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Indonesia News Digest 15 – April 15-21, 2017

Labour & migrant workers Freedom of speech & expression Political parties & elections Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections Students & youth LBGT & same-sex marriage Marriage & the family Graft & corruption Hard-line & vigilante groups Freedom of religion & worship Islam & religion Sex, pornography & morality Land & agrarian conflicts Parliament & legislation Film & television Armed forces & defense Foreign affairs & trade Mining & energy Infrastructure & development Economy & investment Banking & finance Analysis & opinion

Labour & migrant workers

Tangerang labors to showcase industrial products on May Day

Jakarta Post - April 20, 2017

Tangerang – The Tangerang administration in Banten will hold a series of events on May 1 to commemorate Labor Day, including an arts and culture exhibition, a sports competition and industrial products exposition.

"The purpose is to encourage businesspeople to invest here and create jobs so prosperity and the quality of life improves for residents," Tangerang Mayor Arief R. Wismansyah said on Thursday as quoted by Antara news agency

Tangerang Manpower Agency head Rakhmansyah said the events would promote the products showcased. The sports event will feature badminton, table tennis, volleyball, futsal and chess, which are open to any local labor union member. (fac)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/20/tangerang-labors-to-showcase-industrial-products-on-may-day.html

In Indonesia, labor friction and politics fan anti-Chinese sentiment

Reuters - April 18, 2017

Eveline Danubrata and Gayatri Suroyo, Jakarta – A bitterly fought election to govern Indonesia's capital that has fanned religious tensions has also thrown a spotlight on anti-foreign sentiment, as conspiracy theories swirl about an influx of illegal Chinese workers spurring vigilantism.

Foreign direct investment from China hit a record high of $2.67 billion last year after President Joko Widodo rolled out the red carpet to Chinese investors, who are typically willing to take on risks for infrastructure and other big projects. But the cheap funding comes at a price: Chinese companies often bring in their own workers and machines, creating friction with locals, according to interviews with labor groups, company executives and government officials.

Indonesian investment chief Thomas Lembong said a "freak-out over foreign workers" had been politicized, fuelling tensions surrounding the Jakarta poll, which pits the ethnic Chinese Christian incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama against a Muslim rival.

Purnama is backed by Widodo's ruling party and Lembong said the issue of anti-foreign and – in particular anti-Chinese – sentiment had been harnessed by rivals of the government.

"It's part of a broader effort to turn political sentiment anti-foreigner and anti-Chinese at a time when Chinese investment is poised to be the biggest factor driving the Asian economy," Lembong told Reuters.

The number of Chinese work permit holders jumped 30 percent in the past two years to 21,271 in 2016, the latest data from Indonesia's manpower ministry showed. In comparison, there were 12,490 from Japan and 2,812 from the United States last year.

While the issue had been compounded by discredited reports circulating on social media claiming that 10 million Chinese workers had flooded Indonesia, labor unions still dispute official figures.

Chinese companies have been mis-using a visa-free route meant for tourists to bring in "hundreds of thousands" of low-skilled Chinese workers, said labor leader Said Iqbal.

Since February, the Confederation of Indonesian Workers' Union (KSPI) has been compiling unofficial data on Chinese workers suspected of not having proper documentation and it has asked the manpower ministry to take action, he said.

"Local unskilled labor cannot work because the jobs have been filled by the Chinese," the KSPI's Iqbal told Reuters.

Liky Sutikno, the Beijing-based chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce in China, said some Chinese companies temporarily bring in their own "technical workers", who would return to China once the local teams take over.

These workers may have a better knowledge of products and processes, on top of being faster in executing steps such as installing machinery, Sutikno said.

Vigilantism

Late last year, around 150 college students on Sulawesi island, where several Chinese smelters are being built, stopped vehicles they suspected of carrying illegal Chinese workers and brought them to the authorities.

The group planned more raids this year, said Erik, one of the students, who declined to give his full name.

Maruli Hasoloan, a manpower ministry official, acknowledged some labor friction and vigilantism over the past few months. While the ministry was coordinating with other authorities to prevent any abuse of visa-free entry, it does not condone a vigilante crackdown on foreign workers, he added.

Indonesia has suffered bouts of anti-Chinese and anti-communist sentiment over its history, though this has usually been directed at its minority ethnic Chinese community.

On average, Indonesian Chinese are far wealthier than other ethnic groups. During riots leading to the fall of President Suharto in May 1998, ethnic Chinese were targeted, making up many of around 1,000 people who were killed in the violence.

Under Suharto, Chinese culture and language were severely restricted, but at the same time he cultivated some ethnic Chinese businessmen who became hugely rich.

Uglier mood

The capital Jakarta has seen a series of mass rallies led by hardline Islamists calling for Purnama, Jakarta's first Christian and Chinese governor, to be jailed even as he was put on trial over allegations that he had insulted the Koran.

Purnama, who is competing against former education minister Anies Baswedan, denies what are regarded by critics as politicized charges.

While it is too soon to assess whether all this could have an impact on Chinese investment decisions, some Chinese business groups say they are worried about the uglier mood and also about potentially losing a business-friendly leader of Jakarta.

Many Chinese companies favor Purnama for his perceived ability to execute Widodo's infrastructure reform agenda, which is aligned with Chinese President Xi Jinping's "One Belt, One Road" policy to invest billions of dollars in global projects.

Jakarta, a city of more than 10 million people, accounts for nearly a fifth of national economic output and is home to major construction projects including a $5 billion Chinese-backed rail connecting the capital to the West Java city of Bandung.

The anti-Purnama movement has also revived jitters about the racial and religious under-currents in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population.

"Chinese concern is stability and consistency of the rule of law," Sutikno said. "What they are scared of the most is a repeat of 1998, that the Chinese will be singled out again."

[Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, John Chalmers, Fransiska Nangoy, Hidayat Setiaji and Wilda Asmarini; Editing by Ed Davies and Bill Tarrant.]

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-election-china-idUSKBN17K0YG

Freedom of speech & expression

Yogyakarta governor reports online media to police for alleged libel

Jakarta Post - April 20, 2017

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – Yogyakarta Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, who is also the Yogyakarta governor, reported on Wednesday metronews.tk, an online media company, to the Yogyakarta Police for allegedly spreading false news about him.

The media outlet, he said, had published a false news report accusing him of hate speech against Chinese-Indonesians and had encouraged Jakartans to choose candidate pair Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno during the April 19 gubernatorial runoff election. "I want to prove that I never did what they stated in the news report," Sultan said.

The case began after metronews.tk published a news report entitled "Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono: 'I'm sorry, it's not SARA [tribal affiliation, religion, race and societal group], but ethnic Chinese are not suitable to become leaders in the archipelago," recently. The sultan was also quoted as saying: "It's a historical fact that Chinese people are only traitors in NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia]." The news report was circulated via social media, such as Twitter.

The article apparently claimed that the sultan wanted to remind all Muslims, especially those in Jakarta, that they must remember the historical fact that Chinese people in Yogyakarta had taken sides with Dutch colonialists during the second round of Dutch military aggression in 1948. "Statements in the article are against the law and tarnish my name," the sultan said.

Yogyakarta Police chief Brig. Gen. Ahmad Dofiri said the police would look into the case. "The perpetrator could be charged under articles 27 and 28, which regulate libel and hate speech respectively, of the 2008 Information and Electronic Transactions Law." (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/20/yogyakarta-governor-reports-online-media-to-police-for-alleged-libel.html

Political parties & elections

Fitch says religious tensions could affect future Indonesia elections

Reuters - April 21, 2017

Jakarta – Rating agency Fitch Ratings said on Thursday (20/04) tensions witnessed during the Jakarta governor poll could resurface in the run-up to Indonesia's next presidential election in 2019 and potentially affect support for the government's policy agenda negatively.

Former education minister Anies Baswedan beat incumbent Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama by a big margin on Wednesday, after a polarizing campaign that cast a shadow over Indonesia's reputation for practicing a tolerant form of Islam.

"The early results of the tense Jakarta elections seem to suggest that religious factors could play an increasingly significant role in future Indonesian elections," Fitch said in an emailed statement.

However, the rating agency said Indonesia has made a "substantial" progress in improving governance over the past two decades and the country's democratic electoral process has remained intact.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/fitch-says-religious-tensions-affect-future-indonesia-elections/

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

Prosecutors spare Ahok after election defeat

Jakarta Post - April 21, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The past few months have been a long and arduous period for Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who has been mired in a blasphemy case following several large-scale street rallies demanding his imprisonment and dismissal.

His predicament culminated on Wednesday, when his political rival, Anies Baswedan, defeated him in the Jakarta gubernatorial election by riding a wave of growing religious conservatism.

Directly after his loss, Ahok was forced to sit through another court hearing in order to listen to the prosecutors' demands on Thursday. This time, however, he could breathe a sigh of relief after prosecutors decided to drop blasphemy charges against him.

During the hearing, the prosecutors demanded the North Jakarta District Court sentence him to two years' probation if found guilty of violating Article 156 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on showing animosity toward others. This is a far cry from the five years' maximum imprisonment for blasphemy, as stipulated in Article 156a of the KUHP.

Should Ahok violate the probation, he should be sentenced to one year in prison, the prosecutors said. "We demand the judges rule two years' probation and one year of imprisonment if the probation is broken" prosecutor Ali Mukartono said.

Initially, the prosecutors built their case against Ahok on the grounds that he insulted Islam by quoting Surah Al Maidah 51, a Quranic verse often used by certain Muslim conservative political groups to urge Muslims to vote only for political candidates who share the same faith.

But on Thursday, they admitted they could not prove Ahok had insulted Islam as a whole, but only individual Muslims. Therefore, the prosecutors decided to withdraw their accusation that Ahok had violated Article 156a of the KUHP, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison upon conviction.

Furthermore, the prosecutors said Ahok had been cooperative during the legal process. Also, they added that the contributions he made to develop the capital during his service as governor were a mitigating factor.

However, the prosecutors said Ahok was still guilty of showing animosity toward Muslims who believed that Surah Al Maidah 51 instructed them not to choose non-Muslims as leaders.

The prosecutors argued since Al Maidah 51 had various interpretations, even among Muslims, Ahok was at fault because he acted as if he knew the correct understanding of the verse.

They claimed that when Ahok said Thousand Islands residents could be deceived by some of the interpretations of Surah Al Maidah 51, Ahok had not only insulted Muslims who had a different view to him, but also Thousand Islands residents, who are mostly Muslim.

"The defendant acted as if his interpretation is correct and said people who believe other interpretations were being tricked," prosecutor Ardito Muwardi said.

Nevertheless, Ahok was not the only one to blame in the case, the prosecutors said. They cited Buni Yani, now a hate-speech suspect, who uploaded an edited video of Ahok's speech to his Facebook account with a misleading transcription. That video led to public uproar and the governor's blasphemy charges, the prosecutors said.

Pedri Kasman, the secretary of Muhammadiyah's youth wing, who reported Ahok for blasphemy to the police, said he believed the prosecutors were biased. "This legal process was in vain as it has been interfered with by parties with power," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/21/prosecutors-spare-ahok-after-election-defeat.html

Trial is politically motivated, Ahok should be acquitted: Setara

Jakarta Globe - April 21, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta-based human rights group Setara Institute has called on the judges to acquit Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, arguing that the charge against him is politically motivated, the group said in a statement.

"The judges should rectify the actions of the police and state prosecutors by [acquitting] Ahok from the charge against him and clearing his name," Setara Institute deputy head, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, said in a statement released shortly after Ahok's court session on Thursday (20/04).

At the session, prosecutors addressed the court on sentence, suggesting that a two-year probation period is appropriate if the governor is convicted. In the event that the probation order is breached, a possible one-year jail term may be imposed, the prosecution added.

The prosecution reduced the blasphemy charge against the governor from Article 156a of the Criminal Code to Article 156, explaining that Ahok's criticism was directed at people, not the Koran. The latter carries a lighter maximum sentence and also no longer requires that the prosecution prove that Ahok "deliberately" committed the act, which would have been more difficult to prove.

Article 156 also has a wider scope, where the prosecution need only prove that the accused publicly expressed feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against one or more groups of the population of Indonesia. In this context, a group may be distinguished by race, country of origin, religion and descent.

Ahok had been facing blasphemy charges since November last year after saying during a speech on Pramuka Island that his political rivals have been quoting verse 51 of the Koran's Al-Maidah chapter to turn people against him.

"The reduction of the charge from Article 156a [to Article 156], has bolstered the views of various legal experts, religious figures, academics and nongovernmental activists [who argue] that the elements of blasphemy are difficult to prove," Bonar said.

Bonar added that accusing Ahok of blasphemy was merely an effort to satisfy certain politically motivated interests to hamper his chances in the gubernatorial election.

"It was more a move by law enforcers to satisfy the desire of a political mob to send Ahok to prison and to remove him from the Jakarta election by stigmatizing him as a 'blasphemer,'" Bonar said in the statement.

It is clear that the prosecution missed the mark, realizing that the evidence was limited and it was an uphill battle to prove that blasphemy was committed, Bonar said.

"It's obvious that the blasphemy trial against Ahok is just a move by law enforcers to further political interests, or at least, a move to let law enforcement become an instrument catering to the interest of street mobs," he said in the statement.

"By instead using Article 156 [of the Criminal Code], the foul play [that is going on] has become so obvious, as the scope of this article is wider compared to Article 156a. The prosecution missed their target," Bonar said.

Bonar also hopes that the judges will consider all factors when preparing the verdict.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/following-downgraded-charge-against-ahok-judges-should-free-him-setara-institute/

Downgrade of charges against Ahok good, but why was he prosecuted at

Jakarta Globe - April 21, 2017

Jakarta – The sentence demand made by prosecutors in Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial on Thursday (20/04) may be a relief for the incumbent Jakarta governor, but many are concerned about the way law enforcers in the country appear to bow to the demands of street mobs.

North Jakarta District Court prosecutors demanded two years probation with a possible one-year jail term for Ahok, downgrading the charge against the embattled governor, who had been facing blasphemy charges since November last year after quoting verse 51 of the Koran's Al-Maidah chapter during a speech on Pramuka Island in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district.

Police declared Ahok a suspect in November after more than 100,000 Muslims marched against the governor, who is a Christian of Chinese ethnicity.

Protesters demanded Ahok's immediate arrest, but police later decided against detention as investigators had mixed views of the case and the governor was only barred from leaving the country.

Thursday's sentence recommendation by prosecutors indicate that police did not follow due process in naming Ahok a blasphemy suspect, Jakarta-based human rights group, the Setara Institute, said.

"It was more a move by law enforcers to satisfy the desire of a political mob to send Ahok to prison and to remove him from the Jakarta election by stigmatizing him as a 'blasphemer,'" Setara Institute deputy head Bonar Tigor Naipospos said in a statement released shortly after Thursday's court session.

"It's obvious that the blasphemy trial against Ahok is just a move by law enforcers to further political interests, or at least, a move to let law enforcement become an instrument catering to the interest of street mobs," he said in the statement.

Bonar said the recommendation for a lighter sentence for Ahok also indicates that there has been legal confusion among prosecutors, and that the judges should therefore dismiss all charges. "It's better to free a thousand people than convict one innocent person," Bonar said.

Airlangga Pribadi Kusman, a lecturer in politics at Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, echoed Bonar Tigor's view, saying social tensions were expected to ease after the quick count results showed Ahok lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Wednesday.

He said there was no longer any need to pursue the charges against Ahok, the capital's first ethnic Chinese governor in the post-Suharto era.

"It is really obvious that there is political dimension to Ahok's blasphemy charge. Ahok-Djarot's rivals have used it as a 'political tool' to achieve their victory," Airlangga said.

"Since Ahok lost the election, there would no longer be social tensions and pressure from his rivals. On the other hand, Ahok's supporters also don't seem interested in pouring more gasoline on the current situation," the lecturer said.

Airlangga said the main concern in the long run is to prevent a repeat of this situation in other parts of Indonesia.

"Using religion for political gain can be seen as an alternative method for them to win elections by manufacturing blasphemy issues and hoaxes, which also happened during the 2014 presidential election," he said.

During Thursday's court session, prosecutors opted not to charge Ahok with Article 156a of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, explaining that his criticism was directed at people, not the Koran.

Prosecutors instead charged him with transgressing Article 156, which requires them to prove that Ahok publicly expressed feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against one or more population groups.

Ahok's slip of the tongue still left him with some problems, with prosecutors demanding that "if he commits any criminal offense, not necessarily blasphemy, he will be imprisoned for a year," Ismail, a law professor at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta, told the Jakarta Globe.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/downgrade-of-charges-against-ahok-good-but-why-was-he-prosecuted-at-all/

Anies seeks to mend ties

Jakarta Post - April 21, 2017

Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – Anies Baswedan, the presumptive winner of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, made a conciliatory gesture on Thursday by holding a meeting with defeated candidate and incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama at City Hall, following a bitterly contested election that divided the city along religious and racial lines.

Anies and Ahok agreed to have the meeting after the two politicians exchanged text messages on Wednesday shortly after pollsters projected that Anies would win the gubernatorial election.

Knowing that Ahok had to leave City Hall early for his blasphemy trial, Anies arrived for the meeting at 7.30 a.m., interrupting Ahok's regular meet-and-greet program with Jakartans.

Upon seeing Anies, Ahok cut short his meeting with the residents and moved to greet Anies and proceeded to escort him to the governor's mansion next to City Hall.

Anies said during the meeting, which lasted 30 minutes, he and Ahok discussed efforts to start a reconciliation process between supporters from their respective camps. "We all are Jakartans. Let bygones be bygones. Let's start a new chapter," Anies told reporters after the meeting.

Hours after balloting wrapped up on Wednesday, a number of research outfits projected that Anies and his running mate, millionaire Sandiaga Uno, would win the gubernatorial election by a wide margin.

Jakarta-based pollster Sjaiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SRMC) showed Anies securing 58.06 percent of the vote against Ahok's 41.94 percent.

After learning he was trailing by a double-digit margin, Ahok conceded defeat and pledged that he would pave the way for a smooth transition at City Hall.

On Thursday, one of issues highlighted during the meeting between Anies and Ahok was the 2018 city budget. Anies said an early discussion on the budget would be crucial in his effort to realize some of his campaign promises.

"If we don't discuss it now, I am afraid the programs we campaigned on to implement in 2018 will be put off until 2019 because the 2018 city budget has already been approved," Anies said.

Meanwhile, Ahok insisted that discussions on the 2018 city budget needed to wrap up soon, without waiting for Anies to take the reins of power in October.

He suggested that Anies send members of his team to discuss some of the new details of the budget with officials in the current administration. "We will include [some of the new details] into programs that need to be implemented immediately," Ahok said.

With regards to Anies' invitation to begin work on reconciliation, Ahok maintained that his supporters would accept the final election result. "I guarantee that my supporters will not stir up any problems," he added.

The Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) is expected to announce the final results of the election in early May.

On the campaign trail, Anies pledged he would halt some of Ahok's controversial policies, including the reclamation project along the city's northern coast as well as the eviction program aimed at widening some of the city's main rivers such as Ciliwung and Cipinang.

Ahok's decision to press ahead with the 2018 budget is likely aimed at safeguarding some of his signature projects that could be axed by Anies.

Responding to Anies' plan to halt the reclamation project, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the presumptive governor should not rush to execute the plan.

"There are new processes that need to be looked at. We will explain about this issue carefully. Maybe Pak Anies does not have complete information yet," Luhut told reporters at the State Palace on Thursday. Luhut said he was convinced that once Anies got a complete picture of the reclamation project, he would decide to reverse his stance.

There has been no official statement from the State Palace regarding Anies' victory.

Some analysts say Anies' victory in Jakarta deals a serious political blow to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who backed Ahok to be governor for the next five years as part of his strategy to push through some of his key infrastructure projects.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/21/anies-seeks-to-mend-ties.html

Jakarta voter turnout reaches 78 percent

Jakarta Post - April 21, 2017

Jakarta – Voter turnout in the second round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Wednesday reached 78 percent of the 7.2 million registered voters, surpassing the national General Elections Commission's (KPU) target of 77.5 percent.

The Jakarta chapter of the KPU noted that turnout had increased from the first round of the election, held on Feb. 15.

"Based on the commission's [assessment], turnout increased to 78 percent, which compares to 75.75 percent in the first round," KPU Jakarta head Sumarno said, as quoted by kompas.com. Sumarno added that the real count result was not the official result of the Jakarta election.

The count would be conducted in stages from the district to the provincial level and engage witnesses from the candidate team of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat as well as their rivals, Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, he said.

The current real count result shows that Anies and Sandiaga have garnered 57,95 percent of the vote, while Ahok and Djarot lag behind with only 42,05 percent. (cal)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/21/jakarta-voter-turnout-reaches-78-percent.html

Anies Baswedan poised to be next Indonesian governor of Jakarta after

Sydney Morning Herald - April 20, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – Anies Baswedan is poised to become the next governor of Jakarta in October after one of the most bitter and polarising elections in the history of Indonesia's nascent democracy.

Two hours after voting closed Mr Anies had an unassailable lead over the incumbent, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is ethnically Chinese and Christian, following a peaceful polling day.

The election has been portrayed as a test of Indonesia's much vaunted pluralism and an ominous presage of the role sectarian politics could play in the 2019 national election.

Mr Anies' victory is also a fillip for former army strongman Prabowo Subianto, whose Gerindra party endorsed Mr Anies and his multimillionaire running mate, Sandiaga Uno.

Mr Prabowo, who was defeated by Joko Widodo in the 2014 elections, has signalled he intends to re-stand for president in 2019.

On the eve of the election, Mr Anies compared the gubernatorial election to the Battle of Badr in 624 CE, considered a turning point in the Prophet Muhammad's struggle to establish Islam and defeat his pagan opponents.

"Tonight's meeting, heading towards the Badr war tomorrow, at the time the Prophet said that help from God will arrive if our intention to go to the war is to fight for the poor, to defend the oppressed," he was quoted saying in the media.

President Joko Widodo, who is an ally of Ahok but said he would remain impartial during the elections, urged Jakartans to willingly accept whomever was voted leader. "Political differences between us should not divide our unity because we must remember we are all brothers and sisters," he said while casting his ballot in Central Jakarta.

Mr Anies and Mr Sandiaga embraced after learning of the early count results, a sample of final results from polling stations, which are generally a reliable prediction of election outcomes. "We are committed to safeguard diversity and to fight for unity at the same time."

Mr Sandiaga said: "We are all friends. Jakarta is united. We will forget the months that have passed, we will look at Jakarta for the next five years."

A remarkably upbeat and philosophical Ahok congratulated his opponents but said they would wait for the formal result.

He said he hoped Mr Anies and Mr Sandiaga would complete the programs he had started. "We will forget all the problems we had during the campaign. Jakarta is the home for everybody." Ahok said God gave power and took power away.

Eight months ago Ahok's victory in the gubernatorial elections seemed assured. His brash, take-no-prisoners approach in City Hall made him some enemies including among those who were evicted or opposed the Jakarta Bay reclamation.

However he was widely admired for his tough stance on corruption and can-do attitude to flood mitigation, overhauling a stodgy bureaucracy and addressing Jakarta's traffic woes and polls found the majority were satisfied with his performance as governor.

But Ahok's destiny was forever changed last September when he told voters they had been deceived by opponents who used a scripture from the Koran – Al-Maidah – to argue Muslims should not be led by a non-Muslim.

The ill-advised comments were seized on by Ahok's opponents, including the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Ahok was put on trial for blasphemy amid mass rallies calling for his incarceration that threatened the political stability of the capital.

Mr Anies, a former university rector and education minister who had a reputation as a moderate Muslim, has been accused of running a dog-whistle campaign by controversially reaching out to hardline groups like the FPI.

Religion was omnipresent during the election campaign. Politics even infiltrated schools: Dilla Rosa, a 43-year-old Muslim housewife, told Fairfax Media she was disturbed when her Grade 5 son came home and said his religion teacher had told students they had to elect Muslim leaders.

"Politics was taught there – for elementary students it is not appropriate. The school wasn't even in Jakarta," said Ms Dilla, who voted for Ahok because he had "clear programs and real results".

Telling children how Muslims should vote "put pressure on them" if their families had different beliefs. "It was upsetting."

At 4am on voting day, Fairfax Media went to Al Azhar, a mosque in South Jakarta. This was where organisers behind Tasmaya Al-Maidah – an app that urged Muslims from outside Jakarta to uphold Islam by "guarding" polling booths – had held a press conference on Monday.

The police had banned the mass mobilisation but Tasmaya Al-Maidah committee member Gimy said they were powerless to prevent them. But the police conducted "sweeping" raids of buses on Jakarta's borders, and the 500 expected to assemble at Al Azhar were no-where in sight. About 30 people listened to a moderate sermon, during which the Imam prayed for a peaceful election.

Indonesia's police chief Tito Karnavian said the election had run smoothly with no major incidents. Isolated complaints by Ahok supporters of intimidation at polling booths were "misunderstandings", he said, that had been exaggerated by the media.

On Thursday, the embattled Ahok must meet his next Waterloo, when prosecutors make their sentence demand for his alleged blasphemy.

He faces being jailed for a maximum five years. However the sting will have been taken out of the court case and its attendant protests, which at times threatened political stability, following Wednesday's election loss.

– With Karuni Rompies and Amilia Rosa

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/anies-baswedan-poised-to-be-next-indonesian-governor-of-jakarta-after-bitter-contest-20170419-gvo2b2.html

Anies rides Islamist wave

Jakarta Post - April 20, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Safrin La Batu and Indra Budiari, Jakarta – Riding a wave of growing religious conservatism, former culture and education minister Anies Baswedan won the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Wednesday, beating incumbent Basuki Thahaja "Ahok" Purnama, a political candidate dogged by allegations of blasphemy while seeking reelection.

Results of quick counts conducted by a number of pollsters showed that Anies and his running mate Sandiaga Uno, nominated by the Gerindra Party and the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), had a comfortable lead over their rival Ahok and running mate Djarot Sjaiful Hidayat, backed by a coalition of major political parties including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Golkar Party, the NasDem Party and the United Development Party (PPP).

At least eight pollsters projected Anies had a double-digit lead over Ahok. Jakarta-based Pollster Sjaiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SRMC) showed that Anies got 58.06 percent of the vote, against Ahok's 41.94. Pollster Indo Barometer tallied similar results, showing that Ahok was trailing Anies by 17 percent.

Meanwhile, Charta Politika, another Jakarta-based pollster known to be close to Ahok's camp, also projected a win for Anies, who garnered 57.87 percent of the vote, while Ahok only secured 42.13 percent.

The Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) is expected to announce the official result from the balloting on May 1. Pollsters' projections showed the odds were stacked against Ahok soon after he won the first election round in February.

Despite public opinion surveys projecting Anies and Ahok in a statistical dead heat, the quick-count results showed that Ahok failed to expand his base. Ahok received 42.99 percent of the vote in the first round.

Anies, on the other hand, was able to bring in more votes, especially from supporters of Agus Yudhoyono Harimurti, who finished third in the first round with 17.02 percent of the vote. Anies and his running mate Sandiaga came in second in the first round with 39.95 percent of the vote.

Anies' strategy of crafting messages directed at Muslim groups has apparently paid off, with nearly all of Agus' supporters switching over to his side. In the first round, Agus devoted more resources to woo conservative Muslim voters, while Anies made attempts to appeal to the urban, young middle-income segment. Muslims make up around 78 percent of the more than 7.2 million registered voters in the city.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) political analyst Arya Fernandes said Anies and Sandiaga owed their success in the runoff election to Muslim voters who decided to throw their support behind the pair, mobilized by Muslim groups, including the hard-line Islam Defenders Front (FPI). "I think Anies-Sandiaga's victory cannot be disassociated from Muslims preferences," Arya told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Part of the blame for Ahok's defeat in the poll was the overconfidence of the parties in his coalition with their political machinery, Arya said. "Political parties in Ahok's coalition underestimated their rivals," Arya said.

Early on Wednesday, PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto expressed his optimism that Ahok could win the runoff election with at least 52 percent of the vote.

Soon after polls closed and pollsters began projecting a victory for Anies, Gerindra chief patron Prabowo Subianto said Anies' victory was owed much to the role played by Muslim clerics, whom he considered as having played greater roles in the election season, even more than professional politicians.

"Politicians always make too many calculations before declaring support, that's the difference between them and kyai [Muslim cleric]," Prabowo said, to the chanting of Allahuakbar (God is Great) from those who gathered at Gerindra headquarters in Ragunan, South Jakarta, on Wednesday.

Prabowo also called on his rivals to stop branding conservative clerics such as FPI leader Rizieq Shihab and Muslim People's Forum (FUI) leader Bachtiar Nasir as radicals who wanted to commit treason.

Leader of Anies' campaign team, Mardani Ali Sera, also praised Rizieq as an "important pillar" in Anies victory against Ahok.

Anies, however, said in his victory speech that he promised to begin reconciliation following a divisive and bitterly contested election. Anies said he and Sandiaga were prepared to take on the job as the leaders of a city home to people with various religious and ethnic backgrounds.

"I assure you that I will be a good leader not just for our voters, or just the Muslim population. Anies and Sandiaga will serve all Jakarta residents," he said.

Anies went on to praise Ahok and Djarot as two of the country's finest citizens. "We will continue to be friends. They are two of the best citizens who have contributed to the nation," he said.

In his concession speech, Ahok said he would work harder for the remainder of his term to pave the way for Anies' administration. "We still have six months. We will complete all our work and fulfill our promises. We hope Pak Anies and Pak Sandi will continue what we started," Ahok said.

[Haeril Halim and Calista Anggun Wijaya contribute to the story.]

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/20/anies-rides-islamist-wave.html

Anies celebrates victory with conservatives at Istiqlal Mosque

Jakarta Post - April 20, 2017

Jakarta – Anies Baswedan attended a gathering with conservative Muslim groups at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta on Wednesday evening to celebrate his victory in the gubernatorial election.

Rizieq Shihab of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), Bachtiar Nasir of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa (GNPF-MUI) and Ansufri Idrus Sambo of Tamasya Al Maidah (Al Maidah Tour) along with thousands of others welcomed Anies, who won the election, according to quick counts.

"This day is a historical moment, as it marks the beginning of an era [in the capital]," Anies said in his speech during the gathering, which was also attended by Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto and House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon.

Anies added that he was grateful that Muslims in Jakarta could send a peaceful message to the world. He said the responsibility to take care of the capital was "part of everyone's struggle from now."

According to a quick count conducted by Kompas, Anies and his running mate, Sandiaga Uno, emerged victorious in the race, as the pair garnered 58 percent of the vote. The incumbent pair of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat trailed behind with 42. (kuk/jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/20/anies-celebrates-victory-with-conservatives-at-istiqlal-mosque.html

Jakarta's outgoing Governor Ahok may escape jail for 'blasphemy'

Sydney Morning Herald - April 20, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – Jakarta's embattled Christian and ethnically Chinese governor could escape being jailed for blasphemy after prosecutors only requested he serve two years' probation for allegedly insulting Islam.

A day after Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was decisively defeated in a bitterly sectarian gubernatorial election by former education minister Anies Baswedan, he was forced to front the blasphemy trial that derailed his electability.

Protesters outside the court erupted angrily when they learnt Ahok could escape prison for telling fishermen they had been deceived into not voting for him by his political opponents.

Prior to the alleged blasphemy, some Islamic groups had urged voters not to re-elect Ahok, citing verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran, al-Maida, which some interpret as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim

The provocative comments were opportunistically seized upon by Ahok's opponents and mass rallies that threatened the political stability of Jakarta were staged – spearheaded by radical Islamists – demanding that Ahok be incarcerated and even lynched.

Ahok, who assumed the role of governor in 2014 when Joko Widodo was elected president, had been considered a shoo-in to win the gubernatorial elections until his slip up last September. Initial polls reflected wide support for his effective governance of the city and can-do attitude.

This was acknowledged by the prosecutors who said their sentencing request reflected that Ahok had been involved in the development of the city.

The maximum jail sentence for article 156 of the blasphemy act is four years' jail but prosecutors requested he be given two years on probation with a one year jail sentence if he reoffended. They said Ahok had created uneasiness in the community and his comments caused "misunderstandings between groups in Indonesia".

An editorial in the Jakarta Post on the eve of the election described the campaign as "the dirtiest, most polarising and most divisive the nation has ever seen", saying the use of religion and race had been a "troubling aspect".

Analyst Charlotte Setijadi from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Sydney said the most successful and dangerous aspect of the anti-Ahok campaign had been the "reductionist and divisive rhetoric – that a vote for Ahok was a vote against Islam".

"Likewise the Jakarta election has been widely portrayed and analysed as an ideological battle between Islamic piety and pluralism. Policies and track record count for little," she said.

Ahok's lawyer, Wayan Sudirta, said the fact prosecutors only requested probation meant they were unsure of his guilt.

Mr Anies, who won about 58 per cent of the vote according to quick count surveys, had campaigned on education, no-deposit home loans, and opposition to Ahok's forced evictions for flood mitigation and reclamation of Jakarta Bay.

However he was also accused of a dog-whistle campaign that saw him courting extremist groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, which had long called for Ahok to be ousted from power.

On the eve of the election, Mr Anies compared the gubernatorial election to the Battle of Badr in 624 CE, considered a turning point in the Prophet Muhammad's struggle to establish Islam and defeat his pagan opponents.

However both Mr Anies and Ahok called for unity after the election result, with Mr Anies pledging to be a good leader not just for Muslims and his voters but the whole of Jakarta.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/jakartas-outgoing-governor-ahok-may-escape-jail-for-blasphemy-20170420-gvosji.html

Shares of firms controlled by Sandiaga, Hary Tanoe rise after election

Jakarta Post - April 20, 2017

Anton Hermansyah, Jakarta – Shares of Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno's PT Adaro Energy and PT Saratoga Investama Sedaya as well as Hary Tanoesoedibjo's PT Media Nusantara Citra (MNC) were among the top gainers on Thursday morning.

Saratoga shares rose by 6.39 percent to Rp 3,830 (29 US cents), while Adaro's price increased by 1.63 percent to Rp 1,865 per share. Meanwhile, MNC shares increased by 1.16 percent to Rp 1,740. Another company controlled by Hary Tanoe, PT Global Mediacom, recorded a 0.98 percent gain.

Thursday's trading session at the Indonesia Stock Exchange comes a day after the Jakarta gubernatorial election, with quick counts indicating that Anies Rasyid Baswedan and Sandiaga beat the incumbents, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purmana and Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

The winning pair of Anies-Sandiaga is backed by the Gerindra Party and Hary Tanoesoedibjo's United Indonesia Party (Perindo).

The Jakarta Composite Index (JCI) itself dropped 0.1 percent to 5,600.83 points in the first trading session, after trading between 5,600.14 and 5,619.36.

Trade was dominated by domestic investors, who conducted Rp 3.6 trillion in sell transactions and Rp 2.5 trillion in buy transactions. Meanwhile, there were Rp 2.9 trillion in buy transactions by foreign investors and Rp 1.8 trillion in sell transactions. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/20/shares-of-firms-controlled-by-sandiaga-hary-tanoe-rise-after-election.html

Ahok-Djarot wins in FPI stronghold

Jakarta Post - April 19, 2017

Jakarta – Incumbent Jakarta governor and deputy governor candidates Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat won the majority vote at polling station TPS 17 in Petamburan, the home base of conservative Muslim group Islam Defenders Front (FPI) in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, during Wednesday's gubernatorial runoff election.

Ahok-Djarot took a slight lead over their rivals Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno in the same polling station where FPI leader Rizieq Shihab cast his vote, kompas.com reported.

The incumbent pair received 286 of the total 547 ballots, of which 11 were declared invalid. "Therefore, 250 votes go to candidate pair number three [Anies-Sandiaga]," said Heri, head of Petamburan Polling Station Committee (KPPS).

It was Ahok-Djarot's second win at the FPI headquarters. In the first round of the election on Feb. 15, the pair won with 279 votes while Anies-Sandiaga received 212. Agus Yudhoyono and Sylviana Murni ranked third with only 38 votes.

As of 4 p.m. on Wednesday, with 92.75 percent of the total vote counted, Anies and Sandiaga received 58 percent of the vote, taking a lead over Ahok-Djarot, who garnered 41 percent of the vote, according to quick count conducted by Kompas. (afr/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/19/ahok-djarot-wins-in-fpi-stronghold.html

If election is just and fair, there will be no problem: Rizieq

Jakarta Post - April 19, 2017

Jakarta – Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab cast his vote with his family at polling station 17 in the Bethel Church parking lot in Petamburan, Central Jakarta.

As the leader of FPI, a hard-line group with a track record of religious-related violence, Rizieq has long been voicing his opposition to Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, lately accusing him of blasphemy.

After voting, Rizieq said that he hoped the election would be held fairly and transparently so that the results did not lead to problems. "If the election is just and fair, God willing, the outcome will not cause problems," he said as quoted by kompas.com on Wednesday.

But if it is not held in a fair manner, there will be problems in the future, Rizieq added. "But if it is held without honesty and fairness, even with real fraud, it could create problems," he said.

While casting his vote, Rizieq was guarded by several members of the Laskar FPI. He immediately left the voting station afterwards. (dis) Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/19/if-election-is-just-and-fair-there-will-be-no-problem-rizieq.html

No one shows up to 'Al Maidah Picnic': Jakarta police

Jakarta Globe - April 19, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta Police said there have been no reports of mass mobilization by Wednesday morning (19/04), the day when Jakartans are set to go to the ballot box to elect a new governor.

More than 60,000 police officers have been deployed to secure around 13,000 poling stations across the capital after several Muslim groups said they were planning an "Al-Maidah Picnic" in which groups of people will be sent to voting stations to monitor the election. Police have banned the mass gathering fearing it will intimidate Jakarta voters.

"As of this time [Wednesday morning], we've received no reports of mass mobilization," Jakarta Police spokesman Chief Comr. Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono said at Jakarta Police headquarters. The police have also sent officers to several vital objects in the capital, including the homes of the governor and deputy governor candidates, major houses of worship and a number of spots where clashes between supporters may occur, he added.

"We have officers on motorcycles to monitor one polling station to the next in each urban community [kelurahan]. We also have officers in police cars patrolling the subdistricts [kecamatan]," Argo said.

Incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama is facing off against former education minister Anies Baswedan in the runoff election after neither of them managed to win more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round election on Feb. 15.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/al-maidah-picnic-no-go/

Intimidation, vote-buying reported in Jakarta election runoff

Jakarta Post - April 19, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Indra Budiari and Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – Voters are expected to head to the polls on Wednesday in the second round of the gubernatorial election amid heightened sectarian tension that has been simmering since campaigning started late last year.

Analysts have predicted voter turnout will likely be much higher than the 77.1 percent reported by the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) in the first round of the election in February.

With pollsters showing that incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Thahaja Purnama and former culture and education minister Anies Baswedan are in a statistical dead heat, supporters from both candidates are expected to show up in droves at polling stations, hoping to deliver a win for their preferred ticket.

The final result from the first round of the election on Feb. 15 showed that Ahok got 42.91 percent of the vote, while Anies received 40.05 percent. Third candidate Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono got 17.05 percent of the vote.

Anies appeared to have gained momentum and seemed likely to catch up with Ahok over the last few weeks. Four out of five surveys released last week showed Anies was in the lead, albeit by a small margin.

With a message tailored to woo voters from Muslim groups, Anies attracted voters who in the first round of the election voted for Agus, who also reached out to Muslim voters.

Those who support Ahok, meanwhile, have diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds as well as social status, mostly the middle-income segment, said Sirajuddin Abbas, program director of the Jakartabased pollster, Sjaiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC).

"In terms of social class, Ahok [and his running mate Djarot Sjaiful Hidayat] have won support from people with at least a senior high school diploma with an income above the UMR [regional minimum wage]," Sirajuddin told The Jakarta Post. Jakarta's minimum wage is Rp 3.35 million (US$251.8) per month.

Ahok's reputation has taken a hit on account of policies deemed as not pro-people, such as evictions and the reclamation projects, which activists said benefitted only the business community.

Anies and his running mate Sandiaga Uno have attacked Ahok by capitalizing on the poor's frustration over Ahok's eviction policy, with efforts including the former minister touring areas targeted by Ahok's eviction policy.

Other than the eviction issue, sectarianism has also taken center stage in the election, especially after Ahok was filmed making a statement that some Muslim organizations deemed as blasphemous.

Following protests from conservative Muslim groups, prosecutors charged Ahok with blasphemy and he is standing trial for allegedly violating articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy, which carry a maximum prison sentence of four and five years.

The attacks on Ahok, who is a Christian of Chinese descent, intensified as the city headed toward the first round of election in February, with members of conservative Muslim groups attacking his supporters.

In recent weeks, banners popped up in dozens of mosques in Jakarta, calling for Muslims not to facilitate the proper burial of fellow Muslims who supported Ahok in the election.

The campaign against Ahok reached a new height with conservative Muslim groups planning to deploy their members to descend on polling stations on election day in a movement called Tamasya Al-Maidah (Al-Maidah Tour), prompting the National Police to dispatch more than 60,000 personnel to secure voting.

On Tuesday, Anies' camp called on his supporters to refrain from resorting to violence and urged them not to submit to provocation or intimidation.

Spokesperson for Anies camp, former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) commissioner Bambang Widjojanto, called on Anies' supporters to pray for a victory for their candidate, especially amid rumors of vote-buying.

Bambang also said Anies' supporters should keep a close eye on polling stations in their neighborhoods and move to file a report and collect evidence if they suspected foul play had taken place. "Collect evidence before you take these violators to the law enforcement agencies" he said on Wednesday.

Ahok's campaign team said it expected a fair and peaceful election despite plans from the Al Maidah Tour and suspicions that KPU Jakarta would not remain neutral.

Hasto Kristiyanto, secretarygeneral of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said his camp would rely on the police to safeguard voting.

"We fully support what has been done by the authorities to safeguard the election process and prevent any form of intimidation. Therefore, we hope residents can exercise their voting rights," Hasto said.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Qodari, executive director of Jakarta pollster Indo Barometer, said the election could foretell the country's future.

"[If things go wrong] what happens in Jakarta can serve as an ugly precedent for the simultaneous regional elections in 2018 and the presidential election in 2019," he said.

Polling day in the fierce and noisy Jakarta gubernatorial election has arrived and the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) has warned voters and election organizers to be very careful about potential violations, given the growing number of reports of smear campaigns and vote-buying attempts.

Since last week, Bawaslu has received 41 reports of violations, nine of which are still under investigation by the election integrated law enforcement center (Sentra Gakkumdu). The violations related to both incumbent candidate pair Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Syaiful Hidayat and the rival Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno ticket.

Bawaslu commissioner Fritz Edward Siregar claimed a Bawaslu team caught red-handed several groups of people attempting to distribute sembako (staple foods), which the agency believed was part of efforts to woo voters to vote for a certain ticket.

But the agency has indicated violations could still be rampant on voting day, as a result of Polling Station Working Committees (KPPS) officials' lack of professionalism and partisanship, as well as poorly informed voters. Election watchdogs are vigilant over potential vote-buying in the form of bribery prior to voting, locally known as serangan fajar, or dawn attacks.

Intimidation by certain groups could also occur, he added. "If voters feel intimidated, feel free to report to Bawaslu or the police immediately," he added.

Information regarding the C6 form, which sets out where and when a voter should vote, for example, can be manipulated to bar voters from exercising their voting rights. "The forms are not a requirement for a person to be able to vote. As long as the voters are listed on the DPT [final voter list], they only need to show their IDs to the KPPS," Fritz said.

In the first round, KPPS officials in many polling stations did not allow voters to vote because they did not bring their C6 forms, while voters complained they did not receive the forms beforehand.

The 2016 Regional Election Law stipulates that election violations carry between 12 and 72 months in prison.

Indonesia Corruption Watch researcher Donal Fariz said many people still regard the sembako as sedekah (alms-giving). "Vote-buying is not sedekah, it's a crime. People should understand that they can be sanctioned [for accepting bribes]," he said.

The General Elections Commission (KPU), meanwhile, has warned all KPPS officials to fully understand the voting mechanism. "For example, it is only those who come after 1 p.m. that are not allowed to vote. This is crucial because it can cause misunderstandings," KPU commissioner Ilham Saputra said.

Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) director Titi Anggraini said members of civil society groups would help monitor the voting. "The organizers have limitations in terms of human resources and information, thus [independent observers] can help monitor and report violations. We'll also continue monitoring after voting finishes," Titi said.

Around 13,034 polling stations will operate across the city for the runoff election, 11 more than the first round given the increase in the number of voters according to the latest DPT.

Both camps have reported violations. The Anies-Sandiaga camp described the vote-buying phenomenon as "staple food politicization," requesting Bawaslu take firm measures.

"We share a similar opinion with [Ahok's camp] that vote buying could severely damage our democracy," Yupen Hadi from Anies-Sandiaga team said. The team claimed they had found a large number of illegal voters in the first round and warned that similar instances could reoccur.

The Ahok-Djarot camp have said they will deploy 78,000 witnesses to all polling stations in a bid to prevent fraud and intimidation. Team spokesman I Gusti Putu Artha said some would observe the balloting process inside the stations while others would stand by outside.

The witnesses, who are members of political parties backing Ahok-Djarot, will be facilitated by 20 hotline numbers and two mobile applications called "Mata Saksi" and "Ninja Badja" to report their findings.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/19/intimidation-vote-buying-reported-in-jakarta-election-runoff.html

Vehicles searched to prevent mass mobilization on Jakarta election day

Jakarta Post - April 18, 2017

Ganug Nugroho Adi, Karanganyar, Central Java – The Karanganyar Police in Central Java staged on Tuesday the unannounced examination of vehicles bound for Jakarta to prevent any mass mobilization during Wednesday's gubernatorial runoff election in the country's capital.

The search was conducted for one hour in the morning, at noon and in the afternoon in several locations along the Karanganyar-Solo highway.

Police personnel stopped and examined all public transportation, private cars and trucks during the raid. They examined not only driving licenses but also the identities of passengers and their belongings. The police also asked their travel destinations and purposes.

In the raid, the police informed the travelers about the National Police chief's directive, which bans any parties staging a mass mobilization during Jakarta's election day. Fifteen minibuses, 10 private cars and three buses were ordered to turn back.

"A directive issued by the Elections Supervisory Agency [Bawaslu], the Jakarta General Elections Commission [KPU], and the Jakarta Police has stated the gubernatorial election is the concern of Jakarta voters only. Hence, with regard to any mass mobilization, we will order them to return home. Moreover, the National Police chief [Gen. Tito Karnavian] himself has issued such an order," said Karanganyar Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ade Safri Simanjuntak.

During the operation, the police randomly examined goods carried by trucks. Ade said the search was aimed at preventing the delivery of dangerous materials, which might affect security.

"There's no need for people from other areas to directly witness the election. Mass mobilization will only create an unconducive situation," said Ade. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/18/vehicles-searched-to-prevent-mass-mobilization-on-jakarta-election-day.html

Religion politicised as tense Jakarta election goes down to the wire

Sydney Morning Herald - April 18, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – Vote for the Muslim candidate in the Jakarta gubernatorial election on Wednesday, according to the meme shared endlessly on Facebook, and you are guaranteed entry to heaven.

It's a spoof – typical of Indonesians' humour and irreverence on social media – but it demonstrates the extent to which religion has become politicised in the fiercest and most heavily guarded election in the capital's history.

The Christian and ethnically Chinese incumbent Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is simultaneously on trial for allegedly insulting Islam, will face off against his Muslim rival Anies Baswedan, a former education and culture minister.

The heaven meme satirises some of the ugly sectarianism that has marred the election campaign. Banners have been erected throughout the capital urging voters not to elect a kafir (unbeliever) and even threatening to deny burial rites to those who vote for Ahok.

The election is too close to call, with polls pointing to a dead heat. Four out of five polls show Anies ahead by a whisker, although the margin was as slim as 0.8 per cent in the respected Indikator Politik Indonesia.

Some 62,000 police, military and civil officers will be deployed on election day and Jakarta police have banned the mass mobilisation of people from outside the capital amid fears of instability regardless of the election outcome.

This is in response to an app – since removed from the Google Play store – which called on people who live outside Jakarta to "guard" polling booths to "defend Islam action". At least 100,000 people reportedly registered with the Tamasya al-Maidah app. On Tuesday armed police conducted "sweeping" raids on buses at Jakarta's borders to stop them entering the capital.

Both Anies and Ahok's tickets have wooed the conservative and moderate Muslim vote ahead of the second round of elections. In particular, they are fighting for the 17 per cent of the vote previously won by Agus Yudhoyono, who was knocked out in the first round

"The contest over policies and programs has been overshadowed by the clamour of promises wrapped in religious sentiment," laments the editorial in Tempo magazine on election eve. "Whoever wins will realise that religion issues took them to the top."

Anies – a Muslim intellectual who once cultivated a reputation as a pluralist – has not personally engaged in crude attacks on Ahok, according to Australian National University (ANU) Professor Edward Aspinall.

"He has instead run a dog-whistle campaign signalling his Muslim credentials and reaching out to extremist groups like the Islamic Defenders Front."

This is an allegation Anies' running mate, multimillionaire Sandiaga Uno, strongly rejects. On the day of Anies' now infamous visit to the Islamic Defenders Front's HQ, Sandiaga said he had met with church pastors, something not reported in the media.

"Of course we have to have open dialogues with the very far right and very far left," Sandiaga said. "For me it is not about race or religion, for me it is about providing good jobs, quality education."

Sandiaga decried the "hoax", circulated via the Whatsapp messaging app, that he and Anies would implement sharia law in Jakarta if elected. "Such a bad job of hoax and fake news they cannot even forge my signature correctly."

However Sandiaga openly campaigned on the need for Jakarta to attract sharia funds and proposed "sharia-compliant" night entertainment, such as alcohol-free concerts.

Ahok's campaign team rejigged its campaign strategy after an analysis of the first election showed the ticket had not connected with Muslim voters despite programs such as building mosques and sending mosque caretakers to Mecca.

Campaign team official Tubagus Hasan Syadzili said it had not been widely communicated in the first round that Ahok's running mate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, was a devout Muslim.

This time the team talked up Djarot's Muslim identity. It was pointed out he had made the Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca). He was photographed wearing the traditional peci hat for the second round ballot papers and attended Koran reading sessions at mosques.

"Visiting mosques is an effort to explain to Muslim voters that electing Jakarta leaders is not about electing religious leaders so there should not have been any theological barrier for them to exercise their right as citizens," Tubagus told Fairfax Media.

Islamic parties United Development Party (PPP) and the National Awakening Party (PKB) have now endorsed Ahok.

"Ahok is indeed now within striking distance," says ANU Associate Professor Marcus Mietzner, who says this is partly a result of the support of PPP and PKB.

"Good debate performances, while Anies boycotted one and appeared excessively aggressive in another, also helped Ahok. But it is important to remember that Anies remains the favourite."

The youth arm of Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, has up to 10,000 members on standby to provide security in Jakarta on election day if police request assistance.

"We don't want voters not to be able to vote because they are intimidated by people quoting a Koran verse," said GP Ansor secretary Dendy Zuhairil Finsa. "We appeal to Jakarta voters, that they should vote with their conscience, without pressure from anyone."

– with Karuni Rompies and Amilia Rosa

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/religion-politicised-as-tense-jakarta-election-goes-down-to-the-wire-20170418-gvn2in.html

Tycoon backs opponent, looks to oust Ahok in Jakarta elections

Business Times - April 18, 2017

Jakarta (Bloomberg) – Indonesian tycoon Sandiaga Uno will find out on Wednesday if his bid to take down a key ally of President Joko Widodo proved successful.

Mr Uno's quest started in 2015, when the investor received the blessing of former general Prabowo Subianto to run a campaign for Jakarta governor. Prabowo had recently lost the presidential vote to Widodo, known popularly as Jokowi, and sought to regroup by wounding him politically in Indonesia's capital.

That was no easy task. Incumbent Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Jokowi's former deputy known as Ahok, had racked up accomplishments. Investors saw the 50-year-old as working in hand in hand with Jokowi to streamline the bureaucracy, tackle corruption and improve the city's infrastructure.

"Looking at Jakarta now, with a rock star governor, very Superman, what can I offer?" Mr Uno, 47, told Mr Prabowo, 65, back in 2015, recalling the conversation to a group of foreign reporters last week.

Fast forward more than a year, and Mr Prabowo's camp is on the verge of victory. Mr Uno recruited Anies Baswedan to lead the ticket, and the pair are neck-and-neck with Ahok in polls heading into Wednesday's run-off vote. A win would boost Mr Prabowo as he weighs a run against Jokowi, 55, in 2019.

"The Jakarta governorship is widely seen as a litmus test for winning the presidency," said Sunny Yoon, an investment adviser from Gordian Knot Advisory. "At the end the day, it would be a vote of confidence for Prabowo's political gravitas and relevance as a contender for the presidency in 2019. On the flipside it would put President Jokowi on the defensive."

Mr Uno made his fortune with Saratoga Investama Sedaya Tbk, an investment holding company he co-founded almost 20 years ago in the wake of the Asian financial crisis. He said last week that he spent 80 billion rupiah (S$8.4 million) of his own money on the campaign.

The race got off to a rocky start. In late September, Mr Uno went to Mr Prabowo's house to discuss their next move after plans to run with Agus Yudhoyono – the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – fell through.

"I had to scramble," Mr Uno said in an interview at his home in Jakarta. With time running out, Mr Uno and Mr Prabowo held several meetings with Mr Baswedan, 47, a former education minister who was removed by Jokowi last year.

"We agreed at 4am in the morning," Mr Uno said. "Then we took Friday prayer together, and we leaked the news out." Mr Uno, who masterminded a strategy on the back of surveys and data from focus groups, said he had approached the election the same way he had his business career.

The pair were boosted soon afterward after Islamic groups accused Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, of insulting Islam in a speech last year. He was later tried for blasphemy, and prosecutors are expected to recommend a sentence at a hearing the day after the election. A verdict may come next month.

Mr Baswedan drew fire in December after giving a speech to the Islamic Defenders Front, which led street protests against the governor. The controversy hurt Ahok enough to deny him 50 per cent of the vote in February, forcing a runoff with Mr Baswedan after he came in second over Yudhoyono.

"They are dog whistling," said Tobias Basuki, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, referring to Mr Baswedan and Mr Uno. "They are playing the religion card, and quite explicitly at times." Both Mr Uno and Mr Baswedan have denied stoking religious tensions.

"For me it's not about race and religion," Mr Uno said. "For me it's about providing good jobs and quality education and making sure it's affordable for Jakarta, that the cost of living is within reach for average Jakarta people."

As tensions reached a boiling point in November, Mr Prabowo met Jokowi at the presidential palace. The rivals agreed to maintain the diversity of Indonesia, according to the Jakarta Post.

Lately, Mr Baswedan and Mr Uno have sought to reassure investors they are focused on working in cohesion with the central government. They've had kind words for the president, promising to join together to boost growth in South-east Asia's biggest economy.

"We will be working hand in hand," Mr Baswedan said in an interview Friday. "I've had experience working with the president and it was positive and we'll continue that positive relationship." Mr Uno added: "Our mandate is to support Jokowi and to secure Jokowi up until 2019." What happens then is unclear. While Mr Prabowo hasn't ruled out a run in 2019, he doesn't want to talk about the presidential race "until the right time," Mr Uno said. Mr Prabowo's Gerindra party is a top Indonesia opposition party.

"This is not about Prabowo, this not about Jokowi, this is not about national politics," Mr Uno said.

Even so, with allies running Jakarta, Mr Prabowo will be able to thwart some of Jokowi's policies, particularly on infrastructure, according to Mr Basuki from CSIS.

"Prabowo still stands a good chance" in the 2019 election, he said. "So definitely there is going to be a lot of conflicts of interest if the capital is controlled by the opposition."

Source: http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/tycoon-backs-opponent-looks-to-oust-ahok-in-jakarta-elections

Gubernatorial campaigns failed voters with focus on religious, ethnic

Jakarta Globe - April 18, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta gubernatorial election should be steeped in a discourse on varied ideas rather than a "conflict of morals," a sociologist said recently, amid heightening religious and ethnic sentiments in the capital.

Concern over such tensions, sparked by blasphemy accusations against incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama by Muslim hardliners, have reemerged as residents prepare to vote on Wednesday (19/04).

Jakarta State University (UNJ) sociologist Robertus Robet believes highly charged religious and ethnic sentiments are to some extent unavoidable in Indonesian elections, though the dominant role they have played in the gubernatorial race is something new to power politics in the country.

The outsize role of these sentiments is ultimately counterproductive to development in Jakarta, a city of more than 10 million residents who regularly face much more serious issues, including crippling floods and perennial traffic congestion, the researcher said.

"We should keep in mind the core issues most important to Jakarta residents, namely the lack of public infrastructure, widespread poverty, deficient urban planning and harmful environmental practices," Robertus told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.

"With the limited time left before voting day, the candidate pairs should discuss policy proposals for the city's development.

"This conflict of morals being played out before the public has narrowed options for concerned residents. The social aspirations of Jakarta residents have disappeared recently, suppressed by a much more engrossing discourse on religion and power that have defined the run-up to this election."

The run-up to the Jakarta gubernatorial election has seen mass protests by Muslim hardliners demanding the resignation of Ahok, who is currently on trial for blasphemy related to a speech he made last year warning against the use of the Koran in political campaigns.

Ahok and his running mate, Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, will face off against former education minister Anies Baswedan and businessman Sandiaga Uno, after neither candidate pair managed to secure more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round on Feb. 15.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/gubernatorial-campaigns-failed-voters-with-focus-on-religious-ethnic-discourse-academic/

Muslim leaders join call for peaceful poll

Jakarta Post - April 18, 2017

Haeril Halim and Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – With sectarian tension running high in the run-up to the Jakarta gubernatorial runoff election, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gathered on Monday top security and intelligence officials for a meeting to discuss an extensive security measure that would include the deployment of more than 60,000 security personnel in the capital.

In another move to ease political tension, Jokowi held a meeting on Monday with Islamic leaders and senior Muslim clerics, urging them to promote unity ahead of election day on Wednesday, when Jakarta voters will choose between incumbent pair Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat and rivals Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno.

In an apparent gesture to show that his government would handle the election-related security problems seriously, Jokowi made a choreographed appearance on the veranda of the State Palace together with Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto, State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Gen. Budi Gunawan, National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gatot Nurmantyo.

Jokowi said when voters exercised their political rights on Wednesday they should be able to do so without facing intimidation from any parties.

"All residents of Jakarta have to be able to vote freely without any intimidation. I have instructed the TNI and National Police to ensure safety on voting day," Jokowi told reporters on Monday.

The President said the TNI and police personnel would guard all polling stations on Wednesday and would crack down on any efforts to intimidate voters.

Speaking after Jokowi, Wiranto urged voters to exercise their rights independently and not be swayed by the results of public opinion polls, saying that pollsters could be biased.

"We encourage people to not be influenced by survey results that claim to present the truth," Wiranto said.

Four out of five surveys released last week showed Anies in the lead, albeit with small margins, with a recent survey by Indikator Politik Indonesia showing the margin to be a razor thin 0.8 percent.

Following his meeting with the top security officials, Jokowi held a meeting with a number of Muslim clerics at the State Palace, during which the President asked for their help to ease tension ahead of election day.

Among the Muslim clerics at the meeting were Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Maruf Amin, former Constitutional Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie, former court justices Hamdan Zoelva and Mahfud MD and popular Muslim preachers Arifin Ilham and Yusuf Mansur.

Speaking after the meeting, Maruf said the Muslim clerics had agreed to help reduce tension ahead of voting day by urging supporters of both candidates to not gather around polling stations, as such a move could be seen as an effort to intimidate voters.

"The President asked us to help keep the situation peaceful in Jakarta so that the country could remain united. There shouldn't be any efforts to mobilize people to Jakarta," Maruf said.

A number of Islamic groups were reportedly planning to conduct the Tamasya Al-Maidah (AlMaidah Tour), a movement that encouraged large numbers of people, including those from outside Jakarta, to flood the capital and "guard" polling stations. Police have said they would crack down on any efforts to mobilize people on election day.

Separately, leaders from interfaith groups also called for a peaceful election. Joining the call were leaders from the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Indonesia Bishops Conference (KWI), the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), the Nichiren Shoshu Indonesia (NSI), the Indonesian Parisada Hindu Council (PHDI) and the Confucian Supreme Council of Indonesia (Matakin).

During the interfaith meeting, leaders from the organizations called for calm and urged candidates and their supporters to accept the outcome of the election.

"We need to remain calm, resolute and clearheaded in dealing with the situation. We must support the government's efforts in handling the runoff election. We must also safeguard the unity of the nation," representatives of each organization said in a joint statement made at the NU headquarters in Central Jakarta.

NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj said he denounced the Al-Maidah Tour. "That is unnecessary. We already have election bodies that organize and supervise the elections. We also have witnesses dispatched by both candidates. Let's just trust them," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/18/muslim-leaders-join-call-for-peaceful-poll.html

After debate Ahok's electability increases: Observer

Jakarta Globe - April 18, 2017

Jakarta – Pollsters differ on how the gubernatorial vote in Jakarta will split on Wednesday (19/04), some are in favor of the incumbents, Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Deputy Governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, while some suggest that Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno will secure the win.

After last week's televised gubernatorial debate, however, Ahok-Djarot's electability has been on the increase, according to political observer Ray Rangkuti of Lingkar Madani civil society watchdog.

"By the end [of the debate] Ahok-Djarot's performance improved and the pair's electability increased, reaching that of Anies-Sandiaga," Ray said on Monday.

According to him, Anies and Sandiaga have been too busy catering to right-wing religious groups that only recently they became aware of the importance of reaching to more nationalist voters.

"Their electability remains constant at 47 percent, while the incumbents, after an earlier drop, have already reached 46 percent, which continues to grow due to satisfaction with their performance," Ray said.

The candidates have the same chance of winning the poll, so everything will depend on the undecided voters.

"Jakarta residents, especially the well-educated ones, have not been influenced by the sensitive religious and racial issues. They are rational, that's why Anies's and Sandiaga's electability is not increasing," Roy said.

Ahok, on the other hand, has been gaining more popularity among members of Muslim groups such as the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and its youth wing Ansor.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/debate-ahoks-electability-increases-observer/

2,400 military personnel readied to secure Jakarta runoff election

Jakarta Post - April 18, 2017

Jakarta – As many as 2,400 Indonesian Military personnel from the Jakarta Military District Command (Kodam Jaya) and the West Java and Banten Military District Command (Kodam Siliwangi) arrived in West Jakarta on Monday afternoon to help secure the April 19 runoff election. The soldiers are being prepared as a last resort and will only be deployed if an emergency situation develops as residents cast their votes in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

The military personnel gathered at Cendrawasih Stadium in Cengkareng, West Jakarta, to receive directives from West Jakarta Military District Command (Kodim) commander Lt.Col. Wahyu Yudhayana.

"This [deployment] shows that the state is present and able to guarantee the security of its citizens," Wahyu said as quoted by wartakota.tribunnews.com during his speech to welcome the personnel.

He further said during election day, half the personnel would be stationed in Kalideres, West Jakarta, while the rest would remain at Cendrawasih Stadium. "The TNI personnel will work in accordance with the security level and on the police's request," he said.

Wahyu asserted that the military's presence was not intended to scare the citizens but to make them feel safe instead. (dea/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/18/2400-military-personnel-readied-to-secure-jakarta-runoff-election.html

Ahok denies accusation of vote buying

Jakarta Post - April 18, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has refuted an accusation that he had distributed staple food packages across Jakarta in an attempt to buy votes from residents to win the runoff election scheduled for Wednesday.

The incumbent gubernatorial candidate said since he started his political career, he had never engaged in vote-buying practices by distributing staple food to residents.

"I don't know about [the staple food distribution]. If you look at my political career, you'll see that I have never liked basic commodity distribution tactics like this," he said, as quoted by tribunnews.com.

Ahok added that a better strategy for him to win the election was to raise public awareness on the various programs he had carried out during his tenure as Jakarta governor.

As reported earlier, although the gubernatorial runoff election campaign has entered its cooling-off period, the campaign teams of Ahok and his rival, Anies Baswedan, reported each other to the city's Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu Jakarta) for allegedly distributing staple food to residents.

Bawaslu head Mimah Susanti said the agency would follow up the reports and make sure that no staple food packages were distributed until after the election. (idb/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/18/ahok-denies-accusation-of-vote-buying.html

KPU Jakarta denies having allowed 'Al Maidah Tour' to observe election

Jakarta Post - April 18, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) has denies claims that it allowed a pressure group against Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to observe the upcoming gubernatorial election runoff.

The organizer of the Tamasya Al Maidah (Al Maidah Tour), which is being facilitated through an Android application that encourages Indonesians to "guard" 13,032 polling stations in the capital, said KPU Jakarta head Sumarno had given the group permission.

"Sumarno gave us permission during a meeting last Wednesday," said Eggi Sudjana, the organizer's advocate, during a press conference on Monday. Eggi added that M. Sidik Sabri, a commissioner with the KPU Jakarta, had also been present during the meeting.

Al Maidah is named after a verse in the Quran that is often used by conservative Muslim political groups to urge Muslims not to vote for political leaders of other faith.

Sidik confirmed that a meeting between the commission and the pressure group had occurred last Wednesday. However, he said the organizer had only asked about the requirements that had to be fulfilled to become an observer of the runoff.

"We didn't give any permission," Sidik told The Jakarta Post. Sidik said he had yet to learn whether the organizer of Al Maidah Tour had submitted all the required documents. (kuk)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/18/kpu-jakarta-denies-having-allowed-al-maidah-tour-to-observe-election.html

Facebook user reported after claiming gang rape of Ahok voters 'halal'

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Agnes Anya, Jakarta – A Facebook user who stated that it was halal (religiously acceptable) to gang rape women supporting incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, was reported to the Jakarta Police on Monday.

Indonesian Women Against Violence reported the person, identified only as DA, for allegedly spreading hate speech against women.

"We are concerned that the [Facebook] post might cause violence in real life. Moreover, we remember what happened in the May 1998 tragedy, when widespread sexual violence left many people traumatized, particularly Chinese-Indonesian women," said Valentina Sagala from the women's organization, referring to the 1998 violence that preceded the fall of the Soeharto regime.

Valentina, however, emphasized that the report had nothing to do with the current Jakarta election race that sees Ahok running against Anies Baswedan, who is supported by several Islamist organizations, among other groups.

Ahok, a Christian of Chinese ethnicity, has faced several issues relating to race and religion during the campaign period.

"We are not standing up for any particular candidate, we're standing up for women," she said. "Whichever candidate they choose, women must never be subject to violence."

Valentina said the case showed that many people in the country still viewed women as targets for political machinations.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/facebook-user-reported-after-claiming-gang-rape-of-ahok-voters-halal.html

Jakarta Police ban mass mobilization on election day

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police have released a circular on Monday prohibiting mass mobilization on April 19, the day of the runoff in Jakarta's gubernatorial election.

The statement was signed by Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Mochamad Iriawan, Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) head Sumarno and Jakarta Elections Supervisory Agency (Panwaslu) head Mimah Susanti.

The three institutions have banned any mass mobilization that may result in physical or psychological intimidation of voters.

One of the three points in the statement says, "Should any group of people from outside Jakarta attempt to engage in such activity [mass mobilization], the National Police, the Army and all relevant institutions will take preventive measures by searching [the aforementioned group] on the road, and they will be asked to return to their hometown."

Those who fail to comply with the instruction are subject to sanctions in accordance with legal procedures, the statement says.

The ban comes after the initiation of a movement called Tamasya Al-Maidah (Al-Maidah Tour), which encourages Indonesians to come to Jakarta to "guard" polling stations during the April 19 Jakarta gubernatorial election runoff.

Al Maidah Tour is named after a verse in the Quran that is often used by conservative Muslim political groups to urge Muslims not to vote for political candidates of different faiths.

The campaign team of Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who is a Christian of Chinese descent, has voiced its concern about the movement, saying it may intimidate voters who want to vote for the incumbent and his running mate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat. (dea)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/jakarta-police-ban-mass-mobilization-on-election-day.html

Watchdog seizes food thought to be for distribution during election

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Callistasia Anggun Wijaya, Jakarta – The West Jakarta Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) has secured staple food packages in three areas of the municipality, alleging they were to be distributed a few hours before voting kicks off on Wednesday.

Panwaslu member Puadi said that the committee had secured 11 packages containing rice, oil and sugar and smear campaign brochures in Duri Kepa, Kebun Jeruk, West Jakarta, on Sunday.

"The people involved [in the distribution] were supporters of candidate pair number two," Puadi said, referring to Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pair Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and Djarot Saiful Hidayat.

On the same day the watchdog had also found packages carried by six trucks in Kalideres, West Jakarta, Puadi said. Those packages had been brought to the Kalideres Police station, Puadi said.

Early on Monday, the committee found three trucks containing staple food in Palmerah, which have been seized and are now at the committee's offices.

Puadi said that the committee suspected that people involved in the alleged vote-buying in Kalideres and Palmerah were also supporters of Ahok and Djarot.

However, the committee would further investigate the matter in coordination with police and prosecutors to see whether there was an element of criminal intent, Puadi said. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/watchdog-seizes-food-thought-to-be-for-distribution-during-election.html

Jakarta election exposes deep political, religious divides

Jakarta Globe - April 16, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta voters will head to the polls on Wednesday (19/04) after a campaign that incited political and religious tensions in the world's most-populous Muslim country.

Surveys have shown the race tightening to a statistical dead heat, with incumbent Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, closing in on rival Anies Baswedan, a former education minister.

Ahok is standing trial on blasphemy charges stemming from the divisive campaign that also featured mass rallies led by Islamist hardliners and alleged plots to overthrow President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

The Jakarta election is viewed as a larger choice ahead of a 2019 presidential poll between the secular policies Indonesia has practiced since its post-World War Two independence and a hardline political Islam that has strengthened in recent years.

"This is a test case for Indonesian pluralism, if it can withstand the pressure of the religious groups, the populists," said Wimar Witoelar, a political analyst and an adviser to former President Abdurrahman Wahid. "Indonesia is at a crossroads, and I mean Indonesia, not just Jakarta."

A survey conducted on April 12-14 by polling firm Indikator showed Anies with 48.2 percent support versus 47.4 percent for Ahok, with 4.4 percent undecided.

Worries about backlash

The business community is worried about a possible violent backlash from the losing side in the election, which could affect the investment climate and endanger Jokowi's fit-and-start economic reforms.

Southeast Asia's biggest economy grew 5.2 percent in 2016 and the government expects a repeat of that this year. Indonesian stocks are up 12.6 percent on the year, making the Jakarta market one of Asia's best performers.

Kartika Wirjoatmodjo, chief executive officer of the largest state bank, Bank Mandiri, said in an interview that whoever won "we [should] make sure it doesn't affect any of the long-term policies, especially on the openness and... ease of doing business and attracting investment."

Ahok, who replaced Jokowi in 2014 as Jakarta governor after serving as his deputy, saw his popularity soar as he tackled decrepit infrastructure, chronic flooding and endemic corruption in the traffic-clogged city of over 10 million.

His support plunged after an edited video circulated last September suggesting Ahok had mocked a verse in the Koran used by his opponents to argue Muslims should not vote for a person holding different religious beliefs.

Amid two rallies last year that drew hundreds of thousands of protesters, Ahok was charged with blasphemy, forcing him to make regular appearances in court during the campaign.

The hardline Islamists behind the rallies – led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a group known for attacks on religious minorities and extorting money from nightclubs – were cultivated by Ahok's rivals. Anies was accused of betraying his moderate Islamic roots when he met and sang with FPI leader Habib Rizieq, who was twice imprisoned for inciting violence in 2003 and 2008.

Ahok recovered to win the first round on Feb. 15 with 43 percent of the vote, compared to 40 percent for Anies and 17 percent for Agus Yudhoyono, son of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who drew support from conservative Muslims.

Chinese plots

The FPI was among groups circulating hoax news stories on social media during the campaign of a pending invasion of Chinese workers and Chinese plots to decimate Indonesia's crops with contaminated chili.

The FPI has vowed to stage further protests and a "revolution" if Ahok wins, according to flyers circulated by the group.

A senior government official said a victory for Ahok could reignite religious tensions and China-baiting at a time when the government is chasing Chinese investment for much-needed infrastructure.

"I worry that if a sizable portion of the electorate feels cheated there could be a very serious backlash," said the official, who asked for anonymity to speak freely about the political climate in Indonesia.

However, political analyst Tobias Basuki also saw risks for the national government and its reform agenda if Anies won, given plans by his political patron Prabowo Subianto to challenge Jokowi in the 2019 presidential poll.

Anies was Jokowi's campaign manager in the 2014 presidential election, when he beat Subianto. But Jokowi sacked him as education minister last year. "Anies and Prabowo controlling Jakarta would impede Jokowi every step of the way," Tobias said.

[Additional reporting by Eveline Danubrata and John Chalmers.]

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jakarta-election-exposes-deep-political-religious-divide/

Jakarta election challenger Anies accused of courting Islamic vote amid

The Guardian (Australia) - April 15, 2017

Kate Lamb, Jakarta – It was in 2004, as a PhD student in political science at Northern Illinois University, that Anies Baswedan would ponder the future interplay between Islam and Indonesia.

In his paper, "political Islam in Indonesia, present and future trajectory", Baswedan pointed out that, "fertile ground exists for Islam-friendly political parties to attract considerable support from 'Muslim' voters." Muslim voters, he explains in the footnotes, referred to devout and practising adherents of the faith.

More than a decade on, Baswedan is campaigning to become Jakarta's next governor and seems to have wholeheartedly taken his own advice. Analysts say he has overtly courted the Muslim vote in the tight race against the ethnic Chinese Christian incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as "Ahok".

On Wednesday, more than 7 million Jakartans will head to the polls in one of the most contested elections to date, marked by several massive, Islamic-inspired anti-Ahok rallies late last year, and an ongoing controversial blasphemy trial.

Neither Ahok nor Baswedan, a former education minister, won an outright majority in the first round vote this February when Agus Yudhoyono, the son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was knocked out.

Days out from the second and final round, Baswedan is just one point ahead, according to a survey by Saifiul Manjuni Research and Consulting (SMRC) released on 12 April. But before Ahok became engulfed in the blasphemy trial for allegedly insulting Islam, the picture looked very different – the incumbent had an approval rating of more than 70%. The religion card

The only way to beat him, analysts say, would be to play the religion card and appeal to the Islamic base.

Aleksius Jemadu, dean of political sciences at Pelita Harapan University, says: "We cannot underestimate the effect of using religion, the last instrument they could use in order to win the election considering the fact that quite a number of people in Jakarta are conservative Muslims."

"So it is a source of strength for Anies [Baswedan] to capitalise on that issue," he adds, "on religious sentiment."

Baswedan, a former rector of Paramadina University, was seen as a religious moderate before, the type to write an editorial in defence of religious tolerance.

But as the Jakarta governor race has tightened Baswedan's public image has morphed, argues Hendro Prasteyo, a professor of political sociology at Indonesia's State Islamic University.

"From the beginning of November until now you can see how Anies always uses religious gestures. For example, he always wear the black peci, the black cap," says Prasetyo, of the hat often worn by Muslim men.

"He is going to mosques, and then preaching in the mosque and he also shows his closeness to radical groups like the FPI [the Islamic Defenders Front]. The point is to show he is close to Muslims, and he represents Muslims," notes Prasetyo, "He has had huge success by using religious symbols, which is contradictory to what he was before."

Basewdan, agrees Jemadu, is less statesman, more politician these days. "I don't think that you can categorise him [Baswedan] as a man of principle," says professor Jemadu, "He is quite pragmatic. Whatever benefits him he will take it, from one camp to another camp changing his principles, his values, all the way."

Amid the blasphemy proceedings, the sometimes-brash Ahok has kept a lower than normal profile, opting for slick social media coverage and largely refusing interviews.

'Anies is against Ahok, and Ahok is Christian'

The ethnic Chinese Christian governor understands the importance of religious symbols, too. Three days before the vote he is scheduled to inaugurate a new government-funded mosque in West Jakarta, with the president, Joko Widodo, by his side.

The use of religious symbols is nothing new in Indonesian politics, but the differences, ethnic and religious, have perhaps never been so stark, or as sensitive.

In neighbourhoods across the capital the idea that Muslims must choose Muslim leaders has spread over recent months, propagated in anti-Ahok pamphlets and banners strung up at local mosques, which threaten to deny funeral rights to Muslims who vote for Ahok.

More than 1,000 such discriminatory banners have been pulled down so far, an Ahok spokesperson told the Guardian. Baswedan has also condemned them – saying that if mosques refused an Ahok voter he would perform the burial rites himself.

But in the capital of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, the messaging has been effective. According to the SMRC survey, the main reason voters are choosing Baswedan is because they share the same religion.

"It's ideology," explains Prasetyo, "Most people don't have sufficient information about Anies so what they see is Anies is against Ahok, and Ahok is Christian and Chinese, that's it. That's a very simplified way of understanding, and that's enough. It shows how religion in Indonesia is still very, very important, and it's dangerous," he says.

Baswedan has denied pandering to Islamists, arguing the media has unfairly framed him meeting with the hardliners. His spokesman, Pandji Pragiwaksono, points out that Baswedan has repeatedly said religion should not be used as a weapon, and that he has in fact met various groups, because he wants to unify the city.

It is not Baswedan who has changed, he says, but the mood in the capital. "It is not about him changing his stance or who he is, it is the situation that has shifted and people are reacting to the situation by showing support for Anies," he says.

"What has changed is that we have a contender in the Jakarta governor election race who is Christian," he says, "That is new and that kind of ignites the hardliners."

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/15/jakarta-election-challenger-anies-accused-of-courting-islamic-vote-amid-religious-divide

PPP politicians declare support for Anies-Sandiaga

Jakarta Post - April 15, 2017

Jakarta – United Development Party (PPP) politicians of the Djan Faridz- and Romahurmuziy-led factions declared on Friday support for Jakarta governor-deputy gubernatorial candidates Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno, who will contest the April 19 Jakarta election.

"The PPP is a party based on Islamic principles. Thus, in choosing and determining a leader, it must adhere to these principles," said Bachtiar Chamsyah, a senior politician from the party's Romahurmuziy-led faction, as quoted by Antara in a press conference in Jakarta on Friday.

Several senior PPP politicians from both camps, including Abraham Lunggana, alias "Haji Lulung", Mardiono, Ubaidillah Murod, Zarkasih Nur, Tahir Saimima and Yudo Paripurno were present at the conference.

The press conference was held to counter the decision of both PPP chairpersons, Djan and Romi, who previously declared support for incumbent candidate pair Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama-Djarot Saiful Hidayat in the second round of the election.

Bachtiar said their support for Ahok-Djarot was not in line with Islamic principles, which are the party's foundation. It s also clearly stated in PPP's statutes and rules of association that the party must always support a leader of the same faith, he further said.

Bachtiar said the PPP would be socially condemned if it supported the Ahok-Djarot ticket.

Meanwhile, Lulung said the decision to support Anies-Sandi was a political choice based on the party's statues and rules of association. This choice had nothing to do with ethnic, religious, racial and intergroup (SARA) sentiments, he added. "It's in line with the party's statutes and rules of association – leaders chosen must be of the same faith," he said. (mrc/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/15/ppp-politicians-declare-support-for-anies-sandi.html

Concern over rising HIV infection rate among pregnant women in Situbondo

Jakarta Globe - April 15, 2017

Jakarta/Situbondo. At least 30 pregnant women have been diagnosed with HIV infections in Situbondo, East Java, since late last year, the local health agency revealed.

"From November 2016 until April 2017, 30 pregnant women have tested positive. They are now under observation by the health agency," Situbondo Health Agency head Abu Bakar Abdi said on Thursday (13/04).

The latest data was collected through an online application the agency launched to map mortality rates among pregnant women.

"From that data, we know the number, because midwives often accompany pregnant women to undergo blood tests at local government health care facilities," Abu Bakar said.

He added that efforts to prevent the virus from being transmitted to babies are direly needed, while mothers receive antiretroviral treatment. "They can be treated if they cooperate with us," Abu Bakar said.

At least 741 people have been diagnosed with HIV infections in the district since 2010, with around 20 percent eventually having died after developing AIDS.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/concern-over-rising-hiv-infection-rate-among-pregnant-women-in-situbondo/

Students & youth

'Hedonistic' university students under spotlight

Jakarta Globe - April 15, 2017

Jakarta/Kendari – A consumeristic, hedonistic lifestyle has depoliticized university students in Indonesia, preventing them from thinking critically about social and political problems that beset those less fortunate than them, Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said at a seminar in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, on Friday (14/04).

"[University] students are not very critical nowadays, consumerism has taken over their lives," Kofifah said at the seminar held by the Kendari State Islamic Institute (IAIN).

The seminar was called "Islamic Higher Education Institutions' Roles in Resolving Social Issues" and in it the minister also took the opportunity to criticize the universities themselves for encouraging the students' apathetic and apolitical outlook instead of pushing them to participate in curing society's ills.

"University students have formed an exclusive club whose members care not a jot for the problems that the country is facing," Khofifah said as quoted by state news agency Antara.

The minister said the students should ask to be sent to remote areas for their internship program, known locally as "Kuliah Kerja Nyata" (KKN), where they can contribute to welfare programs for local residents.

"They can help the poor and the marginalized, and help President Joko Widodo achieve one of the goals of his Nawacita [nine-prong development program] to eradicate poverty in Indonesia," Khofifah said.

She added that the Nawacita program is targeting villages since poverty in Indonesia's countryside is two times higher than in urban areas.

"Almost 14 percent of people living in the countryside live well below the poverty line. The figure in urban areas is only 7.73 percent," Khofifah added.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/hedonistic-university-students-spotlight/

LBGT & same-sex marriage

Indonesia's LGBT community survives despite growing threats from

ABC Radio Australia - April 15, 2017

Adam Harvey, Indonesia – Indonesian officials, clerics and even government ministers regularly launch verbal assaults on the nation's transgender community.

Indonesia's reigning transgender beauty queen holds her head up high as a wave of intolerance sweeps across Indonesia.

Kiki, or Qie Nabh Tappiii, became Miss Waria Indonesia at a time when Indonesian officials, clerics and even government ministers regularly launch verbal assaults on the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Waria is the Indonesian word for transgender. Kiki said she has no time for the critics.

"The way I see it, I am enjoying my life, and it's not like they provide for me or anything," she said. "The most important thing in my life is my family. They motivate me. I can be who I am because they support me."

It has been a hard 12 months for Indonesia's LGBT people. Hardline cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab, who leads the mass protests against Jakarta's Chinese Christian Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, regularly attacks Indonesia's waria.

"If you see your son or grandson play with dolls, burn the dolls and give them fake machetes to play with, so they can grow up to be men and not trannies," Mr Rizieq said during one sermon.

ABC News attended another gathering of hardliners, attended by about 3,000 women, where speaker Ismah Cholil said transsexual people should be stoned to death or flogged to remove their sins.

'We are also human beings'

On being transgender in Indonesia, Kiki said: "Sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's easy. The hard part is that we have to educate society that we are also human beings. We need to be appreciated just like people in general."

Indonesia's waria do not have many opportunities for work, said Wayan Lucky Diah Pithaloka, who runs several hair salons in Jakarta.

She employs seven waria in the salons. She said it is an alternative to prostitution and begging for money on the streets.

"I want to stop them going out at night for work, to stop being buskers, so the community would look at them with respect," she said. "If we do good to others then God will reward us – other people won't reward us."

Older waria in Indonesia have it particularly tough, waria advocate Mami Yuli said. Indonesia has no social security system, so the elderly rely on their families. Most waria cannot do that, she said.

"They left home when they were young, they ran away from home because their parents refused to accept them being transgender," Ms Yuli said.

"Their families were embarrassed to have transgender children. So for tens of years, they have been running away and now they're old, they have no parents to return to, and they're facing big problems."

Older waria must rely on the support of charities. In outer Jakarta, a group of waria attend a special weekly church service – where they are fed and receive a medical check-up. But there is a price to pay.

The church asks the waria not to wear women's clothing, and, at the sermon attended by ABC News, the audience were asked to memorise the verse from Deuteronomy: "A woman must not wear men's clothing, and a man must not wear women's clothes, because anyone who does this is an abomination to God."

Pastor Gidion Steven Hutagalung said: "The end goal is to slowly transform them back to the gender they were born as. But first and foremost, it's the church's duty to serve everyone, including the transgender community."

Source: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2017-04-15/indonesias-lgbt-community-survives-despite-growing-threats-from-government-clerics/1665048

Marriage & the family

Child bride survivors challenge Marriage Law at Constitutional Court

Jakarta Post - April 21, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Three child bride survivors are challenging Indonesia's 1974 Marriage Law, calling on the Constitutional Court (MK) to raise its minimum legal marriageable age for women in a bid to end rampant child marriage across the country.

Plaintiffs Endang Warsinah, 35, Maryanti, 30, and Rasminah, 32, are former child brides who were forced to marry due to financial struggles. Endang and Maryanti married at the age of 14, while Rasmidah's first marriage was at the age of 13.

Lawyers filed a judicial review request to the Constitutional Court on Thursday from the Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage (Koalisi 18+), who represent the women. It was filed in commemoration of equal rights pioneer Kartini's birthday, which this year lands on Friday.

Endang, Maryanti and Rasminah decided to challenge the article because they felt they had suffered as child brides and did not want to see their own children or future generations be forced into the same experience, said Koalisi 18+ lawyer Dian Kartika.

"This judicial review request is based on the survivors' real-life experiences. Being married at such young age has not only brought pain to their lives, but also the lives of their children," Dian said on Thursday.

The petitioners specifically challenged Article 7 (1) of the law, which sets the minimum age of marriage for women at 16. They are demanding the court to raise the age requirement to 19, which is the minimum age of marriage for men. (dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/21/child-bride-survivors-challenge-marriage-law-at-constitutional-court.html

Graft & corruption

Indonesia media tycoon Dahlan Iskan sentenced two years in jail for

Jakarta Post - April 21, 2017

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, Surabaya, East Java – Surabaya corruption court on Friday sentenced former state-owned enterprise minister Dahlan Iskan to two years' in prison for his role in selling 33 assets belonging to East Java province-owned company PT Panca Wira Usaha.

The court also asked the media tycoon to either pay a Rp 100 million fine or serve an additional two months imprisonment.

"The defendant has been proven to have carried out the corruption as written in the secondary accusation," said Tahsin the presiding judges during the verdict hearing.

The corruption convict was given the opportunity to consult with his lawyers, according to the court. "I want to file an appeal, your Highness," Dahlan said, adding that his supporters at the court were disappointed with the verdict.

Previously, prosecutors sought a six-year prison sentence and a Rp 750 million fine for Dahlan Iskan, as well as requiring him to pay up to Rp 8.3 billion in compensation to the government. (hol/dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/21/indonesia-media-tycoon-dahlan-iskan-sentenced-two-years-in-jail-for-corruption.html

House backpedals on demand to revoke Setya's travel ban

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Jakarta – The House of Representatives will not proceed with its plan to demand that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo annul a travel ban on House Speaker and Golkar Party chairman Setya Novanto, who is allegedly involved in the ongoing electronic identity card corruption case.

"I was informed that House leaders have decided not to ask the President to cancel the ban; the House will not send the letter," Bambang Soesatyo, chairman of the House's Commission III overseeing law, told reporters on Monday, referring to a request letter that had already been prepared.

The letter was issued after leaders of the majority factions at the House gave speakers the green light to challenge the government's decision to ban Setya from traveling abroad.

The Golkar faction had raised the request during a House steering committee (Bamus) meeting last week, a move Golkar later clarified after party members raised concerns that it could be used as a tool to challenge Jokowi's administration.

Meanwhile, House deputy speaker Fadli Zon, who also attended last week's Bamus meeting, appeared reluctant to respond to questions about the matter.

When asked about the House's decision to dismiss the demand, the Gerindra Party politician stopped short of saying that the House general secretariat, which oversees administrative affairs, would handle the matter.

"We did agree to send the letter [asking for an annulment] in the Bamus meeting. It was agreed, [but] the general secretariat oversees technicalities," Fadli said. (msa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/house-backpedals-on-demand-to-revoke-setyas-travel-ban.html

Hard-line & vigilante groups

NU calls for stronger laws against radical groups

Jakarta Post - April 18, 2017

Agus Maryono, Kebumen, Central Java – A representative of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), has deplored President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration's stance against radical groups in Indonesia, suggesting it is too soft to deal with groups that pose a direct threat to the government.

NU central executive board member As'ad Ali said anti-government attacks had been clearly stated in the ideological movements of radical groups, although they had not yet been realized through physical action.

"This is the problem: Our government does not dare to take tough measures against groups that have called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate or those that oppose the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), stating that all of those calls are just ideas," said As'ad Ali in front of around 16,000 NU cadres at an event in Petanahan Beach, Kebumen, on Sunday.

He said the government had repeatedly stated it could not take legal action against anti-government groups, because so far they had not been proven to commit an attack against the government. There was no law allowing the government to launch pre-emptive strikes, he added.

"In the absence of tough government measures, radical groups have continued to expand their movement and spread their anti-government propaganda. This is dangerous for the solidity of the NKRI," said the NU board member, who is also the former deputy chairman of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).

Therefore, As'ad Ali said, there should be clearer and tougher laws on assaults against the government. "Don't let the state make a move only after bloody conflicts occur in this country," he said. (ebf)

Against radicalism: Thousands of cadres of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), from areas across Central Java call on the government to take tougher measures against radical groups at a mass gathering in Kebumen on Sunday.(JP/Agus Maryono)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/18/nu-calls-for-stronger-laws-against-radical-groups.html

Freedom of religion & worship

Indonesian women urged to unite against radicalism

Jakarta Globe - April 19, 2017

Jakarta – Fatayat NU, the women's branch of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, has called on the nation's women to unite against radicalism.

Fatayat NU chairwoman Anggia Ermarini said those propagating radical ideologies not only target men and young people, but also women.

"The spread of radical and terrorist ideologies among women should receive more attention. It means that if we want Indonesia to be safe, women should also move, unite and work hard to fight these negative ideologies," Anggia said in Jakarta on Tuesday (18/04).

She listed several ways women can oppose radicalism and terrorism, including by teaching their children that Islam is a friendly religion and a blessing to others, while also instilling a greater sense of nationalism. Anggia added that children will be immune to radical ideologies if they receive proper religious guidance from an early age.

"Therefore, Fatayat NU is developing family-based sermons. We also continue to empower our women preachers with knowledge of the threats posed by radicalism," she said.

"Coinciding with Kartini Day on April 21, Fatayat NU will inaugurate 1,000 antiradicalism preachers in Bandung [West Java]," she said, adding that the aim is to assist the government in preventing the spread of radicalism in Indonesia.

Anggia said several women have been implicated in acts of terror in recent times. One example is Dian Yulia Novi, who was arrested in an anti-terrorism raid in December for her alleged involvement in a plot to bomb the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta.

Indonesian female migrant workers were also deported from Taiwan for ties with the Islamic State terrorist group.

"Therefore, Indonesian women should not stay silent. There are many things they can do to take active roles in preventing terrorism, such as educating the public about the threat of terrorism," she said.

Anggia said with thousands of grassroots members across Indonesia, Fatayat NU can make a positive contribution by detecting radicalism in the community. "With the antiradicalism preachers, we will be able to easily prevent [the spread of radicalism]," she said.

She also urged Indonesian women to gain greater knowledge of technological advancements, because the internet is currently the main tool for spreading radical ideologies. "Mothers should know social media, at least to observe their children with their gadgets," Anggi said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/indonesian-women-urged-to-unite-against-radicalism/

Islam & religion

Jokowi inaugurates new Grand Mosque, hopes it will spread message of

Jakarta Globe - April 16, 2017

Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo inaugurated a grand mosque on Daan Mogot Road in West Jakarta on Saturday (15/04), expressing his hope that the place of worship will strengthen and promote the spirit of moderate and tolerant Islam.

Named after Indonesian ulama Hasyim Asy'ari, founder of the world's biggest Muslim organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the 17,000-square-meter mosque can accommodate 12,500 people.

The Hasyim Asy'ari Grand Mosque is the first one founded by the Jakarta government, which allocated Rp 170 billion ($12.8 million) to its construction.

"Not without a reason the mosque is called the Kiai Haji Hasyim Asy'ari Grand Mosque. He is our national hero, who loved the republic with all his heart," the president said. Jokowi added that by founding the NU in 1916, Hasyim had strengthened Indonesia's tolerant and inclusive Islam.

The president was welcomed by acting Jakarta Governor Soemarsono. In attendance were Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Presidential Chief of Staff Teten Masduki and high-profile Nahdlatul Ulama figures such as Hasyim's family members Solahuddin Wahid and Yenny Wahid, and the local government officials.

Earlier, the inauguration was scheduled for Sunday, but, according to Sumarsono, the date had to be adjusted to the president's schedule. He added that the change of the date had no political links. On Sunday, however, Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama returns to the office after taking obligatory leave preceding Wednesday's gubernatorial election.

Ahok launched the mosque's construction in June 2013. There are two more grand mosques in Jakarta – the Istiqlal Mosque and Sunda Kelapa Mosque, both in the city center.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jokowi-inaugurates-new-grand-mosque-hopes-will-spread-message-tolerance/

Center for religious, peace studies launched in Semarang

Jakarta Post - April 16, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang, Central Java – The Wahid Hasyim University (Unwahas) Semarang, which is affiliated with Nahdatul Ulama (NU), launched on Saturday a center for religious and peace studies to help religions become friendly and peaceful in Indonesia's society.

Taslim Sahlan, the director of the new center, said creating the institution was a way for his university to exercise its academic responsibilities.

"The main task of this center is to carry out academic work. The presence of this study center would be important amid a spread of religious groups, which often have inhumane faces," said Taslim in the launch of the center in Semarang.

He said the real virtues of religion should be peace, justice and humanity. "However, the noble values of a religion have often been distorted by acts that contradict its teachings. Political interests have often used religious symbols to legitimize themselves," said Taslim, a lecturer in religion studies at the university.

Meanwhile, Unwahas rector Mudzakkir Ali said his campus was committed to continuously promoting the spirit of a moderate Islam. "As an educational institution of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Unwahas will strive to become a vanguard in efforts to cultivate Indonesian and nationalist values," he said.

Tedi Kholiludin, one of researchers in the center, said: "We will strive to use social sciences efficiently as a scalpel in trying to understand religion-related phenomena."

Tedi said religion-related phenomena could not be understood only from a theological viewpoint. "When we talk about conflicts in the name of religion, we cannot deny that there are many factors that can lead to the conflicts," he said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/16/center-for-religious-peace-studies-launched-in-semarang.html

Sex, pornography & morality

Indonesia a haven for child pornography

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Jakarta – Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohana Yembise has said that, based on data from Interpol and the National Police, 25,000 child pornography activities took place in the country every day.

She added that according to observation conducted by the ministry and digital media analysis and survey institution Katapedia from September to November 2016, 1,200 tweets related to child pornography were sent out on Twitter.

"The ministry has been coordinating with Interpol and the National Police to tackle the problem. We will also coordinate with the Communications and Information Ministry," she said on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.

Yohana called on parents and teachers to supervise children's use of smartphones, which could be used to make them victims of pornography.

"The family is the key in protecting children from negative influence. We can see that many children interact less with their parents because of their addiction to gadgets. I ask all parents to supervise the use of gadgets, because children could access pornographic content through these," she added. (rdi/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/indonesia-a-haven-for-child-pornography.html

Land & agrarian conflicts

Yogyakarta activists reject Central Java governor's visit

Jakarta Post - April 18, 2017

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – Around 25 activists from the rights movement, Jogja Solidarity Against Cement Factory, staged a rally on Tuesday to protest the visit of Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo to the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) campus in Yogyakarta.

"Learning from the fighting spirit of the mother of Kendeng, Yu Padmi, who died in her struggle against the construction of the cement factory in Kendeng, we are here reject the visit of Ganjar, 'the cement governor'," rally coordinator Ahmad Haedar said on Tuesday.

Padmi passed away on March 21 after a week-long rally against the construction of the Rembang cement factory in front of the State Palace in Jakarta. At the rally, Padmi and several other female farmers from Kendeng, buried their feet in concrete blocks to show their resistance to the project.

Pitra Hutomo, a female activist, asked Ganjar to cease mining activities on Kendeng Mountain, which could deplete water reserves in the area.

"If the water resources here are depleted, can we drink cement?" she said. The activists showed posters emblazoned with various messages against the cement factory, such as "Stop the Confiscation of People's Land", "Reject Ganjar" and "Kendeng Lestari (Everlasting Kendeng)".

The protesters later marched to the Wisma Kagama meeting hall and asked Ganjar, who was attending a seminar there, to meet with them. Disappointed by Ganjar's refusal, the protesters later blocked the governor's way as he left the building.

Haedar told Ganjar that by permitting the construction of the cement factory, the government would kill Kendeng residents because of the project's impact on water resources and agricultural activities in the area. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/18/yogyakarta-activists-reject-central-java-governors-visit.html

Parliament & legislation

Lawmakers support plan to add 19 legislative seats

Jakarta Post - April 15, 2017

Jakarta – More politicians have expressed support for a plan to add more seats at the House of Representatives, saying the current 560 seats are no longer representative given the number of newly established regions.

Deputy head of the House's special committee on the election bill, Benny Kabur Harman, said there should be 19 additional seats to accommodate changes in regional administrations and the growing population.

The number of electoral districts, which would also affect the number of lawmakers at the House, has been among the contentious issues in the deliberation of the amendment to the Elections Law.

"There is no other option but an augmentation of House seats. The special committee has agreed to add 19 seats," said Benny of the Democratic Party on Thursday as quoted by kompas.com.

The additional seats were also aimed at accommodating new constituencies, such as the newly established North Kalimantan province. Benny also revealed another crucial issue being discussed, which was whether to allow sole candidacy in the presidential election.

However, the Dems politician said rejections to the idea had also been voiced, saying sole candidacy would "degrade" the quality of elections and democracy. (mrc/bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/14/lawmakers-support-plan-to-add-19-legislative-seats.html

Film & television

Only 50% of television stations air national anthem routinely: KPI

Jakarta Post - April 16, 2017

Suherdjoko, Semarang, Central Java – The Central Java chapter of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPID) reports that half of the 16 television stations monitored in the country do not air the national anthem routinely when opening and closing their broadcasts.

The KPID reported only 4.3 percent of 23 radio stations monitored did not play Indonesia Raya at some time. However, 30 percent of the radio stations did not routinely play any of the mandatory nationalist songs either in at the beginning or end of their broadcasts.

"We are calling on all television and radio stations to air both Indonesia Raya and other nationalist songs routinely. This is mandated by KPI Regulation No. 1/2012 on broadcasting behavior guidelines," KPID Central Java head Budi Setyo Purnomo said on Friday.

The monitoring of the implementation of the KPI regulation was conducted in March and April.

Budi said airing Indonesia Raya and other nationalist songs was important for strengthening the implementation of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. He said the KPI regulation explicitly required all broadcasting institutions to air Indonesia Raya at the opening of their programs and nationalist songs at the closing of their broadcasts.

"If a TV or radio station has a 24-hour broadcasting period, Indonesia Raya must be aired at 6 a.m., while the nationalist songs should be broadcast at midnight. Efforts to adhere to this broadcasting rule are really important for strengthening our spirit of nationalism," said Budi.

Tazkiyatul Muthmainnah, a KPID member in the division that monitors broadcasting content, highlighted the importance of airing nationalist songs. "In this current global era, nationalist songs aired through television and radio are needed to remind people about their country and nation." (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/16/only-50-of-television-stations-air-national-anthem-routinely-kpi.html

Armed forces & defense

Military program set to replace student orientation on campuses

Jakarta Globe - April 18, 2017

Jakarta – The government plans to replace student orientation at universities with a military-run program, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Monday (17/04).

The minister initiated the program, called "Bela Negara" ("Defend the Nation"), last year to instill patriotism among the youth and shield them from foreign influences, which he said at the time included radicalization, terrorism and drugs.

"This is for shaping our national identity. Our identity is adherence to Pancasila within the framework of the Republic of Indonesia," Ryamizard said, referring to the official state ideology.

The new program for university freshmen would include classroom activities as well as field-marching and first-aid training.

The classroom activity would instill the values of Pancasila and aim to instill in students a culture that opposes corruption and radicalism.

Studies by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in 2011 and Islamic think-tank, the Maarif Institute in 2013, found growing support on many of the country's campuses for the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia.

The current student orientation program, known as ospek, has also been marred by violence. Almost every year, there are media reports of freshmen who are severely injured, or even killed, during orientation. These activities serve as a pretext for violent bullying by senior students eager to repeat the treatment they received during their orientation.

Ryamizard said he has discussed the plan with Research Technology and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir and also received the blessing of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to move forward with the plan.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/military-program-set-to-replace-student-orientation-on-campuses/

Foreign affairs & trade

Faith, politics, business: Why US Vice-President Mike Pence visited

Sydney Morning Herald - April 21, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – A day after Jakarta's Christian governor was ousted in an election riven with religious tension, US Vice-President Mike Pence pronounced that "Indonesia's tradition of moderate Islam frankly is an inspiration to the world".

"In your nation, as in mine, religion unifies, it doesn't divide," Pence gushed inside the presidential palace in Jakarta.

To be fair, a version of these words is parroted by most Western leaders, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, when they visit Indonesia. But the remarks were jarring given the timing.

"That Pence should be saying this after the most divisive and sectarian election in Indonesian history is flabbergasting," says Australian National University associate professor Greg Fealy.

Timing aside, Pence's comments and his visit to Istiqlal, the biggest mosque in South-east Asia, suggest his trip to Indonesia was in part to reassure Indonesians concerned about the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the Trump administration.

Fealy says they echo similar mollifying statements made by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to other foreign leaders.

The message seems to be, Fealy says, that while US President Donald Trump might say one thing to a domestic audience, the administration provides a more reassuring version to an international audience.

Despite having the largest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia has not been in the new US administration's crosshairs, although it was among the 16 countries named on Trump's trade hit list.

For example, Indonesia was not listed in the travel ban order that sought to block new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries.

The speaker of Indonesia's House of Representatives, Setya Novanto, who Trump described as "one of the most powerful men and a great man", made a bizarre appearance at a Trump press conference in New York in late 2015. "Do they like me in Indonesia?" Trump asked, to which Setya gushed: "Yes, highly."

Trump's company has also paired with Indonesian magnate Hary Tanoesoedibjo to build luxury resorts in Bali and Bogor.

Still, Lowy Institute research fellow Aaron Connelly says any visit by a senior US official is going to have to do some remedial work in terms of interfaith relations, given Trump's reputation on these issues.

"I think that is why we saw him visit Masjid [mosque] Istiqlal and also why he attended an interfaith discussion, to assuage fears America is waging a war against Islam," Connelly says. "I think Vice-President Pence realises the harm that impression could do in Indonesia."

Economic issues were also behind the visit. Connelly says every senior US official who visits Indonesia raises the issue of US mining giant Freeport, which operates the world's largest gold mine in Papua and is currently embroiled in a contract row with the Indonesian government.

However Connelly believes the primary reason Pence chose to visit Indonesia rather than Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand on his tour of South-east Asia was because it was the headquarters of ASEAN.

Pence announced Trump would attend an ASEAN summit in the Philippines in November and to Connelly's surprise, the Vice-President even met with young people from the Young South-east Asian Leaders' Initiative, a signature Obama program.

"This shows their commitment to this very ASEAN-centred strategy of engagement with the region," Connelly says. "To a large extent the choice of Jakarta was about ASEAN, rather than economic issues or Indonesia as a Muslim country."

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/faith-politics-business-why-us-vicepresident-mike-pence-visited-indonesia-20170421-gvpobg.html

Pence discusses barriers to US companies with Jokowi, as $10b deals

Reuters - April 21, 2017

Jakarta – US Vice President Mike Pence met with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Thursday (20/04) to discuss overcoming obstacles that limit bilateral trade and investment between the two nations.

"The president and I spoke [...] very candidly and very respectfully," Pence told Indonesian business executives at a round table discussion in Jakarta on Friday.

Pence arrived in the capital on Wednesday in a bid to boost strategic partnerships between the world's second- and third-largest democracies, but a series of disputes between American firms operating in the country and the Indonesian government have proven difficult to resolve.

Over the past six months, Indonesia has wrestled with mining giant Freeport McMoRan, demanding the company divest 51 percent of its shares in its Papua-based gold and copper mine.

The government has also demanded that Google settle unpaid taxes of more than $400 million, and has scrubbed JP Morgan from its list of primary bond dealers after what was deemed a negative research report.

Nevertheless, Pence was due to witness the signing of more than $10 billion in memoranda of understanding with US companies in Indonesia on Friday, a White House official said.

The 11 deals would be signed with companies including Exxon Mobil, Lockheed Martin and General Electric. Pence is on the final day of a visit to Indonesia before departing at midday for Australia.

"We think there are opportunities to clear open the way for American companies to participate more greatly in Indonesia," Pence said.

Lin Neumann, managing director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia, said most of the agreements were with energy companies, which have been making "a big push."

Some US companies have a technological edge while Indonesia has a rising demand for power, "so that's a good fit," Neumann told Reuters.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/pence-discusses-barriers-us-companies-jokowi-10b-deals-signed/

Indonesia, US settle trade row after Jokowi meets Pence

Jakarta Post - April 20, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – The topics of fair trade, investment and stronger security cooperation dominated a one-hour discussion between President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and United States Vice President Mike Pence at the State Palace on Thursday.

The US vice president, who is in Jakarta as part of a 10-day Asia-Pacific tour just two weeks after US President Donald Trump called for an investigation into the "trade imbalance" between the US and 16 countries, including Indonesia, was paying Jokowi a courtesy call.

In a joint press conference after Thursday's talks, held on the veranda of the State Palace over a cup of tea, Jokowi said Indonesia had secured commitments from the US to improve the US-Indonesia Strategic Partnership, which the President said would focus on trade and investment in the future.

"Next month, there will be a team that will discuss management of bilateral trade and investment based on a win-win principle," said Jokowi, adding that both Indonesia and the US would also strengthen cooperation for peace.

Speaking after Jokowi, Pence said that Trump put a high value on the US-Indonesia Strategic Partnership, which was established by the two countries in 2011 during the era of Trump's predecessor, Barrack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Jakarta.

Pence said that both Indonesia and the US must work to break down barriers to ensure that American exporters can fully participate in the Indonesian market, the same freedom that Indonesian exporters have had in many sectors in the US for many years. (jun)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/20/indonesia-us-settle-trade-row-after-jokowi-meets-pence.html

Grasberg mine dispute off the table in US Indonesia talks

Sydney Morning Herald - April 20, 2017

Jewel Topsfield and Karuni Rompies == The Vice-President of Indonesia has signalled he prevented his US counterpart from discussing the contract row that has crippled operations at Grasberg – the world's second largest copper mine – by telling him "the affair is finished".

Rio Tinto – which revealed on Thursday its copper production had taken a heavy hit due in part to the dispute at Grasberg – was expected to be closely watching US Vice-President Mike Pence's visit to Indonesia this week.

The company's majority partner in Grasberg, US mining giant Freeport McMoRan, said earlier this month it had lost about $1 billion in revenue after the export of copper concentrate was halted on January 12 under new rules issued by the Indonesian government.

"As a consequence of the export ban Rio Tinto is reporting its metal share for the first quarter as zero," Rio Tinto said in a report released to the exchange on Thursday morning.

"Discussions are continuing between Freeport and the Indonesian government to reach a mutually satisfactory longer-term agreement."

The Freeport saga was expected to be raised during Mr Pence's visit, especially given US President Donald Trump's adviser on regulatory issues, Carl Icahn, is Freeport's third biggest shareholder.

However, asked by reporters if Freeport was discussed during a bilateral meeting, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said: "No. I preceded it by saying the affair is finished so he would not mention it. I said it's finished, it's business to business. It is finished."

Mr Kalla said what was left were improvements to the contract. "He [Mr Pence] did not respond to it. He did not talk about it."

Grasberg, which is located in the restive province of Papua, is the world's largest gold mine and second largest copper mine.

The row is over new rules that require Freeport to convert its contract of work to a special mining licence, build a smelter, pay new taxes and royalties and divest a 51 per cent stake in its operations.

Freeport threatened to take the dispute to arbitration but a compromise was reached earlier this month that allowed Freeport to export its copper concentrate while negotiations continued over the next six months.

Rio Tinto is entitled to a 40 per cent share of output from Grasberg above specific levels until 2021 and 40 per cent of all production after 2021. However, the company indicated on Thursday it might not take ownership of 40 per cent of copper production from Grasberg after 2021.

"Rio Tinto's participation beyond 2021 is likely to be affected due to the application of force majeure provisions in the joint venture agreement between Rio Tinto and Freeport McMoRan," it said.

Last month Rio Tinto Group chief Jean-Sebastien Jacques said it was considering its stake in the Grasberg mine.

"There is a big difference between a world-class resource and a world-class business and depending on how the situation will evolve, today I can't confirm it's going to be a world-class business for Rio Tinto," he was quoted saying by Bloomberg.

The situation was "very fluid" and "depending on what happens in weeks, months or even years, then we'll have to take a call".

Rio Tinto revealed on Thursday its copper production was down 37 per cent in the first quarter and compared to the same quarter last year due to the Grasberg mine impasse and a 43-day strike at the Escondida mine in Brazil. Rio Tinto shares were down 0.39 per cent to $58.67 on Thursday.

Mr Pence did not mention Freeport but told the media that the US was seeking trade relations that were both "free and fair" for job creation and growth for both countries.

"American companies have been doing business in Indonesia for years and American products and services have contributed greatly to Indonesian economic development, but we believe we still have room for significant progress," he said.

Jakarta based lawyer and mining expert Bill Sullivan said he was sure Rio Tinto would be watching closely to see if Mr Pence's visit to Indonesia "clarifies the situation with regard to Freeport and results in certainty as to how Freeport can move forward in developing the Grasberg mine on a commercially realistic basis – fiscal certainty is key".

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/grasberg-mine-dispute-off-the-table-in-us-indonesia-talks-20170420-gvor6k.html

US-Indonesia disputes in the spotlight

Asia Times - April 17, 2017

Washington has billed Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Indonesia next week as a booster for the Strategic Partnership between the world's second- and third-largest democracies, but a raft of bilateral tensions could sap the goodwill from his trip.

Pence's counterpart in the world's most populous Muslim country has voiced worries about US President Donald Trump's immigration policy, which critics say is biased against Muslims, and about his "America First" mantra on trade and investment. "We in Indonesia never change. The change is there. That's why we're asking them now, 'what is your policy now on the economy, on democracy, now that Trump is in power?'," Vice President Jusuf Kalla told Reuters on March 31.

"What does it mean, 'America first'? I can say, too, 'Indonesia first' if you say 'America first'."

Indonesia is one of 16 countries against which the United States runs a trade deficit that will be investigated by the Trump administration for possible trade abuses. Trump's combative approach will not sit easily with Indonesia, where economic nationalism and protectionist tendencies have flourished since a slump in commodity prices in recent years slammed the brakes on economic growth.

"Unfortunately I do see a hardening of attitudes on our side," said a senior Indonesian government official, who declined to be named. "And it's of particular concern because we're on that list of 16 countries... that are going to be investigated."

The official said a tougher stand by Indonesian authorities had also contributed to a series of disputes with US companies, including Alphabet Inc's Google, miner Freeport-McMoRan Inc and financial services giant JP Morgan Chase & Co. Indonesia has dueled with Google over back taxes and fines running into hundreds of millions of dollars, and with Freeport in a contract row that has crippled operations at the world's second-largest copper mine, Grasberg.

It also dropped JP Morgan as a primary bond dealer after the bank's research analysts issued a negative report on the country in November.

"It's a very unfortunate series of issues which all happen to be American," said the official, who expects them to come up in private during Pence's visit. Indonesia is the third stop on an April 15-25 tour that includes South Korea, Japan and Australia.

Google declined to comment for this report, and JPMorgan did not respond to a request for comment. Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said: "This visit is happening entirely independent of our current negotiations with the government of Indonesia."

However, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, Freeport's third-biggest shareholder and now a special adviser to Trump, has described Jakarta's tactics over the mining contract as "disingenuous and insulting", according to the New York Times.

Another potential irritant is biodiesel. The US National Biodiesel Board (NBB), a producer group, has petitioned the US government to impose anti-dumping duties on biodiesel from Indonesia and Argentina, claiming they have flooded the US market.

"This is one of the issues that we have asked the trade ministry to bring to the meeting (with Pence)," Paulus Tjakrawan, a director at the Indonesia Biofuel Producers Association, told Reuters.

"Our hope is for the government to be firm... Otherwise we will be taken advantage of," he said. "Not to act like thugs but, for example, if they put barriers to our exports, why not stop importing some of their goods?"

Despite the strains, the government official said Indonesia would be careful to start its relationship with the Trump administration on the right foot. Indonesian President Joko Widodo's approach to foreign policy has been led more by economic interests than geopolitical considerations: he has pursued increased trade and investment from China but keeps a diplomatic distance from Beijing and established a strategic partnership with Washington under former President Barack Obama.

US ambassador to Indonesia, Joseph Donovan Jr, said in a statement last week that Pence's visit reflected a continued commitment to that partnership, would deepen economic engagement and boost regional security cooperation. "The US embassy here certainly is going to great lengths to make the visit a success," said the Indonesian official. "My impression is he's (Pence) not going to ruffle feathers in public, he's not going to cause a ruckus."

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/us-indonesia-disputes-spotlight/

When Jokowi's flattery of Saudi king strays off-key

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Jakarta – Amid the simmering sectarian tension in the Jakarta election that has radicalized conservative Muslims, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has found himself in an uncomfortable position.

While still aiming to maintain support from mainstream Muslim groups in the country, he finds his support for incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who has been accused of blasphemy, antagonizing the groups.

As the groups' political movement grows, Jokowi has become concerned about the activism calling people to separate religion and politics and uphold the country's pluralism. Only to withdraw the statement weeks later, saying that his only concern was national unity.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician made another flip-flop about Islamic conservatism last week, by criticizing the small investment made by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during his historic visit to the country recently.

"I even held up the umbrella for the King, but we only got a small amount. I am a little bit disappointed, just a little," the President quipped during his speech at Buntet Islamic Boarding School in Cirebon, West Java, on Thursday.

On Saturday, he called his sour comments on the king's visit "a joke." "Why can't we get a big investment? It's because our investment climate and investment ratings are low. Not to mention legal certainty, which needs to be improved," he said while inaugurating KH Hasyim Asy'ari mosque in Jakarta, turning the criticisms of Saudi Arabia into domestic policy issues.

Despite the flip-flop in his statements being potentially unintentional, critics say the President might want to distance himself from the growing Islamic conservatism in the country.

Robby Habiba Absor, a Muslim Scholar from State Islamic University (UIN) Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta said the President's remarks might indicate his discontent toward local conservative groups.

"He speaks clearly about his disappointment. This could be perceived as criticism toward conservative Muslim groups in Indonesia, which adore and admire Saudi Arabia," he said.

Broto Wardoyo, international relations expert of the University of Indonesia, said Jokowi's comments were largely harmless to conservative groups, let alone the relation to the kingdom.

"The comments convey the President's discontent of his own administration, which fails to attract investments. The criticisms are mostly of government officials," he said.

The political expert from Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Siti Zuhro, said Jokowi's statement might have been just a joke as he clarified.

"It might have been just a joke, but I can understand if he's disappointed by learning Saudi's investment in the country was lower than in China," Siti added.

She further said that Jokowi's disappointment was purely an economic matter, and it was not related to Muslim communities.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/when-jokowis-flattery-of-saudi-king-strays-off-key.html

Indonesia's trade surplus reaches five-year high

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Prima Wirayani, Jakarta – Indonesia booked a trade surplus of US$3.93 billion during this year's first three months, the highest first-quarter figure since 2012.

In the month of March, Indonesia saw a trade surplus of $1.23 billion, down 6.8 percent from February. The country's exports amounted to $14.59 billion in March, up 15.68 percent on the month (mom) and 23.55 percent year-on-year (yoy).

Total exports from January to March this year reached a value of $40.61 billion, 20.84 percent higher than in the same period last year.

"This is good news," Central Statistics Agency (BPS) head Suhariyanto told a press briefing in Jakarta on Monday. "A higher increase in the value [of oil and gas exports] rather than in the volume indicates there is a price increase."

Meanwhile, imports of $13.36 billion in March were up 17.65 percent mom and 18.19 percent yoy. First-quarter imports stood at $36.68 billion this year, 14.83 percent higher than last year. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/indonesias-trade-surplus-reaches-five-year-high.html

Jokowi let down by S. Arabia's low investment

Jakarta Post - April 15, 2017

Haeril Halim, Jakarta – Everything President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo did to serve visiting King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in early March was unprecedented.

Unlike the treatment given to other visiting heads of state, Jokowi greeted the king at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport to show his highest appreciation. The President even honored the king by emptying his schedule to accompany him in Jakarta for three days.

However, when it comes to business, unparalleled service, or even bonds of Islamic brotherhood, are apparently out of the equation.

Jokowi said on Thursday that he was disappointed to learn that Saudi Arabia had invested US$65 billion in China, almost 10 times the Rp 89 trillion ($6.71 billion) pledged to Indonesia, despite the "special treatment."

"I'm surprised that when the king came to China, he signed [contracts of over] Rp 870 trillion [$65 billion]," Jokowi said during his visit to the Buntet Islamic boarding school in Cirebon, West Java.

"I even held an umbrella for the king [during heavy downpour as the king arrived at the Bogor Palace], but we got a smaller amount. I'm a little bit disappointed, just a little," the President added.

Jokowi said he initially believed the downpour was a sign of good fortune for Indonesia, as rain was considered a blessing in Islam.

"I will call the king and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud to follow up the expectation that Indonesia will receive a bigger amount than they gave China. Please pray [for me]," Jokowi told the audience.

Prior to the king's arrival, Indonesian ministers were optimistic Saudi Arabia would invest $25 billion. Foreign direct investment (FDI) from Saudi Arabia only amounted to about $900,000 last year, down from $30 million in 2015, according to the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).

The king's stop in Malaysia, before landing in Jakarta, had also illustrated how the neighboring country seized the moment.

While Saudi Arabian oil giant Aramco invested $7 billion to buy shares in a refining and petrochemical project owned by Malaysia's Petronas, Indonesia has been left with relatively petty investments.

Much Saudi Arabian money, on the other hand, has been funneled into charities in Indonesia, particularly for the construction of mosques and religious schools.

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

LIPIA has one campus in Jakarta. Its graduates include several hard-line figures, such as convicted terrorist Aman Abdurrahman.

International relations expert Badrus Sholeh from State Islamic University (UIN) Jakarta said oil-rich countries from the Middle East opted to invest in countries that had better infrastructure, such as China and Malaysia.

"Malaysia and China are far better in terms of infrastructure than Indonesia," Badrus said.

Saudi Arabia, he said, was more interested in developing social and cultural relations with Indonesia by trying to persuade the government to allow the establishment of more educational institutions based on Wahhabism (an ultraconservative brand of Islam).

"It is possible that Saudi Arabia will seek to open high schools propagating Wahhabism in the future," Badrus said.

The king's visit received a nationwide enthusiastic response. It was considered historic, as King Salman was the first Saudi Arabian king to visit Indonesia in 47 years.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/15/jokowi-let-down-by-s-arabias-low-investment.html

Mining & energy

Freeport collects export permit after Pence visit

Reuters - April 21, 2017

Fergus Jensen and Bernadette Christina Munthe, Jakarta – Freeport McMoRan Inc collected a permit to resume copper exports from Indonesia on Friday after a hiatus of more than three months, hours after a state visit by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who discussed the copper miner's dispute with Jakarta.

Indonesia's trade ministry issued Freeport with a permit to export 1.1 million tonnes of copper concentrate up to February next year, although it was unclear how long shipments would last.

Freeport is still at loggerheads with Indonesia over rights to its giant Grasberg mine in Papua, and tensions with workers threaten to disrupt its operations further.

Indonesia halted Freeport's copper concentrate exports in January under new rules that require the Arizona-based company to adopt a special license, pay new taxes and royalties, divest a 51 percent stake in its operations and relinquish arbitration rights.

The dispute has cost the company and Indonesia hundreds of millions of dollars. Jakarta has said it would halt exports again if negotiations over sticking points were not resolved within six months.

Freeport has also warned Jakarta, saying it had the right to commence arbitration by June 17 if no agreement was reached.

Pence thanked Indonesian President Joko Widodo for the interim solution to the Freeport dispute on Friday but said more steps were still needed, a White House foreign policy adviser said.

"We told them that there were more steps that needed to be taken," the adviser said, noting this was the only business issue Pence raised in his meeting with Widodo on Thursday.

Absenteeism, furloughs

Tensions are rising around Grasberg after Freeport laid off thousands of workers there to stem losses from its dispute with the Indonesian government over mining rights.

Freeport warned on Friday it would punish workers for absenteeism, a day after one of the main unions announced plans to strike over employment conditions.

"Freeport Indonesia has experienced a high level of absenteeism over the last several days," Freeport spokesman Eric Kinneberg said. "Absenteeism is being tracked and disciplinary actions will be enforced under the terms of the Collective Labour Agreement," he said.

Freeport had "demobilized" just over 10 percent of its workforce of 32,000 by last week, a number expected to grow until the dispute is fully resolved.

The Freeport workers' union said the company's efforts to reduce its workforce so far have had "extensive impacts on workers and their families".

Workers are worried about the layoffs "because there are no limits or specific criteria on workers who will be furloughed," the union said. It demanded an end to the furlough policy and notified Freeport of plans to strike for 30 days from May 1.

"Efforts by the company to cut costs and reduce their numbers of workers, this is what has made them feel agitated," said Virgo Solossa, a Freeport workers' union member told Reuters, but said many other workers would not join the strike.

Adding to tensions around Grasberg, several Freeport workers and police were injured in a clash in Papua on Thursday, when officers fired rubber bullets at demonstrators in Timika.

Timika Police Chief Victor Machbon confirmed the details of the incident and said about 1,000 demonstrators attempting to free a union leader at a court hearing had not dispersed when tear gas was fired.

According to the trade ministry, Freeport exported 1.17 million tonnes of copper concentrate to Japan, South Korea, China, India and the Philippines in 2016.

[Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor, Fergus Jensen, Wilda Asmarini and Bernadette Christina Munthe in JAKARTA, and Roberta Rampton aboard Air Force Two; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Tom Hogue and Paul Tait.]

Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/indonesia-freeport-idusl3n1hu00w

Infrastructure & development

Public Works Ministry spends only 12.38% of budget

Jakarta Post - April 20, 2017

Farida Susanty, Jakarta – The Public Works and Public Housing Ministry acknowledged on Thursday it had not performed its best as it had only spent 12.38 percent of its allocation from the 2017 state budget.

The ministry is responsible for the development of most state infrastructure projects. The ministry was allocated Rp 101.4 trillion (US$7.6 billion) this year, slightly higher than the Rp 91.21 trillion allocated in the 2016 state budget.

Ministry secretary-general Anita Firmanti, however, expressed optimism that in the coming months her office would spend much more as a result of an increase in construction activities on infrastructure projects.

"This [spending] is better than last year. It's still early in the year. Some companies have not taken their down payments for the projects," she said on Thursday, adding that it was normal for spending to be slow early in the year and it would be different from mid- to end-year.

She said the ministry would closely monitor infrastructure projects to ensure they adhered to deadlines set by the government. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/20/public-works-ministry-spends-only-12-38-of-budget.html

Economy & investment

Growth of Indonesian footwear imports outpaces exports

Jakarta Post - April 19, 2017

Stefani Ribka, Sidoarjo, East Java – Indonesia's 2.9 percent growth in exports of footwear was outpaced by a 16.9 percent increase of imports in 2016, Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data shows. The government attributes the fact to a global economic downturn and sluggish investment in the sector in the past two years.

"In the past two years, South Korean and Chinese shoemaker giants operating in East Java have expressed wishes to open new factories elsewhere, like in Sukabumi and Majalengka in West Java, for the low labor costs, but the conditions in the latter areas were not conducive for it: There weren't enough laborers and energy costs were still high, so they opened in Vietnam, instead," said Alfiyan Darojat, project planning officer with the Industry Ministry's footwear industry development center (BPIPI) on Tuesday. In 2016, Indonesia exported 661 million pairs of footwear, a 2.9 percent increase year on year (yoy), while it imported 394 million pairs, a 16.9 percent increase yoy.

The largest portion, 28.12 percent, of the exports went to the United States, followed by China, Belgium, Germany and Japan, while most, 44.79 percent, of the imports came from China, followed by Vietnam, Hong Kong and the US.

The situation of a faster growth of imports than exports occurred from 2010 to 2016, except in 2014 and 2015 when export growth outpaced that of imports, BPS data shows.

The ministry wants to attract Rp 2.5 trillion (US$188.67 million) in investments into the sector this year. Seven shoemakers and leather processors have stated commitments to invest $262.18 million in 2017 and 2018. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/19/growth-of-indonesian-footwear-imports-outpaces-exports.html

Beer business still bubbly despite tough regulation, Multi Bintang

Jakarta Globe - April 19, 2017

Jakarta – Multi Bintang Indonesia, Indonesia's largest brewer, nearly doubled its net income last year thanks to strong sales and product innovations.

Multi Bintang booked Rp 982 billion ($74 million) in net income last year, up 98 percent from Rp 497 billion in 2015. Net revenue grew by 21 percent to Rp 3.26 trillion from Rp 2.69 trillion in 2015.

"We are pleased to report very strong financial results driven by growth in key tourist areas as well as in the hotel and restaurant segments," Multi Bintang President Director Michael Chin said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday (18/04).

The company, which sells popular beers Bintang and Heineken, expanded its product range in 2016 by launching new variants of its non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beverages, including Bintang Radler and Bintang Maxx beers, soda drinks Green Sands Lime & Lychee and Lime & Grape and malt-based soda beverages, Fayrouz.

The company said weak sales in 2015 were due to a government regulation that banned sales of alcohol beverages in small retailers.

In April 2015, the Trade Ministry issued a regulation that banned convenience stores and small shops from selling alcohol beverages containing less than 5 percent of alcohol by volume like beer.

However, in September 2015 the government relaxed the regulation by allowing regional governments to determine where sales of alcoholic beverages are allowed, as long as they are not located near houses of worship, schools or hospitals.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/beer-business-still-bubbly-despite-tough-regulation-multi-bintang-profit-nearly-doubles/

Government welcomes plan to develop Disneyland in Boyolali

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Jakarta – The Presidential office has welcome the plan to develop a Disneyland entertainment venue in Boyolali regency, Central Jakarta, with the hope that it will have a multiplier effect on development in the region.

"Indonesia is wide open for any investment that has a multiplier effect on development in the region," said Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung at the Presidential office in Jakarta on Monday as reported by tempo.co.

Previously, Boyolali Regent Seno Samudra said he had received an offer from Disneyland management in California for the company to develop a venue on a 100-hectare site in the regency with a total investment of about Rp 6 trillion (US$452.49 billion). The ground-breaking ceremony for the project is scheduled for Sept. 1.

Pramomo said that in the area, the government had established a growth-center triangle – Solo (Surakarta), Klaten and Yogyakarta – in which Boyolali had been included and would be promoted as a target for investment.

"If a Disneyland really is to be developed, it is great news and it will be a large investment," Pramono added. (bbn).

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/govt-welcomes-plan-to-develop-disneyland-in-boyolali.html

Sales of cars rise 6%, motorcycles drop 7% in Q1

Jakarta Globe - April 17, 2017

Jakarta – Domestic car sales rose 6 percent in the first quarter of this year, but the figure for two-wheelers continued to decline, painting a diverging picture of Indonesian consumers.

Automakers sold 283,245 vehicles in the first three months of this year, up from 267,302 in the same period a year ago, data from the Indonesian Automotive Association (Gaikindo) showed.

"Gaikindo is optimistic to see the car market this year, which is predicted to be better compared to last year," Gaikindo chairman Yohannes Nangoi said over the weekend.

He expects improving economic conditions to boost the purchasing power of middle- to high-income consumers.

Yohannes said two new low-cost green car models in the market, the Toyota Calya and Daihatsu Sigra, boosted sales in the period. Despite the increase, Gaikindo has still set a modest car sales target of 1.1 million units this year, or about 4 percent higher compared with last year.

Motorcycle sales on the other hand, dropped 7 percent to 1,401,538 units during the first three months, according to data from the Indonesian Motorcycle Industry Association (AISI).

AISI expects that 5.9 million units will be sold in the archipelago this year, having revised its previous target of 6.2 million amid challenges posed by a failed harvest, which usually lowers sales outside Jakarta and surrounding areas, as well as lower demand due to higher administrative costs involved in the registration of new vehicles.

Samuel Sekuritas Indonesia economist Lana Soelistianingsih said agricultural commodity prices have declined over the past few years, undermining the incomes of traditional buyers of motorcycles in rural areas.

Larger cities, where online-based ride-hailing services are ubiquitous, also contributed little to motorcycle sales growth.

"From the looks of it, the rise of online ojek [motorcycle taxis] should have increased motorcycle sales, right? Not really. It was merely a shift from regular ojek to Go-Jek, Grab or Uber," Lana said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/sales-of-cars-rise-6-motorcycles-drop-7-in-q1/

Manufacturing sector remains biggest growth contributor

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Stefani Ribka, Surabaya – The manufacturing sector remains the biggest contributor to economic growth in Indonesia, Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data show.

The sector contributed 0.92 percent to total economic growth of 5.02 percent last year. Other contributing sectors were trade with 0.53 percent, followed by construction with 0.51 percent, information and communication with 0.42 percent and others with 2.64 percent.

"The manufacturing sector is the biggest economic source," said Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto during a media workshop on Monday. However, its contribution has declined in the past three years, falling from 1.01 percent in 2014 and 0.94 percent in 2015, the same data show.

The contribution of the non-oil-and-gas manufacturing sector to the gross domestic product (GDP), meanwhile, remained low at around 18 percent in 2011 to 2016, compared to 30 percent prior to the 1997-1998 crisis, indicating what experts consider 'premature deindustrialization' in the developing country.

Airlangga added that, if combined with wholesale and retail sales as well as motorbike and car repair work, the contribution to GDP was 31.3 percent.

The biggest GDP contributor in the manufacturing sector outside of oil and gas is food and beverages with 32.84 percent, followed by metal, computer, electronics, optical and electricity equipment with 10.71 percent, transportation equipment with 10.47 percent and chemicals, pharmaceutical products and herbs with 9.86 percent. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/manufacturing-sector-remains-biggest-growth-contributor.html

Banking & finance

Supreme Audit Agency announces potential state losses

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Fedina S. Sundaryani, Jakarta – The Supreme Audit Agency's (BPK) latest investigative audit has estimated potential state losses and shortfalls stemming from violations of laws and regulations at Rp 12.59 trillion (US$949 million).

BPK chairman Harry Azhar Azis said on Monday that 1,205 findings worth Rp 1.37 trillion had clearly led to state losses, while 329 findings worth Rp 6.55 trillion had potentially led to losses.

"Meanwhile, 434 findings indicated a state revenue shortfall of Rp 4.66 trillion," he said after his meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, the figure of potential losses based on the investigative audit of the second half of 2016 reached Rp 19.48 trillion.

Harry pointed to three main problems causing irregularities: a lack of integration of regional health care into the state health care system, a lack of coordination between the central government and regional administrations in education and a lack of monitoring of taxpayers. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/supreme-audit-agency-announces-potential-state-losses.html

Tax amnesty achieves 75 percent of target: Tax office

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Tanjung Pandan, Bangka Belitung – The Directorate General of Taxation has said that it achieved 75 percent of its target in the tax amnesty that ended on March 31, in what was recorded as the biggest tax amnesty in the country's history.

As much as Rp 4.88 quadrillion ($367.22 billion) in asset value was declared during the nine-month long tax amnesty. Rp 147 trillion were repatriated assets while the government secured Rp 134.99 trillion in revenue from tariffs, according to the office's recently updated data.

While the declared assets exceeded the expectation, the repatriation and tariff revenue did not achieve its target, said tax office spokesman Hestu Yoga Saksama.

"Out of the Rp 1 quadrillion repatriation target, we hit only Rp 147 trillion, while compared to the Rp 167 trillion tariff revenue target, we got only Rp 135 trillion," Hestu said at a media briefing in Tanjung Pandan, Bangka-Belitung province, on Sunday.

Hestu added that in 2016, 1,556,000 registered taxpayers paid less than they should have. The tax office also recorded Rp 35 trillion in arrears that had been solved through the program.

In terms of registered taxpayers, the tax office recorded 52,757 new taxpayers during the tax amnesty. The tax office also obtained the data of 56,600 taxpayers who did not pay their tax money and 722,907 taxpayers who have yet to submit their tax forms.

"Now what? We cannot use the amnesty anymore. We could use the data to ask the taxpayers to pay the tax money," he said.

The tax office's audit and collection department marked Rp 18.5 trillion from law enforcement as of March and it would launch an investigation in May, the results of which would be obtained between August and November.

"With the tax amnesty, currently we have clear data as well as stronger evidence for investigation," Hestu said. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/tax-amnesty-achieves-75-percent-of-target-tax-office.html

Tax amnesty boosts state revenue in first quarter

Jakarta Post - April 17, 2017

Anton Hermansyah, Tanjung Pandan, Bangka Belitung – Tax revenue increased by 18.13 percent year-on-year (yoy) in the first quarter to Rp 222.27 trillion (US$16.73 billion), thanks to the after-effect of the tax amnesty.

The increase was mostly attributed to private taxpayers who had filed their taxes this year, said the Directorate General of Taxation's tax revenue and compliance director, Yon Arsal, adding that previously many taxpayers had not filed their taxes.

"We got Rp 2 trillion from them; this means people are getting more diligent [in paying taxes] after the tax amnesty," Yon said at a media briefing in Tanjung Pandan, Bangka Belitung, on Sunday.

Yon added that the tax office had targeted an 18.23 percent yoy increase in first-quarter revenue. The government has set itself a target of collecting Rp 1.31 quadrillion in tax revenue this year, and with the recent increase, the office has reached 17 percent of that target.

Indonesia has 36.03 million registered taxpayers in 2017 compared to 32.79 million in 2016. As of March, 9.71 million taxpayers have submitted their tax forms, resulting in a 58.47 percent tax ratio.

"The 58.47 percent tax ratio is the March number and still running; last year we reached 63.15 percent by December," he added. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/17/tax-amnesty-boosts-state-revenue-in-first-quarter.html

Analysis & opinion

Jakarta election result spells trouble for Jokowi and Indonesia

Lowry Institute - April 21, 2017

Erin Cook – The heavy loss of incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama to former education minister Anies Baswedan signals rising intolerance and demonstrates the influence of hard-line Muslim groups in Indonesia, spelling trouble for President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and moderate Indonesians of all persuasions. That Ahok failed to run a savvy and cohesive campaign has only amplified the shortcomings of Jakarta's moderate class.

Ahok's loss sees a return to leadership of the establishment class. Ahok has spent much of his career jumping between political parties before going independent – only to re-form an alliance last year with the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). The success of volunteer team Teman Ahok ('Friends of Ahok'), formed in 2015 after the governor committed to running for a second term, seemed to indicate a groundswell in grassroots support. Hundreds of volunteers hit the streets and shopping malls of the city and received a million signatures of support from eligible voters by June last year.

But hose efforts were squandered by organisers, and after the first round of voting in February the group appeared to run out of energy. 'We have been helping Ahok for two years non-stop. We're starting to feel a bit tired,' Teman Ahok founder Singgih Widyastomo told reporters, 'it is the political parties endorsing the candidate pair that should be on the front line.'

The failure of the group, whose members were reportedly upset to learn Ahok had teamed up with the PDI-P, will surely be examined by future candidates looking to return progressive and meritocratic government to the city. Teman Ahok was not effectively used by the official campaign once Ahok was on the ballot, and the group failed to maintain campaigning momentum or tailor its message, particularly after the high-profile blasphemy case broke out.

Meanwhile, PDI-P spent months teasing a candidacy from popular Surabaya mayor Tri Rismaharini which, in retrospect, wasted valuable time that could have been used to establish a strong foundation for the Ahok campaign, making it easier to weather the blasphemy storm. It is one thing to have a candidate attending court each week in a high profile case; it is another thing entirely to have the machinery of the country's ruling party fail to compensate for that.

The Anies win is now being linked to another tilt at the presidency for retired general and Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) boss Prabowo Subianto in 2019. Subianto fell 8 million votes short of Jokowi in 2014. Ominously, deputy governor elect Sandiaga, himself part of Indonesia's elite ranking alongside the country's richest businessmen, repeatedly declared while on the campaign trail that Gerindra would continue to support Jokowi 'until 2019'.

The hardline Muslim population will be reinvigorated by this result – after all, if a candidate hanging around 11% can go on to win an election after meeting with firebrand clerics, which savvy political operator would not seek to replicate that tactic? Regardless of who eventually nominates against Jokowi in 2019, the campaign is set to export divisive unrest from Jakarta to the rest of the country. Prabowo has already sought to reframe the role of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in the campaign. Despite the fact that FPI led all major demonstrations against Ahok and was the main voice calling for his imprisonment on blasphemy charges, Prabowo maintains the group is on the side of 'unity.'

Speaking to Bloomberg last week, Prabowo defended FPI leader Habib Rizieq, saying: 'Rizieq and the Muslim community, just like us, have defended the interests of the Indonesian public, upheld justice and saved our democracy and our future.' Anies is also in the business of pitting the Muslim majority against minorities in the city, telling Bloomberg: 'We have to show that the Muslim community is the one who upholds peace and unity.'

Whether Anies and Sandiaga will govern along these divisive lines remains to be seen, but it clearly sets a poor standard for repairing the racial and religious fractures still bubbling just beneath the surface of the city.

The lack of a corresponding movement in support of a moderate and tolerant Jakarta in the months following the blasphemy charges should have indicated there was not a silent majority of middle class and millennial voters who would make their voices heard at the ballot box. Still, the landslide result comes as a shock after weeks of polls showing a tight race. An overhaul of polling practices and better analyses tailormade for a city as bizarrely and brilliantly diverse as Jakarta is needed to more accurately reflect the pulse of the country as we hurtle toward elections in 2019.

Source: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/jakarta-election-result-spells-trouble-jokowi-and-indonesia

Will Jakarta's new governor stand firm against hardline religious

The Conversation - April 20, 2017

FNU Testriono – Voters in Indonesia's capital have chosen a former cabinet minister who sought the support of hardline Muslims opposing his contender – who is embroiled in a blasphemy case – as their new governor.

Anies Baswedan, who ran in the Jakarta gubernatorial race after being dismissed from his position as education minister last July, won yesterday's second round of voting. He received 58% of votes, according to a quick sample of votes by several polling organisations.

Anies' candidacy was backed mainly by the Gerindra Party of Prabowo Subianto and an Islamist party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). In addition, Perindo, the party of Donald Trump's business partner in Indonesia (Harry Tanoesudibyo), supported Anies' candidacy in the run-off election.

Anies' political compromise

Anies won the race after seeking the support of Islamist groups that had mobilised enormous rallies demanding Ahok's imprisonment for allegedly insulting Islam. This is worrying. Anies, who was rector of Paramadina University (which was founded by the late pre-eminent moderate Islamic scholar Nurcholis Madjid), had for a long time represented moderate and tolerant Islam.

However, as a challenger to an incumbent with a high approval rating, it was difficult for Anies to exploit policy issues per se. So, in his pursuit of the coveted Jakarta governor position, he approached Islamic militia groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which is notorious for its hardline stance and violent attacks against minorities.

This raises questions about whether Anies can keep his distance from the radical Islamic groups as leader of Indonesia's capital – and whether he would ensure that religious minorities, such as Syiah and Ahmadiyya communities, LGBT people and survivors of the violent 1965 anti-communist purges – groups that are often targets of attacks by hardline Islamic militias – will be protected.

It has been common in Indonesia for the state to fail to act against religious intolerance and violence. Some local governments even support intolerant acts carried out by hardline Islamic groups.

Having received the support from these groups, it may be difficult for Anies to act firmly against them. These groups want the implementation of sharia law in Indonesia. They also often play the role as morality police by carrying out attacks and raids against, among other places, nightclubs – especially during the Islamic fasting month.

Emotion rules voters

The Jakarta election shows ethno-religious sentiment is a powerful instrument to mobilise voters in Jakarta. Islamists, as in some other Muslim countries, are skillful in exploiting religious sentiments to pursue their agenda.

It seems, though it needs to be further examined by available empirical data, part of the Jakarta electorate chose its leader based on emotion, rather than rationality.

According to opinion polls, more than 70% of the Jakarta public were satisfied with Ahok's performance as governor. Rational voters would choose a candidate based on his policies and campaign promises. Yet Ahok's favourability one week prior to the election was 46.9%, and had never been beyond 48% since October 2016.

Some 90% of the nearly 7 million voters in Jakarta are Muslim. Ahok's double minority identities, Christian and Chinese-Indonesian, made it difficult for him to secure a majority of votes, especially after massive religious-based mobilisations against him.

Emotion then seemed to influence most voters to choose the winning candidate. Islamic groups that oppose Ahok used his criticism of his opponents for using a verse in the Qur'an to move people who might view Ahok as a successful leader against him.

The Islamic groups stirred voters' emotions not only through mobilising large rallies against Ahok, but also through repeated religious sermons. This seemed to have succeeded in influencing voters.

Voters may have considered Ahok as a successful governor. But through these mobilisations, they became doubtful – or even felt averse – to Ahok.

Has Islam in Indonia failed a 'litmus test'?

The Jakarta gubernatorial election had been considered as a "litmus test" for Indonesian democracy. Muslim democrats in Jakarta unfortunately failed the test at this election. It seems Indonesia is still some way off seeing a Chinese governor elected in a Muslim-majority province – or as the country's president.

The threat of rising intolerance in Indonesia is disheartening. But co-operation with hardline Islamic groups to win an election is even more worrying amid Indonesians' efforts to build a healthy and mature democracy.

The success of the Islamist groups' strategy in stirring voters' emotions, and lifting the candidate they supported to victory, will likely be a precedent for elections in other regions in Indonesia.

If this happens, it will be difficult for Indonesia's democracy to mature. Hardline religious groups would gain ground. Indonesia will be have to deal with more serious problems in managing intolerant religious groups that find allies in politicians with electoral goals in mind.

[FNU Testriono is a researcher at the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM), Universitas Islam Negeri Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta.]

Source: http://theconversation.com/will-jakartas-new-governor-stand-firm-against-hardline-religious-groups-76433

Ahok's defeat bodes ill for the future

Indonesia at Melbourne - April 20, 2017

Tim Lindsey – The decisive defeat of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in Jakarta's litmus-test gubernatorial election is a triumph for hard-line Islamist agitators. It comes after years of pressure from the Muslim right and may flag a shift in Indonesian politics that will not help Indonesia's fraying reputation for religious pluralism and tolerance.

The key to understanding why this election matters so much is that Ahok represents a double minority. He is a Christian in a city that, like Indonesia as a whole, is close to 90 per cent Muslim. He is also an ethnic Chinese, a minority who have been the target of racial discrimination in Indonesia for centuries.

For all its governance problems, Indonesia is now a genuine electoral democracy. For decades it has advertised itself to the world as a model of the compatibility of Islam and democracy – and of the religious and ethnic pluralism embodied in its national motto "Unity in Diversity".

But the bitter election campaign that resulted in Ahok's defeat gives the lie to these claims. It has been conducted in an increasingly tense atmosphere of religious and racial discrimination and rising intolerance that has seen him charged with blasphemy, and five of the Islamist hard-liners who led massive protests against him charged with treason.

Ahok had been elected deputy to Governor Joko Widodo five years ago, and stepped into his boss's shoes three years ago when Jokowi resigned in 2014 for his successful tilt at the presidency. Ahok has run Jakarta, a vast megacity of about 20 million, effectively, if uncompromisingly, since then. His enemies in the Islamist right, however, have consistently objected to him, from the moment the joint gubernatorial ticket with Jokowi was announced in 2012. They have been trying since then to tear him down.

Their chance came in September last year. The blasphemy charges against him relate to an incident while he was campaigning then. He referred to a particular verse of the Qur'an (Al Ma'idah) that many Indonesian Muslim leaders interpret as prohibiting the rule of non-Muslims over Muslims, and which Islamists had used against Ahok since he began his run for the deputy's position. There are different interpretations of this particular verse elsewhere in the Muslim world but this definition has traction in Indonesia.

During a typically unguarded speech, Ahok told his audience that they were being fooled by religious leaders (ulama) who used this interpretation of the verse against him. A version of his comments ended up in the media, wrongly edited to make it seem that he said "You are being fooled by the Qur'an".

Huge street demonstrations followed, led by hard-line Islamists, including the notorious FPI (Islamic Defenders Front), and FUI (Islamic Community Forum). Over half a million people protested against Ahok at one point late last year, egged on by the inflammatory rhetoric of Islamist firebrands like FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihab. He even called for a march on the Presidential Palace and the overthrow of the government. The resulting turmoil forced Jokowi to cancel his planned visit to Australia in November, at the last moment.

The scale of these protests was frightening for many ordinary Jakartans who remember the riots and violence of 1998, when President Soeharto lost power. Politicians were also concerned to see such huge mobs on the streets – a longstanding nightmare for anyone in power in this gigantic and sometimes volatile city. And so the decision was taken by President Jokowi to let his former deputy and close advisor, Ahok, face the blasphemy charges, as a way of calming the situation.

The charges undoubtedly did huge damage to Ahok's campaign. Polls run before the election found that although 70 per cent of Jakartans felt he had been an effective governor only about 40 per cent of them were prepared to actually vote for him.

But it is not just Ahok's religion that has attracted such vicious opposition. Although some ethnic Chinese have served in appointed positions, including in cabinet, none have even been elected to high office in Indonesia. This made Ahok a lightning rod for racist attacks.

Although most of the attacks on him are framed in religious terms, they are also driven by his ethnicity. There must be doubt about whether his enemies could have brought hundreds of thousands out on the streets as they did twice last year if Ahok was not an ethnic Chinese. After all, Jakarta has had another (appointed) Christian governor in the past, but he is the first Chinese one. A recent survey disaggregating Ahok's religion from his ethnicity, shows that many Indonesians seem more negative about his ethnic identity than his religious one.

The fact the hard-line leaders – some of them little more than gangsters – were able to bring hundreds of thousands of people into the streets, sometimes openly attacking the government and the president, and got what they wanted has upset the patterns of politics in Jakarta – nationally too, because the capital is this gigantic nation's commercial, social and political hub. Many politicians became uneasy with what had been unleashed; others have begun to think about how they can benefit from playing the Islamist card.

Take Ahok's victorious opponent, Anies Baswedan. He has been the national education and culture minister, a Fullbright scholar and the rector of Paramadina University, a respected moderate centre of Islamic higher education. He has long enjoyed a reputation as a progressive Muslim intellectual. He refrained from identity-based invective but ran an effective dog-whistle campaign, courting the Islamist groups that were attacking Ahok on religious and racial grounds, attending their meetings and even singing with them. Politicians all around Indonesia will be closely studying his success in elections that are seen by many as a rehearsal for the 2019 presidential and legislative races. It will not go unnoticed that Anies' party leader is Jokowi's defeated presidential rival, former general Prabowo Subianto.

Jokowi's government is a weak and insecure one and it seems confused about how to deal with hard-line Islamist groups. Does it pander to them? Or does it push back? It sometimes seems to be trying to do both at the same time. In the end, the government responded by arresting some of the hard-line leaders and charging them with treason. But the move came very late and Jokowi has been very careful to distance himself from Ahok, seeming willing to throw his friend "under the bus" to secure his own authority.

Make no mistake, it was the mobilisation of racial and religious hatred achieved by his enemies that led to Ahok's defeat in this election, and his performance as acting governor was largely immaterial. He now faces judgment in his blasphemy trial and the possibility of years in prison. The election has polarised Indonesia, intimidated religious and racial minorities and greatly strengthened the hand of Islamist hardliners.

Without Ahok no longer at the helm, life will, of course, go on in Indonesia's huge, dysfunctional capital, but these events have shaken the country's self-identity as a tolerant, pluralist society and bode ill for the future.

[This piece was also published on John Menadue's blog. Tim Lindsey is Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the University of Melbourne.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/ahoks-defeat-bodes-ill-for-the-future/

Commentary: Jakarta governor election results in a victory for prejudice

Jakarta Globe - April 20, 2017

The long, divisive campaign for governorship of Indonesia's capital city Jakarta is finally over, with results showing a decisive victory for the challenger Anies Baswedan over the controversial incumbent governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

The election was the most politically significant regional election in Indonesia's history because it wasn't just about choosing the chief executive for the city's 10 million citizens.

Rather, it became a referendum on the future of Indonesia's ethno-religious diversity and tolerance after unwanted intervention by a number of radical Islamist groups, most notably the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The blasphemy campaign against Ahok

These groups accused Ahok, a Chinese Indonesian who is Christian, of blaspheming last September by mocking a verse from the Koran that allegedly calls for Muslims to reject non-Muslims as their leaders. Ahok criticized unnamed ulema or Muslim clerics for using verse 51 of the Surah Al-Maidah that advises Muslims to avoid aligning with Christian and Jews.

FPI and its allies managed to obtain a fatwa, or religious ruling from the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) declaring that Ahok was guilty of committing blasphemy against Islam. They then sponsored a number of anti-Ahok rallies in Jakarta, the largest of which, held in November 2016, attracted approximately 2.5 million protesters.

Under pressure from these groups, the Indonesian government opened an investigation against Ahok and tried him for blasphemy. The trial was adjourned a week before the election.

Anies, a very astute politician, quickly capitalized on anti-Ahok accusations, by seeking and receiving an endorsement from Habib Rizieq Shihab, FPI's leader. He also started to portray himself as an "Islamic candidate" to win the support of Jakarta's Muslims, who comprise 85 percent of registered voters.

The strategy seems to have worked, as an Indo Barometer poll in February indicated more than half of Jakarta's voters would not vote for Ahok because they believed he had committed a blasphemous act against Islam.

They reached this conclusion despite a number of Islamic scholars saying that the Koranic verse in question must be seen in the context of warfare between Muslims and non-Muslims during the early Islamic period. And that it had nothing to do with how Muslims should choose their leader.

The race between the two contenders was very tight, as indicated by the reputable Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting poll, which showed Anies leading Ahok with a margin of 1 percent – 47.9 percent versus 46.9 percent – with up to 5.2 percent of voters still undecided.

The campaign took an ugly turn when an elderly woman, who had voted for Ahok during the first round and subsequently died, was denied a Muslim burial. And an Islamist activist made a Facebook post stating it would be religiously permissible for any women voting for Ahok during the run-off election to be gang-raped.

Police had to tear down a number of banners placed in mosques across Jakarta discouraging their members to vote for Ahok during the runoff.

Implications of the election results

The election has serious implications for the future of Indonesian politics. Anies's victory means he is in a stronger position to mount a challenge against President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in 2019, as a candidate of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), or with another opposition party.

A young, telegenic politician who has widely touted his Islamic credentials, Anies is perceived by Jokowi as a more formidable opponent than "old guard" elite figures, such as retired Army general Prabowo Subianto and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who are both widely expected to be contenders during the 2019 presidential election.

But more importantly, Anies's victory is another sign of the growing Islamization of Indonesian politics, which has been on the rise since the country made its democratic transition in 1998.

This phenomenon can be seen throughout Indonesian society, from the promotion of Islamist prayer groups and study circles in public university campuses throughout the country; the proliferation of Indonesian women wearing Islamic veils, or hijabs; and the rapid increase in local regulations restricting alcohol consumption and the rights of religious minorities.

There seems to be an ideological and political convergence between Islamist groups such as FPI – an association of approximately 100,000 hard-line Islamists with close ties to the Indonesian security apparatus – and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia. This latter is known for its advocacy for a global caliphate.

Members of both groups are developing a close relationship with the conservative elements of the Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's two largest Muslim organisations with generally moderate political leanings. They claim membership by 60 million and 30 million people respectively.

The MUI fatwa against Ahok was signed by Maaruf Amin, who, apart from being the council's general chairman, is also NU's supreme leader.

The groups have also cooperated to demand the implementation of Sharia regulations by local governments throughout Indonesia. And there are now 442 such regulations in place in over 100 cities and districts.

These regulations require women to wear hijab in public, prohibit the consumption of alcohol and prostitution, and declare a number of Islamic minority sects, such as Ahmadis and Shiites, to be illegal within their respective localities. The groups have also encouraged acts of violence against both minorities over the past decade or so.

Rising Islamism and the renewed prejudice against ethnic and religious minorities pose a danger to the pluralist outlook enshrined in Indonesia's official founding principles, which are collectively known as Pancasila. Made from the Sanskrit word for "five," panca, and the Javanese for "principles," sila, Pancasila states: "The one God system [monotheism], just and civilized humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy and social justice for all."

These principles have underpinned equality for all Indonesia's ethnic and religious groups since the country's founding in 1945. Indonesian founding fathers who created Pancasila meant to give equal political and economic opportunities to all Indonesians irrespective of their ethnic and religious background.

Unlike Indonesia's neighbor Malaysia, Pancasila grants no special status to Muslims and instead gives official religions status to a number of religions – Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. It gives them equal legal recognition and grants their members full religious freedom. Most significantly, adherents of all religions are free to run for and occupy any public office.

By creating these accusations against Ahok, the Islamists have refused to recognize the legal rights of Indonesia's ethnic and religious minorities to run for public office. Ahok's loss means that Indonesia's ethno-religious diversity is the biggest casualty of this highly polarizing election.

Alexander R. Arifianto is a research fellow in the Indonesia program at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University. His views are his own.

– The Conversation

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/opinion/commentary-jakarta-governor-election-results-in-a-victory-for-prejudice-over-pluralism/

Jakarta – inequality and the poverty of elite pluralism

New Mandala - April 19, 2017

Ian Wilson – Judging from national and international headlines, Jakarta's gubernatorial election on 19 April represents not just a major turning point for the nation's capital and city of 12 million, but potentially for the entire country. The alarmist tone is largely due to the unsettling direction campaigning has taken over the past eight months, that has seen any possible substantive policy debates over how to best tackle Jakarta's complex infrastructural, economic, and social problems subsumed by sectarian identity politics.

Initially a relatively fringe movement led by serial troublemakers the Islamic Defenders Front, objections to Ahok as governor on the grounds he was a non-Muslim snowballed after allegations he insulted Islam, and the subsequent laying of blasphemy charges. It presented the perfect opening for his rivals, who pumped significant financial and political resources into reframing opposition to him on identity lines. Focusing for most of the campaign on modest policy achievements and managerial competence, Ahok's team recently responded in turn with an emotive campaign video highlighting a commitment to pluralism and tolerance.

While the campaigns present, at one level of analysis, a stark contrast between 'diversity' on the one hand and sectarian populism on the other, a shared point of commonality is the respective silence regarding a significant shaping force in Jakarta, and arguably the election: rising levels of economic inequality.

Indonesia's Bureau of Statistics has recorded steady increases in levels of economic inequality in Jakarta, reflecting the national trend of the past decade. The country's much-heralded economic growth has been marked by growing concentrations of that wealth in the hands of a few, and a stagnation if not deterioration in the standard of living of a vast majority of Indonesians. According to a 2017 Oxfam report on the widening wealth gap, inequality has been driven by a combination of 'market fundamentalism', high concentrations of land ownership, and the second lowest rate of tax collection in Southeast Asia.

The poor and precarious bear the most drastic and damaging impacts of economic inequality, though in a densely populated megacity like Jakarta it is felt by all social and economic classes – albeit in often vastly different ways and with a range of social and political consequences.

For Jakarta's upper middle classes the desire for security, lifestyle, and convenience – together with the push by developers for profitable all-inclusive developments – has meant increasingly self-imposed spatial separation from other social and economic groups within gated estates, apartments towers, shopping malls and private vehicles. Once a city of economically mixed neighborhoods, large parts of the city are spatially divided by class and ethnicity. This can be seen in the city's north, where remaining kampung sit in uneasy tension alongside luxury apartments and gated communities.

This socio-spatial shift has been reflected politically in middle class demands for an 'orderly' city free from the inconveniences of traffic congestion, overcrowding, and flooding, but minus the self-sacrifices required to achieve these. The poor provide convenient scapegoats. It has also fed the popularity of strong, 'uncompromising', and arguably authoritarian leadership styles as represented by Ahok, but also his former party chief and now political adversary Prabowo Subianto.

For the lower middle class, perhaps the closest to a socioeconomic 'majority' in the city, rising inequality and social disparity creates a host of contradictory anxieties and tensions. As seen elsewhere in the world, fears over job and tenure security with rising costs of living can manifest in receptiveness to populism and conspiracy culture.

Populism is fueled not only by anxiety over economic conditions, but also cultural and social tensions. What may be fluid identities in the course of everyday life can harden in the face of ongoing uncertainties, such as seen in the well documented rise of self-conscious displays of religious piety and social conservatism.

Both campaigns have appealed to these rising anxieties resulting from broader economic transformations, albeit in different ways.

Ahok's program of neoliberal urban redevelopment and infrastructural improvement has been explicitly pitched to a middle class anxious to enjoy amenities and lifestyle comparable to Singapore or Seoul. His unwavering stance regarding the eviction of informal neighborhoods, for example, has been popular with middle class constituents, in part due to the perception of a commitment to the rule of law, but also because they have been exempted from it.

While his double minority status has not been used as an explicit focus of campaigning it has been regularly cited by supporters, such as Teman Ahok, as an inherent positive within the context of Indonesian democracy and a sign of the city's embrace of pluralistic tolerance, albeit one now seemingly under threat. As Walter Micheals has argued, the emphasis placed by liberal elites on diversity often masks social and economic inequality, and the economic structures from which their own wealth and status are gained. The diversity of an elite is used to rationalise its existence.

In mixed poor and lower middle class neighborhoods in Jakarta, where heterogeneity is considered by many a simple fact of life, resentments towards 'elite pluralism' have been exploited by a variety of political opportunists. The Islamist anti-liberalism movement, for example, has drawn significant support from this social base, which later dovetailed with the religiously framed opposition to Ahok. The advocacy or defence of policies deeply hostile to the poor and working class by liberal commentators and activists has served to underscore the view that liberal pluralism is corrupt and self-serving.

Anies Baswedan's campaign has opportunistically embraced the political benefits of the fanning of identity politics, while either pretending not to see it or insisting it isn't really an issue at all. His supporter networks (including hardline clerics) have been less reticent, exploiting anxieties and material hardship via rhetoric that mixes critiques of neoliberalism and democracy with xenophobia.

Throughout the New Order, ethnic Chinese Indonesians were maintained as a convenient scapegoat for the regimes failure to make good on its trade off of curtailed political freedom in return for economic development and to distract from the systemic looting of the country's resources by the Suharto family and its cronies. This 'tradition' has been revived through the spread of conspiracy theories via mosque sermons and social media.

Even a cursory glance at the composition of the candidates' political coalitions provides an insight in to why inequality may not be a political or policy priority.

Ahok, a former protege of Golkar and Gerindra, has well documented links to developer conglomerates such as Agung Podomoro, Sinarmas and Agung Sedayu and is backed by an alliance of parties that includes, among others, media mogul and National Democrat party leader Surya Paloh. Similarly, his rival's running mate Sandiago Uno is listed in the top 50 richest Indonesians, as is Gerindra financier Hashim Djojohadikusumo. Other backers of Anies Baswedean include ethnic Chinese billionaire and Trump supporter Hary Tanoesoedibjo. The conspicuous silence from Anies' supporters surrounding Hary's backing, despite the racialised attacks on Ahok, is indicative of its instrumentality.

These constellations of rival political elites collectively constitute a substantial percentage of the greatest beneficiaries of Indonesia's economic growth. Economic inequality is, for them, arguably less a crucial problem to be tackled through structural reform than one to be politically managed and manipulated. The framing of elections in terms of polarising identity politics, be it sectarian or pluralist, and the subsequent arranging of social conflicts, serves to both obscure and capture the anomie generated by inequality.

The victims of this politics of misdirection are those vulnerable minorities for whom the stoking of sectarian sentiments poses a very real and potentially dire threat, together with those for whom the channeling of their anger into identity politics will provide no concrete answers to the economic pressures that they face.

[Ian Wilson is a lecturer in politics and security studies and a Research Fellow at Murdoch University's Asia Research Centre. You can follow him on Twitter at @iwilson69.]

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/jakarta-inequality-poverty-elite-pluralism/

The religious vortex in Jakarta's election

Tempo.co - April 18, 2017

Jakarta – The commotion over the Jakarta gubernatorial election in the last six months has been both a relief and a concern. It was a relief because the fuss and chaos of the campaign did not end in violence or disturbances that sparked rioting. To that extent, democracy in Jakarta deserves praise. Conversely, the election was worrying because misplaced religious jargon was used to win over voters.

It all began with a speech by incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (aka Ahok) at the Thousand Islands district last September. In a discussion with local residents over a fish cultivation program, he quoted a Koranic verse and criticized puritans who used religious sentiments to attack political opponents. This magazine has repeatedly stated that Ahok's speech was not blasphemous. But we must admit that his statement was like kindling among dry leaves.

Large scale demonstrations demanding Ahok be tried in court developed into calls for Islamic shariah law and the replacement of the national ideology. The protestors seem to have forgotten that the founding fathers agreed on the Pancasila principle as the basis for the nation, because they were aware that Indonesia was a culturally and ethnically diverse country.

Undeniably, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono and Anies Baswedan, the first named being eliminated in the first round, benefited from this polarization. Their electability rose sharply after the Thousand Islands incident. The alliance they built with Islamic religious scholars and politicians underlined what Ahok lacked: Islam and Islamic symbols. Instead of criticizing Ahok's development model, which was seen as not favoring the less wealthy, the two men beat the drum of politicized religion.

On the other hand, one viewpoint that Ahok was looking for an electoral advantage from the Thousand Islands incident cannot be completely ignored. Because of this speech, and the massive opposition from conservative Muslims that followed, Ahok gained sympathy from moderates and non-Muslims. The segregation was apparent: Agus and Anies were supported by conservative Muslims, while Ahok was supported by moderate Muslims, non-Muslims and the ethnic Chinese community.

This led to chaos. A war of words, posters and banners broke out in social media and on the streets. Hoaxes spread. After the election first round, when calls spread for prayers not to be said over the bodies of Muslims who had supported Ahok, his supporters responded by promoting a spirit of anti-sectarianism. Anies, who initially seemed to allow these calls to spread – perhaps in order to increase his vote – subsequently denied the ban on prayers came from his camp, especially when public resentment over the calls peaked.

Now in the second round, the two candidates seek the support of the people who voted for Agus and those who did not vote in the first round. With such a small gap between them, according to polls, they are pursuing Muslim voters – the group they are convinced will decide the outcome.

Like a man at his wit's end, Ahok is also using Islamic symbolism, through Djarot Saiful Hidayat, his running mate. While retaining the votes of moderates, Ahok and Djarot have surrendered to the temptation of going after votes from conservative Muslims.

Like the Anies-Sandi ticket, on the ballot paper for the second round, Djarot will be wearing the black traditional peci hat-which is often mistaken as a sign of piety. In campaign activities, voters are being urged to vote for Djarot because he already has made the Haj pilgrimage, while Anies Baswedan has not. The contest over policies and programs has been overshadowed by the clamor of promises wrapped in religious sentiment. Pessimists feel certain that this religious polarization will not end with this election. Whoever wins will realize that religious issues took them to the top. The minority and the majority will both portray themselves as victims.

This bleak state of affairs has come about because the Jakarta gubernatorial election is seen as the first step on the road to the 2019 presidential election. In other words, politicization of religion will not stop once the Jakarta gubernatorial polls close.

The winner of this election must realize he will not be able to implement his programs if society is divided. Politicization of religion must stop. The public must be taught to think rationally when assessing candidates to be their governor or head of state. Indonesia must not fall victim to politicization of religion in any form. (*)

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/04/18/314867115/The-Religious-Vortex-in-Jakartas-Election

No fast tracks in Indonesia

Asia Times - April 17, 2017

John McBeth, Jakarta – Over the past two decades, Bangkok has made great strides in public transport, building the so-called Skytrain and a subway in the expectation it would relieve the once-canal-laced city's epic traffic jams. Yet a recent survey still ranked Thailand's capital the second most congested city in the world.

Mexico City was the worst, but coming in third in the Tomtom Traffic Index was Jakarta, the only major metropolis in the Asian region without a rail-based people-mover. As governor Basuki Purnama remarked at the time: "If you don't have a train-based transportation system, there will always be traffic congestion."

Bangkok suggests that is not necessarily the case, which is sobering news for Jakarta's city planners looking for great improvements when Jakarta's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems, and a network of three elevated busways open in the next two years.

The first phase of the over-and-under MRT, stretching 21.7 kilometers north-south through the heart of the commercial district, is designed to carry as many as 950,000 passengers a day when it is opened in its entirety in 2018.

The initial 42-kilometer first phase of the LRT, also due to be finished in time for the 2018 Asian Games, will connect the city center with the eastern suburbs along three corridors. When all six lines are complete they will have the capacity to carry 816,000 passengers a day.

Three more partly-elevated corridors are also being added to the 210-kilometer TransJakarta Busway, the world's longest, which already carries 123 million passengers a year and serves 80 different routes across a city that had been starved of decent public transport for decades.

Those projects, six new inner city toll roads, a major addition to the notorious Semanggi interchange and a new underpass on one of the main thoroughfares into the downtown area contribute to the biggest infrastructure-building program Jakarta has experienced in its 400-year history.

But long-term Bangkok residents know only too well that even with some of the world's worst traffic getting people out of their cars and on to trains is a lot easier said than done. Indeed, most of the Thai passengers who use public transport either don't own vehicles or normally travel by bus anyway.

Jakarta's problem is not only its 3.1 million cars and the elite's penchant for dropping their kids at the school gate. The biggest traffic nightmare are the 10 million motorcyclists, many of whom have got into the habit of riding from their home doorstep to office door-front. No public transport system can do that.

Jakarta's 10.6 million residents make up about a third of the population living in what is known as Jabodetabek, or the greater metropolitan area, encompassing the outlying municipalities of Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi.

More importantly, an estimated 2.43 million commuters travel within, into and out of the city each day, including 1.38 million who take the two to three hour journey to work. And that's on a good day when everything is running smoothly and the current construction is not an issue.

Jakarta has one distinct advantage. Unlike Bangkok, it does have a city center, the so-called Golden Triangle business district formed by three major streets – Sudirman, Rasuna Said and Thamrin – where access can be controlled once the MRT has been opened.

That will mean pay-as-you-go electronic road pricing (ERP) in place of the current odd-even license plate system which has worked remarkably well, but won't persuade motorists and motorcycles to leave their vehicles at home.

Singapore has used ERP to restrict downtown traffic since 1998. By 2020 the island state will have introduced a new Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) under which the existing in-vehicle electronic unit will be replaced with a new unit for a range of additional automatic payments.

Jakarta may also be persuaded to increase downtown parking fees, among other measures, but it and surrounding municipalities will also have to provide space for those who use their vehicles to get to the new public transport links.

Two years ago, Castrol-Magnatec Index ranked Jakarta the world's most congested city, using GPS data to calculate that motorists made 33,240 stop-starts a year – compared to Istanbul (32,520), Mexico City (30,840) and Bangkok (27,480). Now, with widespread road and train construction, the situation for commuters has gotten even worse.

Even Purnama acknowledges that the MRT and the LRT are not a panacea for a problem that could take decades to resolve, particularly when an average of 470 new cars and 2,900 new motorcycles flood onto Jakarta's 7,650 kilometers of streets each day.

Motorcycles make up more than half of the trips recorded around the city each day, followed by public transport and private cars in equal numbers. But statistics don't tell the whole story of a problem that costs the economy an estimated 45.2 trillion rupiah (US$3.4 billion) a year.

Indiscipline, poor driving skills, illegal parking and a lack of law enforcement are also major contributors to the congestion, with the horde of motorcyclists effectively controlling the flow of traffic – and contributing to most of last year's 678 road fatalities.

So what's the answer to getting people on public transport? Vice-gubernatorial candidate Sandiaga Uno, a youthful tycoon who gets around in a modest van, says it will come down to technology, but that's about as far as he is tempted to go in offering a solution.

In the end, he believes it will only happen if younger Jakartans convince themselves it is a cool thing to do.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/no-fast-tracks-indonesia/


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