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Indonesia News Digest 23 – June 15-22, 2007

News & issues

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 News & issues

Indonesia: 'The people want fundamental change'

Green Left Weekly - June 20, 2007

Green Left Weekly's Vannessa Hearman spoke to Agus Jabo, chairperson of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas), in Jakarta about the new party's campaign plans and its defence against ongoing attacks from right-wing organisations.

What are your hopes for the 2009 presidential and general elections?

The Indonesian people want fundamental change. Since the fall of the New Order regime [in 1998], with four changes of presidents, Indonesia is still without economic and political sovereignty. This is the root of the problem of why the welfare of the people is still far from their hopes.

The government led by [President] Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and [Vice-President] Jusuf Kalla had a significant mandate from the people, as it was elected through the first direct presidential elections. They committed the error of siding with foreign capital and its interests, rather than choosing to defend the interests of the people by formulating people-friendly programs and constructing a strong and independent national economy. This meant the people lost confidence and hope in the current government and the parties that support this government.

There is still a low level of education in Indonesia, which influences the level of consciousness of the people. They continue to patiently tolerate the current situation and not carry out massive national resistance. But this may not necessarily continue, and at some stage there could be an explosive resistance against the rulers. These are the objective conditions facing whatever new political forces are able to carry forth the hopes of the people towards a new alternative party that can gain mass support.

How is Papernas's electoral preparation going?

We are at the stage of constructing and expanding the support of the people, by building regional party structures, at the level of the province, district and city, subdistrict and down to the mass bases. We are sending our cadres to the regional areas that we are targeting.

Are the recent attacks against Papernas meetings and other events by anti-communist groups a significant barrier for the party in its electoral registration preparations?

The most significant obstacle to us becoming a registered political party is the law on political parties. The draft form of the law shows that the political aim of the state (reflected in the attitude of the major parties in parliament) is to limit the number of political parties and in turn, limit the political participation of the people by making the requirements more onerous. Political parties that are legal entities – that is, recognised by the government through a verification process by the department of legal affairs and human rights – must fulfill the requirement of having a certain number of branches.

Under the old political party law, a party was recognised if it had branches in at least half of the provinces and half of the districts. The new law, currently before the House of Representatives, stipulates that there must be branches in 66% of provinces, 50% of sub-districts and 75% of districts. It also requires that parties provide an upfront 5 billion Rupiah [A$650,000] deposit to run in elections.

With this new law, only the ruling parties can continue. People who want to be involved in politics are then forced to be members of the large parties, even though the people are very well aware that the large parties, in the time they have been in office, have proven themselves unable to bring about the economic or political change that has been longed for by the people.

The government's attempts to shape people's political aspirations into three broad streams – like under the New Order where only three political parties were allowed – is in keeping with the aim of achieving as quickly as possible a stable political system for the sake of attracting and protecting foreign investment. Doing so will sacrifice the meaning and process of democracy in a large and pluralist country like Indonesia. This kind of action just repeats the past historical mistake of constructing "democracy" in a way not in keeping with the objective conditions of Indonesian society. If this continues, it will just be a time bomb threatening the political life of this nation.

We are working together with new political parties and parties that did not meet the electoral threshold to fight together against these draft laws, because they threaten the future of democracy in this country.

So the terror actions against us from reactionary groups like the Islamic Defenders Front are just secondary barriers, compared to those we face under the law on political parties. The communist accusation is like an old song sung over and over again by the New Order government. It doesn't have a lot of currency anymore as a political instrument with which to intimidate the people. People will be more frightened of their future being devoid of guarantees of any welfare.

What steps has Papernas taken to defend the party from the right-wing attacks?

We have had experience in confronting these kinds of political attacks since the time of the Suharto dictatorship. Such acts of terror are threats to democracy and we will never retreat in the face of such attacks until the Indonesian people have economic, political and cultural sovereignty, free from the domination of foreign capital.

The most important steps are consolidating and safeguarding our bases and people. Other than trying to foster and expand our network of allies, we also need to explain to the people what our program represents. We also use all the means at our disposal, for example reporting these attacks, which are criminal and anti-democratic acts, to the police.

Do you know who is behind these attacks?

Those backing these radical Islamic and anti-communist groups are forces who feel threatened by Papernas's program. The most urgent priorities in our program are represented by the Tri Panji – the three banners of national unity for the welfare of the people. These are abolishing the foreign debt, nationalising the mining industry and constructing a strong national industry.

What will you do if Papernas doesn't achieve registration for the 2009 elections?

For us, the elections are just a tactic in the struggle to liberate the Indonesian people. There are many other tactics we can also use – of course keeping in mind the objective conditions and what the people's desires are. The elections will still be an important tactic in the context of a people's movement that is on the decline, so we will work with other political parties that have similar political positions to us – that is a program of national self-sufficiency – to respond to the election law so that we can take part in elections and have a real chance of winning in parliament and in the regional parliaments.

When we first founded Papernas, we only had 40 branches in 18 provinces, but four months later, we have 134 definite branches in 23 provinces with hundreds of bases at the sub-district level. People are bored with the big political parties, and based on a recent survey by an independent research institute, almost 70% of those surveyed said they did not identify as members of any political party. That is, the majority of Indonesian people are still a big "floating mass" [the "floating mass" doctrine was enacted by the New Order government, prohibiting political party activities at the local level]. So if there appears a new political force that can really struggle for the people's interests, it could win. That points the way for a new political force like Papernas.

Western-style democracy not suitable for Indonesia: Kalla

Jakarta Post - June 19, 2007

Jakarta – Vice President Jusuf Kalla has reiterated his wariness toward the application of Western-style democracy in Indonesia.

Speaking before a visiting delegation from the Netherlands-based Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) on Monday, Kalla said the application of Western democracy in Indonesia would create injustice and inequality.

"Western-style democracy, such as that in Europe or the United States, can't just easily be applied here. It has to be made suitable to the conditions and culture of Indonesia," Kalla was quoted as saying by Golkar Party Central Board member Rully Chairul Azwar.

Kalla also said that democracy should not be seen as an end in itself but as a means to achieve prosperity, and that democracy in Indonesia was more advanced than the form applied in the Netherlands. The NIMD delegation was led by the institute's chairman, former Dutch prime minister Ben Bot.

Also present at the meeting were Indonesian Community for Democracy (KID) chairman Ignas Kleden, KID secretary Daniel Sparingga and Golkar Party secretary general Budi Harsono.

With funding from NIMD, KID recently facilitated the establishment of a forum called the Indonesian Political Parties Dialog Community to promote democratic values in the country.

After the meeting, Bot was quoted by Antara as saying that NIMD's presence in Indonesia is not aimed at strengthening the party system, as this depends on the will of political parties themselves.

He said his organization aimed to encourage the public to take part in the application of democratic principles.

Kalla has repeatedly stated that the application of democracy in Indonesia has been too excessive and has hampered the country's economic growth. He said the excess of democracy in the country has materialized in street rallies and riotous House of Representatives sessions.

The Vice President's latest comments echo those of former dictator Soeharto and former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who said that Eastern societies have their own versions of democracy which uphold harmony and consensus.

These so-called "Asian values" withered away following the 1998 Asian economic crisis that led to the downfall of a selection of authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia.


Skeletal remains found buried in building owned by Exxon Mobil

Aceh Kita - June 21, 2007

Imran, North Aceh – Residents of the Mee village in the sub- district of Syamtalira Aron, North Aceh, have discovered the remains of what they believe to be part of a skeleton of a person killed during the period of conflict. The bones were found in the area of the Surplus Control Project of the Supply Chain Department at Exxon Mobil Indonesia Cluster I on Wednesday June 20. Residents suspect that other victims may also be buried there.

The find was made after information was received from a resident that had once been detained there and a police officer that worked as an Exxon Mobil security officer at the site. In order to confirm the truth of their suspicions, the residents asked for permission to enter the area and search the building. "In the rear was a kind of grave, and it was there that we found the bones", said a resident who declined to give their name.

The skeleton resembled human bones such as an upper arm, ribs and skull. Rasyidin (40), a resident of Tanah Luas sub-district claimed that he had once been locked up in the building for 10 days. He said that he was detained on February 2, 2004, after being accused of being involved with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

During the interrogation, he was repeatedly threatened that if he did not confess he would be killed and buried at the back of the building. "If you want, I'll put you in the grave back there, there are already lots of bodies there", Rasyidin recalled being told. He said that during the detention he often saw pools of blood left over from people being tortured but admitted to never having directly seen the killing of anyone detained there.

The collection of bones has been taken into police custody at the natural gas exploration project security post. Between 1-5pm hundreds of people watched the bones being uncovered from behind the fence.

GAM representative Tengku Amri, who was also present said he came as to act as a mediator between the crowd who wanted to dismantle the suspected grave site after the bones were found by Exxon Mobil security police. "[I] was afraid the situation would get out of control, there would be a clash, I came as a mediator. However we must confirm this and we will dismantle [the building] in order to allay public suspicion", he said.

Speaking on behalf of the North Aceh district police chief, Syamtalira Aron sectoral deputy police commissioner Tirta Nur Alam said that they are currently seeking conformation by bringing in witnesses to ask for clarification about suspicions that there are other graves at the site. "Of course we need witnesses first, because what we want to dismantle is a private house [Exxon Mobil - Ed]", said Nur Alam. [adw]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Acehnese suffer high rates of mental trauma: report

Agence France Presse - June 15, 2007

Jakarta – Civilians in Indonesia's Aceh, which was wracked by a long-running civil conflict, suffer high rates of mental trauma that could trigger more violence, a report said Friday.

The report by the International Organisation for Migration and Harvard University, found that 35 percent of residents surveyed ranked high on symptoms for depression, 10 percent for post- traumatic stress disorder and 39 percent for anxiety.

The report sampled nearly 2,000 residents across 14 of Aceh's 19 districts where a 29-year conflict raged before a peace deal was struck two years ago. More than a quarter were beaten and 38 percent had had a family member or friend killed during the unrest between the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and government forces, the report said, according to an IOM press release.

The affected Acehnese, if left untreated, could possibly be triggers for further violence, the report's authors warned.

"These memories are alive in the community, and they have the tremendous power to reproduce that violence," author Byron Good, from the Harvard's School of Social Medicine, said in the release. "These traumatised individuals can become stressors for the rest of their community."

The report calls on the government to fund mental health services, as well as on the international community involved in Aceh's post-tsunami reconstruction to incorporate psychosocial care as part of their programmes.

"Developing a mental health system that reaches these traumatised individuals, who are often located in remote, widely dispersed villages, is essential for Aceh's future," Good said.

GAM and the government were brought to the peace table in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed 168,000 people in Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

The conflict in Aceh, one of Asia's longest running, claimed at least 15,000 lives. The separatists dropped their claim for independence in return for more autonomy for Aceh under their 2005 peace deal.

Aceh peace threatened by untreated trauma - report

Reuters - June 15, 2007

Jakarta – Many people in Indonesia's Aceh province remain traumatised two years after a peace deal ended almost three decades of war and if left untreated could trigger violence, a report said on Friday.

Some 85 percent of nearly 2,000 people interviewed in 105 villages in the province in the tip of Sumatra island were still plagued by fears and deep insecurity, a survey by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Indonesian government and Harvard Medical School showed.

A peace pact between the government and the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) signed in August 2005 ended a conflict estimated to have killed 15,000 people, most of them civilians.

"I would say broadly the memories of violence that occurred over those years, the memories of injustice is a potent trigger for further violence in the community," Harvard professor Byron J. Good told a news conference.

The World Bank-sponsored report said 35 percent of people interviewed appeared to be suffering from depression, 10 percent had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and 39 percent showed signs of anxiety. Almost three-quarters said they had been exposed to combat, with 28 percent reporting they had suffered beatings and 38 percent that they had lost a friend or a relative in the conflict.

The limited resources of authorities remained a major obstacle to caring for mental health and short-lived programmes run by international groups were doing little to improve the situation, Good said.

The government allocated 250 billion rupiah ($27.65 million) in 2006 to compensate former rebels and help the economy. Billions of dollars of aid money poured into Aceh after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami devastated the province and left some 170,000 missing or dead.

But Patrick Barron of the World Bank said the aid was often not addressing post-conflict recovery. "A large part of the $9 billion aid is dedicated to tsunami recovery and very little to post-conflict rehabilitation," he said.

 West Papua

Papua's rural poor await government initiative

Jakarta Post - June 19, 2007

Jayapura – The governor of Papua, fresh off a tour of remote villages, said past development efforts have failed to lift the majority of rural Papuans out of poverty.

Governor Barnabas Suebu, who visited villages in Supiori, Biak Numfor and Waropen regencies during his two-week tour, said more than 80 percent of people in rural areas were living in absolute poverty.

He said the impression he received during his visits to the villages was that most of the people were unable to fend for themselves, resulting in local administrations being overwhelmed by aid requests.

Suebu said the standard of education in rural areas was far below that in urban areas.

Many schools have just one or two teachers, which means the quality of education and the attention students receive is lacking. He said there were cases of students graduating high school and moving on to Cenderwasih University, but still being unable to write.

Health and nutrition are also major concerns in more remote areas of the province. "That's why we need a program that directly involves people in the villages in order to improve their standard of living," said Suebu.

He said considering Papua's natural wealth, which the governor likened to a "sleeping giant", it was incomprehensible that so many residents were living in poverty.

"The people are sleeping on mountains full of gold and when they die they are buried in earth filled with gold, but they have never benefit from it. Why is this? What has gone wrong? We must answer these questions."

The provincial administration is making efforts to address this problem through its Rural Development Strategic Plan, or Respek. It will allocate funds from its annual budget for the program, which is designed to bring development to previously untouched areas.

Suebu said development must begin in rural areas for a prosperous Papua. He said part of the program is dedicated to tracking true conditions in rural areas, which will help the administration pinpoint needs and problems, and address them more effectively.

The provincial administration will provide each village with Rp 100 million (approximately US$11,100) this year.

During his tour of villages, Suebu said the money should not just be divided among residents, but used to fund village-level development programs.

Half in Papua province unaware of HIV/AIDS, research finds

Associated Press - June 18, 2007

Jakarta – Nearly half the residents of Indonesia's remote Papua province have never heard of HIV/AIDS despite the virus' prevalence there being 15 times the national average, a new internationally funded research report shows.

The lack of knowledge about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases is a major contributor to the burgeoning epidemic in Indonesia's easternmost region, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday. The report urges more money be spent on education programs and condom availability.

The report, which is due to be published later this week, mapped the spread of the disease in Papua, one of the most remote and poorest regions in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago home to some 235 million people.

The study was funded by the World Bank, the U.S government and US nonprofit Family Health International.

Researchers found HIV infection rates in Papua were as high as 3.2 percent in mountainous areas, compared to 1.8 percent in easily accessible low-lying areas, indicating a higher risk in isolated farming communities where education is poorest.

Researchers found 48 percent of Papuans were unaware of HIV/AIDS. That figure rose to 74 percent of those who did not attend or complete elementary school.

HIV prevalence reached 5.6 percent among non-circumcised men in Papua, compared to 1 percent among the circumcised, reinforcing findings of previous international studies that found circumcision reduces the risk of catching the virus.

 Military ties

UK military equipment firms eager to cooperate with RI

Jakarta Post - June 18, 2007

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta – Indonesia's plan to diversify its purchase of military equipment may be realized with British defense companies eyeing Indonesia as a promising market for their products and a potential production base.

A group of British military equipment companies, including VT Shipbuilding, BDL System Limited and Radamec Limited, which visited Indonesia with British warship HMS Monmouth recently, have expressed interest in supplying military equipment to Indonesia's military and police forces as well as building a factory here.

"We are very eager to supply Indonesia with our products as we consider the country an ally, and there have been no concerns over human rights issues during the last several years," Steve Williams, sales and marketing director of BDL System Limited, told The Jakarta Post during a British military exhibition near the HMS Monmouth at the Tanjung Priok port in North Jakarta.

The companies demonstrated the latest shipbuilding technology, explosive-detector equipment, naval telecommunications, radar equipment, sub-marine technology, explosives and light arms at the exhibition.

The companies were also looking further afield during their visit, hoping to forge cooperation with domestic companies to establish a production base in the country.

"We want to sell our ships to Indonesian users. But what we want more is to set up a production base here because our factories in England are at full capacity. We have difficulty building new ships anywhere in England," Sym Taylor, sales director of VT Shipbuilding International, told the Post. He said he is scheduled to talk with several Indonesian companies, including Indonesia's largest ship producer PT PAL, about the possibility of opening a shipbuilding base in Indonesia.

"I think it would benefit Indonesia as a whole because there would be a technology transfer and massive employment opportunities for local people as we intend to bring in only a few English staff," he said.

British Commander in Chief Admiral James Burnell-Nugent, who met with Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, Indonesian Military chief Air Marshall Djoko Suyanto and Navy chief Admiral Slamet Soebijanto during his visit to Indonesia, said Britain and Indonesia have been intensifying military-to-military relations since a visit from Prime Minister Tony Blair to the country last year.

"We've talked about how we can do more to cooperate and train together as well as share ideas and understanding. And whatever the Indonesian armed forces want we are very happy to help with," he told the Post.

British Ambassador to Indonesia Charles Humfrey said Britain would treat Indonesia as it would treat any other friendly country in terms of the export of military equipment. "If Indonesia is interested in purchasing weapons, we're very happy to discuss the matter and sell equipment to Indonesia," he said.

Williams said his company could meet the needs of Indonesian police and security guards at malls and hotels to effectively prevent and fight terrorist acts.

He said the Indonesian Mobile Brigade (Brimob) has used several of his company's products for years. "We provide training so Indonesian users can handle the equipment well," he said. The British government has also offered to provide import credit for Indonesia, Williams said.

Due to the fact many Indonesian inter-island ferries have been involved in accidents caused by out-dated technology in recent years, Leonard B. Whittaker, the chairman of Radamec Limited, has offered to upgrade Indonesian ships with new control systems able to monitor all units in ships and quickly send warnings if something is wrong. "It is more economical than buying new ships," he said.

Williams and Whittaker both guaranteed that British products would be cheaper than products from other countries, including the US.

US considers cut in military aid to Indonesia

ABC News Online - June 14, 2007

The United States House of Representatives is again considering cutting military aid to Indonesia because of its failure to reform its military and to prosecute senior officers for the violence in East Timor in 1999.

Last November the US agreed to resume military ties with Indonesia after 1999's violence in East Timor caused them to be cut.

Indonesia argues that it is making reform progress even though at least 60 per cent of the military's budget still comes from its own businesses.

But our Jakarta correspondent, Geoff Thompson, says failure to prosecute senior military officers, such as former military chief General Wiranto, and other alleged human rights abuses are fuelling a proposal, now being considered by the US House of Representatives, to cut 25 per cent of military aid.

Indonesia is lobbying members of the US house and the Senate and says it remains confident all of $US10 million in promised military aid will be delivered. A final decision is expected in September.

Rights groups concerned

International human rights groups say they are concerned about the Indonesian government's decision to scale back laws restricting the military's business activities.

When Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became President in 2004, the momentum for reform of Indonesia's notorious military, TNI, had already begun.

A month earlier, Indonesia's parliament passed a law banning military commercialism and committing the government to a takeover or dissolution of all military businesses in 2009. The newly-elected president pledged to see the legislation through.

However, Indonesia's defence minister, Juwono Sudarsono, has confirmed this week that according to the government's criteria, only six of 1,500 businesses previously identified as eligible will not be classified as commercial interests. The announcement has disappointed human rights observers, including Charmain Mohamed, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.

She has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program that the military's pursuit of profits has resulted in human rights violations.

"Because they are prioritising profit-seeking over other professional activities, this is actually causing them to commit human rights violations," Ms Mohamed told Radio Australia.

"We did lots of research in South Kalimantan where the military is running cooperatives overseeing illegal coal mining activities.

"Because they are much more focused on trying to control the illegal coal mining industry it's leading them to commit abuses – extorting money, beating people who are illegally mining coal and intimidating them. So profit-seeking is directly causing human rights violations."

Military budget insufficient

Minister Sudarsono says Indonesia's security and defence budget allocation has always been insufficient and the TNI has been involved in business since Indonesia's independence.

Political and security affairs specialist, Kusnanto Anggoro, however, doubts the profitability of TNI businesses and says the government needs another direction. "Lack of a sufficient budget should be compensated with adequate planning for defence," he said.

Charmain Mohamed says the Indonesian government must take control of the military to stop the human rights violations that have resulted from TNI business activities.

"The core problem with addressing impunity is that the civilian government has no control over the military while they do not control their finances," she said.

"The first step will be getting the military out of their own businesses, getting the civilian government fully in control of 100 per cent of the military budget and only that way can you start getting full civilian control and accountability of what the military do. And on this key issue Yudhoyono has clearly failed."

Charge Wiranto or lose military funding: US

The Australian - June 15, 2007

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta – Indonesia faces a return of US military aid restrictions unless it prosecutes the general responsible for Jakarta's bloody withdrawal from East Timor and drastically reforms its armed forces' business arrangements, its parliament has heard.

Washington in 2005 lifted military sanctions imposed after the 1999 withdrawal from East Timor when thousands died at the hands of Indonesian military-trained gangs, even though there has only ever been one successful prosecution in relation to that matter.

Now new curbs are being urged by groups concerned that Jakarta has done far too little to address the culture of impunity in its vast military and the sprawling business empire with which it supplements its 32.6 trillion rupiah ($4 billion) official budget – and from which parliament has ordered it to completely withdraw by 2009.

US Foreign Secretary Condoleezza Rice has argued against the 25 per cent restriction in military aid being considered by Congress that would try to force Jakarta's hand.

Instead, Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono has told parliament Dr Rice suggested three conditions that should be met in order for the full $US8 million ($9.5 million) funding bill – a small part of Washington's proposed $US34.2 billion 2008 foreign aid budget – to pass.

These included the prosecution of former military chief General Wiranto, who presided over the 1999 bloodletting, total reform of Indonesia's military structure, and the reining in of its private business arrangements, which include illegal logging, fishing, sand mining and weapons trading.

But a cocky Mr Sudarsono told parliament he was not concerned that the proposal to withhold $US2 million of the $US8 million in aid would succeed. "There are many US Congress members sympathetic to the TNI (Indonesian military)," Mr Sudarsono said. "We don't need to worry."

TNI spokesman Sagom Tamboen was just as sanguine yesterday, telling The Australian: "If in fact the restrictions are put in place, we believe that the Government will have other options... anyway, we're accustomed to limitations."

As for any prosecutions against General Wiranto, the Indonesia- East Timor Truth and Friendship Commission – on which hopes for effective reconciliation are pinned – has the power to grant complete amnesty to anyone it finds guilty of human rights breaches.

Indonesia's military continues to find itself squirming in the human rights spotlight, with current chief Djoko Suyanto fronting a parliamentary committee this week to answer allegations that the recent shooting deaths of four civilians and an unborn child at the hands of Navy marines were murder.

The dead, including a woman hiding in her kitchen, were killed during a land rights dispute in East Java by what the military has claimed were bullets ricocheting upwards after being fired into soft earth. "I think calling it murder is completely inappropriate," General Suyanto objected.

Thirteen marines are to face trial over the shootings in a military tribunal, but there will be no criminal proceedings.

 Human rights/law

House picks 11 rights commissioners

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2007

Jakarta – The commission overseeing legal and human rights issues at the House of Representatives selected Wednesday 11 applicants for membership of the National Commission for Human Rights from among 43 candidates.

The selections were made after a series of hearings with House Commission III chairman Trimedya Panjaitan, who announced the individuals to serve until 2012.

The new members are M. Ridha Saleh, Abdul Munir Mulkhan, Kabul Supriyadi, Hesti Ariwulan, Ahmad Baso, Saharudin Daming, Ifdhal Kasim, Nur Cholis, Syafruddin Ngulma Simeulue, Yoseph Adi Prasetyo and Johny Simanjuntak.

The House commission agreed that only 11 candidates met the criteria for commissionership in the rights body.

"The eleven were tasked with nominating 48 more candidates from which we will select 24 within two months," Trimedya said after the voting. Meanwhile, transgender candidate Yulianus Rettoblaut received one vote from Nursyahbani Katjasungkana from the National Awakening Party.

Intelligence, state secrecy laws 'need close monitoring'

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – Planned laws on state secrecy and intelligence should include multiple oversight mechanisms and limitations on their scope to maintain the country's commitment to its hard-earned democracy, observers said Wednesday.

The deliberation of the laws, they said, would require significant attention from the public – represented by civil groups and the media – as a failure to do so could see the return of a restrictive regime like that under Soeharto's 32-year reign. During the dictator's New Order era, the freedom of speech was limited as was accessibility to public information, while the unbridled operation of intelligence units led to the coercive stifling of dissenting opinions.

Though still tentative, two intelligence bill drafts drawn up by the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) have attracted criticism for seeking the power to arrest "suspicious" individuals and purchase weapons, including from unscrutinized financial sources.

The state secrecy bill, currently facing the House of Representatives, seeks to exempt various types of information from public access and is seen as counterintuitive to the concept of transparency with civil groups expecting the devil to be in the details.

"Intelligence aims to gather information to be used by the main decision maker, the President, to avoid strategic surprises against the state's security," said Kusnanto Anggoro of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) during a discussion.

He said BIN's chosen approach was to strengthen itself as an institution by increasing its authority and cutting external oversight, not by enhancing its main function of information collection.

"Thus a multi-layered oversight mechanism is very crucial. There should be oversight at the internal level by the ministry that (BIN) operates under, by parliament and by the public. This is where an ombudsman agency and the media check in," Kusnanto said.

Based on presidential instruction, intelligence units were placed under BIN's wing after the 2002 Bali bombings. Last year, Home Minister Moh. Ma'ruf issued a ministerial decree reinstating regional intelligence units.

Legislator Djoko Susilo of House Commission I for defense and information agreed that if excessive authority was given to intelligence units and the information they gathered became unavailable for access, then it would pave the way back to a "closed regime".

"But the thing I must come clean about is that many lawmakers in the commission know absolutely nothing about these issues. Each faction recently submitted a list of identified problems in the state secrecy bill and all they came up with were typo mistakes or wording problems but not the substance," he said.

The chief editor of Tempo magazine, Bambang Harimurti, said the media is key to monitoring excessive powers that could potentially mar democracy in Indonesia.

"Keeping information from the public gives the idea that the public is the enemy," he said, adding that the media plays a significant role in raising public awareness of the dangers of such excessive powers.

Indonesian courts shun reform: Academic

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesia's judicial system is still reluctant to reform itself and is neglecting calls for greater transparency in its court verdicts, a legal expert says.

"The most difficult problem for judicial reform in this country is to change the mindset of those individuals working in the judiciary," the dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Indonesia, Hikmahanto Juwana, told a meeting of donors to the Partnership, a non-governmental organization pushing governance reforms in Indonesia, here Wednesday.

He added: "It's not enough to only reform the structure of the system and it's not enough to only have the regulation. There should be a change of mindset."

He also said technology could be used to electronically record court verdicts to enable the public to easily access them. "Some judges oppose the idea by saying a certain law prohibits them from giving the public access to the verdicts," Hikmahanto said. Some lower-level judiciary staffers also reject the idea because they fear loosing their source of income, he said.

"Students of mine have to pay Rp 250,000 (about US$28) to Rp 500,000 ($56) to obtain a verdict (to read)," he said, adding that even judges must pay to retrieve recorded court verdicts.

Hikmahanto said the shift in mindset should also focus on the recruitment process. "Even up until now, professionals who want to work in the judicial system are being asked to pay to do so."

It has been reported that anyone seeking appointment to a judgeship is required to pay at least Rp 100 million to be made eligible.

Hikmahanto also said the government must be able to pay decent salaries to judges and prosecutors in order to attract high- quality professionals to the sector. "Incentives for those judges that are sent to remote areas are also important.

"Before the reform, the law was marginalized due to the (government's) focus on economic development. So, changing the mindset is very difficult," he said.

Hikmahanto added that judicial reform was arduous because of the common expectation of a "trickle-down effect" from the highest judicial body, the Supreme Court.

A high court in Makassar, South Sulawesi, has, however, initiated mild reforms by uploading its verdicts to its Web site, which, Hikmahanto said, "is a remarkable thing that I cannot find in other high courts".

The Supreme Court began uploading its verdicts at the beginning of this year, according to Wiwiek Awiati, a consultant for the Judicial Reform Team at the Supreme Court.

"However, the problem remains in the lack of funds. The Supreme Court supports this effort to open public access to court verdicts as long as it is financed by individual lower courts," she said.

Wiwiek said the Supreme Court has already formed a task force to formulate a regulation on judicial transparency.

"The progress (of the task force) has reached over 75 percent. In the next two months this regulation will be signed by the chief justice," she said.

"The main spirit of this regulation is that the public should be able to access every court verdict freely." There should not be any additional charges other than copy fees, she added.

The upcoming Supreme Court regulation, according to Wiwiek, will also consider the partial confidentiality rule for verdicts that concern, for example, an individual's privacy, such as verdicts on rape cases.

New truth commission law sought

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2007

Jakarta – Both the government and non-governmental organizations acknowledged Tuesday the need for a new Truth and Reconciliation Commission law that would be focused on the pursuit of justice for victims.

The 2004 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Law was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in December 2006. This decision disbanded the commission and could hinder other human rights efforts in Indonesia.

Director of human rights counseling at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry Mulatingsih said that her office understood the need for a new law on the commission in order to maintain the unity of the state.

"Even though we haven't received a specific order to draft a new regulation for this commission, we have taken the initiative to gather recommendations for drafting the new bill with our colleagues in non-governmental organizations," said Mulatingsih.

She added that the Constitutional Court's ruling on the 2004 law had not stopped the government from continuing its pursuit of justice for human rights abuse victims and for punishment of the perpetrators.

Senior associate of the International Center for Transitional Justice Galuh Wandita said victims had the right to have their good names, status and property restored. Galuh said that justice for the victims was not only about bringing perpetrators to trial or paying a sum of money as compensation.

"We should be creative in imagining the best justice to remedy the plight of the victims," she said. She suggested that any remedy should involve an official apology from the government, an official declaration that restored the victims' rights and a memorial ceremony or erection of a monument recognizing the victims' ordeal.

"The trauma of human rights violations lingers years after the events took place. The state should give victims their rights, which will not fade even after years have passed," said Galuh, citing the case of a victim of sexual slavery in East Timor who had four children from different Indonesian soldiers and was now unable to function due to mental distress from the trauma she endured.

She recommended that the government plan a national reparation program focusing on the most vulnerable victims.

"The program should involve support for the most affected communities, such as disabled persons and widows and children, and a commitment to never commit violence again. Also, 50 percent of the reparation program should prioritize women," said Galuh.

Head of Syarikat Indonesia Imam Aziz said the reconciliation process should also include the reconciliation of ideologies. He said that his organization had revived several traditional cultures which had been stereotyped as communist due to their inherent characteristics.

"Victims of the 1965 tragedy have been stigmatized by the idea that everything about communism is evil. The state should eliminate this stigma, thus rehabilitating their status in society," he said.

He added that religious bodies should be involved in the drafting process and that members of such bodies should be recruited as commission members.

Asmara Nababan, a human rights activist and former member of the National Commission on Human Rights, said that the victims were the ones who should define the meaning of justice for themselves. "Therefore, we should let the victims have their say on this issue. We should find out whether they really need this commission," he said.

Asmara added that the new law should set a time limit for the investigation of past cases by the commission. "In other countries, the time limits for such commissions are clear. I suggest that the time limit in Indonesia be 1959, when we shifted our constitution," he said.

House finally enacts new tax law after two years

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2007

Jakarta – All ten factions in the House of Representatives agreed during a plenary session Tuesday to enact a new Taxation Arrangements and Procedures Law, with the government and lawmakers expressing the hope that it will place taxpayers and the tax service on a more equal footing.

The enactment of the new legislation, which was also witnessed by Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, amends the equivalent law passed in 2000. The new legislation was first introduced to the House in 2005.

Most lawmakers hailed the new law as being "taxpayer-friendly" as it affords greater legal rights to taxpayers, and introduces tougher penalties for tax officials found guilty of misconduct, thus putting the two sides on a more equal footing.

Among the provisions that are said to be "friendly" to taxpayers is one allowing taxpayers appealing assessments to the tax tribunal to first pay the amount they believe they owe based on their own calculations. Under the previous legislation, taxpayers had to pay 50 percent of the tax service's assessment before being allowed to file an appeal.

The new law also mandates the creation of a semi-independent revenue oversight board to oversee the performance of tax officials, while another article provides for fines of up to Rp 50 million (US$5,600), or a year's imprisonment, for disclosing confidential taxpayer information. Minister Mulyani said that these provisions would serve to give taxpayers greater legal standing, while admitting that they could also lead to delays in the collection of tax arrears.

"I don't think there will be any retrenchment in tax revenues. The government has calculated this objectively and carefully. There won't be a loss in revenue, but there could be delays in collection," she explained.

Darmin Nasution, the director general for taxation, also has said that the new pro-taxpayer provisions would not lead to reductions in revenues as the legislation also imposed significant fines on taxpayers who lost their appeals.

Under the new law, if a taxpayer partially or fully loses his appeal before the tribunal, he will have to pay a fine amounting to 50 percent of the total amount of tax owed as determined by the court. The amount of the fine doubles if they further appeal the decision to the high court and still lose.

Mulyani welcomed the mandated establishment of an oversight board. This will be directly accountable to the finance minister, and will oversee the work of tax officials to help minimize abuses. "With this board, we expect to be able to reduce abuses and irregularities in the collection and management of tax revenues," she said.

In 2005, the government submitted the bill on which the new legislation is based as part of a package of three bills on taxation reform. Now that the first of these has been enacted, the House and government will focus on pushing through the remaining two bills – the income tax bill, and VAT and luxury tax bill.

Imparsial pushes military time for military crime

Jakarta Post - June 19, 2007

Jakarta – Members of the House of Representatives are currently deliberating the bill on Military Tribunal but are at odds with a well-known human rights organization over whether soldiers convicted of crimes should serve time in civilian prisons.

"The soldiers have been convicted of felonies and sentenced to more than five years," Chief of the special committee for the Military Court Bill Andreas Pareira told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

"They will not be able to serve the armed forces and so should be discharged to serve their time in civilian prisons," he said. "But if they are sentenced to one year or less... they could stay in a military prison."

But he said usually a felony would mean a longer prison term. "We also have to think about rehabilitation counseling for them."

Andreas said previous discussions between the House and the government had determined counseling was required for soldiers serving time in prison. "The counseling issue is a technical matter and we haven't discussed it much."

Advocacy coordinator for non-government human rights monitor Imparsial Donny Ardyanto said if a soldier was tried in a civilian court and convicted under civilian law, he should serve time in a civilian prison.

"However, if it is a military crime, it should be processed in a military court and the soldier should serve time in a military prison."

After a soldier had left a prison, there should be a review mechanism to determine whether or not he would be able to rejoin the military, Donny said.

"For example, if it was a petty crime with a short serving time, such as stealing a chicken, it might be better to just demote him and cut his salary, before allowing him back to the military."

He suggested a military honor council would act as an internal watchdog under the military chief and could make rulings on such matters. "But we don't want the body to handle criminal actions. It would only rule on behavioral problems."

Imparsial also highlighted several things the bill had yet to cover, including a convict's rights in military courts.

Donny said they should be enabled to contact their lawyers, get access to health care or doctors and should be tried in an open court.

Probe demanded on students' attack

Jakarta Post - June 18, 2007

Palu, Central Sulawesi – Human rights groups in Palu, Central Sulawesi, urged the police Friday to investigate attacks on student activists allegedly by hired thugs.

Activists from the Anti-Corruption Students Coalition (KMAK) staged a peaceful rally at the Palu District Court on Thursday, demanding Tadulako University rector Sahabuddin Mustapa be convicted for corruption.

Sahabuddin is currently on trial on charges of misappropriating Rp 7.2 billion (US$800,000) in educational funds. After the rally, a mob of around 100 people believed to be hired thugs attacked the students.

"A student suffered a stab wound to his hand in the incident... from a sharp weapon," Huisman Brant, director of the Central Sulawesi chapter of the Legal and Human Rights Advocacy Development Studies Center (LPS HAM), told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

LPS HAM leaders condemned the attack, which took place in the presence of police personnel. A second attack occurred at GOR Park, situated across the street from Palu city police headquarters.

Leaders of LPS HAM, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence and the Indonesian Lawyers Institution in Palu demanded police investigate the attacks and arrest the perpetrators. "We are disappointed in the police for not escorting the KMAK student activists during the peaceful rally," Huisman said.

Rector Sahabuddin had earlier been put under city arrest, but the order lapsed on May 28. Prosecutors handed his case files to the Palu District Court on May 31.

During the trial Thursday, presiding judge Faturahman reinstated the defendant's city arrest, but allowed him to carry out his duties as rector of the only state university in Palu until his legal status was determined.

Indonesian activists harassed by military, police

Papernas News - June 16, 2007

Activists from the Indonesian Student League for Democracy (LMND) and the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) in the East Kalimantan city of Balikpapan have been the targets of harassment by the local government officials, police and the military (TNI).

The harassment began on June 11 when the LMND's local office received a letter from the Balikpapan City Islamic Activities Center (Puskib) asking them to "control" the activities of those residing at the secretariat following a report by local Puskib members that it was disturbing the local community. Copies of the letter – which noted that Papernas was an "unregistered" organisation – were also sent to local government officials, the sub-district military command (Koramil), the Babinsa (non- commissioned military officer posted in villages and public security officers (Linmas).

On June 13 the regional leadership board of Papernas was summoned by the local National Elections Commission (KPU) to answer questions about its organisational structure in Balikpapan. However when Papernas member Sa'I went to the KPU offices he was met by a police officer who ask him to write down details of Papernas's structure and the cell phone numbers of local activists.

On June 14 Papernas treasurer Maria Zahro was contacted on a number of occasions by a police and TNI intelligence officers and asked to meet and discuss Papernas.

At around 2pm on the same day, the LMND secretariat was visited by a Babinsa, two Koramil officers, three security officers, two police officers and two Linmas members who claimed they were checking ID cards. The LMND activists suspected they were conducting a sweep for Papernas members based on the odd nature of the questions asked such as:

Where the Balikpapan Papernas chairperson Ruben was, what are LMND's activities, whether LMND is a political party, was the Papernas office was located at the LMND secretariat, where the Papernas secretariat is located, why they had no signpost, were they registered with the National Unity and Social Protection Agency (Kesbang), why there were posters on the wall depicting communist figures such as Che Guevara and Hugo Chaves and posters opposing the draft law on the TNI and referring to former President Suharto as a dictator.

Five "punk" members from the Caratecer Arts Studio of the Balikpapan Urban Poor Union (SRMK), Rey, Said, Ono, Andi and Napi, were then taken to the Department of Social Services office on the grounds that they had no ID cards. They were likewise subjected to unusual questions about the Caratecer Arts Studio's aims and goals, pressured to fill out police reports, asked why they were associating with student activists and about their activities at the LMND secretariat.

On June 15 at around 10.30pm, around 10 civil service police arrived asking questions about where the "punks" were, claiming that they were conducting a law and order campaign against people without ID cards. Several forced their way into the secretariat. This is despite the fact that the LMND secretariat is located alongside the Indonesian National Students Movement (GMNI) secretariat that was not visited.

LMND believes that the series of incidents that have taken place represents physical and psychological intimidated by security personnel against LMND activist, dispute the fact their office is not located close the Papernas offices.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski.]

 Labour issues

Scrap outsourcing, laborers demand

Jakarta Post - June 18, 2007

Jakarta – Hundreds of laborers with the Force Labor Alliance staged a rally at the Cakung Bonded Zone, North Jakarta, to demand the government scrap the current outsourcing and working- under-contract system.

"We demand that the system be scraped as it is unfair for laborers," alliance's coordinator Ilhamsyah told Antara newswire on Saturday. He explained the system affected wages and income and caused uncertainty among laborers about their employment period.

Under the current Labor Law, companies can outsource their workforce to reduce the need for human resource administration. Although some critics say the law was introduced to avoid paying severance pay and additional annual bonuses.

Business people argue the country's real sector needed to take measures to compete with emerging manufacturing hubs like China and Thailand. But laborers under the alliance said the system only provided benefits to companies.

Former hotel workers demand payment

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2007

Jakarta – Hundreds of employees of Hotel Indonesia and the now- defunct Hotel Inna Wisata who were laid off three years ago rallied outside the Grand Indonesia business complex in Central Jakarta on Thursday to demand severance pay.

Joko Sujono, the former employees' leader, said the workers wanted to ensure there was no delay in the payment of the Rp 10 billion severance package. "Thank God the company paid out Rp 3.7 billion today," he said.

Hotel Indonesia, Indonesia's first five-star hotel, and Hotel Inna Wisata laid off over a thousand workers in 2004 to make way for the new Grand Indonesia development. Grand Indonesia, comprising a hotel, apartments and a shopping mall, will occupy 7 hectares of land in the heart of Jakarta when complete.

One of the former workers, Dedi Kristadi, said he had worked at Hotel Indonesia for 19 years. "Now I am an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver. I'm really counting on the compensation money to further support my family," said Dedi, who brought his wife and children to the rally.

Joko said the workers reported PT Hotel Indonesia Natour to the Jakarta Manpower Agency in 2006 after it failed to disburse the agreed severance pay. The agency sided with the workers, ordering the company to pay out Rp 10 billion.

After continued failures by the company to pay the money, workers then brought the case to Central Jakarta District Court. In April this year the court seized Rp 10 billion from the company in leasing fees from the Grand Indonesia developers. The court ruled that the company had to disburse the money by June 14 at the latest.

However, Thursday's payout only ended up totaling Rp 3.7 billion, prompting workers to carry their protest on to the company's office in Mampang Prapatan, South Jakarta. "We wanted to know whether the company could pay the rest of the money today, so we needed to see the directors," Joko said.

After failing to secure a meeting with company directors, Joko said they would ask the court to urge the company to disburse the money next week.

 Environment/natural disasters

Indonesian activists report 'snoozing' Newmont judges

Agence France Presse - June 21, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesian activists on Thursday submitted a complaint against judges who presided over the pollution trial of US mining giant Newmont, alleging they had dozed off during proceedings.

The activists said they gave video recordings to the Supreme Court showing judges were "sleeping, chatting over the phone and among themselves and ignoring witnesses' presentations in court."

Footage aired for reporters here showed a judge appearing to take a catnap while a prosecutor's witness was testifying.

"There is enough evidence to show that the judges in this case violated the (judges') code of conduct and we hope the Supreme Court will respond swiftly," Mas Achmad Santosa, from the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL), told a press briefing. "How can they judge the case independently and thoroughly if they missed parts of the case?"

The judges sitting in Manado District Court cleared in April the local subsidiary of Newmont and one of its executives, Richard Ness, of pumping toxic waste into a pristine bay from its now defunct gold mine on Sulawesi island. The waste was alleged to have sickened villagers and poisoned marine life.

Indonesia's highest court has the authority to annul a verdict if it finds evidence that judges were not impartial. But Santosa said the activists were using the case as "an entry point to appeal for a better justice system – a system that is independent, objective and fair."

A lawyer for Newmont, Luhut Pangaribuan, told AFP when asked for a comment: "It has nothing to do with us." He said he did not believe the court's verdict would be affected if the judges were sanctioned for breaking their code of conduct.

Head judge Ridwan Damanik told AFP in April that he and the other four judges had considered all of the evidence during the 20- month trial before reaching their verdict. Three of the judges were replaced during the trial.

Besides ICEL, groups submitting the complaint included environmental watchdog Walhi (Friends of the Earth) Indonesia, the Legal Aid Foundation and the Mining Advocacy Network.

Prosecutors have lodged an appeal in the case. The verdict was applauded by foreign investors and Newmont, which had always denied the charges. Environmentalists had hoped the verdict would send a warning to companies operating in Indonesia amid increased environmental degradation.

Regional administrations 'ignoring' green issues

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2007

Jakarta – Regional administrations have failed to pay proper attention to environmental issues, a national meeting of green organizations said Thursday.

The problems have been inadequately addressed because there are few environmental offices in regions as the tasks and responsibilities of such offices had been attached to the local offices of ministries, it said.

"Many development policies in regions have ignored the conservation and protection of the environment. Many environmental problems have not been properly addressed as they had been handled by other agencies or joint agencies. Only 34 percent of these (environmental) institutions are independent," State Minister of the Environment Rachmat Witoelar told a national coordination meeting on regional environmental institutions here.

Citing a 2006 survey of regional administrations, Rachmat said that only 6.4 percent of regional administration heads were concerned about environmental issues, while 37 percent of them were a little concerned, 47 percent less concerned and 9 percent not concerned at all. There are 443 regencies and municipalities nationwide.

The minister named institutional problems at regional administrations, including unstandardized agencies, overlapping tasks and authority among agencies, a lack of quality and quantity of human resources in comparison to the complexity of environmental problems, lack of funds and infrastructure and lack of coordination among regional institutions as the main problems.

Sustainable development programs at the regional level could only be run by environmentally conscious regional administrations and people, and environment-sensitive councilors, said Rachmat.

Chairuddin Hasyim, deputy assistant for environmental institutions at the Environment Ministry said there were 13 different existing regional institutions handling environmental issues.

Hasyim said different recognition of the need to establish regional environment institutions occurred because many local administrations misunderstood a 2003 government regulation stating that regional environmental institutions could be established to handle environmental pollution and damage.

"They look at it as if there is no need to have an institution if there is no environmental damage or pollution. In fact, when we talk about the environment, we would be better off conserving rather than repairing the damage," Hasyim told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the meeting.

The Home Ministry is helping the Environment Ministry with the formulation of the main tasks and functions of a new regional environmental institution.

"These main tasks and functions will become a reference for the regency or municipal legislative councils in allocating appropriate funds for the institution," said Hasyim.

The meeting, attended by more than 100 local administration heads as well as speakers from regency and municipal legislative councils, was expected to come up with a commitment to develop independent agencies for environmental issues, to upgrade human resource quality and to provide proper facilities and infrastructure for these institutions.

Director general for regional development at the Home Ministry, Syamsul Arief Rivai, said environmental issues should be treated as key issues in development and that the chain of natural disasters hitting the country were not merely natural phenomena, but the results of human behavior.

Residents reject nuclear plant

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2007

Jakarta – Opposition continues to mount over the government's plan to build a nuclear power plant near Mount Muria in the northern part of Central Java.

The government expects to hold a tender for the project next year, before construction commences in 2010. The 4,000 megawatt plant is expected to supply two percent of the country's total energy demand by 2017.

People living around Mount Muria have strongly rejected the plans to construct the nuclear plant near their homes. The mountain is an environmental and ecosystem buffer for the surrounding areas of Jepara, Kudus and Pati, where many large industries have been established.

Lilo Sunaryo from the Earth Guardian Society, a Jepara-based non-governmental organization, said the government should reconsider and relocate the nuclear plant site due to the high possibility of earthquakes in the area.

"There are 29 hills surrounding Mount Muria. It is possible there could be a crack in the earth's crust between the hills, which could create earthquakes in the future, considering we are in the (Pacific) Ring of Fire zone," Lilo said during a discussion held by the United Development Party (PPP) faction at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The head of the Nuclear Energy Development Center at the National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN), Sarwiyana, said the government had conducted several studies to ensure the safety and suitability of the site. He added that a crack in the earth's crust would not indicate immediate danger as has been evidenced in Japan, which has similar geographic characteristics to Indonesia.

He said the Tsuruga nuclear plant in Japan is located in an area which is more susceptible to earthquakes than the Muria site. "So it's quite safe here," he said. BATAN chief Adi Wardoyo said the government would restore the area to its previous condition once the plant was decommissioned.

Mohammad Ridwan, former head of the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency, said the nuclear plant would not release carbon emissions into the atmosphere, thus making it the most environmentally friendly energy option for the country.

The head of the PPP faction, Lukman Hakim Syaifuddin, said the discussion was held to gather opinions on the project and that his party had not yet taken an official stance.

"We can see that it is the environmental effect that the communities reject, not the nuclear plant. The government must minimize the negative impacts of the plant's construction, while convincing the House and the concerned communities," Lukman said.

Anger, frustration boil over as mudflow victims square off

Jakarta Post - June 19, 2007

ID Nugroho, Sidoarjo – Police officers were forced come between two groups of mudflow victims in Sidoarjo, East Java after the groups accused one another of providing false information in efforts to receive compensation.

Police officers invited representatives from each group to a reconciliation meeting beside the main thoroughfares of Sidoarjo.

The groups clashed at the junction between Jl. KH Mukmin and Jl. Sunandar Priyo Sudarno when residents of Tanggulangin Anggun Sejahtera housing complex marched their way to the office of Team 16.

Team 16 consisted of representatives of the mudflow victims, who were assigned to convey victims' wants and needs to the authorities. Protesters said they believed Team 16 had not made clear enough the aspirations of mudflow victims from four subdistricts in Porong.

The protesters accused the team of taking side with the government and Lapindo Brantas Inc. – the company at the center of the mudflow disaster. Residents also said a Team 16 member intended to make a profit from the dispute via the victim administration registration process.

"The person, for example, sold verification letters which should have been distributed free of charge," protester Hendro said. "The person forced the residents to pay Rp 160,000 (US$17.70) each."

Hendro said Team 16 sent a letter to the bank in charge of handling the compensation payment process, state Bank Tabungan Negara, to ensure all mudflow-related communication came through Team 16 and no-one else.

"This means that Team 16 has indicated to the bank that everyone else involved in the mudflow belongs to a wild and unregistered group," Hendro said. "That was why we marched to Team 16's office," he said.

While the residents clashed, the flow of hot mud into a nearby river had become uncontrollable. Completely under mud was a makeshift bridge linking the village of Mindi and Besuki – the only access for thousands of Besuki villagers to Porong street.

M. Soleh, one of the nearby villagers, packed up his belongings in fear the mudflow would soon hit his house. "Rather than being late (to evacuate), I would rather pack my belongings," said Soleh. "But I don't know where to go..."

 Health & education

Activists urge sex education

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2007

Jakarta – HIV/AIDS activists have called on secondary schools to focus more on sex education to help prevent the spread of the virus.

"Teachers have to realize that sex education is also a need for our children. School isn't just about studying for the national exams," Sari from the Pelita Indonesia Foundation told a two-day workshop for secondary school teachers Wednesday.

The workshop was organized by the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, the Ministry of National Education, UNESCO and the Associated School Project Network (ASPnet). The number of HIV/AIDS cases in Indonesia has skyrocketed since 1999. Indonesia now sees 169 new infections each day. Half of all new cases are injecting drug users aged between 15 and 24 years old.

Sari acknowledged that many teachers may not feel comfortable talking about sex with their pupils. "This is perhaps where HIV/AIDS NGOs can assist in the process," she said.

Sari's views were shared by speakers from the National Commission for HIV/AIDS Prevention and the Indonesian HIV/AIDS Foundation.

Earlier in the session, Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO Executive Chairman Arief Rachman said schools were expected to be more involved in HIV/AIDS prevention by integrating the subject into the curriculum. "There is a trend in society to integrate all social ills into our school curriculum," he said at the opening of the workshop.

However, he warned that teachers alone would not be able to stem the spread of the disease, especially since they were already heavily burdened with teaching responsibilities.

The head of the Center for the Development of Physical Wellbeing at the ministry, Widaninggar, said too much of a burden was already being placed on schools while other sections of society were refusing to shoulder responsibility for preventing HIV/AIDS.

"Some people, including teachers and governmental institutions, seem to be in denial of the problem," she said. "They assume that HIV/AIDS is an issue for those who are at high risk when in fact it affects people from all walks of life."

Another speaker from the ministry, Sumiyati, noted that the curriculum as it stands allowed information on HIV/AIDS prevention to be disseminated among students.

"The secondary school curriculum is really packed and already contains information on AIDS," said Sumiyati who is head of the Ministry's Center for School Curriculums. "It's now up to the teachers to implement it creatively," she added.

Depression affects most Indonesians, says study

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2007

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – The majority of the country's population has suffered depression of some form in the last year, says the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI).

IDI chairman Fachmi Idris said Wednesday that the latest survey put out by the country's psychiatrist association showed that 94 percent of the country was suffering from some form of depression.

"This ranges from mild to severe cases of depression," Fachmi told a press conference after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Bina Graha Presidential Office.

Fachmi said that among the symptoms of depression were a tendency to violate rules and norms, apathy, withdrawal and a refusal to work.

He said the research was based on the assumption of health as defined by the law on health, which regards health as encompassing physical, mental and social factors.

He also cited the World Health Organization's definition of health as a "state of complete physical, mental and social well- being, and not merely and absence of disease or infirmity."

Since the economic crisis in 1997, Indonesia has seen an increase in depression rates. The WHO's regional office reports that suicide is on the rise in Indonesia. From 1997 to 1998 there were 34 suicides in Jakarta alone. The suicide rate was 1.6 per 100,000 people in 1997 and 1.8 per 100,000 in 1998, while prior to 1996 the number had been decreasing.

Fachmi said that the high incidence of depression was aggravated by a lack of access to health care for most of the population.

He said that people suffering from depression needed constant monitoring by a doctor or psychiatrist and that ideally there would be one doctor for every 250 people, although the whole health care system in the country also needed revamping. "We need a better system in which the role and function of doctors is revitalized," Fachmi said.

He said that Yudhoyono supported the proposal to improve the health care system.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said that the government was devising a new health care system that would enlist more that 70 percent of the country's population to take part in a new health insurance scheme.

She said that low-quality infrastructure was not the main problem of Indonesia's health care system.

"What matters is not the infrastructure but the patient's mental state and culture. State-run Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital, for example, lacks state-of-the-art equipment but patients line up to get its services," Siti told reporters.

 War on corruption

Anti-graft court bill vital: Experts

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2007

Jakarta – Experts demanded Wednesday the immediate enactment of the anti-corruption court bill to empower the court to achieve more accountable verdicts and encourage public participation in the process.

"The enactment of the bill is very urgent for the war against corruption and cannot be delayed as the techniques of corruption are getting more sophisticated over time," Romli Atmasasmita, a law lecturer at Padjadjaran University, told reporters on the sidelines of a discussion on corruption.

The Anti-Corruption Court was established in 2005, as mandated by Article 53 of the Law on the Commission for Corruption Eradication. In the same year, the Constitutional Court ruled that the inception of the court created dualism in the judicial system, and recommended that by 2009 the government and the House of Representatives should have formulated a particular law for the Anti-Corruption Court.

Romli said the public should effectively use the time allocated for the formulation of the law, or risk losing the chance to convert the bill into law as political parties begin to busy themselves for the 2009 general election.

Bambang Widjajanto from the Consortium for National Law Reform said there had been a misunderstanding of the Constitutional Court's decision on the Anti-Corruption Court.

"The Constitutional Court did not delegitimize the Anti- Corruption Court, but rather allowed lawmakers to prepare a legal basis for it as stipulated in Article 15 of the Law on Judicial Bodies that states that a court should be established by a law," he said.

Citing the UN Convention Against Corruption, Bambang said corruption not only posed problems and threats to the state in the form of financial losses, but also jeopardizes the stability and security of societies, undermines the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice and damages sustainable development and the rule of law.

"Corruption is an extraordinary crime and it should be handled by a special court. The practice of corruption is complicated, but we have to create a simple legal system so the public can easily have access to it," Bambang said.

The bill stipulates that the anti-corruption court is a part of the general court system and will be the only court to try corruption cases.

Under a law for the court, the recruitment of judges would be more transparent as it would incorporate members of the public, academicians and legal practitioners in the selection team, Bambang said.

The panel of judges would be comprised of between three and five members and would depend on the complexity of the case, with the provision that ad hoc judges should outnumber career judges on any panel.

The court would also be obliged to regularly report its progress in the handling of cases, as well as its financial management, to the public.

The bill also stipulates that the Judicial Commission is responsible for overseeing the judges' behavior, while the Supreme Court is responsible for supervising the judicial process.

Civil society 'key' to anticorruption drive

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2007

Jakarta – The active role played by civil society has helped reveal corruption in many local administrations, and to progressively reduce the number of such cases, according to a study conducted by the World Bank's Justice for the Poor Program.

"While decentralization has provided greater opportunities for more complex types of corruption, it also has provided new opportunities for combating corruption," World Bank economist William Wallace said Tuesday in a media statement.

Taufik Rinaldi, the main author of the study, said civil society had become active in curbing corruption, as shown by a rapid increase in the number of non-governmental organizations and media outlets.

"Local civil society, when acting together, can play a significant role in combating corruption, uncovering incidences of corruption and bringing the perpetrators to court," he said.

The World Bank carried out the study in five provinces – West Sumatra, West Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, East Java and West Nusa Tenggara – and focused on 10 major cases of graft involving local councillors and administration officials.

The study found that 29 provincial prosecutor's offices around the country handled some 265 corruption cases involving 1,000 local councillors in 2006, while district prosecutors offices at the regency and municipality levels prosecuted 46 corruption cases, with 61 local administration officials being put on trial.

Corruption in the country's local legislatures frequently involved grants to fictitious organizations, phony business trips and budget mark-ups, the study found. Meanwhile, corruption in local government agencies often involved deviations from the set spending procedures and procurement irregularities.

The study also discovered that many of those raising allegations of corruption were acting spontaneously, often lacking the knowledge and stamina needed to see the cases through to the end.

Action ordered on secretive government accounts

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2007

Ary Hermawan, Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered all government departments to take a firm action against thousands of secretive bank accounts containing some Rp 30 trillion (about US$3.3 billion) in public funds.

"The President will raise the issue at the next Cabinet meeting as he wants the management of state funds to be put in order and made accountable in line with the principles of good governance," Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said after meeting with the President and Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) chairman Anwar Nasution at the Presidential palace Friday.

As part of the clampdown on dubious accounts, all government departments will be required to report all of their bank accounts to the Finance Ministry and clarify their purpose and status, she said.

The BPK uncovered a total of 4,656 undeclared accounts containing some Rp 31.2 trillion in its audits between 2004 and 2006.

In 2004, the agency discovered 957 government-related bank accounts – most of them escrow accounts – containing about Rp 20 trillion that had not declared in the government's annual budget accounts. The number rose to 1,303 accounts containing Rp 8.5 trillion in 2005 and 2,396 accounts containing Rp 2.7 trillion in 2006.

The audit agency categorized these accounts as questionable as they had never been reported to the Finance Ministry. It is partly for this reason that the BPK has for years been slapping disclaimers on the government's budget accounts.

"A thorough overhaul and examination of these questionable accounts needs to be prioritized by the government," BPK director Anwar said during the meeting with the President.

He said the government would likely once again receive a disclaimer to its 2006 budget accounts as it had yet to put the new state accounting standards into effect.

The Finance Ministry has issued two special regulations to tackle the problem. The first requires state offices to seek the ministry's approval before opening any government-related accounts as a preventative measure, while the second allows it to close existing accounts that are deemed superfluous.

"The ministries will be required to report all bank accounts they have opened before the issuance of this regulation to the Finance Ministry, and we'll decide whether they are really needed," the ministry's director general for the treasury, Herry Purnomo, told a media conference Friday.

The Finance Ministry has closed 17 dubious accounts opened by its units as a follow up to the BPK's findings, and paid Rp 5.5 trillion from the accounts into the 2006 budget.

The ministry recently announced that it had traced 1,892 questionable accounts worth Rp 9 trillion in several ministries, including 83 dubious accounts holding Rp 49 billion in the Justice and Human Rights Ministry and 23 obscure accounts in the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Many state offices are believed to apply their own rules allowing them to levy various types of fees from the public.

 Land/rural issues

Land disputes abound with no end in site

Jakarta Post - June 19, 2007

Anissa S. Febrina, Jakarta – Land disputes seem to be a dime a dozen in Indonesia right now. In the last four weeks alone the country has seen arguments and wars arise over car park lots, residential and commercial properties and farming fields alongside Navy developments.

Land expert Gunawan Wiradi said speculation over land ownership, when combined with an unjust distribution of that land, was a full-proof recipe for disaster.

And it would seem the proof is in the pudding, with the Meruya Selatan case and the horrifying incident in Pasuruan, East Java just two recent examples.

These are not isolated cases though – every passing year sees thousands more disputes filed in court or through land agency offices across the archipelago.

"Land is seen as a commodity. Speculation is made legal while in fact land ownership is crucial to one's life – either for residential space or as land for farmers," Gunawan said. But Indonesia seems to constantly side with whomever has the money.

Wiradi said a holistic land processing reformation would require strong political will from the government. He said the first step would involve a complete overhaul of the current land distribution process, before the development a solid database of land ownership with up-to-date and precise information.

And although a database was set up two years ago, cases of "overlapping land ownerships" occurred regularly, Wiradi said.

National Land Agency former land information deputy Chairul Basri Achmad was responsible for the country's land ownership database. He said regency and municipality administration support was essential if local land agencies were expected to collect much- needed information.

"South, West and Central Jakarta have started the process," said Chairul. "But, actually cities like Balikpapan (East Kalimantan), Kendal and Karang Anyar in Central Java have been the fastest in sorting out the database issue."

According to experts, the collection of up-to-date information was just the tip of the iceberg.

National Land Agency (BPN) dispute officer Bambang S. said, "we have to admit that there are a lot of overlapping certificates of ownership – and mostly these occurred because a third party worked together with allegedly corrupt officials".

Bambang said during investigations of land disputes, his office had found "a lot of manipulated land certificates – papers that could easily be obtained with the help of corrupt officials working with small companies in the printing business hub of Central Jakarta".

Without a solid land database, BPN itself, as an independent non-departmental institution, has neither the capacity nor the human resources to cross-check new land ownership applications.

Once all the required documents are completed BPN has only the authority to issue the ownership certificate.

This questionable system operates at every level of administration – from offices in sub-districts and villages, to Jakarta's central office.

So the merry-go-round of land speculation and overlapping certificates seems set to continue – and with every questionable ownership certificate, there undoubtedly comes a fiery land dispute crises.

Jakarta land disputes date back to Dutch era

Jakarta Post - June 19, 2007

Anissa S. Febrina, Jakarta – Heartless speculators, a corrupt judicial system, an incomplete and untrustworthy land ownership database and greedy politicians.

Add them all together and you have a country covered in land disputes – only a few of which make good reading.

Retired civil servant Budi Soenarjo was a victim of a dispute involving a legal misunderstanding by land owners, the undeniable existence of a land broker and speculators, and housing developers with an insatiable need for cheap land.

With a 1,000-square-meter block of land he purchased in the mid 1960s in Sawangan, Depok, Soenarjo thought he had an investment he could count on when times became tough.

"A neighbor of mine offered to buy some lots at a housing complex for employees under the then-Ministry of Education and Culture in Bedahan village, Sawangan," Soenarjo said.

And so he bought two lots with his savings and was provided a letter of ownership and transaction. He hoped one day this land would see him build a house for his family.

Years passed and he and his family continued to live in the house provided by his office – while Soenarjo "kind of forgot" he still needed to obtain legal certificates for the land.

"One day came a letter informing me a group of people – who also owned lots in Sawangan – planned to file a lawsuit against a developer," he said. Somehow that developer had acquired a total of 40 hectares in Sawangan from military officers – and already there were houses for sale there.

Along with 300 other land owners, Soenarjo was offered in the late 1990s compensation in the form of 150 square meters of certified land – in return for every 500 square meters of the land he seemed to have lost. But this compensation package remains today a faded an unfulfilled promise.

Sawangan was later rezoned from Bogor regency to Depok municipality and the land ownership dispute remains today a relatively hopeless case.

In another dispute, one land owner has accumulated piles of documents concerning her land dispute case centered around what is now Menteng in East Jakarta.

Her numerous folders contain verdicts and other legal documents illustrating unclear interpretations of the law and an allegedly corrupt judicial system.

"I bought this land legally from PT ISTA in 1987 and for seven months I spent tiring hours obtaining the legal certificate," the woman, who has asked to remain nameless, said from her disputed home in a housing complex in Cipinang Cempedak.

A decade after she obtained the certificate, she and three of her neighbors had to face a lawsuit around the legality of their ownership.

The case unearthed years of land ownership data dating back to the Dutch colonial era. History showed the land in question was still owned by a Polish businessman who rented out houses in the complex to Dutch private companies.

After Indonesia declared its independence, the Pole left Indonesia for the Netherlands and died there, leaving his premises unattended.

According to Indonesian law, deserted property under the Dutch ownership system Eigendom would be declared state land – unless it had been inherited by an Indonesian citizen.

In this case there were no claims against it, so those occupying the Eigendom land could try to obtain legal ownership certificates by paying severance to the state.

"I did all this properly and thought the Land Agency would issue me a certificate – but I lost the case to someone claiming to represent the child of the previous owner," the woman said.

In a series of letters to the East Jakarta land agency, the plaintiff declared there were manipulations in the certificates issued on the land that used to belong to the Polish businessman.

Legal experts said however they could continue arguments around the ruling based on interpretations of the law.

What is most interesting is the plaintiff lost his argument in two similar cases supposedly decided using the same legal considerations.

These stories from Sawangan and Cipinang Cempedak are among the thousands of land disputes in Greater Jakarta.

These disputes are the result of a dysfunctional legal system and an unreliable land ownership database – so when so many thousands rely on land for survival, it's no wonder land disputes continue to create urban and rural war.

Land dispute facts and figures - There have been 2,810 land dispute cases filed to the National Land Agency as of June 2007 - Hundreds of lawsuits are filed in the Greater Jakarta area annually. Among current cases are:

  1. The Meruya Selatan case between residents and developer PT Portanigra
  2. The Rumpin case in Bogor between villagers and the Indonesian Air Force over land
  3. The Cikeas case in Bogor between private university Universitas Nasional and developer Agung Sedayu – Land dispute cases on average take at least five years to settle and most cases reach the Supreme Court

[Source: National Land Agency]

 War on terror

Hardline Indonesian cleric denies he was JI boss

Agence France Presse - June 22, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesian hardline cleric Abu Bakar Bashir never headed the Islamic militant network Jemaah Islamiyah, a spokesman for his organisation said on Friday.

Abu Dujana, the alleged head of JI's military wing who was captured two weeks ago, told police in a video aired to journalists that Mr Bashir had replaced Abdullah Sungkar as head of the network blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings and other attacks.

"It's a lie. Ustadz Bashir was never appointed as JI's leader. He was only a friend of Abdullah Sungkar," Fauzan al-Anshori, a spokesman for the Majelis Mujahiddin Indonesia told AFP, referring to JI's founder.

Mr Bashir, 68, was released from jail in June last year after serving nearly 26 months for his role in a 'sinister conspiracy' that led to the Bali bombings which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. The Supreme Court in December overturned his conviction, outraging families of the Australian victims.

Mr Anshori said Mr Bashir had brushed off the allegations, and pointed to the Supreme Court's ruling. "We defer to the Indonesian Supreme Court's decision proving that Abu Bakar Bashir had nothing to do with Jemaah Islamiyah... nor with terror attacks in Indonesia," he added.

Since his release from prison the firebrand cleric has lobbied for Sharia law to be implemented in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. The vast majority of Muslims in this nation of 232 million people practise a very tolerant form of the religion.

Indonesian JI in disarray after arrests, member tells Al-Jazeera

Agence France Presse - June 21, 2007

Jakarta – An Indonesian member of the Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah said in an interview broadcast Thursday that its members were in disarray after the arrests of two of its top leaders this month, but warned they may have become more dangerous.

"We are all confused and awaiting further instructions from the leadership," the unnamed member based in East Java, who said he had joined the organisation at its inception, told a reporter from the English-language Al-Jazeera TV channel.

"The arrests last week have made me very sad because they are like brothers to me," he said in translated comments. "The situation could become more dangerous now because some members will be getting impatient without clear instructions from the top."

The head of JI since 2004, Zarkasi, and the leader of its military wing, Abu Dujana, were arrested by anti-terror police on June 9 along with six other suspected militants. All are still being interrogated police in a bid to identify other suspects.

JI has been blamed for a string of deadly bomb attacks against western targets on the resort island of Bali and in the capital Jakarta in recent years, including the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people.

The capture of Dujana and Zarkasi have been seen as a severe blow to JI, which wants a pan-Islamic state across much of Southeast Asia, but analysts have warned the group has the capacity to eventually bounce back.

Still on the run is Malaysian Noordin Top, accused of having a hand in all the major bombings, whom Dujana said went against his wishes to launch the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003, but has nonetheless enjoyed JI protection. Dujana has told police that he would not surrender him.

International Crisis Group Southeast Asian director Sidney Jones said in a column in the English-language Tempo weekly magazine that if Noordin's chief protector was in custody, "the Malaysian or those around him may decide they have nothing to lose from another attack, even if they do not have the personnel or equipment to undertake a Bali-style bombing."

She warned that even Noordin's arrest would not eliminate the threat. "We know... that some younger JI members have grown frustrated with the cautiousness and inaction of their seniors and the emergence of other splinter groups is not impossible."

Indonesian militant to sue police

Reuters - June 19, 2007

Indonesian militant Abu Dujana plans to sue the police, alleging he was shot in the thigh by members of an elite anti-terrorist unit after surrendering, one of his lawyers says.

Dujana, who is believed to head a military wing of the South-East Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), was captured on June 9 during a police raid in Central Java.

Lawyer Achmad Michdan said the country's anti-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, had violated the suspect's rights by shooting him after he had surrendered. "We will sue the Indonesian police and Detachment 88 and we will ask the court to examine the basis and the process of the arrest," he told Reuters.

National police spokesman Sisno Adiwinoto said the arrest had not violated human rights. "We have long upheld the principles of human rights in our operations and we have acted according to the procedures," Adiwinoto said.

Dujana had been sought in connection with several attacks, including the 2004 Australian embassy blast and the Marriott blast. Police said he also had a role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed more than 200 people, including 88 Australians, many of them foreign tourists.

Dujana said in a video shown at a police news conference last week that he had undergone military training in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and in Afghanistan. He also admitted in the video to being head of JI's armed wing.

Lawyer Michdan cited eyewitness reports that the police shot Dujana in the leg in front of three of his children while he was squatting with his hands raised after being forced off his motorbike.

"Any law enforcement activity should abide by the principles of human rights. A person who has surrendered should not be shot at and definitely not in front of his children and neighbours, who knew him as a good person," he said.

Michdan said the lawsuit would be filed after Dujana's wife and four children were allowed to see the suspect. The family has not been allowed to visit him since he was detained.

JI head in custody, Ba'asyir named

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2007

Jakarta – Police announced Friday they were holding the overall leader of regional terrorist group Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), identified as Zarkasih.

Also on Friday, another terrorist suspect arrested along with Zarkasih, Abu Dujana, said to head JI's armed wing, was shown on a tape saying that religious figure Abu Bakar Ba'asyir once led the group.

The head of the police's Special Detachment 88 anti-terror unit, Brig. Gen. Surya Dharma Salim, said Zarkasih was among seven detained terror suspects originally thought to be aides to Dujana.

He said Zarkasih went by several aliases, including Mbah (Grandfather), Zuhroni, Oni and Abu Irsyad. The suspects, including Dujana and Zarkasih, were arrested between June 9 and 11 in West and Central Java.

"Mbah was not Zulkarnaen, as we all had thought before," said Surya, referring to another suspected JI leader.

Surya alleged Zarkasih was in charge of all JI operations and activities in Indonesia. These activities, according to the officer, included hiding convicted terrorist Ali Gufron in Legian, Bali; helping the still on the run Noordin M. Top and the deceased bombmaker Azahari bin Husin carry out the 2003 JW Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta; and planning the robbery of a Poso city administration building in Central Sulawesi, which netted around Rp 480 million (US$52,876).

During a media conference Friday, police showed taped interviews with Dujana and Zarkasih, and displayed photos of some of the victims of their alleged crimes. Dujana, the alleged chief of JI's special forces unit, is shown on the tape saying Ba'asyir was a former JI leader. Ba'asyir has always denied any links to terrorists or terrorist organizations.

"From 1993 to 2000, Jamaah was led by ustadz (teacher) Abdullah Sungkar, then he was replaced by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, from 2000 to 2002. Then from 2002 to 2003 (JI) was led by ustadz Abu Risyan. From 2003 to 2005 it was led by ustadz Adung, and from 2005 until now (it) was (led) by Zarkasih," Dujana says.

Ba'asyir was arrested, tried and sentenced in 2002 for immigration violations, before being released in 2004. He was then arrested for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings and was sentenced to 30 months' prison in March 2005. After two sentence remissions he was released in June last year.

On another videotape Zarkasih says he was named as the temporary JI leader in 2004 following the arrest of Adung, the then-leader of the group, in Surakarta, Central Java. "I was chosen in order to find a leader who is good in proselytizing and jihad," he says.

Surya said Zarkasih was the alleged mastermind behind much of the killings and bombings in Poso. "He sent explosives from Surabaya to Poso. He also sent ulema and mujahideen there," said Surya.

The officers said JI still exists and continues to recruit members and amass guns, ammunition and explosives. Police say the JI structure has been simplified and centralized, and has four wings: proselytism, education, logistics and the armed wing, which was allegedly led by Dujana.

Meanwhile, the deputy coordinator of the Muslim Lawyers Team, Achmad Midan, who said he had been appointed the legal representative of Dujana by the suspect's family, accused police of violating procedures in arresting his client.

He told The Jakarta Post that police shot Dujana "in front of his children without a warrant for his arrest".

[Additional reporting by Blontank Poer in Surakarta.]

Head of extremist network 'captured': Indonesian police

Agence France Presse - June 15, 2007

Presi Mandari, Jakarta – Indonesian police said Friday they had captured the head of Southeast Asian extremist network Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for some of the deadliest terror attacks in the region.

They said Zarkasi had been heading the militant Muslim outfit since 2005 and that he had been seized in raids last weekend which also netted the alleged head of a JI special forces unit.

The capture of Zarkasi, who is also known as Mbah which means grandfather in Javanese, is a further blow to JI, an Al-Qaeda- linked organisation that aims to create a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia through violent jihad.

"Zarkasi controlled JI operations across the whole of Indonesia," said Surya Dharma, head of the country's anti-terror unit, Detachment 88. He said the 45-year-old militant was in charge of training JI leaders, controlling weapons and ammunition, and managing assignments for attacks.

Sidney Jones, a JI expert and the Southeast Asian director of the International Crisis Group, told AFP that if the man was who she believed him to be, he was a Jakarta-born veteran of the Afghan conflict. "He indeed is of the real first important generation of JI," she said.

JI is a shadowy organisation and information about who is who within the group, and what roles they play, is scare.

The anti-terror chief Dharma said Zarkasi was nabbed in Indonesia's cultural capital of Yogyakarta a few hours after the capture of 37-year-old Abu Dujana, named as the head of a special forces unit within JI.

Dujana's capture alone was considered to be a major breakthrough for Indonesia's efforts to curb the activities of the group, blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings and a string of other deadly attacks.

Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna told AFP that the capture of the two men meant that "the military wing of JI, and JI as an organisation, has suffered very significantly."

In video footage aired at the press conference, the pair spoke calmly of their roles in the organisation. A bespectacled and greying Zarkasi said he had become the effective leader of JI in 2004 when it had created a "board" at its peak, while a wiry, moustachioed Dujana said he had headed the organisation's military wing.

Raids in Yogyakarta in March, in which one militant was shot dead and seven others arrested, had led police to charts mapping the structure of JI, which showed that a board governed the group. At the time, Dharma said, they were sure the board existed but they didn't know who sat on it.

The raids led to a major seizure of bombs and weapons, which police said would have been used in future atrocities.

The anti-terror chief said JI was still in existence – even though no bombings blamed on them have occurred since October 2005 – and that members had been "building a network by recruitment, training and stockpiling weapons and ready-to-use bombs."

He said Dujana, whom police announced they had captured on Wednesday, refused to reveal the whereabouts of Noordin Muhammad Top, a Malaysian fugitive. "Even though (Dujana and Noordin) are in different structures, Dujana will not betray him by revealing his whereabouts," he said.

Noordin is another of Indonesia's most wanted men. He is believed to have formed a splinter group intent on launching more attacks after some JI members were unhappy that some Muslims had been killed in JI operations.

Speaking by telephone from the United States, expert Gunaratna said that it was only "a question of time for Detachment 88 to hunt down other high-value targets" including Noordin.

JI is also accused of carrying out the 2003 Marriott Hotel and 2004 Australian embassy attacks in the capital Jakarta as well as a triple suicide bombing in Bali in 2005.


Indonesian Muslims remain tolerant: Poll

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2007

Jakarta – Results from a recent survey indicate that the majority of Indonesian Muslims are tolerant toward other religions and reject the imposition of religious bylaws but believe that bombings will continue to be a threat in the future.

Pollster Indo Barometer conducted the survey in May this year to determine Indonesian Muslims' opinions on terrorism and religious tolerance in their own country.

The survey was distributed in 33 provinces using multi-stage random sampling and face-to-face interviews with 1,200 respondents of all religions. Only the answers of 1,047 Muslim respondents were taken into account.

Those surveyed were either aged 17 years and above or in wedlock. Respondents were selected to reflect as closely as possible Central Statistics Agency demographic data.

Director of Indo Barometer M. Qodari said the results showed that 95.4 percent of respondents agree that tolerance between all religions is important, with only 3.5 percent considering it unimportant. He added that 51 percent of respondents reject the idea that religious tolerance is decreasing, while 42.7 percent believe it is.

Additionally, 53.8 percent of respondents believe terrorism still threatens the country, while 71.8 percent reject the notion that terrorism is linked directly to a specific religion.

Qodari added that 88.88 percent of respondents disagree with using violence to battle immoral behavior, while 7.4 percent support it. The results also indicate that 96.2 percent disagree with violence toward people of other religions, while 1.3 percent agree with it.

"Even though the figure is small, there are still some people who advocate violence. We should keep an eye on this figure," Qodari said during the announcement of the survey results at the Wahid Institute on Thursday.

The results indicate that 63.3 percent of respondents disagree with the issuance of religious bylaws, while 27.9 percent agree. Qodari said that 97.6 percent of respondents did not believe that pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) were breeding grounds for terrorism.

Commenting on the survey, a member of Muhammadiyah, Moeslim Abdurrahman, said the results helped provide a picture of contemporary Indonesian Muslims.

He said, however, it was not a good tool for determining which regions had the highest number of hard-liners or for pinpointing who they were in order to counsel them. Moeslim maintained that communication is the key to eliminating terrorism.

"Unfortunately, we can't sort out who the extremists are. That is our organization's biggest weakness. We simply don't know exactly who they are. We know who is in the fundamentalist groups, but we don't know who the terrorists are," he told The Jakarta Post.

Father Benny Susetyo of the Bishops' Council of Indonesia said the survey had made no major revelations because the nature of most Indonesians is to respect the beliefs of others. He added, however, that the government should continue upholding pluralism in Indonesia.

"All religious bylaws should be eliminated. The government should create universal regulations, which don't discriminate among communities," Benny told the Post.

Bandung churches again in the crosshair

Jakarta Post - June 15, 2007

Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung – Around 150 members of the Mosque Movement Front (FPM) and the Anti-Apostasy Front took to the streets of Bandung on Thursday to demand the closure of private homes being used for church activities. They marched from the al-Ikhlash Mosque in Soreang Indah to the Katapang district office in Bandung.

FPM head Suryana Nur Fatwa said that if the administration and the Religious Community Communication Forum failed to close down the churches, the group would oppose an ordinance on illegal houses of worship, saying it was useless. "Every violator must stop their activities or the FPM will be forced to close them down," Fatwa said.

He said he was disappointed by the lack of action taken against people who had broken the ordinance and said that as long as the local government was silent, public protests would continue. "That's why we propose the decree, issued by the religious and home ministers, be enacted into law," said Fatwa.

Katapang district chief Nina Setiyana said she did not wish to take sides but wanted all houses of worship in her area to be authorized. "It would surely be better if they all had permits and did not break the regulation... so no one could make a problem out of it," she said.

Fatwa listed 26 private homes which had been turned into churches by Christian communities in Bandung regency. "Seventeen of them have stopped operating of their own free will, but nine others are still carrying out their activities," said Fatwa.

Simon Timorason, the head of the West Java chapter of the Indonesian Churches Communication Forum, said the government should take the initiative in providing land for minority groups in order to prevent such problems from arising, referring to an article in the decree on religious harmony and the establishment of places of worship.

"It clearly states that the provincial administration should facilitate the acquisition of a new location to build a house of worship," he said.

Simon has recorded 70 disputes involving residents and Christian communities using private homes as churches since January 2004. Most of the cases took place in Bandung regency, as well as Bekasi, Bogor, Garut, Purwakarta and Subang. Simon said the main problem faced by a Christian community intending to apply for a permit to establish a church was Muslim communities in the area who were against it.

"The provincial administration should pay attention to every community because it is part and parcel of every faith and not a certain religion," Simon said.

 Elections/political parties

Alliance of Golkar and PDI-P likely to be short

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – A likely alliance between Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in the 2009 presidential election is projected to be short-lived, if not a failure, observers said Thursday.

Top executives of the country's two largest political parties held their first public joint gathering Wednesday in Medan, North Sumatra, as part of their collaboration to win the province's local election slated for June next year.

While both parties have tabbed chances of a union in the next presidential election as premature, they did join forces in the last election to support PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri for a second term in office.

Golkar later deserted the PDI-P after Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who chose to run for the vice presidency with a different ticket, was made chairman.

"In practice, two elephants cannot walk side by side," said Indo Barometer survey institute's executive director Muhammad Qodari. "They'll step on each other's feet." He said that in theory it would be ideal.

A huge majority in the House of Representatives would see government policies easily passed without the complicated political lobbying that existed today, he said.

"But with the expected very small gap in votes between them, it would be hard to compromise in certain key situations," Indo said. Using Malaysia's Barisan Nasional coalition as an example, he said, "A big party with smaller ones as coalition partners is better".

Politician Roy B.B. Janis of the PDI-P's splinter Democratic Party of Reform (PDP) said the alliance between the two parties was not to gear toward the 2009 elections.

"It's a bit out of place," Roy said. "But whatever it's really for, it's going to be short-lived. "Even if they make it to 2009, it doesn't guarantee a victory."

In 2004, Megawati was supported by almost all major parties – but she still lost to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was endorsed by much smaller parties. Zannuba "Yenny" Arifah Chafsoh Rahman Wahid, the secretary general of the National Awakening Party (PKB), said she was looking into the Wednesday gathering and a possible further alliance.

"We shall see if things continue intensely," Zannuba said. "If they do, I'm sure we'll discuss it in our party meeting."

President Yudhoyono's Democratic Party said it did not consider the alliance a threat to their 2009 election goal to win a second term in office.

"As long as it's for the sake of the nation, I think it's not a problem," Yudhoyono said. "We don't see it as threatening," said party advisor Subur Budhisantoso, now in the Presidential Advisory Board.

Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla said Wednesday's meeting discussed nothing other than the nation's problems. He said the 2009 election was not tabled. The President was informed about the meeting before it took place, he said.

The Medan meeting is to be followed with others in Palembang and Yogyakarta, where the two parties will join forces to win the local elections. The parties are expected to ensure the success of certain political bills, win local elections and run in the 2009 general elections.

1.2 million 'left off' city voter lists

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2007

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Around 1.2 million of Jakarta's eligible voters have not been registered for the August gubernatorial election, two national institutions announced Thursday.

The Institute of Research, Education and Information on Social and Economic Affairs (LP3ES) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) surveyed 2,038 residents with Jakarta IDs and found that 22 percent of them were not on the voter list.

The result supports complaints and public reports made to the Jakarta Election Commission (KPU Jakarta) and the Election Watchdog that many residents were left out of the registration process.

LP3ES researcher Agung Prihatna said the survey found that one reason for the relatively low accuracy in the registration process was voters failing to check that their names were on the voter list in their subdistricts. "Only 19.1 percent actively checked their voters status. This reflects a very low awareness among residents," he said.

The audit showed that about 61 percent of registered residents said that they had been listed because subdistrict officials visited their houses to ensure they were on the roll.

The voter registration process began in August last year at the Jakarta Population and Civil Registration Agency, which instructed all heads of neighborhood units in the city to update voter data from the 2004 legislative election.

The agency extended the process three times before delivering the last voter update to the poll commission in March. The commission updated the survey to list about 5.6 million voters in the city and slashed some 200,000 names to avoid duplication and remove residents who have moved out of the city.

The commission continued to update the data until June 19, only to discover many people were still not registered.

NDI researcher Anastasia Soeryadinata said the voluntary system for voter registration was a fundamental weakness and a reason Jakarta's low election participation rate. "This kind of registration requires a great effort to educate and inform residents and the administration is simply not ready for that," she said.

The high mobility of Jakarta residents also contributed to the relatively low participation rate compared to other regions in Indonesia.

A similar audit conducted by the NDI prior to the Aceh gubernatorial election last year found that 86.9 percent of eligible voters were registered.

Meanwhile, KPU Jakarta member Muflizar said the recklessness of the civil registration agency was the main cause of the low participation rate. "We have complained to the agency but they just did not try to improve the list," he said.

Separately, acting head of the Jakarta Population and Civil Registration Agency Murdiman said the agency had extended the registration period three times. "We've done our best to present the voter data. it is the commission's responsibility to add or remove data after that," Murdiman said.

Meanwhile, Murdiman's predecessor, Khamil Abdul Kadir, who retired recently, alleged that "partisanship" among some heads of neighborhood units – the focal point in the registration process – was the biggest problem.

Partisan neighborhood units did not include names of residents who belonged to other parties on their lists for the agency, he said.

Golkar, PDI-P form strategic alliance

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2007

Apriadi Gunawan and Ridwan Max Sijabat, Medan – The Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) held their first joint public gathering here Tuesday, paving the way for the country's two largest political parties to form a strategic coalition to contest local elections and the 2009 presidential election.

An estimated 12,000 supporters and executives from both parties attended the gathering at the Tiara Hotel. Supporters wearing red and yellow uniforms greeted senior figures from both parties by shouting "Yes", the coalition's slogan for the North Sumatra gubernatorial election to be held in June 2008.

Two key figures addressing the mass gathering were Taufik Kiemas, chairman of the advisory council of PDI-P, and his Golkar counterpart Surya Paloh.

Also attending the meeting were PDI-P Secretary General Pramono Anung Wibowo and his Golkar counterpart Soemarsono, chairman of the PDI-P faction in the House of Representatives Tjahjo Kumolo and his Golkar counterpart Priyo Budi Santoso and a number of legislators from the two parties.

Taufik hailed the gathering as being a historical event signifying the two parties' commitment to defending the unitary state of Indonesia, the state ideology Pancasila, the 1945 Constitution and a pluralist society.

"North Sumatra, home to numerous ethnic groups, religions and social groupings, is the first province where our two parties have declared their joint commitment," he said.

Taufik, the husband of PDI-P chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri, called on party supporters and the public to defend pluralism, saying both parties were concerned over an increasing trend to shift away from national consensus and values stipulated by the country's founding fathers.

Surya Paloh agreed, saying the two parties were against efforts by certain groups to change the nation's pluralist commitment and values as stipulated in the state's ideology and the constitution.

"The two nationalist parties strongly disagree with any ideology or values other than Pancasila, the constitution or pluralism, which have become Indonesia's way of life and thinking," he said.

Surya said the joint gathering represented wider cooperation between the two parties in dealing with national issues and political events.

He criticized an unspecified national leader, saying he perceived democracy as a goal, whereas it should be seen as a tool or means by which the public could achieve progress.

Golkar deputy chairman Burhanuddin Napitupulu said the meeting in Medan would be followed with others in Palembang and Yogyakarta.

The parties will establish dialogue in the near future to ensure the success of certain political bills, to win local elections and run in the 2009 general elections.

"Bilateral dialog will give us a common stance on many issues and this will be quite effective in maintaining the fundamental values of Pancasila, the constitution and pluralism," he said.

Aside from the two parties nominating Megawati in the 2004 presidential election, both are part of a major coalition hoping to win the gubernatorial election in Jakarta. They are also preparing a joint strategy to contend gubernatorial elections in North Sumatra, South Sumatra and Yogyakarta next year.

Sources from both parties said the Medan meeting also signified their joint concern over the increasing presence of sectarian parties believed to be behind the issuance of sharia bylaws and certain bills negating pluralism.

NGO urges residents to grade governor

Jakarta Post - June 19, 2007

Prodita Sabarini, Jakarta – A non-governmental group is urging residents to play an active role in monitoring the performance of the city's next governor and deputy governor, who will be elected in an August poll.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan of the Jakarta Residents Forum, or Fakta, said his group would draw up a list of the city's problems, so people could then grade the new administration on how well it addressed these problems.

"If they do not deliver, they will lose popularity and votes in the next election," he said. Jakartans can expect to have more say in how the city is run with the introduction of direct gubernatorial elections, he said.

Two candidates will contest the August election. They are Jakarta's current deputy governor, Fauzi Bowo, who is backed by a major coalition of parties, known as the Jakarta Coalition.

The other candidates is former National Police deputy chief Adang Daradjatun, who was nominated by the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the city's largest party.

Azas said with the power of the ballot box now at their disposal, Jakartans should be more forceful in monitoring the work of the city administration. Fakta is now setting up a workshop to draw up a list of Jakarta's most pressing problems.

"We will invite representatives from all areas of Jakarta as well as from all the different communities, such as sidewalk vendors, trash-pickers and intellectuals," Azas said. Azas said the workshop was planned for next week.

He said he did not know what problems would eventually make the list, but hinted that pushing the administration to do more for the poor would be one priority.

Jakarta, with a population well over 10 million, is grappling with a host of urban problems such as poverty, lack of housing, poor public transportation, environmental degradation and annual floods.

Azas said the group would deliver the final list to both governor candidates. "The list will serve as performance indicators for the elected governor. Jakarta residents will be able to see for themselves whether their concerns are being addressed by the administration or not. This gives the people political power."

Fakta says it will publish a report on the new administration's performance every six months. Azas said because of the introduction of direct elections, this new list would have more of an impact on the government than the social contract Fakta initiated for the city council in 2004.

In 2004, the group asked the 75 city councilors to sign this social contract promising not to accept bribes. Only four councilors signed. "Maybe they were afraid," Azas said.

Unlike the social contract, he said the list of city problems would not need to be signed by the elected governor. "Their work will show whether they address the problems of city dwellers or not. And residents can have their say in the next election."

PDI-P executives demanded bribes

Jakarta Post - June 18, 2007

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) admitted on Sunday that senior members had offered to support several generals as candidates for deputy governor in return for money.

"We know who were playing money games with these generals but we will not name them until the law can prove the case," Jakarta chapter executive Sigit Widiarto told reporters in Utan Kayu, East Jakarta.

He said he would urge the party's central board to resolve the problem in order to avoid similar problems in future direct elections in other regions.

The Regional Autonomy Law requires election candidates to have the support of political parties. Parties often try to sell "tickets" to provide a candidate with an entry to an election.

Until recently, few candidates have spoken about the process, but a recent series of rows and broken promises has resulted in some light being shed.

Legislator Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, a candidate who failed to get a place in the election, said he was dumped as a candidate in favor of someone who was able to provide more money.

A brawl in front of the PDI-P Jakarta office in Tebet, South Jakarta, last week revealed the underbelly of candidate selection in the election.

Four men got into a fight with a larger group of people in front of the office. One of the four was injured in the clash and is being treated at Mitra Hospital in South Jakarta.

The four men were later identified as having been sent by ex- deputy governor hopeful Maj. Gen. (ret.) Slamet Kirbiantoro to demand the return of money he had paid to a party executive to ensure his place on the ballot.

The two-star general claimed that he had given Rp 1.5 billion (US$163,934) to several parties during the nomination process to select Fauzi's running mate.

Meanwhile, another two-star general, Djasri Marin, claimed that he had spent Rp 2 billion on the PDI-P and the United Development Party (PPP).

He said that Fauzi's Jakarta Coalition of 13 political parties had required him to spread the money across several parties to ensure wide support.

Both generals, however, were dropped when Fauzi chose Maj. Gen. Prijanto, a former territorial assistant to Army Chief of Staff Djoko Santoso.

Those who were close to Fauzi said that he hand-picked his running-mate himself to avoid clashes in the coalition by selecting a name that was already supported by particular political parties.

Slamet was a strong candidate from the PDI-P at that time, while Djasri was the Golkar Party's favorite.

Another PDI-P member, Benni Sinaga, said that the party's central board should settle the problem as soon as possible for the sake of the party. "We want the central board to directly resolve this problem. We don't want to play dirty in any election," he said.

Party secretary general Pramono Anung could not be reached for comment.

Separately, PPP secretary general Irgan Chairul Mahfiz said that the party would hold an emergency meeting this week to discuss the issue. He also urged the public to come forward with the names of party members who had received money from failed candidates.

Survey finds public prefers intellectuals to politicians

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2007

Prodita Sabarini, Jakarta – Almost 30 percent of eligible Indonesian voters think academics and intellectuals would make the best regents, governors and presidents, a much higher proportion than those preferring candidates from political parties, a survey has found.

Paramadina University's Lead Institute and Indo Barometer presented the findings of their nation-wide survey dubbed "Visionary Leaders: Indonesia's Public Hope on Political Leadership" on Friday.

They surveyed 1,200 eligible voters in 33 provinces. The survey had a 3 percent margin of error.

Some 29.3 percent of respondents said people from academic backgrounds would create quality leaders.

Meanwhile only 20.4 percent of respondents said political parties would breed quality leaders, 1.4 points lower than the 21.8 percent of eligible voters who said they had no idea where good leaders came from.

"This shows that people are disappointed with politicians and political parties that are too pragmatic and filled with money politics," Lead Institute Executive Director Arya Bima said Friday.

Some 11.2 percent of respondents preferred candidates from mass organizations, 8.3 percent preferred the military, 5.3 percent the bureaucracy, 2.5 percent the business sector and 1.2 percent non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

According to the chairman of NGO Pedoman Indonesia, Fadjroel Rachman, the survey lent credibility to calls for allowing independent candidates to run in elections.

Under the 2004 Regional Autonomy Law candidates must be nominated by a political party or a coalition of parties to qualify for regional elections. A candidate must also have a combined backing of at least 15 percent of the vote from the region's previous legislative election.

Economist Faisal Basri and legislator Sarwono Kusumaatmaja, among others, lost their chance to run in the August Jakarta election because they were unable to achieve the backing of political parties.

The Constitutional Court is currently reviewing the Regional Autonomy Law.

"Political parties are monopolizing political recruitment," Fadjroel said. Academics and intellectuals outside the parties should be given chance to lead, he added.

But Indo Barometer Executive Director Mohammad Qodari said the survey did not mean that academics were necessarily better leaders. "Academics and intellectuals should not let their egos get inflated,"

"This just shows people's disappointment with political parties and that they're looking for alternatives in which to place their trust. This survey does not prove that intellectuals are better. Some people also seem to still be confused about who to place their trust in, seeing that some 21.8 percent said they didn't know what stream good leaders came from," Qodari said.

"The reason more people trusted academics than politicians was because they view academics as having no self-interest compared to politicians, as being less corrupt than bureaucrats and being less pragmatic than businessmen," he said.

"(But) placed in political positions, academics could fall into the same holes as the others, as seen in the General Elections Commission and other (cases)," he said.

The academic Mulyana W. Kusumah was involved in a graft case while serving with the commission.

Qodari said the survey's findings could spur political parties to improve their performance.

 Opinion & analysis

Deadly clash renews debate over abuses by Indonesian military

World Politics Review - June 19, 2007

Fabio Scarpello, Denpasar – After a military-civilian clash over disputed land in East Java turned deadly last month, outraged locals are urging Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to act decisively in taming trigger-happy soldiers and reigniting the stalled reform of the Indonesian armed forces.

The incident is bound to echo in Washington, where some legislators in the now Democrat-controlled Congress have shown signs of uneasiness over President George W. Bush's 2005 decision to resume US ties and funding to the Indonesian military, also known as the TNI.

The latest uproar was precipitated May 30 when Indonesian marines fired on protestors gathered in the East Javanese regency of Pasuruan to rally against the development of land that is at the center of a bitter court dispute with the navy.

The shooting left four dead, including a pregnant woman. Her four-year-old son was shot in the chest and is among the eight wounded.

Military authorities claim the marines acted in self-defense, but the National Commission on Human Rights said it found no evidence at the scene of the shooting that civilians intended to attack marines with sharpened weapons, as some marines claimed. Indonesia's 2000 law on human rights states that a deliberate attack on civilians is classified as a crime against humanity.

The land was bought by the navy in the 1960s for building a military training site, though some residents are now saying the regime of former dictator Suharto "forced them to sell." The navy never used the land and residents have since built and farmed on it.

The dispute started several years ago when the navy reclaimed ownership, won a court ruling and started evicting residents, who have lodged an appeal.

Agung Yudhawiranata of the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy said the tragedy is due to the persistent involvement of the TNI in for-profit business and a lack of reform of the Indonesian armed forces.

"The marines were there to defend their interests and not to represent the state. In theory, public [demonstrations] are under the responsibility of the police, so the marines should not have been on the scene," he said.

The country's police force was separated from the TNI in 1999. The police mobile brigade, or Brimob, is supposed to deal with mass demonstrations.

"The ease with which the marines fired is also a symptom of lack of professionalism and discipline, which together with TNI's involvement in business were to be addressed in the stalled reform," Yudhawiranata added.

In a prescient report published in June 2006, Human Rights Watch said Jakarta's apparent unwillingness to take over the TNI business empire, as laid out in a 2004 law, "undermines civilian autonomy and accountability" fuels human rights abuses.

In Indonesia, the TNI is responsible for most of its own funding, which comes from an array of legal and illegal ventures.

Security expert Aleksius Jemadu, an academic at Bandug's Parahyangan Catholic University, said that President Yudhoyono needs to push for a new military ethic.

"There hasn't been any revision of TNI's ethics, and soldiers' behavior is stuck at a time when they had a lot of privileges and could get away with anything," he said, referring to the 1965- 1998 period under dictator Suharto.

"TNI chiefs must draft a new code of conduct compatible with this democratic time. But that is unlikely to happen without a strong signal from Yudhoyono," he added.

Started in 1998 after the downfall of Suharto, the reform of TNI has lately slowed to a near standstill. Some observers are blaming former-general-turned-president Yudhoyono for lacking the political will to push it through.

In a recent book on post-Suharto military reform, Jakarta-based analyst Marcus Mietzner notes that "Indonesia has made remarkable progress in advancing military reforms," but that "serious omissions and failures persist."

"Most important, policymakers did not proceed with initiatives to reform the territorial command structure," Mietzner writes, referring to the system that allows the TNI to maintain units in every area and on every level, parallel to the civil government structure.

The latest TNI-induced tragedy is likely to add fuel to the drive by some US Democratic congressmen to put renewed emphasis on human rights when evaluating US aid to foreign militaries.

The change of focus could jeopardize Washington's financial support and close ties with the Indonesian Military, which restarted in 2005 after years of embargo due to the crimes committed by the TNI in East Timor in 1999. The Bush administration views Jakarta as a crucial ally in the global war on terror, a major reason for the renewed ties.

Leading the Democrats' charge is Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), who heads the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. According to the Singapore-based New Straits Times newspaper, the subcommittee debated the possibility of curtailing aid to the TNI Tuesday June 5, when it "marked up" the fiscal year 2008 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

A spokesman for Lowey told World Politics Review June 19 that the bill provides $8 million in funding for the Indonesian military. However, he said $2 million of that funding is conditioned "upon certification by the secretary of state that the government of Indonesia has addressed human rights abuses by the Indonesian military." [The condition is actually on a report of progress on dealing with rights violations and military reform. – John/ETAN]

The New Straits Times also mentions Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) as another legislator hot on the trail of the TNI. Leahy is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and was the sponsor of legislation tying the TNI to human rights violations in East Timor.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), who worked with Leahy to pressure Indonesian generals in the late 1990s, and Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, who represents American Samoa and is a staunch supporter of Papuan independence, are among the other Democrats critical of the Indonesian military.

Papua, the easternmost region of Indonesia, was annexed by Jakarta in a fraudulent referendum held in 1969. The mostly non- violent Papuan movement for independence has often been met with a harsh response from the TNI, which is accused of grave human rights abuses in the region.

[Fabio Scarpello is Southeast Asia correspondent for the Italian press agency AdnKronos International and a regular contributor to WPR.]

More debates, fewer rallies

Jakarta Post Editorial - June 16, 2007

Gone is the debate over whether independent candidates should have the right to contest the election for the Jakarta governor in August.

Even if the Constitutional Court says independent candidates do have this right when it delivers a verdict on the issue later this month, it will be too late to change Jakarta's poll.

Jakartans can look forward to having just two pairs of candidates to choose from in August. These pairs are Fauzi Bowo and his running mate Prijanto, and Adang Daradjatun and running mate Dani Anwar, who registered with the provincial poll body just hours before the deadline.

Allowing independent candidates at this point would simply disrupt the ongoing poll preparations, which could threaten the whole process of the first direct gubernatorial election in Jakarta.

But the clamor for independent candidates cannot be lightly dismissed. The fact that a group of people is challenging a law that blocks independent candidates from contesting elections demonstrates a degree of public distrust in the candidates who are allowed to run.

In other words, some Jakarta voters may not believe either of the two pairs of candidates has the credibility to lead the capital. If this doubt persists, it could affect voter turnout in August. While a high turnout does not necessarily guarantee the quality of an election, the more voters the more credible a poll will be.

Jakartans will have to vote for either Fauzi/Prijanto or Adang/Dani, but many residents may not know what the candidates actually stand for. Most people only know Adang is a former National Police deputy chief and has been recently active in the Association of Blood Donors. Fauzi is only known as the current Jakarta deputy governor.

With the official campaign period for the election lasting just two weeks – from July 22 and Aug. 2 – the candidates will have a small window of opportunity to introduce themselves and communicate their programs to the public.

More importantly, neither Fauzi nor Adang has yet to convince the public of their ability to lead Jakarta, a city of 12 million people that is facing a myriad of problems, ranging from traffic congestion to poverty.

There are many ways to build trust between candidates and voters, including public debates. The more public exposures the candidates receive, the greater the opportunity for them to win the hearts and minds of voters.

Public debates would be a more effective way to connect with voters than mass rallies, which increase the danger of clashes and traffic accidents.

Unlike in the United States, where debates between presidential candidates has long been practiced as part of that country's democracy, Indonesia only initiated public debates among candidates in the 2004 presidential election.

The televised debates that year, however, were dull and failed to live up to their goal of providing a bridge between the candidates and the voters. Most of the time it was political party officials, not the presidential candidates, who had the guts to appear in public and challenge their opponents.

The presidential debates between George W. Bush and Senator John F. Kerry in 2004 could be cited as a model for debates between candidates.

It would be too much to expect Fauzi and Adang to emulate Bush and Kerry. Hopes are high, however, the public will have more chances to examine the candidates so they will be able to vote for the right person.

Public debates, which are part of the political education, would also be expected to provide a clearer picture of the candidates to those who may think about skipping the election.

Fauzi could take advantage of the debates to discuss his achievements during his time as deputy governor. And he would have the opportunity to explain, among other things, why flooding remains a serious threat to the city and how garbage handling could be improved. Adang would have the opportunity to talk about how he would live up to his pledge to make Jakarta a better place if elected.

Both Fauzi and Adang must be well versed on all the problems facing Jakarta, and they must be willing to speak to the public about how they would address these problems for the good of all Jakartans.

Apart from the initiative of both Fauzi and Adang, it is the responsibility of the elections commission to encourage public debates.

Large rallies will only exacerbate the city's already notorious traffic jams. Worse, such rallies have in the past ended in violence. Surely, debates would be a better way to educate voters.

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