Home > South-East Asia >> Indonesia

Indonesia News Digest 28 – July 24-31, 2007, 2007

News & issues

Aceh West Papua Human rights/law Environment/natural disasters Poverty & unemployment Elections/political parties Economy & investment Opinion & analysis

 News & issues

Indonesia's wealthiest prove smoking is good for some

Jakarta Post - July 31, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesia's tobacco kings have topped this year's rich list, with the country's oil, construction and energy tycoons coming in a close second.

According to Globe Asia's list of the archipelago's richest entrepreneurs, due to be released Tuesday, Budi Hartono of the Djarum group, Rachman Halim of the Gudang Garam group and Putera Sampoerna are worth respectively $4.2 billion, $3.5 billion and $2.2 billion.

Chief welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie of Bakrie Group is worth $1.05 billion, oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro of Medco Energy is worth $900 million and media baron Hary Tanusoedibjo is valued at $820 million.

The top 150 list of business men and women is calculated by estimating the value of the companies they are known to own and run, said Shoeb Kagda, associate publisher of the monthly magazine.

"These are guestimates according to a methodology that has been proven and tested," he said, referring to the method used by the US-based Forbes business magazine.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, also a successful businessman, is ranked 83rd on the list, with $125 million.

Publisher Rizal Ramli said the Globe Asia 150 is published to encourage greater transparency and good corporate governance within the Indonesian business community.

"The public have the right to know who they are and how they run their businesses," he said.

Rizal said the fact that three tobacco kings still ranked among the top of the list showed the strength of Indonesia's clove- flavored cigarette industry, as well as the success of their proprietors to diversify into other sectors.

Budi Hartono of Djarum for example has acquired Bank Central Asia and has moved into property, while Putera Sampoerna's family has sold its stake in the HM Sampoerna cigarette company to American tobacco giant Phillip Morris.

The list also shows which sectors have been producing more wealth and which ones have been producing less, with commodities and natural resources, including timber, falling into the first group and manufacturing largely falling in the second group.

Rizal noted the rise of relative newcomers on the list who were competing with Indonesia's wealthiest.

He said Hary Tanusoedibjo and Teddy William Katuari of the Wings Group made good examples.

The latest Globe Asia edition will also feature a list of the top 120 wealthiest government officials, using data largely supplied by the Commission for the Eradication of Corruption (KPK), Rizal said.

All government officials are required to submit a list of their assets at the beginning of their term in office.

Among those in the top 10 include Gorontalo governor Fadel Muhammad ($16.64 million), industry minister Fahmi Idris ($9.4 million), central bank deputy governor Bun Bunan EJ Hutapea ($5.93 million) and Jakarta deputy governor Fauzi Bowo ($4.4 million).

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ranked 39th with $516,897 worth of assets at the start of his term in 2004.

Rizal said the list was based on outdated data and likely to be "heavily under-reported". He declined to elaborate.

Researcher raises questions about land reform program

Jakarta Post - July 31, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – While the government expects to launch an ambitious national land reform program this year to distribute more than 9 million hectares of land, a researcher has raised questions about the effectiveness of the project.

"Everything is ready but we still have to wait for the President to summon all the governors," National Land Agency chief Joyo Winoto said after a judicial review hearing at the Constitutional Court.

"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needs to meet all the governors because land distribution nationwide requires solid preparation and a common understanding among all of the governors."

The government hopes to distribute 9.25 million hectares of "abandoned land" for free to some nine million families nationwide.

"The land reform program is directed toward the people, with certain criteria. The most important condition is that the families have to be landless or own only small pieces of land," Joyo said.

"Families receiving the land have the right to utilize their land in any way, such as cultivating it themselves, setting up cooperatives with other people or turning the land into business ventures. "But receivers should maintain the land titles."

Isono Handoko of the Akatiga research institute, told The Jakarta Post he had doubts about the program. "I have heard several governors say that their provinces already lack land, especially in Jakarta and West Java. In most of Java, many people don't own land. Sometimes land ownership is not the answer," he said.

"In Kalimantan, people already own land but they lack the skill to utilize it. In East Nusa Tenggara, people have the land and know how to cultivate agricultural products but they have problem shipping their products to other islands.

"And please check again whether the government is giving away land that hasn't been owned previously by people, or if it is merely certifying plots of land which people have occupied before."

Joyo said the government had drawn up 64 schemes to connect people with land, taking into account various factors such as land location and ownership.

He said the government had acquired the land from 13 sources, including plots of land previously owned by individuals but transferred to the state because the ownership had expired or because of land use violations.

The 1960 land law sets a maximum amount of agricultural land that can be owned by an individual, with the figure varying from province to province. The government will take over any amount in excess of these limits, after paying the owner compensation.

As of 2006, the National Land Agency had taken over 121,000 hectares of land and paid total compensation of some Rp 58.52 billion (US$6.5 million) to the former land owners. The government has distributed this land to 31,593 people.

Death rate of mothers in childbirth has risen again

Cenderawasih Post - July 26, 2007

Merauke – The number of women dying in childbirth has risen in the past two years. In 2005, the rate was 464 per 1000,000 births which rose to 499 in 2006. In the previous years, the numbers were declining. In 2001 the figure was 1,071 and 529 in 2003 and fell to 202 in 2004.

An official of the Merauke health service said the reason for the increase was that many health workers who work in the villages have been transferred to other districts following the creation of more district administrations, with the result that there were no medical staff in the villages. Another reason was that many health workers had abandoned their posts. The official said that people had either been transferred or they had left of their own will.

He said that there had been many attempts to recruit nurses and midwives but there was little interest to work in these places. "They dont want to work in remote areas, they only want to work in towns," he said. "When we invite people to work in the towns, hundreds come forward," he said.

Stop adding new debt, NGOs tell government

Jakarta Post - July 26, 2007

Jakarta – An anti-debt group is demanding the government stop adding debt to fund the state budget because they said most of the agreed loan commitments have not yet been disbursed.

Coordinator of the Anti-debt Coalition Kusfiardi asked the government to forego borrowing Rp 2.8 trillion (about US$308 million) of program loans as per a proposed revision of the 2007 state budget. The new debt would raise total program loans from Rp 16.3 trillion to Rp 19.1 trillion.

He said the country's foreign debt, including that owed to the International Monetary Fund, stood at US$365 billion in 2005, only $162 billion of which had been disbursed. "The government should focus more on eliminating undisbursed loans and stop adding new debt," Kusfiardi said.

"The House of Representatives should also refuse the government's new debt proposal." He added the government had to pay commitment fees for the undisbursed loans, which further burdened the state budget from year to year.

"Eliminating undisbursed loans can shift the allocation of commitment fees to help pay the state budget deficit," he said.

The government could do this by asking creditors for a debt cut because Indonesia had faced many natural disasters lately.

He said Indonesia should also seek debt reduction for loans the New Order regime had embezzled or used to pay commitment fees.

"We urge the government to audit debts of the past, including odious debts, in order to get a debt cut," he said. "The government's debt payment has severely damaged the people's welfare."

He said debts made it impossible for the government to formulate policies independently because creditors imposed a policy matrix among debt disbursement requirements.

"The state budget should be able to correspond with the people's basic rights, such as education, health and public service," he said.

"Adding more debts makes the government unable to formulate adequate state budgets. We can see this from the education budget, which has never reached 20 percent as the Constitution has mandated."

Ragwan Aljufri from Women's Solidarity also rejected the government's plan to add more debt.

"The government should also consider gender in formulating the state budget," she said. "Adding new debts will diminish local economies and impoverish women."

She said the government had failed to fulfill the people's basic rights, especially toward women's health. She cited 2006 data from the Health Ministry that showed 4,283 women had been diagnosed with uterine cancer and 2,993 with breast cancer.

"Most women can't take care of their health because the hospital costs are very high," Ragwan said. "With only Rp 17.46 trillion or 2.2 percent for health in the state budget, the government definitely can't fulfill that basic need."

She said the government could focus undisbursed funds on empowerment programs for women, including education and skills training.

She said the government needed to allocate a special budget for female migrant workers because they were vulnerable to rape and sexually transmitted diseases.

Nike workers stage rally to oppose mass layoffs

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2007

Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta – Thousands of workers from two local shoe manufacturing companies staged a rally Monday to extend their demands for American sportswear giant Nike Inc. to restore contracts with their employers.

The workers were from Tangerang-based PT Naga Sakti Parama Shoe Industry (Nasa) and PT Hardaya Aneka Shoe Industry (Hasi), which manufacture shoes exclusively for Nike. Monday's rally was the second time workers from Hasi and Nasa protested, with last Monday's effort in front of the Jakarta Stock Exchange on Jl. Sudirman, South Jakarta, falling on deaf ears.

The workers marched from the Jakarta Stock Exchange to the Trade Ministry building on Jl. Ridwan Rais, Central Jakarta, and then to the headquarters of the Indonesian Employers Association on Jl. Rasuna Said. The rally caused large-scale traffic congestion in most parts of the capital.

Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu is scheduled to meet Nike representatives Tuesday.

The workers demanded Nike continue placing orders with their employers at the present level or provide severance pay for all workers. However, they are not employed by Nike and severance pay, by law, is the responsibility of their employers.

"We came here for the second time to demand our needs are met because we have been unlawfully exploited," Suroto said, as quoted by news portal Detik.com. "Nike has torn up contracts with our factories unilaterally. Nike must compensate for the negative impact felt by Nasa and Hasi workers," he said.

Nike Corporation sent a termination letter to Siti Hartati Murdaya, the president director of PT Central Cipta Murdaya, the holding company for both Nasa and Hasi, on July 6. The letter said Nike was to end cooperation with both companies. It provided nine month's notice, saying cooperation would end in March 2008.

Nike said the decision to end the contracts with both factories was final. The giant firm warned its contractors of their below- standard output levels and other problems in March this year by decreasing shoe orders by more than 50 percent.

Nike then placed orders with another shoe manufacturer, PT Pratama Abadi Industri, to compensate for orders canceled at Nasa and Hasi. Nasa and Hasi will operate as usual until December to complete the rest of Nike's orders.

Worker and deputy union chairman at Hasi, Hari S. W., dismissed Nike's argument, saying the factories had met the company's quality standards and used the production system it had demanded. Nasa worker Agus Darsono said there had never been any problem with product quality and quantity since cooperation with Nike began in 1988.

Sharing his concern over the fate of the thousands of workers, Tangerang Mayor Wahidin Halim said he had asked the central government to find a solution for the workers and had sent a letter to Manpower Minister Erman Soeparno. "We (the local administration) cannot interfere in such problems," Wahidin said Monday.

He said his administration would support the workers's efforts, including Monday's rally in Jakarta. "We don't want to see these workers, who are mostly Tangerang residents, lose their jobs," he said.

[Multa Fidrus in Tangerang contributed to the story.]


Acehnese hopeful BRR can finish task

Jakarta Post - July 31, 2007

The Aceh people remain hopeful the Aceh-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) could finish the construction of infrastructures in Aceh by 2008.

"The construction of houses, bridges, highways, schools, markets and the installation of electricity and clean water could hopefully be finished by next year," speaker of the Aceh provincial legislative council Sayed Fuad Zakaria said.

Infrastructure was important because a number of victims in Aceh could not move to the completed houses yet because the new homes were not yet equipped with proper utilities, Sayed said.

The reconstruction agency however is not set to complete its reconstruction projects until April 2009.

The agency had built 77.194 houses by May this year and has plans to build another 138.362 by December.

The agency has requested a budget of some Rp 13 trillion (US$1.44 billion) for 2008 and 2009 before its mandate expires.

Sayed said he hoped the central government could focus on the improvement of education systems and facilities as well as improving the quality of teachers for the area.

"Accessibility of education in Aceh is low especially at the high school level," he said.

"I also expect the government to increase the number of vocational high schools rather than regular high schools so that students can get jobs as soon as they graduate."

Aceh vice governor Muhammad Nazar said he hoped there would be no more tsunami victims in temporary shelters by 2008.

"We also hope the government will help us by building a strong foundation for the sustainability of reconstruction and development in Aceh," he said.

"The government can give technical and financial assistance to the Aceh provincial administration before the end of the agency's mandate."

Nazar said BRR should involve local administrations in the reconstruction process to continue works after BRR's mandate is over.

According to deputy chairman for finance and planning affairs at the reconstruction agency, Amin Subekti, the agency was preparing to transfer rehabilitation and reconstruction projects to the local government before April 2009.

GAM party sparks new round of anti-separatist rhetoric

Green Left Weekly - July 25, 2007

James Balowski, Jakarta – A furor has erupted over the recent formation of the GAM party in Indonesia's northernmost province of Aceh. Former members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) announced the formation of the party on July 7.

Chaired by former GAM military commander Muzakkir Manaf, it adopted GAM's white crescent and star symbol on a red background as its logo. Former GAM "prime minister" Malik Mahmud later said that Jakarta had agreed to the establishment of a local party in Aceh based on the former rebel group that fought for Acehnese independence from Indonesia.

The government, however, was quick to deny that it had given any such blessing, with Vice-President Jusuf Kalla saying that although Mahmud had discussed the issue with him, no official approval had been given.

Presidential spokesperson Andi Alfian said that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had never approved the use of GAM's insignia, adding that while there will be no banning of local parties, they have to be established in accordance with existing laws and uphold the unitary principles of the state (i.e., accept Aceh remaining a province of Indonesia).

State secretary Hatta Radjasa also rejected GAM's claim, saying that the Yudhoyono clearly did not approve of it and that it contradicts the spirit of the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between GAM and the Indonesian government in August 2004.

House of Representatives (DPR) Commission I member Suparlan was quoted by Detik.com on July 9 as saying, "This can no longer be tolerated. Summon the leadership, if they don't respond then arrest them." National Mandate Party commission member Abdillah Toha said that it demonstrates that former GAM members no longer wish to be part of the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI). "The fatal error in the MoU is that it does not have a clause on the dissolution of GAM. This can no longer be tolerated", he asserted.

Former state secretary and Commission I member Yusril Ihza Mahendra described it as being as if "a necklace of war has been draped around our necks". "The formation of the GAM party is clearly not in accordance with the Helsinki MoU. It also violates Law No. 11/2006 on Acehnese Governance", he told Detik.com.

However, neither the Aceh Governance Law nor the MoU contain any such stipulation. The MoU notes only that Aceh has the "right to use regional symbols including a flag, a crest and a hymn". The only reference to GAM symbols is in section 4.2 where it states, "GAM members will not wear uniforms or display military insignia or symbols after the signing of this MoU".

Likewise, article 2, paragraph 4 of the Aceh Governance Law, which covers the names and symbols of local political parties, only specifies that the name and symbol of a local party cannot have a resemblance to one already used by the state, a state institution, the government, a regional government or an existing national or local political party. It makes no mention of the use of the GAM name or symbol.

While former GAM leaders have expressed grievances over some aspects of the Aceh Governance Law and the MoU, the group has not returned to armed struggle and has reiterated its commitment to the peace deal and remaining part of Indonesia.

This remained the case during the recent election of regional heads in Aceh, in which former GAM members Irwandi Yusuf and Muhammad Nazar won the governorship of the province and independent GAM-linked candidates won the majority of regency and municipal tickets.

It is in this context that some of the most inflammatory, but at the same time most revealing, remarks have come from Muladi, the head of military think-tank the National Resilience Institute.

Speaking to reporters in Jakarta on July 9, Muladi claimed that by calling itself GAM and using the GAM insignia the party has violated the Helsinki MoU, the Aceh Governance Law and the regulation on local parties in Aceh. He added that the movement must be stopped before it gained international support and that the government should refuse to register it.

Following a meeting with Kalla in Jakarta on July 10 he went even further, claiming the new party has "no other goal but to achieve independence". "They are using the GAM flag. GAM is the Free Aceh Movement. So if [they] still continue to use GAM symbols it means that's their aim", he told Detik.com (Several days later, however, Kalla shrugged this off saying former GAM members have agreed to maintain Aceh as part of Indonesia).

Muladi went on to say that based on the results of the regional elections in Aceh, if the GAM party takes part in the 2009 elections they could win control of the Acehnese legislature. "If it is allowed, [we] can see how it will pan out. Local parties are established, then dominate the parliament, and later that's what the parliament will discuss. They will be able to discuss anything, including asking for a referendum", he told Detik.com adding that the situation "closely resembles East Timor before".

A factor influencing this was the uproar that followed an incident in Ambon on June 29, when a group of uninvited dancers managed to sneak into an event commemorating National Family Day and unfurl a South Maluku Republic (RMS) separatist flag in front of Yudhoyono and official dignitaries. This was followed by a protest on July 3 when a dancer unfurled a Morning Star separatist flag during a Papuan Traditional Council conference in Jayapura and demonstrations in Central Java and Jakarta displayed the Morning Star and called for a referendum on the status of West Papua.

There have been reports suggesting that security agencies were aware of the planned RMS protest but allowed it to go ahead. This has raised speculations that elements within the Indonesian military or police intentionally sought to embarrass Yudhoyono in order to push the government to give them a freer hand in dealing with separatism.

It is most unlikely that these agencies were unaware of the planned GAM party declaration since the initial steps in the process were reported by the media as far back June 4. On July 16 it was announced that Maluku police chief Guntur Gatot Setiawan and the Maluku military chief Major General Sudarmaidy had both been sacked over the incident.

So while most of Muladi's remarks can be easily dismissed as "overacting" – a phrase commonly attributed to excesses by the TNI (Indonesian military) during the Suharto dictatorship – his comments on the regional elections give a clue as to the real agenda behind the latest outbreak of anti-separatist saber- rattling.

While Yudhoyono's administration still enjoys a relatively high level of support, most Indonesians see legislators and the parties they represent as lazy, incompetent, corrupt and self- serving. This has resulted in a growing apathy or outright hostility towards the traditional parties, demonstrated by numerous surveys and large numbers of people not bothering to vote in regional elections. This is most certainly, if not more so, the case in Aceh.

But unlike the rest of Indonesia, with the exception of elections for the Regional Representatives Councils, Aceh is the only province that allows independent candidates to run for office or the formation of local political parties not endorsed by the existing parties. Particularly in the lead-up to the gubernatorial elections in Jakarta next August, there have been growing calls for revisions to the electoral laws to allow for independent candidates and local political parties in other parts of the country.

The large traditional parties strongly oppose this and are actually pushing to further tighten the already strict requirements for parties to be registered and take part in elections.

The victory of former rebel candidates in the Aceh regional election was a clear signal of GAM's popularity and Acehnese people's rejection of Jakarta politics. Speaking in December last year when the early result of the gubernatorial poll showed a landslide win for the Irwandi-Nazar ticket, Muladi himself admitted that while he was "surprised" at the outcome, the GAM candidates' imminent victories proved the appeal of the movement to the Acehnese.

One cannot help but wonder if behind all this rhetoric over the separatist threat allegedly posed by the GAM Party, sections of the political elite – particularly Acehnese legislators elected in 2004 before independent candidates were allowed in Aceh – are actually worried about losing something they value a great deal more than the integrity of the Indonesian state: power, position and, of course, the money and privileges that come with them.

[For regular reports translated from Indonesian language news sources on Aceh, West Papua and Indonesia email: indoleft- subscribe@lists.riseup.net.]

SBY and Irwandi share view on local party

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2007

Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam governor Irwandi Jusuf agree the establishment of a local political party should have legal grounding.

"Aceh's governor has agreed the process of forming a new local party should be based on laws or other rulings," State Secretary Hatta Rajasa told Detik.com news portal.

Yudhoyono met with Irwandi on Sunday and said he did not mind if the former rebels grouped in the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) form a local political party in the province because it was embedded in the Helsinki peace agreement.

Controversy broke after GAM members declared the establishment of GAM Party as a local party accommodated by the 2006 Law on Aceh Provincial Administration. Hatta said political parties were prohibited against the use of a provocative name or symbol that reinforced disintegration.

 West Papua

Military role in Papua challenged

Radio Australia - July 30, 2007

Indonesia is under pressure for posting a colonel indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor, to the province of Papua. It comes as the Indonesian military is believed to be stepping up its activities in Papua and there are reports of Indonesian backed militias increasing their presence there too. Human rights groups are calling for international intervention.

Presenter: Steve Holland. Speaker: Rev Socratez Yoman, President of the Communion of Baptist Churches in Papua Province; Matthew Jamieson, from the Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights

Holland: In an open letter to the Indonesian president more than 30 humanitarian groups jointly called for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to urgently review his country's military presence in Papua.

Letter: Dear President Yudhoyono, We are writing to express our grave concern about the tenure of Col. Burhanuddin Siagian as commander of the Jayapura sub-regional military command in Papua. Col. Siagian has been indicted twice for crimes against humanity in East Timor. Indonesia has not complied with its obligations under international law and Indonesian domestic law to prosecute Col. Siagian for his alleged crimes, and it has furthermore failed to extradite him to East Timor for trial. Instead he has been promoted and appointed to command a large military unit within a highly sensitive area.

Holland: According to indictments issued by the Special Panel for Serious Crimes of Dili District Court, Col. Siagian made public speeches threatening to kill East Timor's pro-independence supports.

It's believed those statements, made in 1999, directly led to the deaths of a number of Timorese civilians. Siagian has since been charged with crimes against humanity. These include: torture; murder; persecution; and the forcible transfer of a civilian population.

According to a recently released report in the Cenderawasih Post, Col Siagian is using tactics similar to those he is accused of employing in East Timor. The Cenderawasih Post quotes him as saying: "If I meet anyone who has enjoyed the facilities that belong to the state, but who still betrays the nation, I honestly will destroy him."

The statement was reportedly made in response to demands by students and youths for a review of Papua's history. And Rev Socratez Yoman, President of the Communion of Baptist Churches in Papua Province, says it's not merely threats raising concern in the region.

Yoman: Every corner in West Papua is intelligence, military everywhere from Sarong to Maloka and the military is also increasing here.

Holland: Rev Yoman says the appointment of Col Siagian coupled with the perceived military buildup has intensified the situation in Papua.

Yoman: "We need help. We need, the people of West Papua need, genuine or peaceful dialogue between Jakarta and West Papua mediated by the international community – especially the United Nations. It is important."

Holland: Reports from Papua suggest on the 6th of July Col Siagian addressed a meeting attended by various militia groups – including the Red and White Militia group which operated in East Timor. Matthew Jamieson, from the Institute for Papuan Advocacy & Human Rights, believes Indonesia is also relocating troops to Papua who have been serving in other areas that have been scenes of unrest.

Jamieson: There's been an increase in the numbers of military and police in West Papua since the close of hostilities in Aceh. It's going into a phase where there's ever-increasing numbers of security forces and now Indonesia seems to be spawning civilian militias.

Holland: Although the exact level of Indonesia's armed commitments in Papua is unclear, it's certain the presence of Col Siagian is causing alarm.

Jamieson: We need people to start taking a stand because if we go down the track of what happened in East Timor we could end up with many people killed. And if Siagian, apparently, by allowing him to, and the other commanders, by allowing them to develop these militias in Papua they will be able to repeat that experience in Timor.

Holland: The Indonesian military was not available for immediate comment. But Indonesia has previously state it is committed to resolving issues in Papua in a peaceful, just and dignified manner. Indonesia has also denied any allegations of human rights abuses.

Papua law revision 'insignificant'

Jakarta Post - July 28, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – An independent NGO, the Papua Working Group in Jakarta, said a revision of the Papua Special Autonomy Law was insignificant and that the Papuan administration needed a solid and transparent plan to prioritize development and channel progression funds properly.

The special autonomy law was expected to maximize the implementation of funding channeled to Papua through several political elites to ensure the ongoing development of the area.

"What the central government should do is make an evaluation and create a transparent blueprint of allocation implementation," Papua Working Group in Jakarta member Amiruddin Al Rahab said at a public discussion Friday.

But Amiruddin said prior to designing the blueprint, the government should assess the progress of Papua's autonomy, which is just five years old.

The working group said trillions of rupiah had been allocated over five years but that physical developments were scant. The Home Affairs Ministry still perceives Papua as the same as other provinces, he said.

"The government needs to improve communication with the local administrations in Papua. Strengthening their level of trust and the understanding of technical regulations also matters."

He said the expansion of regencies in the area added a complexity to the local administration's job and that synchronizing Jakarta and Papua was tough task.

"They should confirm that in the following decade there won't be any new establishment of regencies in Papua – so that in development can be boosted in crucial sectors."

One idea floated was to encourage and prepare Papuan students to pursue their graduate education abroad – in the US, England or Australia.

"Their aspirations for freedom can be achieved within this republic if they receive adequate educational and health support, including ample stocks of medicine," said Amiruddin.

Lawmaker Ferry Mursyidan Baldan from the Golkar Party faction said the House of Representatives had no plan to revise the Papua Special Autonomy Law, through which it was supposed to disburse Rp 3.29 trillion (about US$355 million) in 2007.

"We see that the law is yet to be optimal in its implementation," Ferry said. "Legislators need to examine where exactly the problem lies," he said, adding sharing the budget evenly among regencies would not solve the problem.

Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) coordinator Teten Masduki said in preventing corruption or solving human rights issues, Papua still needed external assistance. "Local elites have benefited from budget misallocation," he said.

Teten said in order to solve misallocation problems, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) needed to form regional branch offices in Papua.

"If there are misallocations of funds or deviations in implementation, then KPK can quickly probe the case based on the existing law," Teten said.

Court rejects Papua appeal

Jakarta Post - July 27, 2007

Jakarta – The Supreme Court refused the appeal of a man convicted in a December 2006 shooting near the operational area of Freeport McMoran in Timika, Papua, that left three employees dead.

Justice German Hoediarto on Thursday upheld the life sentence handed down to Antonius Wawang by the Jakarta High Court. Wawang was sentenced by the high court in January.

The Supreme Court also rejected the appeals of six others involved in the shooting. They all received jail terms ranging from five to eight years.

Papua separatism weakening: Army

Jakarta Post - July 25, 2007

Jakarta – The Free Papua Movement (OPM) is no more than an ideology, with only about six percent of the population of Papua remaining active members of the separatist movement, a military commander said Tuesday.

"We don't know the exact amount of OPM members. However, they number about six percent of the Papuan population," Chief of the Trikora Regional Military Command overseeing Papua and West Papua provinces, Maj. Gen. Zamroni, said, as quoted by the detik.com news portal.

"We have also detected that they now only have about 50 guns and rifles, scattered throughout Papua," he added.

However, Zamroni said the movement would remain a threat to the country's security and unity. He said the recent OPM flag-waving incident in Papua had not significantly impacted Papuans in general as it was committed by a small group of residents.

Initiating people-driven development for Papua

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2007

HS Dillon, Jakarta – Despite evident shortcomings, one of the outstanding features of post-Soeharto reform has been the devolution of considerable authority to the regions. This includes Papua, where, dating back from the Dutch colonial days, the institutional setup and policy-making has not favored ethnic Papuans. Ethnic Papuans have never been prominent actors in shaping their own future, let alone in determining the distribution of benefits.

It comes as no surprise then, that the growth and increases in regional income are not reflected in the Human Development Index.

It is clear that the planning and decision-making systems have not been able to address the development challenges posed by Papua. The dominant development paradigm, placing emphasis on physical infrastructure, is certainly not the correct answer, either. Ethnic Papuans have not been empowered to draw full benefits from such public investment.

Historically speaking, infrastructure has generally served the dominant groups without generating meaningful value-added, either economic or social, for ethnic Papuans. In the current context, additional physical capital would certainly benefit non-ethnic Papuans and the national economy, but given the fact that ethnic Papuans are still not in a position to compete, it might very well widen the social gap.

The discrepancy between ethnic Papuans and non-ethnic Papuans is widely manifest in cities, as this is where the value-added gravitates toward. Thus, there are historical and structural underpinnings to the Papuan paradox of a resource-rich Papua with more than 80 percent of ethnic Papuans wallowing in abject poverty.

The special autonomy granted to Papua in 2001 provides ethnic Papuans greater latitude for cultural expression and represents an opportunity to reverse the historical injustices and institutional failures. However, poor governance among ethnic Papuan elite, perhaps, explains the persistence of the Papuan paradox: During the first five years the massive influx of funds failed to make a dent in widespread poverty.

Governor Suebu has a magnificent obsession: Using the second chance provided him to lead his people to write a new chapter in Papua's history by employing a new development paradigm that attaches the highest priority to the welfare of ethnic Papuans.

He has set a Herculean task for himself from the very onset: engaging marginalized Papuans in equal discourse to better identify their needs and capacities.

It has taken him 46 days of traveling around Papua by land, over water, flying in light planes and helicopters, and even walking long distances to cover 16 of the 36 meeting points mapped out. On many occasions, voices of disenfranchised ethnic Papuans have brought tears to the eyes of his entourage, comprising state- level and senior officials from the different regencies.

He plans to capitalize upon the reformasi and democratization momentum to build a new Papua within the folds of the Republic of Indonesia. To ensure that ethnic Papuans get a fair share of public funding, his administration has formulated a strategic plan for village-based development, aptly named RESPEK.

Toward this end, in the current fiscal year he has reversed the top-heavy budget pyramid, reducing bureaucratic expenditures from 70 percent to 27 percent, and increasing the share accruing to villages from 10 percent to 45 percent at one stroke. Therein, kampongs are being provided greater latitude and means to establish their own budget priorities and enhance their capacity as they deem fit.

At around the same time, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has issued an instruction espousing a "New Deal" for Papua, focusing on health, vocational education, the acceleration of basic infrastructure development, food security and affirmative action measures to give more ethnic Papuans the opportunity to hold posts within the administration, the police and military forces.

However, all this would require a quantum leap in the capacity of ethnic Papuans to plan and manage the overall system, institutions and apparatus. To strengthen fundamentals and to empower ethnic Papuans to assume key roles in development, and to ensure that the development path from the kampongs up unfolds such that Papuans continue to progress from one stage to another, an institutional home for the formulation of requisite breakthroughs and innovations might be in order.

Governor Suebu has expressed a desire to establish a People- Driven Development Knowledge Center, which would help ensure that all policies formulated, institutions established and technologies designed (or transferred in) were driven by the needs and capacities of ethnic Papuans.

Support for an institution dedicated to helping ethnic Papuans catch up, should also rank high on the priority list of the corporate sector and donor community already committed to forging meaningful partnerships with local government and ethnic Papuans.

To achieve these objectives, such a center would need to begin by mapping the diverse physical-ecological, economic, social, cultural and human resource potentials, as well as population dynamics, and record both local initiatives and responses to interventions. With sincere donor support, all international best practices could be recast to meet the unique needs and capacities of ethnic Papuans, starting from the village.

Then, and only then, would Governor Suebu's vision of a Papuan society which upholds ethics and morals, truth and justice, and fully respects the dignity and value of mankind, come to be.

People-driven in a dynamic sense, such a society would also place specific emphasis on the environment, striking a balance between utilization and conservation of natural resources in order to ensure a high quality of life for both current and future Papuans. Under such enlightened stewardship, development would continue to progress and become self-sustaining – turning perceived weaknesses into strengths.

As we move forward, it would serve us well to heed the lessons of East Timor, particularly that national unity cannot be preserved through the barrel of a gun. Despite the massive public investment (in sharp contrast to the immiserization during the Portuguese era), all that Indonesia earned in East Timor was hatred and disgrace.

We need to listen more to the Papuans. However, let there be no mistake: ethnic Papuans do not have a palm outstretched for charity. All they want is to be treated with dignity, and to be given their due. A Papua governed through good governance, with widespread prosperity among ethnic Papuans, would no doubt also contribute to the integrity of our Republic.

Perhaps, the wisdom gleaned from forging equal partnerships with ethnic Papuans will, in turn, be of value in transforming the rest of Indonesia into a more just and prosperous society.

[The writer is a political economist and member of the Papua Forum. He can be reached at hsdillon@gmail.com.]

 Human rights/law

Pollycarpus ruling could be reversed

Jakarta Post - July 26, 2007

The Attorney General's Office (AGO) is so confident it has proof that former Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was involved in the murder of rights activist Munir Said Thalib that it plans to demand a review of the Supreme Court ruling which exonerated him.

Newly installed AGO spokesperson Thomson Siagian told reporters Wednesday that the AGO would file a case review at the Central Jakarta District Court this week.

He said the review dossier was based on article 263 of the Criminal Code Procedures. The article stipulates that a case review can be filed if a court ruling can be proven to be incorrect or a statement from the ruling contradicts its basis.

Thomson did not elaborate on the new evidence the AGO had uncovered. "Let's just see it in court. The prosecutors will reveal it during the trial," he said, adding that the AGO was certain the new evidence would be proven as credible in court.

Last week, Attorney General Hendarman Supandji said he believed Pollycarpus was involved in Munir's murder. He said there was an indication Pollycarpus was involved in the murder because he had made 41 calls from his cell phone to a member of the State Intelligence Agency.

"These calls can be construed as evidence suggesting he is the murderer," Hendarman said.

He added that a method called conditio sine qua non can be applied in criminal cases. Conditio sine qua non is a legal term meaning "without which it could not be", which refers to an indispensable and essential action in relation to a crime.

"What is important is that Munir died because he was poisoned. This cannot be argued against. Whether the poison was in his drink on the plane or not does not matter," Hendarman said.

Meanwhile, National Police Chief of Detectives Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said the police had finished questioning Pollycarpus as a witness in relation to the actions of former Garuda chairman Indra Setiawan and Rohainil Aini, the secretary of Garuda's chief pilot.

Bambang said the police would hand over Indra Setiawan's dossier to the AGO next week. "When we've handed over the dossier, that means we can hand over the new evidence," he said.

Pollycarpus was sentenced to 14 years in jail by the Central Jakarta District Court in December 2005 for the murder of Munir, but the Supreme Court later overruled the verdict and sentenced him instead him for forging a letter assigning him to be an aviation security officer.

Indonesia jails Christians over Muslim killings

Reuters - July 26, 2007

Jakarta – An Indonesian court jailed 17 Christians for up to 14 years on Thursday under anti-terrorism laws for the murder of two Muslims.

The Muslim fishmongers were attacked in Poso, on Sulawesi island, last September by a mob angry at the execution last year of three Christians. The three were convicted of leading a group that killed hundreds of Muslims at a boarding school during inter- religious violence in Poso in 2000.

Judges at the South Jakarta court found the 17 defendants guilty of "acts of terrorism by the use violence." Two of the defendants got 14-year jail terms for their main roles in the killings, while 10 received 12-year jail terms. Both victims were decapitated after they were killed.

In a separate hearing, five other defendants received eight-year terms for taking part in the disposal of the bodies.

A lawyer for the defendants, Elvis Katuwu, said his clients should not have been charged under anti-terrorism laws. "This is not right. They should have been charged under a criminal code article on battery causing death," he told reporters.

Poso regency, a large but sparsely populated rugged area in the middle of Sulawesi island, suffered a long period of Muslim- Christian violence from the late 1990s.

More than 2,000 people were killed during the peak of the violence from late 1998 until a peace accord between Muslim and Christian communities took effect in late 2001.

There has been sporadic violence since and prosecutions against those involved have been rare.

Around 85 percent of Indonesia's 220 million people follow Islam, but in some areas in the country's east, such as Poso, there are roughly equal numbers of Muslims and Christians.

Rokhmin gets seven-year jail term

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2007

Nana Rukmana, Jakarta/Cirebon – In a split decision the Anti- Corruption Court sentenced former maritime affairs and fisheries minister Rokhmin Dahuri to seven years prison for corruption Monday, one year more than the prosecutors had demanded.

Three of the five judges presiding over the trial ruled that Rokhmin was guilty of using his position to enrich himself and must also pay a fine of Rp 250 million (US$27,700) or spend an additional six months behind bars, besides returning a total of Rp 1.31 billion, several commercial fishponds and a Toyota Camry sedan to the state.

Rokhmin was charged of illegally collecting and using Rp 11.5 billion.

Judges I Made Hendra, Dudu Duswara and Andi Bachtiar all agreed that the prosecutors had proven Rokhmin guilty under both articles 11 and 12 e of the Anti Corruption Law, while judges Mansyurdin Chaniago and Moerdiono dissented, saying that they found no evidence of abuse of power. Indonesian law considers a count ruling valid on the basis of a majority decision by the judges.

The public response was similarly controversial, with the supporters of Rokhmin who were in attendance during the reading of the verdict and others in the former minister's hometown severely criticizing the court ruling, shouting angrily as it was read out and breaking a railing in the courtroom.

Meanwhile in Rokhmin's hometown of Cirebon, West Java, his supporters burnt a fishing boat in front of Rokhmin's house before blocking the northern coastal highway, which connects Jakarta with Central Java. Traffic was severely disrupted in both directions.

Article 11 stipulates that state official accepting gratuities face up to five years in prison, while article 12 e states that people in public office who solicit funds by force of their position face up to 20 years.

I Made Hendra, one of the three judges ruling against the defendant, said that "Rokhmin mentioned his plan to collect and use regional project funds from regional offices of his ministry for non-budgetary programs in a leadership meeting in which his subordinates felt obliged to obey him."

Hendra said the collected money was used for programs outside of the state budget, such as for fishermen, Islamic boarding schools, legislators, political parties, non-governmental organizations and presidential candidates.

Judge Dudu Duswara said that besides using the money for those programs, Rokhmin also used some of the money for his own benefit. He said that Rokhmin used Rp 15 million for personal expenses during his pilgrimage to Mecca, Rp 350 million for inauguration as a professor at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture and Rp 400 million to buy a Toyota Camry car under the name of his brother.

Rokhmin, who interrupted the reading of the verdict twice, told the court after sentencing that he was innocent and would appeal the verdict immediately.

Rokhmin's lawyer M Assegaf said after the reading that the three judges ruling against his client had no sense of justice. He said he suspected that the ad hoc judges were little more than an extension of the Corruption Eradication Commission.

 Environment/natural disasters

More flood victims heard at court

Jakarta Post - July 31, 2007

Jakarta – Relatives of victims of the February floods told the Central Jakarta District Court on Monday that they had never received assistance or indemnity packages from the city for their dead relatives.

Syaefuddin, a resident of Kampung Duri in Cengkareng, North Jakarta, told the court that plaintiff Siti Khamidah, who is also his neighbor, had never received any assistance or compensation for the drowning death of her son Agus Priyanto.

"As far as I know, the (plaintiff's) son was swept away during the floods on Feb. 7 and died. His body was recovered two days later," Syaefuddin said. Siti Khamidah's 13 year-old son was swept away when trying to cross a bridge over the Cisadane river.

"We received no assistance from the neighborhood unit, or the subdistrict, or the district. The help that we got was only from a church and a few political parties," Syaefuddin said.

Two other witnesses, Agus Rijal and Taskini, from Rawa Buaya in West Jakarta and Bahari in North Jakarta respectively, were called to the bench to testify on behalf of their kampongs, which they say were neglected during the floods.

Presiding judge Moefri adjourned the proceedings until Monday to hear expert witnesses.

Community raises cry against deforestation

Jakarta Post - July 31, 2007

Femke van den Bos, Contributor, Blandford, U.K. – Kalimantan, the Indonesian territory on Borneo island, is well known for its pristine tropical forests, rich natural resources and exotic flora and fauna. Only a few places remain on earth with such a biodiversity, providing shelter and food to hundreds of endangered species.

Kalimantan is home to 10 million people, of whom most belong to the traditional Dayak tribes, or orang gunung (mountain people). In accordance with their culture, the indigenous Dayak feel a strong spiritual connection to the rainforest, on which they depend for food and medicines, and cultivate rice and fruit on a small scale.

In recent decades, much of their rainforest has been cleared for logging and oil palm plantations for the production of palm oil – the most widely produced, cheap edible oil in the world, which is now being used in biofuels as well.

Clearing land for oil palm plantations has led to numerous conflicts with local communities.

The chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has warned that five million indigenous people in West Kalimantan alone are likely to become refugees because of biofuel expansion.

Soil erosion, landslides, haze, drought and floods are becoming an everyday reality as the destruction of rainforests continues. Many Dayak tribes have frequently tried to blockade logging roads to protect their forests, often to no avail.

At present, the local community in Tumbang Koling, Central Kalimantan, is trying to protect the surrounding natural environment. The forest of Cempaga is located adjacent to Tumbang Koling, a village four hours' drive from the provincial capital of Palangkaraya. The people who live there depend on the forests for their livelihood: rubber, rattan and wood.

In 1972, the Tumbang Koling community realized they had to join forces in order to protect their rainforest.

Stone Cristoffel Sahabu formed a community group, Pantis Pandelum, for this purpose. And the right to protect their rainforest was endorsed on Sept. 27, 2001, by Utan Teke, Pundu village head, as well as Cempaga subdistrict head Zainuddin Safri.

Pantis Pandelum succeeded in preserving their forest – until October 2006.

Without warning, bulldozers and excavators entered Cempaga forest, clearing the land for yet another oil palm plantation.

According to Pantis Pandelum, PT. Nabatindo Karia Utama (NKU) started to clear 30 hectares of rainforest a day, despite local opposition and a statement by the Indonesian Palm Oil Growers Association declaring they "will not cut down forests".

But the concession permit issued by the head of Kotawaringin Timur district has apparently overruled the principle of community forest. On Feb. 28 this year, the Central Kalimantan governor instructed the Kotawaringin Timur head to resolve the problem.

Unfortunately, the oil palm company continues to tear down trees while officials procrastinate.

The community forest, originally covering an area of 10,000 hectares, has rapidly been reduced to only 5,000 hectares in a few months.

On June 18, bulldozers entered the last remaining patches of Pantis Pandelum forest. NKU ignored protests as well as a letter issued June 9 by the local district head, Wim R.K. Ninung, demanding they halt activities within the remaining 5,000 hectares.

In May, Pantis Pandelum asked the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP; www.orangutanprotection.com), for help. In June, COP conducted a biodiversity survey in the remaining forest; the ensuing report showed a very dense population of orangutans in the Cempaga forest.

According to Pantis Pandelum's Cristoffel, less than 30 orangutan individuals used to live in the forest area, but the population appeared to have doubled due to habitat loss in the surrounding areas, with forests replaced by oil palm plantations.

Orangutans only live on Borneo and Sumatra, and are estimated to become extinct in the wild within 10 years, joining many other lesser known species.

The COP team also found endangered langurs, gibbons, deer, crocodiles, Sun bears, dozens of endangered bird species as well as butterflies and other insects.

COP director Hardi Baktiantoro recalled a June 16 interaction with the security manager of NKU, Abdul Hadi Bondoh, who "asked if we were interested in obtaining orangutans for sale".

In the field, he added, a bulldozer driver said "there were some problems with local people, but that this wouldn't stop their activities, 'as long as this case is in government hands'".

"This way, the responsibility is being thrown from one party to another and meanwhile, PT NKU will continue clearing the land," Hardi said.

The government is planning a huge increase in the number of oil palm plantations to create employment and national revenue, but seems to be optimistic about the issue.

Bloomberg.com quoted State Minister of the Environment Rachmat Nadi Witoelar Kartaadipoetra as saying during a June 5 interview in Bali: "Expansion of oil palm plantations will not be allowed to sacrifice natural forests.

"They will be planted in lots that are already empty. There are plenty of these, 18 million hectares of them."

The writer is a veterinarian at Monkey World, a primate rescue center in Dorset, United Kingdom. She worked as a wildlife veterinarian in Indonesia from 2004-2006, and is Europe spokesperson for COP.

Indonesian flood toll rises to 107

Agence France Presse - July 27, 2007

Jakarta – The death toll from devastating floods and landslides on Indonesia's eastern Sulawesi island has risen to 107, as aid distribution to survivors gained pace Friday, an official said.

Forty-four bodies have been recovered but 63 people remain missing, presumed buried under landslides, said Rustam Pakaya, who heads the health ministry's crisis centre in Jakarta.

Aid efforts were finally gaining momentum after days of poor weather hindering attempts to reach survivors, he said. "A navy and cargo ship have arrived to distribute aid," he told AFP, adding that 25 medical staff were also on location helping survivors.

One village of about 1,000 people in Central Sulawesi's Mamosolato district remained isolated but a helicopter provided by a mining company working in the area would hopefully reach them on Friday, Pakaya said.

Officials have said at least 45,000 people were affected by the floods, which have hit in an area known for rampant deforestation.

Indonesia has been repeatedly afflicted by deadly floods in recent years, with activists warning that logging and a failure to reforest denuded land in the world's fourth most populous country will continue to cause tragedies.

Land conversion, forest fires threaten Kalimantan's orangutans

Jakarta Post - July 26, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – The government has been urged to stop deforestation in order to protect the rapidly decreasing orangutan population on the island of Kalimantan.

"We demand the government, in this case the Forestry Ministry, re-evaluate and stop forest deforestation and conversion to oil palm plantations," chairman of the Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) Hardi Baktiantoro said Wednesday. "They are a threat to the existence of orangutans."

Hardi said at a press conference on orangutan protection that the species was mostly seen by plantation companies as a pest because it ate palm oil buds.

"Our organization is not anti the palm oil industry, which produces green energy or biofuel. However, many of their workers will cruelly do anything to the primates to protect their crops," he said. "This is a violation of the 1990 Conservation Law. Violators may face up to five years in prison or a fine of Rp 100 million."

Also present at the press conference were chairman of the Orang Utan Republik Education Initiative of Indonesia, Barita O. Manullang, and Harvard University anthropologist Cheryl D. Knott, who is also chairman of the Palung Foundation in West Kalimantan.

The COP estimates that at least 1,500 orangutans were killed in Central Kalimantan alone last year as a direct result of forest conversion to oil palm plantation.

"Kalimantan still has about 34,000 orangutans left. Plantation companies should try to use critical or abandoned land instead," Hardi said.

However, Forestry Ministry spokesman Masyhud said the figure was "bombastic, because there are not many oil palm plantations in Central Kalimantan," he told The Jakarta Post over the phone. "Converted forests are those already set for production purposes and not for conservation purposes."

Kalimantan orangutans are also struggling to survive in their natural habitat because of fires set to clear land.

Barita said that people should not rely too much orangutan mortality rate figures as they were only extrapolations of other data. "Even the Forestry Ministry asks us NGOs for orangutan mortality statistics," said Barita.

Knott said that empowering local communities to cultivate other type of plants for consumption could help in fostering biodiversity.

Separately, Central Kalimantan governor Teras Narang said that despite the administration's efforts to save the orangutan and its habitat, a better set of protection laws was still needed.

"The laws are yet to lean on primates or biodiversity protection," Teras said over the phone, adding that he opted for multicultural rather than monoculture plantations due to their greater ability to conserve biodiversity.

"Moreover, what we have tried to conserve here would be pointless if the central government, in this case the Forestry Ministry, keeps issuing massive concession permits," he said.

Flood victims vent their rage in court

Jakarta Post - July 25, 2007

Jakarta – Three flood victims have accused the city administration in court of failing to anticipate and mitigate the February floods and neglecting to assisting victims in the aftermath of the disaster.

Speaking in support of a class-action lawsuit filed against Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso and the five city mayors, Endang Supriyadi, Onyon Hamid and Jahidin told the Central Jakarta District Court on Monday that they never received any warnings before the floods or assistance when torrential rains caused flooding earlier this year.

Onyon, 55, a resident of Sungai Bambu subdistrict in East Jakarta, said no one in his neighborhood received any assistance from the city administration. He said he only received food and blankets handed out in his community by non-governmental organization the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC).

Dozens died and thousands of residents were displaced in the flooding, which inundated 70 percent of the city.

In early April, 11 residents representing the flood victims filed a class action lawsuit with the help of UPC against the government for their perceived failure to deal with the disaster.

The residents are claiming Rp 5 billion (US$551,703) for a community compensation fund, Rp 100 million for psychological distress and Rp 51.7 million in personal damages. They are also demanding a public apology from the city administration.

According to Onyon, there was no evacuation drill before the floods and no assistance was given during the disaster. "I never knew the number for the flood control post or the number to dial for assistance."

Onyon said he and his children were unable to work for 15 days during the floods and suffered flood-related illnesses. He said his motorcycle, which he used to earn a living, was damaged after being submerged in water while his vehicle ownership letter was destroyed by flood waters.

The administration earlier said it had done its best to anticipate and handle the floods by publicizing and running a number of disaster mitigation campaigns last year aimed at increasing public awareness. The administration also said it had mobilized rescue missions during and after the floods.

Another flood victim called to testify, Endang Supriyadi, 46, told the court he had never heard of any disaster mitigation campaigns from the Kebon Manggis subdistrict office in East Jakarta, where he is a resident.

"Many children in my neighborhood suffered from diarrhea during and after the floods, but since no free medication service was available, they had to visit the Jatinegara community health clinic where each patient had to pay Rp 4,000," said Endang, whose semi-permanent house was washed away in the floods.

Presiding judge Moefri adjourned the hearing until next week, giving the plaintiffs another chance to present their evidence and call witnesses.

Efendi, one of the plaintiffs, said outside the courtroom that the group was planning to present two more flood victims as well as an environmental expert to testify at the next hearing.

Muria residents seek DPD support against planned nuclear reactor

Detik.com - July 24, 2007

Triono Wahyu Sudibyo, Semarang – Muria community representatives met with members of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) on July 24 to ask them to oppose the planned construction of a nuclear power plant (PLTN) in Semenanjung Muria, Jepara regency, Central Java, in 2010.

Accompanies by Kudus Regent HM Tamzil, the representatives from Earth Watch (Marem), the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) and the Regional House of Representatives were received by six members of the DPD from Central Java at their offices in Semarang. Also accompanying them was Kudus district police chief Iswandi Hanif.

Marem chairperson Lilo Sunaryo said that the group had met repeatedly with the National Atomic Energy Agency (Batan) in both formal forums as well as informally. "I have [repeatedly] conveyed the matter of the Muria community's objections to the PLTN", he said.

Sunaryo said that based upon the experience in other countries nuclear power plant remain extremely dangerous. Leaks, the threat of terrorism and nuclear waste are problems that continue to surface in the planned construction of the plant.

Another Marem activist, Hasan Aoni, added that only recently there was a leak at the Japanese nuclear power because of an earthquake. "This must be a warning for us. A country with a high level of technology such as Japan still has leaks, what about us", he said.

Aoni suggested that the government seek alternative sources of energy saying that Indonesia could develop wind power, hydroelectric power and solar energy which have a much lower level of risk compared with nuclear power plants.

DPD member Budi Santosa said he would convey their concerns to the president directly. "Later we will coordinate with Pak Sarwono (DPD deputy speaker) in order to meet with the president directly", he said.

The community representatives also provided them with dossiers containing research on a study of the geographic conditions of the Mura area, the impact of a nuclear power plant and the experience of other countries managing nuclear power plants.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Poverty & unemployment

Attack on poverty escalated

Jakarta Post - July 30, 2007

The government escalated the attack on absolute poverty last week by launching a refurbished direct cash aid program called Hopeful Family Program (PKH) across almost 350 sub-districts in seven provinces.

The program has been designed as a frontal attack on absolute poverty to reduce maternal and child mortality rates and to increase the rate of progression from primary to junior secondary schooling.

Therefore the Rp 1 million-2.2 million direct cash aid available annually for every family under PKH will be given only to destitute households with a monthly income of less than Rp 152,000 (US$16.88) and which have expectant mothers or have children aged up to 15 years.

The PKH itself is an improved version of the unconditional cash transfer program launched in late 2005 immediately after the doubling of domestic fuel prices to cushion poor families from the devastating impact of the strong inflationary pressures.

Experiences in most other countries have proven that adequate access to social services – notably health, sanitation and education – targeting public spending directly to those in need, as well as high, broad-based growth are the best pathways out of poverty.

PKH embodies the first two pathways. With a total budget allocation of Rp 1 trillion for this year, PKH will cover around 500,000 families in need. These families have been identified and verified by the Central Statistics Agency to ensure cash transfers through postal offices in the 350 sub-districts will reach targeted households.

By examining the conditions attached to PKH targets and by looking at the design of the program, which was made by the National Development Planning Board, we are confident this effort will be more effective in attacking poverty pockets in the seven selected provinces in Jakarta, Java, Nusa Tenggara, Sumatra and Sulawesi.

The ministries of social, education and health affairs in charge of executing the PKH have learned valuable lessons from the two- year implementation of the unconditional cash transfer program.

We rest convinced by Social Services Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah's assurance at the launch of the PKH program in Gorontalo province in Sulawesi last Wednesday. He said the system of cash aid disbursement, based on the data compiled through a complex survey by the Central Statistics Agency, had been fully computerized.

The Central Statistics Agency has significantly improved its national data on the characteristics and locations of families in need across the country. National surveys by the agency last September identified almost 40 million people living below the poverty line and almost 100 million on the verge of absolute poverty with daily expenditures of between $1 and $2 (Rp 4,600-Rp 9,200) based on purchasing power parity).

The studies also concluded 69 percent of these families live in rural areas, 64 percent work in agriculture, 75 percent work in the informal sector and 55 percent have less than primary education. Even more burdensome is that 48 percent of families living in need have more than five dependents.

We expect the KPH, which will be expanded to 22 provinces next year, will produce impressive results in terms of reduced poverty, a higher rate of school enrollment and attendance, increased use of preventive health services and improved nutritional conditions.

This conditional cash-aid (PKH) is supplementary to the national Community Empowerment Program (CEP). The CEOP was launched earlier this year in the same seven provinces selected for the KPH.

CEP gives block grants to selected communities directly involved in planning and conceiving their poverty-alleviation programs according to their needs.

While CEP aims to increase opportunities available to families in need, reducing their vulnerability to unfavorable external events and empowering them to address their own specific problems, PKH is targeted at families in desperate conditions. PKH aims to empower these families to make use of the opportunities created by CEP and economic growth in general.

City must listen up to fight poverty

Jakarta Post - July 27, 2007

Jakarta – City spatial planners must listen to the voices of the urban poor in order to tackle poverty in the city, a study revealed Tuesday.

The comparative study on public participation in city space management and the rights of the poor between Jakarta and Bangkok, issued by the Jakarta-based Institute for Ecosoc Rights, concluded that Bangkok had fared better out of the two cities, despite both facing similar challenges.

Institute researcher Dewi Susanto said,"The Bangkok administration's commitment to addressing poverty, as seen in their vision and mission for the city, is clearly more realistic and serious about tackling the root causes of the problem than the Jakarta administration's (approach)."

Dewi said Jakarta's approach to poverty alleviation saw poverty as concerning individuals, rather than an issue of access to space and economic resources. She said this had hampered economic progress in the city.

"Bangkok residents and the administration acknowledge that poverty is a communal problem that is part and parcel of the city, whereas Jakarta sees it as a social illness to be exterminated," Dewi said during a workshop at the Santika Hotel in West Jakarta. "This kind of attitude really affects the end results of poverty alleviation programs."

During Tuesday's workshop, the institute also presented the results of a May to June 2007 public perception poll on urban problems in Jakarta. The poll revealed that traffic jams, floods and pollution were the top three concerns of city residents. 500 respondents were interviewed for the poll.

Dewi said one example of the city administration's failure to help the poor was the lack of space and business opportunities given to street vendors, despite the fact that revenue from vendors contributed around Rp 17.97 trillion to the provincial budget in 2006.

"The city administration needs to acknowledge the role and contribution of the informal sector in developing the city's socio-economy by giving street vendors room to do business while organizing them in a way that doesn't hinder their activities," she said.

Dewi suggested the city administration follow Bangkok's success story in providing housing for the urban poor by being more open to approaching poor residents and allowing them to actively participate in developing their own communities.

"The government has so far focused on developing modest apartments for the poor, but facts in the field show subsidized housing projects are often used by those who are not categorized as poor," she added. "Obviously, modest housing flats are not effective for addressing the problem of housing for the marginalized."

Poverty alleviation campaign to involve multiple ministries

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2007

Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta – As part of its effort to alleviate poverty, the government has launched a new program that is expected to be more successful than previous poverty eradication programs and will not "miss the proper targets".

The so-called Hopeful Family Program or PKH scheme, launched Monday, was designed by the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) and will be an inter-ministry program involving the Social Services Ministry, Health Ministry, Communication and Information Ministry and Education Ministry, as well as the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) and PT Pos Indonesia.

Under the PKH scheme, each family living under the poverty line with a monthly income less than Rp 151,997 (US$16.88) as set by the BPS, will receive direct cash aid of Rp 200,000 per year on top of health and education aid, totaling a minimum amount of Rp 600,000 and a maximum of Rp 2.2 million per year. The funds will be distributed through local post offices.

Seven provinces are to be targeted under the scheme: Jakarta, particularly North Jakarta, East Java, West Java, East Nusa Tenggara, Gorontalo, North Sulawesi and West Sumatra.

Social Services Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah said the program will be targeted at families expecting a new child or with children aged up to 15 years old.

"In the initial phase, the program will be aimed at 500,000 poor families in seven provinces with a budget of Rp 1 trillion," he said. "Next year we will target an additional 200,000 families."

The seven provinces were selected due to several factors, including high levels of poverty, approvals from provincial administrations to undertake the program and the provinces' preparedness in terms of health and education facilities, he said.

To receive the aid, families should fulfill certain requirements, such as expectant mothers undergoing at least four medical check-ups during the maternity period.

Families with children aged less than one year should take their children to local community health centers to receive immunizations, while those with children aged seven to 15 years should ensure their children complete their education up to junior high school, with a minimum attendance level of 85 percent per year.

If families fail to meet the requirements, they will no longer receive aid. The Social Services Ministry will deploy monitoring teams to ensure aid goes to the right recipients.

 Elections/political parties

Activists told not to shun parties

Jakarta Post - July 30, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – Signing up with a political party remains the most effective way of entering politics for young activists who want to revamp the political system, three prominent activist-cum-politicians said Saturday.

Hundreds of former university students from across the country, who mustered forces to bring down president Soeharto in 1998, have held a three-day meeting over the weekend to discuss steps to enter politics, amid their discontent over the results of nine years of reformasi.

The three activist-politicians at the meeting said parties were essential for activists because they remained the most important institutions for channeling the public's aspirations.

A former transmigration minister in one of Soeharto's cabinets and a former chairman of the Indonesian Farmers Association (HKTI), Siswono Yudhohusodo, said there were numerous paths for activists to enter parties.

"Signing up with (parties') youth or professional wings is one way. Joining youth movements, such as GMNI (the Indonesian National Youth Movement) proved good for me," he said.

Siswono, who was a vice presidential candidate in 2004, said disappointment with established parties was common, but should be dealt with by reforming parties from the inside rather than the outside.

"If parties fail your idealism, I would suggest you remain and figure out something to improve them, since working on it from the outside is ineffective," he said.

Youth and Sports Affairs Minister Adhyaksa Dault, who chaired the National Youth Association (KNPI) from 1999 to 2002, said moving into positions of power still involved membership of political parties.

"So someone either joins an existing one or establishes their own," said the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) member.

Pramono Anung, a former activist and now the secretary general of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said he would advise signing up with established political parties, each of which had a distinct ideological bent.

"It's been proven in the last two elections that new parties failed to secure adequate support. There's an ideological factor that you just cannot disseminate (among the public) instantly," he said.

Pramono said standing as an independent candidate in a regional election – an opportunity opened up by a recent decision of the Constitutional Court – was still a long way off because the necessary legal arrangements could still take some years.

"Joining an existing party makes some of the process less difficult, especially with established networks and votes from previous elections," he said.

Adhyaksa had advice for forthcoming activist-cum politicians on dealing with politics and the seduction of power and money.

"Stay in touch with your fellow activists. This will help a great deal when you have to issue policies, to get the view of those in the field," he said.

He added that progress in a country making the transition to democracy took time, so work in politics should focus more on processes than results.

Fauzi tops poll of eligible voters but apathy reigns

Jakarta Post - July 30, 2007

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Governor candidate Fauzi Bowo topped a poll of eligible Jakarta voters Sunday amid fears of a low turnout on the Aug. 8 election day.

The poll by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) says more than half of the 600 surveyed respondents – all of them registered voters – said they would vote for Fauzi while only 22 percent would give their vote to Adang Daradjatun. Another 22 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

But voter apathy remains high, despite the resounding support for Fauzi in the poll. Based on the results of an earlier poll by the institute, an estimated 65 percent of the 5.7 million voters registered in the city intend not to vote at the election.

The huge coalition of 19 political parties backing Fauzi is perceived to be the main force behind his popularity, in contrast to former police general Adang, whose sole major party backer is the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

"People made up their minds right after (Fauzi's) big coalition was settled and have not fallen for the massive ads and ground campaigns done by the opposing team," LSI researcher Anies Baswedan said.

Anies said Adang's campaign had to consolidate its grassroots support in the remaining days before the Aug. 8 poll if it wanted to change the result.

Both candidates have used the official campaign season to run TV and radio advertisements on top of an onslaught of massive street banners coloring the city.

Fauzi has devoted a large part of his campaign message to stressing Jakarta's identity as a pluralistic city, while Adang has taken on the failures of the administration, in which Fauzi is deputy governor.

The Jakarta Elections Commission will hold an official public debate between the two candidates on Aug. 4.

Fauziah Amalia, a bank official, said she looked forward to the debate as an opportunity to decide whether or not she would turn up on election day. "It's the only way to prove which one of them is smarter and wiser. I'll leave the rest of my decision to my mood on the day."

Governor candidate Adang Daradjatun showed up at an event organized by urban poor groups Sunday to sign a political contract focused on empowering the poor.

The chairwoman of the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), Wardah Hafidz, said Adang promised to not evict the poor from their homes if he won the election. "We will use the contract to remind him of his promises later on if he is chosen as governor," she said.

The media coordinator of Adang's campaign team, Dedi Supriadi, said the signing of the political contract was the culmination of several meetings between the Adang campaign and the UPC. More than 5,000 people from city slums came to witness the signing of the contract, Kompas.com reported.

Wardah said the event was not designed to support any particular candidate, saying Fauzi had turned down the group's invitation.

Fauzi spokesman Lukman said the candidate had prioritized attending campaign rallies over the contract signing. "We are complying with the schedule set by the Jakarta Elections Commission and according to that schedule we had campaign rallies in several locations to attend," he said.

Ruling offers a 'chance at power for activists'

Jakarta Post - July 28, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – Standing as an independent candidate in a local election is the fastest path to power for those wishing to reform the country's bureaucracy, analysts told activist groups Friday.

Hundreds of former university students from across the country who joined forces in 1998 to topple president Soeharto and end his 32-year-long authoritarian regime are meeting here until Sunday.

They will discuss strategies to enter politics, their disappointment with Soeharto's successors, and legacy of the rallies that resulted in riots and the deaths of hundreds nationwide.

As students, they protested against Soeharto's regime, corruption and human rights abuses allegedly conducted by his children and cronies and demanded the improvement of welfare and the abolition of impunity for the police and military.

Political analyst M. Fadjroel Rachman said the Constitutional Court's recent ruling allowing independent candidates in regional election was an excellent chance for activists to take part in running the country.

"Most of you are in your late twenties or early thirties now, and that's old enough for you to get into the ring of power. (Former prime minister) Sjahrir was 36 when he led and (Sjahrir's then information minister) Setiadi was only 27. There's no other way to make changes than to have the reform activists as the policy makers," he said.

With dozens of provincial and regency elections around the corner, he said the first step was to muster support from fellow reform activists.

"Victory is plausible when the network of activists runs and interacts well because it will need everyone's support nationwide even if it's only for an election at one regency," he said.

Analyst Indra J. Piliang of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said a movement could not be sustained in the absence of a shared ideology, either socialism or capitalism, and this was worth of holding on to for future leaders.

"Our political system may have transformed, but not necessarily the nature of the parties, which remain without any ideology. With global changes, either you are a socialist or capitalist. A nationalist isn't a political ideology," he said.

Thus, Indra argued, years of nurturing an ideology by activists in society could prove to be successful when running for office rather than abruptly attempting to take over a legitimate, prevailing power.

The distribution of power through local autonomy, he said, is not going in an initial direction of sharing power at the central government with the local people but rather with local rulers who are essentially part of the old regime of Soeharto.

"The followers of Soeharto and his Golkar Party are strongly instilled in the regions. Many elites struggle for power in Jakarta, leaving hundreds of other regions in the hands of these people. As we see, autonomy is not empowering those at the grass root level," said Indra.

Secretary general of the 98 Center Adian Napitupulu said the meeting was aimed at challenging the country's youth to take control in order to create change.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, home to many activists, won the 1999 legislative election on the back of its so-called resistance to Soeharto and managed to put chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri in the presidential seat.

There was little improvement made to the economy during her administration, however, and she lost the 2004 election. She also did nothing to prosecute Soeharto, while many of her ministers and local officials have been brought to trial for graft.

Candidate ruling 'no threat to parties'

Jakarta Post - July 28, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – The recent verdict of the Constitutional Court allowing independent candidates to contend local elections will pose no threat to political parties, politicians said Friday.

The chairmen of the United Development Party faction at the House of Representatives, Lukman Hakim, National Mandate Party faction, Zulkifli Hasan, and Prosperous Justice Party faction, Mahfudz Sidik, said the presence of independent candidates will be both challenge and opportunity to uphold democracy and improve its quality.

But they said all candidates, including independent ones, had to be equally treated, particularly in their compliance with administrative and legal requirements. "On paper, it's easier for political parties to win support for their candidates, thanks to networking in subdistricts and villages or rural areas," said Sidik.

The Constitutional Court has revised articles 56 and 59 of Law No. 32/2004 of regional administration, giving space for independent candidates to contend local elections. It also orders the General Elections Commission (KPU) to make necessary technical rulings for independent candidates.

Zulkifli said independent candidates, especially in densely populated provinces and regencies, would have difficulty securing political support and the KPU would have difficulty with its verification.

Lukman, Zulkifli and Sidik acknowledged the court's decision might indicate that the public is disappointed with underperforming political parties, but stressed that almost all state institutions were facing a crisis of confidence.

"Despite the legitimacy crisis, democracy can not be left to 'street politicians' and it must be institutionalized," Lukman said.

He said the court's decision was a challenge for political parties to reform the party system and to consolidate democracy in order to enable them to nominate their own members to contest local elections.

Maswadi Rauf, a political analyst at the University of Indonesia, however, criticized the verdict, saying it was a serious threat to political parties.

"The verdict is not based on the current political reality and the 1945 Constitution, which gives the only political route to parties in the recruitment of public officials," he said.

He questioned the legitimacy of the powerful court, comprising of justices with political legitimacy and less competence in upholding the Constitution and the law.

Maswadi said the court was giving the state affairs to capital owners and "hoodlums" who had money and supporters but no competence in state and administrative affairs.

He said that the people's disappointment with the poor party system had much to do with the House's poor performance and the presence of political "adventurers" abusing the people for their own political interests.

"The political bills being read by the House should be of the best quality to ensure a better party system and the people's sovereignty in electing their own leaders," he said.

Maswadi also said the court's verdict also made it possible for independent candidates to run in the 2009 presidential election and this had to be anticipated in deliberating the bill on presidential elections.

He and the three politicians agreed that the government and the House should make a special law on local elections, instead of the proposed government regulation in lieu of a law, and that it would take at least a year before the court's verdict was enforceable.

They said the coming 14 local elections in provinces and regions were vulnerable to political chaos because of the absence of a special law to enforce the court's verdict.

Green lobby spurned by candidates' no-show

Jakarta Post - July 27, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – Activists from the Jakarta Environmental Caucus have questioned the gubernatorial candidates' commitment to the environment after neither turned up Wednesday evening to sign a contract on environmental policies.

"Their absence means the two candidates are yet to side with Jakarta's environment. It's a test of whether or not they are committed to improving the environment," said Dede Nurdin Sadat, the secretary general of the caucus.

While shredding the contract prepared for Fauzi Bowo, the Caucus gave one week to Adang Daradjatun to sign after Adang sent his campaign team leader Igo Ilham to attend the event.

The Caucus sent invitations to the candidates two days before the event, asking them to sign the contract stating, among other things, that the new governor must appoint a deputy on environmental issues and allocate at least 10 percent of the city budget for environmental protection programs.

The contract also stated that the new governor should improve the city's air quality, public transportation, open and green spaces and resolve perennial flooding.

The contract called on the governor to control urbanization by banning the development of new commercial buildings in the capital. The contract also urged the Jakarta administration to come up with strategies to deal with the consequences of global warming.

The city allocated less than seven percent of this year's Rp 21 trillion (US$2.3 billion) budget to the environment.

Dede said the contract would serve as a basis for residents to monitor the work of the elected governor to improve the environment. "Environmental problems have been at a critical level. The elected governor must work from zero to revitalize it, that's why the contract could boost the political will of a leader," he said.

Igo said that most of the content of the contract had been stated in Adang's environmental policy. "I think we won't have problems with the contract because the issues are not new for us. We have targeted them in our platform," he said.

Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Jakarta executive director Slamet Daroyni criticized the candidates' failure to turn up to the signing. "How can we expect huge improvements in the environment if the candidates refuse to sign targets that must be achieved once they are elected governor?" he asked.

He said the environmental visions and missions of the two candidates gave no concrete solutions to long-standing environmental problems faced by the city. "The environmental ideas of the two candidate are still very shallow... I can be sure the environment would not change much whoever wins the election," he said.

Urban planner and environmentalist Darrundono said quality of living in the city depended on the state of the environment. "We can't boost public welfare if the city's environment remains poor. As the two candidates decide to contest for the gubernatorial chair, they must dare to sign the contract," he said.

A political expert from the University of Indonesia, Andrinof Chaniago, called for the public to present written contracts to the candidates to pressure them to keep their promises.

City voters rank hip pocket issues over saving environment

Jakarta Post - July 27, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – Housewife Siti Hawah, a resident of Cipinang Melayu, East Jakarta, concedes the environment is important. But a governor hopeful with a convincing program for economic recovery will still get her vote, she says.

Living in a housing complex in a low-lying area for more than 30 years, she is accustomed to the floods that inundate her house every year.

"Floods can't be prevented, it's the law of nature. So I'll vote for the candidate that promises to improve the economy and control the price of basic necessities," Siti said Wednesday.

"Since my husband's death five years ago, I've earned Rp 250,000 a month from working as a housemaid. With that amount, and still having to send my children to school, how can I survive if the price of basic necessities continues to rise?" the mother of five children asked.

Siti said she was hopeful the next governor would introduce policies to help the poor. "I receive a gas stove from the government but it's useless since I can't buy the gas, which costs Rp 15,000. I prefer buying kerosene which is only Rp 2,500 per liter for two days," she said.

Bram, a third semester student at Paramadina University, said he would vote for the candidate who could create jobs in the capital. "The high jobless rate is the main problem in Jakarta right now. The new governor must be able to create jobs," he said.

Bram said residents would protect the environment if they had higher incomes. "I care about air pollution and water crises, but I won't vote for a candidate that focuses on those issues. We can resolve them if the people are prosperous," he said.

Jakartans directly elect their governor for the first time on Aug. 8, with Fauzi Bowo and Prijanto facing off against Adang Daradjatun and Dani Anwar.

The economic hardship faced by many Jakartans is reflected in the administration's data which shows sluggish average economic growth of six percent per year over the past five years, compared to an average of nine percent in 2002.

According to the Jakarta Statistics Board, there were 160, 480 poor families earning less than US$2 per day in the capital in 2006, out of a total population of 9.04 million.

Poor families are often most affected by environmental woes such as air pollution, water shortages, flooding and unmanaged waste. Numerous measures have been taken by the administration to take on environmental problems such the recent air pollution control bylaw. However, poor law enforcement has held back effective implementation.

Green activists have expressed hopes that the new governor would take environmental issues more seriously.

But spatial planning expert Yayat Supriatna from Trisakti University warned that poor public awareness of environmental issues meant they would not be a vote winner at the election.

"The environment is not a saleable issue even though Jakartans are struggling with it everyday. There is low awareness among our people that this issue is also the key for a better life, not just economic growth," Yayat said.

For many residents, mostly from low-and-medium income households, the environment was a secondary issue, he said. "It can be seen in the case of the recent floods. There was no critical response from residents of the administration," he said.

Papers' poll coverage criticized

Jakarta Post - July 27, 2007

Jakarta – An organization of journalists urged the local media Tuesday to be impartial in its coverage of the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

"We found that newspapers often cover stories that give more benefit to the candidates than the people," a member of the advocacy team of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Umar Idris, told a press conference.

The conclusion was based on an analysis on more than 500 news articles published by six daily newspapers, Indo Pos, Media Indonesia, Pos Kota, Warta Kota, Republika and The Jakarta Post, from June 12 to July 20.

According to the analysis, the six newspapers raised five major issues in the gubernatorial election: campaigning by governor hopefuls; the activities of the Jakarta Elections Commission and the Election Supervisory Committee; problems with voter registration; public responses to the gubernatorial election; and the issue of independent candidates running in the election.

Umar said the stories mainly addressed the concerns of the political elite from both campaign teams, rather than dealing with the problems that hamper the city's development, such as flooding, traffic congestion and unemployment.

He said only a few of the examined articles looked into the programs proposed by the gubernatorial candidates to solve these issues.

Leo Batubara from the Association of Newspaper Publishers said the AJI's analysis of the newspapers' coverage showed it was fulfilling its role as a media watchdog. However, he said, AJI should also critically analyze television and radio stations' coverage.

He said that it was particularly necessary to do such an analysis because television and radio stations had exclusive rights to use a limited number of broadcast frequencies.

"We can only blame newspapers that are not impartial because they lack professionalism, but television and radio stations are expected to be absolutely independent," he told the Post.

The 2002 Law on Broadcasting requires every broadcasting company to be neutral and independent in its coverage and is backed up by penalties. The 1999 Press Law, which is often used as the main reference for print media, does not stipulate punishment or sanctions.

Both the poll commission and the supervisory body earlier warned the media not to publish the candidates' programs before the official start of the campaign period on July 22.

A political communication expert at the University of Indonesia, Harsono Suwandi, said it was too early for the AJI to issue its critical analysis of newspapers' coverage of the gubernatorial election because the election was still underway.

"(The AJI) should issue its analysis at the end of the process to have a comprehensive examination," he said.

The AJI was set up in 1994 by young journalists dissatisfied by the way government-sanctioned Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI) responded to the government closure of the weeklies Tempo, Detak and Editor.

Muhammadiyah sits out campaign

Jakarta Post - July 27, 2007

Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta – The youth wing of Muhammadiyah, one of the country's largest Muslim organizations, said Thursday it was not taking part in the campaign of either of the governor candidates.

Angkatan Muda Muhammadiyah head M. Izul Muslimin said orders had been given to youth wing members not to involve the organization's name or symbols in the campaign. He also said banners claiming the organization supported one or the other of the candidates were not allowed.

"The central board has ordered those involved in the Jakarta election – whether as monitors, part of an election committee or on a campaign team – not to use the Muhammadiyah name in any form in support of a particular candidate," Izul said.

However, the organization is encouraging all members to vote for the candidate who they believe will best lead the city, Izul said.

The organization was reacting to banners that went up around the capital saying it was supporting incumbent Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo and his running mate Prijanto, a retired Army general, in the Aug. 8 election.

Fauzi and Prijanto are going against former National Police deputy chief Adang Daradjatun and his running mate, Jakarta legislator Dani Anwar, in the capital's first direct gubernatorial election.

Campaigns plenty of fun, but lack substance

Jakarta Post - July 26, 2007

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Any Jakarta resident who has spent some time on the streets over the last three days knows that the gubernatorial candidates are the source – rather than the cure – of transportation problems. That is, for the next two weeks or so.

Hundreds of supporters of both candidates slowly march in street parades, clogging the way of other motorists.

All the joy belongs to packs of housewives, motorcycle taxi drivers and the un- and under-employed, all of whom have the spare time to listen to candidate endorsements.

And for them, hopefuls may be able to save their breath from elaborating how they would "fix" Jakarta and concentrate instead on memorizing campaign jingles.

Sumiyati, a resident of Gajah Mada, West Jakarta, said being part of the campaign was adding some excitement to her daily life as a housewife.

"I love seeing the crowds, the music and the snacks," she said, on the sidelines of a jingle exercise session for the campaign of Adang Daradjatun and running mate Dani Anwar at the district hall of Johar Baru, Central Jakarta.

Sumiyati came to the campaign with two buses full of residents from her area. She said she was invited by a neighbor who was a cadre of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the party endorsing Adang.

Sumiyati and her neighbors arrived long before the event was scheduled to start at 9 a.m.. Adang and Dani arrived two hours later, delayed by a traffic jam caused by their own supporters.

In less than an hour, Adang and Dani left the hall with a convoy of motorcycles carrying the flags and banners of community groups the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) and Tenabang Bersatu.

The FBR sent 500 members from two sub-district posts in Central Jakarta to the campaign event. Almost all the members who came that day were ojek drivers.

One of the drivers, Hasan, said he came because Adang's campaign team had promised him to give him Rp 15,000 to recover transport expenses. "It's better than just sitting around without passengers all day," he said.

The PKS chairman Tifatul Sembiring said the atmosphere at such campaign sessions was too noisy and euphoric for serious debate to occur. "Citizens are already well informed about candidates' platforms in the print and electronic media. Let's cheer up their day with the campaigns," he said.

The poll commission has allowed candidates to carry out public campaign rallies until Aug. 3 to deliver their platforms and woo support from voters. Candidates will perform two to three campaign sessions every day throughout this period. The sessions also involve top party officials and celebrities to attract voters.

Residents who attended campaign meeting for Fauzi Bowo in sports centers on Cengkareng and Lokasari, both located in West Jakarta, faced a similar spectacle.

Yayah, a housewife who lived near the Cengkareng sports center, said the wife of the head of the neighborhood unit in her housing complex asked five housewives, including herself, to attend the campaign event. "I heard there would be transport expenses for us after the campaign, but I haven't seen the money," she said.

Yohanes, who is jobless, acknowledged that he received Rp 20,000 from the head of the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS)'s branch to attend the Wednesday campaign meeting.

He said he waited since morning in the sports center with five other supporters of the Christian party. "I thought the campaign would be held in the morning, so we already waited for almost five hours," he said. Some of the residents said that they went in the morning to join the march along the streets to the campaign venue.

Several workers also managed to turn up to Fauzi's campaign session. Yono and Samsul, both workers from factories in the Cengkareng area, said they were able to take the day off from work because their supervisors told them to.

However, they received different amounts of money. Yono acknowledged that he received only Rp 10,000 from his supervisor while Samsul got Rp 25,000.

House backs ruling on candidates

Jakarta Post - July 26, 2007

Jakarta – The House of Representatives has come out in support of Monday's ruling by the Constitutional Court on independent candidates in regional elections.

"The candidature of independent candidates is not a threat but merely grants the people the right to run in local elections," House speaker Agung Laksono told reporters Wednesday. He said that people must accept the decision. "This is a good step for politics in Indonesia."

He added that the involvement of independent candidates should encourage political parties to improve their management. "Political parties are responsible for upgrading their performances and opening up wider opportunities for the people to become involved in local elections," he said.

The Constitutional Court decided Monday to allow independent candidates to contest regional elections, thus annulling some points of the 2004 Regional Autonomy Law, which stipulates that only candidates endorsed by a political party or a group of political parties can run for regional elections in the country.

Agung said the more work was needed, however. "This must be followed by either submitting a government regulation in lieu of the Regional Autonomy Law or a limited review of the law related to the articles about independent candidates in regional elections," he said.

He said that without this there could be confusion over the new laws. "There should be a regulation that explains the mechanism of independent candidacy in regional elections," Agung said. He suggested that the House and the government hold a consultation forum to discuss the regulation.

Separately, State Secretary Hatta Radjasa said the government was yet to decide its stance toward the court's verdict, but basically saw it as a final decision. "The government cannot reject the decision," he said, as quoted by Antara news agency Wednesday.

He added that there would be further discussion to determine new mechanisms for regional elections, but he did not mention an exact time frame. "We will talk about it later," he said.

Hatta said all related institutions must be involved in the discussion to determine the kind of regulation needed.

He said there were several choices of regulation. A new law, a government regulation in lieu of the Regional Autonomy Law or a new regulation on the General Election Commission are all possibilities.

In 2007 and 2008, 14 regions will face regional elections, including Jakarta. Hatta said that regional elections should continue without waiting for the assessment of the ruling.

According to Agung, the coming regional elections must be based on the extant law before the new ruling was issued.

Candidate ruling 'a democratic milestone'

Jakarta Post - July 25, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – Monday's ruling by the Constitutional Court to allow independent candidates to run in local elections came as a shock to the country's major political parties, who greeted the move with both praise and caution.

Both political analysts and party members described the decision as a "milestone for democracy" on Tuesday, but warned of legal concerns in the absence of auxiliary regulations.

The verdict altered the 2004 Regional Administration Law, scrapping clauses that restricted candidacy in local elections to those registered with one or a group of parties. The court said the clauses restricted citizens from expressing their political rights.

Several people who had attempted to run as candidates in the Jakarta election endorsed the verdict, after being disappointed by the major political parties, many of which had changed candidates several times in the lead-up to the nomination period.

But analysts warned that any successful independent candidate would then have to battle with a legislative that consists of representatives of dozens of political parties and could well end up spending a lot of money.

"Our survey concluded discontent with parties and low level of trust was why 80 percent of the respondents threw their weight behind the idea of independent candidates," executive director of the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) Saiful Mujani said Tuesday.

The survey, held from July 1-20, covered 1,298 respondents in all 33 provinces.

The direct election of members to the Regional Representatives Council in 2004, Saiful said, was an example of public approval independent candidates and should be taken further.

He said it would be a challenge for winning independent candidates to release pro-public policy and use the fact that they were popularly voted in while facing local councils, which consist of party members.

"That's a situation where local councils can't arbitrarily debate an executive's policy when the people are behind it. People's votes are as a weapon useful as a shield, which is vitally considered by parties before they debate a policy," Saiful said.

Zulkifli Hasan, head of the National Mandate Party faction in the House, agreed that the ruling constituted a call for a thorough revamp of the internal management of parties.

Parties in the country, critics say, are authoritarian with only a few executives having a say and the right to recall dissenting party members.

Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, a Golkar lawmaker in House Commission II on local administration, said the ruling should be enacted in law to detail how independents would become candidates. "If there isn't a law soon, the ruling has the potential to stir disorder in the forthcoming local elections," he said.

Lukman Hakim Saifuddin of the United Development Party concurred, saying the court should have given a specific period for the House to amend the affected laws.

Currently, only Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam allows independent candidates to run for local election as stated in the 2006 Aceh governing law, which came up as the consequence of a 2005 peace deal between the central government and the Aceh rebels.

Verdict comes too late for Jakarta candidates

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2007

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Following pressure from pro- democracy groups, failed independent candidates and student groups, the Constitutional Court has decided to allow independent candidates to contest local elections, annulling some points in the Regional Autonomy Law.

The verdict will not affect Jakarta's gubernatorial elections, for which only two candidates have been officially registered.

Six of nine judges in the court agreed Monday to remove points in the 2004 law that stipulated only candidates endorsed by political parties could run for local election in the country. Presiding judge Jimly Asshidiqie said the removed points violated citizens' electoral rights.

Aceh's special law means it is the only province in the country where independent candidates can take part in local elections. Irwandi Yusuf won the Aceh gubernatorial election earlier this year.

"Similar opportunities must be opened in other regions in Indonesia to avoid legal dualisms that violate a citizen's rights," Jimly said while delivering the verdict. The judges did, however, leave in the law on the nomination process through political parties, saying they considered it to be a normal practice and not against the Constitution.

The court began reviewing the law following the request of Lombok councilor Lalu Ranggalawe, who failed to run in the West Nusa Tenggara governor election. As an independent with no party backers, Lalu was unable to accumulate the 25 percent electoral threshold regarded by law.

During the case the court summoned several other individuals who failed to run as independent candidates, including economist Faisal Basri and Abdul Radjak. Both were prevented from running in the Jakarta election and told the court that the political parties had treated them unfairly during the nomination process.

Jakarta Elections Commission head Juri Ardiantoro said it would not postpone the Jakarta poll simply because of the court's ruling. "It takes time before the ruling can take effect in a local election and we can't wait that long. I would not rule out the result unless there was a special order from the central government," he said.

Monday's verdict will have to go through a long process at the Home Ministry and the House of Representatives before taking effect and it may be months before it is fully implemented.

Separately, legislator Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, who also tried to run as a candidate in the Jakarta election, called the court's judges "cowards" and accused them of intentionally postponing the verdict until it was too late for independent candidates to run in the Jakarta election.

"They (the judges) just want to play safe in front of the elite politicians who have orchestrated a head-to-head battle for the election," he said. The court delayed its verdict several times, saying it did not want to increase political tension in the city.

 Economy & investment

Australian, Indonesia agree to free trade feasibility study

Agence France Presse - July 27, 2007

Denpasar – Australia and Indonesia have agreed to launch a feasibility study on a free trade pact, their leaders said Friday after meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard held talks with Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for about 45 minutes during his seven-hour visit, during which he opened an eye clinic and a new consulate.

Howard told a press briefing they had discussed the countries' economic relations. "I welcomed during that the fact that we have agreed to do a joint study about the feasibility of a free trade agreement between our two countries," he said.

"The more that we can develop those investment links, the closer will become the bonds between our two societies," he added.

Yudhoyono also said Indonesia had agreed to the study, proposed after a visit by Australia's trade minister here last month. Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, is Australia's 10th most important export market.

The study is to commence next month and is expected to be completed by the middle of 2008.

Howard also congratulated Indonesia's police on the capture of two senior Jemaah Islamiyah members last month, seen as a major blow to the organisation.

The JI Islamic extremist network is blamed for bombings on the resort island in 2002 which left 202 people dead, including 88 Australians, as well as suicide bombings in 2005 that left a further four Australians dead.

The Australian premier's visit comes just weeks after Canberra warned that a terrorist attack may again be imminent in the sprawling archipelago nation.

During his 13th trip to Indonesia in 11 years as prime minister, Howard opened the Australia-Bali Memorial Eye Centre, built from assistance provided by Australia in the wake of the 2002 attacks.

"This is a gift from the Australian people to the future health and well-being of the people of Bali and Indonesia," Howard said.

"It is a practical memorial to those who died in the attack on 12 October, 2002, and also a practical expression of the ongoing affection of the people of Australia towards the people of the island of Bali."

Yudhoyono said the multi-million dollar centre was a monument to "the enduring and growing friendships between the government and people of Indonesia and Australia."

The centre will provide mostly free treatment to blind Indonesians as well as training facilities for Indonesian eye specialists.

Howard also opened Australia's new consulate-general on the island. The former office was closed for security reasons after the Australian embassy in Jakarta was bombed in September 2004.

Coinciding with the visit, Australia announced a 100 million Australian dollar (86 million US dollar) partnership programme to help combat HIV in Indonesia, the embassy announced.

Australia and Indonesia share an occasionally tempestuous relationship.

The most recent incident saw Jakarta's infuriated governor receive a flurry of apologies from senior Australian officials over his alleged ill-treatment by police during a visit to Sydney.

Police had entered his hotel room using a master key and urged him to give evidence at an inquest into the death of five Australian-based journalists in East Timor in 1975.

Relations have also been tarnished by six Australian drug traffickers receiving death sentences for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Bali.

Market imbalances, weak local economy could spell trouble

Jakarta Post - July 27, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – Although the chances of another crisis crippling Indonesia's economy may be slimmer now due to the improvements made to the banking sector and monetary policy, caution was still needed as regards vulnerabilities in the financial markets.

Among the problems were the limited amount of investment products available in Indonesia's financial markets, as compared to huge global excess liquidity, which increased the potential for market shocks, Bank Indonesia Senior Deputy Governor Miranda S. Goeltom said.

"If the demand for investment products far outstrips the supply, what happens is that prices rise sharply," Miranda said Thursday during a seminar on Indonesia's economy 10 years after the Asian financial crisis. The seminar was organized by Tempo magazine.

Miranda said that the price-to-earnings ratio (PER) for Indonesian shares had risen to some 20 points, which was already enough to cause concern, although still much lower than China's 40-point level.

An excessively high PER meant that investors were paying too much for shares compared to the earnings potential of the company, making them overvalued, which in turn would lead to a price correction. Sudden corrections could shock the market and infect the entire economy.

Analysts have also been warning of the possibility of a stock- market bubble in Indonesia, which could be abruptly burst by large-scale capital withdrawals by foreign investors.

Miranda said that today's excess liquidity in the global markets was driving fund managers to be more creative in developing various higher-risk investment schemes in their continuous search for higher yields. This added complexity to the market, including Indonesia's, which was still undergoing a deepening process.

It could also affect the commodities futures, Miranda said, thereby creating vulnerabilities for Indonesia's economy, which was highly dependent on commodities exports.

Given this situation, the central bank would continue to work closely with market regulators and expand its gathering of market information so as to detect any signs of a crisis at an early stage, and take prompt action to ward it off.

"I think it is impossible for Indonesia to simply close up its financial markets to avoid a crisis. What must be done now is to make capital flows more detectable," Miranda said.

Former banker Robby Djohan from the University of Indonesia's graduate studies program, said Indonesia must strengthen its economic fundamentals by developing its domestic markets if it wanted to truly free itself from the persistent danger of economic crisis.

"There must be greater public participation in the economy. Indonesia must build on its own 'social capital' of a large domestic market and a more qualified population by improving education," he said. "If not, then our economy will forever be like a yo-yo, bouncing from one crisis to another."

Government to spend big on infrastructure and social welfare

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – Government officials will just have to put up with their cramped offices and bring their own pens into work next year as the government plans to divert money away from the bureaucracy so as to increase spending on new roads and public welfare.

Under the 2008 budget, the government will increase capital and social welfare spending to Rp 168.7 trillion (US$18.7 billion), while cutting back routine spending in 15 ministries to Rp 46.8 trillion.

"The increased allocations will be used for infrastructure development, such as for building and fixing roads in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.

"Irrigation systems and sanitation facilities are also included," State Minister for National Development Planning Paskah Suzetta said after a limited Cabinet meeting on the budget, which was chaired by Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

"The higher spending will also be used for social welfare programs, such as improving the public healthcare service, funding rural development programs, and providing subsidized rice and other subsidies to the poor."

The government will cut as much as Rp 37.1 trillion from the Rp 83.9 trillion it had planned to allocate for routine spending in next year's budget. The original allocation for capital spending was Rp 85.3 trillion, while Rp 46.3 trillion was allocated for social welfare programs.

For this year's budget, in the final half-year budget revisions the government will cut routine spending for the full year to Rp 71.54 trillion from Rp 72.1 trillion, keep capital spending pegged at Rp 73.1 trillion and increase social welfare spending to Rp 49.4 trillion from Rp 40.7 trillion.

The savings plan will not affect regular spending on civil service salaries, but will mostly involve the scrapping of unnecessary travel and seminar costs, and wasteful spending on office stationary, Paskah further said.

Capital spending in ministries not directly related with infrastructure development would also be put to more productive use, rather than constructing office buildings and buying new official cars. "The Health Ministry, for example, will instead use the money to build research laboratories and develop vaccines," he said.

Paskah said the government will propose the budget revisions to the House of Representatives for deliberation and approval after a full Cabinet meeting soon.

Legislators are currently discussing the 2007 budget revisions with the government, while President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will officially present the outlines of the 2008 budget during his Independence Day state address in August.

"We're sure they will support it as it's in line with our national interest – that is, speeding up economic growth next year so as to reduce unemployment and poverty," Paskah said.

Indonesia needs to grow by at least 7 percent per year to reduce open unemployment to 5.1 percent and poverty to 8.2 percent in 2009. Such growth will require some $100 billion in investment alone this year, including infrastructure spending.

Indonesia's economy grew by 5.5 percent last year, although it picked up to 6 percent in this year's first quarter, and may have further paced up to 6.1 percent in the second quarter.

 Opinion & analysis

Indonesian military 'counterterrorism' equals more repression

Dissident Voice - July 24, 2007

Ben Terrall – In a June 8 "web memo," The Heritage Foundation called Indonesia "a large, vibrant democracy and a key piece of the geostrategic puzzle in Asia." The right wing Washington think tank went on to describe Jakarta as "among the United States' most important partners in the War on Terror."

But critics contend that Washington's enthusiasm for its Indonesian military "partners" has been at the expense of any accountability for military atrocities. On April 26, the US- based East Timor and Indonesia Human Rights Network (ETAN) condemned the participation of Indonesian Major General Noer Muis in a joint US-Indonesia military exercise. ETAN pointed out that General Muis has been indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor.

Photos of Muis with US Army Pacific commander Lt. General John M Brown III were featured on the US Army, Pacific website where Muis was described as co-director of a "command post" exercise, Garuda Shield, which took place in West Java from April 16-27. After ETAN's statement, the army quietly removed photographs and altered captions.

John M. Miller, ETAN's National Coordinator, said "General Muis belongs in a courtroom, not a joint US-Indonesia command center. The Bush administration has repeatedly stated that it supports accountability for the horrendous crimes committed in East Timor in 1999. Working with an accused mastermind of those crimes is a funny way to show it."

On February 24, 2003, Muis was indicted with other senior officers by the UN-backed serious crimes process in East Timor. The indictment states that Muis "failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the crimes being committed by his subordinates and he failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to punish perpetrators of those crimes," despite being "repeatedly informed" of those crimes. At least 1,400 people died, hundreds of thousands were forcibly displaced, and most of East Timor's infrastructure was destroyed as the Indonesian military punished the territory for its pro-independence vote in a 1999 UN-supervised referendum.

The Indonesian government refused to cooperate with the serious crimes process, instead establishing its Ad Hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor to fend off calls for an international tribunal. Trials began in Jakarta in 2002. Eighteen people were indicted; Twelve were acquitted at first trial, and five, including Muis, had their convictions overturned by Indonesia's Appeals Court. Only the conviction of East Timorese militia commander Eurico Guterres now stands. The Appeals Court upheld his conviction but halved the sentence by five years. Miller told me, "the whole process has been a farce."

A UN Commission of Experts formed in February 2005 found that the trials of Indonesia's Ad-hoc Human Rights Court were "manifestly inadequate," showing "scant respect for or conformity to relevant international standards."

In 2000, two years after the ouster of the dictator Suharto, pressure mounted to reform the Indonesian military (TNI) territorial command structure, which allows the armed forces to maintain units down to the village level throughout the country. But this apparatus has actually been reinforced in the name of "counterterrorism."

In late May, Indonesian marines killed four farmers in a land dispute. An investigation by Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights contradicted military claims of self-defense, finding no evidence that the civilians intended to attack the marines. On June 5, Bambang Widodo Umar, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia, told the Jakarta Post that the shootings show "TNI structural reform is not working. Conflicts between the military and civilians are happening everywhere. The TNI should not be involved in everything. Let law enforcement institutions, such as the police and the courts, be responsible for law enforcement."

But an Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) statement "on the Occasion of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, June 26, 2007 indicates that Indonesian police also lean toward excessive force with a zeal that recalls US military practices at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. In discussing cases in which Indonesian police beat suspects to death, the Hong Kong- based AHRC wrote, "It is hard for victims of torture to find ways of obtaining redress, including compensation, reinstatement and punishment of the perpetrators. The conclusion one may inevitably draw, is that Indonesia is a state which allows its agents to torture persons and denies the victim the right to seek redress for such a crime."

On June 5-7, Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, visited the contested region of West Papua, and came to similarly disturbing conclusions. Her report on the visit stated:

"The Special Representative is deeply concerned by the testimonies that she has heard indicating the continuing activities of the police, the military and other security and intelligence agencies that are aimed at harassment and intimidation of defenders or to restrict their access to victims and to sites of human rights violations. She has heard credible reports of incidents that involve arbitrary detention, torture, harassment through surveillance, interference with the freedom of movement and in defenders' efforts to monitor and investigate human rights violations. She was also informed of cases where human rights defenders were threatened with prosecution by members of the police and the military. She is also concerned about complaints that defenders working for the preservation of the environment and the right over land and natural resources frequently receive threats from private actors with powerful economic interest, but are granted no protection by the police."

Papuans who met with her are facing increased surveillance and harassment. Dissidents in West Papua called on the UN to reconsider the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" in which 1,022 Papuans, chosen by the Indonesian Government and operating under military threat voted unanimously for annexation.

Col. Burhanuddin Siagian, head of the Jayapura sub-regional military command in West Papua responded to these calls with the same sort of language he used while overseeing Indonesian military carnage in East Timor in 1999: "(W)hat is absolutely certain is that anyone who tends towards separatism will be crushed by TNI." Col Siagian, twice indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor, added, "we are not afraid of human rights."

A 2004 law mandated the government's taking over TNI businesses, but that process is moving slowly at best. In February, Human Rights Watch said Jakarta's foot-dragging on the issue "undermines civilian control over the TNI and fuels human rights abuses," as the Indonesian government has no control over the allocation of profits from military businesses. Off the books paramilitary operations, such as those currently underway in West Papua, are thought to be funded by such monies.

The Jakarta Post recently reported, "Almost 70 percent of TNI's annual budget is derived from its diversified business activities. This year's defense budget is set at 32 trillion rupiah (US$3.63 billion) or 4.5 percent of the state budget." But though the government initially identified 1,500 businesses that could be classified as military properties, the defense minister now say that only six military businesses as profitable enough to qualify for takeover. Critics note that this overlooks military co-ops and foundations, which are major sources of both income and corruption. In addition, only targeting legal businesses will obviously not address the significant problem of illegal military operations.

"Unless the issues of Indonesian military's human rights and budget accountability are resolved, serious violations of human rights will continue and military reform will remain stalled," says Miller. "By providing military equipment and training, the US is only encouraging the TNI to continue business as usual."

[Ben Terrall is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, In These Times, Counterpunch, Lip Magazine, and other publications. He can be reached at bterrall@igc.org.]

Breaking up is hard to do

Jakarta Post Editorial - July 25, 2007

Some strange things emerged from the two massive labor demonstrations against American sportswear giant Nike the last two Mondays. The demonstrators reviled Nike with hate posters and slogans like "Go to Hell Nike" and "I Hate Nike", but at the same time they also pleaded with Nike to stay with them and give them jobs.

They went even further: if Nike does not want to renew the contracts with their factories, they demanded the company give them severance pay.

The problem is that these workers are not employed by Nike, but by PT Naga Sakti Parama Shoe Industry (Nasa) and PT Hardaya Aneka Shoe Industry (Hasi), which produce shoes exclusively for Nike. The two companies, controlled by businesswoman Siti Hartati Murdaya, recently received termination orders from Nike because of several problems, including below-standard product quality and untimely product delivery.

With no new orders coming from Nike, Nasa and Hasi will have no choice but to lay off their more than 14,000 workers. We sympathize with these workers because they need these jobs and the salaries to survive. However, it does not make sense for the workers to demand Nike give them severance pay since they are not employed by the US company.

Because of the strange nature of their demands, some people have concluded the two demonstrations against Nike have been more or less engineered by the two companies Nasa and Hasi.

In business, commerce must be done voluntarily, not by force or intimidation. Thus, the manner in which the two shoe manufacturers owned by Murdaya have asked Nike to stay or pay severance pay to the workers, by staging demonstrations, is too much. It will do no good, for the companies, the workers or the country.

It is understandable that Murdaya was shocked and disappointed by the termination of the orders from Nike. The businesswoman's two companies have been producing Nike shoes since 1989, meaning they have been working together for 18 years.

Problems emerged when one of the parties was accused of cheating, by directly selling the shoes both in the export and domestic markets, without going through Nike. From there, the trust was lost. Then other problems emerged, like below-par product quality and late deliveries. Nike then scaled down its orders from Nasa and Hasi by half to 300,000 pairs per annum, as a warning. Then the termination orders came.

The bottom line is that there is no more trust between Nike and Murdaya's companies. As in any relationship, breaking up is always hard to do, especially after 18 years together. It's harder for the party on the losing end, in this case Murdaya. But resorting to muscle power, like staging demonstrations, is not a solution. This will never restore the trust.

Many have called on the government to intervene. But the government must handle this issue with care because it concerns thousands of workers and a big foreign investor. Any mistake in handling the dispute could cause anger among the workers or scare away foreign investors.

So far, this problem has developed within acceptable corridors. The demonstrations have remained orderly, which is a relief. Similarly, Nike is still committed to Indonesia, shifting the orders from Nasa and Hasi not to overseas factories, but to one or two of its 30 other contractors in Indonesia. Nike says it is still committed to continuing to source 20 percent of its footwear from Indonesia.

Therefore, to prevent this issue from spiraling out of control, the government must act as a fair referee. Most of all, the government should prioritize the interests of the workers, to spare them from being unemployed. There are many alternatives available, and the government knows that. On top of that, the government must find a way to ensure the rights of the workers are protected, especially in terms of severance pay.

This Nike saga reminds us all, once again, of the importance of establishing an insurance system for severance pay that would protect the rights of workers and at the same time cater to the interests of investors, so that when there is a breakup, nobody gets hurt.

Democracy takes a step forward in Indonesia

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2007

Rizal Sukma, Jakarta – The decision by the Constitutional Court last week to scrap two undemocratic clauses in Indonesia's Criminal Code should indeed be celebrated. Using the two clauses, articles 154 and 155, the state could send anyone to jail for what it considered defamation against the government. The two articles banned any act – writing, speeches, statements – that were subjectively considered by the state as expressing hostility toward the government.

The decision is clearly a follow-up to the decision by the Constitutional Court in December last year that revoked articles 134, 136 and 137 of the Criminal Code. These articles effectively banned people from insulting the president and the vice president. As the language used in the articles was so vague, it did not distinguish between legitimate criticism and unwarranted insults. Therefore, the articles were often used to silence government critics, before and after reformasi.

The decisions by the Constitutional Court should be praised as a breakthrough in the country's democratic consolidation. They serve three important purposes.

First, the decisions free Indonesia from bad practices inherited from the colonial past. The articles were written by the Dutch colonial government to prevent Indonesian nationalists from criticizing and undermining colonial rulers. As an independent and sovereign nation, which has embraced democracy as the only game in town, Indonesia should be ashamed to prevent freedom of expression by using colonial-era laws.

Second, they strengthen the nature of government, and its leaders, as an institution that functions as the people's servant and is answerable to the people. Government and its leaders can no longer claim to be the master of the people. It should now govern rather than rule. Within the context of governance, the people have every right to criticize and oppose the government if it does not perform properly. The people even have the right to condemn the government if it takes policies that bring suffering to the people.

Third, the invocation of these undemocratic clauses in the past was often meant to show the government – from the president down to the bureaucrats – as a group of aristocrats. It saw itself as being above the people. Now, they are no different from the rest of us ordinary citizens. They differ from us only in the pattern of the relationship: we are the masters, they are our servants.

However, the repeal of these clauses from Indonesia's legal and political vocabulary should not be interpreted as the dawn of unlimited freedom of speech. Within any polity, there are other sources of values that should govern and regulate political conduct. Morality and ethics should continue to provide necessary guidance on how one conducts his or her political behavior.

It is clearly inappropriate to curse a president or government official by using obscene languages. For example, calling someone "a pig" is clearly out of bounds.

However, describing government decisions and policies as "stupid" is clearly legitimate. In other words, a decent citizen – and the government for that matter – should always distinguish between personal insults and criticism of policies and behavior.

Similarly, the revocation of the defamation articles should not be interpreted as an invitation to promote personal slander (fitnah). Any accusation against any government official – and of course against anybody – should be based on reasonable evidence. More importantly, insulting the sanctity of religion should not be regarded as part of freedom of speech. Nor should anyone make a mockery of ethnic identity.

To prevent irresponsible freedom of speech, we – as a nation – should develop and practice a set of political ethics. We certainly have many moral codes that stipulate good behavior. For one, criticism can obviously be delivered in a polite way without unnecessarily hurting feelings. A member of parliament, for example, does not need to call the president or a minister "a stupid cow" to get his or her attention.

Any civilized nation and culture – East or West – has for centuries followed moral codes in every sphere of life, private and public. Within any democratic society, political ethics are mostly observed. It is time that we, as Indonesians, begin to demonstrate that we are no different from others in this regard. If we can base our political behavior on morality and ethics, our democracy will soon become a mature democracy.

[The writer is deputy executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).]

Home | Site Map | Calendar & Events | News Services | Resources & Links | Contact Us