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Indonesia News Digest 3 – Janurary 17-23, 2007

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 News & issues

One shot in land brawl with Air Force unit

Jakarta Post - January 23, 2007

Theresia Sufa, Bogor – A man was shot with a rubber bullet and at least three people were injured Monday in a battle between military officers and residents of Cikoleang in Rumpin district, Bogor.

Forty-year old Asep was shot in the neck with the rubber bullet. Three others, including a 40-year-old woman, Neneng, and a 14- year-old student, Rosita, were beaten by military officers trying to chase away angry protesters.

Two other residents passed out during the protest. All of the victims are being treated at the Assobirin hospital in Tangerang.

Local residents were initially protesting the takeover of a 1,000-hectare plot of land in the area by the Air Force, which plans to turn the fields and plantations into a military training ground.

According to an eyewitness, Cece, the protest started at around 11 a.m. when four platoons from the Atang Sandjaya military air base came to the village to guard the future training ground. At around noon, local residents gathered in a field not far from the area and headed toward the officers.

Some three hours later, what started as a verbal battle erupted in chaos as officers fired warning shots into the air, causing panic among the protesters. The officers responded with more shots, one of which hit the local man, and then beat the protesters to chase them away.

An hour later, some 30 officers swarmed into a residential area, destroying a meeting house belonging to a local farmers' group while searching for the protesters.

Separately, during a meeting of Bogor district heads at the regency council's office, Rumpin district head Ace Supriadi said that the protesting villagers were merely trying to enforce their ownership of the land claimed by the Air Force.

According to Ace, only 36 hectares of land in the area belong to the Atang Sandjaya air base. Military officers claim they hold the rights to around 400 hectares. "We demand that councillors help solve the dispute and pass on the issue to the House of Representatives," Ace said.

Council commission A member Lalu Suryade agreed to follow up on the issue and inform the House of Representatives about the case.

Meanwhile, Bogor police chief Sr. Comr. Sukrawardi Dahlan said he had ordered local police to calm the protesters and secure the area.

NTT legislators pocket controversial money

Jakarta Post - January 23, 2007

Yemris Fointuna, Kupang – East Nusa Tenggara legislative councillors have quietly pocketed a total of Rp 6.5 billion (about US$723,000) in questionable attendance and communications allowances from the 2006 provincial budget, an official says.

Head of the provincial finance bureau Welly Katipana said in Kupang on Monday he had transferred the money to the legislative secretariat's account in December last year.

The council speaker and three deputies received funds of Rp 216 million and Rp 345 million each for the year, while communications incentives for 55 councillors totaled Rp 5.94 billion, or Rp 92.6 million each.

Asked about the money, provincial secretary Anton Pali Osa said he had paid the attendance and communications allowances into the personal bank accounts of 55 legislators from Dec. 27 to Jan. 7 this year. "The amount I paid out was in accordance with that being allocated, totaling Rp 6.50 billion," Anton said.

The payments were made after the administration and legislature agreed to the revisions to the 2006 budget and a bylaw on the finances of speakers and councillors.

Director of the People's Initiative and Advocacy Development group Sarah Lery Mboeik said Monday the bylaw passed by councillors to grant themselves the allowances contradicted higher laws.

"East Nusa Tenggara's Regional Initiated Income is very small, not even 10 percent of the total budget of Rp 700 billion, suggesting there is an additional burden being put on the province to pay for these allowances," Mboeik said.

The money was sourced from public allocation funds that should have been used to finance development and not spent on the councillors, Mboeik said.

Contacted separately, several councillors acknowledged receiving the money. "I received the money in early January. As a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), I will return the money if I receive an official instruction by the PDI-P's provincial executive board," Karel Yani Mbuik said.

Karel said the PDI-P had not yet banned legislators from receiving such payments although this was being discussed within the party. "We are prepared to return the money if we are required to," another PDI-P faction member, Viktor Mado Tupen, said.

Golkar faction head Cyrilus Bau Engo also noted his party had not yet issued an official instruction to its members to return the money. "Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla has not yet instructed us to pay back the money. If he does later, we'll be willing to refund the money," Cyrilus said.

Police arrests haunt harm reduction program

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

The HIV/AIDS harm reduction program at Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung, West Java, has been operating now for more than two years. Unfortunately, many drug addicts are still reluctant to undertake the treatments, thanks to repeated police raids and arrests.

Rana (an alias), for example, told The Jakarta Post that she got the shock of her life last August when her younger brother, who was undergoing Metadon therapy at one of the clinics in the hospital, was arrested by police without any apparent reason.

"My younger brother was suddenly arrested by two weapon-touting police. They covered my brother's face with a jacket and brought him to a police station for interrogation," said Rana.

At the station, Rana's brother was asked to take a urine test and was interrogated for three hours. The police never announced the result of the urine test nor explained why her brother was arrested.

Failing to prove that Rana's brother possessed drugs at the time of the arrest, police charged him with carrying concealed weapons. Rana's brother was released two days later, but not until their family paid Rp 2 million (US$215) to the police.

"He had to be released, as we don't want him to stop undergoing Metadon therapy," said Rana, adding that her brother has been undergoing the therapy for more than six months.

Metadon Community member Ramli (an alias) said that two other drug addicts undergoing Metadon and Subutex therapies were arrested in August 2006 and another in October. They were arrested almost immediately after their therapy session.

The Metadon Therapy Clinic at Hasan Sadikin Hospital was established in mid-2005. It provides synthetic opium – Metadon and Subutex – for drug users. Metadon is a liquid synthetic opium and costs Rp 15,000 ($1.60) per treatment, while Subutex is a peppermint-like synthetic opium.

Currently, 65 former intravenous drug users (IDUs) are being treated at the hospital.

The arrest of Rana's brother was not the first. Immediately following the clinic's founding, police raided it and arrested drug users undergoing treatment. "Eleven people were arrested in the first raid and 16 in the second immediately after their therapy session," Ramli said.

"We are willing to do this (providing therapy) because we want to prevent people from contracting HIV. So this is not for us," said Ramli, who claimed that he was an IDU for nine years until he quit in 2003 with the help of Metadon therapy.

At least 64 percent of the 798 HIV/AIDS cases in Bandung are directly connected to needle sharing among IDUs. The harm reduction program is thus a necessary measure to reduce HIV/AIDS cases.

Teddy Hidajat, head of the Metadon Therapy Clinic, said lack of information dissemination among police officers in the field had led to the raids.

"The arrests should not have taken place, especially in the hospital compound. The arrests will make people afraid to come to the hospital (for treatment)," said Teddy, adding that he had filed a complaint with the West Java Police.

Capt. Susiana of the West Java Police admitted that many police officers in the field had no information about the harm reduction program. "The arrests of drug addicts undergoing Metadon therapy reflect a lack of communication among officers," he said.

However, Teddy believes that a lack of information on the program among police officers was just one problem haunting the harm reduction program.

"Up until now, we only have an (informal) understanding (with the police), without any binding regulations. But then again, the understanding is only with high-ranking officers, not with those in the field," he said. (JP/Yuli Tri Suwarni)

Microsoft defends multimillion dollar deal with government

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – Microsoft Indonesia has spoken out on a controversial recent deal with the government, arguing that the deal was initiated by the government as part of its efforts to improve Indonesia's information technology sector as a whole.

Microsoft Indonesia president director Tony Chen told reporters Thursday that the agreement had been clinched against the backdrop of the government's efforts to reduce software piracy, including negotiating with major software vendors for the use of their products by government institutions.

"As a majority of the computers in government institutions use Microsoft products, we were among the first the government invited," he said.

The Communications and Information Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Microsoft Indonesia in November last year to provide a total of 35,496 licenses for the Microsoft Windows operating system, and 177,480 licenses for the Microsoft Office productivity suite to government institutions.

The MoU will also offer long-term guarantees for the new software investment, ensuring free upgrades for up to three years.

Microsoft Indonesia is also required to work closely with the government in a partnership to improve IT literacy in the country, including providing computers and IT training to schools across the country.

Tony said that the MoU – with a 70 percent discounted licensing price – would result in savings of up to US$200 million for the government, compared to the $250 million it would cost if the government was to buy licenses at regular prices. The government would also save $60 million on the free upgrades.

He said that the agreement also showed the government's seriousness about fighting software piracy, which would help attract more investment to the country's IT sector.

Yet the deal has come under fire, including from the House of Representatives, with the critics arguing that it would create a monopoly for Microsoft, and undermine the government's own "Indonesia Goes Open Source" program, which encourages the use of free and open source software in the public sector.

The trend to use free and open source software has emerged in recent years around the world based on various reasons, including antimonopoly sentiment, transparency, cost efficiency and national security. Among the countries and institutions that have gone open source are Peru, the Extremadura region of Spain, the municipality of Munich in Germany, and a number of government agencies in China.

Microsoft and other proprietary software developers do not disclose the source codes of their products.

Tony said that the government had opted to sign the MoU due to the still-limited use of IGOS, while it needed to move fast to improve both Indonesia's IT sector and public services.

Tony's arguments were confirmed by Communications and Information Minister Sofyan Djalil.

TV ads urge Australian government to change Indonesian treaty

ABC News - January 17, 2007

Television ads will start screening in capital cities around the country tonight, calling on Federal Parliament to modify a security treaty between Australia and Indonesia.

The Lombok treaty, promising greater cooperation on security issues, was signed late last year. The pact also underlines Australia's support for Jakarta's sovereignty over its provinces, following disquiet in Indonesia over Australia's decision to grant asylum to more than 40 Papuan refugees.

The TV advertising campaign is being financed by Melbourne businessman Ian Melrose, who previously funded a campaign accusing the Government of stealing oil and gas from East Timor. Mr Melrose says his message is simple: "I call on John Howard to add to the treaty with Indonesia human rights monitoring in west Papua and to allow journalists free access into west Papua," he said.

Former New South Wales Supreme Court justice John Dowd is supporting the campaign. He says the treaty ignores human rights issues.

"In so far as it deals with mechanical matters, such as exchange of criminal information and so on, there can be good things within it but most of those are occurring anyway," he said. "What's the danger in the treaty is what's not stated and the powers it'll give to stop the Australian Government commenting on bad things that occur within Indonesia."

Old soldiers discuss nation with officials

Jakarta Post - January 17, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Retired generals met with top government officials here Tuesday to discuss the national situation after calls for action over poverty, natural disasters, corruption and transportation accidents.

Former vice president Try Sutrisno, former Army chief Tyasno Sudarto and former State Intelligence Coordinating Agency head Sudibyo attended the meeting, along with current Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo A.S. and State Intelligence Agency chief Syamsir Siregar, all of whom are retired generals.

None were willing to discuss the details of the meeting, although Sudarto said that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had asked the Retired Servicemen's Communication Forum to arrange the meeting.

Minister Widodo said the meeting was held in an attempt to improve communication between the government and the former servicemen and to hear what action they believed they government needed to take to improve conditions in the country. He denied that it had been held in response to Monday's rally in front of the State Palace calling for the President to step down.

"No, the meeting did not discuss the demand for the revocation of the people's mandate. We discussed many state issues," Widodo said, but did not elaborate.

The rally was led by a leader of the 1974 Malari protest, Hariman Siregar, who said that the people could revoke the mandate they gave to Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla in the 2004 presidential election.

A number of retired generals have been actively involved in a series of discourses criticizing the performance of the Yudhoyono administration, with Try Sutrisno taking a leading role in the movement.

Try and other state figures, including Amien Rais and former presidents Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri, have frequently expressed their concern over the situation in the country. They have called on the nation to get back to the original script of the 1945 Constitution, uphold the state ideology of Pancasila and maintain the unitary state of Indonesia.

Several retired generals have chosen to join political parties and pursue careers in politics.

After two years in power, Yudhoyono has been criticized for his failure to meet his 2004 election promises. Concluding its congress in Denpasar, Bali, last week, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) criticized Yudhoyono's government, pointing to legal uncertainty, high corruption levels in the bureaucracy and the worsening poverty and unemployment problems.

PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri said the President was too busy building his image.

Speaking to the media after the gathering, Tyasno said the retired generals were deeply concerned over the increasing rates of poverty and unemployment, the continuing natural disasters as well as sea and air accidents.

"The government should feed the people, generate new jobs and provide safe transportation in compensation for the taxes they have paid," he said.


US court orders Exxon to answer Aceh suit

Financial Times (UK) - January 18, 2007

John Aglionby, Jakarta – ExxonMobil must respond to a lawsuit alleging Indonesian soldiers under its control at a natural gas plant in Aceh province abused and murdered local people, a US appeals court has ruled.

Judges in Washington rejected the energy giant's second request to dismiss the suit brought by 11 Indonesians who claim the Texas-based company is responsible for the conduct of soldiers guarding its sprawling Arun facility on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

Their lawsuit, filed in 2001, says soldiers kidnapped, abused, sexually assaulted and killed people on ExxonMobil property in a region which at the time was mired in a separatist insurgency. The suit could be filed in Washington under a law that holds US companies liable for violations of international law overseas.

The court rejected US State Department arguments that the case could undermine the war on terrorism in Indonesia, which Washington regards as a key battleground. The government's protests have lost much of their credibility since Jakarta and Free Aceh Movement rebels signed a peace deal in 2005.

Agnieszka Fryszman, the Acehnese's head lawyer in Washington, expressed delight that the court vindicated her clients' position that ExxonMobil "essentially privatised" the soldiers, "in spite of their well-documented history of abusing Indonesian citizens".

"It means the plaintiffs will be able to continue to gather evidence to prove their claims," she said. ExxonMobil staff in Jakarta referred all inquiries on the case to the company's corporate headquarters.

Faisal Hadi, coordinator of the Aceh Human Rights Foundation, said the plaintiffs were by no means guaranteed success. "But this case will act as a very important precedent to push the Indonesian government to take action on the thousands of human rights cases that are pending."

Under the autonomy arrangement granted to Aceh as part of the peace process, all human rights cases from the 29-year insurgency will be heard in a special court. This is to be set up by July under the autonomy law passed last year.

State Department attempts to bring a similar case against Rio Tinto, the mining company, were dismissed in 2002 after Washington warned it could harm US interests in Papua New Guinea.

 West Papua

Four Papuans die in shelter

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

Jayapura – Four refugees who were among thousands fleeing their village have reportedly died of illness.

The residents fled to Ilamburawi village in Yamo district, Puncak Jaya regency, on Jan. 16 following a security personnel manhunt for rebels who had earlier hoisted a separatist flag on Mount Kimibaga.

Many refugees were in a severe state due to food shortages and suffered from various illnesses such as malaria and hepatitis.

Head of the Papua GIDI synod Rev. Lipius Bilinuk told The Jakarta Post on Thursday thousands of residents had fled their homes fearing they would be caught in crossfire between troops and Free Papua Movement separatist rebels.

Lipius said residents were in a difficult position because they were in the middle of a fierce conflict. "They will be confronted by TNI troops if they move forward and face rebels if they retreat," he said.

Bilinuk urged the government to withdraw its troops from the jungles and the rebels to come out of hiding.

HIV found in more blood bags: Clinic

Jakarta Post - January 18, 2007

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – An increasing amount of blood donated at the Jayapura Red Cross' transfusion unit in Papua is being found to be contaminated with HIV, an official said Wednesday.

The unit's head, Reginal Hutabarat, said 116 bags of plasma were contaminated last year, an increase from 44 bags in 2005. All of the contaminated blood had been destroyed, he said. The unit received 6,066 bags of the plasma in 2005 and 6,905 last year.

Unit staffer Kusnanto said most of the contaminated plasma came from those giving blood for relatives or friends, since there were not many voluntary donors.

All donated blood is screened for four diseases: hepatitis B and C, syphilis and HIV, he said. All contaminated blood is destroyed.

Despite the finding, only three people are recorded to have contracted HIV from blood transfusions in the province.

From a population of around 2.5 million people, there are 2,770 people known to be living with HIV/AIDS in Papua, the highest percentage in the country.

"We impose strict safety procedures here, which means that (when we reject) donors whose blood indicates the presence of HIV, they often get upset and accuse us of selling the blood. But we have no right to tell them their blood indicates HIV contamination, so we simply tell them they have a different blood type from the one we need," Kusnanto said.

Health statistics as of September last year show 8,261 people in the country are recorded as HIV-positive, with 4,186 of developing AIDS-related illnesses. Local and international organizations, however, estimate the actual number of people living with HIV/AIDS is between 90,000 and 250,000 nationwide.

By 2010, it is estimated that from one to five million Indonesians could be infected with HIV.

Health workers say efforts to halt the spread of the virus are being hampered by the discrimination people living with HIV continue to suffer in the community.

On Monday, a large group of HIV-positive people were among 43 delegates turned away from a hotel in Manokwari, where they planned to attend a conference on the virus.

Papua provincial administration spokesman Dewi Wulandari said the people from towns in Papua and West Irian Jaya were planning to attend a week-long networking forum.

The delegates were not turned away until they had arrived in the town. Hotel management refused to host the event because they worried other guests would be scared away.

"The head of Papua's AIDS Prevention Commission, P.S. Ukung, and activist Nafsiah Mboi tried to explain to management that a person cannot get HIV simply by touch, but the hotel insisted they leave," Dewi said. The forum was moved to another hotel and will run until Friday.

Papua Health Office chief Tigor Silaban said he was disappointed the hotel had acted inhumanely. "We really regret the incident... such attitudes should not exist in this day and age, but they are still there," he said.

Thousands of Papuans displaced, say clergy

Radio Australia PM - January 17, 2007

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

Emma Alberici: Church leaders in Indonesia's Papua Province are reporting that 5,000 people have been driven from their villages by Indonesian security forces.

The clergymen say they're worried about the welfare of families who've been living in the remote central highlands for the past two weeks. The concerns come just as a new ad highlighting the issue of human rights in Papua airs on Australian television tonight. Jennifer Macey prepared this report.

Television Ad excerpt: I would love to be able to go home to a free West Papua. Australia, West Papua desperately needs your help.

Jennifer Macey: These TV ads sponsored by a coalition of human rights groups aim to put the issue of West Papuan independence back on the public agenda.

As the commercials go to air there are fresh reports from Papuan church groups that hundreds of families have fled their villages near Puncak Jaya in the centre of the province, following an Indonesian military build up in the area. Reverend Benny Giay, of the Kingmi Protestant church says Indonesian security forces have occupied about 20 villages.

Benny Giay: People from 20 villages, 20 churches, have fled, have left their villages behind and they have gone to the bush. People may lack food, drink and healthcare.

Jennifer Macey: A spokesman for the Indonesian embassy in Canberra says there has been no military build up in the area. But he says extra police had been sent to the region to apprehend some alleged murderers, and that that action has led to some of those alleged offenders fleeing into the hills.

Dr Clinton Fernandes from the University of New South Wales says he's heard reports that the military action followed a flag raising ceremony last month.

Clinton Fernandes: In a number of regions, a number of villages in the province of Papua, the Indonesian military has been attempting to conduct counter-insurgency operations against presumed separatists. The problem is as the United States State Department itself pointed out, that it classifies anyone it is targeting for any reason whatsoever as a separatist.

Jennifer Macey: Dr Fernandes says these reports highlight the need for Australia to send independent human rights monitors to Papua province. He supports the new advertising campaign.

Television Ad excerpt: John Howard, please add human rights monitoring for West Papua into Australia's new treaty with Indonesia.

Jennifer Macey: Late last year, Australia signed a security agreement with Indonesia called the Lombok Treaty. Both countries agreed to respect the other's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The treaty was hailed for improving diplomatic relations, strained after Australia accepted 43 Papuan asylum seekers. The former New South Wales Supreme Court Justice, John Dowd, says the treaty is designed to appease Indonesia.

John Dowd: And even though we're going to be under the treaty, assisting Indonesia, arming it against no known enemy, we won't have the right to criticise.

Jennifer Macey: The Lombok Treaty has not yet been ratified by the Australian Government. A parliamentary committee will first examine the treaty and report to the Government by April.

Emma Alberici: Jennifer Macey.

 Human rights/law

Court rejects review of police voting laws

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – The Constitutional Court rejected Thursday a request to strike down five laws restricting active police and military officers from voting or running in general elections.

Presiding judge Jimly Asshiddiqie, who is also chairman of the court, said the appeal, made by retired police office Sofwat Hadi, was dismissed over legal technicalities.

"Although the Court has the right to examine Law No. 12/2003 on the election of the legislative councils, Law No. 23/2003 on the presidential and vice presidential elections, Law No. 32/2004 on regional administration, Law No. 2/2002 on the national police and Law No. 34/2004 on the Indonesian military, as requested by the plaintiff, and to issue a ruling on it, we conclude that the plaintiff did not have legal standing to file the lawsuit. Therefore, we cannot grant his request," Jimly said.

Sofwat Hadi, whose last rank before retirement was senior commissioner, was an active officer when he ran for the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) in the 2004 elections. He is now a DPD member from South Kalimantan.

"Retired police and military officers do not have the same status as those who are still active in the police or the military institution, according to the current law," Jimly said.

The court said that Sofwat could not behave as if he was still an active officer in his former organization. Moreover, Sofwat also could not act in the name of the National Police, it added.

The five laws contain articles which regulate the rights of active military and police officers to cast their votes and to run for office in general elections.

Sofwat said the five laws contradicted the universal principle of voting rights stipulated in the 1945 Constitution.

He added that the right to vote and run in elections was implemented erratically in Indonesia because the law differentiated between active and retired officers.

Under the 1945 Constitution, the country is obliged to given fair treatment without discrimination to all citizens, Sofwat said.

Paragraph I of Article 28 of the Constitution states that all citizens have the right to be free from discrimination, while Paragraph D of the same article states that every person deserves fair treatment under the law.

Separately, political observer Ikrar Nusa Bakti suggested that members of the military and the police should be given the right to run for office but not to vote in the general elections in order to prevent them from being targeted by lobbyists for the country's various political forces.

"The Indonesian military has been conducting an internal survey on whether their members would opt for the right to vote and be elected or not. The findings can be used as a consideration," Ikrar told The Jakarta Post.

Victims put hopes in future rights commission

Jakarta Post - January 18, 2007

Imanuddin Razak, Jakarta – Human rights abuse victims expressed hopes Wednesday that a new National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) lineup would be more responsive to their hardships than previous commissions.

The victims of state violence and abuses said the rights commission was their last hope in their battle for justice.

"Komnas HAM must side with all truth-seeking efforts, otherwise it will not be an independent rights commission," said Marihot, a victim of the violent July 27, 1996, headquarters takeover of the now defunct Indonesian Democratic Party.

"If Komnas HAM does not side with our (battle), where can we rest our hopes in seeking the truth?" Anwar Umar, a victim of the government's 1965 campaign against followers of the now-banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), said.

Suciwati, widow of murdered human rights activist Munir Said Thalib criticized the current commission's bureaucratic approach in dealing with their complaints. "Komnas HAM lacks sensitivity in responding to our complaints... often, it's difficult for us to meet commission members," she said.

Yeti, a victim of the 1984 Tanjung Priok massacre, said Komnas HAM chairman Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara had neglected to meet with many victims of human rights abuse. "It's like playing hide and seek. Whenever we came to Komnas HAM, Pak Hakim always hid himself," she said.

Komnas HAM was established in 1993 after a decree from then- president Soeharto. It won applause after several human rights abuse cases were immediately examined.

The commission's image declined, however, after its failure to further examine several high-profile cases. These included the 1965 campaign against the PKI, the 1984 Tanjung Priok tragedy, the 1998 Semanggi I and 1999 Semanggi II shootings and the September 2004 murder of Munir.

Victims agreed that future Komnas HAM members must have good track records in the protection and promotion of human rights.

"They must not have been involved in past rights abuses and must have experience in the advocacy of rights victims' claims," Suciwati said. "They must not be members, active or retired, of the police or the Indonesian Military," Anwar Umar added.

Sumiarsih, the mother of a Semanggi I shooting victim, called on the selection committee to limit the maximum number of periods commission members could serve to two, each of five years. "We need to question Komnas HAM members who seek reelection for a third and fourth period," she said.

Commenting on the victims' proposal, selection committee member Kamala Chandrakirana said the committee would hold a public debate for commission membership.

The selection committee is currently receiving applications for commission membership. It will assemble on Jan. 25 to start its selection process. The final commission lineup, however, will be decided by the House of Representatives.

Activist's widow fights for truth on his murder

Sydney Morning Herald - January 20, 2007

Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta – Whoever poisoned Munir Said Thalib, Indonesia's most respected human rights lawyer, on a Garuda flight to Europe underestimated the determination of his wife, Suciwati.

"I am committed to fight until the truth is uncovered," said the diminutive Ms Suciwati, who has taken her campaign to bring the killers to justice as far as the US Congress and the United Nations.

More than two years after Mr Munir's in-flight orange drink was spiked with a fatal dose of arsenic, Ms Suciwati has forced Indonesian police to reopen their investigations. Of renewed interest is an off-duty pilot, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto.

Ms Suciwati has filed a $US1.4 million ($1.8 million) negligence lawsuit against Garuda and the plane's pilots and crew in Central Jakarta District Court. At next week's trial her lawyers will also demand that the airline issue a newspaper apology.

But the 37-year-old mother of two remains sceptical of progress in the reopened investigation, which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says is a test case for whether Indonesia has changed.

"The man who died was the man who stood in the front line and shouted very hard to defend human rights," Ms Suciwati said. "But the man became the victim. There have been no serious efforts to uncover the truth."

For more than 15 years, Mr Munir fearlessly exposed police and military atrocities and defended labour activists. He refused to quit despite threats just like those his wife receives now.

When the 38-year-old Mr Munir boarded Garuda flight 974 bound for Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, via Singapore, on September 6, 2004, Mr Priyanto offered him his business class seat 3K. Mr Priyanto went to sit in first class.

By the time the plane reached Singapore, Mr Munir was feeling unwell and sent a text message to his wife. Over India, he became violently ill and three hours later he was dead. An autopsy at Schiphol showed his body had three times more arsenic than it could tolerate.

Mr Priyanto, believed to have links with Indonesia's national intelligence organisation, BIN, became the only official suspect in the case despite the likelihood the murder was part of a conspiracy.

A court sentenced him to 14 years' jail in 2005. However, the Supreme Court quashed the conviction last November, although it did sentence Mr Priyanto to two years' jail for falsifying flight records. Even so, he was a free man last Christmas – thanks to several sentence remissions – when he called a press conference in Jakarta.

"I didn't kill Munir. I don't know him, he's not my enemy and he's not my friend," he told reporters.

Within days, the police said they would reopen the investigation, while the Attorney-General, Abdul Rahman Saleh, said he would appeal against the Supreme Court's decision.

"Polly could say Munir was not killed. We are convinced he was," Mr Abdul Rahman said. "Big questions [about Priyanto] still remain. We will go after him."

What has not been explained is why Mr Priyanto made 41 calls to a top intelligence director before Mr Munir boarded the flight. At Mr Priyanto's trial, Ms Suciwati openly accused the director of ordering her husband's murder.

The man, and other top intelligence officials, have refused to be questioned by police – a seeming immunity not available to other Indonesians.

Frustrated by the investigation's lack of progress, Dr Yudhoyono has even set up his own fact-finding team. Their findings have not been made public but the Jakarta media have reported that they implicated former intelligence officials.

The case's handling has fuelled international criticism that Indonesia, despite its embrace of democracy, is still reluctant to dismantle a culture of immunity for powerful figures.

Ms Suciwati says Dr Yudhoyono should be more courageous in confronting shadowy figures who may be implicated in the murder. She whipped up national fervour last year when she met Philip Alston, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who said he was willing to look into the case.

Politicians and police chiefs in Jakarta angrily rejected any UN intervention. But Ms Suciwati had achieved her goal: to stir up enough controversy to force police to reopen their inquiries.

"I believe our police can handle [the] case," she said. "But there must be political will. The main problem is that the state keeps granting immunity to human rights abusers. I believe the police already know who did it."

Lawyer files judicial review of death penalty

Jakarta Post - January 18, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – A noted lawyer filed a judicial review with the Constitutional Court on Wednesday calling for the abolishment of capital punishment.

"The right to life is guaranteed by the Constitution. I'm optimistic that even though the Indonesian legal system still recognizes the death penalty, eventually capital punishment will become history," Todung Mulya Lubis said.

He said the right to life, which is protected by Article 29 of the Constitution, could not be reduced under any condition by any party, including the state.

"I am requesting the Court to amend the 1997 Narcotics Law. Those who are involved in drug-related crimes need to be punished, but not through the death sentence. We can give traffickers life sentences without the possibility of sentence remissions. The Narcotics Law should be amended to give traffickers life without parole," he said.

Todung said he had asked the court to review articles 80, 81 and 82 of the 1997 Narcotics Law, which he believes violate the articles 28 and 28(a) of the Constitution. The Narcotics Law states that drug trafficking can be punished with death, life in prison or 20 years in prison.

Todung did not comment when asked about amending the Criminal Code, which also allows for capital punishment for crimes such as premeditated murder. Other laws that carry the death penalty are the law on corruption, the law on terrorism and an emergency law on the possession of firearms and explosives.

Indonesia, Todung said, is a signatory to the UN Human Rights Declaration and has a moral obligation to abolish capital punishment.

"There is trend where more countries are abolishing the death penalty than those countries keeping it. According to statistics, the death penalty does not serve as a deterrence (to crime)," the lawyer said.

Todung represents four convicted drug traffickers who are on death row. They are Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, members of the so-called Bali Nine, and Edith Y. Sianturi and Rani Andriani.

Edith and Rani were sentenced to death by the Tangerang District Court in Banten. Chan and Sukumaran, the supposed leaders of the Bali Nine smugglers, received the first ever death sentences handed down by the Denpasar District Court. If the appellate courts reject their appeals, the four will be executed by firing squad.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, Salman Maryadi, said as long as the country allowed capital punishment, prosecutors would continue seeking the death sentence when warranted.

"I don't say that I agree or disagree with capital punishment. We are only doing our job, as long as it's based on the law," he said.

 Labour issues

Government, employers, workers closer to dismissal scheme

Jakarta Post - January 22, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Employers will be able to breathe easier, the government can hope for more investors in the future and workers need no longer be quite so worried about being laid off once an independent institution to determine severance pay for dismissed workers is established.

The three sides are still discussing the shape of the new scheme – the severance benefits program – and which institution will be designated to manage it.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the government would issue a regulation on the new scheme, which is expected to help reduce the financial burden on employers, improve the investment climate, create better industrial relations and provide more security for workers.

"The President (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) has ordered Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno to prepare the new scheme and wants him, along with the employers and labor unions, to finalize it within three months," Kalla said after addressing a meeting Friday with officials from the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry.

"The government could offer the new program through a public tender or seek the approval of workers and employers to appoint (state-owned insurance firm) Jamsostek to take charge of it," he added.

The agreement was reached after prolonged deadlock between the employers and government on the one side, and workers and labor unions on the other, over the proposed revision of the 2003 Labor Law, which requires employers to cough up huge sums in severance and long-service payments to dismissed workers, including white- collar employees.

The legislation has made overseas investors reluctant to invest in Indonesia and, since its enactment in 2003, Indonesia has seen very little growth in foreign direct investment.

In support of the government, employers have prepared a draft law that requires employers to provide long-service and severance payments to workers on gross monthly wages of Rp 1 million (US$110) or less, and allows employers to hire part-time workers for their core operations.

The draft law was greeted by massive labor rallies – which reached their peak last May Day – demanding that the government drop it and seek an alternative solution so as to ensure job security. The unions blamed the unconducive business climate on the high cost of doing business here, and the absence of security and legal certainty for investments in Indonesia.

In response, the government asked four state universities to evaluate the 2003 legislation and identify the problems hindering investment growth. The universities' recommendations did not propose a review of the labor legislation, but instead recommended that the government improve the country's infrastructure, issue a new investment law, review the tax legislation and reform the bureaucracy.

The government's proposal to review the labor legislation was part of a series of proposed actions designed to improve the investment climate, as stipulated in Presidential Decree No. 6/2006.

Separately, labor unions and employers confirmed the tripartite agreement, but were still at odds over who would pay for the scheme and what its ceiling would be.

Three major unions – the Confederation of All-Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPSI), the Indonesian Prosperous Labor Union (KSBSI), and the Free Trade Union (ICTU) – are demanding that the employers pay for the scheme and that it should cover all workers on monthly wages of up to Rp 15 million. Meanwhile, the employers have proposed that the premium be shared, and that the scheme only cover blue-collar workers, or those earning less than Rp 2 million per month.

The secretary-general of the Indonesian Employers Association, Djimanto, said that despite the differences, both sides have agreed that the scheme would be degressive in nature.

"The less the workers are paid, the more they will receive in severance payments when they are dismissed. Also, we want workers to pay less in premiums, as they do in the case of the four social security programs run by Jamsostek," he said.

He said he was optimistic that the three sides would soon reach an agreement on the scheme's ceiling and its financing so that it could be put into effect by June of this year.

Jamsostek staff renew calls for president's dismissal

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Employees of state-owned insurance firm PT Jamsostek renewed calls Thursday for the dismissal of the company's government-appointed president director.

The protesters, who said they represented 3,800 Jamsostek employees nationwide, went on strike, staging a peaceful rally outside the company's Central Jakarta headquarters.

They said they opposed the intimidation and pressure that certain officials, unionists and workers had faced after supporting a no-confidence motion launched against the management last August.

"(Jamsostek president director) must step down as a prerequisite for calming down the mounting friction and the labor unrest of the past six months. We will otherwise continue demonstrating or launch as massive strike until the government replaces him," said Armada Abdul Karim, chief of the company's healthcare program division.

The Jamsostek Workers Union (SPJ), which supported the rally, expressed its disappointment with the government's failure to fulfill its promise to evaluate the current management's performance and create a better environment.

"Instead of consolidating Jamsostek, the president director was busy taking action apparently aimed at intimidating those who supported the no-confidence motion," said SPJ chairman Abdul Latief Algaff.

The company's management recently ran an internal survey, which workers say was mean to assess their loyalty to the president director rather than the company. Management also moved and demoted two unionists, transferred several officials and set a team to audit officials who had supported the petition.

The petition, which criticizes a number of controversial decisions made by the president director, has gained support from the House of Representatives.

Jamosostek manages Rp 38 trillion (US$4.17 billion) in public assets, carrying out social security programs for 25 million workers.

Workers say that the ongoing restructuring of the company's board of directors is related to internal friction caused by Iwan bypassing procedures when making decisions.

Iwan said separately that he would not step down and that he and other directors at the company were appointed by the government and not the workers.

He dismissed the allegations that the survey had been intended to test loyalty and that unionists and officials had been transferred for supporting the no-confidence motion.

"The law allows the management to conduct such transfers to improve the company's performance while the repositioning of the board of directors has been approved by the government as the main shareholder," he said.

Iwan was appointed president of Jamsostek in April 2005, replacing Achmad Djunaidi, who was sentenced to six years in jail for corruption. Iwan's term in office will end in April 2008.


Protesting students disrupt final exams

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

Banten – Students at the State Islamic Institute of Sultan Maulana Hasanudin (IAIN SMH) staged a rally Thursday at its Serang campus to demand improved education quality and the elimination of nepotism practices in its management.

They also rejected the election of Sybli Sardjaya and M. Amin as deputies to rector Tahami for a second term.

The protesting students gathered at the rectorate building, using chairs and desks to block the entrance. The rally brought campus activities to a halt, including end-of-semester examinations, which were scheduled to start Thursday.

They burned their college jackets, spray-painting their demands on the windshields of cars in the parking lot.

Student committee president Sabroni said the two deputy rectors had failed to improve the quality of education and to equip the institute with adequate facilities.

Since none of the rectorate representatives came out to meet the students, a number of students then entered the building in search of the rector and his four deputies. All the rooms were empty, however.

Most of the students were not worried about missing the exams. "We preferred to join the rally, because we all need this campus to change for the better," said Amalia Syahrani.

Zakaria Safe'i, one of the four deputy rectors, said the students had no right to intervene in the deputy rector election. "There needs to be open communications between the rectorate and the students," he said.

Students protest council raises

Jakarta Post - January 18, 2007

Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi – Hundreds of students from various universities in Southeast Sulawesi protested at the provincial council building Wednesday, demanding council members reject a raise in allowances.

The students said the 2006 regulation sharply increasing the councillors' communication allowance was bad for Indonesia. "The huge income of council members is legalized corruption," charged Hasidin, executive head of the Haluoleo University student organization.

The students remained dissatisfied after meeting with five council members. "We're just the object of this regulation. This decision was made by the central government so we can't say we reject this regulation," said council member Kadir Ole, who is the spokesman for the United Development Party's faction on the council.

 Politics/political parties

Parties differ on electoral threshold rules for 2009

Jakarta Post - January 22, 2007

Jakarta – While the next general elections are just two years away, political parties are still yet to agree on the minimum electoral threshold.

The electoral threshold determines the minimum percentage of the House of Representatives vote required for a party to front a presidential candidate.

Star Crescent Party president Hamdan Zoelva said Saturday that the government should allow political parties to develop with no restrictions and allow them to contest the upcoming elections.

"There should be no limitations on political parties contesting the general elections. It should be up to the people to decide," he said, speaking at the party's first anniversary celebrations at the Jakarta Fair Ground in Central Jakarta. "If they do not vote for a party, it will die," he added.

The Star Crescent Party was established last year after its predecessor – the Crescent Star Party – was declared unable to participate in the 2009 elections after failing to meet the electoral threshold requirement.

Zaenal Ma'arif, leader of the newly launched Reform Star Party, however, said his party would have no problems meeting the five percent electoral threshold.

"Five percent of the electoral threshold illustrates an advancement in democracy. If necessary, it could be 7 or even 10 percent," Zaenal, who is also a House deputy speaker, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday. He said he believed that his party would win a ticket to contest the 2009 elections.

He said that having seen the Prosperous Justice Party gain seven seats in the House of Representatives in the 1999 elections and 45 seats in 2004, he was assured that his party would follow suit.

Zaenal, who was officially ousted earlier this month from the Reform Star Party he had established, refounded the party with the same name, saying he had dismissed the older party led by Bursah Zarnubi.

Hamdan said that the 1945 Constitution granted Indonesian citizens the right to association and struggle for the collective rights of the nation.

"We will therefore file a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court if there is an illogical or irrational limitation on political parties contesting the elections," he said. "We will also do so if the electoral threshold is so high that it will be difficult for parties to meet it," he added.

Hamdan also criticized a regulation that requires a political party to have chapters in at least in two-thirds of the country's 33 provinces, to have branches in at least in two-thirds of each province's regencies, to have sub-branches in at least in a quarter of each regency's districts and to have at least 1,000 members in each regency or city.

"Therefore, a new political party needs to have 475,000 members to contest the general elections," he said.

He said that the Crescent Star Party secured 2.9 million voters in the 2004 elections and currently had a complete executive board, which should make it eligible to contest the 2009 elections. "Therefore, the regulation on the electoral threshold should be reviewed," he said.

Hamdan said should his Star Crescent Party be declared eligible to run in the 2009 elections, it will merge with the Crescent Star Party, which is led by Forestry Minister MS Kaban, who will be the president of the new party. He expressed confidence that the new party would be eligible for the 2009 elections.

Earlier, major parties proposed 5 percent for the electoral threshold in the 2009 general election, higher than 2004's electoral threshold of 3 percent, which passed seven parties as contenders in the 2004 elections. Parties failing to meet the requirement will not be allowed to participate in the next election.

Political analysts have generally agreed on the 5 percent requirement, saying the ideal number of parties in the 2009 legislative elections should be between eight and 12. They said this would empower the House and ensure a strong system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative bodies.

Minority parties, meanwhile, including small factions at the House, have called on the legislative body to relax the political laws to allow their candidates to run in 2009.

Earlier, Wiranto of the newly founded People's Consciousness Party, also objected to the implementation of the 5 percent electoral threshold.

Papernas chairperson and general secretary finally elected

Kompas - January 21, 2007

Yogyakarta – The founding congress of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) that took place on 18-20 January in Kaliurang, Yogyakarta, Central Java, succeeded in reaching a number of agreements. This was despite the fact that the congress was almost broken up by a group calling themselves the Indonesia Anti-Communist Front (FAKI) who believe Papernas is an embryonic communist party.

The agreements that were reached included electing Agus Priyono as the general chairperson of Papernas and Haris Sitorus as the general secretary. "Because yesterday we had launched [five] presidential candidates(1), we also chose Dita Inda Sari is a candidate", said the chairperson of the congress standing committee Lukman Hakim on Saturday January 20.

According to Lukman, elected chairperson and general secretary of Papernas will become the formulators. They will be assisted by three other people to compliment the party's structure of the central leadership board and other organisational needs.

Three banners

The congress, which was attended by 370 people from 23 provinces, discussed a number of programs that make up their central program – Three Banners of National Unity. The Three Banners are the nationalisation of the mining industry, the abolition of the foreign debt and building national industry for the welfare of the people.

"The Three Banners are actually a program that we took up six months ago and will become the future program. The details will be discussed by the central leadership that was elected", said Lukman.

Aside from the Three Banners, the other issues that were discussed were the national political situation, which according to the congress is experiencing a deepening influence of neoliberalism in all aspects of Indonesia, and the political problems that have failed to bring welfare to the people.

Lukman said that the momentum of the 2009 general elections are still seen as a political opportunity that can be taken up by the movements. This is because society currently still has no strong and alternative vehicle that is capable of leading it in a better direction.

In relation to the permit from the national police headquarters to organise the congress, Lukman admitted they did not know about it. "Only as of yesterday was there a recommendation from the regional police (Yogyakarta police) to organise it. In fact the police themselves did not deny that we had already gone through the procedures [for the permit]. Only that it is in process", he said.

The congress was marred by a minor incident when Andi Nurjaya, one of the participants form south Sulawesi was rushed to the Panti Nugroho Pakem Public Hospital because of a miscarriage. She was suspected of suffering from stress. (WER)


1. On January 16 Papernas put forward the names of five people that it would support as presidential candidates in 2009: economists Kwik Kian Gie and Rizal Ramli, the director of the Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicated research group Sukardi Rinakit, the younger brother of former President Abdurrahman Wahid and labour activist and People's Democratic Party chairperson Dita Indah Sari.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Radical party to enter Indonesian politics

Green Left Weekly - January 17, 2007

Max Lane, Jakarta – Almost nine years since the fall of the dictator Suharto, one word continues to dominate discussions of the widespread social discontent in Indonesia: "fragmentation".

The mass movement that forced Suharto out of power, spearheaded by elements from the radical wing of the worker and student sectors, re-won mass action and political mobilisation as legitimate political activity after 33 years of enforced passivity under the policy of "floating mass". As a consequence, since 1998 when Suharto was ousted, social protest in the form of strikes, demonstrations, rallies and public meetings have become a daily phenomenon in Indonesia. However, they remain small and ad hoc, mostly only taking place at the site of grievance, unaffiliated to any political bloc and not part of any national political movement. There are hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of local ad hoc protest groups operating at any one time.

A new political initiative being carried out by the People's Democratic Party (PRD) is the formation of a new electoral party, the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas). This has evolved over the last year as a response to the persistence of active social protest, as an attempt to place the most radical perspective based within this sector of social protest into the national political arena.

Initially, the idea of a united party for national liberation was connected to an attempt to form a united front of various left political blocs that have emerged in Indonesia over the last 10 years. The most solid of these, and the one with the highest political profile, is the PRD itself. But other left political blocs have also developed. These include one based on the National Students Front (FMN) and the peasant organising group called Agra, which has a strategic orientation based on its perspective that peasants are the main radical force in the country.

Another political bloc is the Working People's Association (PRP), a looser organisation, but which in many respects has a similar opposition to neoliberal globalisation as the PRD. There is also the environmental organisation WAHLI, affiliated internationally to the Friends of the Earth. WAHLI has also spoken often about forming a radical Green Party.

United front

In early 2006 there were a series of meetings aimed at trying to organise a unity conference, based around a minimum program, which might bring these forces together in a broad left party. According to Agus Jabo, the secretary-general of the PRD, the PRD itself was proposing that the blocs come together to form a united front that could bring an anti-imperialist campaigning perspective to the 2009 elections. "In our 2004 Congress", Jabo told Green Left Weekly, "we assessed that all these political blocs shared a similar critique of imperialist domination and that there was therefore grounds for a common anti-imperialist platform".

"There is agreement on demands such as the nationalisation of the oil and gas industry and on the cancellation of Indonesia's foreign debt. So we talked with the other groups and proposed a conference of all groups. But it didn't happen."

It soon became clear, said Jabo, that differences remain over methods of struggle. Some considered that participating in electoral politics was a sell-out, others thought that the most important united fronts to build were those based purely in one sector or around immediate sectoral demands, such as reforms to labour laws.

"The idea that Papernas could be based on this kind of united front was revealed as unrealistic. However, the PRD decided to go ahead in any case with the Papernas project, no longer orienting to unity of these political blocs as its basis, but looking instead to trying to gather together a combination of the PRD's own long-term but unorganised contacts, along with trying also to gather parts of the many fragments of active social discontent that exist at the local level, but that are not connected to any political bloc or current."

The chairperson of the preparatory committee of Papernas, Domingus Octavus, explained that the people being recruited to Papernas comprise two basic groups. "Our 300 cadre have been travelling all around the country seeking out past contacts of the PRD, people who worked with us during the struggle against Suharto or since then. Our cadre have talked to them about the program that we are proposing for Papernas and tried to convince them that a new party able to participate in the elections with a radical program is necessary. The second component is activists or groups of activists with whom we have worked together in campaigns at the local level and who are not affiliated to any political or ideological current but who are open to a radical program."

Jabo explained that the PRD itself has cadre in 25 towns and rural sub-provinces throughout Indonesia, but that its cadres had been able to organise Papernas branches in around 100 towns and sub-provinces as of December 2006. "This will not be enough to enable Papernas to achieve registration to participate in the elections. We will need 250 such branches based in at least two- thirds of the country's provinces. However the widespread, even if very fragmented, discontent and protest activity at the local level means that there is potential to expand to another hundred or more towns or village areas."

Octavus explained that to date, the new Papernas branches that the PRD cadres had been able to organise were based on recruiting peasants who had been active at one time or another in resisting either the Suharto regime or the neoliberal policies of Indonesia's subsequent regimes. Urban-based branches were in the minority, said Domingus.

He also explained that they were close to exhausting the potential for recruiting past contacts and the local activist groups with whom they had worked in the past. "To expand to another hundred towns or village areas means we will need to draw towards us individuals or groups with whom we have had no contact so far."

A year of campaigning

Octavus continued: "After the Papernas congress, to be held January 18-22, we will be concentrating on more open political campaigning in support of our key demands: the nationalisation of the oil and gas industries and the cancellation of the foreign debt, and using the money that becomes available to provide free education and health care to the people. More public mobilisations, either as street protest actions or indoor rallies, will be the backbone of our campaigning."

Jabo emphasised that "2007 must be a year of all-out campaigning for us. In the last period we have been looking inward, concentrating on building up the structures that we need to have to obtain electoral registration. But we can't continue this process as purely an internal effort, we must take our politics outwards. There is enormous dissatisfaction with all the existing parties, which offer no solution to the people's sufferings."

The Papernas congress will formalise the structures that have been built up over the last year and elect a national leadership. It will represent the beginning of the next phase of trying to raise the new party's profile and campaign for the program that the congress will adopt.

In the lead-up to the congress, Papernas will also try to intervene in the national political scene. It will be announcing its views on possible presidential candidates that it might be willing to support in 2009. It will announce four criteria to be used in evaluating any presidential candidate: a candidate must be free of any taint of corruption; must have pursued a consistent pro-people political perspective; must support a strategy of achieving economic independence; and must be a new candidate, not somebody drawn from the old slate of elite politicians hoping to be president.

Papernas is proposing to put forward five names as an indication of the kind of people it will be willing to support. Among the five is Kwik Kian Gie, an Indonesian-Chinese economist who was a member of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri's cabinet, but one who was marginalised because of his outspoken criticism of the International Monetary Fund and the government's subservience to international financial agencies. Papernas will also include Dita Sari in the list. Sari is the chairperson of the PRD and has a high profile as a labour leader who fought against the Suharto dictatorship and against neoliberal globalisation.

The nationalist economist Rizal Ramli is also on the list, along with the political commentator and pro-democracy intellectual Sukardi Rinakit. The final person is Hasyim Wahid, a brother of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, who has a reputation for consistently defending human rights.

'We don't want to overthrow SBY; just push, criticize him'

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

A rally was held in Jakarta earlier this week to denounce the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Former student activist Hariman Siregar, who organized the event, spoke with The Jakarta Post's M. Taufiqurrahman about the reasons behind the rally. The Palace has said the protesters' demands that Yudhoyono's mandate be revoked was unconstitutional.

Question: Why did you organize the rally?

Answer: This is the only way we could be heard. There is no better way. They quickly reacted to our movement, didn't they?

You have said the protest was a criticism of the Yudhoyono government. What is your assessment of his two years in office?

He is doing nothing, he doesn't provide any direction. The most glaring example is when he backed down as a result of pressure from Vice President Jusuf Kalla over the establishment of the Presidential Unit for the Management of Reform Programs (UKP3R). It was a good step, but he surrendered to pressure from Kalla. Since that day SBY was finished.

Are you asking the President to step down over his poor performance or because of his indecisiveness?

If he is that weak, why wait another two years for him to resign?

But you also said the movement was not aimed at overthrowing the President?

We are not stupid enough to think that we can unseat him or even impeach him. We are aware of our strength. I just laugh when I hear the accusation. Instead, we want to push him, criticize him. Who knows, after hearing this criticism he may realize his weaknesses and resign voluntarily.

On paper, even if the President does not violate the Constitution, but he does nothing to improve the people's welfare, we can impeach him, although the Constitution is silent about this. The Constitution should not take precedence over the people's suffering.

The turnout for the rally was far below your pre-rally boast about the number of protesters who would take part. Did security officials ask you to reduce the size?

We don't care how many people support us, and we don't want to emulate SBY who only cares about his image and figures in opinion polls. He should care more about the fact that more and more people are leaving the country for overseas because there are no jobs here.

What would you do if SBY did resign?

We could have a snap election. The Constitution has anticipated it all. But we have nothing to do with that. Personally, I don't have a problem with the President. My concern is the country's poverty rate, which is worsening. For those who deem our movement unconstitutional, they should know that we have gone to the House of Representatives to break this political impasse, but they asked us to form a political party.

They were the ones who started the fire. (Presidential spokesman) Andi Mallarangeng dared me to become president. My response to that was, 'Let's take to the street and withdraw the President's mandate.' That's the sequence of events, but I didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to sound like this was my personal problem.

So you exhausted all legal avenues before resorting to the so- called unconstitutional move of holding the rally?

Even taking to the street is constitutional. Do you think I will bring SBY down? My concern is simply poverty, the economic slump and the incompetent state institutions that should have tackled the problems. How long do we have to languish in this mess, until 2009? We have to make a breakthrough and the rally was the breakthrough, because if we set up a political party we will just be taken hostage by the system.

What about the Council of Revolution, which has been associated with your movement?

It's an exaggeration. It's a method used by the military to discredit us. Just like the (Jan. 15 1974 student protest) Malari affair, when the students were accused of arson and looting while in fact we did nothing.

Why did you choose Jan. 15 for the date of the rally? Many said you were just trying to relive the past, because that is the anniversary of the Malari incident.

What's wrong with that? In fact it coincided with the birthday of (Hariman's Institute for Democracy Monitor) Indemo. The most important thing, however, is that the system is created to cater to the needs of the people. If the system fails to improve welfare, people have the right to rise up.

What comes next?

Such a question is not relevant for us, because we are not a political party. We just voice our criticism. We want to prove that people still hold their mandate long after the election, and can withdraw it anytime.

We also want to remind SBY that he was directly elected and that he should be more courageous in standing up to those who try to stop him, be it the parliament or the political parties, and we will support him if he can prove he is decisive. He should present himself as the leader of this country. What is the legal argument for the impeachment of Yudhoyono?

Former president Soeharto, who claimed to have received the mandate of the people, stepped down and former president B.J. Habibie led the country for just a short time before he decided to have an election. Why can't SBY follow suit?

Speculation is rife that you have received foreign support for your movement.

(Pause) With such a small budget and small number of people taking part, you accuse me of getting foreign support? (Laughing) Why do people always ask about the way we held the protest, and not about its substance?

How do you juggle between your job as a medical doctor and your work as a political activist?

I spend more of my time running my clinic.

Papernas Congress 'attacked en masse' by Anti-Communist Front

Detik.com - January 19, 2007

Bagus Kurniawan, Yogyakarta – The Yogyakarta Anti-Communist Front (FAKI) has made good their threat to 'attack en masse' the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) Congress saying that if it is not closed by 9pm then FAKI will break it up by force.

The FAKI group of some 100 people arrived at the congress site at the Wisma Sejahtera Building in Kaliurang in the Sleman regency of Yogyakarta, Central Java, on Friday January 19 at 3pm.

They demanded that the congress be canceled because it did not have a permit and was taking up Marxist and communist ideas. The group was unable to approach the congress however because they were held back by officers from the Sleman district police around 100 meters north of the site.

After holding negotiations with Sleman Police Chief Idris Kadir, an agreement was reached that representatives of the group could meet with the congress organising committee. The rest of the FAKI group meanwhile would remain behind police lines.

During the negotiations with police, they group shouted "Destroy the communists, crush Papernas". Erected in front of the group was a banner with the writing "FAKI, the communists rise up, wipe out and crush", "Uphold Law No. 27/1999 on Marxism-Communism in Indonesia"(1).

Some of the group wore black T-shirts with a red-and-white flag on the chest and FAKI written on the back. They also brought FAKI flags.

Burhanuddin, one of the action coordinators, declared that they wanted to break up the Papernas Congress because it is taking up ideas of Marxism and communism that is against the law so it must be disbanded. "As a generation of youth, they are being used by people who have a communist ideology", said Burhanuddin.

After negotiations with police, an agreement was finally reached that four FAKI representatives would meet with four Papernas representatives at the Brotoseno Villa located alongside the Wisma Sejahtera.

At the meeting, the FAKI persisted in asking Papernas to close the congress. They were received by Congress committee members such as Dita Indah Sri, Lukman Hakim and Agus Priyono. The FAKI representatives repeatedly pointed out to Dita that she should be aware that she is being used by and had become a communist lackey.

At the end of the meeting, the FAKI group issued an ultimatum that the Papernas Congress must close by 9pm. If not, they would break it up by force. (nrl/sss)


1. Law No. 27/1999 is a revision to the Criminal Code that codifies Provisional People's Consultative Assembly (MPRS) Decree Number XXV/1966 on the Dissolution of the Indonesian Communist Party and Prohibitions on Marxist, Leninist and Communist Teachings.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Papernas to sue police for obstructing congress

Detik.com - January 19, 2007

Bagus Kurniawan, Sleman – The National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) plans to sue the national police for obstructing the issuance of a permit for their congress. The situation at the congress meanwhile remained full of uncertainty.

"We will sue the Yogyakarta regional police chief and the chief of the national police who have obstructed the issuing of the permit. There is clearly a hidden political agenda to obstruct ordinary people who want to organise and gather. Whereas this is guaranteed under the Constitution", said congress committee member Dita Indah Sari.

Dita made the statement at the congress site at the Wisma Sejahtera Building in Kaliurang in the Sleman regency of Yogyakarta, Central Java, on Friday January 19. Dita said she deplored the planned anarchic action to obstruct the congress in the name of religion or groups such the Yogyakarta Anti-Communist Front (FAKI).

Meanwhile the Pakem sub-district coordinating body (Muspika), officials from the Hargobinangun village and Sleman Regional House of Representatives Member Farchan Hariem arrived to meet with the committee. A member of the Hargobinangun village representative body, Bejo Wiryono, expressed the hope that the situation in Kaliurang would remain 'conducive'.

This was because on January 20-21 residents will commemorate the 1st night of Muharram (first month of the Muslim new year) by holding a traditional Merti Buki ceremony. Wiryono said that he was worried that is something undesirable happened local residents would be upset.

As of 2.30pm, congress participants were still gathered at the Wisma Sejahtera although there were no activities taking place. In anticipation of an attack, several older participants had already been evacuated.

Scores of Sleman district police were on guard in the Kaliurang area. Prior to Friday prayers, police also asked a number of roadside stalls near the conference site to close. (fay/nrl)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Papernas questions why police are obstructing congress

Detik.com - January 19, 2007

Bagus Kurniawan, Sleman – The National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) Congress has been unable to start because the national police have failed to issue a permit. The congress organising committee is questioning why the police are making things difficult for them.

"We've fulfilled all of the requirements. Why however are [the police] making it difficult for us. [Former General] Wiranto also wants to have a party. Us too, we also want to have a party", said congress committee member Dita Indah Sari.

This was conveyed by the labour activist that was once a political prisoner at the congress site at the Wisma Sejahtera Building in Kaliurang in the Sleman regency of Yogyakarta, Central Java, on Friday January 19.

Speaking with Detik.com meanwhile, Papernas secretary general Lukman Hakim said that the organising committee would continue to ask the national police to issue a permit for the congress. However they believe that it is becoming increasingly complicated.

By way of example, he said that the committee had been asked to redo the permit application and to provide an explanation on a number of congress sessions. The committee was even asked to remove a banner and other party paraphernalia from the congress site.

In addition to this, police also asked them to clarify the "Three Banners of the Party" that were included in the permit request. The "Three Banners of the Party" [The Three Banners of National Unity - JB] are abolishing the foreign debt, nationalising the mining industry and building the national industry for the welfare of the people.

The Papernas Congress was to have taken place on January 18-21. Aside from encountering problem's from the national police, congress participants have also been haunted by worries that there would be an attack by the Yogyakarta Anti-Communist Front (FAKI). (fay/sss)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

New party wants chance to run

Jakarta Post - January 18, 2007

Mustaqim Adamrah and Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Newly formed Hanura Party has warned major political parties against blocking minority parties from contesting the 2009 general elections.

During a meeting with leaders of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the party urged a review of the political laws to ensure smaller parties had the same opportunity as major parties to grow and take part in elections.

Representing Hanura at the meeting was party chairman Wiranto, a retired Army general, and executive board members former finance minister Fuad Bawazir, former deputy chief of the Indonesian Military Gen. (ret) Fachrul Razi and former legislator Samuel Koto.

Wiranto said major parties at the House should listen to the people's political aspirations in reviewing the political laws, to ensure better national leadership and to help improve the performance of the House and regional legislatures.

"Hanura will comply with the new political laws but major parties should not engage in a political conspiracy to block minority parties from participating in elections. If this happens, it will be dealt with in a traditional manner," Wiranto told journalists after the 90-minute meeting.

Some 28 new political parties, including Hanura, have registered with the Justice and Human Rights Ministry as a first step in making themselves eligible to contest elections in 2009.

Minority parties, including small factions at the House, have called on the legislative body to loosen the political laws to allow their candidates to run in 2009.

Major parties have proposed a tightening of the electoral threshold to 5 percent in 2009 from 3 percent in the 2004 legislative elections, to achieve a simple multiparty system. Parties that fail to meet the electoral threshold are not allowed to contest the next elections.

The major parties also have raised the idea of a 25 percent electoral threshold in legislative elections for parties to nominate candidates for the presidential election, to ensure a national leader with strong political backing.

Political analysts have supported the idea, saying the ideal number of parties in the 2009 legislative elections was eight to 11. They said this would empower the House and ensure a strong system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative bodies.

House Speaker Agung Laksono, accompanied by Priyo Budi Santoso and Yuddhy Chrisnandi, all of the Golkar Party, said the House would consider the suggestions of the Hanura Party.

Asked to comment on the political situation and the current government's performance, Wiranto said Hanura was established in reaction to the people's increasing disappointment with the poor performance of major political parties and the current government.

"The people are disappointed with the government's poor performance because the President and the Vice President have failed in the past two years to live up to the promises of the reform era of 1998 and the 2004 presidential campaign, while major parties have not performed well in representing the people," he said.

Police yet to issue permit for Papernas Congress

Detik.com - January 18, 2007

Bagus Kurniawan, Yogyakarta – Confronted by the threat of being broken up by the Anti-Communist Front (FAKI), the Congress of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) is truly in a jam. The problem however is not the FAKI but the police. As of 2.30pm on Thursday January 18, the congress has yet to start because National Police Headquarters has yet to issue the permit.

The FAKI group that earlier threatened to break up the congress has also not shown its face near the congress site, which is to be held at the Wisma Sejahtera Building in Kaliurang in the Sleman sub-district of Yogyakarta, Central Java. Police meanwhile are still on alert and guarding the site.

The chairperson of the Papernas Congress organising committee, Lalu Hilman Afriandi, admitted that the congress had not yet been able to go ahead because National Police Headquarters had not yet issued the permit. Moreover on account of the congress, Lalu was summoned by the Yogyakarta regional police to explain about the meeting.

Lalu took the opportunity to ask the Yogyakarta police to issue the permit because the congress is an ordinary one and the same as other political party congresses. "But, the regional police were not prepared to issue a permit, because that is the authority of the National Police Headquarters", said Lalu after leaving the Yogyakarta police headquarters.

Lalu claimed that the committee had in fact already sent a request for a permit to the National Police Headquarters three weeks ago. Up until now however, the police have not responded. "Currently, there is a friend who is taking care of it at the National Police Headquarters", he said.

Lalu hopes that the police will be able to issue a permit today. "Hopefully this afternoon the National Police Headquarters permit will be issued, so that the congress can begin this evening", he said.

At this time all of the participants have already arrived at the Wisma Sejahtera. But because the opening session of the congress has yet to start, they are sitting around and chatting near the building. The meeting hall also appeared to be empty. (asy/nrl)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Anti-Communist Front threatens to break up Papernas Congress

Detik.com - January 18, 2007

Bagus Kurniawan, Yogyakarta – Threats and intimidation still find fertile ground in Indonesia. The organisation of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) has been threatened by a group of people calling themselves the Indonesian Anti- Communist Front (FAKI). Police are also guarding the congress.

The Papernas Congress is to be held at the Wisma Sejahtera building in Kaliurang in the Sleman sub-district of Yogyakarta, Central Java, on Thursday January 18. According to the schedule, the congress that is to be attended by some 300 people from throughout Indonesia would end on Sunday January 21.

Speaking with Detik.com at the Wisma Sejahtera, the head of the Papernas organising committee, Lalu Hilman Afriandi recounted the threat. On Wednesday afternoon, dozens of FAKI members arrived at the site. They did not however meet with members of the Papernas Congress committee and the other participants had not yet arrived.

In the end, they ran into the owner of Wisma Sejahtera who they asked if it was true that the Wisma Sejahtera would be used for the Papernas Congress. They also asked about the permit to organise the congress.

"The building owner confirmed that the building had been rented out. But, on the permit, the building owner suggested the group ask the [congress] committee", said Lalu, who was previously known as an activist from the Yogyakarta National Student League for Democracy (LMND). Confronted by the group, the building owner was worried because they said they planed to break up the event.

Lalu explained that the Papernas Congress was a follow up from a meeting of the Papernas Preparatory Committee that is mandated to form a political party. And the congress in Kaliurang was to be the first congress and at the same time would launch the party.

By 11.50am around 200 participants had already arrived at the building. Meanwhile scores of Sleman district police and Yogyakarta regional police officers were on alert around the Wisma Sejahtera. A red-and-white banner with the word "FAKI" written in red had also been put up at the congress site.

A number of well known figures are to attend the congress including former People's Consultative Assembly speaker Amien Rais, political observer Revrisond Baswir and labour activist Dita Indah Sari who is now the general chairperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD). It its not yet known however if they will now attend or not.

Lalu was not too worried about FAKI's threat to break up the congress. "The congress will go ahead. I don't think the FAKI group will come to the congress", he said.

Up until now, there was no sign of the FAKI in the area of the congress site. (asy/nrl)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Transport & communication

Indonesia's public transport perils

BBC News - January 18, 2007

Lucy Williamson, Jakarta – In a country of 220 million people, spread across some 17,000 islands, transport systems are crucial to keeping Indonesia moving. But transport statistics here make worrying reading for passengers.

Last year, there was an aircraft incident recorded every nine to 10 days – planes that crashed, almost crashed, missed the runway, were forced into emergency landing or had technical problems. There were two train crashes or derailments every month, and at least eight accidents at sea.

These are official statistics. The real figures, say analysts, are probably even higher.

This year has got off to a particularly bad start. On New Year's Day, a passenger plane carrying 102 people disappeared from radar screens near the island of Sulawesi.

Rescue teams were already out in the Java Sea at the time, looking for hundreds of victims of a ferry disaster that had happened two days earlier.

Around the same time, a ferry carrying 58 people sank off the coast of Sumatra, a speedboat went missing near Kalimantan, a train derailed in Central Java and two other minor airline incidents have been reported.

Poor investment

Tough questions are being asked about why Indonesians are at so much risk when they travel. Bambang Susantono, head of Indonesia's Transport Society, an independent think tank, says that since the economic crisis in the late 1990s, investment has been a big problem.

"The government doesn't have enough money to build the infrastructure it needs; things like repairing damaged ports, or making improvements to airports," he said.

According to the Transport Society, hundreds of millions of US dollars are needed to bring infrastructure up to standard.

The government denies it is risking safety, but does admit that it needs more money. Not everyone, though, agrees that the solution is to bring in the private sector.

Air and sea transportation have already been partly liberalised. The result is a mushrooming of cheaper, budget carriers, which now account for around two-thirds of the incidents reported on scheduled flights.

That is something that worries Bambang Sustanono. "Our concern is that they cut costs by simplifying safety procedures," he said. "You hear stories about instruments not working, or pilots working long hours. It's a signal that something has to be fixed in the airline industry."

The plane lost at the beginning of 2007 was operated by budget carrier Adam Air. Twenty-nine of its pilots have resigned in recent years, and several have made allegations that the company pressured its pilots to fly unsafe planes. The company denies the allegations, and a court case is in progress.

With so much murkiness around the causes of disasters, people are increasingly turning to the government and asking why it is so difficult to enforce safety regulations.

Wendy Aritenang, Secretary-General of the Transport Ministry, says the government needs to catch up with a rapidly growing industry – deploying more inspectors, enforcing regulations better and encouraging passengers to report on negligent operators.


At Kota railway station in north Jakarta, the problems of maintaining crumbling networks are worryingly familiar. A technician, waiting out his shift in a dark office on the platform, told us that he and his colleagues were simply "forcing the trains to go".

"The trains are very old," he said, "and there's a lack of spare parts. The attitude of our superiors is [to] make the best of what we've got; so we cannibalise the broken engines to fix the others."

A bill going through parliament now is set to open up the railway network to private operators in the next few years.

Government regulations are going to need to catch up fast to stop safety problems growing.

The spotlight has been on air operators in recent years, but Indah Suksmaningsih from Indonesia's Consumer Association says this attention does not mean safety on cheaper forms of transport is any better.

She believes the lack of a safety culture, combined with a reluctance among poorer Indonesians to make complaints, means operators often get off without penalties.

But Bambang Sustanono believes the growing focus on air safety, following de-regulation, is forcing a reappraisal of safety issues on all forms of transport.

At the start of 2007, the president announced the formation of a new transport committee to assess what needs to be done across the industry – a process Wendy Aritenang says his ministry has already begun. He is confident this is the right time to push for more liberalisation in the transport sector.

"We give opportunities to the private sector," he told me, "but not a blank cheque. We give opportunities, but also responsibilities. I think this is a good way to improve the transport sector."

Commuters waiting for their trains here at Kota station say they broadly welcome the idea of private investment in the railways.

The possibility of cheaper fares goes down well with the poor majority here, and there is a hope that competition might improve the quality too.

But making – and keeping – the railways safe will need massive investment, something analysts say many sea and air operators have so far been unable or unwilling to provide.

And if the government cannot pay, passengers here may need to make a choice between lower fares and higher safety standards.

Adam Air disregarded flight safety: former pilot

Agence France Presse - January 18, 2007

Jakarta – A former pilot of Indonesian carrier Adam Air, which lost a jet carrying 102 people this month, accused the firm of forcing pilots to fly aircraft lacking safety clearance or with malfunctioning parts.

Sutan Salahuddin, who worked for Adam Air for 18 months, said pilots were frequently forced to fly aircraft which had not been cleared. He said management in 2005 twice overrode his objections to flying aircraft that had not met safety standards.

"There was no maintenance check by engineers but I was forced to sign the maintenance log," Salahuddin, 36, said of one flight from Jakarta to the North Sumatra city of Medan.

In the second instance, one of the company owners directly ordered him to fly an aircraft to Padang in West Sumatra, despite his objections following a malfunction in the navigation back-up system. "I was called directly by the owner... I was really scared," he told journalists.

Salahuddin was waiting at the West Jakarta court for the verdict in a three-billion-rupiah (329,000-dollar) suit Adam Air filed against him for alleged breach of his four-year contract. The company had demanded he repay the three billion rupiah it spent on pilot training. Another pilot was also sued.

Judge Zaenal Arifin later said both sides had agreed to an out-of-court settlement although the sum involved remained to be negotiated. "Both sides agreed to a peaceful settlement," Arifin said.

Salahuddin's lawyer Junaidi Sirait said his client had demanded the company retract all reports and correspondence with aviation authorities and companies over the resignation of 16 company pilots in 2005 and pay an as yet undefined sum as a compensation for "immaterial loss."

Salahuddin is one of 16 former Adam Air pilots who quit the airline. Twelve were originally being sued by the airline, but eight had indicated their intention to return to Adam Air, company lawyer Widyaningsih said.

She said they company lost track of two others, leaving just the two who were sued.

Indonesian and US navy ships are still searching for most of the wreckage from the Boeing 737-400 which crashed en route from Surabaya on the central island of Java to Manado on Sulawesi. The reason for the crash remains unknown.

Government urged to reform transport system

Jakarta Post - January 18, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Transportation labor unions are asking the government to ensure international safety standards in the transportation system to minimize future accidents.

Indonesia has seen three serious transportation accidents in the past month. The latest occurred Tuesday when an overcrowded economy-class train derailed in Banyumas, Central Java, leaving five people dead.

The Senopati Nusantara ferry sank in the waters off Central Java on Dec. 29. More than 200 people survived the accident, 42 bodies have been recovered and more than 350 others remain unaccounted for. And on Jan. 1 an Adam Air Boeing 737-400 carrying 102 people went missing near South Sulawesi.

The labor unions said the government should not wait for more deaths before overhauling the country's aging and poorly regulated transportation system.

The International Transportation Workers Federation (ITF) called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to replace State Minister for State Enterprises Sugiharto and Transportation Minister Hatta Radjasa over the spate of recent transportation accidents.

"The two ministers have not only failed to repair the out-of-date system but they have also refused to resign," ITF Indonesia executive Hanafi Rustandi said at a press conference.

He said the increasing number of accidents was related to the government policy allowing private transportation companies to operate old aircraft, ships and buses, coupled with a corrupt bureaucracy unable to uphold safety regulations.

"Indonesia has been a dumping ground for scrapped aircraft, ships, trains and buses which should have been disposed of in their countries of origin," he said.

The head of the labor union at state-owned railway company PT KA, Iwan Setyawan, slammed Transportation Minister Hatta, who has threatened to impose sanctions against those found guilty in Tuesday's train accident. Iwan said the minister was feigning ignorance of the critical problems at the train company.

"The accident had something to do with the old track built during the colonial era and the used cars donated by Japan several years ago," he alleged.

Iwan also criticized PT KA's decision to use Rp 360 billion (US$40 million) in funds allocated by the government last year to subsidize fare prices. "The money should have been used to repair old cars, or these cars should have been dumped if the money was used for other purpose," he said.

PT KA requires at least Rp 5 trillion to build double tracks on the railway networks in Java and Sumatra to improve safety.

According to data from the company, there were 217 train accidents in 2003, 170 in 2004, 160 in 2005 and 115 in 2006.

He suggested the government divest PT KA's dormant assets in big cities in Java and Sumatra to help pay for repairs and an expansion of the railway system.

Meanwhile, members of the transportation commission at the House of Representatives said during a hearing with the Indonesian Pilots Federation that it was preparing a review of the Transportation Law.

"While reviewing the law, the commission will ask the government to enforce all regulations to minimize accidents. Tough supervision from the House will be needed to ensure the law is enforced," commission member Achmad Muqowam said.

 War on corruption

Cebu hotel denies Indonesian official asked for mark-up

Jakarta Post - January 18, 2007

Jakarta – A hotel in Cebu, the Philippines, where the President recently stayed, denied Wednesday reports that Indonesians in the presidential entourage had attempted to have the hotel rates marked up.

"We wish to clarify that no one from any organization approached us to increase the room rates for the Indonesian delegation," Maggie M. Garcia, director of diplomatic affairs of the Mactan Island Resort and Spa.

In the letter to the chief of the presidential household, Ahmad Rusydi, Garcia expressed assurance that the hotel "will not be a party to this unethical act."

The Jakarta Post had quoted a source saying that staff from the State Secretariat asked the hotel management to increase the total expenses that the Indonesian delegation had to pay, and offered to split the profit with hotel employees.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was in Cebu to attend last week's summit of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Earlier on Wednesday presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal said the President had ordered senior palace officials to conduct "a quick investigation" into the allegations.

"He promised that stern disciplinary action would be taken against those proved to commit such a shameful practice, which runs counter to strong belief in clean government," Dino added.

Meanwhile, Andi Mallarangeng, another presidential spokesman, rejected that he had denied the allegation as had been reported by the Post on Wednesday, saying that he could not comment because he knew nothing about it.

"I just said it would be stupid to do such a thing (request for a mark-up) because the rate for all ASEAN countries is the same," he said. Yudhoyono's contingent to Cebu totaled more than 100 people, including several journalists. The room rate at the Shangri-La is between US$250 and $400 a night.

Graft claim embarrasses Indonesia in Cebu

Jakarta Post - January 17, 2007

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta – Indonesian staff attached to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's trip to Cebu, the Philippines, for last week's ASEAN summit, are accused of asking hotel managers to mark-up official expenses.

Staff from the Indonesian State Secretariat reportedly asked the management of the Shangri-La Hotel in Mactan, Cebu, to increase the listed price charged to the presidential party and offered to split the profit with the hotel's employees.

"A delegation member came and asked the hotel manager to increase the total expenses that the Indonesian delegation had to pay," a source with the hotel's operational affairs told The Jakarta Post.

The manager rejected the request and suggested that the Indonesian staff not humiliate their country further. "Instead of backing off, the staff offered the manager 40 percent of the margin. But the manager insisted on rejecting the offer," the source said.

He said that while delegations from Cambodia and Laos, much poorer countries than Indonesia, were attending the summit, only Indonesia's staff had attempted to bribe the hotel.

Yudhoyono's contingent to Cebu comprises more than 100 people, including several journalists. The room rate at the Shangri-La is between US$250 and $400 a night. The President regularly travels abroad with a large staff.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng denied the allegations, saying it would have been illogical for the staff to ask for a markup as they knew the hotel had charged all delegates the same rate. "All ASEAN delegates stay at the same hotel with the same rate. It is impossible for the hotel to apply different rates. All of us know this," he told the Post.

Indonesian Corruption Watch coordinator Teten Masduki described the incident in Cebu as "humiliating" for Indonesia, saying that it was just the tip of the iceberg of the country's corruption problems. He said marking up travel expenses had become the culture among government officials in Indonesia.

"It's like exposing Indonesia's prevalent corruption to the international community. But we must admit that it is a public secret that most officials do markups when traveling abroad or out of town," Teten told the Post. He said the audit system for travel expenses needed be improved to enable it to track and counter such practices.

Chairman of House of Representatives Commission I for security and international affairs Theo L. Sambuaga asked the government to investigate the markup allegations and to take harsh action to prevent a repeat. "The perpetrator must be punished if he or she is proven to have been conducting markups. Tough action will send signals that it is not tolerated," he told the Post.

 Regional/communal conflicts

Indonesia boosts Poso security after deadly shootout

Agence France Presse - January 23, 2007

Palu – Indonesia has deployed an additional 200 paramilitary police reinforcements to the restive town of Poso after a shootout during a hunt for suspected militants left 11 people dead.

Two additional companies from the elite Brimob unit will "be posted in Poso to enforce the security there," deputy local police chief I Nyoman Sindra said after a ceremony for an officer who was one of the dead.

Sindra said the police had earlier this month requested additional support from the military to restore order in the area. The shootout, which also wounded six people, broke out as police searched for suspected militants Monday in Poso, on the island of Sulawesi.

"In the operation, we arrested 24 people, while 11 people were killed," national police spokesman Sisno Adiwinoto told reporters in Jakarta, raising the earlier death toll by one.

Sporadic unrest has continued in Poso and the surrounding district since it became a focal point of violence between Muslims and Christians that claimed about 1,000 lives in 2000- 2001.

Adiwinoto said all 35 arrested or killed were carrying firearms and explosives. "None of them are civilians, all of them are armed criminals. It is clear from their ability to shoot on target," he said, adding none of them was originally from Poso.

He said one of those killed and two arrested were on a list of 29 people wanted in connection with a series of anti-Christian attacks in the area.

Separately, national police spokesman Anton Bachrul Alam said three people on the list gave themselves up Tuesday morning, adding "we are still open for more people to surrender."

In the raid, police seized 21 homemade firearms, seven guns, 21 improvised bombs, 406 detonators and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition.

"We are still investigating the firearms we seized during the raid, but we believe that they originate from the southern Philippines since some of them (the militants) are trained there," said Adiwinoto.

Central Sulawesi governor Bandjela Paliudju expressed concern over the police tactics. "There are many other things which could have been done by the police to avoid victims on both sides. Why didn't they try persuasion?" The Jakarta Post quoted him as saying.

Provincial police chief Brigadier General Badroddin Haiti last week warned suspects to surrender their weapons or risk being shot on sight.

Police and residents have clashed several times in recent days in the area, where several suspects wanted over a series of anti- Christian attacks in Poso district are believed to be hiding.

Poso tense as hunt continues for militants

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2007

Ruslan Sangadji, Poso – Police continued their hunt for suspected militants in Poso on Tuesday, a day after 13 people and one policeman were killed in a bloody clash between police and suspects.

Central Sulawesi Police Brig. Gen. Badrodin Haiti blamed the armed civilians for triggering the clash by throwing handmade explosives at the officers.

He said his office had issued shoot-on-sight instructions for armed civilians. "So, I'm responsible for the incident because it was according to my instructions," Badrodin told The Jakarta Post Tuesday.

More than 50 other alleged militants are believed to have escaped the crackdown, fleeing to nearby hills and jungles.

Badrodin said some of the escapees were thought to have undergone combat training in Afghanistan and the insurgency-wracked Southern Philippines. "They are dangerous because they still have automatic weapons and ammunition," he told Associated Press. "We are searching for them."

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Sisno Adiwinoto said in Jakarta on Tuesday that the firearms used by the terror group came from a neighboring country. "We suspect they were brought from the Philippines," Sisno said.

Defense Ministry secretary-general Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said the ministry supported the police's crackdown on armed civilians, because their weapons were not used to protect the country but to shoot officers. "If these actions cause victims, it's because of that gunfire," he was quoted as saying by Detikcom.

Police said they seized a large haul of ammunition and bombs from the alleged militants' base in Tanah Runtuh district in Poso. Tensions in the area have been running high since three Christians were executed in September for their roles in sectarian violence in the province.

Authorities have arrested 24 other civilians, including two on the wanted list. They are Tugiran and Wiwin Kalahe al Tomo. The two fugitives' families denied they were arrested, however, saying the two surrendered out of fear that they would be shot by the police. Hundreds of residents in Poso turned out for the burial of the victims.

A day after the crackdown, Poso remained tense, with schools and many stores staying closed despite the arrival of 200 reinforcements from the National Police. Police imposed tighter security checks on roads heading in and out of Poso, and traffic was much lighter than usual.

Muslim leaders criticized the crackdown, however, saying it would fail to put an end to the real problems in conflict-torn Poso. Nahdlatul Ulama chairman Hasyim Muzadi urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take over the matter personally.

"But the problem is, our President never takes over a problem. He will just set up a team. He should oversee this matter," he said in Malang, East Java, on Tuesday.

He said the Poso conflict has reached an "emergency" level since it involves armed civilians. Setting up a government team, he said, would not solve the problem.

Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin expressed his concern and urged the government not to be heavy-handed in its efforts to combat terrorism.

"We support the fight against terrorism, but not repressive acts. Such acts will not solve the problem but could cause new wounds among the people. The most important thing is for the police to uncover those responsible for the Poso conflicts," he said in text message sent to the Post Tuesday.

Separately, Trimedya Panjaitan, chairman of the House of Representatives' Commission III on security affairs, said the House would send a team to investigate the crackdown. (06)

[Wahyoe Boediwardhana contributed to the story from Malang, East Java.]


Islamist parliamentarians call for peaceful solutions in Mideast

Jakarta Post - January 22, 2007

Jakarta – The first conference of Islamic parliamentarians ended Sunday calling for a peaceful solution to conflicts in the Middle East and a better economic future in Muslim countries.

"We want to position this organization as a peaceful organization that seeks peaceful solutions to conflicts faced by our fellow Muslims in the Middle East. We want to pursue a better future through stronger economic cooperation between Muslim countries," said Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, secretary-general of the International Forum for Islamist Parliamentarians (IFIP).

Luthfi, who represents the Prosperous Justice Party in the House of Representatives, said the conference called for Muslims around the world to support Palestine in its struggle against Israel.

IFIP urged the United Nations and other related organizations to push for the release of Palestinian prisoners, particularly Aziz Duwaik, speaker of the Palestinian parliament.

The conference, attended by around 200 parliamentarians from 18 countries, also protested the invasion of Iraq by international military forces. It urged the Islamic world to support the struggle of the Iraqi people.

"As a peaceful organization we are against all forms of violence from individuals, communities and states. Thus, we encourage dialog as an effective way of resolving conflicts, including those in Palestine and Iraq," he further said.

Delegates from small, vocal parties dominated proceedings at the conference, with many mainstream Middle Eastern political parties not receiving an invitation.

"They didn't invite people from mainstream parties. For example, from Egypt they have invited only the Islamic Brotherhood," a Middle Eastern ambassador said.

Palestinian parliamentarian Muna Mansur said the conference was very important for her country, particularly in helping settle the prolonged conflict between it and Israel.

"We hope to hear recommendations from (IFIP) participants on resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict besides receiving moral support from them," she said.

Muna was among 10 female parliamentarians in attendance at the conference. Representing the ruling Hamas party, she was accompanied by 11 other parliamentary members, including Maryam Sholeh, a Palestinian minister fighting for women's' empowerment.

The visiting parliamentarians also met with several leaders in Jakarta, including Jakarta Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo, State Ministry for Culture and Tourism officials and Bank Indonesia Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah.

The closing ceremony was attended by People's Consultative Assembly speaker Hidayat Nur Wahid and Jakarta's Governor Sutiyoso.

New Year a time for 'moderate Islam'

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – In a joint conference on the major problems plaguing the nation, leaders of the nation's two largest Muslim organizations agreed Thursday to promote a moderate form of Islam and to cooperate to forge national unity.

Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) leader Hasyim Muzadi and Muhammadiyah head Din Syamsuddin spoke of the importance of promoting Ukhuwah Islamiyah, or unity among Muslim communities, and stressed that the development of Islam should be made in the spirit of togetherness and in consultation with other religious groups.

The struggle of Islam could not be separated from Indonesian nationhood, and must respect multicultural values and avoid extremism in all forms, the two leaders said in a statement.

Hasyim said ongoing sectarian conflicts in the Middle East showed how important it was for NU and Muhammadiyah to cooperate to promote peace and unity among Muslims.

"Developing Islam in Indonesia must be conducted within the corridors of moderation, far from extremism, either (of the political) left or right, and atheism. The development of Islam must be made in one breath, in a national movement, so that it is not a diametric between multiculturalism and religious movements," he said.

Hasyim said weakening unity among Muslim communities had led to sectarian conflicts and acts of terror in the Middle East. The discord had also allowed foreign powers to aggressively intervene in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, he said.

Referring to terrorist attacks here in the past, sectarian conflicts in several regions and the presence of hard-line groups, Hasyim called on Muslims to adopt a moderate form of the faith to help build the nation.

In this spirit, Din said the two organizations planned to increase cooperation to help improve social welfare services nationwide. The organizations would also increase communication with other religious communities to help the government cope with major problems, he said.

However, the two leaders stressed the increased cooperation was not the beginning of a merger of the two organizations. NU and Muhammadiyah would work together without losing their identities, they said.

Din and Hasyim also called on political elites throughout the country to cooperate for the public good.

All people, whatever their place in society, should use the Islamic New Year to soberly reflect on the past year's numerous crises, which had brought grief to so many and claimed an unaccountable number of human lives, they said.

Despite this suffering, the leaders said they opposed any unconstitutional movement to topple the government. To keep the support of the people, the government needed to work harder to cope with poverty, unemployment and corruption, law enforcement and to handle accidents and disasters rapidly and professionally, they said.

 Economy & investment

Staunch critic questions government capacity to deliver growth

Jakarta Post - January 23, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesia's economy would be poised for higher economic growth this year were it not for inability of the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to deliver, according to a staunch critic of the government.

Rizal Ramli, chief economics minister under president Abdurrahman Wahid, says he expects the economy to grow marginally closer to 6 percent in 2007 from 5.5 or 5.6 percent in 2006. His prediction is lower than the 6.3 percent the government has targeted for growth in national gross domestic product this year.

"The potential to make things a lot better are there," Rizal told a discussion on the prospects for 2007 organized by Globe Asia, a new business magazine, on Monday.

He specifically said that there was still room for Bank Indonesia, the central bank, to cut interest rates to help spur corporate borrowing, and for the government to get its act together by stabilizing the prices of basic commodities.

The middle class in Indonesia, he said, had been hurt by the price volatility of the past year. If the government could bring prices under control, it would give people spare money to spend on secondary commodities.

Rizal said that while there had been a lot of good statements emanating from the government, it had fallen short on delivery. "There will be some improvement, but not that significant," he said during a discussion with media figures.

He based his analysis on the government's record last year, when, he said, fiscal and monetary policies had contradicted each other to the point of reducing the economic growth rate by between 0.5 and 1.0 percent.

He said that while a 6.0 percent growth rate may look impressive by Latin American or developed countries' standards, it paled in comparison to the growth rates enjoyed by many other Asian countries, such as China, India and Vietnam. "We are in East Asia, where everybody is running faster," he said.

Rizal is also the executive chairman of Globe Asia, which is part of the Investor Group. The magazine, to be officially launched Wednesday, claims to be the first English-language business publication in Indonesia.

It aims to cater to the growing need for information about the business and entrepreneurship sectors here, according to Shoeb Kagda, the associate publisher, who helped put together the magazine.

US mulls investment accord with Indonesia ahead of FTA

Agence France Presse - January 23, 2007

P. Parameswaran, Washington – The United States is looking into signing an investment treaty with Indonesia this year to set the pace for a larger free trade pact that could boost bilateral trade by up to 40 percent.

Relations between the world's richest nation and the most populous Muslim nation have improved rapidly in recent years and a free trade agreement could be a fitting climax to the blossoming bilateral and Southeast Asian ties.

An investment accord, the cornerstone of any US free trade agreement (FTA), with Jakarta is among Washington's top priorities for Southeast Asia in 2007, US officials said.

"A bilateral investment treaty, which is effectively the investment chapter of an FTA, is something we are exploring," said David Katz, the director of Southeast Asia and Pacific affairs in the US Trade Representative's office.

The United States forged a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) in 1996 with Jakarta but the largest Southeast Asian nation plunged into financial and political turmoil a year later as a result of a regional currency crisis.

However, since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came to power in September 2004 as Indonesia's first directly elected leader, "the situation has smoothed out a bit and we were able to intensify our work," Katz said at a recent forum of the United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO) in Washington.

The two countries have held five formal TIFA meetings over the last two years, he said, adding that new forums to develop services and agricultural trade as well as intellectual property rights were also being devised.

"All of these initiatives are directly related to provisions of the FTA and part of the building-blocks approach to support and build capacity for FTA," he said.

The United States has free trade pacts with Indonesia's immediate neighbours Australia and Singapore. A pact with Indonesia could not only boost bilateral ties but also those with Southeast Asia, already the fourth largest US trading partner, experts say.

Eliminating all bilateral barriers between Indonesia and the United States could expand overall merchandise trade by about 40 percent, says a new study by the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.

"An FTA between Indonesia and the United States is fundamentally about large political gains for the United States and potentially large economic gains for Indonesia," said the study by the institute's economist Gary Clyde Hufbauer and visiting Indonesian fellow, Sjamsu Rahardja.

They cautioned however that "while the political payoff is crucial, it would be wrong to focus the FTA analysis on politics alone."

Bilateral goods trade from January to September 2006 was 6.5 billion dollars, latest US figures show.

Indonesia has relatively low average tariffs and an fairly open investment regime by regional standards, but important barriers remain in place and peak tariffs and import licenses protect sensitive commodities, the study said.

Regulatory impediments and weak intellectual property rights limit foreign investment and hamper service providers, it said.

The United States, on the other hand, has its own peak tariffs on sensitive products and has lately shown an allergy to foreign investment that raises national security concerns, it added.

Sensitive commodities for Indonesia include fruits, meats, alcoholic beverages, rice, textiles and automotive components – many of the attractive markets for US exporters.

Indonesia, the study pointed out, will insist on market access for processed agricultural products, such as cocoa, fish and tobacco, and for labor-intensive clothing and footwear – "sensitive issues" for the United States.

"Better protection of IPR (intellectual property rights) will be crucial for the United States, but certain IPR aspects are extremely touchy in Indonesia," it said.

New investors, old problems in water industry

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2007

Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta – The polemic in the media over the sale of shares by two foreign-owned water companies in Jakarta ended after Governor Sutiyoso approved the proposal of RWE Thames Water to sell 100 percent of its shares in PT Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ), the water company that serves the eastern part of Jakarta.

The sale followed a similar move by France's Suez Environment, which has reportedly sold 49 percent of its shares in PT Pam Lyonaisse Jaya (Palyja), the water company operating in the western part of the capital.

Thames Water sold its shares to Singapore-based Aquatico Pte. Ltd., while Suez Environment sold its shares to PT Astratel Nusantara (Astratel) and Citigroup Financial Products Inc. Before these transactions, Thames Water and Suez Environment held 95 percent of the shares in TPJ and Palyja respectively.

The local government-owned Jakarta tap-water company, PD PAM Jaya, holds the remaining 5 percent of the shares in the two companies.

The Palyja divestation took place smoothly because under its agreement with PAM Jaya, a sale of less than 50 percent of its shares does not need the approval of the Jakarta administration. That was not the case with TPJ, where the departure of the Britain-based company followed a lengthy debate.

The deals, however, are unlikely to solve the long-standing water-supply problems plaguing the capital, which the former investors were unable to address since their arrival nearly a decade ago.

No significant improvements in services have been seen since the Jakarta water business was taken control of by the foreign investors, as evident from the thousands of complaints sent to the companies. There are now a number of unresolved problems that the new investors will have to tackle as a legacy.

First, the scarcity of raw water, particularly during the dry season, as the companies rely too much on water from the Jatiluhur reservoir in West Java. Meanwhile, the water from the 13 rivers in the capital is too dirty to be processed into potable water.

Second, many people are unhappy about a clause in the agreement that provides for automatic water-price increases every six months. There have been rumors circulating that the privatization of the tap-water business was made possible due to collusion involving the family of then president Soeharto. Both Palyja and TPJ have denied the accusation.

Third, water privatization remains a controversial issue in this country, despite the enactment of the 2004 Water Resources Law. Many insist that privatization will deny the poor access to water.

Fourth, and most problematic, many customers say they have not seen any significant improvement in services since the arrival of TPJ and Palyja, although the two companies say they have invested a lot on improving water-supply infrastructure, such as the construction of new mains and the repair of old ones.

Palyja says it had invested some Rp 893 billion by 2005, while TPJ says it had pumped in some Rp 604 billion by the same year. But the old mains, many of them built during the colonial era, remain in use, causing water loss, poor quality of water and high costs.

According to a report issued by Palyja in late 2005, the company lost 46 percent of its water due to mains leakage. When the Jakarta-owned water company ran the system, the leakage rate was even worse at 61 percent. Customers have to bear the cost of the leakage through steadily increasing water charges, which is unfair.

The poor condition of the mains also results in poor water quality. Both TPJ and Palyja say they produced potable water, but its quality deteriorated due to the poor state of the mains.

Thames' exit from the water business in Jakarta and Suez Environment's divestation have been on the cards since 2003. An executive of one of the companies said at that time his company would quit if the Jakarta administration refused to raise water charges.

The Jakarta administration delayed tariff increases for several years despite the agreement that the water charges would rise every six months. This delay was due to the fact that Indonesia was still feeling the pinch of the economic crisis of the late 1990s. The two foreign companies, perhaps, came to Indonesia at the wrong time.

As a result of the postponed tariff increases, the administration ended up owing the two companies some Rp 900 billion (US$100 million) in shortfall payments in 2005 alone.

With the Indonesian economy now holding out brighter prospects, the new water investors may be hoping for a more lucrative business. The replacement of the old mains is the most urgent measure that needs to be taken by the new investors, given that the poor infrastructure is the root cause of the high cost of tap water.

The expansion of the mains is of equal importance in view of the fact that only about 40 percent of Jakarta's population has access to tap water.

[The writer is a journalist with The Jakarta Post. He can be reached at bnurbianto@thejakartapost.com.]

 Opinion & analysis

Poso cycle of violence

Jakarta Post Editorial - January 23, 2007

Hopes were high last September that peace would last in Poso after police executed three Christian men convicted of carrying out a series of killings in the Central Sulawesi town in 2000.

There was a general perception among the country's leaders that such tough law enforcement would put an end to the cycle of violence that had transformed a picturesque town into a killing field.

However this expectation proved to be wrong. A resurge in tension was marked with the deaths of at least 12 people, including two police officers, within the past week. The killings came in the wake of a crackdown on terror suspects believed to have perpetrated a string of murders and bomb attacks in Poso, including a market blast which killed six people in 2004.

Local police said eight armed civilians and a member of the anti-terror squad died on Monday during a shootout in the Tanah Runtuh area in downtown Poso. However, the National Police have denied the reports, saying no civilians were killed in the latest gunfight. Police also captured five wanted men, and shot dead two others for resisting arrest during a raid last week.

It perhaps is too early to accuse the government of raising false hopes when executing Christian migrants Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marianus Riwu.

Poso people have been longing for peace for more than five years – since the leaders of Muslim and Christian communities signed a peace agreement in the South Sulawesi town of Malino in December 2001. The agreement was thanks in part to the active role of the then coordinating minister for the people's welfare Jusuf Kalla.

Despite the peace, the attacks went on. Late last year, the police began taking serious measures to apprehend the people continuing the conflict. They involved religious leaders, who identified the suspects, and police initially refrained from using force by asking these people to voluntarily surrender. Only one suspect complied with the request.

However, inconsistent law enforcement, as evident in the police's decision to extend the deadline for the suspects to surrender three times, has contributed to the slow pace of conflict resolution in the town, where security authorities were often involved in the prolonged sectarian violence and accused of bias.

But this nation has long faced difficulties in enforcing the law – if big-time graft convicts can escape overseas with millions of dollars in public money, then so too can killers.

The local police face challenges to keeping order in the town not only because they are up against committed terrorists but also because of their long-standing reputation as corrupt and prejudiced.

There is suspicion that an international terror network has played a role in perpetuating the conflict in Poso. The government once entertained this possibility, only to deny it a few days later.

What should be remembered is that Poso was just another city on the Indonesian map until the bloodshed erupted in 2000.

With thousands of police and soldiers deployed in the town of 250,000 people, it is hard to accept that five years have been wasted on security operations there.

One of the worst mistakes the government has made in trying to solve the Poso conflict is by using a top-down approach and not dealing with local communities. Without fanfare, a group of local people and civil society activists have been attempting to emulate the peace arranged in Maluku, which was rocked by sectarian riots just before Poso.

They are bridging communications between communities that earlier fought each other to, in the long-run, encourage them to forgive. Such efforts, whether they succeed or fail, deserve support from the government.

Cracking down on people in possession of arms or explosives is a must in a conflict. But peace will only survive through continuous, genuine and people-based dialog.

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