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Indonesia News Digest 13 – April 1-8, 2018

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West Papua

Papuan students protest at US Consulate in Bali, call for closure of

Java Post - April 8, 2018

Denpasar – The Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) has again spoken out against the PT Freeport Indonesia gold-and-copper mine in West Papua.

Yesterday afternoon they went to the US Consulate General on Jl. Hayam Wuruk in the Balinese provincial capital of Denpasar where AMP Bali spokesperson Gilo said that Freeport's presence has been a disaster for West Papua.

According to Gilo, Freeport's presence cannot be separated from cases of human rights violations and environmental damage. They also accused the Indonesian government of contributing to the disaster being suffered by the people of West Papua.

The AMP is therefore calling on PT Freeport to be closed down immediately. "Audit Freeport's wealth and give severance pay to its [sacked] workers", they shouted.

"Audit the mine's reserves and environmental damage", they explained. They also called in the government to withdraw all organic and non-organic Indonesian military (TNI) and police (Polri) from the land of West Papua.

"Stop the engineered conflict in Timika [where the mine is located", they added. They also called on Freeport to rehabilitee the environmental damage caused by the mine.

Around 50 people joined the demonstration which attracted tight security from police in the vicinity of the US Consulate General.

Road access was closed off as a result of the student's protest. Police erected razor wire and three vehicles – one of which was a water cannon – were on standby in anticipation of the action approaching the Consulate General.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua Geruduk Konjen AS, Desak Tutup Freeport Segera".]

Source: https://www.jawapos.com/radarbali/read/2018/04/08/63278/aliansi-mahasiswa-papua-geruduk-konjen-as-desak-tutup-freeport-segera

Indonesia releases 42 people arrested at West Papua university

The Guardian - April 7, 2018

Helen Davidson – Indonesian authorities have released most of the large group of students and activists arrested on Wednesday at a West Papua university.

At least 44 people were taken into custody at the University of Cenderawasih campus in Jayapura during a raid, which the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) described as an attempt to distract attention from fatal clashes elsewhere in the region.

On Friday, Indonesian authorities said 42 people had been released. "Three are still under examination," the spokesman for the Indonesian embassy in Australia, Sade Bimantara, said.

"Two for allegations of being in possession of stolen motorbikes and marijuana. One under investigation for suspicious possession of 159 laptops."

Gustaf Kawer, who is part of the Association of Human Rights Lawyers for Papua, told Guardian Australia on Wednesday the students and activists had been detained and taken to nearby facilities of the mobile police (Brimob) and then police headquarters in Jayapura.

KNPB said the raids targeted student dormitories and its offices, and were apparently related to unsourced material that suggested there was a pro-independence declaration event scheduled for Thursday.

Bimantara had previously told Guardian Australia the raid was based on "valid information that a number of people were planning to hold an illegal event".

"Upon conducting a thorough check of the location where the individuals were based, the police found a number of vehicles without the proper papers and suspected stolen electronic devices. The police also found firearm ammunitions."

Bimantara said the police followed strict protocols to ensure the detainees were treated with respect and had access to legal representation.

The KNPB chairman, Victor Yeimo, said his organisation was not responsible for the unsourced "propaganda" about a proposed event.

He suggested the raid – which he claimed involved Indonesian police, Brimob, military and intelligence agencies – was to shift attention from armed clashes near Timika in which at least two people died.

Reuters quoted an Indonesian military spokesman, who said one Indonesian soldier and two separatists were killed in a shootout near the Grasberg mine.

Bimantara named the soldier as private Vicky Irad Uba Rumpaisum, "shot dead by a criminal separatist group" while on routine patrol.

The West Papua National Liberation Army said a 10-year-old boy and one of their members, and dozens of Indonesian security personnel, were killed in the clash.

Guardian Australia is unable to verify the claims of either side. Journalists and human rights groups are restricted from visiting.

West Papua has been the site of an independence struggle for several decades. Separatist groups have long fought for independence from Indonesia, which they have repeatedly accused of human rights violations including widespread violence, mass arrests, and killings.

Indonesia's annexure of West Papua was formalised in 1969 by a UN-supervised vote, which has been internationally criticised as an undemocratic process, and there have been allegations of Indonesian threats against those chosen to vote.

Bimantara told Guardian Australia it was incorrect to say the area was annexed by Indonesia.

"The fact is that in 1969 the United Nations reaffirmed Indonesia's sovereignty over the provinces of Papua and West Papua. These provinces are sovereign parts of Indonesia and never were listed on the UN decolonisation committee. This fact is indisputable and is internationally recognised."

A pro-independence petition signed by 1.8 million West Papuans was smuggled out of the region late last year and delivered to the United Nations by the exiled West Papuan leader Benny Wenda but it was dismissed by the decolonisation committee, which said Papua was outside its mandate.

An activist who was arrested for his role in the petition, Yanto Awerkion, was released last month after 15 months in prison.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/07/indonesia-releases-42-people-arrested-at-west-papua-university

Three dead since Sunday in renewed fighting in Papua

Radio New Zealand International - April 6, 2018

Gunfire exchanges between Indonesian military forces and West Papuan guerillas in Mimika regency have left three people dead since Sunday.

The death of a soldier with the Indonesian army, or TNI, prompted renewed fighting in the mountainous area around the Freeport mine in Papua province.

TNI and police forces had gone into a remote part of the area to reclaim villages controlled by the West Papua Liberation Army, or TPN.

TPN guerilla forces have declared war on the Indonesian state and the operations of the Freeport mine.

An NGO worker in Mimika's capital Timika, Demi Picoalu, said the TNI killed two Papuans in an intense sweep operation sparked by the killing of one of their troops on Sunday.

"After that, massive sweeping operation in (local) villages, and they (joint TNI and police troops) shoot everyone, because the TPN is hiding in the community village, so TNI used rockets."

Earier, according to the Jakarta Post, the TPN said that over 1,000 civilian lives were at risk due to the TNI's operation.

TPN spokesperson Hendrik Wanmang said they had gathered civilians in Kampung Opitawak and TPN fighters had retreated and left the kampung to avoid civilians being mistaken for armed fighters.

However, Demi Picoalu said that according to reports he had recieved from Banti village, the TNI's sweep operation had stopped.

Local villagers had been evacuated to the relative calm of a village named Banti 2 where they were consideed safe lest fightnig break out again.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/354269/three-dead-since-sunday-in-renewed-fighting-in-papua

Hundreds of villagers seek refuge after shootout in Papua

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2018

Jakarta – The recent clash between Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel and a local armed group at the Sinai Opitawak Church in Tembagapura, Papua, has forced hundreds of villagers into hiding in nearby forests. One person was killed while three parishioners were injured in the violence.

Parishioner Timotius Umabak was shot dead in a raid conducted by TNI and National Police personnel at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. He was buried in Opitawak on Wednesday afternoon.

Sinai Opitawak Church reverend Deserius Adii said Timotius, along with other parishioners, had been standing on the church's front porch when the shooting happened.

"All of them were waving the Red-and-White national flag and raised their hands to show the Army personnel that they are not involved with the armed group, but they shot them anyway," Deserius told The Jakarta Post in a phone interview on Thursday.

Deserius said he still did not know what had happened to the rest of the parishioners, because they dispersed as they tried to hide from the Army. "I haven't been able to contact any of them since last night," he said.

In response to the shoot-out, Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) secretary-general Rev. Gomar Gultom said the communion expressed its condolences. It also urged the armed forces to start using a cultural approach instead of military force to solve issues in Papua.

He urged the military and armed groups in Papua not to take out their hostilities on civilians. (dpk/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/05/hundreds-of-villagers-seek-refuge-after-shootout-in-papua.html

Eight people die from bootleg liquor in Papua

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2018

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – At least eight residents of Keerom and Lanny Jaya regencies in Papua died of consuming unlicensed alcohol (oplosan) in the past week.

"In the latest case, two people died after consuming oplosan in Lanny Jaya. Previously, six people died in Keerom in a similar incident," said Papua Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. M. Kamal on Thursday. The two Lanny Jaya residents, Lapis Wenda, 26, and Yondiron Tabuni, 28, died after they, together with several other residents of Kampung Popome in Mokoni district, consumed six bottles of a highly alcoholic drink called cap tikus.

"Lapis died on the scene while Yondiron passed away at Tiom Regional General Hospital (RSUD), which he had been taken to for medical treatment," said Kamal.

Two other residents, Malik Tabuni, 35, and Obed Murib, 42, are still undergoing medical treatment at the same hospital.

Meanwhile, the six Keerom residents died of bootleg liquor ostensibly containing brandy and whiskey of global brands, which they consumed on Sunday.

Keerom Police's criminal investigation head, Second Insp. Hotma Manurung, said nine other residents were receiving medical treatment.

Indonesia Papua Female Journalists Forum head Yuliana Lantipo said alcohol misuse in Papua had grown to an alarming rate.

"The government and security authorities must take tougher measures to ban the distribution of alcoholic beverages and sweep suspected locations of bootleg liquor manufacturing." (ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/05/eight-people-die-from-bootleg-liquor-in-papua.html

Arrests in Papua capital seen as diversion tactic

Radio New Zealand International - April 5, 2018

A leading West Papuan pro-independence organisation suspects the arrests of dozens of its supporters by Indonesian police was a diversion tactic.

Yesterday, police raided the office of the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, in Waena, a sub-district of Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian-ruled Papua province.

Police claimed pro-independence advocates were planning to declare independence for Papua at an event today in Waena.

Following the raid, police confirmed that 45 people were arrested. These include KNPB members and students from the adjacent University of Cenderawasih.

The chairman of the KNPB, Victor Yeimo, said it was not involved in the alleged plan.

"My organisation already clarified to the public that we're not involved, and we never had that event," he said. "But I think the police already know about this. I think this is black propaganda to move the people's opinion from Timika to Jayapura."

According to Mr Yeimo, Indonesian security forces were trying to divert attention from their ongoing confrontation with the Papua Liberation Army around Timika in remote Mimika regency.

"There's a very, very brutal operation still going on in Tembagapura (district of Mimika regency) now," he said.

He said Indonesian security forces had also increased their targeting of the KNPB since it committed to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua as the main representative body advancing independence aims.

The KNPB chairman said neither his organisation nor the wider Liberation Movement were involved in the purported declaration plan.

"That is why there are other people used by Indonesia to make black propaganda where they can blame the event (on) KNPB so they can easily criminalise our activities," Mr Yeimo said.

Earlier, Indonesian military personnel assisted the police in their raid of the KNPB office. Items seized included the Papuan nationalist Morning Star flag.

Mr Yeimo said the raid caused significant damage to the KNPB's offices and property. The KNPB's secretary-general, Ones Suhuniap, was among those arrested.

Initially, police linked their raid of the KNPB office to the reported distribution of leaflets and messages on social media about a planned independence declaration.

Before the arrests, the KNPB released a statement distancing itself from the planned declaration. However, subsequent to the arrests, police said the majority of the arrests were related to allegations of motorcycle theft.

In February, Mr Suhuniap met the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in Jakarta during the UN representative's official visit to Indonesia.

Mr Al Hussein said he was concerned about "reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua".

He said that Jakarta had invited him to visit West Papua, although it's not known when a team from the commissioner's office would be taking up the invitation.

Meanwhile, as of early Thursday morning, most of those arrested had been released, but police were reportedly holding on to around twenty of those affiliated with the KNPB.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/354174/arrests-in-papua-capital-seen-as-diversion-tactic

Civilian shot dead in front of church during military operations in

BBC Indonesia - April 5, 2018

Jerome Wirawan – The case of the alleged abduction of 1,300 people in Mimika, West Papua last year is apparently not over yet. This week, as many as three people were shot dead by the TNI (Indonesian military) in an incident that the TNI claims was a shootout with an armed group.

The problem is that one of those killed is believed to be a civilian.

Tembagapura district XVII/Cenderawasih Regional Military Command (Kodam) Information Division Head Infantry Colonel Muhammad Aidi said that during armed contacts on Sunday April 1 and Monday April 2, two members of the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) were killed and scores of others wounded. The TNI refers to the OPM as an Armed Separatist Criminal Group (KKSB).

Meanwhile Private First-Class Vicky Rumpasium from the 751/Raider, Infantry Battalion was killed.

Another armed class took place at the Banti Village in Tembagapura district on Wednesday April 4, however unlike the earlier armed contacts, this time it is claimed that the TNI entered the grounds of the Sinai Opitawak Church and shot at congregation members gathered on the church grounds.

Speaking to BBC Indonesia, Pastor Deserius Adii said that congregation member Timotius Omabak was shot dead and three others wounded.

"The military entered the church grounds. At the time the late Timotius Omabak and several mama-mama [women traders] were sitting out front. They raised the red-and-white [Indonesian flag], a sign that they were not in the OPM. So they raised their hands. But the brutal soldiers entered the congregation grounds and immediately began firing", said Deserius.

Deserius explained that there is no one in the congregation that is a member of an armed group. Moreover, according to Deserius, Timotius was a church staff member and worked as a civil servant in Tembagapura district.

"Before the TNI conducted the sweep of residential areas, we called on the OPM and the TNI/Polri not to sacrifice local people. Residents in the area are congregation members from three churches", continued Deserius.

Unable to confirm killing

Although Muhammad Aidi has confirmed the shooting he added that the TNI cannot confirm if the victim was actually a civilian or an OPM member.

"It is quite possible that the civilians were being used as [human] shields. What is clear is that at the time of the incident they were amongst a KKSB group", said Aidi. Aidi also confirmed that residents had raised the red-and-white flag.

"As soon as communities know that the TNI are coming they immediately raise the red-and-white flag. But it wasn't in front of the church, but on high ground. You can believe their version, but there a witnesses, from the community", said Aidi.

Rules of engagement

The West Papuan National Committee (KNPB) – a group which supports Papua's separation from Indonesia – has condemned the killing in Tembagapura. The incident, said KNPB general chairperson Victor Yeimo, is a reflection on how Indonesian security forces fail to understand the rules of engagement. "Every time Indonesian security forces launch an operation, the result is civilian casualties. The Indonesian military severely lacks and understanding of the principles of war, where civilians cannot be targeted. Doesn't the Indonesian military have eyes to see that they were civilians?", said Victor.

Responding to the counter accusations between government forces and pro-independence groups, Manokwari Legal Aid Assessment, Research and Development Institute (LP3BH) Director Yan Christian Warinussy insisted that an independent investigation is needed.

"I think we must give access to humanitarian workers, human rights defenders who are with human rights institutions including Komnas HAM [the National Human Rights Commission], in order to conduct an investigation", said Yan.

He highlighted the fact that the dissemination of information on West Papua is dominated by senior military and police officers, including allegations that civilians are falling victim because pro-independence groups are using people as human shields.

"I just don't see that our sisters and brothers who are categorised by the government as armed civilian groups use [people as] shields. Because none of the physical evidence is obtained in a balanced manner", said Yan.

"We hear a lot of talk from senior military and police officers. But we never get information from journalists who interview groups who oppose the state so we can't get information that is balanced", he added.

Mimika hostage taking

The first case of hostage taking came to light in October and November 2017. At the time, the TNI and police said that an armed group was holding 1,300 local residents and had cut off road access to the Banti and Kimbely villages in Timika.

It was difficult for journalists to verify what actually happened there because access to the area was closed, as conveyed by Viktor Mambor from the Papuan Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).

"It's difficult now. Before, prior to the incident, journalists were able to go up to Kimbely several times", said Viktor.

"But every time there is an incident like this it becomes difficult. We can actually go their secretly, but in a situation like this we could get shot, right", he said.

As of Thursday the TNI is still declaring an alert in Tembagapura district. Muhammad Aidi said that with the exception of Arwanop village near Opitawak, troops had succeeded in taking control of six villages in the district including Longsoran, Kimbeli, Banti 1, Banti 2, Utikini and Opitawak.

Through BBC Indonesia, the TNI has "invited", senior OPM official Hendrikus Uwamang to conduct an investigation into a village that was allegedly torched by the TNI.

"Let us go together to the TKP [crime scene] to investigate so that we don't accuse each other. We can guarantee their safety. We'll bring media colleagues to jointly investigate", said Aidi.

Aidi added that the TNI and police will guarantee the safety OPM members who voluntarily surrender and declare their loyalty to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. "They will also be guaranteed amnesty from any kind of legal proceedings", he asserted.

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski for the Indoleft news service. The original title of the report was "Konflik Papua: TNI disebut tembak warga yang kibarkan bendera merah putih".]

Source: https://www.bbc.com/indonesia/amp/indonesia-43655904

5 activists arrested in Papua for collecting earthquake relief funds

Suara Papua - April 5, 2018

Jayapura – Five activists from the Independent Student Forum (FIM) who were involved in a solidarity action to collect to funds for victims of an earthquake in Papua New Guinea were reportedly arrested by police in Jayapura on Thursday April 5.

The activists, who were arrested at the Abepura traffic circle in the Papuan provincial capital of Jayapura, were Yefri Tabuni, Alber Yatipai, Basten Tekege, Barata Pekey and Steven Gobai.

After the police forcibly broke up the action, the five were arrested and taken to the Abepura sectoral police (Polsek) station where they were held for more than an hour after finally being released and sent home at 1.30 pm.

Following his release Albert Yatipai said that police arrested them because they had allegedly disturbed public order and road users and, he said, because it was claimed that they had not submitted a prior notification of the action with police.

"Police forcibly broke up our solidarity action and then made a false arrest because we had already submitted a notification [of the action] with the Papuan Polda [regional police] and the Jayapura Polresta [municipal police]. In the written notification it was clear that we would be holding actions between March 15 and April 15, 2018", said Albert in an email sent to Suara Papua earlier this afternoon.

Albert said that it was solidarity action and purely to assist the victims of the earthquake in PNG and had no link with politics.

"So in this case the police failed and were imprudent, just arresting people for the sake of it", said Albert who is the secretary of the Solidarity Action Collection Fund for PNG Earthquake Victims in Port Numbay.

Another member of the group, Arnold Yarinap, claimed that three cardboard cartons used in the action to collect funds and filled with money were also seized by the police, but only two boxes were returned.

"A carton which contained 50,000 rupiah and 100,000 rupiah in cash was not returned, said Arnold.

Meanwhile when contacted by email for confirmation of the arrests Jayapura municipal police chief Assistant Superintendent Gustav Robby Urbinas explained that, "They were secured and taken to Polsek because the individuals [oknum] did not have a permit for the action nor submitted a notification or had a government recommendation. They appeared to be intoxicated. They were not arrested, thanks".

Urbinas also said that the current generation must be directed by dignified means.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Lima Aktivis FIM Ditahan di Polsek Abepura Saat Galang Dana Untuk Korban Gempa PNG".]

Source: https://suarapapua.com/2018/04/05/lima-aktivis-fim-ditahan-di-polsek-abe-saat-galang-dana-untuk-korban-gempa-png/

Fatality reported in shootout near Freeport in Papua

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2018

Nethy Dharma Somba and Evi Mariani, Jayapura/Jakarta – A clash between the Indonesian Military (TNI) in cooperation with the National Police and the Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM), a Papuan independence group, resulted in at least one fatality in Tembagapura district, Mimika regency in Papua on Wednesday, near the copper mine operated by Freeport.

The TNI said it could not confirm whether the victim was a civilian or a member of the TPN-OPM, which is referred to as an armed separatist criminal group by the TNI. The TPN-OPM claimed the fatality was a civilian. Both the TNI and TPN-OPM confirmed the identity of the dead man as Timotius Umabak.

The TNI said the clash left two others injured, the victims were identified as Ruben Kupugau, in his 30s, and Kapin Wamang, a 15-year-old boy. Once again the TNI could not confirm whether the two injured were civilians or TPN-OPM members.

Cendrawasih Military Command spokesman Col. M. Aidi said on Wednesday that a shootout happened at 10:15 a.m. local time during a hunt for the armed group in the village of Opitawak.

"The clash lasted for 30 minutes and when the shootout ended, our soldiers entered the village and found one dead and two injured," Aidi said. "This group usually uses civilians as shields," Aidi said. The military said they seized an F-16 rifle in the village.

The hunt was a follow up to an earlier clash on Sunday, in which one TNI soldier, Private First Class Vicky Irad Uba Rumpaidus, was killed. Before the incident, the group allegedly set houses, a hospital and a school building on fire.

The group had reportedly taken control of several villages in Tembagapura district, namely Utikini, Longsoran, Kimbeli, Banti 1, Banti 2 and Opitawak. On Wednesday, the TNI declared they had retaken all six villages.

TPN-OPM spokesperson Hendrik Wanmang told The Jakarta Post via phone on Wednesday afternoon that there was no shootout with the group in Opitawak on Wednesday morning. "The [Indonesian Military] shot the villagers," he claimed.

Earlier, at about 7:30 a.m. Jakarta time, or 9:30 Papua time, Wanmang said, the TPN-OPM had gathered all villagers in Opitawak for their own protection. He claimed the TPN-OPM fighters had retreated and left the village to avoid civilians being mistaken for armed fighters.

"There were women and children among the 1,000. We told them if the Indonesian Military came, not to run, show yourselves with your hands up," Wanmang told the Post in Jakarta on Wednesday morning.

The TPN-OPM also denied accusations that it had set locals' houses on fire, saying it was the TNI that launched mortars on people's houses. The TNI's Aidi denied that the soldiers carried mortars or rockets.

"We have 300 civilian witnesses. Ask them, did we use mortars or rockets?" Aidi said. "They were the ones who set the houses on fire before running into the woods," Aidi went on.

Aidi said that on Tuesday soldiers had found a crying baby in one village, abandoned in a honai, a traditional Papuan house. "We gave the baby to the village head," he said.

Wanmang of the TPN-OPM said his group had received information from villagers that besides Timotius, a woman, identified as Nataro Omaleng, and a child, named Aprion, also died in Wednesday's clash. (swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/04/fatality-reported-in-shootout-near-freeport-in-papua.html

Papuan political prisoner freed

Radio New Zealand International - April 4, 2018

A member of the pro-independence West Papua National Committee has been freed from prison having completed his jail term. Yanto Awerkion was given a ten-month sentence for treason by an Indonesian court.

Mr Awerkion was arrested in May 2017 in Timika because of his involvement with a petition calling for West Papuan independence from Indonesia.

After 17 court appearances, trial delays and over nine months in jail, the political prisoner was sentenced mid last month.

With time already served, Mr Awerkion was due to be released by the end of the month. Mr Awerkion had been facing a potential 15-year sentence, the maximum in Indonesia for treason.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/354060/papuan-political-prisoner-freed

Over 1,000 civilian lives at risk: Papua Liberation Army

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2018

Evi Mariani, Sita Dewi and Nethy Dharma Somba, Jakarta/Jayapura – The Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-OPM), which is linked to the Free Papua independence movement, said on Wednesday morning over 1,000 civilian lives were at risk amid Indonesian Military (TNI) and liberation group armed conflicts in Tembagapura district, Mimika regency, Papua, near copper mine Freeport.

TPN spokesperson Hendrik Wanmang said they had gathered civilians in Kampung Opitawak and TPN fighters had retreated and left the kampung to avoid civilians being mistaken for armed fighters.

"There are women and children among the 1,000. We have told them if the Indonesian Military comes, don't run; show yourselves with your hands up," Wanmang told The Jakarta Post in Jakarta via phone.

Previously, the TNI said the armed assailants had taken control of several villages in Tembagapura district, namely Utikini, Longsoran, Kimbeli, Banti 1, Banti 2 and Opitawak. The authorities feared that it was part of the group's warning to the TNI and the police that it wanted an open fight, the TNI said.

On Tuesday, Cendrawasih Military Command spokesman Col. M. Aidi said the assailants had set locals' houses, a hospital and a school building on fire. The attack set the TNI to move and hunt down the armed assailants. The TNI said the military had kept the civilians safe.

One TNI soldier, Private First Class Vicky Irad Uba Rumpaidus, was killed when shots were exchanged between the military and the group in Utikini village on Sunday. He died after being shot in his right temple.

The TPN has a different account. Wanmang said on Sunday the shootout happened after the TNI passed a line set by the TPN as the border of the war zone.

On Wednesday, 270 personnel members from the TNI and the National Police entered Banti 2, and 31 personnel members from the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) entered Banti 1, the place where a shootout had happened earlier, the TPN claimed. "People are in danger," Wanmang said.

Wanmang also accused the TNI of having fired mortars at people's houses. "I saw one had cracked a window and the mortar set fire to the house," Wanmang claimed on Wednesday.

The TNI said the TPN took the civilians hostage, but the TPN said the villagers were with them. "The villagers were all natives and they were with us throughout this fight against the TNI and the police. The TPN belongs to this society.

"Villagers can't take up arms, so we fight [on behalf of the villagers] with their support," he said on Tuesday evening.

"We, the TPN and the villagers, will continue to fight against injustice. We want Freeport to be shut down. [Freeport] is the root of the problems [here]. We are natives; we own the land, the mountain and the gold. We demand what belongs to us," he said, referring to United States-based mining giant PT Freeport Indonesia, which has been operating in Papua since 1970.

The incident marks a long-standing armed conflict between Indonesia's security personnel and Papuan self-determination groups.

Last year, a member of the National Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) stationed in Timika, Papua, was killed in a shootout between security personnel and unidentified gunmen on Utikini bridge, Tembagapura, Mimika regency.

Papua's "problematic" integration into Indonesia in 1962 and the exploitation of Papua's natural resources by private companies have often been touted as the main sources of native Papuans' grievances.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/04/over-1000-civilian-lives-at-risk-papua-liberation-army-front.html

Villagers flee with Papua rebels after Indonesia attack

Associated Press - April 4, 2018

Niniek Karmini and Stephen Wright, Jakarta, Indonesia – A commander of rebels in Indonesia's easternmost Papua region said Tuesday that as many as 100 villagers have taken shelter with them in a mountainous jungle following an Indonesian military attack.

The military and Papuan independence fighters have given starkly different accounts of the clashes that began Sunday near the U.S.-owned Grasberg copper and gold mine in the remote region. The number of combatants killed is at least two based on each side's statements.

A National Liberation Army of West Papua commander, Hendrik Wanmang, said indigenous Papuan villagers, mostly women and children, fled into the jungle after Indonesian soldiers set fire to their homes.

"Their condition is now safe in the jungle with us although they only eat whatever they find in the forest," he said.

The Indonesian military spokesman for the Papua region, Col. Muhammad Aidi, said a joint force of soldiers and police has freed six villages in the mountainous Tembagapura area from separatist control and accused the rebels of burning homes.

An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s when Indonesia annexed the region that had remained under Dutch control following Indonesian independence nearly two decades earlier.

The giant gold and copper mine, owned by Freeport-McMoran Inc., is a lightning rod for Papuan grievances. Its rich mineral reserves have been shipped abroad for decades by the U.S. company 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.

Tembagapura, a district near the mine, was the scene of a standoff between the military and rebels in November when the military said rebels, which it refers to as an armed separatist criminal group, were holding hundreds of villagers hostage. That claim was denied by the liberation army. Villagers who were migrants from other parts of Indonesia left, but indigenous Papuans remained in the villages.

Aidi said drone observations showed the Indonesian force of 50 had killed two rebel fighters and injured dozens in the "shootout" Sunday. The rebels "burned some houses before they fled," he said.

Wanmang said 28 soldiers and two of their local guides were killed in the fighting and a 10-year-old boy burned to death after his village was shelled by the military. Both sides deny most of the other's claims.

Wanmang admitted that rebels had earlier burned down a hospital and a school in the area. He said the hospital was owned by Freeport but did not help Papuans while the school was used by Indonesia to indoctrinate young Papuans.

"We have never and will not burn villagers' houses," he said. "We also strongly deny the TNI (Indonesian military) statement saying that they have managed to free the villages previously held hostage by us. It is not true, since those villages were our villages, our own homeland."

Source: http://www.kentucky.com/news/business/article207776884.html

Indonesian forces detain dozens at West Papua university

The Guardian - April 4, 2018

Helen Davidson – Dozens of students and activists have been detained by Indonesian security forces at a West Papua university. It comes amid fatal shootouts in the region and the release of a high-profile activist from prison.

More than 40 people were taken into custody at the University of Cenderawasih campus in Jayapura on Wednesday morning, according to the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), and were still being questioned on Wednesday afternoon.

The university is considered one of West Papua's top institutions and has a history of student activism and violent clashes with Indonesian authorities.

Gustaf Kawer, who is part of the Association of Human Rights Lawyers for Papua, told Guardian Australia three women and 41 men had been detained and taken to mobile police (Brimob) facilities where his team was able to meet with them, and then transferred to police headquarters in Jayapura.

"No formal charges have yet been issued. Usually in cases like this they use the 'makar' provision of the law for rebellion – a broad allegation the state can make," Kawar said through a translator.

"This detention happened without proper warrant or any proper documentation of any kind. Normally there is a clear legal procedure but those procedures were not followed in this case."

Kawar said it was not clear when they would be released and alleged some people were hit by Indonesian officers during the raid.

Wednesday's raid involved officers from Indonesian police, military, mobile police (Brimob) and the national intelligence agency, the KNPB chairman, Victor Yeimo, said.

"The police, with full force, came suddenly to the student dorm room, and to our office which is near the student dormitories," Yiemo said. "They ripped down all the things inside, they ripped down the door and the window."

Yeimo said he believed the raids related to unsourced propaganda distributed earlier in the week, which said there was a West Papuan independence event scheduled for Thursday.

"My secretary general in KNPB he already met with the journalist and made a press conference yesterday... to clarify that there was nothing planned for tomorrow," Yeimo said.

Yeimo said he thought the police believed the misinformation came from KNPB but it did not. KNPB had been calling on West Papuans not to vote in upcoming elections.

Yeimo also suspected the raids were a distraction from separatist conflict elsewhere in the province, including in Timika, where at least two people were killed on Tuesday.

"We want to tell the people on the outside to take a close look in West Papua because I think this is related to the Timika fighting," he said.

There were conflicting accounts about the number of people killed and injured.

Reuters quoted an Indonesian military spokesman who said one Indonesian soldier and two separatists were killed in a shootout near the Grasberg mine, during a joint Indonesian military and police operation to "reclaim villages controlled by armed criminal separatists".

He accused the West Papuan separatists of burning homes, a school house and a hospital.

However, the West Papua National Liberation Army said just one of their members, but dozens of Indonesian security personnel, were killed in the firefight. They said a 10-year-old boy was killed when his village was shelled by the Indonesian military.

Guardian Australia is unable to verify the claims of either side.

West Papuan separatists and Indonesian forces have been in conflict for decades. The region was annexed by Indonesia in 1963, an act that was formalised by an internationally discredited UN-supervised vote six years later.

Last year activists smuggled a pro-independence petition signed by more than 1.8m West Papuans out of the country and delivered it to the United Nations but was rebuffed by its decolonisation committee, which said West Papua was outside its mandate.

Earlier this week a West Papuan activist and organiser of the petition was released from prison after 10 months of incarceration.

Yanto Awerkion, deputy chair of the Timika branch of the KNPB, was put on trial for treason for his involvement in the petition. In January the Free West Papua campaign raised serious concerns about his health in detention.

Free West Papua said Awerkion was sentenced last month to 10 months in prison, despite facing up to 15 years. With time served he was released this week.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/04/indonesian-forces-detain-dozens-at-west-papua-university

44 arrested in West Papua over hoax independence declaration

CNN Indonesia - April 4, 2018

Prima Gumilang, Jakarta – As many as 44 members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and several other organisations were arrested on Wednesday April 4 and are now being detained at the Jayapura municipal police headquarters (Mapolres).

They were arrested for allegedly planning to hold a West Papua independence declaration on Thursday March 5.

KNPB general chairperson Victor Yeimo has denied the charges and stated that they had never planned to hold any such declaration. Victor said however that police had gone ahead and arrested the activists, including the KNPB secretary general, without any clear grounds.

"Forty-four people were arrested, three women, 41 men, including KNPB members and students", Victor told CNN Indonesia by phone.

The arrests took place near the Waena III state housing complex (Perumnas Tiga) in Jayapura. According to Victor, the KNPB's office was vandalised by police who also arrested several students that were still in a nearby student dormatory.

"There was no action whatsoever taken by the KNPB and the students, but the police still just came straight in", he said.

Victor said that on the day before, Tuesday March 3, the KNPB held a press conference to announce that they were not responsible for leaflets advertising a "West Papuan Republic Independence Declaration Preparation Committee".

"We never distributed them. We also urged the public not to be provoked, but it turned out that today the police came straight here and raided our office", said Victor.

Victor stated that none of the organisations fighting for Papuan independence have established a West Papuan Republic Independence Declaration Preparation Committee. Victor also urged police to immediately arrest the actors that published and distributed the leaflets.

In the leaflets it states that that the West Papuan Republic Independence Declaration Preparation Committee will convene at the Kamwolker River Square (Perumnas Tiga) on Thursday at 8am. The leaflet also mentioned the names of the three people who would be the public coordinators of the committee by affixing their signatures.

"The source of the declaration is not cited, but there are three people whose signatures are there. We're asking the police to arrest these three people", Victor asserted.

The KNPB is currently advocating for the release of those arrested and have sent a lawyer to assist them.

Victor suspects that the latest arrests are closely connected with an exchange of fire between the TNI (Indonesian military) and the armed wing of the Free Papua Organisation (OPM), the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in Banti, Tembagapura, Timika regency. Two people on both sides were killed during the incident.

"This is part of a police plot to divert [public] attention away from the Freeport issue where a huge operation is being conducted against the TPNPB", he said.

The OPM, which was involved in the armed contact with the TNI, is indeed demanding that the PT Freeport Indonesia gold-and-copper mine in Timika be closed down, which they see as the root of the problems in Papua.

In addition to this, Victor also suspects that the arrests are linked to the upcoming election of regional heads in Papua. He said that the KNPB will not be taking part in the election and is calling on the people to do the same.

As of sending this article to print, Papua regional police public relations division chief Senior Commissioner Ahmad Kamal has yet to respond to phone calls from CNN Indonesia asking for a response to the arrests.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "KNPB Bantah Deklarasi Kemerdekaan Papua, 44 Aktivis Ditahan".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20180404124530-20-288174/knpb-bantah-deklarasi-kemerdekaan-papua-44-aktivis-ditahan

TNI on hunt for armed assailants after exchange of fire in Tembagapura

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2018

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura, Papua – Members of the Indonesian Military's (TNI) Cendrawasih Military Command XVII are hunting down an armed group of civilians in Tembagapura, Mimika regency, Papua, following an attack that claimed a soldier's life.

"A group of soldiers are still in pursuit and also making inventory of the damage caused by the armed group. But all residents are safe and there were no civilian casualties, Cendrawasih Military Command spokesman Col. M. Aidi said in a statement on Tuesday.

A soldier, Private First Class Vicky Irad Uba Rumpaidus, was killed in a shooting exchange between the military and the group in Utikini village, Mimika, on Sunday. He died after allegedly being shot in his right temple.

The shootout also claimed lives and injured some of the armed assailants. "From drone monitoring, we saw that two members died and others were injured before escaping into the woods," Aidi said.

Before the incident, the group allegedly ran amok by setting locals' houses, a hospital and a school building on fire.

The group had allegedly taken control of several villages in Tembagapura district, namely Utikini, Longsoran, Kimbeli, Banti 1, Banti 2 and Opitawak, Aidi claimed, adding that the authorities feared that it was part of the group's warning to the TNI and the police that it wanted an open fight.

To take back the villages, TNI had deployed groups of soldiers to targeted areas. "They apparently have been ready to welcome security personnel, hence the shootout," he said.

Attacks from armed assailants in the area were rampant last year, when assailants allegedly held 1,300 residents hostage in several villages while launching attacks against security personnel. (rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/03/tni-on-hunt-for-armed-assailants-after-exchange-of-fire-in-tembagapura.html

Aceh

Four detained in Indonesia's Aceh for alleged gay sex, face 100 lashes

Reuters - April 3, 2018

Banda Aceh, Indonesia – Rights activists called on Tuesday for Indonesia's Aceh province to release four people detained on suspicion of having homosexual sex, amid concerns over the persecution of the LGBT community in the world's third-largest democracy.

Secular Indonesia is predominantly Muslim but ultra-conservative Aceh is the only province to follow sharia, or Islamic law, and criminalise gay sex.

Indonesia's parliament is currently debating revisions to the national criminal code that could criminalise all sex outside marriage, including same-sex relations. Many believe the new rules could be used to unfairly target the LGBT community and other minority groups.

Authorities said the four suspects were rounded up by vigilantes and police and, if convicted, could face up to 100 lashes in public.

"We are completing their files and will soon hand over to prosecutors," said Marzuki, head of sharia police investigations in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

Human Rights Watch said the punishment "constitutes torture under international human rights law".

"Acehnese authorities should release the four and protect the public from marauding vigilantes who target vulnerable minorities," said Graeme Reid, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights programme at Human Rights Watch.

The provincial and central governments drew international condemnation last year when, for the first time, Aceh authorities publicly caned two men who were convicted under the province's anti-homosexuality laws, which were introduced in 2014.

Vigilantes and religious police in Aceh often raid homes and places of work and detain people on suspicion of engaging in homosexual activity.

Aceh police detained 12 transgender women earlier this year and publicly shamed them by forcing them to cut their hair and dress in "masculine" clothing.

They were later released without charge, but activists say many have since gone into hiding for fear of further raids.

[Reporting by Reuters stringer in BANDA ACEH Additional reporting and writing by Kanupriya Kapoor Editing by Paul Tait.]

Source: http://news.trust.org/item/20180403045504-vg6a9

Arrested LGBTI people face public caning next month in Indonesia

Gay Star News - April 2, 2018

Shannon Power – Vigilantes have once again raided the private residence of people they suspect to be LGBTI in Indonesia.

Last week, the vigilantes raided a boarding house where the two men were spending time together. The mob arrested them because they thought they were gay and then handed them over to police.

This latest in a long list of raids carried by vigilantes happened in Indonesia's Aceh province. It is the only province allowed to rule with Islamic Sharia Law in Indonesia.

Introduced in 2014, Qanun Jinayat is a strict Islamic Sharia Law code unique to the Aceh province. Aceh is the only Indonesian province that can legally adopt by-laws derived from Sharia due to a 'Special Status' agreement brokered in 1999. Essentially, the Indonesian government allowed Aceh the Special Status to calm its desires during negotiations to become an independent state.

Last year, Aceh became the first place in Indonesia to arrest and convict two men for homosexuality. The students were caned 82 times in a public square.

The latest men arrested were charged under Article 63 of the 2014 Islamic Criminal Code, the anti-homosexuality law. They face a penalty of 100 lashes if convicted.

It takes up to two months to process these charges and convictions in Aceh, which means the pair could face the caning as early as next month.

The latest arrests bring the total of four LGBTI people in police custody in Aceh. In mid-March vigilantes rounded up a trans woman and man were from a beauty salon. Police also charged them with Article 63 of the Islamic Criminal Code.

LGBTI people laying low or trying to escape

The LGBTI community along with religious minorities and women have been the targets of a brutal crackdown in Indonesia over the past couple of years. The crackdown has been felt most strongly in Aceh, a very conservative religious province.

LGBTI advocacy groups have helped to transport people out of the region to Medan in North Sumatra or the capital, Jakarta. Once they have escaped the organizations provide them with shelter, job training, counselling and food.

But as the numbers grow the organizations are struggling to keep up with the demand, according to Indonesian researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), Andreas Harsono.

'Aceh is the worst... all of Aceh is becoming a police state' he told Gay Star News. 'The Jakarta and Medan LGBT groups are asking for money. The number of victims is growing. Everyone's chipping in money.'

Harsono himself once drove six LGBT people to safety from Aceh to Jakarta. He said the fear of persecution and need to leave Aceh has a devastating impact on people.

'I met with two young lesbian women, one was 20 when she was arrested in 2015. Her parents asked her politely not to come back (to Aceh) because it's not safe,' he said.

The two women lost education opportunities because of their arrest. One missed out on a place at university and the other dropped out of her college course.

Like many other persecuted LGBTI people the women are traumatized and miss their families greatly.

Aceh's trans women

An LGBTI activists in Aceh who is sheltering formerly arrested trans women said the province's 600-700 are 'lying very low' to avoid vigilante raids.

Earlier this year Aceh police forcibly shaved the heads of detained trans women in a public square. Police released them only on the condition they 'live like men'.

Harsono said it was time the Indonesian government did something to protect LGBTI people, especially if it would continue to allow Aceh to rule with Sharia Law.

'The Indonesian government should do something to protect these individuals. Transgenders are especially often targeted due to their physical appearances,' he said.

'The government at least should provide shelter in Medan, North Sumatra, providing them with training and later job, if the national government cannot revoke the discriminatory regulations in Aceh.'

Source: https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/arrested-lgbti-people-face-public-caning-next-month-in-indonesia/

Two men face 100 lashes after being arrested for having gay sex

Pink News - April 2, 2018

Josh Jackman – Two Indonesian men have been arrested for having gay sex. The university students had their rooms raided by residents in Aceh, the only region of the Muslim-majority country where Shariah law is in effect and gay sex is illegal.

Condoms and mobile phones belonging to the 21 and 24-year-old were handed over to police. Marzuki, head of the Aceh Provincial Sharia Law Department, told local reporters that one of the men had 'confessed' to the charges.

Last year, two men were caned 83 times each as a legal punishment for having gay sex.

Marzuki said then that residents in the local area had been suspicious of the men because they of their apparent intimacy, and deliberately set out to catch them having sex.

While homosexuality has never been illegal in Indonesia, attitudes towards LGBT people have become steadily more extreme across the country in recent years despite a growing gay population.

The Indonesian Psychiatrists Association classifies homosexuality, bisexuality and being transgender as illnesses.

And earlier this year, Indonesian police arrested 12 transgender women in Aceh and shaved their heads in an effort "to turn them into men". The raid on salons was called "operasi penyakit masyarakat," which translates as "community sickness operation".

The police chief in Aceh said his officers also humiliated the trans women "by way of having them run for some time and telling them to chant loudly until their male voices came out."

There is also a growing movement in the country to ban gay sex. A bill with the support of most of the country's main political parties is making its way through the legislative process.

Amendments have been accepted by the House of Representatives, but the whole Parliament must sign off on the bill before it makes its way to the President's desk.

Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch said the new law "will create new discriminatory offences that do not exist in the current criminal code.

"It will slow down Indonesia's efforts to develop their economy, society, knowledge [and] education... if law enforcement agencies are busy policing morality. "It's sounding like the Acehnese sharia code," he added.

The day after the two men were caned last year, 141 men were arrested in Jakarta, the capital, for having a "gay sex party". And earlier that same month, eight men were arrested for holding a "gay party" in Surabaya, the second biggest city in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Supreme Court narrowly blocked a similar measure from passing last month, but it seems that was only a temporary reprieve. Gay hook-up apps have also been pulled from the Google Play Store in Indonesia amid a government crackdown on the LGBT community.

Source: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/04/02/two-men-face-100-lashes-after-being-arrested-for-having-gay-sex/

Pki & anti-communism

PPI of China denies Indonesian students learn communist ideology

Tempo - April 3, 2018

Imam Hamdi, Jakarta – Chairman of the Indonesian Student Association (PPI) of China Guangzhou Branch, Respati Anintyo, said the information stating all the Indonesian students in China studying communist ideology is not true. According to him, the communist ideology is only required for local students only.

"We as the foreign students are not required to participate, but we are welcome to choose a special class for foreign students, the Brief Introduction of China (Chinese Geography and Culture)," said Respati when contacted from Jakarta on Monday, April 2.

The information was circulated from a national news website. The International Political Science Students of the International Relations Faculty at Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China disappointed at the author.

"Specifically for foreign students who study politics, law, philosophy, state administration, indeed in some campus are required to take the class (communist ideology)," he said.

In the university website system, the foreign students are automatically inserted into the system that requires taking the Brief Introduction of China course.

"Political ideologies such as communism, liberalism, realism, even Pancasila ideology and all ideology around the world must be studied," he said.

Regarding the information, the PPI China makes a statement, an objection to the title and content on the news website because it can cause unrest. Respati is willing to open a discussion concerning the life of Indonesian students studying in China.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/04/03/055917216/PPI-of-China-Denies-Indonesian-Students-Learn-Communist-Ideology

Labour & migrant workers

Trade union vote split in lead up to 2019 elections

Tirto.id - April 1, 2018

Lalu Rahadian – Only days are left before simultaneous regional elections begin. The candidates taking part in the competition are using a variety of means to attract public attention in the hope of being chosen at the ballot box.

For trade unions, the 2018 election of regional heads (Pilkada) as well as the 2019 legislative (Pemilu) and presidential (Pilpres) elections are an arena to demonstrate their political stance.

But each trade union has a different position. The two largest trade unions in Indonesia: the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) and the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI) have quite different positions.

In KSPI's view it is not enough that the labour struggle be confined to demonstrations and advocacy. So they believe that it is quite natural for trade unions to support particular candidates in elections.

"We'll decide whether or not to support someone, independently, [we'll] decide ourselves, it will be initiated in or own meeting room. There won't be any intimidation", said KSPI media and public relations division head Kahar S. Cahyono in a discussion under the theme "Chasing the Labour Vote in the Year of Politics", which was held in Jakarta on Saturday March 31.

In the past, the KSPI has indeed openly supported candidates. In the 2014 presidential elections they supported the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa ticket. They also supported the Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno ticket in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election – even though this mandate was later revoked.

During an event organised by the Media and Creative Industries Trade Union for Democracy (Sindikasi), Cahyono said that if there is trade union support it will always be political, meaning that there is already a specific agreement based on a political contract. With that at the very least, a trade union can trust that the candidate they back will make policies that side with them.

"Whether or not there is a political contract, if a leader doesn't side with workers then yes it's our obligation is to criticise them", said Cahyono.

Cahyono's view is in the same vein as KSPI President Said Iqbal. The University of Indonesia (UI) economics masters program alumni believes that trade unions should not be shy about announcing support for one of the candidates.

Going further than just giving them votes and actively campaigning, Iqbal says that workers also need to nominate representatives as candidates in elections. He believes that having a legislative member from workers' ranks could facilitate their struggle.

"We are currently envisaging a political party [being established] from an ormas [social or mass organisation] that we formed, called the People's Home for Indonesia (Rumah Rakyat untuk Indonesia). We're projecting that it could take part in the 2024 [elections]", said Iqbal.

In the coming presidential election, the KSPI will again support one of the candidates, which they will declare on May 1, May Day. In relation to a political contract, Iqbal said that they will ask for "ministerial allotment", without specifying which ministry they want.

"I'm not shy about saying this: we will ask for a ministerial post. We will ask for two or three posts", he said.

Not a people's election

The KASBI has a different position and unlike the KSPI will not support any particular candidates. They are taking this position because in their view the elections have nothing to do with the real needs of the people.

What is in fact happening at the moment, said KASBI General Chairperson Nining Elitos, is that workers are limited to being a "vote reserve" which is offered "sweet promises" at every election. "Today's elections are not owned by the ordinary people", said Nining.

Nining gives as an example the sweet promises made by politicians to improve workers' welfare. This was one of the pledges made by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in the 2014 presidential election. The pledge was summarised in the slogan "The Decent Three" (Tiga Layak) – "Decent Jobs, Decent Wages and a Decent Life".

According to Nining, since becoming president Widodo has in fact made things worse for workers by enacting Government Regulation Number 78/2015 on Wages (PP 78/2015).

Under this regulation the formula for calculating annual wage increases is based on the inflation rate an economic growth. The PP 78/2015 disregards the annual reasonable living cost index (KHL) survey which under the 2003 Labour Law was used by workers to demand annual wage rises.

"And then there's social security [Social Security Management Agency healthcare, BPJS] which [Widodo] said would be free, if the people are late and don't pay dues for just a month they're cut off. That's called insurance, right [not social security]", said Nining.

The woman born in Bengkulu, South Sumatra, says that KASBI will continue to be critical of any government that comes out of the elections, regardless of who is elected.

She also said that although they are pessimistic that the elections will bring about any change, they will not be issuing any instructions to their members not to cast a vote during the elections, or to golput (white movement) as it is known.

Nining said that KASBI wants to first focus on building working class consciousness for the next several years after which the organisation will issue a clearer political position.

"We are building working class consciousness so that [workers] don't just become a vote reserve. In the process of building this, organising, we will determine our position on whether to build our own parpol [political party] or what kind of political position to take", said Nining.

Becoming legislators

House of Representatives (DPR) Commission IX member Ribka Tjiptaning from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction suggests that workers enter the world of politics so that it is easier for them to fight for their interests and understand how the parliament works.

The branch chairperson of the PDI-P since 1983 said that workers could become legislators by forming their own political party or taking part in the elections through an existing party. "[Although] we'll see later how the parliament is. Because many former activists who have entered parliament are silent", she said.

Ribka, who sparked a controversy after writing a book titled, "I'm Proud to be a PKI child" – referring to the banned Indonesian Communist Party – confirmed that view that the current elections are indeed not a "people's election". "Those that become legislators become so not because they're popular but because they have money", she said.

Ribka is of the view that the lack of interest on the part of the DPR in fighting for workers rights is because many people's representatives come from employer groups. They are able to become members of parliament precisely because they have money.

"How can the [DPR] be interested in fighting [for workers] if it its completely filled with employers. So the elections should be contested by workers", said Ribka.

In addition to this, Ribka said that efforts by legislators to defend workers are often blocked by political party orders. She also revealed that many House members are afraid to speak up or take a firm positions because of the threat of being replaced.

"These day's people are afraid of PAW [to be recalled]. The political parties are more repressive now, so it makes DPR members who were vocal in the past afraid", she said.

Notes

KSPI president Said Iqbal, who supported former Special Forces (Kopassus) commander retired General Prabowo Subianto's failed 2014 presidential bid, also supported the Prabowo backed Anies Baswedan-Sandiaga Uno ticket in the religiously and ethnically divisive Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2017. He later withdrew his support for newly elected Governor Baswedan calling him a "liar" after he failed to honor a political contract pledging not to use the PP 78/2015 to determine the 2018 minimum wage rise.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Suara Serikat Buruh Terpecah Jelang Pemilu 2019".]

Source: https://tirto.id/suara-serikat-buruh-terpecah-jelang-pemilu-2019-cG2q

Freedom of assembly & association

Sula Islands regency government bans leftist student group Pembebasan

Tempo - April 4, 2018

Ternate – The Sula Islands regency government in North Maluku has banned the leftist Student Struggle Centre for National Liberation (Pembebasan) from conducting organisational activities in any form whatsoever within the legal jurisdiction of Sula regency.

The banning was issued in a letter dated April 2 which was signed by Sula Islands regency National Unity and Politics Agency (Kesbangpol) head Kamaludin Sangaji.

In the letter it states that the ban on activities for the social or mass organisation (ormas) Pembebasan in Sula regency was issued because the organisation is deemed to not have been registered with the national or regional government. An ormas can only be active in Sula regency if it is in accordance with Law Number 16/2017 and Home Affairs regulations 56 and 57 of 2017.

"It is therefore conveyed to all officials of the organisation not to carry out activities in any form whatsoever within the legal jurisdiction of the Sula Regency Regional Government as of Monday April 2, 2018", said Sangaji in the letter.

According to Sangaji, the ormas Pembebasan will be allowed to carry out organisational activities again if it fulfills the requirements in accordance with prevailing legal stipulations.

Sula regent Hendrata Thes declined to respond to the ban because the decision was taken under the authority of the Sula Kesbangpol.

There was no answer from Kamaludin Sangaji meanwhile when Tempo tried to contact him by phone. There was also no response to an SMS message.

Sula legal practitioner Rasman Boamona said that the Sula regency government's move to ban Pembebasan's activities is a reflection of the government fear of public criticism.

The Sula regency government should not all of a sudden ban the activities of any organisation without a final legal ruling or legal sanctions as a consequence of violations such as hostility based on race, religion or ethnicity, blasphemy or desecration of religion, misuse of the organisation's name, symbol and flag or having an organisational symbol that resembles a separatist movement or banned organisation.

"So I see the ban on organisational activities is based on erroneous legal logic and [I] am concerned that the current Sula government is opposed to public criticism. They [Pembebasan] should received guidance and assistance, not be banned outright", said Boamona.

Pembebasan is an off-campus student organisation which often holds protest actions against the Sula government's policies which they believe fail to side with the interests of the ordinary people.

Pembebasan Sula has held actions in solidarity with Galela farmers in North Halmahera and assisted street traders in protests demanding that the Sula government provide decent retail space for street traders at the Basanohi market in Fogi Village, Sanana.

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski for the Indoleft news service. The original title of the report was "Pemkab Kepulauan Sula Bekukan Ormas Pembebasan".]

Source: https://nasional.tempo.co/amp/1076083/pemkab-kepulauan-sula-bekukan-ormas-pembebasan

Political parties & elections

Prabowo, Luhut hold closed-door meeting, may talk 2019 election

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2018

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta – Opposition leader Prabowo Subianto held a closed-door meeting with Luhut Pandjaitan, a key figure in the President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo administration, at a hotel in Central Jakarta on Friday, a Prabowo's aide has said.

Gerindra Party deputy secretary-general Andre Rosiade said on Saturday that the two political figures had likely discussed the 2019 presidential election.

Prabowo, the chief patron of Gerindra, is reportedly considering whether he will challenge President Jokowi again in the upcoming election. He lost to Jokowi in the highly divisive presidential election in 2014.

The meeting has sparked speculation of possible efforts by Jokowi's inner circle to bring Prabowo into Jokowi's camp. As of today, the former Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) commander has yet to officially declare his candidacy, while a new figure, former Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gatot Nurmantyo, has emerged as one of the strongest challengers for Jokowi.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) will open registration for presidential candidates in August.

Andre, however, was quick to dismiss such speculation, saying the party was committed to nominating Prabowo as its presidential candidate again. "That was just a friendly meeting between two old friends."

A number of Gerindra executives had announced the party would declare Prabowo's presidential candidacy during its national coordination meeting slated for April 11. However, Prabowo said on Thursday that there would be no declaration of his candidacy during the meeting as the party had yet to form a firm alliance.

With only 73 seats at the House of Representatives, Gerindra would have to form an alliance to field a candidate in a presidential election as stipulated by the 2017 Election Law.

Several politicians, including House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo, have hinted at the possibility of pairing Jokowi with Prabowo in the 2019 presidential election to prevent political polarization in 2019. However, Gerindra officials have rejected such a proposal.

Gerindra's central executive board chairman, Sufmi Dasco Ahmad, also played down the political significance of Friday's meeting between Prabowo and Luhut, saying such a meeting was not unusual. "Both of them are former generals and former business partners." (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/07/prabowo-luhut-hold-closed-door-meeting-may-talk-2019-election.html

Prabowo's speech of Indonesia in 2030 may reduce millennial vote

Tempo - April 7, 2018

M Julnis Firmansyah, Jakarta – Voxpol Center Research and Consulting Executive Director Pangi Syarwi Chaniago believes that Prabowo Subianto's speech suggesting Indonesia would seize to exist by 2030 will cost him millennial's votes.

Pangi argues that Prabowo's statement places pessimism at the forefront, which is against the spirit of the millennial generation.

"Millennials are optimistic, [Prabowo's] statement of Indonesia would no longer exist in 2030 will surely reduce the number of votes from millennial groups," said Pangi at a public discussion on young people's participation in political parties yesterday, April 6.

Pangi further explained that young voters represent 40 percent of the total votes in Indonesia or about 80 million votes. He further analyzed that the Gerindra Party Chairman would take a big blow on his electability.

He regrets this fact considering that Gerindra is one of Indonesia's political parties that have attracted the interest of the millennial generation apart from Indonesia Solidarity Party (PSI) and the Indonesian Unity Party (PPI).

Previously, Prabowo Subianto said in a speech that Indonesia will possibly collapse by 2030. The statement was based on a novel entitled Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War written by P.W. Singer and August Cole.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/04/07/055917380/Prabowos-Speech-of-Indonesia-in-2030-May-Reduce-Millennial-Vote

Indo Barometer: Prabowo is using same campaign strategy as Donald Trump

Detik News - April 3, 2018

Marlinda Oktavia Erwanti, Jakarta – Indo Barometer Executive Director M Qodari says that Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) chairperson Prabowo Subianto is pursuing the same electoral strategy as Donald Trump used in the US presidential election.

Prabowo is playing off the lower and upper layers of society against each other and spreading a sense of pessimism.

"With Pak Prabowo, I see that he is currently pursuing the strategy used by Donald Trump in 2016 during the US presidential election (Pilpres). Donald Trump's strategy was to play off the lower layers of society against the upper layers of society", said Qodari following the release of a survey on the Central Java gubernatorial elections (Pilgub) at the fX Sudirman Harris Suites in South Jakarta on Tuesday April 3.

During the US presidential election Trump manipulated the issue of inequality in the US and tried to spread a sense of fear by saying that the US is under threat from foreign countries such as China, Islam and Mexican immigrant workers.

"I think it's quite similar. So what's being spread is pessimism, then fear. And if we look at the elections in America it turned out that ordinary Americans bought into this pessimism and fear and voted for Donald Trump", he said.

"Trump's slogan was 'Make America Great Again', right, make America great again. I think we can interpret Prabowo's speeches as saying make Indonesia great again with me, an 'Asian Tiger'", added Qodari.

Qodari said that if Prabowo succeeds in promoting pessimism and fear and this has an influence on the pubic then it is certain that Prabowo will have a greater chance of being elected as president than the incumbent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

According to Qodari, the message being put forward by Prabowo implies that if he is not elected Indonesia will be destroyed.

"I'm not saying that this will be effective or not. In order to confirm this we must of course look at the evolution of public opinion and surveys. Because Pak Prabowo has only just launched this argument, right. What is clear is that I think anyone who believes that this assumption is correct will be very much inspired by the victory of Donald Trump", he said.

Earlier this afternoon the Indo Barometer survey institute released the results of a survey about the influence of the 2018 East Java gubernatorial election on the 2019 presidential election. According to the survey Widodo is ahead with an electability of 56.5% compared with Prabowo at 22%. (tor/tor)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Indo Barometer: Prabowo Jalankan Strategi Donald Trump".]

Source: https://news.detik.com/berita/d-3951624/indo-barometer-prabowo-jalankan-strategi-donald-trump

Police, military chiefs guarantee elections security

Jakarta Post - April 2, 2018

Suherdjoko, Semarang – National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Air Chief Marshall Hadi Tjahjanto have vowed to secure the upcoming regional elections and next year's presidential and legislative elections.

"There must be one command from the TNI and police chiefs, one similar thinking and conduct so that the elections will be under control. The public and businessmen need not worry," Hadi said in his speech to 2,500 TNI and police personnel at the Police Academy complex in Semarang, Central Java, on Monday.

Tito added that his institution and the military have also instructed all members to be neutral during the elections.

"The public doesn't have to worry. Elections are a regular thing. If [all parties] are solid and neutral, we won't have any concerns," he said, adding that he and Hadi would continue to visit regions to sell their message to all members of the police and military across the archipelago. They have already visited East Kalimantan, North Kalimantan and Papua.

Tito previously said there would be more than 1 million security personnel comprising of members of the police, the TNI and Community Protection (Linmas) to secure the 2018 regional elections, which will be held in June across 171 regions in the country. (dpk/rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/02/police-military-chiefs-guarantee-elections-security.html

Former Trump fanboy Fadli Zon now says Indonesia needs a Putin-like

Coconuts Jakarta - April 2, 2018

Indonesia's deputy speaker of the house, Fadli Zon, was once one of Donald Trump's biggest fans in Indonesia after having met the then-US presidential candidate in 2016 (alongside former house speaker Setya Novanto, who is about to face sentencing in his corruption case).

After that meeting, Fadli spoke highly of Trump, congratulated him on his election victory and even tried to apply his "Make America Great Again!" slogan for his party Gerindra and its chairman, Prabowo Subianto.

Let's make Indonesia Great Again. Mari kita bangkitkan kembali Indonesia Raya. @prabowo @Gerindra – Fadli Zon (@fadlizon) February 8, 2017

But after Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel in December, Fadli was forced to join the chorus of other Indonesian and Muslim politicians denouncing the US President's controversial decision. Fortunately for Fadli, he seems to have a new polarizing political figure to pour his admiration into, and his name is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Klu ingin bangkit n jaya, RI butuh pemimpin spt Vladimir Putin: berani, visioner, cerdas, berwibawa, nggak byk ngutang, nggak planga plongo. – Fadli Zon (@fadlizon) March 30, 2018

If you want us to rise and be victorious, Indonesia needs a leader like Vladimir Putin: brave, visionary, intelligent, wise, not too many debts, not clueless

That's certainly a... unique way to characterize Putin, the former KGB agent who others have described as something more akin to an evil genius who has allegedly used terrifying tactics like intimidation, hacking, psy-ops, criminalization and assassination against his opponents to ensure his continued rule over Russia through a sham democracy (and possibly help Trump win the US presidency).

Unfortunately for Fadli, Putin cannot take over Indonesia, but he does know somebody who he thinks would be perfect to take Putin-like charge over the government.

PUTIN bisa jg singkatan dr PRABOWO UNTUK INDONESIA (PUTIN). Insya Allah bawa kebangkitan RI bukan kebangkrutan.???? @prabowo @Gerindra – Fadli Zon (@fadlizon) March 31, 2018

PUTIN can also be an abbreviation for PRABOWO UNTUK INDONESIA (Prabowo for Indonesia). God willing he will help Indonesia rise up instead of going bankrupt.

Gerindra Chairman Prabowo, who is widely expected to challenge President Joko Widodo once again in the 2019 elections, certainly does share some similarities with Putin. For example, many feared that Prabowo would have become an authoritarian strongman figure like Putin had he won the previous presidential race in 2014. Both Putin and Prabowo have also been accused of human rights abuses.

But Prabowo, whose 2019 run is still less than certain, has recently been leaning hard on a message of economic nationalism and populism, arguing that the country's future was in serious threat of dissolving by 2030 (based on a sci-fi novel's prediction – see #GhostFleet) due to Indonesia's greedy elites buying up most of the country's land and selling off its natural resources to foreign powers.

If anti-elitism is really the message Prabowo wants to go with, then comparisons to Putin's Russia, which studies show is currently the most unequal major country in the world with almost two-thirds of its wealth controlled by millionaires, is not one that the Gerindra chief should want anybody to make.

Naturally many found fault in Fadli's Putin tweets and admiration for the Russian president. Andreas Hugo Pareira, the chairman of ruling party PDI-P's central executive board, had the sharpest response, telling Fadli to "just move to Russia."

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/former-trump-fanboy-fadli-zon-now-says-indonesia-needs-putin-like-leader-prabowo/

Yusril Ihza M: Impossible for Ahok to be presidential candidate

Tempo - April 1, 2018

Lil Askar Monza, Medan – Constitutional Law Expert, Yusril Ihza Mahendra said Basuki Tjahaja Purnama alias Ahok is impossible to be nominated as a presidential candidate of Indonesia.

"Ahok certainly is impossible to," Yusril said about the terms of to be the Indonesian presidential candidate during the 2018 Islamic Congress in Medan, North Sumatra, Friday, March 30.

Ahok cannot be a president because of his citizenship status at birth. "Ahok was not born as an Indonesian citizen, it can be checked in the civil records," he said.

Yusril claimed to know Ahok because they came from one region. Ahok's parents, Tjoeng Kiem Nam, chose to be the Chinese citizen during the period of citizens' determination status in 1962. Automatically, Ahok who was born in 1966, was also a Chinese citizen.

It is not in accordance with the 1945 Constitution amended in 2003. Article 6 (1) of the 1945 Constitution states that the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates must be the Indonesian Citizens since birth and never accepted other citizenship because of their own will.

Yusril Ihza said that Ahok, the former Jakarta Governor, decided to be an Indonesian citizen around 1986. Thus, Ahok does not qualify as an Indonesian presidential candidate as it is stated in the 1945 Constitution. "Ahok cannot, but others can," he said.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/04/01/055917174/Yusril-Ihza-M-Impossible-for-Ahok-to-be-Presidential-Candidate

Sandiaga Uno leads Prabowo's candidacy team

Tempo - April 1, 2018

Budiarti Utami Putri & Hussein Abri Dongoran, Jakarta – A number of Gerindra Party politicians revealed that Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno was pointed out as a team leader for the preparation of Prabowo Subianto's presidential candidacy.

Deputy Chairman of Gerindra Party, Ferry Juliantono, neither denied nor admitted the team formation and the involvement of Sandiaga within. "It's informal," said Ferry yesterday, March 30. He just assured the party assigned Prabowo to run as a presidential candidate and is now waiting for the declaration.

According to Ferry, the declaration might take place in National Work Meeting of Gerindra Party on April 11. Otherwise, the party might postpone it until the 2018 Regional Election finished next June.

Sandiaga Uno, who currently acts as a member of Advisory Board of Gerindra Party, reluctant to provide confirmation. "I'll respond to it when I'm not wearing this uniform (not act as a deputy governor)," he said last Thursday.

At least two of the party's politicians, who were not willing to be mentioned, revealed that Sandiaga Uno will be helped by five Gerindra Party leaders. The party's sec-gen Ahmad Muzani would be the team secretary, and the members would be the deputy chairman Fadli Zon and Sufmi Dasco Ahmad; the chairman of regional leadership council (DPP) Desmond Junaidi Mahesa; and the party's Jakarta chairman Muhammad Taufik.

The team, as reported by Tempo's source, was assigned to study the vice presidential candidate to run with Prabowo in the upcoming election and secure the party coalition form. Furthermore, the team would conduct further examination should Prabowo walk out from the election. "Finally, the team would guard the election-winning, either legislative or presidential," said the informant.

Sufmi was reluctant to make a statement regarding the team formation. "It's confidential, it's forbidden to talk about such things," he said. Meanwhile, Muzani, Fadli, Desmond, and Taufik have yet responded to Tempo's confirmation request.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/03/31/055917166/Sandiaga-Uno-Leads-Prabowos-Candidacy-Team

Fake news & black campaigns

Saracen leader gets 10-month prison sentence

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2018

Rizal Harahap, Pekanbaru, Riau – A panel of judges at Pekanbaru District Court has sentenced Jasriadi, the leader of hate-speech propagator network Saracen, to 10 months in prison for illegally hacking into social media accounts.

Presiding judge Asep Koswara said 32-year-old Jasriadi was found guilty of illegally accessing computers and electronic systems belonging to other people. Judges argued that Jasriadi had accessed several Facebook accounts, including one owned by Sri Rahayu Ningsih, an alleged coordinator of Saracen in West Java, with her permission.

"The defendant has been proven guilty of violating the 2016 Law on electronic information and transactions. We sentence the defendant to 10 months in prison," Asep said in a sentence hearing on Friday.

The sentence was lighter than the two years' imprisonment sought by the prosecutors. Asep and other judges Martin Ginting and Riska also declared in their verdict that no evidence had been found during the trial that Jasriadi was involved in the spread of hate speech containing sectarian sentiments such as had been committed by other Saracen members.

"No evidence was found that the defendant manipulated, created, altered or destroyed electronic information and documents with the intention to make those documents authentic. Thus, we free him from the primary indictment," Asep added.

Responding to the verdict, Jasriadi said he would file an appeal against the verdict.

"I didn't illegally access accounts, I only helped renew the accounts at the owners' request and with their permission. I also acquired the password from the owners," he said.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Erik Kusnandar said his team would also file an appeal against the verdict handed down by the judges. (dpk/rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/06/saracen-leader-gets-10-month-prison-sentence.html

Islamic based websites using fake 'Google Polling' site to attack Jokowi

Tirto.id - April 3, 2018

Dinda Purnamasari – On April 2, the website muslimbersatu.info published an article titled "Polling Google: 86% don't agree with Jokowi for 2nd term".

The article said that according to the results of a survey conducted by Google Polling: 86 percent of respondents stated that they very much disagree with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo leading the Republic of Indonesia again in 2019-2024.

And it was not just muslimbersatu.info. Similar reports were published by other websites such as gelora.co, b-islam24h.com and portal-islam.id. Like muslimbersatu.info, these three sites also used the phrase "Polling Google" in the title of articles.

Based on a report by the application CrowdTangle, articles on "Polling Google: 86% don't agree with Jokowi for 2nd term", which were published by the United Muslim Media (Media Muslim Bersatu), had the potential to go viral because on April 2 at 18:19 hours West Indonesia Time the distribution of the article had risen 8.47 times more than other content on the same page.

The article published by muslimbersatu.info used reports that originated from googlevote.gdn as its principle and only reference source.

The domain.gdn is a generic one. Meaning that websites that use the domain can be setup without a specific aim. This is different for example from the.org domain is used by non-government organisations and.edu which is used for education.

The source of these reports originated from an article titled "Is it fitting that Joko Widodo leads for a second term, do you agree or not? Quick poll results here".

In the article, which was published on March 28, the public and or readers were asked to vote on whether or not Widodo was fit to lead Indonesia for a second term.

As of April 3 at 13:22 hours West Indonesia Time, a total of 57,046 votes were recorded with 86 percent disagreeing and 14 percent agreeing. The poll was closed on April 20.

Based on research into the admin profile of the googlevote.gdn portal, it was found that they had 40 blogs, including among others, googlepolling.gdn, facebooksurvey.gdn, rakyatmerdeka.gdn and koranlampuhijau.blogspot.com.

In addition to this, based on whois.com, it can be seen that the owner of the account www.googlevote.gdn is Google Media Polling whose address is Pasir Panjang Road in Singapore.

Googlevote.gdn is not part of google.com. So it is clear that it has no affiliation with Google and none of the articles published reflect the results of a Google survey. In other words Google did not conduct the poll.

By using the phrase "Polling Google" in the title, when Google has never carried out such a survey, muslimbersatu.info is clearly using an erroneous source and the article can be categorised as fake news.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Berita Palsu Polling Google Soal Kepemimpinan Jokowi".]

Source: https://tirto.id/berita-palsu-polling-google-soal-kepemimpinan-jokowi-cHah

Blasphemy & hate speech

Thousands of protesters demand jail for former president's daughter

Sydney Morning Herald - April 6, 2018

James Massola & Karuni Rompies, Jakarta – Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of central Jakarta to demand the daughter of the country's first president be jailed for blasphemy against Islam.

In a poem read at an Indonesian fashion show last week Sukmawati Sukarnoputri – the daughter of former president Sukarno and sister of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri – allegedly denigrated the adzan, or call to prayer, and suggested a traditional Indonesian hair bun is prettier than the full-faced veil worn by strict Muslims.

The reading of the poem, titled Mother Indonesia, has caused at least 14 groups to file a formal complaint with police under the country's broad but ill-defined blasphemy laws.

Sukmawati has read the poem publicly at least ten times since it was written 19 years ago but this is the first time it has attracted accusations of blasphemy.

The accusation of blasphemy has drawn comparisons with the case of the Christian former governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, who was jailed for blasphemy in May 2017.

Sukmawati has met with a series of senior clerics from some of Indonesia's major Islamic organisations including the Muhammadiyah – who have accepted her apology – since the complaints were made.

She has also delivered several public apologies, but the controversy has not died down.

And on Friday, at least 3000 to 4000 protesters converged on a police station in Gambir, central Jakarta, to demand Sukmawati be investigated by police and jailed.

The mostly male crowd carried banners and chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and also chanted "arrest Busuk [Sukmawati], arrest Busuk right now". They also held aloft banners demanding Sukmawati be jailed and waved Palestinian flags.

Thirteen of the protesters later met with central Jakarta's police chief. After the meeting one of the leaders of the protest, Slamet Ma'arif – from the 212 protest movement that brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets to protest against Ahok – told TV One the point of the protest was to remind police this was not an insignificant case.

"Personally, we accept the apology [from Sukmawati] however legal processes should not stop," he said.

"I remind the police that if the police treat the Ibu [Mrs] Sukmawati case the way the police treated Ahok's then most likely what has happened in our beloved country, in Jakarta, will be repeated," in an apparent threat that larger protests will follow if the police do not act.

"The only way is to uphold justice, the law must be upheld. Summon [her], process [her], jail [her]."

Sixteen-year-old Alidila – still wearing his school uniform – joined the protest with a handful of school friends on Friday afternoon. He told Fairfax Media that Sukmawati had insulted Islam and "I want her to be jailed and for her to apologise to Muslims".

When it was pointed out that Sukmawati had apologised several times, Alidila said that was not enough for him.

Mansur, who declined to give his real name, said Sukmawati should not have compared the adzan to anything because "there is the name of Allah in adzan. You cannot compare adzan to anything". Sukmawati's case should be treated as Ahok's case had been treated and she should potentially be jailed, he said.

"As Muslims we already accepted her apology. However we feel that there is an element of religious blasphemy [in her poem]. It's related to article 156a [criminal code article 156a covers blasphemy]. We want it to be processed like the previous blasphemy case [of Ahok]."

The protests took place against the backdrop of looming local elections, which will be held in June, and the Presidential election which is due in April 2019.

Sukmawati's sister, Megawati, is still the chair of the PDI-P, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's party.

The call to prosecute Sukmawati for blasphemy has been interpreted by allies of President Joko as an indirect attack on him and his ruling party.

Religious identity played a major part in the 2014 presidential election and it looks increasingly likely that it will do so again in 2019.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/thousands-of-protesters-demand-jail-for-former-president-s-daughter-20180406-p4z896.html

Police question men who accused Sukmawati of blasphemy

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2018

Jakarta – The people who reported Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, the daughter of the country's first president Sukarno, told the Jakarta Police during questioning that the use of the words sharia, full-face veil and adzan in the latter's controversial poem were blasphemous against Islam.

Lawyer Denny Andrian Kusdayat and Hanura Party member Amron Asyhari, as well as the East Java chapter of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), filed a report against Sukmawati on Tuesday, claiming the latter had blasphemed against Islam by reading the poem, which compared sharia to konde (traditional hair bun), mocked cadar (full-face veil) and insulted adzan (Muslim call to prayer).

"The investigators asked which verses were blasphemous or problematic [within the poem]. We told them.... Just those three [sharia, full-face veil and adzan]," Denny said after the questioning at the Jakarta Police headquarters on Thursday night, as reported by kompas.com.

Sukmawati read the poem during a fashion event held to celebrate designer Anne Avantie's 29th career anniversary during Indonesia Fashion Week (IFW) in Jakarta on March 29.

Denny said the investigators also inquired about the witnesses present when the poem was read. "We saw there were [artist] Titiek Puspa, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, and several other celebrities [in attendance at the event]."

Denny said the evidence of the crime was a viral video recording of Sukmawati reading the poem, which the anniversary committee uploaded to the internet.

On Friday afternoon, hundreds of protesters staged a rally against Sukmawati in Central Jakarta. Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Commander Argo Yuwono said that a combined force of up to 6,500 military personnel and police officers had been stationed at Istiqlal mosque to ensure security during the demonstration.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/06/police-question-men-who-accused-sukmawati-of-blasphemy.html

Court's swift decision to reject Ahok's case review petition questioned

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2018

Jakarta – Several aspects of the Supreme Court's rejection of the case review petition filed by former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama against his blasphemy conviction, including its swift process, have been deplored. The Supreme Court handed down its ruling on March 26, only 19 days after receiving the case dossier from the North Jakarta District Court, which is considered short compared to other cases.

Ahok's lawyer, Fifi Lety Indra, said for other cases, like the murder case that convicted the former chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Antasari Azhar, it took 122 days for the court to reject the latter's case review petition.

Citing the Supreme Court's statement that Ahok's case was swiftly decided because it had attracted public attention and was "important", Fifi said the court should have considered all cases equal.

"This case was quickly decided because it was deemed important. How could that be important? The court shall see that all cases and individuals are equal. This is a matter of principle," Fifi said on Thursday according to kompas.com.

Fifi, who is also Ahok's sister, said she did not understand why the court failed to consider evidence presented by the lawyers, for example evidence that related to Buni Yani, who was found guilty of tampering with video used to support the blasphemy case against Ahok.

The panel of judges in Ahok case was led by justice Artidjo Alkostar, who is famous for his harsh punishment toward corruption defendants.

Following the court's decision, reports emerged that Artidjo was a member of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) committee. He later denied the reports.

The FPI was behind a series of rallies in which participants demanded the arrest and conviction of Ahok for his remarks, which were deemed to be blasphemous toward Islam. (cal)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/06/courts-swift-decision-to-reject-ahoks-case-review-petition-questioned.html

MUI chairman criticized by FPI leader for asking that Sukmawati be

Coconuts Jakarta - April 6, 2018

The controversy over a poem read last week by Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia's first president and founding father Soekarno, has now become a divisive issue among many of Indonesia's most prominent Islamic organizations.

After Sukmawati tearfully read an apology statement on Wednesday asking for forgiveness from any of the country's Muslims who were offended by her poem, Ibu Indonesia, many influential figures called on their fellow Muslims to forgive her, including Cak Imin, the deputy chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), PP Muhammadiyah general secretary Abdul Mu'ti, and even Kapitra Ampera, lawyer to fugitive Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab and advocacy head for GNPF Ulama (the National Movement to Safeguard Ulema's Fatwa – the main organizer of the mass protests against former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama). There were also calls to rescind the many blasphemy complaints against Sukmawati that have been submitted to the police.

Perhaps the most prominent and influential Islamic leader to call for Sukmawati's forgiveness was Mar'uf Amin, the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country's senior Islamic clerical body.

"She really did not have any intention of insulting Islam, so she apologized and today we met her for her apology to be conveyed to the audience, especially Muslims," Ma'ruf said after meeting with Sukmawati yesterday, as quoted by Merdeka.

The MUI chairman urged the country's Muslims to forgive Sukmawati so that the matter could be resolved peacefully.

However, some are not so quick to forgive. Today in Jakarta, a hardliner group called Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (made up of "alumni" of the December 2 anti-Ahok protests) went ahead with plans to conduct a protest against Sukmawati for her alleged blasphemy. Some 6,000 police officers were assigned to secure the protest and around 1,000 demonstrators took part based on some media estimates.

When asked about Ma'ruf's request that Sukmawati be forgiven, Persaudaraan Alumni 212 spokeman and FPI Jakarta general secretary Novel Bamukmin (of "Fitsa Hats" infamy) bluntly rejected the idea and criticized the MUI chairman for even suggesting the idea that Muslims could forgive blasphemy.

"If religion is insulted, then it is God's right, we have no right to give forgiveness to Sukmawati because it is not something people can do," Novel told CNN Indonesia today.

Novel insisted he would not withdraw the police report filed against Sukmawati by Persaudaraan Alumni 212, saying that no criminal act could be written off with an apology.

On top of that, Novel criticized MUI head Ma'ruf himself, saying that MUI had not defended Rizieq Shihab or other Islamist "activists" who were being investigated by the government.

"Even as he defends the blasphemer, he encourages the people to forgive and pull their (police) reports," Novel said.

It should be noted that 2016's anti-Ahok protests were theologically justified by Ma'ruf and MUI issuing a fatwa declaring that Ahok had committed blasphemy against Islam, allowing organizers to argue that they were simply defending Islam and MUI's fatwa.

For Novel and Persaudaraan Alumni 212 to directly criticize Ma'ruf and MUI is somewhat shocking (it doesn't seem impossible that somebody might report him for "insulting the ulema") but it also represents a larger ongoing ideological fragmentation between Indonesia's conservative and hardline Islamic organizations, which were largely united against Ahok previously.

Following Ahok's electoral defeat, many political analysts worried that hardliner groups would continue to seek greater political influence over the country, but infighting within the various groups (Persaudaraan Alumni 212, for example, was previously called Presidium Alumni 212 until a recent schismatic event) have led many to doubt how much influence they'll actually have on the upcoming regional elections or next year's presidential election.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/mui-chairman-maruf-criticized-fpi-leader-novel-asking-sukmawati-forgiven-god-can-forgive/

Indonesian hard-line Islamic group calls for jihad and protests against

ABC Radio Australia - April 5, 2018

Adam Harvey – One of Indonesia's most respected Islamic clerics has issued a call for calm as religious conservatives attack the daughter of the nation's first president, Sukarno.

One hard-line group has issued a "call for jihad" against Sukmawati Sukarnoputri for allegedly insulting Islam in a poem. It is the same blasphemy offence that led to a two-year jail term for Jakarta's Christian governor "Ahok" Basuki.

The head of the Indonesian Ulema Council, Ma'ruf Amin, has called for compassion and compromise as Ms Sukmawati's critics attempt to escalate the issue into a major crisis.

"We need to solve our differences through dialogue, to find solution and agreement... we don't want conflict like in other countries," said Ma'ruf Amin, who held a joint press conference with Ms Sukmawati.

The hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who issued the "call for jihad", has asked its supporters to protest against Ms Sukmawati after this week's Friday prayers.

The group complained to police about a poem written by the younger sister of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri. The complaint focused on two lines of the poem, written in 2006.

"I don't know Islamic Sharia, what I know is that the essence of Mother Indonesia's konde (a traditional hairstyle) is very beautiful, more so than the veil on your face.

... I don't know Islamic Sharia, what I know is that Mother Indonesia's song is so pleasing, more so than your call to prayer."

Ms Sukmawati, like her father and sister, is Muslim. Ms Sukmawati has apologised to "all the Muslims in Indonesia" for offending them but her apology has not satisfied groups like the FPI.

Behind the criticism of Ms Sukmawati is a complex web of revenge and political alliances ahead of general elections in 2019.

The FPI has loathed Ms Sukmawati since she made a complaint to police last year about FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shihab, saying the cleric had insulted Indonesia's founding principles.

Rizieq fled the country during a police investigation into the complaint, and remains in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia. It is possible he will be prosecuted over the offence if he returns.

Ms Sukmawati and her sister Megawati are also political allies of Indonesia's president Joko Widodo.

Ms Megawati is chair of Jokowi's PDIP party. The president is up for re-election next year and his campaign would be damaged by protests or criminal charges against Ms Sukmawati.

One potential rival candidate against Jokowi, former military commander Gatot Nurmantyo, has joined in the controversy with a poem of his own.

"Beautiful and lovely Mother Indonesia is not her real face.

"Hers is that way because of the beaming glow that glorifies her beauty with songs of praise for God, the guidance of the Koran and the calling of the Lord, which is the call to prayer, in every corner of the archipelago."

The FPI says it will hold protests on Friday outside Jakarta's police headquarters.

Source: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2018-04-05/indonesian-hardline-islamic-group-calls-for-jihad-and-protests-against-expresidents-daughter/1747464

Lawyer questions court decision to reject Ahok's case review request

Jakarta Post - April 4, 2018

Jakarta – A lawyer for former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama has questioned the Supreme Court's decision to reject his case review petition.

Fifi Lety Indra said all considerations to file the petition had been stated in the petition, including those related to a man named Buni Yani, who was found guilty of tampering with a video that was used to support a blasphemy case against Ahok.

Ahok was charged with blasphemy for allegedly insulting a Quranic verse on May 9, 2017. The Bandung District Court in West Jakarta sentenced Buni to 18 months in prison on Nov. 14, last year.

"We have included the [Buni Yani] case in the petition but why was it not considered? [Ahok had] no intention or desire to insult [Islam]," Fifi said Wednesday as quoted by kompas.com.

On account of the rejection, Fifi plans to discuss the verdict, the document of which has yet to be received by Ahok, at the Amnesty International Forum on Thursday. Fifi added that Ahok had responded to the case review rejection by saying "praise the Lord".

A panel of judges lead by Justice Artidjo Alkostar rejected the case review request on March 26. Following the court decision, reports emerged that Artidjo was a member of an Islam Defenders Front (FPI) committee, however, the claims were refuted by both Artidjo and Jakarta FPI secretary-general Novel Bamukmin.

The FPI was behind a series of rallies in which participants demanded the arrest and conviction of Ahok for statements made in a speech. (wnd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/04/lawyer-questions-court-decision-to-reject-ahoks-case-review-request.html

Hardliners to hold 'Defend Islam Action 64' protest against Sukmawati

Coconuts Jakarta - April 4, 2018

Persaudaraan Alumni 212 (PA 212), an umbrella group of Indonesian Islamic hardline organizations that was instrumental in staging mass protests against Ahok and influencing his eventual blasphemy conviction, has set its sights on Sukmawati Soekarnoputri and plans on staging a mass protest against her for her allegedly blasphemous poem as well.

Just as the group's name contains the date of the largest protest against Ahok (December 12, 2016), the mass protest against Sukmawati, which is planned for Friday, will be called Aksi Bela Islam 64 ("Defend Islam Action 64") to denote the date, as has become the norm for every mass protest the group has staged.

Plans for 'Defend Islam Action 64' were confirmed by PA 212 spokesperson and senior Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) member Novel Bamukmin (i.e. he of "Fitsa Hats" fame).

"On Friday, after Friday prayers, there will be Defend Islam Action 64, there will be many [protesters]," Novel said yesterday, as quoted by Merdeka.

Novel did not say how many protesters will be expected on Friday, but the group's reported number of demonstrators has always been a point of contention in the past. For example, PA 212 claimed that up to 7 million flooded Central Jakarta for the protest against Ahok in 2016 while credible media sources put that number closer to 200,000.

Novel also remarked that Sukmawati's poem is more blasphemous than Ahok's speech. "Ahok [said the speech] spontaneously, unintentionally in front of a specific audience and not for the general public. This [Sukmawati's poem] was prepared in advance," he said.

PA 212 is not the only group seeking legal action against Sukmawati after being offended by the poem. Yesterday, a prominent politician and lawyer reported her to the Jakarta Metro Police for blasphemy, the maximum punishment for which is five years' imprisonment.

During last week's Indonesia Fashion Week 2018 in Jakarta, Sukmawati read out her poem, titled Ibu Indonesia (Mother Indonesia), which celebrates Indonesian fashion and tradition, comparing them to Middle Eastern and Islamic traditions many have adopted in the country. Some of the contentious lines in her poem include, as translated to English:

I don't know Islamic sharia
But I know Mother Indonesia's konde saree is very beautiful
Prettier than your face veil

I don't know Islamic sharia
But I know Mother Indonesia's ballad, it's so very elegant
More soothing than your azan (Islamic call to prayer)

Responding to accusations of blasphemy, Sukmawati defended herself and her poem by saying that it's a form of artistic expression reflecting the truths from the perspective of many women across the archipelago.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/islamic-hardliners-hold-defend-islam-action-64-protest-sukmawati-soekarnoputris-poem-friday/

Former Indonesian president's daughter sorry after blasphemy outrage

Sydney Morning Herald - April 4, 2018

James Massola & Karuni Rompies, Jakarta – The daughter of Indonesia's former president Sukarno has apologised to all Indonesian Muslims after she was accused of reading a poem that blasphemed and insulted Islam.

In the poem, read at Indonesia's Fashion Week, Sukmawati – sister of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri – is alleged to have denigrated the adzan, or call to prayer, and suggested a traditional Indonesian hair bun is prettier than the full-faced veil worn by strict Muslims.

The reading of the poem titled "Mother Indonesia" has prompted calls for a rally on Friday from the hardline GNPF Ulama, a conservative Muslim organisation, who declared "the call of Jihad is back" and urged people to support police in the "arrest, trial and jail Sukmawati, the religious blasphemer". The outrage generated by Sukmawati's poem is another sign that conservative Muslims in Indonesia plan to flex their political muscles ahead of the 2019 elections.

GNPF Ulama was one of the key religious organisations involved in the huge rallies against the Christian former governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, who was jailed for blasphemy in May 2017.

A lawyer named Denny Andrian Kusdayat and the East Java branch of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a usually moderate Muslim organisation, both reported Sukmawati Sukarnoputri to police after she read the poem last week.

According to local media, Denny believed Sukmawati insulted Islam because the word "Allah" is mentioned in the call to prayer.

Sukmawati, who had already conferred with a senior official from the Ulama Council – a body of clerics who issue religious edicts – delivered her apology on Wednesday afternoon.

"From the bottom of my heart I extend an apology to all Muslims of Indonesia, especially those who feel offended by the poem," Sukmawati said with tears in her eyes during a press conference.

However another two organisations – the Indonesian Ulema Defence Team (TPUI) and the Indonesian Islamic Student Movement (GMII) – reported Sukmawati to Indonesian Police on Wednesday, claiming to have been insulted by the poem and signalling her apology may not have been enough.

University of NSW lecturer Melissa Crouch, an expert in Indonesia's blasphemy laws, said Sukmawati had had previous run-ins with conservative Muslim group the Islamic Defenders front and "this case has political undertones to it".

"People have been moved by the Ahok conviction to use the blasphemy laws to target their poetical opponents," she said.

The general secretary of the Association of Indonesian Sharia Lawyers, Irfan Fahmi, said in his personal opinion "we must first find out if there is intention of her to blaspheme".

"In the criminal code, an action should have an intention in order to be categorised as a criminal act. Perception is not an intention," he said. "So if she thinks the sound from the call of prayer is less beautiful... it is her perception."

He predicted Sukmawati would not face court over the matter and said the fact that she was speaking at a fashion event, not a political rally, would also help her.

Nevertheless, "maybe there are people who will make a new issue out of Sukmawati's case [ahead of the 2019 election]."

Police in Jakarta may summon Sukmawati to question her about the matter, but it could be some weeks before she finds out if she is charged or if the matter is dropped.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/former-indonesian-president-s-daughter-sorry-after-blasphemy-outrage-over-poem-20180404-p4z7oj.html

Sukmawati Soekarnoputri reported to police for blasphemy

Coconuts Jakarta - April 3, 2018

Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia's first president and founding father Soekarno, is facing legal action over a poem she wrote that offended many after it was accused of being blasphemous towards Islam.

During last week's Indonesia Fashion Week 2018 in Jakarta, Sukmawati read out her poem, titled Ibu Indonesia (Mother Indonesia), which celebrates Indonesian fashion and tradition, comparing them to Middle Eastern and Islamic traditions many have adopted in the country. Some of the contentious lines in her poem include, as translated to English:

I don't know Islamic sharia
But I know Mother Indonesia's konde saree is very beautiful
Prettier than your face veil

I don't know Islamic sharia
But I know Mother Indonesia's ballad, it's so very elegant
More soothing than your azan (Islamic call to prayer)

This morning, Amron Ansyhari, head of the Hanura party central executive committee, along with lawyer Denny A.K., reported Sukmawati to the Jakarta Metro Police for blasphemy against Islam over what they call an extremely offensive poem.

"If I must be honest, she's worse than Ahok," Denny said, as quoted by Kumparan, referring to the case of former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was sentenced to two years in prison for a speech in which he warned that people were using a misguided interpretation of the Quran to fool people to not vote for him, a non-Muslim.

Islamic hardline groups like Persaudaraan Alumni 212, which was instrumental in staging mass protests against Ahok and influencing his eventual blasphemy conviction, have also indicated that they will report Sukmawati to the police for blasphemy.

Under Indonesia's KUHP (Criminal Code), blasphemy is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.

Sukmawati today responded to all the criticism towards her poem, saying that it's an artistic expression reflecting truths from the perspective of many women across the archipelago.

"But it's reality. I did not insult race, ethnicity, or religions. In the poem, I created a story. Writing a poem is like writing a story. I'm a cultural expert, I dive into the minds of people from regions that don't understand Islamic sharia, like in Eastern Indonesia, Bali, and other regions," she told Detik.

"About the ballad being more beautiful than the azan, that's acceptable [to say]. Not all who perform the azan have melodic voices. That's fact. This is about the art of vocals."

In 2016, Sukmawati reported firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab to the police for making insulting remarks about her father and Pancasila, Indonesia's philosophical foundation. Rizieq was eventually named a suspect for insulting state symbols, which is punishable by up to four years in prison by law, but he has since become a fugitive in Saudi Arabia escaping investigations for this case and his infamous pornography case.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/sukmawati-soekarnoputri-reported-police-blasphemy-poem-comparing-indonesian-islamic-traditions/

Environment & natural disasters

Balikpapan oil spill widening: Ministry

Jakarta Post - April 7, 2018

Jakarta – The area affected by an oil spill in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan, has widened although it remains unclear what exactly is causing the spread, an official has said.

Widodo Pranowo, the head of the marine and coastal area data laboratory of the Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Ministry, said on Friday that the area polluted by the oil spill in had widened to 20,000 hectares from 12,987 hectares.

"There is a possibility that the source of the leak has not been perfectly sealed. But also there is a possibility that the spill has been thinning and drifting away with the currents," he said as quoted by Kompas newspaper.

The oil spill reportedly came from a broken pipe belonging to state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina. Widodo, who examined the oil spill area through satellite imaging, said more thorough research was needed to determine the cause of the spread. Pertamina says it has deployed four cleaner teams and 15 cleaner ships to clean up the bay.

Yudi Nugraha, Kalimantan regional manager of social responsibility and communications at Pertamina said the company had utilized a variety of techniques and equipment for cleaning the oil spill, from vacuum trucks, to oil booms and oil spill dispersant (OSD).

"To clean the waters of the beach, we're using oil skimmers and tug boats," Yudi added. "We've dispatched no fewer than 1,000 people to clean up the oil spill. We also have the support of volunteers from various civil society groups, students, community members and environmental activists," he said.

MR Karliyansyah, director general of pollution control in the Environment and Forestry Ministry, said Pertamina promised to have the spill cleaned by April 9. (gis/ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/07/balikpapan-oil-spill-widening-ministry.html

Borneo oil spill: Environmental groups and victim's family call for

ABC Radio Australia - April 7, 2018

Adam Harvey – Environmental groups want the head of Indonesia's state-owned oil company to be fired over an oil spill that has killed five people and polluted an estimated 80km of Borneo coastline.

It took five days for Pertamina to admit the spill came from one of its crude oil pipelines.

For days the company claimed the huge quantity of oil in the bay had come from a ship – even though there was no evidence of any ships sinking or running aground.

When the spill ignited, the fire killed five local men who were fishing in Balikpapan bay, including 41-year-old Imam Nurokhim. His boat was trapped by the burning oil.

His widow Rohani Baso told the ABC that no-one from Pertamina or the local government had contacted her. "I don't know how we're going to continue paying for our daughter," she said. "We've lost the family's breadwinner."

Imam worked as a designer and embroiderer in the local clothing industry and fished as a hobby. Last Friday he left home in Balikpapan at 6am to go fishing with two friends.

"At dawn he woke me so we could pray together," said Ms Rohani. "I wasn't aware of the oil spill until my nephew knocked at the door in the afternoon and showed me pictures of my husband's ID card that was found."

"I went to the port, asking around then I went to the hospital and found him laying in the morgue. My daughter found out from her friend's Facebook. I miss him – it feels so strange without him around. He's fun, and always trying to make me happy."

The local authorities say that 7,000 hectares of mangroves are affected and the spill has killed an estimated 8,000 mangrove trees and seedlings. Photographs from Greenpeace show thick oil covering the area's sensitive coastal mangrove swamps.

Pradama Rupang from the Borneo environment group Jatam says the official clean-up is haphazard and the spill remains a risk to locals.

"People in the communities are joining the clean-up process and they are not equipped with safety gear like boots or gloves so they can avoid touching the oil directly," he said. "If they touch it, their skin becomes irritated. This is very dangerous if they keep touching the oil."

He said locals were suffering because of Pertamina's lack of professionalism, and Pertamina president director Elia Massa Manik should be fired. "The company should be charged with breaching environment laws, but this is mismanagement – someone in management should be charged also."

Source: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2018-04-07/borneo-oil-spill-environmental-groups-and-victims-family-call-for-accountability/1747784

Oil spill in Balikpapan takes toll on residents, destroys wildlife

Jakarta Globe - April 6, 2018

Adinda Normala and Amal Ganesha, Jakarta – Last week's oil spill in East Kalimantan has killed five people and is destroying marine life in the waters off Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

The oil, which came from a leak in a pipeline owned by state energy company Pertamina, has since March 30 spread to Makassar Strait, covering 13,000 hectares, including 34 hectares of mangrove swamps, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said on Wednesday (04/04).

A dead Irrawaddy dolphin washed ashore near the site of the incident. It is suspected the endangered species was poisoned by the toxic leak.

Hundreds of people living in the area have reported nausea and dizziness, probably caused by inhaling toxic chemicals from the oil.

Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya said a special task force is trying to stop the spread of the contamination with containment booms.

Deadly oil spill fire

The leakage was reportedly caused by a ship that anchored in the bay and destroyed the pipe. The vessel then caught fire, killing five people who were fishing in the area.

"We suspect the pipeline was dragged by the ship that caught fire," director general of oil and gas at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Djoko Siswanto, told reporters on Thursday.

"It had to anchor due to bad weather conditions," Siswanto said, adding that ships are not allowed to cast anchor in that part of the bay.

Pertamina initially said the oil came from the vessel. On Wednesday, however, it announced that its 20-year-old underwater pipeline linked to a refinery in Balikpapan was the source of the spill.

The vessel's owners will be questioned and can face manslaughter charges, Siswanto said.

[With additional reporting by Reuters.]

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/oil-spill-balikpapan-takes-toll-residents-destroys-wildlife/

Environmental activists seal South Tangerang toll road construction site

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2018

Jakarta – Several environmental activists grouped under the name OKP Ganespa from South Tangerang sealed the construction site of a toll road connecting Serpong and Cinere on Thursday, claiming it is damaging a lake area nearby.

Through a banner hung from scaffolding at the project at Sasak Tinggi lakeside in Pamulang, they demanded PT Cinere Serpong Jaya (CSJ) stop its construction work there. The activists accused the company of damaging the environment around the lake area.

OKP Ganespa coordinator Hafids Fidon said the action was taken as a follow-up to a similar protest they held on March 22 in front of South Tangerang City Hall in Ciputat.

"This is our fifth protest. On behalf of the residents around the lake, we're demanding PT CSJ stop its project," he said as reported by wartakota.tribunnews.com on Thursday.

Meanwhile, PT CSJ executive M. Irsan Setiabudi claimed that the company had all the requirements for the project. "We've got the environmental impact analysis [Amdal] as well as being in line with South Tangerang's spatial master plan [RTRW]," he said.

Irsan has yet to decide whether to halt or continue the construction project. "We'll let [the activists] calm down first, we can't decide on it right away," he added. (vla)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/05/environmental-activists-seal-south-tangerang-toll-road-construction-site.html

Indonesia investigates deadly oil spill in eastern Borneo

Asian Correspondent - April 4, 2018

Basten Gokkon – The Indonesian government has launched an investigation into a major oil spill in Borneo amid reports linking the incident to the deaths of four fishermen and an endangered dolphin.

The spill in Balikpapan Bay, in East Kalimantan province, was first reported on the morning of March 31, when local fishermen noticed a strange smell near an offshore refinery operated by state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina. Workers later attempted to clean up the slick by setting it on fire, but the blaze grew out of control.

Four people were killed in the fire, all believed to be fishermen. One other person was seriously injured, while another is missing.

On the evening of April 1, locals reported the discovery of a dead Irrawaddy dolphin washed up on the coast near the oil spill, suggesting it had died from the toxic slick.

"We have taken samples of the animal, and it would take about a week to make sure the cause of its death," said Danielle Kreb, a marine biologist with the Rare Aquatic Species Indonesia (RASI), an NGO.

The Irrawaddy dolphin, listed as endangered by the IUCN, is a protected species under Indonesian law. Killing it carries hefty fines and a possible jail sentence.

"The fire was quite big, about two kilometres high," said Octaviano, a senior official with the East Kalimantan search and rescue agency, as quoted by the AFP. "It can be seen from Balikpapan city and the smell was all over the place."

A boat carrying coal was temporarily stuck near the fire, but the search and rescue team managed to evacuate all 20 crew on board.

The local disaster mitigation agency extinguished the fire shortly after, preventing it from spreading to other areas, but the oil slick remains in waters in the area.

Locals also reported experiencing health problems, including nausea and breathing difficulty, over the weekend.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry said on April 2 that it had deployed a team to survey the extent of the oil spill and its source, and mitigate any impact from the incident.

"Our team has taken samples to check where the oil is from," Rasio Ridho Sani, the ministry's director general of law enforcement, said at a press conference in Jakarta. "In the meantime, we have also set oil [spill containment] booms to make sure the slick doesn't spread further."

Pertamina said the oil spill was not from crude oil produced at its refinery or transported through its undersea pipeline in the area. It said it had identified the oil as being fuel oil for ships.

"We have studied oil samples from the spill, and it's not from Pertamina," Yudi Nugraha, a spokesman for Pertamina, said at a press conference in Balikpapan on March 31.

Pertamina also said the company's divers had not found any leaks in the pipeline. Local fishermen and environmentalists, however, are skeptical about the company's claims.

"We think there must be a leak from the Pertamina pipe because it's located very close to the oil – maybe 100 meters," Pradarma Rupang, from the local environmental group Jatam, told the ABC. "There is no shipwreck, no collision, no sinking ship, no burned ship, nothing. Suddenly oil appears in the middle of the sea."

The environment ministry said in a statement on April 3 that its team had collected 69,300 litres of oil as of the evening of April 2. It said it would take some time to investigate the incident, but was confident that it could solve it.

"We have to be very sure where this oil comes from, whether it's from Pertamina or others," Rasio said, adding the party behind the spill would be held liable for the slick clean-up and ecosystem recovery.

The ministry has deployed drones to get an aerial view of the extent of the spill, and asked for satellite images of the affected area from the National Aeronautics and Space Institute (Lapan). It has also sought data on oil tanker activity in the bay from the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla).

"We have told our teams and also Pertamina to prioritize cleaning up the spill near settlements, considering the strong smell and other potential risks [from the slick]," Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said in a statement. "I will continue to monitor the efforts, and hopefully we can resolve this incident quickly together with other related institutions."

Boat accidents are common in Indonesia, which relies heavily on shipping to move people and cargo between its thousands of islands. Oil spills, however, are much rarer.

[This article was originally published on Mongabay.]

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/04/indonesia-investigates-deadly-oil-spill-in-eastern-borneo/

Health & education

Jakarta Ombudsman says student exams, answer keys leaked

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2018

Jakarta – The Jakarta Ombudsman says exams and answer keys were leaked prior to the administering of the national exams in Jakarta, Bekasi and Bekasi regency.

The Ombudsman's acting head, Dominikus Dalu, said the leak originated from private learning assistance agencies. The exams were administered from March 19 to 27.

"Our team received such information and then we investigated the claims. We found that the [exams and answer keys] came from learning assistance agencies," Dominikus said Wednesday.

However, Dominikus refused to disclose the agencies, but would send the report directly to the Jakarta Education Agency and West Java Education Agency region III.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman also alleges that several schools had leaked the answer keys as schools had received the exams and answer keys long before the start of the exams. (wnd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/04/jakarta-ombudsman-says-student-exams-answer-keys-leaked.html

Indonesia to open university sector to 100% foreign ownership

Reuters - April 5, 2018

Tabita Diela, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has instructed his cabinet to open the university sector to 100 percent foreign investment, and allow overseas institutions to open campuses in Indonesia, the head of the country's investment board said on Wednesday (05/04).

Southeast Asia's biggest economy has had long-standing policies to protect sectors such as higher education from foreign investment, but Jokowi's administration has been trying to open more areas.

The move could also help raise lagging education standards in the country of more than 250 million people, where students often opt to study abroad if they can afford it.

"We're going to go from zero percent to 100 percent foreign ownership allowed overnight," Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) chairman Thomas Lembong told a conference. Thomas gave no timeframe for when the policy will take effect.

The government has pledged to ease ownership rules in sectors that are partly, or entirely, closed to foreigners in a bid to attract more overseas investment.

Indonesia currently only allows foreign schools and universities to operate in the country if they collaborate with local partners and meet certain conditions.

Under Indonesian law, the government has to allocate a fifth of its budget to education-related spending. But the World Bank said increased spending had not led to a meaningful improvement in the quality of education.

According to an International Student Assessment rankings for science, last carried out in 2015, Indonesia was in 61st place, well below Singapore at the top and Vietnam in eighth spot.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/indonesia-open-university-sector-100-foreign-ownership/

'Education emergency' stymies Indonesia's growth

Straits Times - April 5, 2018

John McBeth, Jakarta – It has been a decade since successive Indonesian governments began devoting 20% of the national budget to education. Yet two recent studies suggest such little progress has been made that the country's education system has now become a major impediment to national development and economic growth.

For political analysts, it also raises the issue of whether poor education lies at the heart of the country's faltering progress towards democratization and why an unquestioning populace-at-large is so easily led by self-interested politicians and their corporate allies.

President Joko Widodo and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati have both come to recognize that serious improvements must be made in the quality of government spending, a theme also picked up in the World Bank's latest Quarterly Report on Indonesia.

"It's a failure of design," Indrawati, a former World Bank managing director, told an economic briefing in late March. "Twenty percent of the budget is for education, but if we are unable to design spending in a way that matters, then those resources will be wasted."

Instead of throwing good money after bad, University of Melbourne political economist Andrew Rosser says a fundamental shift is required in the underlying political and social relationships that have characterized the political economy and shaped the evolution of education.

"In the absence of such a shift, interventions aimed at the improving the quality of education are likely to be stymied by political and social forces opposed to reform for ideological or material reasons," he wrote in a recent Lowy Institute study.

The World Bank's regional report does not address the core problems, but it does highlight a survey showing that Indonesia is below average and far inferior to Vietnam, which has become its biggest competitor – and often cited by Indonesian officials as a role model – for foreign direct investment (FDI).

Indonesia scored only 422 points, compared to Vietnam's impressive 525, with World Bank senior economist Amer Hasan noting that Indonesia lacks teacher reviews and classroom feedback from students during a learning process that relies more on rote than any serious questioning.

Indonesian children may be starting school earlier and staying longer, but as former education minister Anies Baswedan pointed out in 2016, the country is facing what he called an "education emergency," beset by low-quality tuition, poor learning outcomes, inadequate facilities and discipline problems.

Boasting 64 million students, 340,000 schools and other learning institutions and 3.9 million teachers, Indonesia has the world's fourth largest education system, fed by a 2017 budget of 414.5 trillion rupiah (US$31.1 billion) – still well ahead of the 346.6 trillion rupiah allocated for infrastructure.

Indrawati and Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto, an Australian engineering graduate, are both vocal proponents of expanding vocational education, based on science, maths, engineering and technology, as the main focus of the country's human resources development.

That would be a shift away from the more traditional path of middle school followed by university to a system where polytechnics would become the source of a skilled work force capable of competing with neighboring countries and transforming Indonesia into a high-value economy.

But while the Education Ministry describes a need for smart and competitive students who can compete for jobs in an increasingly globalized economy, Rosser blames "politics and power" for turning the education system as a whole into a "high volume, low-quality enterprise."

It is not just a matter of misdirected funding, human resource deficits, perverse incentive structures and poor management, he argues. It reflects the dominance of the political, bureaucratic and corporate elites and their control over the state apparatus, with its roots in president Suharto's New Order era.

While community leaders played a healthy role in the management of public schools before the New Order, they were pushed aside by rent-seeking bureaucrats who bought their positions at schools in exchange for the opportunity to make money through corruption and illegal fees.

The 1997-98 Asian financial crisis may have weakened the base of this alliance, but by reinventing themselves through political parties and other vehicles, the same elements continue to show more interest in accumulating resources and mobilizing political support than creating a quality education.

According to Rosser, their interest is to limit funding consumed by the education system in a way that ensures that government resources are concentrated in areas of public spending, such as infrastructure, that offer them better opportunities to accumulate rents.

At the same time, the Indonesian Teachers Union (PGRI), particularly at the regional level, has become the channel through which the political elite mobilizes votes, working on the assumption that teachers have a compelling influence on family and social networks.

Government statistics show that although 97% of the country's children are enrolled in primary schools, that figure drops to 77% for junior secondary school, 60% for senior secondary school and barely 18% for higher education institutions.

While there may be a high literacy rate, recent research has shown that 55% of Indonesian children can't fully comprehend what they are reading and English language scores remain among the lowest in the region.

World Bank data reveals a worrying lack of qualifications among academic staff, which only perpetuates the inequality between the classes with a 35% increase in students from upper and middle class Indonesian families studying abroad over the past decade.

Well over half of the education budget goes on teacher training with poor pre-service and little in-service training and an emphasis on rote learning that ignores the need for students to develop cultural and civic literacies to enable them to learn and think for themselves.

This shift is particularly important for political accountability, evidenced by Indrawati's astonishment at learning that in recent local elections several politicians were returned to parliament even though they were already in jail for corruption.

"I hope that means it is not the same across the country," she said last week, calling for hard thinking about what has gone wrong in efforts to improve governance and accountability. "That would mean people don't care how we spend their money."

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/education-emergency-stymies-indonesias-growth/

21 believed killed by tainted alcohol in Jakarta in just the past 5 days

Coconuts Jakarta - April 4, 2018

Indonesia's strict laws and heavy import duties on alcohol make it very difficult and prohibitively expensive for many people who want to get drunk to actually get inebriated, at least on legal regulated liquor.

That has created a huge black market for illegal alcohol in Indonesia that kills hundreds of people per year. Just in the Greater Jakarta Metro Area, as many as 21 people are suspected of having died due to consuming illegal, tainted alcohol since Sunday.

The deaths were spread throughout the capital region, with police saying seven people died due to oplosan (tainted liquor) in Duren Sawit, East Jakarta and five in Jagakarsa, South Jakarta. Police in Jakarta's satellite city of Depok reported six suspected alcohol deaths while those in Tangerang reported three more.

Police said the seven killed in Duren Sawit were all believed to have purchased a "ginseng" based alcoholic beverage on Sunday night. Three more remain in critical condition at Pondok Kopi Islamic Hospital.

South Jakarta Police originally announced three suspected oplosan deaths in Jagakarsa but confirmed that two more had died yesterday. The victims are also believed to have consumed a ginseng-based alcoholic beverage. Officials said they had already arrested the vendor who allegedly sold the tainted spirits.

In Depok, police reported that six have died while six more remained in the hospital in critical condition. From their investigations, the victims in Depok also purchased their tainted alcohol from a seller in Jagakarsa.

Tangerang Police Chief Cisoka Amanta Wijaya said the three men who died due to suspected alcohol poisoning in his jurisdiction are believed to have died on Saturday after drinking together at a cemetary some time before. They have not yet revealed the source of their alcohol.

Police have not yet announced if all of the tainted alcohol came from the same source, but based on the reports it seems likely that is the case.

This sadly would not be the first mass death due to tainted alcohol in Jakarta. In 2013, 13 youths in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, all died due to alcohol poisoning after drinking a concoction containing bootleg liquor.

There has long been controversy over proposed legislation that would ban all alcohol production and sales in Indonesia. Although many conservative and religious politicians like to mention their support of the bill to score cheap political points, the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), stated last year that it would be against full prohibition after a study they commissioned found that a large number of young people in Jakarta drink oplosan regularly and can obtain it easily.

The survey, done by NU's Institute for Human Resource Research and Development (Lakpesdam), showed that about 65 percent of teenagers in Jakarta have drunk oplosan. The vast majority of those respondents (71.5%) said they obtained the illegal drink from warung jamu (stalls selling herbal drinks), with smaller percentages saying they had gotten them through grocery stores or friends.

NU said the survey was done over 6 months and involved 327 respondents ages 12-21. The study indicated that there has been a rise in alcoholism amongst teenagers after Jakarta's minimarket beer ban went into effects and youths were driven to purchase liquor from black market sources. The survey also showed teens were ignorant about the possible health risks of oplosan.

In response to their findings, NU has officially come out in opposition of a total alcohol ban in favor of regulated controls.

"As a Muslim, of course, alcohol is still haram (forbidden). But this is not about halal or haram, this is about saving our younger generation, this is about making an effective policy," Abdul Wahid Hasyim, the head of NU Lakpesdam Jakarta, told the Straits Times.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/21-believed-killed-tainted-alcohol-greater-jakarta-just-past-5-days/

What's made Indonesian students forget the China taboo?

South China Morning Post - April 1, 2018

Aisyah Llewellyn – Jevon Tantono is a confessed "mechatronics geek". His eyes light up when he talks about the possibility of studying this mash-up of mechanical engineering, electronics, computer engineering and telecommunications. His dream job is to build industrial robots.

For him, there is only one place to chase that dream: China. Indonesia's universities don't have a mechatronics programme and Tantono would be stuck studying mechanical engineering were he to stay in his home country. "That's very much my second choice," says Tantono, 18, the light fading from his eyes at the very idea.

Tantono, one of dozens of students at a recent university fair in Medan featuring many of the top institutes in China, is part of a growing wave of young Indonesians who are happy to cast aside the complex and difficult history between the nations in pursuit of studying in China – a taboo notion until recently.

China is welcoming these students with open arms. There are 14,000 Indonesians studying in China, according to government data. Last year, Beijing announced it had created 197 full scholarships for Indonesians who would like to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. In 2015, there were only 15 full scholarships set aside for Indonesians.

Anggun Dwi Nursitha, 21, came to the fair to learn more about the scholarships. Nursitha currently studies Chinese literature at Universitas Sumatera Utara, in Medan. She wants to earn a master's degree in the subject in China.

"I want to be a journalist in Indonesia focusing on relations with China so studying in the country will be very beneficial for me," she says. This man cleaned up a 'City of Pigs'. But for Indonesian voters, he needs to be pious, too

But studying in China is a relatively new phenomenon for Indonesian students, and Indonesia has a conflicted history not only with China, but particularly Chinese language studies. From 1967 to 1998, under the leadership of the dictator Suharto, Chinese language schools and books were banned, as was the celebration of Chinese festivals such as Lunar New Year.

However, most of the present generation of students were born after the Suharto years and have been far less influenced by the anti-Chinese sentiments that plagued the country for decades.

Natalia Hilman Sentosa, 22, a Indonesian of Chinese descent, studies Chinese language and business at Guangzhou University, where she went after high school. For her, there were no issues studying in a country or a language once considered taboo. "Now, Chinese is everywhere in Indonesia. Not just the language but the culture too."

While anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia still exists, it has become less obvious, says Christine Tjhin, a senior researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia. "Suspicion against Chinese citizens is probably more about Indonesia's domestic issues, particularly related to economic access, racial stereotypes and, perhaps to a lesser degree, ideological concerns like communism. On the other hand, going to or studying in China is viewed differently."

Data from Unesco, the UN's educational body, shows that in 2016, 42,000 out of about 6 million Indonesians enrolled in higher education chose to study abroad, with around 20,000 studying in Australia, the top destination. According to the Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange, the number of Indonesians studying in China has increased by 10 per cent annually since 2010.

Jason West, who manned Shanghai University's booth at the fair, is the head of the English department at the university's SILC Business School. He says the wave of Indonesian students coming to China is part of a regional trend. "Historically, people wanted to come to China to learn the Chinese language and study Chinese culture. Now studying in China is part of the wider integration process that we are seeing across Asia." How tech firms are using China's social media addiction to teach English

Chinese universities have also become more outward facing in recent years. The ability to offer programmes of study in English – which wasn't available a few years ago – means they no longer have to rely solely on Chinese citizens to fill university places.

"Universities in China are opening up and can now position themselves as international universities that have something to offer foreign students. It's also a way to bridge relations between China and other countries," West says.

The idea of China representing opportunities for the future – rather than being a country that has a fraught past with Indonesia – is something that many Indonesian students stress when explaining why they want to study abroad.

Marsha Neida Harini, 22, studies Human Resources Management at Wuhan University. She chose to study in China because it offered a more cosmopolitan experience than her home country.

"I also saw it as a new experience that I would never get if I stayed in Indonesia. I'm learning Chinese and being able to speak another language will benefit me in the future when I look for a job."

Source: http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2139714/whats-made-indonesian-students-forget-china-taboo

Refugees & asylum seekers

Stranded Rohingya rescued by Aceh fishermen

Agence France Presse - April 7, 2018

Banda Aceh – Five Rohingya stranded at sea for almost three weeks have been rescued by Indonesian fishermen but several others died during the harrowing ordeal, officials said Friday, with the UN refugee agency saying it was "alarmed" at the deaths.

News of the rescue comes several days after the arrival in Malaysia of another boat carrying dozens of members of the persecuted Muslim minority from Myanmar.

The group of two men, aged 28 and 33, a 20-year-old woman, a 15-year-old girl and an eight-year old boy were spotted Monday in a small boat off the coast of southern Thailand and Myanmar, some 325 kilometres (176 miles) from Aceh province in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

The fishermen took them back to Aceh on Sumatra island and the group arrived early Friday.

"They were immediately brought to a local hospital for treatment as they were weak," Abdul Musafir, head of the East Aceh search and rescue team, told AFP.

They were released Friday afternoon into the custody of immigration officials for questioning, Musafir said. The group said they had been travelling with some two dozen other Rohingya but got separated, according to authorities.

East Aceh police said the rescued five were stranded at sea for about 20 days while five others had starved to death and their bodies were thrown overboard.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said it was sending staff to Aceh to provide assistance to the refugees and Indonesian authorities.

"UNHCR is alarmed at reports that five or more Rohingya refugees may have died at sea before their vessel, carrying five survivors, was rescued," it said in a statement.

The agency said it was trying to make contact with the dozens of Rohingya who came ashore in Malaysia this week, and pointed to "unconfirmed reports" that suggested other small vessels carrying refugees from Myanmar may be at sea.

"We are concerned for their safety and hope they will be rescued and allowed to disembark to the nearest place of safety," UNHCR added.

It has been rare for Rohingya migrants to attempt the sea routes south since Thai authorities clamped down on regional trafficking networks in 2015, sparking a crisis across Southeast Asia as large numbers were abandoned at sea.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/06/stranded-rohingya-rescued-by-aceh-fishermen.html

Freedom of religion & worship

Government plans to make special ID cards specifically for followers of

Coconuts Jakarta - April 5, 2018

When Indonesia's Constitutional Court decided to allow followers of Indonesia's numerous indigenous faiths (collectively grouped under the term Aliran Kepercayaan) to declare their beliefs on their official state ID cards in November, it was hailed by many as an important step towards combating religious persecution in the country.

But some religious authorities, particularly the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), criticized the decision to allow the followers of aliran kepercayaan to state their belief in the mandatory religion column of their ID cards, saying that it elevated indigenous faiths to the same level as the six religions officially recognized by the Indonesian government (one MUI official said it "signifies the country's regression into the stone age").

MUI went so far as to demand that the government make special ID cards, unique to those who wished to declare that they followed aliran kepercayaan, that did not include the word agama (religion) so that nobody would make the mistake of thinking that an indigenous faith could possibly be considered on the same level as a proper religion.

Just yesterday, the government announced that it would be doing exactly what MUI had previously asked for, with Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin saying that followers of aliran kepercayaan would get a special ID card that was different from the adherents of Indonesia's officially recognized religions.

Specifically, it would not include the religion column on regular ID cards and instead would have a column called Kepercayaan (Faith). And instead of allowing citizens to declare their specific faith, all Kepercayaan columns will be filled in with the phrase "Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan Yang Maha Esa" (Trust in God Almighty).

Lukman said the reason behind the special cards for indigenous faith followers was simply done for efficiency's sake since doing otherwise would require printing new ID cards for all Indonesian citizens that would include a Religion/Faith column.

But that, of course, is based on the acceptance of the argument made by MUI and other religious fundamentalists that an indigenous faith must be considered as a distinct and lower class of belief than a formal religion.

Another problem with the creation of special ID cards for followers of indigenous faiths is that it could be considered an act of discrimination in and of itself (based on the Constitutional Court's own ruling).

Forcing followers of minority beliefs to have their own distinct cards – making it explicit that they cannot be considered at the same level as followers of "official" religions – would only serve to perpetuate the kind of unconstitutional discrimination that the court ruling sought to end.

In explaining the court's decision, Judge Saldi Isra said the previous law restricted the religious rights of Indonesian citizens by only allowing them to officially declare their belief in religions recognized by the state.

"This is not in line with the spirit of the 1945 Constitution, which explicitly ensures that every citizen is free to embrace their own religion and beliefs and to worship according to their own religion and beliefs," Saldi said.

Followers of aliran kepercayaan filed the Constitutional Court petition that overturned the law as they had previously been forced to either falsely declare themselves a member of a religion they didn't follow or leave the religion column on their IDs blank, which often led to denial of government services and accusations of atheism (which remains officially illegal in Indonesia).

At any rate, Lukman said the new special ID cards should be available to the public in the next few months, probably after the 2018 regional elections. However, we wonder how many indigenous faith followers will choose to get them considering the kinds of discrimination it will open them up to.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/government-plans-make-special-id-cards-specifically-followers-indigenous-faiths/

Religion & politics

Jusuf Kalla highlights economy as Muslim's biggest issue

Tempo - April 7, 2018

M Julnis Firmansyah, Jakarta – The biggest problem currently facing the Muslim community according to Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla is economy.

"Economy is the only issue that the Muslim community lacks," said the vice president today during his lecture at the Al Azhar mosque in South Jakarta.

Jusuf Kalla said that if Indonesia's richest people are distinguished by their religion, there is arguably 10 Muslims out the 100 wealthiest. Therefore, he urged Muslims to support each other to improve that possible statistic.

Furthermore, he said that one of the ways to improve the community's economy is through trade since trading is one of the Prophet's sunnah (teachings) that has proven to drive society's economy.

Jusuf Kalla gave a public lecture at Al Azhar in celebration of the 66th anniversary of the Islamic Pesantren Foundation (YPI) Al Azhar. The event was also attended by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Chairman Zulkifli Hasan.

Apart from economic matters, Jusuf Kalla also acknowledged the current situation of Islam as a religion that has shown signs of improvement.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/04/07/055917382/Jusuf-Kalla-Highlights-Economy-as-Muslims-Biggest-Issue

Farming & agriculture

Indonesia's salt spat gives industry a shake

Reuters - April 6, 2018

Bernadette Christina Munthe, Cindy Silviana, Jakarta – Indonesia's efforts to protect farmers from imports have sometimes gone spectacularly wrong, creating shortages of staples such as rice and beef, and playing havoc with markets.

Its latest misfire has come over salt, with supplies so desperately low that one of the world's biggest producers of instant noodles warned recently it could run out of the vital ingredient in a matter of weeks.

President Joko Widodo has stepped in to end a squabble between two ministries over salt import quotas.

"I think no one will have to stop operating because the government is trying to solve the problem," said Fransiscus Welirang, director of PT Indofood Sukses Makmur, which makes the hugely popular Indomie brand of noodles.

Still, Indofood scrambled to find ways to cut its salt usage and the Indonesia Food & Beverage Association – which represents a sector with billions of dollars in revenue – said biscuit and snack makers also faced shortages.

With more than 50,000 km (31,000 miles) of coastline Indonesia is surrounded by salt water, and yet it spends tens of millions of dollars every year on imports of salt.

The problem is that Indonesia is not producing enough high-grade salt. The local salt industry could take years to increase output and quality to levels needed, and there is currently no comprehensive plan to that effect.

Policy flaws

Indonesia's ambition for food self-sufficiency is partly driven by concern about a growing food import bill. The Southeast Asian nation is on track to become the world's biggest importer of wheat this year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and is a major buyer of corn and beef.

Food security is also politically sensitive in Indonesia where more than 160 million people, around 60 percent of the population, live on $5.50 a day or less, according to recent World Bank data, leaving them vulnerable to price swings.

However, economists say policies such as subsidies and stockpiling aimed at controlling markets cost billions of dollars and often keep prices artificially high.

Indonesia's domestic rice prices were 60 percent higher than international prices due to policy interventions, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a 2015 report.

After Widodo won the presidency in 2014, he curbed or delayed imports of beef and cattle mainly from Australia as well as other foods to stimulate domestic production.

But when prices shot up in 2016, his government scrambled to find beef from different sources, including buffalo meat from India.

The OECD has urged Indonesia to "develop a portfolio of policies that can respond to a diversity of food insecurity scenarios, rather than focusing policy attention on domestic production of staple foods."

Crisis

Most salt production in Indonesia is low-tech, involving the evaporation of seawater in coastal ponds during the dry season. The current shortage is partly due to unusually heavy rains last year tied to the La Nina weather pattern.

Indonesia was forced to import 75,000 tonnes of household salt from Australia last year, and there were media reports that a vessel attempting to smuggle 15 tonnes of salt from Malaysia was intercepted by the authorities.

The shortage became a crisis this year because of bickering within the government over how much salt could be imported without contravening legal requirements to give priority to local producers.

The Fisheries Ministry recommended imports of about 2.2 million tonnes, while the Coordinating Economy Ministry called for 3.7 million tonnes.

President Widodo intervened to resolve the impasse by taking away the Fisheries Ministry's authority over industrial salt imports and handing it to the Industry Ministry.

The move angered local salt farmers who said the government was failing to develop domestic salt refining capacity.

"We need to be realistic. Industry certainly needs salt of a different quality to that produced by salt farmers," Widodo said on Wednesday. "If we do not import industrial salt, industry could stop."

The Industry Ministry immediately recommended allowing 676,000 tonnes of industrial salt imports for 27 companies in "critical condition", Achmad Sigit Dwiwahjono, an official at the ministry told reporters.

He cited a company that makes contact lenses on the island of Batam that had sent home nearly half of its 3,000 workers due to the salt shortage.

Sodium chloride

Indonesia's salt industry users association says local suppliers have struggled to expand output because of limited land on densely populated Java island and now account for only about half of the 3.9 million tonne total annual consumption.

"The Indonesian salt industry mostly comprises tens of thousands of small-scale producers on plots of one or two acres," said David McNeil, a London-based salt specialist at commodity research group Roskill.

"This makes it extremely difficult to raise productivity to levels seen in countries such as Australia where leading highly mechanized producers have operations covering thousands of acres."

There is also a quality challenge. Food companies need salt with a maximum water content of 0.5 percent and sodium chloride above 97 percent, levels many domestic suppliers cannot meet.

The government has plans for 40,000 hectares of new salt farms in eastern Indonesia and more investment in salt processing to achieve self-sufficiency in the next few years.

But the cost of development and shipping salt from East Nusa Tenggara to Java, where most industries operate, could impede this plan.

Tony Tanduk, chairman of the association of Indonesian Salt-Using Industries, said locally produced salt already costs 2,000-3,000 rupiah (15-22 U.S. cents) per kg, more than three times the cost of imported salt.

[Writing by Fergus Jensen and Ed Davies; Editing by John Chalmers and Lincoln Feast.]

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-salt/indonesias-salt-spat-gives-industry-a-shake-idUSKCN1HD0QB

Land & agrarian conflicts

Coalition urges Ombudsman to side with Pari Island residents

Jakarta Post - April 6, 2018

Jakarta – The Save Pari Island Coalition has urged the Ombudsman to issue a recommendation saying that the North Jakarta Land Agency has committed maladministration in issuing 120 land certificates used by private enterprises PT Bumi Pari Indah to claim ownership over 90 percent of the island, which lies in Jakarta's Thousand Islands regency.

The Ombudsman is set to report on its final investigation next Monday. The pressure group had reported the North Jakarta Land Agency for alleged maladministration in March last year.

"We hope the Ombudsman report will take the side of Pari Island residents," Sulaiman, a member of the coalition, said on Friday.

Fatilda Hasibuan of the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi), also a member of the coalition, said the land certification process in Pari Island was a legal defect.

"The certificates were issued without prior land measurement by the land agency, thus violating Article 14 of Government Regulation No. 24/1997 on land registration," she said. Fatilda also said the 120 land certificates were registered to people who were not residents of the island.

Tigor Hutapea of the People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice, said the coalition would pressure the National Land Agency (BPN) to review the land certificates or even file a civil lawsuit if the Ombudsman's final report on Monday was unsatisfactory.

Land disputes in Thousand Islands have occurred frequently, as most of the residents only hold (customary land appointment) certificates, land and building tax (PBB) payment receipts and a document regarding the sale and purchase of land (AJB) as evidence of land ownership.

Pari Island residents also reported the case to Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan on Oct. 31 last year, but the latter has not provided a solution to the dispute. (ami)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/06/coalition-urges-ombudsman-to-side-with-pari-island-residents.html

Residents occupy PLN office in fight against new Yogyakarta airport

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2018

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – Dozens of residents opposed to the construction of the New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA) in Kulon Progo occupied the Yogyakarta branch office of state utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) during a rally on Thursday.

They asserted they would continue occupying the PLN office until it restored the electricity supply to their houses, which are located in the NYIA project area.

Four women were injured by pieces of a glass door at the PLN office that was broken after the protesters, who were supported by student activists, and police officers engaged in a clash.

"PLN cut off the electricity connections to our houses without our prior consent. Our children are taking their school exams this week but they cannot study to prepare for their exams because there is no electricity. Where is their responsibility?" said Dariyah in her oration during the rally.

The case began when PLN, together with state airport operator Angkasa Pura (AP) I, as the NYIA developer, and police officers, cut off on Nov. 7, 2017, electricity connections to houses belonging to 37 families who stood against the construction of the airport. The residents reported the case to the Ombudsman of the Republic of Indonesia (ORI) Yogyakarta.

ORI concluded in its decision on Jan. 16 that PLN had committed maladministration because it did not inform the residents beforehand. The residents called on PLN to immediately restore the electricity connections to their houses.

PLN Yogyakarta's planning manager Akbar Hurianda said the company had cut off the electricity connections at the request of AP I. (dpk/ebf)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/05/residents-occupy-pln-office-in-fight-against-new-yogyakarta-airport.html

Jakarta & urban life

Jakarta's urban poor have found a new way to fight City Hall – and

The Guardian - April 5, 2018

Evi Mariani Sofian, Jakarta – On the official spatial planning map of Jakarta, Arti Astati's neighbourhood on the coast is painted blue. As far as City Hall is concerned, there are no people there. Just the sea.

Astati begs to differ. This informal urban neighbourhood, or kampung, is home to about 1,000 people, many of whom work in the green mussel fishery. But the city did not recognise their existence – and after decades of neglect, it threatened the kampung with forced eviction.

"They say we don't have any right to live here, that we are usurpers of state lands. But we don't have anywhere else to go," said Astati, one of a group of locals who fought the eviction plan.

It's a familiar story in Jakarta – in 2015-2016, about 13,800 families had their homes bulldozed – but the way this one ended was new: the kampung won their case, and City Hall recognised the neighbourhood as Green Mussel Kampung. It set the precedent for a new model: Jakarta's urban poor are organising, and they're getting help.

The last two years have been especially difficult for poor people in Jakarta. The former governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – better known as Ahok – backed the demolitions in the name of development and flood control, and compounded it with insults. Kampung residents have been called thieves, thugs, dirty, diseased and illegal squatters.

Many middle-class Jakartans broadly share that view: that kampungs are dirty and chaotic, an obstacle to the city's modernisation. There have been heated debates about forced evictions, and the mainstream media in Jakarta has tended to echo Ahok's opinions. In a 2016 survey, 66% of Jakartans said forced evictions are necessary for the city's development.

Banding together

Urban poor leaders realised it was the middle class they needed on their side. Organised under the banners of the JRMK (Urban Poor Linkage) and the UPC (Urban Poor Consortium), they reached out to Jakarta's architects, artists, scholars, lawyers, students and journalists of diverse backgrounds – creating a network of volunteers and organisations.

Together they set out to "eviction-proof" the kampung. The architects map the neighbourhood and suggest improvements; lawyers help draft objections and other matters; academics help articulate the bigger ideas of why the community matters. The journalists – of which I am one – in collaboration with aspiring reporters from the kampung, write the history and stories of the communities, in an initiative called Archiving Urban Kampung (KKM).

"There have been maybe 500 [volunteers] in the past two years," says the UPC's Gugun Muhammad. "This is massive." He notes that so many had come forward that the communities now have the luxury of picking and choosing those who will have the most sustainable impact.

One of them was Herlily, a lecturer in architecture at Universitas Indonesia. When Herlily first arrived at Muhammad's neighbourhood in 2015, residents were hoping to defend their kampung by arguing its importance to the tourism industry, for its proximity to the old city wall. But Herlily saw the potential in the communities themselves. She proposed that the residents prove to the city that they could keep the rivers clean. Instead of building an "inspection road" along the river for municipal workers, why not make the kampung the guardian of the river?

The residents embraced the idea. "Now, if you go there, you will hear they are proud not only of the old city wall but of their own kampungs," she says.

The UPC and JRMK have become political, too. During last year's local election campaigns, the two organisations made a deal with the candidate for governor, Anies Baswedan. In exchange for respecting their land rights, they would endeavour to give him the 60,000 votes they represented between them. They had tried the same thing five years earlier with Joko Widodo, but when Widodo left to become president and Ahok took over, he showed no intention of honouring his predecessor's promise and evicted thousands.

Having learned their lesson, the communities made the contract with Baswedan legally binding – and he was voted in. So far, Baswedan seems to be keeping his promise. But the work still has to be done locally, introducing many kampung residents to unfamiliar concepts such as participatory planning and lobbying City Hall.

This is where the volunteers are proving their worth. Kamil Muhammad, an architect, spends his weekends volunteering for several kampungs.

"My weekday clients would want sophisticated 3D rendering, very visual. But here in Kampung Kunir, they need tactile design," he says. Muhammad explains that his kampung work taught him lessons his education at the University of Melbourne did not: in one case, after talking to residents about their need for a shelter, he helped them build a model made of cardboard boxes.

There are legal consultants, too, such as Handika Febrian, who like Kamil Muhammad has a weekday practice but on weekends runs a clinic in the kampung, helping to draft legal documents.

'They're making something different'

This sort of collaboration is unprecedented. There have been volunteers before – UPC has worked in Jakarta since 1997 and JRMK since 2008 – but never this many, never this diverse, and never this joined up.

"JRMK and UPC were once stuck. Their stories were ones of disappointments," says Amalinda Savirani, a political scientist at Gadjah Mada University. "But they're making something different because these new people are more diverse."

The sheer variety of professions is attracting residents who might previously have been uninterested in getting involved. Archiving Urban Kampung gives aspiring journalists a place to write; several visual artists have held short programmes in the kampungs, another hit with younger people.

"The volunteers are not old-fashioned activists whose strategy is limited to protesting on the streets," explains Savirani.

Many of the volunteers say the collaboration helps them challenge how the city is seen – to break the walls dividing the classes and pioneer new ways of development that do not require forced evictions. But part of the reason they spend their weekends here also tends to be more personal.

Nur Lintang Muhammad finds more his work with the kampung more meaningful than his job as a news journalist. "When I do the volunteer work, my spirits are lifted. I like the real interactions and I'm happy to become the mentor of the young kampung journalists," he said. "I feel like I have done something."

The kampung communities feel that connection, too. "They have boosted our spirit," said Marsha Chairudin of Kampung Kunir. "We say to ourselves, 'Look, those people from outside our kampung show high spirit. We should do the same.'"

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/apr/04/jakartas-urban-poor-have-found-a-new-way-to-fight-city-hall-and-win

Gerindra urges Anies to stop water privatization in Jakarta

Jakarta Post - April 2, 2018

Jakarta – The Jakarta Council's Gerindra Party faction, which supported Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno during the city's last gubernatorial election, has called on the capital's leaders to end water privatization.

Gerindra, along with the council's NasDem Party faction, said the move was in line with a Supreme Court ruling.

During a meeting on the mid-term regional development plan (RPJMD) on Monday, the factions demanded that the administration cut city-owned water company PT PAM Jaya's ties with PT Aetra Air Jakarta and PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja), two privately run water companies assigned to supply tap water to Jakarta's residents.

"We ask the governor to execute the court ruling on water management in Jakarta," Gerindra faction secretary Fajar Sidik read out the faction's recommendation as quoted by kompas.com.

The faction also demanded that the administration begin to realize its plan to improve the coverage of tap water, particularly to residents in North Jakarta, where they were struggling to obtain clean water.

NasDem faction speaker Bestari Barus said many residents did not have access to clean water.

"Based on the available data, less than 50 percent of Jakarta residents enjoy access to clean water because the administration has not been focused on providing a clean water supply," he said.

He said the issues needed to be tackled immediately to minimize the use of groundwater, which exacerbated the land subsidence problem in Jakarta. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/02/gerindra-urges-anies-to-stop-water-privatization-in-jakarta.html

Transport & communication

You have not arrived: why Google Maps is a lost cause for Indonesian

South China Morning Post - April 1, 2018

Resty Woro Yuniar – Suri Nurani has had it with Google Maps. A scooter driver in Jakarta with Indonesia's ride-hailing company Go-Jek, she earns a living by getting from points A to B in the quickest, most efficient way possible.

While you might think the launch of digital map services like Google Maps and Waze would be a godsend for her, Nurani prefers to ask directions from people on the street. She's been burned one too many times by the smartphone apps, both owned by US tech giant Alphabet.

On one occasion, Nurani was delivering food to a house in one of Jakarta's many labyrinthine neighbourhoods.

She followed Google Maps to the exact place where the familiar blue dot had appeared on her Android smartphone, but it was obvious to her she was nowhere near where she wanted to be.

In a rush to deliver the meal while it was still hot, she called the customer, asking for nearby landmarks. She finally found the house – but not until she had asked countless passers-by for directions.

"Google Maps has often guided me farther away from my destinations. I've had to call my customers, which means I have to keep buying phone credit just so I can pick-up passengers or deliver their packages," Nurani says. "My income is not that big and I can't keep wasting my money on phone credits."

Nurani isn't alone. Many drivers with ride-hailing companies in the Southeast Asian nation are less likely to rely on digital navigation tools than their Western counterparts, as online maps can be full of glitches and lack short cuts for two-wheelers – a common mode of transport in the region.

Weak internet connectivity also causes headaches for drivers, something that Agus Saputra, another Go-Jek driver in Jakarta, is all too familiar with.

"One time I was following Google Maps, and suddenly it just stopped because I lost the signal, I was confused because I didn't know where I was," Saputra said.

Inaccurate maps, digital illiteracy, especially among older drivers, and a lack of training from ride-hailing companies have all proved problematic.

That's a rare bit of bad news for an industry that's seen strong growth in recent years, including in Southeast Asia, where the ride-hailing market is projected to reach more than US$20 billion by 2025, a four-fold increase from 2015, according to a report by Google and Singapore's state investment fund Temasek.

In this region of 600 million, ride-hailing companies such as Go-Jek, Singapore-based Grab, and Uber raked in US$5 billion in revenue last year, the report said, thanks to increased internet penetration and disposable incomes among the rising middle-class. When the maps that the industry relies on are imprecise, the possibility of cancellation, and frustration, is higher.

"Sometimes I have to explain where my [flat] is two, three times to the drivers, and they still ask me questions," says Gentur Adiutama, a civil servant in Jakarta. "Why don't they read the map? When I'm not in a rush I can understand that some of the drivers are technically challenged, but it's truly upsetting when I'm in a hurry and they can't find me."

The stress is also felt among expatriates, who also have to overcome a language barrier since few drivers in Southeast Asia's biggest economy speak English.

"I have directions saved to my place in [Indonesian] in my phone, so I just copy and paste that and put that in the chat, but it's pretty one-sided because as a foreigner it's hard to understand [the drivers]," says American Fritz Gheen, a bar manager in Jakarta.

One of the reasons online maps work better in the United States, Australia and Europe is because of highly accurate mapping databases, says Mark Graham, a professor at the University of Oxford's Oxford Internet Institute.

"Online maps always rely on back-end databases. In some parts of the world, these databases are fairly up-to-date and accurate, in part because of a broader ecosystem of good quality geographic data," Graham says. "However, in other parts of the world, there is far less existing digital geographic data to work with. Sometimes, data is more likely to be non-digital or unavailable for commercial purposes, which means firms have less digital raw material to work with."

Companies are already starting to address the problem. Google last month launched directions for motorcycles in Indonesia, where two-wheelers outnumber cars seven to one. It also tweaked maps to accommodate Jakarta's traffic laws such as roads that are closed on "car-free days" and other quirks.

"Providing [routes] for motorbikes was the number one most-requested feature by Indonesians. It took around 12 months to go from concept to finished idea," says Shasa Sunu, product marketing manager at Google Indonesia. "Previously, motorbike riders would often do a mental calculation to estimate their arrival times based on a combination of walking and driving routes."

Google isn't the only tech company that has tinkered with their digital maps to adjust to Indonesian streets. Hyperlocal mapping data is among the reasons why Grab has gained ground over Uber in the region. The San Francisco-based ride-hailing giant announced on March 26 that it had pulled out of the region and sold its ride-sharing and food delivery business to Grab, in exchange for a 27.5 per cent stake in Grab, which has been valued at US$6 billion.

The secret to Grab's success can be traced back to two years ago when the company deployed resources to improve mapping data. This effort resulted in more than 3,000 new, precise pick-up points across Southeast Asia.

These in-house, localised data complement existing data provided by commercial maps that Grab uses such as Google Maps, Foursquare, and Nokia's HERE, among others. Grab also has created algorithms to help drivers obey traffic laws, for example, like an odd-even car licence plate rule in Jakarta that sees vehicles take to the road only on alternate days and a regulation in Hanoi that bars contract cars with fewer than nine seats from 11 roads during peak hours, says Ajay Bulusu, regional head of map operations at Grab.

To tackle language barriers, the company launched a chat feature for its app which enables drivers and riders to communicate directly, reducing cancellations by up to 30 per cent, the company said.

Before ride-hailing companies think of developing their own maps, Oxford's Graham cautions that features that work in developed countries may not function in underdeveloped regions.

"All maps are inherently selective representations of a place, this means that features and algorithms developed in the US might not translate that well to other parts of the world, like Southeast Asia."

Source: http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2139712/you-have-not-arrived-why-google-maps-lost-cause-indonesian-drivers

Retail & service industry

Drop in Alfamart profit reflects retail business condition: Association

Jakarta Post - April 5, 2018

Jakarta – The Association of Indonesian Retailers (Aprindo) has said last year's 50 percent drop in profit of PT Sumber Alfaria Trijaya, the operator of Alfamart convenience stores, reflected the current condition of the retail business.

Aprindo deputy chairman Tutum Rahanta said in Jakarta on Wednesday Alfamart's performance indicated the low purchasing power of the people. "The drop in profit indicates the people's ability to purchase," said Tutum in Jakarta on Wednesday as reported by kompas.com.

Alfamart and the likes only sold goods that were daily needs by the people; therefore, its business performance indicates the purchasing power of the people, he added.

According to Alfamart's financial report to the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX), Alfamart booked Rp 300.27 billion (US$21.82 million) in profit in 2017 from Rp 601.58 billion in 2016. Meanwhile, its revenue increased to Rp 61.4 trillion last year from Rp 56.1 trillion in 2016.

"Last year was a relatively tough year, and I think it did not only affect us. We could not achieve our target, while operation costs increased," said PT Sumber Alfaria Trijaya CEO Hans Prawira in Jakarta Tuesday.

Tutum expressed hopes that the government would be able to find a way to resolve the problem. "It is a fact; it is better if we talk about the future," Tutum said. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/05/drop-in-alfamart-profit-reflects-retail-business-condition-association.html

Consumer confidence strengthens in March

Jakarta Post - April 3, 2018

Jakarta – Consumer confidence rebounded 3.6 percent to 100.8 points in March from 97.3 in the previous month, according to a survey conducted by Danareksa Research Institute (DRI).

DRI says the survey reveals that consumers had given more positive assessments on current economic conditions and the job market, while their concern about high foodstuff prices had fallen to 74.4 from 78.2 percent in the previous month.

DRI says the survey also indicates an increase in household buying intentions. "In our survey, 42.75 percent of consumers planned to purchase durable goods over the next six months, or up from 41.36 percent in the previous month," the statement says, adding that only 32.42 percent of consumers planned to purchase durable goods in March 2017.

The DRI consumer confidence survey involved 1,700 Indonesian households across six different main areas. It claims the samples represent Indonesian consumer characteristics, demographically and economically.

Overall, the index, which measures consumer sentiment toward general prices, fell 1.6 percent from 188.6 to 185.6 points in March. However, this index is still higher than its level one year ago, when the index reached 184.1 in March 2017.

Meanwhile, consumer confidence in regard to the government's ability to carry out its duties remained strong as after standing at 103.5 points in the previous survey, consumer confidence in the government index (CCGI) had risen 4 percent to 107.6 in March. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/04/03/consumer-confidence-strengthens-in-march.html

Banking & finance

Yes, banks will definitely eat up your meager savings

Jakarta Globe - April 3, 2018

Dion Bisara & Adinda Putri, Jakarta – Niken Larasati, 25, diligently saves money but it seems her bank savings will not grow as she had imagined. She can see the money disappearing instead.

Being an employee at a construction firm in Jakarta with a monthly salary below Rp 10 million ($700), Niken puts her money into five current accounts – each for a different purpose, such as daily necessities, education, monthly income and for supporting her family.

"I put my money into several savings accounts to divide how much to use and how much to put aside. But what the banks deduct in the form of service fees has made my savings decrease, even when I don't use them," Niken told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday (01/04).

To maintain the accounts sets her back Rp 690,000 a year. With the same amount of money, she could pay for a return flight to her hometown, Palembang in South Sumatra.

"Since I was a child, my parents and teachers have been telling me to save all my money in a bank for the future, quoting a proverb that 'a penny saved is a penny earned.' Unfortunately, they did not tell me about the fees," Niken said.

For most Indonesians, whose average monthly income is around Rp 3 million, putting money in bank accounts could be a losing proposition.

With fixed banking fees, erosion of the savings balance is particularly likely in the case of those on the lower end of the income spectrum. No wonder half of Indonesia's adult population still keeps money stashed at home.

A year and a half ago, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo addressed the problem and called on domestic banks to cut their fees to let more people in the country benefit from financial services.

"I still receive complaints about administrative fees charged by banks. Sometimes, when customers have small amounts of money in their savings accounts and cannot increase it, their savings would be decreasing due to the fees. Please pay special attention to administrative fees for savings," Jokowi said at the time.

Even before that, the government had identified fees as one of the main reasons Indonesians do not use banking services. In 2010, it launched TabunganKu (My Savings), a program that introduced generic savings accounts with zero fees and a minimum interest rate.

All major lenders now participate in the TabunganKu program, but it comes with handicaps, such as a lack of access to automated teller machines, no internet banking services, or a requirement for customers to make all transactions at the banks' branches, making it difficult for customers to adopt the government's saving product.

TabunganKu brochures are often stacked below other leaflets advertising different savings or loan services, as if the banks do not want them to be seen.

"Banks choose not to offer the TabunganKu program openly, as they make little revenue from it," Tejasari Asad, former banker and director of Tatadana Consulting, an independent financial planner, told the Jakarta Globe.

"The small amount in customers' savings [gathered by TabunganKu] discourage banks to widely offer it... they'd rather spend [their marketing] resources on other [banking] services," he said.

TabunganKu drew in Rp 31 trillion for banks since 2010 until last year – a small fraction compared with the Rp 3,608 trillion from the banks' total customer savings in time deposits and savings accounts. It also missed Bank Indonesia's target of Rp 50 trillion by 2016.

Too lucrative

Hoping that banks will give up their fees is futile. Over the past two years, several local lenders have increased their administrative or transfer fees, citing an increase in overhead costs. They are now even more reliant on fees for their revenue, to make up for sluggish loan growth.

Lenders' combined fee-based income has grown 8.9 percent to Rp 69.5 trillion in 2017 from a year earlier. Net interest income, derived from lending customers' deposits to other clients, grew only 5 percent over the period to Rp 358 trillion.

"Banks are having a hard time in gaining profit from net interest, as it faces bad loans and slow lending growth – they were too aggressive when commodity prices were high," said Bhima Adhinegara of the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef).

But lenders can be sure of one thing: making money from fees – administrative fees, transfer fees, provision fees and fall-below fees. And it is indeed a lucrative business.

The ubiquitous Bank Central Asia (BCA) – Indonesia's most valuable lender – made almost Rp 3.6 trillion from administrative fees on its customers' savings accounts in 2017. That was more than enough to cover the interest it had to pay to those accounts, and it was still left with nearly Rp 1 trillion to spare.

From the customers' perspective, however, fees will almost certainly eat up any interest payment. Even for an Indonesian fortunate enough to have a monthly bank balance of Rp 10 million, maintaining it is still a tricky affair.

Typical savings accounts in Indonesia offer annual interest rates of up to 2.25 percent. At this rate, the customer would make Rp 3,700 a month before tax. It is only a fraction of the fees charged by BCA (Rp 15,000) or the country's largest bank, Bank Mandiri (Rp 12,500).

On top of that, there is a transfer fee of Rp 6,500 when customers send money to other domestic bank accounts, and a withdrawal fee of Rp 7,500, when they use ATMs of other banks.

Zero-fee alternatives

Ririn Kusuma, a 33-year-old Jakarta-based researcher, used to be in a similar position as Niken. She kept several bank accounts until she noticed her money was gone for no good use.

"I calculated that I'd need to keep the balance at one bank at Rp 30 million a month, so that the fees do not eat up my money. It just doesn't make sense, considering I could put that sum into mutual funds with a higher rate of return," Ririn said.

She then closed all her savings accounts on which fees were charged and kept just those with no monthly fees.

CIMB Niaga, the local unit of Malaysian bank CIMB, charges no fees on its Islamic savings product and also offers TabunganKu with access to ATMs and internet banking, making it no different from its regular saving products.

Last year, DBS Indonesia launched its one-stop digital bank Digibank, which does not charge any fees on transfers and withdrawals. The Danamon Lebih program by Bank Danamon also charges no monthly administrative and withdrawal fees.

Even putting money in digital wallet services such as Go-Pay, GrabPay or Ovo is now more beneficial than putting money into conventional savings accounts and they also offer the same digital payment services.

While they do not pay interest, customers can be sure that their meager Rp 10,000 balances will remain there at month's end, because there are no fees.

New financial technology firms can also help those who want to transfer money free of charge. Fliptech Lentera Inspirasi Pertiwi, the company behind Flip.id, offers free bank transfers between domestic banks. It can do so by acting as an intermediary, taking advantage of the fact that there is usually no fee on transfers between two accounts in the same bank.

The application, licensed by Bank Indonesia, has helped more than 150,000 clients who have transferred more than Rp 1 trillion since its introduction in 2016.

Ipotpay, a financial platform created by Indo Premier Securities, comes with a more attractive offer. Thanks to its integration with money market funds, it charges no fees and has higher interest rates compared with those offered for time deposits.

"As banks are no longer a place to save money, but rather a wallet for transactions, people who want to increase their savings need to put them elsewhere," said Eko Endarto, a financial planner at Finansia Consulting.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/yes-banks-will-definitely-eat-meager-savings/

Taxation & state budget

Most government foreign debt being spent on civil service, not

Kumparan Bisnis - April 3, 2018

Political observer Faisal Basri has criticised the use of state foreign debt which according to the government narrative is being used to spur infrastructure development.

Yet according to the data he has gathered, most of the government's foreign debt is being spent on the civil service.

According to his data, the projected spending on the civil service for 2018 is as much as 366 trillion rupiah or an increase of 28 percent since 2014.

In second place meanwhile is spending on goods at 340 trillion rupiah or an increase of 58 percent since 2014.

Infrastructure meanwhile, which is included in the category of capital, is in third place standing at 204 trillion rupiah or a 36 percent increase since 2014.

"Most of the infrastructure is being funded by BUMN [state-owned enterprise] debt, which is not included the category of projected debt", he said at the University of Indonesia (UIP) campus in Salemba, Jakarta, on Tuesday April 3.

Large projects, according to Basri, are mostly being carried out by assigning them to BUMNs. A small number are being financed by State Capital Participation Schemes (PMN) and the BUMNs are being instructed to finance the remainder with their own funds.

"A number of BUMNs are scrambling to pay for central government projects with their own funds and as a result of cash flow problems, are issuing obligations and seeking commercial loans from banks. Furthermore, the BUMNs are using various means to put pressure on other parties", he said.

Meanwhile capital spending for social assistance has instead declined by 44 percent since 2014. Projected expenditure for this sector for 2018 stands at 81 trillion rupiah. "We are the country with the worst social safety [spending] in the Asia Pacific", he said.

Bank Indonesia data up until late January 2018 shows that Indonesia's foreign debt has increased by 10.3 percent (year on year) to US$357.5 billion or around 4,915 trillion rupiah (at Rp 13,750 to the dollar).

Of this 2,521 trillion rupiah is government debt and 2,394 trillion rupiah is private sector debt.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Faisal Basri: RI Utang Banyak Bukan untuk Infrastruktur".]

Source: https://kumparan.com/@kumparanbisnis/faisal-basri-ri-utang-banyak-bukan-untuk-infrastruktur

Focus

Indonesian domestic helpers on sex abuse, slavery-like conditions they

The Star Online - April 8, 2018

Zigor Aldama – Ernawati made great sacrifices for the well-being of her family. She was married at 14 to a man six years her senior and became the breadwinner two years later, when she first travelled to Saudi Arabia, to work as a domestic helper. She never complained, we are told, and earned enough to pay for one of the best houses on the rural outskirts of Sukabumi, a chaotic city of 318,000 people in West Java, Indonesia.

Ernawati now spends her days chained up in a small storeroom in the house she worked so hard to build, bound in such a way that she cannot properly stand. Now 23, she has no window or light and the door to her room remains closed for most of the day. She is forced to relieve herself where she lies, and most of the time she eats nothing other than rice and vegetables.

Her crime? She has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and "we can't even afford to take her to the hospital", says her mother, Abtyah. "We can't let her free because she harms herself and others. Even if I leave her a longer chain, she will start to kick the wall until her feet bleed," she adds.

"Someone visits her every five days to provide medication – mostly sedatives such as diazepam – but we can't force the family to improve her living standards," says Sugih, a health worker at the rudimentary Sukabumi health centre. "It's not uncommon for those who suffer mental disorders to be chained in Indonesia."

According to a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch, more than 18,000 people with mental illnesses are chained or locked up in the country. This practice even has a name – pasung. It was banned in 1977 but authorities admit that it still continues and have drafted a plan to fully abolish it next year, a plan that appears doomed from the start.

"If free treatment is still restricted to 40 days only, families will keep their relatives locked up," says Abtyah, who doesn't believe that Ernawati is schizophrenic. In her opinion, her daughter's distress has something to do with the last job she had.

"It was her third trip [to Saudi Arabia]," Abtyah says. "She stayed for two years the first time and 19 months the second. She was happy and made a good deal of money." But everything changed in 2016, when she again returned to the Saudi capital, Riyadh. "She wanted to earn enough to provide a good education for the [three] children, aged between two-and-a-half and nine. A month later, I got a call from the consulate. They told me she was unwell and that she would be sent back."

Sukabumi authorities picked Ernawati up in Jakarta and took her to the local hospital.

"She was a different person," Abtyah says. "She was violent and refused to talk. Doctors said she was suffering from some kind of trauma, but soon Ernawati started to say that she couldn't remember what happened to her in Saudi."

Doctors thought she might have been a victim of abuse at the home she was working in, but still diagnosed her as schizophrenic.

Her mother opens the storeroom and Ernawati greets us with a broad smile. Her room smells. "Do you know why your mother keeps you like this?" I ask, through a translator. "I don't know. But if she releases me I promise to be good," says Ernawati.

I ask whether something happened in Saudi Arabia. "I can't remember." Ernawati pulls her hijab over her hair and begins singing verses from the Koran.

"Her husband fled when he saw her in this condition," says Abtyah, failing to hold back her tears. "My husband died in 2014, and I can't make enough money to sustain everyone."

Sugih believes a traumatic experience in Saudi Arabia could have triggered Ernawati's collapse, and points out that abuse in the Middle East is rife. "That's why [in 2015] Indonesia decided to ban domestic workers from travelling to 21 countries in the region," says the health worker.

Sexual abuse, slavery-like working conditions and even cases of murder have ensured the ban stays in place. Between January and July last year, 39 Indonesian domestic workers died in the Middle East and Africa, according to Indonesian government statistics, but many still find their way to those regions, assisted by traffickers. The United Nations estimated in January last year that there were close to half a million undocumented Indonesians working as maids in Saudi Arabia alone.

Most would rather be elsewhere, though. "Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are the most sought-after destinations," says Isah, a Sukabumi "sponsor", as scouts, or primary recruiters, are known. Isah knocks on doors looking for prospective domestic helpers and is the one others look for when they want to go abroad.

"I tell them how it works, help to prepare the documentation required, and transfer them to an agent in Jakarta for training," says Isah, who is paid one million rupiah (US$73) per woman by the agent. "But I have to bear the cost of their trip to Jakarta and only get paid if they pass the medical examination," she says.

The agent in the Indonesian capital, who must be registered with the government, arranges passports and visas, and provides training according to the requirements of the destination country.

"It usually takes around two months for Hong Kong and Taiwan. They receive language classes and training in other skills, including house chores and elderly care," explains Isah, who was once a domestic helper herself. "At 42, I'm too old to go back. But I can use my experience to help others. Most women care only about their salary, but there are other factors to take into account.

"Taiwan offers the best pay – about nine million rupiah – but also has higher demands. Most people there are hired to work with the elderly, which means they must have some Mandarin skills. Taiwan is also the only country where there are certain physical standards: women should be no less than 153cm tall and some employers even demand to know their weight."

Hong Kong comes second, but is losing its appeal, she says, although, it seems, that is not because of the murder in 2014 of two young Indonesian women by British banker Rurik Jutting. The case involving Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, the Indonesian domestic helper tortured by her Hong Kong employer in 2013, has had some impact, but the women interviewed for this article cite wages and living conditions as the main reasons Hong Kong is losing its lustre.

"Most of the time, employers there offer the minimum wage of about eight million rupiah. Although it's a higher amount than the one offered in Singapore – six to seven million rupiah – living conditions are usually worse because homes tend to be much smaller," says Isah, who is about to send another three women to the Lion City. "That's why Singapore's allure is growing among those who cherish a nicer environment."

A 2013 International Labour Organisation report estimated that 2.5 million Indonesians work as domestic helpers abroad, more than a third of all the migrant workers from the country, and many come from the Sukabumi region.

"It's one of a few hotspots for maids in Indonesia; not because people here are poorer, but because success stories compel others to try and go abroad," says Jejen Nurjanah, co-founder of Serikat Buruh Migran Indonesia, an NGO that provides support and legal advice to domestic helpers.

Having herself worked as a domestic helper, Jejen has experienced the dark side of the occupation.

"I was employed in Abu Dhabi when I fell from the second floor and broke my legs," she says. "I was returned to my [receiving country] agent because the family refused to take care of me, and he locked me up. I couldn't move, so he took the chance to grope me. He tried to rape me, but I threw hot tea in his face. I discovered how helpless we are abroad."

On her return, after the intervention of police and a Philippine domestic helper organisation, Jejen met many women who had faced similar abuse and decided to do something about it.

"We now assist hundreds of women in need," she says. "Their main problems are physical violence, labour exploitation – many don't even get a weekly day off and are subjected to 18-hour workdays – wage arrears, confinement and bureaucratic trouble."

Susilawati, 38, is still waiting to get paid. It has been more than a year since she returned to Sukabumi and her Malaysian employer owes her eight months' wages, the equivalent of HK$24,100, an average annual income in Indonesia.

"There was some problem with the residence permit and I was detained for four days. The employer released me on bail, but I guess he was scared of the authorities and bought me a ticket back to Jakarta. He asked me to open a bank account at home so he could wire the money, but he never did," claims Susilawati, who says she doesn't even know the name of the ethnic Chinese man who had hired her. "It was something like Yu Su," she mumbles.

We are at Susilawati's home, and she shows me her passport, which highlights one of her weaknesses in bright purple ink. "Illiterate," it says on the page where she is supposed to sign her name. She has worked abroad for the past 18 years, but cannot read or write.

That lack of education is common among Indonesian domestic helpers and, Jejen acknowledges, makes them vulnerable to abuse.

"Everything was fine in the beginning," Susilawati says. "They even increased my salary from 700 ringgit [US$181] to 1,500 ringgit. But there were a few hiccups. In 2005, my mother died and my employer didn't allow me to come back home for the funeral."

In 2011, "aside from my usual work, my employer demanded that I go to sell chickens in the market and made me work every day of the week. It was exhausting, because the couple has five children and I had to take care of them, too. And it was troublesome because the police found me in the market and I had no permit for such work", says Susilawati, explaining that in such circumstances, she was forced by both her employer and police officers to lie and say it was a one-off. "A few times I was forced to lie to consulate authorities about my working conditions, too."

She will never work as a domestic helper again, she says. A mother of four, Susilawati wants to stay at home and away from trouble. She and her husband now grow rice and bananas on a small plot of land. They sell a little cow's milk to neighbours.

"When there is nothing to do in the field, my husband goes to a sand-processing plant as a labourer, so we can make anything between 20,000 and 100,000 rupiah per day," she says. It's enough to survive on.

Not every domestic helper has a horror story to tell, however. "There are horrible stories coming from everywhere, but those are still a minority," Jejen says.

"And we see an improvement of working conditions in many countries. Hong Kong and Taiwan are good examples, because they have approved regulations for domestic helpers. Having a strong legal framework helps the employers, the agents and the employees."

Isah sees improvements. "Minimum wages have also been slightly increased, and cases like Erwiana's – she has turned to activism now – have helped to raise public awareness in the recipient countries."

Irma Santika, 29, is looking forward to returning to Hong Kong, where she worked between 2015 and last year, when her contract ended.

"I will leave again at an auspicious date," she says, when we visit her home. A shaman will determine when it's the best time to leave. "The sooner, the better. But I think it won't happen until May," she smiles.

Like many others from Sukabumi, Irma was advised to leave by a family member. "One of my aunts has been working in Hong Kong for a decade and she said a girl like me could make much more money there than farming here," she says. "She was right. At first I was worried about the language barrier and I travelled to Saudi Arabia, where the pay is bad and the work exhausting because homes are much larger and there is no weekly day off."

Having worked for two years in Saudi Arabia, she returned to Indonesia, at the age of 16, to be married. "Then I chose to seek an agent to arrange for the training Hong Kong requires," she says. "It took almost three months to learn basic Cantonese and English, but my conditions improved greatly."

Irma signed a labour contract in Indonesia and the agent paid her two million rupiah upfront. "In Hong Kong, the agent takes half of our salary for the first six months," says Irma, who earned the minimum wage and appreciated the cleanliness and safety in the SAR. "And if we have trouble with our employer, the agent takes care of us and looks for a new job.

"Laws are enforced, the police are not corrupt and people treat women better. The only thing I disliked is that my contract forbade me from wearing the hijab and praying, so I had to do so secretly."

Irma plans to work for another two years in the city before helping her husband open a home-appliances repair shop with the money she earns. "Men here are lazy, so women have to go abroad and work hard," she says, laughing.

Yiyin, 33, would agree with that. She worked in Saudi Arabia and made a considerable amount of money by Sukabumi standards, but managed to save nothing.

"I had trouble with my husband," she says of the man she married at the age of 14, "because he spent all the money I sent. At the beginning, I couldn't understand how, then my brother told me that he had a second wife and was spending the money on her. I wanted to build a house and buy a car, but..."

Jejen has heard this story many times. "Women work hard while men spend the money," she says. "It's free flow for them. But families are strained by the long separation and couples often break up. As usual, women suffer the worst."

When she first left for Saudi Arabia, in 1990, Aliyah was a teenager – and an orphan. "I had nobody to support my education, so I dropped out in third grade and managed to get some family members to lend me money to go there," she says. "I thrived."

When she returned, she married, had a son and built a good house on the outskirts of Sukabumi. She became an inspiration for many other young women. However, when she returned from her second contract in the Middle East – this time in Kuwait – she did so to get divorced. "My first husband neglected our son and misused our savings," she says.

Her second marriage was no more successful. "I was the only one earning a living, so I had to leave for Malaysia for another two years," Aliyah says. "It seems men can't wait that long without cheating on their wives."

Again single, Aliyah returned to Saudi Arabia. And there, she says, her life turned upside down.

"I had bad luck and jumped employers a few times" Aliyah recalls. "At the home of one of them, I met a Filipino man who worked in construction and who I could talk to, because he had been working in Malaysia and spoke Bahasa."

They started a relationship and she ran away from the house in which she worked. A week later, they married. The couple rented a flat and Aliyah gave birth to a girl.

"I had to work illegally and hide from the authorities because I had no contract, but everything was fine for almost four years," says Aliyah, who was eventually caught and repatriated.

When she returned to Sukabumi last year, Aliyah found that her house was no longer hers.

"My brother had sold it without my consent," she says. "And he had already spent the money." And then her Filipino husband disappeared, too. "We had kept in touch for a while, but one day I found that his phone was out of service and I have had no news from him since."

In June last year, Aliyah decided to go back to work as a domestic helper, but failed to pass the medical examination Jakarta-based agents insist upon before any training is given. She was HIV positive.

"I have no idea how I got infected," says Aliyah, crying. "I don't know if my husband has it. I am just happy that my daughter is free from it."

They live together now in a wooden shack, a far cry from the comfortable house Aliyah worked so hard to build. She is estranged from her now-married son, and things are getting worse.

"I have so many health issues that I can't stand for a long time, I can't work, and even small scratches" – she points to one on her knee – "don't heal and become a real problem." Aliyah is getting no antiretroviral medication and often feels unwell.

In Jejen's opinion, Aliyah is a good example of how the personal lives of domestic helpers are shattered by repeated trips abroad. "And we see a worrisome trend: girls are endangered at an earlier age because many agents are faking documents or paying corrupt officials to amend originals so that 14- and 15-year-olds appear as adults," says the activist. "Some manage to get these girls to the Middle East despite the ban, using smaller airports to avoid controls and bribing officials to turn a blind eye."

Even so, Jejen believes domestic helpers abroad greatly help their local communities. "Their jobs improve their families' living standards and raise women's status in society," she says. "But they're also prone to abuse and exploitation. And that will only change when we empower women and sensitise employers.

"Most are common families in need of a helping hand and mean no harm. But they need to realise that maids are also humans with families, and deserve to be treated as such."

Source: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2018/04/08/indonesian-domestic-helpers-on-sex-abuse-slaverylike-conditions-they-endure-working-overseas/

Analysis & opinion

Predatory politics neuter former activists' attempts at reform from

The Conversation - April 6, 2018

Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir & Andi Rahman Alamsyah – Two decades of democratisation in Indonesia has been marked by the presence of former civil society activists in formal politics. The activists come from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or were student protesters and progressive scholars.

After the 1998 Reformasi movement toppled the authoritarian Soeharto, civil society activists began to change their strategy. They aimed to reform the political, economic and social conditions of Indonesia from within, replacing the old "struggle from outside" strategy.

Many former activists joined the dominant political parties to be a parliament member or a local leader. Some have been appointed as state officials or commissioners of state-owned enterprises. Most of them who are now in formal offices hold the position as special staff – a loose position in terms of employment status, function, career and financial incentives – in political parties, the parliament or government offices.

Activists and scholars who supported Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in the 2014 election have also been appointed as state officials, primarily at the Presidential Staff Office (KSP), or on the boards of commissioners of state-owned companies. This practice was similar under the administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Jokowi's predecessor.

Some activists have also joined one of Indonesia's new political parties, Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI). Dubbed the "millennial party" and headed by a former TV anchor supported by young party members, they too aspire to make changes from within.

However, the presence of former activists in formal politics has failed to bring fundamental changes to improve the quality of democracy. This applies particularly to human rights, public services and corruption, according to studies published in Indonesia's sociopolitical journal Prisma.

Failed to push for reforms

Democracy for the last two decades has been substantially illiberalised, moving away from liberal democratic principles characterised mainly by the rule of law and the protection of human rights.

We can see this happening in the normalisation of corruption and money politics, increasing violence and discrimination against minority groups, rising conflicts in the agrarian sector, and even the rise of identity politics and vigilantism.

From "within the system", the former activists have not been able to urge the government to resolve fairly old cases of human rights and state violence. This includes violence and killings of students during the 1998 protests – even though some of them or their colleagues were victims.

We also do not know how former activists contribute to improving the performance of state-owned businesses. Some of these have suffered record losses.

Why does this happen?

Scholars who try to explain why activists have not managed to bring change from within the system predominantly emphasise the role of the contending political actors in the state arena. Some argue that oligarchic forces and the "old guard" in the political arena continually attempt to block any reform agenda that threatens their interests.

Others observe that while these old forces continue to protect their interests, pro-democratic actors are unconsolidated and weak in their challenge against them. Accordingly, these studies suggest there is a need to strengthen the capacity and networks of pro-democratic actors in the state arena before substantial changes can be achieved.

But we argue that the entrenched practices of political transactionalism (horse-trading among contending political elites for power and resources) and corruption, and not solely the presence of non-democratic actors, cause the failure of many reform agendas. Stressing the role of actors ignores the fact that political predatorism, or control over public institutions for private accumulation, has indeed been institutionalised in the bureaucracy and continuously reproduced by elites who have benefited from this.

Even those who are defined as reformists benefit from conforming and adjusting with predatorism. When, for example, Jokowi issued a law on mass organisation (Perppu Ormas) that neglects the due process of law in disbanding organisations, activists in the Presidential Staff Office were in the front line supporting this regulation.

Former radical activists such as legislators Budiman Sudjatmiko of the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) and Desmond Mahesa of the Greater Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party are almost indistinguishable from other opportunist politicians. They tend to represent the interests of their political party or political patron, instead of marginalised citizens.

Many former activists who hold positions as special staff have weak bargaining powers to negotiate with their patrons and the broader political system. They did nothing to stop the passing of the controversial Legislative Institutions Law (MD3 Law) that silences criticism of parliament members.

This is possibly because most of the former activists do not have strong social bases or represent certain social movements. As politicians, they might have a constituency, but it is only meant for gathering votes during elections.

This situation signifies the nature of Indonesian democracy for the last two decades, arising from the absence of organised progressive movements since the 1965 massacre of communists.

During the New Order, the military regime not only suppressed but also domesticated any potential political challenges. Soeharto implemented the "floating mass" policy by restricting mass-based politics and detaching political parties from their constituencies.

This historical process has destroyed society's capability to organise citizens. Instead of being able to channel their demands and interests, they have been chronically disorganised and apolitical.

Additionally, although the authoritarian regime has fallen, a narrative about the threat of communism is continuously reproduced. This is used to limit any attempt to organise a serious challenge to predatory politics.

We see this in the recent arrest of environmental activist Budi Pego. He was arrested under the anti-communist law due to his opposition to the exploitation of Mount Tumpang Pitu in Banyuwangi East Java. Labour and peasant union movements have also been constantly undermined by the use of labels such as neo-communism.

Since civil society is extremely disorganised, politicians rely on money politics, violence and identity politics to mobilise votes. As a result, corruption becomes a chronic problem. It drives the practices of many political-economic actors in the state arena.

In addition, the increase in political mobilisation using religious sentiments has exacerbated discrimination against minority groups and vigilantism.

Before 1965, peasants and labourers were able to organise themselves as a movement that was relatively autonomous from political parties, including the Communist Party. Through unions they could negotiate with political-economic elites to further their interests. The welfare state regime in European countries that provides social security to citizens is also a result of the struggle by organised leftist movements.

Lack of organised progressive movements

The lack of organised progressive movements explains many of the problems of the failed reforms. These are not merely the result of institutional issues or inadequate challenges by reformist actors to oligarchic forces.

This situation has paved the way for the institutionalisation of political transactionalism and corruption, blocking any attempt to implement reforms. Entering the state arena and mainstream politics without political backup from organised movements will only result in pro-democratic activists being absorbed by the black holes of the Indonesian political system: predatory practices.

[Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir is a PhD Candidate in Politics at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Andi Rahman Alamsyah is a lecturer in Sociology, Universitas Indonesia.]

Source: http://theconversation.com/indonesias-predatory-politics-neuter-former-activists-attempts-at-reform-from-within-the-system-94415

Jokowinomics vs reality: a look at PLN

New Mandala - April 4, 2018

James Guild – When Jokowi came to office in 2014, he promised to jump start Indonesia's lagging infrastructure development. After shoring up his political coalition in 2016, it was expected that Indonesia would embark on a building spree spearheaded by state-owned companies and narrowly focused on infrastructure, part of what Eve Warburton has termed Indonesia's "new developmentalism." One of Jokowi's more ambitious goals was to add 35,000 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity to Indonesia's power grid by 2019 – the year he comes up for re-election.

As of 1 February 2018 only 1,362MW of the planned 35,000MW were operational. In its most recent 10-year business plan, state-owned electricity company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) slashed its 2028 targets by 22,000MW, citing lower than expected demand. And in early March, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources issued a regulation capping the price that PLN would have to pay to procure domestic coal, leading some to wonder if the utility was unable or just unwilling to pay the market price.

These results are clearly undershooting expectations. They also raise questions about whether PLN is capable of carrying out the kind of massive infrastructure development it has been tasked with. But PLN's performance also captures certain characteristics about the way Indonesia has been executing its "new developmentalism" that can help explain why planning, financing and building basic infrastructure is such a seemingly intractable challenge in the country.

PLN has a constitutionally mandated monopoly on the transmission and distribution of power in Indonesia. It also has a legal obligation to provide "reasonably priced" power to its citizens, the price of which is set by the Ministry of Energy. The Ministry recently announced it would be freezing the retail price of electricity at current levels for 2018 and 2019, presumably so as to not rock the boat in the run up to provincial and national elections. It also means that PLN is essentially powerless to increase revenue in order to cover operating losses or invest in new plants and equipment.

This helps explain why the Ministry of Energy capped the price of domestic coal: it will save PLN as much as US$1.3 billion and help offset revenue shortfalls caused by low electricity rates. The Ministry of Finance expects the policy to cost US$630 million in lost taxes and royalties from the coal industry, but this is apparently a trade-off the administration is willing to accept. To further hold PLN's costs down, the Ministry of Energy also revised its Feed-in-Tariff schemes last year. (These are long-term fixed rates PLN pays independent power producers to supply the utility with power.)

Since the 1990s, PLN has increasingly sourced power from independent producers using Feed-in-Tariffs. About 75% of Jokowi's envisioned 35,000MW is slated to come from independent producers rather than PLN-operated plants. Yet the Ministry has reduced the rates PLN could offer these independent companies for both renewable and coal-fired energy, and while this will be good for PLN's bottom line it will likely drive away private investment. Given that Jokowi's 35,000MW plan is hoping private companies will shoulder 75% of the load, this will constrain PLN's ability to add capacity at the scale it envisioned.

This reveals a fundamental flaw in the logic of Indonesia's state-led developmentalism. The state maintains monopolies on critical public services, such as energy, in order to maximise control and use its coercive power to push through big-ticket items and speed up cumbersome processes like land acquisition and permitting. In theory this might work, if all the major stakeholders were on the same page for a sustained period of time.

In reality, the situation makes these sectors vulnerable to the vagaries of political infighting and breakdowns in bureaucratic coordination, and leave them subject to the whims of electorally expedient policies designed to garner public support in election years. In PLN's case, the utility's long-term ability to plan and build capacity is handicapped by the possibility that when a new Minister of Energy is appointed, they might abruptly change Feed-in-Tariffs in a way that alters the calculus of sourcing power from independent producers.

Making policy in such an ad hoc manner and without committing to a sustained and comprehensive strategy has other consequences, particularly when it comes to financing big projects. Since PLN's ability to control its costs and revenue is often circumscribed by political considerations, it has been forced to raise capital in more creative ways. In 2016 it took advantage of a new strategy championed by State-owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno to value its fixed assets at their current market price, rather than their purchase price as had previously been the case. This valuation method allows for some degree of opacity in determining the worth of assets.

As described in their 2016 annual financial statement, the new values were calculated using market data as well as "unobservable market data inputs and special assumptions related to the assets", which allows a fair degree of latitude to be baked into the model. Applied retroactively to 2015, the new valuation increased PLN's assets from Rp539 trillion (US$39.2 billion) in 2014 to Rp 1.227 quadrillion (US$89.2 billion) the following year. This added Rp 687 trillion (US$50 billion) of equity in a single year.

It would be impossible in real terms for PLN to sell their fixed assets and realise any of their increased on-paper value. The true purpose of such a large balance sheet adjustment was to borrow against the increase in assets, which is indeed what happened. In 2017 alone PLN secured at least Rp35.8 trillion (US$2.6 billion) in loans. In mid-2017 it issued Rp10 trillion of fixed rate bonds (US$727 million), its first public bond offering in four years. The company has announced plans to follow this up with $2 billion in rupiah-denominated global bonds in the second quarter of 2018. This flurry of financing activity is earmarked for funding capital expenditures, paying down debt, and weaning the company off its reliance on government cash.

It is questionable whether using accounting sleight of hand to load up on debt is a sustainable way for PLN to finance its ambitious capital investment plans, cover revenue shortfalls, and pay down existing debt. But in the absence of capital injections from the state, which the government has recently shown reluctance to do (after initially being enthusiastic about such injections), there are not many other options. Indeed, pushed by the government to find outside sources of capital, several state-owned companies are turning to global bond markets to finance their infrastructure agendas.

State-owned toll company Jasa Marga sold Rp4 trillion (US$298 million) of bonds on the London Stock Exchange last year, and state-owned construction company Wijaya Karya followed suit this year with a Rp5.4 trillion (US$403 million) issue. PLN and state-owned telecommunication company Telkom are planning to join in, along with others. While there appears to be a healthy demand for these bonds at the moment, one does wonder if that is because investors are confident in the underlying financials, or rather because they believe the Indonesian state, as the sole or majority shareholder in these entities, will step in and guarantee their obligations should anything happen.

So what stands out about Jokowi's SOE-first infrastructure agenda is a lack of realistic and sustainable financing schemes. At the beginning of Jokowi's term, state-owned companies were tasked with carrying out a wide-ranging and ambitious infrastructure agenda – including the 35,000MW project – based on overly optimistic economic growth targets of 7%. Actual growth has been closer to 5%, resulting in consistent revenue shortfalls that have led the government to push SOEs to rely less on the state budget and raise capital in other ways.

In PLN's case this involved a large revaluation of its balance sheet. The irony is that even as PLN raises capital from lenders and private investors, the state is still ultimately on the hook if the utility cannot make good on its debt. In essence, they are kicking the can down the road, shoring up the state budget in the short term without resolving fundamental issues related to PLN's cash flow and business model.

As other SOEs are pushed to raise capital in similar ways, it will increase the state's overall financial exposure. The last time Indonesia pursued ambitious state-led infrastructure development – under the New Order – one of the main consequences was an accumulation of unsustainable debt that turned into a regime-crippling liability for the government when the rupiah plummeted during the Asian Financial Crisis.

The fate of the 35,000MW project thus touches on several characteristics of economic policy under Jokowi. Initial goals and benchmarks were based on unrealistic and incomplete assumptions. For instance, planners failed to anticipate that cuts to electricity subsidies in 2015 would actually increase the efficiency of electricity use and cause demand to grow at a slower than expected rate. Economic growth then underperformed expectations, causing demand to slow even further while simultaneously creating revenue shortfalls. The end result is a plan calling for more capacity than needed, which is being paid for using questionable financing mechanisms to offset gaps in the state budget.

Moving beyond the challenges of planning and financing, implementation presents its own set of obstacles. Policies can be altered in an ad hoc fashion, something which may be a hallmark of Jokowi's governing style. This policy whiplash is often a result of competition and breakdowns in communication between the kaleidoscope of ministries and agencies tasked with executing complex projects, each of which has its own goals and interests to protect. Ultimately, in a democracy, state-owned companies are inextricably linked to the political fortunes of elected officials, a dynamic that can undermine effective long-term planning.

Source: http://www.newmandala.org/jokowinomics-vs-reality-look-pln/


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