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Indonesia News Digest 45 – December 1-7, 2007

News & issues

Demos, actions, protests... West Papua Human rights/law Environment/natural disasters Health & education War on corruption Islam/religion Elections/political parties Police/law enforcement Economy & investment Opinion & analysis

 News & issues

Poor people hardest-hit by fuel price hikes

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2007

Jakarta – A new study by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences has examined the way different communities in the country were impacted by the 2005 increase in fuel prices.

LIPI researcher Maxensius Tri Sembodo said Thursday the increase had the biggest impact on low-income communities, with most enduring declines in monthly income and struggling to survive.

Researchers studies the impacts of the Oct. 1, 2005, increase on three sectors. These were fishery, public transportation and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).

"Among these sectors, public transportation was the worst hit by the fuel price hike and it has yet to recover," Maxensius told reporters at the LIPI office in Jakarta.

He said public transportation operators had to increase fares to offset rising operating costs, resulting in declining passenger numbers and income.

"To adapt to the situation, owners of public vehicles have reduced the daily fees drivers have to pay," he said.

"Drivers, meanwhile, have to cut their operating hours, mix gasoline with kerosene and go longer between taking their vehicles in for maintenance."

Another LIPI researcher, Purwanto, focused on the impact on the fishery sector. He said most of the some 60 fishermen covered by the study had seen their incomes decline by up to 28 percent from Rp 920,000 (US$99) before the fuel price hike to Rp 660,000.

"Fishermen had to cut budgets, among other things, for ship maintenance, fish cold storage and food during the fishing session to offset the increasing operating costs," he said.

"The situation is aggravated by fishermen's poor bargaining position in the fish market, which leaves them unable to get better prices. They try to adapt by reducing how far out they go to sea and for how long, but this, too, results in reduced incomes."

The fuel price increase affected the MSME sector in different ways and to different degrees, researchers said.

"Larger enterprises in the category were able to adapt better than the smaller ones by increasing prices, reducing the size of products and modifying production tools," LIPI said in the report.

All the MSMEs had to bear increases in operating costs, slides in revenues and declines in production after the fuel price hike.

LIPI conducted the study from April to September with a total of 200 respondents in Semarang and Cilacap in Central Java, and Bengkulu.

The institute suggested the government develop and convert immediately to alternative energies such as natural gas; increase the amount of subsidized fuels for the public transportation sector; and drastically cut the fuel subsidy for private vehicles.

It said these measures were important to prevent further negative impacts of fuel price hikes on low-income communities.

The government is currently planning to limit the sale of subsidized gasoline to private vehicles, and to sell a new type of gasoline to private cars in order to curb the fuel subsidy. (wda)

Two blasts mark preparations for Poso Lake Festival

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2007

Ruslan Sangadji, Poso – Two explosions marred preparations for Thursday's opening of the revived Poso Lake Festival, which had been canceled indefinitely following religious conflict in Central Sulawesi in the early 2000s.

The first explosion occurred at Kawua village in South Poso district, Poso regency, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, in front of Puncak restaurant and about 200 meters from the Sintuwu Maroso military post. The second was at Soulowe village in Dolo district, Donggala regency, at 10 p.m. There were no reports of casualties.

Poso, which used to be famous for its pristine natural beauty, and surrounding areas had been the scene of a series of bloody conflicts between Muslims and Christians that left some 1,000 people dead between 2000 and 2001.

The police had not yet determined the cause and nature of the Thursday's explosions, but local people suspected they had been caused by bombs.

Some witnesses in front of Puncak restaurant reported seeing a plastic bag at the side of the road just before the explosion. They had thought it was merely garbage. "We only realized it was a bomb after it exploded," a resident, who asked not to be identified, told The Jakarta Post.

Head of the Central Sulawesi Police, Gen. Brig. Badrodin Haiti, said police were still investigating the cases and had not determined conclusively whether the explosions were caused by bombs.

Police and soldiers closed all roads leading to Poso and investigated several places in the two regencies. They said the festival, to be held from Thursday to Monday, would go on as planned. "We have prepared our officers to oversee events. We guarantee the festival will run well," Badrodin said.

One bomb squad was deployed to Saulowe in Donggala soon after the explosion there, but was unable to reach any conclusions due to an electricity outage.

60 percent respondents reject DCA with Singapore

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2007

Jakarta – A recent survey by the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) has revealed that some 60 percent of Indonesians are against the ratification of a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) and Extradition Treaty with Singapore.

"60.09 percent of respondents said they were against the ratification of the DCA, another 34.61 percent asked for a review of the agreement and only 3.61 percent accepted the agreement," Lemhanas deputy for the Enforcement of Nationhood Values, Bijah Soebijanto, told detik.com.

The survey involved 600 respondents of various professions in cities across the country, including Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara, Surakarta in Central Java and Makassar in South Sulawesi.

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, who signed the DCA with his Singaporean counterpart in Bali last July, said he would not be deterred by the results of the survey. "We'll consider the survey results as input for us. But we cannot accept them outright," he said.

Juwono said both the Indonesian and Singaporean foreign ministers were now discussing the possibility of opening a new round of negotiations for the ratification of both agreements.

SBY to install Santoso before year end

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2007

Jakarta – Outgoing Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Marshall Djoko Suyanto has confirmed that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will install Army chief Gen. Djoko Santoso as his replacement before the end of this year.

"The President has agreed to install (Santoso) before Jan. 1, 2008, the day I will retire. The handover ceremony will be held in early January," Suyanto told detik.com at the State Palace on Thursday. "The new Army chief should be installed prior to (Santoso's) installment as TNI chief," he added.

The Army chief has named six candidates for his replacement: deputy Army chief of staff Lt. Gen. C. Simbolon, TNI chief of general affairs Lt. Gen. Erwin Sudjono, commander of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command Lt. Gen. George Toisutta, secretary general of the Defense Ministry Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, secretary to the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Lt. Gen. Agustadi Sasongko Purnomo and chief of the Army's Education and Training Command Lt. Gen. Bambang Darmono.

Three foreign activists deported

Tempo Interactive - December 4, 2007

Erick Priberkah H/Rana AF, Bandung – The Bandung Immigration Bureau in West Java decided to deport three environmental activists from the United States, the Philippines and India, yesterday (3/12).

During an examination, they were found of having used immigration permits improperly. "The immigration permits were not granted for the sort of activities that they were involved in (speaking at a demonstration forum). We have the photos," said Rachmat Tanjung, the Head of Bandung Immigration Bureau I, yesterday.

The three activists will be deported to their respective countries. The activists, who were from the Global Anti- Incinerator Alliance (GAIA), were Neil Tangry from the US, Gigie Cruz from the Philippines and Shibu K. Nair from India. They were arrested during a demonstration in Gedebage, Bandung, last Sunday (2/12).

Bandung Municipal Police said they suspected the three activists were involved in the demonstration rejecting the Bandung City Government's plan to build a waste-powered electricity generating plant in Griya Cempaka Arum Complex, Gedebage, Bandung.

Adj. Chief Comm. Sonny Sonjaya, Head of Intelligence and Security of the Bandung Police, said the immigration documents of the three activists were visas on arrival. "These are tourist's visas," he said.

The three activists, said Sonny, twice refused to sign the investigation report (BAP) and only signed it after it was presented the third time.

Yuyun Ismawati from Balifokus, who is an Indonesian GAIA activist, confirmed the matter of refusing to sign the BAP. "We can't accept the accusation," she said.

Yuyun acknowledged she was a coordinating member for the activities at Griya Cempaka Arum complex, Gedebage, to which the three foreign activists were invited. The activities which were supported by GAIA and the Civil Society Forum, she said, was carried out in four cities with different issues.

Foreign environmental activists threatened with deportation

Detik.com - December 3, 2007

Erna Mardiana, Bandung – Three foreign environmental activists, who have been in Bandung (West Java) municipal district police detention since Sunday afternoon, have been threatened with deportation. The three foreign nationals are Maria Virginia Cruz from the Philippines, Neil Tangri from the United States and Shibu K Nair from India.

According to their lawyer Yogaswara, they have been charged under Articles 42 and 50 of the Immigration Law. Article 42 reads that the immigration department will take measures against foreigners in the territory of Indonesia who undertake activities that threaten public security and order or fail to respect prevailing laws.

According to Article 50 meanwhile, foreigner who intentionally misuse or undertake activities that are not in line with the immigration permit that they have been given, can be jailed for a maximum of five years or incur a fine of as much as 25 million rupiah.

"Under Article 42, they are threatened with deportation. This articles isn't precise, how did they endanger the state? They were just sharing their experiences about waste [management]", said Yogaswara when speaking with journalists at the Bandung district municipal police headquarters on Jl. Jawa on Monday December 3.

Meanwhile an activists from Global Alliance Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Indonesia who is also being questioned, Yuyun Ismawati, said that the three foreign nationals had refused to sign the police interrogation reports (BAP) because they were written in Indonesian.

"Since last night we have been asking that the BAP be written in English. They should be respected as foreign citizens", said Ismawati.

Ismawati added that a lot of support has come from environmental activists from other countries, including among others the Philippines and Malaysia, who have sent faxes directly to the Bandung municipal district police.

"Now the world knows about it. They only came here just to share their experiences about waste management", said Ismawati.

The three are activists from the non-government organisation GAIA who came to Indonesia to attended the Climate Change Conference in Nusa Dua, Bali, which is to start today. (ern/djo)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Demos, actions, protests...

Rally demands minimum wage

Jakarta Post - December 3, 2007

Jakarta – Around 150 laborers held a rally demanding a national minimum wage of Rp 1.2 million (US$133) at the Presidential Palace on Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara, Central Jakarta, on Sunday.

The labors work in industrial zones including Cakung in East Jakarta, Kampung Muara in North Jakarta and Tangerang.

Domingus Oktavianus, head of Indonesia's Labor Struggle National Front, said it had done a survey to determine how much the wage should be.

Police in Sawah Besar managed to prevent the rally from causing traffic congestion in the area.

Protesters say govt reluctant to solve past rights violations

Kompas - December 7, 2007

Jakarta – The victims and families of victims of human rights violations say the government is reluctant to resolve past human rights cases. Cases such as the 1997-1998 abduction of activists, the shooting of Trisakti students and the Semanggi I and II incidents, which should be investigated, are precisely those that are being ignored and left dependent on finding a legalistic ground to take action.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is seen as being passive because he is incapable of maximising the performance of cabinet members in resolving human right violations. It is not surprising therefore that the victims and families of victims of human rights violations believe that the president's statement that there is no one who is above the law is merely something nice to hear.

These concerns were included in an open letter to President Yudhoyono from the Solidarity Network for Victims and Families of Victims (JSKKK) that was handed to the president through a member of the Presidential Security Detail (Paspampres) on the afternoon of Thursday December 6, during a Thursday Action in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

The letter was part of an ongoing campaign by victims and the families of victims to seek justice. "This is our 18th letter", said Arief, the father of BR Norma Irmawan, who was shot dead by security personnel when the Semanggi I incident erupted on November 13, 1998.

Out of the 18 letters that the group has already sent to the president, only once have they received a response from State Secretary Hatta Rajasa. The reply contained a request that Attorney General accept and accommodate the complains of the victims and families of victims of human rights violations.

Also present during this, the 44th Thursday Action, were four members of the National Human Rights Commission, Ridha Saleh, Yoseph Adi Prasetyo, Saharudin Daming and Syafruddin Ngulma Simeulue. "The government cannot just remain silent," said Simeulue. (JOS)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Protests to add to Jakarta traffic congestion today

Tempo Interactive - December 4, 2007

Jakarta – A number of protests or mass actions on the main streets of Jakarta will add to the traffic congestion today. The protest groups, as announced by the Metro Jaya regional police Traffic Management Center (TMC), have already sent notifications of their planned actions to police.

At 9am, a group calling itself the Riau Students Association (HPMR) will hold protest in front of the national police headquarters on JL. Trunojoyo, the Attorney General's Office on Jl. Sisimangaraja in South Jakarta and at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout.

Also around 9am, a group called the Jambi Law Enforcement Social Concern Alliance (AMJPPH) plans to visit the Corruption Eradication Commission on Jl. HR Rasuna Said in South Jakarta. They are also planning to protest at the national police headquarters. This may well be followed by a demonstration by the Indonesian People's Association of Sugarcane Farmers (APTRI), after which they will go to the Ragunan Earth Encampment in South Jakarta later in the afternoon.

Students also plan to hold protests in front of the House of Representatives (DPR) Building on Jl. Gatot Subroto. The University of Indonesia Student Executive Council (BEM) will be holding an action at around 11am. A group called the Social Movement to Safeguard the People's Money (GEMPUR), which claims to be made up of 26 student and youth organisations, plans to hold an action at 12noon at the same location. The Jakarta State University BEM has also announced plans to demonstrate at the DPR at around 1pm later this afternoon.

Between 3-5pm, the Urban Poor Consortium will hold a cultural rally from the Hotel Indonesia roundabout to the Proclamation Monument in Central Jakarta. Also at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, a group called the Betawi Social Association Jakarta Militia (LJPMB) will be launching a new tabloid between 4-6pm. (TMC, Ibnu R.)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Traders protest retail giant nearby

Jakarta Post - December 3, 2007

Tangerang – Some 500 traders from Cileduk, Cipadu and Lembang traditional markets staged a rally at newly built Cileduk central business district in Tangerang municipality, on Saturday.

The protested the opening of a new outlet of the French retail giant Carrefour. They demanded the opening be stopped out of fear that having Carrefour near the traditional markets will put them out of business.

"We won't be able to compete with the giant modern hypermarket," said Ngadirum, secretary general of the Indonesian Traditional Market Traders Association.

M. Sa'ban, manager of the central business district said there had been meetings with the traders but that Carrefour would open anyway. Meetings "with the traders... always end in deadlock. We are confused," he said, adding there was no problem with Carrefour's permits.

Toto Sitanggang of Tangerang city council acknowledged that mediation efforts had failed. "We could no nothing because Carrefour got its permits from had from the central government."

However, he sided with the traders. "We expect the local administration to stop the unfair and inappropriate expansion of modern retail stores, which is causing small market traders to suffer losses."

Jakarta to be besieged by demos today, traffic worse than usual

Detik.com - December 3, 2007

Maryadi, Jakarta – It appears that the flow of traffic in several parts of Jakarta today will be even more congested that usual. At least ten protest actions will besiege Jakarta on Monday December 2.

According to information received from the Metro Jaya Regional Police Traffic Management Center (TMC), the protests will take place between 8am and 1pm local time.

The first demonstration will start at 8am at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Central Jakarta, followed at 9am by an action at the Department of Home Affairs on Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara. Then at 10am a demonstration will be held at the PT Inti Gelora housing estate and the National Elections Commission on Jl. Imam Bonjol.

Also at 10am, the Committee of Indonesian Advocates for the Disabled (KAPCI) will be protesting at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout and the Supreme Court on Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara.

A demonstration will also be held at the Jakarta Provincial Civil Service Agency (BK-DKI) on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan and in front of the national police headquarters.

At 1pm, the Student Solidarity Committee (KSM) will hold a protest at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. Also at 1pm, a demonstration will take place at the House of Representatives building on Jl. Gatot Subroto.

In order to anticipate traffic jams a result of these actions, the Metro Jaya police have already deployed extra traffic police in the locations where the actions are to take place. (mar/mar)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 West Papua

Instigators of the flag-raising incident on wanted list

Cenderawasih Pos - December 6, 2007

Jayapura – The case of the hoisting of the Kejora flag on 1 December in Timika is being intensively handled by the Mimika police with back-up from the police force in Papua.

Chief of Police in Papua, Drs. Max Donald Aer said that this case is being pursued. Yesterday, the number of suspects increased by one to seven people.

"I visited Timika yesterday and there are now seven suspects who will be processed to face a court of law." He said that another four people on the DPO (wanted persons) list are being sought because they clearly committed the crime of rebellion.' he said yesterday (5 December) .

He said this was being treated as a priority so that interrogations can be quickly carried out and the suspects can then be handed on to the prosecutor.

Asked whether the police knew who the instigators of the flag- raising action were, he said one of the four wanted people was the instigator.

Asked whether the hoisting of the flag had any connection with the current political situation in Timika where local elections are pending, he only said that the investigations underway were looking into this matter.

"I can't say for certain whether that was the case but the fact is that this event did occur. I cant say whether this was just a case of people people wanting to show that the people wanting separation are still around, or for other reasons."

But he said that their events calendar always shows that 1 December is a day for activities such as hoisting the Kejora flag which is what happened in Timika.

"This is not a case of these people catching us out. We already had patrols in place, but it seems that people in certain locations where able to do this and within a couple of minutes, the perpetrators were under arrest." (fud/bat)

[Slightly abridged translation from TAPOL.]

Papua moves to ban all log exports

Melbourne Age - December 6, 2007

Mark Forbes – Papua will ban all log exports from next month, in a radical move to preserve one of the world's largest remaining tracts of untouched forests.

Governor of the Indonesian province, Barnabas Suebu, told The Age that the Bali climate change conference should endorse funding the anti-logging moves, due to its impact on reducing global warming.

Mr Suebu said he had already imposed a moratorium on issuing new logging licences and would present legislation next month withdrawing all licences, as loggers had been destroying Papua's forests illegally. Licences would only be reissued under strict conditions, he said.

All forest concession holders would have to develop wood processing facilities in Papua, as the ban on raw log exports would remain in place. They must also agree to plant five trees for every one they cut.

The "Chinese mafia", operating out of Malaysia and mainland China were responsible for rampant illegal logging in Papua, Mr Suebu said. "I think the mafia of illegal logging is well organised."

At least 7.2 million cubic metres of timber was being cut in Papua a year, rapidly shrinking its 42 million hectares of forests, which has the highest level of biodiversity in the world. Papua was receiving almost no income from the logging, he said.

Mr Suebu revealed a new decree for forest preservation, which he had just signed along with the Governor of the neighbouring province of West Papua.

The proposals had also been submitted to the Indonesian Government, but Mr Suebu stated he had the authority to implement them under new regional autonomy laws. "From January 2008, we will stop all logs going out of this island," Mr Suebu said. "We will not export timber from Papua."

The total prohibition on log exports was justified as local communities received only $US10 ($A11.50) for a high-quality log, he said. Once the log was smuggled to China and processed, it was worth $US1500. Small-scale timber processing industries would be established in Papua so local people could benefit from logging, he said, despite the reduction in tree felling.

About 65% of Papua's forest cover would be totally protected, including at least 15% of the forests earmarked for logging. The world, through the Bali conference initiatives, should compensate Papua for the move, he said.

"I am the governor for all creatures in Papua, for the ants, for the birds, for the trees and I have to protect them. Without them there will be no life for all of us."

Mr Suebu said he was expecting vocal protests from timber interests, but the moves would have a dramatic impact and would work, he predicted.

Papua's ports would be patrolled and 1500 rangers were being trained to enforce the laws.

The Forest Minister in Jakarta was opposing the moves to withdraw logging licences, said Mr Suebu. Once Papua ensured the laws would stand up to legal challenge, they would be passed.

"In the end, we have to save our forests and manage it in a sustainable way and make money to eradicate poverty, that is the goal of this policy," he said.

Campaigners fly the flag to mark West Papua's national day

Oxford Mail - December 3, 2007

Ellie Simmonds – Campaigners showed solidarity with their fellow countrymen by raising the West Papuan flag over Oxford Town Hall.

Exiled countryman Benny Wenda joined Oxford's Lord Mayor John Tanner and other local campaigners to mark West Papua's National Day on Saturday.

Raising the flag – known as The Morning Star – is illegal inside the Indonesian-controlled territory and can result in jail or even execution, according to campaigners.

Mr Wenda, 32, was given a 25-year prison sentence in 2002 for raising the flag in his country but escaped a year later and fled to join friends in Oxford.

The father-of-four said: "This is really important, very significant for me and for my people. It's really meaningful. Seeing my country's flag raised at Oxford Town Hall makes me know that Oxford people are with us in our struggle for peace, justice and freedom for West Papua.

"It also makes me cry deep in my heart, because my people are suffering for so long under Indonesian rule. In my country, if we raise our flag Indonesian soldiers will shoot us dead. But here, the British people and Government have given me freedom. From here I can tell the world we Papuans just want to be free."

Fellow campaigner Richard Samuelson, 43, from Oxford, added: "There's no freedom for people to campaign for independence in West Papua."

City councillor Matt Sellwood said: "I'm delighted that Oxford is able to use its international profile to raise the issue of human rights in West Papua. What is going on there is an absolute disgrace."

Campaigners say West Papua has been closed off to the outside world and claim the Indonesian military is killing, and torturing the indigenous population.

Police free 14 in Papua after independence event

Agence France Presse - December 2, 2007

Jakarta – Police released 14 people they arrested after a ceremony to mark the anniversary of West Papua's declaration of independence from Indonesia, a report said Sunday.

Another six people detained as the group raised its outlawed "Morning Star" separatist flag on Saturday remained in police custody, the Detikcom online news portal reported.

Head of the Papua police, Max Donald, said three of those still in custody were activists from the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) and they were arrested for raising the flag. The other three were detained for carrying weapons, Donald told Detikcom.

The flag-raising ceremony was held at Kwamki Baru village in Mimika district.

Every December 1, Papuan activists try to raise the flag to commemorate the independence of Papua. Indonesia won sovereignty over Papua, formerly a Dutch colony, in 1969 after a referendum widely seen as a sham.

Papuans have long accused Indonesia's military of violating human rights in the province and complain that the bulk of earnings from its rich natural resources flow to Jakarta.

Also on Saturday, about 500 Papuan students held a rally in Indonesia's second largest city of Surabaya in East Java in support of Papuan independence.

Indonesia 'exploiting Papua prejudices'

Australian Associated Press - December 3, 2007

Indonesia's military is exploiting prejudices against indigenous Papuans so it can remain in the impoverished region, an Australian researcher said.

Victorian University researcher Richard Chauvel said the Indonesian army (TNI) retained a stronger presence in Papua's troubled Central Highlands than did the local government, with no signs of decreasing. He called for the role of the security forces in Papua to be clarified.

"Military presence is a legacy there," Chauvel told the Australia Indonesia Governance Research Partnership (AIGRP) forum in Jakarta on Monday. "That's the impression we got... that the military has influence and 'meddled in'... (people) describing the political situations in the region."

He said people living in the region were suspicious and very guarded in expressing their views. "The atmosphere is people were really always looking over their shoulder," he said.

Troop numbers in Papua have increased in recent years, with the International Crisis Group estimating there are 12,000 Indonesian troops in Papua, and 2,000 to 2,500 paramilitary police.

The Free Papua Movement has been fighting for an independent Papua since the 1960s.

In July, Human Rights Watch said that the security forces still killed, tortured and raped civilians to curb separatism.

An Indonesian researcher from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Vidhyandika Perkasa, said he was followed when he conducted research in the province.

"They followed me everywhere, and shut the electricity off, even took my picture with their mobile phone," Perkasa said. "Maybe (the military intelligence) are scared we are giving influence (to the people)."

People were generally more pressured in towns such as Wamena, rather than the capital Jayapura.

Chauvel said the reason the military was trying so hard to keep the area closed to outsiders and foreigners was they wanted to keep Wamena and the rest of Central Highlands as their stronghold.

"I think that's the interest of the military institutions," he said. "I don't know which one because they have many units, the special forces of the Army, (of) the Special Forces (themselves),... and they all have deployment there."

He added the military and some government officials stigmatised the people of the Central Highlands as separatists, exploiting this to remain in the region. "By underlining this perception that it is a volatile area, it bears conflict, separatists, it is like vindicating the existence of the security forces."

A Papuan government source said the military deployment in Papua received direct orders from Jakarta, but its activities often clashed with central government policies. "Some people from the Foreign ministry believed they should open Papua more, but the military refused," the source said.

The Indonesian government had tried to empower the Papuans, providing them with education and new infrastructure, but the problems are complex.

The region has been dogged by a series of bloody incidents in the past decade, including killings and kidnappings, but solid numbers are sketchy as the area is largely closed to outsiders.

Arrests in Indonesia's Papua as flag is raised

ABC Radio Australia - December 2, 2007

More than 20 people were reportedly arrested in Indonesia's Papua as they raised the outlawed "Morning Star" separatist flag.

A spokesman for the United Front of West Papuan People's Fight, says the group was making the anniversary of their declaration of independence.

Meanwhile, ElShinta radio reports around five hundred Papuan students staged a rally in Indonesia's second largest city of Surabaya in East Java in support of Papuan independence.

Every December 1, Papuan activists try to raise the outlawed "Morning Star" separatist flag to commemorate the independence of Papua.

Indonesia won sovereignty over Papua, formerly a Dutch colony, in 1969 after a referendum widely seen as a sham.

Morning Star flag raised in Timika, Papua

ANTARA News - December 1, 2007

Jayapura, Papua – The Morning Star flag of Free Papua Movement (OPM) was raised illegally at Kwamki Baru region in Mimika district town of Timika to commemorate independence by OPM separatists opposed to the region being part of Indonesia.

Some 20 people gathered in Kwamki Baru at 6 a.m. local time on Saturday for the raising of the flag and then danced around a pole on which top the Morning Star flag was tied, Papua provincial police spokesman Andi Lolo has said.

He added that the illegal flag had been flying in the air for about 20 minutes before security officials arrived at the scene to have it lowered and then arrested the people who raised it.

"The people who raised the illegal flag have been herded to Mimika police office at Kuala Kencana for further questioning," Andi Lolo said.

Asked if similar activity occurred in the other part of Papua, the local police spokesman said there was no other report about the case of the Morning Star flag raising in the other areas of the province.

The Morning Star flag represented the territory of West New Guinea from 1st December 1961 until 1st October 1962 when the territory came under administration of the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA).

The flag is commonly used by the West Papuan population including OPM supporters to rally Self-determination human rights support and is popularly flown on 1st December each year in defiance of Indonesian domestic laws.

The flag consists of a red vertical band along the hoist side, with a white five-pointed star in the center. The flag was first raised on 1 December 1961 and used until the United Nations became the territory's administrator on 1 October 1962.

 Human rights/law

Approved bill protects political freedom

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – The House passed on Thursday the bill around political parties and freedom of association, pluralism, gender quality and peaceful settlement of internal disputes.

All but 10 factions of the House of Representatives gave no objection to the bill, which was reportedly no harsher than the 2003 law on political parties – particularly with regard to administrative and legal requirements for the establishment of new parties.

The approved bill allows 50 adults to establish a new political party. A new party should have chapters in 60 percent of 33 provinces, branches in 50 percent of more than 480 regencies and municipalities and 25 percent of more than 1,500 subdistricts nationwide.

"This bill facilitates small groups of people, or communities, to set up new political parties to uphold the freedom of association and that of expression, as mandated by the 1945 constitution," Chairman of the special committee reading the bill, Ganjar Pranowo, said in his report to the House's plenary session.

But he said not all parties would be allowed to contest the general elections because the establishment of a simple multi- party system was a preliminary requirement for a strong parliament and government.

The current law on political parties requires them to have chapters in 75 percent of 33 provinces and 50 percent of regencies and municipalities.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said it appreciated the bill because it would encourage more women to develop a career in politics.

"The 30 percent quota is an affirmative action for women's major role and is a prerequisite for gender equality," PDI-P spokesman Idham said.

"Thanks to the political reality that a majority of voters are female. This brings a consequence that parties ignoring the ruling will not be registered with the government and receive no financial assistance from the state," he said.

Spokesman for the National Awakening Party (PKB) Ida Faudjiah said her party supported the bill and hoped more women living in remote areas would become involved in politics and develop their career in state institutions. Lukman Hakiem, spokesman for the United Development Party (PPP), said the democratic process during the bill's deliberation had worked well.

He said major factions had accommodated minority parties' aspirations to use their own ideology and Islamic characteristics.

The bill allows Islamic minority parties to use their current ideology, as long as it is not against the constitution and state ideology Pancasila.

It also encourages parties to settle their internal disputes in a peaceful manner, or to seek an out-of-court settlement through reconciliation, mediation and arbitration.

"Court is the last resort to settle internal disputes," said Ida, whose party has been overwhelmed with a prolonged internal dispute.

The House is still deliberating the bill on legislative elections, but it is expected to be endorsed in January.

Two more political bills – on presidential elections and on the construction of People's Consultative Assembly, House, Regional Representatives, provincial and regental legislatures – are scheduled to be deliberated in February and March next year.

Critics say porn bill a threat to diversity

Jakarta Post - December 4, 2007

Jakarta – Experts and activists on Monday urged the government to reject the pornography bill because it was "unnecessary, legally inappropriate and would threaten the country's stability".

"The articles (of the bill) are open to so many interpretations. It creates uncertainty instead of unity," Hendardi, the head of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, told reporters at the Nahdatul Ulama head office in Central Jakarta.

He said the regulation was discriminative and undermined cultural diversity, disregarding all legal standards in Indonesia. "Our standpoint is clear: we are completely against pornography. But this bill is not the answer to our problems."

Ratna Sarumpaet, an artist and women's rights activist, said the core of the problem with pornography was Indonesia's corrupt law enforcement. "Let's just use the available laws and strengthen our law enforcement. For example, if we really abided by the law regulating our media, we wouldn't be seeing half-naked women on the covers of magazines sold freely on the streets," Ratna said.

The bill, which allows "pornography" in the arts, religious ceremonies and education, would endanger the development of the arts here, she said.

"The law even grants power to organizations or other groups, like the Islamic Defenders Front, to resort to anarchy for the sake of ending pornography," she said, referring to an article of the bill that calls on all parties "to prevent the making, distribution and use of pornography for inappropriate purposes".

Musdah Mulia, an Islamic scholar and long-time anti-pornography activist, said the bill was based on a biased understanding of religious teachings. "If the government thinks the bill can fix our nation's moral decadence, they are on the wrong track," she said.

She said the bill considered a woman's body "evil" and also portrayed women as the "backbone (of) Indonesia's morality", two concepts she said were gender-biased. "I could go on and on analyzing the bill from an Islamic point of view and still come up with the conclusion the bill is mubazir (unnecessary)," she said.

Yenny Rosa Damayanti, a women's rights activist, said the law, which has been called the government's effort to protect women from being objects of pornography, endangered women who were forced or involuntarily caught up in situations or activities that are perceived as pornographic.

"This law allows women to be criminalized for their actions. What if they were forced, victims of trafficking or victims of hidden cameras?" she said.

Yenny added the law was unable to provide a clear definition of "pornography" but categorized it as "light" and "heavy" pornography. She said, "Whose perspective are we using here? How can we categorize something so vague?" (lva)

Alliance of NGOs starts rights battle

Jakarta Post - December 1, 2007

Jakarta – Citing government failure to pursue alleged human rights violations, non-governmental organizations have grouped in a national alliance known as the People's Fight Back Committee (Korban).

Indria Fernida of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) told a press conference Friday the alliance was formed in Parung, West Java, in early November.

The alliance comprises more than 50 organizations, including Kontras, the Indonesian Environmental Forum, University of Indonesia's Human Rights Committee, the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation and the 1965 Murder Victims Research Foundation (YPKP '65).

Indria expressed the alliance's disappointment about international conventions which, she said, had been ratified by Indonesia but hadn't been implemented or enforced.

"There hasn't been any improvement worth bragging about since the fall of (president) Soeharto in 1998. Changes have only been made on paper," said Samuel Gultom of Kontras.

"We want to remind the government about the real changes that need to be made. Indonesia has been marching in place for 10 years," Samuel said during the press conference, held at the Kontras office in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

"Korban is our attempt to establish a cross-sectoral fight for human rights, which will surely make more impact than if we continued to work on our own," he continued.

First on the agenda for the alliance is a series of events commemorating International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

"The peak will be on Dec. 10, when members of the organizations joining hands in Korban will rally at the State Palace and deliver the eight Munir demands," Samuel said, referring to a list of demands for immediate action in eight public sectors including education, culture, women's rights and the environment.

The demands are named for a well-known human rights activist murdered in 2004.

Edy Gerung from the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation explained the list may grow as the alliance develops.

A speaker at a public discussion on human rights in Indonesia, held by Kontras on the same day, Bejo Untung of YPKP'65, said the government needed to take responsibility for the mass murder of the members of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965.

"We've discovered several mass graves used to bury the victims. We found three mass graves in Pemalang and five more in Pati, both in Central Java. There are witnesses, still alive, to tell the story of how they helped the government in the murders," he told The Jakarta Post.

Bejo said the government needed to formally acknowledge its past mistakes before moving on. (lva)

 Environment/natural disasters

Activists blame US, SBY for damage

Jakarta Post - December 4, 2007

I wayan Juniartha, Jakarta – Dozens of students and environmental and human rights activists from the People's Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights staged a protest Monday demanding the US and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administrations be held responsible for the country's environmental damage.

The alliance is the umbrella group for nine organizations, including the local chapters of Indonesia Legal Aid Association (PBHI), HIV/AIDS rights group Ikon Bali, Islamic Students Association (HMI) and Catholic Students Association (PMKRI).

In its statement, the alliance claimed that US imperialism was the main trigger for a range of environmental and human rights problems Indonesia currently faces.

"The issues (on environment) are part of the imperialist's strategy to secure its interests and maintain its iron grip of oppression over our people," head of PBHI, Gendo Suardhana said, adding that the US carried out that strategy with the full cooperation of its partner", the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration.

"The administration of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono-Jusuf Kalla is the puppet regime of the US' imperialism."

The rally took place at the Balinese People's Monument of Struggle, Bajra Sandhi in Renon, Denpasar. Security was heavy during the protest with the number of plainclothed police officers in the area far outnumbering the protesters.

The protesters read an 18-point demand covering a wide spectrum of issues, ranging from the protection of the country's cultural heritage, the immediate prosecution of illegal loggers, to protection for drugs addicts and HIV/AIDS patients from discrimination. The rally ended peacefully after a heavy shower of rain hit the area. Braving the rain, the protesters then marched along Renon's wet roads to the PBHI's office nearby.

Forest sales make activists sweat

Jakarta Post - December 4, 2007

Ary Hermawan and Stevie Emilia, Denpasar/Bali – Forest-rich countries' plan to push for incentives to conserve their forests as carbon sinks is considered crucial in the global effort to combat climate change, but is making activists uneasy.

Activists have raised concerns that the proposal, Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in Developing Countries, might threaten people's ownership over forests.

"Indonesia will count the potential revenue from its forests according to its capacity to absorb carbon to reduce emissions.

"If the UN climate change conference reaches an agreement (on the proposal)..., what will happen to people's rights of ownership over their forests," said Hira Jhamtani of the Third World Network, an international NGO that lobbies on globalization and environmental issues.

Hira was speaking during a limited discussion with Bali-based environment activists from Sloka Institute, the Bali-chapter of the Indonesian Environment Institute (Walhi) and the Bali-chapter of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).

Indonesia, backed by seven other forest-rich countries, plans to push the REDD proposal during the ongoing UN climate change conference in Bali, hoping REDD will be taken into account post- 2012, when the first commitment phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

The Protocol, which requires, by 2012, developed nations to cut their carbon emissions by 5 percent from the 1990 levels, does not cover incentive mechanisms on efforts to prevent forest conversion.

The Indonesian government and businesses alike are expecting to reap large benefits from REDD. With 37.5 million hectares of healthy forests currently, it is expected that the incentive mechanism could provide the country with US3.75 billion (Rp33.75 trillion) in cash.

Former Indonesian environment minister Emil Salim, who leads the country's delegates in the conference, said earlier that REDD's funding must be assessed in dynamic terms by insisting on deeper emission cuts by developed countries.

During his presentation 'Forest issues in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its relevancy to Indonesia,' Emil said that financial agreements of REDD should be explored in relation to institutional arrangements, including technology transfer.

"Post-2012 must include the full implementation of REDD, informed from the REDD pilot projects of 2008-2012," Emil said during his presentation at the national workshop of the Indonesia Forest Climate Alliance. Third World Network's Hira said she believed, however, that the proposed REDD scheme would cause complexities and difficulties for people, who have long relied on the forests for their livelihood.

"Will there be a watchdog agency from the United Nations overseeing the protection of the traded forests?" she asked.

Hira pointed out indigenous communities, who have long survived collecting firewood and food from forests, would be affected by the proposed scheme. "We know that some of the traditional communities living in the country's national forests still protect and live from the forests," she said.

Hira said she hoped that civil society organizations would keep an eye on the (REDD) negotiations, although she said it would not be easy to stop, because it has been listed as one of the national agendas during the climate change conference. "We have to be smart in dealing with this issue."

An activist from Walhi, Agung Wardana, said that developed countries were now eyeing the right to manage the country's forests, including the West Bali National Park forest, because the future of global business would be centered on biodiversity. "Forests are being studied to find new products that will be copyrighted and turned into a commodity," he said.

Green group warns Java of looming disaster

Jakarta Post - December 3, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – The continued loss of protected forests on Java could lead to serious ecological disasters on the densely populated island costing the country some Rp 136 trillion annually, an environmental organization said over the weekend.

According to a recent study of Java's forests between 2002 and 2006, conducted by the Greenomics Indonesia, some 165,000 hectares of conservation and protected forests on Java experienced decreasing ecological function.

"Most of the deterioration can be found in West, Central and East Java provinces," Greenomics executive director Elfian Effendi said. "The large number of squatters in forests and illegal logging have made things even worse," he said.

He said at least 61 regencies in the three provinces were prone to floods, landslides and drought due to climate change and the damage due local forests.

"Damage to conservation and protected forests has affected at least 123 rivers and is threatening more than 10 million hectares of farmland and thousands of villages located along the rivers," said Elfian.

"During the rainy season, floods submerge farmland and villages in coastal areas; landslides hit villages and damage infrastructures in mountainous areas. In the dry season, drought hits almost all regencies located in mountainous areas, costing Rp 136.2 trillion annually to the government and the people on the island," he said.

Elfian stressed the importance of maintaining balanced and sustainable development on Java, and halting logging in conservation and protected forests.

He also called for increased efforts to reforest barren areas prone to natural disasters.irregular seasons and the ecological disasters have caused losses in the agriculture sector," he said.

"Climate change will remain a major hurdle for people-based economic development in years to come. The more forest areas are damaged, the more serious the ecological disasters will be and the more losses the people will suffer."

Indonesia and the United Nations Convention on Climate Change are jointly hosting the latest meeting to start hammering out a new global agreement to replace the existing Kyoto Protocol. The 13th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change starts Monday.

Soldiers convicted on illegal logging charges

Jakarta Post - December 3, 2007

Nurni Sulaiman, Balikpapan – At least 14 soldiers stationed at Tanjungpura military command in East Kalimantan have been convicted of involvement in illegal logging and sentenced to confinement.

The 14 were identified as First Sgt. DA, First Sgt. RU, Second Sgt. MI, Second Corporal IS, Chief Pvt. AR, Chief Pvt. SY, Chief Pvt. HU, Chief Pvt. MU, Chief Pvt. BW, Chief Pvt. AM, First Pvt. AA, First Pvt. TI, First Pvt. MT and Second Pvt. MW.

On Oct. 30 a military court found the soldiers and their commander guilty of releasing from custody illegal logging suspects and equipment in Simenggaris, on the border between East Kalimantan and Malaysia.

The length of the sentences are not known, however the military said the commander – identified as Lt. CH – received a dishonorable discharge from the military.

The 15 managed to capture an illegal logging gang, consisting of 30 people working for Malaysian businessmen Ali and Theo, in February this year in Simenggaris. They also seized six tractors, two cars and 10 chain saws.

"After the capture, the commander met with Malaysian businessmen for negotiation, where he may have been promised a big sum of money," said Tanjungpura military commander Maj. GR Situmeang on Saturday.

"In return for the promise the illegal logging perpetrators were released together with all their equipment on Feb. 28, 2007. This was a grave mistake for him because he should have reported the case to the police for investigation," Situmeang said.

Situmeang denied soldiers could be bribed easily because their small salaries were small, responding to a report. "This is just a handful of soldiers out of thousands of thousands of military members. Economic hardship cannot be used to justify their illicit acts," he said. Instead, he attributed the misdeeds to the soldiers' "poor mentality".

Activists say advanced countries applying double standards

Kompas - December 3, 2007

Nusa Dua, Bali – Activists from the Civil Society Forum or CSF are calling for a fairer world in order to overcome the impact of climate change. Without resolving global injustices first, climate change will only increase the burden on billions of poor around the world.

This demand was raised during a meeting of non-government organisations (NGOs) on Saturday and Sunday (December 1-2) in the lead up to the Climate Change Conference that is to be held in Nusa Dua, Bali. The meeting, which was initiated by the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), was attended by some 60 NGOs and some 100 people form local support groups.

Walhi Executive Director Chalid Muhammad said that up until now the advanced countries in the North have been applying double standards in their models of global development, that is on the one side they promote the issue of preserving the environment, but on the other hand they insist on maintaining the supply of cheep raw materials that destroy important social and ecological sectors in the Southern countries.

For the Southern countries, this model of global development further contributes to poverty. The people in the South are trapped in a cycle of social and ecological crisis, environmental damage, social disintegration and the loss of access to their sources of livelihood. Hunger, malnutrition, natural disasters and poverty are the daily fare for the people of the South, while the governments of the Southern countries are busy filling the consumption needs of the Northern countries and paying off foreign debt, while providing their citizens with the crumbs of development.

According to Chalid, the patterns of energy consumption by the northern countries that are wasteful and polluting, is historically the primary cause of global warming.

Carbon trading

In an Indonesian Civil Society Position Paper written by the CSF, it said that efforts to overcome the impact of global warming have been led astray by economic and political interests that fail to address the reality being suffered by the world's citizens. In spite of being put forward voluntarily though bilateral agreements, the solutions being offered in schemes by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), are still essentially within a business framework.

These negotiators are convinced that solutions in the form of technology transfer and rearranging forest areas will be able to address global warming and climate change. Moreover they believe the market is the primary mechanism to take action to overcome climate change. "This demonstrates that the signals of climate change have not been enough to change the views of world leaders in managing the planet," said Chalid.

During yesterdays meeting, which was attended by at least eight international NGOs including Oil Watch, Friends of the Earth International and Jubilee 2000, intervention models were formulated to counter-balance the mainstream models that focus on carbon trading schemes.

Subsidised by local people

Hendri Saparini, an economic observer from the Advisory Group in Economics, Industry and Trade (Econit, a private think tank) said that the carbon-trading scheme represents a subsidy forced on local people to maintain the lifestyles of those in the advanced countries.

"These negotiations appear to only look at the value of carbon, which on paper is very high, but don't consider the fate of local people who will come under more pressure because of these mechanisms", he said.

Saparini said that limiting energy use for development in the developing countries is also a part of this scheme as a whole. "We are forced to undertake energy conversion and all sorts of other things to protect consumption in the advanced countries", he added. (AIK/MH/OKI/ANS/AYS/ONG)

[Translation by James Balowski. Last two paragraphs on security at the Bali conference and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono attendance omitted.]

 Health & education

Thousands of toddlers suffer from malnutrition in Yogyakarta

Jakarta Post - December 4, 2007

Sri Wahyuni, Yogyakarta – Poverty and ignorance are being blamed by officials in Yogyakarta province for the high number of children under the age of five who are malnourished.

"It is very concerning to see so many of these babies suffering from malnutrition have beautiful, healthy mothers. This is often the case here," head of the provincial health office, Bondan Agus Suryanto, said.

Speaking during the launch of the Nutrition Corner program, sponsored by milk producer PT Frisian Flag Indonesia (FFI), at the Piyungan community health center in Bantul, Bondan said there were more than 2,200 toddlers in the province suffering from malnutrition.

This figure represents more than 1 percent of the total number of under-five children in Yogyakarta.

"That excludes the babies who suffer from nutritional deficiencies," said Bondan, emphasizing that malnutrition remained a major problem in Yogyakarta, which has one of the highest life expectancies in the country.

More than 40 percent of pregnant women in the province suffer from anemia, which in turn leads to the birth of babies suffering health problems and nutritional deficiencies, Bondan said.

Secretary-general of the Association of Indonesian Nutritionists, Edith Sumedi, said malnutrition remained a major health issue that demanded the attention of all related parties.

"In many cases, it is indeed a lack of knowledge about nutrition, especially among mothers, which accounts for the problem," said Edith. She said not all cases of malnutrition were related to poverty.

"We therefore welcome the initiative of the FFI for this cooperation, to share our knowledge and expertise with mothers who need information about nutrition through the Nutrition Corner program," Edith said.

Speaking separately at the launch, PT FFI corporate affairs director Hendro Harijogi Poedjono said Nutrition Corners were being simultaneously launched at four community health centers in Bantul and Yogyakarta municipality.

"This is basically a continuation of our Frisian Flag Peduli program to help the survivors of the 2006 earthquake fully recover from the disaster," said Hendro. He said a similar Nutrition Corner program had earlier been started at 10 community health centers in Greater Jakarta.

With the support of the Association of Indonesian Nutritionists, he said the Nutrition Corner program would provide free consultations on nutrition. The program will also offer small seminars and cooking demonstrations.

Universities weigh up controversial bill

Jakarta Post - December 3, 2007

Jakarta – The House of Representatives is deliberating a bill the government says will improve the quality of the country's universities, but which the schools fear will commercialize education.

According to the bill, the role of university foundations will be absorbed by a board of trustees. Foundations will have only 49 percent of the vote at the board of trustees.

The bill is mandated by Article 53 of the 2003 law on the national education system, which deals mainly with the establishment of legal entities, such as foundations, to run schools.

Clause 1 of the article says these legal entities can be established by the government or outside parties, while clause 2 stipulates the entities must provide educational services to students.

Clause 3 stipulates the legal entities are not for profit and can manage their finances independently.

The bill has foundations managing universities concerned as foundations would be detached from the schools.

"Our institution is facing internal and external obstacles. Internally, we still need more qualified lecturers, proper infrastructure and a better remuneration system," chairman of the Atma Jaya Foundation, J.B. Kristiadi, said Saturday during the inauguration of F.G. Winarno as the new rector of Atma Jaya University in Jakarta.

"While for external problems, we have to deal with a new paradigm. Universities are supposed to be autonomous," he said. "Foundations should not turn their universities into their money-making machines."

Kristiadi said there was a general misperception that universities were making money for their foundations, instead of the other way around.

Other critics say the bill will lead to the commercialization of education in Indonesia, as the bill allows two legal educational entities.

The first is a non-profit foundation which is allowed to have as much as 25 percent of the profits, and the second is a for-profit legal entity which is entitled.

These critics believe the bill, if passed, would encourage businesses to set up educational foundations with the main goal of making a profit.

However, the government has dismissed such concerns, and says the bill will encourage entrepreneurs to set up foundations and other bodies to improve the quality of education.

Director general of higher education at the National Education Ministry, Satryo Soemantri Brodjonegoro, said the bill would not commercialize universities.

He said the non-profit principle for universities would remain intact, especially for state-run universities. "Instead, the policy will free the universities from state bureaucracy," he said.

A number of state-run universities, including the University of Indonesia, Bandung Institute of Technology, Bogor Institute of Agriculture, Gadjah Mada University and the University of North Sumatra, have transformed themselves into state-owned legal entities to increase their competitiveness by freeing themselves from government bureaucracy. (rff)

Condom campaign doesn't legalize free sex: AIDS council

Jakarta Post - December 2, 2007

Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta – Chairwoman of the National AIDS Council Nafsiah Mboi has clarified that an aggressive condom-use campaign does not endorse promiscuity.

Speaking at the official launch of National Condom Week in Senayan, Central Jakarta, on Saturday, Nafsiah warned against a common misconception: "National Condom Week doesn't legalize free sex... we do not approve of this. But if we already have youths who are sexually active, what we're doing now is merely giving them a means of protection," Nafsiah said, adding that the number of HIV infections had recently spiked among the 15 to 24 age group.

She said the weeklong drive, jointly organized by the National Family Planning Board, the AIDS Council, and DKT Foundation, a condom manufacturer, was aimed at educating people on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, including the proper use of condoms. "We believe society has the right to receive correct and complete information on HIV/AIDS.

"It's similar to wearing a helmet when riding a motorbike, if you're not riding a bike then you don't need to wear one," said Nafsiah, who is a pediatrician.

According to Nafsiah, as of September this year the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases stood at 16,000.

Nafsiah denied religious organizations were against the campaign. "It's important to remember that condoms are part of the national family planning program which has been endorsed by all religions, including the Catholic Church in Indonesia, since 1972."

UN country coordinator for AIDS programs in Indonesia, Nancy Fee, said raising awareness by talking about condom use in a culturally-sensitive way was very important in AIDS work.

"Previously, the majority of new HIV infections were among injected drug users, but the epidemic is changing... while the drug problem remains very serious, the majority of new infections are sexually transmitted. Condoms are very important in preventing a larger AIDS epidemic."

Another important element in preventing AIDS, she said, was for parents to talk to their children about the disease when they were still young.

"It's very important for parents to focus on values, good communication, good decision making. Because when we inculcate that in children, when they are small, when they become teenagers and their attention is drawn to drugs or sex, they will have core values and be strong – and that is what will protect them."

Over 400 youths gathered at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle Saturday to protest the condom campaign.

Coordinator Ivan Ahda said the campaign was intended to promote free sex; Mental Rehabilitation Center Foundation spokesman, Ginanjar, even questioned whether condoms could prevent HIV/AIDS.

"Condoms cannot prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Research in the United States has proven HIV viruses, which are 1/250 micron in size, can pass through condom pores that generally are 1/60 micron," said Ginanjar.

Instructions on how to use condoms and how they can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, are part of National Condom Week, which runs from Dec. 1 to 8, with activities in cities including Bandung in West Java, Pekanbaru in Riau, Pasuruan in East Java and Manado in North Sulawesi. (amr)

Indonesian Muslims protest condom campaign: report

Agence France Presse - December 1, 2007

Jakarta – While Indonesian campaigners marked World AIDS Day by promoting the use of condoms, hundreds of Muslims rallied against free distribution of the contraceptive, a report said Saturday.

Indonesia – which the UN says has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia – used the day to launch its first national campaign to promote using condoms, which currently account for less than one percent of contraception use.

But in the capital Jakarta, about 100 people from the group, Anti-Pornography, staged a rally against condom distribution, local radio ElShinta reported.

"The use of condoms is another way to promote free sex," protesters from Committee Against Pornography told ElShinta. They urged the government to support a controversial anti-pornography bill to help prevent spread of the disease.

In Indonesia's second largest city of Surabaya, about 300 Muslim students handed out stickers and brochures, reading "No Free Sex, No Drugs, Healthy living with Islamic law" to pedestrians and motorists.

Rallies in commemoration of World AIDS Day were also held in several big cities across the archipelago.

Latest official figures showed that more than 16,200 Indonesians have been infected with the virus that causes AIDS since 1987.

Regions told to get serious in HIV/AIDS fight

Jakarta Post - December 1, 2007

Irawaty Wardany, Jakarta – The National Aids Commission has asked regional administrations nationwide to pay serious attention to efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"We are facing difficulties convincing the regional administrations to implement the HIV/AIDS prevention programs because most of them are yet to see AIDS as a serious threat," the commission's program deputy Sri Kusyuniati told a conference Friday.

"We will do more lobbying of regional administrations so that they will allocate a larger part of the budget and implement the prevention programs."

Sri said the number of people who died of AIDS increased every year and called on all elements of the nation to be more active in preventing the virus from spreading.

As of June this year, the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases had reached almost 15,000, and had taken the lives of thousands of people. "But I believe the real figure is 10 times higher than that," National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN) head Sugiri Syarief said.

He said AIDS was now the problem of the nation, not just individuals and encouraged everyone, particularly leaders, to see it as a serious threat. "This time, we want to focus on making the regional administrations aware of this matter," he said.

Sugiri said there were only two regional administrations – Batam mayoralty in Riau Islands province and Papua province – that had bylaws encouraging residents to use condoms.

He added that even though there were some success stories in the reduction of new patient numbers in countries like Thailand and those in Africa, it was difficult for the BKKBN to follow in their tracks.

"The situation in Indonesia is different to that of Thailand or Africa. They can reduce the number of new infected patients because they have successfully campaigned for the use of condoms among their people," he said.

Sugiri said Indonesia faced difficulties in campaigning for the use of condoms because most of the time it received strong opposition from socio-religious groups that accused them of encouraging adultery.

Sugiri said, to celebrate International AIDS Day, they will hold condom week from Dec. 1 to 8, where they will distribute condoms for free at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, Senayan Circle and popular meeting areas, as well as holding concerts, seminars, street campaigns and a charity night.

He said Indonesian people needed to improve their awareness of how important condoms are to prevent the spread of AIDS. "I don't know how many good housewives and children have been infected by the disease just because their husbands are 'playing around' outside," he said.

 War on corruption

Yudhoyono told not to be 'allergic to criticism'

Jakarta Post - December 3, 2007

Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's recent statement in response to criticism raised against him has drawn strong criticism from some politicians and communications experts.

"I'm certain that SBY's credibility has been severely damaged by the uneven approach to eradicating corruption. That's why he shouldn't be so allergic to criticism since all the criticism is meant to improve his government's performance," political communications expert at the University of Indonesia, Tjipta Lesmana, told a discussion Saturday.

"It is very clear that the war against corruption is only directed at SBY's political opponents or anyone who does not have political backing. Why did the government not continue with the investigations of corruption cases allegedly involving officials of the current government?" he asked.

Tjipta said Yudhoyono's statements sounded like he was complaining about his administration's inability to eradicate corruption in Indonesia. "The plea to stop disrupting the work of his government sounds like he is almost ready to give up right now," he said.

Tjipta was referring to a recent statement made by the President when inaugurating a new headquarters for the Financial Transaction Reports Analysis Center (PPATK) in Jakarta last Tuesday.

During the event, SBY said the government had to work very hard to "wash the dishes" left by so many people who had partied hedonistically in the past and "didn't clean up after themselves."

"Those people only washed their hands. They forgot about the dishes. For the sake of justice, I would ask those people to stop disrupting our efforts to clean up the mess that they left behind," he said.

Politician Budiman Sudjatmiko of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said the President's statements would have no effect other than to confuse people even more about the government's strategy for tackling corruption.

"He needed to clarify what he meant by the 'party', the 'dishes' and 'stop disrupting us'. If the message was meant for previous governments, then he should not forget that he was part of them as a high-ranking Cabinet member in the presidencies of B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri."

"So, he was also at the party. That is why he needs to clarify his statement," said Budiman.

"He must also specify what he considers to be disruption. Does he deem criticism and political opposition to his administration as disruption? If so, then he is not as democratic as he thinks he is," he said.

Commenting on Yudhoyono's anticorruption efforts, Budiman said that the campaign clearly violated the principle of equality before the law.

M. Jusuf Rizal, a Yudhoyono supporter and former activist with the Blora Center, an organization established prior to the 2004 general election to garner support for Yudhoyono, said the current government had many achievements to its name, including the fact that many corrupt generals and governors had been brought to trial. (uwi)

Keep a close eye on KPK, say legal experts

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2007

Alfian, Jakarta – The selection of a government prosecutor to lead the much-anticipated anti-corruption commission has seen a law expert say close supervision of the commission's performance would be required.

"Tight supervision will hamper anyone attempting to violate the rules," Saldi Isra of West Sumatra's Andalas University told The Jakarta Post.

He said the public should monitor to what extent the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), under the leadership of Antasari Azhar, was committed to maintaining the agency's internal regulations.

He said the commission's existing regulations were strong enough to prevent KPK members committing graft. "We should be aware of efforts aimed at annihilating internal regulations that prohibit KPK officials to accept anything from anyone," Saldi said.

The government and the House has drawn criticism with the selection of Antasari to head up KPK. The former government prosecutor was found responsible in at least two corruption cases.

But Antasari secured major votes from the House of Representatives' legal and domestic political affairs commission on Wednesday evening. He is incumbent director for prosecution at the office of Deputy Attorney General for general crimes.

Former director for corruption prosecution at the Attorney General's Office, Chairul Imam, said Antasari was fit for the post. "He will be a highly skilled leader in KPK," Imam said.

The AGO prosecution director was once Antasari's direct supervisor for some 12 months. Despite the negative response Antasari's appointment has received, Imam said "he is a good guy".

"I once asked him about a rumor he (received as a gift) a house in Pondok Indah from (son of former president Soeharto) Tommy Soeharto, but he denied (this)," Imam said. "I believed him because he did not live in luxury."

But Saldi said the KPK selection process that has seen Antasari become the commission's new chief was full of political motives.

He further said the process had been used by lawmakers to secure party interests. "They chose the easiest candidates to deal with," said Saldi.

The commission members, Saldi said, very obviously demonstrated support for the candidate they liked and disregarded the candidate they did not.

"They bombarded (outgoing KPK member) Amin Sunaryadi with tough questions, while they did not seem interested to seek Antasari's confirmation of some cases that allegedly implicated him," Saldi said. "The commission even gave a big applause to Antasari," he said.

Todung Mulya Lubis, executive chairman of Transparency International Indonesia, also said the House had selected candidates who were ready to support questionable authorities, instead of those with integrity.

He warned the new KPK leadership not to violate its regulations. "If they do so, I will not hesitate to punch them," Todung said.

KPK leader's election backed by corrupters - Nasution

Tempo Interactive - December 7, 2007

Jakarta – A member of the President's Advisory Council, Adnan Buyung Nasution, has stated his disappointment with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) leader election process carried out by the Legal Commission of the House of Representatives (DPR).

He said considered that the election which finally elected Antasari Azhar as KPK Chairman was nothing more than a mockery. "It's not impossible that this was backed by, or involved a deal with, corruptors," said Buyung in Jakarta yesterday (6/12).

He said he was of the opinion that the KPK leader election was full of manipulation. This was because "(The public) warnings appeared not to have been listened to," said Buyung.

He suspected that this was related to certain political parties many of whose members are involved in corruption cases. "This is an extraordinary step back," said Buyung.

However, as a member of the President's Advisory Council, he did not yet have any recommendation as regards the KPK leader.

However, Buyung promised to watch the new KPK leader's performance in the first three months. "If there's something improper, I will demand that it (KPK) be disbanded," he said.

Two days ago the DPR Legal Commission succeeded in choosing five new KPK leaders after the fit and proper testing.

In the final vote, DPR members chose Antasari Azhar, Director of Prosecution for the Deputy Attorney General of General Criminal Acts, as the new KPK leader, replacing Taufiequrachman Ruki.

Antasari is a prosecutor who failed to jail the New Order ruler, Suharto. He was also regarded negatively when, as a prosecutor at the South Jakarta District Court, he failed to execute the imprisonment of Hutomo Mandala Putra.

Todung Mulya Lubis, Head of Transparency International Indonesia's Management Board, said he believed that the KPK leadership selection process was full of political compromises. "The input from the public were not taken into account," he said.

Todung warned that if the new KPK leader did not do his job well, then the DPR Legal Commission needed to be blamed. "For choosing an incompetent person."

Several circles were also disappointed. The Anti-Corruption Study Center at Gadjah Mada University (UGM), Yogyakarta, for instance, raised a flag at half mast as a sign of grieving for the new KPK leader.

"Yesterday (two days ago) was a day of mourning for corruption eradication in Indonesia," said Hasrul Halili, Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Study Center of UGM.

(Rini Kustiani, Reh Atemalem, Aqida Swa Murti, Heru CN)

House biased in selecting KPK leaders, says ICW

Jakarta Post - December 5, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – An Indonesian corruption watchdog representative accused the House of Representatives of bias in the ongoing process of filling five leadership spots within the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Coordinator of Indonesian Corruption Watch, Teten Masduki, said he was disappointed with the "improper" questions directed to certain of the candidates by the House's law commission during "fit and proper" hearings on Monday.

"Upon analysis of the questions... we're afraid they (the commission) had (a list of) favorite names in their hands (even) before the fit and proper test was complete," Teten told The Jakarta Post.

Some queries, he said, were out of the ordinary. They were too "light" and even coupled with praise. He contrasted those with the "tough" questions that presumably "unfavored candidates" got.

Because of the bias, he said, "qualified and dedicated professionals are no longer interested in joining the commission in the future, and it will discourage anticorruption measures if KPK consists of candidates favored by political parties."

Of the 10 candidates, the following four were questioned on Monday: Amin Sunarjadi, incumbent deputy KPK chief; Antasari Azhar, an Attorney General's Office chief prosecutor; Bibit Samad Rianto, East Kalimantan's former provincial police chief; and attorney Chandra Hamzah.

He was not able to explain the precise mechanism to be used to narrow the 10 candidates down to five, however he called for greater transparency in the process.

In hopes of ensuring a body that would be courageous in fighting rampant political and judicial corruption, he said, the commission members should disclose the "scores" given to the candidates.

Teten said, "The current KPK leadership has been selective in the war on corruption because they have been too close to the executives."

He said a stalwart anticorruption commission was especially important in view of weak law enforcement in Indonesia and the upcoming 2009 general elections.

"Indonesia needs no such a commission if law enforcers of the National Police, the Attorney General's Office and the courts are clean and committed to fighting against the corruption," he said.

Meanwhile, law commission chairman Trimedya Pandjaitan said the commission had decided on a "closed voting system" to select the "best five", as most members had declined to score candidates openly.

While acknowledging an open system would be better, Trimedya said "All members have to stick to the agreement made by the commission in determining the best five, regardless of transparency and objectivity."

By Wednesday evening, the commission is to have finished the selection process. The results will then be submitted to the President for approval.

Agencies renew commitment to fight graft

Jakarta Post - December 5, 2007

Jakarta – State institutions reconfirmed their commitment to fighting corruption through internal investigations, monitoring and bureaucracy reform before the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

At least 14 state bodies presented performance reports in combating corruption and improving the accountability of their organizations throughout this year on the first day of a KPK general national conference on Tuesday.

Home Minister Mardiyanto said no attempt would be made to hinder any investigation of ministry officials. "We will consider all public reports and respect the presumption of innocence. Those who are proven guilty will be punished, beginning with warnings," he said.

Mustafa Abu Bakar, Director of the State Logistics Agency (Bulog), promised reorganization of the agency and that employees would pledge in writing to turn down corruption opportunities.

"At our 40th anniversary we have transformed to a new management in order to build trust with the public and government," he said. "And we're offering spiritual lectures for employees to prevent corruption and refresh spirits," Abu Bakar added.

Ramli Ibrahim, the supervisory deputy of the Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR), said his agency had won international trust by achieving 89 percent of commitments which he did not specify.

"Some 63 percent of the reconstruction budget is from NGOs and international donations. Now we are working on building 100,000 houses, which will be finished in April 2008. Some 800 kilometers of infrastructure have been repaired, including streets, airports and harbors. BRR will complete its duties in 2009."

Meanwhile, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Indonesia Miranda S. Goeltom reported a disciplined attitude at the Central Bank among employees and regulations to increase integrity and good governance.

According to her, in a BI-KPK feasibility study, a comprehensive customer data system for providing fast, accurate information was under consideration. "We give free access to customer data to the commission and PPATK (Analysis and Reporting Financial Transaction Center) for investigation purposes," she said.

Taufiequrrahman Ruki, the commission chairman, said the public needed to be told about the transparency and accountability of state institutions.

"The hardest part is to change the attitude. Because corruption is an attitude," he said.

"In state institutions, misuse of authority in the procurement of equipment and services is a form of corruption. While in the legal institutions, bribes and extortion are corruption," he added.

"We received 5,592 reports from the public about corruption in state agencies. And we saved around Rp 119 billion (US$12.8 million) from the state budget through our performance this year," Tumpak Hatorangan Panggabean, commission deputy, said during the conference. (rff)

Independent taskforce drafts new anti-corruption court law

Jakarta Post - December 1, 2007

Jakarta – A team of independent experts says a law now being drafted which will establish an independent anti-corruption court should provide for ad-hoc judges and a body for managing corruption-linked assets.

The task force, comprising academics, law professionals, and non-government organizations, said ad-hoc judges were key to making the court impartial and garnering public trust.

"There is a huge distrust in society of the running of conventional courts and the reputation of career judges who often acquit alleged offenders despite overwhelming proof," task force member Abdul Fickar Hadjar told a public discussion here Friday.

"The presence of three ad-hoc, non-career judges on the proposed five-member panel should ease the public's misgivings," he said.

Another speaker, I Made Hendra Kusuma, who is an ad-hoc anti- corruption judge at the Central Jakarta District Court, concurred.

"We have to acknowledge that the public is really fed up with the conventional legal system," Hendra said. "Having ad-hoc judges serving on the panel who aren't law practitioners, but experienced professionals nonetheless, should complement the shortcomings of conventional judges."

According to Fickar, the draft law was meant to pave the way for an independent anti-corruption court with special jurisdiction which would extend to corruption cases previously handled in district and high courts.

Fickar explained this would not be Indonesia's first anti- corruption court. However, the Constitutional Court had annulled the statute establishing the previous court in December last year, he said.

"We were then given three years to draft a new law which would govern an anti-corruption court that would serve as a legal gateway through which Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators and state prosecutors could meet and for the first time try corruption-related cases."

Additionally, the draft law provides for a special body to collect assets seized from convicted corruptors, he said.

"In some cases, the seized assets are not cash, but rather companies and investments. So, we need a special body to manage all lost state assets."

Another element introduced into the draft law is a clause calling for a preliminary investigation process.

"In the preliminary investigation procedure, the judges would get to examine whether a case has enough proof to process. If not, then the case would be returned to the prosecutor's office to complete," Fickar said.

He added that the preliminary investigation process would be based on the UN Convention against Corruption which provides for sentence reduction for cooperating in the prosecution of co- defendants. (amr)


Church says it will stay open despite protests

Jakarta Post - December 4, 2007

Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung – Members of the Pasundan Protestant Church (FKP) on Monday urged the local administration to issue a permit entitling them to use a private home for church activities, following protests from the Saviour and Advocation Alliance Movement (AGAP) and Anti-Apostasy Front (BAP).

FKP spokesman Ratno Gunawan Simamora said around 200 church members would continue holding weekly religious services at the church, located in Sukabirus village, Citeureup, Dayeuhkolot, Bandung regency, despite a meeting Monday between AGAP, BAP and the Bandung regency chapter of the Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB), facilitated by the local religious office, that concluded they first needed a permit issued by the Bandung regent.

"We have arranged for a permit up to the district level, but have not received a reasonable reply so far. We have inquired about it, but were asked to wait, and then the district administration asked us to stop operating. I don't know why," said Ratno, the husband of Rev. Obertina, leader of the church.

Obtaining a permit for a house of worship, said Ratno, has been the dream of 77 Christian families in the FKP since 1995. They had previously used a house for services in the Kujang Battalion 330 military complex.

When they moved to the house in Sukabirus, they were confronted by local residents who were against their activities.

Local residents confronted the FKP twice in the last three weeks – on Nov. 18 and Dec. 2 – leading to the Monday decision by the FKUB to maintain the status quo of the house to prevent attacks. "We have handed over the issue to the regent, whether it be closed or resolved in court," said Maladi of the FKUB.

Dayeuhkolot district chief Tata Irawan said his office had not issued a permit because a majority of the residents were Muslims and none of them were willing to support the church's presence.

"We have requested its closure several times to prevent a clash. We don't forbid them from carrying out their rituals, but please settle permit procedures," said Tata.

Ratno said the most difficult task was getting approval from local residents because there were only three Christian families living in the area. He said FKP members would ignore the FKUB decision despite the presence of a Christian representative.

"Maladi is just a representative of a congregation, and not a church institution. We were not invited to the meeting. We will continue performing our religious services here because it is our right and the government should protect us," said Ratno.

Ratno said most of the churches in Bandung did not hold licenses, and only major churches were certified because they had been established for a long time.

 Elections/political parties

Hold 2008 elections together, NGOs tell government

Jakarta Post - December 5, 2007

Alfian, Jakarta – An NGO alliance called Ganofo said Tuesday the government should combine the 2009 legislative and presidential elections in efforts to stabilize the government and strengthen political coalitions.

Reading a statement by Ganofo, alliance member Athoilah Muhamad said, "Simultaneous elections will minimize political fragmentation and, as (a) result, create an effective administration".

Made up of four NGOs, the alliance said the current election system, which separates legislative and presidential elections, can see a president elected carrying strong public support but little legislative support.

Ganofo used President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's election as an example. Yudhoyono won 60.62 percent of popular votes but parties supporting him won 11.33 percent of votes.

"The House of Representatives is always resistant to all Yudhoyono's policy," Ganofo member August Mellaz said. "This has lead the president and Vice President to meddle with internal affairs of opposing parties which is weakening the party system."

August said holding the elections at the same time would create a more permanent coalition of parties.

He said the alliance proposed to combine the simultaneous elections with a system called "run-off with a reduced threshold or conditional majority".

"The winner of presidential election is a candidate who could get 45 percent of votes or 40 percent votes, with at least 5 percent more votes from candidate at the second place," August said.

But member of the House Representative's committee working on legislative elections, Syaifullah Ma'shum, said he disagreed and the presidential election should precede the legislative election.

But Syaifullah said regardless of all arguments, time limitations would see the legislative and presidential elections follow the existing system. "Maybe we can do it in the 2014 election," he said.

Public fed up with the stalled national leadership regeneration

Kompas - December 3, 2007

Bima Baskara and Sultani – With one-and-a-half years to go before the 2009 general elections, political party discussions about finding a national leadership candidate have already sprung up. In the midst of uncertainty over the various mechanisms that have been used to do this in the past, a planned survey to find a leader who is popular with the public has received a positive response.

The results of leadership regeneration efforts that have been undertaken by the political parties to date are still far from satisfactory.

The majority of respondents (62.4 percent) to a Kompas survey said that they are dissatisfied with the current leadership renewal within the political parties at present. The lack of any clear or standard rules in the renewal of party leaders have resulted in the parties not having anyone with the potential to be groomed as the nation's leader. Leadership renewal has been reduced to becoming a successor for important posts than can become a stepping stone to get into the circles of power. As a consequence, the position of party general chairperson becomes the most sought after goal and is consistently monopolised by "formidable" figures within the party.

More than half of respondents (53.2 percent) are critical of the mechanisms for replacing the head of a party up until now. They believe that the parties do not provide opportunities to youth figures to hold the position of party general chairperson. Moreover more than half of respondents are also of the view that the political parties they voted for in the 2004 general elections have not carried out any proper kind of leadership renewal.

This model of succession is impacting upon the process of electing a leader for the country. The domination of old faces in the presidential candidate contest has resulted in the cycle of national leadership renewal proceeding slowly. After nine years of reformasi, few potential alternative leaders have surfaced as presidential candidates. In spite of the fact that many figures have already tested their names on the national political stage, the ones that remain popular in the eyes of the public are the names of already established figures.

Pattern of recruitment

The weakness of leadership renewal within the political parties has influenced the public's view of the current process of presenting leadership candidates through the political parties. This survey indicates that more than half of respondents (52.9 percent) are dissatisfied with the presidential nomination process that is currently being used by the political parties.

The public's dissatisfaction with this cannot be separated from the mechanisms for selecting presidential candidates, which have generally not changed much to this day.

Up until now, the majority of political parties still follow the mechanism of a congress, conference or national meetings, which were also used to net presidential candidates in the 2004 presidential elections. According to the public, these systems tend to be unsatisfactory because the figures that emerge as candidates are generally not in accordance with their hopes.

The recruitment system, which tends to be closed, is precisely what further projects the image that the aim is to achieve power rather then advance the choices of the people. Weak leadership renewal and the existing nomination mechanisms tend to become a means by which a small handful of politicians, particularly party leaders, to maintain their positions.

This phenomena is in accord with Richard Robison's conclusions about the "old habits that have never been wiped out" in the Indonesian political system (Reorganizing Power in Indonesia: The Politics of Oligarchy in an Age of Markets, 2004). According to Robison, the political players post the 1999 general elections are acting in a way that is not far different from the oligarchic system during the New Order period when former President Suharto and a handful of people close to him dominated the leadership. Through coalitions with pro-reformist groups, the old political players have been able to survive and dominate the state political system and use it to maintain power.

Golkar convention

The public still however still believes that there is hope for improving the system of leadership renewal and recruitment through the political parties. The mechanism of a convention that was introduced by the Golkar Party to find a presidential candidate from among its functionaries is seen as a new milestone in the history of presidential elections in this country.

Moreover because of convention, Golkar is viewed as the most democratic party. Although it did not provide any concrete outcome for the people, 46 percent of respondents also said they were satisfied with the mechanism of a convention held by the Golkar Party in the lead up to the 2004 presidential elections. The level of satisfaction towards conventions is higher than the forms of internal selection used by the other parties.

Recent plans by Golkar to abolish conventions was of course quite a surprise for many, both within Golkar itself as well as circles outside the party. Because of this it is natural therefore that 42.8 percent of respondents oppose the abolition of conventions.

Nevertheless, the Golkar general chairperson's idea of replacing conventions with a survey received a positive response from the public. Golkar's idea (also the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle) to find a presidential candidate through a survey is supported by 67.2 percent of respondents. Moreover, it is the survey model as a mechanism for recruiting a presidential candidate that is seen as the most ideal by 49.9 percent of respondents. Conversely, nominations based on the authority of the party general chairperson are seen as undemocratic.

The public's high level of interest in the mechanisms for selecting presidential candidates may reflect the fact that the public is fed up with the stalled process of national leadership regeneration.

The public hopes that the planned survey to net a presidential candidate that has been mooted is not just an attempt by the political parties to jack up their popularity. The courage on the part of party leaders to use the results of such a survey will be a test case of whether the commitment to democratic reform will be undertaken consistently. (Kompas Research and Development)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Police/law enforcement

Police seen as most corrupt in 2007

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2007

Jjakart – The Indonesian public ranks the police the most corrupt government institution, followed by the judiciary and legislatures, according to a list compiled by German-based Transparency International.

The Indonesian chapter of the organization announced the results of the 2007 Global Corruption Barometer on Thursday. The list was compiled on the basis of surveys of 1,010 respondents from Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya.

Respondents answered questions about how they perceived and experienced corruption, defined as the abuse of entrusted power, including bribery.

Police top the list with an index of 4.2 followed closely by the court and legislatures with 4.1 and 4.0 respectively. The higher the index, the more corrupt the institution is.

Political parties come in fourth place, with an index of 4.0, followed by permit-issuing institutions (3.8) and the tax authority (3.6).

Todung Mulya Lubis, head of TI in Indonesia, said of the results that this may be the culmination of public disappointment with the institution.

"People have to bribe the police to get a driving license and also at traffic stops," he told a media conference on the report. Three out of 10 respondents said they had to pay bribes for services provided by the police."

The police index is the same as last year's. It is up by 0.2 from 2005, when the same survey was conducted by TI. Political parties topped the list in 2005 while 2006 saw a three-way tie between the judiciary, legislatures and police.

Farouk Muhammad, a professor and former police academy rector told the conference the police had failed to improve its image.

He said corrupt behavior on the part of police officers might even be on the rise and gave a reason: "This could happen because police officers need to replace lost income after anti-gambling sweeps were intensified in 2005 by National Police chief Gen. Sutanto."

Sutanto, installed in 2005, intensified anti-gambling efforts which he identified as a first-100-days priority program.

The survey of corruption in Indonesia also shows that 59 percent of respondents believe corruption practices will increase over the next three years while some 47 percent say the government fight against corruption isn't effective.

Todung said the survey results could mean that the current government has little chance of surviving the next election unless it can thoroughly reform all bureaucratic institutions.

"The government must speed up its bureaucratic reformation... and become more transparent and efficient in the future if they wish to win."

The 2007 Corruption Barometer involved 63,199 respondents from 60 countries surveyed between June and September. The police in neighboring Malaysia, with an index of 3.7, are similarly the most corrupt, according to Barometer results.

The United States, Japan and India were among the countries most suspicious of political parties, with citizen responses from those countries resulting in respective index rankings of 4.1, 4.3, and 4.6 for that institution. (lln)

Police told to improve recruitment

Jakarta Post - December 7, 2007

Jakarta – The National Police needs to improve its recruitment and training if it hopes to reform its image as a corruption- riddled institution, observers said Thursday.

"The police must involve external institutions in its future recruitment and selection processes, to ensure that short-listed candidates are those who succeeded in passing the tests, and were not selected by means of nepotism or bribery," said Fajar Nursahid, a researcher at the Institute of Research, Education and Information on Social and Economic Affairs (LP3ES).

Fajar was presenting the results of research on police performance during a seminar organized by the National Police Commission. The research was carried out this year using in-depth interviews and focus-group discussions involving 600 people in two cities in East Java.

Fifty-one percent of the respondents said police officers fell short of their expectations. Only 3.7 percent expressed satisfaction with the police's performance.

Fajar acknowledged that involving outside institution would not necessarily ensure a fair recruitment process for officers. He pointed to the East Java Provincial Police, who have cooperated with Airlangga University during its recruitment.

His research found bribery continued to exist in the selection process despite this cooperation.

"There are indications of bribery although it was not as rampant as when the recruitment was fully organized by the police themselves," Fajar said. "It would be hard to make sure that recruitment was 100 percent free of bribery."

Hattah Fattah of the Public Policy Research Center in Makassar said police had to put more emphasis on "emotional qualities" in training new recruits.

"Current education for police cadets puts too much stress on academics and the physical side, while there is limited training to sharpen their emotional and intelligence quotients," he said.

Hattah also said knowledge of local cultures played an important role in helping officers properly serve the public.

"In most cases, like ones in Makassar, clashes between residents and police were triggered by misunderstandings caused by the police's lack of understanding of local culture," he said. (lln)

 Economy & investment

'Government to blame for unfair competition'

Jakarta Post - December 4, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – If a market becomes blighted by monopolistic, price-fixing or other uncompetitive practices at the expense of consumers, the only one to blame is the market regulator – which in the case of the economy is the government, a discussion has been told.

During Monday's discussion, University of Indonesia economist Faisal Basri said that a "market referee" – such as the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) in the Indonesian context – will be of no use in improving market competition if the market regulator itself is inconsistent in doing so, a discussion has been told.

"The KPPU only plays a small part in the process of establishing a healthy and competitive market," he pointed out. "Most of the problems with market competition are due to the fact that the government has failed to perform its crucial roles."

The discussion, organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in cooperation with Germany's GTZ development agency, is the most recent edition of the annual reviews of the 1999 Monopolies Law and the KPPU's performance that have been held since the competition watchdog's establishment in 2000.

This year's review has been held against the backdrop of the KPPU's ruling that the Singapore state holding firm, Temasek Holdings, along with eight other firms, mostly linked to Temasek, had violated the Monopolies Law through its cross-ownership of Indonesia's two largest mobile phone operators, PT Telekomunikasi Selular (Telkomsel) and PT Indosat.

The ruling, which kicked up a storm, also ordered Temasek to sell its stake in one of the operators, and each defendant to pay Rp 25 billion in fines. In addition, Telkomsel, the market leader, was ordered to lower its tariffs to compensate domestic cell- phone users.

Faisal, who once served as a KPPU member, said that it was the government that was responsible for "creating, regulating, stabilizing and legitimizing" a market, with market "monitoring" being the responsibility of the KPPU.

"The government should not think about creating a market if it is not fully prepared to carry out its four duties. But that is what has happened most of the time," Faisal said.

"It's like telling boxers to go fight in a ring that has not been properly set up, with the rules of the fight still being drafted, and the jury not really caring about how the referee applies the rules. The outcome will obviously be messy."

He said that this might have been what happened in the Temasek case, with the government content to acquiesce in Temasek's cross-ownership and alleged price-fixing as it was itself enjoying ever larger dividends from both Telkomsel and Indosat.

The government also owns stakes in the two operators, although the Monopolies Law expressly exempts it from the ambit of the legislation, unlike the other defendants.

Ningrum Natsya Sirait, from North Sumatra University, concurred with Faisal in urging better regulation by the government, as well as improving the KPPU's human resources.

She said the KPPU urgently needed to equip itself with credible lawyers and economists who were knowledgeable about market competition, and not hesitate to become involved in a public debate if this would be helpful for improving the antitrust legislation.

 Opinion & analysis

Military challenger to Yudhoyono's crown

Asia Times - December 5, 2007

Bill Guerin, Jakarta – Former three-star general Sutiyoso is Indonesia's epitome of a strong leader, first as Jakarta's military commander and until earlier this year as the capital city's governor. Now, Sutiyoso, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, has pretensions to translate his experience at City Hall into a place at the presidential palace.

Although Indonesia's next presidential polls are not due until July 2009, Sutiyoso has already thrown his hat into the electoral ring, less than a week after finishing his 10-year term as governor. The 63-year-old politician, known for having friends in high political places, said upon declaring his candidacy that he had the support of "a number of political parties and leading figures" – although he did not reveal who exactly backed his bid.

The 25-year military veteran has also intimated broadly that elements in the military have expressed support for his candidacy. The military's political interests are perpetuated by the powerful Golkar Party, the country's best-oiled political machine. If Sutiyoso wins Golkar's support, his announcement could mark the beginning of a stiff new challenge to incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's likely re-election bid.

At the 2004 parliamentary elections, Golkar was the overall winning party, taking 128 seats, while former president Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) won 109 seats. Yudhoyono's Democratic party won only 7% of the national vote gaining 57 seats, but later that year he won the presidency with 61% of the vote. Yudhoyono has since ruled in a de facto coalition government with Golkar, represented by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, the current party leader.

Yet, Kalla's leadership of the party has met some resistance, with critics feeling he has not pushed hard enough to secure cabinet seats for party members. Moreover, this month incumbent governor of South Sulawesi Amin Syam, who heads Golkar's provincial chapter there, lost narrowly to his deputy in hotly contested gubernatorial elections in Kalla's home province. Some inside the party reportedly feel that Golkar's slipping electoral support in the area could be related to its participation in the ruling coalition.

It's not clear yet that Golkar's rank and file are ready to dump Kalla for Sutiyoso or any other potential presidential candidate. But some political analysts say Kalla, born in Sulawesi, will find it difficult to mount a presidential bid in an election where 60% of the voters are ethnic Javanese and often vote along ethnic lines. Golkar has historically hedged its bets and if it eventually does opt to back a different candidate, Sutiyoso's resume would in many ways fit Golkar's leadership bill.

Sutiyoso graduated from the Military Academy in 1971, two years before Yudhoyono received his diploma from the same elite institution. His military career included more than 20 years of service with Kopassus, the elite Special Forces command. That included a role in Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor, where he was allegedly attached to the Kopassus commando squad which now stands accused of the killing five Australian journalists, now famously known as the Balibo Five.

Sutiyoso has consistently denied any involvement or knowledge of the killings. Yet while on an official visit to Sydney this year, Sutiyoso was reportedly furious when a New South Wales police official entered his hotel room and invited him to appear at a coroner's inquest into the death of one of the five killed journalists.

He later served as Jakarta's military commander, sparking controversy when hired thugs, police and soldiers in 1996 attacked the then opposition Indonesian Democratic Party's (PDI), led at the time by Megawati Sukarnoputri, and killed at least 50 while hundreds of others were injured, arrested or disappeared. Despite periodic protests by human rights groups, no one, including Sutiyoso, has ever been held to account for the incident. At the time, Sutiyoso outranked Yudhoyono, who then served as chief of staff of the same military command.

One year later, then-president Suharto appointed Sutiyoso as governor of Jakarta, an indication of his close ties to the New Order regime. After Suharto's downfall in 1998, Sutiyoso was able to maintain his political prominence, straddling the country's metamorphosis from a hard-knuckled authoritarian regime to a modern, rollicking democracy. Under five different presidents, Sutiyoso has never stood in public elections. In the September 2002 elections inside the regional representative's council (DPRD), Jakarta's own legislature, to select a governor, both Golkar and PDI-P supported Sutiyoso's re-election bid.

Megawati actually signed an instruction from the party's central board that ordered all PDI-P members in the city council to vote for him or face sanctions. A senior party official in Jakarta was sacked for not obeying the order. This was viewed by many among the party's rank and file, and many of its most senior figures, as a betrayal and proof of Megawati's indebtedness to the military top brass, who backed the impeachment of president Abdurrahman Wahid and paved the way for her to take over the premiership.

Man of action

Over his 10-year tenure as Jakarta's governor, for better or worse, Sutiyoso earned a reputation as a man of action. He is on record in an interview with Tempo magazine characterizing his personal working style by saying: "Why crawl when you can run? I am a military man used to working fast."

That includes his controversial push to implement his "megacity" policy, a concept to merge the administrations of Jakarta and the other outlying cities to develop a coordinated plan for integrated transport, flood mitigation, waste management and other sticky issues linked to the country's rapid and massive urbanization.

Critics contended the concept was a pretext for Sutiyoso and other powerful elites to expand their political power base and win a share of more mega-projects funded by the central government and earmarked for provincial areas. Sutiyoso has denied such claims, including charges that he was angling to assume the position of a yet-to-be-created megacity ministerial portfolio. "I've cleared that [speculation] up by declaring my presidential bid instead," he recently told the local press.

As a presidential candidate, he has already vowed if elected to uplift the poor, strengthen the country's defense capabilities and strive for national economic and political independence. On the first score, its altogether unclear that his poverty alleviation credentials are as strong as Yudhoyono's or even outpace former president and PDI-P party leader Megawati, whose failure to address poverty and unemployment issues cost her and her party dearly at the 2004 polls.

As Jakarta's governor, Sutiyoso became renowned for taking a hard and sometimes uncompromising line on urban migration into the city. His office launched a concerted campaign against the city's informal business sector, including street vendors, pedicab drivers, commercial sex workers and even beggars. Those tough tactics often put him at odds with rights activists, who accused his city administration of denying poor residents basic economic rights. It was a criticism he publicly deflected, saying in a press interview after a particularly violent eviction incident in 2003, "This problem is actually the affair of the central government because they are not Jakarta residents. They are not my people."

Meanwhile, his policies on tackling air pollution, including a largely ignored ban on smoking in public places, were widely viewed as ineffective due to the lack of action against politically-protected buses and trucks that continue to envelope the capital in black smog. His attempts to tackle chronic traffic jams through the creation of bus-way corridors have also mostly failed, due to the drastic reduction in the width of the capital's major artery roads needed to support the bus lanes. With Jakarta's traffic now reportedly at its worst level ever, the new governor, Fauzi Bowo, has already announced that several kilometers of the bus lanes created under Sutiyoso are now open to all vehicles.

Powerful, not popular

Some political analysts believe that Sutiyoso's track record as governor have alienated him from the city's urban poor, which could influence sentiment among the masses in rural Java, home to an estimated 60% of Indonesia's 140 million voters. Yet while Sutiyoso has been widely and frequently criticized for his role in overseeing forced evictions, poorly designed flood mitigation efforts, chaotic traffic management and poor waste disposal systems, he has also won certain praise for his no-nonsense leadership style.

In May 2006, he was awarded the prestigious Widyakrama medal for his achievement in developing the city's compulsory education program, which under his watch has been better funded and resulted in improved teachers' working conditions and training. Moreover, Sutiyoso's second term as governor was notable for turning budget surpluses rather than deficits. However, the 2007 budget, which his administration devised and set at Rp21 trillion (US$2.2 billion), is set to slip into an unprecedented Rp 1.1 trillion deficit.

It wasn't clear until now that Sutiyoso had presidential ambitions. For instance, he told Tempo magazine in 2005 that "I have no talent for politicking. It's not in my nature" in reply to a question about whether he would in the future join a political party. His change of political heart came recently, when, according to an April interview published by Globe Asia magazine he said one day he would "stand in front of a mirror and ask myself whether I am appropriate to become president".

Still, Sutiyoso has already admitted that without the formal backing of a major political party, spelled Golkar, his electoral chances against Yudhoyono are slim. Yet he and his backers are clearly calculating that they might capitalize on any slip in public opinion polls against Yudhoyono between now and the 2009 polls by portraying the former governor as an alternative strong leader.

If so, he still has a long way to go in convincing the voting public. In the latest Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) poll, given a choice of 20 different possible presidential candidates, 32% of the respondents said they would vote for Yudhoyono at the next poll while 18% opted for Megawati. Only 1% of those surveyed chose Sutiyoso. "His name isn't yet known on a national scale," explained Saiful Mujani, LSI's director.

Mohammad Qadari, executive director of the IndoBarometer Survey Institute, similarly thinks it is too early to assess Sutiyoso's chances at the next polls. His institute's latest poll showed Yudhoyono leading the pack with a 35% chance of winning, followed by Megawati with 22%. Sutiyoso's chances were rated at rounding error levels of 0.5%.

Yudhoyono's Democratic Party has dismissed out-of-hand the notion that Sutiyoso could ever represent a future threat to the president's re-election bid. Party deputy chairman Ahmad Mubarok has already gone on the political offensive, saying that the public should judge Sutiyoso by his performance as Jakarta's governor. "He couldn't even handle the floods, and the bus-way has created traffic jams," said Mubarok.

Yudhoyono's small Democratic Party won just 7% of the 2004 vote, but electoral rules enacted that year stipulated that any party that won at least 3% of parliament's total seats were eligible to field a presidential candidate. Golkar and other major parties are now pressing for that electoral threshold to be raised to 5%.

Meanwhile, Yudhoyono's refusal as recently as October to formally confirm that he will run again in 2009 is galvanizing behind-the-scenes political jockeying, a cut-and-thrust which Sutiyoso clearly aims to capitalize on. Indeed, his bid is already generating plenty of political scuttlebutt. Wimar Witoelar, spokesman of former president Abdurraham Wahid, summed up Sutiyoso's chances during a recent television interview:

"He has a lot of money; he has proven to be successful in the Jakarta gubernatorial election. He is efficient, almost as efficient as [former dictator] Suharto, and almost as ruthless. People like that can win races."

Who the powerful Golkar Party will advance at the upcoming elections is still a wildcard, but an ethnic Javanese former soldier with a well-worn authoritarian streak like Sutiyoso will no doubt appeal to certain party stalwarts. Although Sutiyoso may now lag badly in the polls and appears to lack substantial grass roots popular appeal, his pro-establishment credentials could be all he needs to be anointed as Golkar's choice to challenge Yudhoyono at the next polls.

[Bill Guerin, a Jakarta correspondent for Asia Times Online since 2000, has been in Indonesia for more than 20 years, mostly in journalism and editorial positions.]

Raising the Morning Star in an 'Act of Free Choice'

Online Opinion - December 5, 2007

Joe Collins – The 1st of December was West Papuan National Day or National flag day. Forty-six years ago on the December 1, 1961, in the then Dutch colony of West New Guinea, the West Papuan flag, or Morning Star, was flown for the first time officially beside the Dutch Tricolor. At that ceremony, as the Morning Star flag was raised, Dutch and Papuan military and police saluted and accompanied by a marine band playing the national anthem, "My Land Papua".

The Dutch were finally about to give the West Papuan people their freedom. However, it is one of the great tragedies that at their moment of freedom it was cruelly crushed and West Papua was basically handed over to Indonesia in 1963.

After six years administration of the province, Indonesia held a sham referendum called the Act of Free Choice under UN supervision. Only 1,022 handpicked voters – one representative for approximately every 700 West Papuans – were allowed vote, and under coercion, voted to "remain with Indonesia". The Papuans call this the "act of no choice".

The policy of the new Labor Government on the issue of West Papua will differ little from that of the Howard government. We will still hear the mantras from the Department of Foreign Affairs of "we recognise Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua" and "we support the autonomy package as the best way forward for the West Papuan people".

The government might have changed but the Jakarta lobby still holds sway in Canberra. The problem for Canberra is that the West Papuan people disagree. West Papua will eventually become one of Australia's biggest foreign policy issue.

Historical background

To understand the present conflict in West Papua we must understand its history. Like many of the conflicts around the world, the conflict in West Papua can trace its origins to the boundaries that were drawn up by the former colonial powers in New Guinea.

We could say the modern history of West Papua began when the island was partitioned by three Western powers, the Dutch claiming the western half in 1828, while the Germans and British divided the eastern half into German New Guinea in the north and British Papua in the south (1884). Eventually the eastern half became the independent nation of Papua New Guinea in 1975.

The Papuan people of Dutch New Guinea (also called Netherlands New Guinea or West New Guinea) were to have a different fate. The Republic of Indonesia was created in 1949 when the Indonesian people won their struggle for independence against their former colonial masters, the Dutch. West New Guinea, due to its distinct Melanesian population, was retained as a colony by the Dutch and during the 1950s, the Dutch government prepared the territory for independence.

However, President Sukarno continued to claim that West New Guinea should be part of Indonesia and when his demands were not met, armed conflict ensued in 1962.

Under pressure from the United States to come to terms with Indonesia, the Dutch agreed to secret negotiations and in August 1962, an agreement was concluded in New York between the Netherlands and Indonesia. Under this agreement, the Dutch were to leave West New Guinea and transfer sovereignty to UNTEA (the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority). After seven months the UN transferred power to Indonesia with the provision that a referendum be held to determine Papuan preference, for independence or for integration with Indonesia.

From the moment Indonesia took over the administration from UNTEA, the oppression of the West Papuan people began.

As to the so-called Act of Free Choice in 1969: a UN official, a retired undersecretary-general, who handled the takeover said: "Nobody gave a thought to the fact that there were a million people who had their fundamental human rights trampled," and "It was just a whitewash. The mood at the United Nations was to get rid of this problem as quickly as possible."

The UN accepted the results of this farce but the West Papuan people did not. They continue to call for a true act of self determination.

Australian involvement

As to Australia's involvement – originally we supported the Dutch in trying to hold onto West New Guinea, as we preferred another colonial power to act as a buffer zone between Australia and any potential invader from the north. However, once the US decided to back Indonesia, Australia followed suit. In fact, Australia actively supported the Indonesian takeover.

At a request from Indonesia two West Papuan leaders, Clemens Runawery and Willem Zonggonao, were removed by Australian officials from a plane just weeks before the UN supervised vote (in Australia's then colony of PNG). They were on their way to the UN in New York carrying testimonies from many West Papuan leaders calling for independence. Because of Australia's involvement, they never had a chance to plead their case.

Human rights abuses

Since Indonesia took over control of West Papua as many as 100,000 people are believed to have lost their lives in the conflict. Those who have followed the actions of the Indonesian military in East Timor will not be surprised at such a high figure. A report about the activities of the Indonesian military (TNI) in East Timor (released in 2006) documents how the TNI used napalm, chemical weapons and starvation as a weapon against the East Timorese people. Some of the same military that operated in East Timor are now in West Papua.

There are ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua and the situation is deteriorating. There appears to be a systematic campaign by the military and police to intimidate any individual or organisation whom the military and police deem to be separatists. For all the talk about Indonesian being a democracy the TNI itself has not reformed. Numerous reports, including the US State Department's 2005 Human Rights report, support this. The Human Rights report states that "Security forces continued to commit unlawful killings of rebels, suspected rebels, and civilians in areas of separatist activity, where most politically motivated extrajudicial killings also occurred".

Flag raisings

The West Papuan people raise their flag as an act of celebration but also as a protest against the injustices they suffer under Indonesian rule. Except for a small period of openness when President Wahid came to power in October 1999, the Morning Star flag has been banned.

Two of the most famous West Papuan political prisoners are Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage. On December 1, 2004, they were arrested for being part of a rally where the Morning Star flag was raised. In May 2005, a court sentenced Filep Karma to 15 years in prison and Yusak Pakage to 10 years in prison on charges of treason against the state. Amnesty International considers both Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage to be prisoners of conscience who have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Earlier this year eight West Papuans were arrested (later released) at the end of a four-day Papuan Tribal Congress meeting in Jayapura. Police made the arrests simply because the Morning Star flag was used in the opening ceremony by a group of traditional dancers from Manokwari.

The West Papuan people face great challenges: ongoing human rights abuses; the exploitation of their natural resources with little or no benefit to themselves; the danger of becoming a minority in their own land as the result of migrants arriving daily; and a possible HIV-AIDS epidemic.

We all want to have good relations with our neighbours but good relations with Jakarta should not be at the expense of the West Papuan people who are struggling for their right to self- determination. The majority of the Australian people also believe in the same right. A news poll commissioned by businessman Ian Melrose, showed that 77 per cent of Australians believe that the West Papuan people have a right to self-determination. Hopefully the new government will take the issue of West Papua seriously instead of just hoping it will disappear.

Australian governments of all persuasions have believed that a stabilised region to our north is our best defence. Kevin Rudd gave a talk in July to the Lowy Institute on the very subject called Fresh Ideas for Future Challenges: A New Approach to Australia's Arc of Instability. In discussing Australian- Indonesian relations, however, there was no mention of West Papua. Yet it is the Indonesian military that are one of the main destabilising factors in West Papua. The activities of the military, their involvement in human rights abuses and resource extraction will lead to the very instability the government is trying to avoid. If ever an issue needed "fresh ideas" it's West Papua. A good start for the Rudd Government would be not only to raise the abuses being committed by the TNI in West Papua with Jakarta, but to also urge the Indonesian Government to enter into a dialogue with the West Papuan leadership. This is all the West Papuans are asking for: a dialogue to try and solve the many issues of concern in the territory.

We know from history that dialogue is the beginning of the political resolution of such conflicts. To quote from Nelson Mandela, "One of our strongest weapons is dialogue".

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