Home > South-East Asia >> Indonesia

Indonesia News Digest 19 – May 15-22, 2017

West Papua Aceh Human rights & justice New order & anti-communism Women's rights & gender Sexual & domestic violence Freedom of speech & expression Democracy & civil rights Political parties & elections Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections Surveys & opinion polls Social organisations & NGOs Environment & natural disasters Health & education Tertiary education & campus life LBGT & same-sex marriage Graft & corruption Freedom of religion & worship Islam & religion Sex, pornography & morality Agriculture & food security Land & agrarian conflicts Ethnic & sectarian conflict Foreign affairs & trade Analysis & opinion Book & film reviews

West Papua

Two dead in latest spate of violence in Papua

Radio New Zealand International - May 22, 2017

There's been more deadly violence in Indonesia's Papua province. The body of a 45-year old woman from Maluku province was discovered outside a power plant in Waena, near Jayapura, early on Saturday morning.

As police moved the following day to make arrests in connection with the alleged murder, a mob of around two hundred Moluccans gathered in Waena to avenge the woman's death.

The mob stirred unrest, with Tabloid Jubi reporting that two Highlands men were stabbed – one died and the other was seriously injured.

Jayapura City Police Chief Tober Sirait, who led the team responding to the first murder, confirmed eight suspects had been arrested.

Chief Sirait described them as alleged masterminds in a number of recent cases of violence in Jayapura and Keerom regencies. He said one of the eight was shot in the process of being arrested.

The weekend's violence in Waena is the latest in a series of reported cases of violence in Jayapura in the past two months. At least five people have been killed in these attacks, including a University of Cenderawasih lecturer eleven days ago in Waena.

On this case, a member of Indonesia's National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, has claimed to have been the subject of an attack by police conducting investigations.

Nareky Kogoya he was assaulted and detained by police after being accused of protecting the perpetrators of the murder. Mr Kogoya claims he was trying to help the police who subsequently pressured him not to reveal their attack on him to the public.

Chief Sirait told local media that not all of the witnesses they have questioned have been co-operative.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/331305/two-dead-in-latest-spate-of-violence-in-papua

Thousands of Freeport Indonesia workers to strike for second month

Reuters - May 20, 2017

Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Samuel Wanda, Jakarta/Timika – An estimated 9,000 workers at the giant Grasberg copper mine operated by Freeport McMoRan Inc (FCX.N) will extend a strike for a second month, a union official said on Saturday, in an ongoing dispute over employment terms and layoffs.

"We regret the stance of the businessmen who unilaterally laid off workers," Freeport Indonesia union industrial relations officer Tri Puspital told Reuters.

Output from Grasberg has been reduced by half as result of the strike that began May 1, Puspital added.

(Writing by Fergus Jensen, editing by Louise Heavens)

Source: http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-indonesia-freeport-strike-idUKKCN18G0D9?rpc=401&

Indonesia must step up over Papuan development, says ELSAM

Asia Pacific Report - May 19, 2017

The Indonesian government needs to change the policy of development which makes Papuan community a subject, says a non-government organisation that specialises in West Papuan development issues.

This has emerged in the launch of research results and discussion "From Decolonialisation to Marginalisation: Portrait of Government Policy in Tanah Papua for the Last 46 Years" held by ELSAM in Jakarta yesterday.

Research coordinator on Papuan issues Budi Hernawan said that the research focused on three issues – demographic changes in Papua and the impact of development policy, environmental degradation, and militarisation.

ELSAM provided several recommendations related to the three issues. According to the coordinator of information and documentation of ELSAM, Ari Yurino, the transmigration programme in Papua has evidently brought negative impact to the social life of Papuan natives.

Due to the uneven transmigration and development programme, it has caused the increase of the number of migrants in Papua and the rise of conflict between the newcomers and the indigenous Papuans.

The transmigration programme must be terminated and its policy must be evaluated, Yurino said.

'Alternative solution'

"As an alternative solution of regional development, the national government should facilitate the cooperation among regions to strengthen the local government in order to be able to seek for autonomous development," he said.

One of the recommendations to the local government, he added, was to also formulate Perdasi (Provincial Regional Regulations) and Perdasus (Special Regional Regulations) which would encourage the assimilation of the migrants into Papuan culture through formal and informal education.

Meanwhile, in the context of environmental degradation, ELSAM's programme staff, Kania Mezariani, said the national government needed to urgently conduct environmental auditing on all national scale projects in Papua, especially in the plantation and mining sectors.

According to her, those two sectors often became the triggers of conflicts, both locally and nationally. "The national government should focus on economic development which directly connects to the peoples' needs," she said.

Mezariani added that the local government should establish spatial planning in Papua and West Papua provinces in order to guarantee the life space of the indigenous Papuan people, especially related to the domination of the rainforests and lands of Papua.

Also the coordinator of human rights defenders capacity building of ELSAM, Mike Verawati, spoke about the importance of reviving community police in Papua.

'NZ-aided community police'

"In Java, such a pattern is applied. Previously, the community police was run through assistance from the Netherlands and New Zealand police institutions quite successfully.

"That project should be run again. The government officers assigned in Papua should also receive the briefing about anthropology in order to understand and use the approach in accordance with Papuan characteristics," she said.

Other than that, she also called on the national government to terminate the extension of authority to the Indonesian National Army over the defence role as specified in Law No 34/2002 on Indonesian National Army.

Budi Hernawan saisd ELSAM also urged Komnas HAM and the Attorney-General to immediately complete the documentation of human rights violations cases in Papua.

Hernawan added that local government must immediately establish a human rights protection instrument, especially like the Regional Commission on Human Rights, Human Rights Court, and Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Papua and West Papua, as mandated by Law No 21/2001 on Special Autonomy.

Source: http://asiapacificreport.nz/2017/05/19/indonesian-must-step-up-over-papuan-development-says-elsam/

Calls to disband HTI in Papua mount

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – Representatives of many societal elements in Papua have called for the disbandment of a hard-line Islamic group, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), which now has about 300 followers in regencies and municipalities across the region.

With an ideology that contradicts Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, the presence of HTI can divide the nation and trigger social conflicts, critics say.

The deputy chairman of the Papua chapter of the Islam Propagation Institution (LDI), Samsudin, said ulama (Islamic leaders) from areas across Indonesia rejected HTI in 2006 and their decision had not yet changed. Hence, Indonesian authorities should not hesitate to take tough measures against the organization.

"HTI must be banned in Papua because it will only destroy the harmonious life of religious followers in the region," Samsudin said.

He was speaking in a seminar jointly conducted by Indonesia's largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and the Religious Affairs Ministry's Papua office in Jayapura on Thursday.

Amirmahmud Madubun of GP Ansor, the young wing of NU, said the government must be active in educating people at the grassroots to reject HTI's ideals and concepts in Papua because it expanded its influence by creating cells on that level.

"If needed, the Religious Affairs Ministry would write letters to schools and religious institutions in Indonesia to give them an understanding about HTI so they can reject both the ideology and the teachings it spreads," said Amirmahmud.

HTI entered Papua in the beginning of 2000 along with the start of Indonesia's reform era. "In Jayapura, there are about 100 HTI supporters, while in Merauke 50 people have joined the group," said Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/18/calls-to-disband-hti-in-papua-mount.html

Papuan Churches unite against Islamist radicalism

Radio Vaticana - May 17, 2017

Christian leaders from the Guild of Papuan Churches have rallied against growing radicalism in Indonesia which they claim has penetrated the Christian-majority region.

Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar of Jayapura led church leaders and more than 1,000 Christians in a peaceful protest on May 15. There must be a concerted effort to free Papua from radical groups, the Franciscan bishop said. "The presence of radical groups [in the province] has the potential to create conflict," he told AsiaNews, urging the government to disband groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia.

Papua has no record of sectarian violence but the presence of Hizbut Tahrir in the province has raised fears of conflict between Muslims, Christians and other religious groups. The central government is working to disband Hizbut Tahrir because it aims to establish an Islamic caliphate which is against Indonesia's secular ideology.

Bishop Ladjar aloso expressed the worries of Christian leaders about Ja'far Umar Thalib, founder and former leader of Laskar Jihad – another radical group. Thalib was involved in sectarian conflict in Ambon in 1999-2002 where thousands were killed and, in 2016, his followers almost clashed with Christians in Muara Tami district, Papua. "We want the people aware of the presence of these groups in Papua before it's too late," Bishop Ladjar said.

John Baransano of the Papuan Reformed Evangelical Church, agreed. He said Papuans must realize what is going on in Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia, especially the jailing of Christian politician Basuki Tjahaja Purnama also known as "Ahok". He said, "Ahok is a victim of sectarian tension orchestrated by radical groups." The former governor of Jakarta was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy on May 9. Some allege the sentence was handed down due to pressure from radical groups.

However, some human rights activists criticized the Christian leaders for being concerned only about radicalism and ignoring ordinary Papuans who rights were being violated in their fight for independence. Father John Djonga, who advocates for the rights of Papuans, said the Christian leaders should have been more concerned about the human rights situation in Papua. Frederika Korain, a female activist, said, "Why don't the churches and bishop stage protests when Papuans are shot or killed?"

Bishop Ladjar claimed the criticism was baseless, "because the church has never been silent on such issues... we just did not protest on the streets."

Frist Ramdey, head of the human rights commission in Papua, defended Bishop Ladjar and the rally. "The church has worked hard. Human rights violations in Papua were exposed due to the efforts of Jayapura Diocese in the 1990s," Ramdey said.

About 65 percent of Papua's 3.2 million people are Protestant, 18 percent are Catholic, 15 percent Muslim and the rest are Hindu and Buddhists. (Source: UCAN)

Source: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/05/17/papuan_churches_unite_against_islamist_radicalism_%E2%80%8E/1312911

Freeport dismisses 840 workers

Antara News - May 16, 2017

Timika, Papua – Gold and copper mining firm PT Freeport has reportedly laid off 840 employees for going on strike in Timika, Papua province, some time ago.

Septinus Soumilena, Head of the Immigration, Transmigration and Public Housing Office, confirmed he had received a report from PT Freeport about the dismissal of some 840 employees.

"We have received a letter of notification from the management of PT Freeport stating 840 employees had been laid off. Of course, this is a cause of major concern for all of us," he said.

The Immigration, Transmigration and Public Housing Office in Mimika tried its best to prevent the layoff by writing to the management of PT Freeport on April 12 but to no avail, he revealed.

"It turns out that the letter we have sent was late, because by the time it was sent, about 430 workers had been laid off. Today, we sent a letter urging the management of PT Freeport to cancel the layoff. The number of employees discharged has reached 840," he said.

The Mimika district government will act, as soon as possible, to facilitate a meeting between the management of PT Freeport and leaders of labor unions, he stated. (*)

Source: http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/110928/freeport-dismisses-840-workers

To prove 60 percent of Papuans are pro-NKRI: 'Hold a referendum'

Tabloid JUBI - May 16, 2017

Jayapura, Jubi – Laurenzus Kadepa, Papua legislator has called for a referendum in Papua to prove the results of a Political Indicator survey that said 60 percent of Papuans (OAP) refused to separate from the Unitary Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).

He said if the survey results were true, certainly the Jakarta should not worry about holding a referendum.

"Yes, it should be a referendum to prove that the majority of indigenous Papuans want to remain with the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia and if they do not dare to hold a referendum, then the results of the survey are questionable," said a member of Papua House of Representatives Commission I on government, politics, law and human rights to Jubi, Sunday (May 7).

He suspected that the pole was being made by the Government of Indonesia to shape public opinion, that Papua is doing well. He refers to Indonesian delegation speech by Foreign Minister Retno Masudi in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) May 3 in Geneva.

It is precisely these things that will become the international spotlight, he continued. Since other countries also have data related to Papua, things like this, including the results of the survey, he added, just add to the problem; bring new turmoil.

Previously, in the publication of satuharapan.com that launched the news, Jakarta Post mentioned the results of a poll conducted by Political Indicators, a survey institutions found that 60 percent of OAP refused to separate from Indonesia. Only 18 percent supported the idea of independence and 22 percent had no opinion.

"Most of them are faithful to the country (Indonesia)," said Director of Research of Political Indicators, Hendro Prasetyo, Friday (May 5).

According to Hendro Prasetyo, the survey was conducted March 23-April 3, 2017 in various regions throughout Papua. The number of respondents is 700 people. The sample selection was done by using multistage random method.

The survey also claims to found 77 percent of respondents are satisfied with the performance of President Joko Widodo in Papua. (*)

Source: http://tabloidjubi.com/eng/prove-60-percent-papuans-pro-nkri-hold-referendum/

Papuans join waves of support for Ahok

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2017

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – Thousands of citizens of Jayapura in Papua have joined waves of national and international support for the release of non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama from detention as well as to save the state ideology of Pancasila from efforts to undermine it.

The four-kilometer long march from Papua Regional Representatives (DPRD) to the governor's office on Monday, which was coordinated by Ecumenical Council of Churches in Papua (PGGP), also demanded the dissolution of Islamic hard-line group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the arrest of FPI leader Rizieq Shihab.

PGGP chairman, Catholic bishop Leo Laba Ladjar stated that radicalism in Indonesia had reached an alarming level. "We believe the radical movements trouble our security and nationhood. We are becoming polarized," he stated.

Many believe that the North Jakarta District Court's decision to sentence Ahok to two years' imprisonment for blasphemy on May 9 was the result of pressure from hardline groups.

Addressing the rally at his office, Papua deputy governor Klemen Tinal said "the rally's aspiration is to remind us that we live in the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] under Pancasila and the UUD 45 Constitution."

Every evening since May 10, Jayapura residents have held a candle light vigil at Imbi park to support Ahok.

Ahok's conviction has sparked protests from thousands of Indonesians nationwide and worldwide, who have staged gatherings demanding authorities release him from prison, as well as to support the unity of Indonesia against Islamic radicalism.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/15/papuans-join-waves-of-support-for-ahok.html

Indonesia deports Japanese after Papua visit

Radio New Zealand International - May 15, 2017

Indonesian immigration authorities have deported a group of six Japanese filmmakers from Papua for allegedly misusing their visas.

The head of the Jayapura Immigration Office Yopie Watimena told the Jakarta Post the group had been illegally filming a documentary in Wamena. He said they did not have journalist visas.

Mr Watimena told the paper the group had come to Wamena to make a movie about indigenous tribes in Papua.

They recorded several scenes in the Korowai and Mamuna tribal communities in Papua's remote southeast before moving to Wamena where they were arrested on the 8th of May.

The six Japanese nationals had arrived in Indonesia via Jakarta at the beginning of the month before travelling to Papua.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/330753/indonesia-deports-japanese-after-papua-visit

Indonesia rejects claims about ACP meeting

Radio New Zealand International - May 15, 2017

Indonesia has disputed reports that this month's African, Caribbean and Pacific meeting featured discussion about West Papua.

The ACP Council of Ministers in Brussels reportedly heard a joint statement on Papua from seven Pacific countries – Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

The statement condemned Indonesian human rights violations in Papua and called for a resolution supporting the right of West Papuan political self-determination.

However, Indonesia's embassy in New Zealand says the ACP agreed in April that the group would not cover the issue of Papua in future meetings.

It has rejected reported claims from a Vanuatu minister that African and Caribbean countries support their push for a new Papuan self-determination process.

It said that in its response to Indonesia's embassy in Brussels, the ACP Secretariat rejected reportage of the Pacific statement, indicating the issue of Papua "did not feature" during the meeting.

Vanuatu's government envoy Johnny Koanapo was reported to have delivered the joint statement to the Council, warning that "apartheid-like colonial rule" was wiping out West Papuans as a people.

Mr Koanapo has said that the discussion set up the likelihood of a resolution on the full range of West Papua issues at the next ACP ministerial council meeting, scheduled for November. However the Indonesian embassy has dismissed his statement.

"The argument made by a Vanuatu politician that African countries support self-determination in Papua is false," said the embassy in a statement.

"As close partners sharing common history and future, Indonesia and Africa have long expressed solidarity and full support towards each other's sovereignty."

According to the embassy, Indonesia enjoyed excellent relations with Pacific countries. "The overwhelming majority of Pacific countries have no agenda to push for the separation of sovereign territories of Indonesia," it said.

"Calls to redraw the borders of Indonesia by a few politicians in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and elsewhere, are simply crazy and irrational talk. These absurdities are talks of desperate and vulnerable political leaders clinging to stay in power."

The embassy said significant progress had been made by Indonesia in recent years in the areas of human rights and development in the provinces of Papua.

It said this was witnessed directly by several Pacific Islands' foreign ministers during their visit to Indonesia in 2014.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/330814/indonesia-rejects-claims-about-acp-meeting

Aceh

President must thwart public caning of two men convicted of sodomy: HRW

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2017

Jakarta – The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the Aceh administration's plan to sentence two men to public caning for engaging in same-sex relations. They will be subject to 85 lashes.

The group also asked President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who has spoken out in support of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia, to use his authority to cancel the public caning scheduled for May 23.

HRW Asia deputy director Phelim Kine wrote on the organization's website that it was a crucial moment for the President to act to defend the LGBT community's rights by thwarting the plan.

"Jokowi needs to be clear to Aceh's authorities that flogging is torture for which they will be held accountable for," Kine wrote.

The case emerged on March 28 when unidentified men forcibly entered an apartment in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, and took two men in their 20s into police custody for allegedly engaging in same-sex relations. A sharia court convicted them of sodomy on May 17.

This is the first time the sharia courts have sentenced people to caning for engaging in same-sex relations. (hol/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/22/president-must-thwart-public-caning-of-two-men-convicted-of-sodomy-hrw.html

Activists are 'really scared' after two Indonesian men were sentenced to

Buzz Feed News - May 18, 2017

Lane Sainty – Activists are fearful about the potentially far-reaching implications of a brutal lashing punishment handed down to two men convicted of having sex in Indonesia's Aceh province.

Aceh has a special legal status allowing it to insert Sharia bylaws into the criminal code. In the province, ordinances criminalising drinking alcohol, sex outside of marriage and gay sex can be enforced against Muslims and non-Muslims.

The two men, aged 20 and 23, were allegedly caught having sex on March 28 when a group of vigilante enforcers entered a house and filmed them.

On Wednesday they were each handed a punishment of 85 lashes by a Sharia court in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. The two men are expected to be caned on May 23.

In 2016, 339 people were lashed for various other infringements of Aceh's bylaws, but this will be the first time the punishment has been meted out to people for having gay sex.

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, told BuzzFeed News he had been in touch with LGBT activists in Aceh and they are "really, really scared".

"The prosecution was harsh, [asking for] 80 lashes. The verdict is even harsher: 85. It is another low point for Aceh and also for Indonesia."

Harsono said local lawyers were afraid to help the men because "the environment is so hostile". "If you are a Muslim, you might be accused of being an infidel," he said. "They told me that, 'We are afraid. We don't want our houses to be burned down'."

Dede Oetomo, the founder of Indonesian LGBT group Gaya Nusantara, told BuzzFeed News it was "another blow to the morale" of LGBT Indonesians.

"[It's] another warning to activists to be vigilant and ready to carry out advocacy, although in the Aceh case, the two men do not seem to be in touch with LGBT organisations," he said. "The [Aceh LGBT organisations] are too scared to act at all anyway."

Aceh is the only Indonesian province where sex between two men or two women is illegal, however the Indonesian LGBT community at large is currently facing the threat of countrywide criminalisation.

Following a national anti-LGBT backlash in 2016, two separate, ongoing processes could see gay sex criminalised: a proposal to the Constitutional Court from the anti-gay Family Love Alliance, and the drafting of Indonesia's new criminal code in the parliament.

Asked if the sentence was cause for concern about efforts to criminalise gay sex across Indonesia, Harsono said: "The answer is yes, yes, and yes."

"Aceh is widely seen as a model for the implementation of the so-called Sharia law," he said.

"I've been watching this decline of LGBT rights, women's rights, religious minorities' [rights] for more than 13 years now.... Knowing that the Indonesian judiciary, prosecutors, police, are becoming more and more conservative, I wasn't surprised [by the sentence]."

Harsono called for international pressure on Aceh and Indonesia at large to prevent the crackdown on LGBT people.

"If there are a lot of protests inside and outside of Indonesia... this criminalisation of LGBT effort will slow down. But if there is not much protest, especially from influential nations – including the United Nations – it doesn't change anything inside Indonesia."

[Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.]

Source: https://www.buzzfeed.com/lanesainty/aceh-men-sentenced-to-public-lashings-for-gay-sex

Activists condemn sentence of caning for gay couple in Aceh

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2017

Jakarta – The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) has condemned the decision of a sharia court in Banda Aceh to sentence a 24-year-old man from Langkat, North Sumatra, and a 20-year-old man from Bireun Regency, Aceh, to 85 lashes for engaging in a homosexual relationship.

The two men, identified only by their initials MT and MH, were found guilty of violating Qanun Jinayat, the province's Islamic penal code.

In a statement released on Thursday, the ICJR said the law was unfair because it stigmatized Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. "This law violates privacy rights. It also triggers homophobia in society," the group said.

The sentence of caning, ICJR commented, had no legal basis as Indonesia did not recognize corporal punishment. "Caning is inhumane and demeaning," the group said.

They further argued that Qanun Jinayat was problematic as a majority of people charged with the sharia articles were not represented by lawyers. (ary/rdi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/18/activists-condemn-sentence-of-caning-for-gay-couple-in-aceh.html

Two men to receive 85 lashes for gay sex in Aceh

Sydney Morning Herald - May 17, 2017

Jewel Topsfield, Jakarta – An Indonesian man gasped in horror after learning he and another man had been sentenced to 85 lashes for gay sex in the first conviction for homosexuality in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province.

The punishment – imposed under a new sharia-inspired code implemented in the province two years ago – is five lashes more than demanded by the prosecution.

Presiding Judge Khairul Jamal told the Banda Aceh Sharia Court the couple had been found convincingly guilty of liwath, which means sexual intercourse between two men.

The two men, who are in their early 20s, will be publicly caned on May 23, before the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Aceh, the only part of Indonesia that enforces sharia-inspired punishments, also outlaws gambling, drinking and even fraternising with the opposite sex outside marriage. The maximum sentence for gay sex is 100 lashes of the cane.

The sentence comes weeks after Jakarta's outgoing governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian widely known as Ahok, was sentenced to two years' jail for blasphemy against Islam.

Human Rights Watch Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono said that in both trials the judges imposed a harsher sentence than that requested by the prosecution.

"I think it shows the increasing conservative tradition in Indonesia," Mr Harsono told Fairfax Media. He said judges were increasingly letting Islamist interpretations of the Koran dictate their judgements. The two men were arrested in March after vigilante groups, who suspected the couple of being gay, broke into one of the men's homes and allegedly caught them having sex. Both men said they would accept their sentence.

Banda Aceh sharia police officer Efendi Latief said they would be caned with about four or five male and female couples, who would receive 25 and 30 lashes each for ikhtilat, which is hugging and kissing between unmarried couples. "They are single, most of them are students," he said.

The central government in Jakarta granted Aceh's religious leaders the right to impose sharia-inspired law in 2001 in a deal struck to quell a decades-long separatist movement in the province.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/world/two-men-to-receive-85-lashes-for-gay-sex-in-aceh-20170517-gw74n3.html

Indonesian court sentences two gay men to public caning

Associated Press - May 17, 2017

Banda Aceh – A sharia court in Indonesia's conservative Aceh province has sentenced two gay men to public caning, further undermining the country's moderate image after a Christian politician was imprisoned for blasphemy.

The court said the men, aged 20 and 23, would each be subjected to 85 lashes for having sexual relations.

One of the men cried as his sentence was read out and pleaded for leniency. The chief prosecutor, Gulmaini, who goes by one name, said they would be caned next week, before Ramadan starts on about 25 May.

The sentencing on Wednesday coincided with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

The men were arrested in late March after neighbourhood vigilantes in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, broke into their rented room to catch them having sex.

Mobile phone footage that circulated online and formed part of the evidence shows one of the men naked and visibly distressed as he apparently calls for help on his phone. The second man is repeatedly pushed by another man who is preventing the couple from leaving the room.

The lead judge, Khairil Jamal, said the men were "legally and convincingly proven to have committed gay sex".

He said the three-judge panel decided against imposing the maximum sentence of 100 lashes because the men were polite in court, cooperated with authorities and had no previous convictions. "As Muslims, the defendants should uphold the sharia law that prevails in Aceh," Jamal said.

International human rights groups have described the treatment of the men as abusive and humiliating and called for their immediate release. Human Rights Watch said in April that public caning would constitute torture under international law.

Indonesia's reputation for practising a moderate form of Islam has been battered in the past year as a result of attacks on religious minorities, a surge in the persecution of gay people and a polarising election campaign for governor of the capital, Jakarta, that highlighted the growing strength of hardline Islamic groups.

This month the outgoing Jakarta governor, Ahok, was sentenced to two years in prison for campaign comments deemed as blaspheming the Qur'an. The sentence was tougher than that sought by prosecutors, who had downgraded the charge from blasphemy and asked for two years' probation.

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia allowed to practise sharia law, which was a concession made by the national government in 2006 to end a war with separatists, but some other areas have introduced sharia-style bylaws.

Aceh implemented an expanded Islamic criminal code two years ago that allows up to 100 lashes for morality offences including gay sex.

Caning is also a punishment for adultery, gambling, drinking alcohol, women who wear tight clothes and men who miss Friday prayers. More than 300 people were caned for such offences last year.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/17/indonesian-court-sentences-two-gay-men-to-public-caning

Human rights & justice

Government signals rejection of some UNHRC recommendations

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The government has expressed early signals of its refusal to comply with all of the United Nations Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) recommendations on issues like the death penalty, blasphemy and sexual orientation.

The UNHRC submitted 75 recommendations to Indonesia in response to a review on the country's human rights situation during the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting earlier this month.

Indonesian Permanent Representative to the UN Hasan Kleib said Indonesia had responded to the majority of the recommendations, most of which called for more policies to promote the rights of women and children. The government needed more time to consider all of the 75 recommendations. "We need to discuss them with stakeholders," Hasan said on Thursday.

He said the government should be careful in responding to harshly worded recommendations conveyed to Indonesia by several member states. Some countries made firm suggestions, such as asking Indonesia to abolish the death penalty or to adopt the International Criminal Court (ICC) convention. The Law and Human Rights Ministry's director of human rights and justice, Mualimin Abdi, said the government would include the UPR recommendations that the government agreed with in an amendment of the Criminal Code (KUHP) that was being deliberated at the House or Representatives.

The government is scheduled to present the final decision during a meeting at the UNHRC headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in September this year. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/18/govt-signals-rejection-of-some-unhrc-recommendations.html

New order & anti-communism

No room for communism: Luhut

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Balikpapan – Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan has called on people not to worry about a communist resurgence in the country because he said the government would not let the banned ideology return.

"We must overcome this issue about communism. All Golkar members must be deployed to help the government overcome this issue and we must ensure that there is no room for the growth of communism," the senior Golkar Party politician said on Sunday during the party's national leadership meeting in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

"We can't bury the ideology. It will still exist, but if those people try to establish a political party or aim to change the country's ideology [of Pancasila], we have to [combat] that because that violates the Constitution," Luhut said.

Despite the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) having been banned for almost 50 years, Indonesian government, law enforcement and military officials are currently experiencing another surge of communist-phobia.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) has cracked down on people selling and wearing T-shirts bearing the hammer-and-sickle symbol and religious zealots have even forced Bank Indonesia to clarify that its signature recto-verso logo on new bank notes have nothing to do with the PKI.

The official fear has grown worse because of unfounded reports about huge numbers of Chinese workers coming into the country. Luhut said that there were definitely many Chinese workers arriving along with Chinese investment and illegal workers were unavoidable. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/22/no-room-for-communism-luhut.html

Women's rights & gender

Gender equality a priority in EU-Indonesia cooperation

Jakarta Globe - May 17, 2017

Jakarta – Initiatives and programs within the European Union-Indonesia development cooperation now prioritize gender mainstreaming as a crosscutting issue, according to a report released on Tuesday (16/05).

The EU's 2017 Blue Book, the latest version of an annual report on EU-Indonesia development cooperation, highlights the impact of women's participation in the economy and noted its crucial role in sustainable development and economic growth.

"Equality between women and men is one of the EU's founding values. The EU and Indonesia share the belief that gender equality should be at the heart of our societies, and that women empowerment enhances social justice, sustainable development, economic growth and peace," EU Ambassador Vincent Guerend said during the 2017 Blue Book launch at Le Meridien hotel in Jakarta.

Guerend added that the EU has contributed almost half a billion euros of grant assistance to Indonesia, which targets areas such as human rights, good governance, education, forestry and land use, as well as climate change.

The EU has also given Indonesia support in trade, economic development and health services. The EU's engagement in development cooperation is part of its commitment to address two of the world's greatest challenges – eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development.

Gender equality in Indonesia

According to the World Economic Forum's 2016 report on Global Gender Gap, Indonesia ranked 88 out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality.

The same report also said that while Indonesian women and men have equal access to education and health services, women still lack the opportunities to participate in the economy and politics of the country.

"Gender mainstreaming has been integrated to our national and midterm plans and goals. Since 2009, implementing gender mainstreaming has focused on gender-responsive planning and budgeting," Sri Danti, senior advisor to Minister Yohana Yembise at the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection, said.

She added that four ministries – Ministry of National Development Planning, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection – have signed an agreement to formulate national strategies to speed up gender mainstreaming's implementation.

Sri noted there is still gender discrepancy across many areas in Indonesia. As an example, in politics, women only make up 17.72 percent of lawmakers at the House of Representatives, far below the government's target of at least 30 percent, or 168 out of the 560 seats in the House.

Maternal mortality in Indonesia is also still high due to a lack of health services or access to health care for women during pregnancy. Indonesia has not achieved its Millennium Development Goal of reducing post-natal deaths to 102 per 100,000 live births by the end of 2015.

In 2013 the rate of post-natal deaths was standing at 359 per 100,000 live births. A lot of efforts and improvements have been made since then, but according to UNDP's 2015 Human Development Report, the rate of post-natal deaths now still stands at a high 190 per 100,000 live births.

Sri said the government has continued work on several draft legislations to give gender mainstreaming a stronger legal framework – revising the law on the elimination of domestic violence and completing a bill on elimination of sexual violence.

While Indonesia still has a long way to go to improve gender equality in the country, partnerships with the European Union and its member states may help the country address existing challenges to provide women all over the archipelago with equal rights and equal opportunities.

In 2015, McKinsey Global Institute reported that advancing women's equality and closing the gender gaps could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/gender-equality-priority-eu-indonesia-cooperation/

Sexual & domestic violence

Activists protest Sitok Srengenge's painting exhibition

Jakarta Post - May 19, 2017

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – Dozens of activists protested a solo painting exhibition by noted poet Sitok Srengenge at the Langit Art Space in Bantul, Yogyakarta, on Thursday evening.

Shortly after the exhibition themed "Srengenge (The Sun)" was officially opened, several invitees unexpectedly spread out a large blue banner emblazoned with the message: "Tolak Buayawan Sitok Srengenge (Reject womanizer Sitok Srengenge)."

Buayawan was a mocking nickname given to Sitok, who has been acknowledged as a budayawan (cultural observer), but was later named a suspect in a rape case involving a University of Indonesia (UI) student in 2014.

"Sitok is a rapist!" a female activist shouted. The protest turned the opening of the exhibition attended by noted artists, including painter Joko Pekik and musician Jaduk Ferianto, into chaos.

The activists were forced to leave the exhibition room, after which they joined with others who had gathered in front of the gallery. "Bring Sitok to justice!" yelled the protesters, who were apparently mostly gender movement activists. They expressed their disappointment for the inability of the authorities to administer justice to Sitok.

Muhammad Faris, one of the protesters, read out a statement that called on law enforcers to imprison Sitok. He also urged police officers to investigate the numerous rapes that in most cases were left unsolved. "Give justice and protection to all sex violence victims," Faris said.

Sitok rejected again the rape accusation. "My [sexual] relations with [the alleged victim] were consensual," he said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/19/activists-protest-sitok-srengenges-painting-exhibition.html

Freedom of speech & expression

Jakarta councilors report Facebook user for alleged defamation

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2017

Jakarta – Several members of the Jakarta City Council reported the owner of Facebook account Cahyo Harimurti to the Jakarta Police on Tuesday for alleged defamation and libel.

Cahyo allegedly defamed all members of the council by calling them "monkey" on a post in his Facebook account. Word of the post spread to the councilor's WhatsApp group chat.

"Around 40 out of 106 councilors have agreed to report him to the police," said councilor Muhammad Guntur on Tuesday, as quoted by wartakota.tribunews.com.

The Jakarta Police received the councilors' report on Tuesday evening. Guntur said that members of city councils hoped that the police would investigate similar cases to discourage people from making posts that could be interpreted as defamatory on their social media accounts.

"We should be more careful about posting comments on social media, as it could lead to insults," Guntur said. (kuk)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/17/jakarta-councilors-report-facebook-user-for-alleged-defamation.html

Surakarta Police stop candlelight vigil for national unity

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2017

Ganung Nugroho Adi, Surakarta – The Surakarta Police dispersed on Sunday evening a candlelight vigil held in front of the Surakarta City Hall, citing a lack of permit as the reason behind its move to stop the assembly.

At the start of the vigil, the police peacefully monitored hundreds of participants, all of whom wore black attire as they gathered in front of City Hall at around 6 p.m. However, as the crowd grew, the police told the participants to leave the area.

The crowd ignored the warning and sang the national anthem, prompting the police to form a barricade.

"This evening's gathering violated Law No. 9/1998 [on freedom of expression]. That is why we dismissed it," said Surakarta Police head of operations Comr. Arief Joko Saptomo.

Arief said the police did not intend to put a stop to the gathering. "But we hadn't received any notifications about it," he said.

A member of the vigil's organizing committee, Mujiono, said his committee had yet to inform the police about it. He, however, defended the participants, saying they only intended to call for national unity and tolerance.

"They came here by their own will. Also, this gathering has nothing to do with similar assemblies in other cities," he said. (msa/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/15/surakarta-police-stop-candlelight-vigil-for-national-unity.html

Democracy & civil rights

Indonesian democracy far from perfect: Lemhannas

Jakarta Globe - May 20, 2017

Jakarta – Democratic principles are rarely used to resolve national crises, the governor of state-security think-tank National Resilience Institute, or Lemhannas, said at the 2017 Jakarta Geopolitical Forum on Friday (19/05).

"If all citizens believe in the principles of democracy and seek solutions based on those principles, our society would be more effective. However, many Indonesians seek resolutions through undemocratic means," Agus Widjojo, a retired Indonesian Military (TNI) general, said at Borobudur Hotel in Central Jakarta.

In new democracies, Agus continued, societies must adhere strongly to the rule of law if they are to survive without encouraging the rise of strongmen or autocratic figures.

The Lemhannas governor said Indonesian democracy was not formed out of coercion from third parties but was brought about by popular demand for societal change. The country can only develop democratically if all elements of society support that transition, Agus said.

"Technological revolution has shocked us and [society] must be aware to respond [to that revolution] effectively and responsibly," Agus added.

Echoing Agus's statement, University of Indonesia professor emeritus and former Finance Minister Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti said "volunteerism" is the foundation of Indonesian democracy.

"The way Indonesia manages diplomatic efforts reflects that spirit of volunteerism. We do not distinguish between large or small countries [...] we respect all nations, regardless of their differences from our own way of life," Dorodjatun said.

The professor emphasized that the principle of mutual respect must be present within Indonesian society itself for society to flourish. Differences, Dorodjatun said, should be embraced if the country is to truly democratize.

"Many of our most important achievements in foreign policy have come about because of our patience, and willingness to negotiate with those we perceive as different. The same principle should be applied in domestic affairs, if we are to flourish as a nation."

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/indonesian-democracy-far-perfect-lemhannas/

Political parties & elections

Jokowi, Kalla are fine, says Luhut

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – Responding to rumors of disharmony between President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, senior Golkar Party politician and senior Cabinet member Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said that relations between the two were "definitely fine."

Speculation of tensions between the two has escalated following the revelation that Kalla, also a Golkar politician, had aided the nomination of former education minister Anies Baswedan, who later trumped non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Ahok was nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is also Jokowi's party, and Golkar.

"Many people ask me about what happened [between Jokowi and Kalla]. I can assure that Jokowi and Kalla are fine," Luhut said on Sunday. "As a Javanese, Jokowi was able to embrace people who are more senior than him."

Luhut was speaking in front of around 650 Golkar members and party executives during a rapimnas (national leadership meeting) in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

Jokowi, he said, is a firm president. "I have met so many commanders, some of them are firm, some are not. But Jokowi is a firm one, he always stands by his decision and he never changes," Luhut said. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/22/jokowi-kalla-are-fine-says-luhut.html

Watchdog urges House to pass election bill

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2017

Jakarta – Titi Anggraini, the director of elections watchdog Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), has said the House of Representatives should pass the election bill into a law as soon as possible to ensure that all stages of the 2019 presidential and legislative elections run as scheduled.

She deplored the House's failure to pass the bill into a law again last Thursday. "The legislators have missed the deadline twice. They promised to finish the bill on April 28, but they missed the schedule due to a deadlock in the [election bill] special committee. They promised to finish it by May 18 but they missed it again," Titi said during a discussion in Cikini, Central Jakarta, on Saturday.

The analyst said completing the election bill was a substantial and complex issue. However, both the government and the House seemed to be complacent about the results of the 2014 elections, making them a little recalcitrant in preparing the election bill for the 2019 elections.

Titi said the General Elections Commission (KPU) would need time to adapt to the new regulations. Political parties also must prepare themselves for the new requirements while voters would need to receive sufficient information about the election system.

"Missing the deadline will disrupt the KPU's preparations," she said. "Passing the law on time is important for the House's credibility," she added. (dis/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/20/watchdog-urges-house-to-pass-election-bill.html

Blasphemy & the Jakarta elections

Ahok withdraws appeal

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2017

Indra Budiari and Callistasia A. Wijaya, Jakarta – In an unexpected turn of events, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has withdrawn his appeal against his two-year prison sentence for blasphemy.

Ahok's wife, Veronica Tan, said on Monday that the decision was made after a long discussion with Ahok's legal team. She refused to go into further detail but said the family would hold a press conference on Tuesday.

"After a long discussion, we have decided to withdraw our appeal," Veronica said as quoted by tribunnews.com. She said her husband was doing fine at the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) detention center.

A similar statement was also made by Josefina Syukur, a member of Ahok's team of lawyers, who confirmed that the team and Ahok's family would meet on Monday night to discuss their next move.

"We need to unify our stance on this so we will have a discussion tonight and tomorrow we will explain everything," Fina said. Topics:

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/22/ahok-withdraws-appeal.html

Kalla asks public to accept Ahok's conviction

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2017

Jakarta – Vice President Jusuf Kalla has called on the public to respect and accept the court's decision to sentence non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years' imprisonment for blasphemy.

Kalla said court decisions would never satisfy all parties. One party always loses, he said.

"Are there court rulings that make all people happy? None. The court issues verdicts that only please some," Kalla said at his official residence in Central Jakarta on Monday as quoted by kompas.com.

Therefore, Kalla emphasized, all parties should practice self-restraint and respect the court's verdict. "All people must accept the decision because there is no better way to settle the problem except through legal proceedings".

The North Jakarta District Court sentenced Ahok to two years' imprisonment after being found guilty of blasphemy for suggesting that some people had abused a Quranic verse to block his reelection bid.

Ahok supporters worldwide have held candlelight vigils, calling for justice for Ahok. (msa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/15/kalla-asks-public-to-accept-ahoks-conviction.html

Blasphemy in Indonesia: a shield or a sword?

Indonesia at Melbourne - May 15, 2017

Stewart Fenwick – Supporters of outgoing Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama have expressed dismay at his being sentenced to two years jail for blasphemy. Many feel the decision demonstrates weaknesses in the judicial system, in particular, and that judges were more concerned with calming public tension than reaching a fair result. There are renewed calls for reform in this contentious field of law.

The motivation for the case was comments made by Ahok during a campaign appearance about a Qur'anic verse that is said by some to oblige Muslims not to elect non-Muslim political leaders (Al Maidah 51). Importantly, Ahok is a Christian as well as a member of the ethnic Chinese minority.

The trial and campaigning associated with the two-round vote for governor of the national capital were punctuated by a series of religiously charged public protests, highlighting the troubling links between a muscular form of Islamic identity and politics. Most analyses have speculated on the political implications of the result or what it means for Indonesia's prized tradition of religious tolerance. But the outcome also demonstrates how the law and the courts can be exploited for political and religious purposes.

Two specific legal provisions were important to the outcome: articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code. Article 156a was introduced by legislation in the 1960s based on an earlier presidential decree and comprises what is known as the "Blasphemy Law". The Blasphemy Law itself includes other non-criminal provisions that seek to control what might be described as "deviant" religious practices. This law has been upheld on two occasions by the Constitutional Court.

Article 156 prohibits public expressions of "hostility, hatred or contempt" towards a group in Indonesian society. "Group" includes groups who identify by religion. This article is essentially directed at controlling hate speech and vilification.

By contrast, article 156a prohibits the expression of sentiments or acts: "that fundamentally and by their nature are hostile, abuse or disgrace [penodaan] a religion practised in Indonesia with the intention that persons should not practise any religion at all that is based on Belief in Almighty God."

Article 156a thus embraces a much wider range of conduct because the term penodaan is capable of many interpretations. The article also contains a drafting flaw: there is no conjunction between paragraphs a) and b), which seems to suggest that any act would need to satisfy paragraph b), that is promote atheism, to amount to a violation, although this is routinely ignored by the courts.

In this case the court appears to have ignored the recommendations of the prosecution to apply article 156 and instead chose to apply article 156a. This is despite the uncertain nature of these provisions, the weaknesses of which were criticised even in the decision of the Constitutional Court in 2010 that upheld them.

Commentary at the opening of the trial focused on a video of Ahok's campaign appearance posted online, with concerns that it had been doctored. The edited version of the video raised suspicions that Ahok had criticised the Qur'an directly, whereas eyewitnesses understood Ahok to have stated that the public had been lied to by persons "using" the Qur'anic verse in question.

The prosecution in fact proceeded on the basis of the words as spoken. The court therefore dealt directly with his choice to reference the Qur'an in support of his re-election. It observed that, while the text in question may be open to interpretation, it was not for Ahok to suggest that Islamic revelation was misused or deployed against him.

The decision suggests that any statement – especially by a non-believer – that touches on fundamentals of doctrine or Qur'anic revelation is inherently an abuse of Islam. In this way the legal provisions that seek to protect religious adherence are read down to reflect a version of what might be understood as defamation of religion. Indeed this term – penghinaan – is frequently used in Indonesia as shorthand for the blasphemy provisions.

Any detailed discussion of religious practice is a difficult area for courts to enter, as it necessarily involves taking evidence about matters of doctrine. Even conscientiously seeking to protect fundamental aspects of a faith might involve a court taking sides. Defamation of religion is a notion open to broad interpretation and therefore has a lower evidentiary threshold. In essence, a court can accept it as being made out by whatever behavior or action it chooses.

It is here in the realm of doctrine that the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) plays its part. Since the democratic reforms of the early 2000s, this prominent nongovernmental religious peak body has sought to increase its profile and influence. Critically, it does this through issuing fatwa (religious legal opinions) frequently in relation to current issues of the day or by making pronouncements on matters of public interest.

MUI is not the only source of expert evidence and its rulings are not legally binding nor of substantive legal effect in criminal proceedings, although they are recognised as a form of subordinate legal instrument in some contexts, for example, in the shari'a economy. Despite this, MUI's capacity to influence the wider debate and specific legal cases cannot be understated. As in numerous other blasphemy cases, MUI's views about Ahok's conduct formed a key part of the background to the legal process, as well as establishing the benchmark for "correct" doctrinal interpretation.

The implications of this case for Indonesia's widely praised social diversity are obvious. The Indonesian Constitution, in its various incarnations, has always protected freedom of religion (theoretically, at least) and the modern form embraces a wide range of civil rights. However, this framework is paired with a flawed legal regime. This regime can be deployed not so much as a protective shield to help maintain respect for all faiths but more like a sword to silence unwanted voices.

Sadly, the decision demonstrates how loose wording and a lack of attention to the fundamentals of legal process can undermine confidence in constitutional protections. And that makes errors so characteristic of Indonesia's authoritarian past now appear not as distant as many might have thought, even if the authoritarianism may now be religious rather than military in nature.

[Dr Stewart Fenwick is the author of 'Blasphemy, Islam and the State: Pluralism and Liberalism in Indonesia', published by Routledge in 2017. He is an honorary professor at Australian Catholic University and Senior Associate at the Centre for Indonesian Law Islam and Society at Melbourne Law School.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/blasphemy-in-indonesia-a-shield-or-a-sword/

Ahok ruling raises tension

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2017

Severianus Endi, Ivany Atina Arbi and Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – The highly divisive blasphemy conviction against non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has sparked tensions in some regions, with supporters of the Christian governor upping the ante against the Islamist group that has been calling for his incarceration.

The situation in West Kalimantan, which saw hundreds of people killed in two bloody ethnic conflicts in 1996/1997 and 2001, is particularly worrying as rising sectarian tensions in the capital have reignited suspicions among different religious and ethnic groups in the province.

Mercelina Erni, 46, a Christian resident in the province's capital Pontianak said she had heard rumors, mainly from social media, that raids were imminent against Dayak people and Christians.

"I had to take down the rosary I used to hang on the rearview mirror of my car when I heard the rumors," she told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The rumors were triggered by a speech made by West Kalimantan Governor Cornelis, in which he said he would oppose the presence of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, a vocal anti-Ahok figure, in the province.

The Dayak people, one of West Kalimantan's largest ethnic groups, have expressed their support for the governor's stance.

On Friday, two FPI leaders, Sobri Lubis and Hidayat Quaiandri Batangtaris, who came to Pontianak to inaugurate members of a local FPI branch, were forced to return to Jakarta only 30 minutes after landing at Supadio International Airport. Authorities said they asked the two FPI leaders to return because of security concerns.

The incident has angered a group of people claiming to represent Malays and Muslims. They called on authorities to prosecute the governor for stoking sectarian tensions.

Meanwhile, rumors are also rife that some Malay and Muslim groups plan to disrupt an annual cultural event to be held by Dayak people in the city on May 20. Leaders of Dayak and Malay communities have met to respond to the rumors and called on the public to remain calm.

The Pontianak Police have also beefed up security in the city and gave an assurance that authorities would act professionally in handling possible clashes.

"We have prepared 4,000 personnel from the police force and the Indonesian Military to maintain security. We will take action against anyone who tries to disrupt security," said Pontianak Police Chief Sr. Comr. Iwan Imam Susilo.

Dayak people account for around 35 percent of West Kalimantan's population, followed by the Malay (34 percent), Javanese (10 percent) and Chinese (8 percent). Sixty percent of the province's population is Muslim, while 34 percent is Christian.

In predominantly Christian Manado, North Sulawesi, hundreds of people on Saturday swarmed Sam Ratulangi International Airport and the governor's office to protest against the presence of House of Representatives deputy speaker Fahri Hamzah, who was accused of supporting the FPI.

The protests came just three days after thousands gathered in the city for a candlelight vigil supporting Ahok, who is now detained after being sentenced to two years for citing a Quranic verse in a speech deemed as blasphemous.

"Fahri Hamzah is not a tolerant person. That is why we reject his presence here," said Brian Maloor, chairman of a local group that participated in the Sam Ratulangi rally. Fahri had to be evacuated by the police after spending only six hours in the city.

In other regions, the FPI has been more daring in carrying out their actions. In Makassar, South Sulawesi, dozens of alleged FPI members attempted to disperse a group holding a candlelight vigil for Ahok.

Salim Said, a senior political and security analyst, expressed concerns about the rising sectarian tensions, which he believed could threaten the country's diversity.

He called on the country's leaders in Jakarta to be fully aware of the situation to prevent horizontal conflicts.

Meanwhile, Indonesian diasporas in major cities abroad have held rallies to support Ahok and Indonesian diversity, including in Amsterdam, Auckland, Los Angeles, New York, Perth, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto and Vancouver.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/15/ahok-ruling-raises-tension.html

Demonstrators converge around the world to demand repeal of blasphemy

Jakarta Globe - May 15, 2017

Jakarta – From Sydney to San Francisco, thousands of Indonesians living abroad gathered at candlelight vigils over the weekend in a show of support for unity and justice in the Southeast Asian nation and to demand the repeal of national blasphemy laws.

"[We want] to show support and solidarity with our people in Indonesia, to show that we are all one. Even though we are far away from our home, our hearts remain in Indonesia," Helen Santoso, a co-organizer of the solidarity march in Columbus, Ohio, told the Jakarta Globe.

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who was been battling blasphemy charges since making light-hearted comments against using Koranic verses for political gain in November last year, was found guilty by the North Jakarta District Court on May 9 and sentenced to two years in prison.

In the wake of that controversial court ruling, demonstrators have staged rallies across the archipelago and beyond to march in solidarity with the embattled governor and to call on the government to repeal its existing blasphemy laws.

Helen, a stay-at-home-mother, is just one of many Indonesian nationals across the world who organized grassroots demonstrations to call on their fellow countrymen to uphold the values enshrined in the state ideology, Pancasila, and the 1945 Constitution.

"We are in full support of the Indonesian government under President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, [and we hope] our officials will not hesitate to put a stop to growing radical movements in the country," said Kurnia Hutapea, one of the organizers of Sunday's (14/05) candlelight vigil held in Washington, DC.

Many Indonesians living abroad have formed close-knit expatriate communities as a way to maintain cultural and linguistic ties to their country while trying to assimilate to foreign cultures and ways of life.

"I will always be a proud Indonesian, and while we understand that politics can be ugly, our country is worth loving and fighting for," said Kemal Wahju, project manager of a similarly-led solidarity rally in Vancouver, Canada, over the weekend.

Overwhelming support

In Sydney, Australia, more than 1,000 people participated in a candlelight vigil on Sunday to show support for the recently imprisoned Jakarta governor. Organizers had initially planned on hosting only 200 demonstrators.

"All of these people came on their own volition [...] I felt very moved that all these people came just to show their solidarity and support," Kristianto, an Indonesian student at the University of South Wales who participated in the Sydney rally, told the Globe.

Vancouver Canada Demonstrators at a candlelight vigil held in Vancouver, Canada, over the weekend show solidarity with recently imprisoned Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama. (Photo courtesy of Sergio Lopez)

Many were inspired to attend Sunday's vigil to show support for Ahok and to combat injustice and growing radical movements in Indonesia.

"We want to tell the world, and of course Indonesia, that we, the Indonesian diaspora, still care very much about our homeland. We want our country to be united, despite the growing polarization and division in our society since Jakarta's gubernatorial election," Kemal said.

Beginning of a political movement?

Political rhetoric surrounding recent elections across the archipelago have served to divide segments of society, though many say that recent solidarity rallies are an encouraging means to realize a united and tolerant Indonesia.

Kemal believes the recent vigils are a "strong sign of what the Indonesian people really want to achieve: a just government and an open, inclusive society."

What began as local demonstrations of support for Ahok quickly morphed into a far-reaching political movement, whose adherents demand justice and unity, namely through repealing Indonesia's blasphemy laws.

"It is definitely a starting point for a changing political movement in Indonesia [...] Hopefully, it will make an impact on the government to amend the current archaic blasphemy law," said Pipit Taylor, a co-organizer of the solidarity march in Columbus, Ohio.

But for Indonesian students pursuing degrees abroad, national politics may ultimately influence their decision on whether to return to Indonesia or not.

"My friends are thinking twice about returning, seeing how Indonesian politics are at the moment," said Andreas Harijanto, an Indonesian student at Ohio State University.

He added that while going home may mean sacrificing a more comfortable life abroad, Andreas says he believes in Indonesia's potential and remains firm in his intention to return after finishing his studies.

"I think it's important to not lose hope, there has to be a change and we'll just have to wait," Andreas said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/demonstrators-converge-around-world-demand-repeal-blasphemy-law/

Surveys & opinion polls

Indonesians 'uncomfortable' with polarizing sentiments from Jakarta election: Survey

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2017

Jakarta – Two thirds of Indonesian people are fed up with divisive political rhetoric and rampant hate speeches that dominated debates in social media after the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial runoff election, a survey has found.

The Jakarta-based Indonesian Survey Circle's (LSI) survey released on Friday reveals 72.5 percent of Indonesians feels uncomfortable with the growing polarization that has swept the country.

Meanwhile, 8.7 percent of respondents said they were unconcerned with the phenomenon, and the remaining 18.8 percent did not respond to the question.

"Concerning the latest national atmosphere, which was marked with a growing polarization in the public that had spread beyond the Jakarta election, we wanted to know the public's view about the situation," LSI researcher Ardian Sopa told reporters.

Conducted between May 5 and May 10, the survey involved 1,200 respondents from across Indonesia and has a 2.9 percent margin of error.

The survey further reveals that 75.8 percent of Indonesians receive updates on controversies surrounding the Jakarta election from large-scale demonstrations in the capital city and court proceedings of non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy case.

Meanwhile, 9.9 percent of respondents said they had no interest in the controversies surrounding the Jakarta election. (mrc/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/20/indonesians-uncomfortable-with-polarizing-sentiments-from-jakarta-election-survey.html

Social organisations & NGOs

Jokowi: Anti-Pancasila and communist groups, we'll clobber them, stamp

Kompas.com - May 19, 2017

Fabian Januarius Kuwado, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has reaffirmed that the state ideology of Pancasila is the one and only ideology that is acceptable in Indonesia.

The President made this affirmation when speaking before 1,500 Indonesian military (TNI) soldiers following Friday prayers and lunch at the Kartika Hall in Tanjung Datuk, Natuna Islands, Riau, on Friday May 19.

"Once again, the Pancasila state is final. No further discussion will be tolerated", said Widodo as quoted by an official Palace press release.

Because of this therefore, if any social organisation wishes to abandon or undermine the ideology of Pancasila or other pillars of the state, namely the 1945 Constitution (UUD 1945), the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) or Unity in Diversity (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika), it will deemed as contradicting the most fundamental values of the Indonesian nation.

Widodo also confirmed that the state will not stay silent in confronting movements that undermine these pillars. "If there is any ormas [social organisation] such as this, yes, we will clobber (gebuk) them", said Widodo.

This applies not just to anti-Pancasila groups but the state will also "clobber" social organisations that follow communism.

This is regulated under Provisional People's Consultative Assembly Decree Number 25/1996 (Tap MPRS XXV/1966) which states that the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) is a banned organisation.

"Yes, we will clobber them, we will stamp them out, this is already clear. Don't question this again. Don't question this again. The legal umbrella is clear, the TAP MPRS", said Widodo.

Widodo also spoke about the issue of clobbering anti-Pancasila and communist social organisations during a meeting with senior media chiefs at the State Palace on Wednesday May 17.

Widodo said that the constitution guarantees freedom of association but if an organisation opposes the Constitution it will be "clobbered".

The president asserted that any organisation that openly opposes Pancasila, the UUD 1945, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika or the NKRI cannot be permitted. The government, said Widodo, will not hesitate to act against any such organisation.

"I was inaugurated as president and I hold to the Constitution, the wishes of the people. No other. If for example the PKI resurfaces, they'll just be clobbered. The TAP MPRS is clear on this ban", said Widodo.

Notes

The use of the term gebuk is reminiscent of remarks made by former President Suharto in 1997 when he said that he would resign if it was the will of the people but vowed to "clobber" anyone who tried to force him out of office unconstitutionally. "If the people want Pak [Su]Harto to step down, thank you, I shall receive it well. For the sake of the people and our Constitution, I will accept the decision", he was quoted as saying. But, he warned, if they tried to seize power unlawfully, he would, as he had vowed to previously, "clobber them because they are violating the Constitution".

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was " Jokowi: Ormas Anti-Pancasila dan Komunis, Kita Gebuk, Kita Tendang".]

Source: http://nasional.kompas.com/read/2017/05/19/17264751/jokowi.ormas.anti-pancasila.dan.komunis.kita.gebuk.kita.tendang

Young Islamic preachers call on nation to oppose anti-Pancasila

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – A group of young Islamic preachers has called on the nation to walk hand in hand to oppose any campaigns that polarize people along religious or ethnic lines, including movements that run counter to the nation's pluralistic values.

The group, which calls itself the Young Islamic Preachers' Network of the Archipelago (Jaringan Ulama Muda Nusantara – JUMAT), said religious hate speech harmed the religion itself and broke the pluralistic foundation of Indonesia.

"The politicization of religion makes members of society suspicious of one another. If we let such movements continue to exist, the foundation of our pluralistic society will eventually tear apart," said Hadi Badori, the group's national coordinator.

The group, advisory board members of which include Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Said Aqil Siradj, particularly condemns the group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), saying its campaigns harmed the pluralistic foundation of Indonesia.

"HTI is harmful. It is against the principles of the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] and the 1945 Constitution," Hadi said. "For us, Pancasila [the state ideology] is final."

HTI is a pan-Islamic organization that seeks to establish a global caliphate. The Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal & Security Affairs Minister recently declared it would ban the organization.

As part of its campaign to save the nation from polarization, JUMAT will hold a mass prayer on Friday that is estimated to be attended by 20,000 people.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/17/young-islamic-preachers-call-on-nation-to-oppose-anti-pancasila-movements.html

Muslim scholar group backs court process for HTI ban

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Joining other supporters of the dismissal of anti-Pancasila groups, the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI) said on Monday that it supported the government's plan to ban Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) through a court process.

ICMI chairman Jimly Asshiddiqie said the association supported the government because HTI's aspiration for an Islamic caliphate contradicted the country's ideology of Pancasila, but the group said the state's decision to do so should be based on justice and impartiality.

"The most important thing is to give HTI the opportunity to explain itself to the public. Thus, a transparent and fair court process must take place in order to give political education to people," Jimly said in a statement. "The government can also openly provide its argumentation for the ban".

Jimly further called for the government to apply the same procedure to other organizations that promoted values contravening the state's ideology. "The constitution has clearly guaranteed the freedom to assemble. Everyone can set up an organization as long as it complies with the constitution".

The 2013 Law on Mass Organization allows the government to disband an organization that it considers against the state ideology, but the government should follow certain procedures, including a court process. (wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/15/muslim-scholar-group-backs-court-process-for-hti-ban.html

Anti-Pancasila organizations cannot operate in Indonesia: Minister

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta – Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto said on Monday that any organizations that did not recognized the nation's founding principles of Pancasila would not be allowed to operate in the country.

"We want to make sure that no organizations, not just the HTI [Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia], exist in the country if their activities are clearly against the Constitution, Pancasila and the [principle of] NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] or if they threaten the nation's sovereignty, even if they have a permit," Wiranto told reporters at his office in Central Jakarta.

His office said last week that it would ban the hard-line HTI on the grounds that it promoted the establishment of a pan-Islamist government, which contradicted the pluralistic principles of Pancasila.

The HTI has claimed that any form of government other than a caliphate, particularly democracy, a system that Indonesia adopts, is un-Islamic and therefore forbidden according to its interpretation of Islam.

"Just wait for the right time," Wiranto said when asked about the ban. "It's just been a few days [since we announced the HTI would be banned]," Wiranto said. "What is definite is that we are being consistent with what I said [about banning the HTI]."

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/15/anti-pancasila-organizations-cannot-operate-in-indonesia-minister.html

Environment & natural disasters

Lawmakers call for 'disruptive' environmental groups to be closed down

Sindo News - May 20, 2017

Sudarsono, Jakarta – Several lawmakers are calling on the government to close down or expel non-government organisations (NGOs) working for foreign interests because they are undermining national sovereignty and disrupting the Indonesian economy.

"If they insult or undermine our economic sovereignty yes then its best that they just be expelled. We are a sovereign country, so [we] cannot be controlled by foreign countries", said House of Representatives (DPR) Commission IV chairperson Edhy Prabowo in Jakarta on Saturday May 20.

Prabowo reminded the government and law enforcement officials to take a firm position against NGOs disguised as environmental groups or social advocates whose behaviour disrupts Indonesia's economy. Moreover, said the deputy chairperson of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), many of them are not based on the state ideology of Pancasila.

"Don't disrupt Indonesia's economy. The presence of these [palm oil] companies is very important for development. They can be said to be hero's of the nation. They bring in foreign exchange, absorb labour", he said.

According to Prabowo, NGOs are needed in the context of organising this development. However the kinds of NGOs that are needed are those that can provide constrictive criticism and suggestions in order to advance the nation. Not NGOs whose actions undermine national sovereignty or damage the national economic interest.

Prabowo also touched upon the pledge by NGOs that they can disburse US$1 billion in funds from Norway. These funds are compensation for a moratorium on issuing licenses for clearing forest and peat lands as laid out in a Letter of Intent (LoI) signed by the Indonesian government and Norway in May 2010.

"They said they could assist in disbursing this US$1 billion from Norway, where is the evidence for this? So far how much has be disbursed?", asked Prabowo.

Similar concerns were raised by DPR Commission IV member Firman Subagyo [from the Golkar Party], who said that these NGOs are disguised as environmental groups or social advocates.

"They're usually unemployed intellectuals right. They're funded by foreigners to ruin their own nation and state. They're instructed to destroy their own countries", he asserted.

Our Palm Oil Future Association (Samade) chairperson Tolen Ketaren claims that palm oil farmers are extremely anxious about the presence of these NGOs disguised as environment groups and social advocates who make a fuss about palm oil plantations on peat land.

In addition to this, these NGOs camouflage themselves and act in the name of palm oil farmers. Yet, said Ketaren, they are not real farmers. They talk as if they are palm oil farmers but in reality actually destroy the palm oil industry.

"They're paid by Europe to destroy the palm oil [industry] right. Because sunflower plants planted in Europe has failed to productively compete with palm oil", said Ketaren who claims the organisation has as many as 38,000 independent palm oil farmers.

According to Ketaren, claims of exploitation of children who work on palm oil plantations are untrue because it is commonplace for children in Indonesia to help their parents working in gardens or rice paddies. "This isn't a form of child exploitation, because it is commonplace among Indonesian farmers", he said.

Usually, said Ketaren, these NGOs only take a small study sample then generalise it to the Indonesian palm oil industry as a whole. "For example there are children that gather up fresh palm fruit bunches (TBS) that are then planted in gardens owned by their parents, this is analogous and appears to occur in all palm oil plantations in Indonesia", said Ketaren.(ven)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "DPR Minta LSM Pengganggu Industri Sawit Dibubarkan".]

Source: https://ekbis.sindonews.com/read/1206730/33/dpr-minta-lsm-pengganggu-industri-sawit-dibubarkan-1495282253

Indonesia mulls campaign against Airbus planes to retaliate against EU

Jakarta Post - May 19, 2017

Rendi A. Witular, Jakarta – In response to a recent European Parliament resolution to reduce the use of palm oil for environmental reasons and a string of "black campaigns" conducted by European NGOs that suggest that palm oil substances are detrimental to human health, Indonesia is planning a slew of retaliatory measures.

Trade Minister Enggartiasto "Enggar" Lukita said he recently met with his counterpart from the European Union (EU) and expressed his rage, saying that Indonesia would retaliate against attempts to disturb the global sale of palm oil.

"When I met my EU counterpart, I said I would talk to my fellow ministers to start a plan not to buy Airbus planes anymore as they may contain risks of igniting skin cancer. The use of the Thales radar system (made in the EU) also has similar risks of causing skin cancer," said Enggar in a gathering late on Thursday.

"The EU has to prove that palm oil poses a risk to health. Indonesia will do the same thing to Airbus by reviewing whether or not it is safe to fly with the plane."

Enggar said the EU minister defended the EU's position by saying that the palm oil resolution was issued by the EU parliament and was not binding, and that the campaigns that claimed palm oil posed a risk to human health were taken up by NGOs.

"In response to that, I said I would tell my legislative friends and local NGOs to do the same thing to your products," Enggar said. "If you want to ensure free trade, this kind of thing should be avoided or it will spiral down into a trade war."

The EU parliament demanded in April that the bloc gradually reduce the use of vegetable oils, including palm oil, that are not sustainably produced in biodiesel production, in a bid to reduce deforestation. Indonesia is the world's largest producer of palm oil. Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/19/indonesia-mulls-campaign-against-airbus-planes-to-retaliate-against-eu.html

Forest fires hit Sumatra again, causing smog

Jakarta Post - May 19, 2017

Riau – The Indonesian climate agency detected 18 hot spots on Friday, indicating forests and lands were burning in regions on Sumatra Island, as happens each year, resulting in pollution and upsetting neighboring countries.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said that fires had been found in Jambi, South Sumatra, Riau and Riau Islands, which are in the dry season.

"The hot spots have been recorded over the past week," said Slamet Riyadi, head of the data and information division of the BMKG's Pekanbaru branch in Riau.

There were seven hot spots in Jambi while four fires were burning in some areas of the Riau and South Sumatra provinces, according to the Terra and Aqua satellites.

Forest and land fires are perennial problems in the country, with the latest massive fires in 2015 resulting in a choking haze blanketing numerous areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan, as well as neighboring countries, and costing the economy Rp 221 trillion, equal to about 1.9 percent of the country's GDP. (mos/dan)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/19/forest-fires-hit-sumatra-again-causing-smog.html

Kalla calls on EU to stop negative campaign on palm oil

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2017

Jakarta – Vice President Jusuf Kalla has called on the European Union to stop its negative campaign against palm oil products based on environmental issues.

"It is a matter of trade competition. But they use environment issues," said the Vice President as quoted by Trade Minister Enggartiasto "Enggar" Lukita after accompanying Kalla to meet with Italian Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda in Jakarta on Tuesday, as reported by tempo.co.

During the meeting, Enggar said Kalla assured Calenda that Indonesia had high commitments to protect the environment.

Enggar said he also expressed concern over the issuance of the EU resolution although it was not binding for members of the union. He said he told Calenda that Indonesia had been treated unfairly by the negative campaign.

On April 4, the EU parliament issued a resolution to only import sustainable oil palm products after 2020. The resolution also called for a single sustainability standard, although Indonesia already has its own Sustainable Palm Oil standard.

Enggar said Calenda's visit to Indonesia was part of the country's effort to improve its trade relations with the largest Southeast Asian country. The value of trade relations between the countries decreased by 9.4 percent in 2016 compared to 2015. Indonesian posted a trade surplus of US$200 million, last year.

"They (Italy) want more balance trade. We welcome their idea," said Enggar, adding that his Italian counterpart asked Indonesia to use more technology products from the country, such as machinery for the leather industry. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/15/kalla-calls-on-eu-to-stop-negative-campaign-on-palm-oil.html

Health & education

Indonesia suffers trillions in losses from cigarette smoking: Health

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2017

Jakarta – As the House of Representatives is about to deliberate the controversial Tobacco bill, the Health Ministry is standing its ground in opposing the draft, saying cigarette consumption is a health hazard that causes trillions of rupiah in state losses.

The Research and Development Agency at the Health Ministry has found that Indonesia suffers annual losses of Rp 500 trillion (US$37.5 billion) from the negative impacts of smoking, a number that accounts for a quarter of the state budget.

"Smoking brings negative impacts, both directly and indirectly," the agency's chairman, Siswanto, said on Tuesday, as quoted by kompas.com.

Direct impacts, for example, are that many smokers get smoking-related illnesses and have to spend a lot of money on medical treatment, expenses that become the responsibility of the Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan).

As for indirect impacts, he cited the fact that many family heads die earlier due to smoking, leaving their families in poverty.

"When a husband dies at the age of 50, 20 years are lost. If we multiply that with the minimum wage, it can reach Rp 500 trillion," Siswanto, said referring to Indonesians' average lifespan of 70 years.

Thus, Siswanto said, his ministry was pushing for an increase in the cigarette tax as part of tobacco control efforts to help reduce consumption, as the ministry believed higher cigarette prices would reduce the number of smokers. Meanwhile, the tax funds could help increase the budget for health care programs. (foy/rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/16/indonesia-suffers-trillions-in-losses-from-cigarette-smoking-health-ministry.html

Cigarette problems cloud SDGs targets

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia's role in global development was recognized when then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2012 co-chaired the United Nation's High-level Panel on the post-2015 agenda.

The panel defined the global development framework that succeeded the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and was incorporated into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders at a UN summit in 2015.

However, during the 4th Indonesian Conference on Tobacco or Health 2017 that kicked off on Monday in Jakarta, government officials and academics raised concerns about cigarette smoking, which they feared could hamper the government's efforts to achieve the SDGs targets.

Several of the 17 goals, especially those regarding the economic and health sectors, were highlighted during the conference, which was organized as a pre-event ahead of the World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

"We are facing great challenges regarding the age level of smokers. Data from 2014 show that 36 percent of male smokers and 20 percent of female smokers started smoking between the ages of 13 and 15," Health Minister Nila Moeloek said when opening the two-day conference.

Fifty-seven percent of adult men in Indonesia are smokers, according to the 2014 World Cancer Report. The Health Ministry stated in 2016 that smokers accounted for 36 percent of the total population.

Nina also stated that problems from smoking could thwart hopes to benefit from the expected demographic bonus in 2035. "If productive age citizens suffer diseases from smoking in the future, they will not be productive," she said.

Nila added that the government had been trying to decrease the number of smokers under the age of 18 from 8.8 percent in 2015 to 5.4 percent in 2019, which is in line with the third SDG of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being.

But Indonesia has always found itself in major dilemmas when dealing with tobacco and its related industries. The Manpower and Transmigration Ministry said recently that 5.6 million Indonesians, or about 5 percent of the total workforce, work in the tobacco sector.

House of Representatives Commission IX overseeing health and labor member Ermalena said the government should focus on health issues in its efforts to control the use of tobacco.

"There are about 7,000 citizens, registered in the national health insurance program, who suffer from heart problems and need heart surgery. Smoking is the main factor triggering this," said Ermalena, a politician from the Prosperous Justice Party (PPP).

Bimo Wijayanto, a member of the Presidential Staff Office, said that smoking also hampered efforts to reduce poverty.

"Expenditure for cigarettes ranks second only to food in poor households. This will affect the quality of human resources in the future," he said.

The Head of Indonesian Public Health Experts Association (IAKMI), Ridwan Thaha, highlighted another dilemma. "We often see cigarette companies create scholarships as part of their corporate social responsibility programs," he said, adding that several universities had begun refusing educational aid from cigarette companies.

Bimo said that it was important for the public to realize that scholarships and other social welfare programs from the cigarette companies could never outweigh the negative effects of smoking. (rdi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/16/cigarette-problems-cloud-sdgs-targets.html

Tertiary education & campus life

Security chief Wiranto says government to combat 'deviant ideologies' on

RMOL - May 18, 2017

Ihsan Dalimunthe – Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (menkopolhukam) Wiranto insists that the government will no longer be carefree about deviant ideologies coming onto campuses in Indonesia.

He is even seeking assistance from rectors to control and disband student organisations that do not agree with the state ideology of Pancasila.

"There are organisations that are not right (tidak beres) on campus and they will be ordered to stop [their activities]", said Wiranto speaking before rectors and academics at the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Technology Research (kemenristek dikti) in South Jakarta on Wednesday May 17.

Wiranto said that the government would restore campuses as centres of national brilliance that are free from negative influences or ideologies that are clearly in conflict with the ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.

"This is unconditional because our students are the future of the nation, right, and they [should] live as national leaders", said the former commander-in-chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces (ABRI) during the era of the Suharto dictatorship.

Wiranto also hopes that all interested parties on campus can move quickly to combat all ideologies that conflict with the pillars of the nation. According to Wiranto, one of the things that will determine the future face of Indonesia will be the country's campuses.

"So we must be able to build a bulwark on campus so that our campuses can be free of viruses that can cause problems. Tertiary institutions have a very strategic position, the centre of our country is there. The country's future is on these campuses, don't let strange ideologies enter the campuses. Before [our] children are contaminated, let's protect them together", said Wiranto.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "Wiranto: Ada Organisasi Yang Tak Beres Di Kampus, Berhentikan!".]

Source: http://nusantara.rmol.co/read/2017/05/18/291821/Wiranto:-Ada-Organisasi-Yang-Tak-Beres-Di-Kampus

LBGT & same-sex marriage

Police lambasted for treatment of men arrested at alleged sex party

YJakarta Post - May 22, 2017

Jakarta – A coalition of advocates and supporters of sexual and gender minorities protested the arrest and alleged inappropriate treatment of 141 men at a gym in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, on Sunday night.

Photographs of the arrested men, who were naked, were leaked and went viral on Monday.

"The victims were stripped naked and transported in public transportation [...] They were also naked while facing [police] interrogation," said the statement signed by 15 organizations, including the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights groups Arus Pelangi.

The men are alleged to have been attending a sex party. All those arrested are still detained, including 10 men who have been named suspects.

"The arrests set a bad precedent for cases involving other gender and sexual minorities," the statement continued. The coalition has deemed the arrests "arbitrary".

North Jakarta Police spokesman Comr. Sungkono said the leak of the photographs was the result of a "procedural mistake" by the police officers in charge of the arrests. (dea)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/22/police-lambasted-for-treatment-of-men-arrested-at-alleged-sex-party.html

Indonesian police arrest more than 140 men at alleged gay sauna party

The Guardian (Australia) - May 22, 2017

Kate Lamb, Jakarta – Indonesian police have arrested more than 100 men in a weekend raid on a gay sauna in the capital Jakarta, a day before two men are to be publicly flogged for having same sex relations.

Authorities raided what they said was a sex party promoted as 'The Wild One,' held at a sauna and gym venue in Jakarta's north on Sunday evening.

Police spokesperson Agus Yuwono confirmed that 141 men, including the owner and several performers, had been detained for questioning and could be charged under Indonesia's pornography law.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but over the past 18 months the LGBT community has been subject to an unprecedented wave of discrimination and attacks, sparked by several controversial comments from conservative government ministers.

Last month police targeted a gathering of gay men in a hotel in Surabaya, following a tip-off from neighbours. Fourteen men were arrested and forced to undergo HIV tests.

Two men were also arrested in Banda Aceh in late March and convicted of sodomy under the province's sharia law. The men were sentenced to 85 lashes with the cane, which will be meted out publicly in the provincial capital on Tuesday.

This will be the first time Aceh's sharia courts have sentenced people to flogging for homosexual acts.

Yulita Rustinawati from the LGBT activist group Arus Pelangi said that while all the details of Sunday's raid were not year clear, the arrests were likely part of a growing trend of intolerance toward the queer community in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

"It's been increasing for two years now," Rustinawati said of the recent crackdowns, "It's bad for democracy, for freedom of expression and freedom of association. We're not sure what the government is trying to achieve. We are queer and we are not going away."

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/22/indonesian-police-arrest-more-than-140-men-at-alleged-gay-sauna-party

Indonesian police make mass arrests after raid on 'gay party' at sauna

South China Morning Post - May 22, 2017

Indonesian police have detained 141 men who were allegedly holding a gay party at a sauna, an official said on Monday, the latest sign of a backlash against homosexuals in the Muslim-majority country.

Officers late on Sunday raided a building in the capital Jakarta called Atlantis that houses a sauna and a gym, and halted the event they said was called "The Wild One".

Pictures circulating online showed topless men sitting crammed in a room next to gym equipment after the police raid.

"Our officers did an undercover investigation and raided the place on Sunday," senior detective Nasriadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said.

Homosexuality and gay sex are legal everywhere in Indonesia except in conservative Aceh province, but Nasriadi said that 10 of those arrested in the Jakarta raid could be charged under Indonesia's tough anti-pornography laws.

These include the alleged organisers of the event as well as men suspected of being prostitutes and striptease dancers. Those found guilty of breaking the laws face up to 10 years in jail.

The other detained men are still being questioned by police as potential witnesses in the case, the detective said.

It is the latest sign of growing hostility towards Indonesia's small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Since last year, ministers, hardliners and influential Islamic groups have been lining up to publicly denounce homosexuality.

Earlier this month Indonesian police detained eight men in the city of Surabaya for allegedly holding a gay party, and they could also be charged under the anti-porn laws.

Last week an Islamic court in Aceh also sentenced two men to be publicly caned for having gay sex, the first time such a punishment has been handed down for homosexual activities in the conservative province.

The backlash against the homosexual community began in early 2016, and activists believe it was triggered by widespread media coverage of a decision in the United States to legalise same-sex marriage. (AFP)

Source: http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2095194/indonesian-police-make-mass-arrests-after-raid-gay-party

Graft & corruption

Businessman testifies he met with House speaker in e-ID card hearing

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2017

Jakarta – Businessman Paulus Tannos, one of six witnesses presented at a hearing on embezzlement involving e-ID card procurement on Thursday, admitted he had a meeting related to the project with House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto.

Paulus, the owner of PT Sandipala Arthaputra, one of companies involved in the Rp 5.9 trillion (US$439.38 million) project, testified via teleconference from Singapore, where he lives.

"I once met with Setya Novanto at his house. At that time, he was still the chairman of the Golkar Party faction at the House," Paulus said at the Jakarta Corruption Court.

"Andi Agustinus asked me to meet Setya together with him at the latter's house," he added, replying to a question by presiding judge Jhon Halasan Butarbutar.

Paulus said Andi gave him Setya's address and told him to meet him there. When he arrived at Setya's house, the businessman said, Andi phoned and asked him to meet directly with Setya, saying he would arrive late because he was caught in traffic.

"I introduced myself to Setya Novanto as one of the implementing parties of the [e-ID] project and gave him my business card," said Paulus.

Paulus said he met the Golkar Party politician once again at his office at Equity Tower in the Sudirman Central Business District (SCBD), South Jakarta.

Paulus said the meeting was cut short when Setya told him he had to go to the House immediately. "By making an appointment for my meeting with Setya, I think Andi was trying to tell me he was Setya's close friend." (mrc/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/18/businessman-testifies-he-met-with-house-speaker-in-e-id-card-hearing.html

Setya pushes for inquiry into KPK

Jakarta Post - May 19, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto has called on lawmakers to accelerate the establishment of an inquiry team to investigate the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

"In the previous plenary session, we agreed to form an inquiry team. Hence, the House speakership wants to push the [KPK] inquiry plan forward to the next phase," Setya said. He was speaking during the opening of the House's fifth sitting period on Thursday.

Factions are divided over whether to appoint representatives to the KPK inquiry team amid mounting public opposition to the move. Public and antigraft activists have said that such a move would enable the House to meddle in the KPK's investigation into graft involving e-ID card procurement.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Golkar Party and the Hanura Party have stated their intention of appointing representatives to the team and pushing the inquiry forward. Meanwhile, the Gerindra Party said it would appoint representatives to fight the inquiry "from the inside."

The National Awakening Party (PKB), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democratic Party have firmly stated they would not appoint representatives to the inquiry team.

The United Development Party (PPP) and the NasDem Party have not announce a stance, saying they would first consider the political dynamics. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/19/setya-pushes-for-inquiry-into-KPK.html

Suspected attacker of Novel released due to lack of evidence

Jakarta Post - May 19, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police have released Miko Panji Tirtayasa from custody following questioning at police headquarters.

Miko was arrested recently following suspicions of his possible involvement in the recent acid attack on Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan. Miko is the nephew of graft convict Muhtar Efendi,

Police investigators released Miko due to a lack of evidence. "We checked his alibi and confirmed that he was not in Jakarta during the incident," Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono told journalists on Friday.

Miko was arrested on Tuesday. The police later detained him for further questioning on Thursday. In a video that went viral in early May, Miko said he was forced by KPK investigators to give false testimony against his uncle, Muhtar Efendi.

He also claimed that the KPK had given him money to compensate for his false statement. "He [Miko] said he made the video to express his resentment toward the KPK, saying he was intimidated by investigators from the anti-graft body," Argo said.

The police are currently investigating other clues that might point to the perpetrators of the attack. On Thursday, National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said the police "would check evidence, witnesses, documents and bank details" to see whether Miko's claims were true.

Miko is the fourth person released by the Jakarta Police due to a lack of evidence since Novel was attacked on April 11. (dis/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/19/suspected-attacker-of-novel-released-due-to-lack-of-evidence.html

Stance on KPK inquiry plan worsens Golkar internal rift

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Differences of opinion concerning a House of Representatives plan to investigate the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has worsened an internal rift within the Golkar Party.

The newly appointed chief of the Golkar faction at the House, Robert Kardinal, announced on Tuesday the party had withdrawn a previous decision to reject a House initiative to investigate the anti-graft body.

"The decision was made without first consulting us and all party members," Robert said on the sidelines of a closed-door meeting at Golkar's headquarters on Monday evening.

To demonstrate its rejection of the KPK inquiry, Golkar earlier refused to appoint representatives to a House inquiry committee, which would be established soon, in an official letter signed by Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita, secretary of the Golkar faction at the House.

Robert said Golkar's rejection of the inquiry, which he considered to be a rush decision, was driven by worries that the public would view such support as a move to weaken the KPK.

"Examining the KPK doesn't necessarily mean that we are anti-KPK," he told The Jakarta Post. He added that Golkar would announce its final stance on the KPK inquiry plan later.

Robert was recently appointed to replace Kahar Muzakir, who refused to support a House plan to demand the government revoke a travel ban imposed on Golkar Party chairman Setya Novanto over his alleged role in a mega corruption case involving e-ID card procurement. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/16/stance-on-KPK-inquiry-plan-worsens-golkar-internal-rift.html

Nat'l police call on public to remain patient as acid attack

Jakarta Globe - May 15, 2017

Jakarta – The National Police have called on the public to remain patient as they work to resolve their investigation of the April 11 acid attack on Novel Baswedan, a Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, senior investigator.

"The police will resolve this matter. We have [...] gathered evidence at the crime scene and [...] are looking for possible motives," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto said in Jakarta on Monday (15/05).

Investigators previously suspected three individuals to be linked to the attack and detained one last week based on information obtained from Novel himself.

However, the detained individual was released last Thursday after his alibi was verified by police. "All alibis have been verified, as [the three individuals] were indeed not at the scene of the crime on April 11," Rikwanto added.

Police are considering possible motives for the attack as they relate to previous corruption cases Novel spearheaded in his work for the KPK.

"We are examining every case handled by Novel and will check to see whether there are individuals who may hold grudges against the investigator," Rikwanto said.

Police investigators are expected to visit Novel again in coming weeks to acquire more information to help them resolve the case. Novel is currently undergoing treatment in Singapore for severe injuries suffered to his face and eyes.

Rikwanto asked the public to remain patient while police work to resolve the investigation.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/natl-police-call-public-remain-patient-acid-attack-investigation-unfolds/

Freedom of religion & worship

Indonesian student Afi's blog items inspirational – but her FB

Asia Pacific Report - May 22, 2017

Khairiah Rahman – The Facebook account of Afi Nihaya Faradisa, an Indonesian high school student from the village of Banyuwangi in eastern Java who has inspired thousands of netizens, has been suspended.

This suspension of Afi's account has raised many questions on social media since she has been posting many inspirational entries that are loaded with values and insights about nationality and nationalism.

At the same time that the account was "frozen", Afi was featured on TV as a valued inspirational figure. The following is Afi's last entry, entitled "Heritage":

As it happens, I was born in Indonesia from a Muslim couple, therefore my religion is Islam. If I had been born in Sweden or Israel, from a Christian or Jewish family, is there any guarantee that today I would embrace Islam as my religion? No.

I cannot choose my place of birth and where I will live after I am born. My citizenship is inherited, my name is inherited, and my religion is also inherited.

Fortunately, I have never argued with those of different heritage because I know they too cannot choose what they have inherited from their parents and nation.

A few minutes after we are born, the environment decides our religion, race, clan and nationality. After that, we defend till death all matters that even we have never decided for ourselves.

Since infancy, I have been indoctrinated that Islam is the one religion that is true. I pitied those who are not Muslim, as they are non-believers and upon death will go to hell.

Clearly, my friends who are Christian also has the same supposition about their religion. They pity people who do not take Jesus as God, because such people will go to hell; that is the teaching of their religion.

Therefore, imagine if we do not stop pulling one another to convert to another faith, imagine if the followers of different faiths continue to compete for superiority like that, even though there will never be a meeting point.

Jalaluddin Rumi said, "The truth is a mirror in the hands of God. It fell and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth." Indeed, one characteristic of followers of a religion is to claim the truthfulness of their religion. They also do not need verification; this is "faith".

Indeed, people have the right to convey the words of God, but do not occasionally try to be God. There is no need to label others as entering heaven or hell for we are also servants.

The background of all disputes is because each heritage claims, "my group is the best because God himself said so."

So, my question is if not God, who else created the Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindu, even Atheists and looked over them all until today?

There is none that question the power of God. If He wanted, He could easily have made us all the same. Identical. One religion. One nation. But no, right?

Does it mean that if a country is occupied by citizens of the same religion, it would guarantee harmony? No!

In fact, several countries are tumultuous even though their citizens share the same religion.

Do not be surprised that when the sentiments of the majority versus minority dominate, then our humanity suddenly disappears to who knows where.

Imagine also if each religion demands that their holy book be used as the country's foundation. Then just wait for the downfall of our Indonesia.

Because of this, what is used by our country for policy making in politics, sentencing or humanity is not Al Quran, the Bible, Tripitaka (Buddhist scripture), Weda (Hindu scripture) or the holy book of any religion, but Pancasila, Foundational Law '45, and the motto "Unity in diversity".

From the perspective of Pancasila, everyone who embraces a religion is free to believe and practise their faiths, but they have no right to impose their views and religious teachings as a benchmark for assessment against the believers of other faiths.

Just because of self-righteousness, the believer of religion A has no right to intervene in the policy of a country that consists of various beliefs.

One day in the future, we will tell our descendants how the country came close to destruction not because of bombs, weapons, bullets, or missiles, but because its people claim superiority over one another, fussing over their respective heritage on social media.

While other countries have been to the moon or are planning technology that advances civilisation, we are still fussing over the question of heritage. We don't need to have the same thinking, but let us all have the same thought.

Source: http://asiapacificreport.nz/2017/05/22/indonesian-student-afis-blog-items-inspirational-but-her-fb-frozen/

Thousands support Indonesian petition to repeal blasphemy law

Asia Pacific Report - May 20, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Indonesians have called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to immediately repeal Article 156a on religious blasphemy of the Criminal Code (KUHP), with thousands of people having signed an online petition urging the government to do so.

Through an online petition entitled "President Jokowi, Scrap Article 156a on Blasphemy from KUHP Revision" registered at change.org, two petitioners, Gita Putri Damayana and Gita Syahrani, raised the call.

In less than a week since the petition was submitted online, more than 10,000 people have endorsed it.

The petition was created following the decision of the North Jakarta District Court to sentence non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and ethnic Chinese, to two years in prison for "defaming religion" last week.

"Ahok's conviction is one among many cases [...] that shows that Article 156a of the KUHP is used to judge someone's beliefs and ideas, and that difference is something that is seen as wrong," the petitioners wrote in the petition as quoted by change.org.

The petition, directed toward Jokowi and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, urged the President through the minister to push legislators at the House of Representatives, which is currently amending the KUHP, to scrap the article.

"There is still time for the public to push for the agenda to scrap Article 156a from the KUHP," the petition read.

The online petition can be signed here: https://www.change.org/search?q=Blasphemy%20law%20Indonesia

Source: http://asiapacificreport.nz/2017/05/20/thousands-support-free-speech-indonesian-petition-to-revoke-blasphemy-law/

Experts differ on revocation of blasphemy articles

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2017

Jakarta – Legal experts are showing differences of opinion over the need to revoke the blasphemy articles in Indonesia's penal code in a debate that has erupted after non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was imprisoned recently for blasphemy.

Bivitri Susanti, a constitutional law expert from the Jakarta-based Jentera School of Law, said blasphemy articles, especially Article 156 (a) of the Criminal Code, were "problematic".

"The parameters [of blasphemy] used in the article are not correct. It uses 'public reaction' as a parameter to define criminal aspects of alleged blasphemy, while in fact most criminal articles use 'intention' as a parameter," Bivitri said as quoted by kompas.com on Friday.

Constitutional law expert Yusril Ihza Mahendra said blasphemy articles were still needed in Indonesia and the government needed to "protect all religions from any kind of insult".

"For Indonesia, religion is fundamental. The forms of protection for religions can be found in criminal [blasphemy] articles," he said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Yusril referred to a judicial review ruling at the Constitutional Court, which rejected an appeal to revoke the 1965 Blasphemy Law in 2009.

Blasphemy is regulated in Article 156 (a) of the Criminal Code, used by the court in Ahok's case, and in the 1965 Blasphemy Law, formulated during former president Sukarno's presidency. (mos/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/20/experts-differ-on-revocation-of-blasphemy-articles.html

Thousands support petition to revoke blasphemy article

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – The public has called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to immediately repeal Article 156a on religious blasphemy of the Criminal Code (KUHP), with thousands of people having signed an online petition urging the government to do so.

Through an online petition entitled "President Jokowi, Scrap Article 156a on Blasphemy from KUHP Revision" registered at change.org, two petitioners, Gita Putri Damayana and Gita Syahrani, raised the call.

In less than a week since the petition was submitted online, more than 10,000 people have endorsed it as of Thursday morning.

The petition was created following the decision of the North Jakarta District Court to sentence non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and ethnic Chinese, to two years in prison for "defaming religion" last week.

"Ahok's conviction is one among many cases [...] that shows that Article 156a of the KUHP is used to judge someone's beliefs and ideas, and that difference is something that is seen as wrong," the petitioners wrote in the petition as quoted by change.org.

The petition, directed toward Jokowi and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, urged the President through the minister to push legislators at the House of Representatives, which is currently amending the KUHP, to scrap the article.

"There is still time for the public to push for the agenda to scrap Article 156a from the KUHP," the petition read.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/18/thousands-support-petition-to-revoke-blasphemyarticle.html

Blasphemy Law still needed: PPP lawmaker

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Despite growing demand for the House of Representatives to scrap controversial Article 156a on blasphemy in the Criminal Code (KUHP), which many deem draconian, a lawmaker has argued that the country still needed the article.

Lawmaker Asrul Sani from the Islamic-based United Development Party (PPP) said the article could serve as a tool to avoid social conflict.

"We need the regulation so that people can't act arbitrarily at will. Many people would sacrifice their life to defend their religion," Arsul said.

"I don't agree to scrapping it. Can you imagine what would happen if there was no regulation and then someone insulted a religion? People would use their own 'legal system'," he added.

A number of civil society groups have strongly urged the House and the government to repeal the blasphemy regulation following a court ruling that sentenced Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years' imprisonment for insulting the Quran.

Many slammed the verdict passed down by the North Jakarta District Court last week, accusing the court of bowing to pressure from hard-liners who held anti-Ahok rallies in the lead up to the most divisive gubernatorial election Jakarta has seen.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the main party in the coalition that backed Ahok in the election, recently said it would propose the regulation be revised as the House was currently amending the Criminal Code. (foy/rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/16/blasphemy-law-still-needed-ppp-lawmaker.html

Islam & religion

As Muslim split deepens, Indonesia creaks under weight of intolerance

South China Morning Post - May 20, 2017

Deasy Simandjuntak – Indonesia has moved to disband the decades-old hardline group Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI).

In a speech on May 8, retired general Wiranto, now a government minster, listed three grounds: that HTI had not assumed a positive role in the country's efforts to achieve national goals; that its activities contradict the country's principles and constitution; and that it had caused conflict in society, which may threaten security.

Wiranto said the group's aim of establishing a caliphate was a threat to the nation state of Indonesia and that it would be disbanded legally.

Rejecting the plan, the officially registered organisation maintained that for 20 years it has mainly proselytised and preached about Islam, which is not against the law.

HTI is the Indonesian branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international, pan-Islamic, political organisation established in Palestine in 1953, aiming to unify all Muslim countries under an elected ruler, or caliph.

It began its activities in the 1980s, by proselytising and recruiting members at campuses. In 2007, at a large meeting organised by HTI in Jakarta, tens of thousands expressed support for the caliphate. Aside from Indonesia, Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in 16 other countries, 14 of them Muslim states.

The disbandment announcement came only two days before outgoing Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy against Islam. HTI, like many hardline groups, had supported the blasphemy charges.

Some Islamic organisations welcomed the move to disband HTI as a step toward curbing hardliners. Even the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country's top Muslim clerical body, whose ruling went against Purnama in court, agreed that HTI should be banned.

The move against HTI would seem like a blow for hardliners, but Purnama's imprisonment still signals the growing presence of Islamist influence in the court.

And other violent intolerant groups – such as the Islamic Defenders Front and National Movement of MUI Fatwa Defenders, the main supporters of the blasphemy charges – have not been banned.

Some speculate the Islamic Defenders Front still enjoys support from some elements in the military. Its leader Rizieq Shihab, himself under investigation for contradicting the nation's founding principles, now hides in Malaysia.

One of the dilemmas of democracy is that its protection of individual rights and emphasis on pluralism let fundamentalist groups exist freely, even when such groups advocate undemocratic values.

But in the end the survival of a diverse nation such as Indonesia depends on the preservation of its initial consensus to respect and protect such diversity from intolerant elements.

As the polarisation between hardline and moderate Muslims grows, it is crucial for the government to stay firm in upholding these core values.

[Deasy Simandjuntak is Visiting Fellow at the Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. This piece first appeared on the website of ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.]

Source: http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2094867/muslim-split-deepens-indonesia-creaks-under-weight-intolerance

Indonesian Ulema Council member rejects caliphate

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2017

Jakarta – A member of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the nation's top Islamic clerical body, has said that people who want to replace the country's political system with khilafah (an Islamic caliphate) are betraying the consensus agreed upon by the nation's founding fathers.

"Establishing a caliphate in Indonesia is a religious deviation and a political betrayal," M Cholis Nafis, who chairs the MUI's Islamic propagation commission, said as quoted by Tribunnews.com.

Cholis said a caliphate, in which a caliph leads a global Islamic government under Islamic rule, is merely an ijtihad, or an interpretation of the teachings of Islam. It is not the only interpretation found in the Islamic world, he added.

He argued that even the Prophet Muhammad promoted governance based on pluralistic values when he established Madina as the first Islamic polity. "Therefore, we agree with the government's policy of cracking down on any movement that threatens the nation's unity," he said.

The government is currently preparing to ban Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI). HTI declares that the values of democracy contravene the fundamental vision of Islam. The organization has called for the creation of a global Islamic caliphate. (ary/af)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/18/indonesian-ulema-council-member-rejects-caliphate.html

Jakarta starts to control liquor distribution ahead of fasting month

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2017

Jakarta – Jakarta district and subdistrict authorities have been instructed to intensify the monitoring of liquor distribution ahead of the start of the Ramadhan fasting month on May 27.

Jakarta Public Order Agency head Jupan Royter said on Thursday that he had issued a circular to agency officers at the district and subdistrict level to confiscate and destroy liquor whose distribution was not in accordance with the letter.

"We also ask residents to participate in monitoring [liquor distribution]," Jupan said as quoted by beritajakarta.id.

Previously on Tuesday, kompas.com reported that the North Jakarta Police had destroyed 16,421 bottles of liquor confiscated during a two-week raid. The liquor was confiscated from shops that had not obtained a license to sell liquor. (cal)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/18/jakarta-starts-to-control-liquor-distribution-ahead-of-fasting-month.html

Caliphate system outdated: MUI leader

Jakarta Post - May 15, 2017

Jakarta – An Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) leader has said that the Islamic caliphate system often propagated by ultraconservative Muslim groups was not suitable for Indonesia, calling it outdated by standards of a modern democracy.

Ikhsan Abdulah, the deputy head of the council's law commission, said the caliphate political system was a legacy from the past, making the system, which is part of the campaign of hard-line group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), outdated.

"The caliphate system has lost its legitimacy in the world. It ended with the last of the Ottoman empire in Turkey, so it is not relevant anymore," he said as quoted on tribunnews.com on Monday.

He explained that when the Ottoman empire ended, the caliphate system was no longer used and Turkey established modern state institutions.

He said that although the caliphate system contradicted the Pancasila state ideology and the Constitution, if brought up in the context of teaching history, it should not be banned by the government. "What we must suspect and be wary of is what the HTI means by promoting the caliphate system in Indonesia," he said.

On May 5, the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister announced its plan to disband the HTI on the grounds that it was promoting the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia, contravening the Pancasila state ideology and Constitution.

The announcement drew criticism from various groups calling for the government to comply with a law that requires the government to consult the courts before making such a decision. (dis/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/15/caliphate-system-outdated-mui-leader.html

Sex, pornography & morality

Firza Husein named suspect, charged under Porn Law

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2017

Jakarta – The Jakarta Police have named Firza Husein, the coordinator of the Solidaritas Sahabat Cendana Foundation (SSC) and treason suspect, a suspect in a separate pornography case.

Investigators have charged her under the 2008 Pornography Law, which carries a maximum sentence of six years' imprisonment, for allegedly sharing pornographic material in WhatsApp chats between her and firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab.

Firza was named a suspect after undergoing 12 hours of questioning at the office of the Jakarta Police's special crimes unit on Tuesday. Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said the police had obtained enough evidence to name Firza a suspect.

"We have evidence consisting of a police report, statements from regular and expert witnesses and of course physical evidence," Argo said after the questioning session.

Investigators of the National Police's Indonesia Automatic Fingerprints Identification System (INAFIS) confirmed on Monday that nude pictures posted in a WhatsApp chat belonged to Firza. "Tomorrow [Wednesday], we will question her again as a suspect," said Argo.

Meanwhile, investigators have yet to question Rizieq, who failed to fulfill two summons to be questioned as a witness in the case. The police said on Tuesday that Rizieq was located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Rizieq's lawyer, Kapitra Ampera, said his client had intentionally defied police summons because he claimed innocence. Kapitra also said that Rizieq might not return to Indonesia before Idul Fitri. (dea/bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/17/firza-husein-named-suspect-charged-under-porn-law.html

Naked woman in steamy WhatsApp chat is Firza Husein, police confirm

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2017

Jakarta – The National Police have said that a face recognition analysis confirmed that the naked woman who appeared in sex chats allegedly involving Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab is Firza Husein.

Hery Cahyono, a face recognition expert from the police's Indonesia Automatic Fingerprints Identification System (Inafis) division, said authorities used several methods, including biometrics, to check whether the woman who appeared in the sex chats was really Firza.

He said police compared pictures of the female activist when she was arrested over an alleged plot against the government on Feb. 4 with her suspected pictures in the WhatsApp conversation.

Hery said the team also used a bio-finder method, during which they checked Firza's naked pictures in the WhatsApp conversations and her pictures on her ID card and in the Home Ministry's e-ID database.

"The automatic algorithm system shows that all those pictures match. The system would refuse to [report a match] if the pictures were from two different people," Hery said as quoted by kompas.com on Tuesday.

Earlier this year police summoned Firza for questioning after screenshots of what appears to be steamy WhatsApp chats between Rizieq and Firza were uploaded to the internet.

Firza, who was a coordinator of the Solidaritas Sahabat Cendana foundation, which is connected to the family of former president Soeharto, was reportedly having a relationship with the married man, Rizieq Shihab.

"This case is fabricated and libelous," Firza's lawyer Azis Yanuar said. (hol/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/16/naked-woman-in-steamy-whatsapp-chat-is-firza-husein-police-confirm.html

Agriculture & food security

Groups demand legal protection for palm oil laborers

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2017

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – A coalition of nongovernmental organizations is calling on the government to issue a legal umbrella to protect millions of people employed in the palm oil industry from being exploited in various ways.

Solidarity for Oil Palm Laborers said palm oil, a commodity that had been cultivated for more than a century in Indonesia, had emerged as one of major economic drivers in the country. At the same time, the rights of oil palm laborers, especially those who worked in plantations, had been neglected, it said.

"Indonesia has never had any special regulation on palm oil laborers. Issuing a special regulation needs to be done immediately to prevent more rights violations from happening," Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) deputy director Andi Muttaqien told a press conference on Thursday.

ELSAM is one of 11 rights groups in the coalition, including the Circle of Advocacy and Research (Link-AR Borneo) and the Organization of Struggle and Strengthening for People (OPPUK).

In the press conference, OPPUK and Link-AR Borneo presented the findings of their investigation into rights violations that took place on oil palm plantations across North Sumatra and West Kalimantan. These included the prevention of workers exercising their right to form labor unions, forced employment of children and a lack of healthcare services.

Andi said that first and foremost, both the government and the House of Representatives had to review the 2003 Manpower Law and the 2014 Plantation Law and insert special provisions on the protection of the rights of oil palm plantation laborers into the two laws.

Indonesia is the world's largest palm oil producer. It has around 11.6 million hectares of oil palm plantations and produced some 35 million tons of palm oil in 2016. Around 16 million workers are employed in the oil palm sector, the coalition wrote in its position paper. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/18/groups-demand-legal-protection-for-palm-oil-laborers.html

Land & agrarian conflicts

Government certifies only 1 million plots of land as of May

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2017

Jakarta – Agrarian and Spatial Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil said his ministry could only certify around 1 million plots of land as of May from the total target of 5 million certificates by the end of this year.

"The other 4 million certificates are still in the process," said Sofyan in Jakarta on Tuesday as reported by kontan.co.

Previously, the minister said only Rp 1.4 trillion (US$104.94 million) for the certifications had been allotted in the 2017 state budget, only enough for 2 million certificates. He said his ministry required an additional Rp 2.8 trillion to achieve the government's target of 5 million certificates.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has directed the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry to issue 5 million land certificates this year, 7.5 million in 2018 and 9 million in 2019, to accelerate the government's efforts to reduce disparities between the rich and the poor.

Sofyan said his ministry was now waiting for the fund disbursement promised by Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to certify more certificates. "Hopefully. The fund for certifying 2 million plots of land will be disbursed this month," Sofyan added. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/16/government-certifies-only-1-million-plots-of-land-as-of-may.html

Ethnic & sectarian conflict

We are all brothers: Jokowi

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2017

Ruslan Sangadji, Palu, Central Sulawesi – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has called on all citizens to stop accusing, insulting, slandering and protesting against each other.

"Don't forget to maintain unity because we are all brothers. We will run out of energy if we have to continuously deal with demonstrations," the President said in his remarks during the opening of the 19th Indonesian Islamic Students Movement (PMII) Congress at Darussalam Grand Mosque in Palu, Central Sulawesi, on Tuesday.

Jokowi later asked all political elites to set a good example and convey their words appropriately.

"Give good and polite statements because this is the character of our nation. Don't let us lose our identity and character because our nation is widely known as a nation that is friendly, polite and well-mannered," said the President.

Jokowi said he was sad to see people constantly staging rallies across the country. "It seems we have forgotten that we are all brothers both as Muslims and as people living in one country and as a nation. This is really counterproductive."

"Just ask National Police chief [Gen. Tito Karnavian] about the billions [of rupiahs] that have been wasted to deploy police personnel to secure the rallies," Jokowi said.

The President said he hoped PMII members would long to become not only politicians but also entrepreneurs because, currently, entrepreneurs comprise only 1.6 percent of Indonesia's population. Ideally, more than five percent of the country's population should become entrepreneurs, he said.

Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani, Research and Technology and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir, Regional Representative Council (DPD) Speaker Oesman Sapta Odang and Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola accompanied President Jokowi in the visit. (foy/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/16/we-are-all-brothers-jokowi.html

Army to build one million toilets

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2017

Jakarta – The Indonesian Army has pledged to build 1 million toilets for impoverished families in villages across the archipelago in an effort to help improve access to sanitation facilities in remote areas.

"Around 24 million families in Indonesia do not have good sanitation facilities due to poverty and a lack of education about the importance of health," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mulyono said on Tuesday as quoted by Antara.

Therefore, the Indonesian Military (TNI) has committed itself to building one million toilets in collaboration with the Health Ministry through community service program Integrated Soldiers to Develop Villages (TMMD), he said.

The program is also in line with the government's target to eliminate public defecation in the country by 2019, Mulyono added. The TNI will train 65 village supervisory non-commissioned officers (Babinsa) in May as community health educators, he said.

The number of Babinsa personnel to be trained would increase to 3,520 by 2018 and they are expected to campaign to raise awareness on the importance of living a sanitary lifestyle, Mulyono said.

The 99th TMMD program will be held from July 4 to August 2, involving 58 companies comprising Indonesian Army personnel and 8,700 volunteers of government-related bodies. They would be deployed to 92 villages in 58 regencies and cities across the archipelago. (bbs)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/05/17/army-to-build-one-million-toilets.html

Foreign affairs & trade

Indonesia's April export, import growth slower than expected

Jakarta Globe - May 15, 2017

Jakarta – Indonesia's exports and imports grew more slowly than expected in April, while the country's trade balance was smaller than a month before, the Central Statistics Agency said on Monday (15/05).

Southeast Asia's largest economy had a $1.24 billion trade surplus in April, the agency said, more than the $860 million a Reuters poll had forecast, but smaller than the revised $1.39 billion for March.

Imports rose 10.31 percent from a year earlier to $11.93 billion in April. The poll's median forecast was for a 21.56 percent annual growth rate.

The agency said imports of consumer goods rose nearly 26 percent on a yearly basis. Increases in imports of capital goods and raw materials were smaller.

Exports rose 12.61 percent to $13.17 billion in April, versus the poll's forecast of 22.45 percent. Both exports' and imports' value in April were below that of March.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/indonesias-april-export-import-growth-slower-expected/

Analysis & opinion

Banning Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia: Freedom Or Security? – Analysis

Eurasia Review - May 21, 2017

Alexander R Arifianto – On May 8, 2017, retired general Wiranto, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, issued a statement stating that after a careful study, the Joko Widodo (Jokowi) administration will start legal proceedings to declare Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) a prohibited organisation throughout the country.

He stated that his rationale to ban the organisation is because HTI's ideology which promotes a global Islamic caliphate is contradictory to Indonesia's national ideology Pancasila. Thus, it has violated Law No. 17/2013 on Civil Society Organisations (CSO), which authorised the government to prohibit any organisations which "propagates any ideological or philosophical teachings which violates Pancasila and Indonesia's 1945 Constitution".

Payback or crackdown?

Some critics have accused the Jokowi administration's action as retaliation against HTI for its active role in the movement directed against former Jakarta Governor's Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok) that ended his re-election bid last month. However, Wiranto strongly denied this accusation.

The Indonesian government, he said, would begin the legal proceedings to ban HTI, which requires the government to file a motion in a district court to revoke HTI's permit to operate as a CSO in Indonesia. If granted, the organisation has the right to appeal the court's ruling in an Appellate Court, and finally in the Indonesian Supreme Court.

HTI has received legal recognition in Indonesia since 2000, after operating underground for more than two decades during the Suharto regime. An affiliate of the global Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) movement, it was first introduced in Indonesia around 1980 by a West Java-based cleric named Abdullah bin Nuh and an Australia-based preacher named Abdurrahman al-Baghdadi.

They founded a campus preaching (da'wa) centre at Bogor Institute of Agricultural Studies (IPB) that became the cornerstone for Hizb ut-Tahrir's activities in Indonesia. Over the next two decades the movement managed to gained membership at state university campuses as well as in professional associations.

HTI's influence in Indonesian society

HTI maintains its strong presence at Indonesian state universities during the post-Reformasi period. Unofficial estimates put its membership to be at least one million followers. It is especially strong at state universities which specialise in training public school teachers – the so-called teacher's training and educational universities (IKIP). It is strong in these universities because it seeks newly minted public high school teachers as potential recruits.

After being inducted as its cadres, these teachers could assist in spreading HTI's ideology to promote a global caliphate among their junior and senior public high school teachers throughout Indonesia. Serving as rohis (short for rohani Islam or high school propagation teachers), these teachers are able to control the rohis classes' curriculum and to pass on HTI's ideology among their high school pupils.

Recent surveys done by a number of research institutes have confirmed HTI's influence among public high school teachers and their pupils. A survey released in January 2017 conducted by the Institute for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University finds 78 percent of surveyed Indonesian Islamic religious teachers in public schools support the implementation of Islamic (shari'a) law in Indonesia, while 77 percent supports conservative Islamist organisations which are advocating for this goal.

A 2016 survey by Maarif Institute – a think-tank affiliated with Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organisation – shows more than half of public high school students in West Java province are supportive towards the establishment of a caliphate-based state.

Freedom of expression vs security consideration

There are other aspects of HTI strategies that have attracted attention. Its nusrah (seeking allies) strategy aims to invite national and local civil servants, politicians, and security apparatus to HTI events, to turn them to become potential sympathisers, if not cadres.

HTI provincial board members from East Java province have revealed in an interview with the author that it has engaged in extensive dialogues with a number of local politicians, including the province's deputy governor who is widely anticipated to seek the gubernatorial position during the 2018 regional election, to "educate" them regarding HTI and its ideology. They also claim HTI currently has several dozen mid-level officers of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) who have been inducted to become its cadres.

A number of observers have criticised the Indonesian government's proposed ban against HTI by stating that Law No. 17/2013, which forms the legal foundation of the government's case against the organisation, is legally vague. If interpreted broadly, it can open a pathway for potential abuse of power by the Jokowi administration to silence its critics, including but not limited to, hard-line Islamic groups.

While these criticisms do have merit, the above evidences show that by expanding into public high schools and universities and recruiting politicians, civil servants, and TNI officers as potential sympathisers, HTI may endanger Indonesia's domestic security, with implications for regional security as well.

At a time when the possibility of regional extremism is at an all-time high, the Indonesian government has placed a premium on security considerations over an organisation's right to freely express itself, especially when such expressions are in clear contradiction of Indonesia's national ideology.

However, even if it was successfully enacted, the proposed ban against HTI would not stop its da'wa campaign in Indonesia. Hizb ut-Tahrir branches elsewhere have proven themselves to be very effective when they are being forced to operate underground. How the Jokowi administration would enforce the prohibition once it is enacted remains an open question.

[Alexander R Arifianto PhD is a Research Fellow with the Indonesia Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.]

Source: http://www.eurasiareview.com/21052017-banning-hizbut-tahrir-indonesia-freedom-security-analysis/

Conviction politics: the jailing of Ahok

Indonesia at Melbourne - May 19, 2017

Tim Lindsey – The conviction for blasphemy last Tuesday of the outgoing governor of Jakarta, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was not a surprise. It followed a common pattern for blasphemy cases in Indonesia.

When the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI), the conservative peak body for Islamic scholars in Indonesia, issues a fatwa stating that an accused has committed blasphemy, Indonesian courts almost always agree. In this case, MUI condemned Ahok using a lesser form of opinion, not a fatwa, but that made no difference. It was just as decisive.

The two-year prison sentence Ahok received was also not surprising, if previous blasphemy decisions are taken as a guide. With maximum of five years imprisonment available for the blasphemy, sentences over the last decade have ranged from six months to four years. Two years is mid-range and not an unusual outcome for a conviction under Article 156a of the Criminal Code (the so called Blasphemy Law provision, really a very broad prohibition of religious defamation).

Nor is it unusual that the judges completely ignored the recommendations of prosecutors that Ahok receive a suspended sentence, rather than prison time. In fact, the prosecutors even proposed that Ahok be sentenced under another provision of the Criminal Code that carries a lighter maximum term. Judges in Indonesia are, however, not bound by prosecutors' sentencing recommendations. They are free to ignore their requests and often do. That's what happened in this case.

What was surprising was that the judges decided to follow the usual pattern in blasphemy cases when the case before them was so very unusual.

Most blasphemy cases in Indonesia involve small, unorthodox "deviant" religious sects, often Muslim in derivation. Some of those jailed in the past include, for example: a mystic who claimed that whistling was a valid form of Muslim prayer; a cult leader who said he was a new prophet of Islam; a woman who claimed to be reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, in direct communication with the angel Gabriel; and an ex-boxer convert to Islam who earned the ire of MUI by proposing that prayers could be said in Indonesian, not just Arabic.

By contrast, the defendant in this case was prominent politician with a national profile, an established reputation as a committed reformer and effective administrator and a close relationship with President Joko Widodo ("Jokowi"). This is the first time that Indonesia's Blasphemy Law has been used to pull down a politician, let alone one of Ahok's stature. And it may well knock him out of politics for good – Indonesians are prohibited from standing for public office once they have been convicted of an offence with a maximum penalty of at least five years.

The reason all this was even possible was, in part, because Ahok was a Christian leading a city that, like Indonesia as a whole, is more than 85 per cent Muslim. But that was not the only problem. After all, Jakarta has had a Christian governor before. It was just as important that Ahok was the first ethnic Chinese in the role. Yes, he was targeted as a Christian for "defaming" Islam but the viciousness of the long campaign against him was fueled by his membership of a tiny ethnic group that have been the target of racial vilification in Indonesia for centuries. Polling before the gubernatorial election that Ahok lost on 19 April showed that opposition to him was motivated as much, if not more, by his ethnicity. The gun was thus loaded and foolish comments he made about interpretation of a particular verse of the Qur'an while campaigning simply pulled the trigger.

This new use of the blasphemy law as a weapon of high politics has polarised opinion in Indonesia. Ahok's descent from governor's office to prison cell may be a huge victory for his enemies but it should be remembered that more than 40 per cent of Jakartans voted for him – and they must include many more Muslim "indigenous" Indonesians (or pribumi) than ethnic Chinese or non-Muslims. Religious and ethnic minorities are shocked – and some intimidated – by what happened to him, but many of his other supporters are simply outraged. Losing an election is one thing – it is quite another to be treated with such contempt by a court.

For this reason, many Indonesian and foreign observers predicted the judges would follow the middle path the prosecutors suggested, to soothe his supporters. That they did not says a lot about the extent to which the judges may have felt personally threatened by the Islamist hard-liner protesters who brought well over half a million on to the streets last year to call for Ahok's imprisonment (and even death). There is also now speculation about whether Facebook posts suggest that one of the judges may have been biased against Ahok from the start.

In any case, it may have seemed easier to the judges to leave the risks to the appeal court that Ahok has already asked to review his conviction. After all, their court had been ringed with police at almost every hearing to fend off the hardliners and others howling outside.

There has thus been no sop offered to Ahok and his supporters by the court. Instead, the judges treated a governor who established a strong reputation for clean and efficient (if tough and blunt) leadership, and one stage enjoyed 70 per cent approval ratings, as if he was the eccentric head of a minor "deviant" cult.

This suggests a fraying of the fabric of Indonesian pluralism. The political openness and tolerance delivered by the post-Soeharto reform era (reformasi) created space for political Islam in Indonesia, just as it did for the ethnic Chinese. It did so by allowing political Islam a place in a broader pluralist system accommodating other social, cultural and political groups, including minorities. It was not intended that these groups would be displaced by political Islam.

This pluralist system has been a fundamental part of the idea of Indonesia constructed by its founders well before independence and taught to every school child since then – even if it is often just lip service and often honoured more in the breach. In any case, one of the clearly articulated aims of reformasi was to give the national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Eka (Unity in Diversity) real meaning, for both Muslims and minorities.

Many Indonesians now see Ahok's fate as a warning to minorities – particularly the ethnic Chinese – that they have no place in mainstream politics, and that Islamist groups cannot be safely challenged. They feel deeply concerned by Jokowi's apparent willingness to remain a largely silent bystander as his friend and one-time deputy was thrown to the wolves.

They will see what the appeal court judges do next to Ahok as test of the state of Indonesian pluralism. His Islamist opponents will see it as a test of the judges' piety.

[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/conviction-politics-the-jailing-of-ahok/

Restoring faith in Komnas HAM

Jakarta Post editorial - May 18, 2017

Jakarta – On Wednesday and Thursday, 60 commissioner candidates for the next National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) take part in a public dialogue, as part of their selection process. The selection committee will pick 14 candidates, before the legislature chooses seven commissioners for the 2017-2022 period.

Founded 14 years ago, in the twilight of Soeharto's New Order, one senses apathy about the human rights body, the second established in Southeast Asia following that of the Philippines.

In the first years skepticism was high; Komnas HAM was formed after global outrage at the 1991 Santa Cruz shootings in Dili, the capital of today's Timor Leste. However, the first commission headed by retired military officer and Supreme Court justice Ali Said soon became "a thorn in the side of the regime," researchers wrote.

Commissioners managed to create some independent space and deliver reports such as that regarding the May 1998 riots, which was regarded as extraordinary as the military, which still included the police, had never faced criticism from a state body outside its control.

Ironically the commission's credibility declined after Soeharto stepped down, even as more activists became members. Even a special law on Komnas HAM did not help boost its effectiveness. Despite the commission needing to speak with one voice in spite of differences, rifts became apparent.

Nonetheless the commission remained among the few beacons of hope in the fledgling democracy. It continued to push for investigations into violations of human rights and in 2012 issued the first independent state report on "gross human rights violations" of the 1965-1966 era, marked by the killing and witch hunt of alleged communist supporters in the political turmoil that led to the 32 years of Soeharto's rule.

The least effective commissioners were probably the last group; a selection committee member expressed regret that Komnas HAM had reached "its nadir." Not long after their inauguration five years ago, reports emerged of commissioners squabbling over their entitlement to vehicles. Apart from financial irregularities, they issued the unprecedented policy of rotating the chairmanship annually, instead of the previous two-and-a-half years, with no other visible measure of increasing their effectiveness. This policy must end.

The next commission must restore credibility, made worse by budget misuse. Despite apathy, the continuing impunity for unresolved cases and heightened political tension starkly demonstrates the need for a much better human rights body, as victims find their voices drowned in various disputes. Land conflicts remain rampant, for instance. Indonesia, despite the mixed record of its human rights body, remains a benchmark for Southeast Asia. There is much room for improvement; even though most perpetrators have been acquitted the commission managed to establish ad-hoc human rights trials for the cases of shootings in Abepura in Papua, Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta and the former East Timor. Human rights training for police and military also started under previous commissions.

Among other resources for improvement, its neighbor, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), could provide inspiration regarding, apparently, greater effectiveness and less squabbling.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/05/18/editorial-restoring-faith-in-komnas-ham.html

Moral panic and the reinvention of LGBT

Indonesia at Melbourne - May 17, 2017

Hendri Yulius – On 30 April, Indonesian police raided a "gay sex party" in Surabaya and arrested 14 men. Police forced the men to undergo HIV tests, explicitly violating their rights to privacy. Five were found to be HIV-positive. Police confiscated condoms, mobile phones, and a flash drive containing porn videos, stating that eight of the men would be charged under the 2008 Pornography Law for providing and showing pornographic materials. Further, the two men accused of organising the event also face charges of violating the Information and Electronic Transactions Law, which prohibits distribution of materials that violate "decency" (kesusilaan).

This is not the first legal incident since the national meltdown over lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Indonesians began in 2016. In November that year, after receiving a tip-off from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), a religious vigilante group, police broke up a similar party in a Kalibata City apartments in South Jakarta, arrested 13 men, and confiscated condoms, anti-retroviral pills, and mobile phones. The men were eventually freed because they had not violated any laws.

It is important to remember that homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, except in the autonomous province of Aceh. In early April, almost two years after Aceh began implementing its Shari'a Criminal Code (Qanun Jinayat) a group of unidentified vigilantes invaded a house to arrest two men for allegedly having homosexual relations. After being beaten, the men were detained in a shari'a police facility. Last week, prosecutors demanded each receive 80 lashes with the cane for violating the provisions of the code prohibiting same-sex relations.

2016 was a pivotal year for LGBT issues in Indonesia. Numerous derogatory statements by conservatives and public figures have meant that this term, once in circulation only among small urban networks, has now entered common parlance. These public statements irresponsibly associated the term LGBT with "proxy wars", sexual abuse of children, and even, absurdly, the over-consumption of instant noodles. Instead of an acronym standing for multiple gender and sexual identities, "LGBT" is now used as a single derogatory category to address individuals with non-normative gender and/or sexuality. It is used to target individuals with gender expression that does not correspond to existing social norms – for example, men with feminine mannerisms – and also homosexual men or gay people.

Given the confusion about the term, it is not surprising that efforts are being made to pin down LGBT individuals and make them visible in public through these extreme cases. The production and publication of dramatic episodes (like the recent arrests) is necessary to produce and perpetuate this idea of a moral panic, and to serve a justification for the wars against LGBT people to continue.

LGBT – particularly its association with gayness – has now become more emotionally powerful, making the dangers and threats imagined by the opponents of LGBT groups seemingly concrete. Raids on "sex parties", and the voyeuristic media reports that follow, align gay men and the term LGBT with insatiability or promiscuity, sex parties, transactional sex, circulation of pornographic materials, and HIV infections. Media reports exacerbate the panic through the use of extremely moralistic language, deploying terms like maksiat (immorality) to signify homosexual practice. Further, the disclosure in media reports of the relatively young ages and professional backgrounds of the men also contributes to a widespread concern that "LGBT" has now successfully infiltrated the "young generation".

These framings of male homosexuality serve as reference points to justify moral panic and spreading fear of LGBT and homosexuality. This not only makes homosexual subjects "present" in the public sphere and concsiousness, but also generate and perpetuate the "extreme" meanings now attached to them.

As mentioned, homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, except in Aceh, but as the Jakarta and Surabaya cases show, the loose and unclear definition of indecency (kesusilaan) and pornography (pornografi) in laws like the Pornography and the Information and Electronic Transactions Laws can easily be deployed to outlaw homosexual encounters. And as always, while heterosexuals also do "indecent" things – from sexting, to transactional sex and public displays of affection – homosexuals are much more likely to be prosecuted for them. This is the price they seem to have to pay for living in increasingly heteronormative Indonesia.

[Hendri Yulius is a researcher and writer. He is the author of a number of books, including Coming Out, now available at Gramedia. He holds a master's degree from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/moral-panic-and-the-reinvention-of-lgbt/

Holy places and unholy politics

New Mandala - May 17, 2017

George Quinn – As governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) faced off against Islamist opponents in Jakarta's recent election campaign a remarkable story emerged from the grimy wharves and warehouses of the city's harbour precinct. The story is, perhaps, a side-show to the greater narrative of Ahok's defeat and subsequent conviction for blasphemy, but it lifts a corner of the curtain that hides unexpected intricacies and paradoxes in Indonesia's polarising politics of religion.

The story begins two decades ago in a small, ramshackle holy grave that lay like an atoll among the petroleum tanks and shipping containers of the Koja Container Terminal. Many locals believed the grave was the resting place of a saintly Muslim missionary, Mbah Priok, officially known as Habib Hasan Al-Haddad. They said he died at sea in 1756 while on a voyage from Palembang to Jakarta. His remains were brought ashore at Tanjung Priok and buried in the dockside Dobo public cemetery.

In the 1990s the Jakarta government claimed the cemetery as 'crown land' and set about removing its thousands of graves so the site could be used to stack shipping containers. By 1997 all the graves, including Mbah Priok's, had been cleared. Cowed by the authoritarian order of the time, the Haddad family – custodians of the holy tomb – hadn't dared protest and the Terminal was poised to move in on the freed-up land.

But history intervened. On May 20th 1998 President Soeharto was forced from office. The old political certainties dissolved, and with them the old fear of authority. The Haddad family seized their chance to make a comeback on the land they had unwillingly vacated.

The following year, without official authorisation, they began to rebuild on the site, and by 2002 a 'house' had appeared in the shadow of the shipping containers. Inside the house lay the newly resurrected grave of Mbah Priok. Emboldened, the Haddad family then sought recognition of their ownership through a civil suit in the North Jakarta state court. The court ruled in favour of the government and the terminal's managers, the PT Pelindo II stevedoring company. Pelindo II was a subsidiary of Hutchinson Whampoa, now known as CK Hutchinson Holdings, probably the world's leading port management conglomorate. The company, said the court, was legally entitled to occupy the former cemetery.

The Haddad family were not intimidated by government or the power of global commercial interests. They simply ignored the court's ruling and continued to build. As they did, ever-growing crowds of pilgrims were turning up at the site to pay their respects to Mbah Priok. At least once a week, during Thursday night pengajian devotions, they overflowed into a neighbouring roadway, blocking entry and exit by freight trucks loaded with containers.

It was eight years before the Jakarta government, prodded by PT Pelindo II, mustered enough will to enforce the court's ruling. On the morning of April 14th 2010 a convoy of buses, vans and personnel carrying trucks, sardine packed with almost 3,000 well-padded, helmeted police carrying truncheons and perspex shields, descended on the Terminal. They came with two bright yellow shovel arm excavators, two jet-black water cannon trucks and a good supply of tear gas cannisters. They were on a beautification mission, they said. The target of their artistry was Mbah Priok's tomb.

But local people resisted and rioting broke out. This galvanised the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam or FPI), led by firebrand cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab. An army of FPI activists filtered out of the surrounding slums and joined local defenders around the holy tomb. Tear gas and water cannon seemed only to enrage them. They split the police, forcing some south towards the city amid burning trucks and cars, and hounding others north into the labyrinth of the terminal. Around four hundred police squeezed through the container stacks and stumbled out of them onto the dockside where they cowered at the water's edge. A flotilla of fifteen small boats was quickly mobilised to evacuate them by sea. By the end of the day three police officers lay dead, more than seventy police and hundreds of local people had been injured, eighty vehicles had been torched or wrecked, and a good number of office buildings in the terminal were left with sightless windows and fire-blackened walls.

For the FPI the defence of the holy tomb was a big test and a major victory. Habib Rizieq had shown his characteristic opportunism, leaping to the defence of a tomb that, in other circumstances, he might have condemned as a nest of grave-worshipping idolaters. A sense of Hadrami solidarity probably played a role too. Although born in Indonesia, Habib Rizieq is of Hadrami Arab descent, as are the Haddad family, the custodians of the tomb. Possibly he was also moved by memory of the 1984 'Tanjung Priok Incident' in which twenty-four (unofficially as many as one hundred) locals were mown down by army gunfire as they protested against the desecration of a Muslim prayer room and the imposition of the secular Sole Foundation (Azas Tunggal) concept on Muslim organisations.

A chastened Jakarta government backed off. The Haddad family were able to resume construction on the site. They even scored financial support from the government, as well as a new access road.

Fast forward six years. Habib Rizieq was a prime force behind the movement to indict Ahok on a charge of blasphemy and remove him from office. In the months leading up to the second round of Jakarta's gubernatorial election Ahok fought hard to capture Muslim voters. He reached out to the Muslims of north Jakarta by making at least three visits to the tomb of Mbah Priok, the same tomb that his implacable foe, Habib Rizieq, had help protect from destruction. On each visit Ahok was greeted with open arms and ushered into the burial chamber where he paid his respects at the saint's graveside (below). For the Haddad family it was a golden opportunity to build bridges with the Jakarta government and consolidate their legally questionable occupation of the site.

Two months ago Ahok confirmed that his government would designate the holy tomb of Mbah Priok a 'cultural sanctuary' (cagar budaya) and would help fund a massive expansion of the site. It would become an international centre of religious tourism, he promised. The nearby holy site at Luar Batang, resting place of another Hadrami holy man, Habib Husein Alaydrus, would also be redeveloped with help from the Jakarta government. When the results of the election came in, north Jakarta was the only precinct in the Special Region of the Capital where votes for the Ahok-Djarot team managed to match those for Anies-Sandiaga.

Ahok's warm reception at Mbah Priok's holy tomb – so at odds with the rejection of him by Islamist forces in the community at large – was not entirely a matter of nuts-and-bolts expediency for him, or for the tomb custodians. Java's booming culture of saint veneration remains remarkably inclusive. It embraces Muslims of all stripes as well as non-Muslims. Across Java at least eight Muslim pilgrimage sites explicitly commemorate Chinese Indonesians and extend a special welcome to Chinese visitors, whether they are Muslims or not. They range from the busy tomb of Sunan Gunung Jati in Cirebon (the saint's wife was Chinese), to the tomb of the Chinese-Muslim artist Kyai Telingsing in Kudus, to the money-spinning twin tombs of the Chinese Eyang Jugo and his adopted Muslim-Javanese son Iman Sujono high on the slopes of Mount Kawi in East Java.

After the riot of 2010 the Council of Indonesian Ulamas (Majelis Ulama Indonesia or MUI) commissioned a report into Mbah Priok's tomb by a team of respected sociologists and religious scholars. They were horrified to find evidence of irregular devotional practices at the tomb. And the report failed to find any evidence that the site had been a holy place in colonial times. Even Mbah Priok himself, alias Hasan Al-Haddad, had died as recently as 1927 and had never engaged in dakwah missionary work in Java.

But it was too late. A new pilgrimage site is now flourishing in the middle of the Koja Container Terminal. Already it is deeply embedded in the intricate politics of Jakarta, and already it is challenging religious sectarianism with its inclusive embrace, its cagar budaya status, and its commercial potential.

[George Quinn is retired head of the Australian National University's Southeast Asia Centre, and is an Honorary Professor in the ANU's College of Asia and the Pacific. He has researched, published, and taught extensively on the languages, literature, culture of Indonesia, with a particular focus on Java.]

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/holy-places-unholy-politics/

Ahok is innocent – Indonesia needs him and renewed faith in future

Asia Pacific Report - May 16, 2017

Pat Walsh – The recent sentencing of Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, the Christian Chinese-Indonesian Governor of Jakarta, to two years in jail for blasphemy will leave many people in the Asia-Pacific region confounded if not, sadly, further averse to Indonesia.

The court's decision is not a small thing. Jakarta alone has a population roughly that of New South Wales and Victoria in Australia combined – and more than double the entire population of New Zealand.

Jailing its governor is the equivalent of putting an Australian state premier or the New Zealand prime minister behind bars, conceivable only for the most egregious of crimes.

When the official in question is also widely admired for his competency, opposition to corruption, and drive to reform the massive mess which is Jakarta, one could be forgiven for assuming his blasphemy must have been of medieval proportions.

Did he denounce Islam as "evil' like the American evangelist Franklin Graham? Did he publicly denounce God as 'stupid' like Stephen Fry, now the subject of investigation for blasphemy by the Irish police?

On the contrary. Ahok is deeply respectful of Islam and has many Muslim supporters. Though a Christian, he is also impressively Islam-literate and can quote the Koran, an unusual ability for a Christian.

Ironically, it is this knowledge that worked against him. He asked an Indonesian audience not to be persuaded to vote against him by opponents who claimed the Koran prohibits Muslims from voting for non-Muslims. The implication that leaders should be chosen for their competence not their religion or ethnic background will sound like common sense rather than blasphemy to most people.

Huge numbers mobilised

But extreme Muslims claimed his comment vilified the Koran and that voting for an infidel is apostasy. Their campaign mobilised huge numbers, mainly from outside Jakarta, and resulted in Ahok losing the recent election for the governorship – and his freedom.

Unless his appeal to the Supreme Court succeeds, the blasphemy finding also means he will be banned for life from running for public office.

The affair has already done a serious disservice to Indonesia. It presents Indonesia as fanatical, racist and sectarian. While these perceptions are patently unfair, the affair also reveals some aspects of contemporary Indonesia that are obscured by Canberra's often lavish praise of our important neighbour.

Radical Islam is increasing in strength and confidence in Indonesia. "Be careful what you wish for," an Indonesian academic said to me during the anti-democratic Suharto years.

He went on to observe that democracy would allow Muslim organisations sidelined during the Suharto years to operate freely and accept generous funding from benefactors like the Saudi regime whose King Salman recently made a historic visit to Indonesia.

The majority of Muslims are moderate and disagree with the hard right but the Ahok case shows that, in a country of 240 million people, a minority can comprise millions and exercise significant political influence.

This influence extends to the nominally independent judiciary whose pronouncement on Ahok is widely considered to have been dictated by the protesters. In effect Ahok was "lynched".

Aggressive sectional politics

Most fair-minded people in Indonesia and beyond, not least in places like England and Wales where blasphemy laws have been abolished, would struggle to see what was blasphemous about Ahok's reference to the Koran.

The court put aggressive sectional politics ahead of its duty to comply with the rule of law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which post-Suharto Indonesia is a signatory.

As with Indonesia's mock trials on human rights violations in East Timor when the court absolved the powerful military, the court has compromised its independence and bowed to external pressure.

The sidelining of Ahok also demonstrates the continuing power of entrenched political and economic interests in Indonesia. Ahok stood for clean government. He is a vigorous opponent of corruption, a vice roundly condemned in the Koran. Arguably Ahok's opposition to this Indonesian curse should have earned the admiration of all Muslims, not jail.

Ahok's removal is also a victory for Prabowo Subianto, recently headlined by The Age as Indonesia's possible next president. The ex-general's candidate beat Ahok in the governship elections, thereby delivering Prabowo a major platform from which to conduct his assault on the presidency, currently held by Joko Widodo, himself a former governor of Jakarta.

The Age reported that Prabowo forbids the killing of insects on his ranch. Timorese would laugh in disbelief. Their truth commission report lists him as having command responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the many years he was active in East Timor.

The Catholic archbishop of Jakarta has publicly condemned growing fundamentalism and intolerance in Indonesia and the Protestant Council of Churches has called for Ahok's release and the revocation of the blasphemy law.

Nuns, priests, seminarians and laity have rallied in support of Ahok. One sincerely hopes that the Supreme Court will overrule in Ahok's favour and that the campaign to scrap the blasphemy law will succeed. Both measures would do much to restore faith in Indonesia and its future.

[Pat Walsh is a human rights activist and former adviser to the Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation. He co-founded Inside Indonesia magazine.]

Source: http://asiapacificreport.nz/2017/05/16/ahok-is-innocent-indonesia-needs-him-and-renewed-faith-in-future/

Book & film reviews

Locating the historical Kartini

Indonesia at Melbourne - May 22, 2017

Joost Cote – A new feature film has prompted a renewed interest in the life of national hero Kartini.

Like so many iconic figures of history, over the last century, Raden Adjeng Kartini (21 April 1897-17 September 1904) has been much mythologised, misused and misread – or should that be not read?

The creation of Kartini as a national feminist icon all began with a Jacques Abendanon, the former director of colonial education, who selected and published letters Kartini had written to prominent Dutch progressive figures to support his campaign for colonial education reform. The result was Door Duisternis tot Licht (1911). An American feminist, Agnes Louise Symmers, on hearing about this remarkable Javanese woman, produced a (rather loose) English translation. The result was an international "feminist text" in 1920, ever since known by the inappropriate title, Letters of a Javanese Princess.

Two years later, the erudite North Sumatran author Armijn Pane produced the first Indonesian translation, Habis Gelap, Terbitlah Terang, for the colonial government's "good literature" program, Balai Pustaka, and 16 years on, a definitive version for Indonesian readers. In 1939, the first Javanese translation appeared – which has since effectively disappeared – in 1940, a Japanese translation, later a French translation, followed by others.

Kartini was one of 11 children, six female and five male, born to her father's two wives. She was the granddaughter (on her birth mother's side) of an influential local Muslim preacher, a kyai, and had a stern, traditionalist stepmother (although later both supported their daughters' modern ambitions). On her father's side she was the third generation to have a western education, largely as an autodidact, as she was withdrawn from the European elementary school at age 12.

Kartini mastered Dutch and read an impressive collection of the latest European feminist and modern literary texts, as well as Dutch current affairs journals and the colonial press. Her education was comparable to, and probably in advance of, that of contemporary European young ladies from well-to-do families.

As a teenager, she spent much time with a Dutch feminist writer and wife of the local colonial official. She plunged into the public arena at 19, by participating in a landmark Dutch feminist project, the "Exhibition of Women's Work", in 1898. As a young woman, she often travelled with her family – by carriage and steam tram – to visit extended family in East and Central Java and to the nearby city of Semarang. Here she went shopping, had studio photos taken, attended official receptions, and at least once went to the theatre. In 1900, she travelled with her parents to the colonial capital, Batavia, to stay with the director of education, and later had dinner with the colonial governor general in Bogor.

Other than what is revealed in her surviving correspondence – about 150 letters – we have little factual historical information about Kartini. There is evidence that, as well as European correspondents, she was in regular contact with male peers at several colonial institutions of higher education, as well as with those studying in the Netherlands.

In her letters, some of which extended for tens of pages, she set out her thoughts and feelings, sometimes sentimentally, sometimes angrily, sometimes strategically. Her letters to Europeans, particularly to Stella Zeehandelaar, her pen friend in Amsterdam, reveal her familiarity with the agenda of colonial reformers as well as the anti-colonial sentiment among the Javanese nobility. She shared contemporary European criticism of traditional Islam but later firmly declared her commitment to a more modernised form of that religion, in line with the later modernist movement.

Like her father, uncle and brother, in public statements, Kartini expressed the need for and the right of the Javanese upper classes to have access to modern western education. An important difference, however, was that unlike her male family members, Kartini demanded this also for socially well-positioned women. As well as being a writer of letters, she was the author of published short stories and ethnographic articles.

While she was alive, a small group of Dutch men and women in the Netherlands and the colony expressed interest in her, if not as a person, then as a phenomenon of an "awakening Java". They admired this Javanese woman's aim to educate herself – but more were interested in the assistance she provided to obtain items of Jepara woodcraft.

For the small circle that had been advocating colonial reform – an "ethical policy" – Kartini's letters appeared to reflect what they had been saying about 'uplifting' Javanese society, which they asserted was socially, economically, and culturally in decline. But they are all on record as saying they were relieved when she got married. Meanwhile, as rumours spread about her in Javanese society, there was widespread criticism of this rebellious woman, and especially from her uncle, the head of the Condronegoro family, who refused to allow his own daughters to be educated.

Kartini wrote much, but was able to do very little – unlike her sisters who later were able to realise most of what they had discussed as a group before 1901. Nevertheless, it is Kartini who is remembered – and used. In 1964, President Soekarno elevated her to national hero status, the first Indonesian female national hero. During the New Order era, the Kartini image was used as a model of the ideal Indonesian woman. In contemporary Indonesia, religious interests are keen to claim her.

The historical figure of Kartini continues to command attention and generate inspiration as the story of a young woman who struggled against the odds, against political oppression and cultural traditions, in an attempt to achieve her goal of self-enlightenment and service to society. Giving this story greater emotional power is the fact that, in the end, the forces of conservatism appear to have won.

Why she submitted, in 1903, to the tradition of polygamy maintained by the Javanese ruling classes when she knew beforehand that her husband-to-be had three co-wives, remains an open question. Did she jump or was she pushed, given she had so strongly expressed her feminist convictions?

A question mark also remains in relation to her death several days after giving birth to a son. Was she poisoned by jealous co-wives, or was it an unfortunate case of maternal death (still widespread in developing countries)?

It has even been questioned whether she actually wrote the letters. In the 1920s, a correspondent to a Dutch newspaper suggested a Javanese couldn't possibly have written such good Dutch!

These questions, however, need not detract from the inspiration she continues to provide but they may motivate a closer reading of what history has preserved for us to read.

Dr Joost Cote will speak tomorrow at a panel discussion on "The film 'Kartini' and Kartini as a source of historical and contemporary inspiration in Indonesia", sponsored by the University's Indonesia Forum. Cote was a researcher and adviser for the film, which was released in Indonesia earlier this year.

[Joost Cote is Senior Research Fellow (History) in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University. He is the editor and translator of Kartini: The Complete Writings 1898-1904.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/locating-the-historical-kartini/


Home | Site Map | Calendar & Events | News Services | Resources & Links | Contact Us