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Indonesia News Digest 31 – August 17-23, 2007

News & issues

Demos, actions, protests... Aceh West Papua Human rights/law Labour issues Environment/natural disasters Health & education Islam/religion Jakarta/urban life TNI/Defense Economy & investment Opinion & analysis

 News & issues

Indonesia needs new nationalism: Historian

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2007

Jakarta – The Indonesian people still need nationalism, albeit of a different kind, when facing a globalization movement "fueled by capitalism", says an academic.

"It is still important to stick with our nationalism as it forms our identity," Anhar Gonggong, an historian from the University of Indonesia, told The Jakarta Post after a talkshow titled "Assessing Nationalism on the 62nd Anniversary of Indonesian Independence" on Saturday.

"We are now facing a different situation than the one in the pre-independence period when we were facing Dutch colonization."

Anhar said that in the colonial era Indonesians only fought the Dutch, but in the globalization era there were more opponents. "Currently, we are facing a lot more colonizers, such as the US, Australia, and neighboring countries Malaysia and Singapore, using capitalism," he said.

Anhar told the discussion that many countries did not want to see Indonesia prospering as this would threaten their influence in the world. "We should make a clear concept about how we will develop the country as we don't want foreign countries to dictate us," he said.

He claimed, however, that nationalism was eroding among Indonesians.

Also speaking during the talkshow was a former state minister for the development of disadvantaged regions, Syaifullah Yusuf, who said that one of the reasons behind the erosion of nationalism was glaring disparities between different regions.

"That is also the reason why so many separatist movements have emerged in different parts of Indonesia," he said. "The government has to ensure the even distribution of welfare and develop all regions equally to overcome the separatist problem."

The most recent separatist act took place Wednesday in North Aceh on Wednesday when an Indonesian flag was burnt and many others taken down across the province. The incidents allegedly involved the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Former Army chief of staff, Gen. (ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu, told the discussion that the government should warn Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf that such incidents should not be repeated.

"The perpetrators should be punished severely. Even demonstrators tearing up the President's picture can be arrested. Those dancers who waved the South Maluku Republic flag were also swiftly apprehended," he said.

Asked whether Irwandi should be replaced, he said that this was not yet necessary yet as Irwandi was still learning the ropes. "A strong reprimand will be enough. Besides, the situation in Aceh is not stable yet," he said.

Irwandi, who was a GAM commander, won the direct gubernatorial election in December 2006. Antara reported Friday that he had asked the local police to investigate the incidents.

Former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid called Thursday for Irwandi to be removed from his position.

Commenting on the flag incidents, Anhar said it was an insult to Indonesia. He therefore urged the governor to take resolute action against the perpetrators.

"He was chosen as governor within the framework of the Republic of Indonesia, so he's an Indonesian," he said, adding that as an Indonesian, Irwandi should also feel insulted by such actions.

Anhar also warned the government of the possibility of such incidents developing into full-scale separatist movement if left unattended.

Forced workers sadly recall their lives pre-independence

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2007

Slamet Susanto, Gunungkidul – For Karso Suwito, Independence Day is always a time of great pride, as well as pain, as he inevitably recalls his past.

The suffering he endured when the country was under foreign rule comes rushing back every Aug. 17 for the 85-year-old former forced laborer, or romusha. Romusha were forced laborers during the Japanese occupation of the country during World War II.

"I'm happy and proud Indonesia is independent. But if I recall the time during the Japanese occupation when I was a romusha...," Karso says, his voice trailing off. "It's a miracle that I was able to escape the romusha camp and live until today."

The grandfather of four, a resident of Ponjong village in Ponjong district, Gunungkidul regency, some 70 kilometers southeast of Yogyakarta, says in 1944 Japanese soldiers marched into his village and rounded up all the young men.

"We did not know what a romusha was. We just knew it meant working and no one dared to refuse. Refusing meant death," said Karso at his simple home.

Dozens of men were transported in the back of a truck to Gowongan in Yogyakarta, where they waited to be shipped to Celebes, as Sulawesi was known at the time.

While waiting to be shipped off, Karso and his friends were put to work building a railway. They worked long hours for no money, only receiving small rations of often rotten food. One by one the men began to fall sick and die.

Karso and four of his friends escaped by bribing a supervisor with money they had managed to bring with them from home a day before they were to leave for Celebes. "Bribery has been around for a long time, but that time it saved my life. I probably would have died if I left to Celebes," he said.

The five young men hid in the forest for days. "We could hardly walk, the skin on the bottom of our feet was peeling off because we didn't have any shoes."

Another former romusha, 83-year-old Kliwon, said the workers survived on little food, no shelter and whatever clothes they could fashion for themselves. "We only wore pants made from burlap," said the man who was forced to work in a coal mine in Banten.

Kliwon said he felt lucky to have survived. "Many romusha died in the mine," he recalled. "Others died while working to build underground bunkers or were killed afterward." In Java, according to the US Library of Congress, four to 10 million people were used as slave labor by the Japanese military.

Some 270,000 of these Javanese workers were shipped to other Japanese-occupied areas in Southeast Asia. Only 52,000 were repatriated to Java.

As the country marked the 62nd anniversary of independence on Friday, Karso and Kliwon are still struggling to survive. Karso lives in a simple house with his wife, Ngatiyem, earning a living as a farm laborer or by selling tempeh in the market.

Kliwon is a domestic servant. "I get paid Rp 70,000 a month by my employer. If there's other work, I get extra money," he said.

Pancasila ideology absolute: President

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Thursday the four basic pillars of the state – Pancasila state ideology, the 1945 Constitution, the unitary state (NKRI) and pluralism – were non-negotiable.

"Entering the era of globalization and national transformation, we are faced again with challenges that pose threats to the four main pillars. In facing these threats, we need to stress that Pancasila – as the state ideology, a philosophy and a way of life – is absolute," he said in his state of the union address at the House of Representatives building in Jakarta.

The President said Pancasila was a tool to unite the nation and strengthen society; and despite a decree by the People's Consultative Assembly annulling the guidelines for implementing Pancasila, "let us revive, implement and maintain it as our state ideology".

"The 'diversity-in-unity' principle must be constantly interpreted and applied in our daily lives to safeguard the ideology of pluralism in regard to the nation's different ethnic groups, religions, languages and cultures," he said.

"Pancasila and the Constitution are not sacred, but no space should be given to any group wanting to replace the state ideology and change the Constitution's preamble."

The President was responding to sectarian movements offering alternative ideologies to replace Pancasila, and to the emergence of sharia ordinances in several regions around the country.

However the President warned despite growing democracy, with more emphasis on human rights and liberty, freedom needed to be exercised properly and responsibly.

"We do not want to give people unlimited freedom because it will disturb national harmony. Let us exercise democracy and the freedom to fight for citizen's interests, address issues and improve social welfare."

The President said that after three years in office, he had been unable to optimally implement three mid-term national programs on security, democracy and the economic sector due to rising oil prices and natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and landslides.

Legislators harshly criticized the speech, claiming increased threats to the state's sovereignty were due to a weak government.

Chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle at the House, Tjahjo Kumolo, said his faction was disappointed with the speech as it indirectly showed the President did not understand the complexity of problems facing the nation.

"The President and his government have no concrete programs to safeguard the four pillars and maintain the country's sovereignty, as has been evident in the signing of the controversial defense cooperation agreement with Singapore," he said.

Slamet Effendi Yusuf of the Golkar Party criticized the state address as mere rhetoric in an apparent attempt to satisfy the people, saying law enforcement and legal certainty were needed to defend the four pillars, maintain pluralism, promote a harmonious society and implement economic development programs.

"In fact, the government has remained silent in the face of increased threats to pluralism. The government has taken no action against those groups that wish to replace Pancasila and the Constitution, nor against the emergence of religion-based bylaws in numerous regions," he said.

 Demos, actions, protests...

Protest ends in shooting violence

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2007

M. Azis Tunny, Ambon – A violent clash between the police and supporters of a gubernatorial election candidate in Ternate, North Maluku province, left 15 people injured Wednesday.

Of the 15 injured, nine said to be supporters of Ternate Sultan Mudafar Syah were shot by police who opened fire on the protesters. Two were in critical condition as of late Wednesday.

Six police were also injured after being pelted with stones by the protesters during the clash at Soasio subdistrict in North Ternate, some 200 meters from the sultan's office.

Mudafar was deemed ineligible to run in the upcoming gubernatorial election by the North Maluku General Elections Commission for failing to meet administrative requirements. The polling day is scheduled for Sept. 25.

The sultan's disqualification has angered supporters, who also clashed with police at the commission's office Tuesday. The sultan's supporters were planning to rally Wednesday but were blocked by around 200 members of the Ternate Police.

After failing to get through the police blockade, the protesters then began pelting the officers with stones. Police used tear gas, a water cannon and live ammunition to repel the protesters.

"Nine residents and six police officers were injured in the incident," North Maluku Police spokesman, Comr. Noortjahyo, told The Jakarta Post by phone Wednesday.

He said the incident had temporarily disrupted business in the city but the tension had since cooled down.

"Military and police personnel have cleaned up locations where the protesters tried to block the roads. We have also cleared the roads near the Ternate Sultan's Palace and Sultan Baabulah Airport of stones, wood and flower pots," Noortjahyo said.

The clash forced the closure of Ternate's Sultan Baabulah airport as protesters inched toward it, blockading roads with barrels and other objects.

"All flights had to be canceled for security reasons. Maybe the airport will start operating again tomorrow (Thursday). Some military and police personnel have been deployed to clear the airport's runway from trash and stones," Noortjahyo said.

Ternate Palace spokesperson Masdiyanti confirmed Wednesday that nine residents were shot by police. Two of the protesters were in critical condition: Junaidy, who suffered a gunshot to his gut; and Rustam, who was shot in the leg.

"The injured victims are currently being treated at the naval hospital in Ternate," Masdiyanti said. She said an unspecified number of protesters with light injuries were treated at the palace.

Workers Challenge Alliance demands reasonable national wage

Kompas - August 21, 2007

Jakarta – Labour representatives from the Workers Challenge Alliance (AMB) demonstrated at the Supreme Court on Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara in Central Jakarta on Monday August 20. They brought a giant banner with their demands and gave speeches calling on the government to pay attention to the welfare of workers and to enact a reasonable national wage.

Rain, which began falling at 12noon, caused the number of protesters to shrink to around 50. It did not however stop workers and their sympathisers from demanding that the Supreme Court resolve legal proceedings on labour issues without siding with employers.

"A similar demonstration is also being held in Bandung, West Java. They are being held intentionally to remind the government and the public about the fate of oppressed workers", said Suripto, one of the demonstrators.

According to Suripto, the government needs to carry out political reforms as quickly as possible. One of these is abolishing systems of outsourcing, abolishing arbitrary dismissals on the basis of creating company stability and enacting a reasonable national minimum wage.

The workers and sympathisers started the demonstration at 9am at the Department of Labour and Transmigration on Jl. Jalan Gatot Subroto, before headed off for the Supreme Court. The protest will end at the State Palace.

According to protesters, ABM is also holding an action in Bandung at the West Java Governor's office (the Gedung Sate building) and the West Java Regional House of Representatives. (nel)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Violent protest at Indonesia airport

Associated Press - August 22, 2007

Ternate – At least four people were wounded by gunshots as police repelled thousands of protesters, some throwing rocks and glass shards, at an airport in eastern Indonesia, officials said.

Police first used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters armed with machetes, but later fired into the crowd as they threatened security officers and other people, said Lt. Col. Eddy Purwatmo, local police chief.

He said four protesters were shot in the legs, and six others – including four police – were seriously injured by rocks as riot police moved in to end the violent protest at Sultan Khairun Babullah Airport in Ternate, the capital of North Maluku province. Ten people were slightly injured.

The protesters, angry about the exclusion of a candidate from a governorship election, had traveled to the airport to try and stop electoral officials from leaving.

Some protesters blocked roads with garbage, oil drums and glass in an attempt to stop them from reaching the airport, while others destroyed offices and houses in Ternate, forcing schools and business to shut down.

"For safety reasons, we have decided to close the airport," said Ras Burhani. "It will be reopened after the situation returns to normal."

FNPBI: We are not independent yet!

Detik.com - August 17, 2007

Ari Saputra, Jakarta – Workers had their own way of commemorating the anniversary of Indonesia's independence. Around 80 protesters from the Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggle (FNPBI) held an demonstration among the factories in the Nusantara Bonded Zone (KBN) in Cakung, North Jakarta on Friday August 17.

The event, which was organised to commemorate the struggle by workers over the 62 year since Indonesia has been independent, was organized by gathering in front of the company PT Yeon Heung Megasari at the Cakung KBN.

"We are not actually commemorating independence day, [because] were not independent yet, right", said FNPBI coordinator Jumisih. According to Jumisih, many workers at the moment are still repressed. "Many of our holidays are unpaid. Aside from this there are arbitrary dismissals and women workers often experience sexual harassment", he said.

During the event they also erected a large black banner with their demands which included "Repudiating the foreign debt" and "Nationalising foreign mining [companies] and factories for the welfare of the people". They also read poems of struggle and shouted slogans of labour struggle while holding up posters with their demands. (mly/umi)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Demonstrators say Indonesia still not independent

Detik.com - August 17, 2007

Bagus Kurniawan, Yogyakarta – The 62nd anniversary of Indonesian independence failed to prevent student and non-government organisations from demonstrating. An action in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta even became quite heated.

The scores of protesters almost clashed with police because they were determined to approach the Yogyakarta State Palace where an official ceremony was taking place to commemorate the seconds leading up the August 17, 1945 declaration of independence.

The action started at the intersection in front of the Yogyakarta central post office on Jl. Senopati on Friday August 17. However as soon as protesters arrived at Jl. Trikora, around 300 or so meters from the State Palace, security personnel stopped them and then tried break up the rally.

Protesters however failed to heed security personnel and instead remained determined to "attack" the Palace. As a result around 100 Yogyakarta municipal police held them back on the grounds that they had no permit for the demonstration. Protesters and police began pushing and shoving each other almost resulting in a physical clash.

After the situation had calmed down, the protesters ended up holding the action on Jl. Trikora closely watched over by police and two Rottweiler tracker dogs until the ceremony at the State Palace had finished.

The demonstrators brought banners reading "Indonesia is still not independent" and a large ceremonial dish of yellow rice in cone shape (tumpeng) made out of yellow and green paper that they placed in front of them.

In a speech, action coordinator Agus S.Y. said that Indonesia is not independent yet because it is still shackled by neoliberal colonialism. Protesters also demanded free education for the people, opposed the draft law on education and the law on capital investment.

After holding speeches and reading out their demands, the demonstrators disbanded and returned to gather at the Yogyakarta Legal Aid offices on Jl. H. Agus Salim around 1 kilometer away.

Although the demonstration had finished, police did not disperse immediately as they were forced to clean up the remains of the paper tumpeng that was scattered across Jl. Trikora. (bgs/umi)

[Translated by James Balowski.]


Military no longer considers Aceh rebels a threat

Radio Australia - August 23, 2007

Just over a week ago, the people of Indonesia's western province, Aceh, celebrated the second anniversary of the end of thirty years of separatist hostilities. Now, the chief of the region's military has given his personal assessment of the former rebels, saying they're no longer considered an enemy of the Indonesian Defence Force.

Presenter – Adam Connors Speaker – Naimah, lecturer at Banda Aceh's Syah Kuala University.

Connors: Speaking at a military function in the western province of Aceh on Wednesday, the regional chief of Indonesia's military command, Major General Supiadin, said that former rebels in the Free Aceh Movement – or GAM – are no longer the military's enemy. He asked, in unequivocal terms, that former GAM rebels and the TNI be united and keep the peace. Major General Supiadin said this was necessary to create security and stability for the sake of the Acehnese people, and their properity.

It's a far cry from the situation of just over two years ago when the Indonesian government and GAM signed a landmark peace deal in Helsinki to put an end to thirty years of separatist hostilities. Then, the mutual distrust was still simmering. But as lecturer Naimah, from Banda Aceh's Syah Kuala University says, the people of Aceh, the military and former rebels, are normalising relations amongst themselves, on all levels.

Naimah: Their relationship is now becoming very good, within any activity. Like one week ago when we had a ceremony for Helsinki, we can see very clearly that the TNI and former rebels can talk together and know they can sit together and think for the program of integration.

Connors: The peace in Aceh now appears to be holding, with former GAM negotiator Irwandi Yusuf as the first democratically-elected governor overseeing the province, and the Indonesian Vice President M. Jusuf Kalla, visiting two weeks ago and applauding the significant progress in Aceh. Naimah says despite the new calm, the Acehnese are watching with a wary eye as the former rebels make inroads into society's institutions.

Naimah: I don't think [there] is clearly any problem between TNI and former rebels. But what I can see is that the former rebels are thinking for their existence in society. For example they are sticking for their role in many many institutions so they can also play their role very effectively.

Connors: Radio Australia contacted the former government representative of the Aceh Monitoring Mission, General Bambang Damono, who said he firmly stands by the comments made by Major General Supiadin – that, as he says, Aceh may well be "moving toward eternal peace".

Long conflict leaves scars on Acehnese

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2007

Nani Afrida, Bener Meriah – Fatimah Inem Syam, 55, was just like any other woman in Aceh. As a wife and grandmother, she helped take care of her grandchildren, cook meals and harvest coffee beans on the family farm.

But after a traumatic incident in 2001, whenever Fatimah saw men in uniform carrying firearms she would suffer a violent breakdown. On such occasions, her husband would make the decision to put her in chains until she returned to normal. Sometimes this would take several weeks.

"If we didn't chain her up, she would possibly injure people around her, including me and my father," said Fatimah's son, Bestari Muda Aman Sapri, 36.

Fatimah's illness emerged after almost three decades of conflict in Aceh, including in her native Bener Meriah regency. In the regency, which is best known for the coffee it produces, the conflict reached its climax in 2001.

"The scale of violence in the regency was worse than in other regencies. Based on our findings, there was a case in the regency where houses were set on fire with people still inside.

"The official facts, however, stipulate that only five members of the outlawed Free Aceh Movement (GAM) were active in the region," said Mustawarah from the Aceh chapter of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

During the conflict, which ended when the government signed a peace deal with GAM in Helsinki in 2005, Fatimah was allegedly beaten up by the police and had a gun held to her head after trying to help her son avoid arrest. "They arrested me in front of her and she was trying to help me," Bestari said.

Despite Fatimah's family trying conventional and traditional methods to treat her illness, she is still traumatized by the incident. As a consequence, a great deal of the family's time is spent looking after Fatimah rather than working on their farm.

According to recent research conducted by Aceh health officials in three regencies, at least 5,380 Acehnese people suffer from a form of mental illness triggered by the years of conflict they endured. Such illnesses include schizophrenia, neurotic disorders, acute psychotic disorders and depression.

The research, spanning five months in North Aceh, Bireun and Pidie, was conducted with assistance from local and foreign NGOs including Unicef and the Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University.

"Seventy percent of the people we met who were suffering from a mental illness have received treatment from medical workers," Aceh Health Office head Anjar Asmara said.

The research also revealed that dozens of mentally ill people in the three regencies surveyed had initially been put in chains by family members.

Anjar said the number of mentally ill people in Aceh was likely to be much higher, as 18 other regencies in the province were left our of the survey.

TNI chief denies Aceh flag thefts, burnings separatist acts

BBC Monitoring - August 22, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Commander Air Chief Marshal Djoko Suyanto said that the theft and burning of Indonesian flags in Aceh were not separatist actions. He believed the incidents were a legal matter for the police to handle.

"There were no separatist actions. What constitutes a separatist action? Is it armed or unarmed? If it was an armed conflict, then we would be involved in the matter," said Suyanto in Jakarta on Tuesday (21 Aug).

Suyanto believed that the flag stealing and burning incident which took place in the lead up to Indonesia's Independence Day (17 Aug) was a matter for the police to handle. Suyanto said that there were no separatist movements or actions taking place in Indonesia anymore.

After a number of circles had called for the commander of Iskandar Muda Military Area Command to be replaced because of the incident, Suyanto clarified that there were no plans to replace the commander. "No one will be replaced as this case is entirely different to the Ambon case," replied Suyanto.

As reported previously, around 150 red and white flags were removed from houses by unidentified persons in Lhokseumawe in Aceh in the lead up to commemorating the 62nd anniversary of Indonesia's Independence. These actions were harshly condemned as a despicable act against the nation.

[Source: Detikcom, Jakarta, in Indonesian August 21, 2007.]

No grounds to reject 'Ex-GAM leaders'

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2007

Jakarta – Chief of the Iskandar Muda Regional Military Command Maj. Gen. Supiadin A.S. defended Monday former members of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM), a number of whom are in leading government positions in the Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province.

"They have been lawfully elected in the local elections," Supiadin told Antara. "Therefore, there are no grounds to reject or disrupt their leadership."

Supiadin told the former GAM members that despite their history, they should always side with the people.

A number of former GAM members have been elected as leaders in the country's westernmost province, including Governor Irwandy Yusuf, who was a senior GAM leader before the Aug. 15, 2005 Helsinki agreement, which ended the prolonged conflict in the province.

Irwandi blamed for flag incident

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – Former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid said Thursday Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf should be held responsible for a recent incident in the province in which an Indonesian flag was burned.

"Irwandi has to be removed as governor," he said at a public discussion, titled Reflections on 62 years of Indonesian Independence, held at the headquarters of the People's Awakening Party (PKB).

"Irwandi has ignored the incident. He also won the election because people in Aceh were intimidated by his position in the Free Aceh Movement (GAM)."

The flag burning took place Wednesday in North Aceh regency, the same day some 150 national flags were lowered across Aceh, including in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

Irwandi, who was a commander in GAM, had no prior experience in administration when he won the direct gubernatorial election in Aceh in December 2006, receiving about 39 percent of the vote.

Gus Dur, who is also chief patron of the PKB and a former chairman of Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, said the incident was a threat to Indonesian unity.

He said authorities should not allow Irwandi to hide behind his ties to GAM, pointing out that former Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh was sent to jail for corruption despite his association with GAM.

"The Indonesian Military (TNI) must take action to find the culprits. What's the use of the TNI if it cannot be courageous?" the former president said.

Catholic priest Franz Magnis-Suseno, who also attended the discussion, said that exclusivism, sectarianism and separatism were problems that the country needed to solve. "Don't just let extremists force on us how we should behave," he said.

He said poverty, the relationship between the central government and the regions, human rights and corruption were other major issues for the country. "Bumpy rides are unavoidable for a nation that wants change," he said.

 West Papua

Academic raises concerns at Yudhoyono's tougher line on Papua

Radio New Zealand - August 20, 2007

There is concern being expressed about the statement by the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, linking Papuan separatists to terrorism.

In his annual address to parliament, Mr Yudhoyono said there would be no place for anyone pushing separatism while at the same time he had stated that Indonesia was serious about stamping out terrorism and praised the security forces for preventing it.

Professor Peter King from Sydney University, says the president is taking a much harder line than previously and it shows support for the armed forces. But, he says it won't stop Papuans speaking out about their right to self determination.

"He's aware that when they do speak out that there's a lot of resonance, particularly in Australia and New Zealand but around the Pacific as well and even in America and Britain. So, he's really trying, I think, to also deflect the international community from contemplating any sort of intervention, even diplomatic intervention."

Papuans protest autonomy status

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2007

Jayapura – Some 300 protesters who said they were from the Coalition of People and Students Care of Papua held a rally at Papua Legislative Council on Monday demanding the provincial government, the local council and Papua People's Council reject the province's special autonomy status.

Protest coordinator Buchtar Tabuni said in his speech, "the special autonomy brings no benefit to most Papuans".

He said it was about time to stop using poor people as an excuse because the money was only enjoyed by officials and civil servants in Papua. Buchtar said MRP head Agus Alua has told the Australian media the special autonomy has failed.

"Today, we also want to tell the council a similar thing, that the special autonomy has failed and we reject it," he said.

The protesters were received by council members Yani and Heny Arobaya who told the protesters to deliver their demands when the council was back in session.

West Papua: Special treatment

New Matilda - August 17, 2007

Erica Vowles – The rights and revenue that were supposed to flow from West Papua's Special Autonomy Law – implemented by the Indonesian Government in 2001 – are yet to transpire for the majority of West Papuans, according to delegates at a conference in Sydney last week.

"Most of them don't know what Special Autonomy is," said J Budi Hernawan, director of the Jayapura-based Office for Justice and Peace, at the Paths to Justice and Prosperity conference at Sydney University last Thursday. "They hear that the money will be available but they are waiting and nothing happens."

Hernawan believes that the Papuan political elite are too distracted by the fight over resources to implement real changes in the standard of living for Papuans.

There is a power struggle amongst the elites but for their own interests. The ongoing creation of new provinces is simply in the interests of political parties and the incumbent government officials, and I think that for most Papuans, looking at many different statistics in the area of HIV/Aids, health, education, the money does not go to their level. Where does it go? Don't ask me, better you ask the politicians.

And while Special Autonomy was supposed to lead to a reduction in troop levels, Agus Alue Alua, Chairman of the Papuan People's Assembly, says numbers have escalated sharply since 2001, with concerning consequences.

Human rights violations are part of the Military presence – [they are] never [conducted by] outsiders – and during the Special Autonomy Law, the Military presence has increased. That means that military human rights abuses have [also] increased.

Hernawan says that while human rights abuses have not yet reached the scales seen in Aceh and East Timor, the population nevertheless remains terrorised.

In May we received a report of torture in Wamena [in the Central Highlands]. A person stole money, he confessed that he stole that money from a solider, but it didn't stop there. They tortured him in public. This is a way to say to the community "we have the authority to do what ever we want to control you."

Faced with the ongoing impunity of the Indonesian Military, the thoughts of many Papuans inevitably turn to independence, says Hernawan.

I think many Papuans still want independence, and I believe it's an expression of the desperate situation. They don't see the concrete progress of welfare, they don't see that their fundamental freedoms and their fundamental rights are respected, protected, so basically they have nothing to lose in their support for independence.

The latest contingent of Indonesian troops in the Merauke District of West Papua With the province seemingly bogged down in a quagmire of competing problems – a lack of political will from Jakarta to implement necessary legislation, resistance if not outright opposition to autonomy from the military and a Papuan political elite potentially lining their own pockets – one could be forgiven for thinking that aspiring for independence is naive and short sighted. However, Dr John Otto Ondawame, International Spokesperson for the Free West Papua Movement and member of the Papuan Presidium, refuses to accept autonomy as anything other than a bridge to independence.

Any discussion of autonomy should clearly spell out the possibility to give Papuans the opportunity to decide if they want to be part of Indonesia or a separate State and there should be an option for a referendum after 15 years, or 20 years. In West Papua, Special Autonomy law never spelled it out clearly on this matter.

As far as West Papuan people are concerned, as far as OPM is concerned, we don't trust Jakarta.

Faced with allegations of corruption at a local level, I ask Ondawame how he proposed to prevent this scourge from continuing to pollute an independent West Papua. "A culture of corruption is not only in West Papua, it's part of the world community," says Ondawame.

So of course it's very hard to say we will be free from corruption. But we have to look into the legal system to prevent any further corruptions resulting from the large amounts of money.

The legal system must be strengthened, democratic values have to be strengthened, and institutions have to be established in order to prevent this sort of corruption. We don't want to continue the Indonesian style of corruption in West Papua.

Any discussions of self-determination in the Asia Pacific region also invoke inevitable comparisons with unstable nation States like the Solomon Islands and the world's youngest country, Timor Leste.

Director of the Australia Asia Pacific Institute at Victoria University, Dr Richard Chauvel, concedes that the shopping list of problems currently plaguing Papua – the HIV/AIDS pandemic, labour problems associated with the Freeport gold mine in Timika, corruption, poor health services and education problems – would continue to blight the province, whether it was independent or autonomous.

However, he believes comparisons with neighbouring Papua New Guinea, which has its own problems with political corruption, are too simplistic. "I've always been disinclined to make the simple comparisons over the border, or elsewhere out into the further South Pacific and say from that that West Papua is going to be another failed State."

He says the historical legacy of the Dutch colonial masters' moves to educate a ruling elite in preparedness for handover to Papuan independence – an event that was stymied by the Act of Free Choice in 1969 – needs to be appreciated, along with the skills the elite in West Papua already have, which have been honed from a difficult operational environment.

"By highlighting all the problems that an independent Papua or even an autonomous Papua would confront is not saying that it is doomed to be a failed State. But it would inevitably be a fairly difficult place to govern."

For his part, Ondawame believes the Asia Pacific region's more troubled countries – like the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Timor Leste – are not failed States but emerging States. European nation States weren't free from being "failed States" in the 16th and 17th centuries. They went through a similar experience.

Now the Melansian States, or perhaps other third world countries, are going through the same experience. And that's a process that will need to be gone through for a few generations until the population comes to respect some fundamental level of democratic rights.

However, Chauvel points out that an independent West Papuan State would face a series of challenges, not least the thousands of Indonesian migrants who now call West Papua home, some going back generations. Then there would be the ongoing issue of the Freeport gold Mine in Timika. "The enclave mining operation at the Freeport mine in Timika is essentially Indonesian settler run and dominated," says Chauvel.

How would an independent West Papua deal with an economy that is essentially run by outsiders? That would be a particularly important issue. An independent Papua would face all of the problems that PNG has faced dealing with large multi-national corporations; an independent Papua would be highly dependent on the revenue generated by Freeport.

However, Dino Kusnadi, spokesperson for the Indonesian embassy in Australia, maintains that not enough time has been given to enable Special Autonomy to work as well as moves to reform the Indonesian Military to take effect.

My argument is that on the table you have Special Autonomy – wide ranging autonomy, it's on the table – [the] best way forward is to make that work. We've seen today that there is a lot of incompetence within the local Government or even the [Indonesian] Government but again out of this incompetence at least there should be an enlightenment process about how to get that job done.

Some of his sentiments were shared by Franz Albert Joku, Chairman of IGSSARPRI (Independent Group Supporting the Special Autonomous Region of Papua within the Republic of Indonesia). While remaining a believer in Papuan self-determination and conceding that Jakarta still needed to implement aspects of Special Autonomy, he maintains Papuans must work within the current framework.

Papuans should have every reason to now, I believe, firmly embrace Special Autonomy however diluted, imperfect or incomplete [it] may be in the present form, realistically there is no other option on the table right now that we can legitimately discuss and pursue.

For Papuans, the reality of living with a Special Autonomy that is "diluted, imperfect and incomplete" often means occupying the lowest rung in the economy of their own province. It also means living with torture – or the threat of it – that is ongoing and unchecked.

Indonesian President takes hard line on Papua

ABC News - August 17, 2007

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has warned his Government will not tolerate interference from those who want to slow down the development of Papua. The President issued the warning in his annual address to Parliament.

Mr Yudhoyono said the state would be strict and there would be no place for anyone pushing separatism that threatens the sovereignty and unity of the state.

He said Indonesia was also very serious about stamping out terrorism and it was Indonesia's duty along with the global community to create a safe and peaceful world.

He praised the success of Indonesia's security forces in preventing terrorist attacks and called on Indonesians to give more appreciation to the National Police and other ant-terrorist forces.

 Human rights/law

Tape reveals new twists in Munir case

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2007

Jakarta – A telephone conversation between acquitted murder suspect Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto and former Garuda Indonesia President Indra Setiawan emerged Wednesday as the latest intriguing development in the review into Pollycarpus' quashed conviction for the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.

The recording, which was played for the first time in public during the court session, featured Pollycarpus attempting to calm Indra down after he expressed personal fears over the progress of investigations into Munir's death.

"I'm afraid there is somebody else who saw the letter from A and will use it to set a trap for me," Indra said in the recording of a May 2007 call made to Pollycarpus from his cell at National Police headquarters.

Indra has been in jail since April 2007 and could be charged with conspiracy to murder based on a letter he issued in August 2004 assigning Pollycarpus to act as an aviation security officer on the Garuda flight to Amsterdam on which Munir died.

Indra said he issued the letter after receiving written instructions from Deputy Chairman of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) M. As'ad. He said a copy of the instructions was sent to the State Ministry for State Enterprises.

Indra said in the recording that even though his copy had disappeared from his car in a Jakarta parking lot in December 2004, he was concerned the ministry copy could be produced by people interested in implicating him in Munir's murder.

Pollycarpus replied by telling Indra not to worry, saying all copies of the BIN order had already disappeared. "Besides, the people working in the ministry are all our people," he said.

Pollycarpus added that new evidence being presented in the case review was fabricated. "It's just a political game so the SBY administration will not be disturbed," he said.

He added that Chief Justice Bagir Manan and the Supreme Court "are all our people", as well as most state officials. "They are all on our side," he said. "So you don't have to worry, this is just temporary," Pollycarpus said.

During the phone call, Pollycarpus also told Indra that everything would be alright as long as he was consistent with his denials that either of them had anything to do with the murder.

Pollycarpus, who appeared surprised in court on hearing the recording, continued to insist he had nothing to do with BIN and the murder.

During the same hearing, another witness, Raden Mohammad Patma Anwar, otherwise known as Ucok, was questioned by Pollycarpus' defense lawyer on his position at the intelligence agency.

Ucok replied by saying that the agency's chairman, the late Arie J. Kumaat, recruited him to monitor the activities of non- government organizations in Indonesia, including the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, of which Munir was one of the founders.

Ucok denied the accusation that he had been ordered to kill Munir, despite an earlier police dossier containing his admission under questioning that he received such an order from a senior BIN official.

Another witness, Raymond Latuihamallo, also known as Ongen, also denied most of the statements attributed to him in his police dossier, saying that a police investigator, Mathius Salempang, had forced him to sign it.

He denied his earlier statement that he saw Pollycarpus carrying two cups containing drinks at the Coffee Bean Cafe in Singapore's Changi Airport and saw Pollycarpus chatting with Munir. Ongen said in court he did not know who Pollycarpus was at that time.

Munir died of arsenic poisoning on Sept. 7, 2004. Initially it was suspected that he had been poisoned on board Garuda flight 974 from Jakarta to Amsterdam, but the prosecutors later opened up the possibility that he could have been poisoned during the flight's stopover in Singapore.

Asrini Utami Putri, one of the passengers on the flight, told the court she saw Pollycarpus, Munir and a longhaired man talking at the Coffee Bean Cafe during the stopover at Changi. When asked by the prosecution if the longhaired man was Ongen, Asrini nodded.

The court hearing will resume on Aug. 29 to hear testimonies from Mathius Salempang and expert witnesses.

Government weak on Munir case as BIN stays mum

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – The defiance of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) to cooperate and help resolve the murder of rights campaigner and staunch military critic Munir Said Thalib is proof state intelligence is above the law and the government is "flippant", activist Asmara Nababan said Wednesday.

Indonesia has no law around its intelligence and attempts to subject intelligence bodies to public scrutiny through the public information bill has been met with strong resistance.

Facts unraveled in the Munir trials to-date alleged the BIN, or some of its high-ranking officials, masterminded Munir's murder. The trials have alleged Munir was by poisoned aboard his Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on September 7, 2004.

"When we told the President that (BIN's head) Syamsir Siregar was lying when he said he would give the fact-finding team access into BIN's documents and officials, he nodded and nothing else was said," said Asmara, a former member of the team.

Asmara said the President's flippancy on the case was strange. He said it was strange the government had done nothing extraordinary to clean up something as dirty as an alleged involvement in a murder.

"The agency works as the President's eyes and ears when he makes policies on state security," Asmara said. "What message is he sending by doing nothing when the agency is linked to such a crime."

Linking an intelligence agency to a crime was almost next to impossible, said intelligence observer and former Army lecturer Brig. Gen. (ret) Ignatius Soeprapto.

"An intelligence agency must be extremely confidential," Ignatius said. "Any disclosure, or even identification of one of its agents, is a loss. The agency will deny it when someone... is thought to be a BIN agent," he said. Ignatius said this sort of statement would be evidence enough for judges on the Munir case to base their verdict.

Alleged links to BIN include the dozens of phone conversation between Garuda pilot and long-held suspect, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, and Muchdi PR, a BIN director prior to the murder.

Later it was discovered Garuda had allowed Pollycarpus to join the flight after a direct request from BIN. The request was allegedly made in writing, but the letter was recently reported to have been stolen.

A man named Raden Mohammad Padma Anwar, or Ucok, was recently said to have told the police he was a BIN agent who had been ordered to bewitch Munir. Ucok has also testified he once saw Pollycarpus at BIN headquarters parking lot. BIN has denied either men are agents and says it did not send a request in writing for Pollycarpus to be on Munir's flight.

Asmara and Ignatius said a law on intelligence agencies or agents should be enacted to regulate their work and ensure the agency does not become a governmental puppet.

The bill on public information, said Asmara, would be a good start. He said clarification was required around what information on intelligence activities could be made available to the public.

"The key is any intelligence information or work that might hurt the basic human rights should be accessible," Asmara said. "So if another Munir case happens, we'll have a law to refer to."

Batam's new prison already overcrowded

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2007

Fadli, Batam – Batam's new Barelang Penitentiary has only been open two months, but it is already overcrowded. Three times the official capacity of 383 inmates squeeze into the cells of the prison.

Overcrowding at Barelang – an abbreviation of Batam, Rempang and Galang – has been blamed on rising crime and poor implementation of parole and programs to integrate former convicts into the community.

The new prison was built to replace the old 176 inmate facility in the Baloi region. Built with Rp 40 billion (US$4.2 million) in funding from the state budget, the new prison has become cramped home to 1,295 people.

With only 42 rooms available, each room, measuring 80 square meters, has to accommodate 30 people. The rooms are designed for an ideal capacity of five.

The head of Barelang prison's registration section, Wiwid Ferianto, said that despite the overcrowding, conditions in Barelang were better than in the former prison, which was operating at 10 times its capacity.

Wiwid said prison authorities usually moved inmates to other prisons around Batam, including those in Tanjung Balai Karimun, Tanjung Pinang and Tembilahan.

However, he said the transfers were not enough to solve the problem, since the other prisons also faced their own problems with overcrowding.

One female prisoner, 25-year-old Amey, said she had little space to move in her cell. "When I'm in a corner, it's a bit difficult to move to the center due to the crowded conditions. But we do have running water here, so we can easily wash our faces," Amey told The Jakarta Post at the prison's canteen.

According to Wiwid, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights planned to renovate the old Baloi prison and turn it into a holding facility for police suspects.

He blamed the growing number of inmates in Barelang penitentiary in part on the rising crime rate in Batam. Batam Municipal Council member Yudi Kurnain said he was taken aback at how quickly the prison had become overcrowded.

"The problem won't be solved by a solution of extending the prison. Prison authorities should be transparent toward prisoners' rights on remission, parole and integration (into the community)," Yudi said.

Yudi said he would urge prison authorities to release reformed prisoners early in order to relieve the overcapacity problem.

"But, if prison authorities are unwilling to grant inmates their rights or demand huge payments from them, prisons will always be crowded. Even if the whole island of Batam were to be turned into a prison, it would always be packed because the prison guards prefer it that way," Yudi said.

Bill demands specialized judges for graft courts

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – The draft of an independent bill has suggested all corruption cases in Indonesia should go to a specialized court run by judges who have been carefully selected by a team of academics and members of the public.

The draft bill also suggests courts specializing in corruption cases be created across the country. To-date there is just one graft court in Jakarta to manage all the country's corruption cases.

Lawmakers were given three years from December 2006 to enact a law on the corruption court when the Constitutional Court ruled the existing system was against the 1945 Constitution.

The court's verdict said there could not be two types of courts – the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and the public court system – trying cases of corruption.

If no law has been enacted by December 2009, the existing system will be disbanded. The KPK said it is currently drafting a law, but no version has been completed to-date.

The non-government organization Transparency International says Indonesia is perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Legal activist Bambang Widjojanto is a member of independent team responsible for the new draft bill. The team comprises activists and analysts and said Tuesday the current graft court has "rather excessive powers".

"(Our draft says) the court will also process graft-related cases by Indonesians abroad and those by foreigners that incur state losses," Bambang said. "Furthermore, the court would also try lawsuits filed by a third-party implicated in the alleged graft."

Bambang said the court would have the power to issue a warrant to search, confiscate, freeze and intercept communication.

The draft suggests the Judicial Commission supervise both career and ad-hoc judges and that a reasonable reduction of sentences be introduced for defendants who plead guilty or offer to pay back whatever they have stolen from the state.

The draft bill would order judges for graft court be selected via a series of tests and questions managed by a team including members of the public.

The final selection process for career judges would remain in the hands of the Supreme Court Chief Justice. Ad-hoc judges would be selected the President with a recommendation from the Supreme Court Chief Justice.

J.E. Sahetapy, law professor and head of the National Law Commission, endorsed the need to have a graft court, but said it should not be permanent.

"The final objective is to have a clean judiciary. The system needs a gradual cleansing," Sahetapy said. "I reckon there's no specific graft court abroad because all crimes go to the public court. We can have the sternest graft law or graft court, but that will mean little unless the country has an honest judicial system."

At present, there is one graft court based at the Central Jakarta District Court to handle cases involving state officials or cases involving loses greater than Rp 1 billion (US$106,000).

The independent draft bill would see the establishment of five graft courts in Jakarta, Medan, Makassar, Balikpapan and Surabaya. Each court would handle cases relative to its territory, which would be decided geographically.

I Made Hendra, an ad-hoc judge at the graft court, said he did not agree with the creation of a specialized court for corruption at the Supreme Court level.

"The Supreme Court is the highest level of the judicial system and the last resort," Hendra said. "But I agree, the judges for graft courts should be made up of career and ad-hoc judges."

Press Council warns against bill allowing govt control of media

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2007

Jakarta – For the sake of democracy, the Press Council has asked the government to cancel its plan to revise Law No. 40 of 1999 on the press because it could restore the government's control over the mass media.

Bambang Harymurti and Abdullah Alamudi, members of the council, said Tuesday it was important to preserve the freedom of the press gained during the reform era. Bambang said it was essential to protect the freedom of the press.

Abdullah said, "In a democratic country, the government doesn't have the right to interfere with the public's affairs". "And the press is a part of the public."

It has been widely reported over the past two months the Information and Communication Ministry was planning to revise the Press Law. The ministry was to insert articles which would allow the government to close down any mass media company that violated those articles.

In the new bill, paragraph 2 of article 4 stipulates the government has the right to shut down media companies that publish news or pictures which are unethical, threaten national security or disparage certain religions.

Some activists fear a revision of the law would take the country back to the authoritarian rule that existed in the Soeharto period when the media was under tight censorship control and any criticism of the government was made difficult.

Abdullah said the revision of the Press Law was not really urgent. "(The law) isn't perfect, but it's the best (press law) in our country's history," he said. "As long as the government controls the press, it will only have one news source, which is the government."

The new bill also stipulates in paragraph 4 of article 9, the prerequisite to founding a media company is government permission.

In a democratic country, the press is supposed to act as a watchdog, or functions as the Fourth Estate, for the government – the legislative, executive and judicial branches. "The press should be controlled by the public because it is the extension of the public's hands," Abdullah said.

The government did not need to control the press as the public itself would choose the most reputable media, while the "rubbish" would not survive, he said.

According to Press Council data, only 30 percent of the media in Indonesia is making profit.

"Since the reform era in 1998, more than 1,000 publications have ceased," Abdullah said. "Compare that to 57 years of both Soekarno and Soeharto, when 400 publications were closed down. The public isn't stupid," he said.

Legal expert Bambang Widjojanto said the government had the right to draft a bill on the press as long as it did not threaten the freedom of the press.

"The press plays an important role in checks and balances," Bambang said. "The public also needs the freedom of the press so people (have access to) important and relevant information."

Koesparmono Irsan, former member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said the freedom of the press was a part of the people's sovereignty and it was very important the government guaranteed it.

Djadjat Sudradjat, deputy news director of Media Indonesia daily, said the media was currently facing a systematic threat from the legislative, executive and judicial branches. "The press might need the help of a legal aid center," Djadjat said.

Spy agency sought transfer of suspect

Sydney Morning Herald - August 22, 2007

Indonesia's state intelligence agency asked the country's national airline Garuda to transfer one of its pilots to its corporate security unit shortly before a mid-air murder, a court was told.

High-profile activist Munir Said Thalib, 38, was poisoned with arsenic during a Garuda flight to Amsterdam in September 2004. He had made some enemies while exposing human rights abuses in Papua and East Timor.

Prosecutors at a hearing in Central Jakarta District Court have alleged the powerful state intelligence agency BIN played a role in the murder.

Hundreds of people on Wednesday crammed into Central Jakarta District Court, which has reopened the case against off-duty Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budhiari Priyanto.

Garuda Executive Director Indra Setiawan told the court he received a letter from BIN in 2004 asking that Pollycarpus, a pilot, be made a member of Garuda's corporate security unit. Setiawan told the court that Pollycarpus had asked to meet him at a Jakarta hotel.

"After that, Pollycarpus handed me an envelope which had a letter in it," he said. "I opened it and there was letterhead of the national intelligence agency. The letter was not long. The essence of it was that, as a vital and strategic company, there was a need to enhance the security and therefore to assign Pollycarpus to the corporate security unit of the company."

Pollycarpus was originally convicted and jailed for 14 years over the murder of the activist but the Indonesian Supreme Court last year overturned the conviction on appeal, citing a lack of evidence. The case was reopened after Indonesia's Attorney General's Office recently submitted a request for a review of the case.

Security was tight at the court, with an anti-riot vehicle parked in front of the building and heavily armed riot-police and bomb squad officers on guard. Munir's wife Suciwati was present for the hearing.

Former BIN spy agent Raden Muhammad Patma, aka Ucok, also testified, but evaded repeated questions about the national intelligence agency. Prosecutors had alleged in their written dossier that BIN had asked Ucok to kill Munir, but he denied it on Wednesday. The hearing continues.

New evidence in Munir case indicates role of BIN

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2007

Jakarta – The State Intelligence Agency (BIN) has been implicated in the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib after prosecutors submitted new evidence in the case review of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto at its first session Thursday.

Part of the new evidence presented by prosecutor Poltak Manulang included the testimony of a junior BIN agent, Raden Mohammad Padma Anwar, also known as Ucok.

Ucok claims he and his peer, agent Sentot, received orders from a senior agent, Manunggal Maladi, to kill Munir before the 2004 election. He said he plotted a series of scenarios, including asking paranormals to bewitch Munir, which did not work.

Ucok said he once saw Pollycarpus in the parking lot of BIN's office and asked Sentot who he was. Sentot told him Pollycarpus was a Garuda Indonesia official who was there to meet high- ranking BIN officials.

Not long after, according to Ucok's testimony, he heard of Munir's death and questioned Sentot. "It is none of our business, it is the high-ranking officials' business," Sentot said to Ucok, as quoted by Poltak.

Munir died from arsenic poisoning on Sept. 7, 2004, onboard Garuda flight 974 from Jakarta to Amsterdam, which included a stopover at Singapore's Changi Airport.

Witnesses Joseph Ririmase, Asrini Utami Putri and Raymond "Ongen" Latuihamallo – all passengers on the same flight as Munir and Pollycarpus – testified they all saw Pollycarpus drink at a cafe with Munir while in Changi. Based on these testimonies, the prosecutor concluded Munir was poisoned at Changi airport and not aboard the plane, as previously claimed.

Poltak cited evidence showing Pollycarpus made 41 calls to a BIN senior official soon after Munir's death.

He also cited a testimony from then Garuda president director Indra Setiawan, saying he had received a letter from BIN deputy chief As'ad instructing him to assign Pollycarpus as an aviation security officer on the fateful flight. "It is strange that a pilot would be put on duty as an aviation security officer," said Poltak.

Based on the new evidence and testimonies, prosecutors requested the judges reopen the case and sentence Pollycarpus to life in prison for premeditated murder. In December 2005, the Jakarta District Court sentenced Pollycarpus to 14 years in prison, but the Supreme Court annulled the verdict in October 2006.

The Supreme Court then sentenced him to two years in prison for forgery and he was released in December.

Pollycarpus' lawyer, M. Assegaf, however, disputed the legality of the request and said the new evidence was not substantial enough to determine whether Pollycarpus was guilty or not.

The court session has been adjourned to Aug. 22, when testimonies of the witnesses will be heard.

Spy agency accused of black magic murder

Sydney Morning Herald - August 17, 2007

Mark Forbes Herald, Jakarta – The Indonesian intelligence agency BIN ordered several assassination attempts against the human rights activist Munir Thalib, including the use of black magic, before poisoning him on a trip to Europe, a police investigation has found.

The revelations, presented to a Jakarta court yesterday, reopened hearings into the controversial murder case. They should also force the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to reform the agency and prosecute senior officials, human rights groups said.

A new investigation was ordered by Dr Yudhoyono after the initial murder conviction of an off-duty Garuda pilot and alleged BIN agent, Pollycarpus Priyanto, was overturned last year. The police team interviewed other BIN agents, who revealed they had also been ordered to try to kill Mr Thalib before the October 2004 presidential election.

Mr Thalib had angered powerful military and intelligence figures by revealing human rights abuses in Papua and Aceh, along with military involvement in drug trafficking and illegal logging. His murder became Indonesia's most infamous and its investigation a test case for reform efforts.

Witnesses who saw Mr Priyanto take a drink to Mr Thalib on a stopover in Singapore during a flight to Amsterdam in 2004 were also found by police. Mr Priyanto had claimed he left Singapore airport without seeing Mr Thalib. New scientific tests established Mr Thalib was poisoned with arsenic during the stopover and died an agonising death during the flight.

Prosecutors also revealed that the former executive director of Garuda, Indra Setiawan, admitted he assigned Mr Priyanto to travel on Mr Thalib's flight following a written demand from a senior BIN officer. Both Mr Setiawan and another senior Garuda official are in custody and are expected to be charged with being accessories to the murder.

One intelligence agent, Raden Mohammad Patma Anwar, told investigators he and others had been ordered to assassinate Mr Thalib. Mr Anwar said a well-known psychic had attempted to cast a spell to kill Mr Thalib, but claimed it was unsuccessful because Mr Thalib was protected by a traditional dagger with magical powers.

Phone records also show that Mr Priyanto made 41 calls to the mobile number of a deputy director of BIN in the days before and after the murder, prosecutors told the court.

Despite claims by Mr Priyanto's legal team that it was unprecedented and illegal to allow prosecutors to appeal for a new hearing after charges had been dismissed, judges ruled the hearing could proceed for now. Next week they will hear evidence from Mr Setiawan and Mr Anwar. A decision on an appeal will follow.

Usman Hamid, the head of Kontras, the human rights group formed by Mr Thalib, said it was essential there were further investigations and prosecutions. "This is not an ordinary murder. It's about the need to reform intelligence and it is about the future of democracy and human rights in Indonesia," he said.

 Labour issues

Government to draft law on housemaid rights

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2007

Jakarta – The government is working on a draft regulation aimed at improving the rights of housemaids and to provide legal certainty for the domestic workers generally in Indonesia.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Suparno, in a speech read by the acting Director General for Labor Guidance and Supervision, Suwito Ardiyanto, said here Wednesday the government needed to protect housemaids.

Erman said his office was currently discussing the draft with the Coordinating Ministry for the Economy, the Coordinating Ministry for People's Welfare, the State Ministry for Women's Empowerment, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry, the Social Services Ministry and the Education Ministry.

"National standards for recruitment systems, job descriptions and rights of housemaids will be set out in the regulation," Erman's speech read. "The regions will have the chance to draft their own local regulations, which are related to labor markets in those regions."

Erman's speech was read at the opening of an international conference on forced labor in South Jakarta, co-organized by the Tjoet Nyak Dien Cluster, the Women's Echo Cluster and the NGO's Network for Handling Child Labor (JARAK).

According to 2003 data from the International Labor Organization, Indonesia has more than three million housemaids and domestic workers.

A domestic worker is defined as someone who works – and often lives – within the employer's household. The worker performs typical domestic chores including cooking, ironing, washing and cleaning.

Although it is common knowledge that of these workers do not receive commensurate payment, the flow of such workers is unstoppable because of the rapid urbanization in the country. Most employers do not seem to consider housemaids as professional workers because the work scope is in a private home.

JARAK said about 50 percent of employed housemaids spend more than 12 hours a day fulfilling their duties. It also said they were prone to physical, mental and sexual abuse.

Suwito said Indonesian and other employers needed to change their attitude toward household help. "This kind of mindset must be eradicated," he said. He said the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry would speak about this matter in meetings with other ministries.

Abdul Hakim from ILO said the lack of legal protection was one of the main reasons for the current state of affairs. He urged the government to ensure workers be protected under the new regulation.

Aida Milasari of the Women's Echo Cluster said 45 percent of domestic workers in Greater Jakarta were being forced to work. "We must hold a continuous campaign to prevent this forced labor," she said.

Indonesia demands Malaysia get tough on maid murderers

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2007

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta – Indonesia has demanded Malaysia investigate and punish employers suspected of killing or abusing Indonesian workers after another Indonesian maid was allegedly tortured to death in the country.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kristiarto Soeryo Legowo said Indonesia would not tolerate abuse against its citizens, and a tough stance by Malaysian authorities was urgently needed to prevent abuse against migrant workers in the future.

"If Malaysian authorities investigate and punish offenders, there will be a deterrent to prevent similar abuse against our citizens in the future. We believe this is a key factor to stopping abuse," he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

A 24-year-old Indonesian maid, identified as Kunarsih, was found dead in her room Tuesday after suffering blunt force injuries to the chest and abdomen.

Malaysian police are investigating the case, in which the maid's Malaysian employer, identified only by her initials GEK, has denied any responsibility. Kunarsih, a mother from Demak, Central Java, had only worked for her Malaysian employers for four months.

"GEK has been detained and charged with murder by the police. Under the law, there is no way she can be offered bail," Kristiarto said. He said Kunarsih's body, which is now at the Serdang Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, would be flown to Demak on Saturday.

"We also demanded that her rights, such as her salary and insurance compensation, would be taken care of by the agency. We have contacted Kunarsih's family," Kristiarto said.

Abuse carried out by Malaysian employers against Indonesian migrant workers has claimed many lives in recent years. This year alone, 21 Indonesian workers have died after suffering at the hands of their employers. More than 300,000 Indonesian citizens work in Malaysia.

While Malaysian officials have claimed the mistreatment of domestic helpers is not widespread, some 1,500 Indonesian maids run away from their employers every month, often because of abuse or dissatisfaction with long working hours, a lack of freedom or unpaid salaries.

Kunarsih's death came a day after another Indonesian maid climbed out the window of a 17th-floor apartment in Kuala Lumpur to escape her employer, who allegedly strangled her and beat her with a rattan stick.

In June, the spectacular escape of 33-year-old Ceriyati Dapin, an Indonesian housekeeper who made headlines when she used a makeshift rope to flee a 15th-story apartment in Malaysia after allegedly having been beaten and threatened with death by her employer, highlighted the fate of many Indonesian workers abroad.

Meanwhile, Siti Tarwiyah from Ngawi in East Java and Susmiyati from Pati in Central Java were found after having been tortured to death in Alfaj, Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 3. It has been alleged the men's employer and his relatives were responsible for the deaths.

Also in Saudi Arabia, Ruminih from Pandeglang in Banten and Tari from Karawang in West Java remain in intensive care in a hospital in the nation's capital after sustaining serious injuries caused by alleged torture.

 Environment/natural disasters

Papua forests at risk: NGO

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2007

Jayapura – Papua is home to 10 percent of the world's remaining Intact Forest Landscape, but 2 percent of that is at risk of forest conversion, according to an NGO.

"Unfortunately, Papua's tropical forest is threatened with being converted into plantations in the near future...," said Greenpeace forest campaigner Bustar Maitar in Jayapura on Tuesday.

The provincial administration has proposed converting some of Papua's forests into palm oil plantations to feed the demand for biofuel.

The Forestry Ministry has identified at least 9 million hectares for forest in Papua and West Papua provinces for possible conversion.

"Our data shows that 17.9 million hectares of forest are still intact. Only half would remain if 9 million hectares was taken, that is if there was a guarantee it would never be touched," said Maitar.

Greenpeace and a joint forum of non-governmental organizations in Papua have reminded Papuans of the importance of healthy forests.

"We want to support the people and the provincial administration to preserve and reap as many benefits as possible from the forest, without turning it into palm oil plantations," said Maitar.

River still best place for mudflow, says government team

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2007

Indra Harsaputra, Sidoarjo – The government-appointed agency in charge of dealing with the Sidoarjo mudflow disaster in East Java decided Monday to continue dumping mud into the Porong River, so it could be carried out to sea.

Activists and experts criticized the decision, arguing it would damage river water quality and cause sedimentation.

The National Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Team (BPLS) deputy head of operations, Soffian Hadi, said the agency found a way to ensure the mudflow would not disrupt the river flow.

"We work based on the President's decree on mechanism in dealing with the mudflow. After conducting research and observation, dumping it in the Porong River was found to be safe," he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Experts from Surabaya's 10 November Institute of Technology (ITS) and Japan have earlier urged the agency to stop channeling mud into the Porong River due to the environmental damage it is causing.

ITS chemistry expert, Tantowi Ismail, said the method is creating condensed mud that is insoluble in water. As a result, it is silting up the river and has formed a 1.5 to 2-meter-high delta.

He said the situation is dangerous as the river flow could be altered and cause flooding during the wet season.

In a presentation on mud management at the BPLS office, Takashi Okumura from Katahira Engineers International and Y. Kuchiwa from the TOA Corporation agreed channeling mud into the Porong River was dangerous and an alternative solution was required.

Japan has suggested a high-pressure pipeline installed with a number of pumps as a possible solution. The pipeline would direct mud out to sea and could be used in land reclamation efforts.

"The (accusations) are not true. Experts should go down to the field to look at the real situation. They should not rely solely on their laboratory research," said Soffian, a geologist from the Yogyakarta-based Veteran National Development University.

"There are silts... but they are only temporarily, since the river water will carry the material out to sea.

"Through observation we found the hot mud was flowing smoothly out to sea," he said.

The agency would soon put two machines into operation to dredge the mud, he said.

The machines, each 20 meters long and six meters wide, are equipped to break up and extract the mud.

The agency also plans to operate a six-meter-long pump from the Bandung Technology Institute, which will work to draw out hot mud to prevent silting.

"The two machines and the pump will be operational as of next week. We hope the move will produce favorable results."

Lapindo Brantas Inc., the company at the center of the disaster, currently spends around Rp 23 billion (US$2.4 million) per day channeling hot mud into the Porong River.

Soffian said the BPLS is still focusing on dumping the mud into the river and preventing it from spreading further.

"But we will continue to analyze suggestions from experts on ways to stop the mudflow."

 Health & education

Virginity test idea withdrawn

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2007

Nana Rukmana, Indramayu – A controversial proposal to conduct virginity tests on female high school students in Indramayu regency, West Java, has been dropped following strong objections from students, parents and activists.

They said the plan violated human rights and constituted harassment against women.

Indramayu Regent Irianto MS Syafiuddin came up with the idea last week after two high school students were caught having sex on video. The video, which runs for around three minutes, involves a 16-year-old female student and 17-year-old male student, both from state run senior high schools in the regency.

"We can't accept this idea. It's unfair as the porn video was just an isolated case. It's the same as suspecting all of us. The idea is harassment," said Gita, a second year student at the state SMAN Sindang high school.

Objections were also voiced by male students. Fahmi, a third year student at SMAN Indramayu, said the idea was unethical. "We also reject the virginity test. It's against human rights," he argued.

He said the regent should focus on what was important, instead of coming up with nonsensical suggestions like the virginity test. "There are many poor residents in Indramayu in need of attention. It would be better for the regent to pay heed to them instead of coming up with this plan for virginity tests," Fahmi said.

Parents were shocked by the plan. Yeni, a 44-year-old resident of Margadadi village in Indramayu village, said she would refuse outright if her daughter was required to undergo such a test. "The test undermines female dignity. It should be rejected out of hand," she said.

Wawan of Sindang village said the test was not a solution for dealing with suspected promiscuity among students. "The plan is painful for parents. It's like we're being accused of not taking care of our children," he said.

Teacher Saptarini of SMAN Sindang said the question of virginity had nothing to do with education. "It's a personal matter that has no bearing on education. The regent should drop the plan," she said.

Indramayu Health Agency Director Suwardi said his agency had not received any instructions from the regent regarding the conducting of tests. "I would not do it unless there is an order from the regent," he said.

However, he said it would not be easy to conduct such tests as out of some 16,000 senior high school students in the regency, half were female students. The regency has 78 senior high schools, of which 46 are state schools.

Healthcare advocacy for the poor - An interview with Zely Ariane

New Perspectives - July 19, 2007

Welcome back to New Perspectives (Perspektif Baru), I'm Jaleswari Pramodhawardani and I'm here with Zely Ariane, an activist from the Perempuan Mahardhika National Network. Today we will be speaking about an issue that is of concern to us all, the urban poor.

We have all been shocked by the huge jump in cooking oil prices as well as the scarcity of milk on the market. It began in 2005 with the fuel prices increases and so forth, then the National Statistics Agency released figures that we thought were quite significant, that is on the percentage of people in Indonesia living in poverty, which totals around 40 percent.

Rather than discussing the number of poor, we will be discussing something more concrete and I think that Zely is the most competent person to talk about the issue of poverty. At least in terms of the Poor Peoples Struggle Coordinating Posts (POPRAM) that she has been working with.

The following is an interview between Jaleswari Pramodhawardani and Zely Ariane.

I would be interested to hear some anecdotes or some brief information about you. Since 2003 you have been involved with issues concerning the poor, women and activists in various organisations such as the Perempuan Mahardhika National Network (JNPM). Perhaps you could tell us a little about this.

I'm from the Perempuan Mahardhika National Network. JNPM is a coalition for women who are already involved in a mass organisation, but it also represents women who are not part of an organisation, but essentially it is mostly about empowering the consciousness of women in order that they can become more independent, political and understand what is taking place around them, and what impact this has upon them.

Who can join?

Anyone can join, civil servants, teachers, doctors, even journalists, we also network with the Alliance of Independent Journalists, individuals and the like.

What is the main focus of its activities?

Currently we are focusing on the empowerment of women from the urban poor. Because as it happens, the ones who are most active in the women's struggle at the moment are in fact housewives from urban poor communities. It turns out that it is wrong for us to view women as inconsequential, particularly women who are poor, that they had no power. On the ground, under conditions that are becoming more difficult, it is precisely women of limited means in the group that are playing an increasingly useful role.

What survival strategy is being put forward for poor households?

Yes. Particularly so that they understand their rights, then to take action to address what can be done to improve their future.

What is the focus of the programs to empower these urban poor households?

Concretely what we have been doing is handling healthcare advocacy, before we were dealing with advocacy for Direct Cash Assistance (BLT) and Raskin (cheap rice program, rice for the poor). More recently it has been Gakin (welfare cards for poor households) and Askeskin (health insurance for the poor), as means to obtain free health services at hospitals working jointly with the government.

What is the difference between Askes (state-owned health insurance company), Gakin and Askeskin?

With Askes you have to pay a premium, which is deducted from each month's wage, while Gakin or Askeskin is different. Gakin and Askeskin are provided by the government to poor communities with very low incomes so that they can obtain access to free health services. In advanced countries there is actually no differentiation between free health services, services are valid for all social layers, however in Indonesia this is still the case.

Exactly what issue are you taking up, because the general view, right, is that if it's free it means different services?

In practice it is indeed different. With Gakin or Askeskin the medicines provided are generic drugs. Although research has demonstrated that generic drugs are not poor quality drugs, this already represents a differentiation of those people being treated with ordinary drugs or through Askes. And the services are different, in the hospitals are special Gakin and Askeskin service counter. And even then it's not easy to obtain services, even if you already have a card it doesn't automatically mean that everything becomes free, hospitals usually come up with particular reasons to make things difficult, which we often find ourselves fighting against, because everything should be free for Gakin and Askeskin card holders, so poor communities are not afforded their rights. That's also discrimination.

Do they actually understand these rights?

The most recent experience, about a week ago, was an appeal or instruction from the Jakarta healthcare office about a program to produce 6,000 cards for poor families.

Why only 6,000, there are much more than 6,000 poor people [in Jakarta]?

There was no explanation, but okay we went ahead with this figure of 6,000. We explained it to residents, go ahead and apply for a card, go to the RT (neighborhood association), the RW (community unit), the Kelurahan (political district administered by a village chief), the Puskesmas (community healthcare centre) for verification and so on. But even at the level of the RT there were obstacles, they said, we didn't know there was an instruction for 6,000 cards, or that we had to pay and so on. There were huge obstacles, from just this one example, it turned out that a program that should have been a good one, become one that was not implemented properly because there was inadequate socialisation, the funds were too small and there were deductions here then deductions there, at various levels of the bureaucracy, so for residents it was less than effective.

How do you go about obtaining a card?

First you go to the RT and RW to get a document certifying that a family is entitled to government assistance (SKTM). The RT should already know what has to be done. Later the RT verifies it. Then it's taken care of again at the RW, then the Kelurahan. The Kelurahan provides a reference letter certifying that the applicant is poor. Then they are given a letter for the Puskesmas, so there are two stages in the verification. A verification through government administrative channels, in this case the RT, RW and Kelurahan, then verification through the healthcare office, in this case the Puskesmas.

What is verified?

They look at the living conditions of the poor, a kind of survey. This is a big problem, because the indicators used to measure poverty make absolutely no sense. Actually they have several views of what is categorised as poor. If it is from the World Bank it's clear, if their daily income is under US$2 or 19,000 rupiah a day they are poor. Now, in Indonesia its not like that, there are all kinds of categories. Aside from an income of less then 200,000 rupiah a month, there are 14 other criteria such as do you own a small house, is the floor tiled; if you have to use public bathing, washing and toilet facilities but own an electric fan, then you are not included as poor. So it's a big problem.

I think that this is a problem inherited from earlier times right, if we talk about the IDT (a presidential instruction on a program for least developed villages) the criteria is also rather "foolish". If this criteria is agreed to we should obtain a card, right? It should be like that, moreover we shouldn't need to because it is the responsibility of the RT.

What do you think is the main problem on the ground?

First of all, there has been no initiative from the government administration to collect information on the poor, or bring poor residents into the program. Where there has been, there have been lots of gaps, where those who have been registered are people they know. Not residents that are actually poor. The second problem is that there have been obstacles in terms of payment. They have to pay to obtain the cards.

How much do they have to pay?

It's like an illegal fee. Not official, but there are all kinds of fees. In order to qualify as SKTM, they ask how much do you want to pay? If you pay, I'll make out an document qualifying you for SKTM. What can also happen for example is that those who are not poor are able to pay to qualify as SKTM. That is the biggest problem. The other problem, is that even after you get a Gakin it doesn't immediately follow that the process will be easy. After obtaining a Gakin they say please go and get treatment at a hospital that is cooperating with the government. There is a list of hospitals that are given a subsidy to accept poor patients.

Are they informed about this from the start?

As far as I know, based on the people we have been dealing with in Jakarta and Makassar (South Sulawesi), they didn't know there was any such program, they didn't know which hospitals had been designated. This should be the responsibility of the RT, RW and Kelurahan. But it doesn't work, so if there are other social organisations that want to conduct a socialisation program please go ahead. This would be really good, as we have been doing.

In this context, what have your colleagues at the POPRAM been doing?

Although we were established in mid 2004, we have only been focussing on the issue of Gakin and Askeskin since mid 2006. The first thing we do after obtaining documents from the social healthcare offices is distribute them to the residents we are assisting, the residents we are working with. Then we say, go ahead and process the Gakin and so on. If there are obstacles, report it to us and we will find a solution. Everyone experienced problems. In the end we carried out advocacy at the RT level. There was no other choice, in the end demonstrations become the only choice at the Kelurahan level.

In 2006 we went visit the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare and also the president. Putting pressure on the closest, that is on the Kelurahan. We were forced to to undertake this method. Our experience was that only after doing this was the SKTM or Gakin issued. Now, after it had been issued, we asked residents to get their own treatment, be treated at a cooperating hospital. There were more obstacles, it even turned out that hospitals declared that they could not [cover] the full 100 percent.

What things do poor households have to confront in to obtain their rights to healthcare services at hospitals?

After you've got a Gakin card, or a SKTM card, you are confronted by the hospitals stating that they cannot get the full 100 free services.

In this case which one is correct. Is this announced from the start or is the regulation actually like this but not carried out?

The regulations, for Gakin, Askeskin and SKTM card holders is they have the right to 100 percent free healthcare services. The cost of medicines, treatment, tests, 100 percent free. It is regulated like this in the ministerial decree, the hospitals should know that there are funds to cover these things. Afterwards the hospitals only have to submit a claim with [the state-own insurance company] PT. Akses. The second most common statement that is encountered is saying "we have no wards". Poor households that have Gakin or SKTM cards are allocated third class wards, if they have to be treated. Very often the information we got was that there were no third class wards. These are the two main obstacles that are invariably confronted by participants in the program. There are only two ways [to confront this], first explaining that it is untrue that they have to pay, we have to negotiate at this point. Everything is free. We once even advocated for free life-long kidney dialysis. Successful examples of our advocacy, a premium of as much as 125 million rupiah was successful, free. Two hundred and fifty million, we successfully advocated a heart transplant. This is included as a right under Gakin and so on.

There is a view that poor people only get sick with coughs, get colds, its not true, they also suffer from the same illnesses as other people who are better off, and this must be guaranteed, because this is public health right?

Generally. So far there have been around 1,200 or so cases that have been successfully advocated. From minor to major cases such as the 250 million rupiah premium that was able to be obtained free. This is of course impossible when resident go themselves, because when the poor are given the ultimatum "it cannot be free, click!", usually they are frightened and don't say anything. It is because of this that they must be helped.

Without our being aware that there is discrimination against friends from poor households, where should they lodge a complaint aside from with POPRAM comrades? Are there coordination posts throughout Jakarta? In Indonesia?

Currently there are POPRAM in five of Jakarta's five municipalities, the Thousand Island covered yet. Outside of Jakarta there are POPRAM in Yogyakarta, East Java, Central Java, South Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi and North Sumatra (Lampung). The telephone hotline numbers are 021-92859600 or 0852 13575382.

Your colleagues at the POPRAM integrate directly with friends in the poor households, have the comrades from POPRAM ever held discussions directly with the healthcare actors, doctors, the health office, talking about the problems at the lower levels?

We obtained this kind of information in mid 2006, because we organised monthly discussions in each urban residential area in turn. The theme of health problems was one of them. We invited the health minister, there was a staff member who came, there was also a representative from the House of Representatives Commission IX, a representative from PT. Askes also came. We were able to obtain a memorandum of understanding (MoU) through this dialogue, an MoU that POPRAM is legal and can conduct healthcare advocacy.

We were able to obtain this access because of organising this dialogue. So the healthcare stakeholders would come to know that these problems that are occurring are real, so they were unable to consider them of no importance. In terms of other forms of dialogue, were even able to meet with the director of PT. Askes, the Hospital Association, where they related the parties' individual problems. The hospitals for example, stated that there was a problem with claims that were issued late by Askes, so they delayed providing services to the poor. This has become an ongoing problem nagging healthcare problems.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Residents still opt for midwives

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2007

Jambi – Most Jambi women still prefer to give birth with the assistance of traditional midwives instead of putting their trust in doctors, a survey has found.

The survey was conducted by the National Economic Census (Susenas) in July last year and the results were released by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in Jambi.

Around 44 percent of the total 6,080 survey participants indicated they preferred to give birth assisted by traditional midwives, 49 percent preferred state-certified midwives and only 6 percent trusted doctors.

According to the survey, the largest number of people using the services of traditional midwives was in East Tanjung Jabung and Merangin regencies, at 61.84 and 61.27 percent respectively, while 73.38 percent of Jambi city women preferred the services of state-certified midwives.

Head of the Jambi BPS statistics and social affairs office, Nano Suharno, said the survey results this year were similar to 2006 survey results.


Court rejects Indonesian cleric's suit against police

Agence France Presse - August 21, 2007

Jakarta – An Indonesian court on Tuesday rejected a class action lawsuit filed by hardline cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who had sought the disbanding of the police's anti-terror unit.

Bashir, who has been accused by foreign governments of being the spiritual head of regional Islamic extremist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), had alleged that the unit violated human rights by arbitrarily arresting suspects.

The unit, known as Detachment 88, has made a string of militant arrests in recent years, including several high-profile catches this year.

Judge Wachyono told a hearing at the South Jakarta district court that the class action suit filed by Bashir's lawyers in June did not meet legal requirements.

"The panel of judges is of the opinion that the defendant did not provide details on which groups he represents and therefore the suit is unclear and vague," he said.

Bashir's lawyers had demanded that the court declare the actions of the US- and Australian-funded unit in violation of the law and human rights.

The suit alleged that officers from the unit had used torture to obtain confessions and that their work discriminated against Muslims as they were the unit's sole targets.

About 70 supporters of Bashir, many in long white Islamic shirts and skullcaps, protested the verdict by banging on tables and shouting, "Disband Detachment 88!" and "Allahu Akbar!" (God is greater). Some 50 uniformed police and more in plain clothes stood guard.

Bashir told reporters that the dismissal would not discourage him from fighting for Muslims who were the victims of tyranny. If his move was not in line with the law, he said, "then I will simply leave it to God."

Bashir, 68, served more than two years in jail for his role in a "sinister conspiracy" that led to the Bali bombings in October 2002 which left 202 people dead and were blamed on JI. Among the dead were 88 Australians, for whom the anti-terror unit was named.

The Supreme Court however overturned Bashir's conviction in December last year, and cleared him of involvement.

Religious leaders lament frictions

Jakarta Post - August 19, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – Though independent for 62 years, the country still witnesses frequent attempts to disrupt religious harmony, leaders of various faiths said Saturday.

Some authorities still remain "aloof" when people disturb followers of other faiths, one leader said during a gathering of here to commemorate Independence Day. The leaders did not cite any specific incidents.

Theophilus Bela, secretary-general of the Indonesian Committee for Religion and Peace, said the government "should take proactive measures to prevent the further burning of churches or mosques in several provinces. People need more protection while sometimes the authorities just stay aloof," Theophilus, also a representative of the Jakarta Christian Forum Community, said.

The leaders issued a statement expressing "conviction" that a strong unitary state could only materialize with the "guarantee" of Indonesia's pluralism as "social capital" for the nation.

Meetings of religious leaders should eventually "prevent terrorist actions and disintegration", said Din Syamsudin, who chairs Muslim organization Muhammadiyah.

He said religious figures were aware they still had much to do to inspire peace among the public, given recurring incidents of interfaith friction.

These incidents include a protest by Muslims against a planned religious gathering in Karmel Valley, a scenic resort in Cianjur, West Java, some 120 kilometers southeast of Jakarta. The resort was to host an international religious gathering in late July.

Protesters threatened to forcefully disperse the gathering, which they said could incite "restlessness" given that Cianjur regency is heavily Muslim. Police stopped the protesters before they arrived at the site.

Din, also chairman of the interfaith committee, said people should note "the aspirations of our founding fathers, which was to implement our state ideology Pancasila".

On Thursday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in his state of the union address that the state ideology, whose five points include belief in one God and respect for human rights, functioned to unite the nation and strengthen society.

He said the principle of "diversity in unity" must be constantly applied in daily life to safeguard pluralism.

The interfaith committee, comprising 19 religious groups, also stated that many Indonesians had yet to really taste the fruit of independence. "There is still poverty, lack of basic education, corruption and unfair foreign domination in local politics, economy and culture," said Din.

The committee plans to meet with the country's leaders, including the President, National Police chief and representatives from the State Intelligence Agency.

 Jakarta/urban life

Surabaya scavengers still not living free

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2007

Indra Harsaputra, Surabaya – The country may have celebrated its 62nd anniversary last week, but the scavengers of East Java feel far from in charge of their lives.

Scavengers took part in an Independence Day contest organized by Al-Falah Social Fund Foundation in Surabay, East Java, where they read the proclomation of independence. "Merdeka (Freedom)...," yelled Kusnanto, who took part in the contest by dressing up like Sukarno himself.

He did not win but said he was proud that he had read the proclamation like Sukarno, his idol. "I hope the country's independence might improve scavengers' welfare since our life has not changed, since the country was led by (former president) Soeharto to SBY (President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) now," said the 53-year-old, who lives in a makeshift home in the Rangkah area.

Kusnanto was accompanied by his wife, 50-year-old Mustika, who is also a scavenger. The couple, originally from Lamongan in East Java, moved to Surabaya in the 1970s in the hopes of making a better living but limited skills and education forced them to give up their dreams.

"We live a hard life, earning Rp 10,000 a day as scavengers. I've tried to run a business but could not get a loan since I have no Surabaya identity card," Mustika said.

Kusnanto earns a little extra money driving a pedicab and Mustika by selling vegetables bought with money she borrowed from a loan shark. "We've worked hard but still life doesn't treat us better because the loan shark demands high interest," she said.

The couple's life was slightly improved when Al-Falah gave them an interest-free loan, which Mustika used to open up a kiosk selling groceries. But fresh problems hit them when the government raised fuel prices, which pushed up the basic cost of living.

"Before the fuel price hike, the kiosk could make up to Rp 100,000 a day but after the hike, many people shopped less and the kiosk could raise only Rp 50,000," Mustika said.

Another scavenger, 70-year-old Nurhadi, has had a similarly bitter life. After living in Surabaya for years, the old man has no permanent home. He lives on the streets and bathes and drinks from the filthy Surabaya River.

"I suffered a hard life during the struggle for independence. Life got better under president Soeharto but under SBY life has become harder again, just like during the period when we fought for independence," Nurhadi said.

He said that when Soeharto was in power, he never ate rotten rice but these days it was a regular occurrence because he could not afford fresh food.

"Under Soeharto, I felt the meaning of independence. Under SBY, prices are so high and many policies don't side with the poor, such as the eviction of people from their homes," he said.

The coordinator of the foundation's Scavenger Welfare Program, Aries Munandar, urged the Surabaya administration to pay attention to the scavengers who have helped the city deal with its trash problem.

"I hope that during the Independence Day celebrations, the government will pay attention to their rights too. Let's not just make the day a ceremonial event without improving people's welfare," he said.

Head of the Surabaya city Legislative Council, Musyafak Rouf, said the city administration had allocated Rp 400 billion annually to provide cheap rice for the poor, free education, medication and other aid.

"But the problem is, many poor people, including scavengers, are not officially listed as Surabaya residents. They are not listed since they don't have permanent homes.

"Before, we considered a plan to give them easy access to identity cards so they can get assistance. But the idea has encouraged more beggars and others to enter Surabaya and set up illegal buildings. Surabaya is a crowded city so we limit new residents from other towns," Musyafak said.

Communities on edge after years living under expressways

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2007

Jakarta – Many of the people living under city turnpikes are anxious over the news they will soon be relocated as they have gotten no wind of alternative arrangements.

"I don't know where to live if the administration drives us away from this place," said Neng, 37, who has been living under the Jembatan Tiga turnpike, North Jakarta, for five years.

A huge fire under the Jembatan Tiga turnpike early this month prompted the city administration to issue a decision regarding the relocation of all people living under or alongside expressways.

The decision was made in a meeting between the North Jakarta municipality, turnpike operator PT Citra Marga Nusaphala Persada, and state-owned turnpike developer PT Jasa Marga, as well as the Public Works Ministry.

According to data from the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), 4,646 families or 18,584 people are currently living under the 11- kilometers of elevated roads stretching from Tanjung Priok to Penjaringan, North Jakarta.

In 2002, the Housing Ministry issued a decree that temporarily allowed people to reside under turnpikes. However, in November 2006, the Public Works Ministry annulled that decree.

Unlike most of the residents who claim ignorance of the ban, Adi knows he should not be living under a turnpike.

"I have rented a room in a nearby area for Rp 250,000 a month. But I don't know how long I can keep that up for," said Adi, who has been living with his wife and child under the Jembatan Tiga turnpike for three years. The couple sell vegetables at a nearby traditional market with a daily turnover of Rp 50,000-80,000.

Many people, however, still live under the turnpike, like Sum, her husband and their five children. She said her family used to live in a low-cost apartment but they left five years ago and decided to live under the turnpike as they could not make the rent.

City daily paper Warta Kota reported on Monday that the squatters would be relocated to a number of low-cost apartments in Marunda, Cilincing, North Jakarta; Cakung, East Jakarta; and Parungpanjang, Bogor.

They have been promised a 50 percent discount, which would make their rent Rp 90,000-100,000. However, the 3,760 units of the Marunda low-cost apartments in Cilincing, North Jakarta, for example, are still under construction.

UPC activist Edi Saidi said it was the city administration's responsibility to provide the squatters with homes.

"There are idle plots of land owned by PT Jasa Marga near their old homes, including in Sungai Bambu, Warakas, Kampung Walang and Jl. Tongkol where the squatters could live temporarily," he said. "Why pick areas like in Marunda and others that are too far?"

Edi had earlier organized the squatters to stage a demonstration at the Public Works Ministry on Monday but it was canceled because Minister Djoko Kirmanto did not agree to meet them. "Besides, things are hectic around here (under the Jembatan Tiga turnpike) with the presence of public order officers asking residents to give their ID numbers for unclear purposes," he added.

North Jakarta Public Order Agency head Bambang Prayitno said they were "carrying out orders from our superiors".


Air forces conduct joint disaster relief maneuvers

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2007

Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta – The air forces of 19 Pacific nations started maneuvers here Monday for the 2007 Pacific Airlift Rally, a joint military exercise aimed at honing the forces' ability to handle natural disasters.

The exercise, held regularly every two years, is being hosted by Indonesia and the United States. This year is the first time the exercise has been held in Indonesia since its launch in 1997.

Assistant for operations to the Indonesian Air Force chief, Air Rear Marshall Edy Harjoko, said the joint exercise was aimed at improving skills and coordination among the forces in the event of a major natural disaster.

"We hope that through this training the air forces will be able to handle aid immediately and efficiently avert further hardships caused by a natural disaster," he said while addressing the opening of the event at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base in East Jakarta.

The five-day exercise, involving 500 air force personnel, will simulate responses to an 8.5-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter 214 nautical miles (approximately 396 kilometers) southeast of Jakarta, in the vicinity of Yogyakarta.

In the scenario, the earthquake, caused by thrust-faulting between the Australian plate and the Sumba plate inflicts damage across Java, Bali and Lombok islands.

The virtual earthquake also causes over 140,000 deaths, as well as destroying buildings and communications, transportation, electricity, gas and water infrastructure.

Participants have been divided into two groups: the Command Post Exercise (CPX) and the Field Training Exercise (FTX).

"The CPX will arrange the distribution of the aid, while the FTX will deliver the aid immediately after receiving orders from the CPX," said a member of the exercise's steering committee, Lt. Col. Sungkono.

The FTX comprises members of the air forces of Indonesia, the US, Malaysia and Bangladesh. The four forces flew from Halim Perdanakusuma to the Indonesian Air Force training field in Gorda, Tangerang, to distribute food and medicine.

The forces used six carrier aircraft – four C130 Hercules owned by Indonesia, the US and Malaysia, one US C17 Globe Master and one Bangladeshi AN32 Antonov.

Indonesian forces to acquire 1 billion worth of Russian equipment

BBC Monitoring - August 21, 2007

As part of the commitment on the bilateral agreement that was signed by the two countries on 1 December 2006, Russia will provide one billion USD in loan for Indonesian armament procurement for the period of 2007-2010.

Indonesia's Ministry of Defence decided to use the loan to acquire 10 MI-17-V5 helicopters and five MI-35P helicopters along with weaponry for the TNI AD [Indonesian Army]; two Kilo class submarines and 20 BMP-3F infantry battle vehicles for the TNI AL [Indonesian Navy]; and six avionic equipment packages and Sukhoi weaponry for the TNI AU [Indonesian Air Force].

Ministry of Defence Secretary General Lieutenant-General Sjafrie Sjamsoedin, who led the delegation on the commission III Indonesia-Russia meeting in Moscow on Monday, said that government to government cooperation on military equipment procurement could be a model for further military cooperation.

"Similar to the Ministry of Defence in Indonesia, the Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) is expected to be the only gateway to formulate and procure military equipment to Indonesia," said Sjafrie.

The Deputy Director of the FSMTC, Lieutenant-General V.K. Dzirkalin, who was the head of Russian commission shared Indonesia's view.

Furthermore, he added, Russia had acknowledged Indonesia's financial difficulties in developing a Defence system, thus a more flexible method of financing was opened for formulation.

The Director General of the Defensive Facility, Air Vice-Marshal Slamet Prihatino, said that the procurement of arms through a loan instalment was needed to strengthen the Indonesian Defence Force in protecting territorial integrity.

Military armaments will produce a deterrent effect to other countries who attempt to disturb Indonesia's territorial sovereignty. "What we are doing right now is limited to our budget capability, but will be beneficial because it produces a deterrent effect to other countries," said Slamet.

He sets out an example of the six various avionic equipment and weaponry procurement for Sukhoi. With the additional equipment, TNI AU [Indonesian Air Force] planes will be equipped with better avionic systems, electronics, and weaponry to guard Indonesian territories.

The same thing is also true when the two submarines will be available later. TNI AL [Indonesian Navy] will have the mobility to guard Indonesian seas which are often trespassed by foreign vessels for various purposes including fish theft.

Ministry of Defence staff expert on Economic Affairs Adnan Ganto regarded the Russian loan instalment as competitive and favourable with 5.3 percent annual interest rate which was lower compared to the loan instalment rate on export procurements for national armament OECD.

"Russia is not a member of OECD, they can not provide export loan instalments. But, with the rate of 5.3 percent, the interest rate from the Russian government proves to be lower because there are no other fees that have to be paid, whether it is for loan commitment, management, or country risk," said Adnan Ganto.

The Russian government loan will mature in 15 years, with the first five years acting as a grace period where the borrower does not have to pay for the principal nor the interest amount.

Also discussed at yesterday's meeting, was the procurement of six Sukhoi planes, which consisted of three SU-27 SKM and three SU-30 MK2. With the new additions, TNI AU [Indonesian Air Force] will own 10 Sukhoi planes.

"The signing agreement of the six Sukhoi planes procurement on Tuesday also coincides with Moscow's outer space exhibition," said Dzirkalin.

The procurement of six Sukhoi worth 355 million USD will be dealt with separately since the cost is not covered by the one billion USD Russian government loan. "We will look for a finance method with an interest rate that is not burdening," said Adnan.

[Source: Kompas, Jakarta, in Indonesian August 21, 2007.]

US, Indonesian Marines team up for marksmanship training

Marine Corps News - August 16, 2007

Cpl. Juan D. Alfonso, MCB Camp Butler, Camp Cilandak – Marines with III Marine Expeditionary Force's Special Operations Training Group conducted Enhanced Marksmanship Familiarization training and classes on Marine Air-Ground Task Force operations with the Indonesian Marine Corps' 2nd Brigade Aug. 7-8 at Camp Cilandak, Indonesia, and aboard USS Harpers Ferry.

The exercise was part of Naval Engagement Activity Indonesia (NEA) 2007, an exercise between the United States and Indonesia designed to improve the tactical collaboration of the two forces.

"Our purpose was to build closer ties with the Indonesian Marines," said Marine Capt. Zaher Bouza, the officer in charge of the NEA SOTG Detachment. "This was an opportunity to work and share some of our tactical knowledge with each other. Even though we only had two days to train, we built a mutual trust between us and the Indonesian Marines that will carry on into future training opportunities. They are a disciplined unit, and it was very exciting to have trained with a group of professionals."

The training began with the US Marines demonstrating the Corps' Enhanced Marksmanship Program (EMP) course to the Indonesian Marines. During the demonstration, the Marines fired their M4 carbine rifles at fixed targets from distances of 10-25 meters in quick reaction drills.

"This type of shooting is designed to build muscle memory and instinctive shooting skills. (It's) mainly used in an urban environment or in close quarters battle," Bouza said. After the demonstration, the Indonesian Marines joined in the EMP course with their own SS-1 rifles.

Then, both groups engaged targets from approximately 100 meters. During the drill, Indonesian Marines fired the M-4, leaders from the host country force commented on the similarity of tactics between the Marines of both countries.

"A lot of our techniques are very similar," said Indonesian Marine Capt. Sinaga Datuk, the operations officer for the Indonesian Marine Corps' 2nd Brigade. "The biggest difference we saw was that we each use different rifles, but everything else is the same. We were very impressed by how good the Marines were at shooting and look forward to doing more training like this in the future."

With the shooting portion of the exercise completed, the training continued the following day aboard the USS Harpers Ferry, where Bouza and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class William Blackwell, a corpsman with SOTG, gave the Indonesian Marines classes on the concepts of Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force, Marine expeditionary unit operations and tactical combat casualty care.

"We are very glad to have had an opportunity to train with the US Marines," Datuk said. "These are the moments that really bring Marine brotherhood together. Although we fight for different nations, it is an honor to train with anyone who calls himself Marine. We hope to do this again very soon."

 Economy & investment

Indonesia least attractive country for foreign retailers: Survey

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2007

Jakarta – Despite its high population and large economic size, Indonesia is among the least attractive countries for foreign retailers to invest in, according to a survey conducted recently by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

Speaking here Wednesday during a seminar on retailers' distribution, A.T. Kearney vice president John Kurtz said that Indonesia was not as attractive as India, Russia or China because of its tougher economic and political challenges.

"One of the key factors for modern retailers to decide whether to enter a new market or not is the consumers' readiness," he said. "This comprises the spending capability of young consumers, the willingness of the old generation to try a new retail format and the influence of Western culture on the people."

Indonesia ranks the 24th among 30 countries in Asia, Europe, America and the Middle East surveyed by the US-based consultancy. India ranks first in the survey, followed by Russia, China, Vietnam and Ukraine, while Columbia is in the lowest place after Argentina, Lithuania, Romania and Hungary.

The survey shows that Indonesia, despite its huge population, has only a small number of potential customers because the people still prefer to shop at traditional markets. Traditional markets are still frequented because they are located around residential areas and offer cheaper prices on fresh food products.

Kurtz said that the unstable political situation and unclear regulations made Indonesia less favorable for foreign modern retailers to enter.

Like A.T. Kearney's survey, an AC Nielsen's study also indicated that traditional grocery stores still dominated Indonesia's retail sector.

Director for retailer service at AC Nielsen Indonesia Yongky Susilo told a seminar on consumers here on Tuesday that unlike trends in Asia's developed countries, traditional grocery stores still dominated 65 percent of the marketplace in Indonesia.

He said that in Asia's developed countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan, modern retailers, which were getting smaller in number but getting bigger in size, dominated more than 80 percent of the market, while in developing countries, modern retailers controlled a share of only less than 50 percent.

"Even though there is change in consumer shopping habits, from traditional to modern markets all over Asia, the number of traditional stores is still high," said Yongky.

According to data from AC Nielsen Indonesia, the total number of traditional stores in Asia is 12 million while the number of modern stores is 232,000. The AC Nielsen survey shows that despite its dominance, the growth of the traditional store is slower than that of modern retailers.

The number of traditional grocery stores in Indonesia grew by 3 percent to 1.84 million in 2006 from 1.78 million in 2005. Meanwhile, the number of modern stores such as convenience stores, hypermarkets, warehouse clubs, minimarkets, and supermarkets by 14 percent to 8,918 stores from 7,839.

Yongky added that the growth of modern grocery stores in terms of number of goods being sold within the last 12 months was also higher than traditional stores. The sales of 51 categories of fast moving consumer goods, for example, grew by 23 percent in modern stores and only by 9.6 percent in traditional stores.

The growth of modern retailers in Indonesia, said Yongky, was triggered by the expansion of mini markets such as Alfa Mart and Indo Mart, and also by bullish advertisers, mainly in newspapers. behind in competition, said Yongky.

Government's 2008 budget bill hits snag

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – Eight of the 10 factions at the House of Representatives have criticized the government's 2008 budget bill as being overly ambitious and failing to support the economy and welfare of the general public.

The eight factions conveyed their official remarks on the bill, submitted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week, during a plenary session Tuesday, which kicked off deliberations of the bill.

Only the Democratic Party faction, Yudhoyono's political vehicle with 57 seats in the House, threw its full weight behind the draft budget.

The Golkar Party, the largest faction with 129 seats, tentatively gave its support as well, but raised several concerns. Golkar is chaired by Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

"The 2008 draft budget has increased spending volume to help drive economic growth, but problems remain," the Golkar faction's Tonny Apriliani said. "Among them is why are government expenditures always slow to be disbursed...," he said.

The harshest criticism of the proposed budget came from the House's de facto opposition faction, the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P).

The second largest faction, with 109 seats, told the administration to cut back on its promises of higher growth to reduce unemployment and poverty, after failing to deliver on previous promises in its first three years in office.

"The people will have more respect for a growth target which is realistic, and actually addresses their basic problems," PDI-P speaker Hasto Kristiyanto said. In the draft budget, the government expects 6.8 percent economic growth next year on 6 percent inflation.

Government spending will be increased to Rp 836 trillion, the bulk being a 48 percent rise in capital expenditures to Rp 101.5 trillion, mostly for infrastructure development and welfare programs. This will bring the budget deficit to Rp 75 trillion, or 1.7 percent of gross domestic product.

Growth slowed to 5.5 percent last year from 5.6 percent in 2005 on fuel price turbulence that adversely affected Indonesia's economy. Unemployment and poverty levels improved slightly to 10 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

PDI-P criticized the expansive nature of next year's budget and the large deficit. The faction also criticized the Rp 2 trillion allocation for infrastructure project guarantees, saying this only benefited corporations. "Guarantees should only be for sectors that really benefit the public, such as agriculture," Hasto said.

Similarly, the National Mandate Party (PAN) faction said next year's growth target was overly optimistic, with spending likely to overwhelm lower tax revenues.

The Justice Prosperous Party said the higher growth targets contradicted the lower inflation. The United Development Party (PPP), the third largest faction in the House with 58 seats, questioned the government's capability to raise Rp 1,296 trillion in investments next year to support the 6.8 percent growth target.

The government is scheduled to deliver its response to the factions Thursday. After this, the budget draft will be discussed with the House's Budget Committee for approval by October.

Palm oil not a field of dreams for all Indonesians

Reuters - August 19, 2007

Fitri Wulandari and Lewa Pardomuan, Langkat – Palm oil prices might be going through the roof and making investors and businessmen rich, but the soaring prices have not improved the lot of pickers and locals working on the fringes of the palm oil industry.

On the island of Sumatra, one of the main palm oil-growing islands in Indonesia, the world's second-largest producer after Malaysia, 52-year-old Minah salvages unspoilt fruit from partly rotten palm branch that have fallen to the ground.

The Indonesian mother of eight ekes out a living on a state-run palm oil plantation near her house by picking through fallen branches to extract fruit which she sells for 600 rupiah per kg (6 US cents) to a middleman.

"The plantation doesn't mind as long as I don't touch bunches still on trees," said Minah, as flies and other insects perch on her hands, stained by the sticky brown juice that oozes from the fruit.

The sales net her around $1 to $2 per day. "And people say palm oil is expensive," she remarks.

Almost half of Indonesia's 220 million people still live on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank.

Poverty levels remain high despite a pledge by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to tackle widespread poverty made worse by chronic unemployment and underemployment.

In Langkat, about 50 km (30 miles) west of North Sumatra's provincial capital of Medan, hundreds of people rely on palm oil – the world's second most popular edible oil after soy oil. They work as illegal fruit collectors like Minah, small holders, drivers, middlemen and labourers for palm oil refiners.

Historic prices, high export taxes

In nearby Malaysia, palm oil futures trading on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange in Kuala Lumpur – the benchmark for global prices – hit a historic high of 2,764 ringgit ($798.8) a tonne in early June.

The price has since dropped but is still within sight of the highs, helped by soaring demand for palm oil in manufactured foods as well as for new greener biodiesel made from palm oil.

Obtained by crushing palm oil fruit, the reddish-brown oil is also used in cookies, toothpaste and ice cream.

Indonesia is set to overtake Malaysia as the world's top producer this year with output seen at 17.4 million tonnes, up from 15.9 million tonnes in 2006.

But back in Sumatra, many farmers struggle to make ends meet while revenue at big plantation companies such as PT Astra Agro Lestari Tbk has doubled on sky-high palm oil prices.

The plantation companies are enjoying a boom in commodity prices driven by strong demand from countries such as India and China and demand from the biofuel sector.

The biodiesel frenzy has also sparked mergers and takeovers across the plantation sectors in Asia. Big firms with their financial muscle are able to expand their plantations and hire people to work for them while small holders are left behind.

With little support from the government, some palm oil farmers have to cope with high prices of fertilizers and a lack of funds to maintain their plantations and boost output by replacing old, unproductive trees.

Export tax

Jakarta's recent decision to raise the export tax on crude palm oil to 6.5 percent from 1.5 percent is another blow to farmers as it has caused prices to drop to around 1,000 rupiah a kilogram from 1,200 rupiah.

"I can't rely on palm oil alone to survive, especially because the price of fertilizer is very high," said Juanda Peranginanginthe, a 25-year-old farmer who cultivates 70 palm oil trees inherited from his father.

Farmers bear the brunt of the increased excise tax because refiners now refuse to buy fresh fruit bunches without a discount, said Asmar Arsjad, head of the Indonesian Palm Oil Farmers Association, which represents 5 million smallholders.

Indonesia has 6.07 million hectares of land planted with palm oil, of which 45 percent is owned by private firms. Smallholders own 43 percent of the country's palm oil plantations while state plantation firms own the rest.

Indonesia raised the export tax for crude palm oil and its by- products to stabilize domestic cooking oil prices which surged due to global palm oil price hikes and dealt a blow to millions of poor Indonesians who rely on the oil as a staple food.

Rusman Sihombing, a driver who has been working for a palm oil collector for five years, said he has to transport 5,000 kilograms of the fruit to break even due to the paltry fees he receives for hauling the crops to refiners. "I am not sure if the increase in (palm oil) prices actually has an impact on people here," he said.

Indonesia, Japan ink free trade pact

Agence France Presse - August 20, 2007

Nabiha Shahab, Jakarta – Indonesia and Japan inked a wide- ranging free trade pact Monday during a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is on the first stop of a three-nation tour through Asia.

Abe and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed the deal, which has been under negotiation for more than two years and is Japan's eighth such agreement, after the pair held closed-door bilateral talks.

The Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will see reductions to zero for more than 90 percent of Japan's tariffs on 9,275 items, worth some 99 percent of the value of exports there from Southeast Asia's largest economy.

The cuts are significant as Japan is Indonesia's biggest trading partner and one of its biggest investors. Japan has also offered a broad package of technical and other assistance as part of the deal.

Around 80 percent of the Japanese tariffs will be eliminated as soon as the pact is implemented, while the remaining 10 percent are to be reduced to zero within three to 10 years.

Meanwhile around 93 percent of Indonesia's 11,163 tariffs, or 92 percent of the value of Japanese exports to Indonesia, will be reduced.

Around 58 percent of the tariffs will become zero when the pact comes into force, while the remainder – tariffs already low or on items where there is little trade – will gradually be reduced to zero within three to 10 years.

The deal also calls for the two nations to strengthen their cooperation on energy and mineral resource security, a key issue for energy-hungry Japan.

Indonesia is Japan's biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplier but it has warned it cannot guarantee a renewal of contracts beyond 2010-2011 due to growing domestic demand.

Indonesia's exports to Japan were worth 21.7 billion dollars in 2006, more than half of which was fuels such as LNG and coal. Imports from Japan stood at 5.5 billion dollars over the same period, mostly machinery and manufactured goods.

The deal also provides for cooperation in facilitating trade by simplifying customs procedures, coordination in energy sector investment, working together to protect intellectual property rights, and eliminating anti-competitive activity.

Both sides will also establish a scheme where nurses and careworkers will be permitted to work as expatriates, a document from the Japanese embassy here said.

Japan's first free trade agreement was with Singapore, and it took effect in late 2002. It has since agreed to deals with Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand, while negotiations are ongoing with South Korea and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a whole.

Later on Monday the visiting prime minister will meet with Vice President Yusuf Kalla before addressing a Japan-Indonesian business forum and making a policy speech on ASEAN. Indonesia hosts the regional body's secretariat.

Around 1,000 Japanese companies operate in Indonesia, employing some 200,000 people.

The prime minister, accompanied by his wife Akie Abe, officials and a large delegation of Japanese businessmen, will meet with Indonesians who have studied in Japan and lay a wreath at the Hero Cemetery in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Abe will then head to India and Malaysia. Abe's Indonesia visit reciprocates a trip to Tokyo last November by Yudhoyono.

Government pins hopes on infrastructure to drive growth

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – Boosting infrastructure development to help drive growth and create jobs, while improving education and public health services, will be the government's priority in next year's budget.

As part of this plan, seven ministries will receive significant allocation increases in the 2008 draft budget. These are the public works, transportation, agriculture, energy and mineral resources, education, religious affairs and health ministries.

"Next year's budget will signify a 'reorientation' of government spending, making it more efficient and effective," Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono said last Thursday.

"More spending will be directed toward efforts to 'de-bottleneck' our infrastructure, for rural development programs and for improving public welfare. We will try to improve social welfare not only indirectly through better development and higher growth, but also directly by financing related programs with the budget."

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said fiscal policy next year would be more stimulus oriented, marked by higher spending and deficits, after a period of budget consolidation.

Over the past three years, Indonesia's budget spending has mostly been used to cover such "overhead costs" as the government's operational needs, debt repayments and subsidies.

In the 2008 draft budget, the government calls for a 48 percent increase in capital expenditures to Rp 101.5 trillion (US$11.3 billion), and a 16 percent cut in routine expenditures to Rp 52.4 trillion.

Salary increases for civil servants, aimed at improving the bureaucracy, will increase personnel spending 29 percent to Rp 129.5 trillion.

In relation to next year's rise in capital expenditures, the Publics Works Ministry will see its budget jump 41 percent to Rp 35.6 trillion.

Some Rp 15.5 trillion will be used for the construction of highways in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Papua, Nusa Tenggara, Java and Bali, while another Rp 3.1 trillion will be used for maintaining the country's road networks.

The government will allocate up to Rp 2 trillion for infrastructure development support funds, which may be needed for project guarantees.

The Transportation Ministry will see its budget increase 64 percent to Rp 16.2 trillion, with the money aimed at improving and building railways, seaports and air transportation systems.

Planned new airports include Kualanamu airport in Medan, North Sumatra, and Hasanuddin airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi.

The Education Ministry will see its budget more than double to Rp 48.3 trillion next year, with the money to be used for the improvement of schools and to raise the living standards of teachers.

The Religious Affairs Ministry, which supervises Islamic boarding schools, will see its budget increase to Rp 16.1 trillion. The Health Ministry's budget will almost triple to Rp 18.8 trillion, to improve public health services and health insurance schemes for the poor.

The 2008 draft budget will increase its total allocation for education by 17 percent to Rp 61.4 trillion, and for health by 4 percent to Rp 16.8 trillion.

2008 state budget assumptions overly optimistic: Analysts

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2007

Andi Haswidi, Jakarta – Mixed verdicts greeted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's speech on the 2008 state budget bill Thursday, which highlighted figures and assumptions many analysts deemed as being overly optimistic.

In his annual state of the nation speech, Yudhoyono projected the country's economy would grow by 6.8 percent next year, with inflation safely guarded at 6 percent and the BI rate at 7.5 percent. He predicted the value of the rupiah would average Rp 9,100 to the US dollar and the price of oil would average $60 a barrel.

Chatib Basri, the executive director of the Institute for Economic and Social Research at the University of Indonesia (LPEM-UI), supported Yudhoyono's assumptions, describing them as being reasonable and based on justifiable targets.

To achieve the growth target, which is higher than this year's estimate of 6.3 percent, the government would naturally increase spending on infrastructure projects, which would directly boost economic growth, employment and poverty alleviation, he said.

"Infrastructure projects under the public works department and transportation can rectify many issues that cause supply constraints, which in turn can also dampen inflation," he said.

Under the 2008 state budget bill, which will be deliberated in the House of Representatives before being approved, the government will spend Rp 101.5 trillion on capital goods, up 48 percent from this year's budget. Most of the spending will be on infrastructure projects.

The targets are realistic, at least on paper, Chatib said, adding that it was now up to the government to materialize them.

However, the chairman of Indonesia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), Mohammad S. Hidayat, said the 6.8 percent growth assumption was unrealistic. "It's too optimistic, 6.5 percent would have been more reasonable," he told reporters at the House of Representatives after the President's speech.

Despite applauding the government's plan to raise spending on infrastructure, Hidayat was doubtful the allocation would be disbursed as planned, citing as an example the fact the government has only disbursed 22 percept of this year's total allocation.

"It is unrealistic. I don't think the government can turn this higher allocation plan into a reality," senior lawmaker Emir Moeis, who is also the House's budget committee vice chairman, said.

Emir said failing to meet the assumed economic growth rate would also jeopardize other budgetary targets, pointing to a case in 2006 when the government fell short of its tax income collection target by almost Rp 18 trillion.

"Failing to reach the tax income target could only mean two things: weak tax office enforcement or that real economic growth was lower than predicted."

Economist Ichsanudin Noorsy questioned the President's assumptions on the currency and the central bank rates.

"The actual condition of our economic structure is still fragile, shown by the impact of the US subprime mortgage crisis, which has brought down the value of our currency to approximately Rp 9,500 to the dollar," Noorsy said.

Fauzi Ichsan, a global economist at Standard Chartered, agreed the President's 6.8 percent growth target was optimistic compared to the market consensus from various surveys that averaged 6.1 percent.

"The growth target is ambitious... I fear that it is political in nature, without calculating the real market condition," said Fauzi, who is also the bank's vice president.

Investments in Indonesia grows, skepticism remains

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2007

Alice Coster, Jakarta – The Indonesian court system was the worst of all Indonesian government institutions and required a "complete overhaul", said a foreign lawyer speaking at a panel discussion on Indonesia's trade and investment prospects in Jakarta on Wednesday.

US attorney Andrew Sriro, from the Indonesian law firm Dyah Ersita and Partners and author of Sriro's Desk Reference of Indonesian Law, said Indonesia exists in an environment where the rule of law is "very weak".

A lack of respect in the community, antiquated procedures, lack of access to law, and career judges without practical experience all work against Indonesian justice, said Sriro.

"There are honest judges, but there are too many ready to prejudice their impartiality for economic gain. The entire system has to be scrapped and rebuilt," he said. "It is the hardest system to rebuild, requiring a radical shift, perhaps to a common law system."

Sriro called for a verbatim court reporting system, publication of all judgments and access to evidence for all parties.

"A laziness has developed in Indonesia, based upon its reputation where everything can be arranged through corruption", Sriro said. "There is no reason to be overly concerned with the law because it is all going to come down to money in the end."

The lawyer said this contributes to businesses starting to operate outside of the law "digging a hole and waiting for an explosion and then seeking assistance through corruption."

Sriro did say there were some improvements to the government's new investment law to attract foreign investors in the form of extended land rights and the extension of limited-stay permits.

The deputy for the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), Dharmawan Djajusman, told the panel discussion that the government was endeavoring to improve Indonesia's image to attract foreign investors.

This was being done through the new investment law, which seeks to give equal treatment to foreign investors, he said. It also planned to integrate investment services and grant extended visas and extend land rights to boost employment opportunities and spur growth.

Also speaking at the investment panel discussion, John Prasetio, vice chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the past six months had seen an increase in investment sentiment through new investment law and new tax administration. He said foreign companies were beginning to look at Indonesia as an important investment destination.

Prasetio said Indonesia rated higher than the Philippines and Malaysia within ASEAN countries as a growing market for potential investment, but was behind countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.

He said this was because these countries are seen as being more hospitable to companies planning to produce cheap goods for export, whereas Indonesia was behind in the regional production network.

Prasetio said some of the major concerns facing foreign investors included political, social and macro-economic instability. There were also problems with the legal and regulatory environment as well as economic policy uncertainty.

Indonesia is perceived "to be not the most outstanding place to do business", Prasetio said. "On the ground investors are still seeing policies being wrongly implemented and some rules not being enforced."

Referring to a World Bank report, Prasetio said Indonesia ranked poorly in effectiveness of government, rule of law and corruption. "The report suggests there is a credibility gap", he said. "Investors don't think the Government has the capacity to produce and implement high quality policies to help private sectors to develop."

Foreign joint ventures dominate financing firms

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2007

Jakarta – Foreign joint venture companies, with greater capitalization at their disposal, dominated the country's non- bank financial services last year, controlling the majority of total financing.

Newly elected chairman of the Indonesian Financial Services Association (APPI), Wiwie Kurnia, said here Wednesday that 37 foreign joint venture non-bank financial firms in the 140-member association accounted for 60 percent to the industry's total loans of Rp 92.8 trillion (around US$9.92 billion) in 2006.

This year, he said, the foreign joint venture companies will continue controlling a majority share of total financing, expected to increase 40 percent to Rp 130 trillion.

"They can work better because they have strong capitalization. They also receive support from their holding companies," said Wiwie, who is also president director of PT Mega Central Finance.

He said nearly all of the joint venture firms were affiliated with Japanese companies. Among existing foreign joint venture firms are PT Orix Indonesia Finance, PT Summit Oto Finance, PT Oto Multiartha and PT GE Finance Indonesia.

Wiwie said in the first semester of this year, the value of disbursed loans increased by more than 20 percent to around Rp 50 trillion, from around Rp 40 trillion in the same period last year.

"We expect the value to rise by 40 percent in the second semester with the decline of Bank Indonesia's key interest rate. It shows a trend of further declining, so we're upbeat the industry will experience higher growth in the next few years," he said, adding that financing businesses depended on the key interest rate, which now stands at 8.25 percent.

Wiwie said non-bank financial services still had a lot of room to grow, especially in the automotive sector, which absorbed around 80 percent of total loans. The heavy machinery sector absorbed around 15 percent and the electronics sector less than 5 percent.

He said automotive and heavy machinery financing would experience growth because improving economic conditions will encourage people to buy automobiles and motorcycles, and allow industrial companies to purchase machinery.

He also announced the APPI's executives for the 2007-2010 term.

Wiwie replaces outgoing chairman Susilo Sudjono, PT SUN Finance's president director, who joins the association's advisory council. Dennis Firmansjah, president director of PT IFS Capital Indonesia, was reelected as secretary-general, and Henry Koenaifi, president director of PT BCA Finance, retained his position as treasurer.

 Opinion & analysis

Yudhoyono's speech offers pretty words, few realities

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – It was President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's third state-of-the-nation address, but whopping figures and complicated words go in one ear and out the other for those battling the harsh realities of life, observers said.

Yudhoyono delivered the annual speech Thursday, stressing next year's development programs would be focused across eight fields, including elevated investment and bureaucracy reform, disaster management, pain-free access to healthcare and education, graft combat and bird flu mitigation.

"I thought it was a nicely-crafted speech that touched on the major issues the administration is facing," said Golkar Party deputy Ferry Mursyidan Baldan. "What's important is to get the plans out there and make them tangible."

Zulkifli Hasan from the National Mandate Party (PAN) said he concurred on the extensive range of the issues brought up in the speech, but he said he took notes on the details of how the government would accomplish its plans.

Both lawmakers said the 2008 plans had been in place for the last two years and were merely a detailed version of Yudhoyono's 2004 presidential campaign. They said his leadership failure had so far been blamed on a string of natural and man-made disasters since he came to power.

"It's indeed difficult to realize plans when something as big as the tsunami or the Sidoarjo mudflow comes about," Sulkifli said. "The response should've been a crystal-clear disaster management, which we have yet to see."

Legislator Effendi Choirie from the National Awakening Party (PKB) said Thursday's speech lacked assertion and details on some of the issues. "He did not touch on the substance of the resolutions, such as the Sidoarjo mudflow or the government's (ongoing) failure to allocate 20 percent of the budget to the education sector," Effendi said.

In his speech, Yudhoyono said he would create a government- sanctioned team for handling disasters and said he had been given the wrong impression about the Sidoarjo mud flow compensation process. The firm responsible for the mudflow is affiliated with Yudhoyono's minister and campaign investor Aburizal Bakrie.

Communication analyst Effendi Ghazali said the speech "served as a pale justification" for the President's work, but should have been a "crucial attempt to elaborate the core problems being faced or to specify the solution plans".

Lawmakers also pointed to bureaucracy reform as a priority because it was the root cause behind the country's high-economy and poor investment appeal.

Yudhoyono said in his speech that after three years in office, only a few institutions were worth mentioning for their bureaucracy reform – the Finance Ministry, the Supreme Court, the Office for State Minister of Administrative Reform and the Supreme Audit Agency.

Speech or preach

Jakarta Post Editorial - August 18, 2007

There was a time when thousands of people would gather to hear president Sukarno deliver the annual state of the union address in person, and millions more across the country would be glued to radios.

An excellent orator, the founding president could always be counted on to deliver fiery speeches filled with fresh ideas and exciting new proposals, making the state of the union address an eagerly awaited occasion.

Older Indonesians still recall these fiery, flowery speeches, including ones with titles such as "Never abandon history", "The revolution is not over" and "Only a nation with self-reliance can become a great nation", or his memorable address at the 1962 UN General Assembly, "To build the world anew".

Few would argue with the statement that leaders win respect and trust from their words as well as their actions. People immortalize great leaders of the past by quoting their words.

The power of words helps nations withstand and overcome difficulties during their most critical times, such as during the early years of Indonesia's independence.

Unfortunately, it was words of encouragement that were absent from the state of the union address delivered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday.

From beginning to end, the speech was little more than a list of what the President claimed to be the achievements of his administration. The rest was a to-do list for the country.

With Indonesia still struggling to rebuild from the multi- dimensional crisis that struck a decade ago, there is a need for a leader who can play an inspirational role.

That Yudhoyono scored a landslide win in the landmark direct presidential election almost three years ago reflected the great expectations that he would guide Indonesia to a better future.

Yudhoyono's speech lacked a theme or focus, not to mention any indication of the direction in which Indonesia should be heading in the coming years. It seemed that the speech was intended to touch on many issues, ranging from poverty to separatist movements, without really discussing any of them. This resulted in a complete lack of necessary details to help us identify and deal with our problems.

A state of the union address would be an event worth waiting for if it offered new insight.

Take, for example, our neighbors in Singapore, who can expect something new with every National Day speech. In 2006 it was the country's future in a rapidly changing world and in 2005 the concern about a fast growing China.

Post-Sukarno, the national address here has become mere ritual. It is prepared by experts and speechwriters, discouraging the president from straying from the script.

It comes as no surprise when those in attendance for the state of the union address at the House of Representatives building are spotted reading newspapers or sending messages on their cell phones as the speech is delivered.

Public speaking is an art, and not all leaders are blessed with oratory skills. It is then the President's team that plays a crucial role in translating the head of state's vision into a speech that will attract and hold the nation's attention. Otherwise, the speech faces the very real risk of being considered mere preaching.

The President requires a team willing and able to identify what the nation most needs. It is a tough job as the silent majority makes up the bulk of the country's population. Perhaps it is time for the President to start considering a new team.

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