after he was charged last year, praising him in a recent television appearance as "brave enough to step forward and take a position from the dominant group."

Her activism on behalf of minorities frequently puts her in the cross hairs of the hard-liners. For the last 16 years, Ms. Sinta has made a point of touring Indonesian cities during Ramadan, holding interfaith breaking-the-fast ceremonies to promote tolerance.

Last year, at a Catholic church in Semarang, she was confronted by a hard-line Muslim group whose members accused her of promoting the mixing of two religious traditions. The dispute was widely reported in the national news media, with the leader of the regional division of Banser, a Muslim militia with a moderate orientation, announcing that it would mobilize to protect Ms. Sinta's events in the future.

"They have to be confronted," Ms. Sinta said of the hard-liners, who tried to disrupt numerous interfaith events she headlined last year. "If they aren't, they will take heart and become even bolder."

Ms. Sinta is also in a struggle to promote women's rights. On a talk show to be broadcast later this month, the host asked her why she was opposed to polygamy, saying he had heard about a man who was perfectly fair to all 12 of his wives.

"Who can be fair to multiple wives?" Ms. Sinta asked. "There are some who can!" a few women in the audience shouted. "There aren't!" Ms. Sinta responded flatly. Eventually the host, Andy Noya, had enough. "Rise up, men, we're being attacked!" he said jokingly.

Later, Mr. Noya, noting that Ms. Sinta had become a provocative figure in Indonesia, asked why she insisted on breaking the fast with people of different faiths. "Because we're all siblings," she said. "We have to always look out for one another."

Nothing about Ms. Sinta's early years predicted how high she would rise. Born in 1948 in the rural East Javanese town of Jombang, she was the eldest daughter and one of 18 children of a calligrapher father who had one wife. She was educated at a local Islamic boarding school for girls, where she impressed teachers with her religiosity and academic ambition.

Mr. Wahid, a charismatic young teacher at the school whose father was the leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, fell in love with the outspoken and beautiful young woman, then only 13. He would visit her house after school to play chess with her father, eventually asking for permission to marry his daughter.

But Ms. Sinta told her father she was not interested. "I was too young, and love hadn't blossomed yet," she said. It was considered scandalous that a girl from an ordinary family would turn down Mr. Wahid, but her father left the decision to her.

It was the unlikely start of a great romance. After Mr. Wahid moved to Cairo to study, and struggled in class, Ms. Sinta wrote him: "Mankind shouldn't always fail in life. If right now you're failing in your studies, then you shouldn't also fail in love."

He took the opening, writing then from Baghdad, where he had moved, to ask her to marry him. This time, she was ready, but because he would not come home from Iraq for three more years, his grandfather represented him at the marriage ceremony.

After Mr. Wahid returned to Indonesia in 1971, Ms. Sinta earned a degree in Shariah law and then left college to start a family, eventually having four children while making and selling candies and frozen treats to help support them.

In 1992 she returned to school, taking graduate courses at the University of Indonesia in the newly created women's studies department. "I wanted to look into the extent to which religion shapes the lives of women, and also the extent to which women influenced religion," she said.

That was also the year of the auto accident. Ms. Sinta, who was flung from the vehicle, found herself lying in the road, unable to move. She remembers it as a hellish, depressing time in the hospital surrounded by those who had had strokes and been in accidents. After a year of physical therapy, she was finally able to move her arms, but she remained paralyzed from the waist down.

Ms. Sinta, who had begun using a wheelchair, wanted to continue her studies, but the women's studies classes were on the building's fourth floor. When the elevator broke down, Ms. Sinta asked friends to build a stretcher out of bamboo and had campus security guards hoist her to classes every day. "I'm someone who if there's something I want, then I've got to have it," she said.

While she was carried on the stretcher, she would joke that she was General Sudirman, an anti-colonialist war hero who carried on the fight from a stretcher after being wounded. "Just like General Sudirman struggled for an independent Indonesia, I struggled for my own future," she said, laughing.

For her senior thesis, she studied the health effects of pregnancy on child brides. That brought her into contact with an old school friend, and she got a glimpse of how differently her life could have turned out. "My friend had 16 kids, because her husband was a prominent preacher who wanted to have 25 children," Sinta said, shaking her head.

In 1999, after the dictator Suharto stepped down, her husband became Indonesia's first president to win a contested election. Whereas the notoriously corrupt Suharto family lived lavishly, Ms. Sinta urged her husband to project a democratic humility, one reason the family is still remembered fondly in Indonesia. "We didn't need to act or wear clothes like we were kings," she said.

Her husband was impeached after two years in office for failing to maintain order in the tumultuous early years of Indonesia's democracy. But they both remained active in public affairs. Ms. Sinta established a network of progressive Islamic boarding schools for girls to promote gender equality in some of the most rural and conservative parts of the country.

"It isn't easy erasing teachings that have already penetrated deeply," she said, noting that while senior clerics objected to her revisions to the classic curriculum for girls Islamic boarding schools, others had embraced it.

She says she worries deeply about whether Indonesia's moderate Muslim institutions were capable of turning back the tide of fundamentalist Islam.

"Now our struggle is even weightier," than earlier struggles against colonialist and imperialist powers, she said, "because the people we are facing down aren't foreigners, but are from our own nation."

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/07/world/asia/indonesia-transgender-islam-sinta-nuriyah.html

Analysis & opinion

Foreign reporting in Papua

Tempo.co - April 7, 2017

Jakarta – The blacklisting of Jack Hewson, a freelance journalist working for Al Jazeera shows the government's paranoia towards foreign journalists. The government should allow the foreign press to cover Papua. Preventing journalists from reporting the facts there is not a good testament on the claim of press freedom in Indonesia.

Hewson, who is based in Jakarta, planned to report on the Freeport issue from Timika in Papua. But after leaving for the Philippines last Monday, he learned that he has been banned from returning to Indonesia for no clear reason. It transpires that the request for the ban came from the Indonesian Military (TNI). According to the Immigration Directorate General, Hewson is suspected of dangerous activities endangering security and public order.

What did Hewson do that was deemed to have endangered security? Was he not simply covering and writing reports about Indonesia like other journalists? Was it linked with his plan to cover Freeport? Whatever the problem, blacklisting a foreign journalist without a reason or sufficient evidence is a serious violation of press freedom.

Before the Hewson case, there were similar bans on foreign journalists wanting to report on Papua. French journalist Cyril Payen is still barred from entering Indonesia following his documentary film, The Forgotten War in Papua, which detailed human rights violations in Indonesia's easternmost province. Two other French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Louise Marie Valentine Bourrat, were jailed for more than two months for covering Wamena while on tourist visas.

The government's attitude towards foreign journalists damages the claim to press freedom in our country. In the 2016 Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders, Indonesia is ranked 130 out of 180 nations, below Cambodia and Timor-Leste.

Officials from the TNI and the Interior Ministry are too suspicious of foreign journalists. They seem not to understand the function and the role of the press, including the foreign media. Papua has been closed to the outside world for almost a quarter of a century. No foreign journalists have been able to travel there. Therefore, it is not surprising that many reporters from around the world want to take a look, especially since there are many problems there, from the Free Papua Movement to the Freeport debacle.

In 2015, President Joko Widodo said that Papua was open to foreign journalists. Clearly, state institutions and ministries should support the president by facilitating journalists' access to that region. Preventing them from going there is inconsistent with the president's policy.

The government has no reason to ban foreign reporters because Papua is not a military emergency region. Closing it off from the outside world will only make matters worse. Rumors and fake reports will spread faster and be more credible if there are no professional journalists who can explain the truth about the province.

There is no need for the government to react angrily when foreign journalists report negatively, as long as their reports are factual. We no longer live in the New Order period, when the mass media was under the full control of the authorities. The government should understand that negative or positive reports on Papua depends on whether the government can bring about prosperity and justice over there. (*)

Read the full story in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine – https://magz.tempo.co/konten/2017/04/04/OPI/32977/Foreign-Reporting-in-Papua/33/17

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/04/07/314863531/foreign-reporting-in-papua

A hero emerges amid fear and silence of Indonesia's blasphemy saga: The

Straits Times - April 7, 2017

Syafiq Hasyim, Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) – The ongoing Jakarta gubernatorial election race has made international headlines for one thing: the massive and systematic use of religion to win votes.

This has happened in previous elections in the world's largest Muslim-majority country. But never before have we seen the Blasphemy Law used to charge one candidate, in this case the incumbent Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, with insulting Islam.

Almost all the so-called moderate Muslim organisations support the accusation that Ahok insulted Islam by claiming a verse from the Koran had been used by his rivals to deceive voters and justify the assertion that Muslims should not be led by non-Muslims.

This support is evident in the ongoing trial, where witnesses called by state prosecutors are mostly religious leaders of the Muhammadiyah, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) – the latter being the world's largest independent Muslim organisation.

Meanwhile the silence of many progressive Muslim scholars and activists is mostly due to fear of being perceived as defenders of Ahok, who is of Chinese descent and a Christian. Only a tiny minority is bravely expressing an opinion that Ahok has not blasphemed religion.

Most prominent among them is Ahmad Ishomuddin, a young cleric who shocked Indonesians with his courage as an expert witness in the Ahok trial on March 21. Amid the deafening silence of progressive Muslim scholars and activists, he stood up and spoke for truth in the face of fearsome intimidation.

He was dismissed shortly afterwards from his position on the Ulema Council – although the council insists it fired him because he was inactive.

Ishomuddin's presence in court showed that the voice of progressive Muslims, although very soft, still exists. His stance is rare among members of an Islamic establishment grown comfortable with privilege and power. Ishomuddin has taking a different position by upholding justice and freedom as being the core of Islam.

Ishomuddin is a young cleric born who hails from outside the NU establishment. He grew up in a religious family and his parents sent him to Islamic boarding schools on Java. Not being the son of a kyai (great cleric) on Java, he does not carry the honorific "gus".

Instead of privilege, he is graced with natural intelligence, as is evident in his mastering of the various disciplines of Islam. His mastery and astute application of religious edict to modern matters saw him named as a member of the NU's sharia body, its highest authority.

Ishomuddin's courage reflects the genuine Islamic movement in dealing with the intimidating issue of blasphemy. He defended Ahok not by referring to religious freedom and human rights, but solely founding his argument on classical sources of Islam, such as the Koran and Islamic legal theory. Importantly, his defence shows Islam can be used to support religious freedom and human rights.

Ahok's blasphemy case has further exposed Indonesia's progressive Islamic movement as fragile and weak in its ability to spread its message to a general audience. Those observers and media who had previously declared the "success" of the struggle of progressive Islam in Indonesia have been shaken by the Ahok case.

We have many great and diligent Muslim scholars and activists, but their stance on this case – a crucial test of Indonesian pluralism and tolerance – has been utterly disappointing.

The progressive Islamic movement here needs the support of brilliant Muslim scholars if it is to survive. And that support must come in the form of fearless words and action, not merely silent thought.

This does not mean we should neglect the risk involved. But in a democratic country such as ours, that risk should be the responsibility of the state, not of individuals. Our responsibility is to break the silence and the only way is through courage.

[The writer is director of the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism in Jakarta.]

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/a-hero-emerges-amid-fear-and-silence-of-indonesias-blasphemy-saga-the-jakarta-post

Indonesian infrastructure weakness weighs on growth

Nikkei Asia Review - April 4, 2017

Stephen Grenville – In October 2018 Indonesia will host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Nusa Dua, Bali. This is an important occasion: These annual meetings take place outside Washington only every third year, and involve thousands of high-level participants from all over the globe.

Announcing that Indonesia would host the 2018 meetings, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde noted that it would be a "great opportunity to showcase Indonesia's impressive economic and social achievements."

But what will those attending make of the Indonesian economy? Some participants will note that nearly two decades have passed since the Asian financial crisis, which began in July 1997. The crisis did enormous harm to Indonesia, and the scars still show.

In the three decades before the crisis, growth in gross domestic product averaged 7% a year. Since then macroeconomic policy has been more cautious and foreign markets have remained unhelpfully skeptical; they were, for example, ready to include Indonesia among the so-called "Fragile Five" economies when the U.S. Federal Reserve started to review its unorthodox monetary easing policies in 2013.

The emergence of the current democratic political system after the resignation of President Suharto in 1998, and the associated devolution of power from Jakarta to the local level, have presented additional challenges for economic policy makers. Nevertheless, Indonesia has maintained a steady growth rate of 5-6%. This does not match either China or India, but it is enough to double GDP every 15 years, giving rise to confident predictions that Indonesia will be the world's fourth biggest economy by the middle of this century.

Thus, Lagarde's positive sentiment is justified. But to showcase Indonesia's economic and social achievements, visitors must go beyond the artificial confines of the Nusa Dua enclave. This area – part of the almost self-contained Bukit Peninsula at the southern end of Bali – is a miracle of urban planning in a country characterized by unremitting urban chaos.

The peninsula was largely uninhabited until the late 1960s, providing a unique opportunity to develop a large area as an exclusively tourist enclave. Starting with this clean slate, building heights have been kept down (lower than the coconut palms, at least in theory), roads are wider than usual and broad areas are devoted to tropical gardens and the mandatory golf course. Beaches are kept free of the plastic rubbish that is ubiquitous elsewhere. A security post at the entrance of the Nusa Dua hotel enclave offers some reassurance to nervous visitors.

Disconnected worlds

But how will the conference attendees observe Indonesia's "impressive economic and social achievements" from the disconnected world of Nusa Dua? They will have to cross over the isthmus into Bali proper, beyond the airport freeway that slices through a formerly-pristine mangrove lagoon. Here they will find a different Indonesia, where the vibrant commercial economy has run far ahead of infrastructure capacity.

A visitor's first impressions will be of choked roads, where motorcycle taxis are the surest way of reaching destinations on time, because they can weave their way among the pedestrians on the footpath when the road is gridlocked. While traffic jams may be the infrastructure deficiency most apparent to foreigners, they will hardly notice the greater problem of electricity shortages. All their hotels are equipped with "emergency" generators whose routine use keeps the air conditioners going. Similarly, the visitors will be largely unaware of the near-universal water supply and sewage deficiencies, except for the standard warnings not to drink the tap water.

During the Suharto period Indonesia spent around 4% of GDP on infrastructure. This fell drastically with the 1997 crisis, leading, in particular, to the cancellation of large power generation projects. Even with the subsequent economic recovery, infrastructure spending is running at only 2.5% of GDP – half the pace judged necessary by the latest Asian infrastructure report from the Asian Development Bank.

The cancelled electricity projects may have been questionable, but if they had gone ahead their output would have found a ready market. Similarly, Jakarta's abandoned urban rail program would have offered an alternative to the efficiency-sapping traffic jams that continue to afflict the capital.

Let us be more positive. This drastic infrastructure deficiency might be seen not just as a problem, but as an opportunity. In a world concerned by secular stagnation and demand deficiency, Indonesia has a multitude of good infrastructure investment opportunities.

While questionable projects are put forward from time to time (such as a proposed Sunda Straits bridge to link the islands of Java and Sumatra), there is very little chance that any mainstream infrastructure project – whether in power, transport or telecommunications – would turn out to be a white elephant for lack of demand. Any extra capacity will have a high social return.

President Joko Widodo has made infrastructure a priority. Much has been done (or is in process) to expand electricity capacity. Much more capacity is needed; electricity requirements account for more than half of the additional infrastructure identified by the ADB.

Indonesia's per capita electricity consumption is just 10% of the level in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of mostly rich countries. A limited mass rail system is, at last, under construction in Jakarta, although an adequate network is still many decades away. Meanwhile new tollways have speeded up some journeys – at least until drivers return to the regular road system.

Of course, finance is a challenge. The ADB approach is to estimate what could be safely financed from the government budget, and assume (or hope?) that the private sector will come up with the balance. But this gives too large a role to public-private partnerships. On past experience, the problem with PPPs is that the private sector will shoulder the funding risk only if it is extravagantly rewarded. In the absence of such excessive remuneration, the usual response of the private partner is to shift the risk back to the public sector, privatizing profits while socializing losses.

One key to addressing this is to go back a step to identify projects that can be made financially viable by getting those who will benefit to pay. In the absence of infrastructure provided by the state many consumers have gone ahead and provided their own water, sewage and electricity facilities. This is inefficient and costly for the individual providers. That, surely, is evidence of both capacity and willingness to pay.

There are already many examples of this. For example, telecommunications is no longer the disaster area that it was three decades ago, because suppliers (whether government-owned or private) can charge commercial prices for the services provided. More recently, progress has been made on toll roads, which are generally profitable without direct subsidies. No doubt customers who are accustomed to having subsidized water and electricity would not like being asked to pay commercial prices, but the poorest could be accommodated with targeted subsidies while the rest (Indonesia's burgeoning middle class) pay the full price.

When new infrastructure raises the value of nearby land, the solution is, once again, at hand: "Value capture" can ensure that beneficiaries of higher land values fund a good part of infrastructure costs. This is how American railways were built in the 19th century, and London's underground rail and sewage systems.

Not easy

Of course, this is not politically or organizationally easy. But regular reports of infrastructure deficiencies (such as the ADB's latest publication), with their lists of projects, huge estimates of funding costs and pious hopes that the private sector will come to the funding party, are pointing policy in the wrong direction. Those who could benefit from better infrastructure should not be bamboozled by the promise of subsidized supply, funded by the private sector, which is a mirage.

Politicians should offer them a realistic promise: If they pay a commercial user price and accept "value capture" where land values appreciate substantially, they will get services that are, in net benefit terms, hugely positive for them. The alternative is to go on sitting in traffic jams for hours each day.

Needless to say, there are other challenges. Infrastructure projects are often huge, complex, and require organizational and engineering skills of a high order. Thus, the list of properly-researched "shovel-ready" projects is short. Land acquisition is painfully slow. Some projects are socially beneficial, but users and land owners are not the only beneficiaries. Toll roads do not benefit only those who use them; other drivers can travel more swiftly on other roads freed-up by the availability of the tollway.

In the end, some budget subsidies will be needed, and some high-value projects will have to be undertaken by the government or by state-owned enterprises. Currently, more than half of Indonesia's infrastructure is funded from the government budget, with SOEs providing about a third, leaving the private sector contributing a tenth.

Indonesia starts with low government debt, but the budget deficit cannot exceed 3% of GDP, by law. For budget-funded projects, politics will surely be a critical issue – a problem not confined to Indonesia, as Japan's "bridges to nowhere" and Australia's Darwin to Alice Springs railway attest.

Those who cross over from Nusa Dua's infrastructure-heavy hotel enclave to look at the real Indonesia will witness everywhere a small-scale entrepreneurial vibrancy that refutes the World Bank's ranking of the ease-of-doing-business there – 91st out of 190 countries. If only the government could get its act together on infrastructure, Indonesia could easily shift up a gear, increasing the rate of growth to the 6-7% seen in China and India. This small acceleration would be worthwhile: 7% growth would double GDP every decade.

[Stephen Grenville is a nonresident fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney and a former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia.]

Source: http://asia.nikkei.com/Viewpoints/Stephen-Grenville/Indonesian-infrastructure-weakness-weighs-on-growth

Why is there no serious opposition to Trump in Indonesia?

Indonesia at Melbourne - April 4, 2017

Andrew Mantong – When US President Donald Trump came to power, there was widespread concern that the United States' image in Muslim-majority Indonesia would fall to pre-Obama levels. Both during his campaign and as president, Trump has taken anti-Muslim prejudice to a new level for the United States. During the campaign, he surrounded himself with notoriously anti-Muslim advisors and made several apparently Islamophobic comments. Since taking office, he has twice issued executive orders banning immigration from a range of Muslim countries. While courts have blocked those orders, many have worried that his Islamophobic rhetoric could contribute to violence against, and stigmatisation of, Muslims.

Responding to these developments, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla suggested that although the immigration ban would not directly go against Indonesia's interests, it might "fuel prejudice against Muslims in particular." Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that Indonesia "has deep regrets about [Trump's] policy". Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati likewise expressed cautious concern about rising protectionism in the United States. Prominent members of civil society have also worried about the "post-truth politics" on which Trump built his success and the negative influence it may have on Indonesian democracy. Others worry that Trump's rhetoric and policies will only prove the fundamentalists right in their claims that the west has always been involved in a kind of cultural war with the east, democracy is evil, and individual freedom is nothing but imperialist doctrine to brainwash society.

But it seems that many Indonesians do not share their views. Soon after Trump was elected, Gerindra lawmaker and long-time Trump admirer Fadli Zon said that the president's anti-Muslim rhetoric was just a campaign strategy. He has been silent on the matter since. Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan went even further, praising Trump as a "non-ideological and non-confrontational" leader who will regard Indonesia as a "democratic equal". Hanura legislator Mukhtar Tompo recently said: "I'm someone who is very happy with Donald Trump's brilliant ideas and was glad to see him elected president."

Why has criticism of Trump in Indonesia been so muted compared to the strong and almost uniform criticism directed at his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush?

In the weeks following September 11, demonstrations against US policies toward Muslim countries were common in Indonesia. The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) furiously claimed that the US attack on Afghanistan was an act of hostility and hatred toward Islam and called for jihad against the United States.

Since then, the US has been a popular scapegoat, often bearing the blame for incidents involving other western actors. During the Australian wiretapping scandal, for example, hundreds of members of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) burnt US flags in a protest in front of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Protests often exploit anti-Jewish sentiment and refer to "antek-antek Amerika" (a derogatory term in Indonesia for US allies) in an attempt to reinforce the idea of Americans = westerners = foreigners = threat to Indonesia. This makes the absence of demonstrations against the US over the past few months all the more puzzling.

It is important to remember that when it comes to identity politics, cultural affinities (such as being Muslim) are not always coherent sources for action. Identity can hardly be described as static or complete. Simply looking at Indonesia as a "Muslim-majority country" is not sufficient to explain attitudes to the world beyond Indonesia's borders.

One reason for the lack of strong public reaction or demonstrations against Trump and his policies in Indonesia is simply that many Indonesians are preoccupied with their own acute problems. For the past six months at least, they have been transfixed by the race for the Jakarta governor position and the blasphemy allegations against incumbent ethnic Chinese and Christian Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama. The movement of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) to the centre of the political stage that has resulted has arguably damaged Indonesian Islam's moderate image. The narrative of contention built by conservative Islamic groups has created "us-vs-them" divisions that have confused ordinary Indonesian citizens.

Framing Ahok as a threat to national unity, these groups have tried to connect the role played by international actors and anxieties about an open economy with Ahok. While notions of "imperialism" and "foreign exploitation" have usually been associated with the United States, anxiety is now being directed towards China. Ahok's case has, in fact, been conflated with growing unrest about Chinese influence in Indonesia, especially in relation to the allegation that thousands, even millions, of Chinese workers have entered Indonesia, ready to exploit Indonesian land and defeat Indonesian workers in their own country. This sort of nativisim has occurred at the same time as Ahok's policies of forced evictions across the capital. Both developments have provided room for groups like the FPI, and other political opponents of Ahok, to exploit the anger of the "little people" in Jakarta.

Past animosity toward the United States has been based on issues such as US involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, blasphemous statements about Islamic figures and teachings, and perceptions of foreign exploitation and imperialism. But Trump's immigration and other policies related to nativism actually resonate in a strange way with the arguments put forward by conservative Islamic groups in Indonesia. They too want to restrict immigration, but in their case, immigration from China. Instead of the US, China is now the significant other.

In other words, Trump's immigration and protectionist policies fit with Indonesian rhetoric about nationalistic development, even if they do target Muslims and run contrary to Indonesian interests.

In such circumstances, Trump's business interests in Indonesia, a six star resort in Bali and a hotel in West Java, have hardly been discussed and his links to Indonesian politicians remain unquestioned.

[Andrew Wiguna Mantong is a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta. He also teaches at the Department of International Relations at the University of Indonesia.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/why-is-there-no-serious-opposition-to-trump-in-indonesia/

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