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Indonesia News Digest 11 – March 15-22, 2018

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West Papua

Indonesia: Teen's death underscores impunity in West Papua, activists

Benar News - March 22, 2018

Victor Mambor Jayapura – High school student Riko Ayomi was already dying when police brought him home in Sorong, a city on the western tip of West Papua province, an eyewitness said.

His life was soon added to the roster of what local people view as unexplained and unpunished deaths of indigenous Papuans in the remote region, and which authorities often pin on traffic accidents or alcohol abuse.

Police said they took Riko into custody after a mob beat him following an alleged theft, according to reports. About 24 hours later, before dawn on March 13, police officers brought the 17-year-old home, according to a person present at the time, who asked not to be named.

"Riko was dying. He could not stand, could not talk, parts of his body were bruised, like his neck and his chest. He had blood coming out of his mouth. His jaw was broken, and his body was covered with scrapes. Riko died around 5 a.m.," the eyewitness said.

West Papua police spokesman Hary Supriyono said Riko was unconscious the whole time he was in police custody. When officers took him to the hospital, they were told Riko was drunk, he added.

Results of an autopsy conducted by police doctors have not been released, according to the Associated Press, which said police also released a photo of the dead teenager with a bottle of alcohol next to his body.

Police also cited a long-running dispute between two tribal groups in the area as a factor in the alleged mob beating.

But local people had little expectation of clear answers or justice in such cases, according to Gustaf Kawer, a prominent Papuan human rights lawyer.

"The government of Indonesia has failed to implement an effective legal process to punish the perpetrators of such killings," he told BenarNews on Wednesday.

'What kind of justice is that?'

Gustaf cited a shooting in August 2017 in the Pomako Port in Mimika regency that left one fisherman dead and others injured. Earlier this week, a military court sentenced a soldier, Yusuf Salasar, to eight months in jail in connection with the shooting.

"The sentence and the verdict are very far from a sense of justice. The maximum sentence is eight years. But prosecutors only asked for one year and three months," Gustaf Kawer said.

In addition, the trial was held hundreds of kilometers from where the shooting took place, making it impossible for relatives and witnesses to attend, he said.

Another case was a police shooting at a protest on Aug. 1, 2017 against a company constructing a bridge in remote and mountainous Deiyai regency.

The shooting killed a civilian, Yulius Pigai, and injured at least seven others, according to a Human Rights Watch statement at the time.

"The perpetrators were sentenced to apologize and were transferred. What kind of justice is that? The only punishment for taking a life is an apology?" said John Gobay, a member of the provincial House of Representatives.

A police ethics panel probe into the shooting ruled four police officers were guilty of "improper conduct" but did not need to face criminal prosecution, only demotions and public apologies, a Human Rights Watch statement said.

Foreign media access is restricted in Papua and West Papua, Indonesia's two easternmost provinces, which make up about one-fifth of Indonesia's land mass.

The region is one of Indonesia's poorest, with low literacy rates and high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Migrants from other parts of Indonesia make up about half the population and dominate commercial activity, according to reports.

The region has been home to a low-level armed separatist movement, the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM), for decades. The OPM and Indonesian security forces are both guilty of human rights abuses, rights groups say.

Christmas pledge

Frits Ramandey, the representative of the National Commission on Human Rights in Papua, said security forces use excessive force against the local population because protests and resistance are often branded as acts of treason.

"Government security measures to maintain order in Papua often lead to various forms of violence," he told BenarNews.

President Joko Widodo has not lived up to his pledge to Papuans in December 2014 to resolve such incidents and prevent them from happening again, he added.

"I empathize with the families of victims of violence," Jokowi said during Christmas celebrations in a stadium in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, on Dec. 27 of that year.

"I want this case to be resolved as soon as possible so as not to happen again in the future. We want the land of Papua to be a peaceful land," he said.

He was referring to the fatal shooting of five protesters by security forces in Paniai regency on Dec. 8, 2014. The shooting occurred after about 800 people gathered outside a military and police compound to demand an explanation for the alleged beating by soldiers of a 12-year-old boy the night, Human Rights Watch said.

"Despite three separate official investigations into the shootings, bolstered by Jokowi's December 2014 pledge to thoroughly investigate and punish security forces implicated in those deaths, there has been zero accountability," it said in an August 2017 statement.

Source: https://www.benarnews.org/english/news/indonesian/rights-complaint-03222018170535.html

Indonesia not in MSG to undermine West Papua freedom push

Radio New Zealand International - March 21, 2018

Indonesia says it is not in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to undermine a push for self-determination in its Papua region.

A war of words between Fiji and Solomon Islands has broken out over Indonesia's admission, as an associate member, to the sub-regional group in 2015.

The Solomon Islands deputy prime minister Manasseh Sogavare accused Fiji of forcing other MSG countries to accept Indonesia. But Fiji's defence minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has said this is not true.

A Solomon Islands' academic Tarcisius Kabutaulaka said letting Indonesia in was a mistake because it's openly trying to undermine the United Liberation Movement for West Papua which applied to join the MSG as a full member.

But an Indonesia's embassy spokesman in Australia Sade Bimantara said this is not why Indonesia joined the MSG.

"You know since the 1960s in Indonesia, we have been contributing towards peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region and so all we have been doing in the Pacific is just expanding that sort of architecture and norm setting into the South Pacific region as well and working with Australia and working with New Zealand and other countries in the South Pacific region."

Sade Bimantara said the Papua region has full political and democratic freedom. He said the United Liberation Movement for West Papua only represents the aspirations of exiled Papuans.

Source: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/352991/indonesia-not-in-msg-to-undermine-west-papua-freedom-push

Papuan teen dies hours after release from Indonesia jail

Associated Press - March 20, 2018

Niniek Karmini and Stephen Wright, Jakarta, Indonesia – A spokesman for the family of an indigenous Papuan teenager who died after 24 hours in Indonesian police custody said that the 17-year-old had multiple bruises and injuries on his body and that it doesn't accept the police explanation he was killed by alcohol poisoning.

The teenager, Rico Ayomi, died March 13 just hours after police returned him to his family after holding him in custody for alleged theft. According to police, they had rescued him from an angry mob of villagers in the coast West Papua city of Sorong.

One of the photos released by police showed the dead teenager with a plastic bottle of 70 percent alcohol placed beside him.

The actual cause of death remains unclear. An autopsy has been conducted by police doctors from another province but results have not yet been released.

The leader of the Sorong Youth and Student Association, Simon Soren, who is representing Ayomi's family, said family members were shocked when four police officers bought Ayomi to his family home about midnight unable to stand or speak.

There were bruises on his neck and chest, injuries on his face and arms, and he was bleeding from the mouth, said Soren. Ayomi died about 5 a.m. on March 13, he said.

A close-up photo of Ayomi after his death provided by Soren shows abrasion-like injuries on his face and an arm.

Violent and frequently unexplained killings of indigenous Papuans are common in Indonesia's easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, a region annexed by Indonesia in 1962 and where an insurgency against Indonesian rule simmers.

The region's mineral resources have been exploited for decades by the U.S. mining company Freeport, and provided significant tax income for the Indonesian government. But indigenous Papuans have benefited little and are poorer, sicker and more likely to die young than people elsewhere in Indonesia.

"We will bring this case to justice so that no more indigenous Papuans are treated arbitrarily and unfairly," said Soren.

West Papua police spokesman Hary Supriyono said Ayomi was unconscious for nearly all the time he was held in jail and also vomited. Police took the teenager to a hospital, were they were told he was drunk and then delivered him to his family, Supriyono said.

Supriyono did not respond to additional questions about the police account of events, including why police waited 24 hours before taking Ayomi to a hospital.

"The victim's family who are Serui tribe did not entirely accept that Rico Ayomi died of alcohol," Supriyono said in a text message. "Some of them believed that he died from being beaten by villagers from Seram. There has been a long dispute between Serui tribes and villagers of Seram descent."

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/papuan-teen-dies-hours-after-release-from-indonesia-jail/2018/03/20/b958be24-2c13-11e8-8dc9-3b51e028b845_story.html

Police, officials call for calm over minaret row in Jayapura

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2018

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – The Jayapura Police said Monday that security in the regency and in Papua in general was under control after the Jayapura Churches Association protested via letter the height of the Al-Aqsa Mosque minaret in Sentani, Jayapura regency.

The minaret row did not affect the security there, the police said. "People carried on with their activities as usual, unfazed by the letter," Jayapura Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Victor Dean Mackbon told The Jakarta Post on Monday. The regency administration, the police and the interfaith forum in Jayapura have been in talks to resolve the conflict.

The executive head of Nahdlatul Ulama in Papua, Toni Wanggai, called for everyone, especially Muslims, to keep calm and not let the protest provoke them. He said his organization was in talks with the church association and the Jayapura administration.

"We are sure we can find a good solution. Papua has a good track record of communicating and finding solutions to problems," Toni said Monday. He said the letter was likely issued after a communication impasse.

John Gobay, a Papuan councillor, said the protest from the church did not damage interfaith relations in Papua. "I think it is about some miscommunication," he said. "We hope this is not going to be like in other provinces, where groups reject the construction of worship places of other religions."

Aman Hasibuan, a Sentani resident, said he went on with his regular activities as normal and believed others did the same.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said Sunday that the protest could be followed up with dialogue. The ministry's press release stated that the letter included a demand to dismantle the minaret because it was higher than the churches in the area. In the letter, the association said it wanted the minaret to be lower.

"I have communicated with Muslim figures in Papua, the head of Indonesian Communion of Churches and the Papua Interfaith Forum to settle the matter," he said.

He said in settling the matter, everyone must follow prevailing laws, customary laws and local values. Signed by the head of the Jayapura Churches Association, Robbi Depondoye, the association gave a 14-day deadline to the regency administration, or else they would take their own action.

In July 2015, there was a dispute between Christians and Muslims during Idul Fitri in Tolikara regency, Papua. Following the arrival of the police, a number of warning shots were fired and the situation deteriorated into a riot. A number of kiosks and houses and a small prayer room were burned down in the incident. One victim was killed and 11 others were reportedly injured by gunfire. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/19/police-officials-call-for-calm-over-minaret-row-in-jayapura.html

Small West Papua protest during Jokowi visit to NZ parliament

Radio New Zealand International - March 19, 2018

Indonesia's president was greeted by protestors calling for West Papuan independence when he arrived at New Zealand's parliament this afternoon.

But the protestors were vying for airspace with a group of Indonesians who were there to cheer Joko Widodo in his flying visit. It turned into a sing-off on the steps of New Zealand's parliament.

Dozens of Indonesians, buoyed on by a handful of officials, singing nationalist themes with great vigour as they awaited their president, known as Jokowi.

Alongside them, outnumbered but not diminished, around twenty people calling for an end to human rights abuses in West Papua.

Things became rowdy, but as the official Indonesian motorcade arrived, the protestors barely had time to make their point as Jokowi stepped out of his car and disappeared up the steps to parliament.

Today he has met with New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern and other leading officials.

Papua was not expected to feature in discussions and, at the Indonesian government's behest, media opportunities to ask Jokowi questions were kept to a bare minimum.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/352869/small-west-papua-protest-during-jokowi-visit-to-nz-parliament

Letting Indonesia join MSG was a mistake – academic

Radio New Zealand International - March 17, 2018

A Solomon Islands academic says the leaders of Melanesian Spearhead Group member states made a mistake in granting Indonesia associate member status in the group.

The five full members of the MSG are Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the FLNKS Kanaks Movement of New Caledonia.

Tarcisius Kabutaulaka's comments come as another rift surfaces within the sub-regional group this time between the leaders of Fiji and Solomon Islands over the Indonesia issue.

The latest spat began with comments from Solomon Islands deputy prime minister Manasseh Sogavare saying Fiji should not have forced other countries to accept Indonesia.

Fiji's defence minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola rubbished the claims, and pointed out that it was at a summit in Honiara in 2015 when Mr Sogavare was prime minister and chair of the MSG that Indonesia gained its current status.

Mr Kabutaulaka, who is an associate professor at the University of Hawaii's Center for Pacific Islands Studies, said since its inclusion Indonesia had not been shy about pushing its main agenda in the MSG.

In particular, he said Jakarta was suppressing the United Liberation Movement for West Papua which had observer status in the MSG and is seeking independence for the indigenous people of Papua from Indonesia.

Mr Kabutaulaka said despite Indonesia's claims to the contrary, it is not a Melanesian country. "They should have denied Indonesia that membership. One of Indonesia's arguments is that it has the largest Melanesian population."

"In fact the Melanesian population in Indonesia is very small. First and secondly it is the most oppressed and is often not represented by the Indonesian government in the way that Jakarta is implying," he said.

Source: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/352694/letting-indonesia-join-msg-was-a-mistake-academic

Aceh

Aceh's top sharia official denies plans to behead people

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2018

Jakarta – The head of the Sharia and Human Rights Division at Aceh's Sharia Agency, Syukri Yusuf, denies having said that the province was going to implement beheading as a punishment for murder.

In a statement made available Friday, Syukri clarified the matter related to qisas, or retributive law.

"I have never said that Aceh will implement beheading. What I spoke about was the plan to do a study first, to see whether the people of Aceh would agree with implementing qisas," he said.

Syukri said he had talked about qisas in his personal capacity as a scholar, rather than as a representative of the Aceh administration. The news about beheading, "which was construed as if I had said Aceh would implement beheading", was detrimental to him and the Aceh government, he went on.

The news had spread across the world and was picked up by large media outlets. Syukri was the only source of the news. "So far, research on qisas has not been included in the programs of the Aceh administration," Syukri added. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/16/acehs-top-sharia-official-denies-plans-to-behead-people.html

Jakarta opposes Aceh plan to behead murderers

Straits Times - March 16, 2018

Jakarta – The central government has warned the Aceh administration against introducing beheading as a punishment for murder under its sharia law system, saying the province did not have the legal authority to do so.

The administration's plan to implement Qisas (retributive justice) through beheading has been met with a chorus of criticism from human rights activists who have long campaigned for the abolishment of the death penalty in the country.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said the death penalty stipulated in the Criminal Code only recognised executions carried out by firing squads under the order of the Attorney General's Office.

"The Criminal Code is higher because it is a national law and a bylaw cannot regulate (capital punishment). There is a limitation on the drafting of punishments in bylaws," Mr Yasonna told reporters on Thursday (March 15). "We will look into this plan," he added.

Aceh, the only province in the country to be ruled under sharia law, or Islamic law, has frequently made international headlines for carrying out public canings of convicted adulterers, homosexual people and gamblers.

As if such a punishment was not harsh enough, the provincial administration said it was considering introducing Qisasto create a deterrent effect to committing murder.

Aceh Islamic Sharia Agency head Munawar Jalil said the idea of beheading murderers was still in its early stages and that the agency had yet to make a draft bylaw on its implementation.

Mr Munawar said that a study on the implementation of beheading was launched after Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf called for the execution of the perpetrators of a murder of a family in Banda Aceh last January.

"If we are referring to Islamic Law, capital punishment is called Qisas and a murderer must be killed," Mr Munawar said on Thursday.

On Jan 8, local authorities discovered a family of three of Chinese descent dead in their shop-house in Kuta Alam district, Banda Aceh. The murder occurred less than a month after an elderly woman was found murdered in North Aceh on Dec 22 last year.

Mr Munawar, however, admitted the process of implementing Qisas in Aceh would take time as it required a special study to assess the plan, similar to the years taken before Aceh's qanun jinayat (Islamic criminal code) was fully enforced.

Aceh enacted its first fully fledged qanun jinayat in 2009. It initially imposed the punishment of death by stoning on adulterers. The Criminal Code was later revised in 2014 to scrap the provision on stoning following criticism from rights activists and pressure from the central government.

Separately, Mr Abdulah Saleh, head of the legislative body of the Aceh Regional Representatives Council, said the body was awaiting the proposal from the provincial administration.

"If the people of Aceh ask for (the Qisas), we must accommodate (their request)," Mr Abdulah said, adding that it would be possible for the province to implement Qisas.

Amnesty International immediately lambasted the plan, arguing that the administration's claim that beheading would create a deterrent effect and stop murder was baseless.

"The Aceh administration cannot use its special autonomous status to introduce laws and policies that flagrantly violate human rights," Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid said.

Mr Usman went on to call for the central government to intervene and order the Aceh provincial administration to abandon its plan.

– The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/jakarta-opposes-aceh-plan-to-behead-murderers

Indonesia urged to block moves to introduce beheading as punishment for

ABC Radio Australia - March 16, 2018

Anne Barker – Amnesty International has urged Indonesia to step in and block moves to introduce beheading as a punishment for murder in the country's conservative Aceh province.

The argument that beheading has a deterrent effect on crime is baseless and unacceptable, the human rights organisation said.

"There is no evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect on crime, no matter how shocking the method of execution is," Usman Hamid, the organisation's Indonesia executive director, said.

"The Aceh administration cannot use its special autonomous status in order to introduce laws and policies that flagrantly violate human rights."

The Sharia Government in Aceh revealed it was considering the introduction of beheading, in order to reduce the number of murders in Aceh.

The Government said it would carry out research later this year to gauge public opinion on the plan – if a majority of people supported the idea it would be implemented.

It said it wanted to follow the lead of countries including Saudi Arabia, which "effectively reduced the number of murders" after implementing beheading as a punishment.

"Beheading is more in line with Islamic law and will cause a deterrent effect... a strict punishment is made to save human beings," Syukri M. Yusuf, the head of Aceh's Shariah Law and Human Rights Office, said on Wednesday. "We will begin to draft the law when our academic research is completed."

Aceh and Indonesia as a whole should get rid of the death penalty altogether, Amnesty International said.

"The authorities need to focus on the root causes of crime and informed debates on the death penalty as a human rights violation, and swiftly move to abolish this ultimate, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."

Aceh introduces Sharia law, lashes gay men

Aceh is the only Indonesian province to introduce Sharia law, under a special autonomy agreement reached with the Government in Jakarta more than a decade ago.

Since then, the province has become increasingly hard line, routinely caning people for minor crimes such as alcohol consumption and gambling. Last year, two men were sentenced to 85 lashes of the cane for gay sex, the first such punishment of its kind.

Consensual same-sex relations are not treated as a crime under the existing Indonesia Criminal Code – the Indonesian Government is currently drafting laws that would criminalise gay sex and sex between unmarried couples.

Amnesty International has urged the Government in Jakarta to intervene and block moves in Aceh to introduce the "gruesome" penalty of beheading.

"Aceh, and Indonesia as a whole, must immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty, with a view to its eventual repeal," Mr Hamid said.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime: guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

It has said 106 countries today have abolished the death penalty for all crimes and more than two-thirds of the world's countries are abolitionist in law or practice.

Source: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2018-03-16/death-penalty-indonesia-urged-to-block-moves-to-introduce-beheading-as-punishment-for-murder/1742966

Beheading could become a penalty for murder under Sharia law in Aceh

Associated Press - March 15, 2018

Jakarta – The conservative Indonesian province of Aceh – known for publicly caning gay people, adulterers and gamblers – is considering the introduction of beheading as a punishment for murder, a top Islamic law official said on Wednesday.

Syukri M Yusuf, the head of Aceh's Sharia Law and Human Rights Office, said the provincial government has asked his office to research beheading as a method of execution under Islamic law and to consult public opinion.

"Beheading is more in line with Islamic law and will cause a deterrent effect. A strict punishment is made to save human beings," Yusuf told reporters. "We will begin to draft the law when our academic research is completed."

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practise Sharia law, a concession made by the central government in 2005 to end a decades-long war for independence.

Its implementation has become increasingly harsh and now also applies to non-Muslims. Last year, the province for the first time caned two men for gay sex after vigilantes broke into their home and handed them over to religious police.

Yusuf said if Sharia law is consistently applied, then crime, particularly murder, will decrease significantly or disappear.

He said punishment for murderers has in practise been "relatively mild" and they could reoffend after release from prison. He pointed to Saudi Arabia as an example to follow in practising severe punishment for murder.

Indonesia has the death penalty for crimes such as murder and drug trafficking, which it carries out by firing squad. Its last executions were in July 2016 when three Nigerians and one Indonesian convicted of drug offences were shot on the Nusa Kambangan prison island.

Source: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2018/03/15/beheading-could-become-a-penalty-for-murder-under-sharia-law-in-indonesias-aceh-province/

Indonesia's peak religious body supports beheadings for murderers in

CNN Indonesia - March 15, 2018

Ihsan Dalimunthe & Dika Dania Kardi, Jakarta – The Indonesian Ulama Council's (MUI) Religious Outreach Commission chairperson, Cholil Nafis, agrees with a plan to apply beheadings (hukum pancung, qisas) for murderers whihh is currently being considered by the Aceh Islamic Law Office.

"Because it's a special [autonomous] region so yes if the public agrees with it and it's applied through legislation, it would be good", Nafis told CNN Indonesia on Thursday March 15.

The deputy chairperson of the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board's Bahtsul Masail Forum (problem discussion forum) said that in principal criminal law, including qisas [retributive justice], holds the deterrent and preventative aspects of law in the highest regard (mawani' wa zawajir).

"The punishment is so that perpetrators are deterred and don't reoffend. Other people will be afraid of committing such crimes because there's punishment in kind", said Nafis.

When contacted separately meanwhile, MUI general chairperson Zainut Tauhid Sa'adi said that the organisation would monitor and observe the development of the planned application of qisas in Aceh.

Sa'adi was reluctant to comment at length on the matter because the MUI needs to first confirm with the Ulama Consultative Assembly (MPU) in Aceh on the intention of implementing qisas in the province known as the Gateway to Mecca.

"Certainly the MUI will examine the matter if it become of concern to the [Islamic] community", he said.

Notes

Qisas is an Islamic term meaning "retaliation in kind" or "revenge", "eye for an eye", "nemesis" or retributive justice. It is a category of crimes in Islamic jurisprudence which allows equal retaliation as the punishment.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "MUI Sepakat Penerapan Hukum Pancung di Aceh".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20180315095306-20-283171/mui-sepakat-penerapan-hukum-pancung-di-aceh

Criminalisation & political violence

Hundreds of protesters in Sukoharjo demand release of environmental

Java Post - March 22, 2018

Hundreds of students and local residents in Sukoharjo, Central Java, held a protest action in front of the Sukoharjo regional police headquarters (Mapolres) on Thursday March 22.

The protesters were demanding that police immediately release seven suspects who had earlier been arrested for their involvement in a rally against environmental pollution by the company PT Rayon Utama Makmur (PT RUM).

The demonstrators also called on law enforcement agencies to investigate the PT RUM pollution case which has up until now been ignored.

The student protesters came from three different universities: The March 11 University (UNS), the Surakarta Muhammadiyah University (UMS) and the Surakarta State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN).

In addition to this, Sukoharjo residents who have suffered from the effects of the pollution from PT RUM were also involved in the action.

The protesters noted that the law enforcement agencies, both the police and the TNI (Indonesian military) had acted repressively against local residents and students protesting against PT RUM. One form this repression has taken has been the arrest and indictment of seven people.

"Rather than investigating the environmental pollution the police have instead arrested fighters for the environment. And the police have instead used the arson incident to bury the real issue", said action coordinator Widodo.

The protesters believe that law enforcement officials have behaved excessively. This includes the massive security being provided for PT RUM.

"We are calling on the police to immediately release the fighters who were arrested. In addition to this we are also calling on the police to withdraw the troops from PT RUM", asserted Widodo.

As has been reported, the vandalism of the PT RUM factory and torching of a security post has had serious consequences. At least seven people have been arrested since the incident.

They are Muhammad Hisbun Payu alias Is, Kelvin Ferdiansyah, Sutarno, Sukemi Edi Susanto, Brilian Yosef Naufal, Bambang Hesthi Wahyudi and Danang Tri Widodo. (apl/JPC)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Seratusan Orang Unjuk Rasa di Mapolres Sukoharjo".]

Source: https://www.jawapos.com/read/2018/03/22/198185/seratusan-orang-unjuk-rasa-di-mapolres-sukoharjo

Semarang students demand release of activists, end to criminalisation

Java Post - March 22, 2018

Around 80 students from the Alliance of Student Executive Councils (ABEM) in the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang held an action at the Jl. Pemuda traffic circle on the afternoon of Thursday March 22.

Protesting beneath the heavy rain, they demanded an end to the criminalisation of activists protesting against alleged environmental pollution by the company PT Rayon Utama Makmur (PT RUM) in Sukoharjo, Central Java.

The action began with a march from the Pleburan area in South Semarang to the location where the planned rally would be held. Speaking during a break in the protest, action coordinator M. Sofi Tamam explained that they had initially intended to hold the protest in front of the Central Java police headquarters (Mapolda).

"But earlier the Polrestabes [metropolitan district police] stopped us and ordered us here (the Jl. Pemuda traffic circle). The [headquarters] had to be sterile because tomorrow Pak Kapolri [the national police chief] will arrive to officiate the opening of a new Mapolda building", he said.

In relation to their own action, the Wahid Hasyim University (Unwahas) student said that the demonstration was held as a form of concern and solidarity with the environmental activists that are currently being held by the Central Java district police.

The activists were arrested in late February for holding a demonstration against air pollution caused by waste from the PT RUM factory.

"This is an expression of our solidarity with the arrested environmental activists. They were arrested by police, yet they were fighting for the people polluted by PT RUM's waste", added Tamam.

With regard to the participants at the action, Tamam said that the protesters were made up of an alliance of BEMs from the Sultan Agung Islamic University (Unissula), the University of Diponegoro (UNDIP), the Semarang State University (UNNES), Unwahas, the Semarang Indonesian Teachers Association University (Upgris) and the Semarang University (USM).

"What's more one of the activists who was arrested was a student from UMS (the Surakarta Muhammadiyah University). We felt obliged to take to the streets", said the Islamic religious studies student.

The action was continued with speeches by several students. A number of protesters brought banners with messages such as, "Stop the Criminalisation of Environmental Fighters: Free our Comrades, Our Comrades Only Wanted to Fight for the Environment and Clean Air".

"From UMS itself, a day after the arrest, there was a request to suspend the arrest but there was no response. We cannot rule out the possibility that if this continues, there will be future actions to follow", said the eighth semester student.

As of this report being sent for publication or at around 4.34pm, the protest action was still continuing under tight security by the Semarang Polrestabes. (gul/JPC)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Turung ke Jalan, Mahasiswa Semarang Minta Pendemo PT RUM Dibebaskan".]

Source: https://www.jawapos.com/read/2018/03/22/198149/turung-ke-jalan-mahasiswa-semarang-minta-pendemo-pt-rum-dibebaskan

Environmentalists stage rally in front of garment company

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2018

Jakarta – A crowd of activists protested in front of the Energy Building in the Sudirman Central Business District in Senayan, South Jakarta, on Monday to demand that garment company PT Huddleston Indonesia, which occupies the 20th floor of the building, shut down operations of PT Rayon Utama Makmur (RUM) in Sukoharjo, Central Java.

The activists said residents of Sukoharjo regency endured a foul smell for months because of pollution coming from the RUM factory, starting in October last year.

PT Huddleston holds 56 percent of shares of publicly listed PT Sri Rejeki Isman (Sritex), one of the biggest textile garment producers in Southeast Asia. It supplies garments to well known brands such as Zara, H&M and Uniqlo as well as the uniforms for the Indonesian Military, NATO and armed forces of other countries.

"Sritex obtains their rayon from RUM," activist Rahman Ladanu told The Jakarta Post.

Hundreds of residents of Nguter district, Sukoharjo, complained over a foul stench allegedly emitting from RUM factory waste. Protests escalated in February, when residents vandalized an RUM security post.

The police later arrested seven people – activists and residents – some for vandalism and some for defamation. In response, 100 lawyers have prepared a lawsuit against RUM.

Sritex spokesperson Welly Salam said the company was not affiliated with RUM, other than sharing the same parent organization. "We are different companies, although we are owned by the Lukminto family," he told the Post over the phone on Monday.

He declined to comment when asked about whether RUM supplied Sritex with rayon.

In late February, RUM president director Pramono said the Sukoharjo regent had ordered RUM to halt the operation. They had complied, as production had been put on hold to "improve waste treatment", Pramono said. (gis)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/19/environmentalists-stage-rally-in-front-of-garment-company.html

Pembebasan students call for end to criminalisation of environmental

Radar Kota - March 19, 2018

Saifuddin Hafid – The Student Struggle Centre for National Liberation (Pembebasan) held a protest action at the offices of PT. Huddleston on Jl. Jenderal Sudirman in South Jakarta on Monday March 19 calling for an end to the criminalisation of environmental activists.

Pembebasan chairperson Rahman Ladanu said that the presence of PT Rayon Utama Makmur (PT RUM) in the village of Plesan in Nguter, Sukoharjo, Central Java, has been a disaster for the environment and people living in the vicinity.

Because, he said, for more than six months residents have been anxious about a foul smell resembling excrement which is emanating from waste produced by PT RUM. The waste has damaged resident's health and several children in the area are suffering from acute repertory infections (ISPA).

"Rather than investigating PT RUM which is clearly damaging the environment, the East Java Polda [district police] have instead criminalised local residents and activists fighting for their environment and clean air", said Rahman during the action.

In addition to this added Rahman, the involvement of the Indonesian military (TNI) in the production activities of PT RUM raises other questions.

The factory and other company "social" activities are being guarded by uniformed TNI soldiers. Yet referring to Law Number 34/2004 on the TNI, there is no legal basis for the TNI to be present at the factory.

"[The TNI's] involvement in security businesses such as this conflicts with the TNI law and hinders the TNI's internal reform itself", he said.

Because of this therefore, Pembebasan believes that PT RUM, its parent company PT Sri Rejeki Isman (Sritex) and PT Huddleston, which holds a majority share in Sritex, have been criminally negligent by allowing poisonous production waste into the environment and homes of Sukoharjo residents.

As well as calling for an end to the criminalisation of activists, the group is also demanded the release of their comrade Muhammad Hisbun Payu from all charges, the cancelation of PT RUM's business license and the withdrawal of the TNI from PT RUM.

In addition to this, Rahman also appealed to the people's movements to continue to inform the public that Sritex products are made from the oppression of people and the environment and for more people to become involved in the fight against PT RUM. (wawan)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Hentikan Kriminalisasi Pejuang Lingkungan Hidup, Cabut Izin Usaha PT.RUM".]

Source: http://www.radarkotanews.com/nasional/hentikan-kriminalisasi-pejuang-lingkungan-hidup-cabut-izin-usaha-pt-rum

1965 anti-communist purge

The true history of one of the 20th century's worst massacres

The Guardian - March 15, 2018

Julia Lovell – Joshua Oppenheimer's 2012 documentary The Act of Killing follows a cabal of ageing hoodlums around the city of Medan, in north-west Indonesia.

Between 1965 and 66, they had enthusiastically joined militias across the country that garrotted, stabbed and mutilated to death at least half a million suspected leftists. Almost half a century later, they bragged openly about their exploits to Oppenheimer, for state propaganda since the late 60s has lionised the killers as heroes, and demonised the victims as godless communist traitors to the nation.

This polemically cinematic film – the first of two he made about the massacres – has transformed awareness of these events in the west and galvanised debate within Indonesia. It has shone a light on acts of exceptional cruelty, and on their intimate connection with the thuggish political culture of Indonesia today. Oppenheimer felt, as he amassed the film's footage, as if he had "wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust, only to find the Nazis still in power".

As an activist, Oppenheimer has focused his talents on dramatising the horror and toxic contemporary afterlives of the Indonesian mass murders. His films have raised consciousness of the killings, but do not address their historical context. Only a few brief on-screen paragraphs at the start of The Act of Killing sketch some of the key events: the imposition of military dictatorship in late 1965, the crackdown on the Indonesian left, the murder of perhaps as many as a million "communists" by the army and civilian death squads, the killers' enjoyment of impunity in Indonesia since.

Two new books, one by Geoffrey Robinson and the other by Jess Melvin, now fill out this history. Between them, these authors tell us why one of the worst blood-lettings of the 20th century took place, who was responsible, and why, until recently, these events garnered such little international attention.

Before he became a history professor, Robinson was Amnesty International's head of research for Indonesia, and his book skilfully combines a human rights advocate's anger with academic rigour. His story begins in the twilight of Indonesia's colonisation by the Dutch and the Japanese, and takes in the turbulent first two decades after its independence in the 1940s. He describes the military saturation of Indonesian society during the war with the Dutch, and explains the country's instability on the eve of the 1965 massacres, as three political forces (the excitable nationalist first president, Sukarno; the US-trained army; a huge Communist party influenced by the radical, defiant stance of Mao's China) faced off. Robinson also narrates, in heartbreaking detail, the grotesque, predominantly non-mechanised violence of the killings: death by decapitation, disembowelling, stabbing, genital mutilation, impaling, strangling.

He adjudicates carefully between divergent interpretations of one of the most confusing events of the cold war: the alleged coup of 1 October 1965, in which six Indonesian generals were kidnapped and killed under mysterious circumstances. General Suharto – the second president, architect of the military crackdown of 1965-66 and of the dictatorial New Order that ruled Indonesia between 1966 and 1998 – accused the Indonesian Communist party of orchestrating the attempted putsch and used this allegation to justify exterminating the Communists "down to the roots". It now seems likely that the coup was planned by a small, secretive cell within the Communist party and the army, but there was no widespread planning for state capture among the party's rank and file. Only one aspect of the coup is clear: it became a pretext for "the killing of half a million people, mass incarceration of more than a million others, and the complete annihilation of the left".

Though the scope of her book – which is focused on the evolution of the massacres in Aceh, a province in north Sumatra – is narrower than Robinson's, Melvin makes an essential point about the violence. For decades, Suharto's New Order government taught Indonesians that the killings were a "spontaneous" uprising "by the people", fuelled by righteous anger at "Communist" treachery. Through hard work, determination and a stroke of archival luck (a boxful of documents that the Indonesian intelligence agency carelessly gave her), Melvin shatters Suharto's 50-year-old propaganda story. The "Indonesian genocide files", as she calls the intelligence archive, confirm a narrative of army culpability: the mass murders of 1965-66 could not have taken place without the army's centralised operation to "carry out non-conventional warfare... [to] succeed in annihilating... together with the people" communists and their supporters.

Robinson agrees that "without the army's logistical and organisational leadership... the mass killings could not have happened". But he is also concerned with wider culpability for the violence, and points the finger particularly at the US and British governments who – for reasons of cold war realpolitik – facilitated the army's crackdown. They waged a devious campaign of psychological warfare before, during and after the massacres, in the hope of giving the army a pretext to act against the communists, and to suppress accurate reports of the murders. US diplomats and the CIA's Indonesia station left little to chance: they gave the army money, mobile radio equipment and lists of Indonesian communists.

Robinson and Melvin demolish Indonesian state orthodoxy on the country's modern history, undermining with cool historical detail the legitimacy of political authoritarianism after 1965. But these two books have an importance far beyond Indonesian studies. They revise our definition of genocide, draw conclusions about the close links between militarism and mass violence, and remind us forcefully of the nefarious interventions of western powers at cold war turning points.

- Julia Lovell's latest book is Splendidly Fantastic: Architecture and Power Games in China (Strelka).

- The Killing Season: A History of the Indonesian Massacres is published by Princeton. To order a copy for #23.76 (RRP #27.95) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over #10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of #1.99.

- The Army and the Indonesian Genocide: Mechanics of Mass Murder is published by Routledge. To order a copy for #115, go to routledge.com.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/15/killing-season-geoffrey-robinson-army-indonesian-genocide-jess-melvinreviews

Sexual & domestic violence

Most child sexual abuse victims are boys: KPAI

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2018

Jakarta – Child sexual abuse targets more to boys than girls, the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) said on Monday.

Citing reports that were filed with the commission, the KPAI said the majority of victims in the cases of child sexual abuse that were reported in the first two months of the year were male children.

KPAI chairman Susanto said the commission received 223 reports of sexual abuse against male children from January to February. Jambi recorded the highest number with 80 cases involving boys and Tangerang, Banten, ranking second with 45 cases. These were followed by South Tapanuli, North Sumatra, with 42 cases, Aceh (26 cases), Karanganyar, Central Java (17), Banyumas, East Java (7) and Tasikmalaya, West Java (6).

"[The records] show that boys are just as vulnerable as girls. Hence, we need to implement stronger protection for boys, too," Susanto said on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.

KPAI commissioner Retno Listyarsi said the cases occurred mainly at educational institutions, while the majority of perpetrators were elementary and junior high school teachers.

"The abuse occurred within school premises, such as in toilets, classrooms, student organization (OSIS) offices and even in musholla (prayer rooms)," she said.

Convicted child abusers may face up to 15 years in jail or a fine of up to Rp 5 billion (US$363,500) under the 2014 Child Protection Law. However, if the abuser was also underage, they would be charged under Law No. 11/2012 on the Juvenile Criminal Justice System.

Susanto said the commission would oversee the court process for underage perpetrators of child sexual abuse. "This is to ensure the correct judicial procedure," he said. (srs/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/20/most-child-sexual-abuse-victims-are-boys-kpai.html

Cyber-violence, an emerging new reality for many Indonesian women

Jakarta Globe - March 16, 2018

Sheany, Jakarta – The National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, highlighted cyber-violence as a growing trend in violence against women in Indonesia in its annual report for 2017, published on March 7.

Komnas Perempuan recorded a total of 65 cases of cyber violence against women last year and categorized the various types of incidents: recruitment, online defamation, malicious distribution, infringement of privacy, illegal content, hacking, cyber-harassment and cyber-grooming.

How does cyber-violence occur?

"Cyber-violence against women is emerging in a massive way, but there is little report and handling [of such cases]," Komnas Perempuan commissioner Thaufiek Zulbahary said during the report's launch.

In many cases, instances of cyber-violence against women are related to the objectification of women's bodies in the form of pornographic content, which becomes viral and is shared through various social media platforms and messaging apps.

"This type of violence has a huge impact on women, as they could potentially be victimized all their lives and the perpetrators have more space to 'move freely' due to lack of regulation to address and prevent such crimes," Thaufiek added.

Who are the actors of cyber-violence?

According to the report, most perpetrators of cyber-violence are individuals with close relations to their victims, such as partners, ex-boyfriends and current spouses.

Of the recorded cases, most victims were from the Greater Jakarta Area, or other big cities in Indonesia, the report said.

What does cyber-violence against women in Indonesia look like?

In 2017, Indonesia saw the launch of controversial websites such as ayopoligami.com and nikahsirri.com.

"These sites are a form of online prostitution masked with a religious tenet. They facilitate men and women to date and 'get married' without following official state regulations," Komnas Perempuan said in the report.

Ayopoligami.com is still accessible and even comes in the form of an app for Android-based smartphones, though Komnas Perempuan said its popularity has decreased since its initial launch.

The site attracted tens of thousands of members but was criticized by many women's rights activists, who warned of a strong link between polygamy and domestic violence.

In Indonesia, Muslim men can apply to one of the country's Islamic courts to take a second wife. The court may review and grant an application under certain circumstances, such as cases where the first wife is unable to bear children.

On the other hand, access to nikahsirri.com was promptly blocked by the government five days after its launch.

Law enforcement on cyber-violence

In September, police charged Aris Wahyudi, owner of nikahsirri.com, under the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law and the Pornography Law, for spreading pornographic content on the internet and engaging in online trading of virginity.

"Komnas Perempuan is of the opinion that this is clearly trafficking masked with a religious guise labeled as nikah sirri, with poor women as the victims," the report said. Nikah sirri is a religious marriage in Islam that is not registered with the state.

The sexual exploitation of young girls on the internet has also increasingly become an issue in the country, which saw an online pedophile network dismantled by authorities in March last year.

The network took the form of a private group on Facebook, Official Lolly Candy's Group 18+, with over 7,000 members who collected, shared and posted hundreds of child pornographic content.

Komnas Perempuan's report showed that police duly arrested several members of the group, some of whom were found to have sexually harassed underage girls, who were between three and nine years of age, and recorded their sexual activity and shared them on the Facebook group.

"Data showed that the number of sexual exploitation cases against children in Indonesia has been increasing, and that there are around 161,000 pornographic content of this nature on the internet," the report said.

The same report also highlighted other prominent cases of cyber-violence, many of which involve massive public scrutiny, both online and offline, and usually include a viral circulation of video through social media.

According to the new 2018 Digital Yearbook published by We Are Social and Hootsuite, Indonesia has around 130 million active social media users, and ranks third in time spent on social media, after the Philippines and Brazil.

The popularity of social media, coupled with the emerging threat of cyber-violence, should prompt authorities to address this issue through a more effective mechanism of handling and preventive efforts.

As part of its annual report, Komnas Perempuan urged the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to develop a system to prevent the expansion of cyber-violence against women.

The national women's rights body also called on the National Police, the Attorney General and the Supreme Court to develop a standard operating procedure to address cyber-violence and recovery efforts for female victims.

Where can you report a cyber-violence case?

Incidents of violence against women can be reported to Komnas Perempuan by calling +62-21-3903963. Women and children residing in Jakarta can also call the 112 hotline number to report abuse.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/cyber-violence-emerging-new-reality-many-indonesian-women/

Labour & migrant workers

With death penalty at home, can Indonesia save its citizens abroad?

Jakarta Globe - March 22, 2018

Sheany, Jakarta – The government sent a protest note to Saudi Arabia on Monday (19/03), after an Indonesian national was beheaded in Mecca. Saudi authorities did not inform Indonesia that its citizen would be executed.

Zaini Misrin, a 53-year-old man from Bangkalan in East Java's island of Madura, was a migrant worker convicted of the murder of his Saudi employer. He was executed on Sunday.

"The Indonesian government did not receive any notification prior to the execution of Zaini Misrin," citizen protection and legal aid director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, said during a press conference in Jakarta.

Although the kingdom has no regulatory obligation to issue such notifications, since the two countries are in friendly relations, Indonesia should have been officially apprised of the decision, he said.

With nearly 200 Indonesians facing capital punishment abroad, the government has been making considerable efforts to stay their execution.

However, despite huge opposition domestically and on the international stage, and despite its non-permanent seat at the United Nation High Commission of Human Rights, Indonesia itself implements the death penalty. This, in the eyes of many, renders inconclusive the country's attempts to save its own citizens from the cruel and unusual punishment.

Since 2011, 583 Indonesians have been sentenced to death abroad. The executions of 392 have been stayed. There are 188 ongoing cases in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates.

Most of the cases involve migrant workers, but there are also drug trafficking convicts, especially in Malaysia.

The case of Zaini

Zaini's journey to Saudi Arabia began in 1992, when he started working as a private driver for Abdullah bin Umar as-Sindi. He then came back to Indonesia, and returned to work for the same employer in 1996.

Zaini was arrested by Saudi authorities in July 2004, on charges of murdering As-Sindi. He was convicted in November 2008.

In accordance with Muslim law, in cases of killing and wounding, Saudi Arabia applies qisas, or the law of retaliation – a person who has injured another is to be penalized to a similar degree, unless he or she is pardoned by the victim's family.

Indonesia was granted consular access to Zaini only in 2008. The delay, according to Lalu, was caused by imperfections in the previous protection system for Indonesian citizens abroad.

To save Zaini, the government appointed two lawyers in 2011, while presidents Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Joko "Jokowi" Widodo requested Saudi Arabia that he be granted clemency. Jokowi raised the issue three times with King Salman bin Abdulaziz. So did Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi during her meetings with the Saudi counterpart, Adel Jubeir.

Zaini's family came to Saudi Arabia with a plea for pardon from As-Sindi's family. To no avail.

The Indonesian government requested a case review in January 2017. It was rejected. Another appeal was filed in January this year, and the case was stiil ongoing at the time of Zaini's death.

"We have summoned the Saudi ambassador to express our disapproval over the execution and the fact that it took place despite the ongoing legal process," Lalu said.

According to Jakarta-based Migrant Care, Zaini's testimony reveals he confessed the murder under pressure and intimidation by Saudi authorities. "During his trial, Zaini Misrin had no neutral and impartial translator," the organization said in a statement.

Pardon

Under the principle of qisas, offenders can receive forgiveness from their victim's closest relatives. This in 2017 saved the life of Masamah, another Indonesian migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, who was convicted of murdering her employer's child in 2009.

An alternative punishment to qisas is diya or "blood money" – the financial compensation paid to the heirs of a victim.

In April 2014, the Indonesian government paid 7 million riyal ($1.9 million) to free Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad from death row in Saudi Arabia.

Satinah, a domestic helper from Ungaran, Central Java, was convicted of killing her Saudi employer in 2007. She said she acted in self-defense.

According to Lalu, in Zaini's case, the victim's family was not willing to exercise its right to pardon or diya.

More protection

To offer more protection to Indonesian citizens working abroad, the House of Representatives passed a new law in October.

The 2017 Law on Migrant Workers replaced the 2004 Law on the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers. It establishes a framework to improve cooperation between the central government and local authorities in the migrants' places of origin, and guarantees more assistance to them, including insurance and competency training.

Director general for labor supervision at the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, Maruli Apul Hasoloan, said during Monday's conference that all prospective migrant workers will be informed about their rights and mechanisms to protect them, as well as the existing regulations on labor in their receiving countries.

The government is now also particularly careful about making sure that Indonesians willing to work abroad have all their documents and permits cleared before they leave.

"According to our statistics, 92 percent of the cases against Indonesian migrant workers are related to those who left the country without following the necessary legal procedures," said Hermono, secretary of the National Board for Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers (BNP2TKI).

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/death-penalty-home-can-indonesia-save-citizens-abroad/

Prabowo's former employees demand payment of back wages, severance pay

Berita Terheboh - March 22, 2018

The Timber and Forestry Trade Union (SPKahut) is demonstrating at the House of Representatives (DPR) demanding the payment of back wages and severance pay from a pulp and paper company owned by Prabowo Subianto.

They have been sleeping out at the front entrance to the DPR for six days waiting for the people's representatives to open a dialogue with the company on fulfilling its obligations.

PT Kertas Nusantara, a pulp and paper manufacture, is controlled by Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairperson Prabowo Subianto.

"Our demands go back to 2014 but we have still not been paid our wages plus severance pay and pensions, both those who are retired as well as those who have died. There are several other issues pending but what is clearly the basic problem is wages and severance pay", said SPKahut chairperson Indra Alam in front of the DPR building in Jakarta on Wednesday March 21.

Indra also demanded that the DPR's Commission IX follow up alleged violations at PT Kertas Nusantara by summoning the head of the company to attend a public hearing (RDPU).

Indra said that they have already met with Commission IX members and were promised that a RDPU would be held this week. So far however, there has been no clarification on the hearing.

"I'm disappointed that there's been no clarification and speaking frankly those of us from outside Jakarta are having to pay the cost of all this. Our situation is like this. What is clear is that we want Commission IX to hold an RDPU with PT Kertas Nusantara Kertas in order to be able to follow it up as fully as possible", he said.

Indra said that they don't care if there are those that think the trade union's actions smack of politics. According to Indra, they are genuinely articulating the demands of PT Kertas Nusantara employees for justice.

Nevertheless, there have been several attempts at blocking the demonstration in front of the DPR with Gerindra Party members seizing protest banners by force. Yet the demands they are making have no relationship with Gerindra.

"We are genuine employees who for four years have been demanding our rights [to back wages] plus severance pay that is yet to be paid. If you want to see it as political go ahead but what is clear is we are just making demands [on a company] which is by chance is owned by Pak Prabowo. Come on Pak Prabowo come down from the mountain and resolve this issue. Essentially we are just asking for justice", he concluded.

Why then have the employees' wages not been paid yet. The reason is that the company is bankrupt and has been trapped in debt payments for 15 years starting in 2013.

The pulp and paper company owned by the Prabowo family has been declared bankrupt and in 2011 its creditors agreed that PT Kertas Nusantara must pay off trillions of rupiah in debt.

- 2014 video of Prabowo pledging to improve the lives of workers and fight for their rights. Starts at 2.08 minutes into video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDiTKLlGwd4.

Notes

One of the banners being used at the demonstration had a picture of Prabowo on it and read, "If you want to be a leader please address the rights of PT Kertas Nusantara employees", referring to the 2019 presidential elections when Prabowo is again expected to face off against President Joko Widodo.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The second part of the article describes in detail the bankruptcy process, its creditors and the company's repayment obligations. The original title of the article was "Ini Asal Muasal Dibalik Tuntutan Bekas Pegawai Perusahaan Prabowo Minta Empat Tahun Gaji Dibayar".]

Source: http://www.beritaterheboh.com/2018/03/ini-asal-muasal-dibalik-tuntutan-bekas.html

Activists protest at Saudi Embassy over beheading of Indonesian migrant

Tempo.co - March 20, 2018

Jakarta (Antara) – A protest action against the execution of migrant worker Muhammad Zaini Misrin was held at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Jakarta on Tuesday March 20.

The demonstrators, who came from Migrant Care, the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), the Indonesian Migrant Worker Trade Union (SBMI) and Migrant Worker Network (JBM) called on the Saudi Arabian government to stop executing Indonesian migrant workers (TKI).

Zaini Misrin was beheaded on Sunday March 18 after serving 14 years jail on charges of murdering his employer. The Indonesian government lodged an official protest with Saudi Arabia because the execution was carried out while a judicial review was still in progress.

The demonstrators wore black T-shirts as a symbol of morning over Zaini Misrin's death.

"At 11.30am exactly in the name of the Saudi authorities they killed Zaini Misrin who was not guilty of his employer's murder", said Anis Hidayah from Migrant Care in a speech.

The protesters, who brought banners with the message, "Saudi Arabia Please Stop Beheading Indonesian Migrant Workers", said that the death penalty is a violation of human rights.

The groups said that Saudi Arabia violated international protocol because it failed to inform the Indonesian government that Zaini had been executed.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has twice sent an official letter to the Saudi Arabian government asking that TKI facing the death penalty be released but the Saudi government continues with the practice.

The demonstrators said that they have held repeated protests against the death penalty and they will continue to do so until Saudi Arabia stops using the death penalty.

Currently there are 21 TKI in Saudi Arabia facing the death sentence. Migrant Care hopes that there will be no more executions of TKI anywhere. "The death sentence is a violation of the most basic of human right namely the right to life", said Hidayah.

The groups also called on Indonesia to stop using the death penalty itself as evidence that the country respects human rights.

Migrant Care also demanded that the Indonesian government lodge a diplomatic protest with the Saudi Arabian monarchy and declare the Saudi Arabian Ambassador persona non grata over the execution.

In addition to this, they also called on the Indonesian government to use its political and diplomatic resources to ensure the release of hundreds of other migrant workers facing the death penalty around the world.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Aktivis Demo Kedubes Arab Saudi Protes Eksekusi Mati Zaini Misrin".]

Source: https://nasional.tempo.co/read/1071382/aktivis-demo-kedubes-arab-saudi-protes-eksekusi-mati-zaini-misrin

Saudi Arabia beheads Indonesian worker despite Jokowi's pleas for

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2018

Agnes Anya, Jakarta – Saudi Arabia has beheaded an Indonesian migrant worker for murder despite President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's repeated pleas that the man be granted clemency. M. Zaini Misrin from Bangkalan, East Java, was executed on Sunday, according to Migrant Care, an Indonesian organization focusing on the welfare of Indonesian migrant workers.

Zaini, who worked as a driver, was sentenced to death on Nov. 17, 2008, after being found guilty of murdering his employer, Abdullah bin Umar Munammad Al Sindy. He was arrested on Jul. 13, 2004.

Migrant Care suspected that the 53-year-old Bangkalan resident had been forced to confess to the murder.

The group further claimed that Zaini did not receive legal assistance during his trial and was only accompanied by a translator believed to be complicit in forcing him to confess to the crime he claimed he did not commit.

"Saudi Arabia also did not notify Indonesia [about the execution] either through the consulate general in Jeddah or the Foreign Ministry," the group said in a statement released on Monday.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry confirmed the execution and Migrant Care's claim that it was not notified by Riyadh beforehand about Zaini's beheading.

President Jokowi has requested that Zaini and other Indonesians on death row in Saudi Arabia be granted clemency on at least three occasions: During his visit to Riyadh in September 2015, during King Salman's visit to Jakarta in March 2017 and through a letter sent to the Islamic kingdom in November 2017.

The Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah had also requested that Zaini's case be reviewed and a reinvestigation was conducted between 2011 and 2014, according to Migrant Care. The legal efforts, however, failed to overturn his conviction. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/19/saudi-arabia-beheads-indonesian-worker-despite-jokowis-pleas-for-clemency.html

Freedom of speech & expression

Indonesia must improve privacy amid Facebook data crisis, activists say

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2018

Jakarta – The recent misuse of data belonging to tens of millions of Facebook users has shown that Indonesian netizens must improve their awareness on data privacy, a digital rights group has said.

Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) regional coordinator Damar Juniarto said on Thursday that by neglecting the importance of data privacy, threats to Indonesia's democracy and citizen privacy would grow.

"Please be critical if any party requests that you submit your data," Damar said. "We must be on alert each time we see an unclear third party app in our social media [accounts]," he added.

As reported earlier, Facebook was implicated in a data hijacking case, in which Cambridge Analytics, a British firm linked to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, was found to have used the data of 50 million users of the social network company.

Damar explained how large amounts of data in social networks, including Facebook, could be misused.

"The data is valuable, so it can be sold to irresponsible people," Damar said. "There are many cases of online fraud, in which the perpetrators use lots of personal information they collect on social media."

Damar said the data hijacking could be replicated in the upcoming regional elections and 2019 presidential and legislative elections.

"It's urgent for the government to speed up the deliberation of a data protection law," he said. Indonesia has the fourth-highest number of Facebook users in the world, with 130 million accounts, or 6 percent of the total global users. (srs/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/22/indonesia-must-improve-privacy-amid-facebook-data-crisis-activists-say.html

Freedom of information & the press

Indonesia: Magazine refuses to apologize for cartoon

UCA News - March 21, 2018

Ryan Dagur – Indonesian weekly magazine Tempo has defied radical Muslims' demand for an apology over a cartoon which they said insulted a Muslim cleric.

In its editorial published on March 19, it insisted that it would only apologize for the impact of the cartoon's publication on Feb. 28 "if it offends a particular group." "But Tempo did not apologize – let alone plead guilty – for publishing it," it said.

On March 16, about 200 members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) rallied outside Tempo's office to protest the cartoon of a white-robed man talking to a woman. The man says, "I'm sorry I don't come home" and the woman replies, "What you did to me was cruel."

The conservative group said the cartoon referred to Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, the FPI leader who is in Saudi Arabia after fleeing Indonesia in May 2017 when Jakarta police issued a warrant for his arrest over accusations of sharing pornographic material in WhatsApp chats with a female activist.

He also faces possible blasphemy charges stemming from a complaint by Catholic students who accused Shihab of ridiculing the birth of Jesus in a speech that was widely circulated on the internet.

Shihab was supposed to return to Indonesia on Feb. 21 but told supporters in a phone call that his failure to return was because he needed to seek God's guidance. It was the fifth time he had reneged on a pledge to return to the country.

In the March 16 rally, protesters kicked tables, threw water and seized the glasses of Tempo's editor-in-chief Arif Zulkifli.

Tempo said the action was "overdone" and claimed the demand for apology to all Muslims "certainly does not make sense." "How can FPI claim all Muslims have the same views, attitudes and behavior as them," it said.

The magazine said that rejecting FPI's request was based on the belief that "once intimidation succeeds in determining editorial decisions, the thing at stake is not just Tempo's reputation. If it is not resisted, the intimidating actor can be addicted. The victims could be Tempo or other media. This is very harmful to press freedom and the public's right to information."

FPI spokesman Slamet Maarif defended his group's actions as part of efforts to maintain the honor of clerics. "Compared to what we do, Tempo's actions are more dangerous and highly unjustified as they have insulted the ulema [body of Muslim scholars]," he told ucanews.com.

Ahmad Nurhasim from the Alliance of Independent Journalists said FPI must comply with the press law, which requires objections to articles to be conveyed through the right of reply, right of correction or a complaint to the press council.

"By intimidating, they have created a fearful effect among journalists and the media to be critical and independent," Nurhasim told ucanews.com.

He said mass mobilization to force the media to acknowledge mistakes in journalistic work is anti-democratic and anti-press freedom.

Founded in 1971 by veteran journalists Goenawan Mohamad and Yusril Djalinus, Tempo is known as an investigative magazine.

During the regime of dictator Suharto, the magazine was banned along with two others as a threat to national stability. It resumed publication after Suharto's fall.

In 2010, the magazine's office was firebombed by two black-clad men. The attack was widely presumed to be linked to the police as it happened after the magazine published a story about police corruption. Source: http://www.eurasiareview.com/21032018-indonesia-magazine-refuses-to-apologize-for-cartoon/

Human rights group urges police to handle mass media intimidation

Tempo - March 20, 2018

M Rosseno Aji, Jakarta – Amnesty International Indonesia requested the police to perform assertiveness upon the intimidation shown by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in their protest at Tempo headquarters on Friday.

"Police should have weighed-in that protest from a legal standpoint," said Usman Hamid, Director of Amnesty International Indonesia on Tuesday, March 20.

As previously reported, there were around 200 FPI members protested at Tempo office in Palmerah last week. Tempo's editorial team was pushed by the protesters to issue an apology for publishing a satirical cartoon depicting a person who FPI perceives as Rizieq Shihab.

Several acts of intimidations continued when FPI representatives mediated with Tempo magazine Editor in Chief Arif Zulkifli, which was held in one of the meeting rooms inside the Tempo office. After a tough negotiation, Arif was told to issue an apology to FPI members that were still protesting outside.

At one point when Arif was on top of the FPI vehicle used for the protest, his glasses were grabbed by a protester and thrown into the crowd. There was also a member who threw water to the direction where Arif was standing.

Usman referred to those incidents to urge the police be active in detecting whether there were violations in those series of incidents without waiting for a police report filed by Tempo management.

"It is the country's duty to guarantee that mass media like Tempo can continue to work in a safe environment and free from any pressures," said Usman.

Meanwhile, according to Press Council Chairman Yosep Stanley Adi Prasetyo, the satirical cartoon Tempo published is considered as a journalistic product and that FPI members should not be enraged since the President is also often criticized through satirical cartoons.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/20/055916811/Human-Rights-Group-Urges-Police-to-Handle-Mass-Media-Intimidation

Tempo editors refuse to bow down and apologize to FPI over political

Coconuts Jakarta - March 19, 2018

Last Friday, Islamic hardline groups headed by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) protested at the offices of national news outlet Tempo over a political cartoon published in their magazine that they perceived to be mocking their leader, pornography case fugitive and firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab.

This morning, Tempo published an editorial piece explaining why they agreed to meet with representatives of FPI but refused to apologize for the cartoon. The editorial, which was published in today's edition of their newspaper, was also posted online.

These are some of the well-articulated points made by the publication as to why they chose not to say sorry:

"The mass demonstration by FPI against Tempo was over the top. We criticize the way they expressed their intimidating behavior. The police should have processed the protesters in accordance to the law for acting excessively."

"They believed that the cartoon insulted FPI's founder, Rizieq Shihab, who went on umrah (pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia) but has not returned to Indonesia after being named a suspect by the police. The picture and text on the cartoon didn't directly point to anyone's specific identity."

Tempo added that FPI's representatives, when meeting with the editorial team, acted aggressively by banging on the table and one of them even threw a cup of water at the editors.

"They demanded that Tempo's editors apologize to all Muslims. This demand clearly made no sense. How could FPI claim that all Muslims have the same opinions, behavior, and actions as they do?"

In the end, Tempo's editors apologized to those who felt offended by the cartoon, but they did not apologize nor do they think they were wrong for publishing it in the first place. Under the code of journalism ethics, Tempo has agreed to give FPI a right to response statement regarding the cartoon, which will be published this week.

"We believe that once intimidation can change editorial policy, it's not just Tempo's reputation that is on the line. If we don't fight back, the intimidators will get addicted. The victims can be Tempo and other media. This endangers press freedom and the right to information for the public."

On Feb. 26, Tempo published this cartoon which is a clear dig at Rizieq Shihab for anyone who follows Indonesian news: https://t.co/D3P09RasYj.

If you don't get the reference, the cartoon is a parody riffing on an oft-quoted scene from 2016's mega box office hit 'Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? 2'. In the scene, main character Cinta tells Rangga, "What you did to me was cruel" after he didn't call her or something following the romantic climax of the prequel (we don't really know, we're one of the few people who didn't watch the movie).

In Tempo's cartoon, Rangga was replaced with a man in Islamic clothing. Though we only see his back, it's clear the artist heavily implied that he's Rizieq Shihab as he says, "I'm sorry I didn't end up coming home", which refers to the firebrand cleric repeatedly canceling his plans to return from Saudi Arabia, disappointing his many followers each time.

Rizieq has been hiding in Saudi Arabia since he was named a pornography suspect in the infamous "baladacintarizieq" pornography case in May 2017. Explaining his long refusal to return to Indonesia, one of the firebrand cleric's lawyer's once said Rizieq would rather stay in Saudi and be called a coward than return to Indonesia and get arrested.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/tempo-editors-refuse-bow-apologize-islamic-defenders-front-political-cartoon/

Tempo caricature: AJI says FPI misunderstood press law

Tempo - March 17, 2018

Dias Prasongko, Jakarta – Jakarta Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) stated FPI misunderstood about the Press Law by conducting a protest against Tempo caricature at Tempo office in Palmerah, South Jakarta, Friday, March 16.

The rally that forced Tempo to admit the journalistic mistakes was an anti-democratic and anti-press freedom act.

"Press Council is the one who has rights to judge whether the journalism work (in this case Tempo caricature) has violated the journalistic code of ethics or not," said AJI Jakarta Chairman Ahmad Nurhasim in a written statement, Jakarta, Friday, March 16.

A total of 200 FPI masses came to Tempo Building on Friday afternoon, March 16. They considered the caricature published by Tempo Magazine in February 26 edition, insulting ulema who was the FPI leader, Rizieq Shihab.

The dialogue with Tempo came to an agreement to solve the matter through the Press Council and FPI was welcomed to give a response or reply regarding the case. This way has stipulated in Law No. 40/1999 regarding the Press, particularly in Article 15 on the Press Council. Another regulation was in Article 5 on the Principles, Functions, Rights, Obligations, and Roles of the Press.

According to Nurhasim, Tempo has actually performed the press function properly as a social control media by developing a public opinion based on the accurate and correct information and conducting supervision, criticism, and suggestions on matters of public interest. Thus, AJI condemned the demonstration held by the mass organization Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

"FPI should've expressed the objection to the caricature by raising the issue in a journalism dispute, letting the media clarify or correct the work, or file a complaint to the Press Council," Nurhasim said.

Nurhasim assessed the FPI mass rally over Tempo caricatures might create a terror among journalists and media to be critical and independent in presenting journalism work because such action is possibly experiencing by other media when producing critical matters against a community group.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/17/055916725/Tempo-Caricature-AJI-Says-FPI-Misundertood-Press-Law

Islamic hardliners to occupy Tempo office over cartoon allegedly

Coconuts Jakarta - March 16, 2018

A mass of Islamic hardliners, comprised of groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and its paramilitary wing the Islamic Defenders Army (LPI), are staging a protest at national publication Tempo's office in Jakarta this afternoon over a political cartoon they say insulted the honor of FPI leader, self-appointed "Grand Imam of Indonesia" and pornography case fugitive Rizieq Shihab.

LPI Commander Maman Suryadi said they are going to demand a written apology from Tempo during the protest today and warned that their failure to comply would result in more drastic measures against the magazine. "We will occupy [their office]," Maman said, as quoted by CNN Indonesia yesterday.

Maman said that there will be approximately 500-1,000 protesters in attendance and that the Jakarta Metro Police has been notified.

What cartoon could have possibly upset FPI, LPI and their pals that much? Check it out for yourself: https://twitter.com/tempodotco/status/968693341427720198/photo/1

If you don't get the reference, the cartoon is a parody riffing on an oft-quoted scene from 2016's mega box office hit 'Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? 2'. In the scene, main character Cinta tells Rangga, "What you did to me was cruel" after he didn't call her or something following the romantic climax of the prequel (we don't really know, we're one of the few people who didn't watch the movie).

In Tempo's cartoon, Rangga was replaced with a man in Islamic clothing. Though we only see his back, it's clear the artist heavily implied that he's Rizieq Shihab as he says, "I'm sorry I didn't end up coming home", which refers to the firebrand cleric repeatedly canceling his plans to return from Saudi Arabia, disappointing his many followers each time.

"What is the meaning [of the cartoon], with words like that and placing [Rizieq Shihab] with a woman like that? They must take responsibility and explain [the cartoon]," FPI Jakarta head Muhsin Alatas told CNN Indonesia.

The Jakarta Metro Police is deploying personnel from Palmerah, where Tempo's office is situated, to Kebayoran Lama to keep the protest peaceful.

Rizieq has been hiding in Saudi Arabia since he was named a pornography suspect in the infamous "baladacintarizieq" pornography case in May 2017. Explaining his long refusal to return to Indonesia, one of the firebrand cleric's lawyer's once said Rizieq would rather stay in Saudi and be called a coward than return to Indonesia and get arrested.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/islamic-hardliners-plan-occupy-tempo-magazine-office-cartoon-allegedly-insulting-fpi-leader-rizieq-shihab/

Political parties & elections

Hashim admits team Jokowi's attempt to approach Prabowo

Tempo - March 22, 2018

Jakarta (Antara) – Prabowo Subianto's younger brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, does not deny that there are attempts by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) to entice Prabowo as Jokowi's vice presidential candidate.

"I'll just smile to that [statement], I don't deny that," said Hashim in an event in Jakarta today.

Report about the president's attempt to entice the opposition party leader was first mentioned by Gerindra Deputy Chairman Fadli Zon at the parliamentary complex in Senayan on Friday, March 2.

"There were representatives that came to us and offered to us to join. [They offered] Pak Prabowo as a candidate for vice presidency. This is normal in politics," said Fadli Zon on Friday, March 2.

Asked whether the representative Fadli Zon referred to was Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Hashim once again answered, "I'll just smile to that. I am a Javanese descent, you can translate that, you can interpret that yourself."

Furthermore, if Prabowo runs for the presidency in the 2019 Presidential Election, Hashim said that anyone has the chance to become his running-mate.

According to him, Prabowo's running-mate must essentially be a nationalist-religious individual either with a military background or it may be a civilian, activist, young, or a senior.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/22/055916895/Hashim-Admits-Team-Jokowis-Attempt-to-Approach-Prabowo

Author of sci-fi novel quoted by Prabowo in fiery campaign speech says

Detik News - March 22, 2018

Bagus Prihantoro Nugroho, Jakarta – The author of the novel "Ghost Fleet", Peter Warren Singer, has uploaded a photo of Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairperson Prabowo Subianto on his Twitter account.

"Ghost Fleet" is a fictional novel about a future war in which Indonesia no longer exists or has been disbanded.

"The leader of the Indonesian opposition quoted from #GhostFleet in a fiery campaign speech", wrote Singer on his Twitter account @peterwsinger as quoted by Detik.com on Thursday March 22.

Singer also included a link to an English language article which reported on how Prabowo had quoted from his novel. Singer said that this is something that was quite unexpected.

"There have been many twists and turns and unexpected changes in the experience of this book, but this perhaps takes the cake...", wrote Singer.

There have been many unexpected twists and turns from this book experience, but this may take the cake... pic.twitter.com/KcRmUO2nzx – Peter W. Singer (@peterwsinger) March 21, 2018. https://twitter.com/peterwsinger/status/976450735280881671?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Singer posted the tweet last night (March 21) at around 8.30pm. An hour later he tweeted a CNN report about Chinese President Xi Jinping wanting to "defeat his country's enemies".

The novel Ghost Fleet does indeed tell the story of a war between the United States and China. Singer also re-posts a tweet by his colleague who coauthored the book, August Cole.

"Fiction, not prediction right?", tweeted Cole. "Ask the Indonesian general", replies Singer.

Ask the Indonesian general... https://t.co/Io5s9vt4Pu – Peter W. Singer (@peterwsinger) March 21, 2018

Notes

In a campaign speech posted on Gerindra's official Facebook page on March 18, Prabowo makes the claim that "...in other countries they have made studies where the Republic of Indonesia has been declared no more in 2030". The study referred to by Prabowo is in fact a fictional sci-fi techno war thriller by authors August Cole and P. W. Singer titled "Ghost Fleet".

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Penulis Novel 'Ghost Fleet' Posting Foto Prabowo di Twitter".]

Source: https://news.detik.com/berita/3930372/penulis-novel-ghost-fleet-posting-foto-prabowo-di-twitter

The 'study' Prabowo said predicted Indonesia would dissolve by 2030 is

Coconuts Jakarta - March 21, 2018

Clips from a speech by Gerindra Party chairman and former general Prabowo Subianto, which were posted to Gerindra's official Facebook page on Sunday, caused a stir in Indonesia with its bold claim that "...in other countries they have made studies where the Republic of Indonesia has been declared no more in 2030."

Some saw the fiery speech, with its dark predictions about the country's elites selling off the nation's wealth to foreign powers, as a preview of Prabowo's probable campaign strategy against President Joko Widodo, who he is widely expected to challenge (yet again) in 2019.

But political prognostications aside, many were curious about this mysterious "study" that Prabowo referred to that said Indonesia might be no more in a mere 12 years, as no such study seemed to be available online (some found reports saying Indonesia could have one of the biggest economies in the world by 2030 instead). Gerindra officials offered vague responses when asked about what study Prabowo was referring to.

"So you see, Pak Prabowo has read various writings of people that are outside the country, intellectual observers that exist. You can also see them online," said Elnino M. Husein Mohi, the chairman of Gerindra's Gorontalo faction, as quoted by Tribun today.

As it turns out, the "intellectual observers" that Elnino was referring to are August Cole and P. W. Singer. And you can indeed see their work online, though you'd have to purchase their "study" as an e-book through Amazon because it's not so much a study as it is a fictional sci-fi techno-war-thriller in the vein of Tom Clancy.

We can be quite sure that Prabowo was referring to "Ghost Fleet" in regards to the prediction of Indonesia's demise in his speech as he had specifically referred to the novel and its prediction of Indonesia breaking apart by 2030 in another speech at the University of Indonesia on September 18, 2017 (he starts talking about the book at 19:20 in this video of the speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7uy8HXZB1g)

Now Prabowo makes clear in the speech that he knows the book is a fictional novel, but he praises its predictions nonetheless and even gives out free copies of it to attendees (along with two other non-fiction books).

"Ghost Fleet, this is actually a novel but written by two American strategists, and it describes a scenario of war between China and America in 2030. What is interesting from this for us is that they predict that in 2030 the Republic of Indonesia will no longer exist," he tells the crowd.

According to the novel's official website, the authors are indeed "two leading experts on the cutting edge of national security". In the author bio sections it says "August Cole is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council" while P.W. Singer "is Strategist and Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, the author of multiple award-winning books, and a contributing editor at Popular Science."

Ghost Fleet, which the publisher's site describes as a "ripping, near-futuristic thriller" "in the spirit of early Tom Clancy", is the duo's debut novel. And while it is based around a theoretical war between the US and China, the publisher's copy says "the book smashes together the technothriller and nonfiction genres. It is a novel, but with 400 endnotes, showing how every trend and technology featured in book – no matter how sci-fi it may seem – is real."

So what does Ghost Fleet have to say about Indonesia's disintegration? Well we haven't read the whole book but here's the most relevant passage we could find from a Google Book search of its text.

Other brief references to Indonesia we saw in the book did not seem to elaborate on this premise and don't seem connected to Prabowo's speech in which he talks about the country's elites selling off the country's natural resources to foreign powers. It seems as if Indonesia's demise is only mentioned in passing as window dressing to the primary conflict (and perhaps so that they could spice things up by putting more pirates in the story).

It does seems telling, however, that Prabowo would praise a book predicting a second war in Timor as causing the dissolution of Indonesia, considering the controversy over his actions in East Timor while he was leading counter-insurgency troops in the 1990s.

All in all, Ghost Fleet seems like it could be an interesting read (apparently the military brass at the Pentagon loves it so we can see why Prabowo might as well). But to call it a "study" would be a huge stretch by most definitions of the word and certainly makes one wonder why the potential presidential candidate would bother obfuscating that.

The answer must be that Prabowo thinks the message that Indonesia could cease to exist in the near future is that important, either because he believes it's a winning political platform or perhaps because he just actually believes it. Either way, we'll now get to see what the general public thinks of that message now that they know its actual source.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/study-prabowo-said-predicted-indonesia-dissolve-2030-actually-sci-fi-techno-thriller-called-ghost-fleet/

A 'millennials party' dares to break Indonesia's political mould

Jakarta Globe - March 21, 2018

Kanupriya Kapoor, Jakarta – In the Jakarta headquarters of the Indonesian Solidarity Party, or PSI, workers call each other "bro" and "sis," and their leader sets the sartorial standard with a pair of ripped jeans.

Dubbed the "millennials party," the PSI is an upstart on the political stage of this Southeast Asian nation that hopes to tap into young voters' contempt for the entrenched corruption and divisive identity politics of the ruling elite.

The downfall of long-serving autocrat Suharto in 1998 – amid a crisis widely blamed on a culture of nepotism and graft – brought an end to a regime of repression. But two decades later, the 190 million voters of the world's third-largest democracy are still asked to choose from a crowd of candidates who began their political careers during that period.

The 2019 presidential election looks set to be a repeat of 2014, when current leader Joko "Jokowi" Widodo narrowly defeated Prabowo Subianto, an ex-armed forces general who was formerly married to a daughter of Suharto.

The PSI is one of four new parties the General Election Commission is allowing to contest next year's legislative and presidential elections.

Two of the new parties are fronted by establishment figures. The United Indonesia Party (Perindo) is headed by US President Donald Trump's business partner in Indonesia, Hary Tanoeseodibjo, while the Berkaya Party is led by Suharto's youngest son, Tommy, who advocates a return to the "New Order" values of his late father.

PSI leader Grace Natalie, a former television journalist, believes the time has come for a new generation of politicians who would be genuinely accountable to the people.

Her party interviews members seeking nomination for a seat in parliament, and live-streams the discussions on social media platforms. Teachers, corporate lawyers, doctors and bankers are among those whose interviews have aired on Facebook and YouTube.

"No other party is offering what we are in terms of transparency," she told Reuters at PSI's headquarters – referred to by party staff as "base camp" – where a wall poster urges "Make Art, Not War."

Critical demographic

Natalie, a 35-year-old mother of two toddlers, set up PSI in 2014, determined to offer an alternative for young voters. It's a critical demographic with people between the ages of 17 and 25 accounting for about 30 percent of the electorate. Two-thirds of the party's roughly 400,000 members are under 35.

PSI relies on crowdfunding and donations to run operations across the vast archipelago of Indonesia, and to keep costs down it works from members' houses and uses donated vehicles.

"This way, no one person can claim that they own the party. Everyone is contributing something," said Natalie, who was educated in Jakarta and the Netherlands, and speaks proficient English.

So far, PSI has raised Rp 2.6 billion ($180,000), a tiny sum compared to the coffers of mainstream parties that benefit from poor enforcement of laws limiting political donations.

It will also struggle to get traction with the youth it is targeting. While the size of the youth vote bank has swelled from 18 percent of total voters in 2004 to 30 percent in 2014, the participation of young voters has dwindled.

Data from the elections commission showed less than half of voters between 17 and 29 years old cast a ballot in 2014 legislative elections compared with around 90 percent among those over 30.

Ella Prihatini, a researcher at the University of Western Australia, in a survey of 253 young voters, found many of them were uninterested in politics.

"On parliament, the dominant answer from respondents was that their MPs are not actually representing them, so why bother voting?" Ella said.

Political Islam

Winning support is also likely to be particularly challenging for Natalie, an ethnic-Chinese Indonesian, in a climate of religious and ethnic tensions. Indonesia is a secular country but concerns are growing about the Islamization of politics in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

Jakarta's former governor, an ethnic-Chinese Christian, was ousted last year after hardline Muslim groups organised massive protests over allegations he insulted Islam. He was later jailed for blasphemy.

The 14 parties contesting next year's polls include the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which leads the ruling coalition, several other secular parties as well as rising Islamic-oriented parties.

Natalie, who plans to run for parliament next year, conceded she and PSI need a far bigger budget to win support in rural areas, home to nearly half of Indonesia's population. Her party will back Jokowi – a popular moderate reformer – for re-election as president rather than try to field a candidate of its own.

Ibrahim Irsyad Hasibuan, a 20-year-old journalism student from Tangerang outside Jakarta, said young voters are apathetic because they have no faith in the political system, and so PSI could be a wake-up call for his generation.

"But I can't relate to PSI," he said. "It is a new political party and has no track record yet."

Achmad Sukarsono, a Singapore-based political analyst for Control Risks, was dismissive of the new party, arguing that an anti-corruption stance alone will not be enough to win over voters more interested in local and bread-and-butter issues.

"It is a nice utopian effort that shows desire for change from the educated, Westernized elite," he said.

[Additional reporting by Jessica Damiana.]

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/millennials-party-dares-break-indonesias-political-mould/

Observer: Prabowo's speech can backfire him in 2019 election

Tempo - March 21, 2018

Alfan Hilmi, Jakarta – A political observer of Charta Politika Yunarto Wijaya said the speech of Gerindra Party Chairman Prabowo Subianto who declared Indonesia to be dissolved in 2030 could backfire in the 2019 Presidential Election.

Yunarto said the speech gave the impression that Prabowo is pessimistic about Indonesia.

"The statement will be counterproductive for him electorally," Yunarto told Tempo on Wednesday, March 21. Yunarto said the speech was propagandistic, big talk, and speculative.

In the speech uploaded by Gerindra's social media, Prabowo said, "In other countries, they have made studies, in which the Republic of Indonesia has been declared to be dissolved in 2030," he said.

Yunarto said it would be better if Prabowo offered a solution rather than just criticizing the government.

"It's actually the main variable of society when choosing a leader at the presidential level." The community expects its leader to be charismatic and have political power, as well as to give solutions.

In the video, Prabowo argued about the sovereignty of the country which he said that 80 percent of the state land, only one percent which controlled by the Indonesian.

"It's awful if we talk (about the country's sovereignty), but there's no time for us to pretend anymore," Prabowo said.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/21/055916847/Observer-Prabowos-Speech-Can-Backfire-Him-in-2019-Election

Pre-election politics heating up in Indonesia

Asia Times - March 21, 2018

John McBeth, Jakarta – Nearly one year until Indonesia's parliamentary and presidential polls, speculation is already rife over who President Joko Widodo will tap as his running mate. His choice could, in some ways, determine the tenor and tone of what is expected to be a politically rowdy election season.

With incumbent Vice President Jusuf Kalla legally barred from serving a third term, attention has now turned to former Constitutional Court chief justice Mohammad Mahfud, a defence and later justice minister in the short-lived government of president Abdurrahman Wahid (1999-2001).

Mahfud met recently with Maritime Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan, Widodo's chief political adviser and an old colleague in Wahid's Cabinet, who is tasked with preparing the ground for the president's re-election bid. The polls will be held on April 17, 2019

In the end, the decision rests solely with Widodo, whose choice of Kalla in 2014 was forced upon him by Indonesia Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) leader Megawati Sukarnoputri and the prevailing political climate. This time, as a popular incumbent, the dynamics are different.

Mahfud, 60, is a prominent member of the moderate mass Muslim organization Nahdlaful Ulama, which Wahid headed for decades and which gives him the credentials Widodo may feel he needs to attract voters in the face of growing opposition from Islamic conservatives.

Appointed to a five-year term as Constitutional Court chief justice in 2008, Mahfud was the third jurist to head the country's highest legal body since it was formed six years earlier, though politics began to tinge some of the court's decisions under his watch.

Government sources predict Widodo will not make a final decision until July, with industry minister and newly-elected Golkar party chairman Airlangga Hartarto as another possible vice presidential running mate. Hartarto carries the advantage of Golkar's strong political base and nationwide electoral machinery.

Next year's first ever simultaneous legislative and presidential elections mean coalitions must be formed prior to election day, a departure from previous elections which were followed by months of political horse-trading that hindered the incoming government's ability to get down to business.

There is even talk that if Widodo wins, as is widely expected at this point, his second Cabinet may be announced well in advance of the new administration taking power in October 2019 to ensure it gets a flying start.

In addition to his PDI-P, the Golkar, National Democrat (Nasdem), People's Conscience and United Development (PPP) parties have all declared their support for Widodo. Based on the 2014 election results, that already puts him well over the threshold of 20% of seats or 25% of the popular vote required for him to run.

Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, leader of the fourth-ranked Democrat Party (PD), has yet to decide whether he intends to shift from the neutralist position his former ruling party has maintained since the end of his presidency.

Yudhoyono has been busy promoting his eldest son, failed Jakarta gubernatorial candidate Agus Harimurti, 39, as a prospective vice presidential candidate. Although Agus met recently with Widodo, aides have pointedly told his father that he can only expect to advance his political career "step by step."

The president already appears to be relying more on Golkar than PDI-P to secure his re-election in 2019, given his difficult relationship with Megawati and the party's failure to get fully behind him when rival Prabowo Subianto closed in during the final weeks of the 2014 campaign.

Until now it has looked like 2019 will be a re-run of that race, but Prabowo still appears to be of two minds on whether to run at all because of financial problems that have affected his Great Indonesia Movement Party's (Gerindra) ability to even fund regional elections in June.

With his businessman brother, Hashim Djojohadikusumo, reluctant to spend the same money he did in 2014, the retired general has clearly felt the loss of media tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo, who deserted him for the Widodo camp late last year.

That came only a few months after US President Donald Trump's business partner helped Gerindra fund the successful Jakarta gubernatorial campaign of former education minister Anies Baswedan, who is now being touted as Prabowo's running mate in 2019 despite an unconvincing first year as leader of the Indonesian capital.

Tanoesoedibyo switched sides after prosecutors revived an old charge accusing him of sending threatening messages to the deputy attorney general for special crimes over his alleged involvement in a 2009 tax fraud inquiry. Since then, little has been heard about the case.

Widodo advisor Panjaitan has met twice with Prabowo in recent weeks, during which the Gerindra leader remained non-committal about his plans.

The pair have had a rocky relationship over the years, but government sources say it would be preferable to have Prabowo as the rival candidate rather than someone who might bring new uncertainties into the political equation.

Islamic hard-liners responsible for organizing the mass demonstrations that brought down ethnic Chinese Jakarta governor Basuki Purnama, now languishing in prison on a blasphemy charge, are looking for candidates to compete against Widodo. They apparently hope to cash in on public dissatisfaction over the lack of new political faces.

That might provide a platform for ambitious former armed forces chief Gen Gatot Nurmantyo, but any new candidate would still have to meet the required threshold, which realistically limits the field to a maximum of three presidential candidates.

Panjaitan has yet to create a formal Widodo re-election team, but he has revived Brava Lima, a group of 20 generals and other senior retirees drawn mostly from his 1970 military academy class that played a significant role in getting Widodo across the line in 2014.

At the same time, former Cabinet secretary Andi Widjajanto, 46, has been put in charge of so-called "Team Charlie", made up of about 15 retired military officers from later generations who are committed to helping in the re-election effort.

At this point the president is being advised to only take the weekends off for campaigning, but insiders say he and Kalla have finally reached an accommodation on sharing the work load, with the latter likely to assume a greater role in running the government after October.

The president is enlisting the vice president's help to put in place promised sweeping new reforms across a range of sectors, removing regulatory restrictions he has belatedly realized are significant barriers to the foreign investment needed to expand the economy beyond 5%.

In one recent speech, Widodo angrily railed against the bewildering array of permits confronting foreign mining companies – just one example of how an un-cooperative bureaucracy has stood in the way of allowing Indonesia to compete with countries like Vietnam, now the region's darling for foreign direct investment.

Widodo may have to live with delays in the settlement of various controversial issues – including negotiations on US miner Freeport's forced divestment from the world's biggest gold and second largest copper mine – but he knows that tough decisions are needed now to improve the economy.

They also don't carry the same political risks going into what is widely expected to be a rambunctious if not volatile election season.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/pre-election-politics-heating-indonesia/

Prabowo warns Indonesia may no longer exist by 2030 in fiery speech

Coconuts Jakarta - March 20, 2018

Prabowo Subianto, the former general and current Gerindra Party chairman, seems set to challenge President Joko Widodo once again in 2019 after losing to the one-time mayor of Solo in the 2014 election.

Although Prabowo's candidacy is not yet certain, the Gerindra Party Facebook page recently posted clips for one of his speeches that may give us some insight into what sort of platform he would be running on for the rematch.

The date and place of the speech are not indicated in the video (one senior Gerindra official Detik spoke to said he wasn't sure but said it spoke to Indonesia's current situation). If indeed it is an indication of Prabowo's planned campaign message for 2019, it look like the former general is going to lean hard on economic populism and nationalism as an alternative to the apocalyptic scenario he outlines here.

Prabowo begins by saying that although the symbols of Indonesia, such as the national anthem, exist for now "... in other countries they have made studies where the Republic of Indonesia has been declared no more in 2030."

(After a bit of Googling we couldn't find any references to any such studies but did find this article by consulting group McKinsey Indonesia's saying that Indonesia's fast-growing economy could become the world's 7th largest by 2030. But Prabowo could have access to secret studies we're not aware of...)

He goes on to say:

"They predict that we will be disbanded. Our elites know that 80% of the land in the entire country will be controlled by 1% of our people and that's okay. That almost all assets are controlled by 1% percent and that's okay. That most of our wealth will be taken abroad by those not living in Indonesia and that's okay.

"This is what is destroying our nation, brothers and sisters! The smarter, the higher the position, the more they are cheaters! The more they are cunning! The more they are thieves! We do not feel comfortable talking about this, but there is no time for us to pretend again."

Gerindra Central Executive Board Chairman Ahmad Riza Patria said that he fully agreed with what Prabowo said in the video, arguing that if Indonesia continues to allow its natural resources to be exploited such a scenario could come about.

"What is certain is that Pak Prabowo is a nationalist, he wants to bring back Article 33 of the 1945 Constitution, so that the country's earth, water and natural resources are controlled by the state," Riza told Detik yesterday.

Prabowo, who has already been endorsed as Gerindra's candidate by numerous factions within the party, is expected to formally declare his candidacy in April.

Fadli Zon, a founding member of Gerindra and the deputy speaker of the house, has already indicated that Prabowo would be running on a platform of economic nationalism and populism. He often gives the example of asking people if they feel better off economically now as opposed to before Joko Widodo.

But if that is indeed the message that Prabowo is planning on running with, there's a big question mark on whether it'll resonate with the masses. Indeed, when Fadli Zon appeared on a Kompas TV talk show last year and asked whether their lives had become easier during Jokowi's time in office, most enthusiastically said yes.

To be fair, many of them might have simply been trolling Fadli (who could resist?). But Prabowo beating Jokowi on economic populism will certainly be a challenge. The country's GDP has been growing steadily (if not as fast as some hoped) and despite high unemployment rates Jokowi's overall approval rating remains quite high.

Prabowo's speech also continuously refers to the Indonesian elite 1% not caring about selling off the country. While there's certainly some animosity to tap into regarding the country's huge wealth-gap, but he'll have a tough time painting Jokowi, the former furniture salesman with much man-of-the-people cred, as one of those elites (some would argue that Prabowo and many of his political partners are more deserving of that label).

That's the reason that many political analysts expect Prabowo's campaign to rely heavily on smear tactics in an attempt to characterize Joko Widodo as a bad Muslim (or perpetuate hoaxes that he is secretly a Communist, or Christian, or Chinese) in the hopes that he can use the same protest playbook used to successfully unseat former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in last year's gubernatorial race. But Jokowi seems to have done much to burnish his image as a devout Muslim and crack down on hoaxes lately to insulate himself from such attacks, so that would also seem to be a risky play.

A lot can happen before the 2019 elections, of course, but it looks like the former furniture maker has outmaneuvered the former general for now – in head-to-head surveys the Gerindra chairman consistently lags far behind the incumbent. Prabowo may want to save his apocalyptic vision of Indonesia in 2030 for the next presidential election in 2024.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/prabowo-warns-indonesia-may-no-longer-exist-2030-fiery-speech-preview-campaign-strategy/

SBY calls Democratic Party cadres to support Jokowi government

Tempo - March 19, 2018

Arkhelaus Wisnu Triyogo, Jakarta – Democratic Party Chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or SBY expressed his respect to President Joko Widodo or Jokowi administration that was able to reduce the poverty rate even though several improvements were needed.

"Let's support the current government in achieving economic development goals so that Indonesia will be more acknowledged in the world's eyes," said SBY in the International Women's Day Seminar held by Democratic Faction of House of Representatives, at Nusantara IV Building, Parliament Complex, Senayan, Jakarta, March 19.

He stated Indonesia's economy is gradually growing and people prosperity continues to increase. However, the work needed to be improved as to defeat poverty and be a developed country.

SBY also praised the current government had succeeded in the infrastructure development. He mentioned the development program had conducted since the era of President Soekarno, Suharto, BJ. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Soekarnoputri, and President Joko Widodo.

"We are grateful and we are proud to be the G20 members with the 16th largest economy rankings in the world. However, we are still facing poverty problem," he added.

The sixth president of Indonesia considered women and children were the most affected by poverty issue but women had a huge potential role in the sustainable development. "Women have to be assigned to the central division to help decreasing world poverty rate," said SBY.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/19/055916772/SBY-Calls-Democratic-Party-Cadres-to-Support-Jokowi-Government

Another Suharto makes push to launch Indonesian politics career

Asia Pacific Report - March 19, 2018

Ed Davies and Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Jakarta – The youngest son of former Indonesian president Suharto, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, is making a new push to launch a career in politics at the helm of a party that believes it can cash in on his late father's legacy.

Suharto, who ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years, was brought down by protests in 1998, amid accusations of vast corruption and nepotism benefiting his family and cronies.

Nonetheless, family members have made repeated attempts to get into politics, often seeking to tap into nostalgia about the unity and security under Suharto's government, which was backed by a military that crushed any sign of revolt.

"The vision and mission of this party is to prepare an alternative option for the 2019 elections," Badaruddin Andi Picunang, acting sectary-general of the Berkarya Party, said in an interview at its Jakarta headquarters.

Yearning for stability

Many people still yearned for the stability and the robust economic growth and development, at least in the earlier decades, of the Suharto era, said Picunang. "But now we see killings everywhere, pickpockets and religious leaders attacked," he said.

Hutomo echoed this theme in a news conference after being elected chairman of Berkarya, which means "working" in Indonesian, at a party meeting earlier this month in the city of Solo.

"It is impossible for us to return to the New Order, it has become part of the history," said Hutomo, who is widely known as Tommy, referring to his father's government.

"But what we want to develop and continue are the good things that were carried out by the New Order," he said, highlighting Suharto's rolling five-year development plans.

Berkarya has an ambitious target of winning 80 seats, or about 14 percent of the 575 seats in Parliament. It is mostly being funded by Tommy and associates, according to Picunang.

Political machine

A former racing driver with a playboy reputation, Tommy, 55, made a fortune under his father's powerful patronage. His Humpuss Group of companies held the national monopoly on clove distribution, the key ingredient in Indonesia's favourite sweet-smelling kretek cigarettes.

He was sentenced in 2002 to 15 years in jail for paying a hitman to gun down and kill a supreme court judge, who had convicted him in a graft case. His term was later reduced on appeal and by remissions and he was released in 2007.

In his speech in Solo, Tommy said those who had been convicted and served their sentence, like himself, had the same rights as anyone else.

Many of the members of Berkarya are former members of Golkar, his father's old political machine and still the second-biggest party in Parliament.

Tommy failed in an attempt to win the top job at Golkar and also to get backing from other parties for a bid at the presidency. His sister, Siti Hediati, popularly known as Titiek, has stuck by Golkar and is a member of Parliament.

Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, was sceptical about Tommy and other family members getting much traction from a link to the Suharto legacy.

The nationalist Gerindra party, led by a former son-in-law of Suharto, Prabowo Subianto, had been able to successfully target many of the voters who might support them, he said.

"I think this is one of their last attempts. They have been trying to stay in the mainstream but none could take control of Golkar and if they don't move fast they will be irrelevant," said Basuki.

Source: https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/03/19/another-suharto-makes-push-to-launch-indonesian-politics-career/

Gerindra seeks running mate for Prabowo

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2018

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – The Gerindra Party is seeking a potential candidate to be paired with its chairman Prabowo Subianto in the 2019 presidential race.

Party secretary-general Ahmad Muzani said his party was currently doing an internal survey on the electability of 15 figures, including seven Gerindra cadres. Former Constitutional Court justice Mahfud MD has been mentioned as one of the names on the list.

"Prabowo is [...] considering whether the figure needs to be a member of a political party or not," Muzani said Thursday. "But he has yet to discuss it any further with us [the central executive board]."

Prabowo, widely predicted to be President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's rival in 2019, has yet to publicly announce his intention to run for president again.

Gerindra, however, plans to declare support for Prabowo in April. "Prabowo will definitely run. Gerindra is still convincing other parties to support Prabowo. So far, we've already gained support from [a party] that can help us reach the minimum requirement," Muzani said.

He was referring to the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Gerindra's only ally in the opposition coalition. Together, Gerindra and PKS have a total of 113 seats in the House of Representatives, enough to field a candidate, as the Election Law requires a minimum of 112 seats.

PKS central executive board chairman Mardani Ali Sera said that his party had proposed nine figures as potential running mates for Prabaowo, including party chairman Sohibul Iman, former chairman Anis Matta and West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan.

"We [Gerindra and PKS] will discuss the candidates together. If Gerindra proposes Prabowo as a presidential candidate, then [we] will seek the runningmate. Gerindra should not determine the pair alone," Mardani said. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/17/gerindra-seeks-runningmate-for-prabowo.html

AG Prasetyo agrees to halt legal process on election candidates

Tempo - March 17, 2018

M Rosseno Aji, Jakarta – Attorney General M. Prasetyo expressed his support to the postponing legal process on governor candidates in Regional Head Election 2018 (Pilkada) who allegedly committed corruption.

According to Prasetyo, the postponement will accelerate the election activity. "The delay will help [the election] a lot," he said at his office, Jakarta, Friday, March 16.

Prasetyo explained, based on the regulation, a regional head candidate that had been determined to run in Pilkada could not be replaced. He argued, the ongoing legal process will disrupt the election practice. "If KPK announces the suspect or calls a summon, the suspect's party will face a fine or get charges," he said.

He asserted the delay will not cleanse the crimes conducted by the regional head candidate. The legal process, he continued, can be examined after the election. "The legal process and the election activity can be simultaneously conducted," Prasetyo added.

The statement was conveyed by Prasetyo after Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto asked KPK to halt the release of the regional head candidate name as the suspect. Wiranto stated the postponement was needed to make the election process in order.

Earlier, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Chairman Agus Rahardjo claimed several candidates who joined Pilkada were indicated to involve in a corruption case. Agus stated he would announce the names before the regional election takes place. He argued, the notice will be a consideration for people in choosing their regional head.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/17/055916720/AG-Prasetyo-Agrees-to-Halt-Legal-Process-on-Election-Candidates

Suharto's youngest son in new push to get into Indonesian politics

Reuters - March 17, 2018

Ed Davies and Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Jakarta – The youngest son of former Indonesian president Suharto, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, is making a new push to launch a career in politics at the helm of a party that believes it can cash in on his late father's legacy.

Suharto, who ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years, was brought down by protests in 1998, amid accusations of vast corruption and nepotism benefiting his family and cronies.

Nonetheless, family members have made repeated attempts to get into politics, often seeking to tap into nostalgia about the unity and security under Suharto's government, which was backed by a military that crushed any sign of revolt.

"The vision and mission of this party is to prepare an alternative option for the 2019 elections," Badaruddin Andi Picunang, acting sectary general of the Berkarya Party, said in an interview at its Jakarta headquarters.

Many people still yearned for the stability and the robust economic growth and development, at least in the earlier decades, of the Suharto era, said Picunang. "But now we see killings everywhere, pickpockets and religious leaders attacked," he said.

Hutomo echoed this theme in a news conference after being elected chairman of Berkarya, which means "working" inIndonesian, at a party meeting last weekend in the city of Solo.

"It is impossible for us to return to the New Order, it has become part of the history," said Hutomo, who is widely known as Tommy, referring to his father's government.

"But what we want to develop and continue are the good things that were carried out by the New Order," he said, highlighting Suharto's rolling five-year development plans.

Berkarya has an ambitious target of winning 80 seats, or about 14 percent of the 575 seats in parliament. It is mostly being funded by Tommy and associates, according to Picunang.

Political machine

A former racing driver with a playboy reputation, Tommy, 55, made a fortune under his father's powerful patronage. His Humpuss Group of companies held the national monopoly on clove distribution, the key ingredient in Indonesia's favourite sweet-smelling kretek cigarettes.

He was sentenced in 2002 to 15 years in jail for paying a hitman to gun down and kill a supreme court judge, who had convicted him in a graft case. His term was later reduced on appeal and by remissions and he was released in 2007.

In his speech in Solo, Tommy said those who had been convicted and served their sentence, like himself, had the same rights as anyone else.

Many of the members of Berkarya are former members of Golkar, his father's old political machine and still the second-biggest party in parliament.

Tommy failed in an attempt to win the top job at Golkar and also to get backing from other parties for a bid at the presidency. His sister, Siti Hediati, popularly known as Titiek, has stuck by Golkar and is a member of parliament.

Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, was sceptical about Tommy and other family members getting much traction from a link to the Suharto legacy.

The nationalist Gerindra party, led by a former son-in-law of Suharto, Prabowo Subianto, had been able to successfully target many of the voters who might support them, he said.

"I think this is one of their last attempts. They have been trying to stay in the mainstream but none could take control of Golkar and if they don't move fast they will be irrelevant," said Basuki.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/17/suhartos-youngest-son-in-new-push-to-get-intoindonesian-politics.html

Prabowo vs Widodo: what makes general think election will be a case of

South China Morning Post - March 17, 2018

Jeffrey Hutton – The former special forces general and presidential candidate in Indonesia's last election, Prabowo Subianto, will make another bid for the top job when the country goes to the polls next year to choose its head of state.

A formal announcement is not expected until next month at the earliest. Even so, top officials at Prabowo's party, the Great Indonesian Movement Party, or Gerindra, said they have begun preparations early in a bid to better organise the vast and unwieldy campaign machinery needed to woo a majority of Indonesia's 185 million voters. The preparations are also intended to avoid what they claim were irregularities that cost them the election in 2014.

"He's running," said Fadli Zon, the deputy speaker in Indonesia's parliament and the vice-chairman for Gerindra. "We are confident this time. There were widespread irregularities and the result was close. Our preparation this time will be enough."

A three-star general, who is accused of human rights abuses in East Timor in 1983 and during the anti-Chinese riots in 1998 that ousted his former father-in-law, the dictator Suharto, his candidacy will be a hard sell. In 2014, he lost decidedly as President Joko Widodo tapped into disgust over corruption and poor services.

This time Prabowo, who declined to be quoted for this article, is betting a slower economy will propel him to victory, his senior aides said.

"Economic issues will drive the campaign," Zon said. "If you go to the markets and you ask the people is their life better now than four years ago, they say, 'No. It's hard to find good jobs.'"

In the lead up to the election in 2014, Widodo promised GDP growth of about 7 per cent. Instead it has languished at about 5 per cent despite billions of US dollars being pumped into infrastructure from power plants to ports to better drainage systems.

The International Labour Organisation thinks Indonesian incomes are a third of what they are in neighbouring Thailand or Malaysia.

Adding to Prabowo's fortunes is the narrow field of challengers. Anies Baswedan, the governor of Jakarta, who swept to power on a wave of conservative Muslim support last year, has said he will not stand.

The reformist mayor of Bandung, Ridwan Kamil, is running for governor of West Java. Gatot Nurmantyo may mount a bid but polls at less than 2 per cent, according to February data from Indo Barometer.

Thanks to his squeaky clean image and track record with big infrastructure projects, Widodo enjoys approval ratings ranging between 60 per cent, according to a January survey by Indo Barometer, and 76 per cent, according to a December survey by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting. In a four-way race Widodo enjoys support of 43 per cent according to the Indo Barometer poll, more than double Prabowo's support.

That means defeating Widodo will probably include dirty tricks that paint him as being on the take. That won't be easy, said Kevin O'Rourke, Indonesian affairs analyst and author of the weekly newsletter Reformasi.

"Prabowo has to portray Widodo as corrupt," he said. "Last time they smeared Widodo with everything they had. They will try it again but I don't think Widodo will be any more vulnerable than he was last time."

Maybe so, but those smears – in which Prabowo denied having a role – were effective. Rumours that Widodo was either a Christian, or born in Singapore and of ethnic Chinese descent, were so crippling that his double-digit lead over Prabowo evaporated. Widodo made an eleventh-hour dash to Mecca to burnish his religious credentials just ahead of the vote. In the end, Widodo prevailed with 53 per cent of the vote.

Muhammad Qodari, Indo Barometer's executive director, said Widodo's approval ratings are relatively low. By comparison, Widodo's predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was averaging 80 per cent at this point ahead of the 2009 election.

Adding to Widodo's headaches is the added importance of religion in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country. Following the landslide loss of former Jakarta governor, and close Widodo ally, Basuki Purnama, a Christian of ethnic Chinese descent, religion has become the trump card, Qodari said.

A survey taken two weeks ahead of the election in April last year suggested Purnama, who is better known as Ahok, had an approval rating of 74 per cent. Nevertheless, he lost by a margin of nearly 20 points and was later jailed for insulting the Koran.

However, the wine-drinking, British and Swiss educated Prabowo may be a poor vehicle for religious conservatives. For moderates, accusations that he played a role in the massacre of East Timorese and student protesters may again spook voters to Widodo.

In 1983, soldiers under his command were accused of killing hundreds of East Timorese. In 1998, Prabowo was linked to the abduction of student activists. Later that year he decamped to Jordan after being summoned to account for the allegations. Prabowo was denied a US visa in 2000, it is thought because of his background.

Even so, Gerindra's parliamentary coalition partner, the hardline Muslim Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), could give Prabowo traction. The party has a national network and helped organise the mass rallies in late 2016 that eventually led to Purnama's ouster. Already, Gerindra and PKS have coordinated in their selection of gubernatorial candidates at regional elections particularly on the vote-rich provinces across of Java.

"PKS is willing to work hard, they get out and knock on doors," Qodari said. "That sort of mobilisation of voter turn out can make the difference."

The party expects to woo the electorate with populist policies that seek to roll back some of Widodo's biggest reforms. Reintroducing fuel subsidies to help drive down living expenses is on the table, Zon said.

Widodo eliminated the benefit, which was eating up as much as a fifth of the budget, to free up cash for infrastructure such as toll roads, improved ports and free health care. Widodo had promised that infrastructure investment would fuel the economy and add jobs. Zon said the programme failed and now a more modest approach targeting poor farmers, fishermen and small businesses is the priority.

"Jokowi put the priority onto infrastructure. But it hasn't stimulated economic growth," Zon said referring to Widodo's nickname.

Zon said a Prabowo administration would continue to support the country's graft watchdog, the Corruption Eradication Commission, pointing out Gerindra didn't participate in the parliamentary hearings that wrapped up in January seeking to sanction the agency.

Senior Gerindra party officials say privately they will dispatch volunteers to polling stations at each of the regional elections which are slated for June and at the presidential elections next year to ensure no tampering with ballot boxes. The 8 million-vote margin of victory in 2014 amounted to fewer than 16 votes for each of the country's 550,000 ballot boxes that year.

Prabowo was far from blameless when the country was briefly in limbo following the election result. O'Rourke said polling firms linked to Prabowo's campaign published highly questionable estimates of the final vote to help muddy the outcome and nudge the candidate to victory. Demonstrations by youth groups in the city's downtown area following the election had to be broken up by police using tear gas.

To be sure, Widodo remains the favourite to win. But he'll need to work hard to reach out to the Muslim faithful to assure victory. Qodari said Widodo's priority will be finding a Muslim conservative running mate.

"He will need to choose his VP candidate carefully," Qodari said. "His victory is not secure."

Source: http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2136558/prabowo-vs-widodo-what-makes-general-think-indonesian-election

On the road with Joko Widodo in his quest for a second term

Sydney Morning Herald - March 16, 2018

James Massola, Amilia Rosa & Karuni Rompies, Jakarta – It's 5am at the gates of Jakarta's presidential palace, and our minibus has just been waved into the compound by a couple of sleepy security guards.

After an hour's delay – hurry up and wait will be a recurring theme of the day – members of Indonesian President Joko Widodo's staff finally arrive and we are on our way, heading west.

After months of negotiations with senior officials, Fairfax Media has been granted rare and privileged access to the man universally known as Jokowi ahead of his trip to Sydney for the ASEAN-Australia summit.

The questions that need asking in the Australia-Indonesia relationship are pressing. How can we achieve closer ties, negotiate our differences more amicably, build better trade? How do we work together to negotiate China's growing aspirations in the region? And what kind of country is our nearest neighbour, this sprawling democracy, becoming?

In the meantime, we're on the road. Jokowi is already on the unofficial campaign trail, even though the presidential election is not due until April 2019.

Our immediate destination is the An Nawawi pondok pesantren, or Islamic boarding school, about 70 kilometres from central Jakarta in a conservative village called Tanara. Even at this early hour, the choking Jakarta traffic ensures the drive takes nearly three hours.

A list of school rules stares down at us from the walls of a classroom at the pesantren, as we eat takeaway McDonald's fried chicken at 9am. Stealing, smoking, alcohol, drugs, internet cafes, electronic devices such as mobile phones, writing letters to the opposite sex and joining demonstrations are all banned, the rules state.

Jokowi arrives at 10am and is greeted by thousands of locals, as well as police chiefs, high-ranking military officers, Public Works Minister Basuki Hadimuljono and perhaps most importantly, Ma'ruf Amin, an imam and head of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the roof body of the country's Islamic scholars.

In the baking sun, the president spends half an hour addressing a group of small businesswomen who will be able to access waqf (a form of Islamic finance) loans of 1 million rupiah ($100) to grow their businesses through the new bank in the village.

From there, the president and the imam walk to a nearby tent in which a couple of thousand people have been waiting patiently for two hours in 40-degree heat (hurry up and wait), reciting verses from the Koran and singing songs.

The imam tells the crowd that, under Jokowi, the economy is no longer "top down", but instead built from the "bottom up" (he uses the English terms) and that this president "has always responded to the requests from the people".

Jokowi, himself a former small to medium businessman, urges the people to work hard, to avoid loan sharks who charge 40 per cent interest (charging interest is forbidden in Islam) and to use the new bank to grow their business instead. He is part-business coach, part-president.

On the stump, taking questions from the businesswomen, he is in his element, but in the tent his performance is wooden.

It doesn't matter, though; the orang kecil or "little people" love Jokowi – even in this conservative part of Banten, on the island of Java, where he was out-polled by his rival, former military strongman Prabowo Subianto, in the 2014 presidential election. In 2019, his staff confide, he is leaving nothing to chance.

The blusukan, or surprise visits to local markets of the 2014 campaign, have been swapped for more visits to locations like this religious school. In doing them, Jokowi hopes to head off a re-run of attacks from his political opponents that he is not a good Muslim.

Even his choice of outfit – a traditional sarong and songkok, or black prayer cap – is no accident.

The anti-establishment president

It's hard to overstate the significance of Jokowi's victory in 2014, which upended the established political order in Jakarta and elevated a small businessman-turned-politician from outside the Javanese elites to the nation's top political job.

Jokowi already enjoys a commanding lead in the polls over Prabowo, the man he defeated 53-47 per cent in 2014, and who is likely to run again. Polling published in January in The Jakarta Post by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting showed 53 per cent of respondents backed Jokowi, when asked to choose from a list of candidates – of which there are many at this point. Prabowo was the next most popular candidate listed, but secured just 18.5 per cent.

But the results in Java in 2014, which according to the Home Affairs ministry will have about 108 million of the 196 million eligible voters across Indonesia in 2019, set out the challenge for the president.

While Jokowi claimed strong majorities in the Javanese provinces of Jakarta, Central Java, East Java and Yogyakarta, Prabowo thrashed him by close to 20 percentage points in the more conservative provinces of West Java and Banten. This is Jokowi's weak point, and he knows it.

As the Lowy Institute's Aaron Connolly puts it, "Jokowi and his people are worried he will be attacked over identity politics. In 2014, newspaper ads ran saying he was a Christian, or Singaporean-Chinese. He made a minor pilgrimage to [Mecca in] Saudi Arabia to deal with that".

"Jokowi is from a moderate stream of Islam, the Nadhlatul Ulama, they are considered to be more Sufi-influenced and have more traditional Javanese beliefs too," Connolly says.

With an August deadline to choose a vice-presidential running mate fast approaching, the president is making regular public appearances with a vast array of candidates from different political parties who have hitched their wagon to his own PDI-P party in the hope of forming an electoral alliance and securing the VP slot.

After the pesantren, our van joins the 30-car presidential motorcade as it winds its way through small villages.

The roads are potholed and lined with people, and the president's black Mercedes (number plate Indonesia 1) slows down frequently so he can throw notebooks and T-shirts to children.

After an hour on the road we stop for lunch with the president and those same senior officials, army and police officers in a modest restaurant. Already people are starting to gather outside. As lunch winds down, Jokowi stands and moves to an anteroom. A senior adviser beckons us over to follow.

Over 35 minutes, a confident and in-control president answers our rapid-fire questions in English, in a deep baritone voice, and only sometimes refers to his notes.

He wants deeper engagement with Australia, suggests we should join ASEAN, praises the defence and counter-terrorism cooperation between our two nations and welcomes foreign investment from the region.

Jokowi's vision for an open, liberalised Indonesian economy is clear, despite the undercurrents of protectionist economics that run through Indonesia society. On the vexed question of China and its growing economic and political influence in the region, he will not bite.

His nation, he adds, is not a claimant state in the South China Sea, referring to the dispute over a tiny portion of the North Natuna Sea which China claims is within its so-called "nine-dash line". "They understand, they understand," he says of China.

Finally we arrive at domestic politics and the looming election. The 2016 and 2017 attacks on an ally of Jokowi, the Christian governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, ended with the governor jailed for blasphemy and raised serious questions over whether Indonesia could still be considered a moderate Muslim nation.

The case gained worldwide headlines and stoked fears that the 2019 presidential election would be a rerun of 2014, and that the president would come under attack from conservative Islamic parties. Is that what we can now expect from Indonesian politics?

"Last year we had 101 elections, this year we have 171 elections, last year not only [elections] in Jakarta, everywhere in the regencies, in the cities, in the provinces, there are elections this year also. There are differences in Jakarta, that is politics," Jokowi says.

"Now, I think our people can learn from last year's election, not only from Jakarta but also from the other regions, the other cities, the other provinces. Our people can every year learn from the elections. I am sure then our politics can be more stable. In Indonesia, our constitution respects freedom of speech and freedom to form groups."

'Moderate, tolerant, modern'

Jokowi dismisses suggestions that foreign fighters returning from Syria or Iraq could pose a problem for Indonesia, as they have done in Australia and elsewhere in the region.

"No, no. We are the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia. We have 220 million Muslims in Indonesia. I think if there's only one, two or three people do this, it is very small, it is very small," he says.

"We are moderate Muslims, tolerant Muslims, we are modern Muslims. For example, 220 million Muslims... imagine if just 5 per cent are radical, or 10 per cent are radical that means 22 million, 5 per cent that means 11 million."

"As you know we have Muhammadiyah, we have Nahdlatul Ulama, our biggest moderate Muslim organisations. We, the government, Muhammadiyah and NU together we have to say to the people that Islam in Indonesia is modern Islam, tolerant Islam."

Later, the Australian National University's Marcus Mietzner, an expert on Indonesian electoral politics, tells Fairfax Media not to listen to Jokowi's answers but to "look at his actions".

"He is pandering to the Islamic community. He has dramatically increased the frequency of his visits to Islamic boarding schools, he is cultivating Islamic leaders, promising to include the Islamic community in land distributions and address inequality. All of this he has done to anticipate the threat towards him," Mietzner says.

"And finally he is moving to the last step, finding a VP candidate acceptable to the Muslim community. That's what the search is about. He is saying one thing at a normative level, what he would like to face [in the election], but preparing for a different reality."

Rudd-like?

Interview over, Jokowi stands and enters a prayer room – cameras flashing all the while – and then leaves the restaurant. A huge crowd has gathered outside, surrounding Indonesia 1, waiting to catch a glimpse of the president and perhaps even a selfie.

As his staff usher him towards the limo, he pauses. Hurry up and wait. Jokowi walks over to crowd and starts shaking hands and posing for photos.

A woman throws herself at his feet, crying hysterically, relaying a story about how the railway company has forced her out of her home. Almost everyone else is ecstatic.

Your correspondent has only ever seen one other politician enjoy the same sort of rapturous welcome up close – former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

Unlike Rudd, though, Jokowi is the real deal, and is in the box seat to secure a second term and 10 years as the leader of the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

The question remains, though: what sort of compromises will he need to make to get there?

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/on-the-road-with-joko-widodo-in-his-quest-for-a-second-term-20180316-p4z4mx.html

Millions of indigenous people may lose voting rights: Alliance

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2018

Gemma Holliani Cahya, Minahasa, North Sulawesi – Around three million indigenous people in areas across Indonesia may not be able to participate in the 2018 regional elections and 2019 legislative and presidential elections because they do not have e-ID cards, an alliance said on Thursday.

Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) secretary general Rukka Sombolinggi said around one million out of the three million indigenous people lived in conservation areas, which did not belong to any village or other administrative area.

Another one million are native faith followers, Rukka went on to say. Although the Constitutional Court has granted them the right to state their beliefs on their e-ID cards, they are still facing problems when they want to cite their religious preferences, she added.

"Meanwhile, the remaining one million people live in rural areas, which are quite difficult for information and population administrative services personnel to reach. They are off the government's radar," Rukka told journalists on Thursday during the 5th AMAN National Working Meeting in Minahasa regency, North Sulawesi.

Rukka said her institution aimed to discuss the matter immediately with the General Elections Commission (KPU). "Every Indonesian must have the right to vote," she said.

Therefore, everyone in the country must have an e-ID card. "This is not only about voting. This is giving them right to be registered as an Indonesia citizen so their children can go to school, have a birth certificate and have the chance of a better life," Rukka said.

Established in 1999, AMAN represents around 17 million members of more than 2,300 indigenous communities across Indonesia. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/16/millions-of-indigenous-people-may-lose-voting-rights-alliance.html

Police criticized for halting legal process of election candidate

Tempo - March 16, 2018

Arkhelaus Wisnu Triyogo, Jakarta – Gerindra Party Gen. Secretary Ahmad Muzani criticized the order issued by Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian who asked for any legal processes entangling regional head candidates to be temporarily halted.

"This is a political and legal matter clashing together," said Muzani at the Parliamentary Complex at Thursday, March 15.

Tito Karnavian gave an order to temporarily halt the legal proceedings of regional heads that have indications of being involved in criminal offenses. The reason was to avoid the electability of regional head candidates being tarnished ahead of the elections.

Tito claimed that his decision was related to the principle of justice for every candidate that competes in the simultaneous regional elections (pilkada).

His policy is a stark contrast to what the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) do. The anti-graft agency said that it would announce the identities of regional leader candidates that are guilty of corruption. Muzani said that KPK has succeeded to place itself as an institution that cannot be intervened.

The Gerindra General Secretary said that the government is merely maintaining the country's political stability towards the upcoming regional election, which he argues is erasing the principle of everyone is equal before the law.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/16/055916694/Police-Criticized-for-Halting-Legal-Process-of-Election-Candidate

Fake news & black campaigns

Police say fake egg hoax is driven by a deeper motive

Tempo - March 22, 2018

Taufiq Siddiq, Jakarta – Indonesian National Police Inspector General Setyo Wasisto initially suspects that the motive behind the recent fake egg hoax is to spread fear and merely scare people away from consuming eggs. "It's to scare people from eating eggs," he said on Thursday.

However, Setyo reminded that this cannot be taken lightly since eggs in Indonesia are one of the essential sources for protein, "This can cause bring out a long-term effect when children nowadays are afraid to consume eggs, they would not get sufficient protein during their growth period and later on in their adulthood," said Setyo.

The fake eggs hoax was first known to originate from a video that went viral throughout social media. The video shows a man at a market that police say is in Johar Baru Jakarta, who could be seen inspecting an egg by cracking open its shell to evaluate its egg whites and its yolk.

The man in the video said that the egg was a fake since he claims that it was made from elastic silicone and covered in plastic.

Setyo revealed that the hoax had economic implications for egg farmers in Blitar that saw their income drop by 30 percent-40 percent because people were hesitant to buy eggs.

Inspector General Setyo Wasisto guaranteed that fake eggs do not exist since it would not be economically viable to produce fake eggs using advanced technology compared to the price eggs are currently sold at.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/22/055916882/Police-say-Fake-Egg-Hoax-is-Driven-by-a-Deeper-Motive

Report unveils Muslim Cyber Army's modus, purpose

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2018

Kharishar Kahfi, Jakarta – While recent arrests of alleged Muslim Cyber Army (MCA) members has shed light on the group's network and online operations, several questions remain: what is this organization and how does it operate?

Late last month, the national cyberpolice uncovered a syndicate called the Family MCA, which allegedly spread provocative rumors and hate speech ranging from the resurrection of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) to the persecution of ulema through various social media platforms.

Six people have been arrested from different areas in Indonesia on suspicion of masterminding the shadow group.

A report released by digital rights group the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) on Tuesday revealed more details on the organization, including its method of attack and purpose.

SAFEnet regional coordinator Damar Juniarto said the study found a connection between the MCA and vigilantism across the country last year.

The MCA was suspected of being behind a viral video that invited viewers to track down people who had insulted Islam. The video, which displays a logo of the "Blasphemer Hunting Team", was known to be related to a Facebook page named "Database of People Wanted by the Muslim Community", which included a list of people accused of insulting Islam with their personal information.

"After personal information was displayed on Facebook pages, vigilantism would begin within two to five days. [Mass] organizations such as the Islam Defenders Front [FPI] typically harassed and intimidated the accused person into issuing an apology and/or dragged the person to the police and demanded they detain him or her for offending Islam," Damar wrote. SAFEnet, in cooperation with the antipersecution network, said it found evidence that the shadow group had actively manipulated the public to carry out vigilantism, such as through the creation of fake accounts mimicking the profiles of real people.

"[They would] use these profiles to spread information designed to infuriate or offend the Muslim community."

This modus, SAFEnet said, had been used several times, with an example in Bintan, Riau Islands province, where the shadow group made a fake social media account for activist Parlindungan Sinurat and used it to publish a post considered to be insulting toward a verse in the Quran.

A mob responded to the post by going to Parlindungan's house. The police later named Parlindungan a defamation suspect.

According to the report, police recently discovered that the group had produced material that aimed to undermine former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama while he was seeking reelection in 2017.

Several scholars have said Ahok's failed reelection bid was caused by sectarian issues. He is currently in prison after the court found him guilty of blasphemy for suggesting that some people had abused a Quranic verse to block his bid.

SAFEnet said the MCA was currently active in West Java, Central Java and East Java, where a gubernatorial election will be held in June. "Our monitoring has shown that MCA accounts and bots have been deployed to support at least one of the candidates in West Java," it claimed.

While the rights group said the MCA comprised several variants, it was mainly focused on discrediting President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who seeks reelection in the 2019 presidential election. "The MCA has played an important role in keeping issues alive that were prominent in 2014, sharpening them further and deepening social conflict."

"Their endgame is to replace Jokowi during the 2019 presidential election, as regime change in Indonesia is usually followed by prominent social conflict and events," Damar told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The report echoed a statement made by Savic Ali, a researcher with the department of communications and information of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim organization. The researcher said content produced by the MCA was more political rather than ideological. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/21/report-unveils-muslim-cyber-armys-modus-purpose.html

Money, politics behind spread of falsehoods in Indonesia: Founder of

Channel News Asia - March 16, 2018

Jalelah Abu Baker, Singapore – Falsehoods are created and spread online in Indonesia for economic and political reasons with no regard for the consequences, said the founder and chairman of Mafindo, an anti-hoax community, on Friday (Mar 16).

Mr Septiaji Eko Nugroho said in a country with low literacy levels like Indonesia, this situation is "quite worrying", adding that the spread of falsehoods has taken a toll.

Citing some examples in his oral and written representations to the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, Mr Nugroho said a mob in North Sumatra destroyed several holy places in 2016, acting on disinformation spread through chat apps.

In 2017, in West Kalimantan, a father who was sending rice to his children was beaten to death by a mob that suspected him of being a child kidnapper. At the time, false information on "massive" child kidnapping was being spread in the country through social media and chat apps.

People have died after following false procedures for their health issues found on the Internet and social media, he said.

Financial losses have also been reported from Ponzi schemes online, with the Authority of Financial Services in Indonesia reporting the loss of tens of trillion rupiahs, he added.

In reply to a question from committee member Sun Xueling during his oral representation, Mr Nugroho said the disinformation does not only affect the lowly-educated but also highly-educated people in Indonesia.

"The consequences of the falsehoods online can be similar from Indonesia to Singapore society," he said in his written representation.

Money, politics motivations behind disinformation

Mr Nugroho said money is one motivation behind the spread of disinformation, citing a confession video he was shown on a live television show last year.

The man in the video was behind several "rogue" websites and claimed he collected 300 million rupiah (S$29,000) to 500 million rupiah monthly from ads on his websites, he said.

"He confessed that he doesn't care about the nature of the information on his websites, as long as he can clickbait the people, he would produce any information including the falsehoods," he said.

Some political powers or ideological groups in the country also try to influence people on social media through disinformation, Mr Nugroho said, citing the arrest of a group called Saracen last year, which was paid to spread political and ideological disinformation.

"Social media and chat apps are becoming the major place of public opinion debate, even more than on the mainstream media," he said.

People spreading falsehoods local, highly educated

Mr Nugroho said those engaged in disinformation activities Indonesia are locals, with the language barrier as a possible reason for foreigners not doing so.

These people are also highly educated and holding a "good job", citing a report from an expert witness for the Indonesian police in their investigations into several disinformation cases, Mr Nugroho said.

While the country's low literacy makes it easy for misinformation to spread, there are other contributing factors. He pointed to the polarisation among people with different ethnicities, religions and political affiliations.

Indonesia working to contain falsehoods

Several efforts are being undertaken to tackle deliberate online falsehoods in Indonesia. These include mandating the registration of prepaid mobile SIM cards, upgrading the hardware infrastructure of the Ministry of Communication and Information, and adding systems to filter negative content.

The Indonesian government has also initiated a national digital literacy movement called Siberkreasi, which Mafindo is part of, Mr Nugroho said.

Indonesia also has a law prohibiting the creation and sharing of fake information, he added. The Indonesian Police have, to date, caught more than 20 suspects for this. The police also conduct "cyber patrol" with "cyber troops", he added.

Mafindo is part of the ecosystem to combat online falsehood with several initiatives of its own, including fact-checking.

Since August 2017, Mafindo has had six full-time fact-checkers and one programmer working on debunking falsehoods and publishing the results on their website.

"This website also acts as the central database of misinformation and disinformation in Bahasa (Indonesia)," Mr Nugroho said.

The organisation even has created a custom Google search engine, Mr Nugroho said. The "clean" search engine can be accessed through an app launched in February this year. The app has since been downloaded a few thousands of times, he said.

"We only list sites that, in Indonesia, are legitimate, for example, mainstream media that are listed in the Press Council," he added.

With more than 170 cities and provinces holding their elections this year, and Indonesia' general and presidential elections coming up next year, Mafindo is initiating Hoax Crisis Centre in three provinces – Central Java, West Java and West Kalimantan.

People could get clarifications on issues and seek facts in disputed information at these crisis centres, Mr Nugroho said.

"We will gather the stakeholders, the government, the police, the election supervisory board, netizens and bloggers, community and religious leaders, academics to form an anti-hoax ecosystem, so that we could beat any online falsehoods in a quicker and efficient fashion," he said.

Given that low literacy is a major contributing factor behind the spread of disinformation, Mr Nugroho said Mafindo also engages significantly in digital literacy education.

"We have our volunteers at 15 cities to enter the schools, the mosque, the church, to deliver the message how to be more wise and responsible when using social media, and how to avoid falsehoods and how to detect them," he said.

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/money-politics-spread-falsehoods-indonesia-founder-mafindo-10048826

Sociologist comment on the danger of hoax infested political year

Tempo - March 15, 2018

Budiarti Utami Putri, Jakarta – Gadjah Mada University sociologist Arie Sujito said that hoax and hate speech that commodifies issues of ethnicity and religion has intensified heading towards the 2018 simultaneous regional election and 2019 presidential election.

Arie argues that hoax-related issues are a threat towards democracy and Indonesia's nationalism if it is not quickly handled. He urged the police to investigate the intellectual actors and funders behind what seems to be a systematic attempt.

"We urge and trust that the police will be able to expose the perpetrators, funders, and even the intellectual actors behind these hoaxes," said Arie in a public discussion on hoax at the Digital Culture Syndicate in Jakarta yesterday.

According to him, hoaxes and hate speech has proven to cause numerous conflicts and a crisis of confidence that is a major threat towards the quality of Indonesia's democracy in the future. "That is where the anger and social conflict occurs, because of hoaxes," said Arie.

Nahdalatul Ulama Online Director Muhammad Syafi' Alielha (Savic Ali) said that hoax is the consequence of a political battle rather than political identity. "Power struggle and the desire to eliminate other in a zero-sum game battle has made hoaxes continue to thrive," said Savic.

Savic saw that almost every major political momentum in Indonesia are exposed to hoaxes which include the upcoming regional elections and the presidential election that can potentially make hoaxes continue to prosper.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/15/055916651/Sociologist-Comment-on-the-Danger-of-Hoax-Infested-Political-Year

Indonesia battles fake news as elections loom

Agence France Presse - March 15, 2018

Harry Pearl – Indonesia is battling a wave of fake news and online hate speech ahead of presidential elections in 2019, as a string of arrests underscore fears it could crack open social and religious fault lines in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

The pluralist nation's reputation as a bastion of tolerance has been tested in recent months, as conservative groups exploit social media to spread lies and target minorities.

Police have cracked down, rounding up members of the Muslim Cyber Army (MCA), a cluster of loosely connected groups accused of using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to attack the government and stoke religious extremism.

Two of the group's most high-profile falsehoods were claims that dozens of Islamic clerics had been assaulted by leftists and that Indonesia's outlawed communist party was on the rise, according to police.

Communism – and its hallmark atheist beliefs – remains a taboo subject in Indonesia, where bloody purges under the Suharto dictatorship in the mid-1960s killed half a million suspected leftists.

Gatot Eddy Pramono, the National Police's head of social affairs, has said the group wants to destabilize government and "create social conflict".

Although the Southeast Asian nation has seen Internet hoaxes before – including smear campaigns against President Joko Widodo during the 2014 presidential elections – the recent clampdown reflects authorities' mounting unease about their possible impact on election campaigning.

Indonesia will hold simultaneous regional elections in June, ahead of a presidential ballot in 2019.

Last month, the communications ministry announced it was deploying new software to identify fake news websites, while Widodo – who has battled false Internet claims that he is a communist – inaugurated a new cyber security agency in January.

Cyber hoaxes

Indonesia's problem with internet hoaxes and misinformation campaigns reached fever pitch in the lead up to elections in Jakarta in late 2016 and early 2017, with incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, nicknamed Ahok, bearing the brunt of it.

Ahok – the city's first Christian and ethnically Chinese leader – was lambasted by Islamic hardliners after an edited video appeared to show him insulting the Koran.

The allegations drew hundreds of thousands of conservative Muslims onto the streets of Jakarta in major protests, and led to the once-popular Ahok – an ally of Widodo – being jailed for blasphemy after losing the election to a Muslim challenger.

The Muslim Cyber Army played a pivotal role in disseminating content attacking Ahok and non-Muslims.

"MCA was organizing and agitating with this case," said Savic Ali, director of the media department at Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest moderate Muslim organization. "There was a clear sentiment about religion in many of its accounts."

The group has at least four ideologically driven clusters that spread inflammatory material with the help of bots – software programmes that run repetitive tasks – or by hacking into opponents' online accounts, said Damar Juniarto, Indonesia coordinator for digital rights group SAFENET.

One cluster pushed radical Islam and the establishment of a caliphate, while others supported conservative political and military figures opposed to Widodo.

"They pose a threat to the national election in 2019," Juniarto said. "What they want to do now, in 2018, is copy what happened in Jakarta in other parts of the country."

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/15/indonesia-battles-fake-news-as-elections-loom.html

After saying he'd 'clobber' communists, Jokowi now says he'll 'clobber'

Coconuts Jakarta - March 15, 2018

The existence of the long banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) still remains a highly controversial political topic more than 50 years after the country's bloody anti-communist purge.

Just last week, chaos broke out at a discussion on the PKI in Jakarta after the organizers said they were going to read a declaration that there was no evidence the PKI still exist and that communist hoaxes were being used for political purposes.

Many of the hoaxes about the PKI that have been spread on Indonesian social media have accused President Joko Widodo of secretly being a member of the banned party (despite the fact, that he has often brought up in his own exasperated defense, that he was just a toddler when the party was eradicated).

But some would say Jokowi has himself partially to blame, as he had previously talked about the PKI as if it was in some way still an actual threat to Indonesia (and ordered the police to act as such).

For example in July 2017, he told reporters he was ready to fight the communists, if somebody would just show them to him.

"The question is, where are they (the PKI)? Where?" the president asked at the time. "If you show them me to me, I will gebuk (clobber) them immediately because the law is clear."

But following the arrest of several people alleged to be members of a group known as the Muslim Cyber Army and accused of spreading fake news about the resurgence of the PKI and their killing of Islamic scholars, Jokowi seems to have given up on the pretense of clobbering communist, saying that he will now clobber those spreading the hoaxes about him being PKI.

"This why, sometimes I get annoyed because I look for the people (spreading the lies about me being PKI) and I cannot find them. Be careful, if I find them I will clobber them," Jokowi said while handling out land certificates in Serang, Banten, yesterday as quoted by Kompas.

Jokowi then asked that people not be taken in by such slander and hoaxes so that the unity of Indonesia can be maintained.

There is no credible evidence that the PKI exists in any shape or form in modern Indonesia. But decades of anti-communist propaganda under Suharto's New Order regime has allowed conspiracy theories about secret PKI plots to flourish even today.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/saying-hed-clobber-communists-jokowi-now-says-hell-clobber-communist-rumor-spreaders/

Nationalism & state ideology

Megawati, Tito agree to employ 443,000 police personnel to promote

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2018

Kharishar Kahfi, Jakarta – Former president and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri visited the National Police headquarters on Wednesday to meet the police's top brass ahead of her inauguration as the lead adviser for the Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education (BPIP).

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Setyo Wasisto said the former president discussed future programs about spreading Pancasila's values with the top brass, including police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian.

"There are a large number of our personnel across the country – around 443,000 – who are suitable to promote the state ideology of Pancasila," Setyo said after the meeting, adding that both institutions might sign a memorandum of understanding in the future.

Megawati, who was accompanied by former vice president and BPIP adviser Try Sutrisno and Presidential Working Unit for the Implementation of the State Ideology of Pancasila head Yudi Latif, was greeted by Tito with a ceremony when she arrived at the headquarters.

"The ceremony was held because Ibu Megawati is an honorary guest due to her position as former president. A similar ceremony was also held for other honorary guests," Setyo said.

Last Wednesday, Yudi met with Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto to discuss the same topic. The TNI has agreed to deploy its personnel to promote Pancasila to the people. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/21/megawati-tito-agree-to-employ-443000-police-personnel-to-promote-pancasila.html

Environment & natural disasters

Palm oil environmental issues stressed amid negative campaign fears

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2018

Moses Ompusunggu, Jakarta – Joining the wave of what the industry has described as a "negative campaign" against palm oil, three documentaries on oil palm plantations have been released and two of them have garnered international recognition.

One documentary, Austrian filmmaker Werner Boote's The Green Lie, was screened at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, the Berlinale, last month. Part of the film was shot in Muarojambi regency, Jambi, during the forest fires in 2015.

Another one, American-Indonesian Ashram Shahrivar's Sigek Cokelat (Chocolate Bar), was screened at the Colorado Environmental Film Festival in the US and at the London International World Cinema event.

The most recent is the work of renowned documentary filmmaker, Dandhy Laksono's Watchdoc, titled Asimetris. The film was launched this month and has circulated in the country. The three share one thing in common: they set out to explain the palm oil industry's detrimental effect on the environment.

Their international and nationwide reception appears to be just in time as the world puts the sustainability of the palm oil industry under greater scrutiny. The industry helps in the production of everyday items in our life like soap, cooking oil, cosmetics and chocolate bars, but has long been linked to deforestation in rainforest countries, including Indonesia.

Ashram said he wanted Sigek Cokelat to be an "eye-opening" experience on what was really happening in West Kalimantan palm plantations, referring to the decades-long deforestation that has reduced the habitat of orangutans, while people enjoyed chocolate, the production of which uses palm oil.

The Green Lie address the same issue. "The fact is that [the palm oil industry] has taken over ancestral lands, damaged the environment and has even violated human rights," said Feri Irawan, an environmentalist in Jambi, who appears in The Green Lie, which was nominated for best documentary award in the Berlinale in February.

That kind of criticism has been strongly voiced also by international NGOs, leading to what palm oil producers – notably Indonesia and Malaysia – have called discriminatory and protectionist policies, such as the European Parliament's approval in January of a bill that will limit the use of palm oil as transportation fuel starting from 2022 and Norway's ban in 2017 on the public procurement and use of palm oil-based biofuel.

The policies could hurt Indonesia's exports, the country's authorities and business players warn. As the world's largest palm oil producer, Indonesia exported 31 million tons of palm oil last year, or 75 percent of Indonesia's total output, bringing US$22.9 billion in foreign exchange revenue.

"Palm oil is one of primary elements of Indonesia's national interest, notably because it is related to the prosperity of 17 million Indonesian citizens, including smallholder farmers, who directly and indirectly depend on the palm oil industry," the Indonesian Embassy in Brussels said in a statement after the European Parliament's move.

International communities have singled out Indonesian oil palm plantations in the chorus of criticism of environmental aspects of the biofuel industry, Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki) board member Fadhil Hasan said on Thursday.

Fadhil gave an instance of the European Union's stance on Argentina, the world's leading soy exporter and biggest provider of biodiesel made from its derivatives. "For Argentina, it was the trade aspect that was highlighted. The environmental aspect was not highlighted," said Fadhil.

The EU set duties in November 2013 of 8.8 percent to 20.5 percent for Indonesian biodiesel producers and between 22 percent and 25.7 percent for Argentine biodiesel producers, in both cases to apply for five years.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld Argentina's complaint on the bloc's decision in an appeal ruling in October 2016 and ruled in favor of Indonesia, which also challenged the decision, in January this year.

But there was no punitive action proposed by the European Parliament on Argentina like was announced for Indonesia, Fadhil said, referring to the calls for the banning of palm oil in biofuels in 2021, which was based on environmental concerns.

According to a rating created by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Argentina is among the top 10 countries that destroy their forests the most, and the FAO calculates the loss has amounted in more than 7.5 million hectares since 1990, environmental news organization Mongabay reported in 2016.

Greenpeace's forest campaign in Argentina, Hernan Giardini, told Mongabay that "the advance of genetically modified soy production since the mid-1990s until now, and the intensive cattle raising in the north" are the main causes of forest loss in the country.

Gapki has stated on its website that when talking about global deforestation, the accusations against palm oil are "over the top", especially if compared with deforestation resulting from soy plantations and cattle ranching.

[Jon Afrizal contributed to this article from Jambi.]

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/22/palm-oil-industry-in-spotlight-amid-heightened-environmental-concerns.html

Animal rights & welfare

Jakarta has a serious cat problem, containing it is dirty work

ABC News - March 19, 2018

Anne Barker – The battle to control hungry and mangy animals, re-home them and keep the city rabies free is confronting, but a weekly necessity for a group of Indonesian cat catchers.

It's hard to go out in Jakarta without stumbling on a feral feline somewhere – hanging around a shop or sitting at a bus stop perhaps – usually scrounging for leftover food.

Some areas are worse than others and Petamburan, a run-down area in the city's south-west, is overrun by cats.

But these are not your typical domestic pets that sit on your lap and purr with affection. These are hungry, mangy, dirty things with missing fur and facial wounds still raw from the latest fight. A Jakarta has been free of rabies since 2004, but it takes vigilance to keep it that way. In a mostly Muslim country, where dogs are not so popular, cats pose the biggest threat of the disease and that means government vets need to go out with nets, at least two to three times a week, to keep the city's cat population under control.

"People from other areas often dump cats at the market here," says Handono, the village head.

"Then they breed, so people start feeding them but they don't clean up after them and they leave their faeces lying around. We're concerned about rabies. If the cats were pets then owners would vaccinate them, but these strays aren't vaccinated."

The ABC visited Petamburan with Jakarta's chief vet Hasudungan Sidabalok and his team of cat catchers. All men donned thick rubber gloves and face masks for protection. It was immediately clear why they needed them.

Every minute or so the catchers would spot a cat prowling along the street or peering warily from a corner. Quickly they would pounce, often grabbing the cat hard by the tail, and trapping a now angry animal inside the net.

The cats were then carried by the scruff of the neck – still inside the net, yowling and scratching – and placed in one of several large cages in the back of the ute.

The more a cat tried to bite or scratch itself free, the more roughly the catcher pushed back – squeezing it with brute force into the cage before it or any other cats could escape.

With every newcomer to the cage, the cats inside would hiss and scratch in rage. First two, then five, 10 or more cats in a single cage, all screeching and spitting at each other – and at us.

It wasn't a pretty sight, or smell, and the stench of cat pee was overpowering.

Standing well back from the cages we could see the spray and saliva of more than a dozen cats shooting into the air. But it wasn't only cats the catchers had to contend with.

'Crazy cat woman' of Petamburan

A woman wearing Hello Kitty pyjamas cries in a doorway while city vets inspect her cats.

Upstairs in a nearby block of flats, Wenny Triastuti is known as the "crazy cat woman" of Petamburan.

In the 14 years she has lived here, she has collected dozens of stray cats from the streets and taken them in. On the day we visit she's wearing Hello Kitty pyjamas.

She has two flats in fact – one for herself and one for the cats – and there are 16 cats inside in cages, and more outside on the landing.

These are clearly well-fed and much-loved cats, with healthy fur and regular meals but the flat is tiny and neighbours have complained.

"She claims to be an animal lover," Dr Sidabalok said. "But that place is not suitable for an animal. They're all caged. There's no sun in that space. And the stench of the place, the neighbours can smell it."

When Dr Sidabalok's team tries to take the cats, Ms Triastuti bursts into tears and puts up a fight, screaming at the cat catchers in fear.

"They said I'm disturbing the area but how is that possible? I never bother anyone and I don't ask them for money," she said.

"Why are you doing this to me? They don't poop on the floor. I clean my cats. If they get sick I call the vet. They got the flu recently and I had them vaccinated."

Eventually, the catchers leave the cats inside Ms Triastuti's apartment but seize the cages on the landing and take them down to the ute.

A never-ending problem

By now the catchers have collected 43 cats. They take them to a quarantine centre where old or sick cats are euthanased and younger, healthier cats are put up for adoption.

"We will sterilise them at first. We'll castrate the males and females we'll spay," Dr Sidabalok said.

"After that we'll vaccinate them against rabies and then we'll give them proper food and put them up for adoption by people who have homes suitable for a pet."

And within a week or two the team of cat catchers will return to Petamburan once more to carry out the whole operation again.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-19/inside-jakartas-battle-to-control-feral-cats/9541636

LBGT & same-sex marriage

Did Australia miss its chance to address LGBT abuse in Indonesia?

Gay Star News - March 21, 2018

Shannon Power – Australia and other Asian leaders may have missed a golden opportunity to confront Indonesia on the increasing persecution of LGBTI people there.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit over the weekend in Sydney. The summit was for ASEAN members including; Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Cambodia, Brunei Darussalam, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.

Many hoped human rights in the region would be a top priority for discussion. Much of the mainstream media attention was focused on the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's growing abuse of power.

But LGBTI advocates were also hopeful Turnbull would directly address the LGBT crackdown on the LGBT community with Indonesian President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.

Advocates have been concerned about the pending criminalization of homosexuality in Indonesia, the targeting of trans women and ongoing raids at the homes, businesses and social gatherings of suspected gays and lesbians.

Australia and Indonesia are close neighbors and share a pragmatic, if at times, tense relationship.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) described Indonesia as one 'Australia's most important bilateral relationships'. The two countries regularly hold high-level meetings, an important trade partnership and the island of Bali is an extremely popular holiday option for Australian tourists. Islamic extremism

The ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, represents the interests of LGBTI people in the region. Its regional coordinator, Ryan Silverio, said the increasing persecution of LGBTI people was 'a symptom of an aggressive rise of Islamic extremism in the country'.

'We are worried that the anti-LGBT rhetoric by government officials and other key figures in society, not to mention leaders of educational institutions, that religious extremism is entering the mainstream of Indonesia's political, social and cultural domains,' Silverio told Gay Star News (GSN).

'Should Indonesia pass a law criminalizing LGBT people, we see it as tantamount to bowing down to the will of extremist groups whose values and actions run counter to democratic values Indonesia ought to uphold.'

Silverio questioned whether Australia's millions of dollars of investment to stop Islamic extremism in the region provided 'direct benefits to LGBT persons who are already caught within the fangs of Islamic extremism.'

The Australian Government would not reveal was said in the closed door meeting with Jokowi but the Joint Statement of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit released after the event, made no mention of LGBTI rights.

What Australia has said to Indonesia

But a spokesperson for DFAT told GSN it had raised concerns directly with Indonesian authorities.

'We regularly raise with the Indonesian Government the importance of protecting the human rights of all Indonesians, including LGBTI people,' the spokesperson said.

'In January this year, Australia and a number of other diplomatic missions made representations to Indonesian authorities in response to proposals to criminalise same-sex sexual relations as part of revisions to Indonesia's criminal code.

'Australia continues to monitor the situation of the LGBTI community in Indonesia closely.'

Source: https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/did-australia-miss-its-chance-to-address-lgbt-abuse-in-indonesia/

Corruption & abuse of power

Setya testifies that Puan, Pramono received e-ID graft money

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2018

Kharishar Kahfi, Jakarta – Former House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto has testified during Thursday's court hearing that illicit money gained from the e-ID graft case was also distributed to Puan Maharani and Pramono Anung, two senior officials of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

The two politicians, who are serving as Cabinet ministers in the President Joko Widodo government, allegedly received US$500,000 each from the e-ID procurement project between 2009 and 2012, when they were House lawmakers.

"Puan Maharani [as the] head of the PDI-P faction and Pramono [each] received $500,000," said Setya in the defense's testimony on Thursday at the Jakarta Corruption Court.

The former Golkar chairman added that the amount was determined by businessman Made Oka Masagung, who was also named as a suspect in the major graft case by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Setya continued, saying that Made Oka and another businessman, Andi Agustinus, visited his home one day to tell him that Oka had handed over a sum of money to several lawmakers.

"I asked him, 'to whom?' He told me $500,000 for Puan and $500,000 for Pramono," he told the court.

Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani, the daughter of PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, and Cabinet Secretary Pramono were not on the list of the alleged recipients of e-ID graft money in the prosecution's indictment.

KPK investigators had never questioned the two as witnesses during the long and intensive course of the investigation into the graft case, which is said to have cost the state Rp 2.3 trillion (US$170 million) in losses. (srs/rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/22/setya-testifies-that-puan-pramono-received-e-id-graft-money.html

Cops assure that they're still investigating Novel Baswedan case

Tempo - March 15, 2018

Arkhelaus Wisnu Triyogo, Jakarta – In a hearing with the House of Representatives (DPR), Jakarta Metro Police Chief General Inspector Idham Aziz assured that the investigation on the attack against Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigator Novel Baswedan is still ongoing.

"In the presence of all of you, I assure you that investigators are continuing their effort. It is just a matter of time," said Idham Aziz in front of the House's national law commission at the Parliamentary Complex, Senayan on Wednesday, March 14.

He explained that a special task force that consists of 166 investigators has been formed to specifically handle the acid attack against Novel Baswedan.

To this day, Idham claims that police has questioned 68 witnesses and studied 38 CCTV recordings that were paced around Novel's house in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta. "We have also checked 91 chemical stores," said Idham.

It has been a year since the attack on KPK investigator Novel Baswedan took place, however, police have yet managed to find the perpetrators behind what seemed to be a planned attack.

During the hearing, member of the national law commission from PDIP Arteria Dahlan showed concern by stating; "Don't leave room for opinions suggesting that a fact-finding team should have been formed," said Arteria.

In the same time, Indonesian National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian requested that the monitoring team formed by the Human Rights National Commission (Komnas HAM) to merge with the national police commission (Kompolnas) and the Ombudsman to continue the attempts to supervise the investigation on the Novel Baswedan attack.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/15/055916656/Cops-Assure-That-Theyre-still-Investigating-Novel-Baswedan-Case

Politics & religion

Group demands Jakarta Governor Anies step down for not defending FPI

Coconuts Jakarta - March 20, 2018

A group calling themselves the Revolutionary Islamic Forum (FUIR) held a small demonstration in front of Jakarta City Hall yesterday afternoon demanding that Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan resign over his failure to defend Rizieq Shihab, the spiritual leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) who is currently a fugitive from Indonesian justice hiding in Saudi Arabia.

"Muslims today feel that Anies [and Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno] have begun to abandon the clerical struggle," said one speaker at the demo, Dhany Lesy, as quoted by Detik yesterday.

Dhany went on to say that Anies fully owed his victory to Muslims but that he was now staying silent when Rizieq, the so-called high priest of all Indonesian Muslims (which isn't a real thing FYI), was being criminalized.

Dhany's saying that Muslims and Rizieq in particular were responsible for Anies' victory in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election is of course a reference to the massive protests against former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, organized by Islamists with Rizieq at the forefront. While ostensibly meant to "defend Islam" against Ahok's alleged blasphemy, many participants have since admitted it was primarily politically motivated (also so they could take credit for Anies' victory).

Shortly after Ahok was sentenced to two years at the conclusion of his controversial blasphemy trial (in which Rizieq testified as an "expert" witness), the FPI leader was named a suspect in a high-profile pornography case by the Jakarta Police and has been hiding in Saudi Arabia ever since.

Anies, who once spoke at an FPI meeting beside Rizieq while campaigning for governor, has sought to distance himself from the accusation that he cozied up to Islamists to win the election and has indeed not spoken about the firebrand cleric in any way since taking office.

To show their displeasure over Anies' reluctance to defend Rizieq, the FUIR demonstrators held up signs yesterday with messages like "Ulema (Islamic scholars) attacked, Anies is just quiet" and "Anies is just rhetoric". They also symbolically burned a photo of the governor (attached to a bird cage, for some reason). The demo dispersed shortly after that.

Despite Islamist leaders connected to FPI having made similarly bitter comments about being "used" by Anies for political purposes in the past, one FPI spokesman lamely defended the governor from FUIR's accusations by saying that Anies was helping Rizieq "in his own way".

But who is FUIR exactly? A representative of another major Islamist group, the Islamic People's Forum (FUI), said that his group had no knowledge of FUIR, which appeared seemingly out of nowhere for this protest, and alleged that FUIR was a fake group secretly made by Ahok supporters.

Similar accusation can be seen in this meme going around social media accusing the protesters of being "fake Muslims" and cebongers (a term for Ahok supporters) in disguise.

The so-called "alumni" of the 212 anti-Ahok protest movement have made attempts at consolidating into political actions groups in order to similarly effect this year's regional elections, but have been plagued with in-fighting and recriminations, some due in part to Rizieq not returning to Indonesia despite claiming he would do so numerous times.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/group-demands-jakarta-gov-anies-step-not-defending-fpi-leader-rizieq-burns-photo-demo/

Rizieq supporters demand Anies step down

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2018

Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – Around 50 people calling themselves members of the Revolutionary Islamic Community Forum (FUIR) staged a rally on Monday, demanding Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan step down from his post for allegedly being indifferent on firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab.

Rizieq, the leader of radical group Islam Defenders Front (FPI), was considered to have played a great role behind the election of Anies as governor against his Christian of Chinese descent contender Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

"Anies should resign from his post as governor because he only exploits the voice of ummah [the Muslim community] for his political gain," said rally coordinator Dhany Lesy during the protest at the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD) in Central Jakarta.

Dhany specifically mentioned that Anies remained silent and did nothing to defend Rizieq, who fled to Saudi Arabia after being implicated in a pornography case.

"While Rizieq was in trouble, which forced him to go to Saudi Arabia, there was no single word or initiative coming from Anies to defend Rizieq," he said.

Anies is widely seen to have ridden the Islamist wave to win last year's gubernatorial election while Ahok became the target of sectarian rhetoric in a series of rallies organized by Islamist groups in the months leading up to election day. Rizieq was a key figure behind the rallies against Ahok.

During his campaign, Anies visited the FPI's headquarters and met with Rizieq, sparking criticism among his detractors as well as his more progressive supporters. Anies, however, said he was only trying to give all elements of society the chance at a dialogue with their gubernatorial candidate.

Some of the protestors of Monday's rally, which lasted for around an hour, were teenagers.

FPI spokesperson Slamet Maarif said the FUIR "was not among the groups involved in the 212 rally." He was referring to the large Dec. 2, 2017, anti-Ahok rally. He stopped short of confirming whether the FPI endorsed the FUIR's rally. (fac)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/19/rizieq-supporters-demand-anies-step-down.html

Islamist groups to rally against Anies for 'turning his back' on Rizieq

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2018

Fachrul Sidiq, Jakarta – An Islamist group calling itself the Revolutionary Islamic Community Forum (FUIR) plans to stage a rally on Monday against Governor Anies Baswedan, who it accuses of turning his back on the ummah (Muslim community) after his election.

The rally, which will take place at the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD) in Central Jakarta, will involve around 200 people from several Islamic organizations in the city, said rally coordinator M. Al Fatih.

"We feel that Anies and [Deputy Governor] Sandiaga Uno have forgotten about and distanced themselves from the ummah that supported them tirelessly [during the gubernatorial election]," he said.

Anies is widely seen to have ridden the Islamist wave to win last year's gubernatorial election while his main rival, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, became the target of sectarian rhetoric in a series of rallies organized by Islamist groups in the months leading up to election day.

Fatih claimed that Anies had done nothing to defend Rizieq Shihab, the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), who fled to Saudi Arabia after being implicated in a pornography case.

Rizieq was a key figure behind the rallies against Ahok, and Fatih believed that the pornography case against the firebrand cleric was politically motivated.

During his campaign, Anies visited the FPI's headquarters and met with Rizieq, sparking criticism from among his detractors as well as his more progressive supporters. Anies, however, said he was only trying to give all elements of society the chance for a dialogue with their gubernatorial candidate.

FPI spokesperson Slamet Maarif said the FUIR "was not among the groups involved in the 212 rally". He was referring to Dec. 2, when a large anti-Ahok rally took place. He stopped short of confirming whether the FPI endorsed the FUIR's planned rally. (fac/ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/19/islamist-groups-to-rally-against-anies-for-turning-his-back-on-rizieq.html

Land & agrarian conflicts

Chinese-Indonesians' fight against land ownership policy gains support

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2018

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – A joint statement supported by 39 individuals and institutions has called on Yogyakarta Governor Hamengkubuwono to revoke a Yogyakarta regional head instruction on land ownership for "non-native" Indonesians.

The instruction, which was issued in 1975, prohibits Chinese-Indonesians in Yogyakarta from owning land in the province.

Awaludin Marwan, a doctoral student from Utrecht School of Law in the Netherlands, said he was striving to garner support for Chinese-Indonesians in Yogyakarta because according to Presidential Instruction No. 26/1998, the term "non-native" is no longer allowed to be used in the government's decision-making. Labeling a group of entities "non-natives" also contravened other prevailing laws and regulations.

"We are waiting for the Yogyakarta governor, who is widely known for his wisdom and simplicity, to act wisely. Please give all Yogyakarta residents equal treatment," Awaludin told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

During his doctoral research on the protection of the rights of minority groups in Indonesia, Awaludin claims to have found evidence that State Land Agency (BPN) officials in Yogyakarta did not process the transfer of land ownership to Chinese- Indonesians because of a 1975 regional head instruction.

"They keep using the instruction although it is not legally binding and continue to carry out discriminatory measures," said Awaludin. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/20/chinese-indonesians-fight-against-discriminatory-policy-on-land-ownership-gains-support.html

Residents clash with police personnel in land execution in C. Sulawesi

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2018

Ruslan Sangadji, Palu – A land execution in Karaton, Luwuk district in Banggai regency, Central Sulawesi, ended in a skirmish between residents who refused to move with the police and the military joint troops on Monday.

The Luwuk District Court had ordered the land execution, affecting over 1,400 people of 343 families living in 200 houses.

The clash began when the execution team, comprising thousands of police and military personnel, was intercepted by a group of women who protested the demolition.

An officer of the Banggai Police, Comr. Djamaluddin Darise negotiated with the residents but they reached an impasse, said the residents' lawyer, Julianer Aditia Warman, from the Central Sulawesi Legal Aid Institute (LBH).

The women recited a prayer, and other groups of residents yelled "Allahu Akbar [God is great]".

Later, the residents and the police and military joint troops shoved each other. The residents also threw rocks at the police, prompting them retaliate with tear gas. The tear gas failed to stop the residents, who went on to burn tires on the streets. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/19/residents-clash-with-police-and-military-personnel-in-land-execution-in-c-sulawesi.html

Indigenous culture & rights

Jokowi gives green light for indigenous people bill deliberation

Jakarta Post - March 18, 2018

Gemma Holliani Cahya, Minahasa – Indigenous people have been given a glimmer of hope as President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has signed a presidential letter permitting the House of Representatives to begin deliberations with related ministries on the long-awaited bill on the protection of indigenous people's rights.

"He has sent it to the ministers [...] I received the letter from the State Secretary Ministry," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Saturday in front of around 300 indigenous people from across the country, who gathered in Minahasa, North Sulawesi from March 14 to 17 for the 5th National Working Meeting of the Indigenous People's Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN)

Siti said the letter was sent to her ministry, the Public Works and Housing Ministry and the Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry, which were the government sectors leading the deliberation of the bill.

The news was welcomed by indigenous people, who were also celebrating the 19th anniversary of national indigenous community awakening day.

Rukka Sombolinggi, the secretary-general of AMAN, said they were grateful for the positive development but she hoped it could happen faster.

"This is not a present. This is the state's responsibility. We should have had an indigenous people's rights protection law years ago," she said.

Rukka said the House's draft bill still had a lot of problems, some of them related to indigenous women and the national commission that will organize the indigenous people.

"We continue to urge the House to revise the draft bill, while also communicating with the government about the current draft," she added.

Rukka also said the key to successfully deliberating the bill was that related ministries must set aside their "sectoral egos" and start to focus and fight for indigenous people together.

The indigenous people bill was initially proposed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) party in 2012.

It was to be among the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) bills in 2014, but was dropped from the list at the last minute. It was two years later, in 2016, that the bill was finally added to Prolegnas for deliberation. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/18/jokowi-gives-green-light-for-indigenous-people-bill-deliberation.html

Indigenous people urge Jokowi to fulfill promises

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2018

Gemma Holliani Cahya, Minahasa, North Sulawesi – Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) secretary general Rukka Sombolinggi has urged President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to fulfill the promises he made to indigenous communities in Indonesia.

She said that during the 2014 presidential election, AMAN threw its support behind Jokowi after he revealed that six out of his nine key development programs, known as Nawacita, were related to indigenous people.

Few of the six points have been realized during his three years in office. These include the deliberation of an indigenous people bill, the establishment of a special task force for indigenous people and the implementation of a law on customary villages.

"[Since Jokowi was elected as President] only about 20,000 hectares of customary forests have been given back to the indigenous people," Rukka said during the 5th AMAN National Working Meeting scheduled for March 14 to March 17 in Minahasa, North Sulawesi.

The alliance estimates that around 9.3 million hectares of customary forests across Indonesia belong to indigenous people.

AMAN represents 17 million people belonging to more than 2,300 indigenous communities across Indonesia. It declared its full support for Jokowi during the 2014 presidential election.

However, in the alliance's national meeting, representatives of the country's indigenous communities are evaluating whether or not they will continue to support the incumbent president in the 2019 election, Rukka said.

"We never know. There's no guarantee that after we supported him in 2014, we will continue to support him. It's not absolute. What we value are his actions because we still hold his promises," said Rukka. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/16/indigenous-people-urge-jokowi-to-fulfil-promises.html

Parliament & legislation

Jokowi urged to issue Perppu against MD3 Law

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2018

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – A coalition of civil society groups is pushing President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to issue a regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) in response to controversial articles of the new Legislative Institutions (MD3) Law.

Judiciary watchdog KoDe Inisiatif, along with several other groups, had been preparing to request a judicial review at the Constitutional Court (MK) to challenge several articles of the law that it believes could be used to silence criticism of the House of Representatives. They then decided to hold their request, saying they were waiting for Jokowi to issue a Perppu.

"We still want to encourage Jokowi to take a stand. It shouldn't be difficult for the President to issue such a Perppu or initiate a limited revision of the law," KoDe Inisiatif chairman Veri Junaidi said on Friday.

It appears that a judicial review or the issuance of a Perppu are the two last options to annul the MD3 Law passed on Feb. 12. The law has triggered sharp rejection and criticism from the public, civil rights groups and constitutional law experts.

Article 122 of the law is believed to have the potential to infringe the freedom of expression, because it grants the House's ethics council (MKD) the power to press criminal charges against people accused of disrespecting the House as a state institution or its lawmakers. It is believed that the article can be used to criminalize people who are critical of the House or lawmakers.

The House as an institution has been confronted with strong criticism in the past, not only over its poor legislative performance but also because many of its lawmakers have been found guilty of corruption.

Article 73 of the law gives the police the authority to help the House to force all parties summoned to attend an inquiry.

The law is also believed to give legal impunity to lawmakers, because Article 245 states that House members cannot be investigated by law enforcement officials without approval from the President and consideration of the MKD.

Jokowi and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasona Laoly have encouraged the people to file for a judicial review of those articles with the MK. Several rights groups have decided not to go down that path, however, saying they have lost trust in MK justice Arief Hidayat, whom they consider to be under tight control of the House.

The MK's ethics council has several times reprimanded Arief for alleged ethical violations related to intervention from other institutions.

Jokowi has yet to take a clear position on the issue. On the one hand, he said he responded to the public's rejection of the MD3 Law by refusing to sign it. On the other hand, he appears to be reluctant to issue a Perppu to blunt the law.

Jokowi, instead, blamed the minister for failing to report to him on the progress of the deliberation.

Legal expert Abdul Fickar Hadjar from Trisakti University lambasted the poor coordination between Jokowi and Yasona. He said Yasona should not have agreed to pass a law before consulting with the President. "That should be a lesson for Jokowi to be careful in choosing a minister next time," Fickar said. (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/16/jokowi-urged-to-issue-perppu-against-md3-law.html

Insulting House could now be felony

Jakarta Post - March 15, 2018

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid was the only president after the Reform Era to have publicly insulted the House of Representatives, comparing it to a kindergarten.

Years after making the statement, the late president and influential Muslim cleric doubled down on his attack on the House, saying the legislative body was "chaotic" and had devolved from a kindergarten into a playgroup.

It is said that Gus Dur regretted comparing House members to kindergarten students, saying the latter were pure and innocent and therefore not alike.

But his jokes about the House may be a thing of the past, however, as starting Wednesday, it is unclear whether one can make such jokes in public after the Legislative Institutions (MD3) Law came into force.

The law, which took effect on Wednesday, grants the House's ethics council (MKD) the authority to press charges against those accused of disrespecting the House or its members.

To make matters worse, the law also stipulates that House members cannot be investigated by law enforcement authorities without the approval of the president and the consideration of the MKD.

Civil society groups have said the provision could be easily abused to silence critics, though lawmakers have dismissed such concerns as baseless, saying they could differentiate between legitimate criticism and insults.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he was aware of the public's concern about the law, which he had refused to sign, but made clear that there was nothing he could do to repeal the law other than ask the public to challenge it at the Constitutional Court.

Laws passed by the House will take effect after 30 days with or without the President's signature.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/15/insulting-house-could-now-be-felony.html

Jokowi refuses to sign MD3 law

Jakarta Post - March 15, 2018

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – After huffing and puffing over the past few weeks, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has decided not to sign the new Legislative Institution (MD3) Law, citing public unrest over controversial articles in the revised law as his main concern.

The President's final stance was announced on Wednesday – 30 days after the House of Representatives passed the MD3 bill on Feb. 12 – meaning that the law will go into effect automatically as a month has passed since then.

"I understand and I know that [...] the law will remain valid even without my signature. Therefore, to solve the issue, the public is welcomed to file a judicial review with the Constitutional Court," Jokowi said.

Jokowi made his decision after mulling over several options, including a possibility to issue a regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) to revise several controversial provisions that critics said practically granted legal immunity for lawmakers, while others silenced public criticism.

When asked why Jokowi did not choose to issue a Perppu, he maintained that the mechanism was to challenge the law to the Constitutional Court. "[Besides] a Perppu still needs the approval of the House," he said.

Critics have also thrown the blame on Jokowi, saying the President had "missed" spotting the controversies during the revision process, given that all legislative products are based on deliberations between the House and the government.

The President admitted that Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, who represented the government, did not report to him when the deliberation of the bill took place and only had the chance to report after it was passed.

"I acknowledge that the situation [during the deliberation] was full of dynamics and was fast, so it was not possible for [Yasonna] to report to me," Jokowi said. (dmr)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/14/jokowi-refuses-to-sign-md3-law.html

Jakarta & urban life

80% of Jakarta construction projects unsafe: Manpower agency

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2018

Jakarta – The Jakarta Manpower and Transmigration Agency has said that the majority of construction projects in the capital city are unsafe.

"As much as 80 percent of the projects did not meet standards," Khadik Triyanto, the agency's head of manpower monitoring, said on Wednesday as quoted by kompas.com. The standards he referred to are stipulated in Ministerial Regulation No. 1/1980 on construction work safety.

Khadik said the figure was the result of last November's inspection on 35 existing projects.

The indications of a substandard project were apparent in the mandatory project report submitted to the agency, he said, as mandated in Article 2 of the regulation.

"A large number of projects also lack occupational safety and health [K3] structures, as well as standard operating procedures for its workers," said Khadik, and that most of the construction workers were observed to have permits and licenses, but not the necessary skills.

Khadik added that he planned to deploy 43 supervisors to oversee the projects, as well as to gather data on the number of ongoing construction projects. "I will also invite high-risk contractors, so that we can see an improvement [in on-site safety]," he said.

The latest construction accident occurred on Sunday in South Jakarta, where a woman was killed when an iron bar from the Pasar Rumput low-cost rental apartment project fell and struck her head. (jlm)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/22/80-of-jakarta-construction-projects-unsafe-manpower-agency.html

People take showers in front of Jakarta's City Hall protesting water

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2018

Ivany Atina Arbi – Dozens of people took showers together in front of Jakarta's City Hall on Thursday in protest of the involvement of private companies in supplying pipe water to households.

Under the theme "Taking a Shower Together", people grouped under the Coalition of Jakarta Residents Opposing Water Privatization (KMMSAJ) showered while asking the administration to adhere to a Supreme Court ruling issued last year that put an end to water privatization in Jakarta, instead of restructuring a contract between city-owned operator PAM Jaya with private water firms PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja) and PT Aetra Air Jakarta (Aetra).

"The privatization has harmed residents as it results in high water costs," said the coalition in a statement.

Previously, PAM Jaya president director Erlan Hidayat said he would soon sign a "restructured agreement" with Palyja and Aetra. The three companies have been in cooperation since 1997. Palyja and Aetra had been granted the rights to produce and distribute clean water in the capital.

The coalition have urged Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan to revoke Gubernatorial Letter No. 3126/072 on the water privatization, issued on Dec. 24, 1997, and to cease the cooperation between PAM Jaya, Palyja and Aetra.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/22/people-take-showers-in-front-of-jakartas-city-hall-protesting-water-privatization.html

Violence against women, children in Jakarta mostly carried out by

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2018

Jakarta – Cases of violence against women and children in Jakarta remain unchecked, with teenagers and school students comprising the majority of perpetrators, a governmental center has revealed.

Data recorded by the Jakarta Integrated Care Center for the Empowerment of Women and Children (P2TP2A) shows 164 reported cases of violence against women and children in January alone, wartakota.tribunnews.com reported on Tuesday.

"As many as 43 victims were abused by junior high school students, [and] 72 victims by senior high school students. Meanwhile, cases that involved university students as the perpetrators has resulted in 49 victims," the P2TP2A report said.

In January, East Jakarta was the municipality with the largest number of cases of violence against women and children, with 41 victims. This was followed by West Jakarta with 33 victims, Central Jakarta with 31 victims, South Jakarta with 30 victims and North Jakarta with 29 victims.

The P2TP2A's February data records 169 victims, with junior high school perpetrators responsible for violence against 44 victims and senior high school perpetrators responsible for 78 victims. University students were responsible for 47 victims.

Most of the cases were incidents of domestic violence involving the relatives of 81 victims, while 24 victims were recorded in cases that took place at the workplace, and 64 victims from other cases. (vla)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/21/violence-against-women-children-in-jakarta-mostly-carried-out-by-youths-report.html

Anies issues regulation simplifying process of shutting down

Jakarta Post - March 19, 2018

Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan issued on March 12 decree No. 18/2018 on tourist businesses, which simplifies the process of shutting down entertainment spots where illegal activities, such as drug distribution, gambling, human trafficking and prostitution, take place.

According to the decree, the city administration has the authority to shut down entertainment spots where violations of the law occurred based on field monitoring and mass media and public reports.

The revocation of business permits may be conducted directly without the issuance of warning letters, Article 54 of the decree states.

Meanwhile, the city administration has the authority to conduct a special investigation into any entertainment spots based on media reports.

The governor will also form a special team that will hold routine inspections on night clubs across the city. The inspections will be intensified during Ramadhan, Idul Fitri, Idul Adha and New Year celebrations.

Last year alone, the city administration permanently shut down three night clubs. In October, Anies ordered the shutdown of the Alexis hotel and massage parlor in North Jakarta for allegedly facilitating prostitution.

In the following month, the administration closed the Diamond Discotheque in West Jakarta following allegations that drug distribution had occurred inside the venue.

The city administration also closed the MG International Club discotheque in Grogol Petamburan, West Jakarta, in December last year following a raid over alleged drug production and distribution in the premises. (cal)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/19/anies-issues-regulation-simplifying-process-of-shutting-down-entertainment-spots.html

Literature & the arts

S. Rukiah Kertapati, forgotten woman writer of the Indonesian revolution

Jakarta Globe - March 15, 2018

Dhania Sarahtika, Jakarta – In 1953, a woman won the literature award from Indonesia's Badan Musyawarah Kebudayaan Nasional, one of the most prestigious awards in the country at that time. She became the first woman to win the award that normally went to men like Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Mochtar Lubis or Utuy Tatang Sontani.

Her name was S. Rukiah Kertapati. Rukiah won for "Tandus" (Drought), a collection of poetry and short stories. First published in 1952, now the book has been reprinted by Bandung-based indie publisher Ultimus along with her novel "Kejatuhan dan Hati" (The Fall and the Heart) and a children book, "Pak Supi, Kakek Pengungsi" (Mr. Supi, the Refugee Grandpa).

Yerry Wirawan, one of Ultimus' editors and a history lecturer at Sanata Dharma University, told the Jakarta Globe after the books' launch at the Human Rights Commission headquarters in Central Jakarta on Monday (12/03) that Ultimus decided to republish Rukiah's books to resurrect an important but forgotten figure in Indonesia's literary history and give "today's young generation the opportunity to enjoy her excellent back catalogue."

According to Ruth Indiah Rahayu, a researcher and writer at online journal IndoPROGRESS and one of the speakers at the book launch, Rukiah was a "realist" author whose stories are inspired by the day-to-day life of Indonesian women in the Revolutionary War years (1945-1949).

The female characters in Rukiah's books are often forced to make a choice whether or not to join the fight against the returning Dutch army with other young people, and most of the times their choices would affect their personal life including, yes, their romantic relationships.

In the short story "Antara Dua Gambaran" (Between Two Images), for example, the main character contemplates whether it would serve her better to marry an activist and a member of a political organization or a skeptic who stays at home and reads too many books – a storyline that some say echoes Rukiah's own life.

According to Ruth, though many male writers of Rukiah's generation also created strong, forward-thinking female protagonists, like Pramoedya did in his classic "Larasati," they were not able to delve into the female characters' subconscious. But Rukiah could.

"We can see in Rukiah's works, both her prose and poetry, that she had a way to describe a woman's inner turmoil very well, she could synthesize her rational thoughts and feelings," Ruth said.

Rukiah was not without her critics, in his 1967 book "Modern Indonesian Literature," Dutch literary critic and Indonesianist A. Teeuw said: "...in her verses one finds a certain vagueness which testifies rather to inability than to strength, and in her language too, there is too little strength and tension to render her poetry moving. But her work does have an engaging honesty, and its marked nature symbolism is sometimes interesting."

But as National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) commissioner Magdalena Sitorus said at the book launch, Indonesia's literary scene is still dominated by men, and the reason for that is because the achievements of female writers like Rukiah were often undermined by her male rivals.

Also, many female writers who had joined the Institute for People's Culture (Lekra) – often associated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) – have also been written out of Indonesian history after the 1965 anti-communist pogrom. Rukiah, for all her breakthroughs, deserves to be known.

A feminist pioneer

Rukiah was born on April 25, 1927 in Purwakarta, West Java. Purwakarta was an impoverished district during the Dutch colonial era. Many of its residents were kidnapped and sold off by the Dutch as slaves.

In 1945, Rukiah became a teacher at Sekolah Gadis Purwakarta (Puwakarta Girls School). During the Indonesian revolution, when poorly equipped guerrilla fighters tried to fight off the returning Dutch army, Rukiah joined the Red Cross to help Indonesian fighters.

At 19, Rukiah got her poems published in "Gelombang Zaman" (Zeitgeist) magazine. She also wrote for a magazine called "Godam Djelata" (The Proletariat's Hammer) published by revolutionary fighters in West Java.

One of her most notable achievements was becoming a staff member of the prestigious, male-dominated "Pujangga Baru" (New Men of Letters) literary magazine in 1948. At around the same time, she also worked for "Mimbar Indonesia" (Indonesian Lectern) and "Indonesia" magazines.

Rukiah also published a weekly magazine called "Irama" herself in Purwakarta, from around April 1949. Her career peaked in the 1950s. In 1950, she was made a secretary for Pujangga Baru after she moved to Jakarta. She also published her novel Kejatuhan dan Hati, initially as part of a special edition of Pujangga Baru in December 1950 and then as a standalone book by Pustaka Rakyat.

After moving to Bandung in 1951, Rukiah became an editor for children's magazine "Tjendrawasih." The next year, she married Sidik Kertapati, a young politician, and published Tandus.

In 1953, she won the BKMN award and gave birth to her first child. Sidik was a parliament member and also active in the Indonesian Peasants Front (BTI), while Rukiah combined writing with political activism in Lekra. Both organizations were affiliated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Records of the Lekra national congress in January 1959 in Solo, Central Java, stated that Rukiah was a member of Lekra's literary wing, Lestra, alongside Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

In 1958, Rukiah published Pak Supi: Kakek Pengungsi, a children's story about a poor old man who moves to a nearby village after his house was burned down by people who were anti-Sukarno – Indonesia's left-leaning first president.

Pak Supi is just one of many children's books by Rukiah. Yerry from Ultimus – that plans to republish more of these once popular children's books – said Rukiah wrote them because she wanted to pass on her thoughts to the next generation.

Ruth meanwhile said the women characters in Rukiah's earlier novels represented a generation who went through the revolution, while the children in her later novels represented the post-revolution generation.

"[The children's books] also redefined Indonesian children's imagination of what heroes were supposed to be like, because the meaning of that contentious word had shifted dramatically after the revolution," Ruth said.

Rukiah traveled Europe for six months in the 1960s when at one point she delivered a speech at a writers' congress in East Germany. She also kept writing for "Api Kartini" (Kartini's Fire), "Zaman Baru" (New Age), "Harian Rakjat" (People's Daily) and "Lentera" (Torch).

Imprisonment and buried dreams

Rukiah's involvement in Lekra ended in 1965 after the organization was banned along with the PKI after the 1965-1966 mass killings of Indonesian communists. Her husband went into exile in China, before moving to the Netherlands in the 1980s.

Rukiah herself was imprisoned from 1967 to 1969. After she was freed and returned to Purwakarta, she abandoned writing for good.

Since she was separated from her husband, Rukiah had to take care of their six children alone. She baked and sold cookies to support her family.

Her books were not talked about anymore and her poems and short stories were taken out of anthologies, including H. B. Jassin's famous "Gema Tanah Air: Prosa dan Puisi" (Echoes of Motherland: Prose and Poems).

The feminist pioneer died in her hometown in 1996, where she was buried along with her dreams.

"The New Order killed Rukiah's literary career. That's one of the regime's biggest sins in my opinion, stopping a woman writer in the peak of her career from doing the one thing she loved," Ruth told the Jakarta Globe.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/features/s-rukiah-kertapati-forgotten-woman-writer-indonesian-revolution/

Foreign affairs & trade

Turnbull lauds Jokowi's leadership, calls him 'role model'

Jakarta Post - March 17, 2018

Sydney – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has praised President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for his success in developing a multicultural society in Indonesia, calling him one of the most important role models in the world.

"Standing next to me is one of the most important leaders, role models in the world today," he said at the International Convention Center in Sydney while receiving 33 participants of the Indonesia-Australia Youth Interfaith Dialogue.

The event was held on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australian Special Summit in Sydney on Saturday.

Turnbull said that under Jokowi's leadership, Indonesia had shown that Islam and democracy could work together. "The President embodies the leadership of Indonesia [...] Indonesia spurs democracy, Islam and moderation," he said.

The prime minister also described Australia as a multicultural society that was united by political values: freedom, democracy and mutual respect.

Jokowi has struggled to stem the tide of intolerance that has pervaded the country in recent years. Indonesia was in the spotlight last year amid a highly sectarian gubernatorial election in Jakarta.

One of the election contenders, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, was convicted of blasphemy following a series of rallies demanding his prosecution. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/17/turnbull-lauds-jokowis-leadership-calls-him-role-model.html

Indonesian government warned about trade deficit

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2018

Jakarta – The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) has warned the government about the trade deficit.

"The February trade deficit was lower than in January, but it needs serious attention because it occurred for three consecutive months," said BPS head Suhariyanto in Jakarta on Thursday.

BPS announced that Indonesia booked a US$116 million trade deficit in February, bringing the deficit year-on-year to $872 million after Indonesia had enjoyed trade surpluses in the last three years.

The trade deficit was recorded at $760 million in January and $220 million in December 2017. Suhariyanto said total imports in February were recorded at US$14.21 billion, while total exports were $14.10 billion.

He advised the government to diversify its export destinations, not only to rely on basic commodities and to encourage industry to manufacture export-oriented products so that Indonesia could export more value-added goods.

"If we fail to do this we will be left behind by neighboring countries like Vietnam," he said, as reported by tempo.

However, Bank Indonesia (BI) said the increase in imports was an indication that the country's economic machine was working.

"The trade deficit was caused by an increase of production activities and investments in line with the improvement in the domestic economy," said BI spokesman Agusman, as reported by kontan.co.id.

He expressed optimism that the Indonesian trade performance would improve in the coming months in line with the global economic recovery. (bbn).

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/16/indonesian-government-warned-about-trade-deficit.html

Indonesian President Widodo wants a free trade agreement with Australia

Sydney Morning Herald - March 15, 2018

James Massola & Peter Hartcher, Jakarta – Indonesian President Joko Widodo will push to sign off an Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement when he meets Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this weekend, declaring that only "technical" details were delaying the deal.

The trade pact could be followed by Indonesia signing up to the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership, recently agreed to by 11 nations including Australia, in the future, the president said.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, an expansive president, universally known as Jokowi, vowed when asked about the agreement: "I'll push my ministers".

The comments are a clear sign the president is willing to spend political capital to finalise the deal, and take on powerful protectionist forces in Indonesia. Some of the roadblocks to the deal include details on Australian universities' access to the Indonesian market, agricultural exports and labour market access.

President Jokowi also laid out his vision for how a huge infrastructure investment program and free trade with other nations in the region would be a key driver that would help boost his country's economic growth rate from five per cent per year to a target of eight per cent by 2019.

The infrastructure projects include toll roads, rail, dams, air and seaports, and if fully implemented, will cost more than $400 billion over the five years to 2019.

"Australia is an important trade partner for Indonesia, with the trade value last year, in 2017, valued at around $8.5 billion US dollars," the president said.

"We have also implemented five out of nine of the early outcome benchmarks in the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, the IA-CEPA," he said.

The FTA was more than a "commercial project" the President said, but could give added weight to the institutional relationships between the two countries, to the benefit of both.

"I will use the [ASEAN] meeting in Sydney [this weekend] to give a political push to settle the remaining issues and accelerate the finalisation of the IA-CEPA."

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs estimates that trade between the two countries was worth $16.4 billion in 2016-17, making Indonesia just our 13th largest trade partner, despite the two nations' close geographical proximity and Indonesia's huge market of 258 million people.

Asked if the free trade deal, which was due to be signed off on by the end of 2017, could be finalised this weekend President Jokowi said: "it is only technical things [holding up the deal], between the minister and the minister," he said, adding there was "no problem" to these issues being resolved.

On the revised TPP, President Jokowi said: "I've already informed PM Turnbull that Indonesia wants to join TPP"

Against a back drop of rising anti-Chinese sentiment in parts of Indonesia, and concern about that nation's growing economic and political influence in the region, President Jokowi stressed Indonesia was open to investment from all nations including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States.

"Our main commitment is that our economy is open and competitive," he said. "Now we are focusing on infrastructure. I believe when our infrastructure is ready, our growth will be increasing, I'm sure. But after we invest in infrastructure, the second [thing] is [to] invest in human resources, for example like vocational training, polytechnics, vocational schools. I want to focus on that," he said.

Indeed, President Jokowi, a successful small businessman-turned-politician, said he would welcome Australian universities opening campuses in Indonesia.

"Our ease of doing business jumped from the ranking 120 three years ago, now [it is] 72. And we have issued 16 economic packages to de-regulate investment permit licences. Last year, also, Fitch ratings, Moody's, Standard and Poor's, they upgraded Indonesia's sovereign rating to investment grade."

Australia-Indonesia Business Council president Phil Turtle said he was encouraged by the president's determination to finalise the agreement.

"We recognise that the language used by the two governments has been mismatched, vis-a-vis a good quality versus high quality agreement but we hope that a meaningful middle ground is achievable as it is in the best interests of both countries."

Australian National University Professor Michael Wesley said while President Jokowi's enthusiasm for the free trade deal was genuine, he was butting up against the limits of presidential power in Indonesia.

"A common theme in Jakarta at the moment is that Indonesia must guard against neo-colonialism in investment, there is a growing antipathy to Chinese investment, and ethnic Chinese internally," he said.

Lowy Institute research fellow Matthew Busch said exact details of the technical issues remaining were unclear because negotiations had taken place in private.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/indonesian-president-widodo-wants-a-free-trade-agreement-with-australia-20180315-p4z4hc.html

Mining & energy

Freeport has cost $13 billion losses in environmental damage, says BPK

Jakarta Post - March 20, 2018

Jakarta – The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) has said that ecological damage resulting from PT Freeport Indonesia's (PTFI) mining operations in Papua had caused Rp 185 trillion (US$12.95 billion) in state losses.

"Based on the calculations of experts at IPB [the Bogor Institute of Agriculture], the environmental damage caused by Freeport's mining waste reached Rp 185 trillion," BPK commissioner Rizal Djalil said in Jakarta on Monday, as quoted by kompas.com.

He added that the mining company dumped its waste into forests, rivers and estuaries.

Rizal said the BPK had received data on the scale of the damage from the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (Lapan). He added that Freeport Indonesia also utilized 4,536 hectares of protected forest for their operations in direct violation of Law No. 19/2004 on Forestry.

"It has been 333 days since we issued the report, but it has not been followed up," said Rizal, adding that the BPK had recommended sanctions for the company to the Environment and Forestry Ministry and the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.

Meanwhile, Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said the company had followed up on two BPK reports on violating the license on the use of protected forests and its environmental impact.

Riza said the ministry had imposed administrative sanctions on Freeport in October 2017 for violating the terms of the environment permit. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/20/freeport-has-cost-13-billion-losses-in-environmental-damage-says-bpk.html

Demand for subsidized LPG exceeds quota: Pertamina

Jakarta Post - March 15, 2018

Jakarta – State-owned energy company PT Pertamina has estimated that the demand for subsidized 3-kilogram liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) canisters will exceed the quota set by the government in the 2018 state budget.

Pertamina marketing director Muchamad Iskandar said in Jakarta on Tuesday that the subsidized LPG quota was set at 6.45 million metric tons this year, while the estimated demand would reach 6.7 million metric tons.

"Our estimation is based on the average growth of 3-kg LPG canister consumption, which increases by 4 to 5 percent every year," Iskandar said during a hearing with House of Representatives' Commission VI overseeing mining and energy, among other things.

He said the demand for 3-kg LPG canisters had been increasing over the last three years – 5.5 million metric tons in 2017, 6.01 million metric tons in 2016 and 6.31 million metric tons in 2017.

The government only allocated 6.19 million metric tons of subsidized LPG in 2017. "We have to anticipate the increasing demand for subsidized LPG, which will be higher than the quota," said Iskandar

He added that Pertamina had pointed out the possible higher demand for subsidized LPG this year because it was the obligation of the government to provide low-income households with subsidized LPG.

However, the government previously said it would not allocate more funds to subsidized gasoline (Premium), Solar (diesel fuel) and 3-kg LPG canisters. He said the government provided a subsidy of Rp 6,500 (46 US cents) for each 3-kg LPG canister. (roi/bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/15/demand-for-subsidized-lpg-exceeds-quota-pertamina.html

Infrastructure & development

Debt at Indonesian state contractors soars in infrastructure push

Nikkei Asian Review - March 16, 2018

Wataru Suzuki, Jakarta – The debt of Indonesia's four major listed state-owned construction companies jumped 57% by the end of 2017 from a year earlier to 156.2 trillion rupiah ($11.3 billion), raising alarm about excessive borrowing to fund the government's infrastructure push.

The combined revenue of the contractors – Wijaya Karya, Waskita Karya, Pembangunan Perumahan and Adhi Karya – also surged by 61% to 108.05 trillion rupiah as orders flooded in for building roads, railways and power plants, among other projects.

But part of that growth comes from the contractors' own debt-funded projects, which the government pays for only once they are completed. This is raising risks that lenders and minority shareholders may be burned if the projects turn sour.

With a tight state budget and slow disbursement of government funds, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has relied on companies' ability to fund his ambitious infrastructure development plan.

This approach, which many analysts have described as "unprecedented," has turned the previously small and easily managed state-owned construction industry into a behemoth that is moving quickly but also taking on much more risk.

"These SOEs [state-owned enterprises]... have extensively borrowed in order to match the government's development plans, and their balance sheet has substantially weakened," said Xavier Jean, credit analyst at S&P Global Ratings.

Jean said 20 of Indonesia's biggest SOEs needed one year of profits to repay their debts in 2011, but that figure grew to five years in 2017. "Government oversight will become an increasing focus for us."

For some companies, rising interest payments have started to eat into their bottom line. Bahana Securities said Wijaya Karya's fourth-quarter earnings missed expectations due to "higher-than-expected financing costs and taxes."

The company, which is the main contractor for the China-backed Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway, racked up a debt of 31.05 trillion rupiah at the end of 2017, compared to 18.62 trillion rupiah a year earlier. Waskita Karya, which plays a key role in funding and building a toll road network across Java, reported the highest debt of the group at 75.14 trillion rupiah.

Despite the surge, the combined debt of SOE contractors is equal to only about 3% of outstanding loans in the domestic banking sector. In order to diversify funding sources, state contractors have ventured into new debt instruments, such as rupiah-denominated bonds sold overseas, known as Komodo bonds. In addition, the government has promised to open up more sectors to foreign investors, and to sell some SOE-led projects to the private sector.

Still, the ballooning debt raises the stake for the government in completing the projects. In February, it was forced to suspend elevated construction work after a string of accidents at projects handled by state contractors. Most of those projects have since been evaluated and allowed to resume, but the mishaps exposed the pitfalls of the SOE-led infrastructure drive.

Source: https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Trends/Debt-at-Indonesian-state-contractors-soars-in-infrastructure-push

Economy & investment

SOEs debt ratios worsen: S&P

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2018

Jakarta – Standard & Poor Global Ratings has said the debt to earnings before interest depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) ratios of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been worsening in recent years.

S&P analyst Xavier Jean said SOEs, whose debt to EBITDA ratios were worsening, particularly those that were involved in the government's infrastructure projects like electricity power plants and other construction work, as they needed a large amount of capital.

He said the ratio of 20 SOEs listed on the bourse and assessed by S&P increased by five times. "We are monitoring the trend. I think the trend will continue and may increase in 2018 and prior to the 2019 elections," Jean said as reported by kontan.co.id on Thursday.

Improving the country's infrastructure is a priority of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. The government estimates that the infrastructure projects need US$450 billion from 2014 to 2019.

However, SOEs involved in the projects had to seek financial support for their working capital and for the salaries of their workers. Meanwhile, their projects, particularly those in remote areas, do not produce immediate revenue for the companies.

"It is not clear for us if the investments by the companies outside of Java, in the areas where the population is less dense, will be profitable projects or not," Jean added. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/22/soes-debt-ratios-worsen-sp.html

Debt paper overreliance has led to 'market colonization', says Indef

Jakarta Post - March 22, 2018

Jakarta – A senior economist has said Indonesia's increasing foreign debt in the last three years had trapped the country's economy in being dependent on the global market.

Faisal Basri of the Institute for Development for Economics and Finance (Indef), who is also a professor at the University of Indonesia, said on Wednesday in Jakarta that Indonesia was over-dependent on the sales of government debt papers (SBN) to finance its infrastructure projects.

"It is fine for the SBN to be controlled by foreigners, as long as there is no market fluctuation. But we are now colonized by the market, which is currently in a state of uncertainty," he said in a discussion on Wednesday, as quoted by kompas.com.

The SBN's domination by foreign ownership is worrying, because Indonesia was not in control of the currently fluctuating market.

According to Faisal, it would be better for the government to seek its debts from international financial institutions like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, as well as the Japanese government, as such debts would not be affected by market conditions.

The use of the funds would also be controllable, because the government must consult the creditors in using the fund, he added.

Bank Indonesia announced last week that Indonesia's foreign debt reached US$375.5 billion in late January, a year-on-year growth of 10.3 percent. The central bank confirmed that the majority of government debt ($180.8 billion) was in SBNs, while the remaining debt ($55.7 billion) was in loans from foreign creditors. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/22/debt-paper-overreliance-has-led-to-market-colonization-says-indef-economist.html

Indonesia looks abroad to lure investment

Jakarta Post - March 21, 2018

Marchio Irfan Gorbiano, Jakarta – The government is courting foreign investors in a bid to lure investment to fuel its infrastructure development program, given the state budget's limited capability to fund President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's ambitious infrastructure projects.

National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, who recently embarked on a roadshow to the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland to pitch for investment in infrastructure facilities, said many investors were interested in investing in Indonesia, but those who had never invested in Indonesia were taking their time to assess risk in the country.

"There is interest [from investors] but most have never invested in Indonesia, so they need time to assess the project's pipeline as well as investment schemes," he said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

From the trip, Bambang targeted up to US$3 billion in investment commitment, Bloomberg reports. "Now we are following up [with the investors] so that they understand the risks and potential in Indonesia," he added.

He said the projects he offered to investors were toll roads, power plants, airports and seaports, which are suited for private investment.

The government is seeking to attract private investors as it pledges to build numerous infrastructure facilities worth Rp 4.7 quadrillion ($341.59 billion) until 2019, of which only up to 40 percent will be funded by the state budget and the rest will rely on investment from state-owned enterprises as well as the private sector. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/21/indonesia-looks-abroad-to-lure-investment.html

Indonesia's foreign debt reaches US$375.5 billion

Jakarta Post - March 16, 2018

Jakarta – Indonesia's foreign debt reached US$375.5 billion in late January or a 10.3 percent growth compared to the same month last year, Bank Indonesia (BI) said on Thursday.

The central bank added that the increase in foreign debt was mostly used to finance infrastructure projects and other productive activities.

It said the government and BI debts reached $183.4 billion, while the debt of private companies reached $174.2 billion.

"Bank Indonesia in coordination with the government will continuously monitor foreign debt to ensure that it is used to finance development without any risk to economic stability," said the BI statement.

The majority of government debt ($180.8 billion) was in the form of debt papers, while the remaining debt ($55.7 billion) was loans from foreign creditors.

Meanwhile, Institute for Development of Economics and Finance economist Bhima Yudhistita expressed his concern over the foreign debt increase, saying that it was not productive as it was not equal to the tax revenue collected by the government.

"Foreign debt grew 10.3 percent, but tax revenue only grew 4 percent on average in the last two years," Bhima said, as reported by tempo.co on Thursday, adding that the debt-to-tax revenue ratio last year was at 31 percent, compared to 26 percent in 2016.

Bhima added that foreign debt was unequal to economic growth, which was recorded at about 5 percent last year. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/03/16/indonesias-foreign-debt-reaches-us375-5-billion.html

History & culture

Ghost stories infuse Indonesia's politics of fear

Asia Times - March 18, 2018

Aisyah Llewellyn Medan, Sumatra – "We aren't allowed to talk about the ghosts anymore" explains Ernest Siregar, a guide at Tjong A Fie Mansion while giving a tour of the famous heritage building in Medan, Indonesia. "The family have already clarified their position on this: They don't want to comment any further about the vampire."

Built in 1895, Tjong A Fie belonged to Tjong A Fie, a prominent Chinese businessman considered one of the modern founding fathers of the city. In January 2018, the mansion became the subject of some controversy when it featured in a television show on local Indonesian channel Trans7 entitled "The Mystery of Tjong A Fie Mansion."

The producers told Tjong A Fie's descendants only that they wanted to shoot a story of the building's history. When the footage aired, however, it said the mansion was haunted by a curly haired vampire and depicted a photograph of Tjong A Fie, who died in 1921, with wide eyes that followed people around the room.

The family is furious over what they view as false reporting. Mimi Fie, one of Tjong A Fie's descendants, expressed outrage over the story in an interview with news website Tribun-Medan, saying that the program was racist and never should have been aired.

That anyone would accuse a national television station of a smear campaign involving the occult would strain the bounds of incredulity in some other parts of the world. But in Indonesia ghosts are a serious business.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation on earth and some 80% of the population adhere to Islam, a religion that generally prohibits belief in sorcery and ghosts – save for a few phenomena such as djinns, supernatural creatures in early Arabian and later Islamic mythology.

Still, there is widespread belief in ghosts of all kinds that have roots in the island nation's pre-Islamic era. The country has myriad local phantoms, from pocong (zombie-like figures wrapped in funeral shrouds) to female vampires known as kuntilanak.

Paul Sochaczewski, author of the Curious Encounters book series, has spent years exploring ghost stories around the world, including in Indonesia.

Speaking to Asia Times, Sochaczewski says the region's ghost stories have various roots, ranging from animism, Chinese traditional beliefs, rural ancestry and a belief among the poor that a better future will come next time around.

It is not just about a belief in the hereafter. Southeast Asian ghost stories also tell us about the national psyche in the here and now.

Cultural observer Amir Muhammad, for instance, writes in the foreword to The Malaysian Book of the Undead: "The ghosts we choose to believe in can also say a lot about our attitudes towards gender, the natural environment and even race."

When it comes to gender, Indonesian ghosts are heavily weighted in favor of women. One of the most famous is the lang suir, which are said to be the spirits of women who died in childbirth or delivering a stillborn child.

Another is known as sundel bolong, apparitions of women who were raped, impregnated and then died in childbirth, and who appear with a gruesome gaping hole in their backs. The premises behind these widely-believed ghosts inform what Indonesians find scary and why.

Local Indonesian writer Gita Putri Damayana wrote in a piece published in The Conversation in 2017 entitled "Indonesian folklore of vengeful female ghosts hold symbols of violence against women":

"There's a thread connecting the female ghosts beyond their gender: most of them are victims. [...] the background story of each ghost shares similar themes. These women were victims of gender inequality and sexual violence. They also had poor access to healthcare."

Damayana notes that Indonesia has a high infant mortality rate, with 305 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015, well above the average of 12 deaths per 100,000 live births in developed countries.

There were more reported rape cases in Indonesia than there are reported robberies using firearms or sharp weapons, according to data from the Central Statistics Bureau complied in 2015.

In that sense, Indonesia's female ghosts are not just the stuff of myths and legends. Instead, they echo local issues facing Indonesian women, like the dangers of childbirth in rural areas or the chances of being attacked or assaulted outside their homes.

Social and political fears are tightly wound into the fabric of Indonesia's ghostly folklore.

The controversy surrounding Tjong A Fie Mansion, including allegations of anti-Chinese racism, is especially pertinent. Medan was the flashpoint for riots in 1998 which targeted the Sino-Indonesian community, leaving over 1,000 people dead.

This, in turn, linked back to anti-communist purges of 1965-66, one of the darkest periods of Indonesia's history that resulted in over 500,000 deaths, including thousands of ethnic Chinese.

In painting the mansion as a haunted house, the television program dismissed the opportunity to discuss its important Chinese-Indonesian cultural heritage in favour of a spooky play on a long-held political trope – that Chinese-Indonesians are something to fear, even in death.

Ghosts and political violence mix across various parts of Indonesia's sprawling archipelago.

"Accusations of witchcraft or sorcery can be a precedent for a killing that perhaps has its real origins in village politics," said Tim Hannigan, author of A Geek in Indonesia. "Perhaps it's a way of providing almost a legitimizing gloss of mystification to the filthy business of political violence."

Ghost stories are also used to justify breaking the law. Villagers in Mandailing Natal, North Sumatra, recently justified killing a protected Sumatran tiger because they mistook it for a siluman, or a supernatural shape-shifter.

The slain tiger's claws, teeth, skin, organs and fur were all removed and likely sold on the black market, where they command a high price in traditional medicine. Rather than admit to killing the tiger for safety or material reasons, the villagers justified the act based on their fears of the spirit world.

Pointing to ghosts to gloss over inconvenient truths or situations is not confined to Indonesia's rural villages; even senior politicians trot out the occasional ghost story to justify corruption, warrant abuse or cover up their failings.

Ghouls, phantoms and demons are a pithy way of explaining the unexplained, or a good cover up for the failings of the government.

For instance, when an Air Asia flight from the Indonesian town of Surabaya destined for Singapore disappeared in late 2014, then Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Purnama referred to the high density of ghosts and mystical phenomena in the Kalimantan island region where the plane was last tracked.

The plane crashed into the Karimata Strait, killing 162. As the public struggled to come to terms with the unexplained event, Purnama tried to smooth things over by providing an otherworldly reason for the crash. He later claimed that he was only joking when he said that djinn could have been responsible.

Ghosts even dictate the politics of dating in Indonesia, a phenomenon perhaps less about the occult and more about pushy parents wanting the best for their children.

Hannigan notes that on the island of Sumba whole families are believed to be suanggi, evil spirits in the shape of people known for vampire-like tendencies.

"This has a real impact on day-to-day life," says Hannigan. "Good luck getting parental approval if your new girlfriend is from a family identified as suanggi."

Whether an apparition applies to dating, maternal health or political life, there is a ghost, ghoul or kindred spirit for nearly every occasion in Indonesia, a belief system that endures despite being forbidden by Islam and the wider culture of fear it promotes.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/ghost-stories-infuse-indonesias-politics-fear/

Analysis & opinion

The Muslim Cyber Army: what is it and what does it want?

Indonesia at Melbourne - March 20, 2018

Damar Juniarto – On 1 March, the Indonesian National Police announced the arrest of 14 members of the so-called Muslim Cyber Army (MCA) network for defamation, spreading hoax news and hate speech. Although the name might be familiar to most social media and internet users in Indonesia, it remains a nebulous and poorly understood network.

However, the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) has been tracking the group from January 2017. SAFEnet volunteers have interviewed victims, conducted field investigations, monitored social media and analysed social networks. We have uncovered a systematic pattern of attacks, involving the use of social media to target perceived critics and foment social division and hatred.

No leader, no fixed structure?

The MCA, or as it is also sometimes called, Cyber Muslim Army or Muslim Mega Cyber Army, describes itself as an organisation without structure. Members claim MCA has no leader, no central office, no source of income, and members say they are paid no wages. The MCA has an array of affiliated groups, with names like the Srikandi Muslim Cyber Army, the United Muslim Cyber Army, the Legend MCA, Muslim Coming and many others.

Some members describe MCA as a shadow organisation, and liken it to Anonymous, the hacktivist group known for launching cyberattacks on governments, corporations and the Church of Scientology. Although MCA uses some of the same imagery, occasionally switching the distinctive Guy Fawkes masks used by Anonymous for a keffiyeh, it otherwise shares no connection to the hacktivist group. The only real similarity is that both groups rely on their anonymity to evade criminal sanctions.

There are several key characteristics of MCA. It is most active on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp but also has a presence on other popular platforms like Instagram and Telegram. Individuals may self-declare membership of the group, and express the MCA identity by changing the name of their social media accounts, using an MCA profile picture or avatar, or joining an MCA affiliated Facebook or WhatsApp group. Its members tend to act collectively, with each assigned certain roles or tasks. Another key characteristic is the tendency of members to deliver a consistent message across multiple social media channels at the same time. Relying on applications like Twittbot.net, MCA can quickly flood social media feeds with particular hashtags or messages.

Falsifying accounts, triggering persecution

SAFEnet became aware of the extent of MCA's activities when we began monitoring online cases of online blasphemy and persecution – cases that we grouped under the term "The Ahok Effect". Following the conviction of former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, there was a major increase in the harassment, intimidation and persecution of individuals deemed to have insulted Islam online. We have now identified more than 100 such cases of persecution. We sought to monitor these cases, and the motives and modes of operation of the perpetrators.

One of the first indications of the trend was a viral video that invited viewers to track down people who had insulted Islam. The 1:25 minute video opened with a logo for the "Blasphemer Hunter Team" (Tim Pemburu Penista Agama), and included a list of "People Wanted by the Muslim Community" for allegedly committing blasphemy. Viewers were encouraged to report people who they considered had insulted Islam or religious leaders via the address lapormca@gmail.com.

A related Facebook page, "Database of People Wanted by the Muslim Community", included a list of people accused of insulting Islam, screenshots of their social media accounts, and other sensitive personal information, such as their home or office addresses and phone numbers. In the cybersecurity field, this type of behaviour is commonly called doxing – the act of looking for and disseminating an individual's personal data for malicious reasons.

SAFEnet's research found a clear correlation between these activities on social media and offline persecution. After personal information was displayed on Facebook pages, vigilante behaviour would begin, usually within just 2-5 days. Organisations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) typically harassed and intimidated the accused person into issuing an apology and or dragged the person to the police and demanded they detain him or her for offending Islam.

SAFEnet monitored these developments for about five months and confirmed the consistent pattern before issuing a press release on 27 May 2017. Within a couple of days, Facebook blocked the MCA "Database" page.

SAFEnet and the Anti-Persecution Network found that MCA actively manipulated the public to fuel persecution. MCA would create imitation accounts, mimicking the profiles of real people, and use these imitation profiles to spread information designed to infuriate or offend the Muslim community.

This happened to Hananto, from Solo, Central Java, who was harassed and intimidated after an imitation account shared a photo of a Qur'an being burned and stepped on. Similarly, a fake Twitter handle @parlindsinurat_ was created to mimic the handle of Ahok supporter Parlindungan Sinurat. Parlindungan reported his imitator to Twitter and the National Police's cybercrime unit but he was too late. The fake tweet spread, a mob descended on his home and he was eventually detained by police.

SAFEnet has attempted to trace several of the accounts claiming to be members of the MCA using the "IP Tracker" site, although all disguised their identities by using a virtual private network (VPN). Even if a location was detected, we would often find the owner of the account had long died, despite remaining active on social media. We have yet to establish how MCA was able to acquire and mobilise the accounts of dead people.

MCA is not acting alone

Although a group called Muslim Cyber Army was established some years ago, its primary concern was "cyber-jihad" – it did not focus on domestic political concerns. The MCA in its current form appeared at the time of the anti-Ahok demonstrations on 4 November and 2 December 2016. Initially this new body used the name Muslim Mega-Cyber Army (MMCA), although it was soon shortened to Muslim Cyber Army. Our research found that following the so-called 411 and 212 demonstrations in 2016, prominent social media figures agreed to form MCA branches in their home cities.

New variants of MCA have emerged, each with their own pet issues and identities. We have identified at least four main clusters of MCA accounts on social media, based on their collective behaviour and the types of messages they post. The four groups may often converge, such as for the major demonstrations that occurred from late 2016 to May 2017. But on other occasions, for example in demonstrations against communism, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Indonesians, or foreigners, the differences become apparent.

MCA is clearly not a single entity. The MCA identity has been used to support the interests of a range of national political figures, mass-based organisations and political parties. Nevertheless, most of the issues are connected in some way to discrediting President Joko Widodo. SAFEnet has identified clear indications of connections between MCA and certain prominent military and political figures, although is still building evidence before making these details public.

Defending religion?

From a list of victims compiled by the Anti-Persecution Network through to September 2017, SAFEnet identified the main reasons people were targeted by MCA. The most common trigger for persecution was a perceived insult against Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab. People were also targeted for alleged insults against fellow conservative religious leader Arifin Ilham, Islam in general, and the FPI.

It is actually quite difficult to find any direct and specific correlation between the messages spread by MCA and their stated goal of defending religion. Rather, the main messages were: defend Rizieq Shihab; crush PKI; reject LGBT; anti-Chinese; imprison Ahok; and sink or boycott the supporters of Ahok and Jokowi.

This list of topics is similar to the main social and political issues that coloured the 2014 presidential campaign. MCA has played an important role in keeping alive the issues that were prominent in 2014, sharpening them further and deepening social conflict. What we saw in 2017 was only the beginning.

Political goals

Police might have arrested 14 people suspected of being MCA members, but the network remains active. Some of its members have disguised themselves, for example, by changing their group names or avatars. Others, however, still proudly display the MCA name and profile images.

MCA is currently highly active in West Java, Central Java and East Java, three populous provinces that will soon hold local leadership elections. Our monitoring has shown that MCA accounts and bots have been deployed to support at least one of the candidates in West Java.

Attempts to replicate the tactics of the 2017 Jakarta Governor's Election in the 2018 regional elections have raised fears that we will see a new round of persecutions based around identity politics. As the political figures and funders behind MCA have yet to be revealed, it looks like we will face a turbulent and divisive two years ahead.

[Damar Juniarto is the regional coordinator of the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet).]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/the-muslim-cyber-army-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-want/

Jokowi shares the blame for MD3 debacle

New Mandala - March 19, 2018

Stephen Sherlock – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) was recently reported in the media as stating that he would refuse to sign the controversial legislation on Indonesia's legislative institutions (known as the MD3 law) that has been passed by the national parliament (DPR). After initially prevaricating on whether he would sign, Jokowi seems to have caved in because of rising condemnation about certain provisions of the legislation, particularly clauses that opponents of the law have argued would give DPR members immunity from public criticism.

Leaving aside the issue of whether the critics were correct or not, this incident reveals what a shambles the lawmaking process in Indonesia has become. The idea that Jokowi would use his presidential authority to refuse to sign legislation passed by the DPR is simply absurd, because the text of the law was already agreed to and supported by his own government during its passage through the parliament. It could not have reached the stage of presidential signature unless final agreement between the government and the DPR about the intent and wording of the legislation had been reached.

Many critics of the MD3 law argued that it was another example of overreach by the DPR. What the critics seem to be unaware of, however, is that the lawmaking powers of the Indonesian parliament are actually quite circumscribed. The DPR does not have the power to make laws by itself: Article 20 of the Indonesian constitution states that draft legislation can become law only when there is "joint agreement between the DPR and the President". This means that, unlike for other democratic parliaments across the world, deliberation and debate on draft laws is not the sole prerogative of the DPR. The lawmaking process takes the form of a dialogue between representatives of the president (usually the relevant minister) and the DPR committee with policy responsibility in the area (in this case Commission II).

As a result, the president (either directly or through his/her minister) can oppose any or all clauses of a draft law, put forward their own alternative clauses, bring legislative proceedings to a halt, or stall debate – often by the simple expedient of failing to nominate a government representative, or by not turning up to a committee meeting. In the latter cases, which have occurred quite often, the lawmaking process is effectively frozen by the president.

So for Jokowi to suggest that he somehow did not know about the content of the MD3 until it landed on his desk for signature defies credibility. This is, however, precisely what the President claims: that it was "not possible" for the Minister for Justice and Human Rights, Yasonna Laoly, to report to him about the deliberations because they were "very dynamic and very fast".

Yasonna Laoly and/or his senior officials would have attended every official session of the DPR committee responsible for the legislation, and were doing so as constitutionally-mandated representatives of the president. If the minister failed to report to the president, it was a massive dereliction of duty on this part and he acted without the explicit authority of the president during the deliberations, in violation of the Constitution.

If, as Jokowi claims, all the prominent media coverage on the issue passed him by and he failed to question his ministerial representative in the DPR, it was also a huge blunder. The latter scenario would also throw the competency of Jokowi's personal advisers into doubt, to say the least, since their first responsibility is to keep the president informed of all major political developments and protect him from possible embarrassment.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the process has been revealed to be a shambles. The reality is probably that there was poor quality communication amongst all parties concerned. Yasonna Laoly seems to have failed to consider the political ramifications of the legislation and to convey the gravity of the situation to Jokowi, possibly because he was acting under the influence of his senior ministerial officials. Jokowi's advisers were deficient in the execution of their duty to warn the president, and Jokowi himself failed in his role as the ultimate voice of authority over all government representatives. And his belated action of refusing to sign the document is entirely tokenistic, because the President's signature is not necessary to validate any legislation: it becomes law thirty days after being sent to the president, regardless of whether he signs or not.

The most important point to note is that, in this case at least, the shambles exists primarily in the halls of executive government. Conventional wisdom about failures in the lawmaking process is that it is always the fault of the DPR. In fact, however, the constitution endows at least half the lawmaking power on the president under the requirement for "joint agreement" between the DPR and the president. The DPR is frequently – and rightly – decried for its slowness and poor output of legislation. But in many cases the problems result from failures of executive government agencies, with poor coordination between ministries and half-baked and ill-considered policy reflected in badly drafted legislation submitted to the DPR – which often contradicts or overlaps with existing laws.

Further layers were added to the shambles when both Jokowi and Yasonna Laoly encouraged people to file a judicial review case about the law with the Constitutional Court – thus creating the bizarre scenario where a government is calling upon complainants to appeal against their own law. And from the NGO community came a report that a representative of the Constitution and Democracy Initiative (Kode Inisiatif) had proposed that Jokowi should issue a Regulation in Lieu of Law (Perppu) to annul the offending clauses in the law.

If this report is true, it suggests that an organisation advocating constitutional legality supports the misuse of a legal mechanism designed to be employed only in cases of emergency. It also does not appear to understand that a law passed by the DPR is, by constitutional mandate, a law that was agreed to by government. As such, the government should not be encouraged to annul its own law by emergency decree because the law has been found to be politically embarrassing.

The saga of the MD3 law has not only uncovered an attempt by DPR members to shield themselves from public accountability, but has laid bare the dysfunctionality of governance under Jokowi, as well as the apparent misunderstanding of basic constitutional provisions in both government and non-government circles.

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/jokowi-shares-blame-md3-debacle/

Australia-Indonesia: strangers next door

The Interpreter - March 16, 2018

Tim Lindsey and Dave McRae – At the weekend, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet with President of Indonesia Joko Widodo (Jokowi) on the margins of the Australia-ASEAN Special Summit. Although Turnbull seems to have built the positive personal relationship with Jokowi that eluded Tony Abbott, managing the bilateral relationship won't be any easier for Turnbull than his predecessor.

The fate of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) illustrates the difficulties Turnbull faces. The signing of this agreement, under negotiation for almost a decade, was originally expected to provide the fresh "announceable" development that such meetings between leaders demand.

Although the signing may still happen, its likelihood has been descreasing for some months, all the more so as senior Indonesian ministers told the press on Tuesday that talks remain deadlocked.

Even if a deal is finally signed off, implementing it will be just as hard as its negotiation – maybe even more so. For all Jokowi's repeated rhetoric of Indonesia being "open for business", in reality his country remains strongly protectionist.

In part this is due to a tradition of populist mistrust of foreign capital, stoked by increased nationalism since the presidential elections of 2014. It is also partly because of a too-often corrupt and obstructionist bureaucracy, and a result of wealthy oligarchs' capturing much of the political process and a good slice of the media too.

Jokowi's promises count for little if these oligarchs choose to stymie deregulatory reform. The gap between his reformist policy announcements and the wicked problems foreign investors still face on the ground remains enormous.

Of course, the difficulty of developing bilateral economic ties cannot solely be attributed to Indonesia's challenging business environment. Australia's business underperformance in Indonesia is also a result of the persistent popular misunderstandings of the country that led Australians to ignore our shared geography and miss out on the benefits of Indonesia's 5% growth and much-predicted boom.

This creates a vicious circle. As Dave McRae and Diane Zhang argue in their contribution to our newly published volume on Australia-Indonesia relations, "Strangers Next Door?: Indonesia and Australia in the Asian Century", Australia's shallow economic ties with Indonesia leave nothing to counterbalance popular security fears about Indonesia. The Indonesian diaspora in Australia is surprisingly tiny given their home country's enormous size and close proximity.

Popular anxiety about Indonesia in Australia was also aggravated by the rise of racial and religious identity politics evident in the Jakarta gubernatorial election last year, which saw the Christian ethnic Chinese incumbent Ahok imprisoned for blasphemy.

In fact, Indonesian Islam's growing social and moral conservativism could become even more problematic for our relations with Indonesia. Having finally managed to legalise same-sex marriage, Australians will react badly if the Indonesian legislature's current plans to amend its Criminal Code to criminalise homosexuality are successful. This has the potential to trigger an international tide of criticism against Indonesia, which will probably only strengthen anti-foreigner sentiment.

Fear and anxiety works both ways. Australia's popular reputation in Indonesia is also often poor. A persistent perception of Australia as firmly "white" feeds nationalist suspicions of its supposed neocolonial motivations in dealing with Indonesia.

Papua will therefore continue to be a major fault line in the relationship, sitting at the intersection of powerful and often conflicting ideas about human rights and national sovereignty in the two countries. Many Australian activists who lobbied for democracy in Indonesia and self-determination for East Timor now see Papuan independence as a similar cause, infuriating Indonesian leaders.

Indonesian suspicions about Australian ambitions also dovetail neatly with nationalist scepticism of Australia's significance to Indonesia, given the latter's economic and geopolitical "rise". This is manifest in the frequent comments of Indonesian opinion-makers to Australians that, "You need us more than we need you," or, as Indonesia rises, "You need to show us why you matter." As then DFAT secretary Dennis Richardson wrote in 2012, a wealthier and more confident neighbour makes it "increasingly difficult for Australia to gain the attention of Indonesian decision-makers, to the extent that we think our interests might warrant".

There are plenty of other human rights and criminal law issues on which Australians and Indonesians frequently do not see eye to eye, including the death penalty and drugs sentencing. Asylum-seeker policy is another obvious fault line.

Amid this turbulence, bilateral ties have grown incrementally broader and, in a range of respects, warmer, since Indonesia democratised in 1998. Turnbull's regular meetings with Jokowi and the annual "2+2" defence and foreign ministers meeting, which will accompany the ASEAN summit this weekend, are each part of the wide range of government cooperation has developed. Nevertheless, the two-way tensions, fears, and misunderstandings signal that bilateral ties face a bumpy ride ahead.

In fact, there is a real risk that as the Asian Century rolls on, Australia and Indonesia may find themselves largely going their separate ways.

Preventing this from happening, and deriving some benefit for Australia from Indonesia's fast-moving transformation, will be a huge challenge for Turnbull, regardless of his personal rapport with Joko Widodo. IA-CEPA would be a nice start, but don't hold your breath.

[Tim Lindsey and Dave McRae are the editors of Strangers Next Door?: Indonesia and Australia in the Asian Century, published by Hart Publishing in February.]

Source: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/australia-indonesia-strangers-next-door

Indonesian polls may delay Freeport settlement

Asia Times - March 15, 2018

John McBeth, Jakarta – If the difficult talks between the Indonesian government and American-owned Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold over the future of Papua's Grasberg mine drag on beyond mid-year, they might well be postponed until after next year's legislative and presidential elections.

Analysts believe that as much as he wants to reach an overall settlement in the next two months, President Joko Widodo will not be keen for the negotiations on such key issues as valuation and managerial control to become a distraction ahead of or during the campaign period, which formally begins in mid-September.

Government sources say the president's main concern is to secure funding commitments for the majority stake Freeport agreed to divest in its Indonesian subsidiary so he can show that progress is being made in implementing the framework agreement the two sides signed six months ago.

That means the pressure is on Budi Gunadi Sadikin, chief executive of state-owned holding company PT Inalum, to come up with the offshore bank loans needed to cover the cost of the acquisition, even if the valuation of the Grasberg has yet to be agreed. The Grasberg is the largest gold and second largest copper mine in the world.

It is widely believed Widodo will effectively turn over much of the running of the government to Vice President Jusuf Kalla in August or September, leaving some of the outstanding issues to be resolved after the simultaneous elections are held in April 2019.

Characterized as a "love-hate" relationship by one government official, the two leaders appear to have come to an accommodation in the year since Kalla openly opposed the re-election of former Jakarta governor Basuki Purnama, a Widodo ally who lost the race and is now serving a jail term for blasphemy.

The president is clearly intent on making progress on other fronts now that it is clear his government's restrictive policies across a range of business sectors are proving to be a barrier to the foreign investment needed to boost the country's gross domestic product (GDP) growth beyond 5%.

Widodo wants Kalla to take charge of improving the long-criticized work permit system, preparing a package of tax incentives for foreign investors and reviewing the so-called 'Negative List' that closes several sectors of the economy to outside investment.

Given the already low percentage of foreigners in the Indonesian labor force, the tighter work permit rules imposed in the early days of Widodo's rule have seemed to be more about populist protectionism than preserving jobs for domestic workers.

Kalla will also seek to delay the implementation of a potentially disastrous law, passed in the final days of the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration, that requires Islamic law compliant halal certification for everything from foodstuffs to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals to clothing to even car-seat covers.

Widodo has reportedly vowed not to sign the implementing presidential decree while government legal experts work on a revision to the law, which the Health Ministry and businessmen alike say isn't workable and an invitation to rampant corruption.

The government is seeking to put a similar brake on proposed Islamic law influenced changes to the Criminal Code that would impose a sweeping ban on same-sex relations, pre-marital sex, cohabitation among couples, sex education and condom distribution.

If the Freeport impasse is shuffled into the "too hard to resolve" basket, it would still hang over any new administration given the strength of the country's nationalist lobby and the way the issue has become a test case for Widodo's value-added policy.

How the government treats the much-maligned company, often regarded by Indonesians as 'corporate enemy No 1' despite being the country's top taxpayer, is also under scrutiny from foreign investors already nervous about over-regulation and legal uncertainties.

Valuation, management control and a financial stability agreement remain the main obstacles as Freeport chief executive Richard Adkerson shuttles between Phoenix and Jakarta for meetings with senior Indonesian officials led by Mines and Energy Minister Ignasius Jonan.

The two sides are far apart on a fair market value of the Grasberg, though the gap might be closing. The government is offering US$3 to US$4 billion for the rest of a controlling stake, while Freeport has countered with a figure that leaves about US$1.5 to US$2 billion outstanding.

Currently the owner of 9.36% of Freeport Indonesia, the government is looking to acquire another 41.64% in a scheme involving Freeport's Anglo-Australian partner, Rio Tinto, which has options on 40% of the Grasberg after 2022. That stake would potentially be converted to shares through a rights issue.

While there is agreement Freeport will continue to run the mine's operations until 2041, the government insists that as the majority shareholder it should take over management control after Freeport's current contract expires in 2021.

Freeport and Rio Tinto have so far spent about US$7 billion on an underground expansion of the mine because the open pit is running out, but another US$20 billion investment is still required, including US$2.2 billion to pay for a new smelter under Jakarta's value-added policy.

For all that, however, industry sources claim the smelter could cost as much as US$8 to US$10 billion in lost revenues and subsidies over the remaining life of the mine, with treatment charges expected to double to 60-65 US cents a pound.

It is still not clear whether the smelter will be built in East Java, close to an existing Mitsubishi-run facility, or whether it will be moved to Sumbawa as part of a shared venture with Indonesian-owned Amman Mineral, which operates the Batu Hijau copper and gold mine.

The harder ore encountered underground, along with hundreds of kilometers of electric railway, will also require an additional 130 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired power generation, boosting the Grasberg's overall capacity to more than 500MW.

The government has shelved a planned 300MW hydro-electric plant, 100 kilometers west of the Grasberg, which would have served both the mine and the coastal logistics center of Timika, whose 200,000-strong population is starved for electricity.

Freeport estimates the Grasberg's open pit will be exhausted of the last of its high-grade copper and gold ore within the next 12 months. While the transition to a purely underground mine will happen by early next year, it is expected to bring a significant fall in revenues.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/indonesian-polls-may-delay-freeport-settlement/


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