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Indonesia News Digest 29 August 1-8, 2007
News & issues
Reuters - August 5, 2007
Sugita Katyal and Adhityani Arga, Jakarta When Pakistan's army
stormed an Islamabad mosque housing a radical Islamic school last
month, it raised questions in Indonesia: Was the Southeast Asian
nation's own network of Islamic schools a breeding ground for
Or were the pesantrens, as Islamic boarding schools are known in
Indonesia, just centres for learning the Koran along with some
math, computers, geography and English?
"Pesantrens are part of our identity, part of a long-standing
Indonesian tradition," Religious Affairs Minister Muhammad Maftuh
Basyuni told Reuters.
"They have different principles. They chose to withdraw from the
mainstream way of life because they denounce anything Western,
which they associate with the colonial powers they fought in the
Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim
nation, largely escaped the spotlight in the wake of the
September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
They only came under scrutiny after the 2002 Bali bombings when a
hardline cleric from a high-profile pesantren was accused of
being Jemaah Islamiah network's spiritual leader.
The controversial Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, who co-founded
a pesantren in the 1970s which the International Crisis Group
dubbed the "Ivy League" of militants, was jailed for conspiracy
over the Bali bombings, although was later cleared.
Critics blame pesantrens for encouraging fundamentalism in
Indonesia, a country of 220 million people, 80 percent of whom
are Muslim. But the vast majority of the 14,000 pesantrens are
moderate and venerated, having educated much of the nation's
"Pesantrens teach true jihad in the right way. Maybe two percent
of the pesantrens have a wrong perception of Islam," Sofwan
Manaf, principal of the Darunnajah Islamic boarding school in
Jakarta, told Reuters. "Modern pesantrens have a curriculum mixed
between Islamic and non-religious teaching."
While pesantren enrolment makes up a small portion of Indonesia's
school population, numbers have grown fast in recent years,
partly in line with greater attention to Islamic values.
More than three million students are registered in Indonesia's
pesantrens, which also form the backbone of the 40-million member
Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's biggest moderate Muslim group that
accounts for 12,000 of the registered pesantrens.
In large parts of Asia, free board and education sometimes lure
poverty stricken families to send their children to Islamic
schools, many of them in rural areas that often lack other
In a typical Islamic boarding school, students follow a
regimented programme from dawn to dusk with tough rules. But in
Indonesia, pesantren students often defy stereotypes.
Some years ago, a band of veiled girls from a moderate Islamic
school welcomed a former US ambassador with a rendition of rock
anthem "Stairway to Heaven."
Some clerics such as the turban-clad but leather-jacketed
Abdullah Gymnastiar, the head of a pesantren in Bandung, also
don't fit the stereotype.
Gymnnastiar, a household name in Indonesia because of his relaxed
and chatty sermons on Islam that strike a chord with ordinary
people, is best known for his moderate tone, use of hi-technology
and hobbies such as riding Harley Davidsons.
At the Darunajjah pesantren, a sprawling campus with computers
and basketball courts at the end of a narrow road crammed with
roadside stalls or warungs, students say they disagree with the
"I agree with jihad, jihad to defend Islam, but not like what
they did," said Achmad Syaefuddin, a 17-year-old graduating from
In the past, criticism has focused on Jakarta's hands-off
approach to a smattering of uncompromising boarding schools such
as Bashir's al-Mukmin Islamic school and its militant alumni.
Two Muslim militants, Amrozi and and Mukhlas, who have been
sentenced to death for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, studied
at the Al-Mukmin Islamic school in Central Java.
No 'big brother'
As a key ally in the so-called US-led "war on terror,"
Indonesian authorities say they monitor pesantrens, but not in an
"As Vice President Jusuf Kalla once said, we have to monitor
pesantrens, and we have done that since decades. But we are not
doing it in 'Big Brother' style," said Basyuni.
"We provide guidance and give directions to pesantrens. We also
gave a helping hand in educating the resources and developing the
facilities of many pesantrens."
International aid agencies have begun funding pesantrens in a bid
to make their curriculum more mainstream. But analysts say many
unregistered pesantrens remain outside the reach of these
programmes and continue to spread their rigid interpretation of
Analysts also say the government cannot touch pesantrens for
"The government is reluctant to greatly interfere in the matters
of pesantrens, even in those accused of teaching radical Islam,"
Sri Yunanto, an expert on radical Islam, told Reuters.
"Clerics and pesantrens represent a massive voting power. Imagine
what the voice of 1,000 clerics can do to your political career?
[Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia.]
Jakarta Post - August 1, 2007
Jakarta Government officials, police and observers are calling
for effective coordination among the police, Forestry Ministry
and related departments to fight illegal logging.
"Coordination is easier said than done," Indonesian Forestry
Community executive director Agung Nugroho told a seminar Tuesday
on institutional empowerment and improving coordination to fight
He said Indonesia had a clear legal basis for fighting illegal
logging in a 2005 presidential instruction.
"Unfortunately this legal basis is interpreted differently by
different people," he said, adding that all stakeholders related
to the forestry industry must become familiar with all the laws
related to the sector so they are not working at odds against
Currently, Indonesia has 120.35 million hectares of forest,
putting it behind only Brazil and Zaire in terms of tropical
forest cover. The illegal logging and timber trade is causing the
country to lose up to 1.8 million hectares of its forests each
year, costing the state about Rp 45 trillion (US$4.8 billion)
"That is five times more than the state budget for health," said
Yayat Afianto, coordinator for forestry campaigns at Telapak, a
non-governmental organization dealing with forestry matters.
He said that despite the massive nature of the problem, not one
of the main actors behind the illegal logging and timber trade
had been arrested. "Up to January 2007 only 13 cases out of
hundreds had been successfully tried, but all of them resulted in
sentences of only two years at the most," he said.
According to police data, there are currently 846 ongoing illegal
logging cases throughout Indonesia, involving 920 suspects. Yayat
said police could only touch the people at the very bottom of the
illegal logging trade, the ones involved in actually felling and
transporting the trees.
An investigator at National Police Headquarters, Adj. Sr. Comr.
Agus Santoso, acknowledged it was difficult for police to catch
the main actors. "The main actors have become smarter in covering
their tracks, we can only find someone else's faces covering them
up," he said.
He added investigations into illegal logging cases were often
hampered by a lack of personnel. "The area of forest to be
covered is much larger than the number of police investigators,
and we also lack facilities," he said.
He added that most people living near forests depended on the
timber industry for their living. "Most of them refuse to
cooperate with us when we carry out an investigation," he said,
adding that people should realize that illegal logging is
Yayat said illegal logging had become international in nature,
run by organized crime syndicates. "So there is no use for us to
point our fingers at each other. It is time for us to cooperate
more intensively," he said.
Director for forest investigation and conservation at the
Forestry Ministry, Auria Ibrahim, said illegal logging could not
be handled by any one department, so the ministry was now
expanding its cooperation not only with national institutions,
but also bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally.
"We are also trying to improve the capacity of the forestry
police by carrying out workshops and establishing special units
for emergencies, as well as building the capacity of official
state investigators," he said.
News & issues
Indonesia's Islamic boarding schools defy stereotypes
Cooperation sought in illegal logging fight
Poverty widespread in Aceh, women at the bottom of the pile
News & issues
Reuters - August 5, 2007
Sugita Katyal and Adhityani Arga, Jakarta When Pakistan's army stormed an Islamabad mosque housing a radical Islamic school last month, it raised questions in Indonesia: Was the Southeast Asian nation's own network of Islamic schools a breeding ground for militancy?
Or were the pesantrens, as Islamic boarding schools are known in Indonesia, just centres for learning the Koran along with some math, computers, geography and English?
"Pesantrens are part of our identity, part of a long-standing Indonesian tradition," Religious Affairs Minister Muhammad Maftuh Basyuni told Reuters.
"They have different principles. They chose to withdraw from the mainstream way of life because they denounce anything Western, which they associate with the colonial powers they fought in the past."
Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim nation, largely escaped the spotlight in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
They only came under scrutiny after the 2002 Bali bombings when a hardline cleric from a high-profile pesantren was accused of being Jemaah Islamiah network's spiritual leader.
The controversial Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, who co-founded a pesantren in the 1970s which the International Crisis Group dubbed the "Ivy League" of militants, was jailed for conspiracy over the Bali bombings, although was later cleared.
Critics blame pesantrens for encouraging fundamentalism in Indonesia, a country of 220 million people, 80 percent of whom are Muslim. But the vast majority of the 14,000 pesantrens are moderate and venerated, having educated much of the nation's Muslim elite.
"Pesantrens teach true jihad in the right way. Maybe two percent of the pesantrens have a wrong perception of Islam," Sofwan Manaf, principal of the Darunnajah Islamic boarding school in Jakarta, told Reuters. "Modern pesantrens have a curriculum mixed between Islamic and non-religious teaching."
While pesantren enrolment makes up a small portion of Indonesia's school population, numbers have grown fast in recent years, partly in line with greater attention to Islamic values.
More than three million students are registered in Indonesia's pesantrens, which also form the backbone of the 40-million member Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's biggest moderate Muslim group that accounts for 12,000 of the registered pesantrens.
In large parts of Asia, free board and education sometimes lure poverty stricken families to send their children to Islamic schools, many of them in rural areas that often lack other affordable education.
In a typical Islamic boarding school, students follow a regimented programme from dawn to dusk with tough rules. But in Indonesia, pesantren students often defy stereotypes.
Some years ago, a band of veiled girls from a moderate Islamic school welcomed a former US ambassador with a rendition of rock anthem "Stairway to Heaven."
Some clerics such as the turban-clad but leather-jacketed Abdullah Gymnastiar, the head of a pesantren in Bandung, also don't fit the stereotype.
Gymnnastiar, a household name in Indonesia because of his relaxed and chatty sermons on Islam that strike a chord with ordinary people, is best known for his moderate tone, use of hi-technology and hobbies such as riding Harley Davidsons.
At the Darunajjah pesantren, a sprawling campus with computers and basketball courts at the end of a narrow road crammed with roadside stalls or warungs, students say they disagree with the Bali bombers.
"I agree with jihad, jihad to defend Islam, but not like what they did," said Achmad Syaefuddin, a 17-year-old graduating from Darunajjah.
In the past, criticism has focused on Jakarta's hands-off approach to a smattering of uncompromising boarding schools such as Bashir's al-Mukmin Islamic school and its militant alumni.
Two Muslim militants, Amrozi and and Mukhlas, who have been sentenced to death for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, studied at the Al-Mukmin Islamic school in Central Java.
No 'big brother'
As a key ally in the so-called US-led "war on terror," Indonesian authorities say they monitor pesantrens, but not in an intrusive manner.
"As Vice President Jusuf Kalla once said, we have to monitor pesantrens, and we have done that since decades. But we are not doing it in 'Big Brother' style," said Basyuni.
"We provide guidance and give directions to pesantrens. We also gave a helping hand in educating the resources and developing the facilities of many pesantrens."
International aid agencies have begun funding pesantrens in a bid to make their curriculum more mainstream. But analysts say many unregistered pesantrens remain outside the reach of these programmes and continue to spread their rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings.
Analysts also say the government cannot touch pesantrens for political reasons.
"The government is reluctant to greatly interfere in the matters of pesantrens, even in those accused of teaching radical Islam," Sri Yunanto, an expert on radical Islam, told Reuters.
"Clerics and pesantrens represent a massive voting power. Imagine what the voice of 1,000 clerics can do to your political career?
[Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia.]
Jakarta Post - August 1, 2007
Jakarta Government officials, police and observers are calling for effective coordination among the police, Forestry Ministry and related departments to fight illegal logging.
"Coordination is easier said than done," Indonesian Forestry Community executive director Agung Nugroho told a seminar Tuesday on institutional empowerment and improving coordination to fight illegal logging.
He said Indonesia had a clear legal basis for fighting illegal logging in a 2005 presidential instruction.
"Unfortunately this legal basis is interpreted differently by different people," he said, adding that all stakeholders related to the forestry industry must become familiar with all the laws related to the sector so they are not working at odds against illegal logging.
Currently, Indonesia has 120.35 million hectares of forest, putting it behind only Brazil and Zaire in terms of tropical forest cover. The illegal logging and timber trade is causing the country to lose up to 1.8 million hectares of its forests each year, costing the state about Rp 45 trillion (US$4.8 billion) annually.
"That is five times more than the state budget for health," said Yayat Afianto, coordinator for forestry campaigns at Telapak, a non-governmental organization dealing with forestry matters.
He said that despite the massive nature of the problem, not one of the main actors behind the illegal logging and timber trade had been arrested. "Up to January 2007 only 13 cases out of hundreds had been successfully tried, but all of them resulted in sentences of only two years at the most," he said.
According to police data, there are currently 846 ongoing illegal logging cases throughout Indonesia, involving 920 suspects. Yayat said police could only touch the people at the very bottom of the illegal logging trade, the ones involved in actually felling and transporting the trees.
An investigator at National Police Headquarters, Adj. Sr. Comr. Agus Santoso, acknowledged it was difficult for police to catch the main actors. "The main actors have become smarter in covering their tracks, we can only find someone else's faces covering them up," he said.
He added investigations into illegal logging cases were often hampered by a lack of personnel. "The area of forest to be covered is much larger than the number of police investigators, and we also lack facilities," he said.
He added that most people living near forests depended on the timber industry for their living. "Most of them refuse to cooperate with us when we carry out an investigation," he said, adding that people should realize that illegal logging is everybody's enemy.
Yayat said illegal logging had become international in nature, run by organized crime syndicates. "So there is no use for us to point our fingers at each other. It is time for us to cooperate more intensively," he said.
Director for forest investigation and conservation at the Forestry Ministry, Auria Ibrahim, said illegal logging could not be handled by any one department, so the ministry was now expanding its cooperation not only with national institutions, but also bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally.
"We are also trying to improve the capacity of the forestry police by carrying out workshops and establishing special units for emergencies, as well as building the capacity of official state investigators," he said.
Bunggong - August 1, 2007
It's not yet four in the morning but Nyak Nur Asiah, 50 years old, is already out of bed, getting everything ready for the day's business. In the cold morning air, she gathers together pieces of paper and leaves for wrapping up rice and portions of food.
At dawn, Nyak Asiah, as her friends call her, is ready to set out, hoping that she will make a small profit.
It is her daily routine to earn enough money for her family. Since her husband was killed in the 2004 tsunami, she is the only bread-winner for her two children. Her oldest is 20 years old but has not yet found a permanent job while the youngest sells things in a pesantren in Seulimem, Aceh Besar.
Nyak Asiah is not the only woman living below the poverty line; there are many others like her. Aceh is now the fourth poorest province in Indonesia, even though so much money has been pouring into Aceh.
Aceh's income has increased sixfold since 1999 and it now has the third largest budget in Indonesia, after East Kalimantan and Papua. Even so, 28.5 percent of the population are poor, which makes Aceh the fourth poorest in Indonesia.
Following the tsunami, Aceh became the region with the highest revenue. By June 2006, $4.8 billion had been received of the $8 billion pledged. Yet poverty has risen to 35 percent, the second highest in Indonesia after Papua. Such a discrepancy has existed in Aceh for many years and continues to be a problem to this very day. [Kompas, 9 February 2007]
Who suffers most?
Women have always been the ones to feel the impact of poverty. While there is no figure for the number of poor women in Aceh, according to the head of the Statistics Bureau for the whole province excluding Simeulu, there are about 5,900 women victims of the conflict who are living below the poverty line, not including victims of the tsunami, widows and others.
Dra Lailisma Sofyati, head of the Department for Women's Empowerment, said: "I think women feel the greatest impact". She says that poverty is identical with women's sufferings. They suffer as widows, having to shoulder the burden of finding an income for the family, while at the same time having to run the household.
Although earning an income is normally shared been husband and wife, most women stay at home to care for the house and look after the children, on top of which they must find an income to pay for the family's needs.
Lailisma says this doesn't mean that women are not allowed to go out to work, but what she notices these days is that women go to work because they are forced to do so because of economic circumstances. For all those women who lack the wherewithal, financially or because they lack the skills, the need to fend for the family is the burden they must bear.
Dra Lailisma says that it should be a matter of concern for everyone to help women in this situation, the majority of whom live in the villages.
"Then there's another problem. When women are given capital, they are unable to use it as such because they need to buy rice. Whatever capital they get is usually just a small amount as compared with their economic needs."
Ibu Yustinawati who is a trainer for an ILO programme, agrees that poverty is identical with women's sufferings. In poor families, the men only have to think about finding money for the family while the women must grapple with the problem of how to manage the pittance they get. For those who want to help their husbands to find an income for the family, they must do the housework first and then deal with other problems that may befall the family for which she is all too often blamed.
In Aceh, since the tsunami and the conflict, Yustinawati says that the number of poor people, especially women, has been increasing. This is not only because they have lost members of the family as well as property but also because they dont have the necessary skills to find a decent job.
"Many of them become washerwomen, street vendors, beggars, peasants or take other jobs with very low wages," she said. If they were given access or the opportunity to improve themselves or their welfare, then the problem of poverty could be overcome. But if this is lacking, then poverty will only intensify.
Another consequence of the poverty suffered by women is the increasing mortality of babies and children which is the result nutritional deficiencies in poorer families.
According to other sources, Acehnese women are not only poor in a material sense but they also lack knowledge and lack access to information.
Yustinawaty agrees, adding that their lack of access to information is the result of a culture which prioritises men in all aspects of life. For instance, when village meetings are held, its's only the men who attend, or in instances when women who are widows and therefore the head of the family attend, they find it difficult to take part because all the other participants are men. For those families not headed by a man, there is a lack of access to information and the women are marginalised socially.
According to research conducted by UNSYIAH and UNHABITAT, the percentage of women who take part in village meetings to discuss building houses is between 21-40 percent, while only 50 percent take an active part and express an opinion. As a result, women are not usually acknowledged as the house owner because house- ownership is based possession of a Kartu Keluarga (Family Card). In the pervading culture, women are rarely acknowledged as the head of family in the Kartu Keluarga.
And then, there is another challenge for women. If they are not well informed, its not because they are incapable but because they dont get the chance, said Sri Husaini Sofjan, a UNIFEM programme manager.
As things stand at present, women lack opportunities in many things access to information, education and the chance to advance themselves. All this only adds to the number of women living in poverty. She was sure that there were other things hampering women's creativity. The lack of material goods stands in the way of being active in other spheres such as politics which is not only about joining political parties. Political participation is very important, for playing a role in budgeting and in obtaining scientific knowledge.
The fact that many women don't go to school, she said, was not because they were not clever enough but was also because of the lack of opportunities.
She said she had met many Acehnese women who were very vociferous in expressing criticism and who were much wiser that women holding high office, but it was simply because they had not been given the chance to get any education.
With reference to all the attention now being devoted to the victims of the tsunami, she said that that tragedy happened only two years ago, but many women who were victims of the conflict were living outside Banda Aceh and were not getting any attention at all. 'We should not focus only on the regions that were hit by the tsunami,' she said.
[Slightly abridged translation by TAPOL of an article in the Acehnese women's journal, Bunggong, Perempuan Menggugat (Bunggong, Women Accuse).]
Cepos - August 4, 2007 (summary only)
The DPRP team which visited Jakarta this week to discuss the adoption of the Morning Star flag, the song 'Hai Tanahku Papua' and the Mambruk bird as symbols for Papua spent Friday in a meeting with BIN (State Intelligence Bureau) officials.
"We explained our purpose to hold a consultation in order to reach agreement between our perception and that of the central government" said Paskalis Kosy, on behalf of the team.
But the BIN response was no different from that of the Lemhanas, the National Defence Institute. In fact, the BIN officials asked the DPRP team to find some other symbols. According to BIN, the symbols were the creation of the Dutch, with the intention of creating a separate state of West Papua, and therefore these symbols were not appropriate for use as cultural symbols and could only act as an inspiration for Papuans in favour of separatism.
The team explained that it was quite difficult to alter these symbols while BIN officials said other symbols should not be used.
The meeting with BIN last for two and a half hours. BIN officials said they thought that the question of symbols was far less pressing for the Papuans than the question of promoting welfare and development in Papua.
The team replied that this issue relates to the integrity of Papua's position within NKRI, and it was in accord with the provisions of the Special Autonomy Law of 2001, which advocates the need to promote the welfare of the Papuan people through justice and dignity. The discussion with BIN officials was described as being quite "heated" (berlangsung hangat).
According to another member of the DPRP team, Weyland Watori, the Special Autonomy law meant that the symbols now used were a true reflection of the Papuan people and should therefore be used. He said: "In actual fact, these symbols were agreed upon when the OTSUS law was drafted, and the understanding then was that it was about the Morning Star flag".
Bringing in a third party?
He also said that they had suggested in their discussions that negotiations on this matter should perhaps involve a third party, as happened in the talks between GAM and Indonesia which were mediated by Helsinki. They had also said that although this might be going too far, that there was no reason to regard the Morning Star flag as something to be afraid of.
The DPRP team think that a better way reach agreement would be by means of dialogue.
Although the team had planned to hold meetings with other senior officials in Jakarta, these meetings could not take place because of lack of time. The team therefore returned to Jayapura and will make another visit to Jakarta in two weeks' time to holding meetings with the minister for political and security affairs and the minister for the interior.
Jakarta Post - August 6, 2007
Abdul Khalik, Jakarta New Zealand defense officials arrived in Jakarta on Sunday for a four-day visit aimed at reviving New Zealand's defense relations with Indonesia.
Indonesian Ambassador to New Zealand Amris Hassan expressed hope the visit would serve as the starting point for wider defense cooperation between Indonesia and New Zealand, not only in the military but also in the fields of humanitarian and disaster relief management.
"This is an important visit as the New Zealand officials will focus on learning how defense cooperation between the two countries can be revived after a seven-year vacuum," Amris told The Jakarta Post on Sunday over the phone from Wellington.
New Zealand cut defense and military ties with Indonesia in 1999 in protest of the Indonesian military's alleged gross human rights abuses in Timor Leste.
New Zealand Defense Force staff college director Air Commodore Terence Gardiner is leading the delegation, which consists of 45 officials from the college, customs office, police headquarters and communication agencies.
During their visit to Indonesia the group will visit Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta, and hold talks with their Indonesian counterparts from the defense ministry, national police headquarters and military.
The delegation will also visit PT Pindad and PT Dirgantara, two producers of military and police equipment in Indonesia.
The visit was initiated following a change in New Zealand's defense policy toward Indonesia, which was announced in December last year by New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peter, Amris said.
"It signifies New Zealand's recognition of Indonesia's positive development in human rights, democracy and reform in the TNI (Indonesian Military). The visit is hopefully the beginning of more solid defense ties between the two countries," he said.
Amris said an Indonesian military official, Maj. Purwoko Aji, from the Indonesian Air Force, has been undergoing training at the New Zealand Defense Force Staff College, in Wellington.
Indonesia-New Zealand relations have been strengthened in recent years, with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visiting the country in 2005 and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark visiting the archipelago in July this year.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda also met with his counterpart Winston Peter in May to talk about bilateral relations.
Xinhua - August 6, 2007
Jakarta Indonesia and the United States began a joint military exercise on Monday that would run until Thursday, a navy official said.
The chief of the Indonesian Western Fleet Command Rear Admiral Agus Suhartono said at an opening ceremony for the naval engagement activities (NEA) military exercise that the two sides are also to discuss "natural disasters, boarding party and other matters of the kind".
The US navy would also demonstrate a communications system used by American ships and also their communications structure "so we could learn something from them," he was quoted by national Antara News Agency as saying.
The exercise would involve around 700 Indonesian and US navy personnel. Two US warships, namely, USS Harpers Ferry/HFY (LSD- 49) and FFG-54 USS Ford have already arrived at Jakarta's Tanjung Priok port.
Agus said the exercise was different from the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise held by the two countries' navies every other year.
The activities would consist of symposiums and trainings such as symposiums on humanitarian assistance, on natural disaster recovery assistance, sea laws, laws on armed conflicts, joint operations at sea, piracy, engagement rules, war victim treatment tactics, tactical and river operations and training on light weaponry and on how to embark on a vessel during inspections and searches.
Jakarta Post - August 4, 2007
Jakarta Suciawati has waited for months for some good news regarding the ongoing inquest into her husband's alleged murder until the AGO on Friday provided a glimmer of hope.
Suciawati was married to Munir Said Thalib, the famous human rights activist allegedly poisoned almost three years ago while flying from Jakarta to the Netherlands aboard an Indonesian airplane.
The case has been in and out of court, but Munir's widow was assured Friday the Attorney General's Office has strong evidence to win a case review. Accompanied by Usman Hamid of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Suciawati told reporters after a meeting with Attorney General Hendarman Supandji on Friday they were optimistic of the case review, which is against former Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto.
Usman said, "The Attorney General has given us a very comprehensive explanation about the case review, although he didn't give us a copy of the dossier".
"He also told us that the case review won't be AGO's last effort," he said. "The AGO will continue its effort by pursuing other names mentioned in the new evidence. "The next effort is to pursue the new names (mentioned), which are from Garuda and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN)."
The AGO, which submitted the case review to the Central Jakarta District Court last week, has repeatedly said Pollycarpus was involved in Munir's murder. The AGO has demanded a review of the Supreme Court ruling that exonerated Pollycarpus.
The Garuda employee 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 overruled the verdict on October 2006.
Pollycarpus was instead sentenced to two years in jail for forging a letter allowing him to be an aviation security officer. He was freed in December 2006.
Usman said the new evidence included testimony from a witness who saw Pollycarpus buy a drink for Munir, along with testimonies from Garuda Indonesia employees who have indicated a conspiracy.
"Garuda did not do it on its own initiative," Usman said. "There was an outside party who requested it."
He said the AGO had up to five witnesses as well as facts that would support the case review. "The evidence is strong enough," Usman said.
Former Garuda chairman Indra Setiawan, secretary to Garuda's chief pilot Rohainil Aini and Raymond "Ongen" Latuihamalo have been reportedly included as witnesses in the case review.
Attorney General Hendarman Supandji told reporters that although some new evidence had already been reported by the mass media, there was other evidence he would not reveal.
Usman said the AGO's aim was to find Munir's murderer and to uncover exactly how the murder was executed. Suciwati said she was relieved the AGO was committed to her husband's case and that the office would continue to follow the case until justice was done. She said she thought the police should also continue to monitor her husband's case.
Munir died of arsenic poisoning in September 2004 while aboard a Garuda flight traveling from Jakarta to the Netherlands. The plane made a stop at Changi Airport in Singapore, where Munir was seen with a man at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafe.
Ongen, the witness who saw Munir with the man, said he could not confirm the man was Pollycarpus. The police have long suspected the cafe was where Munir was poisoned.
Jakarta Post - August 1, 2007
Indonesian lawmakers and experts welcomed Tuesday the decision of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to include a provision for a human rights body in its proposed historic charter.
"We welcome the provision for a rights body in the charter. This is the breakthrough we have been fighting for. We hope the leaders will not have problems approving it in Singapore in November," lawmaker Marzuki Darusman from Golkar, the country's largest political party, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Marzuki, who is also the chairman of the ASEAN Human Rights Commission, said Golkar was ready to ratify the charter once it reached the House of Representatives.
Djoko Susilo, a lawmaker from the National Mandate Party (PAN), said he hoped the creation of the human rights body would force Myanmar, an ASEAN member, to speed up its road map to democracy and release political prisoners.
"I think it is time for Myanmar to comply with international human rights standards," he said.
The 10 foreign ministers taking part in the ASEAN Minister's Meeting (AMM) in Manila on Monday decided to include provisions for a human rights commission in the charter after Myanmar gave up its resistance to the plan.
"Conforming with the purposes and principles of the ASEAN Charter relating to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, ASEAN shall establish a human rights body", the first complete draft of the charter read.
The final draft of the charter will be submitted to ASEAN leaders in Singapore in November before a final vote on its contents takes place.
The provision for a human rights body would open up the possibility for the establishment of a regional human rights commission, which would have the authority to assess a country's human rights situation and investigate human rights violations in member countries.
Observers said Myanmar may have been fearful the commission would eventually force its military junta to account for human rights abuses in the country, including the prosecution of minority and opposition groups and the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi.
International relations expert at the University of Indonesia Hariyadi Wirawan said difficulties may be encountered when the grouping starts deciding on what kind of human rights body it should establish.
"It is a very encouraging progress. But the problem now lies in the authority and scope of the rights body. It will be difficult given the wide spectrum of political orientation of ASEAN members. We have the communist state of Vietnam, the junta-ran states of Myanmar and Thailand and quasi-democratic Singapore. However, we do have Indonesia and the Philippines, both of which are relatively advanced in their human rights affairs and democracy," he said.
He said Indonesia should take a leading role in drafting the terms of reference for the rights body.
Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda has expressed a willingness to make Indonesia the first ASEAN country to come up with a detailed draft of the terms of reference for the rights body.
"Don't worry, we will come up with the first terms of reference for the rights body. I have instructed my subordinates to work on it as soon as they return to Jakarta," he said in Manila.
Meanwhile, the high-level task force drafting the landmark charter is confident it will meet its November deadline in time for the 13th ASEAN Summit to be held in Singapore.
The task force's chair, Ambassador Rosario Manalo of the Philippines, said in a press briefing Tuesday that based on progress made, there was a great possibility the final draft of the charter could be submitted for approval in the first week of September.
"The foreign ministers are already happy with what we have accomplished. We are reasonably confident that we will meet the deadline," she said.
"That is why we're proposing to the foreign ministers to review first the substantive portion in a special meeting. If there is a need to go further than that, it will only have to be to tie up loose ends."
Rosario said the charter would strengthen ASEAN by making it a more responsive, rules-based and people-centered organization and would create a culture of honoring obligations among its members. (JP/Abdul Khalik)
Jakarta Post - August 8, 2007
Jakarta Almost 10 years after Indonesia ratified the ILO Convention and seven years after the freedom of association law was passed, the archipelago has more trade unions but less unionists.
The association law gave all workers the right to join a union, whether at a national or company level, and encouraged them to enter into collective bargaining agreements with their employers.
But many companies have ignored ILO Convention standards, including an employees' rights to negotiate labor standards and this has resulted in fewer workers joining unions. The total number of company-level domestic labor unions currently reaches more than 11,000, with the number of national labor unions sitting at 146, Manpower Ministry data shows.
"But there is a paradox in labor union movements in Indonesia," executive director of the Trade Unions Rights Center Surya Tjandra said.
"The number of national labor unions was increasing so fast from only 45 in 2002 to more than 100 in 2005, while the number of their members decreased from 8.3 million to only 3.3 million," he said during a seminar on freedom of association Tuesday.
Surya said a top-down labor movement and conflicting interests among elite unionists was to blame. "Those two factors have caused many national labor unions to lose workers' confidence and instead employees have set up their own union in their workplace," he said.
So far, there are four major trade unions, including the Confederation of All-Indonesian Workers Union (KSPSI), Indonesian Confederation of Trade Union (ICTU), Confederation of Indonesian Prosperous Labor Union (KSBSI) and Confederation of Indonesian Metal Trade Union (KSPMI).
But these four have been divided over the severance payment scheme proposed by employers and the government. The scheme would see companies exempt from paying severance payments to white- collar workers.
And labor unions can do nothing to help the thousands of dismissed workers at state enterprises and private manufacturing companies, including PT Great River and PT Tongyung in Bogor and Tangerang.
The New Order era under Soeharto saw only one labor union accepted and workers were not allowed to express their needs or wants. Security authorities were, back then, deployed to help settle industrial disputes.
Fauzi Abdullah, a unionist of the Sedane Labor Information Institution, said most labor unions "had no teeth in collective bargaining and (have relied) on the government's mediation in settling industrial disputes".
He also said elite unionists faced internal problems because their leadership had come into question.
Fauzi said labor unions should fairly elect their leaders and that different unions should work together to formulate and cement collective bargaining agreements.
"Also, labor unions should intensify their training programs to improve their members' negotiation skills," he said.
Jakarta Post - August 2, 2007
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Yogyakarta Employers are not fulfilling their obligations under the laws on labor and social security to arrange for basic healthcare services for their employees and their families, state-owned workers insurance company PT Jamsostek said Wednesday.
"Many employers have ignored the 2003 Labor Law which requires employers to have their workers undergo a general medical checkup annually while others don't have a healthcare scheme because it keeps their labor costs down," Jamsostek's director of operations and services Anshori Achmad said in a meeting with seven associations of specialist doctors.
"Even worse, we have found that many companies in the chemical, construction and mining sectors do not equip their workers with safety equipment even though these sectors are prone to occupational accidents."
Anshori stressed a compulsory regular health checkup for workers was needed to monitor workers' health at the recruitment, employment and retirement stages.
"Aside from early detection, regular medical checkups are also important to identify the causes of the diseases workers are suffering from and to determine whether the treatments are covered by the social security programs," he said.
The Labor Law stipulates that workers have the right to have their health checked annually and to be protected under the social security programs. However, the 1992 Social Security Law, which requires Jamsostek to offer social security programs for workers, allows companies to arrange their own healthcare schemes if theirs are considered better than that offered by Jamsostek.
Anshori also said that many companies had opted not to use Jamsostek's healthcare scheme, which only covered 80-90 percent of their workers' medical bills.
"According to Government Regulation No. 14/1993 on technical guidelines for healthcare programs, workers are entitled to receive full health services in the second-class wards of public hospitals or the third-class wards of private hospitals. All medical costs must be borne by the employers or by Jamsostek," he said.
Sarjan Lubis, the head of Jamsostek's Central Java office, said most workers were not aware of their right to healthcare coverage.
"Most workers are not aware of their right to healthcare services during their employment and treatment for the diseases covered by Jamsostek's healthcare scheme.
"The scheme remains effective for two years after workers retire, resign or get laid-off by their employers."
Both Anshori and Sarjan also called on the government to review the small premium for the healthcare program to give workers maximum benefits and to cover certain diseases that have not been covered by the program.
"The ceiling for the premium is Rp 1 million (US$111) and employers have paid only Rp 30,000-60,000 per month per worker to the program and this rate is too small to cover the healthcare for both single workers and married ones. Besides, many modern diseases, including HIV/AIDS, have not been covered by the scheme," Anshori said.
Jakarta Post - August 8, 2007
While many surveys have predicted Fauzi Bowo will come out on top Wednesday, scores of university students would rather Adang Daradjatun led Jakarta for the next five years.
A survey by the Student Executive Board of Greater Jakarta (BEM Jakarta Raya) showed that 63 percent out of 1,902 students in the capital favored Adang as the Jakarta governor.
"Only 18 percent or 341 students want Fauzi to be governor. The remaining 19 percent have yet to decide," Indra, the head of the BEM's Jakarta State Polytechnic, said Tuesday.
The survey was held in four universities in Jakarta, namely the University of Indonesia, Jakarta State University, Jakarta State Polytechnic and Trisakti University from July 29 to Aug. 2. There are currently 50,000 students at the four universities.
It said that out of 400 surveyed students at the University of Indonesia, 60 percent would elect Adang and his running mate Dani Anwar and only 15 percent planned to vote for Fauzi-Prijanto.
Indra said the students could be seen as models of ideal voters in a healthy democracy.
"The students are neutral in the election as the campuses are free from campaign activities. The students have the idealism to reject money politics.
"That's why, the students could be a useful reference for the public in weighing up their options in the Jakarta gubernatorial election," he said.
Last week, a survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) showed Fauzi with 56.5 percent of support from 1,062 respondents. Adang trailed on 20.5 percent while 23 percent were undecided.
Jakarta Post - August 6, 2007
Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta Saturday's public debate between the two gubernatorial candidates has come in for criticism from observers, who have said the event was a formality rather than a chance to focus on important issues.
Former deputy National Police chief Adang Daradjatun and his running mate, incumbent Jakarta councilor Dani Anwar, will compete with current Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo and retired Army general Prijanto in the election on Wednesday.
Commentators said both candidates failed to touch on real city issues in the debate and instead engaged in "meaningless talk".
"The only thing the candidates thought about was how to be fascinating in front of the public," said political expert Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia.
"They forgot what the debate was all about and left out city issues like how to alleviate poverty and how to develop the capital to be juxtaposed with other cities in developed countries," he said.
The candidates appeared last Saturday in the 50-minute debate, which was organized by the Jakarta Elections Commission and aired live by Metro TV and Jak TV from the Sahid Jaya Hotel on Jl. Jend. Sudirman, Central Jakarta.
Agreeing with Abri, political expert Andrinof Chaniago said, "Apart from the limited time, both candidates failed to explore and elaborate on Jakarta's main issues, which had been simplified in their banners and posters."
"It was clear they didn't have good comprehension of the city's issues, and they made their goals for the next administration obscure," said Andrinof. He also said the debate did not reveal what Jakartans should know about the candidates.
Echoing Andrinof, Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta) head Azas Tigor Nainggolan said the debate had had little impact on voters. He said the people needed to know about the candidates. "But after the debate, I believe the people are still puzzled about which candidate is better than the other," he said.
In addition, Azas and Andrinof said they were doubtful that the commission "sincerely" carried out the debate. "While each candidate failed to explore their opponents, panelists at the debate seemed powerless to ask bold questions," said Azas.
The panelists were economist Aviliani, newly elected University of Indonesia rector Gumilar Rusliwa Sumantri, legal expert and human rights activist Bambang Widjojanto and Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra.
The candidates spent a few minutes of the debate on Fauzi's mustache, a campaign gimmick of Fauzi's team and supporters.
"I suspected the commission had purposely organized the debate in such a way so each candidate had not enough time for elaboration," said Andrinof.
"Another proof of the commission's negative intent is that the commission had picked a banking economist rather than an expert on social economy," he said.
Jakarta Post - August 6, 2007
Only days before polling, support continues to rush in to the campaign of Adang Daradjatun and Dani Anwar.
The latest came on Saturday, with the Central Jakarta chapter of Pemuda Muhammadiyah, the youth wing of one of the country's largest Islamic organizations, throwing its support behind Adang.
An alliance of the youth wings of seven political parties previously backing Fauzi Bowo had shifted their support to Adang, as had the Alliance of Nahdlatul Ulama Communities (Awanu).
The head of the Central Jakarta chapter of Pemuda Muhammadiyah, Diflaizal Zen Koto, told a press conference Saturday the switch in support was based on a decision by the organization's July regional conference.
The conference decided to give full support to Dani, a Muhammadiyah cadre. "Bang Dani was once the head of Muhammadiyah in Tanah Abang (a district in Central Jakarta)," he said.
Dani is currently a City Councilor from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the only major party backing Adang.
Jakarta Post - August 6, 2007
Tony Hotland, Jakarta The debate on independent candidates and local elections continues, with some party members arguing independent candidates should have to gain at least 15 percent of electoral support the minimum percentage for candidates endorsed by political parties.
Currently one party or a coalition of parties can nominate a candidate for a local election, provided the candidate has a minimum 15 percent of accumulated votes in the legislative election.
The independent candidate debate has been extended with the Constitutional Court ruling a green light on their eligibility to run for local elections.
But the practice is so far legal only in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam under the 2006 Aceh Administration law, a ruling which came to be amidst a political compromise to end the area's decades-long armed conflict.
Syamsuddin Haris of the National Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said Saturday the practice in Aceh could be mirrored nationally via a revision of the 2004 law on Local Administration, which regulates local elections.
"Requirements for independent candidates should be more lenient... (because) such candidates lack a network of political parties," Syamsuddin said.
Aceh's law says an independent candidate must be supported by at least 3 percent of the total population, spread across at least half of the electoral territory. And the candidate's support must be proved through the collection of identity cards and written statements from constituents.
Party members however want indepedent candidates to have to gain the same if not more support as party-endorsed candidates.
The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction head in the House of Representatives, Tjahjo Kumolo, said politics should be based on the concept of fairness. "Why should independent candidates have less responsibility than party- endorsed ones... 15 percent of support should be the bar," he said.
Head of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) faction Mahfudz Siddiq said support of between 10 and 15 percent would pave a path for fair elections. But both Siddiq and Tjahjo said the stipulations in Aceh came to be via a different spirit of politics and should therefore not be used as a national reference point.
Justice and Human Rights Minister Andi Mattalatta, who was the head of the Golkar Party faction, said there should be equality for all candidates regardless of their candidacy. Andi said his ministry, which is in charge of drafting government-proposed bills, would wait for proposals from the House.
The House is scheduled to amend articles on the law on local administration to include the issue of independent candidates contesting local elections. House Speaker Agung Laksono said the draft should be completed before the end of the year.
Agence France Presse - August 4, 2007
Daniel Ten Kate, Jakarta As motorcycle engines rev loudly, hundreds of Jakartans clad in brightly-coloured T-shirts emblazoned with the face of one of the candidates vying to govern Indonesia's congested capital file into an arena.
Supporters of Fauzi Bowo, currently the deputy to Jakarta governor Sutiyoso, dance and wave large red, green, purple and white flags as party leaders shout slogans from a crowded stage.
But instead of celebrating a milestone in the country's young democracy, the lively gathering masks the old-fashioned machine politics that has sapped enthusiasm for Jakarta's first-ever gubernatorial elections set for this week.
Many attending the rallies that have snarled traffic and made extra work for street cleaners in the lead-up to Wednesday's polls have been paid supporters, looking to make a quick buck in a city with high levels of unemployment.
This week marks the first time Jakartans have been able to elect their governor directly after the central government introduced a decentralisation law in 2004 that allows hundreds of local elections across the archipelago.
But many doubt the historic vote will transform either Jakarta or the country. "I hope Fauzi wins, but I don't know if he will make the city any better," shrugs Arifin, a 40-year-old day labourer who received 20,000 rupiah (about two dollars) to show up at this rally. "I just hope the price of gasoline comes down."
Although the country's Constitutional Court made a landmark decision last month to allow independent candidates run in local elections, the registration date to stand in the August 8 polls had already passed. Voters are therefore left a choice of just two candidates, each backed by top political parties critics say are known more for paying large sums for prime positions than implementing visionary policies.
Faisal Basri, an economist at the University of Indonesia who spent more than a year preparing for a campaign that never happened, said Jakartans were not being offered enough choice.
"We tried to offer fresh new thinking for Jakarta and the country, but our experiment failed," he told a panel discussion last week, referring to would-be candidates who ran campaigns in anticipation of a favourable court decision coming earlier.
Opinion polls predict a low turnout, as voters doubt that either Bowo or his opponent, Adang Daradjatun, can fulfil lofty campaign promises to ease Jakarta's traffic gridlock, clean up choking pollution and improve access to education and healthcare.
Most analysts expect frontrunner Bowo to win easily, as he has secured backing from a coalition of 19 political parties.
While the alliance mostly stems from Indonesia's notorious money politics, some observers said it also reflected fears that Daradjatun a former top national police officer supported by the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a leading Islamic party would face pressure to try to implement sharia law in the fiercely secular capital.
"Adang is supported only by one Islamic party, and I cannot believe he won't implement some of the party's programmes when he is in power," Dita Indah Sari, a prominent women's labour activist, said last week. "If this candidate can win in Jakarta, I'm personally very afraid it will give PKS momentum in other local elections," she said.
PKS opponents point to Depok, a town just south of Jakarta, in which party chiefs tried to ban alcohol and prostitution shortly after taking power. But PKS leaders have tried to dispel fears that it will introduce the same conservative agenda for Jakarta, focusing instead on the party's reputation for stamping out corruption.
"Sharia doesn't need to be implemented by law, but the most important thing is the attitude of the leader," said Tadigu Teguh, a PKS member heading the security detail at a recent rally for Daradjatun. "If we implement sharia at a time when people don't understand it, it will be useless."
More than 65 percent of the city's 5.7 million registered voters are likely to stay home on election day, according to a poll conducted by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) last month.
Executive director Saiful Mujani said the widespread voter apathy showed that Jakartans were "protesting the corrupt democracy," according to the English-language daily The Jakarta Post.
Sutiyoso, who was first appointed governor by the president in 1997, is completing his second five-year term in office. If Bowo is elected, he is expected to maintain the status quo which critics say means more corruption and little progress on social reforms.
"The parties have the power and they don't care about the voice of the people," complained Rustam Ibrahim, chairman of local human rights group Yappika. "They have no ideology; it's just about money."
Despite the widespread allegations, both campaigns maintain they are clean and do not pay supporters. So far Jakarta's Election Oversight Committee agrees with them. "We have received several reports about vote-buying but we have no proof," Suhartono, who heads the committee, told AFP. "After campaigns give money to people, they can still vote for either candidate."
Jakarta Post - August 5, 2007
Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta Saturday's public debate was an opportunity left untapped by the two Jakarta governor candidates to make their mark on voters. They were also constrained by being given only two minutes to answer questions.
The only time the candidates have met face to face as rivals whizzed past in 50 minutes, with most crucial issues left unexplored.
Apart from facing one set of questions from each of the four panelists, Adang Daradjatun-Dani Anwar and Fauzi Bowo-Prijanto were only given one opportunity to question each other.
Former national deputy police chief Adang used his to ask what was so special about Fauzi's mustache, given his campaign jingle for voters to pierce the ballot papers on the mustache. Fauzi breezily answered the unexpected query by saying that it was an honor for him that voters would be casting their vote on his mustache.
Responding, Fauzi asked Adang what one should do if he won or lost the election. Adang appeared to hand the show to Fauzi by saying that he would help Fauzi if he won as they are both friends. "Losing or winning would not be a problem for me," he said.
Leader of Adang's campaign team Igo Ilham said both the questions and the answers indicated Adang's casual air, creating a good impression with voters.
The debate, organized by the General Elections Commission, was aired live by Metro TV and Jak TV from Sahid Jaya Hotel in Jl. Jend. Sudirman, Central Jakarta.
Fauzi, who hardly gave Prijanto an opportunity to speak, said he would bring in e-procurement within 100 days, if elected, to eradicate corruption practices in the administration. E- procurement is a way to conduct online bidding for projects that are offered to businesspeople.
Prijanto highlighted the importance of revamping the workforce system to make the city more investment-friendly, although he did not elaborate on how he and Fauzi would do that.
Adang said that he would introduce a one-roof-system to attract investors to the city, a plan that was always opposed by bureaucrats and hardly implemented.
Adang made his point by saying that he would have free-schooling programs and providing health insurance as the first things that he would do to secure better social welfare.
Dani attacked Fauzi by pointing out that the current administration's inconsistent policies were the reason why the city had yet to provide decent welfare for all residents.
The panelists were economist Aviliani, newly elected University of Indonesia rector Gumilar Rusliwa Sumantri, legal expert and human rights activist Bambang Widjojanto and Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra.
The public debate was marred by supporters who took part in "jingle wars" inside the venue. There was also a clash between one group of supporters with the police as they were not allowed to enter the already-crowded hotel ballroom.
Jakarta Post - August 4, 2007
Jakarta Supporters of Jakarta's two governor candidates took to the streets of the capital Friday in all manner of vehicles, bringing much of the city to a virtual standstill on the final day of campaigning.
As supporters of Adang Daradjatun and running mate Dani Anwar, and Fauzi Bowo and his running mate Prijanto paraded through the city in colorfully decorated cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles, Jakarta took on a festive air.
Though for those not involved in the campaigns who became stuck in the traffic, the mood was slightly more sour.
Adang's supporters emerged from mosques throughout the city after Friday prayers and began converging on the East Parking Lot of the Senayan stadium complex in Central Jakarta, where the candidate's rally was being held.
Supporters of Fauzi Bowo rallied at the Sumantri Brojonegoro Sports Hall in South Jakarta, before spreading out across the capital as the rally ended.
There were no reports of clashes between supporters, and when opposing convoys did converge everyone maintained the party mood.
"We are here to celebrate our direct gubernatorial election, so let's enjoy it together," a young man wearing an Adang-Dani T- shirt shouted from the top of a bus to some Fauzi supporters in front of Menteng Pulo Cemetery in Central Jakarta.
A group of Fauzi backers from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) were seen passing out fliers explaining the candidate's policies to passing motorists in Kuningan, South Jakarta.
Teenage supporters of both candidates sang campaign songs and shouted slogans from the top of buses and the backs of trucks.
Heavy traffic congestion was reported all the way from Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta to Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta.
As the streets cleared late in the afternoon, a trail of crumpled up fliers and empty water bottles marked the passage of the convoys.
Jakarta Post - August 4, 2007
Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta A strategy to accuse the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and their Jakarta governor candidate Adang Daradjatun with Islamic fundamentalism may backfire and could see candidate Fauzi Bowo lose votes, observers said.
Fauzi's coalition of political parties, which has made pluralism its campaign cry, has accused the PKS and Adang of wanting to rule Jakarta using Islamic teachings or sharia.
But political observers said the coalition's claim is baseless. They said some parties backing Fauzi, including Golkar and the United Development Party (PPP), have previously proposed sharia to rule other parts of the archipelago.
The observers said Fauzi Bowo therefore posed more of a threat to pluralism because both Golkar and PPP are very much part of the 19-party coalition behind Fauzi's campaign.
"These parties keep thinking that they can fool people... (but we will all) eventually know who's telling lies," said political observer Christianto Wibisono from Democracy Watch during an election discussion Friday.
Christianto said, "These disrespectful acts from political parties will also discourage residents from voting".
Jakarta's first direct governor election this year features two candidates one supported by 19 parties and the other supported by just one. The PKS supports retired police general Adang Daradjatun and the 19-party coalition backs Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo.
Fauzi handpicked retired Army general Prijanto as his running mate. PKS put forward city councilor Dani Anwar as Adang's running mate.
About 75 percent of the 7.6 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots on August 8.
Former governor hopeful and legislator Sarwono Kusumaatmadja said the coalition supporting Fauzi had been pushed together in an effort to secure control over Jakarta. Sarwono said control of the capital was important because the city would be a pivotal political stakehold for the 2009 presidential election.
Sarwono said he believed the central government was in support of Fauzi's campaign because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had neglected to delay the election to allow time for a ruling on independent candidates. Sarwono said this was a sign the President wanted Fauzi's coalition to win.
The President did not approve in time a judicial review of the Regional Autonomy Law that could have seen an opening for anyone to run for any regional office without endorsements from political parties.
"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono might have issued a regulation in lieu of this law to enable independent candidates to run in the election, but he just never intended to," Sarwono said.
The President has in the past issued said regulation to delay local elections in the case of a natural disaster or an industrial relations dispute, regardless of the severity of the situation, Sarwono said.
Sarwono withdrew himself from the gubernatorial race due to insufficient support from political parties.
Political observer Saiful Mujani said the coalition's religious- based attack against the PKS was an inevitability.
"They are over-confident they can win without help," Saiful said. "They want to rule the city alone and this is just impossible because there are various parties and community groups in the city," he told The Jakarta Post.
Detik.com - August 4, 2007
Ken Yunita, Jakarta The two candidates in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections, Adang Daradjatun and Fauzi Bowo, have been given a motion of no confidence by the Urban Poor Union (SRMK), the Indonesian Disabled People's Association (PPCI) and the Indonesian Transsexual Forum (FWI).
The groups were deeply disappointed because both candidates refused to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) making a commitment to support the people that if they are elected as governor in the August 8 election of regional heads.
Around 200 people from the three groups had been waiting for the candidates at the Jakarta Legal Aid (LBH) offices on Jl. Diponegoro in Central Jakarta since 12noon on Saturday August 4. By 3.30pm however, neither candidate had arrived. Both informed the groups that they would be unable to attend for various reasons.
LBH Jakarta had earlier contacted the election campaign teams from the two camps. As of Saturday morning, both campaign teams were still saying that the candidates would meet with the groups. By Saturday afternoon however they received news to the contrary.
The Adang Daradjatun-Dani Anwar camp said that that they needed more time to study the contents of the MoU while the Fauzi Bowo camp said they were attending another event.
The 200 or so demonstrators from the three groups responded by accusing the two candidate tickets for Jakarta governor and deputy governor of being cowards.
"By failing to attend they have shown that they are afraid to confront us", said Arum, a SRMK member from the Kembangan administrative district of West Jakarta. Following this the protesters shouted in unison, "We hereby declare a motion of no confidence in the two candidates!".
Arum also revealed that in fact the MoU that was to be signed had already been given to both candidates for them to study. Up until now however, the draft had yet to be returned to LBH Jakarta.
The MoU that was given to the candidates by the three groups included a commitment to an education budget of 20 percent without interfering with teacher's wages, free education, the eradication of corruption within the education bureaucracy, a commitment to end evictions and seek a social solution to the problem, cuts to the budget for evictions and to provide land to the urban poor.
In addition to this, it called for revising Bylaw No. 11/1998 so that it contained a human rights perspective, gender equality and pro-poor policies, an end to violence by the civil service police, increasing the minimum wage by 50 percent, an end to discrimination against transsexuals who work in the formal and informal sectors, abolishing contract labour and making services at community healthcare centres free. (umi/sss)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - August 2, 2007
Jakarta The youth wings of some of the 19 political parties backing Jakarta governor candidate Fauzi Bowo in the Aug. 8 election announced Wednesday they were switching their support to rival candidate Adang Daradjatun.
Calling themselves the Jakarta Youth Forum, they said they were disappointed in their parties for ignoring the interests of the poor in the election.
"Party leaders nominated the candidates through an undemocratic process. The decision came without our approval," said Agung, head of Banteng Jakarta, the youth wing of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
Democratic Youth Front (BMD) secretary Frans Watu of the Democratic Party said they "trust Adang more than Fauzi".
The Democratic Party initially mentioned former minister and Army general Agum Gumelar as its possible candidate, but changed to Fauzi with no transparent decision-making mechanism, he said.
Fauzi on Wednesday questioned the loyalty of supporters of the political parties backing his candidacy.
"Vote number two on Aug. 8... we'll check at each polling booth... don't just promise it now," he said, silencing supporters at Bulungan Youth Sports Hall in South Jakarta. Fauzi is number two on the ballot.
Fauzi himself said he was siding with the people by signing political contracts drafted by the Urban Poor Consortium and the Jakarta Residents Forum (Fakta) respectively.
Fakta on Wednesday urged both candidates to revise the 1988 city ordinance on public order and security, which is currently being used as the legal basis to evict street vendors.
Adang did not reply to the signing invitation, Fakta chairman Azas Tigor Nainggolan said.
In the contract, Fakta also demands that Fauzi improve public services including in the education, public transportation and residential sectors, and to create more jobs for the poor. "The contract is not that different from my own vision, mission and programs I have planned for Jakarta if I become governor," Fauzi said in his speech.
Green Left Weekly - August 1, 2007
Chris Peterson In the lead-up to Indonesia's 2009 elections, a new left party has been formed. The National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) was founded on the basis of three main demands: the cancellation of Indonesia's foreign debt, the nationalisation of the minerals sector, including oil and gas, and national industrialisation.
Green Left Weekly spoke to Gusti Galuh Ratna Sari, a member of the National League for Student Democracy (LMND) and one of Papernas's international relations staff, about the new party and the role of young people in fighting for social change.
Papernas, which held its founding congress in January but began coordinated campaigning late last year, is a broad party that represents the interests of the poor majority. Sari explained that the average wage in Indonesia is less than $2 day and the living conditions of most Indonesians continue to worsen.
Affiliates to Papernas include the People's Democratic Party and the LMND. The new party has already faced intimidation from the Indonesian state: hundreds of armed thugs attempted to prevent Papernas's founding congress from going ahead. However, this may have backfired, with the resulting publicity giving Papernas's ideas a wider hearing.
Young people play an important role in Papernas. Sari explained the historical context: "Students successfully led the overthrow of [Indonesia's dictator General] Suharto [in 1998] by working with the urban poor. However, they failed to end the political crisis because they gave the leadership to the reformists. Now Indonesia is increasingly trapped in the 'Washington consensus' scheme under [President] Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government."
Sari said this has led to a decline in the strength of the student movement. "At the moment, student [action] is very spontaneous, but we are trying to build this into a movement through Papernas. There is strong sentiment against privatisation, which has been taken up by the LMND."
"As part of the student-youth campaign program in Papernas, the LMND has been campaigning for education that is free, scientific and democratic. We are also fighting for the right of everyone to have work as part of industrialisation."
Before joining the LMND, Sari was actively involved in feminist campaigns. "I began to see the links with other injustices around me and saw the need to liberate people as a whole from imperialism", she said. "Thanks to Papernas, we can now reach a much larger audience with our ideas than before. It has also given us much experience. Papernas has allowed us to focus on certain important issues, which has made it easier to involve people."
Papernas, which plans to contest Indonesian elections as well as carrying out extra-parliamentary campaigning, also faces difficulties, however. "Papernas is not yet registered as an official political party. This is in part due to the undemocratic registration process, but it is also because a lot of our support is still passive. A lot of activists still need to be convinced of the need for such a project."
Sari emphasised the importance of international solidarity in the Indonesian people's struggles for justice against imperialism. "Activists in Australia can help us by promoting issues that directly support the resistance to imperialism in Third World countries, such as supporting movements for nationalisation and democratisation. Environmental issues are also very important in Indonesia, because Western corporations ignore environmental safety standards, which has a direct impact on thousands of people."
The Venezuelan revolution is making itself felt in Indonesia, Sari said. "What is happening in Venezuela is a stimulant for the Indonesian people to gain the self-confidence to seize their rights. It shows that another world is possible.
"For Papernas, the Venezuelan revolution has provided an inspiration to build the socialist project and to broaden international solidarity against imperialism. The mainstream media in Indonesia does not cover Venezuela so we formed a group, People Solidarity for Latin America (Serial), to raise awareness about Venezuela's positive achievements."
Sari concluded, "We in the LMND hope that there will be intensive solidarity and cooperation between activists in Indonesia and Australia in campaigns around global issues and against imperialism. The LMND and activists in Australia should build a wider international network in the youth and student movement to spread and strengthen the international working-class struggle."
|Opinion & analysis|
Jakarta Post Editorial - August 3, 2007
The paradox of a metropolis like this is that it's filthy but no one is leaving. Unlike this metropolis, however, a number of other cities not all of them in developed countries have for more than 20 years had plans in place to combat pollution.
Only after consistently winning universal recognition for being among the world's most polluted and congested cities, has Jakarta finally begun to make meaningful steps toward providing alternative fuels and improving public transport.
There was for too long too few gas stations supplying unleaded gas. And there were a number of other administrative excuses that contributed to the slow provision of said fuel. But today motorists have access to a lot more unleaded gas and more people are being attracted to the busway.
This good news is new though. The average number of "good" healthy days in Jakarta remains around 20 per annum. The rest of the year sees Jakarta clouded in smog and other hazardous substances.
Jakartans, unlike our international neighbors, are spared the haze distributed by Indonesia's annual forest fires. But we're exposed nonetheless to other poisons nearly every day
It wasn't a real surprise then when the Ministry of Health announced in 2003 that asthma was affecting 5.2 percent of children, compared to 2.1 percent back in 1995. The ministry estimates one in 10 children now suffer from the disease.
Those living in and around Jakarta would be among the most vulnerable as one expert said, we inhale more carbon monoxide in a car moving slower than 30 km per hour.
Carbon monoxide is one of several pollutants around us, which, we are warned, is potentially harmful to our lungs, our fertility levels and to our sanity, given the long term impacts CO2 has on the nervous system.
But few of us hear this message clearly enough to collectively pressure the authorities for better trains and buses or to reduce the daily average of 6.5 million cars crawling up and down the city's road networks.
Instead, we give in to those who empower us, the banks and car dealers, to buy cool saloons and SUVs. For they enable us to better and more comfortably cope with the traffic congestion, compared at least to those squeezed and squashed in the sardine cans that make up our mass transport.
The latest information released tells us there are more children that have been affected by asthma. Many think asthma is derived only via genetics but they are wrong.
The latest statistics will hopefully ring some alarm bells loudly and clearly so that our city planners as well as those eying the governor's seat can hear the message.
It was both a lesson in leadership and urban planning when plans for the No Car Day last month flopped even though there had been a few "warm up" car-free Sundays in various locations.
Residents demand better traffic but how do we part them from their wheels? Without better mass transport, private car users simply won't part with their vehicles of comfort.
Not with millions of commuters having to allocate up to four hours on the road to and from work, or 12 hours out of the house every working day.
Our new governor would be the new hero if he could emulate Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's leader. Schwarzenegger has become publicly associated with a greener lifestyle, inspiring awareness of the feasibility of working toward a healthier environment.
Who wouldn't be grateful to a new governor who could bring us home much earlier to our families, not to mention the contribution to the health of our children.
For those with breathing ailments, the classic advice from physicians has been to stay away from dust and other pollutants, and to expose patients to more fresh air. Frequent trips to Puncak hill or the seaside would be good, doctors say.
But one then needs to add the traffic factor blamed by health experts for its contribution to pollution.
Families with asthmatic children would relate to the organization required to organize a family trip to the seaside for some fresh air only to have their young wheezing again when caught in traffic on the way home.
The anti-smoking ordinance is at least one landmark legacy of Jakarta's outgoing Governor Sutiyoso and it has been significant in the fight against pollution.
Whoever succeeds him will bear responsibility not only for enforcing the bylaw indiscriminately, but also for generating more environment-friendly ordinances to enable us to breathe fresh and healthy air.
Asia Times - August 3, 2007
Bill Guerin, Jakarta After nearly a decade of economic restructuring and financial de-leveraging, Indonesia has finally returned to a position of fiscal strength from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Much of the credit for the turnaround lies with Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono, who has held senior economic posts in two post-1997 administrations.
An economist trained at Wharton, the business school of the University of Pennsylvania, the former finance minister and now chief economic policymaker has in recent years had a free hand in steering economic and financial reforms, under both former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and current leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In managing the national finances, he has faced down vested political interest groups in Parliament and the bureaucracy and moved to restore foreign confidence in central bank independence.
Boediono's independent and apolitical control of Indonesia's economic levers to some analysts represents a sort of throwback to former dictator Suharto's New Order regime, whereby he insulated a group of US-trained economists, popularly known then as the Berkeley Mafia, from political interference so as to steer the economy's liberalization and export-oriented growth. Yet while Suharto's economic mandarins hovered above the cut-and- thrust of daily politics, Boediono frequently finds himself at loggerheads with the country's powerful, pro-business vice president Yusuf Kalla over economic policymaking. Kalla serves as chairman to the powerful Golkar party and has an exceptionally powerful voice inside Yudhoyono's cabinet, particularly over government spending decisions.
Now some wonder whether Boediono's position could be in jeopardy as a new consensus builds around the notion that it's time for Indonesia to re-gear economic policy from pro-stability to pro- growth.
As a former head of the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) and deputy governor of Bank Indonesia, Boediono inherited control of a financially battered and stagnant economy under Megawati. Foreign investors had abandoned the country as a regional basket case where politics superseded the broad economic interest. In one of several controversial decisions, in June 2002 the Commercial Court declared that Canadian insurer Manulife was bankrupt. This ruling was instrumental in showing just how much the new administration was in the grip of powerful vested interests.
Megawati, a former leading figure of the political-reform movement that followed the 1998 downfall of Suharto, had no clear strategy to stop the rot and revive the economy when she assumed the presidency in July 2001. Then the country was still reeling from the Asian financial crisis. Government budgets still showed huge deficits and were sustained by expensive external funding.
The conditions attached to the International Monetary Fund's rescue package emphasized financial belt-tightening over fiscal stimulus and bank restructuring over issuing new loans. By 2001, the IMF-imposed belt-tightening was stirring nationalist complaints that were further spooking foreign investors. It was around then that Megawati handed the economic reins to Boediono and, in a politically risky maneuver, he shunned economic nationalists and moved to regain the IMF's confidence rather than challenge the agency's neo-liberal economic orthodoxy.
Steady technocratic hand
While many analysts agree that Megawati's government deserves credit for restoring a modicum of political stability, it was Boediono who played the largest role in steering the economy back on track. Following the IMF's prescriptions, belt-tightening policies in effect curbed inflation, reduced government debt to manageable levels, and restored depleted national coffers.
Fast-forward to the present, and Yudhoyono's weak representation in the House of Representatives has nationalistically thwarted many of his government's economic reform policies, including liberalization measures. With the legislators from his own small party and the few others who consistently support him, at best he holds consistent sway over only 100 votes in the 550-seat legislature.
Faced with stiff parliamentary resistance, Yudhoyono moved to empower Boediono's sway over economic policymaking. In December 2005, Yudhoyono tapped the tested technocrat to replace Aburazil Bakrie, an influential political operator inside the Golkar party whose family has big business interests that allegedly feed on government contracts, as chief economics minister. Significantly, Boediono said at the time that he would decline the new post if Bakrie were still part of the president's economic team.
Boediono's appointment restored foreign confidence in the government's technocratic credentials and provided Yudhoyono with an important political bulwark against his more business-minded deputy Kalla. The president told a press conference just before Boediono's appointment that he wanted the revamped cabinet to be more effective and cooperate better as a team.
The implication, albeit unspoken, was that Yudhoyono needed to rid his economic team of vested-interest groups that were starting to raise new international concerns over the quality of his government's macroeconomic management. When Boediono and his technocratic ally and finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati took the reins in 2005, they faced a faltering economy and alarmingly high inflation levels. Indrawati replaced Golkar heavy Jusuf Anwar, a Kalla ally who had control over development project budgets.
Together they moved to restore some market confidence in the country's reform direction, which to many foreign investors at the time were headed in the wrong direction. The massive reduction in fuel subsidies in 2005 triggered a political mini- crisis but, as the World Bank points out, the savings in subsidies left an extra US$15 billion to spend in 2006, $10 billion of which was earmarked for development programs.
To be sure, Boediono hasn't always had his way, nor has Yudhoyono. After last month's passage of a new negative investment list, which imposed new barriers to foreign investment across several local industries, Boediono did his best to neutralize widespread foreign-investor perceptions that the list was protectionist, saying it gave investors greater "clarity" about which areas of the economy they were welcome to participate in.
Notwithstanding such hiccups, Boediono is broadly viewed in international markets as a capable set of technocratic hands. In his recent prepared speeches abroad, he has said that political considerations should not be allowed to interfere with economic management. Yet he has faced consistent challenges from Kalla, who before Boediono's appointment as coordinating economic minister rammed through unopposed several spending measures in Yudhoyono's first cabinet.
Last September, Yudhoyono suddenly announced the creation of a new presidential advisory body that would evaluate and monitor the cabinet's performance and report directly to him. Significantly, coordination of the oversight unit was placed under Boediono.
After widespread reports of peeved Golkar legislators, Kalla and Yudhoyono met in private and, despite denials from the president's office that no changes would be made, it was soon announced that although the unit would remain in place, its tasks would be reconsidered. Most saw this as a victory for Kalla and a blow to the president's chances of uncovering where bureaucratic resistance and poor coordination were thwarting his economic policy and reform directives. The oversight unit still exists, though very little has been heard of it since.
Meanwhile, Kalla has won praise from the country's banks and business community for his aggressive approach to economic policymaking, and he has clashed openly with Boediono and Sri Mulyani over what he perceives to be their overcautious approach to managing the national finances. In particular, Kalla has objected to their joint reluctance to release funds allocated for fiscal stimulus. At the end of 2005, nearly 70% of funds earmarked for development projects had not been disbursed.
Boediono's approach was made clear during a 2006 keynote address he made in Bali. "Restoring stability and accelerating government spending are necessary but not sufficient to sustain higher growth in the longer term," he said. "The key to sustaining growth is to use increasing confidence in our macro and fiscal position to encourage private investment, especially in the context of reforms that reduce the obstacles."
Boediono has remained tight-lipped concerning media criticism of government contracts, particularly in the infrastructure sector, won by companies owned by or associated with Kalla's and Bakrie's families. Big-ticket state projects won by the Bakrie Brothers conglomerate include a $1.26 billion gas pipeline connecting East Kalimantan and Central Java as well as the $1.4 billion Tanjung Jati A power project.
The government's so-called "crash-start program" saw the award of $8 billion worth of coal-fired power projects, many without a tendering process. Not surprisingly the program, which was widely reported to be the brainchild of Yusuf Kalla's brother Achmad Kalla, owner of the Bukaka engineering company, sparked media allegations of conflicts of interest.
One winner was infrastructure specialist PT Bosowa Energi, part of the Bosowa Group, a diversified conglomerate with businesses that include a turnpike operator owned by Yusuf Kalla's brother- in-law, Aksa Mahmud. Mahmud, coincidentally, is also deputy Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), Indonesia's highest legislative body.
Still there are indications that Kalla's faster, looser approach to government spending is gaining political ground on Boediono's penchant for caution and probity. A World Bank report titled "Indonesia Public Expenditure Review 2007" released late last month commended the country's "bold reallocation of resources" and noted that there are now sufficient financial resources to address development needs better.
While the report did not attribute the successful turnaround to any particular individual, it did note that prudent macroeconomic policies, particularly maintaining extremely low budget deficits, have been instrumental in the recovery. However, some economic analysts also read the report as an implicit endorsement of Kalla's stance, including its mention that now is the time to build on past achievements and deploy more state resources on education, health care and infrastructure.
In March, Boediono signaled that he could be persuaded to slacken certain strictures on the economy and realign his pro-stability toward more pro-growth initiatives. For instance, he recently told reporters that stronger economic growth in 2008 would be achievable with "more relaxed monetary policies". Yet Boediono still faces an uphill task in building a political consensus around the need to speed up structural reforms and foreign participation in the economy ahead of what are expected to be hotly contested 2009 elections.
With an estimated 60% of Indonesians without access to piped water and more than 70 million with no electricity, the need to get allocated funds out of the bureaucracy and into the grassroots economy is politically urgent. An even bigger problem, as Boediono conceded in Washington in April, is the government's inability to ensure that policies and reforms are actually implemented as designed.
[Bill Guerin, a Jakarta correspondent for Asia Times Online since 2000, has been in Indonesia for more than 20 years, mostly in journalism and editorial positions. He specializes in Indonesian political, business and economic analysis, and hosts a weekly television political talk show, Face to Face, broadcast on two Indonesia-based satellite channels. He can be reached at email@example.com.]
Jakarta Post Editorial - August 1, 2007
Footwear, textiles and textile products may be seen as industries of the past, or sunset industries, but the fact is they are the backbone of our exports and domestic economy.
Those who see these as sunset industries may be right in the sense that our footwear, textiles and textile products are losing out to new players from countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh.
Exports of textiles and textile products have been relatively constant at between US$7 billion and $8 billion a year since the late 1990s. Indonesia's footwear industry is faring even worse, with exports plummeting from $2.2. billion before the economic crisis to $1.6 billion last year.
However, if we look at their roles in the country's economy in general, these industries remain significant, both in terms of contribution to gross domestic product and employment; therefore, they need our support to regain their former glory.
Look at textiles. Export figures for textiles and textile products have remained constant at a high of $8 billion a year. Moreover, their net contribution to foreign exchange is also significant. In 2005, for example, the industry contributed $7 billion in net foreign exchange income to the country from exports of $8.6 billion minus imports of $1.6 billion.
The industry also directly employs a total of 1.8 million people. If we include those indirectly employed by the sector, the number would jump to six million, half of whom work in garments, a significant number for a country in dire need of employment.
The footwear industry also makes a significant contribution to the country's economy, although on a smaller scale than textiles. In 2005, the industry contributed $1.4 billion from exports and about $1.9 from domestic sales, and it directly employed about 400,000 people.
These figures suggest the industries' roles in our economy cannot be ignored, especially in providing jobs. Moreover, according to the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, these two are among the industries that could drive economic recovery toward 7 percent growth per annum. The other industries are electronics, automotive and fishery.
Therefore, we agree that we need to help these industries not only to maintain their operations, but to expand and improve their competitiveness.
The use of old machinery is one chronic problem in the footwear and textile industries. It is therefore clear that they need to restructure their machinery. The textile industry needs about $10 billion to update old machinery, while the footwear industry will need about $55 million to upgrade.
The government has promised to provide a subsidy to help the textile industry modernize machinery, and a similar facility has been sought by the footwear industry.
We support the good intentions of the government in providing support for the textile industry. But we would remind the government and also the public that such support is prone to abuse, apart from potentially upsetting other industries.
The government could better act as a facilitator for these industries, looking for sources of cheap funding and competitive machinery. This kind of support would not financially burden the government, which itself is in dire need of help.
The government also could extend direct support in the area of research and development. The government's direct spending for R&D has been dismally low compared to other countries in the region.
Indonesia spends just $300 million per annum for R&D, as compared to $1.2 billion in Malaysia, $1.5 billion in Singapore and $7.5 billion in China. If the government cannot increase its R&D spending, it can at least provide incentives for industries to increase their R&D budgets.
There are countless other areas were the government could provide support. Faster restitution of value added tax for export products, for example, is one. Faster restitution means additional cash flow for businesses.
For that matter, any faster service from government institutions would constitute a big help to businesses, including those in the textile and footwear industries. Faster customs service, especially for exports and imports of raw materials, and faster service at tax offices are good examples.
If the government could help businesses establish an insurance system for labor, that would be of major assistance, especially when companies are forced to lay off workers.
The bottom line is that support is urgent, especially if we want to make the country's footwear and textile industries more competitive.
As a nation, we need to support these two industries, and other competitive industries, to help them grow and expand and prevent them from becoming sunset industries.