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Indonesia News Digest 32 – August 24-31, 2007

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 News & issues

Military, police reform too slow

Jakarta Post - August 31, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – A professional study has slammed the government's efforts to reform the country's security sector, saying the military, police and intelligence bodies have been too slow to implement change legislated more than five years ago.

The Almanac of Reform in Indonesia's Security Sector concluded the military, police and intelligence groups were "dragging their feet toward full reform" that was supposed to see them with less power and more accountability.

The report launched Thursday was put together by the Indonesian Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (Lesperssi) and the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces.

Legislator Suripto at the House of Representatives Commission III on legal affairs said there remained a powerful mind-set within said security sectors that they had the right to stay involved in politics and private business.

"The attitude that prevailed for more than 30 years (during Soeharto's authoritarian New Order regime) has been hard to kill," Suripto said.

He said the business interests the military and police particularly had been encouraged to acquire in years past was a difficult trend to abolish. "This has been a hampering factor (to reform efforts) and has made any level of professionalism difficult to reach," Suripto said.

The 2004 law-mandated obligation for the military to transfer its non work-related shares in business ventures has to-date not been implemented.

Military analyst Kusnanto Anggoro said in the almanac efforts to reform the defense sector had diminished in the last five years. "The target of any reform efforts should be solving the technical and operational problems rather than sticking to political and on-paper reform," Kusnanto said.

The police force was separated from the military in 2000 and was supposedly tasked to handle internal security. However Kusnanto said the police force was "still failing to change its arrogant and power-abusing attitude despite massive refreshment in its structure and regulations".

Researcher and police observer Muradi said the absence of attitude change was most clearly evident in the police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob), a paramilitary unit of the force. He said Brimob would take more time to adjust to the concept of civilian police because it had initially enjoyed special powers.

But Muradi said if the Brimob was not reformed completely, the force would become an enemy of the Indonesian people, who were largely focused on democracy and freedom.

Bhatara Ibnu Reza of the rights group Imparsial analyzed various security-related bills that have articles against the idea of rights-protection and professionalism. The bills he studied for the almanac included the intelligence bill, which would see intelligence bodies able to arrest and detain people. He also studied a bill on national security, which would see the military tasked with assisting local administrations in their operations.

Bhatara said the Indonesia government and its parliament had no other choice but to immediately implement and enforce legislated reforms to ensure the country moved ahead as planned.

Walhi slams Australia, terror allegation

Jakarta Post - August 30, 2007

Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta – Allegations made Wednesday by Australian Senator Ian MacDonald and president of mining company PT Newmont Minahasa Raya Richard Ness that an Indonesian environment group has connections to terrorist activities have been slammed as baseless and outrageous by the group's leadership.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) said it was not involved in activities with the Islamic Forum (FUI), an alliance of Islamic mass organizations, including the Indonesian Muslim Assembly (MMI) and Hizbut Tahrir.

The accusation was made during a parliamentary session on August 9 by MacDonald. He said Walhi's connection with the FUI was proven when FUI held a demonstration at the South Jakarta District Court on July 19 during a session of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's case against police Detachment 88 anti-terror unit.

The court session was being held on the same day but was separate to an ongoing civil case between Walhi and Newmont. In FUI flyers distributed during the rally, the Islamic forum used Walhi's name and linked their protest to the Walhi versus Newmont case.

MacDonald also alleged Walhi's executive director, Chalid Muhammad, was involved in a violent rally outside the U.S Embassy in April wearing a full Islamic robe.

In addition, on August 9, Newmont's president Ness allegedly sent a letter to the Friends of the Earth (FoE) in Australia undermining Walhi's reputation as an environmental group. The FoE then informed Walhi about Ness' allegations.

During a press conference Wednesday, Walhi council chairman Johnson Panjaitan said the accusation had defamed his organization and he demanded an apology.

"To (say) Walhi has a connection with terrorist organizations is completely baseless and outrageous," Johnson said. "Walhi has campaigned environmental issues for 27 years with support from communities and has proven its non-violent track record," he said.

Walhi said the allegations were part of systematic efforts to stop the group's environmental movements and its criticism of Newmont's activities. Walhi said it had for seven years defended a community in Buyat Bay in North Sulawesi, which was polluted by Newmont's activities.

The systematic efforts began with a lawsuit by Newmont against environmental activists in North Sulawesi's provincial capital Manado, Walhi said. Another lawsuit was filed against the New York Times for publishing Newmont's operations. Newmont followed this action by accusing Walhi of being attached to terrorist activities.

"Their efforts to discredit Walhi will not stop us from doing our activities and criticizing environmental vandals," Walhi's Chalid said.

To oppose the allegations, Walhi said it has sent letters to the Australian parliament, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and House of Representatives demanding Australia and Newmont apologize.

Some Indonesians long for ousted ruler

Associated Press - August 26, 2007

Anthony Deutsch, Bekasi – The downfall of former Indonesian dictator Suharto, one of the most corrupt and brutal rulers of the last century, swept in an era of political freedom and hope for a better future.

But nearly a decade later, many in this nation of 235 million remain desperately poor. And in dozens of interviews with laborers, traders, hotel owners and entrepreneurs, Indonesians expressed what was once unthinkable – nostalgia for the economic stability of his authoritarian, US-backed regime.

"What people want, what I want, is a return to Suharto's time," said Boan, a peasant who struggles to feed his three children by toiling in fields owned by wealthy farmers. "Life is bitter now compared to then."

He can barely pay for once-subsidized food and fuel, he said. And despite promises from authorities, the road in his village was never repaved after it was washed out in flooding six months ago.

"This government doesn't care about us," said Boan, sitting outside his dirt-floored home in Bekasi, near Jakarta, the capital, his worn feet caked in mud from the rice paddy.

The new sentiment toward Suharto, who is now 86, reflects how hard the transition to democracy has been in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Indonesia, a vast country of around 17,000 islands, endured centuries of colonization by the Portuguese, British and Dutch before being occupied by the Japanese during World War II. And now, with decentralization, it finds itself grappling with new layers of corruption, limited foreign investment and a string of terrorist attacks by Islamic militants.

Much of the current malaise is financial. While some people interviewed still oppose Suharto because of the rights abuses during his rule, especially in remote provinces where the military brutally suppressed separatists, almost all said they were financially better off 10 years ago.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the fourth head of state since Suharto's ouster, has yet to make good on promises to cut poverty since his election three years ago. Around half the population still lives on less than $2 a day, and democracy can be a hard sell if it fails to provide prosperity.

Indonesia's recovery from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis was slower than that of its smaller neighbors. The nation was thrust into a recession the World Bank described at the time as "the most dramatic economic collapse anywhere in 50 years."

After contracting 13 percent at the peak of the crisis, the economy has rebounded. But the disparity between rich and poor is growing, with a fifth of the rural population living below the government poverty line. Inflation is up, and so is unemployment, now at 10 percent.

The public perception is that the average Indonesian hasn't benefited enough from the recovery, said International Monetary Fund country director Stephen Schwartz. "There needs to be a system in place to protect the most vulnerable groups," he said. "Otherwise there will be resistance to keep the economy open."

Yudhoyono's government recognizes that widespread poverty can lead to political instability, and is struggling to fund education, medical care and infrastructure. Some $5.5 billion was allocated for poverty relief this year alone, including clean water supplies, electricity and affordable housing.

It is "the most important problem" facing the government today, said Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, whose budget was recently slashed to finance rural development and compensate victims of a long stream of natural disasters.

But for many in the countryside, it's not enough. "If you go to the village level, they prefer a dictatorship to what they see, at times, as a chaotic democratic system," said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, head of research at the Habibie Center, a political think tank.

The economy has been further hurt by terrorism, which has severely damaged Indonesia's tourism sector. After Sept. 11, 2001, suicide bombers killed more than 240 people on the resort island of Bali and in Jakarta, many of them Western tourists. Suharto, by contrast, cracked hard on Islamic militants in the 1980s.

These days Suharto lives a secluded life in a mansion on a leafy lane in Jakarta. In June, dozens of supporters unraveled banners wishing him a happy birthday at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, where a decade ago tens of thousands angrily chanted for his resignation. The army general seized power in a 1965 coup that left up to half a million people dead and ruled the country with an iron fist for the next 32 years, killing or imprisoning hundreds of thousands of political opponents. Suharto and his family amassed up to $35 billion by exploiting the country's vast mineral wealth.

Yet he also oversaw decades of nearly uninterrupted economic growth, while halving the poverty rate, expanding national health care, roads and schools, and ending a dependence on foreign rice imports.

Suharto's rule ended in 1998 after the financial crash caused the prices of everyday goods to skyrocket, triggering nationwide riots and massive pro-democracy rallies. He has evaded prosecution on charges of embezzling state funds, with lawyers successfully arguing he is too ill to stand trial. Efforts to punish him for killings also have gone nowhere, in part because his family and supporters still have a grip on politics or decision-making, and once massive demonstrations calling for him to be imprisoned dried up several years ago.

In the northwestern province of Aceh, where his military tortured political dissidents and killed thousands in a war against separatists, many people still hold bitter memories of him.

"Today we no longer fear the soldiers," said Maisarah, a 35-year-old housewife. "Back then it may have been safer, more stable, but that was only because the leader was ruling with an iron fist."

Yet other Indonesians now prefer to remember the dictator's benevolent side.

Amad, 31, who makes $1.60 a day trading used plastic and cardboard, is more worried about feeding his pregnant wife than bringing Suharto to trial. "Now we cannot afford anything," he said, pushing a handcart down a potholed track. "It was better then than now."

Struggling for rights in a self-reliant Way

Kompas - August 27, 2007

Jakarta – The poor in this country must be able to rise up themselves, self-reliantly and demand their rights that the state guarantee their prosperity. This must be done as the government is no longer able to lead Indonesia to rise up.

This was the view presented by the Indonesianist from the University of Sydney, Australia, Max Lane in a discussion with the theme, "Self-reliant my nation – sovereign my country" organised as part of the 5th Congress of the Indonesian Buddhist Students Association. Other speakers were Franz Magnis-Suseno from the Driyarkara Higher Institute of Philosophy Jakarta, the economist Sri-Edi Swasono, and the labour activist Dita Indah Sari.

According to Lane, the poor will be only be able to rise up under their own power if they can come into motion through their own organisations. Through having their own organisations, they can exercise some control and surveillance over the government.

"This kind of control and surveillance is important, The poor, if they organise themselves, will be able to participate in determining policies, especially how the resources of Indonesian are to be used", said Lane again.

Lane added that the young generation of intellectuals must be active in helping win this kind of self-reliance/ability to stand on own feet. But, unfortunately, the Indonesian education system doesn't encourage that.

According to Lane, schools and universities in Indonesia are allowed to be just second or third class in International standards. This was a great pity, said Lane who is also author of Unfinished Nation.

"Indeed education in Australia is subsided by millions of dollars from the Indonesian economy. This is a result of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians choose to pay for expensive education in Australia," said Lane.

On the other hand, Dita requested that the government not to view the various dissatisfactions in regions such as Papua and Aceh through the glasses of a romantic nationalism. This discontent was a result of the injustices created by the government itself.

Dita also asked society, especially the young generation, not to be allergic to engaging in politics in order to fix the various problems and injustices that are happening. Society can become involved in the process of policy making through politics.

"We must not choose to distance ourselves from politics which is honest, true and clean:, she said.

SBY slams self-interested new regions

Jakarta Post - August 24, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono denounced Thursday power-oriented initiatives to create new autonomous regions, which he said exhausted state resources without benefiting the local people.

Yudhoyono said his review of 148 out of the 173 new regions established since the original regional autonomy law was passed in 1999 showed they were mired in problems and unable to perform due to a lack of experience and preparation prior to their establishment.

"It's about time I used clear language on this... we must be strict and brave to turn down demands for new autonomous regions that have no urgency or clear benefits," said Yudhoyono in his annual speech to the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

It was a repeat of his speech last year, although this time his frustration was clearer and bolder.

Proposals to establish new autonomous regions by splitting up provinces or regencies are often attached to attempts to gain power and money, and backed by claims that the move would be good for the local people.

Yudhoyono said new autonomous regions resulted in cutbacks on funds allotted for other, more essential, programs. Moves to create new autonomy regions should be carefully studied, he said.

"What peeves me too is the mentality of local administrations that, despite their autonomy, remain dependent on the central government," he said.

The President's criticism was targeted at administrations demanding a larger share of local funds but which are spending little of them and their local revenue on aggressive development.

He slammed the administrations for not having adequate skills and capacity to draft a local budget, and not having a good relations with the local councils.

He referred to the some Rp 96 trillion (over US$10 billion) of local administrations' savings that were still deposited in the bank at the start of the second quarter of the year, and the Rp 50 trillion in Bank Indonesia certificates by mid-August.

"It's ironic there's a staggering amount of funds sitting idly amid needs for capital in infrastructure or the real sectors," said Yudhoyono.

Autonomy gives regions more power in deciding on many issues – except foreign politics, defense and security, fiscal and monetary policy, religion and the judiciary.

The President also blamed developmental slowness on the local ordinances that are against the law and government regulations.

"These things have negative impacts on the local economy and make it harder to overcome poverty and unemployment," he said.

DPD Speaker Ginandjar Kartasasmita concurred that a lack of experience had resulted in struggling autonomous regions.

But he also lashed out at the central government, saying its die-hard centralized attitude was also keeping autonomy from working.

Yudhoyono defended his decision not to allot the constitutionally mandated 20 percent of the State Budget for education, suggesting that doing so would affect poverty alleviation funds.

"What we deal with in drafting the state budget is that we cannot disregard the allocation for poverty alleviation. But the budget for education will go up from 11.8 percent this year to 12.3 percent," he said.

The President also took time to encourage his citizens to prefer local products, calling on state-owned firms and local private producers to both upgrade quality and bring down prices.


Women dominate divorce cases at Banda Aceh Islamic Court

Jakarta Post - August 25, 2007

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – Accompanied by her mother, "Dedek" sat nervously in the Banda Aceh Islamic Court waiting to hear if her request for a divorce would be granted. There was no sign of her estranged husband.

"I requested a divorce because I couldn't take it anymore. I am sure the court will grant my request," she said.

The 32-year-old filed for divorce on the basis that her husband regularly physically abused her and acted jealously. "This is my final decision. I have given him chances to change in the past," she said.

Following the devastating tsunami that hit Aceh in 2004, the Banda Aceh Islamic Court has heard hundreds of divorce cases, mostly filed by women.

Aside from well-educated women who are well informed of their rights, housewives and uneducated women living in remote areas of the province also regularly file for divorce.

"In June this year, 93 women filed for divorce at the Banda Aceh Islamic Court. Only 34 divorce cases were filed by men," said Basri SH, a staff member at the court.

He said in most cases, the reasons women gave for seeking divorce made more sense than those of men. Cases filed by women, who are often seen as victims, generally do not spend long in court.

"Ninety percent of women who file for divorce do so because their husbands are irresponsible or engage in polygamy," Basri said. Other women file for divorce because they are tired of fighting with their husbands or being the victims of domestic violence, he said.

So far this month the court has received 58 divorce submissions. Of this number, 45 cases were filed by women. Aside from divorce cases, the Islamic Court also deals with other matters, including issuing permits for polygamy and hearing inheritance disputes.

 West Papua

West Papua: a missed opportunity for diplomacy

Canberra Times - August 30, 2007

Jake Lynch – Prime Minister John Howard's handshake with George W. Bush at the APEC summit will be greeted with howls of protest as his welcome for a President widely seen as a warmonger. But it is in his meeting with Indonesia's leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, that the Prime Minister's reputation, at least in our own quadrant of the globe, as a peacemaker will be at stake.

At the top of the two men's agenda is or should be the worsening plight of West Papua. If the Howard Government can improve the prospects there, it would add to a record of constructive interventions which any leader would be proud to carry off into the sunset or into a new term in office.

One of Howard's first international forays, back in 1996, was to send Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to the United Nations to present the recommendations of the Canberra Commission to eliminate all remaining stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Australia spoke on behalf of a Pacific region sickened by French cynicism over the test bombing at Mururoa Atoll.

Then, East Timor blew up in the Prime Minister's face and, after overcoming initial reluctance, he signed the cheques to send Australian troops. Some US State Department officials would have preferred a UN detachment but, in the event, the diggers took the strain and offered protection from militias sponsored by ill- intentioned elements in Jakarta.

By then, Australia had joined New Zealand in helping to bring an end to the civil war in Bougainville, where a decade of fighting had claimed over 20,000 lives, with the team from Canberra, again under Downer, credited with piloting the deal through the final hard yards. Later, in Solomon Islands, a military and police mission led by Australia restored order and created space for recovery from another nasty little conflict.

On Boxing Day 2004, the Asian tsunami struck, and Australians dug deep to donate to relief efforts. Howard stepped in to announce the Government would match their generosity with a grant and soft loan to Indonesia for the reconstruction of Aceh. Crucially, Indonesia's acceptance that outside help was needed effectively opened up the province. The influx of international attention and assistance is credited by many with catalysing the peace process there another notch, so to speak, on the Prime Minister's olive branch.

The new frontier for the Australian Defence Force is a Status of Forces Agreement with the Philippines. It's controversial, as the army is blamed for complicity in hundreds of mysterious civilian deaths. But when President Gloria Arroyo came to Parliament House, back in May, Howard went out of his way to draw attention to Australia's support for human rights initiatives.

The phrase "human rights" does not even crop up in the new security pact Australia has agreed with Indonesia, however.

Under Yudhoyono, Indonesia signed up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with its famous Article 19 guaranteeing the right to hold opinions without interference, and to freedom of expression, including the freedom to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media".

Clearly, then, no more Papuans should now be thrown in jail for non-violent protest, raising flags or making speeches. But listen to the new military commander for the province, Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian. "Anyone who tends towards separatism will be crushed, we are not afraid of human rights." Siagian, incidentally, has been indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor, but never tried.

Up to now, the Howard Government, like many in the international community, has invested its hopes in a special autonomy deal for West Papua, but a recent conference at Sydney University heard from senior Papuan speakers that people have lost faith in this. Extra revenues are coming in, but, far from delivering real benefits visible in everyday life, they are being squandered on bureaucracy as administrative layers proliferate.

Above all, nothing is being done to rein in the military. To the contrary, in fact, recent reports suggest that the traditional means of the Suharto dictatorship for removing its enemies their sudden disappearance is being revived under Siagian. Ever more troops are coming in displaced, as they now are, from Timor and Aceh.

Howard needs to encourage Yudhoyono to seek dialogue with the people of West Papua, and to enable it by sticking to his commitments under the international covenant. A friendly future historian might argue that an Australian Prime Minister had no choice but to show willing when the Bush Administration wanted political cover for the invasion of Iraq, though Howard carefully kept Australia's commitment to a minimum and its troops out of harm's way.

In his own backyard, meanwhile, he could enjoy a strong reputation as a peacemaker. Bringing hope to the people of West Papua might just seal it.

[Associate Professor Jake Lynch is director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.]

Mysterious killings seek to silence Papuan voices

Melbourne Age - August 26, 2007

Tom Hyland – Matius Bunai was last seen alive three weeks ago today when he left a church service in the town of Nabire in the Indonesian province of Papua. His body, beaten and lacerated, was found dumped in the street the following morning.

His neighbour, Ones Keiya, was still alive, just, when he was found with similar wounds, in similar circumstances, two weeks before. He died in hospital two hours later.

A report by a church worker in Nabire said both men had similar wounds: smashed foreheads and deep knife cuts.

Mr Bunai, 29, was a civil servant employed by the Indonesian police and a youth worker with the Kingmi Protestant church. Mr Keiya, 31, a farmer, was in the same congregation. Like Mr Bunai, he was single and a member of the indigenous Mee tribal group.

No one saw who killed them, and the church report obtained by The Sunday Age described their deaths as "mysterious killings" – a term with a particular meaning in Indonesia. It suggests there's no mystery at all.

The term emerged in the mid-1980s, when Indonesian soldiers and police killed about 5000 criminal suspects, mostly in Java. The killings remained unexplained until 1989, when then president Soeharto admitted ordering them in a campaign of "shock therapy".

Church workers who investigated the Nabire killings believe they, too, were carried out by Indonesian security forces – part of a largely hidden but steady trickle of murders, designed to intimidate Papuans seeking independence.

With churches stepping into the void left by a crackdown that has effectively silenced Papuan nationalists, clergy and church workers are increasingly targeted for harassment, intimidation and worse.

The targets include the Reverend Socratez Yoman, head of the Baptist churches in Papua and an outspoken critic of human rights abuses. He alleges Indonesian police and army intelligence officers last month threatened him with a pistol outside his church in Jayapura, the Papuan provincial capital.

"Absolutely, I know about the pressure, the intimidation, the threats," he told The Sunday Age. "They are spying on us, following us, stopping us all the time."

The number of recent killings in the campaign to suppress independence activism is disputed, but evidence from human rights monitors suggest the figure, by past standards, is relatively small.

A report last month by Human Rights Watch listed eight killings, mostly by police, in the Central Highlands over the past two years.

Human Rights Watch said the fall of Soeharto and the introduction of "Special autonomy" giving Papuans greater self-government have helped ease tensions between Papuans and the Jakarta government. There had also been "some decrease" in military crackdowns and "sweeping" operations, due mainly to reduced resistance by pro- independence guerillas.

But at the same time, Human Rights Watch complained that "endemic" abuses were "deepening mistrust of the national government in Jakarta and potentially inflaming separatist tensions".

Melbourne academic Richard Chauvel, an expert on Papua who has recently visited the territory, characterises the anti-Papuan violence as systemic and strategic.

"It is systemic in the sense that it is an integral part of how the security forces interact with many sections of Papuan society," he said. It is strategic in that it is calculated "to create a certain atmosphere of varying degrees of intimidation".

The behaviour of the security forces reflected the military culture that pervaded the Soeharto regime, "where violence against unarmed Indonesian citizens was legitimate", said Dr Chauvel, director of the Australia asia Pacific Institute at Victoria University.

The fall of Soeharto in 1998 heralded a brief spring for Papuan nationalists, who could fly their flag and openly advocate independence. But freedom faded with the detention of leading nationalists in late 2000, and the murder by Indonesian troops of Papuan leader Theys Eluay in 2001.

"The democratic space for political activity and the free expression of political opinion in Papua itself, that's been closed down," said Dr Chauvel. "I'm not suggesting pro- independence sentiment has disappeared. What I'm suggesting is that its public expression and the public mobilisation for that objective has been closed down."

In this environment, church leaders play a critical and risky role. With their own communications networks inside the territory, as well as international links, then can gather and release information that the military would prefer not to come out.

But they risk being accused of promoting independence by security officers suspicious of churches, paranoid about outside interference, and fearful that Papua could follow East Timor and break away. Pastor Yoman said the clergy had no choice but to speak out. "They will never stop us, because we are talking about our dignity, our life," he said. "We're talking about peace and justice and equality. These are universal values."

He has no doubt who killed Mr Bunai and Mr Keiya: "Our experience for 44 years is that the Indonesian security attack and kill the Papuan people, everywhere."

In an attempt to ease tensions, the Jakarta Government has granted Papua a degree of autonomy, with control over funds and local administration. But implementing autonomy has been half- hearted and complicated by the division of the territory into two provinces, Papua and West Papua, with plans for a third.

Even with the carrot of autonomy, the stick of repression remains. Regardless of what Jakarta politicians say, security agencies remain the real power in Papua.

Last month, a senior army officer in Papua, Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, issued a blunt warning ahead of a meeting of a traditional Papuan council. "What is absolutely certain," he said, "is that anyone who tends towards separatism will be crushed by TNI (the Indonesian military). "In the interests of the Republic of Indonesia, we are not afraid of human rights."

Colonel Siagian knows how to carry out such threats. In 2003 he was indicted by UN investigators for murder and torture when he was based in East Timor in the run-up to the 1999 independence referendum. Jakarta refused to extradite him. Instead he was promoted and sent to Papua.

 Human rights/law

Intelligence bodies need reform: Activists

Jakarta Post - August 31, 2007

Jakarta – Political activists are calling for a radical reform of the country's intelligence agencies to prevent extrajudicial killings and the suppression of information.

Rafendi Djamin, coordinator of the Human Rights Watch Group, said the main task of intelligence bodies was to seek information related to the nation's security and analyze it, not to execute people.

"Intelligence agencies that kill people can be called "black" operations. They are used by powerful parties to assassinate people who oppose them," Rafendi told The Jakarta Post.

"This kind of action happened a lot during the Soeharto era and during the 1998 reform drive, when intelligence agencies disappeared many dissidents," he said.

Meanwhile, Usman Hamid from human rights body Kontras said intelligence agencies were not authorized to suppress the information they had gathered, let alone to kill people.

"According to the intelligence code of ethics, intelligence agents are forbidden to hurt anybody during information gathering in the field," Usman said Thursday.

Rafendi said reform of the intelligence sector should be conducted soon because many Soeharto-era cases remained unsolved. "Reform is urgently needed. The public must know that reform has not touched all issues yet, including the intelligence sector," he said.

He said the intelligence sector affected almost all the public sectors, but this important field was not fully reformed yet. "The government can use the Munir case to create a democratic intelligence system," Rafendi told reporters at a press conference concerning the Munir investigation and the reform of Indonesia's intelligence services.

Usman said the Munir case could also create momentum for cleaning up the image of the intelligence sector in Indonesia.

"Many people think the Munir case will diminish the intelligence agencies. But on the other hand, the settlement of the Munir case could be a turning point for the agency to conduct a reform," he said.

"New names have appeared on the case review, such as Asmini, Avi and Petruk. These people should be investigated thoroughly, including their roles in Munir's death. Don't only use them as additional evidence," said Usman. The three names were revealed during the acquittal review of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto.

On Wednesday, the third case review of Pollycarpus, who was convicted of Munir's murderer and then acquitted and released, brought testimony from Raymond "Ongen" J.J. Latuihamallo, who retracted his statement that he had seen Pollycarpus and Munir speaking at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafe in Singapore's Changi airport.

Ongen said he was forced to confess by police investigator Mathius Salempang. But the police defended the interrogation, saying that Mathius was not part of the process.

Meanwhile, Makmur Keliat of the University of Indonesia, said any reform of the agencies should also involve intelligence coordination as there were many agencies in Indonesia. "There should be a body which reports to the President, coordinating all of the country's intelligence agencies," he said.

Lack of coordination among agencies endangers the nation's security, he said. "The Maluku case is an example of weak coordination. It would not have happened if the agencies cooperated well," Rafendi said.

Last month, South Maluku Republic activists raised their flag in front of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his visit to Ambon. The flag was intended to show to Yudhoyono and national and international officials that the Maluku people still wanted their freedom.

Police defend actions in Munir witness interrogation

Jakarta Post - August 30, 2007

Jakarta – Police investigators defended Wednesday procedures used in the interrogation of a key witness in the Munir case who has now retracted his testimony.

Raymon "Ongen" J.J. Latuihamallo was due to testify at the acquittal review of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, who was initially convicted of the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.

In a court session last week Ongen retracted the parts of his original statement in which he claimed to have seen Pollycarpus carrying two beverages at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafe in Singapore's Changi Airport, and that he saw Pollycarpus and Munir speaking in the cafe.

Ongen said the police investigator, Mathius Salempang, threatened that he would be charged as a suspect in the murder case and would not be allowed to fly to the Netherlands to promote his album.

Mathius was then presented by the prosecutors to counter Ongen's statement. He said that as the leader of the investigation team in the case, most of the time he only received reports from his team members about developments in the investigation process.

"On April 2, Ongen came to the National Police Detective Division as a witness in the case. I was not there at that time," Brig. Gen. Mathius Salempang told the judges in the third court session of the review.

He added that one of the team's members, Sr. Comr. Pambudi Pamungkas, reported to him that Ongen refused to talk every time investigators asked him about the event in the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf cafe.

"Finally I went to see him and he asked me to call a preacher for him. I got him one," he said, adding that they later prayed together. "After that, we went to the investigation room and Ongen finally spoke," Mathius said.

He added that he was not part of the investigation process in the following days because he had meetings with expert witnesses for the case.

Mathius said that Pambudi then came to him again on April 4, reporting that the team had finished interrogating Ongen. He also said that Ongen asked permission to leave for the Netherlands. So he ordered Pambudi to let Ongen go.

"I was also not there when he signed the dossier. How could I threaten him?" Mathius said.

Ongen responded that Mathius had threatened him in front of the preacher and during his five-day detention at the National Police Headquarters and during the 22 days he was held at the police's Mobile Brigade headquarters.

He said later that the last two threats happened after he signed his statement.

According to Mathius, Ongen was being held in a protective step to guarantee his safety as a key witness in the case. "Besides, we did that based on a written request from his lawyer, Ozhak Sihotang," Mathius said.

Officer Pambudi, a member of the investigation team, who testified after Mathius, said that during the five interrogation sessions, Ongen was always accompanied by his lawyer except for the first session.

"All his testimony was recorded in the statement, which he and his lawyer read before they signed it," he said. Ongen said that while he and his lawyer had read the statement, he had signed it under pressure.

After the testimony of Mathius and Pambudi, the prosecutor also presented I Made Agus Genggeng Wirasuta, a forensic toxicology researcher at Udayana University, who confirmed that Munir died of arsenic poisoning.

He said Munir had consumed the arsenic orally and felt the impact between eight and nine hours afterwards. Munir died on Sept. 7, 2007 on Garuda flight 974 to Amsterdam, which included a stopover in Singapore. The next hearing session is scheduled for Sept. 12.

New evidence links spy agency to activist's murder

Green Left Weekly - August 29, 2007

James Balowski, Jakarta – New evidence has been presented in a judicial review of Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto – who was acquitted last year for murdering renowned human rights activist Munir – that links the murder with the National Intelligence agency (BIN).

Part of the new evidence presented by prosecutor Poltak Manulang to a Jakarta court on august 16 includes testimony from a junior BIN agent, Raden Mohammad Padma anwar (also known as Ucok). Ucok claims he and another agent, Sentot, received orders from a senior agent, Manunggal Maladi, to kill Munir before the 2004 election. He said that a number of plots were devised, including asking a paranormal to bewitch Munir, which did not work.

Ucok recalled an occasion when he had seen Priyanto in BIN's parking lot and Sentot had told him that Priyanto was a Garuda official there to meet high-ranking BIN officials. Not long after, Ucok testified that when he heard of Munir's death, Sentot told him it was "none of our business".

Munir died of arsenic poisoning on a Garuda flight from Jakarta to amsterdam on September 7, 2004. He had angered powerful military and intelligence figures by revealing human rights abuses in West Papua and aceh, along with military involvement in drug trafficking and illegal logging.

In December 2005, a court sentenced Priyanto to 14 years for the murder, noting that he had not acted alone. Priyanto once claimed to have been recruited by BIN in 2002 (although he now refutes this). The court heard that prior to the murder he made numerous phone calls to the former deputy head of the agency, Muchdi PR, a former elite special forces commander who was sacked following Munir's investigation into the 1998 abductions of student activists.

However last October, a Supreme Court verdict cleared Priyanto of the murder charges, leaving no-one to be held accountable.

Shortly after being elected president in 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised the public – and Munir's widow Suciwati – that he would personally ensure a thorough investigation of the case. He even described the murder as a "test case for the nation" and established an officially sanctioned fact-finding team (TPF).

In its final report submitted to the president in June 2005, the team found evidence that Munir's death was a "well-planned conspiracy" and named a number of Garuda executives and BIN officials who should be investigated. These recommendations were never taken up by police or at Priyanto's trial, and Yudhoyono has refused to make them public – even though the investigation's terms of reference requires this.

Three witnesses – all passengers on Munir's flight – testified that they saw Priyanto drink at a cafe with Munir during a stopover at Changi airport in Singapore. The prosecutor therefore concluded that Munir was poisoned at Changi airport and not aboard the plane, as was previously thought.

Manulang also cited a testimony from then Garuda executive director Indra Setiawan, saying he had received a recommendation from BIN deputy head as'ad instructing him to assign Priyanto as an aviation security officer on the fateful flight. Both Setiawan and another senior Garuda official are in custody and are expected to be charged with being accessories.

The prosecutors have requested that the judges reopen the case against Priyanto given the new evidence. They are asking why the Supreme Court – which ruled that Priyanto was guilty of using a falsified document to board Munir's flight but was not guilty of murder – did not insist on finding out why Priyanto needed to use the document, why he offered to swap his business-class seat with Munir, who was in economy, and why he had phoned Munir, whom he did not know, before the flight.

The Supreme Court has a history of releasing people who have high-level political backing, and many believe that the decision to release Priyanto was to silence him. On several occasions, his lawyer has claimed that Priyanto knows more about the murder than he is letting on.

Usman Hamid, the head of Kontras, a human rights group established by Munir, said it was essential that there are 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.

Hamid added that nothing short of Indonesia's democracy is at stake. "I cannot imagine how the Indonesian government, Indonesian democracy, can continue if those individuals remain untouchable in the future", he told agence France Presse. "Law enforcement is just an illusion if we are not able to solve this case. The evidence is there, the witnesses are there. We have no excuse to get out of this situation."

The Munir Case: Bidding to Win

Tempo Magazine - August 21-27, 2007

We owe Munir the activist, who died on September 7, 2004. Yet after almost three years, it is still not clear who killed him.

There are now new findings in the case and we may have something to hope for. The Attorney General has asked for a review into the case of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the Garuda pilot who was once accused of poisoning Munir. Pollycarpus was later acquitted of all charges by the Supreme Court.

Read out in court last week, the PK (case review) calling for a re-examination was intended to explain two issues. First, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) wants to convince the Supreme Court that it was Pollycarpus who killed Munir. This is based on the testimony of Raymond J.J. Latuihamallo alias Ongen, a passenger on Garuda flight GA 974 who flew from Jakarta to Holland on that fateful night. While transiting at Singapore's Changi Airport, Ongen saw Pollycarpus at the Coffee Bean cafe carrying two glasses of drinks: one for himself and the other for Munir. After Munir died, a forensic laboratory in the United States confirmed that he had ingested the poison while he was at Changi. It is this glass that the AGO believes led to Munir's death.

Second, the AGO wants to say that BIN (State Intelligence Agency) as an institution, was involved in the operation to silence Munir. Prosecutors, for example, cited the statement from former Garuda CEO Indra Setiawan that the order to assign Pollycarpus as the airplane security officer, so he could be on the same flight as Munir, came from BIN. Here, the name of BIN deputy head M. As'ad surfaced. In his previous trial, it emerged that Pollycarpus had repeatedly telephoned Muchdi P.R., then the BIN Deputy V. After Munir's death, Indra met with senior BIN officials to discuss the "next steps."

During his questioning, BIN agent Raden Muhammad Patma Anwar, testified he saw Pollycarpus in the agency's parking lot. In his trial, Pollycarpus always denied he had any links with BIN.

Patma Anwar also supplied the information that BIN had prepared more than one plan to finish off the activist. Patma Anwar, for example, was asked by an agent named Sentot Waluyo to blow up the car Munir was driving, put a curse on him, or poison him. But Munir died before the plan could be carried out. The PK states that neither Patma nor Sentot knew of the poisoning at Changi Airport. In his statement to the police, Patma Anwar said that Manunggal Maladi and Wahyu, BIN Deputy II and Deputy IV respectively, were well aware of his actions.

The PK is not perfect. There are gaps here and there. Ongen's statement that he sat at a different table from Polly and Munir at the Coffee Bean is refuted by Asrini Utami Putri, another passenger on Garuda flight GA-974. Asrini says that she saw the three sitting together. The AGO seems to want to pay more attention to Ongen's statement, which says he saw Polly carrying two glasses, while ignoring Asrini's testimony. Strangely, either unintentionally or perhaps because the AGO has another plan, Asrini's testimony is also included in the case review.

If Ongen is right – and he was consistent in his testimony when he later appeared in court – the AGO has practically no other ammunition. It does not have, for example, any evidence such as the glass or remnants of the poison. This is why prosecutors have decided to use the conditio sine qua non, meaning "indispensable action or condition," without which the death of Munir could not have happened, to convict Pollycarpus.

So is it all over? Not yet. The PK has prompted several questions, for example, why has Patma's testimony only emerged now, despite the fact he spoke to the police in June 2005. Neither has the review elaborated further on the motive for the murderb according to Patma Anwar, merely said: "Munir must die because the presidential election will take place shortly."

With such a weak PK, the AGO is doing somethingb we must support – because it seems to be the only way to reveal who killed Munir. But it is a move with major consequences: if the AGO fails to convict Polly, the death of Munir will forever remain a mystery. The review is the final legal option. Polly cannot be tried a second time for the same crime. And it will be difficult to convict the other suspects – Indra Setiawan, Patma Anwar and other senior BIN officialsb the murder is not found.

So, next week, we will witness an important trial, which will be both sensational and worrying. It will be a battle. Can the mystery of Munir's death be resolved; can we repay our debt to the departed?

Agents Out in the Cold

Tempo Magazine - August 21-27, 2007

The case review on the Munir case may implicate high-ranking officials from the State Intelligence Agency (BIN). The police plan to bring in a number of key witnesses who will confirm BIN's involvement. They plan to tell the judges about the various scenarios devised to get rid of Munir, the activist. The pieces of the puzzle are slowly being assembled. Can this giant mystery finally be put together and the mastermind put behind bars?

The two men had different backgrounds. One was a former CEO of a state-owned company, the other was a former activist, once a photographer. One hailing from "the hills" and the other from "the sea," the two last week a shared common ground at the Central Jakarta District Court. In the court's third-floor waiting room, they were surrounded by six policemen dressed in short-sleeved dress jackets and carrying M-16 rifles. Two guarded the door, two stood in the middle of the room, and two others watched the stairs. Scores of officers from the Antiterrorism Unit stood by outside the room.

The first man in question was Indra Setiawan, Garuda Indonesia's former CEO. At the age of 56, his face was fresh and his body erect, despite being detained at the National Police Headquarters since April. The other was a feeble 35-year-old named Raden Muhammad Patma Anwar alias Ucok. He admitted to the police that he was a junior member of BIN, the State Intelligence Agency.

The case review of the murder case of activist Munir, which is being held one floor below the waiting room, was to bring Indra and Ucok together on the same stage. Both of them had mentioned BIN's role in an operation to eliminate Munir, on September 7, three years ago. Unfortunately, just before lunch, the judge recessed the hearing at the request of the defense team. Under heavy police guard, the two were escorted from the court.

The testimony of these two has been the basis for the Attorney General's Office (AGO) to file for a review of this case. Earlier, last October, the Supreme Court acquitted Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a senior Garuda pilot indicted in the case, releasing him from a 14-year prison term handed down in a lower court.

July 2003, two months before Munir's death. At the Bengawan Solo restaurant on the ground floor of Sahid Hotel, Jakarta, Indra Setiawan, who had just met with some colleagues, quickly headed for Pollycarpus's table. The two shook hands. He had agreed to meet this pilot, whom he had known since 2003. "He asked for a chance to talk to me about something connected with flight operations," Indra told investigators on June 4, as related by a Tempo source.

After some small talk, Pollycarpus laid out various weaknesses in Garuda's flight operations. According to Indra, Pollycarpus, for instance, mentioned the high number of passengers who hid their passports in order to seek asylum in other countries. He also mentioned the existence of stowaway passengers without tickets and flight crew members who often smuggled illegal goods.

Pollycarpus, according to Indra, speaking to the police, said that he was willing to take care of the problem. Then he gave a sealed envelope to Indra. It contained an official classified letter from BIN, which was addressed to him as CEO of Garuda.

According to Indra, the letter was signed by M. As'ad, BIN deputy chief, with a copy sent to the State-Owned Enterprises Department. It was written in the letter that Garuda was a company which was vital and strategic, and that its security needed to be upgraded. "For this, Pak As'ad asked that Pollycarpus be given an assignment as aviation security," said Indra to police.

To Tempo, Pollycarpus denied this meeting took place. "Pilots and CEOs are far from each other. It would not be easy for me to meet with Pak Indra, especially if it was at Sahid Hotel and not at the office," he said. This conflicting testimony between a CEO and a subordinate led Mohammad Assegaf to resign from his position as Indra's lawyer. Now he is only legal counsel for Pollycarpus.

On August 11, 2004, Indra issued a letter assigning Pollycarpus as a support staff in the corporate security unit. Four duties were given to Pollycarpus, among them recommending solutions to various problems, especially those connected with flight security and internal affairs at Garuda. Such an assignment was uncommon at Garuda, because it was given without the involvement of the personnel department.

Based on this letter, Pollycarpus changed his flight schedule on September 6, 2004. He was initially scheduled to fly to Peking, China, on that day. However, he switched to Garuda Flight 974 to Singapore. This was the flight Munir boarded on his journey to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. On board, Pollycarpus offered his executive class seat to Munir, who was sitting in economy class.

Police accuse Pollycarpus of moving Munir to an executive seat so that the activist could quickly disembark from the plane while in transit at Changi Airport, Singapore. In this way, there would be more time to kill Munir. If he had been in economy class, it would have taken 10-15 minutes to exit the plane.

In court, Pollycarpus testified that he immediately headed for the Novotel Apollo Hotel together with the other crew members after the plane landed in Changi. However, as reported in the case review, there are two witnesses who saw him stay in the transit area together with Munir. The two are Asrini Utami Putri, an Indonesian university student in Germany seated in 2J, and Raymond "Ongen" Latuihamallo, a musician who sat in 50H.

To the police, Asrini testified she saw Pollycarpus, Munir, and Ongen at the Coffee Bean cafe. They sat facing the smoking area and the moneychanger. Ongen said he saw Pollycarpus leaving the counter, carrying two drinks. After that, according to Ongen, Pollycarpus and Munir were seen talking and drinking.

This testimony by Asrini and Ongen was also admitted as new evidence by the prosecutors in order to bring charges against Pollycarpus. It is suspected that the meeting at the Coffee Bean was the point at which the arsenic was ingested by Munir. This is why, a half-hour later, when the plane was about to take off for Amsterdam, he began to complain of an upset stomach.

At an altitude of 40,000 feet over the skies of Romania, seven hours after takeoff, Munir lay on the floor covered with a blanket, drooling. His hands were cold and turning blue. He died on board the flight.

Raden Patma's telephone rang on the afternoon of September 7, 2004. An activist informed him that Munir had died on a Garuda plane. He immediately forwarded the news to Sentot Waluyo, a young BIN agent, who told him: "Who cares if Munir is dead."

"Pak Sentot's office [is] at Building K, Directorate 22, second floor, near the bathroom, near the deer cages. I often made reports at his office," said Raden alias Ucok to police, relayed by a Tempo source. He wanted to give the impression to the police that he was very familiar with how things were done at BIN.

Ucok was not surprised by Munir's death. He admitted to the police that he had already been involved in the plan to murder Munir. The plan was to observe and monitor, terrorize, use black magic, and poison him. "Munir had to be killed before the presidential election because he posed a threat," he said, as written in the police investigation file.

The operation, according to Ucok, involved, among others, Manunggal Maladi, BIN deputy chief for domestic investigation affairs, and Wahyu Saronto, deputy for counter-intelligence affairs. He even said that he went with Wahyu Saronto and Sentot to look for the home of paranormal Ki Gendeng Pamungkas in Baranangsiang, Bogor. "But we didn't find it," he said. To Koran Tempo, in February 2005, Manunggal verified knowing Sentot and Ucok. "Sentot is indeed one of my men. However, institutionally speaking, neither I nor Sentot planned to get rid of Munir. Ucok was only an informant of Sentot. In 2003, he once wanted to harass Munir, but Sentot forbid him from doing so," said Manunggal. Wahyu Saronto could not be contacted for confirmation.

BIN chief Syamsir Siregar rejected Ucok's admission. "He is not from BIN. He was just arrested and he made up a story," he stressed. Abdullah Makhmud Hendropriyono, the BIN chief in September 2004, also denied this testimony. "Resorting to black magic is not a part of our culture," he said.

Mention of Ucok and Sentot was actually made in an internal discussion of the Fact-Finding Team (TPF) for the Munir case, a body which was established by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) to get to the bottom of the mysterious death. Moreover, a retired general who is presently a high-ranking state official, leaked information to the TPF about four scenarios which intelligence had prepared in order to murder Munir. The four methods were to poison him, to use black magic, a traffic accident, or a bombing. Unfortunately, "We were not able to concretely identify those scenarios, including the people who were said to be involved," said Asmara Nababan, deputy head of the TPF. Furthermore, at that time, the police still appeared reluctant to resolve the Munir murder case. In the end, those new names just disappeared.

A Tempo source in BIN said that Ucok was recruited by Sentot, who at that time was BIN 1st chief for domestic investigation affairs. However, according to the source, Ucok's credibility is doubted for suggesting to his superiors about making false-flag operations on several occasions. To counter Ucok, BIN will reportedly send Sentot's written testimony to police. Where is Sentot right now? It is not clear. One source informed us that Sentot is now on assignment in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta. However, Tempo's efforts to track him down in that area ran into a dead end. Ucok, who was met at the Central Jakarta District Court, refused to comment. He kept quiet when Tempo asked him questions.

Indra Setiawan began to panic two months after Munir's death, when it was confirmed that the activist died from arsenic poisoning. He told Pollycarpus that he wanted to meet and be introduced to M. As'ad. "Fine, Pak. I will contact him and ask him to give you a chance to meet him," said Polly, as quoted by Indra, testifying to the police.

A few days later, Pollycarpus informed him that he would be received at the BIN office in East Pejaten, South Jakarta. At their headquarters, Indra said that he was met by someone whom he recently discovered was Muchdi Purwoprandjono, BIN deputy head for stabilization. A few moments later As'ad joined them.

Indra said that he wanted to ask As'ad about Pollycarpus's letter of assignment. However, because of Muchdi, he changed his mind. "I didn't know him, so I didn't mention the letter about Pollycarpus," explained Indra.

After being questioned by police as a witness in early 2005, Indra said that he once contacted As'ad. He asked: "Pak, why is this happening? Why is Garuda being brought into it?" According to Indra, As'ad replied: "It's nothing. Just relax. No need for you to worry. It will be cleared up later."

To the police, Indra said that he also contacted As'ad to ask about the file copy of the letter sent to him. As'ad replied by promising to check on it. A few days later, when they met at the Shangri-La Hotel, As'ad confirmed to Indra that the file copy of the letter on Pollycarpus had been destroyed.

Indra also admitted to making calls to Muchdi on several occasions – when Garuda officials were being questioned, when Pollycarpus was under arrest, and when the prosecutors demanded a verdict of death or life in prison for Pollycarpus. According to Indra, Muchdi replied calmly: "It's nothing. It will be cleared up later, Pak Indra."

Where was the classified letter from As'ad to Indra Setiawan? According to Indra, the letter vanished when someone broke into his BMW car parked at the Sahid Hotel, on Friday, December 31, 2004. He said that the letter was kept in a bag, together with a stack of bills, magazines, pens, a short cane and some gemstones.

The letter was lost in the same location where Indra had received it from Pollycarpus, namely the Sahid Hotel. This five-star hotel was a favorite of Indra's when he needed to meet with his colleagues. "He would go there two or three times a week," said Antawirya J. Dipodiputro, his lawyer.

A security guard at the Sahid Hotel, who was on duty at that time verified the theft. "I immediately contacted the Tanah Abang Police, because this was a crime. In addition to the police, security officers from Garuda contacted by Pak Indra, also arrived," he told Tempo.

Unfortunately, Tempo has not been able to receive any confirmation from As'ad or Muchdi. No one answered the telephone when they were contacted. Those known to be close to him were also unwilling to put Tempo in contact with him. M. Luthfie Hakim, Muchdi P.R.'s legal advisor, denied the meeting took place. "I heard from Pak Muchdi that the meeting never took place," he said. BIN chief Syamsir Siregar made a stronger statement. "There was never a letter from Pak As'ad. How can we give an order to a [CEO of an] SOE," he said.

The testimony of Indra and Ucok, the main witnesses in the prosecutor's case, is sure to be rejected by BIN officials and Pollycarpus's lawyer in court. In the meantime, the two will remain heavily guarded by men carrying M-16s.

– Budi Setyarso

When an Agent Talks

Tempo Magazine - August 21-27, 2007

An important witness in the Munir murder case is being closely guarded by police. His background story is confusing.

IT is a simple dwelling: two 36-square-feet houses with cream- colored walls. There is a sign advertising a laundry service hung on the fence. Two cars and a motorcycle are parked in the yard. When Tempo visited the home, on Wednesday night last week, the steel gate was padlocked, even though it was only 9pm.

This house, located in a crowded residential area on the outskirts of Depok, West Java, is the home of an important man. This is where Raden Muhammad Patma Anwar alias Ucok lives. Thanks to his testimony, the police and the public prosecutor are now convinced that there is a connection between the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the death of activist Munir, which took place three years ago. They are also convinced that Patma's testimony will prove the guilt of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the Garuda pilot who was previously acquitted by the Supreme Court.

The police actually had Patma's testimony for two years, but his name and testimony was kept secret until early last August. His name leaked to the public during a hearing to determine the Attorney General's Office (AGO) request for a case review, which was held at the Central Jakarta District Court last Thursday.

After waiting for 10 minutes, a short man followed by a young woman with a bright complexion opened the door to Tempo. They confirmed that Patma lived there. "But he is not at home now," said the man, who claimed to be a distant relative. Both shrugged their shoulders when asked when the owner would return.

The presence of reporters at Patma's home seemed to make the police uneasy. Five minutes after Tempo left the residence, a member of the National Police intelligence unit contacted Tempo editors to check on the identity of the journalists who had arrived that night. It seemed the police did not want any harm to come to Patma, since his testimony would be valuable in the attempt to solve the Munir murder case.

Patma claims to be a junior BIN agent with III/C classification. He also testified that he was once assigned to kill Munir before the 2004 presidential election. Without the testimony of this 35-year-old Jakarta resident, the police will find it difficult to prove BIN's involvement in this case. Just who is this Patma?

Patma identified himself to the police as a 1994 literature graduate of the University of Indonesia. After school, he was active at the Democratic People's Party (PRD), a political organization which had been hunted down by the New Order government. There he was responsible for propaganda and fundraising in the PRD regional coordination district of Tanah Tinggi. He was also active in the party's election campaign committee for the 1999 General Elections.

In addition to being a secret agent, Patma says he spent most of his time working as a freelance photographer for a number of media outlets and well-known news services in Jakarta. In addition to going by the name of Ucok, he was also known as Empi or A'a.

As a junior BIN agent, Patma's assignment was to help his superiors monitor protests planned by right- and left-wing groups all over Indonesia. In order to prove the legitimacy of his claim to be an intelligence officer, Patma claimed to have a BIN identification card, a letter of assignment and two firearms. "My salary is Rp1.5 million per month," he told the police. A Tempo source in BIN confirmed that Patma once worked as an informant at the agency.

Aside from the involvement of BIN, Patma's confession invites other questions. For instance, not a single activist from the PRD claim to know him. Wilson, former head of the propaganda department at the Indonesian Workers Struggle Center, says he does not know of any activist in the party by the name of Patma Anwar. He also shook his head when Patma's pseudonyms were mentioned one by one.

If it is true that Patma was active in the PRD, there is a big chance that Wilson would know him. Wilson, after all, who was once imprisoned together with 13 other PRD activists after the July 27, 1996 incident, was the party's founder. However, another Tempo source in the PRD confirmed that it was possible the PRD membership in Tanah Tinggi at the time was infiltrated by the security forces. "Nearing the 1999 elections, there were many new members who later disappeared," he said.

Tempo's search to a number of media outlets which supposedly hired Patma also turned up empty. The editor in chief of Aneka magazine, Vivid Argarini, said she never employed anyone named Patma alias Ucok. "Many people claim to have worked here," she said. A number of freelance photographers who often gather at a coffee shop near the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Central Jakarta, gave similar answers.

At the literature department of the University of Indonesia – now the Faculty of Cultural Studies – Patma is also not known. To Tempo, Rahayu Hidayat, Assistant Dean of the faculty, showed a list of 128 students from the Class of 1994, seeking bachelors and three-year diploma English Literature programs. Patma was not listed there.

Patma's admission regarding his first meeting with Munir is also strange. "I knew the late Munir since July 27, 1996, when I often took part in discussions at the Kontras office, talking about the dual function of the Indonesian Armed Forces and the New Order regime," he told the police.

It is not clear whether he forgot or misspoke, but the Commission for Missing Persons & Victims of Violence (Kontras) was founded in 1998. In its early stage, the Kontras office was still sharing space at the office of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation.

Kontras Coordinator Usman Hamid shook his head as well. "Many activists are suspected of being intelligence agents. Not just one or two," he said. There are so many of them that Usman could not remember them individually. However, he did admit that Munir once exposed an intelligence agent who worked undercover as a pro-democracy activist a few years ago. "But that person may not have been Patma," he added.

Around his home, not many knew much about Patma. Strangely, this father of three has lived in the area for more than five years. "They seldom associate with the neighbors," said one man who lives across from Patma's house. Also, "No one knows where he works."

His mother and younger brother-in-law, who Tempo met on Thursday last week, also shook their heads when asked where Patma worked. "As a mother, I can only pray that he is safe and not in trouble," she said.

Patma's brother-in-law, who did not want to be identified, had a long story to tell about this mysterious man. "He is a reserved fellow, even with his own family." He often leaves for weeks at a time without contacting the family. "Sometimes he comes home a month later, then leaves again."

On Thursday last week, Patma appeared for the first time in public. He was scheduled to testify in the hearing for a case review of the Supreme Court's decision in the Pollycarpus case. He had a frail body and a calm face. That day he wore a dark, short-sleeved suit, and his straight hair was neatly combed. Wherever he went, seven plainclothes police officers followed him with M-16s.

When Tempo greeted him and asked about the truth of his testimony to the police, he just gave a slight smile. He refused to speak. A moment later he walked on, trailed by his bodyguards.

Ex-BIN Chief A.M. Hendropriyono: They Will Point in My Direction

Tempo Magazine - August 21-27, 2007

The trial reviewing the case of Munir's alleged murderer, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, will also determine the fate of some BIN (State Intelligence Agency) officials. In court, two witnesses testified that officials from this spy agency played a role in the killing of Munir, an activist. And the name of Abdullah Makhmud Hendropriyono is bound to be dragged into the dispute. Hendro was, after all, chief of BIN when Munir was killed on September 7, 2004. Last Thursday, Hendro spoke openly about the case to Tempo reporter Budi Setyarso. Excerpts:

Do you know Raden Patma alias Ucok, who claims to be a BIN agent?

No, I don't. There are many BIN personnel whose original names we don't know, because they use aliases. They are usually agents with specific missions and have long been planted in a particular place, in or out of the country. If Ucok claims to be a BIN agent before I was there, that can be traced back. But if an agent is not used, he is no longer our agent.

How are agents actually recruited?

There are two kinds of agents, organic and non-organic. Lately, non-organic agents were dropped because BIN acquired modern intelligence equipment, like wiretaps. BIN no longer needs informants. Since 1986-87, intelligence operations no longer relied on personal assistance. We have been using organic agents, that is, agents recruited from the civil service, the military or the police force. There are no longer outsiders.

Does the agent working on the job know the entire operation?

No. We follow a system called compartmentalization. Let alone someone as lowly as Ucok, even I wouldn't know the entire operation. The compartmentalization system is used to prevent information leaks. If I knew everything, and I was kidnapped, all the state secrets could be squeezed out of me. If an informant, like Ucok, claiming to be an agent, says he knows the entire intelligence operation, he's surely dreaming.

Who decides which intelligence operation goes?

No big meetings determine operations.

How does BIN execute assassinations?

We are not the KGB, nor the CIA, which do such things. As far as I know, we have never executed assassinations.

Ucok claimed to have received orders from a BIN official to kill Munir.

I see a lot of bias going into this case. There are too many BIN people being charged, and those accusations are groundless. For instance, Ucok claimed a BIN official ordered him to go to Ki Gendeng Pamungkas, a paranormal, to weave a spell. That's not the way BIN operates.

Ucok mentioned that many BIN officialsb

Much that Ucok said is irrelevant. For instance, he cited Wahyu Saronto, who used to be the Deputy IV for Counter-Intelligence. His duty and his responsibilities are nowhere near that area. Institutionally, Manunggal Maladi, the Deputy II, could be linked, since he is in charge of domestic research. But that would need an order from me. He is unlikely to move on his own. Manunggal also never believed in weaving spells. Real intelligence operations are unlikely to resort to such deviations as the supernatural. BIN now uses modern technology.

Can BIN involve other agencies, like a state-owned company, to execute its operations?

As long as I worked at BIN, nothing like that has ever happened. When I was at Bais (Strategic Intelligence Agency), there were such collaborations. In fact, some of our people were planted in the different [government] departments. But that was because we had to have a PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) cleansing. But after that, no more.

Garuda's former CEO, Indra Setiawan, claimed to have received a letter from BIN's deputy chief to place Pollycarpus in his security section.

In intelligence operations, there is almost never any paperwork. Moreover, it would be unlikely for a BIN deputy chief to sign off on a letter when I was there. Such an important letter is also unlikely to be carried by another person. That doesn't make sense. We follow organizational discipline. In fact, BIN members are forbidden to talk with each other about their tasks outside of their work. We are only allowed to greet them and to ask about their health. If anyone asks questions, he is bound to be reported to his superiors.

Do you feel you are being suspected in the Munir case? They will clearly point in my direction. Why? Because the conclusions have been predetermined, confusing the data.

But there seem to be indications of BIN involvement, like the telephone calls between a BIN official and Pollycarpus.

Well, I don't know about that. But there are sick people who love to pretend they're from intelligence. And they brag a lot. They are Melayu (a reference to something local or domesticb intelligence people.

Loss of key witness unlikely to damage Munir case: Experts

Jakarta Post - August 27, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – The retraction of testimony by a key witness in the murder of rights activist Munir Said Thalib might not do great harm to the prosecutors' case, two prominent legal experts have said.

Raymond J.J. Latuihamallo, also known as Ongen, withdrew last week statements documented during the second hearing of a case review filed by the Attorney General's Office. In the statements, he claimed that he had seen defendant Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto with Munir having a drink at a coffee shop at Singapore's Changi airport.

Claiming he had been forced by the investigators to say so, Ongen said he did see Munir having a drink with another man, but did not know whether or not it was Pollycarpus.

"Retraction of statements is common. The ones made in court, however, are what the judges consider. Ongen's retraction may affect the case a bit and the prosecutors will have to support the case with more incriminating evidence," Rudi Satriyo of the University of Indonesia said Sunday.

He said the prosecutors would have to find other witnesses to counter Ongen's retraction. Several police officers are set to take the stand this week to challenge Ongen's testimony.

Witness Asrini Utami Putri, who sat in front of Munir on the Garuda Indonesia Jakarta-Amsterdam flight on Sept. 7, 2004, the day Munir died of poisoning, testified that she had seen Pollycarpus with Munir and Ongen at the cafe.

Denny Indrayana, a legal expert at Gadjah Mada University, said Ongen's withdrawal could have been prompted by pressures from others linked to the murder.

"It certainly affects the course of the trial, and he should be cross-checked with the investigators," he said.

The two academics were commenting on a judicial review filed by state prosecutors on Pollycarpus, an off-duty Garuda pilot who was assigned to be on Munir's flight.

Pollycarpus was cleared of murder charges last year, although the Supreme Court still sentenced him to 22 months in jail for forging documents.

Both experts said it was too early to know if Ongen's statements or the new set of evidence indicated that the case might be weak, but they agreed the recent developments would still not be enough to find the murderer.

"Ongen's statements alone aren't taking us to the core of the trial, that is to find the culprit. A taped conversation played in the trial also wouldn't be sufficient to conclude who the murderer is," Rudi said.

Denny was more certain that Pollycarpus was involved in the case but said it would require more hard evidence to see the extent of his alleged involvement.

"His speaking jargon used in the intelligence world shows he may be an agent. And his dozens of phone conversations with (State Intelligence Agency director) Muchdi PR call for more digging," he said.

But Rudi warned that the verdict for a judicial review case could not be tougher than the last sentence, and the court cannot charge Pollycarpus for murder since the case has been scaled down to document forgery.

"It's no longer a murder case because the Supreme Court has cleared Pollycarpus of it. And since this is a judicial review, it should correspond to the last situation of the case," he said.

Denny disagreed, however, saying the case was still a legitimate murder case.

AGO promises more tapes in Munir case

Jakarta Post - August 25, 2007

Jakarta – The Attorney General's Office (AGO) said Friday it had further evidence to implicate exonerated suspect Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto in the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.

The Junior Attorney General for General Crimes, Abdul Hakim Ritonga, said the AGO had secured more than five conversation recordings on top of a telephone call between Pollycarpus and former Garuda Indonesia president director Indra Setiawan that stunned the court when it was played Wednesday.

"The other (tapes) are recordings of witnesses' statements during the interrogation process. If necessary, we will play them in the next court session," Ritonga was quoted as saying by news portal detik.com. "These recordings will be our strong weapon if any witness denies his statements during the trial."

The recording of the phone conversation between Pollycarpus and Indra was played for the first time in public during Wednesday's court session. The recording, which emerged as an important development in the case, has strengthened evidence that the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) was involved in the murder.

In the recording, both men mentioned the existence of written orders from BIN asking Indra to assign Pollycarpus as an aviation security officer on the 2004 Garuda flight to Amsterdam on which Munir died of arsenic poisoning.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for key witness Raymond "Ongen" Latuihamallo has accused police officers of using intimidation to extract statements from his client. Ozhak Sihotang said that his client was also once interrogated without legal representation present.

On April 24, Ongen was taken to the National Police's Mobile Brigade headquarters in Kelapa Dua, Depok, and stayed there overnight. Ozhak said the actions of police were intimidating and inappropriate.

"This (interrogation session) was strange. As a key witness, my client should have been treated properly by the police," Ozhak said. "My client could have given incorrect statements if he was under pressure."

Ozhak used the claims of intimidation to request that the judges only consider testimony given by Ongen during the trial. "Based on the Criminal Code Procedures, testimony to the court could contradict the (police interrogation) dossier."

 Labour issues

Indonesia told to ratify migrant worker conventions

Jakarta Post - August 25, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has called on Indonesia to commit to two international conventions in order to better protect its migrant workers.

The ILO's labor standards director Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry said Friday that ILO Conventions 97 and 143 could ensure greater protection and labor rights for workers.

"The migration of workers is a wave that the government cannot stop, so better protection is needed," she said after a discussion at the office of the government's Manpower and Transmigration Ministry.

The revised C97 Migration for Employment Convention binds each member nations maintain a free and adequate quality service for assisting migrants with finding jobs and information.

The C143 Migrant Workers Convention calls on members to suppress the illegal movement and employment of migrant workers.

The ILO says many migrant workers face pitfalls such as abusive employers, low salaries and the confiscation of their passports.

"The government should regulate and monitor the employment agency in order to make it easier for the government to track down workers," Doumbia-Henry said.

Many Indonesian housemaids have been severely exploited and even killed by their foreign employers. The government has had difficulty tracing some victims because they found their way overseas through illegal trafficking.

In this month alone, one 24-year-old Indonesian maid was found dead in Malaysia, while two others were allegedly beaten to death by the members of a Saudi family who also severely injured two of their co-workers.

Manpower and Transmigration Minister Erman Soeparno said last week he faced difficulties negotiating the different foreign laws migrant workers had to live under.

The ILO believes poverty is the main reason Indonesians look for work overseas.

Doumbia-Henry said aid donor countries should help Indonesia create jobs at home to help reduce the potential for exploitation abroad.

The ILO's Jakarta branch director Alan J. Boulton said the agency had started a scheme to inspire entrepreneurship in the country's east.

"Creating jobs in Indonesia is a big challenge. We are now collaborating with several ministries and NGOs to improve education and training on entrepreneurship."

The ILO is cooperating with the National Education Ministry and the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry in the program.

Wahyu Susilo, a policy analyst at non-governmental organization Migrant Care, told The Jakarta Post that Indonesia should ratify the ILO conventions.

"We've only ratified the standard convention on migrant worker's rights," he said. "But ratifying conventions is only half the answer. The problem is: has the government implemented its commitment here?"

Wahyu added that there are around four-and-a-half-million Indonesian workers abroad, with the number leaving and entering the country fluctuating between 750,000 and a million people each year.

"This figure has been steady for the past ten years. The number soared when the financial crisis hit the country in 1997 to 1998."

Major unions may accept draft on severance pay

Jakarta Post - August 24, 2007

Jakarta – Major labor unions will very likely accept the 3- percent severance payment scheme drafted by the government in the regulation on dismissal benefits.

"It is all right if the government decides that employers should pay a 3-percent severance payment but it must be implemented progressively," chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Prosperous Labor Unions Rekson Silaban told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The latest draft of the government regulation on dismissal benefits stipulates that employers must pay 3 percent of workers' monthly salaries into the labor dismissal benefit program to protect workers with monthly incomes of up to Rp 5.5 million (US$586).

According to Manpower Ministry data, currently 99.13 percent of the 26.8 million workers in Indonesia have a maximum monthly income of Rp 5.5 million.

Previously, the regulation only stipulated that employers must pay a 2-percent severance payment, which was opposed by most workers. Further discussion about the scheme has been deadlocked since then.

"That is way less than the actual percentage of the severance payment of 8 percent according to the 2003 Law on Workers," Rekson said.

He added that considering the business climate in Indonesia he could accept the current percentage proposed by employers, but said it must be increased gradually in line with the conditions of the companies.

"If a company can afford to pay 8 percent, then it should fulfill its obligation to its workers," he said.

Chairman of the Confederation of the All Indonesian Workers Unions, Sjukur Sarto, shared the same view as Rekson, saying that as long as the regulation did not violate the law on workers, he would probably accept the offer.

"We previously suggested 8.33 percent for severance payments, but we will see further developments," he said. Secretary general of the Indonesian Employers' Association, Djimanto, said that employers would not increase their current offer.

"We can only afford to pay a 3 percent severance payment with the condition that there will be no extra costs," he said.

So far employers must pay 11 percent of workers' monthly salaries for social, health and pension plans to the state-owned insurance company PT Jamsostek.

Separately, chairman of the United Federation of Worker Unions of State-owned Enterprises, Arief Poyuono, said the union could accept the current percentage for severance payments considering the high-cost economy faced by employers in Indonesia.

"If the government can remove 'the invisible' costs, I'm sure that employers can pay at least 7 percent in severance payments," he told reporters after a seminar on dismissal benefits.

He said he generally considered the regulation as a good start on the part of the government to ensure workers' security. "I just hope that the government will really implement the regulation and not just leave it on paper," he said.

He added that the institution appointed to facilitate the severance payment scheme should be independent and should manage the fund transparently. He also suggested that representatives of both employers and workers must monitor the institution.

Sjukur agreed with Arief, but added that the reason why most employers could not afford to pay their employers severance payments was because they managed the funds themselves.

Arief also expressed his concern regarding the lack of clear and strict punishments for employers who did not fulfill their obligations in the regulation. "That's the reason why many employers prefer to go abroad once their businesses here collapse."

There are currently more than 70,000 workers who have been dismissed and are still waiting for severance payments.

 Environment/natural disasters

Government deforestation programs get shot in arm from overseas

Jakarta Post - August 28, 2007

Jakarta – The Indonesian government's programs to tackle deforestation are getting a much needed injection of funds, with several developed countries committing to providing financial support.

Forestry Minister M.S Kaban, addressing a two-day conference on deforestation in Central Jakarta on Monday, said the German government would donate approximately 20 million euros (US$27.3 million) to help Indonesia in its efforts to overcome deforestation.

He said that the country would need the funds to finance reforestation programs and operations throughout the country.

The two-day conference aims at collecting information to be used as a platform for further discussions to be held in Bali at the end of this year.

The Bali conference, to be attended by top government officials, will be treated as a new benchmark on environmental issues, replacing the Kyoto Protocol.

Dieter Brulez of the German Technical Cooperation, a subsidiary of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, however, said that the discussion between Indonesia and German was still ongoing.

He said further technical discussions between the two governments would be held next month to determine the amount of assistance provided.

The collaboration of the two governments started with the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Indonesia in 2004. The cooperation has provided technical support throughout the country since then.

"We help the people to understand that they can use the forest but still have to preserve it for the many generations to come," Brulez told The Jakarta Post.

Indonesia has cooperated with many countries to overcome environmental problems. Dozens of countries and groups have supported the government by providing assistance.

Edith Stelzl of the Hans Seidel Foundation said the foundation has established many courses that provide locals with skills to improve the environment.

"We provide experts to teach as many locals as can be taught about how important it is to guard their forest and environment by themselves," she said.

Country officer of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Atsuko Nishikawa, said that she had attended the conference to collect information that would be used by the JBIC to consider their further support for the Indonesian government.

Indonesia's forests occupy 120 million hectares of land or around 65 percent of the country's land area. Unfortunately, deforestation has significantly cut the country's forest area. Currently, the high rates of emissions from landclearing, peatland blazes and growing industries have made Indonesia the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitting country after the United States and China.

Executive director of the Indonesian Forum on the Environment Chalid Muhammad said he hoped the government would become more critical toward developed countries, and added it also needed to raise its voice about gas emissions produced by those countries, which contributed the greatest amount worldwide.

Japan, Britain, Germany, the US and Canada are five largest producers of carbon dioxide emissions.

"We have to force those countries to lower their emissions as well as increase our efforts to combat deforestation. Don't let them think that we won't criticize them because they support us financially. Global warming has become our common enemy," he said.

The World Health Organization estimates that climate change has directly or indirectly killed more than one million people globally since 2000, with more than half of those deaths occurring in the Asia-Pacific, the world's most populous region. These figures do not include deaths linked to urban air pollution, which kills around 800,000 people worldwide annually.

Jakarta air the best it's been since 2000: Agency

Jakarta Post - August 25, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – Jakartans have experienced more days of "good" air quality this year than in the same period of any other year since 2000, the city environmental management agency says.

The agency speculates the increased number of days of good air quality from January to July is due to the success of the vehicle emissions control programs run by the agency and private firms.

In the past seven months, the agency has recorded 54 days of good air quality. Last year, it said there were only 45 days of good air quality all year.

"We suspect the vehicle testing program has significantly reduced air pollution. But we will carry out further studies to be certain," Rina Suryani, the head of the agency's air pollution unit, said Friday.

Rina said more people were voluntarily taking their cars to emissions testing stations but agency data on the number of private cars tested has yet to be made available. "The increasing interest in the program is partly due to our campaigns," she said.

2006 data from the Partnership for Clean Emissions, however, reveals that only about 1 percent of private vehicles in the city have undergone in-shop emissions tests in the last two years. There are more than 2.5 million private cars in Jakarta.

The emissions test is a key part of the 2005 bylaw on air pollution, which requires private cars to undergo emission tests and public transportation to run on compressed natural gas (CNG). The administration says it is aiming to boost participation in the program in October, after the Idul Fitri holidays.

Last week, to demonstrate its commitment to reducing air pollution in the capital, the administration issued a gubernatorial decree that also makes it mandatory for motorcycles and public transportation vehicles – including buses and bajaj – to be tested.

Despite the encouraging data on air quality, the agency has warned the public that this month's dry weather could pose serious health risks.

Rina said dust pollutants or particulate matter (PM10) remained one of the highest contributors to air pollution in the city, exceeding the tolerable standard of 150 micrograms per cubic meter.

She said people should carefully watch for any signs of weather- related health problems, such as respiratory diseases from dust, during the dry months. "The volume of dust can rise when there is very little rainfall," she said.

Diesel-powered vehicles, factories and coal-fired power plants are considered among the major sources of dust.

Budi Haryanto, an environmental health expert from the University of Indonesia, said dry air and dust could cause coughing, wheezing and other respiratory problems. "Exposure to dust could also trigger asthma."

He said respiratory diseases were among the top 10 diseases in urban areas like Jakarta. "The administration needs to inform the public of the health risks from dust exposure so they can limit their outdoor activities."

He said the administration also needed to convey the results of air quality monitoring to the public.

The monitoring stations measure the concentrations of five main pollutants – PM10, nitrogen oxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and ozone (O3).

Clean air campaigners have long doubted the validity of the city's air quality tests because the five existing monitoring stations are poorly maintained.

Ahmad Safrudin, the chairman of the Joint Committee for Leaded Gasoline Phase-Out, said the administration had not taken serious action to combat air pollution in the capital.

"The administration must ensure residents experience at least 10 months of good air quality a year," he said. He said people in the low-income bracket were more vulnerable to air pollution hazards.

Jakarta's urban jungle heating itself

Jakarta Post - August 24, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – Poor city planning and rapid population growth have been blamed for increasingly hot weather in Jakarta over the last 130 years, a study says.

The Geophysics and Meteorology Agency's study has found Jakarta's average temperature rose by 1.4 degrees Celsius over the last 130 years – from 26 degrees in 1870 to 27.4 degrees in 2000 – higher than the average rise of 0.74 degrees worldwide. Jakarta recorded its highest-ever temperature of 36 degrees last year.

The agency's report is the first study of temperature trends in the city from the late 19th century to the present day.

"The finding emphasizes that climate change has occurred here," the agency's head of research and development Mezak Rataq said Thursday.

The agency is to publish the report next month before submitting it to the environment ministry to help formulate the country's report on climate change.

The government will present its country report on climate change during a major international conference on the issue in Bali in December.

"There are many reports from experts making computer-based predictions on climate change in Indonesia but none of them are using real temperatures," said Mezak, who is also a member of the national team for the Bali conference.

He said rising temperatures in the capital would trigger more frequent natural disasters in the future. "We'll see more heavy rains, floods and strong winds in coming years," he said.

The study found that rainfall increased by 13 percent between 1945 to 2000. "Before 1945, average rainfall was between 319 to 356 millimeters per month in the peak rainy season," he said.

He added that by 2000, average rainfall had reached 500 millimeters. Up to 70 percent of Jakarta was inundated in severe flooding in February which killed 37 people.

The BMG is currently calculating long-term temperature trends in a number of cities, including Medan, Surabaya, Denpasar and Palembang. "Most of the provinces in the country do not have records of the last 100 years of temperatures," Mezak said.

An official draft report has found climate change could lead to water shortages across the country and leave coastal areas inundated by rising sea levels. It found a meter rise in sea levels could inundate 405,000 hectares of coastal land and cause the disappearance of some small islands.

Indonesia has about 81,000 kilometers of coastline. As of 1997, around two million people resided in coastal areas. Many industries such as oil and gas exploration, fisheries, agriculture and tourism also operate along the nation's coasts.

The draft also said temperature increase could seriously affect the country's agriculture sector. It said a rise of one degree could decrease rice yields by around 10 percent.

More than half of South Sulawesi coral reefs damaged: Report

Jakarta Post - August 24, 2007

Andi Hajramurni, Makassar – Coral reef destruction in South Sulawesi has reached an alarming heights and today poses a real threat to the ongoing livelihoods of regional fishermen.

With some 70 per cent of the reefs destroyed, the affect has also seen enormous losses to the state via the fishery sector.

A latest analysis on the condition of coral reefs in the area conducted by Hasanuddin University's Coral Reef Research Center in Makassar shows that 76 percent of around 5,000 square kilometers is damaged. Out of the 76 percent, 36 percent are in critical shape, while the remaining 40 percent have been damaged.

The worst-affected reefs are around Bulukumba regency, with a destruction level of 100 percent. This is followed closely by Pangkajene Islands (Pangkep) at 97 percent, Sinjai at 86 percent and Selayar, which encompasses the Taka Bonerate undersea national park, at 70 percent.

Head of the university's Maritime Study Program, Chair Rani, said the destruction has been taking place for the past 10 years.

Data issued by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in 1996 showed around 17 percent of coral reefs had been damaged. But an analysis by the university has shown the damage has reached 40 percent.

Critical areas, however, have dropped from 64 percent to 36 percent. "If the condition persists, the coral reefs would likely disappear and coastal communities would bear the brunt," Chair told The Jakarta Post.

Head of South Sulawesi Maritime and Fishery Office, Sahrun, confirmed the scale of destruction. However, he said the condition was not as bad as that disclosed by researchers from the university.

He said he estimated the level of destruction only stood between 40 and 60 percent. "Coral reef damage has continued for quite a long time," Sahrun said.

Several factors have been blamed, but the most disastrous is the long-practiced habit of using fishing bombs and poison to catch fish. The reefs were also exploited for exports and building material.

Natural disasters including earthquakes and strong waves, have also seen a deterioration in the state of the coral reefs. Fish bombs and poison not only cause serious damage but they decimate coral reefs and marine biota.

Coral reefs grow at a very slow rate of between one and 10 cm per year – even longer for certain species.

But fishermen continue to practice illegal fishing, opting for bombs and poison to catch their fish quickly and easily. "People are not aware that coral reefs grow very slowly," Chair said.

"Restoring them is not an easy task and it requires a lot of time and money. With the damaged condition the reefs are in today, it could take hundreds of years to restore them."

He said the damage would decimate marine bio-diversity around the reefs, including coral fish which depend on reefs to take shelter, seek food and breed. The damage would eventually see coastal communities, especially fishermen, face difficulties in their search for fish.

Coral destruction would also see an increase in coastal abrasion because the coral reefs would no longer break waves before they hit the beach.

But still the coral reefs, which vary shape and colors, along with the diverse marine biota around them, have become a tourist attraction. Many foreign tourists are charmed by and regularly visit reef areas for diving and snorkeling.

Sahrun said South Sulawesi administration has launched efforts to prevent further damage to coral reefs and to carry out restoration works.

Pangkep and Selayar regencies would receive assistance from the World Bank this year to help prevent a further reduction of coral reefs, he said.

A number of preventative and awareness activities have also been organized, including workshops to raise awareness of the damaged being done and to stop illegal fishing practices. The workshops would also aim to help fishermen develop other skills for alternative jobs.

"We hope that by involving the people, the rate of coral reef destruction can be reduced," Sahrun said.

Rani said the most effective way to prevent coral reef destruction was by implementing community-based marine management and protection programs. The programs, he said, should directly encourage people to manage and protect their marine resources.

He said law enforcement should be strictly implemented. A number of regulations on the environment and coastal management are in place, but are not fully enforced.

And research has shown traditional fishermen are not the only culprits of illegal fishing practices – large-scale companies are also to blame.

However, corrupt officials often turn blind eye, Sahurn said and surveillance was not managed properly due to a limited number of personnel and equipment.

The South Sulawesi Maritime and Fishery Office has only 10 personnel and a small speed boat to guard a vast area.

"Commitment and cooperation from every party is a must in saving the coral reefs," Sahurn said. "We should keep in mind the coral reefs are in a critical shape and that ongoing damage of them might see much more harmful repercussions."

 Health & education

Red tape hampers HIV services for affected groups

Jakarta Post - August 31, 2007

In the efforts to encourage sex workers to take advantage of voluntary HIV counseling and testing (VCT) services, follow-up measures remain a problem.

"We have passed through the difficult phase of convincing them to take the test, but it turns out that VCT service providers are still not ready to be proactive and meet the demand," Azhari Irdah, the field work coordinator of the Kapeta foundation for HIV prevention, said recently.

It seems that VCT provision is moving at a slower pace than public education efforts. Bureaucracy and a lack of human resources and mobility have been cited as the "somewhat cliched- but-real causes", Kapeta field officers say.

VCT by definition is the process of providing counseling to an individual to enable them to make an informed choice about being tested for HIV.

It is deemed an entry point for prevention and care and is acknowledged internationally as an effective as well as cost- efficient strategy for facilitating behavior change, Family Health International reports.

"For sex workers, whose minds can change in a split second, quickly providing them with easy access to VCT is important," the field coordinator, better known as Ari, said. "And easy access means making the services mobile enough to come to them," he said.

Currently, VCT services are available in a limited number of clinics and referral hospitals, which are mostly far from the prostitutes' workplaces. "It is not only about proximity. It is more about making them feel comfortable," Ari said.

A monitoring team from the Health Ministry has recognized that the provision of VCT services has not kept pace with needs, rarely being easily accessible, or friendly to vulnerable groups, the Spiritia Foundation said.

In its evaluation of the 25 hospitals nationwide, the ministry said that VCT services were largely passive in nature, with staff waiting for people to come to them. Limited human resources is a rampant problem in those centers as counselors still have to perform other daily tasks as medical workers.

Currently, Jakarta is providing additional VCT services in community health centers such as in Gambir, Central Jakarta, and Tebet, South Jakarta. "We provide free VCT for those at a potentially high risk of HIV infection. But, we cannot go door-to-door as we have limited resources," said Tebet community health center officer Fadlina.

HIV prevention groups like the Kapeta Foundation have looked away from support for VCT services from the health agency or ministry due to complicated bureaucratic procedures. Kapeta has recently been working closely with organizations like the Indonesian Family Planning Group (PKBI), Ari said.

"We are open to cooperating with anyone who is not reluctant to work quickly," he said. "If we take too long, our sex worker friends could change their minds about VCT or, speaking in terms of a worst-case scenario, die before getting any help." – Anissa S. Febrina


Church burnt to ground in bitter Flores land dispute

Jakarta Post - August 31, 2007

Yemris Fointuna, Kupang – Tensions on the border of Ngada and Manggarai regencies in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, were still high Thursday in the wake of an arson attack on a church following a land dispute between residents of both areas.

The attack, which took place Sunday morning in Benteng Tawa village, Riung Barat district, in Manggarai, was believed to be sparked by frustration over a prolonged border dispute.

Local police identified the perpetrators, but have yet to detain anyone for questioning. "We believe we have identified the perpetrators. We will arrest them, as well as the instigators, once we have enough evidence," Ngada Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Sugeng Kurniaji said Thursday.

"The arson attack was most likely intended to provoke residents involved in the land dispute. Police personnel moved in quickly to diffuse the situation," he said.

The border conflict has persisted since 1972. The Ngada regency administration has provided public services to the residents thus far, but those living in the area consider themselves Manggarai residents.

"This is the main issue – residents living in the disputed area come from the Bar clan in Manggarai, but they live in Ngada," a source told The Jakarta Post.

Assistant of administrative affairs at the East Nusa Tenggara secretariat office Yoseph Mamulak, when contacted in Kupang, said the Directorate General of Regional Autonomy at the Home Affairs Ministry had previously facilitated a meeting between both disputing regency administrations, but they each claimed authority over the disputed area.

"The latest meeting was held in June, but no solution was reached. The Home Affairs Ministry has now given authority to the governor to resolve the issue," said Mamulak, who was appointed head of the border dispute resolution task force by Governor Piet A Tallo.

Mamulak said his office will visit the area in the near future and hold a dialogue with the disputing parties, including both regents. "We hope the land dispute will be resolved... a church has already been razed and residents have (in the past) blockaded roads," he said.

Ngada Regent Nikolaus Dopo expressed hope the mediating team would go to the location soon to determine the boundary between both regencies.

Sharia should stress morals, not law: Hidayat

Jakarta Post - August 30, 2007

Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung – Demands to implement sharia by a number of Muslim circles should not refer to the implementation of Islamic law, but instead focus on moral enhancement, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Hidayat Nurwahid said in Bandung on Wednesday.

Hidayat, former chairman of the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said the Koran did not refer to sharia in matters pertaining to law. But many regard the term as generally referring to the strict enforcement of Islamic law.

"If we refer to the Koran to find its true meaning, it refers to morals and not law. But we implicate it is related to legal matters following the presence of a sharia school," said Hidayat in his keynote speech during the National PKS working committee meeting in Lembang, Bandung.

The unclear definition of sharia, which has resulted in public anxiety, implied negative things and represented Islam as being discriminatory against the minority, he said.

"What the public conceives of sharia eventually, are eerie things like punishments in the form of lashing and the severing of hands in public, and closures of houses of worship," said Hidayat.

Hidayat said "sharia" referred to moral improvement, although he added that those who disapproved of sharia were often involved in corrupt practices.

He cited as an example the case in which two PKS faction members in the West Java Legislative Council returned Rp 500 million (approximately US$55,550) in cash rewards, derived from the provincial budget, but had received protests from legislators who often criticized sharia. "Those who like to talk about sharia in fact did not return the cash rewards," said Hidayat.

He said that in reality, the sharia concept should embody the existing plurality in the country, in which Islam can be represented as a religion that brings solutions, passion and mercy for all, and that Muslims in Indonesia should be more supportive of all existing denominations.

"In Aceh for example, I heard that Central, West and North Aceh have arrested gamblers until their prisons are chock-full and that they are keen to uphold the sharia. But, if we look at the inside, corruption still exists," said Hidayat.

Hidayat said a mutual compromise between Muslim-based parties was required to redefine the essence of sharia, such as through a Muslim congress. "However, it would definitely take time. We should start applying sharia by promoting morality in our daily lives right away, before a definition is available," he added.

Separately, PKS chairman Tifatul Sembiring said his party would garner support from secular nationalist parties to win the 2009 election.

He estimated that the greatest potential number of voters were from such parties, after referring to the PKS national congress in 2005 in which it was realized that voters from "radical" Islamic parties accounted for only 20 percent of the votes obtained. "Most of the parties that fared well during the 2004 election were nationalist parties, such as Golkar, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the Democrat Party," said Tifatul.

He said garnering votes from secular nationalist parties was not against his party's philosophy because during the Prophet Muhammad's period, the Madinah pact recognized plurality and people mutually respected each other. "We are a nationalistic party that is religious," said Tifatul.

Islam told to focus on those in need

Jakarta Post - August 29, 2007

Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta – Indonesia's major Islamic organizations should be more involved in poverty alleviation programs rather than political activities, an Islam-focused conference concluded Tuesday.

And Muslim groups should contribute toward public policies and petition the government to become pro-active toward families in need throughout Indonesia, the Maarif Institute and Asia Foundation said.

Executive director of Maarif Institute, Raja Juli Antoni, said Tuesday that Indonesia's Islamic organizations, including Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, enjoyed widespread influence and credibility and should leverage this to empower entire communities to become more involved in programs for those in need.

"They can create programs to empower poor people by cooperating with non-governmental organizations as well as local administrations, for example by establishing microfinancial institutions," Raja said.

The conference involved representatives from NU, Muhammadiyah and several provincial and regional administrations. Discussions between the groups concluded the country's Islamic organizations had made efforts to alleviate poverty.

But Raja said these groups were often too busy with their own internal business. He said the "poor political atmosphere" surrounding large Islamic organizations had seen a massive fragmentation into numerous groups "with miscellaneous political motives". This was due partly to their lack of political influence.

Raja said Islamic organizations should turn their focus also toward the government and the establishment of a good governance system, especially in relation to budget transparency and accountability. "It is time for Islamic organizations to take concrete measures, rather than only performing proselytism activities," he said.

Director of the Islam and development program at Asia Foundation, John Brownlee, said although Islamic organizations had put some energy toward solving poverty, their efforts were not realized by those in power. "Thus, they need to strengthen their management and their positioning toward the decision makers," Brownlee said.

There had been many successful programs undertaken by Islamic organizations, local administrations and NGOs, but they had been hampered by politics, he said.

Radicals in retreat

Melbourne age - August 26, 2007

Mark Forbes – They were meticulously planned, the fertiliser and TNT-powered blasts that ripped through Paddy's Bar, the Sari Club and the holidaymakers cavorting inside them on October 12, 2002.

The bombs left 202 burnt, bloodied bodies along the famous Kuta holiday strip, and announced in the most shocking terms that international terrorism had arrived on Australia's doorstep.

With calculated carnage inflicted on the softest of targets, Jemaah Islamiah leapt from the shadows to become the region's primary terrorist threat.

On afghanistan's battlefields, JI had forged bonds with al-Qaeda, which schooled its fighters in weapons and explosives. It was bent on Islamic revolution and targeted these raucous symbols of Western decadence in a rallying call for Muslims to turn on foreigners.

For the next three years, JI struck at will, bombing the Marriott Hotel and Australia's Jakarta Embassy before dispatching suicide bombers to Bali restaurants in 2005.

Practically undetected, JI had recruited thousands of members and established four command structures (called mantiqis) stretching across Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and even Australia. It was the Perth-based mantiqi four that recruited Jack Roach – convicted for planning to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Canberra at the behest of al-Qaeda.

Authorities had underestimated the danger. Even after the Bali attack, Indonesian leaders queried JI's existence and investigators initially refused to consider an Indonesian suicide bombing.

In Bali, Australian police began an unprecedented partnership with their Indonesian counterparts, picking through the wreckage in Kuta and assembling a picture of the network behind it. Their combination of sophisticated policing, high-tech surveillance and covert "soft" approaches to win over acolytes has been the unrecognised success of the world's war on terror.

Today, Canberra still issues frantic warnings against travelling to Indonesia; ASIO head Paul O'Sullivan recently said JI "meant business" and it and other jihadist groups posed a "significant threat to Australia's national security".

But those tracking JI believe it has been largely neutralised as a terror threat, with its military leaders arrested or on the run.

Almost all have been apprehended by Petrus Golose, the deputy commander of Indonesia's crack counter-terror squad, Detachment 88. It was Golose who caught JI's military commander, abu Dujana, and new leader Zarkasih in June.

It was Golose who captured the Bali bombers. and it was Golose who, after the second Bali attacks, ordered JI's master bomb- maker Azahari Husin to be cut down by a barrage of bullets in a village hideout before he could detonate the suicide bomb strapped to his chest.

He believes the terrorists are incapable, for now, of launching fresh attacks. "Before we were afraid of them," he says. "Now they are afraid of us.

We are not saying that they are stopped, but at least they need to consolidate. To hunt them is the best strategy. That's what we are doing now, hunting them." Before 2002, JI bombed churches across Indonesia but police knew little about the network and had no idea where the next attack would be, Golose admits.

Now JI and its offshoots have been unable to mount a major attack for almost two years, he says. The mantiqis have been abandoned and leaders of its key remaining base in Indonesia's central Java are undergoing interrogation.

The International Crisis Group's Sidney Jones agrees that "JI has been severely weakened over the past five years in terms of geographic reach, funding, capacity and, importantly, control.

"In the near term, JI will be focused on rebuilding and remains dangerous less as a terrorist organisation in its own right than as a recruiting tool," she says.

Not that JI has conceded defeat. Police interviews and seized documents reveal a plan to regroup and rebuild towards a 30-year goal of establishing an Islamic state, with a growing network of radical Islamic schools to nurse recruits.

JI's remaining leaders believe mass bombings – which killed more Muslims than Christians – and resulting crackdowns backfired and favour an evolutionary imposition of Islamic Sharia law.

A few fanatics, spearheaded by Bali bomb planner Noordin Top, remain dedicated to attacking civilians but are busy avoiding capture. Several hardliners have fled to the Philippines and teamed up with the abu Sayyaf Group, but are distanced from the JI mainstream.

Following his arrest, Dujana admitted he headed JI's military wing, but claimed to oppose the Bali bombings. "Some of the perpetrators are JI members, however today they are out of control," Dujana said, adding that Top had violated JI's "rules of the game".

Golose remains sceptical, pointing out that Dujana received reports on the bombings, provided personnel and enabled Top to continue to evade capture.

Dujana did admit to encouraging violence in Poso, including church bombings and the beheading of three Christian schoolgirls in 2005. as Poso was a "conflict zone" where Muslims were under attack he justified these attacks as jihad.

Revulsion at the beheadings drove a new police investigation into Poso, exposing JI's hand in the violence. Early this year, 22 sympathisers were killed when they resisted a police raid on a remote village. Others arrested revealed the location of JI's safe houses in Java. Watching them, along with monitoring phone and internet communications, led police to stockpiles of guns and hundreds of kilograms of explosives, then to Dujana and Zakarsih.

Indonesian Security Ministry counter-terrorism chief ansyaad Mbai describes the operation as a "spectacular success, this network is the inner circle of JI".

In a swipe at those in the US and Australia who had claimed Indonesia was not tough enough against suspects and should have outlawed JI, Mbai says a "soft, humane approach" contributed to the achievements – along with the Australian police training, equipment and assistance.

Once arrested, the challenge is to change a terrorist's ideology, he says. Aside from forbidding harsh interrogations, Indonesian authorities have been subsidising the families of convicted terrorists.

"We give the children assistance so they can return to school, we help the wife so she can survive and we are then able to communicate with the terrorists," Mbai says.

Religious leaders are also used to convince those captured that terrorism is not condoned by Islam, but the most effective persuaders are the terrorists' former leaders and trainers, he says.

The key weapon in Indonesia's "soft" war on terror is Nasir abas, a personable man who trained most of JI's hardliners to kill.

When a terrorist is arrested, abas is usually among the first to meet them. First there are reminiscences about times past, then offers of assistance. Some, including Dujana and Zarkasih, "are not too happy to see me", he says.

When he met one of Top's men, Cholily – who constructed a website detailing where foreigners could be ambushed and killed in Jakarta – abas was told Top had vowed to shoot him on sight.

Abas says he always thought he was training men to protect an Islamic state, not kill civilians. although Australian officials are paranoid about revealing the extent of technical and policing assistance to counter-terrorist operations in Indonesia, they are more forthcoming about Canberra's participation in the hearts-and-minds campaign towards Muslims.

Foreign Minister alexander Downer told The Sunday Age moderate Islamic leaders must be encouraged and supported. Australia is working with mass Muslim groups across Indonesia, he says.

"They are the people who are going to confront extremist Islam," Mr Downer says. "We are actually building Islamic schools in Indonesia – we're building thousands of them, 2000 of them. Why? Because Islam is a fact."

Sidney Jones says more must be done to confront fundamentalist ideology. JI was born from another hardline Islamic group that waxed and waned for 50 years, similar to several existing today. The more than 20 schools it has established and the offspring of its members are fertile recruiting grounds.

In prison, members use Islamic study groups to win across other inmates. "The ideology now has deep roots in the region and you can't say the danger is over," she says.

Although JI has lost its base in Poso – where it attempted to inspire Islamic hatred of Christians – it retains an intricate web of family, business and social ties, providing the capacity to regenerate.

JI's new leaders will be Indonesia-focused, opposed to al-Qaeda- style tactics, says Jones, but some youths may grow impatient and radicals hiding in the Philippines could return to lead them.

In one post-arrest interview, Dujana pointed out that JI could not be understood as an organisation in conventional terms. "We are underground," he said. "What is clear is, we still have friends out there. God willing, they are patient."

How Jemaah Islamiah became the region's primary terrorist threat

Established in 1993 by two hardline Indonesian clerics, abdullah Sungkar and abu Bakar Bashir, who had fled to Malaysia.

The group dispatched fighters to afghanistan, building strong links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, and developed its own military training bases in Indonesia and the Philippines.

With the aim of enforcing an Islamic state across the region, Jemaah Islamiah established four command structures, or mantiqis.

Mantiqi 1 covered Malaysia, Singapore and southern Thailand. Mantiqi 2 covered Indonesia. Mantiqi 3 covered the Philippines, and Indonesia's Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Mantiqi 4 was to be responsible for Australia and West Papua.

Initially it concentrated its attacks on Christians and churches, but burst on to the international terror scene with the 2002 Bali bombing as the region's primary terrorist threat.

Key events: Jemaah Islamiah founded. 1993

  • December 24, 2000: Bombs sent to about 30 churches in Indonesia.
  • October 12, 2002. First Bali bombing.
  • August-september 2003. Captured Bali bombers Mukhlas, Imam Samudra and Amrozi sentenced to death.
  • April 30, 2004: abu Bakar Bashir sentenced to 2? years' jail for approving the Bali bombing (verdict overturned after his release).
  • September 9, 2004: Bombing of Australian Embassy, Jakarta.
  • October 1, 2005: Second Bali bombings.
  • November 9, 2005: azahari Husin shot dead in Malang, East Java.
  • June 9, 2007: abu Dujana (military commander) and Zarkasih (emir) arrested.

 Elections/political parties

Voter apathy primary cause of abstention, surveys say

Jakarta Post - August 31, 2007

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Apathy about Jakarta's gubernatorial election kept a significant number of registered voters away from polling booths, surveyors say.

The Institute of Research, Education and Information on Social and Economic Affairs (LP3ES) found that more than 75 percent of the survey's 1,128 respondents would "rather have been anywhere else" – from a holiday resort to behind their desk at work – than at a polling station on election day.

The respondents were among the some 2.1 million registered voters who did not cast their ballots early this month, or 34.6 percent of the 5.7 million people who were registered to vote. They said they might have been more interested if there had been more than two candidates in the running.

"Basically, there was no compelling issue or event in the election that triggered their interest in voting. They could not see that voting would affect their lives," said LP3ES researcher Agung Prihatna.

Negative issues shrouding the election process – from errors in the voter registration process to humdrum campaigns that failed to catch voters' attention – worsened this condition, he said.

Jakarta's first direct election was a head-to-head battle between Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo and retired police general Adang Daradjatun, previously the deputy chief of the National Police.

Adang made his willingness to instigate change the central theme of his campaign, while Fauzi promised to promote diversity and used his years of experience in the administration to get voters on side.

The Jakarta Elections Commission reported that each campaign team spent more than Rp 46 billion (US$4.8 million), mostly on media announcements – including advertisements, production costs and placements.

Despite their costly media campaigns, the candidates still did things the old-fashioned way, holding public meetings that were more about everyone having a good time than their political platforms. The meetings were also held on weekdays, when most Jakartans are working.

Political observer Paul Rowland of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) said voters in Jakarta were behaving just like other voters in the world's well-established democracies, in terms of their political reasons for voting or not voting.

He cited as an example Americans waning lack of interest in elections during the Bush administration. "The challenge here is to provide a better political education from the school system, with more emphasis on 'why' one should vote and less on 'how' to vote," Paul said.

Paul said that nonprofit organizations and political parties should work together to raise election awareness. "Group discussions in low-participation communities, as well as frequent public debates between candidates during the election, would encourage people to participate in the election," he said.

During the campaign season, there was only one public debate between the candidates, which was all over in less than an hour.

PKS gearing up for bigger slice of the vote in 2009 elections

Jakarta Post - August 31, 2007

Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung – The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has said it is confident of taking 20 percent of the vote in the 2009 general election.

Along with relying on its existing 600,000 members across the country, the party will also attempt to expand its base to reach nationalist and secular groups, PKS president Tifatul Sembiring said Thursday.

He said the party needed to reach 20 percent in order to be able to nominate presidential and vice presidential candidates. "We will emphasize that we are not a religious group, we are a nationalist party that is religious," Tifatul said in a press conference in Bandung on Thursday.

Tifatul said they were likely to reach the target as candidates nominated by the party in the past have won 81 out of 138 direct regional elections across the country from 2005 to August this year.

While acknowledging the party's failure to win in the recent Jakarta gubernatorial election, he said that analysis had shown that the effectiveness of a party's political machine and the loyalty of its members were determining factors in its garnering public support for its candidates.

"Currently, we're preparing to contest the upcoming direct elections in Central Java, East Java, South Sulawesi and West Java," he said.

Tifatul said the PKS planned to propose that independent candidates should have to show they had the support at least 3 percent of voters in their area.

He said the party would ask new Home Minister Mardiyanto to finish the draft law on politics and revise the 2004 Regional Administration Law.

In the 2004 legislative elections, the Golkar Party took the largest part of the vote, followed by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the United Development Party.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party ranked fourth, followed by the National Awakening party, the National Mandate Party and the PKS.

Independent candidates likely to inspire voters: Observer

Jakarta Post - August 24, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – Changing electoral laws to allow non-party candidates to run could lead to a greater voter turnout in regional elections, a political observer said Thursday.

"The Aceh gubernatorial election, which had local independent candidates, had a voter turnout of 77 percent," Indra J. Piliang, a political observer from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies told a seminar on the issue.

"Meanwhile in Jakarta, which did not have independent candidates in its Aug. 8 gubernatorial election, voter turnout only reached 50 percent."

According to Indra, voter turnout has been decreasing in many regions since June 2005. "More people would come to polling stations if they knew that they could vote for candidates who promised to implement (their) personal or local values," he said.

"People would become more enthusiastic about politics," Indra said. "Independent candidates could also bring unprecedented demands, such as expanding the rights of homosexuals, lesbians or maybe animal rights," he added.

The Constitutional Court issued a ruling on July 23 allowing citizens not endorsed by parties to contest local elections as independent candidates, annulling several articles in the 2004 Regional Autonomy Law.

It is expected that amendments to the current regional autonomy law – itself an amended version of the original 1999 law – could be passed by the end of this year.

Currently, Aceh is the only province where independent candidates are allowed to run in local elections, thanks to the 2006 Aceh Autonomy Law.

Indra said that in Aceh the 3 percent electoral support threshold required to register an independent candidacy – which is proven by providing copies of supporters' ID cards – was still difficult to get. "In the Aceh election, many independent candidates failed to meet the electoral threshold."

Chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction at the House of Representatives, Effendi Choirie, said the Aceh example was not a good argument in favor of Indra's voter turnout claim. "Aceh's political situation is different, so it cannot be compared to other areas," he said.

Effendi said both candidates endorsed by parties and independents should have to face an equally difficulty electoral threshold. "This is to assure fairness," he said.

Effendi said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should issue a ruling to regulate the participation of independent candidates in regional elections and in order to avoid any future uproars.

Chairman of the Constitutional Court Jimly Asshiddiqie said the court's ruling on independent candidates could be applied as soon as January 2008 in 14 provinces, regencies and municipalities.

Among the provinces allowed to have independent candidates in local elections are East Kalimantan, Maluku and West Nusa Tenggara.

 Jakarta/urban life

Businesspeople say Jakarta not the place

Jakarta Post - August 31, 2007

Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta – Local entrepreneurs are skeptical about the "abundant" business opportunities in the capital, citing that many sectors are untapped but marketing and licensing obstacles remain, the trade chamber chairman says.

The chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Jakarta chapter, Sofian Pane, said Thursday the trade sector in the capital was lucrative but businesspeople often came up against problems in obtaining business licenses and product distribution.

"Jakarta is at the core of trading. It has great potential, with export and import transactions in the capital accounting for around 60-70 percent of exchanges," Sofian said on the sidelines of a discussion on business opportunities in the archipelago's regions. "However, businesses spend so much time on product deliveries alone because of, for example, traffic congestion in Jakarta. This has resulted in high costs."

Spending on product transportation, he said, ranged from 22-32 percent of a product's market price. "The capital's reliance on other regions, which supply 98 percent of its needs, is also a cause of the high cost," Sofian said.

By comparison, the spending on transportation only contributes around 10-15 percent of the market price of a product both in Malaysia and Vietnam, while the figure is lower in the city-state of Singapore, he said. "There must be something wrong if Jakartan businesses spend much more than neighboring countries."

He said costs also increased if consignments were held at ports for document processing for more than a month, despite Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati's order to excise and duty services to shorten the period to between a week and a month, depending on the category of the goods.

High spending, Sofian said, also meant that the products Jakartan businesspeople sold overseas were less competitive than those of rival countries, causing a dilemma "as to which countries' businesses should export their products".

In addition to high distribution costs, he said, difficulties in getting licenses were also encountered by businesses in the capital.

The city administration is establishing one-roof services that will allow businesses to acquire the licenses they need within 60 days, from the former 151 days, following a 2006 ministry regulation on the services.

The system will provide, among other things, permission to use sites, licenses to build structures, company legal documents, business licenses and a company registration code. "Yes, the administration has such a plan. But we still don't know when the system will fully run," said Sofian.

The administration has just begun operating a building in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, that uses the system. It plans to build two more in the future, while awaiting a gubernatorial regulation on the comprehensive use of the one-roof services.

Regions like Sragen, Kebumen – both in Central Java – and Batam in Riau Islands have already established such a system, which has helped boost their local revenues.

According to the Jakarta Investment Coordinating Board's data, realized national investment in the capital reached Rp 14.9 trillion (US$140 billion) as of April this year, 14.47 percent of the planned Rp 102.94 trillion for this year alone.

Squatters defiant, mayor insists evictions in best interests

Jakarta Post - August 28, 2007

Jakarta – Hundreds of people living under the Jembatan Tiga expressway, which was recently damaged in a slum fire, protested Monday in front of the North Jakarta municipal office against the local administration's plan to evict them.

The squatters demanded the North Jakarta administration cancel the evictions, scheduled for late August, and expressed their unwillingness to be relocated to low-cost apartments such as those still under construction in Marunda, North Jakarta.

They argued the apartments were uninhabitable, with clogged up toilets, cracked walls and broken floors, and that the location was far from their workplaces and schools.

Wardah Hafidz, the coordinator of non-governmental organization the Urban Poor Consortium, who attended the rally, repeated their demands.

She said the squatters wanted to move to a vacant lot near the turnpike instead of to the apartments. "The government could later develop the property, making it a better place to live.

"The area has sometimes been used as a traditional market, so why not just let them live there, or in the nearby apartments, so they can still be close to their workplaces," Wardah said.

She acknowledged, however, that not all of the squatters were against the administration. Some of them have reportedly had a change of heart after weeks of uncertainty and just want a place to stay.

"But, it's only a small number of the squatters, such as those living in Rawa Bebek. Almost two-thirds of them insist on staying put and almost a third have decided to accept the apartment offer or the Rp 1 million (around US$106.3) start-up payment," said Wardah, adding that she thought most of the squatters would stay put even as the eviction deadline approached.

"Foke (Jakarta Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo) said the deadline was Aug. 31, but the mayor (North Jakarta Mayor Effendi Anas) has given them three days to move, which puts the deadline between Aug. 28 and Aug. 29," she said.

Responding to Monday's protest, Mayor Effendi asked non- governmental organizations to refrain from discouraging the squatters from accepting the government's offers.

"We're all concerned about the situation. It's inhumane and unhealthy to live under the turnpike. Please do not profit from people's misery and their poverty," Effendy said as quoted by Kompas online.

Apartments for squatters a shabby offer, NGO warns

Jakarta Post - August 24, 2007

Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta – Non-governmental group the Urban Poor Consortium on Thursday said the housing solutions offered to squatters living under elevated roads by the city and North Jakarta municipal administrations were not feasible.

Squatters who are in possession of city-issued identity cards have been given the option of renting apartments in Marunda, North Jakarta; Cakung, East Jakarta; or Parungpanjang, Bogor; for discounted rates of between Rp 90,000 (US$9.56) and Rp 110,000. Squatters without Jakarta IDs, however, will be given start-up capital of Rp 1 million per family.

"The squatters cannot live in the apartments proposed by the administration because our surveyors have reported significant structural damage there," consortium coordinator Wardah Hafidz said at the City Council. "The team predicts the apartment building in Marunda (North Jakarta) will collapse within the next two to three years."

Contradicting Wardah, Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo separately said the NGO's findings were "irrational". "The administration took everything into account before constructing the apartment building."

Speaking on behalf of more than 10,000 poor families who have received eviction notices from the municipality, Wardah, along with at least 70 squatters, stormed the council Thursday, demanding that councillors of the Prosperous Justice Party prevent the municipality from carrying out evictions until all sides had come to an agreement.

She also said only a fourth of the 10,000 poor families had Jakarta IDs. "Where is the administration going to house the remaining 7,500 families?" The apartments, she said, were not ready for occupancy as "the utility system, such as tap water, will not be ready until next year".

The municipality, the Cawang-Pluit turnpike operator, PT Citra Marga Nusaphala Persada, state-owned turnpike operator PT Jasa Marga and the Public Works Ministry have decided to relocate all squatters living under elevated roads stretching the 11 kilometers from Tanjung Priok to Penjaringan, all in North Jakarta, including those of Jembatan Tiga.

The decision was made following the Aug. 7 fire that burned more than 200 plywood structures to the ground and left 500 people homeless. The blaze was the second in the area in the last two months and severely damaged the turnpike pylons.

According to data from the Urban Poor Consortium, 4,646 families or 18,584 people are currently living under the elevated roads.

The Public Works Ministry gave squatters the right to build shanties under turnpikes in 2002 but annulled the decree later in November 2006.

Wardah urged the council to set up a meeting to together find "the best solution for all" before next Tuesday – the day when the municipality will decide whether it will delay the evictions, scheduled for next Friday, or call them off.

Councillor Mukhayar R.M. of the Prosperous Justice Party said it would bring the issue to the fore but canceling the evictions was impossible. "Jakarta should be a decent place to live for everyone. But squatters should not live under turnpikes because no regulations allow them to live there."

Wardah offered as a solution that the administration allow squatters to use the three-meter-wide vacant spaces along the sides of turnpikes to build vertical structures, should they not be allowed to live under turnpikes.

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