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Indonesia News Digest 4 – January 24-31, 2007


West Papua Human rights/law Labour issues War on terror Politics/political parties War on corruption Jakarta/urban poor Environment Gender issues Health & education Armed forces/defense Economy & investment


Aceh women want caning review

Jakarta Post - January 27, 2007

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – Clad in a white dress and scarf, 20- year-old Liza Wahyuni binti Sulaiman kneeled on the platform. Two wilatatulhisbah, or religious police officers, stood next to her. She was about to be caned, and in public.

The Acehnese woman bowed her head. Her eyes were reddened from weeping. She sobbed even louder when spectators – from the elderly to children – shouted profanities. Liza was whipped three times after being caught with her lover, Syahrurriza, 21, who had earlier received five strokes of the cane.

The caning penalty is not particularly extraordinary in Aceh because the province has been meting out the punishment since 2005 to those found guilty of "immoral" acts – khalwat (illicit sex), khamar (drinking) and judi (gambling) – three crimes which have been passed into law following the implementation of sharia in Aceh.

A women's advocacy commission said that based on its special documentary report, many women, especially public caning victims, have demanded a review of the punishment. The report says that the punishment is wrong for the offenses, which are "human nature".

"Moreover, the punishment has a wide impact, not only on the offender but also on other family members," Samsidar of the Aceh chapter National Commission on Violence Against Women told The Jakarta Post.

She gave the example of a housewife who was driven to gamble by financial problems, only to be caught and caned five times. The punishment caused her great shame, Samsidar said, and she was ostracized by her family and community, while her children were treated badly by their friends and teachers.

"People do not care how serious the reasons are for (the crime that leads to) being whipped. I've been branded a gambler, a criminal and a sinner," another woman who had been lashed for gambling told the report.

The report recommended that if the local government was going to continue the punishment, it should be closed to the public. "Most of the women we interviewed recommended that option," said Samsidar.

In response to the recommendation, Islamic Sharia Office head Aliasa' Abubakar said that the caning in Aceh was much more lenient than that meted out in Singapore.

"The cane used in Aceh is much smaller than the 1-inch in diameter cane used in Singapore, and we don't cane people until they bleed here," said Aliasa'.

He argued that the punishment was more humane than prison sentences. "Which is better, a day receiving a few lashes and then released, or a longer prison sentence, or even life?" asked Aliasa'.

According to Alaisa', the punishment will cause pain and deter people from committing crimes. "A punishment is meant to curb crime," he said.

Aceh's newly elected deputy governor Muhammad Nazar, who will officially be installed next month, said his office would discuss the issue before reviewing the law. "We should discuss the matter with traditional and other clerics first," Nazar told the Post.

Aceh to form of Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Tempo Interactive - January 24, 2007

Adi Warsidi, Banda Aceh – The Acehnese government will continue to struggle for the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR) even though the Constitutional Court has put the law on the formation of the commission on ice.

This was announced by Aceh Deputy Governor elect Muhammad Nazar during a discussion held at the National Women's Commission at the Aceh Community Center yesterday.

According to Nazar, the KKR will become a vehicle for the resolution of Aceh's problems in their entirety in accordance with the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the peace process in Aceh. "The Acehnese government is aiming to have the KKR formed in 2007", he said.

Nazar said that the KKR would ensure that the process of post- conflict reintegration continues and that it is extremely important so that all of the victims of the conflict and the cases of humanitarian crimes can be resolved in a just manner.

Using the Helsinki MoU as a point of reference, the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement agreed to form a KKR in Aceh. The establishment of the KKR is mandated by Article 223 of Law No. 11/2006 on Aceh Governance.

Speaking with Tempo Interactive, the head of the Commission A for Legal Affairs and Aceh Regional House of Representatives member Mukhlis Mukhtar said that although the KKR has been frozen at the level of the Constitutional Court, the Acehnese government will still endeavor to form the commission. "I believe that the Constitutional Court's decision doesn't mean that Aceh cannot form a KKR", he said.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 West Papua

Hunger threat for Papua refugees

Jakarta Post - January 30, 2007

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – Thousands of people fleeing a crackdown on Papuan separatists are now facing food shortages.

The crisis is hitting refugees in Yamo district, Puncak Jaya regency, Papua, after Indonesian Military and police attacks on Free Papua Movement (FPM) rebels in the area.

The Evangelical Church of Indonesia (GIDI) reports that 5,137 people are now facing hunger.

Chief of the Papua GIDI synod Rev. Lipiyus Biniluk said that people were living in desperate conditions, with up to eight families living in a single traditional honai house, which usually fits only two families.

"Residents are suffering from hunger, not to mention disease, especially the children," said Lipiyus.

Lipiyus said in the past week alone, 227 children had fallen ill, with diarrhea, hepatitis and malaria the most common diseases.

The Association of Papua Churches (PGGP) is urging the public and related state agencies to help those threatened by the food shortage.

"We are safe and have enough food here, while thousands of our brothers and sisters are living in fear and suffering from hunger, cold and sickness," said Rev. Herman Saud in Jayapura on Monday.

The residents had taken refuge in Yamo district, fearing open warfare between military and police personnel and separatist rebels from FPM's Goliat Tabuni faction, who are believed to have fatally shot two TNI soldiers on Dec. 8 last year. "People are afraid to venture out of the village, while outsiders are afraid to come to the village for fear of being hit by stray bullets," Herman said.

Herman said the PGGP had reported the situation to the governor, provincial legislature, Papua People's Council and the chiefs of the provincial police and military command, but none of them had agreed to discuss the problem.

According to Lipiyus, the Puncak Jaya administration set aside six tons of rice for Yamo, but has so far only sent one. Yamo is a two-day journey on foot from Mulia, the capital of Puncak Jaya regency.

"The main problem is security. No one dares to send food and medical supplies to the area," said Lipiyus.

Herman said many people could die of hunger if humanitarian aid did not arrive soon. Four refugees have died in the area since Jan. 6.

 Human rights/law

Indonesia police 'insulted by dog song'

Australian Associated Press - January 31, 2007

It is a case about a band, in Bali, with a pedigree problem. Two musicians are standing trial in Denpasar District Court after singing a crowd favourite at a charity concert that likened police to dogs.

The musicians have been charged with "deliberately insulting a state institution in public".

Police, insulted by the song called Anjing, charged the men after they performed at the concert in Bali last July, which was held to raise money after the Yogyakarta earthquake killed thousands of people.

"I thought he is a thug, it turned out he's a police, dog!", the band, Ed, Eddy and Residivis, allegedly sang to a large crowd in Denpasar on July 1. Calling someone a dog, or anjing, is a major insult in Indonesia.

Prosecutors asked judges hearing the case in Bali to sentence guitarist Sofian Hadi and singer Teguh Setia Budi to two years' probation.

"The witnesses testified that the defendants sang a song 'Anjing' in front of the public, and the defendants even asked the audience to sing along with him by beckoning to the microphone," prosecutor Ridwan Kadir said.

Kadir said the deed insulted both the policemen and the institution. The maximum penalty they could face is one and a half years in jail.

Outside the court, Hadi, the song's writer, said the lyrics were meant to portray prejudice in society, in which merely looking at someone could spark fights.

"In this story we took an example where one person was involved in a fight with someone who turned out to be a undercover policeman," he said.

The prosecutor's sentence demand took the band members by surprise. "This just doesn't make sense," Hadi said.

"People can translate a story into different angles. If they are offended, they can simply talk to us. They don't have to criminalise us."

The band started playing in 2005 and Anjing was an audience favorite. However, the band said it had stopped singing the song since July, awaiting the outcome of the court case. The trial will resume in two weeks to hear from the defence team.

Filmmakers, actors want 'rigid' film law reviewed

Jakarta Post - January 29, 2007

Prodita Sabarini, Jakarta – Craving change in the film industry, filmmakers and actors agree the law governing filmmaking in Indonesia needs to be revisited.

They said the 1992 Film Law was too rigid and was counter- productive to artists' freedom of expression and was hindering their creativity.

Amid simmering tensions between a new generation of filmmakers and the industry's long-established figures, the two parties sat together in a public meeting Saturday to discuss problems within the industry.

Prominent young filmmakers such as Mira Lesmana and Riri Riza were present, along with Indonesia Film Festival organizer Noorca Massardie, director Garin Nugroho, actor Alex Komang and old figures such as M.T. Risyaf, director of the 1987 comedy Naga Bonar.

The discussion allowed the industry's bigwigs an opportunity to vent their frustrations at the current state of affairs, all agreeing the problem lay with the Film Law.

Young director Riri Riza said after the Saturday discussion that the biggest obstacle hindering the industry in Indonesia was the presence of the law, drafted to serve the interests of the ruling government at that time. He said the law was "irrelevant given the current dynamics of the industry".

Riri acknowledged the regulation had moral intentions, but said, "When a regulation no longer supports the development of an industry, then maybe it is time to rescind it."

Under the law, film is designed to preserve and to develop the nation's culture with the aim of supporting national development. "Those are all good intentions, but should we confine film, which is a work of art, merely to that definition?" he asked.

Riri said his main objection to the law was the presence of a government censor. "There should be no censorship of films. However, there should be age classifications. People should be free to choose which films they want to watch," he said.

Industry old-timer M.T. Risyaf said, however, the problem was a lack of parliamentary and governmental will to alter the Indonesian film industry. "They should give more attention to this... the filmmakers can not walk alone," he said.

Regulation was needed, he said, "to give protection to the industry and also to limit differences among the people in the industry".

Actor Alex Komang said the Film Law should accommodate filmmakers' creativity without binding it.

Activists hopeful of new progress in Munir case

Jakarta Post - January 27, 2007

Jakarta – Lawyers representing Suciwati, the widow of murdered rights activist Munir Said Thalib, expressed hope Friday that the police would come up with substantial new evidence to reopen the 2004 murder case.

Chief lawyer Hendardi said the current team of police investigators had shown a strong commitment to resolving the case. The new group is led by the head of the National Police's Criminal Detectives Agency, Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri.

"We now have high hopes since, unlike the previous team, which was led by an officer at the division-head level, this team is led by the head of the Criminal Detectives Agency himself," Hendardi said as quoted by Detikcom news portal.

Suciwati, accompanied by Hendardi and rights activist Rafendi Jamin, held a one-hour meeting with officer Bambang at National Police Headquarters in South Jakarta.

Munir was found dead in a Garuda Indonesia aircraft on his way from Jakarta to Amsterdam on Sept. 7, 2004. An autopsy conducted by Dutch authorities on Oct. 13, 2004 showed that Munir had died from arsenic poisoning.

A team from Police Headquarters identified Pollycarpus Budi Haripriyanto, an off-duty Garuda pilot, as the person who put the arsenic in a drink Munir consumed on board the Garuda plane. Pollycarpus was sitting next to Munir during the flight.

The Central Jakarta District Court sentenced Pollycarpus to 14 years in jail. The Supreme Court exonerated him of the murder charges, however, and reduced his sentence to two years for using falsified documents. Pollycarpus was released from jail after receiving a three-month remission.

Responding to strong public criticism over these developments, the Attorney's General Office ordered a reinvestigation of the case and asked the police to look for new evidence.

Hendardi said the head of the new team was unable to give an update on the investigation yet, while hinting that the information was in the hands of National Police chief Gen. Sutanto.

"But we have agreed to hold a routine biweekly meeting between Kasum (the Solidarity Action Front for Munir) and the police to monitor progress," he said.

Gen. Sutanto said in Washington DC on Thursday that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will give technical assistance to the Indonesian government in the effort to solve the mystery behind the death of Munir.

"This is technical cooperation, and not cooperation in investigating the case... It will include information technology and forensic services to solve problems in communication technology and also to examine Munir's internal organs," Sutanto said.

Sutanto returned from a five-day visit to the US on Thursday. There, he met with Federal Bureau of Investigation head Robert S. Mueller, Central Intelligence Agency director Michael V. Hayden, and head of the Drug Enforcement Administration Karen Tandy.

Bill would create independent election body

Jakarta Post - January 27, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Hoping to avoid the tarnished image of the 2004 General Elections Commission (KPU), the House of Representatives is drafting new legislation on an independent and accountable elections commission to organize democratic, free and fair general elections in 2009.

The House special committee appointed to deliberate the bill said in a press conference here Friday that the committee and the government had agreed on the new composition and the construction of the next general elections commission and two complementary bodies as well as the recruitment of their members.

The bill gives the President a mandate to establish a five-member selection team to pick 21 professionals to be nominated as candidates for the general elections commission.

"The President will submit the 21 names to the House, which will conduct tests to ensure they are fit and proper. The House will select only seven of them to be sworn in (by the President) as permanent members of KPU. The new KPU will help set up chapters in provinces, regencies and municipalities nationwide," special committee chairman Saifullah Ma'shum said.

Unlike the 2004 commission, the secretariat general for the new commission would be fully integrated with the KPU, he said.

"Of the most importance is that the new KPU be required to be periodically held accountable to the President in terms of performance and to the House in terms of supervision to avoid any technical and financial problems in all phases of the general election," Saifullah said.

The bill also allows the President to set up an ad hoc honorary council to supervise the election commission and its secretariat general. A similar council will also be established in provinces, regencies and municipalities.

"The honorary council will make sure the KPU and local election commissions conduct their tasks in accordance with the official procedure, while the electoral supervisory body will handle any problems in line with the law," said the deputy chairman of the House special committee, Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, who accompanied Saifullah at the press briefing.

The activities of the current KPU are controlled by its deputy chairman, Ramlan Surbakti, and two remaining members, Chusnul Mariyah and Valina Singka Subekti. Chairman Nazaruddin Syamsuddin, three commission members and several officials from the secretariat general are serving jail sentences at Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta in connection with a graft case in the institution.

Catholic priest Mudji Sutrisno and sociologist Imam Prasodjo resigned soon after their inaugurations, while Hamid Awaluddin, who was allegedly involved in the graft case, was appointed to his current job as minister of justice and human rights and another commission member, Anas Urbaningrum, quit his job and joined President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.

The three jailed members were Mulyana W. Kusumah, Daan Dimara and Rusadi Kantaprawira. Mulyana was found guilty of attempting to bribe state auditors and receiving the back pay collected from KPU's partner companies. Nazaruddin, Daan and Rusadi were also found guilty of receiving back pay.

Ferry said the special committee had yet to agree on the new KPU's detailed tasks and authority but all factions in the committee and the government were of the same opinion that its main responsibilities would be organizing presidential and vice presidential elections, legislative elections and local elections.

When asked about the remaining members of the current KPU, Ferry said the bill allowed them to run for another five-year term, but they would be required to undergo the same examinations as the other candidates.

Commission seeks House opinion

Jakarta Post - January 26, 2007

Imanuddin Razak, Jakarta – A committee responsible for recruiting candidates for the National Commission on Human Rights said Thursday it would seek legal advice from the House of Representatives regarding a public demand for reforms in the commission.

"We'll soon hold a meeting with the House's Commission III to discuss demands for reforms in the human rights commission," the chairman of the selection committee, Soetandyo Wignjosoebroto, told The Jakarta Post, referring to the House commission responsible for legal, judicial, human rights and security issues.

He said there had been demands from both victims of past human rights abuses and a number of human rights and legal institutions that the committee place a limit on the number of terms that commission members could serve.

"Therefore, we'll discuss with the House the demand to limit the commission members' terms in office," he said.

The 1999 Human Rights Law states that a rights commission term is five years and that there is a two-term limit. It also stipulates that the commission is to have 35 members, elected by the House of Representatives and inaugurated by the President.

Soetandyo, who chairs the five-member selection committee, said sections of the public had also asked that the number of commission members be reduced from the current 35.

"We've been receiving suggestions and proposals for the improvement of the rights commission's performance. But it's not our duty to have the law on the rights commission reviewed or amended in order to cater to the demands," he said.

Soetandyo, a sociologist at Surabaya's Airlangga University, said the committee would ask the House Commission to clarify the law's specifics on terms and membership.

"We would like to know whether the figure '35' means that the rights commission will have a fixed membership of 35 persons or if it could be understood that the number of commission members could be less than 35."

As of Thursday, the rights commission had received 165 applications, from a variety of candidates.

They included former chairman of the Indonesian Medical Doctors Association Kartono Mohamad, criminologist Adrianus E. Meliala, historian at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences Asvi Warman Adam, rights activist Ichsan Malik, environmentalist Hira P. Jhamtani, former chairman of the Indonesian Communion of Churches Natan Setiabudi, former chairman of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference Theophilus Bela, Muslim scholar Lily Zakiyah Munir and recipient of the Yap Thiam Hien human rights award Sarah Lery Mboeik.

Soetandyo said the committee had extended to Jan. 31 the deadline for the submission of applications in order to give the outgoing commission members seeking reelection, the opportunity to submit theirs. Initially the deadline was set at Jan. 20.

Several commission members have submitted applications, including Samsudin, Taheri Noor, MM Billah, Muhammad Habib Chirzin and Sulistijowati Sugondo.

House renames pornography bill

Jakarta Post - January 25, 2007

Jakarta – The House of Representatives team responsible for the "anti-pornography and pornoaction bill" have changed its name to the "pornography bill".

"After the team removed the terms 'anti-' and 'pornoaction', the bill's name is now officially the pornography bill," Balkan Kaplale, who heads the special committee for the bill's formulation, said Wednesday at the House.

"Terms and conditions for pornoaction are now stipulated in one chapter of the bill since the essence of pornoaction is now part of pornography," Balkan was quoted by Detik.com news portal as saying.

The bill, he said, also encompassed chapters that ruled on child protection and criminal law supporting that protection.

The team has also simplified the content of the bill, cutting it from 19 chapters to 18 and from 93 articles to 30.

According to Balkan, the team will submit the changes to a plenary session by next week and hand it over to House leaders for perusal by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "I expect deliberations soon between the government and House lawmakers to scrutinize every article of the bill," Balkan said.

The bill caused a great deal of controversy last year, with groups of artists, moderate Muslims, religious minorities and women's rights activists demanding that it be heavily revised or dropped altogether, while the Indonesian Ulemas Council and conservative Muslims backed it.

Despite the heated public debate, the House is continuing to deliberate the bill. Those who oppose the bill believe it attempts to eradicate pluralism in the country.

Earlier, Ratna Sarumpaet, who coordinated the Alliance of Unity in Diversity Advocates in a march protesting the bill last year, reiterated that the alliance was against pornography, but opposed a bill that would allow the state to force citizens to behave according to the norms of a certain religion.

Ratna, who has served as a director of the Jakarta Institute of the Arts, regarded the bill as an attempt to make Indonesia an Islamic state. She charged that the bill had to do with the issuance of sharia bylaws in certain regions.

According to Ratna, the alliance had raised this matter with the (Islamic-based) Prosperous Justice Party faction (in the House) but they were tight-lipped. She said she was of the opinion that their silence meant "yes".

Disabled people protest UGM rules

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2007

Yogyakarta – Dozens of disabled people reported Yogyakarta's Gadjah Mada University (UGM) on Tuesday to the National Commission on Human Rights for discrimination.

The protesters grouped in the National Anti-Discrimination Front said new university rules barred all disabled people from sitting tertiary entrance tests.

"The requirement has hurt disabled people who have the interest and ability to study at Gadjah Mada University," said Ucang, the front's spokesman.

"Besides, there is no clear details on what constitutes a disability and it is not mentioned which study programs disabled people can and can't attend."

He said the university policy was in violation of the 1945 Constitution and the National Education Law.

University spokesman Suryo Baskoro said the requirement was not intended to prevent disabled people from enrolling. "On the contrary, the requirement is intended to guide disable people to pick the right study program... not all study programs are open to all," Suryo said.

 Labour issues

Govt promises cooperative effort to protect welfare of workers

Jakarta Post - January 30, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – The government will cooperate with the Attorney General's Office and police to enforce a 1992 law on social security programs to provide protection for workers, says a minister.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno said labor inspectors, along with the police and prosecutors, would visit private and state companies and foundations to check whether they had registered their workers in the obligatory social security programs.

"After 24 years of trying to persuade them, employers who ignore the law should not be surprised when their case is brought to court," the minister said Monday during a hearing with the House of Representatives' labor commission.

The law calls for a maximum six-month jail sentence and/or a maximum fine of Rp 500 million (US$54,809) for employers that fail to register their workers with state-owned insurance company PT Jamsostek.

Companies employing 10 or more workers are required to enroll their workers in healthcare, death benefit, occupational accident benefit and pension benefit programs. They also are required to pay up to 10 percent of their workers' gross monthly salaries as premiums for the programs, while workers pay only 2 percent of their salaries.

The commission asked the minister why only 7.5 million of the 25 million workers registered with Jamsostek had remained active in the company's programs. It also warned that low-income workers could only survive dismissal if they were protected by Jamsostek programs. The law allows workers to collect their pension benefits when they are fired.

It also asked the minister to take action against labor inspectors who accept bribes to ignore violations by companies.

Commission chairwoman Ribka Tjiptaning said they had received numerous complaints from labor unions regarding companies avoiding the social security programs. "Not only employers that simply ignore the law, but also those that register only some of their workers or only the basic salaries of their workers should face harsh sanctions," she said.

The chairwoman added that a large portion of the 30 million workers employed in the formal sector were extremely vulnerable in the event of dismissal although they are paid in accordance with monthly minimum wages.

The government is preparing a regulation that will require employers to provide severance benefits for dismissed workers.

Minister Erman also asked the commission to review the law on social security programs and strengthen the sanctions against those employers found violating the law. "With the current sanctions, employers prefer being fined Rp 500 million to paying Rp 1 billion or more to Jamsostek," he said.

Asked about a large fund of money sitting idle at the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, the minister said the money had been audited by the Supreme Audit Agency and belonged to workers and labor exporters.

"The funds amount to Rp 385 billion, a large part of which belongs to workers employed in companies in the mining sector and to labor exporters," he said.

The minister said privately owned mining companies were required to set aside 10 percent of the value of projects for workers' pensions, while labor export companies were required to put aside Rp 500 million as a guarantee for their operations.

He said the money did not belong to the state and could not be handed over to the Finance Ministry because it would eventually be returned to workers and labor exporters.

Labor scheme to focus on low paid

Jakarta Post - January 29, 2007

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – The new labor rules governing dismissals and setting redundancy payouts will focus on low- income employees with monthly wages of below Rp 2 million (US$222), the head of the national insurance company says.

Suspended PT Jamsostek president Iwan Pontjowinoto said the new scheme would protect the rights of blue collar workers.

"Those who receive a salary of less than Rp 2 million (a month) will be taken care of by PT Jamsostek," Iwan told representatives of labor unions who attended a seminar organized by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle on Sunday.

Last week, Jamsostek's board of commissioners suspended the Iwan as the company's president director in an effort to solve an internal rift and a prolonged leadership crisis.

The board then named director of operations and services Andi Achmad as caretaker until the company's board of directors named a definitive president.

Data from the Central Statistics Agency shows 97 percent of the country's labor force is paid below Rp 2 million a month. However, many of these workers are employed outside the formal sector and are not covered by Jamsostek programs.

The new rules were agreed to by employers, the government and labor unions. However, there seems to be disagreement in the Cabinet as to whether Jamsostek will administer the scheme.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno said last week PT Jamsostek should run the program.

His comments came after Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the government was considering privatizing the scheme. Speaking to the seminar, Erman argued that private companies should not be allowed to manage the program because the government had entrusted PT Jamsostek to ensure workers' job security.

Appointing Jamsostek is also in line with International Labor Organization conventions on basic workers' rights, he said.

Erman, however, also told the forum that the government, union representatives and employers were still working out the details of the program.

"This scheme is being drawn up to honor the rights of thousands of workers who were left to fend for themselves after their employers went bankrupt and fled the country," he said.

The new scheme is part of the government's commitment to provide proper social security for workers, he said.

The minister said while blue collar workers were the main focus of the scheme, all employees would be entitled to redundancy payouts.

"It's not true that those who are paid above Rp 5 million a month will not be covered by the scheme."

By passing the regulation the government was keeping its promise to employers not to amend the 2003 Labor Law, he said.

"The labor law is silent about redundancy payouts and we will not amend it, yet at the same time we will respect the rights of workers."

Emergency service workers go on strike

Jakarta Post - January 26, 2007

Jakarta – More than 200 members of the Emergency Ambulance 118 Workers Union rallied Thursday at the Hotel Indonesia traffic, demanding the city administration expedite the establishment of the regional public service board to accommodate them.

"Our employment status is unclear. We are caught between the categories of permanent and contract worker," said protest coordinator Arif Fatahillah.

The union said the foundation that established the service had failed its 316 workers by not improving the terms and conditions of their employment. A worker is paid between Rp 800,000 (US$90) and Rp 100,000 per month without allowances.

"We are not asking the city administration to make us civil servants, we just want job security as compensation for having to deal with critical incidents and people who are in distress," Arif said.

The workers dispersed at noon after staging a short drama that "spoke to the issue at hand".

Train workers vow to hold huge strike

Jakarta Post - January 25, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Employees of state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) threatened Wednesday to stage a national strike.

They claimed to have the full support of workers in other parts of the transportation sector in taking industrial action over management and labor conditions at the company.

The KAI Workers Union (SPKA) said the threat was serious, pointing out that the national strike would cost the government financially and image-wise.

"The national strike is our last resort to tell the government about the urgent need to repair the company's mismanagement and poor labor conditions in order to improve its performance and service to the public," SPKA chairman Eddy Setiawan said.

Workers from state-owned transport companies such as Garuda Indonesia, Merpati Nusantara, state-run bus company PPD, and the Jakarta International Terminal Company have expressed their support for the plan.

The International Transport Workers Federation and the State Ministry for State Enterprises have been informed of the strike, along with KAI's management and security authorities in Bandung in West Java, Medan in North Sumatra and Jakarta where workers will also hold rallies.

Eddy said the KAI workers were disappointed with the government's lack of commitment to revamping the company, as it had promised in 2005, as well as opposing the management's plan to lay off 11,000 of its total 33,000 workers.

"Transportation Minister Hatta Radjasa and State Minister for State Enterprises Sugiharto pledged before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla to repair the mismanagement and the poor labor conditions but nothing has changed, and what we have seen is more and more train accidents happening," he said.

Reports of mismanagement in the company have long been the subject of public criticism, which peaked with the government's decision to suspend paying Rp 400 billion (US$44 million) in its annual subsidy to the company in the form of the public service obligation funds, which are supposed to be used to cover maintenance costs and improve workers' social welfare.

Eddy said the company's workers were not registered with the social security programs of state-owned insurance firm PT Jamsostek and that 11,000 workers would be laid off within the next two years.

Separately, Marjono, a senior staff member at PT KAI in Jakarta, said the increasing number of train accidents was related to the government's suspension of the funds for annual maintenance.

"In the past three years, the management spent Rp 11.8 trillion on maintaining all trains, wagons and railway networks in Sumatra and Java, causing the management to cut the labor cost," he said, while adding that 111 train accidents have happened this month and most were caused by technical errors.

 War on terror

Police raids may invigorate JI: expert

Australian Associated Press - January 25, 2007

Terrorism experts warn Jemaah Islamiah (JI) could be re-energised by two recent deadly police raids in the violence-stricken Indonesian town of Poso, in central Sulawesi.

Fifteen people and one police officer were killed in the most recent raid, on Monday, when authorities attempted to arrest more than 20 men wanted over a spate of bombings, beheadings and drive-by shootings in the religiously-divided town.

The International Crisis Group (ICG), a Brussels-based think tank, warned the high death toll from the two raids had turned the wanted men into victims, and could spark an even wider jihadist war. It said police had become "Enemy No.1" to the group, since the raids.

Most of the fugitives were local members of the terrorist group JI, and only a handful were arrested. Police uncovered a cache of weapons in the earlier raid, including an M-16, rifles, a grenade launcher, a dozen homemade pistols and several homemade bombs.

"A jihad that has been largely directed against local Christians could now be focused on the police as a thoghut (anti-Islamic force) and give a boost to Indonesia's weakened jihadi movement," the ICG said on Wednesday.

"One danger is that the jihadis will try to take the anti-thoghut war outside Poso, targeting police in other cities.

"Another danger is that the JI faction that opposes bombings of western targets and sees Noordin Mohammed Top, South East Asia's most wanted terrorist, as a deviant, will see this jihad as legitimate."

Two of those killed in the separate raids were high-ranking JI members, including Ustadz Riansyah, aka Rian, who trained alongside one of the 2002 Bali bombers, Mukhlas, in Afghanistan in 1987.

The ICG said the two police raids, on January 11 and 22, would be portrayed as unfair and discriminatory against "beleaguered Muslims", instead of "a justified operation to apprehend a group of criminals who have terrorised Central Sulawesi for years".

Poso is one of Indonesia's most sensitive areas, and has long been wracked with violence between Muslims and Christians.

The men were wanted over a string of murders, of pastors, prosecutors and police; of bombings and the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls in October 2005.

The ICG said the jihadist violence in Poso had escalated over the past three years, driven by a sense of unaddressed grievances and a need for revenge over past conflicts.

It called on the Indonesian government to establish an independent commission of inquiry to examine the two January raids to see if any of the deaths could have been avoided.

It also urged authorities to work with Islamic leaders to explain why the Poso suspects were being targeted and why the force was used, and establish a fact-finding body to find solutions to past grievances.

"Despite the fact that no major bomb attacks took place in Indonesia in 2006, terrorism and terrorist cells have not been eradicated," the ICG said.

"It is critically important to ensure that Poso not become the new cause celebre for the country's mujahidin, this time with an anti-government focus." JI was responsible for planning and executing both Bali bombings, in 2002 and 2005, and other attacks on Western targets in Indonesia.

Terrorists open new front in Indonesia

Sydney Morning Herald - January 24, 2007

Lindsay Murdoch, Jakarta – High-ranking figures in Jemaah Islamiah have opened a new front in their terrorism campaign on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where nine of their fighters and a police officer have been killed in the latest gun battle.

Terrorism experts say dormant Java-based cells of the organisation seem to have been reactivated by US and Australian- trained anti-terrorist squad attacks on militant strongholds near the Sulawesi town of Poso, 1700 kilometres east of Jakarta.

They say the violence in Poso this month has caused a dangerous escalation of what radical Islamic militants see as their jihad or war against infidels.

Jemaah Islamiah planned and carried out the two Bali bombings and a string of other attacks on mainly Western targets in Indonesia that have resulted in hundreds of deaths since 2002. Scores of militant members of Jemaah Islamiah cells allegedly opposed to attacks on Western targets such as the Australian embassy in Jakarta have travelled to Poso to fight.

"This is a dangerous development," Sidney Jones, the Jakarta- based director of the International Crisis Group, said yesterday. "The ramifications could well be an energising of the jihadist movement, which in my opinion had been steadily weakening."

At least two high-ranking and influential JI figures have been killed in Poso this month, one of them in the battle late on Monday when police killed the nine militants, captured 18 others and seized a large cache of bombs, weapons and ammunition.

Police killed Rassyah, a prominent group leader, from the Central Java city of Solo, in a battle in Poso on January 11 that set the stage for more violent clashes in the area.

Rassyah trained in Afghanistan at the same time as Ali Ghufron, alias Mukhlas, one of three bombers on death row who carried out the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.

Rassyah, also known as Abdul Hakim, had been hunted by Indonesian police since 2003, after he organised JI's stashing of a huge cache of ammunition and explosives. He is thought to have turned up in Poso in 2004. Since then Islamic extremists in the town have been blamed for sporadic bombings, beheadings, shootings and other attacks that prompted the Indonesian Government to authorise the US and Australian-trained anti-terrorist squad crackdown.

Ms Jones said the crisis group would today publish a report detailing Jemaah Islamiah's links to the Poso violence. It would show that what was happening in Poso was no longer a local phenomenon, she said.

There was no evidence that the Poso fighting was linked directly to Noordin Top, South-East Asia's most wanted terrorist, she said.

But she added that this was more worrying because while some of the JI members going to Poso opposed Top's attacks on Western targets, they believed it legitimate to fight Indonesian police trying to maintain law in Central Sulawesi.

In Monday's battle police were confronted by an estimated 200 fighters when they went to a JI hide-out to arrest a terrorist suspect.

 Politics/political parties

Indonesia's Papernas promises year of 'all-out' campaigning

Green Left Weekly - January 31, 2007

Max Lane, Jakarta – Despite right-wing intimidation, the founding congress of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) successfully concluded on January 20. A leadership was elected, which has already had its first meeting, preparing for a year of "all out" political campaigning.

Some activists, however, are still paying the price for fighting off the congress disruption launched by a group calling itself the Indonesian Anti-Communist Front (FAKI). One Papernas member, Andi Nurjaya, had to be hospitalised after the stress caused her to miscarry. In the North Sumatran town of Medan, the local Papernas chairperson is in jail, detained after protesting the attacks on the congress. In Malaysia, activists from the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM) are still in detention after they were taken in at a protest outside the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The disruption of the congress clearly worked in Papernas's favour, with newspaper and television reports bringing the event to the notice of a wider audience. Other progressive groups issued statements in defence of Papernas's right to hold the congress. In a January 19 statement by Irwansyah, the secretary- general of the Working Peoples Association (PRP), he demanded that the police not prevent or hinder citizens from exercising their political rights. He also condemned the actions of FAKI and called on the people to unite to resist all forms of political thuggery.

"But there can be no holding back now", Papernas chairperson Agus Jabo told me in Jakarta on January 25. "We have built up structures in many provinces, now those structures must be exercised and put to work in political campaigning. That is also how we will expand and build more branches." Asked about how the People's Democratic Party (PRD), of which he is also secretary- general, will relate to Papernas, he stated that it would "dissolve" into Papernas. But Jabo clarified that this was not an organisational or structural dissolution.

"Perhaps the better word is the one we use among ourselves – konsentrasi – we will be concentrating most of our cadre into activities organised through Papernas. We will be educating within Papernas so that it can develop the same level of programmatic commitment as the PRD. Meanwhile, the PRD structures will remain intact and will be used to assess how Papernas develops."

Jabo kept coming back, however, to the necessity for "all-out" campaign work. "Protest actions, also what we call now vergadering, these will be the core form of our activities." Vergadering is a Dutch term used by the anti-colonial activists during the struggle for independence. "These will be large gatherings, mainly indoors, where the ideas of the party can be directly discussed with the masses. They will be more intense and explanatory, aimed at winning them to our politics and raising their consciousness. But we will keep up protest actions, what we call aksi, as the second part of our campaign work."

In fact, Papernas launched its first coordinated series of protest actions even before the January congress. On December 20, a day set aside to commemorate the first women's congress in Indonesia in 1928 (now strangely called Mother's Day), branches of the Preparatory Committee of Papernas held protest actions in a number of cities and towns around Indonesia. This allowed Papernas to raise its flag, even in several towns where a PRD presence had not yet been registered. The protests took place in smaller towns such as Gresik, Mojokerto and Malang as well as Lampung in Sumatra, Yogyakarta, Jakarta and Surabaya.

"Now the challenge is to repeat these kinds of campaigns throughout the year, to raise the Papernas flag, expand the party, win registration and get ready to build a powerful mass movement." Jabo explained that between now and March, Papernas will concentrate on dealing with unfinished business from the congress. A formative group, elected at the congress, will select a central committee and there will be an intensive effort to prepare the final requirements to formally register as a political party, which is a separate process to passing verification to participate in the elections. "We want to register as a formal party in March. This means consolidating some of our branches, and finalising formalities for those branches. We will be holding a series of conferences to organise all this. In March, we will hold a mass rally to launch the party and at the same time submit our registration forms."

Jabo explained that Papernas will not necessarily conduct "an all-out immediate offensive against the regime in the direct sense. It will be an all-out campaign to convince the people of our program. The people feel the situation directly, they suffer it directly, but they can't yet see the way forward. This is what we must bring to them. This is why vergadering will be the key activity, alongside protest actions."

Convincing the people that the "three banners for people's welfare" – nationalisation of the minerals sector (including oil and gas), cancellation of Indonesia's foreign debt, and national industrialisation – are the solutions will be the central task, Jabo said. "We have to explain to the people that their problems are a result of being colonised, of the country being occupied by foreign interests. The three banners are the key policies we need to overcome this and open up other possibilities.

"If we are campaigning in the villages, in the rural areas, we will have a lot to say about agriculture, and the same applies for other sectors. Our cadre have to unite with the people at the base and be a part of their struggles."

Jabo reaffirmed Papernas's commitment to combining parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles. "This defines our current to some extent. Other groups in the opposition on the left are either entirely parliamentarist in their orientation, or opposed entirely to parliamentary work, or can't make up their mind. This was the key difference that prevented Papernas from developing on the basis of a left unity front rather than on the basis of gathering together the fragments of action and dissent around the country that feel they can support the program the PRD has put forward for Papernas."

Commenting on the recent "withdraw mandate" protests and other signs that opposition frustration may not be able to wait for the 2009 elections, Jabo explained: "Of course, we have never been a parliamentarist party. If things evolve in a different direction and the masses want to move more quickly, we will try to lead that process as well."

The openings for a rise in extra-parliamentary campaign activity continue to accumulate. There are noticeably more reports in the media, especially the mass circulation newspapers, undermining the legitimacy of the president and vice-president. The latest figure to add to the momentum undermining President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is former President Abdurrahman Wahid, commonly known as Gus Dur. He, together with a number of community figures, have started speaking out publicly, stating that Yudhoyono's election was illegal. They argue that he was elected under a 2002 amendment to the constitution that has not yet been passed by the People's Consultative Assembly. In response to a call by Yudhoyono for "everybody to prevent moves outside the legal structures for change", Wahid stated that the constitutional crisis was one reason for the emergence of the "withdraw mandate movement" and other calls for Yudhoyono to resign.

The popular press is also providing increasing coverage of corruption and poverty. The sensationalist but mass circulation populist daily Rakyat Merdeka led its front page coverage on January 24 with the headline: "Prices of basic goods go up, 14 trillion rupiah [A$1.7 billion] corrupted." The lead article began: "While prices rise and some people must eat the worst quality rice, the amount of money being corrupted just keeps on rising." The story reported the findings of Indonesian Corruption Watch, which reported that it had identified a total of 166 cases of corruption involving a total of 14.4 trillion rupiah. In 2004 and 2005 they had identified 153 and 125 cases respectively.

[Max Lane is a lecturer in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Sydney. Visit.]

Indonesian 'withdraw mandate' campaign stirs elite concern

Green Left Weekly - January 24, 2007

Max Lane, Jakarta – Around 200 pick-up trucks and cars comprised the long snake of a protest caravan making its way along Jakarta's main thoroughfare, Jalan Thamrin, after a rally outside the Presidential Palace, where speakers called on the people to "withdraw the mandate" of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The occasion for the protest was the anniversary of the mass protests and riots against the Suharto government that took place on January 15, 1974.

The protest was initiated by Hariman Siregar, the central leader of the 1974 protests who at the time was chairperson of the University of Indonesia Students Council. He was arrested, put on trial and sentenced to eight years' prison. He has remained a figure associated with the student and democratic movements, though sometimes also involved in alliances and manoeuvres with figures close to the power centre. He was close to B.J. Habibie during the later years of Suharto and was adviser briefly to former General Wiranto in the lead-up to the 2004 elections.

The January 15, 2007, demonstration represented a new tactical orientation by Siregar, partially ending his approach of trying to work through alliances with senior elite figures. In the lead pick-up truck, he was accompanied by Dita Sari, chairperson of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), and Eggy Sujana, a politician of Islamic background who was recently arrested for insulting the president. Sujana took his case to the courts, which ruled that the law banning "insulting the head of state" was unconstitutional. Speakers on the platform outside the palace included poet and long-time critic of Suharto, W.S. Rendra.

At the press conference that announced the "withdraw the mandate" protest, Siregar argued that Indonesia's democracy was a formal, procedural democracy, without substance. "Current policies were aimed at strengthening institutions, but without any empowerment or strengthening of the people themselves. And in the end the politics of the institutions was based on money."

He criticised the political life of these institutions, arguing that in the parliament, for example, there is no significant focus being given to the major problems of the country. Instead the focus is on what he described as "celebrity issues". He was talking about recent scandals such as the circulation of a short video, taken with a mobile phone, of a naked MP in a hotel room with a popular singer.

He replied to criticism coming from supporters of the government, or rather the president, that the theme of the protest – "withdraw the mandate" – amounted to a call to rebellion and was outside of the constitution, by emphasising that the people were not supposed to go to sleep after the elections just because the government had won. He also emphasised that people who were not members of a political party continue to have political rights to protest and raise their concerns.

Reflecting a criticism that is heard more and more widely in the press and among the public, Siregar told Green Left Weekly later that the government operated only at the level of general perspective, with no real firm initiatives to develop solutions. He pointed to the statistics that the protest was highlighting: 143 million people below the poverty line; 3.5 million unemployed graduates; 12 million children under five malnourished; 2 million children dropping out of school; 13 million illiterates; and 400,000 small businesses bankrupt.

He also raised the issue of the extensive surrender to foreign control of most of Indonesia's natural resources, as well as its banking and insurance industries. He made a reference to the well-known, oft-repeated statement by former president Sukarno that Indonesia refused to become "a nation of coolies, and a coolie among nations". Being interviewed by a journalist from the magazine Gatra, he stated that repayments of the foreign debt should be stopped and the money used to provide education and health services for the people.

Even though Siregar's campaign had only been running a week or so, it has succeeded in raising the political temperature. "Hariman's initiative has divided the political public into two clear camps", Sukardi Rinakit told GLW. Rinakit, an outspoken intellectual, has also been listed as one of five possible presidential candidates that the United Party for National Liberation (Papernas), backed by progressive forces including the PRD, would consider supporting. "Whether the conditions exist for the movement to snowball and force the president to resign or for there to be a referendum or early election is unlikely though. But this division may result in laying the basis for a broader umbrella coalition."

The president's office has attacked the "withdraw mandate" call as unconstitutional. There has been a chorus of criticisms from the mainstream political parties decrying the protest and calling on everybody to wait for the 2009 elections if they want to change governments. This has come from the ruling party in the Suharto period, Golkar, as well as Megawati Sukarnoputri's party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP).

If Siregar continues his push, tensions are likely to rise further and create complications for the plans of the major parties. While calling on Siregar and other supporters of the "withdraw mandate" call to go through the electoral processes, the established parties and their supporters have also been working to tighten the gamut of laws regulating the election process to ensure that there can be no new entries into the game. They are likely to make the process of "verification" of new parties, such as Papernas, even more onerous than under existing laws.

Furthermore, they are also planning to increase the electoral threshold that a party must have gained in the last election in order to be able to participate in the next elections. One proposal is to increase the threshold to 3% of the national vote, which would eliminate nine parties currently in parliament that between them gathered 15 million votes. There have also been proposals to increase the threshold to 5% or even 10%. Calling on dissatisfied sectors of society to work through the electoral channels, but then to close them off at the same time, will sharpen the political divide now emerging, especially if Siregar continues his campaign.

On January 16, Papernas also held its first national press conference to announce its coming congress and its views on possible presidential candidates (see GLW #694). The chairperson of the Preparatory Committee for Papernas (KP-Papernas), Domingus Octavius, stated that Papernas supported the "withdraw mandate" protest as a positive step, but criticised the movement for lacking sufficient programmatic content. "Our criticism of our friend Hariman is that we must present a program that provides a solution to the problems the people are suffering."

PRD secretary-general Agus Jabo, who is chairperson of KP- Papernas's presidium, emphasised the centrality of the "Three Pillars" (Tri Panji) of national unity being proposed by Papernas. These are nationalisation of the minerals industry; cancellation of the foreign debt; and the building of factories to develop national industry. He argued that these were the key bridges to being able to increase the welfare of the people.

Journalists and a range of invited guests at the press conference raised the issue of the agricultural sector and the need to defend the livelihood of Indonesia's millions of small farmers. Agus Jabo pointed out that the Tri Panji were part of a 10-point program, which included policies that were needed to develop the agricultural sector. He emphasised that "Papernas thinks that these three first steps must be taken if the country is to have the capacity to invest and develop other areas of the economy".

The Papernas founding congresws went ahead despite attempts by the right-wing thugs to close it down. It was Indonesia's most important political event for some time, establishing an organisation that can launch a public campaign for a specific program of solutions for the country's huge problems.

Papernas still faces a huge task to break through the prison of regulations that the established parties are putting in place to prevent new parties entering the electoral arena. If the established parties, including Golkar – the main support base of the current government – succeed in blocking pathways through the electoral system, frustration with the system will increase, with more people open to listening to both the programmatic ideas of Papernas as well as the proposal to "withdraw the mandate" of the president from outside of the rules of the game set by the established forces. If such a dynamic starts to gain momentum, even more social and political forces may move into motion.

Indonesian party defies intimidation by police and thugs

Green Left Weekly - January 24, 2007

Peter Boyle, Yogyakarta – Intimidation by armed right-wing thugs and police harassment failed to disperse the January 18-20 founding congress of Indonesia's new National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) at Kaliurang, near Yogyakarta in Indonesia.

About 100 black-uniformed thugs from Front Anti Komunis Indonesia (FAKI) turned up to the conference site on the eve of the congress and demanded that it be dispersed.

Initially the local police refused to protect the conference participants' rights of assembly and instead tried to deny that the conference had the right to proceed. However, lawyers from the Legal Aid Institute insisted that the congress organisers had fulfilled all the legal requirements and informed the police of the conference two weeks before.

The police then tried to argue that the problem was with the draft program of Papernas, which calls for the repudiation of foreign debt, nationalisation of the mining industry and for a national industrialisation program.

"But since when is giving solutions to this country's problems a crime?", asked Katarina Pujiastuti, one of the congress organisers.

The congress proceeded with 380 participants from all around Indonesia. Several international guests, who had intended to observe the congress, were asked by the organisers to stay away for their own safety.

"We continued the negotiations with FAKI and the local community and at the same time kept running the congress. We were determined to defend our political rights as citizens of this country", explained Pujiastuti.

On the morning of January 19, the police stated that they would not issue a permit for the conference to proceed, due to pressure from the right-wing thugs. They added that they had information that 500 people from FAKI would be coming to attack the conference later that day.

About 300 thugs, some armed with knives and staves, turned out that afternoon and threatened to attack the conference if it was not dispersed by 9pm. The conference participants decided to stay to exercise their democratic rights, and continued with their program.

The police blocked the road outside the conference site and had reinforcements waiting in nearby streets.

At about 9pm the FAKI thugs re-gathered around the corner from the venue, forcing a sleepless night on conference participants. As media coverage of the intimidation increased, it appeared that the police were coming under more pressure to allow the conference to continue at least for another half day, which the organisers proposed as a compromise to save the local community from further disruption.

In response to calls for assistance, some 200 students came up from Yogyakarta to help defend the congress overnight. The conference proceeded under constant threat and the stress caused one participant, a pregnant woman, to miscarry.

The congress elected Agus Jabo as chairperson, Haris Sitorus as general secretary, and prominent trade union leader Dita Indah Sari as its candidate for the 2009 presidential elections.

"We are trying to build a new party of democracy under repressive conditions", Jabo explained in a briefing after the conference. "We are confident that all undemocratic barriers can be defeated. This includes the new electoral laws, which try to exclude smaller parties from participating in elections."

He explained that while the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) was the initiator of Papernas, the new party is open to anyone who agrees with its "three banners". "We need a new party to express the large but fragmented opposition to imperialism. We also need to build it to overcome the widespread cynicism and apathy about politics."

General secretary Haris Sitorus said that Papernas members would be setting up many more branches and holding rallies and forums around the country to build the new party. It was also open to any alliances and coalitions that would advance its objectives. An international conference on globalisation organised by the PRD in Jakarta in 2001 was forcibly disbanded by police working together with right-wing thugs, and 32 foreign guests were detained by police. Last year, a meeting organised by Papernas in Surabaya was disrupted by right-wing thugs. But this time the intimidation was resisted successfully.

 War on corruption

Pertamina sheds corrupt practices, earns billions

Jakarta Post - January 26, 2007

Riyadi Suparno, Jakarta – Once a symbol of corruption, state oil firm Pertamina has embarked on an internal reform program under new leadership and has reaped billions of dollars in investments to double its oil and gas output.

Speaking to the media here Thursday, Pertamina President Ari H. Soemarno acknowledged that his company used to be a cash cow for those with political connections, but he insisted those days were over.

"As someone who has been working in Pertamina for years, I'm also responsible for those poor practices in the past. But now, I'm also determined to transform Pertamina into a competitive, modern and respected company," Ari said.

He said he had launched the internal transformation through 27 "breakthrough projects", including reducing the rampant leakage of fuels during transportation, increasing efficiency at the company's many ports and ridding its fuel depots of white collar thugs and thieves. Within their first three months, he said, these projects had brought in an additional US$15 million.

The company has also worked to revamp its gas stations to better serve costumers.

"With the arrival of Shell and Petronas in the market, we have to improve the look and management of our gas stations. If Shell and Petronas have convenient stores and beautiful female attendants to serve customers, while our gas stations are manned by people with dirty clothes, how can we compete with them?" Ari said.

Pertamina will also work with multinational oil and gas companies to enhance its downstream businesses; for example, it will partner with SK Corp to build a lubrication oil plant in Dumai, Riau, and team up with Shell in the aviation fuel sector.

Ari said the company plans to more than triple its investment in the downstream sector to Rp 3.7 trillion (US$410 million) this year from Rp 960 billion last year and Rp 1.3 trillion in 2005.

He added that Pertamina would deepen its involvement in the upstream sector as well, which he said promised bigger returns. "The upstream is our value creator, while the downstream is our value enhancer. So we have to be strong in both," he said.

In the upstream sector, Ari said Pertamina would invest a hefty Rp 10.1 trillion this year, a jump from Rp 3.5 trillion last year and Rp 3.9 trillion in 2005.

With that high investment in the upstream sector, Pertamina aims to double its oil and gas output from its current level of 235,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day within the next four years.

"So our total investment plan for this year would be about Rp 14 trillion (US$1.5 billion). That's still small, compared to our friends overseas. Petronas, for example, invests about $5 billion a year," Ari said.

He noted that most of the money for investment this year would be taken from retained earnings. Last year, Pertamina booked a profit of Rp 21 trillion. About Rp 12 trillion of that will be paid as shareholder dividends to the government, and the remainder retained. This year, Pertamina, with total assets of around Rp 360 trillion, aims to book a net profit of Rp 23 trillion.

Pertamina's books have not been thoroughly reported on since the company's corporatization a few years ago. A government-ordered Ernst and Young audit is still in progress.

Auditor finds irregularities in oil cost recovery funds

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2007

Ika Krismantari, Jakarta – The Development Finance Comptroller (BPKP) has found indications of irregularities worth about Rp 18 trillion (about US$2 billion) in cost-recovery claims submitted by oil and gas firms between 2002 and 2005.

BPKP director Didi Widayadi said Tuesday in Jakarta that the findings were based on agency audits on 43 oil and gas companies out of the total of 152 companies earmarked for audits by the Upstream Oil and Gas Executive Agency (BP Migas).

Oil and gas companies that operate under production sharing contracts (PSC) are allowed to claim back all of the production costs that arose in the extraction of crude oil and gas.

Total recovery costs are then deducted from the total sales of oil or gas by the PSC operators, before proceeds are shared out with the government.

Under the PSC scheme, operators receive 15 percent of net oil production and about 65 percent of net gas production, while the remainder goes to the government.

Didi said that of the Rp 18 trillion-worth of suspected irregularities, about Rp 8.695 trillion had, as of December 2006, been checked with the oil and gas producers concerned, and most of the money had been returned to the government.

"The remaining Rp 9.37 trillion hasn't been checked yet," Didi said, while refusing to disclose the names of the companies involved.

Most of the question marks, Didi said, arose in respect of claims for corporate taxes, interest payments, dividends and royalties (in all, totaling Rp 6.2 trillion), investment credits (Rp 2.4 trillion), and head office additional expenditure (Rp 1.6 trillion).

He admitted that the main reason the companies had such claims was because these kinds of expenditure were not regulated specifically under the current standard-form PSC.

In response, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who was also present at the announcement of the BPKP's report, said that auditors must be aware of the dynamic changes taking place in the oil and gas industry, while the rules on cost recovery still adhered to the old system.

"I would urge the BPKP to provide suggestions to us as to whether the details of cost recovery would be better dealt with solely in the contracts between the government and the contractors, or whether the matter should be dealt with specifically in the legislation," Purnomo said.

Purnomo also urged people not to immediately jump to the conclusion that the companies had been guilty of criminal acts.

"We will hold a special meeting to scrutinize the findings with the government," Didi said. "However, if there are irregularities involving fake documents or mark-ups, we will not hesitant to report these to the authorities."

He suggested that the government should formulate a new scheme that would encourage operators in a particular area to share the same facilities in order to reduce cost recovery.

Indonesia has one of the highest costs of oil production in the world at $9.03 per barrel, while in Malaysia the equivalent figure is only $3.70 per barrel, and between $4 and $6 per barrel in other countries, Didi said.

 Jakarta/urban poor

Officers caught in 'zero tolerance' backlash

Jakarta Post - January 27, 2007

Jakarta – As the real estate sector has heated up, evictions carried out on "public order grounds" have become more and more routine.

Following a series of evictions in different North and West Jakarta over the last week, squatters and street traders feel so vulnerable that even the sight of public order officers can spark chaos.

The evictions culminated Friday in a brawl between street traders in Salemba, Central Jakarta, and public order officers. Antara reported the brawl started when street traders in the area saw four pick-up trucks filled with public order officers and thought they were going to be the next to go.

Traders started pelting stones at the passing vehicles, sparking anger from the officers who got out of their trucks to "rough up" the traders.

Local residents and college students in the area were seen in the crowd, supporting the traders. Outnumbered, the officers fled the scene, leaving behind a pick-up truck, which was later demolished by the angry crowd.

"This was only a misunderstanding. Traders were assuming they were going to be evicted as they saw the passing officers," said Taryo, one of the street traders in the area.

Kenari subdistrict head Prasetyo Kurniawan said the public order officers were heading to a settlement area on the Ciliwung River to carry out backyard poultry inspections.

The incident might be an indication of the ill-feeling toward the authorities that has developed with the upsurge in evictions.

Hundreds of squatters living under the Rawabebek overpass in Kalijodo, North Jakarta, lost their homes Thursday when public order officers bulldozed their illegal settlement. They are now living in makeshift tents.

Earlier this week, vendors running stalls on a 3,500-square-meter property belonging to the Indonesian Navy in Pedongkelan, North Jakarta, were relocated to a much smaller area.

The vendors said the relocation site provided by the city administration was not strategic and a third of the size of the previous site. Moreover, there was no legal documentation of the lease agreement or ownership deeds.

Busway passengers want improved service, better drivers

Jakarta Post - January 26, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – Two years after the debut of Jakarta's busway, passengers are getting increasingly concerned about its quality of service, a survey by the Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) revealed on Thursday.

The poll of 1,055 frequent passengers also showed strong resistance to any fare hike or zoned tariff system until the operator pledges to upgrade service.

"Our respondents are motorists who have left their private vehicles in their garages and shifted to the busway service because they expect better public transportation," YLKI's executive Tulus Abadi said.

"The rejection of the planned increased tarriff is not merely about money, but is more about the poor service they experience in using this system."

The survey found the problems that frequently annoy commuters include the disorganized departure and arrival of buses, poor cleanliness, bad drivers and the lack of feeder services. Tulus predicted an increase in fares would discourage motorists to take busway.

"If the administration goes ahead with tariff hike, they might return to take its own vehicles to work," he said.

The survey was conducted on Dec 30 to Jan. 5 with 60 percent of respondents are commuters of the busway corridor I plying Blok M, South Jakarta to Kota, West Jakarta route.

The administration has earlier said that they would announced the new fare for busway during the launch ceremony of the new four corridors on Jan. 27.

The four new corridors will link Pulogadung in East Jakarta with Dukuh Atas in Central Jakarta; Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta with Ancol in North Jakarta; Ragunan in South Jakarta with Kuningan in South Jakarta; and Kampung Rambutan in East Jakarta with Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta.

The busway operator of the four corridors, TransJakarta, said of out the planned 203 bus fleet, it could only operate 20 because of late assemblage.

Also attending the Thursday press briefing were Indah Suksmaningsih, YLKI's senior executive and Andi Rahmah from non- government organization Pelangi Indonesia who were both members of the Jakarta Transportation Council tasked to formulate the busway new tariff.

Both Indah and Andi said they had long rejected the planned increase of busway tariff. "The operators must first improve the level of services. I agree to discuss tariff hike after operators meet its promise to deploy more busses and improve the services," Indah said.

While Andi said that the administration must opened tender in selecting consortium in order to get competitive price to operate the busway corridors. "There must also be audit on the performance of existing operators to know what are inefficiencies in the busway," she said.

The administration said that to make the busway affordable to all the fare needed to stay under Rp 5,000 (53 US cents). It is currently Rp 3,500.

It said the raise is inevitable in a bid to reduce the cost of subsidizing the transportation service. The cost of subsidizing all seven corridors is estimated at Rp 382 billion.

By raising the busway fare to Rp 5,000, the administration might slash the subsidy by 73 percent and reducing the cost of the subsidy to Rp 100 billion.

Jakarta currently operates three corridors with the number passengers of 120,000 per day.

The administration said with the planned 15 corridors, 30 percent of owners of private cars would be shifted to the busway.

To grab more commuters, the administration planned to ban motorbikes from the city main streets Jl. Sudirman, Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Rasuna Said. The survey said that many respondents used the busway service to avoid the daily severe traffic congestions in Jakarta.

Violence, intimidation replaced by more subtle means of eviction

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2007

Jakarta – Forty-five-year-old Melawai market trader Suradi finds it difficult to imagine what the future holds for his business with the construction of a trade center going up all around him.

"I have been evicted twice before. Once from my stamp stall in Kramat (Central Jakarta) and three years later from my food stall in Slipi (West Jakarta)," Suradi said.

Well, three's a charm, they say. And that kind of positivism was reflected in his words, "I can think of something else if I am once again evicted from this place."

Suradi and some 300 traders who used to occupy two market blocks in Melawai, which were gutted by fire in late August 2005, are facing a different kind of eviction this time.

Not one with public order officers chasing them away, or where military officers overturn their stalls. With the harmless- sounding name of "market rejuvenation", this one is more subtle.

Surrounded by the makeshift stalls of traders from the old market, the site of the burned down market is now on its way to becoming trade center Blok M Square, jointly developed by city market operator PD Pasar Jaya and the Agung Podomoro group.

Earlier last week, the older generation of vendors objected to the price and location offered in the new business premise and filed a lawsuit against PD Pasar Jaya.

"Can you imagine? Old vendors are offered kiosks in the basement for a price of up to Rp 32 million per square meter. If we want a place on the ground floor, we have to pay Rp 60 million per square meter," Melawai traders association head Sujiyanto said.

Although for the public such pricing might make sense considering the project's prime location, the price is out of the question for vendors who still have to bear the burden of losing their goods to the fire.

"I still owe Bank Danamon Rp 55 million. I had spent it on store supplies but they were all lost during the fire," garment trader Armen said.

Armen and a number of other Melawai traders are now relying on selling their goods at community bazaars in housing complexes to make ends meet. They have all voiced objections to paying the required amount in order to secure a kiosk at the new Blok M Square.

Project developer Melawai Jaya Realty general manager Mulia Budiman said the price was reasonable and that 40 percent of the 158,000 square meter floor area had been sold to new traders. Aside from that, hypermarket Carrefour has booked half of the second and third floors, he said.

This is the kind of subtler eviction that those of the informal sector are facing. "Some of us are selling daily groceries. How can we compete with Carrefour?" Sujiyanto said.

The Melawai traders are now joining hands to fight for their rights with the traders associations of Tanah Abang, Mayestik and Pondok Gede, who face similar issues.

Revisiting the Block A market of Tanah Abang gives one a glimpse into the future of Melawai's old traders.

According to Tanah Abang market traders association head Moh. Zahar, most of the kiosks strategically located on the first three floors of the market block are occupied by new traders instead of relocated ones.

Old traders were allocated kiosks – priced at Rp 20 million per square meter – on the eighth floor or above, while the more strategically located kiosks were sold at Rp 200 million per square meter. Currently, only the first four floors of the 14- story air-conditioned modern market are frequented by customers.

Jakarta's spatial plan, which is currently under review, makes reference to taking small-scale businesspeople into account in the development of prospective economic zones like Tanah Abang. But reality does not look as good as it does on paper as the existing traders are subtly, yet unmistakably, elbowed out of the way.

Unchecked urban development marginalizes the poor

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2007

Anissa S. Febrina, Jakarta – Imagine Jakarta in 2015. Some 16.8 billion Jakartans step out of mass transit vehicles or private cars and make their way into office buildings, schools, trade centers and malls to start their day.

There are smooth-surfaced streets, colonnaded sidewalks and tree-lined pedestrian sidewalks – the city shines like a beacon to the rest of the world.

Families live in spartan-looking apartment towers surrounded by parks, or in villas on the suburban fringe. But everything in life has a price.

In the process of transforming Jakarta into a modern metropolis, more often than not, those who pay the price are the ones who in fact have very limited resources: squatters, kampong people and street traders. They are the dust that will be swept under the rug.

Comparing the city's current plan to develop Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta as a superblock and the existing condition of the area gives one a pretty clear picture.

Thousands of street and market traders try to make ends meet in the city's most crowded economic center, while thousands of others make the most of their makeshift homes in the alleys of Kebon Kacang.

For outsiders, the word Tanah Abang conjures up images of chaos, but, for its occupants, who are mostly migrants, it symbolizes hope and the dream of surviving in the capital.

In a 20-square-meter makeshift house within a Tanah Abang kampong, Central Java-born Bambang Supriyanto and his nine assistants supply blouses and dresses to kiosks in the neighboring market block.

It only took a small room and a couple of sewing machines to get the business running. Proximity to the trade center was the sole reason why Bambang rented the house in the kampong. The same goes for the rest of the kampong dwellers.

But, sooner or later, they will have to pay the price for the city's development. Jakarta's currently revised spatial plan declared Tanah Abang a prospective economic zone, in which an international multifunction area would be developed.

For the city administration and developers, the word "international" quickly leaves the kampong – which is home to more than 150 small businesses – out of the picture.

It has not happened, yet, but the master plan has already made the leap to the drawing board at the city Spatial Planning Agency.

The term prospective economic zones is so overused in the spatial plan that it appears to have become meaningless to the Jakarta administration.

In the past three decades, the phrase almost always translates to building superblocks consisting of trade centers, office buildings and high-end apartment blocks. Most are built after kicking out hundreds of people without proper land documentation, who are deemed illegal squatters by the city administration.

And the evictions are getting fiercer. The recent eviction of market traders from Pedongkelan, North Jakarta, to make way for a highway project sheds some light on city officials' view of the marginalized.

The traders objected on the grounds the lots they were offered as their new business premise were too small and not strategically located.

Suryantika Sinaga, the head of North Jakarta's small- and medium-scale enterprises agency, responded with: "If they want more land, they should leave Jakarta. They should thank us for giving them a place because, for all this time, they have been occupying someone else's land."

One could easily call those who jump to the defense of the evicted antidevelopmentalists. But development that only benefits a select group is not really development.

Urban development is sustainable if it permanently enhances the capacity of urban society to maintain or improve the quality of life without exhausting non-replaceable resources or damaging the economic, cultural, or natural environment, a 2004 Asian Development Bank report says.

Actually, experts say, the key to the problem lies in just spatial planning. There is a significant increase in land allocation for "prospective economic areas," which will, by 2010, occupy half of the city.

While settlement areas are shrinking, urban planning expert Bianpoen said the city plan lacked social justice as it continuously evicted the poor to make way for the rich.

Urban planners have repeatedly suggested that the city administration, in facing the problem of slums and squatters, should take a number of new approaches to deal with the issue in a just manner.

The land-sharing method, one of the proposed schemes, was successfully implemented in the city center of Samarinda, East Kalimantan, where 30 percent of the renewed area accommodates the existing population in walk-up apartments.

The land pooling and transferable development rights scheme, which has already been applied in other Asian cities, could also be adopted.

Currently, according to city secretary assistant for welfare, Rohana Manggala, the administration has a number of programs in place to deal with the urban poor. Efforts range from advocacy for relocated squatters, to help them adopt to life in vertical housing, to direct funding for district development.

"We have also tried to merge the informal sector into superblocks, as we did with the traders and locals evicted during the construction of the Kuningan superblock," Rohana said. "But, in reality, it is a matter of survival of the fittest," she said.

Perhaps, as Rimbaud said, it is necessary to be absolutely modern. Even if it means continuously sacrificing the class struggle.

Key points of Human Rights Watch's recommendations on issues pertaining to slums and squatters.

1. Impose a moratorium on all evictions carried out on "public order" grounds, until a mechanism can be established whereby independent experts carry out participatory baseline surveys prior to any eviction.

2. Collected information from baseline surveys on the evicted population can be used to design a resettlement program that will leave residents with at least the same standards of living and income levels.

3. Jakarta ordinance No. 11/1988 on public order may require revision.

4. Conform eviction processes to international standards where it should never render individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights.

5. If the government wants to offer alternative land, aim to use sites as close as possible to the original area, and ensure that alternative sites offer residents adequate opportunities to continue existing livelihood activities.

6. Evictions should not occur during the school year or at times when the displacement of families will interrupt children's education. Compensation should cover fees associated with changing schools.

7. Minimize use of force.

8. Consider broader city planning reforms.

[Source: www.hrw.org]


Fifty environment activists experienced violence during 2006

Tempo Interactive - January 25, 2007

Verrianto Madjowa, Gorontalo – At least 50 environmental activists and members of the people experienced violence with regard to environment and natural resources management during 2006. The cases of violence occurred in South-East Sulawesi, Sumbawa, Manado, Aceh, Kalimantan and Jakarta.

"Seven cases were fully advocated from the investigation processes until the passing of verdicts," said Kurniawan, Coordinator of the Advocation Network for Activists and Environmentalists during a break of the "Workshop on Violence in the Sulawesi Regional Forests of Gorontalo", on Thursday (01/25).

According to Kurniawan, they have commonly become the accused and defendants by virtue of fighting against companies.

They were reported to police and taken to court as a measure to mitigate their fight. They were usually tried under articles relating to spoiling good reputation, incitement and unpleasant action.

Government to ban sand, soil and topsoil exports

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2007

Jakarta – The Trade Ministry has issued a regulations banning the export of sand, soil and topsoil in order to protect the environment from degradation and maintain the nation's current maritime boundaries.

The bans will come into effect on Feb. 6, and exporters will be given time to make the necessary changes prior to the deadlines. They will also be permitted to fulfill existing contracts.

"These regulations are being issued in the hope of eradicating sand and soil mining on islands at the peripheries of the country so as to protect the environment and maintain our present borders," Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said Tuesday.

Mari said the demand for sand and soil was increasing, and had spurred illegal excavation in many areas.

She also said that the excavation of sand and soil, mostly for export, threatened to push back the nation's maritime boundaries due to the disappearance of small islands, while the profits earned from the exports were far smaller than the losses suffered by the country's environment.

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), exports of Indonesian sand were worth US$9.5 million in 2005, with Singapore and China being the main importers, with the respective value of these imports being $6 million and $2.4 million.

In the period from January until May 2006, exports jumped to $11.11 million, with China being the biggest importer on $8 million and Singapore coming second on $2.93 million.

Under the regulations, the government has also banned the export of kaolin, granite, marble and pumice. "Other commodities besides these four may be exported after a thorough verification processes by a team of surveyors," Mari explained. The verification results would then be submitted as attachments to the customs documentation.

Meanwhile, soil exports in 2005 were worth $14.41 million, with Thailand and Japan being the two biggest importers on $2.48 million and 2.42 million respectively, followed by Taiwan on $1.73 million and Bangladesh on $1.71 million.

Between January and May last year, soil exports reached $5.65 million, with Thailand being the biggest importer on $1.498 million, followed by Bangladesh on $923.762.

 Gender issues

Giving women options in face of assault

Jakarta Post - January 25, 2007

Prodita Sabarini, Jakarta – Some 26 women lined up in pairs in the front yard of a house in Taman Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, on Sunday. Each of the women took turns trying to dodge an attack with an effective punch, strike or kick.

"Left! Right! Left! Right!" ordered Sensei Fahmi Syarief, the instructor of the martial arts class for women. It was not yet noon but the participants were full of energy and laughter.

Sensei Fahmi cracked one joke after another, making learning this tough combat sport both fun and easy.

The training focuses on perfecting basic knowledge – showing the women how to utilize their reflexes and bodies to protect themselves.

Amid the increasing number of reports of violence against women and crimes targeting women, classes like the one in Tanah Abang are being organized to empower women to act quickly if they think they might be attacked or are threatened.

According to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), there has been a 45 percent increase in reported cases of violence against women, from 14,020 cases in 2004 to 20,391 cases in 2005. Some 85 percent of the cases were domestic violence with the perpetrators being mostly people familiar to the victims.

Outside, on the streets, working women have also become easy prey for muggers and rings of robbers operating from taxis.

The martial arts class for women is free of charge and the first of its kind in the country. Its founder, Titiana Adinda, said the class was initially organized in response to the deplorable conditions women were both working and living under.

Even with the high number of cases of crimes against women, there have yet to be any classes here that teach women how to defend themselves, said Titiana, who was formerly assistant coordinator at Komnas Perempuan. "Crisis centers should teach this kind of skill to women," she said.

In 2005, Komnas Perempuan data shows, 215 institutions dealt with more than 20,391 cases of violence against women. The institution included 59 crisis centers scattered across 20 provinces, which handled about 97 cases each year.

The class was assembled using the power of Internet technologies. It all began when Titiana uploaded her 2003 opinion piece, titled Violence against women: society's disease, on the Internet in September 2006. The article was previously published in national daily Kompas.

The 27-year-old woman, better known as Dinda, said an Indonesian-born Karate Sensei in the United States, Deddy Mansyur, read her piece and offered to help her establish self- defense classes for women here.

He contacted his friend and fellow karate instructor in Jakarta, Fahmi Syarief, who volunteered to teach the class for free.

Dinda said she promoted the class through the Internet by sending e-mails to a number of mailing lists, including Forum Pembaca Kompas (Kompas Reader's forum), Hanya Wanita (Just Women), Cita Cinta and Mediacare.

"We can't afford to advertise through the media, and I don't have enough friends to rely on them spreading the word, that's why my mailing list was the most effective means of telling people about the class."

The first course started in November with about 20 participants. At that time, practice was held in the Senayan Sports Complex, South Jakarta. Every Sunday, for five weeks, participants built coordination, agility, strength and poise.

The second course, with new particpants, is being conducted at Sensei Fahmi's house. "It's cleaner and more comfortable for doing push-ups and sit-ups," Dinda said.

She said most of the women were working women who had experienced violence. Dinda said she hoped the class inspired others to offer similar courses for women. She also plans to write a book on self-defense for woman.

"It's very important for every woman to learn to protect themselves. Every woman is at risk of violence: working women, stay-at-home wives and domestic and migrant workers," she said.

Thirty-four-year-old Betty Suryaningsih, a class participant, said she was once attacked by a knife-wielding mugger in Cilincing. "At that time I was scared and did not know what to do."

She said the self-defense class had taught her how to handle dangerous situations with simple moves. "We're taught to be alert. Sensei also told us how to dodge people who harass us, how to avoid being mugged and even how to fend off a taxi driver who attempts to rob us."

Fahmi said humans were encoded with the ability to protect themselves. "Utilizing your reflexes in the best possible way is the key to self-defense."

He said the class was strictly for women. "No man can enter this class, or else they would come to know the secrets of women's self-defense," he said smiling.

UNICEF calls for more education, opportunities for women, girls

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2007

Jakarta – The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) representative to Indonesia, Gianfranco Rotiglioni, asked the Indonesian government Tuesday to continue efforts to advance gender equality by providing women greater access to education, economic opportunities and reproductive healthcare, and eradicating sexual exploitation.

"Interventions in these areas will have immediate practical benefits to women and society," he said at the release of the UNICEF 2007 Report on the State of the World's Children at the State Ministry for Women's Empowerment in Central Jakarta.

Rotiglioni said Indonesia had achieved overall good progress toward gender parity in net enrollment at the primary and junior high school levels. However, access to education for girls becomes increasingly limited as they go on to higher levels of study.

He cited barriers to achieving gender equality in education in Indonesia, including early marriage, gender-biased textbooks, gender stereotyping, and unreliable data.

He warned that women and girls in Indonesia would remain vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking if programs were not carried out to address the problems of poverty, poor education and the inability to make a good living.

"This feeds back into access to education. If we can ensure that children, especially girls, attend schools, they will later be better able to support themselves and become less vulnerable to traffickers and exploiters," he said.

UNICEF communication officer Kendartanti Subroto said Tuesday that birth registration was another key to eradicating the trafficking and exploitation of women and girls. "Birth registration will make them legally protected, and it should be universal and compulsory," she told The Jakarta Post.

Kendartanti said UNICEF had been working with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the State Ministry for Women's Empowerment on a birth certificate project for the past few years. The data from the most recent national survey of social and economic conditions showed that only four out of 10 children had their births registered.

She said UNICEF had also supported Health Ministry programs to provide training for midwives and medical professionals in reproductive healthcare. High-quality healthcare is pivotal to decreasing the country's maternal mortality rate of 307 per 100,000 live births, the highest among Southeast Asian countries.

In its 2007 Report on the State of the World's Children, UNICEF says gender equality produces dividends for both women and children, and is pivotal to health and development.

The report finds that empowering women and eliminating discrimination produces a positive impact on the survival and well-being of children.

It also says that when women are empowered, children and families prosper, because empowered women have a bigger influence over key decisions that can improve their lives.

 Health & education

Groups protests violence in class

Jakarta Post - January 31, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – The government-backed Indonesian Commission for the Protection of Children (KPAI) has opposed the imposition of corporal punishment on children in schools, saying it is still rife in state-run schools, Islamic schools and Islamic boarding schools in East Java.

The issue was discussed Tuesday in a hearing between the protection commission and House of Representatives Commission VIII overseeing religious, social and women's empowerment.

East Java, home to hundreds of madrasah (Islamic schools) and pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) managed by Muslim national organization Nadhlatul Ulama, is one of several provinces in which the KPAI has been unable to establish a regional office.

KPAI chairwoman Sri Wuryaningsih said that the use of corporal punishment in schools could no longer be tolerated in the reform era. "Such a practice is not only against the 2003 Child Protection Law, but is also one of the worst forms of violence against children," she said.

She said that according to a recent survey conducted by the KPAI, general schools, Islamic schools and Islamic boarding schools in Surabaya and Probolinggo all commonly used corporal punishment.

"The KPAI has delivered a letter to the provincial administration to stop this practice," she said, adding that the use of military-style punishments would only introduce children to a culture of violence and help build violent personalities.

The KPAI is working with the Education Ministry, Unicef, Save Our Children and local communities to promote "child-friendly schools" and phase out violence against children.

The group has also been campaigning in Jakarta, East and West Nusa Tenggara, South Sulawesi, Papua, Maluku, North Maluku, West Kalimantan and Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

The KPAI also told the hearing that it was concerned by the booming child prostitution trade in Indonesia, blaming it on increasing poverty levels and consumption-driven lifestyles in urban areas.

KPAI data show that between 40,000 children and 70,000 children in 23 of 26 monitored provinces have been employed in prostitution.

In 2006, the KPAI received a total of 376 cases of violence against children, with most indicating the involvement of parents.

In order to provide special protection for children against abduction, trafficking and violence, the KPAI works with the police and the Attorney General's Office, along with non- governmental organizations.

Sri said that children were the group most vulnerable to natural disasters, poverty, labor dismissals, economic crises and domestic conflicts, and therefore all sides needed to build strong partnerships to minimize their negative impacts on children.

The problems of higher education privatization in Indonesia

Jakarta Post - January 31, 2007

Ardimas Sasdi, Jakarta – The plan of the government to "privatize", an euphemism for running higher state institutions under a private model, reminds the writer of a touching short message service (SMS) from a nephew studying at Bandung's Padjadjaran University (UNPAD).

"Mak Uo, thank you very much for the transfer. May God bless you and may your fortune accumulate...," read the message to my wife.

At a glance there was nothing unusual about the SMS. Indeed, there is something noteworthy if we go deeper into the message. The real, underlying value in the content of the pragmatic message is not that it is full of gratitude, but the significance of the small amount of money that we send monthly to the recipient to support his studies. For us, with the risk of sounding vain and haughty, the Rp 300,000 (US$33) is insignificant as it is just enough to pay for a family lunch or dinner at a restaurant.

The nephew, who is quite smart as evidence by his ability to keep up with his studies in the popular department of international relations, is just one of thousands if not tens of thousands of university students in the country who urgently need financial support because their parents are not well-off. And state universities are the one hope for students from low income families to study due to the relatively low tuition fees.

But under the draft law on educational institutions soon to be submitted by the government to the House of Representatives for deliberation, there is only a small chance for students from poor families to continue their studies. Why? The principle of autonomy and self-reliance in the law will force administrators of state universities to raise tuition fees.

"This is an agenda of neo liberalists, the government seems to want to shirk its responsibility of financing education," said education expert H.A.R. Tilaar as quoted by Tempo Interaktif.

Media Indonesia, in a piercing editorial, viewed the draft education law – proposed several years after the implementation of the government policy on the change of status of four national higher institutions, namely the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), the University of Indonesia (UI), Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), from state colleges into state-owned legal entities – as a death knell for higher education, especially for universities in the provinces, which rely heavily on government aid.

Now the four universities have greater freedom to manage their own affairs, including in designing their curricula, but on the other hand they pay a high cost for the autonomy – they scramble to find new financial resources to support their operations due to the substantial drop in government aid since the implementation of the policy. Presently, the government practically pays only the salaries of permanent lecturers and administrative staff.

In generating much needed revenue, the four state universities initially adopted a uniform policy of accepting students from wealthy families who passed a specially designed entrance test, the standards of which, naturally, were lower than the normal rigorous entrance test held nationally. But these "special students" were required to pay an exorbitant entrance fee of between Rp 25 million ($2,700) and Rp 125 million – an amount far beyond the means of many Indonesians whose income per capita is a mere $840. This pro-rich student policy proved controversial, not only because it was burdensome but also because it unfairly alienated bright students from poor families whose chances of studying at a state university of their choice got slimmer because universities had to allocate seats for the wealthy, less smart students.

In apparent respond to the public outcry, the University of Indonesia announced a policy change on the "special lane" for the rich or development fee in 2005. Under the new scheme, a student enrolled at the university must pay Rp 25 million regardless of whether he or she passes the rigorous SPMB entrance exam.

Fully aware of the sensitivity of the issue, the head of the Research and Development Center of the Ministry of National Education, Mansyur Ramly, reiterated last week that the draft law on educational institutions was simply meant to make the management of state universities more transparent and accountable to their stakeholders, and had nothing to do with government aid.

But close examination of the policy of UI, ITB, IPB and UGM after their "privatization" shows that the approach of the universities are now more pro rich people, who are willing and able to pay more for their studies. One unforeseen result of this will be a wider gap between the rich and the poor, with the treatment of education as a commodity like any other commercial goods.

Indeed, the government has long shifted its responsibility to tax payers. In many areas of the country members of the public whose children study at primary and secondary state schools, for example, have to pay various kinds of payments even though this is a blatant violation of the spirit of the nine-year compulsory education scheme. The schools argued that they have no option but to collect fees to finance their operations as the government only pays salaries of permanent teachers and administrative staff. At some public schools, parents of students contribute more than 90 percent of the school's operational budget.

In order to minimize the impacts of the plan to run state universities and institutes as private entities, there are some aspects that should be duly considered by the government and the House in the deliberation of the law.

First, are low and middle income groups – who account for more than 85 percent of Indonesia's 225 million population – able to pay more for education if the universities, which will be run like private entities, raise tuition fees?

And second, does the government have a working and effective control mechanism to supervise the policies of state universities and institutes? If not, they may be forced to copy the policies of primary and secondary schools who seemingly "harass" or "extort" money from students' parents, school alumni and donors to finance ambitious programs like development and renovation of school buildings, to purchase teaching aids, furniture and even operational vehicles for the school.

The most important issue is the need to clarify our policy on higher education. Is studying at university a privilege or a right? If it is a privilege, what will the state do to help students from low and middle income groups, who mostly go to state universities and institutes?

Another issue that should be studied carefully is whether universities in provinces, whose circumstances are much different from UI, ITB, UGM and IPB who have big names, have a large number of alumni in high positions in government and the private sector and reputable research institutes are able to generate income? Not less important is the involvement of a large spectrum of the public in the deliberation of the new bill.

The new bill is indeed a test case on the government's commitment to education. Thus the government, as suggested by a reader in a recent newspaper column, must think smartly and never ever evade responsibility.

Officials blame poor hygiene on dengue rise

Jakarta Post - January 26, 2007

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Rusmiyati, a matron at Tarakan Hospital in Central Jakarta, has routinely requested leave in the first quarter of the year, after most of her friends go on holiday.

It is a wish that has never been granted because the children's ward she supervises is always full at that time with dengue fever patients from low-income families, who are treated for free at city-run hospitals like Tarakan.

"Dengue patients come and go so fast from January to March every year. I can hardly remember the names of the patients who died in my ward last week," she told The Jakarta Post on Thursday in her office as she leafed through the patient record book.

This month, the number of dengue cases escalated by the dozen – even by the hundred – each day, reaching 1,240 with six fatalities as of Tuesday, three of whom died in Tarakan.

The rapid increase in cases does not say much for the administration's fumigation and cleanup efforts. There is still a high prevalence of dengue infection in many districts of the city, particularly those in South and East Jakarta.

Rosanti, a resident of Rawa Lele subdistrict in West Jakarta, who was admitted to the hospital with dengue three days ago, was surprised to find four of her neighbors in the same ward. "We live in neighboring units," she said.

Rosanti said they had chosen the hospital, despite it being a long way from home, because it offered free treatment and quality medicines.

The administration offers free dengue treatment at 17 hospitals in the city. However, many of them – including Tarakan, Koja in North Jakarta and Fatmawati in South Jakarta, receive more than their fair share of patients due to their location.

Jakarta Health Agency deputy head Salimar Salim said the constant stream of dengue cases was the result of longer transition periods between the rainy and dry seasons in the past four years.

She said that as a result, mosquito breeding was almost continuous. People's poor living conditions, she added, also contributed to the mounting number of cases.

"People may clean up their houses and their gutters but there's a mound of garbage only meters away from their house. This too can potentially be a nesting place for mosquitoes after it rains." The Aedes aegypti mosquito can fly 100 meters away from where it breeds and spread the fever, she added.

Efforts to curb dengue, Salimar said, required commitment from all levels of the community as well as the administration.

The head of City Council Commission E for social welfare, Dani Anwar, said the rapid growth in the number of dengue cases and the resurgence of bird flu in the city exposed the low hygiene standards that many residents had as disease outbreaks tended to be associated with slum areas.

He said the time was ripe for the administration to make a bylaw on environmental standards in the city. "We have to be more disciplined about hygiene. It is time to punish those who have filthy houses or pollute the environment."


Dengue fever in Jakarta

























January 25



Source: Jakarta Health Agency

Indonesia on highest alert over bird flu: minister

Reuters - January 26, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesia is doing all it can to fight bird flu, the welfare minister said on Friday, a day after officials announced the country's 63rd death from the virus.

Indonesia, which has the world's highest number of human fatalities from bird flu, has been trying to step up efforts to stamp out the disease after a flare up in cases this year following a brief lull.

"Even though our continued effort is giving some significant progress, we are still on highest alert," Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie said at a ceremony to receive 100,000 sets of protective equipment donated by the United States. "Indonesia is very serious in addressing this threat," he said.

Bakrie said the government had succeeded in containing human infections of bird flu in nine of the 30 high-risk provinces. The disease, however, remains endemic in fowl in some of the most densely populated parts of Indonesia, including Java.

After a spike in cases this year, Indonesia moved to ban backyard poultry in the capital and surrounding provinces, but previous culling attempts have faltered because of a lack of funds and difficulty enforcing bans in more remote areas.

US Ambassador Lynn B. Pascoe said the resurgence of bird flu this year was a reminder that Indonesia had yet to contain the virus.

"We must remain vigilant in both our continued efforts to detect and contain the virus and to educate the citizens of this nation, particularly at the village level," he said.

The equipment donated by the United States included protective suits, respirators and goggles to help health workers deal with poultry or people infected with the virus.

Indonesia, the world's fourth-most-populous country that stretches across 17,000 islands, faces an uphill task in fighting the virus.

Millions of backyard fowl live in close proximity to humans and keeping backyard chickens is ingrained in Indonesia's culture while health education campaigns have often been patchy and rules difficult to enforce.

Contact with sick fowl is the most common way people are infected. Bird flu remains essentially an animal disease. With the latest case, 270 people worldwide have been infected since late 2003, killing 164 of them.

Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a strain that spreads easily among people, triggering a pandemic that would sweep the globe.

 Armed forces/defense

Jakarta shops for defence ties as relations thaw

The Australian - January 30, 2007

Mark Dodd – Indonesia is planning to buy coastal patrol vessels to bolster border protection with The Philippines and to crack down on illegal fishing and people-smuggling to Australia.

Indonesian ambassador Hamzah Thayeb said yesterday Admiral Slamet Soebijanto was negotiating to buy new defence equipment following a visit to Australia in September, a sign of the rapid thaw under way since the rupture triggered by last year's Papuan asylum decision.

And as part of the expansion of top-level defence contacts between Canberra and Jakarta, Admiral Soebijanto was followed in November by army chief General Joko Santoso. Air Chief Marshal Herman Prayitno was expected next month.

Mr Thayeb, withdrawn in protest by Jakarta after 42 Papuan boatpeople were granted temporary protection visas by Australia, said that joint naval patrols with Australia would tackle the problem of illegal fishing and people-smuggling.

The ambassador told The Australian that while relations were in good shape and co-operation on border security, defence, policing and counter-terrorism was set to expand, Canberra's travel advisories were too alarmist and had hurt Indonesia's tourism industry.

Also, improvement in two-way trade valued at $10 billion a year – less than Australia's trade with New Zealand – was also highly desired.

Mr Thayeb strongly endorsed comments last week by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Michael L'Estrange that Australia's credibility as a partner in southeast Asia hinged on a strong relationship with Indonesia.

"I agree, the relationship at the moment is very good. The personal relations between our leaders is very good, but we cannot just rely on the closeness of their relationship – we need to continue to co-operate on a range of issues," he said.

Outdated misconceptions by both countries still existed – most recently a Lowy Institute survey citing Australian fears of Indonesia as the country's main security threat.

"But it's also on the other side. Indonesia perceives Australia as always trying to interfere in its internal affairs, fears that come from East Timor," he said. "But that's over now and we've gone beyond that."

Australia's close relationship with the US gave it added clout in the region while Jakarta had led efforts for Canberra's participation in the annual East Asia Summit.

While more than 200 arrests had been made by Indonesian authorities in a crackdown on Islamic extremists, Mr Thayeb said, behind the headlines, the vast majority of Indonesians were moderate peace-loving people.

Lawmakers, TNI differ on soldiers' voting rights

Jakarta Post - January 27, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – Lawmakers and the Indonesian Military (TNI) are disagreeing on whether or not soldiers should be allowed to vote in a general election.

Djoko Susilo, a member of the House of Representatives' Commission I overseeing defense, believes a soldier, as a citizen, has the right to vote.

"I endorse the proposal to have military personnel vote because they have the right as citizens," Djoko, who is also a member of the National Mandate Party, told The Jakarta Post on Friday. "Should they be hindered from doing so, their rights are being violated inhumanely," he said.

Lawmaker Theo L. Sambuaga, who chairs the commission, also advocates giving soldiers the freedom to vote. "A citizen should have the right to vote, regardless of his or her ethnicity, religion or background," Theo told the Post. "Hampering soldiers from voting is discrimination," said Theo.

The legislators say they believe that there should be no limits on who can vote, including military personnel.

"The president (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) should have reconsidered when verbalizing his disagreement over the soldiers' right (to vote)," Djoko said.

"It's the right time to change. If the country seeks democracy, we must leave behind the assumption that giving soldiers the right would tear their squads apart," Theo said. "By letting them vote, it means we take part in fostering democracy in Indonesia," Djoko told the Post.

Djoko and Theo said countries with sound democracies – such as the United States, the United Kingdom, India and Australia – allowed all of their citizens, including military personnel, to vote in general elections. "Indonesia faces a setback if it does not allow soldiers to vote," Djoko said.

Army chief Gen. Djoko Santoso, however, said the right to vote was not his major concern. "It's not urgent to give military officers voting rights," the army chief said.

"The military doesn't have the authority to determine whether or not they have the right to vote, only the government and legislators in the House do," he said Friday at a press conference after a leadership meeting in his office. Earlier, the Indonesian Military commander Air Chief Marshal Djoko Suyanto similarly said voting rights for the military were not urgent.

"We don't want to be in a hurry to determine our standpoint," said Djoko.

More TNI officers being dismissed

Jakarta Post - January 27, 2007

Jakarta – An increasing number of Indonesian Military (TNI) officers are being dismissed from active duty after committing criminal misconduct, Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said Friday.

"It is understandable that many low-ranking TNI officers commit crimes because of economic problems," Juwono told reporters in his office in Jakarta as quoted by Detikcom news portal.

The minister said besides economic reasons, many soldiers were also discharged for being absent without leave.

"I've signed a lot of letters of dishonorable dismissal for soldiers who were absent without leave for six months," he said. "And this kind of violation can be found in each of the three TNI branches."

Juwono said his ministry was taking measures to reduce the rate of disciplinary violations, including increasing the soldiers' meal allowance from Rp 20,000 (US$2.20) a day. "I will increase the amount to Rp 35,000 a day," he said.

Shorten military tribunal bill transition period, government told

Jakarta Post - January 26, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – Rights group Imparsial said Thursday the government-proposed transition period of two to three years to alter the military tribunal bill, which enables soldiers to be tried in a civil court for criminal offenses, is lengthy and unnecessary.

"We think that a year-long transition period should be enough. Two years maximum," said Imparsial director Donny Ardyanto.

"Learning from previous transition periods on the law to cede control of all military personnel involvement in business, we think that a three-year period is ineffective," he said.

Imparsial said both the House of Representatives and the Defense Ministry were yet to set clear goals for the transition time.

"The Defense Ministry said that the two- to three-year transition period was needed in order to psychologically prepare the personnel from the military and the district court to apply this new condition," he said.

"If the government aims for a three-year period, then they need to clearly explain the scope of the transition period and the steps of orientation they want to make," Donny said.

The transition period, he added, should be measured objectively, not politically.

The special committee from the House of Representatives and the Defense Ministry has agreed to amend the much-debated bill in accordance with the Criminal Code, the Military Criminal Code and the Law on Judicial Authority.

Imparsial added that the government needed to revise the Military Criminal Code (KUHPM) to draw a clear line between it and the Criminal Code (KUHP).

"The Military Criminal Code is a part of 1997 Military Tribunal Law No. 31. Therefore, the revision of the bill also means a revision of the KUHPM," said Donny.

He added that every overlapping article in both codes, which are already stated in the KUHP, should be left out of the revised military code.

"The KUHPM should oversee the organization, structure and the function of military tribunals," he said, adding that the KUHP was currently being revised at the Justice Ministry.

The chairman of the special committee deliberating the bill, Andreas H. Pareira, said the three-year transition period would be seen as a deadline.

"The two- to three-year transition period was a recommendation from a House faction. We and the Defense Ministry have agreed upon the time length," said Andreas, who is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

"We will put the law into affect as soon as possible after we have succeeded in altering the bill and advising those affected of the new laws," Andreas told The Jakarta Post.

A research coordinator at Imparsial, Al Araf, said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needed to issue a letter promptly to assert the central government's position in the revision of the military tribunal bill.

"If the president has asserted his position, then the special committee and the Defense Ministry can resume their work in other discussions regarding the bill," Al Araf said. He added that trying soldiers in civil courts would prove that the military was actually reforming and a fair trial would be available to all.

TNI unveils new doctrine: No politics

Jakarta Post - January 25, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – The Indonesian Military (TNI) has unveiled a new set of guidelines for soldiers as part of its efforts to conform to a 2004 military reform law.

TNI commander Air Chief Marshall Djoko Suyanto said the new doctrine bans the armed forces from active involvement in the country's sociopolitical affairs.

"In the past, military personnel could get involved in politics because the old doctrine allowed them to do so. Now, we no longer associate ourselves with politics," Djoko told a media conference at TNI headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta.

He said the doctrine, which will be imposed this year, was constructed by all three branches of the military forces: the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

"The name of the new doctrine is Tri Dharma Eka Putra (Three Missions One Deed) compared with the former Catur Dharma Eka Putra (Four Missions One Deed) where the National Police was still included," Djoko said.

"But, we have to point out that our relations with the police are still good despite the separation," he added.

The old doctrine allows the military to perform tasks in defense, security, social and political affairs. The main function of the armed forces now, the general said, is to be the state's defense apparatus as spelled out in the 2004 law, which stipulates that the military is responsible for maintaining the sovereignty of Indonesia.

"Our current operational role is military operations in both war and non-war operations," he said.

As for retired soldiers who are currently involved in politics, the TNI chief said they could no longer claim to have the political backing of the Indonesian Military. "These retired soldiers actually have the same status as reporters," he said, jokingly.

Djoko said that it took the military seven years to amend the doctrine as "each page of the law could be discussed for days".

In 2000, the People's Consultative Assembly issued a decree on the separation of the police from the military in order to initiate reform in both organizations.

The separation of police and military is also expected to make both institutions work more effectively. The police had been under military control since 1960.

Criminologist Adrianus Meliala said the new doctrine must be carried out in the field. He pointed out that there were still many territorial commands throughout the archipelago that involved members of the military in local security.

"I've noticed an inconsistency in the field as the number of Provincial Military Commands and Military Resorts is also increasing. This is questionable," he told The Jakarta Post.

"Also, there should be a supporting law enforcing the professionalism of the armed forces as stated in the new doctrine," Adrianus said.

Asked about a proposal that would allow soldiers to vote and run in general elections, Djoko said the TNI was still studying the matter. "We are not in a hurry to say whether we want to have these rights or not," he said.

Soldiers to have civil trials

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2007

Jakarta – The House of Representatives and the Defense Ministry reached an agreement Tuesday to alter a bill to enable military personnel to be tried in a civilian court for criminal offense.

"Misdemeanors will be brought to the civilian courts while cases of military crimes will be brought to the military court," said House Commission III deputy chairman Aziz Syamsuddin, as quoted by Detik.com news portal.

The chairman of the special committee deliberating the bill, Andreas H. Pareira, said that both the House and the ministry had decided on a platform that could satisfy both sides.

"Yesterday there was a dispute that could not be bridged. But at this meeting, there was an agreement on (the much debated) article nine. We will move on from there," Pareira, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, said.

Article nine of the bill says that the authority of the military tribunal is to try criminal offenses involving soldiers or those considered to be soldiers.

The appendix of the bill states that military offenses are classified as all violations perpetrated by servicemen.

According to Pareira, both sides went through the most crucial articles of the military tribunal bill. They agreed that there should be an amendment, which will be discussed in detail, on civilian and military courts.

"We also asked the defense minister to answer the House's letter in the name of the government on the President's stance on the military tribunal issue. This will enable us to resume discussions," Pareira said.

He added that the House regarded any misdemeanor committed by soldiers as the responsibility of the individual. "I have tried to explain that to the Defense Ministry and they can respect that," Pareira said.

After the meeting with the Defense Ministry, the special committee will hold a internal meeting while waiting for the government's decision. There will be meetings afterward to discuss the article on the separation of the civilian and military courts.

A transition period of two to three years has been agreed on in order to alter the bill according to the Criminal Code, the Military Criminal Code and the Law on Judicial Authority.

Political observer Ikrar Nusa Bakti said that a transitional period of three years should allow district courts time to prepare for criminal cases involving soldiers. "The period will also serve as psychological preparation for military personnel," Ikrar said.

He added that the alteration of the bill, which proved that the military is reforming, could have great effect in enforcing justice. A retroactive law, Ikrar said, meant that the civilian tribunals would have more substance.

 Economy & investment

Economist warns investment climate remains week

Jakarta Post - January 30, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – The sharp drop in actual investment last year indicates that there are serious problem in the government's industrial development policies, a senior economist says.

"The figures clearly show that serious problems still affect our investment climate," economist Sri Adiningsih, from Yogyakarta's Gadjah Mada University, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Figures from the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) show that actual foreign direct investment (FDI) between January and December 2006 fell by nearly a third to only US$5.97 billion (involving 867 projects), from $8.91 billion (909 projects)

Similarly, domestic investment fell 32 percent to only Rp 20.78 trillion ($2.23 billion), from Rp 30.66 trillion the previous year.

"The recent macroeconomic improvements and the efforts to improve the business climate have yet to be translated into actual stimuli for manufacturers and businesses to invest and grow. If this continues, then it will be difficult to achieve 6.3 percent growth this year," she stressed.

Indonesia's economy started sluggishly last year, and only pickup speed in the second quarter, when growth came in at 5.1 percent, and the third, which saw 5.5 percent growth, as easing inflation and interest rates helped lift both public-sector and personal spending.

When the final figures come in, 2006 growth is expected to not be much different from the 5.6 percent recorded in 2005.

Investment failed to help spur growth in 2006, having instead shrunk by 0.98 percent in the third quarter and 0.25 percent in the second quarter. As a result, open unemployment as of the end of August stood at 10.28 percent of Indonesia's 220 million people, while 17.75 percent of the country's people lived in poverty as of the end of March.

On a positive note, however, the BKPM data also reveals a rising trend for investment approvals, with approvals for FDI rising to $15.62 billion from $13.57 billion the previous year, and those for domestic investment more than doubling to Rp 162.76 trillion from Rp 50.57 trillion previously.

Until last year, both investment approvals and realizations had been on the rise since 2004, which saw $10.43 billion in FDI approvals with $4.6 billion being realized, and Rp 44.52 trillion in domestic investment approvals with Rp 15.26 trillion being realized.

The BKPM said realized investment reflected approvals given in previous years, with last year's downturn due to investor caution about investment plans due to the 2004 general elections, in contrast to the upbeat sentiment prevailing in 2003.

Meanwhile, last year's rise in approvals was due to investor confidence recovering again on the improving macroeconomic situation.

The BKPM plans to overhaul its information system to provide a closer correlation between investment approvals and realizations in its data.

BKPM data excludes investments in the oil, gas and mining industries, banks and non-bank financial institutions, and the capital markets.

Although acknowledging the time lag between planned and actual investment, Sri Adiningsih said that last year's decline in actual investment also indicated that investors still faced difficulties in realizing their investment plans.

"It relates to the fact that investment loans from the banks are still costly for most businesses despite the central bank having cut its key rate. As a result, investors just cancel their investment plans," she said.

Regarding the fact that most investment approvals and realizations took place in the metal, machinery and electronics industries, which were generally considered to be labor intensive, Sri Adiningsih said it all depended on the actual industry.

"Many electronics industries are now less labor intensive, except in the case of assembly operations," she said. "So the important thing here is that the government facilitate investors in actually bringing their investment plans to fruition, and focus on promoting investment in those sectors that actually contribute to employment in the long run, like agroindustry."

CGI no longer needed: President

Jakarta Post - January 25, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – In the latest – and somewhat populist – take on the politically sensitive issue of foreign borrowing, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia no longer needs its main creditors and donors grouping – the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI) – and will rely more on its own resources for development funding.

"Indonesia no longer needs the CGI," Yudhoyono told the media after receiving visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Rodrigo Rato at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.

"I consider it beneficial to end the format that we know as the CGI forum. Last year, we rescheduled it, and in this year of 2007, I say now that there is no longer any need for the existence of the CGI forum, as before."

The government postponed its annual meeting with the CGI last year, although it later accepted the group's pledge of US$5.4 billion in new loans and grants to help Indonesia finance the budget deficit and support development programs.

This was up from the CGI's 2005 pledge of US$3.4 billion, plus an additional $1.2 billion in support for the relief efforts following the Aceh tsunami disaster. The CGI, formed in 1992 as the successor to the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI), comprises 21 member countries and 11 multilateral agencies. Its largest contributors are Japan, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Washington-based IMF, and the World Bank, which also chairs the group.

During its annual meeting with the government, the group usually assesses Indonesia's economic progress and financing needs prior to determining its aid offers, leading to criticism that the aid is tied, thus interfering with Indonesia's sovereignty, or is in the form of loans that "burden the nation".

Indonesia has an outstanding foreign debt of some US$60 billion – or 40 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) – and has to pay out Rp 54.8 trillion ($6 billion) on debt principal repayments and Rp 26 trillion on interest this year alone.

Yudhoyono said Indonesia can now assess and plan its own development needs without the CGI, and plans to continue reducing its foreign debts.

"We can now overcome all this, so there should no longer be involvement or assistance on the part of the CGI," he said, adding that the government had no plans to seek new loans from the IMF or other institutions.

Yudhoyono's statement on the CGI comes after Indonesia repaid all its debts to the IMF last year, and criticism of de Rato's visit from both right and left-wingers.

Yudhoyono further said that his decision on the CGI would make it incumbent upon the Indonesian people to determine development targets and how they would be funded. He urged all involved to prepare better development and budget plans.

Commenting on the President's decision, noted economist Faisal Basri from the University of Indonesia (UI) warned the government to exercise prudence as this year's budget alone needed Rp 40.2 trillion in foreign loans to help plug a deficit of Rp 40.5 trillion, or 1.1 percent of GDP.

"It (the decision) is possible, but the government must really prepare alternatives for budget financing and improve its debt management," he said.

"Let's hope this is not some sort of display of bravado intended to keep the anti-foreign-debt lobby happy. This is not like paying off the IMF debt, which did not affect the budget. What happens if the government's economic team turns out to not be able to manage the budget without the CGI money?"

Faisal said the only alternative would be to issue more government bonds, which could led to market saturation at a time when many companies were also considering turning to the bond market as an alternative to costly bank borrowing.

Issuing more global bonds, meanwhile, would be unfavorable amid the recent volatility on world financial markets. In addition, it had to be remembered that bonds were also debts, and carried even higher interest rates.

"Privatization will always face staunch nationalistic resistance, and hastily raising taxes would only hurt the public," he said. "Every government policy and decision should consider what is best for the entire nation."

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