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Indonesia News Digest 16 – April 23-30, 2007

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 News & Issues

Government accused of losing poverty fight

Jakarta Post - April 26, 2007

Ary Hermawan, Jakarta – The government's efforts to reduce unemployment and alleviate poverty will come to naught if it fails to make the manpower system more flexible by overhauling the prevailing legislation, a discussion held Wednesday by Bank Indonesia concluded.

"It is perhaps a bitter pill to swallow, but it's the best way to revive the real sector and improve the investment climate," Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) chairman M.S. Hidayat told the discussion. Such an overhaul of the manpower legislation was the best remedy for rising employment, he stressed.

It has been two years since the government made its last attempt to amend the Labor Law (No. 13/2003) back in 2005, but to date there have been no signs that the matter will be resolved any time soon. "The latest information we have received is that the government has neither the intention nor the courage to revise the legislation," he said.

"It is now drafting a government regulation on severance pay and benefits for dismissed employees. But we disagree with this as we are convinced that a wholesale revision is the best way forward."

Hidayat pointed out that more stable macroeconomic conditions and the robust growth achieved last year had failed to create more jobs for the country's surging workforce. "The number of people unemployed and the number of people living in poverty are in fact soaring," he said.

Bank Indonesia deputy governor Budi Rochadi expressed the hope that the government would urgently seek solutions to the problems plaguing the manpower sector. "Investors are waiting out there for the revision of the labor legislation, and the introduction of strategic policies from the government to improve worker productivity," he said.

Labor intensive firms have long been complaining about the prevailing labor system in which employers are required to pay severance pay amounting to up to nine times the last monthly salary received, making Indonesia one of the developing countries with the highest labor costs. Severance pay here is 10 times more costly than in India, three times more than in Malaysia, Bangladesh and China, and two times more than in Thailand.

Sudarno Sumarto, the director of the SMERU Research Institute, said that a survey conducted by his institute found that lack of flexibility in Indonesian labor legislation was one of the most severe constraints on business and one of the main hindrances to job creation.

The survey also found that 35 percent of respondents believed that the prevailing manpower legislation reduced their competitiveness. The cost of settling labor disputes, the survey found, amounted to some 4.6 percent of total production costs.

Central Statistics Agency (BPS) figures show that about 10.28 percent of the country's 106-million-workforce was unemployed last year, compared to 8 percent of the 98-million-strong workforce in 2001.

Besides improving the education levels of workers, the government also needed to introduce new regulations that would pave the way for job creation by reducing the cost of hiring new workers. "The cost of both hiring and firing must be rationalized," he said.

Meanwhile, the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry's secretary- general, Hari Heriawan Saleh, said that increasing unemployment could also be due to a mismatch between the needs of industry and the type of graduates being churned out by the education system.

He said there were actually five jobs for every 10 job seekers, but only three were hired. "Businesses always complain about the difficulty of finding qualified job applicants," he said.

Separatist supporters mark anniversary in Maluku

Jakarta Post - April 26, 2007

M. Azis Tunny, Ambon – Heavy security failed to discourage supporters waving their flags in Ambon, Maluku, on Wednesday, marking a key pro-independence rebel anniversary.

At least five flags of the self-proclaimed South Maluku Republic (RMS) were hoisted Wednesday in three different locations around the city, marking the group's 57th anniversary.

A separatist supporter, identified as JM, was found with the Benang Raja flag, as it is known locally, under his shirt when searched by police officers during a sweep in the separatist stronghold of Kudamati, late Tuesday.

Maluku Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Tomy Napitupulu said Wednesday the red-white-green-blue flags were quietly hoisted by separatist supporters before being lowered by police. "They raised the flags quietly, probably between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.," he told The Jakarta Post. The flags were confiscated by police.

Tomy said that JM has been named a suspect and the case was under investigation. "This man was apprehended for the same offense on April 25 last year," he said, without elaborating on what legal action was taken against the man.

Around 6,000 police and military personnel guarded several strategic locations, particularly in the city of Ambon. Army chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said the military was supported by Maluku Police in guarding Ambon during the anniversary.

Ambon and Maluku were peaceful Wednesday, with residents going about their daily routines and junior high school students taking the three-day national examinations.

"We increased security and conducted sweeps to prevent separatist movement supporters from hoisting their flags. Their actions may trigger new conflict with other groups against their movement," Tomy said. "So far, the situation in Maluku remains secure."

A flag-hoisting incident in 2004 triggered three days of clashes and violence in Ambon between separatist supporters and opponents, leaving at least 41 people dead and dozens of others injured. Most of those who were killed were shot by unidentified gunmen.

Territorial assistant at the Pattimura Military Command, Col. Yudi Zanibar, told the Post on Wednesday that this year's flag- hoisting did not trigger any violence within the community. "The peaceful situation indicates that people are no longer easily provoked," he said.

The separatist movement was crushed shortly after its declaration in 1950 but the rebels regrouped following the fall of former president Soeharto in 1998.

Ambon was ravaged by sectarian conflict between Muslims and Christians, which erupted in January 1999, but three years of violence ended following the signing of the Malino peace deal in 2002.

New book on Soeharto tells thoughts on probe, enemies

Jakarta Post - April 26, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – An authorized biography of former president Soeharto has been published arguing that his historical legacies should be remembered over his ill-fated rule.

Author Retnowati Abdulgani-Knapp, the daughter of the late Indonesian freedom fighter Roeslan Abdulgani, said Tuesday she wanted to put Soeharto's reign into a perspective she believed was accurate without intending to convert any staunch haters of the country's second president. Soeharto resigned in 1998 following nationwide demonstrations.

"There's no political motivation whatsoever, let alone a desire to clear (Soeharto's) image or name," she said during her book launch here, adding that she acknowledged many readers would have reservations about picking up the book.

She began intensive interviews with Soeharto in 2005 and has met with him three to four times a year since. Each visit, she said, lasted for no more than an hour.

Retnowati said she was aware the 376-page book, titled Soeharto: The Life and Legacy of Indonesia's Second President, could appear as defending Soeharto, but that she believed the former president was a victim of the actions of his children and former ministers.

"(The biggest misconception about Soeharto) is that he's like his children. I don't think he's corrupt. His children on the other hand, must have been difficult to control," she said, adding that Soeharto believes he is innocent of corruption charges filed against him.

"He doesn't feel guilty. Whatever moves he made were products of a Cabinet, which included all former officials ever to have worked with him. So if they're seeking his prosecution, they would have to involve all former vice presidents and ministers," said Retnowati.

The book also details grudges Soeharto still holds against those he believes betrayed and deserted him at the time of his fall in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis.

One of these people is Soeharto's successor, B.J. Habibie, who was vice president prior to the 1997 resignation of the "smiling general".

Judging from her interviews with Soeharto, Retnowati believes he is still unable to forgive Habibie, who was seen as one of his closest friends, for allowing his prosecution. The Supreme Court declared Soeharto unfit to stand trial in 2002.

The corruption charges were revoked last year by the Attorney General's Office over the impossibility of a trial due to what a presidential team of doctors claim to be permanent brain damage and a physical inability to stand trial.

Retnowati said it was difficult to discuss with accuracy past issues with Soeharto because of his memory loss, and that Soeharto's case highlighted to future leaders that they should not overly trust their ministers, but rather examine political situations from the grassroots level up.

Muhammadiyah figure Ahmad Syafii Maarif said the book was empathetic toward Soeharto, but agreed that the former president should be remembered for his accomplishments during his 32-year reign.

"His children should be mature enough to defend and face all the charges against their father. There's no way he's ever going to be able to stand trial, so his children need to wake up and be bold," he said.

Azyumardi Azra, rector at state Islamic university Syarif Hidayatullah, said that despite his fall, none of Soeharto's successors had managed to combine his political skills with his ability to "conveniently" position Indonesia in the international community.

Soeharto's disgraced son guest at army party

Sydney Morning Herald - April 25, 2007

Mark Forbes, Jakarta – Indonesia's elite special forces unit, Kopassus, has hosted Tommy Soeharto, the disgraced son of the nation's former military dictator, at its 55th birthday party.

Fresh from a five-year jail term for ordering the assassination of a Supreme Court judge who had found him guilty of fraud, Soeharto took part in and won a pistol shooting competition during the event.

He is yet to express remorse for ordering two men on a motorbike to pull up to the car of Judge Syafiuddin Kartasasmita and blast it with pistol fire.

The Kopassus Commander, Rasyid Qurnuen Aquari, greeted Soeharto at the weekend function, bowing as they shook hands. Then Soeharto joined the "rapid reaction" pistol shooting contest on Kopassus's training range. He said he was delighted to defeat police chiefs and military commanders.

"It's been a while since I have touched pistols," Soeharto remarked to local journalists. "So this is the first time I started shooting again."

Although he lived a life of relative luxury inside prison (bribes secured a large cell that reportedly boasted its own street exit), Soeharto's privileges are not believed to have extended to indulging his passion for firearms.

The office of the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, expressed alarm when informed of the event by the Herald. The president's spokesman, Dino Djalal, said he was "lost for words".

"Tommy is a free man and ... is free to do what he likes," Mr Djalal said. "But given the very serious crime for which he was convicted, government offices should exercise sound judgement and consider public sensitivity in dealing with him."

A senior Kopassus commander, who asked to remain anonymous, said he saw nothing unusual in Soeharto's appearance. He said he did not remember "anymore" that he had been convicted over the judge's assassination.

"Besides he is a common Indonesian citizen. So we treated him the way we treat other Indonesian citizens. What's the big deal about it?" Soeharto registered for the pistol competition, the officer said.

The Kopassus chief had bowed before Tommy because he is "a low- profile kind of character, he would bow his head when shaking hands with anyone", the officer said.

It says much about the ongoing influence of the Soeharto family that his visit attracted little controversy in the Indonesian media. His pistol-shooting victory received a small mention in the sports pages.

Soeharto was released this year after a series of mysterious sentence reductions and court decisions led to him serving only five years of an initial 15-year sentence. Indonesia's criminal code mandates a life sentence or death penalty for anyone convicted of arranging murder.

He has been quick to resume a playboy lifestyle of fast cars and women, flaunting the influence of a family that made billions of dollars before his father was pushed to resign as president in 1998.

While the former president's son continues to operate with apparent impunity, three cabinet ministers are in the spotlight for authorising the use of departmental bank accounts to launder $US10 million of allegedly fraudulently obtained money in 2005. The money was reportedly deposited in bank accounts connected to Soeharto.

The Justice Minister, Hamid Awaludin, who authorised Soeharto's release, is one of those implicated.

Calls for independent candidates in regional elections growing

Kompas - April 24, 2007

Jakarta – The high political cost that has to be borne by candidates to take part in the election of regional heads (pilkada) is generating calls for the accommodation of independent candidates. Regulations allowing candidates from outside of the political parties must be implemented across the board, not just in Aceh.

This call was made by members of the Reform Struggle Saviors Party (P2R) from various parts of the country that attended the P3R's All Indonesia Regional Leadership Council (DPW) goodwill meeting in Jakarta on Monday April 23.

The P3R failed to take part in the 2004 general elections although it is still officially recognised as a political party since being registered with the Department of Justice and Human Rights in 2003.

DPW member Muhammad Nasir from the West Nusa Tenggara chapter of P3R claimed that the fees for being nominated by a political party in the election of regional heads is massive. Whereas the legitimacy of the political parties among the general public continues to decline.

Because of this therefore, the presence of independent candidates in the election of regional heads around the country needs to be accommodated. "Don't just apply it in Aceh. The other regions are no different from Aceh", said Nasir.

DPW member Badaruddin Utih from Lampung province in Sumatra related how the exorbitant political fees that must be handed over to become a candidate for a political party means that only rich people can participate in the election of regional heads. Whereas it is uncertain whether they have any real capabilities. "In the regions, smart people that don't have any money will not even be considered", said Utih.

Judicial review rejected

The government meanwhile has asked the Constitutional Court to reject a request for a judicial review of Law Number 32/2004 on Regional Governments that was submitted by Lalu Ranggalawe, a member of the Regional House of Representatives in West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. The reason given was that a similar judicial review was submitted in 2005.

This request was made in the government's opening statement that was read by Ramli Hutabarat, an expert staff member from the Department of Justice and Human Rights during a Constitutional Court hearing in Jakarta on Monday. Because of this, the request for a judicial review should not go ahead.

Ranggalawe has questioned the provisions in Law Number 32/2004 that do not provide an opportunity or the public space for independent candidates in the election of regional heads. He also gave as an example the victory of independent candidates in the recent election of regional heads in Aceh which demonstrated that the people need independent candidates. (mzw/ana)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Politics & ideology

Papernas declaration in Sukoharjo broken up by right-wing thugs

Radar Solo - April 30, 2007

Sukoharjo – A tense situation developed at the declaration of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) in Sukoharjo, Central Java, that was to be held yesterday afternoon. Even before Papernas members had begun the meeting, dozens of members of the Sukoharjo Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) had occupied the Gajah Tanjung Anom Building where the event was to be held.

Led by Ustad (Islamic teacher) Khoirul, the FPI members, who had been arriving since 10am, began to pour into the venue where the event was to be held. They immediately moved towards the auditorium that had been set aside by the Papernas organising committee.

FPI's arrival caused confusion among some of the Papernas members. "We have come here to break up this event. We are asking that Papernas be disbanded and not be allowed to exist in Indonesia. Because Papernas is an embryo of the PKI (Indonesian Communist Party - Ed.). Where is the committee chairperson, I want to meet them", ordered Khoirul in a shrill voice.

Not wanting to create a problem, several of the Papernas members that were already present left the venue one by one. Unfortunately the FPI members prevented this. "Don't let them leave. The ones that were here earlier, order them all back inside", Khoirul instructed his subordinates.

It was not just members of Papernas that were harassed, but also other people in the vicinity who they considered suspicious. Tensions reached a climax when the FPI frisked a Sukoharjo district police intelligence officer that had been guarding the venue from the start. If he was indeed a police officer, the FPI asked the man to show them his identity card.

A National Unity and Social Protection Agency (Kasbang Linmas) official also suffered a similar fate. Becoming suspicious about his actions, the FPI immediately accosted him. As well as examining his identification papers, they also asked for the photographs on his cell phone to be erased. The FPI members even asked the man to take off his shirt and show them a tattoo on his body.

"This is a picture and symbol of the PKI. Because we know that earlier you were inside and now you are going back inside", asserted one of the FPI members while pointing at the tattoo on the Kasbang Linmas official's body.

After a short while Sukoharjo Regent Bambang Riyanto arrived. He had come to facilitate a dialogue between the two camps in order to resolve the problem peacefully. This was because Riyanto wanted the situation in Sukoharjo to remain 'conducive'.

The two parties met at around 11.30am. Papernas eventually agreed not to go ahead with the event and asked its members who were already present to return home. Following this, one by one the FPI members left the location. (mg2/mg3)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Papernas conference in Sukoharjo broken up by Islamic thugs

Tempo Interactive - April 30, 2007

Imron Rosyid, Solo – Dozens of members of Surakarta Islamic Community Militia (LUIS) forcibly broke up a conference being held by the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) in the Central Java city of Sukoharjo on Sunday March 29. Islamic groups in Jakarta have taken similar actions against Papernas.

The LUIS members blockaded the entrance to the conference venue at the Gajah House on Jl. Yos Sudarso in the Tanjung Anom area of Sukoharjo. Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) (sic) even frisked a police intelligence officer who they accused of being a provocateur. "We have evidence, Papernas is PKI [Indonesian Communist Party]", said LUIS general secretary Khoirul Suparjo.

Shouting "God is great", the LUIS members who were wearing robes and turbans arrived on motorbikes and an open pickup truck. Papernas members who believed they already had a permit to hold the event tried to hold them off from inside the building. However because the LUIS members outnumbered conference participants, some of them decided to leave the venue before the event started.

Sukoharjo Regent Bambang Riyanto, who was wearing tennis sportswear, then facilitated a dialogue between the two groups in order to prevent anarchic acts. The head of the Papernas conference organising committee, Onang Tiyoso eventually gave in and agreed to halt the event but under the condition that all FPI members must leave the location before they disbanded. "In formal terms, Papernas does in fact actually have a permit for the activity, but in order that the local situation remains favorable, I have asked Papernas to cancel the event", said Riyanto.

Suparjo said that his organisation would continue to hunt down Papernas members that want to organise similar activities saying based on the statutes and rules of association that they have on the party, Papernas is communist. He cited the Papernas' program of Tripanji(1), the protection of prostitutes and so forth as evidence that they are identical to the PKI.

Meanwhile the chairperson of Papernas' Central Java Regional Leadership Board, Kelik Ismunanto said he regretted the LUIS' actions in forcibly breaking up the event. According to Ismunanto, regardless of LUIS' perceptions of Papernas they do not have the authority to prohibit or break up their events. "Our party is registered with the Department of Justice and Human Rights, we will be participating in the 2009 general elections and we had already obtained a permit for the event from the police", said Ismunanto while promising that they would take legal action against LUIS over the incident.


1. Tripanji - Papernas' Three Banners of National Unity: Abolishing the foreign debt, nationalising the mining industry and build the national industry for the welfare of the people.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Papernas postpones regional meeting to avoid clash with FPI

Liputan 6 - April 30, 2007

Sukoharjo – The National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) continues to come under pressure. Again and again the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has attempted to break up Papernas events. This time it was a meeting to establish a regional leadership board in Sukoharjo, Central Java, on Sunday April 29.

Without showing any hesitation, FPI members moved in and tried to evict Papernas members who had arrived at the Gajah Sukoharjo Building for the event. Tensions rose between the two camps and police moved in quickly before a clash could break out.

The two groups were then brought together for a dialogue facilitated by Sukoharjo Regent Bambang Riyanto. The FPI said it objected to Papernas because it has a communist ideology that his banned in Indonesia. In the end the Papernas members decided to postpone the meeting because it could potentially result in a brawl.

On March 29 Papernas demonstrators clashed with the FPI in the Dukuh Atas area on Sudirman, Central Jakarta. Several people were injured including two children and a middle-ranking police officer from the Tanah Abang sectoral police. (TOZ/Ferry Aditri)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Papernas flags burnt at FPI protest in Bekasi

Media Indonesia - April 30, 2007

Golda Eksa, Bekasi – Around 30 members of the Bekasi Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) gave speeches and set fire to flags of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) in front of the Bekasi municipal government offices on Monday April 30. They also brought banners and posters with messages opposing Papernas.

"Papernas, is a reincarnation of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Papernas [says it] is populist democratic. This term is the camouflage that is usually used by communists or socialist in Indonesia like the PKI. It is because of this that we don't want the party to grow and develop", said action coordinator Ustad (title of Islamic teacher) Abdurrahman.

Abdurrahman went on to say that the PKI's once cause the nation to loose its best sons. Moreover he said, thousands of Muslims were wiped out by the PKI.

After giving speeches for around an hour, the protesters set fire to Papernas flags shouting that they will not tolerate Papernas' presence, especially in Bekasi.

From the Bekasi government offices, they then moved off to continue the action at the Bekasi City Regional House of Representatives on Jl. Chairul Anwar in East Bekasi under the tight security of the Bekasi municipal police. (GG/OL-02).

[Translated by James Balowski.]


Grenade attack raises tensions in Aceh

Jakarta Post - April 30, 2007

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – A grenade exploded at the residence of former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) spokesman Sofyan Dawood in Muara Dua district, Lhokseumawe, early Sunday morning.

No injuries were reported but the attack raises concern over a surge in violence in the province less than two years after the signing of a peace agreement between GAM and the Indonesian government.

Dawood, now a spokesman for the Aceh Culture Committee, was not at home at the time of the attack, about three in the morning.

The front windows of the house were shattered in the incident. Dawood's wife, Azirni, and his mother, Khatijah, were in the house when the attack occurred but were not injured.

The assailant or assailants threw the grenade into the front yard of the house. No major damage was caused by the explosion, but one wall did suffer some damage.

Authorities say the perpetrators are believed to have entered the house's compound, where they damaged the electricity meter.

"Possibly the perpetrators wanted to cut the electricity, but ended up just damaging the meter, which was locked," said Marlan A Latif, one of Dawood's neighbors.

Azirni said she was asleep at the time of the attack and was awakened by the explosion. "I didn't dare leave (the house). Dawood's mother was the only one who went out and asked who threw (something) at the house. I said they weren't throwing things at the house, they were bombing it," Azirni said.

Lhokseumawe Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Benny Gunawan said officers had collected shrapnel from the scene of the attack. There are no witnesses and no arrests have been made, he said, adding the motive for the attack also was not known.

"We are not certain yet whether this attack is related to earlier grenade attacks," Benny said.

There have been two earlier attacks in Aceh involving grenades. On April 24, a grenade was thrown at the headquarters of the police's elite Mobile Brigade in the provincial capital Banda Aceh. A day earlier the residence of Lhokseumawe Deputy Mayor Suadi Yahya, a former GAM member, was targeted.

A peace deal was signed by representatives of the Indonesian government and GAM in Helsinki, Finland, on Aug. 15, 2005, ending three decades of conflict in which some 15,000 people died.

Aceh Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Jodi Ariadi said earlier police had no clues to suggest who was behind the attacks or the type of grenade used.

Earlier this month, the North Aceh regency office received a package containing an active grenade. The Lhokseumawe mayoralty office received a package containing four bullets.

Aceh wants fair share of oil, gas revenue

Jakarta Post - April 28, 2007

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – Aceh has accused the central government of breaking the law and betraying its promise to the Acehnese people to share more of the province's oil and gas revenues, as required by the 2006 Aceh Governance Law.

Aceh Legislative Council member Muklish Muktar has urged the central government to be consistent with the law, which was designed to provide Aceh with greater autonomy.

Under the law, Aceh is entitled to a share of revenue worth 15 percent for oil and 30 percent for gas. Aceh administration should then be provided an additional 55 percent of funds for oil and 40 percent for gas, as per the 2006 Governance Law.

According to a 2007 Finance Ministry regulation, however, Aceh shares amount to Rp 750 billion (US$81.5 million), when the province should receive at least Rp 2.2 trillion.

"We're surprised to learn that we're getting only Rp 750 billion. We thought the Finance Ministry was aware Aceh should receive a further 55 percent for oil, in addition to the 15 percent allocated to all provinces," said Aceh Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar late Thursday.

Another council member, Burhanuddin, said he hoped President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was paying attention to his ministers to ensure they were consistently obeying the law, especially regarding Aceh.

He said that consistency and commitment from the central government and its ministers was crucial to a peaceful situation in Aceh.

The tsunami-hit province has been devastated by almost three decades of conflict, which ended only after the government signed a peace deal with the Free Aceh Movement rebels in Helsinki in 2005.

Aceh's provincial budget this year is set at Rp 3.9 trillion but this was drawn with the assumption the 2006 law would be adhered to. "Aceh's budget relies on oil and gas revenue sharing," Nazar said. "The Finance Ministry regulation will badly effect Aceh's 2007 budget."

Aceh provincial administration has written to the ministry requesting they reconsider their decision and provide the additional revenue for Aceh.

Nazar said the Acehnese have high hopes for the province's future development, following the signing of the 2005 peace deal. "We don't expect more but it has been regulated by the law," he said.

Law expert Mawardi Ismail said on Friday there has been a misunderstanding over the Aceh Governance Law. The misunderstanding, he said, was mostly found in article 258 on management of oil and gas revenue sharing, which should not start until the 2008 budget term.

He said the oil and gas fund and its additional revenue should be managed by the municipal and regency administrations before being handed over to the provincial administration in 2008.

"Although the province will start managing the fund in 2008, it doesn't mean it will get the 55 percent (and 40 percent) addition (this year)," Mawardi said.

BRR working hard but Acehnese remain unhappy

Jakarta Post - April 27, 2007

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – More than two years after Banda Aceh was devastated by the 2004 tsunami, the agency handling much of the rehabilitation in the province has completed 44 percent of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam's road repairs – but residents are still unhappy.

The Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) released statistics on their progress Wednesday showing they were on track for most tasks included in their four-year long commitment to rebuild Aceh.

But most of the Aceh roads damaged in the tsunami are located in the province's west coast and, despite reconstruction efforts, many residents have complained the roads "are still rocky and slippery when it rains".

"It's very difficult to pass through the Gunung Mancang Calang area when it rains... our car could easily slip," local resident and driver Muhammad Ayar said. The route passes through Mount Mancang and was built after the tsunami. The old highway was wiped out by the 2004 disaster.

Residents reported many vehicles, especially the L-300 public transportation vans, get stuck in large potholes whenever it rains. Asyari said the Banda Aceh-Calang highway in Aceh Jaya regency was in a very poor state.

"People prefer to use the alternative route through Pidie to reach Banda Aceh instead of traveling through Aceh Jaya, despite the distance," he said. "I don't know when this will end."

The Calang Meulaboh highway was built by BRR and the route was paved with assistance from the Japanese government. But the planned Banda Aceh-Calang highway will be built by USAID.

Transportation problems have slowed the dispatch of building materials, especially for projects in west coast areas like Aceh Jaya.

BRR data released Wednesday shows 38.88 percent of schools, or 782 of the 2,006 schools damaged by the tsunami, have been rebuilt. "Even though many are still to be rebuilt – it doesn't mean students cannot attend school," BRR spokesman Tuwanku Mirza said from Banda Aceh.

The reconstruction of schools is being carried out by BRR, but the agency is receiving help from international relief agencies including UNICEF and the International Red Cross.

The construction of community health centers in Banda Aceh has exceeded all expectations with the number of centers now in excess of the national average, Mirza said. "The health centers are even equipped with in-patient facilities."

BRR head Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said the agency had disbursed 81 percent (US$7.1 billion) of the total rehabilitation and reconstruction funds for Aceh and Nias.

"The funds have been committed by the Indonesian government, international donors and other relief groups," said Kuntoro, during the third coordination meeting for Aceh and Nias.

An estimated $6.1 billion is needed for the reconstruction process in Aceh and Nias; $4.5 billion for damages and material losses, $400 million for the Nias earthquake in 2005 and an additional $1.2 billion to offset the inflation rate.

Aceh Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar reminded BRR to pay close attention to reconstruction projects and urged the agency to involve local administration to help control all works.

Two grenade attacks disturb two-year peace in Aceh

Jakarta Post - April 25, 2007

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – Less than two years after the signing of the peace agreement between the Indonesian government and Free Aceh Movement (GAM), residents of Nanggroe Aceh Darusalam have been terrorized by two grenade attacks.

One of the grenades hit the Aceh Mobile Brigade police headquarters in the Aceh capital of Banda Aceh on Tuesday. The other was aimed at the residence of Lhokseumawe deputy mayor Suadi Yahya, a former GAM member, on Monday evening.

The peace deal was signed by representatives of the Indonesian government and GAM in Helsinki on Aug. 15, 2005, ending three decades of conflict in which some 15,000 people died.

Aceh Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Jodi Ariadi said that the grenade attack on the police headquarters took place at 0:30 a.m. on Tuesday, while the one in Lhokseumawe happened about four hours earlier.

Police had no clues to suggest who was behind the attacks or the type of grenade used, he said. "For investigation purposes the Aceh Police have invited a team from the North Sumatra Police's forensic laboratory to examine the grenade shrapnel," Jodi said in Banda Aceh.

Jodi predicted the attacks were the work of certain parties who did not want peace in Aceh. "This was the first grenade attack ever aimed at police and military headquarters after the signing of the peace agreement," he said.

Even though the grenade attack at the police headquarters did not cause any casualties, the operational vehicles belonging to the Mobil Brigade unit were damaged.

Suadi was away at the time of the attack on his residence. The grenade was thrown onto the roof of the house's security post and exploded three meters away after falling into the garden. The explosion broke window glass at the front part of the house and damaged the walls. There were no casualties.

A security officer at the deputy mayor's house said that moments before the explosion, he saw a motorcycle and becak (pedicab) pass in front of the residence.

"I was suspicious of them because they were the only people around at the time of the incident," the unidentified officer said. Jodi said he believed there was a connection between the two grenade attacks as they took place at roughly the same time.

Southeast Aceh tense after acting regent's replacement

Jakarta Post - April 24, 2007

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – Southeast Aceh regency was tense Monday evening after the installation of Marthin Desky as acting regent, replacing Rajidin, by Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Governor Irwandi Yusuf earlier in the day.

Both residents and officials at the regency administration strongly opposed the installation, held in Aceh's capital Banda Aceh.

Thousands of people from a number of regions staged a rally in front of the Southeast Aceh Legislative Council and the office of its regent, against what they called the "deep intervention" of the Aceh governor.

Marthin was made acting regent after a prolonged dispute over the regency's elections. Unlike other regencies and municipalities in Aceh, candidates from the Free Aceh Movement did not run for office in Southeast Aceh.

Southeast Aceh is regarded as a "white area" where no clashes ever took place during the long Aceh conflict.

The Independent Election Commission in Southeast Aceh delayed announcing Hasanuddin and his running mate Syamsul Bahri as winners in the Dec. 11, 2006 election, following protests by other candidates over alleged vote rigging.

Besides Monday's rally, civil servants and high-ranking officials were also on strike, returning all state equipment, including vehicles and motorcycles, to the council.

Amri Siregar, Ketambe district head, said 15 of the 16 district heads in Southeast Aceh strongly opposed the installation of the new acting regent.

"At least 30 cars and 100 motorcycles have been returned to the Southeast Aceh Legislative Council building's compound. They were handed over by heads of districts, villages and other offices," Amri said, adding that the officials would not take back the vehicles until the Aceh governor reinstated Rajidin as the acting regent.

Amri questioned the replacement of Rajidin, saying he was known by locals as diligent and capable in his management of the administration.

Marthin used to be a secretary to the regency administration, but his record was poor, Amri said.

"I'm worried a sort of horizontal conflict will emerge. Pill hope Rajidin will be able to govern until the appointment of the new definitive regent... the people distrust Marthin," Amri said.

"We're suspicious of such a deep intervention. What does the Aceh governor really want? I feel as if the governor just wants to instill commotion in Southeast Aceh," said Amri, who said he would resign as district head if Marthin continued as acting regent.

 West Papua

Papua students protest against 'special autonomy'

AdnKronos International - April 27, 2007

Jakarta – More than 1,500 students on Friday gathered in front of the governors palace in Jayapura, the capital of the Indonesian province of Papua, demanding an end to the province's special autonomy status, which they say does not work.

The protestors called instead for dialogue with the government to decided the future of the province. "We want a three-way dialogue, involving Jakarta, a delegation from Papua and a representative from a neutral organisation," said Buchtar Tabuni, 28, one of the organisers of the protest in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

Papua, which is in the far east of the Indonesian archipelago, was annexed by Jakarta with a controversial referendum in 1969.

The law on the special autonomy status was conceeded by Jakarta in 2001 in part to respond to the demand for independence by a large part of the local population, The law, which is very wide ranging on paper, has never been applied on the ground.

"No one here forgets the bloody episode of Manokwari, Abepura and Timida," said Tabuni refering to the three areas where, recently, Indonesian security forces were accused of abuse and violence.

Since 1969, various non-governmental organisations have said that the repression by the Indonesian military in Papua has led to the deaths of between 20,000 to 100,000 people.

Tabuni said that their call for dialogue is a final attempt to open a channel of communication with Jakarta. "If it does not work, then we will ask for a referendum where the population will decide," he said.

Jakarta has always excluded the possibility of allowing another referendum in the province. The Indonesian government has been fighting a low-level insurgency for decades, with small, armed groups carrying out sporadic attacks on economic and military targets in the province. (Fsc/Aki)

West Irian Jaya renamed as West Papua

Jakarta Post - April 24, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – The government has issued a regulation officially renaming West Irian Jaya province to West Papua province, a political decision that may not automatically settle the prolonged dispute over the new province's existence.

The director general for public administration at the Home Ministry, Sojuangon Situmorang, said the regulation, issued on April 18, gave the Papua and West Papua provincial administrations one year to conduct a public awareness campaign on the new name.

"While publicizing the new provincial name, anyone and any side can use both names until the new name is used permanently as of April 18, 2008. The new name, proposed by the residents of West Irian Jaya, is aimed at identifying the social entity and ethnic group of Papua," he told a media conference here Monday.

He said that West Papua, previously part of Papua province, had been granted special autonomy in 2001 and was declared a new province in 2003.

"The presence of West Irian Jaya was acknowledged by the Constitutional Court when the latter was reviewing Law No. 45/1999 on the province's establishment. Despite the prolonged argument, both provincial administrations have embarked on coordination meetings to speed up the development program in the two provinces," he said.

Despite its establishment in 2003 and subsequent provincial legislature in 2004, West Papua has yet to be financed by special autonomy funds and to establish a Papuan People's Assembly like that in Papua province. West Papua has not received financial benefits from the copper and gold mining industry in Timika and gas mining in Merauke.

"But all regencies and municipalities in West Papua have received special autonomy funds (under Papua province) since the special autonomy law was enacted in 2001," Sojuangon added.

He asked the government to revise the special autonomy law and the subsequent Presidential Instruction in order to synchronize the two and provide a permanent solution to the row over the new province.

Papua has received a total of Rp 12.53 trillion (US$1.37 billion) since special autonomy was implemented in the province in 2001, but a large part of the funds have reportedly been embezzled by local officials.

Local administrations in Papua and West Papua have come under fire recently from residents who say that despite the implementation of special autonomy, the social welfare of the 2.4 million who live in the region is yet to improve.

Affordable education and health care are hard to come by, while those who live in remote mountain areas remain isolated because of the limited and expensive transportation facilities. Aircraft are still the only form of transportation that can reach the remote parts of the two provinces, whose combined size is three and a half times that of Java.

Special autonomy was introduced as a peaceful solution to Papua's poor human development index ranking, unresolved human rights abuses and demands for the resource rich region's secession from Indonesia.

 Munir case

Rights groups back Indonesia's Munir probe

Agence France Presse - April 30, 2007

Jakarta – Human rights groups backed Monday an Indonesian police probe into the 2004 murder of a rights activist, hopeful it will reveal that the nation's intelligence agency was behind the killing.

Local groups said they were "cautiously optimistic" after police made several arrests over the murder and revealed late last week they were interviewing fresh witnesses.

The backing is a turnaround for rights groups who have been scathing of police efforts since leading rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib died on a Garuda flight to Amsterdam after his drink was laced with arsenic.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has come under pressure to reopen the investigation after the only person charged over the murder, Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto, had his conviction quashed by the Supreme Court late last year.

The ruling prompted an outcry from the groups and Munir's widow, already concerned about a cover-up because of links to intelligence agency BIN.

But Rafendi Djamin, coordinator of Indonesian Human Rights Watch Group, said the probe, reopened in January, was headed by one of Indonesia's chief detectives and was finally getting results.

"In the first investigation, BIN's involvement was not deeply looked at. But the current probe, with the arrest of the Garuda executives – I see that it could lead to the masterminds, to those who gave the orders," Djamin said. "They are the key witnesses to disclose BIN's involvement," he told AFP.

Earlier this month, police arrested the former head of Garuda and an ex-company secretary for questioning over alleged falsification of documents allowing an off-duty Priyanto to travel at the last minute on Munir's flight.

Police have also discovered that Munir was poisoned during a stopover at Singapore's Changi airport, rather than during the flight as originally thought.

Local media have reported police were questioning an Indonesian singer with alleged links to BIN over a meeting with Munir and Priyanto at Changi.

Activist Asmara Nababan said international pressure – mainly from the United States and European Union – had prompted authorities to act.

"We see seriousness from the police, so now we see progress, even though not much. Especially with the finding of new evidence, that makes it possible to request a judicial review of the Supreme Court's decision that freed Pollycarpus," Nababan said.

Nababan was deputy head of an independent fact-finding team appointed by Yudhoyono in December 2004 to sniff out the murderer and masterminds. He said much of the information that it discovered, including concerns about BIN involvement, was never acted on and its report never publicly released.

Munir, who was 38 when he died, had made numerous powerful enemies through his work during and after the rule of dictator Suharto, which ended in 1998, exposing rights abuses including in Papua and East Timor

Conversation between Pollycarpus and Muchdi not recorded

Tempo Interactive - April 25, 2007

Muslima Hapsari/Irmawati/Sutarto, Jakarta – There are problems being experienced as regards further progress in the Munir murder case.

National Police (Polri) Chief, Gen. Sutanto, acknowledged he could not present the important telephone conversation, between former Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihati Priyanto and former State Intelligence Agency (BIN) Deputy V Muchdi Purwopranjono.

The conversation record is important as it is alleged to discuss the plan of Munir's murder.

The human rights activist died from being poisoned at Changi Airport, Singapore, on the way to Amsterdam on September 7, 2004.

According to Sutanto, the investigation in Indonesia only uncovered the bill that contained the date, hour and duration of the conversation.

"There is no record of the conversation between Muchdi and Pollycarpus," said Sutanto at the Cibubur Camping Ground, Jakarta, yesterday (24/4).

Investigators, he said, could ask for taping to acquire the record of telephone conversation record of someone who is suspected. "But that is only valid after a criminal act has taken place. Before the event, it cannot be done," said Sutanto.

Sutanto went on to say, although there are indications of recurring communication between Muchdi and Polly, the police must not be reckless in proposing these indications as new evidence. "There must be supporting evidence. Or else, it could be rejected by the court."

Operation 'Thorn Removal'

Tempo Magazine No 34 - April 24-30, 2007

Police suspect that efforts to poison Munir were not only made at Changi Airport in Singapore but also during the Singapore- Amsterdam flight. Indonesian Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh has confirmed that this operation was planned months in advance.

Changi Airport, Singapore September 7, 2004: 1am (12am Western Indonesia Time-WIB)

Garuda flight GA-974 arrived from Jakarta 20 minutes ago. Passengers were given about an hour to transit before continuing their journey to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Only a few stores were still open at Changi early that Monday morning. SA, 25, a passenger in business class, took a short walk.

While headed for the D42 waiting area, where passengers would re-board their flight, SA passed by the Coffee Bean. This Indonesian who lives in Germany stops by this cafe every six months while on his way back to Indonesia. "As I recall, at that time Coffee Bean was closed, and so I didn't stop by," this passenger told Tempo on Monday last week.

SA saw Munir, the human rights activist who SA said was "unimportant but very popular," sitting on a Coffee Bean sofa. There were two men in front of him. One had long hair, rather tall and had a pale complexion. Police are convinced this was Ongen Latuihamallo. While waiting to re-board the plane, SA was introduced to this musician from Maluku by Josep Ririmase, a passenger who sat next to him.

The man who was talking with Munir wore glasses. According to SA, the man fit the description of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the Garuda pilot who was tried in the Munir murder case. "I'm not accusing him, but that person really resembled Pollycarpus," said SA.

At that time, the Coffee Bean was located in an open space on the second floor transit area of Changi Airport. For this reason, according to SA, even though it was closed, people could still sit on the cafe's sofa. "I clearly saw those three talking there," said SA.

SA said that those three men were not eating or drinking anything. However, another witness, according to a Tempo source at the Attorney General's Office (AGO), said differently.

Garuda Cabin GA-974 September 7, 2004, 3am WIB

Munir, who sat in 40-G, economy class, made frequent trips to the bathroom, due to diarrhea and vomiting. He felt something wrong with his stomach when the plane was getting ready to take off from Changi. He had asked the stewardess for some stomachache medicine, but it was not available.

Munir asked flight attendant Bondan Hernawan to seek Dr Tarmizi Hakim for his help. He handed him the name card which he had just received while in transit at Changi from this surgeon at Harapan Kita Hospital. Tarmizi was seated in seat 1-J in business class, and Munir headed for the front of the plane.

After being awakened from a deep sleep, Tarmizi treated Munir. He asked the stewardess to open the plane's emergency medical kit. However, according to him, none of the medicine was suitable for Munir. So he gave Munir two tablets of New Diatabs (diarrhea medicine) and one each of Zantacts and Promag (for nausea and stomach pain) from his carry-on bag. He also asked the stewardess to make a glass of tea mixed with salt for Munir. His seat was moved to 4-D in business class so that he could be closer to the doctor.

Yet after taking those four tablets, Munir continued to have diarrhea and vomiting. Tarmizi injected one vial of Primperan from the plane's medical kit into Munir's left arm. The activist's condition appeared to improve and he slept. However, three hours later he returned to the bathroom for about 10 minutes.

Madjib Radjab Nasution, a Garuda purser, went ahead and opened the locked bathroom door. "I saw Pak Munir leaning against the wall," he said, according to his police questioning file. Tarmizi then asked Madjib and flight attendant Asep Rohman to help carry Munir back to seat 4-D.

Tarmizi tapped Munir's stomach, who writhed in pain. The doctor continued to keep his hand on the upper part of his stomach, while expressing his concern over the severity of Munir's condition.

Tarmizi injected 5 milligrams of Diazepam in Munir's right shoulder. Munir then slept on the floor in front of seat 4-E. The flight attendant gave him a pillow and three blankets, one to sleep on, and two to keep warm.

Munir appeared to sleep, but often changed position. "He was always on his side, never on his back or stomach," said Madjib. When the plane reached an altitude of 40,000 feet over Romania at 10am WIB, Madjib found that saliva was coming out of Munir's mouth, although he was not foaming at the mouth. His palms were blue, and his arms were cold.

Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam September 7, 2004: 8:11am (1:11pm WIB)

Three hundred and sixty passengers – 14 in business class and 346 in economy class – were restless. They had flown for over 12 hours from Singapore and the plane had landed half an hour earlier. However, they had not yet been allowed to exit the plane. "We were all asked to stay seated," said Ibu Drupadi Dillon, 56, a passenger in seat 58-B, to Tempo, on Wednesday last week.

This nutritionist from the University of Indonesia said that many of the passengers were upset. At that time, Drupadi, who was studying at the University of Wageningen, suspected that The Netherlands had enacted a new policy- sterilizing all arriving planes. Only later did she realize that something important had happened in business class, way up front.

Munir died two and a half hours before the plane landed. The flight crew reported the death to Schiphol Airport. Dutch Police entered and took the body away as soon as the Boeing 747-400 had landed. This is why the passengers were stuck inside the plane for over 30 minutes.

Amid the passengers' impatience, a crew member came up to Ongen Latuihamallo, a long-haired man sitting in seat 50-H. To the news agency at 68H Radio, on November 12, 2004, Ongen said: "That person (the Garuda crew member-Ed.) whispered to me, 'Munir died'."

Almost three years after the death of Munir Said Thalib, police conclude there is a connection between certain events. Based on the findings of the forensic test conducted on the sample of the toxin by the CCL Tequika forensic lab in Seattle, USA, police concluded that the arsenic which killed Munir entered his body while in transit at Changi.

Two weeks ago, the police submitted this finding to the AGO as new evidence, as part of a request for a case review to the Supreme Court, which had previously acquitted Pollycarpus of a 14-year prison sentence on the accusation of being an accomplice in the murder of Munir.

Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh feels that the police have submitted strong evidence. He said that Munir was killed by an operation which had been planned long in advance. "He had been a target for months, not just on that day alone," he told Tempo, last week.

Why was Munir a target? According to Abdul Rahman, to some groups, Munir was considered a nuisance. It is already common knowledge, he said, that Indonesians once lived under a very powerful government. Meanwhile, Munir was known as an activist who fought for human rights, democracy, and openness. "Munir was one person who was considered a thorn in someone's side, and it had to be removed," said Abdul Rahman.

Munir's plan to go to The Netherlands to continue his studies at Utrecht University was the starting point of the operation. "It was known to the killers which plane he was going to board and at what time," said this former Supreme Court judge.

The killers, who were not originally scheduled to board the plane, according to Abdul Rahman, forced their way onto the flight by having their schedule changed. This indicated the killers had considerable clout. "Some had a great deal of authority over the airlines," he said.

Abdul Rahman said that investigators have been able to conclusively determine where Munir was poisoned. "It is already known where and with whom Munir last ate," he said. "There is more than one witness."

Abdul Rahman did not mention the identity of the person suspected to be the killer. However, from the results of police investigation, it is known that Pollycarpus was on Garuda flight GA-974 from Jakarta to Singapore on September 6, 2004, based on the reassignment letter signed by Rohainil Aini, an airline official for flight support operations.

On that day, Pollycarpus was actually scheduled to fly to Beijing, China. The departure to Singapore was arranged five or six hours beforehand. Rohainil is now in custody, suspected of abetting the murder, together with former Garuda CEO Indra Setiawan.

On the Jakarta-Singapore flight, Pollycarpus traded his 3-K seat in business class with Munir's seat in economy class. Police conclude that this move was done to shorten the time Munir had to wait to get off the plane in Changi. In this way, there would be more time to carry out the murder operation.

In the transit area at Changi Airport, Pollycarpus and Ongen Latuihamallo sat with Munir at the Coffee Bean. A witness saw them eating. Last week, Pollycarpus denied this. "I don't know the Coffee Bean. I am not acquainted with Ongen Latuihamallo," he said, as heard from a recording on the telephone of his lawyer, M. Assegaf, which was played back for reporters.

A Tempo source in the police said that the arsenic used to kill Munir was dissolved in "liquid." All of the witnesses who saw the meeting at the Coffee Bean are now in the police's witness protection program. The same is true of Ongen Latuihamallo.

The choice of poison and location for the murder indicates a well-devised plan. Arsenic was chosen because it is colorless, tasteless, odorless and quickly dissolves in liquid. According to the fact-finding team formed by President Yudhoyono in 2005, the use of arsenic was intended to cover up the cause of death.

The flight which was chosen for the murder was done to prevent Munir from obtaining sufficient medical assistance. In this way, it was ensured that his life could not be saved.

Who would be capable of such a well-organized operation? Accusations were immediately directed towards the State Intelligence Agency (BIN). Moreover, there was telephone contact between Pollycarpus and this institution's office and one of its officials in the days surrounding the murder. A.M. Hendropriyono, then the BIN chief, rejected this. To Tempo, two weeks ago, he said: "I never signed any letter naming Munir as a target of an operation."

- Budi Setyarso

Five views, one incident

Tempo Magazine No 34 - April 24-30, 2007

At least five people saw Munir at Changi Airport, Singapore, on September 7, 2004, a few hours before his death. A witness saw the human rights activist sitting at the Coffee Bean cafe with two other people. For reasons of safety, their names have been changed. The others, including Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, gave differing statements. Here is their testimony:

At the Coffee Bean

SA, 25, Witness, Garuda flight GA-974 business-class passenger. (Interview with Tempo, Monday last week)

Munir, for me, was not an important person, but was very popular, like a celebrity. He was often on television. Our seats were close together on the Jakarta-Singapore flight. So, we often saw each other, although we didn't talk.

When we got off the plane at Changi Airport, I was behind him. He walked alone. At the escalator, near Gate 42, he looked like he was waiting for somebody. I kept on walking. We waited 45- minutes in Changi. It was almost early morning, and the airport was not that busy. When re-boarding, I saw Munir talking with two people. They sat on a sofa at the Coffee Bean. I clearly saw Munir because I passed in the direction he was facing. Meanwhile, the two others had their backs to me.

One of the people speaking with Munir had long hair. Not really long, but longer than most men's hair. He was fair-skinned and rather tall. I don't remember if he wore glasses. The other man was wearing glasses.

Pollycarpus had features which were easy to remember: his eyelids were a bit bulgy. That was also true of that man wearing glasses. The hair, clothing, and demeanor all resembled Pollycarpus. However, I cannot confirm if that man was Pollycarpus. I don't want to make accusations.

At that time I did not see, or did not notice, if they were eating or drinking. The Coffee Bean was certainly closed at that time. I remember because I return to Jakarta from Germany twice a year, and each time during transit in Changi I always go there. But that night I didn't because the cafe was closed.

The man with long hair boarded the flight for Amsterdam, while the man wearing glasses did not. I had a chance to meet with the long-haired man in the waiting room. I was introduced by Pak JR, a passenger who sat next to me. While joking, Pak JR said that the long-haired man was a "political thug" who knows a lot about politics.

Directly to the Hotel

Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, 46 Garuda extra crew member, suspect in the Munir case. (His words as recorded by Pollycarpus lawyer, M. Assegaf, last Wednesday)

When I got off the plane in Changi, there were not many passengers around. I got out and was picked up by a Garuda staff member. I forget their name because it was three years ago (in his questioning file, he said he was picked up by Choi, a Garuda staff member in Singapore-Ed.)

I exited through a passageway, then followed the crew to immigration. It was enough for me to show my ID card and passport. There was no further examination. After passing this point I waited for a special bus for Garuda crew members. I waited because the plane crew must sign off with the ground crew.

Not long afterwards, the plane crew headed for the bus. We went to the hotel together. Captain Taufik Sobur, Brahmaniastawati, Yetty Soesmiyati, Oedi, and their friends were there; because it was 17 months ago, I don't remember all of them.

The matter of stopping by the Coffee Bean and speaking with Ongen? I don't know the Coffee Bean. I also don't know Ongen. I only recently learned of his name from the papers and magazines. The check-in time at Novotel Hotel is recorded, and that is proof that I headed straight to the hotel (the Novotel Apollo recorded it, according to documents charging Polly, and only the check-in and check-out dates are printed, not the hour-Ed.)

Did I exit and enter again? There are special hallways at Changi. There is a passageway just for passengers. If they want to exit there is an exit which passes by immigration. If I wanted to enter that room again, I couldn't, because there are different corridors for passengers in transit and exiting passengers. Passengers in transit are given transit cards. People cannot enter the boarding room without showing a transit card.

Ongen is My Friend

Josep Ririmase, 55 Witness, Garuda flight GA- 974 business-class passenger. (Testimony to police, March 2005)

I got off the plane at Changi Airport with the other passengers in first class. I did not see Munir at the Changi terminal, and first saw him when at the boarding area. He was headed for the plane, while talking to someone whom I did not know. Later I discovered it was Doctor Tarmizi.

In the waiting area I spoke with Ongen Latuihamallo, an artist who usually performs a one-man piano show. I introduced him to a female passenger in first class who was sitting next to me. Ongen sat in economy class, but I do not know his seat number.

I was Ongen's neighbor in Ambon. He usually played music in churches in Jakarta. He was on the flight to Amsterdam. Ongen is rather tall, has dark skin, and has long hair. I should add that when I recognized Ongen, I first believed that he was my childhood friend from Ambon.

(On Friday last week, Josep turned down Tempo's request for an interview. He said that he had already given his testimony to the police. "So just ask the police," said this PT Garuda official).

Someone Like Munir's Follower

Drupadi Dillon, 56 Witness, Garuda flight GA-974 economy-class passenger. (Interview with Tempo, Wednesday last week)

At that time I was on a break from my studies in Waginingen, Holland. On the Thursday before the departure, I was introduced to Munir by my husband, H.S. Dillon. As it turned out, we were going to be on the same flight to Holland, so we mentioned that we might board the plane together. My husband also said for me to help Munir, as he did not know his way around there. Utrecht, where Munir would be studying, and Waginingen are close by.

I went to Singapore on a morning Garuda flight because I had something to do there. At night I was in Changi, near the D42 waiting area. I heard an announcement that the Garuda flight from Jakarta had arrived. Because I had made a promise to meet Munir there, I paid close attention to the passengers exiting. As it turned out, I was unable to spot him. Maybe because he is small, and at that time many of the passengers were large Westerners.

About 50 minutes later, passengers were asked to board. The waiting room was very crowded. I entered while looking for a place to stand. I looked left and right. Where was Munir? It turned out that he was standing and talking with two people. He looked pale but I wasn't alarmed. He must have had a lot to do before leaving.

Munir is short, small and skinny. The two people speaking with him had the same height, but one was not as thin. I recently remembered that it was Doctor Tarmizi Hakim. I did not see the face of the other person. His hair was short and neat, but not a crew cut. I am sure that it was not Pollycarpus. He wore a white shirt and a cream-colored jacket.

I got the impression that it was one of Munir's followers. When we were about to board, it was as if he wanted to help carry Munir's bag. He was younger and stooped over. However, at that time I didn't think it was possible for Munir to be bringing a supporter along. I mean, he is not a government official.

I was about 5 meters away from them, but in front of me the chairs were full. They spoke seriously, engrossed in their discussion.

Tarmizi and Munir were moving their hands, while the other man was still. It was clearly not an idle discussion. That is why I didn't want to disturb them, even just to say hello to Munir.

Parting at the Plane Door

Dr Tarmizi Hakim, 60 Witness, Garuda flight GA-974 business-class passenger. (Testimony to police, November 2004)

When entering the waiting room at Changi, I saw Munir sitting alone. I came up to him and said: "You're Munir, right?" He said yes. I then shook his hand and introduced myself. We chatted while walking slowly, lining up to get on the plane.

I asked why he was going to Holland. He said he wanted to recharge his batteries for one year in Utrecht. I said: "It's a loss for Indonesia. You are an important person." He said that he needed to do it for himself. Inside, I asked again: "Who are you voting for? [in the 2004 presidential election]." He replied: "Ah, it doesn't make any difference, Doc."

While walking, I asked him about what he wrote about Aceh, whether or not it could be restored to normal. He said: "Ah, that depends on the intention, Doc." If the intention is to put it in order, then it could be resolved in three months.

Nearing the end of the discussion, I took out my wallet and gave my name card to Munir. "If you ever need something, just give me a call." While we were walking and talking, I didn't see anyone else with him or speaking to him. We split up at the door of the plane.

- Budi Setyarso and Muslima

A split personality

Tempo Magazine No 34 - April 24-30, 2007

He was active in church and close to the military. But his present whereabouts are unknown.

Please, pray for me," was the SMS received from Ongen Latuihamallo's cellular telephone number, as received by one of his friends early last week. After that, his number became inactive.

Ongen has been the subject of much interest since he was identified by a number of witnesses as the mysterious man talking with Munir at Changi Airport, Singapore, moments before Garuda flight GA-974 took off for Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It was on this flight, nine hours later, that Munir died of poisoning. Three years after the killing, police confirm that Munir ingested a lethal dose of arsenic while he was in transit at Changi Airport.

Ongen Latuihamallo, an Ambonese, is known as a musician. He is associated closely with other musicians since arriving in the Indonesian capital in the early 1980s. He actively composed songs, some of which he sang himself. "I don't believe he killed Munir," said a singer from Ambon, at the end of last week. This singer asked that their name not be printed, due to concerns for their safety. This artist- who comes from Ongen's hometown in Porto, Saparua, -is not alone. Most of Ongen's friends, whether in Holland or Indonesia, who were contacted by Tempo, requested that their names not be published.

They all generally had the same thing to say: they were surprised when they found out that Ongen was connected with the Munir murder case. "I started shaking," said one friend.

In Jakarta, Ongen lived in the vicinity of Bintaro, Tangerang, together with his wife and two children. This man in his 50s usually drives an Opel Blazer. His wife works at a government bank. One of Ongen's friends, Donny Pattinasarany, turned down Tempo's request to help us speak with Ongen's family. "In the near future the family is going to retain a lawyer, and he will be the one who will speak for the family," he said.

Friends in Ongen's inner circle feel that he is not cut out to be a criminal. "He is friendly and easy to get along with," said one person from Maluku in Holland. This person knows the long-haired Ongen because he often performs in musical events held by people from Maluku over in Holland. This source also accompanied the Maluku musician from Holland to perform in various musical events in Indonesia.

In addition to having a pleasing personality, Ongen is also known to be fashionable. "His hair is always neat, never messy," said the source. To keep his hair neat, he always wears his sunglasses on top of his head, like a hair ribbon. "He really takes care of his appearance," said another one of Ongen's friends. "He speaks slowly and softly, not like most people from Maluku."

In addition to singing, one of Ongen's high-profile activities in Jakarta is performing in church events. Last December, for instance, he sang at the Christmas night celebrations at the Silo West Indonesia Protestant Church (GPIB), in Kampung Ambon, West Jakarta. Although he is not a member of the congregation, "We always invite Ongen every time there is an event here," said a Silo Church official, last week. Before disappearing, according to this official, Ongen had sung a duet with Joan Tanamal during Easter early last April.

It is usually not very difficult to track down Ongen's whereabouts when he is not performing in musical events outside Jakarta. He ordinarily goes to the Gemini Records recording studio in the vicinity of Gudang Peluru, South Jakarta. "We always hang out there, from morning until night," said one singer from Ambon who once recorded with Ongen. He has made over a dozen cassette recordings at the studio. Most of them are spiritual songs and Maluku songs. In addition to cassettes, Ongen has also released video recordings.

Ongen comes from Porto village, Saparua. His father was an employee at Pertamina in Maluku. Before rioting took place in Pattimura in 1999, Ongen was often seen together with his older sister near the vicinity of Ponegoro, Urimessing subdistrict, Sirimau. This sister later married Richard Louhenapessy, who is currently the Speaker of the Maluku Regional House of Representatives (DPRD).

When the rioting began to spread, it was reported that Ongen often traveled back and forth between Jakarta and Ambon. Whenever in Ambon, he would stay at the Mutiara Hotel, on Jalan Pattimura, or at the Grand Soya Hotel behind the neighborhood of Soya, Ambon. "He usually stays here, but he hasn't been here for almost a month," said the Mutiara Hotel receptionist.

A number of Maluku residents met by Tempo last week said that Ongen has a dark history. For instance, it was said that he is close with an Amsterdam-Jakarta network of drug smugglers, in addition to also working for a military group-, two stories which were denied outright by Ongen's friends.

Reportedly, Ongen started getting close with a TNI intelligence officer with the initials HR back in the 1990s. It is suspected that this officer brought Ongen into the intelligence fold. "After the rioting, many Ambonese in Jakarta were recruited to be agents," said a Tempo source, a Maluku native in Jakarta.

They say he was active in the event-organizing committee for the declaration of the United Youths of Maluku, which was held at a star-rated hotel in Jakarta in early 2006. This organization was formed to sustain the reconciliation between the social groups in Maluku. One of its founders was Lt. Gen. (ret) Suaidy Marasabessy, former Commander of the Pattimura Regional Military Command, who was once the Chief of General Staff of the Indonesian Military (TNI). Ongen once joined activities of the Artists of Maluku (Ina Ama)-, an organization which brings together singers from his native Maluku. However, according to Harry Souisa, Chairman of Ina Ama, Ongen has not been a member since December 2005.

In November 2006, Ongen joined the Indonesian Association of Singers, Songwriters, and Musical Recording Arrangers (Pappma). Suaidy Marasabessy is an advisor for this association. To Tempo, Suaidy confirmed that he is an advisor for both the United Youths of Maluku and Pappma. However, he said, Ongen is not involved in these two associations. "So don't make any connections," said Suaidy. "It will upset a lot of people."

Is it true that through these "associations" Ongen came by a lot of money, which he uses to travel back and forth between Jakarta and Amsterdam? No one could confirm this.

A number of Ambon artists met by Tempo generally asked where Ongen's money came from. "His payment for a single performance in a Pasar Malam event in Holland would not be much," said one Ambon musician in Holland. "However, last year, Ongen would fly to Europe two or three times." Each time he went, he stayed for two weeks to a month. According to a number of Tempo sources, Ongen frequented two locations in his travels to The Netherlands. The first was the "Ambon neighborhood" in Breda, a small town in the south of Holland. There he was often seen at the residence of the Pattinasarany family. The second location was in Waalwigk, not far from Breda. In this second location, Ongen stayed at the home of the Latuihamallo family. Also living in Waalwigk is an activist of the Republic of South Maluku (RMS) named Umar Santi. "I think Umar knows Ongen," said the source.

Interestingly, when he met Suciwati, Munir's wife, at Changi Airport in June 2005, Ongen introduced himself as Johan. At the end of this encounter, he offered to help Suci and wrote his contact numbers on a scrap of paper. On it, he wrote his name as Anton Saija (not Anton Saijah, as written in Tempo last week) plus his telephone number and email address.

A Tempo source from the Ambon community in Jakarta, shook his head when he heard this news. Anton Saija is not a fictitious name. In Holland, in addition to being a businessman, Anton is known as a figure of the once-rebellious RMS. Tempo confirmed that Ongen had attended an RMS anniversary event in Holland on one occasion. Unfortunately, not a single person from this group was willing to make any comment. As a result, the true identity of this key witness in the Munir case remains a mystery.

Wahyu Dhyatmika, Wenseslaus Manggot (Jakarta), Mochtar Touwe (Ambon)

A needle in a haystack

Tempo Magazine No 34 - April 24-30, 2007

It was late afternoon in Breda, The Netherlands, on Saturday two weeks ago. A man received a telephone call from Jakarta. He said the caller was a senior ranking military man. The officer whispered: it's about an old case being discussed widely by the public. He asked this man to look for a man named Ongen Latuihamallo. The case in question was the death of human rights activist Munir. Who was the officer that called? The man refused to tell.

However, looking for Ongen, an Ambonese singer living in Holland, whom police say is connected with Munir's death, is no easy task. Looking for Ongen, even if he is in Holland, is like a needle in a haystack – concealed among thousands of other Ambonese in The Netherlands.

There are 64 areas where people from Ambon live – known as wiyk – in Holland. There are 30,000 people, more or less, of Ambon heritage in these areas. In the Breda Wiyk alone, which is a small town in the southern part of the country, there are 250 families comprising about 1,000 Ambonese. They live in about 150 homes.

To find an Ambonese, you just need to ask where the Ambon neighborhoods are. People on the sidewalk will gladly point you in the right direction. But what if you are looking for Ongen? That is difficult, even though Ongen is not a stranger there.

Almost all Ambonese whom Tempo met in The Netherlands knew of this long-haired man. "Ongen, the singer?" was the general reply. In the Ambon communities, Ongen is famous for his golden voice. He often performs at cultural events, especially the Pasar Malam-an annual party for Indonesians in Holland. He is frequently a guest star in Ambonese bands trying to build a career in Holland.

But Ongen seldom stays in one place for long in The Netherlands. He has friends who live in the wiyk. "Last week he was here, but now I don't know," said F.M.B. Pattinasarany, who is better known by the nickname Opa Bomy. This 90-year-old man is the uncle of Ongen's wife, Etha Pattinasarany. Ongen often stays at Opa Bomy's house when he is in Breda. "But I'm old. If he stays here, there is no one to take care of him. So he leaves. Maybe he has already returned to Indonesia by now," said Bomy, who has lived in Holland for 50 years.

Bomy lives in a two-floor, 5x7-meter home in a row of small houses in the Breda Wiyk area. There is a small garden in front of the house, and another behind it. The first floor has a guestroom which also serves as a dining room and kitchen. There are two bedrooms on the second floor.

There is a church, a park, and a meeting hall which has a cafe and a place to play music. This is where Ongen usually spends his time when he is at the wiyk.

According to Opa Bomy, whenever he is in Jakarta he often stays at Ongen's home in Bintaro, South Jakarta. He said that he does not know Ongen's exact address. "I'm picked up, so I never know the address. He has never written down his phone number," said Bomy. According to this grandfather, Ongen's parents have long since passed away. "Ongen is a good person. He has sung in the church since childhood," he said. So, "it's not possible that he became a criminal."

People living in the Ambon neighborhoods in Breda gave bits of information. "Oh, Ongen. He's in Holland now?" one asked. Another said: "Ongen has gone to Tiel." Tiel is a small, quaint old town located in the West Gelderland area of the country.

While searching for Ongen, Tempo met the man who received that telephone call. "I was only ordered to find Ongen here," said the man. He said he has known Ongen since 2003. Although they are not close, he knows about Ongen's activities, given he has lived in The Netherlands for the past 10 years.

"He is an artist, so he is like the wind. Difficult to find," said the man. Was he ever involved in illegal activities? Some have claimed that he was close to an ecstasy drug ring? asked Tempo.

"He doesn't get into that. I know all the dealers here. He is not one of them."

Then who does he associate with here?

"With people in the wiyk, other artists."

Why are you looking for Ongen?

"I was informed about the Munir case. I have not been following the case. I have only been told to look for him."

What will you do if you find him?

"I was only told to tell him to be careful, because people are looking for him."

To be careful? Looking for him to protect him or to threaten him?

"I don't know," said the man, shrugging. "My job is only to find him and convey that message. I have already told them that Ongen is not here, so my job is finished."

Now what?

"My job is finished. A day ago, I received an SMS. It was short: 'The person has been found'."

- Asmayani Kusrini (Breda)

An excruciating death over Europe

Tempo Magazine No 34 - April 24-30, 2007

The glass of warm tea could not settle his stomach. He felt pain whenever his stomach was touched. He made frequent trips to the bathroom, due to diarrhea and vomiting. He was spitting a milk- colored liquid. Munir took his last breath about nine hours after leaving Singapore for Amsterdam. He died an untimely death at the age of 39.

The Netherlands Forensic Institute, (NFI) which performed an autopsy on Munir's body, discovered a high dose of arsenic: 450 milligrams, four times above the lethal dose for humans. They found 3.1 milligrams per liter in his blood, or 31 times above the normal amount which can be tolerated. In his urine they found 4.8 milligrams per liter or 16 times above the acceptable amount. If measured, the amount of arsenic ingested by Munir is approximately one tablespoonful.

In a second autopsy in Seattle, the forensic lab at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States concluded that the arsenic in Munir's stomach and liver had a potency of three and five.

Arsenic in that dosage, or arsenic trioxide (As2O3) is better known as white arsenic. This substance is sold as fine granules, is odorless and tasteless, and does not alter the taste of the food or drink it is mixed with. This arsenic can be obtained by heating the mineral arsenopyrite into gaseous form, then resolidifying it.

The story goes that an Arab alchemist named Jabir became the first to prepare this powder in the 700s. In Europe, it is known as poudre de succession-the "powder of succession," due to its frequent use in political assassinations. French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was one of its victims. Other literature mentions arsenic often used in murders of revenge. Its victims generally suffered incredible pain while the poison went to work. This is why, on that unfortunate night, Munir suffered extraordinary pain.

The dehydration, dry mouth, and weakness it produces, closely resembles the symptoms of cholera, which was widespread in Europe at that time. Hieronyma Spara, the ruler of Rome during the 7th century, taught young wives a quick recipe on how to become rich widows. Use arsenic to poison your husbands, he said.

According to Fransisca Zakaria, an expert in agricultural chemistry from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), arsenic with a valency of two or three usually comes from anorganic compounds which can be obtained from minerals. The anorganic type is more widely produced than the organic type, because its raw material is found throughout nature and is easily refined. An amount as small as the tip of a fingernail would be enough to kill an adult. Arsenic is a very effective poison because it is quickly absorbed by food, and only requires a liquid which is still warm in order to quickly dissolve.

In small doses, arsenic can be expelled from the body by drinking milk, so that the person who ingests it can vomit. Milk also slows the working of the poison in the body, because protein binds with the arsenic. However, in Munir's case, the high dose rendered the protein ineffective.

The NFI and FBI could not determine how the arsenic entered Munir's body. However, coffee is not suspected, because it was known that Munir did not like it. He suffered from heartburn, and preferred sweetened tea or water.

- I G.G. Maha Adi

 Human rights/law

Protect us, drivers plead

Jakarta Post - April 30, 2007

The nation's truck, bus and taxi drivers are demanding a law regulating wages, employment conditions and social insurance for the sector.

The workers will carry their demands to next week's May Day labor rally, which will be held on May 1, a traditional day of activism for the international labor movement.

"Land transportation drivers are not covered by the 2003 Labor Law because we're not regarded as laborers," coordinator of the Indonesian Transportation Labor Union of Struggle, Ilham Syah, said Saturday. Drivers sign a so-called "partnership contract" when they start work with a company.

"It's a manipulation of words. Partnership means an equal relationship. That's not the case here because there is no opportunity for wage negotiation. (Wages) are already set by the company," Ilham said.

"We never receive a monthly salary even though we're bound to work for only one particular company." Wage standardization is needed for the drivers of taxis, buses, minibuses and trucks, he said.

Truck drivers pocket their daily payment in the form of commissions, while public transport drivers get their daily income after paying a minimum amount to the companies they work for.

Jakarta's Blue Bird taxi drivers, for example, have to pay Rp 585,000 (US$64.28) a day for an income commission worth Rp 130,000. A Blue Bird driver who is also a member of the union, Widodo, said: "In reality, most of the time we can only pay Rp 300,000 for a Rp 20,000 daily commission, after over 12 hours roving around the streets."

Not all taxi companies provide commissions like Blue Bird. "Drivers speed up while driving mainly because they have to rush to meet their daily targets. Human error by land transportation workers is always the scapegoat every time an accident happens," Ilham said.

"Yet the government never acknowledges the reason behind those accidents, particularly the blurred wage system set for the transportation workers. The government must issue a law to protect land transportation workers which will then also protect those who use their services."

Other problems faced by drivers are illegal fees, such as those faced daily by container truck drivers coming in and out of the port at Jakarta's Tanjung Priok.

"Illegal fees are commonly charged by officials of the state- owned port operator PT Pelabuhan Indonesia, Customs and Excise, the Jakarta Transportation Agency and police officers, as well as thugs being backed-up by officials," Ilham said.

Truck drivers receive Rp 400,000 in travel expenses, of which Rp 300,000 is to buy gasoline, up to Rp 40,000 is to pay tolls and some Rp 50,000 is to pay illegal fees. The drivers also get a commission of between Rp 30,000 and Rp 50,000 for a round trip from the harbor to warehouses.

"We usually can do only one round trip a day due to the time- consuming process of loading and unloading cargo," Ilham said, adding that drivers sometimes still had to pay illegal fees from their own pockets.

Some 3,000 container trucks service the port at Tanjung Priok. "We have to stand by at the garage for a trip order most of the day," Ilham said.

However, only around 40 percent of trucking companies provide stand-by money for their drivers. The money, which is only Rp 10,000 to Rp 20,000, is not in line with the minimum standard for stand-by money stipulated by the Labor Law. The minimum stand-by money stipulated by the law is Rp 33,000 a day, which is around one-thirtieth of the Jakarta monthly minimum wage.

Education a basic right, say groups

Jakarta Post - April 26, 2007

Emmy Fitri, Jakarta – The Education For All (EFA) Global Action Week will be held internationally through the last week of April, the work of various groups wanting to drum up support for the right to education.

Titled "Education is a Human Right", this year's EFA Global Action Week is regarded as particularly important because 2007 marks the half-way point of the 15 year period set by 164 countries when they signed the EFA Commitment in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000.

Education rights group Kapal Perempuan's national coordinator Yanti Muchtar said the week of action was well-timed to remind the government and the people that education was a basic human right.

"ECOSOC (economic, social and cultural) rights are just taken for granted here. We heard a piece of news about a student who committed suicide because he could not afford to pay tuition fees. Because it concerned only one person, we failed to respond properly to the bigger problem behind the suicide," Yanti said.

Yanti said the Indonesian government had signed the EFA Commitment but was yet to show progress in delivering the services the document promised.

"There are six goals in the EFA, one of them is the availability of qualified and free of charge primary education. This primary education must be accessible for all children by 2015 regardless their ethnic or household income group. In reality, we haven't seen good quality education provided in primary schools that are accessible for school-age children," she said. "There already some free-tuition policies in some schools but parents must still bear the additional costs of uniforms, transportation expenses and workbooks."

Government data show that the enrollment rate for primary students reached 98 percent this year, Yanti said, but many overlooked the increasing drop-out rate and adult illiteracy numbers.

Photo exhibitions, a rally at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, seminars and a meeting with lawmakers are among activities planned be held in Jakarta during the week.

Global Action Week was initiated by the Global Campaign on Education (GCE), an international network of non-governmental groups established in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000. The GCE monitors progress made by countries that signed the EFA declaration.

Meanwhile, UNESCO's Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education spokesman Shaeffer Sheldon said poverty, cultural and social barriers, wars and ignorance have come between governments providing education and child and adults.

Shaeffer told a gathering of journalists in Hanoi, Vietnam, over the weekend that education as a human basic right has not been viewed as an important investment for a better future by many countries, but there were a variety of reasons behind such a perspective.

"On the millennium, in the year 2000 in Dakar, your governments, with strong global support, agreed on the provision of free and universal education, however, still today, seven years on, the commitment has gone answered," Shaeffer said when closing the three-day workshop on education.

Globally there are 77 million children who do not attend primary school; more than 9 million of those children live in East Asia.

"In this region, children are left out of school due to poverty or disability, or because they live in remote areas or speak a language different from that used in school, or simply because they are girls,"

"Time is running out. The 2015 target for the EFA goals and the Millennium Development Goals is getting close. All of us must work together with a sense of urgency to ensure that all children, youth and adults have access to good quality education," Shaeffer said.

Thousands suffer in silence from domestic violence

Jakarta Post - April 26, 2007

ID Nugroho, Surabaya – "Maryati" tried to hide her face behind a red headscarf. The 36-year-old from Surabaya, East Java, is a victim of domestic violence.

Sitting on a wooden chair at the back of the French Cultural Center in Surabaya, she recalled how she was beaten by her husband, even when she was seven months pregnant. Her second child died without ever having the chance to see the world.

The torment started when she and her husband moved into a rented home in south Surabaya in 1996, around the time when her husband got a new job as a construction worker. The couple formed a good relationship with their neighbors, including Nana, not her real name.

"When I wasn't home, Nana would come to my house and ask my husband to take her out. Other neighbors gossiped about it," she told The Jakarta Post. "When I approached him about it, we ended up having a fight."

Her husband began to change and started beating her, even over small things. "I remember he first hit me when I asked for money to buy groceries."

The abuse continued, even when she was pregnant with her second child. When she was eight months pregnant, she suffered a miscarriage. "I went to have a routine ultrasound and they found that the baby had died," said Maryati, breaking into tears.

Following the miscarriage, the abuse continued. She was regularly beaten, kicked and raped, and she was soon pregnant again. She gave birth to a baby boy in mid-1997.

The next year, her husband left her for Nana, taking with him their valuables, including a television and jewelry.

Now a single mother with two children, Maryati has not given up hope. She does what she can to earn money, while receiving assistance from her neighbors and Savy Amira, a non-government organization that assists women.

"I once worked in a printing company but I was fired. Now I do other people's laundry," she said. She shared her story in a recent discussion at the French Cultural Center. In the discussion, "Breaking the Chain of Violence", psychologist Pinky Saptandari blamed misperceptions about men and women for the abuse inflicted on women within the community.

She said that women are considered beautiful, weak creatures that should protect their dignity, while men are considered strong and brave. "Bravery sometimes mistakenly causes abuse toward women," said Pinky, an expert staff member at the State Ministry for Women's Empowerment.

In society, perceptions become much more misleading – men are considered to have more rights to education and employment, while women are expected to remain in the house, caring for children and obeying their husbands.

"This situation makes women vulnerable to abuse. The violence and abuse that women suffer mostly takes place inside the home," Pinky said.

The National Commission on Violence Against Women disclosed in a report in March this year that the number of cases of violence against women in 2006 reached 22,512, up from the 20,391 in 2005 and 14,020 cases in 2004. In 2003, only 7,787 cases were reported.

The commission's chief Kamala Chandrakirana said that as in previous years, domestic violence continues to be a huge problem.

Pinky said that often there are barriers that make solving cases of domestic violence difficult. These barriers include a social attitude that regularly blames women for domestic violence and customs which find it improper to discuss domestic affairs in public. "In the end, women just accept what happens to them. This must change," Pinky said.

She said women were at particular risk in disadvantaged regions such as East Nusa Tenggara, Ambon, Papua and Poso in Central Sulawesi. Pinky blamed this on inadequate education and ongoing social conflicts within the regions, as well as misleading local customs.

However, she found no systematic solution to cut the chains of abuse. The State Ministry for Women's Empowerment, for instance, does not have the technical support to implement its programs and needs the support of other ministries.

"But other ministries are busy with their own programs. Unfortunately, the program to support women's empowerment cannot proceed as expected," she said.


Aceh and Papua lead the charge against local deforestation

Jakarta Post - April 28, 2007

Rita A.Widiadana and Wasti Atmodjo, Nusa Dua – The governors of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Papua and West Papua committed to significantly reducing deforestation in their areas at a climate change conference in Bali on Thursday.

In a declaration issued during the Governors Roundtable on Climate Change here at the Westin Resort in Nusa Dua, Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu and West Papua Governor Abraham O. Atururi agreed to a joint policy of environmentally friendly, sustainable economic development of greenhouse emissions and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.

The meeting was jointly organized by the World Bank, the Australian government, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and a number of other organizations.

"We are realizing our special position as stewards of the largest natural forests in Indonesia," the governors declared. Aceh and Papua are autonomous provinces with significant forest cover that until recently remained relatively untouched due to years of political conflict.

Aceh has around 3,127,134 hectares of forest land, while the total forest area of Papua and West Papua stands at 42,224,840 hectares and covers approximately 95 percent of the total land area. However, during the last two years, these provinces have experienced significant increases in deforestation.

In Aceh, illegal logging has grown to satisfy the increased timber demand following the 2004 tsunami, while in Papua, deforestation has long been driven by illegal logging and by a surge in the conversion of forests into palm oil plantations caused by rising global demand for biofuel.

Deforestation was the main reason Indonesia is ranked as the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses after the United States and China.

"By focusing on reducing emissions from deforestation, our provinces call for guidance from the central government and the support of the international community through carbon financing mechanisms and the transfer of technology that will protect our forests and provide income to local communities," the governors said.

Irwandi said Aceh would implement a temporary moratorium on all logging in May.Through this moratorium, Aceh will have breathing time to review the current status of its forest, including forest cover, concessions and sustainable production capacity," he said.

The moratorium will allow the province to design a proper forest development and management strategy and implement stronger and more effective law enforcement.

"This policy clearly sends a message to the international community that we are willing to stop deforestation. However, the province expects new revenues from trade, not only aid, in environmental services," Irwandi said.

Meanwhile, both Suebu and Atuturi committed to prohibiting log exports, which they said had not benefited the local people in past. Papua and West Papua will also revoke the licenses of forest concession holders unless they add value and develop forest industries in the two provinces.

Both provinces are committed to developing a pilot project that encompasses these policies in an area of no less than 500,000 hectares of forested land and to reallocate up to five million hectares of conversion forest for carbon trading.

Frank Momberg, FFI Asia director for program development said the group applauded the three governors' pledges to drastically reduce deforestation. Meanwhile, the Australian government has committed AU$200 million to support practical and immediate action to reduce deforestation, support reforestation and implement sustainable forest management. A significant proportion of the funds are likely to be directed to Indonesia.

Minister questions release of illegal logging suspects

Agence France Presse - April 28, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesia's Forestry Minister said he could not accept the release of illegal logging suspects and called for an investigation of judges handling the cases, reports said Saturday.

District courts in North and West Sumatra provinces recently released suspects in illegal logging cases, deciding prosecution charges were groundless, The Jakarta Post daily reported.

But minister Malam Sambat Kaban insisted that police and prosecutors would not have brought charges unless there had been strong evidence.

"Judges who release illegal logging suspects should be investigated by the Supreme Court," he said, adding that releasing the suspects would encourage illegal logging. "The verdict has justified what the suspects have been doing all the time," Kaban reportedly said.

He said 37.6 million hectares (93 million acres) of forest were in critical condition. The government has launched a reforestation programme this year, aiming to replant two million hectares of forest.

Mudflow protest blocks main road

Jakarta Post - April 28, 2007

ID Nugroho, Sidoarjo – Mudflow victims continued their protest over unpaid compensation on Friday, blocking roads in Sidoarjo, East Java, with trees and trucks.

Hundreds of protesters from the four villages in Porong district that were the first to be hit by the mud, which has been gushing from the botched PT Lapindo Brantas gas drilling well since May last year, halted work on dams in the area as trucks carrying dirt to strengthen them could not get through.

The protest also disrupted other Porong residents, forcing students returning home, traders on their way to the market and workers to walk around the road block or take alternative routes, leading to traffic congestion.

"Since the volume of vehicles continued to increase, the small alternative roads, many of which are in poor shape and have many holes, were jammed," said Sidoarjo Police traffic division chief Adj. Comr. Andi Yudianto.

The protesters are demanding an immediate confirmation of their compensation payouts. A Thursday meeting between their representatives, Sidoarjo Regent Win Hendrarso and Sidoarjo Mudflow Prevention Agency head Soenarso was not attended by representatives of PT Minarak Lapindo Jaya, the company appointed by Lapindo to handle compensation.

On Friday, however, Social Services Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah invited 12 representatives from the four villages to attend a meeting on the case in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The agency's social affairs head, Sutjahyono, declined to discuss the meeting's agenda or say whether it would result in a decision on the situation.

"I don't want to make assumptions (about the meeting) but it has been planned," he said after delivering the invitation to the waiting protesters, who greeted it cheers.

Mudflow victims press on with compensation demand

Jakarta Post - April 27, 2007

ID Nugroho, Sidoarjo – Hundreds of mudflow victims from Sidoarjo briefly clashed with police attempting to prevent them from breaking into the Juanda Airport complex in Surabaya, East Java, on Thursday.

At least two protesters, who were frustrated after failing to receive confirmation of compensation payments, were detained by the police.

Before the incident, the mudflow victims, who came from the four villages first affected by the sludge in Porong district, staged a noisy protest at Sidoarjo Legislative Council and tried to disrupt trains passing through the regency.

At the council, they damaged the gate after failing to meet Sidoarjo Regent Win Hendrarso and the head of the newly set up Sidoarjo Mudflow Prevention Agency, Soenarso.

The protesters became angry when they were told that a meeting between their representatives, the agency, Sidoarjo regency officials and council members had been put on hold on Thursday due to the absence of a representative from PT Minarak Lapindo Jaya, which is handling the compensation.

When a request for the regent to explain the delay received no response, they pushed toward the building. Police officers tried to control the angry residents, who became calm after Win and Soenarso came on the site.

"The residents have to be patient and not close road access. The residents should also directly explain (their demands) to representatives from PT Minarak Lapindo Jaya, who are on their way here," Win said.

"The mudflow victims and I are brothers, not enemies. What we're trying to do is to speed up the payment of compensation," Soenarso said.

In the meeting at the council it was disclosed the Minarah had not yet guaranteed to pay the compensation to the victims, many of whom do not have land and building ownership certificates.

The agency's social affairs division head, Sutjahyono, telephoned Imam Agustino, general manager of Lapindo Brantas Inc., the company blamed for the mudflow, and received confirmation that Minarak vice president Andy Darussalam was on his way from Jakarta to Sidoarjo. The company has said that it will only provide land and building compensation to those with ownership certificates.

Of the around 600 hectares of flooded land Porong district, only around 430 square meters are listed on land ownership certificates. Possession of the remaining land is recorded manually at subdistrict offices.

Meanwhile, workers were racing Thursday to repair a massive wall holding back the sludge. Cracks started to appear in the man-made embankment around the disaster area on Wednesday, prompting authorities to declare the area off limits, AFP reported.

Bambang Suryadi, from the company charged with monitoring the site, said a 300-meter exclusion zone was thrown up only as a precaution, saying the situation was not severe.

Environment sidelined for business, says ex-minister

Jakarta Post - April 27, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – Environmental issues have remained on the back burner despite changes of government and more frequent natural disasters that have inflicted trillions of rupiah in losses and led to thousands of deaths, critics commemorating Earth Day highlighted at a discussion Thursday.

Emil Salim, former state minister for the environment and now a presidential advisor on the issue, said the few existing environmental laws in Indonesia were "practically ineffective".

"As long as we have a government that can't fathom the idea of green economics and that the environment itself is priceless compared to anything with tangible value, nothing is going to come out of having dozens of environmental laws," he said.

Environmental issues, Emil said, had lost out to business, macroeconomics and politics under both past and current government administrations. He called for consistency from civil groups to balance the always-contradicting approaches of businesspeople, politicians and green activists on environmental matters.

Emil noted that maintaining a green, healthy environment carried definite financial benefits, but that these might not be calculable in terms of trade or exports.

"If a flashflood strikes Jakarta and the governor says it costs some trillions (of rupiah), that means that a green environment, which could keep flooding away, is worth that many trillions despite not seeing it on a clear day," Emil said.

Environmental observer Hariadi Kartodihardjo, who recently released a book titled Behind Deforestation and Disasters, shares Emil's view that environmental issues are not appealing to politicians when on the campaign trail and that as a result were scarcely reflected in their policies.

"It's always about commodities and how much money is coming in... what the macroeconomic condition is. This calls for redefining," he said.

Legislator Tjatur Sapto Edy from the House of Representatives Commission VII on the environment and mining highlighted that the government has yet to assign a representative to deliberate a bill submitted to the presidential office in 2000 on the management of natural resources. "None of the government's nine prioritized works planned for both this year and next year touch on environmental issues," he said.

He also lamented that the government has no official record of the abundance of Indonesia's natural resources so as to make exploration and exploitation by foreign firms more beneficial for the country.

"To choose an example, the gold mining in Papua by Freeport. I've asked previous and current ministers and none of them know exactly how much reserves we have or their value. Freeport provides the information, which these ministers use as data," said Tjatur.

Indonesia has suffered from a string of natural disasters, the frequency of which has continued to increase over the past few years. These events have included flashfloods, landslides and forest fires.

With deforestation increasing at an unprecedented rate – now at 2.4 million hectares per year – government efforts to protect trees have been criticized as half-hearted.

The government is also seen as having failed to take advantage of the newly-ratified Kyoto Protocol by proposing environmental preservation projects to industrialized countries as part of their obligation to reduce their carbon emissions.

Indonesian court acquits Newmont mining

New York Times - April 25, 2007

Donald Greenlees, Manado – An Indonesian court acquitted Newmont Mining Corporation, the American mining giant, and one of its senior executives on Tuesday of charges of polluting a bay here with toxic waste from a now defunct gold mine, in a case that became a litmus test of foreign investor confidence in Indonesia.

Ending a 21-month trial that pitted an emboldened national environmental lobby against Newmont Mining, a panel of judges found there was no evidence to support criminal charges that the company had polluted Buyat Bay, off the island of Sulawesi, with toxins including arsenic and mercury. The chief prosecutor said the verdict would be appealed.

Prosecutors had asked the court to impose a three-year jail term and a $55,000 fine on Richard B. Ness, the chief of the Newmont unit that controls the mine, who is a United States citizen. They had also sought a $110,000 fine against the company.

But the chief judge, Ridwan Damanik, told the Manado District Court that the case, which followed a lengthy police investigation and the monthlong detention of five Newmont executives, including an American and an Australian, should never have resulted in criminal proceedings.

"The police evidence doesn't stand up," Mr. Damanik told a packed courtroom. Reading from a 260-page judgment, he added that the prosecution had failed to show that Newmont's system of depositing mine waste, called tailings, at the bottom of the bay via a half-mile-long pipe had polluted the environment or caused health problems for local villagers.

Mr. Ness, 57, who for a large part of the criminal proceedings had been forbidden to leave Indonesia, said that he was pleased the judges had determined that the legal procedures that allowed the case to get to court were fundamentally flawed.

"We are all thrilled with the fact that after two and a half years we have been exonerated from the horrendous allegations that were brought before us originally," Mr. Ness said in an interview after the verdict. He added, "We should never have even gotten this far; we shouldn't have been in court."

But Purwanta Sudarmaji, the state prosecutor, said in an interview later that he intended to appeal the verdict. Under Indonesian law, the prosecution has 14 days to lodge the appeal.

Environmental activists expressed disappointment with the verdict. About 1,000 anti-Newmont protesters gathered for the verdict outside the court, which was cordoned off and had a heavy police presence.

"Newmont was found not guilty because of legal procedures, but not on the substance," said Siti Maimunah, coordinator of the Mining Advocacy Network, an environmental group, in an interview from Jakarta.

The case against Newmont has had national significance for environmentalists and investors because both sides saw it as a vital test of the balance between development and environmental protection in a country that has some of the richest mineral deposits in the world, including gold, copper, nickel and coal.

Investors and some senior government officials feared that a guilty verdict against Newmont, one of the world's biggest mining companies, would be another severe blow to the growth of the mining industry when investment was already at a historic low. Environmentalists said they hoped that the case would act as a restraint on what they say has been a permissive attitude toward the resource extraction industries.

For Newmont, which is based in Denver, the case also became a focus of shareholder concern about the environmental and social standards adopted by the company in developing countries, where regulations are sometimes less stringent than those in the United States.

A group of institutional investors in Newmont, with links to religious organizations, have proposed a resolution for the independent monitoring of the environmental and social impact of the company's operations. Newmont executives said the board of directors was planning to endorse the adoption of the resolution on Tuesday at its annual meeting in Wilmington, Del.

Still, the legal victory on Tuesday gives Newmont executives very little incentive to change the method of disposing of tailings at sea by submarine pipe – the issue that was at the heart of the environmental case against the mine in Indonesia. This method is also used at a much bigger Newmont mine on the island of Sumbawa, in eastern Indonesia.

"One of the real positives about the outcomes from this is that basically the judges assessed whether ocean disposal of tailings caused pollution, and the answer is no," Bob Gallagher, vice president for Asia Pacific operations of Newmont, said in an interview. "So in fact, I think it is a very positive outcome in terms of the disposal of tailings."

The case against the company's local unit, Newmont Minahasa Raya, centered on claims made in 2004 by a doctor and some local residents that toxins used in the mining process and pumped into the sea with the tailings caused a variety of illnesses, including skin rashes, lumps and dizziness. They alleged that a baby had died as a result of exposure to the mine's toxins. The charges came as the mine was shutting down after eight years of operation.

A subsequent police investigation, which involved the testing of samples from Buyat Bay, found unsafe levels of heavy metals and resulted in the filing of criminal charges. This was supported by a report in November 2004 from a group of experts engaged by the Environment Ministry, which found that arsenic levels in fish posed "high risks to human health." Arsenic is a byproduct of the mining process.

The indictment prepared by prosecutors alleged that the waste pumped into the bay had polluted the environment and caused health damage to the population, and that the pumping was done without the proper waste disposal permits.

But the prosecution's case was weakened when the doctor who brought the initial health claims retracted her statement in a letter sent to the police. A $543 million civil lawsuit brought on behalf of villagers was dropped. But Newmont did reach a $30 million good-will agreement with the government that provides for 10 years of environmental monitoring and community development aid.

 Health & education

13 million infants seriously malnourished: WFP

Jakarta Post - April 26, 2007

Jakarta – A total of 13 million children under the age of five in Indonesia suffer from chronic malnutrition, says the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

The WFP says the country produces enough food to feed the entire population but does not have the infrastructure in place to distribute it. "There's enough food, but the problem is getting it to those who need it," WFP deputy country director Bradley Busetto said here Wednesday.

Almost half of the nation's 28 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition, according to statistics from last year.

Of children under the age of five living in rural areas, 30.2 percent are underweight and 47.5 percent are under the average height. Meanwhile, of children under the age of five living in cities, 24.5 percent are underweight and 37.3 percent are under average height.

WFP unit head for vulnerability analysis and mapping, monitoring and evaluation Dipayan Bhattacharyya said that anemia occurred in half of the children under five years old suffering chronic malnutrition, and one-third of primary school-age children between 6 and 12, and in more than half of the country's pregnant women. "That's why the major indicator for our program is reduction of anemia occurrences," he said.

The WFP's programs, which include school feeding and nutritional rehabilitation activities, are targeting the groups most vulnerable to malnutrition: primary school-age children and those under five years old, as well as pregnant women in integrated service stations for pre- and post-natal health care (Posyandu).

"The WFP is reaching 1.5 million children in primary schools and Posyandu across Indonesia, in Aceh, Greater Jakarta and East Java, as well as in West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara in the eastern part of Indonesia," Busetto said.

Of the 854 million people suffering from chronic hunger worldwide, more than 400 million are children, according to 2006 data from the WFP. Every five seconds a child dies of hunger somewhere in the world – 720 deaths an hour.

"We are now focusing on the eastern part of Indonesia, especially the rural areas in (East Nusa Tenggara) and (West Nusa Tenggara)," said Busetto, adding that 40 to 50 percent of children in both provinces experienced chronic malnutrition.

"Besides giving food aid, the WFP is also seeing the importance of long-term solutions, such as nutrition education and related issues like building clean water and sanitation infrastructure in places like (West Nusa Tenggara)," Busetto said.

"We realize the complexity of the malnutrition problem. So, for a more sustainable result, we aim to work well with the government and NGOs, as well the private sector," he added.

He said that his office was currently operating at 65 percent of its capacity because of budget constraints in Indonesia, while adding that the WFP still faces a shortage of about US$10 million for its operations throughout the archipelago.

"The private sector can help in many ways, with nutritious new products that are affordable, and helping out in just raising awareness, since they have better marketing than we do," he said.

He added: "All our food is locally produced from suppliers in Indonesia. So that helps to have a way in which to make things more sustainable."

He said the WFP's special nutrition biscuits and noodles, which were manufactured by local food producers, contained nine essential vitamins and six minerals.

Rich and poor battle over bird flu

Associated Press - April 24, 2007

Margie Mason, Denpasar – Bird flu has largely flown off the radar of the Western world, but people are still dying from it nearly every week in Indonesia.

Since the first case was reported two years ago, government officials have reported 74 deaths from the H5N1 strain in Indonesia – more than a third of the world's total. And it's not just the virus this nation is battling. It's also struggling to ensure that poor countries get their fair share of any new vaccine developed to stem the spread of a possible global flu epidemic.

Indonesia has refused to share its samples of bird flu virus with the World Health Organization since January. Jakarta fears a vaccine produced from its specimens would be out of reach for its own citizens – too expensive and controlled by wealthy nations.

Some global health officials have accused Indonesia of holding the virus hostage and keeping experts from monitoring whether the bug is mutating into a dangerous form that could potentially spark the next pandemic that kills millions.

But government officials continue to hold their ground in a showdown with WHO – despite agreeing last month to resume sending samples. They are using the viruses as leverage against a system they say caters to the developed world's whims instead of promoting access for all.

"Exploitation by industrialized countries toward poor countries is not something new," Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari wrote in an Indonesian newspaper editorial recently. "This situation brings poverty, suffering and stupidity."

Some experts say she has a point, and that Western governments should realize a pandemic that starts in Asia would not only kill indiscriminately but would also cripple economies everywhere. There is capacity for producing only up to 500 million doses of flu vaccine a year – far short of what would be needed in a pandemic.

"It's not just about altruistic public health," said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota infectious disease specialist. "When we realize Southeast Asia and China are shut down economically from a pandemic perspective, so goes our economy. So goes many critical products and services that we count on every day."

The WHO hasn't counted any Indonesian bird flu cases since the country stopped sending samples, keeping its official count at 63. Indonesian officials have recorded 11 deaths since then.

But the UN health agency has been careful not to criticize the government. It has worked to smooth tensions by meeting with developing countries in Jakarta last month to ensure the poor are not left out as they have been historically – ranging from a lack of access to expensive AIDS drugs to seasonal flu vaccines available only to rich nations.

At the end of the meeting, Indonesia said it would resume sending specimens, provided that drug companies be required to seek permission before using its viruses to make vaccines.

That is a major departure from the WHO's free sharing system used to develop seasonal flu vaccines. The temporary deal applies only to Indonesia, and all other governments are expected to continue providing samples unrestricted, said Dr. David Heymann, WHO's top flu official.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono earlier this month in Jakarta and played down the standoff, hailing the government for bringing attention to the issue and vowing to establish a global vaccine stockpile. Another meeting on this issue will be held this week at WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Bird flu has killed at least 172 people worldwide since it began its spread through Asian poultry in 2003, according to WHO. Most human deaths come from contact with infected birds, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people.

 Regional/communal conflicts

Ambon bomb blast aimed to frighten

Jakarta Post - April 27, 2007

M. Azis Tunny, Ambon – Wednesday's bomb blast at Mardika bus terminal in the Maluku capital of Ambon, which injured six people, was designed to terrorize locals who lives have only recently returned to normal after years of conflict, a police officer said Thursday.

Maluku Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Tomy Napitupulu said all six people were taken to Alfatah Hospital. Just one victim whose leg was injured in the blast remains in hospital.

Although motivation for the bombing has not been established, the explosion was clearly designed to frighten the public, Tomy said. "Those responsible want to create a state of fear," he said. Police have so far questioned 12 witnesses but do not have any suspects.

Injured victim Siti Hasna Umarela said from her hospital bed that just before the bomb went off she saw a man in a white shirt sitting at the explosion site. "Because it was dark, I could not clearly see his face," she said.

Then the man just walked away and disappeared in the darkness, she added. "I was not suspicious of the man because I thought he was a waiting passenger. "But not long after he moved, the bomb exploded where he had been sitting," Siti said.

The explosion was set off between two shopping blocks on a four- meter-wide street serving the eastern parts of Ambon. The alley, which is deserted of people at night and lacks streetlight, was busy with the passing vans when the bomb exploded.

Maluku Governor Karel Albert Ralahalu urged the public Thursday not to be provoked by the bombing. "The security officers will thoroughly investigate the case to find those responsible" he said.

During the last Ambon conflicts, the Mardika terminal was used by public vans providing services to Muslim passengers. For Christian passengers, a temporary terminal was set up on Jalan Tulukabessy in the Citra area.

The services for Muslim and Christian passengers merged again by the end of 2004, following negotiations between both parties. Despite the Wednesday's blast, however, public services including busses have returned to normal.

Bomb blast in Indonesia's Ambon on rebel anniversary

Agence France Presse - April 25, 2007

Ambon – A bomb ripped through a bus station on Indonesia's Ambon island late Wednesday injuring six people, witnesses said, amid tight security for a pro-independence rebel anniversary.

One person was seriously wounded in the blast in Ambon city and all six were taken to nearby Al- Fatah hospital, witnesses said. An 11-year-old boy was among the injured.

"At the moment, six people are injured and they have been taken to hospital. One of them is a child," one witness told AFP.

Local police told ElShinta radio that the small explosion occurred at 8:30 pm and officers were at the scene questioning witnesses. There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

One of the injured in hospital said shortly before the blast she heard four men talking to each other about why the bomb have not yet gone off.

"There are four men standing near me and they talked to each other anxiously. I heard them saying why it had not yet (exploded)," Siti Hasnah Umarela told AFP in the hospital.

Thousands of police and soldiers fanned out across Ambon city and towns on the island earlier in the day amid concerns of unrest for the anniversary.

Indonesian army chief Djoko Santoso said last week 6,000 police and military personnel would guard several strategic locations, particularly in Ambon city, the capital of Malaku province.

Two years ago, a pro-independence parade in the city led to clashes and a week of violence that left more than 30 people dead and more than 100 injured.

April 25 marks the 57th anniversary of the claim by the outlawed rebels to an independent South Maluku Republic, a territory covering the eastern Maluku island chain.

The separatist movement was crushed shortly after its declaration in 1950 but the rebels regrouped following the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998.

Ambon has also been ravaged by clashes between Muslims and Christians, which erupted in January 1999. A peace pact in February 2002 mostly ended three years of strife that left more than 5,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

 Foreign affairs

Stand with Muslim world, government told

Jakarta Post - April 30, 2007

Slamet Susanto and M. Taufiqurrahman, Yogyakarta/Jakarta – Angered by Jakarta's backing of a recent UN resolution sanctioning Iran over its nuclear program, a major Muslim organization has demanded the government do more to support the causes of fellow Islamic countries.

In a 13-point recommendation issued late Saturday at the conclusion of its four-day national meeting in Yogyakarta, Muhammadiyah called on the government to actively defend the interests of the Islamic world.

"We call on the government to be proactive in taking strategic initiatives to defend Muslims in the Islamic world," said a member of the group's executive board, Haedar Nashir.

Muhammadiyah, the country's second largest Islamic group, also called on the government to return to a free and active foreign policy, as it says was practiced for decades following independence.

Many Muslims in the country were angered by the government's decision to support a UN resolution imposing additional sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, a decision some critics said would result in Indonesia losing credibility in the Muslim world.

Muslim groups have accused the government of bowing to pressure from Western governments that hope to isolate Iran internationally.

Hundreds of Muhammadiyah leaders from around the country gathered in Yogyakarta for the national meeting, during which they discussed current issues, both local and global. The four-day meeting wrapped up late Saturday, with a closing speech by Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin.

In a speech to open the meeting, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono criticized the group for not doing enough to help revive the country's economy. He said Muhammadiyah had become overly occupied with social work in education and healthcare.

In response to the criticism, Muhammadiyah said in its 13-point recommendation that it would begin to do more to empower the poor. "Muhammadiyah has to revive the role of its members as an engine of the economy," the first point of the recommendation says.

The group says one of its first moves will be to strike a deal with retail giant Alfamart as a foray into the retail industry. The leadership of Muhammadiyah also agreed to guard against any efforts to pull the organization into politics.

"Muhammadiyah will shy away from politics by developing programs that will make it immune from the influence of political parties," the recommendation said.

Although the group has never formally set up a political party, it has been associated with a number of parties, most notably the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Executive board member Haedar warned Muhammadiyah leaders, from the national level down to the villages, to stay out of politics. "In some places, we have handed down punishments to members who attempted to bring Muhammadiyah closer to certain political parties," Haedar said.

Extradition, defense treaties signed in Bali

Jakarta Post - April 28, 2007

Rita A. Widiadana and Ridwan M.Sijabat, Tampak Siring, Bali – After 35 years of negotiations, Indonesia and Singapore signed the landmark extradition and defense agreements here Friday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong witnessed the signing of the agreements by Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda and his Singaporean counterpart George Yeo at Tampak Siring State Palace near Ubud, Bali.

The signing of the Extradition Treaty marked a significant advance in legal and political cooperation between the two countries and a chance to create good governance and combat corruption and other types of crime.

In addition to the signing of the Extradition Treaty, Indonesia and Singapore also signed the Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) and the Implementation of Military Training Area agreement.

The DCA, signed by Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono and Singapore Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean, is a continuation of the military cooperation conducted between l995 and 2003.

"Indonesia really gains from the signing of this treaty because it is part of our efforts to enforce the law against fugitives, or individuals suspected of committing crimes," Yudhoyono said in a joint press conference.

The President further said that the Extradition Treaty was retroactive, meaning that all types of crimes committed up to 15 years back can be processed under the agreement. "We all know that before and after the economic crisis in Indonesia (in 1997), a number of people had committed financial crimes and fled to foreign countries with their money. The treaty will allow us to legally process them and to process asset recovery," Yudhoyono added.

Singapore has long been regarded a safe haven and refuge for Indonesian corruption suspects and "black conglomerates", as businesses that misuse government funds are known.

The treaty covers a list of 31 crimes, including financial crimes, bribery, corruption, bank fraud and money laundering. The treaty also touches on terrorism and terrorism funding.

Hassan said the treaty was open to the addition of new types of crime. "Trans-national crime and cyber crimes could be included. The world is dynamic and crime comes in many new forms, unrecognized in the past," the minister added.

Indonesia has signed extradition treaties with a number of countries, including Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

"After signing the treaty with Singapore, Indonesia is now seeking an extradition agreement with China and Canada," Yudhoyono said. The President also said the DCA "is not a military pact".

The DCA will widely regulate defense cooperation including military training of both the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the Singaporean Armed Forces. Within this framework of cooperation, Indonesia will provide facilities, such as certain air space and marine areas within Indonesian legal territory, to Singapore to be used as military training areas with the agreement of the Indonesian government. On the other hand, the TNI may use Singaporean territory as a training area under the same conditions. The DCA will regulate monitoring systems of every military training activity involving the defense ministers and commanders in chief and other high-ranking military officials of both countries.

The DCA also includes cooperation to secure the Malacca Strait and to establish an ASEAN Security Community.

"One of the clear benefits to Indonesia is wide access to the modern and high-tech military facilities of Singapore's army and to enhance professionalism among Indonesian military members," the President said.

Both the Extradition Treaty and DCA will only become effective after the countries ratify them in accordance to their respective legal systems. The DCA will be valid for 25 years and will be reviewed every six years after it has been implemented for 13 years.

Pointers of the extradition treaty:

1. A list of 31 crimes that could be extradited by both countries. It includes all kinds of corruption, printing of fake money, banking frauds, violations of the corporation law and the bankruptcy law, terror acts and financing of terrorism.

2. The list will be renewed with new kinds of crimes 3. The extradition is retrospective since the past 15 years 4. The extradition is also effective for foreigners and those who were Indonesian whey they committed the crimes.

Treaties receive mixed reactions

Jakarta Post - April 28, 2007

Rita A. Widiadana and Ridwan Max Sijabat, Denpasar – The three bilateral agreements Indonesia and Singapore signed here on Friday received mixed reactions from politicians and military analysts.

House Speaker Agung Laksono and Theo Sambuaga, chairman of the defense and foreign affairs commission at the House of Representatives, hailed the agreements, which have been pursued for some time by Indonesia.

"The signing today of the three accords is historic for the two nations especially because Indonesia has lobbied Singapore to sign the extradition treaty for almost 35 years," he said after the ceremony.

He praised the extradition agreement as a stepping stone for Indonesia to capture fugitives hiding in Singapore. The treaty binds Singapore to extradite both Indonesians and foreigners suspected of committing 31 kinds of crime, including corruption and bank fraud, in the past 15 years.

Theo said the House would ratify the three pacts as soon as the government submitted them. But he said he was not entirely happy with Singapore's pledge to accept the 15-year retroactive period, saying it could have been longer because Singapore had dragged on its feet on the negotiations.

"The accord requires Singapore to extradite all Indonesian fugitives no matter if they have changed their citizenship. What counts is that they were Indonesian when they committed their crimes."

Yasonna Hamonangan Laoly, a legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), was skeptical about the Extradition Treaty. He said he feared Indonesian criminals would flee Singapore when the treaty takes effect. "Singapore should be cooperative in tracing the bank accounts of Indonesian fugitives," he said.

Yasonna and Theo were of the opinion that Indonesia should immediately draw up a trade agreement requiring the two countries to be transparent in their bilateral trade balance.

"The three agreements should encourage the two countries to enhance their economic ties," Yasonna said, adding he feared the three agreements could make vast Indonesia "more integrated" into the neighboring city state.

Yasonna said the two countries should also discuss border issues and take joint action to stop illegal sand quarrying on the Riau Islands for export to Singapore.

Meanwhile, Andi Widjayanto, a military analyst with the University of Indonesia, criticized the agreement on defense cooperation and the implementation of training areas between the two countries' militaries, saying it showed that Indonesia had less control of its territorial sovereignty.

"Indonesia gains nothing and makes available its territory to Singapore's military despite the ruling that Indonesia can say no to involvement of a third party (in the exercises) and that any breaches of law would be tried under Indonesian law," he said.

Pointers of the defense cooperation agreement:

1. Indonesia allows Singapore to use its certain waters and air territory for military exercises with or without Indonesia and third countries.

2. Any military exercises are conducted at the permits of Indonesian authorities.

3. Indonesia is allowed to send observers in any exercises.

4. Indonesia is also allowed to conduct military exercise and trainings in Singapore and given access to its military technology.

5. Military exercises are conducted with designed programs and under a three-layer supervisory system by a senior official defense committee, an annual joint ministerial meeting and a similar meeting that involves the two commanders of the two countries' armed forces.

6. Effective for 25 years and evaluated once in six years after a 13-year implementation.

7. The defense cooperation agreement is not a military pact.

 Economy & investment

BI asks foreign banks to up corporate lending

Jakarta Post - April 30, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – Following Vice President Jusuf Kalla's latest criticism of the reluctance of local banks to provide more lending to the real sector, the central bank has pitched into the act, urging foreign lenders operating in the country to increase their corporate lending.

Bank Indonesia (BI) Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah said that like local banks, foreign lenders should also provide more lending to companies so as to help spur business activities. "They should not only provide loans for consumer financing," Burhanuddin was quoted by Bloomberg as saying last week.

He said foreign lenders should play a bigger financing role in Indonesia's much-needed investments for infrastructure development. Burhanuddin did not elaborate, however, on whether the central bank is considering to enforce the policy through an industry regulation.

Data from BI indeed shows that lending from foreign banks – either for working capital, investments or consumer loans – still makes up a small share of the local industry's total outstanding credit.

As of February, total lending from foreign banks, which include overseas lenders' local units and joint ventures with local banks, amounted to only Rp 116 trillion (US$12.9 billion), or just less than 15 percent of the industry's Rp 783 trillion total.

Their lending for working capital is at some Rp 81 trillion from the industry's Rp 400 trillion total, while their loans for investments total Rp 14 trillion out of Rp 149 trillion. Consumer loans from foreign banks amount to Rp 20 trillion from the industry's outstanding Rp 227 trillion.

Indonesia may need at least Rp 900 trillion in investments to help reach its growth target of 6.3 percent for this year and 6.8 percent next year, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani had said.

Apart from foreign-established banks having local units, such as Citibank and the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), and joint-venture banks like ANZ PaninBank, there are indeed several major Indonesian banks in which foreigners now have a controlling stake, such as Bank International Indonesia (BII) and Bank Danamon.

Commenting on BI's latest stance on foreign banks, industry analyst Djoko Retnadi said it was possible to implement a regulation to enforce more working capital and investment loans from the banks, but that it would not necessarily be effective.

"There used to be an industry regulation from BI, stipulating that local banks had to allocate 40 percent of their lending to small business, while foreign banks for export credits, but it didn't work out," Djoko told The Jakarta Post.

"The problem now is that foreign banks actually have only a small share of the industry's total outstanding loans. There has been indication that most foreign banks here focus on consumer loans in building up their profits," he said.

Djoko suggested the central bank discuss the matter with the banking industry at large to discern the correct course of action to push forward corporate lending.

Meanwhile, Bank Central Asia (BCA) Vice President Jahja Setiaatmadja said in a similar tone that BI should approach banks individually in its attempts to encourage loans to particular sectors. He suggested that foreign banks also increase their lending to small businesses.

It's time for banks to pay up, says Kalla

Jakarta Post - April 28, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – It appears to be payback time for Indonesia's banks, with the Vice President again urging them to do their part in helping finance the country's development needs in return for the state bailing them out during the financial crisis.

"The banks owe a huge debt – morally and materially – to this country," Vice President Jusuf Kalla said Friday while opening the first national congress of the Indonesian Bankers Institute (IBI).

In a strongly-worded address to the bankers, Kalla reminded them of how the government had to clean up the mess left by the banks during the financial crisis of the late 1990s as the result of reckless intergroup lending. This curtailed development spending, and was continuing to do so even up to the present time.

He said that it was high time for the banks to pay back the debts they owed by devoting a larger part of their funds to productive lending, rather than parking them in central bank bills (SBIs).

"All the government is asking for now is that the banks do their job (of providing loans). If you still put your money in central bank bills, the debt you morally owe to the state will only double: once for the money the state has given you, and twice for the interest the state still has to pay you.

During the crisis, the government shelled out some Rp 145 trillion (US$16 billion) in "Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support" (BLBI) funds and another Rp 450 trillion in recapitalization bonds to prevent the banking sector from collapsing.

Only some 20 percent of the money has been recovered, with much of it being embezzled by unscrupulous bank owners, many of whom also pledged collateral whose value in the end turned out to be far lower than their debts due to asset depreciation arising as a result of the crisis.

Ironically, the government is still paying interest to the banking sector as the bailout funds were financed by government bonds.

Kalla urged the banks to stop complaining and to start working by providing more loans for much-needed development in the infrastructure, agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Kalla further urged the banks to improve their efficiency and reduce costs, offer affordable lending rates, and upgrade their services.

"Unnecessary costs include maintaining lavish, luxurious offices. I don't think there are banks anywhere in the world, except in Indonesia, that have offices as large as football fields, with toilets bigger than my office. And we won't even start comparing salaries," Kalla railed.

"What's the need for offices as big as Citibank's when our banks still serve their customers like run-down grocery stores? Let's change all this so that we can provide cheap and productive loans to the real sector."

Indonesia's banks have also come under fire for placing up to Rp 200 trillion in central bank bills, which are primarily intended to be used only as market-liquidity instruments, thereby costing Bank Indonesia Rp 100 trillion in annual interest payments.

Economy well on track, says finance minister

Jakarta Post - April 27, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – With encouraging increases in consumption, exports and investment during the first three months of this year, the Indonesian economy is well on track for higher growth, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani says.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting with Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono and Bank Indonesia Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah, the finance minister said that she was upbeat the economy would turn out to have grown by between 5.7 and 5.9 percent during the first three months.

This would be higher than both 2006's 5.0 percent first-quarter growth, and 5.5 percent full-year growth. "Things are generally improving in all areas of the economy that contribute to growth," Mulyani said.

She said that personal consumption probably increased by 10 percent, investment by more than 10 percent and exports by more than 19 percent during the first quarter. "We are still keeping a close eye on possible volatility in the price of rice, but we expect inflation in April and May to continue easing," Mulyani said.

Monthly inflation slowed to only 0.24 percent in March from 1.04 percent in January. On a year-to-year basis, however, consumer prices picked up slightly to 6.52 percent in March from 6.26 percent in January.

Lower inflation has provided room for the central bank to lower its key interest rate from double-digit levels last year to 9 percent at the present time. Earlier this month, however, the central bank skipped an expected further rate cut on the back of mixed inflation data.

Inflation and interest rates have a major effect on growth as Indonesia's economy is still mostly consumption-based.

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) is scheduled to announce the official figures for first-quarter growth in mid May.

At the start of this month, BI estimated that growth during the first-quarter would amount to only 5.4 percent, but would pick up later over the course of the year. Based on preliminary data up to the third week of March, BPS director Rusman Heriawan has predicted that first-quarter growth will be higher than 5.4 percent, but likely no more than 5.9 percent.

Indonesia needs higher growth to help provide jobs for the country's vast army of unemployed, and improve overall welfare levels, particularly for the poor. The government is targeting a growth rate of 6.3 percent for this year, and 6.8 percent for 2008, while the central bank puts growth at between 5.7 and 6.3 percent for this year, and between 5.7 and 6.7 percent next year.

Malls threaten traditional markets

Jakarta Post - April 26, 2007

Cirebon, West Java – Traditional market traders, backed by members of the Cirebon municipal council, have urged the municipality administration to stop issuing building licenses for minimarts and supermarkets due to their already extensive presence in the city.

The unrestrained construction of supermarkets in Cirebon has forced traditional traders out of business, they said.

Speaker of Commission C on development affairs Tjipto said Wednesday the administration had not shown an intention to protect traditional market traders.

"The administration has not been serious in protecting traditional market traders. They have been pushed out by the presence of supermarkets and mini markets, which are more financially sound," said Tjipto.

He said the uncontrolled issuance of building licenses for supermarkets and mini markets by the administration indicated it had not taken the side of small-scale traditional traders.

"Many kiosks in traditional markets are now empty because their owners have gone out of business. They are small-time traders who aren't able to compete with supermarkets that are financially strong," said Tjipto.

Government told to get tough on overseas debt

Jakarta Post - April 25, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – While the government and central bank need to be on alert against the backdrop of a recent surge in overseas borrowing by the private sector, they should avoid doing anything that might constrain Indonesia's open economy, analysts say.

Aviliani, an economist with the Institute for Development and Finance (Indef) said that while there was a need to establish a monitoring system for the country's foreign debt, the introduction of capital controls would be counterproductive.

"The central bank should regularly publish data on the country's foreign debt position, covering both the public and private sectors, debt repayments, and the interest rates on their debts," she said.

"This would serve as an early warning system, a reminder and a transparent tool for identifying any symptoms that could adversely affect economic growth."

After a meeting Monday with Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Bank Indonesia Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah had warned of a recent trend by the private sector to resort to more offshore borrowing.

If the trend continued, it could overexpose Indonesia to foreign debt, and adversely affect the country's balance of payments, foreign exchange reserves and monetary stability.

BI figures show that the private sector's offshore debt had increased to US$51.1 billion as of the end of last December from $50 billion at the end of September. This compares to a substantial decrease in the country's sovereign foreign debt to $74.1 billion as of the end of December from $83.3 billion at the end of March 2006.

Last week, Indonesia's forex reserves stood at $49.4 billion. However, BI has warned of the potential for an outflow of up to $10 billion due to the short-term nature of recent portfolio investments in the capital markets.

The government and BI has therefore agreed to revive a joint committee to monitor foreign debt levels, Burhanuddin said, adding that there were no plans at the moment to impose capital exchange controls.

Aviliani said that exchange controls would be inappropriate for Indonesia – which has an open economy and free-floating currency – and should be avoided at all costs given the recent market backlash against Thailand after it attempted to restrict capital flows.

She stressed that there was in fact nothing wrong with foreign capital inflows and borrowings as long as they translated into surpluses for the balance of payments through, for example, higher exports.

"The problem arises when foreign debts increase but exports fall, indicating that the borrowed funds have not been put to productive use," she said.

Economist Hadi Soesastro from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) was quoted separately by Antara as saying that the government and BI should assess what the private sector was using the increased borrowings for.

This was necessary so as to avoid a repeat of the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, when private-sector overseas debt was originally reported to be $10 billion, but later turned out to be $70 billion. With the rupiah having virtually collapsed by then, and the overseas loans having to be repaid in dollars, Indonesia's entire economy was brought to its knees. The country's forex reserves at the time fell to only $21 billion, while the stock of private-sector overseas debt amounted to $130 billion.

Restrict investment, say legislators

Jakarta Post - April 24, 2007

Andi Haswidi, Jakarta – A number of legislators are insisting that certain sectors of the economy remain closed to foreign investment despite the fact that the newly enacted 2007 Investment Law guarantees equal treatment for both local and overseas investors.

"Equal treatment is not the same as equal opportunity. The seas are ours, the oil is also ours. It is up to us to decide whether we will keep the restrictions or not," Didik J. Rachbini, the chairman of House commission VI responsible for trade and investment, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Didik said that equal treatment only meant that foreign investors would be subject to the same fees and taxes, and receive the same incentives as their local counterparts.

"If it takes 10 days for a local investor to obtain a permit, it will also take a foreign investor 10 days. If a local company pays Rp 10,000 in tax, then the same will apply to the foreign company," he explained.

He therefore called on the government to ensure that a number of important commercial sectors were placed on the so-called negative investment list – made up of sectors that are out-of- bounds to foreign investors – to be issued under the ancillary regulations for the new law.

Commission VI deputy chairman Lili Asudiredja echoed the view that local firms needed protection.

"We favor openness, but subject to certain condition, such as mandatory partnerships with domestic enterprises. I think it is entirely reasonable that foreign companies be required to team up with smaller local partners in certain sectors so that the latter can benefit from the presence of their foreign partners," he said.

The inclusion of certain sectors on the negative investment list was also quite reasonable given the need to protect the interests of local companies, he argued. The sectors in question could later be removed from the list after local firms became strong enough to ensure fair competition, he added.

"In the future, when we see that the sectors have developed sufficiently, we can open them up again, no problem," he said.

Hasto Kristanto of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), whose legislators walked out during the enactment of the Investment Law, said that the negative list was a tool by which the government could promote local businesses and improve the country's manufacturing capabilities.

"We have to be careful with foreign investors. For example, there is one foreign retailer that collects up to Rp 50 billion (about US$5.5 million) from the listing fees for the products sold in its store. That's enough to basically cover the store's initial investment,"

This practice, he said, negated the retailer's initial investment as, essentially, it was being paid for by its local partners.

Investment Coordinating Board chairman Muhammad Lutfi hinted recently that the current negative list could be expanded, but he argued that the inclusion of more sectors on the list would not damage the interests of foreign investors. Lutfi said the new list would be ready within the next one to two months.

Under the prevailing regulations, the sectors that are closed to foreign investment include germ-plasma cultivation, concessions for natural forests, lumbering contractor services, taxi and bus services, small-scale maritime transportation and the motion- picture production industry.

Meanwhile, the sectors that are open to foreign investment but subject to restrictions include the building and operation of seaports, electricity generation, transmission and distribution, shipping, the processing and provision of potable water for public use, atomic power and medical services.

 Opinion & analysis

Feed the children

Jakarta Post Editorial - April 27, 2007

There are about 13 million children under the age of 5 in the country suffering from chronic malnutrition. In the next 20 years or so, if something is not done immediately to rectify this problem, these children will be a major burden on the country, which is dashing its way to becoming the world's fifth largest economy.

They are a generation that will be unable to compete in the labor market, and will require assistance over the course of their lives as many deal with permanent physical or mental disabilities.

This unnecessary disaster is unfolding right now, according to a United Nations World Food Program (WFP) report, which found malnutrition widespread in the country. The report, issued Wednesday, warns that millions of young Indonesians are at risk or retarded development as a result of chronic malnutrition.

Ironically, this tragedy is not the result of food shortages, but rather a lack of infrastructure to distribute food across the sprawling archipelago.

Whatever the cause, the outcome will be calamitous. Malnutrition retards the growth of children, both physically and mentally. In many cases poor nutrition has led to hydrocephalus (abnormally high amounts of fluid in the skull), heart disease and other incurable illnesses. Malnutrition also can lead to death. According to the WFP, every five seconds a child dies of hunger somewhere in the world – or 720 deaths an hour.

There are currently around 400 million malnourished children in the world, 3.25 percent of them in Indonesia.

Childhood malnutrition is one of the many health crises Indonesia has been unable to overcome since the Asian monetary crisis threw the country into poverty in 1997. The monetary crisis saw millions lose their jobs and many more lose purchasing power.

Many people in rural areas have had to sell land to get by, as a result they no longer have plots of land large enough to cultivate. In urban areas there have been fewer jobs to go around, while the prices of basic goods have continued to rise.

In a recent series of comprehensive reports on the poverty situation here, the World Bank said 17.8 percent of people in Indonesia are regarded as living in poverty, as measured by those with less than US$1.55 in purchasing power parity per day.

Low educational levels among parents has been known to aggravate the malnutrition problem. Several studies have found that most malnourished children are raised by parents who dropped out of or never went to school. They have a very minimal knowledge and understanding of malnutrition and health problems.

The government, with tremendous help from international organizations and donors such as the WFP, has initiated various programs to fight childhood malnutrition. These include free meals, regular medical checkups and education for parents.

Malnutrition rates in the country have stagnated in recent years, but enough is still not being done to overcome the problem.

The latest WFP report clearly blames an absence of infrastructure for continuing childhood malnutrition. In the end, the government must be fully responsible for infrastructure development.

It is obvious the government learned nothing from a food scare that took place almost two years ago in the remote Papua regency of Yahukimo, causing several deaths. Only after stories began appearing in the media did the government move to build a road to ease food deliveries into the isolated region.

Such a tragedy must not reoccur. The government must build roads to connect isolated areas with the outside world before people begin dying from malnutrition.

In the long run good infrastructure will help bring in more investment, stimulate local economies and eventually eradicate poverty, which is at the root of most health problems, including malnutrition.

Childhood malnutrition is a preventable tragedy. The government and the entire nation are responsible for ensuring the food needs of our 28 million children, particularly those from low-income families, are met. The nation's future depends on these children. The healthier they are, the healthier and wealthier the country will be.


Kompas - April 24, 2007

Budiarto Shambazy – On April 12, 1963 rebels in Brunei were involved in an armed contact with British troops in North Kalimantan. The "rebels" (the TNI or Indonesian National Defense Force, Indonesian volunteers and Brunei opposition) launched a subversive rebellion against the sultanate that was considered a British puppet.

This was the first armed contact during the policy of Konfrontasi(1) that had been going on since 1965. The Konfrontasi campaign was trigged by a British plan to maintain its colony by means of forming the Malaysian Federation that consisted of Malaysia, Borneo (Sabah and Serawak), Brunei and Singapore.

The agreement to establish the federation was signed in November 1961 and independence was agreed to on August 31, 1963. Jakarta opposed the plan and Foreign Affairs Minister Subandrio announced the policy of Konfrontasi on January 20, 1963.

Bung Karno (Brother Karno, Indonesia's founding President Sukarno) developed the doctrine of Nefos (New Emerging Forces). After Bung Karno succeeded in expelling the Dutch from West Irian his target shifted to the British in Malaysia.

He suspected that the formation of the federation would create an opening for the British domination of South East Asia. Moreover London had already formed a brigade, two battalions and airforce and navy units totalling more than 60 thousand personnel.

There was also the ANZUS military treaty (Australia, New Zealand and the United States). If all of this was still not enough, Britain also wanted to establish a military base in Singapore.

It was the issue of the military base in Singapore that infuriated Bung Karno. He had still not forgotten how they had been "overrun" by the West when they channeled funds and weapons for the PRRI/Permesta rebellions in 1957-1958(2).

The PRRI/Permesta was a conspiracy that involved the US, Britain and Australia using SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation) military facilities in the Philippines and Thailand to overthrow Bung Karno.

Bung Karno was reluctant to escalate Konfrontasi into a direct war with Britain because they were certain to loose. He preferred to fan the flames of a limited conflict while launching diplomatic pressure against Malaysia.

This was the reason that he supported the rebellion in Brunei. On the international stage, he endeavored to take advantage of the tri-polar rivalry between the US, the Soviet Union and China for the benefit of the Konfrontasi campaign.

Malaysia officially became a federation in 1963 and immediately received military support from Britain, Australia and New Zealand. With his remaining forces, Bung Karno continued to try to achieve a consensus through the planned formation of Maphilindo (Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia) before his political position was hemmed in domestically.

During the era of Guided Democracy (1959-1965)(3), Bung Karno cleverly played off the balance of forces between the two largest political forces, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and the TNI for his own benefit. Bung Karno understood that the PKI was the largest communist party outside of China and the Soviet Union and the TNI was the strongest and most anti-PKI nationalist organisation.

There have been many studies conducted into Bung Karno's policy of Konfrontasi. However John Subritzky's book titled Confronting Sukarno (2000) is more specific because it focuses on the diplomacy of the US, British, Australian and New Zealand in the face of the Konfrontasi between 1961-1965.

Indonesia was strategically located because it had become the center of inter-continental sea traffic. The Superpower countries as well countries in the Asia Pacific had to concede that Indonesia was an important country. Bung Karno was the founder of the Non-Aligned Movement, its military was strong, it had natural wealth and a population of 100 million people.

US President John F Kennedy (1961-1963) wanted Indonesia to remain "non-aligned" while putting forward the idea of the New Pacific Community to unite the Asia Pacific region. Kennedy as well as his replacement, President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969), were both busy with the raging Vietnam War.

After US President Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) failed to forcibly remove Bung Karno through the PRRI/Permesta rebellions, the Kennedy as well as the Johnson administration's national interest was to prevent Indonesia from falling into China's embrace and to get rid of the PKI. During his visit to Indonesia in April 1963, Chinese President China Liu Shaoqui (1959-1968) reaffirmed Beijing's support for Konfrontasi.

Britain was afraid of loosing access to its former colonies and like Holland would no longer be able to enjoy free spices from Indonesia. London bound Malaysia with the "rope" of the Commonwealth and the AMDA (Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement).

Australia and New Zealand had for some time considered Britain as a boss and were caught in the dramatised trap of the "threat from Indonesia".

The Konfrontasi campaign finished not long after Bung Karno's rule ended in 1966. In many ways Bung Karno was correct because the world has not changed much since the period of Konfrontasi.

There are always countries that want to sow disunity and at the same time exploit Indonesia's natural wealth. What is the difference between SEATO or military bases and the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or Temasek(4).

Kennedy was prepared to close his eyes to Konfrontasi as long as Bung Karno sold off Indonesia's oil and gas exploration rights. Bung Karno countered by asking for an excessively high share of revenue that was impossible to for Kennedy to accept.

Do we actually know how much profit is being made by ExxonMobil or British Petroleum in Indonesia? The foreign debt during Bung Karno's rule was a mere 2.5 billion dollars US, now (as of December 2006) it has reached as much as 125 billion.

It is said that Bung Karno was the cause of the economic collapse that made the lives of ordinary Indonesians so difficult. But aren't our lives even more difficult now?

Bung Karno and the Old Order regime were supposed to be dangerous. But wasn't the New Order regime that now no longer exists even more dangerous?

Sorry okay, I'm just asking. Who knows, perhaps you won't be deceived so easily in 2009.(5)


1. Konfrontasi - The armed confrontation in the early 1960s between Indonesia and Malaysia.

2. PRRI (Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia) - Revolutionary Government of Indonesia. A grouping of right-wing Generals supported by the US/CIA who in the late 1950s organised rebellions in Sulawesi and Sumatra against the Jakarta central government. Permesta (Perjuangan Semesta) - Total Struggle.

3. Guided Democracy - A concept developed by Sukarno in the late 1950s which instead of society being represented by elected parties, parliament would be made up of "functional groups" representing different sections of society. Its stated purpose is to safeguard the basic tenets of the Indonesian Revolution and Sukarno's Political Manifesto introduced in 1960

4. Temasek (Singapore) controls three of Indonesia's largest banks: Bank International Indonesia, Bank Danamon and Bank Niaga. It also has virtual total control of over Indonesia's telecommunications industry after its subsidiary company, SingTel purchased the previously government-owned companies PT Indosat PT Telkomsel.

5. The legislative and presidential elections will be held in 2009.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

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