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Indonesia News Digest 5 – February 1-7, 2007

News & issues

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 News & issues

For first time ever, total exports top $100 billion

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – Indonesia's exports wrapped up 2006 on another record high, booking growth of nearly 20 percent over the previous year to close at more than US$100 billion for the first time ever.

Full-year exports for 2006 were worth US$100.69 billion, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) reported Thursday, up 17.55 percent from 2005, on the back of strong demand for the country's non-oil and gas commodities, particularly coal, rubber, metal ores, copper, palm oil and textiles.

The government had forecast that last year's exports would grow by 15 percent from the $85.6 billion booked in 2005. Exports in December alone reached $9.5 billion, up 6.43 percent from the previous month.

"This is the first time that monthly exports have exceeded $9 billion," BPS director Rusman Heriawan told a media briefing to announce the 2006 trade figures. "Total exports between January and December surpassed the psychological level of more than $100 billion for the first time ever."

Non-oil and gas exports remained the main drivers of last year's strong export performance, growing 19 percent to account for more than three-fourths of overall export value at $79.5 billion.

Indonesia's total oil and gas exports between January and December 2006 amounted to $21.18 billion, up 10 percent from the same period in 2005 on higher output and crude prices.

Meanwhile, Rusman said that Indonesia's non-oil and gas exports continued to benefit from the rising global move to alternative fuels, thus pushing up the demand for coal and palm oil.

The world's workshop, China, was still booming, thus increasing demand for Indonesia's other main export commodities – metals, copper and rubber. China is now the fifth largest importer of Indonesian exports, after Japan, the 25 countries of the European Union (EU), the US and Singapore.

"The main export commodities came mostly from the agriculture and mining sectors, or still natural resource-based exports, so to speak," Rusman said.

Exports of mineral fuels, mainly coal, grew by $1.98 billion, or 30 percent, last year to reach $6.47 billion, followed by rubber, which grew by $1.95 billion, or 35 percent, to $5.53 billion.

Metal-ore exports increased 28 percent to $4.9 billion, while vegetable oil and animal fat exports, including palm oil, rose by 17 percent to $6 billion.

On the other side of the trade account, Indonesia's imports from January to December 2006 amounted to $61.08 billion, representing an increase of 5.85 percent from the previous year. Imports in December stood at $4.94 billion, down 15 percent from November, with China still being Indonesia's main supplier.

Based on the import and export figures, Indonesia's trade surplus for the year increased to $39.61 billion from the $27.96 billion surplus recorded in 2005.

Bad quality threatens NGO survival

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2007

Jakarta – While the number of non-governmental organizations has increased sharply since the collapse of the New Order, some question whether their professionalism has kept pace.

"Sustainability is the main threat for NGOs here, as most of them have weak leadership, poor planning and poor strategic management," Artanti Wardhani of the Center for Global Civil Society Studies (Pacivis) said Tuesday.

"They are also project-based oriented and dependent on funding agencies," she told The Jakarta Post after the opening of a training program on NGO management at the University of Indonesia.

Around 30 people from various NGOs across the country are attending the two-week training, organized by Pacivis to improve their leadership, strategic planning, financial management as well as network building.

One of the speakers at the training program, Bambang Ismawan, president of Bina Swadaya Foundation, said democratization was favorable for the growth of NGOs in the country. "However, they (NGOs) are still weak in terms of organization, human resources and finances."

The NGOs need to develop their business skills and economics in order to survive financially, he said. "A genuine NGO survives with its own resources, and does not depend on external funding to sustain their programs," Bambang said.

While many NGOs believe it is not proper to charge people for their service, Bambang said: "It's okay, they want to appreciate our work, and this should be developed because it could help the organizations sustain themselves."

Bina Swadaya Foundation, which has operated since 1967, runs several businesses, including publishing Trubus magazine and providing training for farmers.

He said that in a country like Bangladesh, NGOs that work in microfinance generate income from the public, making profits and growing steadily.

"Don't worry about criticism that NGOs should not run profitable businesses. It's the only way to survive, otherwise we will continue to have to beg from funding agencies," he said.

He added that the government should help to empower NGOs, because a more advanced civil society would help the government deal with social problems in the country.

"Currently there are plenty of initiatives from the people. The government should provide these community organizations with more favorable regulations to allow them to develop," he said.

He added that the current regulations on NGOs were loaded with political nuances that discouraged people instead of empowering them.

Indonesia police arrest two wanted Muslim militants

Reuters - February 1, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesian policemen arrested on Thursday two men wanted as top members of a local Islamic militant group that has terrorized the country's Central Sulawesi province and had links to an Asian terror network, police said.

Officers wounded one of them who had fired at the security forces, said a senior police official in Central Sulawesi's Poso regency, where raids on hideouts of suspected militants have intensified recently.

"Adrin has injuries on his arm, leg and chest but has been treated at the Poso public hospital. Basri did not give any resistance," Poso police chief Rudi Sufahriadi told Reuters.

Police consider Basri and Adrin the leader and number two in a gang behind 14 cases of violence in Central Sulawesi, including the beheadings of three Christian girls in 2005 and assassinations of Protestant ministers. Indonesians often use only one name.

Poso police spokesman Muhammad Tahir said the group had links to Jemaah Islamiah, a Southeast Asian militant network responsible for several attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people.

"They have the mission to make all of Poso Islam," he said, adding that the region currently has equal numbers of Muslims and Christians.

More than 2,000 people were killed in three years of sectarian violence between Muslim and Christian communities in the Poso region before a peace accord took effect in late 2001. There has been sporadic violence since, and prosecutions against those involved have been scarce.

Poso has been tense since the execution of three Christian militants in September over their role in the massacres of Muslims at a boarding school in 2000.

In January, 14 people, one of them a policeman, were killed during raids that involved gunfire between security forces and suspected Islamic militants.

Police defended the tactics as necessary to capture wanted criminals who try to hide behind the local Muslim community. Indonesia's president and other high ranking officials have supported the police actions while rejecting criticisms the operations were anti-Muslim.

Around 85 percent of Indonesia's 220 million people follow Islam, giving the country the world's largest Muslim population. Most Indonesian Muslims are moderates but there is a radical fringe that has been increasingly vocal and media-savvy.


Government drafts Aceh parties regulation

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2007

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – The government is drafting a regulation that would likely shackle local political parties in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

Home Minister M. Ma'ruf said Tuesday the new regulation would stipulate that local political parties could only contest local elections. If the same parties wished to contest a general election they would have to affiliate with established political parties.

"(Under the regulation) local political parties in Aceh can only nominate candidates in polls to elect the governor, mayors and regents and their deputies, as well as local councillors," Ma'ruf told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

The draft regulation will be presented to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for approval next week.

Ma'ruf said all stipulations in the draft regulation were drawn up to prompt local parties in Aceh to respect the territorial integrity of Indonesia.

He also said that the Aceh Independence Committee, the governor of Aceh and the Aceh office of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry would be in charge of overseeing local political parties.

Law No. 11/2006 on Aceh governance mandates the establishment of local political parties. The law, which was endorsed in July last year, was produced by the government as part of its commitment to implement the Helsinki Peace Accord, signed by the Indonesian government and representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

The peace agreement bound the Indonesian government to facilitate the establishment of Aceh-based political parties within one year.

The law gives Acehnese a greater say in governing the country's westernmost province, which has been ravaged by years of conflict and the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 150,000 people.

The law also gives Acehnese the right to manage their own natural resources, as well as guaranteeing the freedom of the Aceh government to implement sharia-based laws.

Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin dismissed suggestions that the new regulation would curtail the clout of the yet-to-be-established local political parties, and thereby curb the political aspirations of the Acehnese. "This regulation is to implement the Aceh governance law, which is a manifestation of the aspirations of the Acehnese," he said.

Irwandi seeks Army support

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2007

Jakarta – Aceh Governor-elect Irwandi Yusuf met Monday with Army chief of staff Gen. Djoko Santoso to seek support in leading the province.

Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Ricardo Siahaan said that in the 30- minute meeting, Irwandi stressed that support from the military, especially the Army, would be indispensable in helping Aceh's recovery.

"To win elections is easy, but to unify Aceh is not an easy task. Therefore I will need support from all sides, including the military," Irwandi was quoted by Ricardo as saying after the meeting. In the meeting, Irwandi also invited Djoko to attend his inauguration ceremony on Feb. 8.

Ricardo said that Djoko had told Irwandi that he would the military would provide all-out support as long as the regional administration maintained its adherence to the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.

Djoko said that all military commanders throughout the country, including Aceh, had been order to help local governments. He also said that the military had never tried to meddle in civilian affairs and that its role in regions such as Aceh and Papua was based on the decisions of the government.

Aceh's Independent Elections Committee declared Irwandi, a former member of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the winner of December's direct poll after he won 768,745 votes, or 38.20 percent of the more than two million ballots counted across the province.

Eight pairs of candidates contested the Dec. 11 elections, which were held after the government and GAM signed a landmark peace deal in Helsinki in August 2005. The agreement ended 29 years of bloody conflict that killed at least 15,000 people in the resources-rich province.

The agreement itself was triggered by the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami that swept through the Indian Ocean, with Aceh receiving the brunt of the destruction with about 125,000 fatalities.

In spite of his background in GAM, where he was a high-ranking official, Irwandi has frequently stated that he has no plans to revive the secession movement. Irwandi's election win raised concerns in some circles that he would encourage the province to leave the republic.

Speaking soon after his win, he said he and his deputy would focus on poverty eradication, job creation, education, improving health services and empowering small- and medium-sized enterprises.

 West Papua

Papua evacuees encouraged to return home

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2007

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – The government will deploy a team of local officials to Yamo, Puncak Jaya, Papua, Monday to encourage thousands of people fleeing a crackdown on separatists to return home.

Around 2,000 people moved from the Yamo river to the center of Yamo district following military and police attacks on Free Papua Movement (OPM) rebels in the area.

"We will go to the place (where the evacuees temporarily live) Monday with representatives of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police," Yamo district head Philipus Tabuni said Thursday. Tabuni said those fleeing were not classified as refugees, but only as people seeking refuge.

He said it was feared the fleeing masses could face food shortages as stocks they held begin to dwindle. "They mostly rely on cassavas... they do need food assistance," he said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Papua Churches (PGGP) will establish a humanitarian post to distribute relief aid in response to the reported threat of food shortages. The post, which will be located at the office of the NGO's Cooperation Forum in Papua, will also coordinate relief aid from donors. "We will open the office this week," said the forum's director, Septer Manufandu.

Vice chairman of PGGP, Rev. Lipius Bilinik, who is also head of the Evangelical Church of Indonesia (GIDI) synod, said PGGP would send letters to Papuan parishioners requesting donations.

Spokesman of the Trikora Military Command, Lt. Col. Imam Santoso, Wednesday said the number of people facing food shortages was 2,000, not 5,000 as claimed by PGGP. "Are there any photos indicating that? Has anyone seen the refugees?" he asked.

Imam said a number of people had moved to Yamo, but that exact numbers were unclear as no reports had arrived from the area. He said they were not refugees, but rather people avoiding the threat from an armed group who had broken the law by killing a soldier in December last year.

Imam believed the PGGP had given the wrong information as it could not provide any proof of its claims. "This is the same as giving false information," he said.

Imam said TNI and the police, along with the provincial administration, would never knowingly create public unrest and insecurity. Imam called on the civilian armed group to relinquish their weapons and return to society.

Imam said humanitarian aid would be provided to Yamo's residents if the PGGP's inflated reports of mass evacuations proved to be true.

"The TNI and the police are ready to provide assistance and security if the mass exodus indeed took place. But, there are no facts. The TNI and police would not let people suffer by not helping them," he said.

Imam also urged people not to involve themselves with the armed group and to continue with their daily lives.

Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu called on the state apparatus to conduct a manhunt for members of the armed group. He said this action would minimize unrest among Papua's citizens.

Papua separatists 'not a threat'

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – The Indonesia Military was urged Wednesday to be softer in its handling of the separatist movement in Papua as the threat the movement posed was minimal and lacking in significant external support.

"There are no effective insurgent groups nor political network in Papua that are strong enough to create a serious threat," said researcher Muridan S. Widjojo of the Center for Political Studies at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

"However, we have to realize that deep inside, almost every Papuan wants to be free from Indonesia," he added.

Speaking at a public discussion, Muridan said that the insurgent groups would become debilitated on their own, without any military force or intrusion.

"Papua is a big island geographically. Moreover, the infrastructure there cannot support any underground threat," Muridan said, adding that there was no international help that could really bolster the movement.

The soldiers and paramilitary police members had been careful with the people in Papua when it came to using force, he said.

The most notable separatist organization in the area is the Free Papua Movement, which has been fighting for independence since 1965.

Australian academic Richard Chauvel of Victoria University said that the chances of Australia helping a separatist movement in Papua to gain independence were small.

"If you compare the situation with East Timor, Australia had a personal connection with East Timor compared with Papua because there were more Australian soldiers being deployed there," Chauvel said.

"With Papua, there is no personal connection at all. However, there is no regulation from the Australian government that prohibits local NGOs from supporting Papuans in getting their independence," he said.

In March 2006, the Australian government granted temporary political asylum to 42 out of 43 Papuan refugees, who came to the country by boat. The event caused a stir in the two countries' diplomatic relations.

Chauvel added that the best cure for the separatist threat was political will from the central government in enacting special autonomy, which was granted to the region in 2000, along with the establishment of the new province of West Irian Jaya.

"The (Indonesian) government has to be serious in handling the area, especially in eradicating poverty, increasing the health and education of the people," said Chauvel, who often conducts research in Papua. Currently, he said, the Indonesian government was not committed to allowing Papua to receive its special autonomy.

In 2006, both Australia and Indonesia's governments signed the Lombok Agreement on security operations. The agreement was based on Indonesia's desire for Australia's recognition of its sovereignty and a statement that Australia would not support any separatist movement in Indonesia.

An article of the agreement states that neither country will support separatist movements in the other or allow their territory to be used as a base for separatist movements.

 Military ties

SAS to train with Indonesians

The Australian - February 2, 2007

Mark Dodd – The SAS will hold joint counter-terrorism exercises with Jakarta's elite Kopassus special forces as part of a dramatic expansion of defence ties between Australia and Indonesia.

The thaw in relations, which had been frosty in the aftermath of Australia's post-ballot intervention in East Timor, follows a series of unannounced visits.

The chief of the Indonesian navy, Admiral Slamet Soebijanto, was in Australia last March, and army chief General Joko Santoso arrived last November. Head of the Indonesian air force Air Chief Marshal Herman Prayitno is expected next month. Senior Australian Defence Force commanders have also been to Jakarta.

In the first bilateral air exercise since 1999, the RAAF and Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) will hold maritime surveillance manoeuvres this year, although no date has been set.

The contacts underscore growing confidence in bilateral defence ties, which appear to have weathered a diplomatic storm triggered by Canberra's decision last year to grant sanctuary to a group of Papuan asylum-seekers.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirajuda, last November signed the Australia-Indonesia Security Treaty and increased co-operation between the defence forces quickly followed.

Details were confirmed this week by Indonesian ambassador Hamzah Thayeb in an exclusive interview with The Australian.

The first joint army counter-terrorism exercises since 1997 were held last February with another scheduled for this year. A Defence spokeswoman said this would include counter-hijack and hostage recovery exercises involving the SAS and Kopassus.

Kopassus gained notoriety for its support for pro-Jakarta militias and its involvement in bloody post-ballot mayhem in East Timor in 1999.

But much has changed since, with the emergence of a common enemy – the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, whose leaders are wanted for a spate of bombings, including those in Bali in 2002 and 2005.

These closer ties come as the government-backed Australian Strategic Policy Institute yesterday called for the establishment of a national institute for counter-terrorism to provide leadership and policy direction.

Defence officials yesterday also confirmed "senior level links" with Kopassus including joint training involving "skills demonstrations and information exchanges".

SASR, Kopassus plan second joint exercise

Australian Associated Press - February 2, 2007

Australia and Indonesia will conduct a counter-terrorism exercise, the second since resumption of joint training involving the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR) and the controversial Kopassus special force.

But defence won't say when, where or how many troops from each side will take part. "No specific information on this type of training activity will be released due to operational security reasons," a defence spokesman said.

The exercise follows the first joint SASR and Kopassus counter- terrorism exercise conducted in Perth in February last year.

That exercise, code-named Dawn Kookaburra, concentrated on counter-hijack and hostage recovery operations. The upcoming exercise will be the second in the series and with venues commonly rotated, it likely to be in Indonesia.

"The Australian Defence Force has taken steps to develop training with TNI (Indonesian Armed Forces) in the areas of hostage recovery and counter-hijack operations," the spokesman said today.

"TNI's Kopassus Unit 81, currently represents Indonesia's most effective capability in these areas. "In the event of a terrorist incident, the safety of Australians in Indonesia could rest on effective cooperation between the ADF and TNI."

The spokesman said building links through joint training between the ADF and Kopassus would increase Australian effectiveness in working with TNI in the event of a terrorist incident.

Former defence minister Robert Hill announced a resumption of joint training between Australian and Indonesian special forces in December 2005, ending an eight year moratorium.

Australian defence ties with Indonesia grew through the 1980s and 1990s, mainly between Kopassus and the Perth-based SASR, but ended abruptly in 1999 when Australia led the international mission to East Timor.

The relationship with Kopassus was always controversial because of its well documented involvement in human rights abuses in East Timor, Aceh and West Papua.

A 2004 report released by the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University warned that Kopassus frequently, if not exclusively, operated in an illegal manner and there was little evidence it had changed its ways.

Kopassus Unit 81 has a specific counter-terrorist role. The government believes it possesses the most effective capability to respond to a hijack or conduct a hostage recovery operation involving Australians in Indonesia.

Other joint training between the ADF and TNI is planned. The RAAF and Indonesian Air Forces will conduct a maritime surveillance exercise called Albatross Ausindo off Northern Australia in the second half of this year.

 Human rights/law

'President can provide information on activist kidnappings'

Tempo Interactive - February 7, 2007

Aqida Swamurti/Sutarto, Jakarta – The National Commission for Human Rights has said that it considers President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono knows about the information on activists who were kidnapped between 1997 and 1998.

At the time of the kidnapping cases, Yudhoyono – then Social and Political Affairs Head – was also a member of the Indonesian Military (TNI) Honor Council which investigated a soldier who was suspected of being involved

"So, President Yudhoyono can provide information because he was a member of the Honor Council," said Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, Chairperson of National Commission for Human Rights, during a hearing with House Law Commission at Parliament Complex, yesterday (6/2).

As a TNI Honor Council member, according to Abdul Hakim, the President should be able to provide information on the location of activists kidnapped in 1998. "We now inquire does the President know, question or instead ignore the case?" he said.

The National Commission for Human Rights has submitted the result of investigations over pro-democracy activist kidnappings to the Attorney General's Office (AGO). However, the AGO has not yet been able to follow up on the results because it is still awaiting the House's recommendation stating that there has been severe human rights violation as regards the cases.

The Commission also wrote to the AGO asking the investigation into the cases be continued while waiting for House's recommendation. This is because the Commission viewed that there was no provision in the Human Rights Law saying that investigation awaits the establishment of ad hoc human rights court.

Abdul Hakim said he believes that the President is responsible for this case. The reason is the president has the infrastructure and gives commands to the police and the AGO to solve the case.

The Human Rights Commission, said Abdul Hakim, has sent a letter to the president asking to meet him. "But there has been no response so far," he said.

For the meantime, Andi A. Mallarangeng, presidential spokesman, has not yet been able to respond to the Human Rights Commission Chairperson's statement.

Komnas HAM: President Yudhoyono knows a lot

Kompas - February 7, 2007

Jakarta – The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) believes that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has a great of information about the abduction of pro-democracy activists in 1997-1998. Based on this, Komnas HAM believes that it would be a mistake if the president does not give his full attention to solving these gross human rights violations.

Komnas HAM chairperson Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara made this statement during a hearing with the House of Representatives (DPR) Commission III on Tuesday February 6. The meeting was chaired by Commission III deputy chairperson Azis Syamsuddin from the Golkar Party fraction. "President Yudhoyono was once a member of the [Indonesian Military's] honorary council that questioned a military officer involved in the abductions. President Yudhoyono therefore, is the one that could provide information", said Nusantara.

Because up until this day the whereabouts of the 13 activists remain unknown, Komnas HAM is asking the president to immediately task the national police with finding them within a period of three months. "They must be found no mater what their plight", asserted Nusantara.

Because there has been no sign from the government that it will investigate a number of pending human rights violations, several DPR members have started to pressure Komnas HAM to take the case before the International Human Rights Court.

"I agree with the internationalisation of human rights cases if there is no presidential will [to solve them]", said Eva Kusuma Sundari from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle faction during the meeting.

Arbab Paproeka from the National Mandate Party faction has also raised questions about Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh's stance who has persisted in avoiding investigating the disappearance of the 13 activists on the grounds that he is waiting for a recommendation from the DPR.

Responding to this impasse, the Commission III meeting with Komnas HAM decided to immediately support an investigation by the Attorney General into the results of an investigation by Komnas HAM into the 1997-1998 disappearances that are believed to be gross human rights violations.

The commission also agreed to immediately hold a tripartite discussion with the Attorney General and Komnas HAM to follow up the results of the investigation. (sut)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Kontras urges focus on Pollycarpus' phone contacts with BIN

Detik.com - February 7, 2007

M. Rizal Maslan, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) is calling on the police not to distract the investigation into the murder of human rights activist Munir by focusing on an autopsy of Munir's organs. The police should press forward and investigate who the principle perpetrator or intellectual actor of the murder was by investigating the contents of the phone conversations between Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto and Muchdi Purwopranjono.

"The focus of the national police after cooperating with the FBI should be to investigate in more detail the question of who the principle perpetrator of Munir's murder was through existing communication channels, both between Pollycarpus and a number of officials at BIN [the National Intelligence Agency] and the institution of BIN itself," said Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid at his office on Jl. Borobudur in the Menteng area of Central Jakarta on Tuesday February 6.

According to Hamid, investigating the cause of Munir's death is no longer relevant, including identifying samples of his organs, because this has already been done. "Although this is the authority of the national police, it is no longer relevant. Whether or not there is an autopsy, the national police are obliged to investigate communication channels between Pollycarpus and people at BIN", he explained.

Hamid said he hopes that the police will have the courage to question Muchdi and officials from BIN including with regard to the communication channels that existed between Pollycarpus and BIN officials. If they do not have the courage, no new evidence will be uncovered to finally solve Munir's murder. "If this is not done, we doubt that the steps being taken by the national police will discover 'novum' (new evidence)", he asserted.

As has been reported, some time ago the national police said they plan to conduct another autopsy of Munir's body organs. Prior to this, police will exhume Munir's body on the grounds that there was request for from the FBI. (zal/aba)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Government/civil service

Analysts say speech underwhelming

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2007

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – Analysts criticized President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's 2007 State of the Union speech for delving too much into macroeconomic details and overlooking some of the country's most immediate problems, such as avian influenza and the raging sectarian conflict in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

Political communication expert Effendi Ghazali of the University of Indonesia and political analyst Indra J. Piliang of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said Yudhoyono addressed the country's issues only as statistical matters and failed to grasp substantive problems at hand.

"There was no mention of avian influenza and concrete strategies that the government will take to deal with the disease," Effendi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Effendi also pointed out that, other than the use of a teleprompter, there was not much novel about Yudhoyono's speech. "What he presented was like a compilation of data collected from individual ministries, which he brought into the spotlight once again," he said.

Breaking with the tradition of presenting the State of the Union speech at the end of the year, Yudhoyono on Wednesday made the speech at the start of the year, when he could more confidently present data on his administration's achievements from the previous year.

Yudhoyono talked at length about the government's efforts over the past two years to lift people out of poverty. The President pledged that in 2007, his administration would spend trillions on poverty eradication programs as well as infrastructure.

Indra said that, judging from the media's reception of the speech, Yudhoyono had apparently been unsuccessful at persuading people to recognize his successes.

"It is not whether the speech is made at the end or start of the year, but what is the substance of it, whether or not the President has been successful in his programs," Indra told the Post.

He also said a lengthy delay in delivering the speech had sapped people's interest. The President was expected to deliver the State of the Union speech in early January.

Like Effendi, Indra questioned the emphasis on macroeconomic details, saying they would be very difficult for the general public to swallow. "I began to question whom the President was addressing: journalists, experts, legislators of the House of Representatives or the general public?," he said.

Effendi added that the president paid too much attention in the speech to people's criticism of him. "If he is confident about his achievements, why worry so much?" Effendi asked.

SBY urged to take further action on allowances

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2007

M. Taufiqurrahman and Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Pressure is mounting on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take further action following his decision to revoke a controversial government regulation raising the allowances for councillors in cities, regencies and provinces nationwide. Speaker of the House of Representatives Agung Laksono asked the President to reprimand Home Minister M. Ma'ruf for issuing the controversial regulation.

"The government regulation is discriminatory and unfair in its nature because the granting of allowances to councillors as well as extra payments and other perks to the leadership of provincial and regency legislatures is not accountable and has denied the people's right to justice," he told reporters.

Bowing to the public outcry, President Yudhoyono revoked the decree Tuesday. Agung, however, declined to comment when asked about the granting of similar perks to the House leadership, as well as numerous allowances for legislators.

Besides receiving an extra payment, the House speaker and his four deputies have also been given official cars and insurance, while with the allowances, legislators have received up to Rp 50 million (US$5,499) each in their gross monthly payments. The compensation hike has sparked fierce criticism from civil society organizations who are disappointed with the legislative body's performance.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) accused the government of politicizing the issue to discredit political parties.

"With the issuance of the controversial regulation, the government is trying to neutralize political parties because of their tough supervision of the administration and its performance in regions," the faction said in a media statement.

According to the faction, the fact that the regulation was issued indicates that the President is not in control of his administration, since the Home Minister has also issued many controversial decrees on regional administration, as well as granting incentives to a House special committee deliberating the key bill on Aceh administration last year.

Presidential Spokesman Andi Alfian Mallarangeng said the President had ordered Ma'ruf and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati to amend the newly-issued regulation.

Andi said the President had agreed to scrap the retroactive principle of the regulation, one of its most controversial elements.

"Article 14(d) on the retroactive principle has been scrapped. And leadership and members of local councils who received allowances based on the regulation must return them to the local treasury office no later than December 2007," Andi told reporters on the sidelines of the bilateral meeting between Yudhoyono and visiting Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf here.

Andi said allowances would only be given to the leadership of local councils, and only for activities related to their legislative duties. The presidential spokesman said a new government regulation would soon be issued to replace the controversial one.

Much of the criticism of the allowance raises focused on their retroactivity. Issued in November last year, the regulation said the new allowance scheme should be carried out dating back to January 2006.

A coalition of anti-graft nongovernmental organizations has blasted the regulation, arguing that it would provide a legal basis for a "massive swindle of taxpayer money." The coalition pointed out that a number of poor regencies that implemented the regulation suffered from a chronic budget deficit.

Andi, however, declined to give details on what the central government would do if the councillors failed to return the money.

Minister M. Ma'ruf said the December 2007 deadline was set to give councillors more time to collect the money, which they have probably spent. "Local governments will probably have a hard time collecting the money. But we will not give them any directives," he said.


Expert warns of polluting industries

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2007

Tangerang – Tangerang city administration should carefully monitor businesses that channel wastewater into the Cisadane River during the rainy season, an environmentalist warns.

During periods when river levels are high, businesses could easily dump wastewater without being noticed, environmentalist Ahmad Sirojudin said Monday.

"It's obvious if someone deposits liquid waste during the dry season when river levels are low because the water changes color and dead fish may float to the surface," he said as quoted by Antara.

"Dumping it when the river is full or overflowing would go unnoticed." He said the only proof that untreated wastewater was illegally dumped would come if residents began to suffer skin diseases.

Last week, the Tangerang municipal environmental agency reported that a number of manufacturers had allegedly dumped untreated liquid waste into the Cisadane. The businesses are located in Karawaci, Jatiuwung, Periuk and Cibodas.

29 dead in Indonesia flood; 340,000 flee

Associated Press - February 5, 2007

Zakki Hakim, Jakarta – Horse-drawn carts rescued residents from flood-stricken districts in the Indonesian capital on Monday after flooding burst riverbanks, killing at least 29 people and forcing some 340,000 to flee their homes in recent days.

Clearer skies brought some relief on Monday, and witnesses said floodwaters were receding in several areas while levels at key rivers were dropping.

However, large areas remained submerged under waist-high waters and officials warned that rain to the south, which causes rivers that flow into Jakarta to swell, might result in more flooding later in the day.

Authorities estimated that between 40 percent and 70 percent of the city, which spans an area of 412 square miles – about the size of San Antonio, Texas – had been inundated.

"We expect residents to stay alert because water may rise again and very fast," said Sihar Simanjuntak, an official monitoring the many rivers that crisscross this city of 12 million people.

People living in one upscale area hired carts and horses to pull them to safety.

"The government is awful," said Augustina Rusli, who for five days was trapped on the second floor of her house with her 10- month old baby, expecting the floods to be short-lived. "We have a neighbor who is sick with cancer but no one has come to rescue her."

Jakarta's heavily criticized governor said he could not be held responsible for the worst floods to hit the city in living memory, saying they were a "natural phenomenon" that occur every five years.

"There is no point in throwing abuse around," Governor Sutiyoso, who goes by one name, told el-Shinta radio station. "I was up until 3 a.m. this morning trying to handle the refugees."

Incessant rain that starting falling Thursday on Jakarta and the hills south of the city triggered the floods. Tens of thousands of homes, school and hospitals – in poor and wealthy districts alike – were inundated.

Indonesia's meteorological agency has forecast rain for the next two weeks.

The government has dispatched medical teams on rubber rafts into the worst-hit districts amid fears that disease may spread among residents living in squalid conditions with limited access to clean drinking water.

As of Monday, 29 people had died, mostly by drowning or electrocution, officials said.

"We have to be alert for diseases like typhoid, those transmitted by rats and respiratory infections. Hopefully, there will be no dysentery," said Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari. "We know it's hard for the residents (to keep clean) under the circumstances, but they have to."

Dr. Rustam Pakaya, from the Health Ministry's crisis center, said nearly 340,000 people had been made homeless, many of whom were staying with friends or family or at mosques and government buildings.

Jakarta regularly floods, though not on this scale. Dozens of slum areas near rivers are washed out each year. Residents either refuse or are too poor to vacate the districts.

Seasonal downpours cause dozens of landslides and flash floods each year in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, where millions live in mountainous areas or near fertile plains.

Well-off flood victims fill city hotels to capacity

Jakarta Post - February 5, 2007

Prodita Sabarini, Jakarta – Flip... flop... flip... flop... The sound of a man's sandals blended with the chattering of children in their pajamas in the lobby of a hotel.

"Can we have a room? Any room?" said the sandal-wearer to the receptionist at Hotel Ciputra in West Jakarta. Besides his sandals, he had on checkered shorts, a T-shirt, and an expensive-looking leather jacket.

The sight of elegant hotel lobbies filled with businesspeople wearing power suits has changed in the last three days. The lobbies are still elegant, but the suits have been replaced by children in pajamas and parents in shorts and flip-flops.

Luxurious cars dropping guests off in front of the hotels mixed with trucks and rented public minivans bearing well-off families whose houses were flooded or cut off from electricity, water, food and access to roads.

In front of Hotel Borobudur in Central Jakarta, some half-dozen families from Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, jumped out of an army truck Sunday.

To their disappointment, the hotel's concierge remorsefully turned down their request for rooms, as the hotel was full. The families then rented a car from Borobudur to search for other hotels in the city. "That was the third truck today," said the hotel's concierge.

With the flooding in Jakarta showing no sign of abating for the last three days, some 200,000 people in the city have been forced from their homes. The waters have inundated tens of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals in poor and wealthy districts alike.

Many of the homeless are staying with friends or family on higher ground, or at mosques and government agencies. Some are holding out on the second floors of their houses.

Some families have chosen hotels as their refuge. "We've stayed here since Friday because the power in our neighborhood is out, there's no clean water, and there's no access to roads leading to our workplace. So we had no choice," said Dewi Cahaya, 33, whose house is in Puri Kembangan.

She and her husband, Herdi, 40, brought their three children with them to Menara Peninsula Hotel.

Vira Dewiyana, 28, said that although her house in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta, was flooded, her family was lucky because they had the luxury of staying at a hotel nearby. "We're still blessed," she said.

Hotels have recorded a significant increase in occupancy rates since Friday, with the numbers of walk-in guests almost quadrupling those with reservations.

According to the Central Statistics Agency, the city had 307 hotels in 2006.

At Hotel Santika in West Jakarta, resident manager Darma Suyasa said the number of rooms requested by walk-in guests had increased from an average of 20 per day to 70 a day as of Friday. "Our occupancy rate is now 92 percent," he said.

On-duty manager Jonathan Makalu at Menara Peninsula Hotel said their occupancy rate had increased to 100 percent since Friday from an average of 70 percent. "We had to turn down some guests since our hotel has been fully booked," he said.

He said while the occupancy rate was increasing, a number of planned functions at the hotel have been canceled.

Hotels are short on staff to tend to the increased numbers of guests, since some employees have been trapped by the floods. Staff members are covering for those who cannot get to work.

Budiharjo, who works at Hotel Ciputra, said he had not gone home for 24 hours. Irfan of Menara Peninsula said he had stayed at the hotel for two days. Nevertheless, both said they didn't mind working another shift or two. "It's a circumstance beyond our control anyway," Irfan said.

After the flooding, the blame game begins

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – As hundreds of thousands of Jakartans struggled with the cold and damp, officials on Saturday were quick to muster the culprits behind another year of severe flooding.

Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso placed the blame on villas in Puncak, West Java, while State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar insisted the floods were caused by excessive development in the city's water catchment areas.

Rachmat said that local authorities had been overzealous in issuing building permits for Jakarta's designated water catchment zones. "Many ignore the (city) spatial plan, especially the authorities that hand out permits, even though they clearly violate environmental impact analyses," Rachmat said.

He said that large buildings in drainage areas in the capital had worsened the floods. "There are too many shopping centers in the capital," he said.

Sutiyoso, however, chose to criticize the luxurious villas and residential complexes of Bogor, West Java.

"The floods in Jakarta are partly due to environmental damage in Bogor. The Puncak is a water catchment area but there are now many villas there, causing the downpour to run straight into the river," he said during an interview on MetroTV on Saturday. Jakarta is fed by 13 rivers that have their origins in West Java.

Sutiyoso said the Bogor administration had sacrificed water catchment areas for economic reasons. "Yes, they'll get the income from the villas to increase their local budget, but they aren't thinking of the impact it has on Jakarta."

Sutiyoso said that under his management, the Jakarta administration had done well to balance both interests. "The practice of prioritizing income may occur in Jakarta, but I have managed it well since becoming governor," he said.

Jakarta has experienced a construction boom during his two terms as governor. Sutiyoso awarded dozens of permits to build high- rise shopping centers and apartments across the city.

Environmental activists have warned that the buildings would significantly reduce the city's green space, leading to repeated floods in the rainy season and water crises during the dry season.

Sutiyoso said that the city's high level of urbanization was a problem and had caused environmental destruction. "Therefore, Jakarta can't resolve the flooding problem on its own. It must be addressed through the megacity plan," he said.

That plan will integrate Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, Puncak and parts of Cianjur into an area to be known as Jabodetabekpunjur. Sutiyoso suggested more lakes be built in the city, as they could be used as water catchment areas in the rainy season and reservoirs in the dry. The city currently has around 43 small lakes, but most are not maintained properly.

Five feared dead, 100,000 displaced by floods in Jakarta

Agence France Presse - February 3, 2007

Nabiha Shahab, Jakarta – Five people are feared killed in floods in Jakarta with 100,000 others forced to camp out at roadsides and in emergency shelters after days of torrential downpours.

With more rain forecast, disaster officials said they were struggling to cope. Hundreds of troops and navy personnel equipped with inflatable boats and rafts were deployed to help the capital's worst-hit areas.

"We have done the optimum effort to evacuate people but because of the number and the vast area to cover we hope people understand (the problems we are facing)," Sugeng Triutomo from the national disaster management body told ElShinta radio.

About 100,000 people had been displaced by the rainy-season floods, the state Antara news agency reported, citing disaster management body figures. Five people were feared dead, including a 20-year-old man who was electrocuted after a tree fell on a power line, an East Jakarta crisis centre officer told AFP Saturday.

"We have received reports of at least four other people washed away by the floods but have not recovered the bodies," he said.

Hundreds of families were seen huddled together by roads in higher areas after fleeing their flooded homes in the city, which is criss-crossed by 13 rivers.

Waters up to two metres (more than six feet) submerged areas of the city, including the upmarket Kelapa Gading housing complex in the north, which is usually less prone to flooding.

"I had to put my motorcycle in the university out there and walk in the floods to my house last night (Friday)," Kelapa Gading resident Najmi said. "The water in front of my house is about one metre. We have been trapped here since yesterday morning," he told AFP.

Several other Kelapa Gading residents called ElShinta, saying some old people and pregnant women were trapped in their houses and needed evacuation.

Water, electricity supplies and telecommunications have been cut in several areas of the city due to the floods.

Search and rescue workers and nurses in inflatable boats were offering medical help to flood victims along the main Ciliwung river, Hadianto, head of the independent Jakarta Rescue group said. "Areas that we go to are very far from the reach of cars. We have to hop from roof to roof of people's houses," he told AFP.

Hadianto said the main complaints so far were diarrhoea and skin problems, with children and old people suffering the most.

Indonesian Red Cross and other volunteers were cooking and delivering food to the thousands of people stranded in their flooded homes or sheltering at the side of roads.

City water control officials warned that the floods could worsen, with continuing rains in nearby Bogor city expected to exacerbate the situation by nightfall.

"Katulampa watergate is 70 centimetres (28 inches) above normal and the water level is rising," a Jakarta water control officer told AFP, referring to the main sluice gate controlling the flow of water from Bogor, which is at a higher elevation.

More rain was forecast in Jakarta and surrounding areas over the weekend, a meteorologist from the meteorology and geophysics office told AFP.

Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar blamed the floods on excessive construction in water catchment areas, Antara reported. "There are too many malls in the capital city," he said. Witoelar said many developers had not paid enough attention to the ecological impact of construction projects.

Old Batavia, the former colonial port under the Dutch from where Jakarta has expanded, was built on marshland. Certain areas of the capital are below sea level and have weak drainage, with major tides slowing down the outflow of rainwater.

In 2002, floods killed as many as 40 Jakartans and some 300,000 were forced to seek refuge in mosques, schools and even cemeteries.

Minister blames Jakarta floods on excessive construction

Agence France Presse - February 3, 2007

Jakarta – Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar has blamed excessive construction on water catchment areas for floods which have inundated the Indonesian capital.

Swathes of Jakarta remained under water Saturday as thousands of people forced to abandon their flooded homes spent the night camped out alongside roads and in emergency shelters in higher areas of the city.

Witoelar said excessive construction on natural drainage areas had led to the floods, the state Antara news agency reported late Friday. "There are too many malls in the capital city," he said.

Jakarta has undergone a construction boom recently as the economy recovers to pre-1997 Asian financial crisis levels. The minister said many developers had not paid enough attention to the ecological impact of their construction projects.

Some 13 rivers crisscross Jakarta, with 78 zones considered at risk of easily flooding, including densely-populated districts.

Old Batavia, the former colonial port under the Dutch from where Jakarta has expanded, was built on marshland. Certain areas of the capital still remain below sea level and have weak drainage, with major tides resulting in the outflow of rainwater slowing down.

To improve the situation, authorities have for a long time envisioned constructing an East Jakarta Canal that would be some 24 kilometres (15 miles) long. So far only about a third of it has been built and the city council earlier this month reportedly cut the budget allocated to buy land for the project.

Sidoarjo council threatens to shut down Lapindo operations

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2007

Indra Harsaputra, Sidoarjo – Sidoarjo council members have threatened to close down exploration activity by the company at the heart of Sidoarjo, East Java mudflow disaster unless it resumes payments to the regency.

The mudflow, which has been gushing since May 29 last year, has killed 13 people and injured scores more. Many blame the disaster on exploration by the company, Lapindo Brantas Inc.

Sidoarjo council speaker Arly Fauzi told The Jakarta Post the regency has not been given its share from the company's activities in the regency since 2005.

"We sent our protest to the central government in 2005 but got no response," he said. "And now, Sidoarjo has become a victim of Lapindo's exploration activity," Arly said Friday.

He said the regency used to receive around Rp 2 billion (US$217,391) a year from Lapindo's 22 well explorations in the area. The amount decreased to Rp 45 million in 2004 and nothing in 2005. Based on the council's data, the company's 22 wells in Sidoarjo are expected to raise Rp 1 trillion in income this year.

"If the government doesn't do anything, we'll close down all Lapindo's exploration wells in Sidoarjo. Besides, mudflow victims at Tanggulangin Sejahtera were not given compensation for their losses," Arly said.

The council speaker said he told the central government to share responsibility for the mudflow since the company could no longer afford to compensate for all the damage caused by the disaster.

He accused the central government of not being transparent in its dealings with Lapindo.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier ordered Lapindo to pay Rp 3.8 trillion rupiah in compensation and costs related to the mudflow.

In a related development, hundreds of residents from Tanggulangin Sejahtera housing complex blocked Lapindo's Wunut gas field Thursday night to demand the company compensate them for the damage caused by the mudflow to their houses.

"We've been living miserable lives in shelters and we're tired of protesting. But Lapindo has broken its promise to compensate us for our land and homes. If Lapindo can't provide us with certainty, we can't guarantee some residents won't resort to violence and anarchy," said resident Pudjiono.

Around 7,000 residents from the complex have been living in shelters at Baru Porong market since the area was inundated by the mudflow. The protest ended Friday morning.

Lapindo's East Java manager, Rawindra, said it could only pay compensation for areas directly affected by the mudflow, as previously agreed with a government-appointed team to deal with disaster. The housing complex residents, he added, were not included in the deal.

Meanwhile, a compensation dispute has forced state oil and gas company Pertamina to postpone the construction of a gas pipeline intended to replace one which exploded near the mudflow disaster zone in November last year.

A company spokesman, Toharso, said residents have objected to the construction of the three kilometer pipeline, which is planned to run parallel to the old damaged pipe, because no agreement has been reached on land compensation.

"We've started the construction of 1.6 km of the total three kilometer pipeline but we can't complete it," he told the Antara newswire Friday. The explosion has been blamed on an underground pipeline rupture caused by the Sidoarjo mudflow.

Riau NGOs ask government to stop forest sales

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2007

Jakarta – A coalition of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) called on the government to cancel auctions for two selective logging concessions in Riau and Jambi, saying the move would endanger protected animals and threaten the livelihood of indigenous peoples.

Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of Riau NGOs, said the auctions of PT SWS's 124,000 hectare concession in Riau and PT IFA's 130,000 hectare concession in Jambi would endanger Sumatran tigers and elephants.

The two logging concessions are planned to supply the pulpwood industry.

The NGO coalition, comprising the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, the Riau chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) and the Working Network of Riau Forest Rescuers (Jikalahari), warned that companies would get licenses within the next few days to convert the forests to industrial timber plantations.

The coalition also expressed support for the campaign by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, which denounced the Forestry Ministry's latest plans to auction off more than 1 million hectares of natural forest throughout Indonesia, including those in Riau and Jambi.

Eyes on the Forest says the auction contradicts the government's latest pledge to restore around two million hectares of natural forest across the country. Deforestation was blamed for causing a series of natural disasters.

"If there is a cheap and easy option to increase forests, by preventing their destruction, why does the government not take it?" Zulfahmi, Jikalahari coordinator, said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Zulfahmi said at least 50 percent of the forests to be converted should be protected, based on the province's Land Use Plan 1994 and conservation criteria for plantation development.

He said the auction of concessions for pulp violate a government regulation stipulating industrial timber estate development should not be granted for natural forest, but should only be granted for barren land, grassland or bushes in production forest.

"The plan to allow the pulp industry to clear-cut these natural forests also totally ignores the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and will have a negative impact on their economy, society and culture," said Johny Setiawan Mundung, Walhi Riau's executive director.

"This auction is a clear action to encourage deforestation. Forest conversion to artificial monoculture pulpwood tree farms badly impacts the survival of the indigenous people and will spark endless social conflicts," Johny said.

Around 130,000 hectares of natural forests is up for grabs inside Bukit Tigapuluh forest.

Citing a report titled Setting Up Priorities for The Conservation and Recovery of Wild Tigers: 2005-2015, the coalition said the forest is one of only two Global Priority Landscapes for tiger conservation in the country and one of only two remaining key habitats for Sumatra elephants in Central Sumatra.

The livelihoods of thousands of indigenous peoples of Talang Mamak and Malay in Riau as well as Anak Dalam in Jambi entirely depend upon these forests, says the report.

The Bukit Tigapuluh forest is one of the largest forest blocks remaining in Riau with 413,000 hectares of contiguous natural forest.

However, only 149,000 hectares of this forest block are protected as a national park while the other 254,000 hectares are inside the concessions for auction.

The coalition said around 60 to 70 elephants are estimated to live in the soon-to-be-auctioned forests, while at least 100 tigers are believed to live in Bukit Tigapuluh.

The coalition warns that when these forests are converted, a rash of poaching is likely to unfold as tigers are displaced, while human conflict with elephants will dramatically increase.

"Imagine how many severe conflicts will occur in the surrounding villages with the elephants that will lose their habitats," says Nurchalish Fadhli, leader of WWF Indonesia's Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation program in Riau.

"Auctions to allow these forests to be clear-cut by the pulp industry are contradictory to the Forestry Ministry's own decree establishing Riau as an elephant conservation center," he said.

 Health & education

Activist says need for HIV treatment is urgent

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2007

ID Nugroho, Surabaya – The government needs to speed up the distribution of HIV antiretroviral medicine throughout Indonesia to help people with HIV/AIDS, an activist said Monday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the opening of the 3rd National AIDS Meeting in Surabaya, East Java, Nafsiah Mboi, chairwoman of the National AIDS Prevention Committee, said that the quick distribution of the drugs was badly needed, since such medicines were one of the most effective ways to maintain the health of people with HIV/AIDS.

The four-day meeting, sponsored by the United Nations joint team for AIDS, was opened by Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie.

"The medicine is only available in 153 hospitals in 28 provinces throughout Indonesia, while demand is not only at the provincial level but also in regencies and mayoralties," Nafsiah said.

The United Nations has supported the AIDS response in Indonesia since 1996, with the Joint United Nations Program for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 2003-2007, providing direct support for the National AIDS Commission and local AIDS commissions, UNAIDS said in a statement.

"UNAIDS has high hopes that the AIDS meeting will be a strategic opportunity for everybody to sit together and harmonize all efforts toward an accelerated AIDS response in Indonesia," Prasada Rao, UNAIDS regional support team director for Asia and the Pacific, said.

Even though Indonesia is classified as a country with a concentrated HIV epidemic, there is still a window of opportunity to take action, so long as all stakeholders strive to streamline their programs to the priority needs of the country, he said.

"We know that resources are available, but we must seek to avoid needless program duplications and repetitions, and try to focus on priority interventions which produce an impact," Rao said.

The four-day meeting will bring together key stakeholders, such as the government, legislators, medical practitioners and the national and regional AIDS commissions, as well as civil society, people living with HIV, women, men who have sex with men, and transgenders.

"This will be an extraordinary opportunity for various groups to review Indonesia's AIDS response, so that the theme 'uniting efforts to scale up the AIDS response' can be realized," UNAIDS country coordinator Jane Wilson said.

UN-sponsored activities in fighting AIDS in Indonesia include prevention and treatment services for children and orphans, life skills education among young people and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (UNICEF), condom promotion among young people and sex workers (UNFPA), providing access to treatment and care for injecting drug users and in prison settings (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) as well as among the refugee population (UNHCR).

The theme of the Surabaya meeting, "Uniting efforts to scale up the response", is directly relevant to the UN, which recognizes the urgent need to build on the good work that is already taking place.

"Planning this AIDS meeting has brought all stakeholders together and will renew our vision and commitment to working together," Wilson said.

Other UN agencies focus their programs on supporting prevention, treatment and policy research.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) seeks to understand and respond to the effects of HIV/AIDS in the world of work, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) invests in the development of education and advocacy materials, while the World Health Organization (WHO) works on the public health and medical aspects of HIV/AIDS.

The World Food Program (WFP) focuses on food and nutritional support for people living with HIV, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) provides training and capacity building for the government, while the World Bank invests in analytical work and studies.

More information on the joint UN program can be found at http://www.un.or.id.

According to Health Ministry data, 5,230 cases of HIV and 8,194 cases of AIDS have been reported in the country since 1987, but official estimates put the number of Indonesians living with HIV and AIDS at 169,000-216,000.

Commitments have been made by the government, whether at United Nations level or regional level through the Association of Southeast Asian Nation, and actions implemented to halt the spread of the epidemic.

In 2006, however, 986 new HIV infections and 2,873 AIDS cases were reported, indicating there is still a long way to go to achieve the Millennium Development Goal to halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV.

More than 1,500 people are expected to attend the meeting.

Minister says dengue worse than past years

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2007

Jakarta – This year's dengue fever outbreak will be harder to manage than previous outbreaks due to significant increases in the total number of sufferers, the Health Minister said Friday.

"This year's outbreak will be harder to control than last year's because the number of patients has increased sharply since mid- January," Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said during the initiation of a mass fumigation campaign in West Cilandak, Jakarta.

Siti said the number of patients would be highest during the peak of rainy season in February and March.

However, on Thursday, the Health Ministry refused to declare the dengue fever outbreak an "extraordinary occurrence". The Ministry said the total number of sufferers had yet to double figures from the same period last year, or the previous month.

The director general of communicable diseases at the Health Ministry, I Nyoman Kandun, said Thursday that as of January, the total number of sufferers in Indonesia stood at 8,019, with a total death toll of 144. This was much lower than January 2005's figure of 18,929, when the death toll stood at 192.

Yet, Data indicates that this January's fatality rate was 1.8 percent higher than that of January last year, which stood at 1 percent.

Siti also said that, despite its quick response to the latest bird flu outbreak, Jakarta lagged in preventing dengue fever. "Jakarta continues to be one of the provinces with the highest number of dengue fever patients. This is due to its high population density level," she said.

She added that people should work together in combating dengue fever, which is commonly spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

The Jakarta Health Agency's data showed that as of Thursday, this year's dengue fever outbreak had proved fatal for eight out of 2,404 patients in the capital.

Governor Sutiyoso, who was also present at the mass fumigation, said Jakarta currently faced three serious problems: dengue fever, bird flu and flooding.

"Don't blame each other or talk too much, let's just face the problems hand in hand," he said, adding that every household should take care of their immediate environment. This should include monitoring for mosquito larva.

Dengue fever expert Sri Rezeki S. Hadinegoro said Thursday that people should carefully monitor fevers and immediately have blood tests if symptoms lasted more that three days. "If the fever stays high by the third day, it could be fatal," she warned.

Patients should consult their doctors on the appropriate blood test, and not only focus on blood platelets, as a decreasing number of platelets was not the only indicator of a dengue infection, she said.

"Their white and red blood cell counts should also be checked," she said. Sri added that the most important treatment for dengue patients to receive was rehydration, which maintains liquid and oxygen levels in the blood.

Jakarta bird ban ends 'way of life'

BBC News - February 2, 2007

Lucy Williamson, Jakarta – Jakarta's first poultry patrol was anything but a surprise to the residents of Kemayoran district. The red and white banner strung across the narrow street read "You are entering a chicken-free zone".

Under it, sheltering from the rain in coffee shops and doorways, dozens of police and officials waited for the governor's arrival. "He'll go down that road", one shop owner said, "and he'll be stopping off at the house to your right."

The city's Governor Sutiyoso came to stamp his authority on a ban that some have quietly labelled drastic. In this city of more than 10 million people, keeping a few chickens in the back yard is a way of life.

But from 1 February, all chickens, ducks and domestic birds are banned, unless their owners obtain a special licence.

The move comes after a spate of human deaths from bird flu since the beginning of the year. A spike in infection rates is not unusual during the rainy season, when the virus survives more easily.

But last year saw more human deaths from the virus in Indonesia than in any other country, and officials are keen to end international criticism that Indonesia has been soft on bird flu.

Safety net

The new rules have worried many families. Domesticating birds has a long history in Java, but officials say thousands of chickens have been culled since the ban was announced.

Pak Sunaryo got rid of his chickens as soon as the new rules were announced. He lives in a tiny alley just minutes from the city's main shopping areas. "I used to keep them for festivals," he said. "It's useful to have your own chickens, because food prices are always going up, especially around the holidays."

A short distance away, Ibu Eni was also getting used to life with an empty backyard. "All my chickens were gifts from my relatives in West Java," she said. "I used to let them just run around, but when I heard about the bird flu cases, I killed them all. For the past month I've eaten chicken every day."

Domestic chickens and ducks play an important economic role for families across Indonesia. They provide a kind of nutritional safety net for when things get tough, or a way to earn a little extra money.

Each chicken fetches a market price of just over $1. And according to Dr PM Laksono, a sociologist at Indonesia's Gajah Mada University, for the poorest families, the money from selling poultry or eggs pays for basic costs like school fees.

Cultural role

But birds have a place in the culture of Indonesia too. The national symbol is a bird called a garuda, a mythical bird which appears on the country's coat of arms and gives its name to the state airline.

On the island of Java, turtledoves are traditionally seen as giving completeness to human life, and are often seen or heard through the windows of family houses. According to Dr Laksono, doves in particular have a symbolic significance which follows people through their lives.

Grandparents will often give doves to their grandchildren on their birthdays. The birds' image appears on wedding invitations. And 1,000 days after the death of a family member, a pair of doves can be released to signal the flight of his or her spirit from the world.

But to health workers in the city, doves, pigeons and all other birds have come to symbolise something else.

Of the six human deaths from bird flu this year, two were in Jakarta. Most of Indonesia's 63 cases have been the result of contact with infected poultry.

One of the areas visited by the Jakarta governor was famous for its racing pigeons. Now, the city's mayor announced proudly, they are nowhere to be seen.

 Transport & communication

Emotional sea ceremony for plane crash victims

Agence France Presse - February 3, 2007

Jakarta – Grieving relatives of the 102 people on board an Indonesian airliner which vanished on New Year's day have held an emotional ceremony at sea over the spot where its "black box" flight recorders were found.

Indonesian navy hospital ship KRI Dalpele carried 151 relatives of the passengers and crew to cast flowers onto the ocean waters and pay their last respects. A US Navy ocean survey ship found the black boxes from the Adam Air Boeing 737-400 on the ocean floor off the west of Sulawesi island at a depth of around 2,000 metres (6,600 feet).

But the boxes, which could hold vital clues to the disaster, are yet to be recovered. No bodies and only small parts of the plane have been found.

"Representatives from all of the families went for the ceremony except the family of pilot Refri Widodo," Adam Air spokeswoman Susianti Dewi was quoted by the state news agency Antara as saying Saturday.

The plane was carrying 96 passengers – including an American and his two daughters – and six crew when it vanished from radar screens during a routine flight from the island of Java to Sulawesi.

Tears flowed during the ceremony and one woman became hysterical and tried to jump off the ship, detikcom news portal reported.

The ceremony was delayed from Tuesday as some relatives said they had not abandoned all hope for their loved ones.

The KRI Dalpele was expected to return to the main city of Makassar in South Sulawesi late Saturday afternoon.

Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa said the ceremony did not signal the end of the massive search for the wreckage. "Search efforts on the seabed have ended but not on the surface," he said. "The national transportation safety committee is still looking at the best technology to recover the black boxes and lift the plane wreck."

Rajasa earlier in the week said Indonesia did not have the technology to retrieve objects from such a great depth and was looking to the United States, France or Japan for help in recovering the black boxes. In comparison, the wreck of the Titanic, which sank in 1912, was located at a depth of 3,800 metres using an unmanned submersible.

A section of tailfin found by a fisherman is the largest piece of the Adam Air plane found so far. Dozens of fragments and other debris such as tray tables have been washed up on beaches or plucked from the sea, but no larger wreckage or bodies have been retrieved.

It is not yet known what caused the crash but retrieving the black boxes which record flight data and cockpit communications should help the investigation. The pilot did not send a distress call but reported that the plane was being buffeted by cross- winds shortly before it disappeared from radar.

The search for the plane was marred by an embarrassing mix-up when officials wrongly reported wreckage and survivors had been found on a mountainside a day after it went missing.

Air and sea catastrophes leave disaster management body broke

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2007

Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung – The National Disaster Management Coordinating Board (Bakornas) announced Thursday that search for survivors and wreckage from two major air and sea disasters has left it run out of money.

The board's secretary, Budi Atmadi Adiputro, said Bakornas spent between Rp 27 billion (US$2.84 million) and Rp 29 billion searching for both an Adam Air jetliner that went missing off Sulawesi with 102 people on New Years Day, and the KM Senopati Nusantara ferry, which sank in the Java sea on Dec. 29 last year.

"Almost all of our money is spent. We have a budget to deal with floods, so we borrowed part of it. We also took loans from here and there, like borrowing several thousand liters of avtur from (state oil company) Pertamina," Budi said after a meeting to deal with disasters across West Java in Bandung on Thursday.

Around 250 of the Senopati ferry's 628 passengers have been picked up alive from the sea while tens of bodies have been found. Some 300 passengers remain missing, while the ship's wreck has still not been found.

The search for the Adam Air jetliner's passengers goes on but not for the black boxes, which were detected by a US ship in Majene waters, West Sulawesi.

Budi said he did not know this month's budget plan for the searches, but the search would continue until there was an instruction from Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa or President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono himself to stop.

He said technical details of the searches, along with efforts to salvage the ship and the jetliner's wreck, were the responsibility of the ministry and the National Search and Rescue Board (Basarnas).

However, Bakornas is in charge of coordinating other factors, such as obtaining search ships, planes, avtur, troops and money.

He said that during the January searches, emphasis was placed on finding survivors. He said the focus of searches in the coming days will be on finding the Senopati ferry's wreck and the remains of the Adam Air jetliner's passengers.

When asked whether Bakornas would claim the search fund with Adam Air and Senopati management, Budi said that only areas such as compensation payouts would be the responsibility of the companies. "If it was all a burden on the companies, they might go out of business," Budi said.

Meanwhile, he said only 10 percent out of some 400 regencies and cities have allocated special funds to deal with natural disasters. The lack such funds, he said, meant most local administrations had to request help from the central government in dealing with disasters.

He said a Bakornas team had been sent around the country to convince local administrations to allocate funds to deal with disasters.

"Funds for disasters should no longer come from the central government but from regencies, cities and provincial administrations. An accomplishment for regents and mayors should no longer be the construction of a new road, but it should be good preparation for disasters," Budi said.

 Opinion & analysis

When the state fails...

Jakarta Post Editorial - February 6, 2007

The massive flooding in Jakarta over the past few days is further proof that crisis brings out the best in most people. It is comforting to know that when the state fails you, you can count on the people around you to lend a hand and come to your rescue.

People not affected by the floods literally rolled up their sleeves and pants to help those trapped in their houses or on their roofs. They waded, swam or rafted through high water to reach those who had been stranded. It was not uncommon to see children, women and the elderly being evacuated on rafts.

Neighborhoods free from floods set up communal kitchens, with food and money donated by people in the area. Women volunteered to cook meals and young men delivered the food to the needy in nearby neighborhoods. People may still be stranded in their inundated houses or in makeshift shelters, but they won't go hungry.

The flooding was just so extensive that people would be waiting for a very long time for state assistance, if it ever arrived. The Jakarta administration has only so many rubber rafts and so many workers to deploy in times of disaster, and these would have been insufficient given the scale of the floods that hit the capital over the weekend.

Thankfully, civil society, defined as organized volunteer activities, has filled in the gap where the state has failed. This has been a spontaneous reaction on the part of the people. There was no command from anyone on high. There was no one giving orders. In most places, people just went and helped, as if each of them knew what was expected of him or her.

Of course, many Jakartans have experience with this kind of disaster. Five years ago, the capital was also hit by massive flooding, and people then were also quick to come to the aid of those in need.

We saw this happen in the first Bali bombing that killed 200 people, mostly foreign tourists. We saw it again in Aceh after the devastating tsunami in December 2004. And we saw it in Yogyakarta after last year's powerful earthquake. But this is not specific to Indonesia; New York in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and New Orleans after hurricane Katrina come to mind.

The world is never short of empathy and solidarity. And that is a comforting thought, especially since disasters do not discriminate about their victims.

In all these disasters, the media certainly played a role in raising awareness about what was happening and the need for assistance. But long before the TV cameras arrived, and long before officials came to assess the damage, there were usually already people in the area, offering help and comfort. More often than not these people were volunteers from nearby neighborhoods.

Civil society has risen to the occasion once again, just when the need was greatest. We cannot say the same thing about the state. Such is the nature of the relationship between the state and civil society. There are limitations on how much the state can do, but there is unlimited space for civil society to act, not just to fill the space left by the state, but also to make a real difference in our lives.

Thankfully, Indonesia has a long history of a strong civil society. Volunteerism is embedded in Indonesia through the gotong royong concept that evolved in traditional villages. This concept, which literally means mutual help, has proven to be very much alive and well in urban areas like Jakarta.

Anyone looking for something positive out of this disaster can take comfort in the fact that you are never alone when you're hit by a major disaster. Let's hope this spirit of solidarity continues as people clean up the mess left behind by the floodwaters and Jakarta struggles back to normalcy.

Floods unite Jakartans

Jakarta Post Editorial - February 3, 2007

After two days of heavy rain, floods paralyzed Jakarta and its buffer towns on Friday to a degree that surely exceeded the flooding of five years ago, which up to this point was considered the worst natural disaster to hit the capital.

Many residential areas that in the past have been flood-free were affected this time around. And people who live in areas where flooding is an annual occurrence suffered more than usual as their houses were under even more water than ever.

Nobody, it seems, could escape nature's wrath Friday. Even the elite housing complex for high state officials in South Jakarta turned into a big pond.

The monetary cost of the floods will be enormous. Thousands of people lost property and many roads and other infrastructure were damaged. These financial losses do not take into account the time and energy wasted by motorists trapped in traffic, or the lost productivity because many employees could not reach their offices.

Floodwaters covered railway tracks, forcing the cancellation of more than 100 trains departing from or heading to Jakarta. A number of flights were either canceled or delayed because passengers could not reach the international airport just outside of Jakarta.

The telecommunications network was partly disrupted, with state phone operator PT Telkom and private operator PT Exelcomindo announcing damages to some facilities.

The annual floods in Jakarta seem to be getting worse and worse as the years go by. Now even a few hours of moderate monsoon rain causes some roads to become inundated, resulting in traffic jams several kilometers long.

Perhaps, though, this should come as no surprise. Jakarta, covering about 64,000 hectares, is located on a low-lying plain dissected by 13 rivers.

Its geographical situation, however, is not an excuse for the repeated floods. Nor is the general perception that flooding in Jakarta is "imported" from Bogor in West Java, where all the rivers running through the capital originate.

The fact is that in many parts of the city, poor drainage was responsible for the floods on Friday. If ever it was needed, this is clear proof of the flawed management of the city, as well as of the ignorance of residents on the need to keep their city clean.

Jakarta taxpayers have spent a lot of money to build and maintain flood control infrastructure, including the budget allocated for the much-awaited construction of the East Flood Canal.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who visited flood victims in East Jakarta on Friday, said the central government would take over the responsibility of dealing with annual floods from the Jakarta administration. Jakartans may praise the initiative, but the policy could be seen as an indictment of the city administration's ability to protect its people.

Though the worst of the flooding appears to be over now, more than 40,000 people have been displaced and are in need of shelter, food and healthcare. The city administration could make amends for its failed flood prevention programs by taking the necessary measures to ease the people's suffering as quickly as possible. The floods could also worsen the current dengue fever outbreak, which has killed eight people and affected hundreds of others in Jakarta. Other diseases like diarrhea and skin ailments could also spread among those displaced by the floods.

There is, however, a bright side to the disaster. In a show of compassion, many people volunteered to help evacuate those whose houses were affected by the floods, while others donated food and medicine.

Radio stations and TV channels provided continuous updates on the flooding to help those looking for a safe way home, as well as raising funds to assist flood victims.

In the coming days, those displaced by this latest disaster will need assistance to survive and rebuild their homes and lives. Let us continue to work together in a show of the strength and unity of Jakartans.

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