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Indonesia News Digest 17 – May 1-8, 2007

Politics & ideology

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 Politics & ideology

New book blaming communists launched

Jakarta Post - May 4, 2007

Jakarta – The nation's younger generations will be offered a new perspective on the abortive 1965 coup allegedly committed by the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in a recently- launched book.

The new account of the event is being provided by Hendro Subroto, who Thursday launched his book titled PKI Revolution Council: Revealing its Failure to Make Indonesia Communist. The book is based on the author's experiences as a journalist for state-owned television station TVRI.

"I collected the material for this book from my experiences as an eyewitness embedded with the troops mobilized for the extermination operation against communists after the abortive 1965 coup, as well as from my interviews of the members of the state apparatus who conducted the operation back then," Hendro said.

Commenting on the methodological approach taken by the book's author, social observer Benny Susetyo said, "As long as people use critical thinking in reading it, it's ok to read this book and to contrast it with other books on the same subject."

He said little new information is brought to light in the book, which is a compilation of old news articles, insisting that "its historical methodology is still in question".

Hendro insists, however, that he wrote the book independently and of his own accord, while acknowledging that he interviewed only state officials. "My side was from the government's point of view. I didn't interview those of the PKI side."

Political observer Daniel Dhakidae said a proper historical account must involve the examination of first-hand documents and the interviewing of witnesses from opposing historical vantage points.

"People may try to get as close as possible to so-called objectivity, but it won't be achieved. There is almost no objectivity in history. It always depends on whose mouth is saying what," Daniel said.

"If he said it was his memoir, he would be more honest because readers would know how to place their opinions. To claim that he has written a history is just too much."

Hendro responded, saying: "I'm not trying to write a memoir or a history. I'm just writing facts I witnessed during my reporting days."

Daniel also pointed out that the term "PKI Revolution Council" used in the book's title is inaccurate.

"What was announced on the radio back in 1965 was only the 'Revolution Council'. That term is already misleading," he said, adding that 40 percent of the council's members had military connections.

Hendro retorted, insisting that most of those with military connections listed as members of the council had denied being aware they were on the list.

Commenting on communism at large, Benny said it was no longer relevant in the current era of globalization and free trade. "What's important is that we educate our younger generations on how to develop open minds and critical thinking."

Alfian Tanjung of the Indonesian National Patriot Movement and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Nurhadi Purwosaputro from the Indonesian Army both concurred that the contemporary resurgence of communism should be considered a serious matter.

"This book emphasizes that the PKI was the real puppeteer and perpetrator of the 1965 coup," Alfian said.

Benny maintained, however, that communism should not be feared. "Yes, it is true that we must learn from our dark history, but we also need to have the ability to reconcile and move on to handle our real issue: welfare for the people."

'This intimidation will not influence our line of march'

Radar Solo - May 8, 2007

Solo – The National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) has been unlucky of late. A meeting to establish a branch management board in Tanjung Anom, Grogol, Sukoharjo, was forcibly broken up by a certain group. Feeling cornered, Papernas is officially and strenuously denying the accusation that it is linked with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

During a press conference at Joglo Sriwedari on Monday, the chairperson of Papernas's Solo branch, Suprapto explained that the party he leads has absolutely no link with the party formed by [PKI chairperson] DN Aidit in earlier times.

According to Suprapto, there is not the slightest indication that Papernas has a communist ideology. "We are a genuine nationalist party. We are fully protected by [the state ideology of] Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. So, if there is a presumption that we are a new PKI, this accusation is baseless. Perhaps they only understand us partially, not in our entirety", said Suprapto.

On the question of the party's slogan of Tri Panji (the Three Banners of National Unity), Suprapto said this is merely coincidental. Particularly if it is linked with the slogans used by the PKI in the past.

According to Suprapto, for their party the program of Tri Panji is in the genuine interests of the ordinary people. "Our Tri Panji includes abolishing the foreign debt, the nationalisation of the mining industry and building the national industry. If all of this becomes a reality, we are certain that the people too will feel the benefits. Once again, what is certain, is that we will revive the spirit of nationalism that has been dying out", he continued.

Central Java Papernas Chairperson Kelik Ismunanto added that their party is orientating towards the future. They want to make the spirit of unity the basis for the achievement of the country's goals.

"I am surprised, why are we being accused of being the new PKI. Who knows, perhaps the people who accuse us are people that don't care about the nation. What is certain, is that this intimidation will not influence with our line of march. We will continue to move forward", he asserted.

On the question of the breaking up of the Papernas event in Grogol not long ago, Papernas plans to take the matter up with the Surakarta (Solo) district police. They will be asking the police to take responsibility for the actions by the group that broke up the meeting. According to Kelik, the police should have provided protection because they already had a permit to hold the event.

"But what happened, was precisely that the police permitted them to wreak our plans. This is wrong. We are asking the police to take responsibility. Because our event already had a permit [from the police]", he said.

Kelik also cited an article from the 1945 Constitution, which states that all citizens have the right to association and assembly. So the police are obliged to protect citizen's rights.

However Kelik as well as Suprapto said that they have yet to decided whether or not they will lodge a formal complaint over the incident. At this stage they are planning to report the cases separately. "Certainly we will report their actions. But we will do this after we have asked the police to take responsibility", continued Kelik.

Kelik also said they still need additional materials to complete their complaint. But what is certain, Kelik and his colleagues will be reporting the groups actions to the Central Java Department of Justice and Human Rights. "The planned agenda for event that was broken up will be use to complete the administrative requirements that are to be presented to the Department of Justice and Human Rights, as complimentary material for [our] fitness to participate in the elections", he continued.

As has been reported, when Papernas was holding a working meeting at the Gajah Building in Tanjung Anom not long ago, it was visited by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). They asked that the event be canceled because they believe that Papernas represents the PKI. In the confusion that followed, Sukoharjo Regent Bambang Riyanto intervened to resolve the issue. (mg5)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

FPI accuses Papernas of being a 'neo-PKI movement'

Sinar Harapan - May 2, 2007

Bekasi – Dozens of members of the Bekasi Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) demonstrated at the mayor's offices and the Bekasi Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) on Monday April 30.

The Islamic defenders militia – the majority of whom were women and housewives – came to urge the government and the DPRD to immediately disband the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas), which they accused of being a neo-PKI (new Indonesian Communist Party) movement.

After making speeches and distributing anti-Papernas leaflets, under tight security by police, the FPI members disbursed. Government officials and members of the DPRD received the FPI members. (jon)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

SEGERA refutes 'communist' accusations

Riau Today - May 1-2, 2007

Pekanbaru – Around 1,000 people from the Central People's Movement (SEGERA) have cancelled a May 1 overnight occupation of the offices of the Riau governor because their demands for an investigation into the appropriation of local people's land by the company PT. Arara Abadi have been met.

"We decided not to go ahead and stay there overnight because the results of our meeting with the Riau provincial government were quite satisfactory", said SEGERA Coordinator Suska Rinaldi when speaking with Riau Terkini after the meeting.

There were four points in the agreement that SEGERA considers satisfactory: police will investigate the violence perpetrated by PT. Arara Abadi, the central government will make a decision with regard to the land dispute between the company and local people, the Riau provincial government will allocate 9 billion rupiah to re-survey the disputed land and in June a public tender will be made to select an independent consultant to survey the land.

The SEGERA demonstrators arrived in some 20 trucks and from Jl. Cut Nya Dien held a long-march to the governor's office. Wearing headbands with the words SEGERA, the hundreds of demonstrator marched in file flying Riau Peasant Union (STR) flags with the symbols of a pick and red star. Also visible were flags from the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) and SEGERA itself.

In commemorating May Day, SEGERA also called on the government to increase the standard national wage to between 1.250.000 and 3.250.000 rupiah a month, (this includes wages for low-ranking soldiers and police), the abolition of 'invisible' fees for wage rises, employment opportunities for all job seekers, the abolition of contract labour systems and free education and healthcare for all Indonesians.

'Communist' accusations

Prior to this demonstration, SEGERA besieged governor's offices after mobilising around 3,000 demonstrators who then occupied the offices for four days.

The demonstration attracted considerable attention due to the militancy and cohesion of the protesters. The other apparent difference was the unusual symbols they used such as axes, picks and hoes on red flags which reminded people of the flag of the Indonesian Communist Party which was red with a symbol of the hammer and sickle.

It is these images that have resulted in accusations that SEGERA has a communist ideology. SEGERA Secretary General Riza Zulhelmi confirmed that such accusations had been made when being interviewed by dozens of journalists. "We don't understand why Mr. Said Amir Hamzah (the head of Riau BIKKB - Ed.) has made such accusations, that we have a communist ideology", he said.

Zulhelmi explained that Said's accusations were contained in a written report to Jakarta in which he said SEGERA has a communist political orientation. "But this accusation is untrue. Aside from ourselves, our friends from Walhi (Indonesian Environmental Foundation) have also assisted in getting these accusations straighten out", he asserted.

With regard to the symbols that give the impression of being leftist, socialist and communist, Zulhelmi explained that the symbol of an axe, hoe and sickle are a representation of oppression and resistance, while the colour red is the blood of the people. "With regard to our principles, we are based on populist democracy", he explained. (mad)

[Abridged translation by James Balowski from two articles that appeared in Riau Today on May 1 and 2. Despite having the same name, SEGERA Riau is not related to the Solidarity Movement with the People of Aceh.]

Books on 'communism' seized

Jakarta Post - May 1, 2007

Yemris Fointuna, Kupang – The East Nusa Tenggara Prosecutor's Office on Monday confiscated hundreds of elementary and high school textbooks from bookstores in Kupang, as their contents were believed to have deviated from historical material on communist teachings.

There is concern that the books have been used as a guide for school history lessons.

Carlos de Fatima, acting intelligence assistant to the East Nusa Tenggara Prosecutors' Office, said the confiscation was executed under orders from the Attorney General's Office.

"Certain contents in the books are not in line with historical facts and others are in direct contradiction with (state ideology) Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution," Carlos said.

He explained that sections of the books cover the teachings of Karl Marx as well as the teachings of Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and others. "The books contain teachings which are not in line with Pancasila. Moreover, communism/Marxism-Leninism is linked to the G30S/PKI coup attempt," he said.

G30S/PKI refers to a failed coup attempt on Sept. 30, 1965, blamed on the now-banned Indonesian Communist Party.

Hundreds of the books confiscated by the prosecutor's office bore photos of former Soviet Union president Michael Gorbachev. Others contained articles or photos of the Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany.

"We are concerned that the books will psychologically affect the students," Carlos said. "The confiscated books will be burned, while those already in public circulation will be withdrawn," he said, urging the public to voluntarily hand over the banned books.


PRA appeals to public not to be provoked by bomb attacks

Aceh Kita - May 7, 2007

Banda Aceh – The Acehnese People's Party (PRA), the first local political party to be established in Aceh, is appealing to the public to remain calm and not be provoked by the by the recent string of grenade and bomb attacks on the homes of Free Aceh Movement (GAM) leaders and regional government officials in Aceh.

"[We are] appealing to all the Acehnese people not to be provoked by issues that could damage the peaceful atmosphere that has been built", said PRA general secretary Thamrin Ananda when speaking with Aceh Kita on Saturday May 5.

Over the last few months, grenade and bomb attacks have been becoming more widespread in Aceh. The most recent case was a bomb being place at the official residence of the speaker of the Pidie Regional House of Representatives. Prior to this, there was a series of bomb and grenade attacks against the home of Aceh Transitional Committee (KPA) spokesperson Sofyan Dawood. The residence of the Lhokseumawe deputy mayor has also become a target for terrorists.

So far police have been unable to uncover the perpetrators or the motives for these attacks and the KPA itself is assisting the police in its investigations. Ibrahim bin Syamsuddin, who replaced Dawood as the KPA's spokesperson, has promised to form a team to investigate the attacks. He is certain that the perpetrators do not come from the KPA. He feels that this needs to be clarified because there has been rumors that the perpetrators are ex-GAM combatants that are disappointed with their former leaders.

The PRA believes that the series of attacks are because of the lack of employment opportunities in Aceh. Because of this therefore, the PRA is urging the Acehnese government to created job opportunities for the Acehnese people in order to reduce poverty levels. "Poverty has been the main factor in this outbreak of new conflicts that has been marked by terrorist bombs and armed robberies", said Ananda. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Women shut out of peace building

Jakarta Post - May 2, 2007

Jakarta – Experts on peace, women and religious affairs said Tuesday that women's roles in peace negotiations, and even in day-to-day activities, are still not recognized, especially for women living in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province.

"The role of Acehnese women in peace-building at the grassroots level is extraordinary, however, they have been systematically undermined by larger political interests," Suraiya Kamaruzzaman, executive director of an Acehnese women's rights NGO, Flower Aceh, said Tuesday.

"True peace will only occur as a result of equal involvement of women and men in the reconciliation process, especially in relation to post-conflict trauma," she said, stressing the importance of respecting victims' rights.

Since the Dutch colonial era, Aceh has endured conflict after conflict, in which many men, women and children became victims.

As many as 7,725 human rights violations were recorded by a coalition of human rights NGOs during the military operation (DOM) period from 1989 to 1998.

"Women were used as pawns in a vicious game of retribution between two conflicting sides: the central government's TNI and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) militia," Suraiya said.

She cited 102 cases of rape and 91 cases of sexual abuse reported during the military operation period.

She added that around 148,000 women became single parents, and 14,000 women became widows. She blamed 30 years of conflict in the region, which had been narrowed down to an issue between two sides: the Republic of Indonesia and GAM. "Civilians were the real victims and they have been overlooked."

Suraiya said Nias-Aceh Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) had not acknowledged women in the budget, and the Directorate of Women and Children had only been allocated 0.045 percent of a Rp 10.5 trillion budget in 2006.

The provincial government has only allocated 0.16 percent of its local budget for women's issues, she said. She advised donor organizations to ensure a minimum of 40 percent of their funds are allocated to women's issues.

The agency, which was initially established to assist with post- tsunami reconstruction, is currently introducing a program in aid of post-conflict reconstruction that aims to involve women. At this point, there are only 12 women, or 4 percent of the 281 people at the decision-making level in the agency.

"At least 30 percent of the members of Aceh's Commission on Truth and Reconciliation should be women," she said.

Activist and religion expert Siti Musdah Mulia also acknowledged the undermining of women's roles in the peace-building process, due to the existing perception that women are insignificant. "Women are, in fact, very significant in the peace-building process because they are the most vulnerable in conflict areas," Musdah said.

Suraiya said the role of Acehnese women must be acknowledged and that women must be involved in the reconstruction process, from planning to the implementation and evaluation of processes, as well as in the revision of bylaws in the province.

First May Day in Aceh demands end to contract labour

Aceh Kita - May 1, 2007

Dara, Banda Aceh – International Labour Day, which is known as May Day, was also commemorated in Aceh on May 1. Hundreds of representatives of labour organisations in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh held a peaceful rally on the grounds of the Acehnese Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) and at the Simpang Lima roundabout.

In concert with the times, the growing strength of global capitalism has resulted in workers becoming even more oppressed, both in Indonesia as well as in other parts of the world. In this context, labourers, workers and even public servants and employees are the ones that are most often sacrificed for the interests of employers.

In speeches before the assemble protesters and pedestrians, labour activists said that the action was held to seek welfare improvements, particularly the welfare of contract and healthcare workers. "We want all contract teachers and healthcare workers such as nurses to be promoted to full-time civil servants", said one of the activists in a speech.

Meanwhile in a leaflet containing a statement that was handed out to journalists, the demonstrators demanded a 100 percent increase to the regional minimum wage from 850,000 rupiah per month to 1.7 million rupiah. They also demanded the abolition of 'invisible' fees, the provision of quality employment opportunities the entire work force and rejected the existence of contract labour systems. "There is no such term as laborer and contract teacher. We reject the law on contract teachers", said an activist from the United Teachers Coalition Front (Kobar GB).

They also called on the government to provide free and quality education and healthcare for the people, boost investment in order to wipe out unemployment and increase Indonesia's economic competitiveness. "[But] if the investment that is developed does not provide welfare to the Acehnese people, then there is no need for investment", said Rahmat from the Poor People's Democratic Association (PDRM).

The mass action, which was also joined by non-government organisation (NGO) activists, then moved off from the DPRD to the Simpang Lima roundabout, a central traffic thoroughfare in Banda Aceh. Aside from wage increases, the protesters also demanded that rights be provided to women workers such as menstrual leave, maternity leave and pickup and delivery transport services for women working at night. The demonstrators also opposed death sentences for migrant workers.

The first May Day action to be held in Banda Aceh was also joined by 25 NGO institutions and work units from various agencies. The action was tightly guarded by police who directed traffic in order to prevent a traffic jam or accidents occurring.

Also involved in the action were members of the Banda Aceh Independent Journalist Association (AJI) who brought posters reading "Fight for decent wages for journalists" and "Journalists are also workers, that is a fact!". [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 West Papua

Papuan students again urge dialogue over autonomy status

Radio New Zealand - May 8, 2007

Seby Sambom – The West Papua Highland Student Association is continuing its call for dialogue with the Indonesian government about Papua province's special autonomy status.

1,500 people took part in a student-led demonstration for Papuan self-determination outside the Provincial Parliament in Jayapura late last month.

Their demonstration was one of a series of recent peaceful mass protests by Papuan groups, voicing dissatisfaction with how Special Autonomy status has been implemented.

The Association wants comprehensive dialogue between Papuan leaders and the central government supported by a neutral third party.

The Association's secretary Seby Sambom says they are frustrated that their demonstrations always seem to be monitored by Jakarta's intelligence officers but never result in dialogue.

"Every student demonstration, [there are] many policemen and intelligence officers here... always, terrorising and intimidating the student demonstrations here. We want dialogue, discussion about Autonomy, discussion about Papua's political status."

Human rights group says special autonomy in Papua not working

Radio New Zealand - May 2, 2007

A series of demonstrations in Indonesia's Papua province in the past week have called for an end to Special Autonomy, saying it hasn't worked.

Thousands of Papuan students attended two peaceful demonstrations, outside the provincial parliament capital Jayapura last Thursday, and then Tuesday at Manokwari, the second administrative centre in Papua.

The group known as the Papuan Indigenous Business People has also been demonstrating at the Provincial Parliament in Jayapura.

A representative of the Indonesian human rights group ELSHAM, Paula Makabori, says the common message is that Special Autonomy has failed to improve the welfare of Papuans. She says the international community has not been allowed in to see that Special Autonomy has not worked.

"Why journalists are still prohibited from Indonesia from going to West Papua, why the media cannot enter that area. So if the international governments and international community keeps its silence over the West Papuan cry for peace, then they will turn West Papua into being an awakening second East Timor or Aceh."

 Human rights/law

Indonesia's Garuda negligent over activist's death

Agence France Presse - May 3, 2007

Jakarta – An Indonesian court found national carrier Garuda guilty of negligence Thursday over the death of a leading rights activist on one of its flights, in a case filed by the campaigner's widow.

The court ordered Garuda to pay 73,800 dollars in damages to the widow of activist Munir Said Thalib for failing to take adequate action as he neared death during the 2004 flight from arsenic poisoning.

Garuda has been at the centre of a storm over Munir's murder amid allegations of a cover-up in the original police investigation and links to the nation's powerful intelligence agency BIN.

The verdict disappointed widow Suciwati and rights groups, who filed the civil case on her behalf, seeking 1.4 million dollars in damages and a public apology from the airline.

"The court should have accepted our request for an audit and for Garuda to apologise to the public. But whatever amount they give us can never replace Munir," said Suciwati outside the Jakarta court.

The government has come under intense pressure to act over the case after Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto, charged with carrying out the poisoning, had his conviction quashed late last year by the Supreme Court.

Police have reopened their investigation and last month arrested two former Garuda executives for allegedly falsifying documents that allowed off-duty Priyanto to travel at the last minute on Munir's flight.

Police have also said they were interviewing fresh witnesses, raising hopes among rights groups that BIN officers will be arrested.

Munir made 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.

On Thursday, judges found Garuda and the pilot in charge of the flight guilty of failing to make an emergency landing after Munir complained of feeling sick, asked crew for painkillers and could not stand unaided. There was no immediate comment from Garuda.

Munir, poisoned during a stopover in Singapore, died about two hours before the plane landed in Amsterdam.

"When a passenger is very sick, the crew should consult the front officers to decide whether to make an emergency landing," judge Setiyono said. "The pilot has the authority to take action for the sake of his passengers' welfare," he said.

Chair of the judge panel, Andriani Nurdin, ordered Garuda to pay 664,209,900 rupiah (73,800 dollars) in damages.

But she dismissed allegations against nine other defendants including arrested former Garuda executives Indra Setiawan and Rohainil Aini, several current executives and crew members. "The court has partially accepted the plaintiff's accusation and found defendant one and nine guilty," she said, referring to the airline and pilot Pantun Matondang.

Suciwati's lawyer welcomed the guilty verdict despite the reduced amount of damages and rejection of a public apology.

"The police should be sensitive and use this decision as evidence for the criminal case. They should investigate whether it was caused by a set-up or incompetence," Asvinawati added.

Munir receives rights award posthumously

Jakarta Post - May 2, 2007

Jakarta – Faculty member of the Institute of Public Administration Inu Kencana Syafei, activist Munir (deceased) and SCTV TV station received the 2007 Poncke Princen Human Rights Prize for advancing human rights conditions in Indonesia.

"These three nominees significantly contributed to the advancement of humanity, its values and political reformation," Indonesian Institute for Defense of Human Rights (LPHAM) director Ahmad Hambali told detik.com news portal.

Ahmad said there were three categories for the Poncke Princen awards.

The human rights promoter and educator award was given to Inu Kencana; the human rights lifetime achievement was awarded to Munir; and the human rights campaigner award was given to SCTV.

The accolades were given to commemorate LPHAM's 41st anniversary on April 29.

Lampung rights case unresolved decades later

Jakarta Post - May 1, 2007

Oyos Saroso H.N., Bandarlampung – Authorities are being urged to reopen investigations into a 1989 incident in a Lampung village that claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

Investigations into the incident were stopped after residents of Talangsari village reached an undisclosed settlement with the former commander of the Lampung Garuda Hitam Military Command, Lt. Gen. Hendropriyono, whose men were allegedly involved in the incident.

The Talangsari attack must be properly investigated because of indications that human rights violations occurred in the incident, said participants in a discussion of a book titled Talangsari 1989, written by Fadilasari, a correspondent for Tempo daily. The discussion took place Monday at Lampung University in Bandarlampung.

Coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Usman Hamid, said based on preliminary investigations by the National Commission on Human Rights, it was concluded that human rights violations did occur during the Talangsari incident. The team plans a full investigation after obtaining approval from the attorney general and the House of Representatives.

"By resolving the Talangsari case we are not trying to discredit the military institution. We are aiming to prove to the international community that Indonesia is serious in handling human rights violations," Usman said.

Usman denied claims that investigations into the case are politically motivated.

"Even Ibu Zumrotin (Komnas HAM) said she is ready to unearth the graves of Talangsari victims. We don't want this case to incur the same fate as the July 27 tragedy (an attack on the Indonesian Democratic Party office, in Jakarta), the Trisakti incident and Semanggi shootings. The team will start working in May and is expected to complete the task in September," said Usman.

He said it was vital to bring the responsible parties and perpetrators of the Talangsari incident to justice.

According to Usman, efforts to suppress investigations into the attack have been going on through various means, such as the ambiguous settlement process and the intimidation of victims and those calling for an investigation into the case.

The Talangsari incident occurred on Feb. 7, 1989, in Cihideung hamlet, Talangsari village, Rajabasa Lama district, in Central Lampung regency (now part of East Lampung regency).

A battalion of army soldiers equipped with assault rifles from the Garuda Hitam Military Command in Lampung allegedly besieged Cihideung at dawn. Many civilians were killed, wounded and went missing during the attack. Soldiers burned down houses and detained villagers in the regency and at provincial military commands.

TNI soldiers allegedly attacked the village because a group of men, led by a man identified as Warsidi, was believed to be planning the formation of an Islamic state. The men were thought to be equipped with poison arrows, machetes and Molotov cocktails, and were combat-trained. The attack took place a day after Warsidi and his group abducted Capt. Sutiman and attacked the office of the Lampung Post daily with Molotov cocktails.

There are two versions of the military attack. The military version claims that security personnel were attacked first with poisoned darts and they fired back at members of the group, numbered in the hundreds.

The second version alleges that soldiers attacked the village without warning. One victim, Jayus, 60, alleged soldiers killed men, women and children in the village.

[On February 7, 1989, as many as 100 people were killed when troops surrounded a village in Lampung, South Sumatra, and opened fire and set fire to homes. The government claimed the villagers were members of a "deviant" Muslim sect and that troops were "defending themselves". Local people assert that the victims were unarmed farmers defending their land which was to be taken over by business person linked to the family of former President Suharto. - JB.]

 Labour issues

Policies 'unfriendly to foreign investors'

Jakarta Post - May 7, 2007

Fadli, Batam – At least 2,670 workers at foreign investment company PT Nasional Garment Bintan (NGB) in Riau Islands province face layoffs after the firm decide to close, saying local policies were not foreign-investor friendly.

The workers will be laid off in stages over the next two months, management told the Bintan regency administration, Bintan Legislative Council and Bintan Industrial Estate (BIE) on Friday.

BIE managing director Jamin Hidayat told The Jakarta Post in Batam that PT NGB, which is owned by Hong Kong investors, was just one of six foreign companies that planned to close up shop in Bintan.

He said PT NGB's shut-down was caused by various factors, including government policies that had not been conducive to investment, he said. Jamin said that unpredictable wage increases had been one problem, as was the 40-hour workweek and payment of over-time to workers.

He said that the average workweek was more than 48 hours in most Asian countries and that the policy was pro-worker and anti- employer.

"The tax system and the scale of hikes in fuel prices for industry are also difficult to calculate. The business friendly policies promised by the government for the special economic zones like in Bintan have not been realized," Jamin said.

Moreover, PT NGB faced fierce competition on the global market for similar products, especially in the American market, he said.

"The investors said that the global competition can been handled if the investment situation supports them," Jamin said, explaining that the layoffs would be settled amicably with the workers. Negotiations were being held and PT NGB promised to meet all the workers' rights, he said.

Jamin further explained that PT NGB constituted the largest tenant at the industrial estate. The company started its garment business on the island in 1995 by leasing 10 factory buildings in the 325-hectare area.

"We've done our utmost effort, giving discounts and other facilities, to ensure investors to stay in Indonesia, but as it deals with a government policy, we cannot do more than that. The stoppage of operation (by PT NGB) will have a great impact on our incomes," he said, adding that the closure had cut revenue from income taxes from thousands of workers as well.

Jamin said it was likely that the other five foreign investment companies would also close.

"Representatives of the five foreign investment companies have informed us their plans to stop operation. We therefore urge the government to take the initiative to settle the problem as soon as possible," he said.

PT NGB's closure will cut the number of workers employed by 26 foreign investment companies on Bintan island from 15,000 to 11,000, Jamin said. The companies deal mainly with the production of garments and electronic devices.

Meanwhile, a Bintan Legislative Council member, Timbul Sianturi, said the problem lay with the Indonesian government and not the local administration.

Timbul urged the government to issue a legal umbrella for the special economic zones in Batam, Bintan and Karimun.

"The investors are waiting for such a policy from the government for the sake of the future of their operations. The President should not hesitate here because the longer he takes, the bigger losses the government will incur," he added.

MOU needed for migrant workers: ILO

Jakarta Post - May 3, 2007

Jakarta – The International Labor Organization (ILO) asked the government Wednesday to take the initiative and establish bilateral agreements with destination countries to protect the rights of migrant domestic workers.

"We want the government to focus on migrant domestic workers, because they make up... 75 percent of Indonesian migrant workers," said Lotte Kejser, chief technical adviser for Combating Forced Labor and Trafficking of Indonesian Migrant Workers for the ILO.

"Most destination countries don't recognize domestic workers as skilled employees. The main problem is that household work is not regarded as a skills-based vocation."

She highlighted that Indonesia does not have labor laws covering the minimum standard of working conditions for domestic workers in its own country.

"You cannot ask for things from other governments that you are not providing for your own citizens."

"Most destination countries have not been willing to make agreements in regard to domestic workers," she said, citing the fact that a memorandum of understanding last year signed between Indonesia and Malaysia was insufficient in protecting the rights of migrant domestic workers.

"The MOU includes provisions which violate international law and human rights, for example by allowing employers to hold workers' passports. This makes workers dependent on employers and vulnerable to exploitation."

Kejser said the MOU contained no details of basic working standards such as maximum work hours, rest time, minimum wage, as well as access to health services and information.

"Indonesia's agreements with other countries mostly cover only migrant workers in... formal sectors, such as manufacturing. Agreements have yet to include domestic migrant workers."

She cited recent data indicating that 155,000 foreign domestic workers were registered in Malaysia in 2002, 70 percent of them Indonesians.

Director of the newly-established National Agency for the Placement and Protection of Overseas Labor, Ade Adam Noch, agreed: "The government will establish bilateral agreements on migrant domestic workers. However, we need the help of NGOs to put pressure on destination countries in providing protection for our migrant workforce."

He said Indonesia currently had bilateral agreements with Malaysia, South Korea and Jordan.

He said Indonesia hoped to increase the number of its migrant workers from 680,000 in 2006 to at least 750,000 this year.

Van drivers strike for better road

Jakarta Post - May 3, 2007

Bekasi – Public minivan drivers in Bekasi went on strike Wednesday, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded.

The drivers, from six routes in the municipality, demanded the local administration repair the severely damaged road connecting Jl. Raya Pekayon and Pondok Gede. Drivers said the potholes along the 12-kilometer strip had cut down the number of trips they could do each day.

"We've lost two trips per day... We usually took two hours for one trip, now it's three hours," Yayat, a driver, was quoted as saying by Tempointeraktif.com.

The strike forced Asrul, student of state junior high school SMPN 35 in Jati Mekar, Pondok Gede, to hitch a ride on a platform truck. "It's cheaper taking an ojek (motorcycle taxi), which costs Rp 15,000 to get to school," he said. The student concession fare for public minivans is Rp 2,000.

The administration started to cover the potholes yesterday afternoon in response to the protest.

Indonesians marchers demand better pay, job security

Agence France Presse - May 1, 2007

Jakarta – Tens of thousands of workers in Indonesia marked May Day by taking to the streets Tuesday to demand better wages and job security, amid a heavy police presence.

Several rallies were held in the capital, Jakarta, with some protesters waving trade union banners and posters denouncing foreign investment as several thousand police watched them closely.

"As labourers we have to commemorate labour day because the government does not care for our welfare," said Parsidi, who works at a chemical factory. "I have worked for 20 years and still receive 880,000 (96 dollars) rupiah a month. I have two children and it's not enough to pay my rent," she said.

Saufrul Khoirina, a garment factory employee, said it was a struggle to make ends meet. "The minimum wage is not enough for daily living," she said, with her husband and five-year-old son beside her.

She and Parsidi were among thousands of people brought to the capital in trucks under a heavy police escort from the nearby industrial city of Tangerang.

About 5,000 metal workers travelled to the capital on motorcycles from another nearby town, Bekasi, an ElShinta radio report said. Some protesters rallied outside parliament and in front of the presidential palace.

Jakarta's police chief Adang Firman warned that violence would not be tolerated. He said 18,000 officers were deployed at protest sites in the capital, with another 22,000 fanning out across the sprawling city's greater metropolitan region.

Protesters accused the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla of allowing foreign companies to exploit local workers and strip Indonesia of its resources.

"SBY's and Kalla's politics are cheap pay," said one activist, referring to the president by his initials. "The government is not pro-people or pro-labour. We have oil, gold mines – but they are owned by foreigners," the activist said in an address to a crowd in Jakarta.

In front of the presidential palace, about 10,000 workers were peacefully listening to speakers demanding higher wages for factory workers, an AFP reporter said.

"An adequate national wage should be around 3.2 million rupiah (a month). At present, the average workers' wage stands at 950,000 rupiah," said Anwar Sastroma'ruf, the chairman of the Indonesian Congress for the Alliance of Trade Unions.

Many protesters later started marching through Jakarta's streets to converge on the Ministry of Manpower building.

Mass rallies were also staged elsewhere across the archipelago. Some people called for a controversial 2003 law to be scrapped, claiming the legislation made it easier for employers to put workers on short-term contracts with no benefits.

In Makassar on Sulawesi island, about 1,000 workers rallied in front of the governor's office to demand an end to the contracts and for a fair minimum wage, ElShinta reported.

Some 10,000 workers also massed outside a council building just north of Surabaya, the nation's second largest city and an industrial centre, the radio station said.

Workers rally, government unmoved

Jakarta Post - May 2, 2007

Jakarta – Tens of thousands of workers staged noisy rallies in major cities throughout Indonesia on Tuesday to mark International Labor Day and to voice a number of demands around welfare improvement and work safety.

But each of their demands – which included making a public holiday of May Day, safer working conditions, hikes in basic wages and tax exemptions for low-income families – was turned down by the government.

"These (demands) are difficult to meet because labor is a profession," Vice President Jusuf Kalla told Tempo Interaktif news portal. "All professions like farmers, soldiers and teachers (could) also ask for their own national holiday. "Even journalists will ask for a holiday," he said.

Speaking at a news conference in response to the rallies, Kalla said Indonesia already had 15 holidays – the highest among Asian countries.

He said contract work, which was widely criticized during the rallies, was a necessary part of many industries. "It's impossible for companies to have a large quantity of permanent workers," he said.

In Jakarta, trucks carrying workers flocked to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle where protesters waved red flags, while other workers marched to a heavily guarded Presidential Palace.

Jakarta Police sent more than 20,000 officers to the various landmarks where many protesters had assembled.

In the East Java cities of Surabaya, Sidoarjo, Jember and Kediri, workers protested their poor working conditions and an across-the-board lack of support from employers.

Rallies were held around a number of landmarks in Surabaya, including Grahadi state building and Republic of Indonesia Radio station.

In Sidoarjo, workers employed by a number of big companies assembled at the city's square, in front of the local legislative council.

In Jember and Kediri, workers together with activists from the Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI) emphasized the importance of the struggle for justice in Indonesia. Workers wages were also on the national protest agenda – crowds argued that "not much had changed".

Some workers said conditions had deteriorated – and blamed escalating prices of basic commodities sparked by the hike in fuel prices.

Jamaluddin of the East Java chapter of the Alliance of Struggling Workers demanded the introduction of a standard national wage structure to prevent employers taking advantage of their staff. "The working contract system or outsourcing, which (is one source of) injustice, has to be wiped out," Jamaluddin said.

Wages in Indonesia are among the lowest in Asia, with a basic monthly salary for a factory worker sitting at about Rp 860,000 (less than US$95).

In Palu, Central Sulawesi, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono shared his time informally with hundreds of workers while they gathered for a meal under a tent.

In Bandarlampung, workers strongly criticized the government's labor conditions, which they said did not recognize laborers' needs enough.

Thousands of workers in Semarang, Central Java, entered the Simpang Lima area in stages by motorcycles, public vans and trucks. They caused traffic jams at a number of points but no clashes with authorities were reported.

Similar rallies were held in other major cities, including Makassar in South Sulawesi, Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara and Palembang in South Sumatra.

Government accused of selling out workers for free trade deals

Jakarta Post - May 1, 2007

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – Labor activists on Monday accused the government of selling out Indonesian workers by signing free trade agreements with foreign countries.

Director of the Center for International Relations Studies (CIRes) at the University of Indonesia, Syamsul Hadi, said when the Indonesian government signed free trade agreements with developed countries, it needed to exercise flexibility in its labor market.

"This flexibility implies that the government must dismantle all protection given to the labor market, be it social security, health insurance or pension funds," Syamsul said in a discussion organized by the SBIB, a coalition of non-governmental organizations promoting fairness in world trade.

Syamsul said as a result of the agreement, the labor force would be subjected to market forces. "Workers will be hired on a contractual basis and can be dismissed anytime and without any benefits."

He also said that liberalization of the labor market would deal a severe blow to less skilled workers. "The influx of foreign workers, especially expatriates with superior skills, will sideline local workers with limited skills and will reduce their chances of employment."

He accused the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration of doing little to support workers' rights. "In fact, this administration only acts on the wishes of major capitalist countries," he said, adding the aborted amendment of the Labor Law in 2005 was made reportedly after a demand from Japanese investors.

Presenting survey results from SBIB's labor working group, labor activist Sumartono said a free trade regime, influenced by rich capitalist countries, had given rise to uncertainty among laborers.

"Brutally liberalized industrial relations has resulted in the absence of job security and uncertainty in income among laborers, especially among female laborers," Sumartono said.

Under liberalized industrial relations, workers who are paid based on time and output or who are contracted lose a number of privileges, says Sumartono.

In survey results based on interviews and focus group discussions on labor in Greater Jakarta, SBIB said contract workers were paid according to a minimum-wage standards, but they were not included in social security programs. Workers are not entitled to paid leave.

As for female workers, SBIB discovered that there was an age limit that barred them from continuing to work for the same employer. "There is no maternity leave and once female workers got married or became pregnant they were immediately fired," Sumartono said.

Free trade has also resulted in increased unemployment for workers here, he said. According to SBIB, due to free market access of foreign garment products, 77 percent of textile companies in Java and Bali have stopped operating, resulting in 1.2 million people losing their jobs.

Compilation of reports from Detik.com on May Day

Detik.com - May 1, 2007

[The following is a compilation of abridged translations taken from Detik.com on the May Day rallies held in Indonesia on May 1.]

State Palace 'attacked en masse' by thousand of workers

Ramadhian Fadillah, Jakarta – For those of you planning to pass by the National Monument in Central Jakarta today you may want to think again. Police have been forced to close off all traffic on Jl. Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara after it was inundated by some 2,000 workers commemorating May Day.

The different groups of workers, who had been arriving in waves since 1.30pm and brought banners, posters and the flags of their respective trade unions, immediately took control of Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara, which is located directly in front of the State Palace.

Prior to this they had held a march from the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. Upon arriving they began singing songs of struggle attacking the government for not paying attention to the welfare of workers.

Security personnel who had initially appeared relaxed as they waited for protesters to arrive were immediately put on alert with some 300 officers from the Metro Jaya district police blockading the workers from behind a barbed-wire barricade. Behind them stood 500 members from the Mobile Brigade armed with clubs, teargas and capsicum spray. (bal/umi)

Five thousand workers march on national parliament

Chazizah Gusnita, Jakarta – Around 5,000 workers from the Greater Jakarta Indonesian Metal Trade Workers Federation (FSPMI) held a march from the offices of the Investment Coordinating Board to the House of Representatives (DPR) on Tuesday May 1.

During the march they unfurled banners against the establishment of a special economic zone. They also brought a bier that was covered with a pink umbrella as well as gongs and Balinese masks. The workers, who wore blue shirts with the writing FSPMI flooded onto the Jl. Gatot Soebroto slow-lane preventing traffic from using the it. (umi/nrl)

Transvestites, gays and lesbians enliven May Day in Jakarta

Nograhany Widhi K, Jakarta – A march by workers to the State Palace in Central Jakarta on May Day by some 1000 workers from the Indonesian People's Front (FRI) was also joined by around 30 transvestites, gays and lesbians wearing tank-tops, jeans and high-healed shoes.

Their demands were conveyed on 1x3 metre wide banners with messages such as "Take responsibility for fulfilling the needs of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals", "Remember, transsexuals are also a resource okay" and "DPR members' wages keep going up, when will transsexuals get a turn to work".

Action coordinator Rido Triawan said that transsexuals suffer a great deal of discrimination and are unable to work in formal sector even though many are university graduates. "In the end many are forced to work in the informal sector as prostitutes. We are demanding that they be allowed to work in the formal sector", shouted Triawan. (nik/nrl)

Journalists join May Day protests at State Palace

Ramadhian Fadillah, Jakarta – Journalists wages can be categorised as low. Commemorating May Day, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) are demanding that they be paid a minimum wage of 3.2 million rupiah a month.

"According to an AJI survey, there are journalists that are only being paid 200,000 rupiah a month", said the coordinator of the Jakarta AJI Trade Union, Winuranto Adhi, during a speech at the State Palace on Tuesday.

In addition to asking for a wage increases, AJI also appealed to media workers not to accept 'envelopes' from informants and that they must safeguard their independence by refusing bribes in any shape or form.

"Journalists must struggle for a reasonable wage, because if journalists' wages are low then they will accept envelopes. If they have received envelopes then their reports cannot be objective anymore", he asserted. (ken/umi)

Hundreds of workers in Solo commemorate May Day

Muchus Budi R., Solo – Hundreds of workers from the Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM) held an action to commemorate May Day in which they demanding that the day be declared an official holiday and expressed their opposition to contract labour systems.

The action, which started at the Panggung intersection was followed by an orderly march to the Gladag roundabout where they held speeches before going on to the Surakarta city hall where they demanding that the government and business pay attention to workers' rights. They also called on the government to make May 1 a national holiday, for workers to be paid a reasonable wage and for the abolition of contract labour systems.

A similar action was held by some two thousand workers in Sukoharjo, Central Java who rallied at the offices of the regent and the Sukoharjo Regional House of Representatives (DPRD). (mbr/asy)

Carrefour workers in Jakarta labour bill revisions

Irwan Nugroho, Jakarta – Workers gathering at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Central Jakarta to commemorate May Day were also joined by members of the Carrefour Indonesia Trade Union (SPCI)

According to action coordinator Nasir, the Carrefour workers joined in the commemoration on May Day to express their opposition to planned revisions to the 2003 labour law.

"We explicitly reject revisions to Law Number 13/2003 on Labour. We also demand the abolition of contract systems and outsourcing for workers. And we demand a reasonable wage in accordance with a minimum national wage", said Nasir when speaking with Detik.com during a break in the demonstration.

Marching around the roundabout yelling "Viva Workers" and singing the national anthem Indonesia Raya they also brought Carrefour trade union flags and banners with the message "Reject outsourcing, don't sell the country off to foreigners", and "We workers are handcuffed on account of Uncle Sam". They then held a march to the State Palace resulting in severe disruption to traffic. (rmd/nrl)

Victims of mass dismissals commemorate May Day in Yogyakarta

Bagus Kurniawan, Yogyakarta – International Labour Day this year was not just commemorated by workers that are still actively employed. In the Central Java city of Yogyakarta workers who have fallen victim to mass dismissals also took to the streets on May Day.

The dismissed workers were previously employed at factories and hotels in Yogyakarta such as the Sahid Yogya Hotel, PT Duta Pratama Jaya and the Grestenanan billiard hall. During the action the unemployed workers said that they were victims of arbitrary actions by their employers and they have still not been given reasonable severance pay packages.

"We have repeatedly made our demands to the companies but we still haven't been paid", said former Sahid Yogya Hotel employee Sudikno on the grounds of the Yogyakarta DPRD. (djo/nrl)

Right-wing thugs attempt to disrupt May Day in Yogyakarta

Khairul Ikhwan, Yogyakarta – A commemoration of May Day in Yogyakarta was almost marred by a clash when protesters from the Yogyakarta People's and Worker Alliance (ARPY) were unexpectedly waylaid by members of the Anti-Communist Front (FAKI) and the Yogyakarta Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The FAKI and FPI members accused the ARPY of being infiltrated by the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) that they claim has a communist ideology.

The incident occurred at the intersection in front of the central post office when a man climbed up onto an open pickup truck that ARPY was using as a platform and dragged a person giving a speech off the vehicle. Initially the ARPY activists were too shocked to react but were eventually able to rescue their colleague.

Tension rose as FAKI and ARPY members confronted each other but fortunately police were able separate the two groups before a clash could break out.

Five thousand workers rally in Medan for May Day

May Day was also commemorated by thousands of workers in the North Sumatra provincial capital of Medan with around 5,000 workers rallying at the North Sumatra DPRD and the Medan State Court.

The workers, who came from a number of labour organisations such as the North Sumatra Trade Union (SBSU) and the Indonesian Prosperous Trade Union (SBSI), were demanding improvements to workers' welfare and that May 1 be declared a national holiday. (djo/sss)

'King of Corrupters' joins May Day rally at State Palace

Irwan Nugroho, Jakarta – Many methods are used to express the life of oppressed workers. In commemorating May Day at the State Palace workers held a number of interesting kinds of actions.

One of these was a huge rat that was brought to the rally by protesters from the All Jabotabek Trade Union (SPSJ). Of course the rat was not actually a real rat. If it had the black rodent measuring 2.5 metres high, 1.2 metres wide and 3.8 metres long would have weighed at least 200 kilograms.

The rat was being used to depict a corrupt national leader who has enacted unjust regulations for the lower-classes in society such as labour contract systems and low wages. Hanging around its neck was a sign reading "King of Corrupters". (ken/nrl)

Ten thousand workers blockade main highway in Banten

Alamsyah, Serang – Traffic on the road towards Pandeglang in Banten province was paralysed today when around 10,000 workers protesting at the Banten DPRD blockaded Jl. Palima, the main highway from Serang to Pandeglang.

Police had not expected that workers would blockade the road and many vehicles were trapped forcing police to find alternative routes for traffic.

Prior to "attacking" Jl. Palima the workers had gathered at the Maulana Yusuf Stadium then held a convoy of cars, trucks, busses and motorbikes to the DPRD building. Upon arriving at the DPRD they immediately began giving speeches under the tight security by around 1,000 police who had also erected a barbed-wire barricade some 10 metres from the fence. (umi/nrl)

Public transport workers demands special protection

Irwan Nugroho, Jakarta – The welfare of transportation workers such as drivers, conductors and mechanics has received little attention despite the fact that they are vital to the economy. They are therefore calling on the government to issue special law to protect transport workers.

"We are asking the government to immediately issue a law to regulate and protect us as workers in the transportation sector", said Ilmansyah from the Preparatory Committee for the National Federation of Transport Workers (KPFNBT) during a break in a demonstration at the State Palace today.

According to Ilmansyah transport workers have two main demands, clear working hours and set wages. "Public transport drivers always become the target for illegal fees from government officials and thugs", complained Ilmansyah. He added that their incomes had also declined because there were now so many unofficial cars operating as public transport vehicles. (bal/umi)

Police 'bribe' Bandung workers with bread and water

Erna Mardiana, Bandung – Thousands of workers in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung took to the streets to commemorate May Day. Even the police displayed a sympathetic attitude by handing out bread and water to the workers.

The workers, who had been gathering since early morning at the Gedung Sate building complex in Bandung had arrived from various parts of West Java. From there they moved off towards the West Java Labour and Transmigration Office. Before moving off however, hundreds of police officers from the West Java regional police and the Bandung municipal police held a sympathetic action by handing out bread and mineral water to the workers.

"Bread... bread... drinking water... drinking water", shouted the police officers, who sounded exactly like street peddlers. The workers responded warmly to the gifts, after all it was quite a hot day.

Bandung regional police chief Mashudi laughed when asked if their actions were done to "bribe" the workers so they would behave well. Likewise when asked how much bread was handed out. "Ha, ha, I don't know how much. Take a look its quite a lot", he said.

During the action the demonstrators demanded that workers' rights be respected, that the law on labour affairs be upheld and rejected systems of contract labour. (djo/nrl)

Workers besiege Gresik parliament, May Day in Surabaya quiet

Budi Sugiharto/Zainal Effendi, Gresik – May Day was commemorated by demonstrations in various parts of East Java. In Gresik, around 10,000 workers besieged the local DPRD while in provincial capital of Surabaya, hundreds of workers fanned out to protest at six different locations in the city.

In Gresik, thousands of workers arrived on motorbikes and trucks from various industrial areas including Menganti, Driyorejo, Manyar and Kebomas. The action was marred by an incident when workers were involved in a minor clash with company security personnel in the Kebomas industrial zone.

At the DPRD 13 worker representatives from an alliance of trade unions were allowed inside to convey their demands to legislators. Other workers packed the streets and public areas near the parliament listening to speeches.

In Surabaya May Day commemorations were quieter with only a few workers taking to the streets and demonstrating at separate locations. Workers and student activist could be seen protesting at the State Grahadi Building, the Radio Republic Indonesia (RRI) Building, the State Court, the Labour Office and the offices of the East Java governor.

Different groups arrived at the Grahadi Building in waves including protesters from the Indonesian National Students Movement (GMNI), People's Power and the Indonesian Youth Front for Struggle (FPPI), who called on the government to increase wages and abolish labour contract systems. After giving speeches at the Grahadi Building, scores of FPPI activists moved of to demonstrate at RRI. (gik/asy)

May Day commemorations in Sidoarjo almost ends in clash

Budi Hartadi, Sidoarjo – A clash almost broke out between protesters and police during a commemoration of May Day in the East Java city of Sidoarjo.

The incident started when dozens of police officers attempted to prevent some 200 workers from the May 1 Workers Movement (GB1M) from approaching the Sidoarjo DPRD. Other workers going to the DPRD were also waylaid in front of the Agung Mosque. "Why are we forbidden from going to the DPRD. This is a harassment of the Islamic community. It means the police are stupid and bad", said the demonstrators.

The workers then changed direction in order to get around the police blockade and were finally able to approach the main gate of the DPRD building. However tensions rose again when police chased workers who tried for force their way onto the DPRD grounds. (gik/asy)

Trade unions, students commemorate May Day in Semarang

Triono Wahyu Sudibyo, Semarang – As was the case in other cities, thousands of workers also took to the streets of the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang to commemorate May Day. In order to prevent themselves from being swamped by the thousand of demonstrators, the Central Java DPRD budding and the governors offices were forced to close their front gates.

The workers, who came from a number of different organisations, arrived in waves after gathering at the Baiturrahman Mosque in Simpang Lima, the University of Diponegoro in Pleburan and the water fountain roundabout on Jl. Pahlawan.

The first group to arrive were from the SPN, but for reasons that are unclear they chose to hold an action at the RRI instead of the DPRD and governor's offices.

Shortly afterwards hundreds of activists from the Independent Trade Union Federation (FSBI), Student Executive Councils (BEM) from the University of Diponegoro and the 17 August University, the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement (PMII) and the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) began arriving. Police who were already on guard, immediately closed the gates to the DPRD and the governor's office.

As a result demonstrators were only able to protest in front of a nearby office. All of the different groups demanded that the government abolish labour contract systems, increase the minimum wage and introduce policies that side with workers. They also demanded that May 1 be declared a national holiday. (try/nrl)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Environment/natural disasters

Indonesia 'honored' for forest destruction

Jakarta Post - May 4, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – Indonesia is set to enter the Guinness Book of World Records, but it is not an achievement the country will want to brag about.

Guinness has agreed to a proposal by Greenpeace to cite Indonesia in its 2008 issue, to be published in September, for the fastest pace of deforestation in the world between 2000 and 2005.

An area of forest equal to 300 soccer fields is being destroyed every hour in the country.

The citation in the publication will read: "Of the 44 countries which collectively account for 90 percent of the world's forests, the country which pursues the highest annual rate of deforestation is Indonesia with 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres) of forest destroyed each year between 2000-2005."

That figure is still lower than the Forestry Ministry's estimate of 2.8 million hectares of forest lost annually.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Hapsoro said Thursday a temporary ban on commercial logging in natural forests, a full- blown reforestation effort and stricter law enforcement to stop illegal logging were necessary to halt this worrying trend.

Indonesia is estimated to have lost 72 percent of its approximately 123.35 million hectares of ancient forests, and half of what remains is threatened by commercial logging, frequent forest fires and land clearance for palm oil plantations.

While the Forestry Ministry and the State Ministry for the Environment have vowed a massive reforestation program, green activists say such efforts will be useless as long as the government continues to approve new forest concessions for industrial purposes.

Indonesia is a key exporter of timber, paper and palm oil to China, Japan, South Korea and a number of European nations.

Greenpeace also said frequent fires in Indonesia's peatland, resulting in the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide, have made the country the third-largest greenhouse gas polluter after the US and China.

Sumatra courts irk police with 'iffy' verdicts

Jakarta Post - May 4, 2007

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – Regional police across Sumatra have been puzzled by the release of many illegal logging suspects by panels of judges during trial sessions in court, a high-ranking police officer said Thursday.

Head of the police security development agency Gen. Comr. Imam Haryatna said after opening a coordination meeting among regional police throughout Sumatra in Medan that the police were disappointed by the release of many suspects.

The police were not satisfied with any verdict to free the suspects, accused of involvement in illegal logging activities.

Haryatna himself said he did not understand why it was so easy for the judges to free the suspects in their verdicts, even though the police had done their utmost to compile documentation.

With regard to the judges' verdicts, Haryatna said that the police respected the courts' independence and never intervened in verdicts.

Despite the poor response, he said the police would continue working hard to hunt down the perpetrators of illegal logging.

"The police will continue doing their job. As long as there are reports of violations of existing regulations, the police will not hesitate to take action," Haryatna said.

North Sumatra Police chief Insp. Gen. Nurudin Usman said that the effort to uphold the law against illegal logging in North Sumatra would not stop even though three major illegal logging suspects had been cleared of all charges over the last five months.

Nurudin said that based on past experience the police would be careful and professional in compiling documents for trials.

"We've thus far been assisted by experts in compiling the legal documents. We strive to improve our professionalism so as to help prevent any suspect from being easily freed," he said.

He cited the compilation of documents in the case of well- connected businessman Adelin Lies, suspected of involvement with PT Inanta Timber and Keang Neam Development Indonesia in widespread illegal logging that is believed to have cost the state trillions of rupiah.

Nurudin said that even though the prosecutor's office had not submitted the documents on Adelin to the court, he feared Adelin would be easily cleared of all charges as well.

A number of Adelin's subordinates accused of being involved in the illegal logging activities in Mandailing Natal regency, North Sumatra, had already been freed by the panel of judges, he said.

Last week Forestry Minister MS Kaban said during a working visit to Medan that he would propose that the Supreme Court examine the judges.

Kaban said he could not accept the verdict to free the culprits because it would be impossible for the police and prosecutors to make any accusation without solid proof and evidence.

 Health & education

More violence, drugs at IPDN

Jakarta Post - May 8, 2007

Yuli Tri Suwarni, Sumedang – The Institute of Public Administration (IPDN) has been rocked by further reports of violence, with allegations that a freshman attacked four other students over the weekend, while three others have been arrested for possessing drugs.

Romanos, a student from Papua, is alleged to have beaten five of his dorm mates for smoking on Sunday night at the West Java college. He told the four students that smoking was prohibited on campus. It is alleged that he attacked them after they laughed at him and refused to stop.

Acting IPDN rector Johanis Kaloh said on Monday that Romanos was being questioned by the Jatinangor Police.

The campus doctor, Leny Anjas, said he had treated one of the victims, Nanda Rizki, who was treated at the campus clinic at 10 p.m. on Sunday for a cut behind his right ear. "I don't know what happened, but he certainly received three stitches. His supervisor is carrying out a physical report on him now," said Leny.

Violence has long been a problem at IPDN, which trains future civil servants, but it was thrust into the spotlight last month when Cliff Muntu, a sophomore, was allegedly beaten to death by seven senior students.

The ensuing public outcry forced the government to intervene in the management of IPDN, which cost Rp 150 billion (US$16.6 million) a year to run.

The government hopes to end the militaristic culture at the college, a remnant of the Soeharto era, by straightening out the institution internally. Johanis Kaloh replaced rector I Nyoman Sumaryadi, who is now part of the investigation into the death. Johanis also said that a student guardian had caught other three students, identified as LM from West Java, R from Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and L from Jambi, smoking marijuana on the second floor of the dormitory.

"The guardian became suspicious because of the messy way the cigarette was rolled and its distinct smell. We immediately reported it to the police and they took urine samples from the 53 students (in the dormitory)," Johanis told reporters at the IPDN campus in Jatinangor, Sumedang.

The three students had been held at the West Java Police Headquarters in Bandung since Friday, he said.

Ilhami Bisri, the head of IPDN's guardian affairs department, said that the drugs were reported to the police in order not to worsen the college's public image. "We want to promote transparency like the public has demanded, because this is a school for future bureaucrats," said Ilhami.

The IPDN has not decided on punishments for students involved in the cases, although should the three accused of possessing marijuana be found guilty they are likely to be expelled for breaking the law.

Sr. Adj. Comr. Budi Setiawan said police had not named a suspect in the assault and battery case, while the drug case is being handled directly by the drug unit at the provincial police headquarters. "We are still waiting for the results of urine tests from Hasan Sadikin General Hospital," said Budi.

Religious leaders pledge to fight HIV/AIDS

Jakarta Post - May 8, 2007

Jakarta – Religious leaders including an HIV/AIDS-infected Anglican reverend pledged Monday to work together to take an active role in the prevention and fight against HIV/AIDS.

The pact was made by seven leaders from different religions at the National Interfaith War Against AIDS meeting in Jakarta, which focused particularly on better sex education for children and women.

Visiting guest speaker, Ugandan Anglican Rev. Canon Gideon Baguma Byamugisha, who announced he had HIV/AIDS in 1992, was joined by representatives from groups including the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council, the Indonesian Bishops Conference, the Council of Buddhist Communities and Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim organizations.

During the meeting it was pointed out that society must not reject people with HIV/AIDS and that early sex education was essential.

Priest Benny Susetyo of the Indonesian Bishops Conference said, "Society must be able to support those living with HIV/AIDS so they can have the spirit to continue their lives".

Andreas Yewangoe of the Indonesian Churches Union said he agreed with Benny. "People with HIV/ AIDS are still human," he said. "The whole sense of humanity... must not be reduced just because they have (HIV/AIDS)."

Benny added that problems relative to HIV infection were actually attached to ethical and moral matters. "We acknowledge the need for sex education as early as possible for children," he said.

Gideon, who has been living with HIV/AIDS for 16 years said, "The stigma toward AIDS is not just a matter of social rejection – it could also effect policies such as state budget issues". He said the majority of funds raised in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda came from foreign donors.

The 48-year old reverend is believed to be the first practicing religious leader in Africa to declare his HIV positive status.

Budi Tanuwibowo of the Indonesian Supreme Council for Confucian Religion said religious leaders needed to voice their own thoughts and opinions on the issue of HIV/AIDS.

"Advocating real issues like HIV/AIDS in sermons is one thing that religious leaders can do," he said. "Family values must become the foundation for children's education. That's why it's important to be more open to discussing sex among parents and their children."

Budi also said housewives needed to be better informed and aware of potential infection from their husbands. Andreas mentioned female condoms as a way to empower women to exercise their rights and to protect themselves.

Gideon emphasized during the meeting a much-needed change was required in the public's perception of a stereotypical HIV/AIDS patient. The religious leaders agreed the stereotype must be moved away from needle-using drug users and people living promiscuous lifestyles – because so many other people were potentially at risk.

The national meeting was facilitated by the National AIDS Commission, Christian NGO World Vision Indonesia, and the Indonesian Interfaith Network on HIV/AIDS.

Secretary for the National AIDS Commission Nafsiah Mboi said Rp 100 million (US$11,000) had been allocated for the start-up of HIV/AIDS activities for the involved religious institutions.

Impact of high-risk sexual behavior knocks on families' doors

Jakarta Post - May 5, 2007

Jakarta – National AIDS Commission secretary Nafsiah Mboi expressed concern Friday over the increasing number of housewives being infected with HIV/AIDS.

"We currently are finding more housewives infected with HIV/AIDS as compared to sex workers," Nafsiah told a media briefing on the upcoming National Interfaith War Against HIV/AIDS Meeting to be held here Monday.

The AIDS commission's September 2006 bulletin reported that more than 43 percent of HIV infections in Papua occurred among women who were not sex workers.

From 2002 to 2004, the number of infected housewives reported in Papua was higher than the number of infected sex workers. In 2002 for example, 24 percent of those reported with HIV/AIDS were housewives, as compared to 13 percent who were sex workers, the commission said.

Nafsiah indicated that in 2002, about 60 percent of the between seven and nine million men who used sex services in Indonesia were married. "And we cannot just ignore the fact that the remaining 40 percent are single males that will be married one day. What will happen to their future wives if these men have been unknowingly infected?"

She said an effective way of preventing the spread of the virus would be to introduce the use of female condoms. "I encourage both husbands and wives to use condoms."

She said most families in Papua had responded positively to this suggestion, but added, "It is a bit difficult to encourage the use of condoms between married couples in Java, mostly due to religious reasons."

Female condoms have only been introduced in the six provinces of Java and the two provinces of Papua. They have, however, been widely used in countries such as Uganda, Zimbabwe and Thailand.

According to data from the Directorate General of Communicable Disease Control and Environmental Health at the Health Ministry, by March this year, there had been 8,988 new AIDS cases reported in the country's 32 provinces for 2007.

In 2006, AIDS cases had been reported in all provinces in the country, with the number of reported cases reaching more than 193,000. Jakarta topped the list with 26,805 reported cases, followed by Papua with 21,487 cases, East Java with 15,699 cases and West Java with 14,341 cases. Gorontalo was at the bottom of the list with 462 reported cases.

Ninety-four percent of those infected with HIV are between 15 and 49 years of age.

"I found many children in Uganda that had lost both of their parents due to HIV/AIDS infections. Children are those who suffer the most," said the national director of World Vision Indonesia, Trihadi Saptoadi, adding that in that country, next to no people were of a productive age.

"AIDS infections in Asian countries, including India, China, Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia, are as serious as in Africa," he said.

Worldwide, around seven million children die of AIDS everyday and some 180,000 more are infected with HIV.

Overall, the number of women infected with HIV/AIDS is rising. This is due not only to sexual activities, but also to the reuse of needles by drug users.

According to Nafsiah, the commission estimated in 2006 that there were 12,780 women living with HIV/AIDS among the 93,420 women who were partners of injecting drug users. It also estimated that there were 5,200 women with AIDS out of the 1,813,880 women who were the regular partners of men who frequented sex workers.

Some 46 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS are injecting drug users, 15 percent are sex worker clients, 10 percent are female and male sex workers, 7 percent are partners of injecting drug users and 3 percent are partners of sex clients.

No more money for education, government tells court

Jakarta Post - May 2, 2007

Jakarta – The Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled for the third time in favor of the educational sector by insisting 20 percent of the total national budget should be allocated to the country's education fund – yet the government continues to cry poor.

"(The court) decided the 2006 law on the 2007 state budget, regarding the maximum allocation of 11.8 percent of the state budget for the education sector contradicts the 1945 Constitution and therefore has no legal strength," Jimly Asshiddiqie, the head of the Constitutional Court, told the hearing Tuesday.

The court has twice ruled the government was obligated to allocate no less than 20 percent of the state budget for education.

But the government has so far failed to meet this requirement. In 2006 the government allocated Rp 44.1 trillion for education – or 9.1 percent of the total national budget. This year the education fund was raised to Rp 54.06 trillion – or 11.9 percent of the total state budget.

The court decided although the government had shown good will in raising the education fund between 2004 and 2007, it was still not able to meet the constitutional demand of 20 percent.

Mohamad Surya, chairman of the Indonesian Teachers' Union (PGRI), said he hoped the government would immediately act on the decision because the 20 percent should be fulfilled every year.

"We want the government to comply with the Constitution and not delay it anymore," Mohamad said. "We, the teachers, are in the front lines of education. We know everything about the dire conditions of our education system. We know how many students are forced to leave their schools and how many school buildings collapse," he told reporters after the hearing.

Accompanied by the five teachers and parents who filed the lawsuit, Surya argued the current budget, which includes funding for in-service training, was inappropriate and not in line with the International Convention of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) recommendations on national educational funds.

The litigants also claimed the government had failed to implement compulsory basic education, which should be fully financed by the government, as stipulated in articles 17, 31 and 34 of the Constitution.

The government's representative Paskah Suzetta, head of the National Development Planning Board, said 20 percent could not be provided all at once. He said it would mean the government would have to add about Rp 60 trillion (US$6.59 billion) to the education sector's budget.

But he said the government had committed to make some efforts to meet the demands of the Constitution. "We will talk to all stakeholders in the education field to identify all problems – and more importantly, we will try to improve educational infrastructure," said Paskah. Mohamad said he would employ all necessary efforts to push the government to comply with the Constitution.

"Don't forget that as an organization, we have a legal standing now, which allows us to use our right for judicial review at any time."

The verdict came one day before National Education Day, which falls annually on May 2.

Prison authorities struggle to contain spread of HIV

Jakarta Post - May 1, 2007

Multa Fidrus, Tangerang – Widespread infection of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in prisons has resulted in the deaths of two young men incarcerated in Tangerang Youth Penitentiary.

Asep, 28, and Zulfikar, 26, died after being transferred from the prison's clinic and treated at the Tangerang General Hospital for HIV-related infections. Their deaths bring the penitentiary's HIV-related death toll to 54.

Last year the prison recorded 50 deaths from HIV-related infections. But this year's tally shows a staggering increase.

Director general of correctional institutions at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry revealed earlier this month that 72.5 percent of deaths last year in prison were caused by infections including high fever, tuberculosis, pneumonia, hepatitis, diarrhea and thrush – all of which were related to HIV/AIDS. In Jakarta alone last year, 351 of 19,000 prisoners died.

Of the 116,000 people serving jail terms in more than 300 penitentiaries and prisons nationwide, 32,000 were imprisoned for drug cases. Seventy percent of those convicted in drug cases were drug users. The rapid spread of HIV behind bars is mostly blamed on rampant drug abuse and unprotected sex.

Asep died earlier last week, while Zulfikar passed away last Saturday evening. Zulfikar's parents have claimed their son's body, while Asep's body still lies in the hospital's morgue.

During The Jakarta Post's last visit to the penitentiary on April 14, Zulfikar admitted it was hard for him to avoid drugs in prison because of peer pressure.

"I cannot remember when exactly I got infected with HIV. I got weaker and weaker since (last) November," he said before adding drugs could easily be obtained in prison, as long as he was willing to share needles with others.

He also said drugs could easily be smuggled into the prison by visitors. "Officers' control here is very weak, unlike in Salemba where they use computers to monitor visitors. "And even then drugs could still be smuggled into Salemba prison, let alone into the Tangerang prison," he said.

Drugs are either smuggled quietly by visitors who are able trick ignorant officers – or they are smuggled openly by hiring officers as couriers, Zulfikar said. "Most prefer the second method because it is believed to be the safest way," he said.

Warden Kosad Purwanto blamed overcrowding and poor healthcare and sanitation as the main causes behind the 54 deaths. "The prison is designed for 800 people but it accommodates 3,602 inmates now," he said, adding that 85 percent of inmates in the prison were drug users.

He denied any involvement by his officers in the distribution of drugs in prison. "If you can prove that my officers help distribute drugs to inmates, please bring them to me," he said.

Kosod admitted that drug distribution in prison still occurred because of the unbalanced ratio of prison officers to inmates. "Clearly, it is hard to control 3,606 inmates with 40 officers," he said.

A Tangerang Health Agency survey of 150 inmates in the prison last year revealed only 10 inmates had been infected with HIV. It was unclear though whether or not these inmates already had HIV before being sent to prison.

No harm-reduction efforts have been officially carried out in prisons except for those efforts made by non-governmental institutions. The government has planned to resolve its prison over-capacity issues by building a new penitentiary in Jambe district, Tangerang regency.

 War on corruption

Graft fighters left in limbo as working term ends

Jakarta Post - May 5, 2007

Jakarta – Ending its two-year term Wednesday, the future of the Interdepartmental Anti-Corruption Team is now in the hands of the government.

The team has stopped its work as it waits for the government to decide whether to extend its term. It will not process cases already in the pipeline and has shut its doors to new public complaints, team chairman Hendarman Supandji said Friday.

Hendarman said the team was inventorying all its unfinished cases and would transfer them to the National Police and prosecutors' offices for follow-up.

"We also have prepared the paperwork that will be needed if the government eventually decides to dissolve the team," Hendarman said as quoted by detik.com.

Formed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005, the 45- strong team of graft-busters is made up of representatives from prosecutors' offices, the police and the state financial comptroller.

It is meant to reinforce existing anti-graft bodies, such as the Corruption Eradication Commission, which has been credited with trying and convicting high-profile graft suspects.

Hendarman said the team was processing 280 complaints as of Wednesday, with some of the complaints having already gone to court.

"We will transfer the public complaints to the relevant institutions (police and prosecutors) if the team is eventually dissolved."

Indonesian Corruption Watch said that despite its relative successes, the team should be strengthened if Yudhoyono chooses to extend its mandate.

"The team is quite an achievement for the Yudhoyono administration, although its performance is still far from satisfactory," said the ICW's legal advocacy coordinator Emerson Yuntho.

Emerson pointed out that of 24 graft cases at state-owned enterprises the team has handled, only six have gone to court.

He alleged Yudhoyono's intervention prevented the team from wiping out corruption at the top levels of the bureaucracy, such as the State Secretariat.

Government asked to probe Tommy money transfer

Jakarta Post - May 1, 2007

Public auditors have asked the government to launch an investigation into the 2004 transfer of US$10 million belonging to Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, describing it as a "blatant abuse of government power".

Leonardus Nugroho and Surahmin said Monday that State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra and Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin had abused their authority when they allowed the transfer of the money from the London branch of Bank Nationale de Paris (BNP) Paribas into an account of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry's Directorate General of General Legal Administration.

"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyoho could ask the Development Finance Controller, as the government's internal auditor, and also the State Ministry for Administrative Reforms, to investigate whether there were abuses of power in the transfer," Leonardus Nugroho, a certified fraud examiner, told reporters at the Indonesian Corruption Watch office in Jakarta on Monday.

He said the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) and the Attorney General's Office could also launch an investigation into the case without waiting for a request from the President.

"The BPK could launch an audit of their performance or a special audit as stipulated in Article 4 of Law No.15/2004 on state fund audits, and if it found any indications of a criminal act, the BPK could recommended law enforcement institutions pursue the case," said Leonard.

The Attorney General's Office, said Leonard, could investigate the origin of the funds and whether the use of the government's account was against the law.

Leonard also said that the public could provide more evidence in the case, such as by comparing accounting indicators and other sources of information, and to determine whether the transfer was a case of procedural weakness or an intentional deviation from the law.

He said any auditor wanting to deal with the case would have to have a concrete base in regulations, such as the 2004 presidential instruction on the acceleration of graft eradication, the national action plan on graft eradication and the UN Convention Against Corruption, which has been ratified by the country.

In a similar tone, Surahmin from the BPK said that there was no indication that the case had involved fraud as the money was not state money, although there were clear indications of abuse of power.

"There was no concrete reduction in state money or assets in this case. This money is not the state's money or money controlled by the state, therefore we can't say that the transfer has caused a loss to the state," said Surahmin.

"In fact it is so simple, if the President or the audit bodies want to stick to the law, they could launch a special audit of the account at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry. If the government did this, it would be clear who was responsible for the abuse of power, because a director general cannot directly manage state funds or the opening of an account, which should be based on the decision of a minister," Surahmin added.

 War on terror

Major attacks by JI unlikely: ICG

Jakarta Post - May 5, 2007

Jakarta – A report from the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) says it is unlikely that terror network Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) is plotting another major terrorist attack on par with the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005.

The crisis group said in its latest report, titled, Jamaah Islamiyah's Current Status, that the terrorist organization was in a consolidation period, a stage that barred it from carrying out large-scale operations that would jeopardize its support base.

"There is no indication that they are plotting 'Bali three' or any attack aimed at causing widespread deaths of foreign civilians," said the report, which was made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

While in this consolidation period, the report asserts, JI has changed tactics from carrying out large-scale operations to focusing on assassinating senior police, prosecutors and others in positions of authority in its base of Indonesia.

It also disclosed that the bombings carried out by JI "renegade" Noordin Muhammad Top against hotels, restaurants and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta between 2003 and 2005 had hurt the network more so than aid its cause, as many victims were Muslims.

Future operations for JI will likely be devoted to recruitment and expanding its support base. Currently, according to ICG estimates, the terror network has more than 900 members nationwide, far less than 1999 estimates.

The selection of low-profile targets is also connected with JI's current financial condition, the report said.

"Noordin's attempt to bomb the Australian embassy cost about US$8,000; JI's assassination of the head of the Central Sulawesi Protestant Church cost $25," Sidney Jones, ICG's Southeast Asia project director, said.

The report said, however, that these constraints have not dissuaded JI from its primary objective of establishing an Islamic state in Indonesia, and that a number of factors exist that determine the strength of JI in different areas of Indonesia.

"These factors are... the existence of JI-linked boarding schools; the history of the Darul Islam insurgency in the area; the extent of family and business ties among members; the success of campus-based recruitment and the degree to which recruiting takes place in prisons," the report said.

Program director for ICG Asia, Robert Templer, said that following the successful identification and detainment of JI members responsible for past acts of terror, the Indonesian government needs to focus on conditions inside the country's prisons.

"Now the Indonesian government needs to pay much more attention to prisons, including what goes on inside, visitors and the materials they bring in and pre- and post-release programs," Templer said.

JI changes tactics but still a threat

Agence France Presse - May 3, 2007

Jakarta – Southeast Asian extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah has more than 900 members and remains a major security threat despite extensive police efforts to close it down, a report said Thursday.

Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), responsible for the deadly 2002 and 2005 bombings in Indonesia's Bali, has formed a hit squad with specially trained militants to carry out operations, the International Crisis Group said in its latest report.

But rather than target Westerners in future bombing attacks, JI has switched tactics to focus on assassinating senior police, prosecutors and others in authority in its base of Indonesia.

The Brussels-based think-tank said such attacks were not only more cost effective but likely to strengthen JI's support network and number of recruits.

"JI is in a building and consolidation phase, which means that it is unlikely to be interested in large, expensive operations that could further weaken its support base," said Sidney Jones, ICG's Southeast Asia project director.

The report said many JI militants were opposed to bombings, such as its 2002 Bali attack and 2004 blast outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, as they lacked religious justification and risked high Muslim casualties.

The Bali nightclub bombings killed 202 people, mainly foreign tourists, and were blamed on JI's then fugitive leader Noordin Mohammed Top, who has since left the extremist group and remains Southeast Asia's most wanted man.

For many JI members, jihadi attacks in restive areas like the religiously divided Poso on Indonesia's Central Sulawesi were more important, it said.

Violence has often flared in Poso where Muslims and Christians live in roughly equal numbers. Three Christian school girls were beheaded there in 2005 in a crime that drew international condemnation.

"Noordin's attempt to bomb the Australian embassy cost about 8,000 dollars. JI's assassination of the head of the Central Sulawesi Protestant Church cost 25 dollars," Jones said.

The group's strength has been weakened in the wake of a series of raids on hideouts, seizure of explosives and weapons and arrest of militants by Indonesia's anti-terror police, it said.

But JI, whose ultimate aim is to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-populated country, was still a serious security threat and its structure remained intact.

"The hundreds of arrests since the first Bali bombs may have disrupted the organisation less than originally assumed, although ideological differences over tactics and strategy are profound," the report said. The ICG warned that the government needed to focus on breeding grounds for Islamic radicalism particularly in prisons where convicted JI bombers are on death row and others are serving sentences.

"The Indonesian police get high marks for their work in identifying and detaining JI members responsible for violence," said Robert Templer, ICG's Asian programme director.

"Now the Indonesian government needs to pay much more attention to prisons, including what goes on inside, visitors and the material they bring, and pre- and post-release programmes."

 Government/civil service

Ministers ditched in cabinet reshuffle

Jakarta Post - May 8, 2007

M. Taufiqurrahman and Tony Hotland, Jakarta – After weeks of anticipation, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced Monday a new cabinet line up that saw a number of ministers being shown the door.

The reshuffle saw five new figures ushered into the cabinet while two active ministers were moved to new portfolios.

"I aim to improve the effectiveness and performance of the cabinet in the next two-and-a-half years," said Yudhoyono at Merdeka Palace.

While quick to deny the reshuffle was made under pressure from political parties, the President conceded he "did consult leaders of political parties". "But the final decision was my sole prerogative".

In the face of growing public pressure, Yudhoyono dismissed Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin and State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra. Both were implicated in the transfer of US$10 million linked to former president Soeharto's son Hutomo Mandala Putra.

Transportation Minister Hatta Radjasa, who came in for large amounts of public criticism following a string of transportation disasters, will replace Yusril.

Communications and Information Minister Sofyan Djalil was also reassigned as state minister for state enterprises, replacing Soegiharto. Replacing Sofyan is Muhammad Nuh, former rector of the Surabaya Institute for Technology.

In the place of Hamid Awaluddin is seasoned Golkar Party politician Andi Matallatta.

Muhammad Lukman Edy, current secretary general of the National Awakening Party (PKB), was appointed state minister for the development of disadvantaged regions to replace Syaifullah Yusuf, who recently broke ranks with the PKB and joined the United Development Party.

Another new member of the cabinet is Jusman Syafei Djamal, former president of the state-owned aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia and present member of the National Transportation Safety and Security Evaluation Team, who replaces Hatta.

Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh is replaced by Hendarman Soepandji, a career prosecutor who is currently junior attorney general for special crimes. His team successfully built a graft case against former National Logistics Agency head Widjanarko Puspoyo.

The President postponed making decision on ailing Home Affairs Minister Muhammad Ma'ruf.

The reshuffle was made after days of deliberation by the President. Over the weekend the President held interviews with cabinet members at his private residence in Cikeas, West Java.

On Monday, Yudhoyono spoke to the soon-to-be-dismissed ministers at the State Palace.

Sukardi Rinakit, executive director of Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate, described the reshuffle as a victory for Golkar Party.

"It's political trading. Golkar also gets the post of state minister for state enterprises. That's the office where the resources to fund the 2009 elections are," he said.

"The President is appeasing parties to keep his administration stable," he said, adding that the reshuffle did not touch on core problems as no one in the economics team was replaced.

Despite attracting public ire over the Lapindo mudflow case, Coordinating Minister for the People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie's continued presence is proof that Golkar is in control, Sukardi added.

J. Kristiadi, political analyst at the Centre for Strategic International Studies, echoed his sentiments. "There's nothing the public can expect in terms of economic improvement from it," he said. Aburizal's stay in the cabinet, he said, was payback for the tycoon's financial support during the 2004 presidential election.

Second Reshuffle of the United Indonesian Cabinet – New Cabinet Ministers

Hendarman Supandji

Position: Attorney General
Affiliation: Bureaucrat
Born: Jan. 6, 1947, in Klaten, Central Java
Education: Law school at Diponegoro University in Semarang, Central Java (1972)
Career: Deputy Attorney General for Special Crimes (April 2005- present)
Marital Status: Married to Dr. Sri Kusumo Amdani

Muhammad Lukman Edy

Position: State Minister for Disadvantaged Regions
Affiliation: National Awakening Party (PKB)
Born: Nov. 26, 1970, in Teluk Pinang, Riau
Education: Master's degree in public administration from Padjadjaran University in Bandung, West Java, and doctoral degree in sociology of politics at Malaya University in Malaysia.
Career: Businessman; chairman of the Riau branch of PKB; secretary general of PKB; member of Riau's Regional Legislative Body (DPRD, 1999-2005).
Marital Status: Married to Gustini Zuliaty with three children.

Andi Mattalata

Position: Justice and Human Rights Minister Affiliation: Golkar Party
Born: Sept. 30, 1952, in Bone, South Sulawesi
Education: School of Law at Hasanuddin University in Makassar, South Sulawesi; master's degree in law from University of Indonesia in Jakarta (1984)
Career: Legislator, lecturer at Hasanuddin University Marital
Status: Married to Andi Kusumawaty, with four children

Jusman Syafii Djamal

Position: Transportation Minister
Affiliation: Bureaucrat
Born: July 28, 1954, in Langsa, East Aceh Education: School of Mechanical Engineering, majoring in aeronautics at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB, 1982).
Career: With state-owned aircraft company PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) since 1982, with last position as president director (2000-2002).
Marital Status: Married to Arita, with three children

Muhammad Nuh

Position: Communication and Information Minister
Affiliation: Academic
Born: June 17, 1959, in Surabaya, East Java
Education: Doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from Universite Science et Technique du Languedoc, Montpellier, France.
Career: Rector of Surabaya Institute of Technology (ITS, 2003- 2006).
Marital Status: Married to dentist Laily Rachmawati, with one daughter.

Moving Posts

Sofyan A. Djalil

New position: State Minister for State Enterprises
Old position: Communications and Information Minister

Hatta Radjasa

New position: State Secretary/Minister
Old position: Transportation Minister

New jobs for some, court for others

Jakarta Post - May 8, 2007

Jakarta – While some ministers are preparing for their new positions in cabinet, former justice and human rights minister Hamid Awaluddin is in a slightly different position.

Shortly after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced his new cabinet lineup, the Jakarta Police announced plans to summon Hamid for questioning.

Jakarta Police Detective Chief Sr. Comr. Carlo Brix Tewu said Monday that Hamid would be questioned over perjury in an anti- graft trial. "He is no longer a minister, so we no longer need a permission from the President to question him." Carlo told reporters.

Hamid is alleged to have lied under oath in the corruption trial of former General Elections Commission member Da'an Dimara. Da'an was sentenced to four years and fined Rp 200 million (US$22,222), although the court found he was not directly involved in the procurement of ballot papers for the 2004 general election.

Other former ministers appears to be luckier than Hamid.

Former State Minister for State-owned Enterprises Soegiharto said that he would return to his life as a professional. Prior to joining Yudhoyono's cabinet, Soegiharto was financial director of the country's oil giant Medco. He is also a commissioner of a number of financial institutions. Soegiharto, however, said he would accept any new position that offered by Yudhoyono in the near future.

A similar statement was made by Abdul Rahman Saleh, who learned of his dismissal from the position of attorney general through a hand-written letter from the President.

"Let's see what the position is. But he (Yudhoyono) said that my integrity will make me suitable for the new post," Abdul Rahman told reporters after meeting with Yudhoyono on Monday.

Abdul Rahman said that one of reasons Yudhoyono had given for replacing him was the immense pressure that had been put upon him while in office. "You see, I lost eight kilograms during my stint as attorney general," Abdul Rahman said, chuckling, although reports said that he had been upset about his dismissal.

Former state secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra was offered a new post as ambassador to Malaysia but reportedly turned down the offer, saying that he felt the new position was akin to a consolation prize. Yusril declined to attend a meeting with Yudhoyono on Monday, in which the President was expected to explain the reason for his dismissal.

Former state minister for the development of disadvantaged regions Syaifullah Yusuf said that he was fully aware that he did not have enough political backing to support his position in Yudhoyono's cabinet. "Therefore, I can accept the reason for my dismissal," he told private television station RCTI hours after Yudhoyono made the announcement.

Yudhoyono has started a new tradition of giving new posts to ministers who terms ended before their limit of five years. Most former ministers in his United Indonesia cabinet were given ambassadorial posts.

Following the first cabinet shuffle in October 2005, former coordinating minister for people's welfare Alwi Shihab was named outgoing Ambassador for Middle Eastern Affairs while former finance minister Jusuf Anwar was appointed Ambassador for Japan and the Asian Development Bank.

House slams government on Munir, mudflow cases

Jakarta Post - May 8, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – The House of Representatives urged the government Monday to resolve the murder case of human rights campaigner Munir, to finalize financial compensation for mudflow victims in Sidoarjo and to review the final examination system for high school seniors.

During the fourth session of the 2006-2007 sitting period, House Speaker Agung Laksono particularly said the government was not doing enough to solve Munir's case or to compensate Sidoarjo villagers.

But President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did not mention either issue, said National Police chief Gen. Sutanto and State Minister for Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman after an evaluation Sunday ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle.

Golkar Party member Agung said the resolution of Munir's murder was a test of Indonesia's law enforcement – a political hotbox for which Yudhoyono says he has much passion. "The sooner this case is resolved, (the sooner) we can avoid international intervention," Agung said.

A staunch critic of the country's military, Munir was poisoned during his flight to Amsterdam on a Garuda Indonesia plane in September 2004. With regard to the Sidoarjo mudflow, the House said the issue was attracting more and more attention, which was being exacerbated by PT Lapindo Brantas Inc.'s reluctance to properly compensate thousands of victims or pay for destroyed infrastructure.

Lapindo is a consortium that was undergoing gas exploration works in Sidoarjo. It has been alleged Lapindo caused the underground gas leak which triggered the mudflow almost a year ago. The mudflow has not stopped and the disaster has forced thousands to leave the area.

The gas company is affiliated with Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie who is a businessman and high- profile member of Vice President Jusuf Kalla's Golkar Party.

"(The issue of compensation has gone) beyond Lapindo's ability to settle," Agung said. "The government must take a more significant role to rescue the people in the area."

The House also said the government's decision to maintain the national exams as the only determination for students' graduation from their final year of high school was in fact illegal.

"Law No. 20/2003 on National Education System says students' evaluation is made by educators to review the progress and improvement of students continuously," Agung said. "So making the national exams the only determining factor for graduation is against the law."

Many have criticized the government's current exam policy because it does not cater for the varying and unavoidable degrees of education across the country.

During the next month and before going into recess again on July 21, the House is set to complete deliberating 15 laws, many of which will focus on regional divisions, freedom to access public information, a pilgrimage system, taxation and limited enterprises.

In this session the House will also start the preliminary talks on the draft 2008 state budget bill and will commence ratifying the extradition and defense treaties with Singapore.

The House is also waiting for a set of four bills on politics, including bills on elections and political parties.

While the government is holding the House up – Agung hopes to complete processing the bills before the year's end so members of the General Elections Committee (KPU) can be selected to organize the 2009 legislative and presidential elections.


New roles, ranks for TNI officers

Jakarta Post - May 8, 2007

Jakarta – The Indonesian Military (TNI) announced Monday a series of internal reshuffles affecting 42 high-ranking officers in the TNI and its three branches.

The spokesman for the TNI headquarters, Col. Ahmad Yani Basuki, said in a media statement that the reshuffle includes 29 officers changing roles while retaining their current ranks and the promotion of 12 officers to higher ranks. "Marine Corps commandant Maj. Gen. Safzen Noerdin will swap roles with Navy inspector general Maj. Gen. Nono Sampono," Ahmad said.

The chief of staff of the Army Strategic Reserve Command's 2nd Infantry Division, Brig. Gen. Zahari Siregar, will commence a new role as chief of the TNI's Peacekeeping Mission Center.

Those being promoted include the chief of the Army Psychology Center, Brig. Gen. Heriyono, who will be appointed as coordinator of expert staff to the Army chief of staff, replacing Maj. Gen. Johnny Wahab who is scheduled to retire from the service.

The other reshuffle - picking the new head of TNI

Jakarta Post - May 7, 2007

Imanuddin Razak, Jakarta – While the nation is eagerly waiting for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to announce his limited cabinet shuffle, a no less important change could also be made in the new future – some alterations to the Indonesian Military (TNI) leadership. Why is it no less important?

The post of TNI chief is indeed a strategic one, although administratively the military is under the Defense Ministry. But politically the President has final say, upon receiving the recommendation of the House of Representatives, on who will be the next TNI chief.

And by having the TNI chief at his side, the President can at least enjoy the military's support and have a secured position at least until he completes his five-year term in 2009. Loyal support from the TNI could also assure Yudhoyono further success if he seeks reelection in 2009.

The next question that needs to be asked, however, is whether now is a good time to announce changes in the TNI leadership. The answer could be simple or complicated.

Incumbent TNI chief Air Chief Marshall Djoko Suyanto will be 57 in December, two years past the mandatory retirement age. The President also has only seven more months to reinstall Suyanto, according to the 2004 Indonesian Military Law. He could also delay appointing a new chief until Suyanto retires in December.

But there is the danger that a few more months in waiting could have the potential to cause problems within and among the three wings of the military – the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

A few more months in office for Suyanto could affect organization and career development plans at TNI headquarters, and in the three branches.

A number of senior generals at TNI headquarters and in the three branches may well have to retire in seven months without being promoted, resulting a trickle down affect through the lower ranks.

And if the President does eventually decide to replace Suyanto, he will have to consider one tricky factor – whether to stay with the agreed rotational system used for the TNI leadership or put more weight on the political considerations of appointing a new TNI chief.

If the rotational system is upheld, the its next leader should come from the Navy. But again, the President must consider the age of the incumbent Navy chief, Adm. Slamet Soebijanto, who will be 56 this June, leaving him with just one year in office.

And the President cannot turn to other Navy high-ranking officers whose ranks are lower than Soebijanto just because he wants to have a TNI chief serving longer than a year.

All of this is because Article 13 of the 2004 law states that to be eligible for the post of TNI chief, officers must have served at least as a chief of staff in any of the three military forces.

Or, if the President would like more political consideration in appointing the new TNI chief, he could turn to the Army.

Paragraph 4 of the same Article 13 of the 2004 law states: "the post of the TNI Commander could be subsequently held by the chiefs of staff of the three branches of the military". This means that the rotation system is not completely binding and could be set aside in accordance with the current sociopolitical situation.

And if that is really the case, the most likely candidate for the post is current Army Chief of Staff Gen. Djoko Santoso, a 1975 graduate of the Military Academy.

Being the youngest of the current three chiefs of staff, Santoso's appointment would also help smooth regeneration and career development in the military. By appointing Santoso, the President would also open the path for younger Army generals to fill the post.

Among the candidates widely tipped to replace Santoso are the current chief of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad), Lt. Gen. Erwin Sudjono, a brother-in-law of President Yudhoyono and a 1975 graduate of the Military Academy, and incumbent Secretary General of the Defense Ministry Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, a 1974 graduate of the academy.

Also included in the list are Yudhoyono's classmates in the 1973 class of the academy – incumbent TNI Chief of Staff for General Affairs Lt. Gen. Endang Suwarya and incumbent Deputy Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herry Tjahjana.

The President already has this information. The only thing he has to do is to carefully and cleverly choose the most acceptable and reliable candidate to support his political ambition and career.

 Opinion & analysis

Wolfowitz's tenure in Indonesia eyed

Associated Press - May 4, 2007

Robin McDowell, Jakarta – The controversy surrounding World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz spotlights a lack of ethics that was apparent two decades ago when he was US ambassador to Indonesia, say critics who recall how he failed to speak out against corruption and rights abuses.

Today, as head of the bank, Wolfowitz has been arguing that corruption is crippling the world's poorest nations. But that was "the very thing he closed his eyes to" when he served as ambassador from 1986 to 1989 during the regime of the dictator Suharto, said pro-democracy activist Binny Buchori. "He's a hypocrite," she said. "He should quit."

Wolfowitz is fighting for his job after disclosing that he helped arrange a promotion and raises for his girlfriend Shaha Riza soon after taking over the bank's helm in 2005. Wolfowitz says he is the victim of a smear campaign and has refused to resign.

But Jeffrey Winters, a professor of political economy at Northwestern University, said that Wolfowitz's past career already showed he was ill fit to run the World Bank. "From the very beginning, I felt this was the wrong person for the job," said Winters.

He pointed to the radical deregulation of Indonesia's banking sector in 1988, promoted by Wolfowitz's economic team and international lenders. It "opened the floodgates for local crony conglomerates to set up private banks and take in deposits from a trusting public."

With no rule of law, there was no oversight and no supervision, he said. "The foxes were running wild in the financial chicken coop and no one, including Wolfowitz, pressured the Indonesians to design safeguards to protect the public's deposits," he said. One result was the 1997-98 financial crisis "that plunged tens of millions into abject poverty."

Suharto, who ruled for 32 years, was toppled in 1998 by pro- democracy demonstrations. The former dictator's family has been accused of embezzling an estimated $35 billion in state funds during his regime, according to corruption watchdog Transparency International. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed under the dictator's brutal reign.

Supporters say Wolfowitz pushed quietly for economic and political reforms. One example: a call for greater openness at his farewell speech at Jakarta's American Cultural Club in 1988.

"I wouldn't say it was brave, after all he was moving on," said James Castle, a former head of the American Chamber of Commerce, adding that the comments would also have need Washington's approval. "But he was the first ambassador to challenge the Suharto government, and that speech became quite famous." Others say he helped fight the Suharto regime in subtle ways.

"It seemed like he was hugging a dictator, but he was actually supporting us," said Bambang Harymurti, editor of the hard- hitting magazine, Tempo, noting that "persons non grata with the government" were often invited to embassy receptions.

"Sometimes it would be a small gathering, and Paul would have someone like me sitting next to a military general," Harymurti said with a chuckle. "In this way he sort of empowered the pro- democracy activists."

But critics said Woflowitz's actions were too little, too late. "Wolfowitz never criticized human rights issues, let along corruption," said Asmara Nababan, executive director of the pro- democracy research institute, Demos. By staying silent, he "was saying 'don't worry about your domestic problems, America is here to back you.'"

[Associated Press reporters Zakki Hakim and Irwan Firdaus contributed to this report from Jakarta.]

Freedom ain't free

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 3, 2007

Journalists in Indonesia have every right to rejoice today on World Press Freedom Day. After nine years of political reform, Indonesia has one of the most liberal laws in Asia when it comes to dealing with the press. Granted it's not perfect. Generally speaking, observance of the press law is largely still left wanting. But we should be thankful nevertheless for what we have achieved, as we continue our struggle to ensure that this freedom is complete and sustainable.

The press in Indonesia has come a long way from the Soeharto years when it was forced to exercise self-censorship or face the brutal wrath of the government and the military. Gone are the threats to close down publications, as are the late night phone calls to editors from people in high places "requesting" that publication of certain news or articles be withheld, all in the name of national stability.

Today, Indonesia has a very vibrant media of the sort that characterizes most newly democratized countries. No powerful person, including the elected president, can escape the scrutiny of the intruding media. Scandals, corruption, human rights abuses and other cases of malpractice and bad governance are now daily staples of the Indonesian press.

The press has also changed its role, from acting more as the mouthpiece of the government, to trying to better represent and articulate the aspirations of the people. It has also given a voice to the voiceless by raising awareness about the fate of the weak, the marginalized and minority groups.

Few other countries in Asia can boast of the freedom that their journalists enjoy in going about their profession. Most of Asia remains under strict controlled press regimes. And their press, very much like Indonesia's in the 1990s, cannot function like a normal press in a democratic society.

Leaving aside the imperfections of Indonesia's press freedoms (let the pessimists among us pick them up), we have another cause to celebrate this year: More and more court rulings have gone in favor of press freedom. The dismissals of the cases against Playboy Indonesia magazine, and Rakyat Merdeka Online for republishing a controversial cartoon of Prophet Muhammad, show that the court can stand against the staunchest intimidation and strongly manipulated public opinion to reach the right verdict.

But as we celebrate and count our blessings we should not lose sight of the reason we so passionately fought for the most liberal press law.

The freedom that we have does not come in a vacuum. We operate in a democratic society that has some minimum expectations about the behavior and conduct of its press.

The press in Indonesia, like the press in any democracy, has increasingly been pushed to playing the role of the fourth estate. It is an all-powerful pillar that, unlike the first three, is not subject to periodic elections or control. The press is therefore an all powerful institution that can influence public opinion one way or another.

While it is widely recognized that the press can only perform its democratic role in a free environment, this freedom does not come without conditions. Society giveth and society taketh. In return for freedom, the press must fulfill its responsibilities.

Sadly, we still see plenty of abuse of the freedom given to the press, as well as sloppiness and lack of professionalism in journalism. Increasingly, we hear more and more people are demand some form of press control to be re-imposed.

Accusations that the press has gone overboard with its freedom cannot be lightly dismissed. The press has its failings and shortcomings, and it needs to address these problems before others, possibly the government, impose the limits arbitrarily. We will then be back to where we were a decade ago.

World Press Freedom Day is a time to celebrate as much as to contemplate that this freedom does not come for free. There are obligations placed upon the press, and we have yet to honor them fully.

Indonesia seeks lost trillions in Singapore

Asia Times - May 2, 2007

Bill Guerin, Jakarta – Indonesia and Singapore last Friday sealed a bilateral extradition pact, opening the way for Jakarta to apprehend and try the many wayward business people and bankers who allegedly stole untold billions of dollars' worth of assets from the country and parked them in Singapore in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Successive Indonesian administrations have been stymied in their pursuit of footloose white-collar criminals, many of whom Jakarta contends have fled and taken refuge in neighboring Singapore. Singapore has long denied the charges and refused to sign the extradition treaty unless Indonesia agreed to a concomitant defense treaty, which will expand on the previous Military Training Area bilateral arrangement that began in 1995 and ran through 2003.

As part of the deal, Indonesia will provide land, sea and airspace within its jurisdiction for Singapore's land-constrained armed forces to conduct training exercises. Singapore said that treaty-enhanced defense cooperation, frozen since 2003 partly because of the island state's reluctance to sign an extradition treaty, will help both countries cope better with disasters and security threats. More significantly, perhaps, the deal comes as diplomatic ties with Thailand, which has long provided land and space for Singapore to conduct military exercises, have come under severe strain.

The deal represents a diplomatic victory for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had earlier tasked his Attorney General, Abdul Rahman Saleh, to take his high-profile war on graft outside Indonesia and pursue known fugitives abroad. Saleh has followed through by reopening a stalled investigation into crimes linked to the misuse of funds at the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI), which at the height of the 1997-98 crisis disbursed huge amounts of cash to liquidity-starved banks.

In a report commissioned by the House of Representatives, the Supreme Audit Agency found that Rp138 trillion (US$15.2 billion), or nearly 95% of the Rp144.5 trillion the BLBI held at the time in funds, had been channeled by improper procedures and then misused by the recipient banks, including those owned by cronies and relatives of former president Suharto.

The report said bankers had illegally used the money for currency speculation, loans to affiliated business groups, repayment of subordinated loans, and personal securities transactions. Many of those banks were later closed down by the government, while others were taken over by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency. Several of the complicit bankers fled the country and allegedly took up residence in Singapore.

Most wanted list

Indonesian authorities have a list of financial fugitives who they believe fled with their ill-gotten gains to Singapore. Near the top of that list is Bambang Sutrisno, former vice president of the now-defunct Bank Surya, who was tried in absentia and convicted in November 2002 on charges of embezzling Rp1.5 trillion in BLBI funds. He and the bank's former president, Andrian Kiki Ariawan, were both sentenced to life imprisonment.

Sudjiono Timan, former president director of state-owned venture-capital investment company PT Bahana Pembinaan Usaha Indonesia (BPUI), is also believed to be residing in Singapore. He disappeared soon after state prosecutors moved to arrest him at his home after handing down a 15-year prison sentence in a Rp1.1 trillion corruption case where he allegedly channeled state funds to Suharto's cronies.

Backed by the Finance Ministry and Bank Indonesia, the investment company had run up debts of more than $1 billion owed by various corruption-tainted tycoons. Apparently among them was Agus Anwar, the former owner of Bank Pelita and Bank Isitimarat, who stands accused by state prosecutors of embezzling Rp3.2 trillion in state funds, including Rp700 billion from BPUI. He, Indonesian prosecutors contend, was granted Singaporean citizenship in late 2003.

Not all the fugitive cases are linked to the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, however. Maria Pauline Lumowa, owner of PT Gramarindo Mega Indonesia, is the suspected mastermind of a Rp1.7 trillion letters-of-credit scam run through state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia between December 2002 and July 2003, according to state prosecutors. She fled to Singapore before her trial, they say.

Irawan Salim, former president director of Bank Global, is suspected of involvement in the issuance of fictitious loans and bonds worth at least Rp830 billion. He fled Indonesia in December 2004 just days before the bank was closed and, according to various news reports, has been sighted in Singapore. Another fugitive, Lidia Mochtar, is wanted over the alleged embezzlement of Rp202.8 billion from Bank Tamara and is likewise believed to be living in Singapore, according to Indonesian prosecutors.

All told, white-collar Indonesian fugitives have allegedly spirited billions of dollars' worth of assets out of the country. Indonesia's Financial Transactions Report and Analysis Center last year cited reports from the country's embassy in Singapore that at least 200 debtors who owe money to the state had been sighted in the island state since Suharto's 1998 downfall.

Some of Indonesia's best-known tycoons, who at least so far are not linked to any criminal investigations, owe massive amounts of money to Indonesian financial institutions but continue to live the high life in Singapore, prosecutors say. Vast amounts of legitimate funds were also parked in Singaporean banks by Indonesian business people who fled the violence against the country's ethnic-Chinese minority in May 1998.

Mushrooming millionaires

Yudhoyono's government has since launched a charm offensive to try to woo the money back to what his officials pitch as a more politically and economically stable Indonesia. According to a statement issued last October by US investment bank Merrill Lynch, Indonesians based in Singapore own assets worth $87 billion – or an aggregate wealth equivalent to some Rp850 trillion – or, in comparative terms, Rp200 trillion more than the Rp650 trillion annual national budget spent by the government for Indonesia's 228 million population.

Singapore's US-dollar-denominated millionaire population is growing faster than anywhere else in the world, with about 55,000 of them in a population of about 4.5 million. About one-third of Singapore's known millionaires are Indonesian nationals, many of whom reportedly have recently been granted Singaporean citizenship. Singapore allows permanent-residency status to Indonesians – and any other foreigners – who deposit the equivalent of Rp45 billion in a Singaporean bank.

Those hefty cash inflows, which have given the island state's financial services sector a big lift, had to Jakarta's mind made Singaporean officials reluctant to agree to the proposed extradition treaty. In a tit-for-tat response, Indonesia this year slapped a ban on exports of sand to Singapore – which the island state uses in reclamation and construction projects – for its perceived foot-dragging on the extradition issue.

"Singapore often says there's so much corruption in Indonesia," said Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla in a February interview. "But when we want to work together on combating corruption, they don't want to."

Some in Singapore, on the other hand, wonder whether extradited Chinese-Indonesians would receive a fair trial from the country's notoriously pliable judiciary. They note that corruption charges still must be proved and any case will have to be legally airtight to secure an extradition order in Singapore, which can only be approved by a magistrate there and only if the request complies with every detail of Singapore's Extradition Act.

For Yudhoyono, the extradition treaty has significant political implications. As a new general-election season approaches, failure to net at least some of the most wanted BLBI suspects would represent a significant setback for his government's high- profile anti-graft drive – which is viewed by many Indonesians as one of the strongest points of his three-year-old presidency.

Yet it's not clear that the extradition treaty with Singapore will be the silver bullet his administration desires. Nobody will be extradited until the extradition and accompanying bilateral defense agreements have been ratified by Indonesia's House of Representatives. Several opposition legislators have slammed the defense treaty in broadcast and print media interviews, saying Indonesia had "given away too much" in defense concessions for what could prove to be a toothless extradition treaty.

Indeed, even if the treaty passes Parliament, it may prove more symbolic than substantive in retrieving lost trillions of rupiah-denominated state funds. Political analysts note that those on the lam in Singapore still have plenty of time to weigh their options and consider taking their ill-gotten gains to a third welcoming country. Singapore's founding father and mentor minister Lee Kuan Yew has already insinuated as much. "It's laughable. Do you believe that any Indonesian who was likely to be extradited would be here at all?" he was last week reported as saying.

[Bill Guerin, a Jakarta correspondent for Asia Times Online since 2000, has been in Indonesia for more than 20 years, mostly in journalism and editorial positions. He specializes in Indonesian political, business and economic analysis, and hosts a weekly television political talk show, Face to Face, broadcast on two Indonesia-based satellite channels. He can be reached at softsell@prima.net.id.]

National uneducated day

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 2, 2007

If citizens really had a choice, they would likely send their children to schools that do not follow the national curriculum. This would protect their children from exposure to what experts have referred to as a large waste of time, culminating in the recently concluded absurdity that are the national exams.

This is what we have to show on National Education Day, which falls on the birthday of renowned educator Ki Hajar Dewantara. Teachers in Medan, North Sumatra, seeking protection from the national human rights body after going public about colleagues helping students cheat on the national exams. In Padang, West Sumatra, 78 students walking out of the exams after witnessing teachers slipping notes into the pockets of students, who also wrote down answers scribbled on toilet walls.

This annual parade of dishonesty by teachers will occur again next year and the year after that. The main reason being that all schools want students to graduate, at any cost, even if they are poorly equipped to meet the benchmarks set in the capital.

Despite repeated arguments that evaluating students should be left to the educators who most understand them, the bureaucrats remain adamant about keeping their hold over education.

Officials keep defending the national exam system, yet we do not have better qualified students. Not surprisingly, the country's "top" institutions never rank in international – no, try regional – education lists.

The national exams are just one on a long list of chronic problems in our national education system, all of which point to our love of showing off and of symbols.

Do our officials have any reason to be proud of the system each time Indonesian students win academic competitions such as the Physics Olympiad? As the public has come to know, we owe such successes more to the hard work of the organizers-cum-science educators who nurture the students' excitement about physics.

In a picture that appeared in this newspaper the other day, an official was grinning as he displayed textbooks that had been seized in Kupang because of their "communist" content.

It seems there are better things officials could be doing with their time than worrying about pictures of Russia's Mikhail Gorbachev.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court again underlined that under the Constitution a mandatory 20 percent of the state budget must be set aside for education.

Never mind whether the court really has the power to mandate that 20 percent of this year's state budget be allotted for education; the decision was met with a common shrug from officials and a public that knows such a bold move will never come to pass. A shrug that takes for granted the national failure to go beyond bold words and actually invest in educating our children.

Listen to the flimsy praise offered by Education Minister Bambang Sudibyo for this year's "improved" conduct of the national exams. Not that regional disparities were taken into account, or the scores of schools where teachers are not even basically equipped to prepare students for the English and math sections of the exam.

In an era recognizing autonomy – and hence the crippling potential of centralization – the government still finds it best to cling to uniformity, the simple solution of the old. Idealistic educators continue to remind us the true goal of education is the molding of both intellect and character.

Many know by heart the three principles of education, voiced by the above Ki Hajar Dewantara: to give guidance, to encourage initiative and to provide an example. Ironically, these words merely join all the others our children must memorize, just in case the question comes up on the exam.

Nothing to celebrate

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 1, 2007

Workers and trade unions in Indonesia have nothing to celebrate on Labor Day today. Job prospects have become gloomier and gloomier as more companies have turned to less labor-intensive operations and new investors prefer to wait on the sidelines because of what they regard as to rigid labor regulations.

With more than 11 million unemployed, some 30 million under- employed, thousands more in the financial service industry facing the threat of massive layoffs and some 2.5 million new job seekers entering the labor market each year, the outlook is not good. Most analysts forecast annual economic growth of 6.5-7 percent is needed to make a significant dent into the country's huge unemployment, but actual economic expansion over the past two years has only been around 5.5 percent.

Even more discouraging is that the government has no plans to amend the 2003 labor law, succumbing to the threats by agitating trade union leaders who have steadfastly opposed any amendments to make the rules more flexible. The government instead is only drafting a regulation to ease some of the "too rigid" provisions in the 2003 Labor Law.

The government and trade union leaders may not realize it but the too rigid labor regulations have cost the economy a chance to woo foreign investments badly needed to improve the crumbling infrastructure and tap the country's vast natural resources to generate jobs.

The recent enactment of a unified investment law, though greatly welcomed by foreign businesspeople, may yet fall short of what is needed to regain investor confidence as the labor law has been proving a major deterrent to investors.

Most damaging are the requirements that dismissed workers in all industries, both foreign and locally owned, receive up to nine times their monthly salary in severance pay. Yet more ridiculous, even employees who quit are entitled to payouts. No wonder severance pay in the country is 10 times costlier than in India, three times more than in Malaysia and Bangladesh and China and two times more than in Thailand.

These labor issues add to Indonesia's investor woes including poor infrastructure, extensive government corruption, an unreliable judiciary and arduous licensing procedures.

Workers do need protective labor regulations because the market cannot always strike a good balance between the interests of workers and employers who often oppose each other. But overly protective regulations could debilitate growth in the formal- sector employment that accounts only for around 65 percent of the total employment.

Workers need markets to expand jobs available to them but they also need effective regulations to set in place labor policies, which are able to deliver high, job-creating economic growth and to provide a strong framework in which wages and fair working conditions can be set.

But too repressive labor policies as those imposed under Soeharto's authoritarian regime would result in worker exploitation, widening income inequality at the expense of social cohesion and political stability. On the other hand, a free- wheeling labor market or too flexible labor regulations will never work in the interest of workers

Amendments to the labor regulations certainly should strike a good balance between the objectives of spurring new investment to create jobs and protecting basic worker rights as well as ensuring as high worker welfare as possible within Indonesian condition. Too rigid labor regulations will further dampen the demand for workers in the already glutted labor market.

Why do businesses need more flexible labor rules? Because companies now have to face a steadily-changing economic condition with its different affects on the various sectors in which businesses operate. Easing the regulations will thus provide more flexibility in the hiring of contract-based workers and outsourcing to enable companies to adapt to changes in the economic condition, which are the only certainty now in the business scheme of things.

A more flexible labor market could also be an incentive for workers to continue investing in their social capital and life- long learning in the competition for better jobs

Reducing the burdens on employers related to layoff and transferring the bulk of the burden to the state-run workers social insurance company PT Jamsostek could be a win-win solution to the current deadlock over the amendments of the labor regulations. Such arrangements would be able to put more workers in the informal sector which are currently not protected by the labor law into the Workers' Social Insurance Scheme

Such flexibility however will be effective only when all companies join the social insurance scheme by registering all their employees with Jamsostek and pay all the dues and contribution related to the labor insurance scheme.

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